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            Jimin was eight years old when he met a fairy boy, red faced and crying beneath the jungle gym during recess, holding onto his skinned knee. Of course, the boy wasn’t actually a fairy, but the prettiest boy he had ever seen, with his slightly too long bangs and big ears poking out from beneath his wavy locks. Without hesitation, he dropped to his knees beside him, leaning in to press a kiss to the injury. Looking up at the fairy boy whose eyes were wide with shock, Jimin smiled and said, “There, all better! Please stop crying, it makes me sad.”

            “Who are you?” The boy asked, his voice wavering with tears. Jimin leaned forward and gently wiped beneath his eyes, catching the tears before anymore could fall.

            “I’m Jimin. What’s your name?”

            “Taehyung.”

            “Want to be friends, Taehyung?”

            Staring at him for a few more seconds in contemplation, Jimin was shocked by the beaming smile he suddenly received. “Okay! Let’s be friends!” And without a pause, Taehyung leaned in and pressed a kiss to Jimin’s cheek.

            Jimin and Taehyung were inseparable ever since that day beneath the playset. Where you found one, the other was never too far behind. Jimin was smart and quiet, tending towards studying and leisurely reading; whereas Taehyung was full of life and excitement, unafraid of any challenges in his path. Most assumed as they got older they would drift apart due to separate interests and hobbies, but the two proved everyone wrong; you could always see Taehyung carrying Jimin’s books as the quieter boy searched the aisles for more reading material, and you could always count on Jimin being on Taehyung’s teams regardless of the sport. In each other, they had found their best friend.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jimin was twelve when his and Taehyung’s twosome became a foursome. It was the beginning of their seventh grade year when they met Jung Hoseok and Kim Namjoon. The eighth grade student council president and secretary were well known and well liked; Hoseok for his bright and sunny disposition, and Namjoon for his shy yet intelligent countenance.

            Taehyung had a striking personality, so Jimin was used to sharing his best friend with their classmates, knowing the younger boy would always turn to him with a smile or an arm around his shoulders to make him feel included. He felt safe there, under that arm, a warm bubble in which he could release a breath and relax. With Hoseok and Namjoon he felt similarly, surprising even himself when the four fell together easily as if they had all known each other forever. Game nights, movies, hiking, suddenly Jimin was surrounded by laughter and friendship. And he would always have Taehyung.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jimin was seventeen when Taehyung came out to him. It was an unseasonably cool September day as they strolled through the park, heading towards the old swing set they used to play on when they were kids. Jimin had put up a fight when Taehyung had wound a ridiculously thick scarf around his neck, pouting at Taehyung’s deep laugh as he tugged on the matching beanie, but as they walked huddled against the cold, he was thankful for the gestures.

            “Jiminie?”

            “Hmm?” Jimin responded to the quiet call, zipping his jacket up tighter and day dreaming about hot coffee. When he got no response, he glanced up at his friend’s impassive face (Taehyung had gotten just tall enough now that Jimin had to actually look up to see his face, which was enough to drive the older boy crazy. In fact, in one of the rare moments they fought, Jimin had gotten fed up enough that he walked away and came back with a step stool to stand on. “What are you doing?” Taehyung asked, shock evident in his features. “I’m tired of you lording your tallness over me!” Jimin had exclaimed as he stepped up on the stool, putting him just above Taehyung’s height. “There, now you can’t talk down to me, you giant!” He crossed his arms resolutely and glared. All that did was reduce Taehyung to fits of laughter, eyes welling with mirthful tears as he snagged Jimin into a bone crushing hug). “What’s up Tae?” When he still got no response, Jimin snagged his arm to stop him, stepping around to face him. “Talk to me?”

            The sigh came from deep in Taehyung’s chest, his hand coming up to rub the back of his neck. Jimin couldn’t help but notice how good the fresh blonde dye looked on his best friend’s shaggy locks, seeming to make his face more angular and adding a healthy glow to his skin. Taehyung worried his bottom lip between his teeth, looking anywhere but at Jimin. “I have to tell you something.”

            “So, spill it.” Jimin raised an eyebrow at the blonde’s fidgeting. “And stop that with your lip, you’re going to make yourself bled.” Taehyung easily followed the order, used to the shorter boy’s bossiness. The blonde still looked unsure, eyes flitting to the side whenever he met Jimin’s gaze. “Taetae,” He said softly, hands coming up to gently rest on Taehyung’s upper arms. “You can tell me anything, you know that right?”

            “Yes.” He replied just as softly, finally meeting his gaze with a resolute look in his eyes. “Jiminie, I’m gay.” Immediately, Taehyung braced himself, watching Jimin’s reaction warily.

            “Okay?”

            “Like, I like guys. Sexually.”

            “I know what gay means Taehyung.” Rolling his eyes, Jimin linked their arms together, steering the taller boy back towards the swing set.

            “That’s it? Really? After my startling revelation all I get is an okay? You could at least look surprised or something.”

            Releasing him, Jimin faced him with wide eyes, hands coming up to cover his mouth in faux shock as he walked backwards. “Oh my god! Taehyung, you’re gay? No way! How could this happen! How are we ever going to move past such a shocking, unbelievable thing!”

            Taehyung’s laugh was deep as he swung an arm out in an attempt to cuff the other boy across the head, missing when Jimin ducked, spinning back around and taking off. Jimin’s giggles could be heard as he was chased across the street and as he made a mad dash up the slide to get away from Taehyung’s grabby hands. “You jerk, that’s not what I mean! Get back here and face me like a man!” Jimin’s laughter had him bent in two, clutching his stomach as he stayed just out of reach, knowing Taehyung was just a bit too big to follow him. “Jimin, what the hell!”

            “You’re such an idiot Taehyungie!”

            “How so?” How offended he sounded only made Jimin laugh harder.

            “Thinking I would care about your sexuality, come on you dummy!” Jimin grinned down at him, leaning over the ledge to smack him lightly on the back of his head. Taehyung made a sound of protest, large hand snagging Jimin’s smaller one to keep it from smacking him again. The laughter died down as they met each other’s gaze, Jimin’s softening just slightly as he squeezed the taller boy’s hand. “I don’t care who you love Taehyung, that doesn’t matter, okay?”

            Taehyung’s smile was blinding despite the tears of relief in his eyes. “Okay.” He managed to say before ducking his head and letting the tears spill out. Jimin just hummed happily, reaching his other hand down to gently stroke blonde locks in comfort.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jimin was nineteen years old when he realized that he did care who Taehyung loved. Sitting across the café from Taehyung and his new boyfriend, Jeon Jungkook, as they swapped spit was putting a sour feeling in his stomach. It’s not that Jimin didn’t like Jungkook, he was a really nice kid in fact. Jungkook had a bright personality, his shy smile not unlike an adorable bunny that contradicted his surprisingly fit physique. He was a year younger than them but was smart enough to skip a grade, so he shared Sociology with Taehyung during the first semester of their freshman year of college. Like Hoseok and Namjoon, welcoming Jungkook to the fold was as easy as breathing, and even Jimin had to admit that he was adorable.

            When he wasn’t trying to swallow Taehyung whole.

            Jimin wasn’t sure when it all happened, how the two had even come to be a disgustingly cute couple. One day they were all just hanging out like old times, and the next Jungkook was sitting on Taehyung’s lap, the older boy shooting him his trademark boxy smile like he held all the stars in the sky. Jimin didn’t know what to make of the sudden pit in his stomach that day, or how it seemed to linger every day since.

            He was drinking with Hoseok one night, having what they liked to call a ‘Bitch Sesh’, where no topic was off limits to bitch and moan about. Not usually a drinker, Jimin had. . . overindulged, and the room was a pleasant, shiny pink around the edges. “Hobi-hyung, Hobi-hyung! Why is it so hard?” He whined to the other boy, who was padding around the kitchen. There was an excited, “ah-ha!” and Hoseok came back into Jimin’s blurry view.

            “What’s so hard, Jimin-ah?” Hoseok asked, giggling a little at the unintentional innuendo as he set a fresh bottle of wine on the coffee table. With surprising dexterity, he snagged the wine glass from Jimin’s hand, ignoring the sound of protest the other boy made and filled it nearly to the brim. (Hoseok believed if you filled it to the brim it still counted as one glass, just like when you filled it halfway. “It may not look as fancy Jimin-ah, but who cares when your drunk? Plus, the calories count as one cup, so you can drink more!” “Hyung. . . you’re kind of ridiculous.” “I think you mean genius!”)

            “Just. . . everything! You know, like people and stuff.”

            “Very specific.”

            Jimin lobbed a pillow at him in retaliation, and both of them watched as the pillow soared three feet to the left and hit the ground. Jimin glared hazily at the other boy. “You moved.”

            “You know I didn’t.” Hoseok took a healthy gulp of wine before throwing himself down dramatically on the couch. “So, what’s hard exactly?”

            “How did you know you liked Yoongi-hyung?” Jimin asked suddenly, sitting up from where he was lounging in the recliner. “Like, how did you know he liked you back and stuff?”

            At the mention at his long term boyfriend, Hoseok turned a bit pink, a pleased smile on his face. “I just knew. There’s this feeling you get in your chest when you see them.” He touched his chest lightly, fingers catching on the material there. “It’s almost a heavy feeling, like an ache that burns so good. It’s all slippery and sweet, and when I think about not having him in my life it’s like all the good and happy disappears around me.”

            Jimin shifted uncomfortably, swirling the red and watching the liquid almost touch the glass edge. “But what about him?”

            Hoseok’s shrug was languid as he took a hearty sip from his glass. “Well, I kinda knew. It seemed like he found me attractive, and there was definitely some sexual tension whenever we were in the same room.”

            “But you didn’t know for sure?”

            “Do you ever?”

            “Then how did you ask him out?”

            “Leap of faith, my friend! Sometimes you just have to put it all out there and hope for the best.”

            Jimin frowned, worrying his bottom lip. “But that could ruin everything.” He muttered, ignoring Hoseok when he asked what he meant.

            Jungkook and Taehyung didn’t last long, only a few weeks at best as they realized they were better friends then anything more. The tightness that had pervaded Jimin’s sense of calm since the two had started their relationship was calmed, loosening enough that he easily shrugged it off. It only took a few days for him to stop feeling like Jungkook was the enemy, and Jungkook’s smile when Jimin started treating him fondly like he had in the beginning made the older boy feel a bit guilty.

 

*                                  *                                  *

            “Jiminie?”

            “Yes Tae?”

            “Do you believe in love?”

            “What kind of question is that? Of course I do dummy.”

            “Do you think anyone will ever love me? As much as I love them?”

            “I’m certain of it.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jimin was twenty one when he realized he was in deep when it came to his vibrant best friend.

            It was an unseasonably warm day in May, and they were all hanging out at the park near Jimin and Taehyung’s apartment (they had moved in together after deciding dorm life wasn’t for them after their second semester of college). Jimin was spread eagle in the grass, staring up at the lazily moving clouds and humming contently with the sounds of the others horsing around in the background. Yoongi was beside him, sitting in a lawn chair and reading a book in the shade, while Jungkook, Taehyung, and Hoseok were kicking a soccer ball around. Seokjin, a more recent acquisition by their rag tag group, was off getting drinks for everyone, a clearly crushing Namjoon trailing after him like a lost puppy.

            It was relaxing. Growing up in Busan before moving to Seoul when he was younger taught him to appreciate a warm day. If only Jimin could trade the park for the beach, the warm sand and cool sea breeze would make this day perfect. He decided then that he’d try to get everyone to go to the beach before summer ended and school started up again, stretching his limbs happily at his plans.

            “Jimin-ah!” Opening eyes he hadn’t realized he’d closed, Jimin sat up on his elbows, hand coming up to block the sun as he met Seokjin’s gaze. The elder boy was holding out a bottle of water and an apple with a smile. “Here you go! I thought you might be hungry after your dance class.”

            “Thanks, hyung.” Smiling gratefully, Jimin took the offered food and drink. Seokjin’s smile was bright as he moved on to Yoongi, handing him identical items. Breaking the seal, Jimin took a long pull from the bottle, letting out a deep sigh as the refreshing liquid cooled him. It was a surprise then, when the bottle was tugged from his hand.

            “Water, thank god! I’m burning up out here!” Taehyung groaned dramatically before drinking a large portion of the water, dumping the remaining liquid over his head with a sigh. The wet parts of his blue locks grew deeper in color as water dripped from the strands. “There we go!”

            “Taehyung, you ass! That was my water!”

            “Oh, where are my manners?” Shooting him an adorable square smile, Taehyung threw up a heart. “Thanks for sharing Jiminie!”

            Snaking his leg out, Jimin caught the blue haired boy behind the knee, crippling him and sending him to the ground with a surprised cry. “It’s not sharing if you stole it.” Rolling his eyes, Jimin couldn’t help but smile when the other boy shuffled around to lay beside him, his head brushing Jimin’s shoulder.

            “How can I steal if we share everything?” Taehyung countered, taking the offered water and food from Seokjin as he passed him. Jimin scoffed in response, hiding another smile as Taehyung immediately offered him his water. Jimin waved him off, he shrugged and bit into his apple.

            “You just can.”

            “As if you really care.” Yoongi mumbled from his chair. Jimin and Taehyung both stuck their tongues out at him in reflex before laughing.

            “Whatever. Does anyone want my apple?” Jimin asked the group that had congregated on the grass around them.

            “You’re not going to eat it?” Namjoon asked surprised. “Didn’t you just come from dance?” Hoseok, who shared the same class as him, nodded.

            “Yeah, I’m just not quite hungry yet.” Jimin shrugged, crossing his legs and picking at the grass blades beneath his fingers. “My appetite has been smaller lately.”

            “Still not feeling one hundred percent better?” Taehyung asked in a low voice, leaning closer to the shorter boy. Jimin repressed a shiver in response.

            “Almost there I hope.” About a month ago, Jimin had caught a cold that went from manageable to detrimental overnight. His allergies had been crazy this past spring and he woke up one morning hacking up a lung. The coughing fits and mucus filled sneezes were bad enough to freak both him and Taehyung out, the younger threatening to take him to the emergency room. Jimin had talked him down, sure the cold or flu or whatever it was would go away after some sleep. It took one miserable week before he wasn’t coughing long enough to really breathe, and another before he could sleep properly. Taehyung was instrumental in helping Jimin get well. From collecting assignments to making meals and administering medicine, to some nights simply holding the smaller boy as he cried over not being able to breathe. He wasn’t sure if he would have gotten through it if it hadn’t been for his best friend. Now, weeks later, Jimin still had random coughing fits and some wheezing occasionally with a decreased appetite. “I’m tired of feeling run down so fast. I’m having to take more breaks during training, and I can’t really afford the time off.”

            “Maybe go to an actual doctor then, rather than googling your symptoms?” Yoongi’s tone was sarcastic, though Jimin knew it was only so he could hide how much he worried about the younger three in the group.

            “Maybe. If it keeps up I will, I promise hyung.”

            “I’ll make sure he does.” Taehyung added, slinging an arm around Jimin’s shoulders and yanking him closer with a grin, the blue of his hair mixing with the pink of Jimin’s. His arm was too warm, sweaty in an almost sticky way, but Jimin didn’t have the heart to push him off regardless of the temperature. He was weak, and Taehyung knew it.

            “Good.” Was Yoongi’s short reply, picking up his book again and settling in to ignore the others (all except for Hoseok, who had planted himself in his lap with a smile and a peck on the cheek. It was small but they all saw the slight flush on Yoongi’s cheeks, and it had nothing to do with the heat).

            The group spent a few more hours at the park, scrimmaging for a bit with uneven teams until the tightness in Jimin’s chest had him sitting out as referee instead. He waved off Taehyung’s worried look and cheered them on, laughing at how unenthusiastic Yoongi was compared to Jungkook’s boundless energy. He only had to step in twice when the youngest and oldest of the group started to get heated when discussing the rules. Keeping Seokjin and Jungkook calm was as easy for Jimin as shooting them his sweetest smile, melting their hearts just enough to pull their heads from their asses.

            It was starting to get dark when they finally sat down again, Yoongi leaning heavily on Hoseok with sleepy eyes, the younger of the two pressing a kiss to his sweaty locks. The pure love in the gesture had Jimin glancing at Taehyung, the familiar pang in his chest back as he looked him over. Taehyung had really become stunning as an adult, Jimin couldn’t help but notice. He had always been beautiful, but he had aged like fine wine. The blue hair was new, something Taehyung had done on a dare from Seokjin, but it worked for him. Jimin wasn’t sure if there was anything that didn’t work for the taller boy, with his long limbs and angular cheekbones, sun kissed skin and boxy smile. He was a knock out, and you could consider Jimin firmly KO’d. It took a lot of strength to drag his gaze from the handsome boy next to him playing with his short fingers, ignoring the zings of warmth he felt every time Taehyung ran his thumb across his knuckles gently. He couldn’t help but find it endearing the way Taehyung held his pinkie finger out next to Jimin’s, laughing softly to himself at the size difference and eliciting giggles from the pink haired boy.

            It was then that Jimin caught Jungkook looking at him, his gaze calculating and considering as it glanced between Jimin and Taehyung. The look in his eyes, the almost knowing look, had the heat rising in Jimin’s cheeks, his heart pounding a little bit harder. Gently, he extracted his hands from Taehyung’s, unable to help the giggle at the other boy’s pout as he stood, attracting the group’s attention.

            “I think I’m going to head home. I have some homework to finish and I think I’m going to turn in early.” He announced, running a hand through his hair and stretching languidly. “I’ll see you guys later?” His announcement was greeted with a chorus of good byes and hugs, Jungkook ruffling his hair just to annoy him and Namjoon reminding him to eat. Smiling a bit to himself, he set off towards his apartment building, unsurprised when a taller shadow fell into step beside him. He quirked an eyebrow at the blue haired boy next to him. “You know you didn’t have to leave, right? I’m probably just going to take a shower and relax anyways.”

            “What kind of best friend am I if I let you wander off through Seoul all by yourself? You could get snatched by creeps!”

            “Tae, I can literally see our apartment building from here.” Jimin’s laugh bent him almost in half, Taehyung catching him with a grin. “Besides, we both know you’re more likely to get snatched then me, Mr. ‘I-have-no-sense-of-direction’ and ‘Sure, I’d love to help you find your puppy!’”

            Taehyung huffed. “That was one time. Besides, what if it had been Tannie who had been lost? I’d want a stranger to be willing to help me find him!”

            Jimin pretended to consider this for a moment, giggling when Taehyung shoved him. “That’s what you have friends for Taehyung, not strangers.” Reaching the door, Jimin’s stupid heart fluttered when Taehyung held it open, a gesture he had insisted upon since they were kids. Internally scolding himself, he muttered a thank you and led the way to the elevator. They only had to wait a moment before the silver doors opened silently, both stepping in and Taehyung hitting the tenth floor button. The ride up was comfortable and quiet, the two being years past the point of having to make stilted small talk to fill the silence. Jimin was just. . . comfortable with Taehyung—

            Taehyung groaned lowly in his throat as he stretched his arms above him head, almost brushing the elevators top with his fingertips. His t-shirt rode up at the gesture, revealing a sliver of tanned skin on top of slim hip bones jutting out from his low riding jeans that Jimin wondered how much force it would take to make the material fall—

            Without thinking, Jimin’s hands came up, firmly smacking both of his cheeks sharply, the sound making Taehyung jump to the side in shock, dark eyes wide and confused. “Jesus! What the hell Jimin-ah? What was that for?” Jimin just tried to wave him off, eyes on the ground. Was this the longest elevator ride of his life or what? “Your cheeks are all red now!”

            “They’re fine, just need to wake up a bit.” Jimin lied, glancing up at the floor numbers slowly climbing. “Is this thing slow today or is it just me?” His fingers tapped an impatient rhythm against his khaki shorts. “I know they said they fixed it, but I can’t help but wonder if they didn’t just break—" He nearly squeaked in surprise when Taehyung stepped in front of him, his back hitting the elevator wall as he stumbled back a bit in shock. Taehyung caught him, hands on his shoulders to make sure he was steady before they slide up to cup his cheeks. Jimin couldn’t breathe as the large hands held him still, always so gentle with him, and warm as his thumbs brushed along his reddening cheekbones. Taehyung hummed softly, eyes inspecting the red marks left on his cheeks; Jimin hated himself for trembling ever so slightly, his traitorous heart pounding loud enough to drowning out a symphony.

            “I hate when you do stuff like that. Drink a coffee or something to wake up, don’t hit yourself Jiminie. It makes me sad.” Taehyung confessed, hands sliding farther down to cup his jaw, fingers trailing along the skin of his throat and sending a wave of longing through Jimin’s body. He had always been the touchy-feely type, and Jimin had gotten used to his love of skinship when they were younger and the boy had constantly been touching him; but there was something about them being alone in an enclosed room that had him feeling like he was on a high wire with no net and a silent crowd watching him to see when he would fall.

            “. . . Sorry.” He managed to reply softly, eyes shutting as Taehyung’s warm breath fanned out across his face, sweet with winter mint. He just knew he resembled a tomato, and if he didn’t get it together soon Taehyung would start asking questions Jimin wouldn’t—couldn’t—give him the answers to. “I won’t do it again.” Did his voice just crack? Could the floor just swallow him whole and send him straight down the elevator shaft, out of this personal hell?

            “Thank you.” The air stirred and Jimin assumed he was being freed, only to suck in a quick breath when the softest pair of lips he had ever felt gently brushed against his left cheek, the kiss more of a lingering caress than anything else as the motion burned a path against his right cheek too. The kisses went straight to his heart, shaking him and freeing a swarm of butterflies as Taehyung gently brushed his thumbs across the kisses he had left there on the burning skin. Taehyung’s chuckle was warm and deep, prompting Jimin to slowly open his eyes. That square smile, the boxy one that scrunched up his nose and lit the room up, was aimed right at him. “There. All better, yeah?” The air was cold when Taehyung released him and stepped back as the godforsaken elevator finally dinged and opened its doors, Jimin missing his touch the moment Taehyung’s skin left his.

            “Yeah. . . all better.” Jimin responded feebly, knees weak as he followed the taller boy out of the elevator and into their apartment.

            “What do you want for dinner?” Taehyung asked as he entered the kitchen. Jimin took a moment to toe his shoes off and check the thermostat before responding.

            “I’m not hungry, I’m going to go shower really quick, then probably turn in.” He headed down the hall, entering his medium sized bedroom and kicking the door mostly closed as he yanked off his tank top and tossed it in the vicinity of his hamper. He was unbuttoning his shorts, fingers on the zipper when Taehyung spoke again.

            “Jimin.” The pink haired boy jumped in shock, whipping around to see Taehyung leaning in the now open doorway, arms crossed loosely across his chest. Jimin felt the sudden inexplicable urge to cover himself under Taehyung’s gaze, a foolish notion since they had been more than half naked in each other’s company before (in fact, there were sometimes nights where Jimin would be taking a warm bubble bath to unwind and Taehyung would bring his laptop in and sit on the floor beside the tub, starting up a new drama or anime for them to watch together). In the last year or so though, Jimin had been more conservative of his body and affection. Watching Taehyung’s parade of boyfriends and hook ups made him feel the need to make sure his feelings were under wraps at all times. The taller boy seemed to have noticed Jimin’s withdrawal over time, and had become less invasive of his space, allowing the older boy to set the pace.

            “Yeah?” Jimin turned away, going to his dresser and opening drawers under the guise of finding pajamas.

            “You need to eat. What would you like me to make?” His voice was stern in a way Jimin wanted to tease him for, sounding very much like a disgruntled parent. It was so cute that Jimin wanted to bury his head under his pillows and scream.

            “Seriously Taetae, I’m fine for now. Just make whatever you want, I’ll figure it out after I shower. I can’t think covered in all this sweat.” The look Taehyung shot him showed how much he doubted his words, but he nodded nonetheless.

            “Okay. Let me know if you need anything Jimin-ah.” Then he was gone.

            Jimin’s shoulders sagged with relief as he exhaled softly. He slowly counted to ten before opening his eyes and heading to the bathroom, tossing his mismatched clothing on the ground and undressing fully. The hot shower spray was welcoming as he stepped into the steamy stall, the clouded glass blocking the rest of the world out and enveloping him in a warm cocoon where he felt like he could finally relax. The constant tension kinked his shoulder up, making him wince as he dipped beneath the hot spray. It took at least five minutes for his shoulder to finally release, and another five before he even began the washing process. He felt sluggish, like his limbs were heavy and sore, and he honestly just wanted to curl up under the stream and fall asleep there.

            The memory of Taehyungs lips on his cheek suddenly came to mind, his hands coming up to touch the spots that felt as hot as if it had just happened. He replayed the way Taehyung had thrown his arm around his shoulders, the way he had snuggled close on the ground, the way his fingers felt in Taehyungs. There was a heavy feeling in his chest as he places his hands on the wall in front of him, leaning his head down as his body trembled ever so slightly. For five minutes he pretends didn’t happen, he holds those memories close to his heart, the running water blocking out the sounds of his shame. When it’s over, when his breathing is still rushed, his heart pounding out of his chest and his legs numb, he slumps down to the floor. He rests his head on his knees pulled in tight as he fights the tears that are coming. Then suddenly, he coughs once, loud and sharp. It’s followed by another one, and another until he’s on his knees, chest heaving to regain oxygen, to simply calm itself. Jimin stifles the sound in his hands, knowing if Taehyung heard he’d come running, regardless of their new boundaries. It only lasts a few moments before it finally abates, his lungs reopening enough to ease his breath. Sitting back again, he sighs, looking back down at his hands. It’s then that he sees the blood droplets, bright red against his summer kissed skin. Breath coming slightly faster as hysteria hits him, Jimin slowly uncurls his fingers.

            In his left hand, the one he had coughed into, is a smattering of blood across the palm, and sitting there in the crimson pool, drenched in red and a clear viscous liquid were three periwinkle petals.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            It was a half hour before Jimin was able to move, eyes locked on the petals even as the blood drained away. He seemed to be moving in slow motion, toweling himself off and running a comb through his wet hair. He crept down the hall back to his room, moving immediately to his dresser after locking the door. There was a small ceramic pot sitting in the corner in front of the large mirror, dust collecting on the lid from lack of use. Lifting the tiny lid, Jimin carefully dropped the petals in, hand trembling as he replaced the top and took a shaky step back to sit on the edge of his bed. The soft covers were of little comfort as Jimin’s hand gently touched his lips. What was going on? Taking a deep breath and coughing lightly, he stood again, turning to the desk in the corner before freezing in surprise.

            On top of the oak finished desk was a bowl of stew kimchi jjigae, steaming fragrantly and filling the room with its spice. Beside it was a glass of water, a bowl of rice, and the cough medicine they had picked up on their last trip to the pharmacy, a sticky note stuck to the desktop. Moving closer, Jimin lifted the note into the desk light to read.

            Jiminie—

            I made your favorite, hoping you’d at least eat little of it. Make sure to drink the whole glass of water and take the medicine before bed. Get some rest okay? Right down the hall if you need me!

            I purple you!

            Taetae

            Jimin fell heavily into the desk chair, softly setting the note to the side, picking up the spoon and stirring the food slowly. Filling his spoon, he blew on it and slipped it into his mouth. Instantly, his eyes prickled with tears and he let the spoon clink heavily against the dish as he buried his face in his hands and cried.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            “Jimin-ah! Wake up! We’re going with Hobi-hyung and Jin-hyung—wait, why’s your door locked? Jiminie? Jimin!” Taehyung’s voice was unfortunately loud and grating this morning, his deep timbre echoing off the walls and shattering Jimin’s blissful peace. When he started knocking (in that way Jimin had told him was annoying on multiple occasions), Jimin groaned. Stumbling from the blanket cocoon he had painstakingly wrapped himself in last night, he reached the door and flipped the lock before returning to the blanket’s warm clutches.

            The door burst open as Taehyung strutted into the room. Jimin glanced at him through bleary, sleep deprived eyes, noting his unnecessarily tight jeans and loose t-shirt, the beret on his head mostly hiding the shock of blue hair. With a huff, Jimin turned to face the wall, yanking the blankets tighter around himself. “Jimin-ah! Wake up, wake up! We’ve got places to go, people to see, foods to eat! Get out of bed!” Jimin just groaned again and shut his eyes tight as Taehyung yanked on the blankets.

            “Go away Tae, it’s too early for this.” His voice sounded hoarse even to him.

            “It’s 10:30!”

            “See? Still morning, shoo fly.” Jimin sighed in relief as his blankets were relinquished. It was silent for a moment before the bed moved, the weight of another person making the bed jiggle as Taehyung climbed up behind him. Goosebumps broke out across his skin as Taehyung settled there on the bed, throwing an arm around the pink haired boy and shuffling closer to him. For once though, Jimin didn’t make some stupid joke and find an excuse to get up, allowing himself the small comfort of Taehyung’s warmth behind him, his hand running a lazy trail up and down his forearm. Taehyung’s silence was calming, and Jimin wanted to cry at how well his best friend knew him; he knew that something was bothering him, that he wasn’t ready to talk about it and was just simply there.

            Taehyung just held him for a while, at one point nuzzling close enough that Jimin could feel his breath on the back of his neck with every inhale and exhale, the tip of his nose at the junction of his neck and shoulder. It was only after they had been cuddling for a good twenty minutes and most of the tension had faded from Jimin’s shoulders that Taehyung spoke quietly. “Want to talk about it?”

            “Not really, no.” Jimin responded just as quietly, shuffling backwards closer to the taller boy. Taehyung hummed softly, and Jimin could feel his nod.

            “I’m here though. If you need to, you know you can tell me anything, right?”

            “I know.” With a sigh, Jimin rolled onto his back, immediately regretting the decision when he turned his head only to realize how close this put their faces. Taehyung’s breath was toothpaste fresh, his skin recently washed and moisturized with that vanilla lotion Jimin had bought him for Christmas. It was a warm, familiar scent that had Jimin smiling. “Thank you by the way, for the food and everything last night.”

            Taehyung’s boxy grin was dizzying this close, his nose adorably scrunched up. “Your welcome. It was good?”

            “Really good.” Jimin sent him his sweetest smile. “Just the way I like it.”

            “Good. I was worried when you were in the shower for so long. I almost knocked to see if you were okay, but by that time you had turned the water off.” Taehyung’s hand came up and gently brushed Jimin’s bangs out of his eyes, before his arm moved back to lay across Jimin’s chest. “Looks like you didn’t dry your hair properly.”

            “It’s a mess, isn’t it?”

            “The biggest.” Taehyung laughed when Jimin groaned. “Don’t worry, I got you. My new straightener came in last week and I’ve been dying to give it a try.” Leaning forward, Taehyung pressed a quick kiss to Jimin’s forehead, before rolling out of the bed to the floor, hurrying towards the door. “Be right back!” The door swung shut, the creaking masking Jimin’s shaky breath.

            Finally pulling himself up in bed, Jimin sighed, rubbing his eyes for a moment, hating how they felt hot and sandy from lack of sleep. He ended up lying awake for a long time last night, staring up at the ceiling and trying to stay calm. A large portion of his brain was inclined to believe it had all been his imagination, now that the light of day illuminated the room and made his surroundings feel more real. His gaze was drawn to the small ceramic pot on his dresser, the thick coat of dust disturbed. Jimin slowly crawled from the covers, his bare feet touching the soft shag carpet at the foot of his bed as he slid off it, stretching slowly. Stepping forwards, he reached for the lid, hesitating once his hand was over it.

            “I found it Jiminie!” Taehyung practically skipped through the doorway, not noticing when Jimin’s hand dropped from the dresser back to his side. He was practically glowing with excitement, holding the Chi above his head. “Ready?” He wiggled the bottle of heat protectant at Jimin cheekily.

            “Mmkay.” Jimin smiled, stepping over to his desk and taking a seat as Taehyung plugged the straightener in to let it warm up. “Don’t burn my hair off.”

            Taehyung gasped in faux shock, snagging a comb from Jimin’s dresser. “I would never! Besides, the pink is too cute on you. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.” Jimin tried to quell the flush that spread across his cheek bones before the other boy noticed. Luckily, Taehyung was busy spritzing the heat protectant and combing through Jimin’s rats’ nest.

            “I don’t know, is it too bright? I was thinking of darkening it again soon.”

            Taehyung’s hands paused as he leaned forward over Jimin’s head, meeting his eyes while hovering over him. “I love it. It suits you.” He tugged a lock with a grin. Scoffing to hide his embarrassment, Jimin waved him off with a pleased smile. “Besides, we match.”

            “Pink and blue don’t match Taehyungie, I thought you were the artist here?”

            Happy with the amount of spray and the comb through, Taehyung picked up the straightener and set to work. “They do if you’re thinking cotton candy.”

            “Or bubblegum ice cream.”

            “Or a way too sweet birthday cake!”

            “Or cherry blossoms against the open sky!”

            “Or baby beanies.”

            Jimin couldn’t help but laugh, catching Taehyung’s warm gaze in the mirror. “You’re ridiculous, you know?”

            “I know.” Setting the straightener down, He leaned down, wrapping his long arms around the pink haired boy’s neck and hugging him. “But you love me anyways!” Jimin broke eye contact after shooting him a halfhearted smile, hand coming up to touch his newly styled hair.

            “It looks good, thank you Taetae.”

            “Awesome! Now get dressed, we’re late!” Taehyung unplugged the straightener and gathered his stuff, his boxy smile on display.

            “Late for what?”

            “We’re meeting Hoseok and Seokjin at the mall! We’re going clubbing tonight, and you need a new outfit!”

            “I do?” Jimin tossed a pillow at the retreating boy. “My clothes are awesome! I have serious style!” He stuck his lower lip out in a pout.

            “Yeah well, let’s go buy you something pretty anyways.” Taehyung replied, catching the pillow and tossing it back, laughing when it smacked Jimin in the face and the older boy let out a cry of protest. “Get ready to go, you’ve got ten minutes before I’m dragging your ass out of this apartment, regardless of the state it’s in!” With that, he shut the door.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jimin wasn’t usually one to avoid his problems. He’d always been a take charge kind of guy, the type of person who faced his issues head on with the goal of fixing them as soon as possible. He didn’t run, he didn’t hide, and he most certainly didn’t shop his way out of his problems. At least, that’s what he tried to tell himself as Hoseok shoved another pile of clothes in his direction, yanking the dressing room curtain shut after shooting him a sunny smile. “Try those Jimin-ah! I think that velvet jacket would look amazing with your complexion!”

            “Thanks, hyung, I’ll try it out.” Jimin called back, sorting through the tops and accessories, trying to make sense of the craziness he had been handed. Hoseok was not afraid to try anything, not unlike Taehyung. The two were brave when it came to fashion choices, whereas Jimin was typically more conservative. The pile worried him, knowing Hoseok would be expecting at least three outfit changes before he’d be allowed to put any of this stuff away. Lifting a white button up from the top of the pile, he slid it over his bare shoulders, glancing down to do the buttons and admire the beaded lines running down the front. It was surprisingly tame for Hoseok.

            The curtain opening made Jimin sigh and roll his eyes. “Hyung, I promise I’ll try the jacket, give me just a sec—” Glancing up at the mirror, he froze, Taehyung’s amused gaze meeting his in the mirror.

            “Hyung, huh? That’s a new one. I can be your hyung if you want Jiminie.” He winked, making Jimin laugh as he shut the curtain and tossed a small stack of clothing on the chair.

            “What are you doing Tae?” Jimin asked, lowering his voice. “Didn’t you see the ‘one person per changing room’ sign outside?” He pointed over his shoulder sassily.

            “Oh, I’m not staying. I just wanted to see how you were doing.” He laughed suddenly, walking forward until he was standing just behind Jimin, grinning at him in the mirror. “You missed a hole.” He was right, one of the buttons was buttoned higher on the shirt then it should have been. Jimin opened his mouth to thank him, but he never had the chance. His eyes widened as Taehyung’s arms came around from behind him, swallowing hard as Taehyung’s long fingers slowly unbuttoned the top few buttons. Watching him in the mirror, Taehyung’s gaze was focused on the shirt until he had it properly buttoned, not noticing the pounding in Jimin’s chest and the sudden intake of breath when their eyes met again. “There you go.” He paused, considering Jimin’s reflection for a moment before he turned to the clothes he had tossed on the chair. He shuffled through them for a moment before retrieving what he was looking for. “That looks nice on you, but I think this will look better.” He held a top out over Jimin’s shoulder, nodding encouragingly towards it. Jimin slowly took it, cooing softly at the waterfall of grey and black silk. “Try it?”

            Jimin swallowed, eyes on the top. “Uh, yeah. Yeah, I will.”

            “Great. Well, I gotta go find Seokjin before he tries to buy something in plaid.” Taehyung shuddered dramatically, hands coming up to squeeze Jimin’s shoulders from behind before he disappeared out the curtained door. Jimin sighed, holding the silk button up out in front of himself.

            He didn’t have to try it on. He already knew he was getting it.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            “I’m excited for Yoongi to see the outfit I got for tonight; he’s totally gonna to flip!” Hoseok gushed, linking his arm with Jimin’s. By the quantity of bags, he had on his other arm, it was clear he didn’t just get an outfit for tonight. Jimin giggled softly, lightly bumping his hip against the older boys.

            “He’d flip more if you went naked.”

            “I have a feeling the club owners might not like that.” Hoseok laughed, eyeing the window displays as they passed them. The only person who could outshop Taehyung was Hoseok, which is how the four had split up. Seokjin had dragged Taehyung to GameStop, mentioning something about a new Super Mario preorder he just had to get, while Hoseok and Jimin finished up in their favorite clothing shop.

            Spending time with Hoseok was relaxing. He was always so happy, such a bright personality in a sea of darkness that Seoul could be half the time. He was witty and kind, always goofing around and making them all laugh; but he also had a gentler side, a soft side that he only offered to those he was closest with. He was introspective and empathetic, someone Jimin always felt like he could talk to and come away feeling as if he made some progress. So, as Hoseok talked his ear off about all sorts of things, Jimin found himself conflicted.

            “Oh! I forgot to tell you! Did you know there will be scouts at the academy in three weeks?” That got Jimin’s attention., Hoseok hopping a little in excitement.

            “Seriously?”

            “Yeah! How cool is that, huh? Apparently, there’s an entertainment company looking to put together a dance team. This could be it Jimin-ah! We have to work three times as hard if we want an audition!” Hoseok crowed, shimmying his hips. Jimin laughed, doing a little shimmy of his own.

            “We should see if Jungkook wants to join us! Hobi-hyung, you could choreograph it! And maybe we could get Namjoon-hyung and Yoongi-hyung to work on a song for us?”

            “I’ll talk to Yoongi-hyung about it!”

            There was extra pep in his step now, his mind focusing fully on the idea of audition for an entertainment company and making it big in dance like he had always dreamed. He was lucky enough to be surrounded by such talented individuals who shared the same passions as he did. Hoseok and Jungkook were incredible dancers, while Yoongi and Namjoon had a surprisingly large following in the underground rap scene as Suga and RM respectively. Taehyung was an incredible photographer, and Seokjin was already making waves in the culinary arts. Jimin couldn’t help but smile brightly.

            “Hey, there’s Seokjin-hyung and Tae!” Hoseok practically dragged him around the bend, waving energetically at their friends. Jimin was surprised to see they weren’t along. Taehyung was laughing at something the blonde man beside him said, placing a hand on his shoulder and shaking him affectionately. Jimin immediately felt his mood dip a little, but he made sure to keep the smile on his face. The blonde’s hair had patches of bright colors dyed into it, though it was shaved pretty close to his head and Jimin supposed he had a handsome face, angular with high cheekbones. He wore a jean jacket that was embroidered with colorful flowers over a loose yellow shirt he had French tucked into his black skinny jeans. Jimin had to reluctantly admit to himself that his boots were killer.

            “Oh, hey guys.” Seokjin finally noticed them as they walked up, drawing the attention of Taehyung and the blonde.

            “Hi! Who’s your friend?” Hoseok asked amicably, holding his hand out to the stranger. “I’m Jung Hoseok! How do you know Taehyung-ah?”

            “I’m Kim Kibum.” The blonde shook Hoseok’s hand, smile a wry twist of his mouth that was somehow both charming and sarcastic at the same time. Though Jimin couldn’t focus on anything but Taehyung’s hand on Kibum’s shoulder. “We actually had a couple classes together.”

            “Yeah, Key-ssi is majoring in fashion design so we had a couple of the same classes last semester.” Taehyung explained. “Key-ssi, this is the friend I told you about!” Jimin was surprised when he was tugged away from Hoseok, Taehyung throwing an arm around his shoulders and dragging him closer. He nearly tripped but Taehyung caught him and righted him.

            “So, this is the infamous Park Jimin I’ve heard so much about.” Kibum’s tone was amused as he held a hand out to Jimin, who flushed slightly and shook it.

            “Ah, hi. It’s nice to meet you Kibum-ssi.” Jimin bowed slightly, feeling his cheeks heat further when the blonde snickered.

            “You too Jimin-ssi.” To Jimin’s shock, Kibum looked him up and down slowly, smirking. “Cute. See you around.” With a lackadaisical wave over his shoulder, He disappeared into the crowd.

            “He seems nice!” Hoseok said happily, thanking Seokjin when he offered to take some of his bags.

            “He really is, despite his first impression. He’s kind of abrupt though, which I think is hilarious.” Taehyung chuckled deeply, his arm tightening around Jimin’s shoulders as they headed towards the exit. “Dude’s got an eye for fashion; you should have seen the asymmetric top he created from recycled materials last semester.”

            “You should invite him to hang out with us!” Seokjin suggested.

            “What do you think of that?” Taehyung asked, looking down at the pink haired boy he was currently holding hostage. Jimin sighed, attempting to shake the taller boy off (he forgot that when Taehyung got ahold of you, it was like trying to shake a baby koala. There was one time when they were in their senior year of high school and Jimin was preparing to go to a dance competition across the country. Taehyung had a debate competition on Saturday so for the first time ever he couldn’t come watch Jimin compete, therefore he was being as sulky as possible. “But Jiminie!” Taehyung whined, clutching Jimin around the waist as he tried to pack. “How can you go alone? Where’s your moral support?” “Hoseok-hyung will be there.” “But. . . but that’s not the same!” “I promise I’ll film it so you can watch it later, okay? Now I have to pack, the bus will be here in an hour! Leggo Taehyungie!” “I’m stuck. You’ll have to drag me with you. It’s that or you stay. Deal or no deal?” “Taehyung!” No amount of prying could remove Taehyung before he was ready, and Jimin nearly died from laughter trying. Needless to say, he almost missed the bus).

            “He seems nice, kind of odd, but that makes sense since he’s your friend, Taetae.” Jimin replied, stick his tongue out at the taller boy, still trying to wiggle from Taehyung’s grasp.

            “That makes you the oddest, since you’re my favorite.” Taehyung said smugly, sticking his tongue out back and giving the pink haired boy a boxy grin. Jimin just groaned at the lame joke, snaking an arm around Taehyung’s waist to give his sides a couple quick squeezes; Taehyung was already releasing him, cracking up as he tried to get Jimin’s fingers away from his extremely ticklish sides. Giving an excited cry of freedom, Jimin took off out the mall’s entrance, hearing Taehyung’s cry of protest and the others laughter as the doors closed. Giggling, Jimin stumbled to the side as his knees grew weak, cursing his inability to stay standing when he’s laughing hard. Spotting their car farther in the parking garage, he jogged towards it, careful not to get hit by a car as he crossed the lanes. Hearing the doors behind him whoosh open, he picked up the pace, weaving in between parked cars as he laughed breathlessly.

            “Jimin-ah!” Taehyung’s shout echoing through the parking garage only made him laugh harder, the heavy fall of his feet pounding against the asphalt sending a panicked thrill through him. “Get back here!”

            “Never!” He called over his shoulder, darting around the corner to hide behind a concrete pillar. Gasping with laughter, he covered his mouth to stifle his mirth, listening intently for Taehyung’s foot falls. There was a burning in his chest, a slightly constricted feel that had him trying to slow his breath and deepen it. For a second, all he could see was periwinkle petals and the bright red of fresh blood.

            “AH-HA! Found you!” Jimin squealed, unprepared for Taehyung’s sudden attack. The taller boy bent at the knees suddenly, arms going around Jimin’s legs and lifting. The gesture had Jimin gasping in surprise as he fell over the other’s right shoulder, sufficiently bent in two. Taehyung straightened with a cackle, hefting Jimin like a bag of potatoes and turning to head towards their car (he was extra careful not to bang the shorter boy against the column or a car, which Jimin appreciated).

            “Kim Taehyung! Put me down!” Jimin exclaimed, wiggling a bit to try and loosen his hold.

            “I’m going to accidentally drop you if you keep moving Jimin-ah!” Taehyung warned when he stumbled a bit. His left hand came up suddenly, popping Jimin straight on the butt with a firm smack, eliciting a gasp from the pink haired boy. “Behave!”

            “Did you just—”

            “You know I did.”

            Jimin outwardly crossed his arms and scowled at the ground, though inward was a different story. A third of him was indignant at being treated like a child or produce even though Taehyung wasn’t that much bigger than him (though he did seem bigger than his actual size due to his personality). Another third of him was spinning around in the clouds, dancing and singing his heart out because Taehyung touched his butt, there was actual hand to ass action and Jimin could still feel the sting of the smack. The last third, the more coherent and adult third, was in gay panic. It was praying to whatever deity was out there that his body didn’t do something embarrassing like pop a boner or let out any weird, involuntary sounds. So far, so good. “Jerk.”

            “The jerkiest.”

            “I don’t think that’s an actual word.”

            “I can’t hear you over the sound of me catching you!” Taehyung responded, voice sing song as he finally reached the car. Seokjin was already in the driver’s seat, playing on his phone while Hoseok was leaning against the passenger side of the vehicle. He looked up and laughed, immediately snapping a few pictures of Jimin over Taehyung’s shoulder, ignoring the glare Jimin sent him (in fact, he cooed at him and got a close up of his face). “Look hyung, I caught a big one!”

            “Very good, Tae.” Hoseok laughed as Taehyung leaned over to put Jimin back on his feet. “You got a cute one!” Jimin just huffed in response, opening the backseat door and sliding in, shutting the door firmly to block out their laughter. He caught Seokjin eyeing him in the rearview mirror and lifted an eyebrow at him.

            “You wanna say something too, hyung?”

            Seokjin put up his hands in surrender, grinning as he broke eye contact. “No, no. Of course not. I’ve got not a single thing to say.”

            “Liar.”

            “Well, there is this joke that—”

            “Say another word and Namjoon-hyung is getting a phone call.” Lifting his cell phone, Jimin smirked at the sudden panic on Seokjin’s face. “And yes, I went there.” Unrolling his window, he dug his fingers into Taehyung’s side again, making the boy jump from where he was leaning against the door. “Get in the car, places to go, remember?” Hoseok and Taehyung just laughed as Jimin rolled his window back up, hiding a small smile.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            After having a quick lunch at one of their favorite barbeque places, Seokjin dropped them off outside their building, he and Hoseok blowing them a kiss as they drove off with promises to meet tonight. Jimin was excited, he had a cute new outfit and was going clubbing with all his friends for the first time in a while. Normally, he and Taehyung just spent weekends hanging out, watching movies or wandering around Seoul, so he was excited to do something out of the ordinary. Clubbing meant dancing, and it had been a long time since he had just cut loose and enjoyed the motion without having to worry about choreography.

            “Excited Jiminie?” Taehyung teased as he lounged on the couch and watched Jimin’s little dance as he headed towards his bedroom, already shuffling through his bags.

            “Really excited! I can’t wait to dance.”

            “You dance every day.”

            “Not like this.” Jimin argued, waving the snickering blue haired boy off. “I’m going to take a shower and get ready.”

            “It’s only 4:30! Everyone won’t be here until 8:00!” Taehyung hollered after him.

            “I have a process! And I want to look hot tonight.” Jimin concluded his argument with a slammed door, hearing Taehyung’s low rumble as he must have responded but the sound of the door shutting blocked out his actual words. Shrugging it off, Jimin headed to his dresser, resolutely ignoring the small container that was demanding his attention in favor of rifling around for his favorite ripped black skinny jeans.

            Jimin wasn’t lying, he really did have a process. When he knew he was going out in advance, he liked to give himself something of a spa day. First, he took a quick shower to get the grime of the day off and do a quick hair masque on his freshly washed hair. Then, he liked to soak in a hot bubble bath scented with jasmine and rosehip, the lights down low as he enjoyed the music playing from the sink as he paints his finger nails a deep dark purple. It’s no secret that he hates body hair, so he quickly gives himself a once over with a razor, making his legs silky smooth. After toweling off, he applies scented lotion all over his body, so his skin is soft to the touch, and adds product to his hair. Tonight, he parts the hair farther to the left as he lightly straightens it, so a heavy waterfall of slightly waved pink hair falls more on the right side. Satisfied with his hair’s current style, Jimin smirks at himself in the mirror and heads back to his room. Luckily, the hallway is empty, and Taehyung’s door is shut. Rapping lightly on the door as he passed it, he called, “Bathrooms yours!”

            “About time!” Was the reply, and Jimin stifled a laugh at the annoyance coating it. He disappears into his room right as Taehyung’s door opens.

            Dropping the towel from his waist, he focused on getting dressed. Not bothering with underwear, Jimin spends the next five minutes wrestling the skinny jeans on, resorting to hopping up and down at one point to get the jeans over his thicker thighs. A bit winded, he sat on the edge of his bed for a second, coughing lightly into his hand and taking slow, deep breathes. He felt better after a few moments, so he continued to get ready, threading a studded belt through the jeans. The top Taehyung had handed him at the mall felt delicious against his skin, the button up a marbled grey and black, slightly loose with a low cut V-neck. Its sleeves brushed the knuckles of his hands lightly where he left the ends unbuttoned and open, fluttering lightly when he did a spin. He slipped on a pair of chunky black combat boots, the ones with the slight heel that made him feel marginally less tiny and really accented his legs.

            He spent quite some time on his makeup after moisturizing, highlighting and contouring his cheeks and jaw to make himself look sharper, wishing the chubbiness of his cheeks had faded with childhood but thankful that make up helped him control it. He didn’t bother with blush, knowing that dancing would add a natural glow that would show even through the foundation. For his eyes he applied the double sided eyelid tape he had gotten for just such occasions, then went with a smoky, sultry look, adding a bit of glitter after lining the lids with a deep black kohl wing. He used a light pink lip melt, giving his full lips an almost icy look that contrasted nicely with the smoky shadow. Digging in his jewelry box, he added a couple individual silver rings to his fingers and right thumb, selecting a flowered two finger ring for his left middle and index fingers. Silver bracelets bracketed his wrists. He added dangling earrings to the first hole in each ear, a ring in the second on his left ear, and studs to the rest. As a finishing touch, he tied a black fabric band around his neck as a choker, adding a few spritzes of cologne.

             Staring at himself in the mirror had Jimin preening, extremely happy with his overall appearance. Checking the clock, he laughed at the fact that it was 8:15, which explained all the noise coming from the living room. Making sure he had his wallet and ID, he finally headed down the hall.

            “And it broke! I’m not even kidding, this guy barely touched it!” Jungkook was holding his stomach as he laughed at the story Seokjin was telling about Namjoon, if the boys blush was anything to go by. “Can you imagine trying to explain that to the museum curator?”

            “God of destruction, I’m telling you!” Jungkook finally managed to say, as the others laughed harder. “You should come with a warning label, hyung!”

            “I don’t mean to!”

            “Jimin-ah!” Hoseok shouted, finally noticing him. He threw up two hearts. “You look striking! Is that the new top you got today?”

            “It is!” On the groups demand, he did a slow spin, model posing as the others clapped and complimented him. Finally embarrassed, he giggled, waving them off. “Thanks guys! You all look stunning too!”

            “Hey Jiminie, do you know where I put my—” Taehyung’s sentence was abruptly cut off as he came through the kitchen door, eyes wide with shock as he scanned Jimin’s outfit from top to bottom, then back up. His mouth was open slightly, a slight flush on his cheeks. One reason Jimin loved these jeans so much was the strategic rips teasingly showing skin where it wasn’t already hugging his body like a second skin, accenting his curves and making his ass look great. “Uh, my, um.” Taehyung tried again, giving up after a few moments. Jimin covered his mouth to hold in a giggle, giving him the same up and down he had received.

            Taehyung was wearing dark blue and black pin stripped pants that hugged his body, his slightly billowy white top was half tucked in, the cuffs tight around his wrists though the collar was loose and showing off his sharp collar bones. He had on flat black boots, and a patterned jacket tossed over his arm. He went infinitely lighter on the makeup then Jimin, but it suited him and drew attention to his perfect skin and sultry eyes. Jimin could feel his cheeks burning when he finally looked away, moving to sit on the armrest of Jungkook’s chair. Jungkook, meanwhile, was looking like the cat that ate the canary, the biggest of smirks on his face as he glanced between the best friends.

            Yoongi clearing his throat caught Taehyung’s attention, and he shook his head as if to clear it. He shot a boxy smile at Jimin, giving him a heart with his left hand. “You definitely achieved your goal tonight Jiminie. You look seriously hot.”

            Jimin could feel the blush deepen as he elbowed Jungkook who was silently laughing. “Thank you Taehyungie, you look really good too.”

            “Just good?” Taehyung pouted, twirling around to show off his outfit until his friends were clapping and hooting.

            Jimin rolled his eyes fondly. “Fine, you look hot. Happy?”

            “Always. You guys ready to go?”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jimin loved the club they always went to. The high ceilings made for great acoustics and the music was always phenomenal. The mix up of music types, both Korean and foreign, always made for great dancing, and the floor was huge and always crowded. Jimin didn’t care though, about the bodies pressing in around him as he danced, welcoming the attention he got through looks and the occasional brave wandering hand. His friends had headed back to the bar for a drink break after nearly an hour of dancing, but Jimin was already drunk on the atmosphere. Eyes sliding closed, hands up in the air, he moved in ways others would consider sinful, hips moving in a swivel that belayed his talents. His head tipped back, letting the music take him away as the only thing that mattered was the beat pulsing through his sweaty body.

            The air behind him suddenly warmed, two large hands coming to glide along his hips and rest there as the person swayed in time with him. Jimin shivered at the feel of his tight grip pulling him close, because he would know those hands anywhere after all these years. Confirming his suspicion, Taehyung’s lips were by his ear, breath hot as he spoke loud enough for Jimin to hear. “The vultures are circling you out there, watching your every move.”

            Feeling brave, Jimin titled his head back just enough to expose his lean neck and catch Taehyung’s gaze. “Are they? I hadn’t noticed.”

            “Of course you didn’t notice.” Taehyung chuckled deeply, tugging Jimin’s back closer to his chest. “You’re out here looking like some fairy prince escaped from a fairy tale, all by your lonesome, waiting for someone to catch you and take you home with them.” His voice was deeper, and Jimin thought he could detect the scent of whiskey on his breath.

            Making a split decision, Jimin turned around, throwing an arm around Taehyung’s neck to keep their connection. “A fairy prince, hmm?” His smile was sultry and probably a little bit indecent, but the headiness of the club was making him brave. “Maybe I am waiting for someone to catch me.”

            Taehyung’s eyes seemed to darken, his hands coming back up to grasp Jimin’s hips again and slide a long leg between the shorter boys’ knees. Jimin gasped softly at the motion, acutely aware of just how close they were now, how he could count Taehyung’s eye lashes if he really wanted to. They lost themselves in the music, dancing and singing in each other’s ears until the only sounds Jimin could hear was Taehyung’s voice and his own heartbeat. There was a moment, when Taehyung bit his lip and their gazes connected that Jimin was almost sure Taehyung could see the desire burning in his eyes. Taehyung slowly released the lip, teeth pulling lightly at the flesh before it sprang free, and Jimin had the sudden urge to replace Taehyung’s teeth with his own. To reach up and pull Taehyung down, lick inside that hot, perfect mouth and show him the extent of his desire, to quell the urge within him to just take what he wanted from the other’s body, no regrets. Shifting forward a bit, Jimin reached up, fingers brushing the blue strands at the nape of Taehyung’s neck. It was then that Jimin realized Taehyung had never looked away, his eyes burned into Jimin’s, pupils blown wide and—

            The guy dancing next to them suddenly stepped back, his foot landing right on top of Jimin’s. With a cry of pain, Jimin stumbled back a bit, leaning down to hold his foot and cursing under his breath as he tripped and landed straight on his ass. Taehyung just looked startled, seemingly confused about what the hell just happened with his hands extended into thin air where he had been holding onto Jimin. It only took a moment before he was bending down, tugging Jimin off the floor before he got stepped on again, shooting the guy a dirty look and nearly carrying Jimin towards their friends at the bar. “Jesus Jiminie, are you okay? Are you hurt?” Taehyung practically had to shout over the din as they got closer to the bar. Jungkook and Hoseok had noticed them, and Hoseok wore a look of concern as the youngest member of their group got the other’s attention.

            “My foot and tail bone just hurt a little, I’m okay.” Physically at least. Now his pride, on the other hand, was most definitely wounded.

            “What a jackass, he didn’t even apologize!” Taehyung was working himself up good, glaring over his shoulders in the direction they came from as Jimin tried to slide gently onto the bar stool Jungkook had given up for him. He smiled in thanks, leaning down to rub his foot.

            “Who didn’t apologize?” Jungkook asked, looking back and forth between the blue and pink haired boys in confusion.

            “What happened?” Yoongi’s tone was dark, evaluating the situation and trying to determine who was at fault. Frankly, the tone was way scarier then it should be since Yoongi wasn’t much bigger than Jimin himself. “Are you hurt?”

            “I’m fine—”

            “Some jerk stepped on Jimin! Jimin was on his ass on the floor and the dick couldn’t even bother to apologize!” Taehyung cut him off, ignoring the look Jimin was shooting him. “He nearly knocked him out!”

            “Tae, it was an accident—”

            “Which guy.” Jimin gulped at the tone of Yoongi’s voice, glancing to Hoseok for help. He was surprised to find a dark expression on the normally cheerful guys face too, even more baffled when Seokjin and Namjoon pushed off from the bar and followed Yoongi off into the crowd.

            “Guys—”

            “Stay here Jimin-ah. Kookie, stay with him.” Taehyung ruffled Jungkook’s hair and strode off after the others, even Hoseok was going. It only took a moment before Jimin was alone at the bar with Jungkook, staring aghast after his friends.

            “Kookie, what the hell? It’s really not that big a deal!” He complained as Jungkook took a seat beside him, sipping his beer (Jimin never did approve of his fake ID). “Why is everyone acting crazy tonight?”

            “I mean, look at it from their perspective.”

            “It still makes no sense!”

             Jungkook turned more to face him, leaning in so Jimin could hear him better. “Hyung, how would you feel if one of us had been so sick for so long, and the first time we had all come out together the barely better person got knocked around?”

            “I would. . . I would be angry.”

            “Damn right.” Jungkook leaned back against the bar top, surveying the crowd. Jimin was silent for a moment before reaching out to touch the younger boy’s shoulder and get his attention.

            “But I’m okay now Kook-ah. You know that, right?”

            “But you’re not. You still have to take breaks from dancing, you barely eat, and when you’re not wearing makeup you look pale as fuck.” Jimin was surprised at the amount of emotion in the boy’s voice. “You can say you’re okay until your blue in the face, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re not well yet. And it scares us.” Jimin just stared at him in shock, speechless. “So yeah, we’re a little overprotective right now. And if they start a brawl and we get kicked out, so be it.”

            Thankfully, that turned out to not be the case. It was a short time later when Hoseok tapped him on the shoulder with a smile, a small crowd congregated behind him. His friends all looked appeased, and the guy who’d stepped on him was standing there, an embarrassed look on his face.

            “Um, hi. I’m Minwoo. I’m really sorry about stepping on your foot earlier.” He said, rubbing the back of his neck. Jimin opened his mouth to respond when Taehyung cleared his throat, inspecting his nails. “I’m really, really sorry. I heard that you’re a dancer, and a foot injury could be career ending, and I really didn’t see you there, so it was completely an accident! I’m sorry if your foot hurts.” Jimin could feel even his ears flushing with embarrassment at Minwoo’s overdramatic apology. Taehyung cleared his throat louder this time, startling Minwoo. “Oh! And I’m sorry that me stepping on you made you fall, I heard that your might have a bruised tailbone and I’m really, really sorry about that—”

            “It’s fine.” Jimin interrupted quickly, smiling at the boy and waving his hand. “Water under the bridge, I’m fine.” He shot his friends each a look at that, then turned back to the clearly uncomfortable boy standing in the middle of his friends. “I forgive you, it was accident but thank you for your apology. Sorry about them. Have fun, okay?” Minwoo fled as soon as Yoongi nodded for him to go, disappearing into the crowd. The moment he was out of sight, Jimin’s friends started laughing, Jungkook actually wiping his eyes after a few moments.

            “He looked like he was gonna piss himself!” Jungkook practically cackled, smacking his knee. “What did you guys say to him?”

            “Well, I told him it was rude to bump into strangers and not apologize.” Namjoon replied.

            “I simply told him how bad an injury can be for a dancer, how it can end a career before it starts.” Hoseok said primly, before grinning. “These are facts.”

            “And I told him I don’t appreciate people messing with my friends, especially the small ones.” Seokjin added.

            “I told him there are a lot of dark alleys in Seoul.” Yoongi smirked at Jungkook’s wheezing. “And I told him the statistics of people getting hurt near clubs.”

            “And I told him no one hurts my best friend and gets away with it. I did give him options though.” Taehyung shrugged, motioning for the bartender.

            “I don’t know if ‘apologize or catch these hands’ counts as options.” Namjoon speculated.

            “It does to me.” Yoongi murmured. Hoseok fell against his boyfriend’s side in laughter, Yoongi smirking slightly as he threw an arm around the younger boy.

            “Awesome.” Jungkook finally said, lifting his glass to the group before downing the rest. “Totally, completely awesome.”

            Jimin dropped his head in his hands and shook it. “You guys. . . are too much.” They all just laughed.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

 

            Jimin had spent the last hour and a half dancing with his friends, feeling that delicious burn in his body from the constant movement. His chest wasn’t as tight as it had been earlier, making it easier to breath as he danced with Namjoon and Taehyung, the older of the three being goofy enough to nearly send Jimin to the floor in laughter. He forgot how much fun it was to just be out with the guys, Jungkook’s words from earlier circling his brain.

            “Hey! I’m going to go get a drink, I need a break! You guys want anything?” Taehyung shouted over the din. Namjoon just shook his head, leaning into Seokjin who had snuck up behind him.

            “I’m good!” Jimin replied, grinning at the other boy. His heart skipped a beat when Taehyung winked at him with his trademark smile, waving as he disappeared into the crowd. He couldn’t help but sigh with relief and hate himself for it. Being near Taehyung was like staring into the sun; too beautiful not to look at, even as your retinas burned and your eyes dried up, and all you want is to close your eyes and block it out. But when you do, you immediately miss its beauty and the warmth that comes off it so you can’t help but gaze upon it again. Being with Taehyung was too painful yet being away from him was agonizing. Jimin supposed that at least being near him hurt good.

            “I’m surprised you didn’t scamper after him.” Jungkook had danced over, smirking slightly. “I mean, you guys were practically eye fucking each other at the apartment, and a little bird told me things were getting steamy before that asshole almost killed you.” Jimin glanced around quick to make sure none of the Hyungs were close enough to hear; Yoongi and Hoseok were quite a bit away dancing under a spot light, lost in each other’s eyes. Namjoon and Seokjin were to their left, Seokjin’s arms loosely around Namjoon’s neck, their heads pressed together with their eyes closed, Namjoon’s hands resting hesitantly on Seokjin’s hips. Feeling safer than he did a moment ago, Jimin smacked Jungkook. “Ouch!”

            “First off, I didn’t almost die, you drama queen! And second, we were not eye fucking each other, we were just checking out each other’s outfits. The clothes are new.” He tried to rationalize, ignoring Jungkook’s growing smirk. “Thirdly, we were just dancing. Just like when I dance with you or Hoseok.”

            “If you danced like that with me, I’d barf. And Yoongi would kill you.”

            “Whatever.” Jimin rolled his eyes.

            “It’s true though.” Jungkook moved closer so he could pitch his voice lower. “You guys look at each other like you’re two seconds from ripping each other’s clothes off and having your way with each other right here on the dance floor.”

            “Jeon Jungkook!”

            “Just calling it like I see it.”

            “Well, you’re clearly blind.”

            “Just take the leap, Jimin.”

            “That’s hyung to you!” Jimin frowned, ignoring the way Jungkook’s words made his heart race.

            “Hyung, I’m serious for once.” Jungkook’s hands came out and landed on Jimin’s shoulders, stopping his dancing so they just stood there in the middle of the floor surrounded by the wild movement of the people around them. “Take a chance. Tell Taehyung you love him, because it’s painfully obvious from where I’m sitting. And he’s not an idiot, don’t you think he can probably at least guess you like him? Don’t you think he might be waiting for you to make the first move?”

            “J-Jungkook, I don’t. . . I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

            “Yes, you do, don’t lie to me.” The younger boy shook him a little, smiling. “It’s me, It’s Jungkookie! And hyung, sometimes you have to be brave if you want anything to change! And I know you do. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?”

            “He could hate me.” Jimin’s lip trembled, but Jungkook laughed.

            “Never gonna happen. I promise.” Jungkook pulled him into a hug suddenly. “Have I ever steered you wrong?”

            “Well, there was that time when—”

            “If you ever mention the ducks again, I will never talk to you again.” But his smile contradicted his words and Jimin had to laugh. “I love you hyung. Now do something about this tension before it kills all of us.”

            Jimin stuttered a bit, turning red. “I don’t even—Taehyung could be anywhere!”

            “I saw him by the bar, let’s go look, shall we?” Jimin wanted to smack the shit eating grin off the younger boys’ face and was once again pissed that he was friends with giants as Jungkook steered him through the crowd.

            “If I was taller, I’d kick your ass Kookie.”

            “Yeah, yeah. I hear you.” Jungkook was scanning the club as they passed the bar. Jimin wasn’t sure where Taehyung could have gone to when he said he was getting a drink. Speaking of, Jimin felt a bit parched.

            “Hey Kookie, I’m gonna grab a bottle of water, give me—”

            “Jimin, let’s go this way.” Jungkook grabbed his arm suddenly, trying to steer him back the way they came but Jimin dug in his heels.

            “It’s Jimin-hyung, and why? We already looked over there! You said I—”

            The look on Jungkook’s face when Jimin saw exactly what he had been trying to steer him away from was pained and shocked, but nothing close to what Jimin was feeling as he could almost hear his heart breaking in two. Jimin had always known Taehyung had hook ups and the occasional boyfriend here and there. He knew about it, he just never saw it after he split with Jungkook. He didn’t know if it was something they both avoided, or if Taehyung just didn’t care enough to bring it up. But he was fine knowing. He could see past that and move on. He couldn’t see past this. In fact, he couldn’t see anything but this.

            Taehyung was pushed up against the wall, not too far from the bar, attached to some stranger like he needed him to breath. The stranger had a leg between his knees, their bodies pressed together hard as Taehyung’s lips dragged down the man’s throat, kissing and sucking, while his hand rested on the man’s ass. Jimin watched in growing horror as the man’s hands left his best friends blue locks, one gripping his neck to pull him up into a filthy kiss that was all tongues and teeth, the other skating down his chest to disappear between their bodies. Taehyung’s head hit the wall suddenly, his mouth opening in a gasp and Jimin could see him mouth something. It was like his limbs were frozen as he watched a car accident in slow motion, the two parties colliding and there was nothing Jimin could do about it.

            “Hyung.” Jungkook pleaded, stepping in front of Jimin to block his view. And that’s all it took.

            “I’m gonna be sick.” Jimin whispered before he turned on a dime and sprinted towards the bathrooms. Jungkook’s footsteps pounding behind him, but he just ran faster, thanking whatever deity there was out there that the bathroom was empty for once. The door shut behind him but was thrown open again as Jungkook lunged in after him. The burning in his chest was suddenly back, white hot and pulsating as he started to cough, clutching at his neck he fought the choker he had tied on with fumbling fingers. Jungkook was there then, untying the choker and removing it to stop Jimin’s clawing hands. The burn in his chest was intense, and suddenly he was coughing harder, hard enough to feel as if he might vomit. Jimin stumbling to the sink, turning the water on high.

            “Hyung, what can I do?” Jungkook sounded terrified, reaching out to wipe his cheeks with a paper towel, taking a step back when Jimin recoiled closer to the sink away from his out stretched hand. It was then that Jimin realized the sounds coming from his throat were sobs within the coughs, hot tears pouring down his face as he cried. “Hyung, please!” Jungkook looked close to tears as Jimin’s coughing got worse.

            There was a pain suddenly, a catch in his breath that had his diaphragm spazzing and his gut heaving. The next big cough that came up came with a spray of bright red blood, coating the inside of the sink. It was metallic in smell, the taste of pennies filling his mouth as he coughed again and again, his knees weakening until they hit the ground and he was forced to cough into his hands.

            “Jimin-hyung?! Oh my god, what the hell’s happening?” Jungkook was on his knees beside him, hands stretched out to touch him, but clearly terrified to do so. Tears were running down his face as he looked at all the blood then looked at his older friend crumpled on the ground. “I have—I should get someone! I’ll be right back!” He made to move, but Jimin summoned a strength he didn’t know he had and caught his wrist in a surprisingly strong grip. Jungkook glanced back down at him, eyes wide and scared as he took in the blood dripping down Jimin’s neck, and the smattering of petals slowly oozing down the sides of the sink to collect in the drain.

            “No one can know.” His voice was hoarse and scratchy, but his gaze was serious.

            “What do you mean no one can know?! You’re literally coughing up blood and, and—are these petals?” The younger boy looked absolutely petrified as his voice rose an octave, more so when he was released and there was a partial bloody hand print on his wrist.

            “Jungkook. Lock the door.” Jimin coughed a few more times, spitting out petals that were stuck on his tongue. “Please, just do this for me.” Jungkook was clearly conflicted, glancing between the door and the shorter boy. “Kookie, please!” Jungkook was silent when he walked over to the door right as it started to open; he caught it, shoving it closed on the person and flipping the lock.

            “Hey!” The patron shouted, rattling the door knob.

            “Closed for cleaning!” Jungkook called, turning back to his friend on the ground. Jimin gave him an attempt at a smile, not realizing how garish the gesture would be until Jungkook flinched and covered his own mouth, eyes welling with tears again. He immediately looked away from the younger boy.

            “I’m sorry.” He whispered shakily, breath catching on another cough. “I’m sorry Kookie.” He sobbed softly, unable to even cover his face because of all the blood. There was movement and Jimin was suddenly in the arms of the youngest member of their group, being held as they both cried.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Getting out of the club bathroom and going home was a blur to Jimin, all he could see was the blood he had shakily scrubbed off his hands, neck, and mouth and the petals he had flushed down the toilet. Jungkook was silent beside him, helping to clean him up before washing his own hands. Jimin had turned to apologize for the blood he had gotten on Jungkook’s clothes, but the younger boy had just held a hand up to stop him and motioned him out the door. They caught a cab back to Jimin’s apartment, Jungkook still unnaturally silent as he followed him through the door, sitting on Jimin’s bed as the older boy took a quick shower. Jimin found him in the same spot he left him in, a water bottle in his hands now.

            “Hey.” Jimin said softly, taking a seat beside him, nodding his thanks to the other boy when he handed him the water bottle. He had scrubbed his teeth hard, using mouthwash to rid the metallic taste from his mouth but he still felt like he had something caught in his throat. The water helped a bit.

            “What’s happening to you?” Jungkook finally spoke for the first time since giving the cab directions to Jimin’s place, his voice quiet and tone uneasy.

            “I don’t know.”

            “Have you gone to the doctor?”

            Jimin fidgeted with the bottle in his hands. “That was only the second time it had happened; the first time was in the shower last night. But it wasn’t a lot, so I kind of just shrugged it off.” He sighed. “It was easy to believe it didn’t happen in the morning.”

            “You should make an appointment.” Jungkook replied, standing up to pace the length of the room. “I can go with you, if you want. I’m sure there’s some treatable reason this is happening, it probably isn’t a big deal.” Jimin was silent as he watched the younger boy for a moment before bringing his hands up to rub his face. He could feel the fatigue in his bones, the way his normal straight spine was slumped down, and his head felt like it was full of cotton. “Jimin, did you hear me?”

            “Yeah Jungkookie, I did.” Jimin dropped his hands in his lap, yawning. “I’m tired Kook-ah. We’ll talk about this another time.”

            “Hyung, you can’t just ignore it! You need to see a doctor! And we should really tell the others how sick you are!”

            “No one can know Jungkook.” Jimin nearly interrupted the pacing boy, looking up to meet Jungkook’s gaze. “I’m serious about that.”

            “Why hyung? You need help, and it’s not like anyone is going to think less of you for being sick! It’s not like you can help it!”

            “I don’t want anyone to know.” He insisted. Jungkook looked mad now, his face flushing and his jaw tight as he stopped pacing, his body nearly vibrating with nervous energy.

            “That’s stupid. I’m not just going to sit here while you ignore the problem. I can’t do that.” He headed towards the door, shaking his head as he pulled out his phone to call for a cab.

            Jimin was standing suddenly, blood rushing through his ears. “Jungkook, stop! You have to do this.” Biting his lip and internally hating himself, he continued. “You owe me this.” The younger boy froze, hand on the door. When he slowly turned to face Jimin, his eyes were filled with hurt and Jimin wanted to be sick. “I’ll tell people if and when I’m ready, and I’ll see the doctor eventually. I just. . . I need some time to come to terms with it myself before the whole world has to know. Please understand that and give me the space I need to figure things out.” Jungkook just nodded, eyes looking anywhere but at Jimin. “Thank you. And. . . I’m really tired Kookie.”

            “Get some rest. And don’t take too long figuring things out, okay?” He didn’t wait for an answer before he was out the door, leaving the apartment with the soft click of the door. Jimin closed his eyes for a moment, willing the tears away before moving around to clean up. The silk top was blood spattered and not worth saving, just looking at it made him feel ill so he bagged it up and shoved it to the bottom of the hamper. He jewelry was already sitting in a dish of cleaner, the solution coppery but the jewelry twinkling. He rinsed it all and put them away, glad that he had already changed and washed his face. He barely recognized his reflection; his skin was pale and there were dark bruise-like circles under his eyes. Jimin couldn’t look at himself for more than a moment before going back to his bedroom. Snagging his phone from his jean pockets, he checked his messages as he got comfortable in bed. 

Hobi-Hyung

[Jiminie! Kookie said you felt sick and he took you home. Let me know if you need anything? Love you!]

 

Joonie-Hyung

[Feel better! Don’t forget meds!]

 

Yoongi-Hyung

[Take care of yourself.]

 

Jin-Hyung

[I heard if u drink tea evrydy u wont get sick. Try it?]

            Jimin couldn’t help but smile at the messages, heartwarming at how caring his friends were. They never hesitated to reach out, even when clubbing, and it made him feel special. That was why he wanted to get a handle on what was going on before saying anything, he knew they would all constantly worry about him and he wanted to spare them some of that pain if he could. He was about to turn his phone off for the night after returning the well wishes and remind them all to be careful when he realized he had other texts. His heart nearly dropped when he realized they were from Taehyung.

Taehyungie

[I just got Kookie’s text, are you okay?]

[What’s wrong? He said you felt sick?]

[Do you need me to come home? I can stop and get that coconut water you like.]

[You aren’t responding so I’m heading out in a sec]

            Heart lurching at the thought, he quickly texted back, hoping he wasn’t too late and Taehyung hadn’t already left for home.

Jimin

[Sorry, just got out of the shower.]

]You don’t need to rush home, I’m okay. Just a little overly tired.]

Taehyungie

[Are you sure? I can be there in 20 mins]

Jimin

[I’m sure. Think I’m just going to turn in.]

[Night Tae]

Taehyungie

[ :( okay… Hope you feel better.]

[Sweet dreams Jiminie, I’ll see you in the morning!]

[I love you!!!!]

            Jimin felt hot tears prickling the backs of his eyes as he read the last text, the hole his broken heart had left in his chest burning around the edges and he turned off his phone. Getting up once more, he locked the door, hoping Taehyung would notice and realize he didn’t want to talk when he got home. Finally back in bed, he flipped off his nightstand light and laid there in the dark, staring up at the ceiling until he drifted off, the first light of day drifting through his curtains.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jimin felt like he was on the run constantly for the last two weeks. Ever since that night at the club he had been avoiding Taehyung like the plague, finding things to do at all hours of the day in order to stay away from their shared apartment. Ducking in the apartment when he knew Taehyung was working or somewhere else, only coming home late at night then leaving early in the morning just to avoid the other boy. He barely even responded to his best friend’s texts and calls, trying to drown out the voice in his head that was saying he was being weird, that Taehyung had clearly noticed Jimin avoiding him and was bound to be suspicious. Though he had a good excuse in the back of his mind, he still felt bad when Taehyung would text him that he missed him, asking when they were going to finally hang out. It was hard to go from being connected at the hip to not seeing neither hide nor tail of the blue haired boy.

            He spent a lot of time at Hoseok’s place and the dance studio, the two preparing for the auditions happening in a week. Hoseok had put together an intense choreography that went along with the upbeat track Yoongi and Namjoon had put together for them last week. To his surprise, Jungkook had agreed to dance with them and take part in the audition too, though he would barely look at Jimin unless he was required to in the dance. Jimin was both thankful for the space but mourned the relationship he had had with the younger boy. He felt bad in times like these, when they were practicing and Jungkook was forced to be in close vicinity with him.

            “I need a break.” Jungkook suddenly announced, standing up straight from the pose he had been in while Hoseok had tweaked their stances. The private room in the studio was empty and cool, the fan on overhead adding a slight squeaking in the silence of the room.

            “A break? But we just started! It’s only been twenty minutes!” Hoseok whined, standing up straight from where he had been positioned, eyes still on the floor to ceiling mirrors. “You haven’t even broken a sweat!”

            “I’m just tired, give me a few.” Jungkook replied shortly, leaning against the wall and sinking to the floor to sit down. He unscrewed the lid to his water bottle and took a long drink, eyes meeting Jimin’s in the mirror.

            Jimin looked away in shame, chest heaving slightly as he tried to control his breathing to a normal level for twenty minutes of dance. He was exhausted already, could feel his knees and hands trembling as he sat down too. The fact that Jungkook noticed his fatigue and still cared about him despite his cruel words two weeks ago made him feel irrationally emotional. The episodes (as he had dubbed them) had become steadier, much to his distress. There was never as much blood as that time at the club thankfully, and he was usually able to get away with using a tissue to catch most of it before it got everywhere. There was only once at a gas station that he had lost control of the situation in the bathroom, cleaning it up as best he could before leaving. He was embarrassed by the dwindling strength of his body. Hiking was one of his favorite things, the burn in his muscles similar to dancing, and the cool morning air up in the mountains was refreshing after being in the city. He liked to hike alone primarily, push his body to the limits and reach the crest, where he would either read a book or enjoy the view. He considered it his ‘me time’. So, when he tried to hike last Saturday and could barely make it a few miles up the trail at a time without having to rest, he was frustrated to the point of wanting to scream. He hated the sudden weakness in his body, hated how it made him turn around halfway up just so he’d be sure he could make it back to the bottom.

            Bringing himself back to the present, Jimin coughed lightly and stretched his arms above his head. Even dance, something that had always been so effortless to him, was becoming harder. He got winded more easily and needed more breaks. He did his best to hid it from the others, pushing his body past his limit in class just to not stand out as the weakest link. He worked doubly hard on their audition dance, positive when the day came that he could get through a three and a half minute song well.

            “The song is killer.” He offered into the silence of the room. Hoseok smiled at him in the mirror as he stretched.

            “I think so too. Joonie and Yoongi-hyung did a great job!”

            “The choreography is awesome too hyung, the mix of sharp and weak movements really suit the song. I think we’re a shoo in.” Jimin complimented the older boy, smiling when Hoseok flushed in pleasure.

            “Thanks, Jimin-ah! But really, the choreography is only as good as the dancers, and you guys are the best.” Standing up straight from where he had contorted himself into a pretzel, Hoseok hopped a little to keep his legs warm. “You ready Kookie? We only have a week left and we need to practice with the music!”

            Glancing once more at Jimin, Jungkook nodded and stood. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

            They spent the next few hours running through the dance over and over again until Hoseok was satisfied enough for the day. The normally sweet boy could be quite the drill sergeant when it came to dance routines, and by five o’clock all the boys were drenched in sweat and exhausted. Jimin was wheezing slightly, trying to catch his breath as he sipped on water, ignoring the worried looks Jungkook kept shooting him. He just needed a minute.

            “I think we’re almost ready!” Hoseok was suddenly on his feet, doing a jig in excitement. “I really think we have a shot guys!” The younger boys watched him dance around, both shocked he could have any energy left after the intense practice. Jimin laughed softly at his antics as Hoseok pulled Jungkook up into a really terrible bump and grind routine. The younger boy just looked amused as he indulged his hyung and laughed.

            “I need to go.” Jungkook said after a few moments of fooling around, a smile on his face as he grabbed his bag and water bottle. “I need to finish some homework. This biochemistry class is going to be the death of me.”

            “I told you summer classes were terrible!” Hoseok snickered, also packing up. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he followed Jungkook to the door where they both paused to look back at Jimin sitting in the middle of the hard wood floor. “You coming, Jimin-ah?”

            “Nah, I have some other stuff I need to work on, plus I need to properly stretch and cool down. You guys go on ahead, I won’t be long.”

            “Okay.” Hoseok blew him a kiss. “Don’t work too much longer, okay? Let us know if you need something!”

            “Will do. Bye hyung, bye Kookie.” He waved at the departing boys with a smile, sighing softly as the door shut. He fell back on the floor, staring up at that rickety fan as it rotated and squeaked. The floor felt good against his flushed skin, as he laid there and let his body slowly cool, occasionally stretching to loosen a sore muscle but too lazy to stretch properly. He felt gross, his skin sticky with drying sweat and his faded pink hair damp and curling. Jimin would do anything for a shower, except maybe get off the floor. He was exhausted from lack of sleep most nights and the growing inability to eat much. He could handle food in smaller doses, but he didn’t really get hungry much, and when he was it was still hard to eat. It was probably a combination of those things that had him falling asleep in the middle of the studio floor.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            “Jiminie, wake up. You’re going to catch a cold if you sleep here.” Jimin groaned at the sudden noise invading his sleep, hands prodding him and trying to get him to sit up. “Come on, let’s get you home and into bed.” The warm deep voice washing over him finally made him open his eyes blearily, hating how much he had missed it. Blinking to clear his vision, he was saved from direct harsh light because Taehyung was standing over him, his head surrounded in a halo of white light and blocking most of it. Jimin couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his fading blue hair, slightly longer than when he had last seen him, held off his face by a bandana across his forehead. The warm eyes softened something in Jimin, and the small mole on his nose was even more endearing than normal. Being separated from Taehyung for two weeks really just drove in how beautiful he really was now that he was seeing him again.

            “Taetae.” Hearing how hoarse his voice was he cleared his throat, sitting up slowly and stretching. The other boy crouched beside him, reaching a large hand out to brush Jimin’s bangs out of his eyes. “Ugh, don’t touch me, I’m gross.”

            “You’re not gross, Jimin-ah.” Taehyung’s soft laugh released something in his chest and resonated within him, warming the chambers of his heart one by one as it settled there to stay. He felt irrationally embarrassed of his appearance. He knew he was spending the day in the studio, so he hadn’t bothered with makeup or his hair, going bare faced with his waves.

            “I’m definitely gross and I need a shower.” Standing slowly, he stumbled before righting himself. “Geez, I’m more tired than I thought. I didn’t mean to pass out on the floor, I was just trying to cool down.”

            “Are you feeling okay Jiminie?” Taehyung asked, following him to where his bag was sitting, watching as he got his things together.

            “Yeah, just tired. Hard practice.” Jimin covered a yawn with his hand as he searched for his hat in the bag. Taehyung tapped the toe of his sneaker against Jimin’s leg, catching his attention. Taehyung’s face was blank, eyes locked on Jimin’s face, making the older boy feel the need to squirm.

            “So Seokjin-hyung told me about the auditions coming up. Apparently, he heard it from Namjoon-hyung.”

            Jimin fought the urge to clear his throat again, glancing back to his stuff to zip the bag up and yank the bucket hat down over his unruly locks. “Oh. Yeah, Joonie-hyung and Yoongi-hyung produced the music for our audition in a week.”

            “’Our’?”

            “Hoseok put together our choreography, and we’re dancing it with Jungkook as a group audition. We thought that would be more impressive than if we danced to separate songs.”

            “I see.” Taehyung’s tone was off as he reached down and snagged the bag as Jimin lifted it, throwing it over his own shoulder before holding the door open. Jimin, knowing better than to protest when Taehyung was trying to be chivalrous, just muttered a soft thanks and went through the door. Their apartment building was just a few blocks from the dance studio, so Jimin usually never bothered to call a cab and instead walked back and forth. He was about to keel over though, and he was pleasantly surprised when there was a cab waiting outside the studio doors. “I thought you might be tired.” Taehyung murmured, opening the cab door for him. Shooting him a grateful smile, Jimin got in and slid to the other side.

            “Thank you, Tae.” He said softly as the other boy slid in beside him. Taehyung nodded, leaning forward to give the address of their building. It was a silent ride, Taehyung staring out the window with his chin in his hand. It was uncomfortable for some reason, and Jimin found himself looking out his window too. Luckily it was a short trip, Taehyung passing the cabbie some cash before Jimin could even reach for his wallet, sliding out of the car with Jimin’s bag over his shoulder again. Jimin followed him inside, hands shoved in his pockets as they waited for the elevator.

            It was awkward, he decided. Taehyung always seemed reserved and somewhat standoffish whenever he was upset about something, usually needing space before he was willing to open up. And Jimin was usually okay with that, but the air felt heavier tonight. Every time he glanced at Taehyung, he wanted to throw himself into his arms, wishing he could just be okay with the way things were rather than wanting more. He hated himself for it, and he hated that his heart contracted with every look, flashes of that night in the club coming to mind repeatedly. He wished he could unsee that random guy all over him, wished he could unsee Taehyung all over that random guy. He was afraid to look at Taehyung’s neck to see if there were any marks from that night, even though logically he knew they would have faded after a couple days. So, things were awkward, Taehyung was probably angry, and Jimin wanted to sleep for a week.

            “Um, so how did you know I was at the studio?” He asked to break the silence as they stepped into the elevator. Taehyung pressed the button for their floor before responding.

            “Hoseok-hyung.”

            “Oh.” Jimin leaned heavily against the wall, eyes watching the floor number count up and praying the elevator didn’t get stuck like it had a habit of. He just wanted to escape to his room, take a shower, and go to bed. The next six days before their audition was sure to be crazy, Hoseok was demanding daily practices in order to perfect the dance with the music their Hyungs wrote. And there was part of the choreography that Jimin kept having problems with, it was like his legs and arms refused to move in sync during that specific part. It was frustrating having to repeatedly ask the other two dancers to demonstrate that part over and over again. Running through the choreography in his head one more time and humming softly under his breath, head bobbing to the beat as he waited for the doors to open so he could flee.

            “That’s it. I’ve had enough.” Taehyung suddenly stepped forward, pressing the stop button, the elevator lurching to a halt. Jimin stared at him with wide eyes as the alarm started dinging loudly before Taehyung pressed the mute button and turned to face him. “Did I do something to upset you or make you angry? Because I’m fed up pretending that I haven’t noticed you going out of your way to avoid me.”

            “Taehyung, I’ve just been busy, I’m not avoiding you.” Jimin refuted, moving to lean around him and hit the start button. Taehyung took two steps forward, knocking Jimin’s hand away and placing his hand above Jimin’s shoulder on the wall with a thud. The shorter of the two pressed himself back against the wall, heart beat thundering as he gazed into furious dark eyes.

            “Don’t lie to me Jimin, we never lie to each other.” Taehyung’s voice was lower than normal, almost dark with his anger. He leaned forward more into Jimin’s space, and the pink haired boy tried to move farther back. Lifting his right hand, he tugged the brim of Jimin’s hat up, so his face was more exposed. Jimin hated when he does that, knowing his perceptive best friend was able to read him like an open book. “Why have you been avoiding me?”

            Jimin turned his head to the side a bit, breaking eye contact with Taehyung in order to provide himself more of a sense of privacy. Taehyung radiated warmth and smelled like that cologne Jimin adored, it was hard for him to keep focused when he was this close after the last two weeks. “I—” Taehyung’s hand caught his chin in a firm grip, though his touch was gentle as he turned Jimin’s face towards him again.

            “Look at me. You never can lie to me if you’re looking me in the eye, Jimin-ah.” His left arm had relaxed slightly, Taehyung way too close in a way that felt too intimate for his heart. Chest burning, Jimin quickly turned to the side, startling Taehyung off as he started to cough, hand flying to his mouth. The burn was pulsing just enough to have him gasping for breath, quickly kneeling and reaching for his bag with his free hand. Understanding, Taehyung ripped the zipper open for him, holding it out so Jimin could pull the extra black t-shirt he kept in there out, holding that to his mouth instead. It only took a few moments for the episode to end, his chest heaving as his lungs slowly relaxed.         

            “Water.” He croaked hoarsely, motioning for the water bottle that had hit the ground at some point; Taehyung snagged and opened it, holding it out wordlessly. Jimin took it, pausing for a second to ask while the shirt was still over his mouth, “Can you. . . Can you see if I have tissues in there? Please.”

            “Yeah, of course.” Taehyung was subdued as he turned to the bag and started rifling through it. Jimin took that moment to glance at the material in his hands, trembling at the blood and periwinkle petals. Discreetly wiping his hands on the t-shirt until they were mostly clean, he wiped his mouth quickly and drank deeply from the water bottle and hoped it would erase any other signs of the mess. “Here, found them.” Taehyung held a travel sized pack of tissues out to him. Letting his longer sleeves fall to cover his hands like he normally had them (thankful he had worn a long sleeve), he took the tissues and wiped his nose quickly, stuffing the kleenex in his pocket.

            “Thank you.” He said softly, tossing the rest of the packet into his bag and taking a slow breath. “Sorry. . . about that.”

            “Jiminie. . . I thought you were better?” Taehyung’s hesitance surprised him into looking up at him. The taller boy looked worried, his brow furrowed as he stared at him. “You don’t sound better. And you look. . .”

            “If you say stunning, I might have to smack you.” Jimin joked to diffuse the tension, moving to stand up. His wrist was caught by Taehyung’s larger hand.

            “Don’t joke. Jimin. . . You’re so pale, and I think you’ve lost weight. A lot of it. I can’t remember the last time I saw you eat, no one can—and before you say anything, yes, the guys have kept me up to date, and they’ve said you’re not eating. You’re worrying me.” To Jimin’s horror, Taehyung’s eyes were welling with tears. “I’ve barely seen or talked to you in two weeks, our last real conversation was the stupid texts after you left the club, and now you look so sick and I wasn’t there to help you. I’m so scared, so worried all the time about how you’re doing and why you’re mad at me.” His dark eyes glittered for a moment, before a lone tear slid down his cheek. “And I miss you Jiminie. So much.”

            Tossing the soiled t-shirt into his bag, Jimin knelt, throwing his arms around his best friends’ neck and pulling him in tight hug, tucking his head into Taehyung’s neck. The blue haired boy let out a soft sob, shoulders shaking as he wrapped an arm tightly around Jimin’s waist and yanked him into his lap. The other arm came up to knock Jimin’s hat off and burying his hand in pink locks. They sat like that for a few moments, Jimin straddling Taehyung’s lap and gently rocking him, holding on to him tightly. “Oh Taetae. . . I’m so sorry. I’ve been under the weather and I didn’t want to worry you. I’ve been so busy with preparing for the auditions and working, and I haven’t been feeling great. I’m sorry, I promise I’m not mad at you, I could never be mad at you!” Pulling back enough to smile a closed lip smile at him, he lifted his hand and used the clean sleeve to wipe under his eyes.

            “Promise?” Taehyung’s voice was watery, face flushed.

            “Promise. I love you Tae.”

            “I love you too Jiminie. Promise not to hide anything from me?”

            Yanking him into another hug, Jimin whispered in his ear, “I promise.”

            Taehyung was right, Jimin never could look him in the eye and lie to him.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            “Jungkookie?” Jimin asked, voice soft as he held the phone to his ear. The line was silent for a few moments, dead air between them before he heard a long sigh.

            “Jimin-hyung.” His voice sounded tired and a bit forlorn, the sound of movement in the background. When he didn’t say anything else, Jimin’s heart sunk as he bit his lip.

            “Kookie, I. . . I need your help. And I know it might not be fair to ask that of you, after what I said the other day. But I need you.”

            There was silence for a moment before he replied. “What do you need?

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            The waiting room of the small hospital on the outskirts of Seoul was entirely too white in Jimin’s opinion. The walls, the floor, the lighting, even the chairs were white. He knew it was supposed to make the room look clean, but he couldn’t help but find it a little creepy as he walked up to the glass enclosed reception desk with Jungkook not far behind. Jimin had been surprised when the boy so readily agreed to go with him, considering they had barely interacted in weeks after that night at the club, and the hug he had been given when Jungkook showed up at the apartment had surprised him (luckily, Taehyung was at work so there weren’t any weird, prodding questions or asks to tag along).

            “Um, excuse me.” Jimin caught the nurse’s attention, attempting a smile. “Hi, I’m here for my appointment at 9:00 AM.”

            “Your name, hun?”

            “Park Jimin.” He nervously shifted his weight from foot to foot as she typed his name into the database. Jungkook’s warm hand was suddenly slipping in his, giving him a reassuring squeeze that had him letting out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding.

            “Ah, yes. Park Jimin at 9:00 AM with Dr. Choi.” She rolled her seat around to grab a file off the counter, pulling out a few papers and attaching them to a clipboard. Turning back to them, she held the clipboard out with a pen. “Dr. Choi is finishing with another patient right now, if you’ll go ahead and fill out these forms then we’ll let you know when he’s ready for you.” She smiled as he bowed slightly, quickly finding a seat in the empty waiting room.

            “Why is no one here?” Jungkook asked as he threw himself in the chair beside Jimin, watching over his shoulder as the older boy began filling the information in. Jimin just shrugged lightly.

            “I’m not sure.”

            “Well, why did we go here instead of the bigger hospital near your place?”

            Jimin shifted in his seat, trying not to flush when he got the questions about sexual history. “I didn’t want to run in to anyone I know. This seemed like the better option.” He quickly scribbled his answers in and tried to flip the page before Jungkook could see.

            “Wait, wait, wait!” Jungkook snagged the clipboard from Jimin, holding it out of reach as he flipped the page back. “Under sexual partners you’ve only listed two? And this says you haven’t had sex in the last twelve months?!”

            “Jungkook!” Jimin hissed, glancing towards the reception desk in embarrassment. “Damn it, give it back!”

            “Is this true? You know you have to answer honestly, right?” He still wasn’t giving the clipboard up, giving Jimin a hard look.

            “It’s true okay? Give me the damn paperwork back and keep it down!” Jimin snatched it back when Jungkook finally relented. Flipping the page, he started in on the insurance information, trying to ignore the way even his ears felt hot.

            “Really? Only two?”

            “I don’t want to talk about this with you!”

            “But two? Seriously?”

            “Yes, only two. Sue me.”

            Jungkook sounded more surprised than amused now. “That’s really hard to believe. You get hit on all the time when we go out. How have you only had two partners?” Knowing he wasn’t going to let this go, Jimin sighed.

            “One was a girl at a party my junior year of high school. I was sixteen, drunk, and it was over fast. The second partner was a guy I met when I was nineteen. That one was marginally better, but we only hooked up twice before I never spoke to the guy again. So, there you have it, happy?”

            “Hyung. . . You haven’t had sex since you were nineteen?”

            “No.”

            “Why?” Jungkook flinched at the look the older boy sent him, realizing how stupid the question really was. “That’s. . .”

            “Sad? Pathetic? Telling that I’m going to grow old and die with forty cats as all my friends fall in love and get married? Yep.”

            “I was going to say romantic.”

            “Can we just. . . Not talk anymore? I need to finish this paperwork.” Surprisingly, Jungkook was quiet after that, allowing Jimin’s embarrassment to fade and turn the finished documents back in to the receptionist. They were silent as the only sound was the nurse typing and the clock ticking obnoxiously. Jimin’s leg was bouncing, his fingers clutched together in his lap as he tried to stay calm. Hospitals freaked him out, the antiseptic smell and squeaking footsteps of the orderlies, the general chaos that goes on in the emergency rooms. He was glad again that he had picked the smaller option out of the hospitals in Seoul.

            “Park Jimin?” There was a nurse in green scrubs standing in the now open doorway to the exam rooms, smiling and glancing up from the clipboard in his hands. Jimin stood quickly, hands twisted together in from of him as he nodded and walked over. “Would you like your friend to accompany you?” Glancing back at Jungkook, who had stood but made no movement forwards, Jimin suddenly realized he did.

            “Kookie?” He asked softly, his voice betraying his fear by wavering just slightly. Jungkook immediately strode up to him, placing a warm hand on his shoulder.

            “I’m here, hyung.” Jimin smiled a thank you as they followed the nurse through the doorway and down the hall a ways until they reached Exam Room 6. The nurse let them in, going to the sink and counter top in the corner of the room and washing his hands quickly, smiling as he turned around.

            “Go ahead and take a seat on the exam table, we’re just going to check your vitals and get some basic information, then I’ll get Dr. Choi to examine you, sound good?”

            “Okay.” Jimin replied, ignoring Jungkook’s chuckle when he had to use the small stool in order to get on the exam table, crossing his legs and running a hand through his faded hair.

            “I’m just going to check your heartbeat and your blood pressure.” Jimin wasn’t much of a fan of the way the nurse announced everything he did before he did it, it made it hard to block it all out. When he was done and Jimin adjusted his shirt back over his chest, the nurse documented the information on his clipboard. “Everything looks good, your heart beat is a little fast, but you’re probably just nervous. I’m just going to confirm the answers you gave us, okay?”

            “Okay.”

            “When was the last time you had a physical?”

            “Six months ago. I’m a dance major, they were required.”

            The nurse made a note, driving Jimin crazy when he didn’t comment. “And when was the last time you had a health check?” At Jimin’s confused look, he clarified. “Blood work to check for STDs and the like?”

            “Oh.” Jimin flushed. “I’ve never had one.”

            “And the last time you were sexually active?”

            Kill him. “Three and a half years ago.” He was thankful when the nurse didn’t comment. “And before you ask, two partners. Ever.” His face was burning again, and he didn’t dare look at Jungkook.

            “Okay.” The nurse confirmed his contact information and his emergency contact (Jungkook cooed at him when the nurse rattled his information off, teasingly blowing a kiss at the older boy even when Jimin gave him the most deadpan look), before heading towards the door. “Well, I’m going to go let Dr. Choi know you’re ready for him! Just sit tight, he’ll be in soon.” The door clicked shut, leaving the two alone in the room.

            “That was mortifying.”

            “I’m glad I was here for it.” Jungkook laughed, dodging the shoe Jimin threw at him. “Hey, hey, hey! This is a place of health and treatment, not a playground!” He tossed the shoe back, grinning at Jimin’s pout. “Hey.” His tone was suddenly serious.

            “What?”

            “I’m really proud of you, hyung.”

            Jimin didn’t have a chance to respond when the door opened, a tall doctor in a white lab coat and tie walked in. His dark hair was lightly combed back, his jaw chiseled and strong, the high cheekbones showing off the brilliant smile on his face. Both the boys stared dumbfounded at the doctor as he grinned at them, washing his hands quickly before taking a seat on the rolling stool and using his feet to pull the chair closer to Jimin. Even sitting, the Doctor’s dark eyes were at the same height as Jimin’s, though with the doctor he somehow didn’t mind.

            “Hello! My name is Choi Minho, you must be Park Jimin. We spoke on the phone this morning.”

            “Ah, yes!” Jimin’s response was delayed, cheeks reddening as he shook the offered hand. “Nice to meet you. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.” He glanced at the younger boy to see if he was making fun of Jimin’s obvious discomfort, but the younger boy was staring at Dr. Choi with wide eyes. Interesting.

            “Happy to oblige, you sounded scared and I would love to help you feel more at ease.” He crossed his arms, smiling warmly at the shorter boy. “Now, why don’t you tell me what symptoms you’ve noticed that caused you to seek treatment?”

            “I was sick almost two months ago, and it never really went away. It started with congestion and coughing, so I assumed it was a cold. It’s. . . gotten worse.”

            “What doctor did you see initially so I can follow up with them?”

            “It mostly went away, so I didn’t see a doctor for it.” He ducked his head, a little ashamed. The doctor just waved a hand.

            “That’s understandable, Park-ssi. What symptoms are you having now that seem exacerbated?”

            “Well. . . the coughing has gotten worse. A lot worse.” Picking at the ends of his t-shirt, Jimin kept his eyes on his lap. “I’m having trouble sleeping and eating, and I seem to have lost a little weight.”

            “He’s lost a lot of weight, Doc.” Jungkook seemed to have finally shook off his daze, leaning forward with his arms resting on his knees, hands clasped together with a serious look on his face. “Like, a ton of it.”

            “Jungkook-ah, you’re overdramatizing things a bit.”

            “Look, Doc.” Jungkook stood, coming over to the exam table and hopping up on it, nudging Jimin over. Dr. Choi just looked amused, allowing it. “Jimin here—” He ignored Jimin’s cry of “Hyung!”— “He’s not being entirely truthful, but lucky for you, I’m here.” Jimin’s jaw dropped when Jungkook shot the doctor a wink. “I’ll be honest with you.”

            “Lucky me.” Dr. Choi chuckled.

            “This was Jimin a month ago.” Jungkook held out his cell phone to the doctor after scrolling through his gallery. Dr. Choi accepted it, glancing from the picture back up to Jimin and frowning.

            “You look to have lost at least fifteen pounds, maybe twenty.” He finally said.

            “He’s pale and cold all the time, and he hasn’t eaten a full meal in weeks. In fact, I can’t tell you the last time I saw him eat.”

            Not liking how he was being talked about as if he wasn’t in the room, Jimin interjected. “I’m not hungry very often.”

            “Tell him about that night in the club Jimin.” Jungkook looked at the shorter boy, hand coming up to rest on his shoulder. “Please be honest, tell him everything.” The worried look on the younger boy’s face was what finally made Jimin sigh and start to talk.

            “Well, it actually all started two and a half weeks ago, the night before the club.” He told the doctor about the night before in the shower, about the scene at the club in the bathroom (excluding seeing Taehyung with the club patron), the elevator, and all the events that followed. There were moments when emotions were running too high and he had to pause for a minute, and Jungkook took one of his hands in between both of his larger ones. He mentioned how his chest always burned and ached, how the pain pulsated randomly during the attacks. Dr. Choi was hard to read as he listened intently to the story Jimin told. Pulling a plastic bag from the confines of his messenger bag, he passed it to the doctor. Inside were the three periwinkle petals from his dresser. “And. . . This is what comes up with the blood. I don’t know why, and it scares me.” Jimin finally finished his story, pretending not to notice Jungkook wiping under his eyes as the younger boy searched his pockets for something as a distraction.

            “That’s. . . A lot to take in. Firstly, let me assure you that we’ll get to the bottom of this. Now, I think we should run some tests. Do you have any plans today?”

            “A dance practice.”

            “Cancel. You’re going to be here a while.”

            The resulting phone call to Hoseok was bound to be unpleasant, which was exactly why Jimin left that to Jungkook. The younger boy stepped outside sulkily to make the phone call as Jimin got changed into the thin hospital gown a nurse had provided. He stuffed his clothes into his messenger bag before pacing the room, too wound up to sit on the exam table again. It wasn’t too long before Jungkook was slipping back into the room, a petrified expression on his face. Jimin couldn’t help but laugh.

            “It didn’t go well with Hoseok did it?”

            “Hyung is really scary when he’s mad. Like, scarier than Yoongi-hyung, scary.” He fell into the chair again, scratching his head. “I might have trauma.”

            “Well, I’ll pay for therapy.” Jimin chuckled and resumed pacing. “Where did you tell him we were?”

            “I was really vague. Like, mentioned multiple different places and reasons why we couldn’t come just to confuse him.”

“Funnily enough, I think that’s why he was so angry.”

            “Probably.” Jungkook leaned in, a smirk on his face. “I like this hospital. Your doctor is so hot it almost hurts me. Like, Daddy hot.”

            Jimin groaned, pretending to puke. “I never want to hear you say that again.”

            “I can’t help it, he’s a dream boat. I’d love to grab that dark hair and ride him until—"

            There was a knock on the door before the nurse from earlier popped his head in, the two boys jumping in surprise glancing towards each other in mortification. “Excuse me, I’m here to take Park-ssi to his first test.”

            “What tests is Dr. Choi running?” Jungkook asked, looking between Jimin and the nurse.

            “He wants to do a battery of test; a blood test and a contrast CT X-Ray, then he would like to possibly do a bronchoscopy depending on the results of the first two tests.” The nurse responded, holding the door open for the two boys. Jimin gulped, having watched enough medical dramas to know what each one of those were and knowing he didn’t like the sound of the last one. The nurse must have noticed the fear in his eyes and smiled reassuringly. “It’s really not a big deal. The first two are very run of the mill, and the last one can be done with a sedative inserted intravenously so you won’t even notice. Dr. Choi will explain the last two procedures to you before they happen, but we’ll go ahead and get the blood work processing while he’s in the lab.”

            “You’re really able to do all those tests today? I thought there had to be time before the procedure for the patient to prepare?” Jungkook sounded totally freaked out as they walked down the hallways, glancing nervously over at the silent pink haired boy.

            “Normally, yes. But as Park-ssi hasn’t had either food or drink in over twelve hours due to his condition then we can go ahead and run them now.” He replied, motioning to a chair in a small open lab. Jimin took his seat slowly, eyeing the supplies the nurse was pulling out. “Have you had your blood drawn before?”

            “Yes.”

            “Any fear of needles?”

            “No, I’m fine.” Jimin held an arm out and sent the nurse a rueful smile. “Go ahead and stab me.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            The tests didn’t take too long. The contrast CT wasn’t bad, though Jimin gagged a few times when he had drunk the contrast solution. Jungkook had had to wait in the waiting room for the last two tests, much to his dismay even after Jimin had reassured him he’d be fine if he had to leave. Jungkook had steadfastly refused and had waited impatiently until he could see Jimin after the bronchoscopy. He was woozy, laying propped up on the hospital bed, having been entered into a room after the final test for observation. When the younger boy had demanded to know why, the nurse explained how they kept patients after this procedure to make sure there were no complications. Once the numbness in his throat faded, they would feel more comfortable releasing him.

            “We want to make sure he doesn’t try and eat with a numb throat. He could aspirate on it otherwise, so it’s better to keep him until he’s full cognizant.” Dr. Choi had stopped by after Jungkook made a big deal out of wanting to talk to him. He didn’t look bothered at all, the same smile on his face as he entered the room, stepping up beside the right side of Jimin’s bed. “How are you feeling, Park-ssi?”

            “Dr. Choi, you’ve seen my X-Rays and the inside of my lungs now. You can just call me Jimin.” He managed to say through a cough. Dr. Choi chuckled warmly.

            “Well, I haven’t seen them yet, that’s actually where I’m headed. I just wanted to see if you were doing alright before I go analyze the results of your tests.”

            “I feel funny.” He admitted, eyes lazily roaming the room, blinking slowly. “I feel all floaty, and my throat is weird.”

            “That’s the sedative and numbing medication wearing off. It should fade soon.”

            “You should have been here when he first came to.” Jungkook grinned at the doctor from the other side of Jimin’s bed. “He was spewing all kinds of nonsense.”

            “I’m sure.” Dr. Choi said with a smile. Jungkook’s cheeks were slightly red as he glanced away from the doctor’s steady gaze.

            “Kookie, you’re blushing. If you’re not careful Dr. Choi will know you think he’s a snack.” Jimin tried to lean forward and whisper, hand covering the side of his mouth on the doctor’s side. Jungkook immediately went tomato red, and Jimin realized his mistake. “Whoops, that was loud wasn’t it?”

            “See Doc, spewing nonsense.” Jungkook laughed weakly just as the doctor’s pager went off.

            The doctor had never looked more amused as he glanced at the device on his hip. “Well, I need to get going but I’ll be back in a bit. No food or water until the nurse clears you, okay?” He headed towards the door, stopping as he reached the doorway, turning slightly to grin at the two boys. He tugged his tie charmingly with a wink. “Oh, and thank you.” The door shutting muffled Jungkook’s groan of embarrassment.

            “Jimin!”

            “You can’t hit me, I’m sick!” Jimin’s hands came up protectively in front of him, a pout on his numb lips. Jungkook was red enough to fry an egg on his cheeks, covering his face as he sat down on the chair beside Jimin’s bed.

            “Please just kill me now.”

            Jimin’s cell phone rang, the face lighting up with Taehyung’s picture and the shrill of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Castle on the Hill’ blaring through the room. Jimin’s jolt of surprise was delayed, his eyes hazily settling on the device. “Kookie, grab my phone! Oh, and my chapstick, but the phone first!” Jungkook looked between him and the phone warily as he went to retrieve it.

            “Are you sure hyung? You aren’t really in the right state of mind to answer a phone call. Why don’t you wait until the drugs wear off?” Jimin made grabby hands at the phone, pouting. Jungkook sighed and handed him the phone. “I warned you.”

            Ignoring him, Jimin pressed answer and swiped (well, he did after missing three times), lifting the phone to his ear. “Taetae!”

            “Jiminie?” Taehyung sounded surprised. “Are you okay?”

            “Right as raid.”

            “Rain.” Jungkook stage whispered to him, facepalming from his seat.

            “Oh.” Jimin nodded, waving at Jungkook. “Sorry, right as rain. Not raid, Taehyungie.”

            “I know the saying, Jimin-ah.” Taehyung’s deep laugh had a ridiculously big smile brightening Jimin’s face, so wide that his eyes were like crescent moons. “Are you drunk?”

            Glancing down at the bandage on his arm, Jimin giggled profusely. “Basically.”

            “What’s the occasion? Are you at a bar? Hoseok called me asking if I knew where you were. You cancelled practice today?”

            “Yep, cancelled!” He popped the P, pleased to have succeeded despite the numbness. “Jungkookie said Hobi-hyung was mad!”

            “He didn’t sound happy, Jimin-ah.” Jimin could hear the sound of a car starting up. “Where are you? Is Jungkook still with you?”

            “I can’t tell you.” Jimin whispered (or not, really, the drugs seemed to have disabled his volume control). “I should be home tonight!”

            “Why is it a secret?”

            Jimin’s eyes widened, drugged up mind not comprehending that this was a question Taehyung would ask. Motioning to Jungkook, he held the phone away from his mouth. “Kookie, why is it a secret?” Groaning, Jungkook got up and snatched the phone.

            “You idiot, he can hear you!”

            “Yes, I can!” Taehyung’s tinny voice sounded distantly from the cell Jungkook held. “Kook-ah, where are you?”

            Jungkook rubbed the back of his neck as he held the phone to his ear and walked over towards the window. Jimin could only hear his side of the conversation now, scowling at the younger boy for removing him from the call. “Hi hyung. Let me just say that he’s completely safe, just a little tipsy.” He paused before fidgeting. “I’m not drinking, no.” Another pause, this one longer. Jimin knew the younger boy hated to lie, and distantly he felt bad about this. “Yeah, I just needed to talk and Jimin was available.” He rolled his eyes. “Hyung, I’m fine. I’ll return Jimin to you in one piece later tonight okay?” He smiled, pausing to hear Taehyung’s response, laughing slightly. “Fine, Jimin-hyung. Happy?” Jimin clapped with a happy squeal. “Bye hyung.” Walking back over, he held the phone out. “He wants to say good bye.”

            “Tae!” Jimin said, overjoyed. “Jungkook called me hyung!”

            Taehyung’s deep chuckle made a distant part of Jimin’s chest ache, but it was easily ignored. “I heard. Be careful okay? You know how you get if you drink too much. If you cancel another practice, I think Hoseok-hyung will have a meltdown.”

            “Okay Taetae.”

            “I’ll see you later?”

            “Yeah, I’ll be home later.” Jimin nodded, even though Taehyung couldn’t see it. “Bye-bye Taehyungie!”

            “I purple you!” Taehyung’s tone was teasing.

            “You too.” Jimin replied with a small smile before hanging up the phone and dropping it in his lap. He put his head in his hands. “I love you too.” Jungkook stayed quiet, rubbing his Hyung’s back in comfort.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            It was a couple hours before the sedative wore off, and it was an understatement to say that Jungkook’s nerves were fried. He nearly kissed the nurse who came in and announced that the drugs were officially out of Jimin’s system and he could now eat or drink something. Jimin drained a glass of water immediately, sighing in relief. “I didn’t realize how thirsty I was.” Smiling ruefully at Jungkook, he said, “I’m sorry Kook, for what I said to Dr. Choi.”

            Jungkook just sighed and waved his apology off. “It’s okay hyung, I know you didn’t mean to. Though that was probably the most embarrassing moment of my life, so thanks for that.” Jimin just laughed.

            “And thanks for taking over with Taehyung. You were right, I should have just let it go to voicemail or had you answer from the start. Sorry you had to lie for me.”

            “It’s okay, hyung.”

            “It’s not, but I appreciate you.”

            “I know.” Jungkook grinned his bunny smile, his shoulders coming up in reflex happily. There was a knock on the door and Dr. Choi peeked in. Jungkook immediately turned red and escaped to his chair, hiding behind his phone as he attempted to look busy.

            “Jimin-ssi? May I come in?”

            “It’s your hospital Doctor.” Jimin smiled and waved him in. “Uh, and sorry about earlier.”

            “It’s fine Jimin-ssi.” The doctor walked up to Jimin’s bed and perched on the edge of it, placing a file on the counter top beside the bed and folding his hands in his lap. He was surprisingly subdued as he met Jimin’s curious gaze. “I’m sorry it took so long, but I have the results of your tests.” At that, Jungkook looked up, slipping his phone in his pocket and stood beside the bed, eyes locked on the doctor. Dr. Choi glanced at Jungkook before returning his gaze to Jimin. “I have to ask you this due to our confidentiality agreement. Would you like your friend to wait in the hall?”

            Jimin’s heart started pounding as he glanced between the doctor and Jungkook, hand coming up to absentmindedly rub his sternum. “Um, no. Kook-ah can stay.” Sensing something was about to happen, Jungkook’s hand slid from the bed railing to grab Jimin’s.

            “Okay.” The doctor sighed, standing and reaching for the file. He crossed to the wall at the foot of Jimin’s bed, pressing a button to light the surface up and pulling an x-ray image from the file. Slipping it into the hooks on the board, he turned to face them as the image was lit up. Jimin just stared in distant shock as Jungkook made a choking sound at what the x-ray revealed. Jimin’s chest cavity was hard for the medically uneducated minds to understand, the organs painting a confusing picture. His lungs though, were easy to distinguish in the image, even with the size. Within the lungs themselves was wire like tubing, crisscrossing in small sections throughout the organs, small white blurred out spots dotting the tubes. The trail of tubes was wound around the outside of the organs, brushing along his heart and spreading around his sternum.

            “What. . . the fuck is that?” Jungkook’s horrified question broke the silence. Jimin just stayed silent, eyes locked onto the x-ray.

            Dr. Choi was staring at the image too. “When we did the bronchoscopy, we also did a small biopsy of the foreign tissues.” He pointed to the white spots dotted all throughout his lungs. “We were worried these were tumors at first, the way they showed up on the CT scan suggested that. When we went in and biopsied it, we were even more shocked to find out we already knew the answer.” He slipped another image onto the lit screen, a picture of periwinkle flowers dotted with blood and a clear viscous liquid in a petri dish. “You told us yourself what they were, Jimin-ssi. When we examined the tube-like structure sample, we found it to be not unlike the vine or stem of a flower.”

            “What the fuck.” Jungkook whispered.

            “That’s exactly what I asked myself.” Dr. Choi agreed, walking back over to the bed with the file folder. “So, I reached out to a few of my contacts at other hospitals across the country. That’s why it took so long even though I rushed the test results. A resident at Busan’s leading hospital directed me to a retired Chief of Surgery who was also the Department Head Attending of the Cardiovascular Department.”

            “What did he say?” Jungkook asked as Jimin sat motionless, eyes not straying from the x-ray. His small hand was crushed in Jungkook’s larger one, but he barely noticed as the roaring in his ears grew louder.

            “I explained to him your symptoms: weight loss, decreased appetite, insomnia, a hacking cough that caused you to cough up blood and petals, and a burning sensation in the chest cavity.” Dr. Choi pulled a sheaf of paper from the file, holding it out to Jimin. When he made no move to take it, Jungkook hesitantly took it and flipped the cover over to the first page. “He explained that he had a few patients with similar symptoms years ago when he was a resident. It took a while to diagnose but after searching hospital records, reaching out internationally, and running tests they came up with an answer.”

            “Hanahaki Disease?” Jungkook whispered, knees giving out and he sank into the chair beside the bed.

            “Jimin-ssi’s symptoms match that patients to a T.” Dr. Choi said.

            “What does this mean?” Jimin’s voice sounded dead even to him, and Dr. Choi sat on the edge of the bed again. His hand found Jimin’s.

            “Jimin-ssi. . . Are you in love?”

            His laugh was dull, lacking emotion. “This is a really bad time to hit on me Doc.”

            Dr. Choi’s smile was forced as he replied. “I only ask because. . . well, Hanahaki Disease is the result of unrequited love. Apparently, there are old wife’s tales about the disease, ones that state when a person is passionate, when they love with everything they are, they are susceptible to this illness. Within your chest cavity grows flowers that reflect the object of unreturned desires, slowly spreading through your lungs and heart. When the love is not returned, the disease spreads and kills the patient.”

            “What. . . Is this even real?” Jungkook’s voice broke. “This can’t be that though. It’s not possible!”

            “Jimin-ssi. . . I need you to be honest with me.” Dr. Choi squeezed his hand, drawing his gaze. His dark eyes seemed to have aged ten years in only a few hours. “Are you in love with someone and feel as if they’ll never love you back?”

            Jimin was silent for a long while, holding the doctor’s gaze before softly responding. “Yes. I am.” The doctor nodded to show he understood, and Jimin had to look away from the pity in his gaze.

            “What’s the treatment for this disease?” Jungkook interjected into the silence. The doctor didn’t speak for a moment and Jungkook spoke again. “How can you treat it?”

            “I asked my colleague the same thing. He said there are three options for individuals who have developed this fast moving disease. One, the object of the person’s affection confesses their feelings and the disease somehow treats itself. This happened with two of his patients.”

            “Well that’s good—”

            Jimin interrupted Jungkook’s excited cry. “That’s not an option for me. What were the other outcomes?”

            “Two, they operated and removed the flowers and vines.”

            “Did it work?”

            “The patient woke up post-surgery with no physical complications post-op.”

            “But there were complications?” Jimin asked dully, leaning heavily against the bed.

            “The patient woke up with no recollection of the object of their affections. They had known their loved one for three years, but upon seeing them they had no memories or feelings whatsoever towards the individual. There was also the matter of the patient’s blood and stamina.”

            “Blood?” Jungkook made a wounded sound.

            “We took a look at your blood to confirm Jimin-ssi, within the blood itself, floats little particles as small as platelets that look like seeds. The patient had to come back to the hospital twice a week and was treated with dialysis along with oral medication to keep the flowers from redeveloping. The patient lived a relatively normal life, but physical activity was always difficult and they developed asthma.”

            Jimin just closed his eyes. “Third option?”

            The doctor was quiet for a moment, before he squeezed Jimin’s hand. “The small petals developed to full flowers in a matter of weeks. The moment the patient began vomiting full flowers, the prognosis was one to two weeks. And they died.”

            “How. . . how long does Jimin-hyung have?” Jungkook’s voice was watery, and without looking Jimin knew he was crying.

            “After studying the tests and the documentation from the patients my colleague treated, I would put you at a four to six weeks before the petals develop full flowers.” Dr. Choi’s voice was soft and sorry sounding as he delivered the news.

            Jimin heard nothing after that, eyes opening and staring into a void that used to be his future and was now black. He made no move as Jungkook threw his arms around him and sobbed into his shoulders, registering the younger boy was saying something to him but unable to determine what it was. He just sat there, eyes on the image of his mottled lungs the only thing he could see until his phone lit up with an Instagram notification, the bright wallpaper gleaming in the evening light. It was a picture of him sitting on top of Taehyung’s lap, faces smushed together and laughing. They looked so happy, back before things were complicated, and Jimin just closed his eyes again.

            He didn’t cry.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            No one expects to be given two months or less to live when they’re only twenty one years old. Two months means missing out on most of his friends’ birthdays, on the new school year starting, on his own birthday, on Christmas. On Taehyung’s birthday, a quiet corner of his mind whispered, and he shoved the thought away into a tight box he would keep buried far, far down. He finished changing back into his street clothes, limbs a little sore and shaky from the physical and emotional trauma of the day. Jungkook was in the bathroom washing his face, his eyes had been red and puffy to the point of soreness before he had calmed down enough to breath properly.

            “Are you ready to go?” Jimin asked when he heard the door open.

            “My shift has just begun, so not quite.” Dr. Choi’s joke fell flat, and neither of them commented on it. Dr. Choi walked further in the room, holding out a sheet of paper to Jimin. “This is the diagnosis I’m required by law to give you. I know you have some decisions to make and you have some time to do so.”

            “Some options.” Jimin laughed drily, talking the paper and folding it up to slip it in his pocket. Dr. Choi made a soft sound of agreement. Reaching into his pocket, he produced a business card. He wrote on the back for a second and held it out to Jimin.

            “There’s my business card with my direct line and pager number. Give me a call when you’ve made a decision, I’ll call you in about a week to check in.” Pausing for a second, he continued, “My personal cell phone number is on the back, if you need someone to talk to, you’re welcome to call me.”

            “Thank you, Dr. Choi.” Jimin took the card, opening his wallet to slip it in. “I appreciate you taking the time today.”

            “I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to give you better news.” The doctor looked upset with himself, hands sliding into his pockets. “Again, please call me if you need anything.”

            “Thank you.” Jimin smiled slightly. “And I’ll try and keep the card with your number away from Jungkookie.” The doctor laughed then as he headed towards the door.

            “Well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing.” He winked, waving as he left. Jimin just shook his head with a small laugh, turning when he heard the bathroom door open. Jungkook walked out, face freshly scrubbed but no less swollen.

            “Ready to go Kookie?” Jimin slid his messenger bag over his head and checked the room to make sure there wasn’t anything he was leaving behind. Jungkook just nodded, following the shorter boy out to the reception desk to check out. Jimin ignored the looks of pity he received from the nurses there, the silence that sudden pervaded the area telling him the nurses knew of his prognosis. He finished signing himself out. Handing the clipboard back over to the nurse that had helped him today, smiling slightly. “Thank you for your help today. Have a nice night.”

            The nurse took the clipboard, pausing as if he wanted to say something but thought better of it and sent him a small smile back. “You too, boys.”

            Jimin waved and steered the younger boy towards the exit, the automatic doors opening to let in the cool evening breeze. He breathed deeply as they walked to Jungkook’s car in the parking lot, enjoying the way the summer evening air felt against his skin. “It’s a nice night for this late in May.” He said conversationally, sliding into the passenger side of Jungkook’s Honda. “I love when it’s like this. We should get the guys together and go camping soon, before it gets too hot.”

            Jungkook suddenly slammed his hands against his steering wheel, the horn blaring into the quiet of the evening. Jimin jumped, eyeing the younger boy warily as he turned to give him an incredulous look. “Who cares how nice the night is? And really? A camping trip? That’s what you’re thinking about right now? A fucking camping trip?”

            Jimin furrowed his eyebrows. “What should I be thinking about right now?”

            “Oh, I don’t know! Maybe the disease you just got diagnosed with?! The prognosis Dr. Choi gave you?” Jungkook practically shouted, chest heaving.

            Jimin’s chest ached dully. “You want me to think about the death sentence I’ve just been given? That he told me at most I have two months to live, when I should have at least sixty more years?” Jimin’s voice was rising. “You would rather me dwell on the fact that I’ll never graduate college and have a career? That I’m never spending another birthday with any of you ever again, or any holidays? That I will never get married, have kids, and grow old with the love of my life? That my life is basically over?”

            Jungkook was pale, his eyes watery. “Hyung. . .”

            “Well, I’m sorry if it seems to you like I’m cavalier about my impending death, because I’m not. I’m terrified Jungkook! I want all those things; I want all that time I won’t get!” Jimin could feel his eyes burning. “But I’m shit out of luck, I was dealt a hand and now I have to live with it. So, I’m going to talk about the nice weather, and plan trips, and try to appreciate the small things for the short time I have left. Okay? Is that okay with you, Jungkook?”

            “Okay, okay. I’m sorry. . . But hyung, it doesn’t have to be like this, Taehyung—”

            “Taehyung doesn’t love me like that Jungkook, to him I’m just a friend that he’s known for years. Best friend, even. But that’s it, end of story, curtain down, case closed.” Jimin interrupted, shaking his head. “And that’s okay. This is my fault, and now I have to face the consequences. Can you please just take me home now?”

            “Okay.” Jungkook said softly. Jimin stared out the passenger window to block out Jungkook’s soft sobs as he took him home. The ride wasn’t too long due to the late hour, and they reached his building relatively quickly. Picking up his bag, he finally turned to Jungkook.

            “Thank you for going to the hospital with me. I don’t know what I would have done without you.” Leaning over, he hugged the younger boy tight, feeling the way his body quaked with his crying. “I love you, Kook-ah. Drive safe okay?” He got a nod in response as he slid out of the car. Before he shut the door, he leaned in. “And Jungkookie? No one can know. Not yet. I’m going to call Dr. Choi in a few days to decide what I want to do, but I’d really like to enjoy the next few weeks with everyone without the dark cloud of my prognosis looming over them. Okay Kook?” Jungkook stared at him, heartbroken. “I feel terrible asking you to hide something so big but. . . I just need this.”

            “Okay hyung.” Was the soft reply. Jimin smiled leaning back in to hug the younger boy again.

            “Thank you. I’ll see you at practice tomorrow.” He shut the door, waving as Jungkook drove away. Sighing softly, he steeled himself before heading in, riding the elevator to his floor. When he unlocked the door, he was surprised to see Taehyung sitting on the couch in a silk green pajama set, sipping tea and thumbing through a book as the TV played softly in the background. His hair was falling over his bare face, slightly damp from a recent shower, a pair of glasses perched on his nose.

            Taehyung looked up, his book shutting as he smiled. “Hey you.”

            “Hi yourself.” Jimin dropped his bag by the door, crossing the floor to where Taehyung was curled up. He was so, so beautiful, Jimin decided as his eyes roved the blue haired boys face. His smile was on display, and Jimin loved the way he looked in his glasses despite the fact that Taehyung thought they made him look nerdy and usually chose to wear contacts instead. With a sigh, he sat near the other boy, laying down so his head fell in Taehyung’s lap as he closed his eyes. He felt a large hand slowly start to card through his hair.

            “You don’t seem drunk.” He sounded amused.

            “I’m not.” He replied, brushing his hand over his nose and covering his mouth as he coughed. “Kookie overreacted.”

            “You seemed off your rocker earlier. I was prepared to drag you to bed tonight.” Jimin’s heart lurched at the unintended innuendo and the unfairness of it all made him laugh softly. “Are you okay?”

            “Yeah, just tired. I’ll be glad when the audition is over.” He tried to ignore the way his chest burned, realizing the audition no longer mattered for him. He pushed that aside and decided to deal with that epiphany later, knowing he’d give it his best regardless so Hoseok and Jungkook would be recruited.

            “You’ve been working hard. When you’re done with the auditions, we should all take some time off work and go on a trip.”

            Smiling at how they were always on the same page, he replied, “I was just telling Kookie we should all go camping before it gets too hot.” With a soft groan he sat up, stretching. “I know you aren’t the biggest fan of hiking and camping, but there’s this great place where you can see the stars so perfectly on a clear night.”

            “I’d love to go with you.” Taehyung was smiling when he looked over, offering the smaller boy his tea. Jimin shook his head, so he placed the cup on the coffee table. “Now come here, I haven’t gotten a cuddle in ages.” He held out his arms, making a gesturing motion as he uncrossed his legs. Jimin could feel the heat in his cheeks and chest as he rolled his eyes.

            “It hasn’t been that long since you broke into my room and got in bed with me, you know.”

            “If it wasn’t earlier today then it’s been too long.” Taehyung was pouting now, looking so crestfallen that Jimin felt a pang in his chest that made him cough lightly. “Please Jiminie?” Sighing, the older boy complied, crawling on his hands and knees between Taehyung’s legs and sitting there, leaning back on Taehyung’s chest as the taller boys’ arms went around him. He felt Taehyung’s nose against the back of his head as he was held tight and then he knew.

            Taehyung may not love him as more than a friend or brother, but he did love him like family. And he was already so touchy feely, like now for instance. What a normal person would only do with a boyfriend or girlfriend he already did with Jimin due to his love of skinship. The only one who ever protested the contact (halfheartedly or not) was Jimin himself, Taehyung never saw it as weird or abnormal, even got sad when Jimin refused him any physical affection. So, he decided he wouldn’t refuse anymore, he’d embrace it. Maybe it was taking advantage of his friend, but if he was going to live for just two short months, would it be unfair to revel in his friendship with Taehyung, and maybe pretend that one day he could be loved back, if only he had just a little more time? It didn’t seem like too much to ask.

            Pulling away for a moment, he ignored the whine of protest Taehyung gave in order to turn onto his stomach, laying back down and wrapping his arms around Taehyung’s waist. He shuffled closer and buried his face in his friend’s chest, ignoring the buttons on the shirt pushing into his cheek and pressing his ear to listen to Taehyung’s strong, lively heartbeat. “You’re so warm.” He murmured. It took a moment, the taller boy clearly surprised before he rewrapped his arms gently around the shorter boy. “And you smell good.”

            “You seem affectionate tonight.” Taehyung resumed petting his hair gently, and Jimin almost moaned at how good it felt.

            “Long day.” He responded quietly. The embrace was soothing the ache within him, melting away the tension that had settled on his shoulders every time Taehyung ran his fingers through his hair or rubbed his back. “If it bothers you, I could move.”

            “No! No, I was just making an observation. It doesn’t bother me at all.” Taehyung responded quickly, squeezing him a little before continuing to pet him. They were silent for a moment, comfortable as they cuddled on the couch for a while. Taehyung’s voice startled a half asleep Jimin when he next spoke, “Oh, I had an idea for our next hair colors.”

            “Yeah?”

            “I know we talked about doing darker colors next, but I’d hate to rebleach our hair in a few months, so I thought we could do pastels next. Like light blue and green!”

            “You already have blue hair.”

            “No, you would have light blue! And then in nine or ten weeks when the colors fade, we could do the dark colors we talked about.” He sounded so excited, and Jimin’s heart broke just a little more. “And we have got to try blonde again.”

            Burying his face in Taehyung’s chest a little more, Jimin prayed his tears wouldn’t be noticeable against the silk of the green pajamas. “Yeah Tae, that sounds good. Whatever you want.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            The next few days were a whirlwind of activity as Jimin bounced between nights out with his friends, dance practices, and work at his part time job. He was determined to live even more vivaciously now that his days were numbered; he laughed harder at jokes, goofed off more with Jungkook in front of the Hyungs, made sure to hug the others as often as possible and memorize the way their embraces felt. At night, he hung out with Taehyung, determined to watch all the movies Taehyung wanted him to see and listen to all the poetry the younger boy read from his books. Late at night, when Taehyung had already gone to bed, he sat at his desk and wrote letters, dozens of them to each and every one of his friends. He penned out their memories together, told them how much he cared for each of them, how he hoped they would all be together forever even when he was gone. One night he stopped by the pharmacy to pick up the pictures he sent in, putting together photo albums for everyone, though he unashamedly put more work into Taehyung’s album. There were literally thousands of things he wanted to say, hundreds of pictures taken together over the years and it was those nights as he tried to put together Taehyung’s gifts that he broke down crying.

            His friends had noticed a change in him, commenting on how bubbly he was lately, excited that it seemed he was finally getting better. Everyone was excited, except for Jungkook, who sat quietly in the corner and constantly seemed to dance the line of anger and despair. When asked about it, he just said he had things on his mind and that he was fine, but the haunted look in his eyes told Jimin a different story. It was clear that the younger boy felt Jimin’s mortality just as hard, if not harder, then Jimin himself. He tried to compensate and give the other boy more attention than normal, the document of his prognosis he carried in his pocket every day a constant reminder to give his all to the people he cherished.

            The day of the audition Hoseok was a mess that not even Yoongi could have predicted. He was jittery, hands shaking, and Jimin stepped up to knock some sense into him. “Hyung, we’re going to go in there and dance our hardest. They’re either going to love it or hate it. We can’t control that. But we can control how we decide to feel about it. So, go in there and stand tall, dance your heart out, and remember that you’re fantastic!”

            “I’m scared Jimin-ah.” Hoseok whispered, face pale as he stared at the studio door.

            “I know, me too. But you know what? Even if for some stupid reason they hate it—which they won’t—there’s always the next one.” Smiling at both of his friends, he yanked them into a group hug. “We’re going to kill it, and whatever happens next we should all be proud of what we do here today.” Both of the other boys looked pacified, he even got a smile from each of them before they all started stretching. Jimin wished their friends could see them perform, but the audition was closed. They had all come by during their final practice to wish them good luck, hugging each of them tightly. He thought back to Taehyung’s boxy smile as he hugged him, harnessing that as motivation to push him through the audition.

            They did fantastic, in Jimin’s opinion. Their moves were sharp and clear, the pacing perfectly matching the song their friends had wrote. Jimin was proud of himself when he didn’t even stumble over the tricky move he had issues with, making it through the dance without missing a step. Hoseok cried happy tears after they had thanked the entertainment company reps and exited the room, pulling his younger friends into a tight hug and praising them on their performance. They cleaned up and headed out to meet up with the rest of their friends to celebrate at Seokjin’s family restaurant.

            There were cheers as the three walked into the restaurant, their friends cat calling as they freestyle danced up to the table. Jimin was smiling so hard his eyes were crescent moons, laughing as his Hyungs pulled him into a hug. Not even the tightness in his chest could ruin this moment, his friends laughing as they all sat down and proclaimed that they had the parts in the bag. Jimin made sure Yoongi and Namjoon got the applause they deserved for producing their performance track, grinning at the pleased looks on their faces. When he stopped to look around, he realized someone important was missing.

            “Joonie-hyung? Where’s Taehyung?” He whispered, leaning towards the older boy beside him.

            “He said he’d be a bit late, something about picking something up?” Namjoon replied before he was pulled into conversation by Hoseok and Seokjin. Jimin nodded as he sat back, catching Jungkook’s eye. Sliding into the seat that was supposed to be Taehyung’s he leaned towards him.

            “Hey. You did great today! I just know you’re going to get an offer.” Jimin smiled, wrapping an arm around the younger boys’ shoulders and shaking him playfully. Jungkook didn’t smile, picking at his food. “Kookie, you should be excited and happy!”

            “I don’t care. I’d trade that all if it meant you weren’t. . .” He stopped himself, standing quickly and walking deeper into the restaurant, disappearing around the corner. Jimin swallowed the lump in his throat as he stared after him, hating how he had inadvertently ruined this moment for Jungkook.

            “Where’s Jungkookie going?” Yoongi asked, glancing between Jimin and the younger boy. Jimin muffled his cough before responding.

            “Bathroom, he said. He’s worn out.” Jimin squeaked as his eyes were covered suddenly, his vision going dark.

            “Guess who?” The deep voice he knew so well was tinged with glee; he laughed, putting a finger to his lips as if he was thinking about it.

            “Hmm. . . That customer who hits on me at work?” He says questioningly. “Or maybe that weirdo from high school who liked to suck his thumb?” Taehyung’s laugh was contagious even as he smacked him lightly on the back of the head.

            “No! Someone infinitely better looking. A close friend.”

            “Oh.” Jimin snapped his fingers. “Namjoon-hyung?” The table roared with laughter and Taehyung’s forehead dropped on top of his head as he laughed, arms coming down to wrap tightly around his neck in a hug.

            “You are such an ass, you’re lucky you’re so cute.” Taehyung slipped into Jimin’s original seat next to Namjoon, his boxy grin shining at him. Jimin just tossed up two hearts with a cheeky smile. He leaned in, smile slipping into something softer, sweeter. “I’m proud of you, I know you killed it and they’d be stupid not to cast you. Promise you’ll remember me when you’re famous?”

            “How could I ever forget you?” Jimin smiled, resting his chin in his hand. “So, why were you late?”

            “No reason.” Taehyung quickly glanced away, lifting his menu. “Have we ordered yet? I’m starving.” Jimin narrowed his eyes suspiciously; seeing the look, Taehyung laughed. “Relax, it’s a surprise for later!”

            “Okay.” Jimin sighed as if the concession was such a hardship, laughing when Taehyung shoved him lightly. He snagged the taller boys’ hand before he could retract it, interlocking their fingers and letting them fall into his lap. “And no, we haven’t ordered yet.” He could feel Taehyung’s gaze on him as he perused the menu, steadfastly ignoring the look. The blue haired boy chuckled under his breath, finally turning to the menu in front of him, leaving his hand where it was.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jimin couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed and smiled so much in one night. There was something so heartwarming about the seven of them all together, spending time together and having fun. He felt so lucky to have these guys in his life, and he made sure to give them all an extra tight hug as they left the restaurant. Jungkook had hurried off just after dessert to finish a paper that was due the next morning, while Namjoon stayed to help Seokjin close down the restaurant (Jimin just knew he was using that as an excuse to spend time alone with the older boy, but he would never tease the shy boy). Hoseok had an early morning dance class so he was heading home with Yoongi in tow, so Taehyung and Jimin followed them outside after waving to their Hyungs one last time.

            “So.” Hoseok had pulled Jimin just down the sidewalk, glancing back to where Taehyung and Yoongi were joking around by the entrance, laughing at some joke the other two hadn’t heard. “When did this happen?”

            “When did what happen?” Jimin asked, genuinely confused, eyes on Taehyung as he threw his head back on another laugh, a fond smile on his face.

            “You know!” Hoseok motioned between the pink and blue haired boys with a mischievous smile. “That. You two.”

            “Hyung, are you drunk?” Jimin joked, lightly shoving the other boy. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

            “Oh, come on, you guys have been all over each other lately!” Hoseok insisted quietly.

            “I mean, not really more than we used to?” Jimin refuted. “We’ve always been affectionate.”

            “Not like this. I mean, yeah, Tae is usually handsy with you, but you normally toss him off after a while.” Hoseok argued.

            “I decided to stop fighting it.” Jimin said, shrugging and slipping his hands in his pockets. “I was self-conscious about it, but honestly? Why be? It’s just Tae.” Hoseok eyed him warily, making Jimin raise an eyebrow and ask, “What’s that look for hyung?”

            “Nothing. Never mind.” He grinned at the younger boy, pulling him into a tight hug and rocking him slightly. “Get some sleep okay? And remember to eat before you go to bed.” He pulled back, expression stern. “You didn’t eat much in there. Do we need to revisit why starving yourself is bad?”

            “Hyung, I’m fine, I’m not starving myself.” Jimin rolled his eyes as Yoongi and Taehyung walked up to them. “I promise. I ate a bunch earlier.” His lie was smooth even in his ears. Yoongi wrapped his arm around Hoseok’s waist, leaning in to press a kiss to his cheek making the slightly taller boy flush.

            “Stop harassing Jimin-ah and let’s get you home.” Yoongi said quietly, starting to steer Hoseok towards the parking lot. Hoseok pouted, waving at the younger boys as they left, leaving them alone in front of the restaurant.

            Jimin just shook his head, coughing into his hand as he turned to face Taehyung who was smiling at him. “So, you mentioned a surprise?”

            “I knew that’d be the first thing you said when we left.” Taehyung laughed, wrapping an arm around the shorter boys’ shoulders as they headed down the sidewalk. It was a nice night and they both preferred to walk when it wasn’t too hot, especially since they weren’t too far from the apartment. “But you have to wait until we get home.”

            “Taehyung!” Jimin whined, turning to smack at him.

            “That’s where the surprise is!” Taehyung replied, hands coming up to defend himself as the shorter boy smacked at him. He managed to catch Jimin’s hands and stop him with a grin. “I can’t explain how cute it is that you’re trying to hit me with your small, ineffectual fists.”

            “Ineffectual?” Jimin gasped in dismay, trying to hide the smile trying to break out on his face. “I’ll show you ineffectual!” He tugged his hands from Taehyung’s grasp, immediately going for his sides and tickling him. Taehyung burst into laughter, dancing away out of Jimin’s reach even as the smaller boy followed him.

            “Stop, stop, stop! I give, I give!” He was breathless already, clasping his hands together as if to beg the shorter boy to stop his assault. “Jiminie, have mercy!” The older boy was laughing too, knees weak and buckling.

            “Admit my hands aren’t small or ineffectual!”

            “Okay, okay! Your hands aren’t ineffectual!” He paused, giggling as he glanced at Jimin’s outstretched hands. “But come on, you know your hands are small. I cannot tell a lie.” He put a hand up in a parody of a boy scout salute, a faux serious look on his face before it changed back to a grin. “Mercy, now?”

            “Ugh fine. You suck.” Jimin groaned, running a hand through his hair as his giggles abated.

            “Only if someone asks nicely.” Taehyung joked, winking at the shorter boy. Jimin could feel the flush rising in his cheeks as he smacked the taller boy and shook his head.

            “Gross.” As if.

            Taehyung chuckled, reaching his hand out to Jimin, who took it without hesitation. Ever since Jimin made the decision to embrace Taehyung’s skinship, he had felt infinitely happier. There was something to be said for allowing yourself to be selfish, to allow yourself to finally have a taste of what you really want. It was bittersweet at times like these, as they walked down the street hand and hand, couples passing them by, being a part of it yet separate at the same time. The affection made days better, soothed the ache within him, but it made the nights worse. After Taehyung would head to bed, he’d find himself in the shower, either jacking off or coughing up blood. He noticed the petals increasing too, how they were few and far between in the beginning, but more plentiful now as the sand timer representing his life slowly trickled.

            But it was worth it, when he glanced up and saw the warm, lively look on Taehyung’s face, the way his eyes twinkled underneath the street lights like stars. He was heartbreakingly handsome. He seemed happier lately too, more upbeat than usual, and Jimin had even caught him singing to himself in the kitchen this morning as he searched the fridge for something to eat. He was curious about the behavior change but was too scared to hear the answer if it meant the taller boy may have found a partner.

            “What are you thinking about so hard?” Taehyung’s voice brought him to the present again, shaking his head a bit.

            “I’m not sure. Just kind of spacing.” He replied, glancing at the window displays in the stores as they passed them. “Today was exhausting.”

            “I bet. You aren’t sleeping well, are you?” He asked, squeezing Jimin’s hand lightly.

            “I’m sleeping okay.” Jimin squeezed his hand back.

            “Okay. I only ask because I hear you up sometimes, at random hours of the night.”

            “Have I been waking you up? I’m sorry Tae!” Jimin felt bad. “I’ll try to keep it down when I am up.”

            “No, it’s okay Jiminie.” He pulled the shorter boy in to avoid him being knocked over by a jogger passing by. “But if you do have trouble sleeping, you know where I am. It’s been a long time since we shared a bed.” Jimin hummed in response (there was a reason for that, when Jimin realized he was interested in the other boy he didn’t want to risk anything embarrassing happening in the middle of the night that he couldn’t explain) and linked their arms together as they walked.

            “Thanks for the offer, Taetae.”

            “Anytime, Jimin-ah.”

            It was a nice walk home, they chatted about Taehyung’s recent painting and Jimin’s audition, talked about how they were glad the school year was over. Taehyung told him a story about his coworkers at the museum that had Jimin kneeling on the ground as he laughed, Taehyung’s hands on his knees as he laughed at him. Jimin in turn told Taehyung about how the creep who had bothered him at his part time job at the café had finally gotten blacklisted after one too many come-ons. The taller boy had picked him up and spun him in a circle at the news. They didn’t run out of things to talk about as they entered their apartment building and took the elevator to their floor, laughing and joking as they reached their apartment door.

            “Surprise time!” Jimin sang as Taehyung unlocked the door and opened it, motioning the shorter boy forward. The door swung shut behind them as they kicked off their shoes and dropped their bags. “Where is it?” He was practically hopping in excitement as he spun to face the taller boy.

            “Hmm. . . I don’t know if you deserve it.” Taehyung held his chin as if he was really considering him, a smile teasing the corners of his lips. Jimin pouted, reaching out to shake the taller boys’ shoulders.

            “Tae!” The whine was long and drawn out. “Come on, give it to me!” Taehyung choked suddenly, hand coming up to cover his mouth and cough as a red flush graced the tops of his cheekbones. Jimin quickly smacked him on the back, eyes wide with shock as the blue haired boy cleared his throat a couple times. “Jesus Taehyung! Are you okay?”

            “Yeah, I’m fine.” He was laughing now, eyes scrunched up hand covering the wide smile on his face. “I’m. . . I’m fine. Come here and I’ll give you your surprise.” He motioned the smaller boy after him as he headed towards his room, shaking his head slightly with a chuckle. Jimin followed him, eyeing his friend curiously as he watched him stop in front of his nightstand. Flopping out on his stomach on Taehyung’s bright purple comforter, ankles crossing in the air and chin in his hands he waited impatiently as Taehyung opened his nightstand and rifled around. Pulling out an envelope from the confines of the stand, the blue haired boy sat on the bed in front of Jimin and crossed his legs, waving it around teasingly. “Here it is!”

            Reaching for it, Jimin pouted when Taehyung pulled it out of reach. “Taehyungie!

            “What do you say?” Taehyung prompted with a grin.

            Giving him his best puppy eyes, he said, “Pleeeeease Taehyung-ah? Please can I have my surprise?”

            “Fine.” Taehyung sighed jokingly, holding it out. Jimin took it excitedly, opening the envelope and pulling out a colorful card. “Read it out loud.”

            Jimin opened the card and something fell between his elbows, he cleared his throat and read, “’Jiminie, you’ve been working so hard lately, even though you’ve felt under the weather. I wanted to do something for you to show how proud I am of you, so I hope you’ll accept this gift! I love you, Taehyungie.’” He grinned at Taehyung, who looked a little embarrassed. Reaching for the paper that had fallen out, he scanned them, smile fading as he looked up in shock, sitting up on his knees. “Are these. . .”

            “Two round trip tickets to Busan, we leave in two days.” Taehyung looked really proud of himself, holding onto his ankles as he grinned. “I already spoke to your parents so they’re expecting us! And I booked a room at a hotel on the beach, so we have direct access at any time of day!” His smile faltered at the shocked look on Jimin’s face as he finally looked up from the tickets, a lone tear sliding down his cheek. “Oh no, oh Jiminie! I’m sorry, I should have asked first—”

            “Oh Taetae!” Jimin threw himself forward, the tickets dropping on the bed as his arms wrapped around the taller boys’ neck with a strength that had him falling back onto his pillows, Jimin on top of him. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Taehyung’s arms came around his waist to hug him back. “This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.” He lifted his head from where it was pressed into the other boy’s neck, smiling down at Taehyung.

            “Well, you mentioned how you missed your parents and the beach, so I figured we could get out of town for a bit. Just hang out and enjoy your hometown.” Taehyung shrugged, hands coming up to gently wipe the happy tears from under Jimin’s eyes. “Thought it would be fun.”

            “It’ll be so fun!”

            Taehyung suddenly looked a little embarrassed, scratching the back of his neck and glancing away. “Oh, I know I got you two tickets and it’s a little weird for me to assume you want me to come along. Feel free to take one of the other guys if you want, it won’t hurt my feelings if—”

            Jimin sat up suddenly, legs sliding on either side of Taehyung’s hips as he pressed a small finger to the younger boys’ lips, his other arm propping him up from beside Taehyung’s head. Taehyung’s eyes were wide with shock as he grinned his crescent moon smile down at him. “I want you to come, Tae.” Taehyung’s face flushed even redder as Jimin jumped up and off him, snagging the tickets and doing a twirl. “I can’t wait, I need to pack!” He picked up the card and hurried to the door. He paused, skipping back to where the taller boy hadn’t moved, placing his knee back on the bed to lean in a press a quick kiss to Taehyung’s cheek. “Thank you so much Tae! You’re the best!” He skipped out of Taehyung’s room, already dialing his Mom’s number to excitedly share the news.

            Taehyung called a feeble, “You’re welcome!” after him.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            In the two days leading up to the trip Jimin was running around like crazy. He let his job know he’d be missing a few days and let the guys know where they were going. Hoseok whined at Taehyung for not letting them all know in advance so they could all go but was ultimately happy for Jimin. Jungkook had given him a long, hard hug the day before they left, knowing this trip meant more to Jimin then he was letting on. After having five episodes in the last two days, Jimin was anxious to see his family and spend some time with them.

            Jimin had originally been okay knowing he may not see them again before his six or seven weeks came to an end, and there was a part of him that was happy about it. He knew his Mom would know something was wrong, just by looking at him. His weight loss, his loss of appetite, the constant coughs. She would know and he didn’t want that. But at the same time, the moment Taehyung gave him the tickets, he realized he needed to hug his parents and little brother again, spend a bit more time with them and leave them the gifts he had made over the last week. He wanted them to have this last memory of his trip home, and he himself wanted the comfort it would provide.

            “Jimin-ah, this is our stop!” Taehyung shook him gently awake from where he was leaning on the younger boy’s shoulder. His freshly dyed pastel green hair looked amazing were it was combed back, a red hat pulled backwards on top of his head (Taehyung had dragged him to the hair salon the day after giving him the tickets, saying there was no way he could face Jimin’s family with either of them having faded hair and grown out roots, hence why Jimin was now rocking a light blue shade). He looked good in his tight blue jeans and white t-shirt, a back pack and a small duffle bag over his shoulders. Jimin could barely look at him without blushing.

            Stretching quickly, he stood and snagged his own back pack, a suit case, and duffle bag, sliding a pair of black sunglasses on as the passengers started to exit the train car (Taehyung had made fun of his amount of luggage for a weekend trip, but Jimin just brushed it off). He was practically vibrating in excitement, switching his suitcase to his other hand to make it easier to shuffle along with the crowd.

            “Let me.” Taehyung was taking the heavy suit case from him before he could say anything. Thinking of the contents and his heart beating faster, Jimin reached out for it.

            “Taehyung-ah, it’s okay, I can carry it. It’s heavy and has breakables in it!”

            “More of a reason for me to carry it instead.” Taehyung grinned and bopped him on the nose. “Now come on, before the train leaves with us still on it!” Jimin followed him off the train, anxiously patting his pocket to make sure that the medical document was still in it (he felt uncomfortable without it on his person). The station was busy and crowded, and Jimin reached forward on impulse, sliding his small hand into Taehyung’s bigger one. The taller boy glanced back at him in surprise and he shrugged.

            “I don’t want us to accidentally get separated.” He said in explanation, sighing softly in relief when Taehyung nodded in agreement and laced their fingers together tighter. They battled through the crowds and found their way outside, stopping to wait in the car rental line. Jimin’s eyes closed as he breathed the salty sea air in deeply, letting it roll over him and fill him with a sense of nostalgia. The bright sun felt good on his skin, warming him from the inside out.  

            “Happy?” He opened his eyes at Taehyung’s question and sent him a sweet smile.

            “Very.” Jimin glanced around as the line moved forward. “It’s been so long since I went home. I forgot how good the ocean smells here.”

            “It does smell good.” Taehyung released his hand to reach for his wallet as they reached the front of the line, but Jimin plucked it from his grasp and shoved it in his own pocket in favor of pulling out his own debit card. “Hey!” He cried in surprise as Jimin handed the card over and signed the paperwork, making small talk in Busan Satoori with the receptionist.

            “Hi.” He joked, taking the keys and his card back with a smile.

            Taehyung followed him towards the parking lot, frowning at him as Jimin searched for their car. “I was going to pay for that!” Jimin waved him off, cheering when he found the simple black four door. “Jiminie!”

            “Taehyung-ah, you paid for the train tickets and the hotel. Let me help.” He replied, sliding into the driver’s seat of the car. Taehyung was pouting as he got in the passenger seat, crossing his arms.

            “This trip is for you though. You aren’t supposed to spend your money on the trip I planned.” He glanced over, groaning at Jimin’s puppy dog eyes. “Damn it, fine. But that’s it. Now let’s go check into our hotel and head to your parents’ home.”

            Jimin grinned, starting the car. “Sounds good to me.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Seeing his family for the first time in years had been overwhelming. He hadn’t even made it halfway up the drive when his mother was out the door, throwing her arms around him with a cry. He hugged her back just as fiercely, tears running down his cheeks as she pressed kisses all over his face and cried. He could hear Taehyung’s camera clicking in the background but couldn’t bring himself to care how he must look in them. His Dad greeted him just as warmly, hugging him hard and long, quiet but warm as they stood there. A small part of his heart that had been aching suddenly felt whole again, warmed at seeing his parents. Finally released, he grinned up at his dad, turning to see his mom warmly embracing Taehyung and whispering to him, a shy smile on the tall boy’s face. He walked over to where they stood, throwing his arms around both of them as they laughed.

            They moved inside not long after that, sitting in the living room with cups of tea, his mom bustling around the kitchen making snacks. Taehyung was looking at the pictures on the wall, smiling at a photo of the two of them in their high school graduation cap and gowns, arms around each other. “I love this picture.” He said quietly, tapping the frame as he smiled over his shoulder.

            “I do too.” His dad replied, sipping his tea from a plump armchair near where Jimin was curled up on the couch. “Though it’s hard to pick a favorite of you boys.”

            “I think I have more photos of you two then I have of Jimin and Jihyun together.” His mom laughed as she entered the room with a small tray and a fresh pot of tea. “You two were always together. I’m glad that hasn’t changed; thank you for taking care of my baby, Taehyungie.” She carried the pot to Taehyung, refreshing his cup.

            “Thank you, Mijeong.” He bowed slightly as she handed his cup back. “And really, we take care of each other.”

            “I was worried about Jiminie moving to Seoul for college until you said you were moving with him.” She replied, sitting beside Jimin and brushing a hand through his hair. “I was so scared he would be lonely.”

            “I’m okay, Mom.” Jimin smiled at her, leaning into her touch. “I’ve got Tae and all the guys to keep me company. Things are always crazy with this bunch.”

            “You look unwell, son.” His dad set his tea down and leaned forwards, looking his son over with a speculative eye. “How are you?”

            “I’ve. . . I’ve been sick.” Jimin shrugged lightly, glancing between his parents. “But I really am okay.”

            “Did you see a doctor ‘Minie?” Mijeong asked worriedly, brushing his bangs back. “You look so thin baby, and your skin is so sallow.”

            “Uh, yes.” Taehyung glanced at him in surprise. “Bronchitis.” He decided last moment, wishing he had thought ahead. At least Bronchitis would explain the cough and difficulty breathing. “It’s just lasting longer than I thought and makes it hard to breath. I have a cough, but that’s about it.”

            “Jimin-ah, I didn’t know you went to the doctor.” Taehyung sat in the recliner near Mijeong, eye brow raised.

            “Kookie went with me the other day. It wasn’t a big deal, just a checkup.” He dismissed the subject, standing up quickly. “I’m going to run to the bathroom, maybe get some water. I’ll be right back.” He smiled, trying to move normally as he headed out of the room. Once in the bathroom, he turned on the water and braced his hands on the sink ledge with a sigh. He looked at his reflection, barely recognizing the person he saw. His hair was carefully styled and wind tossed, the blue a fun shade, but there was something that made the locks look limp and lifeless despite it all. His cheeks were sunken in a bit, dark circles under his eyes standing out on his sickly pale skin even with the makeup he had applied this morning.

            He couldn’t blame them for being worried, he looked like shit. It was a miracle that people only asked him occasionally how he felt, that Taehyung left it alone after asking once this morning. He was surprised to find that he missed his full cheeks, the sharpness didn’t quite suit him like he always imagined it would. He was hit then with a coughing fit that left blood in his hands, periwinkle petals swimming in the liquid and standing out starkly against his palm. When it ended, his chest heaved to catch his breath, and the mirror image made what breath he had found catch in his chest. Blood ran down from the corner of his lips, the lips themselves and his teeth stained a garish red that was horrifyingly bright. A petal sat in between his lips, taunting him.

            He quickly washed his hands good, using extra soap to keep the blood from staining his skin like he knew it was capable of doing from pervious experiences. He rinsed his mouth, swishing warm water around and spitting it out before checking to see if his mouth was good. Finding himself blood free, though feeling weak and shaky, he almost left the room before remembering the petals. Collecting them from the sink drain and wrapping them in toilet paper, he tossed the bundle into the small trash can before leaving the room and running straight into Taehyung’s chest.

            “Oh shit!” He muttered in surprise, his hands coming up to rest on the taller boy’s pecs and steady himself (he tried to ignore how solid they felt under his hands). “Oh god Tae, you scared me!”

            “Sorry! I came to check on you and heard you coughing. You didn’t hear me knock?” Taehyung had caught him when he bounced off his chest, hands wrapped around Jimin’s upper arms and holding him in place.

            “The water was running; I didn’t hear your knock.” Jimin took a half step backwards to put some space between them, waiting for Taehyung to release him before skirting around him towards the kitchen. “Jesus, making me curse in my family home, you jerk.” He went to a cabinet and pulled out a glass.

            “My bad.” Taehyung had followed him, leaning his back against the island countertop and crossing his arms. “That sounded pretty bad.”

            “No worse than normal.” He replied absentmindedly, moving to the fridge for the pitcher of cold water, filling his glass.

            “I’m glad you went to the doctor.” Taehyung said suddenly. “But. . . I was wondering why you didn’t ask me to go with you? Or, even tell me you went?” Jimin turned to face him, leaning on the countertop opposite Taehyung and sipping his water.

            “It was before auditions and you were at work. It slipped my mind.” He shrugged ruefully with a smile. “Hoseok had me distracted; you know how he can be.”

            “Yeah, I do.” Taehyung seemed appeased, pushing off the countertop. “Oh, when your little brother gets back from school, I told Mijeong and Pilwoo I wanted to snap some family photos. Your mom was super excited about the idea, she’s upstairs changing already.”

            “That’s a really nice idea. It’s been a long time since we’ve had our picture taken all together. I should go get cleaned up and grab that big suitcase I brought from the hotel from the car.” Jimin took another large swallow of water then dumped the rest of the water down the sink, placing his cup in the dishwasher. He felt a trickle of water slid down his mouth.

            “Already grabbed the bag, hold on,” Taehyung was suddenly right in front of him, one hand on the sink’s ledge behind the shorter boy as his other hand came up to brush the droplet away, his thumb moving smoothly right below Jimin’s full bottom lip. He caught the water and wiped it away slowly before smiling down at Jimin. “You spilled.” He straightened again, turning and heading out of the kitchen. “I’ll put the suitcase in your room so you can get ready.” And then he was gone.

            Jimin’s knees buckled and he had to lean against the sink to hold himself up.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Jihyun coming home meant another round of tears as he embraced his little brother. He marveled at how tall he had gotten, how his face was thinning as he moved further through puberty; Jimin could hardly believe he had changed so much since he had left for College. After fixing themselves up again and laughing over the emotions running high, they all headed outside and let Taehyung snap all the pictures he wanted. It was hours and hundreds of pictures before the green haired boy was satisfied, much to the delight of Jihyun who was tired of the process before it began.

            “Jeez, finally. Tell your boyfriend to lay off, hyung.” Jihyun had muttered after Taehyung had lowered his camera, Mijeong looking at the small screen over his shoulder. Jimin gasped and smacked the younger boy, eyes flitting to make sure his best friend was preoccupied before stepping in front of his little brother.

            “Hyunie!” He hissed. “Taehyung isn’t my boyfriend, he’s just my best friend.”

            “Really? Could have fooled me.” Jihyun responded dryly, bending his arm to examine his nails. “You two are always staring at each other.”

            “He’s special to me, but we’re just friends.” Jimin ruffled his hair, making the younger boy squawk in protest. “Dummy. It’s a good thing you aren’t dating, you’re terrible at reading a room.”

            Jihyun fixed his hair, eyes flitting to the side as he flushed a bit. “That’s not true, I’m really good at reading people actually.” Jimin studied his reaction for a moment, eyes widening as his brother’s blush deepened.

            “OH! Oh my god, you’re dating someone? Since when?” He exclaimed in shock, and it was Jihyun’s turn to smack him.

             “Hyung, shut up!” He looked nervously towards their parents before grabbing Jimin’s arm and tugging him down the sandy beach by their house, leading him parallel to the water.

            “Hyunie, you’re dating?! And you didn’t tell me?”

            “Oh god, please shut up. I don’t want Mom or Dad to hear.” He glanced behind them as they walked before sighing. “Yes, okay! I am. And I haven’t told anyone, so. . .” Jimin smiled, linking their arms as they walked.

            “What’s their name?”

            “Her name is Soojin, she’s in my class.” Jihyun smiled, staring down at the sand as they walked. “She’s really pretty, and really smart, hyung. I was so surprised she even gave me the time of day.”

            “Of course, she would, you’re a catch Hyunie.” Jimin bumped their shoulders.

            “You don’t understand, she’s so out of my league. I keep waiting for her to realize that and ditch me.”

            “If she’s as great as you think she is then she’s not going to.”

            “I don’t know. But I really like her.”

            “Have you kissed?” Jimin teased, poking Jihyun’s red cheek. “Did you kiss her?”

            “No! Hyung.” Jihyun whined, rolling his eyes to hide his embarrassment. Jimin laughed, Jihyun holding him up as his legs bent in laughter. “It’s too soon. I don’t want to freak her out.”

            “Are you sure it isn’t just because you’re scared?”

            “I’ve kissed girls before hyung.” He replied drolly. “It’s not like I’ve completely new to this.”

            “Okay, one, I don’t want to hear you say anything like that ever again. My baby brother!” Jimin pretended to sob sadly and Jihyun laughed. “Second, it doesn’t matter how much experience you do or don’t have when you fall for someone that really matters. Everything is going to seem new and scary despite the actual actions being familiar. They’re new, and that’s scary.”

            “You sound like you know from experience, hyung.” He observed, studying the soft look on Jimin’s face. “Is that how it is for you?”

            Shaking himself, Jimin smiled with a shrug. “No, that’s just what I’ve heard from my friends who are in relationships, and from what I’ve read in books.”

            “You really aren’t in love with Taehyung-ah?”

            Jimin stopped, his brother coming to face him with a genuinely curious look on his face. “Why do you ask that?”

            “I don’t know hyung. . . I just always assumed you two were going to end up together.” Jihyun shrugged, glancing back to where their parents and Taehyung were laughing. “He was always around and he’s basically a part of the family anyway. Mom and Dad love him.” Turning back to Jimin, he continued. “And I don’t know, you have always just looked at him like he hangs the sun and moon in your sky. I just assumed you’d confess one day—actually, that’s what we all thought had happened when Taehyung-hyung had called to say he was bringing you home. We thought you guys were finally together.”

            “It’s. . . never been like that for Taehyung, we’re just friends, nothing more.”

            “But you love him, don’t you? Why don’t you just confess? What are you so scared of?”

            “No, I. . . It’s not that simple Hyunie.”

            “What do you mean?” To Jimin’s horror, he felt his lip start to quiver. Jihyun stared at him in shock, before turning look back the way they came. “HEY!” He shouted, catching the other’s attention. “We’re going for a walk, be back later!” They all waved in response, and Jihyun steered him forwards. “Let’s go to our place.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            The cove they had found as kids was large, underneath a bridge right by the water with thick rocks jutting out randomly to create seats and cover from anyone who could potentially see them, the ocean loud enough that no one could hear them either. It was there that Jimin spilled everything to his little brother, leaving nothing out. He talked for a long while, eventually pulling out the sheet Dr. Choi had given him and handing it over. Jihyun had read the sheet with growing horror, looking between the paper and Jimin in shock, mouthing two months to himself. Jimin took the paper back when Jihyun nearly dropped it, folding it back up and putting it in his pocket. It was then that they both burst into tears, holding each other as they cried knowing nothing would be okay ever again. It was a long while before either could speak.

            “I can’t believe this. . .” Jihyun finally whispered, voice hoarse and face puffy.

            “I know.” Jimin wrapped his arms around his knees, bringing them close to his chest with a hard cough. “I know.”

            “Hyung, are you going to have the surgery?” He asked softly. Jimin thought about it for a moment before shaking his head.

            “I don’t think so, no.”

            “But. . . you would live.”

            “But I wouldn’t be able to dance, and I’d be tied to a hospital for the rest of my life. I can’t do that, that’s not living.”

            Jihyun shifted and gave him a look. “That’s not really why you won’t do the surgery, is it? It’s because you’d forget Taehyung.” When Jimin didn’t reply, Jihyun gave him an incredulous look. “Hyung, really? Would that be such a bad thing? If you’re in this much pain, why not just do it?” Jimin yanked a tissue from his pocket, coughing hard into it, feeling something soak the kleenex. He coughed again to clear his throat before pulling the tissue away to reveal the blood and two periwinkle petals. Jihyun’s face was ashen as he looked at the tissue. “Hyung, you should do it.”

            “I’m not going to Jihyun, please make peace with that. I have.”

            “How can you ask me to do that?”

            “I know it’s not fair, none of this is.” Jimin shoved the tissue in his pocket again, resting his chin on his knees as he waited for the burning pain to subside.

            “I. . . don’t want this to happen.” Jihyun’s voice broke. Jimin sighed and shuffled over, pulling his little brother close.

            “I don’t either. But you’re going to be okay, Hyunie. I need you to know that I am so proud of the man you are becoming; Soojin is a lucky girl. Any girl you choose to spend time with would be.” Jihyun’s laugh was broken as he moved closer. “You’re smart, and more importantly, kind. You’re going to do great things with your life; you’ll have a successful career, a loving family one day, and a place to call your own. You’ll grow old with the best of friends, and someone who loves you for you surrounding you as you experience the very best life has to offer. I wish for these things for you.”

            “But. . . I want my brother there.” Jihyun sobbed softly.

            “And I will be, I’ll always be with you in your heart. Just because I’m not here physically doesn’t mean I won’t be beside you through every step of your life.” Jimin ignored the tears spilling over his own eyes and kissed Jihyun’s head. “And I’ll be waiting for you, when your time comes, at least eighty years from now.” He smiled. “And you’ll be able to tell me everything I missed. I want you to be happy Jihyun, because I am. I’m happy to have you as my brother, I couldn’t have asked for a better sibling. And I know we’ll be together again someday, just maybe not in this life.”

            “It’s not fair hyung, it’s not fair.” His sobs had grown louder as he clutched Jimin with all his strength, as if he could hold him here in this moment as long as he didn’t let him go. Jimin buried his head in his hair.

            “I know. I know, Hyunie.”

            “I love you.” He whispered brokenly. “I know I don’t say it enough, but I do.”

            “I know you do; you never have to say it for me to know. I love you too, more than anything in the world.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            They sat there for a while longer, talking in hushed whispers about their childhood, about school, about everything under the sun. Jihyun, who had never been much of an affectionate person, was constantly touching Jimin, his face, his hands, his shoulders. He was always connected in some way and Jimin was thankful for it. He quietly explained he was leaving a suit case in his old bedroom when they leave Busan, and inside was a photo album he had put together of the family through the years. Inside was also letters to each of them, heartfelt notes to read after he had passed. Jimin explained how he couldn’t bear to tell their parents, how he left a long letter to explain everything to them for Jihyun to give to them when he was gone. Jihyun initially protested, but gave in easily when Jimin cried, promising to only open the case when the time had come.

            They walked back hours later, Jimin schooling his face back to normal, a smile on his face as they walked inside the house. Dinner was ready, and to his surprise Jihyun joined him at the table, the younger boy quiet but still present despite Jimin thinking he’d hurry upstairs for the night, though he refused to look at Taehyung unless directly addressed. Jimin hoped he remembered that Taehyung wasn’t at fault here, that he didn’t even know the extent of Jimin’s illness. And even if he did, this was no one’s fault but Jimin’s himself.

            They watched family videos after dinner, talking and laughing a lot as the fire crackled in the background. His father insisted on seeing him do a routine, so they were outside for a few minutes, Jimin dancing an individual routine he had created as his family cheered, Taehyung clicking dozens of photos. It was late before they decided to head back to the hotel, waving off Mijeong’s offer of a room there since they had already checked in.

            “Next time.” Taehyung promised with a boxy smile, hugging her in thanks. She cooed over him, patting his cheeks before turning to Jimin and hugging him tight. The smell of her perfume was familiar, reminding him of being a child and how her arms were always the safest place in the world. It was a long time before he let her go and hugged his dad and Jihyun, the latter holding on much longer than normal, ignoring the teasing of the others as he whispered that he loved Jimin in his ear. Jimin pressed a kiss to his forehead when they finally let go, resting his forehead against the younger boys for a few moments.

            “I love you too.” They waved as they got in the car, Jimin smiling until they faded in the distance, the colorful buildings around them comforting and reminding him of simpler times as they headed back towards their hotel.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            “It was great seeing your family again. Jihyun has gotten so tall! Give him a year and he’ll be taller than even you Jiminie.” Taehyung teased as they walked through their hotel room door. Jimin snorted and shoved him, heading towards the sink in the far side of the room and removing his makeup. Taehyung sat on the queen sized bed closest to the bathroom, leaving the bed by the windows for Jimin. He was looking at the digital screen of his camera, clicking through the pictures he had taken that day.

            “Anything good?” Jimin mumbled, mouth mostly closed to keep his makeup remover from dripping into his mouth. Taehyung hummed in response, focused on his pictures. Jimin just smiled after rinsing his face, moving to his duffle bag and pick it up. “I’m going to shower first, ‘kay?” Taehyung just made a vague noise in response so Jimin took that as an okay, slipping into the bathroom.

            The hot water was a godsend for his tight muscles, loosening the tension as he shampooed his blue locks. He couldn’t help but sigh as he rinsed the shampoo out and quickly conditioned it. It had been a long day and he was eager to get to bed. It was as he was finished washing his body that he remembered that moment with Taehyung in the kitchen. Holy moly, if that wasn’t the sexiest thing he had ever seen. His fingers came up to lightly brush along his lower lip, eyes closing as he stepped under the spray and remembered the feel of Taehyung’s thumb rubbing across the sensitive flesh.

            He groaned softly when he felt his body stir, ducking under the spray and cranking the cool water up. He waited for a few moments but to no avail, His body was awake and there was nothing short of taking care of the problem that he could do. Running his hand down his chest, sliding it slowly over his abs, he took himself in hand with a light hiss. Recalling Taehyung standing over him in the kitchen, almost caging him in as he rubbed along Jimin’s lips, had his hand moving rapidly. His other hand was clamped over his mouth, stifling the pants and soft moans. “Tae. . .” He moaned softly, biting onto his fist as his hand moved faster.

            “Hey Jimin-ah!” The door swung open with the sound of Taehyung’s voice. Jimin squealed, jumping in shock then kneeling in the bottom of the tub, heart thundering. He was never more aware that the only thing separating them was a thin hotel shower curtain. “Oh shit, sorry! I keep scaring you today!” His laugh was deep as the cool air of the room pervaded the shower’s steam.

            “What do you want Taehyung?” Jimin managed to say, heart still racing.

            “I’m thinking about ordering food; did you want anything specific?”

            “I don’t care.” Please leave.

            “Are you sure? I’m going to run out to grab something really quick if not.”

            “You know what I like in general, just get me whatever.” Please, please leave, Jimin was absolutely mortified. What if Taehyung had heard something?

            “Okay, I’ll be back in like ten minutes then. I’m taking the car keys.”

            “Okay. Bye Tae.”

            Taehyung was laughing as he shut the door. “Bye Jiminie.”

            When the door clicked shut, he listened hard for the hotel room door shutting before groaning and smacking his open hands repeatedly on the wall. “FUCK.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Needless to say, Jimin wasn’t taking any more chances of his best friend coming home early, quickly rinsing the soap off and getting out, drying himself off before slipping into his pajamas. He exited the bathroom to look in the mirror, combing his damp hair and wondering if the red stain on his cheeks would be permanent. How excruciatingly embarrassing, he was mortified wondering if the other boy had heard anything or if it was just unlucky timing. Well, he learned his lesson. He had just snuggled under the covers of his queen sized bed, a book in hand and the tv on quietly when the door to the hotel room opened.

            Taehyung quickly walked in, dripping wet as a storm raged behind him. He had a drink holder and a bag of food balanced in one hand as he quickly shut the door, locking it before kicking off his shoes in relief. Jimin stared at him in surprise as he set the items in his hands down on the small table. “It’s a monsoon out there!” Taehyung finally complained, eyes lighting up as his gaze met Jimin’s. “One second it was clear and nice, then BOOM! Suddenly I’m drenched running back to the car. I feel like a wet rat.”

            “You look like one too.” Jimin covered his mouth in an attempt to hide a giggle. Taehyung narrowed his eyes at him, stomping over threateningly.

            “Oh, do I? Well, wanna match?” He reached for the shorter boy who squealed and tossed his book to the side, hiding under his blankets. “Want to go for a swim, Jimin-ah?”

            “Tae, no! I’m clean, I’m dry! Please!” Jimin shouted as Taehyung ripped the blankets off him, grabby hands attempting to snag the shorter boy who twisted away. He landed on his feet on the other side of the bed, eyes wild as he stared at Taehyung, who looked two seconds away from jumping across the bed at him. “Taehyungie, please!”

            Taehyung suddenly straightened, his hands going to his sides again, a faux merciful look on his face. “Since you asked so nicely, I’ll let it go.” He grinned when Jimin stuck his tongue out at him. “Go ahead and eat, I’m going to shower really quick.” He picked up his duffle bag and blew Jimin a kiss before shutting himself in the bathroom.

            Jimin just rolled his eyes, heading over to take a seat at the small table and dig in. Taehyung had purchased way too much food as per usual, especially now that Jimin could barely eat much at all. He took a few bites before giving up, curling back up on his bed after retrieving his book. He had almost dozed off when Taehyung came out of the bathroom, the door shutting startling him into a hard series of coughs. He sat forward, hands over his mouth, book forgotten between his legs as the fit got worse, only noticing a soothing hand rubbing his back once it had dwindled. “Excuse me.” He whispered hoarsely, slipping from the bed and heading into the bathroom, bypassing the sink and shutting the door behind him quickly when Taehyung attempted to follow him. He used the tub to wash his hands, the washcloth from earlier still damp as he wet it to wipe his mouth and chin.

            There was a loud knock at the door. “Jiminie? Let me in please, let me help you.”

            “Just cleaning up Taehyung-ah, I’m okay. One second!” After wiping himself with a dry towel to assure himself there was no blood left and gargling faucet water (ick), he opened the door. Taehyung was right there, brow furrowed in worry and fist raised to knock again. Jimin slipped past him to pick up his toothbrush, cleaning his teeth vigorously. When he rinsed his mouth for one last time, he turned off the water and slowly wiped his mouth before glancing to the green haired boy standing next to him. “Sorry about that, you startled me! I choked on my spit, how lame right?” He shook his head on a soft laugh, reaching out to pat Taehyung’s shoulder. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”

            Taehyung looked at him for a long moment before reaching out, one hand grabbing Jimin’s wrist, the other catching him around the neck and pulling him into a tight hug. Jimin’s eyes closed as he hit Taehyung’s chest, arm automatically coming up to wrap around the taller boy’s torso. They stood like that, Taehyung holding his head close, his hand on Jimin’s wrist, for quite some time. Long enough that the rain petered out and the food cooled, the two friends just breathing each other in. It was as if Taehyung was trying to ascertain that Jimin was there and whole, his fingers trembling lightly as he held the smaller boy. After ages, he finally sighed, releasing Jimin slowly. “When we get back to town, I’m taking you back to the doctor. No arguments.” He finally headed towards the table, settling in to eat his food. Jimin knew there was no use arguing with him when he was like this, so he pushed the argument aside for another day and slid back into bed. The two were quiet until it was time for bed, only speaking to wish each other sweet dreams before turning out the light.

            The next day they spent exploring Busan, Jimin taking Taehyung to all his favorite spots. They got ice cream at the mom and pop shop on the outskirts of town and had lunch at his father’s restaurant. They spent a ton of time shopping at the eclectic boutiques, buying all sorts of clothes and accessories, Taehyung even bought a pair of shoes much to Jimin’s amusement. They ended up renting bikes for a while, biking down the winding streets as Jimin gave Taehyung a tour, admiring the colorful buildings and architecture as he told stories from when he was a kid. Taehyung took tons of pictures, of the landscapes, the buildings, of Jimin himself. Jimin had to bully him into giving up his camera for a while so he could get photos of Taehyung on their trip other than the multitude of selfies they had taken.

            The last half of the day they had spent on the beach after a pit stop to grab their car and swimsuits, Jimin jumping feet first into the water without any hesitation. Taehyung laughed when he finally surfaced, wiping his wet hair back off his forehead with a smile. “You forgot your sun screen!” Taehyung called from where he sat on a towel, rubbing sun screen into his arms. Jimin just laughed, walking out of the cool ocean water and scrunching his feet up in the warm sand.

            “I got too excited.” He replied, snagging a towel from the bag they had brought and quickly running it over his body to dry his skin. He narrowed his eyes at the tube in Taehyung’s hands. “Wait, I told you to get the spray on kind, not the cream kind.”

            “And I told you that the spray on kind is weak and wears off fast, so it’s smarter to use the cream kind.” Taehyung responded. “So, I made an executive decision and got the cream kind.”

            “I hate the way the cream feels on my skin, and it’s so hard to rub it in.” Jimin whined, laying the towel out beside Taehyung’s and flopping down onto it. Taehyung snickered, crossing his legs and turning to face Jimin.

            “I’ll help you, you big baby. Now sit up and turn around.” Jimin was hauled up before he could respond. “Wouldn’t want your pretty skin to burn.” Taehyung squirted a generous amount in his hand, twirling his finger at an incredulous Jimin until he turned his back to him. Jimin tried to keep down the blush as the taller boy massaged the sun screen into his shoulders and across his neck, his hands skimming all along Jimin’s bare back and upper arms, his thumbs working the cream in. Jimin had died and gone to gay boy heaven, allowing Taehyung to rub the sunscreen into his arms before he thought better of his actions.

            “I can take over.” He muttered, snagging the bottle and starting in on his chest and abs, moving quickly down his legs until he was satisfied, spreading a little of the special face sun screen on before tossing the bottles. “There. Ready to swim?”

            “You missed a spot.” Taehyung replied, moving from where he sat cross legged to his knees, hand coming up to rub the smear of sunscreen in on Jimin’s hip, thumb brushing the edge of Jimin’s swim suit in a way that made his nerves stand on end. He danced away from the other boy on instinct, making the other boy grin up at him. “Ticklish Jiminie?” He hands came up, fingers wiggling playfully in the air.

            “I will drown you in the ocean.” Jimin said, schooling his expression into a dead pan look.

            “That would be a downer. You’re too cute to sit in a jail cell.”

            “I wouldn’t be caught. I’d call Yoongi-hyung and ask him how to get away with it.”

            “That would do it.” They both laughed, sending a quick selfie to their friend’s group chat before spending the day playing. They swam a ton, alternating between racing each other, having splash fights, and just floating in the water on their backs. They built sand castles and Jimin buried Taehyung in the sand, laughing when he couldn’t get up by himself after Jimin took a picture. When the sun started to set, they dried off, carrying their stuff with them as they walked along the water laughing and talking. Taehyung made Jimin pose for more pictures against the ocean and sunset, exclaiming praise that had the shorter boy on his knees with laughter, a pleased smile on his face. Jimin never wanted this day to end.

            They met Jimin’s parents and brother for a later dinner that night, after stopping by the hotel to get cleaned up. They spent the whole meal telling them about their day in Busan, showing pictures and making jokes. Jihyun’s eyes rarely left Jimin’s face, and the only time he spoke to Taehyung was to ask if he could get copies of all the pictures they had taken, even the blurry or bad ones. Surprised, Taehyung agreed quite easily, ruffling Jihyun’s hair in response when they parted ways. Hugs were long and tight, and his Mom begged them to visit again soon. Taehyung quickly promised, but Jimin could only smile. The ride to the hotel was quiet, both boys exhausted and ready for bed. They fell under the covers not too long after arriving, Jimin having the presence of mind to set an alarm so they wouldn’t miss their train in the morning before passing out with a smile on his face, the image of a Busan sunset with Taehyung the last thing he saw.

            The next morning was hectic as they ran around trying to gather all their things. Jimin shoved his clothes in a bag, toothbrush hanging out of his mouth as he heard Taehyung muttering, “Shit, shit, shit, shit.” As he searched for his phone and wallet. Making a muffled sound of victory, Jimin lunged for the items under the bed and held them up, high fiving Taehyung as he took them gratefully. Taehyung grabbed a few bags, running them out to the car while Jimin finished getting ready. Lifting a pair of shorts, a paper fluttered to the ground and Jimin caught it, realizing it was his medical document and he was wearing pants without pockets. He unzipped the small inner pocket and shoved it in, making a mental note to move it once they arrived home, sure it was safe until then. Seeing a phone charger but no knowing for sure if it was his, he quickly picked that up too and put it in the pouch, zipping it up and closing the bag.

            “Let’s go Jiminie!” Taehyung called, coming to grab Jimin’s bags to take them out to the car too. “We just have to check out and we’re home free!” He headed towards the door.

            “Taehyungie?”

            Stopping at the soft call, Taehyung asked, “Yes, Jimin-ah?” He wasn’t prepared for the hug that followed his question, Jimin’s arms tight around his neck as he stood there holding the bags.

            “Thank you for this. You have no idea how much this trip means to me. You’re the best friend I could ever ask for and I love you for it.” He finally let the frozen green haired boy go, smiling his crescent moon smile at him, receiving a boxy smile in return.

            “If you’re happy Jiminie, then I couldn’t be happier.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            “SURPRISE!” Jimin and Taehyung laughed as the door swung fully open, the undignified shouts of their five friends ringing through the living room as they jumped out of their hiding places. There was food everywhere, liquor and punch on the countertop that was visible from the doorway, a welcome home sign strung across the living room wall.

            “How the hell did you guys get in here?” Taehyung asked gleefully, setting his bags down and pulling the first person (Seokjin) he could reach into a hard hug.

            “Yoongi-hyung!” They all responded simultaneously, fingers pointing towards the boy slumped on the couch. He just smirked slightly, shrugging.

            “You’re scary, hyung.” Taehyung finally said after a pause, though he sounded more admiring than anything else as he went to hug Namjoon. When he was released Seokjin gave Jimin a hug, taking some of the bags out of the smaller boy’s hands.

            “Your room?” He questioned, taking them that way when Jimin nodded.

            “Tell us all about your trip! I bet you had so much fun! You look so tan!” Hoseok grabbed Jimin in a hug, rocking him back and forth in his excitement. Jimin laughed and returned the affection, snagging Jungkook into a hug once Hoseok had let him go. Once everyone had been greeted and hugs were given all around, they filled plates and sat all around the living room. Taehyung and Jimin enthusiastically told the others about everything they had seen and done, about hanging out with Jimin’s family. Taehyung had hopped up to grab his laptop, importing the photos quickly before everyone squished onto the couch on either side of Jimin and Taehyung to see them.

            Taehyung was a brilliant photographer. The shots were stunning, and Jimin felt his heart swell at all the meaningful moments he had captured that not even Jimin himself had been aware of. There were ones of his mother laughing and his father staring into the fire with a warm smile on his face. There were candid’s of Jihyun and Jimin arguing when Taehyung had been taking all the family photos, ones of Jimin laughing and Jihyun sticking his tongue out. Pictures of Jimin swimming in the ocean and a photo of Taehyung buried under the sand with a funny look on his face. There were beautiful snippets of time Taehyung had carefully collected, meshing with the photos of Busan he had taken beautifully. It was a tribute to their trip, and Jimin couldn’t help but feel incredibly touched. The group praised the photographer on his talent, cooing at all the adorable pictures and making sounds of envious surprise at the scenery.

            “What I really want to know is the background context of this picture.” Taehyung grinned, pointing to the screen. It was a picture of Jihyun and Jimin; the younger boy looking smug and amused as he grinned mischievously, Jimin turning to face him with wide eyes and a bright red blush, his hand caught smacking at Jihyun. Jimin immediately flushed, realizing that was the moment Jihyun had called Taehyung his boyfriend. “Care to enlighten us, Jimin-ah?”

            “He was teasing me about my height.” Jimin dismissed, clicking the button to go to the next pictures of their bicycle ride through Busan. “He was being a butthead.”

            “I can’t get over how much he looks like you.” Namjoon said from somewhere off to Taehyung’s left, and Jimin sighed in relief that they were dropping the conversation. He coughed into his napkin, eyes still on the screen as the pictures flew by. “You two could be twins.”

            “Except I’m much better looking.” Jimin smirked, shooting Namjoon a coy smile, making the older boy laugh. “But really, he’s going to grow up to be a great guy, I just know it. He’s already got girls chasing him too.”

            “You may have a heartbreaker on your hands.” Hoseok teased.

            “Maybe, if he wasn’t such a romantic underneath the coldly applied indifference.” Jimin shook his head in exasperation. “He tries to hide how much he cares, but a brother always knows.”

            “He sounds like Yoongi-hyung.” Jungkook interjected, immediately moving out of reach as he grinned playfully at the older boy (he was right to move, Yoongi had sat up shockingly fast). “A teddy bear wrapped in barbed wire coated in venom.” He sang. Yoongi got up then, Jungkook squealing and hiding behind Seokjin.

            “C’mere, smartass.”

            “Hyung, save me!” Jungkook called to Hoseok as he peeked over Seokjin’s shoulder, eyes wide with fear yet still smiling. Hoseok just continued filing his nails from where he sat on the couch, not bothering to look up.

            “The one who pokes the teddy bear is the one responsible for his claws.” He shrugged an elegant shoulder, peeking at Jimin and winking. Jimin just laughed as Jungkook looked to Seokjin next.

            “Jin-hyung, you wouldn’t let Yoongi-hyung disembowel me, right?”

            “Dude, I’d hold the bag as he slipped your body in it.” Seokjin replied, putting his hands up and stepping to the side. Everyone cracked up as Jungkook made a frightened sound, immediately turning to duck behind Namjoon as Yoongi caught his wrist. Jimin laughed harder as the two boys wrestled, falling against Taehyung in his mirth; Jungkook was clearly the stronger of the two, but his fear of Yoongi’s wrath kept him from using it against the older but shorter boy. Hoseok had his cell phone out and was filming it, smirking at Jungkook’s high pitched squeals and calls of, “help!”. Taehyung was shaking with silent laughter, his face reddening as he literally cried at the scene playing out in front of them. It was a few moments before Jimin took pity on the boy (after letting everyone get pictures and video).

            “Hey hyung?” He called, catching Yoongi’s attention; the older boy stopped from where he was sat on top of Jungkook, the younger boy’s face in the carpet and his arms held in Yoongi’s grip out behind him. Jimin giggled lightly before pouting. “I really like that area rug, I’d hate for Jungkook to bled on it.”

            “The rug, really?!” Jungkook’s voice was muffled from where Yoongi’s foot was pressing it into the ground.

            “I suppose it would be a shame to ruin it.” Yoongi sighed, releasing Jungkook’s arms and standing up. The younger boy laid flat on the ground before popping up, hands outstretched as he flung himself at Yoongi (who had been heading towards where Hoseok was smiling and crooking a finger at him), catching him hard across the back and sending them both to the ground. Jimin was in tears laughing so hard, Taehyung practically cackling beside him.

            “Ouch, damn it, you brat!”

            “Love me, hyung!”

            Jimin surveyed the happy group around him, content underneath Taehyung’s arm with his leg thrown over Hoseok’s lap. Namjoon and Seokjin were on the floor in front of the couch, Namjoon’s warm back pressed against Jimin’s shin as he and Seokjin cheered Yoongi and Jungkook on. They were idiots, but they were his idiots, and he had never been fonder of them.

            They spent a couple hours just messing around, Jimin, Hoseok, and Jungkook gave the others a front seat show of their audition dance while they played Yoongi and Namjoon’s track. This turned into a dance party, which turned into a dance battle, leaving them laughing and exhausted. Later, Taehyung, Jungkook, Yoongi and Seokjin were playing Mario Party 7 on the old Nintendo GameCube, being loud and cursing as Yoongi smugly dominated the game. Jimin was tucked into the sofa behind them, snapping an occasionally picture and video and chatting with Namjoon and Hoseok about their plans for the upcoming school year. There was some drinking and a lot of eating, Seokjin declaring he was ordering real food for them to go along with all the snacks after Yoongi had smoothly kicked their asses in the game, and it was loud as everyone tried to shout their orders at once. He stepped out of the apartment to make the call, Taehyung flopping out beside Jimin on the couch and throwing his arms around the smaller boy.

            “Jimin-ah!” He whined, leg coming up to latch onto Jimin too; the blue haired boy giggled at his antics, bopping him on the nose.

            “Yeah Taehyungie? What do you need?”

            “My phone’s almost dead and I can’t find my charger! I think I lost it in Busan!”

            Jimin snapped. “That’s what that cord was! I found it when you were loading the car, I wasn’t sure what it was, but I grabbed it.” Taehyung squeezed him in delight.

            “Yay! You’re the best! Where is it?”

            “Duffle bag, just tossed in there somewhere. Jinnie-hyung put them in my room.” Jimin replied, letting Hoseok take his hand and start filing his nails. “I’ll go get it in a sec.”

            “I can get it! Thanks, Jiminie!” Pressing a quick kiss to Jimin’s temple, he jumped up and headed towards Jimin’s room. There was something in the back of his mind prodding at him, he couldn’t recall though and was easily distracted by Hoseok asking him a question about the trip. Seokjin had reappeared, coming to sit beside Namjoon and whisper in his ear, making the shyer boy blush a bit and smack at him, though he followed the older over to the GameCube without hesitation.

            “Did I miss any interesting developments?” Jimin asked Hoseok in a low tone, the older boy focused on Jimin’s nails.

            “If you want to know if Joonie and Seokjin-hyung have finally fessed up and admitted they want to have wild sex with each other, the answer is no.” Hoseok hummed in agreement when Jimin groaned. “I know right?”

            “Maybe one day.”

            “Yeah, when Joonie is old and grey.” Hoseok glanced towards the others before giving the younger boy a coy smile. “Speaking of developments, how was the trip?”

            “It was. . . needed. I really enjoyed seeing my family, and it’s been a long time since I went to the beach in Busan. I’m exhausted, but so glad we went. It was sweet of Taehyung to do that for me.”

            “I mean, what wouldn’t he do for you?”

            “He’s my best friend.” Jimin shrugged slightly with a small smile. Hoseok rolled his eyes.

            “I’m glad you had fun on your trip, but that’s not what I was asking. I meant, any developments?” He stressed the last word in his sentence, and Jimin turned a little red.

            “No, hyung! Don’t be weird!” The doorbell rang and Seokjin hopped up to answer it, Yoongi handing him cash as he went. Namjoon followed, helping him shut the door and carry the bags into the kitchen. Hoseok stood, throwing his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders from behind and pressing a kiss to his cheek as they followed, Jungkook not too far behind. “I’m gonna go see what’s keeping Tae, I’ll be right back!” He headed down the hall with a fond laugh, opening Taehyung’s door only to find the room empty. Confused, he knocked on the bathroom door, but that room was empty too. “Tae?” He called softly, finally opening his own bedroom door.

            Taehyung was seated on the edge of Jimin’s bed, his elbows were on his knees and he had his face leaned forward in his hands. His hat was tossed behind him on the bed and Jimin’s duffle bag was open on the floor in front of him, clothes spilling out and the small inside pocket unzipped and—

            Jimin’s heart froze and for a moment he thought it might give out altogether.

            Face up on the bed was the medical document he had been given by Dr. Choi almost two weeks ago, his diagnosis and prognosis typed out in black and white for anyone to read. He noticed then that his night stand drawer was open, the file folder containing the medical information on his disease, copies of test results, and smaller x-ray images spread out on Taehyung’s other side, clearly rifled through and read. His heart skipped a beat in fear and horror as Taehyung didn’t even acknowledge he had entered the room.

            “Taehyung?” Jimin whispered softly, hand squeezing the door handle with an iron grip, knuckles white as his breathing sped up and he coughed. The sound seemed to have awakened something in Taehyung and he sprang up from where he was seated, turning to face Jimin. His face was a strangers, his eyes hard and cold, his jaw pulled up tighter than Jimin had ever seen it. He was pale, his bottom lip bitten red and there were red lines belaying claw marks on his neck. He looked almost inhuman in his anger, the way his body was stiff and his shoulders were locked. Jimin watched as his hands formed fists tight enough to have nails break skin, the knuckles harshly white against his tan. “Taehyung, I—”

            “You’re dying?” Taehyung’s voice was loud and deep, cutting across the room and making Jimin take a step back in shock. The voices in the other room went silent. “You’re fucking dying, Jimin, and you didn’t tell me?”

            “Taehyung—”

            “What happened to bronchitis? What happened to, ‘oh Taetae, I’m getting better, I just need time!’ bullshit you were spreading?” His imitation of Jimin was ugly and cold, indifferent to the pale, shocked faces of their five friends behind Jimin.

            “Jimin. . . what’s going on?” Hoseok asked weakly, reaching for Yoongi. Jimin turned in surprise, opening his mouth to speak, but Taehyung interrupted him.

            “Two fucking months. Two months, how long ago?” Taehyung ripping the paper from the bed, scanning the document. “Two weeks ago. You found out two weeks ago that you’re going to die, and you kept it from all of us?! From me?!” He threw the paper back on the bed, turning in his anger and kicking Jimin’s duffle bag across the room. His hands went to his hair as he bowed forward, his teeth sunk deep into his lip.

            “You don’t understand—”

            “Oh, tell me about it. I don’t understand anything.” Taehyung straightened and was suddenly right in front of Jimin, making him take another step back. “What I don’t understand is how you became such a fucking liar, Park. How could you keep something like this from me? And the guys? I can’t believe this.” He was laughing now, hands on his hips. “This is some great fucking joke.”

            “Hyung, calm down for a second.” Jungkook had pushed his way forwards past the others, hands up like he was approaching a wild animal. Taehyung turned on him, eyes remote and cold. “Just. . . take a breath and calm down, let Jimin-hyung explain.”

            Something seemed to have dawned on Taehyung, his eyes widening as he glanced between Jimin and Jungkook, then back at the paper. His voice could freeze time, it was so cold as he spoke, “You knew. Jungkook knew. Didn’t he?”

            “Hyung, I—”

            “Taehyung, don’t turn this on him!”

            Taehyung turned to the shorter boy. “Did he know or not?” Jimin bit his lip and looked away just as Jungkook spoke up again.

            “I did, yeah. I was with him that day at the doctor, when you called after a procedure and he sounded drunk.”

            “Procedure. . .” Namjoon whispered, shaky hands reaching out for nothing.

            “You were with him at the doctor.” Taehyung repeated quietly to himself, hands tightening on his hips. “And you knew.”

            “Yeah.”

            There was a blur of movement and a sickening crack, everyone shouting at the same time. Seokjin and Namjoon were suddenly holding Taehyung back, his knuckles split open and Jungkook bleeding on the ground. Jimin watched in horror, unable to believe his best friend had just punched Jungkook across the face. There was blood dripping from the younger boy’s split lip; Hoseok was on the floor next to him asking him if he was okay, if he needed ice, and Yoongi stood between Taehyung and Jungkook, hands outstretched to catch Taehyung should he struggle his way loose. Eyes filling with tears Jimin shouted. “Stop! Everyone stop!” To his surprise they all paused just in time for him to start coughing rapidly, stumbling to the floor. Yoongi was there suddenly, reaching to help him when the blood sprayed out, coating Jimin’s hands as he gagged, petals dripping from his hands. They were all frozen for a long moment, watching as he choked before Yoongi pounded on his back. Jimin shrugged him off, choking again as he crawled forward, hands weakly grabbing onto the small trash can. He pulled it under his mouth just in time for a glob to come up.

            It was over after a few moments, but he couldn’t bring himself to look away from the semi-attached periwinkle petals and look at his friends. He cried softly, forehead resting on the trashcan edge.

            “I’ll get a towel.” Jungkook murmured, standing up from his seated position, disappearing into the bathroom. He was back after a moment with a wet washcloth and towel. Brushing past the others and seeming older than his years, he knelt. “Here, hyung.” He said softly, and Jimin cried harder at the kindness on the younger boy’s face. When he made no move to take them Jungkook sat down, gently running the wet cloth against the parts of his face not practically in the trashcan. “Come on hyung, you know being upset makes it worse. Take a deep breath okay?”

            Jimin attempted to steady his breathing, sitting up slightly and spitting into the trashcan. He leaned back a little bit, his eyes immediately going to his friends faces. They were all ashen faced, Yoongi glancing between Jimin and the spray of blood on his hands in shock. “I’m sorry hyung.” He whispered, voice hoarse and scratchy. “Take a shirt.” He gestured weakly towards his closet before slowly taking the wet wash cloth and wiping his mouth and neck, doing his best to make his hands clean.

            “You need to rinse your mouth and wash your hands. Come on.” Jungkook stood, holding his hands out to Jimin. The younger boy’s lip was split, a small cut near his cheekbone and bruising from Taehyung’s rings. The blood had dried, garish against his skin as he leaned down and took Jimin’s hands, despite the blood, and pulled him up. “Guys, move. Go into the living room or something.” His friends separated enough to allow Jimin and Jungkook through, the younger supporting the smaller boy into the bathroom and shutting the door. When Jimin sat on the toilet, the last thing he saw was the betrayed look on Taehyung’s face as he turned to walk away.

            He burst into gut wrenching sobs as the door closed and Jungkook looked at him sympathetically. He wet the washcloth before bringing it back to wipe at Jimin’s lips, making quiet shushing noises to sooth the older boy. After a few moments, Jimin reached for toilet paper, wiping his eyes and blowing his nose before looking up at Jungkook. “I fucked up, Kookie.”

            “You did, yeah.” Seeing Jimin’s lip tremble he sighed, crossing his freshly washed hands. “But I get why you did what you did, even if I don’t agree with it. They will too. So, you need to clean yourself up, get a new shirt, and go out there and talk to them. Explain yourself, show them the research and test results. Talk to your friends, hyung. They love you, and they’re scared.”

            “Tae’s never going to forgive me, is he? I didn’t. . . I didn’t want this. I didn’t want him to hate me when I only have. . .” His sentence got caught on a sob and Jungkook knelt, brushing his tears away with his thumbs.

            “He doesn’t hate you, he’s just terrified and lashing out.” Jungkook shrugged a shoulder with a pained smile. “If he hates anyone here, it’s me.”

            “I’m so sorry, Kook-ah. I never should have involved you.”

            “It’s not like you had a choice, I was there at the club. So, don’t dwell on it.”

            Jimin swallowed hard, eyes glittering as he gazed at Jungkook. “Do you hate me?” He whispered. Jungkook looked at him with wide eyes, shaking his head vigorously.

            “Never, Jimin-hyung.”

            It took a long time before Jimin was able to stand and wash his hands, having an almost out of body experience. He felt removed as he washed himself up, brushing his teeth in slow motion and rinsing with a strong mouth wash. Jungkook had slipped out to collect the documentation from the hospital and returned with an oversized sweater, a soft black thing that he was ninety five percent sure was Taehyung’s. He bit his lip as he pulled it on, rubbing his eyes as they watered again at the feel of soft cashmere against his sensitive, overly heated skin. Jungkook eyed him from his position at the door, smiling slightly and holding the folder out.

            “Be brave, hyung.”

            Jimin took a deep breath, accepted the file and opened the door, marching to face the music and hoping for the best of a bad situation. Taehyung’s cold gaze flashing through his memory making his skin stand on end.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            The room was dead silent when Jimin walked in, hesitating in the doorway before moving in front of the TV and standing there. Jungkook slipped in with one of the chairs from the kitchen, posting up at the doorway not unlike a sentry. Hoseok clutched Yoongi’s freshly washed hands, sitting side by side on the couch with Namjoon and Seokjin on their left. Taehyung was pacing the room not far from them, refusing to look up even when Jimin stared at him. He cleared his throat lightly, sipping from the water bottle he had left on the table before finally turning to his pale, upset friends.

            “I want to start by apologizing. I shouldn’t have kept anything from you guys, I know we don’t keep things from each other, but I was scared. That doesn’t make it right, but that’s the honest truth.” He ignored the scoff Taehyung gave, continuing even as his heart burned painfully. “It started the night before we went to that club a few weeks ago, I was in the shower and I coughed up blood and it had flower petals in it.”

            “Flower petals?” Namjoon echoed subconsciously, hands tightening in his lap. Jimin nodded, reaching into the file and pulling out a photo of the petri dish Dr. Choi had shown him. Hesitantly, he held it out to Namjoon, who studied it with wide eyes before passing it around.

            “I brushed it off and went shopping then to the club with you guys the following day. I had another episode in the bathroom at the club, Jungkookie was with me when it happened so that’s why he knew anything was going on to begin with.” Jimin said the last part almost pleadingly towards Taehyung, who hadn’t touched the picture Hoseok tried to offer him and hadn’t looked at Jimin yet. He bit his lip, fighting tears as he continued. “That time was bad and when Jungkook-ah tried to get me to tell you all and go to the doctor, I bit his head off and threw him under the bus, making him feel bad so he’d keep my secret.”

            “But I chose to regardless.” Jungkook interjected suddenly, defending Jimin to an extent. “We both know you hurt my feelings, but I made the decision to honor your wishes once you explained why you wanted to keep things a secret.”

            “It wasn’t right of me though, it was selfish.” Jimin took a deep breath before continuing. “I knew things were getting worse, I couldn’t eat or sleep, I lost weight, and I had more episodes more often. I finally went to the doctor, and they ran a couple tests.”

            “What tests?” Yoongi asked, voice completely blank.

            “Blood tests, a contrast CT, and a bronchoscopy.” Jimin replied quickly, opening the file and pulling out the x-rays. “These are the results of the CT.” He held them out and Seokjin was the first to take them, though he seemed to regret it once his eyes hit the paper. He quickly passed it on and Hoseok made a wounded sound when it got to him. All of them looked horrified, and Jimin continued slowly. “Dr. Choi thought the whiteish spots in my lungs were tumors, so they were ahead with the last test. He pulled samples of the foreign objects and discovered I was telling the truth about the flowers.”

            “How the hell do you have flowers growing in your lungs?” Hoseok whispered, eyes filling with tears as he looked up from the x-rays. “What does that even mean?”

            “Dr. Choi was shocked and reached out to other hospitals and colleagues around Korea, while I was waiting the sedative out. He found a guy who had a couple patients with my same symptoms he treated.”

            “What is it? And you said treated? But we heard Taehyung-ah say. . .” Namjoon trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. Jimin fidgeted, pulling out the research. Taehyung was watching Jimin out of the corner of his eyes now.

            “Yes, he had three patients who lived and one who died. The disease. . .” Jimin covered his face for a moment, embarrassed and upset. “The disease is basically self-inflicted.”

            “Hyung—” Jungkook started to protest, but Jimin held up a hand to stop him.

            “I have Hanahaki disease. The disease of unrequited love growing flowers in your lungs until you start coughing full flowers and die.” He finally rushed out, fingers playing with the bottom of his shirt nervously. He expected the confused and almost disbelieving looks he was receiving.

            “That doesn’t even sound real.” Seokjin said suddenly. Jimin handed him the packet of information on the disease wordlessly. There was no denying the medical jargon, nor the studies as he flipped quickly through the first few pages, the others glancing over his shoulder. They all looked up after a moment.

            “You said they treated three out of four patients?” Namjoon prompted after the silence.

            “Well, kind of.”

            “What was the treatment that saved three people?” Taehyung suddenly asked, turning to face Jimin and sitting on the arm of the couch. Jimin’s heart jumped into his throat at the sound of his voice and he swallowed hard.

            “Well. . . two people confessed to the person they were in love with even though they thought there was no chance of them being loved back. . . But they were loved back, they just didn’t know it. So, when their love was returned, the flowers took care of themselves. They were fully healthy again.” Jimin was looking at the floor as he explained, unable to meet Taehyung’s gaze even though that had been all he had wanted since he came into the living room. He rushed on before anyone could interrupt, already seeing the looks on their faces. “The third person had surgery to remove the flowers, though that came with complications. They had to have dialysis twice a week for their whole lives to keep the flowers at bay and they developed asthma which made sports impossible, but the biggest complication was mental. They forgot the person they loved, completely. Every memory, every feeling they once felt, completely gone even when they saw the person again.”

            “Jesus.” Seokjin muttered, falling back on the couch.

            “And the last person?” Namjoon prompted Jimin, sitting forwards slightly.

            “The last person’s petals developed to full flowers, and not long after they choked on their own blood and died.” Jimin whispered softly.

            “You’re in love with someone, Jimin?” Taehyung asked quietly, eyes locked on the smaller boy.

            “Yes.” He whispered, eyes closing. “But it doesn’t matter because it’s never going to happen. Option one isn’t for me.” Hoseok opened his mouth, but Jimin cut him off. “Hyung, it’s not an option. They don’t love me back like that.”

            “Well, when are you having surgery then?” Yoongi asked, his expression fierce as he sat up fully. “Is this Dr. Choi doing it? What are his credentials?”

            “I’m. . . I’m not having the surgery.” Jimin murmured, taking the seat Jungkook brought him and falling heavily into it. “I can’t do that.”

            “Why not?” Taehyung was suddenly striding over, bending his knees to perch in front of Jimin. “It would save your life, right? I’d take you to the doctor’s appointments, and you can figure out how to work around it with dance.” He sounded hopeful suddenly, eyes no longer as flat as they had been. “You would live, right?”

            His heart broke a little more at the look on Taehyung’s face, the look mirrored on all their faces. Even Jungkook looked hopeful, and Jimin realized he had hoped all along that Taehyung would convince him to figure out how to live, one way or another. Tears filled his eyes, spilling over as he slowly shook his head and reached out to place a small hand on Taehyung’s cheek. “No Tae.” He said softly. “No surgery. It’s not worth it.”

            “What does that mean? Jiminie, you could live!” Taehyung emphasized, catching Jimin’s wrists and holding the older boy’s hands over his heart. “So what if you forget some asshole who doesn’t love you back? Fuck them. Maybe this would be a good thing, maybe forgetting them wouldn’t be the worst thing, yeah? It’s not like you lose your ability to love, you’ll fall in love again one day. The point is you’ll be alive to try again!”

            The ache in his chest burned hot and hard, and he slipped a hand out of Taehyung’s grasp to put pressure on his chest to ease the pain. The tears were silent, though Jimin wanted to hurl himself over a cliff in despair. “I don’t want the surgery, Taehyung.”

            The taller boy was growing more frustrated, and Jimin finally saw what was beyond the mask. His dark eyes were glimmering with unshed tears, he hid his trembling lip by biting down on it hard, and he was so tense because loosening a muscle would mean losing it all. It killed him inside, seeing his best friend suffer. “Why not? Why wouldn’t you want to Jiminie? Are you scared?”

            “No, I’m not—”

            “Is it the recovery and follow ups? Because we won’t make you do it all alone, we’ll all be there with you every step of the way. You know that, right?”

            “Taehyung—”

            “Just have the surgery, please! Give all of us more time, give me more time with you!”

            “It’s not that—”

            “So what if you forget the person you love, if it’s killing you then just let them go—”

            “Stop. Stop interrupting me.” Jimin was crying in earnest now. “The answer is no Taehyung, I’m not having the surgery and that’s final.”

            Taehyung was standing now, looking down at him in wounded shock. “Why are they worth it? How can they be worth killing yourself?”

            Jimin was on his feet then, chest heaving as he finally responded. “I would rather die loving him, then to live not knowing him.” Taehyung had taken steps back, shaking his head slowly as the tears finally spilled over. His lip trembled and his breath caught, a hand flying up to rest over his heart as if in pain.

            “How can you say that? How. . . how can you love someone when it’s killing you?”

            “Because he’s worth it.” Jimin whispered, heart aching. “He’s worth more to me than my own life.”

            “He’s worth more to you then all of us? Then your family, then your future? More than me?” Taehyung’s voice broke on the last word, a sob working its way to the surface.

            “Taehyung. . .” Jimin took a step forward, flinching when Taehyung recoiled back.

            “No, just. . . just don’t.” The atmosphere in the room was cold, and there wasn’t a shocked or betrayed face that wasn’t wet with tears. “How long?”

            “Dr. Choi says about three or four weeks until the flowers fully form, after that it might be a week. Two if I’m lucky.” Jimin cried softly, wiping his cheeks and glancing around the room. No one met his gaze. “I never wanted any of this. I just. . . I didn’t want you all to worry or be sad.”

            “Well, that wasn’t your call.” Hoseok looked angry, pulling Yoongi to his feet. “But you did get one thing you wanted, I’m not sad right now. I’m furious. I can’t believe how selfish you’re being. I can’t be here.” He pulled a silent Yoongi to the door, not even saying good bye as they left.

            “I-I’m sorry.” He whispered, watching as Seokjin stood and motioned towards the door, Namjoon following him with his gaze locked on the floor. He finally looked to Taehyung, who was standing there in the middle of the room, arms hanging limply at his sides. “Tae. . .”

            The sound of the nickname jerked him from his stupor, and he shook his head, walking backwards and snagging the duffle bag he had left by the door. “I can’t be here.”

            “Wait Taetae, please, please don’t leave like this!” Jimin took a couple steps forward, halting when Taehyung held a hand up to ward him off.

            “Don’t come any closer, just. . . I have to go.” His hand was pulling the door open when Jimin called,

            “Will you. . . when will you be back?”

            His eyes were cold again as they cut straight through Jimin’s heart. “I don’t know.” And then he was gone, the door slamming hard enough to knock the framed picture of them from the wall, shattering the glass. Jimin stared after him for a long moment before he slowly turned to Jungkook, who stood from his seat and slowly held open his arms. Jimin threw himself into them with a sob, soaking the younger boy’s shirt through as he cried into it. It was late into the night when Jungkook tucked him into bed, gently brushing his hair back from his face as he cried into his pillow, exhaustion taking over and finally putting him to sleep.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            The following week and a half were the longest and the loneliest of Jimin’s life. Taehyung never came home the night of the Reveal (as Jungkook had dubbed it) and wasn’t responding to his texts or calls. His friends seemed worlds away; no one would answer him and Hoseok had even switched his dance schedule around, so they were no longer at the studio at the same time. It was a complete freeze out, that to Jimin’s horror included Jungkook. No one was talking to the younger boy either, almost as punishment for not telling everyone despite Jimin’s protests. For being a kind friend, Jungkook was losing his and the guilt was eating away at him. Especially since Jungkook was sleeping on the couch now, having been kicked out by his roommate (Hoseok) after a shouting fight the night after the Reveal. It got to the point where he barely left his room during the day unless he needed the bathroom, unable to handle the stifling stillness of the empty apartment (though Jungkook was there, that wasn’t the occupant he felt the need to have and it was making him restless).

            At night though, he wandered around Seoul. He crossed streets, walked through parks, went down alley ways, just walking with no particular destination in mind. He walked until he had sores on feet and his knees were closed to buckling with exhaustion, only heading towards home when the sun was rising. Sleep was a joke, and he hadn’t eaten anything at all in four days despite Jungkook’s prompting. He simply had no appetite or will to eat, he could feel his body wasting away and it seemed like moot point to try and stop it.

            He was miserable and depressed, but the worst part is he knew he deserved it. Had he come clean with the others in the beginning, maybe they would have been more understanding. But he let fear take over and control him, the selfish want to avoid confrontation driving him. The memory of Taehyung telling him to just forget, as if it would be so easy, was killing him faster than his illness; the thought of living but not knowing who Taehyung was made the bile in the back of his throat rise, and he ended up puking in the toilet, more often than not. How could Taehyung ask him to just forget?

            Jungkook had argued for Jimin telling Taehyung that it was him that he loved, admitting the full truth and seeing what happened. They argued about it the first three nights, until Jimin fled to his room and refused to speak to him unless he relented. Jungkook thought it wasn’t fair of Jimin to hold what he said against Taehyung, that he clearly couldn’t possibly understand that he was the asshole Jimin loved. And logically, Jimin agreed, but emotionally all he could think about was if Taehyung would be able to forget him so easily if their situations were reversed.

            As Jimin followed Jungkook to dance class that Monday, he felt heavy and unmotivated. He wouldn’t have left the house if Jungkook hadn’t threatened to call his parents and tell them everything, the younger boy clearly fed up with the situation and itching for some sort of normalcy. And grudgingly, Jimin didn’t blame him. Class was vigorous and the burn in his muscles were a warm and welcome feeling, eyes closing as he moved through the motions and let the dance carry him away. He enjoyed the small break from reality, practicing the spin they were using in their current choreography until he was dizzy. He stopped after a few moments, his first laugh in a week breaking out.

            “Looking good, hyung.” Jungkook smiled at him as Jimin wobbled a bit to regain his balance. The dizziness was intense, and he waited for it to fade.

            But it didn’t.

            He realized he was on his knees when people surrounded him, chest tight as he experienced vertigo that had his arms buckling. Jungkook was there suddenly and he was speaking but it was liking listening through a waterfall; he was echoey and faraway as Jimin’s vision narrowed to two tiny pinpoints. He heard himself hit the ground but never felt it, vision going black as he lost consciousness.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            When he woke up, it was to Dr. Choi’s worried face. He groaned softly, hand weakly reaching up and feeling the hard shell of an oxygen mask over his nose, the source of the soft air flow that had caught his attention. He turned his head slowly, trying to gain awareness of his surroundings. Dr. Choi caught his head as it started to fall, his neck weak. “Don’t try to move Jimin-ssi. You’re in the hospital, do you remember what happened?”

            He lifted the mask off his nose and mouth to speak. “I. . . I passed out, during my dance class.” He whispered, throat raw and raspy. Dr. Choi placed the mask back where it belonged as he nodded.

            “You had a seizure.” Jimin’s eyes widened with shock, and he realized he could hear his heart beat beeping out loud, meaning he was hooked up to a heart rate monitor, and that explained the heaviness on his left pointer finger. “Jimin-ssi, take a few slow breaths for me, okay?” He waited as Jimin complied, his heart rate reaching a steady rhythm again. “It was nothing major, I believe the stress of the last few weeks was the cause, along with the tightness of breath. I’d like to give you a neurological exam and possibly get some imaging of your brain, but based off your cognizance I’d say you have nothing to worry about.”

            “How’d I get here?”

            “Your friend called me.” Dr. Choi’s smile was bordering on an amused smirk as he made some note on his clipboard. “Jeon Jungkook? He said he got my number from my business card in your wallet.”

            “Oh, Kookie. Yeah, he was there when I fell, sorry I. . .”

            “Confusion is typical after a neurological episode, not to worry Jimin-ssi.” He clicked his pen shut and slid it into the pocket of his lab coat. “Jungkook-ssi went to grab coffee downstairs, he should be back in a minute.”

            Frowning slightly, Jimin wondered what he was up to, Jungkook didn’t care for coffee. “Okay, thanks Doc.”

            “You’re welcome. Jimin-ssi, I would like to rerun the tests we ran a couple weeks ago, to ascertain how far your disease has spread so I can make a plan to make you more comfortable. Maybe develop a way to manage any pain caused.”

            Jimin just removed his mask weakly, shaking his head very slightly. “No more tests after the head scan Doc, I’m tired. We both know what’s happening isn’t going to stop. I’ll be okay.”

            Dr. Choi frowned but nodded with a sigh. “If that’s what you want Jimin-ssi. I do have to have you sign an AMA, saying you’re going against medical advice.”

            “That’s fine. And Dr. Choi?” Jimin smiled, the edges tinged with sadness. “Please draw up a DNR for me to sign.” The doctor didn’t look surprised, though his handsome face was drawn tight with sadness.

            “As you wish, Jimin-ssi.” He patted the boy’s hand and headed towards the door, pausing before he left. “Oh, and you have guests. Would you like to see them?” Jimin’s heart rate picked up on the monitor, causing the doctor to frown. “Or not?”

            “Um, do you mind telling me who. . .”

            “Two tall boys, a shorter boy, and a boy who can’t sit still.”

            “Any with green hair?”

            “No.”

            Trying to hide his disappointed look, he glanced away. “Um, okay. You can let them in.” He breathed shakily into the mask, trying to take slow, deep breaths. Dr. Choi eyed him silently for a moment before opening the door, standing in front of it to block whoever was outside from coming in for a moment.

            “Jimin-ssi has undergone trauma secondary to Hanahaki disease. High stress situations can not only cause another seizure but exacerbate the symptoms and cause real damage. If at any point I feel Jimin-ssi’s heart rate has been too high for too long or his oxygen levels begin to tank for whatever reason, I reserve the right to ask you to remove yourselves from his room on your own otherwise I’ll have security escort you out forcibly. Am I clear?” There were soft replies from four different voices. “Good. You may now see him, but please be wary of visiting hours and your friend’s condition. He needs rest, sooner rather than later.” Dr. Choi gave Jimin one more reassuring look before passing through the doorway, leaving it open for his friends to silently file in.

            Jimin’s gaze moved from his friends up to the ceiling, the soft hissing of the oxygen tank the only sound in the room. He knew he looked a mess, hair mussed and skin dull, the light blue of the hospital gown washing him out. Distantly, he recognized how cool it was in the room, his skin breaking out in goosebumps as he trembled just slightly, fingers twisting in the covers. He couldn’t bear to look at his friends, though he could feel their eyes on him. He felt the shame from the other night again like a tidal wave, his chest aching with regret and pain; his eyes were burning, and he bit his lip under the mask as a tear escaped.

            “Oh Jimin-ah.” Namjoon’s soft voice broke the silence and he strode forward to Jimin’s bedside, the others not too far behind him. His warm hand came out and gently wiped the younger boy’s tears before gently taking his hand. “Don’t cry, please calm down.”

            “I’m sorry Joonie-hyung.” He whispered. “I didn’t mean to lie. I just wanted everyone to stay happy.” Namjoon shushed him as Seokjin appeared over his shoulder, the eldest boy’s hand coming out to brush Jimin’s hair back from his face.

            “We know.” Seokjin said, surprisingly subdued. “You’re not a malicious person Jimin-ah, we know that.”

            “I thought you guys hated me.” Jimin pulled the oxygen mask down to wipe his nose on a tissue Namjoon had handed him, eyes still watering.

            “We could never hate you.” Yoongi’s voice floated from behind the two taller guys; they parted to allow Yoongi to step forward and run a hand over Jimin’s hair. “We were pissed and upset but mostly scared. And it felt like you, and Jungkook, didn’t trust us.”

            “I promise it wasn’t that. I just didn’t want you all to be constantly worried about me, I wants us all to be able to enjoy the rest of the time I have.” Jimin had to replace the mask in order to stop feeling light headed, surveying his friends as he took slow, shuddery breathes. They all looked exhausted, dark circles under their eyes and Jimin noticed Hoseok was standing in the back not quite making eye contact with him. “Hobi-hyung?” He called softly, the older boy jerking in surprise at being acknowledged. There was something small about him, standing there with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, hair unkempt, and eyes reddened as if he had been crying. He hesitantly looked up, catching Jimin’s eye before he covered his mouth on a soft sob.

            It only took Jimin reaching his hand out feebly for the boy to hurry forwards, clasping Jimin’s hand to his chest tightly, crying in earnest now as Jimin shushed him softly, his small thumb soothingly brushing across Hoseok’s hand. “Oh Jiminie, I’m so, so sorry. I feel like such a terrible person, I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that, or left like I did.” They all had marginally guilty looks on their faces. “We froze you out and that’s not fair.”

            “I understand though.” Jimin cleared his throat after coughing, free hand loosely rubbing the center of his chest. “You guys needed space.”

            “But we went about it wrong.” Yoongi replied, looping an arm around Hoseok’s hips. “What we did to you, and to Jungkook, was wrong. You both deserve better, regardless of how upset we were. It wasn’t cool, and I’m sorry.”

            “We’re sorry.” Namjoon emphasized, giving Jimin a halfhearted smile. Seokjin just nodded wordlessly. Jimin just smiled at his friends, feeling a few small pieces of himself slowly sliding back together, even if one big, crucial piece was missing.

            They always loss track of time when they were together, the boys catching Jimin up on what had been going on. Namjoon had recently won an underground rap battle and had prospective studios scouting him for a chance to work with him. Seokjin had officially began working as general manager at his family restaurant as his parents were considering opening another location. He seemed tired but happy about it. They told him how Hoseok and Yoongi were considering moving in together, but with everything happening with Jungkook they weren’t sure how to broach the subject of him moving in.

            “Well, do you really want someone else in the apartment when you guys move in together?” Jimin questioned. “Why don’t you talk to him and Taehyung, see if they’d room together?”

            “Where would he sleep, the couch?” Seokjin joked.

            “No, my room. It can be his.” Jimin replied speculatively. “I’ve been meaning to look for Taehyung’s new roommate, this would make it easier on everyone, I think. Tie up some loose ends.” The room, which had been alight with cautious laughter was now silent, the four of them looking a Jimin in a mix of appalled and sad expressions, Hoseok close to tears again. Jimin smiled lightly at them. “Guys, it’s going to happen. We can beat around the bush and pretend it’s not coming if you want, if it’ll make you feel more comfortable. But I need to get plans in place.”

            “Is there anything we can help with?” Yoongi asked quietly, his eyes searching Jimin’s face for something, as if memorizing his face.

            “I gave my job my two weeks, and I still need to contact the school. Hoseok, can you let our instructor know I won’t be in for a while? Maybe tell him the whole truth sometime soon down the road?” Hoseok nodded, turning to rest his head against Yoongi’s. “Namjoon, can you tell my brother? After I’m gone? He knows what to do from there, what to say to our parents.”

            “I can do that.”

            “Taehyung’s going to need help clearing out my stuff. I was planning on boxing stuff up this week, but I don’t know if I’m physically able to after the seizure. Could you guys. . . Maybe help him? And you can divvy my stuff up.” He smiled suddenly, squeezing Hoseok’s hand. “Hyung, you can finally have that ear cuff you’re always threatening to steal from me.” Realizing he was the only one who found that even remotely funny, he cleared his throat. “Anyways, please just. . . look out for Taehyung, okay? I think he’s going to have a hard time, with me gone. Don’t let him devolve and do stupid things. Push him when he needs it but remember that he’s really sensitive. And make him apologize to Jungkook, okay?” He tried a smile, heart feeling heavy.

            “Why don’t you tell him to apologize yourself?” Seokjin asked quietly. “Hasn’t he been by?”

            “Um, no. I actually haven’t seen Taehyung since you guys all found out. He never came home. I assumed he was with one of you?” They all glanced around, shaking their heads in confusion. “Then where has he been? Have you guys spoke with him?” The heart rate monitor picked up pace, beating rapidly and echoing through the room as Jimin struggled to keep his breathing even.

            “Hey, hey! Calm down!” Yoongi caught his attention, giving him a hard look. “You need to focus on your breathing, take a chill pill for a second. Yes, I spoke with him.” Jimin’s breath left him in an exhausted whoosh. “We’ve hung out a couple times, though he hasn’t been in the mood for much fun. I just didn’t know he wasn’t going home at night. I’ll reach out to him and see what’s going on okay? But you need to calm down otherwise they’ll kick us out.”

            “He’s right, you know. Dr. Charisma will kick your asses out so fast you’ll see stars. Though I might not mind it if he kicked mine. He can do anything he wants to it.” Jungkook was leaning in the doorway, much to their surprise.

            “Kookie, I’m sorry!” Hoseok immediately flew across the room and threw his arms around the taller boy. Jungkook stumbled as he caught him, groaning lowly at the older boy’s weight. “I’m so sorry, please come home! I was a jerk!”

            “Yeah, you were.” Jungkook agreed, then wilted under Yoongi’s glare. “I mean, it’s okay hyung, I forgive you.” He couldn’t help but laugh when Hoseok squeezed him excitedly, pretending to choke. “Can’t. . . breathe. . .” Hoseok let him go with a laugh.

            “You’re face looks better Jungkook-ah.” Seokjin said as the youngest boy drew closer. “The bruising is mostly gone.”

            “Thank god. I would hate to have scars on my pretty face.” Jungkook showed off his jawline, waiting until they applauded to finally stop (he ignored Seokjin’s whisper of, “You mean your ugly mug?”), moving to Jimin’s side. “How are you, hyung?”

            “Never better.” He replied, taking slow deep breathes from the mask.

            Jungkook just chuckled, shaking him head. “You scared the hell out of me, you know. Collapsing like that.”

            Jimin tried to scoff and ended up coughing. “Whatever, you got something out of it.” He winked and Jungkook just laughed.

            “If you’re eluding to Dr. Choi’s phone number, you’re not wrong.”

            “He is handsome.” Namjoon admitted, not noticing the scandalized look Seokjin gave him. “I see what you mean.”

            “Dibs!” Jungkook called loudly, the others shushing him as they laughed. “Back off hyung! Respectfully.”

            “I’m not—He’s not my type.” Namjoon flushed, scratching his nose and looking up. Seokjin visibly perked up, his hand coming up to rest on the small of the taller boys back. Namjoon’s flush deepened and Jimin sent him a sweet smile.

            “Hey Jinnie-hyung?”

            “Hmm?”

            “I have another job for you, c’mere.” Jimin motioned him close, whispering in his ear for a moment after he leaned over, the older boy’s eyes widening. He straightened suddenly, turning and grabbing Namjoon’s hand, pulling him towards the door. “Thanks, Jinnie-hyung!” Jimin called as the two boys disappeared out the door. He cracked up, looking up only to realize the person he would normally turn to for a victory high five wasn’t there. His smile dulled a little, though he still felt good about what he had done.

            “What was that?” Jungkook asked curiously. “What did you say to him?”

            “I asked him to just kiss Namjoon-hyung already. I told him I’d be really disappointed if he didn’t confess before I died.” Jimin grinned as the other boys laughed. “Manipulative? Yes. Necessary kick in the pants? Also yes.”

            “Finally.” Hoseok sighed happily, hand over his heart as he swooned against his shorter boyfriend. Yoongi grinned at his antics, shaking his head fondly.

            That’s what Jimin wanted. He wanted them to be happy and silly, he wanted them to make moves and take chances on love. To see them acting something close to normal made his heart swell with happiness. It was a long time before Namjoon and Seokjin returned, the latter looking like the cat that ate the canary and the younger looking unusually ruffled; if Jimin wasn’t mistaken there was a small hickey under his right ear. He was happy for his friends, they deserved the best in life, and Jimin was surer than ever that they would get just that. They stayed a while longer before ‘Dr. Charisma’, as Jungkook had dubbed him, came in to clear them out, saying Jimin still had tests scheduled but letting them know they could come back in the morning. They all said their good byes and gave careful hugs to the small boy in the hospital bed, promising to be back in the morning. They filed out with waves, waiting on Jungkook who had paused by the doctor.

            “Any chance he can be discharged?” Jungkook asked, smiling up at Dr. Choi with such a sweet smile that Jimin thought he might get diabetes just looking at it. Dr. Choi chuckled and ruffled the younger boy’s hair, much to Jungkook’s chagrin.

            “We’ll see after the tests, but it wouldn’t be until tomorrow regardless. I’d feel more comfortable if he stayed for observation overnight.” Dr. Choi picked up the clipboard on the counter, stepping towards Jimin.

            “Okay.” Jungkook sighed and turned to go. As he was leaving, he muttered to himself at what he thought was a quiet volume, “I’d feel more comfortable if you observed me overnight.”

            “Duly noted.” Dr. Choi responded with amusement, turning his head to wink; the younger boy staring at him in shock as Jimin covered his mouth on a laugh, laughing hard enough to start coughing again. Jungkook gave Jimin a wide-eyed look of embarrassment before fleeing. The door shut and Dr. Choi was suddenly laughing, his head thrown back as he held himself up by grabbing the bed railing. “I’m sorry, it’s not kind to tease him. He just makes it so easy.” Dr. Choi huffed out between laughs, sending Jimin into another fit of laughing mixed with coughing.

            “Oh jeez, his face.” Jimin giggled, gasping for air from the mask. “That was so good. You win. I don’t know what, but you win it.”

            Dr. Choi shook his head, still chuckling as he made notes on the clipboard. “It’s really not professional of me.”

            “Hey Doc.” Jimin asked quietly.

            “Yes?” The doctor glanced at him.

            “Thank you. Jungkook needs a little excitement in his life right now. It’s been a hard two weeks.” Jimin sighed softly, eyes closing. The sound of a clip board being sat down and a wheeled stool being dragged over made him raise an eyebrow with his eyes closed.

            “Would you like to tell me what happened?”

            “Actually Doc, I think I would.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            Dr. Choi was a good listener, as Jimin told him everything from his trip with Taehyung to Busan, to the blow out fight where Jungkook got punched, to the last week and a half of thinking he had lost his friends for trying to protect them and himself. He told him how he hadn’t heard from Taehyung since that night, knowing his voice revealed a lot more about the green haired boy then he initially wanted, but the doctor didn’t comment as he continued. He told him about the letters and photo albums, about the talk with Jihyun and how he couldn’t tell his parents. Frankly, he spilled his guts, but figured since the doctor had literally seen his guts it would be fine. He felt better after talking, though his chest still ached and his eyes burning with unshed tears. Dr. Choi considered him carefully.

            “You’re sure there’s nothing I can do or say to get you agree to the surgery?” He asked gently.

            “There’s no point, Doc.” Jimin said tiredly.

            “I just hate to see such a kind, smart, inspirational young man die when I could have saved him.” Dr. Choi replied, squeezing Jimin’s hand that had patted his. “It seems like such a shame, Jimin-ssi.”

            “That’s nice of you to say Doc, but without him. . .” He trailed off.

            “May I ask you a personal question?”

            “I can’t see the harm in it.”

            “Is Taehyung the one you love?”

            Jimin shifted, twisting his hands together and staring at them for a long moment, the sigh he let out was shuddery, the hole in his heart that was Taehyung shaped charred around the edges. “Until my very last breath.”

            “And you’re sure he could never love you back?”

            His smile was wry as he replied, “I would bet my life on it.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            The clock on the wall read 2 AM when Jimin was suddenly awake, his body alert despite the trauma of the day before. At first, he was disoriented, confused and scared as he wondered where he was, before it came back to them. Dance class. Seizure. Hospital and tests. He felt calmer then, knowing where he was. But his skin was still prickling, the heart rate monitor beeping picking up pace as his heart pounded harder, his breaths coming in short pants in the darkness of the room. He was too weak to fumble for his phone for some light where it rested on the small table top beside him, his ears straining to hear anything. “W-Whose there?” He rasped, starting to cough. “I’ll scream, everyone will come running—”

            “Calm down, Jiminie.” The sound of the voice washed over him like a soothing balm even through the shock. His heart rate stayed the same however, maybe even picked up as Jimin tried to catch his breath.

            “Tae?”

            The bedside light clicked on, allowing just enough light to see, but not enough to draw attention from the nurse’s station not too far down the hall. Taehyung was sitting on the rolling stool usually reserved for doctors, his hair an unkempt mess though he had attempted to squish it under a baseball cap, the sliver rings on the brim glinting in the low light. His skin had lost a little of its tan, though it still looked warm like honey, lost beneath the baggy yellow sweatshirt he had on. Jimin immediately glanced towards his face, drinking in his features like a man lost in the desert would an oasis. His sharp cheekbones, a little gaunter the he remembered, the strong jaw and nose with the tiny mole on it. His dark eyes and thick lashes were covered by his glasses, his face bare of any trace of makeup. And god was he beautiful, Jimin’s breath would be taken away if he wasn’t already struggling to breathe. “Hi Jimin-ah.” His voice was perfect, deep and just the tiniest bit raspy in that way that sent chills down his spine. “You look terrible.”

            “Taehyung, what are you doing here?” Jimin asked on a whisper, moving the oxygen mask to speak hoarsely. “It’s 2 AM! If they catch you, you’ll be in so much trouble.”

            “Then I won’t get caught.” He responded simply with a shrug. “But it would help my situation if you could tell your ticker to calm the hell down.” He motioned to the heart rate monitor. He softened his words with the smallest twist of his lips, but Jimin figured it was a start.

            “Sorry, give me a sec.” He shuffled in the bed, trying to sit up more as his breath came harsher, bringing the mask back over his nose and mouth to inhale. Taehyung watched him impassively for a moment, eyeing the mask and the IV in Jimin’s small arm; the smile dropped. It took a bit but Jimin found that his heart would calm itself when he wasn’t looking directly at the other boy and took slow, deep breaths. “Okay, okay. There.”

            “Why are you here Jimin?” The lack of a pet name bothered the older boy, though he did his best to move past it.

            “I, um, I had a seizure.” Taehyung was quiet for a moment. “Dr. Choi said it was stress related, and he did an exam. My brain’s okay, no screws loose here.” He tried to joke, coughing hard into a towel he had across his lap for this very reason. “Doctor verified.” He finished the joke, wiping his mouth.

            “Are you—” Taehyung started to ask before shaking his head, lips pressed in a tight line.

            “I’m not much worse.” Jimin answered the unasked question honestly. “Other than the seizure, things are the same, I mean.”

            “I see.” Taehyung watched him, his hands rubbing along his knees and thighs nervously, though his face was what Jimin used to jokingly refer to as ‘Blank Tae’, the mask he put up to hide behind.

            “How. . . How are you?” Jimin asked timidly, removing the oxygen mask entirely with a shaky arm, holding it against his chest with one hand instead of having it around his head.

            “Really?” Taehyung’s tone was unamused, cold even. “How do you think I am?”

            Jimin felt the first stirring of either anger or grief, though it was too soon to tell. “I don’t know Taehyung; I haven’t seen you in since the night we got back from Busan. How am I supposed to know?” He knew his tone sounded irritated, but he couldn’t help it. He held the mask to his nose, taking in a breath to hopefully calm him. Taehyung scoffed and stood up, and Jimin stared at him with wide eyes as it seemed like he was turning to go. “Wait, Tae, don’t go!”

            Taehyung paused. “Why shouldn’t I?”

            Because I miss you, because I love you, because I need you. All were valid reasons, but he just couldn’t say it. “Because you’re my best friend.” Is what he said instead. Taehyung turned, their eyes meeting again.

            “Really? Because the Park Jimin I grew up with always told me everything. He was honest and open with me, no matter how much something might hurt my feelings. He would never lie to me. I’m trying to see him, but I can’t find him. I’ve spent the last week and a half trying to find him again. So, if you see my best friend, let him know I’m wondering where he went.” Taehyung had almost reached the door and Jimin panicked.

            “Taehyung, it’s me. I swear to you that I never meant for any of this, I was trying to protect the guys, protect you. I didn’t mean to lie; I was going to tell you! I just. . . I wasn’t ready.” Jimin reached a hand out as if he could snag the younger boy from his bed.

            “That’s selfish, Jimin. It’s not up to you to protect me. We’re supposed to be partners in crime.”

            “We are, Taehyung, I made a mistake!” Jimin said just a little too loud, and they both froze. There were footsteps and Taehyung dove back towards Jimin’s bed, quickly flipping off the light and hiding alongside the counter next to the bed from view. The footsteps stopped outside Jimin’s room, standing there for a few moments and Jimin pretended to be asleep, the heart rate clamp on Taehyung’s finger instead of Jimin’s beating slow and regular. After a few moments, the footsteps trailed off and Taehyung felt safe straightening out again, turning the lamp back on and quickly moving the clamp back to Jimin’s finger. Jimin stared up at him the whole time, taking Taehyung in as he was closer to him now than he had been before. When his heart started beating slightly faster, he glanced away, staring at a spot on the wall as he continued what he had been saying before. “We are partners in crime, and that means when I fuck up, you’re supposed to forgive me.”

            “Jimin, I don’t know if—”

            “We’ve been friends since we were kids, Tae. Do you remember when you ditched me for a week to play with Jaehyun and the ‘popular kids’?” Even Jimin could hear the sassy air quotes around the words. Before Taehyung could respond, he continued, whispering angrily, “Or that time you convinced me to jump off the ledge below your window, but were too afraid to do it too because I broke my wrist? Or how about that time you went AWOL on me in high school for a month because you thought I’d hate you for being gay, that you didn’t trust me enough to tell me?”

            “What’s your point?” Taehyung hissed. “Are you trying to make me feel bad?”

            “No, I’m making a point! You know what all those things had in common, Taehyung? I forgave you.” He practically bit the words out, chest heaving in frustration and anger. “I know this is bigger, this is the biggest fuck up of all time. But best friends, soulmates, always forgive each other!”

            “Yeah? Well, soulmates fight! Soulmates don’t just die!” Taehyung’s carefully crafted mask was crumbling and Jimin wanted to shout in victory. “Soulmates are supposed to stay together, to be friends forever and die when they’re so old they can’t even move anymore! They’re supposed to always be beside each other! You’re supposed to be there, Jimin!” Taehyung choked on a sob. All Jimin felt as Taehyung collapsed onto the stool, his head resting on his arms on the bed and cried was relief.

            “Oh, Taehyungie. . .” Jimin sighed, chest feeling lighter than it had in a long while. He gently removed the hat, setting it on his own lap before gently stroking green locks, his hand lightly massaging the base of Taehyung’s neck just like he knew the other boy loved. “I’m so sorry, Taehyung-ah.” He whispered. Taehyung sat up and rested his elbows on the bedspread, snagging Jimin’s hand and holding it in between his larger ones, leaning his forehead against their hands. His grasp was warm and comforting, giving Jimin the strength to lean up and press a soft kiss to the mess of green hair.

            “I don’t want you to die, Jiminie.” His voice was broken, coated in tears.

            “I don’t either, Tae.”

            “Please have the surgery?” It was a plea, but one void of hope, tone lifeless and fractured.

            Biting his lip, he shook his head before resting his forehead against the crown of the other boy’s head. “I can’t Tae, I’m so sorry.” Taehyung just cried harder, finally standing, and waiting for Jimin to slid over, climbing in the bed carefully. Jimin moved slowly onto his side, feeling Taehyung’s arm slide around him and hold him close. He let the taller boy hold him, weeping softly for what was hours, but felt like a moment suspended in time. When the tears slowly ran themselves out and Taehyung was gasping for breath, Jimin rolled onto his back and held the oxygen mask across Taehyung’s face, smiling a sad smile at the other boy as his body slowly calmed down enough to drift off. Jimin wasn’t far behind him, green and blue hair mingling together as their heads fell together.

            The first light of morning was streaming through the open curtains when Jimin woke up, on his side and alone. He was confused and a little hurt, until he noticed the yellow sweatshirt wrapped around him, tucking him in and smelling like Taehyung’s favorite cologne. He let his eyes slide shut as he pulled the sweatshirt close, burying his nose in the fabric and breathing the scent of Taehyung in as he drifted off again.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            “Jimin-ah! It’s time to rise and shine!”

            Jimin blinked blearily into the late morning light, rubbing his eyes before squinting them at his bedside. Taehyung was leaning against the railing, a bright smile on his face and his chin in his hand as he watched the smaller boy. “Taehyung-ah?” He croaked, then cleared his throat. When he spoke again his voice was much clearer, though still wispy and hoarse. “What time is it?”

            “Time for you to wake up so the nice Dr. Choi can examine you and we can get the hell out of here!” Taehyung motioned to the baffled looking doctor behind him. “We have a lot to do!”

            “Good morning, Jimin-ssi.” Dr. Choi stepped up beside Taehyung, side eyeing him for a moment before smiling at his patient. “How are you feeling?”

            “Um, fine, I guess.” Jimin glanced at Dr. Choi, but the smile on Taehyung’s face drew his gaze back. “What do we have to do exactly, Tae?”

            “I was thinking, you have Hanahaki disease because you’re in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, right?” Wide eyed, Jimin nodded, mouth gaping a little. “Then we just have to find you someone else! You fall in love with them instead and then your disease will go away, you won’t die, and we’ll be able to go back to the way things were!” Taehyung’s hand came out and pressed Jimin’s chin up to close his mouth. “Easy!” Even Dr. Choi was giving the green haired boy a what-in-the-actual-fuck look, glancing towards Jimin like, ‘really? This moron is the one you’re in love with?’. Jimin just sighed and dropped his head in his hands. “What?”

            “Um, that’s not how it works Tae.” Jimin replied, not bothering to look up from his hands.

            “Well, why not?”

            “It’s not that easy! I can’t just unlove someone!”

            “Not with that attitude.”

            “Taehyung-ah, it’s sweet that you’re trying to help me, but just let that go, okay?” Jimin finally looked up to Dr. Choi. “You can examine me now Doc, Taehyung’s going to wait outside patiently for you to be done.” He gave the taller boy a pointed look and Taehyung threw his hands up and headed towards the door.

            “Et tu, Jimin-ah?”

            “Bye Tae.” Jimin rolled his eyes with a fond smile as the door shut, meeting Dr. Choi’s baffled expression. “Before you say anything, I know.”

            “So that’s Taehyung, huh?”

            “Yep, that’s my idiot.” Jimin sighed, sliding the yellow sweatshirt onto his lap and messing with the strings.

            “He seems sweet.” Dr. Choi put his stethoscope in his ears and helped Jimin sit forward. He was delighted that he wasn’t as weak as yesterday.

            “He is. Maybe a little naïve but I always liked that about him. Taehyung always sees the good in people, helps me see it even when I don’t. He’s kind, and funny, and an unbelievable artist. He can paint you a picture that’s breathtaking and really makes you feel things, and his photographs are just. . .” Jimin smiled at his lap, taking slow, deep breaths while Dr. Choi checked his heart. “He’s so smart too, he can do mental math so fast your head spins, but he’s almost modest to a fault. You praise him and he gets so shy, and his nose does this scrunch thing that is just so adorable you can’t help but want to hug him.” Jimin stopped, flushing when he realized he had been babbling. “Oh, sorry. You can tell me to shut up any time now.”

            “No, I like this side of you. I think you’ve smiled more during this conversation then the entire time I’ve known you. I kind of understand your decision to forgo surgery after seeing you with him.”

            “I sound like an idiot, huh?” Jimin laughed softly, running a hand through his light blue hair. “Like a love-struck fool.”

            “No, just a boy with love in his heart.” Dr. Choi smiled, slinging his stethoscope around his neck again. “And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

            “He’s so far out of my league, but sometimes I just wish. . .” The smaller boy just covered his face with his hands, shaking his head. “Nothing, never mind.”

            “You can tell me.”

            “It’s embarrassing!”

            “I promise you nothing is more embarrassing then what I see in this hospital daily.”

            Jimin peeked between his fingers. “And no one will ever find out?”

            “I am under oath, yes.” He grinned at the younger boy, crossing his arms after pantomiming zipping his lips closed and throwing away the key. Jimin giggled and covered his face again, making an embarrassed sound.

            “Um, I have one small, hopeless wish. . . that I’ve held tight all these years. I feel like if I had one kiss, just one chaste, simple, G-rated kiss then I could be happy.” Jimin whispered. “I don’t even need passion, or tongue, or anything. Just one kiss, lips to lips. I’d be satisfied, I think.” He looked up finally. “Really stupid, huh?” Dr. Choi was looking at him with a heartfelt smile, and Jimin flushed more. “What?”

            “You really are a sweet, romantic kid, aren’t you?”

            “I don’t know about that.” Jimin ran a hand through his hair, ruffling the locks shyly.

            “Jimin-ssi, you’re one of a kind.” Dr. Choi headed towards the door, chuckling. “Sit tight, I’m going to order a blood test and a final neurological exam, then we’ll release you.”

            “Whatever you say Doc. Can I get a toothbrush or something first?” Jimin called.

            “I’ll send a nurse in with one.” Dr. Choi waved as he left, looking surprised before nodding at Taehyung in the door way, shooting Jimin a wink before disappearing. Taehyung came in, carrying a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a cup of water.

            “Thought you might want these.” Taehyung looked a little stunned, glancing back towards the door before walking somewhat unsteadily towards his friend. “Uh, here.”

            Jimin grinned and took the items, slowly making his way to the bathroom and brushing his teeth. He sighed in relief as he rinsed, feeling more like himself with a clean mouth. Using the restroom really quick and washing his hands, he shuffled carefully back to the bed, slipping the finger clamp back on before a nurse came in and yelled at him. “Thank you Taetae, that’s much better.”

            “You’re welcome, Jiminie.” Taehyung was leaning against the counter, smiling speculatively at the shorter boy. “How are you feeling?”

            “A bit better today. My headache is gone and I don’t feel so tired. The tightness in my chest has loosened some too.” Jimin replied, taking his phone from the rolling table by the side of the bed. Using his camera to check his hair, he sighed. “Tae, do you have a brush or comb?” He asked, looking up. Taehyung headed over, taking his hands out of his pockets and placing them on the railing.

            “I don’t, no.” He sounded apologetic, lifting his hands and finger brushing Jimin’s hair, knocking Jimin’s hands back down to his laps. “You have a rat’s nest.”

            “You try looking good after spending the night in a hospital bed.” Jimin pouted. Taehyung laughed, and Jimin realized his mistake. “Oh, shut up. That’s hardly fair.”

            “There, that looks better. Though you could use some attention from my straightener.” His hands rested back on the bed railing, fingers tapping out a beat lightly. Jimin sat back with a sigh, the bed at a forty-five-degree incline.

            “Thanks Tae.”

            “No problem, Jimin-ah.” Taehyung fiddled with the side of the bed until the railing dropped to the side, hopping up to sit facing the shorter boy. Jimin’s heart skipped a beat, and he was aghast when he realized Taehyung heard it too. They both looked at the heart rate monitor before looking at each other, Taehyung’s eyebrows raised.

            “The railing dropping scared me!” Jimin quickly rationalized, rubbing the back of his neck with a laugh. “Sorry, I’m jumpy. My nerves are shot after your surprise visit last night.”

            “I see.” Taehyung smiled, scooting a little closer, their faces a little over a foot apart. Jimin prayed to god that the slight increase in his heart rate wasn’t noticeable enough to catch the attention of the somewhat ADD boy in front of him. Taking a slow breath, he tried to shove down the blush that wanted to come up and smiled.

            “Dr. Choi says one more blood test and neuro exam, then I can come home.” He shared, playing with Taehyung’s fingers on the bed in front of his crossed legs. Taehyung had both legs dangling over the edge of the bed, resting his weight on his right arm, his torso turned towards Jimin.

            “That’s good.” He replied shortly, the speculative look back. “Hey Jiminie?”

            “Yeah Tae?”

            “Who did you say was the object of your affection?” He asked, head tilting to the right, green locks flopping into his eyes. Jimin stared at him surprised, subconsciously lifting a hand and brushing the hair out of Taehyung’s eyes.

            “I didn’t say.” Jimin replied, attempting to dismiss the subject.

            “Do I know them?” Taehyung pushed, sliding forward more, dark eyes curious and scouring Jimin’s face for answers.

            “Um, I don’t—” Jimin could feel the flush rising in his cheeks, the heart rate monitor picking up noticeably. He inwardly cursed, glancing at it before reaching to remove the monitoring device from his finger, hoping the taller boy wouldn’t notice. Taehyung’s strong hands were suddenly holding his, stopping him from removing the clamp. Jimin’s head whipped up in shock; Taehyung suddenly much closer, almost too close. “Tae?”

            “Who is he, Jimin-ah?” Taehyung’s voice was lower now, velvety smooth even as Jimin gently tried to tug his small hands from where Taehyung’s were swallowing them, holding him in place. He was too week to shake them off, and his heart was racing now. “Tell me who you’re in love with.”

            “I—I never said it was a guy.” Jimin swallowed hard, traitorous eyes glancing down to Taehyung’s perfect lips before meeting his gaze again.

            “You didn’t have to Jiminie.” Taehyung smirked suddenly, eyes roving the smaller boy’s face.

            “Tae, what are you doing?” Jimin bit his lip, butterflies taking flight as Taehyung glanced down at the action. He tried to lean back, but a large hand caught the back of his neck.

            “I was thinking. . . we could test your theory. Will one simple kiss be enough for you, Jimin-ah?” He asked softly, and Jimin had barely registered his words before Taehyung’s lips were slotting against his. Warm and firm, Taehyung’s lips were the softest thing Jimin had ever felt, the kiss sweet and soft and going straight to Jimin’s head like good whiskey. It was over way too soon, and Jimin felt almost faint as Taehyung pulled back so their nose tips brushed, his winter mint breath fanning intoxicatingly across Jimin’s face. He opened eyes he hadn’t realized he closed, breath catching in his throat at the look in Taehyung’s eyes he had never expected to be directed at him. They were dark and smoldering, desire burning in their depths as they searched Jimin’s for something. He chuckled softly, resting his forehead against the older boys. “Well, it turns out one wasn’t enough for me.”

            Taehyung was kissing him again swiftly, the hand on the back of his neck threading into blue locks and holding him in place, his other hand finding one of Jimin’s, lifting it so it pressed over his heart. He kissed like he painted, slowly and meticulously, and Jimin gasped at the feel of Taehyung’s tongue running along his bottom lip, and Taehyung took the opportunity to deepen the kiss. The touch of his tongue to Jimin’s had the shorter boy melting, his hand fisting in Taehyung’s shirt and yanking him closer, tongue battling the other boy’s for dominance. With balls he didn’t know he had, he pulled away, biting his own lip as he glanced from Taehyung’s eyes to his plumb bottom lip. He dove back in, kissing him hard before lightly pulling at Taehyung’s bottom lip with his teeth, the other boy groaning before pulling him into a proper kiss, laving Jimin’s mouth with his tongue once more before pulling back, breathing heavily and grinning when Jimin made a small noise of protest at the loss of contact.

            Taehyung was laughing then, covering his mouth with the hand that had finally relinquished blue locks, his shoulders shaking in mirth. Jimin drew back in surprise, eyes wide as he flushed deeper red. A wave of humiliation crashed over him and he felt hot tears swim in his eyes, moving to throw his legs over the edge of the bed, ripping the heart rate clamp off and tossing it angrily to the left. Taehyung glanced up at him and gasped in surprise, stopping Jimin from hopping up. “Wait, where are you going?”

            “Screw you, Taehyung!” Jimin spit, hot tears pouring down his face as he struggled. Taehyung looked perplexed, his confusion making Jimin angrier. “Is this some sick joke to you?”

            “What? What are you—OH! No, Jiminie, no!” He reached out and swung the legs that were halfway dangling over the bed’s edge, up and over his thighs so Jimin was seated sideways on his lap. He had to struggle to hold Jimin still, catching the fist the shorter boy aimed at his face. “Jimin-ah, calm down for a sec! You don’t understand!”

            “What I don’t understand is why you’d kiss me if you were just going to make fun of me!” Jimin cursed inwardly as he was hit with the hiccups, coughing hard into his free hand.

            “I wasn’t making fun of you Jiminie, far from it!” Taehyung insisted and pressed a quick kiss below Jimin’s ear, the smaller boy making a small sound in surprise. “I was laughing at the heart rate monitor! It was beeping like crazy after we kissed! It’s one thing to think your heart might be racing, but to hear it?” He giggled, pressing his face into Jimin’s neck as he laughed. “It was probably the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!”

            “My. . . My heart rate?” Jimin could feel the flush deepening, the fight leaving his body after a moment. “You were laughing at. . . my heart rate. Not the—” He cut himself off and covered his face with his hands.

            “I was definitely not laughing at the kiss, Jimin-ah.” Taehyung whispered softly in his ear, his lips brushing the sensitive shell. Jimin felt goosebumps break out across his skin and he shivered at the feeling.

            Holy shit.

            They kissed. Multiple times.

            Jimin immediately started struggling and Taehyung wasn’t prepared for it, losing his grip on the shorter boy. Jimin’s feet hit the ground and he moved to put the bed between them when Taehyung stood too.

            “Jimin-ah?” Taehyung questioned, starting to move around the bed.

            “Stop! Stop, stay where you are!” Jimin threw his hands out to fend the boy off, chest heaving. “Why. . . why would you do that? Do you think I’m stupid?”

            Taehyung, clearly not foreseeing the day taking this turn, stared at him in shock. “What? What are you talking about?”

            “I’m not dumb Taehyung, and you’re not that great an actor!” Jimin was crying in earnest again, wiping his eyes and throwing a pillow at Taehyung when he took a step forward. “You’re doing this on purpose!”

            “Doing what on purpose?!”

            “Do you want me to say it? Will that make you happy? Will that satisfy you?”

            “Jiminie—”

            “It’s you, Taehyung!” Jimin shouted, throwing his hands up in the air on a sob. “It’s you, the one I’m in love with is you!”

            “Jimin—”

            “And that’s why I can’t have surgery, because I’d forget all about you! I’d rather die loving you and knowing you then live without you! Because you’re my best friend, my soulmate, and I love you!” His knees buckled and he caught himself on the hospital bed. “Are you happy now?” He cried weakly. “Is this what you wanted? I swear Tae—”

            “Jimin!” Taehyung shouted, startling Jimin long enough for the taller boy to swoop forward and cup his face in his hands gently, brushing away the tears. “Shut up! Okay? It’s my turn to talk!” He took a deep breath, shaking his head for a moment. “Damn it Jimin, I love you too!”

            “Stop Tae, please just stop it!” Jimin clutched his chest, turning his head away to cough hard. Taehyung shook his head, hands moving to Jimin’s upper arms, holding tight enough to keep him there.

            “I’m not making fun of you, stupid! I’ve been in love with you since I was sixteen! How do you think I knew I was gay? My best friend was literally the prettiest person on the planet, with the most kissable lips and the sexiest thighs I just wanted to sink my teeth into!” That surprised a startled laugh out of the shorter boy, and Taehyung shot him his boxy smile. “Look at me Jimin-ah, okay? Look me in the eyes and tell me I’m lying. You know I can’t lie to you.”

            Jimin took a moment before finally looking up, meeting Taehyung’s serious gaze. His eyes were so dark, twinkling with warmth and delight. They were genuine, Jimin decided, his lips parting slightly in shock. “Wait, are you saying. . .”

            “I’m in love with you Park Jimin. And I could kick my own ass for being the one to make you so sick, I wish I had had the courage to confess sooner.” Taehyung said softly. “I’m so sorry Jimin-ah, I can’t begin to tell you how sorry.”

            Jimin’s eyes narrowed suddenly. “What about that stranger? In the club?” Taehyung looked at him in confusion, and Jimin shoved him in the chest, making him stumble. “The one you were rutting against like a dog in heat!” It dawned on Taehyung then, and he immediately looked embarrassed. “And all the hook ups and boyfriends!”

            “That’s actually easy to explain.” The green haired boy sighed and leaned against the bed, pulling Jimin in between his legs so he could wrap his arms around the shorter boy’s small waist. “I really thought you were straight, maybe effeminate, but definitely straight when I told you I was gay at seventeen. When you accepted me but didn’t come out too, I assumed you wouldn’t ever feel the same way about me. In fact, I worried that I made you uncomfortable sometimes, especially in the last year or so when you seemed to withdraw. You always pushed me off of you when I got too handsy, until a few weeks ago when you really started initiating skinship without me having to probe for it.” Taehyung shrugged lightly, gaze far away. “I started to hope that you might be interested, that finally you might be seeing me in the same light I saw you, but then I found out you were sick and. . . it was because you loved someone who didn’t love you back. And I felt my heart break.”

            Jimin’s eyes were sad as he leaned in closer, small hand gently brushing along Taehyung’s jaw line. “Oh Tae.”

            “So yeah. All those people were just wasted efforts to try and get over you, driven by carnal urges.” He explained. Jimin considered all that before sighing.

            “Okay, I guess that makes sense.”

            “And I’m sure you’ve had your share of partners too.” Taehyung said offhand. It was Jimin’s turn to look embarrassed.

            “Um, no.”

            “What?”

            Feeling déjà vu at its strongest, he groaned and fell forward against Taehyung’s chest. “I said no, I haven’t had my share of partners.”

            “What does that mean?” Shock colored his voice, as he leaned back a bit to study Jimin’s face.

            “I’ve only had two. One at sixteen where I lost my virginity, and once at nineteen. I slept with the guy twice. That’s it.”

            Taehyung’s shock turned to a wicked grin as he leaned in and whispered, “Wanna make it three?”

            Face flaming, Jimin laughed and pushed himself up straight, staring up at Taehyung. He lifted his hands slowly, one pressing against Taehyung’s chest, the other cupping his cheek gently. Taehyung leaned into the hand, his eyes seeming to soften. “Say it again?” Jimin pleaded softly, thumb caressing Taehyung’s cheekbone. The boxy smile was back.

            “I love you, Jimin-ah.” He replied softly. “And when you’re better, I really want us to be together. I want you to be my boyfriend.”

            Jimin studied his expression, his chest lightening more than it had been in months. He finally smiled sweetly, laughing as he threw his arms around Taehyung’s neck and hugged him tight. “I love you too, Kim Taehyung. Me too.” And then Taehyung was pressing a soft kiss to his lips like a quiet promise, sweet like a Busan sunset.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            It was almost two months of regular hospital visits before Jimin was cleared by Dr. Choi, announcing that the young boy could expect another fifty to eighty years if he played his cards right. His friends had cried when he shared the news in their group chat, feeling healthy and invigorated for the first time in months.

            The last months had rushed by in a blur as things slowly went back to normal, his appetite returned slowly at first, then with gusto. It wasn’t long before his body was filled out like before, his returning motivation for working out helped him keep his body trim and muscular. His cheeks had filled out again, much to his delight, softening the curvature in his face until he looked purely Jimin for the first time in a long while. He threw himself back into dance, his stamina returning more and more every day until it was like nothing had ever happened, just in time for him to get the news that he, Hoseok, and Jungkook were being called back for a second audition. Jimin loved the rush his returned vitality gave him, and he was even sleeping again, the first few weeks for longer than necessary, leaving Taehyung to have to pull him out of bed most mornings in order to be a productive member of society.

            He and Taehyung hadn’t kissed since that day in the hospital, the taller boy wanting to wait until Jimin was completely healed before ‘making his move’, but the way they looked at each other was filled with promise, and Jimin was giddy at the thought of experiencing life not only as Taehyung’s best friend, but his boyfriend too. He realized he needed the time alone too, to get better and focus on himself without worrying what anyone else was doing. He trusted Taehyung though, and the occasional lingering touches they exchanged while making dinner or watching tv at night made him surer each and every day.

            As he danced in the club with his friends that night after receiving his clean bill of health, he couldn’t help but keep coming back to the thought of Taehyung and him. The other boy was closing down the museum he worked at that night and texted to say he was running late, but would be there shortly; that was an hour and fifteen minutes ago, and Jimin was in full pout.

            “Why so glum, Jimin-ah?” Hoseok teased. All their friends knew what had gone down that day at the hospital, and they were teased relentlessly for it. They had official been dubbed the Foolish Couple, seeing how Jimin almost died because neither he nor Taehyung would have had the guts to confess had Dr. Choi not orchestrated the whole thing. The doctor finally admitted he had left a wedge in the door so it wouldn’t shut all the way, allowing the sound to travel to the hall while he and Jimin had talked. Jimin couldn’t even be mad, and had hugged the doctor as thanks (if he reminded the doctor he had Jungkook’s number still, that was his business).

            “No reason.” He stuck his tongue out when the older boy laughed, before glancing over to where Namjoon and Seokjin were wrapped up in each other against a wall, Jungkook sitting on a bar stool and texting furiously, Yoongi watching Hoseok move with a small smirk from beside the youngest boy in their group. “I’m really happy, hyung.”

            “Me too, Jiminie.” Hoseok grinned and spun Jimin, both boys laughing. It wasn’t too much later when Jimin felt eyes on him, making his skin break out in goosebumps. Hoseok snickered and danced off towards Yoongi with a grin and a wave. Jimin was confused for only a moment, before warm hands were slipping over his hips, thumbs brushing the sensitive skin just under the hem of his tight top.

            “So, I hear someone is officially healthy.” The deep voice practically purred in his ear, and Jimin bit his lip as he was pulled closer to a firm chest. He moved his hips to the beat in a way he knew drove the other crazy, having caught him staring at the dance studio the last few times he’d accompanied him.

            “Clean bill of health.” Jimin replied, turning to face Taehyung and running a hand through his dark locks, his other hand moving to grasp teasingly at his belt. Taehyung’s eyes darkened and he slid a leg smoothly between Jimin’s knees, hauling the other boy closer with surprising strength. Jimin felt that familiar swoop in his chest as Taehyung leaned in, his dark locks mixing with Jimin’s ash blonde.

            “Then I just have one question for you, Jiminie.” Taehyung smiled, his voice husky as he leaned in. Jimin’s arms wrapped around the taller boy’s neck as he grinned, their nose tips brushing, lips teasingly close.

            “And what’s that?”

            “Wanna get out of here?”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            The door of the apartment slammed hard against the wall, as they stumbled in, lips locked together as their hands grasped hungrily at each other’s bodies. Taehyung kicked at the door, missing twice completely before catching it with his foot and it finally shut, and Jimin shoved him against the door. He kissed the taller boy hard, lips greedily slipping together as he pressed fully up against Taehyung and slipped his hands into dark locks and tugged. Taehyung groaned in response, pushing on Jimin until he was walking backward through the kitchen, back hitting the counter top. Jimin’s legs separated to allow Taehyung to slip in between them, the taller boy breaking the kiss and lifting the shorter boy up onto the counter in a swift motion before he was yanking Jimin’s lips back down to his. Jimin moaned softly, hands flying to the buttons on Taehyung’s shirt, attempting to unbutton it. Taehyung laughed breathlessly, tracing his lips across Jimin’s cheek bone to the spot under his ear, sucking hard enough to leave a mark.

            Jimin growled and pushed the taller boy back just enough to grab both sides of the button up and yank, the shirt ripping open, buttons flying everywhere. His hands ran along the dark haired boy’s shoulders, pushing the ruined button off strong shoulders to the floor as Taehyung kissed a trail down his neck, and muttered. “I liked that shirt. It looked good on me.” Jimin laughed breathlessly as Taehyung’s hands trailed along his thighs to his belt, yanking it open and ripping it from the jeans, tossing it over his shoulder.

            “It looks better on the floor.” Jimin scooted to the edge of the counter, drawing the dark haired boy into a messy kiss that was more teeth and tongue, wrapping his legs around Taehyung’s waist and pulling him closer. The sudden friction had both of them moaning at the contact, Taehyung pressing closer and grinding against the shorter boy, hands tugging on his shirt.

            “Take it off.” His voice had a growl to it that had Jimin’s body responding as his hands traveled hungrily across the open expanse of Taehyung’s chest and back, his naked skin feeling like silk against his fingertips. Reluctantly, he leaned back, pulling his shirt off quickly and tossing it, hands drawn back to Taehyungs pecs like magnets as Taehyung ground against him, making him cry out. The press of their naked chests made him lose his breath, sucking a hickey to the surface on the column of Taehyung’s throat.

            “Bed!” Jimin whined, legs tightening around the other’s slim waist in anticipation as he was lifted effortlessly and carried through the apartment. For a brief moment they got stuck at Taehyung’s bedroom door, kissing relentlessly and pressing together from where Jimin was held against the closed door, long fingers digging deliciously into his thighs. It was only when Jimin bucked impatiently against him that Taehyung opened the door and carried him to the bed, setting him down on the floor and reaching for the shorter boy’s zipper. Jimin, exasperated with the wait, started his assault on the other’s neck and chest, tongue flicking teasingly against a pert nipple, sucking it into his mouth when the taller boy moaned.

            “Fuck, Jimin-ah!” Taehyung bit out, hands stilling as Jimin switched to the other nipple, sucking long and hard before he continued down the other’s abs, stopping at his hips to leave dark hickeys that wouldn’t fade for days. He cupped Taehyung through his pants, the other boy hissing and bucking his hips for more contact and Jimin laughed softly, lifting his hands to quickly undo the button and zipper on Taehyung’s dress pants, yanking them down without hesitation. He was hauled back up before he could do anything more, Taehyung’s lips slamming down on his as the taller boy pushed him on the bed, the two kissing roughly as they made their way up the bed, Taehyung pressing his body down on Jimin’s.

            “Tae, pants—” Jimin bit off with a moan as Taehyung licked a stripe along his neck, teeth nipping at his earlobe before moving his way down Jimin’s body. He could feel every hickey Taehyung made as he moved downwards, mouthing the front of Jimin’s jeans with enough pressure to make the smaller boys back bow off the bed.

            “Working on it.” Then he was peeling Jimin’s skin tight pants from his body, groaning when he realized Jimin hadn’t bothered with underwear. “Shit, Jimin-ah. . .” He licked his hand before grasping Jimin, stroking quickly before lowering his mouth over the head. Jimin’s breath was punched out of him at the feel of Taehyung’s hot mouth on him, tongue swirling before he dipped lower.

            “Oh my god, Taehyung-ah—” He cried, hand flying to grasp dark locks, tugging unintentionally; a low moan reverberated from deep in Taehyung’s chest, the vibrations catching the blonde off guard, his hips stuttering up. Taehyung pinned his hips down with strong hands, head bobbing a few more times before pulling off with a wet pop. He’s grin was slow and seductive as he stood up and removed his own boxers, Jimin eyeing him with desire and crooking a finger at him, chest rising and falling rapidly at the predatory way the other crawled over him. Arousal slammed into him as the younger boy laid out beside him, a thigh sliding between Jimin’s legs for the older boy to grind against as they kissed breathlessly.

            “How do you want to do this?” Taehyung pulled back just enough to speak, Jimin’s lips brushing against his as he spoke. “Either way, I’m happy.” Jimin’s leg came up to gracefully wrap around Taehyung’s hip, pulling him closer.

            “I want you, Tae.” Jimin whispered on another kiss. Understanding, Taehyung nodded and dove back into the kiss, hand opening his nightstand drawer to pull out a condom and lube; he hissed when a small hand started pumping him quickly, breathing heavily against Jimin’s neck.

            Jimin had never felt this good in his life. The little past experience he had had just faded into the distance at the feel of Taehyung’s body against his. It was like they were created to be together, Taehyung knowing just when Jimin was going to break, pulling him back from the brink teasingly until he almost sobbed in pleasure. He took his time stretching the smaller boy, reducing the proud boy to a panting, begging mess, refusing to move forwards until he was sure the older boy would be able to handle it, taking care of him as always. When he finally moved over Jimin, their fingers intertwined and soft, burning gazes locked as he entered him, Jimin felt happy tears prickling his eyes. The taller boy seemed to understand and smiled softly, kissing the tears away and tightening his grip on the smaller hand before finally moving. Their bodies were sweaty and slick, pressing against each other until it was almost as if they were one. Jimin’s head was thrown back as he moaned repeatedly, almost sobbing as Taehyung hit that one, perfect spot relentlessly, his legs wrapped tight around slim hips to force him closer. Taehyung peppered his skin with kisses, soft praises between pleased sounds, his firm lips finally catching Jimin’s in a kiss. When Jimin shattered, Taehyung was there, holding him through it was he chased his own release, the soft call of his name sending the taller boy straight over the edge.

            When it was over, they kissed softly, almost lazily, as their bodies ached in pure bliss. Taehyung held him close, rolling over to pull Jimin across his chest, the smaller boy pulling up the covers before settling into warm arms. His ear was pressed against Taehyung’s chest, listening to the way his thundering heart beat slowed with his eyes closed, the sound the beat of his favorite song. There were soft whispers in the quiet of their cocoon, sweat drying and limbs working again; Jimin drew soft shapes across Taehyung’s abs with the tip of his finger, sighing as he felt Taehyung running his hand through blonde locks.

            “I love you Jimin-ah.” The deep voice had him smiling, propping his chin up on his arms across Taehyung’s chest, their gazes meeting. Taehyung had the softest look on his face, his eyes tender as he ran a thumb across Jimin’s cheekbone.

            “I love you too, Taehyungie.” Boxy smile met crescent moon smile, and Jimin scooted up to press the sweetest of kisses to Taehyung’s eagerly waiting lips.

            In the morning they would regret not taking a shower the night before (though they certainly enjoyed the shower then. “Conserving water is good for the environment!” “Tae, that’s such bullshit! You just want an excuse to stare at my ass!” “Excuse you, I want to touch your ass.” “Oh my god, you’re insatiable.” “What can I say, my boyfriend is hot!”)

            “Hey Jimin-ah?”

            Jimin turned from where he was laughing and reaching for the shampoo, his smile bright. “Yeah Taetae?” Warm lips pressed a swift kiss to surprised lips before Taehyung was pulling back with a boxy smile.

            “Soulmates, right?”

            “Kim Taehyung, I can confidently say you’re the love of my life. From now until forever. Cross my heart, hope to die.” He grinned cheekily and winked, giggling madly when Taehyung wrapped him in his arms and kissed all over his ticklish neck until he was laughing too.

            “Okay. But only after at least seventy years.”

            “Sounds good to me.”

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

            “Hey Jungkookie! Guess what?”

            “Yeah, Jimin-hyung?”

            “Three.”

            “Three? What. . .? What do you- OH! Oh Hyung, ewwww! Why would you tell me that? Damn it, now I’m really going to need therapy!”

 

THE END