Taehyung lays in bed.
Technically he's been laying in bed for almost three hours now. After weeks of exams and then a couple of weeks of travel in Europe with his family, Taehyung should be exhausted. And he is. Sleep is tugging and prodding at his eyes, painful in its desperate plea to be welcomed.
Taehyung rolls over and sighs, burying his face into his pillow and moaning pathetically. It smells faintly of citrus.
It smells of home and longing.
It smells of Jimin.
Jimin who wasn't in their shared apartment when Taehyung came back from his trip earlier this afternoon. Jimin who stumbled home after his shift at the local grocery store ended, in a flurry of apologies and affections as he enveloped Taehyung in his arms and told him with painful earnestness, I missed your face. It's good to see you .
Jimin who couldn't stay and catch up on Itaewon Class because he had a date.
Jimin who had kissed his cheek in apology and didn't hear Taehyung's heart crack.
It's been doing that a lot lately, his heart. Cracking. Like weary stairs in a very old house, cracking with every step, making Taehyung slow his pace, unsure of when it will eventually break and take him down.
Taehyung lays in bed and thinks about Le Port du Guilvinec, a port in the north west of France that his family stopped at before taking a boat to England. Frigidly cold in winter but beautiful even in the grey. He thinks about the ships docked there. He thinks about the lighthouses of all sizes that used to bring those ships home. He thinks about those ships passing each other at night and only meeting once.
He thinks about seventeen year old Jimin, rosy cheeked and heart so obviously sewn to his sleeve, ready to be sacrificed at Taehyung’s altar. He thinks about his eyes full of light that had beckoned Taehyung, pleading with him to love him.
"I like you so much, Taetae. It's more than just a feeling, it's more than something I have to tell you, share with you. It's messy and I don't understand all of it but it's true," he'd stepped closer, the star in his eyes hopeful and glistening, fragile yet eternal. Taehyung had felt dread and inadequacy shake in his belly. It had felt like running, running, running. But this was Jimin and even if Taehyung didn't like him like that, he liked him so much, too. So he stayed. He swallowed and heard every word. "You're part of me, Kim Taehyung. You don't have to love me back," and that last part broke Taehyung more than anything else he could have said. Because he did. God. He did love Jimin. So much.
But not like that. Not like that.
Ships in the night.
"I'm sorry, Jimin-ah," he whispered, ashamed and small. Jimin's face crumpled for one terrifying second. One infinite second where he allowed himself to hurt in front of Taehyung.
Then he nodded and stepped closer, hugging him. As easy and warm as always.
"I love you, I love you, I love you," Taehyung kept repeating, cruelly, selfishly, indefinitely. "I'm so sorry."
Jimin got on his tip toes and kissed his cheek. "It's okay, Taehyungie."
And that was that. Sometimes Taehyung wonders if this wasn't the first crack. He wonders if his heart hadn't changed the day Jimin confessed to him. He thinks some part of him understood the colossal mistake he made and the weight of his own stupidity had made his heart fracture ever so slightly.
Now, he can't sleep. Because Jimin had been on a date and Taehyung lays in his own bed, alone, surrounded by the smell of his love.
Frustrated and tired, he rolls off his bed and tip toes out of his bedroom. Jimin got home a couple of hours ago and Taehyung had pretended to be deeply asleep, unable to feign interest in getting his heart thoroughly broken. Now, in the hallway, he takes a couple of steps, before he hears it. He pauses and holds his breath, waiting. Then it comes again, the gut wrenching sound of Jimin holding back sniffles.
"Min?" he asks quietly.
A pregnant pause. "Tae?" comes the small and wet reply. "Why are you awake?" he rasps.
"I can't sleep. I'm going to make tea," he says as he comes to lean Jimin's doorframe. His best friend is curled into a ball on his bed, wearing one of Taehyung's old hoodies and clutching a pillow. He forgot to close the drapes so the moon illuminates his tear stained face. Taehyung goes to him, unable to stand it any longer. He crawls over him and lands flat on top of him, burying his nose in his neck. Jimin complains loudly which only makes him sniffle again. Still, he shifts until he’s on his back, comfortable for Taehyung to lay on.
"Leave me alone, you big lump." His hands fist in Taehyung’s t-shirt, belying his words.
Taehyung inhales deeply, allowing himself half a moment to be weak and selfish and drowns in citrus. Then he stomps on his stupid heart with both feet before saying, "If they hurt you in any way, I'll track them down and make them pay."
Jimin looks at him with a pouty smile, tears still pooling in his eyes. "What are you going to do? Be pretty at them until they cry?"
The strangely placed compliment turns Taehyung's chest into a battlefield but he powers through. "I can be pretty mean when I want."
Jimin looks at him for a long moment. A tear escapes his eye and Taehyung thumbs it away. Jimin eyelids flutter closed and he leans into the touch. "My hero," he whispers brokenly.
"Jimin?" Taehyung asks, feeling his heart drop to his stomach, fear edging its freezing way up his spine. "Beloved, are you okay? What happened?"
"N-nothing," Jimin shakes his head and tries to bury his face in his pillow but Taehyung won't let him. He cups it in his hands and makes him look at him.
"Jimin, let me help, please." Please , he thinks desperately. I can't see you hurt. I can't. I won't. I'll help . "I'll do anything," he says, a touch of desperation and longing breaching through the surface.
Jimin takes a shuddering breath and looks at him in such a candidly sweet and hopeful way that Taehyung feels seventeen again. Feels like the floor has been swept off from under the bed and that one wrong word will make them drift off into space for eternity.
"She was sweet and funny and cute. She kissed me like I was a delicacy she would never taste again," Jimin says. Taehyung digests that like a mud covered rock. "She liked me and she wanted to keep seeing me. This was our fifth date," his eyes travel from Taehyung's eyes to his nose and then down to his lips where they get stuck. The stare feels like a caress. Like a lick of fire. Like too much hope condensed into too little time. A rogue tear escapes again and he huffs before darting his gaze away.
Taehyung's heart is pounding.
"So what happened?"
Jimin purses his lips and sniffles again. His eyes, when they find Taehyung again, are a little hard. "Nothing happened."
Stubborn. Taehyung generally knows that pushing against Jimin's stubbornness only leads to fights but there something simmering in the air between them. A strange mood. Something like discovery. Like a fragile truth and Taehyung wants to let it out. He doesn’t want to back out. Not this time. Not ever again.
"Jimin," he insists.
"You," Jimin starts and then he huffs again. "Leave it, Taehyung. It's fine."
"It's clearly not fine! I want to know," Taehyung pushes just as hard. Under him, Jimin starts to shake.
The lines around his mouth seem to have frozen. "Trust me, you don't," he says and it hurts in ways that Taehyung can all name. Every way they've hurt each other. All the cracks, they all have names. They're dated and carefully recorded, piling up between them, swaying dangerously when they fight, threatening to bury them and break them irreparably.
Taehyung looks at the cracks reflected in Jimin's eyes and decides to be as brave as rosy cheeked and painfully earnest seventeen year-old Jimin had been. He pulls a crack from the pile and lets the rest of it tumble to the floor.
"What if I do want to know?" he says softly.
Jimin seems to freeze under him, his eyes losing their stormy edge. So Taehyung leans down a brushes the softest of kisses on the corner of Jimin's mouth. He feels more than hears Jimin's sudden intake of air.
"Jimin-ah. Tell me. What happened? Why is the perfect date with the perfect girl making you cry?"
Jimin is still frozen and when Taehyung looks up, he finds big brown eyes staring at him. "You," he says simply after a moment. He licks his lips and closes his eyes, annoyed and scared.
"What?" Taehyung asks faintly.
"You happened,” he breathes out, his eyes opening slowly. “You always happen. You keep happening. I fell in love with you when I was sixteen and somehow instead of going away; it keeps happening," Jimin says with a plea and a challenge in his eyes. "I keep thinking: this is it, I'm over Kim Taehyung. I don't have romantic nor sexual feelings for him. This person is totally going to fit me, too," he swallows and shakes his head. Taehyung's head is spinning. "Except they never do. Except I never stop loving you. It's like my heart is the universe and my love for you is the force expanding it," his lips are trembling now so Taehyung does the only thing he can think of, he leans down and brushes their lips. It's not even a kiss. It's barely a brush. Still, his breath stutters onto Jimin's mouth.
Jimin makes a small wounded noise when he pulls back. "I keep falling in love with you. It keeps happening. Almost every day. It's like you're a booby trapped staircase and I just keep freefalling and no one is there to catch me. I'm so. I'm so fucking lonely and sad, Taehyung," he looks at him, tears brimming in his eyes again. "Why did you have to be so fucking perfect?"
"I'm not perfect," Taehyung manages to get out. There are words knotting in his throat, balling up like wool, coating his mouth with wayward fibres that aren't good enough. Nothing Taehyung could say now would ever be enough.
"Y-you are, you big lump. You are exactly what I need and want but you don't love me like that and that's the tragedy of my sad little life," Jimin cups his cheek and thumbs at his nose.
Taehyung stares at him. This man. This beautiful, ridiculous, hot man. The only person in the world who ever looked at Taehyung and understood him fully, every broken, giant, miserable and joyous part of him. This boy who used to steal strawberries from his mum's fridge to bring them to Taehyung during recess. The young man who laid his heart bare for him, let Taehyung stomp all over it and remained his friend afterwards. This man who smiles at Taehyung every day like there’s nothing they can’t face as long as they have each other. This man who still has his heart on his sleeve.
The man who Taehyung loves. Loves more than words could say, more than there are stars in the entire universe, more than there are stories in recorded history and more than there are heartbeats in the world. More, more, more.
Always more. Always differently. Always special.
Feelings have been piling up inside of him - as deep as oceans, as loud as stadium cheers, as big as mountains - for so long now that it's no wonder that instead of a confession, what comes out of Taehyung’s mouth is a sob.
Jimin's eyes widen and Taehyung shakes his head. "Taehyung?" he asks, voice trembling.
"I... I thought," he tries to say but words get tangled in his tears and he just wails as he buries his nose in Jimin's neck.
His best friend wraps his arms around him and pulls him close. "Hey, Taehyung-ah. Darling, it's okay. I'll be okay. We're good, okay? Nothing, not even my idiot heart, can come between us," he reassures but that only makes Taehyung cry harder.
“ My heart is the idiot,” he wails before pulling back. He sniffles and Jimin spends an awfully tender moment wiping away his tears. He even uses Taehyung’s hoodie to wipe his snot away. That gesture, so bruisingly intimate and caring, makes Taehyung sway closer, brushing another small feather kiss against his lips.
Jimin swallows. “Stop, please. I can’t. I won’t survive the taste of you,” he says painfully.
“Don’t survive it. Live and die by my lips,” Taehyung begs, kissing him a little more firmly. Jimin gasps.
“I never thought you were cruel, Kim Taehyung,” Jimin says just as he leans up and brushes a small kiss, more of a bite really, against Taehyung’s pouty bottom lip.
“I’m not. I know I have been. To the both of us, but. I know now,” he says.
“You know what?”
“I thought you had moved on. I’d finally caught up to you, I was ready to fall into you and let you ruin me as you pleased but you were dating again and you seemed so happy so I tried to let you go but..”
“But?” Jimin asks wrapping his legs around him.
“But you are infinite,” Taehyung answers with a smile. “You are everywhere in me. You have loved me so well, so thoroughly, so incomparably,” Taehyung sighs, happiness fizzing up inside his vein like shaken up champagne. Jimin’s eyes fill with tears again and Taehyung leans over to kiss his eyelids and then his wet cheeks and then his nose and then the tremulous smile on his lips. “Beloved,” he says softly. “Jimin-ah,” he calls and Jimin opens his eyes. “Will you live by my lips?”
“Only if you live by mine,” Jimin whispers, already leaning up.
Taehyung meets him in the middle. “Yes. Always,” he says into his mouth and Jimin laughs, laughs, laughs.
Later, Taehyung makes them tea and they talk, curled into each other, sipping the sweet and warm beverage. They talk but mostly, they kiss the honey off of each other’s lips.