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Lonely Hearts Club

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Jimin doesn’t, by any definition, consider himself a violent person. Even despite his training in martial arts stemming back to his adolescence, and his current weekly kickboxing lessons. He’s admittedly a little hot-tempered, but his frustrations never get taken out on anyone. 

So, he doesn’t have any logical explanation for why his trembling hand grips the picture frame once resting on the coffee table and throws it across the room. Because there’s a person on the other side of the room, but this person turns him into someone he doesn’t recognize. This person makes him lose control in the worst way.

It breaks loudly; the contact causes an explosion of wood and shattering glass that rains onto the gray carpet. The wood splinters and the photo inside of two people once happy together now floats to its death—a symbolization of what’s transpiring. 

The person across the room flinches and then ducks out of the way instinctively, but it’s unnecessary. Even at the highest peak of his rage, Jimin doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Not physically, not for real. So, it purposely misses the head by a few inches. 

But it’s a warning. The message is clear.

With his heart racing and tears staining his face, Jimin points to his open apartment door and yells, “Just get out!”

Standing in the middle of his living room, Jimin feels like an island. All that’s around him are remnants of the argument that subsided mere minutes ago. And in the stillness, the world continues to spin at high speed. It dizzies him.

His typically tidy apartment resembles nothing short of a hurricane’s aftermath. Once alphabetized and in chronological order of publication date, Jimin’s bookshelf is now only half-filled. The other half lay scattered, bent, and open to arbitrary pages on the ground. Victims of being projected in a fit of anger.

The person speaks. Tells him, like they always do, “You’re overreacting!” Then, with venom in their tone, “Stop acting like a fuckin’ bitch!” 

But Jimin doesn’t think he’s overreacting. In fact, he thinks he’s been underreacting for the past four months. He’s brushed over the lies, intentionally made excuses for the mistreatment, and talked himself out of believing what he’s known to be true for months: he’s been sharing his bed with a cheater.

Every attempt to bring up his concerns in the past was quickly shut down. Smothered with reassuring smiles, given deep kisses that tasted like the sweetest version of deceit, and pacified with affection. Told over and over that it was all in his head until he made himself believe it. But he can’t anymore. He’s done. 

It takes him a few seconds to register that there are still two of them in the apartment. His requests are never granted. He’s never listened to, even at a time like this. And that just makes him angrier. His blood boils, core temperature rising so high he feels beads of sweat trickling down his spine and smoke rushing out of his ears.

“Why are you still here?!” Jimin screams, again pointing in jerky movements toward the door. His throat burns to yell this loud, and he’s bound to wake his neighbors, but he doesn’t care. “I said get out! We’re done!”

The entire apartment is dark. The only light comes from the moon that must be full tonight—a pale white light blankets Jimin’s belongings on the floor. His decorative pillows, old textbooks from college, the tipped over houseplant and all of its soil, the lampshade, and most of the coffee table items glimmer in an eerie type of way in the moon’s radiance. For just a moment, the glistening of broken glass across the room catches his eye.

Jimin’s mouth is desert dry. He attempts to swallow, but he’s met with the unpleasant feeling of his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. For some reason beyond him at the moment, his arm is still lifted to gesture toward the open door. 

”Fuckin’— go!”

Again, Jimin’s voice seems to echo off of the walls. Somehow, Jimin thinks the only person in the room who his words are affecting is himself. He’s confirming what he’s always known—they’ve never cared about his feelings. A chill runs down his body to the tips of his fingers. His nail beds are frostbitten.

Then, much softer, Jimin chokes out, “Please.”

Maybe he sounds pitiful now. Voice quivering, a sniffle to follow. He keeps his gaze down, proper eye contact barely possible in the darkness anyway. But he takes notice of a shadow passing by his right. He closes his eyes, anticipating the worst, even if he’s not exactly sure what that is.

Jimin holds his breath and just listens. 

The sound of thick-soled boots crushing glass as they walk. Keys jingling, then settling in the palm of a hand. A grumbling—insulting mumbles of words too softly spoken for Jimin to hear, but he doesn’t want to. Then… he hears nothing. Silence. He’s alone. 

The disarray of his apartment perfectly personifies the sudden decomposition of his life. Everything is out of place, both literally and metaphorically. His furniture, his heart, all of it.

It’s only then, minutes after, that Jimin allows himself to take in a full deep breath. When he does, his ribs burn as they expand as if they’ve been stuck in the same position for a long time. Jimin winces, instinctually hugging his midsection with his left arm as he exhales.

Then it’s a domino effect. Jimin’s shoulders feel heavy, his knees buckle, and he’s soon on the floor trying to get his breathing under control. He’s not crying anymore, he’s all cried out, but his eyes continue to sting. Frustrated, he rubs at his eyelids, attempting to find some relief.

Subconsciously, Jimin ends up clutching a pillow to his chest. A coping skill he acquired when he was a toddler and carried with him into adulthood. It’s self-soothing, similar to the way people hug themselves when they’re upset, or pet through their hair when flustered. Almost immediately, Jimin feels his heart rate returning to a reasonable speed.

Pouting, Jimin presses his chin into the cushion and sighs. As he does, small remnants of anger and anxiety shoot through his veins like electrical currents. But Jimin likes to believe he’s mastered controlling his emotions and quickly begins to work on having those feelings subside. 

He’s not like they’ve told him he is. Jimin knows his emotions aren’t erratic, and his thoughts aren’t skewed, and his logic isn’t catastrophic. But those things about himself have been drilled into his head by ex-partner after ex-partner that sometimes it takes him a minute to remember those things aren’t real.

Minutes pass like hours. The longer Jimin sits among the mess on his carpet, the more he starts to feel like he belongs there. It’s where all the misused and disregarded things in his apartment are. He’s genuinely right at home.

Jimin’s mind is racing, but his body―his soul, his absolute core―is so far past exhausted that he doesn’t even have time to properly make sense of what happened. He’s numb, and he knows that’s bad, but right now, he buries himself in it. If he allows himself to think, he’ll cry again. Jimin doesn’t want to cry anymore. 

A quick thought passes through Jimin’s mind, telling himself that he should go to his bedroom to sleep. But when the brain is in a self-destructive mode, it thrives off of maladaptive behavior. So instead, Jimin stays on his living room floor with a blanket draped over him and the pillow from the sofa under his head.

Lying in the midst of all of the wreckage somehow brings Jimin comfort. It should be frightening how quickly sleep overcomes him, but he welcomes the oblivion. 

 

 

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t care that Jimin’s just had a breakup the night before. He gets called into work early, two and a half hours before his shift, because too many waiters called out. And when that happens, Jimin is temporarily demoted from one of the senior chef assistants to work the floor. Usually, he doesn’t mind because he gets paid the same, but today is the worst day for this. He’s not in the mood to deal with entitled, rude customers.

The mess in his apartment remains as he rushes to work, pretending this day is just like any other. He slaps on a fake smile and starts his morning as if his heart isn’t continuously bleeding down his body, soaking his shoes.

His shitty attitude matches the shitty attitudes of his coworkers, so no one asks him what’s wrong when he walks in—eyes sunken, cheeks puffy, a permanent frown on his lips. They’re too wrapped up in their own problems. Jimin’s thankful for that, considering he’d just lie to them anyway. He isn’t much for putting his personal business out in the open. Especially at work. He doesn’t have anyone he trusts here.

“Park! Grab your apron and pen, let’s go!” his boss calls no more than fifteen seconds after Jimin dashes into the kitchen. He zips through cooking aides in all-white, turning himself sideways to fit past two people at a time. 

Steam from the dishwashing station and the open grill lowers the visibility. Jimin knocks into a busboy bringing dishes to the sink and plates shatter on the maroon tiled floor, sprinkling bits of white glass everywhere. Everyone jumps, shuddering. Then, all eyes are on Jimin and his unfortunate victim. A young kid with huge doe eyes and ruffled hair. He looks terrified like he caused this somehow.

Goddamn it, Jimin yells at himself in his head. He balls his hands into fists and squeezes his eyes shut, shoulders high and tense, anticipating his boss blowing a fuse. 

“Park Jimin!”

There it is.

His boss’s voice again, without a doubt. This time, there’s annoyance vividly painting his tone. He scratches disappointedly at his mustache as he leans against the doorway, head shaking slowly. His chubby cheeks are a sizzling red.

Opening one eye at a time, Jimin calls back sheepishly, “Yes, sir?”

Scattering whispers and glances bounce from one employee to another. They’re all frozen as if waiting to see if they’re somehow in trouble too. You’re all idiots, Jimin thinks. 

A sigh from across the kitchen precedes Mr. Seong telling him, “Get the broom to clean that mess up, and then get your ass out there! ͏C’ mon, we got hungry customers!”

“Yes, sir,” Jimin responds immediately—respectfully. But he keeps his head down to roll his eyes, unable to resist. 

One by one, the workers return to their tasks. A normal decibel of chatter arises. The cacophony of coworkers barking orders and the sizzling of food blankets the room and allows Jimin’s presence in the kitchen to lessen. A sense of anonymity. He happily becomes unnoticed within the rush and welcomes fading into the background. 

It’s going to be a long day, and he’s definitely earned a drink or seven after work. 

 

 

Just a few years ago, Jimin had a fear of getting drunk in public. Loathed even the thought of strangers hearing him slur a word or seeing him stumble. But nowadays? Shit, he doesn’t know what happened to him, but he doesn’t care. In fact, he welcomes the solidarity of his fellow shitfaced friends at the bar. 

Truthfully, he holds his liquor very well and has a pretty high tolerance. But he swears going out post-breakup lowers his inhibitions and his alcohol limit. After just a couple shots and a few beers, he’s basically done for. 

Knowing that, Jimin is currently nursing his second bottle of beer, trying to make the buzz last instead of fully plummeting to rock bottom. The temptation of plummeting to rock bottom is there, of course. But if he’s completely gone, he won’t have it in him to talk to the good-looking guy across the bar. And that can’t happen.

Jimin’s been told that he moves on way too fast, and he’s never said this out loud, but he knows it’s true. His coping mechanism—or perhaps his lack thereof—is to drown his heartbreak in liquor and a pretty face. It’s easier for him to pretend to be okay than to dwell on what went wrong and why. Too many breakups with too many bad boyfriends over the years to recap. If Jimin allows himself to think about it, he’ll convince himself the problem is him and not them. 

He knows he should give himself time to process and calm down, but he doesn’t want to. Staying home to dissect the chain of events leading to the breakup will make him feel even worse. He knows he’ll get angry for not standing up for himself more or not leaving sooner. So the alcohol keeps the memories on the back burner, and the attention from an attractive stranger puts a bandaid on his wounded heart. 

And right now, Jimin has his sights set. 

“You look like you need another drink,” Jimin says, approaching the stranger. 

Jimin is naturally bold but even bolder on liquid courage, so he wastes no time making his way to the other side of the bar. He hangs over the back of the empty barstool, placing his bottle on the wood. 

And Jimin doesn’t need beer goggles or the post-breakup desperation to notice this guy is… really fucking gorgeous. Long, curly, black hair and mysterious, dark eyes. He’s dressed in a patterned button-up, black skinny jeans with decorative rips at the knee, and a leopard-print headband that meets his hairline and flows down his neck. An outfit too loud and with too many prints, but it works on him. This guy looks like he’s been ripped right out of Jimin’s last sex dream, so he refuses to not at least take a chance.

Looking down at his glass, the man chuckles and says, “Thanks, but… it’s still half-full.” 

God, he’s got a pretty smile, too. Like Jimin’s brain is taking snapshots of his face for later, he notices the mole on his bottom lip, the way his teeth glisten even in the dull bar lighting, and how his bottom lashes fan out beautifully. It’s almost infuriating how attractive he is. 

Inviting himself to take a seat, Jimin says, “Or it’s half-empty? However you look at the world, babe.” 

Snorting a bit, the guy replies with a playful raise of his eyebrow, “Doesn’t your interpretation make you the pessimist here… babe?” 

The pet name is said in a mimicking tone, but not maliciously. In fact, Jimin swears he sees a flirtatious smirk on his face as he says it. It strikes something inside Jimin. He’s definitely intrigued. 

Jimin pauses, thinking. His brain is currently submerged in Cass beer, so he’s in no position to weigh technicalities. Pessimist, optimist. Jimin knows he’s both depending on the day, but he’s guilty of thinking the worst first. 

Bypassing the question, Jimin comments, “I’ve never seen you here before.” 

To which the gorgeous stranger replies, “I’ve never seen you here either. But in your defense, I just got to Seoul about an hour ago.” 

“Oh,” Jimin says. Then, “Tourist?”

Jimin doesn’t mean to scrunch his face, but he knows he’s doing it. He’s personally sinking his own ship. No chance this dude is going to want to come home with him now that Jimin’s basically implied he thinks he’s disgusting. But Jimin means no harm, it’s just the Seoul native in him harbors a primal rivalry in his heart against tourists. The guided pamphlets, the embarrassing poses in front of Lotte World. He’s had enough.

But the man just laughs. He shrugs and says, “If that’s what you wanna call it. Not here much for the attractions, though. Sightseeing, maybe.” 

Something about this guy is interesting. His demeanor, his appearance, his everything. Jimin suddenly finds his genuine curiosity in the stranger trumping his sexual attraction. Unusual, but he doesn’t question it.

“Sightseeing brought you to Seoul?” Jimin asks skeptically. He guesses it’s not unheard of, although that reason seems to be for someone triple their age. But Jimin’s not here to judge. He’s the one drinking his ex away. 

Tipping his head from side to side like he’s weighing the acceptableness and accuracy of Jimin’s guess, the man settles on, “Inspiration brought me to Seoul.” 

It’s just vague enough to keep Jimin interested, not turned off. He leans forward on one elbow, resting his cheek on his hand. He traces the sharp slope of the stranger’s nose with his eyes and settles on his lips. They’re the perfect shade of pink, slightly glossed from his drink, and look soft enough for Jimin to sink his teeth into. 

“Inspiration? Huh. That’s a new one,” Jimin says. After a beat, he looks up and adds, “You never told me your name.” 

Simply, the man replies, “‘Cause you never asked.” 

Jimin playfully rolls his eyes as he sips his drink. 

“Taehyung,” the gorgeous stranger informs Jimin. And it’s pathetic, the first thing Jimin thinks is: a pretty name for a pretty boy

“Taehyung,” Jimin parrots, testing its weight on his tongue. It tastes sweet in his mouth, and he wants to keep saying it. Actually, Jimin wants to moan it. Preferably no more than an hour from now if they both play their cards right. 

Clicking his tongue, Taehyung asks, “And you’re…?”

“Jimin.” 

He straightens himself up a bit, attempting to look more put-together than he actually is right now. But he’s not too worried. Jimin’s track record has a perfect score. Each time he’s gone out to bring someone home, he’s been successful. 

There’s a glimmer in Taehyung’s eye when Jimin asks him to elaborate on what he means by looking for inspiration in Seoul. And a bit to Jimin’s surprise, he's captivated by what Taehyung tells him. His perspective on the world and his concept of traveling to different cities to feel free would even be motivating if Jimin didn’t feel himself getting drunker by the half-hour. Taehyung’s concepts are getting harder to grasp.

But Jimin’s good on his word and buys Taehyung’s second drink, and only briefly judges his choice of apple juice with a splash of vodka. They fall into an easy conversation that starts off somewhat ambiguous and metaphorical, but soon enough seems to zone into Jimin’s current situation specifically. 

They talk about relationships and human connection. Taehyung touches on the difficulties that arise when two people depend on each other too much. And in turn, Jimin talks about how relationships easily fall apart when a couple doesn’t depend on one another enough. Both agree that either extreme can result in a feeling of isolation. 

And Jimin’s not usually one to spill his heart at the bar, but he finds himself asking, “But you know what I mean, right? Feeling completely alone, even in a crowded room?”

Pursing his lips as he nods, Taehyung says, “Unfortunately, yeah, I do.”

Flashbacks of his past relationships run through Jimin’s head, and his heart aches with a familiar feeling. He remembers how even lying in bed right next to them, he could swear they were a million miles away. A distance that couldn’t be measured simply by the centimeters between their physical bodies. A coldness at the core of his soul that not even the warmest arms could neutralize. 

But it doesn’t begin or end there. Even with his friends, even at work, even surrounded by his family… Jimin feels the same. It’s an undefinable emptiness. A level of alienation he’s never been able to describe. He wonders if Taehyung’s ever felt the same way—felt it to the degree that he does every single day of his life.

Taehyung claims he does, and makes vague references to people in his life leaving him when he needed them the most. But then follows up with how he’s found comfort in being alone nowadays. There’s something dying in Taehyung’s eyes as he says it, but Jimin’s a little too buzzed to notice it. 

Truthfully, Jimin loses track of time. He’s had two more beers since the start of their conversation, and the background noise around them is significantly lower now. He looks over his shoulder and spots vacated chairs all around. The bar has begun to clear out; they’ll be closing soon. 

Taking his chance, Jimin lifts an eyebrow suggestively and says a bit under his breath, “Y’know, we don’t have to be alone tonight if we don’t want to…”

An invitation, an offering. With it, Jimin bites the inside of his bottom lip and gestures toward the exit. Adds, “I don’t live far from here at all.”

He’s already got Taehyung’s number, so he doesn’t foresee the odds working against him. About an hour ago, he agreed on a whim to model for Taehyung someday. Apparently, he’s a photographer, among other things. Said he needed a muse while in Seoul, and Jimin volunteered himself.

Looking away a bit shyly for the first time tonight, Taehyung circles the rim of his glass with his index finger and says, “I—um. I can’t. Sorry, I… can drive you home, though? If you want.” 

Jimin feels his face twist. Drive him home? The last thing he needs from Taehyung is a pity ride home. He’ll stumble eleven blocks north by himself, thanks. 

Maybe if this were any other time or Taehyung were anybody else, Jimin wouldn’t have taken this so poorly. But his heart is still bleeding, and his emotions are boiling, and his typical quick fix for that… well, just turned him down. 

His ego is currently sporting a bruise the size of Taehyung’s rejection, which makes Jimin’s attitude turn sour. It’s petty and rude, and deep down, Jimin knows that, but he’s also drunk and sad. So right now, he doesn’t care. He and Taehyung aren’t going to see each other again anyway, it doesn’t matter.

Jimin stands up, aggravation painted clearly on his face and in his voice as he mumbles a little too roughly, “I don’t fuckin’ need you to drive me home.” 

But Taehyung’s voice remains soft. Almost caring. And Jimin would find it cute how his eyebrows curve upward when he asks, “You sure? I don’t mind,” but he’s dedicated to being pissed off, so he doesn’t dwell on it. 

Jimin sloppily counts money from his wallet, tosses it on the bar, and sways his way toward the door. Deep down, he knows he isn’t actually upset at Taehyung. He can’t be. People are allowed to turn down passes from strangers at the bar. He’d never be mad at someone for saying no.

Jimin’s just frustrated that it seems nobody wants him anymore. Not ex-boyfriends that claimed to love him, not strangers at the bar that seem genuinely interested. Nobody. He feels undesired and disregarded like the thrown items on his apartment floor that night. It’s a personal problem, not a ‘the hot stranger won’t sleep with me’ problem. He’s not that shallow or deranged, even when he’s smashed. 

When Jimin reaches the exit, he hears Taehyung call, “Walk safely then! Careful of bicycles and hydrants!”

Jimin flips him off over his shoulder. The last thing he hears before leaving the bar is Taehyung giggling. 

 

 

The amount Jimin drank last night definitely doesn’t warrant the degree of a headache he wakes up with. He guesses this is the universe punishing him for being a jackass. He remembers most of it—too drunk to stop himself, but not drunk enough for it all to be a blurry memory. 

In a way, he’s thankful, because he still recalls the unfairly perfect bone structure of the guy he met at the bar. Taehyung, he’s pretty sure. The city-hopping tourist or whatever. The inspiration seeker. 

Jimin remembers learning that he’s new to Seoul—claims to stay in one place for a few months or as long as the city breeds creativity, then moves on to the next one. His artistic repertoire seems endless. Taehyung mentioned last night being into painting, drawing, street art, and photography. 

Like a light bulb turning on in his head, Jimin’s hand frantically feels inside his pocket for the crumpled napkin he vaguely remembers stuffing in there. It’s got Taehyung’s number scribbled on it. 

Taehyung offered it up after he mentioned wanting a muse in Seoul. And Jimin—tipsy, flirty, and horny—volunteered a little too eagerly. He pushed his lips against the neck of his beer bottle and told Taehyung he could take pictures of him anytime he wanted. At the time, Jimin just chalked it up to flirting, but maybe… Taehyung actually wants Jimin to model for him. 

Wanted, not wants. Jimin figures that after his performance last night, the offer rightfully might not stand anymore. 

Still, the thought is a bit absurd to Jimin, considering he’s not a model. Not even an amateur one. (Unless posing for his exes in the bedroom counts. Which he’s pretty sure doesn’t.) But last night, and even right now, the idea intrigues him. Or maybe Taehyung intrigues him. Either way, there’s something burning inside him to call the number on the napkin and just take a chance.

Jimin figures, if he does call, he’ll start with an apology. Taehyung is definitely owed one for Jimin’s less than stellar behavior last night. Especially toward the end. 

There’s a ping pong match in Jimin’s head. The back and forth of if he should call Taehyung or not. He tries to survey how this gesture would come across if the tables were turned and a stranger from the bar called him the next day. 

Jimin likes bold moves, though, so he thinks he’d appreciate it. No telling what Taehyung’s into. He might think Jimin’s being a weirdo considering their conversation ended with Taehyung declining coming home with him. Jimin doesn’t want Taehyung to think he’s being a creep.

“Worst case scenario, he tells you to fuck off… again,” Jimin thinks aloud, voice scratchy and dry. 

Stalling, Jimin showers to wash the stench of last night off and fixes himself a cup of tea before returning to the napkin. Jimin does his best thinking in the shower, and after much internal debate, he begins dialing Taehyung’s number.

He stands at the island in his kitchen, stares down nervously at the white tiled floor as the line rings and rings. His index scratches the handle of his blue coffee mug, watching the steam swivel upward and evaporate into nothing.

He gave you a fake number, dickhead, Jimin thinks to himself on the fourth ring. Oldest trick in the book. Immediately, he feels silly for believing Taehyung was even remotely interested at all. Some enigmatic drifter blowing through Seoul wouldn’t have any interest in—

“Hello?”

Fuck. 

Fuck,” Jimin blurts out like the fool he is. He covers his mouth immediately with his hand, heart slamming in his chest. And then he stands there, completely frozen, as he listens to the nothingness on the other end. He knows he needs to say something else, but he can’t. 

More silence. Milliseconds worth, but it feels like eternities. 

On the other end, the voice says, “Um… hello?”

“Hi, sorry,” Jimin greets, civilized this time around. “Taehyung? Hey. This is, um, Jimin.”

Jimin hears nothing. Faint breathing, but that’s about it. He thinks maybe Taehyung’s forgotten his name, so he awkwardly begins describing their interaction, hoping it sparks some sort of memory. 

“We, uh… met at the bar last night. I bought you a drink. Glass half-empty, half-full?” he tries, face twisting in pain to have to do all of this. Maybe it would’ve been better to just not call at all. Would’ve at least saved him some embarrassment before breakfast. 

Silence again. 

Then, “Oh, yeah, hey! I’m surprised you called.” 

Jimin’s face neutralizes, then scrunches in confusion, taken aback. He’s not sure what that’s supposed to mean.

Scratching the side of his head, Jimin asks, “A good surprise or…?”

Immediately, Taehyung replies, “You just seemed pretty done with me last night, is all. You flipped me off after I offered to drive you home. Dunno if you remember that, though.” 

Jimin hears Taehyung chuckle lightheartedly at the memory. 

Rubbing at his temple, Jimin squeezes his eyes shut and says, “Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to call. I’m sorry about that. The way I acted last night, I mean. I’m not usually like that. I was… drunk and a little upset and—”

“No need to explain,” Taehyung cuts him off gently. Jimin can hear the smile in his voice. “And no need to apologize. No hard feelings at all.” 

The words lift a bit of weight off his shoulders and loosen the knot in his stomach. He finds comfort in hearing that Taehyung isn’t going to hold it against him, even if he should. Because Jimin still finds something about Taehyung exciting. And he thinks he’d genuinely like to get to know him. Even just as friends. If Taehyung will allow it. 

Jimin’s response is delayed, so Taehyung prompts, “And the other reason you called?”

At that, Jimin smiles, feeling a bit silly for what he’s about to say. Continuing to scratch at the side of his head, Jimin says, “I’m not sure if you were serious or not, but you mentioned something about needing someone to take pictures of while you were in Seoul?”

There’s a pause on Taehyung’s end. 

Jimin’s heart slams in his ears so loud he almost doesn’t hear Taehyung respond.

“Mhm. You offering?”

Jimin’s heartbeat picks up speed. Thump, thump, thump, thump. But still, there’s a small smirk on his face as he replies, “Yeah, I guess I am.” 

Something about this feels adventurous, and Jimin loves adventures. There’s a tingling sensation that travels up and down the muscles in his legs.

“Do you work?” Taehyung asks. “I’m free Tuesday morning if that’s good for you.” 

There’s a passing thought in Jimin’s mind that wonders how Taehyung arrived in Seoul last night and already has his tomorrow and the day after booked. But he doesn’t question that aloud. Instead, he says, “I work the evening shift Tuesday. I could meet you in the morning. Any place in particular?”

“I hear there’s a park around here—Haneul Park? Reviews said it’s picturesque.” 

Easily, Jimin can imagine Taehyung making air quotes around the adjective. A playful dig at whoever wrote the review he most likely skimmed through on the park’s official website.

Jimin lifts his eyebrow and says teasingly, “Thought you weren’t a tourist.” 

“Not my fault Seoul’s tourist attractions also happen to be its prettiest landmarks,” is Taehyung’s response, a smile still apparent in his tone. “Besides, I never said I wasn’t a tourist. You’re just a tourist hater, apparently.” 

Jimin makes a sound of joking indifference. “Whatever,” he says. Then, “But Tuesday is perfect.”

“Cool, I’ll see you then,” Taehyung says breezily. He hangs up shortly after, promising to text Jimin the day before to confirm a time. 

As Jimin sips his tea—much closer to being cold than warm—he finds himself wondering if meeting at a park for a photoshoot counts as a date. 

There’s a part of him that sort of hopes it does. 

 

 

In hindsight, if Jimin would’ve known Taehyung wanted to meet at ass o’clock in the morning, he probably would’ve rethought his offering. Jimin isn’t a morning person in the slightest, but if Taehyung is always this bright-eyed before 8 a.m., he thinks he can learn to become one. 

When Jimin feigns a complaint about the ungodly hour, Taehyung tells him something about needing to catch the sunrise between certain hours to get the perfect shot. Photography nonsense that floats in one ear and out the other as Jimin rubs the sleep out of his eyes. 

The sky is a swirl of peach and burnt-yellow. Wisping powder-white clouds string over the budding sunrise, barely noticeable with the vibrant colors around them. Jimin stands with his arms over a black metal railing overlooking the hiking trail below, posing. 

Taehyung’s a few yards behind him with his expensive-looking camera secured between his slender fingers, squeezing one eye shut to look through the lens. His long tan trench coat flaps gently at the ends with the morning breeze. 

They’ve been at this for an hour already, and it’s been more painless than Jimin imagined. For two days prior, he agonized over not knowing what to say or looking like an absolute dufus in front of the camera. Worried himself sick. Thought Taehyung would take one picture of him and immediately feel nauseous at the results. 

None of that has happened, though. It’s easy, actually, spending time with Taehyung. And he’s got a knack for making people feel comfortable in front of his camera. He talks to Jimin casually as he snaps away. Perhaps he’s going for the candid look in these photos, Jimin’s not sure. 

The final shot ends with Taehyung crouching down. He holds the camera vertically, instructs Jimin to face him but to look away to highlight his profile, and takes the picture. Then Taehyung lets the camera slide away from his face, a smile appearing from behind the bulky device, and exclaims, “Done! You’re a natural.” 

Jimin breathes out, shocked, and a bit relieved. He’s heard nothing but positive feedback from Taehyung throughout the entire time, but his cheeks still burn hot at the compliment. He hopes Taehyung isn’t just saying that to spare his feelings. 

Skeptically, Jimin asks, “Really?” 

Taehyung smiles, standing up smoothly. He nods, dark curls bouncing on his head, and hums, “Mhm.”

Jimin’s not sure if he’s asking if they’re really done or if Taehyung really thinks he’s a natural. He doesn’t contemplate the specifics as he approaches Taehyung with his hand out, requesting, “Can I see?” 

When he’s close enough, Taehyung pulls his camera away from Jimin and says, “Impatient, huh?” 

Jimin can tell he’s teasing; it’s written all over the gentle smile on his face and the glimmer in his eye that outshines the sun. Jimin studies the angle of Taehyung’s jawline and the round of his cheeks when he smiles. He’s pretty, is Jimin’s recurring thought as they begin to walk down the trail together. 

When they’re side by side, shoulders barely brushing, Jimin corrects Taehyung’s observation with, “A perfectionist. I wanna see how the shots look.” 

Taehyung shakes his head. “I told you, you look good.” 

Jimin’s throat dries a little, instantly noting the difference between him asking if the shots look good and Taehyung assuring him he looks good. Maybe he doesn’t mean it the way Jimin’s thinking, probably assuming his reply is one and the same with telling Jimin the pictures came out well. Taehyung’s a bit of a challenge to read, but Jimin likes a good challenge. 

Reaching for the camera again, Jimin giggles as he says, “Lemme see,” and takes it from Taehyung’s hands. Taehyung doesn’t put up a fight this time; he laughs instead when Jimin jogs a few feet away, anticipating a chase that never comes. 

Jimin fumbles with the camera. It’s heavier than he thought it would be. But instead of reviewing the photos taken of him, he turns on the camera. He stops, waits for Taehyung to catch up, and then holds it out in front of them. 

“Smile,” Jimin sings playfully, elongating the vowel in the middle. He makes a funny face at the camera once Taehyung’s close enough. 

Taehyung’s chest rests against his back for a moment, gently knocking into him. Jimin tries not to overthink the closeness, presses his finger down on the button, and waits for the shutter sound to indicate the moment’s been captured. His left shoulder tingles where Taehyung’s touched him, yearning to feel it again.

Taehyung’s then at his side, peeking over at the camera as Jimin goes back to the main screen. He taps at buttons almost aimlessly until the camera roll appears. When Jimin sees the picture, he laughs a barking type of laugh, surprised to see Taehyung’s made a silly face at the camera too. He’s furrowing his eyebrows and scrunching his nose while Jimin is crossing his eyes and sticking his tongue out. 

Handing the camera back over, Jimin says, “Damn, I thought I was fast enough to catch you off guard.” 

Taehyung snickers. “Gotta be faster than that,” he says. Then, after staring down at the picture of them for a few moments, “It’s cute.” 

He turns off the camera and hangs it over his shoulder, carrying it like a bag. They walk in silence, but it’s not the awkward kind, Jimin notices. It’s peaceful; he listens to birds singing overhead and watches Seoul begin to wake up on the other side of the gate. 

“Anything close to here?” Taehyung asks, taking out his phone anyway like he’s going to look it up before Jimin has a chance to answer him. “I owe you a drink, right?” 

Although Taehyung informed Jimin that there wouldn’t be any payment involved for posing for him, he did promise some form of gratitude after. Just to say thank you. Considering it’s nearing nine in the morning, Jimin assumes the drink Taehyung’s referring to is a non-alcoholic one. If Jimin’s lucky, it’ll be filled with tons and tons of caffeine to get him through the rest of his day. 

Jimin wouldn’t want to take Taehyung’s money if he offered it anyway. It didn’t feel like work; he’s actually had fun. In fact, he’d absolutely do it again if Taehyung asks. 

 

 

Taehyung orders a hot chocolate the size of his head with a whipped cream mountain jutting out of the middle. The look on his face is priceless—eyes widening in astonishment and mouth dropping into an ‘O’ as the waitress sets it down in front of him. Oppositely, Jimin orders a medium iced coffee. Black, with six scoops of sugar. It comes in a plastic to-go container with a green straw.

“Not a coffee drinker?” Jimin asks, trying to spark conversation. Being around Taehyung isn’t awkward, but Jimin still prefers it if they don’t sit in silence. It gets a bit weird after a while, especially with the two of them so close in the booth. 

Waving his hand and scrunching his nose, Taehyung says, “I’ve got more energy than I know what to do with already. That stuff would drive me up a wall.”

He laughs it off immediately, but Jimin thinks there’s something else there. Hidden a bit under the playfully dismissive shake of his head. Something in the way Taehyung focuses on the effects of it being undesirable and not the taste. But it’s not his place to over-analyze or dig, Jimin decides. He lets it go.

Instead, Jimin inquires about Taehyung’s art. Asks him how long he’s been traveling around “looking for inspiration” in different cities. Because, if Jimin’s honest, it’s a bit odd to him. He and Taehyung are the same age, but Taehyung seems to be the complete opposite of him in so many ways. They’re basically from different planets. Aliens to one another.

He’s got more freedom than Jimin can imagine. Apparently, he just packs up and leaves for a new city whenever he feels like it. No obligations whatsoever. 

And Jimin doesn’t understand—it’s admirable in a way, but… doesn’t Taehyung have family or friends? Someone someplace that’s waiting for him? Anyone he keeps in touch with? Jimin imagines Taehyung’s life is much like being suspended continuously in the air, floating aimlessly. It seems lonely, and that thought makes Jimin’s heart ache for him. Maybe he’s being too much of a critic. 

“A few years ago, I sort of just got in my car and started driving,” Taehyung tells Jimin between slow sips of his drink. “And I dunno, I guess I just never stopped. I go wherever the art guides me.” 

Jimin tries to imagine a life like that. It seems out of a movie. Easily, Jimin can hear the pitch—a mysterious, attractive artist embarks on a soul-searching journey across South Korea! It reads prettily, like something teenagers dream of when life gets hard. But Jimin can’t imagine the type of life Taehyung must’ve lived for it to transition to this. 

He regrets it as soon as it leaves his mouth, but Jimin asks, “Are you… running from something?” 

There’s a visible halt in Taehyung’s body, momentarily freezing at Jimin’s question. And it’s then, in that split second, Jimin realizes how much Taehyung was moving before. The constant jittering of his foot under the table, gently vibrating their drinks. His middle finger tap, tap, tapping on the giant porcelain mug. But with the table suddenly still and Taehyung’s eyes—a piercing kind of dark now—looking straight at him, Jimin feels nervous. 

He’s crossed a line, he thinks. Touched on a subject that’s sensitive to Taehyung. He has no idea how Taehyung even could’ve answered that. 

Jimin and Taehyung are strangers. Maybe a little closer to acquaintances now, but still far from friends nonetheless. A quick analysis of their relationship, or lack thereof, allows Jimin to quickly see he’s asked something he shouldn’t have. Because if Taehyung is running from something, well, Jimin knows it’s none of his damn business. 

Taehyung’s Adam’s apple bobs visibly as he swallows. Then, like he’s mentally dusting himself off, Taehyung clears his throat and asks, “You said you work tonight, right? Where do you work?”

Message received. Taehyung absolutely does not want to talk about whatever might stem from Jimin’s question. Fair. Understood. Jimin mentally apologizes a thousand times. 

And just like that, their conversation returns, but it’s nothing like before. Tension is present now. Jimin feels a black cloud looming over them, just waiting to strike lightning and break their table in two at the next instance of discomfort. 

But he’s hypervigilant of Taehyung’s body language now, watching for signs that their talk is veering off in a direction Taehyung would prefer it didn’t. They both intentionally keep their conversation light, speaking about movies and television.

Jimin doesn’t consider himself an open book, but he thinks he opens up a little quicker than Taehyung. Something about Taehyung’s bright personality and his impressive social skills makes him appear like someone who would tell his life story in a minute. Jimin has learned today that’s not the case at all. 

Information about Taehyung seems to be earned when he feels comfortable. Jimin respects that. 

They don’t stay at the coffee shop much longer. In the time they spend, Jimin tells Taehyung about his job at the restaurant and his experience in college majoring in business administration. Taehyung says he never went to college, but admires the ones who can sit in a classroom and soak up large amounts of information at a time. 

Asking Taehyung how he developed his art skills if he didn’t study in school is on the tip of Jimin’s tongue when Taehyung’s phone begins to ring. An orchestral sound for a ringtone that Jimin absolutely did not expect. It stops Jimin dead in his tracks, but he urges Taehyung to answer his call, promising he doesn’t find it rude. 

Taehyung’s end of the conversation is nothing short of a few hums and then a promise that he was on his way. When he hangs up, he looks across the table at Jimin with remorseful eyes and says, “I have to go, I’m sorry.” 

He reaches out, nearly touches Jimin’s hand for just a moment, and then stands to fetch money from his wallet. Taehyung leaves enough on the table to pay for both of their drinks, winking at Jimin as he sets the bills down. 

“For the shoot,” Taehyung says. Then, catching Jimin a bit off guard, “Did you mean what you said earlier?” 

He adjusts his jacket on his shoulder and then reaches for his camera. As he settles, his eyes fall onto Jimin. 

Before Jimin has a chance to pick his brain for what he possibly could’ve said earlier, Taehyung clarifies, “Showing me around? You said you’d take me to some cool places I might like to photograph.” 

Jimin’s impressed, Taehyung’s recall is fantastic. The vague memory of Jimin promising that in passing comes back to him. Jimin fuzzily remembers promising it at the bar the other night. He did mean it, though. And he’s a bit relieved Taehyung still wants to take him up on the offer considering the awkward stretch in their conversation not too long ago. 

If Taehyung wanted it to be, this could’ve been the last time he and Jimin saw each other. Jimin understands that completely. But he burrows himself in what it might mean that Taehyung’s setting up another meeting between the two of them. 

Nodding, Jimin says, “Yeah, sure. Just let me know when you’re free.” 

Taehyung’s eyes perk up and fuck if this is the way his face gets when Jimin agrees to something, he’ll never tell him no a day in his life. Jimin thinks he’s staring, so he forces himself to look away. He focuses his eyes on his coffee and swirls around the ice cubes mindlessly. 

“Perfect, thanks,” Taehyung says, digging for his phone like he’s checking the time. He begins walking away as he says, “I’ll text you, okay? Thanks again for modeling for me!” 

Before Jimin has a chance to answer, Taehyung’s out the door and walking down the street. 

Jimin’s heart is pounding in his chest even minutes after Taehyung’s gone, and he doesn’t think it has anything to do with a caffeine rush. 

 

 

There’s a chill that notoriously greets Jimin mere seconds after he opens his apartment door. One that rushes from the coldest point in Antarctica, travels at light speed across the Yellow Sea, and straight through his window. And then it freezes the marrow in his bones and forms an icy layer over his heart. 

It reminds him time and time again that he’s alone. The apartment always seems suspiciously colder after a breakup.

Jimin shimmies his jean jacket off his shoulders and tosses it over the back of his black desk chair, walking toward his couch. His footsteps echo off the hardwood floor. Each meeting of the soles of his shoes with the ground is amplified, reverberating off the kitchen and living room walls. 

Although the bad in the relationship heavily outweighed the good, Jimin got used to coming home to someone. Despite the move-in never being official, his ex, Kiwoo, always seemed to be planted on Jimin’s couch when he came home from work. 

He had a bad habit of making Jimin fight for his attention, though. Often chose television, video games, his phone, and other distractions over him. Toward the end, Jimin discovered Kiwoo’s favorite distraction from him was other people. 

Jimin would plop down next to Kiwoo on the couch and kiss at his neck until he was finally given a proper hello. At least, Kiwoo’s version of a hello. Which was usually a grunt followed by a chaste peck on the cheek.

And at the time, Jimin was able to convince himself that little instances like that were a game. Told himself that Kiwoo loves him wholeheartedly deep down, he just got a rise out of making Jimin work for it. Jimin made himself believe a lot of things to avoid the truth.

Looking back even further, Jimin’s not too in denial to not notice a pattern in his relationships. He doesn’t like to dwell on it, but he sees it. Despite being unable to decipher it while in the relationships, Jimin knows that he’s been consistently mistreated. Disrespected and lied to. Deceived and played. It seems he has a type: asshole

But over time, somehow, his brain began believing those were the types of relationships he deserves. Because at least he has someone. And without meaning to, he sought out the same kind of emotionally unavailable, unfaithful lover over and over. 

This is a brand new territory for him, but Jimin’s working on his thinking pattern. Actively attempting to replace his negative thoughts about himself with positive ones. Because he knows somewhere in his heart that he doesn’t deserve to be treated the way he has been. But there’s a stubborn, fucked up part of his brain that tells him he’s somehow incomplete without a boyfriend. And he knows that’s not true. He knows, he knows. But it’s another thing he’s trying to unlearn. It all takes time.

Jimin stretches his legs out on the couch and sighs at all the open space he has now. Then, immediately he gets angry at himself for missing someone who treated him like a nuisance. Maybe he’ll get a cat or something to fill the void. At least pets love unconditionally.

It’s a weird place he’s floating in emotionally. The constant tug back and forth between missing Kiwoo and then getting angry at himself for doing so. Mentally slaps himself each time he misses his touch or his kiss or his smile.

He knows it’s okay to mourn the ending of a relationship, no matter how bad. There were good times, and that’s what he’s remembering. But he’s careful not to make excuses for Kiwoo. And he reminds himself that the bad times often outweighed the good by a long shot. It wasn’t a healthy relationship, Jimin sees that clearly now.

At that moment, Jimin begins to question whether he actually misses Kiwoo or simply misses the feeling of being in a relationship—of having someone he’s able to call his. Something tangible for him to fall back on in the attempt to prove to himself he’s not as lonely as he always, always feels. 

But admittedly, he’s not quite ready to unpack that just yet. So he finds the remote to his television and lets a late-night sitcom slowly melt his brain into mush. 

 

 

Seoul, Jimin decides, is much prettier at night. He’s happy Taehyung gets to experience it. A dark indigo-grey sky blankets the Earth as they walk nearly shoulder to shoulder. It’s late, so the streets are busy with pedestrians and cars. 

Tall, thin apartment buildings with scattered lights run parallel to one another on either side of the sidewalk. Below the residences, small businesses with bright, welcoming signs in baby blues and fuchsias flash to attract customers. It’s captivating, Seoul’s nightlife. 

Fresh off of a light rainstorm, the concrete and sidewalks glimmer like stars and reflect off passing cars. Small puddles dyed deep green, crisp yellow, and blood-red paint the street, changing with the stoplights. Jimin captures these images in his mind, stores them somewhere for him to recall later. For a reason he can’t pin down at the moment, he thinks tonight is going to be worth remembering. 

The two are on their way to one of Jimin’s favorite spots. A little place right on the corner of 5th street that only opens after 10 p.m. The vibe is something Jimin is almost sure Taehyung’s going to be into. It’s got an old school feel—a jukebox in the corner, neon signs, a pool table, and ketchup still in glass bottles. 

It’s a place that older people tend to flock to understandably, as it intentionally mimics decades passed, but something about Taehyung tells Jimin he’s a bit of an old soul. Jimin loves it here; he comes with his friends every few weeks and just soaks up the atmosphere. 

“Oh, whoa,” Taehyung says as he follows behind Jimin through the thick wooden door. The song playing inside is one Jimin remembers his mother humming as she did chores around the house, and there are men at the bar area that remind Jimin of his uncles. All mustaches and round-framed glasses and cigars. 

There’s a booth in the back that Jimin tends to claim as his own whenever he’s here. He likes to people-watch, even when he’s out with his friends. So sitting back here gives him the advantage of seeing everyone. 

As he walks, Jimin gestures around them and says, “This is one of my favorite places. Figured it was a pretty good last stop of the night.” 

Jimin has shown Taehyung the train station, the best restaurants in town, a few bars, and some of the other parks nearby. He skipped the coffee shops, but did point out one because they have the best muffins Jimin’s ever had. He made Taehyung promise to stop by to try one before he leaves Seoul. 

For his photography, Jimin took Taehyung to a cemetery. Not the most exciting place, but it’s got the prettiest weeping willow Jimin’s ever seen. He figured Taehyung would appreciate it. 

Taehyung asked Jimin to pose under its hanging leaves, and he remembers how his heart pounded a little when Taehyung complimented him. Then, they went to the edge of the city so Taehyung could see the skyline. Together they sat in comfortable silence as they watched the busyness—a blurred mix of zooming cars and flashing lights below.

After, Jimin brought him down the path he used to take to class, noting the bushes and the scenery. Then, they wandered around for what must’ve been hours just talking. Because now it’s almost midnight and Jimin’s legs are begging for him to sit down. 

Pretty good?” Taehyung questions back in disbelief. “Jimin, this place is amazing.” 

In his peripheral, Jimin sees Taehyung gently touching the decorations like an intrigued toddler. Souvenirs from who-knows-when adorn the wooden walls and hang from the ceiling. Small accessories are arbitrarily on the bar and used as centerpieces in the booths that line the wall. 

There are no servers here, so Jimin approaches the bartender and orders two beers. He pays and then heads back to their booth, sliding one across the table for Taehyung. Jimin’s thigh muscles thank him for finally taking a rest. 

“Hope the tour wasn’t boring,” Jimin says a little sheepishly, sipping his drink. Jimin knows Taehyung seemed pleased and genuinely impressed with every place he showed him, but maybe he was just being polite. 

Taehyung’s scrolling back through his camera roll, revisiting pictures he snapped earlier, head tipped downward. Jimin’s eyes follow the curls in his hair, momentarily wondering if they’re as soft as they look. His hand twitches under the table, so he plants his leg on top of it, smothering the urge to reach out and touch. 

When he picks his head up, Taehyung says, “All the places you showed me were so cool. Much better than the generic attractions overview I would’ve gotten anywhere else. The places we went made me feel like I was actually learning Seoul. I loved it.” 

Pride glows in Jimin’s chest. He smiles, unable to resist doing so, and then says, “Happy to help.” 

Taehyung’s cute when he’s excited, Jimin notices over and over. It’s contagious—Taehyung’s smile, Taehyung’s glow, Taehyung’s everything. Jimin leans across the table to look at the pictures on the camera, pointing out his favorite ones and offering up praise for Taehyung’s ability to capture such calmness in the midst of all of Seoul’s activeness. 

“I wanna go back to that cemetery in the evening,” Taehyung says, spinning his beer bottle more than he’s drinking from it. The rotation makes Jimin dizzy when he follows along. He wonders if Taehyung’s not a fan of beer, and that’s why he’s not drinking it. 

Continuing after Jimin nods in acknowledgment, Taehyung tells him, “I think I could get some really charming shots. Especially if I’m able to catch someone sitting by a tombstone in the distance and the tree in the foreground. I know it sounds kinda morbid, but—”

“No, I get what you mean,” Jimin cuts in. “The silhouette of someone with the colors of the sun setting in the background would be beautiful.”

Taehyung stops for a moment, and Jimin feels a balloon inflating in his throat, fearing he’s said something wrong. But then a smile crawls across Taehyung’s face and an expression like he’s impressed with Jimin appears. 

“Yeah, exactly,” Taehyung replies softly. “That’s what I meant. You get it.” 

Jimin and Taehyung share a look—at least, Jimin swears it’s one. Their gaze holds on each other for only a few seconds, but Jimin thinks maybe they lived through a life or two. Jimin feels his pulse quickening, and his palms helplessly begin to sweat. He cups his chilled beer between his hands to mask it. 

It’s Jimin who looks away first, unable to breathe correctly. His eyes scan aimlessly around the room and then fall somewhere in Taehyung’s hair as he says with a shrug, “Took photography as an elective in high school. I’m not any good, but I remember some things.” 

His only response is a soft smile from Taehyung and the continuous spinning of his bottle on the table. So Jimin clears his throat and asks, “Um... do you know how long you’re planning to stay here?” 

And he hopes he isn’t coming off as intruding, he’s just genuinely curious. Although Taehyung has told Jimin a little more about his art and the benefits of traveling from city to city, Jimin still doesn’t quite comprehend. Maybe it’s a science only Taehyung fully grasps. But if Taehyung will let him, Jimin would at least like to get a better understanding. 

“I dunno,” Taehyung says lightly. His smile lingers almost awkwardly, an invisible hook caught on the left side of his mouth. But there isn’t a change in his microexpressions like last time. Jimin breathes slowly, waiting for Taehyung to continue. 

He says, “There just comes a time when the city no longer excites me. When I feel like I’ve seen all I need to see and there’s nothing left for me. So… I leave.” 

Jimin raises his eyebrow. “Just like that?” 

Taehyung shrugs. “Just like that.”

For a moment, Jimin wonders what it’s like to be that person. To be the one that leaves someone or something or someplace. Jimin’s only ever been on the opposite end. But the way Taehyung talks about leaving one city for another one that’s more captivating makes Jimin wonder if that’s how all of his exes felt about leaving him. He wonders if they were relieved. 

“Don’t you miss it?” Jimin asks, taking a long sip of his beer. 

“Miss what?” Taehyung gives him a look Jimin’s unfamiliar with. 

Shrugging, Jimin explains, “The places you were in before? The people you met? The things you experienced there?” 

Taehyung takes a moment to think. Jimin watches him swallow and then scratch just above his ear. Instead of spinning his bottle, Taehyung’s now pushing it the short distance between his hands. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. 

“Well—” Taehyung says, but then he stops again. 

He’s choosing his words carefully, and something about that makes Jimin’s chest feel tight. There’s a barely-there pout resting gently on Taehyung’s lips as he thinks. 

Eventually, Taehyung settles on, “That’s why I take pictures—to remember. The places and the experiences, I mean. In a way, I always have them with me.” 

And Jimin can’t help it, can’t resist. Maybe he’s seeking some type of hint or validation, but he asks, “And the people? Do you ever miss them?” 

Taehyung’s quiet then. He bites his bottom lip, and Jimin watches his teeth indent the skin. There’s an expression on Taehyung’s face that Jimin doesn’t know him well enough to read. Sadness? Longing? Regret? 

Jimin’s throat feels as tight as his chest as he waits for Taehyung’s answer. A stretched few seconds that feel like hours.

Eventually, he tells Jimin, “Not usually.”

Something inside Jimin hardens around his heart, and the lump in his throat returns. He thinks about taking another sip of his beer, but he isn’t sure that will help. 

Emptily, Jimin clears his throat and says, “Oh.” 

That settles that, Jimin thinks. No matter what, Jimin’s fated to be a fading memory of Taehyung’s once he moves on to another city. It hurts a little, but he’s not sure why. He and Taehyung barely know one another. This should mean nothing.

Taehyung’s still staring at Jimin with that look he can’t decipher, making his skin crawl. He wants to dig deeper and ask Taehyung what the hell is the point of going from place to place if he doesn’t bother making connections. Wants to ask him why he chooses to be alone when he could find someone easily in any city he visits and make a home out of them. Wants to know—

“But… Seoul might be different. Who knows, right?” Taehyung adds, breaking Jimin’s thoughts. Still, he’s pushing his bottle. Back and forth. Back and forth. 

Now Jimin’s breathing comes more labored like he’s inhaling through a straw. He has no idea what Taehyung means by that. It’s possible it means nothing at all, and Jimin just wants it to mean something. Reading between the lines for the small print that isn’t there. But Jimin could swear Taehyung’s hinting at something. 

Jimin clears his throat again, and then it’s his turn to bite his lip. When he swallows, he’s painfully aware of how tight his throat muscles still are. His collar bones ache, his jaw is tense, his nose burns. 

When Jimin finds his voice, it’s a bit weak. Forcing a smile, he tells Taehyung, “Yeah, Seoul’s full of surprises.” 

 

 

Jimin has to work in the morning, so they leave the bar not too long after finishing their drinks. Like before, their conversation circles back and lands at a place that isn’t uncomfortable or awkward. As they walk from the lounge, Jimin fills the silence by telling Taehyung about an anime he started watching. 

Earlier, Taehyung parked his car in the back of Jimin’s apartment complex to explore Seoul on foot. When they arrive back at Jimin’s place, Jimin offers to walk Taehyung to his car, not wanting the night to end. 

Taehyung drives something that resembles a plumber’s van, and Jimin quirks a questioning eyebrow as they approach it. It’s huge, white in color, and seems to have Taehyung’s personalized designs all over it. A pretty, gigantic flower in a dark purple is painted on the side. Various other drawings are placed on the truck’s white paint, but it’s too dark for Jimin to decipher, and he doesn’t want to look like he’s staring—or judging.

He must fail at it, though, because Taehyung chuckles softly and says, “It’s not the nicest, but it always gets me to where I need to be. Plus, all of my art supplies and clothes fit in the back.” 

Shaking his head, Jimin starts to say, “I wasn’t—”

“You were,” Taehyung tells him, smiling. “But it’s okay. I get it. Trust me, I’d judge me, too.” 

At that, Jimin has to giggle. He’s glad Taehyung’s not annoyed or offended but mentally reminds himself to keep his facial expressions in check. 

Getting to know someone is hard, and learning what presses their buttons is always a challenge. Jimin doesn’t think he’s put in this much effort to know someone in a long time. And shockingly, it feels good. Feels like he’s getting somewhere. Like maybe it has a purpose.

“I had a cool-looking convertible when I first started traveling. But before I knew it, I had too many clothes and too many art supplies,” Taehyung laughs again softly. “I had to get something more accommodating.” 

There’s a breeze that prettily tousles Taehyung’s hair, black curls falling over black curls. He stands with his shoulder blades against his van, hands shoved in his gray hoodie. He bounces in place, Jimin assumes for warmth, and his eyes glimmer brighter than the stars when they meet Jimin’s. 

“Thanks again for tonight,” Taehyung says, voice soft and smooth. There’s a streetlight to Taehyung’s right that casts a dull yellow hue on his face. “I had a really great time.”

Jimin’s fingers itch to tuck Taehyung’s hair behind his ear. It’s then that Jimin realizes how close they’re standing—only a few feet between them. Feels like centimeters, though. And despite the dropped temperature and the breeze, all Jimin feels is warmth. Like the two of them are in a bubble, gravity slowly pulling them closer. 

“Yeah, me too,” Jimin says. Then, “If you ever wanna explore some more, just text me. Or, y’know, if you need a muse again.” 

He thinks he sounds silly or maybe too forward, so quickly suggesting they see each other again. But then he also thinks about how within the first few hours of meeting, Jimin offered Taehyung a drunken hookup. In comparison, he’s moving slow. 

There’s a warm smile on Taehyung’s face. His cheeks round cutely when he smiles like this, and Jimin feels his heart fluttering. Naturally, Jimin smiles back. 

“Yeah, definitely,” Taehyung says, nodding. He licks his lips and then nibbles on his bottom one. And Jimin can’t help it, he watches the movement closely. Jimin lets out a deep breath through his nose and takes a step closer. 

The end of their conversation is dangerously near, but Jimin doesn’t want to go inside. Doesn’t want to stop talking. Doesn’t want to stop looking at Taehyung. Doesn’t want to leave without at least a goodnight kiss or something that tells Jimin that Taehyung’s into him too. Because Jimin doesn’t care if Taehyung’s leaving Seoul soon. He’s here now, and for the moment, that’s all that counts. 

Thinking quickly, Jimin stumbles out, “Wh-where are you staying while you’re here? I’m sure I know a few cool spots by your place.” 

An apprehensive type of smile appears on Taehyung’s face as he takes a hand out of his pocket to pat his car. 

“Here, most nights,” he tells Jimin. “Motels when it’s too cold and I want a real bed.” 

Again, Jimin’s sure he’s failed at keeping his facial expressions in check. But this time, he knows what’s displayed on his face isn’t judgment or mocking, it’s concern. 

Jimin feels his eyebrows scrunching like he’s going to ask a question, but all that comes out is, “Oh…”

He’s not too sure where he expected Taehyung to live when he travels so frequently, but Jimin guesses he wasn’t expecting it to be his car. Perhaps a rented room somewhere, or an Airbnb, or a hotel. It doesn’t make Jimin sad because he knows this is Taehyung’s lifestyle, and he’s okay. But it does stun him a little. 

Before he can think about it, Jimin offers, “Do you wanna come inside?”

Taehyung smiles and looks away. “Jimin, I—”

Then Jimin squeezes his eyes shut, shaking his head. He clarifies in a rush, “No, like… to sleep. That’s all. You can take my couch. I don’t mind, really.”

This isn’t like Jimin. He doesn’t typically offer up his couch to a stranger. But he guesses Taehyung isn’t much of a stranger anymore. This night was good for them—Jimin thinks they’ve become more comfortable around one another. 

Shrugging, Taehyung gestures with his head toward the van and says, “Nah, it’s alright, thanks. This thing’s got a sunroof. Sleeping under the stars is amazing. I really love it. You should try it sometime.” 

It requires effort for Jimin to smile this time, attempting to process everything. 

Like he’s trying to prove to Jimin that he’s alright, Taehyung tells him, “I do it because I want to. I make enough money off selling my art and freelancing to stay at a motel every night. But like I said, I like sleeping under the stars.” Then, Taehyung giggles and says, “Might hit you up for your shower, though. I think the local gym is getting sick of me.”

At that, Jimin laughs. One that makes him double over and cover his mouth with his hand. When he recovers a few moments later, he nods in Taehyung’s direction. 

He tells him, “Anytime.” 

“You’re the best,” is Taehyung’s response, light and breezy as always. Jimin envies that. Everything Taehyung says and does come off so effortless and carefree. 

Jimin takes in a deep breath and then lets it out slowly. If there was a moment between them before, he thinks it’s gone now. There’s a piece of him that’s disappointed, and he hopes he’ll see Taehyung again. Maybe sooner than later. But with no new plan in place, Jimin feels doubt beginning to swarm his brain.

Reaching out to touch Taehyung’s arm, Jimin says, “Well… goodnight. Sleep well.” 

Taehyung smiles at him. He pulls his hood over his head and tells Jimin, “Yeah, you too. G’night.” 

At that, Taehyung unlocks the driver’s side door and gets inside the van. Jimin takes a step back to give the car room and listens to the engine turn over. He finds himself memorizing the flower on the side of Taehyung’s van, like he’ll have any trouble recognizing the car if he sees it again. 

The headlights come on, and music starts playing from the radio loudly. An upbeat rap song Jimin’s unfamiliar with. Taehyung rolls down the window and rests his elbow on the door, then waves. 

And just like that, he’s gone. Puts his car in drive, heads for the street, and honks at Jimin as he merges into traffic. Jimin watches Taehyung’s car until he makes a right at the stop sign and disappears. 

Jimin stuffs his hands back in his pockets and begins walking inside. As he does, a million things from tonight replay in his mind, but he mostly wonders if tonight is the last time he’ll ever see Taehyung. 

If it is, the only thing Jimin regrets is not kissing him goodnight. 

 

 

The days of the week seem to melt into one another, and soon Jimin loses track of time. He’s been working a lot more lately—the restaurant continuously being understaffed due to callouts. And so he’s been waking up with the sun and coming home with the moon for too many days to keep straight. It gets to a point where he begins dreaming of customers’ dinner orders, and his clothes smell of garlic. 

By the time Jimin gets a day off, it’s Thursday of the next week, and he spends most of it in bed attempting to sleep back the hours he’s lost. 

And it’s only then, in the quiet of his apartment and the emptiness of his bed, that he realizes he and Taehyung haven’t spoken in about a week. Not since the night Jimin showed him around Seoul. 

It’s weird because Jimin could swear he and Taehyung had a great time. And maybe they did. He guesses he just expected that they would’ve continued to talk the next day or something. 

But now it’s been several days, and he can’t help but think he’s been embellishing his time with Taehyung. Seeing and hearing what he wants because he’s into Taehyung. Perhaps he wasn’t flirting at all, and his comment about Seoul being different actually meant nothing. 

For what it’s worth, Jimin’s been thinking about Taehyung a lot. He just can’t say for sure that Taehyung’s been thinking about him too. 

Without meaning to, Taehyung’s smile flashes before Jimin’s eyes as he serves a table. Just for an instant. There and then gone. And at that moment, Jimin attempts to make a mental note to reach out when he gets a minute. Just a text to say hi or something. But then the restaurant would get busy, and then he would get swarmed with work, causing him to forget. 

However, the phone works both ways. Jimin is well aware. He tries not to imply too much negativity about Taehyung not texting him first. It’s just as possible that he’s been busy as well. Although he’s new to town, Taehyung always seems to have a packed schedule. Maybe he’s been wanting to text Jimin too, but life keeps getting in the way. 

Jimin sleeps on and off in bed until a familiar but obnoxious knock awakens him in the early evening. He toes on slippers and rubs his eye as his door swings inward. Hoseok is standing on the other side, a gigantic wine bottle in one hand and two bags of chips in the other. 

“It’s Thirsty Thursday!”

That’s Hoseok’s greeting as he pushes past Jimin and makes himself more than at home in the kitchen. Jimin watches him rummage through his wooden drawers for a corkscrew, and then into the cabinet above the sink for glasses. 

As he sits down at the island in the middle of his kitchen and watches Hoseok fill his glass to the brim, Jimin’s first thought is that he hasn’t eaten today. His second thought is that he doesn’t care. Despite the second thought, he grabs an apple from the bowl to his left and takes two huge bites. 

“So,” Hoseok says a little nervously. He lifts an eyebrow in Jimin’s direction and asks, “How have you been?”

He’s referencing the breakup, Jimin knows. Understandably, he’s worried. History tells them both that Jimin is notoriously a mess after his breakups. Known to knock on Hoseok’s door at unforgivable hours in the morning to scream or cry or both. 

The aftermath is usually messier than this—Jimin’s mood tends to tank, and he falls into this bout of depression that feels all-consuming. In a haze for weeks after, Jimin usually numbs his pain with random hookups and many trips to the bar until his brain makes his heart believe he’s over it. 

But this time? This time around he’s doing pretty okay. He’s not exactly sure what to credit it to, though. Maybe his hectic schedule is working in his favor. He’s not able to dwell on the breakup or give his brain a chance to convince itself it was all his fault it didn’t work out. Or maybe he’s just growing. He sees his life a little differently now. 

Shrugging, Jimin tells his friend, “I’ve been okay. Just working, mostly.” 

Hoseok gives him a look. One that tells Jimin he doesn’t believe him. 

Sitting up a little straighter to defend himself, Jimin says, “I’m serious, hyung! I’m okay...ish. I mean, it sucks that it’s over, but it was for the best, right? Jerk was cheating on me. There was no reason to stay.” 

Jimin watches Hoseok lift himself onto the counter. He takes the glass in his hand and lets his legs swing, heels of his gray sneakers knocking gently against the cabinets behind them. Keeping his eyes down for a bit, Hoseok looks like he’s thinking. 

A moment later, his eyes meet with Jimin’s, and he says simply, “I’m proud of you.” 

“I—huh?” Jimin’s hand stops halfway, halting his glass between his lips. He pulls it away slowly, waiting. He’s sure he’s looking at Hoseok with a confused expression. 

When Hoseok smiles, it always lights up the room. So naturally, when he does, Jimin feels something warm in his chest just seeing it. And there’s a look in Hoseok’s eye Jimin hasn’t seen since they used to dance together, and Jimin would nail an incredibly difficult choreography with ease. 

He says, “I mean it, I’m proud of you. You and I both know this whole thing usually goes a lot differently. But you’re not moping around in bed, you’re not crying, you broke up with him. Just… good for you, Jiminie.” 

Jimin tips his head down, but a smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. If he’s honest, he’s proud of himself, too. And even prouder that his friend can see a positive change within him. Because he’s right, Jimin is usually a lot worse off at this point. And it’s not to say he feels completely put-together right now, but he’s one thousand percent better than he has been in breakups past. 

Maybe Hoseok’s right. It might have something to do with Jimin being the one ending it this time. In his heart, Jimin still feels like his ex left him first because the cheating occurred months before the breakup did. But this is the first time Jimin’s ended a relationship. He’s just tired of being treated like shit. 

Finally, taking a big sip, Jimin thanks Hoseok and then tries to move the conversation elsewhere. Jimin asks Hoseok about work at the dance studio, his sister, and his other friends that he sees often. But as usual, the conversation circles back to Jimin and his relationships. 

Wagging his eyebrows now, Hoseok asks, “Oh! Have you still been talking to that hot photographer-dude? What’s his name? Taejeong?” 

Taehyung,” Jimin corrects with a roll of his eyes. Then, “And no, not really. Not since the last time I told you about him. I haven’t texted him.”

As his best friend, Jimin tells Hoseok just about everything. Even pitiful stories about him getting turned down at the bar by gorgeous, mysterious city-hoppers. And even more pitiful follow-up stories about calling said gorgeous, mysterious city-hopper the morning after to apologize and see about the modeling offer proposed the night before. Hoseok is well aware that Jimin is intrigued by Taehyung for one reason or another. And as a great best friend, he supports Jimin even when the situation is iffy.

A lopsided frown droops on Hoseok’s face when he asks, “Think maybe he’s just not interested? He has your number, too.”

It stings Jimin’s heart a little to hear that. Not because he’s desperate, but because he could swear Taehyung is interested. Jimin knows how this looks. He knows the odds are seemingly against him. Especially considering he was shot down the first night they met. But not everyone’s into hooking up, and Jimin can never hold that against Taehyung. 

He knows that typically any rejection indicates that two people are going nowhere, but there’s something about the way Taehyung looks at him. Something in the tone of his voice, and his smile, and the little comments he makes. Something in the electricity in the air whenever Taehyung is near. Jimin knows he’s not imagining those things. 

“I don’t know,” Jimin mumbles. He takes a sip of his drink and lets the wine sit on his tongue for a moment. When he swallows, he tells Hoseok, “He’s just hard to read. I could swear he’s into me, but—”

“Maybe he’s just a flirt, Jimin,” Hoseok cuts him off, short and not-so-sweet. He shrugs as he says, “If this guy goes all over as frequently as he says, he’s not looking for anything serious. You are, though.”

Jimin clicks his tongue. “I don’t know what I’m looking for anymore, hyung.” 

“I feel you,” Hoseok says, taking a dramatic sip from his glass. 

Hoseok had his fair share of disappointing relationships in the past, but he’s been doing well with Yoongi. Going on half a year of them dating and they’re disgustingly happy. The type of couple that presents as complete opposites but work well together. Jimin thinks he’s just trying to show solidarity, and he loves him for that. But Hoseok has found exactly what he’s been looking for in Yoongi. They balance each other in a way that’s admirable. Jimin only hopes he’ll be lucky enough to find that someday. 

Leaning back in his chair, Jimin looks up at the slowly rotating wooden ceiling fan and whines, “I just wanna have fun.” 

He feels Hoseok looking at him, so he continues. Huffs out a breath of air through his nose and says, “I just want someone I can do things with. Someone that’s interesting and makes me laugh. Someone—”

“—that travels from city to city in a customized creepy van?” Hoseok adds, giggling. 

Jimin flips him off. “Fuck you. But also… yes. Maybe? Whatever. Hanging out with Taehyung is fun. And he’s easy to talk to, and he’s interesting. He’s different than anyone I’ve ever met.” Jimin slumps in his chair, letting out a defeated breath when he sees the way Hoseok is looking at him. He rolls his eyes and mumbles, “I dunno, hyung. I can’t explain it.”

Intentionally, Jimin skips over the awkward speed bumps in their conversations from time to time. But personally, Jimin would like to chalk that up to simply getting to know one another. They’re always able to pull their conversation back, and they’ve never ended on a sour note. Jimin thinks that has to count for something. 

Resting with his head against the cabinet behind him, Hoseok brushes chip crumbs off his black sweatpants before he asks, “So, what? This means you’re gonna text him?”

Jimin pouts. “Should I?”

Shrugging, Hoseok says, “I’m not gonna tell you not to.”

Forcing a laugh, Jimin asks, “Isn’t this the part where you lecture me on moving on too fast? Remind me to let my heart heal or whatever? Something about me not being able to fuck the pain away?”

“Clearly that shit doesn’t work on you,” Hoseok says, flinging a chip in Jimin’s direction. It lands somewhere on the tile floor. Neither of them moves to pick it up. Continuing, Hoseok tells Jimin, “You’re twenty-four years old. I’m your hyung, not your babysitter. Do what you want. Do who you want at whatever time you want. Just be careful.” 

Jimin’s trying to be careful. And he’s trying to be logical as well as objective. He knows these things are true: one, he and Taehyung haven’t spoken in about a week. Two, it’s possible he’s misreading the situation. Three, Taehyung is leaving Seoul most likely sooner than later. And four, the chances of this turning into something real are slim. 

But Jimin also knows this is true: he wants to see Taehyung again. Plain and simple. There’s something about the way he feels when he’s with him that he can’t ignore. He wants to see him.

At least, he wants to try. Just one more time to see if what he thinks he felt last time is still there. That spark, that pull, that something that left Jimin’s soul yearning for the feeling back. Jimin believes it’s at least worth a shot. 

Crossing his arms now, Jimin ponders, “Maybe I’ll text him tomorrow.” 

He says it like a test for his own ears. He surveys how that sounds aloud; weighs the possible pros and cons of putting himself back out there. When Jimin’s statement is met with silence, his eyes shift back over to Hoseok with a questioning look.

All Hoseok offers is a rather indifferent shrug. Jimin knows he cares, though. But it’s exhausting keeping up with his love life, and he knows it. He doesn’t blame Hoseok for taking a step back this time around. 

But after a few beats of silence, Hoseok mumbles, “Rather him than Kiwoo, so...” 

Jimin’s also a bit notorious for calling his exes after a few weeks. As expected, it never ends well. Hoseok has told Jimin it seems he never learns, but Jimin thinks maybe he has now. Because he doesn’t have any urges to call his ex at all. Actually, the thought of it kind of makes him nauseous. But that might just be the white wine and four bites of apple unhappily settling in his stomach. 

“Haven’t been thinking about him much,” Jimin says. 

Hoseok raises his eyebrows. 

Much?” Then, “Jimin, I love you, but if you let this guy back in your life—into your heart… well, I’m not gonna do anything to you. But you might have to come to bail me out of jail when he goes missing, and I’m the suspect.”

Jimin smiles, but mostly because it’s the only thing he can do. Despite Kiwoo creeping into his mind at his weakest moments, Jimin’s been able to resist picking up the phone. He hasn’t even checked up on him via social media. He’s been doing all he can to stay away from him and focused on other things. 

Kiwoo has called him once, though. Jimin isn’t going to tell Hoseok, mostly because nothing came of it, but it definitely felt like a test. Luckily, he called while Jimin was on shift, and his phone was in his locker. His heart stopped when he saw who his missed call was from. But even then, even that night, Jimin didn’t cave and call him back. Kiwoo’s always been a good manipulator. Jimin thinks maybe he’s starting to see through that now. 

“I’ll text Taehyung tomorrow,” Jimin says, sharp like a verdict. “What’s the worst thing that can happen, right?”

And Hoseok, always a truthful friend, offers, “He could not text you back?” 

Jimin makes a face and sends Hoseok a glare. 

“Thanks,” he says sarcastically, a bite to his tone. 

Holding his hands up, Hoseok tells him, “I just don’t want you to get your hopes up, okay? You don’t know this dude. He could be long gone already.” 

That’s true. Jimin is well aware that Taehyung could have already deemed Seoul devoid of any inspiration or creativity. If that’s true, then Jimin thinks he’s prepared to move on. Not much to move on from, if he’s honest. 

Jimin thinks not getting a text back is a chance he’s willing to take. Because the other side of that chance is that Taehyung does text back. 

And the possibilities after that are endless. 

 

 

The thing about Jimin’s brain is that it often seems to not work in his favor. Too filled to the brim with acquired negative thoughts about himself spoon-fed to him by one ex-boyfriend after another. And because of that, he’s well aware that his perception of himself is screwed up. But that doesn’t stop it from getting the best of him sometimes.

He’s sitting in the break room alone. With his phone in his hands and his message thread with Taehyung on the screen, he stares. His thumbs are hovering over the keypad in the ready position, prepared to type something—anything. But Jimin’s brain is suddenly convinced this is a horrible idea now. 

More times than he can count, Jimin’s been told he’s too clingy. That he doesn’t give people enough space to breathe. That being around him is suffocating. And it's been said enough that now he’s careful with his approach to people, and how often he reaches out to them. The last thing he wants to be is smothering.

Just yesterday, he was wholly prepared to text Taehyung a simple hello at the very least. Something that gives the communication a chance to open back up. But now Jimin’s overthinking how it might make Taehyung feel—and how it’s going to make him look. He tells himself that Taehyung hasn’t texted him either, and maybe there’s a reason for that. Like he doesn’t want to. 

Because right now, as far as Jimin’s concerned, Taehyung’s just like everyone else. He was here and now he's gone. And maybe it’s for the best. The last thing Jimin needs is to stick his neck out just to get his head chopped off by a nasty reply. Or better yet, no reply at all.

If Taehyung is interested and wants to see him again, Jimin thinks he’s going to have to be the one to show it. At that moment, Jimin decides that he can’t be the one of the two to reach out first. 

So Jimin stuffs his phone into his locker with a frustrated sigh and heads back to work. 

 

 

Jimin doesn’t text Taehyung in the days that follow. 

Taehyung doesn’t text Jimin either. 



 

From his corner booth inside the warm coffee shop, Jimin can almost pretend it isn't abnormally cold outside. He's bundled up with an oversized black cardigan and a large steaming cup of coffee. As he sips it leisurely, enjoying the near-burning sensation as the hot liquid travels down his throat, he flips a page in his novel. 

Sometimes Jimin comes here to read when the quietness in his apartment gets too loud. It's his way of being with people although he's alone. Like everything else he tries, it never entirely fills the emptiness in his heart, but it's nice. Peacefully, he's able to sit among others and bask in the low hum of chatter from the seclusion of his booth. 

No one bothers him here; he must be considered a regular by now considering how often he stops by. Depending on who's working, sometimes his drinks are free. But even when they're not, Jimin enjoys coming here to relax. 

His phone is tucked away in his back pocket, disregarded. It doesn't ring much nowadays anyway unless it's Hoseok. He and Taehyung haven't spoken in almost two weeks, but it feels like two months. For some reason, the days are dragging, and it's getting harder for Jimin to not give in and text him. 

In the early evening, the coffee shop is usually at its busiest. The background noise is comforting to Jimin. Customers ordering, the dinging of the cash register, the bell above the door that rings when someone enters or exits. All of it mixes together for just the right amount of nothingness that helps Jimin focus on the words of the page. 

Time tends to slip away from Jimin when he's here, and he doesn't notice the sun setting or the sky dimming to a deep blue. He doesn't pay any mind to the customers filing out, leaving the shop nearly vacant. And his brain doesn't register the soft chime of the door when it opens to welcome someone new. 

"You're pretty easy to find, you know that?"

Jimin's heart stops and his book almost slips out of his grip. Before he has a chance to crane his neck to look, a tall figure in a brown jacket a few sizes too large slides into the other side of the booth. And then familiar shiny eyes and a hand-crafted face are looking at Jimin.

"Taehyung?"

And then he smiles. His gorgeous, perfect smile and asks back playfully, "Forgot me already?"

Jimin could laugh because he's spent the last week trying to forget Taehyung. Trying to push him out of his brain and convince himself that whatever he thought he felt surely wasn't real because Taehyung has been ignoring him for nearly fourteen days straight. 

He tried and failed because even on his angriest, most frustrating days, Jimin would see Taehyung's face before he drifted off. And it made no sense because he and Taehyung barely know each other. But there's something about him. Something. Jimin can't shake it. 

Luckily, Jimin's recovery time is quick. His face straightens, his throat loosens, and he says, "Seems like you wanted me to." Then, after an intentional beat of silence, "It's been a while." 

Because whether he has the right to be or not, Jimin's a little annoyed, and he wants Taehyung to know it. He understands good and well that the two of them have next to nothing—two maybe-dates and a drink at the bar. But Jimin also wants to make it clear that he's disappointed that he and Taehyung haven't spoken since they last saw each other. Especially if Hoseok’s right and Taehyung’s just playing games.

Sheepishly, Taehyung scratches at the back of his head and says, "Yeah, I know. Sorry, I was…" his voice trails off as he searches for how he wants to end his sentence. He settles a bit helplessly on, "...going through a thing." 

At that, Jimin sits up a little straighter. He knows whenever someone goes through anything, it's usually not good. Now his eyes are scanning Taehyung almost clinically, like he will somehow be able to spot precisely what kept Taehyung away. Of course, he comes up empty. Taehyung looks exactly like Jimin remembers: godly. 

Closing his novel to imply Taehyung has his full attention, Jimin asks, "Are you okay?"

Past talks with Taehyung prepare Jimin for a half-answer or a change in subject. It seems Taehyung isn't too fond of talking about certain aspects of himself. The vulnerable parts, maybe. His feelings. And Jimin understands. But never letting anyone in is a complicated way to be. Jimin doesn't want to pry, he just wants to help if it’s possible. 

"Yeah, I—" Taehyung starts and then stops. Jimin watches him press his lips into a thin line like he's physically keeping himself from saying any more. Then, with a sigh, he tells Jimin, "I was just in a really weird headspace. Like antsy and—so I went for a drive to clear my head. And then, I dunno, I just couldn't stop driving." 

"For two weeks?" Jimin asks, eyebrows raised. 

"It was beautiful," Taehyung says back, disregarding Jimin's implication. He reaches for his camera on his shoulder and tells Jimin, "I saw so many pretty things. I have a bunch of pictures." 

As Jimin sits across from Taehyung, he half-listens to the story he's telling because he's a little too preoccupied with his thoughts. Desperately, he tries to piece together what he's learned in the last ten minutes to make sense out of their two weeks of nothingness. Attempts to make his brain understand that he and Taehyung not speaking didn't have anything to do with him personally. And tells himself that Taehyung coming back to Seoul and finding him has to mean something as well. 

Jimin doesn't know what to feel.

"...wanna see?" 

Taehyung's looking at Jimin expectantly, but Jimin has no idea what he's asking him to look at. He's holding his camera halfway across the table in Jimin's view. A bit hesitant, Jimin takes the camera from Taehyung's hands and begins scrolling through the pictures. 

The camera roll shows captivating snapshots of South Korea's nature. Pretty, perfectly angled pictures of the sky at sunset. Some landscape shots, intentionally blurry, taken out of what must be Taehyung's driver side window while he drives. They're pretty too; fuzzy lines in just the right places. Reminds Jimin of walking down the street buzzed. It's impressive that Taehyung can capture such emotions, even of things Jimin usually thinks of plainly like trees and grass. 

"These are really beautiful," Jimin tells Taehyung, handing the camera back. "You've got a real eye for photography." 

Taehyung's humble smile is his only response. So, Jimin knocks his foot against Taehyung's playfully under the table and says, "You still never showed me the pictures you took of me at the park, you know? Lemme see. Are they still on there?"

Giggling, Taehyung says, "No, I got them printed already. They're somewhere in my car." 

Jimin exaggerates a pout and takes a sip of his coffee. 

"I can bring them by your place tomorrow, though," Taehyung says. 

At that, Jimin almost chokes. He has to hold his breath and then breathe slowly through his nose to not make it obvious. He sets the cup down and clears his throat. But his silence must make Taehyung second guess his offer. 

Quickly, he's adding, "Unless you're busy or…"

"I'm not busy," Jimin tells him, maybe a little too eagerly. He says, "I work, but I get off around six-thirty. You can come by sometime after then if you want." 

And there's a relieved type of smile Jimin's never seen on Taehyung before. It makes his heart beat a bit funny in his chest. When Taehyung smiles, Jimin smiles back. 

"Yeah, how about eight?" Taehyung asks. 

Jimin nods. "Eight o'clock's perfect."

Taehyung puts his camera away and strikes up a conversation about his recent travels. He's an animated speaker sometimes. A motor-mouth, like his brain is going too many miles per hour. Jimin is thoroughly entertained listening to him recall sleeping in the middle of nowhere and finding places to take pictures. 

The two of them talk about nothing and everything until Jimin's coffee has gone cold in his cup, and the barista behind the counter is politely asking them to leave their table. It's time for the shop to close. Jimin hadn’t realized it was so late. Time is nonexistent with Taehyung sometimes. So easily, they get lost in their conversation, and before they know it, it's hours later. 

He and Taehyung walk to the front door, the little bell dinging when it opens. They step out into the cold night air, and Jimin shivers at the temperature difference. He finds himself wishing he brought a jacket along but is thankful that his walk home isn't too long. Jimin takes a quick sweep of the street and doesn't spot Taehyung's car. He must've walked here, also. 

"So, um… I'll see you tomorrow?" Taehyung says, fumbling with the sleeves of his jacket. There's something about Taehyung's skin in the moonlight. It glows beautifully and makes Jimin want to cup the side of his face to prove he's real.

It’s then that Jimin comes to the realization that he’s missed Taehyung. Genuinely missed him. And then the itch to kiss him comes back stronger than ever. 

Jimin's heart is slamming, but he does all he can to play it cool. He bites his bottom lip and inhales slowly through his nose, smiling as he exhales. 

"Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow," Jimin promises. 

Taehyung turns left, and Jimin turns right, walking in opposite directions. It takes all of Jimin's willpower not to look over his shoulder for one last glimpse of Taehyung walking away. He wants to, but he doesn't do it. Too scared of the possibility of Taehyung looking back over his shoulder, too. 

As Jimin rounds the corner, he tries to savor this buzzing feeling running through his veins. He's high off knowing that this time tomorrow he'll be with Taehyung again. An infatuation that makes him feel like he's in middle school with a crush all over again. An innocent type of excitement that has Jimin's heart beating double-time in his chest. 

Maybe it sounds a little pathetic, but Jimin's gotten used to people leaving him. And for two weeks, he thought Taehyung was just another person to add to the list. Figured he was uninterested in every way and decided not to speak to him anymore. But that apparently isn't the case at all, and fuck, he can't stop smiling. 

Jimin's never experienced someone coming back before, and he's got to admit, it feels pretty damn amazing. 

 

 

Despite there being plenty of room on Jimin's couch, he and Taehyung are nearly hip to hip. They started out with a respectable distance between them. Jimin knows it for sure because Taehyung's soda is on the coffee table a few inches away, indicating where his spot once was. 

But now, Taehyung's so close that Jimin can smell the body wash he uses, driving him insane. He tries to ignore the press of Taehyung's thigh against his and stays still when their shoulders brush. 

Taehyung is finally showing him the pictures from before, as promised. They started off with a couple of drinks—a beer for Jimin, a soda for Taehyung—and chatted about how their days went. Taehyung seemed genuinely interested when Jimin told him about the bratty customer who didn't tip him and the coworker who always seems to mix up orders. It's nice to talk to someone and know they're listening. Jimin hasn't had that much. 

Without noticing, hours flew by. Their drinks have been left unattended on the table, subjected to soak in their own condensation as the two of them flip through the photographs. Taehyung has had them developed, and Jimin isn't sure if he does this with all his pictures, but it's making him feel a little special for some reason. 

"This one's great," Taehyung comments. He smiles as he hands the picture over, his index finger bumping into Jimin's. 

The picture Jimin's given is one of him with his back to the camera, looking off to the right. Vividly, Jimin remembers taking this picture. He was convinced he looked like a fool—craning his neck so far it felt animated and unnatural—but Taehyung assured him it looked fine. Turns out he was right. Jimin's profile is the focal point of the picture, the warm colors of the sunrise behind him, enhancing the curves and slopes of his nose and lips. 

Giggling softly, Jimin says, "I can't believe this turned out so well." 

Taehyung feigns an offended scoff. He playfully yanks the picture from Jimin's grip and mumbles with a smile, "No faith in my expertise, I see."

And Jimin knows he's kidding, but he feels the need to explain himself anyway. He plucks the picture back and waves it as he laughs, "I have no faith in me! I felt like such an idiot taking this one." 

Suddenly, Jimin is very aware of the way their knees are pressing together. More so than before. Like maybe Taehyung is doing it on purpose now. In his chest, Jimin feels his heart start to beat a little quicker. 

When their eyes meet, Taehyung says, "I told you, you're a natural. It's impossible to take a bad picture of someone like you." 

"Someone like me?" Jimin asks back. He means to just think it, but his brain is faster than its filter. It falls from his mouth before he's able to catch it. 

He sees the off-guard, slightly stunned look in Taehyung's eyes. It's only there for a moment—something close to terror flashing behind his pupils. And for a moment, Jimin swears he sees Taehyung beginning to blush. It's cute. It's so, so cute.

"You know, like…" Taehyung clears his throat awkwardly, shuffling the photos in his hands like a deck of cards. He's staring down at the carpet now, leg bouncing. "You're very… photogenic. Good-looking." 

Everything inside of Jimin is melting. Too conscious of his breathing and his heartbeat and every single body part, Jimin tries to play it cool. No sudden movements, no weird noises. He smiles and prays to whichever god pities him that he doesn't look like a fool. 

"You should look in the mirror sometime," Jimin tells him, voice barely above a whisper. 

And he means it. Taehyung is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful people Jimin's ever seen. It fascinates him, really, that someone who looks like Taehyung is roaming the Earth with everyone else. 

Taehyung gets shy when he's complimented. It’s something else to add to the list of ways he makes Jimin's heart flutter. Fondly, Jimin watches him duck his head a little and smile. 

The picture in Taehyung's hand at the top of the pile captures Jimin's attention. A surprising type of rush shoots through him when he realizes it's the selfie he took of the two of them. 

Leaning forward and pointing, Jimin says, "Wow, you… developed that one, too?"

Taehyung looks down, spots the picture of them, and then lets his eyes meet Jimin's. He makes a silly face—wide eyes and a stretched, comical smile—like he's been caught. He hands it over to Jimin. 

"Thought maybe you'd like to have it," Taehyung says. "For memories." 

They're closer now, but Jimin has no idea how. He doesn't remember shifting his body, but he must've. Taehyung's face is so close Jimin can see the little beauty mark on the tip of his nose. A second later, Jimin spots two more similar ones on his lower eyelash line and on his bottom lip. His eyes get stuck on the last one. 

"Shouldn't you keep it?" Jimin asks, voice soft. "How else can I be sure the great, traveling Kim Taehyung doesn't forget me?"

Jimin's joking. Mostly. But the air is thicker now—tension nearly suffocating. So it comes out almost desperately, but he doesn't care. The only thing his brain can register is how it wouldn't take much effort at all to kiss Taehyung from here. Only centimeters separating them. One tip upward of Jimin's chin is all it would take. 

When Taehyung smiles, the butterflies in Jimin's stomach go haywire. Their wings brush rapidly at the walls, daring to fly up to his throat and escape. His heart squeezes, and his fingers twitch. 

"Don't you know?" Taehyung whispers, breath brushing over Jimin's lips. "You're also impossible to forget." 

Jimin can't take it anymore, he just can't. All of his doubts and anxieties have been tossed out the window. There's no way for this moment to mean anything else, Jimin's sure. Not with the way Taehyung's lips are parted, and his fingers are curled around his knee. What he's feeling right now, Taehyung has to be feeling it, too.

So Jimin goes for it. He cups his hand gently on Taehyung's jaw, tips his head to the side, closes his eyes and—

Shit

They jump apart, a startled gasp from both of them when Jimin's phone starts ringing loudly. Lighting up brightly on the coffee table, it vibrates their drinks. Taehyung pulls away, presses his back to the pillow on the sofa, and laughs nervously. 

It's Jimin's boss calling, probably wanting him to come in early again tomorrow. Jimin rolls his eyes, frustrated. Out of all the times he could've called, of course, it's right now. The universe hates him.

"You s-should uh… answer that, right?" Taehyung stammers out. He's gathering his pictures like he's packing up, but Jimin doesn't want him to leave. 

Shaking his head, Jimin tells him, "It's just my boss. He can wait." 

Actually, he probably can't. Jimin knows Mr. Seong will have his ass tomorrow if he doesn't pick up. Or, at the very least, return his call promptly. Right now, Jimin isn't worried about his job, he's worried about Taehyung and the moment they just lost. 

His phone is still ringing, screen bright with the notification. 

Standing now, Taehyung secures his camera over his shoulder and tells Jimin, "I don't want you to get in trouble. I'll just… I'll go, it's okay." 

"You don't have to—"

"Thanks for tonight," Taehyung says, rushed. But he stops just after he steps over Jimin's legs and touches his shoulder. He promises, "I'll call you later." 

As Jimin watches Taehyung show himself out, he reaches for his phone, not wanting it to go to voicemail. He slides his thumb horizontally on the screen to answer, puts the phone to his ear, and greets with fake happiness, "Mr. Seong, hi." 

From the doorway, Taehyung waves goodbye. Jimin barely has time to wave back before he's closing it gently—dramatically biting his bottom lip and twisting the knob so that it doesn't make a sound. Jimin can't help but smile, his frustration dying down. 

"Park," Mr. Seong calls dryly on the other end. "I need you here to open tomorrow morning. Choi called out sick and…"

Truthfully, Mr. Seong's voice fades into nothingness when Jimin spots the picture of him and Taehyung left on his coffee table. Left intentionally, without a doubt. And again, he finds himself smiling. 

Picking it up, Jimin studies the photo. They're happy in it—making funny faces at the camera. Just looking at it makes Jimin happy, too. He stands, eyes darting around his room for the perfect place to put it. 

He finds a home for the picture on top of the bookshelf, balanced upright against the base of the lamp. In his ear, his boss' voice is still buzzing, telling the extended version of which of Jimin's coworkers won't be showing up tomorrow.

But Jimin doesn't care. He'll work by himself next shift if he has to. Because right now, even if the night didn't end exactly how Jimin wanted, he feels like he's floating. 

Taehyung was going to—wanted to—kiss him back. And honestly, that's all Jimin needed to know. 

 

 

The next day doesn't go how Jimin expects it to. Well, honestly, he isn't exactly sure how he thought it was going to go, but he figured Taehyung would somehow be part of it. 

It seems like he's wrong.

Instead, Jimin's day is filled with rude customers that don't tip and incompetent coworkers who can't seem to tell the difference between Jjajangmyeon and Japchae. He comes home with less money than he deserves and a headache so strong he feels it all the way down to his toes. For the first time, he welcomes the quiet and emptiness of his apartment. 

Stretching across his queen-size bed, which always feels too big for him, Jimin plugs his phone into his charger. But then he can't resist—he pulls down his notifications and scrolls through them, just in case he missed Taehyung texting him. 

His notifications are filled with messages from Hoseok, a missed call from a coworker who ran late today, social media notifications, and an alert from his weather app. Apparently, there's supposed to be a storm tomorrow. 

Nothing from Taehyung. 

Maybe Jimin would attempt to wrack his brain about what that might mean, but he's too exhausted. Emotionally, physically, mentally. More than anything, Jimin just wants to sleep. So that's exactly what he does. 

 

 

When Jimin was little, his grandfather used to tell him that a big storm signifies a new beginning. Or, at the very least, a change. The rain washes away everything that happened before and leaves the Earth fresh, ready for new adventures and advances in life. No telling if those adventures and advances are good or bad. 

Scientifically, Jimin knows that it's not true, but it's a nice thought. Especially when Jimin's been having a particularly shitty few weeks, he waits for a storm and then tells himself all the bad times are over―choosing to hope for positive change. Uses it as a chance to mentally restart and force a new perspective on himself. 

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. 

Tonight's storm is a particularly pretty one. It's late in the afternoon, so although the sun is hidden away by the thick clouds, it's relatively bright out. The sky is painted ash gray with clouds that are an angry, gunmetal color. From his living room floor, Jimin sits cross-legged and watches the wind mercilessly sweep helpless droplets of rain. The wind is unforgiving, daring to blow branches off trees and bend street signs sideways. 

The last thing Jimin expects is a knock at his door. And for a moment, he swears he imagines it. Tells himself something outside has fallen, or the children in the apartment above him are playing.

But then the knock is back, strong and deliberate on his door. Confused, Jimin sets his coffee down on the floor and walks across his apartment to investigate. 

On the other side stands Taehyung—soaking wet from head to toe. His hair, curly and drenched, sticks to his forehead. He's wearing a forest green jacket that looks nearly black now from the rain. Taehyung's shielding his camera inside his coat, left arm almost comically stuffed under his armpit. 

He blinks rain out of his eye and says sheepishly, "Hi." 

At the sight alone, Jimin feels a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Taehyung looks like a puppy. A lost, wet puppy and goddamn everything about him is always so endearing. Jimin resists the urge to pout at him. 

"Um," Jimin says, holding back a laugh. "Are you alright?" 

"It's raining," Taehyung tells Jimin, stating the very obvious. He gestures toward his wet clothes as evidence, just in case Jimin doesn't believe him. 

Playing along, Jimin fakes a gasp and says, "Is it?" 

Taehyung scratches at the back of his head nervously and shifts his weight from one leg to the other. When they make eye contact again, Taehyung bites his bottom lip to silence a laugh. 

"I was walking back to my car and got caught in it," Taehyung explains. "I was gonna go to the gym to dry off, but they closed early because of the storm, so—"

He stops abruptly like he's internally fighting with himself if he should continue talking or not. But Jimin stays quiet, intrigued by all of this. He nods in Taehyung's direction, silently encouraging him to continue. 

Pressing his lips into a thin line, Taehyung sighs and blurts out, "Can I use your shower?" 

The smile on Jimin's face is a big one—all teeth and squished eyes. He falls forward, laughing, and the crown of his head bumps into Taehyung's stomach. He composes himself quickly, though. Nodding as he steps aside to welcome Taehyung in. 

Once Jimin closes the door, Taehyung asks, "You knew what I was gonna ask, didn't you?" 

And Jimin's guilty. He laughs again and says, "Yeah, but I just wanted to hear you say it." 

Taehyung makes a face at him—eyebrows furrowed into an exaggerated angry position. But as always, Jimin just finds it cute. 

Placing his hand on Taehyung's lower back to guide him forward, Jimin says, "Come on, let's get you cleaned up." 

 

 

Standing in front of his open cabinet, Jimin calls over his shoulder, "Tea or hot chocolate?"

Behind him, Jimin hears footsteps approaching. Looking over, Jimin has to immediately make sure his jaw isn't on the floor when Taehyung comes out of the bathroom is just a towel. It's dangerously loose around his hips, dipping toward the center. 

For just a moment, Jimin's eyes linger. The soft skin of Taehyung's stomach with barely-there dips of muscle underneath. A thin trail of hair starting just under his belly button and heading downward. The faint outline of—

Quickly, Jimin looks away. 

"Hot chocolate would be nice," Taehyung chooses, messing with his hair. It's still wet, but the clean type now. He's smiling politely in Jimin's direction as he stands in the opening of the kitchen, adjusting the towel. 

Forcing himself to focus, Jimin grabs two hot chocolate packets and the kettle to fill with water. He wants to look—his curiosity and attraction getting the best of him—but Jimin turns his back to face the sink instead. 

"I left some clothes out for you on my bed," Jimin tells Taehyung, watching the water fill the metal container. "You can wear whatever you like, or whatever fits." 

Considering Taehyung showed up at his door with nothing but the clothes he had on and his camera, Jimin figured he was going to need something to change into. Taehyung's got broader shoulders than him and is taller by a couple of inches, so Jimin set out a few pairs of sweatpants and hoodies that are a little big on him in the hopes that they fit Taehyung just right. 

"Okay, thanks," Taehyung says softly. Jimin guesses he's done apologizing now. Said sorry a million times for just showing up without calling, but Jimin thinks Taehyung’s finally reassured that he doesn't mind. Actually, Jimin really enjoys the company. He doesn't like being in his apartment by himself. 

By the time the water is boiling, Taehyung comes back out, dressed in Jimin's black joggers and his red Adidas hoodie. And Jimin doesn't know what this feeling is—this fluttering in his chest and the uncontrollable smile on his face. Something about seeing Taehyung in his clothes makes Jimin feel... something, he just doesn't have a name for it. 

He hands Taehyung the steaming cup and warns him to be careful. Then, he gestures toward the living room and has Taehyung follow him to the spot where he was sitting on the floor. There's plenty of room for two in front of the window. 

"I'll be out of here soon, I promise," Taehyung says. But there's a worry in his eyes when he sees that the storm has picked up. 

Lightning strikes in the sky at the same time it does in Jimin’s heart. The flash of light illuminates Taehyung’s face, showing him clearly for a moment in the film apartment. Jimin swears he’ll never get over how pretty he is.

Jimin shakes his head. "Are you kidding? It's crazy out there. At least wait until it calms down." 

Settling next to Jimin on the floor, Taehyung knits his eyebrows together and asks, "You sure?"

"Positive," Jimin tells him, then turns his gaze to look out the window. The rain is like a curtain now, coming down fast and heavy. No one's outside, everyone smart enough to take shelter. There's no way Jimin is going to let Taehyung back out there.  

So together, they sit on the floor with their drinks and watch the storm. 

 

 

Although Jimin insists otherwise, Taehyung leaves later that night. Some time close to two in the morning, he shrugs on his damp jacket and grabs his camera. 

The rain let up and died down to a light drizzle. Jimin guesses that were good enough for Taehyung, because soon he was on his way. 

There was a part of Jimin that thought it was going to be awkward seeing Taehyung again—their almost-kiss hanging over their heads. But actually, tonight went smoothly. Jimin’s apartment felt like their personal bubble protecting them from the storm, huddled close together, and sipping their drinks. 

Within their time together, they've made plans to see each other again soon. Jimin has no clue how long Taehyung plans on staying in Seoul, but knowing that they're seeing a movie this Friday, and are going to the opening of some art exhibit on Saturday of the following week brings Jimin a sense of comfort. Security, maybe. Because that means he at least has close to two more weeks with Taehyung. 

He plans on making them worth it. 

 

 

With messages and pictures from Taehyung waiting for him when he goes on break, the rest of Jimin's workweek isn't exactly terrible. It gives him something to look forward to and a reason to smile. 

The restaurant is still understaffed, and the customers still make Jimin want to pull his hair out, but that's never going to change. Noticeably, though, he's in a more upbeat mood. Even his coworkers comment on his suspicious change in attitude. 

Jimin texts Hoseok periodically, just to keep him updated. Gushed to him about his and Taehyung's near-kiss that was virtually cockblocked by his boss calling, and then about how Taehyung showed up at his door two days later to use his shower. Hoseok's extremely disappointed that he and Taehyung haven't kissed yet—claims that they should at least be in handjob territory by now—but Jimin pays him no mind. They're going at their own pace.

Taehyung is different; Jimin's known that from the start. So everything that happens between them, he just has to play it by ear. Especially since he's being careful. 

It’s just Jimin’s luck—falling for someone destined to leave. The story of his life, really. But he doesn't plan on falling this time around. It’s apparent that letting himself fall for Taehyung can’t end any other way but messily, but Jimin thinks he’s still allowed to have fun. He’s well aware of the clock working against them. 

Taehyung brings him a feeling he’s never felt before. A happiness that’s genuine and well-earned. An interest that’s continuously piqued. Two-way conversation, the exploration of one another, the flirting. He’s mysterious—an adventure. And Jimin feels like a teenager, getting antsy for a kiss, but the anticipation is addicting. 

Typically, Jimin isn’t one to believe in jinxes. Doesn’t usually dwell on the idea of treading lightly, or not speaking about things too soon in fear of ruining them. But with Taehyung, Jimin’s nervous to even allow himself to think what he feels for sure… that this is turning into something. They’re talking more, connecting easier, and Jimin’s getting used to Taehyung’s presence in his life. It’s early, Jimin knows, but it’s still nice.

It's Friday, which means Jimin's meeting up with Taehyung at the movies later tonight. Some American romantic-comedy that Taehyung keeps going on and on about. Jimin didn't quite peg him for the rom-com type, but it’s adorable how excited he is for this. 

The night air is crisp and cool when Jimin steps outside, his shift finally over. He exhales deeply, relieved, welcoming freedom and his three-day weekend. Mr. Seong promised not to call him until Tuesday, ensuring Jimin gets adequate time to rest. 

Even when walking briskly, Jimin takes in Seoul and all of its beauty. He swears he never gets tired of its commotion—sidewalks always packed with people, streets filled with cars. Jimin likes being among the chaos of it all, happily blends right into the fast-moving bodies. It makes him feel like he's part of something. 

As he heads home, Jimin scrolls through the reviews for the movie he and Taehyung are going to see. Mixed feelings litter the comment section, gold stars ranging from one to five. He squints, unable to tell if people loved it or hated it. 

Keeping his head down, Jimin turns the corner too quickly and knocks shoulder to shoulder with someone. He stumbles back a few steps, ready to mutter out an apology for being distracted by his phone when his heart stops—literally stops—in his chest. 

"Watch where the fu— Minnie?"

That nickname. He fucking hates that nickname. And only one person in the world has ever called him that. 

With his throat closing and his eyes widening, Jimin says back a bit strained, "Kiwoo?" 

They both take a step back to look at each other, eyes lingering. He looks good. Good-ish, Jimin guesses. He's gotten a haircut, it's buzzed now. It doesn't suit him as much as the longer hair did. But everything else about him is the same. Still dresses like he should be on a yacht somewhere, still sports a shit-eating grin permanently on his face. 

Still makes Jimin instantly feel so, so small.

"You worked tonight, huh?" Kiwoo observes, taking in Jimin's uniform of a white button-up and black slacks. When Jimin doesn't answer, he asks, "Where are you headed in such a hurry?" 

Jimin's brain is in panic mode, but he doesn't know why. He hears Kiwoo, but it takes him a while to formulate an answer. After a moment of awkward silence, Kiwoo raises an eyebrow at him expectantly. 

"Min—?”

"I'm meeting someone," is what Jimin blurts out. 

And Kiwoo… he laughs. Like the asshole he is. A loud, sarcastic ha! but then his eyes grow big, and he asks, "Wait, for real?" 

Jimin's face twists. "Why is that so hard to believe?" 

"Guess it's not," Kiwoo answers after a shrug. His expression has gone cold now—judging. Jimin is a little too familiar with the look in his eye. He adds, a bit under his breath, "Seeing as you let just about anyone get in your pants." 

It amazes Jimin how out of touch with reality Kiwoo is. Especially considering he was the one cheating on Jimin, not the other way around. But he goes out of his way to bring Jimin down, and Jimin finally realizes that. The problem was never Jimin, it was always him. 

Shoving past Kiwoo, purposely pushing him out of the way, Jimin mumbles, "Get the fuck away from me." 

Jimin walks as fast as he can down the sidewalk. He stuffs his hands in his pockets, puts his head down, and just walks. 

When Jimin gets halfway to the next corner, he hears Kiwoo call after him, "Give that poor bastard my best, Minnie! He's sure gonna need it with you!" 

The echo of Kiwoo laughing plays torturously in Jimin's head for the rest of the walk home. 

 

 

Jimin is so angry, he's dizzy. Comes home and immediately throws himself into the hottest shower he can handle, needing to wash Kiwoo's words off of him. Scrubs and scrubs until his skin stings, and his eyes are filled with tears. 

He tastes them on his tongue, salty and bitter, as he steps out of the shower and plants himself in front of the mirror. Leans over the shiny white porcelain and grips the sides so tight his nails would dig in if they could. He smacks the glass once, sloppily drags his palm across it to smear the fog enough to see himself. 

He looks a mess. Eyes droopy and sad, nose reddened, cheeks flushed. It doesn't matter that he knows Kiwoo just says things to hurt him, the words still hurt. They still get to him. And his brain—always working against him—still absorbs the insults like a sponge and lets them soak in. 

It takes forced effort, but Jimin gets dressed. Pulls on tight, light-wash skinny jeans, a yellow and black plaid shirt, and his black leather jacket. An outfit a little too flashy for the movie theater, but it's perfect for the bar. 

Maybe Kiwoo's right. Perhaps Jimin should spare Taehyung the trouble of getting close to him. No good comes out of it. Relationships never have a happy ending, and there's no sense in trying to start one with Taehyung. He's already on his way out, anyway. Next week could be his last week in Seoul for all Jimin knows. 

As he's headed out the door, his mind so foggy that he has no clue where he plans on going after steps back outside, Jimin's phone buzzes. It's a text message from Taehyung. 

 

taehyung [9:43 p.m.]
meeting outside the theater, right?
i'm omw 😅

 

Jimin stares at the message while he closes his apartment door, while he walks down the stairs, while he steps onto the sidewalk outside. As he rereads Taehyung's message over and over, his brain repeats: Don't do this to him, don't do this to him, don't do this to him…

Funny thing is, even Jimin isn't sure what that means. Don't pursue anything with Taehyung, or don't stand him up? Right down to the last second, even Jimin doesn't know.

But as always, Jimin's negative thoughts win. Thinks that Taehyung can recover from him not showing up for their date, but there are no promises he can recover from getting involved with someone like him. 

Taehyung is leaving Seoul soon, Jimin reminds himself for the billionth time. It's for the best that they end it before it even gets started. Squash it while it's still nothing. This way, neither of them gets hurt. It's sure to save them both some heartbreak and disappointment. 

So he puts his phone on silent, stuffs it into his back pocket, and heads for the bar. As far as Jimin's concerned, he's doing them both a favor. 

 

 

All things considered, Jimin likes to believe he's pretty self-aware. He knows that he's got a bad habit of running from his problems and that he's unfortunately found solace in the bar up the street. This place has seen him at his worst more times than he's proud of. He's sure the bartenders must pity him. 

Loneliness is an emotional response to perceived isolation—at least, that's what Jimin's read. So caught up in trying to cure the seemingly incurable, Jimin has done research. Stayed up until his eyelids were too heavy to keep open, and his head tipped forward. Read case study after article after thinkpiece from scientists and graduate students who attempted to get to the core of loneliness and all of its repercussions. 

Everyone always has something different to say. It's subjective, and that's the problem. A student entering college feels loneliness differently than a soldier deployed in a foreign country for the first time. And Jimin, well, he swears what he feels is heartbreakingly unique. No one understands his loneliness. Because the feeling of being lonely cannot be measured in units, it's unable to be solved by math equations, and it's nearly impossible to describe. 

It's a distressing experience that occurs when a person's social relationships are disappointing, one article says. But then the other says it's merely a state of solitude—a skewed point of view. Like it's something Jimin should just be able to snap out of. Like he wouldn't choke the life out of this feeling before it chokes the life out of him if he could. 

But it's a losing battle because he can't. He can't shake this feeling no matter what (or who) he does. It's a black hole right in the center of his heart that consumes and consumes, but is never satisfied. No relationship, romantic or platonic, is ever enough. Never warms him in the way that he craves.

That's when Jimin starts to believe his exes were right—perhaps he is too much. Insatiable in a way that goes beyond sex drive or affection. A hunger inside of him that's never fulfilled. 

Because it’s true, Jimin wants to be wanted in a way he's never experienced before. He wants to be loved so strongly, and so passionately, it takes his breath away. But it's—

 —terrifying

Putting himself out there, again and again, is becoming a dangerous game. Especially when he's had such awful experiences. Jimin knows it's left him scarred. He's given himself to people that didn't deserve him, and now he's here—pulling away from someone who might actually be good for him because someone bad for him got into his head again. 

In a way, getting what he wants out of love scares Jimin the most because… what if it's still not enough? He's spent nearly his whole life fantasizing about a fairytale type of love that he knows doesn't exist, but he longs for it so much it hurts. And maybe that's ruined love for him. Or, at least, made him too scared to look for it for real. Sometimes Jimin thinks he's afraid of happiness. 

It's sick, and it's sad, but Jimin's a bit too drunk to dwell on it now. He feels his phone buzzing in his pocket, but chooses to ignore it. Doesn't even remember taking it off silent mode.

"Let me get another," Jimin says, tipping his glass toward the bartender. He swears his words come out just fine, but he must've slurred because the bartender is laughing. 

Giving Jimin a sympathetic look, the bartender suggests sternly, "Think maybe you've had enough. How 'bout water?" 

Jimin's lost track of time; he's not sure how long he's been here. But his contemplation on love and life seems to have been worth four beers and five shots. Jimin rolls his eyes at the bartender and puts his head down. 

"He said he wants another," the man to Jimin's right says. He's got his hand on Jimin's lower back, fingers flirting. 

Medium length black hair brushes over his forehead as he leans over the bar, demanding service on Jimin's behalf. Vaguely, Jimin remembers him introducing himself a few beers ago. Myungdae? Myung...seok? Jimin's not sure. He doesn't really care. 

It seems the bartender isn't having it. Sarcastically says, "Yeah, sure," and slides Jimin a glass of what is definitely water. The ice cubes knock against one another. A few splashes spill over the brim and drip on Jimin's leather jacket. 

Jimin's phone is buzzing in his pocket again. Like he's receiving a bunch of text messages at once. Or maybe back to back calls.

Swallowing hard, Jimin picks his head up and says to Myung-something, "I'm alright, don't worry about it." 

The guy is cute, Jimin can't deny it. He's got a friendly smile and eyebrows so perfectly shaped Jimin wonders for a split second if he gets them done or if he's simply born lucky. An interesting scar on his temple. Full, plump lips. Despite that, Jimin isn't interested.

Leaning on his arm, Myung-something says, "Wanna tell me why your night is so bad?"

When Myung-something first made Jimin aware of his presence, Jimin was a lot less tipsy and a lot more sad. He might've mentioned something to him about having a shitty night. It must've been at least an hour or so since then, and the alcohol is making Jimin sleepy now. He doesn't want to talk anymore. 

Looking away, circling the rim of the glass with his middle finger, Jimin mumbles, "Not really." 

"You sure?" Myung-something asks back, tone saturated in flirtation and suggestion. His hand makes itself known again, right on the small of Jimin's back—rubbing. This time, under his jacket, fishing for skin. He adds, "Bet I can make you feel better." 

Immediately, Jimin's guard goes up. Any other night before tonight, he would've been all for this. This is usually what he comes to the bar for—seeking to forget about whatever's making him sad with a good-looking stranger who wants nothing more than to give him attention. But tonight, Jimin doesn't think he's here for that. 

Holding his arm out straight to give himself space, Jimin says, "Hey, um, I'm not—"

"There you are!" 

A voice that Jimin swears has been seared into his brain because he recognizes it immediately. He looks over his shoulder so fast it makes him dizzy, but it doesn't disorient him enough to miss Taehyung squeezing himself through bar attendees to get to him. 

Taehyung plants himself between Jimin and Myung-something, intentionally making himself bigger to take up more space. Behind Taehyung, Jimin sees Myung-something scoff, stumbling back a few inches. 

"I've been looking for you," Taehyung tells Jimin. "Are you okay? Did something happen?"

There's a genuine worry in his eyes that makes Jimin feel like shit. In his head, when he decided to come to the bar instead of the movies, Jimin had imagined Taehyung realizing he's not going to show up and just… moving on with his life. As simple as that. Nothing more than a shrug, maybe. He didn't imagine this. He didn't imagine Taehyung caring—especially not enough to look for him.

Myung-something must be buzzed because he's a pestering type of persistent. Bold, too. He grabs Taehyung's shoulder and begins to say, "Hey, jackass, he and I were—"

But Taehyung twists his arm behind his back so quickly even Jimin jumps. The people on the neighboring barstools move away, anticipating a film-style bar fight. But Taehyung's got a tight grip on the guy's arm, yanking it at an unpleasant angle. He leans the guy over the bar, the edge pressing into his sternum. Jimin watches him wheeze for air. 

With his chest pressing strongly onto Myung-something's shoulder, Taehyung warns him in a chilling whisper, "Walk away right now before an ambulance has to carry you out. And don’t look at him when you do it." 

He fusses in Taehyung's hold, keeping up the tough guy act. Grits his teeth and spits something out about kicking Taehyung's ass. But immediately, Taehyung twists his arm again. Harder and farther and soon it's at such an unnatural angle, Jimin has to look away. He wants to tap out on Myung-something's behalf; he's sure it's going to break soon. 

For the first time tonight, Myung-something is smart. Whimpers out, "Okay, okay," just as the bartender is threatening to call the cops on Taehyung. Jimin's head is spinning, he's losing track of everything. 

From his barstool, Jimin watches Taehyung let the guy go—shoving him a bit as he releases his hold. He stumbles out the front with a scowl on his face as he cradles his arm. The next thing that catches Jimin's attention is Taehyung tossing money on the bar. But then his focus is stolen again by a gentle tug on his jacket, urging him onto his feet. 

"C'mon, I'll drive you home," is all Taehyung says, bearing most of Jimin's weight to get him upright. And Jimin tries to stand up on his own, but the room is underwater now, and he feels lopsided. He groans, tipping his head toward Taehyung's. 

The crowd is staring at them as they leave, but Jimin doesn't have it in him to care. Like always, it's tomorrow-Jimin's problem. He'll be embarrassed for the both of them. But the Jimin of right now is a little too far gone. Smells Taehyung's hair as he walks him outside and tries to place the events prior that lead them to here. Suddenly it's all a little fuzzy. 

Taehyung's seats are cloth and warm despite the frigid temperature outside. Jimin settles in quickly, lets Taehyung buckle his seatbelt, and rests his head on the window. It's just the right temperature, cooling his overheated forehead. He sighs happily and closes his eyes. 

“We’re gonna go home, okay?”

Taehyung’s talking to him. He knows that, he just doesn’t have it in him to answer. Suddenly he feels nauseous and his head is spinning and all he wants to do is close his eyes. 

He doesn't mean to, but he must fall asleep. The last thing he hears is Taehyung's van starting. 

 

 

Everything is pitch black. Or maybe Jimin just has his eyes closed, he's not sure. He and Taehyung stumble through his apartment. Well, Jimin stumbles, and Taehyung steadies. But they've got their arms around each other, so it all feels the same. Together, they are nothing short of an unstable mess. 

Taehyung pulls when Jimin leans, and they go tumbling toward the end table. There's a loud bang, which Jimin thinks is Taehyung's knee hitting the glass, then the sound of him mumbling a curse. Jimin's got his arm around Taehyung's shoulders. He grips Taehyung's jacket for stability, curling his fingers. 

"...not even helping," Jimin hears Taehyung grumble when they start walking again. 

He doesn't sound angry or frustrated, though. Instead, he sounds almost amused. There's faint laughter in his tone like maybe he's smiling as he says it. 

The steady hand around Jimin's midsection is the only thing keeping him on his feet, he's sure of it. He's positive he has his eyes open now, purposely blinks a few times to ensure he still has his vision. But it's too dark in his apartment, and his sight is too blurry, everything's all shadows. 

Jimin left his bedroom curtain open, so the streetlights and the moon provide a soft glow. Faintly, he makes out his bed, the nightstands on either side and the desk in front of the window. Jimin tries to walk faster, wanting to lay down. 

"Almost there," Taehyung says to him. "Keep walking."

Soon enough, Jimin's rewarded with a soft mattress under him. It feels like a cloud, and he swears he's never been so appreciative of his bed before. All he wants is to lay down, and he tries to, but there's something holding him up straight. Taehyung, maybe. 

Jimin's head is spinning, and his eyes are having trouble focusing, but eventually, they settle on Taehyung. He's hovering over him, tongue pressed into his cheek for concentration, eyebrows knitted together. 

He looks overwhelmed, and for a moment, Jimin feels terrible about it. He means to apologize. But instead, what spills out of his mouth is, "You're beautiful." 

A smile, faint and small, flashes on Taehyung's face for a second. Then he shakes his head like he's making himself focus, and tells Jimin, "You can't sleep in this jacket. You're gonna melt." 

Fingers grip around the end of Jimin's jacket sleeve and pull. But Jimin's not ready, and he goes flying forward too, crashing into Taehyung's chest. The crown of his head knocks against Taehyung's chin in his attempt to sit upright, which causes Taehyung to hiss in pain, pulling away. 

"Are you alright?" Taehyung asks despite his own minor injury. Jimin feels fingers in his hair clinically, like Taehyung's checking for a bump. And even in his drunken state, Jimin thinks that's cute. They didn't even collide that hard. 

Groaning, Jimin slurs, "S’rry." 

This time around, he's more prepared when Taehyung tugs off his jacket, one sleeve at a time. Gets the right arm free and leans forward for a better hold of the jacket behind Jimin. And Taehyung's close—so, so close. Jimin gets lost for a moment, just looking. 

"You should be," Taehyung tells him softly with a smile. A playful pout rests on his lips. "Standing me up like that." 

Trying to explain, Jimin says, "No, I—I'm sorry, I'm an asshole, it's just—"

Crouching down in front of Jimin, still fussing with the jacket, Taehyung shushes him. Shakes his head and says, "Tell me later, okay? I trust you had a good reason." 

Jimin exhales slowly, eyebrows curved upward, face twisted. He's sure he looks silly, like maybe he's about to cry or something. But he's just so… amazed at how good Taehyung is. They've only begun to scratch the surface of knowing each other, but Jimin can tell he's got a heart of gold in his chest. He's understanding, caring, and gentle when he has every right not to be—especially right now. Because Jimin knows what he did tonight was fucked up. 

It means nothing coming from a drunken mouth, but Jimin wants to apologize. Taehyung has got his head tipped downward now; done removing Jimin's jacket and focused on untying his boots. His vision is blurry, but Jimin's able to make out the curls in Taehyung's hair and the stud piercing glistening in his ear. 

Jimin reaches out, touches his face. With his thumb petting over Taehyung's cheekbone, Jimin whispers, "Thank you." 

He's not sure what he's thanking Taehyung for exactly. For bringing him home, sure, but there's more to it, and Jimin thinks they both know that. 

Taehyung looks up, a lopsided smile on his face. His eyes glisten in the moonlight, and Jimin feels something swelling in his chest. Like a volcano erupting, emotions Jimin's been pushing down for weeks come rushing upward. He feels them scorching, burning him from the inside out. 

It's only a second, but it's a second suspended in time and elongated. And within that second, Jimin's eyes lock with Taehyung, and all of the air gets pushed out of Jimin's lungs. There's a shift, Jimin feels it. An electric, tingling sensation running through his veins like lightning bolts. 

Maybe a drunken haze. 

And if Jimin were a little less drunk, maybe he would've thought this over. Considered the timing and weighed his options. But he's drowning in his feelings, so caught up in everything Taehyung has been for him, and dumbstruck at how gorgeous Taehyung is that… it just happens

Jimin leans forward, tips Taehyung's chin upward, and kisses him. It's uncoordinated and sloppy and rushed. Their noses knock together, and their lips connect much harder than Jimin intends. He feels Taehyung exhale quickly through his nose, startled, and then slowly relax. 

A few seconds later, though, Jimin feels a hand on his wrist. Then, Taehyung pulls away. 

Taehyung's biting his bottom lip, eyes squeezed shut tight, as he whispers, "Jimin, not like this…"

His fingers give Jimin's wrist a gentle squeeze, but he doesn't move them away. He doesn't remove Jimin's hand from his face, still cupping his cheek. 

Jimin feels something inside of him breaking. His heart, he thinks. Held together by a singular piece of tape that's finally given way. And now it's bleeding again—all over Jimin's plaid button-up, all over Taehyung's shoes, all over the carpet. It stains them both a dark red, marking this night on them forever.

Shaking his head, Jimin cries, "No, I see the way you look at me," through clenched teeth. "I know you wanna kiss me, too. I know you—"

He might be drunk, but he's not delusional. Jimin isn't blind to Taehyung's gestures or his flirting. And the night he came over to show Jimin the photoshoot pictures, Taehyung was absolutely going to kiss him back. All of that means something. This unfamiliar buzzing feeling Jimin gets in his chest at the mere thought of Taehyung has to mean  something. And he knows Taehyung feels it, too—there’s no way he doesn’t. A connection too strong to be one-sided, even if they've both been fighting it.

Taehyung tips his head forward and lets his forehead rest against Jimin's for a split second. Again, like it's hurting him, Taehyung whispers, "Not like this." 

Jimin hears the pain in Taehyung's voice. Feels it radiating off him through his touch. Taehyung's fingertips speak louder than his words—he's trying to tell Jimin something, and Jimin knows that, but right now, he doesn't understand. 

"Taehyung—"

"Just try to get some sleep, okay?"

His lips burn, remembering the feeling of Taehyung's on them. But now it feels like a mistake somehow. It's hard for Jimin to breathe. His eyes are swelling, and his nose is stinging, but he doesn't know why he's crying. Nothing makes sense. Kissing Taehyung was supposed to be happy and breathtaking and magical—not this

Taehyung's thumb sweeps away a tear, soft and gentle, from Jimin's cheek. He offers Jimin a smile, but it's a sad one, so it doesn't help. Then, with his hands on his shoulders now, Taehyung guides Jimin onto his side so he can lay down. 

This time, Jimin doesn't put up any type of fight. Defeated, he lets his head sink into the pillow and feels his body deflate with a long exhale. Still dressed in his button-up, jeans, and one boot, there's a blanket draped over him a moment later. 

Jimin stays still, clutches his pillow and stares at an empty spot on the wall, trying to make sense of all of this. But his mind is cloudy, and his eyes are teary, and his heart hurts. So he closes his eyes. It feels like his only option. 

There's a headache beginning to set in. A splitting one that's already pounding at the base of his neck, sure to greet him when he wakes up tomorrow. It pulses with his racing heart, flashes of space-blue behind his eyelids accompanied by a twinge of pain. 

He thinks he hears Taehyung wish him a good night, but he's not sure. Faintly, Jimin recognizes footsteps—Taehyung walking away. Hears the creaking of the wood under the carpet, hears Taehyung's keys jingling, and hears the click of his bedroom door as it shuts. 

Then… he hears nothing. 

And just like always, Jimin’s alone.