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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. 

Chapter Text

For a split second, just after Jimin wakes up, his mind is peacefully blank. Spared of all memories and emotions from last night, and left untouched by any regrets. But then he blinks and it all comes back, and he feels something inside of him breaking all over again. 

Sometimes, Jimin thinks he’s his own worst enemy. All too often, the only person he can blame for his sadness is himself. It’s his own bad decisions that leave him in positions like this: drained in every way and wishing for a magical do-over somehow. 

Jimin has many talents—kickboxing, cooking, note-taking, self-sabotage—to name a few. He’s especially good at the last one, even when he’s not trying to be. Without meaning to, the decisions he makes continuously turn out to be the wrong ones. 

His stomach is upset and his head is pounding, but Jimin forces himself to sit up anyway, groaning as he does so. The sun is turned up to its highest brightness just to torture him, and the air in the apartment is chokingly stale. His lungs burn and every body part hurts.

When he stands, the ground feels uneven so he stumbles. It doesn’t help that he still only has one boot on. He leans at a ninety-degree angle, head braced almost helplessly on his nightstand for balance, as he toes off the other shoe. Then he gathers himself, rubs his temples, and heads for the living room.

Jimin has high hopes for what he’ll see when he opens his door. A sliver of his imagination entertains the idea of Taehyung on his couch to greet him, prepared to hear him out. It’s a pipe dream that’s quickly squashed when Jimin sees nothing but an empty apartment. 

He’s not surprised. After everything that happened last night, Jimin didn’t expect Taehyung to stick around. He probably booked it out of the apartment as quickly as he could. In fact, Jimin wouldn’t be surprised if he’s about 7 hours away from Seoul by now. So freaked out by Jimin that he just got into his car and didn’t look back. 

The cell phone in Jimin’s back pocket suddenly feels heavy. It’s not rocket science for Jimin to conclude that the person texting him last night was Taehyung. He was too drunk and too avoidant at the bar to check, but his fingers curl around the device now, figuring he should take a look. 

On the screen reads: 

 

Taehyung — (5) Missed Calls
Taehyung — (14) iMessages



Different emotions flood Jimin’s body at once. Regret, his most pressing feeling at the moment, hits him first. Because Jimin doesn’t like hurting people—he knows firsthand how shitty it is to be on the receiving end. And as he scrolls through the progression of Taehyung’s messages last night, he’s pretty sure he’s hurt him. 

Messages that start off as casual, asking Jimin if he’s running late. Then, ones that are mildly concerned, joking about Jimin getting sudden onset amnesia and forgetting about their plans for the night. The messages after that just make Jimin feel terrible. Taehyung’s asking if he’s okay, or if he’s had an emergency, or if he’s gotten stuck at work. Then, he asks if Jimin’s rethought spending time with him and decided to stay home. He promises to not be mad if that’s the case. 

Taehyung’s last message is from 11:45 p.m., and all it says is: I'll find you. That’s it. After all of the possibilities Taehyung threw out there about Jimin not showing up, he ends with that—I’ll find you. 

And he did. 

Jimin can’t help but wonder how long it took Taehyung to pick the right place. He imagines him checking the coffee shop, the park, and maybe stopping by his apartment. Jimin wonders if Taehyung went to his job to try to ask for him, granted he made it there before the restaurant closed. Or if Jimin’s so sad and predictable that Taehyung knew to check the bar first. 

Having seen enough, Jimin tosses his phone onto the couch and watches it bounce helplessly one time on the cushion, and then plop onto the ground. Usually, Jimin doesn’t give a fuck about his phone falling, but for some reason, he groans and begins walking to pick it up. What catches his attention when he rounds his sofa isn’t his disregarded phone on the floor, but it’s what’s sitting on his coffee table. 

Sitting down, Jimin takes a closer look. He finds two tiny white pills—aspirin, he’s sure—on top of a ripped piece of paper with a bottle of water. The note reads simply: 

 

for the hangover i know
youre gonna have
   — TH

 

If his head wasn’t threatening to split in half, Jimin would smile. It’s a small gesture, but he thinks it speaks volumes. Taehyung had every right to just leave last night without stopping to do anything. But as Jimin looks around, the furniture he remembers knocking into are set back straight, his front door is locked, and there’s this waiting for him on his coffee table. At the very least, Jimin thinks it might mean Taehyung doesn’t completely hate him. 

But truthfully, Jimin doesn’t have it in him right now to overthink and analyze. The only thing he has energy for is to twist the cap off the water, place the pills on his tongue, and swallow them down. After a few more sips, Jimin lays down on his couch and falls back asleep. 

 

 

“So, let me get this straight,” Hoseok says, waving his hand like a windshield wiper. “You did what?”

If Jimin’s headache began to subside, it’s definitely back now. He lays like a starfish in the middle of his living room, staring at a very specific crack in his ceiling. For about half an hour now, he’s been entertaining the idea of it splitting his entire ceiling in half and the whole building coming crashing down on him. Sounds delightful. 

Hoseok’s heard the story three times. He knows exactly what Jimin did; he just wants to hear it again. But Jimin can’t stand to recall last night anymore. And even still, over twenty hours later, Jimin can’t decide which part of it makes him more frustrated. The part where Kiwoo continues to ruin everything good in his life, the part where he lets him ruin everything good in his life, or the part where he takes matters into his own hands and ruins it himself. 

Hyung,” Jimin whines pathetically, covering his face with his hands. He called Hoseok over to tell him everything’s going to be alright, not make him feel worse. But what are best friends for, right? He didn’t expect Hoseok to sugarcoat the fact that he fucked up. He already knows that, though. So the reiteration doesn’t help much. 

Even without opening his eyes, Jimin can tell there’s a change in Hoseok’s facial expression. He sucks his teeth and tells Jimin genuinely, “I’m sorry. For real. I know you’re beating yourself up over this.” 

Of course, he’s beating himself up over it. Just when things with Taehyung were starting to feel like it was going in the right direction, he goes and does this, setting them back by a thousand steps. Jimin wouldn’t be surprised if Taehyung doesn’t want to speak to him anymore. It’s too… awkward now. Too weird. 

Slowly peeling his hands away, Jimin mumbles sadly, “I just really felt like it could’ve—I dunno, grown into something good. Us. Just—fuck, I don’t know.” 

It’s hard to explain a gut feeling. In reality, Jimin knows he doesn’t have much solid proof that anything between him and Taehyung would’ve worked out if last night didn’t happen, but the idea seems nearly impossible right now. But even still, there’s something so sure inside of Jimin that tells him Taehyung is—was, maybe—into him, too. 

That night in his apartment had to mean something, Taehyung was going to kiss him back. And even last night, Taehyung could’ve easily chalked Jimin’s absence up to him being an asshole, but he came to look for him instead. Drove him home, got him in bed safely, left him medicine for the next morning. All of these things that make Jimin think he’s not insane or delusional for thinking Taehyung likes him back, but… there’s a bigger part that tells him Taehyung would never want to take a chance with someone like him. Someone so obviously a mess. 

Breathing out heavily through his nose, Hoseok smiles sympathetically down at Jimin and asks, “Who says it still can’t? You know what you gotta do, right?”

Jimin blinks up at him. “Disappear off the face of the Earth?” 

“Close,” Hoseok says sarcastically. “You gotta call him.” 

Just the thought of it makes his heart pound in his chest. The fear of rejection is too strong. The idea that he’ll call Taehyung to explain or apologize or whatever, and Taehyung doesn’t want to hear anything he has to say terrifies him. 

Truthfully, Jimin’s embarrassed by himself. Embarrassed that his ex was still able to get into his head like that, and embarrassed that he wasn’t able to keep his stupid, overflowing feelings to himself. Embarrassed by the outcome. He just doesn’t think he can take it if he reaches out to Taehyung and that goes bad too. 

The look on Jimin’s face must say it all, because he doesn’t even speak before Hoseok is telling him, “You can’t avoid this forever.”

Jimin scoffs. “Yes, I can.” 

He wants to point out that Taehyung’s leaving Seoul soon, if he hasn’t already, so it’s actually very easy to let this disintegrate into nothing. But the thought of Taehyung leaving hurts his heart more than he’s ready to admit. So he swallows down the comment, too nervous to speak it aloud. 

A throw pillow smacks Jimin in the head and falls onto the carpet next to him. 

“You can, but you know you shouldn’t. And you don’t want to,” Hoseok says, feigning annoyance. He’s smiling, shaking his head at Jimin like he doesn’t know what to do with him. 

Using his stomach muscles to sit up, Jimin props himself on his elbows to look in Hoseok’s direction. He’s right and they both know it. Jimin just needs to work up the courage to call Taehyung. 

Being painfully honest for the first time, Jimin says, “I just don’t know what I’m gonna do if he’s mad at me. Or if he doesn’t want to see me anymore.” 

There’s silence then, like Hoseok’s thinking about how to respond. Jimin holds his breath as he waits. An indent appears on Hoseok’s forehead when he’s thinking, Jimin traces the line with his eyes. Then, when Hoseok looks back at him, Jimin feels his heart jump—anticipating. 

“Look,” Hoseok starts, letting out a breath. “I know this feels like a lot, but you’re not the first person on Earth to drunkenly kiss someone they’re into. I know it didn’t happen the way you wanted to, but it’s not like he full-out rejected you. He said—”

“Not like this...” Jimin supplies, the words burned into his memory. 

Hoseok nods. “Exactly. He said, ‘Not like this,’ and that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t want to. Maybe he literally just meant… not like that. Not with one of you wasted. Not after he ran around the east side of Seoul looking for you— after you stood him up. It’s not exactly the most romantic first kiss, kid.” 

Despite his current track record, Jimin’s not an idiot. He knows this. He’s told himself the exact same thing a million times. But that doesn’t make him any less nervous to talk to Taehyung again. It doesn’t stop the anxiety from making his stomach turn. And doesn’t stop the doubts and the what-ifs. He can’t help it. 

Flopping down onto his back, Jimin says, “You’re right.” 

“But you’re never gonna know until you hear it from him,” Hoseok adds. “So that means you gotta call him.”

Again, Jimin mumbles, “You’re right.” 

Hoseok sits back and crosses his arms over his chest. He says with his face brightening up, “God, I love it when you say that.” 

It’s Jimin’s turn to throw the pillow back in Hoseok’s direction. Throws it a little harder than he should, but it’s soft and he knows Hoseok’s not going to get hurt. He squawks dramatically and karate chops it before it fully makes it to him. Jimin laughs, his first real laugh in what feels like forever and it feels good. He can always count on Hoseok to lift his mood. Just about the only person who can be brutally honest with him and keep him grounded, but also make him laugh this much. 

When they settle, Hoseok’s face straightens and he asks, “So... you’re gonna call him tomorrow, right?”

Jimin’s face twists, a dramatic crying expression painted on and rolls over. He gently bangs his head against the carpet before he whines out, “I guess.” 

It terrifies him, but Jimin knows it’s what he has to do. 

 

 

Much to Jimin’s surprise, it’s Taehyung who reaches out first. Admittedly, Jimin chickens out and his promise to call Taehyung tomorrow turns into the day after tomorrow and then the day after that. 

In his defense, he’s busy now. At this point, Jimin thinks he should get the full paychecks of his coworkers because he’s always picking up extra hours. They call out for their shifts and, as always, the first person Mr. Seong calls to fill the shift is Jimin. 

He has the right to decline, and he knows that, but he never does. Jimin prefers to have money left over after he pays his rent, so he doesn’t mind too much. But it’s still exhausting. Especially since he went to school for management and was making his way up the chain at the restaurant. Lately, though, he’s been spending most of his days waiting tables. Nothing against his fellow waiters, but it’s simply not why he suffered through a degree for four years. 

It’s been three days since Jimin has last seen Taehyung, which also means it’s been three days of nothingness between them in regards to communication. Each time Jimin psyches himself up to text Taehyung, even just a simple hello, he loses his nerve.

But when Jimin checks his phone on break, his breath gets caught in his chest when he sees he has a text message from Taehyung waiting for him. He opens it before he gives his brain a chance to talk himself out of it.

It’s a simple message. Reads: 



taehyung [7:41 p.m.]
still on for the opening on saturday?



Jimin has imagined plenty of things Taehyung could text him, but this wasn’t one of them. It’s not bad, per se. Actually, it’s not bad at all, considering Taehyung’s texting to confirm their next hangout. Which means he wants to see him again. But there’s a weird feeling in Jimin’s stomach.

Obviously the elephant in the room is the kiss. Jimin guesses he didn’t really expect either of their first text messages to address it, though. It’s a conversation to ease into, not jump into headfirst. 

Maybe he wants to talk about it in person? Or maybe he isn’t even sure if Jimin remembers it, so he’s avoiding it altogether? Waiting to see if Jimin will bring it up first as he has the most explaining to do? Jimin hates that this is more complicated than it should be. But he’s to blame for it as far as he’s concerned. 

Biting his bottom lip nervously, Jimin replies: 



jimin [8:55 p.m.]
the art exhibit? 
yeah, i’m down if you still are



Truthfully, Jimin wants to see Taehyung so bad it pains him. To clear the air and apologize and maybe kiss him again—but the right way. Jimin doesn’t even know what he wants, but none of it can happen if they don’t see each other again. Jimin’s grateful that Taehyung has the courage he couldn’t seem to find. 

Taehyung responds quickly. 



taehyung [8:56 p.m.]
definitely! 
should i pick you up?



The two of them driving together would give them a chance to talk. In fact, the confinement would sort of force them to. And Jimin knows that’s what he needs. That little extra push even though it scares the hell out of him. As he replies, his heart dares to beat out of his chest. 



jimin [8:57 p.m.]
sounds perfect 
see you then?



He makes it a question on purpose because maybe it’d be a good idea to see each other before then. The exhibit’s going to be busy and crowded if it’s a grand opening. Jimin already foresees their attention focusing on the art, photography, and whatever else is inside. It’s not going to be the time to talk about themselves and their issues. 

But he leaves the ball in Taehyung’s court. Thinks it’s best for both of them if he stops making all the big moves and lets Taehyung control their speed for a while. Jimin no longer trusts himself behind the wheel. 

No more than a minute later, Jimin’s phone buzzes again. Taehyung’s response. It’s short and sweet, but the taste it leaves in Jimin’s mouth borders on bitterness. 



taehyung [9:00 p.m.]
starts at 7
i’ll pick you up around 6



Jimin guesses they won’t be seeing each other before the grand opening. The thought of it makes Jimin nervous. Knowing that for the majority of the night, Jimin is going to have to act like he isn’t itching to explain what he’s feeling already makes him dizzy. 

On the other hand, Jimin hopes that maybe it’ll do them both some good. To do something together and prove that things can go back to normal—whatever the hell normal was for them. A reminder that they can continue to hang out and enjoy each other’s company without it being awkward. Hopefully.

Taking another shot at thinking positively, Jimin makes himself stick with that. Maybe the night won’t be a total shitshow. 

 

 

It’s torture, the kiss plays over and over in Jimin’s head. And the regret—of how it happened, not the kiss itself—crawls back up Jimin’s throat like a bad meal. Leaves a burning feeling at the back of his throat, acid dripping down his esophagus. His chest feels heavy with disappointment in himself. He curses his lack of self-control and his fragile wall of pride that Kiwoo knows how to knock down with one gust of breath. 

The following days leave Jimin ridden with slow-boiling anxiety, the type that bubbles constantly under his skin. He overthinks meeting up with Taehyung so much he becomes jittery at work and transforms into the type of worker he hates—one that mixes up lunch orders, and leaves dirty dishes on the work area, and asks customers to repeat themselves two or three times. 

Mr. Seong even asks if he’s sick. Then, he sternly recommends Jimin get the hell out of his kitchen if he is. And even though Jimin isn’t ill, he takes Mr. Seong up on his offer and leaves halfway through his shift on Friday. Too preoccupied with all the possibilities of what might happen tomorrow when he sees Taehyung again. Worries himself over the impending awkward silences and uncertainty that’s bound to dictate his every move. 

Taehyung doesn’t hate him—he’s deduced that after dissecting the events in his head repetitively like a mad scientist. But Taehyung could very well be disappointed in him. Which, somehow, hurts worse, even though Jimin wouldn’t blame him in the slightest. And more so, all of this could be gearing up for the biggest let down of them all: that maybe Taehyung isn’t actually interested. 

And for reasons beyond Jimin at the moment, the possibility of learning that Taehyung doesn’t feel the same way makes his heart hurt in a way he’s never felt before. 

 

 

“What the fuck do I even wear to an art exhibit opening?”

Jimin’s freaking out a little. It’s an hour before Taehyung’s due to pick him up and he still isn’t dressed yet. Instead, he’s crouched down in front of his closet in a rather helpless position. He stares up at his clothes like they’re the enemy, squinting. With his cellphone pressed to his ear, he hears Hoseok chuckle on the other end. But Jimin can’t pinpoint a single thing that’s comical about the fact that he’s going to make a fool out of himself tonight and do it in a terrible outfit. 

Still giggling, Hoseok responds, “Why are you asking me?”

Jimin’s face twists in disgust. “You majored in fashion!”

“I majored in dance, jackass,” Hoseok says back. No harshness in his tone, it’s plain amusement. “I minored in fashion. Which means I took like… four elective courses in junior year.” 

Dramatically, Jimin lets himself fall onto the floor in slow motion. He sighs and tells Hoseok, “You’re useless.” 

Hoseok snorts. “Hang up then, know-it-all.”

At that Jimin’s eyes round and he pouts. “No,” he whines. 

Eventually, Hoseok must pity him enough to help. He lets out a deep breath and tells Jimin that it sounds like a casual event, so if he over-dresses he’s going to stick out. So no suit jackets or slacks. He reminds Jimin that black is always the go-to color, and he can use accessories to not look too plain. Jimin likes that idea, he’s got more jewelry than he can keep track of. 

With the mild encouragement from Hoseok on the other end, Jimin picks out black skinny jeans and a white button-up shirt. For a moment, he even questions if the button-up looks like he’s trying too hard. But he decides to neutralize it with his favorite jean jacket and dark brown combat boots. Top three buttons left undone to show off his favorite ruby pendant necklace, silver rings adorning his fingers, and small silver hoops in his ears. 

Jimin fusses with his hair in the mirror for longer than he’s proud of, frowning each time strays fall even a centimeter from where he anticipated. He’s got Hoseok on speaker now, needing both hands. His fingers brush and sweep and place his dark strands while Hoseok tells him a story about a date he and Yoongi went on the other day. But Jimin’s barely paying attention—his head is spinning knowing that in half an hour, he’ll see Taehyung again. Hoseok’s voice becomes background noise as his brain goes over all possible ways tonight can go.

“...so we fucked in the bathroom stall.”

Jimin freezes. “Huh?”

“Kidding,” Hoseok says, chucking. “Mostly. Just wanted to see if you were still listening.”

“I wasn’t,” Jimin responds, fighting off a smile as he flicks at a strand of hair that has a mind of his own. Giving up, Jimin reaches for his black beanie and settles it stylishly on his head. He hums, only mildly satisfied. But he guesses it’ll have to do. 

Jimin’s finishing touches include some eyeshadow near his lashes—a deep rose color that he blends out, and soft black liner. He applies a cherry chapstick meant to stain the lips a scarlet color, then spritzes himself with his favorite cologne. 

“How’re you feeling?” Hoseok asks as their phone call is ending. Taehyung should be at Jimin’s place any minute now. 

Jimin’s still staring at himself in the mirror, overly critical. His eyebrows scrunch as he goes back and forth trying to decide if he should tuck one side of his shirt in or not. He grunts, letting the fabric hang loosely. 

“Like I’m gonna throw up,” Jimin replies. 

He hears the sympathy in Hoseok’s voice through the phone. Gently, he reassures Jimin, “It’s gonna be fine. You’re just nervous.” 

The thing is, just like any other time Jimin’s hung out with Taehyung, he’s not even sure if this is a date. And with that comes the doubtful thoughts that he’s maybe reading too much into things—projecting what he wants to be true onto his interactions with Taehyung. 

But then he remembers the flirting and the tension and the butterflies. He remembers the almost-kiss, and then the real kiss. And he remembers Taehyung whispering to him "Not like this...” and gently pulling away. For a week, he’s driven himself mad trying to decipher exactly what Taehyung meant by that. 

Jimin guesses he’ll find that out tonight. And in turn, Jimin will be completely honest about what happened that night in hopes that Taehyung doesn’t react too badly. 

Because he knows he fucked up. Taehyung didn’t deserve to be treated the way Jimin treated him. But if Taehyung lets him explain long enough, he really hopes he’s able to get to the part where he tells Taehyung he really fucking likes him. And, if Taehyung wants to, he’d love nothing more than to kiss him again.

Jimin’s phone lights up, displaying Taehyung’s name on the screen over Hoseok’s. His heart drops to his stomach, anticipation and anxiety rushing through him. 

“Fuck, he’s here,” Jimin says, scrambling to reach his phone from his desk. “I gotta go, hyung. I—I’ll call you later.” 

His shaky hands disconnect the call with Hoseok and answer Taehyung’s. Each time Jimin hears it, the deepness of Taehyung’s voice melts him. It’s a quick conversation, it ends with Jimin promising he’d be downstairs in a minute. 

Before he leaves, Jimin takes one final look in the mirror. His only thought: I’m definitely over-dressed. 

 

 

It takes exactly thirty-seven minutes to drive from Jimin’s apartment to the location of the art exhibit. Thirty-seven. And Jimin feels every second of every single minute. His internal clock ticks along with the universe’s analog one, noting the time passing so slow it feels like it’s going backward. 

The atmosphere inside of Taehyung’s car is heavy—bordering awkward. They’re friendly, they smile, and they give each other compliments, but there’s something like an impending rainstorm looming over their heads. The elephant in the back of Taehyung’s van, sucking out all the air with a vacuum, is slowly suffocating them. Jimin can’t help but notice the way Taehyung grips the steering wheel as he drives, lips pressed into a straight line. 

Jimin shifts in the passenger seat, pretending to find the passing cars interesting. They zoom by in a blur similar to what’s happening inside of Jimin’s head. He wants to pick a topic and spark up some kind of conversation beyond the small talk, but his mind is helplessly blank. His thoughts, much like the cars, seem to pass by too quickly for him to catch. 

So the car ride over is mostly spent in silence, save the radio playing. Back to back tracks that are mostly instrumental. Slow, soothing music like they’re in an elevator on wheels. Swing jazz without the lyrics, all hi-hats and saxophones. By the fourth song, Jimin begins to find them comforting. He even closes his eyes for a moment, and with the low hum of the engine and the vibration of the tires on the road, Jimin feels a sense of peace wash over him. 

“We’re here,” Taehyung announces, causing Jimin’s eyes to open. 

Although he says it softly, Jimin hears the anticipation in his voice. Despite the somber-like drive over, there’s a bright smile on Taehyung’s face now. He’s been excited about this for two weeks. Cheeks rounding like baked bread and dusted an apple-red. When Jimin looks over, his heart beats funny in his chest. A scattering of its rhythm, as if his body needs to adjust to looking at Taehyung—calming itself down. He’s too beautiful.

They’re in a parking lot across the street from the exhibit. A line is starting to form down the sidewalk and Jimin pokes his bottom lip out, sort of impressed. He’s never been to one of these before, so he isn’t sure what he expected, but it feels like they’re going to a concert. People lined up, eagerly waiting to be let inside. Strangers become friends, even just for tonight, to share the experience with someone. It’s a rather wholesome mood, and Jimin feels the vibration of it from across the street. 

There’s a breeze when Jimin exits Taehyung’s car, sweeping his strands across his forehead. As he’s brushing them back in place, Jimin feels Taehyung’s fingers hook around his bicep. 

“C’mon,” Taehyung guides, gesturing toward the entrance. “We can go in.” 

They approach the line from the back, but then walk parallel to the crowd stacked against the brick wall patiently. Some shoot them questioning glances, bordering on judging. Jimin feels them asking what the hell makes the two of them so special, and Jimin can’t help but wonder the same thing. But Taehyung seems confident—continues to hold Jimin by the arm to keep him close. 

The man at the door would be considered a bouncer if this were a rowdy club downtown. Despite the technicalities of his title, he serves as the human barrier between outside and inside. He stands with his arms crossed over his chest, eyes bored. But when Taehyung appears in his line of sight, the man’s stone-like expression melts into a smiling one. He pulls Taehyung into a one-arm hug after they shake hands, patting his back like old friends. 

“You’re late,” the bouncer teases, finally letting Taehyung go. 

Taehyung scrunches his nose cutely and says, “Fashionably. It’s part of my image.” 

Jimin doesn’t understand how Taehyung makes friends so quickly. He’s been in Seoul for such a short amount of time, but he keeps a packed schedule and makes connections like he’s been here his whole life. But Jimin guesses an extroverted, charming personality is needed to live a life as Taehyung does. So, when he allows himself to ponder, it doesn’t seem too outlandish at all. 

“Everyone’s already inside,” the bouncer says. Then, gesturing toward Jimin with his chin, he asks, “He’s with you?” 

Jimin swallows around nothing and offers up a faint smile to the man guarding the door, nodding hello as he does so. From the corner of his eye, Jimin sees Taehyung smile—a nervous type of curl to his lips. 

Holding his hand out toward Jimin, Taehyung says, “Yeah, he’s my—”

Taehyung stops talking. 

Jimin’s heart stops beating. 

He’s Taehyung’s what, exactly? The possible answers range from a formal plus-one to a casual friend, or something more, like his date. Would Taehyung call him his date? Is this a date? Internally, Jimin claws at his insides, screaming. The suspense, although only lasting a few seconds, kills. 

But it seems Taehyung isn’t too sure how he wants to end that sentence either. Instead, he clears his throat, reaches for Jimin’s arm again to get him to walk, and confirms, “Yeah, he’s with me.” 

Even that makes Jimin’s head spin a little. Because Jimin knows he’s liable to overthink the little things—like the implications of Taehyung’s answer. It’s helpless, Jimin can’t stop himself from wondering exactly how Taehyung meant that, too. Is he with Taehyung in the literal and platonic sense that grants him early access to whatever’s inside? Or, is he with Taehyung—subtly suggesting more? 

The bouncer steps aside, letting them enter, clearly disinterested in pondering the fine print of their relationship label. Jimin’s hyper-aware of the weight of Taehyung’s slender fingers slipping from his jean jacket sleeve as they walk. Then, a white tile floor so shiny it reflects the lights in the ceiling causes Jimin to squint. 

Laughing, Taehyung says, “Yeah, everything’s brand new. From the floors to the thumbtacks used to hang the pictures.” 

It takes Jimin’s brain a long minute to take everything in. Inside is pretty—vibrant, pristine photographs and paintings in varying sizes adorn the walls. There are sculptures and hand-crafted art, centered behind smudge-less glass on podiums. Placards on the wall indicate the artist beside each work, and spotlights aim at some of the main attractions. Fresh white paint on the wall, a floor so clean Jimin could eat off it, and the smell of potpourri lightly dusting the air. 

And then it hits Jimin. Right as he’s walking further into the exhibit—eerily vacant and quiet with all of the eager viewers outside—that Taehyung isn’t just here to see the art. 

Jimin stops, eyes wide as he asks, “Wait. Is this your grand opening?” 

Taehyung smiles, shaking his head. “Personally, no. But I’m one of the featured photographers. It’s pretty cool. Even got my own spot somewhere around here.”

“Shit, Taehyung, that’s amazing! Why didn’t you tell me?” Jimin adjusts the beanie on his head then stuffs his hands in his front pockets. He could swear Taehyung’s blushing a little.

With his voice much softer now, Taehyung tells Jimin, “Because I kind of... have a surprise for you.” 

He feels his eyebrows lift. “Wh—”

Before Jimin has a chance to get his question out, Taehyung’s wrapping his fingers around Jimin’s arm again, smiling wide as he leads him toward the back of the exhibit. 

 

 

Somewhere behind them, people are beginning to file in. But Jimin’s too focused on staring at the back of Taehyung’s head—full of black, healthy curls—as he walks ahead of him. Over the speakers, soft music begins to play. A slow song made up mostly of violins and flutes with quick notes that match the rhythm of Jimin’s heart. 

He studies Taehyung’s shoulders that are much broader than his own. He’s dressed in an outfit that makes him look right at home surrounded by art. A dark-gray peacoat with patterned white stitching so long it brushes his ankles, fern-colored pants, and shiny forest green loafers that match the green in his navy blue scarf. Jimin spots a light gray sweater peeking out from under all of his other layers. 

If anyone else wore this outfit, they’d look out of place. Like a try-hard. A little too formal for the event, maybe a little too bright. But it showcases Taehyung’s personality and highlights the artist within him. Creative expression bleeds through everything Taehyung touches, including his clothing. 

When Taehyung stops, Jimin’s still a bit too wrapped up in admiring the view that he almost knocks into him. Jimin puts his hand out, fingers resting on the small of Taehyung’s back for just a second. He pulls his hand away quickly, but Taehyung doesn’t seem to mind. 

Taehyung’s nearly beaming. He points to the display on the wall and says, “Ta-da!” 

And what Jimin sees is… definitely a surprise, because he sees himself. The photographs depict silhouettes, but he recognizes the photos from the ones Taehyung showed him at his apartment. Remembers posing for these pictures and hoping they’d turn out alright. 

But here—intertwined so prettily with other nighttime landscapes and perfectly blurry shots—they look beautiful. There’s a picture of the sun setting, the photo a burnt orange. And there’s a picture taken at the cemetery, a mourning silhouette in front of a tombstone in the pale blue distance. There are pictures of the sky at night, golden stars as bright as spotlights. And there are pictures of lilac budding flowers, the scenic path Jimin used to take to class, and ones of cars with a black and white filter. They are seemingly going nowhere in a hurry. 

Jimin’s mouth hangs open as his eyes run over the wall. He wants to reach out and touch the polaroids but fears his fingers will grease the shiny topcoat they all seem to have over them. 

He then spots a picture of a silhouette that isn’t him—but looks a lot like Taehyung. The person is sitting on the roof of a van, looking up at the sky, the moon so full it looks swollen. Jimin thinks maybe Taehyung took this one himself. Placed his tripod in the perfect spot and set his camera on a timer to get it. And it, just like all of the other pictures, is gorgeous. 

“Taehyung, this is…” Jimin begins to say, but none of the words he can think of quite do Taehyung’s work justice. 

The glare of the placard catches Jimin’s eye. Bold black ink on glossy white paper. The card is screwed into place at the center of a small, dark marble stand. It reads: 




LONELY HEARTS CLUB (2020) BY KIM TAEHYUNG

  There’s a difference between being alone
and feeling lonely. In a city so populated,
it should be impossible for anyone to
experience unwanted solitude. But behind
bright smiles are often crying eyes. And within
our own darkness, we are all alone together. 

— Kim Taehyung, Photographer




“You inspired me,” Jimin hears Taehyung say from somewhere behind him. It’s hard to hear him over the beating of his own heart, pumping blood through his body at a quick rate. The words Taehyung’s written touch something so deep inside Jimin it’s scary. 

Again, Jimin opens his mouth to speak, but he’s truly at a loss for words. Nothing he could say seems like it’s enough to express that this might be the single most beautiful thing Jimin’s ever seen in his life. (Except for Taehyung himself, of course.) 

The colors, the feelings the pictures radiate, the angles of the shots—all of it so perfectly connected. Somehow, they effectively and powerfully depict a sense of loneliness. The solo shots of the nearly identity-less silhouettes contrast powerfully with the ones taken of Seoul’s busy streets, forcing viewers to contemplate how the two worlds can coexist. 

Taehyung stands beside him; his presence is felt heavily but warmly to Jimin’s right. Jimin’s lack of words must worry him, because now he’s sporting an uneasy smile on his face, trying so hard to decipher Jimin’s. 

“Do you… like it?” Taehyung asks, an awkward chuckle to follow. He flicks at his hair at the back of his head, a nervous habit Jimin’s beginning to recognize as such. “Should I have asked you before I put your pictures in it?”

At that, Jimin laughs. He has to because—

“Taehyung... I love it,” is what he says back. And even that isn’t enough. Doesn’t properly portray the feelings rocketing through his veins right now. A mix of emotions ranging from gratitude to happiness to astonishment to wonder. 

Playfully, Taehyung knocks his shoulder into Jimin’s. The nudge makes Jimin turn his head to look at Taehyung, a loose smile fitting his lips. When their eyes meet, Taehyung’s are shining and there’s a shimmer in them reflecting the light prettily. 

He watches Taehyung’s shoulders deflating as he sighs—visibly relieved. Taehyung bites the inside of his lip like he’s trying to tame the smile presenting on his face anyway. 

The adorable swell of Taehyung’s cheeks returns as he tells Jimin, “I was hoping you’d say that.” Then, “C’mon, let me show you everything else.” 

This time, when Taehyung leads Jimin along, he takes his hand. 

 

 

As expected, Taehyung is a social butterfly. His wings are rainbow-colored, just like his soul, and glimmer in the light. He introduces Jimin to the other artists featured tonight, and then to the exhibit owner. Jimin learns that they’re transforming the space into an art store after tonight. Should be up and running in a week, he’s told. 

They make small talk for a while, and some of Taehyung’s artist friends even explain their creative approach to Jimin when asked about their display. But soon enough, he and Taehyung branch off on their own. It’s then that Jimin feels himself calming down. He gets anxious in new places, and being around new people. But with Taehyung it’s not so bad. 

Any of the initial awkwardness or apprehension has dissolved—at least, for the time being. The uncertainty of what to say or how to act is thrown out the window. There isn’t any second-guessing or over-contemplation of what the other is thinking. 

Slowly walking together, Jimin and Taehyung admire the art with smiles on their faces. When they come full-circle, Taehyung has Jimin pose in front of his display. This time, lacking his camera, Taehyung takes the picture with his phone. 

Needing a picture of his own to remember tonight, Jimin makes Taehyung stand in front of his photography wall. Then, Jimin takes a selfie of the two of them—smushed together and smiling softly at the camera. 

When they’re finished, the exhibit is closing. Looking down at the time, Jimin spots that it’s after 11 p.m. Time has a funny way of speeding up whenever he spends it with Taehyung. 

They exit with everyone else. Taehyung’s friends wave goodbye to both of them, and Jimin waits while Taehyung has a quick conversation with the bouncer. 

He skips back over to Jimin, basically glowing with pride and contentment. Jimin’s never seen Taehyung this happy before and he loves it. All bright eyes and smiles, radiating energy stronger than the sun. 

“Tonight was amazing,” Taehyung notes. “Thank you for coming, really.” He points in the vague direction of his van and asks, “Ready to go?”

And Jimin hates—absolutely fucking hates—to put any type of damper on Taehyung’s mood, but he knows they can’t end the night without sorting some things out. Like last week, and Jimin standing Taehyung up, and they kiss. They have to talk about it. 

“Um,” Jimin says gently, gathering the nerve. He points in the opposite direction, down the sidewalk they’re on. He counters, “Walk with me?” 

There’s a split-second of apprehension that flashes in Taehyung’s eyes. But he’s got a good poker face and quickly neutralizes his expression. Despite that, Jimin sees him swallow hard—Adam’s apple bobbing roughly. When he speaks, there’s a twinge to his voice. He says, “Yeah, okay.” 

Jimin leads the way, spinning on his heel to begin walking down the sidewalk. Taehyung follows closely, matching his stride. And it’s like all the other people on Earth have been plucked off the street because now they’re alone. Empty road, empty sidewalk.

Small talk drives their conversation to start, easing into the territory Jimin intends to steer them. They walk at a leisure pace, hands in their pockets, eyes set on the ground below them. Jimin compliments Taehyung again on his photography and being featured in the opening. Taehyung thanks Jimin again for sparking creativity within him. 

When they round the corner for the second time, heading west, Jimin’s throat is burning with all of the words he wants to say. The things he’s been holding in since last week—some since before then. He needs to say it now—come completely clean about everything, and then see where it leaves them. Because Jimin doesn’t know how long he can suffer through the uncertainty. 

“I wanna just… say something, okay?” is how Jimin starts. His tongue feels heavy in his mouth and dry like sandpaper. So he swallows hard, tries to lather his words up so they come out smoother. 

”Okay,” Taehyung says back, barely over a whisper. The nervousness is depicted plainly in his voice. He doesn’t try to hide it and that scares Jimin a little. He doesn’t know Taehyung as well as he wants to, but he knows he doesn’t like showing his feelings or being vulnerable. This might be rough. 

An encouraging deep breath through his nose gives Jimin enough drive to start off with, “I really want to apologize to you. I was an asshole last week and you didn’t deserve that.” 

Truthfully, Jimin sort of expects Taehyung to jump at the opportunity to tell him he is an asshole. Maybe tell him he lost some respect for him that night. Or maybe anything he was beginning to feel for Jimin is gone now because of how he acted. 

But instead—instead, Taehyung asks softly, “Do you wanna tell me what happened?” 

And Jimin does. He really, really does. He wants to tell Taehyung everything, just lay it all out on the table. Because this has been eating at him for seven days straight and he can’t take it anymore. 

Despite that, Jimin sort of doesn’t know where to start. So he begins by saying, “I never meant to hurt you, and I’m really sorry if I did.” 

Taehyung’s quiet. Maybe he’s just trying to hear Jimin out. So Jimin takes in another deep breath and continues.

“My ex… is an asshole,” Jimin settles on. He begins to chuckle at the end, but he swallows it down because none of this is actually funny. He says, “He made a habit out of being really shitty to me. And it fucked with my head. He made me—I dunno—doubt myself? Or, my worth, maybe? Him and all the other assholes before him, I guess.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung tells him, and Jimin can hear that he means it genuinely. 

But Jimin isn’t telling him this so that he feels sorry for him, he just wants him to understand what type of person his ex is and why he’s still able to get inside his head. Needs him to understand the type of person he is, and the ways he’s still able to make Jimin do stupid, stupid things. 

So Jimin shakes his head and tries again. Says, “He’s a manipulator. A really good one. Just seeing him makes me feel… I don’t know. But, I ran into him on the street the night we were supposed to go to the movies. And, as you can see, it didn’t go well at all.”

Concerned now, Taehyung knits his eyebrows together and asks, “What did he say?”

Immediately, Jimin thinks of how he can downplay what Kiwoo said to him. Say it in a way that’s less harsh, or just scratches the surface. Because that’s what he's used to doing—covering up for him even though he doesn’t deserve it.

More so, Jimin’s nervous about opening up to Taehyung. To let him into this part of his world that he’s not proud of in the slightest. Because these people claimed to love him, and even still, they treated him like shit. Admitting that isn’t easy. 

He’s afraid that maybe Taehyung will think he’s weak for letting someone’s words get to him the way they do. Or think maybe all the things Kiwoo’s said and done aren’t so bad, because that’s the way Kiwoo always made Jimin feel. Like he was insane for being upset or offended when problems occurred or insults were flying. 

But Jimin wants to be honest. Something about Taehyung makes him feel like it’s okay to do so. 

He takes in a breath and says, “He basically told me I was a whore for hanging out with someone so soon after our breakup. Then said anyone who gets involved with me needs a lot of luck. Because, apparently, I’m so fuckin’ awful.” 

“Jimin, you’re not—”

“And so I was pissed off,” Jimin continues before Taehyung can finish. “And then I was sad. And then I was pissed off again because he made me sad. I don’t have any excuses, I made a dumb decision that night and I know that. I wanted to get drunk and drown my bad mood because that’s what I do. But I was a dick, you didn’t deserve that. I’m really sorry.” 

Taehyung’s quiet again. Jimin hears their footsteps against the concrete. In the distance, one car honks its horn at another. A bird flies overhead and lands effortlessly on a branch. The world continues to spin although Jimin feels suspended in time. 

“I looked everywhere for you,” is what Taehyung finally says. Jimin can tell he’s been trying to hide it, but he has a right to be mad. Or, at least, a little upset. No one gets stood up and is happy about it. 

Jimin’s shoulders deflate. “Fuck, I know, Taehyung. I’m sorry. I really am. I—I don’t know what else to say.” Then, because he needs to know, Jimin asks softly, “Are you mad at me?” 

There’s a long beat of silence then. They continue walking, but the air between them is heavy now. Jimin’s heart slams in his chest so hard it almost hurts. Breathing becomes a chore, and his legs feel like they’re going to give out. The longer Taehyung takes to answer the more Jimin just wants to keep apologizing. 

Eventually, after what felt like years, Taehyung says, “No. I wanted to be, but I’m not. I figured you wouldn’t have done it without a reason. You don’t seem like the type that hurts people for fun, so…” 

Taehyung’s voice trails off. Jimin’s about to respond when Taehyung speaks again. He asks, “Did you mean it?”

“To hurt you?” Jimin questions back, astonished. “Of course not, Taehyung. I don’t ever want to—“

“When you kissed me,” Taehyung cuts him off with. “Did you mean it?”

At that, Jimin stops walking. He has to. He doesn’t think he can say this part without looking into Taehyung's eyes, coming completely clean. 

Taehyung stops, too. Like magnets, they face one another, and feel an invisible pull between them. Jimin takes Taehyung in, breathing slowly. Always so pretty in the moonlight, skin glowing. He sees Taehyung searching his face for an answer before he says it, eyes wide and mouth slightly parted. 

When Jimin’s eyes lock with Taehyung’s, he tells him as sincerely as he can, “The only thing I meant that night was the kiss. I know it wasn’t what you wanted, but—”

“I wanted to kiss you, too,” Taehyung tells him, shaking his head. But he’s not as good with keeping eye contact. He looks away when he says it, then finally settles his eyes on Jimin again. Jimin can see his pulse slamming. “I just didn’t want to kiss you that way. Not after a night like that. Not with you drunk.” 

There’s courage that shoots through Jimin then in a way he’s never quite felt before. A buzzing feeling that tickles every nerve in his body and makes his heart flutter. He could swear he and Taehyung are the only two people on Earth when he looks into his eyes. Everything around them fades to black. And so he reaches out, feeling for Taehyung’s hand, needing him closer. Easily, their fingers intertwine and their palms settle against one another. 

Jimin’s voice is shaking when he asks just above a whisper, “What about after a night like tonight?” 

Taehyung bites the inside of his lip, staring so deep into Jimin’s eyes he wonders if he can see his soul. He says, “Definitely after a night like tonight.” 

It doesn’t take more than that. Jimin isn’t sure who leans in first, but they met somewhere in the middle—lips connecting gently to start, then with passion and hunger. 

Just like he remembers, Taehyung’s lips are soft. But this time, Taehyung doesn’t pull away. Actually, he pulls Jimin closer, and it’s the greatest feeling. Jimin lifts his chin and balances his weight near his tiptoes for a better angle.

Taehyung’s lips press against his own nervously for a moment, and then Jimin feels Taehyung relax. His hand comes up to the side of his face—thumb stroking over his cheekbone. Jimin tips his head to the side, chasing its comfort and warmth. He closes his eyes and lets himself get lost in all that Taehyung is. 

And just like always, time is nonexistent when he’s with Taehyung. Around them, the universe spins and spins and spins, but their world is completely still. Just the two of them, together, in the middle of the sidewalk. 

Truthfully, Jimin has no idea how long the kiss lasts. Seconds, minutes, maybe lifetimes. But when they finally pull apart, Jimin is panting and Taehyung’s blushing. He laughs like he’s amazed, and Jimin can’t help but laugh back. Relief rushes through his body. A weight lifts off his shoulders.

Kissing Taehyung this time is exactly how he imagined it would be—happy, breathtaking, and magical. 

 

 

When Taehyung drives Jimin home, Jimin’s fingers itch to be placed on top of Taehyung’s—resting on the stick shift like a tease. From the corner of his eye, he steals glances at Taehyung’s profile and admires the blurry golden lights on the other side of the driver’s window that passes behind it. 

The elephant previously in the back of the van has gone elsewhere for the ride back to Jimin’s apartment. It’s a peaceful silence; an upbeat pop song playing on the radio that Taehyung’s leg bounces to. 

As they come to a stop in front of Jimin’s complex, the brakes squeak. Taehyung parks the car right by the walkway, then looks over at Jimin in the passenger seat. A content smile is resting on his lips, and easiness in his eyes. 

“I had a great time with you,” Jimin says first as he presses the button to release his seatbelt. It snaps back into place and hangs from its position between the seat and the door. 

He feels the waves of a magnetic force in his chest returning, pulling him toward Taehyung.

Taehyung’s fingers release and then grip the steering wheel noticeably. Keeps his shoulders squared toward Jimin, torso twisted. He looks Jimin up and down slowly, like he wants something but is too afraid to get it—or ask for it. And Jimin’s heart is aching because doesn’t Taehyung know by now? Can’t he feel it? Jimin thinks he would give him the world if he asked, it’s scary.

“I can’t thank you enough for coming,” is Taehyung’s reply. When he licks his lips, Jimin’s eyes focus on the movement. It leaves his mouth shiny and tempting in the pale moonlight. 

Swallowing hard, Jimin fights past the lump in his throat to ask quietly, “Will I see you again before you leave?”

His way of trying to figure out exactly when that is. Because it’s been about a month now, and he worries Taehyung’s losing interest in the city. (Maybe losing interest in him, too.) And with the exhibit opening being out of the way, Jimin isn’t sure what else is keeping Taehyung here—if anything at all. 

A reactionary smile pulls at the corner of Taehyung’s lips, shoots up like a shield. His eyes don’t reflect the expression. It fades slowly as he swallows, eyes zigzagging downward to look at nothing in particular as he takes a moment to think. 

Eventually, Taehyung settles on: “You can see me whenever you want.” 

Sweet, sure, but not much of an answer. Despite recognizing the vagueness of Taehyung’s response, Jimin’s heart skips a few beats in his chest. The realization hits Jimin then that he’s relieved at the lack of an exact answer. That maybe if neither of them put an end date on their time together, Jimin can pretend it’s infinite. 

The magnetic force is back, but stronger. Jimin feels it pulling—his south pole being drawn to Taehyung’s north. Their opposites attract so effortlessly, causing Jimin to lean forward. 

You better mean that, Jimin thinks. But it’s a fading thought because it crosses his mind just as his eyes are closing and their lips are meeting. 

Connecting at the halfway point between their seats, Jimin’s fingertips get lost in the curls on Taehyung’s head. He feels Taehyung exhale slowly like he’s been holding his breath. His hand drapes around Jimin’s knee, sending waves of something up his thigh. Jimin’s breath halts in his chest. 

They pull apart no more than a few seconds later. For a moment, their hands remain in place. It takes effort for Jimin to allow his fingers to detangle from Taehyung’s hair, and he feels the coolness on his knee immediately when Taehyung takes his hand away. 

“See you soon?” Jimin says, reaching for the door handle. He lifts an eyebrow curiously, sort of making a game out of it. 

Taehyung smiles. “See you soon,” he says. 

Everything inside of Jimin wants to invite Taehyung inside. Wants to keep kissing him until their lips go numb—wants him to spend the night and wake up to him in his bed. But he’s learned quickly that he and Taehyung get nowhere when they rush, or act on impulse. So instead, Jimin slips out of the van quietly, keeping his wants trapped inside of his head. 

He feels Taehyung’s eyes watching him as he walks up to his building’s front door. Quickly, he waves at Taehyung before stepping inside. Taehyung’s van is loud as it drives off, the sound of its engine fading by the half-second. 

As Jimin walks to his apartment, all he can think about is how much he misses Taehyung’s lips already. And then Taehyung’s voice echoes in his head—see you soon

Jimin smiles all the way to his door. 

 

 

Without even realizing it—and without much effort at all—Taehyung carves himself a place in Jimin’s life. (And in his heart.) 

Slowly, but surely. One phone call at a time. One movie night at a time. One inside joke at a time. One photograph at a time. 

And it’s nice, even if the knowledge that all of this is temporary hangs over Jimin’s head constantly. Like an umbrella bracing itself for bad weather. 

But like the universe is pitying him, time goes slowly. Swears he lives through months in the week he spends with Taehyung. The paradox of long days and even longer nights whenever Taehyung is near, despite their time together slipping away quicker than Jimin’s prepared for. Jimin swears he feels it—their minutes and hours running out. 

The closer he gets to Taehyung, the scarier it becomes because...he’s leaving. Eventually, right? One day. That’s what he said. It’s what he does, and it’s not a secret. Jimin could never say he didn’t know what he was signing up for.

But all of Jimin’s worries disintegrate whenever he sees Taehyung smile. Whenever Taehyung lays in his lap. Whenever Taehyung holds his hand. 

So Jimin keeps going back for more, and the clock keeps ticking. Feels a lot like a planned heartbreak. 

 

 

Taehyung, Jimin is learning, is all about spontaneity. Calls when Jimin least expects it, plans their hangouts by a split-second decision, takes trips from one place to another whenever his heart desires, and, apparently, surprises Jimin by waiting outside of his job to pick him up. 

As always, Taehyung’s van—big and white and customized—is impossible to miss or mistake for anyone else. Just the sight of it brings a sort of comfort to Jimin now. All of the looming frustration and annoyance from his shift melts off of his shoulders and onto the sidewalk when he sees Taehyung’s smile, as bright and beaming as always, there to greet him. The stars glimmer golden and pretty over his head.

It’s like something out of a teenage movie. Taehyung’s leaning against the side of his van, toothpick in his mouth to chew on, with a mischievous smile on his face. Like he knows something Jimin doesn’t. And Jimin can’t help it, he smiles back so big he feels his cheek muscles starting to burn. 

“What are you doing here?” Jimin asks, giggling. 

“Taking you on an adventure,” Taehyung says. 

Like a gentleman—or a chauffeur, maybe—Taehyung opens the passenger door and bows at a ninety-degree angle. Still bent over, he gestures widely with his hand toward the car and says, “Your chariot awaits, Your Highness.” 

Jimin lifts an eyebrow. Then, so quick to fall into play, tosses his worn-out jacket over his shoulder in a prissy manner. Jimin scoffs, and then corrects, “Your Royal Highness.” 

From the corner of his eye, Jimin sees Taehyung bite his bottom lip to silence a giggle. He composes himself quickly as he closes Jimin’s door. When their eyes meet, Taehyung says, “Ah, my apologies, Your Royal Highness.” 

“Don’t let it happen again,” Jimin mumbles too loudly to be serious. He crosses his legs and then crosses his arms over his chest. It’s getting harder for Jimin to keep his laughs at bay, but he lets out a slow deep breath as to remain in character. 

They do this a lot now—impromptu role-playing, of sorts. Happened a few days ago for the first time while watching a movie about a captured princess. Taehyung made a joke that turned into him using a voice to mimic her. And Jimin, maybe a little too naturally, assumed the role of the poor but noble commoner who saves her. Needless to say, it went on for a solid half-hour, ending with them both laughing so hard there were happy-tears in their eyes. 

It’s sort of their thing. At least, one of them. Jimin’s starting to see they’re developing quite the collection of inside jokes. References to instances that only they understand. Laughing at nothing and everything at the same time. 

Taehyung walks quickly around the back of the van and hops into the driver’s seat. He’s kept the engine running, seats nice and warm for them to escape the cold. He shifts in place, left arm resting on top of the steering wheel, and asks, “May we go?” 

Jimin taps his chin, visibly pondering. Then, he says, “Your Royal Highness requests a shower before tonight’s adventure.” 

At that, Taehyung can’t help but laugh. The butterflies in Jimin’s stomach—that always seem to be there when Taehyung is around—begin to flap their wings like mad. He smiles at the ticklish feeling inside, cheeks blushing on the outside. 

Jimin stares at Taehyung’s profile and his entire body tingles with the urge to lean over and kiss him. But he digs his nails into his thigh to keep himself in his seat. 

They haven’t kissed since the night of the grand opening. Not on the lips, that is. They’ve become comfortable with tiny kisses to each other’s hands and foreheads now, but it isn’t enough. Not for Jimin. He wants to kiss Taehyung for real. Again and again and again. Jimin’s thought about it over and over so much he thinks it’s driving him insane. 

Putting on his turn signal to merge into traffic, Taehyung nods in Jimin’s direction and tells him, “To your castle, huh? Your wish is my command.” 

Jimin kind of likes the sound of that.

 

 

While Jimin’s showering, Taehyung sketches a rather impressive skyline, similar to the view out of Jimin’s living room window. Jimin continues to be impressed with Taehyung’s talents. He’s sitting on the floor with his back to Jimin when he emerges from the other end of the apartment. Eyes focused on the pad in his lap, hands busy. 

Often, Taehyung’s fashion sense has him in clothes a few sizes too large—hanging loosely over his thin frame. But tonight, he’s dressed in a light gray hoodie with a jean jacket on top, and joggers. All items a bit slim-fitting, highlighting his long legs and arms. Jimin smiles as he approaches Taehyung, sometimes forgetting how lanky he actually is. 

“That’s pretty,” Jimin comments. He’s hovering over Taehyung, hands on his shoulders, taking in the drawing. Then, he tips Taehyung’s head back and kisses his forehead. He loves that he can do that now, no hesitation in his actions. It makes Taehyung smile. 

“You take forever in the shower,” Taehyung says teasingly. “I needed something to do.” 

Jimin rolls his eyes playfully. “That’s a weird way to say thank you.” 

There’s a space on Jimin’s bookshelf that now provides a home for some of Taehyung’s art supplies. He gets hit with inspiration randomly and used to scramble around Jimin’s apartment for loose-leaf paper and a pen. But now, he’s got a small stash here. Basic items—a sketchbook, colored pencils, some paints, extra rolls of film, and his other polaroid camera. Jimin convinces himself it doesn’t mean anything, it’s mostly for convenience. It’s not like Taehyung’s moving in or anything. 

Standing now and dusting off his pants, Taehyung says with his tone bordering on sarcasm, “Thank you.” 

“So where exactly does our surprise adventure start?” Jimin asks, lifting an eyebrow with his question. He reaches for his jacket slung over the back of his computer chair, letting it hang over his forearm.

Taehyung makes a face. “Doesn’t make it a surprise adventure if I tell you, does it?”

For some reason, the butterflies are back in Jimin’s stomach. Something about knowing Taehyung’s planned this for them—no matter how big or small this adventure is—makes him feel special. Brings him a sense of giddiness and comfort knowing Taehyung must’ve been thinking about him quite a bit to show up at his job just to take him out like this. 

Hiding a smile, Jimin shrugs and says, “Guess not.” 

The area on the floor where Taehyung previously sat is clean now. He’s setting the box of colored pencils in place as he gestures toward the door and says, “After you, Your Royal Highness.” 

Jimin bows, smiling widely as he takes the lead, heading for the door. 

Taehyung leaves the drawing on Jimin’s couch, not giving it a second thought. It’s a little more than half-finished, but Jimin blames that on the time constriction. He has noticed, though, many of Taehyung’s paintings and drawings aren’t complete. Only finishes a project when the deadline is approaching and he has no choice. Says he works best under pressure. 

As they’re heading out, Jimin makes a mental note to find a place for it in his apartment anyway. He thinks maybe he’ll hang it up somewhere—for memories. 

 

 

Despite being the only thing close to a Seoul native out of the two, Jimin sits in the passenger seat of Taehyung’s car and wonders where they’re going. He recognizes the streets, of course, and comprehends when Taehyung uses the ramp to get on the highway, but the destination remains unclear. He knows better to ask; Taehyung’s not going to tell him. It’s all part of his plan. 

Traffic is light going west at this time of night, they only pass a few cars within each mile. Taehyung drives leisurely, one hand on the steering wheel, not-so-subtly stealing glances at Jimin from the corner of his eye. It’s okay, though, because Jimin’s stealing glances, too. 

On the radio, American R&B songs are playing. Rich, emotional voices singing over pianos and bass drums. Jimin thinks the artists sound lovesick—can imagine them singing on their knees in the rain outside of someone’s window. Pictures burning roses and tear-stained letters. The messages within the song, the ones that are felt despite the language difference, hits Jimin hard. Love is tough, he knows that firsthand. His heart aches, both in sympathy for and solidarity with the singers. 

“You’re off work tomorrow, right?” Taehyung asks, making Jimin’s train of thought run off-track. 

Jimin blinks, dragging his eyes from the passing road outside and onto Taehyung instead. Hums, “Mmhm.” 

And Jimin could swear there’s a mischievous, satisfied type of smile that’s painted on Taehyung’s face. So much so that Jimin squints his eyes and follows up with, “...why?”

Taehyung smiles. 

“No reason,” he says. 

Jimin scoffs. “You don’t do anything without a reason.” 

There’s a part of Jimin that’s proud he's beginning to learn Taehyung enough to say things like this. They’ve been talking more—mostly through text because Jimin works all the time and so does Taehyung. He’s been booked a lot, he says, freelancing. Hired to photograph up and coming models, and small weddings, and even pets. But within their written conversations, Jimin has begun to conclude some things about Taehyung and the way he operates. Which is, apparently, always with a purpose. 

He makes an expression with his face like he’s impressed with Jimin. Pokes out his bottom lip for a moment, then quirks his eyebrow and bobs his head. 

“True,” Taehyung says, still grinning. “Then I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.” 

Jimin’s heart beats quickly with anticipation of the immediate unknown. 

He smiles and says, “Guess you’re right.” 

 

 

They’re on the edge of the world. 

At least, that’s what it feels like. Taehyung has driven them forty minutes west on the highway, taken an exit route unfamiliar to Jimin, and drove them off-road for another twenty or so minutes. Up a rocky, abandoned dirt trail that made Jimin swallow his jokes about if Taehyung’s taken him to a spot that no one will ever find his body. And now they’re here, on the edge of the world, overlooking the rest of the population. 

Taehyung parks his car a safe distance from the drop, but the height of the van allows Jimin to look right over the bound and take in the view. Below them is Seoul and all of its beauty. White and red blurry streaks of cars, warm yellow lights in squares on apartment buildings, a powdery fog coating the air. 

It makes Jimin feel like he’s on a rollercoaster, looking down like this. An adrenaline rush of sorts. Typically, Jimin isn’t too fond of heights—vertigo a bit too quick to set in and leave his stomach upset. But right now, he feels exhilarated in a way he can’t describe. 

“Not a fan of heights at all,” Taehyung says, approaching Jimin. Like he’s reading Jimin’s mind or something. “But this is too pretty to pass up.” 

Pathetically, Jimin looks over at Taehyung and thinks you’re too pretty to pass up. Luckily, he’s able to keep that thought from escaping his lips. But at this point, he thinks maybe it wouldn’t be weird for him to say. Thinks maybe Taehyung would smile, or even blush a little.

Like they’re kids, Jimin and Taehyung are well aware that they like like each other. But right now it’s still innocent—soft kisses here and there, sometimes they hold hands, sometimes they lay near each other and it almost feels like they’re cuddling. But nothing more. Not yet. 

Jimin isn’t used to this. All of his past relationships—hook-ups included—have been fast-paced. Gone from zero to one hundred before Jimin had a grasp on things. Truthfully, this is a nice change. It feels like he can breathe. 

“C’mere,” Taehyung says just under his breath. His fingers wrap gently around Jimin’s wrist and then gives it a tug. 

The grips of their boots crunch brittle leaves and indent the dirt below them as they walk. They stop in front of the back of Taehyung’s van, the double doors staring back at them. Taehyung clears his throat like he’s nervous, then leans forward on one leg to grab the door handle. Says, “Ta-da!”, in a sing-song voice when he opens it. 

And Jimin isn’t sure what he expected the back section of Taehyung’s van to look like, but he wasn’t expecting this—he wasn’t expecting it to be pretty

White string-lights illuminate both sides of the van, resembling stars. Canvases litter the corners, most half-painted but still beautiful. Jimin spots polaroid pictures of valleys and oceans hanging from clips on a string behind the stream of lights, and Taehyung’s tripod by the entrance. In the middle is a make-shift bed. Layers of blankets and pillows on the floor set to resemble a place of rest. On top of the fabrics sit what looks like a picnic basket. Jimin spots his favorite bottle to wine sticking out of the side. And it’s… perfect. All of it. It looks like a dream. 

“Taehyung, what—”

“Come check it out,” he invites softly, taking Jimin’s hand again. 

Inside with the doors closed makes Jimin feel like he’s on another planet. An indigo sky drips through the sunroof overhead; it mixes with the lights, making everything a golden-blue. They sit nearly side by side although there’s surprisingly plenty of room. Taehyung names all of the snacks in the basket, showing Jimin one by one. 

Once Taehyung’s near the end and has successfully laid every favorite food Jimin’s ever mentioned on the sheets in front of them, he can’t resist kissing him. Does it mid-sentence. Just grips the front of Taehyung’s hoodie and kisses him quiet. 

Taehyung laughs into a kiss a few seconds later, like it takes his brain a moment to comprehend what’s happening. Slender fingers grip Jimin’s side, holding him close. 

“What’s this for?” Taehyung asks, nearly beaming, voice quiet. He’s smiling against Jimin’s lips, their teeth clicking against each other gently. Jimin kisses him between the words, wanting less talking right now. 

Jimin’s hand cups the side of Taehyung’s face and holds him like he’s golden. When Jimin looks into Taehyung’s eyes he feels something he’s never felt before in his life. It’s scary, whatever the hell this is. Makes his breathing become labored and his chest tighten. 

“For being you,” Jimin tells him. He pecks kisses onto Taehyung’s lips, melting each time he does so.

As always, the time has a way of melting into nothingness when he’s with Taehyung. They explore each other’s mouths until Jimin feels an ache in his jaw. His lips are numb in the best way, and he’s panting. 

Somewhere between their first kiss and their millionth, Taehyung guides Jimin onto his back. His head rests against an extra fluffy pillow, making Jimin feel like he’s resting on a cloud. There are stars above Taehyung’s head, and spinning planets in Jimin’s mind, and an overflow of emotions in both of their hearts. 

With Taehyung slotted so snugly between Jimin’s legs—Jimin’s inner thighs hooked around Taehyung’s hips—just one deliberate rocking motion would open the door to something brand new for them. A small movement with so much weight, Jimin feels it sitting on his chest like a boulder. 

Taehyung kisses sweetly, but something about him is always so eager. A faint buzz under his skin like his nerve endings are made of bees. His hair, long and pretty just like the rest of him, intertwines with Jimin’s as their lips meet again. With tongue this time, desperation seeping into their veins. Taehyung bites gently at Jimin’s bottom lip, pulls it with his teeth, smiling as he does so. It takes all of Jimin’s willpower to keep a moan from escaping him. 

Taking a chance, Jimin makes the first move. Grinds his hips up against Taehyung, ass rubbing slowly his crotch. A sound, stuttered and sweet, spills from Taehyung’s lips. An almost-moan. Something inside Jimin gets set on fire, ignited. So he does it again—precise circles of his hips. 

“Are you sure?” Taehyung asks when it seems he can’t take it anymore. After minutes of kisses that are now stained with lust and want. Fingers tugging curiously at each other’s hems. He presses his forehead to Jimin’s and then closes his eyes, heat radiating off him like a furnace. He’s rocking into Jimin slowly, like he’s trying to control himself. 

Jimin fights off a laugh. Thinks he should be asking Taehyung that since he was the one who declined his offer the first night. But that feels like a million years ago now—a version of their past-selves. They were strangers then, but now...they’re something more.

“Completely,” is what he whispers back like a secret. Their lips are centimeters apart, tempting. Their hands linger on exposed skin, wanting. Their eyes stare into each other’s, searching. 

Something inside of them snaps, cracks in two like the pulling of a wishbone. They start almost frantically—tugging shirts and jackets off. Sloppy kisses between the shedding of clothing—smiles ever-present on their reddened lips. 

Taehyung’s hard now, Jimin feels his cock resting firm and heavy against his ass. Only the thin fabric of their underwear separates them now, and Jimin’s thankful for the low light, because he’s sure his are sporting an embarrassing wet spot. Still, he moves his hips, becoming addicted to the noises Taehyung makes. 

“Do you have—anything?” Jimin pants, pulling back, eyes roaming around the back of the van like he’s familiar. Mentally, Jimin curses himself for not actually carrying a condom in his wallet like guys do on television. He’s sure he can happily settle for a blowjob or a handjob, but not if he doesn’t have to. Not if he can have all of Taehyung. 

“Yeah, I—um…” Blindly, Taehyung fumbles with his discarded pants, searching the pockets. Then, he rummages through a bag nearby. He mumbles hurriedly, “Fuck. Where is it?”

Jimin’s hand rests on Taehyung’s bare chest and he feels his heart thump, thump, thumping hard against his fingertips. Blinking, Jimin tells him, “Relax.” 

“—found it,” Taehyung responds, a relieved type giggling to follow. He re-settles back between Jimin’s legs, and anything that could be categorized as funny or silly washes away when their eyes meet. It’s then that Jimin remembers that he’s very hard and very ready. 

Looking down at the condom and mini bottle of lube in his hand, Taehyung contemplates for a moment before he asks, offering them away, “Do you wanna—”

Typically, Jimin doesn’t have a preference. Whatever happens in bed, happens, has always been his motto. Gets as much enjoyment bottoming as he does topping, truthfully. It’s all about the chemistry of two people, not the position they’re in, he thinks. But right now, he’s completely sure he wants Taehyung inside of him. Wants to feel him in every way he can. He’s been waiting for too long. 

So Jimin reaches up to hold both sides of Taehyung’s face, thumbs brushing over his cheekbones tenderly. Pulls him down gently and lets their lips meet once more. Tells him between heartbeats, “No, you.”

Taehyung is unlike anyone Jimin’s ever been with. Takes his time and moves meticulously—flashes Jimin questioning glances when he does something new, asking permission. Jimin nods every time, wanting it all. 

He teases Jimin's hole with his lubed-up fingers, tortuously slow circles. Smiles down at Jimin like he’s never seen anything like him before. Taehyung places his leg firmly against Jimin’s, keeping him spread open, completely on display. There’s a hand on Jimin’s toned stomach holding him in place as the fingers enter him, starting with two like he knows Jimin can take it. 

A breath is punched out of Jimin when Taehyung’s fingers slide in. Long and bony and slow-moving. Makes Jimin feel their length, then stretches them apart to form a V inside. Jimin feels the pressure against his walls, making him lose his mind.

A-ah,” Jimin moans, head lulling on the pillow, eyes screwed shut tightly. He bites down on his bottom lip, fingers curling around the fabric under him. Then, he takes in a deep breath and just lets himself feel. Exhales slowly, relaxes every part of himself, and lets Taehyung stretch him. 

Kisses smear against Jimin’s collarbone, tongue lapping against his skin. Mindlessly, Jimin’s hand finds Taehyung’s head. A handful of his curls fills his fist and he tugs. 

“So tight,” he hears Taehyung comment, fingers working in a quicker pace now. It all feels too good, Jimin’s sure he could get off just like this if he focused hard enough. Because it feels like he and Taehyung have been doing this for years—not for the first time tonight. It’s amazing how well they work together, even when it comes to this. 

And maybe it’s desperate of Jimin, because he thinks he’s pouting a bit, but he says, “Fuck me.” 

“Mmm,” Taehyung hums like he’s amused. He kisses a wet trail down Jimin’s midsection, makes sure to lick over the NEVERMIND tattoo carved on his rib cage, and then settles just above his cock. It twitches in anticipation, feeling neglected. Jimin swears he’ll implode if Taehyung sucks him off while fingering him, but wants it so bad he lifts his hips like he’s begging. 

Like an afterthought, Taehyung mumbles, “I will,” lips against Jimin’s pelvis. Warm breath brushes over his cock and he twitches again, sensitive. 

Whatever anxiety Taehyung had before seems to have left him now. Jimin still feels the buzzing under his skin, but it’s controlled. Excitement, anticipation. 

Over his head, the stars twinkle like they’re cheering them on. Jimin can’t help but smile as he waits for Taehyung to fit the condom securely and lube himself up. 

“What are you smiling about?” Taehyung asks, a small smile tugging on his lips just the same. He leans forward and lines up, hand planted beside Jimin’s head for balance. The head presses heavily against Jimin, circling the ring of muscle. For a moment, Jimin feels his eyes roll back. 

Taehyung pushes in just as Jimin’s trying to speak, and he swears it’s intentional. That fucking brat. Comes out all messed up and unfinished. Says, “Because—ah, fuck. I’m hap—oh...” 

Jimin’s voice trails off into nothing, brain sent into an unexpected forced restart. Taehyung’s big—stretches him more than he was mentally prepared for. He sucks in air through his teeth, fingernails digging into Taehyung’s waist. But just like always, Taehyung’s gentle. Goes slow. Inch by inch until he’s all the way in. Watches Jimin’s face so intently Jimin feels his eyes on him. 

“Good?” Taehyung checks, peppering kisses to Jimin’s neck. Soft licks and bites on Jimin’s skin, begging for his attention. He remains unmoving inside Jimin as he waits, letting Jimin settle. 

It takes Jimin a few seconds, blinks through the blissful bleariness, and then nods. “So fuckin’ good,” Jimin tells him, voice dropping low. Just to prove it, he starts working his hips, giving himself satisfaction. Jimin feels full in the best way; he couldn’t quiet his moans if he tried. 

Falling into an upbeat rhythm, Taehyung drops his head and whispers in Jimin’s ear, “Wanted this for so long, you have no idea.” 

Jimin’s head is spinning, feeling Taehyung deep inside of him, but that brings some of his sense back. He holds Taehyung by the chin so they can look in each other’s eyes and says with a confused smile, “Could’ve had this the first night.” 

But Taehyung shakes his head. Keeps his pace impressively steady as he says, “You were going on and on about your break-up. I didn’t wanna be a rebound.” 

Truthfully, Jimin doesn’t remember that. He thought he was careful not to blabber about his exes to his potential hook-ups at the bar, but Taehyung’s been different from the start. Probably happened when they were talking about balance and reliability in a relationship, but Jimin can’t be sure. Doesn’t matter now because—

“You’re not a rebound,” Jimin promises, and seals it with a kiss. He has to fight to keep his breath stable as Taehyung fucks him. Tells him again, “You’re not, I swear. It’s more than that.” 

He’s unsure how convincing this sounds as they’re in the middle of having sex, but Jimin hopes Taehyung considers everything they’ve gone through to get here. This isn’t something casual. At least, he hopes it’s not. 

Jimin pulls his bottom lip between his teeth as Taehyung closes his eyes—lost in thought or sensation, Jimin isn’t sure. Because he’s holding Jimin’s hips down against the floor and giving him deep, long strokes now. Pretty grunts fall from his lips. A thin layer of sweat sheets his forehead and neck. Jimin wants to lick it off, wants to lick every inch of him. 

When he’s quiet for too long, Jimin touches his face and calls gently, “Baby?” 

Hopes it’s okay to say, hopes he’s not moving too quickly somehow. But at that, Taehyung’s eyes flutter open and Jimin loses his breath—completely in awe of Taehyung and his beauty. 

Like he’s seeing and hearing Jimin for the first time, Taehyung hums, “Hmm?”

But Jimin tells him again—thinks he’d happily tell him a million times if he has to. Whispers, “You’re not a rebound.” 

This time, Taehyung answers quickly. A subtle but satisfied smile paints itself on his face as he whispers back, “Better not be.” 

There’s no harshness in his voice. It’s gentle and playful and god Jimin’s heart is going to beat out of his chest. When Taehyung leans down to kiss him, they’re both grinning. 

Then, Taehyung pins his hands above his head and fucks him like maybe they’ll get married someday. And in that moment, emotions running high and pleasure swaying his thoughts, Jimin thinks...maybe someday they will. 

 

 

As odd as it sounds, it’s the cuddling after that makes Jimin’s heart really race. He’s flat on his back with Taehyung’s head on his chest, carding slowly through his damp hair. Both of them are still, somewhere between being awake and asleep—post-orgasm weightlessness levitating them. 

Usually, Jimin doesn’t do this. Doesn’t cuddle with the people he hooks-up with. The name of the game then is usually fuck and leave. But…Taehyung isn’t just a hook-up. He’s not a hook-up at all. He’s different. He’s—

“‘m sleepy,” Taehyung slurs, too fucking cute for his own good. Jimin’s phone has been discarded hours ago, so he’s unsure of the exact time, but he thinks it must be well after two in the morning by now. Jimin stares up at the moon and thinks it looks sleepy too. 

Jimin’s fingertips scratch soothingly against Taehyung’s scalp. He tells him, “So sleep, it’s okay.” 

Taehyung mumbles with a sarcastic-like giggle. Says something like, “Not that easy,” but Jimin isn’t sure. And he doesn’t have time to dwell because then Taehyung’s asking, “Tell me something about you?” 

At that, Jimin’s eyebrows raise. Feels a sudden spotlight on him—like the first day of school when the teacher makes everyone stand up and say a fun fact about themselves. They’re never fun, though. A misleading name. 

“Like what?” Jimin asks back, smiling nervously. His mind is unhelpfully vacant of anything informative about himself.

Against his chest, Taehyung moves—resettling again. He’s always so restless, Jimin finds himself commenting in his head. Then, his other hand hugs around Taehyung to rub soothing circles on his back. 

Taehyung breathes out slowly through his nose. He tries to shrug, but wrapped up in Jimin’s arms like this, it’s a bit of a restrained movement. The gesture is stifled. He makes a noise, a playful whine at the immobility. But then snuggles closer to Jimin anyway.

He says, “Something you’ve never told anyone before.” 

A prompt like that should be nerve-wracking, but Jimin continues to find himself unusually at ease around Taehyung. Especially with telling him things. With opening up—letting him in. 

After thinking for a moment, his hand still rubbing circles on Taehyung’s back, Jimin comes up with something. And…it’s not that he’s scared to say it, but more so, he’s afraid to say it now. When they’re tangled in each other like this, under Taehyung’s blankets. After they’ve had sex—twice. While they’re cuddling. Something inside of Jimin tells him to reconsider his confession, but he says it anyway. 

He holds Taehyung a little closer and whispers to only him and the stars, “I’m afraid to fall in love.” 

There’s silence then. 

Outside, the wind blows. But inside, they’re safe and warm. They don’t feel the breeze at all. 

Softly, Taehyung says, “Oh.” 

He sounds...accepting. There’s a twinge of something in his voice—surprise or confusion, maybe. But there isn’t any judgment. No pressure for Jimin to elaborate if he doesn’t want to. 

“Your turn,” Jimin tells him quickly, eager to share this different version of being naked with each other. 

Against his chest, he feels Taehyung swallow. For a few stretched seconds, Taehyung’s still as he contemplates his answer. Jimin feels anxious for a reason he can’t even explain—maybe just anticipating learning more about Taehyung who has a talent for remaining a closed open book. 

Continuing to look away, Taehyung whispers, “I’m… afraid to be loved.” 

Hearing that hurts Jimin’s heart in a way he’s completely unprepared for—twists it tightly in his chest and almost brings tears to his eyes. Because Taehyung, as far as he can tell, was born to be loved. Everything about him is so wonderful and beautiful and captivating. Falling for him—if that’s what Jimin’s doing—is easy. He can’t imagine what events in Taehyung’s life have led someone like him to feel this way. But, then again, it’s possible Taehyung’s thinking the same thing about him. It’s then that Jimin realizes he and Taehyung still have a lot of learning to do.

Mimicking Taehyung, Jimin closes his eyes and says, “Oh.” 

At this point, it’s all either of them can say. It’s clear that both of these statements come with a lot of weight. A result of their past that has unfortunately bled into their present and formed their state of mind. But Jimin thinks it’s something they needed to say—both of them needed to hear this. Especially if there’s any possibility of them moving forward with each other. 

Jimin’s learning that maybe Taehyung isn’t as happy-go-lucky as he presents sometimes. Something about his tone lets Jimin know there’s more to the story, but right now isn’t the time to explore. Neither of them is ready. 

So instead of trying to think of something to say, he presses a long kiss to the top of Taehyung’s head and tells him, “Try to sleep for a while.” 

A bit ironically, Jimin catches himself dozing off well before Taehyung does. It’s late and he’s comfortable and Taehyung’s weight on top of him is more than welcome. He doesn’t fight it, lets sleep begin to take him. 

As Jimin’s drifting off, he wonders if maybe two broken pieces of a puzzle are meant to fit with one another. 

 

 

For the record, Taehyung’s right: sleeping under the stars is amazing. 

(But sleeping with Taehyung in his arms makes it a million times better.)

 

 

“Hope you have Chinese takeout on speed dial,” Taehyung says over his shoulder, giggling. “I’m not a cook.” 

He’s at the stove stirring, an expression plastered on his face that should make Jimin terrified to try what’s inside the pot. But as always, instead, Jimin finds himself endeared. He sits at the island with his chin in his palm, watching Taehyung.

It’s been a few days since they’ve last seen each other, and almost a week since the night spent on the edge of the world. And much to Jimin’s pleasant surprise, their transition from that night to this has been close to effortless. 

Helps that they’ve hooked up since then—a few times in Jimin’s apartment, once more in Taehyung’s van. Makes it more casual than it being a one-time thing. Jimin has learned quickly that he and Taehyung are terrible at resisting each other. Especially now that they both know they don’t have to. 

Jimin has no idea what to categorize them as and that’s what hard. More than fuck buddies, less than boyfriends. What’s that called? Friends with benefits seems harsh—disrespectful, almost—considering the way they are with each other. Their gentleness and the way they connect deserves a better description than that. But Jimin guesses that’s the best label right now. 

Taehyung looks over his shoulder again with a nervous smile. Asks, “Is it supposed to boil like this?”

Truthfully, Jimin has no idea. Isn’t even really sure what Taehyung’s making. But he approaches the stove to investigate anyway. Gestures for Taehyung to lift the lid on the pot and leans forward to analyze. It’s yellow rice and vegetables and what looks like pulled pieces of chicken. The contents marinate in a broth that definitely has soy sauce and ginger in it. Smells good. Looks a little burnt, though. Jimin giggles. 

“You’re burning it, baby,” Jimin tells him softly, reaching to turn off the stove. Taehyung’s eyebrows lift, mouth dropping. 

Taehyung lays the wooden spoon on the counter and mumbles, “So much for a present.” 

Jimin, as always, has been working a bunch lately. Taehyung wanted to give him a night away from being in the kitchen and around food—volunteered himself to cook them dinner. Seems he’s adorably regretting it now, but it’s the thought that counts, and honestly, he didn’t do a bad job at all.

So Jimin puts his arm around him and says, “Still edible. Promise.”

For a moment, Taehyung looks at Jimin like he’s skeptical. Exaggerated squinting and the furrowing of his eyebrows. He looks into Jimin’s eyes for a long while, like he’s trying to be a human lie detector. 

But he gives up quickly. He shrugs and says, “No hard feelings if you wanna order something after trying it.” 

Shaking his head, Jimin kisses him quickly before he says, “Shut up, I love it already. Thank you for cooking.” 

There’s a romantic type of set up on the island for them. Jimin’s good plates with the gold trim and silverware he never uses unless his parents are visiting. A candle in the middle, a bottle of wine, and dessert from Jimin’s favorite bakery in the middle. 

It’s perfect as far as Jimin’s concerned. He’s never had this with any of his past boyfriends. None of them have ever cared enough to do something like this. It was always Jimin putting in all the effort, trying to make things special. 

For the first time, it’s nice to have things feel equal. And Taehyung seems to balance him in every other way, too. 

 

 

(Correction—Taehyung isn’t his boyfriend.)

 

 

One of Jimin’s favorite things about the two of them is how comfortable their silence is. In his past relationships, Jimin remembers desperately trying to fill the silence. Because it was awkward when nothing was happening. Felt like something was missing.

But with Taehyung, the silence is peaceful and welcomed. 

Jimin’s curled up in the corner of his sofa with a book—knees pulled up to his chest, the spine of the novel resting where his legs meet. He’s got headphones in, but the music is low. The television is on, but it’s muted. Taehyung’s sitting on the floor in his favorite spot, right by Jimin’s living room window. He’s coloring something. Bright green lines appear with the fast movement of his hand. Jimin watches for a while but then looks away. He wants to be surprised when Taehyung’s finished. 

These moments, however, are bittersweet. Because without even meaning to, Jimin thinks this is what you’re going to miss the most when he’s gone. And then his heart is constricting in his chest and his eyes begin to burn with something dangerously close to tears. He blinks them away quickly, he has to. Because the last thing he needs is for Taehyung to look up and see him teary-eyed. But the thought lingers in his mind. 

Mostly because he knows it’s true. He has no idea when, but Taehyung is going to leave. He’s apparently never stayed in any other place before here, and Jimin expects Seoul to be no different. Taehyung said it himself: he leaves. Just like that.

And then Jimin’s brain does something terrible—allows in the idea that Taehyung has other people just like him in other cities. People who have fallen victim to his pretty face and even prettier heart and fuck, Jimin can’t blame them. If they’re out there, he feels with them. Because he’s gotten used to Taehyung being in his life, even after just two months, and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do when that’s ripped from him. 

For as long as he could hold out, Jimin made himself believe he was doing everything but falling for Taehyung. And exactly for this reason. How silly does he look falling for someone he knows isn’t going to stay? It’s the same pattern he’s used to—maybe he’s doing this to himself subconsciously. People always leave him. But Taehyung has drawn him in, in a way he’s never felt before. This type of falling feels different. 

And then, like a mean cosmic joke, Jimin’s eyes fall on the calendar hanging on the wall beside the living room window. Perfectly positioned over Taehyung’s head from where Jimin’s sitting. Like a taunt, the days of the month dance in their squares, reminding Jimin that any day could be his last day with Taehyung. 

Eventually, when Jimin pulls his eyes away from the calendar and forces them on his book, he can’t find his place. The words are blurry and jumbled together. He blinks, and then his page is stained wet. It runs down the paper and makes the ink bleed. 

It’s useless, Jimin figures, to pretend to have it in him to read anymore. So he lays on his side, fixes Taehyung in his sights, and just watches him color.  

 

 

Even though they’re alone in Jimin’s apartment, they lay in bed with Jimin’s blanket over their heads like they’re hiding. Maybe they are. Because under here, no one can bother them. They’ve built their own cocoon. It’s their shield from all outside forces. 

It’s nighttime, but Jimin has no idea of the hour. It doesn’t matter anyway. They’ve tended to all of their previous obligations—Jimin’s gone to work, Taehyung’s helped out at the exhibit turned art store—and now they’re here. Lately, they’ve been showering together. Figured since sex has become a regular occurrence within their relationship now, showering together is nothing. It calms them, helps them reconnect after being apart. Sometimes they just hold each other and let the hot water wash away their troubles. 

Being under the covers implies somehow they should whisper, so they do. Taehyung asks Jimin about his day, and Jimin does the same. As Taehyung’s talking, he draws circles in varying sizes on Jimin’s bare side. It used to tickle, but Jimin’s gotten used to this type of touch now. It’s become a comfort. Reminds him over and over that Taehyung’s here and he’s real. 

“Why do you do that?” Jimin asks, genuinely curious. 

Taehyung’s finger keeps drawing as he asks back with a smile, “Do what?” 

Jimin laughs, then puts his hand over Taehyung’s, halting his motion gently. He says, “This.” 

“Oh,” Taehyung says softly like he’s just realizing his hand was moving. He curls his fingers into a loose fist, then looks away. Says, “It sort of… helps me… focus, I guess.” 

There’s a pause then, from both of them. Because Jimin isn’t sure what to say. Honestly, he didn’t know what answer he was expecting when he asked that. Maybe a light joke about Taehyung’s creative juices always flowing. Or some corny flirtation about not being able to keep his hands off of Jimin. But this is deeper—personal. Jimin feels silly for asking now. Like somehow he should’ve known.

Jimin must take too long to respond because Taehyung follows up with, voice still as soft, “I’m hyper...” He laughs a bit, shaking his head like he can’t remember the proper word right now. “...something or whatever.” 

Now Jimin feels like a jackass. Backtracks and says, “Shit, no, I’m sor—you don’t have to tell m—”

“It’s okay,” Taehyung promises, cutting Jimin off, a nervous type of smile on his face. “I wanna tell you.”

And so Jimin very respectfully keeps quiet, offering the floor to Taehyung with his speechlessness. They take in a deep breath together, somehow remaining as one. They exhale together, hearts beating hard but steady in their chests.

Taehyung softly scoffs at a thought in his head, rolls his eyes, and follows up with, “That’s what they told me, at least. They being the doctors when I was a kid.” 

And Jimin can’t help it, a faint smile on his face makes itself known as he questions teasingly, “Medical professionals told you that you’re hyper-something?”

Playfully, Taehyung rolls his eyes again. He softly nudges Jimin’s shoulder and confesses cutely, “Maybe I’m paraphrasing.”

“Hmm,” Jimin responds with light sarcasm, making a face. 

But then Taehyung’s eyes get serious again, and so Jimin gets serious too. Watches the way Taehyung’s pupils lose focus, like he’s almost too vividly replaying scenes in his head. For a second, Jimin wants to reach out and rub Taehyung’s back. But he doesn’t know if Taehyung wants that, so he doesn’t. 

“They definitely had a more scientific name,” Taehyung says finally, “But I was a kid and only half-listening. Besides, I’m not big on labels. Categories. People just are, there’s no need to… put them in a box.” 

That’s where Taehyung and Jimin differ. Because oppositely, Jimin is completely comforted by labels. Seeks them out, actually. Eases his mind to know he fits in somewhere and there are an infinite amount of people in the world that also fit into where he does. Makes him feel less alone knowing other people are like him. 

He yearns for that same type of clean-cut clarity in a relationship, too. Because they’re either in one or they’re not. Jimin’s either single or he’s not. Someone either loves him or they don’t. And maybe that’s why this…thing with Taehyung messes with Jimin’s mind so often. Keeps him awake at night, because Taehyung doesn’t like labels. Doesn’t like categories. And so he and Taehyung just are. Nothing more, nothing less. But Jimin doesn’t know how long he can pretend it’s enough. 

“And so…” Jimin begins, trying to help Taehyung along. It’s clear he isn’t sure what to say next.

Building off of Jimin’s prompt, Taehyung says, “And so… everybody got the answers that they wanted. A reason for why I couldn’t stay in my seat in class, or why I always got notes sent home about my behavior, or why it was so hard for me to read out loud. Made everyone—I dunno—pity me. Which I hated.”  

But then Taehyung’s face neutralizes almost eerily and he forces out a bitter type of chuckle as he adds, “Didn’t make them understand me, though. Didn’t give them patience. And sure as hell didn’t make them wanna keep me. I was placed with a different family a few months later. Too much to handle even on those medications that made me feel like I was moving in slow motion, I guess.”

About a week or so ago, Taehyung told Jimin a little about his childhood—or lack thereof, as he says. Told Jimin about his birth parents, and how they died before he could get a chance to remember them. House fire, he was always told. And then how he was placed with more families than he could count after that until he was seventeen. 

Some of them were nice to him. Some of them not so much. Some of them not at all. Made Jimin fight the urge to look up if there’s a time limitation on reporting these types of stories to the police. A handful of the fosters Taehyung told him about should never be around kids—not after what Taehyung said they did to him. But when he got to those stories, he became noticeably less detailed. Jimin didn’t push him. The casual mentions of the belts, the locked closets, and taking away meals as a form of discipline was more than enough.

When talking about his past last time, Taehyung skipped this. Jimin remembers him making a joke about everyone wanting to tie him to a table to get him to stay in his seat, but now Jimin’s beginning to see maybe it wasn’t a joke at all. No homework, no dinner, Jimin remembers Taehyung mimicking one of his foster mothers aloud. And Jimin remembers that twisting, uneasy feeling in his stomach then. It’s back now.

Jimin reaches out, can’t resist not doing it anymore, and rubs comforting circles on Taehyung’s back. Whispers, “Taehyungie…”

Almost instantly, Taehyung shakes off Jimin’s hand. Leans away from Jimin’s touch and tells him, “It’s fine, I’m not sad.” 

Quickly, Jimin retracts his hand, worried he’s done something wrong. Tucks his fingers between his arm and his side, hiding it from view. He chews on his bottom lip and mumbles, “Sorry.” 

The last thing Taehyung wants is pity, and Jimin knows that. It’s not what he’s trying to do at all. Instead, he’s trying to show comfort. But Taehyung pushes away anything that even begins to resemble emotions, and Jimin knows that too. So when he thinks about it that way, Taehyung’s reaction is not only understandable but justified in its own right. Jimin is beginning to see why opening up is so hard for Taehyung—sees how no one has ever bothered to listen to him before.

“I’ve dealt with it,” Taehyung concludes with a shrug too forced to be as nonchalant as he wants it to be perceived. Then, after quick consideration, “I deal with it… still.”

Curious, Jimin tips his head to the side and asks, “How?”

And simply, Taehyung says, “Art.” 

Now there’s a genuine smirk on his face as he says, “It sounds dramatic or whatever, but it saved me. Literally, I guess. Because of it, I found a way to productively keep my mind and my body busy. There’s always something for me to do, something for me to create.” He huffs and says, “My teachers found that giving me some crayons and paper kept me in my seat. Didn’t do much work, failed a lot of tests. But, hey, at least I was quiet, right?”

It’s rhetorical and Jimin knows that, but the frustration in Taehyung’s voice makes him want to speak. Wants to tell Taehyung that all those people—his fosters, his teachers, the system—were lacking in a lot of ways. Like in compassion and understanding and patience. Wants to say that those people failed Taehyung, not the other way around. 

Jimin can tell Taehyung’s giving him the shorter, polished version of this story. Like Taehyung’s skipping over the parts where he makes a comment about how art is the best therapy he’s ever had— doesn’t suck him dry the way his counselors did, doesn’t make him lifeless like the medication did. Instead, he’s now allowed to feel as openly as he wants to and still occupy his hands. There’s something he’s not saying, but Jimin doesn’t pry to know what it is. He’ll tell him when he’s ready.

When Jimin doesn’t speak, Taehyung adds almost optimistically, “It’s not nearly as bad as it was when I was younger. It’s tough when you’re a kid because… I guess I didn’t really understand what was happening.”

Jimin doesn’t mean to pout, but he thinks he’s doing it anyway. He’s just imagining an adolescent version of Taehyung and how lost he must’ve felt. How misunderstood he’s been since he was young. 

“My fosters made me feel like there was something terrible inside of me. Like it made me a wild animal just because I had more energy than any of us knew what to do with.” Taehyung looks away, sucks his teeth. Then mumbles, “Jimin, I swear that used to give me double the dose of what they were supposed to. Like they hoped it was gonna make me forget how to stand up or something. Like—”

“Baby,” Jimin calls, touching the side of Taehyung’s face. Just to get his attention—to calm him down. Because he can see Taehyung is understandably getting frustrated with all of the memories in his head now. Jimin lets out a breath and whispers, “It’s over now.” 

Trying to flip his mood, Taehyung says, “It’s easier to soothe now that I’m older. The hyper-something. Hyper-everything. I know what I’m doing, I guess. Figured myself out. But I had to get away from them to do it.” 

“I’m glad,” Jimin says softly. Then, he mentally slaps himself in the face because what the fuck is that response? I’m glad? But honestly, Jimin doesn’t know what else to say. Truly, he is glad Taehyung doesn’t look at it as a burden, or debilitating. Doesn’t carry around the stigma everyone in his past tried to push on him. It’s just a part of himself he’s had to work a little harder to understand. Jimin respects that.

Leaning into Jimin a bit now, Taehyung adds slowly, “Some days are harder than others. Sleeping’s the hardest. Trying to shut my brain off never goes too well. I don’t feel gradually tired like everyone else, I guess. I’m either energized or exhausted. No in-between.” 

He stops for a minute, then his eyes meet Jimin’s, like he’s checking if Jimin’s keeping up. When Jimin nods attentively, he continues, “Attention span isn’t very long no matter what. Focus comes and goes. The tapping, bouncing… it actually helps me with that. It’s not that I can’t sit still, but if I’m moving or doing something, it helps me listen—pay attention.” 

Jimin nods again, taking in as much as he can. Says, “I get it.” 

He doesn’t. Not fully. Because this is something Taehyung personally experiences and not him. But, what Taehyung’s saying makes sense to him. He feels honored to know this about Taehyung; it’s obvious that this isn’t something he just tells anybody. He wants to understand as much as Taehyung will let him.

Taehyung tucks Jimin’s hair behind his ear and says, with a playful smile now, “And I wanna pay attention to you. Hear everything you say, learn everything about you.”

This time, when Jimin reaches out and touches Taehyung, he doesn’t pull away. So Jimin pulls him into a kiss—a slow one that leaves him dizzy in a way he’s never felt before. A trust between them he hasn’t had with anyone else, glowing somewhere deep in his heart.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Jimin asks when they pull apart.

Taehyung laughs, a soft giggle. But then he covers his mouth and squeezes at Jimin’s thigh like he’s apologizing. Jimin’s eyebrows furrow, confused.

Shaking his head a bit, Taehyung says, “No, I don’t need any help. I got it. But thank you anyway for…everything that you do.” 

He kisses Jimin again. Then one more time because it feels too good. 

“Just keep being you,” Taehyung tells him, a bit more serious now. Blinks slowly and then adds a bit shyly, “Maybe...try not to treat me any differently now?”

And Jimin would never, but he guesses it’s justified that Taehyung doesn’t know that for certain. And after the snapshot Jimin’s been allowed of his past, it seems people made a habit of treating Taehyung differently. Jimin hopes one day he and Taehyung get to a point where they don’t have to say these things—when it’s just implied that what they have is unconditional respect.

“I won’t,” Jimin promises. Then, after a few beats of silence, “Thank you for telling me that.”

Taehyung doesn’t answer. Just closes his eyes and hums softly. He snuggles closer to Jimin, almost like he’s hiding his face. Jimin hopes he just wants to be close, and not that he feels embarrassed in any way. Hopes he knows Jimin would never judge him or think of him differently—especially not when Jimin knows he comes with his own baggage. 

So Jimin cards slowly through Taehyung’s hair and thinks about how comfortable it is—this, what they have. Right now and all the other times they lay together. He feels Taehyung’s presence wholly beside him, unmistakably. Their closeness creates a warmth that touches something deep within him. Makes his heart feel at rest.

Before, even laying as close as this, the other person in his bed would feel a million miles away. Their bodies in the same place, but—their hearts, their minds, their souls, something—would be off somewhere else. No real connection. 

It’s different when he lays in bed with Taehyung. He can’t explain it, but he thinks he feels less...lonely

 

 

Ever since he was little, Jimin and his mother have never seen eye to eye. That saying about mothers and their sons having a special bond never rang true for them. They love each other, sure, but sometimes liking each other is a different story. Jimin has always felt like he wasn’t living up to her expectations. And his mother has never been shy about letting him know when she thinks he falls short. Which is often, apparently. 

Jimin isn’t sure what his mother thought he was going to grow up to be by the age of twenty-four, but a gay, chef’s assistant who lives in the city doesn’t seem to be it. Go figure. Fought him tooth and nail about moving to Seoul—for a bachelor’s degree in business administration, nonetheless—and didn’t attempt to hide her disapproval when he decided to stay after graduating. 

She calls every now and then, just to check that Jimin still doesn’t have a wife or a master's degree in something she deems acceptable. Like law or finance or engineering. Never does. Still disinterested in women, still works at a restaurant. It’s a recipe for disaster every time. Jimin thinks maybe he should start lying to her.

As Jimin’s walking down the hall to his apartment, his mother is telling him over the phone, “I just don’t understand why you waste your time out there all alone. At that dead-end job and—” 

“I was promoted,” Jimin stresses, trying to emphasize the illusion that there’s room for growth at his job. Truthfully, he knows there’s not. The pipe dream is that one day he’ll be the actual chef in the kitchen, or offered the assistant manager position. But the head chef isn’t going anywhere until he retires, and Jimin’s starting to think Mr. Seong likes the stress of not having an assistant. But his mother doesn’t have to know that. 

She sucks her teeth, then makes a comment about Jimin having so much more potential than being a busboy. As calmly as he can, he explains that he’s the chef’s assistant, not the busboy. There’s a thought that passes where he considers pointing out that there’s nothing wrong with being a busboy if he was, but that concept is beyond her. It’s a waste of time.

As Jimin’s unlocking his door, she snorts, “I don’t suppose you’ve found anyone worth mentioning out there? A nice…person. To keep you company.” 

She can’t say it. She’s never been able to. No matter how accepting she claims to be. Jimin’s never introduced her to any of his boyfriends—mostly because they’ve all been assholes. But even if there’d been good ones, he still wouldn’t have. 

But at that, his mind immediately thinks of Taehyung. He’s inside, sitting on Jimin’s living room floor on an old sheet, spray painting a design on the back of one of Jimin’s old t-shirts. His eyes are glimmering when he looks up, a smile on his face to greet Jimin. 

Jimin grunts a response, neither here nor there, then says quietly into his phone, “Mom, I’ll call you later, okay? I have to go.” 

Her response is snippy like it always is. Manages to get in two more smaller digs at Jimin’s life before hanging up—but no matter how small, they still hurt. They always do. Like knives in his stomach each time. And it makes him so...angry that she’s like this. That nothing he does is good enough. That she’s never actually supported him, or been proud of him. That—

“Jimin? Babe, hey—what’s wrong? What happened?” 

Taehyung realizes Jimin’s crying before Jimin does. But the sudden spike in worry drenching Taehyung’s tone makes him touch his cheek, feeling the wetness. He blinks, and then more tears fall. His vision blurs, and suddenly, he’s underwater. 

Jimin shakes his head, trying to say it’s nothing. But that’s clearly a lie because he’s lost his voice. Heavy gasps for air now, chest burning. Taehyung’s arm wraps around Jimin, pulling him into a hug. 

Usually, Jimin mentally prepares himself to talk to his mother, but that call was out of the blue. It’s hard to deflect all of her backhanded insults and judgment. Spends the entire time trying to prove to her and himself that his life isn’t pointless—that he’s not just a waste. 

“Who was on the ph—”

“My mother just frustrates me,” Jimin vents a lot quicker than even he expects. But his face is buried in Taehyung’s neck and something about that feels safe. He sniffles and says, “She just calls to remind me that she thinks I’m a fucking failure. Hates that I left Busan for Seoul, hates where I work, hates who I date, hates what I went to school for…” 

There’s a kiss to the side of Jimin’s head. Then another one, slower and softer. Taehyung rests his head against Jimin’s, hugging him close. He says, “I’m sorry, angel. You don’t deserve that. And you’re not a failure. You’re the smartest, most hardworking person I know.” 

Jimin sniffles, hot tears still burning his eyes and running down his cheeks. He’s staining Taehyung’s baby blue shirt and he means to apologize or move away but he can’t. The only thing he can do is cry, and he hates that because the phone call wasn’t even that bad compared to the ones in the past, Jimin’s just tired of it all. Everything lately has been so exhausting, speaking to her is the last thing he needs.

“She’s just—” Jimin starts, but then he gets choked up. His fingers grip Taehyung’s shirt, wrinkling the fabric in his grip. A moment later, though, he feels Taehyung rocking them back and forth. And it’s like magic, Jimin feels himself calming down. He allows himself to rest more of his weight against Taehyung, stable with his back against the couch. 

Taehyung’s lips are right against Jimin’s ear as he whispers, “Shh, it’s okay. Just breathe. I’m right here, it’s alright.” 

And Jimin knows it’s just a phrase people say for comfort. He’s said it more times than he can count to people over the years. But right now, Taehyung’s words hurt him, too. Thinks about how he’s here now, but there’s no promise he’ll be here tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or next week. 

Maybe that should make Jimin angry, too—to not have any answers. To know his days with Taehyung are literally numbered. But instead, it just makes him feel terrified. And now he’s not just crying about his mother and her shame, but now he’s crying for himself, too. Crying for his impending heartbreak, crying for the loss of the only person keeping him together, crying because he thinks maybe he’s falling in love and that’s the last thing he should be doing. 

Then, before he knows it, Jimin is crying for no particular reason at all. Or maybe he’s crying for every reason there is. Don’t matter, Taehyung holds him just the same. 

And because of that, Jimin cries harder. 

 

 

It’s somewhere between two and four in the morning, Jimin’s sure of it. Feels it in the way the air is distinctively still as it is within that interval. Suspended over the Earth and watching it sleep. And outside, it’s quieter than usual. Despite being on the fourth floor of a busy apartment building on a busy street, there’s a quietness to it that convinces Jimin even more that it’s an ungodly hour to be awake. 

But the emptiness beside him on the mattress must’ve disturbed something inside of him because the first thing Jimin does is touch the vacant space. The sheets are cool, haven’t been slept on, and the pillow beside his is pristine as well. Jimin sighs, then pushes himself upright into a sitting position. Rubs sleep out of his eyes and then plants the soles of his feet on the cool hardwood floor.

The warm light from the living room draws Jimin toward it like a moth, to which he finds Taehyung sitting on the floor beside the window, painting. And he rocks, just slightly, as he works. A steady back and forth of his body as his mind and his fingers keep busy. A sad type of smile tugs at the left side of Jimin’s mouth as he crosses his bare arms over his midsection and leans against the wall.

“Baby,” he calls, gently, with the intention to not startle him. But he quickly realizes Taehyung has headphones in. Hunched over so far the bones of his spine poke at his white t-shirt; and hands, always moving, brush upward over and over, smearing black paint. 

Breathing out through his nose, Jimin lets his arms swing lightly at his sides as he crosses the small space and puts himself in Taehyung’s view. Wordlessly, Jimin crouches down in front of him, removes an AirPod from his ear, holds both sides of his head, and kisses his hair. Somewhere in there, a come to bed is requested silently. Their foreheads rest against one another. 

Clenching his jaw, Taehyung declares, “I’m not tired.”

And even in Jimin’s soft hold, Taehyung’s eyes are angled downward at his painting—preoccupied in the worst way. His wrist flicks, expanding the black sky to the corner of the canvas. Precise smears of black from hands that are always so busy. Slowly, Jimin puts his hand on top of Taehyung’s to halt his movements. 

“I know,” he tells him sympathetically. 

Because even when Taehyung is tired, his mind is not. Too active, too charged, too filled with inspiration and ideas and a restlessness that is traced all the way back to Taehyung's childhood. Most nights, sleeping is a challenge for Taehyung. But on some nights—nights similar to this one—the act seems almost impossible. He’s been awake for too long.

Taehyung lets Jimin take his paintbrush and plants it in the cup of water on the window sill. The canvas goes next; easily given up from his lap and placed against the wall to dry. Lastly, Jimin takes out Taehyung’s other earbud. A kiss to the top of his head again, and then he holds his hand out for Taehyung to take. 

Hand in hand, Jimin leads them back to his bedroom. Two bodies on the bed now, and it feels right. Like how it’s supposed to be. Easily, Jimin settles back into his side of the bed and pats at the space next to him for Taehyung to cuddle close. 

Preferring to be the big spoon, Taehyung curls himself around Jimin. And even now, Jimin feels Taehyung’s finger tap, tap, tapping at his hip bone. Soft, barely-there drumming against his side that reminds Jimin this must be what’s going on inside Taehyung’s mind. An energy that never quite goes away, but sometimes, if he’s lucky, will die down just enough to let him be for a few hours. 

Again, Jimin’s hand covers Taehyung’s. Not with the intent to stop him, but to remind him that it’s okay. Almost three months in now, Jimin has discovered comfort in Taehyung’s active hands. Reminds Jimin, even when he’s sleeping, that Taehyung is right there.   

“Get some sleep,” Taehyung whispers, a feather kiss to Jimin’s head. 

Tomorrow is—today is, technically—Saturday. So neither of them have anywhere they’re expected to be. They can stay in bed all day if they want to. But Taehyung has been up for so long, Jimin just wants him to try to relax, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.

Smiling with his cheek squished against the pillow,  Jimin tells him, “You, too.”   

There’s a quiet that blankets the room then, and Jimin finds it hard to keep his eyes open anymore—too content in Taehyung’s arms. The stillness of the world around them is also too persuasive not to be pulled into its blissful nothingness.  

He falls asleep soon after with Taehyung’s fingers playing a slow rhythm against his skin. 

 

✢   

 

Sunrays, a golden orange, bleed through Jimin’s white curtains and cast spotlights on his wall in the forms of thin lines. They slice his room into threes, cutting his arm at the bicep. Almost instantly, Jimin feels Taehyung’s fingers on him, still drumming gently.

“You didn’t sleep,” is the first thing Jimin utters; an observation, not a judgment. His eyes blink slowly, mentally surveying Taehyung’s mood before he rolls over. They’re getting good at reading each other, it’s becoming something like second nature.

Silence is the only thing that answers Jimin. That, and the now busy street outside his window. Singing birds, chattering pedestrians, zooming cars. All background noise compared to Taehyung’s heart slamming crystal clear in Jimin’s ear, tickling his eardrum. 

When Jimin rolls over, Taehyung pets his chin and says, “You slept well. I think you had a good dream. You were like… giggling, it was cute.”

More often than not, Jimin doesn’t remember his dreams. They’re just something his mind has never been able to hold onto for more than the groggy seconds when he first wakes up. But then he blinks, and poof, they’re gone. If Taehyung tells him he had a happy dream though, Jimin is positive Taehyung was in it.

Taehyung looks at Jimin like he’s never been looked at before. Like he’s been handcrafted out of pure gold and meant to be kept safe. Touches him like he’s priceless. It’s terrifyingly exhilarating. Makes Jimin's heart skip beats in odd numbers and throws off its rhythm. Overgrown with something so dangerously close to love, it palpitates like mad in his chest.

The waking sun is airbrushing Taehyung’s skin a glowing yellow color, highlighting its natural tone. Jimin can’t resist touching his face, doesn’t even try. He studies Taehyung—his dark curls intertwining with his eyelashes, the sleepiness in his eyes despite his body’s inability to successfully shut down, the ever-present buzzing under his skin. 

Sliding his hand through Taehyung’s hair, Jimin questions gently, “Tell me what’s happening?”

A soft plea to be let into Taehyung’s head—to spare a racing thought so that Jimin can try to understand. Because Jimin knows there’s no easy fix to this; as Taehyung says, some days are better than others, but this feels different. Separate from his baseline of restlessness. Amplified for reasons unknown to Jimin, and maybe unknown to Taehyung, too. 

But Jimin can’t help but think the worst. His mind flashes to his calendar and he wonders if their days are slipping through his fingers like sand. Grains smacking against the inside of his skull like an hourglass, disintegrating one by one. The end of the month is in a few days, maybe that’s where all of this ends.

People always go. Jimin wishes he were used to it. 

Taehyung shakes his head. “I’m fine,” he says. 

There’s a grin on his face that Jimin’s learned is his lying one and not his genuine one. Lips pressed a bit too straight into a thin line; cheeks straining a little too much to come off as effortless. But there’s a part of Jimin that knows Taehyung is doing this for him. Trying to hide his hardships so that he doesn’t worry. Jimin thinks Taehyung would’ve caught on by now that Jimin always worries about him. And it’s because he cares, not because he thinks Taehyung’s incapable of handling his problems himself.

“Liar,” Jimin whispers, a smile raising the corners of his mouth just a bit. Then, “C’mere.” 

With his fingers still lost in Taehyung’s curls, Jimin leans himself forward until their lips meet. He kisses Taehyung deep and slow, trying to heal whatever is breaking inside of him before it’s too late. 

Jimin finds himself on top of Taehyung only a few breaths later. Searching hands continue to cup both sides of his face as his hips circle over Taehyung’s groin. There’s a faint moan that slips from Taehyung’s lips, like music to Jimin’s ears, and it encourages him to do the movement again.

Taehyung’s sex drive is always high, but Jimin has no problem matching it nowadays. They’ve fallen into the mindset of any time and anywhere when it comes to sex. Keeps their time together both satisfying and exciting. Every aspect of their relationship remains an adventure. 

What minimal clothing that separates them is quickly shed and soon it's just them—skin on skin, direct heat. Under him, Jimin feels Taehyung’s erection growing by the second, and soon neither of them can keep their hands above the waistline. 

There’s urgency in their movements, but neither of them lacks precision or control. They’ve learned each other’s bodies quickly, memorizing which spots are the ones that drive the other mad. And with that, they’ve become experts at the pressure and pace used. Jimin wouldn’t dare to say it’s perfect, because nothing is perfect. But them and their ability to please one another over and over? It’s pretty damn close. 

Jimin uses his fingers first, even though he probably doesn’t have to. Taehyung’s still noticeably stretched from yesterday’s fun. But Jimin’s in love with the sounds Taehyung makes with Jimin’s fingers inside him. Fucks him steadily with his fingers, teasing at angles he knows makes Taehyung lose his breath. But they both can only hold out for so long, craving more.

Sloppy smears of lube suffice just enough for Jimin to slot himself between Taehyung’s legs. With his fingers—attentive, lingering, careful—on Taehyung’s hips, he aligns the head of his cock with Taehyung’s entrance and pushes forward. Slowly at first, then all at once until he’s completely inside. 

Taehyung sighs, full and content. Barely lets Jimin settle before rocking his hips to reward himself with the friction he’s craving. He’s a bit impatient by nature, especially when he’s like this. But Jimin has no problems keeping up. 

Typically, Taehyung is all about instant gratification. And Jimin has playfully poked fun at his inability to take things slow. When something feels good he wants Jimin to do it over and over again until he can’t take it—disregarding the idea of prolonging the road to his orgasm. 

And usually, Jimin is happy to give Taehyung exactly what he wants. Takes pride in being able to make Taehyung come in record time. But right now, there’s something in Jimin that wants to make this last. So when Taehyung whimpers for him to go faster, Jimin goes slower. 

Letting Taehyung’s ankles hook around the small of his back, Jimin hovers above him and stares. Just stares at the way Taehyung's eyelashes fan out over his perfect cheekbones when his eyes flutter shut. Drinks in the soft moans that drip from his lips when Jimin pushes into him deeper. Holds Taehyung’s face in his hands, pets over his soft skin, and studies him. 

“So fuckin’ pretty,” Jimin hums, pressing scattered kisses to Taehyung’s flushed cheeks and exposed neck. Bites just hard enough for Taehyung to feel as his hips work. Between them, Taehyung strokes himself in time to the rhythm Jimin’s sliding in and out of him. 

Letting his head loll on the pillow below him, Taehyung closes his eyes and relaxes. Rocks his hips to meet Jimin halfway, utilizing his wrist to pleasure himself as he does so. 

Gently, Jimin pulls Taehyung’s hand away and pins both of them above his head. He knows exactly what Taehyung wants, and judging by the whine that’s beginning to make itself known in his breathing, he’s getting closer to finishing. Jimin thinks the payoff of waiting is something Taehyung will appreciate. 

Taehyung bites his bottom lip, furrows his eyebrow, and moans out, “Jimin, please…”

It’s not often that Taehyung begs, but Jimin loves it every time. Ignites something within Jimin that shoots straight to his dick and his heart. Causes his brain to short circuit, and his lungs to constrict. Makes him want to smother Taehyung with kisses and fuck him senseless at the same time. Much like many other things about Taehyung, Jimin’s addicted to it. 

“So pretty,” Jimin says to him again between kisses to his temple, disregarding his plea. He’s unable to keep the thought in his head. Looks down at Taehyung, pets through his hair and tells him, “You’re gorgeous, you know that? My pretty baby.” 

Jimin sees Taehyung’s eyes beginning to roll back a bit. It’s cute—the way he gets when Jimin fucks him. The look in his eye that lets Jimin know he’d let him do whatever he wants. 

Taehyung halts a stuttered moan. Finds his voice somewhere hidden in his chest and says, “Feels so good. I’m—fuck, babe—I’m close.”

Licking at the shell of Taehyung’s ear, Jimin whispers, “So come for me.” 

At that, Taehyung’s wrist moves within Jimin’s grip, fingers wiggling in question. He’s not holding Taehyung so tightly that he can’t free himself if he wants. Jimin wouldn’t restrict him and he knows that. Doesn’t have it in his heart to deny Taehyung anything even if he tried. But Taehyung’s asking for permission anyway, testing the waters. It’s adorable, it’s sexy. Jimin’s brain is going fuzzy again. The mix of emotions is too strong.

And so Jimin situates himself perfectly on top of Taehyung, snapping their bodies together like puzzle pieces, and rocks his hips in a fluid motion. Cradles the back of Taehyung’s head with one hand and takes over stroking him with the other, subsequently freeing Taehyung’s hands. 

Almost immediately, Jimin feels fingernails on his back, digging in. The twinge of pain is pure pleasure to Jimin—always likes when it hurts a little. Something about it, especially with Taehyung, proves to him that this is real. Because most days he swears Taehyung’s a dream. 

With their foreheads pressed together, Jimin closes his eyes and fucks Taehyung until he climaxes. White painting over Taehyung’s stomach in arbitrary lines; leaves him panting under Jimin. 

Jimin isn’t far behind, the sounds Taehyung makes when he comes more than enough to send Jimin over the edge. He finishes deep inside of Taehyung, condom keeping the mess to a minimum. For a while, he stays there, both of them catching their breath. 

Taehyung’s long fingers wrap around Jimin’s nape, pulls him close, and kisses him slowly. Tongue on tongue, mouths open rather obscenely, trying to taste each other. Still, Taehyung rocks with Jimin inside him, wanting more. 

The recovery time between their first round and the second one is short. Because once is never enough for Taehyung. Usually requires a minimum of three times just to get him to settle beside Jimin for the night. But right now, Jimin sees a sleepy fog beginning to cloud Taehyung’s mind, pulling at his eyelids. 

Once they’re both hard again, they don’t waste any time. Shaky hands reach for a new condom and roll in on, barely waiting until it’s all the way down to start back up again. On his back this time, Jimin lays with Taehyung straddling him, thighs bracketing him, in the riding position. Skillfully, Jimin watches Taehyung’s midsection stretch as he reaches backward to line himself up. Taehyung’s smiling, biting his bottom lip as he lowers himself down on Jimin’s cock. He exhales heavily when Jimin’s fully inside. Then, he works his hips fast and hard, palms on Jimin’s chest for leverage. 

If they made love the first time around, they’re fucking now. A primal-like way to their movements—simply chasing the captivating feeling of their second release. 

Taehyung bounces on Jimin with deep, intense motions of his hips. Lifts himself up so that only the head is inside, and then sinks all the way down. Oversensitivity for the both of them making this time around charged with electricity, bordering on the blissful type of pain. Jimin bites his bottom lip so hard he’s sure it’s white as he guides Taehyung’s pace.

But like this—on their second time around, still reeling from their first—Jimin lets Taehyung use all his excess energy. Truthfully, this is its purpose. Lays there and lets Taehyung fuck down on him again and again and again, soft grunts escaping him as he does so, digging his nails into Jimin’s shoulders. 

Sweat glistens on their skin, sticks their hair to their foreheads, and adds to the lubrication between them. Jimin’s hands find themselves on Taehyung’s waist again, digging in as he rides. And Taehyung looks down at Jimin like he’s losing his mind slowly. Like each roll of his hips is chipping away at his composure. 

And they’re like this for a while. Until the knocking of Jimin’s headboard against the wall no longer gets registered by their brains, until they’re both breathing out heavily, until both of their bodies have a layer of sweat on them. But Jimin can’t take it anymore—Taehyung looks too beautiful, feels too good, sounds too pretty. Something inside of him snaps. 

So, Jimin flips them back over into the missionary position and fucks into Taehyung like it’s the last chance he’ll ever get to do this. Secures a strong hand around Taehyung’s neck to keep him in place and fucks him hard—until there’s nonsense falling from his lips and his sweat is mixing with tears on his cheeks. In increments, Jimin’s calculating fingers apply slow pressure.

Taehyung says he likes this—the dizzying, light-headed feeling choking brings. Leans into Jimin’s thumb as it tightens around his neck, lessening his blood flow, not his air. Tells Jimin it feels like he’s floating, drifting somewhere far away. Says it gives his mind a break from thinking too much. Forces it to slow down until he’s thinking just about nothing. 

There’s a look in his eyes that Taehyung gets. Like he’s happily somewhere else mentally—a glossy-like expression overtaking his features—and makes Jimin lose his mind a little. Snaps his hips harder just to hear the little whispers that fall from Taehyung’s lips. Makes Taehyung feel every inch of him, hitting that spot inside of him over and over with such intensity and precision, the tears in Taehyung’s eyes flow a little faster. Overstimulation holding them both tightly in its grip, squeezing them, setting them on fire. 

And Jimin has no fucking clue what comes over him, but he digs his nails into Taehyung’s wrist, bites at the lobe of his ear, and whispers low and dirty, “Mine.” 

Says it over and over like he’s trying to speak it into unwavering reality. Like Taehyung doesn’t belong to the open road instead, belong to each city in South Korea, belong to the miles on the interstate. 

He closes his eyes and makes himself believe the way Taehyung moans back, “Shit, I—yeah. Yours. Yours, Jimin,” is his truth, and not just delirious sex talk. 

As it usually is, their second orgasm is harder to achieve. But it’s worth it. So worth it when Jimin’s cock inside of Taehyung is more than enough to make him reach his end. Has rubbed harshly, but beautifully, over that spot inside of him enough times to make his eyes begin to roll back and his heart to slam in his chest. 

What must be an indescribable pleasure seizes Taehyung's entire body. Under Jimin, Taehyung convulses like there are electric shocks shooting through his body. And Jimin doesn’t let up until Taehyung’s begging him to. But by then, Jimin’s finishing anyway. For the second time this morning, he spills into the condom inside of Taehyung. This time, Jimin bites at Taehyung’s neck as he comes. Hard enough to leave a mark, but that’s exactly what Jimin wants. 

When they’re finished, Jimin finds himself hoping Taehyung’s used up his energy now because he’s completely spent himself. Couldn’t go another round for a while, even if he tried. He falls beside Taehyung on the bed with a plop, then looks over at him. 

Taehyung’s eyes are drowsy now, barely open. Stares at nothing in particular as he blinks slowly, catching his breath. For a split second, Jimin worries if maybe he was too rough—that glossy look in his eyes lingering a bit too long. He watches Taehyung carefully, squinting. Then he pets his hair, asking if he’s okay with the concern in his eyes and the apprehension in his fingertips. Reading that somehow, Taehyung offers a small nod and a smile. 

Sometimes this is all that works for Taehyung. Needs to rid himself of all of his restlessness and anxieties, and sex is their easiest outlet. Chasing the natural, sedative-like chemicals that flood the brain after an orgasm. That, coupled with Jimin intentionally physically exerting him—both of them going as hard as they can with this result as their intention. It’s not a perfect science, but Jimin’s learned it works.

Beside him, Taehyung lays on his side and breathes in and out slowly. Jimin uses tissues from his bedside table to clean them the best he can for the moment and then lay facing Taehyung, an arm slung over his midsection. 

Again, Jimin delivers sweet kisses to his head, wishing him peace to sleep now. And as much as they both wanted that for the pleasure, Taehyung knows Jimin’s other motive. He seems to welcome the nothingness that fills his mind. 

“Thank you,” Taehyung mumbles, eyes finally beginning to close. Too exhausted to do anything—too exhausted to move. The relentless buzz deep within Taehyung’s bones has dimmed just enough for him to sleep.

Pulling Taehyung closer, Jimin plants another kiss on his temple and says, “Get some rest, baby.”

And he does. For the first time in almost twenty-seven hours. Breathing steady, eyes closed, heart slow. Taehyung is still in Jimin’s arms—his hands, his mind, all of him is quiet.

With Taehyung pressed against him, Jimin’s able to make himself believe—even just for a moment—that he can have this forever. He ignores the sour taste at the back of his throat, nauseous at the background thought that he’s actively lying to himself. 

He knows every second he spends with Taehyung is another second he’ll never get back. Whether he likes it or not, the clock is ticking. Problem is, he doesn’t know exactly when they’re out of time. 

Against his window, the sound of rain catches his attention. A dark-gray cloud is rolling in quickly, turning the sky angry. Letting out a slow breath, Jimin hugs Taehyung closer and closes his eyes. 

A storm is coming.

Chapter Text

“Pose for me,” Taehyung says, already adjusting the camera in front of his face. His finger twitches and the flash goes off, momentarily blinding Jimin. Dramatically, Jimin falls to the side, burying his face in the pillow. But he doesn’t completely remove himself from his position—comfortably straddling Taehyung.  

With his voice muffled by the fabric, Jimin whines, “No, Taehyung, we just woke up. My face is puffy.”  

After three and a half months, Jimin thinks he should be used to this by now—expect it, even. Seldom does a day pass where Taehyung doesn’t take his picture. Sometimes it’s just one, other times it’s enough to make a spotlight portfolio. Jimin always knows when Taehyung’s snapping a photo of him, but he pretends not to. Taehyung loves his candid pictures as much as he loves his staged ones, and Jimin’s more than happy to help.  

Likes to take pictures of Jimin as he pours his morning coffee, as he does his hair in the mirror, as he vacuums the carpet, as he opens the mail. All things Jimin swears are very dull and very unsexy. But for some reason, those are the ones Taehyung loves. Domestic beauty, he calls it. 

They have more than their share of sexy shots, though. Ones Taehyung swears are on his super top-secret flash drive that no one else is going to see. Pinky promises that he keeps it somewhere special, and it won’t accidentally pop up as he self-promotes to potential customers and independent art dealers.  

Ones that Jimin’s happy to pose for—entirely on display in the middle of the bed, wearing nothing but the moonlight. His body is often Taehyung’s personal canvas. Let’s him freestyle pretty bite marks on his collarbone and thighs, down his sides and behind his ear. And Jimin lays with his mouth swollen and glossy, eyes half-hooded, as Taehyung stands above him, camera in hand. Naked but completely comfortable. High off the praise that spills from Taehyung endlessly, making him feel alluring and sensual.  

More than willing to pout his lips or spread his legs whenever Taehyung asks him to and lives to hear when Taehyung mumbles, “Fuck, angel, that’s perfect. Stay right there.” Especially when there’s lust so easily detected in his tone. Makes something glow inside Jimin’s chest to know for a fact Taehyung’s completely turned on by him—fully hard as he fights himself to keep enough distance for a good shot. Bites his lip behind the camera as he watches Jimin, composure slipping by the second. Jimin loves it. All of it. 

What he doesn’t love is Taehyung taking pictures of him first thing in the morning. He’s sure his hair is a mess and his eyes are red and his expression is tired.  

“You look beautiful,” Taehyung tells him like he can hear Jimin’s insecurities running through his head.  

And no matter how hard Jimin is feigning his annoyance or smothering his embarrassment, Taehyung’s words make him smile. In his chest, his heart beats a little faster—but that might be because of Taehyung’s fingers trailing down his side now, teasing. Tempting.  

Fingertips grip Jimin’s waist to reposition him. He giggles as he feels himself being lifted, turned, and then plopped back down on the mattress. Taehyung’s on top of him a second later, pecking playful kisses on his face. Jimin shrinks into himself, holds his hands up, and squirms under Taehyung’s love attack.  

It takes a minute, but eventually Jimin bear-hugs Taehyung tight enough for him to stop. When they settle, they’re nose to nose—panting into each other’s mouths, smiling. Taehyung’s camera is forgotten somewhere to the left of them. 

“Morning, angel,” Taehyung greets for the second time since they’ve been awake, voice barely above a whisper. Despite his energy that’s always present, his eyes still look sleepy. Adorably so. Always takes him some time to fully wake up in the morning. Jimin’s heart swells in his chest as Taehyung steals a kiss from his lips. Not exactly stolen, though. Jimin happily gives it to him.

Rubbing Taehyung’s back, Jimin replies, “Morning, baby.”

Another kiss. Slower this time. When their lips slide apart, Jimin leaves his eyes closed and lets his head relax against the mattress. He exhales. Happy, content.  

Taehyung’s hair tickles under Jimin’s neck as he settles. Like a Golden Retriever that thinks he’s a Chihuahua, Taehyung makes himself more than comfortable on top of Jimin. Snuggles close and makes cute whimpering sounds as he relaxes in Jimin’s hold. Jimin’s fingers tangle in Taehyung’s hair, massaging at the back of his head.  

Reluctantly, Jimin reminds them both in a whine, “I gotta get ready for work soon.” 

They’ve already been in bed for much longer than they should’ve. Hit the snooze on Jimin’s alarm three times over, not even sleeping, just too wrapped up in each other to separate. But now Jimin has less than an hour to make himself half-decent and get to the other side of the city.  

“Ten more minutes?” Taehyung begins to persuade, lips kissing slowly at Jimin’s neck. He licks over the sensitive skin and Jimin feels his brain begin to fizzle out. A second later, Taehyung’s moving—circling his hips. Jimin’s hands grip Taehyung’s sides. He means to hold him in place, to say they don’t have time, but instead, he finds himself guiding Taehyung’s pace.  

There’s an attempt at Jimin being responsible. Says, “Baby, wait, I gotta—” 

“Fifteen minutes.”  

Jimin smiles, but then traps his bottom lip between his teeth because everything feels too good. His voice comes out a bit strained as he tells Taehyung, “Think you’re counting the wrong way.”  

“Think you’re thinking too much,” Taehyung whispers devilishly.  

He lifts his chin to kiss at Jimin’s mouth once more before beginning to work his way down. Lips smearing over Jimin’s cheek, his neck, and his chest. When Taehyung gets to the top of Jimin’s boxers, he lets their eyes meet, flattens his tongue, and licks from the waistband to his bellybutton—following Jimin’s happy trail. And Jimin can’t help it, he feels himself growing harder by the second, cock twitching helplessly behind the thin layer of fabric as Taehyung begins working his way back down again.   

Taehyung’s hand is on his thigh, climbing higher and higher. His touch is like electricity—sparks flying from every nerve in Jimin’s body. Jimin feels himself melting, and his willpower goes too. He’s never been able to tell Taehyung no, and honestly, he doesn’t want to.  

Jimin’s hand buries in Taehyung’s curls, tugging. And Taehyung hums, satisfied with the sensation, wanting more. Loves when Jimin pulls his hair as much as he loves when Jimin plays with it.  

Taking a quick glance over at the clock, Jimin says, “Isn’t there something else you could be doing with your mouth instead of being a smart-ass?”  

Playing naive now, Taehyung puppies his eyes and asks, “Don’t you have to get ready for work?” 

The faux innocence in Taehyung’s eyes contradicts beautifully—sinfully—with the way he’s already jerking Jimin off. Hand snaked through the leg of Jimin’s boxers to do so. A steady pace, twisting his wrist when he gets near the head the way Jimin loves. For a moment, Jimin gets lost in the movement under the fabric, a quickening rhythm. Wants Taehyung to pull his boxers down so he can properly watch. Exhaling shakily, Jimin tips his head back, falling victim to the sensation.  

A moment later, Jimin’s breathing out through a moan, “I can be a few minutes late...” 

But Taehyung’s already inching his boxers down his thighs—a shit-eating, triumphant grin on his face that Jimin wants nothing more than to kiss right off.  

He licks at Jimin’s inner thigh and whispers back, “Thought so.”  

 
✢ 

 
Mr. Seong has eyes in the back of his head, and literal cameras in every corner of the restaurant, so Jimin has no idea why he thought he’d be able to sneak in. Almost forty minutes late at that. Especially considering Mr. Seong sits at his desk for most of the shift staring at those cameras.  

“Boss is lookin’ for you,” one of Jimin’s co-workers whispers to him. Says it like a secret over his shoulder, back half-turned away as he busies himself with the dirty dishes in the sink.  

A guy about Jimin’s age, quiet in personality but loud in the way he expresses himself. Fire-red tips on the ends of his hair, diagonally shaved slit through his eyebrow, and nails he paints black. Jimin doesn’t consider any of his co-workers his friends, but this guy is decent. Keeps to himself most of the time, but it’s easy to tell he has a big heart. Does things like this: warn people when they’re in trouble. Jimin’s grateful. 

Biting his bottom lip, Jimin whispers back, “Yeah, I bet.” He dips his head to put on his apron and then digs into his front pocket for his notepad and pen. Jimin asks, “He’s pissed?”  

“Definitely not happy,” is what Jimin gets back. A shrug of his shoulders and a sarcastic chuckle to follow.  

There’s a follow-up question on the tip of Jimin’s tongue. He’s about to ask exactly where Mr. Seong is so he can avoid that area of the restaurant when his name, loud and clear and embarrassing, is called over the loudspeaker. It only works in the kitchen, so the customers on the other side of the thick double doors are oblivious to the wrath Jimin is preparing to face. But Jimin’s co-workers make noises on par with a middle school classroom when a student is requested to come to the principal's office. Lots of oohs and raised eyebrows in his direction.  

Jimin’s shoulders deflate as he yanks off his apron and hangs it back on the hook. Figures maybe since this is the third time he’s been late this week, Mr. Seong is likely to send him home without pay. Honestly, Jimin can’t say he doesn’t deserve it. It’s just…adjusting to waking up just about every morning to Taehyung in his bed has been hard—in more ways than one.  

Lately, Jimin’s been feeding into pleasure over responsibility. And it’s not that Taehyung’s a bad influence, because Jimin can say no to morning quickies or hitting his snooze three times or staying in the shower for an extra fifteen minutes. It’s just...he doesn’t want to. And that’s his fault. His decisions. So he’s prepared to receive the level of anger Mr. Seong is at right now as he knocks twice on his office door and waits to be permitted in.  

“You’re late,” Mr. Seong chooses as his disappointed greeting. His eyes are underwhelmed and bored as he takes a sip of his lukewarm coffee and adds, “Again.”  

His office is the size of a closet. Only fits his desk, a file cabinet, and an uncomfortable chair placed in front of his desk for times like these. So he gestures to the chair, instructing Jimin to sit before he leans back and crosses his arms.  

Jimin’s eyes roam around the small space. Walls painted a white that’s so old and worn out it appears almost yellow, a dark-colored carpet with questionable stains on it, and a tiny window just above Mr. Seong’s head. Only for sunlight; it doesn’t open for fresh air. It’s humid and stale inside his office. Jimin twists the silver rings on his fingers as he sits.  

Mr. Seong raises an eyebrow and says expectantly, “Well?” 

“Missed the bus. I’m sorry,” Jimin lies. Well, it’s kind of the truth. He did miss the bus. But he only missed it because his dick was more or less down Taehyung’s throat around the time the bus he needed to catch for his shift was driving away. Minor technicalities.  

Doesn’t matter, though. Mr. Seong isn’t buying it. He grunts out, “Uh-huh.” Then, “And two days ago? You miss the bus then, too?” 

Jimin tries to hide his smirk. He really, really tries. But he’s sure it’s curling his lips at the corners when he ducks his head, scratches at the back of his neck, and answers, “Probably?”  

Probably,” Mr. Seong spits back, visibly fed up. He takes in a rather dramatic deep breath through his nose and lets it out slowly. Like Jimin single-handedly raises his blood pressure. It’s tough for Jimin to not find it comical. Especially now that Mr. Seong’s nose is turning as red as Rudolph’s.  

Trying a softer approach, Mr. Seong lets out a deep breath, leans forward, and says, “What’s going on with you? You used to be my top worker. Now you’re...coming in half an hour late, putting orders in the wrong spot, bouncing around here like you don’t have a care in the world. It’s almost like—” 

He stops. Then, he squints his eyes at Jimin like he’s trying to read something extremely tiny written on his forehead. Jimin shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He even looks over his shoulder, confused, just in case there’s a mass murderer behind him or something.  

Jimin swallows thickly and asks, “Like what?”  

And now Mr. Seong’s eyes are expressing an emotion Jimin’s never seen from him before, so he’s not exactly sure what it is. But his voice is gentler now and his eyebrows are curved upward as he asks, “Park...are you in love or something?”  

An electric shock pulses twice through Jimin’s body, making his heart beat funny in his chest. He’s sure his eyes are as big as those cartoons he used to watch as a kid when he questions back, “What?”  

What’s worse is Jimin doesn’t know what to say. Both yes and no are pushing at his lips, competing for which one he’ll choose to say. But truthfully, Jimin doesn’t know what the hell to say. He’s more concerned about the fact that if he is...is it that obvious?  

“I was young once,” Mr. Seong says reminiscently, sitting back in his chair with a sigh. “I remember how it feels to be in my early twenties, thinking I’ve found the one. I bet you I was late to my job and made up stupid excuses, too.”  

“Um,” Jimin says emptily. Suddenly his throat is very dry, and his leg can’t stop bouncing. If the room didn’t make him feel claustrophobic before, the walls are definitely closing in now. Trying to think of something to say, Jimin begins, “Look, I’ll do better with—” 

Crossing his arms to appear disciplinary and firm again, Mr. Seong says, “Plenty of people have girlfriends and boyfriends and still make it to work on time, okay? Get your head out of your ass.”  

At that, Jimin smiles. But it’s mostly because Mr. Seong is smiling, too. He’ll never say it, but Jimin knows he’s his favorite. Kind of impossible not to be when he’s the only reliable worker here most days. Even with his current late streak. Mr. Seong isn’t mad at him, just maybe a little disappointed. Jimin’s sure he can win him over by the end of his shift.  

Nodding, Jimin says, “Will do, sir.” Then, gesturing with his thumb over his shoulder. “Get back to work?” 

Mr. Seong nods and shoos Jimin away like a fly. The lingering smile on his face lets Jimin know he doesn’t mean it maliciously.  

As Jimin’s opening the door, Mr. Seong calls, “Jimin?” 

It’s weird, Jimin wasn’t even sure Mr. Seong knew his first name. He turns around apprehensively, curious as to what he could have to say.  

That look in Mr. Seong’s eyes is back again. With his voice lower now, he says, “You look happier. Good for you.”  

The first thing Jimin thinks is that he is happier. Not just because of Taehyung, but he’d be lying if he said he doesn’t have a lot to do with it. But he feels less stressed nowadays—more carefree. He’s been trying to live in the moment and not overthink. Apparently, it’s working. (And waking up with Taehyung in his arms is a great start to his positive thinking for the day.) 

Jimin takes in a deep breath, sort of touched that Mr. Seong would even say something like this to him. As he exhales, Jimin smiles and says, “I am happier. Thanks, boss. I won’t be late again.”  

As Jimin’s closing the office door, Mr. Seong is promising to skin Jimin alive if he goes out there with a smile still on his face. Says it’ll ruin his reputation of being a tough boss. Jimin thinks about telling him they all know he’s a big softie on the inside, but figures he’ll spare him for now.  

So when Jimin walks back into the kitchen, he slaps on his best sad face—fitting of someone just recently scolded and their job threatened. But inside, he feels warm and giddy because...maybe he is in love?  

And just the thought of that makes him feel like he’s floating. 

 

✢ 

 
There’s a light fog that covers Jimin’s apartment thanks to the gorgeous chimney sitting on his couch, sketching something so quickly it’s like it’s fading from his mind by the second. Jimin looks up from his desk and watches Taehyung tilt his head upward to blow smoke rings toward the ceiling. The window is open, but it’s not doing much. The night air is too still to sweep away the smoke with its breeze. 

“You set off my fire alarm, I’ll kill you,” Jimin warns, only half-kidding. He says this every time and it never happens.  

Without looking back, Taehyung says, “Sex under the sprinklers, remember? Sounds hot to me.” 

“We gonna stop when the fire department comes kicking in my door?” Jimin asks, fighting off a laugh.  

He hears Taehyung suck his teeth. Says, “Give ‘em a show.”  

Noticeably, Taehyung’s tone doesn’t quite match the joking implication of his words. Like he’s going through the motions, or on autopilot somehow. But he continues to draw diligently, barely lifting his pencil from the paper. As if what he’s creating is taking up most of his brain, and he’s just squeezing in room momentarily to respond to Jimin. So Jimin changes the subject. Thinks maybe Taehyung wants to talk about his art instead. 

Playfully, Jimin quirks an eyebrow. But then his expression somewhat neutralizes as he stretches his neck to see Taehyung’s current work in progress. Curiously, he asks, “What are you drawing?” 

Jimin studies the back of Taehyung’s head, curls hidden and stuffed under the backward snapback he’s wearing, as he takes another hit. He exhales slowly—the cloud beginning as a powdery-white, opaque line, then dissipates into nothing.  

He shrugs and says, “Dunno yet.”  

Sometimes Taehyung gets like this—a bit distant. Responses shorter than usual, eye contact nearly non-existent. During these times, it seems Taehyung’s mind only has room for one thing, and that’s usually his art. Jimin has watched him time and time again stay in the same spot on the couch for hours creating something bit by bit. Like he would do something else if he could, but something is more or less supergluing him to his spot, pencil in hand. He becomes a perfectionist, focusing on every small detail until he’s satisfied. It’s hard to talk to him when he’s like this, but Jimin knows he doesn’t mean it.  

According to Taehyung, he only smokes when he’s feeling especially anxious. Says it's self-medicating. Jimin guesses there are worse things he could be doing to calm down than smoking weed, so he’s never said anything about it. But Jimin has noticed a connection between that tunnel vision-like state he falls into and his smoking. And he’s never asked, but he figures they overlap for a reason.  

Because Taehyung credits art as the only thing able to help soothe that non-stop motor inside of him, and he smokes for peace of mind. This leaves Jimin worrying that something is wrong, watching Taehyung fall back on two coping mechanisms at a time. And Jimin knows Taehyung, like all people, has his bad days. But that doesn’t stop him from caring and wanting to make him feel better.  

So Jimin crosses the room and slowly wraps his arms around Taehyung, hands sliding down his chest. Taehyung barely budges but makes a small sound of acknowledgment when Jimin kisses the top of his head.  

“You okay?” Jimin asks, lips still smushed against the black stitching of his cap. In his arms, Taehyung continues to draw—tiny circles that might be raindrops begin to decorate the top right of the paper. He doesn’t answer. Jimin sighs.  

Trying again, Jimin kisses at Taehyung’s temple. Then, his lips are right against the shell of Taehyung’s ear as he calls softly, “Baby?”  

Like an afterthought, Taehyung makes a humming sound. But it comes out closer to a grunt. Between his index and middle finger, the joint burns, almost completely gone. Jimin’s arms remain wrapped around Taehyung’s shoulders as he brings it to his lips and inhales. A deep red at the end fizzles as it backtracks, disappearing in on itself. Satisfied, Taehyung puts it out, smothering the fire in the ashtray on the coffee table.  

Seeing an opening, Jimin positions himself on Taehyung’s lap instead. He doesn’t take away Taehyung’s sketchpad, doesn’t dare to, but sits forward-facing right on Taehyung’s thighs.  

When their gazes meet, Taehyung smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. Despite that, he hooks his hands behind Jimin’s lower back, keeping him there. Jimin’s heart begins to beat a little quicker—its natural reaction to being close to Taehyung.  

“Should I be worried?” Jimin asks, touching the side of Taehyung’s face. Then, truthfully, “I don’t know what this is.”  

And he hates to ask because he’s still learning what’s connected to Taehyung’s—as he calls it—hyper-something, and what’s simply just a result of a disappointing day. Because he comes home sulking after his art gets rejected, too. Or when he works with someone particularly unpleasant for a photoshoot. But Jimin asks anyway...just in case. The last thing he ever wants is to not be there when Taehyung needs him.  

He hasn’t told Taehyung, because he doesn’t want to make it weird somehow, but he’s been reading up on it. It’s apparent that Taehyung talks about it when he wants to, and Jimin doesn’t want to push him, so he’s taken to the internet to find out what he can. Late at night, he’s scrolled through medical websites reading up on symptoms of ADHD and exactly what it is.  

It’s a lot more complex than Jimin thought—not just what he assumed was a bunch of energy with nowhere to go. Especially in adults, the articles he’s read said it presents differently. It’s less “bouncing off the walls” as many see in kids who have it, which Jimin didn’t know. Instead, some of the symptoms include inattentiveness, and high distractibility, and forgetfulness. Websites have begun to make Jimin keen to impulsivity and mood swings. Things he never would’ve thought of until he educated himself.  

Jimin doesn’t think he worries about Taehyung any more than he did before Taehyung first opened up to him, but he thinks he’s become better at backing off when he thinks Taehyung needs it—giving him space. It’s hard sometimes, though. Like now, when all he wants to do is hug him. Not out of pity, but because…he just really fucking loves being in his arms, and hates to see him upset. For any reason.  

The paper of the sketchbook bends a little with the way Taehyung starts rubbing at Jimin’s back. His head leans to the side like he’s trying to figure Jimin out himself. Then he smiles again, less forced this time, and says softly, “I’ll be okay.”  

Jimin trusts him. Taehyung is more than capable of taking care of himself—understands himself better than anyone. Jimin would never pretend that he has the right answers. And he isn’t going to pry. Not going to make Taehyung open up if he doesn’t want to, because maybe there isn’t anything to open up about.  

So instead, Jimin asks, “Anything I can do?” 

Taehyung takes a minute, like he’s filtering answers in his head. Jimin shifts gently in his lap, nervously rubbing the fabric of Taehyung’s shirt between his fingertips while he waits. 

“Just lay here,” Taehyung settles on. He tosses his sketchbook aside, letting it fall on the floor, and tucks his pencil between the cushion. His hands settle more deliberately around Jimin, pulling him forward. 

Leaning in to kiss Taehyung, Jimin whispers against his lips, “I can do that,” then makes himself comfortable on top of Taehyung. Cuddles in close, forehead against his neck and leg hooked over his midsection.  

As they lay there, Taehyung’s index finger continues to draw on Jimin’s back—adding to his sketch in his mind, using Jimin as his canvas. Jimin intentionally slows his breathing, hoping Taehyung will subconsciously mimic his pattern. Eventually, it works. Taehyung exhales when Jimin inhales, and it’s like they’re sharing a pair of lungs.

It takes some time, but Jimin soon hears Taehyung’s heart slowing down. He begins to feel less tense, and his breathing comes more naturally.  

They stay just like that for hours.  

Taehyung’s finger draws and draws and draws. 

 
 ✢ 

 
Jimin’s bed feels almost disturbingly empty when Taehyung doesn’t stay the night. Like it’s lopsided somehow. Balancing on three legs instead of four. Too heavy on Jimin’s side, too light on the other.  

Sometimes, pathetically, Jimin tries to compensate by sleeping near the middle. Like that will lessen the space on either side of him, or smother the fact that he’s alone. He lays with a pillow stuffed between his arms, a poor substitute for a warm body.  

And it’s during those nights that Jimin realizes how much, in such a short time, he’s gotten used to falling asleep with the scent of Taehyung’s shampoo in his nostrils. Became accustomed to Taehyung’s weight against his back as they spoon. Begun looking forward to reaching for Taehyung in the middle of the night, pulling him close to settle him, smiling at what an active sleeper he becomes after a few hours. Looked forward to waking up and Taehyung being the first thing he sees.  

Taehyung never has a particular reason for coming or going, and Jimin guesses that’s spot-on for how he’s always lived his life. Some nights, he leads Jimin to the bedroom and that means he’s going to stay. Other nights, he kisses Jimin goodnight and promises to see him soon. Lately, soon means tomorrow. But it could also mean two days. Or three. 

Nothing has been distinctively different between them this week, so Jimin isn’t quite sure exactly what is making this night feel so heavy. The weight of the air is thick and humid despite his high-running air conditioner. It’s overstuffed with Jimin’s thoughts—negative ones—telling him these nights he spends alone are just the sample sizes of what it’s going to be like when Taehyung leaves.  

Because...it’s still inevitable, right? Sure, Taehyung has stayed this long, but Jimin can’t help but wonder when Seoul will stop inspiring him. How long until he’s seen enough sunrises and enough parks and enough birds mingling on branches? How long until the busy streets no longer spark something in him? How long until Jimin himself no longer ignites whatever the hell Taehyung claims he ignites inside of him, too?  

On this night, there’s no cooler side of Jimin’s pillow. He’s overheated in the worst way, sweat budding on his forehead, dampening the pillowcase. He rolls over onto his back, uncomfortable no matter what position he lies in.  

The corner of his eye catches his phone charging on his bedside table. He wonders if maybe he’s missed a text from Taehyung. One wishing him good night or promising to see him tomorrow. His fingers tingle, resisting the urge to pick it up and message Taehyung.  

No fucking clue what he’d say at one o’clock in the morning that doesn’t look suspicious. Or needy. Or desperate. Hey, how’s it going? Still in Seoul?   

Jimin scoffs at himself—disgusted that it’s come to this. That he hasn’t worked up enough nerve to just ask  Taehyung what his plans are. The worst-case scenario is what Jimin’s been preparing himself for all along. He can take it, he just needs to know. Needs to come to terms with it before— 

(—he falls for real.)  

But each time the question is seconds from escaping Jimin’s lips—when he thinks he’s mustered up the boldness—Taehyung kisses him. Or smiles at him. Or does literally anything, and Jimin’s mind takes a sharp turn away from those thoughts. Completely under Taehyung’s spell. And in those moments, Jimin’s happy. Because he’s always happy with Taehyung. Happier than he’s ever been with anyone, actually.  

The problem is, that’s a scary thought, too. And soon, Jimin chooses not to think at all. Just lets himself sink deeper and deeper into whatever the hell he and Taehyung are building. Pretends it doesn’t have an expiration date slapped right on the front. Or that it’s not made out of straw—one strong wind and poof!  

Jimin’s heart starts beating hard in his chest, so he rolls over onto his stomach, hoping it’ll restrict the rapid pumping. He squeezes his pillow, shoving it under his neck. Then he sighs, slow and pained, and forces himself to close his eyes.  

He doesn’t sleep.  

Or text Taehyung.  

His bed widens by the hour, leaving him stranded.  

 
 ✢ 

 

Taehyung has a knack for finding places that are equally eerie and bewitching. Makes for beautiful pictures, but often gives Jimin the chills. His hand is intertwined tightly with Taehyung’s as they walk into what looks to be an abandoned building. Cobwebs netting the ceiling corners, overturned wooden benches, a filthy fireplace, windows with condensation permanently staining them.  

“I gotta stop agreeing to model for you,” Jimin spits, face twisting in disgust as their weight makes the floorboards creak—just the way they would in a horror movie, seconds before someone’s death.  

Taehyung laughs out, “Such a baby.” Then, gesturing around them with a wide sweep of his arms, he says, “It’s not haunted, Jimin. It’s just old...and dirty.”  

Rolling his eyes, Jimin mumbles, “Synonyms.” 

Taehyung scoffs. There’s a smile to follow, though. His cheeks swell up and his nose scrunches. Jimin feels his heart melting a little.  

Tugging at Taehyung’s hand, Jimin adds, “Besides, you’re the only baby here.”  

He squints his eyes at Taehyung playfully and then moves out of the way when Taehyung reaches to shove his shoulder. They’re still holding hands, so Jimin doesn’t get very far. Taehyung tightens his grip and pulls Jimin forward, making them chest to chest. This close, Jimin realizes that Taehyung’s perfect height to kiss his nose. And at that, he thinks he blushes a little.  

“Being your baby is different than being a baby,” Taehyung clarifies, eyebrows angling cutely, as he wraps his arms around Jimin’s shoulders. His breath tickles against Jimin’s skin, and suddenly, all Jimin can think about is kissing him. He makes no effort to resist the urge.  

Lifting himself just a bit onto his tiptoes, Jimin whispers through a smile, “You’re right.” His eyes close just as his lips meet Taehyung’s, as soft and welcoming as ever. 

When they pull apart, they’re both still smiling. Taehyung takes the lead again, refusing to let go of Jimin’s hand, and nearly drags him to the back. Jimin keeps a permanent disgusted look screwed onto his face—eyebrows furrowed and mouth downturned. Huffs disapprovingly at the wind-blown leaves on the floor and the littered beer bottles from presumably teenage partygoers.  

They approach glass double doors, wooden around the perimeter, and Taehyung stops. This must be where he wants to do the shoot, but truthfully, Jimin doesn’t see what makes this specific spot any less haunted than the rest of the place.  

Questioning, Jimin lifts his eyebrow.  

Taehyung explains, “If you sit on the step, I think I could get some pretty cool shots.”  

With his hand, he gestures to the steps leading out to the backyard, immediately after the glass doors. Following with his eyes, Jimin sees thick trees creating a skyline of their own in the distance. The land is nothing but overgrown grass and weeds, but Jimin has to admit, he can see how it’d make for a nice background.  

As he gets into position, Jimin asks, “What’s the concept for this again?” 

Taehyung brings his camera up to his face and closes one eye to see through the viewfinder. “Loneliness,” he says.

Jimin dusts himself off a spot on the first step and sits down. Without words, he knows Taehyung wants his back to the camera, but he sits sideways as he asks, “But wasn’t that the concept for your display at the opening?”

Shrugging, Taehyung says, “It’s interesting and—babe, turn around—there are so many ways to represent it. Before, it was about feeling isolated in the city, and how the busyness of Seoul makes it seem impossible for anyone to be lonely. But this...is more the literal definition. Not necessarily sad.” 

Giggling, Jimin does as he’s told. He spins around and poses with his back to Taehyung’s camera, looking upward. As he sits, he thinks about Taehyung’s words. His mind always amazes him, and the way he interprets the world. No wonder he has such an eye for art and photography.  

They’re both quiet as the soft sounds of Taehyung’s camera indicate he’s currently taking pictures. After a moment, he adds, “And also, loneliness was one of the first things we talked about when we first met. So. I dunno, I guess it intrigues me. Especially when I’m around you.” 

At that, Jimin spins back around. The moment he does, the flash goes off, capturing whichever expression was painted on his face in that exact moment. Tiny white specks dance in his vision from the bright light. 

Jimin laughs and shakes his head at Taehyung. Says, “You’re such a sap.”  

Rolling his eyes, Taehyung tells him, “Shut up so I can finish. Don’t you think this place is crawling with flesh-eating ghosts or whatever?” 

Truthfully, Jimin pokes fun, but he knows he’s the same—just as sentimental as Taehyung presents to be sometimes. Definitely not above making a scrapbook filled page after page with mementos, and has a habit of saving tickets from special events to remember the date. He, too, remembers the little things people say. Jimin actually loves that Taehyung remembers so much; it makes him feel special.  

Too many people in Jimin’s past who could barely remember the simplest things about him. Like what he orders to drink at restaurants or his birthday. But here Taehyung is, remembering just about everything.  

With a content smile on his face, Jimin turns back around and lets Taehyung get the pictures he needs. But his mind wanders, wondering what other little things Taehyung remembers about him. 

 
 ✢ 

 
Vividly, Jimin recalls never meeting any of his boyfriends’ friends or family. In a way, he was always their dirty little secret. They’d spend time at his apartment late at night, and Jimin knew they were just there to fuck, but he made himself believe there was more to it. Like maybe they missed him or wanted to hold him, or needed to kiss him. Jimin told himself they loved him. But that was all a lie, and deep down, he always knew it.  

So Jimin is sure the expression on his face is bewildered and shocked when Taehyung stammers, “Would you wanna, uh, come out w-with me and...my friends tomorrow night?”  

Taehyung looks just as surprised to say it as Jimin is to hear it. His eyes flinch like he’s expecting the world to explode. He’s standing on the other side of Jimin’s kitchen, a glass of apple juice in his hand. With the other, he scratches at the back of his head the way he does when he’s nervous.  

And Jimin, stationed behind his laptop, looks up and feels his air freeze in his lungs, chest growing tight.  

“Huh?” Jimin asks, not because he doesn’t want to, but because his brain needs a minute to process. All of his other relationships have begun and ended with Jimin and the other person only—never introducing each other to anyone unless it happened accidentally, like running into a friend on the street.  

Setting his glass down on the counter, Taehyung says, “You’ve met them already—the ones from the opening. They asked me to go to a bar with them tomorrow and just…would you wanna go with me?”  

Taehyung must take Jimin’s silence as him figuring out a nice way to decline, so he adds in a hurry, “It’s okay if you don’t want to or if you’re busy or have to wo—” 

“Of course, I’ll go,” Jimin tells him, cutting him off. He feels a smile widening on his face as he says it. Especially as he watches Taehyung go through a rainbow of emotions in the span of a few seconds. Jimin spots confusion, then shock, then relief, then anxiety. He’s so cute, Jimin thinks.  

Taehyung’s mouth is hung open a little, finding what he should say next. He’s clearly trying to restart his brain now that his explanation isn’t needed.  

From what Jimin remembers, Taehyung’s friends from the opening are nice. They’re much more creative than Jimin thinks he’ll ever be, and he remembers being intrigued by their creativity. Jimin remembers them being funny, and more importantly, welcoming.  

Swallowing hard, Taehyung asks, eyes still a bit wide, “You will?”  

Jimin watches carefully as Taehyung’s shoulders release some tension, relaxing. He picks up his glass again and takes a sip. Jimin nods at him, lowering his laptop so they can see each other more directly. 

“Yeah, if you want me to,” Jimin says. Because the ball is still in Taehyung’s court. He doesn’t want him to feel like he’s obligated to invite him just because he’s going out with friends. They’re allowed to have two separate lives. But if Taehyung wants him to come, Jimin thinks he would actually really like that.  

Instead of answering, Taehyung crosses the short distance between them and plants a kiss on Jimin’s head. He tells him, “You’re the best. They said to meet them around eight.”  

Taehyung seems happy, so Jimin is happy too. It’s a nice feeling.  

 
 ✢ 

 
Opposite to Jimin, Taehyung never seems to stress about what he’s going to wear. So although he lugged a pile of clothes up from his van into Jimin’s apartment, it takes him record time to construct an outfit that looks amazing on him. Jimin sits in the middle of his bed, legs crossed, and a playful pout on his face as Taehyung fixes his belt through the loops.  

Standing in front of the body-length mirror propped against the wall, Taehyung looks at Jimin through the reflection and says, “I’m not really into the all-black look too much, but I guess this is okay, right?” 

Taehyung’s in black slacks, fitted at the ankle, with neat creases down the front. He’s paired that with a plain black shirt he’s tucked in, and a flowy black and white button-up left unbuttoned. A diagonal pattern of grayish-white rectangles decorates the fabric, with bold white cuffs that hang in a flare around Taehyung’s wrists. The shirt is just enough contrast—a casual look perfect for a night out. He shrugs his shoulders as he toes into his black leather loafers, then spins to face Jimin.  

“You look perfect as always,” Jimin tells him. And he means it sincerely although he’s smiling. Taehyung always looks good, no matter what he wears. And it’s just an added bonus on top of everything else that he’s got an eye for fashion as well as art.  

Taehyung holds his arm out, inviting Jimin in close. Jimin feels Taehyung’s fingers wrap around his hip as he tells him, “So do you. I love this on you.” Then he leans in close, lips centimeters away from Jimin’s ear, and whispers, “Can’t wait to take it off of you later.” 

Playfully, he tugs at the back of Jimin’s blue cardigan. It’s a bit oversized, hangs fashionably off of one shoulder, and is soft to the touch. Stitched with black buttons down the front that match subtly with Jimin’s black skinny jeans. He’s added a plain white t-shirt under it and a low-hanging necklace on a dark chain that Hoseok got him for his birthday last year.  

Biting his bottom lip, Jimin’s hand finds the front of Taehyung’s belt and murmurs lowly, “Don’t tempt me.” 

Jimin’s fingertips slide along the smooth leather, daring to travel lower. Their eyes lock, and Jimin sees something inside of Taehyung’s—contemplation, maybe. He looks over Jimin’s shoulder, eyeing the clock, mentally figuring if they have enough time before they’re expected to meet up with his friends.  

Smacking Jimin’s ass playfully, Taehyung shakes his head and says, “No time. But later, definitely.”  

Naturally, their hands find one another. Jimin interlocks their fingers as he reaches for his phone and wallet on the bed. He stuffs them both in his back pocket with his free hand, and then nods at Taehyung, indicating he’s ready.  

They turn off the bedroom light and pay no mind to the pile of Taehyung’s clothes on the floor at the foot of Jimin’s bed. As they’re leaving, Jimin has the passing thought that maybe he’ll make room in his closet for them tomorrow. 

 

✢ 

 

The bar Taehyung drives them to is one Jimin’s passed a thousand times, but never went inside. It’s a bit hidden—a dark brick building sandwiched between a convenience store on the corner and a barbershop. It’s got a fluorescent purple-like pink neon sign outside that catches attention, though. The name on the chalkboard sign on the door reads  Eulji Brewing. Jimin’s meant to come here for months now with Hoseok, but they never got around to it.  

Inside is exactly the type of place Jimin would imagine artists hangout. It’s dimly lit with magenta light bulbs screwed into fixtures that remind Jimin of a mosaic. The place is moderately crowded, filled with people around their age, despite the theme of the bar clearly paying homage to ‘80s Korea. Booths tucked into corners, dated wood on the draft beer handles, and Cho Yongpil playing over the sound system.  

Taehyung’s friends spot them almost immediately. They wave them over with bright smiles, faces already glowing. They’ve stationed themselves around a table near the back right of the bar. Jimin spots beers already placed in the center of the table, and snacks ranging from beef pajeon to pretzels. There are two empty stools left for them.  

“About time!” one of them calls. A girl with short hair cut bluntly at her jawline. It’s black and shiny and moves freely as she shakes her head at Taehyung. When they sit down, she says in a playful scold, “Always late.”  

Gesturing to her, Taehyung puts his hand on Jimin’s shoulder and says, “You remember Ara. Don’t get on her bad side.”  

“Hey!” Ara exclaims, reaching for a peanut just to toss in Taehyung’s direction. It hits him on the shoulder and then rolls somewhere unknown. 

Jimin bows in her direction, smiling as he says, “No promises.”  

She’s not subtle about the way she mouths “ He’s cute! ” to Taehyung and winks, but Jimin pretends he doesn’t see it.  

Instead, he turns his attention to the guy sitting beside her. He’s interesting—hair dyed a golden blond with tattoos beginning on his neck and seems to continue down his shoulder. His features are strong and a bit intimidating. Thick eyebrows, wide eyes, and full lips. But he’s got a bright smile and perfect teeth. And there’s something about him that’s very warm.  

Continuing his introductions, Taehyung motions his hand between Jimin and him and says, “Joonwoo, Jimin. Jimin, Joonwoo. I don’t think you guys met.”  

They bow respectfully in their seats, but then Joonwoo reaches across the table to shake Jimin’s hand. Says, “Nice to finally meet you.”  

And his voice is a lot softer than Jimin expected; it makes him smile. Nodding, Jimin says, “Yeah, you, too.”  

Last is a girl with long black hair down her back and a shy smile. She looks familiar, but her name is lost to Jimin at the moment. She’s wearing a pretty shade of pink lipstick and her shirt is made of white lace, elegant-looking. In contrast, she’s got tiny tattoos on her hands of a sword, and roman numerals on her knuckles. Jimin’s intrigued by them and wants to know what they mean. But figures he should start by learning her name first.  

“Jimin, this is Seoyeon. Seoyeon, this is Jimin,” Taehyung introduces. “She did the painting you liked, remember? With the dragonfly over the ocean?” He leans back so they can see one another when they bow. She smiles softly at Jimin, and speaks even softer when she tells Jimin she likes his necklace.  

Lifting her glass, Ara says, “Now that all of that boring shit is out of the way, let’s drink.”  

They all laugh, raising their glasses to cheers with one another over the middle of the table. Glasses smack hard, spilling beer over the rims and wetting their hands. Everyone laughs, a feeling of freeness blanketing the table. Jimin instantly feels comfortable around them, just like he had with Taehyung. Like they’ve been his group of friends for years and not just a couple of minutes.  

And so the fun begins.  

 
 ✢ 

 
Although Jimin’s been pacing himself and been eating almost as equally as he’s been drinking, he’s starting to feel a buzz. The good kind, not the sloppy kind. The one that makes the lights glimmer a little prettier, and everyone around him a little funnier, and Taehyung a little sexier. Jimin’s touchy when he’s tipsy, so his hand is now on Taehyung’s leg under the table, a heavy presence on his thigh. Every so often, Jimin gives it a squeeze, just to watch the way Taehyung bites his bottom lip in his poor attempt at not reacting at all.  

Taehyung’s friends are genuinely fun to be around. They skipped over the small talk and jumped right into a drinking game. One where the goal was to tell a story, piggybacking off of the sentence the person previously said. Only three seconds to start a new sentence before receiving the punishment—a drink, of course. Started with beer but quickly upgraded to Soju shots after two rounds.  

And within that game, Jimin learned about Taehyung’s friends. They talked about themselves and their day and their art in between the rounds. Ara is the owner of the exhibit, and they’ve all met Taehyung recently, but she’s known the other two for quite some time. Apparently, she and Joonwoo went to the same art school, and she and Seoyeon used to date.  

“But now we’re all one happy family at the art store,” Joonwoo says, taking a sip of his beer. He’s terrible at this game and is at least four shots in. Jimin thinks they should start a new game soon or take a time out before someone has to carry him home.  

Intrigued, Jimin asks, “So you’ve had the store for only a couple months, right? What did you guys do before?” 

Ara tucks her hair behind her ear and sits up a bit straighter, indicating that she’ll answer this one. It’s easy for Jimin to tell she runs the show most of the time. Sociable and assertive and confident. In a way, although he’s just met her, Jimin admires her a little. She gives off an admirable first impression and has a great sense of humor.  

“Well, Seo is an art teacher, actually. She instructs both free and paid classes downtown. You should check her out sometime,” Ara says. She looks over at Seoyeon and smiles in her direction. Adds a moment later, “She’s incredibly talented.”  

“Says you,” Seoyeon laughs. Then, lifting her eyebrow in Jimin’s direction, “Did Ara mention she’s a tattoo artist too? One of the few people I trust to put something permanently on my body. You should let her ink you.”  

Jimin laughs nervously. “Maybe one day.”  

Truthfully, Jimin loves tattoos. He only has a couple, but they all mean something special to him. Good tattoo artists are hard to come by, and if the tattoos visible on Seoyeon’s hand and wrist are anything to go by, Jimin can already tell Ara is skilled with an ink needle.  

Moving on, Ara points to Joonwoo and tells Jimin, “Joonwoo freelances like Taehyung does.” She squints her eyes at Taehyung from across the table and says, “Less traveling, though.” 

Taehyung rolls his eyes and takes a long sip of his drink.  

“But Joon’s a jack of all trades,” Ara continues, cutting her eye playfully at Joonwoo now. “He bartends down at Glam a couple of nights a week. Makes a helluva cocktail. And he’s a mechanic. Assistant manager at a shop across the city.” 

Glam Lounge is a popular nightclub in Seoul, and a hotspot for the LGBTQ community. Great drinks, great music, and one of the few places many people feel safe enough to completely be themselves. Hook-up central, really. Jimin remembers pretending to mend his broken heart with a pretty, blurry stranger from Glam more than a handful of times. Jimin’s been there a bunch, but he doesn’t remember seeing Joonwoo. Granted, he’s usually too hammered to remember much. And unless the bartender is offering him free drinks, he doesn’t usually take notice of them either.  

“Yeah?” Jimin says. “I practically lived at Glam during my last two years of college. Still go there quite often, can’t believe I missed you.”  

“Drinks on the house next time you come in,” Joonwoo promises.  

Ara clears her throat, demanding the attention back with a captivating smile, and says, “And so, we all wanted to do something big. But we wanted to do it together. So we combined all of our talents, and rounded up our friends that create art, took out a loan the size I don’t even want to think of, and leased the space. Joon’s good with management and money, I’m good at organizing and planning, Seo’s good at decorating and has a shit ton of connections. It was bound to work.”  

Jimin whistles, impressed. As he does so, his hand trails higher on Taehyung’s thigh. Under his touch, he feels Taehyung’s muscles tighten, then twitch. Taehyung takes a sip of his beer, still on his second one of the night, and clears his throat.  

“The grand opening was amazing,” Jimin tells her, but then looks over at Joonwoo and Seoyeon to let them know he’s addressing them too. Their art was on display there as well and Jimin remembers being floored by everything he saw. All of the paintings and photography and ceramics.  

There’s something else to Ara’s smile when she says, “Store is doing well. Steady business. Lots of customers, so hard to keep up sometimes.” 

Jimin says, “That’s good!” 

Taehyung says, “Ara.”  

Catching his tone, Jimin looks over his shoulder at him. For a split second, Jimin sees the way Taehyung’s eyes flash at her—like he’s pleading for something. But there’s also a curl to his lips, like he’s...annoyed, maybe? Jimin’s never seen this expression on Taehyung before. He doesn’t understand.  

And if that was supposed to be a signal for something, Ara is either too drunk and misses it or too bold and doesn’t care. She keeps talking, but now there’s a tease to her voice. Her index finger traces the circumference of her shot glass in front of her.  

She says, with her other hand making her index finger tap at her chin like she’s pondering something deep, “Could use some help down at the store. God, I wish we knew someone—oh, wait, we do. But someone  keeps declining our offer to work for us!”  

Seoyeon and Joonwoo laugh, and so does Ara, but Jimin can see from the corner of his eye that Taehyung isn’t laughing. There’s a nervous grin on his face, like someone who’s just been caught red-handed. Jimin can tell he doesn’t think any of this is particularly funny. And clearly, this is something Taehyung didn’t want her to mention.  

Like he’s scrambling, Taehyung says a bit through his teeth, “I told you I’d think about it.”  

Jimin looks back and forth between Taehyung and Ara, their expressions close to opposites. Ara’s laughing, clearly buzzed. And Taehyung looks painfully sober, lips pressed into a nearly straight line.  

Waving her hand, Ara says, “Jimin, can you please talk some sense into your boyfriend? Never seen someone be so hesitant to accept a full-time job before.”  

Again, Ara and Joonwoo and Seoyeon laugh, but when Jimin looks over at Taehyung, he looks like a deer caught in headlights. His eyes are a bit wide and his cheeks are burning red. But now, Jimin can’t tell if it’s because of the job offer Ara’s just spilled he’s been pushing off or the fact that she just called Jimin his boyfriend. Either way, Taehyung looks like he needs a drink and maybe some fresh air.  

There’s a trace of bitterness at the back of Jimin’s throat now. He might be tipsy, but he didn’t lose his ability to put two and two together. The only reason Jimin can think of as to why Taehyung wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to do something he’s sure to love, like working at the art store with his friends, is because he has no plans of staying in Seoul. And subsequently, he has no plans of staying with Jimin.  

It comes out a little harsher than Jimin means it to, and he’ll blame it on the alcohol in his veins, but he says to Ara, “I’m not Taehyung’s keeper. He makes his own decisions.”  

Putting her hands up, Ara sucks her teeth and says, “Shit, sorry, I was kidding.” 

Before Jimin can tell her he didn’t mean any disrespect to her, Taehyung says again, “I told you, I said I’ll think about it. It’s not a big deal.” Jimin then feels Taehyung’s hand on his nape, pulling him close. He kisses Jimin on the cheek and tells him a bit softer, “It’s fine, babe.”  

It’s funny because it doesn’t feel fine. It feels like it’s the exact opposite, actually. Feels like Taehyung’s trying to brush over something that needs to maybe be out in the open. Because in the past couple of months he’s never mentioned that he’s been offered a job down at the art shop. Been offered a bunch of times, apparently. But this is how Jimin hears about it—from Taehyung’s drunk friend at the end of their night out.  

Jimin shrugs Taehyung’s hand off of him and announces flatly, “I’m going to the bathroom.” 

Quickly, Taehyung offers, “I’ll go with you.”  

But Jimin’s already walking away. Calls over his shoulder, “I can pee by myself.”  

Jimin keeps walking, and Taehyung doesn’t follow him.  

 

 ✢ 

 
The music is dimmed in the bathroom. Makes Jimin feel like he’s in a fishbowl or something. The change in lighting and atmosphere leaves Jimin lightheaded for a moment, but the rush of emotions flowing through his veins makes the feeling linger. His vision is that weird type of clear. Where everything is almost too vivid, and he has to close his eyes to regain himself. 

He’s not drunk, but he feels off-balance. Blindsided, is more of the word. Feels like a train just hit him without warning and now he’s tumbling and tumbling and tumbling full speed to an end that’s guaranteed to be painful and bloody. Jimin has been able to pacify his anxieties around the unknown surrounding whether Taehyung is going to stay or leave.  

Because until now, he’s never had any concrete evidence either way. Besides knowing Taehyung’s pattern, he’s never outright mentioned anything about him leaving. In fact, he’s done things like beginning to make a home out of Jimin’s home, and taking more freelancing gigs, and familiarizing himself with Seoul more—all possible indicators that maybe he’ll stay. He’s told Jimin that he likes it here and he’s made friends here. In fact, he’s never even mentioned wanting to see other places since Jimin’s known him. 

But this…this is hard evidence of the exact opposite. Turning down a job means turning down planting roots. It means he’s turning down grounding himself in Seoul. He’s turning down building a life here, which means, in a way, he’s turning down Jimin too. At least, that’s what it feels like.  

Granted, Jimin is well aware he doesn’t know the whole story. So he’s doing all he can to not jump to conclusions or do anything that might seem like he’s overreacting.  

Taking in a deep breath through his nose, Jimin approaches the sink and turns it on. He runs the cold water at full pressure and shoves his hands under it, cupping them to hold the liquid in his palms. Leaning over, Jimin splashes his face over and over until his nerves are numb. The tip of his nose turns red, and his cheeks blush, and his bottom lip begins to quiver.  

Jimin looks at himself in the mirror and sees a mess—the water is dripping down his chin and onto his white shirt. Too mentally frenzied to get a paper towel, Jimin wipes his face with his cardigan sleeve. It’s not the classiest, but it gets the job done. Then he has a staring contest with himself, mentally giving himself a pep talk.  

You need to calm down, Jimin thinks. You don’t know anything yet, calm down. This could be a misunderstanding. And honestly, not taking a job doesn’t have to mean what you think it means. Let him explain…then react.   

It presents as a solid plan. One concrete and logical enough for Jimin to fall back on again and again as he takes in one final deep breath before heading back out. As he’s approaching the table, Jimin tries to figure out what he’s feeling. But he doesn’t know which emotion is steering him right now.  

As much as he wants to be, he’s not angry. Not now, not yet. He doesn’t know if it’s warranted. Because Taehyung tells him things when he’s ready, and Jimin knows that. But Jimin can admit that he’s disappointed either way, because he thinks this is something he should’ve been told from Taehyung, not his friends.  

When Taehyung’s face comes into view, Jimin thinks he feels desire. Desire to know what he’s thinking, desire to gain the truth, desire to kiss him. Even still—even right now—all Jimin really wants to do is kiss him. Because even when Taehyung is the reason Jimin feels like his world is spinning out of his control, Taehyung is still the only person Jimin knows can make it slow down.  

“You okay?” Taehyung asks, holding his hand out to help Jimin on the stool.  

A loaded question. And honestly, Jimin doesn’t know if he’s okay. Physically, yes. Emotionally, sort of. Psychologically, not really.  

Before he can answer, Taehyung leans forward and kisses him. A slow kiss that makes Jimin’s shoulders relax. Taehyung’s lips are soft and inviting, and Jimin chases his tongue when it sweeps over his for a second. Then Taehyung pulls back, searching deep in Jimin’s eyes for the answer before it leaves his mouth.  

And there it is again, Taehyung’s magical spell. Helplessly, Jimin’s put under, and he tells himself they can worry about the job later. Tomorrow morning. Because he’s still going home with Taehyung, and he’s still going to invite him to sleep in his bed. Tonight has gone too well, and he and Taehyung have worked so hard on their trust for Jimin to let himself jump to conclusions without knowing Taehyung’s side first. So until then, he decides to let it go.  

Placing his hand back on Taehyung’s thigh, Jimin says to him, “Yeah, I’m alright.”  

He’s not sure if Taehyung believes him, and honestly, he’s not sure if he believes himself. But it’s enough for right now.  

 

 

Somewhere between their last drink at the bar and the walk to Jimin’s apartment, all of his negative emotions melt away. He blames it on how good Taehyung’s ass looks as he walks in front of him, holding his hand, leading the way to Jimin’s apartment door. Because it’s hard to stay mad when— 

“You’re so fuckin’ sexy,” Jimin whispers in Taehyung’s ear, hand in his back pocket now, squeezing his ass. They’ve reached Jimin’s apartment. Jimin is pressed against him, no space between them, as Taehyung fumbles with the key in the door. Jimin kisses at his neck, licking a trail up to his ear. 

Attempting to multitask, Taehyung turns his head and kisses Jimin as he jimmies with the lock. It always gets stuck; needs to be twisted a certain way, and right now is the worst time for it to be a pain in the ass. Taehyung turns the key again.

Biting Jimin’s bottom lip gently, Taehyung whispers back, “Look who’s talkin'.” 

Getting impatient, Jimin nearly whines, “Open the door.” 

His hand slips past Taehyung’s belt, bunching his shirt, fingers cupping around his growing erection. Almost half-hard already, just from Jimin kissing him. He’s so easy to work up, Jimin loves it. 

It takes a few extra seconds than Jimin thinks he can survive, but eventually, the door is open and they both nearly knock into each other trying to walk through at the same time. Taehyung’s hand wraps around Jimin’s waist, pulling him close as he kicks the door closed with his foot. The pictures on Jimin’s wall shake, daring to fall. 

They’re both smiling as they kiss. Jimin presses Taehyung’s back against the wall and holds him by the sides of his face, keeping him still. Taehyung always tells Jimin how much he loves his mouth, but Jimin thinks he loves Taehyung’s even more. Something about the shape of his lips, and the way they are always sort of downturned into a pout, makes Jimin’s brain go haywire. 

Closing his eyes, Jimin kisses him hard and sloppy. Tongue on tongue, spit glossing their lips. Taehyung tastes like the beer he nursed all night and a little bit of desperation. Jimin feels his fingers pulling at the back of his shirt, untucking it, wanting it off. A soft whimper drips from his lips when Jimin bites at his neck. Jimin’s cardigan hangs in the bend of his elbows, off his shoulders now, overheating his lower arms as he pulls Taehyung closer.

Over the months, they’ve had plenty of nights that anyone observing them would describe as passionate. Had nights when they kissed like the only way they could breathe was through each other’s lungs, and fucked like they’d never be able to do it again—like they had something to prove. Ended sweaty and exhausted and blissed out in the middle of Jimin’s bed, or on the living room floor. But something about tonight feels special. Feels different. Jimin doesn’t know what it is, but the feeling is addictive and more intoxicating than the alcohol he’s had tonight. 

Jimin’s cardigan slips off his arms as they round the corner. They knock into the end-table designated for keys and mail. There’s a failed attempt of Taehyung blindly placing Jimin’s keys in the bowl, but he nudges it instead, and it falls. It’s plastic, so it doesn’t break, but it crashes loudly when it makes contact with the hardwood floor. 

Taehyung laughs into Jimin’s mouth, mumbles, “Fuck, sorry,” but his words are smothered by Jimin’s kisses. 

When they reach the kitchen, Taehyung’s lost his button-up, and both pairs of shoes are gone. Kicked off in a frenzy, trying to keep their mouths connected as they do so. They’re giggly one minute, and then serious the next. Licking the smirks off of each other’s mouths, overtaken with a surge of lust and want. 

Taehyung lifts Jimin up onto the island, and his ass bumps into the bowl of fruit stationed in the middle for decoration. It knocks over, spilling apples and bananas onto the floor. Neither of them notices—too busy trying to strip the other. 

“Take this off, angel,” Taehyung instructs softly, tugging at the hem of Jimin’s shirt. Quickly, Jimin lifts his hands and lets Taehyung pull it over his head. It’s tossed somewhere neither of them has a half a mind to care about right now. Adding to the mess in Jimin’s apartment he’ll deal with tomorrow. 

Jimin spreads his legs and allows for Taehyung to slot himself between his thighs. A hand on the small of Jimin’s back pulls him to the edge, positioning him at the perfect height for Taehyung to push into him. And maybe some say dry humping is for teenagers too horny but too unskilled to do something else, but right now it feels amazing. Jimin wraps his legs around Taehyung and rolls his hips forward, chasing the friction. He buries his face in Taehyung’s neck, sucks at the exposed skin, and listens to the sounds Taehyung makes when they grind against each other. 

Taehyung’s slacks are thin enough and Jimin’s jeans are tight enough for Jimin to feel Taehyung’s cock each time they meet in the middle. Completely hard now—full and tempting against Jimin’s, rubbing against him. With shaking hands, Jimin removes Taehyung’s undershirt and begins kissing down his chest. But soon, Taehyung stops him and has him lay back instead. 

“You’re so beautiful,” Taehyung whispers to him, eyes roaming over his body like he doesn’t know where to start. 

The granite is cold against Jimin’s back, but he ignores it and focuses on how warm Taehyung’s mouth is. It’s dark in the apartment, but the blinds are open in the living room, giving Jimin just enough light to see the way Taehyung’s tongue is licking around his nipple. Quick circles over the bud, and then his lips tighten and suck. 

Closing his eyes, Jimin moans out slowly, “Fuck.” 

Taehyung’s hand fumbles with the button on Jimin’s jeans, then unzips his pants. Jimin’s breath stills in his chest when Taehyung finally touches him for real, skin on skin, no longer letting stupid things like jeans and boxers separate them. Taehyung’s hand curls around his cock, smearing the pre-come from the head onto his palm and then starts jerking him off. 

“Already so wet for me,” Taehyung murmurs, a smile clearly heard in his voice. 

Jimin keeps his eyes closed, but tips his head to the left when he feels Taehyung kissing up the side of his neck. Soft bites at his skin as he makes his way upward. His hand continues to stroke Jimin, just enough so that it feels good, but not nearly enough to send him over the edge. Jimin lets out a slow breath, bucking his hips to feel more. 

Jimin opens his eyes but everything’s blurry for a moment. He blinks once, twice, three times before he tells Taehyung, “Been waiting for this all night.” 

And it’s true, from the second he watched Taehyung get dressed earlier this evening, Jimin’s been daydreaming about when he’d be able to undress him. Thought about it on the drive over to the bar, and fought to keep his hands tame while they rested on Taehyung’s thigh. And now that they’re here—alone in Jimin’s apartment, already half-naked, both so hard it’s starting to become uncomfortable, Jimin feels like he’s losing his mind. So overcome with this want for Taehyung that he’s never felt for someone before. 

Taehyung’s hand picks up speed. He licks at the shell of Jimin’s ear, sending a chill down his spine. Taehyung tells him softly, “You looked so fucking good tonight. You always look good, but—fuck, I dunno what it is. You’re...irresistible. I think about you all the time.” 

Truthfully, Taehyung’s not usually like this. Not so open with what he’s feeling and his thoughts. Often, he shows how much he wants Jimin through his touch and not his words. Jimin thinks maybe he’s feeling the change in the atmosphere tonight, too. He likes this side of Taehyung, though. Makes him happy and horny at the same time. Jimin smiles as he bites his bottom lip, letting himself drown in Taehyung’s praise. 

It’s like Taehyung’s voice is playing over a loudspeaker in his head. Jimin can’t think about anything else—can’t comprehend anything else—than Taehyung’s words. He keeps his eyes closed and just lets them seep into his brain, and into his veins. Drinks in Taehyung’s compliments and his lust and lets it fill him up before Taehyung’s cock does. Tickles at something in Jimin’s gut, and reminds him that Taehyung makes him feel like no one else ever has. 

At that, Jimin opens his eyes and sits up. Does it slowly, gripping Taehyung’s jaw tightly between his thumb and index, and kisses him the whole way. He groans, completely turned on by the way Taehyung goes pliant for him. Always such a good listener, even when Jimin says nothing at all. He relaxes his jaw and lets Jimin’s fingertips dig into his hinges. 

When he’s upright, Jimin unbuckles Taehyung’s belt and uses it to pull Taehyung closer. Drapes it over the back of his neck, tugs the ends, and keeps him close as he slides his tongue over Taehyung’s. 

Taehyung asks—so sweet, so sexy—between kisses, “Gonna let me fuck you?”

Jimin reaches between Taehyung’s legs, a satisfied feeling warming Jimin’s insides knowing he’s this hard just for him. Smiling, Jimin says, “Since you asked me so nicely...” 

Just like with everything else they do, they let this happen naturally, too. Simply decided by who grabs the condom first, or who asks first, or who wants it more. Sometimes silly things like who’s more tired, who has more energy to burn, who’s had a harder day. Some days, Jimin looks at Taehyung, and the only thing that consumes his mind is wanting to pin him down and fuck him senseless. Other days, Jimin thinks he’ll implode if Taehyung doesn’t fuck him—like tonight, right now. And somehow, they’re always on the same page. Because truthfully, there’s no bad option. 

Easily, Jimin’s lifted in the air and carried in Taehyung’s arms down the hallway. Legs wrapped around Taehyung’s midsection and arms cradling his head, kissing him still. One hand for support under Jimin’s ass, the other getting lost in his hair. Taehyung can’t see, but Jimin knows he’s memorized the layout of the apartment like it’s his own. Only knocks one picture off the wall before making it to Jimin’s room. 

Once they hit the bed, they’re rushing to take each other’s clothes off—what’s remaining, that is. Jimin’s placed toward the middle of the bed and lays still while Taehyung shimmies his skinny jeans down his legs. Takes them off with his underwear, wasting no time. Jimin looks down at his dick—hard and dripping, resting just below his belly button—and grabs it by the base, stroking it. He jerks himself off slowly as he watches Taehyung rid himself of his pants. 

The second he’s bare, Jimin whispers impatiently, “Baby, come on.” 

Because he’s waited all night for this, and honestly, Jimin doesn’t think he can wait anymore. The longer he stares at Taehyung in front of him, the more his eyes stare between his legs, and that just sort of makes his mouth water. Jimin bites his lip, smothering a groan. 

Like he’s reading Jimin’s mind, Taehyung gestures with his finger for Jimin to sit up. Mumbles, “Want your mouth,” before threading his fingers through the strands of Jimin’s hair and pulling him close. 

Jimin’s jaw strains a little, just like he likes, fitting Taehyung into his mouth. Takes him as deep as he can and then works backward, using his tongue. Jimin’s hand makes up for the length his mouth can’t reach and quickly gets to work. Loves sucking Taehyung off, loves the noises he makes and the way he pulls at his hair. 

“Oh, my god,” Taehyung moans, pushing his hips forward a bit, urging Jimin to take more. Jimin feels the head brush against the back of his throat and tightens his lips more deliberately. And sucks, rhythmic and skilled, letting his eyes fall shut. Lets Taehyung’s hand guide him as quickly as he wants and flattens his tongue to pleasure the underside of his cock. 

But Taehyung never lasts long when Jimin gives him head. Says it feels too good—that Jimin’s mouth is magic or something. So soon, Taehyung’s pulling back, panting as he does so, saying, “Fuck, babe, why are you so good at that?”

The compliment makes Jimin’s cheeks burn red, heated at the praise. He smiles and looks up at Taehyung as he continues to stroke him. He’s more than hard, so Jimin asks, “Ready?”

Taehyung smiles back, almost sweetly, before he instructs with a slight lift of his eyebrow, “On your stomach.” 

Jimin settles as he listens to Taehyung fumble in the nightstand for the condom and lube. Hears the wrapper of the condom as Taehyung opens it, then smiles at the popping sound of the lube bottle opening. Jimin loves this part. Loves closing his eyes and anticipating Taehyung’s touch. Feels the bed dip as Taehyung climbs onto it, and hides his smile in the bend of his elbow. 

A hand on Jimin’s ass spreads him apart and cold gel meets his sensitive skin. He twitches, laughing into his arm, trying to keep still. He hears Taehyung mumble an apology against the small of his back and then begins kissing downward. Fingers slicked up with lube tease at his entrance, making circles. He fights the urge to push back on them, wanting them inside so bad he bites back a whine. 

Taehyung makes soft humming noises between kisses to Jimin’s ass like he’s worshipping it. Slow kisses and licks and bites. Jimin can’t help it, he grinds down onto the mattress, needing to feel something. He moans into the sheets under him, positive he’s creating a wet spot.

The lube is strawberry flavored, at Taehyung’s request, and he’s been having a ball ever since Jimin bought it. And truthfully, Jimin’s happy he caved and bought it too because fuck Taehyung’s tongue feels so good. Licks circles around his ring of muscles, pushing the tip in just to make Jimin whimper. He laps at Jimin’s skin, skilled with his mouth, pulling helpless moans from Jimin’s lips. When it starts to feel too good, Jimin's teeth sink into his bottom lip. Taehyung finally pushes fingers in—starts with two—and then begins licking again. 

Stretching his fingers into a V shape inside, Taehyung licks between them, teasing Jimin’s hole. Jimin feels dizzy, lightheaded. Each lick makes him feel like he’s going insane—driven mad from pleasure. Truthfully, Jimin isn’t sure how long Taehyung eats him out. Long enough for Jimin’s legs to start shaking and for his body to overheat, dampened with sweat now. But the time that actually passes is lost on him. 

There’s a bite to Jimin’s asscheek that pulls him down from his cloud in outer space. He feels Taehyung pull away, a gust of uncomfortable coolness hitting his wet skin. He shivers, wanting Taehyung to come back. 

When Jimin looks over his shoulder, Taehyung’s licking his lips. He runs his thumb over his bottom lip and then puts it in his mouth. Smiles down at Jimin and says, “Tastes almost as good as you.” 

And Jimin has no time to think of a witty response because Taehyung’s fingers are back and moving more deliberately now. They knock the air out of him. Always loved Taehyung’s fingers and how easily they make him fall apart. Jimin grips the sheets, trying to stay in one place as Taehyung’s fingers fuck into him. Mindlessly, Jimin bites at his own arm, just to have something to do with his mouth. Feels drool on his chin and his eyes rolling back. 

“Want you,” Jimin whispers breathlessly, head down and face buried in the sheets. Taehyung’s fingers aren’t enough, Jimin needs more. He groans and tells him, “I’m ready.”

Kisses along Jimin’s spine catch his attention. When Taehyung reaches his shoulder, he kisses there too before he says back softly, “Soon.” 

But Jimin doesn’t want to wait for soon, he needs it now. Doesn’t care about the sting of the stretch—he likes it, actually, and Taehyung knows that. So he shakes his head and tells Taehyung again. More a demand, less a request. And just like Jimin, Taehyung has no idea how to say no to him. He hears Taehyung giggling in his ear as he says, “Okay, okay.” 

Big hands grip Jimin’s thin waist as Taehyung pushes in. His dick, not his fingers now. A stuttered moan falls from Jimin’s lips when Taehyung bottoms out, feeling so full it’s hard to breathe for a moment. And he loves it. Loves the way his heart picks up speed, and the way his brain melts, and the way his dick twitches pressed tightly between his hip bone and the mattress. Taehyung fucks him hard, just the way he tells him to. All the way in, and then nearly all the way out. 

“Just like that, baby, yes,” Jimin coaches, winded, eyes daring to roll back. He lifts his hips to fuck back, meeting Taehyung in the middle. Soft grunts escape Taehyung’s lips, and he tries to smother them by kissing Jimin's back. 

It’s good. It’s all so, so good. And even still, Jimin feels his mind betray him and wanders aimlessly. Without meaning to, Jimin thinks back to the bar tonight. Thinks about Taehyung’s friends giggling while they talk about Taehyung turning down their offers to come work with them. Thinks about what that could mean, and how Jimin never really knows when his last night with Taehyung is. Because for all he knows, it could be tonight—right now. Maybe this is all Jimin gets, so maybe he needs to make it worth it. Needs to make himself feel it so he won’t forget. 

Tears burn at the corners of Jimin’s eyes now, and he tells himself it’s from pleasure. That Taehyung feels so good inside of him that it’s making his eyes water. It’s happened before, so not far-fetched at all. But deep down, Jimin knows the real reason. 

Lifting his head, Jimin swallows around nothing and grunts out, “Harder.” 

Before Taehyung speaks or reacts, Jimin positions himself up on all fours. Begins pushing back with more force when he feels Taehyung thrusting forward—setting the pace. Jimin’s nails dig into the sheets below him, arching his back into a pretty curve.

At his request, Taehyung fucks him harder. Jimin squeezes his eyes shut and makes his mind memorize this feeling. Tells himself their time is running out and all of these moments count. And in the same thought, he thinks he deserves the pain he’s starting to feel from the way Taehyung’s snapping his hips. Makes his entire body feel like it’s being set on fire in the best way. He wants it to burn, he wants Taehyung’s fingers to bruise him. Thinks maybe he’ll need it for later—when Taehyung’s gone and he tries to make sense of all of this. 

His entire body jolts forward when Taehyung fucks him, hitting deep inside and making his cock leak almost helplessly onto the sheets under him. He would stroke himself, send himself over the edge like he wants, but if he balances on one hand instead of two, he thinks he’d tip over. And soon, what Jimin’s feeling isn’t enough.

Jimin grits his teeth and tells Taehyung, “Harder, I can take it.” 

He feels the hesitation in Taehyung’s stroke. Then, Taehyung’s lips are by his ear again as he asks, “Angel, are you sure? I don’t wanna hurt you.” 

A bit out of breath, Jimin leans forward and rests his head on his hands, leaving his lower half up. With his face buried once again in the sheets, Jimin closes his eyes and tells him, “Harder.” 

So Taehyung listens. Always listens. Jimin feels his fingers adjusting their hold on his hips, and he pushes forward so hard it knocks the air out of him. Jimin laughs at the pain, wanting more. It’s the perfect substitute for the pain in his heart. Because that pain doesn’t have an exact spot, but this pain does. Feels Taehyung’s fingernails digging into his hips, and the smack of his hipbone against his ass. Feels the force in which he fucks him, leaving him feeling raw and breathless. Feels Taehyung’s teeth sinking into his shoulder, telling him how tight he is. 

And soon, the pleasure-soaked pain and the pain in his heart become one. For a second, Jimin thinks maybe Taehyung can fuck them both out of him. 

Not too long after, Jimin’s too overwhelmed. It feels too good, he has to finish. So he jerks himself off quickly, twisting his hand around the head. There’s pressure inside of his body as his orgasm builds—like the countdown to a rocket taking off. Jimin’s breath becomes erratic, so close he’s whimpering now, telling Taehyung not to stop. 

When he comes, Jimin’s vision goes blurry and he sees stars. Jolts his body so hard he tenses up and slumps into a pile of nothing—boneless. Spills over the bedsheet and his hand, nails digging into the mattress again. 

Taehyung’s arm wraps around his stomach, keeping him upright. He hears Taehyung panting, close to his end now, too. Only a few more strokes before he’s hugging Jimin tight and coming inside of him. Jimin feels Taehyung’s cock pulsing and his legs shaking, and his breath on the back of his neck. 

Then, a moment later, Taehyung breathes out slowly. Jimin feels his heart slamming quickly against his back. Taehyung kisses at the back of his head, both of them sweaty and hot. He pulls out slowly, letting Jimin on the mattress carefully. 

They always cuddle after, but Jimin nearly scrambles to pull Taehyung close. Reaches for him the second he stands to rid himself of the condom, and ignores Taehyung’s giggles as he relaxes in Jimin’s arms, telling Jimin he was coming right back. They settle on what would be considered Taehyung’s side of the bed, Jimin’s side considerably gross and ruined until the wet spots dry and the sheets are thrown in the wash. 

Jimin doesn’t usually shake after, but he’s shaking now. Taehyung assumes he’s cold, which is only half the reason, and pulls the blankets over them. Hugging Jimin back, Taehyung says, “Shit, that was amazing.” 

And it was—one of the best times they’ve ever had and Jimin knows that. But now that he’s no longer thinking with his dick, all he can think with is his heart. It’s confusing because he doesn’t know if it should feel like it’s breaking or not. But something inside of Jimin already feels lost. No matter how hard he tries, he keeps replaying Ara saying they’ve asked Taehyung again and again to take the job, and he kept saying no. So naturally, all Jimin’s brain can think of is the worst versions of what that can mean. 

“What’s gotten into you tonight?” Taehyung asks, petting at Jimin’s hair. “You okay?”

Understandably, he’s taken notice of Jimin’s slightly off behavior. He kisses at the side of Jimin’s head and hugs him closer. Taehyung’s voice is soft and slow like it gets when he’s sleepy. It makes Jimin smile. He loves it when his voice is like this. He thinks it’s so cute. Another thing he’s gonna miss added to the list. 

Jimin knows this is the perfect chance to speak up—to say something. And for a split second, he’s about to. But instead, what comes out is, “I’m just really happy you’re here.” 

This time, Taehyung lifts his chin to kiss him on the lips. A fading strawberry taste leaves itself on the tip of Jimin’s tongue, and that makes him smile too. 

Taehyung lowers himself, likes to rest his head on Jimin’s shoulder, and says back, “I’m happy you’re here, too.” Then, yawning, he says, “Try and get some sleep.”

Jimin figures if he closes his eyes, he won’t cry. 

With Taehyung’s so close, it takes no effort at all to kiss the crown of his head, so that’s what he does. Holds him tight in his arms and breathes in the smell of his shampoo. He thinks about the weight of Taehyung in his arms and smiles knowing he’s going to have to reach out in a few hours to keep Taehyung still—an active sleeper once he falls into a deep sleep. The list continues. 

Jimin’s gotten used to this. All of it. And it fucking sucks to think maybe it’ll all be gone soon. 

Although his eyes are closed, a tear squeezes past his lid and runs slowly down his cheek. Taehyung’s hair soaks it up, unknown to him, peaceful and content in Jimin’s arms now. 

Jimin knows there’s a bad joke about irony here somewhere. 

 

 

In the morning, Jimin wakes up early and makes space for Taehyung’s clothes in his closet. 

His thighs hurt more than his heart does, and he tells himself maybe that means something. 

 

 

It’s almost comical, either Taehyung can’t sleep at all or he sleeps like someone’s hit him over the head with something extremely heavy. So currently, he’s sprawled out on Jimin’s bed—diagonally, at that—with the blanket covering him at odd angles.

Typically, Jimin loves waking up before Taehyung. Finds it both cute and entertaining to watch him for a while. Twists Taehyung’s hair around his index finger gently and counts the seconds between his inhales. Completely at peace, like the world has stopped spinning just for them. Jimin used to enjoy the stillness and the quiet. 

But this morning didn’t bring Jimin the tranquil feeling it has in the past. Instead, being alone with his thoughts and just the sound of Taehyung’s breathing made him feel like the walls were closing in. The longer he laid there next to Taehyung, the warmth of his skin heating his own, the more he felt his composure crumbling. The tornado in his head began spinning out of control, destroying everything in its path. 

So now Jimin’s here, standing at the kitchen counter, wondering if—and sort of hoping—the smell of waffles cooking will wake Taehyung up. Because the longer Taehyung sleeps, the longer Jimin has to convince himself of all the worst things possible. Thoughts from last night emerge and Jimin’s chest grows tight with the thought that Taehyung’s more than one foot out of the door, right in front of his eyes. 

Smoke tickling his nose pulls Jimin back to reality. He didn’t even realize he was spaced out—palms flat on the counter, staring at the cabinets, while the batter overcooks. The waffles are beginning to burn in the maker and he scrambles to find a potholder to safely open the lid. 

Jimin’s scraping an overdone waffle onto a plate just as he hears his bed creaking, indicating Taehyung’s up now. And for some reason, knowing that makes his heart race, but not in the way it did before. He feels anxious, mouth going dry. 

It takes him a few minutes to gather up the nerve he never needed before to leave the kitchen and walk back to his bedroom. As he’s approaching, he doesn’t see Taehyung on the bed and feels his eyebrows scrunching, confused. Thinks maybe Taehyung took the easiest out—the window. But then immediately tells himself he’s being dramatic. And then reminds himself he actually has no idea what Taehyung’s thinking, or if he wants to leave at all. 

When Jimin reaches the doorframe, he spots Taehyung standing in front of his closet, a look on his face Jimin can’t quite name. Apprehension starts at Jimin’s toes, swirling up around his ankles like a growing flood. Soon, it’s at his knees, making them weak.

Leaning against the wood, Jimin greets softly, “Hey.” 

Taehyung seems a bit startled when he looks over his shoulder. Eyes big and rounded, like maybe he didn’t hear Jimin coming. 

He replies, “Hey.” Then, pointing in front of him, “You...put my clothes away?” 

There’s a balloon growing exponentially in Jimin’s throat, lessening his air by the second. 

Fuck, he hates it, Jimin thinks.  It’s too much. 

Stammering a bit, Jimin says as casually as he can, “They were j-just on the floor so—I thought—” He stops, nervously runs his hand through his hair, and finishes, “Didn’t want us to trip over them last night. Knew it was gonna be the last thing on our minds.” 

Tries to make a joke of it, tries to make it nonchalant. Like it’s something he did on a whim when in reality it was a deliberate act. At the beginning of the night, he thought maybe it’d be a subtle gesture indicating the direction he thought they were going in. But now, after knowing what he knows, he thinks maybe this makes him look like he’s trapping Taehyung somehow. Or maybe moving too fast. Jimin hates that he doesn’t know the right thing to do.

There’s silence. He watches Taehyung square his shoulders to the closet again, like he’s evaluating it. Jimin hears his heartbeat in his ears, so loud it’s deafening him. At his sides, his fingers twitch. 

“Do you, um—” 

—want me to take them back out?  Jimin wants to ask. It’s right there, fighting to leave his mouth. He knows he should ask it, no matter the answer he might get. Because he needs to know. 

But instead...he says, “—want some breakfast?”

Taehyung looks at him again, a faint smile on his lips, clearly perplexed. Lifting an eyebrow, he says, “Huh?”

Smiling now too, Jimin gestures over his shoulder toward the kitchen and tells him, “Got some slightly overcooked waffles if you're hungry.” 

Jimin knows it’s stupid of him to continue to avoid the inevitable. Sooner or later, he and Taehyung are going to have to talk about this—all of this—and figure out what the hell they are. Or what the hell they aren’t. And where the hell this is going, if it’s going anywhere at all. 

But apparently, today isn’t the day. 

Clearly, Jimin sees Taehyung’s shoulders relax, like maybe he’s relieved the subject has changed. He crosses the room, approaching Jimin. There’s a hand on Jimin’s cheek and then lips on his forehead, kissing him. 

Taehyung says, “I’m starving, thanks, angel.” 

He slips past Jimin and heads toward the kitchen. Going numb, Jimin turns around and follows him. He hates himself a little for wrapping his arms around Taehyung’s waist when he enters, kissing at the back of his neck. Does it so naturally, muscle memory already. It’s easier to pretend nothing’s wrong.

And so that’s what they do: they sit down at the island. Taehyung pours Jimin a cup of coffee. Jimin cuts off pieces of his waffle just to feed it to Taehyung. They eat together. 

What they don’t do, though, is talk. Not about anything that truly matters.

 

 

Time has a funny way of running away from Jimin nowadays. It’s like he doesn’t even notice when days float by, and soon those days turn into weeks. The end of the month comes and goes, passes him by like all of the other days, and somehow he finds himself at the beginning of the next month still waking up with Taehyung in his arms. On the nights he chooses to stay, that is. 

Not much has changed between them over the passing weeks. The cloud of anxiety that hung over Jimin’s head the night at the bar and into the next day slowly subsided. Dissipated in increments and began to let in sunshine instead of heavy rain. 

But every once in awhile, as they’re sitting on the sofa together, or holding hands as they walk in the park, Jimin gets this nearly unbearable urge to just scream, “What the fuck are we doing?! ” Because if he’s honest, it’s slowly eating him alive. He doesn’t know how long he can keep doing this.

And there’s usually nothing that prompts this feeling inside of Jimin—this twist of bitterness, this spike in anger and frustration—but it lingers inside him for a long time after. Turns his responses to Taehyung a bit colder than he means to. Sometimes when they’re cuddling he takes his arm away. But Taehyung, unaware of the battle going on inside of Jimin’s head, usually just curls in closer. Not even second-guessing Jimin’s actions. 

Jimin’s weak when it comes to Taehyung. No matter how much he wants to be passive-aggressive, he just can’t. He always lets Taehyung cuddle back in close. Always hugs him tight again. Always kisses him when Taehyung asks. 

Despite how it ended the first time, Jimin hangs out with Taehyung and his friends again. Gets a personal invite from Ara because, somehow, they’re all Facebook and Snapchat buddies now. They all see a movie, and Jimin holds Taehyung’s hand the entire time. Some action film that attempts to also pass as a comedy. But Jimin’s more interested in the way Taehyung’s thumb subconsciously rubs over his while their fingers intertwine. And when it’s halfway through, and Taehyung starts itching to do something else with his body than sit, he lets him play with the sleeve of his jacket. 

Jimin continues to feature most often in Taehyung’s camera roll. The tables have turned and Taehyung now takes Jimin to places he’s never seen in Seoul. Little nooks and crannies on the outskirts of town, or behind buildings that haven’t been used in years, or to hilltops that Jimin’s never had the curiosity inside of him to see before.

He lays on beds of flowers, lilies in his hair, tilting his jaw for the camera. And sits by fast-moving streams, facing the sun, as Taehyung finds the perfect angle to have his shadow be the highlight of the shot. Stands on top of Taehyung’s van at night and reaches for the stars while the flash captures the moment. Poses naked in the living room, hands above his head, as Taehyung looms over him, zooming in. 

And all of these moments make room for themselves in Jimin’s mind—locked there forever just as they are on the memory card of the camera. And, Jimin hopes, inside of Taehyung’s heart. 

He hopes all these days mean as much to Taehyung as they do to him. 

 

 

Together, Hoseok and Yoongi give advice that spares no feelings, so it’s not for the weak-hearted. Jimin knows neither of them is going to sugarcoat anything for him, and that’s exactly what he needs. Not what he wants, of course. But Jimin’s self-aware enough to know that he needs to get an outside perspective on his current situation. And he trusts no one more in the world than these two to tell him exactly like it is. 

Yoongi’s eyes squint as he asks, “How long have you known him?”

“Uh,” Jimin says to buy himself time to think, eyes looking upward to calculate. “Four months or so.” 

They’re all sitting around Hoseok’s apartment. Yoongi spends most of his time here, so it’s basically his apartment, too. And unlike Taehyung, Jimin bets Yoongi has no objections to his clothes hanging in Hoseok’s closet. Yoongi has his arm around Hoseok, casually resting it on the back of the couch as Jimin sits on the recliner, waiting for either of them to say something.

Hoseok mumbles, “Long time for Mr. City-Hopper,” but Jimin hears him perfectly. Whispering isn’t his strong suit. Yoongi laughs breathily, pushing his bottom lip out, nodding a little. 

“For someone that claims to never stay anywhere, that is a long time,” Yoongi reasons aloud, bouncing his head back and forth like he’s weighing something mentally. 

Jimin lets out a slow breath, eyebrows knitting together as he waits for the analysis he knows he’s going to get. He sees it in Yoongi’s eyes. 

“So, on one hand, it means something that he’s stayed in Seoul this long. For you, I think it’s safe to assume. And from what you’ve said, the two of you have been getting pretty...comfortable. Doing couple-shit and all of that.” 

Jimin sucks his teeth. “We don’t do couple-shit.” 

“He sleeps in your bed more nights than he doesn’t. You’ve met his friends. You go on dates. You fuck all the time. You’ve gotten to the point where he’s kinda starting to piss you off,” Yoongi counts off on his fingers. Then his eyes meet Jimin’s in a dead stare. “Couple-shit.” 

Hoseok covers his mouth to giggle. Yoongi elbows him in the ribs, a poor attempt at getting him to stop. Jimin shakes his head. These two are a mess. But beautifully. He wants what they have. And maybe he has it, but he can’t be sure right now. 

“And on the other hand…?” Yoongi’s voice intentionally trails off, raising his eyebrows, signaling for Jimin to fill in the blank.

Swallowing his laugh, Hoseok says, “Yeah, what’s the problem? You didn’t hear this from me, but he’s already a billion times better than the other assholes you’ve dated.” 

And Jimin knows Hoseok’s right. He and Taehyung haven’t made anything official in regards to exactly what they are. But going off the idea that they are, in fact, dating, Taehyung also is, in fact, the best by a landslide. 

Biting at the inside of his lip, Jimin begins, “When we were out with his friends, one of them said something about them offering him a job here and him declining. Like, seems like they asked him to work there a bunch of times and he keeps turning them down.” 

“I might’ve spoken too soon,” Hoseok says, looking over at Yoongi first then back at Jimin. 

“Don’t work in a city you don’t wanna live in,” Yoongi reasons. 

“Exactly,” Jimin agrees, happy that his hyungs are thinking the same thing he is. But it’s never that easy with the two of them, and that’s why Jimin comes to them. 

Because a second later, Hoseok asks, “But that’s a big step for him, huh? Hypothetically if he were to...take this job, settle down with you, flip around his whole lifestyle?”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “I mean, when you say it like that —” 

Before Jimin can continue, Yoongi says, “I don’t know this guy, but from what you’ve told us, having a steady job and staying in one place is the exact opposite of everything he knows. Shit, if I were him I’d hesitate, too.” 

“It’s a big step, Jimin,” Hoseok repeats, eyes softening. “Especially if you two aren’t even official.” 

“He doesn’t like labels!” Jimin tells them defensively. But he knows that’s just his safety net. Jimin avoids the conversation and allows the two of them to hang in the in-between of being together and not. Because he’s afraid of the conversation not going the way he wants it to. 

Shaking his head, Hoseok says, “You’re gonna have to talk about it eventually. You think this guy is going to change his whole life for someone he doesn’t even know is his boyfriend? Would you?” 

He has a point and Jimin hates it. Truthfully, Jimin knows he wouldn’t do a complete one-eighty of his life for someone he wasn’t positive of. For someone who hasn’t assured him in every way possible that it’d be okay no matter what. 

Dropping his head, Jimin mumbles, “Guess not.” Then, “But all of that shit is implied, hyung! Why would I let him sleep at my place all the time and put his fucking clothes in my closet and meet his friends if—” 

Jimin stops, but he doesn’t know why. Suddenly, he’s unsure how he wants to end that sentence. Or where he was going with it at all. 

“If what?” Yoongi prompts, raising his eyebrow. It gets hidden behind his hair, dyed an ash-gray that looks a lot better on him than Jimin thought it would when Hoseok first told him he helped Yoongi dye it. He experiments with hair colors all the time. It’s usually a different color whenever Jimin sees him.

Shaking his head, Jimin says softly, “I dunno.” 

But actually, he does know. He’s just afraid to say it aloud. Because if it finally leaves his lips that he thinks he’s in love with Taehyung, then he’s going to have to do something about it. And that’s scary. He doesn’t know if he can do that. 

“So you don’t even know why you’re doing these things, but you expect him to make sense of it and stay?” Yoongi asks. He’s not trying to be harsh, Jimin knows, but it still hurts. It only hurts because it’s the truth. 

When Jimin doesn’t answer, Hoseok takes the softer approach and says, “He doesn’t live in your head, Jimin. He doesn’t know what you’re thinking. Or what you’re feeling. Unless you tell him, there’s no way for him to even know for sure that you want him to stay. And that you’re willing to make it work if he does.” 

Jimin’s not stupid, he knows Taehyung making the decision to stay would be considered the easy part. The hard part is the two of them moving forward day after day as a pair instead of two people pretending their relationship is casual. Because Hoseok and Yoongi are right, it’s a big step for both of them. Meeting four months ago doesn’t usually tell if two people are compatible enough to live with each other or continue to move their relationship forward. And what if they’re not? What if Taehyung takes this job and he stays, and then the two of them don’t work? 

“I care about him,” Jimin finally says. But that doesn’t seem like enough, so he adds, “More than I’ve ever cared about anyone else. Ever. In a  different way than I’ve ever cared about anyone else, too. And I don’t know what that means.” 

But now there’s a soft, almost fond type of smile resting on Yoongi’s lips. He tells him, “You know what that means, Jimin.” 

Just the implication makes Jimin's heart race. He smiles, uncontrollably, and looks away. He feels shy now, like there’s a spotlight on him. Jimin scratches at the back of his head, trying to regulate his emotions. 

There’s silence for a minute. Jimin feels Hoseok and Yoongi watching him process everything that was just said. And this is the exact reason Jimin comes to them. As much of a no-brainer as it seems, Jimin hadn’t thought about this from Taehyung’s perspective before. A bit selfishly, he just sort of hoped Taehyung would be able to tell how much he wants him to stay. 

Jimin is so used to people leaving him because they’re assholes who used him until they were bored, and not for a solid reason. And if there was, it was because they were cheating or lying to him somehow. So Jimin never thought about the fact that Taehyung might be just as confused as he is. That he may be hesitating with his decision about the art shop because he genuinely doesn’t know what to do. 

Both he and Taehyung have been giving each other mixed signals. Jimin can admit to that. And he knows it’s a shitty thing to do, but he guesses it’s a result of them not talking about what’s happening between them. And that’s partially Jimin’s fault, he can take half the blame.

“It’s a big deal,” Jimin concludes out loud after some time. He’s been so stuck on the fact that he’s been feeling all of these things for Taehyung he’s never felt before, that he figured Taehyung must know how much he cares for him. Figured it bleeds through everything he does. Assumed that maybe Taehyung could tell, because he always seems to be able to read his mind. That it was somehow written on the walls that he wants Taehyung to stay. And that he’s willing to do whatever they have to to make this work if he does.

But the fact is, they’ve never talked about it. And Jimin has never said any of that. So it’s unfair of him to just expect Taehyung to know any of it. Or be certain that he’s welcome in Jimin’s home in the long run. Or that Jimin wants nothing more right now than to make what they have official and concrete. Exactly how Jimin has no idea what Taehyung’s thinking. 

Then, getting nervous, Jimin looks up and asks, “What if I tell him how I feel and he still leaves?” 

That’s his worst fear. Jimin’s heart has been broken a million times, but he thinks a million and one might be enough to total it forever. It’s scary because it’s true—he’s never felt what he’s feeling for Taehyung with anyone before. And it might mean something huge. So if he bears his soul and it’s somehow still not enough...he doesn’t know what he’d do. 

But as simple as ever, Yoongi tells him, “Then it wasn’t meant to be, Jimin.”

There’s something inside of Jimin’s gut that twists, his body physically rejecting that answer—that outcome. He has no way to explain it but it just doesn’t make sense that he and Taehyung aren’t meant to be. And he has no proof or anything, but just hearing it doesn’t sound right. 

And that sort of tells Jimin all he needs to know.

Jimin must shake his head or his face must scrunch because then Yoongi is saying, “So then you have nothing to worry about. You just gotta talk to him. Tell him how you feel.” 

Looking over at Hoseok, Jimin asks, “When?”

He shrugs. “Soon? Now?”

Agreeing, Yoongi mumbles, “No time like the present.” 

Jimin looks down at his phone. It’s only a little after seven in the evening. Taehyung should still be at his apartment. He guesses they’re right. Seems like the perfect time if there ever was one. Especially now that Jimin’s a bit hyped up, feels like he’s sort of got his thoughts in order.

Taking the cue, Jimin stands up. He says a bit apprehensively, “Okay.” Then, “Have the whiskey ready just in case it doesn’t go well. I’ll definitely be back and I’ll definitely need a drink.” 

Reassuring him, Hoseok tells him, “It’ll be fine.” He gestures toward the door with his head and says with a smile, “Go make your boyfriend your boyfriend.”

So Jimin heads for the door and calls over his shoulder, “Thank you! I’ll text you!”

Jimin’s apartment is eight blocks west from Hoseok’s, so the logical thing to do would be to catch the bus. Or flag down a taxi. But Jimin’s heart is racing so much—filled with adrenaline and excitement and nervousness—that he jogs all the way home without a second thought. 

 

 

Every time Jimin tries to open his door, he tells himself he’s going to get his stupid lock fixed. It jams, just like it always does, as he tries to go inside. Key sticks in one direction, doorknob sticking in the other. 

Takes him five tries before it loosens and allows him in. He swings the door open, leaving it how it settles and looks for Taehyung in his apartment. He’s in the kitchen, on the phone, pacing in circles with his hand on his hip.

He looks excited—happy, and so Jimin smiles at him even though he doesn’t know what’s happening. 

Taehyung says hurriedly into the receiver, “For real?” Then, “Yeah, my portfolio is—okay, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Give me fifteen minutes. Twenty tops.” 

The person on the other end says something else. As they’re speaking, Taehyung spins and makes eye contact with Jimin. He widens his eyes and smiles big at Jimin like he’s overjoyed and anxious at the same time. Unsure of what’s happening, Jimin giggles a little. 

He raises his eyebrow, asking what’s going on, but then Taehyung responds back, “Okay, see you soon,” and hangs up. 

Babe,” Taehyung greets with a heavy exhale, arms out. Jimin hugs him when he’s close enough to, still confused. 

“What’s uh...going on?” Jimin asks. 

Now Taehyung’s moving quickly around Jimin’s apartment. He’s gathering his art supplies and stuffing them into his bag. 

He talks as he rummages. Says a mile a minute, “That was Joonwoo. He’s down at the art store and says some guy is there and has been checking out my stuff. Apparently, he funds projects around here and really likes my art. The guy’s loaded. Like, filthy rich. The type that makes you angry. Wants to meet me, maybe even buy a bunch of my stuff, I don’t know.”

Jimin watches Taehyung flip over the couch cushions and then jog back over into the kitchen and yank open drawers. Frustrated, he asks, “Where’s my phone?”

“In your hand,” Jimin tells him, a mix of emotions swirling inside of him. He’s happy for Taehyung—of course, he is. But if he’s leaving, this means they won’t get to talk. Jimin feels something inside of him draining quickly. His shoulders are deflating, his heart is slowing. 

Taehyung laughs, looking down at his phone in his palm. “Fuck, I’m losing my mind,” he says with a shake of his head. “I’m just so—what’s wrong?”

At that Jimin’s eyes go wide. He pushes up his cheeks, smiling with more effort, as he says, “Nothing! That’s awesome, Taehyung. I’m happy for you. Go, don’t keep him waiting! He’s gonna be so impressed with your stuff!” 

Adjusting his bag’s strap on his shoulder, Taehyung walks closer and asks skeptically, “You sure?” He leans forward, kisses Jimin quickly, then adds, “Something happened at Hoseok’s?” 

Just came to terms that I’m in love with you, Jimin thinks helplessly. But he shakes his head, tips his chin upward to kiss Taehyung again, and says, “No, everything’s fine, I swear. Go, Taehyung, really. Tell me all about it later, okay?”

Taehyung’s nearly bouncing off the walls. Says, “Yeah, okay,” and heads for the door. He reaches for his camera on Jimin’s desk before jogging out. 

Just as he’s leaving, Jimin calls, “Wait, are you coming home later?” 

It slips out before Jimin has a chance to fix his wording. He squeezes his eyes shut and balls his hands into fists, mentally slapping himself. He didn’t mean to call his apartment Taehyung’s home too, but that’s the way it came out. Jimin holds his breath. 

Taehyung must not notice. Too caught up in his potential sale to dissect his sentence. He yells, “I dunno, I’ll text you!”

And then the door slams shut, and he’s gone. Leaving Jimin drowning in his newfound overflowing emotions right in the middle of the kitchen. 

 

 

Three hours later, Jimin’s phone buzzes. He’s laying in the middle of his bed, moping. He feels like he’s earned the right to this time because he was set on spilling his heart to Taehyung tonight. But every opportunity Jimin tries to take never seems to work out. Something always gets in the way and prolongs this version of purgatory they’re living in. 

Rolling over to reach his phone, Jimin sees he has a message from Hoseok. It reads: 

 

hoseokie-hyung [10:03 p.m.] 
how’d it go??? 

 

Sarcastically, Jimin laughs. Sucks his teeth and writes back:

 

jimin [10:04 p.m.]
didnt go at all
he had to leave
big sale at the art store
he doesn’t wanna work at 

 

Hoseok’s quick with his response. 

 

hoseokie-hyung [10:04 p.m.]
shit i’m sorry 😔
next time, okay? 
it still has to happen 
and it’ll go fine!!

 

Jimin appreciates the support, but right now his mood is ruined. Caught somewhere between feeling like shit that tonight didn’t go as planned, and feeling like shit for not being as happy as he should’ve been for Taehyung earlier. He didn’t mean to be a downer, but there’s no way for him to explain that to Taehyung without explaining everything. And he can’t do that if Taehyung isn’t here. 

 

jimin [10:05 p.m.]
next time 

 

It’s all he can muster to write. He can’t pretend that now he’s as sure as he was hours ago that it’ll go fine. But he has decided, completely, that he will talk to Taehyung. Lay it all out on the table, and then see where Taehyung stands. He just has to work up enough nerve and jump at the right opportunity. Easier said than done. 

 

hoseokie-hyung [10:05 p.m.]
you okay? 🥺

 

Jimin breathes out slowly through his nose as he types back: 

 

 

jimin [10:05 p.m.]
i’ll be fine don’t worry hyung
thanks for everything 
tell yoongi-hyung i said 
thank you too

 

Because Jimin is okay, he’s just...disappointed. The longer he and Taehyung continue to avoid their feelings and intentions, the harder it gets. Especially when Jimin tries, but then the moment gets sabotaged somehow. It’s frustrating. He just needs to sleep it off, he’ll feel better in the morning. 

Hoseok wishes Jimin a good night and reminds him that he can come sleep at his place if he wants. But Jimin wants to stay here, just in case Taehyung comes back. Because even though Jimin’s a bit sad right now, he still sleeps best with Taehyung right beside him. 

Before pulling the blankets over himself, Jimin checks his phone one last time—just in case. No messages or calls from Taehyung, though. In a way, Jimin hates that he isn’t surprised. 

There’s a passing thought that maybe Jimin should stay up and wait for him. But there’s something inside of him that tells him that’s a waste of his energy too. 

Giving up, Jimin lays down and forces himself to sleep. 

 

 

Taehyung doesn’t text Jimin. 

And he doesn’t come home, either. 

 

 

Like magic, Taehyung’s smile rounds Jimin’s sharp edges and melts the ice that threatens to grow around his heart. The sun is setting behind him, making his skin as golden as his heart. Jimin’s sure he’s beaming just watching Taehyung talk—ecstatic about his meeting with the hot-shot art buyer. 

They’re seated in Jimin’s favorite coffee shop. Jimin had the first shift at work, so he was off by early evening. Taehyung picked him up and drove them here, said Jimin looked like he needed some caffeine. 

Taehyung’s hands are animated as he speaks. Tells Jimin with wide eyes and a shimmering smile how nice the guy was and how many compliments he gave him. Apparently, let Taehyung show him his portfolio and even looked at some of his recent pictures on his camera. 

“He really loved that one of you,” Taehyung says, reaching across the table to touch Jimin’s hand. “Y’know the one on the steps of that abandoned building? Said the feeling of it was alluring.” He twists the ends of an imaginary mustache, mimicking someone older with poise and high class. 

This time, with his negative feelings pushed aside, Jimin has a chance to show how happy he genuinely is for Taehyung. Because this is huge for him and Jimin knows it—can tell how elated Taehyung is from the way he’s almost bouncing in his seat. 

Smiling, Jimin says, “That’s so cool, Taehyung. Did he buy anything off you?” 

At that, Taehyung’s face brightens even more. Says, “Yeah! He bought that painting I did of the galaxy—you remember? The one at the front of the store? And he also bought some copies of some pictures I showed him. Landscapes and stuff. Says he’ll use them to decorate his office or something.”

Jimin holds Taehyung’s hand. “That’s awesome, baby. I’m so happy for you. You deserve it, your stuff is so good.” 

“Joonwoo made me sell them for like double the price. I was so scared he wasn’t gonna take them, but he did anyway. He wanted to buy that other picture of you—the one with all the flowers in your hair. But—” Taehyung shakes his head, voice trailing off. He waves his hand like he’s dismissing the thought.

Feeling his eyebrow raise, Jimin asks slowly, “But...what?” 

Taehyung shrugs. “Told him it wasn’t for sale. I dunno, I guess I didn’t wanna sell it. Let some random person have pictures of you? Felt weird, I guess.” 

There’s a smug smile growing on Jimin’s face, he knows there is. He hooks an eyebrow and says playfully, “Those are only for you, huh?” 

Biting his bottom lip, Taehyung lifts himself and leans over the table. He kisses Jimin’s lips quickly, then, pulling back by only a few centimeters, whispers, “Damn right.” 

It’s amazing, but even four months into whatever the hell they have, Taehyung still gives Jimin butterflies. 

 

 

The thing about waiting for the right moment, is that it never seems to come. Jimin spends the days that follow on edge, over-analyzing every second that passes, looking for the perfect segue into the topic of the specifics of their relationship. 

It sits heavy on the tip of his tongue and almost slips out as they have dinner, as they shower together, as they try a new recipe, as they spend night after night with one another. Feels like shackles on his ankles, slowing down his stride as he walks. Makes the edges of Jimin’s vision blurry with confusion and unease. 

Jimin finds himself here often—sitting on the sofa watching Taehyung create something new. As always, Taehyung’s in his favorite spot, on the floor right under the window. His bottom lip pokes out in a bit of a pout as he turns his drawing sideways, figuring something. He looks down at his hand, then at the paper, then back at his hand again. 

Curious, Jimin asks with a chuckle, “What’re you drawing?” 

Taehyung looks up, his expression is a bit sheepish. He says, fighting to keep eye contact, “You. Well...us.” 

Jimin stands, way too intrigued now not to go over and look. Keeps his eyebrows raised as he approaches Taehyung. On the canvas, he sees the rough outline of two hands—one significantly smaller than the other. Doesn’t take too much thought for Jimin to figure out which one is supposed to be his. 

Crouching, Jimin scrunches his face playfully and critiques, “My hands aren’t that small.” 

The sketch shows their hands side by side, as if they’re measuring their pinkies or something. There's a ring drawn around Jimin’s, nearly half its size. Jimin knows that art imitates real life or whatever the hell, but he thinks maybe Taehyung’s exaggerating their size difference. 

Taking Jimin’s hand in his, Taehyung holds it up. He’s quiet, stares at Jimin with a look that says that’s all he has to do to rest his case. Scoffing, Jimin snatches his hand away and rolls his eyes. 

“Whatever,” he mumbles, but sits down on the floor next to Taehyung. He rests his head on his shoulder despite his act. He feels Taehyung resting his head on top of his for a moment, welcoming him. 

Jimin stays by Taehyung’s side long enough to watch Taehyung outline what looks like a thin string around the pinkies. Makes it swirl between their wrists where it hangs, and laps around their fingers four or five times—binding them together. 

Immediately, Jimin’s mind flashes back to when he was younger. His mother used to tell him about the red string of fate, and how it’s thought to connect two people who are destined to meet. And even as a kid, Jimin was never much into fate, but right now, it seems right. That’s the thing about Taehyung, everything Jimin experiences with him just seems right. 

Between them, Jimin reaches for Taehyung’s hand. Their fingers interlock, resting in Jimin’s lap. They stay like that until Jimin starts to drift off, head still on Taehyung’s shoulder, watching him depict their connection—which seems so intricate and complex in Jimin’s head—as something so simple. 

Fated seems like the perfect word. 

 

 

Jimin feels it in his bones, something’s different. Lately, Taehyung’s been staying the night consistently—which is good—but Jimin feels... something. It’s off. The air is thicker, maybe. Or the silence is louder. A vibe that wasn’t there a few weeks ago, but is here now. Like there’s an invisible wall building day by day between them, wedging itself and separating them. 

It doesn’t make them act any differently toward each other, or care about each other any less. But it’s different. Undeniably. 

Taehyung’s laying with his head on Jimin’s chest, staring out the window. Jimin’s rubbing circles on Taehyung’s back, fingertips on his bare skin. Jimin stares up at the ceiling, trying to keep his heartbeat steady. 

It’s late; and just like most nights, it’s a challenge for Taehyung to fall asleep. If Jimin doesn’t pry him away from his easel and sketchbook, he’ll stay out there all night. Preoccupied and focused, creating and creating, as the hours pass. 

But what’s happening right now feels different, too. Not akin to Taehyung’s typical restlessness. Jimin can physically feel Taehyung overthinking. His expression is troubled as he stares out the window, arms wrapped around Jimin’s waist. 

His thoughts, although Jimin can’t actually hear them, are deafening. Bold and blaring. Taehyung’s worry or anxiety or whatever is hitting Jimin hard—like they share a part of their body, connecting them. It makes Jimin anxious just to know Taehyung is. 

“Stop it,” Jimin says finally, unable to take it anymore. Whatever is on Taehyung’s mind is radiating off of him, burning Jimin’s skin, too. Overflowing out of his brain and soaking Jimin’s bed, pulling him down with it. 

Taehyung mumbles back, face squished against Jimin’s chest, “Stop what? I’m not even moving.” 

Smiling, Jimin says, “Thinking so damn loud. You’re giving me a headache.” 

Laughing dryly, Taehyung says, “Sorry.”

Taking the opportunity, Jimin changes their position. Keeps his hand on Taehyung’s back for support and flips them. Lays Taehyung down, head now on the pillow, and settles on top of him. Taehyung smiles almost shyly, looking away when Jimin stares down at him.

Jimin’s fingers pet Taehyung’s hair. Asks with a sad type of smile, “What’s on your mind, pretty?”

He wants to make light of it, but the thought of Taehyung actually telling him makes him nervous. Because Jimin can only think Taehyung must be contemplating them—their relationship. Jimin feels his throat closing oddly, straining his voice. There’s a twinge of apprehension in his tone that he hopes Taehyung doesn’t catch. Because Jimin does want to know, he’s just scared to. 

Taehyung licks his lips and then bites his bottom one, trapping it between his teeth. Looking away again, he whispers back like he doesn’t even know where to start if he tried, “Nothing.” Then, with a roll of his eyes, “Everything.” 

They’re so close their noses are touching, lips mere centimeters apart. When Taehyung’s eyes finally lock on his, somehow always glimmering, even in the moonlight, Jimin feels a tingling sensation in the pit of his stomach. Uneasiness or worry or admiration or—

(—love, maybe.)

Dropping down, Jimin kisses him. It's a gentle one; the soft meeting of lips. Still, with his fingers massaging slowly against Taehyung’s scalp, Jimin asks, “Wanna talk about it?”

At that Taehyung laughs a bit sarcastically. That already gives Jimin an answer before he says it. Taehyung isn’t much of a talker when it comes to his feelings and expressing himself. Jimin knows that. It’s one of the first things he learned about Taehyung, actually. But as always, it doesn’t stop him from trying. 

Taehyung scrunches his nose and replies, “Not right now.” Then, after a beat, “Sorry, I know you’re trying to help.” 

Outside, the moon dims a bit, like it’s giving them privacy. A pale shadow casts over Taehyung’s face. Hovering above him, Jimin studies the shape of his eyes and the arch of his eyebrows. His fingers continue to run through Taehyung’s hair, surveying his mood. 

Jimin has an idea. 

Moving his hips suggestively, Jimin says, “There are other ways I can help…”

Already naked, it doesn’t take much for Jimin to get his point across. He wedges his knee between Taehyung’s and slowly pushes his legs open, making space for himself. As he does so, he watches Taehyung’s face. He smiles up at Jimin, then turns his head to the side to kiss Jimin’s arm. 

“Is that so?” Taehyung says back, hooking his legs around Jimin’s midsection loosely, inviting him in. 

They begin rocking; slow movements, falling into a rhythm. Taehyung’s fingertips trail down the curve of Jimin’s back, resting just above his ass. Jimin feels Taehyung lifting his hips to meet him halfway. His breath starts to become a little heavy, wanting more. 

All of Jimin’s touches are soft—gentle. He uses his thumb and index finger to tilt Taehyung’s head to the side, then leans down to kiss his neck. Jimin bites, but just hard enough to feel Taehyung’s breath hitch. 

Smiling as his lips smear kisses over Taehyung’s heated skin, Jimin asks, “Wanna go again?” 

More of a rhetorical tease than anything considering they’re both more than halfway hard already and Taehyung’s sucking at his earlobe. Besides, there’s never a time when Taehyung doesn’t want to go again. It’s been Jimin who has had to work to keep up with Taehyung’s seemingly insatiable needs. 

Answering anyway, Taehyung licks at Jimin’s mouth and tells him with a smirk, “Of course, I do.” 

Three rounds in one night might seem excessive to some but it’s become near their average. They never get tired of each other, it seems. Lust running high whenever they’re in bed together—chasing a satisfaction that seems to be at the end of a bottomless pit. So they have each other again and again and again, but it’s never quite enough. 

Jimin knows Taehyung’s still stretched from just a few hours ago, but he lubes up his fingers anyway simply because he likes to tease him. Extends his arm to reach the small bottle on the nightstand, coats his fingers, and then rubs at Taehyung’s entrance. But wasting no time, Jimin’s quick to sink his fingers in—starting with two—and curls them at the knuckle. 

Under him, he feels Taehyung shudder. He adjusts his legs, crossing his ankles together behind Jimin’s back. A slow moan falls from his lips as Jimin’s fingers fuck into him in long strides. 

“So here’s what’s gonna happen...” Jimin begins, voice darker, straight-faced. His lips are barely touching Taehyung’s as he speaks. Pulls back just enough to make Taehyung whine when he tries to kiss him. Continuing, Jimin tells Taehyung, “...you’re gonna close your eyes.” 

Takes Taehyung a second to follow along. Jimin stares down at him expectantly until it clicks and his eyes slowly shut. In the moonlight, Jimin sees his eyes moving under the closed lids, anticipating. Jimin’s hand continues to work, fingers surrounded by tight heat, pushing in at an upbeat pace. 

Keeping his voice steady, Jimin instructs, “And you’re gonna breathe…”

Attempting to comply, Taehyung exhales slowly. But it curls into a whine when Jimin pulls his fingers out, leaving him empty. Instinctively, Taehyung tries to open his eyes—to inspect, to see where Jimin went and why. But immediately, Jimin sucks his teeth at him, disapproving. 

“Said eyes closed, baby,” Jimin reminds patiently, using his other hand to ghost over Taehyung’s eyes. 

Lashes tickle against Jimin’s palm, then a soft gust of air meets his skin as Jimin lowers his hand up and over Taehyung’s nose. His hand settles on Taehyung’s mouth, pinky petting over the bridge of his nose, making sure not to block his air. 

Between Taehyung’s thighs, Jimin repositions himself. With his other hand still placed carefully over Taehyung’s mouth, Jimin uses his teeth to pop open the cap of the lube once more and to tear open a new condom. He manages to squeeze a blob into his palm after slipping the latex on, and then strokes himself, spreading the gel. 

Cutely, Taehyung’s breath hitches when the head of Jimin’s cock brushes against his hole. Taehyung’s eager; inches down on the mattress and lifts his hips. Jimin has to resist the urge to push right in, mouth all but watering at what he knows he’s going to feel soon. 

Jimin leans forward to rest his forehead against Taehyung’s, intimate and close. Feels the heat radiating off him in waves, bursts of warm breath hitting his fingers. Taehyung’s eyes remain closed, just like Jimin’s told him, but Jimin can tell he’s struggling not to look. He swallows thickly, then pushes his hips forward a bit again, wanting Jimin inside. 

Tilting his chin upward, Jimin’s lips drag across Taehyung’s skin until they settle on his forehead. Under Jimin’s hand, Taehyung smiles, clearly amused. But Jimin’s a bit determined to fuck that smirk right off his face, so he continues on. 

Kissing from the center of Taehyung’s forehead to his temple, Jimin shifts his hips to line up as he whispers, “Now, you’re gonna shut your brain off as best you can…”

His hand nudges against Taehyung’s bottom lip, signaling for him to open his mouth. Taehyung’s jaw goes slack, letting the side of Jimin’s hand slot snugly between his teeth. 

As his only warning, Jimin tells him, “Bite.” 

And Taehyung does, apprehensive at first, but then with force and a string of moans to follow when Jimin pushes into him. One steady thrust, all the way in, until he bottoms out. 

“Eyes closed. Breathe. Don’t think,” Jimin coaches in increments, matching the pace of his hips. Hard and deep. It knocks the air out of Taehyung each time, making following Jimin’s second instruction a bit difficult. His hair bounces on his forehead, splayed like a halo over the white pillowcase under him. 

His teeth sink into Jimin’s skin, leaving reddened indents. Spit dampens the side of Jimin’s hand, Taehyung’s tongue pressing against it almost helplessly. He feels the vibration of Taehyung’s low-pitched moans in his knuckles and wrist. 

Softly, Jimin shushes him. Keeps his eyes trained on Taehyung, stroke steady, and says, “Breathe. Don’t think, just breathe.” 

Taehyung’s quick to adjust. Evens his breathing on his own and quiets himself around Jimin’s hand. Soft whimpers continue to spill from his lips, but they’re softer and more controlled. His eyelashes, long and pretty, fan out over his high cheekbones. His eyes squeeze shut whenever Jimin pushes in, twitching cutely when he pulls back. The wrinkles on his forehead begin to smooth out with each stroke into him, calming. 

“Good,” Jimin praises, tipping his head to mouth at Taehyung’s neck again. Says, “Good job, baby. That’s it.” 

Within no time, Taehyung’s legs are shaking. He tries to hold them up, keep them wrapped around Jimin’s midsection, but it poses as impossible. Giving up, Taehyung lets them fall lazily on the bed, spread wide, more than enough room for Jimin to keep his pace. 

Like an afterthought, Taehyung begins to roll his hips. An apologetic, small sound to follow. Like he’s sorry for not moving this whole time. Meets Jimin halfway now, long puffs of air out his nose fan over Jimin’s hand. But the point of this is that Taehyung doesn’t have to do anything. His only job is to lay there and let whatever is bothering him melt away. 

So Jimin holds Taehyung by the waist, pushes him down gently but firmly into the mattress, and tells him, “I got you. Stay still.” 

Another moan falls from Taehyung’s lips, managing to push past Jimin’s hand. Taehyung’s chin is dripping with saliva now, but Jimin doesn’t pull away and Taehyung doesn’t stop biting. But the rest of his body relaxes, just like Jimin wants, as he continues to fuck him. His head lulls on the pillow, hands digging into the sheets at his sides.

Jimin continues just like that—long and deep drags of his hips. He fucks Taehyung until his abs are burning and his thighs are straining. Until Taehyung’s nothing short of a blubbering mess. Trying to talk, but between Jimin’s hand and his incomplete thoughts, it comes out as nonsense. 

He makes cute, desperate noises when Jimin hits his prostate over and over. Says something that sounds close to, “Please don’t stop,” but Jimin has no intention of doing so. 

Instead of getting lost in thought, they get lost in each other for the rest of the night. And soon, neither of them can remember what was troubling them before. 

It doesn’t matter anymore. At least, not right now. Not tonight.

 

 

The next day, Jimin is more or less useless at work. Three hours of sleep doesn’t exactly allow him to be on his A-game. He yawns as he hands ingredients to the chef, asking two and three times for him to repeat his shortlist of spices. 

His first time working in his promoted position in ages, and he’s as slow as a sloth. He’s sure he’s not making the greatest lasting impression on the chef. Jimin sees the way he shakes his head, judgemental and annoyed, when Jimin hands him the garlic although he asked for the ginger. 

Mr. Seong isn’t easily impressed by any means, but he sounds especially disappointed when he calls, “Park, for fuck’s sake, wake up!”

Jimin rubs his eye. Says back, “I’m awake, boss.”

“Coulda fooled me,” Mr. Seong replies sarcastically. 

Mr. Seong looks around the kitchen like he’s calculating something. Jimin watches him use his index finger to count off the workers as they rush in and out, grabbing orders to serve their tables. After a moment, Mr. Seong locks eyes with Jimin again and says flatly, “Go home.” 

Jimin starts, “But—”

When Mr. Seong makes up his mind, there’s no changing it and Jimin knows that. Even for his secret favorite employee. He sucks his teeth at Jimin and wags his stubby finger, signaling for him to be quiet. 

Says, “By some miracle, all of your fellow coworkers showed up today. They can handle the rest of the shift without you. So go home. Sleep. You need it, apparently.” 

Reluctantly, Jimin pulls the white hat off of his head and shrugs the uniform white jacket off his shoulders. Still trying, Jimin begins to say, “I can—” 

“Go home,” Mr. Seong cuts him off with, soft but firm. It’s clear his decision is final. Jimin knows there’s no real use in fighting it, but he doesn’t want to lose out on six hours of pay just because he’s a little tired. 

Coworkers steal glances at Jimin as he hangs up his uniform on his assigned hook. His shoulders droop almost as much as his eyes do as Jimin takes himself to the time clock to punch out. He sighs, taking note of the time. It’s only two o’clock. He got here at noon. 

Always showing his softer side without an audience, Mr. Seong’s hand grips Jimin’s shoulder and tells him a bit under his breath, “I won’t dock your pay, but you have to straighten up. I can’t keep giving you free passes and letting this slide, okay?”

A wave of relief hits Jimin knowing his paycheck won’t be any less next week. Seoul’s rent isn’t exactly cheap, and he’s already living his life on a pretty strict budget. 

Nodding, Jimin says, “Just had a long night. Won’t happen again. I promise.” 

“I’ll believe it when I see it, kid,” is the last thing Mr. Seong says before pointing Jimin in the direction of the door. He tells Jimin to come back for his shift tomorrow well-rested and ready to work. 

 

 

For the first time ever, Jimin’s door doesn’t fight him. That should’ve been his first clue. The universe telling him it’s currently upside down—flipped on its head and crumbling. 

His key slides easily, and his knob turns as smooth as butter. It’s exactly what he needs because he’s not in the mood for any unnecessary struggles. He just wants to sleep. 

There’s a rumbling coming from the bedroom Jimin hears right when he walks in, making his face twist suspiciously. Taehyung’s here; Jimin knows because his camera is on the desk and he never goes anywhere without it. But the next thing that catches Jimin’s attention is that the shelf that held Taehyung’s art supplies just hours earlier is now bare. 

Somewhere deep inside his brain, Jimin makes an instant connection. He understands, he knows what this is. But he pushes the thought away so quickly, he doesn’t completely register it beyond his subconscious. 

Following the soft sounds like hints to an unwanted prize, Jimin enters his bedroom cautiously and calls, “...Taehyung?”

Taehyung’s in the of middle pulling one of his shirts from a hanger in Jimin’s closet. His suitcase is on the floor, clothing unfolded and tossed haphazardly into the luggage. But when his name is called, he gasps, startled, clearly not expecting Jimin to be here right now. 

His eyes are wide and his mouth hangs open. He looks genuinely terrified for a split second—fear and shock seemingly pulsing through his body at once. 

“Y-you’re home early,” is what Taehyung stumbles out, a painfully obvious observation. 

To that, Jimin asks strongly, “Where are you going?”

Because there’s no sense in asking what Taehyung is doing—it’s pretty fucking clear that he’s packing. The new vacancies around Jimin’s apartment that held Taehyung’s belongings before display that plainly. So Jimin’s moved on to questions he doesn’t know the answers to, like where and why. 

From the doorway, Jimin watches Taehyung’s Adam’s apple bob roughly, swallowing around nothing. As the seconds pass, Jimin feels his body beginning to heat—all of the emotions he’s been trying to keep in check for months are bubbling inside of him. He digs his nails into his palms, trying to stay calm. 

But Taehyung doesn’t answer. Maybe he doesn’t know what to say. He opens his mouth once—fixes his jaw to begin a sentence but nothing comes out. 

Impatient and nervous, Jimin repeats, harsher this time, “Taehyung, where are you going?” 

It’s not much of an answer at all, but Taehyung’s hands swing helplessly at his sides as he answers a bit brokenly, “I don’t know.” 

“You don’t know ?” Jimin asks back, eyes widening and voice raising. “What the fuck does that mean?”

Because this isn’t a time for Taehyung to play dumb. He’s not dumb at all, and that’s the point. Jimin knows he doesn’t do anything without a plan. He’s told him, even when he travels, he has a new place in mind. So Taehyung claiming he doesn't know right now doesn’t sit right with Jimin at all. Seems like a lie.

But again, Taehyung shakes his head and repeats, “I don’t know.” 

There’s frustration and stress in Taehyung’s tone, Jimin hears it clearly. But Jimin can’t tell if it’s because Taehyung obviously didn’t foresee this. Didn’t account for the possibility of Jimin being here right now and him having to explain whatever the fuck is happening. 

But an even worse thought pops into Jimin’s head. That if he wasn’t here, he’d just come home to Taehyung being gone and no reason behind it at all. Just a half-empty closet and open space on his shelves. 

And that pisses Jimin off even more because—does he not deserve the courtesy of knowing Taehyung’s leaving? He was going to do it now, in the middle of the day, while Jimin was at work? Maybe everything Jimin thought they were building wasn’t much at all, because that’s really fucking low. It’s disrespectful.

Anger boiling, Jimin yells, “Well, what do you know Taehyung?! Because I think you have a lot to explain right now!”

Taehyung makes a gesture, hands up by his head, fingers strained and spread. Like he’s keeping himself from pulling his hair. Or trying to keep all his thoughts in his head. He exhales heavily and begins walking toward Jimin, but with no intention of stopping. 

He slips past him in the doorway and mumbles, “I need space.” 

“From me?” Jimin asks, eyes bulging, and head spinning quickly as Taehyung’s shoulder knocks into his as he passes. 

Immediately, Jimin follows him, right on his heels, but Taehyung doesn’t go far. He powerwalks into the living room and paces the floor for a minute. He ends up on the opposite side of the coffee table; it acts as a border between them. 

There’s thick, suffocating silence. They stand facing each other on opposite sides of the living room. Taehyung’s fingers are fumbling with the sleeves of his oversized sweater. He looks small—eyes sad and beginning to tear, the tip of his nose reddening. But right now Jimin has fleeting sympathy. 

“Say something!” Jimin yells. It comes out like a growl. He sees Taehyung flinch, and for a split second, Jimin feels bad about it. But then he remembers Taehyung was on his way out without even a goodbye so that feeling fades away quickly. 

Shaking his head, Taehyung says, “I—what do you want me to say? I don’t—” 

He bites his lip, stopping himself. Probably sensing that if he says he doesn’t know one more time Jimin’s head is going to explode. Taehyung shifts uneasily from one leg to the other, still pulling at his sleeves. 

Jimin’s heart is slamming hard in his chest, a mix of emotions flowing at high speed through his veins. He gestures to the now empty shelf on the bookcase and yells, “Say anything that justifies you packing your shit two hours after I go to work and trying to leave without even telling me! Like I mean nothing to you!”

“That’s not true,” Taehyung tells him quickly, shaking his head. He actually sounds hurt by Jimin saying that, but Jimin thinks it doesn’t quite compare to the hurt he’s feeling by walking in on all of this. 

Holding his arms out, Jimin questions, “It’s not? Because it’s pretty unclear right now, Taehyung!” 

Taehyung takes a step forward, nose scrunching like he’s trying to keep tears at bay, and tells Jimin, “You know I care about you.” 

But Jimin takes a step back. Says flatly, “I don’t know what to think anymore.” 

Squeezing his eyes shut, Taehyung’s head tips backward. His hair falls and then sways, catching the sunlight coming through the window. Then, his hands come up to his face, covering it. 

Through his hands, Taehyung groans, “Fuck.” 

Jimin is logical and empathetic enough to understand that this is stressful for Taehyung too. But without any insight into what he’s feeling, or reasons for his actions, all Jimin sees is someone who got caught red-handed and now has to explain. 

And this isn’t Taehyung—at least, not the Taehyung Jimin could’ve sworn he’s come to know. He’s not cruel and sneaky and vile. The Taehyung that Jimin knows wouldn’t pack up and disappear while Jimin’s at work, leaving him clueless and forced to make sense of what happened all alone. So naturally, Jimin has a hard time accepting that the Taehyung he thought he knew so well is also this Taehyung standing in front of him. 

“So you’re not even going to explain?” Jimin says, lip curling with aggravation. 

He’s getting a headache from having to ask this many times—for having to ask at all. He squints as he watches Taehyung crouch down on the floor, hands still covering his face. 

Rubbing his eyes, Taehyung says softly, “My clothes are in your closet.” 

That’s not what Jimin was expecting to hear. He blinks hard and says, “Huh?” 

But Taehyung continues. “And my paints are on your bookshelf. My food is in your refrigerator. My pictures are on your wall.” 

As Taehyung’s talking, Jimin tries hard to make sense of this. Does what he can to connect these things and somehow conclude as a problem. Because all of these things that Taehyung’s naming just sounds like they’re moving in the right direction—at least, that’s what Jimin thought. Apparently, he’s wrong. 

So he stays quiet. Figures if he lets Taehyung keep talking they’ll eventually get to the bottom of this. Even if it ends with Taehyung walking out the door and never coming back, at least Jimin will understand. Or at the very least, have a reason of some sort. 

Taehyung’s breath is shaky as he inhales. Slowly, his hands fall from his face as he says, “I was sitting here trying to finish that painting—the one of us, our hands—and I don’t know...I just got hit with this feeling.”

“Feeling?” Jimin lifts an eyebrow, still not completely following. 

“I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” Taehyung says. “Everything hit me all at once and I just...panicked, I guess? I was thinking about everything and—I don’t even remember making the decision to get my things. I swear, Jimin, it just happened. I—”

Taehyung sits down on the floor, heavy and distraught. He shakes his head, staring down at the ground like he’s disappointed in himself. He lifts his eyes a little, but then they fall back down again, like he’s too nervous to look at Jimin directly and see his face. 

But Jimin still doesn’t understand. Furrows his eyebrows and stammers over his words, “So what? Your clothes and your food and your art is here—so what? You don’t like it so...you leave?” 

“It’s not that I don’t like it,” is what Taehyung responds with, a pained expression still on his face. He sounds annoyed that Jimin doesn't understand, but Jimin’s annoyed that he’s beating around the bush. 

Jimin scoffs, tired of the run-around. If Taehyung isn’t going to come right out and say it, Jimin figures he’ll start firing off possibilities until they get somewhere.

“Then what?!” Jimin yells, unable to keep his frustrations in check. Taehyung looks at him now, eyes big and round. Counting off on his finger, Jimin asks, “Am I bothering you?”

“No,” Taehyung tells him quickly, mouth hanging open a bit like he’s shocked Jimin would even ask. 

“Did I hurt you?” 

Taehyung’s eyebrows furrow. “No.”

Jimin laughs a sarcastic, exhausted type of laugh and asks, running out of options, “Well, did I do something wrong?” 

This time, Taehyung’s eyes are softer and so is his voice. He tells Jimin, “No. You’re perfect.” 

“Then why are you leaving?!” Jimin asks, voice rising. “You say I’m not doing anything wrong and that it’s not your things in my apartment you don’t like, so what the fuck is it?! It’s not fair to say it’s nothing when it’s clearly something! Something is wrong, Taehyung, so why don’t you ju—”

“I’m scared, Jimin!” Taehyung yells like a volcano erupting. Jimin’s never heard him yell before and his voice, deep and heavy, carries across the room. It hits Jimin in the chest, shocking him. 

Jimin’s emotions are all over the place. He feels them take a sharp turn as his voice softens and he asks, “Scared of what?” 

This time, when Taehyung’s eyes meet Jimin’s from across the room, Jimin sees the fear in them. 

Shaking his head, Taehyung admits, “All of it!” He gestures arbitrarily around Jimin’s apartment and then points back and forth between the two of them. Says, “This! This whole fuckin’ thing scares the hell out of me!”

Jimin takes a step back, like Taehyung’s words physically knock him backward. Thoughts too quick race through his head, but none of them stick long enough for him to grasp. So he stays quiet. He listens. 

Sniffling, Taehyung says, “I’ve never... done this before. With anyone. No one’s ever really cared about me. Not this way, not like you. And that scares me—terrifies me.”

Over the months, Taehyung has told Jimin a little more about his past—about his childhood. Told him about his foster parents, how some of them were good to him, but most of them weren’t. And even in his nicest home, Taehyung always knew it wasn't going to last. Nothing was ever permanent. He never got to stay and they never felt like his family. 

And from what Jimin can tell, that trend continued and bled into his relationships as he got older. Told Jimin that any person he’s ever been with was usually only for the moment. Just like his foster parents, it never lasted. Taehyung never stayed, and those people never got close to him. 

But Taehyung has let Jimin close to him, and Jimin knows that. Hadn’t thought about it much before, but he sees it clearly now. And thinking about it this way, Jimin completely understands how all of this that’s meant to symbolize unity and comfort and togetherness makes Taehyung feel the opposite. Because it’s new, and new is scary. 

Although Jimin’s experiences have been shitty, he’s the only one out of the two of them that’s ever been in a relationship before. He’s had the experience of being this type of vulnerable with someone—has gotten to the point where they’ve become official. Has felt a variation of these emotions before toward someone. But Taehyung hasn’t. This is all brand new. 

“The last thing I’d ever do is hurt you,” Jimin says and he hopes Taehyung believes him. Because he thinks Taehyung needs to hear it, to know it for sure. Needs to know he’s not like all of the other people Taehyung’s tried to make connections with. He has no intention of pushing him away if Taehyung’s willing to stay.

Jimin feels his eyes stinging with tears. He blinks them away, breathing in sharply through his nose.

These past few weeks have been torture for Jimin, trying to decipher every second he and Taehyung have spent together, trying to gauge if it’s the right moment. And he never would’ve guessed it, but he thinks it’s actually right now. If there was ever a time to tell Taehyung exactly how he feels, he thinks this is it. 

Truthfully, Jimin doesn’t even know where to start. Spent so long trying to make sense of his feelings for Taehyung and still doesn’t know how to begin. So he starts with what he knows for sure. Tells him, “You make me happy, Taehyung. Happier than I’ve ever been with anyone. I want to be around you all the time.”

From the floor, Taehyung stares up at him with an expression that tells Jimin he’s trying to take this all in. So Jimin continues while he’s still got the nerve to. 

“You know that my exes weren’t exactly the greatest people,” Jimin says, fighting off a sarcastic smirk. He stares at Taehyung and tells him, “But you’re like a breath of fresh air. You’re different in the best way possible. You make me feel...wanted and heard and respected.” 

Softly, Taehyung says, “That’s what you deserve, Jimin."

“And it’s what you deserve, too,” Jimin tells him.

Because Jimin can see now that this is what it stems back to. Taehyung told him months ago, in the back of his van after their first (and second) time together, that he’s afraid to be loved. And understandably, it’s probably because he’s never had anyone actually love him before. 

The concept within itself is rather foreign to him. So Taehyung usually sticks to what he knows—separates himself from forming real connections and moves on to a new city. It’s what he falls back on, and is his only defense constant mechanism. He’s a runner. 

Jimin just wants Taehyung to understand that he doesn’t have to run anymore. Not if he doesn’t want to. Because staying here—in Jimin’s apartment, in Jimin’s arms, in Jimin’s heart—can be a safe place. But only if he lets it be.

Taehyung puts his hand over his heart like it’s threatening to beat right out of his chest and says again, “I’m scared.” 

Shaking his head, Jimin tells him, “I’m scared, too. I think maybe this is supposed to be a little scary.” 

Because Jimin doesn’t exactly know. What he’s felt for his exes doesn’t even begin to touch what he feels for Taehyung. This feeling is amplified and vibrant and makes Jimin's entire core feel like it’s been shaken. Taehyung makes him feel grounded and warm and brave. A swirl of emotions and thoughts he’s never experienced before.

Jimin watches Taehyung’s face as he thinks. He’s quiet for a moment, then his eyes go big again and he says to Jimin like he’s pleading, “I wasn’t trying to hurt you. Please know that. I just...got in my head. I didn’t know what to do, so—”

“I know,” Jimin says, but Taehyung’s still going. Talking so fast he’s going to trip over his own tongue.

He says, “You understand me. No one’s ever done that before—no one's ever tried. I don’t feel like I have to pretend to be someone else when I’m around you. And that’s amazing and terrifying at the same time because...I don’t wanna fuck this up.” Taehyung takes in a deep, deep breath and then lets it out as he says, “I don’t wanna fuck you up. ‘Cause I’ve never been in love before. So I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing. Or what it's supposed to feel like. And that’s scary, too.” 

Jimin’s heart sits in his throat, pumping upbeat and frantic. The entire world freezes, going cold. His eyes are wide, and his fingers tingle and his throat closes. Everything else Taehyung has said gets pushed to a different part of Jimin’s brain for the moment because he can only focus on one thing. He tries to say, “You’re in…? You—”

Taehyung’s crying now. Tears dampening his face, falling freely. He shakes his head and says with a smile, “I don’t know.” Then, nodding, “But I think so.” 

And a wave of something Jimin thinks it’s safe now to call love rushes over him. Hits him like a wave and pushes him forward. Rushes quickly across the room and drops down to his knees when he reaches Taehyung. Immediately, his hands hold both sides of Taehyung’s face, thumbs petting his cheeks. 

Holding Taehyung’s gaze, Jimin stares deep into Taehyung’s eyes as he tells him, “I love you, too. I’m in love with you, too.” 

Taehyung laughs—happy and bright and relieved. Like maybe he thought after all of that, Jimin still wasn’t going to say it back. His hands wrap around Jimin’s waist and he falls backward, taking Jimin with him. 

When Taehyung’s flat on his back, Jimin kisses him. Kisses him over and over and over until they’re both out of breath and giggling. Jimin’s entire body feels warm—like he’s floating. He feels dizzy in the best way. Weightless, drifting over the moon. 

But then Taehyung pulls back, apprehension wedging itself between them again. He’s gripping the back of Jimin’s t-shirt tightly, Jimin feels the tug across his stomach. There’s worry in Taehyung’s eyes again, and Jimin feels his heart slamming hard. 

“But I don’t know if I know how to do it,” Taehyung whispers like a secret. His eyes are tearing up again. He tries to look away, but Jimin's still holding his face so he can’t. He’s shaking a little, Jimin feels that too. 

Jimin asks him softly, “Do what?” 

Now Taehyung’s breath is unsteady. A tear warms Jimin’s hand as he tells him, “Love...you—anyone. I don’t know if I know how to do it, and I don’t wanna do it wrong.” 

At that Jimin smiles. Not because it’s funny, but because Taehyung’s been the only person in his life that has loved him right. Taehyung makes Jimin feel special even when he’s not trying to. He genuienly cares if Jimin has a bad day. He’s heard some of Jimin’s darkest secrets and never once judged him. When Jimin speaks, he knows Taehyung is actually listening.

And in return, Taehyung’s opened his heart to Jimin, too. Trusted him with all of the parts of himself he’s tried to hide away. Jimin has no idea if either of them is loving each other exactly right, it doesn’t come with a how-to handbook, but Jimin knows for a fact they’re not doing it wrong. They wouldn’t have fought this hard for each other if that were the case. 

Jimin kisses Taehyung’s forehead and tells him as sincerely, “You know how to love, Taehyung. And the way you love me is exactly the way I want to be loved.” 

Arms wrap around Jimin’s midsection again, pulling him close. Taehyung holds Jimin tight against him and cries into his shoulder. Happy tears, Jimin’s sure. And that makes Jimin cry too. Also happy tears. He cradles Taehyung’s head and breathes him in, kissing at his cheek. 

Eventually, Taehyung says, “You love me the way I want to be loved, too.” 

And that’s the greatest compliment Jimin’s ever been honored with. Because he convinced himself for so long that being in love just wasn’t meant for him—no matter who he dated or how hard he tried, it just never worked out. Convinced himself that it was him. That he was too much, or not enough. Made himself believe that there was something about his love that pushed people away, not brought them closer. It’s nice to know this time around is different.

Taehyung hugs him tight as they kiss and they stay just like that for a while. Tangled up in each other. Cheeks hurting from smiling so hard. Lips going numb from all the kisses. They whisper, “I love you,” back and forth, hearts slamming in their chest now to be able to say it freely. 

Eventually, after what feels like hours, Jimin rolls off of Taehyung and onto the floor beside him. Kisses him again when they settle shoulder to shoulder, and then pulls himself up in a sitting position. Jimin's eyes survey the living room and immediately fall on the empty shelf at the bottom of his bookcase. 

Pointing across the room, Jimin says, “Y’know…that shelf looks weird without all your watercolors and paintbrushes on it.” 

Jimin watches Taehyung smile, the implication sinking in slowly. His supplies are in a plastic bag on the couch. Taehyung reaches for them. He takes them out one by one, sitting them on the coffee table.

There’s no guarantee that they have at all right answers—especially not right now. But the only way they’ll have an honest chance of figuring them out is if they give themselves one. And that can only happen if Taehyung stays. 

He says, “Maybe I should put them back.”

At that, Jimin nods. Tangles his fingers in Taehyung’s hair and pulls him closer, kissing him again. His other hand wipes away a stray tear from Taehyung’s cheek. Says when they pull apart, “Good idea. I’ll help you.” 

And together, they unpack. 

 

 

The Earth is orbiting slowly. 

The two of them took their time placing Taehyung’s art supplies back on the shelf, and now they’re laying on Jimin’s living room floor. There’s a plan in the back of their heads to put Taehyung’s clothes away next, they just haven’t gotten there yet. 

Taehyung’s head is on Jimin’s chest, his favorite place to be, and Jimin’s favorite place to have him. Taehyung’s never felt so snug in Jimin’s arms before, it’s nice. Comforting. 

They’ve been quiet for so long it sounds weird for a second to hear Taehyung’s voice. He says with a lot of certainty, “I would’ve come back.” 

Jimin lifts his head off the ground and looks down at Taehyung. But Taehyung keeps his face turned away, like it’s hard to look at Jimin when he says this. 

Continuing before Jimin speaks, Taehyung says, “Remember back when we first met, after you took me around Seoul? Then I was gone for like two weeks?”

Truthfully, Jimin only laughs because just the thought of it reminds him of how pissed he was during that time. He had no idea where he and Taehyung were going, felt like they hit it off, and then Taehyung just disappeared. 

Scratching at the back of Taehyung’s head, Jimin says, “Kinda hard to forget.” 

Sighing, Taehyung says, “I tried to leave then, too. I was feeling things for you I never felt before and it scared the hell out of me. Even back then. Figured it was best to just get out of town before it turned into something I couldn’t deny anymore. Fucked with my head so bad because I’ve never once in my life felt like I needed someone but…”

His voice trails off. Jimin feels his heart picking up speed, he wonders if Taehyung can hear it. 

“So I drove around for two weeks, trying to pick a new place to go. But none of the places I found seemed as captivating as Seoul. None of those places had you. And I couldn’t fight it, all I did was think about you. I wanted to know you so bad...so I came back,” Taehyung explains. Then, with a chuckle, “I barely knew you then and I couldn’t stay away.”

Smiling, Jimin says, “Who says I would’ve taken you back if you left?”

He’s only partly joking, because Jimin has a lot of pride. He loves Taehyung more than anything, but if things had gone differently today and he was gone by the time Jimin came home, he can’t say for sure that he’d be willing to open his heart back up if Taehyung decided to come back after. A line would’ve been crossed, and Jimin thinks they both know that. 

Jimin doesn't know if he believes in destiny, but he believes in serendipity. Dumb-luck, happenstance. Believes that he and Taehyung accidentally on purpose stumbled into each other’s hearts that night at the bar, and the universe set in a plan for them to travel together—and if they’re lucky, the road continues for the rest of their lives. 

A smile is heard clearly on Taehyung’s voice as he says, “I wouldn’t blame you. But I definitely would’ve tried. I don’t think I know how to be without you anymore—at least, I don’t want to.” 

A quiet falls upon them now, exhausted, completely talked out. For hours, they carefully dissected their feelings for one another, and kept going even though it got awkward and uncomfortable. Kept going even when they started crying again, when they started yelling again, when they started kissing again.

Jimin has never bared his soul to anyone the way he’s done to Taehyung tonight. It was a long talk. Hours and hours and hours. Told him every little thing he feels for him, and then kept his mind and his heart open as Taehyung did the same. And even though they have much more talking to do, and a lot of foundation to build, they’ve decided this—Taehyung is going to love Jimin, and Jimin is going to love him back, and then they’ll figure everything else out from there. 

They’ve already started planning. Figured it might be too much too soon to just have Taehyung move in all the way, so they’re going to keep it how it is right now. As much of his stuff as he wants can stay, the rest can be in his van. He doesn’t have to sleep here every night, but Jimin’s bed is always here for him on the nights that he does want to. Baby steps.

But one thing is still weighing heavy on Jimin’s mind. And while they’re still in the mode of being completely honest, he rubs Taehyung’s back and asks, “How do I know, though?” 

Taehyung shifts. Asks, turning his head, “Know what?” 

Letting out a breath, Jimin says, “That you’re gonna stay? For real this time. Because all of these plans sound nice now, but what about tomorrow? Or next week? How do I know—”

“I’m taking the job,” Taehyung cuts Jimin off with. He lifts his head and is smiling up at Jimin softly, eyes sincere. Adds, “At the art shop. I’m gonna call Ara first thing tomorrow and tell her yes. I know it’s not much but...it’s the best I have right now to show you that I’m serious.” 

Jimin’s breath feels tight in his chest. Happiness swelling inside. He bends forward and lifts Taehyung’s chin to kiss him. He feels a tear threatening his lower lash line, but he quickly wipes it away. He doesn’t want to cry anymore. 

He thinks back to his conversation with Hoseok and Yoongi. Remembers how they talked about what a big step that is for Taehyung, even if it might seem relatively small to anyone else. His whole life has been on the road, he’s never settled down before. Never had a steady job. Never lived anywhere long enough to call it home. So to hear him say he’s willing to try—willing to turn his entire life around by taking the job...Jimin understands everything that signifies. 

“I’ll take that,” Jimin tells him, kissing him again. 

Taehyung smiles into the kiss. Says, “I love you. I mean it.” 

And Jimin can tell he’s never going to get tired of hearing that. Hopes that he gets to hear it for the rest of his life. His heart swells—overstuffed with fondness and appreciation and tenderness for Taehyung. 

“I love you, too... boyfriend,” Jimin says back and nearly coos at the way Taehyung’s eyes light up. 

Feels nice to say. 

They don’t have it all figured out just yet, but right here seems like a good place to start. 

 

 

Jimin’s spent his whole life dreaming of a fairytale love. Love at first sight, or something along those lines. A sign from the universe somehow, or maybe bells ringing in his head. Spent years of his life imagining falling in love with someone and his problems just melting away like butter. One kiss from the love of his life, and suddenly the world would make sense. 

Before, when Jimin thought of the word love, he thought of the word easy to accompany it. Convinced himself that when he was in love for real, it wouldn’t take effort. How could it? He was sure that love was the aligning of hearts and the connection of souls. And when two people’s hearts and souls connect, that must mean they know each other inside and out. And as a result: no arguments, no misunderstandings, no unreal expectations, no pain. 

Truth is, love isn’t the way it’s shown in movies. And it’s not like the stories Jimin’s read when he was little. His past relationships weren’t loving at all, and Jimin knows that for sure now. The lack of respect, the lack of trust, the heartache—none of that was love. But what he has with Taehyung… he’s starting to think maybe he’s understanding what love is. What it’s supposed to be. 

Love, Jimin’s learning, is difficult. It takes effort and hard work and persistence. Love is learning someone—their good sides and their bad—and deciding to stay with them as they grow. Love is messy and sometimes it’s tiring. Love is investing time and sharing emotions and blooming trust. 

Nothing about loving Taehyung has been easy. Their start wasn’t anything ripped from a movie or a children’s book. No bells in Jimin’s head, no sign from the universe. But there was something about Taehyung that made Jimin not want to give up, and he hopes with all he has that Taehyung feels the same way, too. 

Because the downs in their relationship have given their ups a run for its money. Jimin has felt his emotions to extremes he didn’t think possible while falling in love with Taehyung. They’ve argued and they’ve had misunderstandings. But Jimin thinks maybe all that counts is that they’ve worked through it, and they’ve come out of those hard times stronger

Jimin has told Taehyung things about himself that he’s never told anyone before—things he’s barely told himself. He has absolutely bared his soul to Taehyung and opened his heart. In every way, he’s been completely vulnerable with Taehyung. And in every way, he’s given Taehyung the cheat codes to break his heart at a level it’s never been broken before. Possibly to such a degree, Jimin is unsure if he’ll recover from it. 

But Jimin’s not worried. Not really, not anymore. Because even with his entire heart so helplessly in the palms of Taehyung’s hands, he feels safe. He knows with an indescribable certainty that Taehyung would never hurt him. Not intentionally. And Jimin’s never felt this type of security before. This type of calmness and peace. 

The thing about love is that it’s scary. Jimin’s always known it. It’s terrifying. Taking that leap is gut-wrenching and heart-racing and feels like strikes of lightning to every nerve in the body. But the reward—the prize for taking that leap—is so, so beautiful. The fruit of the labor of love is so fucking sweet, Jimin wouldn’t trade this love he’s found for anything in the world. 

So maybe Jimin had some things right about love all along. He’s come to realize that it very well might be the aligning of hearts and the connection of souls. Because he’s never been so sure soulmates exist until Taehyung came into his life. But none of that means love is effortless. Anything worth keeping requires dedication and time. 

Love is being faced with a problem and choosing to work on it. Love is learning all of your partner’s buttons, but never pushing them. Love is about understanding it’s not always fifty-fifty, and that’s alright. Love is about not giving up when it gets hard, but working even harder to get through it. Love is about growing together while maintaining independence. Love is choosing the same person over and over and over because love isn’t love without them. 

Love is…Taehyung. 

It’s their weekly Sunday breakfast dates, and their walks in the park at sunset, and the way Jimin traces Taehyung’s lips with his finger while he watches him sleep. And it’s their constant disagreement on chocolate versus vanilla ice cream, but it’s also deciding when’s the right time for Taehyung to meet Jimin’s dad. And it’s Jimin staying up with Taehyung when he can’t calm down, it’s Taehyung massaging Jimin’s shoulders after a long day at work, and it’s knowing when to walk away during an argument before they say something they’ll regret. It’s knowing each other’s limits and not testing them. It’s about coming back.

Falling in love doesn’t mean being immune to hard times or troubles or pain. Love, despite its advertisement in film and literature, doesn’t fix anyone. It’s not a magical cure. But love is encouragement and a reason to wake up in the morning. One kiss from Taehyung doesn’t make the problems of the world disappear, but that’s okay. Because one kiss from Taehyung is all Jimin needs to keep trying—motivates him to do better and keep growing. 

Falling in love with Taehyung hasn’t been ripped from a movie scene, but it’s been picture perfect in its own way. Memories captured by Taehyung’s camera fit to be played on the big screen any day. They’ve earned the love they have, and fought with everything inside of them to keep it. 

So yes, it’s true, Jimin’s love with Taehyung isn’t a fairytale love. It’s better than that, though. The love they have is real, and that’s more than Jimin could ever ask for. 

Turns out, getting everything he’s ever wanted out of love isn’t so bad after all.