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take me, my heart and my soul

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taehyung meets the love of his life on a particularly rainy tuesday.

the world around him is gray, the sky open and weeping, the wind whipping wet curls against his cheeks. he’s got his hood up and his hands shoved deep in his sweatshirt pockets, shoes squelching against the mud-caked grass. “shit,” he hisses, hopping to avoid a puddle. “shit, shit, shit—”

he’s already twenty minutes late to his photography class, having overslept after an all night study session for his anatomy exam next week. he jogs down the street, wishing more than anything that he’d splurged for a fuckin’ subway ticket, but there’s no use feeling sorry for himself now. he’ll just have to show up to class sopping wet and pray his professor goes easy on him. she likes him—he thinks—but that might not be enough if he tracks mud through her classroom.

he’s waiting to cross at a stop light when a scream pierces through the roaring of the rain—except it’s not a scream, not really. it’s something else, something darker, and it sends an icy shiver down the column of taehyung’s spine.

barely a second later, a harried group of students round the corner, their eyes wide and terrified. taehyung catches one of them around the elbow, his own heart speeding up. “what’s happening?”

the boy shakes his head. “car crash. there’s—there’s a fucking banshee wailing, someone’s fuckin’ dead, dude.”

“shit,” taehyung breathes, his arm falling to his side. “shit, i—thanks.”

the other boy nods before jogging to catch up with his friends. taehyung stares after him, jaw slack. someone’s dead and, judging by the proximity of the—the wail, the crash is close. like, around the corner close. taehyung shivers against the rain, against the ice sharpening in his chest, and heads toward where everyone is running from. he’s not even sure why, doesn’t fully understand the sudden and unmistakable need to help, but his halmeoni always did say he had a bit of a bleeding heart.

the next street over is an absolute mess, to put it lightly. there’s broken glass scattered across the road, three cars smashed against each other in a morbid conglomerate of metal. the rain drowns out most of the crying, the panic, and taehyung feels like he’s in a vacuum, completely devoid of sound. all he can hear is his own heartbeat, the screaming sirens in the distance—

and a harsh, wracking sob from behind him.

taehyung spins, takes in the sight of a boy about his own age, nearly bent in half on the sidewalk and curled in on himself. for a second, taehyung thinks that maybe he was one of the people involved in the accident, but no one seems to be paying attention to him. in fact, everyone seems to be purposely skirting around him—this terrified, crying boy with the face of an angel.

something tugs at his heart. without pausing to think, taehyung drops to the ground, wincing as his knees hit the wet concrete. “uh—” he says, reaching a gentle hand out towards the boy, “are you—are you okay? are you hurt?”

the boy startles, shakes his head. “n-no,” he whispers, and his voice is raspy, barely audible over the din of the chaos surrounding them. he coughs, his face twisting in pain at the force of it. taehyung thinks he sees blood, but the boy wipes at his mouth before he can tell for sure.

“no as in you’re not okay or no as in you’re not hurt?”

the boy looks up at him, then. “both?” he says, though he doesn’t seem entirely sure of his answer, and that’s—well, that’s not exactly reassuring.

slowly, carefully, taehyung reaches closer. “can you—can you get up? god, sorry, this is probably so weird. you just—you look like you could use some help. tell me to shut up if i’m overstepping.” he pauses in his rambling, offers a small smile. “i’m taehyung.”

the boy coughs again, looking distrustful. when he speaks, it sounds like his voice is scratching its way up his throat. “jimin.”

“jimin,” taehyung repeats, “it’s nice to meet you, jimin. d’you wanna go somewhere a little warmer?”

jimin doesn’t answer for a long moment, but taehyung stays put, clothes soaked-through and knees aching against the sidewalk. finally, jimin nods, and when he finally takes taehyung’s hand and allows himself to be pulled to his feet, taehyung can’t help but marvel a little at how perfectly they fit together.

they duck inside the closest cafe, which just so happens to be one of taehyung’s favorite study-spots. behind the counter, the usual barista offers a tight smile, eyes a little glazed as they run over taehyung and jimin straight towards the mayhem beyond the window. taehyung helps a shaky jimin settle down in a chair purposely facing away from the crash, their clothes dripping against the rickety hardwood floor.

“i’m going to get you some hot tea, yeah?” taehyung asks, his heart clenching at the sight of wide doe eyes peaking out from behind black fringe. he doesn’t know why he feels so randomly protective over this complete stranger, this person who he’s exchanged maybe ten words with, but there’s something—something magical about this boy. the kind of energy that makes all of taehyung’s senses stand up and pay attention. “just—just stay here.”

he waits for jimin to nod before jogging over to the counter. the barista tries for some half-hearted small-talk while he makes their tea, and taehyung does his best to answer back. his attention keeps straying back to the quiet boy in the corner staring a hole through the table with a haunted look in his eye.

“hey,” taehyung says when he finally makes it back, setting the mug of tea in front of jimin.

“hi,” jimin whispers back, “thank you. if you just tell me how much it was—”

taehyung shakes his head. “don’t worry about it. it’s on me.”

jimin’s fingers freeze around the cup. they’re so tiny, delicate and pink at the tips. taehyung thinks he might like to hold those hands for an extended period of time, which is absolutely not the point right now. god, get it together. “no, i can’t—let me pay for it. please.” jimin swallows thickly and finally, finally meets taehyung’s eye. “thank you for helping me. this...hasn’t happened since i moved here, and it—it caught me off guard, so i froze up and panicked. i appreciate your help, more than—more than you could ever know, but—”

confusion drapes over taehyung like a fog. he can’t tell if jimin’s talking about the crash or something else entirely, but he doesn’t want to cut in and ask at the risk of looking like a complete idiot.

still, his uncertainty must show on his face, because jimin stops talking rather abruptly. he frowns, head tilted prettily, asks, “do you not...know what i am?”

“um,” taehyung says, and then promptly zeros in on the fact that jimin said what, not who. “oh. are you—”

“the banshee, yeah,” jimin mutters miserably, looking a little like he’s hoping the floor will swallow him whole. “i’m sorry—”

“hey, no,” taehyung rushes out, and before he can even think to stop himself, he’s taking jimin’s smaller hand gently in his. “why are you apologizing? there’s nothing to be sorry for. is your throat okay? are you okay?”

jimin stares down at their hands and for a second taehyung panics, wondering if he’s stepped over an invisible boundary line. they’ve only known each other for five minutes and here taehyung is, holding his hand for comfort like they’re high school sweethearts or something equally dumb.

but then jimin offers a small, hesitant smile, one that makes taehyung feel a little like the sun is coming back out. “i’m okay. thank you. you’re—you’re very kind, taehyung.”

taehyung feels himself flush. “it’s nothing.”

“it’s not nothing,” jimin says softly. he takes a slow sip of his tea and squeezes taehyung’s hand. “not to me, at least.”

taehyung is a human. he doesn’t know much about magical beings, mostly because they don’t often make themselves obvious if they don’t have to. it’s more for their own safety than anything else, because people are fearful of what they don’t understand, and ignorance breeds cruelty. there are so many misconceptions, endless bits of misinformation that transform into harmful stereotypes and make existing dangerous. banshees in particular are seen as bad omens, harbingers of death and decay, sometimes even wrongly assumed to be the cause of whatever tragedy they’ve just announced—

and jimin had basically painted a target on his own back in the middle of a busy street, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

without thinking, taehyung pulls out his water stained notebook and a pen that’s nearly out of ink. he regretfully tugs his hand away from jimin’s to scribble on a corner and rip the page out, sliding it across the small wooden table. “my number,” he says, “if you want it, i mean. no pressure. just—if you need someone to talk to, my halmeoni says i’m a great listener. you can, um. call me? if you want?”

jimin stares at the piece of paper for a long moment, before his face breaks into the most beautiful smile taehyung has ever seen. “kim taehyung,” he reads, almost as if he’s testing the words. “okay, kim taehyung. i’ll call you.”

more than anything, taehyung hopes to god he does.

 

-

 

against all odds, jimin calls. he calls, and he texts, and by the time taehyung works up the nerve to ask him on a proper date, he hasn’t gone a day without hearing from jimin in two weeks. taehyung sends memes and little photos—flowers and store windows and the way the sun glints off his favorite record. jimin will send absolutely anything that comes to mind, from his thoughts on global warming to the dog he saw outside his dorm. despite his initial hesitation, he’s so forthcoming with his affection—the light in jimin’s heart is unbridled and pure and abundant, and taehyung can’t think of anything better than the raspy sound of jimin’s laugh over the phone at 1am.

they talk about jimin’s life, his experiences, everything he’s been through. how his “curse” has been in his family for as far back as they can trace their line, skipping over certain generations but never disappearing entirely. jimin was lucky enough to be the first banshee in his family in almost fifty years.

“my harabeoji always used to say it was because god knew i was strong enough to carry the burden,” jimin had whispered once over facetime, his expression twisting into something bitter. “i just think i got the shit end of the stick.”

jimin tells him about growing up by the beach, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. he talks about living far enough away from the rest of the town that death couldn’t reach him. how he was homeschooled and lonely, nothing more than an urban legend to the other kids his age.

“we didn’t really have a lot of other...magical beings around, where i’m from. just a bunch of normie kids—sorry, human kids who treated me like some sort of sideshow. they used to ding-dong-ditch our house, just...stupid dares and pranks because i wasn’t a person to them. i was just a ghost story. it was—it was lonely. i know my parents thought they were keeping me safe, but there’s got to be a better way to do it, right?”

jimin talks, and taehyung listens. the soft, raspy cadence of jimin’s voice quickly becomes his favorite sound in the world.

they get closer, impossibly so. one date turns into two, which turns into three, four, five—

and then taehyung sort of...maybe...has a boyfriend?

he picks jimin up from the dance studio most days, fingers tangled like the weeds in the sidewalk cracks beneath their feet. they study together, order take-out to the library and kiss under the moth-bitten streetlights lining the campus walkways. they’re taking it slow because jimin is—well, jimin is nervous, and it makes sense.

kind, careful jimin with an entire bonfire for a heart, who’s been shut away and cast aside for something he can’t possibly control and still manages to trust so openly, love so endlessly.

a light kick to taehyung’s shin jolts him from his thoughts. across the table, jimin smiles mischievously at him, pretty brown eyes twinkling under candlelight. taehyung feels the breath whoosh right out of his lungs. he doesn’t think he’ll ever get enough of this, enough of jimin.

“you weren’t paying attention to me.”

“oh, i’m so sorry,” taehyung says, matching jimin’s pout with one of his own.

“it’s okay,” jimin says airily, biting down on a smile. “just don’t do it a—”

jimin cuts himself off with a choked sort of noise. taehyung reaches out and carefully takes jimin’s hand in his. “jimin-ah? are you okay?”

the air around them stills and a hush falls over the restaurant, eerie like the calm before a storm. taehyung feels the hair on the back of his neck stand straight up, goosebumps pimpling the backs of his arms all the way up to his shoulders, down his spine. he shivers, blinks, tries to speak—

only to be cut off by the wail that rips out from the pit of jimin’s stomach, unearthly and echoing in the chill of the silence. the people closest to them scramble to cover their ears, eyes scrunched up in pain, but all taehyung can think is that he needs to get closer, needs to help jimin, kiss the tear tracks off his cheeks and hold him until the hurt stops.

time seems to slow, until suddenly it’s over. jimin closes his mouth, blinks once, stands up fast enough that the silverware on the table clatters sharply. he stares at taehyung, eyes wide and gaze empty, before whispering something that sounds like i’m sorry and tripping towards the front door.

taehyung’s up before he can even pause to think, calling jimin’s name like he has no other choice—like it’s been pulled from his soul, a call as instinctual as a banshee’s wail. he waves the waiter off as he goes, mumbling assurances that he’ll be back, he’ll pay, he swears, but it’s so far down on the list of Important Things that he shakes the poor man off easily enough. he bursts through the restaurant doors like a bat out of hell, chest heaving as he holds back his own tears.

jimin is standing by the curb, shoulders hunched like he might be able to make himself invisible he tries hard enough. taehyung stops a foot and an entire cavern away, his breath coming out in short, sharp puffs.

“jimin-ah,” he murmurs, and jimin flinches.

for a moment, neither of them say anything. jimin doesn’t turn, barely moves. the cars rush past in a hurry, unaware of the turmoil working its way through jimin’s beautiful mind and holding his breath captive.

“it’s my fault,” jimin finally whispers, voice hoarse, “i shouldn’t have picked a restaurant so close to a hospital. i’m usually—i’m usually smarter than this. i just—i let my guard down. i’m so sorry, taehyung-ah.”

“there’s nothing to be sorry about,” taehyung rushes out, his tone soft but firm. “nothing, jimin. i swear. please don’t apologize. will you sit with me?”

there’s a second where he thinks jimin is going to say no, that he’ll hail a cab and leave taehyung standing alone on the concrete. but then jimin’s nodding, wiping at his eyes with the back of his sleeve, holding a hand out and allowing taehyung to lead him to the bench in front of the restaurant. they sit too far apart for taehyung’s liking, but he doesn’t want to push jimin, doesn’t want to make him any more uncomfortable than he already is.

“this is so—” jimin cuts himself off with a gasp, tears clinging to long lashes. “fuck, this is so embarrassing. i’m sorry. we can just, um. we can split the bill and i’ll go—”

“go?” taehyung asks, stomach churning with worry. jimin won’t meet taehyung’s eyes. “why would you—did i say something wrong?”

that gets jimin’s attention. his head snaps up, expression disbelieving. “did you—no, i just thought—” jimin gestures weakly at himself, his voice growing smaller. “please don’t make me say it.”

“jimin.”

jimin shakes his head, tears streaming down pretty pink cheeks. it’s a different hue, now—blotchier, angry with shame. taehyung thinks back to ten minutes ago, the way the glow of the candles had illuminated the delicate flush of jimin’s laughter, and his chest feels heavy.

“it’s okay, um. it’s—it’s a lot, and i understand if you just want to be friends. or if you want, we can just,” jimin hiccups, knee bouncing a mile a minute, “we can just forget it all. i won’t mind. i’m just glad i got to know you—”

jimin,” taehyung says, desperation seeping into his tone. he doesn’t know what to say, can’t possibly fathom how to make it better, but he needs jimin to understand. his mind is moving too fast for him to catch out, and his next words tumble out before he can think about them properly. “can i hug you?” he stops, squeezes his eyes shut, forges on before jimin can answer. “it’s just that i’m not really good with words. i don’t—it doesn’t always come out right, but i don’t want to fuck this up because it’s too important.”

when he opens his eyes, jimin is staring at him, mouth slightly agape. taehyung shifts nervously under his gaze but forces himself to hold eye contact. he needs jimin to know that he’s serious.

finally, jimin blinks, swallows. “it’s not a pity hug, is it?” he asks, voice wobbly.

taehyung starts to shake his head before jimin finishes his sentence. “no, it’s—jimin, i really like you.” he clears his throat, scoots a little closer. “i think you’re pretty much the best person i’ve ever met and i really want to keep dating, if that’s—if that’s cool with you.”

jimin looks stricken. “you—what?”

“i want to keep—”

“i heard what you said,” jimin whispers, and to taehyung’s absolute horror, his eyes fill with fresh tears. he sniffles, lets out a dry cough, and promptly catapults himself into taehyung’s arms.

taehyung sags forward, relieved, because hugs are good, right? hugs are comforting. maybe he didn’t fuck this up, after all. he locks his arms tightly around jimin’s waist, tugs him closer, feels his little nose sniffling against warm wool.

“do you want to, um, go to my place?” taehyung’s eyes widen, and he hurries on before jimin can respond. “not to do anything, like—weird, i just meant. your throat probably hurts. i have tea...and blankets? i have blankets. we can watch a movie, if you want.”

jimin pulls away, just enough to look taehyung square in the face. his lashes are long and wet where they brush against his cheeks, unshed tears glistening beneath the streetlights. “you actually want to? it’s not just because you feel bad?”

“i always want to spend time with you,” taehyung says, and the words feel a little too honest as they tumble out of his mouth. they’re dating, sort of, probably, it’s just—

“okay,” jimin murmurs, and then he smiles. it’s small but it’s bright, lovely beyond any adjective taehyung could possibly think up. “if you—i’d like that. a lot.”

“yeah?” taehyung asks, a little breathless with relief.

“yeah,” jimin says, and then he presses his smile to taehyung’s cheek in the softest kiss imaginable.

taehyung goes inside to pay, face still flushed and warm from the heat of jimin’s lips. he tips their waiter extra for asking if jimin is okay, if they’d like any to-go boxes, and heads back outside to where jimin is waiting. “ready?” he asks, offering a hand.

jimin takes it and squeezes, lets taehyung help him stand on slightly-shaky legs. “yes, just—” jimin stops, smile falling just enough that anxiety creeps into taehyung’s chest. “you know this isn’t a one-off thing, right? it’s going to keep happening, and i’m never going to be able to stop it, or—or even know before it happens.”

taehyung reaches up and smooths the hair off jimin’s forehead with gentle fingers. “i know. and i don’t care. i mean, no, i do, but only because i know it’s really hard on you, emotionally and physically. i’m not—i’ll never be embarrassed, or upset, or whatever your big, mean brain is thinking right now. i’ll just...hold your hand and try to make you feel better. also, i’ll start carrying cough drops. just in case.”

jimin closes his eyes against a fresh onslaught of tears, presses his face into the crook of taehyung’s shoulder. “how the fuck did i find you?”

“actually, m’pretty sure i found you,” taehyung murmurs, laughing wetly as he kisses jimin’s temple. toned arms wrap around his waist and squeeze. “like a sad little kitten in a box.”

jimin snorts. “and you ruined it.”

“i did no such thing.”

“not sure that’s up for you to decide.”

taehyung rubs a palm up jimin’s spine and settles it against the nape of his neck. “let me make it up to you?”

jimin snuggles closer, hides a smile in taehyung’s chest. “okay. let’s go.”

 

-

 

three months in, taehyung calls his halmeoni to tell her he’s pretty sure he’s met the boy he wants to marry.

he talks about the way jimin still tries to sing along to the radio even as his vocal chords weaken, how he pets every dog they pass and smiles at every baby no matter how tired or grumpy or sad he is. the way his eyes light up when he dances or cracks a particularly difficult math problem, how his hair turns into a cotton ball when he first wakes up. he tells her that jimin is special, that he’s magic, that he keeps the most amazing outlook on life despite death following him like a bad cold he can never quite shake.

logically, taehyung knows that his halmeoni is the last person to ever judge someone for being different. still, the hard thrum of his heart steadies at the sound of her warm voice murmuring, “he sounds perfect, taehyung-ah. i’m so happy for you.”

it’s not long before they’re saying i love you, before they’re searching for an apartment to call their own once taehyung’s lease ends and jimin can move out of his dorm. it’s both thrilling and terrifying, falling so hard and so fast but knowing that whatever happens—jimin will catch him, and taehyung will do the same.

their first place is a shit hole, but it’s theirs, and that makes it perfect. the ceiling leaks when it rains and the floors creak loud enough to wake the dead but the living room has the perfect lighting for taehyung to paint and photograph jimin as he eats cereal on their ratty old couch. they fill the apartment with pictures and the happiest memories either of them can ever remember having, curled around each other in bed so tightly their breath intertwines and taehyung could swear their hearts sync up.

there are nights that jimin wakes taehyung up with a wail so deafening it rattles the frames from the walls, leaves the neighbors knocking on their door and filing noise complaints to their landlord. jimin will curl up into the tightest ball possible and taehyung will patiently pry him apart just to put him back together, head tucked safe and warm beneath the sharp line of taehyung’s jaw. he’ll cry himself back to sleep as taehyung strokes up and down his back, murmuring assurances and i love yous like they’ll be able to cure a broke heart.

in the morning, taehyung will bring tea and cough drops, will pet jimin’s hair and kiss his crimson-stained cheeks, singing under his breath until jimin’s shoulders lose their tight line. jimin will apologize a thousand times until taehyung tells him to shut up. then, he’ll drag his laptop over so they can get their half-hour-a-day sign language practice in before jimin’s two o’clock class, because the inevitability that jimin will lose his voice draws nearer with each scream.

their life together is a quiet one, because jimin is afraid of large crowds and judgemental glares. taehyung doesn’t mind, because the rapid urgency of his brain calms beneath the gentleness of jimin’s smile, the softness of his touch.

taehyung likes to joke that they complete each other with his cheesiest possible grin, but really—it’s less completion and more complementation. it’s knowing with just a glance that jimin’s feeling overwhelmed and offering an excuse to their friends as an easy out. it’s jimin dropping himself into taehyung’s lap with a smile at the exact moment he starts to overthink and spiral.

it’s working in tandem to make each other happy, the teasing push and pull that propels them forward both as individuals and a couple, challenging them to be better, pressing each other forward in the right direction. always in the right direction. always in the same direction.

taehyung’s not totally on board with the idea of soulmates—with so many people in the world, it’s hard to believe that it’s possible for everyone to find their person.

still—

taehyung’s pretty sure he managed to find his.

 

-

 

jimin’s anxiety is always at its worst before a big event.

taehyung wishes he could bear it all, siphon it out of jimin’s chest and keep it hidden far away, but he can’t. all he can do is be there, hold his hand, distract him with kisses and corny jokes (which have become taehyung’s specialty, to jimin’s utter dismay). it’s happened before—moments of their life, ripped away with a wail as a stranger’s life faded. sometimes, taehyung hates how desensitized he’s become to death, how his gut reaction has regressed from a sad sort of horror to a single-minded fixation on finding the cough drops at the bottom of his bag, but—jimin comes first.

jimin’s life has been defined by the death that follows him, and taehyung will be damned before he lets their relationship be defined by it, too.

“ready?” taehyung murmurs, squeezing lightly at jimin’s hand.

jimin nods, squinting into the sun. across the green, the parks wave wildly at their eldest son, beckoning the two of them closer. “i think,” he signs, his eyes wide as they land on taehyung. “maybe.”

taehyung stops them, draws jimin closer. the silky fabric of jimin’s graduation gown is soft against his palm. “hey,” he says, offering a crooked smile.

“hi,” jimin whispers, voice quiet and cracking. it’s almost entirely gone at this point, vocal chords strained and raw after years of abuse.

“i’m so fucking proud of you,” taehyung murmurs, pressing his lips to jimin’s forehead. he feels jimin melt against him, small hands sliding cheekily into his back pockets. “i love you so much, you know that? you’re—jimin-ah, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

jimin makes a soft, wounded noise. “don’t make me cry,” he rasps, clearing his throat, “you’re going to fuck up my makeup.”

staring at jimin like this, bathed in sunlight, all taehyung can see is his entire future spread out before him. he was going to wait til later, til everything had settled, til they were back in their shoebox apartment at the end of the night, but— “let’s run away together.”

“hm?” jimin looks up, eyes soft and inquisitive.

taehyung laughs, shakes his head, tries again. “not like—not like, run away run away. just—let’s move somewhere quiet, somewhere you can rest. the city is so busy and messy, and baby—you deserve to lie down at night and not worry you’ll be awake in two hours because of a crash around the corner or a heart attack three floors below. i can paint anywhere, and you can teach online just like you’d planned, and we can—we can just exist. we can have our friends over whenever we want, visit your parents and mine, drive into town for groceries—but our home will be a safe space, where we can just be together and love each other until we’re old and gray and wrinkly as shit.”

jimin tugs his hands free from taehyung’s pockets, signing fast enough that taehyung can barely make out what he’s saying. he stops, sniffles, smiles so brilliantly it nearly knocks taehyung off his feet. with shaky hands, he signs, “you want to? with me?”

“i want to do everything with you,” taehyung says, honest and raw like an open wound.

“are you sure?” jimin signs, and it’s quick, the movements wobbly like taehyung thinks his voice would be if he were to say it. “don’t do it just for me. you love the city.”

“i love you.” before jimin can say anything else, taehyung dips down to capture his lips in a soft kiss. “i’ll be happy anywhere as long as you’re with me. besides, you know i grew up in the country. i think she’s calling me back.” he flashes a smile that shows all of his teeth, eyes crinkled so hard he’s squinting.

jimin stares up at him like he can’t quite grasp the fact that this is real, this is happening. “you’re sure?” he asks again, “absolutely positive? you want to?”

“i wouldn’t have asked if i didn’t,” taehyung teases, hands fitting perfectly over the dips of jimin’s hips. he drops another kiss to the slope of jimin’s pretty little nose, feels the way jimin slumps a little further against him. “yes, my love. i’m positive. i’ve never been surer of anything in my life, except the day i gave you my number.”

“cheesy,” jimin signs, huffing out a quiet laugh as tears pool in his eyes. “look. i told you not to make me cry. now i’m going to look puffy in my graduation pictures.”

later, taehyung will sit with jimin’s family and cry his heart out as he watches the love of his life cross the stage and accept the diploma he fought tooth and nail for. he’ll take pictures with a smile wide enough to crack his face in two, and he’ll follow jimin around like a puppy the entire night. they’ll laugh with jimin’s family and hold hands beneath the table until jimin eventually has to tug free to sign answers to his mother’s rapid-fire questions, and taehyung will watch his future unfold before him in his mind’s eye.

for now, though, he just smiles and kisses jimin one last time. “c’mon,” he murmurs, “let’s go start our lives, hm?”

 

-

 

when taehyung wakes up, it’s raining.

the sky outside is grey, weak rays of sunlight breaking through black clouds. thunder cracks loud overhead, and the rhythm of the rain drops hitting the window is almost enough to lull taehyung back to sleep. almost, because beside him, jimin shifts—burrows closer, cuddles in, the breath of a sigh grazing sleep-warm skin. taehyung flings an arm over his boyfriend’s waist, presses his nose into jimin’s hair and breathes.

jimin huffs, leg hooking dramatically over taehyung’s thighs. “—r’you smelling me?”

the world is rarely quiet enough for taehyung to hear jimin speak without straining to listen, but they’re so close and the rain is so soft that his whisper feels like an echo. “mhm,” taehyung hums, his heart thudding happily in his chest. “you smell good, and you’re fluffy. like a little cotton ball dipped in rose oil.”

“specific,” jimin croaks, and taehyung can feel his smile.

it’s been four years since they moved into their tiny cottage and made it into a home. four years since they stood on the porch, watched hand-in-hand as the fog rolled in, and decided this was where they were supposed to be. taehyung listens to the frogs croaking outside, the soft whistle of the wind, thinks—we were right. it’s perfect.

there’s a ring in the bedside drawer, hidden in the bottom shelf behind crumpled up half-finished sketches, broken pencils and empty bags of cough drops. jimin hasn’t found it yet because jimin is a slob who barely remembers to clean his own side, let alone taehyung’s, but for now that’s working out just fine. there’s a pile of laundry by the dresser that seems to stare almost accusingly in their direction, shoes strewn listlessly before their closet, dog toys left carelessly where anyone could step on them—”anyone” primarily meaning taehyung and his innate ability to trip over every squeaky bone on the way to the bathroom.

“what are you thinking about?” jimin signs, blinking sleepily. his movements are lazy, just barely high enough for taehyung to see.

“how much i love you,” taehyung murmurs, smoothing some of the hair off jimin’s forehead.

“i love you, too,” jimin signs, blushing as his arms drop to his sides. he doesn’t talk much anymore—can’t, really, after all the damage done to his vocal chords. so taehyung tends to speak for him, filling the silence of their home with endless chatter and purposely-pitchy singing that has jimin giggling his raspy little laugh.

sometimes, days go by without either of them talking out loud. they’ll communicate through sign language, silly notes on the fridge about groceries and who forgot the milk. text messages from down the hall while jimin pees and taehyung pretends to nap. jimin likes to save his voice for the important things, like telling taehyung when he looks especially beautiful, or whispering how much he loves him over their morning tea.

speaking of—

jimin taps taehyung’s nose, eyes fond. “sing for me?” he asks, voice barely audible over the crackling of the fire.

taehyung hears him, because taehyung’s always listening. he nods and does as he’s asked, continuing to hum long after jimin’s breath has evened out as he drifts his way back into another hour’s rest.

jimin sleeps soundly, now. he’s found peace in the middle of nowhere, far past where the ghosts can find him. taehyung holds his entire world in his arms, feels the gentle rise and fall of jimin’s chest again his side, runs a careful hand through the fluffy whisps of jimin’s bedhead. thinks about how every decision he’s ever made has led him right here, to this exact moment.

in a little while, taehyung will extricate himself from the tangle of sheets and limbs. he’ll make breakfast and attempt to deliver it in bed and even though the pancakes will be burnt and jimin will end up with syrup on his pajama pants, he’ll still smile and sign thank you, baby with enough emotion to drown out any lingering embarrassment on taehyung’s end. they’ll kiss over orange juice and maybe taehyung will pretend to look for a pair of socks while actually digging around for the ring, because even though he’s planned an extravagant dinner later in the week, right now seems like the perfect time.

but that’s for later.

now, taehyung kisses jimin’s forehead, nuzzles his nose into the baby-soft skin of his temple. he listens to the rain, and he thinks fondly of everything it has brought him.