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ACT ONE: 4'OCLOCK

 

Park Jimin is eight years old when his life begins anew. His perspective changes, coloring the otherwise dull yellow of his young life a very vibrant pink. All because of one question.

"Eomma, what's a soulmate?" It’s not even Jimin that asks the question that afternoon. It’s Jihyun, Jimin’s six-year-old brother. It's one of the younger boy’s attempts to get their mother talking, so he can avoid having to take his afternoon nap. “I heard Eunhae and Daehyun talking about it today.”

Jimin starts off as a distracted audience, then; only part of his attention paid to the conversation. After all, the issue of the One Piece comic he's reading is starting to get interesting. So, he sits on the floor, folded in front of the coffee table, hunched over his comic, barely listening to his eomma.

But then his mother answers, and her next words are thick with fondness so intense that Jimin’s heart that’s always been too big for his young body doesn’t stand a chance. "A soulmate is your other half. Like your Appa is my other half. Everyone has a soulmate of their own.”

And Jimin’s world stops.

Tiny eyes widen as his pudgy face tilts up from the comic he’s reading, and his gaze falls on his mother. The page slips from his fingers, and the gust of air from the fan blows the comic close. Jimin doesn’t make a move to re-open the book.

Other half. Like eomma and appa, whose love has always made Jimin feel all warm and fuzzy, hopeful for a version of it for himself.

“Everyone?” Jihyun squeaks as their mother cards her fingers through the younger one’s hair.

“Yes, everyone, including you.” She’s paying her youngest son affection, but her eyes remain on Jimin as if she's aware it's her firstborn's life she's about to change with her next words. "And when you and your soulmate have both turned thirteen, you'll have your first Switch.”

Jihyun, characteristic to the curiosity of a young boy, squirms in his mother's lap, and asks, "A switch? Like the light?"

Their mother chuckles, tapping Jihyun's nose, endeared. "No, sweetie. Switch is also another word for swap. Like if you and I would switch, it means what's mine becomes yours and what's yours becomes mine."

A pout pushes Jihyun's lower lip out. "I don't get it." He shakes his hair out of his eyes, and when his gaze falls to Jimin's abandoned comic, the younger boy lunges at it. He rolls off his mother's hold and sits beside Jimin, sliding the book in front of him to marvel at the art.

"Eomma?" Jimin snatches his mother's attention instead. "What do soulmates swap?"

It's as though their mother expects Jimin to ask the question. When she smiles then, the glint in her eyes is a mixture of excitement and endearment.

"Your five senses, sweetie." She pauses, letting the words sink in. "You'll Switch for five seconds, where everything you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel exchanges with your soulmate. For five seconds, they'll get yours, and you'll get theirs."

"But why?" Jimin asks, eyebrows furrowed in confusion, a buzzing humming in his veins.

In response, Eomma's recently vacated arms outstretch towards his direction, beckoning him into the embrace Jihyun has swapped for the spot on the floor. Wordlessly, Jimin gets up, plops down on the sofa, and curls up in his mother's arms. Familiar warmth envelopes him as he watches Jihyun take his previous place.

"I don't really know why, sweetie," Eomma answers as she now plays with Jimin's soft locks. "But you know what my own eomma told me when I was your age and I asked that question?"

Jimin hums, looking up, stars in his eyes. "What?"

"That it's because soulmates were once only one soul when they came to existence. But because human bodies can only handle one soul, they had to be split apart."

Jimin's lips fall into a tiny 'o'.

"So those two souls, which were originally just one, spend their existence longing for their other half." She nudges her son's chin. "When soulmates turn thirteen, they Switch because it's their soul's way to call on each other. Do you know what a map does, honey?"

"Yeah," Jimin answers immediately, sounding offended. Of course, he knows what a map does. He’s eight. "It helps me when I'm lost."

"Switches are like soulmates' maps. They help soulmates find their way back together."

The churning in Jimin’s veins become flutters in his tummy. The thought of the other half of his soul finding its way back to him filling his chest with a sensation he’s never felt before---an enticing mix of excitement and apprehension.

When Jimin’s expression soon twists into that of concentration, his mother watches, waiting for the question she anticipates is about to slip from her son’s lips.

"So why do I have to wait until I'm thirteen to start looking for mine?" A pout punctuates the boy's question. The excitement has won over the apprehension.

Another chuckle falls from his mother's throat. "Because that's when both of your souls will be ready to meet each other's."

Jimin wants to contradict, wants to say that he’s just eight, not yet thirteen, but he knows his soul is ready to meet his soulmate. He knows it because he feels it in the way goosebumps raise his skin, the way his young heart beats like an ecstatic drum against his ribs. But he keeps silent. Maybe his soul is ready to meet his soulmate already, but his soulmate’s soul might not be ready to meet his yet.

That’s okay, Jimin thinks. He can wait. He’s patient.

He can wait. He’ll wait however long he needs to.

 

So Park Jimin is eight years old when his life begins anew. And he's as young as eight years old on that night when he takes out his cute pink journal and begins his first entry about soulmates before he goes to bed.

He’s unaware that on that same, fateful night, his own soulmate’s life is about to change. That night, while Jimin is asleep in his bed in Busan, a young, broken soul in Daegu wails in agony, forced to call out for help, and its other half doesn’t hear it.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

A full month before his thirteenth birthday, Jimin begins the countdown to his first Switch. An 'X' appears on each rectangle of his calendar for every day that passes, bringing him closer to experiencing his soulmate's world for the first time.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

On the day of his thirteenth birthday, Park Jimin waits for the signs of the Switch. He stays at home, prepared, and waiting with every tick of the clock. But the day ends and so does the night, and the Switch doesn't happen.

Even so, as his clock chimes midnight, the fourteenth of October dawning, there's no dejection that fills his chest. There is only the realization that he has found out an especially important fact about his soulmate. Whoever they are, they're younger than Jimin. They're not thirteen yet; their soul is not ready to call out to his yet.

So Jimin begins counting the days anew, crossing squares off of his calendar before going to bed, waiting for the day when the Switch will happen, and he can finally mark the square as "Soulmate's birthday".

The days bleed into weeks, then morphs into months. And it's as the end of the twelfth month approaches that it happens. Two days before 2008 matures into 2009, late into the evening, Jimin feels it.

The Signs start with vibrations that skate over his skin, making him shiver while wrapped up in his fluffy Christmas sweater. Then, a soft ringing in his ears underlines the music coming from his radio. Next is the tingle on his tongue that resembles the pinch of his buds in the aftermath of a sour taste. A prickling behind his eyeballs comes next. The telltale signs of the Switch wash over him one at a time; the last of which is the smell of strawberries coated by the musk of morning dew – a scent that he’s learned from his readings is a smell unique to each soulmate.

His eyes fall to the date and the time flashing on his clock. Thirteen years to this day, on December 30, 1995, Jimin's soulmate was born. Jimin is two months and seventeen days older than his soulmate. Another wave of warmth washes over his heart, melting it in his chest.

There are ten seconds after the last of the Signs have faded before the Switch starts. And Jimin spends it by grabbing a piece of paper and a pen, scribbling a note for his soulmate to find. It's a habit he's read other people do, giving their soulmates a piece of information about themselves, something more than a glimpse.

The note he scribbles is concise, easy to read over the five short seconds his soulmate would be part of his world.

 

Hi. I’m Park Jimin. From Busan. I’m your soulmate.

 

There are three more seconds before the Switch. And he wonders if his soulmate is doing the same thing from their side, scribbling notes for him to find.

Three.

Two.

One.

The Switch happens. Jimin abandons his own senses, exchanges with those of his soulmate’s.

Notes from the song playing on Jimin's radio exchange with the hymns of crickets. The tangy scent of fruit invades his nose. The cocoon of thick fabric protects him from the cold of a winter evening's breeze. On his tongue, he feels the burst of a flavor: the sweet taste of strawberry.

It should overwhelm him, as most of the first Switches usually do, based on what he's heard. But the five seconds pass, and he barely registers what his four borrowed senses give him. All because he’s distracted by one startling fact. Jimin has wished his soulmate thought of scribbling him a note the way he has. But Jimin sees nothing.

In those five seconds of borrowed time, all he sees is darkness.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

His thirteenth birthday is a feared event in Taehyung’s life. While the milestone marks a memorable experience to many, it's a dreaded date for the young native of Daegu. The event fills him with so much apprehension that, for so long, he wished he could get a situation like his brother's.

Seokjin is nine months older than his own soulmate, Namjoon. It gave Seokjin nine months after his thirteenth birthday before his first Switch.

Taehyung wished for the same privilege.

In truth, nine months, or even nine years of delay aren’t enough. If it were his choice, and if it were possible, Taehyung would have wished not to get a soulmate at all. After all, he already suffers the burden that his pitiful existence brings him. Nobody deserves a soulmate like him.

But much like almost everything in his life, things don’t go according to his wishes.

As if Fate is laughing at his face, he doesn’t get nine months, not even nine days of delay from his thirteenth birthday. He doesn’t even get a single day of extension. It appears that his soulmate is older than him because right on the evening of his thirteenth birthday, Taehyung gets his first Switch.

A basket of strawberries sits beside him on the bench as he warms himself up in front of the fire pit on their back porch. His grandmother's greenhouses stretch in front of him, a controlled environment protecting their crops. His lips, coated with the red juice of strawberries, pout as he munches. He’s chewing on his fourth strawberry when the signs make themselves known.

Panic rises in him, thoughts of calling out to Seokjin invading his mind as the signs wash over him one by one.  His trembling hand outstretches sideways, fingers desperate as they seek the familiar coldness of a cane. The urge to run blazes in his veins despite knowing he can't escape from his Switch. In his haste, the stick slides down the bench. The clang that echoes following its landing deafens Taehyung. He sits there, frozen mid-action.

The smell of salt soon invades his nostrils, the scent of the ocean as waves dampen sand. It’s the last of the signs of a Switch. And then, the ten seconds begin.

He tries to hold on to it, to his resolve that having a soulmate is a luxury he does not deserve to enjoy. But then the crickets stop singing, the sound of nature replaced by the artificial sound of music cushioned by radio static. The tang of strawberries lifts from his tongue, replaced by the sugary taste of cookies. The smell of home invades his nostrils. Beneath his fingers, a smooth surface lies.

A crack appears in his resolve.

But it’s not these observations that hit him like a freight train; it’s the sudden burst of colors around him. There are Christmas lights, blinking different colors around him like rainbow fairies, remnants of the holiday that has passed them by.

Taehyung doesn’t know where to focus on. There’s stark clarity of different hues trying to snag his attention, colors from a life he’s long let go of. He's so overwhelmed that he doesn’t notice the message on the note tucked under his fingertips.

Five seconds aren’t nearly enough to register what he can see. But five seconds are all he gets.

When he comes back to his reality, tears sting his eyes immediately, sobs wracking his figure, and each soft wail bangs another crack on his walls.

Half a decade of his life spent telling himself that he won’t get attached to the effects of his soulbond, and all those years of effort come undone by the hand of his first Switch.

Seokjin must have been nearby because soon enough, Taehyung is hearing his older brother’s voice through his sobs. “Tae-yah, hey, hey, sweetie, what happened?”

Taehyung can't form an answer, not without telling Seokjin about his rejection of the soulbond. There may not be enough words to express how betrayed he feels by his heart at that moment. His heart still wants. His heart still yearns for everything he's spent years telling himself he shouldn't have.

But he still tries. Through his sobs, he gives a broken whisper of, “I Switched,” like it's the only explanation needed for his behavior.

And his mind continues what his lips could no longer push out: And it felt like I could breathe again.

Kim Taehyung was eight years old when his life, as he knew it, ended. And he's thirteen years old when he first feels the crack on the walls that he’s built around himself since his life changed.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

Jimin tries not to read too much into the event of his first Switch and not succumb to his apprehensive curiosity. It’s a difficult task, keeping the experience to himself, given that he’s been looking forward to it for so many years. But he holds his tongue, tries to distract himself from the thirtieth of December. In the end, he’s only able to appease himself with the assumption that the Switch caught his soulmate at an inappropriate time, and closing their eyes is the only way to keep their modesty intact.

In the coming months, he holds on to the excuse, gives his soulmate the benefit of the doubt before he reads into it. It’s only happened one time. It’s not a big deal, he tells himself.

And then the ninth of March 2009 rolls in, and a seed plants itself in Jimin’s mind.

He’s at a diner with Yoongi that afternoon, celebrating his friend’s birthday. It’s a humble celebration, as Yoongi hates making anything about himself a big deal. He doesn't even allow Jimin to get him a birthday present without complaining about it.

“It’s cheap, hyung, come on,” Jimin pleads, pushing the small box across the table to Yoongi. “You already didn’t let me buy you a present last year.”

The older one glares at the box like it’s the one to blame for all his problems. “I told you, you don’t need to.”

“Yeah, but I want to." Jimin pouts, hoping that the aegyo will go a long way. "You got me something for my birthday, it’s only right that I---”

Yoongi is quick to cut him off, his glare moving from the offending gift to Jimin's face. “That’s different, kid, I have a part-time job. I earn. You’re a student.”

“You talk as though the money you get in that job of yours is worth millions of won, hyung. Again, this gift is cheap. You’re the one that hates making things a big deal, so don’t make this into one. Just open it.”

The scowl on Yoongi's face intensifies. But, as if realizing that arguing back and forth won't make the gift disappear, he reaches for the box. “Fine," he says with a grumble, the word of acquiescence earning a tiny 'whoop!' from Jimin.

Hesitant fingers peel off the tape, careful to not rip the paper. Yoongi's about to unwrap the present when he stops mid-motion.

“Hyung? What’s up? Did you give yourself a papercut?” Asks Jimin, frowning again.

The response Yoongi gives is a curse under his breath. "Aisht." Then, he lifts a hand, signaling Jimin to give him a moment. His index finger presses on his lips, ordering the boy to keep quiet. And then, he closes his eyes.

Jimin tilts his head in confusion but doesn’t say a thing, waiting for Yoongi’s finger to fall away from his lips.

And when the finger does fall back on the table, a handful of seconds later, a sigh escapes through Yoongi's teeth.

“What just happened, Yoongi-hyung?” Jimin asks.

Between them, the gift lay forgotten.

“Switch…” is Yoongi’s only offer of an explanation.

“You closed your eyes,” Jimin says the obvious.

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want them to see anything that might tell them about me…”

Jimin freezes.

This information should not come as a surprise to Jimin, should not have left him speechless. After all, it’s not a secret that Yoongi doesn’t want anything to do with his soulmate. The older one loathes the idea that matters of his heart are not his to control, and that he doesn’t get to choose who belongs to him, and to whom he belongs.

But Jimin sits there, lips parting as a leaden weight lands on the pit of his stomach.

 

I don’t want them to see anything that might tell them about me…

 

And then, he thinks back to the thirtieth of December.

A dark seed burrows underneath Jimin’s consciousness, and sprouts negativity, giving him a bad feeling for his next Switch.

 

Jimin tries to hold on to the hope that, no, his soulmate couldn’t be sharing the same thoughts as Yoongi. Months pass, the days speeding up until October screeches to a halt in front of Jimin. And every day of October that passes from then starts passing in the slowest fashion days have ever passed in his life. It’s a stark opposite to the rush of the previous months. He utters one prayer then: Please… don’t let my soulmate hate me…

 

The thirteenth day of October arrives. At half-past nine in the evening, as he’s standing in front of the sink, gazing at the mirror, toothbrush dangling from his mouth, fourteen-year-old Jimin feels the Switch landing.

There’s the smell of strawberries again, definitely his soulmate’s distinctive soulbond scent.

This time, there’s soft cotton brushing against skin, soft clothes wrapping around his soulmate’s figure.

There's soft jazz music playing in the background.

The taste of toothpaste continues to coat his tongue, only… it’s with a bite of strawberry flavoring.

And once again, there’s nothing but darkness.

The five seconds end and Jimin crashes back into his own body as his own sensations come back to him. His mind flashes back to a memory from months past.

 

‘You closed your eyes… why?’

‘I don’t want them to see anything that might tell them about me...’

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

Two months later, on the birthday of Jimin’s soulmate, the next Switch happens.

At this point, he’s come to ignore what he hears, feels, smells, and tastes. There’s only one of the five senses he still cares about at this point.

Again, there’s darkness.

On that night of December 2009, Jimin cries himself to sleep.

He was eight years old when his eomma told him that come the age of thirteen, his soulmate would be ready to call to him. It seems that while Jimin has his arms held outwards, welcoming, his soulmate has no plans to come running to him.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

The long wait between December and October is very painful. Not once, not twice, not even only ten times, Taehyung finds himself yearning for another Switch against his better judgment. But months come and go, the first quarter of 2009 fading, and then the second, and still… no Switch.

Taehyung waits, replaying in his memory the experience of exchanging senses with his soulmate over and over as if doing so would attract the coming of the next Switch. By the time it does happen, he’s like an addict denied his next hit for so long.

Unlike before, there’s no burst of color this time. Christmas decorations won't come up until November, so there aren’t colorful decorations hanging. The Switch also seems to have caught them both at a mundane time.

Plainness surrounds Taehyung when he settles, the bathroom painted only with one hue. The taste and the smell of toothpaste stay in his mouth, remains tickling his nostrils, but spearmint replaces the familiar tang of strawberry on the paste. His fingers feel the bubbly touch of toothpaste suds.

Taehyung’s soulmate is a messier brusher than him, he finds out.

And then there’s the mirror.

By the time Taehyung notices it, there are three seconds left on the clock before his own senses come back. But those three seconds feel like an eternity as his hungry vision takes in the features of his soulmate.

It’s a boy. Taehyung’s soulmate is a boy with dark hair that looks so soft, he yearns to reach out and touch the strands. His face is a little on the pudgy side, his cheeks looking very squishy. His eyes are tiny, shaped like parallelograms. The lips wrapped around his toothbrush are plump, looking as soft as his cheeks.

Taehyung stares and thinks this, this boy, might be what the word beautiful means.

Then, the five seconds end; and Taehyung can’t help the whine of longing that squeezes past his throat. His hand reaches over, out of delayed reaction to the urge that he’s been feeling while trapped in his soulmate’s unmoving body. He wants to reach out, wants to touch. But the moment is over, his soulmate is gone, and Taehyung is left with nothing but the image of beauty burned into his eyelids.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

In the next two months, he relives the short moment, mundane though it might be, repeatedly in his dreams. So much that he wishes the next time the Switch comes, there’s a mirror again.

He wants to be able to see beauty again.

December 30, 2009 happens and there are no mirrors. His soulmate isn’t even doing anything out of the ordinary. He’s laying in bed, possibly waiting for sleep to come.

And, not for the first time, Taehyung wishes he could reach up, even just to touch his soulmate’s face. To feel his cute eyes, his soft cheeks, to brush his fingertips along the boy’s plump lips.

It’s his birthday, he bargains. Maybe, if he wishes hard enough, he can move?

But he can’t. Five seconds pass, and he’s back in his own body.

That night, Taehyung realizes that, ever since he first Switched, he's been doing the exact same thing he's tried so hard not to do before: he's been yearning for something he can’t have.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

It’s the morning of October 13, 2010, and Jimin has been awake for a minute before he feels the signs of a Switch touching the edges of his consciousness. He’s still too groggy to do anything but keep lying in bed, eyes cast up to his pale-yellow ceiling. His glow-in-the-dark stars of all sizes wink down at him, yellow-green and pale. His blanket curls around his legs like a bundle of snakes, the taste of sleep lingering on his tongue.

He tells himself he doesn’t move because he’s still too sleepy. But the bite of rejection that claws at his chest, the same pang of sadness that lingers around him during the tenth and twelfth months, begs to differ. He can try to fool himself as hard as he wants, but the truth remains: he doesn’t feel the need to give his soulmate a piece of himself anymore. Not when they don’t even seem to want it.

The signs fade one at a time, and the Switch catches.

There's no significant difference in what Jimin senses. He’s still on a bed, the covers and pillows around his soulmate softer than his own.

His soulmate's lips must be agape, jaw slack, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth because the taste that lingers in their mouth complements the smell of morning breath that wafts to their nose.

It’s dark again. And had it not been for the knowledge that a Switch never happens when one party is asleep, Jimin would have assumed his soulmate is still sleeping. Hence, the closed eyes. But the occurrence has been repetitive for months now, same as how Yoongi has been keeping at it. The truth is too blatant to ignore.

Just then, the sound of a door opening pierces the quiet room. The sound of a newcomer’s voice hugs Jimin’s hearing, distracting him from his train of thought.

He doesn’t know who this person might be, but whoever he is, he blesses Jimin with the first piece of new information about his soulmate in two years.

“Taehyung-ah,” the person, a boy, says. “Time to get up.”

Finally, Jimin learns the name of his soulmate.

 

Taehyung…

 

Unbidden, he smiles the moment the Switch wanes. It’s only a name, but it erases months' worth of sadness as if the negative emotions never existed in the first place.

In the wake of the excitement that buzzes in his veins at finding out one more thing about his soulmate, he forgets the months of doubt. It doesn't even occur to him that hearing his soulmate's name may be a mere accident. He's too starved for information that he doesn't realize that the incident is out of his soulmate's control. It doesn't bump his mind that the event still isn't proof that his soulmate wants him.

Too drunk from the sound of the name Taehyung, all Jimin can think about then is that treating his soulmate to a glimpse of his bland ceiling is not as valuable as getting their name.

“Taehyung…” Jimin whispers, his tongue cradling the syllables, his raspy voice curling the letters. And he giggles.

Taehyung… such a beautiful name…

What a wonderful birthday gift.

At that moment, Jimin decides. On Taehyung’s birthday, he’s going to give his soulmate a gift as valuable as a name.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

It’s a simple gift, Jimin thinks. He can't even give the gift to his soulmate, considering they don’t know each other. But Jimin spent so much time thinking of the best gift he could give Taehyung. In the end, he settles for something that Taehyung's borrowed senses can experience.

The moment Jimin feels the signs of the Switch, he hurries over in front of the mirror in their lounge and places the strawberry cake he's asked his eomma's help to bake. He lights up the candles, swiping a bit of the icing and a small piece of strawberry, and pops it into his mouth. His teeth bite on the fruit until the flavor bursts on his tongue, mixing with the sugary frosting. Snapping a party hat on top of his head, he clicks play on the Happy Birthday Song that he recorded himself singing, the timing now perfect after so much practice, just in time for the Switch to finally catch.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

Taehyung doesn’t know what to expect this time. With how contented he's been even with the simplest of Switches, he believes his soulmate could keep doing mundane things, and the younger would still think it's the best day he's ever had.

His soulmate, though, seems to dislike doing nothing.

Instead, he likes doing a lot.

When they Switch this time, Taehyung experiences sensory overload.

He’s aware first of the taste of strawberry on his tongue, mixed with the sugary taste and smooth feel of frosting. That's when the fluttering butterflies in his stomach begin their flight ( or is it his soulmate feeling butterflies in his own stomach, and Taehyung is merely experiencing the second-hand emotions? He can’t tell… ), the moment he feels the sticky frosting clinging to a fingertip, realizing that his dear soulmate must have been eating frosting and strawberry so he could share its taste with Taehyung. And just from this, he already feels his heart inflating. His soulmate has paid enough attention to their switches to figure out how much he loves strawberries.

There’s a cake, a strawberry cake with one slice of fruit missing and a fingertip-sized swipe of missing frosting, proving Taehyung's hunch. A candle stands in the middle of the cake, the flame licking at the wick.

The mesmerizing dance of the flame, orange and yellow kissing, would have stolen Taehyung’s full attention, had it not been for the sight of a mirror standing behind the cake. Up there, on the glassy surface, frozen in the five seconds of a Switch, his soulmate’s reflection looks back at him, his smile wide.

His eyes pinch into crescents with the gravity of that bright smile.

Beautiful.

There’s only one thought in Taehyung's mind as he stares. He’s so mesmerized, he almost doesn’t register what he hears. He catches it only as the Switch is about to fade.

“Happy birthday… dear Taehyung…”

And then the moment is over.

But Taehyung sits on his bed, mouth agape, surprise pulling at his features. He knows. His soulmate knows his name.

How?

He wants to ask, but as he comes down from the high of the Switch, everything lands in a crash. His soulmate’s birthday surprise was perfect, so perfect even to the tiniest details. He’s gotten a cake made up of Taehyung’s favorite fruit, and even made sure that Taehyung will be able to enjoy its taste even only for five seconds. The older boy has also given him another glimpse of the most beautiful image he’s ever gazed upon --- his reflection. And how long, how much effort, must he have put to ensure that Taehyung will hear him sing the birthday song?

It’s perfect. Everything is perfect. His soulmate is perfect.

Too perfect, too good.

And that thought brings Taehyung’s whole world to a screeching halt. Tears begin to prick behind his eyes, his chest tightening with a million emotions filling them. And his head echoes only one realization: his soulmate is good.

His soulmate is too good for him.

As bright as the sun, as beautiful as the stars.

His heart wants, his soul yearns, his body longs for his soulmate.

But his mind… his mind knows better.

He’s doing it again, doing what he promised not to do. He’s chasing something he can’t have, something he shouldn’t have.

His soulmate is too good for him. And he doesn’t deserve him.

He’s too good to be stuck with a person like Taehyung.

His soulmate deserves better than his soul to cling to. The sun and the stars deserve something better than a damaged moon with its craters and its dark side, always just siphoning brightness from the sun.

Tears fall between his tightly closed lids no matter how hard he holds them shut. One drop after the other, until there’s a steady stream flowing down his cheeks.

On the day of Taehyung’s fifteenth birthday, he cries. He cries as hard as he cried when he lost what he held most dear, and the grief that claws at his chest makes him feel as though he’s losing everything all over again.

He’s been too greedy, leeching off the happiness his soulmate gives him, and he’s forgotten the painful truth he’s drilled into himself for years: he doesn’t deserve to live a happy life.

 

When the tears finally dry up, hours later, he makes a new promise, renews the vow he’d broken. No, he can’t take anything else from his soulmate, not anymore.

This must stop…

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

Jimin, of course, doesn’t have any grand expectations for the Switch of Taehyung’s fifteenth birthday. After all, his soulmate doesn’t know about the surprise. And it’s not like Jimin did it with a desire for something in return. It’s a thank you for the gift of his name.

He expects nothing from the Switch of December 30th, 2010.

But Jimin is also weak, a boy that’s waited for years to connect with his soulmate. So while he expects nothing from 2010, he does expect there to be a change for his sixteenth birthday.

When he arranged the surprise for Taehyung, he wasn’t asking to get a birthday surprise of his own. But he was wishing for their situation to get better.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

Come October 13, 2011, something does change.

No, the darkness doesn’t lift. Like always, it’s dark, pitch black. But it’s not just that. Apart from getting robbed of his sense of sight once more, there’s also no sound. He hears nothing, and the stuffed feeling, where Taehyung’s ears are, tells Jimin he must have stuffed clay in there for there to be this much silence.

Taehyung’s jaws lock, clenched tight, his mouth tasting bland. There are no lingering smells anymore. And his body is so rigid, the sense of touch is also of no help at all.

For five seconds, Jimin feels like he’s stuck in limbo. There are five seconds, and for those short moments, there is absolutely nothing.

Jimin has given Taehyung everything, and Taehyung shows his gratitude with nothing.

The Switch fades, and, as always, Jimin tries not to jump to conclusions. He tries to cling tightly to his shock, to his confusion to try and push away the negativity he hasn’t felt since his last birthday.

But he fails.

As he comes back down from the Switch, and completely settles back into his own body, there’s only one feeling that’s hammering hard in his heart as it breaks: betrayal.

Unbidden, his thoughts flit back to the pain he suffers every day. He thinks of all the insults.

He’s so fat, look at his face, it’s too pudgy.

What kind of hair is that? Who whipped out a rusty pair of scissors and chopped chunks of his fringe?

That flat nose looks so stupid in the middle of that ugly face.

He thinks then that maybe he’s shown his soulmate his face one too many times.

And in the sea of all the insults that echo in his head, there’s one set that reverberates the loudest.

You’re so ugly, who’d you think will want you?

His soulmate, maybe? Person’s got no choice.

Pfffttt, I wouldn’t be so sure. Maybe not even his soulmate would want him. Haven’t heard him talking about a soulmate to anyone. Does your soulmate want you, little Jimmy?

Hmmm. Can’t even answer, huh? Guess not. Maybe that should tell you how stupid you look.

 

Two months later, anger replaces the feeling of betrayal that’s taken home in Jimin’s heart.

They Switch again for Taehyung’s birthday, and much like Jimin's, there’s nothing. There's clay stuffed in Taehyung's ears, completely preventing any kind of sound from touching the borrowed hearing. His eyes are still closed, the darkness now familiar to Jimin. He’s unmoving as usual, but the motionlessness isn’t merely from the touch of the Switch, no. The rigidity is born from reluctance, tension. Jimin feels Taehyung’s muscles are taut as if the Switch is unwelcome.

Once again, Jimin is surrounded by nothing.

This time, when he comes back to consciousness, his teeth grind together, his jaw muscles clenching in anger.

Well, Taehyung, if that’s the game you want to play, then so be it. Two can play that…

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

When his soulmate begins giving Taehyung the same treatment the latter has been giving, Taehyung forces himself to find comfort in the limbo they share. He no longer hears anything, feels, taste, or smell anything. The darkness he’s been so familiar with also replaces the bursts of colors his soulmate has been treating him to in the previous years.

Taehyung tells himself it’s for the best. It erases expectations. It tells his soulmate he can never get anything good from Taehyung, so he should stop giving him anything as well.

It’s only fair, right? Right?

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

Soon, Jimin has enough of hearing people calling him ugly and fat. He starts working out, begins to care more about how he looks than how he feels. He exercises more than he eats; and counts the way his face has turned gaunt as a sign of a job well done. And when he faints, well, that’s just a consequence of looking good, right? Beauty is pain, they say, and Jimin begins to believe it.

The loose, comfortable sweaters he used to wear make their way to the back of his closet one-by-one, replaced by tank tops, muscle tees, and tight pants and shorts that show off his thick thighs. His wardrobe gains snapbacks he always wears backward. All because it makes him look cooler.

He gives up ballet and begins to dance hip-hop. His giggles are replaced by boisterous laughter that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. But because showcasing his hard-earned abs in their dance choreography and acting like he’s about to throw fists every time someone so much as teases him gains him attention, it makes him think it’s all okay. It makes him think that the hollow feeling in his chest every night after a tiring day at school will eventually go away.

When he gets attention, he pats himself on the back. When those same people who used to call him ugly begin giving him approving nods, Jimin takes it as validation. He fails to see that the only thing that playing to their standards validates is their opinions of him and their hold on him.

He pretends that preening under all that praise is a sign that he’s no longer thirsty for the approval of one more person. He pretends that his thoughts of, I’ll show you how good I can look; I’ll show you what you’re missing; I’ll make you regret what you rejected, are brought up by nothing but pettiness, and not desperation for the validation of the one person he wants it from.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

2011 turns to 2012, then to 2013. The months come and go, becoming years. And both Jimin and Taehyung go back to living their lives the same way they have before they first Switched. Except, there’s one big difference: there’s a gaping hole in their chest, where only half of a heart sits, the other half missing.

They hold it, each other’s missing half of a heart, clutched in their hands for two different reasons. Taehyung holds on to half of Jimin’s, refusing to fuse it with his, for fear that the rottenness he believes his heart has will poison it. Jimin holds on to half of Taehyung’s heart in anger, believing that Taehyung is holding on to his with cruelty. And if Taehyung refuses to give his heart back, then he won’t give Taehyung back his either.

They don’t talk to their family or friends about the events of the past years. The only hint others get that something isn’t right are the outbursts.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

February 18th of 2013 finds Jimin and Yoongi with Jungkook at the studio where Yoongi works. They’re all in Seoul now---Yoongi for his job, and Jimin for university, where the younger one met Jungkook.

The oldest of the three is struggling to meet a deadline, refusing to take a break to rest or even eat. It leaves the dongsaeng and maknae with no choice but to force their hyung to eat.

It's while Yoongi is trying to get his younger friends to lay off him that it happens. Much like before, he cuts off mid-sentence as soon as the signs of a Switch starts. A sigh slips past his lips before he's placing his finger on them again, shushing the other two.

Jimin freezes once he realizes what’s happening. The whispers of anger begin to bubble in the pit of his stomach.

As this is his first time witnessing Yoongi’s Switch, Jungkook doesn’t shush. Driven by curiosity, questions flow from his lips as the ten seconds of delay trickle down.

Yoongi’s patience wears thin. He turns to Jimin, his voice sharp. “Would you shut him up, Jimin, he can’t be talking like this when it happens, my soulmate will hear---”

And that’s what triggers it.

A tightly-clenched fist slams on the desk, rattling the equipment on it. Jimin’s face twists in rage as he pins Yoongi with a look, his eyes blazing with accusations that mingle with disgust. “Why don't you just answer his damn questions, then, if you want him to shut up?! Go on, explain to him why you keep robbing your soulmate of their Switches!"

Shocked and confused at the sudden outburst, Jungkook mumbles, "Jimin-hyung?"

"That's what he does, Jungkook! Every time they Switch, he closes his eyes, he shuts everyone up. Because he doesn't want to share anything with his soulmate."

Yoongi is looking at Jimin, the fire in his eyes white-hot with irritation.

"What? If you trust your reasons enough to keep doing it, then you shouldn't have problems explaining them yourself!" He holds Yoongi's gaze, counting the seconds, unblinking. It’s an unspoken dare for Yoongi to keep his eyes open through his Switch. In the end, Yoongi's eyelids still flutter shut.

Jimin, fuming, disappointed, and betrayed all over again, stomps away with a huff. The door bangs shut on his way out.

Yoongi sighs the moment his Switch ends, looking at the door Jimin walked out of. The younger's eyes shone with the look of betrayal too intense for it to really be about Yoongi. As his lips purse in a tight smile at Jungkook, who still looks bewildered, he knows there's something Jimin hasn't been telling him.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

April 2013, meanwhile, is when Seokjin learns his lesson the hard way in his attempt to change Taehyung’s opinion of soulmates after finding out that his younger brother has no plans of finding his.

“Soulmates are meant to be with you, Taehyung-ah. Just look at me and Namjoonie.” The conversation starts casually enough as they lounge in their living room, Taehyung sat on an armchair as he listens to an audiobook while Seokjin fiddles with his phone, leaning against the arm of the couch.

“Hyung, my soulmate and I aren’t like you and Namjoon-hyung," Taehyung speaks over his audiobook "And we’ll never be like you, so, please, drop it.”

“Come on, don’t say that. You haven’t even met your soulmate outside your Switches. You wouldn’t know until you’ve met---”

“I already know how it’s going to go, hyung!” Taehyung’s voice rumbles over the droning narration from his tablet. And the beginnings of frustration creep onto his syllables. “Whatever I begin with my soulmate is going to end, it has to. And it’s not going to end well because I don’t deserve anything other than that---"

“Taehyung! Don’t say that---”

“You can deny it all you want, hyung, but it’s not going to change that it’s true! My soulmate deserves better than me, and he’s going to realize that eventually. So why not cut the whole thing short and save us both the effort since he’s inevitably going to realize that he doesn’t want me, anyway? Nobody’s gonna want me.”

“That’s not true, if he really cares about you, which he will, he will want you. Your family wants you, and your soulmate is going to be the same---”

“Yes, my family. The family with its first half, dead, and the other half stuck with me. Did everyone a favor with that, huh?! Do you think I want my soulmate to be stuck with me too, hyung? I don’t! I’m dragging you and Namjoon-hyung down enough as it is.” It’s the closest Taehyung has ever been to admitting the reasons behind his rejection of his soulmate. And he feels himself shaking, trembling at the phantom cold filling the cavity left by the missing half of his heart.

Seokjin's voice trembles with a mixture of appalment and panic, back straightening up like a rod. “I’m not stuck with you! You’re not dragging me and Namjoon down! How could you say that?!”

But Taehyung is having none of it. His head turns in the direction of Seokjin’s voice. His expression is cold, blank as if his mind is made after a long time thinking about his next words. It's as if this conversation has filled his head for years. “If you're not stuck with me, then why are you still here in Daegu with me, your future on hold, and I can hear you crying at night, missing Namjoon-hyung, who's in Seoul right now, living the life I'm preventing you to live?" He pauses only a second after his question, only enough time for the words to sink in, instead of giving Seokjin a chance to reply. "Don’t lie to my face and tell me I'm not a burden, hyung. Not while you're still rooted here with me."

Shocked, and his head spinning, Seokjin mumbles, “Taehyung…”

“Or is that the plan, hyung? Find the person who’s meant to take care of me, so you can be free from the burden of me?”

“What?” The horror in Seokjin’s voice pushes the words out in a screech. “Taehyung, course not!”

“Then, please, stop pushing me to my soulmate. I’ll find another way to set you free without dragging my soulmate down with me instead. I just need more time.”

Seokjin wants to keep arguing, keep telling his brother he’s not a burden. But the lump in his throat prevents more words from coming out, a lump formed from the feeling of betrayal that, after all these years, his brother could still think he wants to be rid of him.

 

It’s almost out of pettiness when Seokjin starts looking for a place in Seoul to move to. Just to prove to his brother that he’s not putting anything on hold because of him.

 

Several months later, the Kim brothers are moving to Seoul. Their farm in Daegu that they inherited from their grandparents sold, part of the money taking care of the cost for the apartment they took, close to where Namjoon lives. They split the other part, one half going to Taehyung’s savings account, and the other half spent for Seokjin’s culinary classes and saved up for the restaurant the eldest Kim hopes to open one day.

It’s not the kind of decision-making Seokjin thought he’d ever do. It's hasty and impulsive. But if it stops his brother from thinking he’s a burden, if it pushes Taehyung to try and do the same for himself --- just take life by the reins and do things without being afraid of the consequences, then so be it.

Seokjin learns then, that while Taehyung loves literature, bleeds thoughts, and stitches them into words, he doesn’t like talking about his heart, doesn’t listen to what people tell him. Seokjin learns that the best way to convince his brother is through example, through experiences.

 

It’s the last time they ever talk about Taehyung’s soulmate. But not the last time Seokjin wonders about the other person’s existence.

When Namjoon moves in with them a few more months later, they talk about Taehyung’s soulmate when they know Taehyung can’t hear.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

2014 heralds in another lick of change. This time, it’s almost an accident. Almost.

In the past three years, there’s been nothing but the void that Taehyung and Jimin exchange with each other, limbos coated in emptiness.

It’s an hour before midnight, before Jimin’s birthday ends with the thirteenth morphing into the fourteenth of October. He’s in a dark room, the vibrations of deep bass rumbling through the walls as the party ramps up, a party that his dance troupe threw for his birthday---though if he’s being honest, he thinks they just used his birthday as an excuse to throw a party.

His back is pressed tightly against the wall, the vibrations from it throbbing through his body and pulling a desperate moan from his throat.

Fifteen hours, that’s how long he’s been pretending that he isn’t waiting for the telltale signs of his Switch. There’s nothing to wait for anyway, he lies to himself. There’s always just darkness and the empty void, numbness. So, why wait? He forces the thoughts in his head, acts so hard. But the truth doesn’t change: it’s the desperation to fool himself into believing that he doesn’t care about his soulmate anymore that led him to the arms of the man he’s clinging to at that moment.

The Signs make themselves known, the familiar ringing, thrumming, the smell of strawberries that are so, so, inherently Taehyung. And Jimin should have pushed Taemin away, should have paused what they’re doing, even just for the duration of his Switch. But instead, he fists his fingers tighter around Taemin’s collar, pulling him closer, his free hand cupping the back of the other man’s head, urging him to keep sucking bruises into his neck, to keep marking him, just to prove that he’s not Taehyung’s.

He’s so desperate to get rid of his soulmate’s hold on him that he even ignores the fact that the very reason he even took notice of Taemin is that he heard a dongsaeng calling Taemin, 'Tae-hyung!’ in the quad one day.

“Lift me up,” Jimin growls as his ten seconds tick by, the smell of strawberries intensifying. You don’t own me! I don’t care about you anymore! He screams in his head. And he pretends it’s not the taste of a lie that settles on his tongue as he closes his eyes, throws his head back with another moan.

The Switch finally takes over and he’s once again engulfed by nothing…

 

In another part of Seoul, Taehyung lays in bed, wide awake, his ears stuffed with his earplugs when his senses leave him, and his soulmate’s take over.

There’s darkness again, so, so familiar, now for more reasons than one. But it’s all the other senses that hit Taehyung like a bolt of lightning, awakening his consciousness more than any shot of adrenaline could.

On his tongue is the bitter taste of alcohol. His sense of hearing is almost overwhelmed by the loud echoes of music that he can also feel vibrating against his back. He smells alcohol around him too, but it’s not just that. There’s something thicker in the air, a scent so intense it almost chokes him too. It’s not until Taehyung feels a roll of hips against his, followed by a broken moan, that he realizes what the smell is---sex.

v~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SKIP~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~v

And, just like that, Taehyung’s drowning in sensory overload. The alcohol on his tongue is bitter, too bitter, and he hates it. The music blaring around him is too loud, too much, he loathes it. There’s hardness canting up against a similar tightness that he feels in his soulmate’s jeans, and Taehyung doesn’t want it. But what he hates the most is the sting of pain that he feels on his soulmate’s neck as bruises are sucked into it. The disgust coils in his gut, making his skin crawl.

^~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SKIP~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~^

“Jimin…” the other guy grunts, soft, but Taehyung catches it, every damn syllable of it, so clearly, it’s the sound of that name that drowns out the sound of the party.

This isn’t how Taehyung expected to learn his soulmate’s name.

The Switch ends and Taehyung is slammed back into his own body.

v~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SKIP~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~v

He barely manages to roll onto his side, barely evades his bedding, before he’s throwing up by the side of his bed. The acrid taste of vomit is more welcome than the bitter taste of alcohol that still seems to linger. The bass of the party’s music no longer thumps against his ears, but in its wake echoes a different sound---Jimin… Jimin… Jimin---his soulmate’s name moaned by someone else.

^~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SKIP~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~^

“Jimin,” Taehyung squeezes out of his throat, still sore from heaving. The sound of the name is a plea. “Jimin,” he desperately repeats, trying to cleanse his memory of the way the name sounded in another man’s voice, the way it sounded so wrong.

“Jimin…” he says again, and barely stops himself from tacking in the please at the end of it. He clutches at his chest, the pain almost unbearable, and for the first time in years, lets his soul ask for something from his soulmate: please give back my heart… please give it back… you’re just breaking it…

 

Back at the party, Jimin is slammed back into his own reality, and the moment he’s back, he slumps against Taemin, the dead weight of a broken person.

“Jimin?” Taemin asks in worry, pulling away as the haze of arousal is cleared away and replaced by concern.

Jimin pushes him away and he’s set back down on his feet. “I’m sorry, Taemin-hyung…” he begins, and he thinks his apology should be given to someone else, whose name’s last syllable isn’t min. “I can’t do this… I… I need you to leave…”

“I… don’t understand. What’s going on, Jimin? Are you okay? Did I do something wrong?”

“No, you didn’t…” I did! “Just… I just need to be alone, please. I had a… a Switch.”

“Oh.” The worry doesn’t leave the other man’s features, concern still visible from the weak light of the nightstand lamp. But understanding floats underneath the surface. “Are you sure? That it’s okay for me to leave you alone here?”

“Yes, please, it’s… it’s what I need…”

So it’s what he is given. Taemin leads him to the bed, sits him down, and, with a gentle pat to his knee, leaves him alone in the room.

Jimin says he needs to be alone, but, as the door closes, he knows there’s something else he needs. Or… someone.

And that’s when the tears finally come, sobs wracking his tiny, hunched frame as the guilt comes crashing down. He tries to tell himself he did nothing wrong. His soulmate didn’t want anything to do with him, it’s not as though he was cheating on Taehyung. They’re not a thing, just two people who happen to share senses twice a year. Taehyung has gone through so many lengths just to prove that, hasn’t he? If anything, getting proof that Jimin has moved on from him should give the other boy some relief now, right? He no longer has to worry about Jimin trying to chase after him.

Right?

Jimin tells himself it’s okay.

But then why? Why is it that when Jungkook opens the door several minutes later, possibly found by Taemin and told that Jimin would need someone eventually, Jimin only cries harder? Why is it that when he clutches at the younger boy’s collar, he feels apologies after apologies begging to be released in between his sobs?

He’s only doing what Taehyung wants him to do. But if this is the right thing to do… then why does it hurt so much?

The answer doesn’t come until much, much later, when Jungkook has brought Jimin back home and it’s no longer the thirteenth of October.

It hurts because what Taehyung wants… isn’t what Jimin wants…

Taehyung wants him to let go. Jimin wants to hold on tighter.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

The guilt lingers. It stays for a long time, past a couple of days, a few weeks. It stays with Jimin for a couple of months. And not even the trip to Australia with his parents for Christmas and New Year’s is distracting him from the regret that eats away at his edges.

It stays until the thirtieth of December 2014.

A coincidence, that’s what a skeptic like Yoongi would call it. But Jimin, a soul that’s thirsting for a chance to make something right, would later call it the gentle hand of Fate offering him a little push, a small chance to fix what he’s broken.

It’s common for people to still be sexually active even though they haven’t found their soulmates yet. Hook-ups are still a thing. But hooking up with someone who isn’t your soulmate while you haven’t found them is a different thing than slapping it on their faces during a Switch. Taehyung isn’t his boyfriend, Jimin is very, very much, aware of that. Still, Taehyung hadn’t asked to feel all that firsthand during their Switch that night. It was not consensual, and it was wrong. Jimin has done something wrong, all in his desperation to prove that Taehyung doesn’t own him.

So, he wakes up early that day, like habit has whipped him into for the past years. His soulmate doesn’t wake up until seven in the morning, half-past seven, to be exact, as that’s the earliest they’ve ever Switched. So, he spends the early hours, jogging, taking his phone with him for directions, to ensure he won’t get lost in a foreign place. He takes the chance to walk around to clear his head, to anchor himself after weeks of swaying above stormy waves.

It’s forty minutes past five o’clock when he finds the park, cricket wings still singing in the wind. He finds a bench, sits down, and tries to catch his breath.

The place is peaceful, and it grants him the clarity he’s craving as he’s looking at the horizon, feeling so small and humbled by the vastness of nature. Right there, surrounded by a sudden and intense awareness of the universe, he feels like his mistakes, his decisions are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It helps fight the emotions overwhelming him since his birthday. The thoughts that his mistakes won’t cause the end of the world ease his worries even a little bit. And makes him think that maybe, just maybe, he can still do something to correct it; that it’s still not too late to correct his mistakes.

Jimin doesn’t expect anything to happen then. He’s content just letting the budding light from the horizon bathe him one ray at a time. But almost twenty minutes into his rest at the park, still sitting at the bench, with the cricket sounds dying, replaced by the chirping of early birds this time, he feels it: the Signs of a Switch.

He doesn’t have time to wonder why it happens so early, why his soulmate is awake in the wee hours of the morning, it should only be past three in the morning in Korea. Ten seconds aren’t nearly enough time to figure that out. It is, however, enough for him to make a decision.

It’s almost too easy to choose what to do. It’s only two options, as always: close his eyes like his soulmate does every time? Or offer another piece of himself. He thinks back to two months ago, looks around at the peace that surrounds him at that park, alone, with the sun peeking from the horizon. Any moment now, he would switch senses with his soulmate. The choice is easy.

Though he feels in that moment that his mistakes would not end the world, he’s aware that they could cause his world to tilt on its axis, skewing it even worse. Maybe Taehyung wouldn’t even care about what happened, maybe it’s just him that’s troubling himself with these dark thoughts. But he cannot do nothing, not when he knows he’s made a mistake. Even if Taehyung doesn’t care enough to pay that incident as much worry as Jimin has, the latter still needs to correct it. If not for Taehyung, then for himself.    

It’s been a year since he’s started trying to think for himself again, undoing the harm he’s done to his identity in his early teenage years by succumbing to the pressure of what others think he should be. That night of his nineteenth birthday was a blip in the canvas of his hard work. He has been doing well before then, and he can’t let it undo all his efforts.

He doesn’t like the person he’s become because of the anger he’s been holding on to between him and Taehyung. It’s time to let go of the unspoken war between them. Maybe Taehyung still won’t let go of it on his side, but what the last two months have taught Jimin is that he has to let go. For his own sake, for his own peace of mind.

When Jimin Switches with Taehyung, he keeps his eyes open…

Jimin doesn’t realize when the tears escape his eyelashes and washes down his cheeks. All he can think about is his plea to his soulmate…

Please… accept this… I’m so sorry… Can we start again?

 

Sleep has evaded him for hours. Try as he might, Taehyung couldn’t sleep. It’s the thirtieth of December now, it’s his birthday. It has been his birthday for almost four hours, and he still hasn’t gotten a blink of rest, the dread coiling around his gut preventing slumber from taking over.

He and Jimin would Switch again today, and the mere thought of that, coupled with memories of the previous Switch, is enough to keep Taehyung wide awake.

That year, 2014, they Switch at the earliest time they’ve ever Switched.

The Signs come and Taehyung feels fear curl in the pit of his stomach, scared of what he’ll find once he and Jimin exchange senses. Years ago, during their first rounds, these two Switches per year were events he waited for, anticipated through months and months. But this time, he closes his eyes and wishes for nothing. He wishes to feel nothing, see nothing, hear, smell, and taste nothing. After all, their limbo, their empty void, is still much better than what he was subjected to in their previous Switch.

After ten seconds, Taehyung is back in Jimin’s senses.

Birds’ chirps flit to Taehyung’s hearing, harmonized by the muted sounds of early morning. The wind is a cool breeze against his skin, but the budding rays of the sun are beginning to cast mild warmth to counter the bite of the morning air. Wherever Jimin is, it’s not as cold as where Taehyung is. Jimin’s lips are parted in awe, the morning dew a weight of freshness on his tongue.

And then Taehyung finds out the view that captivated Jimin so much that his lips parted.

Right in front of him, framed by trees lining the sides, is a view of the sunrise, the glowing orb of light peeking from the horizon. Orange and yellow mingle with the lightening blue of the sky.

Taehyung has never seen anything so captivating.

In Jimin’s chest, his heart hammers. But there’s a weight in its beats. And as the five seconds of their Switch fades, Taehyung deciphers the tightness curling around Jimin’s heart. He figures it out while the taste of salt bursts on his tongue from the tear that slips from Jimin’s cheek through his parted lips.

He’s just coming down, settling back into himself, his own sensations replacing those he borrowed from Jimin. And he translates what he felt.

Jimin could have closed his eyes, could have selfishly kept that view for himself. But he didn’t. His eyes were wide open, taking in every detail, every stroke of color, every touch of orange and every brush of yellow, and offers it to Taehyung like an olive branch.

Taehyung watched the sunrise on the horizon, a magnificent view. And he feels Jimin’s message in the picture it sears behind his eyelids, tastes it on Jimin’s tears: I’m sorry…

The sentiments echo loud and clear in Taehyung’s head even as his hand shoots in the direction of his nightstand. He fixes his body into a more comfortable position in bed, finally feeling calm enough to let exhaustion take over. Fingers find his digital clock and pat the button at the top, prompting the device to speak the time.

4:02 AM,” the robotic voice tells him. And Taehyung smiles.

Apology accepted, Jiminie…

Soon after that, he falls asleep with a smile on his face.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

Ten months are supposed to be a long time to wait for Taehyung to be able to say… ‘Thank you’ to Jimin. But the months that fly between December 2014 and October 2015 are well spent once he realizes how he wants to impart his message to Jimin.

In between his free time, when he’s not doing his part-time job of teaching online literature classes, Taehyung begins to burn his hours writing messages that eventually turn into lyrics once he’s contracted Namjoon’s help and the older one is more than happy to weave a track for Taehyung.

The time between starting the song and finishing it eventually leads Taehyung to the realization that he doesn’t only want to say thank you to Jimin. After all the years he’s forced Jimin into a void during their Switches, he knows Jimin deserves more apologies than he does. Jimin might have forced him into an unwanted Switch last time, but Taehyung has been doing that to him for much longer.

 

By August, the song is finished, a peaceful tune of apology combined with gratitude, Taehyung’s vocals singing words he stitched himself.

Taehyung calls the song 4 o’clock.

When Namjoon plays the final version for his dongsaeng and asks what the song is about, Taehyung’s first response is a smile, wide and boxy.

“My soulmate showed me the sunrise… at the park. With the birds. It was amazing, hyung,” Taehyung says, his eyes crinkling at the corners, as a rush of warmth crashes over his chest. It’s a mixture of pride and relief as the heaviness previously crushing his chest is finally vanishes.

It’s the first time that Taehyung opened up about Jimin willingly, and he can detect the sudden buzz of excitement from his hyung when Namjoon finally responds with a question.

“Were you thinking about your soulmate when you sang it?” The question isn’t overly invasive, and it’s obvious from the forced light tone that Namjoon is treading lightly. It’s a stark difference from how Taehyung believes Seokjin would react if he’s in Namjoon’s place. He appreciates it.

“Yeah. It was... it was a beautiful moment. And he... he’s beautiful, hyung.” There’s a softness in his words, the volume low as if he’s imparting a secret so sacred.

“So, you’re going to play the song for him?”

There’s a pause, one filled with the sadness that suddenly engulfs Taehyung. When he started writing the song, he meant it to be an apology and a thank you for his soulmate. But as time went by and he finally opened his heart to acknowledge all the emotions he’s been trying to imprison behind his ribcage, the song started writing itself. Before he knew it, emotions that Taehyung has worked hard to compartmentalize have bled out of him onto the paper, forming the lyrics of the song. By the time the song is finished, everything he’s been trying to hide is all out in the open.

Taehyung is aware he could have stopped the whole process of finishing the song once he realized just how honest it is, so honest that he can’t even play the whole thing without betraying his honest feelings, but he didn’t. And he isn’t as deep in his denial to pretend that finishing the song isn’t a big deal. There are thoughts that beg to be known, thoughts he has about Jimin that he can’t tell anyone, can’t let his Seokjin-hyung know for fear of giving the older man false hope. But this is safe. It’s a song, it’s an opening, an outlet to ensure that these emotions don’t beat him up on the inside. So he let the song be finished, let his feelings live even if only in the world of the four-minute song.

But it also means that he can’t let Jimin know about the song in its entirety. If hearing it would give Seokjin false hope, who knows what the lyrics would make Jimin think and feel. It’s too unsafe. But he started the song as a gift for Jimin, and he’d be damned if he doesn’t give his soulmate even just a taste of it.

In the end, the fact that Switches only consist of five seconds work in Taehyung’s favor. “It’s a four-minute song, hyung,” Taehyung says. “Technically, I can’t play him the whole song.” He pauses, pulling courage from the deep breath he inhales. “But I was thinking I could play him five-second intervals of the song. I did make it for him, to say thank you.”

 

Later that night, with the song saved on his phone, Taehyung plays it over and over again. His brain doesn’t need to exert too much effort in choosing which five seconds he’s going to play for Jimin. Not when his heart already knows the choice it wants to make, he wants it to be his favorite part:

It’s only you and me here… me and you… oh, you…

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

The rest of the days pass by. August vanishes, and so does September. And then, October comes.

Taehyung prepares everything the moment he wakes up, opens up the music player, and ensures that the song has been moved to the correct part, so all he’d need to do is press play. He can’t make a mistake with his delicate five seconds, not when he’s waited this long for them.

He’s just listening to the song and finding the right part when the door to his room opens, and he hears his hyung’s voice over the sound of the song.

“Hey, Taehyungie, what do you want for---” but Seokjin pauses, hearing the song, recognizing Taehyung’s unique, deep baritone. “Wait, is that… is that you singing?”

Taehyung freezes. “Umm… maybe?”

“Oh, you recorded a song for Joonie?”

“Um… no?” Despite the need to keep the song a secret, he still can’t bring himself to blatantly lie to his older brother. “Not really.” Taehyung wouldn’t call it recording for his Namjoon-hyung as if he’s the one doing the older a favor. More like… the other way around. But he holds back on giving too much information. The fact that his hyung doesn’t know only means that Namjoon hasn’t told him anything, which Taehyung appreciates. He knows they talk about him and his soulmate when they think he can’t hear. But he’s grateful that this part remained a secret.

“Then… what’s it for---” And then Seokjin pauses again. This pause scares Taehyung. He can feel his hyung’s eyes studying him. A pin could have dropped and the sound of it would have deafened them both with the silence that follows.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize then that Seokjin has figured out what date today is. Taehyung has never explicitly said October 13 is his soulmate’s birthday, but this day has always been a heavy one for him. As heavy and significant as the day in November that marks their parents’ death, as heavy as Taehyung’s own birthday.

“Well, I’ll… leave you to it, then. I was just wondering what you wanted to have for breakfast, but… you know what? I’ll figure it out, I’ll surprise you.”

Taehyung’s older brother doesn’t push. Not anymore. This time, he lets it go, doesn’t pressure the younger man into admitting anything.

But the damage has been done.

In the silence of that room, between Seokjin realizing what Taehyung did and what he’s planning, Taehyung almost feels the spark of hope rekindle in his hyung’s chest.

And if that happened, who could tell what this song could do when his soulmate hears it?

It’s just five seconds, but, apparently, the part he’s chosen is incriminating. The words are like flints striking together, efficient enough to spark a flame with the littlest effort of five seconds.

With that in mind, he changes the part of the track he plans to play.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

When Jimin Switches with Taehyung on his birthday in 2015, it’s unlike all the other times before.

It’s still dark, of course, it always is. Same as how his Yoongi-hyung never forgets to close his eyes when he Switches, Taehyung seems to always be prepared.

Taehyung’s teeth are freshly brushed, Jimin can tell from the taste of minty toothpaste combined with the tang of strawberries on his mouth. He’s also already dressed in his soft nightclothes.

The starkest sense, though, is that of his hearing. The instant that Jimin landed on the Switch, music surrounds him. It’s a song that he hasn’t heard before, soft and slow, akin to a lullaby that means to put a stop to all motions around him until he’s cocooned in nothing but warmth and peace and quiet.

Five seconds are over too soon, sooner than Jimin anticipated. He hasn’t even fully come down yet, but he already wants to go back to those moments, wants to let his soul be carried away by the soft music again, by the cool, low voice that sings the words, seemingly strumming his heartstrings one syllable at a time. He can’t remember the last time he’s felt so at ease, so it’s only natural that when the Switch wanes, he tries to live in those moments again, tries to extend the feeling as long as he can.

Jimin falls back in bed, replaying the voice from his memory, cradled by the peaceful music, and when he closes his eyes, he thinks back to December of last year, thinks back to the sunrise. He remembers the blues fading with the night to give way to the orange and yellows of the day. And as he lay there, the same tears he shed then falls from his eyes now.

Lyrics loop in his head… on a never-ending repeat…

 

The nameless bird that sings in the park at dawn…

 

It’s as these words are playing that he thinks back to the rest of the sensations he received during the Switch. Realizes that Taehyung didn’t feel as rigid as he always felt. Tonight, there’s an ease to his posture, a similar one to what the song brings Jimin. He thinks back to it, and feels acceptance in the memory, like a pat of acknowledgment.

It isn’t much, considering the fact that soulmates aren’t supposed to just acknowledge each other. But it’s relatively better than what they’ve shared in years. So Jimin clings to acceptance, holds on tight to acknowledgment.

He can almost hear his Yoongi-hyung’s voice in his head, uttered just recently: I refuse to live my life according to what Fate tells me, I belong to myself, and just myself. But… I can share, I guess. Like I share with you, brats. I don’t need a soulmate, but friends are fine. I guess…

When Yoongi said it at the time, Jimin didn’t understand what it meant, let alone what could have brought the sudden change in his hyung’s attitude. But now, laying in his bed with that soft voice still echoing in his head and the feeling of Taehyung’s acceptance blooming in his chest, Jimin thinks that’s fine too. If his soulmate can’t open up to him enough to give him more than friendship, then he’ll take it. He’ll take it with open arms and the widest of smiles.

After all, just friendship is still better than the cold and empty void of their limbo.

Last year, he offered his soulmate a sunrise and a request to start again. It appears that Taehyung accepted the offer.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

For the next two years, the glimpses from their Switches become constant. In those five seconds, Taehyung would always play Jimin five seconds of music, from a song the latter has now figured out is the same one every Switch. And for every five seconds that his soulmate lets Jimin hear, there’s a ton of weight that eases up from Taehyung’s posture until Jimin can tell that Switches have become nothing for Taehyung to fear, but a part of the ordinary. Soon enough, Jimin feels as though he’s settled into Taehyung’s life in the most normal of ways.

Jimin decides he likes it, makes him feel like he’s already a part of Taehyung’s world, as constant as their routine has become.

The lyrics of the song makes little sense to Jimin, can’t even tell if the snippets he hears are played in order. It doesn’t feel like so because when he scribbled what he’s heard so far, they still don’t make sense.

Still, the song itself brings Jimin warmth, more so the voice that sings the words. He plays the tune over and over in his head until he finds himself humming it mindlessly during the hours of his days, as natural as it feels to be a part of the little peeks of life that Taehyung blesses him with.

For the Switch of December 2015, Jimin hears: ‘Your singing voice that follows deep into the night…’

On July 28, 2016, Jimin meets Hoseok at a dance competition. Two months later, he joins Hoseok’s dance troupe. A week after that, he introduces Hoseok to Jungkook and finds out that Hoseok already knows Yoongi.

‘One step, then another step…’ is the snippet for October 2016.

Taehyung’s birthday for 2016 gives Jimin, ‘Dawn passes by, and when that moon falls asleep…’

February 2017 marks the first obvious change in Yoongi’s habits. When a Switch makes itself known while Jimin and Jungkook are with him again, Yoongi excuses himself and goes to the bathroom, coming back a lot paler than when he left.

May of 2017 is when Yoongi introduces them to Namjoon, another music producer that he collaborates with every once in a while. A month after that, they meet Namjoon’s soulmate---Seokjin.

For October, then December of 2017, Taehyung plays, ‘Brings the scarlet morning…’ and ‘The blue light that was with me disappears…’ respectively.

‘Where are you… oh, you…’ is Jimin’s treat for October 2018.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

The song Taehyung has written becomes a part of his habits for the last quarter of every year.

Every October, he’ll play Jimin another snippet of the song because he wants to give Jimin something that’s even as smidge as precious as everything his soulmate has given him.

In November of every year, Taehyung is reminded why he’ll never deserve Jimin.

Come December, he’ll give Jimin another snippet, as if he’s stretching another piece of apology for the fact that the older boy is stuck with him as a soulmate.

 

It becomes a habit, and Taehyung holds on to the stability it brings. With November being sandwiched in between months of sharing a few moments of his life with Jimin, he never forgets the painful truth that he shouldn’t slip again.

With the harsh reality of the memories that the eleventh month brings, it ensures that Taehyung never gets attached.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

It’s December of 2018 now. Just like the previous years, the Parks will be going abroad, but it’s without Jimin and Jihyun in tow this time as, different from the previous years, his halmeoni will be going overseas for treatment. The gentle old woman specifically asked her grandsons to not come with them and to just, ‘Enjoy your young life, sweeties. Spend the holidays with your friends for a change.’

And this is what decides that Jimin will remain in Seoul.

It’s halfway through December when Seokjin, after hearing Jimin will be staying in Seoul for the holidays, extends the invitation through the phone.  

“Oi, Jaman!” Seokjin yells through the call. “Namjoon and I are throwing a year-end party this year since it’s the first one that all of us are in Seoul. It’ll be on the thirtieth. Please tell me you can make it.”

Jimin, ever the bratty dongsaeng that he is, teases, “Will you re-schedule if I said I’m not available on the thirtieth?”

“Well, no, of course,” Seokjin huffs. “Who do you think you are, huh?”

Jimin chuckles.

“We’re not going to re-schedule, but I will get mad if you don’t come over. I’ll wrestle you to the next century if you’re not there.”

“Bold of you to assume you can wrestle me into the next century, hyung, and it won’t be the other way around.”

“Yah, why are you being difficult?” The pout is obvious even through the phone. “I only want a year-end dinner with the lot of you, why are you intent on breaking my heart?”

Jimin’s boisterous laugh breaks through. “I’m just kidding. I’ll be there.”

“You better be! It took me almost half a year to get my brother to agree to have it on the thirtieth, I’m not wasting all that effort for you.”

“Ah, so I’m finally meeting the brother, huh?”

“Yep, consider yourself privileged, Jaman.”

“I already do, hyung. I’ll be there on the thirtieth!”

“Thank you, darling. It’s at seven. At the Silver Spoon. Namjoon and I are closing it for the day!”

“You really should have led with that…”

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

Taehyung sighs for the millionth time that day, fingers fiddling anxiously with the hem of his sweater. For the umpteenth time in just the past hour, he considers the possibility of bidding farewell to his brothers and just going home. He thinks about it, seriously, already planning in his head how he’ll tell Seokjin he’s not feeling comfortable enough to socialize tonight. He knows Seokjin and Namjoon will understand. But he thinks back to how hard his brothers have worked on this gathering, the amount of planning, the fact that they even closed their restaurant for the night just to make this happen, and all his plans of ditching is thrown out the window.

Had it been a different day, Taehyung figures he’d be faring better in terms of socialization. After all, he knows most of the people that would be in attendance tonight, having hung out with Hobi and Yoongi separately before. And even the two new people he has been told he will meet tonight, he has heard so many good things about from Seokjin and Namjoon.

But the fact remains---it’s the thirtieth, and though he has woken up very early that morning, wishing to get his Switch over with before the party late that night, his luck remained sour. And now, he’s stuck in this party, surrounded by other people who never have qualms about keeping quiet when they’re all together, in a private place that his brothers own. He knows that it’ll be difficult to play Jimin’s song in this place.

His only option now is to rush to the bathroom as soon as he feels the Signs of his Switch, and the anticipation, the anxiety over something going wrong and not allowing him to play Jimin a snippet this year and needing to wait another ten months for the next chance has him nibbling on his lip nervously.

Now, it’s six in the evening and he’s sitting at the Silver Spoon, on the couch in one of its private dining rooms that they’ve taken over for the night. Based on Seokjin’s description, the food will all be laid out on the conference table on the left side of the room. And, on the right, where a small lounge is situated, the coffee table and armchairs have been removed to make space for their makeshift entertainment area. Only the couch Taehyung’s occupying is left of the room’s original lounge layout. By his feet, he can feel the edge of the blanket fort that’s been arranged in front of the wide wall, where a film they’ll be watching earlier will be projected after dinner.

The chosen movie is one that Taehyung has no idea of the plot of. In the past, when they’d have movie nights, he stays even though he can’t watch. He listens to the sounds and to the actions, and the actual real entertainment of the night is when Taehyung tries to guess the plot of the movie. Most of the time, what he comes up with is more interesting than the real thing, and the others don’t really complain when Taehyung turns even the sappiest of romance plots into a romcom. The power of a writer, they call it. They even end up ditching the movie altogether and ending up just listening to Taehyung’s narration.

Taehyung guesses it should offend him. It might even offend someone else. But, honestly, he isn’t the least bit bothered. He knows they mean well, finding a way to include him despite the situation. And, truth be told, he does have fun. Genuinely. It’s the only reason Seokjin actually managed to make him attend. He hasn’t gotten together with the others in a while. He’s hung out with Hobi whenever he visits Seokjin. He’s hung out with Yoongi whenever he’s over at Namjoon’s studio. But he’s never hung out with them together. Considering how opposites their personalities are, Taehyung assumes it’ll be an interesting night. And, judging by the conversations he’s heard from Namjoon and Seokjin about who they called Chimchim and Kookie, mutual friends of Yoongi’s, he thinks he’ll get along as well with them as he’s gotten along with the others, maybe even more.

For the thousandth time, Taehyung convinces himself that maybe the night wouldn’t be too bad. Maybe he doesn’t have to regret it that much.

 

At ten past six, Hobi joins them, early for dinner, so he can help Seokjin finish the preparations. Fifteen minutes later, Yoongi arrives, helping Namjoon with the projector, declaring… “Get down from the stool, hyung. I’ll do it. We actually need the projector intact and working for us to watch anything.”

Ten minutes before seven in the evening, the food is prepared. And just as Seokjin is putting the pasta platter down on the buffet table, the smell of the sauce making Taehyung’s mouth water, the door opens, and in comes the person they greet as Jungkook. Taehyung guesses that’s why they call him Kookie.

Seokjin is quick to abandon the food, leaving Hobi to continue where he leaves off, in favor of introducing the maknae to Taehyung. And Taehyung learns that he was right in assuming he would get along really well with Jungkook. It’s easy enough to interact with the younger one and he interacts freely enough that even from just one conversation, Taehyung learns a lot about him.

Taehyung discovers that beneath the ‘bratty’ attitude, Jungkook is still a very polite kid. Sure, he tends to forget honorifics a lot of the time in conversations, especially when he gets too passionate over a topic, and he doesn’t have enough tact to hold back on his sarcastic comments, but he listens to his hyungs regardless, respects their guidance if he crosses any line. He’s also incredibly attuned to the needs of his elders. Multiple times in their conversation, the boy has politely told him to, ‘Wait a sec, hyung, I’ll be back real quick,’ and went off to assist one of the hyungs in something, judging by the cooing of the elders that follow. Safe to say that, thanks to Jungkook, Taehyung momentarily forgets about his worries.

It’s while Taehyung is engaged in a banter with Jungkook and Yoongi that his worries make themselves known once again. Midsentence, a familiar kind of thrumming begins in Taehyung’s veins, and the smell of sea salt invades his nostrils---Jimin’s scent. His words stutter to a halt, mouth gaping, before a curse tumbles forward, “Shit…”

“See?” Yoongi says from beside Taehyung, continuing the trail of their conversation, still unaware of the turmoil beginning to churn in Taehyung’s chest. “Garbage falls out when you open your mouth.”

Taehyung can no longer answer, anxiety knocking on his ribs as he tries to figure out how to get out of the room quickly without dragging too much attention from the others. His hand begins to shake as it falls to his pocket, feeling for his phone. The signs of his Switch fade in one-by-one. And it’s only then that Yoongi notices that something’s up.

“Hey,” he whispers gently, tapping lightly on Taehyung’s shoulder. “Taehyung-ah, what’s wrong? You’re getting pale, kid.”

A small distance from Taehyung, sat on the cushions on the floor, Jungkook sounds just as worried, “Everything okay, hyung?”

Taehyung scrambles for words and tries to string thoughts together to attempt to explain what he needs. But in the end, he looks for familiar comfort. Head angling to where he last heard Seokjin’s voice, he calls out, “Hyung…” but before he can continue, the damn door opens again, and the last visitor comes in.

“Shit, shit, shit,” the newcomer says, his voice coming out in a wheeze like he ran all the way to the restaurant. And the others proceed to greet him, some exclaiming, others teasing him for being late again, and Taehyung is barely aware of what he’s hearing.

The panic spikes up even more. No, no, no, there are more people, and everyone’s noisy. At this rate, Jimin won’t hear anything but the other’s voices. If he can’t get up and get somewhere quieter, Jimin won’t hear the song.

Later, Taehyung will wonder when playing this song for Jimin has become so important that the thought of missing one Switch puts him in this much panic. But at that moment, he can barely function through the agitation arresting his heart.

“Hey, Tae-yah, calm down,” Yoongi tries again, apparently not having left his side despite the others crowding around the newcomer. “Talk to me, what’s up?”

“Jin-hyung!” Taehyung calls out to Seokjin. “It’s happening!”

Ten seconds. Those aren’t enough. Taehyung’s fingers are gripping his phone tightly, his hand trembling.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

The smell of strawberries comes when Jimin is a block away from Seokjin and Namjoon’s restaurant, The Silver Spoon. It’s an empty street, next to a dingy alley, and he refuses, refuses, to give Taehyung a glimpse of a dirty, smelly alley in exchange for his song. So the moment that the scent invades his nostrils, he guns it, pushing his legs to run, as fast as he can, not caring that he’s shaking the wine in his hand, not even caring if he ends up dropping it. He runs, and runs, faster than he’s ever run before, arms pumping by his sides. And the ringing in his ears is just about to subside when he pushes the door open to the Silver Spoon and follows the directions Hobi gave him about which room to get to.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Jimin breathes hard, hunching over with his palm planting on one knee, outstretching the wine bottle to the person closest to him, not even properly taking his shoes off; merely toeing them off and kicking them towards a random direction.

Namjoon takes the bottle carefully, sighing, “You’re late again, Chim,” eyes pinned to where Jimin’s shoes spin and slides on the shiny tiled floor.

“Jaman! Come over, I’ll introduce you to the birthday boy!” exclaims Seokjin before Jungkook steals the eldest’s attention, whispering something to him that causes him to turn away.  

“Jimin-hyung!” greets Jungkook as he walks over to him. “You’re late.”

But Jimin’s eyes scan the crowd for Hoseok. Among all these people, he’s the only one that knows what today is.

“Hobi-hyung!” Jimin yells, looking around, pushing through the others. He’ll apologize for that later. For now, he needs Hobi. And just as Jimin finds Hobi, putting down a bowl of punch, Seokjin pushes past him at his name being called, bee-lining around the long table towards the person sitting at the couch, where Yoongi also sits.

“Jimin, you’re here!” Hobi all but screams, running towards him, his mouth pulled into his heart-shaped smile all of a second before it falls off as he notices Jimin’s expression. “What’s wrong?”

Jimin opens his mouth, about to say, ‘Switch.’  But then he stops before he can form the words, his ears catching a sound that makes his world tilt on its axis.

“Taehyung-ah?” Seokjin says as he stands in front of the couch, blocking Jimin’s view of the person sitting on it. And it’s the same lilt, the same voice, the same name Jimin heard on his fifteenth birthday.

It’s an almost out of body experience then, when Jimin pushes Hobi aside, much to the latter’s displeasure, and walks towards where Seokjin stands.

He’s three steps away when the last of the Signs wanes and the countdown of ten seconds starts.

Ten.

Jimin takes another step, his eyes glued to the back of Seokjin’s head, hearing him speak. “Taehyungie, what’s wrong?”

Nine.

Seokjin said he’ll introduce him to his brother. To a birthday boy. Today is December 30th, his soulmate’s birthday, his Taehyung’s birthday.

Eight.

A deep voice responds to Seokjin. “Switch,” the voice says, and Jimin’s heart aches. The voice, it sounds familiar, so, so familiar, like it’s always been a part of Jimin for a long time.

Behind him, he can hear Jungkook speak, but Jimin doesn’t turn his head. His full attention is on the man speaking to Seokjin, still hidden by the latter’s frame.

Seven.

“Jimin-hyung?” Jungkook tries again.

Six.

He takes another step. There are only two more steps remaining. Yoongi, who has now stood up to give his spot on the couch to Seokjin, turns around and looks at Jimin curiously. He also gets swept aside by Jimin’s arm. “Jimin-ah?”

And then, he sees a hand fist on the hem of Seokjin’s shirt, tugging, just as Seokjin steps away from Jimin’s line of sight.

For the first time, in twenty-three years, Jimin’s eyes fall on his soulmate.

Five.

He’s got dark hair, as black as night, strands curling down his forehead, where the tips tickle his thick eyebrows. His skin is a warm tan, his face littered with tiny pale slits that have scarred over but don’t diminish how handsome he looks. He’s got the most perfect nose, straight, with a cute mole a little to the left of its tip. His lips are pink, soft-looking, with another mole right on the seam. But his eyes. His eyes are the best features, they’re almond-shaped, and the warmest brown Jimin has ever seen.

Four.

Jimin takes another step.

Three.

“Taehyung…” Jimin whispers, so soft, but very audible as the room has quieted down, shushed by what’s happening.

Taehyung, his Taehyung, looks up from his seat, head turning towards Jimin’s direction. But his eyes are blank as if gazing to the distance without seeing a thing. Balanced on his knees is a folded walking stick.

And, all of a sudden, all the darkness makes sense. No, Taehyung hadn’t been doing the same thing Yoongi had been doing. Taehyung hadn’t been closing his eyes. This whole time, Taehyung hadn’t been robbing him of a glimpse of his life as a means of pushing Jimin away.

Two.

Jimin’s legs buckle under him in the wake of the realization, pushing him down onto his knees right in front of Taehyung, at the same time that tears well up in his eyes before pouring down his cheeks, his shoulders suddenly shaking with sobs.

He’s only able to say one more thing before their Switch happens.

“Taehyungie… my Taehyungie… I’m sorry…”

Jimin’s eyes are blurry with tears. Taehyung’s, meanwhile, are wide open, shock and fear mingling in his orbs.

And yet, when their senses exchange, Jimin sees nothing but darkness.

No, Taehyung hadn’t been closing his eyes.

Kim Taehyung, Park Jimin’s soulmate, is blind.

 

─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───

 

It’s unfair. It’s really, really, unfair because their Switch happens at the same time as their first meeting, so when they Switch, it doesn’t only happen for five seconds. It’s twenty. And instead of just the five senses exchanging, it’s as though each other’s souls are thrust into the other’s body.

Taehyung can feel everything. From the droplets of tears pouring down Jimin’s cheeks to the dig of his nails into his palms where he’s fisted them so tightly, the bite of his jeans on his knees as he kneels in front of Taehyung. But more than that, more demanding than all of that, are the emotions Taehyung can now feel coursing through Jimin’s body.

I’m sorry… Jimin said. And now, Taehyung can feel exactly those emotions knocking on Jimin’s chest. It’s so strong, so intense, it’s poisoning Taehyung.

Through Jimin’s eyes, he sees his own face, twisted in disbelief, lined with utter fear and horror. And it’s the sight of that, of his fears thrust quite literally right in front of him as he looks through Jimin’s tear-blurred eyes at his own unseeing, broken, blind pair of orbs, coupled with the apology he can feel through Jimin’s heartbeats, that breaks him.

This is it, this is exactly what he’s been trying to avoid. And it takes actually experiencing it from Jimin’s perspective, feeling Jimin’s pity crawling over his skin, pressing on his chest at the very sight of Taehyung, that finally drives the point home.

Twenty seconds, he learns, are more than he wants. He used to think five seconds are too short. But twenty, while only quadruple of five, feels an eternity too long. He wants out, he wants it to be over, wants to jump out of Jimin’s body and back to his own, so he could run like his instincts tell him, hide away like his heart pleads to do then, his broken heart that’s still shattering into tinier pieces at the weight of Jimin’s apologies.

Soon, but not soon enough, twenty seconds are up, and Taehyung is thrust back into his own body.

Jimin goes back to his own too, and the force of it leaves him slumping a little forward, hand outstretching to seemingly catch himself. His hand falls atop Taehyung’s knees, and the touch feels like a jolt of lightning. It awakens Taehyung from the momentary daze he’s been put into right after the Switch. And he shoots upward, causing Jimin’s hand to fall from his knee. His hand feels for his stick and slides it to the ground, finds comfort in the familiar thwack of it against the floor.

“Jin-hyung, I’m going home,” he declares to the room. It’s quiet, too quiet. He feels everyone’s attention trained on him and Jimin, and he hates it.

“But Tae---” Jin begins, but Taehyung cuts him off.

“You misunderstand, I wasn’t asking for permission. I was telling you.” He swings his stick from side to side, feels it hit Jimin’s shoes, and he steps away, trained feet finding the space that his stick clears for him.

“Tae, you can’t be serious---” Jin tries again.

“I can go home on my own---”

“I wasn’t questioning your ability to---” And then it’s Jimin that cuts him off.

“Taehyung, please, we need to talk---”

“There’s nothing to talk about!” Perhaps it comes out much harsher than Jimin deserves, realizes it when he hears Jimin’s startled inhale as if he’s just been slapped. And he has to clench his fists just to stop himself from reaching forward, reaching for Jimin, to envelope the warm hand he felt on his knee earlier with the clammy warmth of his own palm.

Scared even further by the instinctive urge, Taehyung speeds up his steps, becoming careless with his stick. “Don’t follow me!” He bellows again when he hears steps following him, and knows that, from the direction of where it came, that it was Jimin that attempted to.

His stick, in his hurry, catches on the pile of blankets arranged on the floor, where they were supposed to watch a movie later, and when he steps forward, his foot trips, and he falls on the floor. His fall is cushioned by the pillows and the blankets, but shame washes over him all the same, made even more intense by the noise of scrambling that follows his fall, more than one, more than even three, people scrambling to help him up.

But he outstretches his hand. “Don’t!” He tells them as he bites on his lip so hard he tastes blood on his tongue. He gets up on his feet, on his own, and says again. “Nobody follow me.”

This time, it’s Jin that speaks next, “Well, that’s unfortunate, because I’m not asking for permission either, I’m following you home.” There’s a tremor in his older brother’s voice, and it sounds so familiar, so similar to Seokjin’s tone when he’s pleading for Taehyung to listen, that he doesn’t fight it off. He turns back towards the door and continues to walk out, not stopping Jin’s familiar gait from following after him.

 

It’s only after the doors close and the Kim brothers round the corner that Jimin allows the tears to come back. His legs give out under him for a second time, and he slumps on the floor, his shoulders shaking with renewed sobs. He feels Yoongi take a closer step, kneel next to him, probably about to comfort him, but Hobi gets there first, wrapping his arms around Jimin’s shaking frame, and Hobi’s presence wards Yoongi away.

“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon says, tone unsure. “I’m so sorry, Jin-hyung and I… we… we didn’t know.” There’s a note of shock still riding on his voice, disbelief that this whole time, the soulmate that he helped Taehyung write a song for has been in their lives for years. “How in the world did we not realize…”

Around him, the rest start talking about how the Kim soulmates could possibly have missed the fact that Jin’s brother’s soulmate has been in their circle of friends this whole time. But Jimin doesn’t care, doesn’t really hear them past the sounds of his sobs as Hoseok keeps holding him. All he focuses on at that moment are all the years that he thought Taehyung has rejected him. Then that one short moment of respite, that second when he realizes Taehyung hadn’t purposefully kept him in the dark. But as fast as that moment came, it was taken away. And this time, it was face-to-face, with his own voice, his own words, that Taehyung rejects him for real.

Everyone around him talks, and talks, like bees buzzing, but all Jimin can hear are the phantom steps echoing in his ears, one thud of a shoe at a time, as Taehyung takes one step, and then another, that takes him farther and farther away from Jimin.