Seokjin leads the lined up children to the classroom with a glaring smile, fulfilled by the giggles and unintelligible chants of different nursery songs. He is one of those people who literally can't picture themselves doing anything else for a living. He doesn't really believe in such a thing as vocation, but he's pretty sure he was born to be a kindergarten teacher.
He turns his back to the class while the kids settle at their colorful miniatures of tables and chairs, writing the date down with chalk on the board as he tries to take a glimpse with his peripheral vision. Seokjin never succeeds.
When he turns to face the students again, there's a chocolate bar on his desk, just like it always is on Mondays. And like always, he doesn't catch sight of who is the responsible for it.
Obviously, he could just turn around in a jolt and find out who it is, but c'mon. Seokjin's a 35 year old man who's not willing to do that to a 7 years old kid. To a shy kid that's been for months now waiting for him to not be looking to give the small gift.
And professionally, he's afraid that he could unintentionally bond with the student and favor them in any way. He loves chocolate too much.
Just like he loves his job. He smiles to himself at the thought and at the promise of a good day, that lasting until he gives the kids a task of making a collage with their favorite color and hears a high pitched yell coming from the back of the room.
He flinches and lifts his head to the source of the noise and—of course.
Of course it's them.
Seokjin sighs as the entire class shifts from the peaceful at-least-by-standards-that-kids-usually-speak conversation to a chaotic jabber. He leans his hands on his knees and uncrouches from the spot where he was helping Beomsoo glue glitter on the paper without turning himself into a shining mess.
He moves to the purple table with his hands on his waist, purposefully twisting his lips in an attempt to bring their attention to how dismayed he is. The two kids keep screaming at each other's face, nonetheless. It's always them.
On a regular basis, kids bicker. That's normal, they argue about everything and nothing at all. Even best friends have their moments of crossed arms, pouts and empty threats of never talking again—that only lasts to the break, tops. But things are different with Siyeon and Kimoon.
They're never not fighting.
If Seokjin asks for someone to get him water from the fountain, they both raise their hands frantically at the same time and exchange killer looks. He has to demand that someone else goes instead. If he finishes grading their works and any of them doesn't get a perfect A+, he knows he will hear whinings for the rest of the day. At this point, he's almost sure Siyeon is keeping scores in the last page of her notebook on how many higher grades she’s got over Kimoon.
God, he even had to create the role of Co-Helpers because the scenario was apocalyptical when he assigned Kimoon to the extinct (may it rest in peace) role of Class Helper. That class was teaching him that kids learn pretty soon how to take sides and stand by their friends. Siyeon's friends were close to starting a revolution if Seokjin didn't make her a helper too.
And what was all that about? You may ask. Well, all of that to be the kid that picks wrinkled paper from the floor and throws it in the trash or organizes the crayons in the pot at the end of the day.
Doesn't matter if these weren't glorious tasks. Siyeon doesn't want Kimoon to be the one to do.
Funny thing is that maneuver is completely unlike who she is for the most part of the time. Siyeon truly manages to fit the biggest heart of the planet in such a tiny body. She always giggles and never complains when their friends take advantage of her being smaller than everyone to lift her from the floor and spin her around. If any kid starts to cry, she immediately halts whatever she is doing to check on them. They always hurry to show her their drawings because Siyeon praises them every time, no matter how scratchy they look. She talks to everyone, from her classmates to the coordinator, like they're equals. Every single person in that school loves her.
Siyeon is Park Jimin's daughter.
Correction: almost every single person in the school loves her. Except for Kimoon, evidently.
Kimoon is the human impersonation of a dog. He also has an enormous heart, but he is still learning how to spread his love for others without bumping into and breaking everything on his way to it. He has a lot of energy to spend. Poor guy's so smart that he finishes his tasks before anyone else and has a hard time staying still, incapable of understanding that he needs to be quiet to not disturb the others that don't follow his rhythm. When he's not pestering people, he's making up meanings to his drawings that you'd never guess came out of a kid of his age. He's a loud kid. But he can't help it, he just feels like he has a lot to say.
Kimoon is Kim Taehyung's son.
And right now Taehyung's son happens to be holding a safety scissor with one hand as the other is clenched, hiding something inside his fist.
And Jimin's daughter also happens to be holding a safety scissor while her other hand is clenched in a fist, but obviously not with the same intention of hiding anything.
"She started it, teacher!"
"He cut my hair off!"
That's all Seokjin can distinguish from the tangled words that harshly jump out of their mouths at the speed of the light. He blinks a few times and cups his own face wondering how he will even meddle into their shouting, both of them seeming too busy accusing each other to explain rationally what happened. So, he does the only reasonable thing that a grown up could do in that situation.
He throws his head back and starts to pretend he's crying, wailing out loud like a dying moose.
The classroom falls silent and he can see by the crack of one eye that he succeeded to bring the spotlight to him. He almost loses composure and has to focus really hard not to laugh when he hears a voice from behind saying, "Look what you've done! Now teacher-nim is crying!".
When Kimoon has strained enough with his mouth hanging open and Siyeon begins to look like she is about to burst in actual tears, Seokjin wipes his fake ones and leans in front of them, resting his hands on his thighs.
"Can you please tell me what happened?" Seokjin speaks with a soothing tone and drops his eyes to the boy's tiny hand that didn't untighten, not even for a second. "Kimoon, can you show me what you have in there?"
Kimoon gulps and looks down, terrified by the idea of facing the teacher. When he sprawls his palm open, a long hair tuft is revealed and Siyeon gasps loudly. Apparently, she was aware that her hair was cut, but wasn't sure how much. In a fast and blurred motion, she leads her scissors to Kimoon's hair, but hardly attains to cut the tip as he reacts promptly to brush her off.
"Enough!" Seokjin lashes out and they're startled by the unusual seriousness in his tone. "You're going to talk to the principal!" He marches to the door and opens it firmly as he announces, but they stay still, too freezed by how everything escalated to make a move. "Now!"
The ultimatum snaps them out of it and the shrill noise of their chairs being dragged back in a hurry almost hurts Seokjin's ears. He escorts them to the waiting room of the principal's office and says he needs to go back to the class, giving an express command forbidding bickery, slaps, bites, kicks and murder for the time they'll be waiting for their parents to arrive.
Siyeon feels a lump in her throat, sniffing quietly to gulp the cry down so Kimoon wouldn't hear it. Mrs. Heejin is glaring at them once in a while and it breaks the girl apart to think that the secretary is judging her, disappointed with her for being there.
Kimoon is unbothered, swinging his legs back and forth and wandering his eyes over the room chasing something to put his attention on. Actually, he's rather bored. Not that he doesn't care, he's not a purposeful troublemaker. The point is he's literally clueless, not having assimilated the size of the trouble yet.
It only begins to hit him when his father enters the room and doesn't greet him back with a smile.
"What did you do, Kimoon?" Taehyung goes straight to the point, his voice coming out deep as usual but much more serious, intending to display how upset he is for being called in the middle of his shift.
"I didn't do anything, I swear! She did it!" Kimoon looks at him from below, feeling smaller both for the position and for being scolded. He points to Siyeon in despair and her head pops from behind him with a sulk.
"Right. I cut my own hair off, for sure." She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms, looking away from both of them.
"You also had a scissor in your hand!" Kimoon alleges, but Siyeon doesn't bother to glance at him again.
Anyhow, the argument is cut off when Jimin barges into the room and rolls his eyes in a way so fresh in Taehyung's memory that it's impossible not to know who Siyeon took that after.
"Of course," he says under his breath when he spots Taehyung standing beside his son but doesn't strand to that, going right after Siyeon and pressing her head to his belly. "What happened, my baby? Did you hurt yourself? Did someone hurt you?" He gently grabs her chin and lifts it up and down, left and right, looking for any bruise or signal that she'd been harmed.
"No, appa, I'm fine," she whines and quietly tries to dodge his hand, embarrassed by being cosseted. "He only tore half of my hair apart." Siyeon takes the strands to show him where it had been poorly cut off and Jimin coos, taking it from her with a pout.
"It's okay. Appa's gonna buy you the biggest ice cream in the universe to make you feel better when we leave, huh? How does that sound?" Jimin smiles at her fondly and runs his fingers through the hair in reassurance and she smiles back, slightly abashed.
Taehyung catches Jimin's attention when he fails to hold a scoff back, unsuccessfully trying to cover it with his hand while the other is shoved down the pocket of his black overcoat, composing his nonchalant posture with the way he is propped against the wall.
"May I help you?" Jimin raises his eyebrow, asking sardonically.
"Hello, Jimin-ssi." Taehyung stretches his hand out for him, but Jimin only stares at it and then to his face again. He withdrawals it and makes an 'ok' with his fingers as he whistles.
"Your son cut my daughter's hair," Jimin states as if it is an explanation for his disregard.
"My son says your daughter cut her own hair," Taehyung answers evenly and Jimin pulls out a wry smile.
"What else did your son tell you?" Jimin draws closer to him to speak in a volume low enough for the kids not be able to hear it. Taehyung flinches and suddenly feels like his leg bones are made out of jelly, although he doesn't dare make any move by the risk of looking weak. "Did he tell you that if you put the tooth you broke by hitting your head in the glass door under your pillow a fairy would give you a penny?"
Taehyung covers his lips by instinct, even if his teeth are already fixed.
"Stoop so low, Jimin-ssi," he mumbles and takes a step back, getting a triumphant smile from Jimin in response.
Much to Heejin's joy, they remain quiet—except for Jimin's excessive caring and constant checking on Siyeon—until Seokjin makes himself present again and greets them quite joylessly, opening the principal's door in a silent invitation. The first thing Taehyung notices is that Yoonah, the educational coordinator, is also present and everything starts to look much more worrisome to him. The kids settle in the chairs in front of Kim Namjoon's desk with his parents standing on their feet at the rear.
"Can someone explain to me what happened?" Yoonah is the first one to speak and the children keep their eyes down, quite scared to face the middle aged woman standing beside the principal with arms crossed and lips pressed in a fine line. Their parents would be lying if they said that she didn't scare them off too.
"Kimoon and Siyeon were playing with scissors, even if I told them a million times before not to. It doesn’t matter if it's safety scissors, it won't be much safe if it ends up tearing one of your eyes off," Seokjin explains it and the kids retract uncomfortably on their places by the prospect. "Problem is that Siyeon says it was Kimoon that cut her hair and he's saying it was her. I couldn't see it for myself because I was busy helping another student."
"Seems pretty logical to me, why would she cut her own hair? Obviously it was him," Jimin states without being asked and Namjoon tries to raise a finger for him to hold on, but things quickly get out of his control.
"First, it could have been an accident," Taehyung hurries to interpose. "Next, that’s what she's saying. It's her word against his." Jimin reaches for Siyeon's shoulder protectively when she shifts in the chair, offended. He turns his head to Taehyung in a sharp motion, batting his eyelashes at him as if he's trying to hear it right.
"Wow, wow, are you calling my daughter a liar?" Jimin asks, the outrage dripping from his tone.
"I'm saying that truth is a relative concept with tons of point of views—" Taehyung tries to sound steady, but his voice comes out more and more strangled at each word as Jimin narrows his eyes at him.
"And you are wrong in all of them!" Jimin points his index finger towards Taehyung and that's enough for the latter to gape, feeling jarred.
The children slip on the chair and cover their foreheads with a hand out of embarrassment when their parents start to jabber indistinctly. Namjoon drops his head beneath his hands and takes a deep breath, rethinking all his life decisions that led him to that moment. Go for your dreams, son. Graduate in pedagogy, if you work with what you love you'll never work a day in your life, she said.
His mother failed to consider Kim Taehyung and Park Jimin.
"Alright, stop that." Namjoon's deep voice echoes in the room, loud and clear enough for them to get startled, halting the argument immediately. "You're here to solve the problem, but you're actually making things worse," he says, staring directly at Taehyung. The corner of Jimin's lips twitches into a smirk that only lasts until Namjoon shifts his glaze at him and remarks, "Both of you."
"Just apologize to her so we can end this already, Kimoon," Taehyung says with a weary tone and rubs his temples, getting a whine from his son in response.
"But I—" The boy tries, tossing his head back to his father, but is promptly cut off.
"Kimoon," Taehyung resolves dourly, staring at him with his straightest face.
"Fine!" Kimoon sighs and keeps his eyes at the hem of his uniform where his fingers fidget it. "I'm sorry that you cut your own hair, Siyeon."
"Huh, that’s definitely not how you apologize—" Taehyung shifts his weight from one foot to another awkwardly, unsettled for how everyone was darting their eyes at him, but his son goes on.
"And I'm sorry that you didn't check if I put bubblegum on your chair before sitting on it." Kimoon drops his head down to mask his giggle and Siyeon gets up from the chair at once, desperately trying to look at the back of her skirt where she finds the bubblegum attached and connected to the seat by a strip.
It's complete and utter mayhem.
Taehyung looks like he's about to literally die from cringe, judging by how red his cheeks and ears are. He tries to apologize and offers to buy a new skirt for Siyeon, but Jimin refuses to listen and continues speaking over him, so angry that he could spit nails—and probably use them to seal Taehyung's coffin.
The agitation is momentarily ceased when Namjoon decides the two of them need to go to detention, Kimoon for a longer period since he is the major suspect regarding the hair incident and also got a new one to his account. Jimin's still dismayed when Yoonah asks the children to leave the room for a moment so they could talk to the parents privately.
"Honestly, I don't think this is fair at all. She's the victim, how come she's got to be punished too?" Jimin's calm, polite tone shows he's speaking towards the school authorities, only.
"Jimin-ssi, your daughter is a sweetheart. I adore her, I really do. But I can't ignore that her rivalry with Kimoon has surpassed any acceptable and harmless limit. Not only for what happened today, and I have to let you know that your daughter tried to cut his hair too—" Seokjin says and Jimin swallows dry, deliberately ignoring the weight of Taehyung's eyes over him. "It's for the sequence of events that led us here. This was only the final straw."
"And stop talking like my son is a homicide, Jimin-ssi. C'mon, they're kids, he's learning from his mistakes. One day years from now he'll look past to this, reassess the brat he was and we all will laugh about it." Taehyung intends to scold Kimoon later, but he doesn't want to give in so easily, offended by the way in which Jimin talked about his son.
Jimin's lips twitch downwards, fazed by the mention of a future us. He wished he could get rid of Taehyung's face as soon as possible, but he knew he probably had no plans of taking his son off the best school of the city with a fat scholarship due to Kimoon's grades—mainly because Jimin has the same mindset.
"That's not how things work. If you don't teach him good manners now, he'll grow up and end up rude and annoying. Just like you," Jimin spits the last words and Taehyung mimics it, copying his sassy countenance in a mocking manner.
"You are rude and annoying!" Taehyung retorts, causing Seokjin and Namjoon to exchange a tired, knowing look.
"I thought you had asked the children to leave the room," Seokjin whispers to him and Namjoon can't help but cover a chuckle with a hand, trying his best to remain impassive.
"You didn't even greet me when I reached my hand out to you! You're rude," Taehyung emphasizes it in a mumble, the nuisance for being ignored still lingering.
"Enough. Don't you feel ashamed of this behavior? You're even more childish than them! You're worse, in fact. Because, you know, they at least have the excuse that they're actual children!" Namjoon exasperates and they divert their eyes from the principal, letting it wander over the room, feeling ridiculous for being put in such a position.
"How can I demand that your children get along if yourselves can't go fifteen minutes without jumping down each other's throat? You make my life pure hell in every single parent's meetings," Seokjin manifests and Namjoon nods in agreement, encouraging him to let come up everything they always thought but never had the opportunity to externalize. "I swear, sometimes I wish I could just send you to detention as well."
Seokjin and Namjoon turn their heads at each other at the exact same time.
At this very moment, Taehyung and Jimin know they're doomed.
"We always ask for volunteers to help organize the Christmas party, since it’s the most important of the year," Namjoon starts talking more to himself than to the others, scratching his chin lost in thought. "This time, unfortunately and for some unknown reason, considering how bad I begged people to do it, no one applied." He seems to come to a decision, leaning back in the chair with his hands behind his head and a confident grin. "I think it suits you well."
"I'm sorry, maybe I misheard it." Jimin forces himself to give a grin back that comes out more manic than friendly. "We are going to organize it? Together?" Jimin says, pointing his index finger from himself to Taehyung repeatedly.
"That's right, Jimin-ssi. You are," Namjoon answers resolutely now, his posture and tone so calm and completely antagonistic to Jimin's despair.
"Why are you punishing us if our children were the ones to do wrong things?" Taehyung questions, genuinely confused and struggling to keep track of what's happening.
"Well, if they do something wrong, it's because you failed to teach them how to behave properly, huh? So maybe you need to learn something too." Seokjin is the one to answer, proud of the solution brought by Namjoon.
"Excuse me, but that's absolutely ridiculous," Jimin sneers. "I'm not one of your students, what are you gonna do if I refuse? Keep me in the classroom during breaks? Forbidden me from going to the playground?"
"Your kid can always be politely invited to dismiss next year." Seokjin shrugs and Namjoon coughs, reaching for the water across the table and darting him a look as a warning to stop. Yoonah doesn't bother to be unobtrusive on the other hand, cocking her head and widening her eyes at him.
"You would never do that. They're the best students of their class, my kid literally taught himself how to read," Taehyung argues, but the slack jaw and gaped mouth of his dumbfounded expression shows he's not really confident about that.
"Sorry, but they're not the best students if they are recurrently causing problems to us. And you know what? I should've done this earlier ." At this point, his superiors look like they're deciding between killing themselves or killing Seokjin instead, but he's as unpredictable as a baby's diapers after they drink too much fermented milk and he couldn't care less.
"Earlier? When did we ever give you any reason for t—" Taehyung begins and surprisingly it's Jimin's hand that stops him midway as he shakes his head in a silent plea for him to shut up.
"You want me to enumerate it? Let me just get started talking about your financial debt with this community since the coffee machine you broke fighting over it last year!" Seokjin accuses them and the ugly look that Jimin directs at Taehyung makes him regret the day he learned how to talk. "Do you wanna talk about the day you monopolized the meeting to fight because you disagreed on brands of sparkling water?"
"Okay, I get your point!" Jimin intrudes and sighs, defeated.
"And you know what? I'm not sure that this is a good idea. You'll probably end up ruining the party. It's impossible to get something good from you two working together," Seokjin says and Taehyung almost chortles, wondering who would fall for such a blatantly obvious manipulation trick.
"Just send me an email telling what we have to do and we'll get it done," Jimin says, waving his hand frantically.
Well. Apparently Jimin would.
Taehyung turns to him with a raised eyebrow, wondering when exactly he became their spokesman since he never agreed to that. Anyway, he never agreed to basically none of what is happening right now.
Yoonah tells them she'll send the emails with the details within the next few days and Taehyung feels a cold run down his spine for the implication of the word emails (plural) in that context.
When they finally leave the room, Seokjin is wrong to think it would bring him the long-awaited peace. The moment the door is closed, Yoonah and Namjoon are tackling him.
"Did you go insane, Seokjin-nim? You can't just threaten the parents!" Namjoon gets out of his polite character and shoves a notebook on Seokjin's chest. Yoonah lifts an eyebrow but chooses not to give much attention to that, having other bigger concerns running through her mind.
"Trust me. The kids took the competitiveness after someone, didn't they? I hurt their pride, they won't throw away an opportunity of showing us they can do it."
"I hope you're right, otherwise the sue's fee will be discounted on your payment." Even if Yoonah isn't for real, the genuine worry behind his words gets to Seokjin and he starts to think if maybe all of that was a stupid idea.
"Are you in on it?" Taehyung asks on their way to the parking lot, one of his hands holding Kimoon's while the other is occupied having its nails nervously nibbled.
"Do we even have other choice?" Jimin's sharp to answer practically across the hall, keeping a safe distance. He doesn't know if for Siyeon or for himself. Maybe both. "I'm in."
"Fine, then you can do the whole thing and I'll be glad to tell them how helpful you were," Taehyung says and Jimin stops his pace abruptly, knowing how serious he is. It happens to be a good call, since they were almost getting to the door and the early November weather was already cool enough to make outdoor conversations uncomfortable and dangerous to the kids' health.
Not that he intended to have the displeasure of talking to Taehyung for more than two minutes; the prospect of having to report to him for the next two months was already maddening enough.
"No freaking way. You're gonna help me on this," Jimin gives the final word and checks his clock. "Look, I have to go now, but we can meet to discuss how we're gonna do this any time. I mean, any time I can, not any time you want." Taehyung sighs, wondering if that is really necessary.
"It'll have to be when I can, too," Taehyung protests stubbornly.
"Right. It takes two to tango," Jimin says practically more to himself, not minding much as he searches for something in the pockets of his own grey overcoat. "Here it is."
Jimin gives him a fancy business card with his number and email and Taehyung thinks at least he has a good taste in graphic design. In fact, if he was willing to be honest, he'd have to admit that Jimin has a good taste in a lot of things, including clothes and shoes too. His style is more elegant, more low profile and probably more expensive than Taehyung's, but Jimin always managed to come to the school like he had just left a job as a fashion magazine editor.
Not that Taehyung spends his time analysing Jimin. He just happens to be interested.
In fashion, he means. Not in Jimin. In fashion.
Siyeon discreetly waves her tiny hand for him in goodbye when Jimin and her start to head out and Taehyung smiles openly, waving back. Then, he feels Kimoon pulling his other hand in disapproval for him being nice to the enemy.
"Chill, little flea. You're not in a position to complain about anything today. We're talking when we get home," Taehyung says and ruffles his hair, causing Kimoon to scrunch his shoulders at the promise of his father telling him off.
"Appa, why are you smelling the card that Jimin-ssi gave you again?" Kimoon asks innocently and Taehyung freezes, only then realizing he had the card stuck to his nose.
"Mind your business, Kimoon." Taehyung shoves it harshly in his pocket and opens the front door for the kid, giving a light tap in the back of his head playfully.
Today's lesson is that Jimin somehow smells like the color yellow and jazz music and has a good taste in colognes too.
The next Monday, Seokjin follows his ritual. Smiling merrily, he gives his back to the class. However, for this time, his peripheral vision doesn't catch anyone's shadow. Disheartened would be an understatement for how he feels when he turns around and no chocolate is in sight.
It's mid afternoon when Yoongi arrives, allowing Taehyung to leave. He unfortunately managed to move everything in his schedule to meet Jimin downtown and catch up about what they'd have to do—and much probably shopping. He was hoping that his boss would just refuse his request so that he would have an excuse not to show up, but she promptly accepted it and got really confused when Taehyung whimpered in response.
"You're still grounded, okay?" Taehyung says to Kimoon and he puffs, plopping onto the couch. "I know better than everyone the face he can pull when he wants something from you. Don't let yourself be fooled by it." He turns to Yoongi and he tsks, waving a hand.
"I'm a fortress he can't trespass," Yoongi says confidently. Taehyung doesn't buy it at all. Yoongi is exactly the kind of person who would be easily manipulated by Kimoon and end up tied in the middle of the living room.
"You're more like a sandcastle, hyung. Anyway, no candies, no video games, no basketball in the backyard—" Taehyung enumerates and pins his eyes at his friend at the latter. It makes Yoongi wonder if there's any chance of him being addressed.
"What am I supposed to do?" Kimoon interjects and crosses his arms, knitting his eyebrows angrily while he does his best to hold a pout back.
"Your homework." Taehyung grabs the red folder containing his school supplies and flops it on the coffee table right in front of Kimoon.
"But it's friday!" He whines and wiggles his body, unsuccessfully trying to pull out a little bit of mercy from his father.
"Yeah, and you know where the word friday comes from? Fry-your-brain-studying day," Taehyung tells him with a straight face and Kimoon narrows his eyes, looking at him doubtfully.
"How could you know if you don't do your history homework, huh?" Taehyung clicks his tongue and does an exaggerated motion spinning his wrists to point his index fingers and thumbs at him, in a 'L' shape. Kimoon purses his lips and shakes his head, slipping down to the floor and reaching for his folder anyway. Taehyung tries to tangle his hair, but Kimoon anticipates it and dodges his hand diving to his own side. "Behave. I won't be long if the Lord is intending to collaborate with me."
He only realizes that the last part escaped his thoughts and came out as a mumble loud enough for his son to hear when he says loud and clear, innocently, "I thought that Siyeon's appa's name was Jimin, not Lord."
At least Taehyung wants to think it is an innocent question, refusing to face the chance that his son is following his steps in being a terrible joker.
"His name is Jimin, but his codename is Lord." Taehyung swallows down, putting all his efforts into sounding serious as he never did before. "'S'Good that you asked, it will be very disrespectful if you don't address him properly." Kimoon stares at him frightened for a few seconds and shrugs, getting his attention back to his crayons.
That's enough for Taehyung to grin satisfied and finally grabs his keys and wallet on his way out.
"Have a nice date," Yoongi murmurs when he passes by him.
"It's not a date." Taehyung rolls his eyes and scowls trying to pick the words. "It's a… Business meeting involving a straight daddy."
"Cool. Now it sounds like you're talking about a sugar daddy arrangement." Taehyung goggles his eyes and drifts them to Kimoon, letting the air out in relief when he sees the boy is oblivious to their talk. He whacks Yoongi and leaves the house, laughing when he catches his friend propping his head out of the door to yell, "Good for you, good for you!"
Taehyung arrives first at the cafe where he and Jimin agreed to meet, going upstairs and settling on a booth in the corner. Carefree, at least for the time his nemesis isn't there yet, he sprawls his body on the couch and rests his chin on the backrest, the floor to ceiling window allowing him to enjoy a nice street view from the top. He fidgets his phone for a while, pondering whether or not to text Jimin about his own location and subtly probe him about his.
It turns out to be unnecessary when he spots Jimin storming in wearing a black turtleneck shirt and a red jacket. Taehyung suddenly feels too basic in his beige sweater.
Taehyung tosses his legs forward to make space for the other, but Jimin openly ignores it in favor of the chair across the table.
"I'm late," it's Jimin's greeting, and Taehyung judges that's the closest to an apology he will get. Jimin sits on the chair—or rather sinks, due to its particularly odd design, the back of the chair being lower than the front. Taehyung can't help but giggle by the way that Jimin's arms hover uncomfortably in the air like a chicken and his feet swing helplessly, unable to reach the ground.
"It looks uncomfortable," he points out, getting a discontented look being darted at him in response.
"It lives up to what it looks." Jimin uselessly tries to settle, getting angrier at each second that he fails to. Taehyung shifts more as a statement than as an actual move, trying to let Jimin know that he can get to the couch if he wants to. Jimin grabs his bag begrudgingly and mumbles on the way to his side, "Stupid hipster chair."
Taehyung is surprised when Jimin doesn't open a laptop, placing a clipboard over the table instead.
"Very… Analogical," Taehyung blurts out and immediately regrets it when Jimin turns his head to him, his nostrils flaring and telling that his mind is in an alternative universe where he is legally allowed to scalp Taehyung.
"And you're very… Observant," Jimin hisses and draws his attention back to the papers. "So, I got the emails and organized what we've gotta do on this spreadsheets. There's some providers that we have to get in touch with, things we have to buy..." Taehyung runs his eyes over the paper and they wide in shock by the fact that everything is handwritten.
"There isn't much left for me to do, huh?"
"Oh, no, darling." Jimin huffs out a laugh. "I'm not even getting started, rest assured that you'll have a lot of work to do." Jimin turns the page and reveals that it's front and back. Of five sheets. "By the way, I've been taking a look on the internet and everything I've seen for the decoration is hideous and expensive. I think I might have a better idea, but that's not our biggest problem. They want a TV station holiday party with a budget of two pennies and a cookie, and you know what that means."
"What?" Taehyung asks a little unsure when Jimin lingers his eyes on him during a long, long pause.
"Are you keeping up with me?" Jimin asks warily.
"Keeping up with you?" Taehyung repeats in jeer and rests his arm in the backrest, catching Jimin's eye to the move. "Am I keeping up with the Kardashians? Yes, I'm watching season thirteen now." Jimin looks away and Taehyung nibbles back his smirk by knowing Jimin's trying to conceal his laugh. "Am I keeping up with you? No, I'm failing miserably because you're throwing forty eight words per second at me."
They only realize that they hadn't ordered anything yet when the waiter that Taehyung had dismissed before comes back asking if he already knows what they'd have. He chose to wait for Jimin to arrive and do his own request to prevent from ordering something he hates and end up with it being spilled on his head.
He wonders if the Disney villain stereotype that he assigned to Jimin might be going too far at this point.
"Two espressos," Jimin takes the lead and Taehyung lifts an eyebrow.
"Are you going to drink them both?" Taehyung asks wryly and Jimin blinks at him, confused. "We literally broke a coffee machine while you bawled out at me for trying to use it to make tea. I hate coffee."
"Bold of you to assume that I save space on my hard disk for information related to you in any kind." Jimin pulls out a smug face before he turns his attention back to the waiter, apologizing for the intromission in a quick swap of temper.
"Nope. It isn't going too far," Taehyung concludes out loud although to himself and pretends he doesn't hear Jimin ordering a cup of camomile tea, in doubt if Jimin lied and actually knew that he likes it or if he's making a subtle joke about Taehyung needing to calm down. He finds the latter option rather unfair, to be honest. Jimin is the one to need a whole ocean provided with camomile tea.
Taehyung gets a little too wrapped up in observing Jimin nibbling the pen cap absently and studying the papers, looking like he's trying to get back on track. He only snaps out of it with a shake of his head when a sound reaches his ears, a sound so cute that he needs a few seconds to fully assimilate that the source was the evil spawn. Taehyung feels even more like he's watching a vampire burning in the sunlight when a pout joins the cute cooing and Jimin grins as if it finally comes to him what he's been trying to recall.
"You know parents are supposed to contribute with money for the party and for the Christmas presents, right?"
"Of course, Jimin, I contribute twice what's requested every year," Taehyung replies with a snort.
"Congrats on doing the bare minimum."
"I literally said it's twice the minimum—"
"Stop interrupting me, this is important." Jimin pokes Taehyung's belly with the pen and he jolts, taken aback not only physically. "During my research I found out that in the last years some kids didn't get anything because their parents could only contribute with the money for them to be part of the party, especially scholarship students. There's an express order that whoever doesn't send the money until December 15 won't be receiving a present. I don't like that." Jimin deflates, his shoulders dropping out of frustration and showing he wants someone to help him figure that out, even if he isn't willing to ask that openly.
"What about…" Taehyung carefully tries to bring the clipboard next to him and Jimin nodds in allowance. "By what I'm seeing, there's two different budgets. What if we try to save the money from the party and use whatever is left over to cover the expenses with gifts?"
"That's..." Jimin pauses, dumbfounded. He swallows dry like his following words are about to burn his throat on their way out. "Actually an amazing idea."
Taehyung flips black the hair of his nape with a delicate wave of his hand, his tongue poking his cheek and joining a half smile to create the most cocky countenance Jimin swears he has ever seen.
Completely mistaking Jimin's reaction, unable to comprehend that he's more like a dog watching someone gnaw a bone than an impressed person, Taehyung asks, "Are you surprised?"
"Oh." Jimin bats his eyelashes at him and, without further notice, it's like day turned into night in his expression as he looks sullen. "You can bet I am! C'mon, you're unable to properly choose a drinking fountain!"
"Look, that one to drink on it… Touching it with your mouth is… Disgusting." Taehyung's grimace widens at every word, sealing it with an overreacted shiver.
"The other one needs a cup to be filled with the water. Parents are too lazy to send a cup with their children and force the school to provide disposable ones. Now, thanks to you, the turtles are dying."
"Oil companies are killing the turtles—" The waiter arrives with their orders exactly at the middle of the disgruntled sentence, placing it on the table in silence with a look that demands answers that he probably doesn't want to hear. Jimin's thanks sounds almost like an embarrassed apology, but Taehyung just grins in gratitude and continues when he leaves. "And for the love of God, that was last year! Can't you leave that behind?"
"Stop diverting us from the original matter! You have the same focus as a hyperactive squirrel, damn it."
It sticks on the tip of Taehyung's tongue to remark that this time Jimin was the one who changed the subject, but he decides to let it go. Instead, he questions, "How will we save money? You said the budget is laughable."
"Yeah, it is. That's why I'm counting on you to be useful and help me think about it."
"We can start thinking about the dispensable things." Taehyung takes the pen from Jimin, but he doesn't say a word. Taehyung uses it to guide his eyes over the paper, getting so absorbed in coming up with something to notice the way Jimin's now nibbling the tip of his finger as his eyes unwittingly scan his hands. Jimin verges on sighing, thinking how it's such a shame that such beautiful, wide hands like that have to be attached to Taehyung. "Oh, you've said that the decoration is terrible," he speaks up after a while and Jimin goggles his eyes at him, trying to take his attention to his face as he gawkly rests his chin on his hand. "Maybe if we buy the materials and do it ourselves it'll be much cheaper than buying it set and done."
Jimin grimaces at his proposal and it gets Taehyung ready to defend himself saying he at least brought something to the table, but the problem wasn't the idea itself. The idea was great, and now Jimin was fearing that he would have to get used to admitting it. Problem was that doing things manually would mean having to spend more time with Taehyung than his supply of patience could handle before running out of it.
"That's good. I can do it." Jimin nodds frantically and the way Taehyung frowns recalls something his teachers said about a need to improve his group work skills. "I mean, we can do it," he adds, still bouncing his head.
"You're looking like a bobblehead doll." Taehyung nodds in an even more frenetic pace and only then Jimin realizes what he's been doing, halting the movement and staring at him with cheeks puffed by his pursed lips. Usually, the somber glazes that Jimin darts at Taehyung freezes his soul from the inside. For this time, Taehyung giggles thinking the way he's looking now is nearly adorable.
Jimin waves at the waiter, gesturing for him to bring the bill.
"Well, that's all for now, right?" He asks and an awkward silence finally falls between them as they wait for it, the waiting being long enough for the uneasiness to start bugging Taehyung to the point of willing to make any small talk.
"So… Our kids..." He tries what he assumes it's the only thing they have in common. "Do you think my son is into your daughter? Maybe that's the reason behind the bickery?"
Jimin's face contorts in visible disgust.
"First, ew. They're kids, Kim." Taehyung thinks that's enough of an argument, so he tosses his head back as Jimin doesn't stop talking. "Beyond that, my daughter won't grow up with this stupid and questionable idea that people stress you out because they like you. I don't think you like me, do you?"
Although he knows it's a rhetorical question that Jimin's using to make a point and make a dig at him, it catches Taehyung off guard. He's grateful for the waiter coming back with the bill and giving him a little longer to elaborate on a proper answer.
He never thought about how he feels about Jimin. Of course Taehyung knows how he feels when he’s around him, which very much consists of a pendulum that swings between annoyed and pissed off, but he doesn’t think it makes him dislike Jimin as a person. Taehyung doesn’t know if he is too soft or if it’s the word that’s too heavy to be used without really meaning it.
Taehyung dislikes waiting on queues. He dislikes banks. He dislikes waiting on queues in banks. He dislikes something that he doesn't even wanna think about how much he dislikes it right now, because he wants to remain sane and that something will be a major part of his life for the next weeks.
But that thing isn't Jimin. He dislikes the fact that Jimin probably dislikes him, but it wouldn't be enough to put the man in the same box as horror movies or lizards. Not at all.
"I don't dislike you," Taehyung declares out of nowhere when they're gathering their things to leave and Jimin lifts his head towards him in surprise. "I just find you excessively defensive and unnecessarily unpleasant."
"Imagine then if you did dislike me. Anyway, we don't have time for couples therapy, chop chop." Jimin claps his hands and gets on his feet, taking the lead without waiting for Taehyung, and for that he barely hears when Jimin excitedly hops and chants: "We've got a lot of stuff to buy."
Taehyung is living his personal hell.
When he was a kid, there was a time his mother got so entranced in a sale that she ended up fighting over the last pair of boots, got punched in the nose, conquered the item and left the store, literally forgetting that Taehyung was there standing in the aisle.
For thirty minutes tops, but still. This kind of trauma brands a human being, you know.
Jimin looks like he's in his natural habitat, swirling around the giant stationery with a non-stop beam. Taehyung follows him around uselessly and Jimin only seems to remember his presence when he stops without notice mesmerized by the amount of options, causing them to bump into each other. He's learning a pattern: Jimin checks the prices for different labels and writes it down in a spreadsheet for comparison, holds the clipboard tight to his chest and bites his lower lip. First, Taehyung thought it would be a mannerism for apprehension. But when he takes a better look and realizes the smile is still taking over his features, Taehyung puts two and two together and sees he's not just an organized person. Jimin's completely invested in it.
"You're enjoying it!" Taehyung blasts out and points a finger to Jimin as if he caught him right in the act. Jimin reacts accordingly, bringing his hand to his chest in fright.
"No, I'm not," he mumbles, avoiding eye contact.
"You are! You are a whovillian!" Taehyung sticks his tongue out and chuckles. Jimin breathes out heavily by his nose, decidedly turning his back to him and starting to walk at a fast pace. Taehyung doesn't struggle to catch him. "Admit it, you like Christmas and you're loving this!"
"Fine! I like Christmas a little bit." Jimin spins on his heels without anticipating how close to him Taehyung was and for this time they bump chest to chest, so he takes a step back hastily. "What about it? Are you gonna mock me for that?"
"I'm not, I just find it funny. I can't relate at all."
And there it is the other topic on the list of things that Taehyung dislikes.
"I should've imagined." Jimin scoffs and runs his nail on his lower lip.
"Of course they paired one of Santa's elves with the Grinch himself." Jimin crosses his arms with a playful smirk and Taehyung rolls his eyes.
"I'm not the Grinch", the Grinch denies grumpily and Jimin bends forward laughing in response. "I just don't like..."
"The music? The amazing decoration? The tasty meals? The spirit of fraternization, gratitude and renovation that fills our hearts—" Jimin's excitement just keeps increasing and he could go on forever unless someone dared to cut him off, which Taehyung does.
"Yeah, pretty much all that." Taehyung winces. "Especially the music."
Taehyung should've seen it coming that Jimin would spend the rest of the time humming all the Christmas carols he knows.
Jimin finally finishes his survey and surprisingly reaches the clipboard out for Taehyung to inspect it. He tried to reconcile cost and quality to the maximum and Taehyung agrees with almost the integrity of his choices, but when he points out the ones that he doesn't, he can see Jimin almost feeling physical pain to admit he's right.
They skip to the part of taking what they chose and Jimin has to grab a cart to put all the supplies in it, impossible to carry it all with their hands. The fuller it gets, the more desperate Taehyung gets thinking about the work they'll have with this party, and more certain he is that he would never do that if he wasn't practically being forced to.
"If you like Christmas, why didn't you offer to organize the party?" He asks Jimin, honestly curious.
"Because I'm a busy man and I have no time for that," Jimin answers plainly, throwing the EVA rubber sheets in the cart.
"Oh." That's when it comes to Taehyung that he knows nothing really substantial about Jimin. "What do you do for a living?
Jimin lifts his eyes from the shelf, squinting them at Taehyung suspiciously for his sudden interest.
"I'm an engineer," he answers and his features darken when Taehyung squeaks loudly.
"Of course you're part of one of the most arrogant and elitist classes of people in the universe," Taehyung says through laughter and Jimin clicks his tongue, looking away and refusing to answer what he said for a lot of reasons. The first being that he knows it is kind of true. "Won't you gonna ask what about me?"
"Why? Do I look like I wanna know?" His voice tone sounds sassy, but Taehyung can see he's actually smiling playfully. It is confirmed when Jimin fully turns to him and nudges his belly. "I know you're an architect."
"What? Have you digged my life up on social media or something?"
"Didn't need to. You bring this up at least three times at every meeting. 'Oh, you know, as an architect, I can assume this tree house isn't safe for the kids'." Jimin's voice comes out a lot deeper as he tries to imitate his.
"Was I wrong?" Taehyung asks outraged, both for the incident and for the sad, poor impersonation. "That thing fell apart two weeks later! I'm glad I told Kimoon not to go up on that."
"I told Siyeon to stay away too, but c'mon, we didn't need to be specialists to notice that it looked like a lego piece that grew too big in size."
"So you're into lego?" Taehyung asks and fears that it may sound like disapproval, so he says, lightlier, "A lot of brand new information today."
"Siyeon loves it, I play with her sometimes. I like to pretend she's going to follow my path."
"God forbid her," Taehyung teases him and for the first time Jimin's laugh rings differently on his ears. It rings like he's laughing because of Taehyung, not at him. "I'm not familiar with it, all I know is it hurts like hell when you step on one."
They're almost reaching the cashiers when their cart bumps into another one and a woman not much older than them jolts in surprise, opening her arms.
"Park Jimin!" She greets him and Jimin smiles widely, turning around the carts to give her a tight hug.
"How are you, noona? I missed you!" Jimin nearly whines, holding her hands.
"I know, things have been insane lately… I couldn't get my head off Abode, the only thing that reassures me is knowing that it's in good hands."
"I'm sorry, did you just say Abode?" Taehyung meddles, blinking frantically. "Like, in Abode Project, by chance?"
"Yes?" She answers bewildered, switching her eyes from one to another looking for answers.
"The same Abode Project that builds houses for homeless people pro bono? You're saying that the Abode Project is in Park Jimin's hands?" Taehyung questions a few octaves higher, pointing a finger to Jimin who is just standing there with a pretended innocent countenance.
"Yes—I'm sorry, is there something I'm missing here?"
"No, I am sorry. He just likes to ask a lot of questions." Jimin gives him the dagger eyes and turns to her with a gentle smile. "Text me later so we can meet up, huh?"
Taehyung waves weakly while watching her walk away, his mouth gaped for so long it amazes him that he's not drooling yet. Jimin leans his elbow on the cart handle, cupping his own face with his hands with raised eyebrows.
"I think... I owe you an apology?" Taehyung tries and Jimin's smile grows bigger, incredibly with no sign of cockiness. He seems to be amused instead.
Jimin pushes the cart until he's standing right in front of Taehyung. "Don't bother, darling. Remember what you were just talking about, huh? Your face, you know… It looks like you stepped on a lego. That's enough for me." Jimin runs a thumb over Taehyung's cheek and then pats it lightly twice—so lightly it would look tender out of the context. He heads to the nearest free cashier and giggles when he looks back and spots a dumbstruck Taehyung paralyzed in the same place.
Taehyung follows him to help on doing the checkout and Jimin quickly engages in a conversation about holidays with the cashier, ignited by her curiosity in their purchases. He watches Jimin wiggling his whole body, excitedly showing what they're buying and explaining to her what he hopes that it turns into.
Taehyung only realizes he's been smiling fondly when the cashier glances at him in complicity and he sees his smile mirrored in hers.
Today's lesson is that Taehyung might like a little bit the way Jimin likes Christmas a little bit.
Jimin still has his pajamas on when he leads Siyeon to the stool so he can do the hairstyle she likes. He had to watch a tutorial on YouTube for at least seven times before he could manage to do something slightly similar to what was taught in the video, but practice makes perfect and her ear-to-ear smile when he finally nailed it made it worth it.
The hairstyle consists of a braid in the back of her head that goes all the way up and left, turning into a high ponytail, and demands a time that Jimin definitely is lacking that morning. But even though Siyeon would never complain or make a face if he told her he couldn't do it, Jimin feels like he's physically incapable of denying anything to her.
So maybe he can eat his breakfast on their way to the school if it means he'll see her hopping satisfied after checking it in the mirror.
"Appa," Siyeon makes a pause to give the apple a bite. "If Earth is the water planet, why is it called Earth and not Water?" Jimin stops braiding her hair and peeks at what she's reading, finding an illustrated book about astronomy for kids.
Siyeon asks the hardest questions.
"What?" Jimin smoothly gropes his pants until he finds his phone in his back pocket. "Why is the Earth called Earth and not Water?" He repeats it pretending he hadn't listened to it well for the first time just so he could use the voice search command.
"Yeah. Why?" She makes the slightest motion to turn around, but Jimin's hand that was working on her hair keeps her head in place as his eyes run desperately over the first article that came up on the internet.
"Because when people named it they didn't know yet it had more water than soil, pumpkin. And in some languages it's been named after roman gods, just like the other planets," Jimin explains, hoping she can't hear the smug smile in his voice, and slides his phone back to his pocket.
"Wow. You're so smart, appa," she compliments. Jimin really should've seen it coming by how slurred the words sound.
"Yep." Jimin gives a peck on the crown of her head. "And you took it after me."
"I did. Do you know what else? I also know how to use the internet," Siyeon sneers with a giggle and his smile immediately falters.
"Mm—" Jimin mumbles and swallows down the embarrassment for being called out by his own daughter. The only thing in his mind is a hay ball being carried by the wind as he ties the ponytail in place with a scrunchie, but he's saved by the bell before his silence grows humiliating.
Or rather saved by the honk.
He almost pulls Siyeon's hair back accidentally as she gets down from the stool and bolts to the window, leaning into the parapet to see who's outside.
She turns to Jimin with her head tilted to the side and asks, "Appa, why is Kimoon's appa honking in front of our house?"
Siyeon always asks the hardest questions.
"Why is Kimoon's appa honking in front of our house?" Jimin echoes, even more baffled. He follows her and fully pulls the curtain away, narrowing his eyes like he can't believe them when he clearly spots Taehyung beckoning to him in the driver's seat.
"Are you searching it on the internet again?" Siyeon mocks him.
"I don't think I like how smart you are anymore," Jimin retorts and walks away from her, opening the front door to find Taehyung walking in his direction with Kimoon following his track. "What are you doing here?"
"Hey! Good morning," Taehyung greets, stopping right in front of him. He wiggles his wrist to free it from the sleeves of his brown coat and checks his clock. "Aren't you ready yet? We're gonna be late."
"You didn't answer my question," Jimin doesn't mean to sound harsh, but it's too soon in the day and he's too confused to hold back his frustration. "How do you even know where I live?"
"I'm giving you a ride. You gave me your address last night, Jimin," Taehyung says with a flat tone like Jimin's stupid. Then, he goggles his eyes at him and leans in his direction in curiosity, enough for Jimin to lean back in impulse. "Wait, are you a sleepwalker?"
"I didn't gi—what?" Jimin parts his lips, opening and closing his mouth uselessly as nothing comes out. Something seems to cross his mind and he darts his eyes to his daughter, pointing his index finger to her. "Siyeon. Weren't you playing candy crush on my phone last night?"
"I can't recall." Siyeon's high-pitched voice forces a sweet tone and she scratches her nose, avoiding to face her father stamping a foot in the ground with a hand in his waist.
"Oh. That totally explains the kissing emoji with the heart," Taehyung says to himself thoughtfully, his eyes looking distant. He shakes his head and draws his attention to Jimin again. "Anyway, I offered you a ride and someone accepted it, so here I am. Do you still want it?"
"I'll only share a car with you because it's good for the environment." Jimin feels the need to provide an explanation and Taehyung wheezes with boredom. "Come on in, I'm gonna shower and change as soon as possible." He opens the door further for them to get in and notices how the air becomes thicker, the kids giving threatening looks to each other like dogs about to growl and bark. "Let's go, dear."
It's nothing personal, it really isn't. But the fact that Jimin's now capable of coexisting with Taehyung without wanting to scream onto a pillow doesn't change that he would be a person that he barely knows alone with his daughter, after all. So he paces to his bedroom expecting Siyeon to follow him and doesn't notice that she isn't.
"Siyeon, what's that?" Taehyung asks dramatically, gasping and causing Jimin to immediately stop in the middle of the hallway. Jimin turns in his ankles, almost stumbling out of concern and takes a deep breath at the sight. He sees Taehyung crouched in front of Siyeon with a coin between his fingers, her tiny hand gripping her ear lobe and mouth gaped in disbelief. Jimin crosses his arms eagerly and Taehyung gets on his feet, giving the coin to daughter and a derisive smile to father. "Nice pajamas, by the way."
Jimin looks down and only then he realizes he's still wearing the full body bear pajamas that has a 3D jar of honey in his belly. When he matches his with Siyeon's and they look like papa and baby bear, it is cute. Now, he just feels ridiculous.
He goes back just to take her by the hand and storms out of the room. Jimin gets ready in the shortest amount of time of his life, worried that he would make the kids be late for their class. When they're about to go, Jimin catches Taehyung tricking another coin out of Siyeon's ear.
"Stop trying to buy my daughter!" Jimin exasperates and squirms for seeing the amazement in Siyeon's face.
"Buying her? You're the one who doesn't see your daughter is leaking money, what kind of father are you?" Taehyung tsks and fights a smile when Jimin hustles him to get out of the house.
The ride to school is surprisingly peaceful, mostly because no one dares to say anything and risk changing it, allowing the smooth jazz to be the only sound that fills the car. After exhaustive attempts, they finally found a possible day for both of them to clean their schedules and meet, taking the first steps in shaping the party.
Taehyung parks and sets to the trunk to unload the stuff they bought the other day, too immersed in this to acknowledge how Kimoon is struggling to get his trolley backpack out of the vehicle.
Jimin joggles to the boy and easily lands it on the ground before he can ask for any help. "I got it."
"Thank you, Lord," Kimoon answers and the unexpected dry tone of his words cause Jimin to take a while to process what he did say. When he does, he turns his face to Taehyung and finds him clearly pretending to be checking something in the bags.
"Kim Taehyung," Jimin prompts and Taehyung lifts his head with a straight face. "Did your son just call me 'Lord'?"
"Appa said it's your code—"
"Hah, I—'' Taehyung speaks over him and snorts nervously, managing to cover Kimoon's hand with his forearm as they walk towards the school. "Kids and their inventive minds. Whacky boy."
They leave the kids at the school's yard to form the line and walk across the school having the gymnasium as their destination. For this time, Taehyung chooses the silence even if it's visibly uncomfortable, considering that his previous attempts to break it were unsuccessful, to say the least.
When they get there, Jimin naturally takes the lead to push the large metal door and be the first to get in. He heads to the bleachers and climbs to the top to take a good look at the place, wiping a folded paper out of his bag. Taehyung decides to wait for him downstairs, but Jimin seems to have something else in mind as he stares at him with a lifted eyebrow.
"Are you waiting for a special invitation?" Jimin asks wryly and Taehyung sighs, dropping the bags on the floor and climbing step by step leisurely. "At this pace you're gonna arrive in time to help me with Valentine's day party."
Not intending to piss Jimin off at 9 in the morning, Taehyung quickens to end up at his side. Jimin unfolds the paper and Taehyung asks even before scanning the paper properly, "What's this?"
"This is a plan, Taehyung-ssi," he answers in an exaggerated solemn manner and Taehyung threatens to go back down. Jimin grabs his shoulder and mocks through laughter, "You're an architect, I thought you'd be familiar with it."
Jimin only realizes his hand remains resting absently in his shoulder when Taehyung leans towards the paper to take a closer look. Taehyung himself doesn't seem to bother, but Jimin withdraws it as if he got a shock nonetheless.
"I know it's a plan, but of what? Is it this gymnasium?"
"Yep. It's the set up from the last party, but me, myself… I honestly think it's awful. You see, there's no reason for the waiters having to turn all the way around Santa Claus to get to the tables. It's better to put them nearer to the kitchen and Santa on the other side." Jimin's index finger circles the spot at the corner and he mouths, "Wait." He uselessly gropes his pockets and then buries his hand in his bag, apparently not finding what he's looking for.
Jimin turns to Taehyung ready to ask him, but meets with a raised hand. His eyes squint looking at it and, in the spur of a moment, Taehyung manages to motion his hand behind Jimin’s ear, coming up with a blue pen that definitely wasn't there two seconds ago.
"Did you seriously just get a pen out of my ear?"
"You're welcome." Taehyung shrugs and smiles, frisky. Jimin cocks his head, leaning it on his hand and his elbow on his belly. He glances at Taehyung and after brief seconds of looking intently, he gives up and giggles shaking his head.
Jimin goes on coming up with suggestions—to which Taehyung just mostly hums in agreement. Not because he doesn't care, rather because everything is very well thought out and he doesn't have much to add. In fact, it's so well thought out that he wonders if Jimin really is brainstorming that right now or if he had a backup with years of critique in the back of his mind just waiting for its moment to shine.
They climb down to measure the dimensions of decorations based on the wall sizes and Jimin can tell at the moment they share a look with goggle eyes that they're thinking about the same thing. Only then they realize that they should've done it before buying the materials. None of them say it, but both of them hope that what they bought will be enough so another trip to the store won't be needed. They would say that's because they don't want to rearrange their schedules more than they already have to, but that's obviously a lie. A huge one.
Namjoon had told them there was an old wooden table next to the bleachers that they could use to make whatever they needed to, the gymnasium as a whole being free for the day. That was a relief. Jimin wasn't the kind to be easily distracted by the ambient noise, but he would be terrified that a ball could accidentally hit them and wreck their work or something.
When they're taking the stuff out of the plastic bags, Taehyung stops and examines the content over the table, frowning. Jimin lifts his eyebrow in a silent question and Taehyung announces, "We bought enough ribbon to cover an entire avenue and forgot to buy the freaking basics. We don't have a scissor, glue or a ruler."
"Can't you just take it out of my ear too?" Jimin sticks his tongue out and Taehyung's cheeks puff as he forces a scornful smile back to him.
"I do magic, not miracles."
"You're really quick-witted, huh?" Jimin giggles and Taehyung's features brighten for the unprecedented praise. "Wait for me here, I won't be long." Taehyung doesn't want to count his chickens before they've hatched, but as Jimin leaves to look for the supplies and playfully kicks his leg on the way, he suspects that maybe things are getting better between them, step by step. With baby steps? Yes.
Actually, with baby-who-are-not-old-enough-to-walk-yet steps? Yes.
But that's something to get started with.
Taehyung had counted his chickens before they hatched.
Eventually, he got tired from the waiting, aware that he was too restless and his tolerance was a little too short. Anyway, Taehyung could swear that it felt like a lifetime had passed since Jimin left.
He follows across the main hall propping his head inside every room that has a door open just in case, but fastens his pace when he spots the one marked by the words art room written in a childish font. He finds Jimin at the back of the room, tiptoeing and stretching his whole body uselessly to reach a box on the top shelf. Taehyung doesn't mean to, but his steps sound too quiet as he gets in and approaches.
"What is taking you so long?" Taehyung's voice echoes too close and startles him, causing Jimin to hold onto the shelf for leverage.
"Where did you come from? God, you float like a ghost." Jimin puts a hand over his chest, trying to slow his breath down. "I told you to wait in there."
"I was waiting, but you're taking so long that I thought you would have run away and left me there," Taehyung explains and Jimin rolls his eyes, drawing his attention back to the box.
"You are projecting—" Jimin tries hard to say, hampered by the physical effort. "Your secret desires on me." Taehyung tilts his head lightly. That isn't exactly a lie. Jimin gives up with a heavy breath and stands on his feet again.
"Why can't you just ask for my help?" Taehyung asks in a mood and tries to reach the box labeled as containing staplers. When he also fails to, Jimin smiles dryly at him, so Taehyung harshly turns back with intent of dragging a combo desk to get on it. The last thing he registers is Jimin's voice yelling for him to wait.
The next one is that his thighs are burning, soaked with something stupidly hot.
"I told you to wait!" Jimin stares at his trousers worriedly, but clearly not having the slightest idea of what to do. Taehyung almost doesn't assimilate that Jimin's talking to him as hisses and hops around, digging his nails on his flesh trying to focus on something else. Jimin grows desperate when Taehyung lets out a throaty growl and blurts out, "Pull your pants down!"
"What?" Taehyung raises his head towards him like Jimin went insane. Now he had said it out loud and listened to himself, Jimin's starting to wonder the same.
"You heard me. The fabric is burning you!" Jimin manages to sound as reasonably as possible to not transform that into a big deal. Taehyung nods frantically even if his expression displays his uncertainty and does as he was told, glad that he chose a dark underwear for the day. Taehyung's shoulders drop with a groan that Jimin assumes is out of relief. "Better?"
"So much better," Taehyung is sincere, the cold air of the room delightfully striking his reddish skin and relieving the soreness. "See? That's why I hate coffee."
"Is this a constant in your life?" Jimin's giggle is cut in half as he freezes, eyes pinned at the back of the woman who stopped by the door, cheerfully talking to someone out of his sight with mention of turning and getting in at any time. His eyes meet with Taehyung's, equally widened with panic. Without a second thought, Jimin pushes Taehyung inside the storage closet from which he took some supplies minutes before his arrival. What he doesn't count on is that Taehyung will pull him in too and use his body to shut the door.
"Who left this mess? " They hear a distant, muffled voice coming from outside. Taehyung finally allows himself to breathe now he's sure they weren't noticed, resting his elbows against the wall and covering his eyes with his hands. It only comes to Taehyung that he had caged the other man between his arms when Jimin clears his throat angrily and purposefully loud.
Taehyung retracts in an attempt to take a step back, but is useless as he bumps into a shelf and becomes conscious of the minimal space.
"Why did you push me inside? You're the one half naked!" Jimin whisper-shouts fiercely, doing his best to merge with the door and maybe stop his own thighs from touching Taehyung's bare ones.
"I don't know, I don't work well under pressure." Taehyung retorts in the same tone and Jimin throws his head back. He closes his eyes hoping that if he disappears with Taehyung from his sight, maybe his presence as a whole will disappear by magic.
The gap in his logic is that he had four other senses to turn off. Jimin wonders if in the ridiculous amount of time he spent watching videos on the internet he never bumped into any method on how to block his hearing completely, preventing him from listening to his unnecessarily deep voice. If he just tries and sings something inside of his mind really loud, maybe.
He wonders if Taehyung would notice if he started breathing through his mouth to avert the unnecessarily good musk fragrance from coming to his senses.
Maybe if he could reach his phone and request a search for how to lead your body to voluntarily faint.
Too many options.
"That I can see," Jimin fires back and attempts to look through the cracks of the door, meeting the harsh reality that the two people are still casually talking in the classroom. "Why aren't they leaving? God."
"Is everything alright?" Taehyung asks, the fast pace of Jimin's chest going up and down being impossible not to notice. In the short windows where they are quiet enough, Taehyung can even hear him panting.
"No. Of course it's not." Jimin's answer sounds puffy. He thoughtlessly gets a few inches higher as he gets on his tiptoes, his nails verging on scratch the metal behind him, when Taehyung takes a step closer and slips his arms around his back. He even forgets to control his volume when he questions, "What do you think you're doing?"
"I saw in Grey's Anatomy this technique of calming people down by embracing them," Taehyung clarifies, plainly. He twitches his lips when it occurs to him how awkwardly he's holding him, but instead of letting go, he straightens and tightens and Jimin just wishes he wouldn't.
"Taehyung-ssi," Jimin catches his attention, stiffing impossibly more as Taehyung turns his head to his direction. "By now I can already tell you're not the most self conscious person in the world," he pauses, a break being needed to get back on the track that Taehyung's pretty lips insists to get him off, too alluring and too close to his. "But are you aware that you're hugging me while wearing only your underwear?"
"Oh." Taehyung frees him abruptly and Jimin captures the shift from an embarrassed mood, his face burning red even in the poor light. "Sorry. Oh my God, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable in any way, I—" Taehyung nervously ruffles his own hair and Jimin makes as if to raise his hand towards his shoulder, trying to soothe him for this time. Taehyung goes on rambling anyway. "I don't know what I was thinking—I mean, I know what I was thinking, I was trying to make things better for you, I thought you were… Panicking. It was stupid. I'm sorry."
"Don't worry, it was nothing. I was..." Panicking. But a different kind of panicking. Jimin completes mentally, but chooses to bite back the words. "Sorry if I was too hard on you." He says and immediately widens his eyes.
Right. Not the best pick of words, probably.
Taehyung doesn't seem to register, though. He was too immersed in his distress for that. After what seems like an eternity, the buzz outside ceases and Jimin cautiously opens the door to check if they were safe. He nods to Taehyung signaling that they are, so he pulls his trousers up, grimacing when the fabric brushes on the still sensitive skin.
For the rest of the time they spend together, one can't even say they returned to square one. That would mean they got back with the bickering and sassy retorts, but they share an uncomfortable, sepulchral silence instead. Their communication is summed to Taehyung checking with Jimin whether the size of the cheap fabric he's cropping is right or not, and Jimin seeking validation for his little snowmen made of styrofoam.
It gets worse when it's time to say goodbye. Taehyung reaches his hand out to be shaken, Jimin opens his arms to be held and they halt. Jimin reaches his hand out, Taehyung opens his arms to be held. They laugh nervously at the switch of their positions and, running out of options, Taehyung chooses to do the peace sign with his fingers. Jimin nods in response and waves his hand, all in a slow motion that only leads Taehyung to cringe harder when Jimin finally turns around.
Taehyung slaps his forehead when it comes to him that he was so stunned by their weird synergy that he forgot to offer a ride back to Jimin, blaming himself for him having to take an unnecessary cab that wouldn't be needed if he had come by his own car. Taehyung couldn't offer it by any means since he had to wait for Kimoon to leave his extracurricular music class, but he wished he could've at least explained that to Jimin.
Anyways, Taehyung thinks that today's lesson is that Jimin might have claustrophobia. But he's not so sure.
Taehyung tries his best not to probe on his faux pas and rather focuses on the cool wind that blows in the school's yard, causing the tree leaves to dance. It almost induces him to relax. Nonetheless, every time his mind travels to the picture of a very angry Jimin cursing at him for having to pay for the ride home, he's dragged out of his peaceful state of mind and starts to bounce his legs frantically again.
A check on the clock shows that the class will soon be over, just as his misgiving. Taehyung raises his head and frowns at the known figure that towers over him.
"Hyung! What are you doing here?" Jeongguk's voice sounds more glad than surprised, hadn't seen his friend-that-couldn't-be-addressed-like-that-out-loud-because-it-would-be-unethical in a while. The taekwondo uniform and his slightly wet hair tell he probably had just got out of a class.
"Living my worst nightmare." Taehyung flashes his best Pan Am smile and Jeongguk chuckles. "What about you?"
"I… Work here, Tae."
"Sorry, that was a stupid question. There's still coffee in my underwear so, please, don't blame me if my brain isn't functioning at its highest potential."
"Do I wanna know the reason behind?"
"Park Jimin," Taehyung answers in a gloom exaggerated way, just like a cartoon character. "To be honest, it was actually my fault. But it's his fault, too. If he hadn't taken so long I wouldn't go looking for him."
When he finishes, it finally occurs to Jeongguk who he had mentioned. "Park Siyeon's dad? What have you been doing with Park Jimin?"
"Principal Kim Namjoon-nim put us in charge of the Christmas party. We pissed him off fighting in front of him. The usual." Taehyung's head swings from side to side as he speaks with a weary tone, but Jeongguk's brows only knot together even more.
"Fighting? What were you fighting over?"
"Maybe you would know if you didn't catch a cold every time we have a parent meeting..."
"Don't blame me! That's the only way I found to avoid the moms that are too lost in their physical education teachers kink to even notice that I'm gay." Jeongguk crosses his arms with a pout, but then he smirks. "Jimin-ssi at least knows how to handle the situation better than me. Maybe I should get some tips from him."
Taehyung slowly nods in agreement, practically by habit. Then he turns his head sharply at him, features contorted by confusion. "Wait. Which situation are we talking about? Why don't you get some tips from me?"
Jeongguk scoffs and runs his thumb over his lower lip.
"I don't think you can give me any tips about the situation of being a gay man who doesn't know how to politely turn down inconvenient straight women, hyung."
Taehyung keeps staring at Jeongguk with lips parted, blinking repeatedly until he finally remembers how to say anything. "I'm sorry. Jimin is a what?"
"Hyung." Jeongguk giggles at his dazed reaction as if it was obvious. "I already thought that he might be bi or pan, you know. But one day I was fidgeting in a date app and bumped into him. His bio said he was a 'gay, solo dad of a sweetheart little girl' or something like that. I turned his profile down because I thought it would be weird, since I'm his daughter's teacher and all. But that's fine, I met Mingyu right after that."
"Cute." Taehyung smiles absentmindedly, still trying to assimilate all his words, but mostly the reality in which Jimin's into men. "It's just that… I didn't consider it, since..."
"He has a child? Seriously?" Jeongguk clicks his tongue, narrowing his eyes at Taehyung with an accusatory tone. "Are you going to resort to that?"
"Wow. Wow. Wow. What do you even mean by me?" Taehyung protests, his voice a few octaves higher. "What are you implying?”
"Tae. Taetae. Kim Taehyung." Jeongguk's words drip unnecessary fondness and his smile widens at each word. Then he declares, hardening his face abruptly, "Roundabouts are straighter than you."
Taehyung gasps outraged and brings a hand to his chest. "How dare you? It was just..."
"...Two times in college," Jeongguk echoes Taehyung's voice as he anticipates what he's going to say, dismissing with a wave of his hand.
"However," Taehyung starts upset, still in a sulk. "if I really were into men and I'm not saying that I am… The odds are against you. Jimin already is the single LGBTQ dad of the class, I wouldn't be a bolt of lightning that strikes the same place twice."
"Your dumbass metaphor couldn't be less accurate, lightnings can strike the same place twice." Taehyung unsuccessfully tries to dodge the light slap that Jeongguk delivers to the back of his head. "But again, how did we jump from what we've been talking to you being a closeted bisexual?"
"I'm not a closeted—Oh, God." Taehyung stares blankly at nowhere in particular in front of him. "Closet."
"Hyung?" Jeongguk snaps his fingers in front of Taehyung's face, getting worried as he doesn't get any reaction from him. "Did I trigger you...?"
"Kind of," Taehyung babbles and shakes his head. "I just… Hugged Jimin half naked. In a closet. Few hours ago."
"What?” Jeongguk laughs. "You basically had foreplay with the guy and still you say you’re not into men?"
"No! Not like that!" Taehyung exasperates, hurrying to explain himself. "I was trying to calm him down! But I got exactly the opposite. I'm afraid I made him uncomfortable. I apologized, but… He seemed a little… Thrilled. I think he might be claustrophobic."
"Have you considered that he might be nervous for other causes?" Jeongguk asks and seems to reason for a second, scrutinizing Taehyung from top to bottom. “Nah. Nevermind. Definitely claustrophobic."
"Sorry, I know you're pretty and that I would spend one hour or two with you in a reality that Mingyu had passed away fifteen years before and I grieved him in a wealthy way, but… C'mon." Jeongguk pauses and lifts each of his hands alternately, as if he was mimicking a scale. He glances meaningfully at the hand that halted representing the heavier position and declares, "Park Jimin."
Taehyung opts to ignore his subliminal offense. "If he's not claustrophobic, do you think he would be nervous… For finding me attractive or something like that?"
"Nothing's impossible." Jeongguk shrugs. "But here’s the thing—there are two kinds of people: GP givers and GP receivers."
"Gay Panic," Jeongguk answers, serious as never before. Taehyung's shoulders drop as he sighs.
"You just made this up."
"Shhh. As I was saying, Park Jimin is a giver of gay panic." He points to a random spot in the air and draws an imaginary line with his index finger, pointing to the extremity thereafter. "You’re on the other end, as a receiver. There's no way that you've been the one to give him a gay panic."
"I refuse to fit into this box. You're basically perpetuating ridiculous stereotypes based in what? Beauty? Sexuality?" Taehyung gives his fiery speech with a raised finger to a very weary Jeongguk. Taehyung retreats and seems to ponder for a second, leaning towards Jeongguk to ask with a low voice, "Is there any way in which someone can swap from a GP receiver to a GP giver? Just out of curiosity."
Before Jeongguk can provide him any answer, his eyes capture something behind Taehyung and he asks with a playful grin, "Isn't that your nemesis?"
Taehyung turns his head back so harshly that he can feel the muscle of his neck twitch. "I'll be right back!" He announces to Jeongguk, already getting on his feet and jogging towards Jimin.
"You won't!" Jeongguk yells back from a distance.
Well, he's right.
"Hey," Taehyung catches him and pats at his shoulder to bring his attention to him. "I thought you had left."
"Oh, no." Jimin scratches the back of his head, seemingly a little taken aback for Taehyung's sudden appearance. "I was waiting for Siyeon to get out of her ballet class." He beckons his head towards the little girl in her pink ballet clothes and she beams at Taehyung, shyly waving her hand.
"That's great news!" Taehyung stretches his arms open and Jimin flinches in surprise. "I mean, I was afraid that you had to get a cab to leave. I was waiting for Kimoon to leave his music as well, so…" He forces himself to stop blabbering and giving unnecessary justifications, jumping right to the main point, "Do you want a ride back?"
Jimin nods and they head to the music classroom. The ajar door allows them to catch sight of Kimoon cautiously taking a violin to the room where it is kept.
"That's—that's a violin? Does he know how to play it?" Jimin asks in amazement, leaning against the door jamb.
"A little bit. He's too young, but his teacher told me he's really skilled and will probably improve a lot." Taehyung tries his best not to sound like he's bragging. Jimin's able to spot his proud smile, regardless.
Taehyung also smiles unwittingly.
Their way to the car is filled by Kimoon's excited babbling about his day, now and then humming the current song that he's learning—a Christmas song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Jimin immediately recognizes it and fails to hold himself back, joining the boy.
"That's it! He knows it!" Kimoon addresses his father as he deliberately and energetically points to Jimin, that being enough for him to redden and cover a coy smile with a hand.
Taehyung finds it endearing how the same man that always seems to have the sharpest tongue towards him can get all flushed and shy because of a 7 year old boy.
Taehyung spends the whole ride giving quick peeks at Jimin as he tries to gather the courage to ask him what has been wandering his mind. When he gets in Jimin's street, he decides on trying the Hail Mary and blurts out of nowhere, "While I was waiting for Kimoon, I bumped into this funny personality test… Wanna hear it?"
"Sure," Jimin answers with a lifted eyebrow, miles far from certain.
"Are you afraid of the dark?"
"Are you afraid of rats?"
"Depends? If they're big enough…?"
"Are you afraid of small places?" Taehyung finally asks and gulps down, tightening his grip around the wheel as he waits for the answer.
"No?" Silence falls between them and Taehyung freezes, grateful that they're already parked in front of Jimin's house. "Is this all? What are the results?"
"Oh," Taehyung mumbles and turns his head to his window so he could close his eyes and curse in a low voice away from Jimin's sight. He recomposes himself and looks back at him with his characteristic boxy grin. "Are you afraid of heights?"
"Congratulations! You were a king murdered by your brother in your past life."
"...Alright." Jimin sustains Taehyung's eyes, his own openly carrying his suspicions. "Goodbye, Taehyung-ssi." He reaches to the door knob and leaves with a closed mouth smile. When Taehyung's sure that Siyeon has left too, his head helplessly falls forward until it reaches the wheel and he jumps back in a jolt, scared by the loud honk.
He rushes to slide the windows down as he notices that it has also caught father and daughter off guard, yelling an apology as Jimin looks at him angrily and inquisitively.
Rectification: Today’s lesson is that Jimin isn’t claustrophobic, but Taehyung might be Taehyungphobic.
On the next day that they arranged to meet at the school again, Taehyung spots a royal blue dot from afar and finds out that it is Jimin on his showy overcoat as he draws near to him. They say goodbye to their kids at the formation line before leaving to get the work started.
"I'll do my best," Siyeon promises puffing up her chest, swinging her body with hands behind it.
"And if you can't that's okay, too." Jimin places a kiss on his daughter's forehead and gives her a soothing smile.
"On the other day I heard Beomsoo's father telling him that if he didn't do this best he would lock him in the freezer—'' The end of the sentence comes out muffled as Taehyung pulls Kimoon's head into his body and pats the boy's hair nervously, looking around to check if some parent might have heard him.
"Hah, this little flea. Kimoon and his inventive mind strike again. Hah." Taehyung crouches so that his eyes are up to his and cups the boy's face with his hands. "Please, don't say it out loud ever again or Beomsoo's frightening hell of a father will probably lock me in a freezer."
Taehyung and Jimin head to the gymnasium and settle their materials at the same table from the last time, falling into a productive rhythm quickly. They are starting not only to know each other's ways of doing things, but also how to make each of them fit and work, building their own dynamic.
It's soon secure that Jimin is the brain that comes up with all the ideas. Wherever he darts his eyes, he can picture something to decorate the place with ease. His creativity, fueled by endless references from the Christmas content that he so fervently consumes, provides them with elements to cover every single inch of the gymnasium if they want to.
Problem is that Jimin is like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He's a brain with no body, or at least with no useful hands. Everything he touches turns into literal garbage.
So when Jimin clasps his hands together and points to the entrance saying he wants a 7 feet tall Christmas Tree made out of EVA, Taehyung knows it means he'll have to make a 7 feet tall Christmas Tree made out of EVA.
Taehyung's endeared by how Jimin's eyes glare and teeth nibs his lower lip for imagining how people will react when they arrive and bump into the tree. He just thinks he would be even more endeared if Jimin was able to cut a freaking circle without messing it up.
His lack of skills make them return to the square one of back and forth bickering. Taehyung gives up on requesting him to cut things and puts Jimin in charge of tying the ribbon bows that will decorate the tables and the handrails of the bleachers. Jimin feels like the kid that plays with the remote control unplugged, but he doesn't complain. He wants everything to be perfect, so if he has to stand at the corners forbidden to touch anything in order to accomplish it, he's okay with that.
"See, that's why we don't like engineers." Taehyung draws Jimin's attention to him as he meticulously cuts the green material with a utility knife. Jimin raises his eyes from the red ribbon, exchanging the careful look for a jaded one. "You leave all the hard, manual work for us and yet get all the credit."
"Excuse me? We come up with the foundations, we calculate—do you think that thinking isn't hard?"
"It must be, you never tried to for once in your life," Taehyung retorts and his serious countenance melts and gives place to a frisky smile when Jimin throws a tape roll at him.
They keep on working, smiling absentmindedly, and once in a while their eyes cross, causing Jimin to giggle. Every single time he will try his best to put on a grave face, only to find out that he's even worse at pretending that Taehyung doesn't amuse him than he is at handicraft.
"You know," Jimin starts, his chin held in his hand as he waits for something else that he could do. Taehyung hums to show he's listening, his eyes pinned at the star he's cropping. "There was one time when I was a kid and I tried to eat EVA because I thought it was edible."
"Oh, my God. You're worse than me." Taehyung halts what he's doing to laugh and glances at Jimin, entranced by the way his hand puffs his cheek up and joins his smile in order to cover his eye almost completely. "When I was a kid I thought that women got pregnant by asking it to God."
"No!" Jimin cracks up, throwing his head back and leaning his body to the side. "Wait, didn't you think about the ones who want to get pregnant but can't? Or the ones that don't want to and still get?"
"Oh, I did. I was a smart kid. I concluded that God made a mistake and swapped their requests, sending the babies to the wrong person."
Jimin laughs even harder than before and Taehyung feels like he could open the box of his embarrassing childhood stories anytime Jimin desires if it means that he'll hear that sound ringing in his ears again. It feels like the cinnamon rolls his grandmother cooks on Christmas. Like finding something delightful out of some circumstance that you thought you would absolutely despise in foreseen.
"I can't stop thinking about a tiny Kim Taehyung literally manifesting that God makes mistakes." Jimin wipes the tears away and takes deep breaths to calm himself down, reaching across the table to grab a scissor and point it at Taehyung, threateningly but playfully. "Are you trying to use humor to make your way into my heart?"
Taehyung gulps down, taken aback. Remembering Jeongguk's words, he bravely decides he won't give in to a stupid determinism and opts to overcome the panic that clearly overcomes him. He recomposes himself and wiggles his eyebrows, "Why? Is it working?"
"Not even a little," Jimin plays it casual and reaches out for Taehyung to get the pieces in which he'll glue glitter.
They slip into a comfortable silence as they focus on what they're doing. More specifically, Jimin decorates the stars of the tree with golden, silver and red glitter while Taehyung glues the parts of the huge tree together. Still, Taehyung decides on breaking it, not for being bothered by it, rather by really having a genuine interest in digging up more things about Jimin.
"So, this Christmas thing." He doesn't see when Jimin lifts his eyebrow in amusement, opting for keeping his eyes on the tree for safety. Which safety would it be is a riddle. "When did it start?"
"It's not always been like that. My family couldn't care less about Christmas when I was a kid, so I was the annoying kid that would make the others cry for telling them that Santa didn't exist." The air comes heavily out of his nostrils as Jimin holds back a laugh. He doesn't want Taehyung to think he's exactly proud of that. He really isn't; Jimin would probably hide himself under a table crying and knock down a bottle of wine thinking he failed as a parent if he found out that Siyeon was doing the same to other kids. Thing is that being ashamed of it doesn't change the fact that it's kind of funny how it still composes his complex personality, even until nowadays.
Jimin is a people pleaser. More than that, he's a people person. He's fascinated by people, their unique characteristics that constitute an universe of endless possibilities. He would do everything in his league to ease his way into each one of those universes and make people feel good about themselves—and mostly about him. But sometimes it simply clashed with his personality trait of having a thing for causing problems on purpose.
Counter to Jimin's expectations, Taehyung grins and all of his reaction tells his own expectations were countered. "I really can't picture that."
It catches Jimin off guard. He expected Taehyung to take the opportunity to mock him and say unpleasant behaviors were all you could wait from an unpleasant person. He doesn't.
"Can't you?" Jimin tries, practically fishing for an offense that never comes.
"Nah. I kind of always noticed that your annoying side was reserved to me and myself, only." Taehyung shrugs, but Jimin can't even dwell on what he just said as he goes on. "My mother told me Santa Claus didn't exist. Accidentally. Kind of."
"She was mad at me because I had done something and honestly, I can't even recall, but she was probably right. I was a brat." He pulls out a face and the other giggles. "So she said 'right now, my will is to tell you that Santa doesn't exist!', and I just stood there staring at her and mumbled 'you just did '." Taehyung impersonates them, putting every single emotion of the scene like Jimin was watching it with his own eyes. Jimin cracks again with a round of applause, enthralled by his newly found talents.
Taehyung finally takes his eyes off the table and smiles proudly at himself by the sight of Jimin wiping his tears.
"Alright," Jimin says, recomposing himself. "My mom never did that. She never needed to, everything just wasn't a big deal. We dined together, they gave me my gift when I woke up and that was all. That until I met my ex." Jimin smiles at his lap and Taehyung's glad that he's facing him, as he can notice that there's something unreadable behind the smile.
"Does she like it?" Taehyung tries.
Jimin takes a deep breath before he answers. He reaches for the materials again and it's his time to talk avoiding Taehyung's eyes. "Even more than me." His voice shifts to a tone that's different from everything Taehyung has heard from him so far. It's low, cadenced. Peaceful. "She was the one to present me the Christmas spirit and all. She was so passionate about it that everyone around her was automatically captivated by it."
Taehyung thinks he can understand what he's saying. Maybe a little too much for his own good.
He has a lot of questions about their relationship right now, not going unnoticed by him the way he addresses her using the past. But further than that, he finds that leaving a legacy in someone's life is fascinating. Positively influencing a person to change their point of view about something—that's a truly newly found talent.
Taehyung always had hard feelings for Jimin for seeing him as a stubborn and unyielding person. The biggest problem of that wasn't Jimin being like that itself, but the conflicts that they were led to when it clashed with Taehyung's similar personality. Sometimes we dislike someone that's annoyingly like us because it forces us to face the faults that we refuse to recognize that we have.
But now Taehyung's realizing that maybe he's been wrong this whole time. Maybe Jimin has a pure heart, a heart that's willing to open to changes. Maybe he just was unlucky for being unable to see that side of him before.
Truth be told, maybe he hasn't done much for it either. Taehyung feels ridiculous for even considering it, yet he can't help but wonder if all that talk about Christmas spirit and time for changing isn't getting into his head and causing him to want to know Jimin better.
"So… Beyond that, how's Christmas for you these days?"
Jimin seems surprised by the question for a second, in a heartwarmingly way.
"I gather with my family. Oh, and my best friend joins us too. Hoseok, he's my ex's brother. I follow every silly tradition that you can imagine, I'm such a sap." Jimin covers his eyes with a hand, smiling sheepishly. "I put socks at the windows to fill them with candies, I pour milk on a glass with cookies and when the clock ticks midnight I drink and eat it all up in a hurry, pretending it was Santa." Jimin looks at Taehyung for a moment to test the waters and decides on going on when he spots the goofy smile on his face. "And there's more, I convinced everyone to change our habits of opening the gifs in the morning by telling them that Siyeon was the one who couldn't wait, but it was actually me. I was thrilled to see her face as soon as possible, so she opens it at 0:00 o'clock."
"Doesn't she find it weird that Santa Claus passes by her house before passing by the other children's house?"
Jimin shrugs. "I don't know. Different time-zones."
Taehyung's whole face brightens from a laugh. At this point, he has finished what he could do with the tree, allowing himself to be openly and unabashedly glancing at Jimin, his tilted head resting on his fist.
"What?" Jimin asks coyly, despite the smirks that playfully pull his lips upwards.
"Nothing. It's just that… You're more unpredictable than I had..." Taehyung already regrets the sentence before he can finish it, but it's too late. "...Predicted."
"That's exactly what unpredictable means," Jimin tries his best, but he fails to say it with a straight face and cracks even before the sentence reaches its end.
"Shut up," Taehyung says through a giggle and beckons with his hand to Jimin to get on his feet and follow him so they could see how it's going so far.
This part turns out to be a little more complicated than they anticipated. Even though the material isn't heavy, the logistics are complex. Taehyung has to tie the end of the tree to a rope and launch that rope over the gate. He pulls the rope from the other side and Jimin wiggles his whole body with excitement as the tree is lifted, covering the entire gate exactly as he had imagined.
Taehyung ties the rope to a random iron pole provisionally to keep the tree in place and heads to Jimin's side.
"Not bad, huh?"
"Not bad? I'm loving it, I can't wait to see how it will look when we glue the whole decoration set." Jimin's elation just pours out of his body and, before he can't even come to his senses to stop himself, he's drawing Taehyung closer by holding his shoulder with an arm.
Taehyung turns his head to him and their eyes linger on each other for what feels like that endless last minute of the day before Christmas.
Jimin's arm gawkly drops back to his side and then heads to his nape, scratching it just for the sake of having his fingers touching something.
Out of desperation to divert their attention from the unexpected (and unnecessary, Jimin from two weeks ago would say, although today's Jimin's weighing about the necessity of getting hold of Taehyung's broad shoulders again) physical contact, Jimin asks, "What about you? How's your Christmas? You know. With Kimoon and all."
"My ex didn't care about Christmas either. We just put up our Christmas decoration because of him, to be honest."
"Oh." And before Jimin can't stop himself again, he's blatantly sticking to the wrong part of his answer and looking down at the table, half to get back to what he was doing and the other half to hide how he's blushing. "So you're divorced?"
Taehyung doesn't catch his uneasiness. "Yep, for three years now. My ex wasn't born here. She moved here to do a master's degree and that's how we met. We got married too quickly, I guess, and things went downhill pretty soon. Marcela missed her home, her country."
Jimin eventually made eye contact again, being impossible not to as the unforeseeable story drew his attention. "So she went back to her country and Kimoon stayed with you?"
"Yep. She wanted to take him with her, but he wanted to stay and we took it into account. She sees him as often as possible, on holidays, birthdays, vacations. Sometimes she visits us, sometimes we visit her," he explains and Jimin nods slowly, his eyes wandering as he absorbs it.
"Wow. Don't get me wrong, but… That's gutsy. Most people would just accept it as it was and settle on being unhappy." Jimin thinks he might have offended him when he hears a snort, but soon finds a friendly countenance on Taehyung's face, kindness held by his eyes.
"I don't. Even if it's a surprise to me, to be honest. People normally don't react this same understandable way. She felt pretty miserable living here, so." Taehyung shrugs. "It was the wisest decision."
"I can imagine people find it awful, but. You know. If you were one to do it, people would just find it natural." Jimin winks and Taehyung's smile grows bigger as he overstates a roll of his eyes just to tease the other.
Taehyung takes a brief minute to get his thoughts back on track as he thinks that even if Jimin has room for talking about what happened between him and his ex, he doesn't. Even if he's dying out of curiosity to know more about it, Taehyung doesn't push, learning that when Jimin feels comfortable enough to talk about something, he simply and wittingly starts rambling about it.
But Taehyung thinks that he'd like it if Jimin talked. Taehyung would like it if Jimin talked about everything and nothing in particular. He would like it if he talked about literally anything.
Because today's lesson is that Jimin's voice sounds like resting your head on his chest and having your hair caressed.
It's the first Monday in December.
Seokjin stealthily looks over his shoulder, looking for something over the table. He doesn't find it.
He sighs. He still doesn't get any chocolate.
The first snow of winter is already falling. The arrival of the holiday season is already noticed in the neighborhood, the houses starting to be decorated with garlands, ribbons and stars that assumingly will light up at night. Nonetheless, one of the houses stands out among the others.
If Jimin's house was a person, it would probably be one of those who arrives for a happy hour and someone derisively asks if they're lost, concluding with "Fashion Week is across the street" amid laughter.
Well, it makes sense. This person in question usually is Jimin.
The Christmas decoration is just… Extra.
If Taehyung can already catch sight of the lighting in the daylight, he must admit that he’s curious about how it looks in the dark. There’s a lot of snowflakes-shaped lights, wires wrapping every single tree of his front yard and a Christmas wreath that covers all of his front window, adorned with a ribbon. Not to mention the candy canes stuck on the snow that's starting to pile up, or the reindeers that will probably light up at night too.
Or the sled.
Or the Santa Claus that is the same size as Kimoon.
The worst part is that Taehyung can't even feign disgust and pretend he finds it gaudy. If someone accidentally spit some truth serum on his tea, he'd have to admit that he almost thinks it's cute.
It's just… Undeniably Jimin.
He knocks at his front door with one hand as he holds Kimoon with the other, his glove muffling the sound a little bit. Jimin hears it regardless, opening the door in a hurry to save them from the cold. He clicks his tongue when Taehyung openly looks at him up and down with a smug smile.
"It's cold, alright? My house, my rules." Jimin crosses his arms, legitimating the full-length reindeer-print pajamas he's wearing.
"I said nothing," Taehyung retorts drolly.
"Didn't need to." Jimin scrunches his face childishly at him.
He looks around the living room quickly and asks, "Where's Siyeon?"
"I don't know."
As Jimin turns his back to Taehyung and leaves to search for her, Taehyung fails to bite back his laugh when he spots the hood with reindeer ears.
It's an endeared laugh, in a finding-it-cute kind of way, he promises. But Jimin can't presume it, so his ears burn in the same tone of red of his pajamas out of embarrassment.
Jimin returns with a very sleepy Siyeon rubbing her temples and gaping his mouth and Taehyung coos at the sight of the exact same copy of Jimin's pajamas that she's wearing. Jimin snorts and begins to turn on his ankles, but Taehyung's faster on catching hold of his wrists to keep him in place.
"Please, don't feel uneasy because of me. It's just that I've never seen one of these in person before." He tries to reassure him, the fact that he hasn't let go of Jimin's wrist yet going unnoticed by them. "It's… Sweet."
His words cause the opposite effect and Jimin narrows his eyes conspicuously sure that Taehyung's still mocking him.
"How do we say even though people don't deserve it, baby?" Jimin addresses Siyeon and she nods.
"Good morning, Taehyung-ssi," she greets with a genuine smile.
"Good morning, Siyeon. We have something for you, don't we, Kimoon?" Although Taehyung's talking directly to his son, he remains quiet, his eyes pinned at a random spot on the floor. Taehyung purposefully and loudly clears his throat, bothered by the lack of response. Only then father and daughter realize he's been carrying a colorful box. Kimoon lifts his head to look at Taehyung and he beckons his own towards Siyeon, encouraging the boy.
Kimoon practically jogs to get to her and hands the box to Siyeon—or rather throws it and immediately gets back to hide behind his father's body. It's Taehyung's time to feel the mortification eroding his insides and look away, covering the side of his face.
He glances at Siyeon to catch her reaction and smiles from ear to ear when she gasps and hops excitedly at the same place.
"Look, appa! Look! There's one for each day of week!" She says pointing to the set with hair ties of different colors and patterns and Jimin mirrors her glowing countenance.
"I think it was a fair compensation since… You know…" Taehyung grimaces as he portrays a scissor with his index and middle finger and Jimin's eyes widen in a warning for him to cut it out.
However, Siyeon goes unaffected by it and keeps grinning stunned at the box, only looking up to say, "Thanks, Taehyung-ssi."
"Hey!" Kimoon interjects, outraged. "It wasn't my dad. It was me!"
Surprising every single person in the living room, Siyeon walks towards the boy and says, "Thanks, Kimoon," before holding him kindly in a hug.
"Thank you, Kimoon," Jimin reiterates, his eyes glaring with affection for the unexpected interaction as he smiles fondly at him.
The boy's smirking even before he answers, "You're welcome, Lord."
Jimin's smile falters.
"I'll go get the stuff in my car so we can get started, shall we?" Taehyung gawkily takes the opportunity to take Jimin's mind off what Kimoon just said and to remember why he's there in the first place. Jimin nods and offers himself to help him with that.
The school canceled classes for the day since there were parts of the city highly affected by the blizzard, making it difficult or even impossible for some kids to get there. They live in a less affected area nearer to the school, so Taehyung stopped by to pick up the materials and headed to Jimin's in order to get at least part of the work done, as they have no time to spare.
Few weeks ago, Taehyung would spend several minutes engaging in a quarrel with Jimin to decide who was going to leave the comfort of their home to move to the other. Today, he didn't—for a lot of reasons. First, Taehyung would justify that Jimin's house was incontestably bigger and cozier. Second, he would also say that his own house was a mess and he wasn't in the mood to clear everything so he could properly have someone there.
But Taehyung would never admit that the puppy eyes emoji in the text "pretty please, can we meet here?" played a big part in it.
Neither how much he secretly hoped that it wasn't Siyeon using his phone again.
When they get back and place the boxes with materials on the floor, Jimin frowns at the sight of Siyeon settling the board of the Clue game on the coffee table.
"Baby, we can't," Jimin says, kneeling beside her. "Appa and Taehyung-ssi have a lot of work to do right now." He runs a hand over her hair and she just nods, disappointment flashing over her features only for a slight moment.
"Sorry, I didn't know. I was just happy that we'd have a third person to play with us," she answers in a low voice, but still enough to be heard by Taehyung. Jimin gulps down and glimpses at the other man to check if he's paying attention to them.
As Jimin whispers to her, Taehyung feels even more like he wasn't meant to be listening to their dialogue. "What about Jihyo?"
"I don't like to play with her." Siyeon pouts. "She always lets me win and pretends she doesn't. I want a real challenge."
Taehyung's always excusing things bringing Kimoon's allegedly inventive mind to the table, but fails to consider how inventive is his own. Because right now his thoughts are travelling around questioning who would be that woman and wondering if Jeongguk wasn't just imagining things. Maybe he had even mistaken the Jimin that he saw on the dating app. It wasn't impossible, was it?
All of that because he's apparently unable to deal with the information that maybe Jimin's into men and is single. Taehyung doesn't know what to do with that, what he could do with that and, above all, what he wants to do with that.
Actually, what he wants to do with that is probably the only unraveled question, but it only leads him to a lot of other question marks on his mind.
The question marks are only useful to muffle the sound of a low voice in the back of his head that insists on telling him that it is impossible. Jimin's face isn't one to be easily mistaken or forgotten.
"We can play it later, huh? What about it?" Taehyung suggests and snaps Jimin out to the fact that he's been catching up with the whole conversation. Jimin blinks a few times, clearly taken aback by the fact that Taehyung would want to spend more time in his company than he's already forced to, specially to play a boardgame with his daughter. A match could last for an entire hour and the afternoon will probably be reaching its end when they get done with the table decorations.
"Yeah, sure," Jimin decides on not giving much attention to that, thinking that they'll probably end up forgetting about it anyway. He gets on his feet and takes the materials from the floor, settling them on the dinner table. "Oh, in the meantime, I guess you can play something else with the Kimoon. I mean, as long as you promise not to rip off any part of the other's body again," Jimin stresses the word, darting a meaningful look at his daughter.
"In fact, Kimoon brought his notebook. He has math homework that he needs to do." Taehyung's words steal the smile away from Kimoon's face and he walks with a defeated slow pace towards his father to get his materials.
The decorations are easy to do, the problem is that there are many. Jimin said he came up with the idea after seeing something similar on Pinterest, and didn't even bother to hold back his laugh when Taehyung asked what the hell Pinterest was. So there they are, stuffing acrylic boxes with cotton and a red and white striped stick with a Christmas cap on its end. When the party day comes, they'll only have to add the candy canes to the pot, since it would obviously rot if they did it now.
It becomes frighteningly easier to be around Jimin, to the point that Taehyung starts to feel flustered by the silence when Jimin's not humming the obnoxious Christmas carols. But the silence doesn't last long anymore, quickly and naturally being filled by their talk. Small talk about funny incidents on being a father, meaningful talk about just the same. They talk about college, talk about their works and talk about Jimin's facade. Taehyung asks if he's participating in any of those competitions for the best decoration in the neighborhood and Jimin says he does it because he loves to.
Winning for the past three years in a row is just an aftereffect.
Due to the brand new easiness in their demeanour, time passes faster than they're able to conceive and Jimin only realizes it's already lunch time when his belly growls. He's stretching his body, trying to lose his stiff muscles for the amount of time he spent in the same position, when he catches a Kimoon frowning, seemingly frustrated.
Jimin heads to his side and crouches, getting a suspicious look from the boy in advance. "Do you need any help?"
"No, I'm a smart boy, remember?" Kimoon retorts stubbornly. Taehyung crosses his arms, in doubt between reprimanding him and being amused for seeing he's not resilient to his father's help only.
"Even smart people need help too so they can become smarter." Jimin cocks his head, his tone calm and a friendly smile inviting him to accept it. Taehyung giggles, amazed by how he handles the situation better than he ever would. He'd probably be apologizing and hiding himself under his blankets by now if he was on his shoes.
"That's why you're helping my father?" Kimoon asks and Jimin breaks, lips parting as his jaw hangs slack.
"No, your father is helping me—" Jimin comes to his senses and cuts his sentence off, pinching the bridge of his nose. "That's not the point. Do you want to become smarter?"
Kimoon seems to ponder for a brief moment and then he gives up with a shrug. Jimin sits down more comfortably and helps Kimoon through it, finding out that the problem is actually harder than he imagined for someone of his age. He lets the boy know that it was much simpler when he was a student and praises him when he accomplishes it, reaching the final result.
"Thank you, Lord," Kimoon says smiling devilishly and Jimin does his best to put on a cheerful face, smiling gently.
"You're welcome, Kimoon."
This time, Kimoon's smile falters.
"It's not fun anymore." He clicks his tongue and Jimin watches dumbfoundedly as he gets on his feet and hops to where his father is standing near the hallway.
Jimin stands up as well to get to the kitchen so he can prepare lunch for them. On his way, Taehyung leans in his direction and Jimin stops, sniffling the trouble by the way Taehyung purses his lips.
"I'm sorry for… Him," he says and Jimin squints, shaking his head. He can tell by the way his cheeks are puffed in amusement that Taehyung's far from sorry.
"Don't be, it's not his fault. The apple never falls far from the tree, you know," Jimin flares back and Taehyung scoffs, kicking Jimin's calves lightly and playfully.
A satisfied smile refuses to leave Jimin's face while he cooks lunch.
It's mid afternoon when they finish the decorations and so naturally lean over the table to give a high five. They stare at each other for a second in awareness of what they just did and crack up laughing, dropping their eyes at their own laps coyly. Their eyes meet again and the unusual shiver that runs down his spine causes Jimin to be the first to break the contact, checking on the kids watching some cartoon on the TV just for the sake of looking at something else, anything else.
"So, do you still wanna play, Siyeon?"
That catches Jimin off guard for more than one reason. Taehyung's deep voice almost startles him, who hadn't realized that he stood up and drew nearer to his side at some point. Jimin questions himself if it's really necessary for Taehyung to be that close and invade his personal space with his scent, when Jimin isn't even the one being addressed.
Second reason is that he didn't expect that Taehyung would still remember what he suggested earlier, thinking it was just an empty promise so she wouldn't be sad for too long. Jimin really didn't imagine that he had an actual intent of sparing his time with a board game and—
There was more, but right now Taehyung's hand is brushing against Jimin's over the table and giving him a hard time to think clearly about anything else.
Siyeon's answer is an excited squeal, jumping off the sofa and setting the game over the coffee table. Taehyung squeezes Jimin's hand lightly as a cue for him to follow, before leaving his position and heading to where the kids are.
If Taehyung turned around for a second and caught the way Jimin repeatedly shifted his glance from his own hand to Taehyung's back with an astonished countenance, Taehyung would immediately text Jeongguk bragging that his theory was pure crap.
But in the moment he let go of his hand and realized what he just did, he felt too scared to look back and face Jimin for the next hour.
Sun is setting earlier due to the current season, so it's already dark when they finish the third match. Siyeon won the first one, Jimin the second and Kimoon the last, so it's not an overstatement to say that Taehyung feels humiliated.
"You know I let you all win, don't you?" Taehyung murmurs to Jimin. That isn't necessary anyway, his voice being muffled by the kids chanting that Taehyung's a loser as they do a cute victory dance.
"You absolutely didn't."
"Of course I did," Taehyung lies, rolling his eyes as he grabs his belongings and puts his gloves on. "No one would suck that much off purpose."
"See? You had me in the first half, but you erred on the side of caution." Jimin giggles. "You're just too transparent to win this game, your face always betrays you."
"Oh, I'm sorry I'm a terrible liar." He puts his hands on his hips. "Last time I checked, truth was a virtue."
"Truth is useless for you to beat 7 year old kids, my dear." Jimin unmindfully raises his hand and cups his cheek, squeezing it repeatedly and causing Taehyung's lips to jut out in a pout. His smile slowly fades away as it comes to him that he's literally touching Taehyung's face, so he frees him from his grip and urgently reaches to the front door.
When he's about to open it, it looks like something has crossed Jimin's mind and he jogs to somewhere out of the living room. Taehyung gets it when the room goes brighter all of sudden, the lights from the outside invading through the windows.
They grab their coats on the rack, the parents also put a beanie on kids' heads and they go outside, stopping at the sidewalk so they could take a good look.
Jimin is beaming as he hadn't for a long time, seeing that Taehyung stands out between them with the most mesmerized expression.
Even among two kids, who'll be mesmerized by anything luminous that you put in front of them. That really is something to take into account.
"What?" Jimin asks. He pulls his collar up to protect his lips, already feeling them burn in consequence of the temperature. And also to prevent Taehyung from seeing his helpless, silly smile. But mostly because of the cold, obviously.
It's useless, anyway. Taehyung has learned at some point that Jimin's widest smile is conveyed by his eyes.
Said eyes now being beautifully illuminated by the red and green lights that adorn the trees and blink alternately, taking their turns.
Taehyung can't help but stare deeply right into them, unable to divert his gaze like Jimin's eyes are magnetic, even if he supposes he's looking like a fool right now. Lips parted, eyebrows slightly raised as he tries to come up with the words to start describing what he's thinking, or rather what he's feeling. Like the thought of not this time of the year again is giving place to endearment by how every single little lamp sends the effort and affection that Jimin put into it; sends it right to Taehyung's chest and spreads an unprecedented warmth that used to be a sense of boredom.
"Nothing, it's just that... It's... It's that you—" Taehyung manages to say with an inconspicuous shake of his head. The end of the sentence hovers in the air above them, twirling around with snowflakes and their warm breath. Taehyung hopes that Jimin can catch it without him needing to verbalize it.
He hopes that Jimin was right and that he's transparent indeed. He hopes that his face betrays him and lets Jimin know that today's lesson is that Jimin amazes Taehyung.
Jimin drops his body heavily on the couch, craving for a deserved rest after the long day of work. He allows himself to close his eyes shut to relax just for a couple of minutes, aware that it won’t last long until his instincts wake him up to cook dinner.
Or Siyeon does it, instead.
"Are you hungry, pumpkin?" He asks with a slurred voice, floating in that place of semi consciousness as he can sense Siyeon towering over him.
"No, appa," she answers plainly and Jimin peeks with one eye in confusion.
He practically groans when he finds out that the girl is wrapped up in warm clothing, including a beanie, gloves and her cute yellow snow coat. "Why are you dressed like this?"
"Can we go sledding today? Pretty please, pretty please, pretty please—" Siyeon goes on and Jimin turns to lay on his side, pressing his cheek onto the cushion.
"I told you that we'd go on Saturday, baby. Can't you wait one more day?" Jimin asks, already with a defeated tone.
"But what if the snow melts until tomorrow?" She argues, her lips jutting out in concern. Jimin giggles.
"The snow isn't going anywhere, I promise you."
"But I've learned in school that global warming is melting the polar ice caps." Siyeon is relentless, giving Jimin a doubtful look. "Is you what Teacher Kim called? A negatoscope?"
"A what?" Jimin asks, but his frown relaxes as he realizes and brushes his temples. "Oh, God. Can't I turn you down without being called a negationist?"
"Pretty please!" It's her last shot. Jimin knows that if he alleges his tiredness, she'll understand right away. But it happens that she's pouting and joining her hands together in a plea and Jimin's ridiculously weak, enough to almost sweep the fatigue out of his body.
"Fine," Jimin gives up and she runs around the coffee table as his father whips his phone out of his pocket to send a text message.
Being the first day of the weekend and one of the first where the snow is piled up enough to be taken advantage of, the park is crowded. Given that, it's a surprise that Jimin can suspect that the dark purple snow coat among the multitude of people belongs to a known figure. That it belongs to Taehyung.
"Isn't that..." Jimin contemplates out loud and glances at Siyeon, quickly looking ahead again afraid that he'd just lose the man amongst the mass. It won't happen. Taehyung's already caught sight of Jimin and is waving enthusiastically.
So, Jimin rests his eyes back on his kid and snorts, now conscious that she doesn't look quite as surprised as him for some reason. In fact, Siyeon is blatantly ignoring him, crouching and writing both her and her dad's name in the snow with a heart. Jimin purposefully taps his foot on the ground, knowing it'll be seen by her peripheral vision and makes it impossible to keep with the feigned omission.
She finally raises her head, an untrustworthy shit-eating grin curling her lips upwards.
When Taehyung spots Jimin, his heart skips a beat in a funny manner. He doesn't know yet if it's a consequence of the unexpected meeting with Jimin or with the outstanding woman that has her arm intertwined with his, but he hopes he figures it out before he gets to them.
Especially as he has a short amount of time for that, considering he's been jogging towards Jimin and basically dragging Kimoon in a tow since the very moment he laid his eyes on him.
This is left aside anyway, because Siyeon soon is the first to greet him, straightening on her feet to hug Taehyung's leg. "Hi, Taehyung-ssi!"
It would be an euphemism to say Jimin's feeling betrayed.
In absolute contrast, Taehyung does little to hide his enthusiasm, even if the woman is standing there and staring at him with an unreadable face. Almost as if she knows him yet, which strains his uneasiness even further. The only familiar thing about the woman are the eyes, which look like someone just Ctrl + C'ed Jimin's in a photo editor and pasted it on her face. But Taehyung's sure he's never seen her before, anyway.
"Just to be sure," Jimin says and Taehyung practically has to guess that he's the one being addressed, since the other man keeps pointing gazes to his daughter. "This was a coincidence, right? We didn't arrange this in any way, right?"
"...Yeah?" Taehyung's tone is a little unsure and Jimin turns sharply at him, just like he's trying to catch a wink in complicity between him and the girl. The manic smile on his face probably is leading them to think he's crazy by now and, if he'd be honest, it does justice to how he's feeling. "I wasn't expecting to meet you here. I mean, you—" Taehyung does a motion with his hand towards the woman in specific, smooth but perceivable, regardless.
"I'm Jihyo, by the way. Nice to meet you." She stretches out a hand and Taehyung thinks she's being friendly. It doesn't change that he still feels like he's being overanalyzed.
They start walking en route to the booth to rent the sleds. Siyeon trips over a stone and both Taehyung and the woman reach to help her at the same time, but she's faster. Siyeon smiles in thanks to her aunt and—
Taehyung blinks a few times as if it will be useful for him to hear better what she had just said.
"She's your sister," he says it dazzly. It isn't a question.
"Since we shared a womb, as far as I know," Jihyo answers instead, with a smug.
"Good. Cool. Park twins. Shared womb, shared brain cells, shared clothes," Taehyung rambles and Jihyo looks at her brother pursing her lips in a mix of amusement and an appeal for answers that Jimin certainly isn't in place to give.
Jimin feels a weird urge to say anything just so he could help Taehyung through stopping to make a fool of himself, but there aren't many available words that wouldn't worsen it. "I don't think we're sharing any clothes right now. Or in any moment for the last twenty years."
"Yeah, that's good. I'm glad you're not sharing clothes. Or any other possible stuff." The last part comes out a little strangled but Jimin hears it anyway, goggling his eyes at it. Jihyo just covers her mouth in a fist to hold back her laughter as she gradually seems to acknowledge what appears to be happening.
"I thought you had some problems with a kid's father from school," Jihyo whispers to Jimin as he slips the money to the cashier, Taehyung currently being in a safe distance while he adjusts the oversized helmet on Kimoon's head.
"Please. Not now," he says bashfully and barely runs away from her, grabbing the sled that's been offered to him on the counter and taking Siyeon away by the hand.
Jihyo says she'll be right back after getting something to eat, leaving them alone for a while. Taehyung and Jimin watch from afar as the kids slide each in their own sled on a lower, less steep slope. Their phones keep raised all the time, ready to catch pictures and videos from their wide grins and the little cute squeaks they let out every time they bounce due to a little bump in the ground. They mirror the kids' giggles, smiling foolishly as if they're on the other side of the cameras instead of being the ones capturing it. That until it actually changes.
Taehyung glances at Jimin and it comes to his mind how beautiful he looks right now, his blonde hair fully tucked inside of his black beanie and the tip of his nose pink because of the cold. Mindlessly, he taps the screen to flip the camera and draws near Jimin, who joins him in making faces, smiling and sticking his tongue out to the photos in the same state of mind. In which could have been the last one, Jimin puts on a serious, cool face and Taehyung loses his track staring at his reflection on the screen, letting slip that he should be taking the picture. Their eyes cross by the screen for a moment as Jimin tries to inquire what's taking him too long, but that's enough for them to acknowledge their proximity, what they were doing and move away gawkily.
Fortunately, soon Siyeon and Kimoon are running and dragging the sleds across the snow to get to them. Jihyo comes back right in time and hands a cup with hot chocolate to the girl and another one to the boy.
"Thanks," Taehyung's the one to say. "You didn't need to."
"Apparently I did, since my brother expressly requested me to bring him one," she justifies, and his brows raise slightly. Jimin can just hear the smirk in her voice, although the action of dropping his eyes to the floor to avoid Taehyung forbids him to see it. Finishing their drinks, Kimoon's the first to pull the hem of Taehyung's coat in an insistent plea for his father to slide in the biggest slope with him. Siyeon follows his lead, hopping around Jimin and trying to convince him.
In truth, they didn't need that much to be convinced.
They settle at the top and Taehyung gives a final, challenging glare to Jimin that he definitely lacks the intent to reciprocate. It becomes clear why when Taehyung slides down fasts like an arrow and Jimin goes next much more carefully, one hand grasping onto the snow in an attempt to break as he practically curls around Siyeon to protect her, despite her efforts to get rid of his hold and at least see what's in front of her.
However, when Jimin approaches them, it's revealed to him that Kimoon is the one in charge of the sled, grinning widely as Taehyung clutches onto him with what Jimin could swear is fright creeped over his face, no sight of the previous boldness left.
Jimin struggles to get on his feet, his legs suddenly wobbling in a really embarrassing way for anyone who is over ten years old. Taehyung's about to mock him, but the kids thwart his plans as they ally in favor of shaming both of them, complaining about the chicken of men they are.
Jimin makes the excuse that he was only concerned about her physical integrity, but he soon learns it was a mistake as Siyeon and her sharp tongue propose that he should go on his own then. Taehyung's nipping his lower lip, ready to pester Jimin when Jihyo traps him.
"You should go, too. Prove us that you're not as a baby as it seems," she teases and Taehyung snorts, promptly guiding Kimoon to hold her hand and dwell like that as he slides.
The first ride is an open showing of how right the kids were. They don't dare to let go of their grips on the side of the sleds, not even for a second, and Taehyung prays that Jimin is too busy pissing his own pants to notice that his eyes were closed for most of his way down.
They grow bolder by the second, finally seeming to understand that they're not going to somersault and bend their necks in half. Problem is that courage usually leads people to make stupid decisions and they're no different than that. Jimin will be right when he puts the blame on Taehyung later, because he really is the one who starts to head his sled to the side forcing Jimin to do the same in order to avert them from bumping into each other. Too focused on annoying Jimin and too focused on yelling at Taehyung telling him to cut it off, they fail to spot the major bump ahead and are thrown into the air.
They protect their heads with the hands, no harm done thanks to the softness of their gloves. Their butts unfortunately suffer another fate and land painfully on the bare snow, the sleds being long gone. Jimin props himself on his elbows to check if Taehyung's okay, the chance of a negative startling him from the moment he heard a loud "ouch" during their arrival. When Taehyung reassures him saying he's fine, Jimin rolls over and kneels on the snow to strangle Taehyung playfully.
"I'm gonna end you," Jimin threatens, overdoing the squeeze more to make Taehyung jolt than really applying any pressure that could hurt him.
Taehyung brushes Jimin's hands off him and drops his arms on his sides, his chest going up and down out of fatigue. Jimin cups a small snow pile with his hands as he waits for him to recompose, using his index finger to draw a smiley face and feeling Taehyung's eyes following his movements. When he looks back at him and finds it true that he's been observed, he clutches the pile into a snow ball and throws it on Taehyung. He rolls trying to avoid any further attacks and says, his voice coming out funnily distorted since his cheeks are glued to the snow. "That was fun. Wanna go again?"
Jimin throws his head back laughing, shaking it in disbelief next. "How can you? It isn't possible." His face begins to burn and Taehyung looks up to him with a questioning look, the unwitting smile on Jimin's lips not saying much. So he clarifies, "That you still have any energy left."
"Not all of us are grandpas like you, buddy." Jimin scrunches his nose and stands up tenaciously, grabs his sled tenaciously and stretches his hand out to help Taehyung tenaciously. He complies with a smirk and bends over to get his own sled, but Jimin takes a long step to get in front of him.
"You know what? Why don't we… Mm…" Jimin starts and winces, letting the idea die since saying it out loud makes it absurd to his own ears.
"I was going to suggest that we… You know. Ride it together." Jimin spits it hurriedly and Taehyung quirks an eyebrow. "Just because you couldn't threaten my life if we went together. That's all. But forget it, it was—"
"Fine," Taehyung cuts him with a soft smile and Jimin stares at him quizzically, caught off guard. "It's gonna be… It's gonna be fun." How wouldn't it be?, Taehyung completes, but bites his tongue back.
Jimin jogs to where the kids are watching them with his sister and drops the sled on the floor, only having a quick glimpse of the sly inquisitive look on her face before he hurries back to the top of the climb.
Taehyung sits and drags his body forward to make room for Jimin, who settles behind him a little haltingly. First, he tries to sit on his own legs, but surrenders assuming that if it's uncomfortable now, it'll get ten times worse when they're going down a hill. Catching Jimin's hesitance to stretch his legs and adjust him between them, Taehyung pats them in allowance and asks, "Do you trust me?"
"This question offends me," Jimin answers, evolving Taehyung's waist with his arms. "Of course I don't."
Taehyung whacks him playfully and sighs for feeling the hot air that leaves Jimin's mouth when he giggles too near to his ear. He regrets it immediately as Jimin seems to notice it and retracts. It doesn't last long though, since the alternative is to get tickles from Taehyung's hair brushing on his nose, so Jimin finds out that he'll have to rest his chin on the man's shoulder one way or another.
Taehyung stays ridiculously still, the layers of clothes being useless to prevent him from feeling how tight Jimin's hold is around him, more frightened than he'll ever be willing to admit. Worried that he might have finally realized how insane it is for him to be about to slide down a slope clinging to the man he used to struggle enduring, Taehyung finds it better to check if he didn't change his mind, "Are you ready?"
He just hums in agreement, his hands sliding to grasp the hem of Taehyung's coat. When Taehyung drags his foot to gain momentum, Jimin begs, "Please, don't kill us."
It turns out to be much more fun than Jimin would've ever imagined. Jimin relaxes by seeing Taehyung isn't messing around and goes down the steepest part letting out an amused "Wheeeeeeee!". It causes Taehyung to stretch the widest boxy smile that he has ever opened in Jimin's presence so far. It comes to him that he can't see the look on Jimin's face and that he oddly longs for it. He wishes they had the idea of filming themselves on the slide so that he could stand a chance to see it.
He wishes Jimin could stand a chance to see his own smile. It's only fair, considering he's probably the major reason behind it.
They decide to go one more time before they have to go back to the kids, already worried and pitying Jihyo for being left with them alone. She's used to looking after Siyoen, but one thing's to take care of her, alone. Another completely different is to take care of her and Kimoon, mostly because she turns into a completely new, brat leaf when you blend them together.
However, for this time, Taehyung proves Jimin's mistrust right and does a trick when they're almost halting at the end of the lane. When he takes his right hand off the sled and takes it to the left side, Jimin's already mumbling "No, no, no, no, no—" helplessly and uselessly.
Next thing he knows is that they're both on the ground.
God knows how, Taehyung managed to turn the sled and bring them down. Unfortunately for Taehyung, Jimin's leg is thrown over his body and he promptly takes advantage of it, wrestling him. Taehyung tries to dodge him and does what he can to turn until they're face to face—and also turn the tables, grabbing Jimin by the shoulders and forcing him to roll in the snow.
They roll three, four more times until they have to stop because they're starting to get dizzy. They lay there facing each other, laughing and breathing heavily for a while, too tired to make a move. Jimin's the first one to retreat, getting his arm that's hugging Taehyung by the waist back to his side as quietly as possible. Nonetheless, he feels unable to do any other movement that would deprive him from looking into Taehyung's eyes so closely, close enough for him to even see the white smoke that leaves his lips as he pants, feeling the warmth on his own.
He needs to get up. Immediately.
Taehyung tries to calm himself down by thinking that the ridiculous desperate rhythm in which his heart is beating is nothing else than expected for someone who was tackling another man on the ground. Anyway, he feels the need to dissipate the tension just like the smoke in the air before it gets worse. "Don't you think I've been punished enough already? I'm almost sure I broke my butt," he complains, brushing his ass with a grimace.
"It was well deserved."
"It was unprovoked."
"UNPROVOKED?!" Jimin yells at his face, sitting back in a hurry dying out of embarrassment as he catches the attention from people around them, who flare hard looks at them.
Jimin tries his best to get on his feet, watching Taehyung as he continues sprawled on the floor with no sight of movement. He extends a hand out to help him to get up, "What can I do to help?"
"You can kiss it bet—"
Jimin retracts his hands immediately and lines it up his face, pointing a finger threateningly towards Taehyung, "Don't you dare finish that."
He turns his back to him and starts walking away at a fast pace before Taehyung could mock him for the redness on his cheeks that has nothing to do with the temperature, this time.
Jimin was so inexplicably in a hurry to leave that he didn't even remember to gather the sleds or bring his own with him. Taehyung comes by a few minutes later bringing them both and Kimoon flies in his direction. He feels momentarily happy for thinking his son has just missed him, but it's revealed that he just wants to ask him to buy a bear shaped cotton candy from the vendor next to them.
It causes a chain reaction and Siyeon lets Jimin know she wants it too, although more quietly.
"What? No, how deep do you think my pockets are? I've already bought bbopkki and that other thing that probably just tastes like color," Taehyung tells him and Kimoon whines, grabbing the hem of his coat again. "It won't work this time."
"Do you want me to buy it?"
Or apparently it will.
Father and kid turn their heads to Jimin, taken by surprise. Jimin heads to the booth taking her by hand to choose which one she wants and looks back to beckon in encouragement. Taehyung follows him.
"It really isn't necessary," Taehyung says and Jimin clicks his tongue.
"It's fine, I'm going to buy it for her anyway." Jimin shrugs. "It wouldn't be cool if he kept just watching her eating it while craving for it."
The vendor asks Jimin if there's any chance that he has a coin to make the giving of the change easier and he rummages his wallet vainly. He feels Taehyung's hand hovering over his left ear and dodges it, turning to him with a maniac smile to find out that he got a coin out of his right ear instead.
Jimin takes it harshly and passes to the vendor, who's clearly doing her best not to laugh. She hands the chick shaped cotton candy to Jimin and the bear one to Taehyung and waves them goodbye with a playful smile.
"I can't even get started with how much I hate you," Jimin announces as they walk back.
"But do you, really?" Taehyung retorts in a sassy mood and Jimin rips a bit of the cotton candy to shove it in Taehyung's mouth.
After they finish it, Jimin watches from afar as Taehyung does a snow angel, entertaining Siyeon and Kimoon. Then he becomes the referee in a snow war between the kids, clearly taking it much more serious than them as he blows an imaginary whistle every two minutes to scold them for breaking some rule that they didn't even know existed.
Jimin practically glows as he watches, his eyes glaring with amusement—at least when they're in display, since most of the time they're hidden in crescent moons from how widely he's smiling.
Jihyo watches Jimin.
"You know," she halts for a second and Jimin's glad she does, as he's sure that what's going to come out from her mouth is going to annoy him. Jihyo's always been granted the talent of saying the wrong things. Or better the right things that Jimin just doesn't want to hear. "You know this man is in love with you, don't you?"
Jimin laughs like a maniac like he had heard the funniest joke in the universe and she stares at him with a straight face.
"Your psychic powers or whatever failed at this one. He's straight," Jimin retorts when he stops putting on his show of the overreacted laugh. Her psychic powers or whatever catch the bitterness behind his words.
"How could you know?"
"He mentioned it once, I guess?"
"Look, that's bullshit," Jihyo bites back, disgruntled by how he feigns indifference with a shrug. "Have you ever noticed how this guy looks at you? He looks at you with the very same eyes that a kid has on Christmas morning when they find the present they wanted. He adores you."
"He despises me." Jimin momentarily ignores everything else she said. He thinks he deserves the aggravated snort he gets in response, suspicious that what he said isn't true anymore. "By the way, terrible analogy and a lack of knowledge of how Christmas works in your own family. Siyeon opens her presents at midnight."
"Oh, really? My bad." Jihyo's tone is wry. "That's even better. The way he ran to reach you after he saw you matches her eagerness to open it before the right time."
"Please. Shut up," he pleads and she doesn’t push any further; not because she couldn't, rather because Taehyung is getting back holding a kid by each hand.
"They're tired," he says and both of the kids raise their eyebrows inquisitifully at him, since he is the one panting heavily after chasing them in the snow.
"Maybe it's time to go, then," Jimin says and Taehyung thinks he may have hit his head hard on the ground, but he swears his tone's somewhat mournful. Almost like he doesn't want to go. It wouldn't be so crazy, considering he's not ready to let go of his company as well, would it?
"Actually, I was thinking…" Taehyung starts before he can hold himself back. "I'm not used to having friends home, so… I wanted to seize the opportunity—"
"What about uncle Yoongi?"
"You're never having cotton candy again. Ever," he grits through his teeth with a forced smile and Kimoon retreats right away, hiding himself behind his father. Taehyung turns back at Jimin, "Do you want to come over? Maybe have some drinks?"
"Oh. I'd like to," Jimin says as if can't quite believe his own words. "But it wouldn't be possible to bring Siyeon with me and she needs to sleep and—"
"I can drive Siyeon home and stay there," Jihyo interjects. "You can call a cab to go back later," she says and doesn’t strive for an answer, already opening her hand to Jimin to give his keys to her. "Unless you want to sleep over, and that'd be okay too," she whispers only for Jimin to hear it and giggles when he flicks her palm, but lands the keys on it anyway.
It's all Jimin knows about the atmosphere in Taehyung's house.
Many things are different. First, he hadn't been to his house yet, and it's funny to finally be because it doesn't meet with what he had imagined. Taehyung's a chaotic, bustling person, so Jimin thought his home would convey his personality in some kind of way. It doesn't at all. The green wallpaper delivers him a feeling of tranquility, the earth tones of the furniture as a whole making him feel like he's in a cozy cottage in the middle of a forest. Taehyung asks the virtual assistant to play a song and a smooth jazz fills the living room, matching perfectly with Jimin's scent that's taking over the place. Jimin's jaw drops a little.
The only thing that hits close is the lack of Christmas decoration, mainly compared to Jimin's house. Jimin giggles in amusement as he points to the crooked Christmas tree, the one that's been there year after year since Kimoon's born, the one that almost goes unnoticed in the corner of the room. For the first time, Taehyung feels like buying a new one.
Next thing's they're not there to organize anything related to the Christmas party. They're there because they want to, that being something completely unprecedented in their relation so far. Until now, they had only met because they were forced to, or by chance. So, naturally, Jimin's not in place of knowing well how to behave or what to do.
But it changes soon. Taehyung doesn't seem to be so off place, or he's a good pretender, at least. He leaves just for a moment to kiss Kimoon goodnight and get back to the living room, bringing some subject with him. Jimin already knows at this point that there isn't such thing as small talk with Taehyung. He seems to enjoy deep conversations and even when they're talking about trivial matters, he talks and listens like he truly wants to, not just like he wants to spare time.
Jimin feels more comfortable because Taehyung makes it possible. He means it when he tells Jimin to make himself home. Everything he does, he checks with Jimin first. He taps his forehead and excuses himself, saying he forgot to ask if he was okay with the music. Jimin smiles shyly and lets him know he's more than okay, pleased by his choice of genre. He opens a cabinet filled with booze and asks what Jimin wants. He rectifies, asking if Jimin wants something instead. Jimin's smile grows bigger and drops the wariness. He suggests wine.
It's easy because it's organic.
Alcohol helps them to loose a little. Jimin finds himself letting his interest manifest through questions, like whose paintings are on the wall, to find out that Taehyung enjoys buying them from street artists. While they chat, Taehyung guides them to a bay window, settling among the cushions. Jimin gets to watch the snow falling, the lights in the house across the street turning on and off and lightning up Taehyung's face ever so beautifully. He chuckles as a funny thought occurs to him and tells Taehyung to drop it when he asks what it is.
Jimin doesn't want to say that the spot's so magical that it looks like it came out straight from Pinterest yet Taehyung doesn't even know what that is. So they keep staring at each other like their gazes hold the world's entire magic in it until their smiles fade away slowly and—
"I don't know much about you," Taehyung blurts out in a low voice and Jimin bats his eyelashes at him. "I don't know if you want to change that. Sometimes I've got this feeling that you don't."
Jimin sighs. They both know that it isn't exactly true. Jimin grew used to opening up to Taehyung, but he's self conscious enough to know it's on purpose. To know he's a book that only allows himself to be read until the second page, tops. Taehyung wants to read it over and over.
So, basically, what Taehyung's implying is that he doesn't know about the specific things that he's too coward to ask about.
"Alright. What do you wanna know?"
"Siyeon's mother..." Alcohol plays it part in making him bold enough to start the sentence, but not to go through it. Fortunately, Jimin seems to get it.
"You wanna know about her?" Jimin asks in the peaceful tone that's become his brand and Taehyung nods, sheepish at sudden. "She died in a car accident."
"Oh. I really didn't know." Taehyung feels stupid since it's obvious that he didn't know but at each wrong thing that he says, he feels even more nervous and that just increase the pace of his rambling. "I'm sorry, really, you don't need to talk about it if you want to. I didn't mean to push you, I can't even imagine how it feels to lose your wife."
In a momentarily shift of mood, Jimin smiles in amusement with something that resembles nostalgia crossing his features.
"No, it's fine. It was years ago and… The story is a lot more complex than that." The words swirl dramatically on his tongue and he smiles at a joke he's the only one to get.
"I'm all ears, but only if you want to talk about it. I'm serious," Taehyung reassures him and Jimin nods, stiffening at his position. He straightens his back and tosses his hair back, something that Taehyung has learned to be a habit usual of when he's feeling uneasy.
"Right." He follows a car that passes by in the street with his eyes, just to enjoy the last seconds of things still being like they are. "What I'm about to say can change our dynamic completely and make you hate me even more."
Taehyung winces. "I don't hate you."
Jimin opts to ignore him. "So I'll just ask you to be mature enough to not let it interfere in the organization of the party." He sighs again, heavier this time. It makes Taehyung's skin itch in nervousness. "Well, first thing you need to know about my story is I'm gay."
Jimin doesn’t dare to breathe and Taehyung seems to be holding his own as well, utter silence falling between them.
It takes a little too long—although, to be honest, any second's too long for those who wait—for him to look up at Jimin again and it makes his stomach boil in a mix of anticipation and regret, his toes curling inside of his shoes for imagining the hideous things that may be crossing Taehyung's mind right now.
"Okay," it's all he finally says.
"Okay?" Jimin's eyebrows knot in confusion. "That's all?"
"Did you think I would be mad about it?" Taehyung asks and his temples, hating himself for taking so long to unfreeze and react, dismayed by the regard of what it must have looked like to Jimin. "God, no. Of course not."
Jimin nods slowly, feeling relief spread over his chest with a wave of warmth. Now the worst part's over, he feels like he can breath properly and move on.
"Her name was Hyunok. We met through Hoseok, she was his sister. We immediately clicked, even more than I clicked with him and I didn't even think it was possible back then. They're an… One of a kind family." Jimin smiles at himself fondly. "But they're just as stubborn as they're special. They kept saying those things to us and I guess it got in our heads, like, that if you have that kind of connection between a man and a woman you obviously love each other in a romantic way. So we believed that. We started dating and three years after, I guess, an amazing accident happened."
The power that Jimin's giggles holds to swipe the atmosphere completely into a new one is outstanding. He covers his mouth and his rings sparkle reflecting the moonlight.
"Siyeon was unexpected? Really?"
"A lot. We didn't have a lot of sex, to be honest. It was a very platonical kind of relation, we were practically best friends that lived together as roommates, with the difference that we shared the same bed. And Hyunok didn't only know that, she was fine with it. Then Siyeon was the outcome of one day that we got drunk and ended up having sex."
"It never occurred to me how that could mess with someone's head so much. I mean, by the way I act with my best friend, Yoongi… If he was a woman people would probably say the same about us. And I never had to think about it until now."
Jimin nods and the corner of his lips twitches upwards almost imperceptibly, glad that Taehyung's open to try to understand him, even if Jimin thinks he'd never fully comprehend.
"She died two years later. Funny thing is that I had the talk with her three weeks before, but she already knew it somehow. She told me she felt like something was off for her too, but she also didn't need to. I knew her well enough to fathom that by myself. Anyway. I'll never know if off meant the same to her as it meant to me. At least I'm glad that she didn't go unaware of who I really am."
"Can I ask you a question? You don't need to answer if you don't want to," Taehyung reassures him for what it feels like the millionth time and Jimin nods. "I'm just trying to… Understand." For a second, he's afraid that Jimin might dig in what he said and go beyond the shallow meaning of what he wants to understand, but he brushes it off from his mind knowing he's overthinking it. "You never thought something was off back then? Did you just wake up one day and have some big realization?"
Jimin dwells on that for a moment. "I guess I kind of ignored it? When everyone around you tells you something, you begin to think they're probably right and you are the one that went insane." Jimin snorts. "Truth is that I was a coward. I went with the tide because it was the easiest way."
"I don't agree with that at all."
"With what?" Jimin asks, his voice just above a whisper.
"With it being the easiest way. I'm inclined to believe that shutting your desires down and completely silencing who you are as a whole was a much more difficult path to follow. I wouldn't call it easy if it put you through all this pain."
Jimin is speechless. For plenty of reasons, but mostly because Taehyung's right. And he's right in a way only someone who lived the truth behind the words could be.
But he couldn't, could he?
"Thank you for listening," Jimin says and cracks his knuckles, trying his best to divert his mind to something else. His tongue doesn't keep up with him. "For a straight guy, you're a good listener."
"About that… I kinda have my doubts," Taehyung says and Jimin short-circuits, feeling a massive urge to run towards the bathroom, the wine's heavily sitting on his blatter. Or maybe he's feeling like peeing on his pants for other reasons.
"Hah." Jimin laughs nervously, the sound of the cracks echoing in the silence between them. "No man that doesn't know what Pinterest is would be anything else than straight."
Taehyung laughs so hard that it sounds like Christmas bells to Jimin's ears, having just the same effect to cool him down.
"Shut up," he finally says, smacking Jimin's knee lightly. "I had these… Experiences in college."
"Classic," Jimin says, the remnants of tenseness stiffening his body.
"Good experiences, I mean. But I don't know. I'm not attracted to all men."
"And what about it? I'm pretty sure you're not attracted to all women either, and I bet that it never made you question whether you were straight or not."
Now Taehyung's speechless.
He opens and closes his mouth a few times. His world tilts a little more off the axis because he feels like it's so simple and he's never thought about it from that perspective. It's like someone explains a joke that you didn't catch to you and you feel embarrassed because it was so blatantly obvious, whereas you're not ready to face that you've been being foolish the whole time.
"Wow. I don't know, it makes sense, but. Maybe it's a lot to think."
It's the "but" for Jimin.
"Maybe." Jimin smiles mournfully. "Some people take years, I heard," he says sardonically and Taehyung faults to provide a proper response.
Taehyung bends forward and places his empty glass on the floor. When he retreats back, he's painfully aware that his shoulder is brushing against Jimin's. Jimin seems to be conscious of that as well, his gaze falling from Taehyung's eyes to his parted lips and to the exact spot where their skin would meet if it wasn’t for the inconvenient layers of clothes. It feels exhilarating like Taehyung haven’t experienced for a long, long time.
It’s like the moment when the sun appears after a cloudy day. Just like that, his mind is clouded and he can't quite think straight. But when he realizes that Jimin's face is significantly nearer to his, it's like the sun comes out and everything becomes brighter.
There isn't a mistletoe above them, but it still feels like there’s some magical, unexplainable power pulling them closer. That until Jimin whispers, hesitantly. "What are you doing, Tae?"
Something Taehyung does know. It's the first time ever that Jimin addresses him like that. But that wasn't the question, so he answers in the same low voice, "I don’t know."
That hits Jimin in all the wrong places of his gentle soul, igniting in him the needed strength to sigh and move away from Taehyung.
He knows Taehyung isn't doing it to purposefully mess with him or for being a bad person. Jimin doesn't even think Taehyung is a bad person anymore, questioning himself if he even had ever thought that. Nonetheless, he can't put himself in the condition of an experiment and risk it ending up hurt later. Jimin thinks Taehyung totally has the right to try and discover what he is into. He just feels like he won't handle it if he eventually concludes that he isn't.
"I should get going." He stands on his feet and pats his pocket for his phone to order a cab before heading to the rack to grab his coat. Taehyung follows him.
"Hey, I'm sorry." Jimin feels the ghost of Taehyung’s touch in his wrist, hesitating. Jimin looks back. Not fully, but enough or Taehyung to spot the wry smile in his lips.
"You know what's the problem about straight boys? They're always willing to kiss our lips but not to hold our hands."
"Look, don’t get me wrong," Jimin cuts him off, swiveling around to be able to look at him as he talks. "I'm not the only one at stake here. This could hurt Siyeon and that I can't stand. She already likes you too much." He puts his coat and beanie on and hears a honk outside, right in time for him to leave with an excuse to not hear an answer from Taehyung.
He doesn't have one, anyway.
Taehyung walks to his bedroom trying to come to terms with what just had happened, replaying their dialogue over and over in his head in an attempt to find something that he didn't detect before. Something that would explain how things escalated so quickly and went downhill so fast.
He notices light coming out of the ajar door of Kimoon's room and pops his head in, finding the kid awake and leaning over his small desk.
"What are you doing awake?"
Kimoon flinches at the sound of his voice and looks at him, startled.
"I'm practicing," he answers and Taehyung moves closer, asking him to elaborate on that. As he glares at the paper, he sees that there's various sorts of scrappy shapes with mixed colors. "I learned more about colors today in school. I wanna see which colors I'll get if I mix them."
"What do you think about finding it out tomorrow, huh? It's late now." He kisses the crown of his head. Kimoon nods and gets up, heading to the bed. Taehyung says mindlessly as he covers the boy, "It's wonderful to learn new things, isn't it?"
"Have you learned something today, appa?" Kimoon asks curiously and if the kid knew a little more about life, he would be able to catch the regret in the surroundings of his father's smile.
"Maybe I did. Good night, son."
Then, he thinks to himself,
Today appa’s learned that he might be bissexual.
After the fourth or fifth night struggling to sleep, worried about a possible change in their dynamics, Taehyung started to imagine that Jimin would pretend nothing happened when they had to face each other again. He imagined that he wouldn't let the incident at his house get in the way of the planning.
Still, he's taken-aback when he's greeted by a chatty, bouncy Jimin the next time they meet at school.
But there's a problem that Jimin hopes Taehyung doesn't notice. Jimin has the willpower, but he's still human. And humans have that slightly inconvenient thing called feelings. You can try to disguise anger or sadness if you practice enough, but embarrassment is one of the most difficult things to cover.
And everytime he remembers that night when he was blushing like a teenager just for being close to Taehyung, he blushes even harder.
To be fair, he was deprived of feeling this when he was actually a teenager, so. He's trying to be gentle with himself and let this go.
When he giggles a little too shrilly at something that both him and Taehyung know wasn't that funny, he registers that Taehyung's most likely noticing it by now. He's wrong, anyway.
Taehyung does realize that he is not acting like nothing had happened, but that only happens after three unnecessarily kind comments that Jimin would never make in his perfect mental judgement.
So he knows that Jimin's acting like that exactly because something has happened. He's trying too hard.
Too hard it rebounds on Taehyung and it becomes a mess.
Recognizing that it probably is their last encounter at the school doesn't make it any easier. If anything, it makes it harder. They begin to go through their own customized stages of grief, mournful for the time they won't share anymore. One month ago, they predicted they'd be sighing out of relief when this day came. It feels inconceivable how they're already longing for each other's presence as the day hadn't even reached its end yet.
They jump from denial to the second stage of being unnecessarily polite. Too polite they look like two gentlemen who came straight from the Belle Époque. The "please"s and "thank you"s and "you're welcome"s as Taehyung hands the materials to Jimin to set the scenario where Santa Claus will be settled are gratuitous and exorbitant. Jimin almost drops the stapler when Taehyung calls him Jimin-ssi out of nowhere.
The third stage is being too tactile. Jimin almost staples his own finger when Taehyung unexpectedly holds his waist to prevent him from falling off the stairs. When he asks himself if Taehyung's fingers are really caressing the fabric of his dark grey overcoat, Jimin decides it's time to pass the task for him. It isn't deliberate, but Jimin takes revenge when he leans on Taehyung's body from behind and rests his chin on his shoulder to check what is wrong with the red carpet that will trail kids to Santa. Taehyung almost loses his balance.
The final stage isn't acceptance, quite the opposite. They're flustered, needing an extra dose of effort on paying attention to their assignments, as Taehyung finishes the huge snowflakes that will be hung from the ceiling and Jimin cuts the red and green fabrics that will serve as tablecloths. Jimin isn't the most trustful person in power of a scissor usually, so in his current state of being disconcerted it is only expected that half of it ends up lopsided. He'll just pray that Taehyung's amazing glittery work plays its part in diverting people's attention from his poor job.
The gymnasium is significantly darker now that the sun is no longer in the sky to brighten it through the windows. They finished gluing and dyeing what was left, so the decoration is practically set and done.
Jimin announces he'll be right back and asks Taehyung if he wants something warm to drink. He doesn't. Jimin leaves for a couple of minutes and, when he's back, Taehyung wonders where the mug with chamomile tea he's holding came from. He doesn't ask any questions, though. By now, he's already aware of how many things Jimin can earn if he just puts the power that his smile holds to good use.
Taehyung's boxing the last piece of decoration when he arrives. Jimin knocks the last of the tea down to help him take the boxes to the storage, even though Taehyung reassures him that there’s no need. As everything's saved, they're free to walk towards the parking lot, doing it in a slow pace that sells out their unwillingness to leave. That's until Jimin jogs towards the old lady in the cafeteria to return the mug. She smiles wholeheartedly and affection drops from her fingers as she waves it in goodbye.
Taehyung can relate.
Before they hit the back door leading to the parking lot, something crosses Jimin's mind. With a playful grin, he asks, "Did you notice that our kids stopped fighting?"
"It's no surprise. We stopped fighting too," Taehyung answers nonchalantly and Jimin frowns.
"We didn't," he answers, almost like he's offended.
"Does that bother you? I can fight with you again if you want me to," Taehyung halts completely, just to clear his throat in a dramatic way, his fingers touching his Adam's apple. "Your hands are too tiny."
"They still can carry a huge box, sir!" Jimin retorts and his face falls completely, switching from wrath to a dazed countenance with a pout. "Oh. You're catching a fight."
"How am I doing?" Taehyung asks and swirls his wrists before giving finger guns to Jimin.
"Poorly." Jimin opens the door for them and begins to walk on his back to face Taehyung while he talks. "You can do better than th—"
His sentence is cut off as his inappropriate fancy shoes skid on the thin layer of ice and his butt lands on the frozen ground. He groans, rubbing his hips, and Taehyung puffs unwittingly as he does his best trying to hold back his urge to laugh.
Jimin waves with his hand as if he's giving him permission and Taehyung indulges, cracking up. Jimin keeps his hand stretched out in the air for Taehyung to help him get up, but Taehyung ignores it and places his hands right below his armpits, afraid that the jerk would cause them both to skid.
"See? Your hands are too tiny, you're too clumsy," Taehyung mocks him, but his smile slowly disappears as he realizes that his hands are still holding Jimin when he gets on his feet, standing right in front of him. Standing so close that his warm breath hits Taehyung's chin and makes him feel like it's not 8 degrees outside. Jimin delicately uses his finger to pull his stubborn bangs back and lifts his head a little, now allowed to lock his eyes with Taehyung's as he intends. Feeling dizzy, Taehyung blurts out exactly what's going through his mind, "How do you manage to look down on me being the shorter one?"
"I'm not looking down," Jimin answers with a low voice. His eyes drop, following a very dangerous path. With even more dangerous honesty, he confesses, "I'm looking at your mouth."
Taehyung lets out a breath he didn't even know he was holding, absently grabbing Jimin's scarf just for the sake of putting his hands on something. He understands why people say you have the guts when you do something that requires courage, being painfully aware of his own guts as it boils in anticipation for the answer that would come after his following words,
"So look closer."
It catches Jimin off guard and he grabs Taehyung's arms to pull them down, holding the edges of his sleeves. "I can't." Jimin says and pauses for a moment, enough for Taehyung to dwell in the difference between not wanting to and not being able to. Before any more embarrassingly desperate words can slip out of his mouth, Jimin questions, "What if I'm looking closer to the mouth of a straight boy?"
"Well, I'm not a boy, I'm a man." Taehyung cocks his head and the corner of his lips twitches upwards, but that doesn't affect in the slightest the seriousness behind his tone. "And breaking news, I'm not straight."
The hairs on the back of Jimin's neck stand on end for more than a reason. First, he can hear from a distance the choir beautifully rehearsing the song Silent Night, Holy Night. He's been in love with this song for so long. Second, he can see how Taehyung means it by the way he stares deeply into his eyes, conveying all the truth that his heart is trying to deliver. It makes Jimin wonder what else he may be in love with. When he spoke, Taehyung's voice didn't tremble a little, unlike Jimin's (who feels like he's shaking as a whole) as he asks, "And how do you know that?"
"Because I wanna kiss you," Taehyung says and minimally shortens the space between them, near enough he can see the tiny snowflakes that settle on Jimin's hair. He stops millimeters apart from Jimin's mouth and whispers as his hands search for Jimin's, intertwining their fingers before he admits, "And I wanna hold your hand too."
So, Jimin looks closer.
He closes his eyes and gently settles his lips over Taehyung's for a moment, but next he's smiling against his mouth thinking they must be looking exactly like those kids who have their first kiss hidden behind the school. Taehyung doesn't know why, but he smiles too. He lets go of only one of his hands to slide his own up Jimin's arm and hold his nape, causing Jimin to open his eyes in good surprise.
He takes his free hand to Taehyung's hair and it's hard to say who takes the lead, but what truly matters is that they meet halfway and they do it more eagerly this time. Jimin doesn't expect Taehyung to be the one to lick his lower lip almost shyly, but he does, and he's thankful. Jimin sighs and tightens his grip, needing something to hold onto and keep him in place as he feels like the floor has disappeared from under his feet when their tongues finally meet.
It's wet, it's wonderfully slow and Taehyung thinks that Jimin definitely knows what he's doing. He can't lie that it crossed his mind before, but only as a strike that didn't last long. Before it could turn a solid idea, Taehyung always reprimanded himself, questioning what he was thinking. But even if the thoughts lasted any longer, he would never be able to imagine what is happening. His mind would never be able to create something near as good as the real Jimin. The real Jimin that's increasing in intensity but never in pace, and even to call that perfect would be an understatement.
There are no available words yet to describe how it feels to have Jimin sighing against your mouth and holding onto you like you're his very ground.
Taehyung slides his hand down Jimin's back and embraces his waist, pulling him impossibly closer. Taehyung bites his lower lip lightly just so he could catch his breath for a second and Jimin knows he's doomed as that momentarily break is enough for him to miss how it feels to properly taste him. Taehyung doesn't spare any time and is quickly licking into his mouth again, savoring, devouring. He kisses Jimin like he wants to let him know that he meant his words. He holds his hand firmer to let him know that he meant that too.
What amazes Jimin the most and makes his head spin is Taehyung's duality, being so keen and so gentle at the same time. Even now they have parted the kiss and are leaning their foreheads against each other trying to recompose, Taehyung's touch burns on his skin. But it's also the most delightful kind of warmth, like the one you feel when you come home and sit by the fireplace.
It's quite funny how both of them feel like that.
Because Taehyung thinks that Jimin tastes like camomile tea, and not only literally. He tastes like having that hot mug of tea that warms your inside and makes you feel all cozy.
Today's lesson is that the fireplace is Jimin's favorite part of the house and camomile is Taehyung's favorite flavor of tea.
Taehyung's lips become dry because he just can't stop talking about the one who was kissing them a few days ago. If he wasn't going through a big awakening about his sexuality and possible—struggling a little to admit that part yet — feelings for Jimin, Yoongi would be begging him to shut up. But if hearing about it is unnerving, Yoongi should try remembering over and over that it happened, how it happened and how it felt. The only thing worse than remembering it is thinking about the prospect that it may happen again. This isn't repetitive, in fact. It's maddening.
Jimin keeps it to himself. Not only for being stubborn enough not to face the smugness on his sister's face, but also because saying it out loud would make everything too real. Jimin isn't afraid, exactly; cautious would suit it better. He knows he can't only taste the water, since it won't even border on enough. Taehyung's a warm, deep ocean that once you get your feet wet, you immediately feel the need to dive right in. And after they kissed, Jimin feels like he's already soaked until his belly button, so it's easy to imagine how hard he's trying to hold him back.
Both of them are not used to it. Taehyung has spent a fair amount of time in his life engaged in long-term relationships, and when he extraordinarily wasn't, he didn't have a hard time winning people over. So feeling his stomach boil in expectancy when his phone rings with a new message and getting frustrated on the occasions it isn't Jimin isn't a habit of his. Jimin also didn't know how it felt to stay awake later because your mind's too busy planning what you're gonna say when you meet in person and trailing off to a scenario where you end up receiving a kiss on your forehead and holding hands. He never fathomed what he could feel and for whom before his marriage. After, he was happy with the premise of casual things and terrified by the idea of introducing someone to his daughter. That until now.
So Taehyung feels like he's fourteen again. Jimin feels like he's fourteen for the first time.
When the deadline for sending money for the presents ends, Jimin spends his day nibbing the pen cap in a zoned-out state of mind as he gathers the needed courage to call Taehyung and tell him they'll have to go shopping.
He finally taps his contact on the screen and hears like five dial tones before the slight crackle of static on the line and the sound of a heavy breath announce that Taehyung has picked up.
"Jimin?" He says, a little hurriedly.
"Yeah? Is it a bad time? If you're busy, I can call you later—"
"No, sorry." There's a pause. "I was playing hard to get and waiting a little not to look too desperate for picking it right away which by the way is exactly what I almost did but I took too long and got scared that I missed the call." He rambles unabashedly and Jimin covers his face with his free hand, hoping that Taehyung can hear his muffled laugh through the line.
"If you were going to tell me that you did it, why didn't you just answer it?" Jimin cages his phone between his ear and his shoulder, biting his lower lip with an amused smile.
"Well, I wasn't planning to spoil how lame I am to you. I guess my stupid mouth's just an unstopabble force of nature, especially when I get nervous." Another pause. "Risk that last part. Please."
Jimin rests his hands on his knee and scrunch his shoulders, dropping it with a sigh. He reaches for the pen again and scribbles on the paper unmindfully. His smile doesn't vanish not even for a second as he says, "I don't think you're lame. I like that you're spontaneous."
"I'm not. You're just thrilling." In juxtaposition to his words, Taehyung says it in a calm voice that Jimin rummages his brain for any previous record and fails to find it.
Jimin stares down at the paper and notices he has been drawing several snowflakes and hearts on it.
He thinks this is getting ridiculous by now.
"I'm not thrilling. I am boring," Jimin argues, keeping up with his peaceful tone. He hears Taehyung scoff.
"You're far from boring, Jimin-ah. You're probably one of the most breathtaking experiences I had in my whole life."
It's a funny thing to say. It's a funny thing to be heard. It's almost ironic as Jimin's actually the one who feels like all the air has been stolen from his lungs.
"So..." He tries, desperately trying to get back to the original matter before Taehyung kills him. "I've called you because we need to buy the kids' presents for the party."
"Oh, that's right," Taehyung says, sounding excited. "I bet you thought you'd seen the last of me."
"I caught the reference!" Jimin nearly shouts, jerking on his chair in enthusiasm. He should've expected the bucket of cold water.
"Forget it." He shuts his eyes and shakes his head, cringing at himself. "Are you free to go to the mall tomorrow?"
"Sure. And if I'm not, I'll clear my schedule for you. I mean. So you don't carry all of those bags all alone, it wouldn't even be possible—"
"You're rambling again." Jimin observes, giggling.
"Yeah. Maybe I'm helpless," Taehyung says and Jimin swears he can hear his smile. "I'm gonna hang up before I embarrass myself any further."
"Wait," Jimin hurries up before Taehyung hangs up, not knowing he wasn't intending to do it anyway. "I'll pick you at 1PM, is that alright?"
"Fine by me," he agrees and they remain in silence for some seconds, smiling foolishly with eyes glaring at nowhere in particular.
"See you then, Taehyung-ah," Jimin finally speaks, shyly and barely above a whisper.
"See you, Jimin-ah."
There's still another moment of comfortable silence before Jimin hears a chuckle and catches his screen brightening by his peripheral vision, sign that the call has finished. Knowing that they will see each other doesn't make them anxious in a bad way, neither keeps them up all night. If anything, it leads them to sleep easier because it'll make time pass faster and take them to the next day sooner.
Taehyung never imagined he would be ready early waiting for Jimin to park at his door, but there he is. Yoongi is staring deep inside of his soul across the couch and Taehyung pretends to not notice it until he doesn't anymore.
"What?" He asks, grumpily crossing his arms over his grey overcoat.
"Nothing." Yoongi looks at him with something that could be labeled as a fond smile, but Taehyung simply opts to read it as a mischievous one. "Just wondering if you're all dressed up like this for a straight-business-meeting or worked up the nerve to call it a date."
"It's not a date," Taehyung says with all earnestness he can muster. As it is not much, he soon steps back, "I guess. But it's not a straight meeting anymore." He grimaces and pinches the bridge of his nose, quickly letting it go to stare at Yoongi with googly eyes. "Do you think he thinks it's a date? I don't want him to think that."
"Don't you?" Yoongi raises an eyebrow, scornfully.
"No," Taehyung backs off, seeming to be lost in his thoughts. Then, he concludes with the smile of someone who just figured out the entire universe's mystery, "Our first date can't be an external-forces induced arrangement. If I take Jimin on a date, I want to make sure it'll be the best of his life."
"Okay." It's all Yoongi says with a satisfied grin, not even attempting to feign disgust. There's not much time left for him to stay in character and mock Taehyung as a honk announces that Jimin has arrived right on time.
When Taehyung sits in the passenger seat, all his body language screams that he clearly has no idea of how to behave. Good news is that Jimin's no different than that—or bad news, considering it means that they're staring at each other with soft smiles in his lips in absolute silence. The last time they saw each other they said goodbye with a kiss, but it happens that they were already continually kissing at the occasion. It was easy to use the kiss as a closure, but it's hard to use it as an opening when you're not sure of what will be opened exactly.
He's relieved and embarrassed in the same amount when Kimoon makes everything easier for him, diverting their attention as he yells and waves excitedly at them, kneeled on the couch of the bay window. Jimin reciprocates and then starts the car, heading them to the mall.
They talked, but they never talked about what happened. It doesn't change when they meet in person, but mostly because they realize there's no need to. While walking in the mall looking for the toy stores, the back of their hands brush together at every step, their index fingers and pinkies touch ever so softly and it already speaks volumes.
Honoring the old days, they quarrel about which store would be cheaper and Taehyung almost drives Jimin nuts for standing at the side of the store that's clearly more expensive. He finally gives up and admits that there is a small chance that he was banned from the cheapest store after Kimoon almost used a toy toilet bowl to pee.
At least Jimin agrees that a toy toilet bowl was a horrible idea from some insane dadaist mind.
Jimin's devotion for Christmas ends up saving their butts and their budget. His insistence on taking a different path so he could pass by the central part of the mall where the decoration is settled causes them to bump into a more affordable store they were not aware of yet.
Namjoon emailed them with the list of every kid that was going to be part of the party and the gift that they asked, a 'X' next to names of those that didn't send the money in time. Jimin runs his eyes over the pages and his heart breaks in a thousand pieces when he notices that the money they spared making the decoration themselves would only cover the gifts of 5 kids, tops. Another 8 or 10 would go without a gift.
It's no surprise to Jimin that Kimoon got banned from a store for touching what he shouldn't, since Taehyung does just the same. He literally gets his hands on every shelf and doesn't go through an entire aisle without picking up a toy and saying it didn't exist in his childhood times. If it was someone else—in fact, if it was Taehyung himself two months ago—, Jimin would be begging for him to wait outside and leave him to buy it all on his own. Since it isn't, Jimin's laughing infatuated by how Taehyung uses a cartoon character doll as a puppet, opening and closing his mouth while he impersonates it.
Their bubble pops and their lighten state of mind darkens when they're far from passing all of the presents in the cashier and the digits displayed in the screen are already too close to their limit. Jimin asks Taehyung to get them carts, since it'll be literally impossible to carry gifts for about one hundred children with their own hands.
He comes back bringing two carts with him after a while and Jimin shivers, praying he didn't get it through illegal ways. When they're finished filling to the point that the presents will fall out of the cart if they push it too abruptly, Taehyung realizes something.
"Was the money enough?"
Jimin gulps down and pushes the cart outside the store in order to avoid his gaze as he answers, "Nope."
Taehyung stops on his track right at the entrance of the store and looks back, finding the cashier empty.
"Jimin," Taehyung calls, but Jimin pretends he doesn't hear it and keeps walking. "Park Jimin," he tries again. Upset by the lack of response, he says loud and clear so everyone within a range of ten meters away could hear, "What do you mean you have my grandma's nudes on your phone?"
It works. And because it works, all of Jimin's blood rushes to his head as he feels like there's at least thirty pairs of eyes weighing on him with visible disapproval. He halts immediately and turns his head to face Taehyung, his own eyes bulging out of despair. Jimin lets go of the cart and marches towards the man, pulling him in a jolt by a grab on his arms and hating himself for also feeling an urge to hide his face in his embrace.
"Why are you like this?" Jimin questions, smoke coming out of his ears. Taehyung remains unfazed, only complying to scrunch his shoulders.
"You weren't answering me," he says it's like it's that simple. "Tell me, Jimin. What did you do?"
Jimin sighs and takes the lead, so they start walking side by side at a slow pace. "I paid for what was left." His voice is so low Taehyung almost doesn't catch it among the jabber in the mall. "With my own money. I paid for it with my money."
"With your money?" Taehyung stops again and Jimin goes along looking down, refusing to meet with a possible judgmental look. "Jimin, that's—you're—you're unbelievable."
Jimin lifts his head only enough to catch a glimpse, unable to conceive much only from Taehyung's voice. He doesn't get any further information, Teahyung's expression unreadable.
"I know. I know it's a dumb thing to do, but what was I supposed to do? I couldn't just randomly pick certain kids to be left with no presents and—" He stops midway and finally faces Taehyung, his eyes glaring with his plea. "Please, don't judge or make fun of me."
Taehyung parts his lips like he's about to say something, but closes it thereafter. He licks his lower lip and then purses it, his cheeks puffing as a smile starts to earn its place over his face. He looks around to check if no one's paying attention at them, not wanting it for this time. Concluding they're nothing spectacular to the crowd rushing to do the Christmas shopping, he takes a step closer to Jimin.
He takes a strand of Jimin's blond hair out of his eye. As his fingers slide down his face, trailing the jawline and stopping at the edge with a gentle hold of his chin, Taehyung also concludes they're every spectacular thing to him.
"Why do you keep thinking I will make fun of you when the only thing you provoke on me with your actions is amazement?"
It's almost too much for Jimin to register. Everything around the edges becomes a little blurred and Taehyung's now the only thing he can really focus on. The spot he's touching is tingling and yet it's the part of his body that Jimin's more aware of at the same time. Once again, he feels like Taehyung keeps him grounded.
But unlike the other time when he was affected by this feeling, they're not kissing. They can't kiss right now and it makes him feel kind of robbed, but Jimin doesn't want to sound unthankful. He thinks that being what unleashes the pupil dilation in his affectionate eyes is a good reason to feel grateful.
By the end of the day, Taehyung has learned so many things it's hard to keep up. They took the gifts to Jimin's car to get rid of the carts and decided on wandering around the mall. When they got hungry, he learned that Jimin's favorite icecream flavor is pear—and that he was right to expect the worst from him since he does mock Jimin for preferring it over anything else, dismayed that he would like it better when strawberry exists.
He learned that Jimin loves rings in a very loud lecture, verging on having a heart attack because he nearly screamed when a jewel caught his eye at Tiffany's showcase. Jimin excitedly poked Taehyung's tummy, cooing and pointing to the T-shaped golden ring. When asked if he didn't want to buy it, he chuckled and said he had already spent too much money for the day. And for a lifetime.
When they kissed in the tranquility of Jimin's car, he learned that his memory hadn't done justice to it, being even better than what was in his records. If it was going to get better at each time, he couldn't wait for the millionth time he was going to kiss him.
Anyway, the most important lesson of the day is that Taehyung might be in love with Jimin.
Luckily for him, they've been sharing the same classes.
After what looked both like three centuries and a blink of an eye, the party day finally comes.
Jimin's a nervous wreck.
You'd say that Siyeon would be the most anxious person in the room considering she's going to perform in front of a crowd for the first time in her life with the ballet class. And that she's 7.
But nope. Jimin's worse.
He's pacing around, unable to focus on anything for more than ten seconds in a row, and the fact that the suppliers keep calling him isn't helping at all. They spent the whole afternoon setting the decoration in the gymnasium with a little help from Jeongguk—that blushed violently when he met Jimin and he gave him that hey-I-think-I-know-you-from-somewhere look.
When they were done, Taehyung couldn't hold back the smirk that urged to appear because Jeongguk literally wheezed to see him giving a goodbye peck on Jimin's lips. He raised an eyebrow with a silent who's-the-giver-and-receiver-of-what-now question and flipped his hair back when Jeongguk's mouth just gaped wider.
Taehyung offered himself to stay at the school and deal with the supplies before the party, knowing well enough that Jimin would just fly off the handle if something got out of hand on his watch. However, for some reason, the suppliers got Taehyung's wrong phone number, making it impossible to get in touch with him. So they call Jimin instead and Jimin has to call Taehyung to inform him of what they said. It's the worst logistics ever.
Jimin doesn't want to dwell on the possibility that Taehyung purposely gave his wrong number weeks ago, back when he still was begrudged for not wanting to organize the party. Although his overly helpful gestures by now are a good indication of remorse behavior.
Everything is a mess and he wants to cry because he Jimin'ed again and got too involved in an activity, putting so much effort and his whole heart on it to the point that if anything goes wrong it'll be shattered to pieces.
He gets what was supposed to be a soothing call from Taehyung, telling him that everything's fine with the food and the waiters are already there. Still, something feels off as Jimin's heart seems to race faster than it should for someone who didn't drink three mugs of coffee.
When Taehyung arrives at his house, Jimin figures out what it is and almost laughs hysterically. Because in the moment he opens the door and he's met with Taehyung smiling excitedly at him in black blazer and turtleneck, all of his nervousness is brushed off his body as if by magic and replaced by endearment instead.
Taehyung looks at Jimin from top to bottom and his smile disappears, giving place to an astonished countenance. "Wow."
"Did you like it?" Jimin asks, running his hands over his green overcoat and looking down to check it. When he looks up, he straightens his comma hairstyle shyly and his smile grows bigger at the sight of a perplexed Taehyung parting and closing his lips, lacking words.
"If I liked it?" Taehyung finally says with a squeaky voice. "You look like—" He cuts himself off in the middle, recalling that Kimoon's right next at his side and staring at him with a dazed look. Taehyung swirls his index finger to Jimin implying he'll say it later and gets in.
"Taehyung-ssi!" Siyeon comes out of her room and hops to Taehyung, hugging his legs. He practically beams at the gratuitous display of affection and pats her head carefully not to ruin her ballet bun. "I'm gonna dance tonight. Appa said I look like a star."
"He's right, you look beautiful, Siyeon," he says, referring to her red long-sleeved leotard and white tutu. "You're gonna be the prettiest girl in the presentation."
"All girls are equally pretty, Taehyung-ssi." She frowns and Taehyung stares at her dumbfounded at the scold. He swaps his glaze to Jimin, searching for answers and help.
"Don't look at me. I didn't teach her this," Jimin says, his body jerking as he bites his lower lip not to laugh.
Jimin protects the girl with two different coats and takes a deep breath to prevent his eyes from tearing as he looks at her fondly, amazed by how tiny she looks in so much covering and yet so grown-up. He gathers his belongings and before they reach the exit, he holds Taehyung by the wrist and whispers to his ear.
"What were you going to say?" Jimin asks and Taehyung's confused for a brief moment until his face brightens in acknowledgment.
"I was going to say that you look like a sexy elf," he answers and Jimin cracks up, covering his coy smile with a hand and pushing Taehyung out of his house.
Two hours into the party, Jimin's smiling proudly at his surroundings. Every person that arrived at the party was stunned by the huge tree at the gate, now set and done with several glitter balls, stars, and garlands. The hard time that Jeongguk has been through and the three occasions he was close to death by almost falling off the stairs so he could hang the snowflakes in the ceiling has paid off. It looks magical. The kids line up to pose with the murals: there's one with a window painted on it and several colored socks hanging in 3D. In another, the product of a last-minute idea in their last meeting, they cropped holes in the snowman's faces so the kids could place their heads in there and take pictures. Jimin has lost count of how many times people congratulated him on his hard work, even Principal Kim Namjoon himself.
But it's their hard work. Jimin doesn't forget that.
Every time someone compliments him, he pulls Taehyung by his shoulder and says, "Taehyung did basically all of the handwork, I couldn't crop a star to save my life. None of this would've happened if it wasn't for him."
And everytime Taehyung slowly shakes his head up and down, juts his lips out and narrows his eyes cockily.
Taehyung wonders what the prying eyes that people have been darting at them for the past hours are about. Only the most subtle mothers of the kids who share classes with theirs could hide their surprise for noticing that Taehyung and Jimin are now—well, how would you describe that?
Mhm. Attached by the hip.
They just walk around together to every single place where they have to go like it's their second nature, that until Kimoon pulls the hems of his father overcoat and whines. He points to his knee and Taehyung widens his eyes at the sight of a hole in his pants right at his knee, that is considerably bruised.
"How did you get that?" He questions alarmed and the kid just shrugs.
"I don't know. I think when I was hanging me on the bleachers handrail."
"You were what?"
"Uhhh. It hurts so muchhh," Kimoon starts cooing and whimpering and Taehyung asks himself whether he's not even trying to feign it or if he's really a terrible actor. He holds his son's hand to take him to the bathroom and get the bruises cleaned; but before he turns his head to Jimin, dramatically looking at him in goodbye as if they'll be separated for thirty whole years. Jimin tilts his head and giggles, reaching out for Taehyung's free hand to give it a light and affectionate squeeze.
Jimin's still smiling when his eyes cross with Seokjin's from a distance and the teacher looks like he just saw a demon being summoned out of nowhere.
Generally speaking, everything goes so well it doesn't even seem to be true.
Jimin immediately regrets thinking that, knowing that sentence is basically a harbinger of doom, anticipating that things are inevitably going down. Now it's just a matter of time until he figures out what it is.
Taehyung gets back from the bathroom and nursery where he found band aids for Kimoon and it doesn't take long for him to notice that Jimin's a little paranoid. He leads Jimin by the hand to behind the bleachers and caresses his palm with a thumb, trying to loose him a little.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Taehyung asks and Jimin groans, throwing his head back as he wiggles his body.
"Nothing. Yet," he says, looking at him again with a pout. Taehyung stares at his lower lip for a second and like it's the easiest thing to do, he gently settles his own over there.
Maybe it really is the easiest thing to do.
Jimin's eyes flutter and fall shut, his insides melting instantly. He pulls Taehyung closer, sliding his hands up his chest until he intertwines them around his nape. Taehyung embraces Jimin by the waist, slightly taking his feet off the ground. The kiss is soft, just brushing their lips together as the gentleness of it overcomes Jimin's heart and soothes it.
He pulls back with a playful smile, not separating his bodies by even an inch as he says, "Did you kiss me to shut me up?"
"I'd never do that. The only thing I enjoy more than kissing you is listening to you talking." Jimin takes his hand off Taehyung's nape to lightly slap the back of his head. Taehyung grins and gives him a peck again before he asks, "Tell me, why do you think something will happen?"
"I don't know, I've just got this feeling. This hunch," Jimin whines and his eyes suddenly darken, his mood switching to a flirty one so quickly that it makes Taehyung dizzy. "To be honest, I forgot about it while we were kissing."
"That's so bad." Taehyung clicks his tongue and pretends to be disappointed. "I guess I'll have to keep kissing you until it fades completely."
For this time, Taehyung goes for it with his tongue licking Jimin's lips, but they've barely met when they hear a thin voice and part in surprise.
"Appa?" Siyeon looks at them with an amused face. Maybe too amused. She opens her mouth as if to say something and Jimin imagines she'll ask what they are doing. He underestimates his own daughter's intelligence, because of course she knows what they're doing. So, instead, she asks, "Why are you kissing?"
Siyeon keeps asking the hardest questions.
"Why are we kissing?" Jimin throws it at Taehyung, almost as if he's begging for help.
"Mmmm—" Taehyung just mumbles, useless.
"We're kissing because… Taehyung… Is my friend," Jimin answers, each word sounding more uncertain than the previous one.
"Alright," Siyeon says and cocks her head. "So can I kiss my friends too?"
"Oh, my God," Jimin mouths and rubs his forehead nervously. "No. No, you can't. Please. Don't kiss your friends. Not until you're 16, at least."
"Yeah. Then you'll be able to kiss anyone you want," Taehyung meddles for moral support, but Jimin turns his head at him in despair.
"Anyone?" Jimin repeats it with a shrill voice. "No, not anyone. Never kiss anyone who thinks the Earth is flat."
"Oh, that's true." Taehyung looks contemplative. "Don't kiss people who say they're seeing their dead grandfathers behind you in the middle of a date."
"That was… Oddly specific."
"Fine." Siyeon nods slowly with a frown, in trouble to fully understand what they're saying. "I was looking for you because my presentation is starting soon."
"Oh! Right." Jimin startles and checks his watch. Seeing they still have an available time, he beckons his head towards his daughter as a signal for Taehyung to leave so he can talk to her. Taehyung dismisses himself giving thumbs up to Jimin in encouragement and he giggles, crouching to be the same height as Siyeon.
"Look, Taehyung will probably be around for a while. Appa likes him, do you get it?" Jimin says carefully, caressing her shoulders.
"You like him like… Aunt Jihyo likes uncle Yugyeom?"
"Yeah, pretty much like that." Jimin grins, but then his expression hardens in concern. "But it's even more important that you like him and are okay with that."
"Are you kidding me? He's amazing! I was already wanting to ask you if we could keep him," Siyeon answers, wiggling out of enthusiasm.
"Baby, Taehyung's not a pet."
"Sorry," she says, but Jimin actually is finding it funny. "But he's perfect! He gives me gifts, he's bad at playing Clue," she enumerates and Jimin cracks up at her priorities. "And he makes you laugh."
That unleashes all the arrows charged with various emotions pent up in Jimin's heart.
"That's true," Jimin confesses, on the verge of crying. He softly blows the air out trying to keep the turmoil inside of him under control and looks up, beaming. "He really does."
He gets Siyeon by the hand and takes her to where the ballet dancers are warming up, wishing her good luck. For the first time in the night, he'll finally be able to have a seat at the table they're sharing with Jeongguk and Mingyu—which totally was a chance of fate and not something they actually planned, for sure.
Jimin can't help but wave frantically and whistle as the first shred of Siyeon's tutu appears on the stage. She smiles shyly at the ground, practically unable to avoid him since she stands right in the first row for being one of the best of her class. A short version of The Nutcracker starts playing and the kids of different ages dance obviously out of sync, but absolutely adorable nonetheless. As the rhythm of the song gets faster, the dancers form a circle and walk fast until they're basically hopping cutely. In the middle of the choreography, one of the girls, who must be five years old tops, trips and falls on her knees.
Dancers are taught since the beginning that if it happens to forget your routine or make any mistakes, you must pretend that nothing has happened and move on. Unfortunately, audiences are not taught the same. Hence, when she falls, practically everyone in the gymnasium gasps loudly at the same time, making it a little hard for her to ignore it. It gets worse as the other dancers gradually stop, confused about what to do.
So, Siyeon, who's standing exactly behind the girl that fell, drops on her knees as well.
The dancers seem to understand what she meant. Like dominos, they all kneel on the ground and stand up after a few seconds, resuming the choreography.
Jimin looks at Taehyung in utter bewilderment. Taehyung searches for his hand under the table, intertwines their fingers and leans towards him to whisper, "That's your daughter."
Jimin's phone screen lights up from a call and he pats at Taehyung's leg, announcing, "I think Hoseok is here."
Taehyung checks his watch. "It's almost time."
"Let's just wait Siyeon's presentation to end and we'll meet him," Jimin says and Taehyung nods. The performance ends with a standing ovation from the audience and Taehyung whistles loudly, making Jimin glad that he knows how to do that thing with your fingers in your tongue since he never learned it. Jimin leaves to pick his best friend at the entrance and Taehyung follows him.
He hugs Hoseok tightly, thanking him for the millionth time as he dismisses it for the millionth time as well. Jimin introduces Hoseok to Taehyung and the first thing his best friend says is that he heard a lot about the man. Jimin feels blessed that they're in a hurry as it doesn't leave any time for him to dwell in the will of burying his face in the ground. They turn around to head to the dressing room and meet with Mingyu and Jeongguk, walking calmly as if they went out for a tour.
"What are you doing here?" Jimin asks and Jeongguk doesn't answer right away, chewing something.
"I don't know. Now the presentations are done we thought we'd get bored, so. We followed you." Jeongguk shrugs.
"Right," Jimin says, going back to his previous anxious mood. "Hoseok's going to be Santa Claus and give gifts to the children. We need to dress him up, just don't get in our way in any manner," he concludes, pointing a finger at Jeongguk and Mingyu.
"Wow. How is he so sweet and yet so intimidating?" Jeongguk addresses Taehyung, and Jimin rolls his eyes.
"He can hear you," Jimin says sardonically. Jeongguk darts a sassy smile at Taehyung and he averts it, trying to keep up with Jimin's fast pace. He leads them to the dressing room, passing through the kitchen on their way.
They turn their backs to Hoseok so he can change his clothes. Taehyung strikes up a conversation about Mingyu's work as a designer of toys and action figures in general, trying to keep Jimin's mind occupied.
In one of the pauses when the subject momentarily dies, Hoseok says with his mouth full of food, "God, this is so good. I'm glad this is vegan."
Taehyung's head turns to him, glad that he's already full in the red costume. "You're eating the same as me? There's definitely cheese in it."
"No." Hoseok's face drops. "There isn't?" His uncertainty conveys it as a question.
"Taste it, it's definitely cheese. Here, Jimin, taste it." Taehyung takes it to Jimin's mouth with overly gentleness. Hoseok winces and it's not known if it's because of their moment or the way he clicks his tongue to taste the food.
"Cheese," Jimin concludes. "Definitely cheese."
"No, the waitress said it was vegan," Hoseok argues in denial. "Maybe it's made with soy milk?"
"First, there's no such thing as 'soy milk'," Taehyung retorts with a straight face. "I don't think soy has nipples."
Taehyung ignores Jimin, but drops it and begins to talk seriously instead, "Don't worry, I imagine it sucks to eat something that goes against your principles, but it's not like you meant it. Give it to me." He stretches his hand out to Hoseok, but he keeps standing there petrified with a grimace.
"No, you don't get it," Jimin's the one to answer as Hoseok places his hand over his belly and starts to undress in a hurry.
"I'm not a vegan. I'm a lactose intolerant."
"Oh, boy," Taehyung mumbles, staring dumbfounded at the half-naked man.
"Yeah, oh boy." It's all Hoseok manages to say sardonically before throwing what he's been eating into Taehyung's hands and rushing to the bathroom.
"What the hell are we going to do?" Jimin nearly shouts, grabbing Taehyung by his lapel. Taehyung holds his hand and pats it fondly, trying to calm him down.
"Relax, baby. I've got it," Taehyung reassures him and frees himself from his grip, bending down to pick the Santa costume at the floor. Then, he throws it at Jeongguk and says, "Jeongguk, it's up to you."
"What?" He exasperates and throws it back at Taehyung. "No shit, I'm too shy for this. I can't deal with people, I'll probably throw up on a kid's head."
"You can't deal with—what? You're literally a teacher! You deal with people on a daily basis!" Jimin's face reddens, both for the volume in which he's speaking and for the effort he puts in trying not to think about what he's gonna do if he doesn't get another Santa in the next seconds.
"Yeah! And I spend thirty minutes in front of my mirror getting ready for it every day!" Jeongguk justifies and whacks his boyfriend's chest with a hand. "Tell them, baby!"
"That's true," Mingyu stands his ground. "He rehearses how he will react if a child kicks his ankle again every morning."
"Told you!" Jeongguk pouts and crosses his arm, the spirits of them all getting increasingly ablaze.
"Would you, then?" Jimin speaks staring directly at Mingyu and clasps his hands together in a plea.
"Sure, if you want to rip the costume apart." The taller man scoffs. "Why not Taehyung?"
"And I'm not gonna rip it apart?" Taehyung questions with an incredulous tone.
"Oh, sweetie." Mingyu tilts his head and looks at Taehyung as if he pities him. Before Taehyung can protest, Jimin is cupping his face with both of his hands borderline desperately.
"Please. I know you hate Christmas, but I'll do anything you want me to. Replace Hobi-hyung as Santa Claus, do it for me. Please."
Taehyung wanted to amend that he doesn't hate Christmas anymore for two seconds. In the next, all he was capable of assimilating was Jimin's promise.
"Anything?" Taehyung echoes his words with a devilish grin and Jimin's fades away, already feeling sorry for what he said. He'll deal with that later. Taehyung places the costume over his own clothes and observes, "The trousers are too short."
"It's fine, we'll just say the reindeers put Santa's costume in the dryer machine, please, just hurry!" Jimin snaps and Taehyung immediately starts to change.
"You know, since your first time seeing me in underwear was already a disaster," Taehyung starts, keeping the padding in place as Jimin gets his pants up for him. "I was kinda hoping that the second would be better. Guess I was wrong."
"You were expecting a second one?" Jimin closes the last buttons of Taehyung's shirt and takes advantage of the small distance between them to whisper, "Seeing you're saving the party and my life, you can be sure there will be a third."
Jimin catches Taehyung off guard. He gulps down nervously and Jimin runs his hand over his chest from top to bottom, but someone loudly clearing their throat averts him from getting closer to Taehyung. Jimin glances at Jeongguk with a playful smirk, only slightly embarrassed by the fact that he forgot they weren't alone in the room for a moment. Mingyu finds it better for them to leave the scene before things go out of hand, but first Jimin asks Jeongguk to let Namjoon know that they had a setback that they're already dealing with.
The couple goes back to the party and Jimin guides Taehyung down to a chair so he can glue the fake beard to his face. He peers at the eyelash glue on his hand wondering where Hoseok took it from and prays that no kid will be wicked enough to try to pull his beard down, since it will easily unstick from his face. Jimin puts the white wig on Taehyung's head and finalizes with the Santa hat. Jimin beams and wiggles his shoulders, joining his hands together and resting his cheek on it with a tilt of his head.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Taehyung asks, yet unaware of how he's looking.
"Nothing. I just realized I might have a grand daddy kink," he deadpans, making Taehyung taste his own medicine.
"Jimin, I swear to God."
He throws his head back laughing and pulls Taehyung's head onto his chest, embracing him. Jimin kisses the crown of Taehyung's head and then spins his chair, so he can face his reflection in the mirror. The ear-to-ear grin that he opens is mainly covered by the beard, but it's enough for Jimin to mirror it. When Taehyung starts giggling again, Jimin asks what it is now.
"It came to me that you called me Grinch once and I've lived my character development, just like him," he says with a proud smile.
"So you know what happens?" Jimin lifts an eyebrow. "You watched a Christmas movie?"
"Of course I did. I was craving representation."
Jimin goes back to the party and tells the DJ that he can already play the song about the arrival of Santa Claus, the one that works as a cue for Taehyung to know it's time to walk across the red carpet. The DJ obliges, and judging by the way Jimin's eyes are glaring as he stands at the Santa Claus scenery, out of context someone would absolutely think he's getting married and watching his fiancé walking down the aisle.
Taehyung's feeling himself. He's waving at the families, pinning his attention a little bit at the kids who seem to be more excited to see him and walking at a slow pace, like an elder tired from traveling around the world would do. Then, he needs to control himself not to get out of character laughing because he realizes that Santa Claus is basically a backpacker with a better budget.
He sits at the red armchair and Jimin doesn't even try to be subtle with the thumbs up he's giving to him. Taehyung finds out it actually isn't that hard to act as Santa. All he needs to do is question if the kids behaved, praise the ones who say they did even when they're lying, give them the gifts that Jimin hands to him and ask the children to keep going like that.
And do his best not to look like Santa is whipped for his elf because Jimin looks so adorable in that elf hat.
A boy about his son's age sits on his lap and Taehyung doesn't need to check this tag to know who he is.
"Beomsoo, right?" The boy nods, eyes sparkling in amazement that Santa Claus knows his name. "Did you behave, kid?" He nods more frantically this time and Taehyung leans towards him to speak in a low voice. "Listen, Beomsoo. If your dad ever tries to lock you in the freezer, tell the authorities."
"...Fine." He gets the package from his hands and jumps off his lap, looking back at Taehyung with a confused countenance now and then as he walks away from the scenery.
The part that scared him the most comes and Kimoon hops merrily in his direction.
With his son, he talks with an unnecessary deep(er) voice in an attempt to preserve his disguise, "Did you behave this year?" Kimoon nods with a wide smile and it falters when Taehyung induces, "Don't lie to Santa Claus."
"Okay," Kimoon elongates the word, looking down to avert Santas' judgement. "I promise I'll be better next year. I know I shouldn't have buried my dad's money in the garden to see if more grew in a tree."
Taehyung blinks frantically at him.
"You did what?" Taehyung asks, causing Kimoon to wince at his voice. He clears his throat, deepening it again. "I'll send a letter to your father," he says pointing his gloved finger at him and Kimoon grabs his gift, rushing to get out of there.
Siyeon gets in sight a little shy. She walks bashfully, almost as if she's scared. Taehyung beckons at her fondly, causing her to take the final steps more decisively.
"Hello, Siyeon," he says and she unclenches her tiny fists, allowing herself to relax. "Were you a good girl this year?"
"Not all the time." She twists her lips and fidgets the hem of her coat, nervous. "But I'll try to be better next year."
"That's what matters," Taehyung tells her and she smiles again, swinging her body back and forth.
"Santa, I know it's probably too late, but I want to change my Christmas gift."
Taehyung raises his eyebrows in surprise and stares at the package in his hands. "Oh. This gift is already here, so I can hand it to you and give you the other thing next year, huh? How about that?"
She nods, obviously, because Siyeon would never disagree with Santa. "Yeah, sure. It's that... This was kinda urgent."
"And what is it?"
Siyeon glimpses at her father, who pretends he isn't listening to them while he inspects the list with the children's names. She tip toes and cups her hand in front of his ear, covering her mouth too as she confesses, "I want my dad to stay happy."
Taehyung would never expect that.
"Alright. Don't worry," he reassures her when he manages to dissolve his dazed countenance. "I guess I can do something about it." Taehyung says with a wink.
She grins widely in response, takes her present, and walks away, turning around to give him a final wave of her hand.
After the gifts giveaway is out, the gymnasium is considerably less crowded, half of the parents having already left with their kids. A still very pale Hoseok catches Jimin's attention as he plops on the chair right next to him and asks, "What did I miss?"
Jimin darts his eyes meaningfully to where Taehyung (now properly out of Santa and dressed as himself) is playing hide and seek with Kimoon, Siyeon and some of their friends.
He giggles on his own and answers, "I don't know what you missed, but I know what I've been missing this whole time."
Taehyung has told Jimin that, for this year, Marcela wouldn't come to spend Christmas with them and neither would they travel to spend it with her, due to an emergency in her work. So Jimin kills time deliberating if it would be too soon to call Taehyung to join their Christmas night, afraid he'd be trespassing any boundaries.
On Christmas Eve afternoon, he gathers the courage and decides on inviting him. He calls Taehyung.
"Hey, are you busy?" Jimin says after Taehyung greets him. Since he denies, he goes on, "I've been thinking… I know you don't like it and if you don't want to, I'll totally understand, but maybe it'll be fun to Kimoon…" He takes a deep breath, thinking it's time to stop beating around the bush. "Do you want to spend Christmas with us?"
"Jimin-ah," Taehyung says, audibly confused. "I'm starting to worry about your memory."
"You've already invited me over by text like, three hours ago. And I've said yes."
"I did what?" Jimin squeaks and his features soften in realization. He looks at Siyeon and any more inattentive person would think she's just humming mindlessly while drawing with her crayons.
Jimin knows better. He learned that his own daughter is the Devil's Spawn.
Today's lesson (finally) is that Jimin needs to set a password for his text app. Immediately.
While he finishes getting Kimoon ready, Taehyung concludes it is his last opportunity to have The Talk before heading to Jimin's house. He places the hairbrush at his side on the bed and crouches in front of the kid. He takes at least three deep breaths, picking the words cautiously in order to make it less disastrous than it was with Siyeon.
Yet a little unsure, everything about it being new territory for him since he never had to talk about anyone with the kid, he begins, "Do you know how appa liked eomma?"
"Yes," Kimoon answers, eyebrows knotting in curiosity.
"Mhm. Now I like Jimin that way. Alright?"
Kimoon nods, resigned. Taehyung smiles gladly, thinking everything's flowing better than he anticipated. That lasts until Kimoon questions, "So Jimin-ssi's now my… Eomma?"
"No, your eomma is your eomma. Jimin would be your other appa but—let's just now think so in hindsight, okay?" Taehyung pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. "Jimin's just someone that appa likes very much. That's all you need to know."
"Cool. Does that mean I'll get two gifts on Christmas?" Kimoon's voice gets louder out of enthusiasm.
"You already get two gifts on Christmas."
"So I'll get four?" He asks hopefully.
"Nice. Now you're good at math." Taehyung stands on his feet and ruffles his hair, only to realize he's the one who'll have to brush it all over again.
Jihyo's the one to open the door for Taehyung. Incredibly, she looks surprised and she doesn't at the same time. It's like she didn't know he was coming, but was not not expecting it either. She pulls him to a hug and Taehyung smiles at the thought of how hugs that makes you feel the most beloved person on Earth seems to run in that family. Taehyung brushes the snow off his and Kimoon's beanie as they do small talk, and Jihyo doesn't bother to ask for allowance before settling a Christmas hat on their heads. Taehyung doesn't complain, anyway.
Taehyung's introduced to Park Myungok and Park Seungmin, Jimin's mother and father. His mother embraces him and Taehyung confirms what he thought about the family hugs.
Jimin refuses Taehyung's help in the kitchen alleging he's a visitor, so he has to stay in the living room and socialize with his parents, Jihyo and Hoseok— what really isn't a hard task for him at all. Taehyung's an alluring soul. He can interact with literally anyone, asking questions out of true interest and doing his best to set the most pleasant mood for everyone. It makes everything easier that Hoseok's just the same. Hence when you put both of them in the same room, you can bet that it will be bright as if a second Sun has started to illuminate the Earth.
Jihyo and Jimin's parents' behaviour throws Taehyung back to what Jimin had said weeks ago. However, what they lack in enthusiasm about the concept of Christmas, they make up for in enthusiasm about being with family. Hours fly and Taehyung relaxes, as the chance of them doing any embarrassing questions about their relationship or its status seems more distant at every minute. It would be no surprise if Jimin had trained them not to say anything before he arrived.
After getting the food done, Jimin takes a shower and drops his body right next to Taehyung on the couch. He looks the most basic that Taehyung has ever seen, barefaced, wearing a black turtleneck sweater and his Christmas hat. And yet, Taehyung can swear he's the most gorgeous man he ever put his eyes on. Jimin crosses his legs, stretches his arm around Taehyung's shoulder and places his other hand on Taehyung's knee, caressing it with his thumb.
"I could hear you from the kitchen. They're probably loving you already," Jimin tells him and his smile slowly fades away, giving way to a contemplative expression. He draws near to Taehyung's ear and confesses, barely above a whisper, "Is it too soon for me to say that I love you?"
Taehyung fights back a smile, but the corner of his lips twitch upwards nonetheless. "I thought you weren't one to care about doing things early." He lifts an eyebrow, challenging. He shakes his fist to catch sight of his watch and observes, "It's almost midnight, by the way."
"I'm not," Jimin asserts and lets his hand fall to the small space between them. "But you may be."
Taehyung notices it and reaches for his hand, intertwining their fingers and resting it on his lap.
"I wasn't used to caring about a lot of things before I truly met you." Taehyung holds Jimin's hand tighter and it causes him to feel a rush of warmth running all the way to his heart. He looks deeply into Taehyung's eyes and sees the same anticipation that's numbing his body and clouding his senses as he wets his lips, getting ready to say something else. "So, tell me. How is it to love me?"
"Mmmm," Jimin mumbles and taps at his chin. He slightly jolts, seemingly satisfied with what came to his mind. "It feels like waiting for socks and getting those dope, giant tracks with car washes instead."
Taehyung's boxy smile makes its appearance as he laughs and lays his head on the backrest of the couch, turning his head at the side so he could give a peck on Jimin's arm. "Well, now that was oddly specific."
"Loving you is very specific," Jimin says, peacefully. He looks around, glad to see that no one's really paying attention to them as they gather around the table to start dinner, since it allows him to seal Taehyung's lips with his.
Taehyung heard about Jimin's traditions. Anyway, it's completely different to witness it as Jimin halts his meal in the middle to set up the cookies and milk for Santa Claus. He can see Siyeon's already squirming on her chair, her appetite long gone due to the anxiousness. Luckily, almost everyone is done with the food when the clock ticks midnight and Jimin startles the kids yelling at them, asking if they hear the Christmas bells.
Siyeon tells him that she does, almost bursting out of enthusiasm. Kimoon searches for his father's eyes in a silent query if he's wrong for not hearing anything and Taehyung gestures in a sign for him to follow with the motion.
Jimin takes the children by the hand to the backyard, suggesting they try to spot Santa's sleigh flying in the sky, just as an excuse for Taehyung to drink the milk, bite the cookie and settle the gifts. When everything is set and done, Taehyung yells "Oh, my God! Where did it come from?", and Jimin comes back with the kids. Jimin gasps exaggeratedly and Siyeon looks like she's about to faint at the amount of presents sprawled at the tree.
Kimoon looks like those kids who got lost from their parents in a supermarket.
There's a lot of presents to exchange and unravel. Kimoon gets a truck, a remote controlled car, a plush figure of some cartoon that he likes and no one of the grown ups even know how to enunciate it, and—
A nerf gun.
That Taehyung instantly and deeply regrets when his soon hits one of Jimin's coffee table ornaments by accident and almost breaks it.
Siyeon gets a dobok for the taekwondo classes she was begging for Jimin to attend the next year, a new board game, a huge dollhouse and the same plush figure as Kimoon, which leads them to laugh in amazement since it was a total coincidence.
The girl persuades everyone to play with her for a while. Soon as she figures out that the matches would last longer than she predicted, Siyeon gets bored and gives up, yawning and rubbing her eyes. She lazily stretches her arms out to Jimin in a silent plea for him to pick her from the ground and he obliges. Her father runs his hand through Siyeon's hair and kisses her head, telling her he's taking her to bed.
Jimin gets back from Siyeon's room and finds Kimoon curled into a ball on the sofa. He picks up the blanket that's thrown over the backrest and uses it to cover the boy, who snuggles onto the warm, humming satisfied in his sleep.
His parents thank Jimin for the amazing dinner, the characteristic longing of a goodbye bulging inside of his chest. Jimin grimaces at the pinch that Mrs. Myungok gives his cheek and melts completely when she says this is the happiest of him she's seen in a long time. He practically kicks them out before she can go any further and say something that'll drive him to drown in his own tears.
Taehyung and Jimin are all alone now. Jimin bends down and picks the only remaining gift at the tree, knowing what it means.
"I know we didn't talk about exchanging gifts, but." He hands it to Taehyung with a fond smile. "I wanted to give you this anyway."
Taehyung removes the bow and tears the paper as gently as possible, but all his calm spirit vanishes away as he meets with the accessory and recognizes the brand. His eyes bulge, his mouth gapes and he has to literally shove his fist on it in order to avoid screaming and waking Kimoon up.
"One day I took a glimpse at your phone—by accident, I swear!" Jimin explains to Taehyung, who's still switching his eyes from the Gucci necktie to Jimin in bewilderment. "And I caught you looking at it. You were pretty much flirting with your screen, so I imagined you wanted this. I hope I wasn't wrong."
Taehyung embraces Jimin's waist with his arm and takes him off the floor, spinning him around and causing him to laugh as silently as he manages to.
"It's perfect. Really." He cautiously settles the man on the ground and opens the packing with eagerness, taking the necktie out of it and doing an excuse of a knot around his neck. Jimin giggles and draws near to him, untying and tying the knot again, nailing it for this time. He pats at it proudly and slides his arms over Taehyung's shoulder, bringing him closer.
Jimin tenderly kisses him, feeling like all the happiness of the world is pouring from where their lips touch. Jimin misses the warmth of Taehyung's hand as it leaves his waist and lazily opens his eyes when he senses something moving right next to his head.
Taehyung swirls his fist behind Jimin's ear and takes a step back so he could sprawl his palm open in front of his face, revealing a tiny turquoise box.
"No," Jimin whispers and his jaw slackens as he stares at it, mesmerized. Taehyung slowly nods, silently answering that yes. Jimin's grin grows bigger and he takes the box out of his hand, carefully opening it and finding the exact same Tiffany's ring that he pointed at in the mall.
Jimin slides it down his index finger and slowly shakes his head like he can't believe it. Lately, sometimes he just can’t believe Taehyung as a whole.
He snaps out of his trance and cups Taehyung's face with both of his hands, earnestly and wholeheartedly, planting several kisses on his lips.
He only halts it when Taehyung holds Jimin's wrists and leans back so he can stare into his eyes. Strongly, meaningfully, deeply.
"I love you too, Jimin-ah," Taehyung tells him.
Taehyung tells him and even though Jimin feels like his heart skips a beat for hearing it, it isn't really that necessary.
Because Jimin sees it. Jimin finally sees what his sister's said about the way that Siyeon and Kimoon looked at their gifts a few hours ago.
It's there in the way that Taehyung looks at him.
When the holiday break is over and the classes return, Seokjin looks back and chuckles.
There's two chocolate bars, together, over his table.
The lessons are learned.
Jimin and Taehyung graduate with honors.