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it always leads to you (and my hometown)

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(mood; sweet night — v)

Jimin vaguely registers a pair of hands softly shaking him awake. His head is spinning, sharp pain drilling into his skull as though he’d gotten drunk last night, which is far from the truth. Looking back at it, Jimin almost wishes he had. Maybe that would’ve erased all the words that should’ve never left his mouth.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk’s voice comes in a raspy whisper, giving him goosebumps. “Watch the sunrise with me.”

Jimin groans, hiding his face under his pillow. “No.”

“Please, please, please,” Jeongguk whines. He throws his leg on top of Jimin and places his head in the crook of Jimin’s neck. “The sky looks so pretty right now. Let’s climb to the roof and watch it from there.”

“But it’s cold,” Jimin argues, even though he can feel himself slowly giving up. He can try to fool himself all he wants, but nothing will ever change the fact that he’s unable to deny Jeongguk anything.

“We can take the blanket with us. And it’ll be just a few minutes, hyung, I promise.”

Jimin turns around, sighing in defeat. It takes him a few seconds to adjust his eyes to the light in the room, but when the colors return to his vision he’s faced with the most familiar sight— Jeongguk staring down at him with a small smile, his bunny teeth peeking out, and starry eyes. Jimin’s heart makes a triple toe loop.

“Fine,” he says, frowning in fake annoyance. “But if I get sick, it’s your fault.”

Jeongguk laughs. Jimin feels like his heart just won the Grand Prix. “You won’t, I promise. Now hurry up! We’ll miss it.”

They scramble off bed and wrap themselves in Jeongguk’s winter blankets since their coats are still by the entrance, hanging from the rack. Jimin follows Jeongguk through the hall in his tiptoes, careful to not wake anyone up, until they reach an empty storage room. From there, they easily climb to one of the roof’s wings that covers the courtyard, and they settle down, albeit with a little effort.

“Jeon Jeongguk,” Jimin whisper-yells, “you’re insane. We’re going to die.”

“I’ve done this a thousand times!” Jeongguk exclaims, holding onto one of the tiles to support his weight as he sits down. “You’re just a scaredy cat, hyung.”

“Sorry for not wanting to die?”

Jeongguk snorts, but the conversation dies until they’re sitting down side to side comfortably. They’re slightly shivering, and their breaths can be seen, but Jimin can’t deny that it’s worth it. The clouds cover the sky like a thick curtain, cotton candy painted tangerine orange and pink. The sun is yet to be seen, hidden behind the clouds, but a few rays filter through them, like stage spotlights during a solo performance.

It’s breathtaking.

“I can’t feel my hands,” Jeongguk confesses after a while, leaning his head on Jimin’s shoulders. Jimin places his arm around Jeongguk’s waist instinctively.

Jimin interlocks their pinkies together. He swears he hears Jeongguk’s breath hitch, but it must be his mind playing tricks on him. “There. I won’t hold it because mine are as cold as yours, but imagine I’m passing all my warmth to you.”

Jeongguk chuckles, tearing his eyes away from the sky to look up at Jimin with quirked brows. “I don’t think bodies work like that.”

“They do because I say so,” Jimin says, lifting his chin pridefully. “Who’s the science student here, huh?”

Jeongguk clicks his tongue, laughing as he nuzzles closer to Jimin. “Whatever you say, babe.”

“Have I ever told you you’re a brat?”

“Multiple times, but I think you like that a little too much, hyung.”

Jimin scoffs, thankful that the clouds are stealing all the attention away from his reddening cheeks. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Jeongguk lets go of Jimin’s pinky to slide his palm over the back of Jimin’s hand and lace their fingers together. Jimin feels his smile on his shoulder.

“It’s better that you don’t,” he mutters. In a louder voice, he adds, “The sky has turned golden now. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Jimin looks at the boy in his arms. Time slows down, granting him the opportunity to admire every detail, from the scar in his cheek and his long eyelashes to the dip of his Cupid’s bow and his lower lip that is much bigger than the upper, and— God. Jimin desperately wants to lean down and kiss him.

He could really do it if he wanted to, and that might be the most heartbreaking thing of it all. How they’ve blurred out the lines of their relationship so much that Jeongguk could freak out about a kiss under the mistletoe but not even blink twice if Jimin kissed him right there, in the most vulnerable hours of the day.

Jimin’s soul sinks to the bottom of the ocean. He’s reminded of all those fairytales that were written to stray children away from possible danger, but he can’t think of one that warned kids about the risks of falling for their best friend.

“Yeah,” he says, eyes fixed on the younger’s face. “Gorgeous.”

Jimin feels heavy, like he’s supporting the entire weight of the world in his shoulders— a divine punishment for his crimes. As if this morning he woke up feeling more, with newfound emotions that clogged his senses, making it impossible to think about anything but Jeongguk.

Have they always been there? Is it possible that he’s felt this way for so long he forgot he was in love with his best friend? Or does loving Jeongguk just feel so right he didn’t even notice?

He swallows, blinking the tears away. The sun has finally risen.

Jeongguk has fallen asleep on his shoulder now. Jimin doesn’t know if he should be glad that he’s unaware of Jimin’s inner hurricane, or if that should become another reason for heartache. Maybe if it hurts enough he could visit a doctor, beg for a cure.

Maybe then he would forget.

 

 

After they climb down, they go back to bed and sleep until lunch time. Last night must’ve worn Jeongguk out too; Jimin sees dark circles like his own when they stare at each other in the bathroom’s mirror as they brush their teeth. Jeongguk’s shoulders are slumped and his hair falls flat over his forehead, a rare sight these days.

Jimin pushes his intrusive thoughts to the back of his mind to play his role as the hyung, initiating the Jeongguk Needs A Hug operation. Whenever Jeongguk is sad, nothing else matters until he’s giggling softly again in Jimin’s arms. At some point during his teenage years, Jimin realized he struggled showing affection through his words. Unlike some of his friends, like Taehyung and Namjoon, who were born to be poets, Jimin choked up trying to say a simple ‘I love you’. He’s certainly gotten better now, but he still prefers showing his love through actions and gifts.

When it comes to Jeongguk, physical affection is his go-to. It helps that Jimin seems to fit right into Jeongguk’s arms, but it took them a few attempts to get it right. After long nights of talking and discussing their preferences, Jeongguk and Jimin found the key to the door that led to the perfect dynamic.

 Of course, there have been moments where they’ve stepped over their boundaries, times where one of them has leaned in too close to be considered friendly and when they’ve touched each other with the right intentions but the wrong desires. But they’ve never talked about it.

Perhaps that’s their current issue. They’ve been filling a pot with unresolved tension and unspoken words, and now it’s burst. It’s up to them to put the pieces back together, but Jimin doesn’t know how to. He doesn’t even know if Jeongguk feels the same— although he wants to believe.

Despite Jimin’s efforts to trick Jeongguk into cuddling him on the couch, Jeongguk’s parents have different plans.

“Boys, we have to go to the city this afternoon,” his mother announces while they’re cleaning the table. “Why don’t you come with us? I think you could use some time away from these old walls.”

Jimin is about to come up with an excuse to stay in, but Jeongguk is quicker to reply.

“Actually, I’d love that. I ran out of white paint and I wanted hyung to help me with a project before he left.”

Right, the painting. Jeongguk had mentioned it on the train, but Jimin was only half listening, too exhausted to give him his full attention. He vaguely remembers agreeing to model for Jeongguk, but the details about the project are blurry.

“You can go to the mall with your father while Jiminie and I go to the Christmas market,” she suggests, looking at Jimin with one eyebrow raised to seek a confirmation. The way she arches her brow reminds Jimin so much of Jeongguk he wants to bawl. “If that’s okay with you.”

“Of course, eomoni,” Jimin displays his brightest grin. “I’d love that.”

They leave two hours later. Jimin and Jeongguk squeeze in the back of the old family car and brace themselves as best as they can while Jeongguk's father drives through the town's road, which is bumpy and abandoned to the point it looks like it could take someone to the end of the world. During the ride, they stumble across a giant sign that reads "your navigator app lied to you! This road leads to a cliff, not the beach! Turn around". Jimin and Jeongguk laugh for the rest of the trip, hugging their sides and wiping tears away.

Small details like this remind Jimin where exactly they are, and how different his childhood was from Jeongguk's. Jimin grew up exclusively in Busan while Jeongguk was constantly going back and forth from their apartment in the city to his grandparents’ house. That was the main reason why they never saw each other during the summer. They spent only one summer together, a blissful week in Jeongguk's hometown, much like this one, but surrounded by green grass instead of snow.

It was Jimin's last year in high school. The atmosphere during the entire trip was filled with an unspoken agreement to make the most out of it, since Jimin would leave for Seoul in December, and wouldn't have time (nor money) to visit Busan often. Jimin's memories from those golden days still bring a nostalgic smile to his face whenever he listens to the songs they danced to together the last night he was there, a wordless goodbye.

Now, he wishes he could walk around Busan with Jeongguk again and reminisce about the old times, when they took the long way home after school just so they could talk as much as they wanted to. He wants to drag Jeongguk to the market and treat him to tteokbokki because he's his hyung, and make him walk until they find a photobooth just so Jimin can keep a picture of them inside of his phone case. He wants to discover Busan with Jeongguk, learn all the secrets they missed out on because they were too young to know. But they don't have enough time. The sun is already threatening to hide, and it's dangerous to drive in the village's roads when it's dark.

When they finally park, they agree to meet in the parking spot two hours later, and they part ways. Jeongguk and his father leave a trail of excited chattering as they go, and Jimin is left alone with Jeongguk's mother, who grabs his arm and tells him all the stories hidden in the streets they pass by.

Much like Jeongguk, her eyes sparkle as she talks, her smile reaching them before it shows in her mouth. They don't have the same facial features— she always jokes that Jeongguk inherited all the good looks from his dad— but they do share the same mannerisms, to the point it's clear she was an attentive and caring parent.

In the market, she guides him expertly to the stands that sell exactly the ingredients she was looking for to cook the New Year's Eve dinner. Jimin will leave two days early, so he'll miss it, but she promised to make Jeongguk send him all the recipes he wants. The way she treats him like a son makes him feel as though he hadn't left his home at all.

They run the errands quickly and escape the bustling crowd way earlier than they expected, so she takes Jimin to her favorite coffee shop and buys him a cup of sweet hot chocolate. The place is cozy, with its white walls covered by fairy lights and potted purple flowers. The ends of their spoons are shaped like hearts.

The skin around her eyes wrinkles when she smiles. "So, Jimin-ah, how are you feeling? Are you comfortable at home?"

Jimin nods profusely. "Yes, yes. Thank you for making me feel so welcomed. I'm sorry for being a bother."

She clicks her tongue, brushing Jimin's comment like she's swatting a fly away. "Please, it's our pleasure! I've never seen Jeonggukie smile that big when he's home. Usually, he hides in his room and paints unless we force him to come out."

Jimin feels his cheeks heat up. He takes a sip of his chocolate. "Ah, I'm sure he's not that bad. He's just a little shy."

She gives him a pointed look, lifting her brows. "A little?"

"Okay, maybe a lot," Jimin says, covering his giggles with a hand to his mouth. "But that's just how he is! He even gets shy around me, and I'm his best— his boyfriend," he's quick to correct himself, resisting the urge to wince at the slip-up. Thankfully, Jeongguk's mother doesn't seem to have noticed.

"That's because he likes you, Jimin-ah," she says, like it's a universal truth. “That boy has never known how to deal with his feelings, so he panics instead.”

Jimin snorts and coughs to hide it. She’s right, but he wasn’t expecting her to be so blunt about it. Throughout the years they’ve been friends, whenever Jeongguk has crushed on someone or liked anyone, he’s always gone through a phase where it was impossible for him to look at that person in the face. He carried this rosy glow in his cheeks anywhere he went, and Jimin used to find it hilarious. Now he can only gnaw at his lip, trying to simmer down the rising jealousy in his gut when he realizes Jeongguk has never acted that way around him.

“But anyway,” Jeongguk’s mother continues when she notices Jimin has gone quiet. “I just wanted to thank you for coming and agreeing to meet the family. I guessed from Jeongguk’s reluctance on the phone none of you were exactly happy to be exposed to that. Our family can be a lot.”

Jimin can’t disagree. The Christmas lunch was the most stressful situation he’s been put through in a while— not even his finals required that much energy and self-control. He can’t count the times he had to bite down a comeback or curl his hands into fists. He can deal with sharp words directed towards him, but not when they’re aimed at Jeongguk. Nobody can get away with hurting Jeon Jeongguk, not for as long as Jimin lives.

“It was certainly… an experience,” he says after a pause to find the right word. “But I could tell it meant something to you and Jeonggukie, so I couldn’t refuse the offer.”

She smiles fondly, touched by his words. She reaches out for Jimin’s hand and he lets her hold it, aware that it’s a Jeon thing, to grab someone’s hand as they’re telling them a story or something meaningful that requires full attention.

“It does mean the world to me. You see, my husband’s parents passed away pretty recently, and the family hasn’t been the same since then.”

Jimin remembers the day of the accident clearly. It happened two years ago. Jeongguk had come over to Jimin’s room to study, and while Jimin drowned in his notes, Jeongguk dirtied his hands with graphite. The younger had been playing Lo-fi beats on his phone for hours until the sound of his ringtone interrupted it. Jimin has never seen Jeongguk as pale and desolated. A part of him had died along the music.

It had been especially hard for Jeongguk for two reasons, the main one being the fact that it was his first year living in Seoul, and he missed the sea terribly. Having Jimin by his side had helped, but it wasn’t enough. On top of that, he’d gotten his heart broken for the first time just a month before. When he heard the news about his grandparents, it all came crashing down on him.

“Since then, I feel like Jeonggukie has been slowly distancing himself from us, and it breaks my heart to feel him so far away, you know?” she chuckles wetly. “I figured it’d do him well to make new memories— good memories— with someone he loved. That’s why I insisted you came with him, and I convinced the family to celebrate together, even if we never do it.”

Jimin swallows the knot in his throat, overwhelmed all of a sudden. He couldn’t have known what was going on between Jeongguk and his family, but he still wishes he could’ve helped somehow, made the pain more bearable.

“I think Jeongguk is very lucky to have you,” Jimin says honestly, smiling gently at the woman who has just poured her heart out to him. Home, he thinks. Home can also feel this way.

“Please,” she huffs out a laugh, glancing to the side. Jeongguk and his mother blush the same shade of red. “I’m just taking care of my kid. I’m his mother; it’s my job. But it’s not your job,” she says, tightening her grip on his hand to get her point across. “And yet, you’re doing even better than me, So, thank you.”

“I’m not his mother, but I love him, too, eomoni,” Jimin is surprised at how easily the confession leaves his lips. He loves him, doesn’t he? There’s no point in labelling his feelings because he loves Jeongguk in every way humans have come up with throughout history. He loves Jeongguk as a lover, as a friend, as a brother— as a soulmate. All of those and none at the same time because he also loves him as Jeongguk. The constellation in Jimin's sky. His boy. "I'd do anything just to see him happy."

"I could tell, sweetheart," she says, caressing the back of Jimin's hand with her thumb, her gaze fixed on the lines she's tracing. "I know how much you care about my kid; I've seen how you are around him. You look at Jeongguk like everything he does makes you fall a bit in love, and that, Jimin, is the best gift you could’ve ever given me.”

Her eyes are shining with tears when she looks up. Jimin wonders if she can tell he has just realized he's in love with her son, that he has been all this time. If she sees her younger self, foolish and lovesick, in Jimin, and if that's the reason why she stares at Jimin like she knows all his secrets.

He shrugs, a smile tugging at his lips. "It's easy to fall for Jeongguk."

After that, they finish their drinks comfortably, chatting about trivialities and Jimin's family and studies. By the time they reach the parking lot where they are supposed to meet Jeongguk and his father, Jimin has told her all about how babies form their first words.

It doesn't take them long to return. Jeongguk's holding a big plastic bag with a brand-new canvas inside and what seem to be tubes of paint, judging by the shape. Jeongguk's dad carries a bag of coal for barbecues, and that alone almost makes Jimin call his parents and tell them he'll be arriving after the New Year. There's nothing like a barbeque day in the Jeon household.

"Hyung!" Jeongguk exclaims, trotting towards him with a grin. Jimin mentally welcomes the butterflies living inside of him with a resigned wave of his hand. "Look at the set of brushes I bought!"

Jeongguk spends the rest of the ride back home explaining the details about the brushes, and why that certain type of hair was better than others and more environmentally-friendly. Jimin listens intently to Jeongguk's passionate list of reasons why oak wood is better for handles than plastic until the boy falls quiet, too tired to keep going. He presses his head to the cold window of the car and Jimin watches how his eyes shut close after a while from the reflection on his own window, and God. Jimin wants to kiss him senseless. He wants to kiss him so bad he thinks he might die if he doesn't do it soon.

 

 

The next days are oddly quiet, not as filled with their laughter as the previous ones had been. They watch Jimin's favorite movie, but Gureum sits between them, stealing all the cuddles from Jimin. That damn dog. Jimin convinces Jeongguk to play the guitar for him once again, but he doesn't sing, claiming he's embarrassed that his parents will hear him.

On Tuesday, Jimin forces Jeongguk to get out of bed early and help him clean the garden. Jeongguk's mother had mentioned over dinner that she had been trying to find the right moment to do it, but these days her back hurt too much. Jimin takes that as a cue to fulfil his son-in-law duties, and that's how he finds himself covered in fertilizer and sweet potato roots at 8 in the morning.

The most infuriating thing of it all is that Jeongguk isn't helping at all— instead, he keeps laughing at Jimin whenever he complains about getting his boots dirty. Jeongguk seems to have no issues carrying around weeds and rotten vegetables, or finding worms crawling around the soil, unlike Jimin, who screams every time he comes across one.

"Hyung, you're such a city boy it hurts my soul," Jeongguk says, wearing a stupid smirk on his mouth. Jimin wants to kiss it away. "A little dirt won't hurt you!"

"If you say something about 'connecting with Mother Nature'," Jimin makes air quotations, using a mocking tone, "I will bury you alive in this garden."

"I'm not Tae hyung, don't worry," Jeongguk dumps the patch of fresh fertilizer on his shovel. It's too cold to replace any of the plants they've ripped off, but Jeongguk's mother told them it was better to clean the soil, let it repair itself so it's healthy in the spring. "I'll just make fun of you without spreading ecologist propaganda."

Jimin rolls his eyes. "When will you treat me like your hyung?"

Jeongguk halts his movements, suspending the shovel in the air. He frowns at Jimin as if he had spoken in a foreign language. "Never? I thought I'd made it clear."

"You son of a—" Jimin clamps his mouth shut, biting down the curse word. "Goat."

"Goat?"

Jimin crosses his arms over his chest, grimacing when he stains his coat. "Yes."

"So who's the furry parent, my mom or my dad?"

“Jeon Jeongguk, I swear to God—"

They keep bickering back and forth all morning, taking breaks between plucking weeds off and cleaning the snow piled on top of the garden statues to mess with each other, which at some point spirals into a snowball fight. Jimin tries his best to take cover behind the sculptures and trees, but it’s to no use— Jeongguk is too fast and his aim is too precise. In just fifteen minutes, Jimin is dropping to his knees on the ground, shielding his head with his arms, giggling as he begs for mercy.

Jeongguk stands before Jimin, passing a snowball from one hand to another while he grins like a mad man. He looks like a mafia boss from a movie, sharpening his knife nonchalantly while his victim trembles, tied up to a chair— except, this time, Jeongguk’s knife is made of ice. 

“Any last words, hyung?”

Jimin considers running away, but he’s too close to the garden wall, and Jeongguk stands on the way to the house. He’s trapped. And freezing— the snow has made it inside his coat, sliding down his neck and spine.

Checkmate.

“I have a confession to make,” Jimin announces with fake solemnity.

Jeongguk frowns, halting his bouncing leg. “Um, what is it?”

Jimin presses his lips into a thin line. “I unironically enjoy One Piece.”

“What—” Jeongguk scoffs in disbelief, trying to bite down the smile making its way into his face. “You’re unbelievable. That’s your confession? Seriously?”

“What?” Jimin asks defensively, placing his hands on his hips. “I’m an angel. That’s the biggest crime I’ve committed. And I even collected figurines, Jeongguk. Figurines.”

That seems to be the breaking point for Jeongguk. He tilts his head, clicking his tongue, and he crouches down to pick up more snow. “Goodbye, hyung.”

Jimin stretches out his arms like he’s being crucified, and he curls his fingers towards himself, dropping his head. “I accept my fate. Bring it in.”

 The hit stings where it lands on Jimin’s chest, but Jimin can’t complain, not when Jeongguk’s blinding grin warms him right after; not when he’s immediately met with Jeongguk’s arms hoisting him up and wrapping him into a back hug; not when Jeongguk feels like spring, his honeyed laughter blooming close to Jimin’s neck.

Not when Jimin soars, his wings being the sunbathed boy behind him.

 

 

Jimin is leaving in three days. It’s a fact that they can’t run away from, no matter how much they try to slow time down by spending the entire evening lying down on the living room, with Gureum curled up on Jeongguk’s lap and Jimin’s feet trapped under Jeongguk’s legs in an attempt at warming them.

All Jimin wants to do is be close to Jeongguk. He always does, but ever since Christmas he’s been pulled towards him, like a flytrap so sweet he can’t escape. His newfound feelings work as the magnet, gluing him to Jeongguk although they make Jimin ache whenever he encounters the walls Jeongguk has seemed to put up lately.

Jimin is too scared to ask what’s wrong, terrified of what the answer will be. He’s worked on his confidence and self-love for years, but, at times, the voice in the back of his mind that whispers his friends are only tolerating him returns, ready to haunt Jimin in the late hours of the day. Although Jeongguk is the only exception to many of Jimin’s insecurities and fears, this one manages to trap him, too. It’s Jimin’s worst enemy.

Jeongguk knows all the strategies to fight it, though. At least, he usually does. Right now, he only spikes Jimin’s anxiety, with his lips pulled into an everlasting grimace and the distance of his body. 

It’s Jeongguk’s mother who, accidentally, breaks the uncomfortable silence that has settled between them. “Jimin-ah, what time are you leaving on Friday?”

Jimin lifts his eyes from the novel he was reading and straightens his back. “Um, I don’t know. I haven’t checked the timetable for the bus, but I guess around dinnertime?”

“The bus?” she frowns as she wipes her hands on a cloth from the kitchen. The smell of kimchi fried rice lingers in the air. “Isn’t Jeongguk driving you home?”

“Huh?” Jeongguk snaps his head up, dropping his phone on his lap. “Did you say my name?”

Jeongguk’s mother rolls her eyes affectionately. “I swear, you would leave your head behind if it weren’t for your friends,” she sighs. “I asked if you’re driving your boyfriend to Busan or not.”

“My— oh,” Jeongguk’s eyes widen for a second before they return to their original shape and settle on Jimin’s face, as though it’s the first time he’s staring at him. He gulps. “I assumed hyung would be taking the bus.”

His mother clicks her tongue and softly slaps Jeongguk’s arm with the cloth. “Yah, you’re going to let him take one of those stinky buses? Did I raise you like this?”

Jeongguk raises his hands in surrender. “Jesus, Mom, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’ll take your precious Jiminie home,” he says, arching a brow. “Do you want me to ride the pumpkin carriage, too?”

“Actually,” Jimin says, “that wouldn’t be so bad. You would make a good Fairy Godmother.”

Jeongguk gives him a deadpan look. “Literally how.”

“You’re cute and tiny, like a fairy,” Jimin explains like it’s a worldwide-known fact.

“I’m taller than you—”

“Anyways,” Jeongguk’s mother raises her voice to cut them off. “I just wanted to make sure you had a way to go home because my husband and I won’t be able to drive you. We’re volunteering at the church every afternoon starting from tomorrow, to help prepare dishes to hand out during the New Year in the nearby towns.”

“That’s okay,” Jimin says gently, “You’ve already done more than enough. Thank you so much, eomoni.”

“Yeah, don’t worry, Mom,” Jeongguk says, shifting on the couch so he’s sitting crossed-legged. “I’ll take care of it.”

She gifts them a warm smile before she disappears into the kitchen again, leaving them with a warning that dinner will be ready soon. Jimin and Jeongguk share a look then— an unusual one. It’s filled with hesitance.

“Uh, sorry I didn’t ask before,” Jeongguk mumbles, ears red. “It totally slipped my mind.”

Jimin shrugs. “It’s fine. I didn’t mind riding the bus, but I do like this better,” he extends out his arm to Jeongguk, hovering his hand over his knee for a split-second before he places it on top, gripping it once reassuringly. “It gives me more time with you,” he says, soft-spoken.

“Oh,” Jeongguk looks away, the red spreading to his entire face, like a stain of paint dropping into the water. “Um.”

Jimin laughs, bringing his hand up to pet Jeongguk’s hair. Relief pours out of his body. Turns out, even with all of his walls up, Jeongguk unknowingly still manages to make Jimin feel better. “You’re cute when you blush, baby.”

“Hyung,” Jeongguk whines, jutting his lip out. Jimin hears his heart shatter— he wants to kiss him so bad. “Stop.”

“Sorry,” he says, although his giggles don’t cease. “By the way, we should decide what to do until Friday, Friday morning included. I know we’re trying to ignore the fact that I’m leaving soon, but I don’t want to waste these days.”

“Right,” Jeongguk is still not looking at Jimin, and he feels the urge to grab his chin and force him to hold his gaze. He can’t stand not having Jeongguk’s attention on him when it’s just the two of them alone— and when they’re in a room full of people, too, but Jimin is learning to simmer down his possessiveness. “Well, it’s going to snow tomorrow and on Thursday, so you could maybe help me with my painting?” he asks, and there’s expectation in his question.

“Yeah, sure. You still haven’t told me what you want to paint, though.”

“It’s because it’s a little…” he trails off, the blush returning to his cheeks. “Ah, you’ll see.”

“C’mon, Jeongguk-ah,” Jimin insists, scooting closer to him. “At least give me a hint of what I’ll be getting myself into.”

Jeongguk sighs— yet he gives in. “Have you ever seen the ‘Rokeby Venus’ by Velázquez?”

Jimin frowns. “No, I haven’t.”

“Well, sucks to be you! That was your only chance for a hint.”

“You’re so—” Jimin pushes him gently, pouting. “That’s unfair! I’m not an Art History nerd like you.”

Jeongguk blinks at him, seemingly innocent. “Must I repeat myself, hyung-nim? Sucks. To be. You,” he says, bopping his head from side to side to emphasize his words.

Jimin gapes, at a loss for words. “You’re so lucky you’re cute.”

Jeongguk breaks into a grin, the light returning to the dim-lit room for a brief moment. “I am lucky, aren’t I, babe? That you like me so much.”

He’s clearly playing around, shifting into his role as Jimin’s fake boyfriend— he always does whenever he calls Jimin ‘babe’. Still, Jimin lets his heart take a leap, be lifted into the skies along the butterflies flying inside of his gut.

“Yeah,” he says, almost to himself. “You are.”

 

 

The next day, they allow themselves the pleasure of sleeping until the sun has fully risen. They skip breakfast and instead have leftovers for lunch while they stare at the falling snow from the window, blankets spread over their laps and the fire from the wood stove cracking faintly in the background.

Jeongguk’s parents leave soon after they’re done eating with a promise that they won’t take long to return. However, both of them know what that means in parent language: don’t wait up.

Jeongguk leads Jimin to his bedroom, alleging it’s essential for the painting. Knowing Jeongguk, Jimin is aware that he wouldn’t risk staining his sheets with painting if he had the chance to paint anywhere else— back in Seoul, he’s dragged Jimin to every corner, from coffee shops to parks to sketchy alleyways, just to get some company while he works, but never his room. He’s extremely picky about cleanliness and order— he’s a Virgo, after all— so the idea of dirtying his room sends shivers down his spine. Jimin knows it all too well.

He hands Jimin a roll of red satin ribbon and his palette and goes off running to the living room to pick up God-knows-what. Today, he’s extremely jittery, more than what’s common for his puppy-like self. Jimin can’t pinpoint the reason why, though. He’s modelled for Jeongguk more times that he can count, for personal pieces like this one or school projects (he still brags about the fact that Jeongguk got an A+ for sculpting his face), so it can’t be that. He constantly experiments with his art style and techniques, so it can’t be about the challenge of trying something new, either.

When Jeongguk comes back carrying a mirror in his arms, Jimin’s curiosity turns into concern.

“What the hell are you planning to do with that?” he asks, eyes slightly widening.

Jeongguk places the mirror before the head of the bed, against the wall, so it reflects its entire length. Wordlessly, he drags the chisel with the canvas to stand half a meter away from the end of the mattress. Once it’s all set comfortably, he turns to Jimin.

“So,” he says, clasping his hands together, “I need you to take your shirt off.”

Jimin blinks twice. “Pardon?”

Jeongguk sighs as if he were already regretting his decision. “Let me phrase that better. I’m going to paint you lying down on the bed while you stare at yourself in the mirror, so I can also be in the portrait?” he says, hesitant. “And like, in the original painting there’s an angel holding the mirror and he has ribbons hanging from his arms so I thought it would be cool to uh— fuck, this sounds to wrong, but I thought I could tie you up? To make a reference to the painting?”

“Tie me up?” Jimin splutters, flush creeping up his neck. “Are you insane?”

“Not like that!” Jeongguk waves his hands in panic, dismissing Jimin’s idea. “I mean like, wrapping the ribbon around your torso and maybe shoulders? I’m not going to restrain you, or whatever you’re thinking.”

“Oh,” Jimin says, releasing all the air he had been holding. “Well, that’s a relief. I mean, you did say we were exclusively vanilla, so…”

“Hyung, get your head out of the gutter for a second,” Jeongguk scolds him, but the blush on his nose betrays him. He’s just as flustered as Jimin.

“You’re no fun,” Jimin mutters. His fingers tremble slightly when he zips off his hoodie and then discards his shirt, fisting it into a wrinkled ball. Thankfully, Jeongguk hasn’t noticed— he’s staring at the wall, his back turned to Jimin, which is hilarious, if you ask him. He’s acting as if they hadn’t swum naked on a lake just a few months ago, on a drunken night during the summer road trip they organized with their friends. Jeongguk is not exactly shy around bare chests.

“Are you just gonna stand there, or are you going to wrap those ribbons around me, darling?” Jimin teases, shifting his weight to one leg and placing the opposite hand on his side. “It’s kind of cold, if you haven’t noticed.”

The truth is Jimin’s hairs do stand up as goosebumps erupt all over his arms, but he’d be a liar if he said it’s an effect of the temperature. No, it’s Jeongguk’s touch that bolts electricity through him. Jimin can’t tell which is softer— if the satin or Jeongguk’s fingers grazing his exposed skin.

The fabric surrounds his waist tightly and then crosses his chest diagonally, separating his pectorals with a line. Jeongguk carefully ties Jimin’s biceps, letting some of the ribbon fall over his forearms delicately. Then, he steps back to take a better look at it, scanning Jimin from head to toe in a way it makes him feel vulnerable— seen. Before he lets Jimin get into bed, he crouches down and wraps a ribbon around Jimin’s thigh, the bright red contrasting with his dark skinny jeans.

When he stands up, his face is just a few centimeters away from Jimin’s. This time, Jimin does hear Jeongguk’s breath hitch— it happens in tandem with his own. Jeongguk’s Adam’s apple bobs when he places a tender hand on Jimin’s shoulder.

“You can lay down now, if you want,” he tells him softly, unsure eyes boring into Jimin. “Is this okay, hyung?”

Jimin licks his lips before speaking. “Perfectly splendid. I can’t wait to visit the SeMA and see myself outshining every other piece in the museum.”

Jeongguk chuckles and steps away, breaking the spell. “You’re ridiculous. I could never be at the SeMA.”

“Hm, just you wait, baby,” Jimin says as he positions himself on the bed, fixing his eyes on the mirror so he doesn’t lose sight of Jeongguk. “Life is full of surprises. I love how you haven’t denied I would outsell the most relevant museum in Seoul, though.”

Jeongguk’s shoulder shake as he begins mixing the colors in his palette. “Why would I lie to you?”

Jimin props himself up with his eyebrows, shifting for a bit to find a comfortable position. “You could, if you wanted to. It’d break my heart, but you certainly could.”

Jeongguk paints a long streak of pink on the canvas, frowning. “I wouldn’t want to break your heart either, hyung.”

Jimin suppresses a laugh. As if he had the choice to decide. “I know, Gguk-ah. I was just messing with you.”

Jeongguk dips his brush into the water and stirs it, filling the room with the loud sound of it hitting the glass. “You shouldn’t be distracting me, you know. I’m not sketching beforehand for this one, so you might end up with two heads.”

Jimin fakes a horrified gasp. “Okay, I’ll shut up now. Can I look at my phone?”

Jeongguk gives him a pointed look. “No.”

“Boo, boring,” Jimin complains with a childish pout, getting a giggle out of Jeongguk. “Guess I’ll have to watch you for four hours straight—” he tilts his head, suddenly struck by a thought. “Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad.”

He mostly says it to fluster Jeongguk— which works, judging by the high-pitched hyung he lets out— but there’s some truth behind it. Jimin wouldn’t mind watching Jeongguk for hours. He happens to find everything the younger does extremely entertaining or endearing, so he lives for those moments where he gets to do just this: look at Jeongguk without a mind-clock ticking, measuring how much he gets to stare before it turns weird.

They don’t talk much afterwards. Jeongguk rolls the sleeves of his plaid shirt up, exposing his tattoos, and throws himself into his work, tongue poking out in concentration. He sometimes asks Jimin to move a bit to the left or try different poses with his legs until Jeongguk is satisfied with the way the light hits Jimin’s skin, but there’s no use in trying to chat. Jimin needs to let Jeongguk do his thing and ask all the questions later.

Jeongguk seems frustrated, though. He keeps huffing and pushing his tongue against his cheek, but Jimin can’t see what’s making him struggle from the mirror.

“Is everything okay?”

Jeongguk pinches the bridge of his nose. He doesn’t seem to notice he’s left two spots of red paint on each side. “Yeah, yeah. I just can’t concentrate well, I guess.”

“Oh?” Jimin rolls on his back slowly so that the ribbons stay in place. He sits up carefully and tilts his head. “Maybe you should take a break, Gguk-ah. How long has it been, anyway? An hour?”

Jeongguk smacks his lips, still glancing at the canvas. “Yeah, but I still haven’t finished painting your arms or the bed. It’s bad, hyung.”

“That’s exactly why you need to take a break,” he pats the space next to him on the mattress. “Sit next to me while you let the paint dry, maybe we can figure out what’s wrong.”

Jeongguk seems hesitant to come close to Jimin, but after a moment of struggle he takes a seat, at a comfortable distance from the elder. Jimin frowns.

“You’re fidgeting,” he says bluntly. Jeongguk lets go of the hem of his shirt immediately, but he ducks his head, refusing to look at Jimin. “Jeongguk, I’m going to ask you again if there’s something wrong and I don’t want you to lie to me this time, understood?”

Jeongguk nods.

“Is everything okay?”

Jeongguk breathes. “No. I set myself up by thinking I could paint this.”

“What do you mean you ‘set yourself up’? You’re not about to tell me you’re not good enough to do it, right? Because I’ll kick you if you do.”

“No, no, it’s not that,” Jeongguk pushes his hair back with an exasperated sigh. “It’s nothing, forget it.”

Jimin leans forward, placing a hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder. The way the boy flinches doesn’t go unnoticed, but Jimin leaves his hurt pride to the side, wanting to focus on what’s bothering Jeongguk. “What is it?”

Jeongguk eyes him momentarily before he’s drawing his gaze away and biting his lip. “It’s embarrassing,” he mumbles.

“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” Jimin says softly, moving the hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder to the back of his neck. He starts applying light pressure there, knowing Jeongguk’s muscles tense up there the most. It seems to work, because Jeongguk lets out a sigh and cranes his neck, exposing it so Jimin can massage the side, too. “You’re so tense, baby.”

When he presses down on a sore spot, Jeongguk shivers, moving away from Jimin. “Hyung,” he gulps, rubbing his forearm. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Why not?” Jimin inquires, moving closer with an arched brow.

Jeongguk turns his head away. “It just isn’t.”

“But why?” panic surges through Jimin. Does Jeongguk know? Is that why he’s avoiding him?

“Because…” Jeongguk trails off, looking conflicted. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Jeongguk,” Jimin crosses his arms, feeling the strain on the fabric around his biceps. “Tell me. Please,” he adds, softer.

“It’s just—” Jeongguk huffs, running a hand down his face. “You were distracting me, okay?” he stands up. “I couldn’t focus because of you, because you were laying there looking like that and I—”

Jimin gapes, his eyes slightly widening. “Oh,” his stomach flips as he’s overtaken by a sudden rush of something— Jimin doesn’t know if it’s anxiety or arousal. “Were you flustered, Jeongguk-ah?”

Jeongguk hides his face in his palms. “Stop, it’s literally so embarrassing—

“Hey, come here,” Jimin stretches his arm out, reaching for Jeongguk. He needs the boy as close as possible to make sure he doesn’t feel guilty over such a silly thing. If only he knew. “Talk to me.”

At first, Jeongguk shakes his head, even taking a step back, but he eventually relents. He approaches Jimin with unsure steps and cheeks colored with furious red. Jimin can hear his own heart beating in his ears with anticipation.

Once Jeongguk stands in front of him, Jimin pulls down at his sleeve. Jeongguk immediately gets it— the gesture is a part of their routine at this point— so he straddles Jimin’s lap, placing his hands on Jimin’s shoulders to keep his balance.

He can’t hold Jimin’s gaze when he speaks. “I’m sorry for making it awkward.”

“You’re not making it awkward,” Jimin hooks his fingers under his chin, tilting Jeongguk’s head up. “Look at me, Gguk. You feel it too, don’t you? The tension.”

Jeongguk’s eyelashes flutter as he looks down. “I think it’s mostly distress,” he croaks out, an attempt at humor that does little to discharge the thick air in the room. “But, um, yeah. I guess.”

“Why can’t you look at me?” Jimin whispers, a hint of sadness in his voice. “Are you uncomfortable?”

“No—,” Jeongguk is quick to deny. There’s panic in his eyes when they make contact with Jimin’s. “I just feel like I’ll do something really stupid if I stare at you for too long,” he confesses, almost inaudible.

Jimin feels like he’s at the top of a rollercoaster. There’s that pull in his gut, filling his veins with adrenaline. “Like what?”

Jeongguk’s fingers press into Jimin’s skin. It burns. “Like kissing you.”

And there it is— monarch butterflies migrating in his stomach, turning Jimin’s body into a myriad of wings. He’s suddenly aware of how close they are, which he never does because it’s like a second nature to them. Jeongguk is his satellite. A part of him. He’s supposed to be close, but this time is different.

This time it feels as if they were back at Min Yoongi’s birthday party all of those months ago, although their positions are reversed. Back then, Jimin was sitting in Jeongguk’s lap, alcohol buzzing through him and turning him giddy, flirty. Jeongguk was just as gone as him, letting his hands wander under Jimin’s shirt and tugging at his hair.

Jimin wonders if Jeongguk’s lips are still as warm as they were in March.

“Do you really want to kiss me?” he finally asks, watching Jeongguk’s reaction closely.

His breath hitches, and then he exhales. “I shouldn’t—”

“But do you want to?”

Jeongguk swallows. “Yeah.”

Jimin leans in cautiously until his mouth lingers right above Jeongguk’s, brushing them. He breathes in once and tilts his head, letting his eyelids flutter shut as he parts his lips. And he waits.

Jeongguk is not moving. Jimin notices how his grip on his shoulders tightens for a second and then loosens, and he begins to lose hope. He almost moves away, but then he feels it— warmth.

He lights up on a wild, bright fire, heat spreading from where Jeongguk’s lips are pressed against his to his fingertips, making a stop on his heart to keep it beating.

He doesn’t register the gasp he lets out, but he knows it happened because Jeongguk’s hands start travelling then. One ends up on his waist, firm, and the other is spread over the back of his head, tangling in his hair. Jimin’s curl around Jeongguk’s back, digging into his sweater.

There’s a hint to their want now that wasn’t there before. They’ve always been moved by it, and perhaps by a sense of loneliness, too— much like Jeongguk, Jimin has never been able to find that person for him. All his partners have been fleeting, bittersweet stops in a grander quest. That, and his unbearable feelings for his best friend, made him drawn to Jeongguk in the first place, whether it was platonic touching or more.

In contrast with the first time they kissed, they’re sober. They’re completely aware of the way Jeongguk shifts on top of Jimin, of their short breaths, of the sense of need lingering in the air. Which is terrifying, because it means that addressing the situation will be unavoidable, but it also makes it better. Realer. The boy on Jimin’s lap, the one kissing him like tomorrow’s the end of the world, is Jeongguk. Bare, desperate, with his chest ripped open for Jimin to take his heart and do whatever he desires with it.

Jimin feels lips latching at the skin on his neck, and he lets his head loll to the side, suppressing a moan. Jeongguk has always been a good kisser; it’s a known fact that spread like wildfire on campus. Jimin had been admittedly jealous, learning new names of people he didn’t want to know every time they went to a party, but he can’t be in this moment. Not when Jeongguk’s clouding Jimin’s gaze with arousal and filling him with want just with a kiss. Right now, he can only agree.

He sneaks his hands inside Jeongguk’s sweater to touch his defined back muscles, but he can also feel the stress built up there. Jeongguk’s distress might have been fueled by his desire for Jimin, but Jimin knows it’s mainly a product of his perfectionism, that doesn’t allow room for mistakes.

He pushes Jeongguk away gently, getting a clear sight of how ruined the boy looks. His lips are red and shiny with spit, and his cheeks are flushed, hair tousled.

He cups Jeongguk’s cheek. He leans into it, eyes wide open as he stares up at Jimin. “You’re so tense, baby,” Jimin says, “let hyung help you feel better.”

Jeongguk holds his breath. “How?”

Wordlessly, Jimin manhandles Jeongguk, who turns pliant to the touch, until he’s sitting between his legs, his back pressed to Jimin’s chest. Then, Jimin shifts a bit until they’re staring at their reflection in the mirror, and he begins caressing the side of Jeongguk’s face, running his thumb over his lower lip. Jeongguk’s mouth falls agape at that, his eyes rolling back. From their position, Jimin gets a full view of Jeongguk’s erection, strained against his jeans.

“Look at how hard you are,” he whispers against Jeongguk’s ear, not really knowing what’s taking over him. This is wrong— dangerous. They’re putting their entire friendship on the line, and Jimin isn’t doing anything to mend it. He’s being selfish, because he wants— no, he needs more. “Let me help.”

A whine comes from the back of Jeongguk’s throat, desperate. “Hyung—”

Jimin doesn’t risk touching him in case he’s uncomfortable, but his hands rest on each side, itching to get a hold of the boy. “Just say the word and I’ll do it, Jeongguk-ah. Or I’ll stop. Whatever you want.”

Jeongguk seems to struggle internally for a moment before he’s nodding curtly, his Adam’s apple bobbing. He takes Jimin’s left hand and presses it against his chest, letting Jimin feel his accelerated heartbeat. “Do it,” he says, voice hoarse.

Jimin can’t hide his smirk. He rests his chin on Jeongguk’s shoulder and noses at his neck as his hand slides down to Jeongguk’s thigh, where he grips the flesh tightly. They’re as firm as Jimin expected them to be, and fuck— it’s so hot. He’s driving him insane.

“Say please,” he mumbles.

Jeongguk lets out a shuddering breath. “Hyung, please touch me. Please—"

Jimin shushes him sweetly, leaving a soft kiss on the side of his neck. In a swift motion, he unzips Jeongguk’s jeans and pulls down his underwear to take his cock out, letting it spring free from the restrain and curl against Jeongguk’s stomach. The younger sucks in a breath at the sensation of the cold air, but it’s immediately replaced with a moan when Jimin’s warm fingers curl around his length.

Jeongguk’s head falls against Jimin’s shoulder, but he holds it up firmly and forces Jeongguk to stare at their reflection.

“No, baby, look at us,” Jimin reprimands, voice sultry and thoughts hazy from desire. He begins stroking Jeongguk painfully slowly, eliciting a stuttered curse from him. “Remember what I told you? We look sinful together, don’t you think?”

Jeongguk doesn’t answer; he only moans again, his hips bucking up. Jimin holds one down as best as he can with his free hand, clicking his tongue. “Answer me.”

Jeongguk whimpers, flustered. He presses his lips into a thin line, refusing to answer. Jimin moves his hand up to play with the head of his cock then, smearing the precum over it with his thumb.

“Don’t be shy, it’s just us,” he says, feeling himself twitch at the sound of Jeongguk’s delicate noises. “You like watching yourself, don’t you? Seeing just how fucked out you are,” Jeongguk nods his head frantically, and Jimin coos. “My filthy baby, so good for his hyung. So pretty, too.”

Jeongguk gasps at the praise, painting an amused smirk on Jimin’s lips. He’s now holding Jimin’s gaze through the mirror, his blown pupils boring into Jimin. Unlike the rest of him— his flushed face, hanging mouth and leaking cock, which scream submission— his eyes are daring, sharp, meaning he’s focused. His full attention is on Jimin and Jimin only.

“Hyung,” he says, voice strained. “Hyung, I—”

“I know,” Jimin loosens his grip on Jeongguk’s hip, following his erratic rhythm rather than restraining it. “You’re close already, huh? You want to come?”

Jeongguk’s answer comes in the form of a hoarse moan. His eyes shut close as he begins fucking Jimin’s hand sloppily, but Jimin can’t reprimand him. He simply fastens the pace of his strokes, watching how Jeongguk crumbles in his arms, washed by a wave of lust.

Jimin doesn’t know how long it takes— he only registers Jeongguk’s quiet gasp and the way he spills all over his hand, his body going limp, finally rid of all the previous stress. Jimin jerks him off through it, kissing his neck faintly and whispering praises, until he comes down from his orgasm. It’s only then when silence falls over the room, accompanied just by their heavy breathing.

Jeongguk slowly raises his head, detaching himself from Jimin’s chest to look at him. He swallows. “Jimin hyung—”

A knot ties in Jimin’s stomach. The tension between them has vanished, but it has been replaced by reluctance. Fear, almost, as the realization of what has just happened is dawning into them.

“I’m sorry if I— this shouldn’t—” Jeongguk fights to find the right words, but he gapes like a fish out of water, speechless.

“As long as you’re fine with it, it’s fine for me, too, Jeongguk-ah,” Jimin says, lowering his gaze to the floor. “It’s not like it’s the first time this has happened.”

“Right,” Jeongguk agrees after a beat.

“It doesn’t have to mean anything.”

Jeongguk’s lips are curled downwards when he speaks. He’s not looking at Jimin. “Yeah, sure. I— this is fine.”

“Consider it a friendly favor,” Jimin’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes, but he still tries to pull through it. “You don’t have to return it either.”

Jeongguk looks like he wants to say something. He’s frowning slightly, and he extends his hand out as though he wanted to reach for Jimin, but the sound of the front door opening startles them. They share a panicked look and silently agree to postpone the conversation until they’re rid of any evidence of Jimin’s favor.

Jimin runs to pick up his shirt and get dressed while Jeongguk zips his jeans and frantically folds his stained blanket, holding it in his arms.

“What the hell am I going to do with this?” he whispers, eyes bulging in terror.

“Just put it inside your closet for now and if your mom comes in, tell her you stained it with paint,” Jimin hisses as he struggles to open the window, praying that the cold air will wash away the smell of sex lingering in the place. He’s still semi-hard, but the scenario of Jeongguk’s parents running into this mess does wonders against the little arousal left in his body.

When they hear footsteps in the hall, Jeongguk rushes to grab the cologne his father had gifted him on Christmas and sprays it thrice around the room, earning a glare from Jimin.

“Suspicious much?”

Jeongguk blushes furiously. “Shut up, I’m trying here!”

Jimin slaps his palm on his forehead and runs it down his face, groaning. “You’re one of a kind, Jeon Jeongguk.”

Thankfully, whoever was in the hallway walks past them, letting the two boys take a deep breath, something they probably hadn’t done since Jeongguk walked into the room with a mirror. And once again, it’s just the two of them, and a half-finished canvas.

“So,” Jimin clears his throat, staring out the window. It hasn’t stopped snowing all day. “Do you want to keep painting, or…?”

He can tell Jeongguk is grimacing. “I think that might not be, uh, the best idea. Maybe another day.”

“Yeah, okay,” Jimin runs his fingers— the ones that aren’t dirty with cum— through his hair, pushing it back.  “I’m going to take a shower now.”

He walks past Jeongguk and slides open the door carefully, wishing he’d turn around and force him to stay, to really talk for once. He waits for a heartbeat and leaves the room with a sigh when he doesn’t hear the boy move. It’s a lost cause.

Jimin vaguely remembers how people, their friends, used to call them the sun and the moon. Jimin and Jeongguk are like a black and white movie, Taehyung had explained once. Alone, they’re completely different people and nobody would expect them to get along. Jimin is white, Jeongguk is black. But when they’re put together… then you simply cannot separate them. You can’t have a white movie in the same way you can’t stare at a black screen, but if you mix them you get grey.

Grey comes in all different shades, depending on how much white or black you add to the mixture, and you end up with a really fucking amazing film when you put all of them together.

It’s also like when there’s an eclipse, you know? In this case, Jeongguk is the sun because he’s a fucking sweetheart and Jimin is the moon because he’s sexy like that— don’t laugh, I’m being serious! Anyway. Alone, they’re beautiful. But nobody gathers around to watch them like we do with eclipses, because we know they’re a different kind of special. Together, they’re breathtaking. So I guess what I’m trying to say, in summary, is that you two are really fucking good for each other.

Eventually, the whole speech turned out to be one of Taehyung’s many drunk ramblings about why he deserves to be the best man at their wedding, because they’re so going to get married, but Jimin stuck with the beginning of it. The comparisons.

Taehyung has always moved Jimin with his words; it’s his gift as a poet, to make people feel something when he writes. But right now, Jimin can only recall them with a bittersweet taste in his tongue, thinking that perhaps Jeongguk has been the sun all this time, but Jimin hasn’t been the moon. He’s rather been Icarus, flying towards the sun carelessly, unaware of his fate.

It was about time he burned.

 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t sleep in his room that night, and neither on Thursday. He stays in his brother’s room, which has been empty since he left for Busan with his girlfriend after Christmas, claiming he needs the space to finish his painting. Jimin knows better than to push it, but it doesn’t take away the fact that it hurts, nor the tears that stain the pillow on Jeongguk’s bed that smells like him.

It’s on Friday morning when Jimin snaps, tired of Jeongguk’s attitude. They’re sitting on the kitchen table, munching quietly on their cereal while Jeongguk’s mother chats with her husband about an article they read on the newspaper that lays open over the surface.

Jeongguk is curled on himself, the faint light of his phone illuminating the deep bags under his eyes. He looks like he hasn’t brushed his hair in decades, and he’s sad. Jimin can feel it, how his heart shrinks at the sight of the boy.

Jimin’s bag is somewhere in the living room, packed and ready to go sometime after lunch, and Jeongguk is doing nothing to make it seem like he wants to enjoy his last day with Jimin. He’s closed off entirely, like avoiding him will make him leave faster.

Jimin is sick of it.

Eomoni,” he says softly, “could I ask you for a favor?”

She turns around, halting the conversation with Jeongguk’s father by placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Of course! What is it, darling?”

“Can I borrow the car in an hour or so?” he asks, ignoring how Jeongguk perks his head up, frowning in confusion. “I want to go up to the mountains; I heard the sight is really beautiful after it’s snowed.”

She seems taken aback by the request, but she immediately agrees. “Just be careful!” She warns, “The roads are cleaned of snow now, but they might still be slippery. And make sure you’re back before the sun goes down.”

“We’ll be back before lunch,” Jimin promises. “I’ll be very careful with the car.”

“You’re not driving,” Jeongguk’s voice startles Jimin. That might be the longest sentence he’s said to him since Wednesday. “I am.”

“The hell you are,” Jimin argues, crossing his arms over his chest. “You literally got your license yesterday. You can’t drive on a road like that.”

Jeongguk huffs as if someone had kicked him in the gut. “You’re the one that got his license less than a year ago! I’ve been driving since I was eighteen—”

“But you look like a kid!”

“That doesn’t mean—” Jeongguk groans, exasperated. He turns to his mother. “God, you’re insufferable.”

“Okay,” his mother clasps her hands together, smiling awkwardly. “Let’s not fight over silly things, yeah? Jeongguk-ah, I think you should let Jimin drive, since you’ll be driving him home later. You don’t want to be too tired for that.”

Jeongguk's expression darkens, and he pushes his tongue against the inside of his cheek, knowing he’s been defeated. “If he crashes the car, it’s on you.”

“You little—” Jimin’s curse is cut short at the sight of Jeongguk’s mother’s glare. He sighs. “Go get dressed, we’re leaving as soon as you’re done.”

Jeongguk shoots him another deadly look, but it’s glazed by something else— confusion. Jeongguk doesn’t like not being in control, missing information. And he hates spontaneous plans. But Jimin needs to get him out of his comfort zone to push him away from the dark cloud that’s engulfed his figure the past two days. If his bubble doesn’t burst, Jimin won’t get him to his senses, and he needs his best friend back at least for a few more hours.

Jeongguk returns to the kitchen thirty minutes later with a pair of gloves and a wool hat for Jimin. He places them on the counter without sparing the elder a word and he goes outside to wait in the car. Jimin resists the urge to cry and puts the beanie over his head, keeps the gloves in his pocket and exits the house, crumpling the piece of paper in his other pocket between his fingers, holding onto it like his last piece of hope.

In a way, it is. Many things could go wrong today, but Jimin could also be granted a late wish from the stars they watched together on Christmas Eve. Jimin has never been a dreamer, but today he allows himself the privilege of fantasizing for a brief moment before he gives Jeongguk his heart to break.

Once he’s inside the car, Jeongguk gives him a quick tour of the controls just in case he needs to turn on the blinkers or the windshield wipers. It’s awkward at best, but Jimin is thankful for the explanation.

“Does the radio work?” he asks, eyeing the old artifact curiously.

“Not up here, but we have some old CDs laying around, wait,” he opens the glove compartment and takes out a bunch of albums, ranging from trot singers to old 80s western rock and first-generation K-pop. “Are we feeling like Seo Taiji and the Boys or a selection of The Cure, David Bowie and… whatever my dad wrote here,” he gives Jimin an apologetic look. “Sorry, his handwriting is awful.”

“I like David Bowie,” Jimin smiles warmly at the memories of his mother dancing around their apartment to the sound of his music. He sounds like home, just like Jeongguk’s voice calling his name.

Jeongguk inserts the CD as Jimin starts the car and leisurely drives from the parking spot into the road. While Starman plays faintly in the background, they navigate through the narrow and bumpy roads that surround the nearer houses until they finally reach the highway. Jimin glances both ways before accelerating, shifting gears with expertise.

 (mood; friday, i’m in love — the cure)

The song that plays next isn’t by Bowie, but Jimin loves it anyway; it’s a classic. He catches a glimpse of Jeongguk’s grin from the corner of his eye, and he smiles, too, infected by his happy virus.

Jeongguk rolls the windows down, letting the wind hit their faces. Usually, it annoys Jimin, but not right now. He enjoys the feeling, how it seems to wake him up. It brings life back to them, as if they had been in a deep slumber since Wednesday and they’re now shaking it off their bones, letting them soak with the spirit of winter.

He doesn’t know any of the words to the song, but Jeongguk knows it by heart. Out of their group of friends, he’s the best at English after Namjoon. Jeongguk’s insatiable curiosity has manifested in every form of culture out there, from visual arts, his specialty, to language learning, sports, and even programming.

He’s non-stop. He thrives off knowledge, alleging he won’t feel complete until he tries everything that interests him. He doesn’t actually have to be good at it— although his perfectionism doesn’t allow him to give up until he’s bleeding on the floor, beat up by his own burnout body—, he just needs to know he tried. Jeongguk never settles for less, and Jimin admires him endlessly for it.

He’s thankful that the road is straight for now, because it allows him to steal glances of the boy. The torn expression in his face has been replaced by a content grin, and he swings his head to the music with his eyes closed and his arm propped against the car door, enjoying the sensation of the wind hitting him at its fullest as he sings quietly.

“I can’t hear you over the wind!” Jimin yells, craving the sound of Jeongguk’s sweet vocals.

“I’m not saying anything!” Jeongguk replies. “Just singing.”

“Then sing louder!”

He doesn’t catch the way Jeongguk raises his brows in amused confusion, but he complies, reaching out to turn the volume up. Jimin can’t stop the smile making its way into his lips when he feels the bass pulsing through him.

I don’t care if Monday’s black, Tuesday, Wednesday, heart attack,” Jeongguk practically screams, managing to miraculously stay in tune. “Thursday, never looking back—”

It’s Friday, I’m in love,” they yell in unison, shoulders shaking as they laugh loudly. When Jimin speeds up, Jeongguk extends his hand out and spreads his fingers, not caring if the air is pulling at him with strength and that it’s freezing outside.

Jimin realizes belatedly the irony of the song. It is indeed a Friday, and he’s sitting in a car next to the boy he’s in love with, completely entranced by him although he’s not looking at him. It reminds him of the reason why he’s doing this in the first place, taking them away from the root of their issue to salvage their relationship, which was put at risk by a kiss.

It’s ironic, how on Monday Jimin didn’t feel any of this— no, he did feel it, but he wasn’t aware of the difference between the way he stared at Jeongguk from the way he looked at others. It took him a week surrounded only by Jeongguk and the people who loved him to understand how his love was different.

He should’ve known when he wished under the stars for Jeongguk to always love him the way he does now. He could’ve wished for a long friendship, or for health for the two of them, but he wished for his love, and not even thinking about romantic feelings— but not thinking platonically, either.

He simply wanted Jeongguk. The starry-eyed boy that sings like an angel and smiles at Jimin like he hung the moon, that talks to him softly and indulges in Jimin’s shenanigans because he knows how much it means to Jimin.   

It’s Friday and Jimin’s in love with his best friend, singing his heart out to the lyrics of a song he doesn’t understand while they drive up a road that takes them nowhere and everywhere at once. And Jimin… Jimin can’t even care if Jeongguk turns him down, because now it’s clear to him what’s been torturing him these past couple of dreadful days.

Jeongguk isn’t going anywhere. Whether he reciprocates Jimin’s romantic feelings or not, he loves Jimin. That might be the only universal truth in the world, that Jeon Jeongguk loves Park Jimin as a friend, as a brother— as a soulmate. And love is inexplicably grand and complex and breathtaking, just like eclipses and old films.

Once they reach the mountain’s parking lot, it’s easy to find a spot. It’s empty since it’s a Friday morning and people are busy preparing for the new year. It’s perfect.

The only person there is the forestall guard, who sits in his stand with a bored expression until he sees Jimin and Jeongguk approaching him. The man, of greying hair and a kind smile, goes over his fabricated speech and warns the friends about possible fire hazards and wild animals. He lets them inside the path with an energetic wave and wishes them a good hike, and their mood is instantly enhanced.

They walk in relative silence, only breaking it when they catch a squirrel jumping from tree to tree or stumble across flowers that were strong enough that even snow couldn’t beat them. However, it’s not uncomfortable like before; it’s like they’re remembering how to enjoy quietness together again.

They don’t reach the peak, though. By the time they arrive at the first lookout, Jimin is out of breath, grabbing his sides as he pants and begs Jeongguk to stop.

“Woah, hyung, the old age is finally getting to you, huh?” he teases, taking advantage of Jimin’s miserable position.

“I will—” Jimin inhales sharply. “Kick you off this cliff.”

Jeongguk gives him a deadpan look. “Oh, I’m so scared.”

Jimin was smart enough to bring a blanket— along with rolls of kimbap that were stored in the fridge—, so they carefully climb the biggest rock in there and spread it over its surface, grateful for the sun that has melted most of the snow. They’re not in the mood for talking, but Jeongguk tells Jimin briefly of the times he’s been here before with his family, explaining how the entire city of Busan can be seen from the peak.

“It’s best if you see it at night,” his words come out muffled as he talks between bites. “But it’s pretty dark and there’s a lot of deer around the area so you have to be really careful.”

Jimin hums in agreement. “Deer can be pretty scary when they want to.”

Jeongguk laughs softly at that, but it falls short. He coughs, setting his food to his side and folding his hands over his lap. “Hyung, why did you bring me here?”

Jimin knew this moment would come, but he was expecting to be the one that eased Jeongguk into the conversation, so he could gain some sort of control over the situation. He wipes the corners of his mouth with his thumb and puts down his roll to reach for the letter inside his pocket.

“You know how I like to write my friends letters before the year ends to thank them for everything?” Jeongguk nods. “Well, in light of recent events, I, uh, I decided it was best to rewrite yours and read it aloud.”

Jeongguk gnaws at his lip, visibly anxious. “Okay?”

“You don’t have to worry, though. I’m not mad, or anything,” Jimin reassures him, aware of what kind of thoughts are passing through his friend’s head at the moment. “I just need you to listen to me.”

“You know I always do.”

Jimin smiles, his heart aching. “I know. Which is exactly the reason why I need you to hear this.”

With trembling fingers, he unfolds the piece of paper, which is terribly wrinkly and has ink stains all over it. Jimin couldn’t help it; he’s a messy writer. But it’s not helping his nerves.

“I’m going to read it,” he announces, voice wavering. “Um, you might be wondering why, uh, why I’m writing this—” Jimin takes a deep breath. “Ah, fuck it.”

He stands up, crumpling the letter in his hand and shoving it into his pocket. Jeongguk is quick to follow him up, a concerned frown adorning his features.

“You know I hate sugarcoating,” Jimin begins again, shutting his eyes closed for a second before he faces Jeongguk again. “So I’m just going to say it. Please don’t interrupt me until I’m done.”

Jeongguk nods, still confused but willing to respect Jimin’s petitions. “Go ahead; I won’t stop you.”

“Right, so,” Jimin takes a deep breath. “I’m in love with you. I don’t know when it started or how I fell because I realized literally five days ago, but I’m damn sure I love you. I’ve probably loved you since the day we met, if I’m being honest, but it only hit me when we were talking about your issues with your exes, and I could only think that when I was describing the love you deserved, I was talking about the way you make me feel.”

“I’ve never experienced something like this, which I guess is the main reason why I’ve been so slow at understanding what really was going on. You’re really fucking special, you know that?” Jimin chuckles, shaking his head with fondness. “You’re objectively good at everything you do, too fucking handsome for your own good and sweet, so, so sweet. How could I not fall for you? I’m sure you remember I used to laugh at that one phrase, ‘in a room full of art I’d stare at you’, because it seemed fake, forced. I didn’t understand how someone could be so drawn to another human that they’d reject art in their favor… and then we watched the stars, and I had to stop myself from glancing at you because I was scared that you’d catch me staring and learn something about me I myself didn’t know yet.”

Jimin inhales shakily before continuing. “But I don’t want to drag this for long because my disgustingly sappy feelings for you aren’t the main topic. I wanted to, firstly, apologize for not being honest with you. That day in March and Wednesday were more than a kiss for me, but I was selfish, so I hid it because I didn’t want to lose you. And secondly, I just wanted to say that it’s fine if you don’t love me back. I don’t expect you to, and the love and respect you hold for me as a friend is enough for me, Jeongguk-ah, I swear,” Jimin exhales, relieved that it’s coming to an end. He feels his wings expanding, preparing themselves to soar. “Whatever version of your heart you want to lend me is enough for me.”

“Are you done?” Jeongguk asks softly, his eyes glistening with an unreadable expression that terrifies Jimin.

“Yeah,” he breathes, finally free.

Jeongguk takes a step forward then, and before Jimin knows he’s being wrapped into a tight hug, Jeongguk’s arms around his back and nails digging into his coat.

“Hyung, you’re an idiot,” he mumbles against his shoulder. “You’re a hopeless idiot. I can’t believe I’m in love with you.”

“Hey! I’m not an— wait, what did you say?”

Jeongguk leans back to lock his eyes with Jimin, and Jimin sees them. The years of unconditional love spilling over the brim in the shape of tears, unhinged and raw. Jimin hears it, too. Their song.

“I’m in love with you, too,” Jeongguk’s voice is as fragile as glass. “I was so scared I’d lose you I didn’t even consider it an option until that night,” he lets out a wet chuckle. “All I wanted to do was cross the distance between us and kiss you, and it felt like I was being hit by a truck.”

Jimin is sure he’s stopped breathing. “So we were both idiots?”

“Pretty much,” Jeongguk sniffles, grinning. Jimin wipes the stray tear running down his cheek with the back of his thumb, and then cups the side of Jeongguk’s face. “But I don’t think it could’ve gone otherwise. We needed to break to realize it, or else we’d be like ‘oh, I might be in love with him!’ and then cuddle and forget five minutes later.”

Jimin laughs along with him, unable to disagree. “It really makes you wonder for how long this has been obvious to everyone else.”

Jeongguk shrugs. He curls his fingers around the wrist of the hand that’s holding him, and he caresses the skin there. Warmth. “I don’t think it matters, to be honest. We should focus on what this means for us now, on what we’re going to do with this information.”

Jimin hadn’t planned so far. He was so sure he was going to be rejected that he didn’t picture the possibility of moving forward with his feelings— their feelings. He needs Jeongguk close like the sea needs the earth, but that’s as far as it goes.

“I don’t know what to do,” he admits. “We’ve been friends for so long it’s weird to think this is real and not a product of my imagination. It’s like,” he removes his hand from Jeongguk’s face and cups an imaginary sphere in his palms. “I have all this love for you that’s gotten so big I don’t know how or where it fits in my body.”

Jeongguk smiles fondly. “I think we just need to figure it out together and not push it. Act the way we did before but without holding ourselves back, and one day we’ll know. It’s like riding a bicycle; one day you wake up and you don’t need training wheels anymore.”

“You’d be a good writer if you tried, you know?”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes affectionately and moves forward, sliding his arms around Jimin’s neck. They’re standing close, their noses almost touching as Jeongguk towers over him with a lopsided smile. The winter sun caresses his features gently as though he were made of gold. Silver and gold, Jimin thinks. The perfect oxymoron. The prettiest metaphor.

“Hyung,” he whispers, “Can I kiss you?”

Jimin’s breath catches in his throat. His words betray him, so he can only nod and close his eyes, waiting for the tender lips to graze his own. Jeongguk kisses him leisurely, like they have all the time in the world, and maybe this time they do. This kiss doesn’t feel like it’s forbidden nor tastes like lust. It’s pure and gentle, slow-paced. Warm.

Jeongguk holds Jimin’s face in his hands and Jimin pulls him closer by the waist, only breaking the kiss for a second to breathe. He’s pretty sure that his shoes are starting to get soaked with snow, but he doesn’t care.

It’s Friday, and the sun is up, shining over the pearl city that is Busan as if it were summer. Jimin has the boy he loves pressed up against him, leaving mellow kisses over his face and promising him wordlessly that they’ll figure this out together, that he’ll stay for as long as Jimin wants him.

Promising that he loves him, too.

For the first time in years, December feels like the beginning of something— a road that used to take Jimin nowhere, but now it will always lead him to Jeongguk