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‘Honestly, it’s fucking perfect,’ Jungkook drawls into the phone, ‘One of those Brutalist blocks, you know, all square and concrete and grey.’

He throws his feet onto the dining table and listens for a few more moments, nodding to the empty room.

‘No, no. I won’t need anything else. That’s part of it. Of course, of course. I’ll post the type written pages over as they come, you know how I like to do things.’

He laughs and the sound echoes around the nearly empty flat. The person on the other side of the phone can’t see his face but it barely moves. No emotion passing over his features.

‘If that’s everything, Misha, I’m signing off now.’ Without waiting for an answer, he hangs up the phone and places it face down on the table.

The flat is nearly dark, he hasn’t bothered to turn on any lights and early evening is dropping like a cloak. It doesn’t matter, in this part of London there is no true darkness. In this apartment block the fluorescent lights of the communal spaces will stay on all night and the street lights in the carpark never dim - only flicker - so, even with the shit curtains drawn and the inside lights off, the flat is never dimmer than a hushed orange glow.

Jungkook likes the darkness. He’s only been here a few hours and he feels safe in it, like he can creep around and acclimatise to his new space in peace.

He didn’t bring much with him. The only thing he has so far unpacked is his typewriter which is placed on the dining table next to a stack of crisp white paper. And honestly, that is more for show than anything.

To Misha, his agent, he is here to write - but Jungkook has a different agenda.

His eyes flicker to the door of one of the bedrooms, the master. He went in briefly when he arrived but the door is tightly closed again now.

Just as he had asked them to, the movers cleared everything out of the flat before he moved in. All except the contents of that room which have been left utterly untouched. The bedsheets were still twisted, the floor strewn in papers and the curtains drawn. There was even still some used crockery dotted around.

Perhaps that was what Jungkook was mirroring even now by keeping all the curtains drawn and the lights off everywhere else, as if not wanting to disturb things too much.

Even the computer in the room was still on. It sat in the corner of the untouched bedroom at the overflowing desk with its screensaver flashing wearily.

The moving guys had been really confused about that one but Jungkook had been absolutely adamant - if anybody touched that computer there would be hell to pay.

So, there it sat, blinking a blue glow across the room.

Even with the door tight shut Jungkook could hear its increasingly desperate humming. It hadn’t been touched for months now and was probably screaming for an update.

He couldn’t let it die, so it was something he would have to tackle. Just not yet. Not yet.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook ends up sitting long into the night at the dining table, sinking endless beers and chain smoking. Or more accurately - burning cigarettes. Half the time he barely draws on them, just lights them and watches the ash extend along the length before it falls onto a side plate resting under his fingers.

He feels kind of peaceful now he is here. Like it is the first time in months that he has the chance to be left alone, at least for a while. He likes feeling like a spectator and has pulled aside the grubby net curtain to expose the window and through it he absorbs his new (temporary) home. The estate is a huddle of four Brutalist tower blocks in Stockwell, London. They are thick and concrete. Uniform. Very ugly.

Once, they were considered futuristic and an easy, efficient solution to overcrowding. An emblem of an idealistic decade that unfortunately overestimated the community spirit of working-class Londoners. Within a generation they had shown themselves for what they were: looming grey symbols of poverty, stuffed with malnourished children, where the inhabitants never left and nobody dared enter.

However, they were getting a little renaissance these days. Some of the flats (like his) had been bought from the council and could now reach more than half a million on the private market because of the central London location. They were bought by young white couples or investment landlords.

But sitting there, looking out across the estate, Jungkook could see that the rise in interest was hanging by a thread. The belly and bones of this place still stunk, like they always had.

As yet another cigarette falls to ash through his fingers, Jungkook startles at the sound of someone huffing on the communal balcony outside the window. He hears the jangling of keys and some muttered swearing - the noise of his new neighbour arriving home. He gets to his feet and tries to get a look at them out of the window without being noticed.

Their swearing seems to be in response to an attempt to dig their keys from their pocket. Jungkook presses his face as close to the window pane as he can while still remaining hidden, but, annoyingly, all he can see is a shoulder and arm, with shopping bags slung off it, and a swatch of dyed blonde hair.

‘Mother fucker,’ Jungkook hums under his breath as the figure finally vanishes into the flat next door.

He moves from the window and keeps listening to him through the thin walls. He can hear the drop of keys in some sort of dish, a pair of shoes being kicked off, a sink running and then the hum of a microwave. After a short while the tele turns on.

Jungkook looks at his watch: 4:00am. He must work nights.

He thinks of the shoulder he could just see through the window covered in the light blue sleeve of a uniform. Maybe a carer or a nurse or something?

Until the neighbour came home Jungkook hadn’t realised he had been waiting for him. He sinks back into the chair at the dining table and rubs his forehead.

He always makes me suffer.

The words run through his head. That is what he had been told. What he had read over and over again in his friend’s own words.

He always makes me suffer.

About half an hour later everything goes quiet next door. The neighbour must have kept the tele on only long enough to eat whatever sad little meal he microwaved before going to bed.

Jungkook sighs.

He isn’t tired but he should probably try to sleep. He goes to the second bedroom in the flat, this one is completely empty apart from a double bed made up with plain white sheets.

He strips to his underwear and tee-shirt and sits on the edge of the bed rooting through a bag to find some sleeping pills and dry swallows two. Without even doing his teeth he curls under the covers and waits to pass out.

*          *          *          *          *

For the next few days Jungkook spends most of his time lurking by the window trying to get a proper look at his neighbour. But, unless he wants to get caught, the angle is off and he never manages to get a better view than a strip of his side through the window.

The two flats share a sort of half walkway, half balcony used to access their front doors. It is part of the communal design of the whole building. Each floor has four flats, backing onto each other in two pairs. On one end of the balcony is the block of stairs and on the other end the piss-filled lifts.

Their front doors sit in the middle of the balcony, next to each other. Jungkook’s new home is number fifteen. Fourth floor. His neighbour is number thirteen.

He supposes the layout of their flats must be a reflection of each other’s, the same but mirrored. It is likely that every single flat in the whole block is identical. Except those no longer occupied by council tenants of course. Those have probably been knocked through and modernised in some way.

God knows they need it.

There are three fucking windows in his whole flat and one of those overlooks the stairwell. The bathroom has to rely on nothing but a tired fan and a flickering tube light. Which is probably for the best as it keeps the black mould blurred at the edges.

So, even with this shared space and despite having no choice but to access their homes from the same point – Jungkook still hasn’t managed to properly get his eyes on his neighbour. Partly because of the neighbour’s clearly intense work schedule. He seems to work long shifts back-to-back, often night shifts.

So far Jungkook hasn’t managed to manufacture a way to bump into him outside of the flat and has to make do with lurking from his spy station at the window.

It is always the same: The neighbour comes up the stairs, normally muttering curses or talking on the phone, then the jangle of keys and slam of the door.

Interestingly, from what little Jungkook can hear, the language the neighbour speaks on the phone isn’t English - the muttered swearwords to himself definitely are – but not his phone voice. Though, Jungkook can’t work out what language it is through the walls.

Truthfully, Jungkook has lost all sense of what the fuck he is doing, but the obsessive stakeout is keeping him occupied.

When he isn’t lurking at the window waiting for the neighbour he is aimless. Dissociated. He lays blankly on the sofa, smokes, scrolls through twitter. He’s muted all his whatsapp conversations and is ignoring calls and emails from Misha since their last conversation on the day he moved in. They will all contain invites to panels and events and maybe even tv shows. All boring and intellectual of course. Newsnight, an evening retrospective, “please, can we have J. K. Jeon’s take on the disenfranchised youth” etc. etc.

He doesn’t have the energy. Not anymore. He doesn’t have energy for anything but the curious case of next door's disembodied shoulder and the ringing words: he always makes me suffer.

By the weekend he realises he is going to have to step it up a notch if he wants to get anywhere. It might be November but he decides to relocate to the balcony for his stake out, he can’t possibly miss the neighbour’s arrival home then.

He takes out one of the dining-room chairs and a book so he can look busy if needed and sets himself up with some beers and an extra packet of cigarettes.

He has worked out the neighbour’s routine enough to know that if he is working his night shift, he will get home between 3:30 and 4:30 am. So, Jungkook starts his stakeout at 3:00 am.

By 3:20 he is fucking freezing and runs inside to throw his long black coat over his clothes. He settles back into the chair, rummaging in the pockets for the fingerless gloves he wears so he can still smoke.

At 3:48 he swaps his house slippers for his black boots to warm his cold feet.

At 4:12 he gives up sitting and pretending to read in favour of leaning over the low balcony wall and smoking, that way he can stomp his feet and urge some warmth through his body.

At 4:17 he is abruptly pulled from his day dreaming by a loud yell from behind him, followed by a smashing sound and a bang.

He tosses his cigarette over the balcony and turns around.

Between their front doors, pinned to the wall in fear, is a young man with messy, bleached hair and a terrified expression. At his feet are dropped shopping bags and a smashed phone, the screen blinking sadly.

‘Who the fuck are you?’ he asks in a trembling voice.

Jungkook is momentarily shocked into silence because the neighbour isn’t what he expected.

He’s wearing a huge winter coat over some sort of blue medical uniform. His coat looks like it has seen better days and so does the man wearing it - which all lines up with what he imagined. What he didn’t expect is that – despite the obvious exhaustion – he’s youngish and…cute? And also, Korean?

The neighbour seems to have made a similar assessment of Jungkook at exactly the same time because he suddenly switches languages.

‘Are you here for money?’ He asks in Korean, ‘I don’t have any. If it is my mother or father who owes you money, I can’t help you. Look at me – do you think I have anything?’ Jungkook just stares at him, confused. ‘Please, I have nothing. Please just go.’

Jungkook finally snaps out of it enough to realise he should talk.

‘No. I, um, I live here.’ He gestures at the flat behind him and watches the neighbour’s eyes roll over the scene. He sees him take in the door to number fifteen which is slightly ajar, then the dining chair and the book and the beer bottles. Then they flick back to Jungkook.

‘You live there?’

‘Yes…’

‘Since when?’

‘Last week.’

‘I haven’t seen you?’

‘I haven’t seen you.’ Jungkook shrugs. An easy lie.

Suddenly, the neighbour sinks down the wall to the floor, his head in his hands, and makes a noise somewhere between a sob and laugh.

‘Fuck. Fuuuuck.’ He exclaims into his palms.

Jungkook stands awkwardly, he did not think this plan through very well at all. At least he is finally getting a good look at him.

‘What the fuck are you doing lurking on the balcony in the dark at four am! And dressed like a fucking gangster! Fuck! You scared the living shit out of me!’

‘I – was reading,’ Jungkook gestures to the chair again where his book rests face down and open.

‘At four am? In the dark?’

‘I’m a writer,’ Jungkook says as if that explains anything.

People are normally impressed. The neighbour just screws up his face.

Not knowing what to do Jungkook lights another cigarette. The young man looks like he is going to say something, his piercing gaze dropping to the cigarette between Jungkook’s lips but instead he lurches forwards with a cry, hands scrabbling on the floor.

‘Fuck! My fucking phone!’ He shakes it woefully and then looks as if he might burst into tears, ‘Oh it is fucked. Fuck!’ He stuffs it in his pocket but stays on his knees and starts rummaging through the bags of fallen shopping. ‘Oh god, and half of this is ruined as well,’ He pulls out the neck of a broken bottle of wine, ‘This was for tomorrow, I can’t believe this.’

He begins to get to his feet, pushing the ruined groceries back into the bags and rummaging for his keys to open the front door. He pauses and turns to Jungkook who is still frozen. ‘I’m Jimin by the way.’

‘Jungkook.’

‘Ha. I thought you looked Korean. That’s why you scared me so much, leaning there in the dark in that fucking coat. My parents have a corner shop in New Malden, you know, figured they must’ve got up to their neck with some wannabe south London kkangpae and you were here to rough me up.’

Jungkook wants to point out that they just had a whole conversation in Korean, which should’ve clued Jimin in to his nationality prior to Jungkook giving his name – but then maybe Jimin didn’t even realise he had swapped languages. Or maybe he has already forgotten amidst the stress.

‘Do I look like a gangster?’ He offers instead. Jungkook is a bit offended, his coat is St. Laurent.

‘Yes, you absolutely do.’ Jimin does not look abashed at all, ‘The whole aura is very-’ he wafts his hand, ‘-very, give me your fucking money. All black ‘fit, finger tatts, darkness, general brooding over a cigarette.’

‘Well, it was…I was just reading.’ That sounds dumb, even to Jungkook. He’s kicking himself to say something, anything to keep this conversation going. But he is frozen.

‘It would’ve helped if I realised the flat had even been sold, I thought it was still empty, it has been since-’

Jimin cuts off and breaks eye contact for a moment.

‘I moved in last week. I have been working a lot.’

‘Right,’ Jimin suddenly narrows his eyes, ‘are you not even going to apologise?’

‘For what?’

‘Scaring the shit out of me? Lurking? I broke my phone! And my wine.’

It is quite possible by the look on his face that Jimin is sadder about the latter.

‘I don’t really see how any of that is my fault?’

Jimin looks a little like he wants to argue, then he just sags.

‘No, I guess it isn’t.’ He turns back to his door and begins to walk through it, ‘Well, nice to meet you I guess, even if it cost me a phone. Been weird with the flat empty. And you’re Korean! What are the odds?’

He smiles. It’s pretty.

Jungkook just nods.

‘Night then.’ Jimin adds.

And he’s gone.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook isn’t really sure what he’s supposed to do now that he has met Jimin. Particularly not when Jimin doesn’t exactly seem to be the nightmare neighbour from hell that he was imagining from what he had heard about him.

Jungkook had been picturing a busy-body, a nut job, a gross old guy with stains on his jumper, or anything really except simply a young, exhausted nurse.

There must be more to it, he concludes. He just needs more evidence.

He goes back to listening to the sounds of Jimin through the walls. The chatter of the tele, the buzzing microwave, sometimes muffled phone conversations in what he can now assume is Korean.

When Jimin isn’t working nights and comes home in the early afternoon he always pops out of the stairwell talking on the phone and Jungkook crouches at his window and listens desperately. He can gather from the honorifics and the way Jimin is talking that it is probably his mother. Jimin clearly uses his walk home from the station to call her.

Jungkook isn’t sure whether it is sweet or a bit pathetic.

Jimin obviously lives quite a sad little life: never has people over, never seems to come home in anything but his blue uniform, revealing that he doesn’t go out except to work.

Jungkook isn’t in the headspace to be self-reflective enough to realise that his life is currently much sadder. He has barely left this flat in two weeks, is essentially stalking his neighbour and is living on a diet of cigarettes, beer and coffee.

*          *          *          *          *

On Friday morning, nearly a week after scaring the shit out of Jimin on the balcony, Jungkook breaks his routine a little and ventures properly into the master bedroom for the first time. He brings his coffee with him and sits carefully at the foot of the unmade bed.

Every morning for the past two weeks he has stood at the door but until today, he hadn’t dared to go in.

‘I’m not dealing with this well, am I?’ He says to the empty computer chair. He barely inflects it as a question.

It seems wrong to say it out loud.

He thinks of the figure that once sat at that desk, on that chair and how he never actually saw him in the flesh. Never talked to him out loud, just typed.

‘Seems odd to talk to you, we never did that, not like this.’

He looks around the room from his new viewpoint from the bed. It paints an undeniably sad picture.

‘I don’t know what to do, Caleb. I feel like you’ve got me around the throat.’

It’s been three months since he died.

Two months since lawyers had traced Jungkook and told him the flat was his, that Caleb had left it to him in his will. Six weeks since he received the last message from him, a message he must have pre-scheduled before he did what he did.

‘I am so angry with you. I miss you.’ Jungkook mutters.

They might have never met in person but Caleb had been a huge part of Jungkook’s life. He wasn’t even really aware how deeply they were entwined until he was gone. Until the silence stretched out over the months since and left a raw, gaping wound.

They first talked on a reddit thread - Jungkook almost smiles at that - it was over four years ago and he can’t remember what the thread was – undoubtedly something nerdy. Jungkook was still riding the wave of acclaim for his second book, and was writing his third. He was cocky and excited but also a bit lost and scared to admit he was already kind of bored of the literary world he was newly thrust into.

Caleb was just another introvert behind a screen. At first, both of them dm-ing from behind their anime avatars on twitter, sharing stupid shit with each other. Over time it was long emails, whatsapps and then almost constant daily conversation.

‘I miss you,’ he says again to the computer before sighing and getting to his feet, ‘Fuck you.’

*          *          *          *          *

Out of sheer inertia, of a need for something, anything, to happen, Jungkook decides to stake out on the balcony again that evening.

He does actually like sitting out there, and has done it a few times even without the hope of seeing Jimin, because he likes to watch the people below and absorb the endless noise both near him and across London. But tonight, he times it on purpose to bump into his neighbour.

He heard Jimin leave in the early evening so knows he’s on a night shift. Jungkook sets up his little stalker camp at about 3:00 am just like the first time they met.

This time he takes out a blanket and ditches the coat that got him accused of being kkangpae. Instead, he’s wearing a huge knitted jumper over black jeans, his freshly washed hair pushed off his face and his ears threaded with his usual black hoops.

He also showered. Because he needed to, because it is only like his third one in two weeks. Not at all because he is hoping to see Jimin.

Sitting on his chair, draped in the blanket, he puts his feet up on the wall of the balcony and writes idly in a notepad propped on his knees.

Just before 4 am he hears somebody coming up the stairs. Jungkook figures he makes quite a nice image, arranged as he is with his blanket and notebook, so he stays resolutely writing in it and doesn’t look up.

‘Oh, hi!’ He hears to his side. He turns his face as if he only just realised Jimin was there and gives him a small smile.

Jungkook tries to keep the surprise off his face when he is confronted by a Jimin not in his nurse's uniform. Instead, he’s in high waisted black pants with a soft cream jumper tucked into them and a leather jacket over the top. Jimin’s hair is pushed back, he might even have a little makeup on.

He wanders over to Jungkook, a slight wobble to his walk, and leans on the balcony wall next to him.

‘Are you a vampire Jungkook? Do you ever sleep?’

‘Not much, in all honesty.’

Jimin throws him a little sideways smile.

‘You’re not in uniform.’ Jungkook returns.

‘Hmm. I was on leave today. I have a few days off actually. Two weeks of doubles or nights, then three or four days off, that’s how it goes.’

‘You’re a nurse, right?’ Jungkook asks, he hadn’t wanted to but it slips out.

‘Yup. Over at Guy’s and St. Thomas.’ He nods off the balcony in what Jungkook assumes is the direction of the hospital.

‘But tonight, you were out.’

‘Yes, tonight I went out. I do have a life, though it might be hard to believe.’ Jimin laughs softly and leans his forehead onto his hands that are clasped on the wall, ‘Oof, I’m going to regret this in the morning. I had wanted to get chores done.’

Silence falls between them. Jungkook wants to break it but he doesn’t know how, so he pretends he is writing.

After a few moments, Jimin turns his head to the side, still resting it on his hands, and watches Jungkook with a sly look.

‘Do you have a life, Jungkook?’

Jungkook puts his pencil in the spine of his notebook and meets Jimin’s eyes. Before he can answer, the latter continues, ‘You don’t seem to do much, not even sleep. I never hear you, the lights are barely on, and here you are on a Friday night – no Saturday morning - at like 4 am, writing in your little notebook. Is everything ok at home Jungkook?’

‘You say my name a lot.’

‘It is for emphasis,’ Jimin grins, ‘Give me your family name then I can really hammer it home. Never really sounds serious until you can say the whole name. At school that’s when I knew I was done for – Jimin Park come to the office please – and then at home my mum all - Park Jimin not again. You knew it was really bad if dad stopped being jagiya and got called ‘Jimin’s father’, oof yeah, things were going down when that happened.’

He’s rambling. Jungkook finds himself unwillingly imagining Jimin as a misbehaving school boy and it is an unhelpful direction of thought. The shoe seems to fit, he can easily picture it.

Clearing his throat, he cuts him off.

‘Jeon. My family name is Jeon.’

‘Of course, of course. So Jungkook Jeon, do you have a life?’

Jungkook is a bit annoyed that giving his surname hasn’t sparked any recognition. Jungkook is pretty well known not just here but in Korea too. He’s the first Korean to ever be shortlisted for the Man Booker. In Korea, he was one of the youngest to ever receive the Daesan Literary Award for a debut in the fiction category.

There’s even a mural of him in his hometown of Busan.

But Jimin doesn’t even pause. What does Jungkook expect from a nurse from a council estate he supposes? Jimin probably doesn’t read much.

‘I do. Have a life,’ he answers instead, ‘I’m writing a novel.’

‘Oh, in that?’ Jimin nods at the notebook.

‘Yes. In lots of places. I tend to type the final draft on a typewriter. I find it more pleasant to work on than on a laptop.’

Over the years that has just become something he says, almost like a skit. People seem to like it. They always mention it in articles about him. They ask him about it in interviews and he chuckles wryly about the aesthetics.

Jimin’s forehead creases in a little frown.

‘But then, don’t you have to type it all up? Onto a computer I mean…seems like a bit of a waste of time.’

Jungkook doesn’t know what to say. That wasn’t what he was expecting.

‘Oh. Um, I don’t. Someone at the publishers does. I post it to them.’

‘Oh, of course,’ Jimin cackles, ‘Bet they love that, some poor assistant or unpaid intern typing up your shit. I bet they slag you off every time the envelope arrives on their desk.’

Jungkook doesn’t know what to say. He hadn’t thought of that.

He wants to feel superior to Jimin – he is superior to him – but somehow the shoe seems to be on the other foot. Just like when they first met, Jimin seems thoroughly unimpressed by him. Not in the least in awe or intimidated.

‘Hmm, I guess so,’ he says, resigned.

‘So, you are writing a book. What is it about?’

‘I don’t really know yet.’

‘So, you’re just writing aimlessly?’

‘No. It’s why I’m here actually. For inspiration,’ he gestures around at the estate that lays beyond the balcony.

Jimin frowns and straightens up.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I’m here to help me write. For inspiration.’

A hand drops to Jimin’s hip and his chin drops with it, his eyes narrowing. The look he gives Jungkook is terrifying. Jungkook doesn’t know it but it is Jimin’s nurse look. The look patients get when they are giving him shit or when he needs to bend grown adults to his will.

‘You are living here…for inspiration.’

‘Yes, stepping out of my comfort zone, you know-’

‘-inspiration on what, Jungkook?’

‘Um, like, you know, life on a council estate, life in south London-’

Jimin interrupts ‘-and what are we? The people here? Creatures in a zoo?’

‘Oh, no, not like that, I’m not writing about anyone specifically or anything, just absorbing the atmosphere, the aesthetics, you know…’

He’s floundering. There’s something about Jimin that strips Jungkook bare. Something that strips away the fact that he’s an award-winning writer, darling of the London literati, and leaves him stumbling over his words and feeling like any other shit-head guy.

‘Aesthetics? My life is an aesthetic to you?’

Jungkook doesn’t know what to say. ‘My life isn’t fucking aesthetic, you dick. I work like seventy hours a week. I live on yellow label food from Lidl. The mould in my bathroom is so thick I have a fucking cough and the council just tells me to scrape it off if they even answer at all. Want to add that to your story?’

Jungkook is wrong footed, the conversation has once again spun in a direction he didn’t expect.

When Jungkook is wrong footed, he resorts to being a dick.

‘Not really, just sounds kind of sad actually.’ He sneers.

For a second Jimin looks like he is going to continue yelling at him, then his face just settles on a grimace.

‘I thought you seemed like a posh prick when I first met you. Glad that’s confirmed so I can stop bothering before I even really start.’

And with that he stalks off to his flat and slams the door.

Jungkook doesn’t know what to do with himself so he just stays sitting there pretending to write for a bit longer and then skulks off to bed.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook sleeps in the next day, feeling even more resigned and cold than usual. He still takes his coffee to Caleb’s room when he gets up though. Deciding to keep up the habit he recently started.

‘So, I met Jimin,’ he murmurs at the empty chair, ‘I can see why you hated him. He’s difficult. Self-righteous, I think, and I’m not sure why.’

The computer whirrs. The rest of the room is silent.

‘I’m sorry he gave you such a hard time. I’m going to give him one back for you.’

Sometime around midday, Jimin starts playing music from next door, it honestly isn’t that loud but Jungkook still finds it annoying.

He realises he must have been spoiled by Jimin’s previous work pattern, that Jimin had either been at work or asleep for the past two weeks and that had meant his flat was largely silent.

Today though, Jimin seems resolved to be loud. Not only can Jungkook hear his music, and what sounds like Jimin singing along, but he can also hear the thump and whir of what is probably his washing machine. It sounds like it is making everything on the counter in Jimin’s kitchen shake and clatter.

After a couple of hours Jungkook thumps on the wall. If Jimin hears him it changes nothing.

In the afternoon the washing machine finally stops and Jungkook catches sight of Jimin on the balcony hanging out his laundry.

He freezes where he sits at the dining table pretending to write. Jungkook has recently removed the horrible net curtains so if Jimin looks over there is nothing to stop them seeing each other. Jungkook isn’t sure how they’re behaving now, he assumes after last night that they’re going to ignore each other from now on.

The idea annoys him for some reason. As if Jimin somehow has the upper hand.

He fixes his face as if he is writing earnestly, but in reality, he can’t concentrate. Jimin doesn’t look his way though. He’s propped his flat door open while he hangs the laundry so he can still hear his music and he’s singing and humming along.

Jungkook risks a peek just in time to catch a glimpse of Jimin’s exposed stomach as he reaches up to hang a towel from washing lines he’s fixed over the edge of the balcony.

It is strange seeing him in relaxed clothes.

It is kind of jarring.

He looks much softer than usual out there in leggings, big socks and an oversized jumper. The little strip of skin on display looks soft too but also taut and muscled. Jimin is skinny, almost unhealthily so according to Jungkook, so the little flash of abs is a surprise.

The reaction from Jungkook’s dick is also a surprise.

He drops his head in his hands with a groan and directly addresses his own lap.

‘You are the worst, do you know that?’

His dick doesn’t reply.

‘Locked up here just a few weeks and you’re interested in the arsehole neighbour just because he looks cute in that jumper? Get a grip.’

He sighs.

He should probably go out and get laid. He has barely got any the last few months and that has dropped to zero since he moved here. It would help distract him but, honestly, even the idea is fucking exhausting.

When he raises his head with another sigh Jimin has gone, his front door closed and his music back to low and muffled. Jungkook runs his eyes over his laundry. It is as sad and grey as he thinks Jimin’s life must be: his nurse’s uniform, scrubs, some rough, grey looking towels, black boxers and jeans. He watches them for a while as they bob in the wind and drip cold water into the air below.

*          *          *          *          *

‘For fucks sake, what are you doing?’

Jungkook turns from where he leans on the balcony and sees an angry Jimin standing in his own doorway, hands on his hips.

It isn’t a million miles away from their positions the first time they spoke.

‘I’m not doing much,’ Jungkook answers simply, a thrill running through him at Jimin’s unexpected appearance.

‘You’re smoking all over my laundry that’s what you’re fucking doing.’ Jungkook looks down at the cigarette in his hands but doesn’t say anything, just raises it to his lips again. ‘Honestly, are you deliberately being a dick? Look at the smoke, it's going straight over everything.’

He looks up as he exhales and sees that the cloud of smoke does indeed rise directly up into Jimin’s clean laundry. ‘Do you have to smoke out here? Can you at least go to the stairwell or something?’

‘Do you have to dry your laundry here?’ Jungkook replies, ‘Couldn’t you hang that in the stairwell?’

‘Fuck you’. Jimin storms into his house and comes back with a laundry basket and starts tearing his clothes down and throwing them in. ‘You’re a dickhead. These are going to be damp and smell of smoke. I can’t go to work like that.’

‘Why are you drying them out here anyway? It is November, it must take forever.’

‘Excellent observation. It does take forever. What do you want me to do?’

‘Use a dryer?’

‘Oh, lovely, I'll just pop and buy one with all the spare money I have.’

‘Or dry them inside? It would be quicker with the radiators, surely?’

Jimin pauses in the doorway with his basket of laundry.

‘Jungkook, I don’t know why you think I don’t know basic life lessons. I can’t dry the laundry inside because it makes the mould worse, and, anyway, I don’t turn the radiators on unless it is below two degrees outside anyway.’

‘Laundrette?’

Jimin rolls his eyes so hard it almost looks painful.

‘This whole thing really confuses you doesn’t it, this life? Can’t wait to see the caricature you paint of us in your fucking novel. Do you even know what to do with your clothes, Jungkook? I bet you don’t do your own laundry do you?’

‘Well, no, actually, I mostly wear suits, they go to the dry cleaners and for everything else I use a laundry service, they pick it up and-’

‘-a laundry service! Of course, of course. Fucking hell,’ Jimin cuts through Jungkook’s waffled explanation ‘You’re a joke. Anyway, smoke over my laundry again and see what happens. Goodnight, you posh wanker.’ And he vanishes into his flat with his laundry before Jungkook can say anything back.

He didn’t have anything to add anyway. He’s still feeling genuinely confused about why Jimin doesn’t turn the radiators on until it is really cold?

Jungkook isn’t actually as much of a dickhead as he seems half the time. In reality he’s an introvert with a tendency to take things literally and misunderstand social cues. Especially in English, his second language.

When he moved from Korea to London at twenty-three (fresh out of military service and poached by a top literary agent on the back of his wildly successful debut novel) he was confused and overwhelmed by everything. His London agent and publisher quickly latched on to the persona his quiet handsomeness was creating – a persona of arrogance and wry wit – and used it as a marketing tool.

Jungkook didn’t mind. He didn’t really know how else to behave so he was happy with saying less and learning to make arch comments over cocktails that amused the circles of educated Londoners he now moved among. Over time, he became known for attending events only to stand in corners or lean on bars, wearing dark colours, writing bleak fiction and being suspected of having a penchant for smart, pretty men.

It worked well for everyone.

The best part of six years later, it would let him off the hook too much to say his arrogance was purely an act now – but it was all too easy to utilise it as a tool when he felt wrong footed by something. When he feels that anxiousness in his stomach, just the same as it felt when he first found himself here, too young and too foreign to know what to say, he falls back on aloofness and cutting remarks.

Moving to London and receiving a huge advance for his second book had been his first real taste of wealth and independence. He was young and without the guiding hand of his family - he ate it up. As his success grew, the people around him were paid to facilitate and encourage.

He was indulged. And he had the money to indulge himself too.

He had a flat in Islington soaked in handmade wooden furniture and vintage books. He bought his food from farmers markets and delis, roasted his own coffee, and drank excellent wine. He had a small, designer wardrobe and handmade shoes.

He had half forgotten his life before London, before university in Seoul, before his time in the military. He had forgotten that his life had been simple, that his family were not that wealthy. Busan was only a childhood memory: colourful houses, sand between toes, kimchi jars in a courtyard, plastic toys, and high stone walls.

He hadn’t lived that life since he was eighteen, over a decade ago. Now, when he went to Korea several times a year he stayed in fancy hotels and only did media interviews and gallery openings and art panels. There wasn’t much time or space for anything else.

So, Jimin’s lack of money and circumstances genuinely did confuse him. He didn’t remember the realities of not being wealthy.

Somebody with a different type of brain might catch on quicker but not Jungkook. He was too busy applying his writer’s brain to the minutest detail to accurately take in the bigger picture.

Which is why, the next day as he folded his dirty clothes into the hand delivered leather hamper from A. L. Bulford’s laundry service (that would be picked up by courier and returned with a hand inked invoice) he was still trying to fathom why Jimin considered him a joke. He earned his money – why shouldn’t he spend it?

*          *          *          *          *

Over the next few days, all of Jimin and Jungkook’s interactions ended up revolving around these same barbed and loaded grounds – each of them failing to understand the other and feeling aggrieved by each other’s life choices.

On Tuesday, when they saw each other at the letter boxes, Jungkook remarked that Jimin’s phone was taped up. Jungkook had just been stating a fact to fill an awkward silence, but Jimin immediately interpreted it as a dig.

He had looked at him incredulously.

‘You literally saw me smash my phone on the floor when you scared the shit out of me? Why are you surprised?’

‘Yes, I know, that was two weeks ago though. Haven’t you asked your provider for a new one?’

‘What fucking world do you live in Jungkook, honestly? My provider is Habib from the stall behind the station and he is not interested in replacing my phone because I tanked it.’

Jimin stalks off and leaves Jungkook without words in his wake – as always.

*          *          *          *          *

By the time December falls across London, wet and grey and dark, Jungkook has truly lost all sense of what the fuck he is doing.

He’s been living in the flat in Stockwell for around a month. He hasn’t written a word, he’s pissed off both Misha and his best friend, Taehyung, through neglect, made an enemy of Jimin, and processed absolutely none of his grief over Caleb’s death.

He is mostly surviving on the calories from alcohol and the fact that he expends so little energy by doing nothing but lurking around the flat. The body he was quite proud of six months ago – visible abs and toned arms, flexibility from weekly hot yoga – is melting away, almost symbolically.

The physical manifestation of this descent soon becomes the graveyard of wine and beer bottles piling up outside Jungkook’s front door.

The wheelie bins are in the basement and the lifts are always broken so, at first, he started leaving them there for later. The intention being that the next time he has a moment he will lug them all down to the bin in one go.

But the moment never really comes because he so rarely leaves and by the time he does, the pile is so bad he couldn’t do it in one trip, so he says to himself he will do it next time.

Then somehow, he just doesn’t and the pile grows.

He doesn’t think that just because he rarely leaves the flat and the bottles don’t bother him, that they might affect Jimin. Jimin, who has to wind his way over the stacks of bottles to get to his own front door, tired after a twelve-hour shift.

He doesn’t consider that Jimin might be having to muster all of his resolve not to lob a bottle through Jungkook’s fucking window.

Jimin does eventually crack though.

The first Wednesday of December he comes home at 4 am, utterly exhausted, and trips, causing a bottle tsunami. A few moments later, Jungkook hears a furious thumping and yelling at his front door.

He doesn’t take long to answer (because he wasn’t asleep) and he stands in the doorway, his hair tousled and a look of confusion on his face, as Jimin starts kicking the bottles down his hall.

‘Take. Your. Fucking. Bottles. To. The. Bins. You. Lazy. Shit.’

Jimin punctuates each word with a scoop kick, sending another bottle swirling inside. He doesn’t stop until every last bottle has been sent ricocheting back into the dark flat. Then, without another word, he storms away and slams his own front door.

Jungkook lets his front door close and shuffles back to the sofa, his slides crunching on glass with every step. He rubs his face a few times in confusion, then curls up to try and sleep.

When he wakes up, he is livid. He might have not known how the fuck to respond to Jimin while the latter was in a rage but the next morning he is infuriated as his eyes fall across the mess up the hallway.

The floor is covered in the bottles, many of them are smashed, and the smell of stale beer and wine has leaked around the whole flat.

He’s fuming when he takes his morning coffee to Caleb’s room.

‘I think he is actually insane, Caleb. I didn’t see it at first, but now,’ he sighs from his perch on the end of the still unmade bed, ‘Like honestly, he kicked all of my recycling all over the hall, broke the bottles and everything. It was just out there waiting to go to the wheelie bin. Literally, only me and him use that balcony – how much of a problem could some bottles be?’

He downs the last sip of black coffee with an exaggerated sigh.

‘Perhaps he’s decided to make me suffer too.’

*          *          *          *          *

The mess finally cracks something in Jungkook though, for better or for worse.

He can’t muster any sort of energy to clean up but even in his current depressive state laying on the sofa all day and ignoring the smashed glass and spilt, stale alcohol is one step too far.

He calls a cleaning service, waits long enough to hand them over a set of keys and then returns to his flat in Islington for a few days.

In some ways it immediately improves things.

He has a proper bath. He eats some proper food, after enjoying a little walk to Masigo, and he even calls Taehyung and lets him know he will be around for the weekend.

But on the other hand, Jungkook is just reminded that his life is a joke wherever he chooses to undertake it. Whatever side of the river he sleeps. Whatever walls he wraps around his body as he pretends to write – whatever the accessories, Jungkook is a failure.

*          *          *          *          *

Back in Stockwell, Jimin comes home to a clean balcony and the smell of bleach and cleaning products escaping from Jungkook’s flat. He can even hear music and singing through the propped open front door.

He smiles, and for one tiny moment he is impressed that Jungkook has decided to pull himself together and clean. He is also feeling a bit ashamed of his outburst last night, which in the cold light of day he can admit was quite extreme.

He takes a breath and decides to suck it up and approach Jungkook. If he is making an effort, Jimin can too.

He pushes at the open front door and calls his neighbour’s name. A middle-aged woman in leggings and an oversized shirt pokes her head around the archway to the living room, pulling a mop bucket behind her.

‘I… I was looking for Jungkook?’ Jimin offers.

‘He’s out. I’m his cleaner.’

Jimin notes the stacked boxes of cleaned up bottles and glass over her shoulder. His cleaner. Of course. He rolls his eyes and leaves.

*          *          *          *          *

In a café in Bloomsbury Jungkook sits across a small table from Misha and slowly rotates his americano between his cold palms.

The café is nestled in the middle of a used book store. It is the standard location for publishers and agents to bring their authors to harass them under a veneer of just checking in.

Jungkook thinks he doesn’t really deserve the treatment, three successful novels before thirty is pretty good going. All of them are acclaimed and steadily gathering awards between them. Sure, he’s about to hit the two-year mark since his last one and he hasn’t actually got any plans or done any writing for his next – but Misha doesn’t know this last part yet. She thinks he moved to Stockwell to write.

‘So, the flat is working well for you then?’

‘Yes. It’s great.’

‘Helping you focus on writing?’

‘Yes.’

‘I suppose it is easier to concentrate there than in central isn’t it, less going on I guess?’

‘I mean, it is Stockwell, Misha, it isn’t the shires.’

‘I know, I know. So, are you still in the planning stage or are you writing at last?’

‘Oh, yes, I’m writing.’

‘That’s excellent JK, I thought you must be. You kind of look like shit.’ Jungkook pops his head up for the first time and looks at her. Misha isn’t even looking at him, she’s flipping through her iPad to bring up Jungkook’s calendar. ‘So, what do we think about a release for next year? Ideally it would be a September publication which would mean…’ she scrolls and her screen flickers, ‘Submission in spring, probably April at the latest…what do you think? Bit soon?’

‘Yes, probably a bit soon-‘

‘-if you could manage it, it would be the best of course because otherwise we will just have to drop next year altogether and publish the following, no point publishing too close to Christmas or in January. So, if you miss this spring we’ll have to wait until the following spring…’

She looks up at him hopefully.

‘I’ll see what I can do but I think it will be later, not sooner.’

‘Ok, JK. Well, you do what you can do. You’re the one with the talent,’ She smiles at him and he nods awkwardly, ‘But we will have to think about what we can do next year if a book isn’t coming out. Your last was two years ago now so if we push this one that could be nearly four total before the next and that really could lose you some momentum…’

Jungkook feels his heart sink, feels the weight of his sip of coffee like it is molten metal running down his gullet and settling inside him.

He already knows he can’t write a novel by spring, even if he doesn’t dare fully admit it to Misha yet.

He is carved out and hollow inside. Empty and done. There aren’t any words anywhere inside him, let alone anything that could follow up his last book which was shortlisted for the bloody Man Booker.

Yet, the picture that Misha is painting is that if he doesn’t, his career is basically over.

‘I’m really sorry, Misha, I am trying and I’ll keep trying.’

She makes eye contact with him and nods.

‘I know you are, JK. I know things haven’t been easy, with your friend…and everything, but you need to keep going. You’re such a talent. Maybe try channelling some of that …stuff…into your writing, you know?’

‘My friend’s death isn’t a plot device,’ He says coldly and glares at her.

Misha barely blanches, she is way too used to writers. ‘Of course not. And you know that isn’t what I meant. Anyway, don’t stress, if it isn’t next year, it isn’t next year. I will keep you afloat, but if there is no book, we will have to do a full PR programme next year instead – readings, panels, tv appearances. Yes?’

‘Yes,’ he answers even though the thought of it turns his stomach.

‘Great. Ok, look. I can see that you’re…struggling. Let’s leave the rest of December, ok? Have a break, do some Christmas-y shit. Sleep a lot. And then we’ll leave January too because who does anything in January – but then, then I’m going to need you back onboard, ok? Going to need you to pull it together and come be a dickhead on some panel shows – ok?’

‘Ok,’ he nods and fakes a smile.

‘Excellent.’ She flips the case closed on her iPad and downs her latte, excusing herself with garbled words about lunch meetings.

Jungkook sits in the window of the café for hours after she leaves. He drinks coffee until he feels sick and spends the whole time pretending to write in his notebook.

*          *          *          *          *

On Friday, Jungkook manages to persuade Taehyung that they don’t need to go out and bribes him into coming over with his husband, promising to cook for them and open some great wine instead.

But, when the evening rolls around and Taehyung and Seokjin will arrive in half an hour - Jungkook hasn’t found the energy to do anything.

He realises he now has to choose between showering or cooking, so he goes for showering (knowing full well Tae will never shut up if he doesn’t). He does have some great wine lurking somewhere and that should be enough to placate his guests. Instead, he orders pizza from Franco Manca five minutes before they arrive.

‘Oh no, you look like shit Jungkook-ah. Now I can’t be angry about the cooking,’ Taehyung soothes almost the second he walks in the door and wraps Jungkook in a hug. Then he leans back, cupping Jungkook’s face in his hands and appraising him.

‘He’s right lovely, you look handsome as ever but you look shit, like sad shit?’ Seokjin adds, resting his chin on Taehyung’s shoulder and pulling a pouty face.

‘Yes, well, that’s just my face these days, isn’t it?’ He pulls himself out of Taehyung’s hands and steps aside so they can properly enter his apartment. ‘Pizza will be here soon, I’ll open the wine’.

A few hours later, full and drunk, they are sprawled on the sofas on Jungkook’s terrace. It is softly lit and kept warm by gas heaters.

The buzz and chatter of Friday night London swells up from the street and hangs around them.

Seokjin’s head is in Tae’s lap and Jungkook’s feet meet Tae’s under the blanket they’re sharing. He has his head back against the arm of the chair and blows cigarette smoke up into the orange-tinged darkness that never lets the stars through.

‘What I don’t really get though,’ Tae murmurs, one hand softly rising and falling as he talks, ‘is if you’re pretending to write…why don't you just write?’

Jungkook sighs, not in annoyance at Tae but frustration with himself. Because it really is that simple.

‘I want to but it just…isn’t there. I don’t even know how to describe it because I have never struggled to write before.’ He sighs and tugs at his hair. 'I was used to writing just coming to me. I never plan or think about it or plot or anything, it just falls out. Everywhere, on everything.’

‘Yeah, I think back fondly of finding your scrawlings on literally everything in the dorms,’ Tae chuckles, ‘You have no idea how creepy it was at first finding all these disjointed little notes tucked under the rice cooker or folded between the plant pots. Honest to god it would be shit like, ‘I see you under the ice, frozen in time’ or, like, ‘what would I be if you didn’t exist, shall I extinguish you to find out.’

‘That is terrifying!’ Seokjin snorts.

‘Hyung, honestly, they were not that bad-’

‘-that second one is an almost direct quote from Concrete Hours, so don’t even give me that shit, you little freak. You’re lucky I didn’t report you or something. I thought you were leaving them for me for weeks!’

‘And you kind of liked it, I’m not the only freak.’

Jungkook and Tae’s eyes meet across the warmth of the balcony and they share a smirk. It is perhaps the first real smile of Jungkook’s in a while. The first real flush of emotion.

But instead of soothing him, it comes with a jolt of sadness. Because it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to make him feel better. To make him want to stay in this flat or go back to his life again.

He feels the smile drop away and the weight return to his eyes.

‘If I can be the big brother for a minute?’ Jin’s voice cuts through the moment, suddenly seeming more awake, ‘Maybe just take the pressure off? Don’t write because you have to. I think it makes sense to all of us why you are struggling. You lost someone – unexpectedly and in a horrible way – and I think in all honesty your brain has gone into shock. We shut down when we need to cope, it is kind of textbook. Don’t force it because you are scared of what will happen if you don’t. You will only end up writing something you hate.’

Silence falls over them, not an uncomfortable one, but one that acknowledges the truth and the weight of what Seokjin has said. Tae leans down and kisses him gently on the forehead.

Jungkook lights another cigarette and then leans across the table to refill everybody’s wine glasses.

They let a few minutes pass in silence. When Tae breaks it, Jungkook wishes he hadn’t.

‘So, I want to hear more about the ‘annoying’ neighbour you so clearly have a boner for.’

‘That didn’t need air quotes, hyung, he really is annoying-’

‘-can’t believe you managed to end up living next to a fiery little twink while slumming it Kook. Typical golden boy and his luck,’ Seokjin interrupts, much to Jungkook’s annoyance and Tae’s utter glee.

The other two cackle at him and Jungkook immediately pulls his legs up to his chin and frowns.

‘Don’t sulk, Kook-ah, can you blame us? We know you and your penchant for pretty boys that bring out your brat,’ Tae soothes.

‘I never said he was pretty.’

‘He is though, isn’t he?’ Jin asks with the glint of a demon in his eyes.

‘Yes,’ he sighs and drains his wine as his best friends laugh into the night.

‘Sounds like he’s the perfect distraction for you then.’

‘I don’t even know if he’s into men and anyway-’

‘-oh, shut up, you think he is though, don’t you?’ Tae cocks an eyebrow, ‘Your gaydar isn’t that fucked.’

‘Gaydars are a social construct, hyung. People’s sexualities don’t fall into categories easily identified by surface level indicators like mannerisms and dress-’

Jin and Tae collapse into each other laughing before Jungkook even finishes and he falls silent and goes back to sulking.

‘So, he’s super gay and you can tell then, if you’re resorting to intellectual deflection.’

‘Fuck off,’ Jungkook mutters into his wine as his friend’s smirk at each other.

When they leave, with kisses and stumbles, bundled into the back of an uber – they leave the annoying thought of Jimin lingering in Jungkook’s brain.

Just like everything right now, Jimin brings him only confusion.

Confusion because he went to stay in that flat with his mind already made up about the neighbour that Caleb had complained about so prodigiously.

He always makes me suffer.

Those were the exact words Caleb had typed to him, and not just once but repeatedly, until it became a fact woven into all their conversations.

In so many ways, Jimin had lived up to this image. He’d been cold with Jungkook, quick to judge him and mock his writing or his habits. He had scolded him for smoking and then of course made the dramatic display of smashing all the bottles just because Jungkook had been a bit remiss taking his bins out.

He can certainly see why he would have irritated Caleb if he did similar to him, but so far it just doesn’t seem to quite add up to suffering.

Definitely not so bad as to deepen and worsen Caleb’s condition until he couldn’t cope anymore, which is what Jungkook had assumed when he started putting the pieces together after his death. He never thought that Jimin had been the sole cause of Caleb’s problems, but he assumed that, as a neighbour from hell, he had worsened everything and pushed an already fragile person to the edge.

Perhaps Jimin hadn’t shown his true colours to Jungkook yet, perhaps the horrors were only just beginning. Because otherwise, it leaves a gap in what was going on. A gap Jungkook doesn’t want to have to fill with his own failure of his friend.

Jimin has to somehow fill that gap, because Jungkook isn’t a person who likes to change his mind.

*          *          *          *          *

After a slow weekend in Islington, trying to be inspired by some glimmer of comfort from his old life and finding none, Jungkook gives up and calls Taehyung, begging for a lift back to Stockwell.

Not because he likes it there. In fact, he hates it. He hates the heavy looming presence of Caleb, he hates the dark flat, misses his home comforts and is, frankly, scared of half the people on the estate. But he hates what has become of his old life more.

He doesn’t feel anything and he can’t hide anywhere.

In Stockwell he doesn’t have to pretend and he doesn’t have to see anyone. If he shuts himself away and pretends to write, people will leave him alone - possibly for months.

Pretending he is deep in the midst of a novel might even get him out of going to Korea at the end of December. Everything in the UK shuts down for a few weeks and it has always been good timing to go and see family. This year, the thought of trying to make conversation with his mother is unbearable. He struggles with his family at the best of times, in this state he wouldn’t survive it.

So, he resolves to make the move to the flat in Stockwell somewhat more permanent. For several months at least.

He actually packs this time. Some books, proper clothes, skincare – even his record player and a couple of crates of good wine. More importantly, he closes his other flat down; chucks everything out of the fridge, turns all the electrics off and strips his bed.

Taehyung seems to be judging his decision as they load the car but he doesn’t say it out loud. He relies instead on their best-friend bond and just sends loaded, judgemental vibes across the heavy air. Jungkook picks up on them but pretends he doesn’t.

When they pull up on the fringes of the estate in Stockwell they can’t find anywhere to park, so Taehyung just helps Jungkook stuff everything into the disgusting lift, kisses him fiercely and drives away.

When the lift doors ping open on the fourth floor, Jimin is there locking his own front door, dressed for work.

Of course he is.

They make eye contact and, for a moment, Jimin’s expression is a tiny bit awkward, as if he is recounting their last interaction (in which he had been in a violent rage), but the look flickers away and goes cold.

‘You’re back then,’ he bites.

‘Yes, I went to my flat in Islington for the weekend,’ Jungkook volunteers more information than he needs to. Like he always does.

‘Of course. Your second home. Is this one your holiday rental? Just come here when you fancy slumming it as a reprieve from your actual life, like some sort of Asian Marie Antoinette?’

Jungkook raises his eyebrows as he kicks one of the boxes into the path of the lift door to stop it closing. He picks up another box and heads towards his front door, passing Jimin.

‘That was actually quite a good reference,’ he smirks, ‘I didn’t pin you as smart enough to know some history.’

Jimin flushes. Not willing to admit the reference did indeed only come from watching Coppola.

Jungkook places the box down while he unlocks his door. He can see Jimin out of the corner of his eye trying to think of something to say.

He offers him a fake smile. ‘I don’t know where all this rage comes from, but it isn’t very healthy – are you even fit to be a nurse?’

‘I think I preferred you when you didn’t speak much. You seem to have topped up on your superiority complex over the river in your posh flat.’

Jungkook kicks the box into his hall and turns around for another one at the same time that Jimin begins to stalk past him to the stairwell at the opposite end of the balcony.

He never takes the lift. Even after a twelve-hour shift Jungkook sees him take the stairs.

As they cross paths Jungkook can’t help but reach out, grabbing Jimin’s shoulder and stopping him in his tracks.

‘Look, I was quiet before, and I took your bullshit quite well I think, didn’t really have the energy to deal with it. But you’re starting to piss me off properly. Let’s not do this whole warring neighbour skit, yeah? Let’s just stay away from each other.’

Jimin grabs Jungkook’s wrist to pull him off but doesn’t have the strength, so he just digs his little claws into the flesh instead. Jungkook pretends it doesn’t hurt and savours the fury emanating from Jimin. His eyes are alight, his bottom lip between his teeth.

‘You started this, you fuck; being an arrogant prick, making a mess everywhere and smoking on my stuff – I’m just trying to live my life.’

‘Well, let’s both end it then, ok? I have more important things in my life than your whining.’

‘Just get the fuck off me, I’m late for work,’ Jimin starts tugging at his wrist again, scratching this time ‘Don’t think I won’t punch you. I absolutely will.’

Jungkook nods and lets go of Jimin.

For a split second they both inhale deeply and stare at each other.

A silent challenge.

Then, they break it together. Jimin storms to the stairs and Jungkook to the lift for the rest of his stuff – neither of them looking back.

Chapter Text

Over the next few days, Jungkook finds himself annoyingly preoccupied with Jimin. He keeps thinking of the anger in his eyes, his attempts at cruel words. The way he swears way too much. While they last, Jungkook traces the pads of his fingers over the red marks Jimin’s nails left on his forearm. They conjure the image of his small fingers gripped around Jungkook’s wrist.

He knows he is just bored and lonely and that his fight with Jimin is just something for his mind to latch onto. He also knows that angering Jimin is exactly what he came here to do.

Jimin made Caleb’s life miserable and Jungkook was here to return the favour.

But, even knowing all of that doesn’t stop it from frustrating Jungkook. It feels like Jimin has some sort of power over him and he hates it.

He tries to distract himself by writing. It is what everybody thinks he is here for after all. He thinks about Tae’s words: ‘If you are pretending to write…, why don’t you just write?’

On the surface it makes so much sense – but in reality, he can’t make it happen.

He sits at his typewriter and tries to get the words to pour out like they used to. They don’t. He types random sentences to see what happens. Nothing does. He tries some puzzles he found after googling writer’s block. They just annoy him.

One evening he gets really drunk and types out his messy stream of consciousness, but in the morning he finds that a significant amount of it revolves around Jimin and how infuriating he is. He tugs the pages out of his typewriter and burns them in an ashtray like a petulant child.

They haven’t talked for nearly a week, not since Jungkook returned to the flat and their confrontation on the balcony when Jimin threatened to punch him.

Jungkook sees him though.

Most days as Jimin comes from work, Jungkook can’t resist watching him from his window like a total creep, catching little snippets of his daily phone conversation with his mum.

Jungkook is surprisingly endeared by the way Jimin speaks Korean. He’s clearly fluent but to Jungkook he has an accent he can’t pin down. He can’t tell if it’s a dialect coming through or whether it’s Jimin’s British accent hanging over it. It doesn’t help that he’s only hearing it muffled through the window.

It’s not just the accent either. There is also something about the way Jimin forms his sentences and the vocabulary he uses that is almost naïve to Jungkook’s ear. He also code switches a lot, English words and phrases dropped into his sentences like decoration.

Jungkook kind of loves it. Sometimes, he wishes Jimin would stop there on the balcony and keep talking just so he could listen more.

One evening he leans on the wall under his dining room window, knees up to his chest, and listens to the cute phrasing as Jimin tells his mum he is home and he loves her but needs to hang up now so he can open the door. There’s something so pleasing about the way he phrases his goodbye.

Jungkook whispers the same words, lets them roll over his pallet and pushes the tip of his tongue to the roof of his mouth. It feels wonderful.

He keeps muttering the words, forms his lips into the vowel shapes he never has to use in English, and the little aspirated expressions Brits just don’t use in the same way.

He misses it.

These days, he only really speaks his mother tongue to his family back home – and he doesn’t speak to them enough. Once upon a time he spoke Korean with Tae, as they met while they both still lived in Seoul, but since most of their joint friends were British now, and Seokjin couldn’t speak it, they’d lost the habit.

Jimin has already gone quiet next door and Jungkook lets his head roll back against the wall. He keeps muttering what Jimin said and he suddenly realises why it was rolling off his tongue so pleasingly. It was a part of a kids song, used in schools and by parents to teach kids correct ways of addressing people.

Suddenly, he pushes himself up from the floor and grabs his notebook, slumping onto the sofa and starting to scribble.

He starts with the expression Jimin just uttered to his mum. He forms the little phrase on the page, repeats it on his tongue, his smile broad. And then the words just keep going.

He is writing again.

Just not at his typewriter.

And not in English.

Over the next few days, he fills the pages of his notebooks with messy script, the words finding him with no effort just like they always used to before. He would be annoyed that he didn’t think of something so simple as switching languages, and he would be even more annoyed that it took the gentle lilt of Jimin’s voice - but he is too busy being happy.

Too busy being relieved.

The words come and come and come.

On Thursday, he finds some of his own notes shoved into a coffee mug and he laughs and sends pictures of them to Taehyung and gets a message back almost immediately:

 

Taehyungie hyungie hyung [18:09]

I am glad you are back to your terrifying ways

I’m always here to help you hide the body

 

He smiles at Tae’s response, his phone cupped in the palm of his hand. He has managed to write for several hours during the day and he feels - good.

He decides to spend the rest of the evening writing on the balcony. It is freezing cold, December is well under way, but Jungkook likes it out there. He likes the cold, crisp space the balcony affords him. He feels less choked than he does when inside the dark flat.

Sometimes, in the early hours of the morning and with the wind going the right direction, he can hear big ben chime on the hour. It makes him feel like he is part of something, like he is in London for a reason and not just because he was dragged here.

He’s been writing on the balcony so often recently he no longer takes his chair back inside but leaves it there, like his own little outside office.

Tonight, his pen is soon dancing across the page of a new notebook. It’s his second new notebook since he started writing again and he feels positively joyful about it. Almost giddy.

After about an hour, his concentration is disturbed by the sound of voices coming up the stairwell. At first, he thinks it can’t be Jimin, it must be another neighbour, because Jimin never has people over.

But the voices just get louder. Then Jimin comes into view, laughing as he pushes open the door and grinning over his shoulder at a tall man behind him.

Jimin looks nice. He has a lavender coloured scarf wrapped around his neck and a blush to his cheeks from the cold. Or maybe from the attentions of the man he’s with. The stranger looks Korean too, he’s tall and broad and wearing a suit with a sweater vest and a brown winter coat over the top. Gold, wire rimmed glasses resting on his nose. He’s handsome.

Jungkook isn’t sure how to react to their arrival, his hand freezes on his page in panic. He can’t decide whether to ignore them or whether to offer an awkward hello. Him and Jimin aren’t talking, but maybe a hello would be ok. Would Jimin dare be rude to him in front of an audience?

While he is thinking, Jungkook forgets to tear his gaze away from Jimin and the decision is made for him as their eyes collide. He sees the same conflict playing out on Jimin’s features and he stops just before his own front door. The stranger pauses at his shoulder, casting an eye between Jimin and Jungkook as if trying to work out the possible tension held in their silent eye contact.

Jimin breaks it first and, with a quick glance at his friend, clearly decides he doesn't want to appear rude.

‘Evening, Jungkook,’ he says coldly.

Jungkook can see that it pains him, so he nods and holds back a smirk. He finds he enjoys watching Jimin grimace at having to be polite to him.

‘Good evening, Jimin. And?’ He offers.

He sees Jimin shoot him a glare but the stranger doesn’t notice. He walks a few steps forward and offers Jungkook a hand.

‘Namjoon, hi,’ He says and then after assessing Jungkook, he adds, ‘Kim Namjoon.’

‘Jeon Jungkook,’ he says in his politest tone, standing up and offering Namjoon a hand and a small bow.

‘Oh! Oh wow! I thought it was you,’ Namjoon gushes immediately, ‘I love your work so much! Concrete Hours was a masterpiece. And Cracked Skin I- wow I can’t believe I’m meeting you. Jimin! You didn’t tell me your neighbour was J. K. Jeon!’

Jimin looks furious and mortified all at once but he covers it well.

‘Oh, I wasn’t sure you would know him-‘

‘-are you a proper Korean if you don’t!’

‘Right, right,’ Jimin agrees with a small laugh.

Jungkook just stands there and tries to look humble.

He’s delighted. Not at the praise so much (although that is of course nice) but more at Jimin’s fury and uncomfortableness. Though, he will admit Namjoon’s praise does make up for Jimin not really giving a shit about who he was when they met.

‘And you’re writing now?’ Namjoon’s eye’s drop to Jungkook’s abandoned notebook and pencil, ‘Wow, I’m really getting to witness the magic as it happens eh?’

‘Oh, sure,’ Jungkook smiles, ‘just sketching some thoughts out.’

‘For a new novel? I’ve been hoping one was coming out, it’s been a while.’

Jungkook keeps smiling through a slight wince, ‘Yes, hopefully out next year.’

‘So cool. Not working on the famous typewriter, I see?’

‘Ah no, just brainstorming this evening.’

Jimin hovers by his now open front door during the whole conversation, like he wants to drag Namjoon inside.

‘Well, it has been really cool to meet you. Can’t believe Jimin gets to live next to you! I would be over yours all the time wanting to talk about books. I ended up in medicine but my first love was always literature. Would’ve gone down that path if I could have.’

‘Oh, you work at the hospital with Jimin-hyung?’

Jimin narrows his eyes at the honorifics. He can tell Jungkook is sucking up despite Namjoon’s clear British accent.

‘Yes, that’s right. Consultant, Orthopaedics.’

‘Impressive,’ Jungkook nods.

‘Well, we best get in. It’s cold. Don’t want to disturb your work, Jungkook-ssi,’ Jimin grimaces and throws emphasis on the last syllable.

Perhaps Namjoon is just too thrilled to meet a hero of his but he doesn’t seem to notice the crackling energy sparking between the other two.

‘Don’t worry, hyung, I have just finished actually. Was just about to go inside and see if I can rustle anything up for dinner.’

Jungkook watches with glee as Jimin’s eyes burn with fury, they practically scream you arsehole at him because both of them know what will come next. That’s exactly why Jungkook said it.

‘You’re eating alone?’ Namjoon asks with a small frown, ‘Oh you must join us. I’d love to talk to you more about your work. If it’s ok with Jimin of course? I’m guessing you guys are friends? Do you have enough food Jimin, I can go pick up something else?’

Jimin plasters a fake smile across his face ‘Of course I do. The more the merrier, would you like to join us Jungkook?’

‘That would be lovely, actually,’ Jungkook grins, ‘It can get pretty lonely in the evenings when I’m trying to get a novel done.’

‘I’m sure, I’m sure,’ Namjoon nods earnestly as they all traipse into Jimin’s flat.

Jungkook isn’t really sure why Jimin is playing along with this, why he hasn’t just admitted to Namjoon that they don’t get on and told Jungkook to fuck off. It makes him think Jimin is trying to impress him somehow, or that Namjoon is a new friend. Maybe even a date?

It makes Jungkook want to behave badly. He is practically giddy with excitement at the thought of being able to spend the evening pissing off Jimin.

It really reflects how bored he has been. He’s also filled with a little adrenaline from the last few days of success with writing again. But this mood is always when Jungkook is at his most dangerous. In this mood he always drinks too much, talks too much and alienates too many people before he comes down enough to realise what he has done.

Jimin ushers the other two into his living room and deposits them on the sofa as he rushes off to the kitchen for wine.

Namjoon pounces on Jungkook immediately with literary chat and Jungkook laps it up, all the while running his eyes around Jimin’s home.

The inside of his flat isn’t what Jungkook expected at all. Given his long hours and constantly exhausted persona Jungkook had imagined his flat would be dreary. Plain. He figured it would be run down and devoid of personality - but Jimin’s home is nice.

It isn’t fancy, everything is clearly well loved or cheap. The sofas are obviously Ikea, the rug too probably. But it is all immaculate and put together nicely. The window sills are covered in plants; a fern and some succulents, and a pothos hangs in a macramé hanger from the corner of the room. There are stylish prints on the walls and chic coasters made from squares of concrete with black painted edges.

Jimin comes back in from the kitchen with three mismatched glasses and an already open bottle of wine. Jungkook wonders, cruelly, if he wanted to hide it was a screw top.

‘Lovely. What wine is it?’ he smirks.

Namjoon lifts his head pleasantly, not catching the edge in Jungkook’s voice.

‘Um, red,’ says Jimin with a flush and starts pouring it out.

The wine is actually fine. Jungkook isn’t even very good at telling the difference between wines, even if he pretends to be. He can tell if it is terrible and he can tell if it is exquisite - everything else just falls in the middle as nice - but he curls his lip as he takes a sip anyway. Just for fun.

Jimin seems nervous and it is novel to Jungkook. He usually feels like the one on the back foot. Jimin has always been the bold one in all their interactions so far.

The one shouting at or lecturing him.

The one making Caleb suffer.

So, it is interesting seeing Jimin anxious. It only goads Jungkook. Makes him feel like he is the hound on the hunt for a terrified hare, he smells blood and wants to take a bite to the jugular.

He watches as Jimin darts worried eyes at Namjoon to see if he seems happy, and then over at Jungkook to see if he is going to cause a problem.

‘So, can we hear anything about the new novel? Or is it top secret at this point?’ Namjoon asks once they are all settled.

‘It is still taking shape. But it is set here, in south London.’

‘Interesting, a bit of a change of setting for you?’

‘In some ways.’

‘Is it a continuation to Dry Heart and Cracked Skin? They were sort of a pair, weren’t they?’

‘Hmm, that’s right,’ Jungkook swirls the wine in his glass, ‘It isn’t though. I’m actually writing in Korean.’

He wonders if he should’ve shared that as soon as it falls out of his lips but Namjoon looks enthralled.

‘Back to Korean? Really? What sparked the change?’

‘I-’ he pauses and considers what he should admit but can’t think of a lie quick enough, ‘I had a bit of a block, to be honest. Haven’t been able to write in a while and then I switched back to Korean and it, well things started writing themselves.’

Even when he’s putting on an act, Jungkook somehow always ends up being honest.

‘Fascinating. I always wondered what it would be like as a writer using two languages. I actually loved that about your last two books, the ones in English, I really think it adds to them. I feel lucky reading them as a Korean speaker because I can feel both languages in your words, there’s a certain way you express yourself that’s very Korean, even when you write in English!’ Namjoon grins and takes a long swig of wine, ‘Sorry, that was a bit gushy. But you really are one of my heroes.’

‘No, actually, that is really nice to hear. Thank you. I’ve spoken English since I was a child, my parents were very insistent about that, but even still I was very unsure about switching to English to write a full length novel. But, after my first book I got brought over here by an agent and they really pushed for it. Said my second wouldn’t sell as well in the European and US markets if I kept writing in Korean, even with good translations. I was young and I listened, but it was a different experience for sure.’

‘I imagine things might have changed in the last few years,’ Namjoon nods earnestly, ‘With the Korean wave and everything. Is that why you’ve confident going back to it?’

‘No, hadn’t thought of it actually. I’m sure it will help though,’ Jungkook downs his wine, ‘It just seemed like all I could manage right now to be honest.’

He probably shouldn’t have said the last bit either. The other two look at him curiously.

‘How long have you lived here, Jungkook-ah?’ Jimin asks. He’s been quiet so far and it seems an odd question to come in with.

‘In London?’ Jimin nods. ‘Uh nearly six years. I came over when I was twenty-three. Fresh out of military service.’ Namjoon and Jimin both share a little glance and Jungkook feels it. ‘You’re both British, I guess you didn’t have to do it?’

‘No,’ Namjoon answers and Jimin shakes his head next to him and then pours them all some more wine.

‘Well, my debut was published just before I joined up, right after university. Agents in the US and UK were sniffing around almost straight away. I kind of knew I’d leave as soon as I got out.’

‘It hangs over the narrator in Dry Heart, I think, the shadow of the military. I guess some of your experiences were still with you?’ Namjoon asks.

‘Yes, I guess so. Write what you know,’ Jungkook sighs and raises his glass.

With a curious glance at him, Jimin gets to his feet and excuses himself to the kitchen to prepare dinner, leaving Namjoon and Jungkook to talk books in his wake.

It has only been about half an hour, but Jungkook is already starting to struggle. He had enjoyed it at first, being able to steal the attention onto himself and wind Jimin up a bit, but he quickly realises he has made a mistake coming here. He’s tired and drained already. His social battery is already running out and the reality of having waltzed into spending an evening with company dawns on him.

Namjoon is kind and earnest and clearly loves literature but that also makes him quite exhausting. Jungkook starts to feel like a fraud the more Namjoon gushes about literary styles and linguistic choices and Jungkook feels like he is tongue tied and immature in comparison.

In Jimin’s absence Jungkook also realises he came here to be near him, even if it was to annoy him. He isn’t here to talk to Namjoon.

He downs the rest of his wine, filling his glass again, and cranes his neck to the kitchen to see what Jimin is up to. He can only see a sliver of him, through the archway hung with a bead curtain, he is fussing around the counter, a tea towel tucked into his trousers like an apron.

Jungkook smiles.

*          *          *          *          *

They eat at Jimin’s small dining table on mis-matched chairs. The set up is cute. The chairs and table are both mid-century modern and in the centre a slice of wood is arranged with a small display of dried wild flowers. All the crockery and glasses are mis-matched but vintage. It’s lovely.

The food is good too. Pasta and home-made bread, a salad with artichokes arranged in a bowl with proper wooden salad forks. Olives in a little dish on the side.

Jimin clearly made a ton of effort. He obviously wanted to impress Namjoon.

Jungkook still can’t quite tell if he wanted to impress him romantically or not, but either way it makes him feel – petulant.

So, even though Jimin keeps trying to steer the conversation to topics him and Namjoon know - the new consultant at work, whining about NHS computer systems, even some art they both like – Jungkook deliberately derails everything and turns it back to some high literary concept that Jimin gets excluded from.

And Jimin doesn’t stop him, he just leans back in his chair and looks wrong-footed.

At first Namjoon hadn’t seemed to notice, genuinely delighted to be discussing something he loves with someone he admires, but, by the time Jimin clears the plates, looking somewhere between frustrated and crestfallen, Namjoon is giving Jungkook a look across the table.

He looks stern, with a little hint of disappointment. Like Jungkook has ruined something for him.

And the thing is, he has. He knows he has.

Jungkook can feel the familiar knot in his stomach he gets when he knows he has turned out to be less than someone hoped he was. But he can’t stop. He never has been able to. When he senses something has gone wrong, he’s always been one to just keep picking until the wound is gaping.

Jungkook is always a dick when he can’t be perfect.

He already knows he’ll just keep steam rolling through this awkward evening until Jimin hates him irreparably and Jungkook has fully shit all over Namjoon’s previous admiration of him.

He reaches for the bottle of wine (at least the third one Jimin has brought out) and sees Namjoon’s hand move a bit on the table as if he was about to pull it out of Jungkook’s reach, then his fist just clenches and closes again. Jungkook ignores it and fills a glass, he also fills the other’s glasses as well without asking if they want him to.

Now, when he turns the conversation back to the literary scene with an anecdote about Will Self (‘we’re always compared even though Self hasn’t published in years’) there is a stiffness to Namjoon’s response and the small, cold laugh he returns.

When Jimin comes back from the kitchen, he looks sad and he clearly took longer than he needed to just to avoid the mess unfolding at his dinner table. Jungkook doesn’t miss the apologetic look Jimin gives Namjoon as he sits back down, nor the way Namjoon pats his back gently and shrugs.

The gesture is enough for Jungkook to pull back just for a minute and let the boring hospital chatter take over again.

He swirls his full wine and watches how the liquid inside makes patterns on the glass. He wants to squeeze it so hard it breaks. A familiar compulsion. He had a whole phase at university when he couldn’t drink from glass without squeezing or biting it. Tae had to replace everything in their kitchen with mugs.

‘So, the new system is working on the office computers but not the ones at the nurse’s stations so for certain records we still have to run between,’ Jimin is saying.

‘It’s ridiculous, it has been weeks now.’ Namjoon nods.

‘Exactly, as if we aren’t already running hours behind as it is, on top of it we have to jump between wards. And Kathy always sends me, you know what she is like.’

Namjoon laughs, ‘She’s terrifying. She had me nearly in tears telling me off about my handwriting once.’

‘And yours isn’t even that bad, honestly! Half the consultants are much worse,’ Jimin nudges his shoulder into Namjoon’s gently.

‘Is there more wine?’ Jungkook cuts in suddenly, wafting his now empty glass.

‘Um, no,’ Jimin answers, ‘Here, just have mine. I’ve had enough anyway.’

He pushes his glass over at Jungkook who doesn’t offer any graces and just grasps at it. He tips it into his own glass, sloshing some messily across the table.

Jimin stands up with a sigh but Jungkook interrupts him.

‘Don’t worry. It is just a little,’ he laughs and wipes the spilled wine with his sleeve.

The other two look at him disdainfully for a moment and then go back to their conversation. They seem to have decided to just ignore Jungkook’s bad behaviour. Perhaps they’re hoping he will leave.

In all honesty he wants to, but he also knows nothing good is waiting for him in his flat. He finishes his wine again and then lifts up the glass.

‘There’s no more,’ Jimin sighs.

‘No?’

‘No, that was everything.’

‘We’ve had plenty. Dinner was lovely Jimin.’ Namjoon soothes.

‘I have some. I’ll go get some shall I? Only have to go next door,’ Jungkook starts standing up and Jimin shoots Namjoon another apologetic look. ‘I’m sure what I have is much better than this anyway, let me go see.’

Jimin just grimaces.

Somehow, it winds Jungkook up more, that nothing he says is getting any reaction out of Jimin.

This is the man that smashed bottles all over his flat, threatened to punch him in the face and called him a posh wanker the second time he met him. Yet, Jungkook is being an arsehole in Jimin’s own home and he’s just sitting demurely by Namjoon’s side and looking cowed.

‘There’s no need, Jungkook. We’ve had enough wine.’

‘Oh, come on, thought this was a dinner party!’

‘Well, it’s after midnight. We both have to work tomorrow. I think we were both thinking of winding things up anyway,’ Namjoon says, his arm stretched behind Jimin’s seat.

‘Yes. Feel free to go drink your superior wine at yours, Jungkook,’ Jimin adds.

Finally, a little bite.

‘Don’t be boring!’ Jungkook laughs.

‘We’re not. You’re being obnoxious. You have been all night to be honest but I expected you would be. I’m sorry about this Namjoon.’ Jimin stands up, as if he’s about to usher Jungkook out.

‘Oh, there he is,’ Jungkook smirks ‘I wondered where the real you was. You’ve been acting all polite for Namjoon-hyung all evening. Mask is finally slipping is it-’

‘-have you considered I’m only rude to you and it is because you deserve it?’ Jimin cuts him off.

‘But it isn’t just me, is it? You drive everybody mad, make everybody suffer,’ Jungkook slurs.

‘What are you even talking about? Why don’t you just leave? You don’t even like me, you just accepted the invite to piss me off,’ Jimin flops back down with a sigh and crosses his arms.

Namjoon looks incredibly awkward and hovers on the edge of his seat.

‘No wonder Caleb hated you. You’re a nightmare,’ Jungkook throws his head back in a cruel laugh, ‘I guess you were always on his case just like you are mine.’

Jimin sucks in a breath and his face drops, the colour draining out of it. He sits up and places a shaking hand on the table.

‘Caleb?’

Jungkook looks at him, surprised by the tone in his voice.

‘Yes? Caleb, your neighbour. He was always moaning about you.’

‘Caleb. You knew Caleb?’

‘Yes? He left me the flat actually-‘

‘-You were close? He…hated me?’

Jimin’s face is deathly white and his last words come out almost like he’s holding in a sob.

‘Yes, we were close. Best friends. Every second email from him was about you, about how you were tormenting him.’

Jungkook laughs again but it is stilted this time, he’s losing momentum as he takes in the look on Jimin’s face. He can tell something is wrong though he isn’t ready to admit it. Namjoon too looks completely horrified.

‘He didn’t like me? I thought…I-’ the sob he was holding suddenly bursts out of Jimin’s lips. It is a haunting sound, half animal.

Then his face crumples into tears and he rushes out of the room, slamming his bedroom door behind him. It doesn’t block out the sound of him crying.

Namjoon gives Jungkook a look of utter disgust and then follows Jimin without a word.

Jungkook doesn’t know why but he stays sitting there at the table.

Maybe he wants to know if Jimin is ok.

Maybe he is too drunk to comprehend how badly things just went.

He can hear Jimin’s sobs slowly quieting and murmured words being exchanged. Jungkook doesn’t know how long he sits there, glued to the chair in self-loathing, but when Namjoon finally emerges he looks surprised and then livid to find Jungkook still there.

‘Get out. Now.’ He grits, towering over him.

Jungkook stumbles to his feet and rushes towards the front door, recognising immediately that Namjoon does not look in the mood to humour any more bullshit.

He makes it out to the balcony where he is fumbling around for his keys when he suddenly finds himself shoved into the wall. Big hands turn him around and hold him there.

Namjoon is fuming.

‘What the fuck is your problem, honestly?’ he spits out.

‘Calm down! I don’t know what that was back there but Jimin is always overreacting like this-‘

‘-over reacting? God, you’re a complete shit aren’t you? Total arsehole alcoholic writer stereotype. Guess I should’ve figured from your books. Looks like too many of the characters were based on reality,’ Jungkook laughs gently and shrugs in Namjoon’s grip, ‘Don’t fucking laugh at me. And whatever game you’re playing with this Caleb stuff – stop it immediately. I am not kidding.’

‘It’s not a game. I don’t even know why Jimin lost it. Surely, he knows Caleb hated him! I assumed it was mutual.’

‘Hated him? Well, he had a funny way of showing it. Jimin really cared about him. Put a lot of energy into him. He was really there for him…at the end.’

‘What?’ Jungkook looks up.

‘Honestly, this is sick whatever you’re doing. Just because you’re a fucking mess. But stay away from Jimin ok? And keep Caleb out of your mouth around him. He went through enough.’

He goes to let go of Jungkook’s collar but Jungkook sneers.

‘Went through enough, did he? Jesus. He was just his neighbour.’

Namjoon is immediately back at his throat.

‘He was not just his neighbour,’ he takes a deep breath, seeming to muster enough calmness to keep talking through gritted teeth, ‘You know it was Jimin that found him, right? Who realised something was up and broke in. That he held him until the ambulance came even though when they did, they said he’d been dead two days already? Can you even imagine what that was like? Jimin was the last person that spoke to him, tried to get him to go outside for a walk? Where were you, huh? Jimin is just coming to terms with it and I will not let you fuck around with him – and for what reason I cannot even begin to work out.’

Namjoon’s hands at his throat are white at the knuckles and trembling with rage.

Jungkook just stutters. Something isn’t adding up in the jumbled puzzle pieces he thought he had figured out.

And he’s drunk. And his head spins.

Seeming to realise the fight has gone out of him, Namjoon finally lets Jungkook go and turns back around to close up Jimin’s front door. Then he gives Jungkook one last glare, hisses, ‘Stay the fuck away from him,’ marches to the lift and is gone.

Jungkook wobbles on the balcony trying to make sense of what just happened.

He suddenly feels incredibly drunk. The streetlights and traffic noise swell at him from the night air, throbbing like a pulse, and underneath it all he swears he can still hear Jimin’s small sobs.

He stumbles into his flat, knocking into the coffee table and then the edge of the sofa, and then lurches towards Caleb’s door.

It’s just the same as always inside, doused in blue light. Dark and messy.

Jungkook kicks off his shoes and creeps into Caleb’s sheets. For a second, he thinks how strange it is to smell Caleb there when they never even met and then he bursts into tears.

At some point, he falls asleep.

*          *          *          *          *

When Jungkook wakes up in the morning he is face down and half hanging off the bed. He immediately feels terrible and groans, trying to push himself up on his hands.

The room smells like sour wine.

As he opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is a line of vomit trailing down the side of the bed and onto the carpet. It is bright red, like the wine from last night, and repulsive.

‘Fuck,’ he hisses jumping to his feet, ‘Ah fuck, ah no.’

He rushes out of the room and grabs a cloth, some tissues and some bathroom cleaner from under the sink, and then tries desperately to clean up the mess. But the tissues just break apart and make everything worse. The stubborn wine stain won’t shift and the smell is persistent.

‘Ah Caleb, I’m so sorry,’ Jungkook leans forward on his knees and rests his forehead onto a clean bit of the mattress. He starts crying into it as it dawns on him he is going to have to change the sheets.

Nothing has changed in the room in months, it is exactly how Caleb left it – and now it is ruined because Jungkook is a horrible mess.

He cries the whole time he strips the bed and then still as he tries to wash the sheets in the shower. But the stain won’t budge and he concedes that they’re ruined and shoves them into a bin bag, trying not to feel like he’s stuffing a part of his friend in there.

His hangover hits him like a truck as he does, so he dumps the bag in the hall to deal with later.

He goes back to Caleb’s room and cracks open the window a bit to shift the smell of sick and chemicals. Then he sits on the end of the bed guiltily and looks at the computer.

‘It doesn’t make sense, what Namjoon said. Or Jimin crying. Does it? What did I miss?’ The computer just hums. Jungkook looks grey in the blue light, his eyes drawn and sunken. ‘Am I the arsehole? I wish you could tell me’

Jungkook eventually stumbles to his own bed and manages a few hours of fitful sleep but he can’t settle properly. He’s plagued by shame at how badly the evening went, just as he knew he would be. It would be a familiar feeling even if he hadn’t behaved so badly. It happens pretty much every time he socialises with new people, he spends hours and days afterwards picking over every little word he said and wishing he had talked less, that he had just sat back and listened.

But, on top of his usual shame, he has the image of Jimin crying in his mind. Jimin crying because of Jungkook, because of what he said about Caleb.

And not just the image actually, the sound too.

When Jimin sobbed it ripped out of his throat in a guttural way. There was no way that wasn’t a genuine reaction of pure devastation. The sound of it rings in Jungkook’s mind and he ends up physically face down on the sofa, palms in his eyes, trying to block it out.

Naturally, his mind starts going over every conversation he’d ever had with Caleb and every little mention of Jimin.

In the end he pulls out his phone and starts trawling through their messages. Through their emails. Through twitter. Through endless streams of whatsapps.

It’s painful.

Jungkook hasn’t read any of the messages since Caleb died and he isn’t ready to start, not properly. So, he just text searches the word ‘neighbour’ and also ‘suffer’ because he specifically remembers that being something Caleb always said: He always makes me suffer.

And there it is in black and white.

 

‘Saw the neighbour today. God, he always makes me suffer.’

‘Couldn’t get the neighbour to leave today, honestly that man.’

‘The neighbour did yoga on the balcony this afternoon – will the suffering never end?’

‘Neighbour got his foot on my neck as always, I think he was made specially to make me suffer.’

 

At first, Jungkook feels vindicated. He hadn’t made it up.

But, as he starts to read the messages again, he wavers a little. He isn’t wrong. Caleb talks about Jimin endlessly and he does seem like he is complaining. But reading the messages like this, all together and all at once, they form a slightly different picture.

He starts to realise he might have missed the sarcasm, that he hadn’t picked up on the nuance in Caleb’s British way of expressing things. Because as he reads everything again, they all seem to have a different meaning.

Caleb’s exasperation starts to sound jokey and actually a bit fond.

Jungkook’s heart pounds in his chest as he marries this information with Jimin’s devastation when Jungkook had cruelly laughed about how Caleb hated him.

As a different picture starts to emerge Jungkook feels sick again.

He thinks of Namjoon’s words too.

They were close.

It was Jimin that found him.

It dawns on Jungkook just how fucking horribly wrong he potentially got this whole thing.

Immediately, he thinks of Jimin next door right at that moment. Probably completely devastated that someone he cared for secretly thought badly of him.

Jungkook reads through some of the messages again and a lot of things start to make sense in light of this new context.

Caleb had been an interesting character. He worked as a spook. The classic case - a young man with a clean record, recruited by MI5 straight out of his exceptional maths degree from Cambridge.

He was obsessive, introverted, and isolated. He lived and breathed his job from his soulless, empty flat that he bought so he could walk to work and that he never even bothered to furnish properly because he spent most of his free time at his computer.

Caleb had never spoken like he was close to anybody else aside from Jungkook. He hated his family. It’s why Jungkook had ended up the recipient of his estate through his will.

‘I didn’t trust anyone else with my stuff’ he had typed in his last message ‘just chuck it all out. I’m sorry to do it to you.’

As Jungkook pictures him, what he knew about him, he starts to see the possibility of a different dynamic between Jimin and Caleb than he had assumed. As he rereads Caleb’s messages it sounds more like Jimin was on Caleb’s case trying to cheer him up, trying to get him to do stuff and to enjoy life. He also senses that Caleb didn’t really mind it, was fond even, but just grumbling about it in a typically British way.

He was the last person that spoke to him, he had tried to get him to go outside for a walk.

Jungkook puts his head in his hands. He might be the worst person alive.

Caleb was difficult towards the end. Even more withdrawn than usual. Jungkook had been busy and their conversations had been hard to maintain and had tailed off. He’d half given up in frustration.

But not Jimin. Apparently Jimin was there, days before the end, still trying.

It is with an absolute stomach of lead that Jungkook realises he is going to have to talk to Jimin.

Jungkook might be many things but he isn’t someone that can leave something like this unsaid. He can’t leave Jimin thinking Caleb hated him when he quite clearly didn’t. Jungkook thinks of the absolute devastation on Jimin’s face. The sobs he heard through the wall until he fell asleep. He can’t leave Jimin like that.

But that doesn’t mean Jungkook is quick to act on it. He fucks around for several more hours putting it off. Drinking coffee and trying to force some bread down his throat to ward off the hangover and nausea.

In the end, he remembers Jimin said he had work and he doesn’t want him to have to go through a shift without knowing the truth. So, he takes one last helpless breath and goes and knocks on his door.

Jimin’s flat is quiet and he takes a while to answer the door. When he does, he takes one look at Jungkook and goes to slam it, but Jungkook stops it with his foot.

‘Listen, please listen. I’m not here to fight or be an arsehole.’

‘Honestly, fuck off Jungkook.’ Jimin shoves the door against his foot as hard as he can. Jungkook just starts rambling, realising his time is limited.

‘I was wrong. About Caleb. He didn’t hate you. I got everything wrong. I shouldn’t have said it anyway. Even if he did. But he didn’t. I thought he did, I wasn’t just being a prick, well not about that, but he didn’t. He didn’t. I’m sorry. Please just give me two minutes. Let me explain, then I’ll go away.’

Jimin takes his weight off the door and just stands there looking at Jungkook, he doesn’t say a word, just stares.

He looks absolutely ruined, like he hasn’t slept at all. His face is totally grey and still hung with the remnants of devastation.

‘I’m sorry Jimin. I really am. I was a prick and not just about Caleb. But anyway, you know that about me already, right?’

‘Get to the point and then fuck off.’

‘I was wrong about the Caleb bit. He really did message me about you, all the time. He mentioned you basically every day. But I reread his messages this morning, after your reaction last night and something Namjoon said. I thought there must be something else going on so I reread the messages and realised, well I got the wrong end of the stick. I think I misread his tone, you know? Or maybe I didn’t get the sarcasm. Anyway, he sort of messaged these little half moans about you but they weren’t genuine, they’re quite fond really. I think? It is hard to explain. Can I show you a few?’

Jimin nods, his face still confused, and Jungkook pulls out his phone and calls up a few messages. He shows Jimin a few examples of what he meant.

‘See? I think I just got it wrong from the beginning so I never picked up on the context after that. To be honest it’s been so long, you’ve always just been this figure in my head giving Caleb shit. I guess I stopped reading them properly. Anyway, I'm really sorry about last night. About upsetting you. I’ll go now, I just didn’t want to leave you thinking he hated you. Namjoon… Namjoon said you were really there for him at the end. I’m glad you were.’

Jimin makes eye contact with him for the first time and Jungkook desperately wants to pull away from it. But he doesn’t, he needs Jimin to know he means it.

‘I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you talk, when sober anyway.’

Jungkook doesn’t really understand why that’s Jimin’s reaction.

‘Oh. Well. It’s a problem,’ he shrugs.

Jimin sighs, letting out a breath he had clearly been holding.

‘Thank you, Jungkook. Thank you for clearing it up. I really- I really cared for him a lot. I really tried,’ his eyes fill with tears and Jungkook nods quickly. He isn’t really sure how to handle this so he looks away. ‘Is it why you didn’t like me, from the beginning?’ Jimin asks after a few seconds.

‘Oh, yes, mostly. I had this line in my head he always makes me suffer, it’s what Caleb always used to say about you. And I was angry to be honest, after he died. I felt like you must be responsible for it in some way. Like you had been tormenting him. I got quite obsessed about it actually. I wanted to meet you and make you suffer back.’

He feels like he shouldn’t admit how insane he really is but Jimin seems to take it well and nods at him, leaning on the door frame.

‘That sounds like grief, Jungkook,’ Jungkook looks up at him and they make eye contact. Jimin isn’t smiling but his face is softer, ‘Say the line again, that he always said to you?’

Jungkook is confused but answers, ‘he always makes me suffer.’

To his surprise Jimin laughs a bit and then puts his hand over his mouth as if to hold it in. Jungkook looks at him questioningly.

‘Sorry. Sorry. I know laughing is inappropriate, it's just that phrase. It was kind of a joke between us.’

‘It was?’

‘Uh, yeah. So, when Caleb first moved in he you know…tried it on with me-‘

‘-what?’

‘Yeah and, well I didn’t like him like that so nothing ever happened, but he always joked about it ever since. To make things less awkward, I guess. It was a bit flirty, like, if I tried to get him to do yoga or, we once went to the hammam, and it’s kinda embarrassing but I’d be like bent over in leggings or something and he’d go ‘oo Jimin you love to make me suffer, you always make me suffer’.’

Jungkook’s mouth drops open. It’s a lot of information to take in.

‘Caleb was gay?’ is what he manages to answer.

‘Um, yeah. Duh,’ Jimin replies, a laugh almost crossing his lips again.

‘How did I not know that? I’m gay? How is that not something we ever talked about?’

‘You’re gay?’ Jimin asks, looking a bit surprised.

‘Yes?!’

‘Oh, ok. You’re just…oh, actually ok no that makes a lot of sense now I think about it.’

‘I thought it was an open secret? Here in London anyway. Korea likes to have selective hearing.’

‘You forget I hadn’t really heard of you, like you seem to think I should have.’

They almost smile at each other, but don’t.

‘I can’t believe we were basically best friends but I never knew he was gay.’ Jungkook is actually quite sad about it. It is something they could have shared together.

‘I think he kept it on the down low to be honest. You know, it is actually only really recent that you’re allowed to work for MI5 and be openly LGBT? I couldn’t believe it when he told me, it made you more at risk of blackmail apparently, or some bullshit.’

‘Well, look at what they did to Turing. Wait, hang on, you knew what he did? You knew Caleb was a spook?’

‘Yes, it was kind of obvious. He didn’t ever properly confirm it but it became sort of a joke between us. And we used to walk to work together sometimes, I mean we all know what that building is don’t we? He couldn’t really deny it after that.’

Jungkook nods. He is reeling from all the information he has taken on in the last few minutes. He stands there for a moment and then starts to take a few steps back from Jimin’s door.

‘Anyway, I better go. I just wanted you to know that about Caleb, and yeah…’

Jimin nods ‘Thank you.’

They both stand there awkwardly for a beat and then Jungkook does a small wave and disappears back into his front door.

*          *          *          *          *

Over the next few days, nothing really changes and for some reason Jungkook is disappointed. He had thought it might but Jimin still doesn’t seem like he wants to be friends.

When Jungkook thinks about it, it kind of makes sense.

Jungkook’s dislike of Jimin had been based on him giving Caleb a hard time – something it turns out he hadn’t done. Quite the opposite in fact.

It was even surprisingly relieving to Jungkook because his mild fascination with Jimin (that was making him feel guilty, like he was betraying Caleb) is now released from pressure and he’s allowed to like him.

On the other side of things though, Jimin’s dislike of Jungkook was based on Jungkook being an actual dick – something that hasn’t changed. Jungkook had been pretentious, uncaring and a terrible, inconsiderate neighbour. On top of which he had then turned up at Jimin’s house, been rude to him and embarrassed him in front of Namjoon.

Jimin appeared glad Jungkook had straightened things out about Caleb, but it didn’t seem to change what he thought of the other.

Jungkook leans back on the sofa and sighs, rubbing his forehead. His laptop whirs uselessly on his lap. He just finished a skype call with his mother in which he told her he wouldn’t be going to Busan at the end of December. He hadn’t missed a year since he moved to London and she had told him as much with judgement dripping from her tone.

But his decision was the right one. Things might have been a little better over the last week or so but Jungkook still didn’t feel like any good could possibly come from spending a few weeks under his mother’s gaze. She was too smart and far too honest. Two minutes in her presence and Jungkook would have to face up to a lot of things he simply wasn’t ready to.

He closes his laptop and sighs again.

As he sits and wallows, he hears Jimin coming home. It's only 2 pm so he must have done an early shift. Jungkook stares at the wall where their flats join. He can picture Jimin’s now he’s been inside it. He can picture Jimin pushing his feet into his slippers and dumping his keys in the little bowl, hanging his coat up. Shuffling through to the kitchen and leaning at the open fridge door.

Sure enough, on schedule, Jungkook hears the sound of Jimin’s microwave start up and a small smile spreads across his face.

He wants to see him.

The feeling hits Jungkook with force.

But he needs an excuse.

He goes to the kitchen and picks two bottles of wine out of the rack (a nice, underrated Shiraz and a Rueda) and, before he has a chance to stop himself, he knocks on Jimin’s front door.

Jimin answers it, still in his uniform, and then leans on the doorframe his arms crossed. His shirt is different, dark blue now, which is probably something Jungkook shouldn’t notice but he speaks before he thinks.

‘Your uniform is different. Dark blue.’

Jimin looks down as if he didn’t know and then back at Jungkook with a raised eyebrow ‘I got promoted. What do you want, Jungkook?’

‘Um, well done?’ Jimin just nods. ‘I guess this is well timed then,’ he holds out the wine bottles, ‘I got these for you. I drank a lot of yours. When I was here. And also, as a sorry.’

Jimin reaches out and takes them, reading the labels idly.

‘I assume these are good wines. They look nice. Thank you.’

And then he just looks at Jungkook as if asking if he wants anything else. Jungkook crumples under his stare.

‘I guess, I’ll go then.’

‘Ok, goodnight,’ there’s a glimmer of a smirk under Jimin’s lips but it doesn’t emerge.

Jungkook opens and closes his mouth, then nods awkwardly and rushes back into his flat.

They carry on in the same way for the next week.

Every time they cross paths Jungkook tries to engage Jimin in conversation but fails, the latter always being polite but never forthcoming. When they pass on the stairs Jimin just nods, says hi and keeps going. When Jungkook sits on the balcony as Jimin comes home, he just says ‘evening Jungkook, alright?’ and then vanishes into his flat without waiting for an answer.

It is morphing itself into a new challenge for Jungkook to obsess over.

He’s desperate for Jimin to open up to him.

Maybe he got a glimmer of what it could be like to have him speak to you fondly after he watched him be so attentive to Namjoon.

Maybe he is just sad and bored.

Either way, at the weekend, he finds himself once again on Jimin’s doorstep with a little parcel tucked under his arm.

It’s one of Jimin’s days off. Jungkook knows this because Jimin has been playing music all day and singing along, which is what he does when he cleans his flat.

After a few minutes Jimin opens the door with a face that already says he knew it was going to be Jungkook standing there. Perhaps he heard him leave his own flat.

Jungkook is momentarily thrown off by Jimin’s appearance. Even after living next door to each other for two months, he’s only seen Jimin out of his uniform a couple of times. Today he is wearing black sweats and a soft white tee-shirt so huge it hangs off his shoulder at the neckline. Jungkook can see a little mole on his collarbone.

‘Hello. Alright?’ he says simply and Jungkook looks back up at his face immediately.

‘I bought you something.’

It is a habit of his that Jimin is starting to pick up on – when he is nervous Jungkook cuts right to the chase and forgets all preamble. He smiles softly as Jungkook pushes a small package at him.

‘Is this a Christmas present?’

‘Oh. No. Well, it is if that will make you accept it.’

Jimin pulls the package out of the small paper bag it was in. It’s a brand-new Samsung. In the box.

‘A phone?’

‘Yours is still broken right? Jimin nods. ‘So, this is to replace it.’

‘Are you admitting it was your fault I broke my last one?’

‘No. I’m saying happy Christmas hyung, here’s a present.’

‘You know buying me shit isn’t going to make me like you?’

‘You don’t like me?’ Jungkook blanches.

‘Not really? I feel like we made that quite obvious the first few weeks we lived here. I thought it was mutual?’

‘Oh, I just thought-‘

‘- just over a week ago you were in my flat being obnoxious and calling my wine shit-‘

‘-I know, I just-‘

‘-look, I’m glad if you don’t want to keep up the little battle we had going on - but I still think you’re a posh wanker and it won’t change just cause you start giving me presents.’

‘Right.’

‘Have you stopped smoking on the balcony when my laundry is out there?’

‘Yes.’ Jungkook actually stopped ages ago but had kept pretending to for a while just to be an arsehole.

‘Well, that’s a better present than the phone.’

Jungkook takes in Jimin’s posture, he’s giving him a lecture, but the phone is firmly tucked under his arm.

‘You’re going to keep it though, right?’ he tries to keep the grin on his face mild.

Jimin’s lip twitches.

‘I’m going to keep it because I would be stupid not to. It’s a good phone, way better than I could afford and it’s no skin off my nose if you’re dumb enough to buy it for me,’ he counters. ‘What, you thought I’d be all Tiny Tim and go oh no sir I couldn’t possibly? I’m not a mug.’

They smile at each other gently.

‘That’s your second good reference.’

‘What?’

‘Tiny Tim? A Christmas Carol…’

‘Jungkook, honestly, do you think all working-class people are illiterate? If so, please save us both some time and let me know now…’

‘No! It’s just Dickens, I-’ he fumbles, ‘I was just trying to keep the conversation going.’

‘I’m going to let you off this once, because you’re foreign. I don’t know about Korea but all British children have been forced to read Christmas Carol at least seven times through school. Everyone knows Tiny Tim.’

‘Muppets. Muppets Christmas Carol. We, er, we had that.’

‘Naturally. A classic.’

They share a smile again.

‘It’s freezing. Can I go inside now?’ Jimin asks.

‘Sure. Sure. Night hyung.’

They’re both smiling as they shut their front doors.

*          *          *          *          *

‘They can’t really do that though, can they?’ Tae lurches forward, jerking his arm dramatically and sloshing some of his cocktail across the table. Jin gently lowers Tae’s arm and mops the drink up with a napkin, all while Tae keeps ranting. ‘-and does it even matter anyway now? You’re you! You could re-sign somewhere else.’

‘That is true though, surely?’ Jin looks up from cleaning duty and adds. Somehow, he isn’t half as drunk as his husband.

Or Jungkook for that matter, who is as drunk as Tae but in the opposite way. Instead of ranting and gesticulating he is sad, slumped in his seat spinning his glass slowly between his fingers.

He had a very tense conversation with Misha today in which he had gently broached the subject of his next novel being in Korean.

‘We just don’t represent international authors, simple as that. And you’re under contract for two more books.’

He appreciated his friend’s support and drunk indignation – but it seemed his agency very much could demand he scrap the book he’d been writing in Korean and go back to English.

‘I can’t believe you’re doing this to me a week before Christmas JK,’ Misha had sighed, ‘Look, let’s pretend we never had this conversation. Go have that break we talked about last time we met. And then we will see where we are.’

So here he was drinking his sorrows, feeling like the progress he had made, the tiny flame of joy he had found again, had been extinguished before it even really got going.

‘I don’t think it really matters who I am. They can’t bend the rules for me.’ He sighs.

‘Well, that’s bullshit,’ Tae yells, far too loudly for the wine bar they were in, ‘What is even the point of being famous if people don’t bend rules for you?’

‘A good point to be honest,’ Jin smiles and ruffles Tae’s hair, who responds by sinking into his shoulder and pouting for a kiss.

‘We should go dancing!’ Tae grins, ‘get Kook a nice boy before he’s too drunk to get hard.’

Jungkook balls up a napkin and throws it into his smirking face.

‘I’m not really sure I could be bothered.’ He answers.

‘With dancing or a boy?’

‘Either?’

‘Come one, it’s the payday before Christmas. It’s going to be fun as shit out there.’ Tae whines.

‘You should definitely find a nice boy though, Kookie. It’s been months.’ Jin adds. ‘As your big brother it is my duty to tell you that that is an unacceptable drought.’

‘Oh god, it has not been months. Just because I don’t tell you two every time I hook up.’

Tae looks mortally offended.

‘You totally tell me, right?’ He asks desperately. ‘Don’t you? You better had, Kook, I’m married. I should be told about all sordid hook ups.’

‘Right. You guys definitely get more than I do.’

‘Of course we do!’ Tae laughs and reaches up to kiss Jin again.

‘Uh, fine. Stop. Tae go buy shots and I’ll let you play on my Grindr,’ Jungkook offers before he ends up sitting in a booth with a couple making out.

Tae agrees immediately and skips off for shots, grinning wickedly.

‘That was a big mistake, you know. He won’t let you back out. He’s going to cause carnage in your dms.’ Jin mutters with a wry smile.

‘Who knows, maybe he’ll pick someone better than I would.’

Several hours, drinks and terrible dances later, Jungkook finds himself trying to crawl up the stairs to his flat. He’s managing a sort of half crawl, half stumble. His hands fumble on the steps in front of him, as he tries desperately to prevent himself from smashing face first into them.

He isn’t even entirely sure how he got home. The night hasn’t even ended and his memory of it is already patchy.

With sheer will power, he claws himself four flights, despite rapidly failing vision, and manages to stumble to his front door. But then, he can’t find his keys. He flops down to the floor and starts pulling everything out of every pocket in his coat and jeans, but nothing looks like his keys to his blurry eyesight.

For a while he leans with his back against his front door, slumped to the ground. He picks things up one at a time squinting at them madly to see if they are his keys but with no luck.

*          *          *          *          *

A couple of hours later Jimin finds him there, slumped against his front door, completely passed out with sick down the front of his shirt.

‘Fuck, Jungkook!’ he rushes forward and props him upright, Jungkook groans, at least showing he is alive, but he doesn’t wake up.

‘Shit. Honestly.’ Jimin grabs him by the chin and checks his throat, then lifts an eyelid to look at his pupils. ‘You’re trashed. Jungkook, are you just drunk or on something else?’

Jungkook doesn’t reply, his head thumping back against the door when Jimin lets go of it.

He looks around at the scene. An odd arrangement of stuff is scattered around Jungkook’s legs; his wallet and phone, cigarettes, condoms, paper sachets of sugar, receipts, a lighter. His keys.

Jimin sighs.

‘Come on then you absolute fuck, let’s get you to bed,’ he huffs as he stands and starts pulling Jungkook out of the way of the door and bending down to retrieve the keys.

Luckily for both of them Jimin is way stronger than he looks, with obscene core strength from years of martial arts and yoga, and, on the other side, Jungkook isn’t as big or tall as he often looks, having been mostly aided by stomper boots and a grumpy attitude.

As a nurse, Jimin also has more experience than he would like in manoeuvring drunk people into bed. In fact, Jungkook isn’t even his first drunk of the night, seen as Jimin as only just finished a shift in A&E.

He stuffs Jungkook’s things into his own tote bag and somehow manages to drag him into the dark flat, though both of them bash into the walls of the corridor several times.

It wakes Jungkook up, though, when he raises his head and grins sloppily at Jimin he does wonder if it might be easier if he knocked him out again.

‘Hello neighbour Jimin.’

‘Hello.’

‘Jimin-ssi.’

‘Yes.’

‘Jimin-sssssssssiiii.’

‘Yes.’

‘Jaman-ssssssssssiiiiiii.’

‘You’re just enjoying saying it aren’t you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Now you’re awake, do you think you can walk?’

‘No.’

‘Right.’

Somehow, Jimin manages to manoeuvre them to the back of the flat and kicks the bedroom door open.

‘Wrong room! Wrong room!’ Jungkook suddenly starts yelling and frantically trying to stand up but is too late as the door bangs open and against the wall.

Jimin should’ve remembered which was Caleb’s room.

They both fall silent and stare at it. Jungkook leaning on the doorframe, Jimin frozen next to him.

‘His stuff. His…room. Jungkook-‘

‘-don’t go in. You’re not allowed in,’ Jungkook almost sobs.

Jimin isn’t sure he would want to. He just stands and gapes at the room, exactly how Caleb left it except for the stripped and empty bed.

Even his computer is still on.

Fuck.

‘Please, please don’t go in,’ Jungkook sounds close to tears and Jimin tears his eyes from the room and looks at him.

It hits him then as he sees the pain carved across Jungkook’s face. Jungkook has deliberately left the room like this. He has been living with it every day. He watches for a moment as the panic starts to turn to pain.

‘Please. Please,’ Jungkook is half whispering now.

‘Ssh. Shush. I won’t,’ Jimin leans forwards and pulls the door shut, scooting Jungkook back to leaning on his shoulder as he does, ‘let’s get you in bed, ok?’

Jungkook just nods, tears starting to run silently down his cheeks.

With a bit of effort, Jimin manages to get him to the right bedroom and sits him on the edge of the bed.

‘You were sick on your shirt. You need to take it off.’

Jungkook doesn’t even look up, he just raises his arms like a child. Jimin sighs and pushes his arms down then squats in front of him to start undoing his buttons.

He wants to mention Caleb’s room.

He thinks he wants to mention it, but Jungkook looks like he won’t handle that well. His eyes are wild, his bottom lip trembling and his cheeks wet with tears.

Finished with the buttons Jimin stands up and slips Jungkook’s shirt off him. He has a tee-shirt underneath and it doesn’t look like there is any sick on it.

‘Can you do your trousers? It won’t be comfortable sleeping in jeans.’

Jungkook nods and stands up, unzipping his jeans and letting them drop to the floor. A sob catches in his throat. Just five minutes ago he was giggling, and now this. Jimin goes into nurse mode, soothing and matter of fact. He doesn’t acknowledge the tears but he is tender.

He steers Jungkook by his shoulders into the bed and props him up on pillows so he won’t choke in his sleep. By the time he has pulled the covers over him, Jungkook has passed out again.

Jimin looks at him for a moment and then leaves the bedroom.

He wanders to the kitchen for a glass of water for Jungkook and he is struck by how empty the flat is.

It is the first time he has been inside, since Caleb lived here, and it isn’t what he expected. There’s basically nothing there. Even in the kitchen, he finds the cupboards bare and the fridge basically just a wine and beer cooler.

He thinks with a jolt of Caleb’s room, still made up and full of his stuff. The room of a dead man is more full of life than the rest of the flat where Jungkook is trying to live.

On his way back to the bedroom Jimin pauses in the living room. The last time he stood here had been when he found Caleb dead. He pulls in a shaking breath and clears his mind before it fills it with unwanted images.

He pauses again as he passes Caleb’s bedroom door. Now that Jungkook has passed out, he wouldn’t know if Jimin went in, but he chooses not to break his trust. He isn’t really sure he even wants to go in. Though, he does run his palm over the door as he walks back to Jungkook’s bedroom.

He puts the water on the bedside table and then stops to look down at him. Jungkook’s hair is plastered over his face with sweat, his lip popped out in a pout and his skin pale.

Still pretty though. Pretty, and fragile and broken.

‘You’re a right fucking mess, aren’t you?’ Jimin sighs, as he pushes his hair off his forehead and smooths it behind his ear, ‘a right fucking mess’.

Chapter Text

Jungkook doesn’t give a shit about Christmas, but this year is still the first one he has ever spent alone. He doesn’t do anything special. He just goes for a walk, knowing that the streets of London would be quiet.

There’s no snow but it is frosty, everything crisp and white tipped, his breath visible.

Jungkook walks aimlessly through Vauxhall and then along the river. It gets quieter the further he goes into town. By Albert Embankment it’s deathly quiet with just the occasional jogger huffing past leaving a trail of white breath in their wake.

On his left, the Thames swirls deep and grey, colour matched to the sky above, and on his right the high stone walls of the embankment, behind them St Thomas’s Hospital.

Jimin’s hospital.

Jungkook stops on a bench opposite the Houses of Parliament. He doesn’t know what Jimin is doing for Christmas. They haven’t talked much over the last few days. Not since Jimin had to put him to bed after he passed out on the balcony and he has very little recollection of that.

Maybe Jimin is at home with his family for Christmas. Or maybe he is working. He might even be there now, just a few hundred feet away from where Jungkook is sitting.

It genuinely isn’t why Jungkook came here, to be near Jimin. He just wanted to walk somewhere that would usually be crowded and take the opportunity to enjoy London without the crowds.

His eyes fall on Westminster bridge, it looks wrong somehow without even one looming red bus rumbling across it. The Houses of Parliament too are quiet and dark. He looks at his watch, if he waits another twenty minutes he’ll be right there when the bells toll.

It’s worth the wait.

When he is in company, when he is interviewed, or even when he is out drinking in wine bars with Taehyung, Jungkook would always, always be scornful about enjoying literally anything in central London.

You learn pretty quickly on moving to the city – Londoners don’t hang out in central. Londoners don’t like to appreciate anything a ‘tourist’ might enjoy. Things like Big Ben. Or the London eye. Or Trafalgar square.

If you want to pass the test, you pretend you don’t either. But secretly, Jungkook can’t help loving Big Ben.

It isn’t even the sight of it, which isn’t anything special, but the sound, the tone. The precise way it strikes the hour is just so recognisable.

Jungkook can feel it in his bones.

It rattles something right into his ribcage and he feels part of something.

So, he sits on that bench on Albert Embankment on Christmas day, completely alone, long enough to hear the chimes of Big Ben twice.

He’s cold to the core when he finally gets home, having to pull on socks, a hat and two jumpers – heating cranked up full blast – before the chill starts to ease.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook is in his own world, making coffee, when the doorbell rings, scares the shit out of him and causes him to tip an entire mug of scalding coffee over his stomach.

As the pain sears across his skin, he yanks his tee-shirt off, peering down to examine his torso. The skin is blushed red but seems ok.

The doorbell goes again, repeatedly, and the pain and shock are replaced by anger as he strides to the door, his soaked tee-shirt still crumpled in his fist and his mouth ready to shout at whoever is on the other side.

He flings the door open and pauses at the sight of Jimin.

Jimin has never knocked on Jungkook’s door before. Now, there he is with his cheeks flushed red, a pair of tinsel alien antennae bobbing on his head and a stack of Tupperware in his outstretched hands.

Both of them pause with their mouths half open, their words dying on their lips, and a shared look of surprise. It takes a moment for Jungkook to remember he is shirtless.

‘Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs Robinson?’ Jimin finally offers.

‘I think you’re a little old for a graduate, surely…?’

‘Ouch. Well, in all honesty you’re hardly MILF material, so.’

Jungkook grins ‘I think this was your worst literary reference yet.’

‘One day, you’re going to realise all my references have one thing in common.’

‘Which is?’

‘All the books they come from have a film adaptation.’

They both laugh.

‘Is that why you never quote mine?’

‘Oh, not at all. Anyway, we’ve been side-tracked. Why are you naked?’

‘You scared the shit out of me. I spilled coffee on myself.’ Jungkook lifts his soaked tee-shirt as proof.

‘Did it get on your skin? Was it boiling?’ Jimin suddenly looks concerned.

‘Hmm...’

‘Show me,’ Jungkook hesitates and Jimin rolls his eyes, ‘I’m a nurse, Jungkook, show me.’ Jungkook scoffs and lifts his arm to reveal the pink skin on his lower belly and around his hip. Jimin leans forwards to look at it, his cold fingertips fluttering lightly over Jungkook’s flesh. ‘Ok, that’s ok. You did good getting your tee-shirt off. No broken skin or blistering. It will be fine.’

‘Thanks. Shame about my tee-shirt though, I’ll have to throw it away. It’s one of my favourites.’ Jungkook pouts.

‘Throw it away?’

‘Yes?’

‘Jungkook, what are you talking about? It is a coffee stain; it should come out!’

‘Ah no, by the time the laundry service picks it up it’ll be ruined.’

‘Are you kidding?’

‘No?’

‘How about you – and bear with me here – wash it yourself?!’

‘Oh, I um, I’m no good at that. I tried that with…a few things. In the shower. It didn’t work.’

Jimin stares at him for a moment with an open mouth. ‘In the shower?’

‘Hmm.’

‘Move.’

‘What?’

‘Move!’

Without waiting, Jimin shoves past Jungkook, grabbing his wrist as he passes and dragging him into the kitchen. He dumps the forgotten Tupperware on the counter and kicks open a cupboard door in the lower cabinets.

With a dramatic hand gesture, he motions for Jungkook to look inside.

It’s a washing machine.

‘Oh. I didn’t know I had that.’

‘Clearly.’

‘How did you?’

‘I… I used to do Caleb’s washing sometimes, when things were bad.’

They both pause and then Jungkook looks up and makes eye contact.

‘That’s really nice of you,’ he says.

‘Hmm.’

‘Ok, so you’re about to mock me but I don’t know how to use this.’ Jungkook points at the machine.

‘I suspected as much,’ Jimin puts a hand on his hip, ‘looks like I’m going to be the MILF today after all. Go get some more washing. We might as well do a whole load.’

The gesture makes the antennae on Jimin’s head bob and Jungkook can’t help a little laugh escaping.

‘Ok. But first I have to know why – before we got distracted – why you were at my door on Christmas day with a stack of food and those fancy ears, ' he points at Jimin’s hair.

‘Ah fuck,’ Jimin sighs, reaching up and pulling the antennae off, ‘I walked all the way home with them on. Bet people were pissing themselves. Well, it is Christmas, I hope I made their day. I was wearing them to inject some festive cheer into clearing up sick and shit and being harassed by drunk people.’

He slaps the antennae onto the counter ‘And the food. Well. Funny story. I was at work today, obviously,’ he gestures at his uniform, ‘and, as is their way whenever I work on a holiday, my parents had my brother-in-law drop off a stack of food for me. Now picture my surprise when I am given a message from my mother that actually half of the food is for you.’

‘What? For me?’

‘Yes. So, what has happened here is I have clearly mentioned you – foolishly – to my mother and I can tell you exactly what has occurred in her brain. First, upon hearing about a young Korean man all alone she has immediately decided she needs to feed you. Naturally. Secondly, I strongly suspect she has heard the words rich, gay and single and is attempting to score me a husband.’ Jimin sighs dramatically.

Jungkook chokes at the last bit and looks away awkwardly, when he looks back Jimin is smirking.

‘Your parents don’t mind that you’re gay?’ is for some reason the response Jungkook goes for. Probably because he can’t say the same for his own.

‘No, of course not.’ Jimin shrugs ‘I actually think my mum is glad. She has said several times that she could never have borne to see another woman in my heart.’

‘Oof wow that’s …a lot.’

‘It’s problematic, sure, sure. Suits me though, I happen to like being adored.’

‘Yes, I got that vibe.’ Jungkook grins. ‘So, show me the food then. Let’s see if it is sufficient to score you a rich husband.’

‘Braised short ribs. Rice balls. Dumplings. Kimchi.’ Jimin lists as he picks up each Tupperware at a time and peers into it. ‘This one looks like vegetable rice…and this one is apparently pasta.’

‘Wow. Fuck. Ok. Sure, your bride price has been accepted.’ Jungkook reaches for the ribs without hesitation and begins prising open the lid.

‘No way,’ Jimin snatches it back, ‘laundry first.’

‘No! I don’t concentrate well while hungry, just some ribs…and maybe some rice, and well obviously some kimchi.’ Jungkook argues, trying to pull the food back from Jimin’s fingers.

Jimin rolls his eyes, ‘some of this is mine, remember.’

‘Oh, you haven’t divided it up yet?’

‘I came straight here,’ he shrugs.

Jungkook pauses just a little. He thinks he likes the idea of Jimin coming straight here from work. He almost teases him about it, but this tentative friendship they’re creating is so new and precarious he decides to behave.

‘Well, then you must need lunch too.’

‘Jungkook it is like 3 pm.’

‘I haven’t eaten, have you?’

‘No...’

‘Great, lunch then.’ Jungkook then starts looking around the kitchen. ‘I don’t have a microwave. We can do the ribs in a pan, everything else will be ok cold.’

He starts pulling out bowls and a pan from the cupboards and opening all the Tupperware. Jimin watches him with an unreadable look on his face, leaning against the kitchen wall with his arms folded.

‘How about you at least putting a shirt on, hmm?’

Jungkook had forgotten he wasn’t wearing one.

‘Oh yeah.’ he laughs. ‘One sec.’

When he returns to the kitchen, now dressed, Jimin is clearly nosing around his cupboards. Jungkook goes back to the food on the stove.

‘Your flat is so odd. There’s basically nothing in it but what little is here is super fancy. No microwave, no kettle, barely any crockery and then this, top of the range Sage coffee machine, fancy grinder, sack of imported coffee beans…’ he wanders around as he talks, trailing his fingers across the objects he mentions.

‘I like good coffee.’

‘Why are they green?’

‘The beans? I haven’t roasted them yet. I get them direct from a farm in Chile.’

‘You roast your own coffee?’

Jungkook looks up from the pan of braised ribs and nods earnestly.

‘It isn’t very hard at all. I just do it in a saucepan. It makes a real difference to the taste, plus buying the beans this way is a far better deal and I actually know where they come from. No bullshit pretend fair trade, you know?’

‘Right,’ Jimin nods. His eyes stay on Jungkook’s earnest face as the latter goes back to preparing lunch.

‘We should eat at the table. I guess it is Christmas after all,’ Jungkook says.

‘Do you even give a shit about Christmas?’

‘Not really. Do you?’

‘I’ve worked the last, like, nine. I’m not very sentimental.’

‘I’ll clear the table anyway.’

The dining table is an insight into Jungkook.

A mess.

It is covered with an overflowing ashtray, several cups and bowls also filled with ash and cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, mugs and glasses. Strewn around it all is paper, endless paper. Pushed to the back is Jungkook’s typewriter and whirring in front of it is his laptop.

Jimin raises his eyebrows as he wanders over to help, but, like Jungkook, he chooses to maintain the fragile peace between them and not make a joke. He gathers up stacks of paper as Jungkook starts ferrying the dirty crockery to the kitchen.

‘Oh! Don’t read that please.’ Jungkook says as comes back in and sees Jimin with the paperwork.

Jimin looks down at the papers in his hands.

‘I, er, I can’t. I can’t read Hangul, don’t worry.’

‘You can’t?’

‘No, well, not well anyway. I’d have to sit down and sound all the characters out to get anywhere.’

‘But you speak it, right? I’ve heard you.’

‘Have you?’

‘I’ve heard you on the phone.’

‘Oh. Right.’

‘And we spoke Korean. The night we met.’

‘Ah yes, when you were lurking.’

‘You called me kkangpae.’ Jungkook smirks as he clears the last of the table and goes back to the kitchen for a cloth to wipe it down.

‘It was four am and it was very fitting!’ Jimin laughs and sits on the arm of the sofa, ‘you were in your huge black coat and with your undercut and tattoos, leaning there all intimidating and smoking.’

‘I’m going to hazard a guess that your idea of Korean gangsters comes from dramas?’

Jimin huffs a little and pouts ‘no…’

‘You have regular dealings then?’ Jungkook laughs as he starts bringing the food out.

‘I think I said wannabe kkangpae, but you’d actually be surprised. The Korean community isn’t huge in London you know, but a lot of that kind of stuff goes on.’

Jungkook takes a seat at the table and gestures for Jimin to join him.

‘And why would they be after you? What have you done?’ He asks.

‘Ah, again you’d be surprised.’ Jimin huffs out a breath as he watches Jungkook dish out food. ‘Nothing too awful, but my parents, they’re always trying some new scheme or other you know. I figured they just ended up owing the wrong dudes some money. It wouldn’t be the first thug that’s turned up here…’

‘No?’

‘No. It’s my parents flat.’ He gestures to the wall through which his own flat sits. ‘Owned by the council, but I grew up here. They live with my sister now, and her family, but my parents still pretend to the council that they live here so I don’t have to move. Anyway, you didn’t ask for my life story, I just meant, it’s still in my parents name – that’s why people come here for them.’

Jungkook didn’t ask for his life story, but he was enjoying getting it.

‘So, you’ve lived here, in the flat, all your life?’ He asks.

‘Er, since I was like five I think? I moved out for a bit, while I was studying, and then I lived with an ex for a bit too,’ he shifts awkwardly, ‘but that went to shit so I moved back in and here I am. My parents left like five years ago, been just me ever since.’

‘I can’t imagine living in one place for so long. It must be nice.’

‘Yeah. It has changed a lot here though. I get why my parents wanted to leave.’

‘You said they live with your sister?’

Jimin nods ‘She’s older, Heejin, married with a kid, Sophie. They have a nice big suburban house and my parents have a much nicer time living with them and bossing Heejin around than they would here. They run a dodgy little corner shop and everything.’

His dismissive words tell a different story to his face which is painted with softness. It is clear that Jimin’s family is close.

‘Didn’t you want to spend Christmas with them?’

‘Oh, well sure but I’m always so tired after work and I’m working tomorrow too. I’ll go the day after, maybe.’ Jungkook just nods, trying not to read too much into Jimin being too tired for his family but being here, sitting eating food with him. ‘What about you? How come you aren’t with your family?’

‘They’re in Korea, obviously, I-‘

‘-all of them?’

‘Hmm. Yes, in Busan. My parents, and I have a brother, he’s married too. I do normally go…I just…didn’t, this year.’

He pokes at his food.

‘Funny, my grandparents are from Busan too. My Dad’s parents that is.’ Jimin says.

‘Really?’

‘Uh huh, they left in the late seventies when shit was going down, never really got out of my grandad what side he was on but always suspected he was involved in the mischief.’ Jungkook snorts. ‘What’s it like?’ Jimin adds after a few moments.

‘Busan?’

‘Yeah.’

‘You’ve never been?’

‘No. I’ve never been to Korea at all. Barely left Europe actually…’

‘What? Why?’

Jimin shrugs ‘My whole family is here. My parents were born here. I guess there isn’t really a reason to...’

‘No wonder your reference to kkangpae was straight out of a k-drama. I guess that’s the closest you’ve got-’

‘-I would like to go…’

‘-I can’t believe you haven’t! I go at least three or four times a year. Aren’t you curious?’

Jimin is frowning now.

‘Obviously, I am curious,’ he stabs at his rice, ‘and not even just Korea, there are loads of places I would like to go. We can’t all go off three or four times a year …’

Jungkook watches with dismay as Jimin’s face closes off and he folds his arms around himself, he can almost physically feel how Jimin is pulling away and shutting down.

He’s put his stupid foot in his mouth again when they had been doing so well.

He sucks in a breath.

‘I’m sorry, that’s not what I- I’m not thoughtful sometimes.’ Jungkook doesn’t know how to explain better than that.

‘Yeah. You know what, Jungkook? Sometimes your privilege really stinks. You need to work on that.’

Jungkook bites his lip but is surprised when Jimin doesn’t leave. In fact, he slowly unfurls himself and goes back to asking questions about Busan.

They finish lunch on safer topics and Jungkook tells Jimin to thank his mum for the food.

‘I haven’t had good kimchi for a long time. Tell her I don’t even have the words to describe how good it was.’

‘I won’t tell her, she will be far too smug. Particularly if I tell her you invited me over to share it with you.’

Jungkook half expects Jimin to leave as soon as they finish eating. This is so far the longest time they have spent together (apart from the disastrous dinner with Namjoon) but Jimin proves good to his word and insists on helping Jungkook do a load of laundry. He doesn’t even make a snarky comment when he even has to go to his own flat for detergent because Jungkook doesn’t have any.

When Jungkook traipses out of his bedroom with his armful of dirty clothes he finds Jimin in the hall, paused by Caleb’s door. He’s slowly running a knuckle over the wood, his lips open in a question.

Jungkook clears his throat and Jimin jumps a little.

‘Don’t worry. I won’t go in.’

It is then that Jungkook remembers that they ended up there the night he was drunk and Jimin put him to bed. He remembers how he practically sobbed and begged Jimin not to go in the room.

Jimin had been so calm about it but he must’ve been holding a lot in, after all, Caleb was Jimin’s friend too. Maybe they were even closer than he and Jungkook had been.

‘You must think I have lost it.’ Jungkook mutters over the heap of laundry still in his arms. ‘I know it is weird, I just couldn’t clear it up.’ Their eyes meet and Jungkook is surprised that Jimin doesn’t look judgemental, he doesn’t even look shocked or angry. He looks sad, but also like he might just understand – so Jungkook keeps talking. ‘I just felt like there was already so little of him left in this world as it was. Like he just vanished so quickly and didn’t leave a ripple. His room is so…him. I just-’

He stops mid-sentence and doesn’t know how to continue.

‘I get it. I do, actually.’ Jimin’s upturned eyes are so earnest, they pull something from Jungkook that he has been holding down but for some reason he doesn’t feel fear when Jimin draws it out of him, he feels comfort.

‘I know it’s weird. I do. And I won’t leave it like that forever. I just can’t bear to pack him away yet.’

Jimin drops his hand from the door and turns his shoulders so he is properly facing Jungkook.

‘It is a big shadow to live with. I can’t help thinking it isn’t good for you.’

Jungkook opens his mouth to speak but falters, he doesn’t have the courage to say that the pain it causes is exactly what he deserves.

Maybe his face says it anyway because Jimin’s eyes don’t let him go, they’re wide with something that feels like tenderness but with a little question in them too. He reaches out a hand like he might cup Jungkook’s cheek, then lets it fall on his shoulder instead.

‘Let’s do this laundry, yeah?’ he breathes.

Which is how, a few hours later, while he sits at the now cleared table, Jungkook finds himself staring at his own laundry hanging on the balcony to dry for once.

It is a cold evening and he strongly suspects the laundry won’t dry out there and it should’ve been hung inside – but Jimin was being so helpful, and they got on so well for once, he hadn’t wanted to argue.

He looks at his phone and checks the weather: six degrees. He can’t remember his rule exactly, but he doesn’t think six degrees is cold enough for Jimin to have put the heating on. He has been using his own heating since he moved in.

Jungkook finds himself comparing different heated laundry racks online and scrolling through a comment section that discusses the capacity and durability. He pulls a hand through his hair, earnest and determined. He wants to find one that reduces dampness inside and has narrowed down to two models. In the end he picks the one with the best energy rating (which would save on bills) and puts two in his basket.

Jimin might not want it. He’s stubborn. And he did say to Jungkook that gifts wouldn’t impress him – but Jungkook buys the extra one anyway. He can always send it back. He checks out and then tries to go back to writing.

Instead, he keeps staring out of the window at the laundry and remembering Jimin’s patient smile as he showed him how to hang it. Jungkook had no idea there were so many rules about so many small things, each item of clothing apparently needing to be hung just so.

He’s not sure he can remember any of it, only Jimin’s smile.

*          *          *          *          *

The next morning, as Jungkook sits on the end of Caleb’s bed and drinks his coffee, he thinks of Jimin’s words: it’s a big shadow to live with.

But Caleb isn’t a shadow, or that isn’t what Jungkook wanted him to become. He didn’t want to reduce him to that, to make him a burden. He just didn’t want him to be forgotten.

He looks around the room, still so dark and cluttered.

As he stands to leave, he looks at a coffee mug on the desk, a thick disk of creamy blue mould suspended inside it. He sighs.

He can clear things like that, surely. That doesn’t change anything.

So, he gathers all the crockery; the mugs and the two stained glasses on the windowsill by the bed, two bowls and a plate dumped on the floor by the side of the desk.

Jungkook takes them to the kitchen and washes them slowly by hand in the sink. The flat has a dishwasher but he wanted to do it this way.

Caleb was still the last person to touch these things. His mouth was the last thing on the rim of the mugs, his fingers a ghost around the cutlery. Jungkook washes them precisely and thoroughly, one item at a time.

‘You’d think I was such a weirdo, wouldn’t you?’ he half sighs at a spoon, ‘keeping your shit and your room. Or maybe you’d find it hilarious. I have an idea you’d like the thought of mocking me until the last.’

Caleb always liked to mock Jungkook, to tease him for being earnest and serious all the time or for telling him long boring stories.

‘I’m not reading all that’ he would type, ‘send it again and just put the punchline in bold, yeah?’

Jungkook grins as he dries the last of the clean cutlery and puts it away in the drawer. As he puts away the washing up liquid in the cupboard under the sink he notices Jimin’s detergent sitting there. He should probably take it over to him, in case he doesn’t have any more.

At first, he intends to just leave it on his doorstep for him, thinking Jimin will probably be at work anyway, but, as he hovers by the door, he hears low music from inside. So he rings the bell.

Jimin appears a few seconds later, his hair fluffy and mussed up.

‘I brought this back,’ Jungkook says, holding out the detergent, ‘Thank you for lending it to me.’

‘It was a duty I couldn’t evade, teaching you to wash your own pants.’ Jimin smirks, his eyes trail over Jungkook’s arms. ‘I like your tattoos, I've always meant to say. They look good.’

Jungkook looks down at his own skin, he has a full sleeve of black work on his right arm and down across his hand and knuckles. He started it the year he moved to London.

‘Do you have any tattoos?’ He asks Jimin.

‘Just this.’ He lifts his wrist and shows a small tattoo of the number 13.

‘Like your flat.’ Jungkook nods at the numbers tacked onto the door behind Jimin’s head.

‘Exactly. One of many reasons.’ He pulls his sleeve back over his wrist. ‘Do you, er, want to come in for a bit? I just made a pot of tea and I really shouldn’t drink the whole thing to be honest.’

Jungkook accepts, even though he hates tea. Or, he hates what British people mean by tea: strong black tea leaves, always over stewed, and topped off with milk.

He drinks it though, as Jimin sits across from him on the sofa, his feet tucked under his small body.

They make light conversation. Jungkook so wants to be interesting, weirdly happy that Jimin finally seems to be warming up to him - but he feels kind of foggy and unfocused. Like he’s not quite present.

‘Jungkook, are you ok?’ Jimin asks him after a while, he’s empty cup hanging in his fingers.

‘What? Oh. Uh. Yes.’

‘You seem a bit out of it.’

‘I...I cleared up some of Caleb’s room. Just some crockery.’ Jungkook pulls at the front of his hair anxiously, not quite sure if he is oversharing or not. ‘I thought about what you said, about him being a shadow. A shadow over me and I don’t want that…’

Jimin smiles at him. ‘How do you feel about it?’

‘Uh, I’m not sure. I guess that’s why I’m a bit unfocused. I get like this sometimes, when there’s a lot in my head.’

‘That makes sense.’ Jimin nods. He lets the silence fall and Jungkook appreciates it. ‘Have you finished with your tea?’

He gestures at the half-drunk cup and Jungkook nods, handing it over.

‘I have to get ready for work.’ Jimin says as he comes back from the kitchen. ‘But why don’t you stay there while I do? Listen to music. Then we can walk out together.’

Jungkook nods, letting himself lean back into the cushions. He doesn’t know whether Jimin can sense that being out of his own flat is doing him good and that is why he leaves him sitting there, in his living room, while he showers. But it doesn’t really matter if he knows, because it helps regardless.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook is sitting on the balcony with his feet on the wall. Even in his big coat and boots, he’s still wrapped in a blanket – it’s freezing. But the air is crisp and cold and a few tiny faint stars are managing to push their way through the light pollution of central London. He’s tipped right back in his chair to see them, a cigarette between his fingers.

He hears a front door click open and rolls his head sideways on the back of the chair to see Jimin poking his head out.

‘I thought you might be out here,’ he smiles. Jungkook smiles back at him and takes a drag of his cigarette, not missing how Jimin wrinkles his nose at it but seems to bite his tongue. ‘Jungkook,’ he says, for some reason almost bashfully, ‘It is New Year’s Eve…’

‘In London…’

‘Sure. Sure. It is New Year’s Eve…here.’

‘Hmm.’

‘I’m not working tonight…’

Jungkook looks over Jimin’s face, he’s hovering. ‘Jimin? Do you want to hang out?’

‘Can we? It’s…we should at least have a drink, no?’

Jungkook’s chest feels some kind of way. In two months, this is the first time Jimin has actively sought him out to do something together. Something nice.

‘Sure. I have some nice wine-‘

‘-I thought we could go out?’

‘-out?’

‘-yeah…do you want to?’

London on New Year’s was fun but manic. Pretty much everywhere would need some kind of booking.

‘Will we get in anywhere?’

‘I was thinking spoons? The Beehive? It’ll be a laugh tonight.’

‘Spoons?’

‘Yes? Wetherspoons, don’t tell me you’re too posh to even know what a spoons is…’

‘No. No, obviously I do. But, er, I haven’t ever been in one. Aren’t they shit?’

‘No! Well, good shit. Fun shit. Pint for under three pounds shit…’

Jungkook is sceptical, Wetherspoons in Brixton on New Year’s Eve doesn’t sound very much like his kind of thing at all.

But Jimin is. Might be. Is.

‘Make a decision. I’m freezing,’ Jimin’s protruding head squeaks from the doorway.

‘Ok. Let’s do it.’

‘Excellent. I’ll go change. Meet back here in twenty?’

Jungkook nods and Jimin flashes a sparkling grin and vanishes. Jungkook wonders if he should change too. He pulls the neck of his jumper forwards and sniffs. He definitely should.

In the twenty minutes he actually manages to have a quick shower and brush his teeth and then changes into black leather trousers with a polo-neck tucked in and pulls his black coat and boots over the top.

He heads outside and leans on the wall of the balcony. His fingers twitch to light a cigarette but he resists.

A few minutes later Jimin appears, dressed almost laughably opposite to Jungkook; cream trousers with a cream jumper tucked in, a pale fluffy jacket and his lavender scarf tied around his neck. He wears gold jewellery on his fingers and a looped chain dangles from one of his ear lobes.

He looks beautiful.

‘Are we walking?’ Jungkook asks, Jimin always seems to walk everywhere.

‘I mean it is only like fifteen minutes, it would take as long to get the bus.’

‘Ok. Lead the way then.’

*          *          *          *          *

And that is how they end up huddled together in a little booth in a spoons in Brixton.

The atmosphere is relaxed and social like London always is on New Year’s Eve. Normally stoic Londoner’s happy, just for one night, to act like the whole pub is one big party.

Jungkook kind of loves it, though he makes a show for a while, for Jimin’s sake, that he believes Wetherspoons to be below him. They both seem to understand he’s playing up to it and he can’t hide his surprise and joy when a pint is only £2.59 and he keeps repeating that to Jimin who laughs into his palm.

‘I know, Jungkook, we’re in spoons.’ He sighs with what could be mistaken for a fond smile.

At some point, Jungkook leans back on the thick padded leather of the bench and rests his head against it. He surveys the mass of people around them, every space filled with bodies.

‘I don’t think anywhere else does pubs like the UK. ’

‘No?’

‘Nope, some places in Europe nearly but not quite.’

‘Is it a good thing?’

‘Uh, yeah. I can’t put my finger on what it is though. It isn’t just the venues, I think it is British people, British drinking culture.’

‘A bunch of sarcastic drunks?’

‘I mean…’

Jimin laughs and throws his head back. It is something Jungkook is learning about him as they tread carefully into the space of friendship – when Jimin laughs genuinely it is a whole-body affair. He flings his arms out, his head back. A few times he’s collapsed onto the table or his own lap.

He recovers quickly though and scoots towards Jungkook in the booth.

‘What is it like in Korea?’ he asks.

‘Oh, well, different in a way. People drink a lot but it isn’t really proper to just drink. You drink while eating or with an activity, like noraebang or special food courses. But to be honest, I don’t really know.’ He shrugs.

‘How come?’

‘Well, I haven’t been there as a drinking aged adult. Not really.’

‘But weren’t you twenty something when you moved here?’

‘Yeah. But straight from the military, and university before that.’

‘You didn’t go out at university?’

Jungkook shrugs ‘I don’t think it is like you imagine here. When I talk to my British friends about uni it doesn’t sound the same…’

‘No ring of fire, toga parties and red beer in the SU?’

‘Uh no. More, tiny flat with no windows, intense studying, dizzying work load, soju and ramyeon on the bench outside the convenience store.’

‘It sounds kind of kitsch when you say it like that.’

‘You’re picturing k-dramas again.’

Jimin grins. ‘Maybe I am.’

‘University in Korea is pretty intense…but maybe that was just my experience. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this about me yet,’ he lets a small smile creep over his lips, ‘but I’m pretty intense as a person too.’

Jimin does the full body laugh again with a hand pressed to his chest.

‘Fuck, really? My neighbour who dresses almost exclusively in black and spends hours hunched over a notebook on the balcony chain smoking – is intense? A fucking surprise all round lads.’

Jungkook grins.

He’s normally sensitive to teasing, even when he knows people well. Teasing is basically Seokjin’s love language and it still took Jungkook years of knowing him to settle into it. But there’s something soft in the way Jimin teases, something eases the sharpness of it.

Maybe it is the way his hand gently grips then releases the fabric of Jungkook’s sleeve while he does it.

Maybe it is his eyes.

It makes Jungkook want to share more. To unfurl a little. So he keeps talking.

‘And I spent most of my spare time writing too. I had finished my first novel by my final year.’

‘That is pretty intense,’ Jimin smiles, some question hangs in his eyes, ‘did you have any fun, Jungkook?’

‘Oh. Yeah. Some. I lived with my best friend, Taehyung, we met at SNU and then we lived together. We’re, um, Tae is gay too, it is why we lived together at first actually. Solidarity. Anyway, he’s from Daegu, I’m from Busan, and we were both babies. Baby gays. We did have some fun together finding out Seoul had a bit more going on for us…though still not much, nothing like here, and even less back then – this was like ten years ago, fuck – but we did occasionally drag our terrified little selves to some gay bars.’ He smiles gently. ‘Tae was not terrified for long to be honest. He had a real knack of pulling rich foreigners. Had the time of his life. Always said he was going to marry a rich, white sugar daddy and travel the world.’

‘Did he?’

‘No. He moved here a few years after I did and accidentally fell in love with a Korean-Brit two weeks after landing. I’ve never let him live it down. His husband is an accountant.’

Jimin cackles.

‘Ok, but, Korea. I thought you went back a lot. Weren’t you grandstanding about travelling the world to me not long ago?’

‘I do. I just don’t think it is like living there. Whenever I go back now, I stay in hotels in Seoul and all my evenings are already filled – dinner with a publisher, an evening at a gallery, a talk or a panel – that sort of fancy, wealthy Seoul, it isn’t the same. It’s quite European to be honest. Other than that, I spend a few weeks in Busan but I don’t really go out. There’s no one to go out with, anyone I knew from high-school is gone or has kids.’

‘You don’t make it sound very…good? You don’t sound... attached? I don’t know how to express it, there’s a strange distance in the way you describe it all.’

‘Isn’t it always like that for the things you’ve left behind? How would you describe university?’

Jimin’s face completely splits into a grin.

‘A world away from that. A whole mess. I lived in a building with four hundred other students. It was a lot of nasty shots and dressing up and well, quite a lot of dick too,’ Jimin’s fingers are absently tugging at the sleeve of Jungkook’s jumper again, ‘but then I also had a shit-head boyfriend by final year so the fun died down a little bit. Or he choked it out.’

‘I- I’m sorry.’ Jungkook doesn’t know what to say when Jimin’s face falls.

‘Don’t be. But you can go buy more drinks, it is new year, we need to go harder.’

So, they do.

And Jungkook is surprised how much he likes being consumed by the hellfire that is Wetherspoons on New Year’s Eve.

It is wildly busy, hideously loud and the drinks and food are viciously cheap – but there is no pretension, nobody cares what mess anybody else is making.

Jimin shines amongst it all and Jungkook watches him with awe.

Every time he goes to the bar he comes back having made new friends and bringing a new story back to their table with him.

Jungkook watches him as he weaves between people, smiling with his whole face, resting his little hand on people’s shoulders so easily. Jungkook watches how people respond with ease, with a simple joy. People take him into their spaces so effortlessly, laughing and sharing with him so seamlessly. Jungkook cannot fathom how it feels to go through life like that. To just fall with an easy grace into people’s spheres and have them welcome you happily.

At one point Jimin comes back with an entire tray of drinks and a shit eating grin as he starts depositing them on the sticky surface between them. Jungkook furrows his brow at the spoils: two shots, two long drinks and two glasses of prosecco.

‘Jimin, what the fuck…’

‘So, what happened here is: my friend er… Mary?’ he wrinkles his nose, ‘that lady I was talking to last round? Well, she had a barney with her husband and they left. She said she had only just bought their drinks and they hadn’t touched them and then she was loading them up on my tray and well here we are.’

Jungkook grimaces, ‘what are they?’

‘I got the shots - sambuca - the others are double vodka and coke and then these are prosecco.’

‘Doubles. Jimin, we will die.’

‘It is New Year’s Eve – we are supposed to die.’

Jungkook frowns, he hates sambuca, even the smell of it makes him want to retch. And yet, as Jimin pushes it into his fingers he takes it. He lets Jimin’s grin – as sticky sweet as the shot – fill up his senses, watching as Jimin nods and they both throw the drinks back.

‘Let’s do the prosecco down in one too, then I’ll let you sip the vodka coke.’ Jimin cackles and Jungkook eyes the bubbles in the tall glass with pain.

He listens though, picking up the glass in his fingers and nodding with determination.

‘Ok. Let’s go. Fighting!’

Jimin pauses, his face covered in a smug look as he holds up his own glass right by Jungkook’s but not quite letting them clink together yet.

He catches Jungkook’s eye and leans close to his face.

‘Jungkookie,’ his grin is pure wickedness, ‘sometimes, I get the feeling you would do whatever I tell you to.’

He lets the words drip off his tongue with deliberation and his eye contact is shameless. It lends a weight to the words as he leans into Jungkook’s space and watches him falter.

Jungkook’s eyes drop to Jimin’s lips, watching as he draws them into his mouth, deliberately, running his tongue over them before they pop back out, pink and wet.

Somehow Jungkook finds the courage to murmur, ‘I think I probably would.’

‘Good.’ Jimin nods and only pulls away slightly. ‘Now down your drink.’

They don’t break eye contact, Jungkook having to steel himself against the rush of bubbles that fizz and collect in his throat and threaten to burst from his nose. He swallows it down and finally shuts his eyes in a grimace.

He likes prosecco actually, but not taken like a shot.

‘Ooof, that almost hurt.’ Jimin laughs with a hand pressed to his chest as he leans back against their booth, his head dropping on the back, ‘oh wow, sambuca shot with a prosecco chaser is a whole new kind of foolish.’

Jungkook just looks at him in disbelief and then suddenly he is giggling, and then it is a full-blown laugh.

Jimin pauses for a second like he is taking in the expression on Jungkook’s face, and then he starts laughing too. He laughs so hard he half falls into Jungkook’s side, only a few inches from dropping his body right into his lap.

Even when he sits back up, wiping the laughter from his face, he keeps the closeness between them. He doesn’t shuffle back down the bench but let’s their bodies stay pressed together. They both lean into it as the night wears on and the alcohol burns through their blood.

They huddle in the booth, thighs pressed together and heads close, passing hushed words between them.

Jimin is alive like a flame, flickering and licking at Jungkook’s skin. The drunker and more relaxed he gets the more he touches; his little fingers twisting in Jungkook’s clothes, or tapping on his thigh.

Jungkook isn’t used to people interacting with him like this. So unrestrained. So warm.

Or maybe, he isn’t used to liking it.

But he does. With Jimin.

When midnight hits and the pub erupts into hugs and cheers Jimin leans back and gives Jungkook a dangerous smile. Then he squeezes Jungkook’s cheeks together, so his lips pop out in a pout, and presses a quick kiss to them.

Jimin pulls back almost immediately but Jungkook feels himself lean forwards into the space, his eyes dangerously near to closing. Jimin laughs and keeps pulling away.

‘Happy New Year, Kookie.’ He smirks. Then he downs his latest drink and flutters away to the bar before they call time.

Happy New Year, Jungkook thinks as he runs his tongue over his lips.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook wakes up the next morning face down on top of his still made bed. Jimin hangs heavy on his mind.

Jungkook wants him. Wants Jimin, he realises.

Jungkook has never wanted anybody before, not like this. Not in any substantive way or seriously enough that it didn't fade after they fucked a few times.

He hasn't even fucked Jimin and it feels different. The realisation hits him like a punch to his throat.

He wants him. He wants to be wanted by him, to be consumed by him.

He gasps into his pillow.

How is this where his story has ended up?

Jimin was supposed to be the villain. But instead, he already feels like someone pulling Jungkook out of the darkness.

He turns onto his back and tries to catch his breath. Jimin looms above him.

Jimin, framed golden and laughing, beautiful and blunt, never quiet. Always sure of himself.

‘Fuck, ’ Jungkook half laughs, half sighs, ‘fuck.'

*          *          *          *          *

They sit on the train and Jungkook keeps knocking his knees together anxiously. Eventually, Jimin lowers his phone and peers over at him with a raised eyebrow.

They’re sitting opposite each other, Jimin facing backwards. Through the window the city flashes over his shoulder.

It makes Jungkook feel dizzy.

Jimin reaches out a hand and stills Jungkook’s knees.

‘Stop. It’ll be fine.’

‘Hmm,’ is all he can answer.

‘Jungkook, you’re loaded and you put a shirt on. You’ve already won.’

Jimin smirks and Jungkook lets himself believe it.

He’s discovered over the past couple of weeks that he likes to believe Jimin’s words.

Seeing Jungkook settled, Jimin leans back and goes back to his phone.

Jimin looks nice. He’s wearing a big jumper under his coat and a wine-red beret tucked artfully on his pushed back hair.

Jungkook is all in black, as usual, but he did put on a shirt and ditched his stomper boots for black brogues.

It is mid-January and everything outside is wet like the world is thawing. As they pull into the station Jimin pulls on black leather gloves and adjusts his hat.

‘Come on.’ He murmurs and Jungkook follows him like a little duckling. He feels like he is following him the whole walk, though in reality they walk side by side. ‘This is the road.’ Jimin smiles as they turn into it.

It is a typical suburban street, filled with fat, nineteen-twenties houses with UPVC porches attached over the original doors. The driveways are all paved and cluttered with wheelie bins with peeling, numbered stickers on the lids.

Jungkook shuffles awkwardly next to Jimin as they wait on a doorstep. Jimin throws him a gentle look and bumps their shoulders together.

The inside door opens and a man emerges into the porch. He stares dead at Jimin with a quirked grin as he pulls open the front door.

‘Uh oh.’ Jimin murmurs under his breath.

‘Well,’ the man grins, leaning on the doorframe, ‘well, hello Jimin. And Jungkook, I presume?’

Jungkook nods and Jimin’s eyes narrow, ‘let us in you arse, it’s cold.’ The man laughs brightly and scoops Jimin into the porch with a hug, ‘Jungkook, this is Hoseok, or Hope. My best friend.’

Jimin’s voice is muffled into Hope’s shoulder, then they come apart and move back so Jungkook can step inside too.

‘Hi.’ He reaches out a hand to shake Hope’s but is also pulled into a hug.

‘I didn’t know you were going to be here?’ Jimin asks as he kicks off his shoes and pulls on a pair of slides. He rummages through the pile by the door and then hands over a pair for Jungkook too.

‘Heejin invited me. I was whining about how I hadn’t seen you for ages. Suga is in the conservatory with your Dad.’

‘Oh, he’s here too? The whole gang, how nice.’

‘We went to school together,’ Hope adds for Jungkook’s benefit, ‘I was in Heejin’s class but ended up friends with this one too.’

‘Gays got to stick together!’ Jimin laughs and starts pushing Hope down the narrow hallway towards the back of the house.

Jungkook just nods and follows.

In all honesty he is severely panicking about his decision to agree to Sunday lunch with Jimin’s family. It is way out of his comfort zone.

But, he had been promised home cooked food. And he and Jimin have been getting on so well, so easily, he wanted to please him when he was invited.

They emerge into a steaming kitchen, the wall at the side knocked through into a living room where a tele is blaring cartoons. At the back of the house a set of glass double doors lead to a conservatory.

Jimin’s mum rushes at them immediately.

‘Hi mama.’ Jimin smiles as he is wrapped up in a hug.

My baby. Hello.’ She kisses both his cheeks before she lets him go and rounds on Jungkook.

Jungkook sticks out his hand, ‘Hello mother, thank you for inviting me to your home for a meal.’ He says, formally, in Korean while Jimin’s mum presses a hand to her chest.

Behind her back Hope mimics throwing up and Jimin laughs into his shoulder.

It is a pleasure Jungkook-ah. My Jimin talks very highly of you. Please come and meet my family.’

Jungkook doubts that Jimin talks highly of him to his family, but he smiles anyway.

He’s led by the crook of an elbow to the conservatory where he is introduced to Jimin’s Dad and Hope’s boyfriend, Suga. They’re soon joined by Jimin’s sister, Heejin, and her husband, Mark. Jimin’s seven-year-old niece, Sophie, sits on her dad’s hip and won’t lift her face from his shoulder even when Jimin pinches her side and asks for a kiss.

Jungkook bows so much he feels dizzy.

Like he always is, Jimin turns out to be right and Jungkook didn't need to worry. Jimin’s family are warm and relaxed, they slot together easily and nobody gives him a hard time. Jungkook suspects Hope might want to, if he was given the chance, but Jimin seems to be handling him meticulously.

Jimin’s Dad and Suga are deep in some very serious seeming conversation, their heads together. Sophie has scurried back to her cartoons and Mark is in charge of the cooking, refusing to let anyone else in the kitchen. The rest of them gather on various chairs and sofas and Heejin rolls her eyes watching Jimin immediately get coddled by their mum.

Jungkook is in awe that a family dynamic can function like this.

The small house bursts with people. Everybody talks at once and over each other, but nobody argues or seems to mind.

The conversation is a glorious mix and jumble language. Jimin talks Korean to his parents but English to his sister who talks English to Mark but Korean to Sophie. Suga speaks in Korean to Jimin’s Dad but English to the rest of them. In fact, all the younger people talk English to each other. Sophie always replies in English whatever language she is spoken to in, but clearly understands both.

‘We’re trying to get her to speak it,’ Heejin sighs, ‘we know she can. But she’s refusing right now.’

Jungkook loves it. He wants to make a recording of the swell of overlapping voices to keep it forever.

They eat on a huge table that Jimin’s Dad unfolds in the conservatory and Jimin runs around the house sourcing extra chairs. Jungkook ends up sitting on a wobbly stool that nobody else wanted to claim and Jimin’s mum coos at him for half the meal for being so considerate.

She keeps Jungkook close, gossiping to him and asking for near constant feedback on the food she didn’t even cook.

Their family dynamic is nothing Jungkook has ever experienced. Family with no bargains, no procedures, no words left unsaid. Just warmth. It's so far removed from his own family, where everything is always calculated.

At one point Hope flings an arm around Suga and kisses his cheek before returning to his desert. Jungkook looks over in surprise but nobody else reacts at all. He scans Jimin’s parents' faces to see any reaction. There’s none, not even from Sophie.

Suga has gone straight back to his conversation with Jimin’s Dad about the pros and cons of water versus soil propagation for different types of succulents.

When everybody has finished eating the family starts peeling away. Mark vanishes upstairs with an asleep Sophie over his shoulder. Jimin’s parents sink into the sofa and Heejin hops onto the back to massage her mum’s shoulders.

Jungkook helps the others clear the table. As he rinses bowls and stacks them neatly in the dishwasher, he feels Jimin poke his side.

‘No need to overdo it Kook,’ he laughs with a sly smile, ‘you never even do your own dishes.’

‘Well, I have to charm everybody when you spend so much time bad mouthing me.’

They grin at each other.

‘Very true actually.’ Hope suddenly pipes up from where he leans on the counter.

‘What?’ Jimin says, turning around and throwing Hope a nervous look.

Jungkook laughs. ‘See, I knew it.’

‘What is it you said when you first met again?’ Hope puts a finger on his chin in mock thought.

Jimin shots daggers at him with his eyes, ‘shut up.’

Jungkook dries his hands on the dishcloth and pokes it back into the handle on the door of the cupboard, then he leans next to Jimin with an amused smile. 

‘It was awful and cheesy, I must remember it.’ Hope continues, theatrically. ‘Ah yes, you said: he’s hot as hell but cold as ice

He cackles with laughter.

‘Oh, Jimin, oh no, that’s terrible.’ Jungkook sighs.

‘Absolutely fuck you both.’

‘Hey, at least you think I’m hot.’ He shrugs.

‘Hot as hell’ Hope corrects.

‘Muuuuuum’ Jimin whines and storms out of the kitchen, ‘I’m being bullied.’

Hope grins at his retreating back, then turns to Jungkook when he has left, ‘You’re in love with him.’

A statement, not a question.

‘Er... no. No, I’m not.’ Jungkook half laughs, ‘we’ve been friends like three weeks.’

'Is he in love with you?'

'I very much doubt it.' 

‘Hm. But he invited you here. Something's going on.’

‘I’m here for the food.’

‘But he invited you. He hasn’t invited anyone since his dickhead ex.’

‘Hyung, we both know eighty-percent of the reason I got an invite is because I’m Korean.’

Hope flings a hand to his chest ‘Oh! My first hyung!’

‘What? Oh, sorry. Even in English it-‘

‘-no, I love it, feel free. Anyway, some points were made.’

‘Exactly, we both know the invite was from Jimin’s mum.’

‘But he passed the message along...’

‘You seem somewhat invested in this. And that’s a bit weird…’

Hope frowns a little and taps his chin, ‘Yeah, well. Good luck with that.’

‘With?’

‘With Jimin.’

*          *          *          *          *

Jimin falls asleep on the train home even though it’s only a twenty-minute journey. Jungkook leaves him.

It is dark outside now and the whole carriage is flooded with the artificial orange and blue light of a city in the evening. Bars of light drop through the train window and land on Jimin’s face one after another. His head wobbles on the back of the seat as the train clicks over the tracks.

Jungkook holds a stack of leftover food on his lap. Jimin’s mum had insisted on loading them up with as much as they could carry. She also refused to separate it out into two portions, smiling and saying they’d just have to eat it together.

It makes Jungkook think of Hope’s comment in the kitchen.

But Jungkook doesn’t love Jimin. He’s only known him a couple of months and only the last few weeks have they been anything near friends.

Jungkook hasn’t ever loved anybody, not romantically. He had a couple of girlfriends during high school, before he realised he was gay, then dated a little at college. But nothing more. He doesn’t even know what really liking someone feels like.

He looks at Jimin.

He is beautiful.

That’s true.

He wants him. He's admitted that.

He’s surprised himself with how he’s let Jimin into his life so quickly, with no resistance. As soon as Jimin started allowing them to become friends Jungkook had welcomed it wholeheartedly.

He’s probably a bit obsessed with him, in all honesty. Already caught like a rabbit in the beam of brilliant light that Jimin emits. As if he couldn’t move or blink or run if he wanted to and is just standing in the glow and waiting for the gunshot.

But is that love?

Love can’t just be wanting, can it?

Jungkook bites on the quick of his thumb and leans his forehead against the cold of the train window. Jimin has made him lose track of everything, in a way.

He has no fucking idea what he is doing with his life, not really. He had moved to Stockwell to be an arsehole to Jimin and to feel close to Caleb.

Or had he moved to run away from his life? And is that what Jimin is, an escape? A new obsession?

He doesn't think so, but the alternative is scary.

He puffs out a breath, the window misting around his face. How had he got here? Sitting on a train, full from a wholesome family meal - leftovers cooling on his lap - and a beautiful man napping across from him, their knees threaded together, while he thought about love.

That wasn’t a life Jungkook was going to be able to sustain. He wasn't good enough for somebody like Jimin. Peel back only a few layers and Jungkook was - nothing much at all.

*          *          *          *          *

They decide to walk home from Vauxhall. Jimin says it takes as long as the bus, but they’d do it even if it wasn’t. Jimin likes to walk.

Jimin is still tired from sleeping on the train and he walks with his little hand hooked in Jungkook’s elbow. They don’t speak much, Jimin just makes the odd little sigh or pops his lips together.

‘Thank you for taking me today. It was really nice.’ Jungkook murmurs as Jimin roots for his key fob to let them into their block of flats.

‘Good,’ he looks back over his shoulder and smiles as he pushes the door open, ‘everybody liked you a lot.’

They take the stairs as usual.

‘I liked them too. It was new for me, er, that kind of family dynamic.’

‘Don’t you get on with yours?’

‘I do, enough, but it is different. Nothing would ever happen even if we didn’t get on. Nobody says a lot really.’

Jungkook has to pause on the stairs and hold the handrail. He can’t talk as well as exert this much energy.

‘You need to quit smoking, you’re twenty-nine and you’re struggling with the stairs.’ Jimin sighs.

‘It isn’t smoking. It is the cold, that’s all.’

Jimin puts a hand on his hip and looks down on Jungkook from a few steps above, ‘don’t give me that bullshit, I am a nurse. I am bullshit resistant.’

‘I’m very fit actually. Or, I was, I guess.’

Jungkook starts walking again and Jimin’s face softens, though he doesn’t see it.

Jungkook is far too stubborn to admit that he has actually been trying to quit smoking. Or at least he’s been cutting back. A lot.

Since he has been hanging out with Jimin more he hasn’t missed how Jimin grimaces and wrinkles his nose whenever Jungkook lights up. He rarely says anything, but Jungkook can tell he hates it. He hates it and Jungkook doesn’t want to be the cause of that look on his face. So, he has been trying to quit.

Jimin reaches the balcony first and leans on his front door while Jungkook wheezes into view.

He looks beautiful, Jungkook thinks, framed against his red front door and the stark grey walls of the building. The little beret on his head suits him. Jungkook could never wear shit like that.

‘Do you want to come in?’

Jungkook just nods.

He follows Jimin into his flat, kicking his brogues off in the hall, and then flopping onto Jimin’s sofa pulling his knees up to his chest.

They always tend to hang out in Jimin’s flat these days, the shadow hanging over Jungkook’s being too much for both of them.

‘I’m so sleepy.’ Jimin sighs as he starts putting away the leftover food in his fridge.

‘I’m so full,’ Jungkook stretches out and pats his belly, ‘like, we should technically eat dinner soon but I couldn’t.’

He cringes hearing himself say we. At how easily he assumed they would keep hanging out together all evening. Jimin comes back into the room and leans on the back of his armchair.

‘How about a night cap instead?’

‘I’m listening.’

Jimin grins and moves to open a little vintage cabinet under his window, it is filled with bottles and glasses. He takes some out and sits down on the sofa next to Jungkook, placing two tumblers and a bottle of whisky on the coffee table in front of them.

‘Whisky?’ Jungkook is a bit surprised.

‘Yeah. I love whisky. Namjoon got me this bottle for Christmas, it’s really good.’

Jungkook grimaces at the mention of Namjoon’s name, a cool shiver of shame running up his spine. He’d told Jimin to apologise to him but he’s not sure it was very well received.

‘I, um, I’ve never really liked whisky.’

‘Really? Have you tried properly?’

‘I guess not. I prefer wine, and beer.’

‘Let me teach you then, whisky is all about drinking it right.’ Jimin looks excited. ‘In fact, maybe this one won’t be the best place to start if you’re a novice, hang on.’

He scampers back over to the cabinet and comes back with two other bottles.

Jungkook is sceptical but as always Jimin turns out to be right. Once he’s been taught to drink it properly and to breathe off the vapours before sipping it, the whisky doesn’t burn. It is smooth and rich. Totally different.

Jimin is surprisingly enthusiastic and earnest about the lesson. Jungkook can’t miss the irony, as Jimin talks about the different types of whiskeys and keeps pulling more out of his collection, in how Jungkook had judged him for not knowing anything about wine. As if that was a character default. Something that confirmed him to be below Jungkook. Turns out Jimin just didn’t really care about wine, not that he was too dumb or too poor to understand nice things.

‘So, which was your favourite?’ Jimin asks, after they’ve tired at least five.

Jungkook looks at the coffee table, his eyesight a little blurred. He can’t really remember the differences between anything he’s tried now. But he so desperately wants to reward the eager look on Jimin’s face.

There is something crackling between them and he doesn’t want to break it.

‘Uh, the third one.’

Jimin grins like he sees right through it, ‘why?’

‘…smooth, it was smooth.’

A warm little hand falls on Jungkook’s knee, ‘I can’t even tease you for lying because I can’t remember which ones were which now either.’

Jimin collapses into Jungkook’s lap as he laughs.

Jungkook feels warm. He lets his hand fall to the back of Jimin’s neck and pushes his fingers through the cropped hair there. Jimin just smiles at him, as he sits up, slumping into the sofa and dropping his head on the back of it.

Jungkook folds his hands back in his lap and mimics Jimin's posture, slouching into the soft sofa.

His eyes fall on shelves tucked away in the corner of the living room. Like most of Jimin’s things, a lot of the shelves are covered in plants and nick nacks - but there are two full shelves of paperbacks.

Jungkook smirks, Jimin always acts like he never reads.

'Erm, Jimin-ssi, you do read after all,' he gestures at the shelves.

Jimin rolls his head slowly to look at them.

'Did I ever say I didn't?'

'Ha. I don't actually know. Maybe I just assumed you didn't.'

'That sounds like you, Kook. You like to assume things about me.'

A few weeks ago a comment like that would have felt like the start of a fight. Instead, they roll their heads towards each other and share a smile.

Jungkook feels his own blood in his ears, the whisky burning through his veins. He needs to sit up. As he does so his eyes catch on two specific books on the shelves and the smirk on his lip deepens.

'Well look at that.'

'Hmm?'

'My books. You've read my books.'

'What?'

'Or have you only just bought them?' Jungkook stands and starts making his way towards the shelves, 'did you buy them after we met so you could impress me?'

Jimin looks confused for a second, then he catches on to where Jungkook is headed.

'Don't, not those, don' t, Kook-'

'-ah, don't be embarrassed, I knew you were a secret fan,' he laughs and pulls the copy of Dry Heart from the shelf.

He's surprised to find that the copy is well worn. He thought his suspicions would be confirmed that Jimin hadn't actually read them.

'Please be gentle with them,' Jimin whispers.

If Jungkook wasn't a bit drunk he'd probably have picked up on Jimin's tone and the strangeness of the request. But he doesn't.

He flips through the book.

It's annotated. Almost every page.

'What,' Jungkook breathes, wrong footed, 'you-'

'-not me,' Jimin winces, 'turn to the front.'

Jungkook thumbs to the front cover. In the same handwriting as the annotations, it reads:

 

Little J,

You'll like this one, I think.

If you give it a proper try.

The writer's Korean! I know him actually,

a very talented dick-head.

I left you notes and thoughts...

And some jokes.

- C

 

The 'C' at the end is doodled like a little smiley face with its tongue hanging out.

Jungkook sucks in a sharp breath.

'Caleb?' he whispers, it comes out hoarse. Jimin just nods. His hands tremble a little on his lap. 'Caleb gave you this. He wrote in it, for you. About me.'

'Hmm.'

Jungkook flips through the pages again, tenderly this time. The annotations are neat, Caleb's writing small and spikey. He notices a few little doodles here and there but he starts to lose focus. His hands shake.

'I, um, I didn't even realise he read them this closely. He never said, he just joked. I-' he stutters, his words catching in his throat. He fights to hold tears in.

'He…' Jimin's voice is just as unsteady, 'he loved you a lot, Jungkook.'

Jungkook finally breaks at that and the tears fall. Quietly at first but then turning into sobs.

Jimin stands up and closes the gap between them, he gently takes the book from Jungkook’s hands and places it on the table, then turns back to where he is slumped, hands by his sides limply, his whole body wracked in sobs.

Jimin pulls his jumper over his hands and then brings them up to Jungkook’s face. He uses the soft fabric to smooth away his tears from his cheeks and then brings his palms to cup under Jungkook’s chin.

They make eye contact. Jungkook doesn't try to hide, he lets Jimin's eyes take hold of him as the tears fall.

'Did you read them too?' He whispers.

'Of course I did. Of course I did.'

Jungkook gulps. His tears aren't slowing. They are messy, almost childish. His lip quivers and he gasps.

Jimin can't bear the sight. So he kisses him.

Chapter Text

For a moment Jungkook can’t believe he is being kissed. He wasn’t expecting it at all. His eyes stay open as he watches Jimin bring their lips together.

The reality hits him as he feels Jimin’s mouth meet his. Jimin is still cupping Jungkook’s face like he is something delicate, but the kiss isn't too soft, it's urgent. With a jerky movement Jungkook brings his arms around Jimin’s waist and grips the back of his shirt. Clings to it.

He kisses Jimin back - but he doesn’t stop crying.

Nobody has touched Jungkook like this for months, nobody has held him. His tears quickly stop being about the book or about Caleb; they become tears of relief after being so touch-starved.

He gasps into Jimin’s mouth at the tenderness, the sheer joy in someone treating him like he is precious. And not just someone, but Jimin.

Jungkook wanted this so badly. He already knew he did but it takes on something tangible, something real, as Jimin moves one of his arms around Jungkook’s neck and pulls them closer together. As he feels Jimin's tongue ease into his mouth.

Jungkook stumbles back into the book shelf. He keeps his hands tight on Jimin’s back, not allowing any space to form between them.

Everything has emptied out of his head except Jimin. His mind becomes gloriously empty and free of anything but Jimin’s mouth, Jimin’s fingers on the nape of his neck, Jimin’s body against his. It is the perfect distraction, a salve to spread on the burns.

They’ve only been kissing a few minutes and Jungkook is half hard already. He’s barely been horny the last few months, barely interested, barely even touches himself. Yet, it only takes a kiss from Jimin and he is raging. He can hardly catch his breath.

Jungkook brings his hand up to the back of Jimin’s head and laces his fingers through his soft hair, he uses it to pull them apart gently and tip Jimin’s face up towards his. He intended to use the space to kiss across Jimin’s neck but instead he gets caught in the sight of him. Jimin is fucking beautiful like this, his lips swollen and open, wet. His hair gripped in the palm of Jungkook’s hand.

Their eyes meet for a moment and then something breaks. Jimin’s eyes change immediately, his posture changes too, his whole body closing off a little. Jimin chokes out a little gasp and pulls back slightly.

‘Oh, god. I’m sorry,’ his lip quivers, ‘I shouldn’t have kissed you. I’m really sorry. I-'

‘-it’s ok,’ Jungkook tries to reconnect their lips, ‘I wanted you to, I still do.’

Jimin pushes a hand between them to increase the space between their bodies.

‘No, we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t be doing this.’

‘Why?’

Jungkook wants to pull Jimin back towards him. The space between them feels hideous. He already feels desolate as the absence sinks in and the rejection creeps across his skin. He didn’t realise how badly he wanted and needed to be touched, he had forgotten how good it felt to lose yourself in someone.

As Jimin tugs that pleasure out of his reach it hurts, like Jimin is opening a wound. He wants to sink back into it.

He starts to cry again and Jimin is back on him in a second cupping his face and stroking his skin.

‘Because we’re drunk. Because you’re crying.’ Jimin looks so tender, so worried, as he strokes Jungkook’s cheeks and wipes at the tears there.

His touch feels so good.

‘Please,’ Jungkook murmurs and tries to kiss him again. Jimin shoves him this time. Pushes him back.

‘No. Listen to me-’ But then Jimin falters and doesn’t finish his sentence. He looks confused, unsure of himself.

Jungkook just stares at him from where he is slumped into the shelves, he watches Jimin try to formulate excuses and shame creeps over him like a cold hand around his throat. He just begged Jimin to kiss him like three times and was pushed away.

He’s pathetic. He wants to fold himself into the smallest space he can find.

‘Why did you even kiss me then? Just to have the upper hand, to watch me want it and then push me away?’

‘No, I-’

‘-never mind. I’m going.’ He pushes himself upright and turns to the hall, Jimin immediately grabs his arm and tries to turn him back around.

‘Please don’t. Please, let’s talk.’

Jungkook doesn’t want to hear his excuses. Doesn’t want to hear that their first kiss was a mistake. He definitely doesn’t want Jimin to keep looking at him with concern scrawled all over his face. He can feel the pity seeping out of his pores.

He shakes off Jimin’s arms and heads down the hall to the front door. He shoves his feet roughly into his shoes, crushing the backs down in his haste to leave.

‘Please don’t go, Jungkook. I want to talk about it. Don’t shut me out.’

Jungkook can’t look back. Jimin has already seen him cry way more than he should have.

‘I’m not shutting you out. I just want to go home.’ He pulls open the door and is surprised to hear Jimin laugh a little, from back inside the flat. That makes Jungkook look up at him. The pity has left Jimin’s eyes. He looks annoyed, though, still kind of sad.

‘I’m not going to chase after you.’ He sighs and leans on the archway into the living room.

‘Good.’ Jungkook spits and lets the door slam behind him.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook knows he is being a cliché. Knows that lurking in his flat, drinking and breaking shit is the dumbest response to yesterday. But perceiving his own problematic behaviour has never once stopped Jungkook from carrying on with it anyway. If it was that simple, less people would be destructive.

Because, in the end, even though he knows it's stupid, he has no idea what else to do with pain except drink until it loses focus.

After he left Jimin’s yesterday he couldn’t bear the idea of letting himself sober up and he couldn’t shut his mind off enough to sleep. Now it is some point the next day, probably the afternoon, and Jungkook has spent the intervening hours on the sofa drinking wine.

He’s tried a few things to quiet the angry, embarrassed narrative inside his own head but nothing works. He replays the image of Jimin’s little hands pushing him away on a loop like a flicker book. On top of being embarrassed, Jungkook is just sad. Yesterday had been so nice, with Jimin’s family, and now it was all twisted together into something broken.

He’s confused too. He can still feel the visceral loss when Jimin pulled away from him. The sharp contrast it made with how good it had felt to be in his arms, how he was actually happy just for a moment before Jimin pulled away.

And now, Jimin is banging on his front door. He hasn’t got up to see if it is him but it clearly is. It wouldn’t be anybody else.

Jungkook has been listening to it for a while, the banging. He listens and he stares at the wine glass in his hand. He wonders if he could break it with just his thumb, he watches his nail bed whitens as he pushes against the glass.

Eventually, he gives in. Jimin clearly isn’t going to stop and the banging is hurting his head.

When he finally opens the door Jimin is on the doorstep with an aura like a hurricane. He seems bigger than he is, an angry presence, swirling, his breaths deep and quick. He’s in his work uniform and he looks furious.

It is yet another stark contrast between them, that uniform. After the chaos of the evening before, Jungkook has spiralled and stayed drunk like a child. While Jimin has apparently gone and done an entire shift at work and is still the one big enough to come knock on his door straight after.

Once again, Jungkook feels shame creep over him, as it so often does when he feels perceived by Jimin.

What he doesn’t expect is Jimin to reach out and pull him into a hug.

‘You’re a fuck, Jungkook.’ He mouths into his shoulder. ‘I’m so fucking angry with you.’

Despite his words Jimin doesn’t let go, he’s holding Jungkook tightly, his head pushed into his collarbone. It is grounding and Jungkook can feel how it pulls him gasping from inside his own body.

‘Then why are you here?’ He huffs. He tries to sound annoyed but it is leeching away.

‘Because I care about you.’ Jimin lifts his head out of the hug but keeps holding the top of Jungkook’s arms. ‘I said last night I wouldn’t come after you, but we were drunk and messy and stupid so I’m going back on my word. But you have to let me in now, and you have to listen to me. Or I really will stop trying. Ok?’

Jimin’s eye contact is piercing.

‘Ok.’

‘Let’s go inside.’

‘You want to come in here? Why don’t we go to yours?’

‘No, let me bear witness to the mess you’ve made. Come on.’

Jimin pulls out of Jungkook’s arms, softly, and gestures for him to lead the way down the hall. Jungkook flicks the lights on as they enter the living room. He kind of doesn’t want to but can’t avoid it.

If Jimin has anything to say about the chaos, he decides to keep it in his mouth. But he doesn’t spare Jungkook his cool stare which he lets fall on the wine bottles, the broken chair and finally over Jungkook himself, who stands hunched in the middle of the room.

‘Have you eaten?’ Jungkook shakes his head. Without asking if he can, Jimin goes into the kitchen and starts making toast under the grill. Jungkook hovers awkwardly in the archway and watches. Jimin opens the fridge and makes an annoyed noise, then turns to Jungkook, digging his keys out of his pocket and handing them over. ‘Go get some butter from mine. It’s on the counter.’

Jungkook does what he says and is back in a couple of minutes. Jimin finishes the toast, covering it in butter and then divides it onto two plates. He hands one to Jungkook and then pushes them back to the living room where he sits on the sofa, his feet tucked underneath him and starts eating.

Jungkook is glad Jimin made himself some toast too. It makes him feel a little less like a scolded child. Though it doesn’t make it any less awkward as they sit there quietly and eat together.

When he is finished, Jimin puts his plate on the coffee table and brushes his hands together. Then he just leans back and waits for Jungkook to finish eating too.

‘Are you done?’

‘Yeah.’ Jungkook stacks his plate on top of Jimin’s.

‘How sober are you?’

‘Uh. Not sober. But not drunk. I’m sober enough to listen.’

‘Ha. You say that like you know I’m about to lecture you.’ Jimin snorts.

‘Aren’t you?’

‘Yeah, I am.’

‘Go ahead then.’

‘I’m really pissed you walked off last night before talking to me. And I’m even more pissed at your reaction. And at this mess.’ He gestures around the room, including at Jungkook himself.

‘I’m sorry I don’t react perfectly to things.’

‘Who asked you to react perfectly? I just needed a reaction and not a punishment.’

‘What do you mean, a punishment?’ Jungkook feels anger start to bubble under his skin. Jimin is treading close to being self-righteous. Just because he is better able to navigate things like this, it shouldn’t give him the automatic right to dictate how they communicate.

‘Aren’t you lashing out because I didn’t want to keep kissing you? Isn’t that a punishment?’

‘No, I-’ that doesn’t seem right, but at the same time Jungkook can’t verbalise why he was lashing out. If he even was.

‘Someone should be able to tell you they want to stop kissing without you getting angry.’ Jimin adds and he suddenly looks a little nervous.

Jungkook sits up at that.

‘Jimin, I…that’s not it, I wasn’t angry about you stopping the kiss. Or I was but not with you, or not in that way. I was embarrassed.’

‘Ok, I-’

‘-and I was sad. I guess I was angry, in a way, because I’ve wanted to kiss you for a really long time, and it felt really good, and then it felt like it was ruined. Like we ruined our- …’ Jimin bites his lip like he knows what Jungkook just cut himself off from saying. Jungkook realises his rambles aren’t helping either of them so he stops. ‘I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable.’

‘It’s ok.’ Jimin draws in a deep breath, like he is mustering energy. ‘And I’m sorry that I kissed you. It was really stupid; we were emotional and drunk and I’m sorry that’s where I took things.’

‘It’s ok,’ Jungkook turns his head towards Jimin from where he is resting on the back of the sofa. ‘I wanted you to kiss me. I have wanted to kiss you for a while.’

Jimin’s face scrunches up at that and he pulls in a deep breath. He steadies a shaking hand on his knee.

‘That’s it though. That is why I shouldn’t have because…because I know you like me. Or, I think you think you like me. Either way, I don’t want that. I don’t like you like that.’

‘Oh.’

He says it simply and it settles in Jungkook’s chest, just like that.

‘I’m sorry I made it messy. I can’t bear it when people cry, I just-’

Jungkook sucks in a little breath ‘-you’re making it sound like you kissed me to stop me crying.’

Jimin just bites his lips, they sit quietly for a moment.

‘I kind of did.’

‘Ouch.’

‘Will you let me say something? Without getting mad?’

‘Uh, sure.’

‘I look after people. That’s what I do. I’m not a nurse by accident, I see people in pain and I fix things.’ He’s looking away from Jungkook now, pulling at the piping around the edge of his uniform. ‘It’s…it’s what I did for Caleb, and it is what I’m doing to you now, I think. And that’s all this is, that’s what you’re feeling. You’re latching on to me because I am caring for you and it makes you feel good and then you confuse that good feeling with…something more. It isn’t real though. That feeling.’

‘How do you know? How do you know what I’m feeling?’

Jimin sighs and pulls his arms around himself, his knees up to his chest. He seems so sad.

‘Maybe I don’t. Maybe I’m wrong. But I know what I’m feeling…and, I’m not in that place.’ He pulls his lips into his mouth, bites on them. ‘Jungkook, being your mum isn’t exactly hot…

Those last words stick straight in Jungkook’s skin like little barbed hooks. Jimin is right, what about Jungkook would be attractive to anyone.

He’d known that from the minute he started to like him. That he had nothing to offer. That he was nothing.

‘Oh.’ Is all he says, again.

He watches Jimin start to get himself up, he pauses with his feet on the floor and looks back.

‘I don’t wanna say the line but I will because I mean it. I really want to be friends with you. I know it was sort of an accident that we ended up getting close. But I like it. I like you. Can you, will you…not push me away over this?’

They look at each other, Jungkook doesn’t lift his head from the back of the sofa.

‘I won’t.’

*          *          *          *          *

After Jimin leaves Jungkook sits for a while, letting his words hang around him. Jimin made him promise that he would go to bed, so he does.

It is in bed that he starts to feel again and then he knows Jimin was right to make sure they talked. Even though the outcome isn’t what he wanted, (and perhaps that was why he avoided it, so he didn’t have to hear that he already knew – that Jimin didn’t want him) even then hearing it still helps.

Because Jungkook actually having something to be sad about is easier to process than the confused turmoil he had been inflicting on himself before Jimin came over. He’s still sad - but now it is tangible. He knows why. It was better for Jimin to rip it open like that and not mess around anymore implying things.

Jungkook pulls the covers over his head and doesn’t try to hold it in when the tears start falling.

And it feels good to finally let them out, unrestrained, in the safety of his own bed.

Maybe the tears were the same ones that Jimin’s kiss had stopped flowing the night before. The ones for Caleb. For his beautiful handwritten notes in Jungkook’s novel.

Maybe those tears should never have been stopped from falling in the first place. They had always needed somewhere to go. Jimin was right that his impulse to stop Jungkook crying hadn’t been what he needed.

And maybe it was also ok to cry about Jimin too. About Jungkook’s first ever serious crush on someone ending in rejection.

Because, in the end, Jungkook cries himself to sleep and he feels drained but he wakes up sober and purged. Like he has scrubbed himself from the inside out, like he has screamed the pain out of his throat and now it has gone.

Jungkook drags himself to the kitchen to make coffee.

For the first time in a while, he doesn’t take it to Caleb’s room. Even if a part of him wants to commiserate a little, to share a joke that Jimin turned them both down. Instead, Jungkook keeps thinking about Caleb’s notes in Jimin’s book; Caleb’s notes in Jimin’s copy of the book Jungkook wrote.

It had made him realise that there’s a lot more of Caleb out there in the world, a lot more than he had imagined, a lot more than just a dark old room in a flat in Stockwell.

So, Jungkook drinks his coffee on the balcony. He knows Jimin is at work so he relaxes, knowing he won’t have to make conversation. The estate is quiet, just the thump, thump, thump of a flat football being kicked into a wall by some kids and every now and then a distant siren.

*          *          *          *          *

Misha asks to meet in the same café in Bloomsbury as always. They sit at the same table and both order the same drinks. Misha has a new hairstyle and a different case for her iPad but everything else is about to be the same.

‘So, January is basically done. We said we would catch up in the new year. How are you doing?’

‘I’m ok.’

‘How are you doing with the book?’

He takes a deep breath.

‘I’m not going to have a book for you this year.’

‘That’s a real shame.’ Misha types something quickly, ‘but it is ok, JK. We talked about this already, didn’t we? I said it would be ok.’

‘We did. But I don’t want to do the PR we talked about before either. Not yet. I am really not ready for it. It won’t go well.’

‘But you’re good at these things! You’ve always been good at interviews and stuff. That’s why we do them. You know we don’t market all our writers like that? But it works for you. What makes you think you’re not ready for it?’

‘I just don’t feel… confident. I’m not sure I have the emotional energy.’

‘But that’s part of your style, isn’t it? Just play into it. You don’t have to give much, just be sarcastic and moody. People love it when you’re droll. That’s basically your brand. Can’t you even muster that?’

Jungkook doesn’t know how to explain that it isn’t about the energy to say anything but the energy to be the centre of attention. He tries to change tack.

‘I have nothing to say and I haven’t written in ages. I have nothing to talk about.’

‘But you said you were writing, when we talked on the phone in December you said you were writing again? Have I misremembered?’

Jungkook looks up at her with a frown, she’s twisted the conversation they had. Or forgotten it.

‘I told you I was writing in Korean and you told me, unequivocally, that the publisher could not publish something by me not in English. So, I stopped.’

‘Oh, well, no, they can’t. But writing is writing, no? Can’t you just translate what you have already written into English and use that?’

He looks at her, a frown across his eyebrows.

‘I…it, it isn’t that simple. I could, technically, but it wouldn’t be the same.’

‘But if it wouldn’t be the same, then it wouldn’t work any better if our translators did it, would it? So, it still stands that it won’t work for our publishers. Not at this time.’ She sips her latte. ‘Does that make sense?’

Jungkook nods. It does actually, in a twisted way, or he can see how it does in business terms.

‘So, are we saying that you have no writing and no desire to do any promotion?’

‘I think so.’

‘JK, this isn’t quite what your contract outlines.’

‘What does my contract outline?’

‘At least one more book. Soon. Exclusive rights on it. First refusal on the one after that. And a certain level of cooperation with what we want you to do.’

Jungkook knew that, but hearing it again really sinks into his chest. A contract with a publisher is so many peoples dream – how did it become a yoke around his neck?

‘And what if I want out of my contract?’

Misha fixes him a measured look across the table. She closes her iPad and puts it down.

‘You know the answer to that. You have to buy yourself out, return any advances and you can’t re-sign anywhere else for twelve months.’

‘What would that cost?’

‘I don’t know off the top of my head; I would have to go through your contract and your file. Would you like me to?’

‘Yes please.’

‘Ok, I will email you that information later in the week.’

‘Thank you.’ Jungkook lifts his coffee to his mouth just to have something to do, his heart hammering.

‘JK, please don’t be rash, ok? I really like you. I believe in your writing. I won’t rush you – but you do have to play ball.’

‘I will try.’

They talk a little longer but it is stilted and neither of them know how to circle away from the implied threat of Jungkook trying to buy out his contract. In the end, Misha gives up and leaves him at the table in the window. Just like before, he lingers there a few more hours, not knowing what else to do.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook opens his front door to find Jimin on the other side of it holding a bottle of wine.

‘You’re in a suit!’ Jimin says immediately, like it slipped out of his mouth in surprise. 

‘Yes…’

‘You look different!’

‘Yeah? Uh, I wear suits a lot actually. Or I did. I guess it’s the last few months I’ve looked different. From the usual me, I mean.’ He’s waffling.

‘Right. Any reason tonight?’

‘I was filming. Question Time actually, only just got back.’

‘Fuck, Wow. Ok. I forget you do shit like that.’

‘Well, I don’t really. Or haven’t for a while.’

‘Was it ok?’

Jungkook makes eye contact with him for the first time. This weird, stilted friendliness doesn’t feel like how they used to talk.

He wants that, wants Jimin to make him feel like he did before. Like he was someone he could talk to. So, he answers honestly.

‘It was shit. I was shit. I hated it. I was awful.’

Jimin’s mouth forms a little ‘oh’ and then he snorts a laugh. He looks down at his hands which are clutching a bottle of wine.

‘Maybe this will help. I’m not sure it is any good,’ Jimin says, handing over the bottle, ‘I went by the Lidl ranking. This one was ‘88’ which apparently means something.’ Jungkook takes it, it’s a nice Barolo. Nice enough. ‘I wanted to see if you wanted to have dinner? It’s been a while.’

‘Uh, I already ate. But I’ll watch you eat, and I’ll drink some of this.’ He waves the bottle of wine.

‘Ok, come on then. I was going to order something in but, if you’re not eating, I’ll save it and dig something out of my freezer.’

‘Let me just change then, I’ll be five.’

‘Nope.’ Jimin grabs his elbow and starts pulling Jungkook to his own front door, ‘Keep the suit on, I like it.’ He grins.

Jungkook follows him into the flat and sits on the sofa. Jimin prepares one of his terrible little ready meals and Jungkook opens the wine, pouring it out into the glasses Jimin brought out with him.

‘So, tell me about Question Time?

‘I kind of don’t want to. It’ll make me feel sick.’ He slumps into the cushions and for a moment it looks like Jimin is going to put a hand on his arm but then he pulls it back. ‘I knew I wasn’t ready to do that kind of stuff again but my agency forced me.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘You will be if you see it. I was terrible. I can’t fathom why a basically live, political show with an audience was a good choice for someone who hadn’t done any media in six months…. but to understand that shit show of a decision you’d need to talk to Misha.’

Jimin laughs and then puts his hands over his mouth.

‘Sorry.’

‘Don’t be. I’m serious though, if you watch it, please don’t mention it to me. I can’t handle the mockery but if you don’t mock me, I’ll know you’re lying.’

‘I, ah, I do normally watch it to be honest. If you hadn’t told me you were on tonight, I would’ve had a right surprise seeing you pop up! But I promise you I’ll keep schtum about it.’

‘Thank you.’ Jungkook downs the wine in his glass and then refills it. ‘So, er, how was your day?’

He almost sees the flicker of a grimace on Jimin’s face at the weirdly formal question. They never really talk like this, or they didn’t used to. But it has been a couple of weeks since they tried to hang out more than in passing, since after they visited Jimin’s family, since the night they kissed.

The last time they were here the atmosphere had been completely different. The last time they sat together on this sofa they were drinking whisky, flirting. Their bodies pressed together as they giggled and bitched about people and Jimin made Jungkook try on his beret.

Jungkook had felt then like they were close, like they were co-conspirators. Now the tension between them has lifted but the absence of it is cold.

His eyes flick to the bookshelves where his novels sit, decorated in Caleb’s neat handwriting.

They both keep the conversation going while Jimin eats but it feels like the harder they both push the more it spirals into awkwardness.

As always, it is Jimin that has the guts to address it.

‘Jungkook, you said you wouldn’t push me away, but I think you are – aren’t you?’

Jungkook sighs and pushes his hands through his hair. He hates this.

‘No, I’m not. I’m not trying to.’ He looks at Jimin, who’s stirring his fork through the shit looking rice in his plastic food container. He looks really sad. ‘But I don’t know how to keep you close. Not anymore.’

‘Oh.’

‘I’m waiting for you to take the lead. That’s the right thing to do, isn’t it? You set the boundary so you’re the one that has to maintain it.’

‘Am I?’

‘Yes, because if it was my choice, we wouldn’t have one at all.’ Jungkook holds Jimin’s eye contact even though he can feel him trying to drop it, ‘I still want to kiss you as much as the last time we sat here and drank.’

‘Jungkook, I-’

‘-it’s ok. It’s ok that you don’t want that. But if you get to be honest, I do too, right? And I don’t think it will stop being awkward between us until I don’t want to kiss you anymore.’

‘Won’t it?’ Jimin’s voice drops low as he asks that, he’s put his food down and is curled up on the sofa, his head resting on the back like Jungkook’s. His eyes flick over Jungkook’s face, there's a question in his eyes but he doesn't ask it.

‘Nope.’

Jimin huffs out a small aspirated laugh and they both smile.

‘You look good, Jungkook, you seem good.’

‘Ah, well they put a lot of makeup on me for filming.’

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook pads his fingers lightly over the keys of his laptop, not quite pressing down. He’s trying to write but he feels like he’s wringing out every last word. It is like a form of torturous meditation – every time he feels his concentration slipping away, he claws it back, focuses on the screen, pushes words out through his fingertips.

It is obvious whatever he manages to express is going to be complete crap but he is cornered. Misha had sent the email he had asked for. The one that outlined the procedure if he wanted out of his contract, the stipulations they would ask for and the amount he would need to pay. It was a lot of money, well over £100,000, because it included returning the advance for the unwritten book on top of the termination fee.

The money didn’t worry Jungkook as much as the other terms, the not being able to sign or publish anywhere else, and also the impact on his career. He wouldn’t be able to keep the termination secret, there’d for sure be snarky articles in the Bookseller and sub-tweets on literary twitter. Agents would talk behind his back.

It shouldn’t matter – but it might. Right now, he feels like he might never want to write again. But if he ever did, he might regret burning bridges. He’d always liked his publisher before last year. He’d always got on well with Misha too, she was far better than other agents he had talked to. It is only that she didn’t seem to understand the breathing space he needed that was causing him to want to pull away.

For now, he had simply thanked Misha for the email and never mentioned it again. He accepted her requests for PR – like his disastrous appearance on Question Time – and he was trying his best to wring a novel out of his empty, spent brain.

Unsurprisingly, being forced to write something terrible, and hating it, doesn’t exactly inspire creativity.

He tugs at his hair, he had it cut just before the filming last week and he kind of misses it longer. He had got in the habit of playing with it and pulling it behind his ears.

He sits back in his chair and pushes his laptop across the desk with a sigh. It is no fucking use, he can’t concentrate. He looks at the document in front of him, the cursor blinking like a little middle finger.

He’s never liked writing on a laptop. Sure, the whole typewriter thing was pretentious as fuck but there was something a lot more satisfying about it. You can’t self edit in the same way with a typewriter, the words aren’t gone if you change your mind because they can’t be deleted and forgotten, only clunkily crossed out.

Jungkook slams the lid down on his laptop, ready to give up for the evening. As if on cue he hears the door to the stairwell bang open and Jimin’s laugh as he crosses the balcony.

He smiles, Jimin is the perfect distraction right now. As he goes to stand up he hears a voice answering Jimin and freezes. He had assumed he was on the phone but it sounds like someone is with him.

He sits back down and opens his laptop again so he can seem busy, just in case Jimin looks in the window. He wonders if it is Namjoon and if he should be brave and go and apologise for being a shit if it is.

But it isn’t Namjoon. Jungkook can’t help looking out of the window, even though something tells him not to. Leaning on the wall to the balcony, presumably while Jimin unlocks his front door, is a tall man in a suit. He’s leaning casually on one elbow and still laughing at whatever Jimin is saying.

He looks like the typical city banker dick-head. Hair slicked back, cropped at the sides, subtle but obvious muscles, probably from CrossFit. He has a golden tan and bright white teeth when he smiles.

Just by the way he is talking and looking in Jimin’s direction it is obvious they aren’t friends, that he is flirting.

Then Jimin’s door bangs open and his shoulder vanishes, the other guy follows him in and then the door clicks shut. Jungkook can still hear them talking, muffled, in Jimin’s hallway. They’re laughing a lot, more than anybody would in a normal conversation.

Jungkook clicks his laptop shut once again and leans forward, letting his forehead rest onto his crossed hands. It hurts like a grip around his throat.

If there was any man that could hammer home his inadequacy about being someone Jimin could possibly like or want - it was that guy. Neat, handsome, wealthy, leaning there with easy charm.

Jungkook, being your mum isn’t hot.

He can still hear them laughing next door, low and quiet but distinguishable if he forces himself to listen. He is aware, vaguely, that he shouldn’t. That sitting here where he can overhear them is a dumb thing to do. He should go to bed, put his headphones in. Anything. But Jungkook has always been a glutton for punishment.

He wonders if it might even help, hearing Jimin with a man that is so much better than him.

An angry little part of him briefly considers sending Jimin some kind of passive aggressive text. Like who’s your friend or have a fun evening. But even as he drafts the spiteful words in his head he knows he won’t. He’ll torture himself instead.

At some point music starts blaring through the wall. Jimin literally never plays loud music unless he is cleaning. Never.

He must’ve had enough concern for Jungkook to drown out the noise of whatever is going on over there and somehow that feels even fucking worse.

Jungkook is collapsed face forward onto his laptop listening to Jimin’s fucking sex playlist and that might be the worst thing that has happened to him in weeks.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook rummages through his kitchen cupboards, cursing himself for not ever bothering to buy anything useful. He just needs something metal. Some sort of large metal container, but there isn’t anything big enough anywhere. The one shit mixing bowl lurking on a shelf (that he has never used) is plastic. That won’t do.

He wobbles around the flat trying to think of something else. The cleaner left a mop bucket in the cupboard with the boiler, but that is also plastic.

In the end he goes back to the kitchen and settles for his biggest saucepan. He is definitely going to end up ruining it but he doesn’t really care anymore. He’s past caring about much.

He starts gathering the rest of the supplies he will need: all his notebooks, the stacks of random paper and notes littering the table and random places all over the flat. He marches in and out of the flat dumping the piles of paper on the chair he keeps there.

After he moved in, he started sitting on the balcony so often that he stopped bringing the chair out each time months ago.

Sometimes, Jimin leaves breakfast on it when he goes to work. He started it up a few weeks ago. He makes overnight oats in batches for himself, with cinnamon and apple and other healthy things. Somewhere along the line he started adding a portion for Jungkook too and leaving it there, on his chair, in a flowery bowl with a little plastic lid. He said oats are good for regulating mood.

Thinking of Jimin just makes him reel. The pain in his chest of hearing Jimin hook up with someone the night before threatens to emerge and he has to choke it back down.

Jungkook looks over at Jimin’s dark flat. He is at work. Which is why Jungkook is doing this now. Jimin would definitely not approve of his plan.

Once he has gathered everything he can think of he chucks on his coat and heads back out to the balcony. It is late February now, and recently it has been colder than the middle of winter. Everybody has been talking about snow coming.

Jungkook puts the saucepan in front of his chair and stuffs some of his notebooks into it, then he screws up a few of the other loose pages and tucks them around the books like a little nest. He thinks for a moment and then pulls one of his lighters out of his coat, he pops the bottom out with the spike on one of his rings and then tips the lighter fluid over the paper.

Then he digs out another lighter and doesn’t even hesitate in setting fire to the contents of the saucepan. It catches immediately, the random pages already engulfed in amber flames that take a little longer to work on the notebooks.

As he sits back back and watches, the covers eventually give way and the pages inside start curling back one by one and burning away. For some reason the two different notebooks burn differently. One burns rhythmically, from the outer edge to the spine in sea waves. The other, perhaps because of a different ink or paper, burns through from the bottom in circles. Patches of yellow appear that brown and then tear through in black holes full of flames: yellow, brown, black and then gone. It’s mesmerising.

Jungkook drinks directly from the bottle of wine he has brought and relaxes into the chair to watch the flames. Out of habit he searches through his pockets for cigarettes before remembering he hasn’t smoked for three weeks. He smiles and goes back to the fire.

It is soothing to watch. Cleansing. A little bit of him wishes he could burn the whole block of flats down. The whole estate. Good riddance.

He keeps adding more paper and more notebooks, somewhere along the line he gets a bit exuberant and some chunks of paper drop out of the confines of the pot and burn on the floor. He goes to stamp them out and then looks around. There is nothing for the fire to catch on, the floor is concrete and the ceiling seems high enough.

‘Fuck it.’ He laughs and feeds the fire with more paper, this time spreading it around the pan.

It doesn’t take long for the fire to be raging and actually quite big. The pan handle, which was plastic, melts and the stinking fumes spread over the balcony.

But Jungkook is joyful. He has nearly burnt every last scrap of that godforsaken novel. It was a bin fire and now it is a literal fire.

For a second, he had considered melting his laptop into the flames but clung on to just enough sense not to.

Obviously, it is not long after the pan handle incident, with the thick noxious fumes still hanging in the air, that a sweating and red faced Jimin bursts through the door to the stairwell.

‘What the fuck is going on!’ he yells as he runs over.

Jungkook is sitting cross legged on the floor in front of a vaguely out of control fire, a wine bottle in his hands and a grin on his face.

‘I’m burning that fucking novel!’

‘Oh for fucks sake. Are you an actual psychopath?’

‘Don’t worry Jimin. Mr Health and Safety. It is all under control. Look, it is in a pan, the floor is concrete. We’re all good.’

‘You fucking idiot, do you know what it looks like from down there?’ He gestures wildly off the balcony. ‘There’s smoke pouring out and the flames are reflecting everywhere. It looks like the flat is on fire, I wouldn’t be surprised if like half the neighbours have called the fire brigade.’

‘Oh. Oops.’

‘Yeah, oops. For fucks sake. And look up, look at the roof!’

Jungkook reluctantly lifts his head, the roof of the balcony is completely smoke-blackened.

Jimin drops his bag and storms into Jungkook’s flat because the door is already ajar. He comes back out with the mop bucket filled with water and throws it over the fire. Jungkook leaps to his feet as the water spreads across the floor.

‘Careful!’ He yelps and Jimin shoots him a look that could kill.

Jimin watches the doused fire for a moment as if to make sure it is out and then he finally lets out a breath.

Then he starts laughing. Like, proper hand on his chest, bent double, whooping with laughter.

‘Fucking hell. You are a proper fucking nut job.’ He squeaks between gasps.

He moves towards the chair to sit down and somehow trips, falling next to it. Jungkook springs over to pull him up but trying to avoid the water from the fire his foot catches on the chair and he falls too, on top of Jimin, the chair tangled in his legs.

It just starts Jimin laughing again, as hard as before. He can hardly catch his breath even as Jungkook pulls them both to their feet. Jimin keeps his hands gripped into Jungkook’s sleeves as he laughs, letting his head fall forward, almost, but not quite, resting it on Jungkook’s chest.

Jungkook loves it when Jimin laughs like this. Particularly when it is caused by Jungkook doing something dumb and instead of being angry or cold Jimin finds it funny.

Jimin sucks in a calming breath and looks up, meeting Jungkook’s eyes. He doesn't let go of him, he might even grip a little tighter, his eye contact piercing, but soft.

Jungkook gets stuck in it, his eyes flicking across Jimin's face, always ending up back at his eyes.

'Fill me in then. What was that about?' Jimin breathes.

‘I guess we could say I snapped.’

‘I guess we could.’

‘The book was shit.’

‘So you say.’

‘No, it really, really was.’

Both of them are talking in low voices, not quite whispering but their tones are slow and deep.

Jimin's eyes lower to Jungkook’s lip and he bites his own. Jungkook shuffles forwards and lightly places his hand on Jimin's hip.

He doesn’t know where this tension has come from. He doesn’t understand what on earth about what just happened has made Jimin look at him in that way. But the reason doesn’t matter.

'Jimin,' he murmurs, 'do it.'

Jimin pulls in a breath like he is about to say something, but doesn't. Instead, he moves a hand up from Jungkook’s arm, across his chest and up his neck until it rests at the back. His fingertips thread into Jungkook’s hair.

Jungkook can't help the soft noise he makes and he sees the way it reflects in Jimin's eyes. They tighten, his thick lips pop open.

'I-' Jimin starts, then seems to change his mind. Instead he tugs his hand at the back of Jungkook’s neck and pulls their mouths together. Jungkook gasps into the motion as their lips finally meet, a sound of pure need torn from his throat.

It is better than the last one - the kiss - because he knows Jimin isn’t going to stop this time. He can feel it on both of their tongues, in their gasping breaths - the need.

He can't even humour the idea that this is stupid, won’t even let it cross his mind.

Take it. Jungkook thinks. Take whatever you want, even if straight after you're going to stomp all over my heart.

He can't care that Jimin is just caught up in the emotion, that he's just kissing him high on the adrenaline from the fire. He can't care that he's as meaningless to Jimin as the other guy he brought home, that he is simply there at the right time to scratch an itch.

He doesn't care. Can't. Not when Jimin is kissing him like that.

Not when Jimin is moaning into his mouth and pulling him inside of his flat, away from the mess he made of his shit novel.

They kiss all the way up Jimin’s hallway, like they can't separate for a moment. It is Jimin that guides their movements. That pushes Jungkook, panting, against the wall so he can pause to take both their shoes off. It is Jimin that pulls Jungkook back towards him by the front of his shirt. Jimin that pulls them into a kiss again and then drags them to his bedroom.

Jungkook is consumed almost immediately. He feels like Jimin has entered inside his body through his open mouth, that Jimin is the one in control of both of them.

And he fucking loves it.

When they get inside his bedroom Jimin pushes Jungkook until the back of his legs hit the bed and he falls back. He just waits for Jimin’s next move, his head tipped up at him, his mouth open, his breaths moving his whole chest. His eyes never leave Jimin. Jimin who stalks towards him like he's his prey.

'I knew you'd be like this,' He smirks as he stops between Jungkook’s open knees. He brings a hand up to his face and holds his jaw firmly. Just hard enough for them both to feel the intent behind it.

Then he sticks his thumb into his mouth, pressing down on his tongue, and Jungkook accepts it willingly. Gratefully. His wide eyes never leaving Jimin's face. 'You want me to take control, don't you?'

Jungkook nods, his eyes wide and huge, his pupils blown.

'Yes,' He breathes, lisping around Jimin’s thumb, 'Please.'

Jimin keeps looking at him with this new smirk across his face. A look Jungkook hasn’t seen there before. His eyes are dark. His pupils are the same colour as his irises. He rolls his thumb around on Jungkook’s tongue and bites his own lips as he plays with Jungkook’s.

When slowly pulls his thumb out he smears the spit over Jungkook’s open mouth.

His hand trails to the back of Jungkook’s neck, softly, leaving shivers in its wake, and then suddenly his fingers grip into the roots of his hair, jerking his head back.

Jungkook gasps and his cock jerks too, already rock hard inside his jeans.

Jimin laughs.

'You're beautiful like this,' He sighs, his eyes raking over Jungkook like he's a meal, 'Fucking beautiful.'

He's holding his hair so hard it stings. And it's a wonderful contrast to the soft lips he leans forwards and presses against Jungkook’s. He's holding the back of his head so tight Jungkook can't really move his jaw, he just let's his mouth fall open as Jimin takes what he wants from it. His whole tongue exploring his mouth.

Jimin slides into his lap as he kisses him, his knees folded either side of him on the bed, the hand in his hair not loosening it’s hold.

'You can hold me,' He says and Jungkook immediately lifts his hands to Jimin's waist, his fingers pushing under his uniform and digging into the flesh.

Jimin grinds on him as he kisses, causing a burning friction over Jungkook’s cock. He's losing focus on their kiss, his mouth just open and passive, consumed with the pleasure building in his belly.

And then Jimin stands up. Jungkook immediately feels the cold air rushing to fill the space between them.

'Lay back,' Jimin says, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth, 'Lay on the bed.'

Jungkook does as he says. Jimin pulls off his own shirt and then crawls across the space to him.

Jimin is so fucking beautiful. Small and slim but muscular. Powerful. Jungkook thinks the image of Jimin - in nothing but tight black trousers and crawling to him like a predator - is the best thing he's ever fucking seen.

Jimin is surprisingly tender when he reaches him. He lies next to Jungkook, propped up on one elbow and strokes his cheek tenderly.

'Are you OK, is this OK?' He whispers.

'Yes.'

'This dynamic is OK?'

'Yes. Fuck. Yes, Jimin, you're so hot.'

Jimin huffs out a laugh and let's his hand trail down Jungkook’s chest. Keeps moving down his belly until his fingers hook into the top of Jungkook’s jeans. He runs the pad of his finger along the skin there until his stomach muscles tighten with a jerk.

'Am I? ' He breathes, his lips against Jungkook’s cheek.

'Fuck. Yes. So fucking hot.'

Jimin kisses him again. Deep and wet, his fingers still playing with the top of his jeans. He lets himself lean on Jungkook, his weight falling on him as he gently undoes his top button and then slowly unzips his fly.

He pauses then, as Jungkook bucks his hips and moans. Needy.

'Did you just whine?' Jimin says, pulling away from Jungkook’s mouth.

He can't even answer. He can think only of Jimin's hand which is moving closer and closer to his cock. He's unbearably hard.

Can only think of how Jimin's fingers are nipping at the skin on his hips and making him shake.

'You're sweet like this. Wish you'd behave all the time.' Jimin says, trailing his mouth over Jungkook’s collarbones so he can feel the laugh on his lips. 'So, I'm going to give you what you want. Because you’re being so sweet.'

He finally pulls Jungkook’s cock free from his underwear and wraps his fingers around the base. His thumb smoothing across the skin gently.

Then he starts to move, rolling his wrist and edging towards the head. Jungkook feels completely, blissfully helpless. He closes his eyes, his head falling back.

'Can't you even keep kissing me, Kook? You just expect to lie there and let me do everything?'

Jungkook hates the scolding, he tries to move his head, to join their mouths again, but Jimin moves his hand at the same moment. He deliberately rolls his palm over the head of his cock, spreading the precum that's gathered there.

Jungkook moves his mouth helplessly, head flopping back again, distracted by the intense sensation. Jimin laughs a little, his palm rolling deliciously exactly where Jungkook needs it.

'You have a beautiful cock.' Jimin laughs.

Then he sits up a little, pulls Jungkook’s face back towards him by his jaw and kisses him lightly on the nose. He stops touching him for a second.

'Look at me,' he says calmly, waiting until Jungkook can focus on him. 'What do you want? What do you want us to do?'

Jungkook reels. Tries to focus. He can tell that Jimin needs him to engage properly.

'Uh. I… anything. I, I'm verse. I want whatever you want. That's… what I like. I like whatever you do.'

'I see.' Jimin smiles and kisses him, his hand starts moving on his cock again. Slowly. 'Well, as much as I’m tempted to ride you, ride your gorgeous fucking cock while you lie there and take it. I think, I think I want to fuck you. Yeah? Want to fuck you ‘til you can't even speak. Hmm?'

He says it all so easily, eyes piercing into Jungkook’s.

'Yes. Yes, fuck me. Please fuck me.' He gasps.

'Take your clothes off,' Jimin nods, moving back a little. 'Then lay back down.'

Jungkook does and Jimin watches him the whole time, gently palming his own cock through his trousers. Jungkook lies back down beside him, glad he hasn't taken them off yet because he looks unbelievably hot.

Jungkook loves how it feels, to lie back down, fully naked, under Jimin's burning gaze. He feels stripped bare of more than just clothes - but empty of all thoughts too. Stripped of everything except Jimin's eyes, the arousal in his belly and the feeling in his hard cock.

'Open your legs,' Jimin says as he moves to kneel between them. He traces his fingers down the inside of Jungkook’s thighs, deliberately letting his nails pull just slightly into the skin.

He picks up a bottle of lube from the sheets next to him. Jungkook didn't even notice when or where he got it from.

'Touch yourself,' he commands, squeezing a little bit of lube onto Jungkook’s cock. He moans at the coldness of it as it runs across his warm skin. 'But if you cum, you'll be sorry.'

Jungkook does as he's told, wrapping a hand around himself and spreading the lube. He grips hard and moves slowly, trying to keep control of his arousal.

Jimin smirks and pours lube over his own fingers. Jungkook has to close his eyes. Lost in pleasure, he pulls in a sharp breath as he feels Jimin starts to play with his hole, just gently circling the pad of his index finger on the muscle there.

'Don't stop touching yourself. I want you to feel so good you can't breathe.'

'Ah, fuck.' Jungkook moans.

Jimin presses a finger inside him as he does. Smoothly but with pressure. He sinks straight to the knuckle and curls it, circling against the ring of muscle.

'Greedy. You wanted this badly, didn't you? Wanted me to touch you like this?'

'Yes. So fucking badly. Wanted you so fucking badly.'

'Good.'

By the time Jimin has two fingers inside him Jungkook is already fighting to hold himself off from coming. Jimin isn't messing around, focusing more on getting him off than stretching him out. He tells Jungkook off every time he whines and tries to take his hands off his cock for some relief.

It leaves Jungkook half frantic. 'Just two fingers. That's enough. No more please. I want to feel it, when you...I like to feel it.' He babbles into his forearm which he has flung over his eyes.

'Is that right? Well, seen as you’re begging...' Jimin pulls away then, slipping off the foot of the bed and taking his trousers and underwear off.

Jungkook watches him, but also takes the opportunity to breathe. He gulps in whole lungfuls of air.

Jimin is touching himself, standing at the end of the bed, hands wrapped around his own cock.

'Fuck Jungkook,' he smiles, 'can't get over how good you look, fucked out on my sheets.'

He keeps staring as he picks up a condom he clearly got from wherever he got the lube, opening it and rolling it over his cock.

He moves, on his knees, until he is back between Jungkook’s legs. Then he tilts Jungkook’s hips up and pulls his legs to rest over the top of his thighs.

'I want you to feel good, OK? I don't want you to think about anything else.' Jimin says.

'Uh, uh, yes.'

Jimin drags the head of his cock over Jungkook’s hole. One hand still gripped in the flesh of his thigh.

'You want to feel it, right? No more lube?' He asks.

'Yes. Just enough. Not wet.'

Jimin nods, a glint in his eyes, as he starts to push the head of his cock into Jungkook.

'Fuck,' He moans. 'Fuck, you already feel so good.'

Jungkook opens his eyes again at the sound of strain in Jimin’s voice, it’s a beautiful sight. The look of pleasure on Jimin's face tightens the muscles across Jungkook’s whole stomach, his cock jerking against his skin. It is the first time it looks like Jimin’s control has slipped, just a tiny bit, as he sinks into Jungkook.

He bites his lip and brings his other hand to Jungkook’s thigh. His knuckles white.

'Ah, ah fuck.' He moans as he pushes in deeper and Jungkook arches his back to meet the pressure. 'Fuck you feel good. Fuck I wanted you so badly. Fuck. Fuck.'

He swears, chanting like he's keeping himself from going too hard or fast.

Jungkook moans and starts moving his hands on his cock again. It feels so good touching himself with Jimin pushing inside him. His brain is empty of anything but pleasure.

'OK?' Jimin asks, his brow furrowed, eyes almost closed.

'Yes, fuck. Yes. Move please.'

Jimin starts slow, deep and slow, his hands in the creases between Jungkook’s hips and thighs to move him, pulling him deeper onto his cock.

Jungkook was already close to coming and is already close again, burning, unbearably, under his skin.

Jimin picks up his pace. Then he pulls one of Jungkook’s arms to his mouth. He sucks his fingers and then kisses down his wrist as he moves, murmuring as he does.

'I won't last long. Fuck I won't last long. You feel too good, way too good.' He pulls Jungkook’s hand from his cock and replaces it with his, one hand gripping his thigh and one hand pumping Jungkook’s cock to the same rhythm that he fucks him. 'Can you keep being fucked once you've cum or is it too much?'

'I can, I can. I like it.'

'Good. You can cum then. Whenever you want. Don't hold off anymore.' And with that he really starts to move, his hand tight on the tip of Jungkook’s cock. 'Tell me where, tell me where you want me.'

He murmurs, adjusting himself until Jungkook cries out.

'There! Fuck, there.'

Jimin hammers into him then, leaning forward to spit on Jungkook’s cock so he can keep matching the brutal speed of his thrusts with his hand.

And Jungkook throws his head back and cums. Doesn't even have time to announce it. Just yells and throws his head back on the pillow, eyes squeezing shut.

Jimin pumps him through it, smearing Jungkook’s own cum over his cock.

'Fuck. You're so fucking hot. Fuck you feel good.' He pants and then moves his hand back to Jungkook’s hips. He leans forwards, their bodies meeting, and nestles his face into the crook of Jungkook’s neck as he thrusts a few more times.

Jungkook lies limply for a second longer, then brings his hands up to grip into the skin of Jimin’s back. He likes the closeness, it anchors him in his overstimulation, as he feels Jimin shake and tense on top of him as he cums too, still buried deep inside him.

He wishes for a second he hadn't used a condom. He wants to feel it, feel everything.

And then Jimin's full weight is resting on his chest as they both breathe heavily.

Jimin kisses at his neck, mouthing at it really, half passed out.

They lie for a minute, not speaking, and then Jimin gets up. He throws away the condom and reaches for a tissue for Jungkook who runs it messily across his belly and throws it aside.

As Jungkook comes back to himself he immediately feels the familiar cold shame creep over his skin. He's already starting to panic as Jimin climbs back into bed because Jimin shuffles up to him but doesn't touch him. Jungkook’s skin crawls.

He keeps his eyes shut for a moment longer, knowing that opening his eyes and seeing that pained look on Jimin’s face, the one he does when he's trying to get Jungkook to understand something - seeing that look is going to kill him.

He can hear Jimin next to him, leaning back on the pillows, his breathing regulating.

Eventually, he opens his eyes and turns his head. Jimin is staring at him, on his side, with one hand tucked under his cheek. His expression isn't the one Jungkook expected, but he does have a little frown between his eyebrows.

The space between them seems awkward. It's maybe a foot at the most but it feels huge, impassable.

Just minutes ago they had been touching each other in the most intimate ways, but now they can't even form words. Jungkook can still feel the remnants of his own cum drying on his belly but he can't think of anything to say.

His body tenses. He needs to leave.

Then Jimin breaks the silence.

'Hi,' He murmurs. His hand trailing across the sheets between them, the other still tucked under his cheek. 'So... the book. You burnt it.'

A lame attempt to fill the awkwardness.

'Uh, yeah. It was… I hated it. I can't finish it. I've decided not to.'

Jimin is looking at him curiously. Jungkook thinks he hates it. That making conversation like this, like they're not both naked in Jimin's bed, might be worse than if he just left.

‘And burning it was the solution?’ Jimin smiles softly.

‘I was...sad. The idea seemed cathartic.’ He brings a hand up to his hair. ‘I think I’m going to pull out of my contract with my agency, and the publisher.’

He’s mentioned the idea to Jimin before.

‘You are? You’re going to go for it?’

‘Hmm. I think so.’

‘It is expensive, right?’ Jimin keeps fiddling with the sheets, pulling them into little peaks with his fingers.

‘I thought maybe I could sell this place. The flat,' he nods in the direction of his own. 'That would cover it. Could live on the rest for a bit, or use it as a deposit for somewhere else.’

‘Don’t you already have a flat?’

‘Rented. I don’t own it.’

‘Oh, I always assumed you did.’

‘Three novels don’t make you that rich, not these days.’ Jungkook looks at the ceiling, at the swirled old fashioned Artex patterns, painted white.

They lay in pregnant silence. Their previous intimacy is now the elephant in the room as they fumble through conversation.

At some point he feels Jimin staring at him, so he turns his head to meet his eyes.

‘You said you were sad...’ Jimin murmurs.

‘Hmm.’

‘Did the fire help?’ He smiles softly.

‘For a while.’

‘Next time you want to burn something, let’s go to my parents yeah? They have a firepit and a garden.’

‘Ok.’ His voice comes out uncertain. Do they really have a future in which Jungkook has an open invite to burn shit in Jimin’s parent’s garden?

If he really does buy out of his publishing contract, he isn’t even really sure he will stay in London. He probably will, there isn’t really any reason to go back to Korea. But for the first time in his adult life he won’t have to be somewhere. He will be able to choose.

‘Er, I saw the guy, the guy you brought home with you yesterday.’

Jimin sucks in a quick breath and Jungkook closes his eyes again. He doesn't know why the fuck he said that out loud. It fell out of his mouth before he had time to think.

‘Oh.’ Jimin grimaces. ‘I’m sorry, Jungkook.’

‘Why?’

‘That you saw him?’

‘He looked like a prick.’

Jimin sighs, gently. ‘Yeah, well, your negative review isn’t a big surprise.’

Jungkook turns his head back on the pillow, letting his wide eyes meet Jimin's.

‘Helpful, though, to see the kind of guy you go for. Shiny, put together, banking type.’ He says. Jimin goes to talk but Jungkook can’t stop. ‘Miles away from me. I can see why, why I’m not...what you want.’

The last bit comes out weakly, half whispered.

‘Jungkook-’

‘-don’t. Don’t offer me some bullshit for comfort. It helped, in a sick way. Even if it made me want to smash his or my own head in. Don’t know how I survived hearing you both laughing through the wall.’ He lets out a small laugh but it is empty of any real humour. ‘Perhaps it is another good reason to sell this place. Don’t think I would ever get used to hearing you bring people home.’

‘I actually think it is a good idea to sell the flat. But, not for that reason…’ Jimin opens and closes his hand, clenches it, and then tucks it back against his body. Jungkook watches, out of the corner of his eye, and doesn’t miss how his fingers tremble.

‘He wasn’t...’ Jimin eventually offers through the silence that had fallen, ‘he wasn’t my type. Not really. He was just someone. He wasn’t even very nice.’

‘I don’t think I really want to hear about it.’

'If you think that, about, what I want. Then… what did you think this was?' He gestures between them, at the bed.

Jungkook sighs. He's glad they're finally getting there, glad he can sink his teeth into the pain.

'I didn't care. I want you too much to care. I think I'd always let you take what you want from me, even if it left me with nothing.'

'Jungkook, that… that isn't, that's not good.' Jimin props himself up on his elbow and looks down at him.

'I don't care,’ he murmurs, avoiding his eyes.

Jimin sighs. ‘Well, you're wrong.’

‘Yeah?’

‘I lied. About liking you. I do like you. Like that. That’s what this was, I thought you knew that.’

His hand is creeping back across the sheets, like he wants to touch Jungkook but doesn't know whether he can.

‘Great.’ Jungkook huffs out a breath, his head turning in Jimin’s direction.

It feels like that should be a revelation, some great moment or turning point for them, finally shared together while they're curled, naked, in Jimin's sheets after sex. Instead he just feels empty. ‘Did you really need to fuck someone else to work that out, isn’t that a bit of a cliché?’

‘Yeah well, clichés are clichés for a reason I guess.’

‘So, what now?’

‘I don’t know.’ Jimin sighs, ‘I’m sorry about what I said before. About being your mum? I was confused and it made me spiteful. But, some of what I said before is still true.’

‘Which bits?’

Jimin sighs. ‘About me looking after you? About it not being healthy, if that is the basis of our dynamic.’

‘Then stop looking after me.’ Jungkook’s voice is dangerously close to cracking.

‘It is more complicated than that. Like, me kissing you, before, when you cried, that was me looking after you in a way and-’

Jungkook suddenly needs to be anywhere but here. Jimin seems to have been able to pivot from sex to serious discussion, but Jungkook can’t breathe.

‘-please stop. Please.’ His tone is stone cold. Dead.

‘Ok, but-' Jimin’s words die on his lips and his breath trembles. 'Can I touch you?' He suddenly gasps, 'Please, can I touch you?'

Jungkook is surprised by the desperation he hears in his voice and jerks his head up, finally letting their eyes collide. Jimin looks close to tears and Jungkook immediately moves towards him. Jimin gasps, a choked sob leaving his lips as they tangle into each other's arms.

'Of course you can touch me, of course you can.' Jungkook soothes as Jimin rubs his face into his neck. 'Why are you crying? Shouldn't I be crying?'

This conversation is giving him whiplash.

'You were holding this space between us. Pulling away. I thought, I… do you regret this? That we fucked?' Jimin sobs.

'No. Fuck. No, I'm just waiting for you to remind me you don't like me like that and kick me out.' Jungkook loops an arm around Jimin's ribs, let's his hand trail down his spine.

'I just told you that I did.' Jimin says, tears still hanging over his words.

'Yeah. But you said it like you already regret it. Like you can't help it, like you wish you didn't.'

'I wasn't. I don't… I wanted this. I want you. I wanted you before, when we kissed before. It just wasn't the right moment. That’s why I stopped us, not because I didn’t want to.’

He's kissing lightly across Jungkook’s neck as he speaks, almost like he is soothing himself.

‘But you did want to?’

‘Yes,’ Jimin says, softly against his skin ‘but that doesn’t make it any less confusing. That doesn’t make me any surer of what I’m feeling.’

‘Do you really need to be? I’m not asking you to marry me. We just fucked.’

Jungkook almost sounds petulant but Jimin knows him well enough by now to hear the underlying embarrassment.

‘And when I turned you down before, you went on a fucking rager, smashed shit up and cut me out until I begged you to talk. When I…slept with someone else, you set fire to our fucking balcony! You terrify me.’

‘I’m sorry. I mean, the fire…that wasn’t just about you, it was-’ Jimin tips his head up and gives him a look, ‘but yeah, I get it. I’m sorry.’

‘I don’t need you to be sorry, Jungkook, but doesn’t it kind of prove me right?’ His eyelashes are still hung with tears.

‘That I’m a fucking mess? Haven’t we both known that a long time? I don’t know what you want me to do about it all of a sudden. I have been trying. I am trying.’

Jungkook starts pulling away again, the familiar cold grip creeping around his throat. Jimin sighs and pulls him back, threads a hand into his hair to force their eye contact.

‘I’m not saying I need you to change. I’m saying I can’t be the reason things go badly or the solution to make things better when they do. That’s too much for me. And it won’t help you.’

Jungkook searches Jimin's eyes.

‘I don’t understand.’ He breathes. Desperation hangs on his words. He wants to understand. Everything Jimin says always seems so sensible. He wants to engage with it but it doesn’t make sense.

‘I never needed you not to be a mess Jungkook. You don’t have to fix yourself for me, I don’t have some arbitrary wellness bar you need to meet before we can be together. But I can’t be a solution or a distraction. That isn’t love. That is just me being another thing for you to be addicted to.’ Jimin pulls him closer and leans their foreheads together, lightly. ‘I need you to engage with me, stop deflecting. Admit that I was right that we shouldn't have kissed that time and stop pretending you think it is because I don’t fancy you.’

‘So, you do, fancy me?’ He says it lightly, using a little smirk to frame it as a joke but Jimin knows he really does need the validation.

‘Obviously, I do. You haven’t imagined all this. This… fucking you, that was a lot. In a good way. I…' He slides his hand between them and holds it palm up as an invitation for Jungkook to take it. Jungkook does, pushing his own into it and threading their fingers together. ‘But I won’t keep trying if you shut me out. And I won’t let you hurt me, even if I understand why. Ok?’

‘Ok.’ Jungkook looks at their intertwined hands, they haven’t done that before. They’ve just fucked but they’ve never held hands. It feels good. ‘I like this.’ He says and nods at their interlocked fingers.

Jimin smiles. ‘Do you realise you’ve basically been courting me like a twelve-year-old all this time? Teasing me on the playground for attention?

‘I mean, that makes it sound deliberate,’ Jungkook sighs, rubbing his thumb on the back of Jimin’s hand, ‘when do I ever do things purposefully? I’m a mess.’

Jimin laughs. ‘That’s true.’

‘And, also – courting? If I’m twelve, are you Victorian?’

‘Oh, fuck off.’ Jimin knocks their foreheads together and they share a small smile.

‘Has it worked though? Whatever I did? You’re here now, with me – right?’

‘I’m here now.’ Jimin answers. ‘I don’t know what it means though. Honestly.’

‘Do we have to?’

‘I like to, I like to plan. And- ‘

‘-would you like to hear my plan?’

‘Hm’ Jimin answers, drawing his lips into his mouth.

‘This is my plan: just this. Us,’ Jungkook raises their linked hands and shakes them lightly, ‘us doing things like this. Being together. Liking each other. Not fucking anybody else.’ He can’t help but add the last bit, though he probably shouldn’t have. ‘And I’m going to keep trying to be better, so you don’t have to baby me. And everything else will just come, won’t it?’

He turns his face a little, rubbing his nose lightly in Jimin’s hair. They lay in silence for a few moments, unsure how to break it.

‘You know that I kind of like to baby you.’ Jimin finally murmurs.

‘I do. And you can. But I also hear what you’re saying. I’m listening, trying to understand. We can be… slow. Ok? But we can’t find out if this works without trying, can we? Not without doing it. I don’t think that is how relationships work.’

‘Ok.’ Jimin smiles, he rubs his nose against Jungkook’s, ‘how do you know this shit when you’re the one who has never had a boyfriend before?’

Jungkook smirks and then turns his face so that their eyes meet.

‘Maybe I’m trying to get myself one?’

Chapter Text

Jungkook quickly learned that any privileges earned from fucking Jimin were not going to be enough to get him out of trouble when he slipped into his old ways.

Like today, Jimin was angry with him. Fuming. He had gotten home from work and been greeted by the unwelcome return of wine bottles gathering outside Jungkook’s front door. He hadn’t kicked any at Jungkook - an improvement on his previous record - but he had charged into Jungkook’s flat immediately to rant at him.

They were on Jungkook's sofa, Jimin looming over him, his brows pulled together and a little hand gripping into his shirt to force him to listen.

'You think your dick is that good?’ He asks, making Jungkook flush at the crudeness of his words. ‘You think it’s that good that you can start leaving your shit everywhere again?' Jimin bites at him. 'Look at me!'

'Yes. I think it is.' Jungkook pouts and tries to hold his nerve, but Jimin always wins this game.

'Is that right?' Jimin takes Jungkook's jaw in his hand and forces him to look into his eyes. He feels like a scolded puppy made to look at the mess it's made on the floor. 'You think just because we’re fucking you can start leaving those bottles in my way?' He scoffs. 'You're lucky I didn't make you lick up the mess. Lucky I didn't fuck you with one of the bottles. That's what you deserve.'

Jungkook sucks in a breath. He still can’t believe the shit that comes out of Jimin’s mouth sometimes. He has never met anyone like him, anyone with such a foul mouth - he fucking loves it.

'No. No. I don't deserve that. I'm good. I'm making you feel good.' Jungkook whines and tries to push his hips up from where his feet are planted on the floor to prove his point.

'You think you're making me feel good, right now?' Jimin cocks an eyebrow, then slaps Jungkook’s bare thigh to stop him moving. He lifts his body up, rising from where he's straddled on Jungkook’s lap and then sinks back down on his cock again. Tortuously slowly.

Jungkook moans, his hands gripping helplessly into the skin on Jimin's back. 'You're balls deep inside me and I'm still talking to you about recycling.' Jimin whispers in his ear, then licks across his jaw. 'What does that say to you about how good your dick is, Jungkook?'

Jimin has one hand gripped into Jungkook’s hair to hold his eye contact and he shakes under his glare.

Jimin looks fucking beautiful and Jungkook is utterly undone. He hadn’t even stopped to change when he got home, too eager to discipline Jungkook, so his nurse's uniform still hangs from his shoulders, though all the poppers are open showing his chest and the line of sweat running down from his neck. The fabric hangs off one of his shoulders as he leans forward to keep berating Jungkook, his mouth right in his face.

Jimin’s hard cock bounces against his stomach as he moves and Jungkook reaches out a hand and circles it with his fingers.

'You do feel good. I am making you feel good.' He whines desperately as he moves his hand, running a thumb under the head of Jimin's cock.

'Mouthy tonight, aren't you?' Jimin’s eyes are wicked, glowing. 'Makes me want to shut you up with my dick. Show you what your mouth is good for. But I'll be kind, I've been working all day, won't put you through that. Say thank you.'

'I don't care. I love the taste of you. I want you. Want you in my mouth.' Jungkook moans.

'I said, say thank you!' Jimin tightens his grip on Jungkook’s jaw, almost until his nails dig in.

'Thank you!'

'That's better! So fucking greedy. I am riding you right now, making you feel good. Taking your useless cock and you want more? You're asking for something else?'

Jimin's eyes gleam and he moves his hands to Jungkook’s shoulders and starts moving his hips faster, starts building a ferocious pace. Jungkook keens and moans, without Jimin’s hold on his jaw his head flops back onto the back of the sofa.

Tears prickle at the corner of his eyes. Jimin keeps misunderstanding him.

'No. No,' He whines, 'Just wanted you to know I want you. You taste good. Always. I… just...that's it. I want whatever you want. That's all I want.'

'Good boy,’ Jimin soothes, running his palm across a tear on Jungkook’s cheek. Jungkook shudders and jolts pathetically at the tiny murmur of praise. 'You better not be close, baby, are you close? Am I going to have to finish myself off? Can't you even make me cum on your dick?'

'I can. I can. Please, I want…' Jungkook lifts his hands to seek Jimin's cock again but Jimin slaps him away.

'Look at you. Can't even hold your own head up. Think I want your hands on my dick?' He wraps his own small fingers around it instead and starts pumping it as he rides Jungkook. 'You better watch me though, baby. You watch me. Don't you dare shut your eyes. Watch what it looks like when somebody makes me feel good.'

His back arches, the skin on his chest glistening with sweat, his lips bitten and sucked between his teeth.

So, Jungkook watches him. He couldn't have torn his eyes away even if he hadn't been told to. Jimin's mouth is dropping open, his head rolling back.

Jungkook puts a hand on each of his hips, grips into the flesh and pulls, deepening the movement as Jimin rises and grinds down.

Jimin moans, his hands working his cock and his body quivers, the muscles under his belly button contracting. Jungkook watches hungrily, totally lost in the best image in the whole fucking world which is Park Jimin fucking himself on his cock.

He is so fucking close to coming himself, having to hold it right on the fucking edge, knowing full well he will be punished if he cums without Jimin’s say so.

'That's it. That's it. Watch me. Watch me.' Jimin drawls and then his eyebrows pull together and his mouth drops open as he cums all over his own stomach without further warning, the spurts hitting his ruined uniform and dripping down his fingers as he keeps moving them slowly.

Jungkook loses control at the sight and tips over the edge himself. He jerks his hips up and holds furiously onto Jimin’s, pulling him tight onto his lap as he cums deep inside him.

After a second, Jimin flops forwards onto his chest, his arms looping immediately around Jungkook’s neck. He pushes their faces together and connects their lips, half kissing and half just panting into each other's open mouths.

'Are you OK baby? You feel good baby? Kiss me?' He murmurs soothing encouragement across Jungkook’s neck.

'Feel so good. Thank you. Thank you.' He sighs into the skin just below Jimin's collarbone.

'You know I mean it though, right?' Jimin whispers after a couple of minutes, a hint of a grin under his words. 'Take the fucking bottles to the bin.'

Then he immediately starts laughing. He laughs his loud, full-body Jimin laugh and starts twisting his body to the side, his head hanging off of Jungkook’s shoulder.

'Ah fuck. Jimin, stop! Stop laughing. Jimin! I'm still inside you, you're gonna get cum everywhere! Jimin!'

But stopping Jimin throwing his whole body into a laugh isn't something anyone can do. It's not even something Jungkook wants him to do, not really. Not even if it results in cum all over his sofa.

*          *          *          *          *

As it turned out, his first ever attempt at a relationship being with his next door neighbour was a stroke of genius on Jungkook’s part. Or it would've been if he could even slightly claim any sort of credit for it, instead of the reality which was more akin to a plot twist.

But it was lucky nonetheless. Because the truth was that Jungkook had no fucking idea how to bring his life together with someone else's in any meaningful way.

He'd been alone a decade and of his two closest friends one was married and the other only online. Nobody had ever relied on Jungkook. Nobody had ever needed to know where he was or expected regular communication, care or support from him. Not outside the delivery of work to his publishers or the obligation to video call his parents every few weeks.

Alongside not knowing how to give this to someone else, he also hadn't ever learned to take it for himself. Hadn’t learned to open up, or to depend or seek comfort in anyone else.

Being next door to Jimin, as they fumbled into that space of more than friends, made this easier, especially when it was all still so new and fragile. Being next door made it easy to pin down Jungkook, made it harder for him to hide and it also took the pressure off Jimin trying to make space for someone new within a gruelling work schedule.

Being able to thread their lives together in this way meant Jungkook didn't really have the chance to overthink it, as he probably would've done in another scenario and more than likely closed off or got destructive as a response.

Instead all Jimin seemed to need from him was to be wanted and that was the easiest thing in the world. Jungkook knew how to do that. He wanted him everywhere, all the time in every way.

He hadn't wanted anyone for so long it was like it burst out of him like fire. Fire that Jimin was more than happy to dance in.

*          *          *          *          *

‘Baby,’ He feels Jimin breathe into the back of his neck.

He hadn’t wanted to let him in. When Jimin had first messaged to remind him they were supposed to be going out his first impulse had been to mute their chat and hide his phone in a drawer before crawling back into bed. He had actually done that for a little.

But, slowly, he had felt an itch under his skin. The knowledge that Jimin was just through the wall beside him, not a hundred feet away, and that Jimin deserved something from him. At least an answer.

He had relented, and now they lay in the lamplight of his bedroom, on top of the covers, Jimin pressed to his back and his arms looped around Jungkook’s chest.

Jungkook is swallowing down panic. He is swallowing down this growing weight on top of his ribs that feels like letting Jimin down. The weight of not wanting to go out now like they had planned all week. Of thinking about the world outside of the walls of his flat and being terrified by the enormity of everything.

Worst of all, he doesn’t know how to explain the feeling, to verbalise it in a way that Jimin will understand and the more he seeks the words the more his chest tightens and his breaths turn to little gasps.

From the beginning of this relationship, or whatever it is, Jungkook had known he didn’t have enough inside him to be worthy of someone like Jimin. He knew it and yet it crushes his chest how quickly it is proving itself true. How quickly Jimin must be realising what a mistake he has made, that he is laying there regretting being tied to someone who never wants to do anything. Never has anything interesting to say. Never wants to leave their shitty block of flats.

‘Hey, hey.’ Jimin rubs his palm in a circle on Jungkook’s chest. ‘Baby, breathe slowly, I can feel you. Do you want to breathe with me? Would that help?’

He kisses gently between Jungkook’s shoulder blades as he talks. Jungkook nods. ‘Ok, then we will do in for four, hold for four, out for six. Ok?’ Jungkook just nods again. ‘Bring your hand up and put it on mine, over your chest. Ready?’

Jimin counts and Jungkook tries to match it, his chest juddering and shaking as he exhales. After two rounds he tries to talk, tries to explain, and instead a sob breaks his lips and his breathing spikes again. Jimin just keeps circling his palm and starts them again.

After a few minutes Jungkook’s breathing calms and they fall silent. He’s grateful Jimin doesn’t rush in with any words and instead just keeps holding him.

The problem is that now the panic has subsided, it has left nothing in its wake. Jungkook feels empty, his face stiff and his chest hollow.

‘I’m sorry.’ He manages to say, because he feels like he should.

‘No. You don’t need to be.’ Jimin breathes his words into the fabric of Jungkook’s shirt.

‘I do. I bet you’ve had a shitty, long day and the last thing you need is me being like this.’

‘That’s not how this works. We can both have shitty days at the same time. And actually mine was fine.’

‘Good.’

‘Tell me about yours. What have you done?’

‘This.’

‘You’ve been here all day?’ Jimin asks.

‘Yes.’

‘Hmm.’ Jimin starts kissing him again, from between Jungkook’s shoulder blades to the nape of his neck, one kiss on each bump of his spine. ‘Baby, can I have your face please?’

He nudges Jungkook with his chin, wanting him to turn over.

‘I don’t want to look at you.’

‘I know you don’t. Because you can’t bullshit me then.’

Jungkook hums and Jimin just rocks them gently for a few minutes, waiting. Eventually, Jungkook turns, but he burrows his face straight into the crook of Jimin’s neck.

‘I don’t want to go out. I can’t.’ He whispers.

‘Ok. That’s ok. Can I have a kiss please?’

Jungkook tips his head up and offers his puckered lips but he keeps his eyes screwed shut. Jimin brings their lips together, softly. He pulls Jungkook’s bottom lip between his and kisses down his chin. He runs his nose along his jaw, breathing out onto his skin until it breaks out in shivers.

Jungkook sinks into the touch, let’s it ground him. After a while, Jimin pulls back a little, cups one hand onto the side of his face, and rubs his thumb across Jungkook’s cheekbone until he opens his eyes.

They just look at each other then. Jimin doesn’t look angry, he doesn’t look distant. He doesn’t even look worried. His eyes are just warm, the soft smile on his lips is the one that belongs only to Jungkook.

‘Will you shower with me?’ He asks and Jungkook nods.

He lets himself be led to the bathroom, let’s Jimin undress him and unhook the chain from around his neck, dropping it onto the edge of the sink.

Jungkook sits on the edge of the bath while Jimin steps into it, holding the shower head in one hand and dragging his fingers through the spray waiting for the water to warm.

The pipes click and groan in the walls and Jungkook hears the rush of the boiler starting up in the cupboard. Steam quickly fills the room.

‘It’s warm. Come on.’ Jimin pushes the shower head back into the holder and runs the pad of a single finger across Jungkook’s shoulders. He stands up and steps into the bath, pulling the curtain closed behind him.

Under the water they don’t really talk, they just touch and Jungkook lets it consume him. He watches the water run in rivulets down Jimin's muscled back as he turns away from him to rinse his hair. He rests his cheek against his shoulder and shuts his eyes against the spray of the shower.

Jimin turns in his arms and kisses him. Slowly. He lets Jungkook take control and turn the kiss hungry, their cocks hardening, pressed together between their stomachs.

Jungkook becomes more desperate, his kisses turning to nips, to small bites that he peppers down Jimin's neck and across his collarbone.

It feels so good to anchor himself in Jimin's flesh. To feel something without it needing any conscious thought or effort. It breaks his dissociation, let's him feel like he exists but without any pressure to think.

Jungkook never knew sex could be like that. Never having had a relationship with anyone that meant enough or lasted long enough for sex to be something shared. Something more than just getting each other off. Or with someone he had enough trust in to lose himself in their presence.

Jimin understands, Jungkook can feel that he does. He can feel how he lets Jungkook take what he needs but also knows exactly when to step in and when to channel the fervour he's built.

'Do you want me to make you feel good?' He asks, holding Jungkook’s chin and making eye contact.

His hair is dark blonde under the water, pushed back from his forehead. His skin flushed pink in the warm steam.

'Yes.' Jungkook sighs.

Jimin leans him against the tiles, drops to his knees and let's Jungkook unravel, his mouth around his cock and a finger curled inside him.

Afterwards, they order food and sit at the dining table and Jungkook can feel that the mask he felt over his face has cracked and slipped away. For now.

He can't help himself smiling at Jimin, who sits with his fluffy socked feet in Jungkook’s lap and bitches about his colleagues at work.

It's only 7 pm when they finish dinner. Jimin leans his chin on his palm, elbow on the table and cocks his head at Jungkook. His post shower hair dropping over his eyes.

‘I feel better, thank you.’ Jungkook murmurs, squeezing Jimin’s toes as they make eye contact.

‘Yeah, you seem it. Getting out of your dark room and eating some proper food really makes a difference, huh? Who would’ve thought it!’ He grins.

But it isn’t cruel, Jungkook knows it isn’t a dismissal of something real and hard. He knows because he is starting to trust in this, in Jimin's care. Because he knows it would've still been alright if he hadn't felt better. If he hadn't been able to get up, Jimin still wouldn't have left. He knows, because he's done it before.

‘Coming on your face didn’t hurt either.’ Jungkook smirks and Jimin snorts.

'It's early. We could still go out, if you want. What do you think?'

Jungkook smiles. And nods.

*          *          *          *          *

‘Fuck the tories!!!’ Jimin yells, full volume, banging his palms on the sticky pub table before slumping back in his seat with a grin.

Jungkook is laughing and dying of embarrassment all at once. He nibbles at his thumb as the spotlight flicks back to the stage and the crowd turns away from them again after Jimin’s heckle.

‘Well, yes, thanks love!’ The act on stage laughs and pops their mic back into the stand, continuing with their set.

Jimin is still laughing as he falls sideways into Jungkook’s shoulder. ‘It had to be said.’ He whispers and Jungkook kisses his head.

‘Only the truth.’ Suga lifts his glass from across the table and clinks it against Jimin’s, who downs the rest of his drink.

They’re in the RVT for Bar Wotever and Jimin had gotten particularly heated over one of the agenda points on the community updates section of the evening.

‘I’m so excited for you to see Hope.’ Jimin hums. ‘He’s so good. Watching him on stage he just suddenly makes sense, you know?’

‘Careful, I’ll tell him you were complimenting him.’ Suga smirks and sips his whisky.

‘No you wouldn’t. The outcome would be unbearable for both of us.’ He laughs.

The night they’re at was described to him, by Jimin, as ‘Queer Cabaret plus gender politics’ and Jungkook is trying not to feel like a fish out of water. He hasn’t really been much a part of London’s queer scene, not for the last few years anyway. Not since he got more well known.

Him, Tae and Seokjin tended to frequent a different kind of London - wine bars, terraces, tasting menus, museum lates. In fact, he even suspects Jin might be a tory - not that he would ever ask - but he seems like the type. Jungkook is neither really, he can’t make himself care about British politics too much despite how long he’s been here.

He sips his beer and makes a mental note to keep politics well off the agenda if Jimin and Jin ever meet. Although the inevitable fireworks could be entertaining...and probably kind of hot. Jungkook takes quite a lot of pleasure in angry Jimin, it would be interesting to see how he felt watching it directed at somebody else.

Like most things in his life these days, Jimin is right and Hope is a vision on stage. Suga describes his look as ‘kitsch brit drag’ before turning back to his boyfriend on stage and spending the rest of his set not taking his eyes off him. Jimin screams like a banshee the whole set, until his voice is hoarse.

Hope - in full drag - dances, raps and threads a spoken-word, stand up style social commentary between it. Jungkook has never seen anything like it and is yelling nearly as loud as Jimin by the end.

Afterwards, Hope flops down at their table with them, planting a kiss on everybody's cheeks, even Jungkook’s. He’s still in his stage clothes and makeup and Jungkook surveys him, trying to match up the person before him with the lean guy in a baggy tee shirt and baseball cap he’d met at Jimin's parents house.

‘So, how was it?’ Hope asks, sipping from the beer he had brought over with him.

Suga is leaning back in his chair, arm behind Hope, and he nudges their shoulders together and squeezes the top of his arm.

‘Jimin was even gushing about you.’ He smirks.

‘It’s true, you were terribly wonderful. As always.’ Jimin sighs.

‘How about you, new boy?’ Hope asks with a raised eyebrow.

‘You were amazing. I loved it. The rap was cool, I didn’t expect that. The juxtaposition with the fairy-tale aesthetic was great.’

Jimin laughs but Hope presses a palm to his chest and then blows him a kiss.

‘Are you working on the weekend?’ Hope asks Jimin. ‘We might do Duckie? Or the Chateau are doing a film screening in New Cross.’

‘Uh, got a late on Sunday, so could do. Don’t know, we’ll see if we fancy it and I’ll call you?’ Jimin leans on Jungkook’s shoulder as he answers, one hand running up and down his thigh.

Jungkook likes the way Jimin answers ‘we’ without any thought. As if his free nights, those not spent working, are already earmarked for Jungkook.

After the rest of the set the night descends into a club night. Jungkook snakes his arms around Jimin’s waist at the bar, pulling him back against his chest so he can whisper in his ear.

‘I don’t think I can do the dancing bit. Is that ok? Is it ok if I go?’

Jimin turns around in his arms and tips his chin up at him. ‘Of course, I’ll come too.’ He says and pecks a little kiss on Jungkook’s cheek.

‘You don’t have to. I can just go.’

‘Nah. Honestly, I am tired and I only came to see Hope. Suga will leave soon too and it’ll just be Hope dancing like a maniac, he’ll be fine.’ Jungkook feels his arms tighten around his waist. ‘Let’s go say bye.’

Jimin is even tired enough that he lets Jungkook call an uber without complaining too much. It smells like air freshener and they sink into the leather seats. Jimin leans back and watches the city pass through the window, while Jungkook watches the shadows of the streetlights dance across his cheeks.

He’s so beautiful. And mine he can’t help adding.

He studies his face. Jimin can look like several different people.

Beautiful isn’t enough to describe him, it doesn't sum up the complexity of him at all. The same goes for pretty or handsome. It's part of his magic, that his face and expressions can hold so many multitudes.

With makeup on and his eyelids dropped and hooded he drips sexuality. Other times, bare faced and with his eyes widened and a pout on his lips he looks so young. So innocent.

And then there is a look, somewhere in the middle of the two, with his glasses on and the top of his hair pulled into a tuft, where he looks exactly his age, like the epitome of the hipster from a local coffee shop.

Over time, Jungkook is also starting to witness how people react to Jimin and how he is perceived. He notices how Jimin uses it to his advantage, sliding between different personas and matching them to his audience.

It is a terrifying and captivating power.

Jungkook finds it interesting how often Jimin seems to be categorised by others as pretty or feminine when the raw ingredients of him are actually pretty masculine, by traditional standards at least. He has a sharp jaw, straight nose, an angular symmetrical face and piercing eyes. He’s small but still muscly.

Jungkook has realised that it is a deliberate choice of Jimin's to filter the harder side of himself from most people. That his first instinct is to soothe and be soft and appealing. It means only those he loves and trusts get to see the rougher side of him, that more strident side that he hides to make himself more palatable.

For those that get to see it, it's quite intimidating. Anyone that thought him only soft and pretty, or pliant and weak, would eat their words.

And it is that version of Jimin, the harder one, that very soon took the position as Jungkook's favourite.

Jimin in no make up, his light tan showing and no contacts in his deep brown eyes. His hair scraped back or stuffed under a black baseball cap, wearing a sweatshirt or dark tee shirt, a mask tucked under his chin if they're out.

Jimin with his intimidating aura. His sharp dismissals and tough comebacks. A glare that could kill. Or Jimin, silent, reserved and not making an effort to fill the quietness with laughter or sparkle.

That's Jungkook's favourite Jimin because it is him with no walls.

He's so perfect in all his versions, terrifyingly hot all the time, but that last Jimin could stare into his soul, tell Jungkook he's being an annoying prick, and Jungkook would nod and be glad of the privilege.

*          *          *          *          *

'I, er, I'll probably go to Korea later in the Spring.' Jungkook murmurs one Sunday morning while they lounge in Jimin's bed. Jungkook is writing in his notebook, propped on his knees, while leaning back on Jimin's chest, tucked in the crook of his arm.

'For work?'

'Yeah, there's a literary festival. I normally go and Misha just emailed about it. I also didn't go to my parents in December. I was thinking I should go to Busan.'

'Hmm.' Jimin answers and keeps scrolling on his phone. Jungkook feels all the unanswered things that hang in the air. There's no tension, but he knows his visit raises the obvious idea of Jimin going too but that it feels just a little too soon to ask him this time.

'Do you think we would suit better or worse if we lived in Korea?' Jimin surprises him by asking instead.

'What do you mean?' Jungkook pulls the ribbon bookmark down the spine of his notebook and closes it, turning his head and kissing along Jimin's bicep.

'Well. We're very different people here in London. I wonder sometimes, if we'd be so different if we had met and lived in Seoul. Or in Busan.'

'We'd be the same people, surely? Because we are?' Jungkook frowns.

He feels Jimin laughing into his hair.

'What if we had grown up as neighbours in Busan? Went to high school together? What if we spoke Korean and you had to call me hyung?' He laughs and it sends a hot breath across Jungkook’s scalp, raising the hair on his neck. 'Or if I'd been a student at SNU too, and learned to be more diligent? Less mouthy...'

'That's a lot of ifs.'

'I just find it fascinating. That's all. How different we are, here at least. Yet somewhere back through time our grandparents might have lived on the same block.'

Jimin pushes his arms down and wraps them across Jungkook’s chest, drawing him towards him. Jungkook hears the soft thud as Jimin flops his head onto the back of the bed.

They both stare at the ceiling.

'I'd like to go, one day. To Busan. To Korea. Will you take me? One day?' Jimin asks.

Jungkook smiles. He tugs Jimin’s arm and starts biting gently up the inside from his wrist to his elbow. Just little nips on the pale skin, barely any teeth. Jimin starts to squirm behind him.

'Of course I will.' Jungkook murmurs. 'You'll need me to deflect from your shit accent.'

He reaches the crook of Jimin’s elbow as he pauses and lets the bite turn into a lick. A kiss.

Jimin laughs and pulls his arm back.

'Stop, you wretch!' He laughs and lifts his head to sink his mouth to Jungkook’s neck, pulling his head to the side by his hair. Gently but purposefully. 'Maybe I should get you to call me hyung. Even here.'

He keeps up the kisses, nipping with his lips down Jungkook’s neck.

'I wouldn't mind. I'll call you whatever you ask me to.'

Jimin pulls Jungkook’s head back onto his shoulder and kisses along his jaw. Jungkook smirks and then turns his face so that their eyes meet.

'I know you will.' Jimin breathes.

His eyes glimmer and widen and he pulls that expression that Jungkook feels like only he ever gets to see. It is sweet, a little vulnerable, but also strong and certain.

Jungkook reaches up and pulls Jimin’s face down until they meet in a kiss and Jimin responds by taking his jaw in his hand and holding him in place.

As the kiss deepens, they slide down the bed until they are laying on their sides with Jungkook’s back to Jimin’s chest, completely wrapped in his arms, his head and shoulder twisted into their kiss.

It is one of Jungkook’s favourite positions. He feels completely at the mercy of Jimin behind him, like he is something to be consumed. But it doesn’t feel powerless - he feels adored.

Jimin holds his head firmly and covers all of the skin he can reach with his mouth. Deep open-mouthed kisses, he increases the pressure on his jaw so Jungkook can’t move his mouth and just has to accept Jimin inside it. Then the grip loosens and he kisses his neck instead, bites at his skin, blows a breath on the wet flesh until the shivers course down Jungkook’s spine and he arches his back.

Arching his back presses his ass into Jimin’s lap, where he can immediately feel his hard cock, and he groans and pushes deeper. Jimin’s other hand snaps to his waist and pulls at Jungkook’s hip so he can push against him more.

Jungkook’s mouth falls open, his whole body alight with the sensation of Jimin’s ever moving mouth on his skin. He feels as though he is held in his lap.

And Jimin teases him.

Jimin knows the state he pushes Jungkook into as he kisses and bites his neck and Jungkook grinds his ass into his lap. Jungkook is needy, pliant, his skin alight with arousal – and Jimin knows that Jungkook is dying to be touched. That his cock is hard and sensitive too. So Jimin teases.

Jungkook feels him drag his fingertips from his hip bone low across his stomach. So low his fingertips trace through the top of Jungkook’s trimmed pubic hair. Jimin pulls at it gently, rolls it between his thumb and forefinger. Then lets his fingers drag lazily downwards but not quite enough to sink his hand fully into Jungkook’s boxers.

Jungkook can feel the wicked grin on Jimin’s lips as his cock twitches at Jimin’s ministrations. Knows he is grinning at the way Jungkook moans and whimpers, how he moves his hips to try and seek contact from Jimin’s fingers.

‘You’re so needy.’ Jimin murmurs in his ear, followed by another bite, ‘you want me to touch you, don’t you? So badly.’

‘Yes. Yes. I…yes. Yes.’ Jungkook’s response is more of a chant than anything coherent.

And then Jimin’s fingers are teasing again, this time inside his boxers but still not touching where he wants him. Not how he wants to be touched. Not how he needs it.

Jimin’s short nails drag on the skin of his upper thigh. The single pad of his index finger is pulled up the crease of his groin. The back of a knuckle against his balls, or right there, lightly, at the base of his painfully hard cock.

It is everything but not enough and Jimin knows it.

While one hand teases him, Jimin's other hand has never dropped from where it holds his head in a firm grip on his shoulder so he can narrate his lewd actions in Jungkook’s ear.

As Jungkook starts to keen, his whines turning desperate and pathetic, Jimin's teasing hand creeps across the flesh of his hip, away from his cock, until it finds its way between their bodies. Roughly, he tugs Jungkook’s boxers down, just enough so they stay beneath the swell of his ass.

Jungkook loves it when he does that. It feels rushed and dirty. Like he is just a thing in Jimin’s arms.

And then Jimin is teasing at his ass cheeks, running a finger up and down but not pushing between.

He chuckles as Jungkook pushes back against his hand.

‘You were pushing forwards just a minute ago,’ he whispers into his ear, deliberately wet, ‘you were so desperate for my hands on your dick. And now you are pushing back? Now you want my hand on your ass?’

‘Aah,’ Jungkook whines, ‘yes, yes. I want-‘

‘Shh’ Jimin cuts off his whining by squeezing Jungkook’s face until his lips pop out.

‘So fucking desperate. And already such a mess. I’m not going to get any sense out of you am I?’

It isn’t even a question.

And Jungkook doesn’t have an answer.

But he does know what Jimin likes and where his own power lies in their dynamic. He knows what he can do by moving just the right way, or making just the right sounds until Jimin snaps too. So he arches his back, drops his head submissively and hooks his top foot behind his ankle so that his legs open. So that the cheeks of his ass open slightly in Jimin’s hand.

Jimin moans and gently bites his ear, his breath catching in his throat.

‘Good. Good boy’ Jimin whispers.

Jimin moves his other arm then, so that he is holding Jungkook around the chest, holding him in place. Jungkook brings both his hands up to hold onto Jimin’s forearm and lowers his face so he can bite into the soft skin there.

Which he does as Jimin continues teasing between his ass cheeks, running his fingertips up and down but not pushing between. His hot breath never leaving Jungkook’s ear.

‘Is this what you want?’ He asks.

‘Yes. Yes’

‘Hmm,’ Jimin withdraws his hand, ‘be a good boy then.’

He brings his fingers up to Jungkook’s mouth and thrusts them in without pause. He runs them around his tongue and then scoops into his cheek to gather spit. Then his fingers are straight back to Jungkook’s ass and rubbing against his hole.

It isn’t enough. The spit. They both know it isn’t enough, they both know better. But Jungkook doesn’t care, not when he feels Jimin’s finger push inside him. He kind of likes the burn, something Jimin knows all too well. He always has and it is always ok when it is like this. When he is this worked up, this needy. This relaxed. His body doesn’t resist like it could.

‘Good boy.’ Jimin whispers again as Jungkook shudders, his finger is already inside to the hilt and being pushed back in.

Jungkook lets his head fall forward so he can bite onto Jimin’s forearm. Not hard, but needy. He loves his face in Jimin’s skin like this, where he can smell him.

‘You feel so good. You feel so good inside me,’ he murmurs into the flesh and Jimin responds with another finger.

He likes the way Jimin holds him like this when he fingers him. How Jimin's mouth never leaves some part of Jungkook’s skin. He can get lost in the distance sometimes, in other positions, like something is being done to him and not with him. But like this his mind stays on Jimin, where he wants it.

As he is opened up and the sounds they are making get lewder, as Jungkook gets harder, he starts to feel Jimin’s control slipping.

He can feel Jimin’s cock wet against his ass cheek, where he is pushing it rhythmically into the flesh with the same pace that he pushes his fingers inside him. Jimin’s mouth is no longer moving, it is just open and wet against Jungkook’s skin, his breath ragged. If Jungkook was to look into his eyes he knows what he would see there.

Hunger.

And he revels in it because he knows it is him that has got Jimin this way. It is the way Jungkook sounds, how he reacts, how he moans in Jimin’s arms that sends him over the edge. And he might be pliant in Jimin’s arms but he knows his own power.

He pushes backwards into Jimin and moans loudly.

‘Fuck. You feel so good. Fuck. I want you inside me.’ He gasps.

Jimin stutters forwards and moans into Jungkook’s neck. Then he pulls his fingers slowly from inside him and pushes his own boxers down so his cock is free. He returns his hand to Jungkook’s hip, his fingers just shy of gripping in with his nails and he pulls Jungkook back and forwards so his cock runs up and down the crack of his ass.

His arm around Jungkook’s chest is impossibly tight.

It feels fucking brilliant.

Jungkook pushes his ass back without shame and Jimin is over trying to tease so he lets him. He keeps them moving with his hand on Jungkook’s hip until the arching of Jungkook’s back finally brings the head of his cock to his hole.

‘Please. Please.’ Jungkook murmurs and Jimin spits in his own hand, rubbing it over his cock before moving it to steady the base.

‘Go on then, take what you want.’ He growls.

And so Jungkook does. He pushes back against Jimin’s cock, feeling as it stretches and pushes inside.

It hurts and he knows that is why Jimin has given him control of the pace. But it hurts in the way they both enjoy, tight and burning, but with enough spit and pre-cum that it isn’t too much. It will only hurt in the good way later, not the bad.

So he keeps pushing.

Jungkook goes slow. He goes slow so he can adjust to the feeling but mostly so he can feel Jimin fall apart. He feels how Jimin’s grip tightens as he tries to resist pulling on Jungkook’s hips and taking control back.

‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’ Jimin chants into the skin on the nape of Jungkook's neck.

The feeling is delicious and Jungkook reaches down to take his own cock in his hand as he continues to work himself on Jimin’s. His cock is drooling and wet and he circles his palm over the head, pushing the tip around in his palm.

The intensity has him keening, his body shudders and he bites into Jimin’s arm with the jerk. And that is when Jimin snaps.

With a small groan, almost a growl, he starts thrusting into Jungkook from behind, his hand on his hip pulling and pushing to take control of the motion.

And Jungkook lets go.

All conscious thought leaves his head and is replaced only with the feeling of his hand pumping his cock and Jimin inside him, slow but forceful.

Jimin starts to increase the pace and also starts to feel more frantic.

‘You’re so tight. So good on my cock. Fuck.’ He breathes, strain evident in his voice.

And then he pushes so Jungkook falls forward a little. They are still half spooning, with Jungkook half face down in the pillows.

It makes it harder to touch himself but somehow that’s hotter. That to pleasure himself he has to find a way to work around Jimin’s desire to fuck him harder. That is what is really important. That is what gets priority. Jungkook is just the thing getting fucked.

And the sensation is so much. So deep. Jimin knows how to angle himself inside Jungkook and he does, thrust after thrust.

Jungkook keeps rolling his palm over the tip of his cock but that isn’t what is getting him off. It is Jimin. Jimin losing it, Jimin starting to thrust harder and shallower, Jimin’s sweat on his forehead rubbing the back of his neck. The muffled litany he mouths into Jungkook’s skin that isn’t quite words or curses but contains them all.

And then, the thing that tips Jungkook from close to edging is when Jimin gets there but holds himself back.

He can always tell.

He can feel how Jimin’s pace changes. How his breathing changes, how the grip on Jungkook’s hip stills but deepens.

As soon as Jungkook cums, Jimin will cum too and fuck if that isn’t the hottest thing. That power. To turn someone on so much and then hold them at the point of orgasm. The sounds Jimin starts to make as he holds himself off from coming are the hottest thing Jungkook has ever heard in his life.

Though he can’t see Jimin’s face he knows what it looks like, he knows the unfocused, desperate lust in his eyes.

The thought of it, with the half-pained moans on Jimin’s lips, sends a coil of pleasure across the bottom of Jungkook’s belly and his lips fall from Jimin’s arm.

‘Ah, I’m coming, I’m coming,’ he breathes as it rushes over him, his hand gripping his cock as he rides it out. Jimin stills for a millisecond and then starts to thrust into Jungkook with force, finally allowed to chase his own release.

‘Fuck. Yes. Fuck,’ he cries into Jungkook’s neck as he crashes into him and it is only moments before he pushes in one last time. He pushes his cock to the hilt and then stays there, his body twitching along with his cock as he cums too.

They’re both still then. Jungkook’s head lolling on Jimin’s arm and Jimin murmuring half curses into his skin. As they both surface Jimin runs a gentle hand the length of Jungkook’s side and then braces one hand on his ass check as he pulls his cock out.

Jungkook leans back for a lazy kiss.

But he can’t relax for long. He can feel his own cum on his hand and stomach and Jimin’s inside him. He hates and loves the sensation but always has to clean up straight away.

He pushes himself upwards onto his hands and knees and then off the bed. Jimin shuffles behind him as they head to the bathroom. He washes his hands and his stomach, then rinses his boxers and chucks them in the wash bin. Then he sits on the toilet to get rid of Jimin’s cum.

Jimin grimaces from where he is washing his own hands in the sink.

‘I fucking hate how you do that. It is the least sexy thing ever.’

‘Yeah well, don’t watch then. It’s efficient.’

A few minutes later they are wrapped in each other again in bed. Naked this time. Jungkook half dozing against Jimin’s chest while Jimin scrolls lazily through his phone again.

‘Jimin, I thought of something. Of something I do want to plan.’

‘Hmm?’

‘His room. Caleb’s room.’ He feels Jimin still above him. ‘I want to clear it out. And his computer. I think I am ready to put it away.’

Jimin puts his phone down and brings his hand to Jungkook’s hair, tilting his head so their eyes meet.

‘I think that would be really good. For you. And for all of us.' He says.

‘Mm. I think so. Not all at once maybe. I thought I could do a little bit at a time. Maybe just pack the computer up for now? Just turn it off and put it away. For now.’

‘I think that would be a really good first step.’

‘And you will help me?’

‘Of course. I told you, I am excellent with temperamental computers.’ Jimin smiles.

‘Thank you.’

‘Always.’

*          *          *          *          *

They tackle the computer first. Like Jungkook suggested.

He sits on the end of Caleb's bed, his leg jerking with nervous energy, while Jimin sits down in Caleb's computer chair.

For a split second Jungkook wants to tell him not to sit down in it. He gets the sudden thought that Caleb was the last person to sit in it and he panics at the thought of Jimin disturbing that. But he breathes, clenches and unclenches his fingers into the fabric of his trousers - and Jimin sits down, and everything is OK.

Jimin turns in the chair and gives him a smile.

'OK?' He asks.

'Yes.' Jungkook nods, then hands his phone over, open on his notes app. 'That's the password.'

Jimin takes it and turns back to the computer. 'He didn't leave anything on here, right? You said he mentioned clearing it off?' He asks.

'Yeah. We don't need to keep anything.'

'OK. So the only hard thing will probably be it jamming up with updates. But it's a fancy computer. It'll be fine I think. Then we're just going to turn it off, right? And then pack it away. Is there anything else you want to do?'

'No. That's it. I'm sorry, now we're here I feel really dramatic, I know I could just pull the socket out the wall and call it a day, it's just…'

'It's fine. You're not dramatic. Caleb loved this fucking thing, let's be nice to his baby, yeah?'

'Yeah.' Jungkook smiles.

'OK, let's go.'

In the end the updates don't even take that long. Jimin let's it do its thing, then he checks the computer has been wiped - laughing that he has no doubt that Caleb, a literal spy, did a way better job than him - and then they turn it off.

They don't even try to make it a moment. They just turn it off and hear the fan whir to a stop.

Jimin clicks off the screen.

'Let's box it up straight away? Leave the job properly finished.' He says and Jungkook just nods.

He stays sitting on the bed and pulling at his fingers while Jimin unfolds the box he brought and tapes it together.

'OK, come help me. I'll go under and unplug everything and then you can pack it up. Yeah?' Jimin asks and then scoots under the desk.

Then he passes the computer piece by piece to Jungkook who packs it away, neatly tessellated.

Jimin nudges his leg with the cellotape and Jungkook seals up the top.

'So, where's it going?'

'Uh, Tae's husband, Jin? Someone at his firm refurbs and builds them. Jin trusts him so I said he could take it.' Jungkook shrugs.

'Great. I half expected you to say we were going to go dump it in the Thames or set fire to it or something.'

'I see…' Jungkook says, faking an offended expression. But his lip twitches in a small smile.

'Oh don't give me the bambi eyes. You have form! Our half melted balcony is my witness!'

Jungkook snorts and then moves to Jimin, pulling him to his feet and leaning his head forward onto his shoulder. Jimin threads his arms around his waist.

'If I had wanted to chuck it in the river, would you have helped me?'

'Depends what I got in return.' Jimin laughs and brings his hand up to massage the back of Jungkook’s neck.

'Jimin?' He asks a few minutes later, voice still muffled into Jimin's shoulder. 'Can we stay at yours? I don't want to sleep here.'

'Of course, baby. I've got an early shift but I can leave you in bed. OK?'

'Mm.'

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook is really in love with the way Jimin just lets him be quiet when he needs to be. He never tries to force conversation on him and never seems bothered if they hang out but don't really do or say much.

Jungkook has always been a quiet person, even before he left home and even before things happened in his life that made him even quieter.

He knows that people often see it as one of the things about him that needs work, that he needs to improve on. Even Tae does sometimes. So, he was worried Jimin would be the same, that the closer they got the more Jimin would expect him to suddenly burst out of some sort of shell - and worse, be disappointed when he didn't.

But Jungkook out of his shell is still quiet, it just has a different meaning.

So he is infinitely grateful when, after they finish with Caleb's computer, Jimin doesn't force conversation as they head back to his flat. He just walks behind Jungkook doing a weird little waddle walk, his hands on his hips and forehead resting between his shoulder blades.

He babbles a little, as they head inside and start changing for bed, but Jungkook can tell he isn't really expected to answer. In fact, he suspects Jimin mutters in the same way even when he is alone.

Jungkook sits on the foot of Jimin's bed and watches him take his jewellery off. He feels peaceful. He's waiting for some sort of negative effect from packing up Caleb's computer to hit him but it hasn't. Now he's left the flat, he feels fine.

'Want to shower with me?' Jimin asks as he throws his tee-shirt into the laundry bin.

'Yeah.'

'Then after I'll have to sleep, sorry. Have to be up for an early.'

'That's OK. I'll read. Thank you for letting me stay.'

'Jungkook, you stay here half the week.'

'Still.' He shrugs. He actually wanted to say thank you to Jimin for helping him with Caleb's computer but he can't say it right now. He hopes the thank you is transferable.

As he steps out of the shower he realises he didn't bring anything from his own flat and, wet and wrapped in a towel, he doesn't want to go back.

'They'll be a couple of new toothbrushes somewhere in the cabinet.' Jimin says, his head popping around the shower curtain.

When he rummages through he recognises a box on the middle shelf. Tenvir-EM.

'Oh.' He says as he picks it up, the foil inside crinkling. 'You take PrEP? That's what this is right?'

Jimin's head appears around the shower curtain again, this time with shampoo in his hair. He has a little frown of apprehension on his face, as if he isn't sure where Jungkook is going with it.

'Uh. Yeah. I did…'

Jungkook balks at the look on his face. 'Sorry! I didn't mean to… overstep? I'm just curious. I've only heard about it but never knew anyone taking it.' He places the little packet back and shuts the cupboard door. Jimin is still frowning so he steps closer. 'Sorry. I think it's good. I wasn't judging.'

Jimin let's out a little breath.

'It's OK. I don't take it anymore, not now we're… exclusive. But I did before, us.' He seems to be satisfied with the look on Jungkook’s face and vanishes back into the shower, still talking. Jungkook sits on the closed toilet seat and brushes his teeth. 'I was on the NHS trial. A couple of years ago. I bought it for a while but I couldn't really afford to keep that up. Then I got a prescription, finally, er, last year I guess.'

He steps out of the shower and Jungkook hands him a towel.

'I didn't even know you could buy it.' He says. 

'Yup.' Jimin nods. 'So, you don't think I'm a louche, sex-crazed, heathen now?'

Jungkook can hear the sincerity behind his joke.

'Er, no, I definitely do. Did already. Never cared.' He scrunches up his nose as he laughs and his top teeth pop over his lip. Jimin whips him with his towel.

*          *          *          *          *

So, piece by piece Jungkook clears out Caleb's room and packs his things away.

First, he packs his books away into boxes. He goes through them first, looking out for the neat, spikey handwriting he first saw in Jimin's copy of his own books. It's there in a handful of them. Sometimes directly inked onto the pages, other times scrawled on little notes used as bookmarks.

Jungkook keeps any of the books like that, a dozen or so, and puts them back on the shelf. The rest he packs away.

Caleb didn't have much that was useless it turns out. None of that usual layer of random stuff that people accumulate over time.

It surprises Jungkook that it isn't harder in the end, to pack it all away. In fact, it gets easier with each thing. As the room clears and brightens he only feels better.

The one difficult thing was his clothes. However well organised Caleb had left everything (something Jungkook realised he had probably done on purpose) there is still something human about them, the clothes. How they smelt, even freshly washed, or how they had been left - a stray sock under the bed, shirts with the cuffs rolled up, receipts in his coat pockets.

Jungkook takes his time going through them and folding them away. He even tucks some of the stray receipts into the books he has decided to keep before he throws the rest away. 

And then it is done. The room is empty.

Jimin had even helped him sell the bed and wardrobe on ebay. Now, the room held only Caleb's desk and a few shelves of books. The rest of his stuff boxed and packed neatly in the corner.

Jungkook stands in the doorway and looks around at the room, his laptop tucked under his arm. He hasn't talked to Caleb since the computer was packed away.

It doesn't really feel like he's in the room anymore.

He walks in carefully and places his laptop down on the desk, then sits in the computer chair and swings around gently.

It's April now. The window is ajar and sun streaks in along with the squeal of a siren and a rhythmic cough from the flat above.

His phone buzzes on the table. Misha.

He clicks the button on the side and flips it over. He'll call back later. They're reached a fragile sort of truce, the book isn't going to be mentioned for a few months and the PR requests are being well filtered, with only the things he enjoys getting passed on. For now.

He hears the front door click open and the slap of someone's shoes being kicked off. Jimin. He's had a key for a few weeks. They traded under the pretence of it being sensible in case one of them got locked out, but mostly, Jimin uses it when he wants to crawl into his bed at 4 am when he finishes work. 

Jungkook is trying to be a person that sleeps normal hours these days, but he never minds being half woken up to Jimin pressing his cold feet into his calves and curling up against his back.

He hears him stop in the doorway.

'Hey baby.' Jimin smiles and Jungkook spins on the computer chair and looks at him. 'The room looks good. It's done?'

'Yeah,' Jungkook nods, 'I'm going to keep the desk. And the shelves.'

'I'm very happy for the sake of your back. It pained me watching you hunch at that dining table.'

'What's that?' Jungkook asks him and Jimin holds out his hands.

'Watermelon peperomia, for your new office.' He wanders to the window sill and places it down, 'one of mine, I propagated it from just a leaf.'

'It's cute. Thanks.' Jungkook opens his arms, offering a space on his lap.

Jimin backs into him and sits on Jungkook’s knee, one arm looped around his neck. Jungkook pulls his arms around his waist.

'Will you move your bed in here? It's a bigger room.'

'Nah. It's a better office. The view from the window is nice when you sit here.'

'And now it's even better with my present.'

Jungkook smiles into his neck. 'Are you trying to get me to nurture things?'

'What?'

'Psychology 101...get the depressed boyfriend a plant to love. Next a puppy? Before you know it he'll be looking after himself again!'

Jimin snorts. 'It's just a fucking succulent, Kook, I've got a million of them. And I would prefer a kitten.' Jungkook just laughs and gently bites his shoulder. 'So, what about the stuff?'

'Tae's coming to help. With his car.' Jungkook reaches for his phone and checks the screen. 'In like an hour actually. You want to have dinner with us?'

'Uh. I'm kind of scared of him.'

Jungkook snorts, 'why?'

'How you describe him! My mental image is very manic pixie dream-boy.'

'Accurate. He's hot though.' He laughs and Jimin pinches his nipple.

*          *          *          *          *

Jungkook sits on the balcony, his feet on the wall and his head resting on the back of his chair. A book open, facedown on his thigh. It’s warm and the sun falls on his cheeks.

As things got better, slowly, he had started reading again, and as soon he did he had realised he had barely been reading at all over the past few months. Something usually so integral to him, so much a part of who he was, had just slipped away without notice.

It wasn’t really any wonder he had been finding it hard to write.

Learning to read again was a little like waking up. Like rising to the surface of a deep pool and finally taking a breath.

He’d started with the books he had kept from Caleb’s shelves. The ones with his annotations in, sometimes little doodled illustrations too. It was another side to Caleb, funnier and more artistic than Jungkook had realised he was, and he revelled in sharing it.

His eyes flick open at a piercing yell from off the balcony. Some kids from his block have been having a water fight. The yell descends into chaotic laughter.

He smiles and picks up his book again.

Twenty minutes later, the door to the stairwell thumps open and Jimin emerges, looking flustered...and wet.

‘Little shits!’ He mutters, ‘got me with a fucking super soaker.’

He leans over the wall of the balcony and flips someone off, jumping back as a jet of water shoots back and nearly hits him in the face. Jungkook laughs and Jimin shakes his wet hair into his face in punishment, before sitting on his lap.

‘How was your day?’ Jungkook asks, scooping his jumper over his hands and using it to rub Jimin’s hair dry.

‘Until I was assaulted by those little street rats, totally fine! How was yours?’

‘Hmm. Quiet.’ He replies, distracted already by undoing the top few poppers of Jimin’s uniform and kissing along his collarbone. ‘I was bored and waiting for you to get home.’

‘Of course you were, isn’t that what this has always been out here? Your little stalker station?’

Jungkook snorts into Jimin’s skin. ‘Well, didn’t you say you like to be adored?’

Jimin places his hand under Jungkook’s chin and lifts his face up to look him in the eye.

‘You seem happy today.’ He smiles, screwing up the tip of his nose.

‘That’s because I am.’