Taehyung stuffs his phone into his pocket and steers left with half an ounce of guilt as he heads towards the student cafeteria. He has his eyes, and his stomach, set on one mission and one mission only, food, and no lecture in the world was going to get in his way of grubbing, not even free extra credit (Taehyung would disturb Yoongi during sleep for extra credit, if that was any indication of how much he valued food). Class starts at 7:30 and has started at 7:30 for two months now, but Taehyung has grown all too familiar with using the three minute window, give or take a few extra seconds, to squeeze in last minute priorities. It’s a bad habit he just can’t seem to shake, and he knows it’s going to come back and bite him in the ass in the future. Of those few priorities, grabbing dinner at the lounge tops the list, right after having clean underwear.
But Taehyung has always made it to class without being too late, at least not without a convincing enough excuse crafted at the last minute or given that he showed up to lectures at all and didn’t spend hours in the shower combing through his hair. With a black hole of a stomach and a metabolism as fast as quicksand, Taehyung was not about to sit in on a 7-10 night class about harmonic dictation to save his life, not again at least. Freshman year had already exposed him to those horrors, and god forbid he live to see the day again.
Taehyung promptly scans the cafeteria with hungry eyes. Hoseok always told him that he tasted with his eyes just as much as he did with his tongue, reasonably explaining why he perpetually planned his meals one after the next. He can’t deny it either because, well, priorities. Normally he’d let his stomach do all the guiding, the anticipation for its reward like a hound dog on the hunt, but given his limited window of time, Taehyung makes a run for the shortest line instead, which proves to be mildly disappointing because it happens to be the university’s knock-off McDonald’s. It was no Burger King, but it was still hamburgers nonetheless.
It’s 7:29 when he’s only one person away from ordering, restlessly staring lasers into the person’s back. It’s also one less person preventing him from getting to class on time, or so Taehyung convinces, feeding on his reserve of optimism saved for rainy days, knowing full well of the scolding he’d receive but pushing it to the back of his mind anyway. He’s thirty percent guilt and seventy percent hungry, but he’s every percent irresponsible.
Taehyung counts the seconds in his head as the person in front of him, hood pulled up and in full black, uses up a whole minute to order, a precious sixty seconds flying right out the window shamefully, all because he got held up in line at the Shack. Taehyung shifts his weight from one foot to the other apprehensively and worries at the insides of his cheeks. He’s trying his best to be chipper here, but his reserve of optimism fuel is running low. This was not the time to browse the menu, considering they’re at the Shack, of all places, where everything is essentially one meal with multiple variations of lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, or cheese, with the occasional double patty (or what Taehyung considers ‘the double fatty’). Nothing more, nothing less.
“Number three, please?” Taehyung finally hears and releases the breath he’d been unconsciously holding, glancing at the menu to the corresponding picture of his order. A double fatty bacon cheeseburger with no greenery whatsoever, save for a few measly pieces of onion. Gag. “Can I get my meat cooked raw? Or is that weird?”
Taehyung makes a face of distaste. The last time he checked, this was a burger place, not a sushi restaurant. He’s slightly mortified and fifty kinds of worried because either this guy was calling upon the gods to bestow food poisoning on him, or he was generously buying dinner for his pet snake. The latter sounds highly more convincing being the healthier, more preferable alternative that didn’t involve indigestion, but something unpleasantly tells him it’s the former. This was a fast food restaurant on a college campus, too, and Taehyung is unsure if he should feel ten times safer or twenty times more worried, given the amount of fucks college students didn’t give; asking for hamburger meat raw is probably synonymous to asking for rubber between two buns. Yeah, Taehyung is a food fanatic, under the circumstance that his food was at least edible.
“Um, I’m sorry, but I don’t think our health code would allow that…?” the cashier says, confusion written on his face as his finger hovers over the register screen. “I can see if they can get the temperature to be medium? But I can’t guarantee it. All of the burgers we have out right now are already pre-made and only need to be heated since it’s getting close to closing.”
“Oh, okay. Yeah that’s fine then,” the guy says, reaching into his hoodie pocket to pull out a wad of crumpled bills and a pack of tissues. “Yeah, I’ll just try that I guess.”
He pays and steps off to the side, hands fidgety as they play with the hem of his hoodie. Taehyung offhandedly catches a glimpse of cyan adorning his forearm, something of a tattoo wrapping around the toned muscle of his arm and curling towards his wrist. Sensing Taehyung’s gaze on his arm, the guy diffidently pulls down his sleeves and shoves his hands into his jean pockets. If Taehyung wasn’t so pressed on time, he would definitely deem this guy highly suspicious what with the hooded get-up and weird vibes; the way he carried himself was like a boy that had just stolen cookies from the cookie jar. But Taehyung is pressed with time, considerably so, having already used up his window minutes ago, and even if he plows through campus in a race car, he’s still going to be late enough for their TA to be irritated. He is both without a race car and the ability to defy time, and if he counts correctly, this will be the third consecutive week of getting scolded by Jiho.
Taehyung hastily steps in front of the register with jittery feet, occupying the guy’s former place, and orders his meal in one breath, cultivated from months of rushing his order, before joining the stranger at the side to wait anxiously for his food. He stuffs his wallet in the pocket of his jeans and sneaks a glance at the hooded figure beside him out of his peripheral. A flash of red hair peeks out from under the hood where Taehyung had assumed brown or black hair would be, but his surprise doesn’t last for long when he’s forced to turn away before the guy can catch him ogling for a second time.
But Taehyung is a man of many words — mostly gibberish, but that’s besides the point — and he finds it impossible to continue on in silence.
“You probably shouldn’t ask for your meat raw at fast food places,” Taehyung blurts, picking at a hang nail on his thumb. “I mean, unless you’re dying to have explosive diarrhea until four a.m. I got a burger once that was just slightly undercooked and ended up having a ‘go-army-dot-com’ situation in the middle of lecture. Me personally, I thought I was going to die from my ass, but I mean. To each their own, right?”
The guy slowly turns to him with a distant expression, head bowed just slightly and eyebrows raised in amusement. But he offers a small smile that tugs at the corners of his lips and shrugs a shoulder curtly, “To each their own.”
It goes silent for exactly ten seconds. Taehyung is still counting down the seconds till his impending confrontation with Woo Jiho, but mostly a habit he’d picked up when small talks got awkward. “Hey, do you even go here?” he asks curiously, turning to face the stranger and adjusting the strap on his shoulder. “I don’t mean to get all Mean Girls on you, but I think I would recognize a head of hair like that if you did.”
Just then, someone cuts in at the perfect timing to call out “Order 85!” and slides a bag across the counter. The guy swiftly lurches for the brown paper bag, seemingly escaping the question at hand and successfully avoiding Taehyung’s attempt at small talk. He turns back towards Taehyung, retreating into the body of students, and salutes him with two fingers to his forehead. He scrunches the side of his face up into a grin, revealing pearly whites that seem to light up the entire room and shouts, “See you around.”
Taehyung frowns as the guy disappears into the throng of people, turning tail and leaving his question unanswered. Rude. But there’s a strange tingling under his skin as he stares at the crowd of people, a feeling that he can’t quite depict with words alone.
Taeyhung is shaken from his trance at the call, pulling him back down into reality as he grabs for his bag, shouting back a terse “thank you” over his shoulder and hurries off towards the east building in a whir of blue and pink.
He checks his time and thinks, fuck, because puberty and his ever-growing appetite certainly did not prepare him for this.
Taehyung is no Tom Cruise nor does he possess the skill to make mission impossible, possible. No, Taehyung is a clumsy college student with a crowded mind who prioritizes fast food over the beginnings of lectures, tumbling into classrooms out of breath and smelling distinctly like french fries.
With his already bedridden hair stuffed under a backwards cap and glasses to make him look Namjoon-intelligent, Taehyung is quite the spectacle when he finally shows up to lecture fifteen minutes late. He’s no Tom Cruise with the sexy female leads, but he does sprint to class with the wind in his hair sexily like the movies, managing to stuff his food in his backpack along the way and thoroughly crushing his lecture notes in the process — not like he cared about those anyway.
Jiho is in the middle of scribbling on the board when Taehyung sneaks in with careful footsteps that he at least tries to make discreet, which to his own misunderstanding, could pass as a small herd of elephant trampling the campus grounds in tap shoes. Taehyung has never been one to beat around the bushes, and this holds true even when arriving minutes late to class. His second grade teacher had told him “A for effort” when he showed up with an empty toilet roll taped to his forehead and called himself a unicorn for ‘Future Me’ day, and he has lived by these words ever since. It’s his ninja way.
Jeongguk is already rolling his eyes at him condescendingly when he ascends the steps to his row like the shit he is. But anyway, there could never be a tardy without at least one eye roll from Jeon Jeongguk to combat his lack of promptness. He had deemed Jeongguk both his eighty year old grandma and his two year old brother since the day they became friends, and this will probably never change. Taehyung flips him off and sidesteps into the row, shuffling past the flimsy lecture tables and accidentally kicking down a water bottle. He’s almost convinced that he’s successfully snuck in without Jiho noticing until he feels something hit the back of his head with an echoing thwack and topple off to the side.
“Kim Taehyung, nice of you to join the class after your fast food endeavors,” Jiho says sarcastically, eyebrows raising unamused as he caps his marker. Taehyung grins abashedly and bends down to retrieve the board eraser that had been chucked at him mercilessly. “You smell like Burger King just took a Royal Shit.”
“First of all, ouch. Second, hear me out,” Taehyung tries, clapping his hands together and bringing them to his chin. “Would you at least believe me if I told you it’s this new cologne I’m trying?”
"Taehyung, I swear to god—"
“Bleu de McChanel?”
“I’m going to slap the calories out of you.”
“A growing boy’s got to eat, professor,” Taehyung shrugs, tossing the eraser back and taking his seat. “Sorry though, I’ll be on time next week.”
“That’s bullshit and we both know it, kid. You’re lucky you’re smart,” Jiho trails off threateningly, twisting around to the board to complete his sentence. “Get your ass to lecture on time or else I’m locking the door at 7:30!”
“Got it!” Taehyung salutes and plucks his pen from his pocket, placing it behind his ear. “Love you, Zico.”
Halfway through the class while Jiho explains meters and the sun has completely disappeared from the sky, Taehyung finds hair on the last bite of his burger, and it’s enough to turn him off entirely. He isn’t much of a germ freak, not that living with Namjoon for a whole semester gave him room to even consider the benefits of sanitary health anyway. It’s a bit of an understatement to say he’d become accustomed to his lifestyle, especially after witnessing Namjoon eat out of the same, unwashed bowl for almost two weeks straight with no intentions of at least rinsing it. Even Taehyung couldn’t handle his barbaric lifestyle and went to the extent of doing the dishes himself every night.
But even though Taehyung and Jeongguk lived by the “five second rule” (just as much as he lives by his “A for effort” rule) and would eat peanuts that touched New York’s streets if it meant falling victim for only a short second, this was enough to make him inwardly gag and call it done for the night. He nudges Jeongguk with his elbow and waits for Jiho to turn back to the board before leaning over and offering the last morsel of food.
“Hey, Jeongguk, do you want this?” he asks in a hushed whisper, pushing the remains of his dinner towards Jeongguk with feigned innocence.
“Fuck you, I definitely saw that rank piece of hair on the bun,” Jeongguk frowns and pushes Taehyung’s hand away. “Can’t fool me that easily.”
“No harm in trying,” Taehyung shrugs and wraps up the rest of it. He tears a leaf of paper from his notebook and wipes his mouth clean. No napkins, no problem. He meant it when he said his crushed notes didn’t matter. “Hey, by the way, have you ever seen anyone on campus with the hot-cheetos red hair? Lowkey Ronald McDonald in disguise?”
“Don’t think so,” Jeongguk mumbles back, scribbling in his notebook like the good student he is. Taehyung frowns at this and is bitterly reminded of the “Star Student” award he never received. To hell with elementary school and their treasure boxes full of suprises. “Were you near the art department?”
“Student lounge,” Taehyung responds, jotting down his own notes because he should probably make the best of this class (and his money). But Taehyung is awful at multitasking, even more awful at keeping his notes organized, and these sheaves of paper will most likely make little to no sense when he pulls them back out to study later. “He looked really out of place. And I’m not too sure if he even goes here. He asked for his burger raw at the Shack. That’s gross and unethical in more ways than one.”
“So what are you getting at?”
“Does that not itch at your noggin?” Taehyung mutters under his breath, thoroughly baffled. He looks at Jeongguk with wide eyes, resting his elbows on the desk, which is really just a sorry excuse for an efficient writing surface. College apparently also meant paying twice the amount for half the writing space.
“Well, it’s whatever,” Jeongguk shrugs casually, twirling his pen between his fingers. Taehyung had spent precisely one week trying to master the art of pencil tricks before he regretfully had to call it quits with the condition that students wouldn’t be sent to the hospital with missing eyes. “Doesn’t Seokjin hyung like his steak hella undercooked too?”
“Okay, but that’s Seokjin,” Taehyung huffs, sinking down in his chair. “He could eat steak-doughnut-lasagna hybrids and call it an appetizer.”
“True,” Jeongguk nods thoughtfully, pursing his lips. “Did you ever consider that this guy could’ve dyed his hair recently? Maybe that’s why you didn’t notice him before.”
“No, no, I definitely would’ve recognized that face around campus,” Taehyung nibbles at the tip of his pen and runs the past month over in his head. There’s no recollection of the stranger in his memory archives.
“What’s bugging you then?” Jeongguk asks, setting his pen down and raising a brow with interest.
“I don’t even know. There was just something mad sketch about him, I guess,” Taehyung hums in thought, staring at the empty, white spaces of the board. “Maybe it’s just the hair. Reminded me of that time we dared Seokjin to eat a cup of Sriracha.”
“Oh man,” Jeongguk scoffs, shaking his head with a grin. “Holy shit. What a time to be alive.”
Taehyung holds up his phone and wiggles it in his hand, suppressing laughter as a mischievous smirk spreads across his face, "Got it all on camera, too—"
Something cuffs the side of his head mid-sentence for the second time that night, and Taehyung scrunches up his nose at the sudden attack, cradling the battle wound with his hand and following the board eraser with his eyes as it collapses on his desk.
“Shut up and pay attention!” Jiho yells from the front of the classroom.
Taehyung frowns but obliges, twisting straight in his seat and tossing the eraser back to the front of the room.
He may be in class, but his mind is somewhere else.
“Freedom is here!”
Taehyung all but sprints out the door when class lets out, heavily inhaling the not-so-fresh-air from the hallway like it’s the best kind of oxygen he’s had in years (really, it smells like newly polished wood with a hint of sweaty balls, but it’s better than the smell of learning, and Taehyung will take what he can). He stretches his arms to the ceiling with a pop and groans dramatically, ignoring the strange looks he receives from passerby's. Jeongguk follows suit shortly after, cool as a cucumber as if he had all the time in the world to do anything and everything and still have time to run for president. Taehyung doesn’t doubt it, he just wishes time could do the same for him.
“It’s been far too long, nature,” Taehyung pretend-cries when they actually step outside into the night. He spreads his arms out wide and exhales through his nose happily. “I thought I’d never escape.”
“We’ve been in this class for two months,” Jeongguk says, looking at Taehyung with an exasperated expression through the campus lights, which projects as much light as a small nightstand lamp. “I hate that you’re the laziest person I’ve ever met, but you don’t even need to try to get good grades.”
“Whoa there, cowboy. I’m not lazy,” Taehyung refutes, stuffing his hands in his hoodie pocket as the cold nibbles at his fingertips. “I stayed up till four last night trying to beat my own high score. That can’t be ‘lazy’. That’s dedication, my friend.”
“That’s obsession and gaming addiction,” Jeongguk starts, pointing a finger at Taehyung. “But the assignments you don’t touch until ten minutes before they’re due? That’s laziness.”
“Jeon Jeongguk. Jeongguk of all Jeongguks. Jeonny boy. Are you seriously trying to lecture me right now,” Taehyung asks, slightly befuddled. He stops in his tracks and raises his brows, cocking his chin forward questioningly. “‘Cause. It’s kind of working.”
“No,” Taehyung responds, resuming his footsteps and catching up to Jeongguk who’s a few steps ahead. He scrunches his nose and shakes his head. “No, not really.”
“You’re unbelievable,” Jeongguk grumbles, sighing heavily and rolling his eyes as they approach the parking lot.
They’ve already made it to Jeongguk’s car, the walk from the east building to the parking lot an easy walking distance with Taehyung’s Fiat a little further down near the parking garage because he can never for the life of him find a spot quite as close, and that’s if he’s lucky. Yoongi had given him a life’s supply of criticism when he’d spent the rest of his graduation money on his secondhand Fiat, and he’s ever since avoided driving his car in Yoongi’s line of sight (“Do you even know what Fiat stands for? It stands for ‘Fix It Again, Tony’, so good going, stiffdick.”)
Parking at this side of campus is always a blood bath of first come, first serve, where politeness and chivalry were entirely a thing of the past. He can't even begin to recall the number of people he’s cut off to take valuable parking spots or how many times he’s shoved Jeongguk out of his car to stand in empty parking spaces. He’s made more enemies in this parking lot alone than he’s ever made in his whole life — after all, this was a war zone.
“Okay, now it’s my turn. So listen up,” Taehyung exclaims and throws an arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders, footsteps falling in sync as they move as one. “Think about it like this: no one’s going to care about that C you got in your junior year of music theory, kid. Letters won’t dictate your life, this does,” Taehyung taps Jeongguk’s forehead with his finger before pulling away and patting him on the back. “And with that, I leave you my grand legacy to write a thousand-page biography of my greatness!”
Taehyung is all about glorifying himself whenever he can, and maybe he likes hearing himself talk more than he consciously realizes. He lives for the dramatics and the heroic end notes that he thinks leaves people in awe, and given any chance where he can prove himself, Taehyung snatches it up like a gold medal. But the reality is that Taehyung isn’t the Einstein he claims to be, no matter how many times he’s told he should use his brain to his advantage because he ‘can’ or how many Halloweens he spends dressing up as a mad scientist.
“I actually believed you were cool for a second,” Jeongguk jokes, opening his car door. “Then I remembered I was talking to Kim Taehyung.”
“You say that now, but I know you go home and cry into your pillow about how good of a friend I am, all whilst listening to Drake,” Taehyung says, shrugging and walking around the car. “But hey, I’m not judging.”
“Fuck you too, hyung!” Jeongguk shouts before shutting his door on him.
Taehyung laughs to himself and yanks out his car keys from his pocket before trudging the rest of the way to his car. It’s always vastly dark in this parking lot, especially the area near the parking garage where the only source of light for the entire stretch is the single light post hovering over the sidewalk. The school’s campus has never really had issues with robbery or theft - not that they’ve publicly announced, at least — but Taehyung has never been one to trust the authorities. Something about a desolate parking lot devoid of human existence spooks him more than he’ll ever admit in instances of paranoia. He could force Jeongguk to walk him to his car first, but Jeongguk’s ego would probably swallow him whole if he ever admitted to being anything remotely close to a wuss. He’d never let Taehyung live it down, even if Taehyung saved the world from the apocalypse with a toothbrush, and that alone is enough reason to not ever ask Jeongguk for favors of that sort.
Taehyung hastily walks to his car, twirling his keys around his pointer finger absently to disturb the silence that engulfs him. He’s opening the door and tossing his backpack in the passenger seat when a small square of paper flutters to the ground from the driver’s window that he briefly prays isn’t a ticket. He’s already accumulated a stack of parking tickets in his glove compartment, unpaid and annoyingly neon, the slips peeking out of the gaps as a daily reminder that he needed to take care of those before his car got booted.
Taehyung kneels down to pick up the half-sheet nervously and discovers, instead, an obnoxious invitation to a frat party that had started twenty minutes ago. Sure, frat parties were cool, if he could get drunk enough beforehand for Jeongguk and Yoongi to drag him along without him soberly knowing. It just wasn’t his scene, that is, unless he was looking to get shitfaced by midnight and end up in someone’s bathtub with gum lodged in his hair. It’s happened before, and he doesn’t doubt it could happen again. After all he did wake up in a ladybug dress the last one he’d crashed with—
“Fuck!” Taehyung jumps, screaming at the top of his lungs when he straightens up to come face to face with a pale face and red hair. The flier is long forgotten as his memory slowly pieces the familiarity of the stranger together. It’s the hamburger guy from the Shack. “Fuck, shit. Shitfuck. Where the hell did you come from?”
“Sorry,” the guy laughs, the sound coming out more like a giggle than anything. Taehyung did not trust anyone with a giggle, and he finds it anything but funny when he’s the one who had almost fallen victim to coughing up his heart. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ninja attack you like that.”
Yet even through the midst of his faint heart, Taehyung can’t help but to notice the way his eyes alluringly twinkle when he smiles, even under this shitty lighting that makes Taehyung look anything but alluring and rather, like he had five-o-clock shadow.
“Well you did,” Taehyung breathes, clutching his chest and leaning back against his car to regain his ruined composure. “I almost had a Life Alert moment.”
“Sorry,” he repeats, softer this time and with more sincerity. His smile doesn’t falter for a second, even when the moment has long passed and there’s nothing but Taehyung’s dramatic breathing to fill the space.
Taehyung doesn't know what conjures him to do it when he drops his gaze down to his lips. They’re not even having ‘a moment’, nor is this a setup for romantics to happen, but the second Taehyung catches a glimpse of his pearly white teeth, the boy closes his mouth and clears his throat. Taehyung self-consciously runs his tongue over his front teeth and makes a mental reminder to put on some much needed whitening strips tonight. Coffee did awful things to humans, and one of those things included staining his teeth a nasty yellow.
“You dropped this,” the guy says after a pause, handing Taehyung his wallet over the open car door, which conveniently separates them should Taehyung have to scramble into his car and lock the doors. He already has this planned out, from the escape route to the backup escape route to the backup of the backup. So on, so forth. It’s not like the guy looks threatening or anything, with a smile like his that screamed docile virgin, probably, not that Taehyung was against that or anything. He could be one of those “innocent but kinky” types that Namjoon thirsted for, IBK for short when they were in public like the pervert he was.
Taehyung also notices, to his advantage and man-pride, that he’s got a few inches on the dude, albeit having the thinner frame. On a scale of Yoongi to Hoseok, this guy was just below Hoseok on his mental genial spectrum. He seemed genuine enough, but Taehyung wasn’t going to let his amiable demeanor fool him that easily. Namjoon had once recited to him the wise words of the Hip Hop Gods, and that was to trust no bitch.
“Did I drop this in your hand?” Taehyung suspiciously jokes, squinting his eyes and reaching over the car foo to snatch his wallet.
The guy shrugs offhandedly, leaning forward to rest his arms at the top of the door, and lays his chin on his folded arms. The way his glowing eyes never once break away from Taehyung makes him antsy under the gaze as he fidgets with his wallet in hand, picking at the edges. It’s hard to look at him straight on for more than a few seconds at a time from the intensity, and the way his close-mouthed smile never falters doesn’t make it any easier. Yet the subtle, red glow to his eyes draws Taehyung in when he finally wills himself to not be an awkward turtle.
“Maybe? Although there’s nothing but a gift card to Victoria’s Secret and a bundle of stripper cash in there. Strange, isn’t it?” The guy jokes teasingly but lightly shakes his head quickly thereafter. “No, really though, you dropped it on the sidewalk back there. Didn’t want to ruin anyone’s day by not returning it.”
“I take my work very seriously, excuse you,” Taehyung huffs, holding up his wallet. “It’s not easy being a male stripper.”
“I can see that,” the boy agrees, fabricating sympathy. “If the flooded pants in the middle of autumn is any indication.”
“What can I say, I like to wear provocative clothing. Sorry, but we can’t be friends if you can’t accept that,” Taehyung retorts jokingly.
He leans into his car and chucks his wallet into the cup holder alongside his two month bottle of coke. The inside is lined with condensation, and he thinks there may be a lottery ticket in there, balled up and soggy. If he’s truthful, his car was in dire need of a serious three-hour cleaning session because with any more delay, that stain in the passenger seat from spilled soy sauce was going to be permanent.
“Thanks though,” Taehyung starts, bending his head to brace it from hitting the roof. "And hey, by the way, what’s your nam—"
But when Taehyung straightens up, he’s alone with no one and nothing in sight, not even a red-haired boy with white teeth.
There’s nothing but the dim light overhead to accompany him.
Taehyung would be lying if he said he stopped thinking about the stranger with the vibrant red hair or that he didn’t subconsciously scan the campus grounds between classes in hopes that he’d catch sight of that familiar head of hair. But he’s just as terrible a liar as he is a multitasking listener.
“Are you listening to me?”
Taehyung snaps out of his thoughts as Yoongi’s voice rings in his ears and shucks him out of his daze. He glances belatedly to the side at said person, who’s raising an eyebrow at him in equal amounts annoyance as disbelief with the trademark expression that Yoongi wore when he was considering murder.
“Yes,” Taehyung responds curtly because no, that was the last thing he was doing.
“Then what was I talking about?” Yoongi tests and looks about ready to check out of life altogether. Trademark look number two.
“Kumamon,” Taehyung tries confidently, but his attempts are futile as Yoongi stares at him blankly. “Kanye West. Furniture. Hong Kong.”
“No, no, no,” Yoongi checks off on his hand, raising a finger for each of his attempts. “And definitely no. What the hell, ‘hong kong’? Really?”
“Worth a try,” Taehyung shrugs honestly. “Sorry, I was just… thinking about something.”
“About what?” Yoongi asks, and Taehyung inwardly sighs in relief as Yoongi lets this one slide. “What could be so important that you blocked out my spiel on Hoseok’s ugly new shoes.”
The halls are empty at this time of night, both students and professors alike having hurried home by now to get ready for the weekend festivities, all but Taehyung and Yoongi who had studiously stayed after class until Taehyung started complaining about his brain threatening to burst. For as long as he can remember, it had been somewhat of a tradition to spend Friday nights after lecture cranky through homework with Yoongi because Yoongi, despite his gruff, indifferent demeanor, had the perfect amount of patience and authority to give him the extra push on music theory assignments that he’d otherwise never get done on his own. Taehyung understood them, yeah, but he had no bone of motivation in his entire body to actually get pen to paper, let alone pen to hand. And Yoongi knows this full well; it had been his idea after all that they start staying after class to work. Taehyung is just glad he has friends that care for his responsibilities more than he does.
“It’s just,” Taehyung starts, adjusting his hair under his cap. It’s getting far too long for his liking and just barely tickles the bridge of his nose when he lets his bangs fall to his face. “I think Jiho and Kyung are fucking.”
Taehyung mentally applauds himself for smoothly avoiding the question. In retrospect, there wasn’t anything important enough to really block out his reality, there wasn’t anything atall. But Taehyung was a victim of his own mind and let the small things get the best of him, and it’s one of his worst traits yet.
“Our TA’s?” Yoongi reiterates, scrunching his brows together. “Everyone knows they’re fucking.”
“Wait, what?” Taehyung sputter, stopping dead in his tracks. He intended this to be mere nonsense to cover up for himself, and the last thing he expected was for it to be true nonsense. “What do you mean ‘everyone’? I am not everyone?”
“You’re the 1% then because literally everyone already knows they’re fucking,” Yoongi scoffs, walking off ahead of Taehyung, who stares down the hallway mortified. "Hoseok’s sister knows they’re fucking. My grandma probably knows they’re fucking. President Obama probably knows they’re fu—"
“Okay, I get it, everyone and their President knows it,” Taehyung frowns in confusion and jogs up to Yoongi’s side. “Oh my god, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at them the same without imaging them going at it on our desks-“
“Don’t you fucking dare, Kim Taehyung,” Yoongi says affirmatively, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Just because your image of them is ruined doesn’t mean you can ruin mine too.”
"But think about it, they’re totally the type to—"
“I’m going to throw up on your face and then stomp on it afterwards if you keep going.”
Taehyung is quiet as the thought swarms his brain like a bad fever, but he spares Yoongi the details for his own sanity and keeps the vivid imagery to himself.
“This is the rudest awakening I’ve ever experienced,” Taehyung says as they approach the exit to the building.
“Been there, done that,” Yoongi raises his eyebrows to his hairline - Taehyung figures everyone had to find out one way or another. Yoongi pushes the door open with his back, the sound of clinking metal echoing throughout the building noisily and reverberating off the high ceilings.
“Oh, crap, I forgot. I need to stop by the lab real quick to get my hoodie,” Taehyung groans, dropping his shoulders and jutting his thumb behind him. “So I’ll see you later.”
“Alright, be careful though,” Yoongi says lowly, pushing further back against the door to hold it open. The gust of cold air that rushes in raises bumps on Taehyung’s skin, and he shivers. “Apparently a little boy died in this building, and he lives in these walls, waiting to capture all the Kim Taehyung’s in the world.”
“I’m praying to the heavens before I go to sleep tonight that Kyung sucks Jiho’s dick on every single desk you occupy this semester,” Taehyung retorts bluntly.
Yoongi reaches forward and pinches his cheek between his pointer finger and thumb. “Look at you, talking all vulgar. I raised a good one.” Yoongi straightens up and releases the door. “See you tomorrow, kid!”
Taehyung sighs deep within his chest and turns on his heels to take the small flight of stairs down to the labs. He pulls out his phone to check the new notifications in the group text from Namjoon, explicitly listing out this weekend’s plans as he thumbs through the thread, the words “Seokjin is cooking” peeking his interest as he types a quick reply. Seokjin’s cooking was always a blessing because it meant double to triple the servings, and if he was particularly lucky, lunch in the form of packed containers for the mornings after.
The lab lights are already flickering into the dim hallway as Taehyung approaches the classroom, and he furrows his brows, glancing around nervously. He can’t think of any reason as to why anyone would be at the lab on a friday night, not on the same weekend as one of the school’s home football games and midterms still a few months away. Taehyung sidles into the classroom-half of the lab and notices to his assumption that the lab is, indeed, entirely empty with no one occupying the room save for himself. The janitors must be making their rounds around the building at this time of the night. Taehyung walks to the back of the classroom and scopes through the counters and desks in search of his black hoodie. There’s nothing but textbooks and forgotten binders that have been there since the beginning of time with the occasional water bottle that no one had bothered retrieving since it got left behind months ago. Taehyung knows because it somehow always ends up at his feet during class. He bends to peek under the tables, instead finding a brand new ballpoint pen on the floor near the sink that he sneaks into his pocket for safekeeping. Like hell was he going to let this chance pass for free school supplies.
“Where the fuck…” Taehyung whispers to himself, browsing the aisles thoroughly and practically crawling on the floors in search of his missing hoodie. It’s one of his favorites, oversized but comfortable and flattering his figure, and he swears to god if someone stole it—
Taehyung snaps his head up when he hears the sound of clinking glass and almost chokes when he spots two people past the window leading into the lab-half of the room, only partially lit and obscured from the windows slight tint. He only fully sees one person, hood up and obstructing the view of the other. Upon closer inspection, Taehyung can see that it’s a girl perched on the counter past the hooded figure, her legs wrapped loosely around a slim waist, head tilted off to one side blissfully as the guy buries his face into her neck. At the surface, it appears to be a mere make out session in the school’s lab. Taehyung almost rolls his eyes and shrugs it off when suddenly, the guy languidly lifts his head, and Taehyung is sure his eyes aren’t deceiving him when he sees red liquid sliding down the side of her neck and staining the fabric of her shirt, blossoming into the cotton.
Taehyung’s heart is in his throat as his mouth drops open, agape, feet nailed to the ground in both horror and confusion as the guy turns his head to look behind him. Taehyung catches sight of a blur of red, both from the liquid dripping from pink lips and the color of hair that peeks out from beneath the hood, and ducks down faster than he can process, bracing himself against the white floors and crouching below the desks. His head is spinning as he screws his eyes shut and hopes to god he wasn’t spotted and that whoever and whatever that guy was doing doesn’t come for him too. He crawls hurriedly to the door, hoodie long forgotten as he makes it a mission to get the fuck out of there as fast as he can without looking behind.
It’s only when he’s out of the building entirely does Taehyung allow himself to breathe, pressing a palm to his forehead in utter confusion as he takes a hesitant seat on the nearest bench with wobbly knees. The images replay vividly in his mind, sequences flashing before him even when he’s back in his room and under the confines of his blanket, trying to get a wink of sleep as the sun threatens to rise. Taehyung has never believed in monsters or the supernatural, but after tonight, he doesn’t dare look under his bed.
Min Yoongi 1, Taehyung 0.
If Taehyung found it difficult to get his shit together in the weeks prior, it’s near impossible now.
He doesn’t have a clue of how to make sense of what he’d witnessed in the lab that night, but he spends more time trying to convince himself that it’d been a wild hallucination and less time attempting to discern the whole thing. Maybe he’d gotten secondhand-high from Yoongi, but he distinctly recalls Yoongi being sober the entirety of class, both before and after - not that Yoongi was the type, anyway. He usually only dabbled in the sort with Namjoon on particular weekends.
His post-confusion into the following weekend definitely doesn’t stop him from logging onto every fantasy forum he could reach to research anything about the existence of supernatural beings on earth, until his six a.m. alarm went off on his phone and startled him out of his own skin, forcing him to jostle his cup of water onto the pile of papers beside his laptop. He’d even gone as far as to wake up at seven the morning thereafter to run to the library, clad in his pajamas, and print out pages upon pages of articles and snatching books from the shelves of everything he could find relating to vampires, werewolves, zombies, fairies, the whole shebang. He ignored the humored smirk on the guy’s face when he’d slid the pile across the counter to scan as he eyeballed the encyclopedia about fairies while Taehyung held back an eye roll so dramatic it threatened to put Seokjin’s to shame (“Am I not allowed to read books about fairies and have a dick at the same time?” Taehyung had frowned disapprovingly).
But there isn’t anything in the contents of these articles that he doesn’t already know. The only thing he’d found helpful in his crazed thirst (no pun intended) to find answers was when he’d circled back to the online forums, stumbling upon a thread discussing the rumors and existence of vampires in the city of Seoul and the various sightings of these creatures to date. Taehyung doesn’t take their word for it, not entirely, at least, granted that nothing provided a reliable source or hard evidence of these reports. But Taehyung feels his mind reeling nonetheless at a million miles per hour at the possibility that he’d crossed paths with something beyond mankind.
Taehyung is in the middle of finally trimming his bangs with immaculate precision, ‘Hotel Transylvania’ blaring on his laptop from the corner of his bed when it happens.
He’s rewatched the film a couple dozen times now as a method of ‘research’ but mostly out of enjoyment for the character design and overall product, proof in the way he recites the lines along with the movie to his own reflection as he combs through his bangs to line up the length of the strands against the bridge of his nose. After countless bad experiences of getting his hair cut at salons, Taehyung had taken it upon himself to trim his own hair if could help it. The tickling of a hair razor pressed against his sideburns still haunts him till this day, even with five years of (much needed) recovery.
Taehyung raises the scissors and presses the cool metal against his forehead, angling the scissors carefully above his eyes to gauge the amount he wanted trimmed off. Just as he’s about to snip the first few strands, closing the blades of the scissors slowly, something comes whirring through his window in a dizzying blur and topples past the blinds with a thud. He’s mere centimeters from stabbing his eye out, but on behalf of his vision, he ends up sacrificing his social life instead, chopping off a good two inches of his bangs and watches the strands go flying much like the figure in his mirror’s reflection.
“Fuck!” Taehyung screams in shock like deja vu, pressing himself back against the nearest wall in horror as the figure crashes onto his mattress ungracefully, knocking his neatly folded stack of boxers to the floor. There’s moisture sliding down the side of his face, and for a brief second, Taehyung disregards it as a cold sweat from the sheer amount of shock, but when he wipes at the corner of his forehead, blood paints the skin of his hand when he retracts it with a wince, the blades of the scissors having caught the corner of his eyebrow before falling to the floor.
The figure sits up with slight difficulty, disoriented as he leans his upper body on his forearm and looks right at Taehyung with dark, red eyes and white, white skin. When the hood falls away, there’s that same head of electrifying red hair that had been haunting at the edges of Taehyung’s mind since their first meeting at the student lounge, staring back at him like a nauseating memory. Taehyung’s blood runs cold the second he identifies who’d came crashing through his window, body going completely still when he recalls that it’s the same guy he’d caught the other night, drinking straight from some girl’s jugular. And well, if his research proved anything, it was that this guy was not human.
“I swear to god this was not on purpose,” the guy disclaims, dumbfounded as he straightens off the bed with deliberate movements. “This is pure coincidence.”
Taehyung swallows down the lump in his throat and wills himself to keep calm. He really can’t afford a panic attack right now, not when the nearest object for defense is an oversized sponge finger that he’d stolen from one of the football games last semester. Maybe if he acts dumb, he’ll get out of this alive, preferably with all his limbs intact and sufficient enough blood supply. He’s not one to gamble with life, and there’s no way he can stand a chance against this guy, even on his best day. The few inches of height he has on him means nothing if he can’t defend himself for shit.
Taehyung’s one and only worthy opponent was Hoseok in a tickle fight. This was not a tickle fight.
“Uh, fancy meeting you here!” Taehyung stutters nervously, the blood sliding down the side of his face completely unnoticed by the loud hammering in his chest. “D-don’t worry about crashing in, happens all the time!”
“I know it was you the other night,” the guy interjects bluntly with a sigh, sliding to the edge of the bed and swinging his feet down onto the floor. “So you can drop the act.”
And Taehyung does. He doesn’t need to be told twice.
“Please don’t eat me,” Taehyung cries, shrinking into the corner with his hands pressed together in prayer. “I have no idea if you eat brains or have hidden glittery wings and a horn on your forehead, but please spare me. I taste like shit, I promise.”
“Christ, I’m not going to eat you okay? Just chill out for a second and let me explain,” he sighs, standing up cautiously.
“What makes you think I’m going to trust you?” Taehyung squeaks, making a face of disbelief. “Especially after I caught you sucking… neck with that girl.”
“Maybe because there’s blood running down the side of your face and I haven’t attacked you?” he says, squinting an eye judgingly. “What do you take me for, some blood-thirsty savage? I have other interests you know.”
Taehyung wants to say yes, actually, that’s exactly what I take you for, but he distractedly runs his fingers along his temple for a second time and grimaces when they come in contact with the gash just above his brow. “Shit,” he winces, and then realization dawns on him like a sack of bricks when he spots strands of his hair littering the carpet. “Shit!”
Taehyung jumps to his feet and gapes at his reflection in the mirror, his bangs now falling just above his eyebrows. He doesn’t even take notice to the incision on his forehead or the dried blood that lines his temple because his bangs are cut with such precision that they’d trace the outline of a bowl down to a T, and it nostalgically reminds him of the good old days when he’d regretfully let his mother trim his hair for him. Bad haircut stories haunted him left and right, and Taehyung is ready to except his fate that maybe hair just wasn’t for him.
“Wow,” Taehyung breathes, nodding solemnly to himself in the mirror and lifting a strand of his bangs upwards. “My social life is ruined. I look like a downgraded version of Spock.”
“You don’t look… that bad,” the guy offers, scrunching up one side of his face and scratching his head. “Okay maybe you do.”
“I look like I’m wearing a helmet. I look like a throwback thursday, I look- okay, this can wait. I’ll cry about it in the bathtub later,” Taehyung says, holding up his hands to stop himself. “Because right now, I need an explanation of what the hell was going on in the lab the other night. That was either some real kinky shit, or I should be running for my life right this second.”
"What you saw—"
“But before that, what is your name?”
The guy sighs impatiently, shoulders going slack. “Jimin, hi,” he introduces sarcastically, waving a hand. There’s a short pause. “I guess it— I’m just going to lay this out there straight and clear. I was hungry. Like, really hungry, and that girl would not leave me alone for the life of me — death of me? She dragged me to that classroom and asked me to undress her, so I did, kind of. Just with my teeth. I know you don’t need any more of an explanation than that.” He says pointedly, nodding towards his laptop.
“Say it. Out loud.”
"Oh my god—"
“Okay okay, I’m done,” Taehyung raises his palms to his chest when Jimin directs an icy glare at him. “So you’re not human?” Taehyung confirms.
It’d been a challenge the other night to look at Jimin straight on, but now he can’t find it in him to look away, the hue in his irises more radiant than he’d ever seen and mesmerizing as his eyes scoped every inch of the room before Taehyung had time to blink.
“How old are you?”
“And how long have you been twenty-one?”
“Like a year and half, actually. It’s kind of trippy.”
There’s a pregnant pause. Taehyung takes this time to look him over, scrutinizing him from the red hair he’d become so accustomed to, to clearwater eyes and flawless skin even under the terrible lighting of his room. Two sharp fangs protrude from his mouth when he speaks, and Taehyung finds this the most distracting, his own tongue peeking to swipe along his canines. His hands itch to reach out and observe for themselves, but he maintains the short distance between them to establish their boundaries. He still has no reason to trust Jimin just yet.
“Can you please go wash your face,” Jimin grits, voice strangled in his throat as peels his eyes away and stiffly sits back down on the edge of the bed, licking his lips and averting his gaze to the movie. “It’s really distracting and making me feel some type of way.”
“Oh,” Taehyung says dumbly, glancing down at his fingers that are stained with dried blood like a bad nosebleed. “Oh, sorry.”
Taehyung paces to the bathroom just outside his room and reemerges with a wet towel and a bandage in hand. He takes his seat on the carpet in front of his mirror, tossing the scissors onto his desk in the process and leans close to the mirror to dab carefully at the wound. The cut isn’t as big as the mess of blood made it out to be, but it stings enough to hurt. Gazing at his reflection, Taehyung forlornly examines his bangs as he cleans up any excess blood on his skin. He’s going to have to wear a cap for the next few months, which isn’t exactly the worst alternative, per se, it just meant flashing his forehead in all its full glory more than he was comfortable with.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this,” Taehyung admits, glancing at Jimin through the mirror who, as opposed to his articles, does have a reflection. “I always thought you guys were fantasy.”
“Well, that’s the thing,” Jimin shifts on the bed and lifts his arm to rest along the bed frame. Taehyung squints at the reflection, and there it is again, that enticing cyan mark that twisted around his forearm. “I don’t really know what to call myself, either,” Jimin admits, running a hand through his hair with a sort of carefree air that makes Taehyung’s head spin. “I don’t understand what’s going on with my body, if I’m honest. It’s like going through puberty all over again, and that was already a nightmare.”
“You feed on blood, humans don’t. What else is there to understand?” Taehyung questions, setting the towel in his lap and fanning the moist skin with his hand. “At least your diet doesn’t require deciding between beef or chicken because I still have that dilemma.”
“At least you have the luxury of variety!” Jimin frowns, resting his head in his hand. “Who knows though. This could be a condition for all I know.”
“Does your heart even beat anymore?” Taehyung asks disbelievingly, pausing in the mirror to glance behind him. Jimin shakes his head. “I hate to be the barer of bad news, but your condition is dead.”
“Yeah, but the thirst comes and goes randomly, inconsistently. And I can breathe. I just choose not to,” Jimin stares at the laptop as the credits begin to roll. “I still don’t know how to feed properly, either. Or fly, for that matter. That’s like mastering the final level of Super Smash Brothers, single player.”
“Just sounds like you’re a newbie to me,” Taehyung challenges, hinting more at the game than he is at Jimin’s inabilities to fly. Jimin side-eyes him and makes a noncommittal grunt.
Taehyung opens up the bandage and tosses the wrapper to the side. There’s something uncomfortable yet comfortable about talking to Jimin like this, the way they semi-casually discuss the matter as though they were chatting about this week’s weather forecast. But tension still lingers in the air between them as Taehyung cautiously keeps his guard up while Jimin tries to establish trust and safety. It’s all so risky with the odds weighing negatively on Taehyung’s end. He’s still human and puny the last time he checked, and a casual conversation could easily escalate to his blood staining the carpet floors.
Taehyung peels the tabs off the back of the bandage sloppily and attempts to smooth it down over the small wound marring the corner of his eyebrow. He fails the first time when he makes it too tight on his skin and fails the second time also when he makes it too loose, peeling it off impatiently and tries to reapply it with perfection. Taehyung has always had shaky hands, and even though he doesn’t have OCD or anything of the sort, a crinkled bandaid bothers him more than he can shrug off and ignore. He’s so intent on getting it right, face mere centimeters from the mirror, that he doesn’t notice Jimin standing on his feet in his periphery to advance on over, so gracefully inaudible that if Taehyung wasn’t so concentrated, he would still be oblivious to his approaching presence.
Taehyung’s entire body freezes when he spots Jimin’s feet at the corner of his eyes, hands midair and the feeling of danger coursing through his veins. He gulps, and it’s anything but quiet, a far cry from Jimin’s eloquent way of movement. Then again, humans were a clumsy species that Taehyung didn’t have the highest regard for.
“Quit worrying so much. I told you I’m not going to do anything,” Jimin reassures and kneels down on one knee beside Taehyung. "Here, can I—"
Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut until he sees white as Jimin steadily reaches forward to replace his fingers over the ends of the bandaid, smoothing it down onto the cut so that it lies firmly over the incision. His fingertips are cool to the touch and raise bumps all along Taehyung’s skin the instant they lightly brush against his brow line, and Taehyung feels a shiver all the way down his spine. The feeling is gone as soon it appeared, and as Taehyung finally wills himself to open his eyes, Jimin is standing near his bed by the window, distantly staring at the polaroids that lined his wall.
“You won’t tell anyone, will you,” Jimin mutters quietly with a hint of worry, like he’s ashamed and afraid of anyone finding out about his existence. “It’ll mean execution or worse if news gets out that I’m not human.”
Taehyung hesitates only because he doesn’t quite know how to answer a question like this — he’s never needed to.
“I— yeah,” Taehyung starts, biting the inside of his cheek and furrowing his brows in thought. Jimin’s face drops. “I mean no, sorry. No, I won’t.”
“Thanks,” Jimin smiles, fangs flashing behind his lips. He reaches out to grip the window frame and climbs onto the window sill before looking over his shoulder at Taehyung. “I’ll see you around.”
In one second, Jimin is standing straight and throwing his entire body out the window. In the next, he’s gone. Taehyung scrambles to his feet and peeks his head out the window, but all he can see are the dark silhouettes of trees and grass and a statue of the school’s mascot, seven stories below.
And Jimin? Jimin was nowhere to be found.
Autumn is here in full bloom before Taehyung has time to pull out his box of oversized sweaters and scarves, leaving him merciless to the cold air that makes his face blush. But even so, Taehyung finds himself leaving his window perched wide open throughout the day without realizing why.
His dorm room becomes something of his own personal freezer, but he’s not complaining, not until he catches a bad case of the flu at least. He’d always enjoyed the cold over the heat of summer, anyway. But leaving the window open both during the day and at overnight meant waking up with runny noses and a fit of coughs that tickled deep within his lungs come morning. He comes up with trivial excuses for why he keeps this up even as the air outside grows colder, more biting, reasoning that the room was stuffy even with the absence of a proper roommate (his former roommate, a crunchy granola with a newfound feeling of wanderlust, had decided at the very last minute to free his spirit and ventured off by foot to the forests of Montenegro, or so the accounts said).
Taehyung always has a method to his madness, but this time around, his excuses convince no one, not even himself and his subconscious, and when he finally comes to terms that he’s yearning for Jimin to accidentally crash through his window for a second time, he buries his face in his pillow shamefully and curses himself for being so easy.
The thing with Jimin was that he was mysterious, evidently out of the ordinary and unusual, and Taehyung had always gravitated towards the unfamiliar, excitement in the form of unanswered questions that made his mind whir with thought. He finds acute satisfaction with dabbling in curiosities and latches onto first-time experiences like a leech, the profound intricacies of stepping foot in new territory spurring a fire within him that he sought to stoke. Maybe he and his almost-roommate had something in common after all. The only difference is that his wanderlust is in the form of learning about new, intricate cities of a person’s mind.
Jimin is an unknown city his hands and feet wished to explore.
Taehyung consecutively cancels plans with Jeongguk and Yoongi over the weekends and feels the guilt creep up on him impossibly with each excuse, mustering up fabricated scenarios that he needed to study. Yoongi immediately calls bullshit on it after he sends the text because, studying? Is that the best you have? He ends up crashing through his door with Jeongguk in tow, both of them with complaints of why in the hell his room resembled Alaska in the middle of a depression.
“There’s this thing called a heater that was invented back in the 1800’s,” Yoongi chastises, yanking his hood around his head and tightening the drawstrings to shield himself from the cold. “You should use it before I decide to set your comforter on fire for warmth.”
“Seriously hyung, why the hell is your window open in the middle of fall?” Jeongguk grumbles, tossing a pizza box on his desk, papers scattered on the surface chaotically as he lifts one of the pages. “And what is with this pile of fantasy and ‘supernatural beings’ articles? I swear, if you've been ditching us because of cosplay conventions and online roleplaying…”
“Shut up, it’s for— it’s for a paper, okay?” Taehyung lies, avoiding eye contact and throwing the box open to snatch a pizza. “And I spilled shit on my floor earlier so I opened the window to let the smell out.”
“Paper? For what class?” Jeongguk asks suspiciously, raising a brow. If Taehyung had a backbone, he’d have half a mind to scold Jeongguk for being nosy. But Taehyung is just a lousy hyung who lets his man-child dongsaengs step all over him and answers every threatening question aimed his way.
“For my ‘Fairytales in Literature’ class.”
“Is that actually a course you can take at this university?” Yoongi asks skeptically, toeing off his shoes. “Or are you bullshitting your way out of this?”
“Yes, actually, it is. And I happen to be taking it. So you can both stop being ass cactuses and help me revise the fanfiction I wrote for ‘Teen Wolf’.”
Yoongi and Jeongguk grow silent, mouth agape as they stare at him in confusion from their place on his bed, pizza forgotten in their hands.
“I’m kidding, oh my god,” Taehyung rolls his eyes and shovels another bite of pizza into his mouth. “I’m thoroughly offended by how easy it is to fool you guys. Why are we even friends.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you,” Yoongi mumbles into his hoodie where it’s tied tightly around his head to block out the cold. “You dabble in questionable things all the time.”
“Honestly I’m just really confused why your hair resembles a swim cap,” Jeongguk snickers, raising a brow pointedly in Taehyung’s direction.
“Shut up, I slipped,” Taehyung growls, grabbing his hat off the floor and pulling it over his hair. He tucks his bangs underneath in one swift movement and smooths down the sides of his hair.
“Yeah, I can see that,” Jeongguk eyes the trashcan in the corner of the room, filled to the brim with strands of Taehyung’s hair scattered along boxes of whitening strips and obnoxious amounts of candy wrappers. Jeongguk doesn’t question these.
“Anyway, if any one of us were to ever reach that level of obsession, Seokjin would definitely go down first,” Taehyung says, gathering his laptop and squeezing in between Jeongguk and Yoongi on the bed. “Mario and whatnot.”
“Where is the lie,” Yoongi mumbles around a mouthful of pizza, eyeing the laptop as Taehyung pulls up Netflix.
“Nowhere to be found,” Jeongguk mumbles and reaches over to click play on ‘Iron Man’.
And now, as Saturday night rolls along and midnight threatens to bring him to sleep, Taehyung dangles his arms over the ledge of his window and rests his chin on the wood, basking in the feeling of the crisp air as it bites at his nose and cheeks. He’s been in this exact position for precisely forty minutes now, music softly playing from his laptop as he watched the clouds drift by, waiting on something that he’s starting to realize is futile. Something about the moon looks especially lonely that night as Taehyung stares ahead until there are spots in his vision, and it tugs at his thoughts restlessly.
“What are you doing right now,” Taehyung asks aloud quietly, his voice carrying out and disturbing the stillness of the night.
Taehyung hums an exhale through his nose and stares at the ground below him, hanging his head and getting lost in the black, the darkness engulfing him much like sleep. At times like this, his restless mind forces him to wonder about frivolous things, but it scares him silly when his mind goes into overdrive and ends up in what he calls the ‘overthinking regions’ of his head.
It’s been awhile since he last went out with the others, and as he sits here busying himself in his own company, he ruefully realizes he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, the fear of lost and wasted time triggering something within him that made his stomach churn uncomfortably. It’s only been a few short weeks, give or take, but he misses the shitty parties and the shittier alcohol, the movie nights with Namjoon’s depressing commentaries and Hoseok pissing himself from the scary movie selections. Taehyung likes to believe he’s independent and strong even on his own, but in truth, he’s just as dependent as the next person and craved human interaction for the sake of his wellbeing. He fears loneliness and isolation, and it dawns on him that he has no idea why he’s pining after something that may never happen.
“Where do you go?”
Taehyung buries his face into the sleeve of his sweater, pressing his nose into the fabric and inhaling as he consumes all the warmth he can get from the four layers he’s wearing beneath it.
“What the hell am I doing,” Taehyung mumbles wistfully as his voice dissipates in the autumn air.
“Do you normally talk to yourself this much?”
Taehyung shoots his head in the direction of the voice, just barely colliding with the window as he straightens up in shock. Just to the left of him and perched on the narrow ledge that lines the building is Jimin, eyebrows raised amusedly as he stares down at Taehyung from his standing position, grin playing at the edges of his lips.
Taehyung gawks at him, trying to grasp a handle on the situation and gulps down the surprise in his voice, shutting his mouth closed from where it hangs open.
“How long have you been there?” he asks hesitantly, cheeks burning a light red from the thought of Jimin witnessing him talking to himself aloud. And according to Taehyung’s great timing, it’s probably exactly what happened.
“Long enough,” Jimin grins knowingly but doesn’t elaborate.
“Oh my god,” Taehyung groans, pressing his face into his palms in embarrassment. “You are not allowed to be creepy as fuck.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Jimin says sheepishly. “Couldn’t help myself.”
Taehyung doesn't know if Jimin had the ability to control the intensity in the color of his irises, but he definitely doesn’t recall them being so vibrantly red when they’d first met at the student lounge or the parking lot. Under the moonlight and away from the public eye, Jimin’s irises glow a brilliant, deep ruby hue, entrancing and glassy as they reflect the moonlight like mirrors.
“You know, you never told me your name.”
“I didn’t,” Taehyung agrees, glancing at Jimin before looking straight ahead. “But I know you know it.”
“Yeah,” Jimin drawls, voice poking at the edges of his mind. “Yeah, but I want to hear you say it and forget that I found out on my own. I’m not allowed to be creepy as fuck, remember?”
“Taehyung,” he responds without missing a beat and rests his chin on his palm. “Kim Taehyung, twenty-one, since nine months now.”
“Nine months, huh,” Jimin says thoughtfully with a gentle laugh. “I remember the days when I was twenty-one for nine months, too. They were wild.”
This time it’s Taehyung’s turn to apologize, realization from his offhanded remark making his gut turn with guilt. "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like—"
“It’s good,” Jimin reassures genuinely, shifting from his position. “You’re good. It wasn’t too long ago anyway.”
Twenty-one for a year and half. Taehyung runs the sentence through his mind a few times, dissecting it piece by piece. If he estimated correctly, Jimin should almost be twenty-three by now.
“It’s not a bad age to live an eternity for?” Taehyung offers, straightening up from the window sill and ruffling his bangs. “At least you can drink alcohol.”
“Alcohol doesn't do anything to my system anymore,” Jimin says. “I will never see the day where I get shitfaced again, and you know what, I’m okay with that. Dr. Phil would be proud of me.”
“Oh, right,” Taehyung says, clicking his tongue. “Not human, duh.”
Taehyung isn’t socially awkward, but he isn’t exactly unsocially awkward either. He’s had his fair share of college get-togethers and parties that included spin the bottle and seven minutes in heaven with gum in his mouth that he’d sworn wasn’t his (he isn’t so much of a generically-flavored gum kind of guy). And although he isn’t proud to admit it, he’d gotten runner-up for some popularity contest on campus during his freshman year when his social life actually mattered and delved beyond the realms of his small handful of friends and anime. It had been mostly, if not all, because Namjoon, Yoongi, and Hoseok deemed it hysterical to rig all the voting boxes with hundreds of papers under his name. He’s pretty sure he reached an all time high in his social life at the time, if random faces greeting him in passing were any indication.
Taehyung likes conversations and socializing, maybe not as much as Hoseok, but he enjoyed laughing if it meant relieving the stresses that adulthood and responsibilities brought down on his shoulders regularly. So it doesn’t make any sense to him that his tongue gets tied as Jimin stands beside him on the ledge, leading this conversation as much as he was letting it carry itself. For the first time in years, Taehyung finds himself wracking his brain for words to fill the silent gaps between them, and it worries at his bottom lip because he knows this feeling all too well, the feeling of not being able to attach coherent thoughts and words, the feeling of the unknowing and the ambiguity and the ‘I don’t feel like this when I’m with Jeongguk or Yoongi’.
“Any reason why you stay around this campus?” Taehyung asks, gesturing at the scene before them with his fingers. “I mean, yeah, there’s the occasional babe that’s not a frat tool. But otherwise, I can’t find myself wanting to return when I’m making mega-millions later on.”
Taehyung knows full well that he’s trudging into new territory by giving this a shot, whatever ‘this’ was, and albeit dangerous, he takes the first few steps into the abyss with only a weak flame to light the way. But the back of his mind nudges insistently at his subconscious no matter how much he ignores it, warning him to be careful as a part of him still fears the danger that Jimin poses.
“I spend most of my time in the city,” Jimin says, looking off into the horizon at something Taehyung’s below-average vision can’t perceive, eyes locked on something miles further down than the mere university buildings and expanse of grass in Taehyung’s field of vision. “It smells like gas and armpit sweat, but it’s doable. And since this university is in the heart of Seoul, it’s a lot easier, you know, when I get hungry. I’ve tried other alternatives — still am, as you’ve noticed — but nothing so far seems to ‘quench the thirst’. Blood packs are nice when they aren’t stale.”
Taehyung nods in acknowledgement but can’t even begin to fathom empathy. “Sounds hard?” He offers.
“It is,” Jimin mirrors his movements, nodding in return. “But it’s not all that bad.”
Taehyung chances a glimpse at Jimin, who’s eyes are still fixed beyond the horizon when the cityscape meets the black sky, moonlight reflecting in his eyes and against the porcelain of his skin. It’s the first time he’s seen Jimin without the hoodie, replaced instead with a black t-shirt that hugs firmly at his torso, revealing the toned outline of his shoulders and biceps. Taehyung slides his gaze down the expanse of muscle, eyes catching on his forearm where a cyan-green mark undulates around the skin much like a tattoo, but the way it gleams off his pale skin in the night says otherwise. He tries to make out the shape of it, but Jimin shifts under his intent gaze and moves his arm.
“I gotta go,” Jimin says, voice strangely far-off, the slight smile on his face never disappearing as he glances down at Taehyung in the window sill. “And you, my friend, have class tomorrow.”
“I won’t ask how you know that,” Taehyung sighs, but there’s a fluttering in his chest that he chooses to ignore. He gestures in front of him eloquently. “Go ahead, be on your way.”
There’s a small pause where Jimin halts in his step and stares down at him, mouth slightly open and eyes soft with something Taehyung can’t make out, something in the expression that tells him he’s holding back his words. But the moment passes, and Jimin leans the side of his head against the brick of the building.
“See you tomorrow?” he says, one foot already hanging off the ledge.
“Yeah,” Taehyung responds, chin resting on his palm. “See you tomorrow.”
He watches as Jimin straightens up and leaps off the ledge, the darkness below swallowing him up whole. Taehyung doesn’t retreat from the window for the next twenty minutes, gazing into the night as images of Jimin’s toothy grin flash through his mind.
And in that moment, as he loses feeling in his cheeks and in his fingertips, something blooms in his chest the same way the seasons changed.
“Yeah, c-flat fully diminished seventh chord.”
“Did you try googling it?” Taehyung asks with his phone wedged between his ear and shoulder as he wraps a towel around his waist and exits the bathroom. “Hang on, I just got out of the shower. Your impeccable timing flatters me and my now freezing nipples.”
“It’s not my fault you shower so late,” Jeongguk refutes defensively on the other line. Taehyung switches the phone to his other ear.
“It’s only one a.m.,” Taehyung says, grabbing his music theory textbook from the corner of his desk to heft onto his lap. He opens it up to the chapter and thumbs through the pages. “Third inversion?”
“Isn’t that just triple-b-flat, c-flat, e-double-flat, and g-flat?”
The line goes quiet in what Taehyung guesses is Jeongguk flipping back onto his stomach to look over his worksheet with knitted eyebrows. Taehyung shucks water from his damp hair in the meantime. He doesn't need to double check himself to know he’s right, only reinforced by the prolonged silence on Jeongguk’s end.
“How the fuck does this come so naturally to you?” Jeongguk huffs incredulously.
“Come on, Guk, that one wasn’t that hard,” Taehyung responds, tossing the textbook on the bed and pacing back into the foggy bathroom. “We’ve had harder. Remember that one about ‘A’ major in a Haydn minuet? That one gave me premature balding.”
“But these are the extra credit problems that Jiho gave us because he didn’t think any of us would actually be able to get them right. We haven’t even learned this yet.”
“Sure we did.”
“No, no we haven’t. And I would know because I actually pay attention during lecture.”
“Then you should've been able to answer that problem, young grasshopper,” Taehyung sing-songs, picking at a dry skin flake on his cheek bone in the misty mirror. “Is it just me or does this season dry you out like a raisin.”
“Why, are you getting a little flakey?”
“Yeah, I am actually,” Taehyung makes a face at his reflection and swipes a hand across the mirror to clear off some of the condensation. His bangs have grown past his eyebrows again, and he thanks based god for it, as well as for the fully healed cut above his eyebrow that didn’t leave behind a scar. Life is good. “Sorry though, I’ve just been busy with some unworldly matters. Let’s grab lunch at the sandwich place off campus with everyone later this week or something.”
“Depends,” Jeongguk says unconvinced. Taehyung can hear the faint sound of music playing in the background. “Are you actually going to go through with it and show up?”
“I give you permission to punch Yoongi if I don’t,” Taehyung offers.
He’s in the middle of walking out of his bathroom for the second when something suddenly comes crashing through his window and lands on his bed in a heap, the blur of red none other than Jimin himself as he lifts his head slowly, shooting him a peace sign and a cheeky grin. Taehyung squeaks in shock, shoulders hitting the wall behind him as he trips backwards in shock and almost drops his phone. He grips his pounding chest and briefly wonders how efficient a doggy door on the window would be. They needed some kind of a compromise, considering Jimin never came in through the front door and Taehyung pissed himself scared every time Jimin clumsily flew in through the window at random times of the night. A doggy door was definitely doable.
“Still haven't mastered this flying thing,” Jimin whispers, orienting himself upright. He reaches into his pocket to retrieve something that Taehyung horrifically realizes is a blood pack, watching in disbelief as Jimin stabs a straw into its center and sips on it like a pack of Capri Sun.
“Are you okay?” Jeongguk asks on the other line.
“Uh, yeah,” Taehyung breathes, voice strangely pitched. “All good! I gotta go.”
Taehyung grabs the nearest thing to cover his chest. It just so happens to be a fairly large book on how to slay demons that he’d borrowed from the library the other day along with all his other supernatural books, which he still hadn’t returned. Taehyung finds no pride in his skill with investing in overdue book fines, but it beats his ability in forgetting the hideouts for his spare keys any day. The last one had miraculously turned up behind one of the fliers from the university’s ‘My Little Pony’ club on the campus bulletin board, pinned secretly under the stack of papers and dangling from a pushpin (Taehyung had found it because he grabbed the last flier for himself).
"Are you sure you’re oka—"
“Peachy keen! High off life! Bye!”
Taehyung clicks the end button, cutting off Jeongguk mid-sentence and glares at Jimin with squinted eyes, reaching down to grab at a stray t-shirt littering the floor.
“We need to get some boundaries straight because I’m half naked, and that—” Taehyung points at the blood pack. “—is kind of disgusting.”
“I’m not complaining,” Jimin shrugs, glancing at Taehyung’s bare torso and leaning back on the bed as Taehyung retreats into his closet to pull on some clothes. “Plus, I’m hungry and managed to snatch this from the clinic.”
“You’re not the one in nothing but a towel,” Taehyung shouts from inside the closet, reemerging with boxers and his shirt inside out. Nice one, Taehyung.
“I can be?” Jimin says teasingly. Taehyung stares at him, unamused, and throws his damp towel at Jimin’s stupidly smug face. “Okay, I’ll start knocking! No need to get your panties in a bunch.”
“Thank you,” Taehyung says and takes a tentative seat on his bed beside Jimin, paying acute attention to the inches that separate them. “Hurry up and put that away, it smells like nosebleeds.” Taehyung groans in distaste, but Jimin complies and finishes off the rest of it before folding it up and stuffing it in his pocket to dispose of later. Taehyung checks his phone. 1:37 a.m. Maybe Jeongguk was right about showering late, but Taehyung shrugs it off. As the charming and bootylicious Nicki Minaj once said, the night is still young.
“Hey,” Jimin greets when Taehyung finally looks up from his phone after sitting in a few minutes of relative silence.
“Hi,” Taehyung says, adjusting the pillow behind him and tossing his phone onto the bed. It’s going to take some time getting used to this, the spontaneous late night company from someone like Jimin who’s already far too familiar than he’d ever planned, filling up the spaces in his daily routine where it used to be occupied with cozying up to his pillows at night in his favorite boxers and watching ‘Spirited Away’ while simultaneously wondering if he should pull out his workbook and finish some assignments. That, or getting thoroughly smashed at the next party over because Yoongi had quite literally dragged him along against his own will (and Taehyung was a man of honor and never gave up a perfectly free cup of alcohol).
“It’s pretty late,” Jimin muses, leaning against the wall that the bed is pressed against. “Why are you still up?”
“Showering?” Taehyung responds, ruffling his bangs pointedly and pushing them to one side. “And not studying. You?”
“Nothing special,” Jimin huffs, running a hand through his own hair. Taehyung watches distractedly as the strands fall perfectly against his face, outlining the soft cheekbones. “The sun hurts my eyes like a bitch, so I prefer doing things at night.”
“Same,” Taehyung sighs, making a face. “But I’m human, and society frowns on nocturnal humans and calls them antisocial. Fuck society, I’m gonna become an existentialist and get a tattoo that says ‘fuck society’.”
Jimin laughs, head tilting back slightly and teeth flashing as the sound escapes his open mouth. Taehyung tries to ignore the way his fingers itch to feel how sharp they are.
“You’re interesting,” Jimin says when his laughter fades out. “I like it.” His eyes fall on Taehyung’s face in fascination, eyes trailing like silk down the lines of his cheeks to the dip of his cupid’s bow in such an intimate way Taehyung feels his throat constrict.
“Not sure how to take that, especially coming from you,” Taehyung says shyly, words forced behind his stuttering heart. “Thanks.”
Taehyung drops his gaze to Jimin’s forearm to the brilliant cyan mark that coils around the pale skin. Jimin doesn’t move his arm away this time like he’d done so many times before, so Taehyung takes the opportunity to observe the detailing, the way it subtly glows even under the low lighting of his room. At the very end of the mark, where the lines meet his hand, Taehyung spots two slits that rest right against his wrist, small but definitely noticeable.
"I’ve been meaning to ask—"
“Intrude my personal space?” Jimin interrupts and grins wryly, lifting up his forearm to stare down at the mark. “Can’t exactly say you’re the most subtle person I’ve ever met.”
Taehyung frowns, tossing a pillow at Jimin. “Says the pompous asshole who crashed into my room uninvited.” He rolls his eyes when Jimin easily dodges it. “What’s that supposed to be anyway?”
“Honestly? I don’t really know either. Showed up the morning after, when I woke up like this,” Jimin says thoughtfully, twisting his arm to look at the mark fully. He points at the two slits on his wrist. “I’m pretty sure this is from the one that turned me. I’ve come across a few other vampires in the city that had similar marks of different colors, some red, some green. There isn’t exactly a survival guide on this, so I can’t be sure.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Taehyung breathes, reaching out between him to trail his fingertips along its expanse. “I wish I could rock a mark like this without looking like some angsty teen who's part of a screamo band called ‘Satan and the Ass Blasters’ or something.”
Jimin snorts. “That’s gonna be our band name.”
“That’s going to be your band name. You in all your Han Solo glory,” Taehyung scoffs and looks up from Jimin’s forearm. Jimin’s irises have taken on the same cyan tone from his mark, the once-red tone subdued as Taehyung slides his fingers down Jimin’s arm. “Do your eyes normally turn cyan when someone is touching this mark?”
“It happens randomly,” Jimin shrugs as Taehyung trails his fingers down to his palm before pulling away completely. “Sometimes I think it might be in place of a racing heartbeat.”
Taehyung mirrors his position and leans against the wall, head tilting to rest against the cool surface. “I wonder.”
There’s a long pause as Jimin blinks his eyes back to red, the beautiful vibrant blue dissipating each time he closed and opened his eyes. Taehyung thinks he could get lost in them.
“Hey,” Jimin suddenly blurts, leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees. “You want to do something?”
Taehyung hesitates. It’s nearly two in the morning, and he has class later in the day with homework he still hadn’t finished. It doesn’t help that he’d never trusted Jimin enough to join him anywhere beyond his bedroom, lest it be in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep. But against all odds, Taehyung finds himself nodding anyway.
“Sure,” he says, nodding and sitting straight up on the bed.
And Jimin grins excitedly, teeth poking out. Taehyung’s skin tingles all over.
“Don’t worry, I’ll have you back by sunrise.”
Taehyung had thought Jimin’s invitation to “do something” entailed something along the lines of taking a casual walk to the ice cream parlor at the Hill or stopping by the student lounge to check if anything was open. What he didn’t consider was that “doing something” meant sneaking up to the highest rooftop on campus, dodging security with stealthy footsteps, and Jimin beckoning him to climb onto his back as they stand only a few feet away from the ledge.
“Come on, hasn’t anyone ever given you a piggyback ride?” Jimin had said, kneeling in front of Taehyung on one knee. “It’ll be fun, I promise.”
“Plenty,” Taehyung huffs but clambers onto Jimin’s back anyway, wrapping arms tightly around his neck. “But that was safely on the ground, and maybe it’s because we’re on the roof of the fucking resource building, but I have a feeling we’re not just taking a stroll in the park.”
Jimin has the audacity to giggle as he steps on the edge of the building, looking down below them for a few exhilarating moments. “Just… don't let go.”
And he jumps.
This isn’t the first time Taehyung’s flown, if that includes the few plane rides he’s taken to visit his grandparents on Jeju Island or abroad in Japan. This is, though, the first time he’s soared through the city on someone’s back with invisible wings of his own, passing through the flashing lights in a blur and breezing from rooftop to rooftop with the wind tickling past his face as they speed through life at a hundred miles per hour. It’s breathtaking, the way life moved at two different paces yet time remained constant, the people in the city but a whirl of colors as Taehyung cocked his head to the side to peek below them. He wonders if this is what the world looked like to Jimin, a myriad of images that flashed by within the blink of an eye, so fleeting that problems seemed to disappear along with the details, as though they didn’t exist at all.
It’s clumsy at first, Jimin still not have the hang of flying or running at his maximum speed yet. Taehyung had been thoroughly convinced his life was over the second Jimin stumbled through the air on awkward feet, attempting to leap the gap from one apartment complex to the next and almost hurling them into a handful of billboards along the way had Taehyung not pointed them out beforehand. His arms had been a death grip around Jimin’s throat starting out (it’s a good thing he didn’t use his lungs as often), but after the first few miles, it had been smooth sailing, and Taehyung found himself loosening his grip little by little until he itched to stretch them wide and fly. He doesn’t think he’s ever witnessed anything so beautiful, and a part of him is thankful he had the courage to speak up and confront Jimin back at the Shack.
Jimin navigates them to the tallest building at the other end of Seoul, the view washing over him like a warm wave in the middle of summer, crashing against Taehyung’s chest and knocking the air out of his lungs. He wishes he could capture this moment in a jar for the bad days but figures something so sacred should never be trapped, not even in photograph form. Jimin sits beside him, legs dangling off the ledge as the world twinkles before them like a flickering candle, Taehyung’s arm looped loosely through Jimin’s for safety precautions, just in case I fall off and your amateur ass can’t save me. And yeah, they’re a few hundred to a thousand jeopardizing feet below them, but Taehyung thinks he can trust Jimin, even if he still doesn't understand it.
“So why me?” Taehyung mutters softly into the night, staring straight ahead with the lights playing elaborate shadows against his cheekbones.
Jimin turns his head to look at Taehyung questioningly, eyebrows knitting together ever so slightly and observing his profile as he waits patiently for Taehyung to elaborate. Taehyung buries his hands deeper into his pockets and wills himself to not blurt out something he’ll regret.
“Why did you pretend to return my wallet? Why did you crash into my window that night?” Taehyung mutters quietly and notices Jimin gulp in his periphery. “Why did you come back?”
Jimin shifts uneasily from the weight of the questions, tucking his leg under the other and knocking his knee against Taehyung’s thigh. He doesn’t answer for awhile, letting the silence soak in and stain like ink on white paper as something in their paths finally collide, a kind of intention and purpose that hadn’t been there before each time Jimin came tumbling into his room or stumbled along his walk to the car. Taehyung doesn't rush him and lets himself drown in the silence that consumes them, in the anxious tingling he feels as he awaits Jimin’s impending response. Jimin will answer eventually, and Taehyung likes to believe he has all the time in the world.
Jimin’s eyes are a soft scarlet when he timidly glances at him, the city glistening against the clear of his irises like two tiny mirrors, holding the weight of the city in their reflection more breathtaking than the city could ever be.
He says, “Because you're the first person to make me feel noticed.”
Something about the way he smiles makes Taehyung believe he’s anything but happy from the inside out, broken somewhere in the middle and frayed along the edges like a worn love letter. It takes everything in Taehyung to not reach out and fix him right then and there.
On the way back to campus, Taehyung musters up the confidence to bury his nose at the nape of Jimin’s neck, inhaling the faint scent of rain and moon-kissed skin as the soft strands tickle his nose. If Jimin shivers all the way down to his toes from the warmth of Taehyung wrapped around him — the feeling of him buried in the crook of his neck, Jimin’s skin so sensitive to the touch as he feels it to his bones - Taehyung doesn’t notice. Somewhere between pressing the side of his face against Jimin’s neck and whispering you’re not alone, Taehyung falls asleep with the city at his eyelashes.
He wakes up in the morning with his blanket pulled all the way to his chin, no trace of last night ever happening beyond a mere dream.
No trace, except for the dip in the pillow beside him and the window cracked open.
It isn’t the greeting he expects when Jeongguk is next to arrive at the sandwich shop, but it isn’t unexpected either. Given that he’d been frequently canceling weekend hangouts with the others with ever-changing excuses ranging from underwear malfunctions to juice cleansing — none of which he knows Jeongguk believes, but he’s also known Jeongguk long enough to understand that he won’t just take “no” for an answer - this was bound to happen sooner or later.
“Are we going to take turns to confess our sins?” Taehyung mumbles around a mouthful of ham and bread.
“We are not, but you. You are going to explain why you’ve been flaking out on me, you sack of dicks,” Jeongguk plops down across from Taehyung and glances up at the menu. “And don’t give me that ‘I’m going to visit Narnia’ shit because we both know you’re never going back into the closet.”
“That was code for cleaning up,” Taehyung frowns, swallowing down his bite. “Clearly my expectations were too high when I decided to share my bucket with you in the sandbox.”
“Clearly my judgment was wrong in thinking I was befriending a human instead of a dandruff flake.”
“Okay, fine. Honestly?”
“Remember the Ronald McDonald guy I told you about?” Jeongguk nods. “Well, we’re kind of friends now, and he’s… kind of new to the campus, so I’ve been showing him around the place.”
“Is that code for fucking?” Jeongguk asks seriously, raising a brow and adjusting his beanie.
“It’s code for fuck you,” Taehyung grumbles, throwing a stray piece of lettuce and hitting Jeongguk square in the chest. “I’m serious, he’s a pretty chill guy.”
“Well, I can’t say I don’t believe you,” Jeongguk shrugs, flicking the lettuce off the table. “Since you have such an affinity for stuff like that. Getting close to people, friendships, etcetera.”
“Which I take pride in doing,” Taehyung clarifies, puffing out his chest proudly. “Go get your damn sandwich, boy.”
“Wait, what’s his name?” Jeongguk asks, standing up and adjusting his shirt on his shoulders. “Maybe I’ve heard of him.”
“Um,” Taehyung drawls, scratching at his temple. “Highly doubt that. But Jimin? Park Jimin.”
“Hm,” Jeongguk hums as he walks away. “Never heard of it.”
And well, Taehyung certainly hopes he doesn’t recognize it, not when Jimin definitely did not attend the university, nor did he commonly expose himself to the school’s population let alone any population in clear view if he could help it. Jimin had mentioned it himself after all — it’s been years since he last had any real contact with humans, and Jeongguk was no exception.
“Nice of you to finally grace us with your presence.”
Taehyung waves as Yoongi approaches with Namjoon and Hoseok in tow, chatting idly about something he can’t hear over the loudly disapproving glare Yoongi is currently shooting him. Had he been anyone else, Taehyung would have wilted from the sheer weight of Yoongi’s gaze, but he’s so accustomed to the dirty looks and the dirtier words that he only becomes sheepish. Yoongi crawls into his space and grabs him in a tight headlock.
"Hey, no, stop—" Taehyung laughs into the leather of Yoongi’s jacket, gasping for air as Yoongi jabs his sides without an ounce of surrendering. “I already explained myself to Jeongguk! So you can ask him later!”
“Explain what?” Namjoon questions, pulling a chair up from another table and sitting down to glance at the menu just as Jeongguk had done.
“Explain why this little shit has been holing himself up in his room and avoiding us lately,” Yoongi answers for him, shoving Taehyung away and grabbing at a stray cucumber on his plate. “I’m starting to believe I should be offended.”
“You’re one to talk!” Hoseok frowns, a look of disbelief painting his face as he shoots a glare at Yoongi, meant to be menacing but is anything but. “Adolf Titler over here wouldn’t let us leave the studio last night until seven a.m. I swear I got chronic fatigue from just looking at their faces for six hours straight.”
“Hey, you're the one that signed up to be a rapper alongside me and Namjoon,” Yoongi says flatly, wiping his hand on his jeans.
“You best believe that signing up to be a rapper means living by hip hop and dying by hip hop. To the fullest, and nothing less.” Namjoon preaches, resting his chin on his palm cooly. “Life’s too short to half-ass anything.”
“Anyway,” Yoongi drawls, turning back to Taehyung with raised brows. “Give me the short version so we can go order some food.”
“You’re impossible,” Taehyung sighs but complies anyway. No one ever said no to Min Yoongi simply because it wasn’t an option. “There’s this new guy on campus, and I’ve just been showing him around so he can get familiar with the place.”
“So you’re fucking,” Hoseok clarifies nonchalantly.
"No, we are not—"
“Quickies?” Namjoon chimes.
“That’s the same thing,” Yoongi says, making a face and holding up his hand matter-of-factly.
Hoseok slaps the table. "So then you’re fondling each other’s—"
“We are not fondling each other’s anything,” Taehyung says over the commotion. “We’re just friends, holy shit. You guys are merciless.”
“That’s what you get for being Captain Skinny-Dick and ditching us all,” Yoongi scoffs unsympathetically, standing up along with Namjoon and Hoseok before heading off to order.
Jeongguk returns shortly after with the rest of the group, and everyone noisily takes their seats, a jumble of simultaneous conversations that Taehyung can’t comprehend filling the once-reserved and peaceful space, not that Taehyung minds. The place was starting to feel like a ghost town without everyone anyway.
They were a loud bunch of friends, to which Taehyung is profoundly thankful for. He really can’t imagine a group of people he clicked better with, and he’s had more than enough desperate quarters of sitting with random groups of people during lunch as to not appear lonely, which had gotten him dangerously close to becoming the president of the ‘Gamer’s Guild’, a club founded on the exceptional love for all things nerdy and reasonably so. It wasn’t called the Gamer’s Guild for nothing. But strangely enough, it’s during the club’s first meeting where Taehyung had met Seokjin.
Seokjin shows up half an hour in, heading straight to the counter to order before joining them at the table with the exact words of, “Food first, peasants”.
Seokjin is in his last year, getting ready to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English and walk up those steps to receive that slip of paper and his oneway ticket into the real world (the Depths of Hell, Yoongi had called it, because “there’s nothing more daunting than to make your own money from the job you land and to pay your own damn bills”). There’s still a few months left until he takes his leave from these campus grounds, but Taehyung already feels the bittersweet goodbyes at the tip of his tongue. Soon, it’ll only be him and Jeongguk battling these grounds, and no matter how much he tells himself he’ll be able to get through the last two years with the moral support of Jeongguk alone, he’s scared down to the very bone. But now that Jimin was also in the picture, Taehyung thinks that maybe, it won’t be as bad as he pegs it out to be. Maybe.
“I heard they’re opening up a carnival for the rest of the month just outside of the campus,” Jeongguk says, mouth stuffed with food. “For Halloween. We should go.”
“I’m down,” Namjoon says, raising a hand. “Do we have to dress up?”
“I think there’s a discount if you show up in costume,” Seokjin says, wiping his mouth. “But I’m sure people will dress up anyway.”
“Not my scene,” Hoseok chimes in, finishing the last of his fries. “But I’ll go for the carnival games and food because funnel cakes.”
“Churros,” Yoongi nods calmly. “Sounds fun, though. I haven’t been to a carnival in forever.
“Me neither,” Seokjin agrees, picking up his phone from the table. “I mean, not that they have a ton of those in Seoul anyway.”
Taehyung messes with the lid of the ketchup bottle as he listens to them talk, worrying at his bottom lip as he mentally berates himself to jump in at the just the right timing but chickening out more times than he can count. He fidgets with the cap uncertainly as he searches for words and confidence and settles for now or nothing.
“Hey, can I invite a friend?”
“Does this mean you can help me with art history homework?” Taehyung asks, hunched over his textbook with a pen between his teeth. “Because there’s a seventy-percent chance that I’m going to fail this exam tomorrow.”
It’s ungodly late to be occupying a library at this time of night, but that’s exactly what they’re doing, wedged on the floor in-between the history aisle with Taehyung’s legs resting in Jimin’s lap to make the cramped space doable. There are papers messily spread out in front of him because Taehyung can never find it in himself to concentrate if his environment is tidy. He likes the blur of noise, the scattering of papers and the random pile of books because it correlates just nicely with his train of thought, saving him the trouble of shuffling through a neatly stacked pile of paper just to find how he’d worded a certain sentence. Jimin is sitting across from him, casually flipping through a large book on human anatomy book as Taehyung fires up his motivation drive while it lasts.
“Twenty-one for a year and a half, remember?” Jimin says, looking up from the book. “I wasn’t born during the Renaissance era or the Age of Enlightenment or some shit.”
“So… Is that a no?”
“I can tell you about Taeyang’s album from 2014,” Jimin says, shucking his pointer finger at Taehyung. “Because that was a masterpiece.”
“Yeah, like I was saying,” Taehyung groans, resting his head against the bookshelf behind him. “Seventy-percent chance of failing.”
“Then why’d you leave studying to the last minute, genius?” Jimin raises a brow. The look is all too familiar, and Taehyung is immediately reminded of Jeongguk and Yoongi and their stupid faces and stupid advice.
“Because I’m a sadist with the work ethic of a five year old boy and an obsession with procrastination.”
“Sounds like the platonic ideal,” Jimin says, wriggling his eyebrows and flipping the page. “Although I’m not too convinced, judging by the rest of these exams marked with nothing lower than a ninety-percent average.” He gestures to the papers strewn haphazardly around them.
Taehyung only huffs in return and runs his highlighter along a string of words in the textbook. “Fuck, this isn’t even my copy.”
He lifts the book above his head to peek under. Taped along the spine is none other than the book’s call number, laminated to the cover neatly with a sheet of clear plastic covering the sleeve of the book, just as he’d belatedly noticed. Taehyung sighs heavily before carelessly dropping the book back down on his lap.
“Yolo,” Taehyung breathes before highlighting the rest of the sentence. “I’m going to religiously save the life of a future art history student who doesn’t believe in god and regretfully saves studying to the last minute.”
“That is to say if you’re even highlighting the right answers,” Jimin scoffs, glancing at the neon pink that slowly starts filling the page. “Bless the soul that opens that textbook, and may you stumble along the path to righteousness.”
Taehyung nods and caps his highlighter with a click, “Amen.”
A few silent minutes pass between them as Taehyung busies himself in his zone. Jeongguk would be proud of him for actually opening up the textbook for the first — and possibly last — time that semester, and Taehyung was surely going to boast about this later when Jeongguk gave him shit about never using his textbook. When it actually came down to things, Taehyung was efficient and put his mind to the task at hand to get things done. That was all that mattered to him, after all, getting things done even if it meant doing it at the very last minute. In truth, he blames his lack of motivation on all the times he spent in high school studying math and music theory instead of attending the football games, his worries, and his parents’ worries, of getting accepted into a good college nagging at his conscience and eating away at his sanity. It had overwhelmed him to the point where he stopped trying altogether.
But Taehyung’s just glad he was born with a sponge of a brain that easily obtained lectures and information. It was this exact reason that pulled him through college without failing out of every single course he took and wasting a couple thousand on classes he didn’t try for, simply because he didn’t want to. But everyone was born fifty-percent perfect and fifty-percent flawed, and Taehyung’s worst trait was his lack of motivation. Taehyung was no Namjoon, but everyone already knew that if he put forth the effort and actually tried, he’d be able to rank second in the university compared to his current place at seven.
Taehyung glances up at Jimin, who’s deeply concentrated on a diagram of the human neck in the open book in front of him. His eyebrows are knit together as his eyes scan the picture at a million miles per hour, and in the few seconds Taehyung spends staring at the white of his skin, at the orange tint just below his eyes, Jimin has already processed the information from forty pages in the book. He considers asking Jimin to take his test for him, but there’s no way anyone would believe it; Taehyung wasn’t that short, or so he took pride in even if he was only a few inches taller.
Taehyung blinks out of his daze when Jimin’s voice rings in his ears. Jimin is watching him curiously, fingers already bending the corner of the next page to flip but halting midair. Taehyung bites the inside of his cheek.
“Do people… die when you feed on them?”
Jimin stares at him for what seems like an eternity and a half, mouth slightly open and eyes blank, caught off guard but mostly stunned from the straightforwardness of the question at hand. Taehyung almost accepts the silence, deeming the question too personal or pushing limits that shouldn't be crossed, and sure, it’s understandable, Taehyung gets it. He has a big mouth and no filter, and he’s found himself in these situations more than a handful of times in the past, minus the elegance and the cushion and more of the awkward and the backlash. But Jimin, to his surprise, welcomes the intrusion and speaks up just as Taehyung is about to resume writing, voice cutting through the gap as Taehyung presses his highlighter down.
“No,” he says uncertainly, swiftly glancing around to make sure there were no eavesdroppers or late night studiers like Taehyung. “I prefer not to feed until that point. Plus, that’s a lot more blood than I can handle, not taking into account the whole ‘bleeding out’ part. That’s not in my realm of expertise.”
“Or lack thereof,” Taehyung jeers.
But the subtle caution and stiffness to his tone is enough for Taehyung to drop the subject. Taehyung only understands it like this, humans and animals and everything in between. The animate, the inanimate, but nothing more. He was never religious growing up, and the supernatural was always a thing for the movies and the movies only. The closest Taehyung had ever gotten to believing in anything more was the miracle he experienced in middle school of witnessing a homeless man offering food to a stray dog. It’s not that he isn’t a believer, he’s just never found a good enough reason to believe otherwise. That is, until he met Jimin.
The very thought of Jimin being anything but human still hasn’t sunken in even after all this time, and he can’t help but to drown in the surreal, sitting here in the library with someone that wasn’t human but talking over open books like common buddies. He doesn’t feel any different, and the ground doesn't shake below him or crack at his feet, but he realizes that this the second miracle he’s witnessed: meeting Park Jimin on a random day in autumn.
“Quit thinking so hard. It makes you look ugly and constipated.”
Taehyung jerks his head up towards Jimin who’s taken to leaning his head back against the bookshelf with his eyes closed.
“Can you read my mind?” Taehyung blurts incredulously, eyes wide. "Because that’s majorly invading my personal space and all things holy. The last thing I want is for you to find out where I hide my—"
“…Food stash,” Taehyung emphasizes slowly. “Speak no more, you clearly can’t read minds, if you guessing ‘porn’ was any indication. We’re in the twenty-first century, who even owns hardcopies of porn to hide anyway?”
“Hey, magazines and books and VCR’s are pretty cool,” Jimin argues, shrugging and smoothing his hand over the surface of the book in his lap. “I once jacked off to a magazine.”
“You’re such a grandpa,” Taehyung scoffs, laughing into his textbook. “I’m starting to think you lied when you said you wouldn’t be able to help me with my art history homework.”
“Okay, well, if it helps, it was one time back when I was a loser with tteokbokki for eyelids,” Jimin clarifies begrudgingly, cringing at the memory.
“Tteokbokki is life, though,” Taehyung says, holding a hand over his stomach dreamily at the thought of food. He hadn’t eaten since seven. Taehyung sits back and shifts his leg on Jimin’s lap, jostling the anatomy book. “If you can’t read minds, then…?”
“It’s a feeling,” Jimin says, playing with the hem of Taehyung’s jeans. “It feels tense, almost like I can feel the frequency of when you’re using your brain more intensely. I don’t know how to describe it.”
“Have you ever tried? You know, to read someone’s mind?”
“Not really,” Jimin searches his memories. He absently straightens Taehyung’s sock at the edges, and Taehyung tries not to smile. “I don’t really know what I’m capable of.”
“So you're basically a human sized smart phone with a fuck ton of features that no one actually knows about.”
“I guess? But it actually takes effort and practice for me to get good at things.”
“You want to try?” Taehyung asks, setting his textbook aside. “To read my mind.”
“Uh,” Jimin starts unsurely, straightening up. “Yeah. Yeah sure. I don’t even know how to do it though.”
Taehyung pushes his papers and books off to the side and scoots closer until their knees bump, pulling his leg back to cross them. Up this close, Jimin’s skin is even more pristine and pale than when the ceiling lights reflected off of him, casting a false yellow on the unsaturated skin. His eyes pierce straight through Taehyung, and the scarlet lining the skin around them are so stark in contrast to the porcelain skin that Taehyung’s fingertips itch to trace the pigment, his gaze alone knocking the air from his lungs.
"Okay, let’s just—" Jimin mutters, lifting his hands hesitantly and cupping Taehyung’s cheeks. Taehyung watches as Jimin’s eyelids flutter, unbeknownst to him that the small contact of skin on skin shoots sparks down Jimin’s spine as he feels every single muscle and pulse beneath Taehyung’s soft skin. Jimin licks his lips, and Taehyung catches a glimpse of the sharp fangs hidden beneath them (Taehyung had asked earlier out of curiosity if Jimin could sharpen his pencils with his teeth, to which Jimin had declined with the argument that he didn’t want any pencil shavings in his mouth, so “fuck off and go sharpen your own damn pencils”).
Just like this, Jimin holds him, the intensity of the grip enough for Taehyung to sense the sheer amount of strength hidden in his body and within his hands alone, how easy it would be for Jimin to crush his skull right then and there on the library floor and walk off without a trace of evidence. But the warmth that Jimin’s eyes hold as he stares into his, holding eye contact without a single waver, makes his heart skip two times too fast as his cheeks heat up under the coolness from Jimin’s palms. His hands are cold to the touch, but the warmth in his eyes reassures Taehyung that Jimin meant no harm; he never did. He tries to swallow down the lump in his throat as subtly as he can, but the stillness of the moment makes it impossible to mask the sound of him gulping. Jimin cracks a smile at this, eyes never leaving his as he acutely focuses in on Taehyung.
“You’re blushing,” he says, feeling and smelling it more than he can see as the blood rushes to stain Taehyung’s cheeks a pretty pink. Taehyung shies his gaze downwards to the cyan mark on Jimin’s arm.
“Shut up, it’s the heat,” Taehyung mumbles, fully aware that the library had no heater and that he’d thrown on his hoodie earlier with complaints that it was way too cold in this damn wasteland.
“Right,” Jimin says, smiling knowingly. He shifts his hands a little higher, running his thumbs along Taehyung’s temples. “Look at me?”
Taehyung bites his tongue and glances back up, locking gazes with Jimin’s tender ones, ironic in the way the color of his hair and eyes bring so much warmth yet his hands are chilly to the touch. Minutes pass as Jimin concentrates on listening in on his thoughts, Taehyung trying his best to filter out thoughts of Jimin’s ruby red lips and cold, rough hands and instead replacing them with intelligent thoughts of Moby Dick. He hopes no one decides they need a book on ancient history and catch them in the middle of what appears to be an intense exchange between lovers.
Jimin’s palms shift to the back of Taehyung’s head, concentrated with his eyebrows knitted together as he searches Taehyung’s face with little movement. As Taehyung gazes back, he thinks about all the chances he’s let slip through his fingers, all the missed opportunities he’d passed up by mistake, but in this moment, Taehyung thinks he’ll take this to the grave if he doesn’t do it. So he leans forward and closes the few centimeters that separate them, pressing his lips tenderly against Jimin’s and exhaling through his nose. His heart stutters impossibly when Jimin presses back.
“Nothing?” Taehyung says breathlessly when they finally pull apart.
“Nothing,” Jimin mutters, eyelids fluttering open slowly as he shakes his head. His eyes glow cyan for half a second before the tint is gone completely. Jimin pulls his hands away with lingering fingertips that skitter along Taehyung’s jawline as they slide away.
“Well, that was fun,” Taehyung grins, clapping his hands together. The moment has passed, but he feel butterflies in his stomach as they shyly look at each other, a secret of their own hidden in the shelves of this library. “Good to know that I can be thinking about making love to Jessie J and you won’t have a clue.”
“In that case, I’m not sure if you're the luckier one or me,” Jimin says skeptically. He licks his lips.
“Is there anything else you can do that I should know about?” Taehyung asks. He reaches out and grabs at the collar of Jimin’s hoodie, adjusting the hood and straightening out the folds. “X-ray vision, shoot fire out of your ass…”
“We’re not X-Men, not that they shoot fire out of their asses, either,” Jimin says and glances down at Taehyung’s hands, reaching up to hold onto his wrists. “But no, there’s nothing else really, not that I know of yet.”
“It’s been two years and you still don’t know your own body,” Taehyung says quietly, dropping their hands to his lap. He watches the lines of Jimin’s face soften and disappear.
“No, not really,” Jimin answers and smiles slightly, anything but happy and maybe a little broken, if Taehyung looks closely. Jimin rests a hand where their knees meet and traces the seam of Taehyung’s jeans, shaking his head at Taehyung’s words. “Two years is a short time for a vampire like me. Not when you’re comparing it to an eternity.”
“Well, if it helps, it’s been twenty-one years, and I still don’t know my own body, either,” Taehyung shrugs, watching Jimin’s tentative fingers as they trace invisible shapes into the denim, words maybe, but Taehyung doesn’t want to crack the code just yet. Jimin nods appreciatively and falls back against the bookshelf with a heavy sigh, mouth falling opening to reveal the sharp curve of his teeth.
“This is pretty last minute, but, uh, do you maybe want to…” Taehyung trails off, biting the inside of his cheek.
“I don’t know, meet my friends maybe?” Before Jimin can say anything, Taehyung continues. “They won’t find out you aren't human if we don't mention anything. I think it'd be fun.” Taehyung grips Jimin’s hand on his knee and shakes it gently.
“I don’t know…” Jimin says skeptically, pulling the side of his bottom lip between his teeth.
“Come on, they won’t bite.”
“You’re hilarious, Kim Taehyung, humor me some more,” Jimin rolls his eyes but grips his hand back, and Taehyung knows he’s won.
“Just consider it.”
“Fine?” Taehyung presses, tilting his head. “As in ‘fine I’ll consider it’ or ‘fine let’s do it’?”
“Fine,” Jimin mumbles. “Fine, let’s do it.”
Taehyung accepts his victory with a small fist pump, gone unnoticed as Jimin shuts his eyes in defeat. The way Jimin appears completely unmoving is almost statuesque as Taehyung stares on, no fluttering of eyelashes or bobbing of his Adam’s apple, so serene in appearance that Taehyung lets himself believe that time stops for those few seconds where everything seems okay in the world, where time revolves around them for a change and not the other way around. He slowly leans forward, extending the hand holding his pink highlighter towards Jimin’s face and hesitates, holding his breath the entire way with his tongue caught between his teeth in concentration. Just before Jimin’s eyelids flutter open, Taehyung quickly dabs the highlighter against his cheek, drawing a line from his jawline all the way up to the curve of his cheekbone successfully and pulling back with grin.
“Gotcha,” Taehyung winks, clicking his tongue and capping the highlighter.
What happens next is a blur as Jimin’s body hovers over his. In one swift movement, Jimin presses against him and pushes him back against the opposite bookshelf, briefly knocking the wind out of him and rattling the books when his back hits the shelf solidly. Jimin snatches the highlighter from his hand and uncaps it with his teeth, blowing the tiny plastic to the side and adjusting his arms to cage Taehyung in place. He presses the tip of the highlighter to the point of Taehyung’s nose lightly, right over the freckle that decorates the skin, and waggles his eyebrows with the hint of a smirk playing at his lips. Taehyung misses the feeling of them pressed against his already.
“Got you, too,” Jimin says quietly in the small space between them.
Taehyung’s breathy laugh is loud in his ears as he leans his head to the side, pressing his cheek against Jimin’s forearm and against the cyan mark that wraps around his arm like vines.
“Yeah,” he says and bites his bottom lip to hide his smile. “Yeah, you did.”
Being around Jimin makes it easy to forget that being human also entails a weaker heart and awful human emotions.
On days when his mind wanders into the danger zones of overthinking, thoughts of life after college, of failure and disappointment, threaten to pull him apart piece by piece until he’s nothing but scraps struggling to pull themselves together. Mental breakdowns weren’t listed in the university’s manual when he applied, and Taehyung curses the administration for not preparing him for this, for the stresses and the doubts. Solitude always got the worst of him, enabling him to bury too far into the caverns of his mind and uproot all his flaws like forest fires, and it’s exactly this that pushed him to consider moving in with Jeongguk and Namjoon come next year. Some days the walls of his room are too tight, and Taehyung traps himself in them and allows himself to break down until he’s a vulnerable heap of tears and frustration on the carpet floor. He’s not all sunshine and ease, but Taehyung doesn’t let anyone see this side of him if he can help it, encasing it in the darkness for those rare nights when he just can’t hold back. He doesn’t call a single soul because he’d rather not burden anyone with his own complications and unexplainable complexities.
He doesn’t know how long he’s been sitting on the floor, back pressed against the wall to support his trembling shoulders, but when Jimin comes in through the window later that night, face blurred through the tears that collect at the corners of his eyes, Taehyung realizes he’s wasted half the day away. The sun is long gone by now as moonlight illuminates his dark room, and Taehyung has calmed himself to silent tears and unstable breathing that spurts from his lungs in ragged gasps.
“Taehyung?” he hears Jimin call, voice full of concern as he carefully approaches Taehyung. "Sorry, this is a bad time, isn’t it—"
“No,” Taehyung says quickly, sitting forward abruptly and pressing the sleeves of his sweater against his eyes to dry away the tears, but his sleeves are already soaked and won’t absorb the tears anymore. “No, it’s— I’m not crying. Really. Crying is for wusses with, with fucking four-point-five GPA’s that eat five meals a day and still have time to shower.”
Jimin takes a hesitant step forward, kneeling on the floor in front of Taehyung with gentle eyes. He reaches out to push Taehyung’s matted bangs from his forehead, fingertips buzzing from the sensation of warmth that spurts through his body. Taehyung’s eyes are bloodshot, the tip of his nose red, and Jimin is hit with so much sadness from the sight of Taehyung like this, so clearly exhausted from breaking down, yet pulling himself through with words alone. Taehyung may act like an optimist and boast about the positives of something as trivial as yogurt, but as Jimin watches him wipe at his nose and sniffle, he is anything but the Taehyung he’d become accustomed to seeing, replaced instead by his inner demons.
“Crying is for losers who care too much about the future,” Taehyung whispers through a sob, leaning into the touch and resting his hand over Jimin’s when it comes down to cup his cheek. “Crying is for.”
Jimin firmly pulls him forward and embraces him silently, wrapping strong arms around his shoulders that support him more than Taehyung’s own body does. It’s the least he can do. Taehyung melts into the touch, craving the affection of another body, and even though Jimin is anything but warm, he’s there. Taehyung presses wet eyes into the fabric of Jimin’s shirt, hands gripping loosely at his back to find purchase in anything he could hold onto because he can’t seem to grasp reality, not today. And Jimin feels like an open window in autumn against him, so Taehyung buries himself into the cold for comfort; the feeling is familiar, even if it’s the first time they’ve hugged like this. Right now, it’s the only thing he knows.
“I’m not crying,” he sighs as Jimin pulls him up into standing position on weak legs and leads him to his bed. He lays him down and tucks him into the blankets, swiping a thumb along his cheek as if tears could be stolen. “I’m not.”
“I know,” Jimin whispers softly, kneeling at the side of the bed and resting a gentle palm on Taehyung’s cheek. “I know.”
He stays like this, thumb lightly caressing his cheekbone to wipe his cheeks dry each time moisture betrays him and escapes his eyes. He watches as Taehyung dozes off to ruby red glistening in the night, eyes finally falling closed as the lines on his forehead smoothen out serenely. Jimin’s hand finds its way into Taehyung’s hair, fingers threading through the strands before trailing his knuckles along the side of Taehyung’s face with such careful, deliberate movements that it scares even him that Taehyung is so, so fragile.
Hours pass until Jimin finally decides to pull back and stand, quietly walking towards the window to slip back into the night, but Taehyung sluggishly grabs his wrist to halt his movements, blinking open tired, swollen eyes.
“Don’t go,” Taehyung rasps against his pillow, voice worn and rough. “Stay the night.”
“I need it.”
Taehyung insistently tugs at Jimin’s wrist until Jimin complies, knees hitting the edge of the bed as Taehyung scoots against the wall to make room beside him. Jimin gets the hint and climbs in under the covers, careful not to come too close and instead leaves a foot’s space between them. But Taehyung seems to think otherwise, twisting so that his back faces Jimin, and presses backwards until he can feel Jimin’s chest against him, finding comfort in the safety of Jimin’s broad chest. Jimin’s skin is cool and raises goosebumps along his arms when he drapes an arm over his waist, shivers trailing down his spine when he presses his nose hesitantly against his nape. Taehyung thinks it couldn't feel more like home.
Jimin keeps watch on him the entire night, eyes never once leaving his sleeping form, even when Taehyung stirs awake at four in the morning to turn around and check if Jimin is still there. Jimin smiles back at him reassuringly and presses in close until the spaces between them are filled with their bodies and the perfect amount of silent understanding.
Somewhere before sunrise, Taehyung feels Jimin slip out of bed and hears the sound of his window sliding open. The only thing he’s unsure of, though, is if the light kiss at the juncture between his neck and shoulder had been Jimin’s lips or the breeze winding in from the open window.
Either way, he finds a new sense of motivation to get his shit together when he wakes up past noon that morning.
Last year’s Halloween event had been a disaster from what Taehyung recalls, and his hopes for this year’s carnival are mildly high in expectation, exceeding that of Namjoon’s elaborate end-of-the-year party that’s supposed to include a marathon of Wes Anderson films followed by sophisticated discussions after each one — very unfun if you asked him, even if it included drinking games.
But there’s only so much a Halloween themed carnival in a college town can offer, that is, aside from the traditional and common practices that all college events entailed, and the rush of people in gaudy costumes and the amount of red solo cups littering the floors doesn't surprise him one bit, not even the guy walking in front of them in a giant penis costume or the one that just passed them, nude down to his sock-covered feet. He’s seen far too many cat ears and guys dressed in penis costumes tonight for him to be amused anymore. Really, where was the originality anyway. Everyone had genitals, and quite frankly, Taehyung was tired of looking at his every time he went to the restroom.
“When’s the last time you went to a carnival?” Taehyung turns his head to ask as Jimin frowns at someone dressed as Dracula, naked save for a pair of tight boxers underneath his cape with a chest hairier than his carpet.
“Four years ago?” Jimin answers, tilting his head as he tries to remember. “When I was still in high school trying to be cool.”
Jimin reaches out and adjusts the giant stuffed animal bear currently piggy backing Taehyung, a gift from Jimin himself from winning at one of the cork gun booths and successfully shooting down all ten ducks lined up within seconds of the game beginning. Perks of being supernatural, Taehyung guesses. But the booth operator had thought otherwise, looking at him with wide eyes in utter shock as he handed over the bear, to which Taehyung had laughed nervously and said, “I guess you can say he’s in charge of getting our turkey on Thanksgiving!”
Upon their arrival, Jimin had come far too close to bailing, and leaving Taehyung by himself to search for his friends.
“Everyone is dressed up in costumes, they're not going to notice okay?” Taehyung had sighed, turning off the car and pulling his keys out of the ignition. He reaches to the back to grab his leather jacket. “Now put this on. You’re wearing a t-shirt in the middle of fall. If you want to blend in, at least get the basics down. I’m wearing like five layers over my Joker costume and I’m already freezing my ass off.”
Taehyung had found a simple Joker costume at the very last minute at some janky thrift store downtown, Jimin arguing that it was way too big on his small frame when he stepped out of the dressing room clad in a purple suit and green vest, small tie resting just above the buttons.
“That’s gigantic on you,” Jimin had said, leaning against one of the clothing racks as Taehyung inspected the outfit in the mirror. The pant legs pooled at his feet, but it was nothing a simple cuff couldn’t fix. “You can probably swim laps in that.”
“I don’t know, I like it,” Taehyung refuted, stretching his arms out spread-eagle. “And anyway, what kind of fuck-ass Joker wears tight clothing? I’m trying to look… creepy and animated, not like some ‘My Chemical Romance’ music video.”
“The 1989 Joker wore fitted clothing, dumbass.”
“Well, fuck Nicholson,” Taehyung frowns at the realization but shrugs it off. “I’m for Team Ledger.”
Taehyung had spent far too long trying to convince Jimin into styling his hair like a character straight out of an anime, failing miserably at wrestling Jimin onto the bed with gel in his hands (Jimin easily flipped them around and pinned his hands above his head until both of them flushed down to their necks and pulled apart faster than Taehyung could drawl out “awkward”). By the time he finally slid into his costume, he didn’t have anytime to do his makeup and hair before they were already rushing out the door, Taehyung snatching his grey hoodie off the doorknob before shutting the door behind. Once they’d stepped outside, the cold easily penetrated through the thin fabric of his costume, and Taehyung had quickly thrown on his hoodie over the garment.
“You know I can get us there in three minutes,” Jimin had said as Taehyung turned on the car to blast the heater before pulling out of the parking lot. “Two and a half if I try.”
“I’m all for grand entrances and everything,” Taehyung had responded, glancing at Jimin in the passenger seat. “But I can’t just ride in on your back and not expect Jeongguk to ask how we got there so fast by foot.”
It’d been a struggle to find Yoongi in the crowd of people when they entered into the carnival, especially with his cryptic and annoyingly vague text that we’re near the rides, find us. Taehyung had glanced up to about ten rides in his line of view and cursed Yoongi and his dumb way of texting or for never picking up his phone. After passing up a tempting offer for two-for-one corn dogs along the way, Taehyung had finally spotted Yoongi in his Chucky get-up, waving a plastic knife around Jeongguk, who was holding a fucking whip. Taehyung doesn’t ask about it.
“Thanks for the extremely helpful text,” Taehyung frowns sarcastically, glancing Jeongguk up and down. “Jeongguk you look like Satan’s child.”
“What else is new,” Yoongi scoffs, earning a punch in the arm. “Sorry, I wasn’t checking my phone. These overall pockets are ridiculously tight because I found them in the toddler’s section.” He slides his hands into the front pocket pointedly. “It’s literally impossible to get my phone in and out of it.”
“Who’s your friend?” Seokjin interrupts, lifting his eye patch.
“Oh, guys, this is the Jimin I was talking about,” Taehyung introduces, grabbing at Jimin’s elbow and pulling him forward.
“Man, your makeup looks so real,” Hoseok baffles as he leans in to examine. “Down to the contacts and everything.”
“Anyway,” Taehyung interrupts, noticing the way Jimin stiffens from the close contact. “Who’s down for some corn dogs.”
Traveling as a group of seven proves difficult as they venture throughout the carnival, what with the constant debating of whether to eat, play games, or go on the rides, all of which they’re equally divided on. While he and Jimin dabble in some of the booth games, Jeongguk and Namjoon hit the rides and just barely drag Hoseok onto one with them until Hoseok watches the ride whir past him and laughs for even considering it in the first place. He eventually joins Yoongi and Seokjin for some food, and they briefly split up to do their own activities until Namjoon and Jeongguk finish their ride.
“Yeah I haven’t been to one since high school either,” Taehyung says, shrugging the bear higher up on his back. “But I think that’s because I’m still traumatized from spending fifty bucks at the ring toss trying to win a big ass banana.”
“How’d that work out for you?”
“Not good. I think gambling addiction might just run in the family,” Taehyung shivers at the memory. “But this bear pretty much redeems all my past failures in life. Really, now I get to cuddle the shit out of him and not have to worry about dying single.”
They find Yoongi for the second time that night, holding a churro in one hand and a corn dog in the other. He looks ridiculous in his Chucky getup, hair a mess and scuffed up in random places, and Taehyung wonders how he didn’t spot him and the others sooner when they had arrived because a group that consisted of Chucky, Dracula, Jack Sparrow, a prisoner, and the grim reaper takes effort to not spot right away. He probably wouldn’t have recognized them on a bad day.
Yoongi hands him the corn dog when they approach and takes a bite of his churro.
“We’re thinking about going to the haunted house right now,” Yoongi says, watching as Namjoon and Jeongguk stumble towards them in a fit of laughter. “We were just waiting for them to finish up this ride.”
Taehyung turns to Jimin and holds his thumb up for the okay. “Sound good?”
“Yeah, sure,” Jimin smiles, eyes shaping into crescents as he shoots a thumbs-up back. “Shouldn’t be too scary, right?”
From the outside, the setup looks the least bit intimidating and closely resembles the fun house down near the ferris wheel. Somehow they’d bribed Hoseok to join them, who’s currently curled tightly around Jeongguk with his makeshift prison sign covering half his face as they advance in the line with only one more group ahead of them. And okay, maybe the ominous music that plays overhead creeps him out, but Taehyung wasn’t the worst at these kinds of things, Hoseok obviously being the first, yet it makes it a little more haunting that he can’t see a thing ahead of them, the strobe lights making it even more difficult to navigate properly without tripping over each other’s heels.
His heart is pounding in his ears when the worker gives the go for the group in front of them to head in. Taehyung wraps the arms of the bear tighter around his neck and pretends like the nerves aren’t berating at his sanity. This is not supposed to be as scary as he’d played it out to be, but the way Hoseok is loudly whimpering each time someone’s scream is heard makes him buzz anxiously. Jeongguk and Yoongi look completely unfazed by the commotion, and Taehyung trains his face to look as calm as theirs and gulps down the nerves as he watches the worker check his time. Something slides into his hand when another scream echoes through the house, and Taehyung glances down to see Jimin slipping his hand into his, twining their fingers together tightly as he turns to grin at him, red eyes glowing even in the pitch black lighting. It’s Taehyung’s only beacon of hope.
“Scared?” Jimin whispers somewhere near his ear, toothy grin spreading across his face as he grips Taehyung’s hand in his.
“No,” Taehyung frowns, making a face of distaste. “Not when I’ve met the real thing.”
Jimin laughs at this and strokes a thumb in comforting circles against his hand knowingly, in time with Taehyung’s pulsing heart. Taehyung forgets about the annoying music and the nauseating strobe lights, distracted by Jimin’s firm hand against his palm, anything but warm, yet Taehyung can’t find it any more right.
“Then why is your heart beating so fast,” Jimin says more than asks. Taehyung tucks their hands into his pocket, adjusting the bear so that it’s under his arm. “I can hear it over the music.”
“It’s the corn dog,” Taehyung argues, willing his nerves to calm down with deep breathing. “Unhealthy foods clog your arteries, you know.”
Just then, the worker ushers them in, and Taehyung feels his heart plummet to his feet.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Hoseok cries, cowering behind Jeongguk as their group walks up the steps to enter the haunted house setup. “I hate you guys for bribing me into this. I really fucking hate you guys, I really— fuck!”
“Hyung, we haven’t even entered yet,” Jeongguk sighs but doesn’t shove him off. “Find your chill.”
“This is like entering the portal to hell,” Taehyung hears Namjoon say as darkness engulfs them, nothing but small lights illuminating the walkway as he grips Jimin’s hand tightly in his pocket. “We’ll be our reincarnated selves after this.”
There is nothing but the sound of Yoongi’s sigh and Hoseok’s heavy breathing in response.
It starts out pretty lame, if Taehyung is honest, the course far too predictable for any of them to get scared, except for Hoseok, and the setup too cheap to be believable. Taehyung is also at an advantage since Jimin can see through the dark and pick up on the hidden scarers both from sensing their body heat and from the smell of their blood, kindly warning Taehyung whenever they approached someone. It also helps that Jimin can see through the dark where the rest of them are completely handicapped, Yoongi turning to growl at Namjoon when he steps on his shoelace and successfully trips him right up against one of the scarers. From the very back of their group, Taehyung doesn’t have to worry about figures jumping out at him, but it does make his skin crawl as he turns to look behind them with nothing but pitch black to greet him.
They’re nearing the end of the course when something decidedly creeps up behind Taehyung, the sound of a chainsaw roaring in his ear when someone chases him right up against the farthest wall. Taehyung jumps in horror, screaming at the top of his lungs as he’s forced away from Jimin, hands yanking apart as Taehyung escapes the chaser, who ends up cornering him. It’s all fun and games until the chaser accidentally smashes the handle of his makeshift chainsaw against Taehyung’s cheek as he trips over his own torn garbs and braces himself upright against the wall behind Taehyung in his stumble. Taehyung winces at the contact and reaches up gingerly to touch his cheek. He can’t see properly, but he can feel blood dripping from the small wound, a minor one but painful nonetheless.
It all happens too quickly when he feels a second body shove the scarer off of him in the next second, a flash of red eyes glistening in the low lighting as Jimin releases a guttural growl from his chest and crushes the fake chainsaw under his foot. Taehyung can’t see much, but the sound of Jimin’s fist as it smashes through the plaster of the wall is defining as it echoes throughout the haunted house, the flakes of drywall falling on Taehyung’s legs and dusting past his face.
“Fuck, dude, it was an accident!” the guy shouts as Jimin advances on him.
Taehyung pulls himself into standing position, his bear lost somewhere in the mess and long forgotten. Jimin’s teeth are barred now, eyes glowing angrily as he shoves the guy by the shoulders into the now broken wall with a heavy thud.
“Jimin, stop!” Taehyung yells, reaching out in the darkness. Yoongi and the others are a few feet ahead, squinting through the low lighting with worried and shocked faces as Jimin closes in on the scarer menacingly, who makes the mistake of shoving Jimin back with flat palms, cuffing him in the jaw with a tight fist, the sound of bone colliding ringing through the air.
“Get the hell off of me,” the guy growls angrily, straightening off the wall and shaking his hand out.
Jimin loses it from there, laughing cryptically as he tilts his head back, something that looks like blood leaking from his open mouth and staining the white of his chin and the fronts of his teeth. His eyes are completely red now, redder than Taehyung has ever seen them, and before Taehyung can grab his arm to yank him back, Jimin lurches forward and head-butts the guy in the face, the sound of the impact loud in his ears.
“Fuck!” the guy yells, tumbling backwards to the floor against the wall. “Fuck, you broke my nose!”
“Jimin, stop!” Taehyung repeats. “Please, just stop!” He grabs Jimin firmly by the arm and drags him past the horrified expressions of Yoongi and the others, running as fast as he can with Jimin in tow out of the haunted house.
Jimin looks ferocious when they finally step into proper lighting, breathing heavy and unstable with his nostrils flared, fangs sharp and fully exposed. It’s the first time Taehyung has seen him like this, but all he can process is that they needed to get out of here fast and somewhere far, far away from people.
Jimin buries his hand in his hair and groans, hands balling into fists as he leans against the light post nearby to grip the metal until his knuckles turn white. He’s hunched over, his breathing ragged and his shoulders stiff, and Taehyung knows he’s doing his all to fight himself, willing himself to calm down.
“Fuck,” he growls, the sound coming from deep within him, strained and feral. “What the fuck is happening to me.”
“Jimin, we need to go,” Taehyung says urgently, approaching him carefully with his hands braced in front of his chest. “We need to go before someone sees you like this.”
Taehyung grabs at his tightened fist cautiously, the hand softening under the touch and losing its tension. Taehyung intertwines their hands together, much like Jimin had done for him before entering the haunted house, and pulls them in the direction of the nearest exit. He notices the way Jimin’s grip leaves a deep indent on the light post when his hand finally loosens before turning away completely and leaving this behind.
Taehyung doesn’t know where they’re headed, but he drives and drives until the lights of the carnival disappear completely from sight behind them, until the bustle of cars clear from the roads. His phone buzzes in his pocket every few minutes as Yoongi and Jeongguk try to get a hold of him, but Taehyung silences his phone and stuffs it behind him. There’s a lot of explaining he’ll have to do, and the guilt of leaving them behind worries at the edges of his mind. But that had to wait until later.
Jimin’s heavy snarling eventually fades into an eery silence, nothing but the sound of the wind from the sunroof filling the car as Taehyung glances at Jimin carefully. He doesn’t dare break the fragile silence and waits patiently, forcing his eyes on the road when Jimin turns his head to look out the window. It’s only when Taehyung escapes the city lights and drives along the outskirts of the city does the soft sob escape Jimin’s lips, head dropping as hot tears fall from his eyes, hands tightly balled in his lap as he shakes his head.
“What’s wrong with me,” he whispers brokenly.
Taehyung silently reaches over the console and grips his hand in his own until they stop trembling, until the tears stop collecting on his palm. Half an hour passes before Taehyung parks the car along the river that outlooks the city, retracting his hand to pull the keys from the ignition and opening his door as if to get out. But Jimin stops him with a hand on his forearm, so Taehyung complies and pulls his legs back in, leaving the door open to breathe in the humid air. It feels like hours before anyone speaks up, Taehyung giving Jimin his space even in the confined space of the car, and even with the door open, Taehyung feels like suffocating.
As if reading his mind, Jimin breaks the silence.
“I’m so sorry,” Jimin rasps out hoarsely, glancing down at his lap before turning to look at Taehyung with wet eyes. “I just, I couldn't control myself back there. My instincts took over, and all I could process was that this guy was going to hurt you.” Jimin reaches out and gently brushes his thumb over the small wound on Taehyung’s cheek. “When I smelled your blood, I lost it. Something just snapped in my head.”
“Don’t apologize,” Taehyung says, reaching up and grabbing Jimin’s hand. “Yeah, you could've left out the dramatics of breaking that guys nose and smashing a hole in the wall but. It was my idea to bring you there in the first place.”
“But that shouldn't be a problem,” Jimin sighs in frustration. “I’m the minority here, so why haven’t I adapted yet? It just. It fucking sucks to be the monster in someone else’s world.”
“Stop that,” Taehyung says softly, gripping his hand tighter and furrowing his brows. “You’re not a m— you're not, okay? Don’t say stupid shit like that because when I look at you, I see— I see stars and I don’t know, hope, beauty, life. I see life when I look at you, and that’s the best thing I’ve ever felt. You’re the best thing I’ve ever felt-”
And Taehyung leans across the console and presses his lips tenderly against Jimin’s, like he means it and wants nothing more but for Jimin to know that too. He exhales through his nose when Jimin presses back with just as much fervor, sliding his hand to the back of Taehyung’s neck to pull him impossibly closer, stick shift digging uncomfortably into his hip. He doesn’t realize how much he’s wanted this again, since that night in the library, until Jimin slides his tongue past his lips and maps him out like wanderlust, and Taehyung accepts it eagerly and licks his way into Jimin’s mouth, too, until his breathing comes out ragged and breathy. He smooths his hands up, along the tight muscle of Jimin’s biceps and up the sides of his neck until his palms are cupping Jimin’s face gently, feeling every tremor under the cool skin with his entire body. When Taehyung pulls away breathlessly, lips swollen and red, Jimin’s eyes are blown and flashing cyan as his fingertips trail lightly along his sides, sensitive to every fleeting touch. His eyes flutter shut when Taehyung runs his hands through Jimin’s hair and tugs lightly at the back before pressing in for another kiss.
Something stirs in Jimin when Taehyung nibbles on his bottom lip, and he pulls Taehyung swiftly over the console and into his lap firmly, shifting until Taehyung finds a comfortable position with his knees straddling each side of Jimin’s hips.
“Are we,” Taehyung gasps, nudging his nose along Jimin’s sharp jawline. “Are we doing this?”
“Yes,” Jimin nods, tilting his head. “Yeah. Only if you want to.”
“I want to,” Taehyung sighs, kissing along the expanse of Jimin’s neck and skittering his lips along the sharp curve of his jawline. “I want to.”
Taehyung can feel the heat building in the pit of his stomach already when Jimin swipes his tongue from his Adam’s apple all the way up to his chin, hands finding their way under the hem of his hoodie and flittering up his sides, fingertips dipping along the ridges of his ribcage and gently clawing their way back down. Taehyung reaches his hand down to pull on the reclining handle and swoops down to land a kiss on Jimin’s lips, chests colliding as he presses them backwards until the seat can’t go back any further, until Taehyung is hovering above Jimin with hunger in his eyes. Jimin unzips his hoodie with quick hands as Taehyung shrugs it off along with his flimsy suit blazer, tossing it to the side in a messy heap. He unfastens the small tie around Taehyung’s neck and slides it it off before working at the buttons of the green vest.
“This is fucking ridiculous,” Jimin groans impatiently, moving to the buttons his shirt. “I can’t believe I’m undressing you in this.”
“Be happy I didn’t go with the loofa idea,” Taehyung rasps, messily helping with the buttons.
“I would’ve just torn that off.”
And with shaky fingers, Jimin tears the last three buttons open, sliding the shirt down past Taehyung’s elegant frame as he peppers kisses along his shoulders with a tenderness that Taehyung almost shies away. Taehyung finally shucks the costume off to the side with the rest of his clothes and eagerly moves to pull off Jimin’s t-shirt, reaching down to work open Jimin’s jeans when he yanks the shirt over Jimin’s head, undoing the button and lifting his hips enough in the tight space to slide them halfway down Jimin’s firm thighs. He bites on his bottom lip when he sees that Jimin’s already fully hard for him through his boxers and wastes no time to unfasten his own pants with Jimin’s help, levering himself over Jimin’s body to shrug them down to his ankles, the roof of the car bringing static to his hair as he nudges against it in the tight space.
“I don’t have lube,” Taehyung breathes, holding himself up above Jimin with an elbow resting on the car seat. “I don’t have anything.”
"It’s okay. We’ll just—" And Jimin wastes no time in gripping firmly at his hips, pulling him down until their hips are crashing against each other deliciously, white spots flashing like comets behind Taehyung’s eyelids as the contact knocks a moan from his chest.
“Fuck,” Taehyung cries, moaning in surprise from the shiver that runs straight down his spine, and swivels his hips down to meet Jimin’s upward thrusts, grinding desperately against the bulge in Jimin’s boxers. He braces his elbows on each side of Jimin’s head for just enough leverage to roll down at all the right angles against Jimin’s heat, chests sticky with sweat as they mold together in the humid air.
“This feels, you feel so good,” Jimin groans, eyebrows threading together as he turns his head to press a kiss to Taehyung’s temple. He swipes his tongue along the small cut on Taehyung’s cheek to lick off any excess blood, and in doing so, Taehyung can practically feel Jimin’s body stir from under him as he ruts up against Taehyung with more force, the minimal sampling of his blood bringing a newfound thirst in Jimin.
“Delicious,” Jimin mutters against his cheek. Taehyung’s mind reels from the sensation of Jimin pressed so tightly to him like this, knowing full well that Jimin was all his with nowhere to go. Had it not been for the hand splayed against his lower back, Taehyung would easily mistake this as a dream.
The exchange of body heat raises beads of sweat on Jimin’s forehead and all along his temples, sliding down the side of his face and just barely dripping on his chest when Taehyung sweeps in to capture it with his lips, feathering kisses up his face through the whimpers that bubble from his lips wantonly. Their mingled breaths cling to the windows until Taehyung can’t make out their surroundings through the condensation, air thick with the sounds of their bodies moving in unison and filling his ears like wind chimes.
“When’s the last time you fed,” Taehyung manages through gasps, nudging their foreheads together as a moan tumbles out of his open mouth from the fiction of their erections sliding against each other. He flicks his eyes to Jimin’s blown pupils and cyan irises with half lidded eyes.
“Two weeks ago,” Jimin stutters against his lips, imprinting bruises along Taehyung’s sharp hipbones. “Why?”
“That’s why you lost it before,” Taehyung whispers breathily. “That’s why you lost control, isn’t it?”
It strikes a chord in Jimin that he’d been trying to avoid, but Taehyung doesn’t want to beat around the bushes with this anymore, not when they’re already here, gasping each other’s names and building heat like a brilliant campfire. Jimin doesn’t respond, but his hands loosen its grip on his hips, and Taehyung slows to a steadier pace until they stop completely, perched in Jimin’s lap with patient eyes. Jimin’s eyes are the first to break contact as he drops his gaze down to Taehyung’s lips uneasily, but Taehyung threads his hand up the back of Jimin’s head and tangles his fingers in the strands to nuzzle against the soft hair, to reassure him with all the comfort he can muster.
“Do it,” Taehyung says, fingers stroking comforting circles against his scalp.
“Do what?” Jimin mumbles in the crook of his neck. They’re still very much aroused, but neither make a move to continue, words thick with purpose, and Taehyung can’t find it in himself to move an inch until he confronts this head on.
“Bite me,” Taehyung blurts beseechingly, and Jimin stills below him entirely, arms stiff around his waist as his body tightens up in places Taehyung can feel. “Call me crazy, but I’ve been wanting this for awhile now. I want to give myself to you.”
“Taehyung, you don’t know what you're asking for,” Jimin rejects quietly, forcefully, shaking his head and pulling back to look at Taehyung straight-on. His eyes are still blown, glowing a vibrant cyan mixed with disbelief and skepticism. “This is not like asking for flowers or for presents on your birthday, Taehyung. I’m not going to hurt you like that.”
“Jimin,” Taehyung says softly, just barely above a whisper and runs his knuckles down the side of Jimin’s face. “Jimin, please. I want this.”
"Fuck, I can’t just—"
But Taehyung hushes him with a fervent kiss, licking his way into Jimin’s mouth and biting down on the plush bottom lip, tugging at it vulnerably. He feels Jimin keen against him, the heat finding it’s way back between their bodies as they pick up where they left off, exploring the sensitivities and weaknesses of each other’s bodies in the crammed space of the passenger seat. Just as Jimin reciprocates his movements and slides his tongue against his, Taehyung slips back into Jimin’s mouth until he finds the point of Jimin’s fangs, inhaling sharply through his nose and nicks the tip of his tongue against the fang until he can taste metal. He slides their tongues together to spread the blood that escapes the small puncture, swiping along the roof of Jimin’s mouth impishly. The way Jimin instantly sucks at his mouth pulls a gasp of anticipation from Taehyung’s throat as he grips at the headrest, steadily increasing the pace of his hips.
“Why did you do that,” Jimin growls between kisses, licking hungrily at his lips.
“You know why,” Taehyung breathes, sliding his palms down the front of Jimin’s chest until his palms run along the ridges of Jimin’s toned abdomen.
“Damn it, Taehyung,” Jimin lets out a strangled moan, reaching to grip tightly at Taehyung’s hands and sitting forward with him in his lap. “Are you— are you sure you want this?”
“I’m sure,” Taehyung whispers against him, nudging their noses together. Warmth spreads throughout his body from his chest as he soaks himself in Jimin, knee-deep and ready to dive. “I haven’t been this sure since senior year of high school when I walked in on my parents fucking and decided I was going to move out.”
“Your sex talk turns me on. Really,” Jimin sighs sarcastically, breath fanning against Taehyung’s cheeks before he looks at Taehyung earnestly. “I’m serious though. Are you sure you want this?”
“Jimin,” Taehyung laughs and presses their mouths together with genuine honesty. “I want this. Christ, do I need to scream it for you?”
And Jimin rocks his hips up, that teasing, mischievous air returning as he grins when a startled moan slides past Taehyung’s lips. “Maybe,” he whispers and leans in to breathe cool air against Taehyung’s neck, right over the stuttering pulse of his jugular.
Jimin licks his lips moist before baring his teeth fully, fangs extending centimeters longer and the cyan of his irises dissipating as they flash a fiery red. Jimin resumes the rhythm of their hips — a method of distraction, Taehyung realizes— grinding their bodies together and scraping his fangs along the pulse in Taehyung’s neck, back and forth, as if stalling and granting Taehyung a second chance to change his mind. But Taehyung chases his hand up Jimin’s nape and tugs at his hair as they rut against each other slowly, completely.
“This is going to hurt a bit, babe,” Jimin warns, swiping his tongue over the smooth skin of Taehyung’s neck to dampen the skin. Taehyung nods against him, heart thundering in his chest from the anxiousness that explodes under his skin, tingling all throughout his body in anticipation each time Jimin drags his fangs along his neck.
When Jimin finally does it, sinks his teeth shallowly into the flesh of his neck, Taehyung lets out a muffled whimper against the back of his hand, the other tightening impossibly in Jimin’s hair from the burn that races it’s way like fire down to his shoulder. And yeah, Jimin wasn’t fluffing when he said it’d hurt because the pain Taehyung feels when Jimin’s teeth penetrate the skin of his neck makes his vision blotchy and his toes curl. But the pain slowly dissipates from the initial shock when Jimin starts drinking down his blood at modest amounts at a time, the sound rushing through his ears loudly and drowning out his moans as Jimin presses up against him harder, rougher, to distract him. Taehyung welcomes each thrust with a roll of his hips, heat coiling and tightening in the pit of his stomach.
Taehyung tilts his head to one side to allow Jimin more room as muffled groans escape his lips. The feeling is ecstasy, nothing he’s ever experienced before, and Taehyung ravels himself in the moment with a kind of vulnerability that makes even him scared, the way his body would be willing to give anything to Jimin right then and there with no ounce of self-control. Taehyung’s mind is a blur from the overstimulation, hyperaware of Jimin and his strong hips, hot tongue, and fingertips that burn along his skin when he slides flat palms down along the curve of his ass to press their hips together impossibly, the rutting raw and rough and so, so desperate.
“Yeah,” Taehyung whines. Jimin spreads him apart to grind up against him at just the right angle. His boxers are drenched with pre-come by now, Jimin’s mimicking his own from beneath him, but Taehyung can’t find himself to care about the discomfort of fabric sticking to his skin, not when Jimin was grinding against his most sensitive areas blissfully.
“You taste incredible,” Jimin grunts as he retracts his teeth, tongue swiping along the puncture wound to lap up the excess blood that escapes, sucking lightly to gulp down the last few drops. “God, look how much you enjoyed that,” he rasps breathlessly. “Look at how wet it made you.”
“Fuck, Jimin.” A sob dribbles from Taehyung’s lips when Jimin latches his mouth back down on his neck, this time to suck a hickey just below the two slits that decorate his skin. “You’re going to make me come.”
Taehyung shifts the hand that isn’t tangled in Jimin’s hair to brace it against the dashboard behind him. He uses the surface to get more leverage, picking up the pace as he edges towards the end and ruts frantically against Jimin, obscene whimpers falling from his mouth as he grinds himself to orgasm.
Taehyung is the first to come, the force of it hitting him so hard that his hips stutter in Jimin’s lap, thighs trembling weakly under Jimin’s firm palms. Jimin follows shortly after, body shuttering with breathless gasps as he presses their lips together right before he comes, the taste of his own blood on Taehyung’s tongue as Jimin cries into his mouth while Taehyung rocks him through his orgasm.
The dull burn in his neck still throbs and makes his shoulder sore when they finally come down from their high, but Taehyung can’t find it any more comforting. Taehyung doesn’t climb off as they catch their breaths, even with their damp boxers rubbing uncomfortably against their moist skin - he’s too lazy to, anyway. He collapses in a heap against Jimin’s chest, resting the side of his face against the cave of Jimin’s still heart, nothing but silence meeting his ears with Jimin’s fingers lackadaisically tracing invisible portraits against the skin of his arm.
“Hey, you should probably put a bandaid on that,” Jimin says later, when they’ve moved to lay in the backseat, Taehyung draped over him even with his longer, lankier limbs. “That won’t close up until tomorrow.”
“I’ll do that later when we get back,” Taehyung mumbles tiredly against Jimin’s neck, eyes already closed with exhaustion. “How’d I do?”
“Better than I thought,” Jimin says honestly, running his hand up and down Taehyung’s back, along the bumps in his spine. “Your blood is is incredible.”
“I’m glad,” Taehyung says in all seriousness. “Really. Thank you, you know, for complying with my kinky request.”
“God,” Jimin groans but laughs deep within his chest, the sound rumbling and shaking Taehyung’s head from where he’s perched. “I should be thanking you. I’ve been wanting to taste your blood since day one, to be honest. Your smell… it’s exhilarating.”
“Then we’re equal,” Taehyung says and lifts his head to rest his chin on Jimin’s sternum, gazing at him with dancing eyes. “We’re on common ground.”
“Yeah,” Jimin smiles softly and reaches up to ruffle the hair at the back of Taehyung’s head. “Thank you.”
And when Taehyung leans up to kiss him just beneath the jaw, Jimin’s eyes are glowing cyan. Taehyung thinks that maybe, he finally understands it.
The first thing Taehyung does when he and Jimin part ways late into the night at his room is meet up with Yoongi and the others. He drives to the other end of campus to Yoongi, Hoseok, and Seokjin’s shared flat, gathering his thoughts along the way for a proper explanation, anything, really, to explain the mishap that had happened back at the carnival. The time is nearing sunrise by now, but even so, Taehyung knows they’ll be awake, at least Yoongi, who was just as much a night owl as he was, utilizing the late hours of the night to work on his compositions.
It was a regular occurrence for them to crash at each other’s places, and Taehyung is grateful that he has two other homes whenever he doesn't want to be in his, the other being Jeongguk and Namjoon’s shared flat not too far from here. Namjoon had always teased him about only using his room to sleep in while he used his friends’ places to live in all the other times, ransacking their refrigerators of their food like some kind of raccoon. Taehyung really can’t deny this, considering he hardly occupied his room on the weekends before he met Jimin.
Taehyung raps his knuckles on the door and hears steps quietly approaching seconds later. The door opens to a tired Yoongi, makeup wiped from his face and suited back in his normal clothes. He cocks his head towards the kitchen in invitation, and Taehyung follows Yoongi into the apartment with practiced movements, the quiet television splaying dancing images against the dark walls. Yoongi shushes him as they pass through the living room, Namjoon and Hoseok already passed out on the floor in front of the television with Seokjin sprawled out on the couch. Jeongguk is wedged in the space against the armrest at Seokjin’s feet and glances at them when they pass by. He stands up and follows them into the kitchen.
“You thirsty?” Yoongi asks as he and Jeongguk take a seat at the table tiredly. Taehyung pulls his hood around his neck self-consciously, the neckline coming up to his chin to cover the square bandage on his neck. The sting is still there, but nothing he couldn't handle.
“No, I’m good,” Taehyung says, shaking his head. Yoongi joins them at the table.
“So,” Jeongguk mumbles, leaning forward with his arms crossed on the table. “What happened back there?”
“Yeah, what kind of asshole friend leaves his friends behind to deal with the shithole he caused,” Yoongi frowns, but the lightness in his tone lacks the bite that Taehyung has witnessed when Yoongi was actually mad, reassuring him that a plan b wasn’t necessary after all.
“I’m really sorry about bailing on you guys,” Taehyung mumbles genuinely, slouching in the chair and ruffling his bangs. “I think that chainsaw guy triggered something real bad in him, maybe some traumatic event that happened in his past.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Jeongguk huffs.
“You’ve got some serious thanking to do later,” Yoongi nods towards the living room. “Seokjin convinced them that the guy hurt your cheek and that it was an act of self-defense. The police didn’t get involved because of him. Call this a blessing.”
“Alright,” Taehyung breathes thankfully. “I’ll thank him first thing tomorrow morning.”
In theory, Seokjin was a blessing in itself. They could always depend on Seokjin to mediate conflicts or pull them out of sticky situations when any one of them got themselves in deep shit, acting as their own personal mother in place of the real thing. It makes it all the harder knowing Seokjin was leaving them in the forthcoming months, but it was an unspoken truth that Seokjin would always be there for them, miles away or countries away. But Taehyung pushes the thought to the back of his mind. There was no time to mourn the inevitable.
“I can’t believe you even tried to convince us that you two were ‘just friends’. He’s mad protective of you,” Jeongguk scoffs, resting his chin on his folded arms. “He went ape shit on some random dude because he thought you were going to get hurt. I’m not trying to pull a Nicholas Sparks or anything, but that ain’t just friendship, man.”
“Hey, even I wasn’t expecting that,” Taehyung confirms, exhaling deep within his chest. “That was beyond me.”
“Just,” Yoongi starts, running a hand down the side of his face. “Be careful, will you? I don’t want to see you doing anything stupid and getting yourself into any trouble. We’ll always be here for you, but there’s some things even the closest of friends can’t help you on.”
“I know, hyung,” Taehyung huffs, body exhausted as his mind wanders to Jimin’s lips, his fangs—
“What I’m trying to understand is how the hell he punched a hole through their wall,” Jeongguk cuts in, brows knitting together. “They turned on all the lights after all of the mess, and he did some serious damage back there.”
“Yeah, there was plaster everywhere,” Yoongi says, frowning as he recalls the sight. “And the chainsaw prop was smashed. Considering they just remove the chain from real chainsaws, that’s crazy that it ended up in pieces. What is he, like, superhuman?”
“I reckon he’s on his period,” Taehyung jokes, but when he receives questionable looks from both Yoongi and Jeongguk in return, he stares back sheepishly. “Too soon for jokes?”
“Just a tad,” Yoongi says, rolling his eyes. “He sent the poor guy to the hospital.”
“I couldn’t even see what was happening,” Jeongguk says. “We were ahead of you guys when shit went down.”
“Are you okay at least?” Yoongi asks, gesturing at the small cut on Taehyung’s cheek, purple around the edges and slightly swollen.
“Yeah, I’m good,” Taehyung nods, cradling his cheek. It’s nothing compared to the wound he was sporting on his neck, and that was consensual. “It’s just a scratch.”
“It’s pretty dumb of that guy, though,” Yoongi admits, shaking his head and leaning back in his chair. “But why’d you guys have to bail on us?”
“He started having some kind of panic attack, so I got him out of there as fast as I could before anything else could happen, lest more people get hurt.”
“Is he good now?” Jeongguk asks.
“Yeah,” Taehyung nods, mind flashing back to earlier events in the car. “Yeah, definitely. Ten out of ten.”
“Okay, well, that’s done with,” Yoongi claps his hands down lightly on the table. “I’m gonna go crash now. It’s almost sunrise, and I have class this afternoon. You staying the night?”
“Can I?” Taehyung asks, standing up quietly and pushing his chair back in.
“Yeah, you can have Hoseok’s bed. Jeongguk will sleep on the bean bag in the living room.”
“Thanks hyung,” Taehyung mumbles and stuffs his hands in his hoodie pocket. “Thanks to all of you, you know, for having my back even when I fled. That was pretty shitty and douchey of me. I could’ve had my ass handed to me otherwise.”
“Shitty and douchey should never be conjoined in the same sentence,” Jeongguk visibly cringes but claps him on the shoulder before walking past him and into the living room.
“You’re making my toes curl,” Yoongi frowns, pained expression on his face as he pulls his shoulders up to his ears and shivers. “Just go to bed before you start spewing more gross stuff.”
“Fuck you,” Taehyung grins and flips him off, backing out of the kitchen and pulling his hood tighter around his neck.
“That’s more like it.”
Taehyung doesn’t fall asleep until the first few rays of sunlight glisten through the curtains. He presses his palm over the bandage on his neck and closes his eyes. Tonight had been a close one, teetering on the edge of becoming an unfixable disaster but concluding to anything but. It makes him nervous considering all the alternative endings this story could’ve had, the one resulting with the police and the authorities, the other that ended in expulsion from the university. So Taehyung does what he does best and puts his bustling mind to a curt-closing halt, settling for the happy alternative that was his reality and finally sinks into sleep.
Some days, Jimin is a hurricane, others, the calm before a storm. It’s hard to predict it, but at the end of the day, the eyes were Jimin’s most traitorous feats and easily gave him away.
Some days, Jimin climbs through his window on unstable feet when Taehyung is up late finishing assignments, pen caught between his teeth and blanket wrapped around his shoulders as Jimin clambers through the open window. Sometimes Jimin’s lips are stained a bright red, resembling the wings of a beautiful cardinal taking flight on a warm evening, eyes blown wide as he collapses at the corner of Taehyung’s bed to steady himself. Taehyung doesn’t ask about it, nor does he feel particularly okay with it, per se. But something pangs deep within his chest each time Jimin visited him after feedings, something not exactly wrong but not quite right, either. Jimin didn’t get ruffled when he ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, nor did he stop him from snacking during movie nights; in return, Taehyung couldn’t chastise Jimin for feeding. It was survival after all, wasn’t it? But when he realizes that the unsettlement gnawing at the edges of his mind stems from wishing Jimin would just feed on him instead, Taehyung belatedly pinpoints it as jealousy.
“You know,” Taehyung had always mentioned during times like these, textbook flat on his chest as he scrolled through his phone and searched up his name on Google out of curiosity. Too many results to be relevant. “I’d be willing to, you know, to offer myself if you ever get hungry.”
But Jimin would just rest his head against the wall and watch Taehyung intently, eyes trailing over his face like he was an open book with foreign letters, as though he were the unreadable one and not Jimin himself. The way he’d smile during these moments never quite reached his eyes like they usually did as he whispered, “I know.”
Taehyung would drop the subject disconcertedly and busy himself back in his books and his mess of notes, but his mind was always somewhere else even as his eyes scanned over the text, the chicken scratch and the words in the columns of his papers, rereading the same paragraphs four, five times before actually understanding anything or resorting to giving up entirely. These were the days Jimin was the calm after the storm, where Taehyung can’t help but to feel out of the loop and more inclined to bury under his blankets and never come out.
Other days, Jimin comes swimming through his window with glistening eyes and desperate fingertips as he kisses Taehyung softly, like he’s afraid Taehyung will break right before him and disappear, eyes full of honest intention. Taehyung likes these days, where Jimin is confident enough to press him back into his pillows and hold him the same way the night held an endless sky of stars. Or where Jimin takes him to his favorite parts of the city and tells him about all the people he’s seen, the food he’s tried but ended up throwing up later, the thoughts he’s thought and the feelings he’s felt.
“Do you remember,” Taehyung had asked, flicking curious eyes at Jimin with his legs hanging off the side of the building. “How you got like this?”
And Jimin shakes his head thoughtfully, staring down at the city below them with a far-off expression. “Not entirely. I remember following some guy home from the bar one night - it went bankrupt a year ago, but it used to be nearby here. He had platinum blonde hair and eyes that glowed under the dim bar lights, a voice that said danger, you know? A part of me was broken at the time, so broken and insecure, so I followed him home thinking I’d be shucked back into reality. Like, maybe if I fucked up this once, I’d have the motivation to get my shit together,” Jimin laughs, and it sounds anything but happy. “But I woke up with my skin crawling and broke everything in sight. The mirror, the window, anything that had my reflection. The first person I laid eyes on, I ended up sinking my teeth into. And the guy? Well, he was long gone by that time. As the days went by, this mark started to grow along my forearm. Kind of like a reminder that the pain and anger I felt would eventually get better. Yet two years down the line, I still find myself getting lost along the way.”
Jimin grows silent as he stares down at his forearm, reminiscing back through the years and remembering things Taehyung will have never known, not even in the clear glass of Jimin’s eyes when he gazes back at Taehyung with so much vulnerability it rattles Taehyung down to the very bone. And Taehyung wants nothing but to reach out and pluck away the memories like daisies in a garden, to convince him that this was all a bad, bad dream and that Jimin’s hands were warm to the touch whenever they threaded their fingers together. But Taehyung is only human, nothing more than flesh and bone, and he can’t even help himself.
“I’ll find him one day,” Jimin says after a few minutes, tilting his head back as moonlight kisses his cheekbones. “Just. Not now.”
They spend these nights mouthing lazily at each other’s lips until they’re swollen with affection, the tip of Taehyung’s nose numb from the cold, thawing from the small flame nestled in the cavity of his chest, until Jimin pulls away with difficulty, eyes blown cyan and glowing vibrantly as he grips forcefully at Taehyung’s forearms with the urge to feed coursing through him like a bloodline. Jimin screws his eyes shut as his fangs gradually protrude from his mouth, but with enough practice and patience, it gets easier to suppress the thirst, to control himself when things get too intimate.
But on other nights, Jimin will come crashing through his window in a mess of limbs and slam a fist against the window pane, spewing trivial complaints about the window being too small or berating his own lack of coordination, the slightest of things ticking him off until his nose flared with frustration. The wood had threatened to crack from the force of his fist, and Taehyung gulps from where he’s perched on the carpet with scissors dissecting halfway through a shirt, not because he’s scared (he’s far past that) but because damage to any surface in the room meant extra cost, which he definitely didn’t have nor could he afford. Jimin slumps in the chair at Taehyung’s desk with a loud sigh and buries his face in his palms, jaw tense and shoulders stiff as he presses the balls of his hands into his eyes.
“You okay?” Taehyung carefully asks, setting his scissors down on a stray notebook. "You almost broke my window there—"
“I’m fine. Just, shut up,” Jimin mutters, the sound coming out more as a growl. “Please.”
“No need to be an exuberant asshole,” Taehyung frowns disapprovingly. “You’re the one that brought that stick shoved up your ass to my room, not me. So you can kindly escort it out of here anytime you want.”
“Fuck off,” Jimin grumbles.
“Did you miss the part about this being my room.”
“Taehyung, stop talking.”
These are the days where Jimin is a hurricane, furious and jostling everything in his wake, and Taehyung does his very best to find him shelter from his own instability. Maybe it’s because Jimin hadn’t fed in awhile, or maybe someone ticked him off in all the wrong ways, but it doesn’t really matter, not in the grand scheme of things when even Taehyung had his off days.
Taehyung stands up on his feet and saunters up to Jimin’s closed off figure, hunched over and restless as he reaches his hands out to grip at Jimin’s cheeks, the feeling of tension in his jaw going slack the second Taehyung embraces him. Taehyung forces him to look up, silently stroking his cheeks back and forth with his thumbs until the lines on his forehead smoothen out, until he relaxes and presses his forehead against Taehyung’s abdomen and pulls him closer. Taehyung sighs deep within his chest before leaning down to press a kiss to Jimin’s forehead then down to catch his lips.
“You’re such an asshole,” Taehyung breathes against Jimin’s mouth. “You haven’t fed in awhile, have you?”
“No,” Jimin will mumble, shaking his head and capturing Taehyung’s lips again.
“I’m not going to feed from you, Taehyung,” Jimin laughs against the soft fabric of Taehyung’s shirt but firmly declines his offer. “I’ll be fine. Just give me a few minutes to fight off the urge.”
It’s a struggle to just sit back and watch Jimin like this, fighting his own body when Taehyung is right there and willing. But in moments like these, Taehyung knows that all he can do is offer understanding and patience. He tries his best to give Jimin his space and relocates to the measly table in his half-kitchen to continue his “work” (he mostly just spends it on his laptop playing games or browsing the stranger parts of Youtube), until Jimin joins him an hour later and wraps strong arms around his shoulders from behind, pressing a kiss to the top of his head and breathing thank you.
Taehyung still doesn't understand why Jimin comes to him on days when his thirst is through the roof. He thinks it’s something like common sense to avoid the source that caused the pain, and why Jimin would fight fire with fire, Taehyung still doesn’t know, but he saves the question for next time, next time, next time. There are things, after all, that he’d rather live without knowing and things that are meant to be left unsaid than disclosed. He thinks this might just be one of them.
But he also thinks that maybe, just maybe, it scares him that Jimin doesn’t know the extent to his own body.
Halloween approaches in the blink of an eye just as quick as midterm season approaches, and Taehyung finds himself buried to the neck with classes instead of the bathtub full of Kit-Kats that he had originally planned for.
Midterm and finals seasons always found him in his worst shape out of all twelve months in the year simply because it was an absolute nightmare having to actually try for his grades and to maintain them, studying being the last priority to ever cross his mind when the holidays were just around the corner along with the approaching break. He showers less, cares less, and as a result, his fashion sense all but plummets straight down the toilet as comfort exceeds the necessities of image. It’s a ghastly sight, even for him when he passes by his own reflections with a gag, but the effort that midterms required quite literally exerts his brain of all its energy juices than he’s used to burning up, and it’s during these periods of his life where he spends more time swallowing down energy drinks than he does water.
“I think I’d rather fail than continue on,” Taehyung cries, adjusting his hair under his hat and practically throwing himself back against the chair as it creaks from the force. “I’m shit at this whole responsibility thing, really. Jeongguk, go on without me. I’m not going to make it.”
“Go ahead and fail,” Jeongguk patronizes, looking up from his paper. “But it’s your own damn choice if you want to deal with the backlash from Yoongi. He’s going to tear you another hole if and when he finds out that you did poorly on your exams, and I’ll be sitting at the side, chuckling and sipping on some champagne.”
They’re in the library, and by library, Taehyung is actually indulging himself in some study time, books and papers scattered around him with some sheafs of notes in his lap to utilize all of his space. But after the first hour, Taehyung had gone from his firm one-hundred to zero all too quick, mostly pretending to get something done with his legs now crossed lazily over the table, slouching in his chair with a half sheet of paper in his hand - today’s lecture notes (he’d torn it disapprovingly from Jeongguk’s notebook when he used up his last clean sheet).
“I can’t believe I’m more afraid of Yoongi than failing my college career,” Taehyung groans, staring up at the ceiling lights until he sees blotches behind his eyelids. “There’s something very wrong about that, isn't there? He could be the best teacher or the worst parent.”
“Yoongi as a teacher,” Jeongguk scoffs, scribbling in his notebook and flipping the page of his textbook. “Yeah-fucking-right.”
“Maybe in another life,” Taehyung stretches his arms up with a yawn and gathers his papers. “Anyway, my cute little dongsaeng, I’m going to peace out of here for my cat nap. It’s a holiday, and I refuse to hole myself up in this retirement home.”
“Holiday? You mean Halloween?”
“Yes, Halloween. It’s a national mistake to not give the country the day off today,” Taehyung huffs, zipping up his backpack and slinging it over one shoulder. “They’re just a bunch of Hallo-weenies, if you ask me.” Taehyung stands and pushes his chair in. “Anyway, see you later, kid. Try not to bust a nut studying so hard!” He yells, and Jeongguk turns beat red before chucking a wad of paper at him.
The air outside smells like winter as Taehyung steps out of the library doors, crisp and smoky as it nips his cheeks. Taehyung pulls his hoodie closer around him and trudges through campus to his room, shivering down to his bones and regretting leaving behind his jacket on his way out that afternoon.
It’s already dark out when Taehyung steps out of the library to check his phone. 10:34. It’s been three hours since he and Jeongguk arrived, Taehyung ready to crank through some studying while the motivation was there, but that had fiddled out in its entirety. Taehyung had spent the last of it sending freestyle verses to Yoongi via text until Yoongi called him back, growling through the phone menacingly that he was in the middle of recording with Namjoon and Hoseok and that he’d shave his eyebrows off with a lawn mower if he didn’t stop. Taehyung doesn’t doubt his abilities to make it happen, so he had obliged with a mumbled “fine” before hanging up and grumbling to Jeongguk about the prude that Yoongi was sometimes.
Taehyung opens the door to his dorm and shuffles in, tossing his backpack carelessly near the door as he toes off his shoes. His light in the bedroom is already on, and Taehyung furrows his eyebrows in confusion. He’s sure he’d turned it off before leaving.
Taehyung twists the doorknob cautiously and peeks his head in, spotting movement from the corner of his eye as someone exits the bathroom. He squeaks in shock and throws the door open, but as the figure turns towards him so that Taehyung can see him fully, it’s none other than Jimin, hair dyed brown with surprise written on his face that slowly fades into his signature smile.
“Happy Halloween,” Jimin greets gently and takes a timid step towards him. “Like my costume?”
Taehyung holds his breath in the doorway, breath hitched in his throat with eyes glued on Jimin as his mouth falls open, agape. He can feel his heartbeat racing behind his chest and threatening to burst as he deliberately slides his gaze along Jimin’s face. Jimin’s skin is tinted with an ivory-beige tone, from the skin of his face down to his neck, complimenting the dark brown of his hair along with the hazel of his irises. The makeup ends just below his collarbones, heavily contrasting to the pale skin of his arms. Jimin doesn’t look himself, and it takes a second for Taehyung to realize that his “costume” was being human again.
Taehyung takes one last look at his beautiful smile and cries.
“That’s not funny,” Taehyung chokes out a sob, shaking his head as tears fall and stain the carpet at their feet.
“Hey, don’t cry,” Jimin steps towards him almost instantly and holds his face in his palms, raising his head for their eyes to meet. “Why are you crying?”
Taehyung feels his throat constrict as tears glide down his face like raindrops on car windows, collecting along Jimin’s hands and dampening his palms. Taehyung reaches his fingers out and lightly traces them down Jimin’s temples, across his cheekbones, up into his hair.
“I just wanted to surprise you, not make you cry,” Jimin whispers, swiping his thumbs under his eyes to wipe away the tears. “I just thought it’d be a funny costume idea, yeah? Please don’t cry.”
“It’s not funny,” Taehyung repeats, lips trembling as he shakes his head again. "I don’t want you mocking yourself like this, Jimin—"
“I’m stronger than you think,” Jimin reassures, nudging his nose against Taehyung’s. “Emotionally, I mean.”
“God, I can’t believe you did this,” Taehyung sighs, sniffling. “You’re such an idiot.”
And really, it’s anything but funny that Jimin had thought it in him to play at his own insecurities, fighting fire with fire as he always did. It breaks him from the inside-out, and Taehyung all but leans in and captures Jimin’s lips against his own, Jimin welcoming the kiss with a satisfied grin that Taehyung just wants to wipe off, along with the rest of his makeup. He pushes Jimin deeper into the room until his back hits the nearest wall, their tongues crashing in tandem with a kind of desperation that knocks him breathless.
“I even put in eye-contacts for you,” Jimin laughs against his chin, feathering kisses down his neck. “And dyed my hair.”
“I didn’t ask for this,” Taehyung breathes into his hair. “I like you just the way you are, the way I met you. I hope you know that.”
Jimin whispers a quiet I do before sliding his palms down the small of his back and over the curve of his ass, gripping firmly at his thighs to lift Taehyung up on his waist as he leads them into the bathroom. He sets Taehyung on the counter.
“You chose the bathroom over the bed?” Taehyung exhales, drawing Jimin in closer with his legs.
“How about the bathroom and then the bed?” Jimin smirks suggestively as Taehyung presses the heels of his foot against the dimples in his back.
“I like that,” Taehyung grins back lopsided, smoothing his palms along Jimin’s sides.
Jimin leans back to yank his shirt over his head, grabbing at Taehyung’s hoodie and t-shirt and pulling it off in one swift motion, hat tousling off to the side somewhere on the floor along with the rest of their clothing. He eagerly presses back in and latches his lips to Taehyung’s Adam’s apple. Their pants and boxers are next to go, falling messily at their feet as Jimin lets his gaze slide all along Taehyung’s bare body, marveling at the beauty before him with hungry, cyan eyes and bottom lip tugged between his teeth.
"Taehyung, you’re beaut—"
Taehyung stops him and reaches out to run his palm over Jimin’s cheek, smearing makeup under the touch and leans forward on the counter. He presses a tender kiss to the pale skin of his cheek where the beige tone meets white. This was the Jimin he knew, and that’s all that he needed.
“Don’t call me beautiful,” Taehyung whispers against the shell of his ear, shifting so that their foreheads rested against each other’s. “I want you to hear it, that you're beautiful. You're beautiful, Jimin. So beautiful.”
And when Jimin finally presses into him for the first time, slow and gentle, Taehyung sees stars and grips the edge of the counter until his knuckles turn white, the heat of Jimin’s pulsing cock filling him up blissfully. The moans that trip out his mouth are unforgiving and loud as they echo off the walls of the bathroom, mixing with Jimin’s groans as he picks up a steady pace, grabbing the backs of Taehyung’s knees to hold him open and spread him wide. Taehyung presses his palm over his mouth to muffle the sounds as they rock against each other, but Jimin grabs at his wrist and pulls his hand away.
“Please, Jimin, can you do it again,” Taehyung gasps against Jimin’s lips, feeding a whimper into his mouth as Jimin sinks in at just the right angle. "I want you to bite me, taste me—"
“Yeah,” Jimin rasps, this time without an ounce of hesitation. He knows full well by now that Taehyung wasn’t going to take no for an answer, not when he was at his most vulnerable, his most desperate. “Yeah, are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Taehyung nods shakily, kissing Jimin before pulling back.
Taehyung feels heat pool at his stomach as Jimin thrusts into him fully, lowering his head until his lips meet the skin of Taehyung’s neck. It’s exhilarating, the wait before Jimin’s teeth penetrate past the walls of his fragile skin, and the adrenaline that rushes through him makes his toes curl. Jimin presses a kiss against his pulse, once, twice, before opening his mouth widely and sinking his fangs into the soft flesh, as gentle as something like this could be. Taehyung cries out silently and screws his eyes shut, finding purchase against Jimin’s back and clawing angry red marks into the white skin as Jimin drinks from the open wound, gulping down little by little. Jimin reaches a hand between them and tugs at his erection to distract him from the initial pain, jerking him off in time with each thrust as he sucked hungrily at Taehyung’s neck.
Taehyung’s legs tremble from the sensory overload, mouth falling open in strangled cries as Jimin slowly brings him to a shuttering orgasm. Jimin laps up the blood that slides down his neck, into the dip of his collarbones, and moans hungrily, eyelids flickering in ecstasy as he presses in deeper until Taehyung braces his hands above his head against the mirror, sobbing as Jimin fills him to the hilt. His lips are stained red by the blood, teeth just slightly peeking out from tinted lips as his head falls back in a groan.
Taehyung thinks he’s going to come like this, right here on the counter of his bathroom until Jimin halts his movement altogether, grabbing at his thighs and lifts him off the counter.
“Bed,” he breathes when Taehyung groans in disapproval, swiping his tongue along the puncture in Taehyung’s neck.
Taehyung nods frantically against him, and Jimin leads them out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, lowering him down onto the bed and pressing him into the sheets. He leans down to lap at Taehyung’s lips, tenderly kissing him until Taehyung’s begging him for more, voice laced with need and desire.
Jimin hovers above him and grabs at the back of one of his knees to spread him open, slowly pressing back into the tight heat of Taehyung’s body. Taehyung welcomes him in earnestly as he thrusts in at the new angle, knocking a moan from Taehyung’s chest. He thinks he can get used to this, the image of Jimin holding himself up above him, lips red and sweat-drenched bangs mussed up from where Taehyung had scrambled his fingers through, brows knitted together in concentration as he rocked into Taehyung’s heat. It’s the first time he’s seeing Jimin like this, completely wrecked and searching for more as little noises spill from his mouth and cast along his cheekbone when Jimin makes sure to leave fleeting kisses in-between each of his thrusts. It’s one of those sights that Taehyung tries to memorize, scribbling the lines of Jimin’s face behind his eyelids, so perfect and intimate that Taehyung knows he’ll never forget.
Jimin bends Taehyung’s legs at the knee to press into his chest, practically folding him in half. It takes a few more thrusts until Taehyung is coming with a mumbled sob, staining the sheets and their bellies in white streaks as he shutters through his orgasm, tightening around Jimin’s cock impossibly until Jimin’s hip stutter, releasing his load into the condom. Jimin’s body is trembling from the force as he rides out his own orgasm, leaning down to press a tender kiss to the puncture wound on Taehyung’s neck before moving to kiss him on the lips.
Jimin pulls out gently and discards the condom before collapsing back onto the bed on the pillow beside Taehyung, watching as he regains his breath and slowly peels his eyes open to look at Jimin with lidded eyes, glistening with affection and something else, something save for another time. Jimin’s makeup is wiped away by now, sweat smearing the ivory tone from his skin and revealing its true color, but his contacts remain.
“Your makeup is all gone,” Taehyung smiles tiredly, bangs sticking to his temples messily.
“Yeah. I should probably take these contacts out, too,” Jimin mutters, looking up through his eyelashes.
“Later,” Taehyung mumbles, eyes falling shut when Jimin lifts a comforting hand and lightly presses his palm over the puncture on his neck. “Do it later.”
Jimin nods against him, and even though they’re in the aftermath of sex, Jimin’s eyes are fluttering cyan against him, penetrating through the brown of the contacts. Taehyung leans in until their lips touch. He falls asleep like this, limbs tangled together as Jimin pulls the covers to their chin. And maybe it’s pure imagination, but the last thing Taehyung’s mind processes is the feeling of Jimin’s lips moving against his in three fleeting words that hold the weight of the world.
When the wave of midterms finally blow through, Taehyung practically drags Jeongguk out of the building and collapses onto the grass on his back, exhaling heavily as he stares up at the moon dramatically.
“We’re done!” he shouts happily, sitting up on his palms. “You know what this means?”
“What?” Jeongguk drawls tiredly, but he’s just as glad.
“It means that we’re done with midterms until next year.”
“But we still have finals?”
“Jeon Jeongguk, let me have my moment, will you.”
Taehyung gleefully hops to his feet, the feeling of accomplishment rushing through him as he bites back a smile that threatens to make his cheeks sore. His midterms had turned out much easier than he had pegged them out to be, which he isn’t sure should be a blessing or an insult, taking into the account just how much he actually studied for these only for him to discover that he’d potentially over-studied. But he’s confident that he’d gotten high marks on all of them, save for this last one, Jiho’s class, where he’d spent the last ten minutes doodling ugly hearts with Jiho and Kyung’s initials filling them. If he’s lucky, Jiho will find it humorous and pass him. But there was also the impending possibility that he’d take it offensively and fail him before he so much as glances through his exam. Taehyung silently prays for the former.
“I’m going to go sleep for three days straight now,” Taehyung groans excitedly, stretching his arms overhead.
Albeit his laziness, Taehyung did try when it came to important stuff like midterms, evidently so. He’d filled up the time studying well into the night with Jimin’s head nestled in his lap as he worked, Jimin watching movies on his laptop with a pair of earphones while Taehyung busied himself in study guides and shitty lecture notes. Sure, it was distracting with Jimin in his lap, but it was also nice to have company to save him from the quiet that isolation entailed.
After parting ways with Jeongguk, Taehyung arrives at his building and sprints up the stairs to his room, taking the steps two at a time. When he crashes into his room, there’s nothing but papers strewn messily on the floor and along the walls, tucked into his pillowcase, and in the refrigerator next to the orange juice. When Taehyung studied, he studied, no fucking around, and that meant leaving notes everywhere to ensure that he kept up with his studying and didn’t give up halfway. Jimin had asked him why it was necessary for him to study atop the kitchen counters or in the bathtub to which Taehyung had shrugged, arguing that motivation was scarce, and whenever it hit, it was dire of him to drop everything he was doing and study while it lasted.
Taehyung tosses his hat off to the side as he pulls off his hoodie, shivering from the cold air blowing in from the cracked window. The sound of something tumbling in makes his heart jump, but he’s so used to it by now that he doesn’t need to turn to know who it is.
“I’m finally done with midterms!” Taehyung announces excitedly, but when he’s met with an eery silence, he turns around and drops the clothes in his hands.
Jimin’s shirt is soaked in blood, red sprinkling across his face and along his hands, the color mirroring his shocked, wide eyes as he stares at Taehyung with something that looks like fear. The blood smeared down his cheek outlines that of a hand, as though Jimin had desperately wiped at his face to rid himself of the stain, the same outlines all along his shirt and pants.
"Jimin, oh my god—"
“It’s— it’s not my blood,” Jimin says shakily, hands trembling frantically. "No, I mean, it’s—"
“Jimin, shit, slow down,” Taehyung urges, trying to remain calm but his voice cracks from the panicked feeling that spreads throughout him like poison. He takes a tentative step forward, worry gnawing at the edges of his mind. “Jesus, Jimin, what happened?”
“Taehyung, I— there was this man getting beat up by some thug on my way here from the city and. And I didn’t know what to do, Taehyung. He wouldn’t stop lunging towards me with his knife when I came to help. He just wouldn’t. Fuck, Taehyung, I think I killed him,” he forces quietly, voice shaking from the force of his trembling chest. “I think I killed him.”
The next thing Taehyung knows, he’s sprinting to the bathroom with wobbly knees, emptying the contents of his stomach into the porcelain toilet bowl, gripping at the edges as he screws his eyes shut to hold back the tears that threaten to spill. This was the disaster that he feared would happen, the feeling that tinkered at the back of his mind that he chose to shrug off like a pestering voice. He wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand as Jimin watches from the doorway, blood-stained shirt clinging to his chest.
“What, so you think I’m disgusting?” Jimin suddenly says, so broken and pained that Taehyung wants to sob. “Is that it?”
"No, Jimin, stop, that’s not why I—"
“You know, I didn’t ask to be this way,” Jimin says and laughs, the sound sending unsettling shivers down his spine. “I didn’t.”
“Fuck, Jimin, you can’t expect me to see this much blood and be used to it!” Taehyung cries, gripping at his bangs. "You just killed a man—"
“I didn’t want to be thought of as revolting, disgusting, any of that. Especially not by you,” Jimin whispers, retreating backwards out of the doorway, distraughtly wiping the blood from his cheeks, his hands. “Not you, Taehyung.”
And before Taehyung can climb back on his feet and reach his hand out to stop him, Jimin jumps out of his window and disappears.
This time, he doesn’t come back.
Winter rolls along and brings in the first few blankets of snow. Taehyung hasn’t seen Jimin since that night, but he forces himself to get used to his absence instead of dwelling on the impossible.
He’s lost count of how long he’s kept his window open in hopes that a familiar head of hair would come tumbling back to him, back into his arms and remind him exactly why they say life is a blessing, but as the seasons changed and the temperatures dropped into the single digits, Taehyung finally loses hope and closes his window for the first time in months. His heart sinks into darkness as he snaps the lock shut. He thinks this is what losing yourself really feels like.
Nights aren’t the same without Jimin keeping him awake until sunrise, and his bed feels bigger than he remembers it ever being. The absence pangs at his chest like a gaping hole, waiting to be filled, but Taehyung gets used to the void like a haunting lullaby, singing him to sleep each night until he was blinking his eyes open to his harsh reality, mind drawing back to the memory of Jimin stained in blood until he’s robbed of any sleep for the rest of the night.
Taehyung had read the articles online about the incident, a brutal robbery that left the victim beaten unconscious and the robber bordering at the edge of death, chest slashed open and gushing blood from the wound where his own knife had dove into his side. In the very end, he’d survived with critical injuries, but Taehyung had stopped following the case after he found out about the robber’s miraculous survival. Jimin hadn’t killed anyone after all, and he falls asleep that night with his entire pillow soaked with tears. No one knows who the hooded figure had been, a vigilante of sorts, the police had called, but Taehyung thinks he’s a savior.
Taehyung throws himself into school to fill the emptiness, and only when he’s behind closed doors does he allow himself to feel the guilt of accidentally pushing Jimin away like a wave crashing into him and knocking him silly. He knows it isn’t his fault, but it had all been wrong timing and the pieces falling in inappropriate places. Jimin was never stable, never quite put together with the same support and strength that his physical body held, and beneath his exterior, he was but a sheet of thin glass just waiting to be broken. The incident with the robber had shattered him so hard that even Taehyung couldn’t fix him, the shards pricking his fingertips to keep him away, and he regretfully wishes that he’d done a better job at piecing Jimin together through the months they’d know each other instead of the other way around. Nothing changes the fact Jimin wasn’t coming back.
Yoongi and Jeongguk notice his change in behavior, the stoop in his shoulders and the bags under his eyes when he forces his smiles, but they don’t ask about it outright, not yet, at least. His usual unmotivated self now spending hours at the library finishing assignments days before they’re due is more than enough reason for them to worry. He isn’t himself, and he knows it. But time is his only medicine, so Taehyung breezes through the days and fills up his mind with logic and facts and reason where he doesn’t understand his own intuition and forces himself to forget that Jimin ever happened.
Finals are already done and over with as November and December flutter by in a blur, the winter quarter rearing its end before Taehyung can even grasp that he only has one semester left before he’s done with the school year. Taehyung had been mostly prepared with the exams two weeks before the actual finals, scoring decently on all sections and managing to bring his ranking up by three whole numbers within the course of one quarter, and Namjoon rewards him with a proud clap on his back. But now that finals are over and the long break he’d been waiting impatiently for all year is finally in session, Taehyung finds that he has too much time on his hands and runs out of things to do, what with Namjoon, Seokjin, Yoongi, and Hoseok visiting home for the holidays and leaving him and Jeongguk snowed in with little to do.
Jeongguk is laying on his own respective bed, scrolling through his phone with earbuds in as Taehyung occupies Namjoon’s side of the room, head dangling over the edge of the bed and staring out the windows as he watches the first few snowflakes fall from a grey sky. His mind is blank, but his chest is anything but.
“You’ve been staring outside for almost an hour now.”
Jeongguk’s voice cuts through his thoughts like a razor as he startles and turns to look at Jeongguk blinking his eyes.
“You haven’t been yourself lately,” Jeongguk says, replacing the book on the table and pulling out his earbuds. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Taehyung forces, looking away and lets his gaze fall on the ceiling. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”
“What happened to Jimin?”
Taehyung feels his body tense up at the mention of Jimin’s name, unspoken for so long now that Jimin was out of the picture. He swallows down the lump in his throat and wills the sting in his eyes to go away. He hates Jeongguk for being so straightforward and blunt, even in situations like this where Taehyung wanted nothing but to forget and avoid. He’d been doing so well up until this point, and now he feels like he’s starting at square one all over again.
“He doesn't go here anymore.”
“Did he ever?”
Taehyung bites down on his tongue and doesn’t answer.
“Listen, hyung,” Jeongguk sighs, sitting up and facing Taehyung even as he avoids eye contact. “I don’t know what happened between you two, but I really hate to see you like this lately, we hate to see you like this. And yeah, it probably sucks dick, but… don’t forget that you have people around you that care for you. Just because one walked out doesn’t mean we all did.”
And Taehyung hates Jeongguk sometimes, for being younger yet having his moments of such profound maturity that Taehyung finds himself backtracking and reconsidering his age after all. He blames it on him spending too much time with Namjoon, but Taehyung figures it has its benefits. But Jeongguk is right, and the feeling of wasted time is rushing back and worrying at his gut, the feeling all too familiar and nagging at his mind since the day he started college. He can’t wallow in his misery forever, not when he had friends to keep him much-needed company and fill up the gaps that he finds himself plummeting into far too many times.
Time waited for no one, and he finds himself falling desperately behind.
Winter break draws to an end as the new semester swings into session.
Taehyung had spent the holidays with Jeongguk, watching endless Christmas films on television and laughing hysterically at the corniness of it all. And a few days following, Yoongi skypes them just minutes before the year comes to an official end, welcoming in the new year with his goofy dance through the pixelated screen. It’s a bittersweet way to end the year, and they both separate into different rooms to call their families to send their regards and love. Taehyung sheds a few tears at the sound of everyone bustling and cheering through the receiver and thinks that maybe he should've just ditched Jeongguk after all to go back home.
It’s freezing outside as Jeongguk and Taehyung push past the doors of the entrance, the first day of classes having just ended. It’s exhausting, but Taehyung finds comfort in the sudden rush of responsibilities that keep him busy. He’s still just as lazy with academics, but he feels a whole new motivation as this semester rolls in. Call it motivation if you will, but Taehyung is tired of letting his worries of his future affect him without actually doing anything about it. And even if it’s barely noticeable, he’s trying harder this time around. This was an accomplishment of sorts, realizing his flaws, and he allows himself to embrace that. As someone he once knew said, Dr. Phil would be proud of him.
They scamper off to their respective cars as the cold hits every inch of their skin, Taehyung waving a hasty goodbye as the air sends tremors throughout his entire body, even through the layers of his leather jacket and hoodie, penetrating the fabric and shaking him to the bone. Taehyung pulls his keys from his pocket and unlocks the doors once his car is in sight, teeth chattering uncontrollably as he lowers his head to shield his face from the breeze. He’s chucking his backpack into the passenger seat when a voice behind him freezes him all over more than the cold ever could as his breath hitches in his throat.
“Excuse me, you dropped your wallet.”
Taehyung tells himself that this wasn’t real, that this was another bad dream. He’s spent so much of his time forgetting this exact voice, this feeling that courses through him as the sound rings through his ears like wind chimes. When he hears shoes scuffing the pavement, pausing right beside him, Taehyung finally wills himself to turn towards the source of the voice and feels his heart plummet in his chest when he sees that it’s Jimin, Jimin with his dark brown hair and cyan irises that shine against the grey and white of the season.
“Taehyung,” he says, and the smile that follows makes Taehyung’s bottom lip tremble. He holds up the square of his wallet. “Hey there.”
Taehyung doesn’t say anything, too stunned by his presence, like witnessing a ghost of his past. He wants to feel resentment for Jimin leaving him and never coming back, but Jimin never had any obligation to stay, either, and Taehyung searches with a scattered mind for any words but amounts to none.
He grabs his wallet with shaky hands, dropping his gaze to the leather and runs his thumbs over the surface. He hadn’t even felt it slipping out of his pocket. When Taehyung looks up, Jimin is watching him intently, eye soft around the edges. His hair is a little longer now, just barely, but his shoulders stand taller, his eyes more confident, controlled. This is Jimin with renewed purpose in his own skin.
He already has tears in his eyes just running his gaze along Jimin’s face, and Taehyung hates himself for showing his emotions so easily, for wearing his heart on his sleeve. He glances back down and shakes his head, gripping the wallet in his hands as the lump in Taehyung’s throat grows, obstructing the stability of his words.
“I love you,” Jimin interrupts and takes one step closer. “I love you, Kim Taehyung. So much.”
And there’s still so many questions left at the tip of Taehyung’s tongue, but that could wait until later because the way their lips easily find each other is like they'd never stopped kissing, like the stagnant gap of the past months never existed. Jimin’s lips are colder than ever, fingertips putting the snowflakes to shame, but as Jimin presses against him, he feels his entire body warm up as the flame in his chest rekindles itself. Besides, Taehyung thinks that deep down, he always knew Jimin would return eventually, the hope buried so far within the confines of his mind and never quite letting go. He’d gotten really damn close to giving up, but something had always told him not yet.
Because where all hope was gone, Jimin came back to him.
“What did you do all that time?” Taehyung finally asks, perched in Jimin’s lap and straddling him in his dingy desk chair. The moon is especially bright that night, and the way it reflects in Jimin’s eyes makes his stomach flip.
“I got sick of not being able to understand my own body,” Jimin responds honestly, swiveling back and forth in the chair with strong arms around Taehyung’s waist, lazily nibbling at the bottom of his jaw. “I was scared shitless from that one day, I guess. That I’d lose control of everything and end up hurting you. So I left with the intention of seeking to control myself, to understand myself better where I didn’t have to jeopardize you. Us.”
"You should've just consoled in me."
"I couldn't," Jimin says quietly. "Not when I couldn't even look at myself without feeling disappointed. That's just selfish, babe."
"That's not selfish, Jimin. That's trust," Taehyung says and runs a hand down the side of his face. "But I understand where you're coming from."
"But there's still parts of me that I don't understand," Jimin admits, leaning forward to bury his nose against Taehyung's neck. "Parts that are missing that I haven't found."
Taehyung leans down to press their foreheads together, arms coming up to wrap tightly around Jimin’s neck. They’re not perfect, far from it. Their heights don’t match up when they embrace each other under the covers, make out sessions don't always go as planned because Jimin’s fangs get in the way, and they bicker all too often for it to be healthy. But Taehyung is confident that this time around, he’ll be the one to fix all the cracks and mend all the loose patches. He’s confident because he loves Jimin too. So he presses their lips together and breathes five words against Jimin’s mouth that hold the weight of his world.
“I will make you whole.”