Chapter 1: Cardboard and Plastic
Sometimes Jimin thinks about the sordid past he and Jungkook left behind; the pain, the struggles, the negativity. There was so much tension that he didn't think he—they—could make it.
Jimin has always been unsure of religious beliefs, of something in the universe nudging him and his longtime boyfriend along in life, but now, he does believe that they have been blessed.
Even if they are poor.
"Hyung," Jungkook whines impatiently, sitting cross-legged in front of a large cardboard box they have deemed both their desks and dining table. "Is it done yet?"
"Baby," Jimin replies with a smirk, "you can't rush gourmet."
"But baby," Jungkook says, repeating the pet name indignantly, "it's instant ramen."
Jimin looks down in front of him, at the scratched up, overused and clear plastic container filled with boiled water from their beat-up, rusting kettle and the gradually softening square of dried noodles sitting in it.
Poor, he thinks, but content.
They have very few material possessions and very little money to their names, but they make the best out of their situation. They have a roof over their heads, as shabby as it is, and they have each other. They have only each other, in fact, and Jimin wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's gourmet," he repeats, laughing. "I got the packet with the extra seasonings."
Jungkook lounges back, his elbow propped on the floor, watching his boyfriend in their tiny kitchen with fond amusement.
"Wow, hyung. You don't need to spoil me."
"You work hard," Jimin tells him. "I'm rewarding you."
"I was hoping that's something that comes later tonight."
Jimin laughs as he cuts open the soup flavoring and the seasoning packets. "I think that's a reward for me."
"You? Reward?" Jungkook asks. "For what? Killing one more roach than me this week?"
"Two more." He gestures to the window at the tally marks written in dry erase marker. Jimin with ten, Jungkook with eight.
The two of them have competitive spirits and are cutthroat about the littlest things—including killing the bugs and rodents that like to visit their little box of a studio apartment. Their friends often call it strange and sort of gross, but both Jungkook and Jimin agree that the two of them needed something to make their life here exciting.
"Whatever, hyung. You cheated."
"How the hell do you cheat at killing roaches?"
"You tell me, cheater."
After pouring the soup flavoring and the seasonings in, Jimin gives the ramen a good stir with a spoon. He then carefully brings the container to the table, where two smaller plastic containers and two pairs of wooden chopsticks sit.
"Your order, sir," Jimin says formally.
Jungkook sits back up and smiles. "Looks great."
Jimin takes a seat across from him.
"Almost like what they have at that ramen stand near my work," he jokes.
"Almost," Jungkook echoes with agreement. "But I trust yours is better."
Jimin snorts as he picks up noodles to put into his makeshift bowl. "Why do you say that?"
"Because you made it."
Jimin surprises himself by blushing a little. Even after dating Jungkook for so long, his words still woo him so easily.
"Jungkook-ah, I boiled water. You can stop making fun of me."
"I'm not this time." Jungkook gets up on his knees, bringing his bowl and chopsticks, and waddles around the cardboard table until he is sitting right in front of Jimin.
Jimin raises a brow. "Jungkook—"
What stops him is the tender look on Jungkook's face. It's odd sometimes, how his boyfriend can change moods at the drop of a hat. He shifts from silly comedian to whiny brat to hardheaded adult in seconds.
And every other time, he gazes at me like I'm his entire world.
Jimin is astounded by how much love they share.
Jungkook smiles at him, and it’s heartachingly beautiful.
He leans in and gives Jimin a peck on the lips. Then he picks up noodles with his chopsticks and offers it to him.
"I have my own bowl," Jimin says curiously.
Jungkook kisses him again, just as light as before but longer and with sweet encouragement. "So?"
Jimin doesn't resist when his boyfriend feeds him. The latter grins in satisfaction as the other sucks in the noodles.
"You eat so cutely," Jungkook comments.
The younger uses his chopsticks to lift the ends of the noodles into Jimin's mouth. "Seeing you eat makes me happy, hyung."
Jimin chews thoughtfully. They really are fortunate enough to have regular meals.
"I feel the same," Jimin replies after swallowing, and picks up his own noodles to give to Jungkook.
This is how the rest of dinner goes.
Eating instant ramen out of plastic Tupperware on top of a cardboard box is probably not the most date-like way to spend a Friday night with a loved one, but Jimin still finds something romantic about it.
It must be Jungkook's eyes, and it must be his proximity to him. It must be the love in his gaze that's likely reflected on Jimin's face and the giggles they share because they are sappy as hell.
And still, there are moments like now, where Jimin thinks too hard about the what-ifs.
Jimin's eyes are glued to Jungkook as he slurps up the last of the soup from his bowl.
"What?" Jungkook asks, setting the empty container and his chopsticks down on the cardboard.
"Nothing," Jimin answers, hesitating before putting his own bowl and chopsticks down.
"I don't like that tone."
"I didn't even say anything."
"Hyung," Jungkook sighs, and reaches out to take Jimin's face in his palms. "Your worry is obvious."
Jimin doesn't reply. Sometimes he hates that Jungkook can read him like a book.
"I'm happy, Jiminnie-hyung," Jungkook murmurs seriously, leaning in until their noses brush against one another. "With our shit apartment and our shit food in this shit part of town. You didn't force me to leave Busan with you. I decided that on my own—I left because I love you and I'd rather die than be with anyone else."
Jimin swallows down the lump building in his throat. "Jungkookie..."
"Baby, we went over this." Jungkook kisses him gently, the warm softness of their lips together reminding Jimin of the most important thing to them. "And I'll go over it a million times more if it makes you feel better."
Jimin lays his hands against Jungkook's. How in the world did he become so lucky, finding someone like him?
"I love you," he whispers earnestly. "And thank you."
This time Jimin is the one who initiates the kiss. Love flows through him like a calming river gently warmed by the sun. It pools into his heart and surrounds his body with security, with steadiness, with all he's ever needed in the world.
Jungkook's words comes to mind, and Jimin finds nothing truer than them. He feels the same. He should always feel the same, and he's a little ashamed that he even left room to wonder.
"Are you happy?" Jungkook breathes when he breaks away.
Jimin's shame worsens.
"Oh, Jungkookie," he sighs apologetically. "I shouldn't have even thought about—"
"Hyung, it's okay—"
Jimin climbs into his lap. Jungkook lets out a grunt as he awkwardly adjusts to the added weight, but holds him firmly in his arms.
"Hyung," Jungkook says, laughing a little and pecking him on the cheek. "I know you love me. Don't look at me like that."
"But I don't want you to feel like you have to question my happiness here," Jimin says. "Or with you." He knows he sounds like he's whining now, and that only widens Jungkook's smile.
"I'm sorry," he tells Jimin lightly. "I didn't mean to upset you. I just don't like seeing you worry. Especially over me."
"Your happiness is my happiness, Jungkook-ah." Jimin wraps his arms over his shoulders and buries his face into his shoulder. "Sometimes I'm just afraid..."
"Afraid of what? Being too poor to function? Of losing the apartment?"
"Losing you." Jimin's voice is smaller than ever, and the latent fear in it gives Jungkook a short pause.
"Lose me to what, hyung?" Jungkook holds him tighter with reassurance. "I'm not going anywhere without you. We could lose everything and end up in a dumpster or on a bench and I'd still have all I need in life."
Jimin feels better. Much better. Jungkook never has reason to lie to him. Embellish, maybe, but never lie.
"I didn't know you to be this sappy," Jimin manages to joke in a soft voice. He lifts his head so he can look at his beloved Jungkook—who left everything behind to be with him, who Jimin would do absolutely anything for.
All I need in life.
"Sappy, but true," Jungkook corrects him.
He still has that same light smile on his face, but the expression in his eyes kindles Jimin's heart. There is relief and contentment, entwined with the love they formed years ago. It's amazing that Jungkook still looks at him the same way as when they first dated, as if there's nowhere he would rather be and no one he would rather be with.
"All I need in life," Jimin repeats out loud, a smile ghosting his own lips.
He stops thinking of the state of their current residence, the lack of real furniture, the stringent savings that consist mainly of rent money, and the past that could have given them brighter, unhappier futures.
Instead, he angles his head into Jungkook's and kisses him again.
Chapter 2: Alors On Danse
They're happy. But sometimes it’s hard.
Jungkook knows with his whole heart that he’d never go back. If he had to live his life a hundred times over, he would choose Jimin every time. He would leave Busan and every awful memory it gave him, and he’d go with Jimin every single time to the heart of Seoul where his dining room table is nothing more than a box with “Fragile” stamped on the side.
He’s happy. But sometimes it’s hard.
Running away with nothing but his possessions and the small amount of money he and Jimin managed to save means living paycheck to paycheck. Teaching dance to little kids only pays so much, especially when Jungkook only works part-time and has to work around not only his full-time student schedule but his personal dance schedule as well.
But Jungkook has learned to be good at time management, able to build a packed schedule that includes work, school, dance, and extra time made for the little things—like grocery shopping and kissing his boyfriend. (He’ll never tell, but he once wrote “Kiss Jimin before he goes to work” on his to-do list).
Typically he can handle it, and Jimin can handle a similar, hectic schedule. They come home exhausted but happy, still finding the time and the energy to have dinner over their “Fragile” dinner table and, of course, to kiss.
However, Jungkook knew it wouldn’t all be so easy. The summer was easy—Jungkook fresh out of graduation as they took time to build their new home and work like crazy to maybe get a savings account going. But now that school has rolled around again, it’s officially that time of year where everything is due at once, and Jungkook is a little stressed.
It doesn’t help that he and Jimin have both missed dinner together three nights in a row, too busy to come home or even have a real meal. Jungkook has a group project to work on and a dance recital to prepare for, and Jimin’s busy kissing the ass of a local tattoo parlor and building his portfolio in the hopes of getting an apprenticeship.
Their hectic schedules force them into quick conversations all week before rushing to class or falling asleep, unable to talk or catch up (or kiss), and it’s left Jungkook even more stressed and tired than usual. He’s hoping he’ll feel a little more relaxed now that his project is finished, heading to the store and preparing for a night at home to catch up on the few days he and Jimin missed with each other. He decides to celebrate, too, splurging on a pizza and even a small pint of ice cream.
He’s disappointed, though, when Jimin texts to say he won’t be home until late that night. He responds to remind him to eat and to say “I love you,” but Jungkook still feels tense, not alleviated even a little with the completion of his homework.
His restlessness leads him to the kitchen where a few dishes have piled up, even though they try not to let that happen in case it attracts more bugs. He goes on a small cleaning spree after that, sweeping beneath their blankets on the floor and adding another tally to his own bug count on the window. Jimin 16, Jungkook 17.
Jimin makes his way through the door eventually, Jungkook having found his way to the rumple of blankets on the floor to read ahead for one of his classes. Jimin looks completely exhausted, hair ruffled like he’s run his fingers through it a thousand times that day. He sees Jungkook and manages a small smile, murmuring a quiet, “Hey. You didn’t have to wait up.”
“I just had some stuff to finish up,” Jungkook says, getting up to help Jimin out of his jacket. Jungkook makes sure to kiss him before he says, “Welcome home. You look beat.”
Jimin sighs, his bangs fluttering off his forehead at the act. “Thanks. I feel beat, too,” he says, walking the few feet to their kitchen. He puts his folio on the counter, pulling a manila folder out of it to look through his artwork.
“Sorry. I know you’re stressed,” Jungkook says, sliding his hands over Jimin’s shoulders and resting his chin there, looking down at Jimin’s artwork as he shuffles through it. It’s all intricate patterns, some of it three-dimensional as if it’s not even on paper. “These are really amazing, Jiminie. Did you do these today?”
“Yeah. He said it was okay, but that I still need practice,” he mumbles, holding up one of the drawings. “I really wasn’t happy with any of them.”
Jungkook personally thinks it’s amazing, the image simple but powerful. He clasps his hands over Jimin’s stomach and gives a small squeeze. “I think it’s great, and you’ve been working hard.”
Jimin shakes his head, putting the picture down and sliding the folder out of sight. He sighs, hands coming up to rub his face. “I was thinking I was gonna try some other styles, but I don’t wanna keep you up.”
“Maybe you need a break, babe.”
“I can’t. I have to show these to him again in a few days, and they suck, Jungkook-ah.” Jimin groans, and Jungkook can feel the stress practically seeping through his shirt.
“Hey,” he murmurs, kissing lightly behind his ear. “It’s okay. Take a deep breath.” Jimin’s hands come away from his face to roll his eyes. “Come on, seriously,” Jungkook urges, and Jimin waits a beat before complying, slowly easing against Jungkook’s chest. “Come on,” he says, pulling away and grabbing Jimin’s hand.
“What?” Jimin grumbles, stumbling behind him as Jungkook pulls him into the bathroom.
Jungkook doesn’t let him get away, holding his hand tightly even as he turns on the tap, hot water slowly filling the tub. He undresses and strips Jimin despite his grumbles, pouring body wash into the water to make it bubble a little.
It doesn’t take long for them to squeeze into their dingy tub, back to chest, and Jungkook feels the tightness melt out of Jimin muscles, his head resting on Jungkook’s shoulder as he eases into him. Jungkook kisses Jimin's temple, wishing he’d thought to play some music, but he figures Jimin doesn’t mind, his eyes closed as Jungkook runs a washcloth over his chest.
“I bought pizza,” Jungkook murmurs, holding one of Jimin’s arms up to run the washcloth over it, skin shining and bubbly.
“Seriously? For how much?” Jimin asks, but there’s no urgency to his tone; he feels completely lax as Jungkook swipes the washcloth between his fingers.
“Just one of the cheap, frozen ones. Don’t worry.” Jungkook washes the other arm, and Jimin laces their fingers together when Jungkook says, “I finished that stupid project and wanted to have dinner with you to celebrate.”
“I’m sorry,” Jimin murmurs, turning his head so his nose presses into Jungkook’s neck. “I was—“
“I know. It’s okay. I was just missing you, that’s all.”
“I’ve been missing you, too.” He kisses Jungkook’s neck, lips lingering on his skin. “This week sucked, but this is nice.”
Jungkook hums in agreement, feeling warm and loved, more relaxed than he’s been in a while. The water’s still warm, and having Jimin in his arms after missing him all week makes Jungkook never want to move again.
Jungkook’s still lazily swiping the washcloth over Jimin’s collarbones when Jimin turns around, the water sloshing in the tub and his skin squeaking on the porcelain as he adjusts. Jungkook makes room, Jimin eventually coming to straddle Jungkook’s lap as he takes the washcloth into his own hands. He swipes it over Jungkook’s collarbones and shoulders, massaging warm water into the back of Jungkook's neck.
“You don’t have to—“ he starts.
“Neither did you,” Jimin replies, leaving the washcloth on Jungkook’s neck as he massages his scalp. “Congrats on finishing your project. How do you think you did?”
“I think it went pretty well,” Jungkook replies sleepily, tension easing out of him at the feel of Jimin’s hands; they slide down to his neck and his shoulders, kneading his stress away.
They spend time with hands all over each other, warm water cascading from the small pools of their hands into their hair. They slide bubbles over each others chests, letting them rest in the dips of their muscles until Jimin holds Jungkook’s face in his hands to kiss him, mellow and warm and tasting a little bit like bathwater.
It takes them a while to stumble out of the bath, and Jimin puts the pizza in the oven once they do. “We’ve gotta celebrate, remember?” He says, grinning when Jungkook asks. Jungkook replies with his own wide smile, kissing Jimin against the kitchen counter until the oven pings to tell them their dinner is ready.
Jungkook puts on a movie, picking the weirdest looking one out of their collection of VHS tapes, and they eat pizza in bed, getting crumbs everywhere as they feed each other. (“Open up, Jungkookie!” “Eat your own piz—ow, Jimin, I can’t eat it if you hit me in the face with it.” “I said open up.”)
They go to bed feeling warm and sated, their sleeping bags zipped together. The proximity doesn’t bother them, legs tangling and arms wrapping around waists, faces snuggling into pajama shirts. Jimin kisses the top of Jungkook’s head and breathes in the scent of their shampoo.
“What would I do without you?” he murmurs over the hum of the television, hands gliding over his boyfriend’s back.
“You’d be a cranky baby who has no fun,” Jungkook replies, muffled into Jimin’s skin.
Jimin laughs, the feeling sending a hum through Jungkook’s chest. “Good thing I’m your cranky baby then, huh?”
It is a good thing, Jungkook muses, sitting on the kitchen counter the next morning as they share the pint of ice cream for breakfast, Jimin’s arms caging Jungkook in as the younger feeds him and smears vanilla on his cheek. They’re both late for class, but neither of them mind.
When Jimin kisses him goodbye that morning, he tastes like vanilla and like Jimin and like home, and Jungkook knows that if he had to live his life a hundred times over, he really would pick Jimin. Every single time.
Chapter 3: Lights Out
Jimin hates the dark.
Halloween, for Jimin, is supposed to be uneventful. It is on a work day, after all. Always stressful and tiring, and all he wants to do is go home to his favorite person so he can kiss all the worries away.
“Welcome home!” Jungkook calls out as soon as Jimin opens the door.
Jimin sets his keys and ever-present art folio on the counter next to a dauntingly tall stack of notebooks and papers he assumes all belong to his boyfriend.
He turns, and notices Jungkook hovering over their cardboard table, staring intently at what looks like a journal article. Half the thing is highlighted blue and pink, with red-inked handwriting bleeding all over the margins.
“Reading assignment?” Jimin asks as he approaches him.
“Paper,” Jungkook answers absently. After a few seconds, he stops reading and stands up to fold his arms around Jimin and plant kisses against his forehead and cheeks.
“They’re making us use ten sources, baby,” he whines. “At least ten whole sources for a fifteen-page paper. Do you know how much I printed at the computer lab?”
“I saw,” Jimin mutters, pecking him on the chin.
“How was your day?”
“Ugh, same as always.”
“I’m sorry,” Jungkook murmurs empathetically. His eyes travel carefully over Jimin’s face. “Are you okay?”
Their eyes meet directly, and Jimin’s heart swells with warmth, instantly reminded that this boy is the reason he moves forward.
Jungkook gives him another squeeze and a smile before bounding to the kitchen to make tea.
But as soon as he does, an odd, foreshadowing sort of feeling rakes Jimin’s spine.
And suddenly the ceiling light shuts off, leaving the couple in thick, silent darkness.
Jimin feels blood drain from his face, and his heart beats in his throat.
He hates the dark.
"Babe?" he calls out carefully.
He reminds himself, though, as he does regularly, that this is normal. He has to get used to not having light and brightness all the time. He isn't in Busan anymore, with his glittering chandeliers and intricately designed light fixtures. He no longer has wall-to-wall windows with the perfect view of moonlight spilling into his room. He no longer has any of those luxuries.
What he does have is Jungkook to hold him when they fall asleep together. Jungkook doesn't have to directly soothe him; just his soft breaths and hums and sighs are enough to calm him.
But why is he so quiet now?
Suddenly, he feels something heavy pounce on him, grabbing him with an ominous warmth and a clingy, predatory touch.
Jimin lets out a bloodcurdling scream and shoves the intruder away. He stumbles back noisily until he hits the door, the doorknob painfully digging into his back.
He is about to swing the door open and run the fuck away when he hears loud guffawing. Familiar guffawing that could only mean—
He hears his boyfriend collapse to the ground he's laughing so hard. Floor-slapping, wheezing-until-he's-practically-silent laughter.
"Goddammit!" Jimin storms as reaches out blindly for the lightswitch. "I almost had a fucking heart attack!"
Jungkook is currently unable to reply. Asshole.
Jimin finally finds it and flips it. Nothing. He furrows a brow. "Jung—"
"God, I'm crying!" Jungkook chokes out with pure elation.
"Oh, man, holy—”
"Jeon Jungkook!" Jimin shouts at him. "What did you do with the lights?"
Jungkook finally forces his laughter to wane to soft chuckles. Jimin hears shuffling and assumes his boyfriend is standing and looking in his general direction. "What?"
"The lights. The fuck did you do?"
"I didn't... do anything?"
"Jungkook, you know I hate it when it's this da—"
"Baby," Jungkook groans in annoyance. "I didn't do anything with the lights!"
Jimin is about to gripe some more when something else comes to mind.
“Wait, Jungkook-ah, did we pay all the bills?”
Pause. “Uh. I guess so.”
“You guess so?”
“Hyung, relax. Maybe the building has something—”
Jimin feels something brush against his shoulder and jumps nearly five feet in the air. “What the fuck just touched me?!”
“Geez, it’s just my hand. I was trying to comfort you.”
Lightning flashes. Jimin scrambles for Jungkook in the dark, hands desperate to hold on for dear life because darkness and thunderstorms create the perfect combination to destroy Jimin’s psyche.
The rumble of thunder that follows echoes warningly in Jimin’s heart, and he manages to clasp parts of Jungkook’s sleeve as the younger pulls out his phone for light.
“Jiminnie-hyung, I can’t move if you’re holding onto me like this,” Jungkook says in a plain voice as he makes his way to the lower cupboards in the kitchen.
Jimin forces himself closer when Jungkook tries to walk, this time wrapping his limbs around him like a koala and hindering his movement even more.
“Baby, come on.”
Jimin makes a face.
“Your pout doesn’t work in the dark.”
“You’re not even looking at me. I’m not pouting.”
“You act as if I don’t know you like the back of my hand. You’re pouting.”
Jungkook manages to separate from Jimin for a whole minute as he rummages through some of their cupboards. Most are bare, as they don't own many things, but Jimin does remember taking some candles with him after leaving Busan, just in case things like this happened. They aren’t particularly special, but they smell quite nice, and Jimin doesn’t think there’s a reason he should waste them—even if they do remind him of what they left behind.
He smiles bittersweetly.
“Found them.” Jungkook reaches into an open cabinet and takes out a large, cylindrical candle inside a glass holder. “Ooh. Cinnamon apple.”
Jimin finds matches in a nearby drawer. After the candle is lit, Jungkook starts to move again.
Whoosh, flutter, smack!
Jimin grips Jungkook’s arm with clammy hands.
“Baby, what was that?”
“Just the printouts,” Jungkook explains easily. “I accidentally knocked them off the counter.” He shrugs Jimin off, hands him the candle, and bends down to pick them up.
Jimin is watching his boyfriend re-organize notebooks and loose papers when he sees the corner of one piece that looks very out of place close to the bottom.
Jungkook stops and glances up. “Yeah?”
With the candle, Jimin gestures to one of the papers sticking out—the one with the Seoul Electric Company logo. Jungkook follows the light with his gaze until it falls on the paper in question. He slides it out of the stack and looks at the pay stub—still attached.
Then he just mutters, “Oh.”
“Oh?” Jimin repeats in disbelief. “Jungkook-ah, that’s—”
“I know,” he replies and laughs again. It’s not as powerful or loud as before, but it still sounds annoyingly hearty. “I mean, at least we know why we don’t have electricity, right?”
He stands up with the papers. He is about to lean in and kiss Jimin, but the latter pushes him against the chest.
“I don’t like that you’re so happy that we forgot to pay a bill. We can’t make that a habit.”
“You worry too much,” Jungkook huffs. He plops the papers and his now-dead phone down on their cardboard table, along with the candle he took from Jimin’s hand. He envelops Jimin in another embrace. Their chests press warmly together, and Jungkook’s lips rest against his cheek.
This feels nice. Protective.
Out of the corner of Jimin’s eye, lightning flashes through their window again, making him cower into Jungkook. His breath hitches when the thunder follows.
Jungkook rubs his back and chuckles. “You’re such a kid. How old are you?”
Jimin isn’t too pleased with his boyfriend’s teasing, but his hands curl into him, anyway.
“Hey, we can make tonight fun.”
“We can make a blanket fort and cuddle.” As if to demonstrate the last bit, Jungkook noses lovingly into his hair. Jimin can’t help but smile; he could never say no to affection. “It’ll take your mind off the storm. Hell, we can even tell ghost stories.”
Jimin’s enthusiasm immediately dampens. He scowls into Jungkook’s sweater. “You ruined it with ghost stories.”
“But baby, it’s Halloween. We have to do something Halloween-y.”
“Why would I want ghost stories when it’s dark as fuck and it’s storming like the end of days?! What’s wrong with you?!”
“It’s not storming like the end of days. And I’ll protect you.”
Jimin punches him lightly in the side. “Yeah, right. Who’s going to protect me from you?”
Jungkook only giggles. He releases Jimin and walks off—presumably to make that fort.
Fine—keep laughing at your wonderful, selfless boyfriend, Jimin thinks grumpily. He stands there with lips forming a thin line, arms crossed as he watches Jungkook’s back in the candlelight from a distance.
Until another angry crack of thunder sends Jimin back to Jungkook’s side.
Jungkook ends up not building a blanket fort. The candle provides only so much light and it isn’t enough. It’s too dark to do much, really, so they bundle themselves up in their usual arrangement of blankets with the candle now moved to the floor just outside the perimeter.
As far as Jimin knows—last he counted, anyway—they have ten blankets of all various sizes. More than warmth, the blankets provide them cushioning from the rough concrete flooring. It’s not comfortable, but Jimin learns to appreciate what little he and Jungkook have. His life in Busan, from the moment he got kicked out of his family’s extravagant estate to moment he and Jungkook boarded the train to Seoul, had been an ugly whirlwind that left them with next to nothing.
At least Jimin finds himself warm every night like tonight, nestled in blankets and Jungkook in stability and love.
“You know,” Jungkook speaks up softly in the silence, stroking Jimin’s side as he holds him in his arms. “I heard one time that—”
“At least let me finish.”
“I know where you’re going with it. No scary stories.”
Jungkook kisses his nose pleadingly. “It’s not scary, Jiminnie. I promise. It’s just that the fourth floor of this building has some interesting—”
“—stories about this lady with long black hair who was obsessed with mirrors—”
“—she had a whole wall of them in her apartment—”
“For fuck’s sake—”
Jungkook only speaks faster and louder, determined to get his story out. “Some were antiques, some newer. Her obsession came from—”
Jimin reaches over and clamps both hands over Jungkook’s mouth.
“I swear, I’m going to ban you from sex if you keep doing that.”
“What?!” Jungkook protests in a muffled voice. “Baby…”
Jimin feels apologetic kisses in his palms and a leg wrap over his hip. After a moment, he relents, releasing his hold on Jungkook’s mouth and allowing him to press soft kisses into his skin.
He moans breathily as Jungkook’s lips trail from his neck back up to his ear, into which he releases soft, hot air.
Then he whispers, “They say each mirror housed a demon disguised as her reflection and she was killed by one them.”
“Goddammit!” Jimin growls and pushes Jungkook off of him. The latter rolls onto his back and cackles.
“You ruin everything.”
Furious, he sits up. Jungkook’s hand reaches for his, but Jimin is quick to recoil.
“Aw, Jiminnie,” Jungkook says in a sweet, humored whine. “Don’t be mad at me.”
“I hate you.”
“You’re so dramatic. I’m just playing around.”
Jimin isn’t having it, though. He loves Jungkook, really, but sometimes he can be a pain in the ass. “I told you not to do any of the ghost story shit and you still do it.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Jungkook tells him. Jimin can hear the smile in his voice. He doesn’t buy the apology. Not for a second.
Instead of forgiving him, Jimin rolls out of their mound of blankets and stands up.
“Where are you going?” Jungkook asks. “Are you really that—”
“I have to pee.”
The candlelight continues to flicker dimly. Jimin can still make out their mound of blankets and the floor leading to the bathroom. But the bathroom itself is darker than anything, and all Jimin can think of is the wind and storm outside, the fact that it is still Halloween, and Jungkook’s stupid lady with her stupid wall of mirrors.
“Do you forgive me now?”
“Come with me.”
“To the bathroom? Babe, I’m not pissing in the dark with you.”
“Just stand by the damn door, okay?”
“Oh,” Jungkook replies knowingly, laughter still in his voice. He gets up. “All right.”
Don’t trust Jeon Jungkook, Jimin reminds himself. In his especially playful moods, Jungkook likes to feign sweetness and sheepishness in order to make Jimin extra susceptible to his jokes and he is not going to have it this time.
“By the way,” Jungkook speaks up from just outside the bathroom. “If you say her name three times in front of a mirror, she’ll appear—”
“Are you serious, Jeon Jungkook?!”
“Song Micha,” Jungkook whispers in an exaggeratedly haunting voice. Where the hell did he even come up with that name? “Song Micha—”
“I can’t pee if you do that!”
After Jimin finally does his business, he washes his hands and practically stomps past Jungkook to bed.
Jimin ignores him and burrows into the blankets. He feels Jungkook slip in beside him, his hand automatically winding around Jimin and drawing him in, Jimin’s back against his chest.
“Jiminnie-hyung…” he murmurs into his ear, his tone heavier than before. He hates it when Jimin doesn’t look at him, when he doesn’t feel like the most important person to him. “I’m sorry.”
Jimin doesn’t mean to make him feel that way, but he only has so much patience. “I swear to fucking god—the first thing I’m doing tomorrow morning is pay that fucking bill.”
“I just wanted to have fun with you.” Jungkook buries his face into his neck. “And the darkness is no different than usual. We never leave lights on overnight.”
“You had fun by yourself. I hate when you try to scare me. And I hate Halloween.”
“But it’s so cute when you cling to me like a scared kitty.”
Jungkook kisses the back of his shoulder and Jimin finally relaxes.
“You don’t think I do that every night when we go to bed, Jungkookie?”
They have lived here for a few months already and it’s still too dark for Jimin’s liking; the window is inconveniently placed, facing another brick building and blocking out any possible moonlight. They cannot afford to leave a nightlight on, and they can’t leave a candle burning overnight.
Jimin leans over to blow out the candle. Right after he does, he feels a familiar hand slide reassuringly over his arm and warm lips press sweetly to his neck.
“Still afraid of the dark?” Jungkook asks softly.
Jimin’s very afraid—of the dark and so many things. But this is the life he must brave, and Jungkook is his home.
He is safe.
“I won’t be anymore.”
Chapter 4: Easy
Jungkook is really bad at interacting with others, but at least he has alcohol.
Please note the additions to the tags.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jimin calls affectionately as he opens their apartment door. Jungkook looks up from where he’s reading on their makeshift bed, eyebrows furrowing as Jimin crosses the threshold with a wide smile.
“Hey,” Jungkook says, getting up to welcome Jimin home. He stops short, however, hands clutched in the lapels of Jimin’s coat as he’s close enough to realize—“Wow, you smell like booze.”
Jimin grins. “I have had. A lot of booze.” He leans forward, and Jungkook kisses him with closed lips.
“Tequila?” He asks, helping Jimin out of his coat.
Jimin hums, nodding his head vigorously with closed eyes. His hair flops wildly at the movement, and Jungkook laughs, affection rushing through him.
“I thought you weren’t drinking?” Jungkook asks warily once Jimin’s out of his coat, hand gently grasping his arm for support as he toes out of his shoes. He asks only because he knows they can’t afford such luxuries right now, and he’s concerned that Jimin’s been swindled by his work friends (read: kind of scary tattoo artist friends) to do something stupid.
Like spend rent money.
“Hoseok-hyung bought us rounds,” Jimins says, loosely looping his arms around Jungkook’s neck. They’re both affectionate with each other sober, and alcohol entices them into even more random kisses and groping hands than usual. “Like, a lot of rounds.”
“Hoseok-hyung?” Jungkook grumbles, arms winding possessively around Jimin’s waist. He’s heard the name from Jimin’s stories about work before, but he dislikes the idea of entrusting His Precious (Drunk) Boyfriend with someone he’s never met.
“Yeah,” Jimin murmurs, eyes trailing to Jungkook’s lips. He kisses him—short pecks that are lazy and sweet and sloppy. “We went to a bar and—hey,” he says, meeting Jungkook’s eyes abruptly.
“What?” Jungkook asks, both bewildered and endeared at the sight of Jimin’s flushed face and glassy eyes, lips parted and slick with spit.
“Can you stop like, doing that worrying thing… And kiss me please? Kiss me a lot,” Jimin says, grinning when Jungkook blushes.
“Right, yeah. I can do that,” Jungkook stutters, making Jimin giggle. He grins as he leans forward, Jimin’s lips pliant and soft as their lips meet and meld in languid, toffee kisses.
Jungkook sweeps his tongue softly over the seam of Jimin’s lips; his moan hums through him, hands curling at the base of Jungkook’s neck as their kiss deepens with the close contact. He comes slowly undone under Jungkook’s ministrations, tongue sweeping gently into Jimin’s mouth. Jungkook kisses softly but with intent—kissing and licking until Jimin’s knees are weak and his breathing is labored.
“Ah, Kookie—“ Jimin pants when Jungkook breaks away, kissing down Jimin’s jaw to his neck, sucking a sweet, candy kiss into his skin. The mark turns pink under Jungkook’s lips, and he hums, satisfied, as he noses behind Jimin’s ear.
Jungkook slowly maneuvers them to their bed, a slow stumble that leaves Jimin giggling. Jungkook rolls his eyes, smile ghosting his lips as Jimin fails to cooperate and accidentally kicks their dinner table box, sending his own artwork in a scattered mess to the floor.
“Hyung, you’re ruining the mood,” Jungkook grumbles, hiding his smile in Jimin’s hair.
“I’m drunk,” Jimin says, hands clutched around Jungkook’s biceps. “It’s impossible to ruin the mood for me right now.”
“Right, I forgot. You’re always horny for me when you’re drunk.”
“You say that like I’m not, ahh—always horny for you anyway,” Jimin says, voice trailing into a breathy gasp as Jungkook kisses at his neck once again, fingers dipping lightly beneath the fabric of Jimin’s jeans.
Jungkook kisses Jimin with a blush adorning his cheeks. Jimin is so forward when he’s drunk, and Jungkook’s heart just cannot handle it, beating a happy staccato in his chest. “Can you make it to the blankets without falling on your ass?”
Jimin scoffs. “I take back what I said about not being able to ruin my mood,” Jimin teases. He responds to Jungkook’s challenge by shucking his sweater off, tossing it across the room and quickly unbuttoning his pants. Before Jungkook knows it, Jimin’s completely naked, lying patiently on their blankets. Jungkook swallows, eyes widening as his eyes rake down the sight—one he can never get tired of.
“Coming?” Jimin says, face even pinker than before as he bites his lip and waggles his eyebrows.
“Hopefully, yeah,” Jungkook jokingly mumbles to himself, eagerly pushing his stretchy pajama pants down his hips. They fall of their own accord to his feet, and as he makes his way closer to the bed, his feet get caught in the pant legs around his ankles.
Jimin laughs as Jungkook experiences the absolute last thing he has ever wanted to happen in his sex life, tripping to the floor in an eager and naked state. Jungkook’s just lucky his knees land on their soft pillow of blankets, hands coming out to stop him from face planting into Jimin’s bare stomach.
“Oh my god,” Jimin cackles, hands coming up to cover his red face as his laughter erupts from him in high pitched giggles and squeaks. “And you were worried about me making it to the bed, oh my god.”
Jungkook’s entire face flames red, embarrassment clawing at his stomach. But Jimin’s cute little squeaks, laughter shaking through him, lying naked on their bed—his lover giggling at him in endearment and amusement—all have Jungkook smiling despite himself.
“Shut up,” Jungkook grumbles, finally composing himself as he straddles Jimin’s hips and pulls his hands away from his face.
Jimin’s face is a shining beacon, lighting up Jungkook’s entire being. His smile is enough to melt Jungkook at any time of day, but the tears of laughter running down his cheeks and the starry, pupil-blown gaze that’s full of affection and happiness have Jungkook especially biting down on a smile, a bout of giddiness that Jimin only looks like this for him blossoming in his chest, fireworks and flowers and butterflies all at once.
“You’re so cute,” Jimin says with a giggle, breaking Jungkook’s grip around his wrists to pull him down into a sweet kiss.
Jungkook falls into him easily, silently promising to kiss Jimin’s beautiful giggles into moans before the night is over.
Yeah, Jungkook will admit it. He’s being grumpy.
When Jimin suggested he “join the gang” out for drinks and texted him the address of a bar, Jungkook had agreed if only to meet this “Hoseok-hyung” who’d gotten his boyfriend drunk.
Hoseok seems nice, but Jungkook likes his Jimin. He likes their dinners snuggled around their cardboard box, and he likes being really sappy and feeding each other (read: smearing food on each other’s faces and licking it off); he likes cuddling in bed and talking about their day and working silently on their homework together and being wrapped in blankets and in each other and…
Jungkook doesn’t like to share. It’s been just the two of them for such a long time with school, work, and each other occupying all of their time, and it’s weird having someone else in their world. Jungkook has kind of forgotten the world outside of their one room apartment—outside of bumping elbows as they brush their teeth together and harmonizing obnoxiously loud while they wait for their ramen to cook.
Well, Jungkook muses after sitting in silence long enough for it to be impolite, maybe it’s good to get out.
Jungkook’s just realizing that maybe he should try to engage in conversation when Hoseok catches his eye from down the bar. He smiles, unphased by Jungkook’s quiet demeanor and happy to include him whenever he’s ready.
“Jiminie has told us a lot about you, Jungkook-ah,” he says once Jungkook smiles back at him.
Jungkook has a brief flashback to a few nights ago, tripping with his boner on display as he struggled out of his pajama pants. He turns to look at Jimin when he giggles. “Oh, yeah?”
Jimin meets his gaze, still giggling as his eyes rake over Jungkook’s body. He’s thankful the dim lighting of the bar hides his flush and takes a sip of his drink, raising an eyebrow at his boyfriend. Jungkook can tell that he is absolutely having the same thought when he bites down on a teasing grin.
“He says you’re a dancer?” Hoseok asks.
“Ah, yeah I am.” Jungkook tears his eyes from Jimin (and gets his mind out of the gutter) to look at Hoseok and actually try to include himself in the conversation. “I study and teach dance.”
“Wow, so school and work? I know Jiminie’s always busy in the shop—learning and cleaning and doing homework and sketching and—do you guys even have time to breathe?”
Jungkook laughs, fond gaze somehow finding its way back to Jimin as he’s reminded of how hard they work and how proud he is of both of them—but especially Jimin. “Yeah, we make time.”
Jimin smiles and kisses his cheek as Hoseok laughs. “Y’know, I don’t doubt that.”
Jimin’s hand finds his thigh beneath the bar, resting it there as he says, “Hoseok-hyung is a dancer too, Kookie.”
“Oh.” Jungkook sits up in his seat. “What kind?”
“Hip hop, mostly, but I’ll try anything! If you ever have time, you could come to a workshop. I teach a lot of them. We’d have to see how you do but you could probably teach, too.”
“That would be awesome.” Jungkook nods, smiling shyly. He’s not always good with people, but finding a common ground at least helps ease his nerves and gives him something to talk about. Hoseok is very responsive and kind, his energy matching Jungkook’s when he excitedly delves into dance jargon with wild gestures and starry eyes. Jimin watches fondly, grinning when Jungkook nearly knocks his drink over trying to dance in his seat.
“Yah, I bought Jiminie drinks last time,” Hoseok says once they’ve eased into conversation. Both Jimin and Jungkook have been nursing ice waters the entire night until Hoseok buys them a round of shots, citing that it’s Jungkook’s turn to have a little fun.
Jimin takes his own shot and leans in to Jungkook’s personal space. “Think you can make it to the bed when you’re drunk?”
Jungkook grins and bumps their noses together once he pulls away. “Shut up.”
After a few more shots (that are all taken by Jungkook, courtesy of Hoseok), the lights suddenly dim and the crowd of the bar hushes. Some people leave their seats and tables to merge into a crowd that seems to have been building throughout the night in front of a small stage.
Jimin watches attentively and waits. Hoseok leans back against the bar beside him with a small smile on his lips, unphased by the change in atmosphere.
Jungkook, however, enjoys the darkness, attention only barely registering the crowd around the stage as he leans forward to nose at Jimin’s hairline. The alcohol running through his system has his fingers itching for his boyfriend, reaching out to grip Jimin’s hips and run tantalizingly over Jimin’s lower stomach. He laces his fingers over Jimin’s abdomen, inches away from his belt buckle.
“Hi, Kookie,” Jimin murmurs as Jungkook presses a kiss on his cheek.
“Hi,” he whispers back. He really wants to turn Jimin around and to sit back down in his own seat—wants to pull Jimin in between his legs and grab his face and kiss him senseless in the darkness of the bar. He could probably get away with it, too, and Jungkook briefly contemplates it before he’s interrupted by a loud siren sound.
“Hyung, what is this?” Jimin asks, shouting over the siren.
Hoseok just grins, shaking his head and pointing to the stage.
Jimin watches despite Jungkook leaving sloppy kisses on his neck. The stage lights change, all of them swiveling to spotlight a lone figure on stage. The sirens continue until they turn into a loud beat, the crowd moving, shouting, jumping—and the figure on stage raises his microphone.
Both Jimin and Jungkook straighten up at the sound of the man on stage, his voice slightly gravelly as he raps smoothly. Jungkook rests his head on top of Jimin’s, watches in awe as the rapper makes wild hand gestures as the words tumble from his lips in smooth rivulets, rapping about making a name for himself—about pride and conquering and where he’s been to get to where he is (Daegu, if Jungkook hears right).
“What’s a d-boy?” Jungkook whispers to Jimin, eyes wide and never leaving the stage.
“I don’t know, but I feel like I want to be one.”
Jungkook feels Jimin scoot forward, perched on the edge of his seat. The light from the stage illuminates his wide-eyed face, and Jungkook plops himself back into his seat in awe. He’s simultaneously frozen in place and wanting to stand—can’t tell if he wants to listen intently to every word or if he wants to shout with the rapper.
He feels adrenaline rushing through him as the rapper continues even faster than before, passionately spitting verses about his music topping every chart, about being a nobody until he rises above and this rap will cut through your ears, and Jungkook can’t keep the grin off his face, hand clutching his the front of his shirt at the words.
He doesn’t know the words but he shouts out anyway when the rapper points to the crowd, feeling the beat thump in his chest and the verses running through his veins. The performance doesn’t last very long, but the rush it gives him is more than enough.
He still deflates a little when rapper confesses his performance is short because “his partner ditched him.” Jungkook’s left feeling giddy regardless, grinning back at Jimin’s bright face when he turns his stool around.
“Holy shit,” Jimin breathes. His face is flushed and his eyes are bright; Jungkook’s sure he looks the same.
“Amazing, right?” Hoseok asks with a grin. There’s a fresh round of shots waiting for them on the bar, Jungkook completely unsure of when they got there.
He immediately downs his anyway, slamming the glass back on the bar. “Who was that?”
“He was amazing, hyung,” Jimin responds, pushing his shot across the counter to Jungkook.
“His stage name is Suga,” Hoseok replies.
Jungkook takes a long sip of his water before downing the other shot, grinning as Jimin watches him.
Another performance has made its way to the stage—a small dance group. They’re not bad, but Jungkook’s too giddy to pay them much attention, alcohol still buzzing through him as his hand lands on Jimin’s thigh, thumb smoothing circles into his jeans.
Jungkook really wishes it was appropriate to pull Jimin into his lap—wishes he were in a bigger group of people so he could pull Jimin to the bathroom without anyone noticing. He’d really like to drop to his knees, eyes sultry and face framed by Jimin’s legs. He wants to watch Jimin’s eyes widen and face flush—wants to feel Jimin’s hands wind through his hair while Jungkook unbuttons his jeans.
“Hyung,” Jungkook says, catching the attention of both Hoseok and Jimin, “Don’t you have that thing to do at home?”
Jungkook resists the urge to say, me. You have to do me. Instead he digs his nails slightly into Jimin’s thigh, a light squeeze that results in Jimin raising his eyebrows at him.
“Yeah, I thought you had an assignment. We should go before I get too drunk. I don’t want to distract you.”
Jimin seems to be catching on, face contorting as he desperately tries not to erupt into laughter. Both Jimin and Jungkook know that Jungkook is already drunk—and definitely drunk enough to be a distraction.
“Right, right. My assignment,” he replies, eyes darting to Jungkook’s crotch and back. Jungkook grins sheepishly, glad he at least doesn’t have a boner in public.
Jimin’s already turning to Hoseok, forming excuses, but Hoseok’s gaze is elsewhere.
Jungkook has only known Hoseok briefly, but it’s been long enough to notice his bright smile, which, apparently, could get even brighter. His cheeks are bunched and pink, grin wide and eyes starry. He’s grinning, head resting in his hand as he says, “Namjoon ditched you?”
His bright smile and completely infatuated gaze has been so distracting that Jungkook hadn’t bothered to look. Once he turns in the direction of Hoseok’s line of sight, he sees a small, blond haired figure. He’s dressed in all black, sleeves rolled up to his elbows as he daintily places a lime on the edge of a glass.
“It’s ‘date night,’” the bartender says, shrugging one shoulder. “I don’t mind. Gives me a chance to try something different. Namjoon’s so picky.” He places the drink on a tray with several other (very pretty) drinks. The sight of it makes Jungkook wonder how long he’s been checked out of the conversation, attention focused on his boyfriend.
Speaking of his boyfriend—“Why is he so familiar?” Jungkook whispers into Jimin’s ear, lips wet and sloppy as he speaks. He leans heavily on Jimin’s shoulder, staring wide-eyed at the bartender.
The bartender stares back, one eyebrow raised. Hoseok doesn’t seem to notice as he says, “Is that why you’re performing and bartending on the same night? ‘Cause Joonie ditched?”
“I’m performing and bartending on the same night because it’s my bar and I can do whatever I want.”
“Performing?” Jimin murmurs, trying not to stare quite as hard as his drunken boyfriend at the bartender. “Is that… Is that the rapper from earlier?”
“Suga?” Jungkook says, whisper completely indiscreet as the bartender—Suga—meets his eye.
“Hoseok,” he says, never breaking eye-contact with a doe-eyed Jungkook, “Did you bring groupies to my bar?”
Only then does Hoseok’s gaze shift to the people beside him, laughing at the sight of Jungkook leaning his weight on Jimin, both of them with curious, starry gazes.
“Ah, they weren’t groupies until you got on stage. Honestly!” Hoseok says defensively, hands coming up in surrender. “Guys, be cool. This is Yoongi.”
“Suga,” Jungkook whispers again. “Wow, you were really good.”
“Seriously—You were seriously so good,” Jimin stammers. “Do you have a mixtape?”
“Can we buy it?” Jungkook chimes in. “Can we buy like, ten?”
“Babe, we cannot afford ten. We probably couldn’t afford one.”
“I’m not saying we wouldn’t buy one anyway, but—“
“Hoseok, I cannot believe you brought mixtape-hungry groupies to my bar,” Yoongi growls.
Hoseok is completely unphased, fond gaze shifting to the ruffled bartender. “C’mon, hyung. They’re kind of cute.”
“You didn’t give them free drinks did you?” Yoongi asks, eyeing the couple and their eager faces. “I told everyone not to let you give people your free drinks.”
Hoseok grins and flutters his lashes. “Hyung, don’t be mad,” he says. He turns to murmur to Jimin, “I get all the free drinks I want ‘cause I’m his favorite.”
“You’re everyone’s favorite, apparently,” Yoongi groans, rolling his eyes. “Your favoritism is revoked.” He takes the last shot sitting on the bar, originally Hoseok’s, and drinks it.
Hoseok just watches with another fond smile on his face. Yoongi puts the glass beneath the bar and wipes the back of his hand over his mouth, catching Hoseok’s amused gaze.
“You can’t revoke my favoritism,” he replies, eyebrows waggling.
Yoongi’s whole face scrunches, lips curling and eyebrows furrowing. But he has a pale complexion, and the blush on his face is evident.
“Make me a margarita, babe?” Hoseok says, and Yoongi’s face gets even redder.
“Fuck off,” he says, but he pulls a glass down anyway.
“Should we leave these two alone?” Jimin whispers to him, both of their attention having been focused on them.
Jungkook responds with a giggle, kissing Jimin’s cheek as he nods. “They can get a room, and so can we.” His arms come back around Jimin, making his boyfriend giggle when his thumb strokes at the skin beneath his shirt.
“Jungkook-ah, aren’t you from Busan, too?” Hoseok suddenly asks. The pair snaps back to attention, suddenly remembering that they aren’t the only two in the room. Both Yoongi and Hoseok are staring expectantly, Yoongi looking curious and Hoseok a little amused.
Jungkook straightens in his seat. “Ah, yeah. Jiminie and I came to Seoul together.”
“Oh,” Hoseok says, surprised. “How long have you two been together?”
“Four years,” Jimin responds with a grin, Jungkook’s arms tightening around him in a small squeeze.
Yoongi and Hoseok both watch them silently for a moment, eyebrows furrowing when they share a look over the bar.
“You guys are so young, though,” Hoseok responds. “That’s a huge commitment—to follow each other and live together so young.”
Jungkook shakes his head. “It was a lot easier than you think.”
Jimin’s hands tighten over Jungkook’s on his waist. He returns to nosing at Jimin’s hairline, breathing in the scent of their shampoo and murmuring to Jimin that they should go home. He misses the concerned look on Hoseok’s face and only feels Jimin’s shrug in response.
Yoongi watches them thoughtfully and places a drink in front of Hoseok. “They might not be so bad,” he murmurs over the sound of Jimin’s giggle, Jungkook with his lips pressed to Jimin’s ear (“Kookie, keep your hands to yourself!”).
Hoseok only smiles back at Yoongi, smug as he sips at his drink.
“It’s so good to be home,” Jungkook groans later that night, collapsing into their blankets.
“We were only out for like, four hours.”
“Too long.” Jungkook nuzzles into Jimin’s pillow. When Jimin doesn’t immediately join him in bed, he looks up to see Jimin sliding on a pair of pajama pants. “Excuse me, why are you putting pants on?”
“So we can go to bed,” Jimin replies, nonchalant as if he hasn’t just offended the love of his life. He steps into the bathroom, and Jungkook hears the sink running.
“What, you mean like sleep?”
Jimin reappears by the bed, toothbrush in his mouth. “What else would I be doing?”
Jungkook can’t keep the shocked look off his face. “Me.”
Jimin grins, toothpaste on his lips. He says nothing—only hums and steps back into the bathroom.
Jungkook whines loudly, but he doesn’t think he can manage to get out of bed to chase after him. Instead he waits, stretched out on his back like Jimin had been a few nights ago, body lax and warm.
When Jimin returns, it’s with a heavy plop, straddling Jungkook’s waist. He grins as Jungkook jumps awake, having been dozing lightly.
“Are you sleeping?”
“What else would I be doing?” Jungkook responds with a groan, hands sliding over Jimin’s thighs and squeezing.
Jimin only grins in response. “Are you sure you’re coordinated enough for sex right now?”
Jungkook’s breath hitches watching Jimin above him, head tilted to the side. He’s staring fondly, fingers soft on Jungkook’s chest as they draw patterns over his shirt, and his thighs feel taut and toned beneath the soft fabric of his pajama pants.
“You could always ride me,” Jungkook shamelessly murmurs back, the feeling of Jimin beneath his hands making is heart beat a little faster.
Jimin laughs. “What happens when I get tired?”
“You’ve got thick thighs, baby.” Jungkook grins, squeezing them again and feeling triumphant at Jimin’s small blush.
“Is that supposed to be a compliment?”
“I love your thighs,” Jungkook says, almost pouting. He watches with an overwhelming endearment in his chest as Jimin flushes further. “I love your everything.”
“Aish,” Jimin groans, pushing Jungkook’s face sideways in the pillow.
Jungkook grabs his hands, laughing as he laces their fingers together. Jimin’s smiling back at him, still a shining beacon with pink cheeks and bright eyes. He wants to pull Jimin down, to kiss him until he realizes just how he makes Jungkook feel—wants to kiss Jimin until he can feel the fireworks and flowers and butterflies, too.
Jimin seems to be thinking similarly, leaning down and caging Jungkook in with his arms resting on the pillow. He kisses Jungkook softly, tasting sweet despite the alcohol—tasting like love and like four years—like it was easier than you think.
“I’m really glad we’re here,” Jungkook murmurs once they part.
Jimin bumps their noses together. “Me too.”
thank you guys so much for the response so far! we sincerely appreciate every comment and kudo. <3
(also here is a sneak peak into our planning process):
Chapter 5: Painter Song, Part 1
If I were a painter
And could paint a memory
I'd climb inside the swirling skies to be with you
Please note the changed rating and the new tags!
It has been several months since Jungkook and his boyfriend Jimin moved into their tiny, ugly, rundown studio apartment in the middle of Seoul. It’s a drastic difference from their lives in Busan, but they’re used to it. They can deal with waiting several minutes for hot water and killing families of bugs on the daily. They can deal with one working stove burner and a cardboard box as their desk and dining table.
But sleeping on cool, concrete ground gets too much. Even with their rumples of soft blankets and sometimes clothes, Jungkook feels the hardness of the ground dig into his back. It’s especially annoying when he aches after a long day of dance classes.
But hey, it’s the twenty-first century. Even with their budget, that problem should be an easy fix. A few internet searches later and bam—a somewhat new, queen-sized, single mattress available for the taking—one they can actually afford.
It isn’t hard to convince Jimin. He concerns himself over Jungkook easily, and Jungkook's constant whining about having back pain all the time is enough for him to agree.
So on Saturday, Jungkook and Jimin go pick up the mattress. They are both excited, Jungkook especially. All week, he’s daydreamed about what picking up their new piece of furniture would look like.
But it didn't look much like this.
"Hold on, Jungkook-ah."
“The point of you coming along—all ten blocks to and from that guy’s place—was to help me carry it, not document it.”
Jimin recently started a seven-week photography class at the university. He needs the extra hours to fulfill the full-time student requirements to keep his scholarship. He was reluctant at first, but now he seems to enjoy it. Far too much, Jungkook thinks, but in the end, as long as Jimin is content, he is, too.
Jimin is unmoved by Jungkook’s complaints. “You’re just a work of art, baby,” he defends himself, snapping and clicking away as Jungkook lifts the top edge of the mattress and tosses the stairs a hateful stare.
Their building’s stairwell is dirty and dark even in the day. It’s their only option—there aren’t any elevators. Jungkook has to admire the other tenants who manage to get all of their furniture in their homes, because he knows that this alone is going to be a huge fucking pain.
He begins the ascent. Jimin busies himself with photographing his work of art, but it’s quiet and somewhat peaceful. Jungkook, so far, thinks it’s not so bad.
When he makes it to the landing Jungkook huffs out a heavy sigh to regather his strength.
Only three more flights to go.
Jungkook straightens again and moves on, twisting the mattress with the turn of the next staircase.
He’s halfway up the second staircase when his sweaty hands suddenly lose grip. And he gapes, in both horror and anger, as the cumbersome thing slides back down.
“What the fuck? Are you shitting me?!”
And then he realizes that Jimin is standing below, with his camera in front of his face like an idiot. His heart clenches.
“Jimin! Get out of the way!”
The impact of the lower end of the mattress against Jimin’s shins sends him stumbling back to the wall. Jungkook hears a thud and an oof, but his boyfriend seems all right, otherwise. Enough for him to laugh, anyway—much to Jungkook’s annoyance.
Jungkook closes his eyes for a second before opening them again. A few seconds wasted by stupidly worrying over nothing. “Baby—”
“I have the best pictures of your face when the mattress fell. Oh, baby, I can’t wait to show you.”
“You can,” Jungkook says, pointing at the mattress now at Jimin’s feet. “When we get this up there.”
“I can just show you real quick—”
“Babe, please help me.”
He must have sounded indignant enough, because Jimin sighs as he places the camera back in its bag and grabs the lower edge of the bed.
Jungkook’s strength dissipates with every pull and lift he makes for the sake of the bed, but he finds the need to reserve some to make Jimin at least smile while he does this—even if he’s the one putting less effort. Taking pictures while Jungkook does all the grunt work? How dare he?
"We're almost a legit home now,” he says merrily. When Jimin grunts in reply, Jungkook adds, with a smile, “It’s our first real piece of furniture."
To his delight, Jimin breaks into a grin.
"A mattress," he chuckles. "It's only like, half of a real bed."
"But it's not a cardboard box."
"You're right, I guess. Merry early fucking Christmas to us."
Satisfied that he managed to put a smile on his boyfriend's face, Jungkook laughs as they make it to the next landing.
Two more to go.
“Gold teeth, Grey Goose, tripping in the bathroom—”
“Jungkook-ah... why are you singing that?”
Jungkook sends a cheeky smile to his boyfriend, who is raising his brows but still grinning at his infectious silliness.
Jungkook thinks that yeah, maybe he is being silly, more so than usual when he wants to amuse his boyfriend.
But they have a mattress. Not a big deal to many people—and certainly not to their friends—but the little things count the most.
He reaches the fourth floor landing and stares excitedly up at the last set of stairs.
“Home stretch, baby,” he declares.
Jungkook is pretty sure that it’s his singing (not the quality of it, because Jungkook’s a good singer, thank you very much) that makes Jimin reach for his camera again.
Now Jimin clicks and snaps as Jungkook heaves and grunts his way to their floor. He honestly doesn’t see what is attractive about a contorted face of despair and strain.
“Jiminnie-hyung,” Jungkook sighs. “Come on. Do you want me pulling all the weight?”
Jimin keeps staring at Jungkook through the viewfinder. “But you’re so big, and you’re so strong. I want to capture you flexing your muscles all sexy and stuff.”
Jungkook manages a smirk. “If you keep saying things like that, you’ll make yourself horny.”
Click. “You’re right.”
And that makes Jungkook hurry a little more.
They make it to the fifth floor in one piece. Jungkook is glad that their place is two doors down from the staircase.
“Holy fucking shit,” he huffs out, his voice echoing in the hall. “About time.”
Click, goes Jimin’s camera in response.
Jungkook unlocks their door and drags their new bed through. Again, with absolutely no help from his beloved boyfriend. But how can he be annoyed by that when they have this to celebrate? They have a bed at home now.
"We're rich!" Jungkook sings.
Jimin laughs at him as he finally (finally!) puts the camera away. He follows Jungkook and the mattress through the door and shuts it behind him. "We're not even middle-class, babe."
“Just humor me. I mean, I did all the work.”
“I told you that this class is important.”
“Or you’re just obsessed. I’m going to schedule an intervention.”
“You don’t tell people they’re going to have an intervention, Kookie.”
Jungkook slides the mattress inside all the way and lets it flop flat onto the ground. It makes a heavy thud, sending a bunch of loose papers that were on the ground and the box wafting or sliding away, and—
“I think I killed a roach, hyung.”
“Are you sure? Proof or it doesn’t get marked.”
Jimin watches Jungkook lift the corner of the mattress, and miraculously—and not surprisingly—the only partly-flattened roach scurries out. Jimin jumps out of the way and Jungkook heaves the mattress more off the ground, only to slam it down again, harder than before. Now it has to be dead for sure.
“We have neighbors downstairs, by the way.”
“I think it’s dead for real,” Jungkook says, peeking under the mattress.
As Jimin begrudgingly adds a tally to the count, Jungkook cleans up the bug. After it’s flushed down the toilet, he returns to the mattress and kicks and slides it around until it’s positioned right by the blankets.
“Now,” he says, turning from the mattress to his boyfriend. “Time to break this bad boy in.”
Jimin snorts and walks over to him, his eyes darkening with lust. “Finally.”
The two instantly attach to each other in a heated kiss. Jimin is warm and soft as his form slides up to his. He feels familiar and blissful, cozy like the hearth of home. The tension of school and never having enough for luxuries melts away with the melding of their lips.
Jungkook moans softly when Jimin’s tongue slides against his. He crushes himself against Jimin more forcefully, leaving absolutely no space in between. He grabs fistfuls of his hyung’s hair.
He wants Jimin bad—so, so, so bad. He always does, but today’s accomplishment heightens all the pleasure he feels; even just the feel of their erections brushing against each other makes him want to cry out with need.
“Fuck me,” Jungkook murmurs between kisses. “Fuck me on our new fucking bed.”
“God, you sound hot,” Jimin groans into his mouth.
Jungkook falls backward with Jimin onto the mattress—because now they can do that without breaking their backs.
The evening goes by in a flurry. The lust dizzies both Jungkook and Jimin to a wild eagerness that sets their bodies on fire. And oh, the mattress is so soft when Jimin presses him into it, when they grind against each other, when the kisses and touches feel just right.
They strip each other of their clothing with stunning speed and expertise. If Jungkook wasn’t so horny right now, he’d laugh his ass off at their sheer excitement.
It doesn’t take long for Jimin to fumble around in one of the many blankets for the lube. When Jungkook hears the airy squeeze of the bottle, he feels readier than ever.
“Turn around, baby,” Jimin murmurs. “Let me see that ass.”
Jungkook willingly obliges, biting down a smile.
Jimin grabs a butt cheek and squeezes indulgently, spreading him apart a bit. “Look at you, baby. All ready for me.”
Jungkook receives no warning as one of Jimin’s fingers slips in past the ring of muscle. He gasps, burying his face into the mattress and grabbing handfuls of the closest blankets.
“Kookie’s doing so well.”
Jungkook moves against his probing finger, encouraging him to go deeper.
And oh, he does. Several times.
Jungkook shudders. “Ah… baby, please—” He breaks off into a whine when Jimin inserts another finger, stretching him exquisitely.
“How hard is my Jungkookie?” Jimin asks sweetly. He hovers over him, his breath on his back, his teeth grazing his spine.
Jungkook is sent into a breathless, shaking mess. He sees stars and feels unsteady with arousal, only increasing with his boyfriend’s languid ministrations. He adds a third digit and Jungkook is ready to get fucked the fuck out of him now.
“I’m so hard for you, Jiminnie,” he pants. “Oh, fuck.”
But then Jungkook whines when he slows to a stop.
“Hyung, what the hell?”
Jimin laughs a little. “Hold on, hold on.” His fingers slip out of him.
Before Jungkook can express his annoyance, he hears the sound of lube being squeezed out and the slick sounds of Jimin spreading it on his cock.
Even that sounds hot. Jungkook can’t help but reach down and tug on his own erection, biting back a whimper as his thumb runs over the sticky, heavily leaking head. Precum drips onto the mattress, tainting it on its first night. It’s bound to happen.
“So impatient,” Jimin teases him.
“Stop being so—ahh—slow,” Jungkook retorts, breathing heavily as he strokes himself.
“Slow?” Jimin repeats. Jungkook feels Jimin’s tip at his entrance. “Whatever.” He slides his hands along Jungkook’s arms until one reaches his hand and removes it from his dick. “Just let me do my job.”
The words tingle in his ear, and Jungkook whimpers through the shiver that runs violently through his body.
Jimin grasps Jungkook’s hips and guides himself in. He is gentle at first, allowing his beloved to adjust to his girth. But they are both moaning and panting, and soon the elder works up a steady, achingly good rhythm.
“Baby, baby, yes,” Jungkook moans, gripping the blanket below him desperately.
But Jimin suddenly turns silent on his end. And is it just him, or is he starting to slow down, too?
Jungkook furrows a brow and calls out uncertainly, “Baby?”
“Babe? Is something wrong?”
“No, I just—” Jimin doesn’t sound like anything is wrong. But he pauses completely and it makes Jungkook doubly concerned. “I just realized how much we’re progressing now, getting this thing. It’s amazing. The sex is amazing. My knees don’t fucking hurt anymore. Just stop and think about it, baby—”
“Stop and think about it, he says,” Jungkook scoffs, his head sinking irritably into the mattress, dick aching between his legs, “with his dick up my ass.”
Out of all the times to appreciate their new bed.
“I’m sorry,” Jimin chuckles. Jungkook feels Jimin kiss his back and his hands roam over his chest. “I’ll continue.”
Jungkook whimpers when Jimin pinches his nipples.
“Is this okay?” Jimin teases, despite already knowing the answer. With a soft grunt, he starts thrusting into him again, his movements slow, but hard and deep, and Jungkook’s little whimpers turn into sharp, needy moans when pleasure jolts sharply through his entire body.
Jimin’s hand wraps around Jungkook’s cock and pumps in sync to his thrusts. “Is this okay, baby?”
Jungkook claws the edge of the mattress, unable to reply except for the long moan that falls out of his mouth.
That sparks something in Jimin, because his breathing stutters, and after a few hard, quick thrusts, he cums with a guttural moan. Jungkook soon follows, his climax so sharp it’s white-hot in his brain, seed spilling almost gratuitously onto the bed. Jimin’s hand continues to stroke him, gentler now, as they rock against each other and ride out their orgasms.
Maybe, at least for now, Jimin is forgiven for his interruption.
Because he’s damn right about the sex.
Jungkook is always the one to switch off the light before they turn in for the night. Jimin is the clumsier one and afraid of the dark, so it just makes sense.
There’s little to see as Jungkook shuffles, still naked, from the light switch back to bed (to a real mattress), but muscle memory allows him to move expertly.
He flops onto the mattress, a satisfied smile on his face, and he feels Jimin’s entire body soften in an instant when his warmth nears. His cute, squishy boyfriend, still so scared of the silliest things.
“We’re in the money,” Jungkook sings softly as Jimin snuggles into him.
“Shut up,” Jimin murmurs into his chest. “It’s a mattress.”
“It’s our mattress,” Jungkook reminds him with enthusiasm. “One mattress that will eventually turn into two. That’s our next step. That and a bed frame. I’ll even learn how to chop wood and use saws and stuff if I have to. Ooh—how about a real table?”
Jimin kisses his sternum and laughs. “Kookie, you think too much.”
“Just let me dream, okay?”
“Hm.” Jimin’s lips search for Jungkook’s, grazing along his jaw and his cheek until they reach their target. He kisses him thoughtfully with approval.
“Dream big, then,” he tells Jungkook. “I’ll make sure we get there.”
Chapter 6: Painter Song, Part 2
I'm dreaming of a place
Where I could see your face
And I think my brush would take me there.
Jungkook wakes feeling warm all over, blankets tight around him and cushioned mattress beneath his chest. He snuggles into the fabric, sleepily musing that Jimin was right—it is soft, and his body feels lax like melted chocolate. His mind is still clouded with sleep, and he feels so comfy he doesn’t want to open his eyes.
Jungkook’s eyebrows furrow slightly, but he stays cuddled where he is, eyes still closed in a half-dream: laying out in the sun and snuggled into a warm, toned body. A somebody, with a cute eye smile and a laugh like wind chimes.
A somebody who apparently doesn’t know when to quit.
Jungkook still refuses to open his eyes, brain grasping at sleep even as he murmurs, “Are you really taking pictures of me right now?”
A small giggle. Another click.
“Babe,” Jimin whispers softly, “I told you, it’s—“
“For a project,” Jungkook finishes for him. His eyes finally open, squinting despite the very dim amount of sunlight that creeps into their city window. Jimin has, however, turned on the light over the kitchen sink, probably so he can take better pictures. “Is your project about photography? Or about me?”
Jimin has yet to take the camera away from his face. Click. “Both.”
Jungkook huffs and turns his head away, facing the wall now instead of his lover. He shuts his eyes, tries to go back to his nice, warm dream where his boyfriend isn’t a sweet-but-annoying artist, his camera long forgotten as he holds Jungkook in his arms, strokes his fingers over Jungkook’s skin, kisses—
“Jiminnie,” he whines, digging his nose into the sheets. “I can’t sleep when you’re being annoying.”
Click. “You have the perfect body for faceless portraits.”
Despite himself, Jungkook lets a small laugh escape him and tries to muffle it in their mattress (their! mattress!), but Jimin laughs, too. And Jungkook gives up—doesn’t really know how he can resist spending a lazy, warm morning in bed (a real bed!) with his favorite person. He rolls over on his back, greeted with the sight of a lens in his face.
Jimin’s face finally pops up from behind the camera, gaze on Jungkook instead of through the viewfinder.
“Good morning, cutie,” he says, grinning so his eyes curve happily.
Jungkook can never resist that smile, grinning back in defeat. He tries to cover his face with his hands, but Jimin rolls over and straddles his hips. He uses one hand to try to uncover Jungkook’s face, and he uses the other hand to take pictures, one click after another resonating in the room beneath the sounds of Jungkook’s own shrieks and giggles.
“All of these are going to be blurry! What’s the point!” Jungkook laughs, still swatting at Jimin’s single hand trying to get him to hold still.
“How can my art be pointless?” Jimin teases back, finally dropping the camera to hang on its strap around his neck. With both hands free, he holds Jungkook’s wrists against the mattress, leaning down and letting the camera rest between their bare chests. “You’re my art, Kookie.”
Jungkook pouts. “I’m asleep in half of them and blurry in the other half.”
“Whose fault is that?”
“You couldn’t wait an hour for me to wake up?”
“But you’re so pretty when you sleep,” he pouts. He kisses Jungkook’s blushing cheek, then sits back up and pulls his camera to his face. “Say cheese, cutie!”
“Jimin,” Jungkook laughs, resisting the urge to roll his eyes and instead looks right in the lens.
“Perfect,” Jimin mumbles, looking fondly at the digital display. “Now I have a picture of you saying my name.”
“You can’t hear a picture, Minnie.”
“Yeah, but I’ll know my name is on your lips.” He grins and waggles his eyebrows, gaze finding Jungkook’s over the camera in his hands.
Jungkook tries to scoff in offense—really, he does—but he can’t stop the laugh that stutters out of his chest, head falling back in the pillow as his giggles staccato their way out of his lips.
“That’s way too much red pepper, Kookie. I can see it.”
“Maybe if you looked at the actual food and not through your camera—“
“Jungkook-ah, seriously. You know how you are with spicy stuff,” Jimin says, taking the crushed red pepper out of his hand. “This is already spicy ramen. Isn’t the flavor packet enough?”
Jungkook huffs and stirs seaweed into his red ramen. “I can handle it.”
Jimin rolls his eyes and takes his own bowl of ramen to their cardboard box, bringing a wad of napkins with him for the inevitable stream of tears running down Jungkook’s face after just one bite.
Jimin takes a picture the second Jungkook slurps the noodles into his mouth, lips already red in the picture. He watches in real time as his boyfriend’s face flushes in heat in a matter of seconds.
“See? I’m fine,” Jungkook says, slurping another round of noodles into his mouth. He sets the bowl down on the cardboard box and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, sniffling all the while.
Click. “Are those tears already, Jungkook-ah?”
“Yes they are!” Jimin laughs. “See?” he says, zoomed in on Jungkook’s face to show his glassy eyes.
“Hyung!” Jungkook whines, sniffling as the first tears roll down his cheeks.
“Want to switch?” Jimin asks, offering up his much-less-intimidating ramen in offering.
“Okay,” Jimin sing songs, finally setting his camera aside to slurp up his non-idiotic, normal flavored ramen.
Jungkook slurps more noodles and licks his lips. He puts the bowl back down on the cardboard box and stares at it, tears tracking lines down his cheeks.
“Here,” Jimin says, switching their bowls. He slurps up some of the spicy ramen for himself, looking into the bowl curiously. “Not bad.”
“Not bad?” Jungkook says, standing to make a glass of water. “I’m dying. You couldn’t just pretend?”
Jimin laughs, standing and following him to the kitchen counter. Jungkook looks utterly offended, eyebrows scrunched, lips pouty and red, and tears still streaming down his cheeks.
“Okay, now if you can prop your leg—“
“No, no—lower like—that! Yes, perfect! Don’t move.”
Jungkook sighs. “Are we done yet?”
Jimin pouts. “But we’re right at the golden hour!”
“The golden hour! Right before sunset, y’know. It’s… Golden.”
“Is that a technical photography term?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a photographer. This is just a required course,” Jimin says, crawling on the grass to adjust Jungkook’s limbs the way he wants him.
“Paint me like one of your—“
“Don’t,” Jimin huffs.
Jungkook grins cheekily. Click.
“I wasn’t even posed!” Jungkook protests.
Jimin grins down at his camera display, bottom lip between his teeth. “I like candids better.”
“Jungkookie, that’s not funny. That camera belongs to my professor.”
Click. “But you look so pretty reading the nutrition facts.”
“Kookie,” Jimin warns, reaching for the camera. Jungkook clicks the shutter again, focus slightly blurred from when he stepped out of Jimin’s reach. Jungkook counts it as a success despite the blurriness; he can still see Jimin’s small smile on the display.
Jimin huffs. “Your white balance is off. I know it is. You need to put it on fluorescent—“
“How do I—“ Jungkook grumbles, pulling the camera away from Jimin’s reach again as he fiddles with the settings. He finds the White Balance and moves it from “Daylight” to “Flourescent,” but as he tries to sift out of the menu, he finds something interesting.
“Jungkook-ah, did you seriously turn it on continuous shutter?”
Jungkook giggles. “Now I have every second of you reaching for the seaweed documented.”
Jimin hits him in the stomach with the package in his hand. “You’re gonna fill up my memory card!”
“Good!” he grins. “Now you can’t take pictures of me anymore!”
“Oh my god, you took so many pictures. And they’re all of me.”
“Not all of them!”
“Ninety percent is enough, hyung!”
Jungkook looks around at Jimin’s section of the miniature gallery. His seven-week photography course has ended with a small presentation—a mock gallery where students, professors, friends, family, and some small-scale critics are all invited to attend.
Jungkook can’t help but shrink further behind his boyfriend, situated in the center of literally hundreds of pictures of his face—laughing and grinning and, oh god, is he asleep in that one?
“Seriously?” Jungkook asks, exasperated as he points at the picture. It’s of the morning after they got their mattress, Jungkook’s hair ruffled (sex-ruffled, might he add), tucked in by their blue sheets with his cheek mashed into the fabric.
“I think you look beautiful,” Jimin mumbles.
“T-That’s beside the point!” Jungkook huffs. “Am I drooling?”
Jimin looks closer, laughing slightly as he says, “It was a really high-resolution camera…”
“Jimin, oh my god. People are critiquing these! My face!”
“Then you’ve got nothing to worry about! Your face is great. Why do you think I photographed it so much?” He asks, stepping close with a grin.
Jungkook swats at him. “Do not try to flirt with me when you literally photographed our sex life for people to critique,” he grumbles, finger pointing back at the picture of him asleep post-sex.
Jungkook had known all along that Jimin needed at least three hundred pictures for his class and a small, mock portfolio, but he hadn’t fully realized just how much Jimin would include of him. He thought it’d been a bit of a joke between them; Jimin taking pictures of Jungkook dripping wet with a towel held (read: held, not tied) over his crotch had honestly seemed funny and endearing at the time. He didn’t realize Jimin would actually use them.
“Kookie, I’m sorry,” Jimin murmurs, sidling up behind him with his hands smoothing over Jungkook’s shoulders. “All of my art is you, though. I thought you realized.”
Jungkook huffs. “You couldn’t photograph like, a dog or something?”
Jimin grins and kisses Jungkook’s cheek. “But you’re my muse.”
Jungkook squirms in Jimin’s hold, whole body heating up. His mind flashes small memories—Jimin drawing in the margins of his notebooks in high school and cheekily sliding the page to Jungkook, showing him a doodle of the two of them holding hands; Jimin drawing in the sketchbook Jungkook got him for Christmas, telling Jungkook to hold still while he lazes in his childhood bed; Jimin digging a pen into the fabric of a napkin on their first date and Jimin trying his hand at water colors, painting the courtyard of their school and Jimin drawing a tiny masterpiece on Jungkook’s wrist and Jimin taking pictures of him with spicy ramen dribbling down his chin and—
Jungkook softens in Jimin’s hold, melts back into his arms. “Why are all your romantic gestures entirely embarrassing?”
Jimin grins into his neck. “You love it.”
“What an interesting theme,” a woman muses behind them, stepping into Jimin’s small corner of the gallery. Jungkook shrinks backwards, turning Jimin around to face the woman so he doesn’t have to.
Jimin steps forward, walking with the woman and her friend who both have clipboards in their arms. Critics.
“You’re the photographer?” she asks.
“Yes. I’m Park Jimin.” He bows to her while shaking her hand and does the same to the man beside her. Both critics turn back to the wall of photos, and Jungkook watches in mortification as the woman points to a picture of him.
In the picture, he’s leaned back against a mirror in the practice room of his school, sweaty and red-faced, head back against the glass behind him. His mouth is open in a pant, hair mussed and sweaty.
The critic murmurs something to her friend, something about “pain” and “characterization” and “hard work.” The man nods, making gestures as he speaks in excited agreement. They bow their heads to the clipboards, and Jimin beside them rocks forward on the balls of his feet, bottom lip caught between his teeth.
“Pain and hard work”—yeah, right, Jungkook thinks. If he recalls correctly, Jimin had kissed him against the wall, grinded against him until Jungkook was a panting, shivering mess. And then he’d pulled back to take a damn picture.
Jungkook squirms even further when Jimin turns and catches his gaze, lip still caught between his teeth as his eyebrows raise suggestively.
“So your main subject here,” the male critic says, startling Jimin slightly, “what were you trying to portray by using him?”
“Ah, well,” Jimin starts, and Jungkook rolls his eyes. Jimin just wanted to get dirty pictures of him. “Part of our assignment was expression, so I really aimed for expression of emotion in portraits.”
“Why portraits?” The woman asks. “And why the same person?”
Jimin smiles, gaze finding the wall of photos again. “I guess it’s a… an indulgent, personal touch.”
“You don’t think that making it personal perhaps limits your reach to your audience? Art is subjective, but you can narrow your focus too much.” The critics watch him closely, and Jungkook swallows at the hungry looks on their faces.
Jimin is perpetually calm, however, turning to them confidently as he says, “I think the emotions of my subject portray very well, and I think my emotions as an artist and my relationship with him—ah, well… it just made it easy to capture his emotions.”
The critics watch him closely, both slightly amused and curious.
“Your relationship with him… brought the emotions out?”
Jimin’s cheeks turn slightly pink, suave attitude gone as quickly as it came. “Yeah. I thought that… our relationship—since it’s emotionally… charged… that it would help his emotions show in the photos. Thought that it would make, um, the portraits more emotional if we were both feeling what we wanted to show.”
Jungkook tries to bite down on a grin. He wants his boyfriend to succeed, but it’s always endearing when Jimin gets embarrassed, especially since it happens so rarely.
The critics hum thoughtfully, gazes returning to the wall of photos. They browse a bit more, Jimin stepping back to allow them room. Jungkook follows him, hiding behind him again and running his hands softly over Jimin’s back in silent support.
“I agree with you, Jimin-ssi. The emotions here are very clear,” the male critic says, pen pointing at the picture of Jungkook’s spicy ramen-induced, tear-streaked face.
Jungkook has to physically stop his laughter, chest bubbling as he turns away and holds a hand to his mouth. The picture looks so dramatic and sad with the absence of the ramen bowl.
“Your subject seems very expressive. You say you wanted to show what you both were feeling. Is this picture indicative of that?”
“Ah,” Jimin says, pinching Jungkook’s wrist in warning and stepping away, closer to the photo. “This was one of the more modeled shots. But this one—“ Jimin says, quickly switching gears before the critics can eat him alive (and before Jungkook can burst into tears of laughter), “This is… more what I meant.”
Jungkook finally finds the strength to shut his giggles up, straightening from his hunched position to see where Jimin is pointing. The picture is of Jungkook, shirtless and head resting on a pillow, hair fanned out around him as he grins lazily and makes eye contact with the camera. Jungkok instantly recognizes the moment—
“You can’t hear a picture, Minnie.”
“Yeah, but I’ll know my name is on your lips.”
Jimin seems to have edited the photo—their sheets at home are blue, but the way he changed the picture has made it seem as though sunlight is shining on Jungkook’s face, lightening the blue to a softer shade.
The critics gaze quietly for a moment before scrawling more on their clipboards.
“So more of the happier ones, then?” The woman asks with a sly smile.
Jimin laughs, blush intensifying on his cheeks. “Yeah. These,” he says hand gesturing over a large section of photos, “are more… authentic.”
Jungkook watches the critics looking at the pictures of him. All are smiles and laughs—one of Jungkook with chopsticks tucked in his lips, pretending to be a walrus. Another of him bowed over their cardboard box, writing and looking focused. There’s one at Yoongi’s bar, Jungkook leaning back with elbows resting on the counter, grinning sultry and seductive. Jungkook even finds a picture of Jimin himself—one he took at the grocery store when Jungkook stole the camera. Jimin is smiling up through his bangs, looking overly fond and amused.
“I see,” the woman says, voice soft and eyes moving over each photo with an intense focus.
The critics continue to look around slowly and silently, murmuring to each other and taking notes, until they finally come to the end.
“Well, Jimin-ssi. Your gallery has been one of the more fun ones,” the woman says once they’ve fully observed Jimin’s section.
“Definitely more focused—a real theme,” the man says.
“And your sharpness, aperture, editing—you’ve used your camera very well,” the woman nods. “Please look forward to your report. I don’t doubt that you can count on good marks.”
Jimin bids them goodbye with another handshake and bow, thanking them once they leave. He sighs heavily, hair fluttering off his forehead as he finds his way back to Jungkook.
“You did great, babe,” Jungkook says, letting Jimin fall into his arms and hide his face in the lapels of his blazer.
“Thanks,” he says, voice muffled in Jungkook’s suit jacket. “I think there are more critics coming, though.”
“You’re damn right there are more critics,” a voice says behind them.
Jimin jumps, turning to see Yoongi and Hoseok wandering their way in. Both their gazes are on the walls, smirks on their faces as they browse.
“Oh—I… didn’t know they were coming,” Jimin says, slowly looking to Jungkook, who shrugs sheepishly.
“I invited them,” he says, grinning at Jimin’s shocked face. “Is that okay?”
“Y-Yeah.” Jimin steps closer, arm curling around Jungkook’s waist. He watches warily as Yoongi and Hoseok shift slowly around his small gallery, amused faces never leaving his walls of photos.
“It’s just kind of embarrassing,” Jimin mumbles.
Jungkook slaps his chest playfully. “There were critics critiquing my face, hyung.”
“Critics?” Yoongi asks. “Did you have to tell them how whipped you are?”
“Basically,” Jungkook says, laughing at Jimin’s indignant pout.
At the end of the night, Jimin receives a folder of his entire report, including the critiques of other critics who moseyed their way through his small collection. He also receives an envelope—the contents of his tip jar that sat outside his gallery.
“Holy shit,” Jimin whispers, looking in the envelope.
“What?” Jungkook asks, bouncing as he hovers and looks over Jimin’s shoulder. “Is it a lot?”
“No—I mean… no,” Jimin says, closing the envelope with a dazed look. “I just… never thought I’d get anything.”
“Babe,” Jungkook says, arms coming around Jimin’s waist. He’s giddy and excited and proud, kissing Jimin’s temple. “Of course you did. You’re talented and—“
“Aish,” Jimin laughs. “I know, I’m talented and smart and beautiful—“
“And way too good for Jungkook and—“
Jungkook pouts, Hoseok and Jimin sharing teasing glances.
Despite their teasing, Jungkook can’t help but cheer as loudly as he can, clinking his glass against everyone else’s when they toast to Jimin over dinner. Jimin is talented, and he’s worked so hard to get here. Jungkook couldn’t be prouder, hand finding Jimin’s beneath the table to squeeze it, kissing Jimin’s cheek just because (or it might be because of the champagne. He’ll never tell).
If only Jimin had a camera.
He’s lying in bed, the room dark except for the light over the sink of their kitchen. Jungkook is asleep beside him, cuddled into their mattress, cheeks pink from alcohol and maybe a lot of kissing (and a lot more than kissing).
Despite his initial reluctance to taking a required photography course, Jimin’s heart aches for a camera.
He has over three hundred pictures of Jungkook, many of which were displayed at his gallery tonight, but he’ll never get tired of it. He’ll never tire of capturing Jungkook’s smile, his eyes, the lithe curve of his body beneath their sheets—will never tire of trying to capture the way Jungkook’s laugh sounds in a picture, in a drawing, in a painting.
Jungkook is Jimin’s favorite subject.
It’s with this thought that Jimin finally turns away from the sweet and softly resting man beside him, stands from their mattress still naked, and crosses the room.
His first earnings as an artist, all in the envelope on their kitchen counter—or at least what was left over after he treated them all to dinner.
It’s surreal, Jimin muses. Art has always been his escape—his way to be who he wanted to be, to be with who he wanted to be. To feel how he wanted to. For a long time, Jimin could only love Jungkook through his art.
It’s surreal to think that he was once told his art was aimless, purposeless, a waste of his time—but the money in his hands has come from his art.
From Jungkook, really, Jimin thinks, turning to look back at the bed where his sleeping lover rests. Because what would his art be without him?
Jimin takes his envelope with the last bit of money he earned and finds a place to hide it—tapes the envelope to the back of the fridge in a place Jungkook will never find.
Maybe one day his art can buy him a ring.
Chapter 7: Maybe We'll Turn To Gold
Sometimes, at his lowest, Jimin forgets the way back home.
It’s cold on the roof of Hoseok’s apartment building, but Jimin still has a good feeling about tonight.
It’s New Year’s Eve, after all.
“One hour,” Jungkook quips, his breath visible with the cold. Even against the cloudy night sky, Jimin can make out the crinkles of his eye-smile. “And then rice cakes.”
“Is that really the most important thing?” Jimin asks, his laughter muffled under the thick scarf wrapped around his neck.
Jungkook slips his hand into his.
“No,” he replies. He kisses him fully on his scarf-covered lips. His breath lightly smells of soju. “You are.”
Oh. Jimin’s cheeks warm significantly, almost too hot under his scarf. That’s not the answer he expects.
Jungkook giggles with adoration and leans in to let their noses touch. “You get flustered so easily, baby.”
Jimin frowns. “You’re cheesy.”
“Hey, you fell for it. I’m smooth. Like butter.” Jungkook slides his arms over Jimin’s shoulders to pull his body closer.
After he pecks him over the scarf again, Jimin spies something very interesting over Jungkook’s shoulder, on the opposite side of the roof.
It seems that Jimin and Jungkook are not the only ones being fluffy.
Jimin sees Yoongi laughing warily as he digs into a green gift bag, which he suspects is from Hoseok, who is standing in front of him with a fond smile. They’re in their own world and don’t seem to have any awareness of their dongsaengs staring at them.
“Oh, so that’s where they’ve been,” Jungkook says, turning so he can look, too. He seems to have forgotten for a moment that he and Jimin aren’t the only ones up here.
When Yoongi pulls out a Kumamon beanie from the bag, he ducks his head with embarrassment, barely able to look at it.
Neither Jimin nor Jungkook have ever seen Yoongi so soft. His bashfulness is rare and refreshing, existing only under Hoseok’s bright smile.
Hoseok laughs at him and takes the beanie. He places it on the blushing rapper’s head and straightens it, shifting it around and moving bangs out of his eyes. The red on Yoongi’s face deepens to crimson, his head bowing low enough to sink against Hoseok’s chest to hide his face. It’s personal and sweet, and Jimin can’t help smiling in admiration.
“Cute,” Jungkook says, burying his cold nose against Jimin’s hair. “But we’re cuter. Are they really not dating yet?”
Jimin is about to respond when he realizes that both their hyungs are looking at them now.
“None of your fucking business!” Yoongi snaps, crossing his arms and turning away from Jimin’s and Jungkook’s knowing looks.
Jimin grins. “I thought all of us were supposed to be celebrating New Year’s together.”
“You two wandered off,” Hoseok points out, dragging Yoongi along as he makes his way back to Jimin and Jungkook.
“You just gave Yoongi-hyung a real gift,” Jungkook argues with a smirk. “You said we were doing a white elephant.”
“My building. I do what I want.” Hoseok playfully tugs on the flap of the beanie. “Besides, Yoongi-hyung deserves gifts from people who adore him.” He slips his arm around his shoulders. “Right, babe?”
Yoongi tsks at the term of endearment and returns to his default half-frown, but he doesn’t make any attempt at removing Hoseok’s arm. He leans a bit against Hoseok instead.
“I didn’t get you anything.”
“I think a New Year’s kiss will do.” Hoseok waggles his eyebrows.
Both Jimin and Jungkook suck in smiles as tough, guarded Yoongi’s cheeks turn from rosy pink to tomato red.
“Anyway,” the rapper coughs, pulling the beanie forward—as if that helps. “When are Namjoon and Jin-hyung getting here?”
“In a bit, I hope,” Hoseok replies, fishing his phone out of his jacket pocket to see if he has any messages. None, judging from his impatient expression. “Joonie told me they got slammed tonight.”
Jungkook tucks his chin over Jimin’s shoulder, face angling and burying under his scarf, into his neck. Jimin senses that he’s already feeling shy at the thought of their arrival.
The two of them met Namjoon only recently despite Hoseok and Yoongi talking about him at Yoongi’s bar, The Cypher, all the time. Not only is he a frequent collaborator of Yoongi’s, but he’s the maître d’ at Rosegold—the Rosegold, an extremely popular top-rated restaurant. And its head chef happens to be Namjoon’s boyfriend Seokjin, who Jimin and Jungkook will be meeting for the first time tonight.
Jimin hears a muffled Katalk! and turns to see Hoseok checking his phone again.
“Ah, spoke too soon,” he says with relief. “They’re coming up the stairs.”
Jungkook tightens his arms around Jimin.
“Need another drink to calm you down?” Jimin whispers, nosing comfortingly into his hair.
Jungkook plants a grateful kiss against his neck. It feels moist and pleasantly warm.
“Maybe,” he murmurs. “I only had one so far.”
“I thought one would be enough,” Jimin teases.
“Don’t make fun of me,” Jungkook whines, and pokes into both sides of his waist, laughing when Jimin squirms and bursts into giggles.
“Walking PDA,” Yoongi snorts as he goes over to their New Year’s setup—a bed tray sitting on a picnic blanket with a few bottles of soju, plastic cups, and the white elephant exchange gifts sitting on top. Just under the table are two pizza boxes—probably nearing empty.
As soon as Yoongi grabs a plastic cup, the rooftop door swings open.
“Hey, Hoseok-ah—you didn’t tell me that you aren’t even allowed up here,” a broad-shouldered man with light brown hair complains as soon as he appears, a box of rice cakes in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other. Jimin reasons that this is Seokjin. He is closely followed by Namjoon, who’s holding a sizable, unmarked gift under each arm.
Jungkook doesn’t know Namjoon well enough to be comfortable, so he stays hidden behind Jimin as the newest arrivals make their way to the table.
“That’s why I said sneak up in my text, Jin-hyung,” Hoseok replies. “Besides, a single metal chain isn’t going to stop anyone.”
Seokjin frowns. As soon as he sets the rice cakes and champagne down on the crowded table, he turns around and sees Jimin and Jungkook, who are both blinking at him with curiosity.
“What the—” Seokjin laughs a bit and points at them both. “How are these kids so cute? Are they trying to be better-looking than me?”
Neither Jimin nor Jungkook can tell if he’s being serious or not, because while Hoseok cracks up and knocks the back of his hand against Seokjin’s shoulder, Namjoon smiles smugly and kisses the side of his head.
“No one’s as hot as you, babe,” he says.
After that, he’s formally introduced to Jimin and Jungkook. Jimin flashes his normal smile, while Jungkook ducks his head and mumbles his name. Jimin recalls Hoseok telling him that Namjoon’s relationship with Seokjin is similar to his and Jungkook’s.
We’ll see, he thinks, watching Namjoon and Seokjin giggle at each other over nothing. They’re cute so far, but we’ll see.
The white elephant exchange game goes underway. Yoongi unwraps a pair of Sugar Daddy boxers (and keeps them because Hoseok got so excited over them), while Seokjin unwraps a Buns of Steel VHS tape that Jimin calls dibs on in exchange for the LED shutter shades he received—he and Jungkook are the only ones who actually own a VCR. Jungkook unwraps a can of Spam, which he keeps an iron grip on because it’s much-needed food.
The entire thing is lighthearted and full of laughter. Jimin can’t think of a better way to spend tonight.
“Guys, guys,” Seokjin speaks up over everyone’s loud laughter post-game. “It’s almost time!”
The six of them count down with shots of soju. As soon as the clocks on their phones strike midnight, fireworks shoot into the air from the ritzier part of the city, in the high-end parks and squares, far off from the dirtier, drearier places Jimin knows. But they still feel so close.
New Year’s Eve in Busan had been made up of diamond chandeliers, live orchestras, and expensive suits and dresses; indoors, caged by gold and marble.
But here, it’s clambering up (sometimes forbidden) stairwells of friends’ apartment buildings to the rooftop, laughing in the darkness, munching on rice cakes and drinking soju. It’s staring at the sky in wonder at the fireworks, no longer restricted by riches. He’s boundless. He can touch the sky like fireworks do and burst in laughter and joy as they explode in colors and light.
“Happy New Year, baby,” Jungkook murmurs.
Jimin turns from the fireworks to look up at his boyfriend. The fireworks reflect in his large, dark eyes. He’s so beautiful, gazing at Jimin like he’s his whole universe, like he is the definition of love, the only home he’s ever known.
“Happy New Year, Jungkook-ah,” Jimin replies with affection. He gets on his tiptoes and sweeps his arms over Jungkook’s shoulders to kiss his piece of perfection.
Jungkook curls his fingers into Jimin’s hips and hums contentedly.
Jimin dares anyone to find something in life better than celebrating something with the person they love the most.
The mini-party continues. There is no food left, but plenty of alcohol. Jimin starts to feel bloated, so he slows down and wanders to the edge of the roof, empty-handed, for fresh air.
He’s leaning over the barrier to stare at the streets below and the buildings beyond when he hears a deep voice near him.
“These parts are nicer at night.”
Jimin looks away from the city landscape and finds Namjoon coming up next to him, holding a bottle of beer.
“Definitely,” Jimin agrees and takes a second to glance back at Jungkook, sitting on a picnic blanket near the tray table with Seokjin. Jungkook’s drunk enough to warm up to him and Namjoon (at least for now) and is currently talking comics with the chef.
Namjoon follows his stare. “Jungkook’s an interesting kid.”
“He’s—” Jimin doesn’t know how to summarize Jungkook. He’s more than interesting, for sure, but Jimin could write essays about the infinite galaxies in his eyes, the beautiful crinkles of his eye-smile, the affection that comes in full, unabashed force when they’re alone. He could speak for hours about Jungkook’s talent and drive, his unwavering loyalty, the way he always knows how Jimin is feeling and knows how to make him feel better. It’s why Jungkook is his constant muse—there is always something about him to paint and draw. His inspiration is infinite.
“He’s the love of my life,” he responds softly.
Namjoon grins, as if he knows. “I know that feeling.”
“What, being in love?”
“Trying to simplify it in only so many words.” When Jimin blinks at him in surprise, he continues. “You paused for several seconds. Thinking. You’re staring at him with the softest, most vulnerable eyes, wondering how in the world you can answer that question without talking my ear off.”
“You’re really intuitive, I guess,” Jimin tells him.
Namjoon shrugs. “I like to think and see how others think—not to sound creepy or anything.” He stops to take a drink. “I still do it, too. I look at my boyfriend and I wonder how his laughter became my music and how his love became my muse. It’s so internal—I feel much more than that, but there’s no possible way, in any language, I can say it. It’d never do my feelings justice.”
This is what Hoseok-hyung meant, Jimin realizes. “Yeah, I… I see Jungkookie as my muse, too. He’s everything to me.”
He wishes he was verbally artistic like Namjoon seems to be.
“Would you spend the rest of your life with him?”
Jimin thinks of the envelope of money behind the fridge, slowly but surely getting fatter, and tosses a look at Jungkook again, laughing with Seokjin, Hoseok, and Yoongi. He looks content with this humble life, secure in his love.
Jungkook feels his eyes this time and turns to him. His smile widens and changes—it’s brighter, sweeter, more familiar; it’s one that belongs to Jimin alone. Jimin doesn’t quite hear him over the others’ chatter, but he does see his lips form his name.
Jimin’s soul glows.
He doesn’t have to say anything for Namjoon to know his answer.
“Jin-hyung,” Namjoon mutters, his voice low. He must be looking at his own boyfriend, too. “I have enough money stowed away for a ring. I plan on sharing the rest of my life with him.”
Jimin isn’t sure why Namjoon chooses to disclose this to him—he’s not as close to him as Hoseok and Yoongi are. But maybe it’s that weird intuition—telling him it’s okay to trust Jimin. They understand each other; they share the same views on love.
It will take a long time to get to where Namjoon is—Jimin is painfully aware of it. He has never been so sure of someone’s permanence in his life and wishes he issn’t scraping by, juggling rent and utilities and food just to keep the roof over his and Jungkook’s heads, so he could get that ring sooner.
But he can wait. He hopes Jungkook can, too.
I should trust he can.
Jungkook is standing now, teetering a bit as he bounds to Jimin and tackles him in a hug. He smells strongly of champagne.
“Your face is really red,” Jimin comments. “How much did you drink?”
“I love you,” Jungkook purrs, ignoring his question. His arms become tight around his waist, and he nuzzles into his neck in a way that reminds Jimin of a bunny.
Jimin’s scarf slips down as he turns his head into him, allowing him to place his bare lips against Jungkook’s head. His body buzzes with the warm, easy electricity between them.
“I love you, too,” he replies, his heart surging with emotion. He loves Jungkook so much—to the ends of the universe and more.
Namjoon chuckles and slips away to join Seokjin. Jimin watches him for a moment, at how he and Seokjin instinctively catch each other’s eyes as Namjoon sinks down next to him on the blanket—at the way they turn their bodies into each other, completely in sync. They share a peace between them; they feel entirely at home. Namjoon just needs the ring, and they will be complete.
Jimin supposes Hoseok is right. He does see himself and Jungkook in Namjoon and Seokjin.
He sees where he wants to be.
The peace of the holidays doesn’t last long, Jimin thinks. No, not thinks—he knows. It’s clear in Jungkook’s expression as he stares at his phone, his jaw slack, eyes a mixture of confusion and suspicion.
“Baby? Jungkook-ah?” Jimin calls out, knitting his brows. His hand reaches across the cardboard box to touch the top of his.
Jungkook jolts back to attention, blinking at the hand wrapping around his free one with worry.
“Oh,” he says dumbly. He grips his phone tighter. “Sorry. Did you say something?”
“No,” Jimin replies in a soft voice. “You’ve just been staring at your phone for the past minute.”
“I—” Jungkook pauses to take in a deep breath, and Jimin braces himself. He has no reason to distrust his boyfriend, but he is afraid something will come along and ruin the calm perfection they have in Seoul. They have a routine here. Mundane, but peaceful. They’re happy.
“Babe, it’s nothing bad, but…”
“My… my brother’s in town.”
“How is that not bad?” he asks in a tight voice. Anyone having to do with Busan does not bode well. Busan is ruined paintings, ashes where a face he’s shaped with love and oil paints used to be. It’s the sputter of venomous words, the sneers of family members. Busan is going from having everything at his disposal to sacrificing it all just to be happy.
To be poor but content.
Jungkook has the gall to look offended. “Jimin, this is my brother. You know how he is.”
“What’s he doing here?” Jimin asks, refusing to meet Jungkook’s eyes. “It’s been, what? Nine months since you last talked to him?”
He hears his voice start to shake and lose strength. He sounds unsure, and he knows he hasn’t heard it like this since coming to Seoul. Jungkook probably hears it, too. His voice is mild as he speaks up again, silently reassuring him of his love and devotion despite whatever he has to say, but it does nothing for Jimin.
“Baby... I… I talked to him last month.”
Jimin only stares at him in disbelief. “What?”
Jimin feels all his breath leave him. There—the thing that will disrupt their steady flow of life. This is the storm he should prepare for. This is what could take Jungkook away from him.
“H-He asked me why I wasn’t coming home for Christmas and—”
Jungkook is silent for a long moment.
Jimin stares at his bowl of ramen. He grasps noodles between his chopsticks but finds that he has lost his appetite. The boil of his blood sates him instead, filling his stomach and his veins with scarring bitterness.
“Hyung,” Jungkook sighs. “Obviously I told him I wasn’t coming home because I’d rather spend the holidays with you.”
Jimin sets his chopsticks down, but he doesn’t respond. He shouldn’t feel so betrayed over this. He shouldn’t.
“Why the fuck would I go back to Busan, anyway?” Jungkook is clearly frustrated and Jimin can’t blame him. “Seoul is my home now. You’re my home. You’re overreacting.”
He’s right, Jimin tells himself, but flickers of doubt and betrayal start to lap at his heart, even though he knows it’s wrong. So what if he didn’t find out until now that Jungkook still talks to his family? Does it make a difference if he had told him right when he got the call?
“Jiminnie-hyung. Babe, look at me.”
Jimin feels two warm hands slide over his, which is clenched with his anger. He swallows down whatever impulsive words he could have barked out, and instead raises his eyes to meet Jungkook’s.
“He says he’s only here on business,” Jungkook explains. “The company opened a new branch here in Seoul and he’s checking it out. He’s going to make sure everything is going smoothly so that they can operate without direct supervision from Busan. Then he’ll leave.”
Jimin can’t help a bitter smirk. For a moment, Jungkook sounds like a Jeon of Jeon Industries, when he was raised to be the next family business tycoon.
Jungkook’s phone buzzes again. He lets go of Jimin to check his new message. When he does, he blinks with surprise.
“He wants to have lunch tomorrow.”
“Because I’m his brother and he probably misses me? Why do you keep snapping at me?”
“I’m sorry,” Jimin murmurs, forcing down his stubbornness. He can’t blame Jungkook for leaving Busan on better terms with his family than Jimin himself did.
Jungkook touches his hand again. This time, he squeezes with a need for Jimin’s comfort.
“Baby…” Jungkook starts, his expression softer. “I don’t know what Jaehyun-hyung wants. I’m not exactly happy about how sudden this is, you know? It’s just… he’s my brother.”
I have to go. Jimin hears this silent addition to his boyfriend’s words. He supposes it makes sense.
Jungkook’s eyes suddenly brighten with an idea. “Hey, you should come with me tomorrow.”
Jimin tries not to grimace. “I can’t.”
He frowns. “Why not? I thought you guys liked each other. He’d want to—”
“Jungkook, I—” I don’t want you to miss Busan. I don’t want to be jealous that you have family to talk to. “—I have a lot to do tomorrow at work.”
He should’ve expected that his boyfriend wouldn’t buy it. Jimin doesn’t lie well, especially to him.
However, Jungkook relents this time. “Okay,” he sighs. “I won’t try and convince you. Just let me have this, okay? I want to see him.”
“Of course,” Jimin says, pulling his lips into a smile. When Jungkook’s expression doesn’t let up, Jimin rubs his thumb affectionately over his knuckles. “I understand, baby. Really.”
He knows Jungkook worries over his happiness, but he should do what he wants to do, and despite everything, Jimin should let him.
Because Jungkook senses Jimin’s continuing moodiness, he doesn’t crack jokes the rest of the night—he only studies his notes on the mattress and every now and then turns to check on Jimin.
Jimin, meanwhile, sits at their box and draws in his sketchbook. He isn’t particularly struck with inspiration, but he does find himself drawing Busan. It starts with the sea he used to love so much. From there, it turns into a mini-map of the places he used to go to with Jungkook—the restaurants, the movies, the galleries, the theaters, the parks, even their high school. Busan had been beautiful because of Jungkook.
But then he realizes, as he loses himself in thought, that he outlines Jungkook’s old house.
Jimin frowns, his hand freezing over the paper. The more he stares at the unmistakable outline, the worse he feels. He can’t erase it; the ballpoint pen ink makes it permanent.
What if he misses his family enough to want to go back? an awful, sordid part of his brain wonders. His brother wanted him back for Christmas, after all; it’s a holiday for families.
Jimin jumps at the feel of two hands on his shoulders, gently massaging him back to reality.
“Jungkook-ah?” he whispers.
Jungkook leans over to kiss his cheek. He glances at the drawings, impressed. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” is the only response Jimin can muster. He dips his head, unable to resist the kneading easing relaxation through him.
“It’s so pretty. You’re really good at every kind of art, aren’t you?”
Jimin hums softly. He knows Jungkook is trying to sweet-talk him, to get his mind off his brother. It almost works, but Jimin’s mind tends to dig and dig into worry and dark thoughts. It always finds a way to bury itself within him.
“Are you still studying?” Jimin asks in a murmur.
“Kind of… are you sleepy?” Jungkook stops massaging him and slides his arms over his shoulders and puts his weight, his love, against his back, silently insisting that he loves Jimin more than anyone or anything.
“Got anything major coming up? I don’t—”
“No, no,” Jungkook cuts in and nuzzles the side of his face. “We can go to bed.”
Jimin doesn’t wait for Jungkook before slumping onto their bed. He wants to sleep this mess of a night away. He doesn’t want to look at Jungkook and feel like there’s a chance of him leaving. He doesn’t want to see him excited about his brother, knowing that there is no hope for himself of reconciling with anyone from his own family.
His boyfriend slides behind to spoon him, one loving arm wrapped over his belly, the other tucking under Jimin’s head as a replacement pillow.
Jimin’s heart swells and aches; he commends Jungkook for his patience, especially when Jimin’s not making it easy for either of them.
I don’t deserve you.
“Jiminnie,” his boyfriend whispers, his face burrowing into his neck. His breath is warm and gentle, aware of Jimin’s tension. “I will choose you every time. Don’t forget that, okay?"
And he always has, Jimin muses, his fingers brushing across the forearm folded possessively around him.
After all, Jungkook chose to leave Busan. He chose to stay here in this shitty little box of an apartment with him.
But it’s not enough to soothe him, and it makes him pause, if only for one small thought to slip through.
He can still choose to leave.
The restaurant Jungkook’s brother takes him to is nice—fancy, spacious, expensive like his old life. Even the vividly colored floral courtyard outside the window beside their table is similar to the one at the Jeon Estate.
But it’s not home, Jungkook notes with ease. Being here sort of feels like the Jeon Estate, but that’s not where he belongs; it’s not his shit apartment building or Jimin’s embrace.
Jungkook sighs with soft worry and checks his phone.
Jimin must have gotten up early. When his alarm went off this morning, he wasn’t there. Maybe it’s something for class or work. Jungkook doesn’t know, but he wishes he did; he usually does.
He wonders if Jimin feels better than he had last night. He knows Busan triggers a lot of bad memories, but it’s not his fault Jaehyun announced his presence out of the blue.
Baby, make sure you eat something, he decides to text him. You left without waking me up. I love you.
He’s busy, he reassures himself, though he swallows, a lump of concern sticking to his throat. He’s probably busy. Working hard.
“So, how are classes, Jungkook?”
Jaehyun hasn’t changed much since Jungkook last saw him. He is still well-groomed and confident. He probably looks like a king; he is the heir to their father’s fortune and legacy at Jeon Industries, after all.
Most importantly, he’s still kind and supportive. A little guarded, but otherwise, the same brother he’s always known.
“They’re okay,” Jungkook says honestly as he sets his phone down next to him. “I still have a lot of core classes left. Jiminnie’s are going pretty well, too.”
He’s aware that Jaehyun didn’t ask about Jimin, but Jungkook can never help himself. “He had to take this short-semester photography class. It was annoying at first, you know? He never put the camera down around me. Literally. His entire final project in his school’s gallery was made up of my face.”
Jungkook swears he sees his brother crack a smile, but it’s quick to disappear when he glances at him.
“That sounds like him,” he replies.
Jungkook finds himself calmer. Even talking about Jimin comforts him. “I was so embarrassed… but hyung—he got so many tips that night. He says it’s not much, but he was able to pay dinner for us and two friends at a nice place. Kind of like this one.”
Jaehyun nods thoughtfully. “That’s good.”
“Isn’t it?” Jungkook says proudly. “I think he even has some extra money left over, but that’s probably going towards rent.”
Jaehyun looks at him curiously.
“You love him, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, hyung.”
“Are you sure? I mean, he’s a guy.”
Anger starts to sear Jungkook’s veins. They’ve had this conversation before, when Jungkook was still in high school. Apparently, Jaehyun still doesn’t get it. He thinks love like his is temporary—that Jungkook will eventually go back to Busan and get married off to some rich girl of their family’s choosing.
“It doesn’t make a fucking difference. I’m gay, hyung, in case you haven’t noticed that I’ve been kissing a boy for the past few years of my life. Pretty sure I’m gonna be gay forever.”
“Don’t be a smartass.”
“Well, don’t be ignorant,” Jungkook huffs. “Why the hell would you question my relationship with Jimin? I’d marry him in a heartbeat!”
The last sentence hangs in the air, almost like it’s ringing. Jungkook’s face is afire as he looks at his brother, whose eyes widen a considerable amount.
Jungkook got so caught up in the heat of the moment that the words just spilled out. He’s never thought about it much before—not seriously, anyway, nor has he ever said anything like that. Not even to Jimin.
“B-But, we’re not—” he sputters, flustered beyond belief. His heart races, and he feels himself turn redder and redder. “—like, we just got a bed—a m-mattress, really since we can’t afford much—but it’s our own money that we earned by oursel—I don’t even know why I’m telling you—it doesn’t matter. Like—”
“—I still want to graduate first, of course. T-Then, Jiminnie and I can—”
“Jungkook,” Jaehyun presses.
Jungkook goes still.
“It’s fine,” Jaehyun says quietly. His lips stretch to a smile; maybe he sees honesty in Jungkook’s eyes—at least, honesty is what Jungkook feels. His heart basks in the truth of his love, light and complete.
Jungkook is young, but he can’t imagine his life without Jimin. He loves him with his entire soul. He is his other half. Jimin keeps him on his feet and keeps him working hard to make his dreams—their dreams—come true.
Jungkook wants to grow old with him; he wants forever. Even when their dreams come true, he wants to create new ones together.
I want to marry Jimin.
“It’s all over your face,” Jaehyun continues. “And you… you say his name with a kind of affection I never knew you had.” He looks at him a bit guiltily. “I’m sorry to have doubted your feelings for him, Jungkook-ah, because I get it.”
“What makes you happy. What will continue to make you happy.”
Jungkook’s mind instantly goes to Jimin, coming home to him with a tired but genuine smile, always ready for kisses and hugs.
“I’m extremely happy.”
“Happiness should be more important than luxury. I have no right to judge. A… mattress, you said?”
Jungkook blushes a bit. “Y-Yeah. We got it last month.”
“You’re doing well for yourself, then, Jungkook-ah. You and Jimin. You started with nothing coming here, right? Now look at you.” Jaehyun’s eyes dance with love and pride, and Jungkook wishes he had a camera to capture it.
“I’m proud, Jungkook-ah. You’re a good kid.”
His brother’s eyes look different now, an accepting, familial tenderness Jungkook hasn’t seen in a long, long time. He misses the way it makes his heart beam and fill with energy. He’s always wanted to make his brother proud, and he sees it on his face. He feels it, too, thrumming through his veins.
Jungkook gulps down the tightness in his throat and averts his gaze to his plate. He feels tears brim in his eyes. “Thanks, hyung.”
The rest of lunch goes pretty well. It’s not as bad as it could have been. He and his brother re-familiarize with each other enough to actually feel like brothers again. Jungkook doesn’t miss Busan enough to go back, but he finds that having a piece of it in a good place in his heart isn’t a bad thing.
Jaehyun drops Jungkook off at his school. It feels so vividly reminiscent of Busan that Jungkook almost catches himself from thinking that it’s where they are.
“Hey, give omma a call sometime,” Jaehyun says as Jungkook opens his car door. “She missed you at Christmas.”
Jungkook pauses. “I will.”
He gazes at his brother one last time. He feels sort of sad, because his life in Busan wasn’t all bad, not with Jaehyun. Jaehyun often defended him from their parents when they were angry, even as children, and he’s overall a good hyung. Jungkook is always grateful.
He doesn’t regret this meeting at all.
“You’re really going back tomorrow?” he can’t help asking.
Jaehyun’s face falls a bit. “Yeah. If I could stay longer, I would.”
“It’s fine.” Jungkook steps out, and then bends over to look in. “Take care, Jaehyunie-hyung.”
Jaehyun smiles. “You too, Jungkook. Both you and your future husband.”
Jungkook laughs as he closes the door.
Future husband, he muses, unable to stop smiling as he watches the car peel away from the curb toward the afternoon sun.
He likes the sound of that.
“The kid still hasn’t said anything?”
“Nope. And he still refuses to eat.”
“Fuck. Not even the bar peanuts?”
“He won’t touch them.”
Yoongi and Hoseok are currently talking about Jimin as if he’s not sitting on the stool right in front of them, but he doesn’t care. He’s too busy numbing himself with whiskey, losing himself in thought until he gets too numb to do that, too.
Jimin is the type to think ahead. So far ahead, sometimes, that he goes overboard and stumbles into unnecessary concerns. It worsens when he’s drunk, and usually, Jungkook is there to reel him back.
But he’s not here.
Jaehyun probably doesn’t have time to stay and wait for him, he thinks, gears whirring, mind speeding at a million kilometers a second. Jungkook will need a weekend to pack. Then I can put him on a train to go to Busan. I have enough.
Jimin knocks back the rest of his scotch and lets the empty glass hit the counter. He’s dizzy and his throat burns, but it’s better than the pain eating his heart.
The ring money. I can use the ring money.
Yoongi stares at him, knitting his brows. “Jimin…”
We don’t have to get married. Jungkook can go home. He can live in luxury instead of being poor and dirty. He can have a life I’ll never have. He’ll have his family.
It’s not impossible. And the more he thinks about it, the more plausible it seems. It’ll be easy—so, so easy.
He pushes the empty glass toward Yoongi, feeling his thoughts echo dangerously into insanity.
We don’t have to marry. We don’t need a ring.
Hoseok grabs Jimin’s hand. Only then does the younger realize how much he’s shaking.
“Jimin-ah, stop,” he tells him with concern. “It’s only three in the afternoon, for fuck’s sake.”
“I’m cutting you off,” Yoongi adds, snatching back the glass. “You’re a wreck and you won’t talk.”
“You and Jungkookie are okay?” Hoseok asks for the billionth time since they both arrived to the bar after work.
“Yes,” Jimin scoffs. “It’s just family bullshit.” That's partially true.
“Are you sure you don’t want to talk to Jungkookie about it? I mean—”
“He’s busy today,” Jimin answers quickly. “Yoongi-hyung. Just one more, please?”
“You’ve had enough,” the bartender says curtly. There’s a rare softness in his eyes that makes Jimin realize that he must look that horrible in front of them right now.
Yoongi gets him water. Jimin takes sips of it, but he still thirsts for an alcoholic stupor. He doesn’t tell his hyungs this, though; he doesn’t tell them anything.
It takes a while for Jimin to sober up to a mild buzz, and Yoongi, who has been running around the bar because of incoming post-work customers, returns to him and Hoseok.
“It’s almost five,” the rapper-bartender announces. “Doesn’t your boyfriend leave school around this time?”
“Yeah. He does.”
Yoongi stares at him for a moment. Jimin wonders if he knows—if his paranoia is that clear in his eyes. “Jimin-ah.”
“Go home to Jungkook. Please.”
Yoongi never says please.
That bad, huh?
Jimin presses his lips in a thin line before replying. “Okay.”
Hoseok stands up from his stool. “I’ll walk you out.”
The winter air hits Jimin’s face as soon as they exit. He welcomes the coldness; it feels nice after being inside for so long, drinking until his face burned red.
“You even have Yoongi worried,” Hoseok speaks up, frowning at Jimin and carding a nurturing hand through his hair. “And he hates worrying himself over others.”
“I figured,” Jimin replies. He shoves his hands into his pockets and refuses to meet Hoseok’s eyes.
“You’re okay to leave? Need me to walk with you?”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“If you’re sure—”
“I’m sure.” He sighs. “But thanks, hyung.”
Hoseok finally leaves him alone after Jimin answers a million more questions and after more reassurance that he’s sober enough to walk home. When he disappears back into the bar, Jimin turns toward the intersection and forces his feet to move.
Go home to Jungkook.
That’s what Yoongi said, and that’s what Jimin agreed to do.
“Go home to Jungkook,” he says out loud, his promise materializing in the cold. “I should go home to Jungkook.”
His boyfriend Jungkook, who is probably elated about seeing his brother, whose eyes will crinkle as he recounts their conversations about what used to be home. No—maybe he still considers Busan home. Maybe he misses it. He has a disappointed but loving family who’d be more than happy to welcome him back.
Jimin doesn’t want to hear about any of it. Selfishly, he doesn’t want Jungkook to talk excitedly about anything other than Jimin himself. He dreads unlocking the door, seeing his boyfriend jump up, with stories of brotherhood and Busan flying out of his mouth. He wants to be happy for him; he wishes it, with all his heart.
But I’m a selfish fuck.
He slows to stare at the crosswalk light ahead. It blurs with his forming tears. He can’t see, but he knows the rest of the way to the apartment by heart. He could get there blind.
A tear slides down his cheek, his chest blistering with shame, his throat closing with anxiety.
What am I doing?
This is Jungkook, the love of his life. Jungkook is home. He is Jimin’s reason for living.
So why doesn’t he want to go home to that? What is wrong with him?
Jungkookie, what do I do?
“Jungkookie,” he mutters, and now that he hears his voice thick and broken and disheartened, he realizes that the person he always leans on is now the one crumbling him.
I shouldn’t depend on him.
Jimin misses the sweet haze of drunkenness, the numbness coursing in his limbs, allowing him to forget how to think and stay lost in nothingness.
He needs that; that’s what he’ll depend on.
So he rounds the street corner, ignoring the walk signal trying to pull him back where he’s supposed to go—the way back to Jungkook.
Hello, lovelies~ another huuuuge thank you for reading our fic! We adore every message, kudo, and comment!
This has been (and will be) repeated several times, but, this is our child and we enjoy seeing it grow. We also obsess over every aspect of it like parents and want to share that obsession with you, so... we bring you DM-related playlists and Tumblr tags to give you guys a better feel of what we created!
We hope you enjoy!
Chapter 8: Interlude: Blue Neighborhood
Leave this blue neighbourhood
Never knew loving could hurt this good, oh
And it drives me wild
'Cause when you look like that
I've never ever wanted to be so bad, oh
It drives me wild
Jungkook is six years old when his mother takes him to the ballet.
The movement is fascinating to him. The dancers look so free, spinning and twirling and looking graceful and exhilarating, invigorating Jungkook until he’s on the edge of his seat, perched in such anticipation that he swears he could jump with the ballerina as she’s caught by her partner, looking free and beautiful. Almost like she’s about to fly.
He’s six years old when he hears his parents discuss his desire to dance. They only comply if he promises to work hard, and his father teaches him about dedication and appearances.
“The men of the Jeon family don’t quit,” he tells Jungkook across the dinner table. “I hope this is something you really want.”
“Jaehyun has played piano since he was seven,” his mother supplies. “You’ve learned a lot, haven’t you?”
Jaehyun nods, and Jungkook’s eyes go wide at his hyung’s kind but stern face. “You have to practice every day, Jungkook-ah. It builds character.”
Their father agrees proudly, and Jungkook goes to his first dance class with the utmost attention. He doesn’t know what it means to build character, but he wants to try to do it anyway. His brother told him to practice every day, and his father told him to work hard; he promises to do both.
He practices every day, taking his lessons home with him and actually cleaning his room so he has enough floor space. The classes start easy, and Jungkook breezes through so much of his Beginner class that he skips to the Intermediate class closest to his age range.
His classes consist mainly of slightly older girls than him, who coo at him and audition to be his partner as one of the only (and most talented) boys of their dance group, but Jungkook is only happy to be the lead. He feels a little cheated out of “working hard” when he’s almost instantly given a lead role.
But his family is proud. His mother hugs him and tells him so after his first lead performance, and his hyung pats him on the head with a, “Good job, Jungkook-ah!” His father treats him to his favorite meal and assures him that if he keeps this up, he’ll be ready for even bigger and better things.
Jungkook is eight years old the first time he learns about “bigger and better things.”
They’re at an event--an event that forces Jungkook into one of his itchy, stiff suits. The ones he tugs on--yanks on his tie and unbuttons his cuffs until his mother straightens him back out and tells him that he better not do it again.
“You have to be presentable, Jungkook-ah. That’s enough,” she tells him, tucking his gel-slicked hair behind his ear.
He scans the room and can tell that he is easily the youngest one there, aside from maybe a young girl whom he’s talked to on a few occasions purely because their families have made them. Her name is Eunwoo, and she looks completely engrossed in whatever her sister is saying, looking up at her with big eyes as she gestures to a group of people.
Eunwoo’s sister is older than even Jungkook’s hyung, and at the thought of him, Jungkook shifts onto his tip toes, gaze sifting through the crowd until he spots Jaehyun.
“Hyung,” Jungkook mutters approaching Jaehyun with a tug on his suit jacket. He’s never liked these functions--never feels like he can breathe, and not just because of the suit. He looks up at Jaehyun’s stern gaze, pouting in the hopes that he’ll soften.
“Jungkook-ah, please don’t interrupt,” he says.
Jungkook pouts even further. His hyung is only eleven. How come he gets to boss Jungkook around all the time?
“But hyung,” he murmurs, and Jaehyun politely excuses himself from his small crowd of friends, their gazes lingering in amusement. “I don’t like it here. Omma buttoned my sleeves again.” Jungkook rolls his shoulders and feels the buttons of his coat strain at the movement. He itches desperately to undo them, to pull his tie loose again, but he gets the feeling he won’t only be scolded by his mother if he does so.
“Jungkook-ah, why don’t you go talk to your friends?”
“What friends?” Jungkook grumbles.
Jaehyun sighs. “Well, you’re going to have to make some, then. What about Eunwoo? Omma says you get along.”
“Because omma makes me!” Jungkook pouts, and Jaehyun shakes his head.
“Jungkook-ah, you can’t just cry because you’re uncomfortable.” (“I’m not crying!” But Jaehyun doesn’t let him finish). “You have to start thinking about these things, okay? Remember when Appa told you to work hard and practice at dance?”
Jungkook grumbles but nods.
“It’s just like that, okay? Being at these things--it’s like… Like a skill, okay? You have to practice and learn, and you’ll be rewarded for it all the same. But you have to try, okay?” Jaehyun ruffles his hair, the first softness Jungkook has seen from him all night, and it only makes Jungkook want to pout again (thought he resists) and straighten out his hair before his omma can yell at him.
“I know this isn’t like dance,” Jaehyun continues, and Jungkook listens raptly now. Despite their differences, his hyung always seems to understand him best. “It’s not as fun, but it’s important. To appa, to the family. You’re going to have to start doing these things, just like me.”
Jaehyun turns at the sound of his friends calling him back, and he pats Jungkook’s shoulder. “Work hard, okay?”
Jungkook watches him go. He’s not even sure what he’s supposed to work toward, but watching him makes Jungkook understand a little.
Jaehyun is all smiles and wild gestures, his small crowd of friends listening and nodding. He’s only eleven, but he reminds Jungkook of their father, capturing a crowd easily. Even from a distance, Jungkook can tell that he’s the one at the center of attention; he’s in control of the conversation.
Jungkook turns and finds Eunwoo in the crowd again. He sees her on her own, and determined to work hard, he marches towards her.
Jungkook is ten years old, and working hard isn’t as easy as it once was.
He’s still in dance, though he’s tried all different kinds. He finds contemporary to be the hardest, and because of that, he latches onto it. It’s not worth it if it isn’t difficult, he reasons. It’s supposed to be hard, to be a challenge. He figures he’ll grow soft, easy, dull, if he’s not challenging himself.
And that’d be all well if Jungkook wasn’t feeling so worn in every other aspect. School isn’t necessarily hard, but he’s somehow been tricked into study groups after school. Jaehyun says it’s for the best, even if it sometimes cuts into his dance practice (which he needs, thank you very much), but Jungkook feels stuffy, like he’s being robbed of his only leisure time.
It’s after school hours, so he throws his uniform jacket over the back of his chair. He loosens his tie and rolls up his sleeves. He’s only at school, so he doesn’t have to have his hair slicked back (gross; he hates gel), but he runs his fingers through his hair anyway, just to ruffle himself more.
For a second, he feels a little better. It’s a little easier to breathe, to lean back in the uncomfortable library chair and stretch.
“Hi, Jungkook,” Eunwoo says as she joins him at his table.
Jungkook instantly straightens and nods in return, and soon the rest of his friends are joining him, filtering in from all sides. Youngjae, Yugyeom, Soo-young all circle around, and they share notes. The first half hour is always actual study time, filling in gaps of the material for each other. But eventually, the conversation shifts away from school.
Jungkook tries to engage, but the topics are of little interest to him--talks of weekend tutoring sessions (ew) and family functions that they’ll all probably attend together.
Jungkook still hates those functions; it hardly feels like a family event or like bonding. He’s heard his father talk. He’s heard Jaehyun, even, and every word to their “friends” all sound so formal. It’s like a business deal. Jungkook can’t recall a time he’s heard warmth in his father’s voice when talking to his friends, and even Jaehyun always talks like he’s trying to get leverage--like the conversation isn’t complete until he gets something out of it.
“Jungkook-ah,” Soo-young says, and Jungkook looks up from his book to find the whole table watching him. “Ah, sorry,” she laughs, but he waves his hand and urges her to continue. “We were just wondering--we want to have our own table this Friday.”
Friday, Jungkook thinks, scouring his internal calendar. There’s an event--a charity function, he distantly recalls. He’d groaned about it to Jaehyun when their mother informed them, digging through their closets to find their nicer suits and get them dry cleaned, and Jaehyun had clicked his tongue at him.
“If we all talk to our parents, we can probably get our own table. Eunji and her friends did it a long time ago,” Eunwoo says. Eunji is her older sister, and Jaehyun has sat at her table before, although he tends to filter about and sit at a different table every function.
“Ah,” Jungkook says. He gets the feeling he should agree, but the thought of being caught at that table, all eyes on him as he tries to pretend like he wants the same kinds of friendships as Jaehyun, makes him break out in a sweat. He swallows over a hard lump of anxiety as he stutters out, “I-I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll be allowed.”
“Jaehyun doesn’t sit with your family anymore right?” Yugyeom presses.
“Jaehyun is older,” Jungkook hurriedly replies. Jaehyun is Jaehyun. Jaehyun is good at this kind of thing--always has been. And Jungkook has never quite fit that same suit-shaped mold.
“Oh,” Eunwoo says. Everyone turns their gazes slowly away from him as he mutters his apologies, nose back in his textbook. “Well, if you change your mind, um. I think we’ll still try, right guys?”
Jungkook feels the guilt slither into his stomach. He feels the pit grow when he thinks about how he probably should have said yes--how Jaehyun would have said yes. His father would have scolded him for saying no.
The feeling follows him home, and he can’t even dance the feeling out of his stomach, practicing in his room before dinner. He trudges to the table still feeling utterly conflicted, wishing himself to be a little tougher, to work harder. He’s going to have to learn how to do this someday, and Jungkook is slowly realizing just how pressing that lesson is becoming as all his friends move forward without him.
“Jaehyun,” his father says at dinner, “Jung-ssi tells me you and Il-hoon will be attending a debate tournament this weekend.”
Jaehyun nods, hurriedly finishing the bite of food in his mouth. “I meant to tell you, we cleared at our school competition. Our teacher wants us to move to a local division.”
“Jaehyun, that’s great,” his mother praises gently. “Isn’t that accelerating quite fast, considering your year in school?”
Jaehyun shrugs. “It’s fairly common for us to move so quickly. I actually feel quite behind, so we’re preparing every chance we get.”
“Will you still have time for Lee Seunghyun-ssi’s charity auction on Friday? I’m sure everyone would understand if you had to miss,” his mother asks.
“Yang Hyun-suk-ssi seems to have taken a liking to you,” their father supplies, and Jungkook’s stomach drops even more, head perking up from where he’d bowed it over his plate. Yang Hyun-suk is a big deal. Lee Seunghyun-ssi may have organized the charity event, but it’s only because of Yang Hyun-suk, one of the biggest and most important names in his father’s circle of associates. “I’m sure he would be interested to hear you and your debate partner are advancing.”
“I’ll be there,” Jaehyun assures. “I was actually invited to sit with Kim Ji-won on Friday--you know he’s been accepted to Yang-ssi’s summer program?”
Oh god, Jungkook thinks, shaking a little in his seat. His parents perk up at that, chattering quickly about Jaehyun’s own application and resumes and all his experience to include, not to mention all the people--the friends--he has that will give him a good word.
And here Jungkook is, wallowing because he doesn’t want to talk to people. Doesn’t like the way all his friends and all of Jaehyun’s friends seem to use each other. Their relationships rely on good words to Yang Hyun-suk and partnering for debate and it all starts--Jungkook swallows heavily--with these stupid events.
Why don’t you talk to your friends? You’re going to have to make some. You’re going to have to learn.
Jungkook’s been putting it off, but this day has only made him realize just how far he has to go and how early he needs to start. He has to make friends and schmooze and pretend--has to take offers and invites, like invites for a study group or to sit together at a function. His name has to be known; he has to be known, so that people will offer him more invites and partnerships, no matter how much he doesn’t like it.
The chatter of the table dies down with promises to start Jaehyun’s application once they finish eating, and Jungkook uses his opportunity to clear his throat and loosen the anxiety that’s stopping his words in their tracks.
“Eunwoo said she and some other friends are going to try to have their own table at Lee Seunghyun-ssi’s event,” he stutters out, quiet as he shifts his fork against his plate idly.
“Oh?” Jaehyun asks, looking up with a raised eyebrow.
“Did you accept?” His mother asks.
“I… said I’d have to ask.”
“I think that would be a great idea, Jungkook,” his father says. He looks proud; his oldest son is well on his way to studying under the guidance of YG Corporation, and his other son is just entering the field--this world of business and plastic friendships.
Jungkook nods, ignoring his nerves alight with fire as they run through his veins. He’ll have to learn. Maybe one day he can capture attention like Jaehyun, make deals like Jaehyun. He has to, after all.
He tells his study group the next day that he’ll be able to join them, and he does his best to assert that no, no, I can handle reserving the table. Jaehyun taught me how.
At fourteen years old, Jungkook finds it all a little easier. The suits (both the ones he wears and the ones with whom he converses) are still suffocating--the functions, the meetings, the study groups all the more frequent as he balances school and social. He sends out applications to every summer program possible, even the programs run by corporations with whom he’s unacquainted.
Jaehyun is nearly on the college track to study management for a large branch of their family business, and it’s a high possibility that he’ll be partnering with Kim Ji-won under YG Corporation. Similarly, Jungkook seems to have found his footing, on top of his own ranks, and both The Jeon children are highly renowned. Jaehyun’s successes fuel Jungkook’s successes, and Jungkook has never felt such pressure to get further ahead before.
His dancing suffers, and while he still attends practice, he no longer competes. He doesn’t have time for the rigor that competing requires, and his parents assert that his attention and devotion is needed elsewhere, though Jungkook still wants. He leaves rehearsal rooms sweating and boneless, stretched thin but with a heart full of freedom and happiness and movement. His only respite is his dance and the weightlessness he feels, staying after hours to freestyle to the music pounding loud in his ears.
He still practices every day in his room, but his goal-oriented work ethic dissolves for dance, instead directed toward debate. He pairs with Kim Yugyeom and reaches local and regional divisions before even Jaehyun did. They’re aiming for nationals, and Jungkook’s strong friendship with Yugyeom has him leaning towards Park Jinyoung’s summer program where he’d learn the accounting side, rather than the managerial side, of business.
Numbers aren’t his strongest suit, but he’s not bad at them by any means. And Jungkook isn’t sure if he can handle meetings and social climbing for the rest of his career.
“Why not talk with Lee Soo-man’s interns?” Jungkook’s mother asks. She still insists on helping him dress for regal functions, straightening his tie and pressing his hair (though he’s since refused the gel). “Your brother was good friends with some of his associates. I know a lot of them are a bit older than you are, but I’m sure you’d be welcome.”
“I’ve talked with some of them,” Jungkook assures, flinching at his mother’s peckish fingers delicately arranging his bangs. “I don’t really like what their branch has to offer, omma.”
“You’re so good at it though,” Jaehyun says, crossing the room from where he’d been tying his own tie in a mirror. “Your speech is better than mine. You broke pretty quick in debate, too. Faster than I did.”
Jungkook sighs. He knows. He’s practically made for the stupid meetings and speeches and arrangements, the figurehead position. He’s a good candidate to be the frontman of Lee Soo-man’s junior outreach, but is it so bad that he wants to stay behind the scenes, tucked into his own space without having to interact with others?
Jaehyun is just as easily the figurehead out of the two of them. Why does Jungkook have to do the same?
“I hear Eunwoo has been considering Lee Soo-man’s offers, you know,” his mother continues.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Isn’t she your friend?” She says. “Her family is very well acquainted with ours, Jungkook-ah. We want it to stay that way.”
He knows, he knows, he knows. It helps the family and the business. Of course it does.
“You’ll be in a union with her as it is anyway. It would make sense--”
“Union?” Jungkook chokes. “What union?”
“Partnership,” his mother asserts. Her lips purse into a thin line as she brushes his shoulders, placing her hands there and looking him in the eye. “Technically a union, but it’s a partnership, Jungkook-ah. It’s a great opportunity to officially merge our sides of business, and you and Eunwoo would manage it together--”
“Wait--union--managing together? Omma, what exactly does that mean?” Jungkook stutters, his heart hammering as acid anxiety filters through him and makes him tense.
“Omma,” Jaehyun mutters, approaching Jungkook’s side. Jungkook swallows and hopes that this is one of those times Jaehyun will be completely on his side. “Is this a marriage?”
Their mother sighs. “It’s for business purposes, but yes--Jungkook-ah, please--”
“No,” Jungkook chokes, stepping back and out of her reach. Jaehyun watches him, a similar tension to Jungkook’s hardening his face. “Omma, when was this arranged?”
“It’s been the plan for a long time, Jungkook-ah,” she says. She steps forward, an apologetic look on her face. “I know it’s shocking, but it’s very common practice. And the route you two are on, your interests and accomplishments align so well--”
“What interests?” Jungkook yells. He has no interest in this life--never has. He’s been trying to keep to the reserved branches, the accounting, the desk jobs, to keep away from people like Eunwoo, like all of his friends and associates.
Jaehyun senses his panic and steps forward. “Jungkook-ah, come on,” he says. “We shouldn’t talk about this now. It’s almost time for us to leave--”
“Did you know about this?” Jungkook asks him. As much as Jaehyun is his brother, his hyung, the only one who really gets what it’s like, he’s still always been the level-headed one. He understands Jungkook’s reservations about their lifestyle, but he understands the need for it, as well.
“No! Jungkook, no. Seriously?” Jaehyun asks.
“Jungkook-ah, Jaehyun-ah.” Both jump at the sound, their father standing in the doorway. “It’s time to leave.”
“Appa,” Jungkook says, stepping forward. He knows he shouldn’t, and he even hears Jaehyun warn him quietly, but Jungkook can’t stop the utter panic and rage boiling in his stomach. His heart is pounding, his throat tight, but somehow he manages to to stutter, “I’m really expected to marry Eunwoo? I don’t get a say?”
I can’t, he thinks, the words rolling and repeating in a desperate chant. I can’t I can’t I can’t IcantIcantIcant. He’s already been sacrificing his peace of mind every time his extensions of friendship are laced with the need for social climbing. Any desire he’s had for real friends, for an aspect or even just a moment of his life that isn’t shrouded in a business deal, and now he won’t ever even get to go home and find comfort in the arms of someone who really loves him--who really knows him.
His father’s face doesn’t change, as if he doesn’t hear (as if he doesn’t care), and Jungkook feels his panic, his utter desperation, sink and curl tight in his chest.
“We’ll have this discussion later,” he says, gaze shifting to Jungkook’s mother and back. “It’s time to go.”
The subject is dropped, but Jungkook finds his half-completed application for Lee Soo-man’s junior outreach program on his desk later in the week.
It isn’t even a question, then. He doesn’t get a say. There will be no further discussion.
He fills the application out. He sends it in.
It’s in a large envelope, thick and heavy and an unwanted weight in Jungkook’s hands. He opts to walk to the post office to mail it despite the fact that someone else could probably do it for him or could have it delivered directly into Lee Soo-man’s hands.
Jaehyun rushes out behind him when he sees Jungkook leave the house, hooking an arm around his shoulders and tucking Jungkook’s head under his chin, an action reminiscent of their childhood days. Jungkook’s grown so much since then, but Jaehyun has always been taller.
“Hey,” he says. He ruffles Jungkook’s hair when he doesn’t respond. “Listen, I’m gonna try to get you out of this--”
“You can’t,” Jungkook murmurs. The week since he was given the news has been nothing short of draining, and the application sitting on his desk was enough of a complete and utter shut down to Jungkook’s protests that he doesn’t even feel like trying anymore.
He doesn’t even feel like he’s allowed to try to disagree--to say anything. It’s been planned for a long time. It’s not up for discussion. There’s no way out, and Jungkook can’t breathe enough to try and ask for help.
“I’m stuck doing whatever they want,” Jungkook murmurs.
They divulge into silence, their steps the only sound. Jungkook feels weary and a little like lead, as if he could just sink to the ground and never get back up. He feels Jaehyun jostle him a bit, arm still hooked around his shoulder.
“Well,” he says after a moment of silence, sounding just as defeated. “I think it sucks.”
Jungkook stops, and Jaehyun follows to stand in front of him. The word sucks coming from his hyung’s mouth is enough on its own to shock Jungkook, but the fact that Jaehyun is so utterly against this, against their parents, has Jungkook freezing completely. Even when Jaehyun disagrees with their demands or ideals, he’s still, somehow, always on their side.
“It sucks,” Jaehyun repeats, as if to assure Jungkook yeah, I really just said that.
It’s the word that does it.
“Sucks,” Jungkook mimics absently. He feels a giggle stutter up his chest, and a smile creeps onto his face. He starts to laugh--real, belly-shaking laughter as he repeats the word into Jaehyun’s dumbfounded face. He’s shaking with laughter, tears rolling down his face as he covers his mouth and waves his hand in apology. “Yeah,” he laughs, “It fucking sucks.”
“Yeah,” Jaehyun says, smiling and laughing along despite his confusion.
“It sucks so much,” Jungkook breathes, laughing harder until his chest is full of the feeling, dispersing the anxiety that’s weighed him down all week. He heaves a great sigh, feeling the tension leave him with the breath as he finally calms and looks at his hyung.
“You done?” Jaehyun smirks, patting Jungkook once on the shoulder.
“Yes,” Jungkook sighs, a smile on his face. It’s short-lived, slowly slipping as he remembers his reality. “Thank you for… Being on my side for this one.” And he means it; he doesn’t know who else he could go to--who else would get it and be there for him.
“Hey,” he says, ruffling Jungkook’s hair again. “I’m always on your side. Okay?”
“Yeah,” Jungkook murmurs, straightening his mussed hair. He knows.
“Speaking of which, I um…” He trails off, looking sheepish as he reaches into his back pocket. He pulls out a folded packet of paper; it’s thin, especially compared to the envelope in Jungkook’s hands. He straightens it out and holds it up. “I think you should apply for this, too.”
Jungkook doesn’t get into his dance academy’s summer dance intensive program. It’s for competing dancers only, and Jungkook quit competing two years ago to make time for bigger and better things.
The rejection makes him ache with such a ferocity that he can’t even pretend not to care, and he accepts his offer from Park Jinyoung despite his parents’ protests.
Jungkook is fifteen years old when he meets Park Jimin.
Their school is known for its rigor and discipline and for its intense students. It’s hugely uncommon to see anyone not paying attention, let alone doodling in class.
But here this kid is, drawing in the margins of his notes. He started off fairly attentive to the lecture, and even when he’d began doodling, Jungkook watched him glance up periodically to make it looked like he was taking notes. But Jungkook can see it--the sketches of a face on the side of his notebook--and the boy now seems utterly focused on it, eyes glued to the page.
If he’s being honest, Jungkook can’t seem to look away, either. Even from a desk away, the sketch is blooming beautifully, coming to life as the face takes shape on the page.
Jungkook doesn’t even know him, but his presence and his little doodles are like a breath of fresh air. He’s something different from the stuffy suits, the identical uniforms around him taking precious notes at lightning speed.
Jungkook watches him in class for days, eyes tracking the way the doodles move down the margins and fill the empty space on top. Each drawing is more beautiful than the next, flowers and faces and inanimate objects peeling off the page for Jungkook to gaze at in perfect clarity from a desk away.
It takes Jungkook a matter of two weeks to say anything--or really, two weeks until he’s caught, the boy’s eyes shifting from the page and catching Jungkook’s eye over his shoulder.
The contact and the deer-in-the-headlights look Jungkook probably has on his face leave him blushing and tense, embarrassed at being caught. But the boy smiles at him softly, bright and beautiful despite the fact that it’s so small and subtle, and turns back to his page of notes.
Jungkook’s disappointed to watch as the boy resumes note-taking, a drawing half-finished in the corner.
“Hey,” Jungkook rushes to say before the boy can leave at the end of class, “I liked your um. Your face.”
“Um,” he replies. “Thank you?”
“No, I meant--a few days ago, you drew a, um. A face. I--it was a nice face,” Jungkook stutters. Wow, he did not know he could be this bad at talking, but this boy has drawn him in--has made Jungkook want to talk to him more than anyone else.
That fact alone leaves Jungkook stuttering and his heart hammering, desperate to make a good impression so the boy doesn’t leave without at least giving Jungkook a name. He seems already to have messed that up, but--
He doesn’t want this boy to stop drawing in his notes. Jungkook likes them. They’re different--something new and different from the note-taking and stuffiness around him.
“You were watching me draw?” The boy replies, and Jungkook gives a small, internal cheer of victory as he watches the boy flush slightly. He’s not the only one a little flustered, it seems.
But then he’s putting his backpack down to fish out his notebook, flipping through the pages to find the exact face that had first captivated Jungkook. “This one?”
“Yeah,” Jungkook breathes quietly, gazing at the drawing. It’s even more beautiful up close, detailed and so realistic Jungkook swears he could touch the person’s cheek, even if it’s a small drawing.
Jungkook doesn’t realize the boy is staring at him in fond amusement until he looks up, jumping slightly as the flush returns to his cheeks. “I mean I like all your drawings--uh, in your notes. This is just the first one I saw.”
“Is it?” He asks. “This page is dated like, two weeks ago.”
Jungkook flushes further. Can he be anymore of a creep? Has he seriously watched this kid draw in class for two weeks straight?
“Your drawings are distracting,” Jungkook finally says with an embarrassed huff. The boy recoils slightly, closing his notebook and storing it away, and Jungkook feels a pang of regret as he hurries to clarify. “In a good way! I like watching you draw--um.”
“Yeah?” He looks like he can’t decide if he likes Jungkook or not, and Jungkook can’t really blame him. He has yet to articulate properly just how much he really likes his drawings--at least without sounding like some creep who stares at him too much.
(Which, to be fair, he kind of is).
“They’re really good,” Jungkook says, trying desperately to find the words to tell him as much. The boy is starting to look warily hopeful, and Jungkook wants to draw it out--maybe see if he can get a smile out of him. “They’re very realistic and… I like them.”
“Thanks,” he says, smiling brilliantly, though he ducks his head a bit to hide it. “I’m Park Jimin.”
Jungkook breathes a sigh of relief, shaking Jimin’s extended hand. “Jeon Jungkook.”
They slowly make their way out the door, and Jungkook knows he’s already late (and has probably made his new friend late), but he’d honestly like nothing more than to skip class all day and follow Jimin to the roof and watch him draw the landscape of their school grounds.
“Are you in art classes?” He asks instead, storing those plans away for some other day.
“Only one,” Jimin says. The halls are slowly emptying as students filter into their classrooms, and Jungkook ignores the anxious pang he feels to rush to class with an apology on his lips. “Not a lot of time for that kind of thing, y’know?”
“Yeah, I do,” Jungkook replies, wistful as he says, “I used to dance a lot when I was younger.”
“You don’t anymore?”
He shrugs. “Not as much as I’d like to.”
They walk in silence for a moment, the quiet scuffle of their shoes echoing, until Jimin says, “Well I usually hang out in the art room after school, if you’d like to see…”
“I’d love to,” Jungkook says quickly. His heart pounds with something hopeful, and he doesn’t even care how hard he’s blushing, hiding his smile behind a cough.
“So after school today then?”
“Yes,” Jungkook says. He’ll have to remember to tell Eunwoo he’ll be late for their group study today. “I’ll be there.”
“Cool.” Jimin stops and takes a step back, pointing over his shoulder. “My class is actually a few doors back that way, so… I’ll see you.”
Jungkook laughs. He feels light and giddy, watching Jimin smile back at him. He walks backwards for a bit to wave, and Jungkook grins and returns it, watching until Jimin turns and hurries his way back to his class.
Walking into the art room is a clattering mess of colors and materials. The room looks like organized chaos, pictures strung across the ceiling with clothes pins and pencils scattered on counters. There’s an entire wall of small storage cubbies labeled “charcoal” and “rubber erasers” and cabinets with different kinds of paints and canvas and paper types. The counters have splashes and marks of color everywhere, the floor littered in colorful dust and scraps of paper, and Jungkook feels jolted into a world of beautiful disarray.
“Hey,” Jimin says coming out of a back room. Jungkook wanders further into the room, his gaze trailing everywhere, and Jimin laughs. “Is this your first time being here?”
Jimin waits patiently, covering a countertop with different pictures and canvases, as Jungkook finally stops gazing and stumbling.
“It’s amazing. I’ve never seen so much…”
Jungkook laughs. “I’ve seen art. I guess just not all… behind the scenes. It’s like pretty chaos.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“It was meant to be one!” Jungkook stutters. He feels warm all over, excitement rushing through him and down to his toes as Jimin laughs, a soft, twinkling sound. He watches Jimin’s amused smile as he sets his artwork on the counter, only looking away when Jimin catches his gaze.
“Are all of these yours?” Jungkook asks, looking at the spread of charcoal drawings and colorful paintings. The variety makes Jungkook realize how talented Jimin is; his art is so much more advanced than the doodles in his notes. His wish for a landscape painting of their schoolyard seems like a tangible reality, looking at the pieces before him.
“Yeah,” Jimin says shyly. Jungkook watches him look over his artwork, shy and blushing a little bit. He looks at Jungkook, bottom lip between his teeth. “You just said--you liked my drawings so I thought I’d show you other--”
“It’s amazing, really,” Jungkook says in reassurance. He scans back over the artwork, catching the minute detail in the charcoal and the delicate strokes in the paintings. The landscape paintings are vibrant, and both styles instill some kind of excitement and wonderment in Jungkook, though he can’t tell whether it’s at the beauty of the art or the beauty of the artist.
All the pictures show some kind of feeling and attitude, some kind of expression. Most of the paintings are in beautiful blues and pinks and feel serene, but one vibrant red painting makes the sky look angry, like the world is ending. The feeling continues throughout the charcoal paintings despite the lack of color, the faces in them looking anguished or desperately blank.
“The colorful ones are really pretty, but these--” Jungkook stops and gestures to the charcoal and the red-sky painting, “I just… wow.”
He can’t really explain how it feels to see these--the beautiful talent that Jimin says he doesn’t have time for. Jungkook wonders how many emotions Jimin etches into his work, and how many he has to lock tight and save away for another day when he’s allowed to express them.
Jungkook knows all about that--locking away a part of yourself to make room and time for something else, even if you don’t want to.
“I have a sketch book too--I guess I… could’ve shown you that first,” Jimin says, sheepish as he pulls the sketchbook from his backpack. “It’s really old. I need to get a new one, but…”
He trails off, flipping through the pages on the counter, and Jungkook stops him to gaze at the sketches. The book must be really old; it’s covered in beginning practice sketches of eyes and hands and joints, all in an effort to achieve perfect realism. Jungkook flips slowly through several pages of repeated practices, each one looking more refined than the next and slowly including hair and full-body drawings.
The beautiful work he’s shown Jungkook leaves him breathless and in awe. He feels like he could fly he’s so giddy; Jimin sharing this with him makes him feel special, close to someone in a way Jungkook never has before, and Jungkook aches to be closer. He wants to dance for Jimin to return the favor, to show him his own passion and the same beautiful openness.
Jungkook tries to let their friendship flourish with that idea in mind. He’s never been close or honest with anyone besides his brother, and he’s never had a friend quite like Jimin--someone who will easily share his passions with Jungkook (and someone whose passions aren’t debate). But Jungkook wants to try; he wants Jimin to see him move freely in his dance studio.
If anyone in the world could understand how Jungkook feels with music bursting through him, pushing him forward through the night until he’s aching and breathless but completely exhilarated, it’s Jimin. He’s a kind and inspiring influence, and Jungkook finds himself latching onto his wistful, dreamy looks as he sketches.
They exchange numbers and text messages, and Jimin doodles on the side of his notes more often, drawing silly doodles to make Jungkook laugh and smile during class. The drawings warp into something new; before, Jimin had seemed to draw out of boredom, but now he seems to draw for Jungkook--to get him to laugh or to get him to punch Jimin on the arm after class and scold him for being more distracting than usual.
He invites Jimin to his study groups, but he never comes, opting instead to stay in the art room. Jungkook joins him sometimes when grades aren’t too pressing, watching Jimin try out chalk art and make cotton candy landscapes with the pastel colors. He gives his first finished piece to Jungkook, and Jimin follows him home to help him find the perfect place on his wall for it, a splash of color in the midst of debate medals and plaques and the mock degree he’d gotten from Park Jinyoung.
It’s been a long time since Jungkook has pushed all of his furniture to the walls of his room to make room to dance, but Jimin’s passion, his focus, even just his presence, make Jungkook antsy, like he could dance circles around his room and never tire.
He does it, one night. Pushes all of his furniture out of the way, and Jimin watches him, perched on Jungkook’s bed, as Jungkook dances and twirls in circles. It’s not a routine he’s ever learned, and it’s far from any kind of freestyle he’s done before, but feeling Jimin’s eyes on him motivates him to move in ways he never has before.
He ignores every part of him that tells him this isn’t allowed; instead he lets himself fall, landing on his bed with a soft oof beside an ecstatic, brilliantly smiling Jimin, and he ignores everything outside of his bedroom walls. For just a moment, he pretends that they are all that matter in the world.
“Jungkook-ah, look!” Jimin says one Saturday evening as they browse the storefronts of downtown Busan. He points to a crowd by the square, the center of the city where a lot of people end up performing some kind of talent for tips.
The crowd he points to is loud and rambunctious, music bursting as the two of them squeeze through the bodies. Jimin has a tight grip on his wrist, and it grows tighter in excitement as they break through to see two dancers competing.
They take turns freestyling, and both are extremely talented--Jungkook can see it in their fast, fluid, and precise movements. He watches with wide eyes, breathless as he feels adrenaline rush through him.
It’s been a long time since he’s danced in front of a whole audience, though he’s picked up hip hop in recent years--clung to it for the pure fact that it seems opposite his otherwise formal and boring life. But seeing the street performers makes Jungkook feel like he could burst with energy, breeze through the crowd and come to life as he dances in the circle.
“Jungkook-ah, you should do it!” Jimin says beside him, and Jungkook tears his eyes away to see Jimin looking at him completely starry-eyed. His cheeks are dusted with pink, looking full of just as much excitement and wonder as Jungkook.
“I-I haven’t danced in front of this many people in a really long time--”
“Please?” Jimin asks. “You look so excited! How can you not at least try?”
Jimin’s right. His heart is beating so rapidly that he might combust, muscles twitching and urging him to move, please move.
But Jungkook hasn’t been competing and performing in front of an audience for a reason. It’s not just because he doesn’t have time; his life doesn’t have the room for passion, for dance--for love, Jungkook thinks, whole body flushing in want and excitement, watching Jimin’s eager face. His life isn’t about freedom--not physical freedom nor personal freedom. He’s supposed to follow a path--
“Jungkook-ah,” Jimin urges, tugging on his wrist. His grip is still tight, but it loosens as he urges him forward. “I get it,” he says, “But art is like--it’s like breathing to me. And I want the same for you. I want you to be able to do the things you want to do, so if you want this…”
He does. Jungkook wants this.
He wants to dance, and he wants to dance for Jimin and show him just how much he cares for art, how he has a passion just like Jimin.
More than anything, he wants to be free. He wants to allowed to move and to move as freely as he wants.
Jungkook steps into the circle.
“Hey,” Jungkook says, stepping into the living room later that night. He’s past curfew, and he sees Jaehyun peek his head out the window at Jimin’s roaring, sleek red car leaving the house.
“Where have you been? Who was that?” He asks, turning to Jungkook and taking in his shaking form. “What’s wrong? Jungkook, are you crying?
Jungkook isn’t crying, but he’s felt on the brink of it since coming home.
Dancing has always been exhilarating for Jungkook. Jimin put it into words perfectly-- it’s like breathing to me. Jungkook hadn’t realized how suffocated he’d been feeling until he stepped into the circle.
It’s been a long time since he’s put his whole heart into something--felt it beat erratically in happiness as he moved and strove to be better, feeding off the crowd’s cheers and his own adrenaline rushing through him. He’d seen Jimin on the sidelines, mouth open in a smile, eyes starry and wide, and Jungkook had smiled back, felt his body move of its own accord in a fresh wave of never-ending excitement.
He’d felt so free once he stepped out of the circle, daringly grabbing Jimin’s hand and swinging it between them. That was amazing, Jungkook, and he felt like dancing all over again, wanted to pull Jimin close under the streetlights and show him just how wonderful dancing could make someone feel.
If only he hadn’t had to return to this house.
If only Jimin hadn’t kissed him, sitting in his car in Jungkook’s driveway, lips soft as he murmured, Goodnight, Jungkook.
The stars in his eyes clouded his vision all night, but the reverie cleared as soon as he closed the car door. The big windows of his house, the looming front doors, the huge chandelier and fanciful family heirlooms, welcoming him home from the bottom of the stoop--they all just reminded him of the numerous reasons he’d stopped dancing so much in the first place--stopped allowing himself happiness.
Jungkook stopped indulging himself a long time ago, stopped believing he could have the things he wants, but Jimin--he wants Jimin, and Jimin has done nothing but remind him again and again just how much Jungkook wants the life he doesn’t have--can never have.
He’s supposed to marry Eunwoo and join the family business, and yet he’s been dancing the night away, holding hands with a beautiful artist and kissing in his car. That’s not the life Jungkook gets to live, no matter how much he wants it.
“Jungkook,” Jaehyun says again, hands on his shoulders. “What’s going on?”
Jungkook takes one shuddering breath and expels it in a soft whisper. “I don’t want to do this.”
“I don’t want to do this. I can’t marry Eunwoo. I can’t take an internship with Lee Soo-man. I don’t even want to go into business or carry on the family name. I don’t care. I can’t do this, I don’t want this,” Jungkook rushes, suddenly full of words and anger now that he’s been asked, finally been asked, what he wants.
I want you to be able to do the things you want to do, Jimin had said.
“Jungkook, look at me. What happened today?” Jaehyun asks.
“I danced, Jae,” Jungkook replies, watching Jaehyun’s eyes widen in understanding. “I don’t want to give it up.”
“You don’t have to, Kook-ah. Who says you do?”
“I do! I have to! You’re the one who wanted me to apply for the dance academy that summer, remember? And I didn’t get in, because I’ve already had to give up competing,” Jungkook utters. It’s getting harder to stop the tears from spilling, chest tight as he finally expels his exhaustion.
It’s clear that Jaehyun doesn’t know what to do, either, and no matter how much he wants to help Jungkook, he can’t. Just like always, he’s stuck.
Jungkook knows he won’t be allowed to quit debate, so he doesn’t raise issue. Instead he asks to sign up for another weekly dance class and throws himself back into the practice, refining where he’d gone rusty and inviting Jimin to his after-hour practices.
Jimin brings a sketchbook, and by the time Jungkook is a few weeks shy of sixteen, he’s spending most of his free nights dancing with Jimin sketching at his side. Weekends are spent in Jimin’s pretty, red car, the top down when it’s nice out, and Jungkook feels like he’s finally regained his breath after months of trying to catch up. They don’t talk about the kiss, but--
He’s working on it. He can’t have everything, but he’s willing to try for some things. The important things.
His parents notice the change in him, and they tell him he has to maintain his academic and social life if he wants to pursue dance so rigorously. He’s still required to go to events and study groups purely for that reason, and Jungkook is completely exhausted by the hectic balance.
But he wants to dance. He won’t give it up again, even if he can’t really have it in his life the way he wants to. He’s still trying to find that balance to get what he wants and to make his family happy, but he feels much closer to achieving it, especially since meeting Jimin.
Jimin sparked something in him ever since Jungkook saw him drawing in class. Jungkook had thought he was the only one feeling claustrophobic in a world of plastic friendships and business deals, but seeing Jimin pursue his passion in light of the similar worlds in which they live made Jungkook realize that there’s more--that he can have more. He doesn’t have to give up everything that makes him happy, and he’s given Jungkook the inspiration to fight for it.
He’s still working on that balance, Jungkook muses, watching Jimin sketch as they lie on Jungkook’s bed. He’s still trying to find a way to have everything he wants.
He feels selfish, aching for more as he watches Jimin draw. Jungkook wonders if he’s happy, too, but remembering some of his anguished charcoal drawings and paintings from the first day they met reminds him that Jimin probably still has a lot of balancing to figure out as well.
Jimin looks up to catch Jungkook staring, and they both smile softly. “Hey,” he says.
He goes back to drawing, and Jungkook cranes his neck up a little from where his arms are folded behind him, trying to see. “Are you drawing me?”
“No,” Jimin mutters, covering the page with his arm. “Lay back down. I’m not done yet.”
“You are drawing me,” Jungkook muses softly, lying back as asked. His body tingles with warmth, toes curling as a blush rises on his cheeks.
Jungkook lets the soft sound of pencil on paper lull him. Jimin’s presence is always warm and comforting, the sounds of him creating art an even more welcome sound, and Jungkook can’t think of anywhere he’d rather be.
With Jimin, he feels like he can have everything he could ever want.
“Hey,” Jimin says after a bout of silence.
Jungkook’s half-asleep, but he cracks one eye open. “Are you done? Did you paint me like one of your fre--”
“Can I kiss you?”
Jungkook stops, whole body shivering at the question. Yes, of course you can kiss me.
He’s wanted Jimin to kiss him again for a really long time.
He refuses to think before he says, “Yeah.”
If Jimin’s presence made Jungkook feel like he could do anything, then kissing Jimin makes him feel like he’s already accomplished everything in the world. He’s floating, flying, basking in bright sunlight as Jimin slowly crawls over him and kisses him into his pillow with the softest lips, shaky hand caressing Jungkook’s cheek.
Jungkook had never been kissed before Jimin, but he moves his lips and gives all that he gets, Jimin’s mouth soft and sweet as he kisses Jungkook chastely. They meld together, Jimin warm along his side and hand pressing gently on his chest.
Jungkook feels warm--no, he feels hot, heart beating a staccato in his chest that Jimin can surely feel as they press closer together. Their kisses are slow and innocent until Jungkook finally takes a chance and asks, begs, for entrance, tongue gentle along the seam of Jimin’s lips, and even if he’s bad at it, Jungkook would at least like to try to see if he can kiss Jimin until he’s breathless--kiss Jimin until the world melts away around them.
He can feel Jimin smiling as their tongues meet, hesitant and inexperienced as they kiss each other silly. It takes several giggles and trials and errors, but eventually, their kisses turn long and languid. They lose themselves and kiss until they can’t see anything but each other, Jimin eventually pulling away and nudging Jungkook’s nose. They’re both breathless, blushing, still curled into each other in a silent plea for more.
Jimin’s been teaching him that passion isn’t a bad thing--that it’s something they don’t have to give up--and Jungkook shoves all of his fear down. Passion--especially passion for Jimin--shouldn’t be, can’t be, a bad thing.
“That was nice,” Jungkook whispers, and Jimin laughs, hiding his face in Jungkook’s shoulder.
“Yeah, it was.”
It’s nice to forget everything else and kiss Jimin for a whole afternoon, taking turns making each other blush. Jungkook can see constellations in Jimin’s eyes, and the galaxies are endless; his lips are sweet, delicious cherries that Jungkook wants to pull back against his mouth--doesn’t want Jimin to leave even as their curfew creeps upon them.
“Did you finish the drawing?” Jungkook asks once he walks Jimin to the front door to wish him goodbye.
“No,” Jimin murmurs, looking sheepishly down at his sketchbook. “I got stuck on your lips.”
“Oh my god,” Jungkook laughs, pushing at his shoulder. “Leave.”
Jimin does, but not without one last kiss.
Jungkook is seventeen years old, and he’d really like to give his boyfriend a handjob.
“Babe, come on, we’ve got like five minutes.”
“No, I have five minutes. You have like, negative fifteen minutes. This is your family party. Weren’t you supposed to be here like twenty minutes ago?” Jimin asks, pushing Jungkook’s chest away. Jungkook really doesn’t want to move, laying on top of Jimin in the backseat of his car.
“Yeah, but I hate these things,” Jungkook groans, nipping at Jimin’s throat. If he can just find that spot-- there! Ah yes, Jimin makes such pretty sounds when Jungkook kisses his neck. “I don’t care if it’s my house.”
“As hot as I find your rebellion,” Jimin murmurs, pulling Jungkook away from his neck to kiss him quickly. “You’ve gotta go.”
Jungkook sighs, head hung between his shoulder blades. He rests his forehead against Jimin’s in defeat. “Fine. But I’m finding you later and making out with you in a closet whether you like it or not.”
Jungkook’s in the (very long) process of kissing Jimin goodbye when they hear a knock on the window. Both jump at the sound, looking up to see Jaehyun shining his phone light into the steamy window.
“Seriously?” He asks.
“I told you,” Jimin groans as they both sit up. He fixes Jungkook’s hair and pats out a few wrinkles, pushing him out the backseat door. “Go. I still have a few minutes before my parents get here.”
Jungkook stops halfway out the door. Right. His parents. “Are you gonna be okay?”
“Yes, I’ll be fine. I live with them, remember?” Jimin waves his hand before Jungkook can protest again. “Seriously, negative fifteen minutes.”
Jungkook kisses him one last time, Jaehyun hovering behind him to block the view from anyone else who might pull up. He gives Jungkook a look when he finally closes the door, and they make their way to the house.
“Are you guys at least using protection?” Jaehyun asks, and Jungkook sputters, unable to tell if he’s joking or not.
“What--no, we--we’re not even there yet-- oh my god, shut up,” Jungkook groans, hitting Jaehyun on the shoulder as he shakes in laughter.
“Hey, I’m just saying! When the time comes--”
“Don’t, oh my god.”
“Did mom and dad ever give you the sex talk? I mean, they probably gave you the wrong one--”
Jaehyun opens the door for him. “Seriously though, use pro--”
“Jungkook-ah, Jaehyun-ah. You’re late.”
“Sorry, omma,” Jungkook says, hitting Jaehyun in the stomach as they enter the house.
The party has yet to start, though of course some people have showed up early and have made their mother grumble under her breath as she leads them to the grand hall of the house. Jungkook shouts an amused look at Jaehyun at the sound, and they’re back to nudging each other until their mother turns back around to tell them to behave.
“But omma,” Jaehyun groans. “It’s my birthday.”
“Of course,” she sighs, approaching him to straighten his bangs like she always used to do. He cringes at the action, whining even more about being treated like this, seriously, I’m an adult.
Jungkook scours the room, spotting all his favorite foods laid out on silver platters. The grand hall, though decoration-less, is beautiful as always--big windows and chandeliers and the soft yellow glow all around to set the mood.
The guests soon begin filtering in, all stopping to congratulate Jaehyun for his recent accomplishments at YG Corporation; his partnership with Kim Ji-won is still strong after all these years, and they recently completed negotiations to partner in their respective branches once they graduate college, effectively joining Jeon and YG Corporations.
Jungkook is proud as always of his hyung, but he’s still on the lookout for his boyfriend and his parents. Tonight is a big night for him, too.
Before he can spot Jimin, he’s swindled into a dance with Eunwoo, of course. Their plans are still in effect, and Jungkook really doesn’t like to think about what that means for his future, but thankfully Eunwoo has always been fairly disinterested in him. She’s too good at this business game, and Jungkook knows she’ll be utterly cut-throat, climbing the ranks of Lee Soo-man’s corporation before anyone can even think of stopping her. She doesn’t need Jungkook slowing her down, and she knows it.
He’s glad they have that understanding as she partners with Jungkook to dance, sighing and sending him an apologetic smile. He returns it as best he can; out of all the associates Jungkook’s had, he likes Eunwoo the best.
Jungkook spots Jimin while he’s spinning Eunwoo around the room, and he excuses himself quickly once the song is over, darting straight for Jimin. He looks nervous, but he’s yet to show any signs of distress.
“Hey,” Jungkook breathes once he’s close enough, murmuring into Jimin’s ear, “Ready to kiss me in a really small, dark room?”
“Sexy,” Jimin laughs. “I don’t think I can. We might head out early.”
“What?” Jungkook asks, panic rising in his throat. Maybe something did happen, and Jimin’s just too good at hiding it. He usually is, anyway. “Did you already tell them?”
“No, but they’re talking to Dong Young-bae right now,” Jimin mutters, and Jungkook follows his nervous gaze.
He sees Jimin’s parents looking stern and serious as always and talking solemnly with Dong Young-bae, just like he said. It doesn’t look like a gleeful conversation.
“Fuck,” Jungkook whispers as Jimin’s parents shake Dong-ssi’s hand and turn towards Jimin. He tenses beside Jungkook, and Jungkook caresses the small of his back delicately in comfort. “You can stay here, if you need to.”
“I can’t,” Jimin murmurs. “Wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not allowed to even see you anymore.”
“Don’t say that,” Jungkook grumbles. He turns his head, nosing into Jimin’s hair against his better judgement. He’ll be damned if he’s not allowed to see Jimin anymore. Fuck his parents, and fuck Dong Young-bae’s prestigious university. Jimin’s too good for them, anyway.
Jimin’s parents pay him little mind once they’ve approached, only telling Jimin that they’ll have a talk when they get home. It must be too early to leave without seeming rude, but Jungkook can tell they’re angry, can feel it in the way a tremor shivers through Jimin.
“Can we go make out in that closet now?” He asks. Jungkook doesn’t need to be asked twice, pulling Jimin out of the crowd.
At eighteen, Jungkook is really fucking sick of his boyfriend being miserable. He’s sick of his parents berating him and sucking the creativity out him--sick of him believing it and telling Jungkook that art isn’t worth his time.
“I got rejected from the school I was planning to go to since like, birth, Jungkook. I can’t waste anymore time.”
Jungkook aches for him. Jimin instilled art back into Jungkook’s life, breathed his passion right back into him. He wishes he could do the same, but he’s never been as hopeful or as inspired or as beautiful as Jimin. He feels helpless, but he does his best to help Jimin with his studies at the local university in Busan--still prestigious, but not prestigious enough. Not DYB University.
He still dances and tries to make up for all of Jimin’s lost passion. He keeps Jimin’s art work plastered to his walls--charcoal drawings and beautiful landscapes (including the one of their school that he’d asked for as a birthday present, painted while on the roof of the cafeteria and everything) along with his first chalk drawing for Jungkook and all of his numerous sketches. He finds Jimin gazing at them sometimes, but then it drops back to a textbook, dejected focus returning to his studies.
“Do they bother you?” Jungkook asks him, and Jimin meets his gaze. He still looks just as wistful as he did when they first met, but now for different reasons--wrong reasons.
“No,” he says, pressing his cheek against his textbook. He starts to sketch in the corner of the page, just like he always used to, and it comes so naturally to him. After all the countless hours of watching him, Jungkook’s memorized the flicks of Jimin’s wrist and the sound of his pencil on paper. “I just don’t want to do this,” he says.
It reminds Jungkook of himself, of how he’d been just as desperately against everything they were signed up for without their consent. He still feels that way, and he feels the pressure of his future weighing in on him even more as the time for university applications roll around for him, too.
His parents are still pressing Lee Soo-man, encouraging him to apply for SM University, but Jungkook keeps an application for Korean National University of Arts locked away in his desk drawer.
Jimin proposed the idea, oddly enough, almost a year ago while he’d been applying. He’d been planning it--this great escape to Seoul, hoping his parents would oblige his wishes if he worked hard enough, but they’d refused. His rejection from DYB hadn’t helped the situation, either; it only served to make Jimin feel worse and feel guilty, shaming him into his current position in Busan.
But Jungkook still wants. And he wants Jimin to apply, too--knows he can make it. It’s such a far off idea--art school in Seoul!--but Jungkook shakes with desire.
He can’t stay in these suits forever. He can’t marry Eunwoo. The mere idea of being stuck in this life terrifies him.
Jungkook only starts filling out his application once Jimin does, too, a sudden spark--inspiration from a gallery at school and a representative from K-ARTS--sets him off as he idly considers a portfolio.
“I think you should do it,” Jungkook murmurs, Jimin tucked into all his lanky limbs, his head under Jungkook’s chin. He brushes soft fingers over Jimin’s shoulder, worriedly thinking of how miserable Jimin has been since starting college for business and trying to keep his art to a minimum.
“If I even get in--”
“If,” Jimin stresses, “What would I even do? Just pack up and go to Seoul?”
Jungkook sighs. It’s something he’s thought about, too. How would they even manage to pull it off? Where would the money come from? How would they budget and eat and live--it doesn’t seem plausible, but with Jimin, he’d be willing to try.
Afterall, Jimin’s always made him feel like he can do anything.
“I want you to do the things you want to do,” Jungkook says, remembering Jimin’s own words to him.
He can feel Jimin’s smile on his neck, and it sends goosebumps down in a shiver, all the way to his toes. “I’ll think about it,” Jimin says.
Thinking about it turns into hypotheticals (if I made a portfolio, would this be good enough for it? ), which turns into actual planning. Jimin ends up spreading his art out on Jungkook’s bedroom floor, paintings and drawings and sketches everywhere.
“This isn’t even a fraction of my stuff,” he grumbles, spinning slowly to observe.
“I know,” Jungkook says from his bed. “You could take stuff from my walls, too, if you need them.”
“Jungkook-ah, those are gifts. My symbols of love--”
“Don’t be greasy,” Jungkook laughs. Jimin smiles at him, waggling his eyebrows. “Besides, there’s always more to come. This is important.”
And there is more to come--more gifts (symbols of love), more art, more them. More moments where Jungkook feels his heart swell with happiness and affection as he watches Jimin sift through the art on his floor, looking focused and thoughtful. He’d give anything for more moments like these, where nothing matters except for the two of them.
And for once it feels within reach, Jungkook’s own application for K-ARTS delivered directly to the post office with all his love and hope.
He applies in secret, and he’s still expected to apply all around. Jaehyun encourages him to go the route he’s most comfortable with, no matter what his parents want.
Though Jungkook applies everywhere, his focus remains on K-ARTS. He sends in scholarship auditions by video, refining his dance routines until he feels battered and exhausted, and even his instructor tells him to take it easy. But if Jungkook wants this, he’ll have to work hard; a scholarship is the only way he’ll make it work. He’s already having nightmares of his card getting declined for a train ticket to Seoul--nightmares of all his belongings strewn out on the lawn, no longer welcome if he’s not going to follow his family’s path.
He knows he wouldn’t be. His tuition would be paid for at SM University, and maybe even with JYP. But arts school has never been part of the plan.
He’s never wanted an escape so badly; it’s never felt so close, on the tips of his fingers as he saves every dollar possible, helping Jimin arrange his portfolio and his display for his next school gallery where a K-ARTS representative will assess him. They both feel it, Jungkook knows, kissing Jimin senseless and whispering about futures they’ve never believed they could have before.
It all feels so close, so real. Jungkook hopes it will be.
There’s always a breaking point, Jungkook supposes. He just wished it had happened to him.
Jimin calls him late the night before his gallery; he’s already asleep, but he answers the phone once he wakes to the second series of rings and sees the name flash on his phone screen.
He’s utterly shaken as Jungkook lets him inside, walking quietly up to Jungkook’s room. It’s only then that Jimin clutches him, strong and deceptively passive as always until they’re alone, pulling Jungkook close and shaking in his arms.
The illusion breaks as always, breaks like Jimin does in his arms that night, whispering, “I can’t stay here--I can’t. I have to get my stuff out as soon as I can--”
“The gallery, Jimin--”
“I have to leave,” Jimin whispers frantically, and Jungkook tucks him into his side. He clutches him so tightly, trying desperately to press all of him back together.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he whispers. “We’ll have the gallery--”
“We can’t. You don’t understand--”
“We’ll take the stuff from my walls,” Jungkook says. “Okay? And we’ll have the gallery.”
He puts himself back together by morning, taking all of his art off of Jungkook’s walls and prying the sticky tak off the backs of each piece. He collects them in a folder, and Jungkook wonders if his big, leather folio is gone, too--Jungkook’s most recent Christmas present for him. He takes the sketchbook he leaves at Jungkook’s house, too, and they present Jimin’s small display at his gallery despite the obvious gaps.
Jimin’s nervous, Jungkook can feel it, but he only shows it when he speaks to the K-ARTS representative--the kind, young student whose helped him put his portfolio together. His name is Jackson Wang, and he’s nothing but kind when he looks at the display.
“I like the pastels,” Jackson says, pointing at the chalk landscape Jimin made Jungkook so long ago. “Listen, this is still a really good display. And I know what you can do, Jimin-ssi, remember?”
Jimin still feels tense beside him, wary as he asks, “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Jackson says, pulling a thick envelope out of the clip of his clipboard, “You’ve already been accepted. I wanted to deliver it in person.”
Jimin nearly breaks down in tears again, clutching the envelope in shock. He hurriedly shakes Jackson’s hand, bows about a hundred times, before he finally turns to Jungkook.
The hope, the beauty, the love in his eyes, has Jungkook grinning back. Jimin hugs him and spins him around in glee, and Jungkook can’t help but laugh, too.
Jimin has an acceptance letter to K-ARTS, one to match Jungkook’s, squished under his mattress. They’re going to Seoul.
Chapter 9: Interlude: Let The Ashes Fly
You can't keep hanging on
To all that's dead and gone
If you build yourself a myth
You'd know just what to give
Or let the ashes fly
Please note the added tags!
Jimin has always liked colors. A lot of kids do, but Jimin wants to create them; he wants to immerse himself in them, breathe them. He wants to leave trails of it everywhere so that others can smile the way they make him smile.
He is four years old, stuck with some governess he’s never seen before and his baby brother Hwansung for the day. He is given glossy paper and finger paints to pass the time. He instantly loves the colors in his hands, the freedom to claim them as his. He decides the shapes and where they go.
He runs his fingers over the paper in thick lines of red, green, yellow, and blue, fascinated by their newness. The colors of their house are nothing like these—no brightness, no vividness—just stale hues of furniture and adults.
So he splashes purple on the cream-colored wall.
See? Much better.
It runs downward in rivulets, like swirling rivers in his storybooks. Now that’s something—purple rivers. His purple river is pretty and it pops .
After that, he leaves handprints of green and blue and streaks of dandelion yellow that stretch in squiggly lines across the wall.
He giggles at his accomplishment and reaches for the pink.
“Jimin! Jimin, no !”
Suddenly, he is swept up into the governess’ arms, far from pretty mess he’s created. He extends his arm for the painted wall and tries to wrestle out of her grip, but it’s no use.
So he wails. His tears run thick, falling down his cheeks like his purple river, his dandelion road.
“Jimin, that’s a no-no!” the governess scolds him, tightening her hold to keep him from squirming free. She begins walking out of the playroom, further and further from the colors he made, his expression and his freedom. “You paint the paper, not the wall!”
He is banned from the playroom.
He’s inconsolable the rest of the day, his wails turning him hoarse. He ignores the governess and his baby brother who’s nudging his wooden ( boring -colored) train into his leg.
His parents return home in the evening. Jimin doesn’t know how his father reacts, but he sees his mother, who doesn’t seem mad. In fact, she picks him up and takes him back to the playroom.
“The walls are not for paints, Jimin-ah,” she says gently.
“Purple!” Jimin shouts, not listening. He’s just happy to be near his masterpiece. His purple river.
“Yes, sweetheart,” his mother agrees, cupping his face with one hand and turning him toward her. His mother’s eyes look like his, curved moons when she smiles. “You can make as much purple as you want, but only on the paper we give you, okay?”
“Yeah, purple!” Jimin says in agreement.
“Say yes, omma .”
Jimin frowns with guilt when her smile gets smaller. This must be a big deal. He doesn’t want to get her mad. “Yes, omma.”
The purple river is gone by the next day. Jimin feels hurt bubble in his throat, but at least he has all the time in the world to draw and paint on paper.
He receives a huge art set—chock-full of crayons, markers, and pencils in so many colors —and a drawing pad on his birthday. When he glances at his mother, she smiles. He must have her to thank.
Next to her, his father simply nods. He doesn’t smile; he hardly ever does, but Jimin is determined to force one on his face, no matter what it takes.
Jimin is seven, and he is the favorite.
His parents praise him often. He draws a lot in school, a steady hand for his age, and his mother always puts those drawings on their sleek, black refrigerator, crayons and paints adding much-needed color to their stainless steel kitchen. Some of his little brother’s stuff is up there too, but Jimin draws more. He draws better . He’s the first-born and he must be the best and he must set an example.
His father counts on him.
He says it every time he comes home, late to dinner, post-argument with his mother and their house servants—patting him on the head before Hwansung (that’s right; always first!) and murmuring, “I’m counting on you to pass down our name, Jimin. You’re my eldest.”
But he realizes that he isn’t going to be the better if he continues to draw. His freedom in artful expression is transient.
By the time he’s eight, all the art is gone from the fridge. Now they hide god-knows-where in the house. Jimin is forced to make room for other things: stuffy, ugly things that are set for him. He learns that he is bound to them.
Even the word’s ugly , he thinks, sifting painfully through the advanced math workbook his father makes him use. Business.
He stares out his bedroom window, at the cherry blossom tree outside his window. He feels color drift further and further away the longer he stays inside, hunched over stupid, ugly books.
Jimin frowns down at the page. There’s so much white space.
Without thinking, he begins to sketch out the tree. It surrounds the text nicely, almost like they belong together. Jimin instantly feels better.
The relief is gone, though, when his father returns, huffy as he looks over his work. The answers are correct—Jimin knows they are—but his father’s default scowl deepens when he sees the cherry blossoms drawn all over the page.
“What’s this, Jimin?”
Before he even finishes, it’s ripped out of the book. Jimin jumps and gasps, and watches with fright as his father crumples the page into a ball and tosses it into the trash.
“Stop playing around,” his father reprimands him, harshly setting the workbook back down in front of him. “Now do the next page and don’t get distracted.”
For added measure, he turns on Jimin’s desk lamp and shuts the curtains of his window.
Jimin doesn’t cry until his father leaves the room. He’s shaken and can barely read the work problems his vision is so thick with tears, but he makes sure to leave the paper in pristine condition—unmarked except for the answers on the page. Just like his father wants.
He always draws his moons full.
His parents’ smiles turn their eyes into smooth crescent moons, but he never sees them anymore—never aimed him, anyway. To him, it’s always disappointment and frustration. Reminders of his mediocre grades and inabilities for their world.
Jimin inherits that eye-smile. People have called it cute or beautiful.
His brother, meanwhile, inherits that and everything else.
He is and has everything their parents want in a child—talent, intelligence, and the nerve needed for business, for the heir to the Park business.
Hwansung displays it early on. Right now, he is ten while Jimin is twelve, and already the beacon of hope for the CEO’s family. He does what their mother and father want, and he does it with pride and the artificial smugness everyone they know wears on their faces.
And what of the older son—Park Jimin?
Jimin knows how to pretend, at least; that’s easy enough. He plasters smiles worth as much as his parents’ net worth, his voice tuned to the key of business politics. His handshakes are firm and confident.
And that’s as far as it goes.
He tries to never let his expressions falter, but he sees deep into others’ eyes; it must be something he gained the more he drew (which he becomes more discreet about). He finds judgement shining in them, their thoughts hissing around him, into him. He imagines them whispering to each other about the shameful son of the CEO of Park Royale Incorporated—the artful daydreamer who is dragged and carried to adequacy thanks to his younger brother, still practically a baby.
Jimin turns, finally roused out thoughts that are just beginning to teeter into paranoia, and finds Hwansung pinching his jacket sleeve. Ah, right—they are at a gala.
“What?” Jimin asks as he turns to his younger brother.
Park Hwansung, the star child ; the boy he is supposed to lead, but it seems he fails as a hyung, too.
“Omma wants to speak to you.”
Jimin is confused, but he thanks him and goes over to their mother, who is holding a wine glass in her hand, her moneyed smile wide as she speaks to some man he vaguely knows, a managing director or something of that nature at some company he never bothers remembering.
His mother excuses herself. After the man leaves, she faces him, her trillion-won smile becoming one akin to a dulled copper coin.
“Your cram school instructor is here,” she starts, leading him away. “I tried to speak to him about letting you into his summer camp for young entrepreneurs, but it seems you’ve been failing his courses.” Her voice turns a bit dark, and Jimin remembers that she is no longer the gentle woman who didn’t get mad at him for painting on the house walls—there’s a time limit for things like that, he supposes.
Jimin swallows guiltily. He can’t defend himself.
“He always catches you drawing in your notes .” She sets down her half-empty glass on the nearest table to cross her arms. She emphasizes the words as if they were toxic. “Why do you keep doing that?”
Jimin doesn’t answer; he just lets his head hang low. He stares at the glint of his dress shoes.
“He’s giving your brother a spot,” she goes on, beating the words into him as if they could toughen him up. They don’t, but he does very well notice the pungent smell of wine on her breath. “ Ten years old and he is offered a spot in the camp. What is wrong with you?”
An outlet. He needs an outlet from the stress of schooling he just can’t keep up with, from being in Hwansung’s ugly shadow, from them . He misses purple rivers and full moons and cherry blossoms; he pines for the way they soothe his soul. They let him breathe.
He knows he should tell his mother that. Maybe she’ll understand. Maybe she’ll remember the brief moment in time where she acknowledged his love for art.
He opens his mouth to defend himself, but she speaks up before him.
“Jimin. You know that this is important to us.” Her tone is gentler, and even with the drunken sway in her inflection, Jimin thinks there is sincerity in it, too. “We’re being harsh because we have to push you in the right direction. We still have hope for you.”
The words ring in his head. Jimin blinks, his heart swelling with warmth. It’s a rare sensation, especially if it comes from either of his parents. It’s wonderful.
Hope. For me.
Maybe he’s in the wrong. Maybe he just needs to try harder—draw less, study more. Maybe he’ll reach Hwansung’s level.
Then after that, he’ll feel like this again; he’ll feel it all the time .
Jimin finds himself yo-yoing when it comes to his relationship with his parents. Sometimes they are lenient, turning the other way when they see a flower etched into the corner of his notebook. But other times, the bads are bad and they just won’t have anything from him.
And he can’t really help it. He makes promises, to himself and to his parents, that he’ll tone down on the drawing and the art, but it’s automatic; he’s addicted . He needs a way to feel safe.
Jimin is fifteen. It’s a regular school night and he had left his bag and texts downstairs.
But as he saunters into the living room, he sees his father, sitting in his chair next to the fireplace.
He is staring at Jimin’s notes from school.
He blanches and his heart jumps into his throat. He speeds his steps. “Appa, that’s—”
His voice is commanding, deep and gruff with anger and disapproval. Jimin instantly stills, a tremor ricocheting through his body. His father is the most unpredictable person he’s ever known, and he never knows what to anticipate.
His father stands and holds up the notebook. It’s open to a whole page filled with art—a combination of sketches of eyes and the school’s regal architecture.
“Is this why you’re failing?” he speaks up sharply. The grip on the notebook makes the paper fold and start to tear from the binding.
Jimin steps back, cowering. His heart is beating so fast he can hardly speak. “I-I’m not failing any classes, appa, I swear. I just—I just really like to—”
“No, I know you’re not failing classes,” his father cuts in, folding the notebook back until it’s open to the drawings. “But you’re failing me.”
Jimin heart drops to his stomach. He’s trying, isn’t he? He’s trying so hard . With his etiquette, his schoolwork, his applications to summer programs and the appropriate after-school activities, with becoming the dream son he’s always wanted, but—
“I’m sorry,” is all he can come up with.
His father only scowls and moves. Jimin thinks he’s going to return his notebook to him, but he gasps in horror when he moves toward the fireplace. It’s January, and the fire is gently ablaze, warming them through the winter, but Jimin only feels cold, frozen in anguish as he throws the entire thing into the flames.
“My notes,” Jimin chokes out belatedly. “Appa, I need—”
“You should have thought of that before you started focusing on things that keep you from your future.” To add insult to injury, he takes the fireplace poker from the rack beside the fireplace and pushes the burning notebook further inside, obscuring it from view, as if he could erase it from Jimin’s memory.
But he burns the image into his mind.
Jimin's had experience with people his age. Friends , he's supposed to call them, but he finds it an inaccurate label. They're usually middle-men for their parents, leaders of lesser companies hoping to score deals and exposure. It's the norm, his parents say, but even the idea of using people to climb the social and business ladder makes Jimin seethe.
He isn’t even sure he knows how to spot a good friend or not, because his parents refers to people they are friendly with as acquaintances or connections . It’s almost as if the actual word friend is taboo.
They should be supportive, he thinks, entertaining the idea of the perfect friend; a real friend. They should love my art and encourage me to draw more.
He remembers kids named Kihyun and Minji from when he was nine, who showed off their respective parents' wealth, trying to outdo each other in front of Jimin--as if Jimin cared how money made people more respectable characters (which he finds is a load of shit).
They should be humble.
Then there was Soojung at fifteen. The friendship that lasted the longest. All it took was one compliment on his art and he was happy. She was there when he needed someone.
He never saw anything romantic about her, but being with her made him feel lighthearted and free to sketch things around her, even repetitive things, like pages and pages and pages of hand practice (he swears that they are the hardest things in the world to draw). She let him talk her ear off about the shapes and colors of the world around them, the natural art the universe has created. Not even his own brother humors him about things like this; he's too busy trying to be a mini version of their father.
But she turned out to be too good to be true—all her smiles and encouragement had been fake, just like everyone he has ever known. Even his fifteenth birthday dinner, one planned by her between both their families, turned into a business meeting that ended exactly how she wanted—a merger between her father's electronics company and Park Royale.
The beginning of the partnership signified the end of their friendship. He was the one to distance himself first, because he's acutely aware of the next step—a union. An arranged marriage , done just like her parents and his.
And oh, how utterly stupid he felt for believing he could forge genuine connections in this world.
A perfect friend should be honest.
But at least she had the mind to sense their rift and put closure to it—even any possibility of a union. But she didn't do it out of consideration; she just didn't care. She would only move on to the next prospect; a better deal .
"No hard feelings, right?" Soojung had said, on the last day they ever spoke. "I mean, you know what we were born into; what we're supposed to do."
It's true, but is that all it has to be?
I shared my art with you, he wished he could have told her. I bared my soul. You were my first real friend.
But he knew none of it would have mattered; it still doesn't. Not to his parents or to her, and even though Hwansung tries sometimes, he just doesn't see anything the way Jimin does.
There has to be someone out there, but his optimism falls, little by little, until he starts to think that there is nothing he can do but bottle his emotions and hang his head low in obedience.
But if he could figure out the perfect friend, someone he could be himself around, he would definitely add, they should love me for who I am.
Jimin is sure he doesn’t need friends, but he supposes material goods are a fine replacement.
He just turned seventeen, and it’s one of those rare times when his father feels like spoiling him and Hwansung. Business has been prospering, so he feels that it’s only right that his children reap its benefits.
Hwansung wants a high-end gaming computer and dual monitors . He wants a surround sound system for his large, mounted television and for the times when he wants it as an additional computer display.
“There must be something,” his father says during dinner. “You have the whole world, Jimin. What do you want?”
Art , he wants to say. I want to pursue art. I want to paint the reds of rage and passion, the blues of melancholy and peace, the greens of envy and freedom .
But his world has no color—not his color. All of it is sepia—an old brown and cream, washed out. The color of old films, watching them like an outsider looking in. It’s not his life playing on a screen. It isn’t . But he sees his father rolling the projector, with his mother and brother sitting in seats at either side of him.
Everything is sepia.
No… no. He sees another color in his life, too—red.
It’s for the blood that boils when he thinks of the things he cannot have because everything is predetermined; the rage he must twist close when he helps with his father’s dealings; the red he sees now, behind his eyelids as his head tilts back slightly to face the stupid, tacky chandelier above them, as if lost in thought.
“A car,” he says finally, remembering that he just received his license. “Convertible. Hot rod red. The best you can find.”
He must continue pretending for them. And at least now, in a fast car with the top down, he can pretend to fly, too.
He grows to love the car; so much that he names it— her— the Queen of Hearts. He doesn’t leave anyone else room in his own heart; it’s taken by metal wrapped in shimmering red, the pretend wings she grants him when he roars down the highway, the wind against his face.
Sometimes he takes the lonelier roads, away from city and suburbs, out into the dustiness of rurality, just to draw and have time to himself.
Jimin’s fine with solitude; he doesn’t need anything but this car, his constant and only companion, in his heart. Letting other people in would only create holes, and there are already so many.
No one else, Jimin muses, patting the top of his Queen where he sits, parked by the cliff as he watches the sunset.
For once, he feels at peace. He feels free.
Then he meets Jeon Jungkook.
They speak for the first time after class, which Jimin’s spent drifting between diligence and daydreams, between notetaking and sketching. Jimin finds it odd for the boy to say anything today out of all days and wonders how long he’s watched him draw random faces and flowers, all looking sad or wilted. It’s almost embarrassing.
He is used to regular, ho-hum days of being invisible. Being the failure child of the Parks means no one bothers him; not with offers, with friendships, with anything. He gets lonely, but he knows the feeling is unimportant. He has to make his parents proud; he hasn’t figured out how, but he will. He’ll be the heir his parents want and the hyung Hwansung needs.
He has that and he has his Queen. He doesn’t need friendships.
But he’s cute , a traitorous part of him whispers, and he likes your drawings .
Soojung liked his art, too, and remembering that leaves Jimin wary.
Sure, Jungkook has dark doe eyes Jimin imagines falling into forever, and a shy smile that makes his teeth look like a bunny’s. He’s attractive and appears harmless, but Jimin remains on his guard.
So, he rationalizes that bringing Jungkook into the art room is a test.
The art room is his sanctuary; his escape from reality. Art is more than an elective for him; it’s his life. Through artful strokes that flow like wisps of air, it helps him breathe. He is so thankful that this school requires an arts elective to graduate; it means his parents can’t forbid him from it.
Jimin waits for indifference or lowered expectations, maybe even a sneer from the clutter of the room, but Jungkook surprises again. He doesn’t have to say anything—the sparkle of complete fascination is so clear in his widened eyes. It looks so genuine that it captivates Jimin, and he can’t help but laugh in relief.
Seriously—who, in his entire life, has ever had this innocent wonder for art? For the paint-stained tables, the stacks and piles of paper and canvases? Who has ever been truly impressed by anything Jimin has ever done?
Jimin watches him some more, the big, pretty eyes drinking in even the more ordinary things in his sketchbook like they’re full of enlightenment. For someone reserved, he is pretty open with his facial expressions; Jimin can read his emotions clearly. The universe must have created a masterpiece of a human being because they display his feelings so beautifully. He makes Jimin itch to draw and paint more—anything in the world if it means he can see those refreshingly honest expressions again.
He sees my passion , he notes, feeling his guard wear down a bit. He understands.
Jungkook looks up at him as he finishes going through the sketchbook, and this time their eyes stay fixed on each other. A twinge of light excitement bursts through Jimin, something he has never felt before.
Jungkook quickly darts his gaze away, pink tinging his cheeks as he shyly hands back the sketchbook.
He must feel it, too.
It doesn't take long for Jimin and Jungkook to get attached at the hip. Jimin doesn't like the idea of getting too close to people too quickly, but Jungkook is different from his old friends; he dances , and he’s more than familiar with the passion the arts bring. He understands the faraway dreams they can only fathom of ever reaching, because they’re both confined by what their lives force upon them.
It comforts Jimin. The world feels so much better when they're together—new and wonderful and magical. Jungkook's smiles, the adorable ones that crinkle his nose, fill all the empty spaces in his heart, and Jimin just wants to soar.
Jimin is hopeful that his passion shows in his art collection for the annual student art show. It’s probably the only event he looks forward to in a school that focuses mainly on interscholastic academic competitions and social stepladders into wealth and business.
Jungkook attends it with him, hovering just behind him, his hand lightly gripping a bit of Jimin’s tucked-in shirt. Jimin’s heart stutters at the warmth he radiates, and he has to take deep breaths to keep from getting distracted by it.
"People are looking at me," Jungkook murmurs self-consciously, eyes shifting as they pass through the crowd. "Why did you have to draw me for your collection?"
Jimin smiles. "Does it really need saying?"
"Honestly," he complains lightly, ducking his head to hide his blush.
“You’re being paranoid.”
For the show, Jimin focused on Jungkook's dance form, done in watercolor. Seeing him practice for the first time in his room, surrounded by majestic furnishings pushed against the wall, is an otherworldly experience. He moves fluidly, with an ethereal grace that strikes him with complete awe; how could Jimin not draw him?
After a while, the students and their guests and families start to assemble for the awards ceremony. Jimin and Jungkook situate themselves near the back of the audience.
In the middle of the introductions, Jimin gets his phone out of his pocket. He means to just check the time, but he realizes that he never changed his settings from silent to vibrate and now has ten missed calls—a couple from his parents, but most from Hwansung, including the most recent one.
As he scrolls through the log, another call comes in, and Jimin sighs.
"Do you have to answer it now?” Jungkook asks him, furrowing a brow. "They're about to announce—"
Jimin answers it. "Hwansung-ah?"
"Where," Hwansung hisses, " are you?"
"I'm at the art show. Why?"
"You're shitting me, right? Don't you remember what tonight is?"
Jimin stops. Dread prickles his skin. He ignores Jungkook's puzzled stare and spins away from him, cupping a hand around his mouth as he replies. "What are you talking about?"
"Appa's fucking gala at Diamond, for the merger with that online company. You're supposed to give the introductory speech for them."
Jimin blanches. He would have known this at least a month in advance. How did he not remember? Did he get dates mixed up? Did he put it into his calendar wrong? How did he not remember something so important?
"Hyung, are you okay?" Jungkook asks, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Who the fuck is tha—whatever, it's not important," Hwansung continues hurriedly. "If you get here in like ten, fifteen minutes, you'll make it. Don't let appa down."
Jimin’s hand is clammy when he hangs up sticks the cell back into his pocket. His mind buzzes with panic. He has to get to the ballroom at Busan Diamond Suites in fifteen minutes. It's a thirty-minute drive from campus but he can make it with the Queen. He's properly dressed, he hopes; he doesn't have a suit with him, but a button down and black slacks should be fine—
"Jiminnie-hyung," Jungkook says louder. "What's wrong?"
Jimin feels steady hands rubbing against his arms, smoothing out the tremors in his body.
Jungkook is warm and close, and Jimin's breath catches as he looks upward, his eyes falling on large, dark pools. In them, he is reminded of his own hands stained with paint, aching from its passionate efforts. Jimin is driven by this face, this gorgeous face and his graceful, powerful body, full of love for his craft, full of inspiration.
"I..." Jimin starts, forcing his gaze away. He's ready to tell him he has to go. He has to be with his family, and he can't disappoint them for the umpteenth time.
"First place—Park Jimin with his Dancer in a Bottle series!"
They both turn toward the stage in shock, and all focus Jimin had for the gala becomes lost. There is a few delayed seconds before he realizes, with all faces and applause aimed at him, that this is really happening .
Jungkook envelops him in a tight, proud embrace before pushing him hastily to the stage.
Receiving a gold medal and a certificate feels like a blur. Jimin only really remembers making eye contact with Jungkook across the room and smiling affectionately as he makes his thank you speech, his heart thumping with joy.
Even from this distance, Jimin sees dreams in Jungkook's eyes; not only Jungkook's but his own reflected in them. Art school doesn't seem so impossible, and he wants to get there. He has to get there. He has validation now, because of this and Jungkook.
His phone vibrates just as he walks off stage.
He ignores it.
Neither his mother nor father speak to him when he finally gets home. Jimin is too afraid to say anything first, though, so he rubs the gold medal around his neck to calm himself down and heads up the stairs.
Hwansung’s door is open when Jimin passes, and Jimin finds him sitting at the edge of his bed, facing the doorway with a clenched jaw—waiting.
Jimin stops, guilt twisting his heart as he turns to face his brother.
“I’m sorry,” he says, hovering by the doorway.
Hwansung shakes his head. “What were you thinking ?”
“I must have put the date wrong on my planner.”
“Not an excuse.” He notices the medal around his neck. “What’s that? That’s not from the art show, is it?”
Jimin nods hesitantly.
“You… chose that over us,” Hwansung says, his eyes narrowing with betrayal. “You chose the school fucking art show over your family.”
Jimin’s heart drops. He’s about to protest, but…
He’s right. I chose the art show. I chose Jungkook and… what we love.
Hwansung stands up from his bed and walks over. The two of them are the same height and build. They share similar noses and lips; that crescent eye-smile, too. They could almost be twins, but Jimin feels miniscule next to him. His brother inherited the powerful aura of their father and his cold intelligence.
“I covered for you,” Hwansung mutters, crossing his arms. “You owe me for that.”
Jimin averts his gaze. “I’ll… I’ll do whatever you want to make up for it.”
His brother pauses. “Don’t do that.”
“Treat me like I’m appa.”
“Don’t you want to be just like him?” Jimin retorts.
“Of course not,” Hwansung sighs, offended. “I don’t like any of this, either.”
Jimin blinks, confused. “What?”
Hwansung gestures around him. “This life. The way appa and omma treat and train us. All of this. I don’t know what I want—I’m not you and art—but I don’t want any of this, hyung.”
“Someone has to.” Hwansung cards a hand through his hair. “The Park legacy is important. Not just to us, but to a lot of people in the business world. And we can’t just… hand it over to anyone. It has to be one of us. It has to continue to prosper the Park way.”
Jimin’s mouth opens, but no words come out. All of this is new to him. In all the years they’ve grown up together, Jimin’s never heard any of this. The two of them have always had a wall between them, even up to now. Their goals have always been separate, at opposing ends of a spectrum. If they didn’t share blood, Jimin imagines they wouldn’t even cross paths. It’s a sad thought, and it twists guilt into Jimin’s heart.
He’s not a good older brother.
“I… I know you’re having a hard time,” Hwansung continues sympathetically. “I know that no matter what you do, appa and omma are always going to be harder on you than on me, but they haven’t given up on you, hyung. And you shouldn’t give up on them. On me, either.”
Hwansung grabs him by the wrist, pulling his hand away from the medal he had still been gripping. “Show omma and oppa that you have what it takes to become the heir. I know you’re a good hyung. Just be good to them, too. Just do what they want and along the way you’ll find happiness—just… not with all this in the way.”
But I have goals, Jimin wants to tell his brother. I have dreams . I want to be an artist. I want Jungkook’s proud, elated smile and for us to drown in our passions together.
But in the end, it doesn’t matter, does it?
He spends most of his time with Jungkook, both on weekdays and weekends. They stay out longer and later each time, and Jimin finds that, even though he feels most relaxed around Jungkook, the younger makes his heart beat faster and his face feel warmer, his head giddier.
He doesn't question the feeling. He's never known love prior to Jungkook, but he knows it like he knows the colors of all his paints.
Jimin parks at the curb in front of Jungkook's house and shuts off the engine.
They have just returned from downtown Busan. It had been an exhilarating night, their pinkies always barely brushing against each other as they browsed storefronts, side-by-side. He recalls Jungkook smiling with pure, unadulterated happiness as he moved in a street dance circle, under the shopping center's bright walkway lights. He's never seen him so satisfied by anything. He was definitely in his element. He belonged there—dancing, spilling his heart and soul into something he loves so much.
At least I can help him chase his dreams.
"See you Monday," Jimin says lightly. He tries not to sound letdown; he doesn't want to go home.
"Yeah," Jungkook replies, a burst of cheer in his voice. His eyes twinkle like stars and his smile beams sunshine into Jimin's heart.
Jimin can't help but smile back at him. Jungkook deserves this kind of happiness, this freedom.
Jungkook undoes his seatbelt. Jimin expects him to get out of the car, but instead, he twists around in his seat and leans over to hug him.
Jimin blushes as his fingers press gently against Jungkook's waist.
He's so warm .
Jimin's entire body pangs with the pull of attraction. For a moment, he buries his nose into Jungkook's neck, taking in his scent, the overwhelming urge to stay here, caught up in this moment.
"Thank you," Jungkook whispers. His words are husky and sweet in his ear. "Really, hyung. I haven't been that happy in a long time."
Jimin feels both their hearts stammer and quicken.
Anything for you, he almost says. "My pleasure."
Jungkook is supposed to move by now, but he stays right where he is, unwilling to let go.
Jimin's chest tightens. God, he likes Jungkook. He likes him a whole lot, and he's just unable to stop himself from going for it.
He shifts his head around until their noses brush intimately against one another.
"Goodnight, Jungkook-ah," he murmurs, before pressing his lips against his.
Nothing prepares Jimin for the spark of magic when their lips meet. A tingling, marvelous warmth rushes over him. And though it takes Jungkook a second to respond, he does, and the way their lips fit and mold into each other felt like destiny, a beautiful, heavenly dream.
But like all dreams, it doesn’t last long.
Jungkook breaks away, eyes shifting away to stare at the glove compartment.
“Goodnight, hyung,” he says belatedly, his voice hoarse and awkward. He doesn’t look at Jimin when he shuts the door behind him.
All Jimin sees is his back, broad and cold, and it crushes him.
He squeezes the steering wheel, but the fine leather grip does nothing to soothe him.
It was a mistake, he thinks. He always makes mistakes. Jungkook’s friendship doesn’t give him immunity from that.
Jimin feels like he should cry, but as he turns the key in the ignition and drives back home, he laughs. Maniacally almost, because he is stupid to have expected anything better—to think he’d be lucky for once.
When, in his entire life, has the universe ever given him anything he wanted?
We can be friends , he tells himself, chants it to himself every day.
He knows he is supposed to concentrate on art less and more on studying, and well, not think about kissing Jungkook at all, but the subsequent stress becomes acute and terrible. Art is his only solace, and sketching while Jungkook dances feels pretty much like needles pricking his skin; guilt piercing him every time he makes a stroke on the paper.
He doesn’t want to distance himself from Jungkook; despite the younger juggling his life better than him, he still needs a friend like Jimin, someone to cling to who isn’t just family with certain expectations; someone who knows him.
Friends. We can be friends.
Jimin tries to ignore Jungkook lying down on the bed next to where Jimin is sitting, drawing. But even when they’re not touching, and even as he dozes off, Jimin feels his warmth blanket calmly over him.
Jimin dares himself to look over at Jungkook, doing his damnedest not to be swayed by the peaceful, upward curve of his lips, moist after his tongue darts out to lick them, or to be entranced by the curtain of lashes falling against his smooth, dewy skin.
But it’s no use. Jimin drowns from the thick heat of heartache, the craving he has for this boy. The more they hang out, as friends , the more he pines. He wonders if Jungkook can feel how much he wants him; if he could breathe it in as Jimin hovers over his form. There is just so much .
I shouldn’t. I can’t.
Jimin has to move on. He has to let it be as it is. He has too much to do and Jungkook would only distract him.
Jimin has to. But he can’t .
“Hey,” he says, losing all logic, his heart in complete control over his brain.
Jungkook cracks an eye open, and then the other; soft, dark brown pools pulling, pulling, pulling like Jimin is his last and his forever. He’s so beautiful that Jimin is momentarily breathless.
He’s madly, hopelessly in love with Jeon Jungkook.
“Are you done?” Jungkook asks, his voice barely above a whisper. “Did you paint me like one of your Fre—”
“Can I kiss you?”
Jimin is eighteen, and he tries to balance his life the way his boyfriend Jungkook does, especially since he is in his last year of high school and has the added responsibility of trying to get into a university his parents approve of.
He barely cracks the top thirty percent of the school rankings—in an intensive high school like his, it’s not bad compared to other schools, but his parents demand at least the top ten percent like Hwansung’s rank currently is.
“What if,” Jimin starts, staring at Jungkook’s desktop computer screen. He’s been sitting there for several minutes, deep in contemplation. “We went to K-ARTS?”
“K-ARTS?” Jungkook repeats from the floor of his room. He’s sprawled out in the middle, sifting through his mp3 player, searching for a better song medley to dance to. “Isn’t that that really good art university in Seoul?”
Jimin nods and points at the screen, to the site he currently has open.
Jungkook gets up with a grunt and comes over. He stares at the screen over his shoulder.
“Jiminnie-hyung,” he says, “this is really prestigious.”
Jimin frowns. “You don’t think we’d get in?”
“I’m just saying,” Jungkook reassures him, smiling as he plants a kiss on his neck. “But I think we would. One hundred percent.”
Jimin clicks through the pages of the art department with fascination, the photos of the students, the buildings, the art . Everything is bright and beautiful, nothing like the blacks, grays, and whites of this world. He wants it, that freedom; he needs it.
He’s so focused that he doesn’t notice Jungkook shaking with soft laughter, his face buried into his shoulder.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you smile like that,” Jungkook murmurs into him. “It’s nice.”
Jimin shrugs. He supposes his cheeks do ache a bit from smiling so hard.
“I want to go here,” he says.
Jimin imagines a life in Seoul, walking on the colorful campus. He’d wear t-shirts and sweats instead of high-end clothing even on a ‘casual’ day, covered in dried paint and charcoal smudges. He’d have a nice portfolio under his arm. He’d have Jungkook next to him, after he graduates, walking with him, laughing as they make their way to his car.
“I should,” Jimin says.
“By should, you mean you will , right?”
Jimin’s smile wavers, because his family and their wishes are never far from his mind. Jungkook understands this very well, but at least his family cares.
“I have to talk to them first,” he says.
He spins in the chair to face Jungkook. His boyfriend is looking down at him with concern—he knows how talking to his parents about art goes.
“Maybe if I… I don’t know, study more… maybe apply to that summer business program…” Jimin is saying all these things shakily, because he’s terrible in the business world and everything attached to it, but if it’s for his parents’ blessing to attend K-ARTS, he’s willing to do it. “Just… just do what they want me to do for a while, I guess? Maybe that’ll work?”
Jungkook pulls him to his feet. The momentum makes Jimin stumble into his arms.
“Hopefully,” Jungkook murmurs. He kisses Jimin thoughtfully. “Seoul…”
“Mm-hm.” Jimin wraps his arms over his shoulders and leads him backwards until they fall onto the bed behind Jungkook. “Us. In Seoul. In an art school .”
“Together,” Jungkook says.
They both crack up at their sappiness, but Jimin feels content—he knows these things to be true. He’s secure in his love for Jungkook and is sure that he is, too. If only they had the perfect future to go with it.
“What do you think?” Jimin asks. He wants to be in Seoul with Jungkook. He’d go anywhere to be with him, but the art school in Seoul would be perfect .
He just hopes he feels the same.
He watches Jungkook smile, his eyes warm with love, with certainty. Yes, Jimin reads before Jungkook actually says it.
I have to make it happen.
“Dong Yong-bae will be at that party tomorrow,” his mother tells him at dinner, the night before Jeon Jaehyun’s birthday celebration—which will be attended by everyone they know. “Hopefully he doesn’t know how atrocious your grades are.”
“You should be able to get in by name alone,” his father adds. “If not…”
He doesn’t finish, but Jimin has a feeling that things would only get worse if he doesn’t get into DYB. He doesn’t know what his father will do or say in that scenario, but it sends a shiver down his spine.
Jimin and Hwansung exchange looks across the table. The latter doesn’t speak and looks rather indifferent.
His little brother doesn’t complain about his own life. Jimin wonders if he still hates it, if he has or wants a way out. He’s tried a few times to talk to him about it; to at least see how he’s doing, but Hwansung deflects his questions and tells him he’s too busy to talk. Other times, he looks at him derisively, and Jimin just feels too guilty to concentrate on anything.
Some family, he thinks, sifting through his rice with his chopsticks instead of eating it. Bad son, bad hyung. Maybe he really is bringing shame to all three of them.
He doesn’t get in.
Dong Yong-bae has already taken a liking to Hwansung, though. Jimin should be happy for his little brother, but he feels the heat of jealousy flicker like a small flame, licking his pride raw. Envy is often colored green, but Jimin thinks it should be a charred black and the tender red and white of blistering skin.
“You useless child ,” his father seethes as soon Jimin walks through the door.
Jimin swallows thickly, his heart beating too fast and his mind too panicked for him to form a proper reply. Staying at the party later than his family, clinging to Jungkook in a closet and kissing his thoughts away, doesn’t alleviate nor prepare him.
“Thank god he liked Hwansung,” his mother adds, rubbing her temples. She looks up at him, her eyes dark and hateful , and Jimin can’t believe this is the same woman who bought him art supplies when he was little. “Three generations, Jimin—both your father’s and my side of the family, and you are the first to fail to get in.”
“Such an embarrassment,” his father grumbles. Jimin notices the glass pitcher of whiskey and the two filled glasses for the first time, sitting between the two of them.
It isn’t fair .
“Maybe I’m just not meant to go there,” Jimin speaks up bravely. “Or anywhere like that.”
“Everyone on both sides of the family has gone to DYBU for three generations,” his mother says, emphasizing every word as if Jimin didn’t speak the same language. “What are you talking about?”
“I mean,” Jimin goes on, raising his voice. He’s never been confident around his family, but for his love of art—his love for Jungkook —makes him say it anyway. “What about about art school?”
His father sniffs, disgusted. “That’s a joke, right?”
“The Korean National University for the Arts is the best in the country—”
Jimin presses his lips in a line. He can’t give up yet. “Appa, omma, if you guys went to the school art shows—”
“The ones you miss important events for,” his mother interjects.
“I…” Guilt wells up in his gut. “Yeah, but… but I’m good at this. I have medals and certificates. The literary magazine is putting all my art in it and wants me to create a cover for them, and—”
“I called Min Yeongbin,” his father harrumphed. “You’re going to Loen University Southeast—here in Busan—in the fall. It’s not DYBU, but it’s the best we can do with you.”
“B-But appa. Just let me work hard the rest of high school; I’ll even do that summer program. I’ll get my ranking up and graduate with honors. I’ll study so hard for every—”
“Loen,” he growls. “That’s final , Jimin.”
“If you had chosen something useful, then this situation would have been different,” his mother adds thinly, delicately setting her glass after having knocked back the drink—like Jimin is that much trouble.
What the fuck is useful?
Both his parents pull to their feet and retire to their bedroom.
Jimin feels extinguished, his motivation becoming ashes floating uselessly in the breeze.
You useless child .
Jimin climbs weakly up the stairs. He passes Hwansung’s room and notices his door is closed, music blasting, walling him off. He’s probably aware of the conversation downstairs.
Just as Jimin sets his phone on his desk, it starts vibrating—Jungkook is calling. He must be worried about how the talk went. Jimin doesn’t want Jungkook to know that his parents hate him, that his brother never defends him. He should be concentrating on his own things, not Jimin’s dysfunctional family.
Jimin takes a deep breath to smooth out his voice and answers.
“Jiminnie-hyung.” Jungkook pauses, not sure how to begin. “How… how did it go?”
“What, talking to my parents?”
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Jimin lied. “They scolded me a bit…” You useless child . “… but… they got me a back-up, so I guess I’ll be at Loen in the fall.”
Silence. Jimin wonders if Jungkook can hear his true emotion in his voice.
“And you’re just… going to accept that?”
“They might be right, you know?” The words are empty on Jimin’s lips. But maybe if he say things like this enough times, he’ll start believing them. “I need to think about my future with the company.”
Oh, Jungkook definitely knows. Jimin hears it in his sigh.
Good job, Jimin. You disappointed yet another person .
“I want you to be happy,” Jungkook says softly.
“Baby, you’re not . What happened?”
You useless child.
He feels his throat cinch and ache. “I’m fine, Jungkook-ah. I’m fine .”
He must sound insistent enough, because Jungkook stops asking. Jimin can tell he’s upset about it, but he’s just not ready to repeat anything his parents have said tonight.
“I’ll be staying in Busan,” Jimin speaks up, trying to change the subject. He forces his quivering lips into a smile. “We’ll still be together, right?”
“We’ll be together no matter where you go,” Jungkook reassures him.
Jimin feels a tear slide down his cheek as he makes his way to his bed to hide under the covers. He feels more trapped than ever. It feels like rough rope chafing his skin as it ties him to railroad tracks. Seoul feels like it’s halfway around the world. The possibly of art school becomes never . He hopes at least Jungkook applies and makes it when he gets there. At least he has room to dream. He has enough of a stretch to reach it.
“Yeah? What’s up?”
“I love you.” His voice breaks with the words, but he refuses to fall apart. He never wants to, not in front of Jungkook.
He’s eternally grateful to have him, to have someone with all the patience and love in the world; someone who finds value in him.
“I love you, too, baby. Always.”
Jungkook soothes him with quiet words of adoration and encouragement. Even though Jimin doesn’t totally feel better, his kind, wonderful boyfriend manages to lull him to a relatively peaceful slumber.
At nineteen, Jimin discovers that his dreams are not so out of reach, after all.
It’s Friday afternoon. He trudges out of his class at Loen University, yawning, and heads toward the nearest exit. Thank fuck his day’s over. He can’t wait to get to his car and pick Jungkook up from the high school.
He treks across campus, not looking at anyone or anything.
But the campus art gallery—that always stands out.
It takes up the entire first floor of the art building, clean, sleek, and beautiful. It always draws his attention, every time. He never goes in.
When Jimin first started attending Loen, he avoided the art building at all costs; firstly, because he really needs to focus and his parents are counting on him not to mess up his future in the family company again , and secondly, because the prospect of art school and seeing its students saunter in and out of the building still leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.
He’s gotten better about it these, days, though. He takes the shorter path through campus to get to the parking lot, and even allows himself a glance or two in the gallery’s direction.
And today… he stops .
He doesn’t know what it is, or how or why, but he stops when he looks over at the building. The scrolling marquee in the front promotes the theme for the latest student exhibit— daydream .
He almost turns away again, because he still has to pick up his boyfriend, but he checks the time, also displayed on the marquee. He has several minutes to spare.
Jimin starts up the path, his heart pounding with anticipation. It’s been awhile since he’s looked at any art, and he keeps his own ventures sporadic and casual. Instead of having several sketchbooks strewn about everywhere like he used to, he has a lone one that he brings with him to school and keeps in his car.
He is about to open the door with a clammy hand when it opens for him in a burst as a handsome man with slicked back blond hair practically barrels him over.
Jimin crashes painfully onto his butt, his books, sketchbook, and notes toppling to the ground. He suppresses a groan of pain.
“Ah, I’m sorry! I should’ve looked where I was going!”
Jimin looks up to see a man who doesn’t look very much older than he does. He’s dressed sophisticatedly, in a well-fitted button-down shirt and dark gray slacks.
“It happens,” Jimin replies good-naturedly, pulling himself to a squat as both he and the stranger collect Jimin’s things.
The blonde picks up the sketchbook and stops to look at it. “Art student?” he asks curiously.
“No, I…” he mutters, his cheeks growing warm. “I just like drawing in my free time.”
The blonde man stands up first. He points to the gallery. “Do you have anything in there?”
I wish. “No.”
The blonde gestures to the sketchbook as if to ask, may I ?
Jimin nods, although he is pretty confused as to why this random guy was so curious about his art.
“These are good,” the blonde tells him in a low voice. His eyes scan the pages carefully. “The detail is incredible. And was this one drawn with just a ballpoint pen?”
“Thanks,” Jimin says, picking up the rest of his books and standing up as well. “I don’t have many art supplies with me, so I just make do.”
He isn’t sure if the man heard him—he’s still concentrated on Jimin’s sketchbook, flipping through each page with a strangely high amount of scrutiny and fascination.
“You… used coffee stains as art.”
Jimin blushes again. That happened on a study date with Jungkook a few weeks ago. “Yeah. It started as an accident, and…”
“Amazing. It looks like watercolor.”
“Yeah, that’s what I sort of went for.”
Jimin realizes that he’s probably going to be late to pick up Jungkook. He tries to be discreet as he checks his phone for the time and possible messages, but the blond is quick to notice.
“Have somewhere to be?” he asks, raising his brows.
“Yeah, sorry. I have to pick up someone—”
“Ah, don’t let me keep you.” The man shuts the sketchbook and hands it back to him, along with a business card he fishes out of his pocket.
Jimin reads the information on the card curiously, and then everything in his mind connects. His jaw drops.
“I’m Jackson Wang,” the blonde tells him with a kind smile. “I’m a student recruiter from K-ARTS. Have you heard of it?”
Jimin nods, dumbfounded, hardly believing his luck.
“Good, I can make this quicker,” he says, and goes on despite Jimin’s obvious shock. “I want you to email me, okay? You’re good. Like, really good, and I think you’ll flourish at K-ARTS. I’d like to see some of your finished pieces. Do you have a portfolio? I’ll be here over the weekend, so I can look at it tomorrow.”
Jimin manages to shake his head no. “I-I don’t know how to—”
“Really? Well, I guess I can tell you how to make one over email.” He winks. “Now, I think you must be off, right?”
“O-Oh, uh, yeah,” Jimin squeaks. “Um, ah, thanks.”
Despite Jimin saying he’s running late, Jackson is the one to leave first.
It takes Jimin another two full minutes of standing in shock before he makes it to his car. He barely remembers the drive to the high school and man, is he lucky not to have crashed into anything on the way because of his daze.
“Babe, you’re late today,” Jungkook says, after literally jumping over the door of the Queen into the passenger seat with a soft fwump . “Something up?”
“K-ARTS,” Jimin says casually, even though his heart is beating a million times a second, warming and swelling with the same ambition from last year, before his parents got in the way.
Jungkook blinks. Neither of them have mentioned the school to each other since last year. “What? What about it?”
Jimin explains as they drive to Jungkook’s house, and by the time he finishes, there is no doubt in Jungkook’s mind what should happen next.
“Do it,” Jungkook blurts out. He turns in his seat, staring at him with excited eyes. “Baby. Do it . Email that guy. Hell. Get on my computer as soon as we get to my place.”
But Jimin’s enthusiasm wanes as he starts to think. He thinks as he drives, as he recalls the events, thinking and overthinking as he parks his car at Jungkook’s curb. He has too many obstacles, too many reasons to doubt and not bother. “I don’t know…”
Jimin follows his boyfriend inside his house, a place that currently feels a lot more like home than his own. Jungkook always offers him a bed (and his own when his parents aren’t home), but Jimin doesn’t want to stray too far.
Jimin sighs and flops back onto the bed.
Jungkook climbs on top of him, his face an inch from his, body splayed over his. He looks slightly worried.
Jimin closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to see Jungkook’s deep, pleading eyes right now. “Hm?”
He feels soft, coaxing lips press against his brow, his cheekbone, his jaw, before sliding over his own. It’s delicate, like Jungkook’s afraid of kissing too hard and hurting him.
“I think today happened for a reason,” his boyfriend breathes over his mouth, sounding way more sure of Jimin than Jimin himself, exceedingly optimistic.
Jungkook rolls to his side and tucks him into his embrace. It’s only now that Jimin realizes how stressed and unhappy he’s been. He’s tense against Jungkook’s warm, relaxed form, and he feels the creases in his forehead and the furrow of his brows as he rests his face against his skin.
“I think you should do it.”
Jimin still dreams of it sometimes—the perfect life on their own, far from crisp suits and business.
And most importantly in those dreams, they’re together. As they should be.
But Jimin fears them, too. He can never see how distant his dreams are. He reaches blindly, never knowing if he’s simply at the wrong angle or if it’s too far beyond his fingertips.
And to leave Busan…
Jimin is ninety-nine percent sure his parents will cut him off financially if he drops international business for art. They are unforgiving like that.
Oh, dream maker, you heartbreaker , Jimin suddenly finds himself singing in his mind—a song he hears often at galas, wistful and lulling no matter what version plays.
The two of them lie in silence, and Jimin spends it thinking instead of relaxing in his loving boyfriend’s arms. Think, think, think—he does too much of it without getting anything done. He ponders all the things that can go wrong instead of the sliver of luck that he’s willing to test. He’s learned that in his life, wanting something is a gamble.
But it takes little time for his mind to betray him. It focuses on the uncanny pull toward the art gallery, the convenient bump into Jackson Wang; things that he could take as just a weird, one-time glitch in the world; or as serendipity.
But he won’t know which it is if he doesn’t try.
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.
“I want you to do the things you want to do,” Jungkook murmurs, still trying to convince him.
Ah—Jimin’s said that before, hasn’t he? He lets out a long breath and manages a smile. Maybe there’s still some hope left—just enough. He doesn’t need to think for it to thread into his heart. He feels it vibrate in his bones, welcomed into his body like an old friend.
“I’ll think about it.”
Jimin writes his first email to Jackson Wang that night when he gets home from Jungkook’s. It’s not long, just him expressing interest in the school and creating a portfolio, but it turns out to be the little spark Jimin needs to pursue it seriously.
He becomes so caught up in preparations for K-ARTS that his grades at Loen begin slipping a little. He hopes his parents aren’t as vigilant about his grades in college as they were when he was younger.
That first attempt at communicating with Jackson turns into a long series of email correspondence. They become less formal along the way and closer to friends. Jimin calls him hyung , and they have each other’s numbers now. While Jimin doesn’t like revealing much about his home life, he loves boasting about Jungkook.
Yeah, I did notice that you have that same guy in nearly all your art, Jackson texts him. That’s your boyfriend?
Honestly, Jungkook’s more than that, and he always struggles to find the right words—the perfect words that aren’t just boyfriend . But he thinks Jackson understands that. He hopes, at least, that he sees the love he puts into every piece.
Yeah, Jimin replies honestly. He’s my everything.
That’s cute. Nice having your own personal muse, isn’t it?
He inspires me all the time. Jimin doesn’t know how to thank Jungkook for encouraging him. Thanks to him and Jackson, he’s gotten really far in this process with a ton of positive feedback from both Jackson and professors who’ve seen photos and scans of Jimin’s art.
It’s March now, and after two months, Jackson is going to return to get Jimin’s final portfolio for admission this upcoming weekend. If things go as planned (and they should , according to a very confident Jackson), Jimin will be able to start his classes in the fall.
Really, though, Jimin-ah, if you can find someone who inspires you and supports you like that… then you’re really lucky.
Jimin looks up from his phone, at Jungkook taking a last look through his portfolio. He’s seen all the art pieces before—multiple times—but he still gazes at them with stars in his eyes, as beautifully stunned as the first day they met.
Jungkook glances up, smiling at him with so much pride that Jimin can’t help the swell of love surrounding him, tugging his own lips, tugging his heart.
Jimin thinks he’s ready. He knows Jungkook’s been ready, with his own acceptance letter for K-ARTS tucked away under his mattress.
We can go to Seoul.
Together, just like in his dreams.
And he hopes that after all this, his parents will find something to be proud of.
Jimin has his final portfolio—as well as brand-new gallery pieces he means to get up on Saturday (tomorrow!) for the latest campus exhibit when Jackson returns—concealed behind stacks of clothing in his closet. He isn’t supposed to be this dedicated to art, not like before. He doesn’t want his parents to even suspect until after this is over; after Jimin is accepted into K-ARTS.
Before leaving that Friday morning for class, He shuts his closet door, and then his bedroom. His hard work, his sacred dream maker, is safely hidden away.
There’s something unusually motionless and silent about the night when it arrives. Jimin’s intuition is strong tonight; he senses it as he parks in the driveway.
The chirping of the car sounds loud and out of key when he locks it, and his footsteps seem to echo heavily on the cobblestone walkway. The side gate he usually uses screeches and Jimin suddenly makes note of every rustle his clothing makes.
Foreboding, a part of him whispers.
No, there’s just no wind tonight , another rationalizes.
When he opens the door, nothing seems out of place. It’s quiet, but that’s not really unusual. His parents usually retire to their room early, and Hwansung likes to keep to himself in his bedroom or the upstairs library.
He shakes his head. Maybe he’s just nuts; he’s seeing Jackson in the morning, so it just might be anxiety.
He takes off his shoes and makes his way past the kitchen.
When he gets to the stairs, he spots Hwansung sitting at the top, hands wringing in his lap as he stares at him—like he’s been waiting.
“Hwansung-ah,” Jimin greets warily as he climbs up.
His brother remains quiet.
Jimin gets near the top, on the step just below Hwansung’s. The elder sighs and gives him an impatient look, silently and obviously asking him to get out of his way.
But he still doesn’t move. This must mean he needs something, but Jimin doesn’t know why he won’t come out and just say it; he usually does.
“Hwansung,” Jimin snaps, staring at his unusually quiet, solemn brother. “What is it?”
“Hyung,” Hwangsung mutters. He looks like he is about to divulge a secret that Jimin is never meant to hear. That, or he is about to betray him for the sake of someone more important.
And just from looking into his eyes, Jimin knows exactly who.
“What did he do?” Jimin asks, his voice just below a whisper. Acute dread shoots up his spine. His heart speeds to a flutter.
Hwansung breaks the gaze and swallows. Jimin can no longer read his brother’s actions; the way he shoves his hands into his pockets and stiffens his posture.
“You should check the storage unit.”
Hwansung doesn’t answer. Jimin can’t tell if he isn’t supposed to, or if he doesn’t want to.
But it’s late and Jimin doesn’t have time to dawdle. He wants to get enough sleep to wake up bright and alert for Jackson tomorrow, proudly handing him Jimin’s beautiful leather folio full of—
Jimin suddenly shivers. He tilts his head up slowly, narrowing his eyes behind Hwansung’s shoulder and into the hallway. He sees dim moonlight spilling into the darkness.
His bedroom door is wide open.
Before he knows it, he’s running out the house.
The metal door to the storage unit is unlocked and ajar. Jimin grunts as he pulls the heavy thing open and is met with darkness.
Jimin raises his shirt collar over his nose and mouth and steps in. He turns on the lightswitch and hitches a breath.
He finds the metal incinerator on the opposite side, shut closed, but Jimin feels warmth radiating from it. It’s been used recently.
Jimin’s heart hammers out his fear. He knows—inside, he just knows and he is too afraid to admit its reality.
Jimin forces several steps forward until he reaches it. He barely has strength in his grip when he swings the sliding cover upward.
His hand shakes as he pulls out his phone for light points it inside. At first he only sees ashes, both old and new, their original shapes unknown, but as his light scans the incinerator more carefully, he sees them.
Sketchbook paper; several pages of it, ripped right out of the book they came from.
With an anguished cry, Jimin pulls them out. He drops his phone as he holds the partially burned and crumpled and torn to his chest like dead children. His knees give way at the realization.
In his position, he makes out the additional destruction near his feet, around his weakened body. Ashes spilled from the incinerator, maybe.
What did you used to be? He brokenly asks the pile. Were you a charcoal sketch of the boy I love? A landscape drawing of this place I’m supposed to call home? Maybe you were both.
Jimin feels a painful lurch in his throat, but he refuses to let himself cry when he finally looks down at the sketchbook paper in his hands. He sees a pencil sketch of Jungkook’s lips, smiling. The top half of his face is missing, burnt away. The other pages are similar—halves and quarters of whole pieces, pictures of the few things he enjoyed in life, ruined.
The gallery .
It whispers in his mind like wafting smoke. It’s thick and ominous, and Jimin uses all his willpower to steel himself and stand again. He takes his phone with him. The torn sketches flutter to his feet except for the one of Jungkook, which he holds close to him.
Jimin doesn’t take long finding more than ashes. He sees a large metal bin shoved into the corner. It’s filled with ripped, broken canvases, some partially burnt, some ripped viciously by pocket knives. The destruction is made of pieces new and old. There’s something poignant and artistic in all this, perhaps. It does what it’s supposed to: elicit emotion—pain, betrayal, hopelessness.
The first thing he pulls out is a piece of a watercolor painting—cherry blossoms. It’s a recent piece, one he worked hard on and especially made for his formal portfolio.
Jimin feels thick tears brim his eyes, and he swallows back a mortified sob as he sets it down at his feet.
Dread continues to build as he finds another portfolio piece. A bust portrait of Jungkook done in acrylic paint. He had been inspired by a date at the observatory, so he overlayed the outline of his boyfriend with the night sky.
It’s torn straight down the middle. One eye stares up at him with half a smile. The color is dulled by carelessness and clouded by fire.
Whatever optimism Jimin had left vanishes instantly. His world and all the dreams contained within crash down everywhere around him, but he doesn’t fall with them yet.
Jimin digs some more and finds every single one of his portfolio pieces—the ones meant for Jackson, for K-ARTS, for his dreams , stuffed like trash, burnt and ripped, many in shreds.
He doesn’t know why he keeps looking—he knows that all of it is ruined and unsalvageable; gone forever. He knows he himself is ruined.
The last thing he pulls out is a burnt leather folio, shredded, bent, and unusable. It was once beautiful and soft to touch. Jimin feels his heart rip to pieces; it had been a gift from his boyfriend. It had been engraved on the inside cover: To my Jimin, with love. Always dream big.
He lets it fall from his hands. It hits the ground pathetically, the leathery thud resounding in the silent room, surrounded by broken art.
All of his dreams—literally burned to ashes.
Jimin feels every crack of his breaking heart, sharp and blindingly painful as he practically crawls out of the building. He stumbles over the grass of the backyard, body ricocheting off the gates with a clang, clang, clang . He sways as if he’s drunk; the room spins similarly, numbly. The sight of his art in a mess of ashes and shreds is so surreal that he feels himself pull apart—like he is somewhere else, distant, looking down at his broken, fragile body as it ungracefully seeks justification for this horror.
“Hwansung-ah?” he calls as soon as he re-enters the house. He doesn’t recognize his own voice; it’s like dry, brittle gravel.
He doesn’t answer, but Jimin hears his father shout for him from the living room. His voice is like thunder, signaling the beginning of a storm.
Jimin finds Hwansung and his mother seated on the sofa and his father in his usual reclining chair. Hwansung’s head hangs low, eyes staring at his hands. Their mother sits straight, hands clasped on her lap, her gaze fixed ahead. The air is thick with unrest.
And their father is in his usual reclining chair, sitting up and forward. He is isn’t shaking or reddening with rage, but he stares at Jimin with still, cold-blooded scorn. His hands and clothing are clean. Even though it’s possible that he probably washed off the soot, Jimin can tell that he didn’t take responsibility in destroying his own troubles—he gets others to do it for him.
“Did I make myself clear?” he asks Jimin quietly, in a voice thin and sharp enough to slice through his body.
“Why?” Jimin asks him brokenly, his entire body shaking. “Appa, why —”
“I said,” his father cuts in, “did I make myself clear?”
Jimin pauses, his mouth opening to answer, though he has nothing to say.
That is, until his father slaps down something on the coffee table in front of Jimin.
Dancer in a Bottle, Part I.
Jimin feels a tear slide down his cheek as he stares at the broken piece. He only sees parts of the smooth strokes and mottled watercolors of Jungkook’s face, the paper torn and wrinkled, ripped in two. He still makes out his boyfriend’s painted eyes, still emboldened and alluring despite its destruction. He loves drawing his eyes this way; it’s how Jungkook always looks at him when the two of them talk about their passions.
“Jimin,” his mother speaks up. She looks weary, like she’s given up on him. “Answer your father.”
Yes —it’s the automatic answer. Obedient and dutiful and so easy to stumble from his lips. Jimin has done all he can to represent the legacy and tradition of Park Royale, his family itself. He’s done all he can to be the good hyung Hwansung needs to lead him. He’s laid his heart and his soul for his family to stomp all over and yet it’s never been enough. His family has to have everything, and art doesn’t give them anything but pure disdain.
Jimin lays a hand on his painting, his fingertips pressed just below Jungkook’s eyes. These eyes, these paints, these hands won a gold medal in high school. His first instance of validation as an artist and someone of value.
“No,” Jimin rasps. His anger come in wisps of white-hot flames, lapping at Jimin’s skin, burning holes into his chest. Art is all he knows. It’s all he wants to know, and this isn’t fair . “Appa, omma, I want to be an artist. I don’t want to be here .”
“Jimin!” his mother hisses. “Stop that!”
But Jimin doesn’t stop. He’s tired of the façade, the resentment, the color-by-numbers future he’s supposed to have.
“I could get into the best art school in the entire country and you don’t think that’s an accomplishment?!” Jimin is yelling now. “I found my calling! I found what makes me truly happy! I—”
His words cut off at the sting of knuckles slamming into his cheek.
Jimin’s face snaps to the side, his eyes wide on the mirror on the wall, the red mark forming on his cheek bone. He is frozen except for his eyes, traveling over the reflected scene. His mother and his brother have their heads down, immovable as his father continues to stand over him, his hand tense and raised, ready to strike him again.
“Don’t want to be here?” his father asks in a frighteningly even voice. “Then pack your things. I am done with you.”
This isn’t an empty threat; his father is not the kind to bluff. In his world of fake smiles and money-minded conversations, the cutthroat cruelty of the Parks remains true. Even within family.
“ Years of this pettiness, Jimin. And you are as useless as ever.”
You useless child.
He leaves the room. Jimin continues to stare into the mirror as his mother and Hwansung stand up one by one, neither bothering to look at Jimin.
No one defends him. No one comforts him. He becomes invisible. As far as The Parks know, there is only one son.
Jimin feels too weak to move, so he stays there for god knows how long. Hours, maybe, his mind a blank slate.
He pictures his parents shuffling around with their usual nighttime routine in the master bedroom at the other end of the house, both wordless. He imagines Hwansung studying in the library, as if nothing happened. Jimin isn’t completely sure, though. He shouldn’t be anymore—that is no longer something he can be accustomed to.
He eventually regains enough strength to pick up the torn piece of painting from the coffee table and stare, hit by a desperate, throbbing longing.
“Jungkookie,” he whispers, shaking violently as he fishes for his phone from his pocket. “Jungkookie, Jungkookie, JungkookieJungkookie.”
He needs him. He needs Jungkook to pull him out. He needs his encouragement, his love, his everything.
Jungkook doesn’t answer, so Jimin calls again. It doesn’t matter to Jimin that it’s three in the morning and that his boyfriend is trying to sleep. Jimin cannot breathe. His art had been his air and he can’t breathe .
“Hyung, what ?” he hears on the other end, irritated and groggy. “Do you know what time it is?”
“Jungkook-ah,” Jimin whimpers through a quivering chin. “Jungkook, please let me come over. God, please. I can’t—I can’t be here.”
“Jimin.” Jungkook’s anger melts into fearful concern. “What’s wrong?”
“J-Just let me see you,” Jimin continues, trying hard not to break down. Not in this house, anyway. He tries to swallow but his throat feels too tight. “I can’t breathe…. I can’t stay h-here. I can’t .”
“Oh, god, babe.” Jungkook must hear the stinging anguish Jimin knows neither have heard in his voice before. “Yes. Please. Are you okay to drive?”
“Yeah…” Jimin bites his lip. He’s still trembling, but he already feels relieved hearing Jungkook’s voice. He’s protected. He’ll be fine.
At least someone loves him.
Jimin both tenses and relaxes when Jungkook softly opens his door. Tense, because he’s ready to explode in emotion and bury himself into the love of his life, to release everything, because there’s nowhere else he can. Relaxed, because for once, he feels safe.
“Jiminnie,” Jungkook breathes, taking him by the elbow. “Be quiet, okay? Everyone’s sleep—” He cuts himself off, pupils shrinking and eyes widening at Jimin under the front porch light.
But he recovers quickly, keeping his hands steady on Jimin as he brings him inside.
Jimin takes off his shoes and follows him up the stairs to his room.
Jungkook shuts the door behind him. Jimin feels the air shift as Jungkook steps around to face him. Outside the window, Jimin sees that the night is clear and full of stars. But he feels none of its serenity.
Jungkook presses a finger under his chin and turns him from the window to him. Jimin closes his eyes for a moment and feels Jungkook's thumb, so, so tender over his bruising cheek.
His boyfriend’s whisper is gentle and safe. “Baby?”
Jimin opens his eyes again. And as soon as they meet Jungkook’s, he just… lets go, crumpling into Jungkook’s waiting, steady form.
“He d-destroyed them,” Jimin stammers. “He fu-… fucking destroyed everything .”
Jungkook stays silent, nosing delicately into his hair.
“B-burned the gallery pieces. That and everything else I’ve created. All those fucking years of—he… he destroyed everything .”
Jungkook swallows. “What?"
“Gone,” Jimin chokes out, becoming hysterical. “It’s all gone.” To prove it, he reaches into his pocket and takes out the charred Jungkook sketch from earlier. He suddenly remembers that it’s from a specific sketchbook; the one he picked up when he first saw the amazement in the younger’s eyes, encouraging of Jimin’s endeavors. There’s a metaphor somewhere here, and Jimin hates it with his entire being.
“Incinerated. Fucking ashes.”
Jungkook is stunned, eyes glassy and full of hurt.
“He found m-my dreams and ruined them.” He’s aware that he’s rambling, but he can’t stop. His body fills to the brim with anger and sadness and despair. It spills now, uncontrollable; unstoppable. “ Fuck him. Fuck my dad and fuck my mom and brother for not doing a thing .”
There. That’s the metaphor—burn his dreams and his love to the ground. Replace the colorful air he breathes with the smoke of the future he never asked for and let it choke him. That’s what his father wants. He wants him to suffocate in pointless legacy and the hunger for power.
Jimin allows Jungkook to take him back into his arms, and he cries into him, harder than ever. Jungkook doesn’t seem to mind the tears soaking him, the clinging desperation. Jungkook feels so stable; so strong. He’s his much needed rock. He’s the only one who sees hope in him.
But hope isn’t enough, Jimin realizes, somewhat sad. He can’t be in Busan. So much bad outweighs the good and what happened at his house is the final straw. His family can’t have him anymore, not for what they want. They can’t.
“I’m so sorry,” Jungkook whispers.
“I c-can’t stay here.”
“In my house? Baby, of course you can.”
“No,” Jimin sobs. “I can’t stay here—I can’t. I have to get my stuff out as soon as I can—”
“The gallery, Jimin,” Jungkook replies, and it doesn’t make sense to Jimin. Has he not listened ? There is no gallery anymore; nothing to show. He’ll be empty-handed when he meets Jackson in the morning.
Jimin tries to push him away.
“I have to leave, ” he hisses, wishing for the strength to yell. This is ridiculous. This entire life is ridiculous. He has nothing . The only thing he can do is run. Somewhere; anywhere.
Jungkook shakes his head and pulls him back to him, tucking him into his side, tight and protective.
Jimin still protests, his mind in chaos, but Jungkook stays calm, repeating things about the gallery, saying he could use the stuff from his walls. He suddenly seems like the older one, wise and full of solutions, ready to lead the way.
Jimin pauses, eyes lifting from Jungkook’s shoulder and toward the wall across from him. Through tears, he sees a pastel drawing of a spring landscape; something he gave to Jungkook on one of their earlier dates. It’s sort of old, but it’s… not bad.
“Take the stuff from the walls,” Jimin breathes, echoing Jungkook’s reassurances.
I still have the gallery.
He falls limp in Jungkook’s embrace again, eyes buried in his neck. This time, he lets himself inhale and exhale deeply, regathering his energy, the passion in his soul.
He can do this. He can do this .
Jungkook is all warmth and protection. He becomes Jimin’s armor, there to help him fight for what he wants, to shield him from the hurt his family has caused him.
Jungkook always moves him forward.
“You have the gallery,” Jungkook repeats again, as he presses gentle kisses against Jimin’s head and strokes his hair. “You have all the art you need.”
And I have you , Jimin thinks, and starts to smile. Jungkook is his inspiration, both his dream and dream maker. He’s just like his art—his air.
And now, he can breathe again.
Jungkook is right by his side when Jimin takes down the first piece—a charcoal portrait of Jungkook, face angled to the side and upward, eyes full of dreams.
“That one’s beautiful,” Jungkook encourages, his voice soothing in his ear.
“You say that about everything I make you,” Jimin retorts, and Jungkook just smiles and kisses him on the nose.
He is in a better mood, at least for now. If he didn’t have Jungkook, he’d be an irreparable wreck.
“Doesn’t make it any less true.”
Jimin manages a soft laugh.
Symbols of love , he joked once to his boyfriend. But would it hurt to show his love to the world?
Jungkook’s walls, the spots between his medals and awards, become cream-white and bare. The art and its colors are in Jimin’s hands, now shaking a little with anticipation. They’re the key to making his future and he’s afraid again.
Jungkook grabs a nice black folder from his desk drawer and opens it for Jimin.
“Thank you,” Jimin says softly as he places his art in it. It looks so small and pathetic compared to his real portfolio, but he bites his bottom lip and tells himself that it will be okay.
Jungkook closes the folder and places it in Jimin’s hands, along with a sketchbook Jimin must have left behind on a past visit; he owns several scattered here and there, so he’s not surprised to see one here.
“It’s almost time,” Jungkook tells him. “Are you ready?”
Jimin holds his art to his chest. “Yeah.”
The windows spill bright morning sunlight into the building, making the lobby of the gallery too hot for him to stand still—or is that his nerves?
The pale pink button down shirt Jimin borrows from Jungkook is too big and too long, and the cuffs of the sleeves wrinkle as he digs his clammy fingers into them. Definitely his nerves.
He cannot sit. He paces around while Jungkook sits, guarding the precious portfolio in his lap.
After ten painfully long minutes, Jimin spots a head of slicked back blonde hair outside.
“Is that Jackson Wang?” Jungkook asks, following his gaze.
Jimin nods, his heart beating faster and harder than ever. “Kookie, my… my—”
Jungkook pulls to his feet and hands him the folder. His free hand presses into the small of Jimin’s back and Jimin instantly calms, breaths slowing and shoulders sagging a bit.
“You’ll be okay,” Jungkook breathes into his ear. “You’ll be okay, baby.”
The door swings open. Jackson enters without drama or ceremony. Jimin knows there shouldn’t be, but his entire future is pretty much on the line.
“Morning,” Jackson says warmly, reaching into his messenger bag for his clipboard. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.”
“No, it’s fine, hyung.”
Jackson looks up finally, and he notices ; his inquisitive, piercing eyes fall right on his right cheek.
Jimin freezes, not sure of what to do, but thankfully Jungkook clears his throat.
Jackson’s eyes rise, and his smile returns, albeit smaller than before. He glances past Jimin. “Ah, it’s your portrait boy.”
Jimin smiles to ease Jackson, because he wants him to focus on his portfolio, as unimpressible as it is. “Yeah. This is my boyfriend, Jungkook. He’s… helping me out today.”
Jackson eyes Jungkook carefully and nods.
Jimin doesn’t know Jackson well enough to know his expressions or the looks in his eyes, but he hopes he doesn’t suspect anything bad of Jungkook—it should show in his art how much he loves him; how safe he feels when they’re together.
“All right, Jimin, your portfolio?”
Jimin hesitates, only extending his arm part of the way to hand it over. Jungkook, however, slides his hand along his arm and pulls his wrist forward.
Jackson looks at the folder and presses his lips together, exhaling through his nose. “This isn’t…”
“I know, and I’m sorry,” Jimin says, his voice lowered to a shamed whisper. He still smells the ashes, and he still feels the shreds of paper in his hands. All the wounds in his heart are still terribly fresh. “I—my family—they—” He turns to Jungkook for help.
“This is all he has left,” Jungkook answers for him.
“I see. All right,” Jackson says, his tone light and understanding. He gestures to a small, nearby table. “Let’s sit over there, Jimin-ah.”
Jimin is reluctant to leave Jungkook’s side—he’s his rock right now because he has nothing else; literally no one else.
“I’ll be right here,” Jungkook reassures him softly. He points to the row of seats just behind them. “Just right here, baby. Okay?”
Jimin takes a deep breath and nods. After receiving a good luck kiss on the forehead, Jimin follows Jackson to find out his fate.
The envelope is heavy in Jimin’s hands. The edges and corners of it dig sharply into his skin, telling him that this is real. Real, real, real . They’re going to Seoul. They’ll be together. They’ll be free. They’ll—
—probably be homeless , he realizes. He knows his parents will cut him off eventually, maybe even by Monday. He needs money and a place to stay, and he doesn’t want to be a burden to Jungkook and his family.
Jimin’s spent his entire life thinking that he must be dependent on his parents and the company legacy, that without it, he’s nothing; that he must somehow be as good or surpass his much more talented brother.
He has to prove his independence, that he doesn’t need them. He needs to do it now .
Jungkook is quick to notice the drastic change in his mood. “Jiminnie, are you okay?”
Jimin doesn’t look at him. Instead, he hands Jungkook the envelope. “Baby, hold this.”
“Okay? Wait, what are you doing?”
He leaves Jungkook no room to say anymore as he returns to Jackson.
Jungkook’s clearly not happy; his surliness makes the car ride to their spot—the same cliff Jimin used to go to alone with the Queen—a tense kind of quiet. Jimin can’t blame him, though—he usually sees Jimin as someone who thinks very, very thoroughly before taking action, and today, it seems like he just randomly decided that he just couldn’t stay in Busan.
But it isn’t spontaneous. Jimin did think thoroughly, and he is still thinking at this very moment, about the gritty, tedious things in his future with Jungkook. Things will no longer be handed to either of them; they have to get their own hands dirty for true independence, even if it means being apart.
It’s just for a little while.
Jungkook still has a bit of high school to finish, but Jimin can’t just wait until the summer to escape with him; he needs money. He needs a job. And he knows he won’t be able to get anything here—not with his own family’s influence in business, with their people’s dog-like loyalty.
“Can’t you just stay with me?” Jungkook questions softly, sounding betrayed. “My family wouldn’t mind.”
“You know I can’t burden you guys like that. Plus, we’ll need money in Seoul.”
Moreover, Jungkooks’s family knows Jimin’s too well—they appear at each other’s parties and Jimin wants zero chance of seeing his parents again.
Jungkook lets out a hmph and holds Jimin’s envelope closer to his chest.
Jimin lowers his gaze guiltily as he parks and shuts off the engine. He should have talked it out with Jungkook first, but determination won out and he ended up telling Jackson everything. Jackson is almost instant with his reply—stay with him in Seoul for a few months until he has enough for an apartment.
“It’ll be good for us,” Jimin says, even though Jungkook doesn’t look at him. “Jackson-hyung will set me up with something there—he says it pays better than work-study—”
“Tattooing, though?” Jungkook protests.
“It’s a job,” Jimin argues, even though he still doesn’t know how to feel about drawing on people’s skin with needles. “An art job. And Jackson-hyung said he’ll convince his friend to give me an hourly instead of an apprentice’s stipend. He said he could find you something, too.”
“What about your classes? You aren’t even gonna finish the semester?”
Jimin is positive Jungkook is wrinkling the papers inside the envelope with the possessive way he holds them; as if clinging to Jimin himself. This thought makes him ache.
“There’s no point, Jungkook-ah. I’m dropping out of Loen. Seriously… would you be acting like this if I went to K-ARTS last year?”
Jungkook is too stubborn to answer. He probably didn’t count on any of this happening so suddenly.
Jimin doesn’t like the idea of having to learn how to be on his own without familial support in a city he doesn’t know. He’s afraid of his potential new job, of keeping up in art school, of surviving with so little.
But… “You know we have to do this,” Jimin whispers. He releases his vice grip on the steering wheel and reaches for his hand, tugging it from Jungkook’s own tight clasp. He expects to put effort, but Jungkook’s strength melts with Jimin’s touch, limp and pliant when their fingers intertwine.
“Babe,” Jimin goes on, “we have to if we’re going to be on our own. It’s only a few months. I’ll find us something we can call ours, even if it’s the shittiest little studio apartment in the shittiest area in all of Seoul. We’ll be independent and happy .”
“You have to be with me on this,” Jimin cuts in, catching Jungkook’s unsure gaze. Once they go to Seoul, there’s no turning back—they will have to accept everything that comes with their new lives, and they have to fare it all—together.
“Baby, this’ll be hard and uncomfortable. Harder after the summer, maybe the rest of our lives. You know this, right?”
Jimin feels something lodge in his throat when he sees Jungkook’s eyes well up with tears. An emotion he doesn’t recognize flashes across his boyfriend’s eyes. For a second—a brief, fearful, heartbreaking second—Jimin fears that Jungkook will change his mind. He doesn’t know how the thought slips into his mind, but nothing is ever set in stone.
And Jimin is one to think, think, think; oh-so-thoroughly.
“Jungkook, you have to be with me all the way,” Jimin speaks up again, his voice cracking with his insecurity. “This is the best thing that can happen. Jackson-hyung is our best connection right now. Baby…”
You’re all I have , he doesn’t want to add out loud, too afraid the words will jinx him. If his family abandoned him, despite all his efforts to please them, Jungkook could, too.
“Jimin,” Jungkook finally speaks up, his voice thick with emotion. Despite the tear sliding down his cheek, he smiles brightly with a reassurance that makes Jimin’s heart soar with relief. “I’m always with you. All the way.”
Jimin is so wrought with happiness that he actually cries, and Jungkook laughs softly and slides Jimin, somewhat awkwardly, out of his seat and into his lap.
Jimin sinks his face into his boyfriend’s shoulder and sighs, letting all the tears out. He’s not crying just because of this moment, but because of all the joy of finally getting to go to Seoul to pursue his dreams, of the excitement of sharing his life with this boy, of being free to be anyone he wants to be.
He feels Jungkook shudder as he tries to suppress his own sob, warm tears wetting his hair and ear. “Even if we end up in a cardboard box, I’m with you,” he whispers, his arms secure and certain as they wrap around him. “ You’re my home, and I will always be yours.”
Jungkook lifts Jimin’s head and cups his face as he did that night. But instead of grief-stricken darkness, there’s a peaceful radiance all around them—wispy clouds marbled in endless blue and gentle sunlight.
Jimin smiles through teary eyes before leaning down to press their lips together. The kiss feels different. It’s more unfaltering and established; their relationship becoming more refined because they want to mature together.
Jimin knows they’ll be okay. They always are.
It’s almost April, and Jimin is in Seoul. He sleeps on a couch in Jackson’s cramped one-bedroom apartment, trying to make ends meet with a job at a tattoo shop and a temporary data entry job that ends in June.
Even though he saves everything he’s made thus far, he doesn’t have enough. He won’t have enough by the time Jungkook comes to Seoul. They won’t have a place to stay.
And it’s my fault.
With a heavy, forlorn sigh, he hits his head against the top of the steering wheel.
“Jungkookie,” he whispers and his heart aches. He misses him so much. Only a little more until he graduates, and then what? Where will they go?
He just doesn’t have much to his name. He has a suitcase of clothes and his beautiful, prized, red convertible, the Queen of Hearts.
It’s his good luck charm, his matchmaker, his wings. It allows his hair to whip in the wind freely as he drives along unbound roads like he was flying.
And now, he realizes belatedly, it may soon become his bed if he doesn’t find an apartment. He’s desperate for anything that isn’t a dumpster or a cardboard box at this point, much less his car.
Jimin lifts his head and stares at the car logo in the middle of the steering wheel, an idea forming.
“Jiminnie-hyung, I wasn’t expecting it so soon.”
Jimin has just told Jungkook that he bought him a ticket to Seoul online and sent the e-ticket to him. He expects this reaction and is prepared to tell him everything.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he continues. “I love that you did this for me, but… how did you afford it? Did you really save enou—please don’t tell me you started selling drugs. Baby —”
“No, no,” Jimin says quickly, laughing a little at his frightened tone. “It’s not like that at all. I just…”
Jimin pauses, pressing his lips together nervously before speaking.
“I sold the Queen.”
There’s silence on the other end. Jimin imagines his jaw dropping, because he knows how meaningful the car was to not only Jimin, but to Jungkook, as well. They kissed for the first time there. They have made love there. They’ve shared the deepest of conversations and the silliest of laughter.
Jimin lets a tear slide down his cheek. The car had been full of memories with Jungkook, but he is always acutely aware of his priorities, what and who are more important than an ostentatious convertible.
He has to part with his old life.
He doesn’t need hot rod red. He needs the warm coffee brown of his boyfriend’s eyes. He needs his kisses and embraces. He needs his stability. He needs to be able to create colors with his hands and draw purple rivers like he is destined to.
“Jimin,” Jungkook finally speaks, sounding stunned and a bit wistful. “We went on our first date in that car.”
“We had our first kiss there. A lot of our firsts were there—a lot of many things.”
He doesn’t sound disappointed, but Jimin still worries. “I know.”
Even in barely two words, Jungkook senses his anxiety. “Baby, I trust you and your decisions. It’s just—you loved the Queen.”
Jimin distantly recalls their last joy ride together; rooftop down under blue, cloudless skies, Jungkook’s nose scrunched cutely as he laughed beside him in the passenger seat, hair whipping in the wind. They flew together that day. It was wonderful.
There have been, indeed, plenty of wonderful memories. He still remembers the beautiful, heartfelt way he said, you’re my home like it was yesterday; he cherishes it that much.
But there will always be new memories, just as wonderful as the ones before. They don’t need a car for any of those.
Jimin smiles into the phone.
“Not as much as I love you.”
The day is pleasantly warm when Jimin saunters down the sidewalk, a duffel bag hoisted across his back and an art portfolio tucked under his arm. The walk isn’t long, but boy, is he relieved to reach his destination.
He stops and looks up at a rectangular, sewer green, run-down apartment building. He identifies the fifth floor and beams.
He picks his phone and calls Jungkook. It’s nowhere close to the fancy, high-tech device he used to have, but it’s all he needs to get in touch with him.
“Hey, baby,” Jungkook greets happily. He sounds like he’s in the middle of munching on something. “What’s up?”
“I’m here,” Jimin tells him.
Jimin hops up the front stops. He opens the door and sees the dusty, old-smelling lobby and a staircase waiting in front of him; inviting him to the beginning of his new life.
He slides a hand into his pocket to feel the two matching keys; to make sure they’re real.
“Our new home.”
Chapter 10: Resilience
1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
“Yeah, hey do you know where--”
“We found him. You might want to get there soon.”
Namjoon has never been one to pry into other people’s business, but when other people’s business comes slumping over his bar, it hardly feels like prying anymore.
He’s long since given up on talking to Jimin. Any attempts are responded to with the dreariest of responses, and Namjoon is hardly surprised. Whiskey does that to a person.
At least he’s talking, Namjoon surmises. When Yoongi had called, he’d seemed so frantic--at least for Yoongi. He’s never one to talk quickly or show any sense of panic, but Namjoon could hear his anxiety in the stilted way he spoke, the way he thoroughly described how weird Jimin had been.
“The kid is always talking, Joon-ah,” Yoongi had said. The nickname was another tip-off; he only used Joon-ah when he was panicked or sleepy--similar to the way he called Hoseok, Seok-seok. “And he always smiles. And Jungkook wasn’t here. Aren’t they attached at the fucking hip?”
“Have you tried calling Jungkook-ah?”
“That’s the weirdest thing,” Yoongi had said, voice low. Namjoon imagined him tucking himself into the corner of the bar, away from the customers and close to the door to the back room, curled up and quiet and seeking some form of safety in the darkness. “He didn’t want us to call Jungkook. He grumbled about Jungkook.”
Namjoon knows it’s weird, even if Yoongi hadn’t told him. Jungkook and Jimin--
Well, they’re a package deal. You can’t say one name without tacking the other onto the end. Namjoon knows that even after only knowing them for a few months, although that’s more than enough time for Namjoon to scope people out.
But more than anything--more than Namjoon’s intuitive nature--one thing has become abundantly clear since meeting Jimin and Jungkook.
They remind him of himself and of Seokjin.
Namjoon could write a book about their puppy love--the sappy looks shared from across entire rooms; the boundless amounts of affection expressed so naturally; the way Namjoon barely said five words to Jimin and Jimin suddenly got lost, gazing at Jungkook. But most of all, beyond all the affection between them, the similarities he sees between his relationship and theirs reveals itself, at least to Namjoon, in their utter resilience.
Namjoon’s heard the stories from Yoongi and Hoseok, and he sees it in the way Jimin and Jungkook care so deeply for each other. He doesn’t know exactly what they’ve been through--none of them do--but four years is a long time for a couple so young.
And Namjoon is no fool; he’s heard their hushed whispers and worries about bills and luxuries and can we even afford this? He’s impressed with the young couple and their ability not only to withstand each other (a feat many couples struggle with) but hardship as well. And they seem so strong to Namjoon--like he and Seokjin, fresh out of college and wondering what the fuck they were going to do with their lives but knowing it didn’t matter--
Because they had each other.
And so hearing that Jimin had refused Jungkook, told Yoongi not to call him, seemed completely unfathomable as Namjoon sat silently on his end of the phone with Yoongi.
Until the door to the Rose Gold opened and a familiar figure stumbled through.
“Found him,” Namjoon had muttered, snapping to attention and ignoring Yoongi’s squawk of what?! “I’ll take care of him. Try to get ahold of Jungkook, okay?”
“It’s gonna be fine, hyung,” Namjoon laughed before he hung up. And then he hurried to where the hostess was asking Jimin how many were in his party and if he had a reservation, Jimin’s face scrunching with a muttered, do I look like I have a reservation?
And that is how Namjoon has ended up here with a half-drunk Park Jimin slumped over his bar and asking for another whiskey.
“Didn’t I tell you he didn’t need any alcohol?” Namjoon says, pushing the amateur bartender out of the way so he can reach Jimin’s now-empty whiskey glass.
“I-I’m sorry--he just seemed like he was going to yell or cry--”
“That’s enough,” Namjoon grunts, patting the bartender on the shoulder. He swears when he hired the kid he thought he saw potential, but for the life of him, Namjoon can’t remember why. “Go tell Seokjin someone needs to cover me while I cover you.”
The bartender stutters his apologies and makes his way to the kitchen.
“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon murmurs, shaking Jimin’s shoulder. The kid has his face buried in one bent arm, the other slung over the bar, but he’s not passed out by any means. Namjoon can see his eyes open, though squinted, looking cloudy and in much too deep of thought. “Sit up. You’re scaring my regulars.”
“Sorry,” Jimin grumbles. He sits up only a fraction, hunched forward on his elbows.
He’s silent again after that, his gaze burning holes into the pristinely shined and glossed wood of the bar. Namjoon quirks an eyebrow as he sets about making a glass of water, shuffling around to find the crackers no one ever orders.
He’s not used to drunk people without chauffeurs at his bar, and he’s surely not used to sad drunk people at his bar, but Namjoon is only distantly concerned about their image. Although those critics are brutal; they really love to find any excuse to snatch away the Rose Gold’s fifth star--but this is Jimin. Namjoon doesn’t know him that well, but the fact that he’s here in such an upset mood--refusing even Jungkook--is enough to force ratings out of Namjoon’s mind.
“Are you going to tell me why you’re here?” Namjoon asks. He places the glass of water on the counter, but Jimin doesn’t pay him any attention. He only shifts his gaze to pull his buzzing phone out of his pocket and plop it on the counter.
“Nope,” he says. Namjoon watches as Jungkook’s name flashes across the phone screen. There’s a contact picture, too--Jungkook with chopsticks tucked beneath his top lip and pretending to be a walrus. Namjoon would laugh--find it cute and funny and pull out his own phone to show him the sleeping picture of Seokjin he has as his background photo--until he notices Jimin swipe the call to cancel it.
“Jimin--” Namjoon murmurs warningly. The artist’s gaze remains on his phone, the display flashing to the lock screen. There Jungkook is again, but now in a picture of the two of them. Namjoon sees bare shoulders and sheets wrapped around each other, the two of them grinning in what looks like a sleepy morning selfie, bodies spooned together with soft smiles.
Namjoon watches Jimin--watches the screen fade to black--and feels his own heart ache. Sadness and longing wash through him along with the urge to go to the kitchen and tell Seokjin he loves him, kiss his forehead even though he’ll surely curl his nose and jokingly tell Namjoon not to do that in front of their sous chef.
He sighs and pushes the glass of water across the bar towards Jimin.
“If I drink this will you give me more whiskey?” Jimin grumbles, eyes catching on the condensation rolling down the glass.
“No,” Namjoon says. “Y’know, you’re not allowed to talk on the phone here anyway.”
Jimin rolls his eyes but pockets the device, and Namjoon distantly hopes that Yoongi has gotten ahold of Jungkook so he doesn’t panic at all the missed calls.
“Rejecting calls from Jungkook is awfully strange for you,” Namjoon murmurs. He realizes he’s treading on very shaky waters, but he trudges through, ignoring Jimin’s burning gaze. “Last time you and I spoke, you said--”
“He’s everything to me,” Jimin finishes. His voice is somehow stronger; it’s lost the mellow, wanton ache that had been asking for whiskey not even two minutes ago.
Namjoon pauses to watch him, the eye contact tense. “Yeah. The love of your life. Your muse.”
“All I did was reject a call,” Jimin murmurs. His eyes fall back to the condensation on his glass of water, looking lost and forlorn; it reminds Namjoon of lost puppies on the side of the road, looking for their homes. “Doesn’t mean anything.”
“You’re here and drunk at my bar on a Tuesday,” Namjoon chides softly, the air easing between them. “You know when couples go to marriage counseling, because they’re having crazy, intense fights over where to put the toaster? It’s never about the toaster, Jimin.”
“What--” Jimin hiccups, “the fuck does that even mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
He sighs and rests his head back on the bar, pillowed and so defeated on his arms. “‘M too drunk to understand any of your philosophy, okay?”
Namjoon sighs; fine then. He’ll be straight forward.
“What about spending the rest of your lives together?” he asks softly.
Jimin jerks as if the words physically pierce him--as if they puncture something deep inside him. He buries his shocked, wide eyes back into his arms and doesn’t speak.
“What could ruin that, Jimin?” Namjoon persists. He aches to reach out, to make Jimin see. Every couple experiences hardship and arguments, and he knows that from experience. And he knows not every couple is like him and Seokjin; not every couple can make it through it all completely in tact but--
The way Jimin looks at Jungkook--it’s like he’s seeing his future, as if someone plays a projection of every moment, every piece of the future they’ll have together. Jimin’s eyes light up, his lips quirk, and the air lifts around him, the magic and unabashed affection seeping through with the blinding love he clearly has for Jungkook. It’s impossible to ignore, and Yoongi calls them gross but--
Namjoon can see it, too. He sees futures with Seokjin; Namjoon looks at him, and he thinks of the ring he finally bought, stashed away under their bed, and he knows Jimin sees the same thing in Jungkook.
“That was the plan,” Jimin whispers, startling Namjoon from his reverie with the hoarse and broken sound. “What’s the point if he’s going to leave me?”
“He’s leaving you?”
There’s no way--
Namjoon knows there’s no fucking way.
“He said that?” Namjoon urges.
“No. But he doesn’t have to.”
Namjoon can hardly imagine a fight big enough between them to garner such an intense reaction. That can’t be it--it can’t just be that easy to rip them apart. Not Jimin and Jungkook. There has to be something more that Namjoon’s not seeing--something he’s missing that might help everything make sense.
“What do you mean?” Namjoon asks gently. “Why would he ever leave you?”
“Because it’s my fault,” Jimin says. “It’s my fault he left Busan, and it’ll be my fault he leaves Seoul, too. I--I took him away from his family. Of course he would want to go back.”
“You don’t just leave your partner of four years, Jimin. Jungkook won’t just leave you. Hell, he followed you here--”
“You don’t just leave your family either!” Jimin yells, and finally, finally, the dam has broken. His eyes well with tears, releasing the whirl of anxiety, fear, and heartbreak that must have been clawing at him all day, gouging through his heart and bleeding into his stomach to boil. “Especially not if they actually love you.”
“What about how much he loves you, Jimin?” Namjoon responds. He meets Jimin’s angry, hopeless gaze as strongly as he can muster. “You can't just disregard that. He left Busan and his family for you. Doesn’t that mean he chose you? He picked you over them.”
Jimin shakes his head. “No one ever picks me. They tolerate me for as long as they can, and then they--” he takes a shuddering gasp, “And then they leave. Or they kick me out. Everyone leaves, and Jungkook deserves better anyway.”
“Jungkook loves you,” Namjoon growls through the pain he feels, watching Jimin crumble apart.
But Jimin only shakes his head. His burst of energy, of anger and resolve, deflate just like before as he rests his head back on the bar. Namjoon feels hopeless as he goes. He’s said all that he can, and Jimin still doesn’t believe.
How worthless he must feel, believing that his whole world is going to leave him. Believing that he isn’t Jungkook’s whole world, too.
It’s foolish. He has to be wrong. Jungkook loves him. He would never leave--not this easily. Not after everything they’ve clearly been through together.
Namjoon is just slumping into Jimin’s mood of defeat when the door to the Rose Gold bursts open for the second time that night to reveal a very disgruntled Jeon Jungkook.
“Jimin?” Jungkook breathes, nearly shouting. He sees Jimin--could recognize him anywhere--and he feels like he shouldn’t be panicking; it’s only been a few hours, but he hasn’t been picking up his phone or responding to texts and Jimin always answers his phone and he disappeared that morning without any word and of course Jimin is upset his brother is in town and how could Jungkook be so stupid to just--
“He’s a little sensitive right now,” Namjoon murmurs to him, approaching a wily Jungkook still standing, frozen by the hostess. “And he’s had a lot to drink.”
“Is he okay?”
“He’s fine,” Namjoon reassures. “I think he really needs you right now.”
Jungkook swallows over the lump in his throat, the guilt ballooning inside him, lodging his windpipe and making it hard to breathe.
At least he’s safe.
“Jimin,” Jungkook says gently when he approaches the bar. Namjoon has wandered off, probably to give them privacy.
Jimin doesn’t respond. He’s resting his head on his folded arms, but Jungkook knows he’s awake; he can feel how tense he is as he runs his hand along Jimin’s back.
Jungkook sits on the stool beside Jimin. He leans forward, hoping for some kind of reaction.
“Hyung?” he murmurs again.
Jimin still doesn’t answer, staring blankly at the bar.
Jungkook knows how Jimin gets, and he knows how he gets about Busan. He gets silent; he overthinks. He stews in an awful cloud of depression and self-doubt. Jungkook feels so guilty, so awful, so pained, stomach roiling in a burst of anger at himself and a need to make Jimin feel better. He tried to do damage control, to assure Jimin nothing was wrong, it’s just lunch. You’re overreacting.
How stupid. How insensitive. Careless.
“Hyung, please talk to me,” Jungkook says, rubbing Jimin’s back softly.
“Do you--” Jimin starts, sitting up to finally look at Jungkook properly, “Are you going back to Busan?” he says instead.
“No,” Jungkook reassures, voice strong and certain. He’s about to continue--to tell Jimin that Jaehyun is happy for them and that it was a nice visit, but he’s not going anywhere. He’s happy in Seoul--
But Jimin doesn’t let him. He seems almost not to have even registered Jungkook’s words, his stare resuming its blank expression as it gazes unaware at Jungkook’s shoulder.
“I can buy you a ticket,” Jimin says, voice hoarse, cracked, and broken. “I could buy your ticket back. And I could help you pack.”
“Jiminnie, I’m not going back--”
Jungkook knows where this is coming from; Jimin’s parents have driven it into him for years that he’s not good enough. He just doesn’t know how Jimin got to this point--how Jungkook could have been so careless as to let him feel this way. If anyone should be able to see this in Jimin and stop it before it arrives, it should be Jungkook.
But Jungkook shoves his guilt aside, crushing the gnawing feeling beneath his determination to make this better. This isn’t about Jungkook, and Jimin needs him right now.
“I don’t want you to leave,” Jimin says now. He looks at Jungkook, their eyes finally meeting. How long his day must have been today, believing that maybe he would come home to a half empty apartment.
“I don’t want to leave, Jimin,” Jungkook says. He caresses Jimin’s cheek, thumb stroking over the dried tear stains. “I’m not leaving. I promise.”
Jimin holds his gaze. He doesn’t look away in sadness; there’s no shame, no anger. Jungkook presses on.
“I want to stay. I will always choose you. Remember?”
“What about Jaehyun--”
“Forget about Jaehyun,” Jungkook says. “He’s happy for us, babe. But even if my whole family were happy for us, I would stay here. Busan isn’t my home. Seoul isn’t even my home. You are.”
“Your family loves you, Jungkook,” Jimin asserts, his voice edging on anger. “You can’t just throw that away.”
“And throw you away instead?” Jungkook asks incredulously. Jimin winces, but his gaze shifts away again, shoulders drooping in the only confirmation Jungkook needs.
“Do you think I really want that?” Jungkook asks. “To throw you away? Our whole life here? Jiminnie, nothing has made me happier than being here with you.”
“They would take you back,” Jimin whispers.
“Maybe, but I won’t take them back. I can’t--not like before.” Jungkook takes a deep breath, knowing he’s treading on very dangerous territory as he continues, “I know my family isn’t the same as yours, but they have never accepted me as I am, either. And they haven’t accepted you. I’ll keep in touch, because you’re right, I shouldn’t throw that away, but I’m not going back. Not now, not ever.”
“Let’s go home, okay? Please?” Jungkook begs. He needs Jimin to come home, to get away from the alcohol and into Jungkook’s arms. Jungkook wants to hold him, wants to squeeze him until all his insecurities are gone.
He knows that can’t ever happen, but he wants to try. And he sure as hell wants to remind Jimin a hundred times over how loved he is.
“Please, Jiminnie. You’re not thinking straight, and you’ve had a long day. Let’s go home.”
It takes a bit more coaxing, but Jimin finally complies, silent as he stands. Jungkook walks with him, arm around Jimin the entire way home.
Jimin wakes to the smell of something cooking and a pounding headache.
His face scrunches in a groan. He’s never been so glad that they don’t have sunlight streaming through their window.
“Hey. You’re up just in time,” Jungkook says. He’s padding across their apartment still in pajamas with a breakfast tray--one they jokingly splurged on at a thrift store. It’s almost like real furniture!
Jungkook clamors his way to the mattress, settling down slowly in an effort not to spill the two bowls of ramen and glasses of water on the tray. Jimin sits up slowly as he does so, cursing his body for waking him up before his hangover period has passed.
“What time is it?” Jimin asks blearily, only halfway up and propped on his elbows. His effort to sit up didn’t get him very far considering his head literally feels like it’s made of lead.
Jimin sighs at the exertion it takes even to sit up and open his eyes; he’s relieved when Jungkook props pillows behind him.
“I don’t know if I can stomach ramen right now.”
“Too bad,” Jungkook chirps, carefully spooning a bite out of the bowl and blowing on it. He pulls the noodles until they’re tugged free and holds his hand below them so they don’t drip. “I know you don’t eat when you’re upset--”
Jungkook doesn’t let him finish, holding the noodles up to Jimin’s mouth.
“It’s all we have,” Jungkook says. “Please eat.”
Jimin sighs, but he takes the noodles into his mouth. He put Jungkook through a lot yesterday, and he’s right; Jimin didn’t eat at all unless alcohol counts as a food group.
“I’m sorry--” Jimin starts but is cut off once again by a mouthful of noodles.
“We can talk once you’ve eaten.”
Jimin complies if only because he feels so bad, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
And he feels bad for his boyfriend for having to put up with him. He was a mess yesterday.
If Jimin is being honest, he still feels like a mess, the threat of Busan and the events of yesterday hanging heavy in the back of his mind. But he reaches for Jungkook and everything he had said; Jimin didn’t think he would make it off that barstool, perpetually stuck in his depressed wallowing, but Jungkook pulled him out of it.
It’s with the thought of his kind and patient boyfriend that he eats, finishing almost the entire bowl and his whole glass of water. He makes Jungkook eat too as Jimin regains his strength enough to sit up, headache subsiding a bit with the food.
“How are you feeling?” Jungkook asks once they’ve finished, setting the bed tray aside.
“Better. Seriously, I am,” Jimin reassures at Jungkook’s rueful smile. “I needed to eat.”
Jungkook nods and he lays down beside Jimin, cocooned in the pillows. He squirms until he’s pressed to Jimin’s side, nose in Jimin’s neck and arm thrown over his chest.
“I didn’t realize how bad you were feeling,” he murmurs.
“That’s okay, Kookie. I didn’t handle it well.”
“No, you didn’t,” Jungkook says. His arm tightens around Jimin. “Please don’t shut me out like that.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“‘S okay,” Jungkook murmurs. He sighs as Jimin draws lazy circles on his skin, a reminder that Jimin is here, safe in his arms. “I can always remind you, y’know. That I like you better than Busan.”
Jimin laughs and buries his smile in Jungkook’s hair. “I might need that sometimes.”
“I like you better than Busan,” Jungkook repeats.
Jimin giggles, murmurs a soft, “Really?”
“Hm, no,” Jungkook says, wiggling his way out of Jimin’s arms so he can straddle him. “I love you more than Busan.”
Jimin smiles at that. He murmurs, “I love you too,” but Jungkook isn’t finished.
“I love you more than money. I love you more--”
“Jungkook!” Jimin groans, smile gracing his face as he tries to hide in a pillow. Jungkook doesn’t let him get far, grabbing his cheeks and kissing him chastely.
“I love you more than business. I love you more than the Queen. I love you--”
“Jungkookie,” Jimin laughs, soft and fond. He holds Jungkook’s hands still resting on his cheeks as Jungkook kisses him again and again and again, their kisses soon slowing as Jungkook lazily dips his tongue in.
Leave it to Jungkook to get him smiling after having a melt down the day before.
Jungkook is always there for him; he always has been. He’s seen Jimin at his worst, at a time when Jimin felt so worthless, a mark still stinging on his cheek. But Jungkook always helps Jimin put himself back together, showering him in kisses and in love until the mark on his cheek is nothing but a scar.
Jimin is going to hold onto this moment--so, so tightly, kissing Jungkook with fervor. He’ll ingrain Jungkook’s devotion to him (even as the mess that he sometimes can be) into his mind, so he’ll never forget again.
They lie there, breathing each other in, foreheads resting together in the most bliss they’ve felt in a while. Jimin runs his thumb over the back of Jungkook’s hand, brushes their noses together for a sweet kiss, like it’s the first time all over again. He feels so lucky with Jungkook’s hands holding his cheeks, holding him like he’s something precious, holding him together.
“Thank you,” Jimin says into the comfortable silence between them. He feels much better, and he’s reminded why he’s so goddamn lucky to have Jungkook, his heart so full.
“Anytime,” Jungkook says with a dazzling smile, eyes curving and lips meeting Jimin’s in a smile. He sits up, still straddling Jimin’s chest and hands curling into the fabric of his tshirt. “Jaehyun really is happy for us, you know.”
Jimin nods. He can’t--he won’t --keep Jungkook from his family. It still makes him wary, but he’ll get used to it.
Even in his drunken and depressed state, Jimin knows he was right about some things. Jungkook can’t just throw away his family--not if they still want him. The ache Jimin feels when he misses his own family, even amidst all the pain, reassures him of that.
Jungkook doesn’t need to turn sour on his family like Jimin. He doesn’t need to miss them, and he doesn’t need to be bitter.
The joy in Jungkook’s voice when he talks about Jaehyun reassures Jimin of that fact, and maybe today isn’t the day, but he would like to hear how Jungkook and Jaehyun’s whole lunch went after so long apart.
“I don’t doubt that. He’s been good to us and to you,” Jimin says.
It won’t be easy to allow small pieces of Busan back into his life, but he thinks a good place to start is with Jaehyun. Jaehyun might have doubted their relationship sometimes, but he was still supportive of whatever Jungkook wanted to do. He even paid to have some of Jungkook’s belongings shipped to them in Seoul when they made their great escape.
A housewarming present, he’d said.
“He said… that I should call omma, y’know? That she missed me,” Jungkook says hesitantly, gaging Jimin’s reaction.
“You should,” Jimin responds.
“Yeah. Jungkookie,” Jimin murmurs, squeezing Jungkook’s thighs, “You should call them, and tell me how it goes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I don’t want you to shut them out. Not if you don’t want to.”
Jungkook nods, fingers still curled in Jimin’s tshirt. He looks shy and beautiful, looking up at Jimin through his bangs.
“What?” Jimin asks.
“Nothing. I just… I can already tell how much you’re trying.”
Jimin squeezes his thighs again, always a constant comfort. “I should’ve been trying harder before.”
Jungkook shakes his head. “You were just scared. Because you love me,” he teases.
“Me? Love Jeon Jungkook? Never heard of such a concept.”
“You do,” Jungkook says, leaning down to kiss Jimin again. Their lazy morning kisses are still sweet but more insistent, Jungkook licking into his mouth with purpose and grinding down softly.
Jimin hums when they part, tilting his head to let Jungkook kiss down his throat. “Yeah, okay, you got me. I love Jeon Jungkook.”
“You better,” Jungkook replies. He reaches over the side of the bed, digging the bottle of lube out from under the mattress. “‘Cause I’m about to ride you.”
The words set Jimin buzzing, anticipation coursing through him and into his belly as Jungkook shucks off his shirt.
“Are you sure?” Jimin asks. “I don’t taste good right now, and I’m still hungover--”
“Mm, I’ve kissed you when you’ve tasted worse. Remember that one party where you threw up in the bushes?” He stands up and lets his pajama pants and boxers drop, settling back down between Jimin’s legs and shimmying his boyfriend’s pants down his hips.
“You were drunk--” Jimin starts, lifting his hips so his pajama pants can slip down over the curve of his ass. “And it was still gross.”
“Would you rather I not ride you?” Jungkook asks. He tosses their clothes across the room and settles back down, straddling Jimin’s chest. “I’m already turned on, Jiminnie. But I could just jerk off in the shower--”
“No--” Jimin stutters. He grips Jungkook’s bare hips, pouting as his boyfriend laughs.
“Then let me take care of you,” Jungkook says. He leans down on one elbow, hovering over Jimin as their lips meet again. He jerks, a small oh escaping his mouth in a sigh over Jimin’s lips, and it’s only then that Jimin realizes he’s prepping himself and holy shit when did he even lube his fingers--
Jungkook looks so beautiful, eyes fluttering shut as he fingers himself and breathes gentle moans into Jimin’s mouth. Jimin watches as he does--can see every moment Jungkook thrusts into himself because his lips part and his eyebrows furrow. He’s gorgeous, completely irresistible, and Jimin has to touch him, hands sliding up Jungkook’s thighs to his cheeks and holding them apart.
“Ah,” Jungkook laughs, opening his eyes to reveal a starry, heavy-lidded gaze. “Thanks, baby.”
Jimin flushes and murmurs an, “Anytime,” into Jungkook’s neck.
Eventually Jimin has to bat Jungkook’s hand away, deeming him stretched enough once Jungkook is clearly teasing him, Jimin’s name tumbling from his mouth with a mischievous gaze. He continues teasing when he lubes Jimin’s cock, slow and thorough as he palms the head.
Jimin groans, head back in the pillows and fingers clutched in the sheets. “I thought you were taking care of me, not being a tease.”
“I was just being careful,” Jungkook laughs, biting his lip in a way that shows just how much he’s lying. “You have a hangover.”
“Sex is apparently a great treatment for headaches,” Jimin gasps once Jungkook is finally shuffling back into place, hand on Jimin’s cock to guide him inside. “All the blood rushes--oh, fuck--”
“Stop talking,” Jungkook gasps, sinking slowly down and feeling the sweet stretch of Jimin entering him.
Jungkook sets an even pace, hands on Jimin’s chest as he bounces. Jimin grips his hips in response, thrusting up to meet him. His hangover and the events of the day before are nothing but a distant memory; Jungkook can always clear his head.
Their morning evolves into the sweet haze of sex, the sultry gazes between them and the slide so good. Jimin watches Jungkook, the taut muscles of his thighs and the beautiful sight of him sliding and stretching around Jimin. But what’s truly breathtaking is the way he smiles through his little sound and whimpers, all directed at Jimin in an effort to rile him up.
(It always works).
“I love you,” Jungkook breathes. He lolls his head back, mouth parted and red as he pants and puts on a show, and then tips his head forward again to meet Jimin’s gaze. “So much, Jiminnie--”
“I love you, too.”
Their thrusts become erratic, frantic as they chase their release together, fingers leaving beautiful bruises on hips and heat coiling tightly in their stomachs. Jungkook leans forward onto his elbows, kisses Jimin open mouthed and lets the heat of their locked gazes intensify the air sparking between them--love and adoration and lust--
And this is what Jungkook meant. Taking care of him, showing him he’s so, so loved as they breathe so intimately, feel so intimately.
Jimin flips them over in one fluid motion, Jungkook gasping as Jimin rocks inside him. He arches at the new angle, Jimin’s hips thrusting deep and slow.
“Now let me take care of you,” Jimin murmurs.
Jungkook laughs at that, but his smile soon morphs, jaw dropping in a long moan.
“Good?” Jimin asks.
Jimin hums, keeps their pace even and slow as he thrusts into Jungkook, and Jungkook locks his legs around Jimin’s waist. They revel in the way their skin meets, so close and yet not close enough, bodies meeting and coming together in the same way they have for years, and yet somehow still so new.
The tight heat simmers, building slowly in them as they kiss. When Jimin’s hips finally speed up again, return to making love with the true intent of finding release, he slides his hand between them, stroking Jungkook until he’s clawing at Jimin’s back.
“I know--” Jimin breathes, kissing him sloppily as he thrusts.
Jungkook comes with Jimin’s name bursting from his lips, arching as Jimin pumps him through it. Jimin follows shortly after, Jungkook clenching around him as he shudders into Jungkook’s neck.
“Don’t--” Jungkook gasps, “Don’t pull out yet.”
Jimin laughs. “Okay,” he breathes into the quiet, easy closeness, the slowing breaths and sweet kisses they always share after sex.
And if Jimin could ever pick a favorite part of sex, it would be this: the soft, intimate moments between them, where it’s almost impossible to untangle from each other; the moments where Jungkook is his and he is Jungkook’s, belonging to each other and feeling so safe.
How had Jimin ever doubted this?
The second time Jimin wakes that morning is to the annoying sound of a phone ringing, the sound of Girl’s Day’s Something disrupting the quiet.
“H’llo?” he murmurs when he answers.
“Jimin?” He hears shuffling on the other end, and then, “I called Jungkook’s number. Does that mean you’re home, then?”
“‘Course I’m home. Where else would I be?”
“Hyung,” Jungkook grumbles. It might be too early in the morning, but Jimin will always find the energy to laugh at his sleepy boyfriend; Jungkook doesn’t even open his eyes as he flops his hand over Jimin’s mouth and then attempts to push the phone away. “No.”
“Jungkookie doesn’t do well with mornings. I think I have to hang up now--”
“You do,” Jungkook says. “Tell them to--” he waves his hand in a shooing motion.
“We just wanted to make sure you’re okay,” Hoseok says, the phone having somehow switched hands. “Yoongi-hyung has been worried sick ever since you didn’t go home like we said.”
“Ah,” Jimin sighs. “I’m sorry. I’m really fine now. Tell Namjoon-hyung I’m okay, too.”
“Tell him yourself.” More shuffling.
“Hey,” Jimin says. Jungkook grunts into his neck, but Jimin pays him no mind. “Thank you for yesterday.”
“No problem. I just wish I could’ve done more.”
“Are you and Jungkookie okay now?” Hoseok yells.
“We’d be better if you hung up the phone,” Jungkook grumbles again.
“Yeah, we’re good,” Jimin replies, a smile on his face.
“Did you have makeup sex yet?”
“Can’t have makeup sex if there wasn’t a real fight,” Jungkook says.
“Yes, and it was great,” Jimin says, if only to hear them groan (and cheer, apparently).
“Gotta go. Thanks for calling!” Jimin hangs up the phone amidst laughter and I didn’t need to know. He meets Jungkook’s pouty, annoyed gaze when he lifts his head from Jimin’s chest.
“What?” Jimin asks. “I meant it. The sex was great.”
Jungkook rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling nonetheless.
Yeah. They’re gonna be fine.
A week later, Jungkook feels like the dust has settled. He never worried that they wouldn’t be okay, but he’s glad that a week later, things still feel normal. Just like they’ve always been.
He hasn’t called his mother yet, but--
Well, he’s working up to it.
Otherwise, his daily life remains unchanged; Jimin is back to kissing him awake in the morning--the only wake up call Jungkook is happy to respond to. And he kisses Jimin goodnight, pressing him into the mattress until he’s not afraid of the dark anymore.
And, of course, there’s all the kissing in between those times, too. Jungkook happily checks off kiss Jimin from his to do list several times over.
He’s on his way to meet Jimin as it is; Jungkook is sweaty and tired from dance practice, but Jimin promised to treat him to a late night dinner at a tiny hole in the wall diner. He said it had been too long since they’d had a proper date, and the diner's entrees are half off on Tuesday nights anyway. Jungkook is more than happy to oblige, ready to hit the shower as quickly as he can before meeting his boyfriend.
His dance instructor doesn’t let the class wander too far, though, before he stops them.
“Before you all head out for your hot dates tonight--” the class laughs, and Jungkook squirms in excitement and in embarrassment. Is he that obviously eager to get out of here? “I want to inform you all of a very prestigious opportunity.”
He passes a flyer down the line, and there’s shuffled excitement as everyone reads. Jungkook himself clutches the page in his hands, eyes wide.
“You have the chance to choreograph your own dance. And maybe some of you have done this before; I know a lot of you have the capability to do so. Regardless of your experience choreographing, I’ll be here to help you along the way. I encourage you all to try and to audition; it’s not mandatory, but it’s great experience--and you could be scouted for a real career opportunity.”
Jungkook reads the flyer at lightning speed: a chance to have his choreography on a real stage. It’s a K-ARTS sponsored event, and that would be underwhelming if that didn’t mean people came to this event specifically to scout students out --people from huge companies who look for potential talent to choreograph stages seen on national television.
Jungkook chose this school not only for its prestige and rigor for his passion, but also because of opportunities like this.
To dance for a living. To have his creation, his passion, come to life in others. For others.
“Should you win, you will work with a select group of students to perform the introduction and the intermission dances. This is only the beginning in your careers as students and as dancers.”
Usually only third and fourth years get scouted--Jungkook has heard how hard and frustrating that experience is to watch and be apart of, others succeeding while you feel like you’ve tried your hardest, but Jungkook can hardly find it in him to care so much about not getting scouted if it means his choreography will be on stage.
His dance instructor catches his eye as he says, “Good luck. You’re dismissed.”
Jungkook shoves the flyer in his bag, hurrying out the door. His shower can wait; he has to tell Jimin.
This feels like something big.
whispers sorry we left you hanging for so long. hope the makeup sex soothes your worries that jimin died or something <33
Chapter 11: Two Drifters
Jungkook wants to win. He has to win.
Jungkook lets out the longest, ugliest groan he can muster in the practice room, the sound carrying in the open space, his palms pressed against his tired eyes in annoyance.
Jimin looks up from his sketchbook, staring at his defeated, sweaty boyfriend collecting warm, salty puddles in the middle of the floor. “Baby….”
It almost resembles the old times, the way he would quietly sit nearby, lost in his art just as Jungkook gets lost in his. Separate fields, clearly, but always together.
“Everything is coming out so… bad,” Jungkook complains, too tired to even come up with proper words for his predicament.
He needs something good--the perfect mixture of memorable movements and subtle, intricate details. He needs to stand out. He needs the perfect song. His teacher has always praised him for his musicality, but nothing seems right.
Now he’s changing his mind about this one, some popular dance tune he’s heard a lot on the radio. He should aim for something more obscure, with more untamed heart than commercial appeal.
“You’re thinking too much.”
“I’m not thinking enough.”
Jimin doesn’t reply, but Jungkook does hear footsteps make their way toward him.
Jimin plops down into a cross-legged position above his head. Jungkook automatically shifts upward so that his head fits in his lap, as sweaty and warm as he is.
He sighs and closes his eyes. “Baby, why is this so hard?”
Jungkook feels Jimin rub slow, gentle circles on his sternum. Even though his exhausted form relaxes, his mind continues to churn.
“It’ll work out,” Jimin soothes. “Do you know how talented you are, baby? You work so hard.”
Jungkook lets out a childish whine and rolls over to bury his face into Jimin’s legs. “Why am I failing, then?”
“You only feel like you’re in a slump because you want it that bad.” He combs a hand through his disgustingly damp hair. “And that’s good! That kind of drive leads you to success.”
Jungkook opens his eyes again, letting them fall on his boyfriend’s beautiful, sparkling ones. Love sweeps strong and steady through him, as it always does, even on the most tiresome of days.
“I do,” he mutters. “I want it that bad.”
This kind of exposure, this kind of win, means newer, better opportunities. He’ll be seen, not just by Korea’s, but the world’s best dancers and choreographers. If he wins, it’ll present the chance for a better life for him and Jimin. And god, he wants that. He wants to give Jimin everything in the world, especially after he has done so much to bring him to Seoul.
Anything and everything for him. For them both.
“Jungkook, you have to relax a bit,” Jimin reprimands him gently. “You’ve been doing this all afternoon. You need to recharge.”
“Breaks?” Jungkook snorts. “What are those?”
Jungkook recalls one time--just one single time--where he practiced to the point of collapse. It sent Jimin into panic mode and after Jungkook finally recovered, Jimin clung to him like a needy, overprotective koala for the next week.
“Okay, I’ll take a break,” Jungkook says. “Five minutes.”
“Seriously? Fifteen.” He frowns at his boyfriend’s warning glare. “Okay. Twenty.”
“You make rest seem like such a chore,” Jimin replies, rolling his eyes, before bending over to kiss his lips. “Mm. Salty.”
Jungkook lets out a breathy laugh against his mouth. “Shut up.”
He pulls Jimin on top of him. For the next twenty minutes (or maybe thirty-five, but Jungkook lets it pass this time), they make out with a sweet laziness that loosens every nerve and every muscle. Bit by bit, Jungkook feels replenished and new. Inspired. He gets easily sucked into their passion, tilting his head back to groan when Jimin’s plush lips knead his throat.
Jungkook’s fingers curl around Jimin’s thighs, which are clamped around his waist. He presses his hips against his.
Jimin hitches a shuddering breath when their erections brush against each other. He bites into Jungkook’s shoulder before angling down to kiss his lips again.
“Baby,” Jungkook breathes into his mouth. He tries to sound assertive, because he still has work to do, but it comes out as a gasp instead.
Jimin’s hand slips under the hem of Jungkook’s shorts. It doesn’t take Jungkook long to completely lose himself in their intimacy. He buries his moans into Jimin’s neck as an orgasm washes over him.
The moment drives Jimin close despite not being touched, so when Jungkook’s hand haphazardly finds its way in Jimin’s pants, Jimin’s mouth falls open in heavy, wanton breaths, hips rocking gently with Jungkook’s rhythm until they jerk forward moments later, his body tensing as he comes.
Jungkook counts ten more minutes until they calm down enough for conversation. Then he wonders why he’s still keeping track. The competition must be getting to him for him to think about it even after an excellent handjob.
“You know,” Jimin speaks up, rolling off Jungkook and standing up. He adjusts his pants. “It’s almost May…”
May. Mid-terms, the competition, projects--all thrown at him, all at once, all due at around the same time.
Jungkook sighs in despair as he sits up. “Babe, don’t remind me. I have so much work to--what’s wrong?”
He notices the dissatisfied pout on Jimin’s face as he immediately pulls to his feet.
And after a few seconds, it clicks.
Their fucking anniversary.
“Oh.” Guilt wells up in his gut. “I’m sorry, baby. I remember.”
Jimin dodges the incoming kiss. “Yeah, now you do.”
“I have things planned for us. I’m prepared.” Jungkook nuzzles his cheek. “I just had a weird moment there, okay?”
Jimin manages a small smile at his affection. “It’s all right. I know you have a lot on your plate.”
Jungkook squeezes him around the waist, earning him a little giggle.
Just then, the two of them hear the echoes of a phone vibrating on top of Jungkook’s things against the adjacent wall.
Jungkook feels rather satisfied holding his boyfriend and planting kisses and nose-touches against his skin, but Jimin is the one who breaks away to grab it.
He squats down and looks at the caller ID.
Jungkook watches his expression change. It darkens, but his eyes don’t fill with the brewing storm of Jimin’s rock-bottom depression.
“It’s Jaehyun-hyung, isn’t it?”
Jimin pauses long enough to let the call to end. “Yeah,” he says quietly. Jungkook could practically see his mind start to sink in thought, but he doesn’t wallow like he did before.
“It’s okay.” Jimin smiles and hands him his phone. “You should call him back.”
Jimin’s trying to accept Jungkook’s family in Jungkook’s life--in both their lives. He’s trying so hard that Jungkook feels like he could cry, proud of how much effort Jimin is putting out.
“I’ll do that later.”
“No, he may get busy later. You should call now and then get back to practicing.”
Jungkook frowns a bit. “You’re not sticking around, are you?”
He tries not to sound disappointed, but he knows Jimin still needs time. Baby steps, he reminds himself.
“I’ve distracted you enough,” Jimin murmurs, kissing his jaw.
Jungkook trails a tender hand down his back, to silently assure him that he loves him the most. “But you’re never a distraction.”
“Liar. Look how much time passed.”
“You didn’t stop me.”
“You think I actually wanted to?”
Jungkook laughs and finally lets go of Jimin. He feels better getting back to work this time. His brain is no longer inundated by thoughts of all the things that went and will go wrong. He feels focused.
Jimin stares up at him with fond, sparkling eyes.
“You got this,” he encourages.
“Yeah,” Jungkook replies. “Yeah, I do.”
Honestly--what would he do without Jimin?
Jungkook made him promise to see what their friends are up to, still wary of him being alone with his thoughts, so Jimin decides to do just that. He has to try. He has to be better to Jungkook, better to himself.
He shows up first to Cypher, which is oddly empty of both Hoseok and Yoongi. When he tries to text them, he gets replies from both saying they are busy. Whether or not they’re busy separately or together is a mystery, but for their sake, Jimin hopes it’s the latter.
He winds up at Rose Gold. Coming back here sometimes reminds him of that dark evening in January. He had been so inebriated and lost; everything a blur, to the point he barely remembered what Namjoon’s face looked like. He feels embarrassed whenever he thinks about it, but at least he knows he has people other than Jungkook to depend on. He really tested their friendships.
“So, how far along are you?” Namjoon asks, sliding a bottle of beer towards him. Jimin catches it with ease.
“Almost a quarter of the way,” he says proudly.
“Why does it sound like you’re talking about pregnancy?” Seokjin asks with a snort, just arriving. He slides into the bartender side of the counter and slips an arm across Namjoon’s torso.
“I guess it sort of does sound like it,” Namjoon replies with a wide smile as Seokjin presses himself against him and pecks him on the cheek. “Things getting bigger and fatter, filled with things of the utmost importance.”
Jimin laughs a little, and reminds himself that he should replace his ring envelope at some point--it’s getting too small to fit all the bills.
He and Namjoon have sworn each other to secrecy in regards to engagements, especially from their respective future husbands. He can’t tell if Seokjin knows what they’re talking about, but if he does, he doesn’t pry.
“God, male pregnancy,” the chef retorts, before kissing one of Namjoon’s prominent dimples. “Can you imagine?” He looks like he’s about to say more, but he suddenly reaches into his back pocket with his other hand. It must be a text message.
He smirks a bit when he reads it. “Your son’s finally back. Says he’s on the way.”
“Ah, the irony,” Namjoon replies, amused. “And he’s your son when we’re at the restaurant. You let him stuff his face.”
Jimin, meanwhile, raises both his brows. Since when did they have a child? It doesn’t compute. And why are they talking about it so casually as if Jimin should have expected this?
Both of them dart gazes toward him, like they forgot that he was there.
“Don’t look at us like that,” Namjoon laughs. “He’s not really our son.”
“We were his first friends when he came to Seoul for school,” Seokjin adds, letting go of Namjoon. “He got very attached.”
Oh. That makes much more sense. Jimin feels a bit stupid now, but it’s not his fault that Namjoon and Seokjin are incredibly domestic about every aspect of their lives--which is, by the way, a low-key goal of his. “How come Jungkookie and I never met him before?”
“He was doing study abroad for the past year and a half,” Namjoon replies. He glances at Seokjin. “Italy, I think?”
“Italy, yeah. Rome.”
As if on cue, the three of them hear the door burst open, knob smacking into the wall.
Namjoon grimaces. “And that would be him.”
“I hope he doesn’t leave a dent again,” Seokjin comments with a tsk.
“Appa!” calls a deep voice from the entrance. “Omma! I’m home!”
Seokjin sighs. “He’s probably hungry.” He leaves the bar counter for the kitchen, grumbling something about spoiled children.
Jimin swivels around in his stool, in time to see a tall boy with a bowl haircut approaching them. The hostess is glaring after him from her counter. He pays her no heed.
“What did I say about barging in here and yelling?” Namjoon berates.
“Wow,” the boy scoffs as he sits down next to Jimin. “Hello, Joonie-hyung. I missed you, too.” From there, he catapults into a completely different language--English, it sounds like, especially with the easy way bilingual Namjoon responds.
The boy then finally notices Jimin sitting there, who is agape at the newcomer’s abrupt appearance and unapologetic energy.
He turns back to Namjoon, now speaking another language and pointing curiously at Jimin. Italian, perhaps?
“That’s Jimin,” Namjoon replies. Jimin isn’t sure if Namjoon actually knows Italian or if he has enough context clues to guess. “He’s a friend--same age as you. And speak Korean.”
“Jimin-san, konnichiwa --”
“Korean. You’re in South Korea, Taehyung.”
“Ah, fuck.” He looks at Jimin again, his smile so big it looks almost… box-like. “Hey, you’re cute. Did Joonie-hyung adopt you, too?”
“Taehyung-ah, don’t mess with him. He’s not used to people like--”
“Oh, so you replaced me.”
Namjoon smirks as he passes him a glass of what appears to be a rum and Coke. “I could never replace my asshole of a son.”
Taehyung looks satisfied. “Good.”
Jimin glances between them, lost. What exactly did he get himself into? How is someone so strange as to not know which language he’s supposed to speak?
Namjoon looks like he feels bad, so he clears his throat and changes the subject.
“Jimin-ah, this is Taehyung. He goes to the Seoul Institute of Science and Technology. He knows a shit-ton of languages and still somehow decided to major in electrical engineering instead.”
Taehyung shrugs. “It seemed interesting.”
“Interesting,” Namjoon repeats with half a frown.
Taehyung props his chin on his hand and stares at Jimin. “Seriously, though. You’re really cute. Are you gay? And single? And want a date?”
Without thinking, Jimin shifts in his seat, creating a few centimeters of distance between them. “I have a boyfriend. Four years next month.”
Taehyung blinks with surprise. “Four years? Whoa.”
Jimin just smiles and takes a swig of his beer.
Even Taehyung seems to notice the softness Jimin feels when he brings up Jungkook, enough to stop his attempts at flirtation.
“You guys are really… domestic, aren’t you?”
“I guess? We’ve been living together since moving to Seoul.”
“Nah, I mean.. you guys settled and all, like this guy--” He gestures at Namjoon, who’s still listening to the conversation as he tends to other customers’ orders. “--and Jin-hyung. Like your man--”
“Jungkook.” Jimin feels his cheeks and the rest of his body warm as soon as his name leaves his lips.
Taehyung notices, and gives him a disgusted frown. He’s the kind to cringe at sappiness, Jimin supposes. “Yeah, sure, Jungkook. Jungkook’s the one and all that.”
Namjoon looks up this time, he and Jimin instantly exchanging secretive smiles. They often have these discussions--about settling into something permanent that still manages to feel fresh and new every day, about confirming it with marriage.
Namjoon is still several steps ahead of Jimin, relationship-wise, but he swears he will get to that point--the combined stability of financial comfort and tireless love.
“He’s everything to me,” Jimin replies.
“Gross,” Taehyung says. “You’re just like Joonie-hyung.”
Jimin bites down a smile, and glances up when Seokjin approaches with a plateful of food for Taehyung, catching Namjoon’s eyes instantly even from across the room. Jimin practically sees the red string of fate tied between them, a sharp passionate red. It’s unbreakable, as if it was made with some sort of pliant diamond.
“That’s the goal.”
“You met someone,” Jungkook repeats into the phone, maybe just a tad aggressive in the way he opens his locker in the changing room.
Jimin has the audacity to giggle. “Baby, I met a literal person. I didn’t meet him.”
“Same thing,” Jungkook mutters. He isn’t really jealous of Jimin meeting this Tae-what’s-his-face, but he likes it better when the two of them meet new people together.
But he guesses it’s his own fault for being so busy.
“Baby, please,” Jimin says. “One of the first things I told him after he asked if I was single--”
“--was that I have a boyfriend of almost four years.” Jimin doesn’t give him time to rant about every offensive detail of this Tae-guy. “A boyfriend that I love very, very much who gets jealous as fuck when someone so much as breathes near me.”
Jungkook’s eyes fall on the contents of his locker, behind his deodorant and the duffel bag he brings to every practice. He doesn’t have much to begin with, so the locker provides a sufficient amount of space for what he has planned for their anniversary: a nice picnic blanket from the discount store, a few candles he took from their cabinet at home (which he is positive Jimin doesn’t keep track of), a bottle of wine he saved up for, and a Post-It list of where they will go, what he will do, and what else he still needs to bring and make on the day of.
He wishes he had extravagance--expensive, intimate dinners and moonlight hanging full and bright above them. That’s what they used to do.
He doesn’t want to ask any of his better-off of friends for favors--both he and Jimin prefer their own brand of romantic dates. Makeshift replacements can be just as beautiful sometimes. Love certainly makes up for the things they lack. They don’t mind it being the only thing they’re rich with.
“Babe, are you still there?”
Jungkook blinks and refocuses. “Yeah?”
“You sound tired. I hope you’re coming home soon.”
“Don’t worry, I am.”
“Good.” He pauses for a second, before speaking up, in a more uncertain voice than before, “Did… did you call your brother back?”
“Yeah. He says hi.”
“Tell him hi back next time.” He sounds a bit more at ease.
“I will.” Jungkook finishes packing up and shuts his locker.
“What did he want?”
“Just wanted to see how I am. I think he knew I’d be super stressed around this time of year.”
“Mostly because of you.”
“You’re that stressed over our anniversary?” Jimin scoffs.
“Babe, you know how we try to outdo each other every year.”
“Jungkook-ah, it’s not my fault that you couldn’t compete with my private dinner last year.”
“That’s not fair,” Jungkook laughs. “You were just lucky that Jackson-hyung knew that jazz lounge owner.”
“You still cried over Come Away With Me.”
Jungkook huffs with feigned petulance. “She was a moving singer.”
“Moving enough for you to lose.”
They hang up after another minute or so of playful banter, and Jungkook leaves the dance building with a smile still on his face.
The two of them have incredibly competitive spirits; Jungkook knows it’s a major reason why they push themselves and each other to succeed.
It really doesn’t matter who ‘wins’ at their anniversary in the end. Both he and Jimin know that the time together is more important. Even with busy schedules, mid-terms, dance competitions, and art projects, they take time to just be Jimin-and-Jungkook, Jungkook-and-Jimin, lost in each other and all the love that’s grown between them.
He’s going to find a way to triumph.
Jungkook wakes up early several mornings later. He has a lot to do, and when he is hyper-focused on what he needs done, he barely has enough logic or mind power to think through anything else.
Like every text message from Jimin today, it seems.
Baby, reads Jimin’s first text to Jungkook that morning. I know you’re still at the campus library with that paper and all, but I just want to tell you I love you more than anyone in the world. :) Good luck with everything today.
Jungkook catches it approximately half an hour after it was sent, after submitting that damn final essay online and on the way to an exam.
He sends back a question mark first, followed by, Thanks, but isn’t this a little much? Are you gonna die?
Jimin doesn’t reply, but remembers that his boyfriend has his own exams and projects to worry about, so he doesn’t get concerned over it.
Jimin sends another text a couple hours later, more cryptic than the last. The weather should be nice and clear tonight, baby.
Okay? Jungkook replies, confused and honestly frazzled because there is so much work. Jimin, I can’t make lunch, by the way. I need to cram.
Jimin takes a couple minutes too long to answer. All right. I love you. I don’t have work today, so I’ll be around a bit earlier than usual. ;D
Jungkook doesn’t take time to wonder why he mentions that. Love you, too.
He expects another text in the evening, when he heads to the dance studio from the back entrance that leads straight into the locker rooms, but Jimin doesn’t say anything.
Jungkook feels bad for being so clipped with his responses, so he decides to initiate this time.
Babe, wanna stop by the studio? He starts typing into his phone with one hand as the other unlocks his locker.
He looks up in the midst of texting, about to slide his bag off his shoulder, but as soon as his eyes meet the dark space of his locker, he freezes with dread.
Candles. Picnic blanket. Wine. That damn Post-It filled with things he still hasn’t done or gotten yet.
His heart quickens with panic as he hits the button to call Jimin.
He picks up on the second ring.
“Baby,” Jungkook starts hastily, guilt squeezing his throat. “I’m sorry. I forgot. I’m so sorry. I love you so much. God, I fucking ruined--baby, forgive me, okay? I love you--I love you, I swear to g--I’m coming home now and--I had things planned for us and I fucking--”
“Get out of there, Jungkook-ah.” He says it simply, with way too much evenness in his tone. Jungkook wonders if he’s angry. He deserves to be.
He stuffs the Post-It into his pocket and pulls the picnic blanket out of the locker. The candles fall to the ground in his hurry. “I know, Jiminnie-hyung--I’m coming home. I’m hurrying as fast as I--”
He is interrupted by a sly giggle, out of all things. Jungkook furrows his brow.
“Just come out of the locker room, babe.”
There is a strange echo to his voice, but it has to be his imagination. It has to be.
Jungkook drops everything he’s holding and rushes out to the practice room.
A solitary figure stands in the middle of the room in a thin, half-buttoned white-collared shirt and black slacks. He is holding wine much nicer than Jungkook’s own in one hand and a plastic bag filled with tupperware containers in the other. Only a handful of lights are left illuminated, softly spotlighting him, accenting the beautiful angles of his face with their shadows.
Just behind him is a low, rectangular object--the familiar shape of the empty ice drink cooler the studio leaves in the corner of the room for off-campus group performances. But instead of worn blue and white, there is a crisp, white tablecloth that covers it. Two dining sets are set out in clear, durable plastic. Lit candles he recognizes from their cabinets from home make up the centerpieces. There are seat cushions set out, too--crimson red with golden yellow tassels.
And surrounding all of that is an array of rose petals, about a dozen’s worth, in organized chaos; a mosaic that of course someone like Jimin would arrange so beautifully.
Jimin’s eyes brighten. “Hi, cutie.”
“Jimin,” Jungkook breathes. “How--What--I--”
Jimin approaches. He’s smiling; after Jungkook stupidly, insensitively, horribly forgot, his boyfriend is still smiling at him. “It’s okay. I know you’re busy.”
“You forgot. I figured.” Jimin laughs and kisses the corner of his frowning lips. “It’s okay, Jungkook-ah. The only thing that matters is that we’re together now. We still have our anniversary.”
“But… what--?” Jungkook is still a bit dumbfounded as he watches him set down what he’s holding. “Baby, I was going to take us to the park. I have wine, too, and--”
“We can still go to the park later if you have time.”
If you have time, Jungkook repeats in his head. He makes him sound so neglectful and it irritates him.
As soon as Jimin finishes arranging their ‘table’ to make room for the food and wine, Jungkook grabs him by the arm and lets him stumble into his chest. He wraps his arms around him with a sigh, forehead pressing against his.
“Of course I have time,” he mutters stubbornly.
“Jungkook, stop pouting like that. I forgive you.” Jimin gestures to his handiwork. “What do you think?”
It’s not elegant in the way their previous anniversaries in Busan were--rounded table booths, waiters at their beck and call; drivers to take them anywhere they wanted.
But we always make do, don’t we? Jungkook muses. They’re just fine with their living situation--their blankets, their single mattress on the floor. They can live easily on feeding each other cheap instant ramen every night.
This evening, the two of them have a cooler covered with a tablecloth and plastic plates and cutlery inside a dance studio that is probably not the cleanest place to be.
Jungkook holds him closer. “It’s perfect.”
The night goes by in a sweet, dreamy haze. They both become buzzed off wine and love, and after languid, red pepper-flavored kisses and soft nuzzles, he abruptly stands up.
“Baby,” Jimin whines, reaching up to squeeze his hand. “What are you doing?”
“Gonna put on music,” Jungkook replies, wrestling his hand out of Jimin’s grip.
He drifts off to the stereo setup, ignoring Jimin continuing to whine about how cold it is in the room without him tucked next to him.
Jungkook attaches his phone to the stereo. He may not have been able contribute to tonight with all Jimin’s done, but he still has his playlist--
He notices, when he turns the screen on, that his battery is at one percent. Not enough for one song. And of course he would forget his charger at home.
“Jungkook-ah?” Jimin calls out as he comes up to him. Jungkook feels his lips press softly against his shoulder and his arms wind comfortably around his waist from behind.
Together, they watch Jungkook’s phone die completely. Jungkook spots his frown next to Jimin’s blank expression in the reflection of the screen.
“So, no music?”
“No music,” Jungkook replies with sorrow. He sighs and tucks his phone back into his pocket. “I fucked up.”
“Aish, don’t say that,” Jimin reprimands him, squeezing tighter around him. “You’ve done enough by taking time out of your busy schedule to spend it with me.” He doesn’t sound as intoxicated as before--or maybe the difference between their alcohol tolerances are much wider than he realizes.
Jimin giggles. “Baby, come on. We don’t need music.”
But Jungkook doesn’t want to listen. His cheeks hurt from the massiveness of his scowl and he’s not going to let it up until he fixes this and the rest of his fuck-up on their anniversary.
“You’re so hard on yourself,” Jimin goes on with a tsk. “Let’s just finish the wine.” Jungkook feels him tilt his head with curiosity. “What were you gonna play, anyway?”
Jungkook turns around to face Jimin, and instantly, the first song of his playlist comes to mind. The vocals are wispy and full of ethereal longing, like clouds rolling across the sky, like the sunset sky holding dreams, and all anyone needs to do is look up.
The song makes him think of Jimin and himself, cuddled against each other, staring at the emerging moon and its stars.
“Moon river,” Jungkook finds himself singing under his breath. “Wider than a mile. I’m crossing you in style someday.”
Jimin doesn’t say anything. The song means something to him, too. Jungkook knows it by the way his boyfriend buries his form firmly into him, like he wants Jungkook’s love to consume him.
Jungkook smiles and wraps his arms over his shoulders, noting the rosy warmth of the tips of Jimin’s ears, probably to accompany his silky, rosy cheeks. He dips his head down so he can sing into his ear, and they begin an intuitive sway to the beat of the song. His heart is soaring; he feels like he’s floating among the clouds, floating among their dreams.
“Two drifters, off to see the world,” he croons, stopping to giggle when Jimin whimpers, about to cry. Jungkook may be a decent singer, but he never thought he’d touch him enough to bring him to tears. “There’s such a lot of world to see... ”
He finishes the song as soft as he had started, and he lets their dance slow to a stop.
Jimin is melted in his arms, completely at ease, but he manages to lift his head to look up at him.
Jungkook finds himself stricken by the unwavering affirmation in his eyes, that this is his soulmate; this is who he is meant to be with in this lifetime and in every one before and after it.
“Happy anniversary, baby,” Jimin breathes.
“Happy anniversary,” Jungkook responds, lips hovering over his. “I love you.”
Their kiss is only the beginning of the night. After dinner at the dance studio, they lie on the picnic blanket on the roof of their apartment building with wine bottle number two beside them, staring at the sky.
Jimin falls asleep in the middle of conversation, and Jungkook can’t help but watch his serene face with admiration.
“Things never go as planned, do they?” Jungkook whispers to his slumbering boyfriend. He leans down to give him a light kiss.
Jimin lets out a small, sleepy noise before rolling over in the direction of Jungkook’s voice.
Maybe forgetting their anniversary is a good thing, in a way. Jimin’s spontaneity made tonight more meaningful--at least, Jungkook thinks so.
“Ugh, this means you won again,” he remarks with a pout.
He lies back down on his back next to him. He supposes he should take Jimin back inside so they can sleep for real, but Jungkook finds himself wanting to stay a little longer with the moon and stars.
Jungkook wants to hold on to the words he finds in Moon River; it’s their song, one that means so much to the two of them.
“We’re after the same rainbow’s end,” he sings to himself.
It’s a lucky charm, he hopes, that will lead them down the right path.
Despite the perfection of that night, Jungkook still feels terrible about forgetting their anniversary. He’s never forgotten it before, not once; not something this important.
So he makes up to him in a major way by buying a dining table--a real wooden table that can hold more weight than bowls of ramen or a couple textbooks.
Makeshift replacements, sure, but it doesn’t mean they can’t upgrade a bit. Upward mobility and all that.
“Babe?” calls a curious voice from behind him.
Jungkook turns around, a little surprised. He didn’t expect him for another hour; he wanted more time to set the table prettily.
“Jiminnie-hyung,” he greets, arms automatically opening as his angel approaches. Even with bags under his eyes, drawing charcoal on his hands, and his hair in disarray from stress, he still looks absolutely perfect.
Jimin drops his bag and folio and enters his embrace with a tired groan. He’s warm and soft as always, smelling of art and effort. Jungkook feels both their stresses melt the longer they stay like this.
Jimin kisses him briefly on the jaw before tilting his head to look past his shoulder. He hitches a breath in surprise. “Jungkook--”
“Do you like it?”
Jimin pulls away to examine the table up close. He runs his fingers over the polished wood, over its sharp, unchipped edges and corners. He touches the chair near him, too, in its contradictingly cheap, plastic glory.
“Yeah…” he mutters in marvel. “Of course I do, baby.”
“I saved up some extra money from teaching the children’s classes,” Jungkook explained, coming up behind him and putting an arm around his shoulder. “It’s my anniversary gift for us.”
Jimin cranes his neck to peer up at him, brows raised.
Jungkook grins. “I told you I didn’t forget.”
“I love you,” Jimin blurts out.
Jungkook slides his fingers into Jimin’s hair and tilts his face into his, their noses touching. The contact sends tingles up his spine--their love just as intense as the beginning of their relationship. “I love you, too.”
“It’s really a nice table.”
He smiles. “Isn’t it?”
“It’ll be really useful.”
Jungkook eyes it thoughtfully, before a mischievous grin spreads across his face.
“Ahh, so sturdy,” Jimin moans over the table rattling against the floor, against the wall it ended up being pushed into.
Jungkook manages a low, breathless laugh. “Me or the table?”
Jimin only whines in reply. His knuckles whiten when he grips the edges of the table. His naked body is splayed beautifully over the polished surface, arching in sharp pleasure as he ruts against Jungkook’s cock with hurried desperation.
Jungkook smirks and leans over, hooking Jimin’s legs over his shoulders before driving harder into him.
“God, so fucking slick,” he pants, breaths hot as his lips settle just above Jimin’s.
“Me or the table?” Jimin remarks in a strained voice. He reaches up, sliding his hands around Jungkook’s neck and dragging his nails lightly over his wet, sticky skin. His long moans turn into shaking gasps. The grip of his legs tighten.
Jungkook lets out a low groan and reaches between them. After running his thumb a few times over the slit of Jimin’s dick, he comes with a strangled cry, his entire body bucking against Jungkook’s.
One more thrust and Jungkook joins him. His moan echoes in the small, almost bare apartment, and he’s pretty sure everyone within a five kilometer radius can hear it, too.
He buries his face into Jimin’s neck. He hears Jimin weakly utter his name into his hair, arms and legs limp.
“Babe?” Jimin murmurs.
“Are we going to do this every time we get a new piece of furniture?”
Jungkook smirks before planting a kiss behind his ear. “It can mark our domestic milestones.”
“Mm.” Jimin’s laugh is tired and breathy and filled with satisfaction. “I like that.”
“And this means I won this year, right?”
“Hah. Yesss.” Jungkook loosens his hold on his boyfriend, allowing his legs to slip off his shoulders so he can carry him properly back to bed.
“Hey, remember when we got our mattress?” he asks as he lays Jimin on his back.
“What about it?”
Jungkook places a kiss on his forehead and flops down next to him. “You said--”
“Dream big,” Jimin finishes, smiling.
Jungkook stares at the ceiling, now darkening with the end of the day. Tomorrow will be a new day, for practice, for the progress to perfection. He has until Saturday to be ready for the competition, and he actually feels prepared. He practically tastes the victory, as hot and sweet as the breaths of Jimin’s encouragement on his lips.
“Dream big,” he repeats with quiet determination. “I’ll make sure we get there.”
“You did great,” Jimin reassures him, stroking the back of his head as Jungkook stares at the stage from the wing, arms crossed and body overall tense.
“You may think so,” Jungkook starts, “but--”
“No buts,” his boyfriend interrupts, nosing into his neck. “I mean, unless it’s mine, of course--”
Jungkook’s not in the mood. “Hyung…”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Jimin murmurs in surrender. He plants a brief kiss against his jaw. “I just wanted to lighten your mood. You’re so stiff.” To prove it, he runs his hands over his shoulders. When Jungkook doesn’t respond, he lets go and moves to stand beside him and watch the current performance.
They’re good, Jungkook thinks. Polished with snappy, synchronized movements. The ripples are on point and seem to wow the crowd. Commercial and professional. The student who choreographed it is talented and knows his audience, and it makes him nervous.
Jungkook casts a sideways glance at Jimin, who isn’t looking at him or fussing over him, which sort of annoys him. Just a little, of course.
He didn’t mean to seem so grumpy earlier--he’s just stuck between relief from getting his own set over with and the nerves that come with whether or not the judges think he did good enough to win.
He grabs Jimin by the arm and pulls him into his side.
“You really think I did okay?” Jungkook asks in a soft voice, finally peeling his eyes away from the stage to look down at him.
Jimin leans against him and presses their lips together with a tenderness that sends warm, sweet tingles down his back, healing his soul like magic.
“You were wonderful,” Jimin says. “The crowd, the judges, the dance professors--they loved you. That one instructor who mentored you smiled the whole performance.”
“Baby, be honest. Do you think it’s a winning performance?”
Jimin looks him in the eye. Half a smile hangs on his face, but his eyes beam at him with proud wonder.
“I just have a really good feeling, Jungkook-ah.”
Sometimes Jimin is spookily intuitive about things, so Jungkook takes his word for it. If Jimin believes it, then he will, too.
Jungkook is in the basement in the middle of putting clothes into the washer one afternoon the following week when his phone rings.
It echoes in the otherwise empty space, and Jungkook stares at the screen, knowing that this is the call of fate.
He vaguely recognizes the number--he’s stared at the flyer and information papers of the competition long and often enough to know.
With one hand, he reaches for the phone on the next washer over and brings it to his ear. With the other… he simply wrings the hem of his shirt with sweating jitters, wishing it was his boyfriend’s hand instead; where is he when he needs him?
“H-Hello?” Jungkook greets quietly after he clears his throat.
“Hi, this is Jang Woohyuk, a choreographer from Heat Wave Entertainment. I judged at the K-ARTS Beginning Choreographers Showcase.”
Oh god, oh god, oh god-- an actual choreographer for an actual music label with actual well-known pop music acts is actually calling him.
“Am I speaking to Jeon Jungkook?”
“Yes.” Jungkook forces himself to take in a breath and speak with more confidence. “Yes, this is he.”
“Is this a good time to talk?”
“O-Of course!” Jungkook’s heart stutters with his voice as he hastily (and messily) pours detergent into the washer and slams the door shut. This is it. Oh, god, this is it.
“Oh, good,” Jang Woohyuk chuckles. “So we, the judges, and the dance instructors from K-ARTS have been deliberating over the past week, as you’re aware.”
Jungkook holds his breath.
“We have deemed you an excellent fit as one of five students to perform and choreograph intermission sets for artists in a professional setting. As you might know, it’s a paid commission that can lead to more opportunities, some permanent. Anyway, I want to place you at Heat Wave Entertainment’s annual group concert.”
Each word passes through Jungkook’s ears with growing excitement. His jaw drops closer and closer to the ground and he feels tears of happiness and relief rush to his eyes.
He barely lets Jang Woohyuk finish before he bursts out with a, “Thank you so much! I’m incredibly honored.”
Woohyuk chuckles. “I suppose this means you accept, then?”
Jungkook tries not to hop up and pump his fists into the air. Not yet, anyway. He settles for a cheek-hurting smile that spreads wide across his face. “Yes, sir!”
“Good! I like your enthusiasm.” The choreographer goes on with more technical talk--if his personal information on the application is correct, and when their next meeting will be (one-to-one, in person!) for a detailed discussion.
Jungkook tries his best to stuff all this into his head, but he’s struggling. All he can think of is the exponential jump forward in his dreams, gradually becoming reality, and the boy he loves on the fifth floor who always gives him the confidence to pursue them.
“So, I’ll email you, okay? Jungkook-ssi?”
“Yes, sorry, of course, yes,” Jungkook rambles, his heart beating out of his chest, his body vibrating with barely contained joy.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
“All right, then. I’ll talk to you later. Have a great evening!”
Jungkook is well aware that he hasn’t turned the washer on after the call, that he most likely left the coins sitting in the slots and the empty laundry hamper next to it. But it’s the last thing on his mind as he sprints out of the room and charges up the staircase. He has enough energy to run up and down every floor and stairwell of the entire building, but uses it all to swing his apartment door open until it slams into the wall behind it.
Jimin, who has been tending to something on the stove, leaps about a foot in the air and gapes at him.
“Babe, did you run all the way back--”
“Jiminnie, baby!” Jungkook shouts breathlessly, pouncing on his boyfriend. “I won!”
Jimin embraces him tentatively. “You--”
Jimin screams in his ear and Jungkook screams back. Together, they jump happily, hugging hard, not caring at all how much noise they’re making (to be honest, when do they ever?).
“Oh, baby, that’s awesome!” Jimin exclaims, and plants kisses all over his face. “I’m so, so proud of you!”
Jungkook catches his roaming lips with his and keeps them there in a longer, deeper, more ardent kiss. What would I do without you? it asks Jimin. Where would I be? Who would I be?
Jimin hums sweetly into the kiss, fingers curling affectionately into his hair. “Oh, Jungkookie,” he sighs afterward, overtaken by emotion. “You’re wonderful, you know that?”
Jungkook nuzzles his nose against his in response. They stay like this for a moment, caught in each other’s love, until Jimin speaks up again.
“Babe, I’m gonna call our friends, all right?” he says, poking him in the chest. His smile is so brilliant that it could light up every apartment in the building, and Jungkook wants to make sure he sees this as often as possible. “Because were are definitely celebrating this.”
“Yeah, go ahead,” Jungkook encourages, cupping his cheeks. Man, is he ever in love with this adorable face. “Do whatever, baby.”
“And you,” Jimin continues, sliding his hands on top of his. His smile turns warm, the gentle, gentle kind that always catches Jungkook off guard, making him want to sink to his knees it’s so stunning. “You should call your family.”
Jungkook stills. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Jimin brings his face close, lips grazing over his. “Jaehyun-hyung would want to know.”
Jungkook’s known Jaehyun all his life, but with all that’s happened, he still gets a bit nervous when he talks to his brother.
He reminds himself constantly, though, that Jaehyun understands. He understands him and his needs more than their parents do, and if he has at least that, he’s golden.
“Hey!” Jungkook greets with a bit of a nervous squeak.
“Are you okay? You sound… weird.”
“I just,” he starts, a bubble of utter excitement coming over him again, “I just won that competition, hyung. I’m one of the fucking five who’ll choreograph for pop artists. Professionally. Oh, my god, and it’s paid. Did I ever tell you that they’re compensating the winners with money ? Hyung… hyung! Are you list--”
“Yeah, I am,” Jaehyun interrupts, laughing. “You’re just speaking so fast that I couldn’t get a word in. But that’s great, Kook-ah! That’s a huge opportunity, huh?”
“Yeah, super huge.”
“Wow.” He seems to be in genuine awe, an undertone of look at you now, little brother within the utterance. “I’m really proud of you.”
Jungkook lets warmth bloom across his face. “Thanks, hyung.”
Jaehyun pauses for a few seconds. “Hey... you know what?”
“I think you should tell omma.”
“I’ll call her after--” He stops when he hears shuffling.
His heart beats into his throat when he realizes what his brother is doing. “Hyung…”
Jaehyun is passing her the phone. And Jungkook has no time to prepare himself, because a few second later, he hears,
He swallows once. Twice. “O-... Omma?”
“Jungkook? Jungkook-ah, is that you?”
Jungkook surprises himself by feeling the ache of nostalgia swell inside of him. He has missed this voice--the honey alto, the nurturing inflections he’s listened to all his life.
“Yeah. Yeah, it’s me.”
“Oh, sweetheart.” Jungkook hears a break in her voice and nearly tears up himself. “How are you?”
“I--” Jungkook gathers himself, taking a couple breaths before speaking again, this time, with a proud, beaming smile on his face. “I got scouted, omma.”
“I’m one of the five winners of the biggest dance competition at K-ARTS,” he continues. “Commissioned by one of the biggest labels in pop music.”
“Ah, well--” She doesn’t know what to say, it seems, and is taking cues from his voice. “That’s amazing, sweetheart. What does it mean?”
His gaze falls on Jimin, who is checking on the rice on the stove. His beautiful, perfect Jimin, who has done so much for him, who’s fallen so many times only to get back up and forge further ahead, stronger than ever.
The two of them can only move up from here. Together.
“It means…” he chokes out. God, can he actually talk about Jimin without wanting to cry out of the sheer love he has for him?
“I’m going to take care of us.”
Thank you for your patience! Sorry for the wait!
Chapter 12: Off To See the World
It’s the beginning of their future.
Jungkook is sitting at their dining table and struggling with his homework when he feels like he’s being stared at.
“What?” he asks, seeing Jimin standing in the middle of the room and, indeed, staring.
“It looks weird.”
Jungkook raises an eyebrow. “Weird how?” But Jimin pulls him out of the chair so he can stand back and see.
They stand deliberating, staring at the table covered in Jungkook’s books and surrounded by only two, mismatched plastic chairs.
“Did you have to get one white and one green?” Jimin asks. “They don’t even match each other.”
“Maybe we need a table cloth. Y’know, to tie it all together? Hide the wood or something.”
“I like the wood.”
Jungkook hums. He pulls the chairs out to put them on the other side of the room.
“It looks better without the chairs,” Jungkook explains.
“But then we can’t sit at the table.”
Jungkook nods, and they continue to stare at the table, arms crossed.
“Maybe we could just sit on it,” Jimin says. Jungkook gives him a strange look and then he sees the look Jimin is giving him--
Jungkook takes that second to hurriedly shove his books off the table and onto the floor in a loud crash. He pays the sound no mind, lifting a giggling Jimin onto the table.
“I always wanted to do that,” Jungkook says between kisses, Jimin’s legs wrapping around his waist and pulling him in.
It’s not until later--much later--that Jungkook finally asks--
“Do you really think the table looks weird?” Jimin is still naked and splayed out beneath him, humming as Jungkook sleepily noses at his neck. “Or were you just trying to get me to fuck you on it again?”
Jimin bursts into a laugh, and Jungkook pulls back with a grin. Jimin’s covering his face, cheeks reddening, whole body shaking, little squeaks and giggles bursting from him.
“Well?” Jungkook asks, laughing slightly and pulling at Jimin’s hands.
“I… I kind of wanted you on the table,” Jimin admits.
“Oh.” Jungkook’s cheeks heat. “Round two, then?”
Jimin feels ridiculous as he searches for pants with deep pockets. The only ones that might work are bright red and a bit too small--pants he only wears to rile Jungkook up. He’s definitely not wearing those.
But he has to find a place to hide it. He can’t go walking around the streets with it in his hands, and he can’t let Jungkook see, either. Which means he has to get out of here and back in time.
Which also means he has to stop looking for a light jacket or proper pants and just hide it in the most sensible place. It makes him nervous to put it in his shoulder bag, because anyone can just run past and steal it from him in the blink of an eye, but it’s the best place Jimin has.
After checking Jungkook’s text from earlier to ensure he won’t be home for at least a few hours, Jimin shifts the fridge forward with a grunt. Just a little wiggle room is all he needs before he can crouch down and reach the envelope. It’s no longer taped to the back of the fridge, too heavy for it to stick and the tape too old and weak, but he’d found a little slot to wedge it into perfectly.
His engagement ring money.
The envelope is old like the tape, the top flap torn a bit and the body of it crinkled from the awkward angle in which Jimin often has to shove it behind the fridge, but the money is intact--mostly 1000 won bills, but a decent stack.
He hasn’t counted it in a while, but he knows it’s not enough. And that’s fine with him, as long as he has enough someday. For now, he puts the fridge back into place and tucks a few extra bills into the envelope before he puts the whole thing into his shoulder bag in the innermost pocket.
He makes his way to the bank, and though he knows he probably has enough time to get back before Jungkook, he’s not taking any chances. He’s practically out of breath by the time he gets there.
“Hi, um,” Jimin huffs, digging through his shoulder bag. The weight of the envelope still makes his hands shake a bit, makes him feel the reality of what its contents mean every time he holds it. “I need to exchange these for bigger bills and, um,” He slides the envelope over the counter and digs further into his shoulder bag for the baggie of coins, “and to get this change counted and into bills.”
The teller watches him a bit suspiciously. Really, anything Jimin does in a bank makes him feel suspicious. It’s a lot like walking past a cop, but when he finally drops the enormous bag of change on the counter--which he carries with him, since it’s not as questionable as an envelope full of cash --he tries to smile like a good samaritan.
“Bigger bills?” the teller says, smiling politely. She takes the money and his account information but quirks an eyebrow when Jimin assures her that he doesn’t want it deposited into any of their accounts.
“I, um,” he stutters. Now he really looks suspicious. What kinds of people have envelopes of cash like this?
He has to physically restrain himself from assuring her that he’s not a drug dealer. Instead he laughs, tries to be cool about it (fails), and reminds himself that Jungkook isn’t here. He can share his little secret.
“Engagement ring money,” he says. He tries not to whisper like an idiot.
“I see,” the teller says. Relief seems to flood through her, and she smiles at him in earnest this time. “A secret from the missus.” She winks at him before taking the envelope and bag of coins.
Jimin sighs, tension flooding out of him and, unfortunately, annoyance fluttering in to take its place. The missus. He rolls his eyes.
He entertains himself briefly while the teller is gone by imagining what Jungkook would say if he knew someone just indirectly called him a missus. Surely he’d squawk, flaunt his muscles, maybe pout. Jimin rolls his eyes again, but this time with affection.
The teller comes back with a much smaller, newer envelope and a baggie with significantly less coins. She smiles cheerily at him as she tells him the amount.
“About halfway there, hm?” she grins.
Jimin internally snorts. How cheap does she think he is?
“Ah, well, I need two, actually. I want to get a matching set for both of us,” he clarifies, tucking the envelope and baggie away.
“A matching set? How modern!”
“Yeah, well,” Jimin smiles at her, backing away from the counter, “I don’t think he would like to be the only one with a ring. It might make him feel like a missus.”
The teller raises her eyebrows in shock, and Jimin waves goodbye.
When he gets home, he tapes the envelope right back where it was. The envelope is so light and skinny that it feels like the first time again with only a few won left in it from his first gallery.
Except it’s not just a few won anymore. It’s one step closer, and it makes everything feel even more real--the future they’ve built so far and the future they have to look forward to. It reminds him of his upcoming plans, of Jungkook’s recent choreographing gig, of the real dining room table they now possess.
How much more can they achieve? Jimin can’t wait to find out.
“Well, there it is.”
Before them hangs an array of Jimin’s art, hung in a line on display. Beneath each frame is a card that reads Jimin’s name, email, website, and the price of each work.
For sale. Jimin is selling his art. Jungkook looks at him, pride blooming through him. This surely must be how Jimin feels when he watches Jungkook choreograph.
“How does it feel?” Jungkook asks. Jimin looks slightly enamored and tender but not nearly as happy as Jungkook had expected.
“It’s a little weird,” Jimin murmurs and looks at Jungkook. “I used to draw in secret and… Just for you, y’know? And now people can take it home with them.”
“But it’s a good change, right?” Jungkook asks. Jimin nods hesitantly, and Jungkook continues, taking Jimin’s hands in his, “It doesn’t have to be a secret anymore, baby. And you’re making a profit, too. Isn’t that amazing?”
Jimin bites his lip, grin slowly spreading across his cheeks. “Is it?”
“Jiminnie-hyung. Think about what it took to get here. Did you ever think this would be able to happen in high school?”
“I guess not.” He turns to his display again, all his artwork ready to be sold. People are already gazing with interest a few frames down, pointing at Jimin’s card below each one with curious smiles.
Jungkook watches as Jimin slowly fills with excitement. He’s unable to restrain his grin, amazed laughter bubbling from his lips.
“I guess you’re right, Jungkookie. It’s… pretty amazing.”
Jungkook smiles, pleased, and lets Jimin wrap an arm around his waist. He’s never been prouder to be the arm candy of an artist.
Jungkook follows Jimin along as he mingles. Apparently, a very important part of hosting galleries is the networking. Jimin has stressed how important it is to get not just his name and his work out there, but himself. He’s always stressing about his reputation in the art community, always sure to show up to every little independent gallery.
His involvement becomes extremely clear to Jungkook once Jimin begins carting him around. Every critic, fellow artist, and interested buyer seems to know Jimin’s name--and Jungkook’s, surprisingly.
“Ah, so this is the muse, hm?” one woman asks. She helps organize an Art on the Square event in Seoul, a huge outdoor display and sale of local artists’ work, as Jimin tells him.
Jungkook bows at every one of them and gives his best introductions. Everyone is carting champagne or small cups of coffee for the nightly event, and Jungkook is a bit overwhelmed at how easily Jimin weaves through the crowd, how breezily he speaks to everyone and makes both small talk and artistic… er, talk.
Jungkook never realized how often Jimin goes to these kinds of events--independent galleries and coffee shop art socials. His name is really out there; everyone knows him and loves him, brushes his arm as they walk past to compliment his work.
“So when I spend late nights at the dance studio,” Jungkook says, feeling out of breath once they’re finally alone at a table, people still bustling around just a few feet away, “you--”
“Do this,” Jimin says, grinning into his coffee cup. “You recognize some names, right? I’ve told you about Yongsun-ssi.”
“I remember,” Jungkook pouts. “She kind of hinted about getting you a gig, right?”
“So you do these things like, every night?” Jungkook asks.
“More like once a week.” Jimin shrugs. “They’re not usually this busy. I think the coffee attracted more hipster-types, y’know? They never show up to the fancier things.”
Jungkook pouts again. “I’ve never gone to the fancy things, either,” he says, hard pressed to recall a time Jimin forced him into slacks recently.
“Babe, you have dance rehearsals. Really, it’s fine. I don’t expect you to go if I’m not presenting anything.”
“You go these when you don’t have to present?!”
“Reputation, Jungkook-ah. Remember? People have to know me,” he says. He looks amused more than anything, brushing fingertips over Jungkook’s hand on the table. “What’s gotten into you?”
“I just…” Jungkook looks around at all the people Jimin seems to have been mingling with all this time, and he hadn’t even realized. What did he think Jimin did all day--cooped himself up in their apartment with paints and pencils?
… Well, okay, yeah. He kind of did.
“I just feel guilty. How come I didn’t know you did this all the time?”
Jimin shrugs. “I don’t know. It’s way less casual than me coming to the studio to watch you dance. This kind of thing… Well, it’s social.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jimin smiles wryly. “Baby. You’re hardly the type.”
Jungkook huffs into his coffee, sipping and wishing he had a better response than, I don’t like to talk to strangers. Jimin laughs at his silence.
They sit and banter playfully, spend a second sipping on the free coffee (another perk of being one of the artists… and his boyfriend), and Mark comes by a bit later with free refills and pastries.
Jungkook likes Mark. He’s the son of the coffee shop’s owner, and he doesn’t talk much. He’s also Jackson’s childhood best friend turned high school sweetheart.
Jungkook is always a sucker for the happy love stories, he supposes.
“Pastries?” Jimin asks when Mark sets the sweets on their table.
“Your pieces are, uhm, selling like hot cakes,” Mark says, odd inflection in his voice.
“Did you use the pun?” Jackson asks, appearing behind Mark, who nods. Jackson grins. “I told him to say hot cakes. Get it? Cakes?” He gestures to the pastries on the table.
“This is a croissant,” Jimin mumbles around his food.
“Humor me,” Jackson pouts as Mark rolls his eyes affectionately and leaves the table. “I’ve been schmoozing about you all night. I think Yongsun-ssi finally has that gig lined up for you."
“Yeah?” Jimin perks up. “I should go talk to her again,” he says, hurriedly shoving more pastry in his mouth and sipping his coffee quickly. He stands and kisses Jungkook’s forehead, waves off his offer to come with, and hurries across the room with Jackson.
Jungkook can only watch, a small smile on his face as Yongsun-ssi brightens when she sees Jimin. It seems Jungkook isn’t the only one drawn to him, not just in personality but in art and talent. The people perusing his art all have similar looks on their faces: curiosity and fascinated wonderment.
Jungkook sips his coffee to hide his proud smile.
After spending a few hours at the coffee shop, they head to the Rose Gold where Jimin watches in mild fascination as Taehyung mixes four different sauces together on a plate. They’re not regular condiments--rather, they’re leftover sauces from the late night crowd of the restaurant, like Seokjin’s original steak sauce mixed with something orange Jimin can’t quite make out.
“Oh, here,” Namjoon says, coming behind the bar with Taehyung. He reaches into a lower cabinet and pulls out crushed red pepper as if it’s the most natural thing in the world that Taehyung is making the most disgusting… whatever this is.
“You moved stuff around while I was gone,” Taehyung whines, shaking the pepper over the concoction.
Jimin begins to block out the sounds of their bickering, turning to Jungkook to see how he’s handling this whole interaction. He’s only just met Taehyung, who’d flirted with Jungkook similarly to how he’d flirted with Jimin, until Jimin batted him away with a, “Remember my boyfriend of four years? Yeah, this is him.”
“You guys are too cute. It’s not fair,” Taehyung had said. “Add some ugly into the mix and date me.”
To which Jungkook and Jimin had been unable to respond because Seokjin had dragged him into the kitchen to talk to him about manners.
“So?” Jimin says. Jungkook doesn’t look away, eyebrows scrunching further when Taehyung pulls out a whisk to mix his sauces.
“He’s weird,” Jungkook mumbles. “I want to try that sauce.”
Jimin laughs, making Jungkook break out into a small, flabbergasted smile. It seems Taehyung has them both at a loss, and he seems to know it, too, grinning up at them over the counter.
“He’s weird, but everyone falls for his charms,” Yoongi murmurs, sliding up behind Jimin and taking a seat on the stool beside him, Hoseok close behind.
“Taehyungie gets free drinks at Cypher, too,” Hoseok adds. Yoongi slaps his arm.
“Geez,” Seokjin wheezes, coming out of the kitchen. “Everyone is here. You’re all lucky I made extra fries.” He has a tray crowded with plates, each with their own heaping mound of french fries.
“You have french fries at a five star restaurant?” Jungkook asks, eyes wide.
“We have food for kids,” Seokjin pouts.
“More like food for Taehyung,” Namjoon adds.
“Huzzah!” Taehyung shouts, slapping his plate onto the counter of the bar. “C’est fini! Mangez bien, mes amis!”
The whole bar laughs, and Jimin settles in his seat, warmed by the people crowded around him. Everyone dips into the surprisingly good sauce, chatter filling the space as everyone snacks on fries and Namjoon slides beers down the bar.
Jimin hadn’t thought his night could get better. His artwork selling like hot cakes had really been enough to overflow him with pride and emotion, heart constricting when he realized Jungkook was right: his art isn’t his dirty little secret anymore.
That fact had only been reaffirmed later in the night. Yongsun-ssi had offered the gig, just like Jackson said she would. A real gig. A big gig.
Jimin is still processing that fact. A gig. He hasn’t even told Jungkook yet.
As if he’s able to read Jimin’s every thought, Jungkook nudges him with his elbow. “What’s up? You’re quiet.”
Jimin smiles and shakes his head. His hand delicately trails down to rest on Jungkook’s thigh, and he leans his head on Jungkook’s shoulder. “Nothing. Just happy.”
He feels Jungkook press a kiss to the top of his head, and he giggles when a fry hovers near his mouth. He graciously accepts Jungkook’s offer to feed him and lets himself be pampered for just a second.
Taehyung curls his nose at them and slides his plate down the bar, chatting with Yoongi and Hoseok instead. Namjoon and Seokjin, however, follow their lead, arms crossing as they feed fries into each other’s mouths.
“I got offered a slot at a gallery,” Jimin finally says, lifting his head off Jungkook’s shoulder and reaching for another fry. He dips it into Taehyung’s weird sauce and glances at Jungkook, startling a bit at the intense stare he’s receiving.
“You’re getting a gallery?”
“A slot, Jungkook-ah. There’s a few oth--”
“From Yongsun?” Jungkook asks, voice getting higher pitched. “Jimin, that’s a big deal. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Still processing,” Jimin admits sheepishly.
“Is it a big one? Are you getting paid?” Jungkook asks, darting questions too quickly for Jimin to answer. He’s turned completely in his stool to face his boyfriend.
“What kind of gallery?” Namjoon asks now, placing a hand on the bar to quiet Jungkook’s rapidfire interrogation. “You don’t have to pay anything, do you?”
“No, I’ve never done those before,” Jimin says, waving his hand. “They cost way too much, and nobody buys their art. Nobody even goes. I don’t understand how people think that counts as exposure.”
“People pay to have their art displayed?” Taehyung asks, mouth full of fries.
“A lot of money, yeah. They think it’ll get them noticed.” Jimin shrugs. “I wouldn’t have done it even if I could’ve afforded it.”
Jungkook presses a hand to his shoulder, rubbing in soft, smooth circles. Jimin finally turns to look at him, to see the pride glowing on his face. He receives a sweet kiss on his forehead, and he scrunches slightly in a giggle.
“Is it a paid gig?” Namjoon asks now, and Jimin bites his lip.
“Kind of. I typically do not-for-profit things, because it doesn’t cost much. Plus people can buy your art if they want, and the commission is usually pretty low from the venue.”
“Not to mention all the people there that like you,” Jungkook chimes in, grinning like he knows the ins and outs of the art community.
Jimin nods. “Right… But this is bigger than that.”
Namjoon’s head shoots up. Everyone turns to look at him, and he shifts awkwardly in his seat.
“It’s nothing major!” He clarifies hurriedly. “If nothing sells, then it’s really nothing… big.”
“What do you mean big?” Jungkook asks. “This is different than the non-profit things, right?”
“Yeah. I… I get a dealer.”
“Hey, I didn’t know you smo--ow- -”
“An art dealer!” Jimin squawks. Jungkook eyes Taehyung warily as Jimin continues, “The dealer gets 50% comission. Part of it goes to the venue, part of it goes to Yongsun-ssi, and then the rest is the dealer’s pay. But--”
“The rest goes to you?”
Jimin nods. “I’m supposed to create a series--a connection of thought, is what she said. Connect it to something important.”
Namjoon nods. “Value by association.”
“I was thinking Busan,” Jimin murmurs. He looks at his hands on the bar, twiddling them and biting his lip. The thought makes him nervous, as if his whole life would be on display for others to see.
But isn’t that how he’s always dealt with Busan? With pain--or any emotion, for that matter?
“I think that would be a great idea,” Jungkook murmurs. His hand trails down to Jimin’s thigh, firm and reassuring, easing Jimin’s nerves with every touch.
“Alright,” Seokjin says suddenly in the silence that eases over them. “I’m making cake to celebrate.”
The group begins to chatter excitedly again, and Jungkook leans against him, warm along his side.
“I’m proud of you,” he murmurs, nosing into Jimin’s hairline. “I always am.”
Jimin grins. His shoulders bunch when Jungkook starts kissing, leaving a trail down his neck and raising goosebumps on his skin. He swats him away but meets him for a kiss, one with their noses brushing and fingers lacing beneath the bar.
“I know,” Jimin replies, and Jungkook smiles against his lips.
Jimin looks down at the array of paintings on his floor. A lot of them are water color--his favorite--while some of them are oil. All of them feature Busan in varying degrees and locations--a dreary picture of his old house, a happy one of the Queen of Hearts in the sun. Some are in weird colors, some realistic.
The sequence is one that easily make sense--darkness and unhappiness leading to lightness and color. There are hints of unhappiness in even the lightest ones up until the very end. There lies the only picture of Seoul in the collection, the view from the top of Hoseok’s apartment building with Jungkook leaning over the edge, looking up.
“I think it looks good,” Jungkook says, crouching on the floor beside him.
“People aren’t going to buy it if it’s just good,” Jimin huffs. “I don’t even know what the price range will be. The dealer is supposed to evaluate them, and these are all old and made with shitty paint and--I don’t even have a single one on a real canvas!”
Jimin rests his head in his hands, pressing at his eyes. He feels Jungkook settle on the floor behind him, his hands running over his back and easing the knots out of him.
“It’ll work out,” Jungkook hums. “Isn’t that what you said to me? You’re talented, hyung. You’ll figure something out.”
Jimin sighs and lets Jungkook ease the stress from his shoulders. It feels nice; Jungkook has been so attentive lately, so thoughtful. He’s been beating Jimin home on the nights he doesn’t have dance practice, leaving dinner waiting for him. He claims it’s because he can do his homework at home now that they have a proper table.
He’s probably trying to make up for briefly forgetting their anniversary, and Jimin smiles at how cute he is. He resituates them so Jungkook is closer and Jimin can lean back against his chest, feeling kisses pressed against his neck.
“Wanna take a bath?” Jungkook murmurs. “Clear your head?”
Jimin groans. He tries to sit up because he knows where this is going and there’s just not enough time, but Jungkook pulls him back.
“You need a break, hyung. Come on.”
Jungkook pulls him up, and without any room to argue, Jimin relents and follows him to the bathroom.
Jungkook turns the hot tap on, pours a bit of bubbles into the running water, and then turns to undress his boyfriend. Jimin grumbles as he does so with somewhat of a clinical ease, tugging Jimin’s shirt off and ruffling his hair in the process.
Jimin tries not to get offended when Jungkook doesn’t get distracted by his dick when he pulls Jimin’s pants down, but he takes his revenge in the form of pulling at Jungkook’s clothes, too, leaving them stumbling into each other and, for the first time that night, laughing.
“This is nice,” Jimin hums once they’re in the water, his back to Jungkook’s chest. Jungkook kisses his temple in response, washing the water up over Jimin’s shoulders and scrubbing through his hair.
“Hey, what would you think--”
“Hyung,” Jungkook stops him. “This is supposed to be a break. No thinking.”
Jimin huffs and settles back, letting Jungkook’s hands roam over his chest and arms, squeeze his fingers, and draw light lines over his hipbones. The feeling is much too teasing, stirring in his groin and making him moan. He turns into Jungkook’s neck to kiss at his damp skin, and Jungkook’s fingers make their way back down his chest and skirt over his slowly hardening cock.
“Jungkookie,” Jimin murmurs, and he can feel Jungkook’s grin when he presses kisses against his forehead.
It doesn’t take long to get Jimin off beneath the water, his hips jerking into Jungkook’s hand. Jungkook holds him steady, holds his hips and strokes him through it, littering Jimin in kisses and praises until he comes with a soft cry, body arching.
“Consider my mind clear,” Jimin laughs, readjusting to sit in Jungkook’s lap. He returns the favor, fingers working Jungkook in practiced motions. Jungkook pants and moans against Jimin’s mouth, shakes apart beneath him until he reaches his climax, kissing Jimin breathlessly for some kind of grounding.
“S-See?” Jungkook breathes as Jimin kisses down his neck and eases him through the aftershocks. “You needed a break.”
“Is ‘break’ code for ‘handjob’ now?”
Jungkook laughs, head thumping back against the tub. Jimin kisses him then, tension gone from his shoulders and leaving nothing but warmth and sweetness, the comfort that is always so strong between them.
“I was trying to ask earlier,” Jimin says later that night, sitting at their dining room table for dinner, “What would you think if I graduated early?”
Jungkook raises an eyebrow, looking up from his noodles. “What for?”
Jimin shrugs. “The tattoo parlor. They’ve kind of been hinting about hiring me full time. It’s still really low pay, because I have to pay back my apprenticeship for a few years, but… It’s a job.”
“If that’s what you want to do,” Jungkook says after a second of quiet contemplation. They stare at each other over the table, gazes a little wide and startled.
“You’ll be a real adult,” Jungkook says to break the quiet.
“I’ve been a real adult since I left Busan,” Jimin laughs, but he knows what Jungkook means.
It’s the beginning of their future.
“Still struggling?” Namjoon asks him the next day.
Jimin groans, the sound muffled in the surface of the bar.
Namjoon chuckles. Jimin hears him open a beer, hears him pour it in that expert way with all the foam, and he instantly clutches it once it’s on the counter and takes a hefty gulp.
“Everything I have is old,” he mumbles, glaring at the counter. “I need something new. I need a real canvas and better brushes and--you know what, I need a new concept. Who cares about Busan.”
Yongsun cares about Busan, his brain supplies. That’s part of the reason his concept attracts interest--the lost son of Park Royale Incorporated and his similar runaway boyfriend? They’d apparently made the newspaper briefly--not a huge deal, but enough to be brought to Seoul’s attention for just a second.
And, apparently, good enough to sell.
“Maybe you just need a way to make it new,” Namjoon says.
“How?” Jimin asks, voice muffled into the bar again. “They’re old paintings. I didn’t make them with this concept in mind.”
Namjoon sighs. “What do you have right now?”
“A lot of scenic--” Jimin waves his hand around in description. “Settings. Buildings. Nature. Emotion through color. Not good enough.” He burrows further into the bar.
“What about Jungkook? Isn’t he your muse?”
Jimin sits up thoughtfully. “Oh yeah.”
Namjoon laughs at him, and Jimin wonders, really, why all the pieces he decided to tie together were simply of Busan--not even events, but places. Places that are irrelevant to the audience of Seoul.
“Put your muse back in your art,” Namjoon suggests, and Jimin hums in consideration.
Jungkook is in all of his art; every scenic painting he’s done is of a place he’s gone with Jungkook. His inspiration, his happiness, the color and vibrance, emotion and dedication are all driven by Jungkook.
But it’s been awhile since he’s really played the lover card--since he directly drew from Jungkook himself for a painting. The last time he had made a series like this--a collection--he’d used Jungkook.
Jimin perks up at the thought. He jumps from his stool and thanks Namjoon for the beer, waving at his shout of, “Good luck!” and heads out the door. His first stop is the art store.
And then he’s headed to Jungkook’s dance studio.
Jimin watches proudly as Jungkook leads a group of dancers in the front of the room. He doesn’t use words to instruct them for now, his body speaking for him and setting an example. The way he moves is authoritative, guidance in the form of Jungkook’s own dedication and talent. The dancers follow him without question, eyes only leaving his form to glance at themselves in the mirror.
It’s Jungkook’s winning piece, refined and reformed and honed to perfection for the day they’ll present. It’s an intermission piece, one small part of a much bigger production, but it will surely captivate the audience. Jimin has no doubt that this will lead to bigger and better opportunities, especially considering how hard Jungkook is working on it--how much of himself he’s putting into it.
He’s been working with a real choreographer who’s been teaching Jungkook so much. He’s from Heat Wave Entertainment, there to help Jungkook’s performance evolve until it’s ready, and Jungkook can’t help but chatter about how much he’s learning at every opportunity.
Jimin claps once the performance is over, the music ending and the dancers relaxing. All of them turn towards him and bow appreciatively, and Jimin raises his eyebrows in surprise.
One of the perks of being the boyfriend of the choreographer, he supposes, grinning as Jungkook approaches him and wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist.
“Did you tell them to bow to me?” Jimin asks.
“Nope.” Jungkook grins proudly.
“Wow. So you’re something of a leader here, huh?”
“Don’t tease me. I’m a big time choreographer now,” Jungkook pouts, and Jimin laughs, leaning up for a kiss. “I’ll shower and then we can go.”
“Wait--” Jimin says, and Jungkook pauses. Their faces are still close, and Jimin is briefly distracted by his wide, confused eyes and his pretty lips. He leans up to kiss Jungkook again, one hand coming up to cup his cheek.
“H-hyung--” Jungkook breathes, gently pushing Jimin away. He tilts his head in the direction of the dancers who are still packing their things, now a little more hurried as the scene unfolds.
Jimin giggles. “Sorry, that’s actually… um, not what I wanted. I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”
Jungkook hums, pressing forward so their chests bump. “You had me at ‘do me.’”
“Aish.” Jimin rolls his eyes. How typical of Jungkook to get embarrassed when Jimin kisses him and yet turn around flirt the very next second. “I was wondering if you could dance for me. It’s for my gallery. I kind of have an idea, but I need you to refresh my memory a bit.”
“What kind of dance?” Jungkook asks, one eyebrow raised. Jimin doesn’t usually have specific requests, and he’s usually pleased just sitting and watching anything Jungkook is in the mood for.
“I’m thinking a contemporary piece. Kind of like the one you did in high school--”
“The one you based Dancer in a Bottle off of?”
“Yes! Exactly!” Jimin beams. “It doesn’t even have to be the exact routine if you don’t remember it, but I need the same style.”
“Oh, I remember it. Most of it,” Jungkook hums. He plugs his phone into the audio jack across the room, and Jimin instantly settles down with a sketchbook in his lap.
“Here, give me your phone. We can record it,” Jungkook says, and he makes a makeshift tripod with a stack of books.
The routine is just as breathtaking as Jimin remembers it. Contemporary dance was Jimin’s favorite style that Jungkook ever tried; it’s all big, full-body movements, using every muscle and all the space a dancer’s stage can offer. It’s wild yet graceful, and it’s everything Jimin remembered it to be.
He’s sketching furiously on the floor of the practice room once Jungkook finishes slightly out of breath, and he goes back to his phone to replay the audio.
“I forgot some parts of it, so it was a little rough. I wanna try it again,” he says, and Jimin nods, still ducked over his sketch book, ideas bursting through him quicker than he can pencil them down.
They’ve both always been a bit too dedicated and perfectionist, but they fall into an easy rhythm, once again reminiscent of their time in Busan. Practice rooms like this were the only places they managed to feel normal, and the effortless way Jungkook falls into the dance and Jimin follows along with his pencil is an exact mirror of those times.
When they finish almost an hour later, Jungkook is sweaty and boneless. He returns his phone to Jimin looking exhausted, and Jimin pouts at him.
“I’m sorry, baby. You didn’t have to keep going. Just once was enough.”
Jungkook shakes his head. “I wanted to get it perfect for you,” he admits, and Jimin can’t help but kiss him, leaning up from his seated position and Jungkook leaning down to meet him halfway.
His boyfriend is really too good to him, Jimin thinks, flipping through his sketchbook now covered in rough drawings and scribbled words. But at least he has ideas.
The day of the gallery is just a few weeks later, and Jimin spends all of his time working, rushing through homework, and perfecting the collection. A lot of it is new, and Jungkook urges him to splurge at least on canvases, threatening to buy them himself and spend a lot of money on what might potentially be the wrong art supplies.
It all comes together eventually, although it simultaneously feels like it’s falling apart. Jimin loses count of the nights he spends awake, biting his thumb over the finished pieces he’s laid out on their dining room table and forcing Jungkook out of bed, wrapped in a blanket with his hair a mess as he tries to get Jimin to sleep.
He’s always there to calm Jimin down, to pull him back to bed so he can get some proper rest. And even though Jimin stays awake, Jungkook’s arm tossed over his chest as Jimin gazes in the dark, Jungkook is there. He’s warm and sweet and supportive, and he stays up as late as he can manage, kissing over Jimin’s shoulders and murmuring about how talented Jimin is and how this gallery will be beautiful whether or not he gets paid.
“We’ve never needed money before,” he continuously assures. “Just do what you love, baby. That’s all that’s ever mattered for us.”
The art dealer’s evaluation only added to the pressure once Jimin showed him the collection. He can’t help but think his art isn’t worth that much money, but he’s informed that this is a typical beginning gallery price.
He chokes a bit at that. Beginning? As in--his art’s price will go up? Value will go up?
It’s all too much--the fear of failing, that his collection is lackluster and boring and who the fuck cares who would pay such a price--
“Hey,” Jungkook says, hands gripping Jimin’s shoulders. Jimin jumps out of his mild panic, feeling Jungkook press against him and kiss his cheek. “Stop worrying.”
Jimin can’t seem to stop, and it’s only once Jungkook hands him a glass of champagne that Jimin’s nerves settle slightly. He sips at the drink, hands shaking, and Jungkook brushes his hair back gently, rearranging until it’s perfectly styled again.
Jimin distracts himself by gazing at Jungkook. He really looks too damn good in pinstripes, fabric hugging him, perfectly tailored to his frame. Jimin himself is in a white suit--a color he’d been against but Yongsun has encouraged. It’s an attractive look on you. Very artsy, she’d said.
The suits and alterations had all been gifts that they couldn’t have otherwise afforded, but Jaehyun had insisted. “I’ve been to those kinds of galleries,” he’d said. “It’s not a khakis and button-ups type of thing. You need suits.”
Jimin had thanked him profusely, promised to pay him back but was only waved off.
“Consider it a late anniversary present. How long has it been now?” And Jimin had smiled.
“The concept really came together, Jimin-ssi,” Yongsun says now, gazing at his section of the gallery. “I think you’ll do very well tonight.”
“Thank you,” Jimin replies. He sips at his champagne and tries to think only of Jungkook’s hand rubbing circles on his back.
“We’re opening in ten minutes. Are you ready?”
Jimin nods. His smile is unwavering, and he tucks himself further into Jungkook’s side.
He doesn’t think he’ll ever be ready, but at least he has Jungkook to keep him steady.
Jungkook watches as Jimin glides his way around the room. He’s absolutely glowing, his cheeks pink as he grins, eyes curved in a cute eye smile. The champagne has surely helped, but more than that is the sale of his art.
Jimin sold two pieces only an hour in, and as he makes his way around the room, Jungkook can tell that he’s receiving a lot of compliments and questions as people stop him before he can make his way back to Jungkook.
“He’s doing well,” Yoongi murmurs thoughtfully beside him, picking at the snacks on the refreshment table.
“Really well,” Namjoon adds, and they watch Jimin in a similar manner to Jungkook, prideful and affectionate.
Hoseok, Taehyung, and Seokjin are across the room looking at a different section of the gallery, and Jungkook can see that Taehyung is sputtering on about something, hands flailing as he explains his nonsense logic. Hoseok nods as if he understands, but Seokjin puts a hand on Taehyung’s head to stop his excited jumping.
Jungkook smiles despite himself, thankful that all their friends could make it. They’ve all given Jimin their congratulations, listened raptly as he explained his concept, and made the night so much more pleasant to ease into, calming Jimin as he practiced explaining the concept of his collection to them.
“Jungkookie!” Jimin finally says once he weaves his way back. He plucks Jungkook’s champagne glass out of his hand to leave both their drinks on the refreshment table, and then he cups Jungkook’s cheeks and surges up for a kiss.
Jungkook hums. “I guess that means everything is going well.”
Jimin presses up for more kisses, warm and chaste. He winds his arms around Jungkook’s neck, and Jungkook wraps him in his arms, too, lips melding together as Jimin stumbles into him.
“Really well?” Jungkook clarifies.
“I’ve sold five pieces.”
“Five--holy shit, Jiminnie!”
Jungkook squeezes Jimin in his arms, nuzzling their foreheads together. His cheeks hurt from grinning so much, and he can hear Jimin giggling as he does so. His chest constricts and overflows with pride and happiness, feeding into Jimin’s own happiness as their gazes lock.
Jimin looks mischievous, devilish, gleeful. He lifts onto his toes and winds his hands into Jungkook’s hair, pulls him in for another breathtaking kiss, the excitement of success warm on his smiling lips. Jungkook’s own hands stay pressed against his back and keep him close.
They break away amongst cat calls and wolf whistles, eyes shimmering with happiness and hope. They’ve been overwhelmed with success lately, their wallets slowly getting fatter and their opportunities meeting them around every corner. This gallery just solidifies their future even more than they thought possible.
How on earth they progressed from running away from rich futures and family businesses to breaking out on their own and making something of themselves, Jungkook will never know. He never could have imagined such a future that is somehow better than his dreams.
What he’s undoubtedly sure of, however, is that he never could have done any of it without Jimin.
Jimin pulls him in tighter, and with lips brushing Jungkook’s ear, he whispers, “We should celebrate later.”
“We’re going to the Rose Gold, aren’t we?”
He can practically feel Jimin rolls his eyes in exasperation. “Later later. I have a surprise I’ve been wanting to give you.”
Jungkook hums in anticipation and warmth. He gets the feeling that “later later” is something different than the later he was thinking. He pulls back to give Jimin a curious look, head cocked to the side, and Jungkook is surprised to find that he looks a bit bashful.
“You’ll see,” is all he says.
Dinner is similarly buzzing. Namjoon and Seokjin close the Rose Gold to the public and instead keep the staff around to serve only them, owners included. They look happy, comfortable, and relaxed amongst the chatter of their table, pleased in a group they can call their own.
It’s a familial sight. Jungkook happily gazes around at the group they’ve stumbled into--the friends who are here to support Jimin and who have done nothing but support both of them in their endeavors, their failures, everything. He’s astounded at the community they’ve found in Seoul; he never knew he could be so close to so many people and count on them like family, but he’s so thankful that they do--especially Jimin.
Jungkook drapes his arm across the back of Jimin’s chair, body angled toward him. Everyone around Jungkook is talking and laughing, sipping wine and smiling with rosy, bunched cheeks, but Jungkook pays no mind. For the millionth time that night, Jungkook can’t take his eyes off of Jimin, talking and gesturing wildly.
He’s beautiful. He’s happy. Jungkook can’t ask for anything more.
“Who wants more wine?” Taehyung cries from the head of the table, standing with a fresh bottle he must have grabbed from the kitchen. Everyone raises their glasses, but Jimin holds Jungkook’s glass down.
“We have wine for later,” Jimin says.
Jimin shakes his head, smiling. “Surprise first. Then you, me, and a bottle of wine have a date.”
After an hour or two more of good food, laughter, and company, everyone parts ways, but not without showering Jimin in hugs and congratulations. Jimin beams at the praise, bouncing on his toes and hugging back with great fervor.
And then it’s finally just the two of them. Jimin pulls Jungkook along, and they waltz through the streets of Seoul, hands linked and never breaking. Jimin even pulls Jungkook into a dance, spinning them in circles like they used to at galas, steps memorized and practiced since childhood.
But this time it’s a happier dance--a dance not shrouded in the forced cooperation and prestige of their family’s image. Instead it’s a dance a of freedom, of breaking out onto their own.
Jimin keeps leading them across town, unable to stop his chatter about the gallery and how well it went. Seven of his pieces had sold total--enough to pay rent for a long while.
He’s practically skipping when they finally reach their destination--the tattoo parlor he’s been apprenticing at for the past two years, and he practically sings as he stops and looks up at Jungkook to tell him, “We’re here.”
Jungkook laughs, mood only invigorated by the joyous way Jimin has pulled him along. They share a breathless grin, and then Jimin pulls out his keys (where did he get keys? ) to rattle them in the door of the tattoo parlor. He pulls Jungkook through, flips the lights on, and Jungkook barely has seconds to take in the space around him--a place he’s visited only a handful of times--before he’s shoved into a chair.
It’s one that leans back and has a foot rest--a chair he’d theoretically be getting a tattoo in--but instead he gets a lapful of Jimin, who straddles him.
“Look around,” Jimin says, eyes sparkling, something flickering in them that sets Jungkook’s own heart aflame. Jimin’s excited; he’s not sure why--if it’s the good food, the wine, the high from his success, or the promises of opportunity to come. “What do you see?”
“Your tattoo parlor,” Jungkook breathes, trying to keep up, breathless grin still on his face. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Jungkookie,” Jimin says, hands curling excitedly on Jungkook’s chest. “I got offered a job here. A full time job. I’m picking up hours over breaks, and then I’ll cut back once the school year starts but then,” he pauses, practically vibrating in Jungkook’s lap as he says, “I have a job. A real, full time job.”
“J-Jiminnie-hyung, that’s amazing!” Jungkook says, and Jimin nods. His cheeks are pink, his eyes looking almost tearful.
“Don’t you understand? Do you see what’s happening? Jungkookie, our lives are starting,” he says. Jungkook takes a steady breath in, grabs Jimin’s hands on his chest, as Jimin continues, “I’ll be graduating early and working full time. I have galleries--I just got offered another spot tonight--”
“What? You did?!”
“And you’re choreographing--you--and we--” Jimin laughs, shaking with exhilaration, and Jungkook slowly begins to see what Jimin means. The hope for their future has never been brighter; the reality of where their paths are headed is finally setting in, rattling his bones and waking him to the excitement Jimin feels.
“It’s a real beginning,” Jimin says. “You and me. No running away, no sleeping on blankets on the floor or doing so much work we don’t have time for each other--”
“No forgotten bills--”
“Exactly,” Jimin breathes.
Their past and their present, the struggles they’ve faced, it’s been nothing but happiness. He loves Jimin, and Jimin loves him; that’s always been more than enough.
But this is something more; this is a future for the both of them where they get to live their dreams. All the work they’ve put in over the years, all the numerous ways they’ve had to fight through hardship, work themselves to the bone, all of it is beginning to pay off, and it’s leading them to a new beginning.
“You and me,” Jungkook echoes, and Jimin bites his lip over a grin. They share a look, tender and hopeful, hope so real and tangible that Jungkook can taste it, and then Jimin surges forward to kiss him, hard and beautiful, all lips and teeth and laughter.
“Come on,” Jimin says. He hops off of Jungkook’s lap and pulls him along. “I still have that surprise.”
Jimin leads him to a back room where he is, yet again, pushed into a tattoo chair. Jungkook goes obediently, only squawking when Jimin starts wrestling with the hem of his shirt, tugging it up and pushing his pants down a bit.
“W-Wha--here? Seriously? That can’t be sanitary. This has to be against some kind of code--”
“Jungkookie,” Jimin huffs. He doesn’t seem in the mood and instead looks focused, brows furrowed. So Jungkook lets him do what he wants, lets Jimin pull his shirt all the way up despite the fact that Jungkook is blushing furiously.
“Do you trust me?” Jimin asks, and Jungkook starts at the quick turn in his tone.
“Of course,” Jungkook answers firmly.
“I want to tattoo you.”
Jungkook’s jaw drops. “O-Oh,” he stutters, and Jimin blinks at him, no trace of humor on his face. He’s serious. “Is it your first, then?”
Jimin nods. “I’ve had a lot of practice--”
“Jiminnie, I know. I trust you,” Jungkook interrupts. “It’s just… sudden. What do you want to tattoo on me?”
Jimin’s smile spreads slowly. “That’s the surprise.”
Jimin looks too excited, like this means too much to him for Jungkook to say no. And really, once Jimin lightly traces over the small area he’ll be marking, causing goosebumps to rise all over Jungkook’s hipbone, it doesn’t seem all that scary.
Besides, this is Jimin. There’s no one he would trust more.
… Even with a needle tattoo gun… thing--
“It’s not a gun,” Jimin huffs. “It’s a machine.”
“Isn’t it gonna hurt?” Jungkook whines as Jimin presses something cold on his hip. “It’s right on the bone.”
“I know, baby. But it’s small and--well, you’ll see. Trust me. And close your eyes!”
Jungkook does as he’s told. He tenses and only slightly regrets agreeing to this once he hears the gu--ahem, machine buzz to life.
“Okay, I’ll count down from three, and then I’ll start. Don’t jump, and try not to be too tense, okay? It’s really not that bad. It’s just kind of irritating, I promise,” he eases, and Jungkook nods, swallowing tightly.
It really fucking smarts once Jimin gets started, but Jungkook is nothing if not stubborn. He grits his teeth and bears with it, takes deep breaths as Jimin instructs him and tries not to jump every time he hears the machine stop and start again.
Thankfully it’s a quick job, just like Jimin promised, and Jungkook lifts his arm from over his eyes to see Jimin smiling fondly down at his handiwork.
“No peeking,” Jimin hums, glancing at Jungkook, who huffs and closes his eyes. He helps Jungkook out of the chair and holds tightly to him as they stumble over to a mirror.
Jungkook stands and waits for the okay, hears some rustling and then Jimin breathes, “Okay, open your eyes.”
If only Jimin had a camera.
Once again, Jimin lies on his side, watching the man sleeping beside him. Jungkook’s face is slightly pressed into the mattress, his cheeks pink from alcohol and kissing (and a little more than kissing). The light over the sink filters to their side of the room, casting a pretty, yellow glow over the curve of Jungkook’s body beneath the sheets. He’s halfway-asleep, but Jimin is sure he’s still just a bit awake.
“We could buy a bed,” Jimin murmurs into the quiet. Jungkook grunts without saying a real word, and Jimin continues, “With a frame. A boxspring.”
“What?” Jungkook mumbles finally, eyebrows scrunching but lids still closed.
“Or chairs. To match the table.”
Jungkook opens his eyes. He wiggles a bit so his mouth isn’t drooling onto their bed and gives Jimin his full, sleepy attention, hair mussed even more and sticking up in a few places.
“What are you talking about?”
Jimin shrugs. He’s wide awake despite the hour and the night they’ve had, getting tattoos and wine and kissing and touching for hours on end, still fueled by the thought of their endless future ahead of them.
“We have money from the gallery. We could buy a bed.”
“So you said,” Jungkook hums. He reaches out to brush Jimin’s hair back, thumb drifting down to caress Jimin’s cheek. “We could save some of it, too. We hardly have a real savings account.”
Jimin pouts. “That’s hardly ‘dreaming big.’”
Jungkook laughs. “Sorry, I didn’t know that’s what we were going for. Now what was that about some chairs?”
“Or… I don’t know. A dog. A spice rack. Exciting things.”
“A spice rack?”
Jimin’s ready to pout and protest, push Jungkook back on the bed and convince him of the endless possibilities before them, but he’s struck silly. Jungkook’s gentle laugh, the glow of light around him--it’s enough to warm Jimin with affection, to make his gaze drift over the silly bed hair, the curved eyes, the defined ridge of his nose, down further to those smiling lips and bunny teeth. Every piece of him that Jimin has memorized, that Jimin could draw, could photograph for the rest of his life. Every piece of him that Jimin wouldn’t mind waking up to for the rest of his life.
His heart aches for a camera.
“What about a cat?” Jungkook asks, pulling Jimin from his thoughts.
“Why not a dog?”
“I don’t think apartments allow dogs.”
“Well,” Jimin hums. “We’ll just have to get a house, then.”
Jungkook grins at that, his cheeks turning pink. He lifts the blanket to hide his face in it, and Jimin shuffles forward in an effort to follow him, his lips finding Jungkook’s even in the darkness, their laughter muffled and warm in the covers.
And really, Jimin has all the time in the world to photograph Jungkook’s smile. He has years to get every painting and drawing just right, lifetimes ahead of them to perfect it.
After distracting Jungkook with kisses, the blanket is easy to pull off of them. Jimin tosses it to the foot of their bed, kicking around until his and Jungkook’s naked bodies are pressed side by side, hip bones beside each other.
“See?” Jimin says. “They meet.”
Across both their hip bones lies a red line--a string--spanning from one body to the next. Each end is held by a hand--a connective string between them. The red string of fate.
“Can’t believe you’re not too short--”
“I measured it,” Jimin huffs, playfully swatting at Jungkook’s chest.
“So that’s why you were attacking me with a tape measure the other day?”
“I thought you forgot about it.”
“You may have gotten me off in the shower afterwards, but I didn’t forget what you were trying to distract me from.”
Jimin huffs. He runs his fingers over the tattoos, connecting their bodies in ink, though Jimin wouldn’t doubt that their lives have been eternally intertwined, some strange, abstract pieces of them drawn together in every lifetime.
“So a real bed, hm?” Jimin hums finally. He looks up when he doesn’t get a response to see that Jungkook is finally asleep.
Jimin smiles. He reaches down for their blanket again, tucking them both into the warmth and resting his head on Jungkook’s chest.
A bed. Then maybe some chairs… And a dog or a cat. He’s not picky.
His eyes drift to the fridge. A ring, too. Someday.
For now, just a bed will do. But Jimin’s not ruling out any other possibilities.
first and foremost, these are jimin and jungkook's tattoos.
and now, for our tear-inducing end notes:
graesun / Rae :
wow. hello, if you have made it this far!
i have a lot of things i want to say and yet i also don’t quite know how to express everything i have to say and feel. this fic has been our baby. we’ve doted over it and have been planning it since january, and i never really thought about what it would be like for it to end. but now that we’re here, it’s having a lot bigger of an impact than i ever thought possible.
every bit of this story has come to mean a lot to both of us. i have especially agonized over these last words ever since we began writing the first chapter. ending this has been completely bittersweet, but i hope it leaves you with hope and love and dreams of happy futures to come.
to every reader who has been with us along the way, thank you for your unending support and patience. every comment, kudo, hit, and message has kept us going and has continuously made our day.
to those of you who will read this once it is finished, welcome. i hope it’s worth the ride!
to our friends on tumblr, twitter, and kkt, to cc, calla, cherry, i love you all to bits and pieces. thank you for always letting me whine at you and letting me torture you by giving you hints about whatever i’m writing.
and most importantly, paula. not only would this never have been written, but the idea may have never even seen the light of day without you. thank you for writing and planning with me. this has been the most fun i have ever had while writing a fic. your talent and creativity astound me daily, and i’m humbled to have written this with you.
thank you all for reading both this story and this massive, unnecessarily emo end note. this isn’t the end. i promise you will see more from this dynamic duo in the future. we love you all, and we’ll see you soon. <3
PolkariSeuta / Paula :
I can't believe how attached I got to this story, and I can't believe how deep we've gotten with it. The finality of it is just... bittersweet. Rae and I went into this thinking we'd just write a bunch of drabbles in this universe and look what happened.
Seriously, though; one tiny, miniscule, little AU idea, a little spark, and huge blaze of ideas ignited. I'm still really shocked at how much has been written and how positive the feedback has been. I know I'm one of two writers of this damn thing but I still get emotional over how in love Jimin and Jungkook are with each other here.
Our readers--thank you for your support. We're very motivated by your encouragement and feedback. We scream in joy at every single comment we get. Our friends on Tumblr/Twitter/KKT--thank you for being you. It's nice to feel like my fanfic-writing, fangirl-ass belonged somewhere and you've all been lovely and accommodating.
Ah, and Rae. One of my first and favorite friends in the fandom. You inspire me to write. You're brilliant and awesome and I adore you. I really couldn't have written Dream Maker or anything like it with anyone else. Thank you for letting me write this with you. This is honestly one of my most favorite fic projects and I hope we never stop collaborating.
Again, thank you all for sticking with this story and continuing to give it love (and also for putting up with our own obsession over our baby, hehe). Please look forward to what we have in the future~
if you miss us/DM too much, don't forget we have dream maker tumblr tags and playlists and tumblr and twitter accounts. please do come and say hello!:
please also enjoy the origins of this story:
(... okay. the end notes are really over now. thank you again for reading. <3)