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throwing rocks in frozen rivers

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Jungkook grabs the railing with both of his hands and leans forward.

From the corner of his eye, Jimin sees Jungkook's knuckles turning white, losing color, thin skin stretching taut over sharp bones, fingers digging into cold metal. He has his back turned to the cityscape, to neon lights bleeding colors over the facades of rundown buildings because he doesn't dare to follow Jungkook's example and look down. Since he was a kid, he's been terrified of heights.

But Jungkook isn't scared. He leans in until he's standing on the tips of his toes and looks down the eleven floors, down more than thirty meters and smiles. Big. Bright. Careless.

Wind is ruffling his hair, carrying street noise, lifting it from dirty sidewalks covered with the last of the fallen leaves. Jungkook can hear the ambulance a few streets away hurrying to save some poor motherfucker's life, to burst into the apartment and find the old man on the floor or in his favorite chair as his wife sobs by the telephone unable to keep him alive. Or maybe it isn't an old man after all. Maybe it's somebody his age who overdosed or slit their wrists. Or jumped off a building. After all, this is the part of the city where the buildings are the highest, standing tall and proud, ripping the clouds part.

Maybe Jungkook should do it, too.

Jump.

He looks down eleven stories. Squints to see the passers-by walking down the sidewalk. Wind is ruffling his hair, bringing along the aroma of fresh pizza from the Italian place on the corner of the street and his stomach growls. Maybe now is not the right time.

“Isn't it weird how in a matter of seconds you could just be a memory,” he says, each word accentuated by a pause shorter than a heartbeat.

“Huh?” Jimin whips his head around. All he sees is the red and black of Jungkook's checkered shirt.

Jungkook pushes himself up, takes a step back from the abyss. His hair is a mess, loose strands falling in his eyes. Jimin wants to reach out and comb his fingers through Jungkook's hair. He doesn't. Instead, he tucks his hands in the pockets of his jacket, fingers curling around a pack of cigarettes and a lighter he never really uses.

“It's just something Namjoon said,” Jungkook says.

Jimin chuckles. “Then it probably wasn't him but some poet or sociologist or philosopher. Maybe even Freud.”

“I thought he only ever talked about sex but whatever. It's still true, though.”

Jimin tilts his head, smile still lingering in the corners of his mouth. “What?”

“That you can become a memory in a matter of seconds,” Jungkook repeats and the dreamy quality of his voice makes Jimin wonder if there's something more, some other, better, words that Jungkook swallowed when these tumbled out.

“How?” he asks and Jungkook juts his chin in the direction of the abyss not a meter away.

“You jump,” he states. “An instant memory. Ten seconds max. You just have to find the right bridge or building. Something high enough to shrink the survival rate to roughly three percent.”

Instead of “do you want to die”, Jimin asks “Why three?”

Jungkook looks at him, eyes sparkling like stars that can't be seen through the thick layers of smog hovering over the city. “To see if that's really a lucky number.”

“So you don't want to die?”

It slips. Jimin didn't mean to say it. He doesn't know Jungkook long enough to feel comfortable asking personal questions like that. After all, Jungkook is just a friend of a friend. Yet, Jimin found himself enjoying Jungkook's company more than the one of his friends. That's why they ended on the rooftop. He said something about stars and in the next moment Jungkook had been leading him out of the stuffy apartment with too many people and up the stairs, a “maybe they're out tonight” hanging from his lips like an afterthought. And Jimin let himself be guided up here. They only saw neon lights and flashy advertisements, but the air was chilly and smelled like autumn, like rain and fallen leaves, and Jimin didn't want to go back to techno music and cheap alcohol that run in streams.

“Of course not,” Jungkook tells him with a smile. “There are so many things to see and so much to experience and my mom wants grandchildren, like five or so. That will be tough, though.”

Jimin finds himself asking “Why?”

There's something about Jungkook that makes Jimin forget his manners, that makes him ask things he usually wouldn't be so open about. Maybe it's the honesty, the youth, the way Jungkook looks at him giving Jimin all of his attention.

Jungkook looks down, at his worn-out black Converse. He wishes there were pebbles that he could kick, send them flying through the crisp air that smells a bit like kerosene and a lot like autumn that has settled in the city, changing its facade from fresh green to warm orange and yellow and then to cold monochrome.

“I'm sorry,” Jimin mumbles. “I didn't mean—you don't have to—”

“I like boys,” Jungkook says. “And I don't plan on marrying a girl just to please my parents so adoption it is.”

“Your parents—”

“Don't care. I tried telling them but nothing. We even played a stupid game of hinting, but they're oblivious. What about you, Jimin? Do your parents want enough grandchildren to form a football team?”

Jimin laughs. It's empty, practiced. Usually it fools people into thinking that he's in a good mood or enjoying things he doesn't. For some reason, he doesn't dare to look at Jungkook to see whether it's working.

“Same. The only difference is that mine are divorced so I played that game twice,” he says.

Jungkook bumps their shoulders together, a warm smile on his lips.

“Sweet. Then we should stick together, the children of oblivious parents.”

 

- - -

 

“We're all addicted to something that takes the pain away” is written on the blackboard by the entrance of the coffee shop in neat handwriting with pink chalk. A slice of cake with a cherry on top and a cup of steaming hot coffee on a porcelain saucer are drawn with red and white chalk underneath the saying and Jimin reads the words, over and over, rolling them on his tongue, as eager customers push past him to enter the shop and finally get their morning dose of caffeine.

Jimin supposes the words are telling the truth. Everybody has something or somebody that distracts them from the real world and problems that live there. But what if the bliss is temporary and the pain returns ten times stronger, eating them inside out until their skin is too tight, too small and they have to break free in one way or the other.

However, he doesn't have the time to ponder about this because somebody taps him on the shoulder, an impatient customer who's probably fed up with Jimin blocking the entrance of the café. He turns around prepared for insults and scowls, but the smile he finds there takes him by surprise.

“'Morning,” Jungkook greets, ducking his head slightly. Black headphones are hanging around his neck, music blaring from them. Some rock thing, Jimin notes. Probably Linkin Park.

“Good morning to you, too,” Jimin says in return and Jungkook nods before moving aside to let a girl with a stack of binders in her hands pass. At that moment, Jimin notices that Jungkook is not properly dressed for the cold November weather and wind that's slowly picking up. Ripped jeans and a t-shirt can't possibly be warm enough. Not when Jimin has a sweater and a jacket on.

“Aren't you cold?” he asks and Jungkook nods, a little sheepish.

“Kinda,” he admits. Fumbles with the cable connecting his headphones and his phone in the back pocket. “I just came for coffee and then I'm heading back to the library where it's hot as hell. I have a project to finish.”

“Aren't we hardworking?” Jimin teases, a smile on his face. It probably reaches his eyes, too.

Jungkook scratches the back of his neck, glancing at Jimin whose hair color matches the fallen leaves, warm orange and brown, whose hands are tucked in the pockets of his jacket, cheeks rosy from the cold wind biting at them. He looks warm.

“Not really,” he admits, not missing the way Jimin is looking at him curiously, eyebrows raised. He feels the urge to explain himself even though he's not sure why. “It's due in a month, but last year I fucked myself over with leaving everything to the last moment. I won't let that happen this year.”

“Lesson learned,” Jimin muses, reaching out and pulling the door of the coffee shop open. They should go inside before Jungkook catches a cold.

“Yeah, probably. We'll see how it'll go.”

“It's gonna be great, just stay motivated,” Jimin says as they enter, as aroma of freshly brewed coffee and pastries right out of the oven tickles their nose.

“It's hard without caffeine. I've been up till six,” Jungkook complains, following Jimin inside.

They stand in line in front of the counter. All the other customers are either chatting among themselves or checking their phones. Nobody is complaining about the long queue or the short menu because out of all cafés around the campus, this one makes the best coffee and baristas are always nice. Their cupcakes are good, too, especially the strawberry ones, Jimin's favorite.

Jimin's scanning the menu like so many times before when he hears Jungkook yawn and then he feels Jungkook's hand on his shoulder. As it travels down Jimin's arm, Jungkook leans his head on Jimin's shoulder and sighs.

“Do you mind?” he asks a second later. His voice is mellow, it gets lost in some indie music playing in the café. Rock is still blaring out of Jungkook's headphones, but nobody seems to pay attention to it.

“Sleep is catching up with me,” he chuckles when Jimin doesn't reply.

Jimin turns his head, Jungkook's hair tickling his cheek. It's soft.

“Don't fall asleep because if the line moves, I'll have to move, too. You'll lose your balance then.”

“I have faith in you that you won't let me embarrass myself in front of all these people.”

Jimin chuckles. “You don't know me, Jungkook. We met like two months ago.”

“Four,” Jungkook corrects him. “We met four months ago at Yoongi's party. Besides, you don't seem like an asshole.”

Yoongi's party was a day after Jimin's mom had introduced Jimin to her soon-to-be husband, a man barely ten years older than Jimin. He took Jimin's hand in a firm clasp, then shook it while telling him something along the lines of “Let's get along, sport” and “You know, I really love your mom. She's a beautiful woman” and Jimin smiled weakly at him before diverting his gaze to his mother. She was beaming, her smile as shiny as the jewelry she wore, teeth white as the pearls around her neck. Jimin felt sick to his stomach.

A part of him was happy that his mother finally had found somebody and that she was smiling, while the other part wondered why that somebody couldn't have been his father because even though they split apart years ago, they still loved each other, like friends. That's what they were to begin with. Best friends who became lovers because what could have gone wrong. They already knew each other – all virtues and flaws. But all little quirks quickly turned from endearing to annoying when they moved together. And then Jimin came along. They tried to stick together. Looking back, they probably tried too hard, swallowing harsh yet honest words instead of spitting them out. They fell apart, Jimin watched them do so. Even though they have seen each other's souls, they managed to go back to being strangers.

But a small hope remained in Jimin's heart that they would get back together one day, when enough time passed and wounds healed leaving behind tender pink scars, silent reminders how things were and how they mustn't be again. If they couldn't do it as friends, maybe they could do it as strangers they had become. Maybe they could start from zero again.

But that last flame of hope had been blown out when he met his mother's fiancé and Jimin left them to enjoy each other's company shortly after dinner. He got on the last train to Seoul that evening and returned to his apartment. The next night, at Yoongi's party, he drank to forget and all the memories he has of that night are blurred, including the one of Jungkook's face.

“That was a wild night,” Jimin tells him and he can feel Jungkook perk up, lifting his head off Jimin's shoulder.

“So you do remember pushing me against the wall and kissing me even before you could hear my name?” Jungkook whispers in his ear, teasing.

Even though Jimin has done many stupid things while being drunk, he still thinks he would remember kissing Jungkook breathless, but that does nothing to stop his cheeks from heating up. He turns on his heels to glare at Jungkook and it's so easy, falling in a harmless banter with Jungkook, testing the water just to see how warm it is and not getting burnt.

“Or maybe that was somebody else,” Jungkook adds. He can't keep his eyes off Jimin, off the pink cheeks of his. It's hot, in the coffee shop. So hot. His cheeks are probably flushed, too.

That means nothing.

Jimin opens his mouth to deny, but before he can even utter a word, a barista clears their throat informing them they're the next ones in line. They've been keeping the queue from moving. Jimin hasn't even noticed. How silly.

Jungkook moves past Jimin and orders, for both of them. “One long black with no sugar and a vanilla frappuccino.”

Much later, when the cup is in his hands does Jimin ask. “How did you know?”

“It was a wild guess,” Jungkook shrugs.

 

- - -

 

Nothing is a wild guess for Jungkook. Every piece of information is stored somewhere, in a box neatly labeled with a name or an event or a place. There's a lot of useless information in those boxes, but Jungkook isn't capable of getting rid of it no matter how hard he tries.

“You have a lot of cute, albeit useless knowledge,” one of his teachers used to say. He no longer remembers which one, even though he can still smell the scent of tobacco that clung onto the man, his dark brown eyes and the horn-rimmed glasses with lenses as thick as the bottom of the jars his grandmother used for storing apricot marmalade.

All details, answers to trivial questions, found their place in Jungkook's brain, kept him awake for hours because he wanted to know more about this thing somebody somewhere mentioned and that now stuck to him like gum stuck to the soles of his sneakers.

He wanted to learn not only the things they taught in school. Clean facts were boring, obvious answers even more, but he studied those, too, after everybody went to bed and his street was no longer filled with children's screams and laughter and cars no longer passed. When everything went so silent that it seemed like the world stopped spinning around its axes, Jungkook studied the boring black and white facts because nothing could distract him then.

When university came, it brought new people and new gatherings and new things that needed to be discovered and even though Jungkook was bad with people, he found himself trying to understand why some of them drank the night way, smoked their lungs black or threw themselves off buildings. And in that flurry of people came Jimin with a dreamy quality to his voice and eyes that roamed from one place to the other, never lingering on somebody for too long and Jungkook wanted to know the reason for that even though Jimin wouldn't tell him anything.

Besides, how would you ask somebody something so personal without sounding like you're trying to teach them how to live their own life?

 

- - -

 

Taehyung is waiting for him in front of the bookstore, a pink and white lollipop hanging off his lips and hands tucked in the pockets of his long wool coat picked from a thrift shop for a few bucks. He has his reading glasses on, lenses smudged with fingertips, but it doesn't matter since they're sitting low on the bridge of his nose. He watches people as they pass by, gaze lingering on them for a fleeting moment, longer if some interesting detail catches his attention. When he spots Jimin in the crowd, Taehyung pushes himself off the bookstore window and the closer Jimin comes, the bigger Taehyung's smile becomes until a boxy grin is taking up half of his face.

“You seem to be in a good mood,” Jimin says when he's just a few steps away.

“My professor praised my essay. He said, and I quote, “It's been a long time since I met a young man such as yourself with a deep understanding of this topic”.”

“I'm assuming you didn't tell him that Namjoon's the one with deep understanding and not you,” Jimin teases, bumping their shoulders together.

Taehyung laughs and throws his arm around Jimin's shoulders, pulling him closer so he can whisper in his ear. “Let's just say that I forgot to mention that information in my references. Besides, Namjoon didn't mind too much going over my work and correcting it.”

“He's just returning the favor, TaeTae. A blowjob can buy like five or six pages, maybe even more if there's some photos thrown in there,” Jimin says, holding the door for an older lady to leave the bookstore before they enter. She looks at him scandalized before brushing past them. Jimin thinks he heard her murmuring something about them having no decency. She's probably right.

Taehyung uses the chance presented to him and comes in first. “Such a gentleman. Very considerate. And no, we passed that stage.”

He dumps the remains of his lollipop in the pot of a rubber tree plant before reaching out to pull a book from a shelf. They're in the poetry section, Taehyung's favorite. As he flips through the pages, Jimin looks around, at shelves upon shelves of books, classics standing tall and proud next to Young Adults books and independently published pocket editions of self-declared poets.

“What? You made it official?” he asks.

Taehyung hums in response, eyes chasing words across pages, dark ink across white paper. When he reaches the end, he closes the book, tucks it under his arm and walks away. Towards another section. Jimin follows him, just like always.

Taehyung won't buy the book he just picked, the chances that he'd buy any book today are very slim.

“If you consider official as moving in together, then no. Well, at least not yet. But if you think of it as going on actual dates and not just fucking, then yes,” Taehyung says, taking a book from one of the lower shelves and giving it to Jimin to hold while he puts the poetry book back at its place. If Bukowski and post-revolution French literature go together, Taehyung doesn't know, nor does he care to find out. Maybe somebody else does. Maybe some romantic soul in love with everything French would freak out when they pull out the book of poetry and read the lines about putting out cigarettes on palms.

“That's nice. Is Namjoon romantic? Do you like it? Do you like him?”

Jimin is asking too many questions because he doesn't want Taehyung to get hurt. He doesn't want to binge watch The Simpsons and dry his tears and be the one to tell him that time heals all wounds, even the deepest ones. He wants to see Taehyung happy and smiling and acing his exams because Namjoon helped him study and rewarded him with a kiss for every correct answer until Taehyung got them hard-wired into his head and carved into the roof of his mouth.

“I think I do,” Taehyung replies, almost shy, and Jimin knows that small, tender smile of his.

“You think?” he prompts just to spite Taehyung and see him ducking in another row of shelves, hiding his flushed face behind an open book.

“Yeah. I haven't known him for long, but there's something.”

“Right.”

Right.

Taehyung and Namjoon haven't known each other for long. They weren't friends before they went to bed together. At first, it was a friends with benefits kind of a thing excluding the friends part. But in the months that came, they noticed that just kissing was as nice as having sex and hanging out, going out, spending time together weren't so bad either. Maybe relationships that begin with sex and not friendship have better chances to blossom into something beautiful and meaningful than the ones that start out slowly with shy glances and timid touches.

“You know what, Jiminnie?” Taehyung pipes up, trying to change the topic. His voice rings in the enclosed space and all eyes in the bookstore turn to them. Jimin pushes Taehyung away from popular psychology section and towards thriller and horror because there are less people there.

“What?”

“You need to get laid,” Taehyung says, nonchalantly. Like he's talking about the weather, about sunny mornings and rainy afternoons. Like it is not a big deal to tell a friend to spice up their sex life in the middle of a bookstore full of people.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me right. You've been down lately. It'll help—”

“Taehyung, no,” Jimin shushes him because only God knows what would leave Taehyung's mouth next.

“Why not? It can't hurt. It doesn't have to be a one night stand, it can be with somebody you know and like. Somebody who understands what no strings attached means,” Taehyung says, looking at the second storey of the bookstore where history and sociology books are displayed. He grabs Jimin by the sleeve of his jacket and together they weave through the crowd until they reach the spiral staircase. Taehyung is on the second step when Jimin tugs him back.

“Are you serious?” Jimin asks.

Taehyung smiles because Jimin actually took the time to consider his words, he hasn't just dismissed them as yet another wacky idea of Taehyung's.

“If you're thinking about a kinky threesome with me and Namjoon, forget about it! I'm not proposing that even though I know it's tempting,” Taehyung grins and Jimin regrets asking the question in the first place. “But think about having someone to relieve the stress with. A friend with benefits would be nice, right?”

 

- - -

 

A friend with benefits is just a pretty name for an occasional fuck. Somebody who would push your legs open and fuck the living daylights out of you while whispering dirty things in your ear, lapping at your earlobe, sucking the piercings there into his mouth and cumming without a warning.

(It's just a convenience that condoms come in such a wide variety of sizes and colors.)

That's somebody who would leave in the morning without a kiss or a goodbye because there's no point in bidding farewell when you'll meet soon, fuck again, in somebody's room with the door unlocked while the party outside those four walls is in full blast. And when you stumble outside, shirt hanging off your shoulders and hair a mess, nobody would ask questions because nobody heard a thing. The music was too loud. It is always too loud.

Which brings us to the present, to impatient, rough hands pushing Jimin's shirt up, up, over his stomach and his ribs, exposing smooth skin.

“You're such a good boy. Pretty boy, too,” the man grunts above him as he uses his knee to spread Jimin's legs even further. His big hands are everywhere; they're searching, tugging at Jimin's clothes while his mouth is pressed to the skin of Jimin's throat, sucking bruises into the unblemished skin.

The man, probably a senior, quite possibly a postgraduate, reeks of cheap beer and strong cologne. He's attractive, long legs and a great ass, but he's rough, too rough.

Jimin can feel the man's erection through the layers of thick fabric separating their bodies and he knows the man won't last for much longer so it doesn't surprise him when his zipper slides down, when the guy pulls at his jeans and pushes them down his thighs.

This is it – stress relieving. This will help him feel better.

Before pulling Jimin's boxers down, the man gets rid of his clothes. Pants pool around his ankles, his boots hit the floor with a dull thud when he toes them off.

There's no lube and no condoms and when the man rasps out “Let's have a good time”, teeth grazing Jimin's earlobe, his strong hands pinning Jimin's hips to the bed, Jimin pushes him. Hard.

“Fuck off,” he hisses. “I won't be your toy.”

The man rolls off of him with a weak groan, a broken moan. “But baby, you need this as much as I do. You wanted this, remember? You came to me.”

“I changed my mind,” Jimin says, scramming to his feet. His jeans are halfway down his thighs and he yanks them back up.

The man stares at him for a long moment, lust and need glazing his dark eyes. He's drunk, probably high, too. He might become violent. He might.

“You can't go,” he shouts when Jimin cracks the door open, sneakers in hand. His jacket lays forgotten somewhere, but he can always grab somebody else's on his way out.

“I am,” Jimin retorts.

“At least help me out before you go, baby,” the man says, wrapping his long fingers around the base of his cock, stroking it. He's hard. Painfully so. “What do you say, huh? Are you hungry? I have sweets.”

Jimin laughs. Bends over from laughing too much. His body is shaking. Maybe the man put something in his drink. Maybe it's running in his bloodstream now. He takes a deep breath, willing himself to sober up.

“What's funny, baby? Do you like what you see?”

Jimin wipes the stray tear from the corner of his eye and takes a doorknob in his hand, opening the door even more. “It's funny how proud you are of something you don't have. All I see are your fingers and since you like it dry, you better jerk yourself off. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.”

He leaves the dumbfounded man behind and slams the door shut, stumbling in the hallway full of people dancing, yelling over the music, enjoying themselves. A girl bumps into him, apology falling from her glossy lips and Jimin nods. He pushes through the crowd, through bodies pressed flush as heavy bass shakes the floor under their feet. It's humid, too hot, and Jimin finds it difficult to breathe. He can't see Taehyung anywhere. He can't spot Namjoon either.

It's a Friday night. There are more university parties going on then what he can count on his fingers. All of them are the same – too many people and too much booze. And yet all he wants is to go home so he finds his way to the terrace connected to the back yard.

Cold winter air sends a shiver down his spine. It's the beginning of December, it's supposed to be like this. People are smoking on the terrace, throwing their head back and blowing smoke into the crispy night air. Laughter and murmur of voices surround him, clouding his mind. Jimin finds himself wanting to disappear into thin air just like the smoke.

He goes down the few steps and then across the lawn. Grass is cold and wet under his feet, leaving stains on his socks, but Jimin can't bring himself to care. He'll throw them in trash when he gets home as well as everything else he's wearing and then he'll take a long shower washing away the scent of a man who was supposed to be his one night stand.

When he reaches the picnic table in the bottom of the garden, the face of the person sitting there lights up as the sign of recognition flies across their face.

“We meet again,” Jungkook says, smile on his face bright and warm. Jungkook is sitting on the table, fumbling with his phone. A half-empty plastic cup rests beside him. Jimin sits on the bench, leaning his back against Jungkook's shins.

“An awful timing,” Jimin responds, corners of his mouth pulling up in a smile against his will.

“Why? Because you won’t remember it in the morning?”

“No,” Jimin shakes his head. “Because I look like shit.”

Jungkook leans forward, rests his elbows on his knees. If he reaches out his hand, he could touch Jimin. “I think you look nice. Cold maybe.”

Jimin laughs and starts putting on his shoes. He struggles with the laces more than usually, but he finishes tying the knots without asking for Jungkook’s help. He counts that as a small victory.

“I’ll warm up when I get home,” Jimin says, standing up from the bench. Jungkook follows suit.

“I’ll walk you home,” he says, shoving the phone in his pocket and dusting off his pants.

“And the party?” Jimin asks, turning his head around. In the house all the lights are on. Through every window he can see people dancing. They’re having a great time, drowning real life problems in liquor. The music is a mix of techno and dubstep that makes the whole house shake.

“Wouldn’t I be inside if I liked it?” Jungkook chuckles and Jimin looks at him.

“I guess so,” he says. “You’d be inside and not here. With me.”

 

- - -

 

Even when there is no snow, Seoul is cold in winter with wind blowing down empty streets, carrying with it fallen leaves and empty candy wrappers.

Jimin wraps his arms around himself to conserve that bit of warmth he still has. They left the party almost half an hour ago, but even so he can still hear music pulsing in his ears. He thought they'd have reached his apartment by now, but he must have miscalculated the distance in his head. Things like that happen when all you want is to go home and crawl under the sheets. Maybe never wake up again.

Jimin walks without looking anywhere but his shoes and when Jungkook drapes his jacket over his shoulders, Jimin stops in his tracks and lifts his head to look at him.

“You don't have to. I'm not cold.”

“You are shivering,” Jungkook retorts, playing with his phone, passing it from one hand to the other. The screen is cracked, he must have dropped it one too many times.

“Still, you don't have to,” Jimin repeats himself but does nothing to return the jacket to Jungkook. If anything, he pulls it closer to his body. Jungkook's lips quirk up upon noticing this.

“I have a hoodie and a shirt under. I'm all prepared for winter unlike you. That t-shirt doesn't look so warm,” Jungkook says, a pitiful attempt at a joke.

Jimin still tries to smile because he remembers saying something like that to Jungkook not so long ago. But things were different then, Jimin was happier then. Still Jungkook deserves to see a smile and not a frown because Jungkook did nothing wrong. Jimin is the one who fucked himself up.

“Thank you,” he says, voice soft, almost a whisper, but the streets are deserted and Jungkook hears it. He ducks his head and starts walking again. When Jimin doesn't follow, he turns around, hands stuffed in the pockets of his hoodie, a question lingering on his lips.

Jimin has put Jungkook's jacket on by now. The sleeves are too long, they're reaching past his knuckles. The jacket is too big, but somehow it still suits him. He pulls the zipper up, all the way to his throat.

“I don't look so bad,” he says more to himself than anybody else and glances at his reflection in the shop window. Between televisions tuned to a dead channel and other electronics, he finds his face, then his shoulders. It's not so bad, Jungkook's jacket on him.

“The sleeves are too long,” Jungkook comments, fondness in his eyes telling Jimin that some other words are on his mind. Something like “it looks good on you”.

“I heard that's the trend now.”

“Oh really?” Jungkook asks, an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah, totally,” Jimin says. “It's called the boyfriend look.”

“But I'm not your boyfriend.”

Jimin's eyes linger on his reflection, on the way Jungkook's jacket doesn't fit him. At all. He looks stupid. It's ridiculous. All of it. He rakes a hand through his hair and lets the bangs fall in his eyes afterwards. How silly it is to hope. How easy it is to blame everything on alcohol so Jimin does just that and smiles.

“Oh wow, you're right, totally,” he mumbles marching up to Jungkook and taking the lead because Jungkook doesn't know where to turn next and Jimin is no longer in the mood to give directions. With his back turned to Jungkook, he doesn't see the younger biting his lips, stopping words from coming out.

 

- - -

 

Jimin wakes up to the aroma of fresh coffee tickling his nose and music coming from the living room. The blinds are still closed, but the door of his room is open, allowing light to come inside. With a click, the music stops, melody turns to silence which an authoritative voice shatters to pieces. Morning news. Terrorist attacks, car crashes, death. Jimin rolls on his stomach and groans in his pillow. What a great way to start the day.

For a few moments, he lays there listening to the murmur of voices – breaking news, headlines, sport, the weather forecast. There will be no snow before New Year. Christmas won't be white. From the corner of his eyes, he can see Jungkook's jacket thrown over a chair and when the urge to check if the one in Jimin's apartment is Jungkook becomes too strong, Jimin crawls out of bed. He's dressed just like last night – washed-out jeans and a thin cotton t-shirt. Nothing happened between him and Jungkook.

He finds Namjoon in the living room, sitting on the sofa and mindlessly flipping through channels, reaching ninety-nine and starting from one again. When he hears footsteps, he doesn't turn around and Jimin stands in the doorway, eyes roaming across the room, checking whether this really is his apartment because he doesn't remember ever inviting Namjoon over.

Namjoon calls out “Taehyung” and things fall into place, puzzle pieces finally matching together.

“It's not Tae,” Jimin says, and Namjoon turns his head, a small, sheepish smile on his lips.

What's with all the smiles, Jimin wonders. Why is everybody smiling at him?

Then he remembers that he smiles, too. He smiles a lot, laughs loud so it rings because a smile is the ultimate decoy. No matter if they're fake or genuine, smiles are always nice to look at. They can make one think everything is okay even when the world is falling apart, crashing down, piece by piece.

So Jimin smiles back.

“Sorry, Jimin. I thought you were still sleeping. There's some coffee and I think that Tae even made you breakfast, so dig in,” Namjoon says.

“Yeah, sure. Thanks. Where is he though?” Jimin asks.

Namjoon opens his mouth to reply when a hand lands on Jimin's shoulder, fingers so cold that he can feel them through the fabric of his shirt. Taehyung nuzzles closer to him, smelling of strawberry lollipops and too sweet cologne.

“I'm right here. Missed me?”

“Always,” Jimin says, patting Taehyung's hand with his and Taehyung beams at him, eyes sparkling.

“Good. That means I can call Jungkookie to tell him everything's okay.”

Taehyung unlatches himself from Jimin and starts digging through his pockets in search of his phone. Namjoon's attention is once again on the television, on some animal documentary about lions, and Jimin is grateful that he's no longer the center of attention even though—

“Wait, Jungkook called you?”

Taehyung hums in reply.

“Why?” Jimin asks leaning against the counter separating the living and the dining room.

Taehyung is too busy to reply, trying to remember the right password for his phone, fingers sliding over the screen, touching all the wrong symbols, so Namjoon does it for him.

“He said you weren't feeling too good, but he couldn't stay to take care of you because of something somethings and so he called us. Actually, he called Tae, but I tagged along. I hope you don't mind,” Namjoon says from the couch and Jimin watches as a lioness hunts down a baby zebra. There's not much blood, just a bit on the lioness' whiskers.

“No, I'm cool with it. You're welcome to stay,” Jimin says, diverting his attention from the screen to Taehyung who's scrolling through his contacts list, searching Jungkook's number to text him everything is good.

Jimin is fine.