If Jimin prided himself on anything, it was discipline. When he set a goal, he did everything in his power to achieve it, no matter how much he struggled. Last year he decided he wanted to run a marathon, and he trained so hard he was ready to go by winter. On a whim during his first year of high school, he made a vow to have a set of six-pack abs by the end of the year and made it in half the time.
So Jimin wasn’t used to being late. He always left bed within ten minutes of his alarm, especially on days where he was doing something out of the ordinary. And a field trip to Haeundae Beach in Busan was definitely out of the ordinary. He’d been looking forward to it for weeks. But the night before he had stayed up until four in the morning practicing a dance he just couldn’t get down. Hoseok promised him he was doing all right, but he didn’t believe it. He usually didn’t, but last night was a hard one. He’d been thinking about Yoongi, and thinking about Yoongi always led to desperately seeking ways to think about something else.
He slept through his alarm and didn’t wake up until his little brother came pounding into his room demanding to borrow his favorite pair of Jordans. That had certainly gotten him awake, if only to chase Jihyun out by flinging dirty underwear at him. Then he’d seen the time and panicked.
That’s how he ended up dashing to school with his Timberlands unlaced, only one arm pushed into a flannel shirt, and cheeks full of rice his mother had stuffed into his mouth as he ran out the door. Part of him was glad he didn’t have to wear his uniform for the field trip, but the other half wished he had actually picked an outfit ahead of time. His teacher stood outside the bus holding a clipboard and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw him fly toward her.
“Park Jimin!” she shouted. “We almost left without you.”
“Sorry, sorry!” He slid his other arm into his shirt and straightened his backpack, ducking past her to nimbly hop up the steps into the bus.
As soon as he entered, his stomach sank to his feet with a swoop. Everyone was already sitting. He caught sight of Taehyung’s orange hair, stuffed between the window and that one really annoying first-year whose name Jimin never remembered. Taehyung shot him a sympathetic frown. Jimin stood at the front awkwardly for a moment, looking for an empty spot. When he found it, the expected relief did not come.
He didn’t move. His gaze caught on the black beanie that pushed blond hair into sleepy eyes, the thin headphone wire snaking into the collar of his black pullover. Ripped jeans, as usual. Jimin wished he didn’t know that the first rip had happened when Yoongi fell running away from a particularly friendly dog at the park, and he’d done the rest himself to make it look stylish. Why waste a good pair of jeans? he’d said, scissors in hand while Jimin looked on, laughing.
“Get a move on, Park Jimin. It’s not like you have any options to choose from.” His teacher nudged him in the back with her clipboard.
He started moving robotically, reminding himself to put one foot in front of the other lest he freeze up again. Yoongi sat on the edge of the seat, away from the window. Jimin paused beside him.
Yoongi’s lazy eyes flickered to settle on him, then away. He moved his legs to the side so Jimin could brush past and into the seat by the window. The proximity made him flush. He sat down, shoving his backpack under the seat, and tried to make himself comfortable. It was hard when he could feel the heat radiating from Yoongi’s body, could hear the heavy bass thumping through his headphones. Jimin leaned into the coolness of the window.
“We’re making a rest stop in two hours.” Yoongi’s homeroom teacher stood at the front, waving a DVD case in his hand. “Putting on a movie until then. Get too loud and you won’t get lunch.”
The old bus started its engine with a jolt, pulling out of the school parking lot. Jimin sifted through his bag for his headphones, bent over in his seat. The bus took a particularly sharp turn and he grabbed the seat to keep from falling into Yoongi. He bumped into Yoongi’s knee anyway. Immediately he leaned away, flushing.
He hadn’t heard that low, smooth voice in two months. Jimin’s fingers fumbled his headphone wire. He glanced back, and Yoongi was looking at him, eyes steady. His heart began racing so suddenly it made him dizzy.
“Your shirt is on backwards.” Yoongi’s long fingers flicked the tag sticking out on the back of his flannel shirt.
Jimin hid his face in his knees, flushing deeper. Park Jimin, you fucking idiot. Of course that was all he had to say. When did Yoongi ever have anything of use to say to him? He straightened, pulling his shirt off, glad he was wearing a tank underneath. When he fixed it, he glanced back. Yoongi was still looking. As soon as Jimin caught him, he turned away.
The movie had started on the little TV screens hanging from the ceiling, some Western action flick, and he didn’t particularly feel like reading subtitles. He shuffled his Taeyang playlist and turned the volume up, drowning out even the noise of the old bus zooming onto the highway. Jimin curled into the window, as far away as he could get from Min Yoongi.
For a time he watched the world whiz by, a blur of gray and green and blue that lulled him into his thoughts. Once he would have trembled with excitement to sit next to Yoongi on a four-hour bus ride. Once it would have made him nervous, but in the good way; once he would have checked his outfit to make sure he looked all right and rehearsed things to say that would make him sound cool and sophisticated. That was back when he’d thought the sun shone out of Yoongi’s ass. Back before they got together and things slid downhill.
He didn’t realize when the night of practicing caught up to him and he started to fall asleep, not until he woke up with Yoongi’s hand pillowed between Jimin’s head and the window. His arm was pressed into Jimin’s back. Jimin sat up, rubbing his eyes, and pulled his headphones out. Yoongi yanked his arm back, flushing.
“Your head was—you kept hitting the window,” he mumbled, looking at his hands entwined in his lap. “Looked painful.”
And suddenly Jimin’s lip was trembling and his throat felt clogged and he was heating up in a bad way. He curled his arms around himself, fighting to keep a steady face.
Yoongi’s eyes widened. He reached for him, then stopped himself, as if remembering that it wasn’t his place to do that anymore. “Hey, Jiminie, don’t cry—”
Jimin pressed his palms into his eyes until it hurt, wetness seeping through his lashes at the old nickname. It was always like this. Cold and distant until Jimin convinced himself there was no way he mattered to Yoongi, no way he meant anything. Then abruptly so sweet and warm that Jimin would fall all over again. That’s why Jimin had ended it. He’d grown weary of never knowing how to feel.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“Why are you always so nice?” Jimin sniffled, wiping the tears with the end of his sleeve. He glanced around to make sure no one was looking and caught Taehyung’s gaze three aisles down. Taehyung raised his fists, miming punches, and Jimin smiled.
“Guess I wasn’t nice enough.” There was a wry quirk to the corner of Yoongi’s mouth.
“You know that wasn’t the problem, hyung.”
Jimin made to replace his headphones, but then he stopped. “How—how have you been?”
Yoongi shrugged—a slight, tired movement. Once that would have sent Jimin into a fit of worry. Once he would have done anything to see Yoongi smile, just like Yoongi made him laugh like no one could. Once he would have pressed Yoongi to tell him the problem. Yoongi wouldn’t have answered. He never did. “You?”
Jimin shrugged, too. “How are your parents?”
“You know. The usual.”
He did. He knew that Yoongi had trouble understanding love that didn’t involve harsh, biting comments, jaded jealousy, and muffled tears behind closed doors that were the only bedtime story he ever had growing up. That’s why Jimin had forgiven him the first time, the second time, the hundredth time. But after a while he couldn’t do it anymore. He was tired of feeling like Yoongi didn’t care because he didn’t know how to show him he did.
“How’s Hyunie? Did he win that boxing tournament?”
“He’s a brat, as usual. Got a silver medal.”
“He didn’t take it off for three days straight.”
Yoongi laughed quietly. Jimin hadn’t realized how much he missed the sound. “Of course he didn’t.”
“Did you pass your chemistry test?”
“Barely. I used the flashcards you gave me.”
“Told you they’d help.”
They slipped into silence, slightly less awkward than before. Jimin fiddled with the headphones in his lap, then switched to playing with his rings. It was funny how quickly things could change. How quickly they could fall apart. He had crushed on Yoongi for two years before they started dating. They’d dated for another year. Three years and it had only taken two months for them to drift apart, what felt like an impassable wall standing between them.
“I miss you.”
Yoongi’s voice startled him out of his reverie. Jimin glanced at him and away. “Don’t.” He was ashamed at the quiver in his voice.
“I’ve been wanting to tell you but I didn’t think I deserved to. I miss you, Jiminie.”
“Then you shouldn’t have pushed me away.”
“I know. I—I fucked up. I should have made it clear how much you mattered to me. I should have put more into us than I did. I let you hold us together when I should have done just as much.”
“What’s the point in telling me now?” The tears threatened to spill again, but he fought them off. He squeezed his fingers into fists, nails digging crescents into his palms, and swallowed down the lump in his throat.
“A second chance. Let me have a second chance.”
In the background he could hear the sounds of explosions from the action movie he hadn’t so much as glanced at yet, mingled with the murmur of conversation and the occasional giggle. But in Jimin’s mind there was only the hollow roaring of a whirlwind of thoughts. “You’ll just do the same thing all over again. I can’t go through this a second time, hyung.”
“I’ve been trying these past months. Trying to figure myself out. Trying to change. I won’t fuck up this time.”
“I don’t know if I should trust you.”
“I swear this time you’ll never doubt how much I care.”
He wanted to say yes. How he wanted to say yes. But Jimin wasn’t an idiot. He knew it took a lot longer than two months to overcome a lifetime of stilted expression. “No,” he said.
He felt rather than saw Yoongi sink into himself, hopeless. Then suddenly he jerked upright, turning all the way in his seat to face Jimin. “Ten reasons. Let me give you ten reasons I care about you.”
“To prove that I’m getting better at expressing myself. It was—it was always hard to tell you how much you mattered, but I knew it inside. I just didn’t know how to say it. Let me say it now, so you can see that I’m trying.”
“Ten things won’t erase everything that’s happened. It won’t magically make it better.”
“I know. But I’ve been trying, I really have. I want you see that.”
Jimin knew it probably wasn’t the wisest decision, but he couldn’t help it. It was always hard to deny Yoongi anything. Breaking up with him had been the hardest thing he’d ever done. “Fine. But if you give me some bullshit like I like your nose then I’m not hearing the rest.”
“I’m not gonna do that.”
“Well, you’ve got about three hours to convince me. Make it worthwhile.” Jimin leaned back into the window and shoved his headphones into his ears. A part of him was almost excited. He didn’t want to get his hopes up, but he’d always wanted to know why Yoongi liked him.
Yoongi reached out and removed one headphone from Jimin’s ear. “Reason number one,” he said, leaning close. “I love the way you deny me.”
“People have always been kind of afraid to call me out on my shit. But you never were.”
“It was always hard for me to say no to you.”
“But when it counted, you did it. You never let me get away with half-assing things or lying to myself or being unreasonable. That means a lot, you know?”
“Okay,” he said. “That’s one.” He placed the headphone back in Jimin’s ear.
He was half-falling asleep again when his head bumped uncomfortably into the window and he gave up, sitting upright and tugging his feet onto the seat instead. Yoongi hadn’t changed his position at all.
“Reason number two,” Yoongi said when he saw that Jimin was awake. “The way you look when you sleep.”
“That’s pretty close to I like your nose.”
“Hear me out. You probably never knew this but my default state was being worried about you. You suck at taking care of yourself. I was always worried if you were getting enough rest or eating or if you were happy. But when you’re sleeping that crease between your brow evens out and you don’t frown and I can convince myself, for a little while, that everything’s all right.”
Jimin didn’t have a snarky comment for that one. He tugged his knees into his chest, glad he was small enough for the tight bus seat, and rested his chin on top. He’d never heard Yoongi speak so much about how he felt before. He’d never heard Yoongi talk about being worried, whether about him or anything else. It was… nice, to say the least. Nice not having to guess.
“What are you listening to?” Yoongi asked, as if trying to change the subject. A faint tinge of pink brushed his cheeks. It must have been hard for him, talking about how he felt.
“I was listening to Taeyang but now I’m listening to the Princess Mononoke soundtrack.”
“Reason number three. The fact that you’re so in love with Studio Ghibli movies but no one except me and Tae know that. And you watch Kiki’s Delivery Service when you’re feeling down so you can cry it out.”
“Shut up,” Jimin muttered, glancing around to see if anyone had heard. He couldn’t fight the smile from spreading across his face.
“It’s cute.” Yoongi wore a matching smile, the sweet gummy one that transformed his face and made Jimin blush. “It’s so fucking cute.”
He reached into his backpack to distract from the fluttering in his stomach. Somehow in his mad morning rush, he had still managed to pack snacks. He pulled out a bag of tteokbokki crackers and a box of pepero. Then he doubled back because he realized he had a box of strawberry pepero, and Yoongi liked those best.
“Here.” He handed him the box, keeping the crackers for himself.
“Thanks.” Yoongi peeled back the flap and passed him one stick first. “Reason number four,” he said, a little quieter this time. “You always knew what I needed without me telling you. You always knew how to cheer me up or pull me out of a slump or even what I wanted to eat. And I know that ended up being a problem, ended up being you guessing and me never really telling you what was going on, but I loved that. I love how you know me better than I know me.”
The fact that he spoke as if it were the present didn’t escape Jimin’s notice. Yoongi was implying that Jimin still knew him best, even though they hadn’t said a single word to each other in two months, not after they’d said too many the last time they spoke. But maybe he was right.
They didn’t talk much after that, just a few words here and there, comments on the movie that was still playing or the music they were listening to or a question about Jihyun. Two hours into the bus ride, they finally pulled into a mostly empty rest stop. Around them, students stood and stretched their stiff limbs, digging through bags for wallets. Jimin ducked past Yoongi on the way out to join Taehyung, who slung his arm around his shoulder, tucking him into his armpit.
“You okay?” Taehyung asked after a cursory glance back to make sure Yoongi was out of earshot. They melted into the crowd of students walking through the parking lot to the convenience store.
“Honestly? I don’t really know.”
“So do I kick his ass now or later?”
Jimin laughed, patting Taehyung’s stomach. “We’ll see.”
“Seriously, just let me know.” They walked into the small convenience store and made a beeline for the drink aisle. “I can Naruto run at his ass, he’ll never see it coming.”
“I’m not sure how threatening your Naruto run really is, Tae.”
“What are you talking about? It’s off the charts.”
“Do you need me to demonstrate?” Taehyung bent forward slightly, arms extended behind him. “I’ll Naruto run right to the bathroom—”
“Quit it.” Jimin snorted with laughter. “You’re embarrassing.”
“That’s what happens when you doubt me.”
Jimin watched him run all the way to the bathroom. He leaned against the shelf of energy drinks, laughing so hard he almost got teary. Leave it to Taehyung to cheer him up in the most unexpected way possible.
Jimin glanced up. Yoongi stood there, beanie pulled low over his eyes, holding two cups of to-go coffee. He held one out. Jimin took it, peeking under the lid. “Did you—”
“Yeah. Cream and sugar’s in it.”
Jimin took a tentative sip. It was exactly how he took it. “You remembered.”
“Reason number five. I love how you laugh with your whole body, from your head to your toes, like you’re flinging yourself into it. And if anyone’s standing next to you, you fall right into them, too.”
“I thought you hated it when I did that.”
“How could I? It’s like you feel joy with every part of you. It’s—it’s beautiful.”
And now he was getting teary for a different reason. He stared down at the coffee warming his hands. It blurred in his gaze. He wasn’t sure if he wished this trip had never happened or if he was glad for it. It may have been silly, but a few words had already made him feel so validated. He didn’t feel like he’d spent years caring for someone who didn’t give a shit anymore. He knew there was a lot more to caring about someone than words, but half of what was missing between them all along was just that.
“Sorry. I’m—I’m sorry. I don’t want to make this hard for you.”
“Too late.” He blinked to clear his vision and looked up. “But it’s okay. Maybe I needed it.”
Yoongi hesitated, rocking back on his heels. “I’m gonna go wait outside. Get some air.”
Jimin sat down at the store counter by the windows, looking out onto the parking lot. The bus was parked on the far side, doors open. Their teachers lounged around outside it. He downed his coffee too quickly; the caffeine settled into his bloodstream until his heart raced and his fingers shook. He ate another bag of crackers to offset it. Taehyung emerged from the bathroom and bought a bowl of ramen, warming it up in the microwave and snapping apart his chopsticks to practically inhale the bowl in minutes.
Taehyung left before him in the hopes of napping before the noisy bus engine started again. Jimin sat for a moment longer until he, too, stood and left the store. He didn’t see Yoongi standing out front. He probably should have let it be, but when it came to Yoongi, his discipline faltered. So he turned the corner to the backside of the store to look for him. Yoongi stood by the brick wall fiddling with his phone.
Jimin snorted. “You look like you’re hiding.”
“Hoseok was demonstrating girl group dances.”
“Did he try to get you to join?”
“Come on, hyung, we both know you’re the king of girl group dances.”
“Park Jimin, do you wanna die?”
“Maybe,” he said cheekily. He tugged off his flannel, tying it around his waist. The breeze on his bare arms felt good. He stretched all the way back until he heard his back crack. Then he leaned against the wall next to Yoongi.
“Reason number six,” Yoongi said suddenly, startling him. He turned so quickly Jimin barely registered what he was doing until he had leaned in close, hands resting on the wall by either side of Jimin’s head, caging him there. His breath tickled Jimin’s nose. “You’re a tease.”
Jimin blinked, heat rising up his neck. Yoongi was so close his loose pullover brushed Jimin’s chest. He wasn’t sure if the racing of his heart was caffeine or Yoongi’s proximity. Yoongi’s gaze flickered down to his lips. “Yeah?”
“And everything you do drives me crazy.”
“Way to wax poetic,” he murmured. “That’s your least impressive reason yet.”
“I had to sacrifice at least one for that.”
“Come on. Before they leave without us.” He shoved Yoongi out of the way with a hand to his chest and headed back to the bus without waiting to see if he would follow.
He had settled into his seat when Yoongi returned with another cup of coffee in his hands.
“Still drink five cups a day?” he asked when Yoongi sat.
“I’m not about to kick that habit.”
“Too much coffee can cause heartburn and stomach ulcers, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah.” But then Yoongi smiled. “Reason number seven. You’re always looking out for everyone. Remember that time I got stuck on that song and barely left my room for half the summer?”
“Of course I remember that.”
“You used to call me at night and talk until I fell asleep, just to make sure I actually slept. And you’d stop by with snacks to make sure I was eating.”
“And you’d always get mad at me for interrupting you.”
Yoongi faltered, slender hands tightening around the cup. “I was an asshole but you did it, anyway.”
“Because I cared about you.”
“And remember the time Hoseok needed a partner for that dance performance because his backed out, and you offered even though you were already preparing for a solo?”
“We won first place.”
“Yeah, but you slept two hours a night because you were practicing for both dances. You got so tired you were taking painkillers every day.”
“It wasn’t so bad, in the end.”
“It was hell for you. But you didn’t back out because you didn’t want to disappoint Hoseok.”
“There weren’t any solo spots left. If he had to drop the partner dance, then he wouldn’t be able to perform at all.”
“I was so pissed at him, you know? We almost got in a fight. But you’re always like that. You’ll work yourself to the bone if it means helping someone else.”
Jimin shrugged. He hadn’t known Yoongi had talked to Hoseok about that. At the time, he probably didn’t even know that Yoongi had noticed how tough things were for him.
“And that’s reason number eight, too. How hard you work. Like how you hate math but you requested to be placed into a higher level math class, anyway, because you wanted to challenge yourself. Or how even when you’re doing well you still bust your ass to do even better.”
He shrugged, again. He didn’t do it for praise. He did it for himself.
“It’s inspiring. Because if it’s anything other than music, I’m tempted to half-ass it. But seeing how hard you worked always made me want to work hard, too.”
“Then I’m glad.”
“But it’s okay to slack sometimes, yeah? It’s okay to do good instead of excellent if it means you’re taking better care of yourself. I always meant to tell you that.”
“You should have told me that earlier.”
“I know. I’m sorry I didn’t.”
Jimin sank back, tugging his backpack into his lap and wrapping his arms around it just for something to hold.
“Can we have a break?” he interrupted. “I need a break. Tell me the last two later, okay?”
“Yeah. Okay. Are you—”
“I’m fine. I just need some time.”
How different things might have been if Yoongi had told him how he felt all along. If he hadn’t waited so long to figure himself out, maybe they wouldn’t be there, sitting together on a bus only because they were forced. Maybe Jimin wouldn’t have spent months wondering if he mattered at all to the person who mattered the most to him.
Two hours remained until they reached Haeundae Beach. They spent nearly all of them in silence. Yoongi hadn’t finished his reasons yet, but Jimin was already thinking about the decision that would come at the end of them. At last, when the teacher announced that they were almost there, he turned to Yoongi.
“Okay. You can keep going, if you want.”
“Reason number nine,” Yoongi said, as if it had been on the tip of his tongue all along. His knee bobbed up and down in what may have been anxiousness. “You always see the good in everyone. I never deserved it, but you saw the good in me, too. Even when I couldn’t see it in myself.”
Jimin bit his lower lip to keep it from trembling. He could remember, so clearly like he was watching it on a movie reel before him, Yoongi lying on his bed with an arm tossed over his eyes, moonlight filtering in through the window to glint off his figure. At the time, Jimin had thought he was the most beautiful boy he’d ever seen. Sometimes I really hate myself, he’d said. But you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. At least I got you right. It was one of the few times he’d really been open with Jimin.
“And—and reason number ten. I’m so, so glad you broke up with me.”
Jimin’s eyes flashed to him, surprised.
“Because I honestly don’t know if I ever would have realized how shitty I was if you hadn’t. When I lost you I realized how fucking important you were to me. And I finally figured out that if I didn’t learn to tell people how I felt, then I’d lose everyone who mattered.”
The bus rolled to a stop. Around them, students gathered their things and filtered into the aisle. Yoongi and Jimin didn’t move.
“I know I probably don’t deserve it, but please give me a second chance, Jiminie. I swear I’ll do better.”
Jimin wrung his hands in his lap. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe he’d end up regretting it. But despite the problems, he had loved being with Yoongi. He’d loved the way Yoongi kissed his nose in the middle of an argument and teased him about being one centimeter shorter and looked out for him in his secret way. He didn’t want to let that go, not if there was even the slightest chance.
So as the bus began to empty around them, Jimin looked up at Yoongi’s desperate, earnest face and said, “Last chance.”