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our sinking friendships (we drown them all)

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Like most bad decisions, it could be traced back to cheap alcohol—the kind with a taste that clung to your tongue too long and gave you a hangover before the high was over. And like most bad decisions, it had also seemed like a great idea at the time.

 

The party was a bust. Jimin barely knew the hosts—a couple of Hoseok’s friends who only called him up when they needed him to pass the word around on Facebook—and the music was the relaxed kind of electronica that made his bones reluctant to move. But the hosts were too stoned to care about being attentive anymore so he and Taehyung raided their stash of pot and booze before escaping to the roof.

 

The roof was peacefully empty. The cold autumn air had probably put off the girls in mini-dresses and the boys chasing after them. They’d walked in with a decent buzz, and the shots they’d done with Hoseok before he’d wandered off had kicked in enough to take the edge off any nip of cold, so Jimin could only see the frigid breeze on the raised bumps of his bare arms. They sat down at the edge with their spoils behind them, swinging their legs and looking out at the buildings laid before them.

 

He watched Taehyung roll the paper with unsteady hands, producing a sloppy looking joint that was probably the best he would do under the circumstances. Taehyung was apparently satisfied and lit up the end with a flick of his thumb on the wheel of his lighter.

 

Jimin wasn’t one to smoke himself, but he saw the appeal reflected in Taehyung’s blissed out face, exhaling smoke like his worries were leaving with it. Jimin didn’t mind just watching, content to smell the smoke hanging in the air and sip on his mix of soju and beer, heavy on the beer. As time passed, Jimin could feel Taehyung start to shift beside him. A stoned Taehyung was a lot like somebody slapped an instagram filter on him, blurring his edges and making him softer, his personality a little more muted. Jimin was always surprised by how mellow he became—a stark contrast from his loud and excitable sober self.

 

A quiet ding from Taehyung’s pocket threw him out of the mood and Taehyung put down his joint to swipe open his phone. After a few minutes of typing he shoved the phone back in the pocket of his jeans.

 

“Shit.”

 

Jimin glanced over mid-sip. “Hm? What’s up?”

 

“Minsoo just broke it off with me. He says he thinks he’s found a long-term thing.”

 

An image popped up in his mind: tall, broad shoulders, small eyes, a handsome face. Jimin couldn't remember ever hearing him talk, which was a pretty good indicator of what his relationship with Taehyung was probably like. “Damn. Tough luck.”

 

Taehyung picked up the joint again. “I know. What a loss. He was so hot. And his body—”

 

“I know. I’ve heard. And seen. Multiple times.”

 

Exhale of smoke, a sheepish grin. “I apologized for that already.”

 

“Yeah, but you still owe me. Compensatory damages.”

 

“Ugh,” Taehyung groaned. “I don’t even know what that means right now. Aren’t you drunk?”

 

“Not that drunk. And it means you’re buying me ice cream sometime.”

 

Taehyung laughed a little dopily. “Deal.”

 

The joint was almost down to a stub. Taehyung held it out between his long fingers.

 

“Want a hit?”

 

Jimin shook his head. He was sober enough to know that crossing anything would end badly. Taehyung shrugged and took another hit for himself before stubbing it out on the concrete of the roof.

 

“Hey. You’ve had one before, right?”

 

“What, a hit?”

 

Taehyung nudged his shoulder with his own. “No, idiot. A friend with benefits.”

 

The question brought him back to his sophomore year, to late night dance practices with a pretty senior from his club, to a sweaty braid tickling his shoulder as he lifted her up against the wall.

 

“Yeah. Once.”

 

Taehyung hummed in acknowledgement but didn’t ask anything more. His shoulder was still rubbing against Jimin’s from where he’d nudged it earlier.

 

“It was so damn convenient. I miss it already. He could’ve given me more of a warning, you know? I would’ve tried to socialize at this party more if I'd known.”

 

“What, like I’m not enough for you?” Jimin joked.

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung breathed out. Jimin felt his neck prickle from the proximity, suddenly more aware of how cold the night had gotten in the wake of Taehyung’s hot breath.

 

Jimin glanced up and saw his gaze boring into him, eyes half-lidded and tinged pink. When Taehyung leaned in his skin smelled like weed and cologne. It smelled better than it should have.

 

“Hey,” Taehyung whispered. “Do you wanna?”

 

“Wanna what?” he asked back, though he knew even under the dulling influence of inebriation what that meant.

 

Taehyung wet his lips with a quick swipe of pink. His lips looked newly shiny and tempting and Jimin couldn’t tear his eyes away. Taehyung made no move to bring his face any closer, to Jimin’s simultaneous relief and disappointment.

 

“You know what I mean, come on. I’m horny, you’re hot, and I know that you’re not getting any right now. It doesn’t have to be weird.” It wasn’t a convincing argument, but Taehyung’s warm proximity was influencing him more than the alcohol was. Suddenly, the sliver of air between their bodies was too much.

 

“Tae, you’re not some guy I see in my econ class once a week. We can’t,” he denied, like he hadn’t been watching Taehyung’s pretty pink lips wrap around the joint with a detached sort of appreciation earlier. Like he wasn’t leaning in towards Taehyung’s face, letting the momentum of his head close the remaining distance between them.

 

The kiss was just as lazy as he’d been expecting from Taehyung’s state, but not enough to lack intensity. Taehyung’s fingers reached up to grab strands of his hair, nails scratching pleasant patterns into his scalp. It felt out of body and all-consuming at the same time and Jimin couldn’t get enough of it—couldn’t seem to remember why he’d been resisting this in the first place.

 

And then Taehyung pulled back with a jerk.

 

“How drunk are you right now?”

 

It was unfair of him to ask when Jimin was still reeling from the effect of the kiss—still trying to determine whether or not he was experiencing some crazy contact high or his life had really gotten to this point.

 

“Tae—what?”

 

Taehyung pulled back a few inches. “Come on, I need to know. How sober are you? Can you say the alphabet backwards?”

 

“I can’t even do that sober,” he whined, but Taehyung fixed him with a narrow-eyed glare that shouldn’t have been as much of a turn on as it was. “Sober enough to know this is either a really good or really bad decision.”

 

Taehyung glanced up at him from under his lashes, then, a sly grin contorting his lips. “I guess that all depends on my performance, then.”

 

Jimin felt the vibration of the last word against his lips. Taehyung ran his fingers up the inseam of his jeans and Jimin threw his head back, breaking the kiss and inviting Taehyung to lick a stripe up his neck and nip playfully at his lobe, mouth lingering near his ear. He felt the words before he heard them.

 

“You wanna get out of here?”

 

Jimin nodded before his mind had even registered him doing it.

 

The walk to his apartment was a test of patience and restraint, as if his lips had found a home in Taehyung’s and once they’d come together, it was difficult to separate them again. They crashed through Jimin’s front door a clumsy and desperate mess of limbs, barely disconnecting from each other long enough to make it out of the living room and onto his bed.

 

“Hey, you sure about this?” Taehyung had paused on top of Jimin’s lap, looking the most sober he had all night. “I know I was being pushy but you looked into it so—”

 

Jimin cut him off with his mouth. He pulled back long enough to nod. “I’m sure.”

 

That must have been enough for Taehyung because the next time they stopped it was to crash, sweaty and sated, onto Jimin’s pillows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing Jimin felt when he woke up was a naked arm draped across his waist—the second an impending sense of doom. Third was a pounding headache.

 

Cracking an eye open, he saw Taehyung’s face about four inches from his, mouth hanging open and eyes shut. He flickered his gaze down, following the line of Taehyung’s throat to his golden chest, eyes darting further down to take in the sight of even more bare skin and god

 

Jimin shut his eyes again and hoped that when he opened them next he would have some sort of plan on how to escape this situation. It wasn’t that regretted it, per say—how could he regret something that had been so good? But the last thing Jimin wanted to deal with was a barrier of awkwardness between him and Taehyung. From the very beginning he’d been somebody that Jimin clicked with instantly. If he woke up and Jimin saw any trace of regret in his eyes, he would probably throw up. Actually, if the rate his stomach was rolling with anxiety was any indication, that might happen sooner.

 

Some rustling, and the dead weight of Taehyung’s arm lifted, taking Jimin’s breath with it. He waited for the dent in the bed next to him to lift and the door of his bedroom to open but it never happened. Instead, he felt the cold pads of fingertips sweep his bangs to the side gently. Jimin opened his eyes to see Taehyung looking at him fondly, eyes scrunched up into crescents and a soft smile on his lips.

 

“Good morning.”

 

“Hey.” A little too rough and breathy. Jimin cleared his throat. “How do you feel?”

 

“Well, my head and ass have seen better days.” His face must have looked grim because Taehyung just laughed, poking him on the raised skin where his brows were furrowed together. “Geez, don’t look so worried. I was mostly joking. It’s nothing that wasn’t worth the pain.”

 

Oh. If Jimin hadn’t been lying down already he probably would have collapsed with relief. Taehyung’s expression suddenly sobered, eyes focused intently on his.

 

“How are you feeling?” he asked carefully.

 

Jimin went the honest route. “A little hungover, but otherwise I can’t complain.”

 

“Good,” Taehyung nodded. “Because I had fun last night.”

 

So they were talking about it. That was good. These kind of situations never went well, though. Jimin had heard horror stories from his friends about mornings after hook-ups that had Jimin waiting for the ‘but’ to drop off Taehyung’s tongue like a bomb. Except Taehyung didn’t say another word and Jimin realized he must have been waiting for a reply.

 

He lifted his eyes up to meet Taehyung’s expectant gaze. “Yeah, me too.”

 

The intensity fell off Taehyung’s face and he was back to looking happier than anybody had a right to the morning after a party. Suddenly, a jab of pain behind Jimin’s eyes forced them shut. Just the thought of the party was enough to make him hyper-aware of his headache again and he reached up to massage his temples.

 

“Yikes, that looks like it hurts. You got any advil somewhere?”

 

He made a vague gesture that he hoped was toward the door. “Bathroom. I think there’s some in the medicine cabinet.”

 

The dip in the bed lifted. Jimin opened his eyes and took in the view he hadn’t been in the state of mind to appreciate last night—tanned skin, long legs, a few freckles marring the smooth expanse of his back, the promise of arm muscles rippling under skin as they moved against the rhythm of his strides.

 

Taehyung padded out of his bedroom without an inch of clothing on. Jimin wanted to yell at him to throw something on first, but the sound wasn’t worth the trouble and his roommates were probably out anyway. Knowing Hoseok, he had probably crashed at the party last night, and Yoongi usually spent mornings in his studio.

 

Taehyung returned looking like an angel from heaven, gripping a glass of water in one hand and a few pills in the other.

 

“You’re a life saver,” Jimin said reverently, accepting the offerings.

 

“Of course I am,” Taehyung grinned. “Now be a good boy and swallow.”

 

Jimin almost choked on the water but managed to get the pills down. “I changed my mind. You’re trying to kill me.”

 

“You don’t have to worry about that. I have some interest in keeping you around.” Taehyung’s fingers dropped to Jimin’s abdomen, tracing the lines between his muscles haphazardly.

 

Jimin’s mouth went dry. “Yeah?”

 

Taehyung’s fingers continued their wandering. They dropped to the sensitive skin just below his navel, tickling the line of hair there. “Yeah.”

 

This was something they hadn’t talked about—whether it was a one-time thing or not. They’d been on the topic of friends with benefits when Taehyung had propositioned him, but there’d been no promise of anything other than the one night.

 

Taehyung looked up at him through those dangerously long lashes of his. “We should do this again sometime.”

 

And there it was: the vague, non-committal phrasing that haunted college campuses as ruthlessly as deadlines and alcohol poisoning. It was a poison of its own kind—an insecurity that slipped into your bloodstream, slow-acting and merciless as it creeped its way through your veins to your heart, where it rotted you from the inside. But Jimin could recognize danger when he saw it, and it wasn’t hidden behind Taehyung’s hopeful smile and wide, pretty eyes.

 

Jimin remembered the easy way Taehyung had fallen into his arms, the way the night had been so perfect, the casual way he’d greeted him in the morning like they really were nothing more than the friends they were.

 

“Yeah, we should.”

 

Taehyung’s smile widened. If he was poison, then maybe Jimin was immune because he couldn't feel anything in his veins except the excited thrum of anticipation.

 

And just like that, everything slipped back into normalcy. They spent the rest of the morning watching cat videos on Jimin’s phone until Taehyung got a desperate text from his roommate who was threatening to send out a search party. When he watched Taehyung walk out the door, Jimin's own too-big sweatshirt slipping off his shoulder and making promises to study together later in the week, Jimin felt better than he had in weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimin glared at his phone as if he could summon a message through sheer willpower alone. Unsurprisingly, it didn't work.

 

Two days had passed before Jimin felt the itch of desperation crawl over his skin. It was normal for Taehyung and him to go a day or two without communication—they were full-time students, after all—but the new development in their relationship had Jimin glancing at his phone every hour or so, anxiety building up with each confirmation that he’d received no messages. It was stupidly paranoid, but he couldn’t escape the creeping doubt that Taehyung was avoiding him.

 

After a few minutes of staring at his phone in self-induced agony, he opened up his messenger app and sent out a text.

 

[to: taetae]

wanna hang today?

im done with classes for the day

 

The next minute was filled with a pitiful, and futile, attempt to distract himself with homework and pretend that he wasn't just waiting for a response. Jimin was aggressively coloring a black smudge in the corner of his textbook when the vibration of his phone saved what remained of his pencil lead.

 

[from: taetae]

sure!! im at the coffee shop by the union.

come distract me from studying :P

 

Jimin reread the text, feeling the relief sweep over him like a gust of fresh air. He stuffed his backpack haphazardly and quickly, grabbed his keys, and made his way over to the cafe.

 

Seeing Taehyung in a neutral setting, sober and without a headache, was comforting. The friendly atmosphere of the cafe acted like a buffer against all the doubt he’d been feeling earlier, as did the smile Taehyung greeted him with as he plopped his stuff down onto the chair next to him.

 

“Yo.”

 

“Hey,” he glanced at pile of the books and papers spread out. “Exam coming up?”

 

“Yeah,” Taehyung groaned. “In two days. If I don’t die from some stress-related meltdown first, I’ll probably die from a caffeine overdose.”

 

“Oops. Should I be enabling this, then?” Jimin waved a bottle of cappuccino in front of his face.

 

Taehyung grabbed it with both hands, making a show of bowing in his chair deeply. “My hero. If I die, I’ll make sure to throw the cops off your trail. Burn the receipt.”

 

Jimin laughed and sat down at the other end of the table, sipping on his own drink. “It’d be great if you could pin it on Namjoon-hyung. He still owes me for backing out when he was supposed to help me with English the other day.”

 

“Consider it done.” Taehyung held his drink up for Jimin to clink his with. “Cheers on behalf of Namjoon-hyung, who I’m sure will be missed by some poor, deluded bastard out there.”

 

“I’m gonna tell Seokjin-hyung you called him that.”

 

Taehyung shook his head. “Ah, poor Kim Seokjin. So pretty, yet so naive.”

 

Jimin opened his mouth to respond, but what he was going to say was cut off by a boy approaching their table. His gaze flickered between them nervously before finally settling on Taehyung. “Are you…Kim Taehyung?”

 

Taehyung nodded and held out a hand, which the boy thrust an envelope into. After a quick glance inside, Taehyung reached into his backpack and handed a folded-over paper bag. The boy nodded, thanked him, and left the table without another word. Jimin followed the boy’s path out of the cafe in stunned silence. When he glanced back to the table, Taehyung had already turned back to his homework.

 

Jimin stared at him, dumbfounded. “Tae…”

 

Taehyung looked up from his books.

 

“Was that… ” Jimin felt his voice getting higher and cleared his throat. He leaned in to whisper anxiously. “Was that a drug deal? In this cafe?”

 

Taehyung furrowed his brows in confusion. “It’s not like you didn’t know I did it. It’s just pot.”

 

“Yeah, but—” When Taehyung had told him, Jimin had imagined a scene out of some black and white film noir, involving more trench coats and smoky alleys and fewer brightly-lit cafes and cappuccinos. Suddenly embarrassed by his own naïveté, he just shook his head and trailed off.

 

As if he could read his mind, Taehyung smirked at him. A finger reached out to poke his cheek. “You’re cute, Jiminie.”

 

Jimin scoffed and batted his hand away, ignoring Taehyung's laughter. He wasn’t sure why he was worried about things being awkward around them earlier. Normalcy would always be relative around Taehyung. With a small grin, he took out his books and listened to the calming tap tap tap of Taehyung’s pen against his books, letting the repetition of the noise center him as he began to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After another two days of nothing but friendly communication, Jimin had convinced himself that the reason things weren’t awkward between them was because Taehyung had no intention of hooking up with him again. Despite Taehyung’s clear interest the morning after, he’d given no other indication in the days after that. Jimin was close to ripping off the fraying edges of his notebook paper like a twisted homage to plucking flower petals, muttering he wants me, he wants me not like a pining child.

 

He was trying to put it out of his head by watching the filler episode of a random anime when he heard the blip of his phone.

 

[from: taetae]

my exam is over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D :D

omg i need 2 put this exam out of my mind

at least until i get the score back :’(

 

Jimin could picture him easily: form collapsed on top of his books, ink bleeding onto the soft skin of his face. He was probably making some ridiculous screech in excitement of being done.

 

[to: taetae]

congrats!!!! go light some candles

binge eat lots of food

relax with yoga or smth

 

[from: taetae]

i guess u could call what i need yoga lol ;)

 

Oh. Jimin gulped. Suddenly, the room engulfed him with a stifling warmth. Oh. His phone buzzed again.

 

[from: taetae]

u down?

?

 

It didn’t take much thinking to decide. Not with his brain, at least.

 

[to: taetae]

yep.

meet me at my apartment?

the roommates aren’t home

 

[from: taetae]

perfect. see ya in 20~

 

With each minute that passed, Jimin found himself craving a drink to take of the edge. The prospect of sex sober was intimidating—would it be different, more awkward, without alcohol’s reassuring nudge of confidence?

 

A series of knocks on the door drew him from his thoughts.

 

“It’s open!” He hoped his voice came out sounding stable.

 

Taehyung fell through the entrance with his usual amount of staggering energy. Even after days of studying and taking exams, he still managed to look put together.

 

“Jiminie, you would not believe how relieved I feel right now. I swear I could—whoa, why do you look more stressed than I do?”

 

Apparently his attempts at keeping his face looking normal had failed.

 

“I don’t know, I’m just—” He didn’t know how to finish the sentence.

 

"Nervous?" Taehyung paused in the middle of taking off his shoes to study him. “Hey, chill. If you’re questioning your abilities or something, believe me when I say that you have nothing to worry about.”

 

Jimin shook his head. “It’s not that, it’s just—different.”

 

"Oh, sober nerves?" Taehyung slipped out of his shoes and made his way over from the entrance, sliding onto the couch in front of where he was standing. “How about I give you something to calm you down, then?”

 

“I’m not really in the mood to smoke, Tae.”

 

“Nah, I know that’s not your thing. I was thinking of something a little more—” A pair of hands gripped his hips. Taehyung used the leverage to slide smoothly onto his knees from the couch. “—physical.”

 

Jimin jerked back but a hand on his hip kept him in place. He grabbed the hand which had started to tug at his zipper.

 

“Wait, stop. You were the one who wanted to relax.”

Taehyung glanced up at him from under his bangs. The angle made his eyes look even bigger.

 

“This is relaxing for me. I wanna make you feel good.”

 

The words hit him in his chest, leaving an unsettling buzz in their wake.

 

“Just let me, ok?”

 

Jimin answered with his hands. One on Taehyung’s nape and the other on his shoulder, thumb teasing at the dip of his collarbone. He let himself fall into the sensation—fabric dragging and the warmth of a mouth around him contrasting with the cool graze of air on bare skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Come on, Tae. Give me back my phone."

 

"Just gimme a sec."

 

"Tae."

 

"No wait, really, this one's funny. I promise." Taehyung held the phone away from his reach.

 

"You said that about the last three videos," Jimin whined. "And they've all been awful."

 

"That just means you have bad taste. But I promise you're gonna love this one."

 

"You said that last time, too," He muttered, but didn't try to reach for his phone.

 

It only took two weeks for Jimin to realize that Taehyung was everything the perfect friend with benefits was meant to be. They still hung out like normal most days, with the exception of a few nights a week where Jimin would receive a late text and check out the door surreptitiously for his roommates. It was the embodiment of a casual fling. The only downside was the burden of washing his sheets a few times a week.

 

Before Taehyung, he’d never known that sex could be so fun. In Jimin’s experience, sex had always been intimate at best and awkward at worst, fluctuating based on his experience and who he was with. With Taehyung, sex was a revelation. It was never so serious that Jimin felt burdened by it. There was always a refreshing levity to it that preventing the air from getting too thick.

 

It had become a sort of routine for them to lay on Jimin’s bed after, bare shoulder to bare shoulder, watching videos on one of their phones. It was almost always something dumb that Taehyung thought was hilarious and Jimin only put up with because his laugh was contagious.

 

“It’s not that funny,” He always insisted, but that would just make Taehyung laugh harder.

 

Taehyung left after a few more dumb videos—"Genius," Taehyung would always insist—and Jimin spent the rest of the day riding on that happy high.

 

The combination of good mornings and better nights was permeating over into other aspects of his life. He knew he was floating on air all week because Hoseok and Yoongi had picked up on his good mood. He hadn’t told them about his new situation and wasn’t planning on telling them soon. Though, he probably needed to work on his subtlety.

 

He was washing the dishes when Yoongi first approached him about it.

 

“Stop singing. What’s with you lately? You’ve been, like, glowing.” Which should have been a compliment, but Yoongi made it sound like a crime.

 

Jimin turned a soap-covered bowl over in his hands. He didn’t look up. “What? Nothing’s up with me. Can’t I just be in a good mood?”

 

Yoongi was glaring at him suspiciously in his peripherals. “You know, if it was anybody else I’d say no. But after living with you and Hoseok so long, I have no grasp on how normal humans express normal levels of happiness.”

 

“I’m pretty sure you didn’t have a grasp on that before living with us, either.”

 

“Brat,” he swatted at Jimin lightly. “You’d tell us if something was going on, though, right?”

 

His hands froze for a fraction of a second in their path to pick up a spoon. He prayed Yoongi wouldn’t notice when his hands grasped the metal a little too tightly, knuckles whitening with the effort.

 

“Of course! You know I can’t keep a secret.”

 

It wasn’t a lie, either. Jimin was having enough trouble keeping his voice light and his face straight. Likely the only reason he hadn’t been caught was because he was using the dishes as an excuse to avoid eye-contact, choosing to stare at the grimy sink over what he knew would be a searching gaze. He felt the intensity of it prickle his neck.

 

“Yeah, alright. Just keep it down. Your happiness is making it hard for me to write angsty lyrics.”

 

“I’ll try to keep my happiness at Suga-approved levels. Go back to your emo angst den, or whatever.”

 

“Fuck off.”

 

Yoongi padded out of the room. Jimin’s chest deflated with a small sigh of relief. From the murky water, the dishes stared up at him judgmentally.

 

“Shut up,” he mumbled and scrubbed at the spoon’s metal sheen with renewed vigor until nothing was left but the warped reflection of his own face staring back at him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The confrontation with Yoongi set the tone for the next few days. The good mood he’d been in unraveled until he was almost just as stressed as he’d been before the sex and the post-coital cat videos and the explicit snapchats.

 

It didn’t help that his part-time tutoring sessions were still as awkward as ever.

 

Jimin had agreed to give weekly tutoring lessons after no small amount of guilt-tripping by Namjoon—or perseverance as he had called it, which Jimin supposed is what he called the astronomical number of texts he had sent Jimin, begging for help.

 

That had been five weeks ago. And somehow, in all that time, he’d made almost no progress in connecting to his student. Their sessions were civil at best and painfully awkward at worst. It didn’t help that Jimin had never considered himself to be particularly good at opening up to strangers. Ever since he’d met Hoseok and Taehyung he’d been relying on them to cut at the awkwardness of meeting strangers. He’d always been envious of their innate ability to get along with everyone.

 

Looking at the face in front of him, Jimin wished again for that power. They’d been sitting at the table for a few minutes and he hadn’t been able to get any decent responses out of him.

 

“So,” Jimin cleared his throat. “How was your weekend?”

 

Jungkook barely glanced up. “It was fine, hyung.”

 

Polite, ambiguous, dismissive. Jimin probably could probably fit the number of things he knew about Jungkook onto a post-it note. In size 48 font.

 

“Uh, that’s good. I guess we should get started, then?”

 

And so again, despite his effort, they began another awkward lesson. A migraine pressed against the front of his skull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's not that Jimin didn't know that Taehyung was an eccentric person. He was even fairly well known for it at their university—had been on the campus snapchat story a few times for some of his more original outfits. But eccentric as he was, he wasn't dumb by any means. So there was absolutely no reason for Taehyung to be standing in the shade of an alley with a trench coat and sunglasses on, looking about suspiciously.

 

Jimin promptly tripped on air.

 

“There’s no way,” he muttered under his breath and changed his direction over to the alley.

 

Jimin picked up his pace until he was almost running, but made the conscious effort to slow himself. He didn’t want to bring any more attention to the scene as it was.

 

Taehyung had just noticed him running toward him and had raised a hand to wave when Jimin grabbed him by the collar of his coat and dragged him further into the alley. He ignored the strangled noise Taehyung made and slammed him against the brick wall.

 

“Whoa, Jimin!” He yelped. “Be careful! I have precious goods on me right now! Uh, is this an exhibition thing or something because I’m sort of busy now but I can work with that at a later date—”

 

Precious goods? Are you out of your mind?” Jimin swore he could feel the blood rushing to his face.

 

Taehyung blinked down at him slowly. “Uh…I think you’re maybe overreacting—”

 

“You can be sort of air-headed sometimes but I didn’t think you could actually be this dumb. The cafe in broad daylight is one thing, and I get that drawing attention to yourself is sort of a gift of yours, but you’re going to be legitimately arrested! Oh my god, would you expect me to do conjugal visits in some skeevy trailer outside of—”

 

A quiet mewl interrupted his lecture. Jimin glanced down to see a tiny tuft of fur popping up from Taehyung’s jacket pocket bracketed by two twitching ears. He stared at the slanted green eyes in silent shock.

 

“Taehyung,” Jimin started, licking his lips. “There’s a cat sticking out of your pocket.”

 

Taehyung just stared at him like he was the one with a screw loose. “Jimin, that’s the point.”

 

Oh. Well, that actually made a certain amount of sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first time Jimin met Taehyung was in a dimly-lit pet shop late on a Saturday night.

 

He had just missed the bus at the library and had resigned himself to walking home rather than waiting another 30 minutes for the next one. The sky had turned dark hours before and he spent the first few minutes of his walk looking aimlessly at the lit-up storefronts he usually sped past sitting rigid on a seat, cramped between deflated office workers.

 

Among the glittering advertisements in a passing strip mall, Jimin’s eyes lingered on the storefront of a small pet shop. The outside was modest—it was clearly independently owned—and the only non-homemade sign read OPEN in flickering neon letters. He slowed his steps for a glimpse.

 

There was a laminated sign in the window advertising Adopt Now! in bold red lettering. Tacked next to it was a badly-drawn picture on looseleaf paper of a dog looking up with sad, comically large eyes. The artist’s clear lack of skill aside, there was a charm to it that reminded Jimin of his dog back at home who looked at him the same way whenever he stepped in the door during breaks. The memory was enough to tug at his heart and he allowed himself to stop in, if only to look at the dogs for a minute and leave.

 

A bell rattled loudly above the door as Jimin walked in. There was no indication of a worker behind the counter so he took to randomly wandering around the store, admiring the assortment of toys and wondering if he should buy something for his dog back at home. He was rolling a toy around in his hand absentmindedly when he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

 

“Hello!”

 

The loud chirp startled Jimin and he crushed the toy in his hand, causing it to let out a high-pitched squeak. It fell out of his hand as he whipped around to meet the smiling face of a boy who looked to be around his age, standing a few inches too close to him for comfort. The sheer luminosity of his smile was enough to set him on edge. Anybody who looked that enthused while working in retail was not to be trusted.

 

“Uh, hey.” Jimin backed up slowly into the rack behind him.

 

“My name’s Taehyung! Welcome to Pussies and Bitches. How can I help you today?” Another blinding grin.

 

Jimin choked a little. “The sign outside said this was called Pets n’ Stuff.”

 

“That’s the official name. For now. I’m taking it up with corporate.”

 

Jimin honestly couldn’t tell if he was joking.

 

“Right… Anyway, the sign out there said something about dogs? I was just looking for them?”

 

Taehyung’s grin brightened impossibly further. “Oh yeah, of course! Follow me to the back.”

 

Actually, following this strange boy to the back was beginning to seem more and more like a bad idea, but the memory of his dog back home and the rush of nostalgia prevented Jimin from bolting. They rounded a corner and stopped in front of a long row of cages. Jimin almost cried in joy at the chorus of happy barks that greeted them.

 

“Hello,” he cooed, reaching a finger through the bars of the nearest cage to pet the dog’s paw.

 

“That’s Sonya. She’s one of our most recent additions. We double as a shelter, so you won’t find any of those puppy mill types here.”

 

Jimin nodded but didn’t take his eyes off the small paw under his finger.

 

“If you want to take any of them out, just let me know.”

 

Jimin snapped his eyes over to look at Taehyung in awe. “Could you?”

 

It came out sounding sort of desperate and the boy laughed. “Yeah. What are you looking for?”

 

“Oh, actually I’m not really interested in buying,” Jimin admitted with some guilt. “I was just missing my dog from home and then I saw that you had dogs here to pet and—”

 

“No, it’s fine!” Taehyung leaned closer and winked conspiratorially. “Just keep pretending that you’re looking to buy so I can get out of cleaning up the store.”

 

Jimin grinned. “In that case, let’s start over there?”

 

He pointed at a small dog that was tapping persistently at the cage door.

 

Taehyung returned the grin. “A perfect place to start.”

 

Jimin wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but somehow he was petting his fifth dog and looking at pictures of Taehyung’s precious Soonshimmie on his phone.

 

“She lives with my grandma, but I’m over there, like, five days out of the week on breaks anyway,” Taehyung was explaining. “So I get to see her so often. She’s like my kid.”

 

“Five times a week, huh? Do you have any friends besides your dog and your grandma?”

 

"Watch it," Taehyung elbowed him playfully. “I don’t need to hear that from somebody who has nothing better to do than pet dogs at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night.”

 

The comment brought Jimin back to himself, suddenly painfully aware of how much time had passed while he wasn’t paying attention.

 

“What time did you say? Shit! I didn’t realize it was that late. What time do you close?” he asked, checking his phone. “I'm so sorry. I’ll leave so you can close up or whatever.”

 

Jimin made to stand up but Taehyung waved him off. “It’s okay. I’m the assistant manager here so I can close up shop whenever I want.”

 

Jimin stared in disbelief. “A manager? Aren’t you a little young for that?”

 

Taehyung shrugged. “Probably, but I was recruited.”

 

Jimin laughed before it became apparent that he wasn’t joking. He trailed off awkwardly. “Wait, you’re serious? How does somebody even get recruited by a pet shop?”

 

“I’m an animal whisperer,” he said, without an ounce of irony.

 

“An animal….whisperer. Got it.”

 

“No, I’m serious. I’ll show you sometime.”

 

Taehyung held out his phone to him. Jimin stared at it dumbly.

 

“What?”

 

Taehyung pushed it toward him more incessantly. “Put your number in here. Unless I’ve been misinterpreting this whole night and you were just being nice to me because I was letting you pet the animals. Which is also fine. But I’ll be a little disappointed.”

 

“You don’t even know my name.”

 

Taehyung wasn't deterred. “What’s your name?”

 

“...Park Jimin.”

 

“Great! Now I know your name and you know mine,” He tapped at his nametag. There was a paw print sticker next to the letters, peeling at the edges. “So add your number, Park Jimin.”

 

And, somewhat reluctantly, Jimin did.

 

He heard his text tone go off just before he was about to sleep.

 

[from: unknown]

this is taehyung :D

*cute_sonya.jpg*

Sonya misses you already T_T

i told her you’d be back soon~ kekeke

u can’t break ur promise to her~

 

So, just like that, their friendship began.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So by precious goods you meant—”

 

Taehyung held up the kitten, making twin doe eyes with it. “Benedict.”

 

Jimin let the fabric of Taehyung’s collar slip from his fingers. A flush of embarrassment flooded his face.

 

“I—oh my god. Who does that?”

 

Taehyung grinned, slipping Benedict back into his pocket. “You ran all this way to protect me? Aww, Jiminie that’s so sweet!”

 

“Shut up. If you had seen yourself—”

 

Jimin's lecture was cut short when a shadow cut off the light to the alley. They both turned their heads to see a girl standing at the entrance hesitantly.

 

“…Taehyung?” She called out hesitantly.

 

Jimin couldn't blame her for sounding nervous. They must have looked like quite a scene.

 

Taehyung brightened at her voice and walked over. Jimin watched the two exchange the kitten and money in horrified fascination. But, he supposed, if there was anybody dealing pets on campus, it would be Taehyung. Before the girl could leave, Taehyung pulled out a thick packet from his backpack.

 

“Read all 15 pages carefully. If you have any questions, text me.”

 

Jimin had never seen him look so serious.

 

She nodded, clearly a little intimidated by the gravity he’d spoken with, and left with the kitten in a small carrier.

 

“What was that?” Jimin gestured to where he’d pulled out the papers from his backpack. "A confidentiality agreement so she doesn't rat out your shady ass?"

 

"Ha ha, you're hilarious," Taehyung scoffed. "It's just a little something I threw together on how to care of a kitten.”

 

Jimin stared incredulously. “You typed up a 15 page packet for her?”

 

"20 page packet, actually," Taehyung shrugged, grinning. “And, yeah, obviously. If I’m going to be selling people animals, then I should teach them how to take care of them.”

 

Jimin’s heart clenched in his chest. He looked away from Taehyung’s bright smile. “Right. Obviously.”

 

“Double-sided, though. Save the earth.”

 

Jimin couldn’t stop the smile from spreading over his lips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were bound to be found out eventually, but that didn’t stop Jimin’s heart from skipping a beat when Yoongi and Hoseok walked in the front door while he and Taehyung were still at the table finishing breakfast. The two stopped whatever conversation they were having to take in the scene.

 

He knew what they looked like. Taehyung was dressed, but he was still in his sleep shirt and boxers and their hair was in a distinctive disheveled state.

 

“Oh, hey Taehyung,” Hoseok’s voice was casual, but Jimin could see him eyeing the dark bruise on display over the jagged cut of Taehyung’s collar. He stared at Jimin, lips in a tight line. “Didn’t expect to see you here this early.”

 

Jimin winced. Taehyung, however, hadn’t seemed to picked up on the tension.

 

“Yup! I’m just about to leave, though. I’m running late for class. But hyung, I haven’t seen you in a while! Let’s get lunch sometime this week?”

 

“Of course!” Hoseok’s smile didn’t quite reach the level it was usually at. “We need to catch up!”

 

Jimin knew what that meant. He stared down at the table, not wanting to see the look on either of their faces. Taehyung’s chair dragged against the floor.

 

“Ok, I’m heading out. Bye, Jiminnie, Hoseokie-hyung! You too, Yoongi-hyung.”

 

The slam of the door sounded like the last nail pounding on his coffin. A few tense seconds had barely passed before they confronted him.

 

“So,” Yoongi drawled. “You and Taehyung, huh?”

 

“Hyung—”

 

“Because you said earlier that nothing was going on.”

 

“I know you two aren’t dating because Taehyungie would have told me.” A serious Hoseok was always terrifying. “I’m going to spare you the lecture because I’m positive you know why this is a bad idea.”

 

“Not to mention how many mutual friends we have with him who would kill you if anything goes wrong.”

 

Hoseok stared him down. “Just the fact that you were hiding this from us goes to show that you know it’s a bad idea.”

 

The air around him felt thinner with each accusation.

 

“And do I need to remind you—”

 

I’m not a child!” He tried to blink away the tears forming in his eyes. “I can make my own decisions. I hid it from you because I knew you’d be like this. All overprotective, and shit. I don’t need you guys ganging up on me and telling me I’m stupid!"

 

“Jimin,” Yoongi said, slowly and seriously. “You know that’s not why we’re saying this.”

 

Hoseok’s expression softened. He sat in the chair Taehyung had vacated and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “We’re just trying to look out for you. I’m sorry if it came off like an inquisition.”

 

Jimin took a deep breath and let it out. “Taehyung and I are completely, one hundred percent casual. I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought anything would come out of it. I’ve thought about this, ok? Trust me.”

 

It was quiet in the kitchen for a few minutes before Hoseok’s elbow dropped to hold him in a headlock. Jimin felt his fist noogie at his scalp.

 

“Okay, I’m trusting you, kid! Don’t ever make me worry again.”

 

Jimin laughed and pushed at him, trying to extract himself. Yoongi sighed and shook his head.

 

“Idiots. Jimin, I'm serious. Be careful, ok?” Jimin watched him grab a lighter and his coat. “I’m going outside for a minute. Don’t lock the door.”

 

Hoseok’s arm dropped from its hold around his neck, eyes still following the path Yoongi had taken. A quiet exhale. “I wish he would stop. We’re holding an intervention for him next, ok?”

 

He probably wasn’t being serious, but Jimin silently agreed.

 

“Well, that’s enough sad stuff for one day. Now you have to spill all the details! Taehyungie? Really?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimin wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to the odd way that Taehyung conducted his pet exchanges. (“It’s funnier if you call it a ‘pug deal’. Get it?” Taehyung had said once. Jimin refused on principle.) He had, however, gotten better at preparing himself for the worst. Nothing yet had compared to the shock of seeing him in that trench coat in the alley. In fact, seeing Taehyung with a neon yellow sweatshirt on and three frostees in front of him at a Wendy’s table was borderline normal in comparison.

 

“You’re ridiculous, and I know better than to assume that one of those is for me,” Jimin said as he approached the table.

 

“I need to stand out somehow so they can recognize me.” Taehyung took a spoonful from the first frostee. "And you're absolutely right. Go buy your own, you mooch."

 

“You already stand out with your hair alone. Just admit this is an excuse to eat three frostees.”

 

Taehyung plopped a loaded fry into his mouth and didn’t deny anything.

 

Jimin watched a boy approach the table with detached interest. He watched Taehyung hand over a lizard and a packet—probably typed up and personalized by Taehyung again, the huge dork—and tried not to think too much about the last time he’d seen him.

 

Despite the stress it had caused him, Yoongi and Hoseok finding out was also a weight off his shoulders. He no longer had to worry about keeping his late night trysts with Taehyung a secret. Still, he took care to keep their meet ups from their watchful eyes. The last thing he needed was another intervention about how much time he was spending with Taehyung. It would be a lot easier if Taehyung ever offered his apartment up as an option.

 

He turned to Taehyung when the boy left their table, pet in hand.

 

“Hey. Why don’t we ever go to your apartment?”

 

Taehyung swallowed a large spoonful of frostee. “I dunno. Yours is a lot nicer. Plus, I don’t really like having people over there.”

 

Jimin frowned. “Is your roommate a homophobe or something?”

 

“Nah, I just prefer to not do it in my room. Keep the mystery alive, and all that jazz.”

 

“Why? Is your room a meth lab or something?”

 

Taehyung choked on a spoonful of frostee. “What? Jimin, I failed remedial chemistry. You can’t seriously believe I’m running a meth lab out of my room.”

 

“I said ‘or something’.”

 

“You also said ‘meth lab’.”

 

Jimin pouted. “Look, if it’s not a meth lab then why can’t I see it?”

 

“I’m just gonna put it out there that just because something is not a meth lab does not mean it doesn’t warrant privacy,” he sighed. “Do you really mind that much?”

 

“I mean… It’d be nice to share the laundry and dealing-with-the-roommates burden once in awhile.”

 

Taehyung shrugged, resigned. “I’m not really hiding anything, I guess. You can come if you want.”

 

Jimin leaned forward. “Wait, really?”

 

“Yeah, but promise you won’t regret it.”

 

Taehyung actually held out a pinky to him. Jimin rolled his eyes and linked his finger, conscious of the ease with which the long digit curled around his.

 

“We can go. Just help me finish these frostees first,” Taehyung held out his spoon. “Say ah~!”

 

“Gross,” Jimin muttered, but accepted the spoonful anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever Jimin was expecting was not the modestly furnished, pamphlet-ready living room that stood in front of him. If anything, it was so clean that it was almost suspicious—no college-aged boys would have so little mess in their apartment.

 

“It’s… normal.”

 

He was mildly disappointed.

 

“I know,” Taehyung slipped past him. “You can hardly even notice the metric ton of meth in here.”

 

“Shut up,” Jimin slid a finger over the shining kitchen counter. “Do you hire a maid or something? You must think my place is a pigsty.”

 

“Believe me, this isn’t how it usually looks. Seokjin-hyung came over the other night to cook and sort of went wild with the clorox and all sort of other things I didn’t even know we owned.”

 

Jimin laughed. “That makes sense then.”

 

He let Taehyung press him gently into the counter, lips meeting each other halfway. The granite dug into his spine roughly and after a minute he pulled back.

 

“My back hurts. Carry me to your room.” Jimin begged cutely, wrapping his arms around Taehyung’s neck.

 

Well, he thought it was cute. It seemed to work on Taehyung well enough, because he reached down and picked Jimin up by his thighs.

 

“How dare you. You know I’m a sucker for ageyo.”

 

Jimin tightened his legs around Taehyung’s hips as they waddled over to Taehyung’s room. Taehyung let him down against the closed door, kissing him deeply again while turning his hand against the nob. Jimin closed his eyes, lost in the sensation, and let himself get led again until he felt the soft push of a mattress against the back of his knees. Taehyung pushed him fully onto the mattress, tugging Jimin’s hair to get better access to his neck. Jimin groaned, leaning into it.

 

Jimin cracked his eyes open with the intention of taking his shirt off, but stopped as his gaze connected with a set of eyes that weren’t Taehyung’s. Or human.

 

“Holy shit!”

 

In his haste to back up he must have knocked into Taehyung because he heard a shout and thud like he had fallen off the bed.

 

“Taehyung! What the hell is that?”

 

Taehyung popped up from the floor, cradling his head in one of his hands.

 

“Oh my god, I think I’m concussed.”

 

“Taehyung!”

 

Taehyung finally looked up to where Jimin was pointing, to a large spider in a plastic carrier.

 

“Oh. That’s Sam.”

 

“I’m sorry. Did you just very nonchalantly say ‘that’s Sam’ to that... ”

 

Jimin trailed off as a movement drew his gaze to the other side of the room. Taehyung’s desk was stacked from wood to ceiling with differently colored terrariums and cages, each holding a different animal. Now that he wasn’t distracted by Taehyung’s mouth, he could hear the animals skittering around and the light sound of nails and paws against metal. He took in the sight for a long minute before he was distracted by Taehyung crawling back onto the bed and toward him like a predator.

 

“Now that you’ve met Sam, where were we?”

 

Jimin pushed him back. “What? Are you serious? Taehyung, how could I possibly be in the mood right now?”

 

“Well—”

 

“Did you think I wasn’t going to confront you about the hundreds of animals that you’re storing in this room? Is this apartment even animal-friendly?”

 

Taehyung avoided eye-contact. “Strictly speaking? No. But humans are animals, too, and if we’re thinking about legal loopholes I’d say I have a case—”

 

“Taehyung, no.”

 

He looked over to the desk again, only to see a snake slide up the corner of its carrier. Its tongue flicked out to lick the glass and Jimin shuddered.

 

“Ok, that’s it. I can’t be in this room anymore.”

 

Jimin slipped off the bed, careful not to look in the direction of the desk as he made his way out of the room.

 

“This is why I didn’t want you to come over,” he heard Taehyung mumble behind him.

 

"You should have just told me up front instead of making it sound sexy and mysterious, then."

 

Whatever peace Jimin was expecting after leaving the zoo-fronting-as-a-bedroom was crushed by the sight of a boy sitting at the kitchen table. A very familiar looking boy. Jimin’s life was officially a joke.

 

“Jungkook is your roommate?”

The boy looked up from his cereal. “Huh? Oh, hey Jimin.”

 

“It’s ‘hyung’,” Jimin corrected half-heartedly.

 

“Ok, hyung. Can you keep it down a little next time? I’m trying to study for my exam, which, as my tutor, I’m sure you know is extremely important. I don’t wanna start associating your moaning with anatomy.”

 

“You—brat! What moaning? We didn’t even do anything!”

 

Taehyung just laughed. “I guess I don’t have to introduce you guys.”

 

Jimin shook his head. “When did you even get here? I didn’t hear the door.”

 

“I was actually here the whole time. I just came out to grab some cereal.”

 

Jimin smacked Taehyung on the shoulder. “Why didn’t you tell me he was here?”

 

“He’s heard worse.” Taehyung shrugged.

 

He elbowed Taehyung and tried not to think too much about that comment. And somehow, after all the emotional stress in that apartment, Jimin did not walk out of the door right then. Instead, he found himself walking out three hours later, exhausted from playing video games and full from an assortment of greasy foods he wouldn’t have normally eaten.

 

Somehow, with Taehyung, disasters always managed to turn out alright.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Jungkook like that, as uncomfortable and awkward as it had been, had actually managed to improve their tutoring sessions. Apparently bringing him out of his shell meant having to deal with what an incredible brat he was. He was an amusing brat, though, and Jimin preferred the bullying and innuendo to the tense silences from before.

 

He discovered that Jungkook was also interested in dance—was in a dance group on campus—and that he enjoyed singing casually. He even hugged Jimin at the end of their next tutoring session.

 

“Thanks, hyung. You’re a great tutor,” Jungkook said sweetly.

 

Jimin had been so overwhelmingly happy that he didn’t think to be suspicious of Jungkook’s uncharacteristic kindness.

 

“Of course. Anything for my cute dongsaeng.”

 

Jimin had even pinched his cheeks before he left, practically skipping away and giddy with pride.

 

Of course, the hug had ended up being a diversion to stick a lizard in his hood, which he’d figured out when he went to class afterwards and somebody had screamed, pointing at him in terror. (Jimin still counted it as progress.) What ensued was a week-long prank war which ended up being shut down by Taehyung, who lectured them both about the safety of his animals like a disappointed parent.

 

“Animals are people, too,” Taehyung said.

 

“Hyung, that’s factually incorrect.”

 

In the end, they had to sit through another lecture. Secretly, Jimin didn’t mind it that much.

 

Becoming friends with Jungkook had also gotten him an open invitation to his dance group’s rehearsals, which Jimin had accepted gratefully. He hadn’t been in a dance group since sophomore year, and it was a relief to be a part of one again. Nothing did more to get rid of stress than sweating it out. When he told Taehyung about it, he insisted on showing up for support.

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes when he saw Taehyung walk in.

 

“What are you doing here? You’ve never come to my dance rehearsals before.”

 

“My schedule just cleared up,” Taehyung defended, crossing his arms petulantly. “Plus, Jiminie is better at dancing than you.”

 

Jimin hid his grin behind a hand. If he practiced particularly hard that day, it was just because he had to defend the club’s reputation when an outsider was watching.


At the end of rehearsal he collapsed, boneless and sweaty next to Taehyung. His shirt was sticking to his skin with sweat but Taehyung leaned against him anyway.

 

The rest of the club members were packing up their bags, but Jimin couldn’t gather the energy to stand up to join them. He and Taehyung watched Jungkook tease an older girl in the club with dark hair and pretty hazel eyes.

 

Taehyung leaned over slowly. Jimin became painfully conscious of how he must smell, but Taehyung didn’t seem to mind as he put his lips to his ear, a breath away from his damp hair. The breath against his cool sweat raised the hair on his neck.

 

“Jungkook likes her, and she likes him,” Taehyung whispered. “But they’re both too nervous to confess to each other. Don’t want to ruin the friendship they have.”

 

Jimin stared as Jungkook lifted her up in a fireman’s carry as she hit him, struggling half-heartedly and laughing.

 

“Yeah, but they obviously feel the same way. Why doesn’t Jungkook just confess?”

 

Taehyung hummed. “It’s never that simple. It’s hard putting it all out there, you know?”

 

Jimin knew.

 

They watched as Jungkook swung her bag onto his shoulder, ignoring her protests that she could carry it herself. Jimin couldn't help but feel jealous that Jungkook was younger than him but so much more confident.

 

“Hey,” Taehyung said abruptly, drawing him from his thoughts. “Can I come over tonight?”

 

“Huh? Oh, sure.”

 

“Ok.” Taehyung smiled.

 

Jimin looked back at Jungkook and the girl, affection obvious in their body language, skirting around the boundary between friendship and relationship with each flutter of eyelashes and lingering look. His chest ached.

 

Taehyung stood up.

 

“Get up, lazy bones. Let's go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taehyung was quieter than normal on the bus ride to Jimin’s apartment. Usually he’d be brimming with enthusiasm and small talk, but instead the bus was empty and devoid of its usual atmosphere. Jimin swung his legs and stared enviously at the way Taehyung’s feet reached the ground easily.

 

The mood from the bus walked into the apartment with them. The room felt like it was charged with strange energy, like the top of a cliff seconds before lightning strikes.

 

Jimin glanced over at Taehyung. He was smiling, but something about it was off. It looked like a poor replication of a painting with the wrong kind of brushstrokes. Jimin wasn’t sure what to say to clear the air of the odd heaviness.

 

“Hey, are you ok?”

 

Taehyung shook his head like he was trying to clear his thoughts. “Yeah, just—”

 

And then he kissed him. Jimin almost stumbled back from the force of it. It was slow and dry, just a heavy press of lips against his. A kiss, pure and simple, not asking for anything more. Jimin waited for it to change, to morph into the playfulness he’d grown accustomed to, but after a few seconds Taehyung pulled back. The softness hung between them like a veil until everything was tinted by the feeling, blurry-edged and bright.

 

And then Taehyung leaned forward again, tilting his head and meeting his lips urgently until Jimin got lost in the contagious desperation and returned it.

 

How they made it to Jimin’s room was a mystery to him, because at one moment he had Taehyung hiked up against the wall and the next they were falling back onto his bed, pushing at each other’s clothes like they couldn’t get them off fast enough. His shirt was still clinging to him with sweat but Taehyung didn’t seem to care.

 

Without Taehyung’s sly remarks, the air was filled only by the sounds of their lips and limbs moving together. Taehyung reached over the side of the bed, barely looking as he grabbed the bottle of lube and tossed over a condom.

 

Watching him like this—frantic, exposed, working himself open just for him—Jimin was overcome by the urge to press his thumbs into his hips and leave a mark. He felt Taehyung’s shudder at the point where his thighs were bracketing his own. He dug his fingers in harder, waiting for any sign telling him to stop, to draw back before it bruised, but none came. Instead, Taehyung reached down to hold his face between his hands, unwavering stare pinning him in place.

 

This wasn’t the lighthearted sex he’d gotten used to with Taehyung—no, this was the kind of sex that Jimin used to fantasize about, the kind he’d tasted once or twice or five times before he’d bitten off more than he could chew. He clenched his eyes shut, suddenly overwhelmed.

 

“Look at me,” Taehyung whispered and Jimin couldn’t find it in himself to disobey. He opened his eyes to watch Taehyung slide onto him, back arched, head thrown back, and breathtaking.

 

Fingers twining, limbs twisting together, until Jimin was sure there was nothing but latex separating them, their bodies conjoined in a way that felt more than just physical. When they came, it was together and with each other’s names on their lips.

 

Taehyung untangled himself slowly, dragging a sweaty hand down Jimin’s face to push back his bangs. He eyes searched Jimin’s for something.

 

“Hey, Jimin, I—”

 

But the words were rushing out too fast and too vulnerable. They triggered Jimin’s body into motion and he pressed his lips desperately to Taehyung’s, trapping the words in his mouth. When he pulled back, Taehyung smiled imperceptibly.

 

“Goodnight Jimin,” he said instead.

 

Jimin lay awake far after Taehyung’s breath evened out into sleep’s steady cadence. He lost his sense of time to the sound, mind blank as he turned to look at the body next to him.

 

Taehyung’s face was an inch from his, mouth stretched out in a smile even in sleep. A sharp throb in his chest and all of a sudden the sight was painful to look at. He forced his head to turn away, looking instead at the mess on his bedroom floor. The clothing was fallen where it had been since they’d thrown it there. In the moment, the pile hadn’t warranted a spare glance. Now, Jimin’s eyes caught on the fabric like it was significant.

 

Their shirts were laid out next to each other on the floor, sleeves touching so that Jimin could almost see the ghost outline of hands touching at their apex, fingers intertwined in a phantom vision of intimacy. His heart was so full he swore he felt it spill over.

 

He couldn’t breathe—Taehyung’s arm on his chest felt suddenly like a crushing weight, preventing the air from reaching his lungs.

 

In, out. In, out. In, out.

 

It took all his concentration to focus on breathing. With effort, he slipped the arm off his chest and rolled carefully out of bed, taking care not to disturb Taehyung. The carpet felt rough on his bare skin and chafed him, but he found the discomfort centered him. Even that wasn’t enough, though, and he stumbled to his feet to make his way unsteadily to the bathroom. The cold kiss of the tile below his feet woke him. He stood, alert and direct, facing his reflection in the mirror.

 

He recognized that face, stricken and pale in the mirror—had seen it before. Glassy eyes, pupils blown.

 

“Fuck,” he whispered. “Fuck.”

 

Because he knew how this ended, and it wasn’t back under the covers with a warm body next to him. It ended on cold tiles and a colder bed.

 

It ended with that look reflected in the mirror, but never in another face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As he walked around campus, Jimin tried not to think about what Taehyung must have thought of the hastily-written note he’d left for him on the kitchen table. Tried not to think of what he must have thought when he woke up with his arm resting on an empty expanse of bed instead of a warm shoulder.

 

Instead, Jimin thought of how long it had been since he’d been outside this early, when the last time he’d visited Yoongi’s studio was, how long his hair was getting—anything except Taehyung’s face just before he kissed him into silence. He knew better than to think, or wish, that what was said in the heat of the moment was genuine. It was best to avoid all the confusion and futile hoping altogether.

 

The sun was starting to come down a little hotter and Jimin realized he’d lost track of time. Checking his phone, he’d apparently also missed a couple texts.

 

[from: taetae]

it was so cold this morning :(

where u at?? note was kinda vague..

 

And then another, sent ten minutes after the rest.

 

[from: taetae]

ok im gonna go!! see u soon ? :)

?

 

He’d also missed a snapchat sent a few minutes before the messages. It was a dark shot of Taehyung’s arm and a poorly-drawn stick figure underneath it, with orange hair and a cyan puddle of drool coming out of its mouth. Jimin let it play for the full ten seconds before exiting to reply to the missed texts.

 

[to: taetae]

SORRY

I forgot i promised to help yoongi-hyung

I left quick bc u know how he is @_@

 

The reply he got was almost immediate.

 

[from: taetae]

lol understandable..he can be scary

text me later tonight!

?

 

The problem with avoidance was that it didn’t work internally. Jimin felt the guilt like it was a physical thing in his chest. He sent off a quick confirmation and directed his aimless meandering to the music building.

 

Yoongi was used to him showing up without warning. He seemed to sense the odd mood but thankfully didn’t say anything. He nodded when Jimin walked in, not bothering to take off his headphones, and let him sit in the corner where he could nod off to the quiet comfort of nails on a keyboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You’ve been asleep for a while.”

 

Jimin blinked his eyes open slowly. Yoongi’s face was looking down at him sideways. Probably, he realized, because his neck was crooked at an unnatural angle. The smell of nicotine had overtaken the pine scent from the wooden floor. He must have just come back from a smoke break, then.

 

“Ow.” Jimin straightened up his back. It felt like the unfortunate victim of an amateur acupuncturist.

 

Yoongi rolled his eyes. “Yeah, ow. You were sleeping for an hour. I figured I’d wake you up before I had to worry about carting you to the hospital for spinal damage.”

 

“It’s always about you, huh? I should’ve known.”

 

Eyes searched him, assessing. "Yeah, you should've."

 

A long minute stretched on until Jimin started to squirm under the quiet scrutiny.

 

“Shouldn’t you be working on your track?” He asked, hoping to deflect from whatever was in Yoongi’s head.

 

“Shouldn’t you be asleep in your own bed at,” A glance at his watch. “9 a.m.?”

 

The distraction tactic wouldn’t work, then. But Jimin knew Yoongi well enough that to know he wouldn’t push if there was something he didn’t want to talk about. That was the attraction of his company—quiet comfort without the issue of confrontation.

 

“Hyung,” he began, licking his lips to buy time and gather his thoughts. “What do you do when you get stuck on a track?”

 

“I don’t get stuck. Genius.” Yoongi joked in that pseudo-boastful tone Jimin had been foolishly convinced by when they’d first met, before he’d realized it was a front.

 

Jimin wasn’t in the mood to play around for once. “No, really. What do you when you’ve spent a long time thinking about something, but nothing seems right and you don’t know what else to do?”

 

Yoongi rocked back on his heels, face scrunched up unattractively in thought.

 

“When it gets to that point, there’s really nothing you can do but step back. Like, there have been a few times when I’ve been so frustrated that I left the studio for a few days. The right melody or lyrics always came to me before I fell asleep or while I was in the shower or something. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta give your brain time to rest.”

 

“Rest, huh…” Jimin mumbled.

 

He caught Yoongi glaring at him suspiciously. “Why the sudden interest in my work?”

 

Jimin flashed his most innocent smile. “I’m always interested in you, hyung!”

 

Yoongi pulled a face at him, the one that meant I don’t buy your bullshit but I’m not gonna engage because I don’t care enough. Jimin was usually the target of it.

 

“Well, whatever it is, sort it out,” Yoongi sighed, clearly letting go of the issue. “I don’t wanna have to buy you your own neck pillow if you keep crashing here, kid.”

 

It was an offer disguised as a reprimand, Jimin knew. A subtle reassurance that he’d always be welcome if he needed the space. Thanking him would be addressing that, though, so he just smiled and nodded and let Yoongi walk back to his computer.

 

He left after that. On his way out, he slipped the pack of cigarettes resting on the shelf into his pocket with the futile hope that Yoongi would be too lazy to buy a new pack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the next two weeks, Jimin threw himself into schoolwork. It was avoidance poorly disguised as academic diligence. It also probably wasn’t what Yoongi’d had in mind when he’d unknowingly given him that advice in the studio. In fact, he could imagine exactly what reaction Yoongi would have if he knew what Jimin was doing, but he chose to ignore that.

 

By some stroke of divine luck, distancing himself from Taehyung and midterm season happened at around the same time. He could see the stress reflected in everybody on campus, the weariness wearing down their shoulders like backpacks. Even Taehyung, who spent the majority of his time infuriating everybody around him with how little work he ever did, seemed to be crippling under the weight of studying.

 

The last time Jimin had seen him was in a coffee shop a few days after he’d left that morning. He’d looked a little more frazzled than he usually did, a pencil behind each ear and papers covering every corner of his table. They’d exchanged a quick wave before somebody approached Taehyung’s table and Jimin had taken the opportunity to escape.

 

It wasn’t as easy to escape him digitally.

 

There were only so many excuses Jimin could come up with for not responding to his texts to meet up and it was clear that Taehyung’s suspense of disbelief was waning. The texts had begun to lose frequency and soon the guilt was back with a vice grip on his heart.

 

It wasn’t for long, Jimin justified. He just needed some time to sort out his thoughts. If he’d learned anything in the past few years, it was that he needed to think things through before jumping straight into them. Did he like Taehyung? Did Taehyung like him? He wasn’t confident enough in either answer to act on anything.

 

Still, that wasn’t a version of himself that he particularly admired, the part of him that avoided his problems instead of confronting them. Somewhere along the line he’d convinced himself that avoiding pain was possible. Just a few more days, he kept telling himself. It rang false even to his own ears, as the days dragged on with no solution becoming any more apparent.

 

But time didn’t stand still for Jimin.

 

That fact became suddenly very clear as he walked through the quad the moment his vision latched onto Taehyung. It was amazing how quick he could find him in a crowd, as if his eyes were always subconsciously searching for him. Taehyung's hand was gripping someone’s shoulder as he leaned in to talk to them. Jimin’s eyes followed the hand up to the stranger’s face, which he noted absently was handsome and vaguely familiar.

 

The man angled his head toward him and Jimin finally realized why the face had stuck out in his memory. It was Minsoo, Taehyung’s old hookup.

 

His steps faltered. Taehyung hadn’t mentioned anything about him since that night on the roof when he'd broken things off and Jimin had assumed that meant they weren’t talking anymore. The two of them hadn’t been friends before they started hooking up, so there was no reason for them to be interacting unless—Jimin cut off that train of thought quickly. He had class in a few minutes and he couldn’t think about that possibility yet.

 

The problem was, Taehyung was standing right in front of the entrance to the lecture hall his next class was in. The last thing he wanted to do was pass them, for them to see him or approach him, but he wasn’t going to skip class over a stupid insecurity. Jimin put on his best blank expression and walked a little faster with his head held high.

 

He couldn’t hear their conversation. And as soon as he got close enough that he might be able to, Minsoo glanced in his direction.

 

“Hey, isn’t that—?”

 

In his peripherals, Jimin saw Taehyung turn toward him. “Huh? Oh, Jimin! Wait up! Hey!”

 

Jimin was grateful to have earbuds in. Even though there wasn’t any music playing, it gave him an excuse to ignore Taehyung’s shouts. He picked up his pace until he was safely inside the classroom. When he sat down, the girl next to him pulled her chair a little further away. Jimin didn’t blame her. He felt like he was going to be sick and must have looked just as bad.

 

Jimin pulled out his notebook and obediently took notes. After, he couldn’t remember a single word the lecturer had said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoseok was miraculously in the apartment when he got back.

 

It was a testament to how bad Jimin looked that Hoseok took one look at him before guiding him to the couch. Jimin crumpled gratefully into the cushions.

 

He carried a blanket over from his room and laid it over his shoulders. “You look like hell, Jiminie. Up late studying?”

 

“Nah, just—don’t feel good.”

 

Hoseok nodded sympathetically. “I get it. Midterm season takes a lot out of you.”

 

That was at least partially true. Jimin couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten a good night’s rest, whether or not that was from studying out of necessity or as a distraction.

 

“Do you want me to make you some soup?”

 

Jimin didn’t, not particularly, but being taken care of sounded nice enough that he nodded. Hoseok patted his head and walked to the kitchen, rummaging around through the cabinets. The noise from the cans hitting the wood reminded him of home back in Busan. When he closed his eyes, he could almost picture his mother cooking dinner, shouting for him and his brother to set the table.

 

“I think we still have some left from the last time Yoongi-hyung was sick. Do you remember that?”

 

Jimin groaned. “How could I forget? My muscles are still sore from doing all that manual labor.”

 

“I know,” Hoseok rolled his eyes. “He acts so tough, but really he’s just a huge baby. I should have been paid a maid’s salary for all the work I did that week.”

 

“He’d probably pay you if you wore a maid costume.”

 

Hoseok coughed, flustered.

 

“Fuck off! He would not," He scratched his head absently. "Actually, I can sort of see him getting some sadistic pleasure from that. Asshole.”

 

“Asshole.” Jimin agreed, fondly.

 

“Speaking of assholes…”

 

Hoseok trailed off, which was never a good sign. Jimin braced himself for whatever forthcoming lecture he was in for this time.

 

“What?”

 

“Tae told me he hasn’t seen you in a while.”

 

Jimin froze, didn’t respond. He didn't have a response for that.

 

Hoseok continued, undeterred by his silence. “Well, he actually said that he thought you were avoiding him, but I told him that he was probably being over dramatic like he usually is. And the Jimin I know would never do that to our friend.”

 

It was either a genuine statement or a subtle warning to get his shit together. Hoseok really wasn’t one for subtlety, though, so Jimin thanked him for his faith and tried not to feel guilty about it.

 

“I haven’t been feeling too hot lately. Haven’t really had the time, either.”

 

Hoseok shrugged, back still facing Jimin as he warmed the soup. “I figured it was something like that. Just don’t leave him hanging too long, yeah? He’s a sensitive guy, even if he tries to act cool.”

 

“Actually,” Jimin looked away. “On that subject. I think I might end things with him.”

 

Hoseok turned around, surprised. "Wait, really? Why?"

 

Jimin wasn't sure what Hoseok would accept as an answer. Technically he didn't owe him an explanation, but it felt wrong not to tell him anything, even if what he was going to say wasn't strictly the truth. He knew how Hoseok would respond if he told him what was really on his mind.

 

"I just think it's time, you know? We've had fun, but I don't want to stop him from seeing other people just because he's with me. And I think he's been with other people lately, anyway."

 

“Taehyungie’s been seeing other people?”

 

Jimin nodded, feeling a little uncomfortable now that they were talking about it. “I saw him the today talking with Minsoo.”

 

“Minsoo? Are you sure? I thought he was dating somebody else.”

 

“I don't know. Maybe they broke up, but he and Taehyung were talking on the quad. I think maybe Taehyung got impatient waiting to meet up with me while I was busy with finals.”

 

Hoseok frowned. “That doesn’t sound like him.”

 

Jimin had thought so, too.

 

“Yeah, well. It’s not like we were official or anything. He can do whatever he wants.”

 

“Sure, I guess, but—” Hoseok cut himself off. “You’re okay with it, Jiminie?”

 

"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"

 

Hoseok looked like he didn't believe him, but he didn't press the issue. Jimin had been getting better at lying recently. To Hoseok, to Taehyung, and to himself.

 

While he was lost in thought, a bowl leaking steam was thrust in front of him.

 

"The chef presents you with chicken noodle soup," Hoseok announced. "Food for the soul."

 

Jimin took a tentative slurp. It tasted mostly like hot water, but he was still grateful. "Tell the chef that my soul is thankful."

 

"I'll pass along the message."

 

He wasn't sick, but it really was a good excuse to be coddled and look miserable without needing to be at all forthcoming.  He went easy on Hoseok with the demands, which meant that he mostly curled up on his lap and whined for his hair to be petted. All the platonic intimacy was a good distraction and Jimin slipped into bed that night feeling much better than he had all day.

 

Later in the night, just when Jimin was about to fall asleep, a notification from his phone lit up the dark room.

 

[from: taetae]

i saw u today!!

i yelled your name

u didnt hear me though :(

ppl looked at me like i was crazy…

 

Jimin couldn’t find it in himself to feel that guilty. It always was easier to blame others than to confront your own issues.

 

[to: taetae]

sorry, i probably had earbuds in!

wanna meet up tomorrow?

 

[from: taetae]

yes!!!!!!!!!!! :D

ill text u after class!!!!!

 

He was probably expecting to hang out or hook up. Jimin felt bad for deceiving him, but it wasn’t as though he was outright lying—just avoiding the whole issue of why he wanted to meet up. Still, it was hard to fall asleep knowing that Taehyung was most likely resting somewhere else, oblivious and content.

 

Jimin fell asleep clutching the empty side of the bed in the lonely gaps between his fingers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The television was playing the rerun of some show that Hoseok was into, but Jimin found that he couldn't pay attention to it at all. He sat on the couch, barely taking in any of the dialogue. Every minute or so, his gaze drifted over to the door where he expected Taehyung to waltz in at any moment. It was a long wait.

 

Jimin heard a knock on the door five minutes after they agreed to meet.

 

"Come in!" He yelled.

 

Taehyung walked over to him, grinning widely. "Yo, Jiminie. Long time no see."

 

The guilt was back. "Yeah."

 

Taehyung leaned down to kiss him but Jimin pulled back after a beat.

 

"Actually, I just wanted to talk today. If that's okay."

 

Taehyung looked confused, maybe disappointed. Either way, he settled onto the couch next to Jimin a little reluctantly. "Yeah, sure. What's up?"

 

"This might be kind of abrupt, but. Um."

 

Jimin hated confrontation, but even he knew that sometimes it was easiest to rip the bandaid off rather than prolong the pain. Taehyung was leaning forward, his face looking as anxious as Jimin figured his looked.

 

"Yeah?"

“I think we should stop hooking up.”

 

“Oh.” It wasn’t really a question or a statement. Just a quiet exhale of breath.

 

The words tripped over themselves to get out of his throat, as if his body knew he owed Taehyung an explanation even if his mind didn’t. He wasn’t even sure if Taehyung wanted one.

 

“I mean, we were going to end it eventually anyway, right? I've been getting busier lately, and I don’t want anything we've been doing to stop you from seeing someone else. They'll probably be free more often than me, anyway."

 

"Oh," Taehyung wasn't looking him in the eye and Jimin couldn't read his expression. "I mean, yeah, of course. If that's what you want."

 

Jimin nodded.

 

"Ok. I didn't mind waiting, though. If that changes any—I mean, I just think you should know that."

 

Of course not, Jimin thought bitterly, thinking of Minsoo.

 

"How about one last kiss for the road?" Taehyung smiled. "Just for old time's sake."

 

Something about Taehyung's demeanor compelled him to say yes. Or maybe he was just looking for an excuse to prolong this just one moment longer. "Yeah, okay."

 

Taehyung reached forward and grabbed the Jimin's cheeks in his hands. He leaned forward slowly and closed his eyes. The pull of their lips together was natural and the kiss was dry. Jimin had expected it to be desperate, but it was just a simple peck, drawn out. Lips against lips. Still, there was something more to the gentle press that made it feel almost significant.

 

Jimin pulled back. Taehyung's eyes were still closed and his lips parted like he was stuck in the moment, frozen in time. When he opened his eyes, Jimin almost wished they'd stayed closed. It was like they were peering into every secret of his as they stared at each other in silence.

 

Taehyung began to smile so Jimin broke eye contact first. It was hard to look at. He drew in a shuddering breath.

 

"Tae—"

 

"Friends again?" Taehyung cut him off, holding out a fist.

 

Jimin bumped it with his own. "Yeah, friends."

 

They fell into silence again. The air was awkward, and Jimin knew there was no way to clear it. He tried anyway.

 

"So…do you wanna stay and watch a movie or something?"

 

Thankfully, Taehyung shook his head. Jimin didn't know what he would do if he'd said yes.

 

"Nah I've got, like, homework and stuff I should probably be doing. Next time, though?"

 

"Yeah, sure," Jimin agreed, somewhat confused by how quickly Taehyung was rushing to put on his shoes.

 

Maybe it was because suddenly everything seemed so final, like the end of something entirely different. As Jimin watched Taehyung close the door behind him, he tried to convince himself he hadn't just made a huge mistake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mistake or not, life went on.

 

After that night, things were a little different. He and Taehyung still talked, but it wasn't as often as it used to be. Jimin figured that was normal. They both needed some space to readjust to friendship. And maybe some space would do them good. For a while, though, it seemed like Taehyung was always in the peripherals of his vision. He couldn't escape. It didn't help that Taehyung was always wearing something attention-grabbing to sell his pets, or maybe just because he was Kim Taehyung, ever eccentric and never one to conform.

 

Jimin tried not to feel regretful when his snapchat streak with Taehyung ended and it never really started up again. But Taehyung still watched his stories, and he still watched Taehyung's. Sometimes he felt like he was intruding watching them, like he was an outsider who didn't deserve to know about Taehyung's daily life. Sometimes he saw people he didn't know around with Taehyung and it was a stinging reminder that there were a lot of things they didn't talk about anymore. That there might be people out there who could do something for Taehyung that he couldn't.

 

Jimin started taking longer to reply to texts. The longer he waited, he figured, the less it would seem like he was affected by his decision to break things off. Soon, Taehyung started following his example until their conversations were so drawn out that they were never really relevent and neither of them could keep track of them.

 

He wasn't sure how much Hoseok had heard about their situation from Taehyung, but he was walking on eggshells around Jimin like he was waiting for him to break at any moment. It was frustrating, and Jimin figured the only reason Hoseok hadn't confronted him yet was because he still felt guilty about the last time he and Yoongi had lectured him.

 

But eventually even that stopped, too, and almost everything was back to normal. Almost.

So maybe it was a little more lonely, and a little more painful, but things always hurt before they got better. It was something Jimin had learned a long time ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bzzt. Bzzt.

 

Jimin sat up from his desk with a startled jolt at the vibration. Somehow he'd fallen asleep watching dance videos on his phone with his cheek resting on the screen. He groaned, checking his phone to see what time it was and who had messaged him.

 

The clock read 23:54. Below it, 2 Messages from: taetae blinked on and off at him accusingly.

 

Jimin stared at his phone in surprise. Seeing that name flash up at him was something he hadn't seen in a while. When was the last time he'd messaged Taehyung? The last time Taehyung had messaged him? Two weeks, he realized. It had been two weeks since they'd talked, or texted, or even seen each other. He unlocked his phone, trying not to predict what the message might contain.

 

[from: taetae]

hey. i know we haven’t talked in a while

but this is kinda urgent… can i call??

 

Taehyung had never asked for permission before. He’d always been the type to call at inappropriate times, never thinking about the consequences and never feeling guilty afterward. Asking alone was a sign that Jimin had truly let their friendship fall victim to the glacial drag of time. He sent back "yea" and his phone rang about three seconds later.

 

As soon as he picked up, his ears were overwhelmed with a rush of words of which only his name he could understand. It was stupid, but he’d forgotten how low Taehyung’s voice was. It sounded even lower over the phone and Jimin held the phone closer to his ear as if it could bring him closer.

 

“Tae,” he interrupted, trying to sound calm. “Slow down, please.”

 

“Sorry,” A deep breath in and exhale on the other line. “What I was saying was that pest control is coming to my building sometime in the next two weeks. Apparently they’re doing a routine sweep through the rooms to set down traps and stuff.”

 

He paused as if he was waiting for Jimin to comment, like he was expecting some sort of reaction.

 

“And…?”

 

“Jimin, I have about a hundred prohibited animals in my room.”

 

“Oh.” Oh, shit. He wasn’t sure how he’d forgotten considering the traumatic encounter that had been.

 

“There's also a shit ton of weed, but that's easier to hide and it's not like they're bringing in police dogs—shit, sorry. I'm rambling. Anyway, if they find out, they’re probably going to charge me, like, five hundred dollars for breaking the lease agreement, and you know I can’t afford that right now. I called the hyungs but I forgot that Jin-hyung is allergic to anything with fur, and I wasn’t sure who else I could call—”

 

The words were starting to rush together again. “Tae, it’s fine. You know it’s cool to call me, right?”

 

“Oh. Sure,” It almost hurt to hear the surprise in his voice. “I just—I don’t know. I was being stupid.”

 

“You’re not being stupid, Tae. Just—we’re friends, right?”

 

Jimin could almost feel the warmth of Taehyung’s uneven breaths on his cheek.

 

“...Yeah. Yeah, Jimin. Best friends.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taehyung looked exhausted but thankful as he brought the first round of carriers into Jimin’s room.

 

“Have I mentioned how grateful I am?”

 

He had. About fifty times over the phone and another fifty as soon as he’d walked in the front door.

 

“Because, seriously. You can call in any favor you need from me and I’ll do it. Like, literally anything. I’ll even do your homework or laundry or su—”

 

From the way Taehyung cut off so suddenly, looking a little flustered, Jimin guessed he’d probably been about to suggest something inappropriately sexual.

 

“—Uh, something.” Taehyung finished awkwardly. Admittedly, it was a good save.

 

“Thanks,” Jimin said. He tried not to think about what Taehyung had been about to offer or how a month ago he would have finished the sentence without a second thought and Jimin could have dismissed it as the joke it was.

 

They loaded the rest of the boxes into Jimin’s room in relative silence, until the space next to his desk was strikingly similar to the organized mess that used to mark Taehyung’s room. As they put down the last pack of food, Jimin wracked his brain for something to say that would break through the uncomfortable silence. As usual, Taehyung came to the rescue.

 

“So, I’ll swing by every day to feed them all since I’m sure you don’t really want to learn how to do all that. And you seemed pretty grossed out by a lot of them, uh, before.”

 

Before, Jimin thought, was an interesting way to put it.

 

“Hyung might be around, too, but tomorrow I have—”

 

“—Econ at three, practice right after. I remember.” Taehyung waved a hand dismissively.

 

Jimin’s breath caught. “Right.”

 

It was just another intimate reminder in the growing collection of intimate reminders of what things used to be like—another conversation where they awkwardly tip-toed around what they’d been to each other before. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand it.

 

Taehyung cleared his throat loudly, looking around the room and avoiding eye contact.

 

“Well, I should probably get going. I’ll probably see you tomorrow, yeah?”

 

“Yeah. See you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He wasn’t sure if it was intentional or not, but Taehyung was there the next day when he got back from practice.

 

He was surrounded by a collection of bottles of seeds and insects and other unusual substances that Jimin figured he was best off not recognizing. Taehyung raised a hand in acknowledgement when he walked in but didn’t take his eyes off whatever creature he was in the middle of feeding.

 

“Hoseok-hyung let you in?”

 

“Yup,” Taehyung said, still not looking up. “He left right after. Also, he told me to pass on the message that he’s going to feed you to the snake if you don’t wash the dishes before tomorrow.”

 

“Very funny,” Jimin scoffed. “Like that tiny thing could even match up to me and these biceps."

 

“Actually, snakes open their jaws wider than you think. It could probably get its mouth around your arm."

 

Taehyung wilted under Jimin’s glare. “But, it won’t. Bite your arm, I mean.”

 

“Of course,” Jimin eyed the snake warily. “Hey, uh, you’re not going to whip out a live mouse for it or anything, right? Because I’m not sure I can handle watching that, to be honest.”

 

Taehyung laughed. “You’re such a softie. Rat snakes only eat about once a week, so you won’t have to worry your bleeding little heart about that.”

 

He watched Taehyung carefully go through the motions in silence, studying his profile as he concentrated. The dark circles under his eyes that had been there when he’d seen him last were still there, but Taehyung’s skin looked less pale and sickly, like he’d finally gotten a good night’s rest.

 

Taehyung glanced over to catch his eye and Jimin tore his gaze away quickly.

 

“Hey,” Taehyung cleared his throat. “It’s good talking to you again. I, uh—I missed you a lot.”

 

“Yeah,” Jimin agreed softly. “Me too.”

 

"But seriously. It was weird not talking to you for that long. Let's never do it again."

 

Jimin laughed. "Agreed."

 

Taehyung grinned, standing up. "Come with me. I brought you something."

 

He motioned Jimin over to a brown paper bag in the living room that he had missed when he'd walked in. Taehyung held it out to him.

 

"Here, take it."

 

Jimin did. Inside the bag were a variety of dog toys and treats piled so high that the bag was stuffed full.

 

"Taehyung…"

 

Taehyung looked away under his stare and scratched his neck sheepishly. "I figured you could use all that for your dog when you go home. Win back his favor from your brother, you know?"

 

Jimin had been complaining about how little his dog paid attention to him lately a month ago, but he hadn't realized that Taehyung was paying attention.

 

"Thanks. I appreciate the thought, but…why?"

 

"It's a thank you gift for putting up with all this. I know that I'm—that this is a lot to handle, and you really didn't have to do it. I'm seriously grateful."

 

Jimin shook his head. "Tae, you really didn't have to. How much did this all cost?"

 

Taehyung smiled. "Don't worry about it. They were basically free with my employee discount, and Soonshimmie is already too spoiled to get more toys."

 

"I don't know what to say. Thank you, Taehyung. Seriously."

 

"Don't thank me. Think of it as a generous donation from Pussies and Bitches."

 

Taehyung's grin was so bright that Jimin couldn't help but return it.

 

"That's still not the name of the store."

 

"Just let me have my fun."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time since Jimin had met Jungkook in Taehyung's apartment, the atmosphere in the classroom for tutoring was awkward. It was as if the past few months had never happened and they were back to square one. Usually they chatted at the beginning of a session, but as soon as Jungkook sat down at the desk he pulled out his textbooks without a word. Jimin tried asking if he was okay, but Jungkook didn't acknowledge that he'd asked anything at all. He stayed with his nose in his textbook as if Jimin didn't exist at all.

 

Eventually, he couldn't stand the cold treatment any longer. Jimin slammed his hand on the table, a little harder than he'd intended to.

 

"What's wrong with you?"

 

Jungkook looked up in surprise, as if he hadn't been expecting Jimin to confront him. Jimin couldn't imagine why, given how uncomfortable the atmosphere was. Maybe Jungkook hadn't realized what he was doing. That thought was crushed when Jungkook glared up at him and went back to studying.

 

"No, I'm serious. Did I do something wrong? Because if I did, I'd much rather talk it out with you then play this cold war game."

 

Jungkook rolled his eyes. "Oh, so you don't like the cold shoulder? That's a little hypocritical of you. Or is it that you just don't like being on the other side of it?"

 

"What are you talking about?"

 

Apparently it was the wrong thing to ask. Jungkook slammed his book close and glared at him from across the desk.

 

"Are we going to pretend like you didn't just ignore Taehyung for two weeks? Because I'm not sure I can play along with that."

 

Foolishly, Jimin had hoped that Taehyung would keep that detail to himself. He'd assumed that Hoseok had convinced Taehyung he was being dramatic.

 

"I wasn't ignoring him, I was just busy with school."

 

"You were so busy that you couldn't reply to his texts? He's not stupid enough to believe that, Jimin, and I'm not either."

 

There was nothing Jimin could reply with that wasn't an obvious excuse. Frustrated, he felt his eyes getting watery the same way they always did during confrontations. He hated how it always made him look helpless. Weak. In this case it seemed to work in his favor, though, because Jungkook's demeanor softened at the sight of him holding back tears.

 

"Look, it's fine if you rejected Taehyung or whatever. I'm not some asshole who's going to stop being friends with you just because you don't return his feelings. But if he's not going to confront you about being a dick, then I will."

 

"But—I didn't reject him. We just stopped hooking up. He doesn't like me like that."

 

Jungkook shook his head sadly. "Come on, hyung. I think we both know that it was more than that. Just—stop giving him false hope. I'm not going to stand by and watch him get hurt again because you don't know how to tell him no."

 

"No," Jimin denied. "I'm not giving him false hope. He doesn't like me, and he probably didn't even mean to see me again. We just happened to make up because I've been seeing him more often, that's all."

 

"I guess this is the only I can make you understand," Jungkook fixed him with a serious look. "Jimin, pest control isn’t coming to our apartment.”

 

The seed of doubt was already planted in his gut but he needed to know for sure.

 

“You mean—they finished already?”

 

Jungkook shook his head. “Hyung, they were never coming.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was an extra stab in the chest to see the girl from Jungkook's dance team pick him up from their study session. Jimin had watched with a heavy heart as Jungkook pressed a kiss into her hairline and the two of them twined their fingers together.

 

Jungkook's words ran through his head for the rest of the day. He felt like a zombie, consumed by one thought alone. Even so, hearing it from Jungkook's mouth wasn't enough. He needed to see Taehyung shape the words himself.

 

Jimin stared at his apartment door for minutes before digging in his pocket for keys. Taehyung would be behind that door just as he usually was when Jimin got home. He'd been writing that off as a coincidence, but he wasn't so sure about that now. What he was sure of was that as soon as Taehyung saw him, he'd know something was wrong. Anxiety clawed at his nerves, but there was nothing he could do except turn the knob to open to door.

 

There Taehyung was, sitting in the living room, looking up at the him with a smile.

 

And sure enough, Taehyung noticed the odd atmosphere he brought into the apartment. It was obvious in the cheerful smile on Taehyung's face that slipped into something a little less bright as he walked in.

 

“Hey, Jiminie. What’s up?”

 

Jimin cleared throat, trying to think of something to delay this conversation.

 

"Not much. Hoseok-hyung let you in again?"

 

Taehyung shook his head, eyes piercing and observant. "Nah, it was Yoongi-hyung this time. As soon as he opened the door he told me to get all the animals out of the apartment as soon as possible. Between you and me, I think he's terrified of cute things. Guess that explains why we've never been close."

 

Jimin wished he could find it in himself to laugh. Instead, a strangled sound escaped his throat. He knew Taehyung wasn't going to let it go.

 

"Jimin… Are you okay?"

 

His voice was so soft and caring and everything that Jimin didn't deserve.

 

"Tae…"

 

His voice trailed off. Even so, Taehyung didn't rush him. He just waited patiently until Jimin could find his words again.

 

"Jungkook told me about your apartment. How pest control wasn't coming."

 

"Oh." Taehyung looked down, voice quiet. "Did he…tell you anything else?"

 

"…Yeah."

 

Taehyung nodded, still keeping his eyes pointed toward the ground. "I probably should have guessed he was going to say something eventually. He kept pushing for me to ask you out even though I told him it wouldn't work out."

 

"What?" Jimin blurted out. He'd been expecting denial, maybe anger directed at Jungkook. What he hadn't been expecting was a genuine confession, out there in the open so that even Jimin couldn't warp the words into something they weren't.

 

Taehyung stared at him, like maybe he'd said the wrong thing. "Isn't that what Jungkook told you? Oh shit, he didn't. I'm so sorry I just dropped that on you, fuck—"

 

Jimin shook his head, mind still reeling from the confession. "No, no, that is what he said. Just—I don't know. I guess I didn't believe him."

 

"Oh," Taehyung said. "Really? I thought—I thought you broke things off because you knew I liked you."

 

Jimin's mind was still racing. It didn't make sense anymore. Nothing was adding up. "But if you liked me, then why were you hooking up with other people?"

 

Taehyung looked genuinely confused. "What other people? I wasn't seeing anyone but you!"

 

"But—I saw you the other day talking on the quad with Minsoo."

 

“Jimin, I wasn't talking to Minsoo that day because we were hooking up. I was asking him for advice because he confessed to his friend with benefits and they said yes. He was just helping me out, nothing else."

 

Jimin could see that Taehyung was beginning to fight back tears, but he couldn't say anything to comfort him or to respond. The words were all stuck in his brain behind a wall of anxiety.

 

"Look, I'm sorry for lying to you about the whole pest control thing. It was an excuse to see you again. I was worried that if I didn't force you to talk with me, we would never talk again. And even though you didn’t like me back I just wanted to be friends. But I thought—I think—” Taehyung drew in a deep breath and looked up at him through his damp eyelashes. “Jimin, do you feel the same?”

 

He'd put his heart in Jimin’s hands like he was ready for him to crush it. Jimin let his silence do the dirty work for him—could almost see the fingers dig in with each minute that his brain refused to churn out the words that would make Taehyung stay. But his brain reacted too late. He knew the second those fingers tightened because Taehyung’s face went blank. He shut his eyes so he wouldn’t have to watch Taehyung leave, but sounds filled in the blanks that vision couldn’t and his mind produced a vivid image anyway. It didn’t hurt any less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were only a few places that Jimin went to when he was confused and needed to think. But most of them were in Busan and much as he wished that he could go home, it wasn't an option. Sitting in his room wasn't helping either; it seemed like every corner reminded him of some memory with Taehyung, something else to distract him. Eventually, Jimin couldn't take the suffocation from the dead air in his room. His feet carried him to the one other place he knew he could go to.

 

Yoongi wasn't in his studio when Jimin arrived. The door was unlocked and the lights were still on, though, which meant that he was either in the bathroom or out for a smoke break. From past experience, Jimin was betting on the latter.

 

Entering the roof, Jimin inhaled a deep breath of fresh air before the bitter smoke filled his lungs. Just as he had predicted, Yoongi was standing by the railing with cigarette dangling from his fingers. Jimin approached his side. He leaned on the rail next to Yoongi, for once not minding the dry trails of smoke he was inhaling.

 

For a while they just stood side by side in silence.

 

"Hyung," Jimin said, finally breaking the silence. "I fucked up."

 

Yoongi blew out another cloud of smoke. "Fucked up as in you forgot to turn in your homework, or…?"

 

"How about… fucked up as in I may have ruined my friendship with Taehyung forever."

 

"Oh."

 

Jimin rested his head against the railing. "Yeah."

 

"That's…"

"Yeah. Fuck."

 

The cold metal against his forehead was just cold enough that it burned a little. Jimin couldn't bring himself to care.

 

Yoongi shook his head. "You know, I kind of predicted something like this would happen."

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"You and Taehyung—it wasn't good for you. Me and Hoseok both thought so, but we didn't want to make it seem like we were coddling you."

 

The thought that Hoseok and Yoongi had both been silently judging his relationship came as a painful shock. All those times he'd thought they finally acknowledging his independence, they were really just waiting for him to learn his lesson. It felt a little like anger and a lot like betrayal.

 

"So what? You were just waiting for me to fuck things up with Taehyung so that you could step in and say 'I told you so'?"

 

"I wasn't waiting for anything," He could tell that Yoongi was getting angry. "You told us to back off! What the hell were we supposed to do? Give you unsolicited advice and get chewed out again?"

Logically, Jimin knew he was right. But lately he'd been feeling like his life was a string of events working against him and he needed someone to take it out on.

 

"You could've, I don't know, not talked about me behind my back, maybe?"

 

"It's not like we were gossiping about you, Jimin! We were worried and didn't know how to help. What you and Taehyung were doing wasn't healthy for you."

 

Jimin scoffed. "Coming from you, that's a joke. Who are you to say what's unhealthy for me when you're literally here on the roof, smoking what's probably your third cigarette of the day?"

 

"Jimin. Shut up."

 

"What, so you can be concerned for me, but I have to keep quiet about you destroying your body? Fuck that. I haven't said anything to you until now because I thought it wasn't any of my business what you do with your body, but apparently that's not the case between us anymore."

Yoongi glared at him. "Jimin, seriously. Shut the fuck up."

 

Usually that would have been enough for Jimin to think twice about what he was saying, but a fire in his chest had ignited and he was having trouble putting a stop to the angry burn of it. He wasn't sure if the bitter atmosphere on the roof was from the cigarettes or his mood.

 

"No, fuck you! If you get to be a sanctimonious asshole, then so do I!" Jimin felt his voice getting louder and angrier but couldn't stop the words from coming out. "I've seen what cigarettes can do to people, and it's so incredibly ironic that you're so smart in every other aspect of your life and so stupid in this one! If you cared about your health, or your future, you'd just quit and spare yourself the—"

 

"I tried, okay? I tried to quit!" Yoongi yelled.

 

The words froze in Jimin's mouth at the sound. The fire in his chest fizzled out and he felt cold spread through his body in its place. "But, you—"

 

"I mean, obviously it didn't work," Yoongi dragged a hand over his face. "Have you ever gone through withdrawal?"

 

Jimin thought he had, but it didn't feel like shaky fingers and empty lungs. It felt like cold sheets and long nights.

 

"I'm sure you can imagine even if you haven't. It's just this—constant, relentless awareness that you're missing something every moment of the day. And even when you have a good day, you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop and the longing to come back. It's miserable. Fuckin' intolerable. I lasted a whole two weeks before I couldn't do it anymore," Yoongi took another long drag, coughing the smoke out with a self-deprecating laugh. "Weakest I've ever felt."

 

"Why didn't you tell us?" Jimin asked softly. "Me and Hoseok—we would've tried to help you."

 

Yoongi shrugged. "I liked the feeling of doing it alone. Proving to myself that I could do it, even though in the end I couldn't."

 

Jimin couldn't think of anything to say to that.

 

"Look, I didn't tell you all this shitty personal stuff for nothing," Yoongi said. "I know you're probably looking for all of this to add up to some neat little metaphor for you to apply to your life, but Taehyung isn't your cigarettes. He's not a problem that's going to go away if you just stay away from it long enough."

 

Yoongi's always had a way with words, Jimin supposed. It was fitting that he would say exactly what he didn't want to hear but exactly what he needed.

 

"I know you, Jimin. And I know you're going to regret it if you don't talk to him. At the very least you owe him an apology," Yoongi stubbed his cigarette out on the rail. "Taehyung's a good kid. I think he'll understand if you explain things to him."

 

Jimin knew that, too. But there were also things he didn't feel like revisiting and what Yoongi was suggesting was one of them.

 

"I know it's just—hard. Thinking about all that again."

 

"I know," Yoongi glanced over at him, a contemplative look on his face. "Tell you what, kid. You talk to Taehyung, and I'll try quitting again."

 

"What, seriously?"

 

Yoongi nodded. "I'll even tell Hoseok this time. And you know how he is—that's a pretty big promise I'm making."

 

He was right. Hoseok was so overbearing that he'd probably spend every free moment of his time making sure that Yoongi didn't fall back into old habits. The thought of him prattling on to an irritated Yoongi about what WikiHow articles said about the best way to quit smoking was enough for Jimin to break into a fond smile.

 

"I hope you know you're essentially signing up to have a conjoined twin."

 

"God, I know," Yoongi groaned. "Honestly, the sacrifices I make…"

He was joking, but Jimin did appreciate the truth of it.

 

"You're my favorite hyung," He said sweetly, voice teasing but with just enough sincerity that Yoongi would know he meant it.

 

"Thanks, brat. You have your moments, too."

 

It was probably the closest Jimin would get to a sincere compliment from Yoongi. Just as he was about to leave, Yoongi called out to him once more.

 

"I think I heard Hoseok say something about Taehyung going out tonight. If you're looking for your chance, that's probably it."

 

Jimin thanked him and left the roof with a goal in mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jungkook texted him the location of the party Taehyung was at along with a few choice words, which was more than Jimin supposed he deserved. Ironically it was at the same place where they'd decided to start hooking up the first time. At least that supported Jimin's theory that his life was one giant cosmic joke. He didn't spot Taehyung in the main rooms where most of the people were at. In a way, that was best. It saved Jimin the trouble of convincing Taehyung to go somewhere private to talk. He followed his instincts up the stairs and onto the roof.

 

Just as Jimin had been hoping, Taehyung's solitary silhouette was leaning against the railing. The scene was almost the same as the last time they'd been up on the roof, save for the hazy cloud of smoke that was missing this time around.

 

It was also cold—a lot colder than the last time they were on the roof like this, but it had nothing to with the air and everything to do with the way that Taehyung was resolutely ignoring his presence. He could hear the bass pounding from inside the apartment, but that energy was nowhere to be found on their side of the closed door.

 

“Hey, Tae.”

 

Taehyung didn't look over at him. He kept his gaze pointed forward as though Jimin wasn't even there.

 

"Hey."

 

Jimin honestly hadn't been expecting a response—didn't even deserve one. But Taehyung had never been very good at ignoring people and even worse at staying quiet.

 

Taehyung was staring off in the distance looking sober, but there was really no way to be sure. He wasn’t smoking, and there was no drink in sight, but it wasn’t like Taehyung to avoid both inebriation and social interaction at a party like this. Though, Jimin supposed, he didn’t really have the firmest grasp on what Taehyung had been like recently.

 

"Not smoking tonight?"

 

Jimin was almost disappointed that there wasn't a joint held in between those fingers like last time. Even though he wasn't one to smoke, the temptation of taking a hit to calm his nerves was stronger than it had ever been.

 

Taehyung shrugged. "I've been having bad highs lately. Trying to stay sober for a while."

 

Jimin winced. "Oh. Sorry."

 

Taehyung shook his head. "Don't be. It's not your fault."

 

Still, Jimin couldn't help but feel like he was partially to blame for Taehyung's emotional state.

 

He'd been so sure of what he was going to say before, but suddenly, in front of Taehyung, the speech he'd planned seemed so wrong. There was nothing he could say that wasn't a little too late, a little too wrong.

 

"So how have—how have you been?"

 

Taehyung finally broke his eye-contact with the skyline to glance at him. He looked upset, and Jimin knew he'd said the wrong thing just like he knew he would.

 

"Jimin," His voice wasn't as steady as it usually was and Jimin could feel his heart breaking. "I really can't do this right now. If you have something to tell me, just do it. If not, I'd really prefer to be alone right now."

 

"No, no, I'm sorry. That's not what I meant to say at all. I'm just—nervous."

 

Jimin took a deep breath in. He could do this.

 

“Look, Taehyung. I’m gonna tell you something. And I’m not expecting you to respond, or to forgive me, or whatever. Just listen, ok?”

 

Taehyung didn’t respond, but he hadn’t taken the opportunity to walk away yet so Jimin figured that was permission enough.

 

He licked his lips, wondering where he should start. “When I was a sophomore—before we met and stuff—I met this girl in my dance troupe. A senior. Super pretty, talented, way too good for me. Cliché, I know. I sort of had a crush on her but I never expected anything to come out of it. And then one night after practice, she offered me a ride home. I said yes, and all of a sudden we were, uh. You know. Things happened.”

 

Taehyung closed his eyes. He still hadn’t made any movement to indicate he was listening, and somehow that gave Jimin the courage to keep going with the story.

 

“And things kept happening after that. We were hooking up a few times a week, and then I was staying over at her place more than mine. We got along really well. She was really into pillow talk, too—just like you.”

 

Jimin chanced a look at Taehyung then, and he was almost positive he saw a flicker of something in his eyes, maybe just acknowledgement.

 

“Whenever I'd bring up something about what we were going to do when she graduated, she'd change the subject. It was subtle—at first I thought she was just nervous about her future career or something. I guess she just didn't want to say that she wanted me, but not for forever."

 

Jimin felt himself get choked up. He hadn’t talked about this in a year or so and a part of him had foolishly thought that he was over it.

 

“One morning I woke up and realized we weren’t on the same page at all. I thought we were going to last, but it turns out she couldn’t see a future for us. She said that I was just too young, that we weren’t in the same place in life. She was probably right, but it just—messed me up. Because she’d given me so much hope, you know? And took it away just like that. Made me feel like I wasn’t worth the risk. That I’d never be worth it.”

 

The image was still stuck in his head of her face the last time he’d seen her. She’d been scared, he remembered, but it didn’t make her seem any more pitiable in his mind. People do dumb things when they’re emotional but Jimin knew better than to think that it excused their actions. He’d become her, and he hated it.

 

“I guess a part of me still thinks that nobody wants that with me. The long-term, boyfriend experience thing. It’s stupid, but that’s what insecurity is all about, right?” He laughed, dry and self-deprecating. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have started something when I still wasn’t over my own issues, and I shouldn’t have dragged you into it. I was a coward. You didn’t deserve that.”

 

Tears started falling a little heavier and Jimin knew his voice was going to give in soon.

 

“And I—I don’t know what I was thinking giving up something good like that. I really like you, and I was too nervous you wouldn't be interested in anything long term that I ruined everything. You're probably not ready to forgive me, but I just want you to know that I'm ready now. For everything, if you're still interested.”

 

When Jimin looked up, Taehyung was staring at him with wide, wet eyes.

 

“Tae, I like you so, so, so much—”

 

A mouth crashed into his. It was sort of wet and messy on account of the tears running down both of their cheeks, but Jimin couldn’t remember a kiss ever feeling so good. He couldn’t even kiss back properly because the corners of his lips had turned up into a smile. Taehyung pulled back, only to lean forward again to press little pecks onto the tear tracks.

 

“You idiot,” Taehyung wiped his eyes. “Of course you’re worth it. How could you even think that? You’re worth everything.”

 

Jimin sniffed and tried to clear his face. "I'm sorry. I was so stupid. I thought I'd lost you forever."

 

"You're gonna have to try a lot harder if you want to do that," Taehyung said. "But maybe hold off on trying. Now that I have you, I'm not planning on letting go."

 

Taehyung reached down and linked his fingers with Jimin's. He brought the fingers up to his lips and placed a soft kiss on Jimin's knuckle.

 

"You know, it's funny."

Jimin looked up. "Hmm?"

 

"You were so worried that I wouldn't want a future with you, but I can't imagine a future without you."

 

Jimin felt the tears pricking at his eyes again.

 

"You're so cheesy," He sniffed. "Stop before you make me cry again."

 

"Oh, hush. You love me for it."

 

He did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[from: taetae<3]

meet me in the alley behind the library

 

[to: taetae<3]

tae. no.

we talked about this.

 

[from: taetae<3]

ill be the one wearing a trench coat

with nothing underneath~

(also stop using periods its scary O_O)

 

[to: taetae<3]

never.

also im calling the police to report a flasher

 

[from: taetae<3]

NOOOO OMG JUST COME!!!!!!

if u dont show up ill give him away

 

[to: taetae<3]

……….him?

 

[from: taetae<3]

;)

 

Curiosity got the best of him, which he knew was Taehyung's plan in the first place. He always knew which buttons to press, which was as endearing as it was frustrating. Against his better judgement, Jimin grabbed his longboard and skated down the street towards the library. Sure enough, Taehyung was there in a trench coat like he'd promised. He looked up at the sound of wheels scraping against pavement.

 

"You came!" Taehyung looked delighted. Jimin pretended that bright smile didn't affect him.

 

He shrugged in a show of nonchalance, picking up his board and walking over. "I'm just here to make sure you don't get arrested for being suspicious. Was all this really necessary? You couldn't have just done this in our apartment?"

 

Taehyung rolled his eyes. "Have a sense of humor and fun, Minie. Believe me, in about ten seconds you're going to forget that you were even upset."

 

"Oh yeah? Try me."

 

Jimin did his best to keep up his facade to show that he wasn't putting up with Taehyung's shit, but the second a pair of floppy dog ears popped up over the fold of Taehyung's pocket he fell to his knees.

 

"Hey, there!" He cooed, his baby voice coming out without him even realizing it. "What's your name, little guy?"

 

Taehyung picked the puppy out of his pocket and held it out for Jimin to hold. "His name is Fang. Someone dropped him off at the store a while back. He's three months old now, I think."

 

Jimin nodded, not looking up from the dog for even a second. He scratched behind its ears and Fang let out a soft yelp.

 

"He's so cute," Jimin whined. "I'm jealous. Who's he for?"

 

"You."

 

"Huh?" Jimin finally looked up at his boyfriend, who was smiling down at him. "Oh my god, for real? You're not joking, are you?"

 

"Nope. I figured since you missed your dog from home so much, he could keep him here during school. Soonshimie could use a buddy during the summer, anyway. It's perfect."

 

"It is," Jimin said, looking down at Fang once more. The puppy was sniffing at his shirt and attempting to snuggle into the fabric. "He's perfect. Thanks, Tae."

 

"You're welcome. It's sort of a gift to myself anyway, since I figured we'd have joint-custody over him or something."

 

"Doesn't joint-custody usually imply divorce?"

 

Taehyung leaned against the wall dramatically in a show of affected heartbreak. "Well, Jimin, I didn't mean to tell you like this, but—"

Jimin laughed. "Tae. Shut up."

 

Taehyung just laughed and hopped on the longboard at Jimin's feet. "Only if you pull me."

 

They walked like that for a while, Jimin holding Fang in one hand and Taehyung's fingers in the other to guide him as he rolled along. The breeze blew warm air across their faces and Jimin couldn't help but feel grateful for everything that had led up to that moment. It was peaceful. Well, as peaceful as things ever were with Taehyung.

 

"Tae?"

 

"Yeah, babe?"

 

"…Are you really wearing nothing underneath that?"

 

"How about we go back to our place and you can find out?"