it’s been like thirty minutes and he’s not texting me back, Taehyung sends. rip my fledgling love life, i’ve been catfished. It’s the group chat, but this time of day, usually only Jimin and Jungkook are there to respond. Jungkook is in his tutoring session, but Taehyung could text him during the zombie apocalypse and Jungkook would at least follow up with an ‘lol.’ Jimin got in at ten o’clock that morning after pulling an all-nighter practicing for an upcoming showcase, so he’s probably asleep. But Jimin also has a weird sixth sense for when Taehyung is vulnerable and in need of attention, so.
Taehyung picks up his soda without looking and eventually the straw finds its way into his mouth. He watches the little dots in the chat dance when Jungkook starts typing.
didn’t you guys facetime though is all Jungkook sends back, along with a string of frowny emojis, one angry one, and a picture of a fluffy, pudgy puppy.
we did. i was catfished into thinking he was the type of person to show up for our date, Taehyung replies. He’s not super broken up about it, such is the nature of very tentative connections through dating websites, but he’s been sitting in this restaurant with a glass of Coke for too long, and sooner or later the waitress is going to stop coming by to refill it, and Taehyung is going to either have to order or leave. He’s kind of hungry, and he doesn’t really care about whether or not this is the type of restaurant you order alone at (it definitely isn’t) but everyone knows he’s been waiting for someone and everyone knows that that person isn’t coming.
Which is really more upsetting than being stood up in the first place.
Taehyung doesn’t really like it when people stare at him like he’s a spectacle. And whether they are or not, he feels their gazes, and it glues him to his seat, makes it to where the only thing he can do is stare at his phone and drink his soda.
if you want i can catfish him back for you. Jungkook pairs this with a knife emoji.
i can’t remember if i ever told you but catfishing is not synonymous with murder.
okay but i forgot our codeword for murder.
that’s not even a verb?
no, it’s a fruit.
Jungkook stops replying after that, probably because his tutor asked him a question and he dropped his phone in a fit of panic. Taehyung pictures Jungkook texting under the table and the image makes him smile. Then he remembers where he is, and why he’s there, and he frowns down at his phone again.
Immediately, the little dots pop up to indicate that Jimin is typing, and he can’t help but smile again.
where are you??? is all Jimin sends, and Taehyung sends back a photo of the menu he’s had in front of him for over half an hour now.
give me like ten mins, don’t move.
The restaurant is close to the house, which is why Taehyung picked it. He doesn’t have a car, and he didn’t want to take the bus. It was up to him -- his date said that he wanted Taehyung to pick a place he felt comfortable with. Seokjin personally vouched for this BBQ place, and its proximity to the house made it more comfortable than anything else, so Taehyung just went with it, and now he’s here. Stuck.
Taehyung feels kind of sorry that Seokjin’s favorite date spot is now the scene of Taehyung’s demise, but, well. Seokjin will probably change his favorite date spot just on principle, because of its connection with Taehyung’s discomfort and embarrassment. The thought makes Taehyung feel warm in spite of his very sincere regret.
it’s fine, i’m just gonna leave is all he ends up sending back to Jimin, even though he definitely hasn’t worked up the will to leave yet. He’s barely worked up the will to look the waitress in the eye and order some dessert. When he does, though, she’s very professional about it. Also, it’s Saturday, it’s lunch time, and the place is extremely busy. Taehyung is thinking that maybe everyone has better things to do than worry about him, and maybe it’s irrational to really even care about this, and maybe he should just get up and leave, but he still can’t do it.
His would-be date was someone he’d spoken to for less than a week. He was nice, and Taehyung thought he was good-looking, and he laughed at a lot of Taehyung’s jokes, so Taehyung had been kind of hopeful about the date. It’s been awhile, since he dated anyone. Since he and Jimin graduated, at least. Mostly, they all manage dating in a house with seven people just fine, but Taehyung’s been busy with work and sax practice and volunteering at the orphanage and -- just, generally things that mean he gets paid just enough to make rent and public transportation money, but not enough to eat out or go to the movies or, like, the zoo. The exhibit on cool rocks at the science museum. Date stuff.
The waitress brings him a small bowl of ice cream and a spoon and Taehyung settles in. Her nametag says Yoonjo, so when Taehyung thanks her he uses her name, managing a small smile. Ice cream and soda is definitely not the weirdest lunch he’s ever had, considering he survived college and lives in a house with a bunch of guys who mostly can’t cook. Namjoon knows how to use the fire extinguisher better than the stove, at this point. Jungkook is taking a cooking class, probably so that he can get better at cooking than all of them and possibly so that he can help Seokjin keep them alive, but the results of this so far are just that he knows how to cut an onion now.
Taehyung’s phone buzzes. i’ll buy you dinner, is all Yoongi says, but Taehyung smiles anyway. Yoongi doesn’t always know how to directly show his emotions, even if he can be pretty good at managing other people’s, which means his displays of support are often just “I’ll buy you food and sit next to you while you cry.” It works for all of them, though, and Taehyung appreciates the sentiment.
Taehyung’s probably not going to cry, though. He’s probably going to be fine. Mostly, he just wants to be able to get up, go home, and play games until he passes out in front of the computer and Jimin has to carry him to the bedroom. Or watch a movie on mute, sandwiched between Jimin and Hoseok, eating popcorn while they make up their own weird dialogue. Or lay in bed until Jimin comes and cuddles him and sings him to sleep, because Jimin always does when Taehyung is in a mood.
Just then, as Taehyung is watching his ice cream melt in his spoon and as his phone is vibrating with a message from Namjoon -- fuck that guy in English, followed by an entire paragraph in Korean that Taehyung will have to read later -- the door to the restaurant opens with a small bang and the cold winter air from outside rushes in, along with someone dressed in all black.
It’s Jimin, of course. His cheeks are pink, he’s out of breath, he’s wearing his giant sweater that goes down to his knees and practically swallows him whole. A big black scarf is wrapped around his neck a couple times, covering up his chin. His blonde hair is sticking up in every direction, the way it does when he’s been compulsively running his hands through it, and his arms are full of a huge bouquet of yellow roses and what looks to be a heart-shaped box of chocolates. By Taehyung’s calculations, Jimin’s gotten less than three hours of sleep, and it shows in the bags under his eyes and the pallor of his skin, but he’s here. He came.
Taehyung just watches him, dumbfounded, mouth hanging open a little as Jimin goes on his tiptoes to look around the restaurant frantically, even as the hostess tries to talk with him. Then, giving up, he turns to the hostess and starts gesturing with his hands, holding the bouquet and the box in the crook of his elbow, his palms outlining a spherical shape in the air that could mean anything from ‘the Earth’ to Taehyung’s own state as a big ol’ ball of sadness right now.
The hostess seems to get it, though. Nodding, she points in Taehyung’s direction, and -- going on his tiptoes again, even though he probably doesn’t need to -- Jimin finally spots him and walks over, taking huge strides.
“Oh my God, thank God,” Jimin gasps out, bending over a little, winded. “I thought you’d left!”
“Well,” Taehyung says. He shrugs.
“That guy is a huge jerk,” Jimin tells him. He hasn’t sat down yet. “What even, like -- who does that? Why even ask to meet you?”
Taehyung is pretty sure that if Jimin weren’t hugging a thousand things to his person right now, he’d be clenching his tiny fists, and that makes him feel better than anything has so far.
“I have ice cream,” Taehyung offers, even though it’s mostly melted and he hasn’t actually eaten a lot of it.
“You have sad ice cream,” Jimin says. He sets the chocolates down on the table, shuffling the giant bouquet around in his arms. “Here, I brought you happy chocolates.”
“We ate this kind the night we first met,” Jimin says, matter-of-fact. Jimin remembers weird things that he doesn’t ever really notice are weird things to remember, and no one ever tells him, because it’s sweet and makes them all feel loved. “Like, you were having a breakdown in the library because you accidentally bought those vitamin drinks instead of the energy ones? And all I had was chocolate because my parents sent me a care package, so we shared.”
It’s weird, being able to pinpoint the exact moment he met Jimin. He doesn’t think about it a lot, mostly just because, by now, it feels like he’s known Jimin forever.
“And the roses?” Taehyung can’t help but ask.
Jimin blinks down at him and then down at the bouquet of yellow roses, almost as though he’d forgotten he was holding them. “Oh,” he says, “That flower shop down the street? They had these on display and I thought, I don’t know, they’re happy?”
“To cheer you up,” Jimin clarifies. “I brought happy things, to cheer you up.”
“Jimin.” Taehyung giggles a little. “I’m really fine.” Now that Jimin is here.
Jimin gives him a knowing look. “Yeah, okay.” Jimin finally sets the roses down in the booth next to Taehyung, and then sits across from him, unwrapping his scarf as he goes. “Plus,” he adds, “I brought myself. Happy things.”
“To cheer me up,” Taehyung agrees.
Yoonjo the waitress comes by, then, and Taehyung doesn’t think he’s imagining the relieved look on her face, but he no longer really minds. “What would you like to drink?” she asks Jimin, and Jimin tells her, “Water,” just as Taehyung says, “Hot cocoa.”
“What?” he asks when Jimin glares at him. “You want hot cocoa.”
“You’re a bad influence,” Jimin says.
“You’re the one that brought me chocolates,” Taehyung says. Jimin makes a face and Taehyung makes it right back, scrunching up his nose and sticking his tongue out. “He wants hot cocoa,” he repeats to Yoonjo. “With extra marshmallows.”
She nods and bounces away, ponytail swinging behind her, and when Taehyung looks back at Jimin, Jimin isn’t pouting anymore, but smiling a little.
“I can’t believe anyone would stand you up,” Jimin says, shaking his head. “I just don’t get it.”
“Couldn’t handle all this,” Taehyung suggests, only half-joking, gesturing at his general existence.
Jimin snorts a little, and props his elbow on the table, resting his chin in his hand, palm curving along his jawline.
“You look cute,” Taehyung tells him.
Jimin smiles. “I look like I fell out of bed and ran out of the house in two seconds. Which I did.”
“Do you think that’s how superheroes live?” Taehyung asks. “Like, do you think they just wear their costumes under their pajamas, just in case the city is in dire danger at three in the morning?”
“Isn’t three in the morning when superheroes are most active?” Jimin asks. “I just want to know when they sleep. Do they all have the secret ability to never sleep again? And that’s just, like, too boring to mention.”
“Crime happens at any time, anywhere,” Taehyung agrees, nodding. “Petty crime, supervillain crime.” He pauses. Then, very seriously, he asks, “How do you do it?”
“How do I do what?”
“I mean, you’re basically a superhero,” Taehyung says, and he watches as Jimin’s face pinks up a little. Jimin laughs, that one laugh that’s always a little surprised and disbelieving, the one that’s reserved for Taehyung.
“I’m your hero,” Jimin says, jokingly, a little awkward, but Taehyung just nods.
“Yeah. You are.”
“Yeah, well.” Jimin tugs at the neck of his sweater, and quirks his lips at Taehyung. “Remember that, next time you lock me out of our room in the middle of the night.”
“You lock someone out of their own room one time--” Taehyung starts, whining, and Jimin cuts in, “Five times!” but he’s laughing again, and Taehyung laughs too.
He doesn’t feel weird anymore, or anxious, but just -- warm, and happy. He thinks that maybe Jimin was onto something when he brought happy stuff. The roses are beautiful and cheerful when Taehyung looks at them, and Taehyung is sure he and Jimin will eat all of the chocolates as soon as they get home. Most of all, though, Jimin himself is here, and honestly, a date with Jimin will always be better than a date with anyone else. Taehyung knows this, yet he still keeps trying. It’s probably about time to give up.
Yoonjo brings Jimin’s hot chocolate, and Jimin cups his hands around the mug, warming them. He ducks down a little, breathing in the smell of the chocolate and marshmallows.
They order some pork and beef, because Taehyung feels a little guilty for hogging Yoonjo’s table for so long and not really getting much of anything. As Jimin’s taking his first sip of his hot cocoa, their phones both buzz with a text from the group chat. It’s Hoseok: he’s sent a picture of himself in his work uniform with his arms spread, the message reading come to my embrace, and both Taehyung and Jimin begin giggling at the same time.
“Hoseok-hyung always knows just what to say,” Jimin says, though in the group chat he just goes ew.
movie marathon tonight!!!!!!!! Taehyung sends. He and Jimin then spend the next two minutes arguing solely in the group chat about which movie to watch first. Eventually, Jimin reaches over and slaps Taehyung’s phone out of his hand to end it.
“I’m going to kick you out of the chat one day,” Jimin says, “and you won’t be able to do anything, because I’m ruler of the chat.”
“I know your passcode,” Taehyung points out.
“I’ll change my passcode,” Jimin says.
“You’ll change it to the same thing but with a capital letter,” Taehyung says, smiling smugly when Jimin narrows his eyes. “Because otherwise, you’ll forget it and get locked out of your phone."
“Okay, whatever. I’ll change it to the fingerprint thing.”
“If you think I can’t trick you into opening your own phone for me--” Taehyung starts, indignant at this assault on his honor and ability to trick Jimin.
“Trick me?” Jimin interrupts, rolling his eyes. “All you’d have to do is like, wait a week and then just ask to borrow my phone and I’d unlock it for you.”
Settling back down, Taehyung nods, satisfied. “You’re bad at staying mad at me.”
“I’m great at staying mad at you,” Jimin says, puffing his cheeks out a little. “I just don’t like doing it, so I go shrink some of your clothes in the dryer and get over it.”
“Healthy coping mechanisms, and also the birth of all of my club clothes,” Taehyung says. He doesn’t really go clubbing enough to have club clothes, but it’d be letting Jimin win if he threw them away.
Predictably, Jimin mutters to himself, “Club clothes,” disbelieving, and Taehyung smiles.
Yoonjo brings the meat they ordered, then, and Jimin grabs most of it before Taehyung can even move. “I fell asleep before eating, I think,” Jimin says. “I’m not sure, but there’s a gaping hole in my stomach right now and I might pass out, so.” Focused and serious, he starts piling it on the grill with the tongs, before grabbing his chopsticks to stuff his mouth with his side of kimchi and rice, eyes still trained on the meat cooking in front of him.
“You have the self-preservation skills of a pebble,” Taehyung tells him.
Jimin pauses with his mouth full, incredulous. “This coming from the guy that fell off the roof trying to see that meteor shower? In the middle of the city?” he says, muffled and garbled from the food.
“I had a telescope,” Taehyung grumbles.
“You fell asleep waiting and rolled off the roof,” Jimin says, swallowing and jabbing his chopsticks in Taehyung’s direction. “It doesn’t matter if you had a telescope or not, you didn’t get to use it.”
Jimin has taken Taehyung to the emergency room more times than any friend should have to, but Taehyung probably really scared him that night. Still, it’s not really a bad memory for Taehyung. It was terrifying and his back hurt for a long time afterward, and he was really lucky that he didn’t break anything, but he and Jimin got breakfast together on the way home. Jimin pulled up videos of meteor showers on YouTube for him. They took a taxi to the park near the house -- pooling their money together -- and watched the sunrise from the top of the jungle gym.
Though it’s weird for Taehyung to be able to pinpoint the exact moment he met Jimin, it’s even weirder to be able to pinpoint the moment he realized he was in love with Jimin.
That morning, Jimin climbed the jungle gym first, and then reached down for Taehyung. “All aboard,” he said, and Taehyung grabbed his hand and started climbing up like that. It was actually harder, climbing with one hand while Jimin anchored him, but he didn’t complain. When they got to the top, they could just barely see the sky turning pink and orange above the trees. It was nearing the end of summer, and Jimin was still wearing his pajamas -- a tank top and some basketball shorts. They’d graduated not too long ago, and Taehyung had spent the entire time since then worrying that Jimin was going to decide to move out, move on.
“We’re best friends,” Taehyung said suddenly, gripping the bars of the jungle gym too tight, not willing to look at Jimin. He blinked up at the sky. “Right?”
“I just took you to the emergency room in the middle of the night after you called me saying that you’d broken your back and you were going to die alone on the cold, hard ground,” Jimin said, but instead of sounding angry he just sounded fond and soft. “Of course we’re best friends.”
Taehyung looked at him, then, but Jimin was still watching the sky. The city was waking up around them. Everything was bathed in the glow of the morning sun and when Taehyung looked at Jimin, at the smile on his face, his mind crawled to a pathetic halt as he simply thought huh.
He tries not to dwell on it. Being in love with your best friend can be weird, but it’s not really too hard for Taehyung. He’s not pining, he’s just -- wishing, occasionally. Kissing Jimin would be nice. But other than that... hanging out with Jimin, fighting with Jimin, making up and laughing and eating together and even sleeping in the same bed together -- those are all things he already has.
“Earth to space brain.” Jimin is waving his chopsticks at Taehyung. His cheeks are bulging with food when Taehyung looks up at him. “I’m gonna eat all of this if you don’t hurry up,” Jimin tells him, gesturing to the table as a whole. Jimin has a small mountain of grilled meat on his plate, with more still grilling in front of them. A third plate of raw meat is mostly untouched simply by virtue of being on Taehyung’s side of the table.
“Yeah, yeah,” Taehyung says, waving Jimin off, and he fights off Jimin’s grabby tongs with his chopsticks to snatch some bulgogi straight off the grill.
They eat until they’re stuffed and regretful and Jimin is moaning about how he might actually be dying, and then they somehow manage to leave the restaurant, declaring their undying love for their waitress as they go.
“Don’t be a stranger,” she says to Taehyung, even though they are literally strangers. Jimin makes annoying kissy noises at Taehyung’s back until Taehyung thanks Yoonjo again and drags him out of the restaurant by force while Yoonjo laughs.
“Well?” Jimin asks, slinging his scarf around his shoulders and letting the sleeves of his sweater fall over his hands. Taehyung is carrying the roses and the chocolates, because technically they’re his, and Jimin keeps patting his belly too much to actually carry anything.
“Well what?” Taehyung asks. It’s cold, freezing, and he thinks it might start snowing soon. He wishes he could stuff his hands into his pockets. They’re less than five minutes from the house, so it’s not too big of a deal, but he’s only wearing a thin cardigan.
“Was ‘Operation: Cheer Up’ a success?”
“You know it was, you’re just fishing for compliments,” Taehyung says, laughing, and Jimin smiles at him expectantly until Taehyung rolls his eyes. “Yes, yes. I can’t even remember the guy’s name. I can’t believe that my same-aged friend, my best friend, Park Jimin, has cured my sadness forever.”
Delighted, Jimin says, “Keep going,” his breath appearing in white clouds when he laughs with Taehyung. He jabs at Taehyung’s side with one finger, barely poking out from the sleeves of his sweater.
“My best friend, Park Jimin, the most talented person in the world--”
“That’s Jeon Jungkook, but we can pretend for a while.”
“The king of dance--”
“Smart and genuine--”
“Fierce and soft--”
“Funny and beautiful--”
“My best friend,” Taehyung insists. “The person I’m gonna spend the rest of my life with. Hardworking and caring.” Taehyung swallows. He’s trying not to walk too fast, or else he’ll leave Jimin in the dust, but also he feels like he needs to run. He feels like he’s too close to something, or something is too close to catching up with him. “Who else is gonna do what you do for me?” Taehyung asks. It feels like he’s asking himself. “Who else is gonna be there, all the time, no matter what? For me?”
“Taehyungie,” Jimin says, softly, but Taehyung doesn’t look at him or stop.
“Honestly,” Taehyung says, barreling on. “I don’t know why I even bother. No matter what I do, no matter who it is. I always just -- whenever I’m on a date with someone else, I always just wish I were with you, instead.”
Jimin is silent. They keep walking, and Taehyung gulps in the cold air and tries not to cough as it burns his lungs. He doesn’t know what else to say.
Then, he feels a tugging at his sleeve, and he comes to a stop to finally look at Jimin, who has latched onto him with a small clenched fist.
“You look cold,” Jimin murmurs. “Your cheeks are all pink, here.”
Taehyung stands there, both of them paused in the middle of the sidewalk, as Jimin tugs his scarf off and -- rocking forward just a tiny bit onto his toes -- slings it around Taehyung’s neck.
And then -- then, Jimin pulls Taehyung down by the ends of the scarf until he’s forced to duck a little and presses a soft, warm kiss to Taehyung’s lips.
“If you wanna date me, you should just date me,” Jimin whispers, his breath hitting Taehyung’s lips in warm puffs. “Idiot.”
Taehyung drops the roses and the chocolates.
Jimin blinks at him, and then down at the roses and chocolates on the sidewalk.
“My hands are numb,” Taehyung tells him helplessly. It’s true, but also his heart is beating too fast and he doesn’t really know what just happened. He doesn’t know how to process it.
“Idiot,” Jimin says again, softly. He takes both of Taehyung’s hands in his own. Jimin’s hands aren’t big enough to block the cold or warm up Taehyung’s hands completely, but Taehyung loves them. Taehyung has always loved them.
Not quite knowing what he’s saying, Taehyung goes, “My-- my face is numb, too.”
Jimin lets go of Taehyung’s hands to press his palms to Taehyung’s cheeks. “Better?” Jimin asks, smiling a little.
Taehyung swallows, hard. He grabs hold of the front of Jimin’s sweater, fists clenched in the fabric, and says, “My lips.”
Jimin’s smile widens, and Taehyung finds himself leaning down again without really meaning to. Jimin meets him halfway with another kiss, still soft, but sweeter, slow, his hands still cupping Taehyung’s face.
When they pause, breath hot between them, foreheads pressed together, Taehyung can’t help but say again, “You’re my best friend.”
Jimin laughs. “And you’re mine. Who says best friends can’t date, huh? I bet best friends are the best at dating.”
“Yeah?” Taehyung asks. It’s never really occurred to him that it could be that simple.
“Yeah,” Jimin says, nodding. “Definitely.”
“I’ve…” Taehyung hesitates, but he has to say it. “You know, I’ve wanted this. For a while.”
“Bet I’ve wanted you longer,” Jimin teases. Taehyung narrows his eyes.
“Yuh-huh,” Jimin says, his own eyes dancing with amusement. “Bet you five whole kisses.”
Taehyung pretends to think about it real hard, until Jimin is giggling and squishing Taehyung’s cheeks together.
Then their phones buzz and they both jump a little, Jimin’s hands falling away from Taehyung’s cheeks. They dig out their phones -- it’s harder for Jimin, because his sweater is so long -- and it’s the group chat, of course.
It’s from Seokjin. It’s a picture of them, of them just a second ago, standing in each other’s space and breathing each other’s air.
They whip around at the same time. Seokjin is standing a bit away from them on the sidewalk, his phone out, grinning widely at them.
“Hyung,” Jimin says, affronted. “Hyung, that’s creepy.”
“Sure,” Seokjin says. “It’s creepy until we get to use it in your wedding montage. Then it’s romantic.”
“Then it’s still creepy and we’re not inviting you to the wedding. Hyung!” Jimin is laughing a little, but when he sees Seokjin backing up he starts running. Seokjin shrieks and runs, too, but he’s too slow and Jimin latches onto his back, forcing Seokjin to grab under his thighs and hold his weight.
“I’m your hyung!” Seokjin is yelling as Jimin reaches for his phone, even though the photo is already in the group chat and Jungkook’s probably already put it on the internet. “You can’t-- argh-- Jiminie!”
“Taetae!” Jimin shouts. “Taehyungie! Offensive maneuvers!”
“No!” Seokjin gasps. “Taehyung-ah, listen to hyung--”
“Listen to your best friend!” Jimin says. Then, “Listen to your boyfriend!”
And Taehyung doesn’t hesitate. Because, really, he has no choice but to go help his best friend. His boyfriend. His Jimin.
It starts snowing as Taehyung is chasing Seokjin around, Jimin laughing and kicking his legs and generally making it very hard for Seokjin, who still doesn't drop him.
Taehyung has never felt warmer.