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White Noise

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It happened for the first time in the studio. Yoongi, Namjoon, and Hoseok were bent over a tablet, trying to rewrite the lyrics to a song-in-progress by committee (it never worked - Yoongi didn’t know why they kept thinking it would, but it he was lucky their incessant bickering would knock an idea loose, and then he could kick them out to work on the song for real). Jungkook was sitting on a chair in the corner, ostensibly playing that piano game he loved so much on his phone, but he pitched in with suggestions of his own often enough that Yoongi knew he couldn’t be paying it all that much attention. His ideas were good, too, goddammit. Their Golden Maknae’s ability to be so relentlessly good at everything would be annoying, if Yoongi weren’t so goddamn proud of him every time.

In the middle of a heated discussion about whether or not trap would enhance the song (it wouldn’t, but Namjoon was weirdly elitist about using trap in their music and Yoongi and Hoseok liked fucking with him), Yoongi suddenly shouted and pitched forward as pain lanced through his knee, hands curling reflexively. Christ. Christ, what the hell?

Namjoon and Hoseok had yelped as well at his shout of pain, and now they were looking at him with twin expressions of alarm. “Christ, what the hell?” Namjoon said, echoing Yoongi’s thoughts, and Hoseok put a hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay, hyung?” Even Jungkook had paused his piano game.

Yoongi looked at his knee. He was wearing his favourite jeans, the ones that were so distressed they were 40% hole, which meant that he could see clearly that his knee, which his pain centres were telling him should be busted open and bleeding, looked totally fine. Not even a bruise. The worst that could be said for it was that it was covered in a fuzzy layer of hair. Yoongi moved his leg experimentally - it still hurt like a motherfucker. He thought maybe his eyes were watering.

“Maybe a weird muscle twinge?” he hazarded. “Or a pinched nerve or something.” He looked up into Namjoon’s dubious expression. “Look, I’ll go to a clinic later, but I’m sure it’s nothing.”

Namjoon jabbed a finger under Yoongi’s nose. “See that you do,” he said sternly.

“I said I would so I will!”

“You always say that, but then what you do instead is lie in bed and watch emo movies to work through your pain. Don’t deny it, Jin-hyung’s snitched on you.”

Yoongi opened his mouth to defend himself, but Hoseok interjected. “Yeah, remember when you had appendicitis and you didn’t tell anyone?”

“That was one time!”

“It’s not like you can get appendicitis twice, hyung.”

Jungkook snorted from his corner. Yoongi decided to let the conversation end there to preserve his dignity. Screw them anyway. He was responsible! He would go get his knee looked at. Today, even.

* * *

Yoongi didn’t wind up getting his knee looked at that day, but in his defense their brainstorming session actually paid off this time, and the resulting burst of productivity meant he didn’t leave the studio until half past ten, way past the clinic’s open hours.

The pinched nerve - or whatever it was - was unlike any other injury he’d had. On the way back home he’d walked cautiously, waiting for the pain to ratchet up from its dull background throbbing, like bass from a party down the block. It’d been fine, though. He’d felt a little embarrassed about being such a hypochondriac.

Now, though, he was lying in bed with his laptop propped up on his thighs and a block open on the bedspread beside him - so that if anyone peeked in it would look like he was brainstorming lyrics and not, for example, rewatching favourite episodes of Reply 1988, which was in fact what he was doing. He was glad the vocal line was on their way back from practice. The kids could generally be relied on to be distracting, hopefully even from mysterious phantom pains, and if today was one of the rare occasions where they were uncharacteristically quiet then Yoongi would complain about his strange injury to Jin, who at least was a sympathetic listener.

As if just thinking his name had summoned him, Jin was suddenly at the door - then he took two giant steps across their room like the floor was lava and planted head-first onto his bed, groaning into the pillow.

“Uh. Frustrating singing lesson?” Yoongi hazarded.

Jin waved a hand dismissively, turning his head a little so he wasn’t speaking directly into the fabric of his pillowcase. “No, no, that part was fine. Unfortunately, Jimin decided that afterwards would be a good time to run through the new choreography with me, and during that -” Jin sighed, rubbing his face with his hand. “He fell. Busted his knee pretty badly. It was bleeding a lot too, which was bad enough - you know how I don’t handle blood well? Well apparently neither does Jimin - but when we went to the trainer he told him that dancing is verboten until the swelling goes down, which could take up to a week, and Jimin’s pretty down about it.”

Yoongi winced sympathetically. They all felt guilty whenever they made a mistake that affected the whole team like that, of course, but Jimin in particular had a tendency to beat himself up about it. “Where is he?” he asked, shutting his laptop so that Oh Hyuk, assuring him that he would always stay by his side, he would never leave him, was cut off mid-croon.

“Sulking in bed, I think. The trainer told him to keep his leg elevated.”

Jin turned out to be right on all counts, particularly in regards to the sulking. Jimin’s pout was so exaggerated that Yoongi barely contained a snort when he saw it, shifting the pile of pillows propping Jimin’s foot up to the side so he had room to sit.

“How’d you manage that, brat?” he asked, nodding at the cooling compress perched precariously on Jimin’s bandaged knee like a jaunty hat.

Jimin sighed, shame-faced. “I was doing a flip and landed badly.”

Yoongi frowned. “Our choreo doesn’t have any flips this time.”

“I know. I was just goofing off.”

“Showing off.”

Jimin glared up at him from under his fringe. “Fine, yes, okay, I was showing off.”

Yoongi grinned and made as if to ruffle Jimin’s hair, but Jimin pulled away in time, pout growing even more pronounced. The movement pulled his leg off the supporting pile of pillows and Jimin winced. At the same time Yoongi felt a twinge in his own knee, so he quickly jumped into a description of his own weird injury, trying to distract Jimin from his pain.

“I dunno, hyung,” Jimin said doubtfully. “That doesn’t sound so bad. You should have seen mine, it made a really loud noise when my knee hit the floor, and there was blood everywhere.” He lifted the compress off his knee so that Yoongi could see the wound. Even around the bandage, Yoongi could see that the skin around the joint was purplish and swollen. “It’s gonna leave a massive bruise as well.”

Yoongi flicked Jimin’s forehead, and this time he wasn’t fast enough to flinch away. “Okay, first of all, it’s not a competition, and second of all, mine gets points for mysteriousness. It’s a weird phantom pain, with no wound! I might be a medical mystery.”

Jimin rolled his eyes. “Sure, hyung.” He did look a little less depressed than he had when Yoongi’d come in, though.

Just then a loud clatter announced Hoseok and Taehyung’s entry into the room. “Jimin-ah!” they chorused, practically falling over each other in their efforts to get to Jimin’s bedside. Yoongi rolled his eyes. With the sunshine line reunited there was no chance of Jimin staying down for long, not even if he tried. He tapped Jimin’s thigh encouragingly and stood up.

“Tweedledum and Tweedledee can take it from here. I’m going back to my room to work on a song.”

“You mean to watch dramas,” Hoseok said. Jimin and Taehyung nodded earnestly on either side of him.

“We know you’re watching dramas in there when you say you’re working, hyung. Jin-hyung told us.”

“Reply 1988, right?” Jimin said. He had his eyes widened innocently, which meant he was definitely taking the piss. “Did you cry at the wedding scene? Jin-hyung says you did, but I want video evidence - or you could come watch it with us, then we could see you cry live.”

Yoongi growled and made a rude gesture on his way out the door. He got no respect in this house, honestly.

When he got to his room he considered for a moment, then put his right foot up on a pillow. His knee still hurt.

* * *

By the time Jimin was ready to rejoin their practices, Yoongi had almost forgotten all about his own whack knee. It had hurt on and off for the first few days after he'd injured it, but never in ways he could predict. Dance practices were no worse than bathroom breaks, and throughout the day there would be roughly half-hour chunks of time where the pain in his leg faded out of his consciousness entirely. Conversely, he could be sitting down on the floor for lunch or in his massive swivel chair working on his mixtape when suddenly pain would shoot up from his kneecap to his hip. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason. When he did finally take the time to visit a clinic, the doctors couldn't find anything wrong either.

One time he'd even shot upward in the middle of the night or probably the early morning, gritting his teeth around a pained grunt. Jin had shifted in the bed next to his but stayed asleep, and Yoongi thought he was the only one in the dorm awake, but when he went to the kitchen for some water to swallow down along with an aspirin he'd found, Jimin was already in there, hunched miserably over a cup of green tea.

"Can't sleep?" Yoongi had asked, grabbing a bottle of water out of the fridge.

Jimin shook his head and tried to blow his bangs, gross and sweaty, out of his face. He looked frustrated and bored, already suffering cabin fever after having been bedridden for only a few days. "My stupid leg hurts," he muttered.

Yoongi clinked his bottle against Jimin's mug in commiseration and got another aspirin.

They had both stayed up a little longer, watching TV on the couch until they dozed off (and yes, maybe Yoongi did tear up a little during the wedding scene but whatever, he'd barely slept and he was in pain and otherwise emotionally vulnerable, and anyway, the relationship between Bora and her father was totally moving), but that night seemed to mark a turning point in Yoongi's weird phantom pain.

I guess it'll stay a medical mystery, Yoongi thought to himself, before forgetting about it completely. He had more important things to worry about. The bassline for their upcoming title track, for one.

***

The second time it happened, Yoongi didn't realize until later that anything odd was going on. All seven of them had been loaded into their two vans and carted off to the ENT doctor for a check-up in preparation for their comeback, which loomed larger in all their minds with each passing night. The mood in the vans was morose. Vocal nodes were an inevitability of life as a singer, like diets and embarrassing photoshop edits, and for the past few days Jungkook, Jimin, and Hoseok had spoken little and downed countless herbal remedies and cups of warm tea, but their guilty expressions let him know that they were definitely still in for a stern lecture from management.

Unfortunately, Yoongi had a feeling that this time he wouldn't get off scot-free either. Usually he prided himself on his good throat condition, but a while back what had started off as a persistent frog in his throat that no amount of throat-clearing could unblock had manifested as what felt like having his larynx lined with sandpaper. He'd taken to speaking as little as possible outside of practice, hoping not to bring the mood in the team down even further - fortunately it wasn't like Yoongi was a chatterbox even at the best of times, so nobody called him on it.

In the end, though, it was Jin and not Yoongi who unexpectedly had to join the dance line on his knees on the floor, nodding his head and repeating every miserable "yes, understood" as management railed on them for their recklessness and lack of professionalism and hadn't they noticed that the comeback was just around the corner, why even work so hard on the performances if in the end they just planned to lip synch? Yoongi and Taehyung hung back out of solidarity with Namjoon, who took each lecture from their company, no matter who it was directed at, as a personal attack on his leadership abilities.

Yoongi's checkup had been over within five minutes. The doctor had even praised him for taking such good care of his voice.

Yoongi rubbed his sore throat and frowned. Maybe it was psychosomatic?

***

The third time was almost impossible to ignore. They were all of them in the gym working on getting in peak condition for their comeback (with various levels of enthusiasm, ranging from Jungkook, smug and competitive, challenging Jimin and Jin in turn to beat him at every type of equipment the gym had to offer; to Yoongi, bored before he even got started, making use of the fact that their trainer had taken a bathroom break to set the treadmill to its lowest setting and play fruit ninja on his phone).

Suddenly there was a cry of "Ah! Cramp, cramp!" followed by a crash, followed by "OUCH! Jesus, my foot!" followed by Jungkook and Taehyung asking in identically alarmed tones "Are you alright?!"

Almost within that same instant Yoongi felt his leg buckle underneath him, and he only just managed to get off the treadmill before a bolt of pain like a hammer blow hit his right foot. "ARGH!" he yelled, falling to the floor and writhing with his foot clutched in both hands.

When the initial shock of pain wore off, he opened tear-smudged eyes to see Jimin, laid flat on the floor on the other side of the gym in an pose identical to his, with the dumbbell the idiot must have dropped on his foot next to him, and the rest of the team staring at him in dumbfounded amazement.

"Are ... are you making fun of me?" Jimin asked hesitantly, sounding hurt - emotionally, and not just because the great blithering idiot had dropped a dumbbell on his foot.

"No," Yoongi shot back, with enough scorn to hopefully sear the insides of Jimin's ears. "My fucking foot fucking hurts."

"That's so weird," Jungkook said. "Did you get a cramp at exactly the same time Jimin-hyung did?"

Jimin had frozen, staring directly at Yoongi. Slowly, deliberately, he pressed a finger into his sore foot. Yoongi suppressed a wince. Jimin's hand fell open, his eyes widening in amazement. He squeezed his foot again. Yoongi bit his lip against a yelp and glared at Jimin. Shook his head as subtly as he could. Thankfully Jimin took the hint and didn't say anything.

Meanwhile, Tae slammed his fist into his palm and proclaimed, "I've totally heard of things like that happening before! It's called Couvade syndrome. Like, with pregnant couples, sometimes the father goes through the same pregnancy symptoms as the mother! Apparently in some cases the men even lactate after the baby's born!"

"Great theory," Yoongi said. "Only one problem." He gestured between Jimin and himself. "We're not a couple, and unless Jimin's been keeping something secret ..."

Hoseok gasped theatrically, hands flying to his mouth as he spun around to look at Jimin. "Jimin-ah, is it true? You're pregnant?"

Wincing slightly, Jimin shifted to sit upright, leg stretched out in front of him. "Yes," Jimin replied, deadpan.

Jungkook put his hand on Jimin's shoulder. "Congratulations."

"Thank you."

"What month?"

"Nine months now," Jimin said, patting his completely flat stomach. Behind his shoulder, Namjoon was staring at the ceiling as if praying to the grungy rafters of their training room for patience.

"Wah, that's amazing!" Taehyung exclaimed. "You look incredible for someone nine months pregnant. What's your secret?"

"Killer abs. I just sucked in my stomach the whole time," Jimin shot back with a wink. His response knocked Taehyung over in a giggle fit, so Jungkook took over.

"Please tell me I get to be the godfather."

"What! No, I want to be the godfather!" Hoseok protested. He scrambled from his knees to flat on the ground, writhing in exaggerated aegyo. "Pick meeeee!"

Taehyung recovered his breath enough to interject, "I'm the same age as him, I should get to be the godfather!"

"What does that have to do with it?"

"As the mom of the group," Jin cut in, "surely I'm the best candidate for godmother."

Jimin shot Jin finger guns. "Good point. Jin's definitely the godmother. The rest of you losers have to serve me and I'll pick whoever makes the best servant as the baby's godfather."

Suddenly interest in the role of godfather took a sharp downturn.

"Who's the father?"

"Obviously Yoongi's the father," Taehyung, self-proclaimed sympathetic pregnancy expert, scoffed. "Why would he be experiencing sympathy pains for someone else's baby?"

Jin's eyes widened comically as he covered his mouth in faux scandal (but also to cover the wicked grin that quirked at the edge of his lips) and looked from Yoongi to Jimin and back again. "But then," he breathed, "that means ... my cute dongsaengs ..."

"Okay, this joke has officially gone far enough," Namjoon interjected quickly.

"Thank you," Yoongi huffed, shooting his roommate an "I'm watching you" gesture that Jin received with an exaggerated who, me? shrug.

Unfortunately, this was the point that their trainer came back from what was either the world's longest dump or, more likely, an impromptu meeting in the hallway with a member of BigHit's staff regarding the boys' condition. Yoongi was amused to see the entirety of the team, clustered around Jimin where he fell, take an instinctive protective step forward to hide him from view. He himself quickly jumped to his feet and wiggled his foot around a little to illustrate how fine he was (answer: not so fine - there was a dark red throbbing in his big toe, but his foot was unblemished and putting weight on it didn't make it hurt worse than anything else did). "Just a cramp!" he insisted, a little too loudly. "All better now."

Their trainer turned his glare on Jimin. "What about you?" he barked. "Just a cramp as well?"

Jimin huffed out a nervous laugh. "Uh. About that."

"We have a much more serious problem," Taehyung interjected, snickering. "Jiminie's nine months pregnant." Hoseok elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

The look their trainer levelled at Taehyung would have felled a lesser man. "You," he said, pointing at Jimin. "Clinic. Now."

In the end Jimin's foot was thankfully bruised and not broken - he had apparently been picking the dumbbell off the floor when it had slipped from his sweaty grip, rather than lifting it for real, which meant the weight hadn't had far to fall - and Jimin was given an ice pack, some painkillers, and a stern talking-to on the subject of taking care of himself.

By the time Jimin was released back to the dorms his mood was considerably subdued, and Yoongi resigned himself to giving another pep talk that evening.

Jimin, apparently, had other plans.

"Um, hyung," Jimin said, scratching his nose. "I think we should talk."

"How's your foot?" Yoongi asked, but he thought he already knew. He thought the steady, throbbing pulse of pain had dulled to a dull thump centered at Jimin's big toenail, and Yoongi unconsciously flexed his foot in his sneakers in sympathy.

In response, Jimin raised his heel and twisted his toes into the floor, watching Yoongi's face closely. Yoongi tried hard not to change expression as the pain lanced through his foot, but Jimin wasn't making the same effort. "Stop it," Yoongi sighed finally. "You're hurting yourself."

"Just myself?"

Yoongi frowned. Looked like there was no avoiding this conversation.

Yoongi led Jimin to his room, one of the few reliably quiet places in their dorm. Jin was on his bed, frowning at the console in his hands.

"Out," Yoongi said, and then, when Jin looked at him with a raised eyebrow, "Hyung. Please."

"Jungkookie looks like he could use a playmate," Jimin added, knowing that their oldest had a soft spot for the maknae, because they all had a soft spot for the maknae.

Jin looked from Yoongi to Jimin, and a slow grin spread over his face. "Making another baby?" he suggested, tone lascivious, and immediately Yoongi felt the control he thought he had over this conversation slip away from him.

"Oh my god," Jimin said, putting a hand over his face.

"I see how it is," Jin said sympathetically, pausing the game as he scrambled out of bed, snickering. "Be good!" he shot over his shoulder on his way out. "And keep it down!"

Jimin groaned.

"Use protection!"

Jin took one step out of the door and Yoongi thought they were safe, but then he paused, turning to lean against the doorframe. "Remember," he said in a very serious tone. "Safety first, safety second, coolness third." He counted each item off on his fingers as he talked, pointed to Yoongi and Jimin in turn, made an "okay" sign that given the context managed to come across as extremely suggestive, winked, and then finally, finally left.

"... not funny," Yoongi said about ten seconds too late, feeling shell-shocked.

"How do you feel about Bangtan becoming a six-member group?" Jimin suggested, only half sounding like he was joking. His face was bright red, clashing nicely with his copper hair. Yoongi's face felt warm too, and he touched it unconsciously. He wasn't usually the type to blush.

Yoongi shook off the ... what? Embarrassment? Nerves? He had an uncomfortable queasy feeling in his stomach - and sat down on his bed, gesturing for Jimin to take a seat on Jin's bed.

"You wanted to talk," he said. "So talk."

"Right," Jimin said, clearing his throat nervously. He sat down across from Yoongi and twisted his fingers nervously.

They both watched Jimin's fingers instead of talking. Yoongi didn't know what to say in this situation. Nothing weird, but I think we're psychically linked so that when you hurt I can feel it too? Please.

Finally it was Jimin who bit the bullet. "I'm not just imagining it, right?" he asked hesitantly. "Like ... when I do this -" he pressed his injured toe against Yoongi's calf, prompting both of them to flinch, "- it's not just me that hurts, right?"

"Stop that," Yoongi snapped. He crossed his arms in front of him and avoided eye contact. "What about you? Been feeling any weird phantom pains?"

"Yeah, actually."

Yoongi's head jerked up. His eyes felt like they were going to pop out of the sockets. "What?"

"It was when you were boiling water for that instant coffee crap you like to drink."

"It's not cra--"

"Hyung, please." Jimin glared at him sulkily, the I'm-trying-to-have-a-serious-conversation-here, how-come-you-never-take-me-seriously glare that Yoongi had seen at least a hundred times, and on any other occasion he would have bit down a grin and suppressed the urge to ruffle Jimin's hair - or given in, if he wanted to be particularly annoying. He couldn't deny that this time Jimin had a point, though, and somehow seeing the familiar expression still calmed him down a little, so he shot Jimin an encouraging smile. Somehow that made Jimin flush again - was he annoyed? Embarrassed to be given the lead like this? For some reason Yoongi felt an answering warmth on his cheeks - and resumed speaking.

"You remember that time you were so tired you missed the cup and managed to pour hot water on your hand instead?" Yoongi does remember. He'd cursed up a blue streak but the other members had just laughed, because they're all dicks.

"You felt that?" Yoongi asked, incredulous.

Jimin bit his lip and nodded. "I thought I was imagining things, but then when you collapsed in the gym right when I hurt myself I figured maybe it was a two-way street."

Yoongi stared at him dumbly. He couldn't believe this weird twilight zone was their actual real lives - a sentiment he felt often, usually right before they stepped onto stage, but being an artist and being able to perform his own music was I-can't-believe-I-got-this-lucky freaky, not I-wonder-if-someone-slipped-me-something-and-this-is-a-hallucination freaky.

Jimin took a deep breath. "So what I've been wondering," Jimin said, "is whether this is something we should report to management. I mean, it could definitely mess us up during performances and--"

"Absolutely not," Yoongi said. He glared at Jimin. "Are you kidding me? No fucking way. This isn't like the flu, Jimin, this is -- jesus, this is really fucking out there, do you realize that? I mean, I know it's happening for real, and you know that, but anyone else who heard us claim that, what -- that we’re telepathically linked? -- Jimin, we could be institutionalized."

Jimin swallowed and said "oh" in a small voice.

"Yeah, 'oh'." Yoongi breathed deeply through his nose. "Look, it's not like anyone knows, right? Who knows, maybe this ... whatever this is ... is just a temporary thing. For all we know it could be gone tomorrow. If we both take care of our bodies and avoid injuries it'll be like nothing ever even happened, alright? What's important now is the comeback. We should just focus on preparing for the showcase, right? If we still have this problem by the time promotions end we can reconsider whether or not to do something about it. Okay?"

Jimin bit his lip. He looked reluctant, but in the end he nodded his head with a mumbled, "Okay, hyung."

Yoongi patted his knee. "Thanks, Jiminnie," he said. "Don't worry. It'll be fine."

***

It wasn't fine.

No matter how careful Yoongi was to hide the fact that there was something strange going on from the other members and from management, there was no hiding it from himself. As their dance practices got increasingly intense, Yoongi felt like every joint and muscle and ligament in his body was screaming, the feedback loop between them seeing to it that every ache in Jimin’s body reflected back onto Yoongi and vice versa, and in those areas that both of them were sore the pain was doubled. Yoongi thought his thighs might actually kill him.

All this was exacerbated by Jimin’s ridiculous work ethic. Yoongi knew Jimin was a workaholic, they all did, it was part of what made him so valuable to the team. Hell, Yoongi couldn’t count the number of times he’d passed the door to their dance studio on his way to work on a song and seen Jimin still inside, running through the moves over and over until every line of his body formed a perfect angle, and admired him for it.

Now, though, Yoongi was viscerally (and unwillingly) aware of the toll it took on his body. The fact that Jimin was feeling Yoongi’s pain as well as his own didn’t exactly help, and as a result every day Yoongi woke up feeling like his muscles were jelly and went to sleep feeling like they were jelly, and for all the hours in between Yoongi wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that someone had poured hot lava into his joints.

And despite the fact that he knew he was making Yoongi suffer right along with him - despite his repeated entreaties, concerned at first but increasingly irate, that Jimin tone it down a little - Jimin just. Wouldn’t. Stop.

Jimin said at first that the members would get suspicious if he practiced less for this comeback than he did ordinarily, then he argued that management was on his case anyway after his recent careless injuries, and then he pulled out the big guns, claiming that he didn’t want to disappoint the fans. Yoongi understood that kind of drive, he really did - hell, he wasn’t a slacker either by any standard, regularly pulling all-nighters to write music - but at least the only physical toll his work took was sore eyes and the occasional tension headache. He was sure that if their positions were reversed he would tone it down a little bit, for Jimin’s sake as well as his own. Right? Yes, definitely.

In conclusion, Yoongi was pissed, and Jimin was pissed that Yoongi was pissed because he wouldn’t admit that he was doing anything wrong, and stubbornly avoiding him, which in turn irritated Yoongi even more. Fine then. If Jimin was going to make the both of them suffer through twice the soreness out of a misplaced sense of masochism, let him. Let’s see who could hold out longest. When they got called out for the negative impact it would obviously have on their performances - which was inevitable - they’d both know who was responsible.

Of course, that’s not quite how it happened.

Instead, going into Hour 10 of dance practice, his every limb as heavy as lead and throbbing like a bee sting, mind shaking with tiredness, he’d let his guard drop. It wasn’t his first time running through new choreo practically asleep - hell, even the dance line had moments where they lost focus and gave in to exhaustion, despite their best efforts.

But whereas usually Yoongi’s movements turned sloppy, gestures too small or a beat behind the rest of the group - this time, it was like his mind had disconnected from his body and left it free for the taking. Like he’d been possessed. Yoongi let himself zone out for a minute and when he refocused he was watching himself in the mirror, movements sharp like they’d never ever been before, body flowing seamlessly to the rhythm of the music, perfectly in sync with the beat. Perfectly in sync with Jimin.

After that, Yoongi avoided Jimin as avidly as Jimin was avoiding him. They were never in the same room at the same time unless they had to be. Yoongi counted himself lucky that none of the others noticed the … whatever that had been … in dance practice, but surely it was just a matter of time. Both of them grimacing and rubbing a twinge at the exact same time. When one of them yawned or sneezed, there was hardly an interval before the other did as well. There’s no way their bandmates wouldn’t catch on, if not Namjoon with his crazy eye for detail, then Hoseok, always in tune with the group and sensitive to any tremors in their emotional landscape, or Jungkook with his knack for sharp observations when you’d least expect them.

Worse than the stress of potential discovery, though, was the terrible, sneaking suspicion that he actually was crazy. Schizophrenia generally manifested in people in their early 20s, right? Yoongi wasn’t hearing voices, at least not yet, but surely there was nothing normal about co-leasing psychic real estate with your band member, either. Yoongi wished he had someone to talk to about this, but the only candidate was Jimin, and he and Jimin weren’t talking. Screw Jimin for holding grudges anyway.

***

Day 2 of filming for their new music video, and Yoongi couldn’t have been more glad to head back home. For the past two days they’d filmed mostly group shots and choreo, which meant that Yoongi had barely had a free second away from Jimin. He’d never concentrated so hard on dancing in his life, desperate to stay in his own head while the cameras were on them. He’d had a few moments of panic with Hoseok calling him out on his efforts, but he thought he was safe. At least, he was pretty sure that he earned the compliments Hoseok made on his uncharacteristic energy and precision himself; when he rewatched the tape, it looked like his dancing and not Jimin’s. Probably. Maybe. God, he was sick of second-guessing himself.

Fortunately there weren’t a ton of solo shots this time round. The hyung line got to go first, which meant they were all packed up and ready to head back to Seoul early. The younger members whined about having to stay back one more day (although not too loudly in front of the camera crew, since after all they had to stay longest of all of them). Or - well, the younger members other than Jimin, Yoongi couldn’t help but notice. He was probably just as relieved as Yoongi was to spend a night apart. For one night, at least, they wouldn’t have to watch their every action to make sure they weren’t unnaturally in sync.

That didn’t mean that Yoongi felt particularly good as he climbed into the van back home with Jin, Namjoon, and one of the junior managers. (Hoseok had good-naturedly offered to stay for the third day of filming since they only had time for three people to do solos shots and Namjoon was, after all, their leader. Yoongi hoped he’d keep the kids out of trouble.) He’d been distantly aware of a throbbing in his temples all day, and as soon as he closed the car door behind him, the pain ratcheted right up from a dull ache to a steady pulsing. What made it all the more irritating was that he didn’t even know if the headache was his, or something that had been passed on to him from Jimin.

“Could you turn that down?” he snapped at Jin, who had turned on his Nintendo DS to help pass the time on the drive back and was playing a game at, admittedly, a pretty reasonable volume. Tight-lipped, Jin fished his headphones out of his back and plugged them in.

“What’s with you? You’ve been so pissy lately,” he muttered.

Yoongi exhaled slowly through the nose until he was sure he could apologize without sounding - well, pissy. He deliberated for a minute, then pulled out his phone and sent off a text before he could think too hard about it.

hey, does your head hurt today too?

It wasn’t a short drive back to Seoul, but by the time they rolled into the parking garage of their dorm, there was still no answer, and Yoongi’s headache wasn’t any better.

***

That night, Yoongi slept badly. It wasn’t even that the Tylenol he’d swallowed wasn’t taking effect, or that tonight of all nights was one of those rare occasions when Jin snored. No, Yoongi was restless in a way he couldn’t quite identify. His legs ached, his thumbs tingled, his eyes stung. He tried burning off the energy by writing on his phone, but staring at the screen made his headache even worse. Propping his legs up on some pillows didn’t help with the tingling sensation, either. Finally he gave up on sleep and crept out of the room as silently as he could, careful not to wake Jin.

Walking up and down the stairs seemed to help, or maybe it was just that after a while he was too out of breath to focus on anything else. Every time he stopped for a breather he found himself compulsively checking his phone - his texts, his email, his twitter feed. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d misplaced or forgotten something important.

When he’d had enough of exhausting himself on the stairs he climbed up all the way to the rooftop of their building. To his surprise, the sun was already starting to come up. Then again, he supposed it had been pretty late already when they’d come in. It was pretty, the Seoul skyline pinking up like it was blushing. He leaned against the railing and snapped a picture, opening the notes app on his phone just in case the view inspired some lyrics. His head stayed empty as a drum, though. He couldn’t focus.

The clouds turned orange, then yellow, then white as the sun finally broke free from their cover. Yoongi considered the picture he’d taken. It really was pretty. Maybe the fans would like to see it? Yoongi’s finger hovered over the twitter icon, but at the last second he changed his mind. This sleepless night felt private, somehow. Instead, he pulled up KakaoTalk. His previous message to Jimin now said [read 4:08]. He probably hadn’t slept much, either. There was no reply from him though. Yoongi sent him the picture anyway. He didn’t know if it was his fault of not that Jimin was awake, but just in case it only felt right to share. Time passed slowly on the rooftop. By the time he felt ready to go back inside, noise from early morning traffic had drowned out what little birdsong there was.

The kids would probably get done with individual shots sometime around midday, Yoongi thought as he pulled a bottle of water out of the fridge. Then two more hours, or three depending on traffic, and they’d arrive back at the dorms. He took a swig of the water and frowned; absurdly, it tasted overwhelmingly of barley tea. He inspected the bottle but it seemed blameless enough, the same brand of bottled water they always bought. The only explanation he could think of was that Jin or Namjoon had drunk barley tea out of this same bottle earlier and then filled it with water when the tea was gone - but that didn’t make any sense, it was so early and anyway the only one in the dorm who even liked barley tea was Jimin, who had a cup every morning with breakfast because he said his grandmother claimed it was good for your health. And - the bottle had been sealed, hadn’t it? He couldn’t remember.

He sipped again from the bottle, cautiously, but if anything the barley taste had only gotten stronger, lingering long after he’d swallowed. What the hell?

Then, blueberry. The flavour burst on his tongue in a shock of tangy sweetness, so vivid that he swallowed compulsively, even though his mouth was empty. Blueberry didn’t make any sense.

Yoongi’s limbs turned heavy as lead as the realization hit. Jimin loved blueberries. Never turned them down, certainly not as a treat from their managers for doing well at filming.

Shit. Shit. Sharing pain wasn’t enough, now they were sharing taste as well?

Hands shaking, he threw together a cup of the instant coffee his members loved to hate so much and took a huge gulp while it was still practically boiling, burning his tongue in the process. He stood there for a minute, waiting, until he realized that unless he developed either telepathy or the ability to read fortunes in coffee dregs, that wasn’t going to give him any answers.

Technology: probably more reliable that fortune-telling. Yoongi pulled his phone out of his pocket and considered. No new messages. He pulled up the chat with Jimin. All that was visible in the open chat window were his most recent messages, the question about the headache and the picture of the sunrise, marked [read 4:08] and [read 5:54], respectively. No answer. He scrolled up a little. The message before those had been from a couple days earlier: a quick reminder from him that they had to be in the studio in 15 minutes. Jimin hadn’t responded then, either.

Suddenly and irrationally pissed, Yoongi pocketed his phone again. What would texting Jimin bring anyway? Even if Jimin had tasted the coffee in his mouth (now there was a weird thought), it wasn’t like they could do anything about it. Actually, imagine if Jimin had been there when he experienced it. Imagine if the others had been. There’s no way Jimin would have been able to hide his reaction, and there’d be no hiding the fact that something odd was going on from the members then. No. Keeping their distance was better, clearly.

Yoongi opened the fridge again and considered his options. Cold rice, but rice was too heavy on his stomach in the mornings. Eggs, too much effort. He pulled out the milk. Milk’s practically food, he thought. Only a few steps removed from cheese.

No more strange bursts of flavour intruded on his breakfast. He didn’t know if Jimin had given up on eating after those blueberries, or if their strange psychic connection was sporadic, like a radio signal fading in and out.

Yoongi spent the day in the studio, taking turns composing and catnapping. At some point he realized that a new message had come in sometime while he was sleeping.

u should eat a proper breakfast

He deliberated for a long time whether or not to reply. Finally he wrote:

so should you

***

The maknae line arrived back home at around 4 pm. He knew this because Jungkook sent the group chat a picture of Taehyung sacked out with his mouth hanging open and drool on his chin, with the caption time to wake Sleeping Beauty ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

He didn’t go back to the dorms to greet them. At around half past noon, presumably after shooting had ended, he’d tasted kimbap, so intense that he’d had to swallow his saliva non-stop until the taste went away. An hour or two later it had been banana milk. The flavour had intruded on his senses without warning, and he’d startled so badly that he’d accidentally deleted the file he’d been working on. If he was honest, it was freaking him out pretty bad.

Even work was barely helping keep his mind off the weirdness. He couldn’t fool himself into thinking he was making any real progress. So instead he lay on the couch, counting ceiling tiles until he could work up the nerve to return to the dorm and pretend that everything was normal in front of five of the people who knew him best, when everything was not.

There was a knock at his studio door.

“Come in,” Yoongi said before he could think better of it. Damn it, he could have pretended to be asleep, no one would have batted an eye at that. To his surprise it was Jimin at the door. Yoongi didn’t say anything, and neither did Jimin, studying Yoongi like he needed to pass a test.

After a few seconds Yoongi realized Jimin had something in his hand. A plastic bag, full of what looked like takeout containers. He raised an eyebrow.

“You come here to cheat on your diet?”

“No.” Jimin took a step inside and kicked the door closed with one foot. “This is for you. You haven’t eaten yet today, have you?”

Yoongi realized it was true. He felt like he’d eaten, distinctly associated lunchtime with kimbap, but that hadn’t been him, had it, just a trick his mind had played on him. Aside from tasting Jimin’s meals secondhand, he hadn’t eaten a thing. His stomach rumbled, suddenly, to let him know how hungry he was.

Mutely, Yoongi reached for the plastic bag in Jimin’s hand and fished out the first takeout box and a set of chopsticks.

“Thanks,” he said. He didn’t ask how Jimin knew he hadn’t eaten anything.

But he still had to know, so he took a big bite of his jjajangmyun before Jimin had even finished mixing his sauce and noodles together, watching as Jimin gave a full-body shudder. They both swallowed together.

“You couldn’t wait five seconds?” Jimin grumbled.

This time Yoongi waited until Jimin had his chopsticks ready, and then they both dug in. It wasn’t so bad this way, both of them eating the same thing at the same time. Yoongi could almost enjoy his meal.

When they were done Jimin set his chopsticks down carefully on top of the empty jjajangmyun bowl. Yoongi’s gut hurt, too much food inhaled too quickly on an empty stomach. Jimin passed him a coke, which Yoongi handed right back to him when he’d taken a few swallows, so that Jimin wouldn’t have to deal the the weirdness of the coke taste with no actual beverage.

Jimin was full. His legs hurt from dancing, but not as bad as they had back when he was still practicing to memorize and then perfect the choreo. His eyes burned with tiredness, but his headache - or Yoongi’s headache, whichever it had been - was gone now. Yoongi could’ve passed on knowing all that.

Jimin cleared his throat. “That was better, right?”

“What?”

“Eating together. That was way less sensory overload, right?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi admitted.

Jimin nodded decisively. “Good. Then let’s do that from now on. We don’t even necessarily have to be in the same room, but make sure to text me in advance where and what you’re eating and I’ll be sure to do the same for you.”

Yoongi felt a flash of irritation at Jimin saying they shouldn’t be in the same room together, before remembering that he’d decided to avoid Jimin just as avidly as Jimin was avoiding him.

“Okay,” Yoongi said. “Text me.” Somehow the pause between sentences had been just a tick too long, so that the “text me” came out sounding weirdly desperate. Jimin shot him a strange look but didn’t say anything, gathering up the empty takeout containers on his way out the door.

“Okay, hyung,” he said. “See you later.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi said. “Thanks for dinner.”

Jimin shrugged and shut the door behind him.

***

The problem was, humans are creatures of habit. Yoongi especially. Even their crazy schedules during promotional periods had developed a kind of routine after they’d been through it a few times, and Yoongi hadn’t realized how much hanging out with Jimin had become part of his routine until he wasn’t doing it anymore.

What had he and Jimin even done all the times they’d hung out together, anyway? They didn’t room together, they didn’t work out together, and Yoongi was too old and tired to join the maknae line in their troublemaking shenanigans the way that Hoseok did. Still Yoongi’s eyes always automatically sought out Jimin the minute they had some downtime. Even if he was just silently scrolling through his phone, part of him expected Jimin to be beside him doing the same, so that if one of them saw something funny or interesting, they could show it to the other. That was their routine. Sometimes he’d look up from whatever song he was working on in the studio and half-turn to ask Jimin his opinion, only to realize he wasn’t there. It was unsettling, was what it was.

What made it all the more unsettling was that despite seeing him basically never unless there was something they had to do specifically as a team for work, Yoongi couldn’t escape his constant background awareness of Jimin. The bundle of sensory information that he’d come to recognize as Jimin had settled into a knot of confused awareness, tucked away in a corner of his mind but bobbing right back up to the foreground whenever Jimin so much as bit his tongue.

He’d wake up and think: Jimin slept on the couch last night and now his back is sore. He’d be digging into a bowl of jjigae and put down his spoon after only a few bites because he knew it would take another minute for Jimin’s cat’s tongue to be able to handle the heat. Jimi’s new shoes were too small. Jimin wasn’t wearing contacts today. Jimin gritted his teeth in his sleep. It was more insight than he’d ever had into his life - more than anyone had, probably - and in a weird way he felt like a pervert, knowing all these things about Jimin that, while not embarrassing or anything, were still intensely private. He didn’t like to think about Jimin have just as much detailed information on him.

With only a few days left until their comeback, Namjoon pulled his leader card to invite them all out to dinner - a team-building exercise, one last hurrah before their crazy schedules in the coming weeks and months threw all chances at relaxing out the window. Yoongi thought that maybe Namjoon had caught wind of something going on with him and Jimin and was worried. He couldn’t blame him. Yoongi was worried too.

The problem started with the food. Of all the meals Namjoon could have chosen to treat them too, he’d settled on dim sum. Usually Yoongi was a big fan, but any other restaurant and it wouldn’t have been strange for them to order the same dish: dim sum was another story.

“Don’t you think you guy are being a little too much?” Hoseok asked after the fifth time Jimin had exclaimed, “Mmmm, this is really good, hyung, you should try some of this!” and turned the glass platter toward Yoongi so that he’d have a reason to eat the same dish. They were sitting next to each other, at least, so that there was no awkwardly long pause while one of them waited for the other to get ready to eat. Yoongi was this close to just feeding Jimin directly from his plate. There was no question of them sucking it up and eating separately, not after the first time that Yoongi had chowed down on some steamed chicken feet right as Jimin was slurping wonton soup and they’d both almost choked, both at the combination of flavours and because they’d missed the right timing to swallow.

“A little too much what?” Jimin asked. Yoongi grimaced as he bit down on a peppercorn, and Jimin handed him a napkin without looking.

“That,” Hoseok said, pointing between them. “A little too lovey-dovey.”

Yoongi sprayed half-chewed fried rice all over the table.

“Aw, gross,” Jungkook said.

Jin covered the mountain of food on his plate protectively, looking shell-shocked. “What’s your problem?”

Jimin whacked Yoongi on the back until the last few grains of rice dislodged from his windpipe.

“A little too - how the - what?” Yoongi sputtered. Usually he prided himself on being an eloquent speaker, but then again, usually his bandmates hadn’t gone off the deep end.

Namjoon put down his chopsticks and cleared his throat nervously. “Actually, Hobi, I’m glad you brought that up,” he said in his leader voice. He levelled Yoongi with a disappointed look, like a teacher asking an errant kindergartner if it had really been necessary to draw all over the walls with permanent marker. “Did you think we’d give you a hard time because of it?”

“Because of what?” Yoongi said, perplexed.

Around the table, the other members nodded or murmured variations on the theme of sympathetic agreement. Namjoon leaned forward. “Frankly the fact that you’ve been trying so hard to hide your relationship is a little hurtful.”

What. Relationship. Yoongi turned to Jimin, a what the fuck? on his lips, and almost fell off his chair when he saw Jimin biting his lip and nodding back at Namjoon with exaggeratedly wide, apologetic eyes.

Namjoon was still talking. “I thought I’d done everything in my power since we were rookies, Yoongi, to prove that I don’t have a problem with you being bisexual - “

“What the fuck,” Yoongi said.

“ - but clearly I haven’t succeeded in fostering an environment of acceptance in the group if you’re still so desperate to hide that you’re dating Jimin! You know it’s nothing to be ashamed of, right?”

Twenty-four was probably a little young to go to jail for murder, but then again his parents had insisted that seventeen was too young to move out of the house and move to Seoul, and that had all turned out for the better in the end, hadn’t it? Yoongi was willing to take his chances.

Jungkook leaned over and took over for Namjoon. “We even made that song to support you, hyung!”

“Among other things,” Namjoon said primly.

Mass murder. Had a nice ring to it. He didn’t have to look to know that Jimin and Taehyung were giving him identical wide-eyed looks.

“Wait, you knew?” Jimin asked Jungkook. Then, after a suspiciously long pause, “Not that I didn’t.”

Jungkook gestured vaguely between himself and Namjoon. “We’re roomies?” he said. As if that were any kind of explanation.

“You never told us!” Taehyung said, tone accusatory.

“Well I’m not a gossip!”

Yoongi gave Namjoon a pointed look - very pointed. Think scalpels. Namjoon flushed.

Taehyung was still caught in the rush of discovery. “This is so crazy! Did you know, Jin?”

“Of course I knew,” Jin said drily.

“How?” Taehyung and Jimin chorused. Yoongi considered making a break for the exit.

“Hmmm, I don’t know,” Jin said, ignoring the cutting motion Yoongi was making with his hands. “Was it the first, the second, or the third time that he got drunk and cried over how dreamy Gong Yoo is?”

“Who?” Taehyung said. Yoongi had to ignore that for the sake of his sanity. He also ignored Jimin, whose shoulders were suddeny shaking with suppressed laughter.

“I knew,” Hoseok threw in smugly.

“How did you find out?” Jimin asked. Hoseok tutted contemptuously.

“Please, Jimin. I don’t need telling.”

“I will pay each of you 20,000 won to drop this subject,” Yoongi said.

“Now, now,” Jimin said. “I think this is a good thing! Communication is very important for a healthy relationship, you know.”

Around the table, various members made noises of assent. Yoongi tried to communicate “why the fuck are you playing along with this?” with his eyebrows, and Jimin rolled his eyes back meaningfully, but whatever the meaning was, Yoongi didn’t get it.

“Who’s Gong Yoo?” Taehyung repeated.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” Yoongi said. “Away from the peanut gallery. Since communication is so important.” He was rougher than he technically had to be, kicking Jimin’s chair away from the table. He managed to dig his shoe into Jimin’s calf in the process, and they both flinched.

“We’ll be right back,” Yoongi threw over his shoulder as he half-led, half-dragged Jimin to the bathroom.

“Oh, don’t hold back on our account!” Hoseok said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively at Yoongi and then, when that got no response beyond a rude gesture, at Jin. Yoongi did his best to erase all of them from his mind - Hoseok and Jin’s amusement, Jungkook and Taehyung’s concern for Jimin, and, worst of all, Namjoon’s expression of smug approval.

Or maybe the worst was Jimin’s look of wounded innocence as Yoongi let the door to the bathroom slam shut behind them. “Do you want to explain what that was all about?”

“There’s no reason to get so mad,” Jimin muttered. Yoongi ratcheted his glare up a notch. “Well, there isn’t! I mean, are you really surprised the rest of them realized something’s going on?”

There was nothing Yoongi could say to that, and Jimin rushed on, emboldened. “Honestly, it’s weird to deal with this … connection, or whatever, when we’re avoiding each other all the time, right? I only went along with it because I couldn’t think of a better solution, but then as soon as Namjoonie-hyung opened his mouth I realized that was it.”

“Jimin,” Yoongi said. “They think we’re dating.”

This did not have quite the effect he was hoping for. Jimin rolled his eyes. “So? Hyung, it’s not a bad explanation. We have been avoiding each other to avoid suspicion, just not the kind of suspicion that they, uh-”

“Suspect?” Yoongi suggested dryly. Jimin gave him that familiar hyung-why-don’t-you-ever-take-me-seriously look. Despite the situation, Yoongi had to bite back a grin.

“And anyway,” Jimin continued. “Won’t this be easier? We live and work together, hyung, it’s really hard to stay out of your way all the time. This way, even if we are weirdly in tune with each other, the others with assume it’s just us being,” Jimin waved a hand vaguely, “couple-y.”

Yoongi leaned back against the row of sinks and crossed his arms. “Absolutely not.”

Jimin threw up his hands in frustration. “Why not? I realize it’s not a perfect solution but there’s not gonna be a perfect solution. This one at least is a little bit better.”

“How is this better?” Yoongi countered hotly. “We share pain centres and taste buds, Jimin, I don’t think that’s going to come across as particularly romantic in the long run. And anyway, Namjoon playing Cupid is like a dog with a bone, he won’t be able to leave it alone.”

Jimin’s shoulders sagged and he stared at Yoongi, face slack and hesitant. “But … but hyung, don’t you miss me?”

Yoongi’s breath stuttered in his throat.

“I miss you,” Jimin went on. “I miss hanging out with you. You’re not just some work colleague, hyung, you’re one of my best friends. Don’t you want to be able to hang out again like we used to?”

Yoongi had to swallow several times before he could answer. “Sure I do, Jimin. But not like this. We’ll find another way, but I’m not going to pretend to be dating you.”

“What, just ‘cause it’s embarrassing?” Jimin shot back.

“It’s a bad idea, Jimin.”

“Or is this about you being bi? Is that why you never said anything? Nobody cares, hyung! Namjoon-hyung was right about that. You realize it’s nothing to be ashamed of right?”

“Yes I realize that,” Yoongi snapped. It was true, too. Yoongi’s sexual crisis had happened at the beginning of his trainee period, back even before Jin and Jungkook joined Big Hit. And sure, he’d struggled with it initially. He’d spent a lot of time second-guessing his attraction to men, then, once he’d come to terms with it, there had been the difficulty of realizing that for the past eighteen years, he’d been wrong about his own sexuality. Yoongi was an introspective person, thought of himself that way at least, and he hadn’t liked feeling like he barely knew himself.

But he’d come to terms with it. Specifically, he’d decided that everyone else could go fuck themselves: he was bisexual, he’d decided to be comfortable with that, and if someone had a problem with that then that was their problem. Which was why he’d told Namjoon, thrown it out into their conversation with studied casualness, riding high on his own defiance.

And in a way he supposed he was thankful to Namjoon for how he’d handled it. He hadn’t even let Yoongi’s confession break his conversational stride. Namjoon had made it clear that he was his bro and in his corner. Yoongi got it, he was grateful for it, and if Namjoon tried to sit him down and make him talk about his feelings one more time Yoongi was going to do a runner.

“Look, it’s just …” Yoongi scrubbed a hand through his brittle, overbleached bangs. “No, alright?”

“But -”

“But nothing. Look, it’s not just about the others noticing us acting strange. Aren’t you worried that the … symptoms, or whatever, will get worse the more contact we have?”

Jimin frowned like he hadn’t even considered it.

“Think about it,” Yoongi said. “It was just pain at first, right? Now it’s taste, too. Who knows what else might sync up if we’re not careful? If it’s contagious - and it might be, what do we know - then no offense, but I want to be as far away from you as possible.”

Jimin took a step forward, looking hurt, reaching out as if to put his hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. Yoongi jumped back. “Don’t touch me! I mean -” backtracking desperately “- I don’t think any physical contact at all is a good idea right now. Sorry. But I’m not taking any risks. I’m not mad at you, I promise. I’m freaked out. Let’s just keep our distance for now.”

Yoongi made note of the slump of Jimin’s shoulders on his way out the door, but the flash of guilt wasn’t enough to hold him up. He hadn’t left anything he needed at the table, so he made a beeline directly from the bathroom to the car.

The van they usually rode in was at the shop for - maintenance, or something, Yoongi didn’t pretend to be an expert - which meant that they’d taken two cars that night. On the way over, Yoongi and Jimin had both ridden in the car Jin was driving, but it came as no surprise, at least not to Yoongi, that after dinner was over Jimin followed their manager back to the other car and clambered into the seat behind him. That didn’t stop Jin and Namjoon from looked pointedly at the door closing behind Jimin and then at Yoongi, radiating disappointment.

“Drop it,” Yoongi said. To his relief, they did, and Yoongi set himself to the task of scrolling through the messages on his phone and ignoring them on the way back.

It would have worked, too, if they hadn’t stopped at a gas station on the way back.

They were still only about halfway back to the dorms when Yoongi was suddenly overcome by a strange, unsettled feeling. He glanced in the rearview mirror: their manager’s car was right behind them, weaving a little precariously through traffic to stay right on their tail. He even twisted in his seat to double-check that the license plate fit, and it was definitely Hyunsoo-hyung’s car.

So why did he feel like Jimin wasn’t in it?

Yoongi shook his head, trying to shake off the strange feeling as well. He was imagining things. Jimin was fine. Behind them, not somewhere off to the right like his gut was insisting. Even if he had been left back at the gas station, surely he would have called the manager or spammed their group chat with complaints by now.

Just as Yoongi had this reassuring thought, his elbow knocked against something on the ledge next to him. Yoongi gawped. It was Jimin’s phone, with the bright red phone case. He must not have taken it with him into the restaurant. Usually Jimin was glued to his phone, and he chose today of all days to forget it in the car?

Yoongi considered his options. Even if Jimin was stuck at the gas station without a phone - if he was stuck there at all, Yoongi reminded himself, if he could trust whatever it was their … bond, or whatever, was trying to tell him - it wasn’t like he was stuck out in the middle of the countryside. This was Seoul; he would keep until the rest of the group made it back to the dorms and realized their mistake, and he would keep while he waited for one of the managers to make his way back through … through the worst of Seoul’s evening traffic, dammit. They’d even planned for an early dinner so that they could avoid the vehicular sludge at the end of a work day. Driving through all that to pick up Jimin could take hours.

Reluctantly Yoongi pulled out his phone and tapped on Taehyung’s name on his contact list, just to be sure. He hesitated, wondering how best to phrase it. In the end all he sent was:

how’s Jimin doing?

Yoongi pocketed his phone again, but he could have spared himself the effort: barely a second later it ping!ping!ping!ed with Taehyung’s incoming messages.

awwwwwwwwwww

wait lol

isn’t he there with you?

Shit. Yoongi cleared his throat to get Jin and Namjoon’s attention.

“Jimin’s still back at the gas station.”

Immediately Jin slowed as much as the flow of traffic would allow. “Are you sure? How do you know?”

I’m psychic, Yoongi thought but didn’t say. “Uh … he texted me?”

Yoongi could see Jin frown in the rearview mirror. “No he didn’t. His phone’s in the back, I was going to give it to him once we were back at the dorms.”

Yoongi shifted uncomfortably. “... I texted Taehyung to see if he was okay.”

“Awww,” Jin mouthed at Namjoon, who raised his eyebrows significantly, but fortunately neither of them said anything, so Yoongi could pretend he hadn’t noticed.

“Alright, let’s turn around and pick him up,” Namjoon said decisively. “Yoongi-hyung, you wanna let the other car know?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi said, and pulled out his phone to text we’re going back to pick him up to Taehyung.

“Hopefully he hasn’t tried to take the subway,” Jin said as he swung the car towards the nearest exit to turn around. Jimin was infamous for getting lost in the subway, even after four years of living in Seoul.

“Yeah,” Yoongi said vaguely. “Yeah, I think it’ll be okay.” The knot of extraneous sensory information in his mind thought that Jimin was ahead of them now, unmoving, distant but getting closer.

Jimin didn’t need to be told to look for them - when they pulled into the gas station, Jimin was already staring in their direction, bright hair flashing copper under the light of the streetlamp. Staring at Yoongi.

***

Yoongi watched the digital readout on his phone flip from 11:59 to 12:00. Four days since that disastrous team dinner. Another day closer to their comeback. They were all tense, but recently Jimin in particular was oddly quiet. He watched the other members interact with Jimin, unsure whether he was picking up on things he shouldn’t through their connection, and so he’d noticed Taehyung and Jungkook exchanging worried looks, noticed Hoseok doing his best to be extra bright and cheerful around him. Yoongi had been staying out of Jimin’s way, reluctant to add any fuel to the fire of the rest of the band’s conviction that he and Jimin were an item, but he could make an exception to check and see if his bandmate was okay.

He didn’t need to ask to know that Jimin was in the dance studio, just like he didn’t need to ask to know that he was hungry, or that he had a bruise on his elbow. Jimin must have felt him approaching; he was staring at the door even before Yoongi pulled it open, looking surprised.

“Hyung!” he said. “This is unexpected.”

There might have been a hint of reproach in his tone. Yoongi ignored it. Instead he passed him the bottle of water he’d picked up on the way over.

“What’s up with you?” he said without preamble. “If you need to talk, just talk.”

Jimin swallowed generously from the bottle, then passed it back for Yoongi to drink from even though water wasn’t so bad for their … condition, not having much of a taste.

“That’s pretty rich coming from you, hyung,” Jimin said, but indicated for Yoongi to grab a spot on the floor next to him anyway. Yoongi sat - careful to keep a few inches between them, though, just in case - and let a minute go by in silence, waiting for Jimin to be ready to talk. Finally Jimin laughed ruefully.

“It’s nothing, really. I’m just sulking, I guess. It’s, uh … my brother’s high school graduation is tomorrow - or, well, I guess it’s today now. I just wish I could be there, is all.”

Yoongi blinked in surprise. He hadn’t been sure what he’d expected - although, given how preoccupied he’d been recently with this new addition to their unsettling connection, his awareness of where Jimin was constant and annoying in the back of his head at all times, he supposed he’d been expecting it to have something to do with that - but it hadn’t been this.

Jimin saw Yoongi’s expression and huffed a little like he was trying to laugh, but he wasn’t very convincing. “It’s stupid, right? Not like high school graduations are all that interesting. It’s just … my little brother’s growing up, you know? He’s growing up and I’m barely there to see it. He has a girlfriend now! I didn’t even know until recently. And he got a driver’s license too. I just wish … I don’t know. I don’t regret moving to Seoul and joining Bangtan, obviously, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but … sometimes I wish there could be two of me, so I could be a Bangtan member and a brother at the same time. Childish, right?”

“It’s not childish,” Yoongi said. He thought, suddenly, of his own hyung, who he hadn’t seen in … god, how many months had it been now? Did he feel the same way, keeping to the sidelines as his little brother moved far away and made a name for himself, pushed steadily past the goals he’d set for himself without a second glance for those who were watching over him from behind? Yoongi knew he had drive, knew he was always pushing himself in pursuit of the future he wanted for BTS. He didn’t often stop to consider that the more he sprinted forward, the farther he was leaving his hyung behind. His hyung, who was always quietly supportive and proud no matter what, and who would never complain that it wasn’t fair to him.

“It’s not childish,” Yoongi said again, quieter. He considered Jimin, who had smiled gratefully and then looked away. Looked unconvinced. Looked tired and a little sad.

“We’ll talk to management,” Yoongi said decisively.

“What?”

“Actually, we should to talk to Namjoon first, and then he’ll talk to management,” Yoongi continued thoughtfully. “It’ll sound better coming from the leader, and anyway I don’t need to tell you that Namjoon could make a convincing case for the moon being made out of cheese if he needed to. Go. Take the earliest train down, be there for your brother’s graduation. You’ll make it back in plenty of time.”

Jimin gawped. “Hyung … that’s … really it’s not necessary, and anyway the comeback -”

“Will still be happening in three days whether you spend those days in Seoul or in Busan. Go. I’m serious. I’ll talk to Namjoon, it’ll be fine.”

Jimin didn’t believe him until they’d both tracked down Namjoon and explained the situation to him. It was a harder sell than Yoongi had anticipated - he’d gotten carried away, probably, caught up in the excitement of coming up with a solution to Jimin’s problem - and might not have worked at all if it weren’t for the darting glances Namjoon kept shooting between Yoongi and Jimin, eyes softening in understanding. Or misunderstanding, more like. Whatever - let Namjoon’s overactive imagination jump to the wrong conclusions, then. So long as he agreed to go along with Yoongi’s plan.

Once they had won over Namjoon, though, they’d already won. Namjoon really could talk rings around their managers, and it helped that Namjoon asked for favours from Bang PD-nim basically never. The issue was taken all the way up the chain of command, but in the end the company caved. Jimin was going to Busan.

“Thank you,” Jimin whispered, in the wee hours of the morning while Yoongi was leaning in the doorway of the sunshine line’s room, watching Jimin pack his bags as quietly as possible to the background noise of Hoseok’s soft snores. The trains started running at five; he’d be there in four hours.

Yoongi shrugged one shoulder. It had been mostly Namjoon’s work anyway. “Don’t mention it.”

“No seriously, hyung. Thank you.” There wasn’t much light in the room but Jimin’s eyes seemed to shine anyway, fixed on Yoongi like a spotlight.

This time Yoongi didn’t say anything. Jimin brushed past him on the way out the door; not close enough to touch, but enough for there to be a whisper of movement as their clothes brushed against each other. Yoongi’s entire left side tingled.

***

The day passed strangely slowly. Yoongi had wondered how distance would affect their bond, had even let himself entertain the hope that Busan was far enough for Jimin to fade out of his mind entirely. Instead, it was like Jimin was holding one end of a rubber band and Yoongi the other, and no matter how much he wanted to he couldn’t let go. He was jumpy all morning, tense at the growing strain as, with every mile that Jimin put between them, the rubber band stretched tighter. He thought that even if you blindfolded him and spun him around until he was too dizzy to stand, he would still be able to point unerringly south to where Jimin was.

Maybe Jimin felt the same way. At the very least he developed the same phone mania that Yoongi had, checking in via text at least once every half-hour. Where are you now? What are you doing? How are the others? Have you eaten yet? What are you eating? How’s work? How’s your family? - an endless string of questions back and forth between them. The perfunctory answers never seemed to dispel the tension of distance for long. It was worth it, though, for the picture Jimin sent him in the late afternoon: a selca, himself and his brother, Jihyun with his high school diploma in hand, both of them cheesing to the max, with the caption thanks, hyung!. It was so cute Yoongi almost considered making it his lockscreen, but that would probably be a little creepy.

Nightfall came as a relief. At least asleep Yoongi could have some respite from Jimin’s absence, constantly itching in his mind. For once he turned in early, but even in bed he found himself automatically turning towards where he knew Jimin was. He wondered if, all the way in Busan, Jimin was curled up facing toward him as well, their bodies bracketing almost the entire length of the nation.

Sleep, Yoongi told himself firmly, and deliberately turned so that he wasn’t facing Busan anymore. He could try being well-rested for their comeback. It would be a novel experience, even if the first step, the one where he actually dozed off, was eluding him. Why was it that Yoongi always spent the whole day on the brink of exhaustion, but as soon as it was actually time to sleep he was wide awake? He rolled over. Now he was facing Jimin’s direction again.

He was horny, was the problem. Once he realized it, it seemed obvious. He’d jerk off, unwind some of this uneasy tension, and then he should be able to finally drop off to sleep. Jin’s back made a dark shadow on the next bed, shifting slightly with each soft breath. He was probably already asleep, but there was such a thing as courtesy between roommates, or at least there was in any room shared with Jin. They’d had several unspoken conversations about it: no jerking off in the beds, and in return they’d politely refrain from making any comments about showers that went on for a lot longer than they technically needed to. Yoongi crept out of bed and down the hallway, careful not to wake Jin or to disturb Namjoon and Taehyung, who were playing video games in the living room with the volume turned down way low.

Yoongi turned on the shower to help mask any noises he might make, but stood next to the spray instead of under it. He leaned against the shower wall and flexed his fingers against the tiles. God, he was so horny. Why was he so horny? Usually Yoongi jerked off just to get it out of the way so he could focus on other things, worked to minimize time and not to maximize pleasure. Today … he hadn’t even touched himself yet, but his skin was pebbled with goosebumps, his nipples stiff. Yoongi palmed the head of his dick and moaned softly as all the blood in his body rushed south. He must have been more frustrated than he realized if this was all it took.

Experimentally, Yoongi ran one finger lightly up the underside of his dick and gasped as it jumped, oversensitive. God. God, he’d barely started and already his head felt fuzzy with pleasure, an intense, insistent throbbing in his groin. Quickly he fumbled with the bottle of lotion that was always at hand near the shower - ostensibly so that they could keep their skin from drying out in the colder weather, although it ran low suspiciously fast for that to be the case - and slathered it on his hands. Tugged on his shaft and groaned at the slide, the slight friction. His knees were shaking. Yoongi slid down the wall, astonished as his legs gave way. He couldn’t remember ever being this wound up. With one hand he rubbed at his nipples, gasped at the shocks of pleasure that pulsed through him. His toes curled. He wanted to come.

Suddenly there was a disconnect between what his brain was telling him and what he knew to be happening. Pleasure shook him from the inside out, unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. Orgasm, he thought at first, but the intense throb of bliss didn’t ease up, only wound him tighter with each intoxicating pulse. Yoongi shuddered as he tried to grind down and up at the same time.

Maybe his brain didn’t know what was happening, but his body did. He was getting fucked.

The realization was accompanied by a sudden mental image, Jimin with his face squished against the mattress, mouth open and shiny with spit, ass in the air and lubed-up fingers pressing urgently inside himself, again and again and again and - Yoongi came, biting down on his hand to silence the moan that clawed desperately at his throat.

Or, no. It had been Jimin who’d come, not him. Yoongi humped the air ineffectually a few times, thinking about sticking his fingers in Jimin’s spit-shiny mouth, thinking about grinding against that amazing ass, before his instincts took over and he grabbed his cock, pumped twice, and finally, finally came for real.

When Yoongi’s senses came back online, he was hunched over in the tub, halfway under the warm spray of the shower, too fucked out and weak to remain standing. The bond sent his senses south, unerring as a homing beacon. Jimin was far away. He was not in pain. In fact, he was riding high on a flood of endorphins, body thrumming with post-orgasm contentment.

Shit.

***

To say that Yoongi and Jimin were awkward when Jimin returned from Busan would be an understatement. One thing to be said for the bond was that it sure made avoiding Jimin easy, always letting him know exactly where not to be so they didn’t run into each other. Their job, on the other hand, complicated matters.

With both of them trying so desperately to stay out of each other’s way, it wasn’t until right before the showcase the Yoongi and Jimin saw each other again. Yoongi made eye contact just for a second, just long enough to verify that it was a bad idea and he wouldn’t want to be doing that again, before looking away, heat rushing to his face. One second was long enough to remember that Jimin like to finger himself when he- Nope, cut that thought off right there.

“... Okay, that was awkward,” Hoseok said.

Jungkook looked between the two of them with wide eyes. “Is something wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Yoongi said, at the same time that Hoseok said, “We’ll tell you when you’re older,” and Jimin said, “So twenty minutes until showtime, then?”

“Good talk,” Yoongi said, and rushed off to find a stylist to retouch his makeup. It was a good thing he was already wearing so much product on his skin, otherwise he’d be willing to bet that he face was bright red.

Given his state of mind, it was almost a miracle that they managed to pull off their showcase without a hitch. Yoongi chose to think of it as a test of his professionalism. He kept his game face on during the interview, the performance, the subsequent fanmeet, and even the ride home - and then he flopped face-down onto his mattress, determined not to move for the foreseeable future. With his face out of sight, he let his mind wander - to the heat of Jimin’s eyes lingering on him, the strain of his thighs in the tight leather pants they’d squeezed him into for this comeback, the jump of nerves in his stomach before they’d gone onstage, the wash of adrenaline that had shot through him when the cheers from their audience had filled the arena, the last chords of their new song dying down. Jimin had grinned at Yoongi then, colour high in his cheeks, worrying his lip with his teeth, before remembering himself and looking away again.

Yoongi groaned into his pillow.

“Do I want to know?” Jin said, ambling into the room. Yoongi turned his head minisculely so he could see Jin from out of the corner of his eye as he dropped down onto his bed and crossed his legs, typing something on his phone furiously.

“What are you doing?” Yoongi asked.

“Texting Namjoonie a play-by-play of your behaviour. He says he’s worried but mostly I think it’s that your little drama has more entertainment value than anything that’s on TV right now.”

Yoongi thought about it. “You suck,” he concluded. “You both suck.”

“Speaking of which,” Jin said, transitioning smoothly. “Suck anything interesting lately?”

Yoongi glared at him as he struggled against the visual of Jimin’s legs spread in front of him, Jimin’s hands in his hair, Jimin’s -

If Yoongi got turned on thinking about giving Jimin head and Jimin could feel it through the bond then Yoongi didn’t care, he was quitting his career, he was quitting Korea, he would get on a plane and find the furthest geographical location from Park Jimin on Planet Earth, and if their psychic connection was still online at that distance then to hell with it, Yoongi would shoot himself directly to the moon.

Without a word Yoongi got up and walked out of the room. He’d find someplace else to work through his emotional crisis.

Not the studio, though. Jimin was in the studio.

***

In the following days and weeks, Yoongi started to seriously wonder if blue balls were a real medical condition he had to worry about. Yoongi was used to taking care of business with a minimum of fuss - a quick jerk-off in the shower before bed, maybe watch some porn in his studio if he needed help getting in the mood. Nothing too freaky. He wasn’t Namjoon, who could open his own porn library after retirement if he wanted to. Yoongi wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Namjoon had his porn organized by release date, porn studio, and fetish (not that he wanted to know).

Compared to that, Yoongi was pretty tame. Definitely not sex-obsessed. He repeated this fact to himself like a mantra, hoping that if he heard it often enough he’d start to believe it, but unfortunately self-hypnosis was no help against his sad boner. Maybe it was true that Yoongi didn’t generally get off all that often, but Yoongi was learning that that was worlds apart from never getting off at all. It didn’t help that what little interest Yoongi had in porn had been replaced by images better than any of the bland videos he’d ever watched - Jimin’s thick lips, his strong thighs, his small, sweet hands that Yoongi, despite his efforts to be a better person, couldn’t help but imagine on him every time he let his mind wander. Yoongi was going to hell. And the icing on the cruel cake was that Yoongi was sure that if he just gave in and jerked it to the images, allowed his fantasies free rein, he’d get his embarrassing obsession with Jimin out of his system. But there was no way. It didn’t matter what he did, even if he was alone in his studio with the door locked - if he got off now it would be no different from jerking off with the door open while Jimin was in the next room.

All of this meant that Yoongi was more sexually frustrated than he’d ever been. A stiff breeze could get him going. And as it turned out, Jimin was no better. Yoongi realized this for the first time at a team meeting with management. He’d been chewing on a pen, concentrating on the run-down of their comeback schedule, when he’d felt a wash of arousal out of nowhere - but it wasn’t nowhere, was it? The feeling came from the corner of his mind that was Jimin’s. He’d glanced up, limbs numb with shock, and caught Jimin staring at his mouth with dark eyes. A second later Jimin had looked away, face a shade of red that bordered on purple, but the damage was done. Yoongi’d had to excuse himself to the bathroom and splash cold water on his face until he’d calmed down, staring longingly at the bathroom stalls as if privacy was even an applicable concept when you had someone living in your head.

It didn’t help that Jimin was channeling his sexual frustration into their performances. Even the fans noticed - half the comments when Yoongi was monitoring their videos were about how freaking sexy Jimin was onstage recently. Yeah, well, try sharing the stage with him, Yoongi lamented mentally. Yoongi was starting to really hate the tight leather pants. Frankly it was a wonder he hadn’t collided with any of the other members yet, staring. Also they chafed in areas that no one should experience chafing, ever.

It was annoying, but Yoongi had it under control, or at least he thought he did. He turned out to be very wrong about that.

It started innocently enough. He was sitting slumped against the mirror of the dance studio, phone in his hands, beanie pulled low over his eyes. Jimin was dancing. It was quiet, not just in the studio but in his head as well. The only sound was Jimin’s panting breath, the pleasant, buzzing hum of the air conditioning.

Yoongi looked at his phone.

When he looked up again, Jimin was shirtless. They did that sometimes, in the summer when it was really hot and they didn’t have to worry about cameras. Yoongi didn’t remember thinking it was hot - hadn’t he been wearing a beanie, just before? - but it had to be. Why else would there be rivulets of sweat inching their way down the muscles of Jimin’s bare back? Yoongi licked his upper lip, tasted the sting of salt there.

He looked at his phone.

When he look up again, Jimin was no longer facing the mirror. Instead, he was facing him - not making eye contact but facing him nonetheless, eyebrows knotted in concentration, sweaty strands of hair falling into this face, body flowing through the dance moves with the effortless, controlled motion of a river. He was magnetic. Hypnotizing. Yoongi put down his phone and settled more comfortably against the mirror to watch.

Jimin looked up and caught his eye. “Hyung,” he said. His eyes were dark.

Yoongi didn’t remember looking away but suddenly there was no distance at all between Jimin and him. He reached up and ran a hand up Jimin’s abdomen, watched his abs jump under his fingers.

“Hyung,” Jimin said, dropping to his knees.

“Hyung,” he said again, inching forward until his thighs were straddling Yoongi’s lap. His small hand reached out and he brushed Yoongi’s bangs out of his face, leaned in.

“Yoongi-hyung,” he whispered, lips an inch away from Yoongi’s, so that Yoongi could feel the soft huff of his breath against them.

“Jimin,” Yoongi whispered back, and closed the distance.

Yoongi had been cold a moment before but he was hot now, the heat sparking from where their lips touched and rushing through his whole body, resettling in his groin. He unclenched his hand from Jimin’s hair and ran it down his back, fingers slipping on the sweaty skin, until he reached the swell of Jimin’s ass and squeezed.

Jimin gasped and ground down. Yoongi groaned.

When had he undone his pants? Jimin reached easily into his underwear and wrapped his hands around his cock, swallowing Yoongi’s moans and whimpers in hot, open-mouthed kisses. Jimin’s mouth was so hot. He wished -

The thought was still only half-formed and already Jimin’s head was at his groin, his lips closing around the tip of Yoongi’s prick, tongue teasing at the slit. Yoongi groaned deep in his chest and jerked forward, bucking his hips up for more, more, more of that delicious heat -

And woke up, chest heaving, his pyjama bottoms sticky.

No fucking way.

Later, while Yoongi was furiously loading the laundry machine, he reflected that if this were a normal situation he’d be thanking his lucky stars right now that Jin was such an early riser. As it was, Yoongi didn’t feel really lucky, knowing that any second now -

“I can’t fucking believe you,” Jimin’s voice said from behind him.

Yoongi gritted his teeth. He’d felt Jimin approaching earlier and had wasted precious seconds debating the pros and cons of running away. Jimin had solved that conundrum by texting him:

don’t you fucking dare

And now he was here. Stuck, with Jimin between himself and the exit.

“I can’t believe you!” Jimin said again. “Don’t you have an ounce of self-control? Did it not occur to you that it might be … weird … for me - I was hanging out with Tae and Kookie, hyung, I had to run off all of a sudden and it was really embarrassing! If you had to go … do that … you should have at least warned me!”

“Oh, the way you warned me when it was the other way around?” Yoongi snapped, defensive, then fervently wished that he could take the words back. He had to fight back a blush, embarrassment and arousal, at the memory: Jimin, clenching hard against his own fingers and gasping. He couldn’t believe he’d wasted a wet dream on something as tame as a blowjob when he could have been fantasizing about giving Jimin the good, hard dicking he so clearly wanted - what? No. Stop.

With difficulty, Yoongi derailed that train of thought.

In the meantime, Jimin had turned crimson as well. “I … that … it was an accident, okay? At least I was all the way in Busan! And anyway, at the time we both thought this thing only worked for pain!”

There should be limits to how much embarrassment one person had to suffer in one day. It wasn’t even noon yet.

“Mine … was an accident … too …” Yoongi muttered.

“What?”

“I said mine was an accident too,” Yoongi said. His face felt like it was on fire. In a just universe that would have been enough for the penny to drop, but in this one he’d clearly underestimated the length the penny had to fall.

“Explain,” Jimin demanded.

“It was an accident,” Yoongi repeated, red-faced, gesturing vaguely between himself and the washing machine. Why else would he be in here, Park Jimin, god.

On Jimin’s face, understanding dawned like the sun, if the sun wished it had thought to knock before interrupting what was going on down below. “Oh. Oh.”

“Right. Oh.” Yoongi said. “Can we stop having this conversation now?”

“Right. Um. Is - is this something that happens often, or …?”

Yoongi glared.

“I’m just asking if I should be prepared to deal with something like that again!”

“No it is not something that happens often,” Yoongi hissed, furious and mortified. “It’s the type of thing that happens when you haven’t been able to jerk off for more than two weeks because someone keeps peeking in on your mind like a fucking voyeur -”

And just like that, they’d crossed the line from civility into civil war.

“Excuse me?” Jimin screeched. “It’s not like I’m any happier about this than you are! How am I a fucking voyeur - if, if I’m a voyeur than so are you. Or maybe you’re an exhibitionist, maybe you fucking enjoyed getting off know that I could feel it -”

“Screw you,” Yoongi said. “Screw you, I just told you it happened in my fucking sleep, not like I’m the one who was two knuckles deep and loving it -”

Jimin’s face turning splotchy with anger and embarrassment. “I would have thought,” he said coldly, fists clenching at his sides, “that if you didn’t have the decency to stay out of my thoughts you’d at least have the decency not to bring it up later.”

Yoongi gawped, trying to keep a hold on his temper, which kept threatening to slip out of his grasp like a bar of soap. “I don’t. Like it. Any more. Than you do.” he said, articulating carefully.

“Really? Could have fooled me,” Jimin said, with a pointed look at the washing machine.

It slipped. Yoongi hadn’t ever thrown a punch in his life but he did now, right at Jimin’s face, which was stupid, and it was a good thing that years of dancing had honed Jimin’s reflexes as well as they had because he managed to dodge out of the way just in time.

“Hyung-”

Yoongi threw himself at him. They both hit the ground, Yoongi on top of Jimin, and Yoongi sat back up in order to pull back his arm and give Jimin a wallop, muscles tensing, Jimin reaching up to grab him by the collar and push him off, when they both -

Stilled.

It was a feeling like snow. Like going outside when it had snowed hard overnight and finding the world painted white, sounds muffled as if under a blanket. Yoongi hadn’t ever thought to describe the feeling of having just himself in his head, but this was it. Like the world had been put back to rights.

Jimin was looking up at him, wild-eyed. “Is it … you too?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi breathed. Had it hurt, when Jimin had fallen to the floor? Yoongi had no idea. The only pain he felt was his own, in his knees, coming to his attention now that the anger had washed out of his veins.

The only pain he felt was his own. Yoongi laughed, incredulous. Underneath him, Jimin was grinning wide.

Then his eyes flickered behind and to the side to the doorway, and he yelped. “Tae!”

Yoongi was upended as Jimin scrambled to sit up, although he noticed that Jimin was careful to still stay close, back pressed to Yoongi’s chest. Yoongi couldn’t blame him. The relief was incredible, like running a burn under cold water. He didn’t want to pull away either, although he couldn’t say it didn’t bother him that Taehyung was watching them like they were primetime TV.

“Don’t you know how to knock?” Jimin said scathingly.

Taehyung shrugged with one shoulder, unconcerned. “Ah heard yell’n,” he mumbled through a mouthful of bread. He must have been eating breakfast.

“You’re gonna hear a lot more yelling if you don’t beat it,” Yoongi said, but he couldn’t get the right threatening note in his voice. Relieved laughter threatened to spill out of him again, and he pressed his forehead to the back of Jimin’s neck. Jimin was still in his pyjamas, the loose T-shirt he wore to sleep in leaving the top knob of his spine bare. Absently, Yoongi pressed a kiss to it.

Everyone froze.

“On second thought,” Taehyung said, sounding a little strangled, “I can see that the two of you need some privacy.”

The door slammed behind him. Yoongi dug his face deeper into Jimin’s shoulders and wrapped his arms around him from behind. He didn’t want Jimin to turn around.

Jimin patted his hand absently and cleared his throat. “From fighting to back-hugging? You’re giving me whiplash, hyung.” He didn’t mention the kiss, which Yoongi was grateful for.

“I’m sorry for trying to punch you,” Yoongi said. He hooked his chin over Jimin’s shoulder and spoke into Jimin’s ear so that his voice wouldn’t be muffled by Jimin’s shirt. Jimin’s ear was red.

“Well, I’m sorry for calling you an exhibitionist.”

“And a voyeur,” Yoongi pointed out, in what he thought was a reasonable tone.

“You called me a voyeur first!”

Oh yeah. “Well, I’m sorry for that too.”

“I accept your apology.”

Comfortable silence descended for a few seconds. The silence left Yoongi time to notice such things as the fact that holding Jimin was warm, and firm, and that he smelled nice, and that the blush of red had crept from his ears to the back of his neck.

Reluctantly Yoongi eased away. “We should see what happens when we’re not touching now,” he said.

Jimin’s shoulders rose, tense, but he nodded in agreement. Yoongi held his breath as Jimin scooched forward a foot or two and then turned around.

He really had been blushing hard. His cheeks were red with it, his eyes bright, and so it was a few seconds before Yoongi registered that the knot of information that he knew to be Jimin had reappeared in his mind. It was better now, though. Before, having Jimin in his mind had been like trying to work on a song while Namjoon was blasting the bass in the studio next-door. Now, it was more like hearing the murmur of a TV playing at low volume in the next room: barely on the edge of his consciousness, almost soothing. Jimin had knocked his elbow against the floor when Yoongi had thrown him over - absently, Yoongi reached out and cupped the small wound. As soon as they touched, the connection disappeared.

Yoongi stared at his hand on Jimin’s arm. “We’ve been pretty stupid, haven’t we?”

Jimin was staring at Yoongi’s hand as well. Yoongi had thought that he was the worst blusher in BTS - the curse of his fair complexion - but Jimin’s face was still pink. Cute. Yoongi put that thought away.

“So I guess we should pretend to be dating after all, then.”

Jimin choked on his spit and coughed. “What?”

“Well, think about it,” Yoongi said. “Obviously physical contact helps with this weird,” he drew loops illustratively in the air with one hand, letting Jimin’s elbow fall in the process - suddenly aware again of his pain - “... thing we have. The other members already think we’re dating, and even if they didn’t, I doubt Taehyungie’s gonna stay silent about what he saw today.”

“He’ll stay silent if I ask him to,” Jimin interjected quietly, still sounding a little shell-shocked.

Yoongi shrugged. “Let him talk. If we’re dating no one will think it’s strange if we touch a lot. This is a good solution.”

“Really?” Jimin said incredulously. “A good solution? Like I said the moment Namjoon brought it up? I don’t want to say ‘I told you so,’ but -”

“Good,” Yoongi cut in. “That’s very big-minded of you. Very mature, to recognize that saying ‘I told you so’ isn’t a productive contribution to the conversation.”

“But-”

“Good talk.”

Jimin glared. “Okay, but just for the record, if ‘I told you so’ was a thing that I would say, I would totally be saying it right now.”

“Noted,” Yoongi said drily. “Now get back here.”