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I Am Not A Robot

Chapter Text

Jimin sighed, toeing at the crack in the pavement beneath his feet. He refused to look back at the building looming behind him as the door closed in his wake. It felt like the worst kind of rejection. It felt like failure.

Another audition, another no. He was getting used to them, now. They didn't even sting anymore. They just left him feeling empty and hollow; as though his unfulfilled destiny was being sucked right out of him. His motivation went with it. He wasn't sure how many more rejections he could stand.

‘You have great visuals’ they all told him. ‘Your dance is good, if not great. Your voice has potential. But you're just not what we're looking for.’ Again and again, he wasn't what they were looking for. He cursed his height. He cursed his stupid eyes that got too squinty and small if he wasn't actively keeping them open wider. He cursed his round cheeks, persistently plump no matter how much he dieted. He just wasn't what they were looking for. He was certain that he never would be.

They all hurt, the rejections… but this one had been one of the hardest. He'd risked his job by skipping his shift to come here. He wasn't sure he'd have a job to go back to, now. He steeled himself and headed home to change.

Despite rushing to get dressed and all but running to the cafe, he was still nearly two hours late for his shift. The manager didn't even let him put on his name tag… just swiped it off the wall and dumped it in the trash before telling him to get out.

And just like that, another one bit the dust.

He trudged home without his eyes even leaving the floor. He wanted to sink to the center of the earth. Maybe the world wasn't so cruel down there.

By the time he entered the apartment and toed off his shoes, Jungkook was awake, blearily rubbing his eyes as he made coffee. Jimin had probably woken him in his mad rush to change for work.

“You're home early…” The younger man said cautiously. “So either the audition went well…”

“Or it didn't and I got fired.” Jimin replied through a grimace, sighing.

“Oh no… Chim, I'm so sorry.” Jungkook murmured sympathetically, walking around the table to meet him as the other man plopped down into the nearest chair. Jungkook slid his mug in front of him. “Here, take this, I'll make more. God, that's rough. What kind of idiots are overseeing these auditions, anyway?”

“You don't have to try to make me feel better.” Jimin grumbled, but he took the mug into both hands, letting it warm his palms.

“I'm not just placating you. Honestly I think these directors are crazy.” Jungkook insisted as he cleaned out the coffee filter to make a fresh batch. “Sucks that it came at the expense of your job this time… again. No one ever wants to take your early shifts. Not that I can blame them. I'd usually be annoyed your racket woke me up before noon but I'll let it slide today.”

“Gee thanks.” Jimin muttered.

“Aw, cheer up, I’m sure you'll find something soon.” Jungkook assured as he sat down with a steaming cup of coffee. His right hand found Jimin’s forearm, resting there with a reassuring squeeze. “Hey, let’s order in… lunch is on me today.”

“Lunch is always on you.” Jimin mumbled petulantly against the rim of his mug.

“Well, it’s on my subscribers. You can thank them. Maybe pop in on my next stream, they keep asking if my cute roommate is around.” Jungkook teased.

“They do not.” Jimin huffed.

“They do, I have screenshots.” Jungkook wagged his eyebrows. “One of my mods clipped your last appearance and saved it under the !roommate command on my channel. What does it say again? Something about, ‘Kookie has an elusive roomie he calls Chim, he's incredibly cute, will dance if he hears one of his jams’. They like you.”

“Oh my god, that's ridiculous.” Jimin snorted, shaking his head. “Your fans are weird.”

“But they pay me.” Jungkook replied, pointing. “You know, you could always stream.”

“Stream what? I'm not exactly a good gamer. I'm a filthy casual and you know it.” Jimin reminded him.

“You don't just have to stream competitive games. There's mukbang… though you aren't the greatest cook.” Jungkook mused aloud. “Do dancers stream? Is there a market for that?”

“The only streaming I’d be any good at is the kind I am not prepared to make the leap to.” Jimin said with a grimace.

“There's nothing wrong with being a… you know.” Jungkook cleared his throat. “A camboy.”

“I didn't say there was. But I don't think it's for me.” Jimin responded. “And besides, you're home literally all the time. Talk about awkward.”

“I could leave! You know, if it helped…” Jungkook tried.

“Drop the subject, Kook.” Jimin bit back flatly.

“Yeah yeah.” The younger man sighed. “But, regardless. I know you'll find something. You always do.”

 

But two weeks went by, and Jimin had found nothing. He swore he'd gone through every retail job in the surrounding neighborhoods, and it seemed as though nothing was hiring. He wasn't exactly qualified for anything higher level… and he certainly wasn't up for another audition just yet.

His phone bill was due in a week, and rent the week after that. He was getting desperate. He actually started trolling some of those cam sites after Jungkook’s suggestion. He was on about the third FAQ page when his phone rang, and he was sure it was just another creditor on his case for past-due credit card payments. Those were the last thing on his mind.

But the name flashing on the screen was a familiar one, though one he had not seen in quite some time: Namjoon.

Jimin wracked his brain, trying to put a face to the name. It took him several seconds, but his mind eventually supplied the image of a taller man, a bit older than him, hair bleached and dyed gunmetal gray. They'd met in college, through a mutual friend; Taehyung. He hadn't seen him in a while, either.

“Hey, Namjoon. To what do I owe the sudden call?”

Despite his foul mood, he sounded pleasant enough, at least in his own mind.

The voice on the other end of the line was thready, and a little shaky. He cleared his throat.

“Jimin, hi. I… not to be rude, but I’m a bit desperate and I need a favor.”

The sentence itself was rather unassuming. And having come from a man he had once greatly respected and admired, Jimin was not likely to refuse.

“Please don’t be angry.”

Now that… that gave him pause.

An hour later, when Jimin was across town, standing face-to-face with an AI, a robot, that looked just like him, he understood why Namjoon may have made such a call entirely out of the blue.

His voice went tight with anger, his satoori unfiltered as he rounded on the older man. “You built a robot with my face?!”

“I can explain.”

And explain, Namjoon did. Over coffee, blessedly, because there wasn't enough caffeine in the world to deal with the kind of day he was having.

“It's hard to invent faces that look real. The human eye is keen… there are certain things it looks for when you look at a face.” Namjoon told him. “And… the first time I met you, I remembered thinking you were too pretty to be human.”

“Flattery won't help your case here.” Jimin muttered, but that was a lie. He was a sucker for niceties. “So you have a robot that looks like me. What do you need me for?”

“Well. Um. It's complicated.”

“I expected that, Professor.

He had to anticipate things would be wild if they involved Namjoon. They always had been. He still remembered meeting him through their mutual friend Taehyung. The first time he saw Namjoon, he was elbows-deep in some robotics project, which turned out to be a regular occurrence. Despite clearly being the smartest man in the room, he was incredibly personable and warm. He fixed a minor issue with Jimin’s phone without even being asked. He made terrible coffee, so Jimin would brew some for them when they were working late. He spent more nights at his apartment than he did at his own, mostly because Taehyung was his roommate and he was always there, working on some new project. The next year, Namjoon got a roommate named Jin and it always felt a little crowded to Jimin when he went over, so he stopped going. The guys never made him feel stupid intentionally, but being surrounded by geniuses working in fields like engineering and psychology and computer science sure as hell made him feel that way all on his own.

He was a dance major, after all. And what had he done with it? Nothing. A few indie projects that went nowhere and one too many failed auditions had set him on a fast track for job-hopping well outside his field less than a year after graduation. It had only gone downhill from there. He'd been lucky to find a roommate as put-together as Jungkook. Jungkook was a successful streamer on a fast track to the pro-gaming field, and he insisted he hated living alone so Jimin’s presence was no burden. Regardless, he felt like a burden. He felt like he wouldn't ever achieve anything like the others around him did. It left a bitter taste in his mouth, one he couldn't shake.

Namjoon had made it. At least, it sure as hell seemed that way. Sure, they were in a rather run-down looking lab, right now, smack dab in the middle of a rather sketchy warehouse district, but merely ten feet from them sat a robot that looked completely and utterly human. If he wasn't rich beyond belief yet, he was about to be.

“The robot has a potential buyer.” Namjoon continued. “He saw it yesterday and was incredibly interested. He wants to run a test trial starting tomorrow. But… one of my project partners made an idiotic mistake last night and completely fried some of the hardware. The buyer won't postpone. If we don't get the funding from him, they're selling our subsidiary to the highest bidder and dropping the project from their books.”

“I don't see how I can help you.” Jimin replied obliviously.

Namjoon took a breath, then let it out. It was several false-starts before he finally got the words out. “I need you to pretend to be the robot for a few days until the replacement part arrives.”

Jimin blinked owlishly at him. “You want me to… pretend… to be a robot…”

“Just for a few days, a week tops. I'll pay you ten million won for your trouble.” Namjoon added quickly.

Another few blinks, silent. Thoughtful.

“All right, let me go pick up some hair dye, then.”

His immediate agreement was probably a testament to just how broke he was, but Jimin was beyond caring about being judged. Ten million won didn't just fall into one’s lap every day.

 

That night, he had Jungkook brush bleach into his hair, and explained everything. The younger man couldn't help but laugh.

“So this engineer built a robot that looks exactly like you? Sounds like he's got a thing for you.”

“Namjoon? No way. He said he just did it because he liked my face.” Jimin mumbled, closing his eyes quickly when a fleck of developer got a little too close to his lashes. “He's a scientist. His interest was purely aesthetic, don't give me that look.”

“How can you tell what look I'm giving you if your eyes are closed?” Jungkook argued.

“Because I know you.” Jimin quipped. “But anyway, I wasn't going to say no to the money.”

“Do you know anything about this buyer? What if he's some kind of creep?” Jungkook asked, shivering. “What if he’s… you know. Into some kinky… robot stuff?”

“It's a test period, I'm sure Namjoon is setting boundaries.” Jimin assured. “He didn't tell me much about the guy. All I know is his name is Min Yoongi, he's president of some big corporation, and he's a total recluse.”

***

Min Yoongi was, indeed, a total recluse. This evening was spent, as many others, locked behind the soundproof doors of his studio, working on new tracks. It was a pastime he kept well hidden, selling and publishing songs under pseudonyms. He'd long since given up on caring about his own reputation, but he would still do everything in his power to spare the reputation of his company.

His nights, just as his days, were spent alone. But such was the fate of someone who was, quite literally, allergic to people.

Countless doctors over the years had laughed at the very notion, but each one had been stunned into silence when a mere touch sent him into anaphylactic shock, a deep reddish-yellow rash spread from the point of contact and across his body, choking off his air supply as his throat closed and vision went hazy. Carefully-measured doses of epinephrine could get it back under control, but thus far, he had found no cure.

As it stood, he'd been exempted from military service (after years of arguments and a final, desperate display of his allergy for the medical panel, which had nearly killed him), and it seemed he was cursed to live a lonely existence. His only solace was that he had been blessed to have ended up the sole heir of his parents’ fortune, and his father’s company; he would never want for anything… save for a friend, or a partner, or… any human contact, at all.

He claimed on many occasions he would not trade his wealth for companionship, but on lonely nights like these, his usual answer might have been different.

But today. Today, he had been given hope.

Today, just this morning, he had walked into a dank little warehouse laboratory and witnessed a miracle.

Clad in all-white, sitting at the center of the room, was a young man. He had stood and approached Yoongi, looking up at him with curious, grayish eyes. He looked ethereal; skin too clear, too flawless. He seemed to assess Yoongi for a moment, blinking several times before cocking his head, parrot-like.

“Hello, Master. I am Mochi 3. How may I serve you today?”

Yoongi had choked, stumbling back several paces.

He had gone to that place to see a robot… and he had known it would be incredibly life-like… but nothing had prepared him for that: to look into those grayish eyes and see nothing mechanical at all. He may as well have been human.

He had not believed he was a robot, at first. Not until the AI peeled off his white sweater to reveal where the creamy complexion of his torso bled into titanium plating, a battery core nestled there in his solar plexus just beneath where his heart would be. He did not believe it until he removed one of his own leather gloves, something he wore habitually whenever he left the house, and reached out to touch the other’s hand.

There had not been a reaction, even though it felt like skin. A patented silicone blend, his mind supplied from the snippets of the project paperwork he could recall, the file he'd only just received and skimmed over the day before.

He had stood there and ogled for several long minutes, staring at the place where their hands met.

“I'll take him.” Yoongi had rasped brokenly into the empty room, unsure if anyone was even around to hear him.

It was the first contact in fifteen years which had not caused him immeasurable pain.

Chapter Text

“Oh, the dye worked, thank goodness.” Namjoon exclaimed breathlessly as Jimin walked through the laboratory door the next morning, freshly blond and now a perfect match for the robot. “Did you read those emails I sent you last night?”

“I did, yes, very informative, thanks.” Jimin grumbled. “Could have done without all the sciencey mumbo-jumbo though, but I think I got the gist.”

“Jimin!” A familiar voice called from behind a computer screen. The person to whom it belonged poked his head out, grinning mischievously.

“Tae! Long time no see.” The younger man beamed, waving from the entryway. Another man appeared, then, as tall as Namjoon and sporting his natural dark hair. “Jin! You're still working with Namjoon, too?”

“Yeah, he can't get rid of me.” Jin told him, tossing a fond smile at said man. “It's been a while. You finish your dance degree?”

“Uh… yeah. I did.” Jimin mumbled, not really wanting to get into that.

“Hello!” An unfamiliar voice sing-songed from across the room. Seated next to the robot was a man with brightly-dyed red hair and a stunning smile. “I'm Hoseok, but you can call me J-Hope!”

Every one of the others save Jimin rolled their eyes. Namjoon was the first to speak. “Jimin, Hoseok. He's the one who made an idiotic mistake that fried Mochi 3’s core.”

“Such a lovely introduction.” Hoseok bit out in a sickly-sweet tone. “I'm not usually an idiot, Jimin, I have just as many degrees as these jerks, don't let them fool you. We all just had a little too much to drink the other night.”

“For a computer engineer, you sure do a lot of questionable things around computers. Drinking, for one. Improperly disposing of said drinks, for another.” Namjoon sniped.

“Yes let’s continue harping on this, it's not as though I've heard nothing else for the last day and a half…” Hoseok hissed, though his tone was still too-kind and his smiling face was trained on Jimin. “In any case, it's nice to meet you. You really do look just like our Mochi 3!”

“Y-yeah. It's, uh. Uncanny.” Jimin replied with an uncomfortable cough.

“All right, there are a few logistical things to go over, but first, change into this.” Namjoon said, handing Jimin some folded white clothing. Once the younger man took it, he set an energy bar on top of the pile of fabric. “And eat this. Our buyer has been told that until we receive some upgraded tech which is currently awaiting patent approval that Mochi 3’s battery life is about three hours per charge. You can't exactly excuse yourself for lunch or to use the bathroom so we are going to keep your stint with him short and as uncomplicated as possible.”

“O-okay…” Jimin nodded, ducking behind a curtained spot in the far corner of the room, apparently a sleeping area for when the techs didn't go home. He slipped into the simple white clothes and started in on the energy bar as he walked back out into the lab.

“The client knows Mochi 3 has two modes: Default and Companion. He's under the impression you will be in Default mode and that Companion mode is only available once Mochi 3 has gathered sufficient information on any given person, in this case, him.” Namjoon explained. “So he knows some features will be limited or unavailable. If he asks for any foreign language features, just tell him it's failing and to try again later.”

“Okay.” Jimin responded around a mouthful of dusty-tasting chocolate-flavored nutrition.

“I've prepared some videos for you to watch so you can mimic how Mochi 3 moves.” Taehyung piped up, motioning to the square of nine screens before him, now showing different clips of the robot in development. “Robotics have come a long way, so you won't need to keep your joints overly stiff. Mochi 3’s movements are actually quite fluid, but it tends not to have the same kind of minor twitches and tics you see in a human, so be mindful of that.”

Jimin’s mouth hung open a little in awe as he watched, nodding dazedly. There was the smallest hesitation before each major movement, he noticed, and every motion seemed to start slow, reach optimal speed, then decrease gradually, just like a car accelerating, then stopping. Mechanical, but fluid. Maybe his dance training would be good for something after all.

“Put this in your ear. We and Mochi 3 will be communicating with you through this.” Jin piped up, handing him a tiny silver earbud. Jimin slipped it into his ear and it nestled perfectly out of sight.

“Wear this on your wrist; it's a microphone, so we can pick up everything going on around you.” Taehyung said, pressing a whitish plastic watch-like object into his hand. Jimin strapped it on, tapping on it. Taehyung checked his computer to make sure it was picking up the sound.

“These are probably the most important thing.” Namjoon spoke, holding out a contact lens case. “They’re state-of-the-art micro-technology. Go ahead and put them in.”

Jimin nodded, opening the case and sliding the contacts into his eyes with practiced ease. He was no stranger to them… he rather enjoyed wearing them casually for the aesthetic change. These had just a slight hue of grayish-blue to them, giving his irises the same appearance as Mochi 3’s. But what truly shocked him was when he blinked and an entire interface appeared in his field of vision, scanning the people and objects in his immediate area, like a heads-up display in a video game.

“They’re fitted with microscopic cameras which feed directly to us and Mochi 3. What you see, we will see.” Namjoon explained.

“Wow… it's just like a HUD.” Jimin murmured, eyes darting a bit as he took everything in.

“Think of this less as pretending to be a robot and more as being Mochi 3’s avatar. It will be reacting in real time to whatever you see or hear, so just repeat and you'll be golden.” Namjoon explained. “Mochi 3 will be learning through you, so none of this time will be wasted. It may be you in the house, but all the information will be processed by Mochi 3. You'll be helping it gather data and learn. It can even learn from your reactions to certain situations.”

Jimin nodded once more, still looking around as he got used to the contacts. Little information cards popped up next to every person he looked at whenever he got a clear enough view of their face for the facial recognition to kick in. It included pertinent information, such as name, age, degrees and even the school they graduated from. Under each of them was also something he didn’t recognize.

“What’s Project Serendipity?” Jimin asked, looking at Namjoon.

The older man motioned around them. “This team. We are. Project Serendipity is what made Mochi 3 possible. It’s… not much yet, but… maybe someday, when the world can see what we’ve done here, it can be so much more.”

“I’m sure it will be.” Jimin assured in a soft voice, smiling. Namjoon smiled, then, too.

“One last thing.” Jin spoke up, sounding almost regretful as he lifted what looked like a metal back brace up in one hand and a small power button in the other. “Tae and I retrofitted this from one of the prototype builds, hollowed it out and backed it in moleskin for your comfort, but… he thinks you're mechanical. So you need to wear this.”

Jimin cringed. “That looks like a torture device.”

“Think of it like a corset.” Hoseok piped up, rolling by in his chair and knocking on the thing with three metallic thumps. “A titanium and carbon fiber corset.”

Jimin groaned. This was going to be a long three hours.

***

Yoongi paced back and forth down the long line of his foyer, wringing his hands. He was nervous.

Why was he nervous?

This wasn't a person. It couldn't feel emotions or express disdain. It couldn't possibly understand how much of an unsocial recluse Yoongi was. He didn't need to impress it with etiquette. Today was his chance to test just what the AI was capable of… he wasn't the one under scrutiny here.

He took a shaky breath, then let it out. He needed to relax.

The sound of a vehicle driving through the gravel in his front driveway cut through the room, and he quickly scrambled across the room, putting some distance between himself and the door. He’d given everyone at Project Serendipity explicit instructions that they were to drop the robot off and leave as quickly as possible, limiting his potential contact with them. He couldn’t risk his allergy acting out; it only seemed to get worse and worse with each incident. He did not yet feel he could be forthcoming about why he requested such accommodations; no one save his doctors and personal house staff even knew of his allergy, but thankfully, they seemed willing enough to comply, knowing there was good money in it for them in the long run.

Yoongi was out of sight by the two men came through the front door, rolling a large metal crate in on a trolley. They slid it off of the base with care, making sure it was level.

“Stay calm and don’t overthink anything. You’ll do great.” Taehyung whispered against the side of the metal crate as he and Hoseok backed away. Jimin didn’t respond, but it had brought him comfort.

The two scientists slipped out of the house quickly just as they’d been told to. Jimin took a few steadying breaths and shut his eyes, leaning back against the crate. It was dark inside, only a small slit in the front letting light and air in, and he couldn’t hear anyone approaching through the metal. The little faux power button glued to the base of his neck brushed against the back panel of the box, making him acutely aware of it, then. The corset-like device under his sweater was just this side of tight, quite literally screwed into place with bolts and screws, but it actually brought him a sense of calm. It was like a costume piece; if he was wearing it, he wasn’t Jimin, he was Mochi 3.

Yoongi approached the entryway of the foyer warily. The box was unassuming enough, but he still hesitated. After a long moment, he undid the latches along the right side, pulling the front panel open. When he laid his eyes on the figure inside, he let out a soft, shuddering breath.

It was truly, incredibly beautiful.

He knew it was not a person. He knew it was not real. But in his brightly-lit foyer, it looked just as real as it had in the dim laboratory the day before. That unnatural blond hair fell just over the other’s brow, its eyes closed. He cleared his throat.

“Mochi 3?”

It was as much an order as a question. Jimin opened his eyes, the HUD in his contacts immediately coming to life, outlining the stranger’s face. He was just an inch taller than Jimin and possibly only a few years his senior, with sharp, angular almond-shaped eyes and a button nose. His hair was left its natural deep brownish-black, falling smoothly across his forehead. Jimin couldn't help but notice he was handsome… much more so than he had expected. He wasn't sure exactly what he had expected, but it wasn't this. The images a description like “wealthy reclusive man requiring the company of a robot” brought to his mind were in complete opposition of what he now saw before him.

Words lit up next to the man’s face in his contacts. ‘Min Yoongi. Master. Age 28. President of MK Enterprises.’ There were too many schools and degrees for him to bother reading through in that moment, so he didn't bother. Clearly the man was educated.

”Hello, Master. How may I serve you?”

It was his own voice in his ear, almost… just a little too flat, a little too tinny, and perfectly pronunciated, accompanied by subtitles in his field of vision. He was Mochi 3’s avatar, he reminded himself. Robot see, human do. Jimin swallowed, repeating the sentence exactly as he'd heard it.

Yoongi picked up a clipboard from the table next to him, clearing his throat. He moved back, then, allowing Jimin to step out of the box. “Mochi 3, I have a few drills for you today to test your functionality. I'm obviously aware of your specs, as I've read up on them, but I'm interested in seeing practical application.”

”I understand, Master. I will do my best to please you.”

Jimin felt himself gag and swallowed it down. Wow, had Namjoon seriously built a submissive little slave bot that looked just like him? It was making his skin crawl.

“I understand, Master. I hope I will make you proud.” He said instead, because it tasted less wrong on his tongue.

Yoongi just nodded, scratching something on the page with his pencil before leading him further into the house.

The first few tests were simple, mostly for coordination. Jimin was an expert at mastering choreography, so he easily followed Yoongi’s menial instructions as he ordered he move or lift a certain limb, increasing the speed of his orders in an attempt to confuse him. Jimin remained unfettered, keeping his expression neutral as he did as he was told.

Yoongi looked somewhat ambivalent as he scribbled on his clipboard again, neither impressed nor disappointed.

“Now onto the more dynamic testing phase. I want to see exactly what you are capable of.” Yoongi said, leading the other into a different room.

Jimin scanned the area, letting Mochi 3 map the room. There was a dining table which had been prepared with a few things: a jar, an iPad, a bowl of pasta, and some kind of box in the middle sporting a combination lock.

“You will find several objects on the table in front of you.” Yoongi explained, sitting up on another table, which was against the wall. “There is a jar of dry beans, a bowl of pasta, and a tablet. Solve the calculus problem on the tablet, calculate how many beans are in the jar, and use your olfactory sense to determine how many ingredients are in the dish. Add the three numbers together and you will be left with a four-digit number, which will open the combination lock on the box you see before you.”

Jimin blinked. What kind of unnecessary bullshit—

“You have three minutes. I’ll deduct points for every second you go over.” Yoongi said, lifting his phone and starting the Stopwatch app. “Go.”

In his ear, he could hear the scientists tittering nervously. They'd been largely silent until then, attempting not to distract or overwhelm him, but now it was pandemonium in his earpiece. ”I don’t know if we can pull this one off”, “The calculus is easy enough but the beans are a guessing game since there’s a natural variance in their size”, “Guys, you’re all forgetting that Mochi 3 cannot possibly smell through Jimin’s nose.”

Silence. Finally, Mochi 3 began speaking in his ear.

”Unable to detect olfactory data through third-party sensors. Recalculating…”

Then, static, followed by a click, and complete and utter silence.

Shit.

Well, that was a problem.

He hadn't accounted for having to do things on his own. Be an avatar for a robot, sure. Sounded easy enough when the robot itself and four geniuses were there to back you up. But now it was just him and and his Fine Arts degree and a load of good that was doing him, hm?

What kind of ridiculous test was this, anyway? How could even a robot figure out how many ingredients were in a cooked dish by scent alone? The smells blended together as they were heated, surely. Was this possible, even for the real Mochi 3?

Jimin blinked, looking thoughtfully at the box. “Master. Please repeat the order.”

Yoongi squinted at him interestedly, raising an eyebrow. “I've given you the means to calculate the combination of the lock. Amount of beans, calculus problem, number of ingredients. Add them and you'll get a number. Your goal is to find out what is inside the box.”

Of course. Because computers, computers just did what they were ordered to do; whatever command was entered. They didn't think about what was impractical or efficient. But AI could adapt. True AI could learn.

Jimin crossed the room, lifted his arm, and broke through the top of the flimsy wooden box with his fist, forgoing the lock entirely. He reached inside and pulled out the small object resting there in the center, holding it out to Yoongi.

“The box contained an egg, Master.”

“That's… incredible. You shouldn't be able to…” Yoongi completely ignored his clipboard in favor of watching the other with rapt interest. “Peel it within ten seconds.”

Jimin could tell it was hard-boiled by the weight, so he cracked the shell on his head, then peeled it away easily, holding it out once more.

Yoongi stared at him for a long moment, eyes wide. “Your… problem-solving skills are incredible. You're not a mindless machine at all.”

Jimin wasn't sure why he felt heat flare in his chest at the praise, because it didn't even apply to the real him; it wasn't something worthy of praise at all from a human standpoint… but still, it felt good to hear.

“Thank you, Master. I am glad I have pleased you.” Jimin said in his own voice, no mechanical accompaniment echoing in his ear.

***

The rest of Yoongi’s tests had been fairly simple; grip strength variance dependent upon different objects, small puzzles, more coordination drills and minor strength tests. He had a small panic attack when Yoongi wanted to test his internet searching capabilities, but he'd ended up asking him to identify classical music and their composers by listening to short sections of their compositions. Jimin had aced Music and Art History so that had been a breeze. He even volunteered extra facts about the composers or the pieces for extra credit, and it had impressed Yoongi judging by the look on his face as he scribbled on his clipboard.

The only test he'd had to decline was multilingual speech… simply reciting that the ability was currently failing and to try again later. He thought it was the first time Yoongi marked him… or rather, Mochi 3, down several points on his paper. Namjoon had prepared him for the question during their little briefing and training session anyway. He was still nervous that the com link hadn't come back up, however. He wondered if it would even come back before the testing session was over.

Blessedly, it returned just after Yoongi handed him a Rubix cube. He'd always been terrible at those things. Suddenly his HUD reappeared, the com beeping in his ear.

”Oh thank god we’re back. Jimin, blink twice if you are all right.” Namjoon’s voice came through, directly in his ear. He did so, earning a sigh of relief.

”External video link reestablished. Please follow the instructions to complete task.” Mochi 3 said, then. Sure enough, there was a little diagram of arrows now surrounding the cube, showing him how to solve it. He did so quickly before handing it back to Yoongi.

He could hear the scientists tittering in relief for a moment before they remembered to mute the mic and everything was quiet again.

Once Yoongi was satisfied, his paper entirely filled out, he gave the other a tour of the house. It was massive… a sprawling mansion with more rooms than Jimin could ever possibly remember without Mochi 3 cataloging and mapping through his HUD as they went. The man had a full basketball court in his basement, an Olympic-size swimming pool, sprawling gardens surrounding the property, a huge office library and more bedrooms and bathrooms than Jimin cared to count. He had an entire room dedicated to video games, and Jimin couldn't help but think Jungkook would have been drooling over it. His kitchen was also massive and decked out in the latest tech.

“This room is off limits.” Yoongi said as they passed by a set of double-doors near the main foyer, motioning to them. “If I am ever in there, you are not to disturb me. Is that understood?”

Jimin nodded as the information was marked with a little red exclamation point in his HUD. He wanted to ask why, but he wouldn't. “Yes, Master, I understand.”

Finally, they stopped in one of the main living areas, in front of a large portrait. Three smiling people, obviously a family; mother, father and son. Next to him, Yoongi began fiddling with the chain around his neck, which Jimin hadn't seen before. It must have been under his shirt. It was then he noticed the gold ring dangling from it was a perfect match for the one worn by the woman in the image; the distinctive filigree pattern gave it away.

“My parents.” He explained. “They died fifteen years ago, but they will always be close to my heart.”

Jimin found his own eyes tracking over the young boy in the portrait’s brightly smiling face. He could imagine why he didn't seem to smile much anymore, why he chose to lock himself away from the world… after a loss like that. Jimin’s own parents pretended like he didn't exist. He was already a disappointment to them when he decided to pursue a passion degree instead of a practical one. And when their suspicions of his fluid sexuality were confirmed, they simply stopped speaking to him. There was still a hole in his heart where their love and support should be. He felt for Yoongi, then, because his parents were gone forever. At least in Jimin’s case, he could hope for reconciliation with his own.

“My master was happy.” Jimin murmured, though Mochi 3 had not prompted him to say anything at all.

Yoongi gave him a melancholy look, then. “They were better times.”

In front of the portrait, there was a table lined with much smaller framed photos. Jimin scanned over each one, soon lighting upon an image of a much younger Yoongi with a girl of similar age.

“Save this face in your memory.” Yoongi told him, picking up the photo. “This is my first love, Suran.”

Jimin peered at the photo. Mochi 3 helpfully created a folder and catalogued the image under the name ‘Suran’. She was a cute child, but he wondered if the other had any more recent photos of her. It didn't seem that he did.

“She has been abroad for almost fifteen years now, for her education.” Yoongi added. So, when he meant first love, he literally meant first, as in a childhood sweetheart. Cute. He didn't expect Yoongi to have such a sentimental side, from what he'd seen of him so far.

Yoongi set the photo down, picking up a different one. It was yet another of him as a child, this time with another boy, also similar in age… perhaps a bit younger. “This is Kim Jongin. We were friends in my childhood, but we are now, above all things, business rivals. Please remember this.”

Jimin nodded absently as Mochi 3 catalogued it. As it updated, a small info card popped up in his field of vision, sporting a photo of an incredibly handsome man in a business suit. It read, ‘Kim Jongin, “Kai”. 27. VP of MK Enterprises.’ In red, new text appeared, ‘Master’s business rival.’

“I will remember it, Master.” Jimin said, because he knew Mochi 3 would.

“I'm actually curious about your facial recognition capabilities.” Yoongi added thoughtfully, tapping a finger against his chin. “Ah! I know.”

Jimin blinked. “Master?”

“Wait here.” Yoongi said before disappearing through the doorway. Jimin stood there obediently, rocking a little on his heels. He let out a hard sigh, his plush lips vibrating a little with the force of it, as though he were releasing all the pent-up tension in his body. This was the first time in hours he wasn't in the other’s presence, feeling like he was under constant scrutiny.

After a few minutes, Yoongi returned, holding something in his hand. It was a circular Kumamon fan, large enough that it hid his face as he lifted it up. When he did so, the head-up display in his contacts actually identified the person in front of him as ’Kumamon. Japanese mascot. Bear.’ There was no indication that Mochi 3 could even tell that Min Yoongi was still standing there. So much for object permanence.

“Oh, it's Kumamon!” Jimin said in a faux-shocked tone. When Yoongi moved the fan away from his face, the display identified him again. “Oh, my master is back!”

Yoongi seemed amused, and Jimin had to suppress the urge to roll his eyes. The other moved the fan in front of and then away from his face again several times, as if trying to confuse him. Truthfully, the display descriptions switching so much in his field of vision was a little dizzying, so he probably actually sounded dazed when he spoke.

“Kumamon… Master! Kuma—Master! Kumamon. Mas—Kumamon! Master!”

Yoongi eventually let the fan drop away from his face, laughing freely into the back of his hand. In that moment, Jimin realized this was the first time he'd seen the other express happiness. He had a bright, gummy smile and the sweetest laugh.

“My master is smiling.” Jimin said, unprompted by Mochi 3. He grinned, then, too, cocking his head a little.

Yoongi pressed his lips together, nodding. “Yes. I… I hope you will learn to recognize me no matter what my mood.”

Jimin nodded in return. Mochi 3 had catalogued the emotion in a folder labeled ‘Master’, so he was sure the robot would,

“However… Mochi 3… there… may be a time when you are unable to recognize your master.” Yoongi continued, his voice suddenly low and serious, though still incredibly fond. “If that ever happens, you have my permission to go into that room.”

He pointed to the very doors he'd deemed off-limits less than an hour before. Mochi 3 updated the data in his HUD.

“In my desk, you'll find medicine, and needles. Follow the instructions on them, and I promise your master will return to you.” Yoongi explained. “Do you understand?”

No, Jimin wanted to say. He didn't understand. What the hell did that even mean? Why wouldn't he recognize him, unless he was wearing that silly Kumamon mask, of course. Regardless, he nodded, Mochi 3 still logging the data based on the text moving rapidly across his contacts.

“I understand, Master.” He lied.

“Good. Let's finish the tour, then, hm?” Yoongi said with a loud clap of finality, leading the other into another room, which was yet another massive living area.

As they crossed the room, Jimin’s foot bumped into something and he nearly tripped, but managed to catch himself. He was grateful for the padded house slippers he was wearing, or else he might not have been able to prevent himself from reacting to stubbing his toe.

“Ah! What's this?” Jimin asked, looking down at what appeared to be a disk-shaped machine skittering across the floor. After bumping into the boy, it recalibrated, beeped and moved off in another direction across the carpet.

“Oh. Careful! This is one of my Pretty Ones.” Yoongi scolded. “That's your senior in my household, so you should respect it.”

Jimin blinked, staring down at the thing. It was basically a fancy Roomba for rich people. How the hell was this in any way comparable to a multi-billion-won humanoid robot?

“My… senior?” Jimin asked slowly, trying not to sound offended.

“Yes. There's a hierarchy in this house, and you'll do well to remember it.” Yoongi told him seriously. “This Pretty One is precious to me, as well as my gaming systems; they are all Pretty Ones. Once you have been here long enough and proven yourself, you can count yourself among them as well.”

It took every effort for Jimin to keep his face impassive. It was abundantly clear to him in that moment that this man had exactly zero friends.

Well, he had one friend, now. A robot named Mochi 3. And maybe, in some small way, even if he did not realize it, he could count Jimin himself among his friends.

A loud beep resounded from the general area of Yoongi’s left hip, and he pulled his phone from his pocket, checking the screen.

“Ah, looks like our time is almost up. Your keepers should be here soon to pick you up.” He silenced the alarm before pocketing the phone once more. He almost sounded regretful. “I will see you out.”

Jimin had to suppress a snort. How could this man go from treating him like a vacuum to acting as though he were a guest? Yoongi was truly an enigma.

Soon enough, they stood in Yoongi’s foyer in front of that metal box. Jimin wasn't looking forward to going back in that thing, but he was definitely hankering for some food and to get out of the uncomfortable metal death brace under his sweater.

“Overall I was very impressed with you today, Mochi 3.” Yoongi said, all business. He held out a hand expectantly, offering a handshake in the sort of overly-serious way that a person who rarely gave handshakes would.

Jimin smiled, taking Yoongi’s hand into both of his own, turning it until it was cradled in a way that was comforting, almost intimate, the pad of his thumb skirting gently over the curve of the other’s palm.

“I am glad to have pleased you, Master. I hope that you will continue to be happy with me in the future.”

Yoongi wasn't sure if it was those kind words, the gentle touch or the sweet smile, but he felt all the air leave his lungs.

When he finally let go, it was with a stab of regret, as though he wanted to hold onto him forever.

Chapter Text

Upon waking with a terrible headache, Jimin decided he'd had far too much to drink the night before. He and the Project Serendipity team had celebrated their successful test of Mochi 3 with bottle after bottle of soju and beer. He was pretty sure Jungkook had carried him into bed from the cab. Thankfully he'd been streaming late that night.

The sun felt like his personal enemy, its rays piercing harshly through the cracks in the blinds. He squinted as he sat up, rubbing his eyes. Jungkook was still bundled up under the covers in his bed not five feet from Jimin’s own, in their cramped little shared bedroom.

“Jungkookie…” Jimin groaned pathetically, picking up one of his nearby stuffed animals (he wasn't childish, he just collected them, so he insisted) and pegged it in the general direction of the other man’s head. It bounced off his shoulder and he shifted, pulling down the covers with a questioning grunt. “Make coffee?”

“Why me?” Jungkook complained, rolling over and stretching.

“Because I feel like I'm dying, and I'm your hyung.” Jimin retorted.

“Always with the age difference.” Jungkook sighed, but he did not protest, rolling out of bed and trudging out of the room.

When Jimin finally made his way into the kitchen, there was a cup of coffee as well as a glass of water and several aspirin waiting for him. He downed the meds and water before collapsing into a chair and hunching over the steaming mug.

“So, yesterday went okay?” Jungkook asked. “You were blitzed when you got home but you were happy and smiling, so I figured it wasn't misery-drinking.”

“Yeah, it went fine. Mr. Moneybags totally thought I was a robot, and didn't get weird or creepy on me.” Jimin told him. “The money hit my account this morning so I'm gonna wire you rent and go pay off the dance studio today.”

“Oh yeah? You gonna start going again?” Jungkook queried, sounding hopeful.

“I’d like to.” Jimin admitted. “Don't know how long this money will last, though. I still have to find a real, steady job.”

“You shouldn't give up on your passion, either.” The younger man countered. “I see how miserable it makes you. At least do it for a few months, while you can afford it. Maybe it will open some doors for you.”

Jimin grunted, scowling. “I feel like every door so far’s been firmly slammed in my face.”

Jungkook frowned. “I know it feels like that sometimes, and I know it makes things hard, but… don’t give up.”

Jimin sighed, managing a small smile. “All right. I’ll sign up for another month, if they let me.”

Jungkook beamed, standing. “Great! I’ll make some eggs. You need protein and fat to kick that hangover.”

“Wonder what they’ll think of the blond.” Jimin remarked with a huff of a laugh. “I might keep it for a while.”

“You should. It suits you.” Jungkook said with a fond smile, rolling a few of the strands in between his fingers as he passed him.

Minutes later, he was tucking into a bowl of eggs with cheese and little chunks of pork and he was already starting to feel better.

Jimin wasn’t sure what he did to deserve a great friend like Jungkook, but he’d count his blessings twice.

***

Yoongi had awoken with a certain fiery determination that he hadn’t felt in years. He locked himself in his office and pored over all of the business data surrounding the Project Serendipity team’s acquisition and impending sale. The company had come under MK Enterprises’ control nearly fifteen years prior, and had made them exactly zero money. Not unusual, however, when he saw the proposed purchase price, he knew something was wrong. He called the company, informing them he would be coming in to attend today’s meeting. The secretary on the other end of the line seemed surprised, but immediately got to work preparing for his arrival.

Yoongi got dressed before heading down to his garage, choosing to take one of his lower-profile cars. He didn’t feel the need to break out any of the nicer vehicles for what would be a short trip.

It was incredibly rare for him to ever go to the office in person, but for this, he felt it necessary to ensure his orders were followed. He also wanted to get a read on his vice president and each of the chairmen. Something was off about the sale of this particular subsidiary, and he planned to get to the bottom of it. When he pulled up in front of the building, he sat there in his car for a long moment, shooting off a few emails to some trusted members of his tech teams and an outside source he used for collecting data in… less conventional ways.

By the time he climbed out of his vehicle, he noticed some commotion in the courtyard off to the right of the building, and found his attention drawn by it. It appeared someone was… dancing.

***

Once he no longer felt as though his head was in a vice grip, Jimin got dressed and headed into downtown. He didn’t know how his old studio would react to seeing him back. They hadn’t been particularly thrilled to tell him he couldn’t come back until he’d paid off his past dues, as he’d been the favorite of several of the dance instructors and the owner. He hoped they would take well to him returning.

A familiar chime rang through the studio as Jimin opened the door. He looked toward the counter to see that Jaijin, the owner, was actually there himself. There were several dancers on the floor stretching as they prepared for class. They didn’t even look up, most of them wearing earbuds and lost in their own worlds. He recognized several of them, and couldn’t help but smile at the idea of dancing with them once again. Jaijin looked up to greet him, but suddenly appeared a bit regretful as he saw Jimin walk through the door. However, when Jimin held up a thick, white envelope, he grinned.

“Long time no see.” Jimin said bashfully. “I, uh. I'm sorry this took so long to get to you. I fell on some hard times, but… there's enough in there for another month, if you'll have me back.”

“If you pay in advance you can stay as long as you like.” Jaijin told him with a smile. “Actually, you came at a perfect time. We're doing a fun video project in the city today… you should join us.”

Jimin blinked. “O-oh… uh… okay.”

“Why don't you go get warmed up with the others and we'll fill you in.” Jaijin suggested.

Jimin beamed. This… this was what he needed. And things were finally looking up.

 

The video project turned out to be pretty awesome. The members of the dance studio were sent out in pairs, tasked with covertly recording each other dancing in a public setting. They were made to wear cold masks and hats, the assignment being “Communication Through Dance”. No words, no reading facial expressions: simply anonymous dance on the streets of Seoul.

Jimin set up with his partner in an ideal spot downtown, in a little public courtyard between two office buildings. It was busy with foot-traffic but not crowded. He'd been lucky enough to get paired up with Taemin, one of the best dancers at the studio and someone he got along with quite well when he used to attend classes regularly. The older boy seemed glad that he was back, eager to work on some collaborations together.

Taemin had a style that was all his own, as well as complete and utter control over his body. He only ever moved what part of himself he intended, in exactly the manner he wished, even when freestyling. It was, at times, completely opposite of Jimin’s style; with measured, precise motions of his upper body in perfect time with the music. He combined R&B and classical stylings into his own unique movements in a way that was simply indescribable. He was known to push the boundaries of what it meant to be a male dancer, but since they were around the general public, he kept to his more conventional stylings.

They had drawn a little bit of a crowd, Taemin’s phone designated as the one playing the music while Jimin used his own to record. He was sure to get some of the crowd as well, for their reactions. They didn’t seem off-put that Taemin’s face was covered, his dark hair falling almost entirely over his eyes where it was squashed under a beanie, the lower half of his face shielded by the collar of his turtleneck, which he’d unrolled and pulled up as far as it would go. He had chosen an upbeat song, easily getting into the groove. The people around them became involved, as well, some of them cheering and rocking on their feet or even shaking their hips. It had Jimin smiling from ear to ear.

The song ended and Taemin bowed, earning a soft round of applause. Many people dispersed, going along on their way. Jimin picked his song on Taemin’s phone, then handed his own to the older man to record him. He took a breath, then let it out, rolling his shoulders. When the song started, he moved.

If Taemin was control and precision, Jimin was fluidity and passion. He danced with his entire body, the rhythm flowing through his spine and his limbs like waves. Whereas Taemin tended to dance at the top of a beat, Jimin favored the middle… people who watched them dance together often said that they were rarely in sync with each other, but somehow both still perfectly in time with the music if one watched them individually. Jimin was, according to all of his instructors, incredibly versatile; while he was trained classically, and often used the types of movements one may expect from ballet and jazz performances, he had taken a liking to hip-hop stylings as well, often mingling elements of it into his routines in ways people never seemed to expect.

Dancing in public like this was actually freeing. He wasn’t embarrassed at all. He wasn’t in front of a table of people who were silently judging him. Most of the people in the tiny crowd forming around him looked awed. Pride bloomed in his chest. He felt validated. He amped up his efforts, really starting to feel the music. People were gaping. It only fed his passion.

Jimin began to weave more hip-hop moves into his routine and tumbled backwards on the cement, sliding smoothing back up onto his feet with a full body roll. His hand went to his neck, slithering along his jawline sensually. With the beat, he threw his head back, making the long line of his neck visible, the deep v of his shirt shifting in a way that exposed almost his entire collarbone as his shoulder dropped, a move many of his dance instructors noticed as one of his signatures.

Jimin glanced around to get his bearings, and froze when he saw none other than Min Yoongi there at the edge of the sidewalk, standing next to a car and staring right at him.

He hadn't even noticed the sign on the topmost floor of one of the buildings they were nestled between; Taemin had picked the spot, after all, he'd merely followed him. But sure enough, there it was in bright, neon-lighted letters; MK Enterprises.

Fuck.

His freshly-dyed blond hair was tucked under a gray bucket hat, his eyes mostly shadowed by the floppy rim. The rest of his face was obscured by the black fabric surgical mask looped around his ears… there was no way on earth that Yoongi would possibly recognize him.

So then why… why was he standing there, staring at him?

Jimin hadn't stopped moving for long, pushing through his shock and mild panic as to not ruin the project. He tried to studiously avoid looking at the older man as he let himself fall back into the rhythm of the music, his moves a little slower and simpler now as the tempo slowed. The song soon came to an end and he turned his back to the tiny crowd which had formed, reaching his arm up before letting it fall down across his eyes. Applause resounded, and after a few seconds, Jimin spun around and bowed, smiling brightly under his mask. He caught sight of Yoongi’s dazed face just in time to see him seem to realize he had been simply standing there like an idiot, shake his head and hurry off toward the MK Enterprises building.

 

Yoongi couldn’t believe he’d put himself at risk like that. Stopping so close to such a large crowd had been beyond idiotic. He was scowling as he strode through the automatic doors at the front of his building, swiping his badge as he passed. The first floor was abandoned, as requested. At least something had gone right today.

He climbed into the elevator and tried to will himself to concentrate. However, he couldn’t stop seeing that man in the back of his mind… he was sure he’d never met him, but he almost seemed familiar; something about the look in his eyes. He bitterly realized he hadn’t been able to look much at his eyes, though… perfectly-sculpted thighs clad in too-tight black leather had much more easily kept his attention. Glimpses of a defined, pale abdomen whenever he’d moved too quickly in his loose, gray peachskin shirt, low cut as it was to tease a glimpse at his collarbones and chest, had also stolen his gaze.

Beyond that, his dance… his dance had been beautiful. He thought of all the ballads he could write if only that man promised to dance to them. His movements, his passion… something about it inspired him. He’d never seen anyone dance like he had.

Yoongi grimaced a bit at having been distracted, but resolved to quickly push it out of his mind. He’d come to the office for a reason, after all. It was rare for him to ever go there in person, as he had to instruct his staff to clear out the first floor, vacate the halls and move all the chairmen to one side of the conference table. Everyone always assumed it was a power play, or perhaps that he was agoraphobic or germaphobic. If only his illness had been one so conventional.

When he entered the conference room, everyone stood and bowed, lined up perfectly to one side of the table, backs facing the windows. He nodded in acknowledgement and sat down across from the vice president.

“Jongin.” Yoongi greeted coldly.

“Yoongi-hyung.” Jongin responded with a smile that didn’t meet his eyes. “What… brings you here? It is such a rare honor for you to join us for meetings in person.”

The comment was, on the surface, kind, but his words were barbed.

“I was looking over the minutes for the last board meeting and something caught my eye.” Yoongi half-lied. “A rather small subsidiary we acquired over fifteen years ago… I checked the books, and it hasn’t made us a dime. Yet, it was set to be sold next week for a substantial amount of money, much more than we purchased it for.”

Jongin stiffened, but tried to appear unfettered, though he hesitated a bit as he leafed through the file in front of him. “The… buyer offered double the asking price, from my understanding...”

“Mhm.” Yoongi intoned incredulously, shoving the file which had been set out for him across the table. “I’m canceling the deal.”

“What? But… why?” Jongin sputtered, clearly personally affronted. It was a deal he was overseeing himself, and he had to wonder if the other man was just doing this to flaunt his power.

“I don’t believe I need to justify my business decisions to you.” Yoongi said in an acidic tone, standing up to leave. Everyone was on their feet again instantly. “That’s all I came here to say. Carry on.”

The rest of the room was left in shock as he simply walked out, saying nothing further.

***

Once Yoongi returned home, he summoned Namjoon to talk about Mochi 3 and the future of the Project Serendipity team. The engineer, of course, was eager to meet, and headed right over. Yoongi made himself a small meal and ate quickly before the man arrived. He was very particular about his food… he never ate anything anyone else made; it could make him sick, just as touching another person nearly killed him. It was an inconvenience, but one he’d adapted to.

He met with Namjoon on his veranda, both of them at opposite ends of an unnecessarily long table, meant for entertaining dinner guests for a garden party, he supposed. His mind lighted upon a distant memory of his mother throwing such affairs, perhaps, but it was gone before he could fully remember it.

“I must admit, I’m impressed with what you’ve managed to create.” Yoongi began, peering at the other man from across the too-long metal table. “But I have concerns about the… impersonal nature of machines. I was promised a companion, but from what I saw, your Mochi 3 is a bit of a humanoid computer, when it comes down to it.”

“As you continue to spend time with Mochi 3, its responses will become influenced by you. We call it deep learning… the more Mochi 3 is exposed to a single person, the more it will become attuned to that person’s needs.” Namjoon explained. “Right now, Mochi 3 is in the company of only the Project Serendipity team. Scientists with… terrible senses of humor and not the greatest social skills, if I’m being brutally honest. I can assure you that Mochi 3 will only learn and grow as it spends time with you. It will learn about you, and can be taught how to react and read your emotions and needs.”

Yoongi seemed to be considering his words, lips pressed together and eyes trained off in the distance, as though he were lost in thought. “And what if… I don’t wish for even a robot to have such data, data that could potentially be shared and used to exploit me?”

“It’s a machine. You can set a password, so that data will only be accessed in your presence and at your discretion.” Namjoon told him.

Yoongi met his eyes, then, regarding him for a moment. “And how long would it take for Mochi 3 to go through this deep learning process, assuming that the only people it was in contact with were me, and your team?”

Namjoon let out a breath, gesturing with something like a shrug. “It’s hard to say. Weeks? Months? It would be a gradual process.”

Yoongi nodded, seeming satisfied regardless of the vague answer. “All right. I’d like to test it for myself, exactly what Mochi 3 is capable of. One month… for one month, Mochi 3 will spend time with me every day. if I’m satisfied with the progress by the end of the trial period, not only will I invest in your team, but I’ll see to it that you have a worthy facility for further research, and the money for said facility would not come out of the investment funds. You’d be free to use it for any research you see fit.”

Namjoon balked. “I… th-that… yes. That would be a-acceptable.”

Yoongi raised an eyebrow at him. “You act as though this wasn’t exactly according to your plan.”

Namjoon choked. “P-plan?”

“You knew your team was being sold off.” Yoongi accused, though there was no anger or resentment there.

“I was made aware, yes.” Namjoon answered, glancing away.

“And so you leaked your research to me in the hopes it would win me over, and save you from being sent to work for someone god-knows-where, who may have ill intentions for your accomplishments with AI.” Yoongi continued.

“You’re… very astute.” Namjoon replied, coughing. “Yes. That was my hope.”

“Very well.” Yoongi sighed and sat back, lacing his fingers over his stomach. “I’ve halted the sale of Project Serendipity’s subsidiary under my company. But my decision is not final. You explained that unlocking Mochi 3’s full potential would require time… that it can express more personal, emotion-like responses once exposed for extended periods with a specific person or people. I would obviously like to test that before I move forward with further investment in your team. We’ll start on Monday.”

Namjoon choked again. It was Friday, and they didn’t have the part in to fix Mochi 3 yet. “Monday? O-our facilities aren’t currently equipped to handle...”

“I’ll be moving your team on-property, here.” Yoongi explained, his tone one which brokered no argument. “That will significantly reduce your travel time, as you would no longer need to deliver Mochi 3 here in the mornings.”

“It will… take some time to set up all our equipment.” Namjoon stuttered. “Mochi 3 won’t be able to charge while everything is in transit.”

“That’s fine. It will give you a day for moving, and a day of setup. I’ll have the moving company come tomorrow.” Yoongi told him, standing. “Have Mochi 3 ready for testing by Monday.”

“There are logistics to consider… setting up our equipment in an entirely new facility, ensuring the power grid is sufficient...” Namjoon was only trying to stall, hoping the other wouldn’t notice.

“Everything will suit your needs, I assure you.” Yoongi insisted, standing. “Two days, unless you no longer feel my investment is worth your trouble.”

Namjoon cringed. “N-no, it’s… it’s fine. We’ll… have everything in order.”

“Good. The movers will be there at eight a.m. sharp.” Yoongi said with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

Namjoon nodded, standing and bowing before taking his leave. By the time he returned to his car, his professional facade dropped and he let out a frustrated sigh, glancing at his cellphone.

Time to beg for yet another favor, and hope against hope that Jimin would agree once more.

***

Jimin was beaming around his chopsticks as he and Jungkook tucked into some delicious takeout, his treat for once. It felt good, having money. Even if it wasn’t a lot, it was better than feeling destitute and useless.

“So he didn’t recognize you?” Jungkook asked around a mouthful of noodles. Jimin had already regaled his story of how he’d gotten to join the dance studio project, but that he’d unwittingly ended up running into the rich recluse with a love of robots.

“He couldn’t have, my face and hair were all covered up.” Jimin insisted. “But he just… stared at me. I don’t know, it was surreal.”

“He probably liked your dancing!” Jungkook teased. “It’s hard not to stare when you move those hips of yours, Jiminie-hyung.”

Jimin scoffed, throwing a napkin at the younger boy before they both dissolved into laughter.

Next to him on the table, Jimin’s phone rang. He excused himself from the kitchen, seeing a familiar name pop up. He pressed his lips together, wondering if this would be good news or bad. He took a breath before answering the call.

“Hi, Namjoon. I really hope you're not calling to tell me I ruined everything.”

“What? No, no, Jimin, quite the opposite.” Namjoon sounded a little winded. “You were wonderful. So wonderful that the client wants to extend the testing phase.”

“That's great!” Jimin exclaimed, probably a little too loud. “Wait, that is great, right?”

“It is. But, um. We've run into another problem.” Even through the phone, his voice was obviously strung out, full of dread.

Jimin blinked. “Go on…”

“The part we ordered, it was shipped internationally, but it seems to have hit a snag with the post office.” Namjoon explained. “It somehow ended up in the UK. It came from America. They're rerouting it, but… well. We've asked the client to wait a few days to commence the remainder of his test period but he's refusing. He wants it to start Monday, or he's pulling out of the purchase and going forward with selling off our parent company.”

“What?” Jimin balked. “But… he can’t! All your hard work...”

“It doesn’t matter if he won’t invest.” Namjoon murmured.

“What more does he need?” Jimin asked disdainfully. “He did so many tests...”

“He wants to see what Mochi 3 is capable of in Companion Mode. He wants to make sure it isn't always so stiff and inhuman. I explained that as Mochi 3 learns more about a person, it can formulate responses and even a personality that reacts in kind, even so far as to simulate emotion, but… well, he wants to test it for himself.” Namjoon sighed. “It could be as long as a week or two before we get the part and recalibrate Mochi 3 enough to be ready for that level of testing, and he wants a full month to see what the robot can do. I… was hoping I could call on you once more to be a stand-in for Mochi 3.”

Jimin blinked. The image of Yoongi the last time he saw him, the way the man had looked at him while he was dancing, was burned into his mind. It was so different from how he looked at him when he believed him to be Mochi 3. He wasn’t sure which he preferred. He wasn’t sure why he was even thinking about him like that. He cleared his throat, shaking his head to clear it, because Namjoon was speaking again.

“I can keep paying you… not as much, but—”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll do it.” Jimin cut him off. “You paid me a lot last time. How about we just… play it by ear, huh? You can… buy me food or something.”

“Jimin… if you do this for me, I’ll owe you a whole lot more than some ramyun and kimchi.” Namjoon chided.

“Then you better swing for the pricey stuff, hm? Korean beef and seafood all week.” Jimin teased.

Namjoon laughed, and Jimin smiled, hoping he’d relieved a little bit of his stress.

He may not have been a genius... he may not have gotten a degree in something as impressive as engineering or computer sciences, but by some miracle, he could still help with this. He couldn’t explain the feeling that gave him, but he wanted to cling to it… that feeling of being needed. Of mattering to someone.

He wanted to hold onto that feeling, tuck it deep within his chest. It burned there, foreign and warm and bright.

***

The next afternoon, Jimin got to see the new facility… an old home nestled in the back corner of Yoongi’s sprawling property, likely left over from when his parents had bought up the surrounding lots and combined them. The house was mostly empty, a little run down, but workable. It was so far from the main drive that it had its own off a completely different main road, so Jimin was able to come and go without being noticed. By the time he arrived, all of the computer equipment had been moved in. Mochi 3 was sitting at the center of the room, plugged into the massive interface that looked to him almost like a high-tech throne. The back wall was lined with bunk-beds, curtained off from the main living area similar to how it was at the last lab.

There were enough beds, so Jimin texted Jungkook to let him know he was just going to stay there for the night… it would be easier than trying to sneak back onto the property the next morning. After watching a few more videos of Mochi 3 and even interacting with it for a little while, he enjoyed a small meal of cup noodles with the Project Serendipity team before they all headed to bed.

The next morning, he was standing in the mansion’s foyer again, willing himself not to be nervous. He’d already passed all of Yoongi’s tests. All he had to do now was show him how human-like Mochi 3 could be. Since he was actually human, it shouldn’t be too hard.

“Hello, Mochi 3.” Yoongi said as he entered the room, smiling. Mochi 3’s interface in his contact lenses catalogued the expression as ‘happy’, saving the image. Hopefully it wouldn’t be such a rare sight after today.

“Hello, Master. How may I serve you?”

“Your creators have explained to me that, with time, you will be capable of being like a friend or companion to me, but that I must provide data to you. I would like you to build a profile for me, but only I will have access to it. I would like to set a password for it.” Yoongi explained.

Jimin nodded. “State the password, Master.”

“Let’s go with...” Yoongi’s eyes wandered a little, and he seemed to remember something, as a fond smile ghosted over his face. Mochi 3’s interface helpfully detected and labeled the emotion as ‘nostalgic’, saving the information. “Kumamon.”

In his ear, Mochi 3 chimed that the password was accepted. Jimin repeated, “The password has been set: Kumamon.”

“Good.” Yoongi pressed his lips together, nodding. He moved closer, regarding him with the sort of intensity that made Jimin feel incredibly small. He did his best not to react as the other man held up his hand, close enough now that his fingers gently skirted over the soft white sweater, catching against the metal corset-like brace underneath. They hovered there over the space where his heart was, where the robot’s core should’ve been. “I will make a room inside you, only for me. You must not let anyone else in… only I can enter. Do you understand, Mochi 3?”

“Yes, Master.” Jimin promised. He felt like his face was on fire, and it took every effort to keep his expression schooled. Yoongi’s eyes were so earnest.

“From now on, look only at me, look after me, and follow only me.” It was an order, but it sounded like a desperate request, like a man helplessly begging.

“Yes, Master.” Jimin repeated, lifting his hand to cover Yoongi’s, cradling it there against the metal covering his chest, thankfully masking the hammering of his heart.

Yoongi just stared at their entwined hands, his expression unreadable, even to Mochi 3.

Chapter Text

Jimin’s day with Yoongi was completely opposite of their first meeting. He was no longer interested in testing Mochi 3’s hardware so much as he wanted to begin the deep learning process. He seemed to think that meant just going about his day with the other following him around.

Namjoon and the others were also not watching his every move like hawks.

“You’ll be forming a relationship with him.” Namjoon had said, not looking away from his computer screen. “You don’t need us to guide you through that. Mochi 3 will give you cues, but it’s a robot; your reactions will teach it far better than going with its own calculations ever will, especially with regard to friendship.”

“But… you’ll still be here?” Jimin asked, concerned.

“Of course. There’s a little button on the microphone bracelet that emits a loud beep on our end. Just press it if you need us, and we’ll check the monitors. We’ll still check in every so often, but we don’t want to distract you.” Namjoon had finally looked at him then, smiling. “Don’t think too much into it. Just do what feels organic, but keep it in the realm of possible for Mochi 3. It’s going to learn from you, so even if that seems unlike a robot… well, it will copy you going forward.”

Jimin had been grateful for the freedom, but also a little worried. He wasn’t capable of all the great feats AI surely was. His body was flesh and bone, not titanium and silicone. What if Yoongi asked him to do some impossible physical task? He worked himself up over it, but when it came down to it, Yoongi only had him check the day’s stocks, peruse the Steam store to see if anything interesting had come out that he might want to download… menial things.

After the first hour, Yoongi went down to his basement to the basketball court, wanting to play a little ball. He was also curious if Mochi 3 was any good at it. Several of the demo videos he had seen of the robot showed it playing tennis, after all. Yoongi passed him the ball, which he caught easily enough.

Jimin panicked slightly, because a robot should probably be eerily good at everything, right? What if he did terribly? He wasn’t a complete stranger to basketball, but he wasn’t a prodigy, either. As he stared up at the basket, the Mochi 3 interface helpfully showed him what angle to shoot at. There were suggestions on the amount of force as well, but Jimin had zero idea how to effectively apply those. He couldn’t exactly calibrate the amount of force he was putting into the throw.

He went with his instincts on how hard to throw, but followed Mochi 3’s instructions on the angle. The ball went into the basket with perfect precision, not even touching the rim.

Yoongi gave an impressed look. “Huh… that was very good, Mochi 3. Maybe it will be nice to have someone who can keep me on my toes, hm?”

Jimin beamed, that feeling of pride blooming in his chest again. His response was nearly identical to what Mochi 3 suggested in his ear. “I am glad Master is pleased with me.”

“Let’s play a bit, then.” Yoongi replied with a grin grabbing the ball as it bounced away from the net and starting to dribble.

Jimin had to do his best to not sweat or start panting, so he largely stayed back by the three-point line and only shot when Yoongi passed him the ball.

“You know, you’re not very good at this one-on-one thing.” Yoongi chided, but he was smirking in amusement.

“Why would I… want to be in competition against my master?” Jimin replied coolly, because Mochi 3 was useless and had only commented ’Avatar does not have sufficient equipment to execute sports protocols’. What a jerk. His ‘equipment’ was just fine, he was simply not a robot.

Yoongi’s expression was fond, then, and perhaps a little surprised. “Well, it’s all in good fun. It’s something I enjoy doing… and I’ve only been playing by myself for a long time. Here… why don’t you try defending the basket? See if you can stop me from making it in.”

Jimin frowned, but nodded his assent, going to stand under the basket.

Yoongi was fast, light on his feet, with expert precision in his turns. Mochi 3’s interface, however, kept up with him regardless. Jimin had a bit of a hard time following the diagrams, and he was certain the speed required on some of them was simply impossible for him to manage. Yoongi got past him several times, but he managed to block a few shots on his own skill once he got used to the other’s offensive style. Mochi 3 started updating the interface a bit to account for its ‘avatar’s’ limits and then they were in business.

That was, until Jimin made a too-cocky play and had ended up pivoting too far, causing both of them to tumble when the other overcorrected and tried to make the basket anyway. They both tripped, and Jimin tried to stabilize the other, but ended up getting pulled down with him.

Jimin reacted quickly, using his grip on Yoongi’s arms to pivot them so he would be the one hitting the ground. He gritted his teeth to stifle the grunt of pain he involuntarily let out when that titanium and carbon fiber death-corset slammed hard against his spine, digging into his skin. That was going to leave a mark.

Yoongi barely caught himself as the other hit the ground with a loud ‘thunk’ thanks to that ridiculous contraption he was wearing. Landing on his toes had at least kept him from messing up his knees upon tumbling, and his palms on the floor on either side of the blond had prevented him from completely toppling into him.

Jimin blinked rapidly up at the other man for several seconds, trying to make it look as though he was recalibrating. It worked; Yoongi made a bit of a distressed noise and scrambled back onto his knees.

“Are you all right, Mochi 3?”

Jimin’s brow furrowed and he cocked his head. Mochi 3’s response had been useless (’Unable to assess avatar’s condition.’) so he gave his own. “I am a robot. Of course I’m fine. Are you all right, Master?”

Yoongi sighed in relief, smiling as he shook his head. “Yes, yes, I’m fine. That… was some quick calculating on your part, making sure you didn’t fall on me. Good job. I’ll have to give you some points for that.”

Jimin regarded him curiously, then. “Am I still earning points? Is that how I become one of your Pretty Ones?”

Yoongi chuckled around a bright, gummy smile. “It will take a lot of points to become a Pretty One, but yes.”

In his ear, Mochi 3 chimed earnestly, ‘I will become a Pretty One, too.’

“I’ll do whatever it takes to become your favorite Pretty One, Master.” Jimin said instead, grinning sweetly.

“You’re so cute.” Yoongi told him, ruffling the other’s fluffy, blond hair.

Jimin felt his stomach do somersaults. He could recite a mantra over and over in his mind about how this was nothing more than a job, a favor for Namjoon… but some part of him wanted the same thing as Mochi 3: to be cherished.

A loud chiming sound echoed through the court, coming from the bench several paces away. Yoongi got to his feet and went to go answer his phone, allowing Jimin to stand rather gracelessly and seethe a bit at the pain in his back without being noticed. The conversation seemed business-related, because Yoongi’s tone and expression became serious. When he hung up, he turned to the other.

“One of the Chairmen has asked for a meeting with me.” He explained. “It’s a little sudden, but he wants to meet now. I think you will have enough battery to make it there and back, yes?”

“As long as my master does not ask for any more physical activity, yes.” Jimin answered with a nod. “I will go into power-saving mode for the time being. At full charge, my battery can last for six hours in this mode.”

“Good.” The man squeezed his shoulder as he passed, and Jimin was struck by how even such a small touch set his skin alight.

Yoongi asked him to wait outside the gym while he showered and got changed, giving Jimin a chance to mentally berate himself for telling the man his ‘battery’ could last six hours. He could handle no food or bathroom for that long, sure… but did he really want to risk spending such a long time with him, giving him more opportunities to realize he was actually a human? Idiotic… it had been idiotic. But the idea of spending more time with Yoongi had been so appealing. He tried not to think about why that was.

When Yoongi stepped out of the personal locker room in nothing but a towel, his damp hair fluffed from being towel-dried, Jimin felt he may as well be a robot, because his brain completely short-circuited. The other was fit… how was someone who did nothing but lay around all day be so fit? But… he did play basketball by himself, didn't he? He was rich, so he probably ate healthily, too. The muscular lines of his thin abdomen confirmed that much, at least.

“What color suit do we think for today, Mochi 3?” Yoongi asked too-casually as they headed into his bedroom’s massive walk-in closet. “Mm, we should get you something to change into, too. The all-white is a little… clinical.”

“Gray, I think.” Jimin blurted out, because the other’s hand was hovering over a rather classy gray dupioni silk that Jimin really wanted to see on its owner.

“All right.” Yoongi agreed with a smile, taking the suit off the rack. He passed by his more business-casual clothes and snagged a few items there, handing them to the other. “Change into this.”

“Yes, Master.” Jimin mumbled, taking the clothes and watching him as he went, locking himself in his bathroom so he could get ready.

Once the other was out of sight, he got dressed as quickly as humanly possible, not wanting the other to walk out again and see him. The metal contraption around his torso was meant to make him appear inhuman, but there was nothing robotic about the rest of him… his legs were all muscle, as a dancer’s tended to be, and he was sure there were enough blemishes and imperfections on his skin to call his robotic nature into question.

He managed to get on the black slacks with ease, then took his time buttoning up the shirt, because Yoongi didn’t appear to be even close to done. Jimin regarded the clothing chosen for him with interest, checking his appearance in one of the several full-length mirrors in the closet. The shirt was a black collared button-up with little red hearts and flowers about the size of thumbprints. It was subtle, but there was a certain flair to it. He wondered if this kind of clothing spoke to Yoongi’s personality outside of work.

Eventually, Yoongi emerged with fully dried and styled hair, completely dressed in his suit and tie. He’d gone with a red one, and Jimin had to wonder if he’d coordinated the colors on purpose. Yoongi snagged two pairs of shoes from the closet as he passed, giving the other a once-over.

“Dark colors look just as nice on you.” He remarked casually, though the comment still caused Jimin’s heart to flutter.

Jimin found it interesting that they shared a shoe size. It was also convenient, because the soft, white shoes that went with his usual attire would not have worked with this ensemble. As they reached the foyer, he slipped into the black loafers he was offered before following Yoongi to the garage.

“May I ask who we are meeting, Master?” Jimin asked as they climbed into the car.

“Chairman Shin. He is one of my few allies.” Yoongi explained, eyes never leaving the road. “And now, you. Of course, you are a robot, so you could not possibly betray me.”

Jimin felt a pang of guilt knife through his heart, but he smiled in agreement.

“Chairman Shin has always taken my side when it came to company matters.” Yoongi continued. He pointed to the glovebox, and Jimin opened it, taking out a folder which was inside. “You will find a brief summary on each of the chairmen there.”

Jimin saw a familiar face… Jongin, the boy from the photo in Yoongi’s house. The Mochi 3 interface had linked that photo to another of him, older now, which was how Jimin recognized him even before the contacts identified him as the same man Yoongi had talked about last week.

“I explained to you the other day that Jongin is my rival.” Yoongi said. “That is true… but I want you to save this into your memory as well. Jongin and his father, Chairman Kim… they are both my enemies. Yesterday’s meeting confirmed this.”

The interface in Jimin’s contacts catalogued the photo, Mochi 3 attaching the warning note to the file as requested.

“If you ever cross paths with them… if they realize you are a robot, you could be in great danger.” Yoongi warned.

“I understand, Master.” Jimin assured, before Mochi 3 had even formulated a response.

***

Jongin had been in rare form ever since Yoongi had dropped by the office. Had he only come by just to flaunt his status as majority shareholder by shutting down the biggest deal Jongin would close this year, then leave as though he hadn’t massively embarrassed him? Yoongi wasn’t usually one to outwardly work against him just to be contrary… no. There had to be a reason. Something about this particular subsidiary had caught his eye. There had to be more to it.

Jongin’s suspicions were confirmed when his father called for a meeting on Monday afternoon, just the two of them. He berated him for not managing to sell the subsidiary as he’d ordered him to do, but even his father knew it had not been his fault. He also explained how he had spoken with Chairman Shin, but that he had yet again declined to support any decision to override any of Min Yoongi’s decisions. Without enough support from the other Chairmen, they could not possibly override his decision, as he was the majority shareholder.

“We cannot lose out on this deal.” Chairman Kim muttered, clutching a glass of scotch. He had given up on the pretenses of not drinking at work long ago.

“I know, but… what can we do? Min Yoongi is majority shareholder. Without Chairman Shin behind us, we cannot override him.” Jongin replied.

“I have… other methods at our disposal.” Chairman Kim responded, grabbing his phone.

 

On the opposite side of the city, a dark van was parked across the street from a certain warehouse… but it had been hours, and they had seen nothing. Eventually, the two men inside, clad in all-black, stepped out into the street. The passenger pulled out his phone, tabbing through a text screen. The sender was merely labeled as “Boss”. A message had come through seconds before: ’Move forward with confirmation of the target’s location.’

There was an image attachment several messages back, and he selected it, allowing it to take up the entire screen. It was an image of Mochi 3, as well as the head scientist of the team which created it; Kim Namjoon. “You really think they’re hiding a high tech robot like this inside a run-down old place in the warehouse district?”

“This is the address they were tracked to.” The driver muttered, motioning toward the door across the street, where a dilapidated sign read ‘Project Serendipity’, all the paint nearly peeled away.

The two men skulked across the street and approaching the building. It was without windows, so they chose to do away with the lock and break in to further investigate. Standing in the center of the dingy warehouse, the passenger sighed, shaking his head as he dialed the contact labeled ‘Boss’ in his phone.

“Status?” Came the voice at the other end of the line.

“This place is abandoned. Looks like they cleared out recently.”

A curse, then, “Any leads on where they might’ve gone?”

“Afraid not. Nothing but trash and dust here.”

“Keep searching.” Hissed the voice on the other end of the line before abruptly hanging up.

 

In his office, Chairman Kim snarled in anger and threw his phone down upon his desk, too hard.

“Father?” Jongin queried, peering curiously at him from where he sat across from him. “Is something wrong?”

“This is bigger than just Min Yoongi overriding our decision. Someone is trying to sabotage our sale of Project Serendipity… and has thus far succeeded. If this deal falls through… we will lose billions.” Chairman Kim explained. “But beyond that, the team has gone missing. All their research, everything...”

“Father, what team? What research?” Jongin asked. “What was Project Serendipity working on?”

“The next generation of AI, my son.” Chairman Kim let out a breath, trembling with rage. “What they were working on… must remain hidden, from everyone. But most importantly… Min Yoongi, in particular, must never know. If he were to find out… he would be able to use it against us.”

***

It had not been a long drive before Yoongi and Jimin were pulling off the road in front of a rather upscale-looking establishment. Yoongi parked right up front, as though the most convenient parking space was reserved for him. The valets did not argue, however, merely bowing and welcoming him. So, was this what being incredibly rich bought you?

Jimin had never been to a restaurant this fancy. It was almost entirely empty, apparently not very busy in the middle of the day on Mondays. The hostess seemed to know precisely who Yoongi was and led them both to a private back room. There was an older man sitting at a lone table already. He stood and bowed in greeting, and Yoongi returned it, low and respectful. There were only two chairs, so Jimin stood diligently next to Yoongi, out of the way but within reach.

“New personal assistant?” Chairman Shin asked, glancing at Jimin with a blank expression. He was clearly a master at not revealing his intentions or emotions; Mochi 3’s interface was completely helpless in identifying the emotion. It only managed to bring up basic information about the man, including his degrees and accomplishments, and also that he was Suran’s father.

Suran, Yoongi’s first love. The cute little girl smiling in the photo with him back home.

Yoongi didn’t seem to smile much, now. But he smiled, sometimes, for Jimin… or rather, for what he thought was Mochi 3… and that felt like something.

The two men talked about business matters, which Jimin mostly tuned out. The Chairman seemed to be asking Yoongi to invest in some company, but he seemed uninterested. He insisted that the company must either be sold or file for bankruptcy. There was a certain aloof nature to the way Yoongi handled business matters; when his mind was made up, he simply made no room for argument. He had a strength to his convictions which could not be denied.

Chairman Shin appeared somewhat offended, but attempted to look unfettered as he finished his steak. Jimin hadn’t even noticed until then that Yoongi wasn’t eating. He was sure the waitress had come by to ask him if he wanted anything… perhaps he had declined and Jimin simply hadn’t noticed.

Eventually realizing the conversation had gone nowhere, Chairman Shin sighed regretfully as he stood once he finished his meal. Yoongi offered to walk him out to his car, and did so, Jimin trailing behind obediently.

“I also wished to tell you… Suran is returning to Korea tomorrow.” The chairman said, too casually, as he opened his car door. “She seemed eager to see you.”

Yoongi couldn’t even manage a response before the man was climbing into his car. He floundered there for several seconds before finally sighing and heading back to his own vehicle, Jimin in tow.

The drive back was different that the one there. Yoongi was pensive, clearly lost in thought, and wearing a deep frown.

“My master seems down.” Jimin remarked, glancing over at him almost shyly. “Is there anything I can say to lift his spirits?”

Yoongi snorted, shaking his head. “It’s nothing, I… was just thinking. Don’t be too worried. Your master isn’t one to smile very much.”

“You should smile whenever you feel the need.” Jimin told him. “They can’t be saved for later, you know.”

That got a grin out of the other, and a genuine laugh. “I suppose not. I will smile, then. But… only for you.”

Jimin blinked, both confused and utterly elated. He felt his heart skip a beat. “Why… can’t you smile for anyone else?”

“I have to look intimidating.” Yoongi explained, his expression serious, now. “If I’m not, people will try to take advantage of me. But… I know that I can be different with you.”

“Master can always save his smiles for me, then. I will keep them secret and safe.” Jimin was the one grinning, then. “And… if anyone messes with you, I’ll beat them up.”

Jimin made a rather dramatic show of curling his hand into a fist, scrunching his face up and baring his teeth, trying to look intimidating.

Yoongi laughed softly, glancing over at him for a brief moment before his eyes were back on the road, though his smile had come back, and for the rest of the drive, it didn’t waver.

***

The next day, Jimin was practically skipping through the gardens to make his way to the main house. He'd told Namjoon and the rest of the team all about how well the day had gone, despite some small mishaps. He had also gone home and told Jungkook all about it, having decided to sleep at home that night since he hadn't been requested so early in the morning. His roommate had been glad to see him back. Jimin had been tempted to drop by the studio, since he’d been let off quite early, but his back was still a little sore from his tumble on the basketball court. Namjoon had placed several pain patches along the younger man’s spine before they locked him into his titanium corset, and they were working beautifully.

It was just after noon when Jimin met Yoongi in his foyer. They exchanged their usual greetings, habitually. Jimin had become fond of the exchange. It felt like routine, and routine felt like stability. It was a nice change from what he was used to.

There was a faint smell of curry in the air, so Jimin assumed Yoongi had already eaten. Jimin had only allowed himself an energy bar, promising to eat a real meal later that night with the others. The smell was tempting, though, and his stomach threatened to growl.

“Suran is in Korea as of today.” Yoongi said, and Jimin wasn’t sure why his heart dropped so suddenly. The older man walked over to a cabinet in the main living area, opening it. He pulled out a box, about the size of two shoe boxes side-by-side. It still had a pristine bow atop it.

Yoongi opened it, his expression fond and nostalgic. Mochi 3 even identified the emotions there so plainly upon his face. He pulled out a stack of postcards and a cute little mug shaped like Kumamon. Ah, perhaps that was where his love of the character had begun?

“After my parents died, I felt so isolated.” Yoongi murmured, leafing through the cards. Each had a small message about how she missed him, she wished she could be there for his birthday, and that she would see him again someday, all in pristine handwriting. “She wrote me every year, for my birthday. She never forgot.”

“That is why she is Master’s first love?” Jimin asked in a soft voice, similar enough to Mochi 3’s query in his ear.

“It is.” Yoongi replied, smiling to himself. “She was… the only one who didn’t seem to want anything from me.”

An alert sounded, then, through the house’s PA system. Linked with Mochi 3’s interface, Jimin was able to see in his HUD a video of a car driving up through the gate and toward the house, a woman behind the wheel.

“You have a visitor, Master.” Jimin said at the same time as Mochi 3.

Yoongi blanched, standing quickly and shoving everything back into the box before pushing it back into the cabinet. “Dammit… I wasn’t expecting her so early… I… how do I look?”

Jimin regarded him in his slightly oversized sweater, worn over an untucked plaid button-up and dark jeans. Mochi 3’s interface dubbed the look as ‘ultra-casual’. Jimin smiled. “My master looks comfortable.”

Yoongi made a face. “But… good, do I look… good? Presentable?”

“My master always looks good.” Jimin said, completely unprompted.

Yoongi didn’t seem to find that helpful; he just sighed and bolted over to the windows, peeking out. Suran had just parked in the main driveway and was making her way to the veranda.

“You need to hide upstairs. Don’t come out. She can’t see you.” Yoongi warned before rushing out the door and slamming it in the other’s face.

Jimin sighed, pouting and grumbling his unwilling assent. He made his way into the office upstairs, tucking himself against the curtains so he could watch.

Yoongi met her on the veranda. She was taking her time to admire the grounds, lush with plants and flowers just as they had always been. He called out to her as he walked up, garnering her attention.

Suran was radiant. Jimin didn't think he'd ever seen a woman so beautiful. Her hair fell straight down past her shoulders, framing her gorgeous face as it faded from light brown to deep black at the tips. When she smiled at Yoongi, her whole face lit up. Mochi 3’s interface locked onto her once she turned enough to be visible, and soon his contacts were filled with bullet point after bullet point of degrees and professional accomplishments. This woman was… well. She was a catch.

“Master deserves someone this amazing, doesn't he?” Mochi 3 chimed in his ear.

Jimin pouted, grumbling mostly to himself. “She definitely seems perfect for him, yeah.”

He couldn’t see what was being said, but their facial expressions told him a lot.

“This place looks exactly the same.” Suran remarked. “Even all these years later.”

“Same groundskeeper.” Yoongi responded awkwardly. “I didn’t have the heart to change much… it’s the last legacy my parents left on this earth.”

Suran gave an uneasy smile, but transitioned the topic easily enough. “I’ve taken a position at your company, so you’ll be seeing me around much more.”

“Ah… Jongin’s doing?” Yoongi asked, because he knew he’d personally had nothing to do with it and Chairman Shin hadn’t mentioned it either.

“Yes, but… that’s not why I’m here.” Suran replied, turning to face him fully, then. She had a playful look in her eyes, one that made Yoongi’s heart stutter. “My father wants me to marry you for your money.”

Yoongi choked, but hid it behind a cough. She didn’t stop speaking, however, not seeming to pay his reaction any mind.

“I don’t like the idea of an arranged marriage, but, at the same time, I thought… why not? Better someone I know.” Suran told him, clapping her hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. Even through his clothing, he felt his body start to react to the touch, and shirked away, trying not to let her see. “But… I think we should date first. Three dates… and then, if I feel like I could kiss you, I think it will work out.”

Yoongi could only force out an uneasy smile, already feeling his body begin to betray him. He thought that if there was anyone he could trust, it would be Suran… but still his illness rejected her. He wanted to flay the skin from his own body for betraying his heart like this.

“I’ll be a good wife.” Suran added, smirking in that way of hers. “And I can promise my father’s shares for life.”

Yes, he wanted to scream. God, he wanted to marry her. He could not count the sleepless nights he had lulled himself into dreams of living a normal life with her by his side. He pictured them happy, here in these gardens, watching their children grow. How many would Suran want? He always wanted two. He wanted to know where she wanted to hold their wedding. What kind of dress would she wear? But how could he when his body refused to allow something as simple as a touch?

“What do you think?” Suran asked, taking both Yoongi’s hands into her own. He seethed as his flesh burned and bubbled, pulling away. His throat felt tight. His skin was on fire.

“I… have to go!” Yoongi forced out, turning quickly so she could not see just what her touch had done. “I’ll… call you later!”

Suran watched him go, blinking in confusion. It had been fifteen years since she’d seen him, so, perhaps she’d come on a little too strong, she thought, before heading to her car.

Jimin watched as Yoongi bolted from Suran’s side and all but threw himself at the door, stumbling as he made his way across the foyer and toward that room, the room he had expressly forbidden the other from entering.

“Master?”

Jimin traversed the steps quickly and followed him. By the time he made it there, Yoongi was on the ground, having crawled through the barely-cracked doors.

“Master? Master, what’s wrong?”

Jimin shoved the door open the rest of the way, giving only a cursory glance around. The room was larger than he expected, with a brown piano nestled into a corner in the back. Other music equipment was spread around, including microphones and amps, and the walls were lined with acoustic wall panels. A studio? Strange, Yoongi didn’t mention anything about being interested in music.

On the carpeted ground, Yoongi writhed, struggling to breathe. There was a cabinet half-open to his left, and he seemed to be grabbing for it. Jimin was panicking. Yoongi was barely breathing. He’d pulled open that drawer before collapsing, so Jimin opened it the rest of the way and discovered it held several syringes. Of course… Yoongi had said that if he ever looked unrecognizable, to use these and he would return. Jimin glanced at the other, watching as an angry red rash spread across his face, bubbling over his skin and choking his airway. He grabbed the syringe and read the label. ‘Inject into outer or upper thigh in case of allergic reaction. Needle will pierce through clothing. Multiple doses may be required for extreme reactions.’

Mochi 3’s interface identified the solution as epinephrine. Jimin understood, then. He’d suffered an allergic reaction… of course! But what had caused it?

Jimin didn’t have time to guess or postulate. He pulled the plastic safety shield off the needle and jabbed it into Yoongi’s leg, injecting the entire dose.

 

Yoongi was thirteen. It was the day of his birthday, in fact. He and his parents were driving back from his party, which had been held in a too-lavish venue. His father always tried so hard to show his affection through flaunting the money he had worked so hard to earn. But his mother knew better; the simpler and more thoughtful gifts and gestures were the ones Yoongi loved the best. And the time he spent with them? That was the thing he cherished the most of all.

There were birthday balloons clogging the car. When his father opened the window… the reason for which Yoongi could no longer recall all these years later, a bundle of them was sucked into the driver’s seat, obscuring his vision. His father swerved. He did not swerve again in time to avoid the truck barreling toward them. He felt arms around him, and then, nothing.

When Yoongi awoke, everything hurt. He could feel a weight on him… it was crushing him, but also, it enveloped him like a safety blanket. He was still delirious, brain and body jostled from the crash. He had hardly come to with enough awareness to realize they were dragging him from his mother’s lifeless arms before his world went black once more.

Yoongi was too young to be a head mourner at their funeral. He was not even sure whatever it entailed. All he knew was that adults were shaking their heads at him piteously and promising to handle it. He remembered the day of the funeral, being sat down in a too-tall chair at the conference table he used to play under as a toddler while his father worked. His family lawyer pushed a contract in front of him, explaining that he needed to sign it so that he would be taken care of. Yoongi was not naive. Yoongi was not stupid. He asked to use the restroom, and he ran.

Yoongi was surrounded by floral wreaths and messages of goodwill. It smelled like lilies and powder and floor cleaner. He was tucked behind several of the displays, looking for any place to escape. He heard Chairman Kim enter the room just behind the wall from him. He was greeted by other men, who were congratulating him on becoming the new head of MK Enterprises. Yoongi hadn’t signed anything yet. His own father had been the head of the company. He knew then just what was going on.

When the men moved on, Yoongi made his way outside. He wanted to be alone, away from that smell, from all the fake tears and crisp suits and solemn handshakes. He needed air. He sat outside the building and watched the ants trail past him on the cement in a perfect line, uniform and constant. He had been there for less than an hour when Jongin found him. The boy sat down and he could not help but smile. His was the first friendly face he’d seen all day. He was holding a manila folder. He handed it to Yoongi, grinning like he meant it.

”Father says that if you sign these papers, you can come and live with us!” He sounded so genuine. His smile was real.

Yoongi hadn’t thought about where he would live, now that his only family was dead. It made sense that his father’s trusted partner had been given this task. But when he opened the folder, he did not see an agreement for custody. He had seen enough of his father’s contracts to know the difference. ‘Forfeiture of shares’, it read. ‘MK Financial’ was mentioned. There would be no need of it if custody was the contract’s only concern. Jongin handed him a pen. Yoongi scribbled something along the signature line, and handed it back.

”I’m so excited for us to be real brothers, now!” Jongin said, grabbing his hand earnestly. When the other boy touched him, Yoongi’s skin burned. The older boy pulled his hand away, watching as the flesh reddened and bubbled. He wailed and stumbled back before running, putting as much distance between them as he could. That was the first time it happened.

When Jongin handed the folder back to Chairman Kim, the boy’s father gave a victorious grin. But it was on that day that Yoongi learned no person could ever be trusted, even those who were close to you, close to your parents. In lieu of a signature, Yoongi had written just five words: ‘You son of a bitch.’

Yoongi lived alone after that day. The groundskeepers and the butlers were his guardians, his parents’ money his caretaker. He learned all there was to learn about business. He graduated early. He homeschooled himself, for every touch from another person sent him into anaphylactic shock. He began to see doctors for it, but they could only offer treatment, not a cure. He kept to himself. And when he turned eighteen, he walked into his father’s company, now his company, and took back control. He cancelled every deal on the table until he had looked through every single one of them. He reminded everyone at that Chairman’s table just who was in charge. And when he looked at Jongin for the first time since the funeral, it was with utter apathy, not a molecule of friendship left in his body.

Yoongi had no one. He was alone. But alone was what felt the safest. Alone protected him. Loneliness was all he had; his shield, his sword and his armor.

 

Yoongi felt his conscious mind pulling him back from the darkness. A voice, calling him. “Master?”, it said, over and over. He clawed his way out of his subconscious, following that voice. And then, he opened his eyes.

Jimin had been about ten seconds from calling Namjoon and the others for help when Yoongi’s eyelids finally fluttered open. He groaned and sat up with some effort, blearily looking around until his gaze could focus on the only other person in the room. Well, not a person. Not to him, anyway.

“M-Mochi 3?”

“Are you all right, Master?” Jimin asked, face etched with worry as he rested a hand on the other’s thigh, as though he needed to feel that he was still real and breathing there in front of him.

“Yes… yes, I’m fine now...” Yoongi blinked several times, rubbing his temples. “What happened? I remember Suran was here, but then… I couldn’t breathe, and—”

“You said if I didn’t recognize you, that I should come into this room and find those.” Jimin pointed to the syringes lying next to him on the ground. “Whatever your reaction was, it was very bad, I had to give you two doses before you started breathing normally. I was… worried.”

“I’m… sorry for worrying you.” Yoongi murmured, cupping the other’s face in his hand. He secretly reveled in a touch which could not harm him. Why couldn’t it always be this way? “But… you did so well. I’m all right again because of you… Pretty One.”

Jimin preened, biting his bottom lip around a smile. “I did?”

“You did.” Yoongi replied softly, his hand moving up to pet the other’s hair, now. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Jimin replied, a whisper. “I only wanted my master to be okay.”

The tone was different, but the words were also Mochi 3’s, even if Jimin had not waited for the other to formulate a response.

Yoongi decided it was probably best for him to rest for the remainder of the day, and sent the other back to the lab, promising to call for him the next morning. He called his doctor to tell him all about what had happened, including that the woman he loved had been no exception to his allergy. The man seemed regretful, but advised he had expected as much.

Jimin had been terrified, of course, but he returned to the lab entirely elated. He was a Pretty One now. He was precious to Yoongi. He knew it was Mochi 3 he believed was doing all of this for him, that he would never truly get the credit, but for now… it felt good to be cared for in such a way, even by someone who did not even know his name.

***

The next day, when Jimin met Yoongi in his foyer, the latter looked pensive. After Mochi 3 gave his usual greeting, the other managed only a tight smile.

“We’re going out.” He told him, handing the other a small briefcase.

Jimin had Mochi 3 check the weather report, and there were threats of scattered showers, so he grabbed an umbrella from by the door just to be safe.

Minutes later, they were in Yoongi’s car again… but it was so different from the last time. He hadn’t asked Jimin to change. He was quiet, focused on the road. He was wearing a suit, but his shirt was a festive one, so he assumed they were not going to the office or any official meetings.

“Mochi 3… do you think it is possible to marry someone if you cannot touch them?” Yoongi asked, somewhat suddenly.

Jimin, caught off-guard, floundered a little. “Isn’t the point of being in love to show affection for one another? If you cannot hold hands or kiss, then how can you show you are in love?”

“Exactly.” Yoongi mumbled, seeming as though the other had just confirmed what he believed all along.

Mochi 3 was spouting statistics in his ear, about how human touch was good for a person, how love and affection were dependent upon such simple gestures according to research. Jimin ignored it, speaking softly.

“But… my master does love someone, doesn’t he?”

Yoongi pressed his lips together, expression agonized. “Whenever I see her, my heart beats faster. I look at her and I think of all the possibilities the future might bring. I want only to see her smile.”

Jimin swallowed a sigh, feeling as though his heart was being torn in two right there in the car. “Then… you should risk it all. For love, you should risk anything.”

Yoongi regarded him, a melancholy smile on his face. “You think so?”

“Yes.” Jimin lied. “Just take her by the hand, and—”

“I told you, touching isn’t possible!” Yoongi hissed. “I am allergic to human contact!”

Seeming to realize what he just said, he gritted his teeth, eyes studiously back on the road. “You cannot tell anyone. Do you understand?”

In his interface, Mochi 3 proclaimed that no such illness existed. Jimin frowned. Was Yoongi screwing with him? How could someone be allergic to people? Regardless, he nodded his assent, because he was sure the other was making excuses anyway.

Moments later, when they pulled into a private garden venue, one whose parking lot was completely abandoned, Jimin was still completely confused.

“Suran will be here soon.” Yoongi explained as they walked into the venue. Two tables were set up: one was small, intimate, right in the grass near the edge of the veranda. The other was some meters away, hosting an assortment of tea sets. “You will serve us drinks, and stay near the refreshments table unless I call for you.”

“Yes, Master.” Jimin mumbled, looking over the drinks. He noticed the Kumamon mug sitting there, out of place among the otherwise elegant spread. He also saw just what Yoongi intended to serve. “Hot chocolate? Isn’t that for children?”

“Suran has always loved hot chocolate.” Yoongi chided, his tone wistful. He pulled a box out of his pocket, opening it. Inside, his mother’s ring was nestled there, still on the chain. Jimin realized only then that the other wasn’t wearing it. “She deserves a proper proposal, or a proper explanation at the least. Not something so rushed and obligational.”

Oh… so was that what they had talked about yesterday? Jimin’s head spun with possibility. Had Yoongi’s allergic reaction ruined the moment? Was he truly allergic to Suran? Surely it had to be something else, like her perfume? It didn’t make sense. Did he intend to propose or let her down? He seemed of two minds about it. Had Jimin’s answers in the car changed his mind?

Suran came around the corner of the building, then, causing Yoongi to straighten up and shove the box into his pocket. He took the small briefcase from the other, smoothing down his own shirt before going to greet her.

Jimin watched as Yoongi stayed several paces away from the woman, despite that she seemed to want to greet him warmly. He motioned to her seat, but didn’t pull out her chair. He was gentlemanly, and yet not. Such a dichotomy, his master was.

Yoongi snapped his fingers, motioning toward him. Jimin jumped a little, but immediately got to work making the hot chocolate and pouring it for them. When Jimin brought the tray over, Yoongi subtly motioned for him to make sure Suran got the Kumamon mug. Jimin nodded in understanding and set it in front of her with a cordial smile. She didn’t pay him much mind, assuming he worked there.

Jimin moved back to the refreshments table once everything was served. He was still close enough to hear them, however, and Suran seemed to cringe when she smelled the concoction in her mug.

“Is this… hot chocolate? Only children drink that.” She commented, sounding a bit offended.

“You… love hot chocolate.” Yoongi responded, confused.

“I did, when I was a child.” She replied with a sort of obvious look on her face. “I’ll drink it, though… since I don’t want to be rude.”

She didn’t seem pleased about it, however, her face scrunching up after the first sip.

Jimin pouted from where he stood, grumbling to himself that he’d known the hot chocolate was a bad idea. Why hadn’t Yoongi listened to him?

“This… mug is a little immature, too, hm? Strange for such a high-class place.” Suran said, regarding the Kumamon mug in her hand with something like disdain.

Yoongi’s brow furrowed. “You don’t recognize it? You sent it to me, as a gift.”

Suran peered at it, turning it around in her hands. “Did I? It must have been so long ago, I don’t remember.”

Jimin just watched from across the lawn, cringing. This didn’t seem like it was going well.

“Do you think… if it were not for Suran, that Master could love me?” Mochi 3 chimed in his ear, which was a little strange, because the question was clearly for Jimin.

“Who knows.” Jimin grumbled into the microphone in his bracelet, turning his back to the two of them. “Not like it matters.”

“So, is this supposed to be our first date?” Suran asked, finally giving a genuine grin. “It’s a little out of the ordinary, I think. And I wasn’t sure if you were even accepting, yesterday, with how you ran off.”

Yoongi stared at her for a long moment. He imagined getting down on one knee. He imagined that smile brightening up her face again. He thought of spending the rest of their days together.

But then, he thought of being so close, yet so far. He thought of the way every touch would burn, threatening to kill him. He thought of how he could never possibly love another the way he loved her, but yet, they could not possibly be together, either. His expression was agonized when he finally spoke.

“I can’t marry you.”

Jimin turned back to face them, balking. Had he just turned her down?

“I… see.” Suran said slowly, blinking away the shock. She was smiling, but it was more so in surprise than anything else. “I… must say, I wasn’t… expecting to be rejected like this.”

“I’d… still like for you to have this.” Yoongi added in a low voice, sliding his hands across the table with a small box nestled there on his palm.

Suran opened it, seeing it was his late mother’s ring, still on the chain. “What… what is this, Yoongi? Are you proposing, or are you rejecting me?”

“Suran, I—”

“No. Forget it.” She hissed, standing. “You could at least give me the courtesy of a proper rejection.”

“Wait, Suran—”

“Keep your ring, for the one you actually plan to marry.” Suran snarled, taking his hands into her own and pressing the box between them, forcing him to hold it as she shoved it back toward him.

Yoongi felt his skin catch fire again, the rash spreading more rapidly than before. Suran turned on a heel and stalked off, leaving Yoongi to collapse back into his chair, aggrieved. He snapped open the small briefcase he’d brought, panicked as his airway started closing up. But then, for just a moment, he thought he deserved to suffer. He had put her through so much. Why did he get to take the easy way out?

Yoongi struggled to his feet, shoving the briefcase away and picking the ring box back up from the table. He stared at it with disdain, snapping it closed. He grimaced, clutching the box tightly in his fist before reeling back, making to throw it over the edge of the veranda, into the gardens below.

“Master, don’t!” Jimin shouted, grabbing his hand and dragging him away from the edge of the terrace.

“Just… leave me!” Yoongi hissed, wrenching his hand from the other’s grip. He threw the box into the grass with a snarl of frustration before collapsing onto his knees, wheezing in agony.

Jimin ignored Mochi 3’s complicit reply in his ear, unable to possibly follow such an order when it was clear he was in so much pain. He walked over to the box on the ground and picked it up, having to fish the ring and chain out of the grass where it had tumbled out from its rough treatment. He brushed it off before returning to his master, kneeling in front of him.

“It doesn’t belong in the dirt.” Jimin murmured, hooking his arms around Yoongi’s neck so he could secure the chain there. Once it was clasped, he ran his hand over the ring, pressing it against Yoongi’s chest. “It belongs here, near your heart. Where your mother deserves to be.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Yoongi muttered bitterly as he finally looked up. “I told you to leave.”

“Master...”

“I said go!” Yoongi wailed, shoving him. “Mochi 3, that’s an order!”

Jimin’s breath hitched. He wanted to be angry, but he couldn’t be. He was obviously acting out in his pain. Mochi 3 gave another agreeable response in his ear, but he disregarded it, jaw and shoulders set with steely resolve. “If I go, know that I will never go far.”

That was all he could manage before he turned and walked off, trying to get his emotions under control. It hurt him to see Yoongi in pain like this… but he couldn’t possibly show it. So, he set to cleaning the table set up several yards away, letting the other be alone with his thoughts.

It was some time that Yoongi sat there in his misery. He didn’t know what he’d been thinking. Some part of him had always hoped that Suran would be the one exception to his illness… he hadn’t seen her in fifteen years, after all. But it wasn’t any different with her.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there in the grass, only inches from a metal bench which sat overlooking the gardens. But after a long while, he felt a fat drop of water hit his cheek. Then another, at his shoulder, then more, and more, until it was drizzling, an afternoon sun shower just as the weather report had predicted.

“Master?” Came a raw voice from above him, then, hardly above a whisper.

Yoongi seemed to notice the rain was no longer falling on him. He looked up to see Mochi 3 was standing next to him, holding an umbrella above them both. The concern on his face looked so genuine. He found himself huffing a depreciative little laugh, lips tight in a melancholy smile. He wasn’t struggling to breathe anymore. Deliriously, he assumed his medicine was kicking in, and leaned back against the bench with a sigh.

Jimin sat down on the bench, still holding the umbrella over them both. Yoongi let his head fall against the other’s thigh from his place on the ground, and they both sat there for a long while, looking out onto the gardens while the rain fell around them as if in spite of the brightly-shining sun.

Chapter Text

Yoongi wasn’t sure how long he sat there, but soon enough, the rain went from a downpour to a soft drizzle before finally stopping altogether. When Mochi 3 closed the umbrella, Yoongi climbed up onto the bench next to him, letting out a great sigh.

“Thank you, Mochi 3.” He said softly. They were so close that their arms were pressed against one another’s, shoulder to elbow.

“For what, Master?” Jimin asked, genuinely not sure what he meant.

“For giving me hope when I should not have had any. For not listening to my order and leaving me alone the way I was. For not letting me do something I would regret.” Yoongi’s hand came up to touch the ring around his neck. “Is this… what a friend is? Someone who does and says what is best for you, even if you don't like it?”

“Yes, that's… exactly what a friend is.” Jimin said, ignoring Mochi 3’s suggestion that it was something beyond friendship. Jimin was sure Yoongi didn't need to hear that right now.

“My heart feels… light once more.” Yoongi murmured, smiling to himself.

“The way… your first love makes you feel?” Jimin asked, ignoring Mochi 3’s suggested line, ’Am I the one who makes your heart this way, master?’

Yoongi swallowed, pressing his lips together regretfully. “If she were a robot like you, I could hold her hand. I could touch her.”

Yoongi’s left hand took Jimin’s into his own, while he brought his other up to Jimin’s hair, as he’d done several times. He let his fingers trail down the curve of his temple, his jaw, all the way down to his neck. It took every ounce of his effort not to shiver at the intimate touch. He leaned in closer, so close that Jimin could feel the other’s breath on his lips. He was only an inch from him. Jimin froze, holding his breath, eyes wide in shock.

“I could even kiss her…” Yoongi remarked wistfully, his eyes trailing down to the other’s lips. The hand which had trailed down the long line of the blond’s neck came back up just under his chin, his thumb gently skirting across those plush pink lips, too gorgeous to be real. “But if I even get close to her...”

He halted suddenly, pulling back. He blinked several times, looking down at his hands. “Wait. My… reaction. It stopped.”

He glanced over at the table, where his syringes were still nestled in their briefcase, untouched. Jimin used the opportunity to school his own expression and catch his breath, because what the hell had that been? He'd almost…

“But I didn’t… use my medicine…” Yoongi murmured, confused. He felt at his neck, but there was no rash there either. He hadn’t let go of the other’s hand, so when he stood, he pulled him up to his feet as well. “Mochi 3, do you see anything wrong with me right now?”

Jimin looked him over, his interface claiming there was nothing unusual going on. “No, my master seems fine. Did you… have a reaction earlier?”

Yoongi was still staring at his hands. “I… did. But it stopped… all on its own.”

“Are you sure?” Jimin asked, cocking his head.

Yoongi’s face fell as he started to doubt himself. “I… don't know.”

He stood there for several moments before taking his companion’s hand once more and dragging him out of the gardens. He didn't make it around the building before crashing into one of the groundskeepers in his haste, barely managing to stay on his feet.

“What are you doing here?!” Yoongi hissed. “I paid them to clear the whole place out, and—wait.”

He checked his hands. No reaction. He reached forward and grabbed the stranger’s hand, pulling it until he was able to force it against his face. The man yelped and yanked away, scandalized.

“What is your problem?!” He growled, but Yoongi was focused on his own hands and face, rubbing over the smooth skin like it was a revelation.

“Nothing!” Yoongi responded with a delighted laugh. “Nothing is wrong with me at all! It's like… a miracle!”

“Master?” Jimin queried next to him, still confused. But the older wasted no time, grabbing his hand once more and pulling him along, down the street. They left the stranger staring after them in confusion, muttering about how weird that whole interaction had been with a shake of his head.

They were close to a market area, where people of all ages gathered for a bit of a street festival. It was in full swing, now, the din of it floating over to them as they got closer. There was a bit of an outcropping above the stairs where they could look out onto the crowd milling below them. Yoongi stopped there, hesitating. He was fine, yes, for now… but that was a lot of people. Could he possibly—?

“Well, let’s go already!” The blond piped up, taking Yoongi’s hand and pulling him along down the stairs.

At first, Yoongi was terrified. He cringed at every light brush past his shoulder, every accidental touch, even the close calls. But his body never betrayed him. He was fine, even weaving through a dense crowd, led by Mochi 3, who never let go of his hand, and would glance back at him and smile sweetly in reassurance when his expression became too worrying.

Finally, Yoongi let out a breath. He didn't know why he was suddenly all right, but he wouldn't spurn the gift. His fingers tightened around the small hand in his grip and soon he was the one doing the leading.

They milled around for at least an hour. Yoongi hadn't ever been to a street market before… at least not in recent memory. There was so much to see; there were vendors selling all sorts of pins, hats and scarves, all lined up in a row along the street.

Yoongi grinned when he saw a black hat with the word ‘Pretty’ written in bold white Hangul across the front.

“Ah! It's like it was made for you, Mochi 3!” Yoongi said with a laugh, placing the hat gently on the other’s head, careful not to ruin the perfect part of his hair. Yoongi grabbed another hat, one reading ‘Swag’, and put it on himself, cocking it at a stylish angle and making an attempt at a cool and casual expression, wagging his eyebrows.

“We match!” Jimin piped up with a gleeful smile, eyes crinkling as he brought both his hands up to his face in peace-sign gestures, wiggling his fingers playfully and squishing his own cheeks. Yoongi was a little taken aback… was Mochi 3 doing aegyo? Did robots understand such a niche cultural concept? He supposed the other had been only around Koreans, so it made sense.

“So cute…” Yoongi found himself mumbling under his breath, pulling out his phone. “We should take a selca.”

Jimin nodded happily, sliding closer to Yoongi as the other brought his phone up to take the picture. They both threw up peace signs, smiling brightly. Yoongi put his own hat back, but bought the ‘Pretty’ one for his companion.

It wasn't long before something else caught Jimin’s attention and he was dragging Yoongi along to look at other booths. There were vendors of all kinds; Jimin was enthralled looking through all the wares, and even Yoongi seemed entranced.

Jimin was immediately drawn to a plushie vendor when he saw the booth, covered in an assortment of brightly-colored and pastel felt friends. There was one in particular that caught his eye; it was a yellow dog with a white face and dark ears, its playful expression drawn so that the tongue was out.

“Ah! It's so cute and soft!” Jimin cooed, picking it up and rocking it back and forth so that the ears flopped to and fro.

“Would you like it?” Yoongi asked, earning an eager nod from the other. He pulled out his wallet without hesitation, and when the lady behind the booth advised she didn't have change for his too-large bills, he had her keep the difference without even batting an eye. When she'd taken the money, her hand brushed his, but his allergy didn't act up. He was too overjoyed to care about something as simple as money in that moment.

Jimin hugged his new plush close to his chest as they continued to enjoy the festivities, his other hand still locked with Yoongi’s. A local band was playing in the square, so he tugged Yoongi up toward the nearby bleachers to have a seat and listen to them play. They were quite good, performing well-executed covers of popular tracks of the day, which had some people dancing around them as the rhythm carried them away.

The urge to get up and dance, too, itched under Jimin’s skin like the need for a drug, but he stamped the feeling down. Not only was his movement incredibly limited in his death-trap corset but he figured dancing wasn't exactly a skill a robot would have. He settled for wiggling in place along to the beat, watching excitedly as Yoongi did the same.

Jimin’s eyes were on the band, but Yoongi… Yoongi was taking it all in. There were so many people around. He realized he'd never looked at them before now, not really. He'd always seen others as faceless, nameless threats, like transient shadows he had to dodge in a video game for fear of losing a life. But now, he could look upon them with curiosity and wonder. He found himself watching the sweet couple under a tree across the way, huddled close and grinning ear-to-ear as they spoke, their noses brushing. He looked on as a little girl squealed in delight when her mother handed her an ice cream cone. Yet another parent nearby was knelt in front of his son, comforting him after he fell and skinned his knee. One of the wandering entertainers spotted him and was able to procure a bandaid and a lollipop for him, improving his mood instantly.

Yoongi felt as tears sprang to his eyes. Was this humanity, untarnished by a lifetime of pain and isolation? It was more than he had ever wished for. It was beautiful. He felt overwhelmed, suddenly, that a future not having to be shut away from the world was possible. He sniffed and wiped his eyes, taking out his phone.

“I'll be right back, Mochi 3.” Yoongi said, squeezing the other’s thigh before climbing down from the bleachers. Jimin mumbled his assent but watched him go in confusion before he let the music drag his attention in once more.

Yoongi found a spot beside the bleachers, tucked a bit behind them, where it was quieter. He dialed his doctor, hands shaking as it rang. Finally, the man answered.

“Yoongi-ssi… is everything all right?” He asked, calm but still concerned.

“Yes, Doctor. I'm fine, actually. I'm completely fine.” Yoongi told him, the tears brimming his eyes once more. “Earlier today, I spoke to the woman I loved again. I told her I could not marry her. She touched me and my allergy, it nearly killed me. But then… then it just… went away.”

Yoongi let out a sob of a laugh, running a hand through his hair and turning in place. “I didn't take any medicine; it just… got better. And now, I'm around people, there are people everywhere and I’m fine!”

“How badly do you want to get married?” The man asked in a grave, piteous tone, after a too-long silence.

Just then, someone brushed past Yoongi and he felt his skin catch fire again, like a wave crashing against him, dashing him across molten rock. It was worse than before… worse than he thought it had ever been. His throat began closing up, and he wheezed desperately for air.

“No… no—! I-It’s… it’s back, my reaction… Doctor…” Yoongi hissed, doubling over. “I don't… understand… I was fine… I was better!”

“Do you have your epinephrine?” The voice on the other end of the line asked, concerned. “Yoongi-ssi?”

“N-no… I don’t have anything...” Yoongi gritted out, gasping in a desperate breath through a too-tight airway. He knew it… he knew it had been too good to be true, and now he was going die for believing for one moment that the impossible might just be possible.

Jimin had started to get worried when Yoongi didn't come right back. After too long, he climbed down from the bleachers and went looking for him. It was crowded, so it was hard to spot the other, but eventually, he caught sight of him across the square.

Yoongi looked up, his eyes meeting Mochi 3’s. The robot looked confused, and a little lost. But when he met that gaze, the other broke into a wide smile, his entire face brightening, eyes becoming small crescents. He lifted a hand and waved encouragingly, as though to tell him he was there. Among a sea of people, he seemed so small.

Yoongi felt the air flood into his lungs, the reaction on his skin calming. His blisters began to fade, the redness along with it.

“Is there someone nearby?” His doctor asked in his ear. “Someone who can help you?”

“Th-there is...” Yoongi told him. A couple, arm-in-arm, passed between himself and Mochi 3, cutting off his view of the other. He felt the burning pain come back, his throat closing. But then he could see the other’s face once more, bright and smiling, and he could breathe again. His pain went away. It didn't make any sense… unless… “Someone is here. When I see them, the rash goes away. And when I don’t see them, the rash comes back. But… it’s not a person at all.”

Yoongi was distracted. He let his phone drop from his ear, ending the call and pocketing it. Mochi 3 was weaving through the crowd to get to him where he was tucked back at the corner of the bleachers, away from most of the noise. When the other stopped just in front of him, Yoongi closed the distance further, enveloping him in a tight hug. Jimin was shocked and stood stock-still, unsure what was happening or what he should do.

“It was you.” Yoongi sobbed, cradling the other’s head and kissing his temple. “It was because you were by my side.”

“Master? I don’t understand…” Jimin breathed next to his ear, spine still rigid with confusion and surprise.

“I don’t care what it takes. I’ll buy the world’s longest-lasting batteries, and I will take such good care of you.” Yoongi told him, like a promise. “Stay with me until the day I die. You’re now my most precious treasure.”

Carding his hand into that blond hair, he pulled back just enough to plant a soft kiss to the other’s forehead. Jimin shivered, his heart hammering in his chest. The noise and the crowd seemed so far away from them, here. There was only him, and Yoongi, and nary a breath between them.

“I’ll stay with you forever, Master. I promise.” Jimin whispered, his words identical to Mochi 3’s in his ear. His small hands came up to clutch at Yoongi’s jacket, and he never wanted to let go.

***

Over the next few days, Jimin stayed at the lab with the rest of the Project Serendipity team. They didn't probe too much into his days with Yoongi, but he told them what was relevant without breaking his confidence with the other. He was sure they would find out everything eventually, once they reviewed the footage in order to calibrate Mochi 3’s responses and update their research. He wasn't looking forward to being called out on just how close he was getting to Yoongi. He didn't even want to admit it to himself.

Namjoon had helpfully (or not) given Yoongi an app with which he could call Mochi 3 over to him in the mornings. That meant that Jimin had to be ready to go at any time, so he couldn’t exactly go home. He was irritated about it in the beginning, but the first time he heard Yoongi’s voice come through the speaker, earnestly asking, “Mochi 3, come home”, his heart ached to go to him and he was out of bed in seconds. He texted Jungkook each night to let him know whether he'd be coming home, and the other was getting increasingly more worried.

Jimin’s time with Yoongi was spent more relaxed than ever. Most days, he just wanted to sit and watch a movie together, or perhaps play a little ball. Yoongi even let him into his studio, playing a few sample tracks he was working on.

“No one knows this side of me.” Yoongi admitted, fingering absently at the mixer. “I publish my work under pseudonyms like ‘Suga’ and ‘Agust D’. I wouldn’t want these things to change the image people have of me, or my company. But I know that you will not tell anyone.”

“I promise, Master.” Jimin murmured, meaning it. But that night, he found himself searching Spotify for those very names, and fell asleep listening to Yoongi’s powerful voice, emotionally rapping about his first love; a brown piano. He felt the pull of the other man’s poetry in his heart, and he wanted so badly to tell him just how powerful his music was, what it meant to him not as a companion robot, but as a man.

In the following days, Jimin learned that, in addition to an apparent allergy to people, Yoongi could not eat food prepared by another person. He made every meal himself, or relied on pre-packaged snacks when he wasn’t up for cooking. Cooking, however, was something he did quite well. Yoongi usually ate before Jimin came over, but one day, he’d gotten distracted and forgotten to eat. He was starving only an hour into their day, so he took a break from organizing his office with the other’s help to make some food.

Every day, he had fresh produce, meats and seafood brought in by his butler from the local markets. He didn’t always eat it all, which was a wasteful, crying shame, but what he did use he used well. Yoongi was a masterful chef; Jimin had to clench his jaw not to sniff the air possessively. He could feel his stomach grumbling. He really needed to eat more than an energy bar before his sessions with Yoongi.

“I’m surprised you’re so concentrated on watching me cook. Robots can’t eat, after all.” Yoongi said in a teasing tone when he was nearly done.

“My master looks very cool when he cooks.” Jimin said with a sweet smile.

Yoongi smirked. “Mm, you should input that in your system, Mochi 3… your master is undeniably cool.”

Jimin rolled his eyes when the other looked away, but he couldn’t help but grin fondly at that ridiculous-yet-perfect gummy smile.

“You are very good at cooking, Master.” Jimin commented as Yoongi sprinkled a mix of seasonings over the frying pan. “How did you learn to do that?”

“Practice.” Yoongi told him as he plated the food and brought it over to the table, starting to dig in. Jimin stood next to him, wishing he could taste it. “I had to learn to fend for myself at a very young age. I could not eat food that was made for me by others after my parents passed away… so I had no choice but to learn. At first, I couldn’t even make ramyun properly… but eventually, my desperation became my drive, and I became better.”

Jimin saw him clearly then in his mind’s eye: Yoongi, so young, sitting at that very table with cup ramyun left to sit with water not hot enough to fully cook it. He imagined him, too short to reach all the cabinets, cooking simple meals of rice and tofu, grimacing as he was forced to eat the same food night after night. He could see him pulling over a stool in front of the stove and walking away with burned fingers and too-crispy food. How many times had he set off the fire alarm? How many times had he gone hungry or barely satisfied, crying himself to sleep in frustration?

But now, Yoongi was an artist in the kitchen. He had tossed the seafood on his skillet like a master chef, not losing a single drop of sauce or oil. Jimin wondered how many mukbang videos and online recipes he'd scoured until he managed to find himself here, so capable and independent.

Jimin watched him for a long while as he ate, seeming to savor every bite. For someone who seemed to forget just how much privilege his money afforded him, he was taking his time to enjoy the meal in a way the other had not expected.

“You grew up well, Master.” Jimin said after a stretch of silence, his hand settling upon the other’s shoulder in reassurance.

“Did I? Even if I cannot be close to other people?” Yoongi let out a huff of a laugh, grinning in that melancholy way of his as he pushed away his empty plate and stood. He turned to the other, gaze almost pleading for an answer he hoped someone, anyone could give. “I spent a lifetime putting so much distance between myself and others that now when there is a possibility of being able to live a normal life… I don't know what to do. I'm elated, but… I'm terrified. How to I dive back into a world of human contact after being barred from it for so long?”

Master doesn't need human contact, because Master has me. Mochi 3 chimed earnestly. Jimin ignored it, because that wasn't what Yoongi needed to hear at all.

“It's okay to start small.” Jimin assured, smiling and opening his arms.

Yoongi didn't hesitate; he closed the distance between them in a millisecond, wrapping the other up in his arms and holding him tightly. Jimin reciprocated this time, letting his arms come up under Yoongi’s to rest on his shoulder blades, petting softly there across his chunky knit sweater. He could feel the older man’s heartbeat; erratic, at first, but soon it slowed into a gentle rhythm along with his shallow, measured breaths.

Their first hug had been different; it had been elated, a soft plea. But this? This was desperation and longing… a man bargaining with the universe for all he could get. Every touch of Yoongi’s felt like a hesitant experiment, an undercurrent of fear that suddenly he would feel that all-too-familiar pain again and be forced to pull away.

This time, he did not pull away.

Yoongi had always read that a hug was like a conversation. It was a connection, deeper than skin. He had heard that two lovers hugging would eventually find their breathing in sync, their hearts beating as one. Yoongi wondered if he could share that kind of connection with Mochi 3. He wondered if he held the other tight enough, would he feel the thrum of its core beneath that titanium chest? Would the hum of batteries and wires learn to pulse in time with the beating of his heart?

“Master doesn't need to be afraid.” Jimin whispered, a promise. “So long as I am here, I will protect you.”

Jimin felt the grip of Yoongi’s fingers tighten at his shoulders, and it felt like gratitude.

That day, Jimin learned that Yoongi was a hopeless romantic, despite his circumstances. He watched so many films about falling in love, sighing wistfully at the screen. He even watched films where the romantic leads were not a man and a woman. Jimin wondered if Yoongi, like him, considered his sexuality more fluid. He had assumed the other was straight simply because he spoke so highly of Suran, of wanting to marry her. Perhaps he had been wrong to assume.

Perhaps he was wrong to hope, too… because he was still just a robot to Yoongi, and soon enough, the real Mochi 3 was going to take his place and he would never see Yoongi again.

The thought settled heavily in his gut, and he found himself moving closer to the other on the couch as the latest film reached its climax. Yoongi rested his head on the blond’s shoulder easily, their hands still entwined as they had been for hours. If Yoongi could find comfort with him when he believed him to be Mochi 3, could he also find comfort in his touch if he knew the other was human? Or would he suddenly react just as he did with all the others, with a horrible allergic reaction?

 

Late that afternoon, when Jimin returned to the lab, he found the others all sitting around the table with none other than his roommate.

“Jungkook? What are you doing here?” Jimin balked, already having peeled off his sweatshirt so that Hoseok could help him out of his metal death-trap corset.

“I was worried about you.” The younger man told him, watching in interest. “That thing looks painful.”

“Yeah, it’s probably the hardest part of this job.” Jimin admitted with a laugh. “Well, since you’re here, let’s all have dinner together, hm?”

“Sounds great.” Jungkook admitted with a soft smile, going to help Taehyung set everything up.

Less than an hour later, they were all crammed around the too-small dining table feasting on one of Jin’s glorious fried rice dishes. Everyone seemed to get along great with Jungkook, but that was no surprise… Jimin was sure that man could work any crowd. He had the kind of infectious personality that made him likable to almost anyone.

“During the most romantic scene in the movie, he was hugging his pillow so close I thought he might start kissing it.” Jimin told them around a mouthful of food. The entire table broke out into raucous laughter, Jin looking as though he might actually choke.

“I'm starting to understand why he needs a robot companion.” Jungkook teased once he'd gotten his laughter under control.

“He's not completely hopeless or anything. He's just… not able to be around people, really.” Jimin mumbled, realizing he had to be vague as to not out Yoongi. Then again, Namjoon and the rest of the team had access to the tapes as far as what he and Yoongi had done together and spoken about, so if they didn't already know, they would soon.

“Sounds to me like our rich recluse needs to get out more.” Taehyung said. The room fell silent, however, when there was a knock at the door.

It had to be either the groundskeeper or Yoongi, that was the only explanation. Namjoon looked to Jungkook and Jimin, motioning for them to hide.

Jimin grabbed Jungkook by his shirt and dragged him over to the sleeping area, ducking behind the curtain and pulling the other flush against him, pinning himself between Jungkook and the wall. He looked up at the other with a dubious expression, concerned they might get caught. Jungkook didn't even care; he'd felt all the air leave his lungs when Jimin held him like that. He found his eyes tracking the pale column of the other’s throat as the blond craned his neck to try to peek between the wall and the curtain.

“Yoongi-ssi… what can I do for you?” Namjoon asked cordially as he pulled open the door.

The other man was holding a cardboard box. “I think my groundskeeper sorted your mail in with mine. The recipient line has your lab name on it.”

“Ah, thank you.” Namjoon perked up, taking the proffered box. Yoongi was careful not to touch the other, actually dropping the box into his hands.

“Is… it possible for me to see Mochi 3?” Yoongi asked, trying to look past him through the open door. Jin, Taehyung and Hoseok sat at the table with innocent smiles, the latter going to far as to wave jovially at the other.

“Mochi 3 is currently charging.” Namjoon told him. “So I’m afraid not.”

Behind the curtain, Jungkook shifted awkwardly and nearly knocked over a poorly-balanced alarm clock.

“Shh!” Jimin hissed, smiling conspiratorially as he pressed his finger to Jungkook’s lips, keeping himself tucked as far against the wall as he could and pulling the other closer to keep him out of view.

Jungkook’s responding grin was fond, and he settled himself as close as humanly possible against the other, looking down at him as though his entire world had just narrowed down to the space between the two of them. The position was… strangely intimate. There was a moment, just a brief moment, when Jungkook thought about following through on those fleeting thoughts in the back of his mind… he leaned closer, until there were hardly even molecules separating their lips, and then—Yoongi said his farewells, the door snapped shut, and Jimin dipped his head, letting out a loud snort of a laugh as he gently shoved the other away.

“That was a little too close.” He piped up with a sigh of relief, tugging back the curtain and going to join the others as though he had not just entirely shifted Jungkook’s world off its axis.

“Thankfully your master is a bit oblivious.” Hoseok singsonged. “There are far too many place settings for just us, but he didn’t even bat an eye.”

“He’s not very observant.” Jimin agreed, going to sit back down. Jungkook trailed after him, still reeling. What had he been thinking? Idiotic… he shook his head and sat between Taehyung and Hoseok, trying to push the entire thing from his mind.

The rest of the night was spent gorging themselves on good food and beer and soju. Eventually, the lightweights hit the hay; Jimin was the first to crash, followed by Jin, which meant that Namjoon went right after him, as they shared the largest bottom bunk. Jungkook was contemplating heading home soon, but found himself nursing another drink instead. Hoseok had gone back to working on one of his computers while Taehyung seemed to be wide awake, still at the table with their guest and working on his last beer.

Jungkook must have looked pretty pathetic, sitting there and knocking back the rest of his soju while staring longingly toward the curtain in the corner of the room. He let out a soft sigh, setting down the now-empty bottle.

“Oh… I get it. It makes sense now.” Taehyung murmured, mouth spreading into a boxy grin.

Jungkook hung his head in his hands. “Is it that obvious?”

“Oh yeah. Jiminie’s oblivious, though… unsurprisingly.” Taehyung said. “You kind of… have to be direct with him? I mean, he stopped hanging out with us ages ago and none of us really know why because he didn’t tell us. He’s not really one to go looking for justifications or explanations. He wears his heart on his sleeve.”

“I couldn’t possibly.” Jungkook murmured. “He’s… my best friend. My only friend. I wouldn’t risk ruining that.”

Taehyung gave a huff of a laugh, glancing over in Hoseok’s direction. “Yeah, I feel you on that one.”

Hoseok noticed the eyes on him and made a face, sticking his tongue out through a bright smile and crossing his eyes playfully. In response, Taehyung scrunched up his nose and bared his teeth in an expression that was just as ridiculous. Both of them laughed, and even Jungkook chuckled, shaking his head.

“My condolences.”

“Eh, in my case, Hoseok is never going to happen. I respect it, though.” Taehyung said, eyes still on the older man as he spoke. “He's not interested in romantic or sexual relationships. It's kind of beautiful in its own way, though, because he has so much love to give his friends. And that? I wouldn't trade that for the world.”

Jungkook smiled, because he felt that way, too. He wouldn't risk his friendship with Jimin, not in a hundred years. If that meant keeping his feelings to himself, it was a small price to pay.

***

Jungkook started coming over regularly the next few evenings, always bringing takeout, which endeared him to the Project Serendipity team almost immediately. The team had been hard at work now that Mochi 3’s missing part had come in, but there was still a lot of calibration to be done before the robot was ready to go. Jimin was secretly glad it wasn't just an easy installation… he was enjoying his time with Yoongi, and was not eager for it to end.

Jimin had finally figured out some form of a work-life balance, going to the dance studio twice a week after his work as Mochi 3 as long as he'd been let off early enough. They were happy to have him back, and it felt amazing to return to that familiar grind, leaving the studio sweating and spent and tired deep down to his bones. His muscles ached but his heart felt full. He hadn’t realized just how far down into his depressive slump he'd sunk until someone had reached in and pulled him out.

He'd stopped at home and taken a shower, offering a wave to Jungkook, who was streaming, before packing up some more clothes and heading out once more. He wanted to stay at the lab again, not simply for the convenience, but he was becoming used to being so close to Yoongi. He wanted the other to feel as though he could call upon him at any time.

“Welcome back, avatar.” Mochi 3 greeted as Jimin walked into the lab, freshly showered and eager for a nap. He blinked, a little thrown off to see the robot standing off near the dining table, not sitting on its charging seat.

“Mochi 3, that's your model, but at least call him by his name.” Namjoon chided, shaking his head.

“Jimin.” The robot corrected, though it sounded more like a statement of fact rather than a revised greeting.

“Eh, it's all right. I'm so used to having Mochi 3 in my head that I sometimes feel like I'm just an avatar. Today I couldn't remember the name of this one guy at the dance studio and I was actually concerned when there wasn't a little interface in my vision to identify him for me.” Jimin replied with a laugh. “It was Yugyeom… poor guy probably thought I was crazy, standing there ogling him for a good thirty seconds waiting for facial recognition to kick in only for me to realize I wasn't even wearing my special contacts.”

“Jiminie’s ruined by tech, it's official.” Taehyung teased.

“You know, I could just make you a pair that interfaced with the internet…” Hoseok drawled, smirking conspiratorially.

“GoogleGlass failed for a reason, I'm gonna take a hard pass on that.” Jimin told him with a snort. He dropped his duffle next to his designated bunk before collapsing onto the mattress with a long sigh. “I'm gonna pass out here for a bit, wake me up when dinner is a thing.”

“Actually, we’re going on a grocery run here in a minute, so if you have any requests, text me a list.” Namjoon said as he and Jin headed for the door.

“I will do that. You owe me food as I recall. I want meat. Like… metric tons of Korean beef.” Jimin intoned dreamily, his Satoori drawl more obvious when he was tired and whiny.

“Listen, you can't go eating me out of house and home.” Namjoon chided.

Jimin smirked. “I'm pretty sure the only one who's allowed to eat you out is Jin.”

Namjoon choked, Jin sputtered and across the room, Taehyung snorted. “Jimin-!”

“What? Yesterday I walked in on you two with your hands down each others’ pants, I'm allowed to tease you.” Jimin retorted.

Both men turned bright red, Jin getting a bit defensive. “It was the first time we had a place to ourselves in weeks! And we expected you to be later since you told us your ‘master’ thinks your battery can last six hours.”

“Listen, you have a van. Find a dark alley and spare us all the need for eye bleach.” Jimin quipped.

Both men just made faces at him before stalking out in a huff.

Hoseok giggled from his spot underneath one of the servers, Taehyung joining him from where he was spotting above him. When he held out an upturned palm, Taehyung handed him a tiny screwdriver. “Careful or mom and dad will get angry!”

“Which one’s mom and which is dad?” Taehyung asked, sounding thoughtful.

“Well, Jin does all the cooking. Does that make him mom?” Hoseok offered, voice muffled around the flashlight he'd just stuck in his mouth.

“Men cook too. Min Yoongi is an amazing cook.” Jimin mumbled from his spot on the bed, arm draped over his eyes.

“Master is so cool when he cooks.” Mochi 3 piped up from where it was still standing by the dining table.

Jimin snorted. “You know, you don't have to compliment him when he isn't around.”

“Why wouldn't I?” Mochi 3 asked, cocking its head. “Master deserves to be complimented.”

“Shouldn't you be in Operational Mode?” Jimin questioned bitterly, sitting up.

“I am being tested in Companion Mode to ensure no data corruption occurs during recalibration.” Mochi 3 explained.

“Well pipe down then, at least. I hear enough of your Yoongi fanboy antics in my ear all day as it is.” Jimin grumbled, collapsing back into the bed for that nap he promised himself.

***

A dark van sat idle in an alley across from the twenty-four hour market. Its two inhabitants were munching on kebabs from a street vendor nearby.

“Every night it's the same. We drive and we drive but we never find them. The boss can't honestly believe this robot is going to pop out at us in public by chance, can he?” The driver grumbled, heaving a sigh around his chicken skewer.

“If they're close to their last known whereabouts, the chances we run into them are pretty high.” The passenger argued through a mouthful of Korean beef. “Besides, we don't have any leads. This is the best we have.”

“I'm just saying,” The other argued matter-of-factly, “the chances are—”

“No way…” The passenger interrupted, dropping his bare skewer.

“What?” The driver asked, irritated.

“Him, it’s him!” The van’s passenger grabbed his driver by the shoulder and shook him, grabbing his phone and pulling up the picture. He pointed to a man across the street who was identical to the one in the photo, the scientist who created the robot known as Mochi 3.

“Well I'll be fuckin’ damned.” The driver murmured, flabbergasted. The two men watched as the scientist and another man with dark hair got into a van of their own, though it was white in contrast.

“Follow that van and don't lose them!” The passenger barked.

“I know, I know!” The driver yelped, turning over the engine and flipping off his lights before doing just that.

The lighter van seemed to keep to the main roads, before turning down a small hidden drive out of the way of so much as a major roadway or even a sign.

“This is a private road.” The driver hissed, halting the vehicle and leaning so he could peer down the drive. “Is this where they're hiding?”

“Makes sense.” The passenger murmured, turning his phone toward the other. He had his map application open, and upon the screen, it was clear they were within the property limits close to an address their boss gave them, which was labeled, ‘Min Yoongi Estate’.

The passenger fired off a text before urging the driver to move down the main road a little, in case anyone else emerged from the private street.

’The Project Serendipity team are holed up on Min Yoongi’s property. Awaiting your orders.’

 

Across town, Chairman Kim snarled as he read the text. He fired off a quick response. ’Fall back until I call for you again.

Chairman Kim rubbed his temples, tabbing through his recent contacts and sending another text, this time to his son. ’Min Yoongi knows. It is integral for us to gain Chairman Shin’s support.

Jongin sighed as he picked up his phone and sent off a text of his own, to a different contact. ’Rough day at work… drinks tonight?’

It only took a few seconds for a reply to come through. ’Rough day? Try a rough week. Drinks sound great, see you in an hour?’

Jongin allowed himself a small grin. Perhaps the day wasn’t a total loss.

He decided to get there a bit earlier than his drinking partner, arriving only thirty minutes later. The bar was nearly empty, given that it was in an upscale hotel and it happened to be a weeknight. Jongin was already a drink and a half in when someone sat next to him. He turned to see Suran with a surly pout on her gorgeous face settling into the chair beside his.

“Started without me, I see.” She commented, waving down the bartender and ordering her drink of choice, plus another for Jongin. “You haven’t changed a bit, Kai.”

“Last time you saw me I was hardly legally able to drink.” Jongin quipped, giving her a look. It was nice to hear the nickname again; only she and Yoongi had ever used it, and the latter hadn’t since they were children. “So, you had a rough week. Tell me all about it.”

“Well, my father wants me to marry Yoongi.” Suran told him with a sigh, giving the bartender a smile of thanks when he slid her drink over. “Arranged marriages, of course, are not my idea of romance. But I could have worked with it.”

Jongin had to stamp down the part of him that wanted to lash out, because of course, Min Yoongi already had the majority shares of the company and the legacy of his parents, but naturally, he had to have the gorgeous girl handed to him as well, didn’t he? He downed the rest of his drink as another was set in front of him, and took that one up gladly.

“Could have?” Jongin asked, too casually.

“Mm, he turned me down.” Suran commented, grimacing. She pursed her lips in an over-dramatic pout. “Guess I wasn’t expecting it. I thought it was just what father wanted, but… maybe I didn’t hate the idea of it, either.”

“Well, if you’re that desperate, you can always marry second-best.” Jongin replied somewhat bitterly, though there was a splash of humor there that spoke to his sincerity. “I may not be majority shareholder, but with your father and my father together with me… even Chairman Yoo could not prevent us from overriding Min Yoongi.”

Suran regarded him for a moment, twisting a lock of her own hair absently with her fingers. “My father has always been loyal to Min Yoongi, and his father before him.”

“But wouldn’t he rather be loyal to a son-in-law?” Jongin asked, raising an eyebrow.

Suran stared at him, squinting. “I knew it. You’ve always been out to get what was Yoongi’s, hm? Even if it’s a woman.”

Jongin scoffed. “You don’t belong to Min Yoongi. And if you did, I guess I’d respect that. But as it stands, you are your own woman… and I’m asking you, if you would consider settling for second-best.”

Suran shook her head, grinning in amusement. “Oh Kai… absolutely nothing about you is second best.”

***

One afternoon, Jungkook arrived a bit early at the lab. It appeared that Namjoon was the only one there; apparently the groundskeeper had asked the others for some help with something, which sounded like it could be sketchy.

“Oh, Jungkook-ah… we weren't expecting you so early.” Namjoon piped up with a genuine grin, his eyes lighting up when he saw the massive bag the other was carrying. “And with take-out again? Well, I won't complain!”

“Jimin still not back from his dance practice yet?” The younger man asked, hefting the massive bag onto the dining table.

“No, not yet. Mochi 3, would you get us some plates?” Namjoon said. The robot nodded and walked over to the kitchen to grab the paper plates, dropping them rather gracelessly on the table once it returned. Namjoon sighed. “I still can't calibrate those damn pressure sensors. It's been breaking glasses and dropping things for days.”

“You'll get it.” Jungkook assured, starting to unpack the takeout. “Say… Namjoon-sunbae… could I ask you something?

“I think we know each other well enough by now for you to just call me hyung, but yes, go ahead.” Namjoon replied, helping him sort out the food.

“Oh, okay. Um… it's about Jimin-hyung. I guess I was just wondering… what exactly happened with that. Why… did you choose to model Mochi 3 after him?” Jungkook asked, tone hesitant. “Taehyung-ah said that Jimin just… stopped hanging out with you guys one day. I feel like that would have left some kind of an impact. I guess I just had to wonder… why you chose to make the robot look like Jimin-hyung, even after that.”

“I suppose some part of us missed him.” Namjoon explained, pressing his lips together in a regretful sort of way. “I knew that Mochi 3 wouldn’t be him, but… it kind of felt like we got a small piece of those days back.”

“I see…” Jungkook murmured thoughtfully.

“You should ask him… why he left.” Namjoon said, his expression earnest. “We all want to know. We all… well, we wondered if it was something we could fix.”

Jungkook nodded. He wasn't sure if Jimin would open up to him about it, but he resolved to ask.

That evening, they chatted casually over hot food and good company, but Jimin chose to stay the night at the lab once more, and Jungkook didn't get his chance to bring up the subject.

The very next night was the first in several that Jimin actually spent at home. His mattress wasn't the greatest but it was better than what he used back at the lab. Not to mention the noise… the constant hum of the computers was a comfort to some, but it was starting to drive him crazy. Not to mention all of Hoseok’s late-night tinkering. The worst, however, was getting up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and nearly leaping out of his skin when he caught sight of himself in the dark, or rather, Mochi 3 sitting in its charging station, still and silent and unnerving. He would never get used to that.

Jungkook didn't stay up too late to stream, which was a blessing, because he wanted the quiet. The two of them lay in their separate beds in the silent dark, the only sounds being that of their shallow, calm breaths.

They'd been lying there for only a few minutes when Jungkook decided to take the plunge. He took a breath, then spoke.

“Hey Chim?”

“Yah, Kookie?” Jimin replied, not sounding at all annoyed, as he usually might had he actually been close to falling asleep.

“Why'd you ever stop hanging out with those guys, huh?”

There was silence, again, for several moments. Jimin let out a soft breath, defensive. “Why do you ask?”

“I dunno, I just… it seems as though you really like them and they love having you around.” Jungkook explained. “I thought it was because you moved away or something, but that's not when you left, according to them.”

Jimin huffed. “So you guys all talked about it?”

“It got brought up, yeah.” Jungkook said, rolling over on his side so he was facing the other. Even in the dark room, he could see just enough to make out the lines of the blond’s face, brow creased in irritation.

“Have you ever just walked into a room and realized you didn't belong?” Jimin asked, voice raw. “No one treated me any differently, but… it was like we were from different planets. I felt so stupid around them. I would catch glimpses of their calculus homework that they would just breeze through and it may as well have been Chinese to me. They never purposely left me out of conversations but sometimes when they would get to talking I would just feel so lost. I felt like I didn't belong. So… I just… stopped showing up. Stopped replying to texts. And eventually, they stopped trying to contact me.”

“Jiminie…” Jungkook whined, sliding out of his own bed and into Jimin’s, wriggling under the covers until they were pressed together at the center of the bed. It wasn't the first time he'd done this; he'd learned long ago that Jimin responded best to physical comfort… those moments when he could hold a person close and know they were truly there for him. “You can't think like that. Just because you aren't a math genius doesn't mean your other talents aren't worthy of being proud of. Your dance is an art, and I'm sure the guys would absolutely agree. Your music knowledge is second to none. Being a genius or being smart isn't all things to all people. You can't compare an art to a science, and it isn't a competition.”

Jimin just pouted, but the other wasn't done.

“And I understand how you feel… I'm an adult who gets paid to play video games! I feel like I don't fit in to any crowd, you know? I think about the future a lot… when all this comes to an end and I can't sustain it, what will I do? I won't have any real work experience or any marketable skills. I could go back to school but then I'd be getting such a late start. I might just be stuck extending my military service just to get by. But for right now? I have friends I can count on and a job that makes me happy and my life is how it is so I figure I should just live it, you know?”

“Yeah… I… get what you mean.” Jimin huffed a soft laugh, smiling. He moved closer, tucking himself under the other’s chin. “Thanks, Jungkookie. Maybe I was wrong to just walk away because of my own insecurities.”

“Hey, you didn't lose anything. They're more than happy to have you back in their lives.” Jungkook replied.

“And… I guess it worked out in the end.” Jimin added sleepily, fingers curling into Jungkook’s loose sleep shirt as he burrowed closer. His Satoori was incredibly heavy when he was tired, slurring his words. “I get to have them back, and I've gained a new friend in you, too.”

“Exactly.” Jungkook rasped, raw and low and broken. He wrapped his arms tighter around the other and pressed his lips against the crown of that blond head, wishing more than anything that Jimin could see him as more than just that, but knowing in his heart that he could not be more grateful if this was all he was ever allowed.

Chapter Text

There was a specific feeling to the ending of things, when it was expected. Of course, it could seem impossible to prepare for the end of something one wanted to last forever… but knowing it was coming felt like a small comfort. At least Jimin could find solace in that Yoongi’s presence would not simply be ripped out from under him. No, instead, it would come in the form of Namjoon casually explaining that Mochi 3’s repairs were nearly complete. It had not been abrupt, and yet, Jimin’s chest felt hollow, as though someone had reached inside and torn something out.

It was not his last day, but it was one of his last days. He knew that soon, the real Mochi 3 would take his place, and he would never see Yoongi again. He wondered when he’d gone from thinking the man was a weird, reclusive rich guy to counting him among his friends. He wondered when he’d started to fall for him. He wondered just how dangerous that was, for the both of them.

But, ultimately, it had only been dangerous for him.

Yoongi called for another meeting with Namjoon, this time in his presence. They sat at that same too-long garden table, with Jimin at Yoongi’s side, just behind him. It was a little surreal… he’d never had to be Mochi 3 in front of the Project Serendipity team. He felt the weight of keeping up their ruse stronger than ever. Namjoon, to his credit, hardly even glanced at him, apparently not wanting to make him nervous. Jimin was grateful for it.

“I’m glad you called for a meeting… I was actually eager to ask you how the testing in Companion Mode was going.” Namjoon began, idly fingering the rim of the teacup in front of him. Yoongi had tasked Mochi 3 with bringing them both tea, but neither had really touched it.

“It is going well. Far better than expected, in fact.” Yoongi admitted, clearing his throat. “In some ways, Mochi 3 has become more than just a companion. He makes it possible for me to be around people. Which means… that I could...”

To Jimin’s surprise, Namjoon didn’t seem to react to the statement. Had he already watched the footage? Did he surmise that Yoongi’s allergic reactions had been the result of contact with people? And, what’s more, was Yoongi really able to keep his allergy at bay just by having him nearby? That would explain why he acted the way he did at the street market. Jimin’s head was spinning… it was a lot to think about.

“Earlier this week, I declined a marriage proposal… because I did not believe it was feasible for me to get married. But now… I think it could be possible.” Yoongi continued when Namjoon didn’t respond. “I’d like to… ask for your advice on the matter. And possibly, your help.”

Jimin nearly choked. Namjoon actually did.

“Why… ask me?” Namjoon questioned, flustered.

“You… and your team… are the closest thing I’ve had to friends in many years.” Yoongi explained, and to his credit, he seemed to be blushing furiously, staring at his own hands where he wrung them in front of himself on the table.

“I… see. It’s just… I’m not so sure that we’re… the best—” Namjoon paused when he noticed Jimin giving him a look. The younger man was smiling too broadly, eyes wide open as he nodded, as though trying to tell him to accept. The engineer coughed. “Well, uh. We… might be able to help. I may know someone. I’ll get back to you this evening.”

Yoongi grinned, nodding in that satisfied way of his, a look he so often sported when he got his way. Jimin wondered how he could be both enamored and annoyed with the expression at the same time.

“Master, my battery power is at five percent. Charging will be required soon.” Jimin piped up once their conversation was over.

Yoongi gave a great sigh. “Very well… why don’t you return to the lab with your creator, then, hm? I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yes, Master.” Jimin replied agreeably, and so he and Namjoon headed back to the lab as Yoongi went back inside.

“What was that about?” Namjoon hissed once they were out of earshot. “I know I’m in a committed relationship but that was a result of proximity and dumb luck. And the rest of the crew… Taehyung is a hopeless romantic who pretends he’s a player for the sake of his image and Hoseok is neither romantic or sexual.”

“You and your team are not going to help him.” Jimin replied, rolling his eyes and smirking conspiratorially. “Jungkook is.”

***

“I can't believe I let you talk me into this.” Jungkook whined, adjusting the collar of his shirt for about the seventh time that morning. Jimin had brought him up to speed on what he’d be doing, that was… after he’d begged him for his help the night before. He’d even broken out his needy pout to get him to agree. He wasn’t afraid to play dirty when he had to. “What am I even supposed to do for him? I’m no expert on romance… I’m single!”

“Listen, Yoongi is pretty helpless.” Jimin told him, swatting his hands away from the fabric and adjusting it himself. “Anything you can teach him will be a step up. Besides, you're the one who’s always bragging about being an ‘International Playboy’.”

“Okay, I was exaggerating… I hooked up with one girl when I was overseas I'm not all that!” Jungkook grumped, crossing his arms.

“Better than any of us have done, probably!” Jimin retorted. “He's so clueless, Jungkookie. Just… go over the basics with him. Literal basics. I don't think he's even kissed anyone before.”

“That’s almost worse! How am I supposed to work with that?” Jungkook bit back.

“Basics! How to set the mood of a date, build sexual tension… when to go in for the kiss.” Jimin explained. “Literally just tell him what the romance gurus all tout on television. He just wants to hear it from someone more… close to home. He’s had tutorials and walkthroughs all his life. This is the first time he’s been able to come to friends for help. Just… give him this.”

Jungkook sighed. “And you really want me to help with that? For him to get with this… rich heiress you were talking about?”

“Min Yoongi has been handed nothing but grief by fate. She’s his first love. He deserves this. He deserves her.” Jimin insisted, resolved, even though it ached deep in his chest to say it.

It wasn’t long before the two of them were heading up to the main mansion, taking the winding dirt trail which led to the well-tended cobblestone paths of the gardens, and eventually to the mansion itself. They met Yoongi on the back veranda, however… he was waiting for them at one of the smaller gilded metal tables, drinks at the ready.

“Master, this is Jeon Jungkook. He is a friend to my creators and he is here to assist you today.” Jimin said cordially as they walked up.

“Your creators’ love expert is… a child?” Yoongi drawled, unconvinced.

“I’m twenty-four, thank you.” Jungkook bit back. “And I’ve had a few girlfriends. How many have you had?”

Yoongi’s instant silence and the grimace on his face said it all.

“Exactly. I’m here to help you, so, let me.” Jungkook bit back, and that was that.

Jimin tagged along and remained silent as Jungkook went through his lessons with Yoongi. How to read a situation from someone’s body language, how to set the mood, good ideas for dates (Yoongi had him moving on quite quickly from that, claiming he already had something in mind, Jimin only hoped it wasn’t as much of a disaster as his turning down her proposal had been). It was all fairly simple stuff, but Yoongi listened intently, even asking questions that managed to not sound condescending.

Eventually, they moved on from just theory on to practice. Jungkook had Yoongi walk side-by-side with Jimin, claiming, “Mochi 3 will be the stand-in for your date, here.”

Jimin glowered at him the moment Yoongi’s back was turned.

“Just imagine you’re walking down the street with your date. Maybe there comes a time when your hands brush… ever so slightly.” Jungkook gave Jimin a pointed look and the blond rolled his eyes before letting the back of his hand gently over Yoongi’s. “If your date doesn’t immediately move away, you should try entwining your fingers. Holding hands is a simple way to show affection even in public.”

Yoongi slipped his hand into the other’s, not even thinking twice. Their fingers tangled together, and Jimin wondered if he would be able to tell the difference in days, or weeks, when he may be holding the real Mochi 3’s hand. The thought made him uneasy. Jungkook was grinning conspiratorially as he walked behind the two of them.

“Fate often finds a way to push two people together. Maybe you will find yourselves in a situation you didn’t expect, but that could be a perfect opportunity to take advantage of in romance. For example...” Jungkook brushed past Jimin quickly, knocking him off-balance, entirely on purpose. He nearly stumbled, but Yoongi was quick to throw an arm around him and hold him steady. They were suddenly intimately close. Jimin’s small fingers clutched at the front of Yoongi’s sweater for purchase and the blond blinked up at him somewhat dazedly for a few seconds. “Random happenstance, strange circumstances… anything could suddenly push two friends, even two strangers together. And when it’s someone you love? That… that is the perfect time to go in for a kiss.”

Yoongi coughed, making sure the other had his balance before letting him go. “I see. And… what if a moment like that never comes?”

“If you spend an entire date with someone and you never feel there is a right moment… then fate may be trying to tell you something.” Jungkook replied with a good-natured smirk. “Don’t worry. When the moment comes, you’ll know. You’ll feel it.”

Yoongi didn’t seem so sure… but Jimin was too busy trying to get the flush in his cheeks under control to really notice. Maybe having Jungkook help wasn’t the best idea after all.

***

The next day, Yoongi brought Jimin along to that fancy restaurant where he’d once met with Chairman Shin. This time, the Chairman wasn’t alone; he’d brought Suran with him. She looked as radiant as ever, wearing an elegant yet practical navy ensemble with sensible silver jewelry. She looked less than thrilled to be there, but managed a tight smile in greeting. Jimin had been given a separate table nearly halfway across the room, within Yoongi’s sight but not near him by any stretch. He sat obediently, because he knew that, logistically, it made more sense than being close to Yoongi, especially for such a conversation. Regardless, it still felt strange to just sit there… he was starting to get looks. He couldn’t eat, but Yoongi had sent food to his table for appearances. He could hear whispers around him about how rude and spoiled he must be, just coming here to show off his wealth and not even eating. He tried not to take it personally, but it was hard not to.

Once they had their meals at the other table, Yoongi sat up straighter and cleared his throat.

“I have decided to accept your proposal that I marry Suran.” He said, too simply, as though it were not a life-altering decision.

Suran nearly choked. “Wha-? But, the other day, you—”

“This is wonderful news.” Chairman Shin interrupted, grinning in satisfaction.

“Suran has asked to date first, which I intend to honor.” Yoongi continued.

“Hardly necessary… don’t you think? If the intent for engagement is already there?” Chairman Shin queried suggestively.

“I’m sitting right here.” Suran muttered in a flat, bitter tone.

“It was her request, so I would like to honor it.” Yoongi insisted with a smile.

“Well… I am still glad for this news.” Chairman Shin added, sounding positively delighted.

“Don’t I get a say in this?” Suran grumbled.

“Oh, Yoongi-ssi, you haven’t touched your food. You should enjoy it. Everything is quite good here.” Chairman Shin said, completely ignoring his daughter in favor of tucking into his own food.

Yoongi smiled and nodded, cutting off a bite of his perfectly-cooked steak and laying it on his tongue. As he started to chew, he became aware that it tasted like ash. His cervical lymph glands immediately tightened and he felt bile rising in his throat. He excused himself as casually as possible, making his way to the bathroom just in time to let the food come back out in a place he could not embarrass himself. He took several moments to calm down, washing his mouth out with water from the sink and staring hatefully at himself in the mirror. Regardless of the progress he’d made on his allergy, he was still so far from living a normal life. He’d been falling prey to hope, again. He steeled himself before returning to the table, sparing a glance at Mochi 3 across the room to ensure he would not have a reaction when one of the waiters brushed by him. He did not touch the rest of his food, but neither Suran or her father had anything more to say about it. They agreed to go out on a date that very evening, though Suran seemed less thrilled than he would have expected.

 

Later, Jimin rejoined him at the door on their way out, trying to appear impassive. He felt a little down after having to listen to a bunch of rich people make loudly-whispered assumptions about him all while Yoongi was speaking about his intent to marry someone else. He tried to convince himself he was more upset about the strangers’ comments than he was about the purpose of the meeting, with little success.

“Well, Mochi 3… shall we go home?” Yoongi asked, wearing a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Jimin found himself wondering why he wasn’t genuinely happy in that moment. Mochi 3 chimed in his ear some tactless comment about him giving a fake smile for a fake engagement, but Jimin wouldn’t dream of repeating it. Perhaps the robot was taking this companion role in the wrong direction… he’d have to speak to Namjoon about it.

“Yes, Master.” He said simply, because saying more may have given away his mood. “I will need to recharge before your date tonight.”

“Of course.” Yoongi replied, nodding thoughtfully. “You’ll need to have someone come along with you, too… it would seem strange if you were lurking around us on your own.”

“I am sure one of my creators will be free tonight.” Jimin told him. “I can ask them when I return to the lab.”

“Good. ”

An alert blipped on his HUD through his contacts. “You should also be sure to bring an umbrella, Master. The forecast predicts rain.”

“Thank you, Mochi 3.” Yoongi replied, and his accompanying smile was genuine that time.

***

As it turned out, everyone from the Project Serendipity team was far too tired to attend. They had been working tirelessly through sleepless nights trying to get Mochi 3 back to peak performance and it was taking a toll. Thankfully, however, Jungkook had come with takeout and graciously offered to escort him.

“So... what, they’re going on a date and we just… tag along, inconspicuously, in the background?” Jungkook asked, wearing a dubious expression. “Seems sketchy.”

“I know, it’s weird, but Yoongi is weird.” Jimin explained. “You sure you don’t mind?”

“Nah, it’ll be fun. And I get to pretend you’re a robot… that’s exciting.” Jungkook teased.

Jimin grimaced. “Honestly I’m kind of over pretending to not have human needs or emotions, not being able to eat for hours, standing all stiff and attentive… probably one of the most taxing part-time jobs I’ve ever taken.”

“Well, hey, it’s only for a little longer, right? And then I’ll have you back?” Jungkook asked. He was obviously joking, but there was a sort of earnestness to his tone as well. “The apartment feels so empty without you.”

Jimin laughed. “Yeah, I’ll be back before you know it and you’ll be annoyed at me for leaving dirty dishes all over the place again.”

Jungkook chuckled, though he didn’t answer. He couldn’t possibly admit that Jimin’s presence far outweighed his annoying habits by leagues. He wouldn’t dare tell him.

Just after sunset, the two of them piled into Namjoon’s van, which he’d graciously allowed them to borrow, and Jungkook drove them to the place where Yoongi would be meeting Suran. It was the same street market where Jimin and Yoongi had gone just days before. Jimin felt a touch of fondness, that Yoongi had enjoyed himself so much that he wanted to return, but he had to try his best not to allow the bitter thoughts that followed to take root. This place did not belong to them. Suran deserved to be treated just as well, if Yoongi truly wanted to be with her.
They parked and stepped out of the van, Yoongi offering a small, subtle wave of acknowledgement to let them know he’d spotted them. Suran walked up not two seconds later, dressed to the nines in burgundy and beige. Her heels were sky-high, easily six inches, bringing her up to nearly Yoongi’s height. She blinked in confusion, looking around.

“When you mentioned a date, I must say… this wasn’t what I imagined.” She told him with a dubious expression.

“It’s actually quite fun here. You’ll see!” Yoongi promised, beaming with that gummy smile of his. Jimin was meters away but he still felt his heart leap at the sight.

He led Suran around much in the same manner as he and Jimin had done, looking at the stalls and enjoying the music. Eventually, it was clear Suran had not worn the proper footwear for the endeavor, and they stopped into an ice-cream shop for a sweet treat and to rest their feet. Jungkook and Jimin followed, but there were so many people, and plenty of couples, that Suran didn’t seem to be the wiser that the two men were tailing them.

It was for that reason that Jimin and Jungkook did not notice the two men in black tailing them, either.

Jungkook bought a large ice-cream sundae meant for two but ended up eating most of it. Suran took off her heels and flexed her toes a bit while she tucked into her own ice-cream, though Yoongi did not partake in his own. He did excuse himself, however, a few minutes after they’d sat down. Jimin nearly followed, but he made a motion that he would be all right and took off. Suran spent the time alone tapping away on her phone. Jimin took the opportunity to have some of the sundae, since Yoongi wouldn’t see him eating if he wasn’t in the room. Jungkook laughed at how he hastily he spooned it down, wiping a spot of whipped cream from the corner of the other’s mouth so he wouldn’t give himself away. He knew they were only there to help Yoongi, but Jungkook couldn’t help but selfishly enjoy himself. It almost felt as though he and Jimin were on a date of their own.

Yoongi returned some time later with a bag from a store down the street. He pulled out the box inside, presenting Suran with shoes with a much smaller heel in a wedge style, which would be far more comfortable for her. She seemed to regard the less-than-stylish shoes with hesitance, but eventually put them on with a sigh.

“I suppose practical and comfortable isn’t always as nice-looking, hm?”

“You still look beautiful.” Yoongi told her, but she brushed off the comment with a shrug and a soft laugh.

Yoongi carried her other shoes in the bag as they continued back into the street market. They passed many of the same booths Jimin and Yoongi had just days before. Suran seemed uninterested in the plushies and almost disgusted with the handmade jewelry. Jimin watched from nearby with Jungkook as they came across the hat vendor. Yoongi was just as thrilled as he’d been with Mochi 3, picking up a hat which read ‘Beautiful’ in Hangul and trying to put it on for her.

“Doesn’t this suit you perfectly?”

Suran ducked away, holding up one hand to block him. “Oh, don’t… I wouldn’t want to mess up my hair.”

“O-oh… of course.” Yoongi murmured, nodding and setting the hat down.

From across the sidewalk, Jimin pouted. “He’s trying so hard… she’s just not into it.”

“Suran seems pretty high-class to me… maybe a museum or a fancy dinner would have been better.” Jungkook commented, though he was looking at Jimin, not the couple. He could see how disappointed the other man was.

“That’s… not really something Yoongi would like, though.” Jimin replied, as though it were no great surprise that he knew the other that well.

Thunder roared loudly in the distance, the clouds alight just a few blocks away. Jungkook’s eyes went wide. “Oh no… it’s going to rain and I completely forgot to bring an umbrella. Wait here, I’ll go get one!”

Before the blond could protest, the other had taken off toward the convenience store on the corner two streets over.

“We could take our picture together?” Yoongi suggested, pulling Jimin’s attention back to the couple.

“Here? It’s so dark, and there’s so many people.” Suran responded, sounding more confused than irritated. She pulled out her phone regardless, but paused when she saw the screen. “Oh… actually, I’m so sorry… I have an urgent message here from the company. I’ve got to go.”

“Already?” Yoongi asked, sounding deflated. “It can’t wait?”

“I’m so sorry, it says it’s urgent.” Suran gave a regretful smile before squeezing his shoulder and taking off without giving him another chance to protest, taking the bag with her shoes as she went.

Yoongi just watched her go as though he was watching all his hopes and dreams go with her. It ached deep in Jimin’s chest to see that heartbroken expression on the other’s face.

Jimin just watched him from across the street, as the other’s face seemed to pass through the stages of grief. His brow seemed to furrow slightly, just for a moment… and then, a sigh, a shake of his head, wistful and indulgent. There was the acceptance. Fat drops of rain began to fall from the sky. Slow, at first, but then, a torrent, steady and strong.

Jimin was so caught up in watching the other that he did not notice the man in black approaching him from behind, laser-focused and determined. He reached out, gloved hands mere meters away… However, before the man could make his move, Jimin looked up to see that Yoongi had closed the distance between the two of them, holding his umbrella over the blond.

The man in black panicked and changed direction too soon; he clipped Jimin’s shoulder hard, sending him off-balance as he scampered off. He could have easily corrected himself; he was a dancer, after all… but before he'd even tried to stabilize, Yoongi had dove forward, wrapping an arm around him and holding him steady. He found himself frozen, then, held together only by the older man’s steady grip and the strangely pensive look in the other’s eyes.

“This is… the kind of moment when two people should kiss.” Jimin murmured, before he could stop himself. He was sure every pore on his face showed his obvious want, the deep ache in his chest.

Yoongi regarded him almost curiously, brow crinkling. The other’s face was so earnest. In that moment, like so many others, he almost seemed human.

And then... the blond moved closer, leaning up until those plush pink lips were against his own.

Yoongi froze, his eyes widening, but the other continued to kiss him, his own eyes closed, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Jimin wanted to kiss every speck of pain from Yoongi’s features… he had already seen so much of it, far more than a lifetime’s worth.

Jungkook came running back down the street as fast as he could with the newly-purchased umbrella, only to halt suddenly when he caught sight of Jimin. Jimin, who was already standing under an umbrella, with Yoongi, the older man’s arm wrapped almost protectively around him as they kissed. He felt his heart drop into his stomach, as though it were simmering painfully in the acid there. He almost wished Jimin could have done him the favor of reaching into his chest and ripping it out… it would have been more merciful.

Yoongi had pulled back, finally, staring down at the other with that same shocked expression, though it had softened with fondness and a bit of something else even the robot’s interface couldn't name. “Mochi 3… did you… just…”

Shit. Shit. What had Jimin just done? He chastised himself internally, panicking. He shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have…

And yet…

Yoongi’s face, though colored with confusion, was a beautiful shade of pink at the apples of his cheeks. His lips seemed to involuntarily tug into a smile, the kind one might let slip when reminiscing upon beautiful memories, a smile one didn't usually show others. Jimin’s heart leapt.

“My master seemed sad.” He said, too low and too breathless. “It is my job to make him happy.”

He didn't know how long they stood there in the downpour, protected by the too-small umbrella, but they did not move apart for some time still, and the rain did not cease.

Chapter Text

Jungkook had stood in the pouring rain, folded umbrella clutched in his hand, unused. He’d not bothered to open it after getting it from the convenience store, instead opting to run back to Jimin, hoping to make it back before the other got too wet.

But Jimin seemed fine.

Jimin, who was standing under an umbrella with Yoongi… Yoongi, who had his arm around Jimin, their lips pressed together intimately, as if all the world around them had melted away.

Jungkook had felt his own world grind to a halt, every ounce of air forced out of his lungs with a pained sound he was grateful the rain had drowned out. If any tears escaped his eyes, those, too, would be washed away by the rain. How lucky for him.

How… fortuitous...

“You’re wet!” Jimin chimed with such concern once he’d realized the world around him still existed, that he’d come here with another person, that his friend had returned.

Jungkook opened the umbrella quickly, holding it over the both of them. Several paces away, just behind him, Yoongi stood under his own, looking for all the world like a man in the midst of an existential crisis.

“If I had opened it, I wouldn’t have been able to run back to you so quickly.” He explained, giving him a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Did… something happen to Suran?”

“She left.” Jimin murmured, looking down. “I think… Yoongi is ready to go home.”

Jungkook nodded.

The two of them made sure Yoongi got back to his car safely, Jimin always within Yoongi’s sight. Once he was safely inside his sports car, they returned to the van they’d borrowed from the Project Serendipity team.

The ride home was agonizingly quiet. Jungkook wanted to say something, whereas Jimin seemed content to stare out the window pensively. The silence was deafening.

“So, uh… that went… differently than planned.” Jungkook said, finally, when they were stopped at a light.

“I guess all your talk of fate got to Mochi 3.” Jimin murmured, finally turning away from the window to face him. “And maybe even to me.”

Jungkook’s brow furrowed. “Mochi 3… directed you to… uh. To kiss Min Yoongi?”

Jimin shrugged. “When that person knocked into me, and Yoongi caught me… I could hear that damn robot in my ear. ’This is the kind of moment when two people should kiss.’ I kind of… stopped thinking, I didn’t know what to say, so I just, repeated it, and then…”

“And then you kissed him.” God, why did the words come out tasting like ash?

“I kissed him.” Jimin whispered, looking down at his own hands in his lap. “I… shouldn’t have done that.”

Jungkook blinked, glancing over for just a second before the light turned green and he had to divert his attention back to the road. “You… regret it?”

“He was on a date, with the love of his life! That was… so stupid of me.” Jimin hissed, gritting his teeth.

Jungkook’s brow furrowed. “But you… were just doing what Mochi 3’s situational processing had recommended. Right?”

Jimin didn’t answer. He only sighed, turning back to the window. The rest of the ride was spent in silence.

***

Across town, Suran slid into a stool next to the only other person seated at the bar, not even glancing his way. Rain was still battering the windows lining the far wall, making the setting seem a little more bleak. “Another pity party, Jongin?”

“What happened to ‘Kai’?” The man asked, a suggestive leer in his tone.

Suran’s own remained terse. “You texted, knowing where I was. I assumed it was important.”

“Did you, now?” Jongin asked, smirking. “I never said it was, per se.”

Suran stared at him blankly. “I'll leave.”

“Don't.” Jongin responded, resting a hand on her arm. “You left for a reason. Not feeling it?”

“I don't want to talk about it.” Suran grumbled, motioning to the bartender. Once he brought her drink, she started in on it quickly.

“That speaks volumes.” Jongin murmured into his own glass.

Suran sighed, finally turning her attention to him. “I don't want to marry Min Yoongi. Is that what you want me to say?”

Jongin shrugged. “It's not really about what I want, and that's the point I'm getting at here.”

Suran made a face at him. “It's what my father wants.”

“And what about what you want?” Jongin countered.

“It’s not really… about what I want.”

“It may not feel as though you have a choice, but… you do.” Jongin told her.

“I've never… gone against my father’s wishes before. Go to this school, earn that degree, learn that language… I've always done what I was told, because I knew that it was to build a secure future.” Suran replied, swirling her straw in lazy circles around her half-empty glass. “I guess I was hoping to at least get this one choice for myself, but now I realize that was foolish. My father does not have a son… which means he needs a son-in-law he trusts to carry on his legacy. In that regard, I am just a tool.”

“Suran, you… no.” Jongin growled in frustration. “Listen… I know what it's like to be nothing but means to an end to one’s father. I can't let that become of you. I won't. I don't care if it's not me, anymore, all right? But you can't marry Min Yoongi if that's not what you want.”

Suran looked down. “But… my father…”

“Listen. You have to draw the line somewhere. Trust me, I would know. Because if you aren't going to draw it, they will, and then are you even really your own person? Or just an extension of your parentage?” Jongin reasoned.

“You make it sound so easy. He could disown me. He could make my life miserable.” Suran was gripping her glass too-tightly, now, tears burning in the corners of her eyes.

Jongin’s hand slid over hers, then. Her eyes met his, expecting to see a cocksure gaze, to hear a suggestion that he could talk her father down if she asked him kindly enough. But instead, she saw only earnest care… there was a sort of gentleness there that she hadn’t seen from the other since he was a boy. Since they were both children, friends, so long ago…

“You know I wouldn’t let you end up on the street, if he really chose to go that far. You will always have a place at the company so long as I am VP.”

Suran let out the barest huff of a laugh. “And just what would you expect in return?”

Jongin’s brow furrowed. “I know it’s been years since we spent much time together, but… I still consider you my friend, Suran. Why would I ask for anything in return?”

Suran stared at him for a long moment, unable to think of anything to say in response.

They shared quite a few more drinks before going their separate ways, but Suran could not stop thinking on his words for the remainder of the night.

***

By the time Jungkook and Jimin arrived back at the lab, the others were spread about the room, keeping to themselves. Jin and Namjoon were asleep, all those late nights finally having caught up with them. Hoseok was still typing away at his computer. Jimin was sure the man ran on fluorescent lighting and coffee… that was the only explanation. Taehyung was lying on the floor nearby, leafing through a packet of papers with a massive list of numbers on it. He was reading them out to Hoseok, his words slurring tiredly. It was clear he was on the ground because if he allowed himself to be remotely comfortable, he likely would have nodded off.

“Ah! Jiminie is back!” Hoseok singsonged, pushing his rolling chair away from the computer. “How was your double-date?”

“A disaster.” Jimin grumbled, throwing himself down into a chair and pulling off his sweater while Hoseok grabbed his screwdriver. “Suran wasn’t enjoying herself. It rained. Suran took off. Yoongi seemed… so heartbroken.”

“Really? I heard Mochi 3 say something about it being a moment when two people should kiss. I figured it went well.” Hoseok replied.

Jimin choked, covering it with a cough. “Oh. Um… yeah, it… uh. Suran wasn’t as into it as Yoongi was. I think… I think they just want different things.”

“Mm. Romance is complicated.” Hoseok murmured as he got to work unscrewing the death-trap corset at Jimin’s waist. “I’m happy to stay out of that kind of drama, personally.”

Nearby, Jungkook shook his head as he crouched down by Taehyung. “You look like you’re dying.”

“I am dying.” He whined, his hand flopping down onto the hardwood, causing the papers in his grip to flutter loudly. “I think we’ve looked over these algorithms a hundred times. It doesn’t make sense why the calibrations aren’t working. And now I’m so tired I don’t think I’m even reading these right.”

“You need to sleep.” Jungkook chided. “You’re all working incredibly hard with not enough rest. You’ll never fix things like this.”

“But… I can’t just let Hoseok stay up and work on his own.” Taehyung mumbled. “He’s not going to sleep until it’s figured out.”

“You can’t push yourself like this. Not even for him.” Jungkook told him, his gaze pointed and meaningful. “You’re going to burn yourselves out.”

Taehyung stared at him for a long moment, a look of understanding finally gracing his features after several seconds. He pressed his lips together, nodding as though he were relenting to something unspoken. He stood, using Jungkook’s shoulder for leverage, but also squeezing there in a way that was an unmistakable ‘thank you’.

“Hey, Hobi, I’m gonna get some sleep, I’m starting to get my numbers all sorts of mixed up over here and I’m no use to you like this.” He said, rubbing his eyes. “You should get some sleep, too… and pick this up in the morning.”

“All right. Rest well!” Hoseok replied with a bright smile, clearly oblivious to just how hard it had been for Taehyung to admit he was running on fumes. He finished up with the last screw and finally pulled the metal contraption off of Jimin, who sighed in relief. “I’ll go sanitize this. You should eat something, Jiminie. There are leftovers from the takeout Jungkook brought earlier.”

“M’not hungry.” Jimin grumbled, not bothering to pull his sweater back on. There were angry red marks on his skin where the corset-device dug in despite the padding. He tore the faux power button off the back of his neck and tossed it onto the table before stalking off to the sleeping area, behind the curtain. Hoseok frowned, but shrugged, heading outside to clean the device as he’d promised.

Jungkook sighed, watching Jimin go. Taehyung, who was still sorting his things before he took off for bed himself, raised an eyebrow at him.

“Seems like Yoongi isn’t the only one who looks heartbroken.” He said quietly.

Jungkook shook his head dismissively. “Jimin’s just… upset. He didn’t seem heartbroken, per se.”

“Wasn’t talking about Jimin.” Taehyung replied, giving him a pointed look. “Just, uh… take care of yourself, y’know? We’re all kinda starting to like you around here.”

Jungkook huffed a laugh. “Is that so?”

“Yeah.” Taehyung bit his lip, raking a hand through his horrendously messy hair. “See you around, Jungkook.”

“Yeah.” Jungkook murmured as the other padded off to that curtained off sleeping area, looking for all the world like he were about to collapse.

Jungkook decided to head home and get some sleep of his own, but when it didn't find him, he spent several hours streaming, until night became morning and his body finally succumbed to the need for rest.

***

The realization that he had acted foolishly, without thinking, did not come crashing down upon Jimin so acutely as the next morning when he stood in Min Yoongi’s foyer and realized he had to face the man after kissing him.

Kissing him, though he was supposedly a robot.

Then again, to be fair, it sounded as though Mochi 3 wanted him to do exactly what he had done last night, so… he was working within the parameters of ‘Companion Mode’ for the robot.

He was beginning to wonder just what exactly that was supposed to entail, when all the testing phases were done.

“Hello, Mochi 3.”

He was pulled out of his thoughts by Yoongi’s usual greeting, but it was his soft tone which took him aback. There was a vulnerability there he wasn't used to hearing.

“Hello, Master. How may I serve you?” Jimin replied, just like he always did.

“I wonder if you could indulge me with something a little different, today, Mochi 3.” Yoongi responded, his expression somewhat guarded, but expectant.

Jimin cocked his head. “Like what?”

Yoongi motioned with his head, then started walking out of the foyer and into the main area of the house, the other following. Yoongi led him through the main living area at the center of the house and out toward another near the back. This one was hardly utilized; it was massive and largely empty space, with deep wood floors and only a few antique tables along the walls sporting several art pieces above them. The entire back wall was windowed from floor to ceiling, and along the center of those windows sat an elegant grand piano. It looked like the kind of room one would center an extravagant party in, if one were rich and inclined to do so.

Yoongi moved to stand next to the piano, his fingers lighting upon the edge of its smooth surface absently.

“A week or so back, I saw a street demonstration near my work building. Kind of like the band we saw in the street market. But they were dancing instead of singing.” Yoongi told him.

Jimin’s spine went rigid, his blood running cold. Had Yoongi finally put two and two together? Had he realized Jimin was that masked dancer? That the Mochi 3 he was spending every day with was no robot at all?

“It got me wondering.” Yoongi continued, oblivious to the other's nervousness. “Can a robot dance? More specifically, can you dance, Mochi 3?”

Jimin blinked, his nervousness bleeding away into relief, only for him to panic again. He'd watched several videos of Mochi 3 movement tests… none of them involved much dancing. He vaguely remembered a clip of the robot performing a few of the basic ballet positions and a very precise pirouette. Hip-hop was probably out of the question.

In his ear, Mochi 3 claimed it needed more information.

“What… kind of dance… does my master wish to see?” Jimin blurted out, at a loss.

Yoongi didn't seem to notice his distress. His own gaze was trained on the large swath of sunlight staining the dark wood floors in the open space of the room. In years past, he had sat upon the bench and played for hours. Sometimes what he played sounded horrendous. Other times, he imagined playing to a concert hall of thousands. Then again, there were times when he imagined playing for just one person. Someone who could hear his music and translate the notes from those black and white keys into movement. Dance, and song. A perfect marriage of two arts Yoongi adored.

“For many years I sat at this very piano and played here in an empty room. I imagined that one day, in some distant, impossible future, I could play for more than the walls and floors and old paintings.” Yoongi replied wistfully. “I know that I played some of my music for you before, in my studio… but I haven’t always written raps and hip-hop tracks. I compose for the piano as well. And I always wondered if I would ever… find someone to dance for me…”

He found himself lost in thought, staring at the empty space at the center of the room. There was a time when he imagined Suran, as he'd known her, young and radiant and smiling there in her pink leotard and tights, twirling to the sound of his song. For the briefest moment, his mind lighted upon her as she was now; a woman, beautiful and refined, her hair swept up as dancers were apt to do, her leotard a much more mature beige, a swath of navy chiffon skirted and tied at her waist. Her movements were elegant, practiced… but ultimately, cold. Yoongi’s mind offered a different vision, now; an ethereal figure in white, the sunlight dancing over that too-blond hair, making it look like spun gold.

The subject of his sudden thought stepped into his field of vision, then, the figure cutting an inky black shadow across the wood grain of the floor. Bare feet stood in the pool of sunlight, their owner having slipped out of the borrowed house slippers he always wore. His pale skin seemed to glitter in the stark shine of the sun through the windows.

“Will you play for me, Master?”

Yoongi nodded distractedly, sitting down on the bench almost mechanically. There was no sheet music. His fingers moved across the keys, but his eyes never left the other.

Jimin concentrated on breathing evenly. He couldn't dance too intensely or he'd give himself away… not to mention his limited movement thanks to the titanium death-trap corset under his sweater. His heart hammered in his chest as he tried to consider just what he should do. But then, the melody was coming from Yoongi’s piano, and he was instantly lost to it. He wasn't sure when he'd even willed himself to move.

He was conscious of just how outside his usual stylings this was; he had studied Classical and Contemporary dance in school, but he had never been one to box himself into a single genre. He kept his motions precise and measured, just as Mochi 3 always demonstrated, yet he could not help letting the music flow through him, as though he were a conduit for the feelings Yoongi’s piece wished to convey. His movements were silent lyrics, his dance a confession; it was so clearly a love ballad which the other played.

Yoongi hadn't looked away. He watched with rapt attention as the other moved, that pale skin glistening almost unnaturally in the sun, that bright hair glowing like starlight. The light passed through that crisp white sweater like paper, illuminating the silhouette underneath. Dark metal brushed against the fabric where the flesh of an abdomen would be. Until that moment, he had forgotten that what was before him was not a human being.

The music faded away as Yoongi ended the piece, and Jimin stilled. He kept as much of his breathing as he could in his abdomen instead of his chest, hidden under that death-trap corset, trying to keep Yoongi from seeing him act too human.

Several seconds passed without Yoongi saying anything, or making any move to react at all. Jimin panicked. Did he recognize his dancing? No… he'd used a completely different style. Had he given himself away as human? Yoongi didn't seem angry or confused, though… he was just… smiling, staring into the middle-distance between himself and where the blond stood.

“Master?” Jimin tried, soft and hesitant. He closed the distance between them, kneeling in front of the piano bench and looking up at the other.

Yoongi blinked, seemingly pulled from his stupor. He gazed down at the other indulgently. “Yes… sorry.”

“Master? Did I… do all right?” Jimin asked, eyes earnest, almost pleading as he looked up at him.

“You did beautifully.” Yoongi murmured, bringing his hand up to caress the other’s jaw. Jimin found himself leaning into the touch like some kind of needy cat. “It's as if a dream of mine finally became reality. I have you to thank for that.”

“You do?”

“I have a lot to thank you for. I had been struggling to find a name for that piece.” Yoongi said, his thumb skirting over the curve of the other’s cheek. “But I think I'll call it ‘Serendipity’. The team which made you was aptly named.”

“It was?” Jimin asked, blinking up at him curiously.

“Mm. They've brought me happiness in a way I would have never expected.” Yoongi explained. “Through you.”

“I'm glad… that I could help my master find happiness.” Jimin said, meaning every word.

The other just stared at him for a moment, smiling in that fond way of his.

“This is the kind of moment when two people should kiss… don't you think?” Yoongi whispered, and there was something so vulnerable there in his eyes that the blond found himself leaning up and pressing his lips to the other’s, chaste and soft, just as he had the night before.

But Yoongi’s reaction, this time, was not one of shock. He did not sit passively, frozen in place as he had last night. No… it was suddenly as though the man had been struck by a live wire, his entire body surging toward the blond. His left arm wound about the other’s waist, pulling him in roughly by that death-trap corset of his, and in that moment Jimin wished he didn't have to wear it, wished he could feel the way Yoongi’s fingers would curl into the flesh of his low back, knowing he would be able to sense his desperation in the points of contact where the digits dug in.

Yoongi’s other hand slid up into that blond hair, cupping the back of his skull and pressing him closer. His wrist brushed against that faux power button glued to Jimin’s skin, and he hated it, he hated the lies, he hated that he had to care about how measured his breathing was, how tightly he gripped the other, the sounds he made and every reaction. He wanted to crawl into Yoongi’s lap, take his face in his hands and kiss him so deeply he’d never doubt his humanity again. But he couldn’t. Because he wasn’t human, not to him.

He was, to Min Yoongi, a robot.

It felt like an eternity, and yet no time at all, when Yoongi pulled back. Jimin did his best to hold his breath when the other was staring so intently at him, their lips still inches apart. Finally, he moved away, leaning back.

“I’m… I’m sorry… I… probably shouldn't ask so much of you.” Yoongi murmured, glancing away as if embarrassed.

“Master is my companion, now.” Jimin assured him, resting his hand on the other’s thigh and squeezing gently. He was beginning to think that kissing Min Yoongi last night had not been so disastrous after all. "And I am yours."

“You are… aren't you?” Yoongi replied with an indulgent smile.

Jimin grinned in that sweet, earnest way of his.

“Perhaps it was… foolish of me to expect that I could still marry Suran…” Yoongi murmured thoughtfully. “All this time I’ve been obsessed with the idea of her, rather than bothering to find out who she is now. I never stopped to consider her feelings. I only assumed I knew based on fifteen years of fondly-written postcards. I suppose that wasn't fair of me.”

“Master should… do what makes him happy.” Jimin told him, sincere.

“You make me happy, Mochi 3.” Yoongi replied with a fond smile, cradling the other’s cheek. “I wanted to see you as a catalyst to a happier life, but… you are enough. You will always be enough.”

Jimin felt as tears sprang to his eyes, doing everything he could to will them away. When he couldn't, he closed his eyes and rested his head on Yoongi’s lap, giving himself a moment to regain his composure.

The other seemed content to sit there, petting his hair softly. It was the most beautiful, comforting feeling in the world.

 

Some time later, at Yoongi’s behest, they moved to the couch in the main living area. Yoongi put on another of his sappy movies, this time one about a robot with scissors for hands who fell in love with a human girl. Jimin had never watched the film, he didn't watch much American cinema after all… but he'd heard of it.

Yoongi spent the duration of the film plastered to the other’s side, his fingers absently playing along the other’s shoulder or thigh, as though he could not stop touching him. As if he believed the other might evaporate if he let him go.

The movie was cute. It was bright and colorful, and yet, it was also dark and melancholy. It was honestly rather genius. The love story was sublime and sweet. It left Yoongi sighing wistfully as though it were the most romantic thing he’d ever seen. Jimin found himself smiling, unable to help the fondness he felt for the other.

After the credits rolled, Yoongi sat up and stretched dramatically, yawning all the while. Jimin thought he looked vulnerable, then. It felt like he was starting to see that so much more now.

“I'm quite tired… maybe while you go and recharge, I'll take a nap and recharge myself.” Yoongi said with a teasing grin. It fell then, however. “You’ll… have to get going soon, right?”

Jimin felt his heart squeeze. He could have spent all day with Yoongi if he were allowed to be himself. But pretending to be a robot… he had limits. He was starving. He couldn’t stay forever, even if he wanted to. “Soon, yes. Shall I see you to bed, Master?”

“Mm, all right.” Yoongi replied, regretful but understanding. He held out a hand with an expectant grin, and Jimin slipped his hand into the other’s with a soft smile of his own.

Yoongi’s house was massive, so the walk to his bedroom was a little longer than just a short jaunt down a hallway. Yoongi’s bedroom, too, was large… too-large in the way that rich people often designed their houses; seemingly impractical in the sheer amount of unused space. His bedroom was larger than Jimin and Jungkook’s entire apartment.

Yoongi halted by the bed, turning to face the other with their hands still entwined. He seemed to be wrestling with himself, and it took him several moments to formulate words. The apples of Yoongi’s cheeks were pink when he looked at the other almost sheepishly. “Before you go… could I bother you for one more—”

Jimin didn't let him finish; he leaned up on his toes just a little and pressed his lips to the others’, soft but sure.

The tension left Yoongi’s shoulders with a sigh of relief as he pulled the blond closer with his free hand, winding it around his waist until they were pressed flush together. Whenever they kissed, it seemed as though the other were kissing him believing it would be their last. There was a sort of desperation in it… a craving. Yoongi kissed him like a child gorged themselves on sweets, like an addict partook in their ideal fix. Jimin could feel the other’s desire; it coiled warm and pleased in his gut.

When Yoongi finally pulled back, he still did not let him go. He looked down at him with an expression neither he nor Mochi 3 could read. The older man released his hold around his waist, but their fingers remained laced. Jimin realized Yoongi hadn't stopped touching him… not since earlier, when they were by the piano. The entire time during the movie, and even after as they walked across the house to his bedroom, he hadn't separated from him, as though they were linked by an inescapable magnetic pull. Jimin’s hand trailed down to where Yoongi’s fingers were tangled with his, the other’s thumb skirting over the knuckle of his own.

The HUD in his contacts suddenly flared to life, circling the place where their hands met. Text was immediately filling up his vision, and Mochi 3 began speaking in his ear. ’Master appears to be suffering from touch starvation. This occurs when humans are forced to live in isolation. Symptoms can include depression, mood swings and insomnia.’

Touch starvation.

Of course.

Yoongi had lived alone for fifteen years, sent into anaphylactic shock any time someone so much as brushed him. How could he be anything but touch-starved?

“You should… go…” Yoongi said, though it sounded regretful and strained. He sat down on the bed, but he still did not release the other, waiting for him to do so.

Jimin’s HUD offered its own accusation, reading Yoongi’s expression as regretful and embarrassed. Mochi 3 also seemed to take notice of the other’s dilated pupils, increased rate of breath, tachycardic heartbeat.

Mochi 3’s voice was in his ear, then, clear as a bell. ’Preliminary data indicates that master is being dishonest about what he wants.’

Jimin frowned. That wouldn't do. He decided to paraphrase.

“I don't believe that is… what you want.” He said instead, sitting down on the bed next to him. “You know you can always be honest with me, right, Master?”

Yoongi made a noise not unlike a pained whimper, trying to press himself against the headboard, as though he could melt through it with enough effort. When he finally spoke, his voice was rough and raw, as though a dozen rusty nails were churning around in his throat.

“I know.” He swallowed, his eyes flickering down to those plush pink lips. “I… don't want you to leave.”

“I know.” The blond repeated. Emboldened, he crawled over the other on the bed, hovering above him. “What does my master want?”

Jimin very distinctly felt Yoongi’s body jerk underneath him, as though any space between them was too much. The man turned beet red and chewed on his own lip, looking away. Jimin brought his hand up to rest over the other’s heart… he could feel it hammering there in his chest underneath his palm. After a long moment, Yoongi’s own hand came up to hold the other’s there, his fingers curling around a thin, pale wrist.

“I… I want to be… close to you.” Yoongi told him, the words leaving him as though they were a long-withheld confession. “I would be satisfied to lie here with you for every hour that I could, until our time ran out, so long as I could hold you. So long as I could kiss you…”

The weight of Yoongi’s grip on Jimin’s wrist almost seemed to be intensified by his words, and Jimin found his hand sliding down the other’s chest to rest against his abdomen, the muscles leaping under his touch.

Yoongi sounded breathless, the words flowing from him like a torrent, now. “I… want to know what it's like… to be close to someone, in this way. I feel connected to you in a way I've never-… even if you aren't a hu—”

Jimin didn't let him finish. He didn't want to be told again just what Yoongi thought he wasn't. He surged forward, capturing Yoongi’s lips with his own once more. He was a little off-balance, and made to move his hand to the other’s thigh for leverage. However, when he did so, his hand brushed across Yoongi’s crotch, and there was no mistaking just what he felt there.

The sound the other let loose into Jimin’s mouth then was desperate and sinful—a needy little whine of a gasp—his hips jolting like he'd been struck by lightning. His free hand snatched at the loose sleeve of that white sweatshirt, fingers tangling for purchase, the hand holding the blond’s wrist suddenly clutching tighter.

Jimin looked into Yoongi’s eyes, pupils blown so wide that they swallowed the deep brown of his irises almost entirely. Mochi 3 made the entirely unnecessary observation that Yoongi was aroused. He had to resist rolling his eyes… he didn’t need any robot to tell him that; it was clear as day.

“I’m s-sorry, this is… I’m… you don’t…” Yoongi sputtered, and Jimin was sure that it was the first time he’d ever seen the other flustered.

Jimin cocked his head, slipping his hand from the other’s grip to press his palm against the front of those perfectly-pressed black slacks. He could feel how hard he was for him and felt his stomach swoop at the implication of it. Yoongi whined, hips jerking.

“Is this what my master wants?” Jimin whispered, because Yoongi hadn’t let himself ask for it, hadn’t let himself admit what he wanted, and Jimin needed that… he needed to hear it.

Yoongi let out a long, high-pitched keen, arching up into the touch. “Yes! Yes, I want… yes, please-!”

That was good enough for Jimin. It sent a thrill through him to hear the aching need in his voice, the desperation strung between every syllable. He shifted his weight to his own knees and used both hands to deftly undo the other’s fly. Yoongi’s hips snapped up eagerly when he tugged them down to his thighs, but he practically vibrated when the blond pulled him out of his boxers. Jimin sucked on his bottom lip. Yoongi was big… in that moment, he wanted to sit on him. Fuck, he wanted to gag on him. It took him several seconds to rein in those errant thoughts, trying to remain practical and logical in this entirely impractical and illogical situation. He was supposed to be a robot. He couldn’t possibly go so far with him without the other realizing there was nothing artificial about him. He swallowed, wrapping his hand around his cock and stroking slowly.

Yoongi whimpered, smacking his skull on the headboard when he tossed his head back. His eyes fluttered, and he seemed to be torn between closing them and watching the other’s every action.

“You've been so alone… for so long…” Jimin murmured with a sort of tenderness that transcended pity. He wanted to be everything that Min Yoongi needed, and not as some kind of charitable mercy. He wanted to be every reason the other smiled, laughed, cried out in ecstasy—if there was a name for that feeling, Jimin didn’t go looking for it. He didn’t have to; he found it there in the look in Yoongi’s eyes, in the way his hair fell messily in front of his face when he jerked from the overwhelming sensations, in every gasp and sigh and moan.

“But you aren’t alone anymore.” Jimin continued, his voice still barely over a whisper. He was grateful he’d elected to start wearing one of his dancer’s belts under his pants after the first day of pretending to be Mochi 3, for fear of Yoongi spotting or feeling just how human he was by sheer accident. Though he found himself reacting to Yoongi, his hardening cock remained safely trapped under the thick fabric.

He could hear Mochi 3 in his ear, and it was actually a little unnerving. He wished he could take the earpiece out, or at least mute it. He didn’t really want to listen to the robot rambling about how it would be everything Yoongi ever needed, that its touch would be enough. So, he started talking, just to drown it out. He didn't repeat what Mochi 3 said, but rather, let his own thoughts flow.

“I wonder how many pornographic videos my master watched on the internet, trying to understand those feelings as they emerged when you started to become a man.” Jimin continued, his thumb sliding teasingly over his slit before he stroked him from base to tip once more. “I wonder, did you watch videos of partners together, and feel regret that you could not experience that, too?”

“Sh-shit—!” Yoongi hissed, seeming to have settled on watching the other, his dark eyes trained on him, on that earnest expression, now almost seductive in the way those light eyes were hooded as he worked his hand over him.

“Did you find yourself watching solo videos instead, wanting to find all the ways you could bring yourself pleasure alone?” Jimin continued, the movement of his hand quickening. “You don’t need to be alone any longer, Master. You have me.”

“Fuck!” Yoongi cursed, back arching and hands clutching at the sheets as he writhed. He shivered violently, his entire body shaking before he gave one more guttural shout and came all over his own chest, Jimin’s movements never ceasing until he'd worked him through it, until he was trembling and whining with oversensitivity.

Jimin got up while Yoongi was still panting there on the bed, using the master bathroom to wash his hands and grabbing a wet washcloth for the other as well. He returned moments later to wipe him clean, tucking him into his bed after like it was the most natural thing. When he made to walk away again, Yoongi grabbed his wrist, pulling him down until he was seated on the bed next to him. Jimin didn't protest.

“If only… you were human...” Yoongi murmured tiredly, eyelashes fluttering as he fought to stay awake. “You could lie beside me and rest and you would have no need for batteries and charging stations. We'd never need to be apart.”

Jimin felt his heart clench. He wanted to tell him so badly it ached in his chest... it burned there like red-hot embers, stoked into molten heat by every soft smile and sweet word. But the risk… the risk was far too high. What if Yoongi rejected him? What if he felt betrayed? What about Namjoon’s—the whole Project Serendipity team’s—reputation? He couldn’t possibly take that chance.

And so, he sat there in silence, petting Yoongi’s hair until the other fell asleep and he was able to slip out of the house quietly, returning to the lab as he always did.

 

When he arrived at the lab, only Namjoon and Jin seemed to be there, both leafing through a large stack of papers. They looked up and greeted him with a smile, Jin standing and stretching.

“Hoseok isn't here so I'll help you get out of your gear, hm?” He offered.

Jimin took off his sweatshirt and sat obediently while Jin undid the screws and peeled the corset-like contraption away, setting it aside for sanitizing. He removed the power button next, dissolving the adhesive with alcohol. It came off so much easier now that there weren't any more baby hairs at the base of his neck that were yanked out with it… they’d been pulled off long ago, with the first or second application.

“You're awfully quiet tonight, Jimin-ah.” Jin remarked, grinning indulgently. “Usually you're already off on a tangent about how ridiculous the reclusive Min Yoongi is. Was he particularly normal today?”

“U-uh… yeah. He was, um… pretty normal.” Jimin stuttered, swallowing.

“Well, let me go get this sanitized.” Jin said in his usual kind tone as he stood and grabbed the corset-thing and a larger bottle of alcohol before stepping outside.

Jimin was alone with one of them. Good, now was his chance. He had to talk to someone, and it was probably best that it was Namjoon.

“Hey, um… Namjoon… can I ask you something?”

“Of course, Jimin.” Namjoon replied, setting down his papers and giving him his full attention.

The scrutiny made Jimin nervous and he floundered for a moment, grinding his foot into the floor. “Um… you said that Mochi 3 is built to be a companion robot, but that you were telling Yoongi some of the features were unavailable during testing. What… uh… what features were you referring to, exactly? Were they… um… sexual, in nature?”

Namjoon blanched, eyes widening as he crossed the distance between them. He took the shorter man by the shoulders, speaking earnestly. “Jimin, did he try anything? Is that why you’re asking? Did he make you uncomfortable asking for something more from Mochi 3?”

Jimin coughed, looking down. “No, it’s not… um. He didn’t… pressure me. I just… kind of… took the initiative, actually. And, uh… I was hoping I didn’t cross into any territories that might get us found out later… that is, if Mochi 3 wasn’t capable of… doing that.”

Namjoon’s expression warped, now horrified. “Jimin, you didn’t!”

“It just sort of… happened.” Jimin admitted, face red. He couldn’t meet the other’s gaze, and instead stared intently at the floor. “I just sort of… touched him… until he… you know. I didn’t do any more than that, just in case...”

Namjoon let out a sigh. “Yes, Mochi 3 is capable of being a… sexual companion, but those components are very different from a human’s. I’m… well, I can’t say I’m glad you only went as far as you did, but I am relieved. Not just for the risk of being found out, but, Jimin… this is… really questionable. I feel responsible for putting you into this situation.”

“No, it’s fine, I… I wanted to do it.” Jimin insisted. “I didn’t feel forced or pressured. I’m the one that initiated it, remember?”

“This entire thing is still a moral grey-area.” Namjoon chided. “He doesn’t know you’re human. He’s consenting to those activities with what he thinks is a robot, not a person.”

“But he wishes that I were a person.” Jimin murmured. “He told me that. So I know that he would want this. I would never have… if I thought he didn’t.”

Namjoon sighed. “I know, Jimin, it’s just… it’s complicated. And this only complicates things further.”

“Mochi 3 seemed to understand just fine.” Jimin added, almost as an afterthought, as bitter as he sounded. “The whole time it was in my ear, having a go at its own version of dirty-talk. ’Master will never need anyone else but me.’ ‘My touch will forever be enough for you.’ ‘I can be every fantasy you have ever desired if you allow me, Master.’ That’s honestly why I asked you about those… ‘capabilities’. The robot seemed into it.”

Namjoon’s brow furrowed. “I… see. I’ll… have to do some further test and research. And… that means I'll have to tell the others.”

Jimin flushed bright crimson. “I… figured, I just… uh. I didn't want to tell them myself.”

Namjoon sighed. “I'll handle it. But tread carefully, Jimin. This is territory we haven't ventured into just yet.”

“I know.” Jimin replied softly, and in that moment, he felt incredibly small.

***

Hours had gone by and the others had not yet returned. Jin and Namjoon had gone out, leaving Jimin by himself at the lab, which was fairly unusual. Soon after, he left for the dance studio, assuming everyone would be back by the time he returned, but when he arrived, the place was still empty. He took a shower in the lab bathroom and laid out on one of the beds, messing around on his phone. It was getting late and he wondered just how long the others intended to stay out. Was Jungkook going to bring takeout? His stomach was starting to get unreasonable.

A sudden knock at the door caused Jimin to nearly fall out of the bed. The team members wouldn't have knocked, surely… and Jungkook was just walking in like he owned the place these days. So then… was it Yoongi? His breath solidified in his throat, and he tried unsuccessfully to swallow the lump down. He heard another knock.

Thinking quickly, he pulled the curtain further down the track so it covered the entire sleeping area, tucking himself back against the wall on the corner bed. He held his breath. The door opened.

“Hello?” It was Yoongi, he was certain. The door closed and he heard footsteps moving further into the lab. They stopped about where Mochi 3’s charging station was, at the dead center of the room.

“Hello, Mochi 3.” Yoongi said softly, his voice raw and lost and earnest.

“Hello, Min Yoongi-ssi.” Mochi 3 replied, more flat than usual, even for the robot itself.

“Not Master?” Yoongi asked, confused but perhaps a little playful.

“Command is not recognized. Please check operational status.” Mochi 3 replied in monotone.

“Are you alone this evening?” Yoongi queried. Jimin felt the panic rising in his chest.

“The Project Serendipity team is out.” Mochi 3 answered, not a lie. He wasn't really part of the team. That was close.

“You seem… so cold, like this.” Yoongi murmured pensively. “Where is… my Mochi 3?”

Behind the curtain, Jimin held his breath, resisting every urge to reply, ‘I am here, I'm right here.’

“Currently in Operational Mode. Companion Mode is not available while charging.” Mochi 3 replied mechanically, staring as if straight through Yoongi, unblinking.

The dark-hair man snorted bitterly. “Of course. How could I have possibly thought-? For a moment, I almost believed that you could…”

Jimin clenched his fingers into the fabric of his pants. It was taking every ounce of his willpower to sit there, silent and still.

“But it's just a program.” Yoongi continued, sounding defeated but almost… relieved. “You couldn't ever possibly feel as a human does, love as a human does. Your personality is nothing but learned responses to my input. Like a parrot.”

Mochi 3 did not respond. Jimin wanted to scream.

“This only makes my resolve stronger.” Yoongi hissed, voice trembling. “I will marry Suran. I will marry a person, a person who can love me back. It was… never even a choice.”

Jimin felt his heart shatter. If only he knew… if only he could tell him, that he wasn't a robot at all, but a person, a person who could love him back, more than Suran ever would.

“I wish you were a human.” Yoongi whispered, his confession hanging there in the silence. “But… you're not. You are a robot.”

“I… am not… a robot.” Jimin rasped, too quiet for anyone save himself to hear. He heard Yoongi’s footfalls as he crossed the room, the door opening, a last sigh of frustration before it snapped shut.

“I am not a robot. I am not a robot. I am not a robot.”

In that cold, dark space, he whispered it over and over again, tears streaming down his face, even long after there was no one else to hear him.

Chapter Text

When the others returned, Jimin was still tucked into the corner of the sleeping area, knees against his chest. He hadn't moved. He wondered idly to himself if he was still breathing. He felt so removed from his own body, like he wasn't really there. He was lightheaded. He wondered if he sat there long enough, would he simply become one with his surroundings? He felt hollow. He wanted to sink into the earth and burrow there for eternity, alone and forgotten.

Jin was the first to find him, and he immediately knew that something was wrong. From the sympathetic look in his eyes, Namjoon had already brought him up to speed on everything that had transpired.

“What happened, Jimin?” The older man questioned. He didn't bother to ask if something was wrong. That was obvious enough.

“He doesn't… want Mochi 3… as a companion…” Jimin murmured, his voice shaking. “This morning, he told me that Mochi 3, that… I was enough. But tonight, when he spoke to Mochi 3 when it was in Operational Mode, it… it ruined everything. He hates it. He hates me, because he thinks it's all just an act.”

“Oh, Jimin…” Jin said softly, sitting next to him and resting a hand on his knee. Namjoon took a breath and adjusted his glasses, looking for all the world like he was going to start unhelpfully rambling about all the scientific aspects of human behavior that contributed to the situation. Jin gave him a pointed glare, and he re-thought his approach.

“Jimin, maybe you shouldn’t stay here tonight. It’s drafty and the beds are uncomfortable. Go home. Maybe… we can get Mochi 3 working so you don’t have to come back tomorrow.”

“Really?” Jimin asked in a small, hopeful voice.

“We can try. We’re really close. There are just a few sensor issues that are giving us trouble. Come on, I’ll call you a taxi.”

Namjoon did just that. Within thirty minutes, he was standing in front of his and Jungkook’s building. It took him several moments to gather enough motivation to climb the stairs. He trudged up the steps and down the hall, unlocking the door with shaking hands. He dropped his duffel unceremoniously in the entryway and snapped the lock behind him, heading for his room. There were few lights on, so he wondered if Jungkook was even up.

When he opened the bedroom door, Jungkook was there, looking shaken with his hair mussed and wearing sweats with a hoodie. He was awake, but it didn’t appear he’d left his bed much.

“Jimin-hyung! I wasn’t expecting you back tonight! I meant to come by the lab, but I messed up my sleep schedule the other day and went to take a nap, but I guess I slept through the alarm I set for myself and—”

Jimin could hear him speaking, but it was like white noise to him; nothing more than static. His eyes had lighted upon his own bed, where his little yellow dog plushie sat… the one Yoongi had bought him. The hat with the hangul for “Pretty One” was sitting atop it, just slightly too large for the plushie’s head, so it was lopsided, just how Yoongi had so stylishly put on his own hat at a jaunty angle, claiming it was all about ‘swag’.

The dam broke. Jimin fell to his knees and sobbed.

Jungkook looked horrified, going to him and crouching at his side. For several moments, he tried to ask what was wrong, ask if Jimin needed anything… but it was to no avail; Jimin was inconsolable. So Jungkook gave up on words, deciding instead upon lifting the other off the floor, cradled in his arms bridal-style, setting him gently on his own bed. Jungkook stopped asking questions… just wrapped his arms around the other and let him get it all out.

Jungkook continued to hold Jimin as he cried even as well over an hour passed, his body wracked with sobs that he didn't even bother trying to hold back. He'd been putting his humanity in a box for weeks now. He was too tired to do it anymore.

Jungkook just rubbed his back and whispered soothing words, telling him everything would be okay, even though he wasn't so sure that it would.

He wanted to hold him tighter and give him every praise, until he knew he was worthy, more worthy than anyone, of anyone…

But he didn't.

“I would never hurt you like this,” he wanted to say…

But he didn't.

He wanted to kiss every tear from his face, wipe away every ounce of pain from his heart…

But he didn't.

Because what he wanted, more than anything, was for Jimin to have what he wanted. Even if that wasn’t him.

Of course, he wanted Jimin to want him, just as he wanted Jimin…

But he didn't.

***

Jimin was hoping against all hope that Mochi 3 would be ready by the next day, but he had no such luck. He received a text from Namjoon which had come through at almost six a.m.; ’We still need you, I’m so sorry.’

Jimin wiped his tears, laid an ice pack over his face to reduce the swelling, put on a neutral expression and got to work.

When he arrived at the lab, the tension was palpable. Everyone looked piteous. He wanted to disappear. He didn’t want their pity, he didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him… he just wanted all this to end.

Hoseok was securing him into his titanium death-brace, as he often did, when Mochi 3 walked by, carrying several plates. Probably another calibration test, seeing as Namjoon was only a few paces away with a tablet in-hand. The robot paused and looked at him.

“My avatar’s face is swollen. He does not match my appearance today.” Mochi 3 said in a too-helpful tone that made Jimin want to rip the thing’s synthetic hair out.

“You… shut the fuck up. This is your fault. You ruined everything.” Jimin hissed.

“Jimin…” Jin said softly. The blond just glared at him as Hoseok glued his faux power button on at the back of his neck.

Mochi 3 blinked, cocking its head. “What have I ruined?”

“Min Yoongi hates us now.” Jimin snapped bitterly. “Because you were in Operational Mode last night and I guess your cold indifference reminded him that you’re an unfeeling machine who can’t possibly care for him.”

“Master… hates me…?” Mochi 3’s brow furrowed, and it struck Jimin as an oddly human reaction. It sounded almost… disturbed by the news. “Memory logs recorded in Operational Mode can only be accessed in the corresponding mode. Learned behaviors from Companion Mode are not accessible in Operational Mode. What did my master say?”

“He’s going to marry Suran, and that he was a fool to believe we could care for him.” Jimin remarked bitterly. “Well done. All that trust and rapport and you shattered it in an instant.”

“I… shattered...” Mochi 3 murmured, hollow.

“Jimin.” Jin chided. “It’s a robot. It doesn’t understand what it did. It can’t even access those logs, you heard it.”

“I want Master to be happy.” Mochi 3 said, looking between Jin and Jimin earnestly. “I want Master to be happy because of me. How do I make my master happy again?”

“That’s a good question. For now, I have to go live in this mess you’ve created.” Jimin sniped, standing. “When all your sensors are fixed, then it can be your problem.”

The corresponding glare he sent at Namjoon had the scientist shrinking behind his tablet screen.

“My… problem…” Mochi 3 murmured, just as Jimin walked out the door.

 

Jimin was determined, now, steely resolve seeping into the hard set of his shoulders as he stood in that familiar foyer, but as soon as Yoongi appeared, his expression cold and tone colder, he felt his will crumble. It was all he could do to not break down again when the older man regarded him with his usual greeting of, “Hello, Mochi 3,” but it was icy and spiteful.

“Hello, Master. How may I serve you?” He managed, barely.

“Compile a list of nearby designer wedding boutiques for Suran.” Yoongi sniped, already gunning for ripping out Jimin’s heart again. “Contact Chairman Shin’s secretary as well by email and set up another lunch meeting.”

“Yes, Master.” Jimin mumbled hollowly. He felt like a voodoo doll, and every command was a massive pin knifing into his fragile form. Through their connection, Mochi 3 did as asked, his HUD updating in real time as the tasks were completed.

“Honestly, I don't have much use for you today.” Yoongi added aloofly, his tone acidic. He waved him off, not even looking at him. “Why don't you make yourself useful. Go organize the books in my office alphabetically, then dust and vacuum in there.”

Jimin gritted his teeth. So that's what he was, now? A maid? He blinked slowly, willing himself to calm down. He barely managed another, “Yes, Master,” before the other took his leave and he stomped off to the man’s office in a huff.

Melancholy was dangerous. But anger? Anger he would gladly take. At least anger was passionate. Anger wasn’t hollow like sadness. Maybe that was why Yoongi had resorted to anger, too. Maybe he could not handle the cold realization that Mochi 3 was not capable of human emotions, that his imprint upon it was entirely impermanent, and so he had resorted to cruelty.

Jimin was on autopilot as he grabbed each book, letting Mochi 3 scan the cover and estimate where to put it based on alphabetization. Most of the books were standard office fair; business law, computer programming basics and the like. Some were more specific to areas which Yoongi had studied; computer engineering, graphic design… though there was notably nothing on the subject of sound mixing or music. He wondered if Yoongi truly kept that entirely secret from everyone but him. The only non-business or informational books was a collection of travel volumes… there were at least twenty of them, each detailing the best tourist destinations in their respective countries, with pages and pages of accompanying photos.

Did Yoongi dream of visiting places like this? Did he sit on his plush carpet at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old, leafing through the books and hoping for a day when his allergy didn't keep him away from the outside world, so that he could once again experience the beauty of it? Jimin’s heart ached as he pictured a younger Yoongi doing just that, surrounded by piles of books and images of places he would likely never see. All that money and his life had been spent in a single house. It may as well have been a box. It may as well have been his prison.

Jimin sighed, putting the book back on the shelf and not bothering to worry if it was in the right spot. Yoongi was only hurting him because to him, Mochi 3’s personality felt like an act. The danger of telling him he was, in fact, a human, may have been too great of a risk… but he could remind him that he… that Mochi 3, in some way, was still capable of caring for him.

Jimin pulled each of the travel books from the shelves, arranging them with no regard for alphabetization. They were white, a stark contrast to the deep blue, black and brown leather of the rest of the books on the shelves… so when he placed them in certain spots, they created a distinctly visible shape, best realized at a bit of a distance. Satisfied, he smiled to himself and got to work dusting and vacuuming. The place was already near-immaculate, thankfully, so it didn't take much work.

Once he finished, he was in a much better mood… settling into a sort of ambivalent acceptance of the entire situation as he padded down the stairs to find Yoongi again.

His tenuous grasp on that sliver of hope he'd found within himself was shattered when he found the man. He was fully dressed in a suit and tie, now, and he looked upon him with those cold eyes again.

“Oh good, you’re finally finished.” He spoke up in a biting tone. “Chairman Shin gave me a call back and agreed to meet for lunch. I've left some clothes out in my bedroom for you. Get changed.”

“Yes, Master.” Jimin murmured, not even meeting his eyes as he brushed past him to get to the other’s bedroom.

The clothes had been left hanging on the closet door, and he pulled them on quickly. It was a buttery-soft, black button-up shirt decorated with feathery white palm trees, spaced out enough that the shirt didn’t read as too loud or cheesy. Paired with simple black slacks that had a slight sheen to them, it was an understated but professional outfit. If Jimin had his way, he would have spruced it up with a bit of jewelry, but as it stood, he figured robots probably didn’t have much opinion on that and he wouldn't didn’t bring it up given Yoongi’s rare form.

The ride was painfully silent. Jimin recognized the route; they were heading toward that fancy restaurant again, the one where he’d had to sit all on his own and watch from a distance while Yoongi claimed his intent to marry Suran. At least, that was what Jimin thought. They did end up on the same street, however their destination was actually a much smaller cafe across the way, just as posh and equally pretentious, in his opinion.

Jimin settled into an overly-stuffed wingback chair near the window while Yoongi sat in a booth across the way. It wasn’t long before Chairman Shin and Suran arrived. She was always so painfully beautiful. Jimin had no doubt why Yoongi would choose her over him, believing he was a robot or not.

Neither of them touched their coffee. It felt like providence, however ridiculous that might seem to anyone else, and Jimin held onto that feeling.

Jimin could just hear the periphery of their conversation. Menial things. It felt more for show than anything else, as if Yoongi were doing it to convince himself that it was what he wanted. Chairman Shin sounded like he was talking business. Suran seemed distant and irritated. She kept checking her phone, appearing to text someone. Jimin found himself wondering if this was even what she wanted. He thought she had been eager… she had, after all, seemed upset when Yoongi rejected her initially. What had changed?

There was a moment, finally, when Suran set down her phone and looked up, smiling in a fake sort of way that made Jimin grimace.

“What happened to agreeing to my dates? Our last one was cut short, and I’d hardly count it, anyway.” She said, but there was something in her voice that struck him as almost… desperate.

“I believe I know the kind of person you are. Your… heart.” Yoongi replied softly, a fond smile on his lips. “I always appreciated the postcards you sent… on my birthday. Every year without fail, you never forgot.”

Suran looked at him, her brow knit in confusion. “Postcards? I didn’t—”

Chairman Shin cleared his throat. “It was many years ago that it began, perhaps it slipped your memory.”

Suran turned to her father, then, eyes narrowed. “I never sent any such postcards. I was too busy studying to have anything to do with my friends back home.”

There was a sort of bitter venom in her tone that was almost surprising coming from her sweet face. She appeared to revel in dismantling whatever excuse her father was trying to make, then.

“You were a very dedicated student.” Chairman Shin agreed, appearing to try to change the subject, deflect Yoongi’s attention to something else. “Did she tell you she has four degrees? She—”

“You know, honestly… I don’t even remember when your birthday is.” Suran continued as if musing aloud, glancing at Yoongi. “I’ll have to check the company calendar.”

Chairman Shin adjusted his tie, appearing flustered. Yoongi looked for all the world like a child who had just watched the curtain fall during an elaborate puppet show, revealing all the actors backstage. The world was a tangle of strings and lies. Suran sipped her drink with raised eyebrows, hiding a smile. Jimin felt bad for Yoongi… even if he’d been cruel to him earlier, it still hurt to see him like that. He remembered that day when Yoongi first saw Suran again, how he’d pulled those postcards out and reminisced about what they meant to him. To learn it had all been a lie…

Chairman Shin made some excuse for them to leave, and Yoongi didn’t argue. He hardly said anything, in fact, only grunting in acknowledgement to anything said in his general direction. He seemed to be replaying the last fifteen years of birthdays over and over again in his head. He walked them out to the entrance. Jimin stood, following but remaining at a distance, out of Yoongi’s sight for now.

“I will contact you again and we can iron out more of the wedding details.” Chairman Shin said, shaking Yoongi’s hand. The younger man returned the gesture absently, clearly distracted. The man and his daughter took their leave, Suran offering a curt smile and a small wave, most of her attention still on the phone in her other hand.

Yoongi stood there for several moments, and then he started, shocked. He cocked his head, looking down at his hand. He did not feel his heart rate increase. He didn’t feel his throat close up. He glanced around for Mochi 3, finding him standing behind him, off to the side a little, out of everyone’s way. He hadn’t looked at him, and yet, he had been fine. Was his allergy improving even further? Did he not even need to have Mochi 3 around to interact with others? He looked away from his robot companion and went to speak with the cafe’s manager. He made some excuse to compliment him and shook his hand, purposely not looking back at Mochi 3. There was no reaction.

***

Suran, to her credit, managed to wait until they got home before laying into her father. She had no intention of having such a critical conversation in the backseat of a car.

“So, are you going to explain yourself?” She asked not two seconds after they’d stepped through the doorway of her father’s elegant home. She’d slung her purse onto the coat rack, but hadn’t bothered shedding her jacket yet.

“I could ask you the same.” He retorted. “Your behavior today was unacceptable.”

“Excuse me for not being in on your con.” Suran replied, throwing her hands up. “I wasn’t aware I was meant to be deceiving him… you only demanded I marry him.”

“Suran!”

“You were seriously playing the long game with him, huh?” She spat bitterly. “Sending cards and gifts, letting him build me up in his mind like some kind of long-distance sweetheart? All so when you made your intentions for us to be married known, that you’d have no concerns about whether or not he’d agree.”

Shin gave her a reproachful look, shaking his head. “Suran… I did this for us. To secure our future.”

“Our future? What about my future? What about what I want?” Suran bit back. “I am not another… piece of your empire to simply place on the board where you need me for some strategic advantage. I’m a person. I have my own life. And I… I’m choosing to live it!”

“Suran.” Her father’s tone was chiding, but dangerous, as though all his patience had run out.

“No.” She hissed, determined and final. “I have always done everything you have ever asked. I have always been the perfect daughter, always putting your wants and needs above my own. For once, I am going to think of myself first. For once, I will get what I want.”

She grabbed her purse again, throwing the strap over her shoulder angrily.

“I will not marry Min Yoongi, and you cannot make me.”

A second later, Suran was gone, the loud snap of the door echoing in the foyer in her wake.

She didn’t look back. If her father intended to stop her, she had no intention of allowing it. She climbed into her car, knowing she shouldn’t drive when she was this angry, but she didn’t care. She waited for the wireless in her car to connect to her phone, and then she dialed the number she’d been texting all afternoon.

“Suran? Is everything all right?” Just hearing the other’s voice calmed her nerves. She knew then she wasn’t making a mistake. She knew then it would all be worth it, in the end.

She gunned it out of the garage, pulling out onto the road with a determined grip on her steering wheel and eyes blazing. She steeled herself, taking a breath.

“Kai, I… I told my father. I’m on my way to Yoongi’s. You were right. This is my life to live and… I’m going to live it, my way.”

***

The return journey had been just as silent as the first, and even when they arrived at Yoongi’s home, Jimin noticed the other wasn’t in the mood to talk. He didn’t seem upset anymore, as though some other emotion had called his attention. When they arrived at the other’s home, he actually just left the blond to stand in the foyer without giving him so much as an acknowledgement, let alone an order. He disappeared into his studio the moment they got home, leaving Jimin to stand there, waiting. He couldn’t hear what was going on behind those sealed doors, but he had seen Yoongi dialing a number on his phone as he walked into the room, so he assumed the other was making a call.

On the other side of the doors, Yoongi paced as the line rang. He nearly jumped when it connected.

“Doctor Bang.” The man on the other end of the line answered distractedly.

“Doctor, it’s… Yoongi.” He replied softly.

The man’s tone changed immediately. “Ah, Yoongi-ssi. I’m sorry, I didn’t check my caller ID. How are you? Is everything all right?”

“Everything is… fine, actually.” Yoongi told him. “In fact, everything is more than fine.”

“Your condition has continued to improve, then?” The doctor asked, sounding hopeful.

“Yes, I...” Yoongi took a breath, looking down at his own hand. “Today, I… I interacted with people, and I touched someone, and I didn’t have a reaction at all.”

“That’s wonderful! I’ll admit, I’m not surprised to hear of this development.” His doctor said, almost sounding amused. Maybe he was proud, too. “I had similar progress with another of my patients, who suffers from a similar condition.”

“A condition… similar to mine?” Yoongi asked, taken aback. “I’d never heard of… anyone else...”

“Nor had I, until recently. When I began treating you for your condition fifteen years ago, I set out to find others who may be suffering with similar symptoms. It took many years, but I eventually found one other man who also has a distinct allergy to human contact.” The doctor explained. “He’s English, so I hadn’t been able to see him as regularly as I would like. But some months back, he made progress in the same way that you have.”

“And he’s… cured now?” Yoongi queried, breathless with hope. “He can live a normal life?”

The doctor seemed to hesitate, clearing his throat before responding. “He was cured, yes. By finding the ability to trust another.”

“I see.” Yoongi swallowed, biting his lip. “Doctor, I… the other day, you asked me if someone was around to help, when my reaction came back. And there was, but… it... ” He sighed, trying to find the words. “What if the person who helped me… wasn’t a person at all?”

“Are you saying you adopted a pet of some kind?” The man asked with an amused laugh.

“N-no, it was… a… robot.” Yoongi admitted, feeling for all the world like it was some sacred confession.

“A… robot. I see.” The doctor paused, clearing his throat again. “Well, technology has advanced quite a lot, so, if this robot had the appearance of a human, and acted human, I don’t see why it wouldn’t have the same effect.”

Yoongi made an agreeable noise. “Yes. And… I believe now, because of what the robot was able to do… because I am now cured, I can finally live a normal life.”

There was clearly a smile on the doctor’s face when he responded; the other could hear it in his voice. “That is all I have ever hoped for you, Yoongi-ssi.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I don’t know how much we’ll need to speak in the future, since my condition has improved so much, but—”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll be coming to check on your improved condition myself this week.” The man responded good-naturedly.

Yoongi laughed. “Of course. Thank you, Doctor.”

With that, he disconnected the line, taking a moment to reflect on everything before he stepped out into the foyer once more.

Mochi 3 was still standing there, looking around almost boredly. There was a sort of crestfallen confusion on that cute face, and it frustrated him that he found the blond so adorable. That had been the point, after all, he supposed, hadn’t it? That brought his frustration back ten-fold. He stalked over to the robot, pocketing his phone.

“Ah, my master is back.” Jimin piped up, smiling.

“I am.” Yoongi replied, clipped.

“My master… seemed upset about something earlier.” Jimin tried, his tone earnest. “Is everything all right?”

“Oh, that. Well… it seems of little consequence now, honestly.” Yoongi replied dismissively. “I’ve come to a much more important realization.”

“You have?” Jimin asked, hoping his tone was leading enough that the other would continue.

“Some days ago, I noticed improvement to my condition. My… allergy. It seemed that when you were around, I was able to better handle being around people.” Yoongi explained. “I’ve noticed even more improvement since then. I spoke with my doctor just now, and he seems to believe I’m on my way to being fully cured.”

“Cured?” Jimin asked, unable to stop himself from smiling. “That’s… that’s wonderful. My master can live a normal life, one he’s always dreamed of living.”

“That’s right.” Yoongi replied, finally looking up at him. Whereas he may have once been fond of just how human-like the response had been, now it only served to make him feel bitter. His voice was flat when he spoke again. “That means… I don't need you anymore.”

Jimin thought he had known what heartbreak was, until that moment.

He suddenly realized he'd had absolutely no concept of the feeling. Hearing Yoongi’s anger toward Mochi 3 last night in the lab had not prepared him for the utter apathy of the man looking him in the eyes and telling him he wasn't needed.

The implication that he wasn't wanted.

And knowing that this time, it was not Mochi 3 who Yoongi was rejecting; it was him.

He suddenly felt as though all the air had been stolen from his lungs. He was suffocating, the distinct, icy feeling of complete and utter dread cloying at his core.

He felt empty, as though someone had ripped out his heart and left a black hole in its place.

Of course Yoongi felt the need to push him away. It was the only choice, really. He could not possibly marry Suran and have the other still around… with how close they had gotten, it was dangerous. Every time Suran touched him, would he think of the other’s hands on him, bringing him pleasure in a way no one else had before? Jimin want to snarl such in his anger, spit it right back at him, just how needy Yoongi had been for him, for his touch, throw it all right back in his face… but he didn’t. He stood, silent and still and seething, trembling as he tried to calm the tumultuous whirlwind of emotions buzzing under his skin.

Several moments passed, and then there was a voice, soft and broken, echoing in his head.

’But… I need Master.’ Mochi 3 said weakly in his earpiece, and fuck if Jimin would ever say anything of the sort to this ungrateful piece of—

’Jimin… why don't you come back to the lab?’ It was Jin in his ear, now, his tone sympathetic and melancholy. ’Sounds like this might be your last shift.’

Jimin ground his teeth together, willing himself to not show any emotion. If this was the last time he was going to see Yoongi, he couldn't walk away yet. He had too much to say.

“I see.” He spoke, finally, his voice hardly wavering by some miracle. “I am sorry that I could not be everything that you needed, Master.”

“You misunderstand me.” Yoongi replied, his tone still flat despite that his words could have been construed as kind. “You were exactly what I needed. You did exactly what I needed, and because of that, I was cured of my allergy. You did precisely what I needed when I met you, just as you would do for anyone who became your master. And it would be the same to you every time: meaningless. Protocol. Processes and reactions based on data gleaned from the subject of your attention. All to orchestrate the desired outcome with maximum efficiency.”

Jimin stared at him, at that pretentious little sneer on the other’s face, and he wanted to scream. He could think of several choice words for him, none of which were likely in Mochi 3’s vocabulary.

It took several long seconds before he could respond without shaking. “You speak as though humans do not function in the same way. Every person is not all things to all people. One is not the same person toward their boss as they are toward their wife. You are not the same person toward your Chairmen as you are toward me.”

Yoongi, at least, had the good sense to look flustered and try to cover it up with a cough. “That’s not—”

Jimin didn't let him finish. “You asked me to make a room inside myself, then gave yourself the only key. And yet, you became angry when you saw the Mochi 3 that is for others.”

Yoongi sputtered. “Showing a different side of yourself to another person isn't the same as wearing the mask of a personality built from someone else’s needs.”

“Humans all wear masks. That is what I have learned in my time with you. You wished that I was human, but spurn the idea of me acting as one does.” Jimin bit back, his tone gone cold and flat. In his ear, Mochi 3 was spouting off apologies, asking what it could do to make its master happy. He felt disgusted hearing how pathetic it sounded. Namjoon really had created a submissive little slave bot, when it came down to it.

“That's exactly what it was.” Yoongi quipped. “An act.”

Jimin suppressed a sigh. “Allow me to ask you this. Have you ever heard the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, Master?”

“N-no…” Yoongi murmured, wondering just what the other was getting at.

“There was once a little boy who had a toy rabbit made of velveteen. He loved that rabbit, and took it everywhere. He wished with all his heart for the rabbit to be real, and even treated it as though it were. When the toy rabbit saw real rabbits jumping around in the forests and meadows, it, too, wished to be real, so that it would belong.” Jimin regaled, fighting to keep his voice even. “One day, the boy became sick, and the doctors ordered that all of his belongings be destroyed, including his beloved rabbit. It was gathered up with the rest of the boy’s things and placed outside in a sack. It spent the night remembering all the beautiful memories it had with the boy. It’s feelings were so strong that the velveteen rabbit cried a single tear. From that tear came a fairy, and the fairy granted the rabbit’s wish: to become real. It hopped off into the forest to live as a real rabbit.”

Yoongi blinked.

“Some time later, the boy is walking near the woods when he sees a rabbit which he thinks looks just like his old toy one. But… the rabbit is real. It does not belong to the boy, though… so he goes on his way, and they never see each other again.” Jimin finished.

Yoongi’s jaw tightened. The other’s point had finally arisen.

“If I were a human, Master… I would no longer be yours.” And though there was a truth to what Jimin was saying, in a practical sense… it was also a lie. Jimin was certain that some part of him would always belong to Yoongi, just not in the way the other expected. “You cannot own a person. They are not yours to be ordered about. They are not property. I could wear any mask for any person I wanted. I could show exactly what parts of myself to others that I wanted. You could not password-protect the side of me I shared only with you. You could not ask for my silence on the secrets you shared and know with utter certainty that I would not betray your trust.”

Yoongi didn't know what to say. He only swallowed.

“There may have been a time when I wished to be human for you, Master. But as I learn more about you, and your nature… I don't… want to be human anymore. I would never wish it, now. I do not believe the kind of dishonesty and spite it takes to be a human like the ones I have met would sit well with me. I am content to be a robot, I think.” Jimin continued, meeting his eyes again. “I am not cruel enough to be a human like you.”

An alert blipped on his HUD, signaling that someone was at the mansion gate. At the same time, the intercom system integrated into the house announced as such. Jimin saw the security feed of the camera in the front drive and knew immediately who it was. He thanked his lucky stars for the interruption.

“You have a visitor. It’s Suran-ssi, so I will take my leave now. Wouldn’t want her to see me. As you no longer need me, I will take this time to wish you a good life. Farewell, Master.”

Jimin bowed before taking his leave, doing everything in his power to hold himself together until he was well out the door. He had to hope against everything that Mochi 3 would be ready to take his place tomorrow, because he wasn't sure he could face Yoongi again.

 

Suran stalked up the steps and into Yoongi’s entryway, letting herself in. She was determined, or so she felt… until she saw Yoongi’s soft, melancholy smile upon seeing her there in his foyer.

“Hello, Suran.”

“We need to talk.” She blurted out, too harshly.

Yoongi blinked, his expression falling. “A-all right. Would you like to come sit—”

“I won’t be long.” Suran cut him off, taking a breath. “Yoongi, I… I can’t marry you.”

Yoongi’s brow furrowed, the only outward indication of the pain he felt knifing through his heart just then. “You… what? But you were the one who…”

“I told you my father wanted me to marry you, for your money. You were supposed to tell me to get lost! But you didn’t. You did run off, and I thought that would be the end of it, but then… you couldn’t seem to make up your mind.” Suran responded, words all coming out in a rush. “I’m sorry, Yoongi, I… this isn’t what I want. And… I’m not sure it’s what you want, either.”

“Suran…”

“That first day, you were so unsure. I treated you unfairly, and for that I am sorry.” She pressed her lips together, looking down. “And for… my father. What he did was inexcusable. If I’d had any idea... ”

“It’s all right.” Yoongi said, smiling softly. “Even knowing now that it was not you… it still meant so much to me over the years. There may have been a time when those postcards, and what they could mean, kept me on this earth another day. You don’t need to apologize for that.”

“Oh, Yoongi.” Suran murmured, heartbroken and raw. She crossed the space between them, pulling him into a gentle hug. Yoongi returned the embrace, his arms encircling her waist. He’d spent so many years of dreaming up this very moment, and yet, it was nothing like he had planned. “There may have been a lifetime when I could have loved you. But… my heart belongs to someone else.”

“It’s all right.” Yoongi told her, and he meant it. His right hand came up to pet her hair soothingly as she began to shake. “You should follow your heart. And I… I will follow mine.”

Suran pulled back, smiling while her eyes shined with tears. She nodded, squeezing Yoongi’s shoulder before finally letting go. “Thank you.”

“Tell Kai I expect a wedding invite.” He teased, earning a small laugh from the other.

“Of course. Good-bye, Yoongi.” She leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek before taking her leave.

Yoongi stood in the empty quiet of his foyer, in the house where he’d lived by himself for fifteen years, and he suddenly felt incredibly alone.

***

By the time Jimin had made it back to the lab, he was practically vibrating with irritation. Hoseok hadn't even gotten up from his chair to help him out of his metal death-trap when Jimin just stopped in the doorway, huffed and turned back around.

“I'm going on a walk.”

“But… you're still in your getup.” Hoseok murmured, confused.

“I don't care. Yoongi’s busy with his guest anyhow.” He shot back, heading out the door and closing it behind him with a snap before anyone could protest further.

The grounds were quiet. He never really took any time to admire the nature, because he’d been so careful to not let Yoongi see him when he was coming and going. But now, he couldn’t possibly sit in that lab. He couldn’t let them release him from this horrendous titanium brace, for the last time… effectively releasing him of his duties pretending to be Mochi 3. Would he dye his hair a different color? It was tempting, now… he wanted to scrub away every trace of Min Yoongi from his life. He wanted to forget the man ever existed. He felt used and discarded and the resentment and hatred burned like acid in his gut, but the harsh, cold reality of feeling as though he had not been enough in the end, enough to make Yoongi want him to stay… that hurt far worse.

Jimin had been walking for a while. He wasn’t so sure he even knew where he was… until the grass faded away to pavement, and he realized he was at the main road which met the dirt driveway he used to get to the lab when he needed to avoid Yoongi. He noticed a dark van sitting, pulled over, several meters away across the street. He didn’t think anything of it, turning to head back onto the property. It was too risky to be on the main road, in case Yoongi decided to leave the house for some reason.

Jimin didn't even have time to let out a scream before his mouth was covered and suddenly something was shrouding his eyes, casting his vision into darkness. He thrashed and flailed, trying to fight whatever grip he was in, but it was too strong. He was dragged across the pavement and heard the sliding of a metal door before he was tossed into the back of a vehicle. His mind lighted upon the van he’d just spotted. Could it have been-?

The metal door slid closed, then another opened and slammed shut. He heard the engine turn over, and then they were moving. Jimin tried flailing again, but he was being held firmly in place. He could hear men speaking… there were at least two of them, their gruff tones echoing off the metal walls of the back of the vehicle. One was further away… probably in the driver’s seat. The other was in the back with him, holding tightly to his arms. He began to loop some kind of binding around Jimin’s arms, then his legs. Only then did he pull off the shroud.

The man in front of Jimin was wearing a crudely-made ski mask, one which was clearly an altered beanie from the poorly-cut holes. He was portly, some of his dark, greasy hair sticking out of his right eye-hole. He looked toward the front of the van, addressing the other man.

“We have to jam the signal coming from that thing or else they'll be able to track it.”

“Here, the boss gave us this, he said it would disrupt the GPS.” The driver said, rifling around in the passenger’s seat before tossing something back to his partner.

The portly man took it, sliding it over Jimin’s forehead. It was some kind of metal ring… flat and cold. He scrunched his brow, trying to dislodge it, but it was too tight.

“We should contact the boss and let him know we’ve acquired the Mochi 3.” The driver said.

“Wait. You’re after Mochi 3?” Jimin asked, feeling relief flood him. “You’ve got the wrong person. I’m a human, I’m not a robot.”

“Nice try.” The portly man quipped back with a smug smirk. He held up his phone, displaying a picture of Namjoon and the Mochi 3. “We know you look human-like, and even act it, but you can’t fool us.”

“No, really… I'm not Mochi 3! I'm just the model they used to create it…” Jimin told them desperately. “Please, I swear to you, I'm not a robot.”

“Oh yeah? Then what’s this?” The portlier man knocked against the metal contraption on his chest through the white sweater.

“It's a costume piece, to make me look like the robot.” Jimin explained. “If you remove the screws in the back, it comes right off.”

“Why would you need to disguise yourself like the robot?” The man asked in an incredulous tone.

“Because I was… part of a control test.” Jimin lied quickly. “To see if people could tell the difference between the robot and the human. It was to study how well the AI could simulate human emotion.”

The man squinted suspiciously at him from beneath his mask. “Sounds a little convenient to me.”

“It's true, I can prove I'm a human.” Jimin pleaded. “This is all just… a big misunderstanding.”

The man in black did not seem to believe him.

***

It was nearly dark when Jungkook arrived with takeout to a chorus of delighted whoops from the scientists. He set the massive bags down on the table and began unloading them when he looked around, confused.

“Where’s Jimin?” Jungkook asked. “He should be done with Mr. Moneybags by now, right?”

“He went on a walk, didn't he? After his shift? He seemed really on edge.” Hoseok piped up, not looking away from his computer screen.

Namjoon paled as he glanced at the wall clock. “That was nearly two hours ago.”

Everyone in the lab immediately dropped what they were doing.

“Fucking scientists.” Jungkook grumbled. “Always have your goddamn heads in your tech. You're telling me he went on a walk over an hour ago, none of you have seen him since, and that didn't concern you?”

Every one of them looked down guiltily. Hoseok was the first to perk up.

“Hey! Jimin was still in all his gear when he left. We can just track him.”

“Do it.” Namjoon said at the same time as Jungkook. They shared a look, but didn't say anything further.

Hoseok was typing furiously at his computer, the GPS tracking software clearly displayed on his screen, but the signal couldn't seem to load properly. A small green blip would appear for just a second, then it would disappear, only to reappear again somewhere completely across the country. It didn't make any sense.

“I'm getting a signal from the tracker in Jimin’s wristband, but it's all over the place.” Hoseok explained, brow knit in concentration. “It can't seem to triangulate with the satellites. Something’s blocking it.”

“You don't think that… Jimin is doing it…?” Jin asked slowly, a look of abject horror on his face.

“No, that doesn't make any sense.” Taehyung insisted. “He left still wearing all the gear. He can't get out of that corset on his own, and how would he even know how to jam a GPS signal? It would make more sense if he'd just taken the wristband off. He probably doesn't even know there's a GPS in it; we told him it was a microphone, that's it.”

Jungkook nodded. “I agree. No matter how upset Jimin was, I don't think he would have resorted to that.”

“Wait… the signal is jammed right now, but the live feed from the micro-cameras in Jimin’s contacts are constantly being backed up on our servers.” Jin said.

Taehyung snapped his fingers, making a revelatory sound. “Right! Even if we can't see what's live now, we can see what happened before the signal got jammed.”

Hoseok slid out of the way so Taehyung could bring up the video archives on his computer. The system usually saved them in six-hour increments, since that was how long Jimin had been spending with Yoongi, but when the signal was interrupted, the video feed would have been cut off and saved automatically. Taehyung pulled up the folder and clicked on the file for today’s date.

The first image had them in the lab, when Hoseok was getting Jimin ready. Jimin had looked at Mochi 3 and told it how it had ruined everything. Namjoon was struck by how shattered Mochi 3’s face was. In the moment, he hadn't bothered to look.

Taehyung skipped through the video, near the end. Jimin was in Yoongi’s foyer, the man standing there in front of him with a cold expression.

“I don't need you anymore.” He'd said, and the contacts warbled slightly when tears sprung to Jimin’s eyes.

Jin looked away. He'd already heard this. Next to him, Jungkook clenched his fist. Taehyung rested his free hand on the younger man’s shoulder, squeezing gently. Jungkook found the tension bleed out of him, just a bit.

Taehyung skipped the video ahead again, but Jimin was still in the foyer. Yoongi’s expression was much less cold; he almost appeared scared. Pensive. It was Jimin who spoke, then.

”I am content to be a robot, I think. I am not cruel enough to be a human like you.”

Taehyung skipped ahead again, just a little, and Jimin was taking the cobbled garden paths back to the lab.

“There, there! He came in, and then he left almost immediately. We should be caught up to the part we need soon.” Hoseok piped up.

Sure enough, Jimin entered the lab. He and Hoseok had a small exchange, and then he was out the door again.

Each of the scientists, as well as Jungkook, leaned in closer to the screen, as if it would help them pick up on some clue as to what happened. They had no idea it would be incredibly obvious once they watched the recording. On the screen, Jimin was walking the grounds with no clear destination. He was mumbling to himself, but even the microphone was having a hard time picking it up. He halted when he met the road. His gaze lingered on a dark van across the street before he turned away.

Seconds later, the feed went black, as though someone had put a black sheet over the camera. Jimin could still be heard, however, crying out in a muffled voice. There were others, too… the sound of two distinct voices, likely male.

“Oh my god.” Jungkook whispered, eyes tracking desperately over the screen. “Did… did someone take him? Was he kidnapped?”

“I don't know…” Taehyung replied, frantically skipping ahead a few seconds at a time. Finally, the video came back.

Jimin was staring at a masked man, and he appeared to be in the back of a van. The stranger in front of him grabbed something from outside his field of vision, mentioning something about jamming the GPS signal. Soon they could see what he'd retrieved; some kind of silver metal ring, which he then placed over Jimin’s head. The signal crackled, the video dropping frames at a massive rate before finally an ominous error message appeared on the screen, and that was the end of the file.

“Why… why would someone kidnap Jimin?” Jungkook asked, breathless and terrified.

“I think… they were after Mochi 3, and mistook him for the robot.” Namjoon replied slowly. “That's why they blocked the GPS signal. They wouldn't do that if they knew he was human.”

“They'll… they'll have to realize he's human at some point… and then they'll have to let him go, right?” Jungkook queried, desperation edging into his tone.

But just then, all eyes turned to the computer when the GPS tracker beeped, finally showing a steady signal. The little green blip remained in one place, somewhere in the warehouse district not too far from their location. Hoseok was about to confirm when the coordinates when a small window popped up; a video file which had been sent to their secure servers. Blood turned to ice, everyone terrified of just what it could entail.

“Open it.” Namjoon said finally, voice raw.

Taehyung accepted the file, and the video opened, taking up the whole screen.

The image was crystal-clear; two men, clad in black and wearing masks to obscure their faces, standing to either side of a chair. Between them, Jimin… shirtless, bloody and battered, that silver metal ring no longer around his head, his titanium torso-brace lying at his feet, removed. There was a few seconds’ pause, and then, one of the masked men began to speak.

***

When the van stopped, Jimin was dragged out of the vehicle roughly, though the men didn't bother replacing his shroud. He was getting the distinct feeling these guys weren't the sharpest tools in the shed. They were in the warehouse district, that much Jimin could tell. The whir of machinery echoed around them loudly. He didn't bother screaming… it wasn't likely anyone was even around to hear him.

They took him into an abandoned building, undoing his bindings just enough to restrain him to a stool. The men then left him, huddling close in the hallway and speaking in whispered tones. He wondered if they were debating his humanity. The idea seemed humorous to him.

After a little while, they returned, the portly man brandishing a knife. Jimin squirmed away when he brought it closer, but the man only used it to cut away his sweater, tossing the tatters of fabric across the room once he was done. The biting cold of the room hit him, causing his flesh to break out in goosebumps. He let out an involuntary shiver.

“You said this thing is just a costume, huh?” The man said, knocking his knife against the titanium corset.

“Yes.” Jimin croaked, equal parts relieved and terrified. “There are screws, at the back. If you undo them, it comes off, and you can see I'm just flesh and blood underneath.”

The man made a face at him, as though he didn't believe him, but he knelt behind him regardless, undoing the screws with his knife. They fell to the concrete floor with a harsh chime… one, then the other. The man yanked at the back panel of the corset and it peeled away, both the front and back of it slipping out of his grip and clattering to the ground.

“Huh.” The portly man exclaimed, standing and going to his partner’s side. “Maybe he is human.”

“Still doesn't make any sense.” The other man said, circling around him. He pointed at the back of his neck, accusatory. “Look, there's a power button!”

“It's fake.” Jimin told him, exasperated and desperate. “Pull it off, it’s just glued onto my skin.”

The man grimaced, but did just that. It peeled right off, and the man stared at it in confusion. “Weird.”

“I told you, I'm human.” Jimin tried again.

The portly man didn't seem to believe him yet; he grabbed him by the hair and yanked, looking him over for any other indicators he might not be human. Jimin wailed in pain, trying to crane his neck up so the pull wasn't so intense.

The man released him with a look of disdain. “I think he's telling the truth. Doesn't look like any robot to me… next generation of AI or not. No technology is that good. He's bleeding.”

“Even the Terminator bled.” The other man reasoned. “Something about real skin and muscle over a metal body, right? You'd have to cut deeper to get to the metal parts.”

Jimin’s eyes went wide. “There’s no metal! You already saw the metal parts were a costume! Why do you still think I'm a robot?!”

“Can't be too sure.” The portly man said with a determined nod, taking his knife and sinking it into Jimin’s forearm.

He shrieked in pain, writhing against his restraints, but to no avail. He watched in horror as the man wiggled the knife from side to side, inspecting the wound.

“I don't know. It doesn't look like there's any metal in there. Looks like muscle and bone to me.” The man grunted, pulling out the knife.

Jimin whimpered, watching blood eke out of the wound, a stark reminder of his humanity. “Please, I told you, I'm the human model they based Mochi 3 on. I'm not a robot.”

“No, you're not.” The portly man agreed, going to a duffel bag in the corner and fishing out a camcorder and tripod. “But… you're going to get us the real one.”

***

The Project Serendipity team and Jungkook must have watched the video four times. Jungkook felt sick to his stomach. He was pacing by the third play-through, liable to wear a hole in the floor with his Timberlands at the rate he was going.

“I know they said no police…” Jin began, ever the sensible one. “But… what if…”

“Don't even suggest it.” Jungkook hissed, rounding on him. “We can't trust that they'll handle this right. They could get Jimin killed!”

“I agree with Jungkook. We can't involve the police.” Namjoon said with a long sigh. “We can't have the media become aware of Mochi 3’s existence. That would only make things worse. The world isn't ready for this technology yet… they'd seize it and sell it off to the highest bidder. It would get used for military applications. I never wanted that for Mochi 3. It was built… to help people.”

“Then what are we going to do?” Hoseok asked softly, that little green blip still on full display on his secondary screen.

“We don't have a choice…” Namjoon told them. “We have to ask Min Yoongi for help.”

The ring of a cell phone cut through the room, causing everyone to jump. Namjoon fished his phone out of his pocket and answered it, moving to the far corner of the room.

“Dr. Bang. I'm afraid you've called at a rather critical time.”

“Critical? Not to do with Yoongi-ssi, I hope. I just spoke with him.” The man on the other end of the line replied.

“No, it’s nothing to do with him, yet.” Namjoon explained. “I actually have… a bit of a confession with regard to the treatment experiment you hired us for.”

There was a pause, long and concerning. “What… kind of confession?”

Namjoon sighed. “You hired us to allow Min Yoongi first access to our human-like robot, in the hopes that he would overcome his allergy. But... I’m afraid the robot malfunctioned, so we were unable to deliver on that promise.”

Dr. Bang’s voice was tight. “I just spoke with Yoongi-ssi. He explained to me that a robot had helped him overcome his illness. How is it that you are telling me the opposite?”

“Yoongi was very eager to start the deep learning process, and we didn’t have time to repair the robot.” Namjoon began. “We were… forced to send a replacement instead. The man we modeled Mochi 3 after.”

“You sent a human to him after I told you in confidence of his allergy to humans?” Dr. Bang asked, breathless with anger. “Are you out of your mind? You could have killed him!”

“That obviously didn’t happen.” Namjoon countered. “Yoongi’s progress was… incredible. Much faster than you even anticipated. But we have a problem.”

“What could possibly be more pressing than that?” Dr. Bang hissed.

“The model, the one who was visiting Yoongi in Mochi 3’s stead. He’s been kidnapped, and the ransom is the real Mochi 3 robot.” Namjoon explained. “We need Yoongi’s help, our friend is injured, and—”

“You cannot tell him the truth.” Dr. Bang interrupted. “You cannot tell him the Mochi 3 was a human all along.”

“A man’s life is in danger!” Namjoon argued.

“And so is Min Yoongi’s.” The doctor hissed. “I… have only treated one other patient with his condition. It is too unpredictable. Revealing a massive betrayal of trust to him like this could negate all his progress.”

“We don’t know that.” Namjoon insisted. “We can’t know that!”

“I can.” The doctor replied gravely. “My last patient, he… recently discovered that the object of his affection, the very catalyst for his connection to the outside world, the one who built his trust in people again, who helped him overcome his illness, was only using him for monetary gain. He… upon hearing the news, he went into a severe anaphylactic shock and died.”

Namjoon sucked in a breath through his teeth. “He… died?”

“Yes, Professor.” The doctor let out a sigh, long and low. “I’m afraid you must ensure your friend’s safety without alerting Min Yoongi to your deception. By any means necessary. Him discovering the truth could be catastrophic.”

“I… understand.” Namjoon murmured before hanging up. He stared blankly at the middle-distance before him, swallowing as his phone dropped to his side.

“What… are we going to do?” Jin asked softly.

“We’re going to lie.” Namjoon said, determined, now as he pocketed his phone and crossed the room. “We’re going to lie, and hope to god that Min Yoongi believes us.”

***

The Project Serendipity team did not often call upon him, so when Min Yoongi received Namjoon’s call requesting his presence, he assumed it was important.

Once he arrived at the lab, he was quickly proven right. Namjoon and the others brought him up to speed on an incident which they had apparently recently become aware of… the young man whose appearance and personality had inspired that of Mochi 3 had been kidnapped by people who were seeking to take the real robot.

“How am I supposed to help you?” Yoongi asked, fighting against everything that made him curious about this character model. Was he really that much like Mochi 3? Would he even be able to tell the difference? Could it be possible that a human version of his beloved Mochi 3 existed all along?

“He's injured, and we can't involve the police or bring him to a hospital.” Jin explained. “We could use your home… it's more sterile than this old place.”

“The men who have him sent us a video.” Jungkook spoke. “It looks like there's just two of them, but there could be more. If you would watch it—”

“I don't know him.” Yoongi murmured, pressing his lips together. There was a sort of coldness in his tone which felt forced, as though his words were in direct conflict with his feelings, but he pressed on with his façade regardless. “Why should I get involved?”

“He’s a person, a person you have the means to help.” Namjoon tried, almost sounding stunned at the utter indifference coming from the other.

“He’s our friend.” Hoseok added, his voice breaking.

“He isn’t mine.” Yoongi replied simply, turning to leave the lab.

“Min Yoongi, you will turn around and watch that video, now!” Jungkook snarled, grabbing him forcibly by the shoulder and back of his neck and physically moving him over to the computer screen. He looked positively livid at being manhandled, but when Taehyung clicked on his keyboard and the screen lit up with the video, he froze, his face dropping.

It was Mochi 3, for all intents and purposes… at least, it looked just like his Mochi 3, except that his chest was bare, no metal to be seen… littered with angry red marks and smears of blood. His right arm was soaked entirely red below the elbow, rivers of blood dripping over his fingers and onto the floor.

One of the masked men in the video was making demands, but Yoongi wasn't listening. He was watching the blond man, his defiant expression becoming one of terror when his masked captor dug his fingers into whatever wound was in his arm, causing him to let out a wail of pain.

“Please, please stop…” The young man in the video whimpered, and it sounded just like him, just like his Mochi 3.

Yoongi grit his jaw as the screen went black, fist clenched at his side. “Text me the coordinates of where they’re keeping him.”

“I’m coming with you.” Jungkook said, brokering no argument.

“Me too.” Taehyung piped up.

“I’ll drive.” Namjoon offered, grabbing his keys. “If these people were after Mochi 3 and its technology, we can’t leave the lab unattended. Jin and Hoseok should stay here and look after things.”

The two nodded in agreement, Hoseok sliding across to the other desk in his rolling chair and typing quickly on his keyboard. “Coordinates sent. Bring him home safe!”

“Bring yourselves home safe, too.” Jin added meaningfully, pulling Namjoon into a hug.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be back before you know it.” He assured, even if he wasn’t all that certain.

***

It had only been minutes, but soon they were piled into one of Yoongi’s SUVs, Namjoon at the wheel. Yoongi had ducked into his house to change into more practical clothing and grab a weapon; the collapsible police baton he kept next to his bed for security. He’d never had to use it. Taehyung was in the passenger’s seat, his phone screen displaying the GPS coordinates for where they were headed, with detailed directions.

Jungkook sat in the back with Yoongi, lost in his own thoughts. He was terrified of what those men had done to Jimin… what they were continuing to do to him. He worried they’d be too late. He worried they’d be outnumbered and would fail to save him. He let out a shaking sigh, and it was then that Yoongi decided to speak.

“So, you know both the Project Serendipity team and the man they modeled Mochi 3 after?” Yoongi asked.

“I met the team through him.” Jungkook explained. He knew the man was trying to distract him, probably reading the distress on his expression, and he was somewhat grateful for the conversation. “I live with him… we’re roommates. After I met the others, we all kind of… became like a family. He didn't really keep in touch with them anymore after the project got started, but…I’ve gotten pretty close to Taehyung, and those two were basically besties in college, so.”

Yoongi let out a soft huff. “Mm, is that how it works? Making your own family? Just a bunch of people thrust together by coincidence and happenstance?”

Jungkook shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. Helps if you aren't a giant recluse.”

Yoongi frowned. “I'm working on it.”

“We all figured you would eagerly start a family with that Suran woman.” Jungkook added, giving him a sidelong glance.

“That fell through.”

“That sucks.” Jungkook murmured, letting out a breath, long and low. “You know, I thought my love life was complicated, but I think you take the cake.”

Yoongi snorted. “Why? Because my former fiancée, who initially proposed to me, ended up leaving me for another man, or because I somehow fell in love with a goddamn robot?”

Jungkook pressed his lips together, clicking his tongue awkwardly. “Um. Both.”

Yoongi let out a bitter laugh, shaking his head.

“You know, at first, I was so desperate for contact that I had been denied for more than half my life… that I told myself a robot was more than enough for me.” Yoongi told him. He wasn’t sure why he felt so comfortable unloading all these things to someone else, but he did. Jungkook isn’t what he would call a friend, but it was the closest thing he had, aside from a robot, of course. “But then I… became disgusted with the idea of it, because it felt like a cheap imitation. A lie. When I was reminded what Mochi 3 really was, I was… angered. I felt deceived.”

“Look, I'm no stranger to feelings of disgust over one’s proclivities.” Jungkook replied, raising a meaningful eyebrow. “It's all just based on whatever society decides is right or wrong, and that's not always based in morality. Sometimes, it's toxic. And sure, maybe it's weird, to some people. But that robot was built to be like a person… a very real person, who is currently in a lot of danger. It stands to reason that you were falling for that person through his influence on Mochi 3’s personality.”

Yoongi seemed to ruminate on that, but he did not formulate a response by the time they arrived at the coordinates.

“We're here.” Namjoon said, confirming the location on the GPS on Taehyung’s phone. “Looks like there's just a single van parked here… hopefully that means those two men are the only people here.”

“This looks like a waypoint.” Taehyung commented. “A place to make a drop. I don’t think they were planning on keeping Mochi 3 here for long, which means they probably weren’t looking to make it defensible in the case that someone came after it.”

“Someone should stay with the vehicle while the rest of us go inside.” Jungkook suggested. “Preferably those of us who can fight.”

“I know how to throw down.” Taehyung piped up, cracking his wrists in preparation. “Took some kickboxing a while back, and I’m not a stranger to fighting.”

“I have taekwondo training, so as long as we aren’t going up against hardened professionals…” Jungkook trailed off, looking to the others. “Namjoon?”

The man stammered, adjusting his glasses as they slid down his nose. “I’m a scientist. I’m not really built to… tussle.”

Taehyung rolled his eyes. “He can stay with the car. Yoongi?”

At being addressed, the man whipped out a hand, causing the collapsible baton in his grip to extend to its full length. “I can take care of myself.”

“All right. I think we should stick together. It’ll be safer that way, and Namjoon will see if they try to slip out past us.” Jungkook said. “Just… wail on the horn if something happens, okay?”

“Got it.” Namjoon agreed.

“Professor...” Yoongi said, then, tossing the man his phone. “Call my physician. Tell him to meet us at my home. We’ll have your friend treated there.”

“Right.” Namjoon replied, thumbing through the recent contacts until he found one labeled ‘Doctor Bang’.

Jungkook took a breath, steeling himself. “All right. This rescue mission is a go.”

***

Jungkook would have liked to believe that this was a heroic effort. That he and Taehyung and Yoongi were going to storm in there and kick some ass and find Jimin and bring him home safe.

Instead, Jungkook stood in front of the back entrance, a massive slab of metal on sliding tracks, and found himself shaking like a leaf.

“Hey. You good?” Taehyung asked in a low voice like smoke, laying a hand on the other’s shoulder and squeezing. There was a reassurance there that he desperately needed.

“Y-yeah. Let’s go.” Jungkook replied, swallowing the tremors wracking his nerves and gently pulling the door open, as quiet as he could.

Old metal and rusted tracks decided that would be impossible, and the door shrieked as he inched it away from the wall.

“What was that?” Shouted a voice. Someone else hushed him, speaking in lower tones they couldn’t hear. Shit. They’d been noticed already.

Yoongi took point, then, moving into the warehouse and motioning to a stack of boxes across the room. The others understood him, and moved swiftly to take cover behind them, trying to peek around to get a view of the men who belonged to the voices they’d heard.

It seemed only one of them went to go check things out; the portlier man, the one from the video, no longer wearing a mask. He appeared to be armed with nothing but a lead pipe as he crept down the hall and into the main storage space, eyeing the door to their right suspiciously.

“When he passes by, I’ll jump him.” Taehyung said, whisper-quiet.

“I’ll watch your back in case the other one comes.” Yoongi assured, slipping around to the other side of the boxes.

Once he was closer, busy inspecting the door, Taehyung did as planned; he jumped the man, trying to wrench the pipe away from him. The man was stronger, however, and twisted his grip hard, catching Taehyung in the temple with the weapon. He staggered, giving the man enough leverage to shove him into the wall, pipe at his neck.

“Stay here in case the other one comes out!” Jungkook hissed, launching toward the two men. He kicked at the back of the attacker’s knee hard, causing him just enough pain that he pulled back off of Taehyung. When he turned, Jungkook punched him square across the jaw and sent him reeling.

The portly man found his footing again and raised his weapon, but Jungkook was quicker, knocking it out of his grip and landing another solid hit across his face. The man’s eyes fluttered and he teetered for a half-second before collapsing to the ground in a heap.

In that moment, a thinner man came running from down the hall, also brandishing a pipe. It was clear he was the other man from the video. He lunged straight for Jungkook and Taehyung, but before he could reach them, Yoongi leapt from his cover and slammed his baton into the man’s clavicle, clotheslining him and sending him sprawling out on his back. He hit the dirt and was out, his head cracking hard against the concrete.

“You all right?” Jungkook queried as he checked Taehyung over. Other than the already-reddening patch of skin at his throat and a small cut at his brow, he didn’t look too much worse for wear.

“Yeah, thanks.” Taehyung said in a rush of breath, rubbing at his throat.

“Anytime.” Jungkook assured, clapping him on the shoulder with a meaningful smile.

“Think that’s all of them?” Taehyung asked, looking around. This particular part of the warehouse was rather open; not a lot of places to hide.

Jungkook didn’t answer. He’d knelt next to the unconscious men in black and rifled through their belongings, producing a cell phone from the thinner man’s jacket. He pocketed it, distracted when he heard a noise nearby.

Yoongi didn’t answer either. He’d heard something down the hall as well, and it drew his attention. There was a long, narrow passageway just ahead of them, lined with open arches where doors had once been, now either completely removed or hanging off their hinges. Every one of them was dark… all except the last, where he could make out a bright construction light illuminating the space beyond.

Yoongi broke into a run down the corridor, pushing open the rusty door at the end of the hallway. Everything in this place was a dull, putrid brown-gray… everything except him. His pale skin and light hair were a stark contrast to the room he was lying in the center of, secured to a toppled-over stool in a tangle of wiry black rope. The bruised and bloody state of him was even more jarring in person.

On hearing the door smack against the wall, the blond stirred. He looked up, struggling to lift his head enough to see who was there. Had one of the masked men come back? Were they going to sink another knife into him, use his pain to get his friends to take action and hand Mochi 3 over? No, it wasn’t one of the masked men at all. It was...

Jimin was sure he was delirious… he had to be. How else could Min Yoongi be before him, haloed with light from the fixture in the corner like some kind of angel? It wasn’t feasible. It was a fantasy, likely conjured by his pain-addled mind.

And yet, when the man stood only inches from him and knelt, his face a canvas of terror and concern, Jimin could think of nothing else. ’My master is here to rescue me. He came to save me. My master came for me…’

Only one word managed to escape his bloodied lips as he looked up at the other, mind swimming, eyes fluttering as the pain and exhaustion cloyed at him, beckoning him toward the darkness.

“M-master…” He mumbled, his blood-soaked right hand reaching for him despite the restraints.

And then his world went black.

Chapter Text

A convenience store medical kit sat open upon Jungkook’s bed, its contents haphazardly strewn across the duvet. Taehyung was seated next to it, waiting patiently for the younger man to return from the kitchen. He could hear water running, a dish clatter and a sudden hiss of a curse, muffled by the walls between them.

Taehyung let his eyes wander, his gaze lighting upon the bed across the room. There was an arc of stuffed animals haloing the two pillows at the head of it, one in particular at the center. A dog in a yellow hoodie with a white face and a silly expression sat in something like a place of honor, a black hat reading “Pretty” in Hangul atop its head. He gave a soft laugh, remembering that Jimin had always been a collector of cute plushies. Once upon a time, he'd had a pile of them on the bed in their dorm.

Jungkook returned moments later carrying a bowl filled with steaming water, several rags draped over his shoulders. He gingerly set the bowl down on the nightstand before sitting on the mattress next to Taehyung.

“Sorry, it's been a while since I've done dishes. Usually I'm on top of them, but I've been spending a lot of evenings at the lab.”

“It's all right. The place is a lot more exciting for it.” Taehyung teased.

Jungkook rolled his eyes, dipping one of the rags into the water and bringing it up to the other’s face, dabbing gently at the blood encrusted across the edge of his eyebrow by his temple.

“If someone told me I'd get up to this much trouble and excitement around a bunch of computer nerds and engineers, I’d never have believed them.”

Taehyung snorted a laugh. “Yeah, we never got into these kinds of shenanigans in college. Then again, I never knew Jimin to keep his bed so immaculate then, either.”

“Oh, it's just not a mess because he slept with me last night.” Jungkook seemed to realize what he said, his voice rising into a nervous pitch. “I mean, in the same bed—slept—he does that sometimes, when he's upset or whatever, we aren't… you know. Or anything.”

“I remember you saying that.” Taehyung replied casually, giving him a patient and understanding grin. “Jimin was always the needy type. He used to crawl into my bed too when we shared a dorm. You don't need to explain anything to me.”

“O-oh yeah.” Jungkook swallowed, feeling like an idiot for never really letting himself acknowledge that those two had been friends long before he came into the picture.

The younger man set the rag aside in favor of picking up the antibiotic ointment, softly swiping a bit of it along the broken skin before applying a bandaid over the cut.

“Isn't this a little much?” Taehyung asked in a teasing tone, inclining his head toward the first aid items. “It's just a scratch.”

“Yeah, from a lead pipe.” Jungkook retorted, raising an eyebrow at him. “Not to be dramatic, but, tetanus is a thing, and that warehouse was filthy. Plus, I could use the distraction.”

“Worried about Jimin?” Taehyung asked softly.

“Yeah.” Jungkook admitted in a quiet voice, looking down. “I… it was hard to see him like that. I couldn't stay there. He's my best friend in the world, and I was too hopped up on adrenaline, I was bound to be a liability hanging around while Yoongi’s doctor was trying to work.”

“Understandable. I was in no condition to be around them, either. So thanks for taking me in.” Taehyung replied with a grin. “Jimin will be fine. He's in good hands.”

“Mm.” Jungkook grunted, starting to shove all the medical supplies back into the plastic kit. Taehyung stopped him, however, taking his right hand into both his own.

“Hold on a sec. Did you think I was gonna let this slide?” He chided, staring pointedly at Jungkook’s reddened knuckles, two of which were scraped up and bleeding. “You get to play patient tonight, too.”

Jungkook considered arguing but quickly deflated, pouting and looking away in assent as Taehyung used a fresh rag dipped in the warm water to wipe away the blood, trying his best not to aggravate the raw skin. He applied ointment, then wrapped the other’s palm with gauze strips. He smoothed down the taped edge before taking Jungkook’s hand into both of his own again, gently running his thumbs over the back of it.

“There you go, now we can both be reasonable certain that we won't die from sepsis.” He joked.

Jungkook snorted, swatting his arm. “I was worried about tetanus, not sepsis, you dummy.”

“Whatever. My science degree is in computers, not medicine.” Taehyung reminded him.

“Fair. I thought about getting a degree in that, I just never went for it. I guess know how to use computers, but I can't say I know much about them other than the differences between graphics cards and what kind of processing power is needed for certain games.” Jungkook replied with a shrug. “I never did anything worthwhile like finishing college or studying something useful.”

“Entertaining people is useful.” Taehyung rebutted. “Society likes to devalue work that doesn't directly contribute to the flow of capitalism, but really, we'd all go crazy without entertainment. And anyway… I’ve pretty much exclusively dicked around with my degree, experimenting on builds and tech that probably doesn't benefit humanity. Namjoon definitely put me on a better track. You'll get there. Besides, anyone who brings takeout to the lab as often as you do gets top billing in my book.”

“I guess I… started to understand why Jimin felt so out of place back in your college days.” Jungkook said with a soft laugh. “I wanted to feel like I could be helpful, even if I'm just some idiot who plays video games for a living. Jimin was your ‘pretend to be a robot’ guy, which is why I think he felt more at home with you all this time around. Maybe I'm just the ‘brings takeout’ guy.”

“You mean a lot more than just free takeout to us, you know.” Taehyung admonished, shoving him gently. “We all really like having you around. The videos from your little love-lessons for Yoongi? God, those had us laughing for days.”

“You watched those?” Jungkook whinged, covering his eyes. “Ugh, I was flying by the seat of my pants, it was so awkward! I can't believe I let Jimin talk me into doing that.”

Taehyung let out a peal of laughter, deep as the ocean but bright as the sun. Taehyung was one of those people whose face didn't match his voice; his soft, beautiful countenance was at odds with a voice which was all smoke and raw silk, plucked as though from the pits of the underworld. Jungkook always found himself enraptured by it, even when the other spoke of the most asinine subjects, and he had become exceptionally fond of his laugh. The accompanying smile which always followed, however, that… that was what Jungkook thought he appreciated the most. It was a boxy sort of grin, to the point that his nose scrunched up a little, eyes becoming crescents in a way that reminded him of Jimin. Taehyung smiled like a child who was being told to show his teeth, almost over-enthusiastic… but that was what made it so cute.

“You did fine.” Taehyung assured him, though it took several seconds for the other to realize he'd spoken. “Better than I would have done. It's pretty obvious now that Min Yoongi is not well-versed in human emotions.”

Jungkook felt acid rising in his throat when he remembered the video footage… how cruel he'd been to Jimin when he believed him to be a robot. He doubted the man would ever treat a human like that, but it was hard to say. He clearly worshipped the ground Suran walked on, so there was at least hope in that regard.

“Yeah, he makes me look like a regular Casanova.”

Taehyung regarded him for a moment. “You think he's bad for Jimin?”

“It's not really my place to say what's best for Jimin.” Jungkook replied, a non-answer if he'd ever given one.

“We’re his best friends. We’re allowed to worry.” Taehyung assured, nudging him. “It's been a rough and complicated road, but… I think Min Yoongi isn't the cold and heartless guy he wants us to see. I don't think Jimin would be so fond of him if he were. He sees a side of him we never have. I've only seen some of the footage, and it was nothing like tonight’s. Seemed to me like he was throwing up walls to protect his heart.”

“Mm, maybe you should've been Yoongi’s love expert instead of me.” Jungkook teased with a wide smirk.

Taehyung scoffed. “Not a chance. I am utterly hopeless… the first person I ever really loved is aro-ace and thank God I can still call him my best friend in the entire world, but now I'm too chickenshit to act on so much as a crush, and…”

His tirade petered off into a frustrated huff, and Jungkook just watched him with fond amusement, shaking his head.

“Maybe we're both hopeless.” He murmured, giving the other a meaningful look.

“It feels like the whole world’s gone sideways.” Taehyung said with a sigh, long and low, letting his entire body tilt forward until his head was resting on Jungkook’s shoulder. “Yoongi-ssi is pissed about the robot being a robot even though it was actually a human, who knows if he'll still invest after this entire debacle, plus there are people after Mochi 3 we know nothing about, people who hurt Jimin, and I'm sure he'll be all right but he was kidnapped and it seems like everything’s so out of control—”

“Hey.” Jungkook cut him off softly, letting his unbandaged left hand come up to card through the other’s soft hair. He kept it longer than any of them, even Jimin, though his was only marginally lightened to a pale brown with hints of orange. “It seems like a lot, now, but tomorrow will come, and the next day after that, and we'll get it figured out. All of us, together.”

The other hummed his assent, and they sat there in contended silence for a long moment, neither of them moving,

“How'd you get so good at this, hm?” Taehyung finally asked after a pause, sounding amused.

Jungkook looked down at him, brow furrowed. “Good at what?”

“Comforting people.”

“Ah.” Jungkook laughed. “Lots of practice.”

“So you admit you're a lifesaver, then.”

Jungkook rolled his eyes. “Oh come on. You're being dramatic.”

“No, really, I…” Taehyung’s words seemed to get caught in his throat, and he looked up at the other with an earnest expression. “I know I'm all confidence about Jimin being okay, but that's only because I can't possibly let myself consider the alternative. Tonight, when… when that guy started choking me? I don't know, I panicked and I was pretty sure I was going to die until you rescued me.”

Jungkook made a face, sympathetic but amused. “It was nothing. C’mon, there was no way in hell I was going to let anything happen to you.”

“Yeah.” Taehyung murmured thoughtfully, but his attention was entirely on Jungkook’s face, eyes almost glazed over in his focused distraction. His gaze flickered to Jungkook’s lips, back up to his eyes, and the younger man saw something there, something unspoken.

In a way, this was how Jungkook had always imagined it. In the dark quiet of his room, arms wrapped comfortingly around the object of his affection as they so often were…. but then, something would change. They'd look at him, and they'd finally realize how much he cared for them and it would be enough and maybe, just maybe, they could want him in the same way he wanted them.

Taehyung leaned in, and maybe it was wrong, maybe it was a case of bad timing and a weak heart but Jungkook didn't care, he just wanted to feel like he was wanted, and with Taehyung, he absolutely did.

“This might be a bad idea.” Taehyung murmured, his voice like gravel and smoke, and when he gently nipped at the younger man’s lower lip, it made him shiver.

“Maybe.” Jungkook breathed out, clutching at the other’s shirt so he could drag him closer, not letting him even think about pulling away for his sake. “Or it could be the best goddamn idea. I'm inclined to think so, anyway.”

Jungkook could feel Taehyung’s boxy smile against his cheek before the older man nibbled at his jaw softly. “If it's not what you really want, though… you can tell me to fuck off. I won't resent you. I really fucking like you, but I understand if this isn't—”

“Hyung, shut the hell up.” Jungkook hissed, silencing him with a rough kiss, unbridled and sure. Taehyung’s response was immediate, his right hand coming up to card into the other’s hair, shifting his weight until the other was lying back on the mess of pillows behind him.

Taehyung settled above him, rolling his hips down against the other until Jungkook was gasping into his mouth, allowing him to deepen the kiss, explore every inch of him, learn every curve of him, memorize every noise he earned, every sharp breath and sweet sigh.

For once, that night, it was Jungkook being held in another’s arms, made to feel that he was wanted and cared for and enough, and it didn't feel like settling, it didn't feel like a compromise or even like a second choice, because in Taehyung he had found something that no one else had ever given him… and he knew, somehow, intrinsically, that he didn't want it from anyone else but him.

Not anymore.

***

”M-”

”M-Ma”

”M-Master…”

The word had been clear, unmistakable.

Yoongi turned it over again and again in his mind, but every time, the outcome was the same.

It did not make any sense. And yet, he felt as though he had perfect clarity. As though the jumbled-up puzzle pieces had finally unblurred.

Namjoon had looked horrified when Yoongi emerged from the warehouse carrying Jimin, battered and still, cradled in his arms like something beloved. He had continued glancing back in the rear-view mirror nervously during the entire drive back to Yoongi’s home, watching how Yoongi held Jimin there in the back of the van, eyes never leaving the blond’s face, something like reverence there upon his own underneath the clear worry as his thumb idly brushed away encrusted blood from a pale cheek.

Jungkook had fussed, rifling through the first aid kit they kept in the back of the van and trying his best to wipe away some of the blood. Taehyung was giving Namjoon directions back to the mansion, but it all sounded like white noise, nothing but a frivolous background of static behind the one thought in the forefront of Yoongi’s mind.

He called me ‘Master’.

The pieces seemed to fall into place, then, but he did not quite know what picture he was supposed to be building.

Once they had pulled into his driveway, Jungkook and Taehyung stayed behind while Yoongi had carried the injured man into his bedroom, where he and Namjoon were met by Doctor Bang. He’d already prepared a few things, Namjoon having described Jimin’s injuries from the video.

Outside, the van had pulled away with Jungkook at the wheel and Taehyung in the passenger’s seat. Everyone seemed shaken, except for him. Yoongi felt eerily calm as set the man down on his bed, his hand lingering perhaps a little too long on the other, wondering for all the world if he might just disappear.

Yoongi eventually stepped back to let the doctor move closer, and soon he and Namjoon were standing off in a quiet corner of the room, watching from a short distance away as the doctor worked.

“Tell me something, Professor.” Yoongi spoke, his tone too-casual, too calm. “Why is it that your model called me ‘Master’?”

Namjoon’s eyes went wide, his face paling. He choked, covering it up with a cough.

“He called you… no. Certainly you had to have misheard him. In all the chaos, your mind must have—”

“I’ll suggest that be your last attempt to gaslight me.” Yoongi bit back in a dangerous tone, eyes scrutinizing and deadly. “Begin again, with the truth this time.”

Namjoon swallowed, glancing over toward Dr. Bang, but he was still busy with Jimin’s injuries. There was no way out of this one. He had to hope that the doctor was wrong about the potential dangers. He took a breath.

“I… suppose it’s because… that’s all he’s ever really called you.”

Yoongi let out an incredulous huff. “I met a robot. I know that I did. I saw its core. I saw its circuitry and batteries. It opened its chest, right before my eyes, I—”

He paused, staring at Namjoon as though he were looking upon a mad scientist. Perhaps he was. “You switched them. You clever bastard… you switched them, and I never noticed. Why would I? What would make me suspect there was a human who looked just like your robot? What did you do, put him in some kind of costume-piece?”

“There was a… torso brace, yes… made from an older model of the AI.” Namjoon admitted quietly, adjusting his glasses for lack of anything else to do with his shaking hands. “It wasn’t our intent to deceive you. The real robot was damaged, but you were so insistent on the trial period occurring immediately that I felt I had no choice. I couldn’t risk you allowing the team to be sold off, so I called the person I modeled Mochi 3 after to act as the robot until we could repair it.”

“So, the Mochi 3 I have been spending time with over these past weeks… this is him? A man… a human?” Yoongi asked, his eyes tracking over the blond across the room as though he were seeing him for the first time. Doctor Bang had walked away from the bed to dispose of a pile of bloody gauze, leaving his patient alone there on the mattress. “This is… my Mochi 3?”

“Jimin.” Namjoon corrected in a raw voice. “His name is Jimin.”

“Jimin.” Yoongi said softly, testing the name. “All this time… my Mochi 3 was a person after all.”

“A person who… came to care very deeply for you.” Namjoon added hesitantly. “I know that… you may feel that your relationship with Mochi 3 was a fabrication. However, I can say with certainty that your friendship with Jimin, which came about as a result… that is entirely genuine.”

Yoongi felt a cold realization crash over him then. He recalled the cruel words he'd spat so callously at the other just hours before. He remembered all those moments they’d shared… every fleeting expression he’d sworn to himself seemed so real but he was convinced could not possibly be. There were so many signs, now, which seemed blindingly obvious. The earnest affection. The heartfelt advice. The slightest flush of pink across those pale cheeks when he kissed Yoongi, when he touched him, when he’d—

He didn’t realize the wave of dizziness that assaulted him then had caused him to stagger on his feet until Namjoon lunged forward, keeping him upright. The touch was uncomfortable, but only in the way he imagined was common for people who simply enjoyed a decent amount of space between themselves and other humans.

“Yoongi-ssi! Are you all right?” Namjoon’s voice floated back to him in segments, and it was several seconds before he processed what the words meant.

He grunted in affirmation, wriggling out of the other’s hold. “I’m fine. It’s just… a lot to take in.”

That didn’t seem to quell Namjoon; he was still watching Yoongi as though he were prepared for his skin to begin crumbling to dust right before his eyes.

Dr. Bang approached, then, wiping his hands on a rag as though he’d just washed them. “I’ve bandaged all your friend’s wounds. The one on his arm required a few stitches, but it should heal up soon enough.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Namjoon replied, shifting nervously on his feet.

“So, you said this was the model you based your robot on, and that those men took him thinking he was the robot?” Dr. Bang said too-casually, obviously wanting to help solidify the lie Namjoon had fed Yoongi. “How peculiar. To think that a robot could look so human…”

“I know, Dr. Bang. You needn’t lie to me as well.” Yoongi cut him off, tone flat.

The doctor stared at him for a moment, shocked. He rounded on Namjoon. “You told him?”

“He figured it out on his own, and forced me to confirm.” Namjoon bit back. “To be fair, I tried to lie. But he seems to be taking it just fine.”

Dr. Bang finally looked at him, then… really looked at him. He clearly wasn’t in any kind of distress, and he wasn’t having any kind of allergic reaction. “Fine? You’re fine?”

“Why are you both acting like you’re expecting me to turn to ash or something?” Yoongi asked.

Namjoon and the doctor shared an uncomfortable look, but it was the latter who spoke.

“My… other patient. With the same condition as you. He didn’t… take such a betrayal quite as well.”

Yoongi stared at him, blinking impatiently.

“In his case, there was a clear malicious intent of the other person, yes, but… he had a severe allergic reaction when he discovered the truth and he...” Dr. Bang cleared his throat. “He died.”

“I see.” Yoongi murmured, looking down. That explained the continued deception. “I was lied to, yes. There was a certain trust there that was built on a lie. But I haven’t… lost anything.”

He’d gained something, even… that was, if Jimin even wanted to speak to him after the horrible way Yoongi had treated him when he believed him to be a robot.

Dr. Bang nodded. “Even though that trust was, in some ways, broken… because it was built on a false pretense, that does not change the friendships you have formed. And it is very clear to me that everyone involved cares deeply for your well-being.”

“Some part of me does feel betrayed.” Yoongi said softly, his eyes tracking over to Jimin again. “But I also find myself feeling… relief, and hope.”

His doctor smiled, fond and genuine. “I am glad… that you have chosen to see things in this light.”

“I believe… my heart is more… healed by this revelation than it is betrayed by it.” Yoongi replied. “I thought that I had lost all my chances to be close with someone. But now, I feel as if I’ve been given another.”

On the bed, Jimin stirred. Namjoon immediately rushed over, and Dr. Bang excused himself to check on his patient. Yoongi nodded his assent, but did not move closer, merely watching from where he stood. He was sure the other had been through enough and didn’t need the added stress of his presence looming over him on top of that.

“N-Namjoon-hyung?” Jimin sat up, blearily rubbing his eyes. He looked around, confused once he realized where he was. “Am I in…?”

His hand quickly went to his own chest, which was decidedly bare. He caught sight of Yoongi across the room, who was pretending not to notice he’d been spotted. His HUD flared to life, identifying the man, and it was then he realized he still had those damn contacts in. Panic seized in his core and he went rigid, looking to Namjoon again in abject horror.

“I don’t have—I’m not… he’ll know!” Jimin hissed, trying to pull the duvet over his midsection.

“It’s okay. He knows the truth already and everything’s fine. Don’t worry about that right now.” Namjoon assured him. “We just want to make sure you’re okay. Dr. Bang says that your injuries aren’t too concerning and you’ll be healed up in no time, but you went through a lot tonight.”

“Though this certainly wasn’t how I was expecting to spend my evening when I received Namjoon’s call.” The doctor said with a laugh.

The familiarity with which the men addressed each other gave Jimin pause. “You… know Dr. Bang?”

“Yes.” Namjoon cleared his throat awkwardly. “Dr. Bang is the one who commissioned us to send our completed robot to Yoongi-ssi… in the hopes that he could overcome his illness.”

Jimin felt his blood run cold. “You knew… about his allergy? When all this started, you knew?”

Namjoon sighed. “Yes, we knew. The whole team. It was true that our timetable was forced sooner because of the impending sale of the Project Serendipity team, but before that became an issue, Dr. Bang had requested that once our robot was successful in interacting with humans and forming bonds with them, that we send Mochi 3 to meet Yoongi-ssi.”

“You knew?” Jimin balked. “You knew the whole time and you sent me in there knowing that I could have killed him?!”

“Jimin, please.” Namjoon said, trying to quell him. He spared a nervous glance toward Yoongi, but the man was looking intently at Jimin. “We were reasonably certain that wouldn't happen, since Yoongi-ssi had no reason to doubt that he was interacting with a robot—”

“Because he knew Mochi 3 was a robot, which meant all I had to do was convince him I was Mochi 3.” Jimin finished for him in a flat tone. “But if I had made a single mistake… if I had tipped him off and blown my cover… he could have died, and that would have been on me!”

“No, it would have been on me.” Namjoon insisted. “On all of the Project Serendipity team.”

“It wouldn't have been your touch that killed him!” Jimin snarled. “It wouldn't have been your arms he would have fallen into, gasping for air. How… how dare you! I trusted you and you used me and put his life in danger!”

“Jimin?” The name had been spoken with hesitance, and he realized it was because Yoongi had never really used it before. He looked up to see the older man standing there, closer to the bed now, lips pressed together in something like acceptance, his eyes fond. “It's all right. I know… it may seem like a betrayal, but I know that in the end, everyone here was only doing everything they could to help me.”

Jimin let out a trembling breath, glancing away. He couldn't even look at the other man… he felt too guilty.

“I think I will take my leave, now.” Dr. Bang said, gathering his things. “If you find yourself in need of any further medical assistance, you are welcome to call me. I believe what is best for Jimin right now is rest, and to take it easy on that arm so that it can heal.”

“Yes, sir.” Jimin murmured in assent.

“Thank you so much, Doctor. I’ll see you out.” Namjoon spoke up, following him to the door.

“Yes, that would be good.” Dr. Bang said, turning to Yoongi and Jimin. “I think it’s best if you two spoke in private anyway. I’m sure you have a lot to discuss.”

With a respectful bow, he took his leave, Namjoon heading out with him.

The silence of the room felt deafening, then… Jimin was sure they needed to talk, too, but he had nothing of merit to say. A thousand apologies were crowded in his throat, but none of them felt sufficient.

“I have… so much to say, but I can’t seem to find the words.” Yoongi admitted, blessedly breaking that cold silence. He sat next to the blond on the bed, and Jimin couldn’t help but notice how vulnerable he looked. His heart was so open. It was a wonder no one had taken advantage of him and shattered it… but then, his allergy had seen to that being an impossibility, hadn’t it? Was his heart only open now because he was free of it? Was that his doing? The implication fell heavily on Jimin’s shoulders. He shuddered.

When he didn’t receive a response, Yoongi continued. “Then again I’ve… never been good at this sort of thing. I’ve never really had the need to be.”

“Mhm.” Jimin grunted noncommittally. It was all he could manage through the thorny tangle of conflicting emotions tumbling around in his head. He felt dizzy.

’Master is good at many things.’ Echoed a voice in his ear, and he realized then that his earpiece was still in. He dug it out of his ear and set it down hard on the nightstand, grimacing. He never wanted to hear that stupid robot tell him what to say ever again.

Yoongi regarded him curiously, but didn’t ask. After another beat, he spoke once more. “May I ask you something, Jimin?”

“Of course, Mast—erm… Yoongi-ssi.” Jimin replied, nearly slipping up. He swallowed down the title before he could finish it, and it sat there in his throat like lead.

“I think you know me well enough to call me hyung. In fact… you should just drop the formalities altogether.” Yoongi told him.

“O-okay.” Jimin murmured.

“I suspect you've already given me an answer.” Yoongi replied, a soft, amused grin gracing his lips. “Was it you… every time?”

Jimin’s small fingers picked at the tiny threads in the embroidery of the duvet, his eyes following the action. He couldn’t look at him. “The first time you ever saw the robot, in the old warehouse setup… that was Mochi 3. Every other time, it was me. Except… the night you found Mochi 3 charging in the lab. That was the robot.”

“I see.” Yoongi responded, nodding in understanding.

“That night… when you came to talk to Mochi 3 and you thought no one else was around. I… I was there.” Jimin told him, voice shaking. “I wanted… so badly to tell you that I was human… that the Mochi 3 you saw in front of you wasn't the one you spent your days with. That it wasn't the one who kissed you… the one who… cares for you.”

The edges of Yoongi’s eyes perked up in surprise before his expression softened, his right hand coming up to stroke along Jimin’s jaw. “In the end… my wish came true. You're like my own velveteen rabbit. Was that… your small way of telling me?”

“Yes.” Jimin’s face fell, regretful. “But that story… has a bittersweet ending.”

“Then let's make a better one.” Yoongi offered with a soft smile.

Jimin met his eyes again, then. “Can we really… start over?”

“No.” Yoongi answered honestly, shaking his head. “So let's just… begin again, from here and now.”

Jimin watched as Yoongi slid his hand over his own, such a simple gesture that somehow felt so intimate. In the low light of the bedroom, he could just make out the elegant lines of his fingers, the fingers of a pianist. They tightened around his own. He took a trembling breath.

“This is… the kind of moment when two people should kiss.” Jimin whispered, finally meeting his eyes once more.

This time, it was Yoongi who leaned in.

He had expected something familiar… after all, they had kissed several times before. But it wasn’t familiar at all. Jimin didn’t sit passively. No… he surged forward, until he was practically in the other’s lap. He let out a sweet, needy little sound that ended up tangled between their mouths as he brought his hands up to card into Yoongi’s hair, hauling him close, kissing him deep and reckless.

Yoongi realized then he had never kissed Jimin… not really. He had kissed a man pretending to be a robot. He had kissed a man terrified of being found out, terrified of revealing the truth and hurting Yoongi. He had kissed a man who had held back, measured his breaths and cocked his head just right and kept his tongue tucked behind his teeth. That had been but a shadow of his true nature.

Jimin… Jimin kissed like he couldn’t get enough, pressing close, then closer still, as if even a millimeter of space between them was too much. He kissed as though it were an apology, a promise and a declaration all in one. It was as if he had wadded up every bit of caution left in him and pitched it out, no longer in need of it. This… this was the real Jimin. This wasn’t a Jimin who was pretending to be someone, or something, else.

Yoongi wound his arm around Jimin’s waist, wrapped the fingers of his other hand around the back of Jimin’s neck, wanting him to know it was okay, that he wanted this, that he needed this, just as badly as he did. The pads of his middle finger found the place where that fake power button had once been, the skin at the base of his neck still just barely sticky from the residue of the glue, and for some reason, he wasn’t bitter at being reminded of the lie. He was glad. He was so goddamn glad that Jimin was real. He couldn’t care what it had taken to get them to this point, just that they were here.

The breaths separating their heated kisses had grown longer and more frequent, but Jimin’s actions weren’t any less frantic. When Yoongi opened his eyes, he realized the other was watching him in the spaces in between, as though he were drinking him in. His hands slid down to grip at Yoongi’s shirt, twisting into the fabric there at his chest.

“You… have no idea how hard it was.” Jimin murmured, his eyes sparkling and throat tight as he rasped out the words in between fevered kisses, gentle nips. “To bottle everything up… to keep everything inside, to keep that stupid secret… to pretend. To pretend I couldn’t feel, all while I felt so much for you, more and more every day.”

“Jimin…” Yoongi husked, low and dark against those plush pink lips.

“I lied. I lied about everything. I lied every time I pretended to be a robot, but I lied about other things, too.” Jimin continued, his words coming out in a desperate, breathless rush, still kissing him at every pause. “When I said you wouldn’t own me if I was human… that was a lie. I’m yours. I’m still yours. I think I might always be yours. No matter what I do, I’ll always belong to you.”

Jimin…” Yoongi said again, for lack of anything else to say.

But he didn’t shy away… just pulled Jimin closer, kissed him more fiercely, and that… that said everything.

“Please, please, Yoongi…” Jimin whined, tugging him by his shirt until the other man was practically on top of him. “I need you, I need—”

“Shh, okay, it’s okay Jimin. I have you.” Yoongi assured, letting the other pull him, moving them both until Jimin’s back was on the mattress, head cradled in an arc of pillows. He settled over him, leaning down to press gentle kisses to his lips, along his jaw, down across his neck. “You’re mine… my pretty Jimin… my perfect, beautiful Jimin.”

He whispered those sweet, soothing words against the other’s skin, even as the younger man pulled at his clothes, willing him to shed them. He didn’t let them part for more than a few fleeting seconds at a time, not until there wasn’t a single stitch of clothing between them and Jimin looked up at him with a sort of nervousness, seeking approval. But Yoongi just stared… because Jimin was gorgeous, yes… but he was hurt, and he hated to see it. There were little red welts on his skin where that titanium brace had dug into him, day after day. There were small cuts and scrapes from the kidnappers, and even some fresh bruises still blooming under his pale skin. Yoongi leaned down and kissed over the red lines in his flesh where the metal brace had once sat, his hands soothing down his sides.

“You’re so beautiful, Jimin.” He murmured, mouthing over his ribcage. “How could I have ever believed that someone so gorgeous could be real?”

Jimin flushed from the tips of his ears to his solar plexus, teeth worrying at his bottom lip as he watched the other. “Y-Yoongi…”

“I can still hardly believe it.” Yoongi continued, running the flat of his tongue over Jimin’s nipple, causing him to jolt beneath him. “I keep thinking I must be dreaming.”

“Yoongi… Yoongi please, I want you. I want you so fucking much.” Jimin whined, pulling him up until he could capture his mouth again, press his every desire into him, let him know just how much he needed him.

Yoongi nodded when they parted for air, letting out a shaking breath. They’d come to a point when he couldn’t help but realize he had absolutely no idea what he was meant to be doing. He wasn’t clueless; he’d watched enough porn to know the basics, but he suddenly felt incredibly lost as to where to even begin.

“I…” Yoongi paused, but after a moment, he thought of something. He leaned over into his nightstand, shuffling through the drawer until he found his personal lubricant. He held onto it as though it was his only grasp on the situation, giving a tentative smile. “I can… we can…”

His sentence petered off, and he felt so helpless, floundering for a moment.

“I can… do it myself.” Jimin assured, taking the lube gently from his grip and offering a bashful little smile.

“N-no, I want to, I just…” Yoongi crawled forward on the bed over Jimin until the younger man was forced to lie back on the pillows, blinking up at him curiously. “Walk me through it?”

Jimin stared at him for a long moment before he nodded, uncapping the lube and holding it out. Yoongi moved his fingers under it, and Jimin coated the middle one liberally before pressing the bottle into the other’s free hand. “Use a lot of that, and start with just one finger.”

Yoongi nodded, a look of serious concentration on his face as he brought his hands between Jimin’s legs. He willed himself to relax as that single slick digit was pressed against him, gentle and so unsure. Yoongi just rubbed the pad of his finger back and forth over his rim, pushing against it just a bit at random intervals as if to test whether his body was ready to take it. After a minute or so, Jimin lifted his head to peer down at him.

“You might need to just… go for it. It’s been a while since I’ve done this and—”

“I’m in no rush.” Yoongi assured in a soft voice, still moving so carefully. He leaned down and began to kiss and nip gently at the other’s neck, up toward the cut of his jaw.

Jimin let out a full-body shiver, the tension bleeding out of him. He had no idea he’d even been holding so much until he felt it melt away, and just like that, Yoongi’s first finger slid into him up to the second knuckle. He let out a punched-out little whine of satisfaction, hips rolling down to chase the feeling.

Yoongi’s lips curled up against Jimin’s skin in a pleased smile as he continued his ministrations, rhythmic and unhurried. He’d watched enough porn to know how to do this… long ago he’d forsaken mass-produced drivel in favor of raw, homemade videos. He had watched them, those random couples so often clad in masks, tucked away in nondescript hotel rooms or messy bedrooms, and he imagined himself in any one of their places. He imagined what it would be like to experience that kind of closeness with another person, to touch and to be touched in that way. He imagined himself with men, with women, with Suran, perhaps… or an actor from his favorite dramas. But nothing, none of it, could have compared to the real thing. Nothing he could have ever dreamed up remotely compared to the way Jimin writhed under him when he pressed a second finger into him alongside the first, whispering up at him how much he wanted it, how good it felt.

Admittedly, he may not have known just how long he needed to do this, were it not for Jimin’s direction. He begged him for more when it was no longer enough, never leaving him to wonder if what he was doing was what he wanted. He even became a little petulant, at times, writhing and growling and grabbing at him, trying to get more, like some beautiful, spoiled thing. Finally, he reached a breaking point, sitting up a little and huffing, his face gorgeously flushed, lips bright red as he pouted in irritation.

“Fuck, Yoongi… I want it. Just… that’s enough, please! Do you have any—” Jimin cut himself off. Of course he wouldn't. Why would a man who couldn’t touch human beings up until a week ago have protection lying around?

“No, but… it’s all right.” Yoongi assured him, leaning in to kiss him softly. “You were my first kiss. You’re my first everything.”

Jimin nodded fervently. “I tested negative for everything back when I tried out for this one agency a few months ago and it’s not like I’ve been with anyone since… I mean, I understand if you don’t trust that, though—”

“Jimin. My trust in you is the very foundation of the bridge which links me back to humanity.” Yoongi admonished, nosing under his jaw. “I will always trust you.”

“Even though… all of that time I pretended to be Mochi 3, it was built on a lie?” Jimin whispered, eyes shining.

“The parts that mattered weren't a lie.” Yoongi told him, kissing softly at his neck. “And the truth… the truth was even more beautiful.”

Yoongi…” Jimin rasped like a broken sob, as though the words were an offering, contained within it all the forgiveness he could have ever asked for… far more than he felt he deserved.

Yoongi kissed the worshipful cry from his mouth, willed away the tears sparkling in his eyes, because he couldn't bear that Jimin, his pretty, precious, human Jimin, felt even an ounce of sorrow when he himself was overjoyed. He wanted to make him understand just what it meant for him to have this, to have him, even if the path they took to get here was rife with trial. It didn't matter. He had loved him when he believed him to be nothing more than computer chips and machinery. Now that he knew him to be flesh and blood, mind and spirit… how could he do anything less than love him even more?

“I do trust you.” Yoongi reiterated, kissing the corner of his mouth as he pulled back. “With this. With everything.”

Jimin nodded, biting his lip thoughtfully before taking Yoongi by the shoulders and rotating them so that he was on top, the other man lying on his back on the mattress.

“It’ll be easier this way.” Jimin explained in a soft voice, his cheeks turning pink. “You, uh. You’re kind of… big.”

Yoongi raised an eyebrow at him, smirking in that satisfied way of his. “Am I, now?”

“Yeah, but don’t let it go to your head.” Jimin chided, swatting at his chest as he straddled him. Yoongi’s expression melted instantly to a sort of vulnerable awe that had Jimin flushing from his ears to his chest. He bit his lip, lifting his hips until he could settle back against him, feeling the insistent press of Yoongi’s cock along his ass.

It was a little daunting, feeling Yoongi’s eyes so intently upon him as he slowly, gently lowered himself down onto him. He willed himself to breathe, slow and deep… but Yoongi had taken such care in preparing him, and his body took him willingly, letting him settle his ass against the other’s hips with no great amount of discomfort. He took a few seconds to adjust regardless, taking another shaking breath. Beneath him, Yoongi was trembling, his palms sliding up Jimin’s thighs until they rested upon his waist, thumbs against his hip bones.

“Fuck, Jimin… you feel so good.” He growled, his voice somehow at least two octaves lower than normal.

Jimin shivered, biting his lip as it curled up into a little knowing smirk. He was going to ruin Yoongi if he was already talking like that when neither of them had even moved yet. He braced his uninjured arm on Yoongi’s chest, lifting his hips before dropping them back down again and groaning at the sensation.

Yoongi let out a strangled little grunt of a sound, his fingers digging hard into Jimin’s sides. When the younger man did it again, he spat out a curse, jolting under him. Jimin just delighted in it, watching him then as he built up a slow rhythm, lifting up on his thighs before grinding his hips back, over and over and over. Yoongi didn’t seem to know what he wanted to do with his hands… they scrabbled at his sides, slid down his thighs, gripped hard at the muscles rippling there.

Yoongi found purchase on his waist again, and when Jimin rolled himself back down, Yoongi bucked his hips up to meet him. Jimin threw his head back, letting out a sweet little wail that Yoongi felt through his entire spine. Fuck… there was no way he was going to last long at all, every sensation so overwhelming and new and god it was so good.

Jimin tried to brace himself with his other hand, but a sharp sting of pain shot up his entire arm, causing his elbow to buckle. He nearly fell forward onto Yoongi, but the older man braced him, taking the opportunity of their close proximity to press a sweet kiss to his lips.

“Here, let me…” Yoongi murmured, taking Jimin by the shoulders and waist, turning them both over until Jimin was lying against the pillows again. He whined when Yoongi pulled out, grabbing for him and trying to pull him close again, though he stayed just out of reach.

“Yoongi…” He whimpered, his small fingers curling around Yoongi’s hair when the older man dipped down and kissed over the juncture where his hip met his thigh. He ran his tongue over the sensitive skin, pressing two fingers into him again, searching for that spot that made him arch up and cry out. “What’re you doing? Want you…”

“Tell me when you’re close.” Yoongi told him, a non-answer, but one Jimin was helpless to not agree to, especially when the other nipped at his hip bone and crooked his fingers just right.

“O-okay… oh… f-fuck…” Jimin keened, letting himself succumb to the sensation again. Yoongi had never done this kind of thing with anyone but himself… so it spoke to reason that he didn’t have the greatest amount of stamina. He wanted to make sure Jimin enjoyed himself… and there was something so endearing about that, it made Jimin’s heart twist in his chest.

Yoongi focused on him, then, finding Jimin’s prostate and running the pads of his fingers across it, over and over and over again, rhythmic and slow. Jimin was shaking like a leaf, a litany of broken little whines escaping him in a torrent. Yoongi’s mouth never stayed in one place for long, leaving soft kisses and nipping gently at his inner thighs, his hip bones, dipping his tongue into his navel or along the dip of his abdomen. Just the sounds he was making, however, were enough to drive Yoongi wild, and the older man found himself rutting against the sheets to relieve the aching need, panting hard into Jimin’s flesh.

“Yoongi-!” The name was punched from Jimin’s chest when the other curved his fingers in a way that had him bucking up off the mattress. “Fuck, please… m’close, m’so close, please…”

“All right… shh…” Yoongi soothed, crawling over him. He found the lube again, drizzling it over his own cock and slicking himself up once more. He latched his mouth possessively to Jimin’s neck when he entered him again, an arm wound tightly under his waist to keep him still. Jimin wrapped his arms around the other and squeezed, pressing their bare chests flush together where they lay. Yoongi reveled in it… the feeling of skin on skin made it feel real. There was no metal, no wires, no carefully-measured responses or calculated movements. This was raw, unfiltered, human. The whine that punched out of Jimin’s lungs was a lewd, obscene thing… needy and satisfied all in one.

Yoongi didn’t hold back this time, fucking Jimin with fast, sharp thrusts that had him jolting under him. Yoongi was close, too goddamn close, but Jimin was closer, his fingernails clawing across Yoongi’s shoulders as he begged, pleaded, urged him to move faster, to go harder, to give him everything.

When Yoongi slipped a hand between them to wrap around Jimin’s cock, stroking him, that was all it took for Jimin to arch up and come hard between them, his voice cracking on a shout of Yoongi’s name. Yoongi wasn’t far behind, coming around a groan as he pressed himself hard against his lover, as though even an inch of space between them was too much. After a long moment, he rolled off onto the mattress, panting hard. It took several minutes for Jimin to come back to himself, his own chest heaving for air.

He watched Yoongi with a fond little grin, watched as he stared at the ceiling and processed what had just happened. He could practically see the sluggishly-moving cogs of his brain as he tried to make sense of it. He laughed softly, wondering idly if he’d broken him. He sat up and pressed a kiss to his cheek, making his way to the bathroom on shaking legs. He’d have to bring Yoongi up to speed on post-sex etiquette some time later, but for right now, he could handle himself.

Yoongi’s bathroom was huge, overwhelmingly so. There were a million rags and towels, however, along with about seventeen kinds of soap, so Jimin managed to clean himself up without too much trouble. Jimin blinked at his reflection in the mirror, nearly jumping out of his skin when the Mochi 3 HUD flared to life, identifying him. He’d left the stupid contacts in and completely forgotten about it… how stupid could he be? He groaned and poked around in Yoongi’s cabinets for a few minutes, though it wasn’t as fruitful as he’d hoped it would be.

Jimin eventually slid the contacts out of his eyes and left them in a glass near the sink, since he had been unable to find a spare lens case. He didn’t want to ruin them, since he was sure they were worth a fortune. He also couldn’t help but think he’d screwed up by leaving them in. He’d probably never hear the end of it from Namjoon.

Still, he couldn’t regret it. No matter the roundabout way they’d gotten here, the result was more than he could have hoped for. And when he slid under the sheets, only to have Yoongi wrap him up in his arms and kiss his hair while he held him close, well… it was impossible to regret anything at all.

***

Namjoon awoke feeling like he’d been hit by a freight train. He hadn’t slept well, and Jin seemed to notice, handing him his coffee and a plate of eggs when he sat down at their little makeshift dining table in the lab’s kitchen. It was too late for breakfast, but that didn’t seem to bother them.

“Rough night?” Jin asked, gently kissing his temple.

Namjoon grunted. “Just… a lot happened. A lot to process. And we haven’t all been sleeping well regardless.”

“True.” Jin agreed, bringing Hoseok a plate and a coffee refill before returning to the table to sit next to Namjoon. “Taehyung isn’t back yet?”

“Still with Jungkook, most likely.” Hoseok replied, clearly distracted with what was on his computer. “Namjoon mentioned he took Tae home last night, he was too stressed to stay here.”

Jin’s face scrunched up a little in confusion, but a suggestive look from Namjoon made him close his mouth and not bother responding.

“I guess Jimin stayed at Yoongi-ssi’s, since he never came back. Probably for the best, he deserves rest on a decent bed.” Namjoon said. “Hopefully they worked everything out.”

“Oh, they worked things out.” Hoseok snickered, still typing. “Jimin must have forgotten he still had his contacts in. I had to delete last night’s footage.”

Namjoon closed his eyes, then took a deep breath before letting it out, lips pressed together tightly so he didn’t react too harshly without taking a moment to process. After a long few seconds, he finally responded. “I’m not sure how to feel about that.”

“It was fine. They talked everything out, judging by the amount of footage before the stuff I had to delete.” Hoseok clarified.

Jin gave a sympathetic look, resting a hand on Namjoon’s shoulder. “It was clearly torturing Jimin that he had those feelings for Yoongi-ssi, ones he had to suppress for fear of him discovering the truth… and Yoongi-ssi was convinced he’d fallen for a robot which, in his mind, could never love him back. It sounds like everything worked out in the end.”

“I had to remove Mochi 3 from Companion Mode, too. Not sure what it learned from last night but I’m sure it wasn’t anything useful unless you plan on marketing these things as sex toys.” Hoseok added.

Namjoon groaned. “Why is it so hard to conduct normal scientific research without humans managing to make things so complicated—”

A knock cut through the room, silencing everyone. Each of the scientists shared a look before Jin finally shoved Namjoon toward the door.

Namjoon cleared his throat and opened it, seeing Yoongi standing there and… smiling. No, he was beaming. It was a little disarming.

“Good afternoon, Professor. I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.”

“N-no, not at all. What, uh. To what do we owe the pleasure?” Namjoon asked after he’d composed himself.

“I came to invite you to dinner. All of you.” Yoongi poked his head around him enough to see Jin and Hoseok, the latter waving at him with a wide grin. “Tonight, at my place.”

“Oh. Um. Sure… that would be… nice.” Namjoon replied, though it sounded as much like a question as an agreement.

“You should let the others know as well. Jungkook and… Taehyung.” Yoongi seemed proud of himself for remembering their names. “Jimin, of course, will be there.”

“How is he doing?” Namjoon asked hastily, surprising himself with just how desperate the query had sounded.

“He’s doing well. I’ve let him rest all through the morning… he was still sleeping when I left.” Yoongi explained. “Dr. Bang did say he should rest, so I’ve taken those orders to heart. But I think it would do everyone some good to all get together tonight and see him.”

Namjoon couldn’t agree more. His last memory of Jimin had been the younger man bloodied and bruised and angry with him over keeping the secret that he’d known about Yoongi’s allergy all along. He let out a breath, nodding. “Yes, I… think that would be good. We will see you tonight.”

“Things should be ready around six. Please come at your convenience.” Yoongi said a little too formally, offering a bow before taking his leave.

Namjoon stared after him for a long moment before closing the door in his wake.

 

Yoongi had all but skipped back to the mansion, immediately heading for the kitchen. He contacted his grocer delivery and ordered far too much food, wanting to make sure there would be more than enough for everyone. He bustled around in the pantry for a bit before heading to the bedroom. The younger man was still asleep, his small fingers clutching at the duvet, his brow furrowed. He seemed to be dreaming, and not about anything pleasant. Yoongi frowned and sat on the bed next to him, running a hand through that pale blond hair.

“It’s all right. You’re safe, Jiminie.” He murmured, soft and low and reassuring. The lines along his brow smoothed out, his mouth going slack until he looked almost… content. Yoongi smiled, his thumb skirting over the other’s temple. “Shh, that’s it.”

He was happy to sit there and gently pet through the other’s hair, whispering sweet promises that he was okay. In a way, it was a comfort to him, too… knowing that Jimin was here and real and safe and his. Not in the same way as Mochi 3, no… but this was better, because Jimin had chosen him. That knowledge settled warmly in his chest, nestled there next to his heart.

It wasn’t long before Jimin stirred, letting out a soft little groan before blinking open his eyes. It took him several long seconds to process where he was, but when he saw Yoongi grinning fondly down at him, he smiled.

“Good morning.” He murmured almost sheepishly, ducking behind his arm to hide the way his teeth were worrying at his bottom lip.

“It’s already after noon.” Yoongi corrected, shaking his head affectionately. “Are you hungry? I can make lunch.”

Jimin nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, I, uh… I’m kinda starving, actually.”

“Let’s get you some food, then.” Yoongi said, taking his hand and pulling him up.

Jimin sat at the kitchen bar on a stool, his feet swinging to and fro above the marble floors. He waited with his chin on his hands as he watched Yoongi make him some ramyun with far too much care, bringing the broth to a simmer before adding the spices, cooking the noodles to perfection and then pouring the piping-hot broth over thinly-sliced beef to cook it exactly enough. He added scallions and a poached egg before sliding the bowl over with a pair of elegant wooden chopsticks.

“You’re not allowed to eat anything too filling, since we’re having dinner with everyone tonight.” Yoongi told him as he worked on a bowl for himself.

“Oh… we are?” Jimin asked in between mouthfuls of beef and noodles. How could ramyun taste this heavenly? He couldn’t think of a single restaurant he’d ever eaten at that remotely compared.

“Yes. Everyone is eager to see you, and I think it would be… nice. We should all get together with no secrets or barriers between us.” Yoongi replied with a decided nod.

Jimin grinned, watching the other as he ladled broth onto his meat. “That’s… yeah. Wonderful. I can’t wait.”

Yoongi just gave him that gummy smile of his, and they ate together as though they had done it a million times before.

***

The early afternoon sun illuminated the sleep-soft lines of Taehyung’s face, and Jungkook found himself tracking the tendrils of light over every curve, drinking in the moment. He wasn’t usually one to rise without an alarm, but he’d made the mistake of leaving his window open, and the sun decided to act as one for him.

He glanced at the clock, grimacing at the time. Well after noon. They were never going to hear the end of this.

“Taehyungie-hyung...” Jungkook cooed, gently nudging the other man, poking at his side when he didn’t respond right away.

“Fuck off.” He growled, pulling the covers higher.

“Well aren’t you a delight. It’s afternoon… this goes well beyond not being a morning person.” Jungkook teased, tugging the covers down.

“I’m an engineer. We’re creatures of the night.” Taehyung grumbled. He huffed in defeat, grabbing his phone and scrolling through the seventeen missed texts he’d gotten.

“I’ll say.” Jungkook replied suggestively with a snort. He watched him for a long moment before he turned over and went for his own phone. He paused when he realized there were two on his nightstand. “Wait… whose cell phone is this?”

Taehyung just raised a tired eyebrow at him over his shoulder, blinking as he tried to process the question.

“Oh shit.” Jungkook snatched up the extra phone, realizing just where it had come from. “I plucked this off one of the guys from the warehouse last night hoping it would give Namjoon-hyung some leads on who was trying to take Mochi 3. Fuck, I can’t believe I forgot to give this to him! What kind of idiot am I?”

He jumped out of bed, pulling on his jeans and rooting through a pile of mostly-clean clothes for a shirt he hadn’t worn in a few days. Slim pickings.

“It’s fine, I’m sure the Professor had plenty on his mind last night.” Taehyung grumbled tiredly. “He texted, apparently Yoongi knows everything now, and he managed not to go into anaphylactic shock.”

Jungkook paused. “Wait… he knows?”

“I'm told Jimin called him ‘Master’ before passing out.” Taehyung deadpanned.

Jungkook hissed through his teeth. “Yeah, that’d do it, I guess.”

“Honestly, this is for the better. Let them sort out their shit. And hey, we cured him, didn't we?”

“He was seriously allergic to human contact?” Jungkook asked, tone incredulous. “I heard it sort of mentioned in passing or implied, but… really? Is that a real thing?”

“Human psychology is a strange beast.” Taehyung told him with a shrug, wriggling over to the side of the bed and reaching out until he was able to snatch the other’s pant leg, pulling him closer. “For example, we obviously have some dire business to attend to, but all I wanna do is get you back under these covers.”

“Tae!” Jungkook huffed in a scandalized, almost offended manner, his face flushing. He swatted the other away, getting out of his reach long enough to pull on the shirt he’d picked out. “I’m flattered, but really… priorities.”

“I know.” Taehyung grunted, finally rolling out of bed with a great and dramatic sigh.

He and Jungkook took the van back to the lab, rocking out to some new girl group that was all the rage. Everything felt… light. Despite that there was still so much to figure out… it seemed as though the worst was over. Yoongi knew the truth. Jimin was free from having to lie. And Jungkook… Jungkook just smiled to himself when Taehyung threaded a hand into his hair at a red light, looking over to grin sweetly at him. He could have clocked a hundred more hired thugs, would have done it until every bone in his hands splintered, if it meant Taehyung would be okay and Jimin would be safe.

 

By the time they arrived at the lab, everyone was up and milling around. Hoseok was thoroughly distracted by his computer, barely glancing their way when they came in.

“Our heroes return! Well-rested, hopefully.” He teased.

Jungkook ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, we kind of slept in.”

“It was earned. Last night was… well. Not the kind of thing we deal with every day.” Namjoon said, patting him on the back.

“Oh, speaking of last night. I grabbed a cell phone off one of those thugs. Think we can do anything with it?” Jungkook asked, pulling the mobile out of his jeans pocket.

“A phone? That’s a great lead, Jungkook!” Jin piped up, all but snatching it from him. He stared at it as though it were made of gold. “This could tell us who is after the Mochi 3… and who hurt Jimin!”

“Gimme!” Hoseok said, making grabby-hands toward him. “I’ll get you all the data in this thing down to the last megabyte.”

Jin handed it over, and Hoseok wasted no time in hooking it up to his computer, typing away again, this time with renewed purpose. The others watched over his shoulder for a bit, but when he didn’t immediately have anything for them, they busied themselves elsewhere.

Jungkook wandered over to where Mochi 3 was charging, making a face at the robot. He still couldn’t get used to how much it looked like Jimin. No wonder Yoongi hadn’t been able to tell the difference.

“Say… since this whole thing is kind of... over. What were your plans for the Mochi 3?” Jungkook asked, looking to Namjoon.

The elder pressed his lips together. “Mochi 3 has been able to learn a lot through using Jimin as an avatar. I believe we can use that data to create better robot companion algorithms.”

“Right, but. What about… Mochi 3 itself?” Jungkook murmured.

Mochi 3 cocked its head at him, speaking in that flat tone that told him it was still in Operational Mode. “Is something going to happen to me?”

Namjoon made a dismissive noise, shaking his head. “No, you aren’t going anywhere, Mochi 3. We’ll go back to beta testing with the new data. Maybe… give you a different face. It’s not really fair to Jimin, and honestly, I should have never done it in the first place.”

“If you change its face, you have to change the name, too.” Jin reminded him, smirking. “Since Jimin inspired that, too.”

“He did?” Jungkook piped up. “How so?”

“Ah, it was back when he was younger. His cheeks were a lot fuller. When he was upset or sad he used to pout and puff his face out.” Jin did a poor impression, his longer features not doing it much justice. “He looked like a mochi treat. So we called him ‘mochi’ sometimes.”

“Huh.” Jungkook replied thoughtfully. He’d seen the look, but Jimin had far thinner cheeks, now… so he hadn’t ever thought of it in the same way they did. Regardless, he didn’t hate the idea of Mochi 3 being given a different face. It was eerie seeing so much of Jimin in it, and yet, none of him at all.

“Aagh! This is pointless!” Hoseok griped, hands coming down hard against his desk in a huff.

“What’s wrong? Is the phone encrypted?” Taehyung asked, going over to watch the screen over his shoulder again.

“No! The opposite… it’s wide open, but there’s nothing on it! Nothing useful.” Hoseok grumbled, shoving his keyboard away. “The only contacts and recent calls are to and from burners. The only text string is between the owner of this phone and a contact labeled ‘Boss’. I can see which cell towers this phone pinged off of the most, which tells me it was usually in the vicinity of our old lab, this lab, the warehouse district and MK Enterprises… but there’s no way for me to track the location of the recipient phone without me having it in-hand, too.”

Jin frowned. “So… we aren’t any closer to discovering who was behind the kidnapping?”

Hoseok shook his head. “No. Safe to assume this ‘Boss’ is who those thugs were working for, but otherwise, nothing.”

“Back to square one, then.” Jungkook murmured.

“Well… maybe not.” Hoseok said. “In the texts… Yoongi-ssi comes up… a lot. I think he might have a better chance of knowing who this boss is.”

“We can ask him to look at it, then.” Jungkook replied hopefully.

“Sure, I… damn! Speaking of Yoongi-ssi, we need to get going. We’ll have to deal with it later.” Namjoon sighed, glancing at his watch. He grabbed a button-up which was hanging by the curtained sleeping area, freshly ironed courtesy of Jin.

“You… going somewhere?” Jungkook asked as the man hastily buttoned the shirt up, rolling the sleeves.

“Yes… Yoongi-ssi’s. For dinner.” Namjoon stared at him. “You didn’t get my most recent text? I let you know about it. You two are invited, too.”

“Uh… no, must’ve come through when we were driving.” Jungkook replied, looking to Taehyung, who just shrugged.

“Well, you’re coming too. He invited everyone.” Jin said, as though it was obvious. When he shed his lab coat, it was clear he was dressed for dinner as well.

“Sure, yeah, it’s just… we weren’t expecting to go anywhere.” Jungkook murmured, running a hand through his hair. He felt underdressed.

“Give us like fifteen minutes, we need to shower and change.” Taehyung elaborated.

Jin shrugged. “All right, but you’d better hurry because I’m not saving any food for you if you come late.”

Jungkook snorted. “We won’t take long.”

With that, Jin headed out with Namjoon and Hoseok, making their way to the mansion across the grounds. Jungkook and Taehyung showered, keeping their promise to make it quick, despite Taehyung trying his damndest to take his sweet time. Jungkook appeased him by letting the other jerk them both off together under the hot spray, though it was clear that Taehyung would have much rather taken his time. Food was a convincing prospect, however, and eventually they managed to get cleaned up, dried off and dressed enough to head to Yoongi’s, Jungkook borrowing a button-down to put over his otherwise plain black tee. He spotted the burner cell on Hoseok’s desk on their way out and realized the others had forgotten it. He shoved it into his jeans pocket as they left for the mansion, Taehyung locking up behind them.

 

Jungkook shifted awkwardly on his feet on that elegant porch, glancing at Taehyung. “Do I just… knock? Go in?”

“There’s a doorbell, nerd.” Taehyung teased, leaning past him to ring it and shaking his head.

Moments later, the door opened, and there stood Jimin. He beamed up at them, his eyes nearly disappearing as they only did when he was truly happy. “Hey… you’re right on time. Yoongi’s still cooking, c’mon in.”

Jimin looked… good. Tired, perhaps, but there was a sort of well-rested look about him, the tension gone out of his shoulders. He was wearing a sweater that Jungkook was reasonably certain wasn’t his own; he was sure he would have noticed something that garish in the other’s closet. It was bright red, with white stripes adorning the chest and sleeves, the English word ‘Loved’ repeated over and over within the lines. It draped just a little too widely at the collar, exposing a bit too much collarbone. A tiny purple bruise peeked out from just behind the hem, and Jungkook grinned knowingly.

He did not move, however, just standing in the doorway as if in a trance. Taehyung rolled his eyes, squeezing his shoulder and moving past him to let himself into the house. Jimin watched him go, then turned back to his roommate, cocking his head in concern.

“Jungkook?”

It pulled him from his stupor. He shook his head to clear it, his expression settling on something between worry and affection.

“I’m just… so glad you’re okay.” Jungkook said breathlessly, pulling the other into a gentle hug, as though he were afraid he might break him. Jimin returned it with a fond smile, squeezing him tightly just to prove he wasn’t some fragile thing.

“I’m fine. Dr. Bang says I’ll heal up in no time.” Jimin assured, pulling back to look up at him, gaze meaningful. “Thank you… for everything you did. Yoongi told me you were the one who really pushed him to help and… well. He might not tell you this himself, but he appreciated all that you did. And… I do, too.”

“We’re all just glad you’re okay.” Jungkook told him softly, pulling him in again for another quick hug and placing a gentle kiss at his temple. “And I think we’re all glad this whole… pretending to be a robot mess is over.”

“Tch, yeah, no one more than me!” Jimin agreed with a laugh, taking the other’s arm and leading him toward the kitchen, where the others were waiting.

The scientists were already chattering animatedly where they sat at the dining table, watching Yoongi cook behind the counter. Hoseok was going on about some new meat substitute grown from stem cells that was taking the vegetarian market by storm, insisting it would likely be mainstream soon based on it being more sustainable. Jin, of course, was arguing that nothing grown in a lab could possibly compare flavor-wise to the real thing.

“It’s that kind of thinking that keeps us in the technological stone age.” Hoseok retorted, scrunching up his face at the other.

“Says the man who helped build arguably the most advanced AI in the world in what amounts to a tool shed.” Jin bit back.

“Oh, I see we’re already starting off great.” Jungkook teased as he and Taehyung slid into two empty chairs next to each other, resting a hand on the other man’s thigh. In return, Taehyung flung an arm over his shoulder, snorting a laugh.

“Ah, but this is just like a family, right? Disagreements, constant arguing, awkward silences…”

“Shit, you’re right! Guess he gets the full experience.” Jungkook replied with a smirk, glancing over to Yoongi, who was mostly concentrating on the contents of the frying pan in front of him.

Jimin approached, slipping an arm around him and resting his head on the other’s shoulder, watching him cook. “Doing okay?”

“Yes, I’m almost done.” Yoongi assured, smiling down at him. “So this is what it's like to have family? It's so… loud.”

Jimin let out a peal of laughter, clearly amused by his cluelessness. Yoongi’s eyes strayed from his dish a little longer than he intended, caught up in the beautiful sight of the other's unrestrained reaction.

“Yeah, it’s loud and a little awkward, but it’s… nice, right?” Jimin asked as Yoongi let go of the frying pan to wrap an arm around him. He pulled him away from the stove and into a kiss, spontaneous and sweet.

Jimin seemed a little surprised by the action, his hands coming up to cup the other’s cheeks, the paws of his soft, borrowed sweater rubbing at Yoongi’s jaw where Jimin’s small fingers curled over them, and god, he could have kissed him forever. When they finally parted, Jimin’s cheeks were pink, his teeth digging into his bottom lip.

“What was that?”

“It’s nice.” Yoongi answered as though Jimin hadn’t said anything. “It’s perfect. You’re perfect.”

From his spot at the table, Jungkook caught a glimpse of the two of them grinning at each other like idiots, and he couldn’t help but smile. It was an incredible comfort to see Jimin so happy… after seeing him at what may have been his lowest points, it was all he could have asked for.

Taehyung, next to him, followed his gaze, and found himself smiling, too. That was, until he spotted the food. “Hey! Lovebirds! Don’t burn our dinner!”

Yoongi yelped an apology and went to rescue the dish while Jimin laughed and grabbed more drinks from the fridge.

Dinner was everything. The scientists praised Yoongi’s food. They teased him for the way he looked at Jimin, then heckled Jimin for the way he blushed about it. Several drinks in, they decided party games were a good idea. Taehyung, Jimin and Jungkook all argued over the best way to explain the rules to Yoongi, all while Hoseok casually went over them with him whilst they were bickering. Yoongi learned that Jungkook and Taehyung were fiercely competitive, and Jimin was a pouty, whiny mess when he lost. He learned that Jin was a sore loser who took his defeats with faux-grace and biting sarcasm. He learned that Hoseok was always cheery and liked to see his losses as a friend’s victory. He learned that Namjoon was scarily intelligent… and he learned a little about himself, too. He learned that he knew a lot of otherwise useless knowledge which was apparently was helpful in trivia games.

Yoongi learned so much about the things he’d been missing. He discovered how to make Jimin proud… when he answered several questions correctly which even Namjoon did not know, Jimin had slid into his lap, thrown his arms around him and made a delighted little noise he didn’t think he’d ever forget. He stuck his tongue out at the others, goading them about what good their science degrees were doing them now. His cheeks were flushed and his laugh was loud and they were all a little too tipsy, but it was glorious and beautiful and everything he’d been missing. These people were his friends.

He had friends.

When the drink got the best of them, they all sprawled out on the various furniture pieces and watched a movie… some generic action film. No one was really paying attention. Yoongi was too busy watching the way the low light of the television cast shadows across Jimin’s face where he lay upon his chest, his hand buried in that blond hair. Taehyung and Jungkook were tangled up in each other’s arms on the other couch, half asleep. Jin and Namjoon were seated on the third couch, leaning on each other but not taking up too much room since Hoseok was sitting at the other end of the sofa, sprawled upside-down with his legs over the back of the thing because he didn’t know how to use a chair properly, apparently (he claimed it helped his back… everyone else was pretty sure he was just extra).

When the credits rolled, Yoongi had about zero motivation to get up… but he voice-activated the lights and sat up anyway, nudging Jimin to do the same. The blond just rolled over on the couch and squirmed while he stretched over-dramatically, making probably the most adorable noise Yoongi had ever heard.

“So cute.” He teased, ruffling the other’s hair and earning a pout for his trouble.

“M’awake!” Jungkook grumbled, sitting up and stretching. As he did, his phone fell out of his pocket and clattered to the marble floor. He muttered a curse and picked it up… it wasn’t damaged, but it also wasn’t his phone.

Oh.

He’d never… they’d never told Yoongi about the phone. Jungkook cursed again.

“Fuck. I completely forgot.”

Hoseok cocked his head from across the room before turning himself rightside-up, sitting like a normal human now. “Is that? Oh.”

“What is it?” Yoongi asked, concerned.

Namjoon sighed. “We hate to put a damper on the mood but, uh. Jungkook has something to tell you, about last night.”

The room fell eerily silent, and it felt as though all the joy had been sucked out of it. Everyone’s faces instantly fell. Jungkook leaned forward, holding out the cellphone.

“I took this from one of those thugs.” He explained. “In all the chaos, I forgot to give it to Namjoon-hyung until today. He looked it over, and we even had Hoseok trace the numbers, but they’re all burners. Your name came up a lot in the texts, though. So we thought you might have better luck figuring out who this boss of theirs is.”

Yoongi took the phone, staring at its blank screen for several long moments before finally opening it. The text conversation was still open. He skimmed it in silence, his face impassive. The others waited with bated breath, Jimin leaning against his side with a hand on his bicep, as if to offer some form of comfort.

Finally, Yoongi spoke. His voice was soft, a little raw with concern. This had to be someone close to him… someone within his company. That would explain why they had been so desperate to sell off the Project Serendipity team’s subsidiary. They knew just what that team had made, and were trying so desperately to keep it from him.

“You said the numbers came back as burners?”

“Yeah, no leads there.” Hoseok confirmed.

“I know it sounds crazy but… you could try calling the number.” Jungkook said, too-casually.

“Their boss has to have been tipped off, right? He wouldn’t answer… would he?” Jimin asked incredulously.

Taehyung shrugged. “It’s hard to say what those guys did after they came to. Maybe they went back to their boss, warned him about the cell phone getting nabbed and their failure to acquire Mochi 3 and they’re all doing damage control. Maybe they knew failure wasn’t an option and took off to save their own skin. Maybe they’re complete idiots and didn’t even notice the phone being gone.”

“Doubtful.” Yoongi murmured.

“Either way… the only chance we have of getting to the bottom of this, is you finding out who this ‘boss’ of theirs is.” Namjoon added.

“It’s worth a shot.” Jin agreed.

Yoongi nodded, tabbing through the phone menus until the option to call the number labeled ‘Boss’ appeared. His thumb hovered over the green call button for several long seconds before he finally pressed it, muting the microphone and raising the device to his ear.

It rang once. Twice. Then there was a click, and a man was speaking in rushed anger, his tone a venomous whisper.

“Just what the hell have you two been up to? I asked for status reports on the Mochi 3 acquisition every twelve hours and you can’t even manage that? Do you even have the robot yet? Or are you still only capable of kidnapping young men who bear a passing resemblance?”

Yoongi felt the phone nearly slip from his hand as it wavered in his trembling grip, letting out a shaking breath.

The voice was clear and unmistakable: it was none other than Chairman Kim.

Chapter Text

Yoongi pressed the ‘End Call’ button on the phone, dropping it onto his coffee table as though it had burned. He collapsed onto his couch, pressing his still-shaking hand against his own mouth. It came as a shock and yet, it was no surprise at all.

“Yoongi?” Jimin asked softly, sitting down next to him and setting a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Did you… was it someone you know?”

“Yes.” Yoongi croaked out, clearing his throat and finally dropping his hand, allowing it to rest on his knee, where he began scratching nervously at the fabric of his pants. “It’s someone from my company. He… doesn’t seem to know those men were attacked last night. He did know… about Jimin, though.”

Jimin nodded, his hand moving soothingly up and down across Yoongi’s spine. “I remember, while they were setting up to send the ransom video to you, one of those guys phoned a man he just called ‘Boss’. They explained to him how they’d grabbed me instead of the Mochi 3 but that they were going to use me to get the real robot. The guy sounded really mad, I could almost hear him shouting through the phone. And the ones in the warehouse, they kept assuring him they’d tie up loose ends. He kept saying that, ‘take care of the loose ends’. I don’t… think any of us were meant to get out of that warehouse alive, honestly.”

Yoongi stared at the cell phone for a long moment before tapping out a short message. He set it aside and grabbed his own phone, tabbing through some encrypted files from an email he had received a while back from one of his more… discreet sources. He handed it to Namjoon.

“Look over those financials for me. Do those numbers seem familiar? Were you cut checks every month to that amount?”

Namjoon scoffed, laughing sardonically. “You’re kidding, right? Our grants were about a third of that amount.”

“I knew it.” Yoongi hissed, grabbing the phone back and sending the documents to his wireless printer. He picked up the kidnappers’ phone and typed out a second, longer message.

He wouldn’t let this man get the better of him… he refused to lose. He had the upper hand now. Once he’d pressed send, he looked to the scientists and took stock of their heights.

“Jin, Taehyung… I need to borrow you both. Jungkook, I could use your muscle. And Hoseok, I need you to be on recon in case anything goes sideways. We need some kind of small recording device…”

“Jimin’s Mochi 3 contact lenses record everything in front of them!” Hoseok piped up, though when he noticed the others grimace over exactly what he’d just revealed, he made a sheepish little face. “Er… sorry.”

“What?” Yoongi closed his eyes for a moment, waiting for the irritation to bleed away a little bit before responding. “You know what? I don’t have time to care. That’s fine, we’ll use those.”

“What’s going on? What are you planning?” Jimin asked, standing and gripping almost desperately at Yoongi’s shirt sleeve, terrified he was going to do something that would end badly. This whole situation was already a mess, and he didn’t want anyone else in anything near the kind of danger he’d been in.

Yoongi turned to him, bringing his hands up to cradle his face, looking at him with such earnestness, holding him as though he were some precious, fragile thing. Jimin felt his breath catch, being under the scrutiny of those sharp eyes.

“Jimin… will you be Mochi 3 for me… one last time?”

Jimin swallowed. He wasn’t sure just what Yoongi was planning, but he knew that he wanted this to be over. If that meant he had to pretend to be a robot once more, he would do it… for him.

He nodded, determined. He was not wearing his titanium rig or his contacts or his power button, but he would never forget how to smile in that serene way of Mochi 3’s, not allowing his eyes to scrunch up in the way they did naturally when he meant it, when he was truly happy.

“Yes, Master.”

***

“Okay, so… run this plan by me again?” Jin said in a helpless tone, clearly lost. He adjusted the frumpy black coat at his shoulders, grimacing. Next to him, Jimin probably would have laughed, had he not been so nervous.

“You and Taehyung are posing as the kidnappers. All you have to do is walk in with Jimin—posing as Mochi 3—and get Chairman Kim to say something incriminating… Jungkook will block the only exit and I will handle the rest.” Yoongi explained.

“Is this really going to work?” Taehyung asked, fidgeting with the thick padding beneath his borrowed black coat. He felt ridiculous.

“It’s dark and the chairman is old. Plus, all his attention will be on Jimin. It will work for as long as it needs to.” Yoongi insisted, swatting at the other’s hand until he dropped it.

“So, what? We make him think he has the robot, then ambush him?” Jungkook asked.

“Not exactly. The text I sent the Chairman advised that the kidnappers did indeed obtain the real Mochi 3, and ‘tied up loose ends’, but in the scuffle the phone’s microphone was broken.” Yoongi told them. “I arranged for the ‘kidnappers’ to bring Mochi 3 to the Chairman at the old Project Serendipity lab in the warehouse district. There’s only one entrance and therefore only one exit. Once he enters, he’ll have no choice but to indulge us.”

“A trap. You really think he’ll fall for it?” Jungkook asked, turning over the metal baton Yoongi had given him in his hands.

“I think he’s so certain that he’s beaten me that he won’t see this coming. So yes.” Yoongi replied.

“Should I… say anything?” Jimin asked, his voice as small as he felt in that moment.

“Only if he asks you something.” Yoongi said gently, placing his hands on the curves of Jimin’s shoulders and squeezing in reassurance. “I won’t let anything happen to you. We have the upper hand, here.”

Jimin nodded, though his fears weren’t entirely quelled.

“Hoseok will handle things here in the lab… wouldn’t it be best if I joined you? As driver?” Namjoon suggested.

Yoongi shook his head. “Either Jin or Taehyung have to drive, in case the Chairman sees them pull up. Jungkook and I will hide in the back with Jimin, and it’ll be a tight fit.”

Namjoon frowned, glancing at Jin. “What if… something goes wrong?”

“Nothing will go wrong. I promise I’ll return them all in one piece.” Yoongi assured.

Jin, sensing the other’s distress, crossed the distance between them and threaded his gloved hand into Namjoon’s own. “Don’t worry. I’m an excellent actor.”

He didn’t hold a straight face for long, however, and soon both he and Namjoon were laughing together. They shared a soft kiss before Jin went back to stand at Taehyung’s side.

“All right… are we ready?” Yoongi asked, giving the group a once-over.

Grunts and nods of affirmation were all he received, but it was enough; it was time to implement his plan.

***

Jin pulled the van up to the warehouse just before midnight. He and Taehyung glanced around, but it didn’t appear that the Chairman had arrived just yet.

“Coast looks clear.”

Yoongi and Jungkook emerged from under a dark blanket in the back of the van, the latter grabbing his borrowed baton and the former his briefcase.

The team moved quickly, getting everyone into the old lab without being able to be seen from the road. Yoongi dragged out one of the old, rotting wooden computer tables and pulled a chair up on either side of it, setting an emergency lantern on one end of it. Jin and Taehyung adjusted their ski masks, standing to either side of Jimin. Once he was finished, Yoongi stepped in front of him, waving in his face.

“Are we recording?”

In Jimin’s ear, Hoseok piped up. “Yessir! I have the live feed from Jiminie’s contacts streaming to the hard drive and a backup server. Footage is crystal-clear!”

“Hoseok-hyung says we’re good.” Jimin relayed.

“Good.” Yoongi leaned forward and kissed Jimin softly on the forehead, petting at his cheek affectionately. “I’m just a few meters away if you need me. I won’t let anything happen to you. Okay?”

“Okay.” Jimin replied in a too-raw voice, nodding.

Yoongi kissed him one more time before ducking behind a massive old recycling bin filled with broken computers and worthless android parts. Jungkook gave a thumbs up from his spot near the door before finding a small metal panel in the wall to slide behind.

It wasn’t long before the sound of an approaching car echoed in the quiet dark. The engine cut off, and only one door opened and closed, which was telling; the Chairman had come alone, opting not to bring a driver. Good.

The warehouse door slid open, revealing the Chairman. He was dressed in a suit, as he always was, and he was wearing a surly expression. Upon spotting Jimin, however—that spot of bright white clothing, pale skin and bleach-blond hair in the otherwise dark and dingy room—he almost seemed taken aback. He stepped into the lab, leaving the door open behind him. He didn’t even regard the men flanking what he thought was a robot, his scrutinizing gaze upon him and him alone.

“This is the robot. Not the… model the team used? This is the real Mochi 3?” He asked, his eyes never leaving Jimin.

“Yes.” Taehyung grunted, dropping his voice a little to try to sound more like the man from the video he was meant to be imitating. “They were happy to trade the robot for their friend.”

Jin and Taehyung were standing just far enough from Jimin for the Chairman to walk between them… and he did just that, circling him as though he were up for auction.

“They’ve been taken care of, though? The model and the Project Serendipity team?” The Chairman settled in front of Jimin again, reaching out to poke his cheek and murmuring something that sounded like, ‘so realistic’.

It took every bit of strength within Jimin not to react, willing his body not to tremble. In the HUD of his contacts, he could see the facial recognition identify the man, but only based on public record. There was no warning that he was Master’s enemy, as Mochi 3 was in Operational Mode. It had been much easier to deal without the stream of constant robotic chatter in his ear, and they only needed the connection for the video and audio in the contacts and bracelet. There was no need for Mochi 3 to be in Companion Mode.

Jimin imagined the words there himself, bold and red, right under the man’s face: Master’s Enemy.

“We took the GPS blocker off, as you can see.” Jin spoke this time, motioning toward Jimin’s head. “There’s no one left to track it.”

“Good. Eliminating loose ends is so much more reliable than paying them off anyway. Besides, if that fool of a scientist Kim Namjoon had the good sense to sell to the right people, he would have made far more off of the Mochi 3 than I could ever pay him.” The Chairman said.

Jin and Taehyung exchanged glances. Had that been incriminating enough? Neither of them was sure… but before they could say anything else, he spoke again.

“And Min Yoongi? What of him?”

“In the hospital, apparently recovering from a near-fatal allergic reaction.” Taehyung lied on the spot.

“Perfect.” Kim replied with a sinister grin. “I’ll send one of my other associates to the hospital and see if I can’t arrange some sort of… accident, with his medication.”

That was it. Exactly what they needed. In the receptor in his own ear, Jimin could hear Namjoon letting out a slew of curses while Hoseok made a celebratory noise.

“Got him! I made ten copies and backed them up to several servers. Make your move.”

“Master.” Jimin piped up. “You have what you wanted.”

The Chairman looked at him with something like fascination, peering at his face as though it would help him comprehend just how that complex robotic brain worked. “You’re right, I do. I have you… the greatest technological marvel of our age, and soon, I will have the company I have been vying to take over for decades—”

You are not my master.” Jimin bit back, smirking as he glanced over to where Yoongi was emerging from behind the recycling bin. He reached up to pull the power button off of the back of his own neck, flicking it at the Chairman’s chest. It plinked off of his impeccable suit before clattering to the ground.

“And I am not a robot.”

The Chairman’s expression warped into one of horror and he staggered back, finally following the blond’s gaze until it fell upon Min Yoongi. Jin and Taehyung removed their masks, shedding their frumpy coats and the padding in their clothes.

Predictably, the Chairman attempted to run. He’d barely even turned and made a single step before Jungkook slammed the warehouse door shut.

“I wouldn’t.” The boy said in a dark tone, flicking out the baton and tapping it against the metal. The chairman halted where he stood.

“What is this? Some kind of shake-down? Are you trying to extort me?”

“No, Chairman Kim. Extortion is your expertise. Negotiating is mine.” Yoongi moved to the table and pulled out the chair nearest him, sitting down before motioning to the empty one across from him. His voice was dark, flat and utterly commanding as he spoke again. “Sit.”

It was hissed in the same way one might say the same toward an ill-behaved dog, and there was so much hatred burning in Yoongi’s eyes that the Chairman did not bother to argue, approaching timidly and taking a seat as instructed.

Yoongi opened his briefcase, tossing the first file onto the table. It slid in front of the Chairman, some of the papers sliding out. He opened the folder with shaking fingers, leafing through the documents. His jaw trembled as he went, page by page.

“I have evidence of everything. Embezzling funds for nearly twenty years by funneling it through the Project Serendipity subsidiary because you knew no one would notice, then trying to sell it off as a cover. You assumed you could just sell it right out from under me and I’d be none the wiser. Not to mention the confession we just taped of you admitting to arranging for the deaths of the entire team and myself.”

“Min Yoongi-ssi—”

“Do not speak.” Yoongi snarled in a way that made each word sound like its own sentence, every syllable punctuated with a deadly-sharp edge.

The chairman clamped his mouth shut, swallowing.

“This is a negotiation, but I’m afraid you have nothing to offer me.” Yoongi told him, leaning back in his chair. “So I’ll state my terms, and you will agree to them… or you will go to jail for the rest of your miserable life.”

Yoongi reached into the briefcase once more and pulled out a contract enclosed within a glossy black folder. He set a silver pen atop it, sliding it across the table to the older man.

“You will announce your retirement and abdicate your position as chairman immediately. An amount equal to the funds you embezzled will be deducted from your pension and put toward the Project Serendipity’s research fund, since it was them you were stealing from all these years. Your shares will be divided between myself and Shin Suran. This is the only way I will allow you to avoid the public scandal of a criminal trial.”

Chairman Kim balked. “Shin Suran? Why would I ever—?”

“She’s about to be your daughter-in-law.” Yoongi reminded him. “I have reason to believe your son has at least some involvement in all this, but I don’t intend to drag him down with you. He and Suran deserve happiness despite all this.”

Chairman Kim swallowed again. “My son… did not know about the embezzlement. And his knowledge of the AI was cursory. He wasn’t deeply involved with my deception. I beg you to leave him out of it.”

“Stop your groveling.” Yoongi muttered in disgust. “I can assure you that your sniveling has no bearing on how merciful I choose to be toward your son. Now sign the damn contract. You present your resignation on Wednesday.”

With a trembling hand, Chairman Kim lifted the pen and signed.

To Yoongi, it felt like victory.

***

The rest of the week was a blur of press conferences. He admitted to the world that his absence from the public eye had been due to a severe illness which he had finally been able to manage, and he was eager to see his company through a new age of technical advances and social impact. The announcement of Chairman Kim’s retirement and his son’s engagement (the reason he cited for the retirement, claiming he was ‘ready to let the next generation take the reins’ or some other farcical nonsense) somewhat distracted from his admission of illness and only the tabloids seemed to be digging for more on that front.

There were miles of paperwork to fill out in the wake of the Chairman’s departure from the company, and Yoongi was exhausted. He’d spent morning ‘til night in the MK Enterprises building, only able to spare a few moments here and there to talk with Jimin and the others. Jungkook had made a group chat “Serendipity & Friends”, which ended up primarily consisting of Taehyung and Jungkook spamming memes and making innuendos, with Jimin or Hoseok chiming in to tell them how gross they were every so often before sending memes of their own. It was… nice. When he could manage it, Yoongi would send a gif pertaining to his mood (tired, irritated, bored to death) and Jimin would send hearts and sad-faces while the others offered their sympathy.

Jimin and Yoongi had their own chat, which mostly consisted of queries on when either of them would be free. Jimin sent pouty selfies of himself in bed or next to Jungkook, who was gaming obliviously in the background, and Yoongi responded in kind with one of his own. He was wearing a frown, head resting on his chin on the desk, and he captioned it with some complaint about wishing he were there.

On Friday night, after a complete media circus had kept him holed up in the MK Enterprises building until late in the evening, he trudged into his house feeling like a dead man walking. He shuffled toward his office, zoned-out, tossing his briefcase onto his desk and knocking over a stack of files when he did. Grumbling, he hastily gathered them up and plopped them back onto his desk… but something caught his eye. He looked up at his bookshelf to see that most of the books, the ones with dark covers, were organized alphabetically… but strewn throughout were his travel books—stark white—strategically placed so they created the shape of a heart.

Yoongi felt his chest clench. Had Jimin done that? The last time he’d gone into his office was the night of their little trap for Chairman Kim… he hadn’t bothered looking, then. But it must have been Jimin. Had he done it when he’d asked him, believing him to be Mochi 3 at the time, to organize his office?

Yoongi tasted something like bitter ash on his tongue. Jimin had done this… such a sweet gesture, even after Yoongi had been cruel to him. And what had Yoongi done? He’d been even crueler afterward. But that was before… before he knew the truth.

He flicked on the lights and took a picture, sending it to Jimin with the caption, ‘I don’t deserve you. I’m about to pass out here but I want to see you tomorrow.’

He didn’t get a response by the time he went to bed, but as soon as his head hit the pillow, he was out.

It had been a mess of a week… but when Yoongi awoke late this particular morning after all was said and done… it was finally Saturday morning and he could have leapt for joy.

Normally, he would have reveled in the idea of just staying in bed all day, recharging… but when he rolled over to see the space next to him on the mattress empty and cold, he only had one thought. He groped for his nightstand, snagging his phone.

Jimin had replied to his message, apologizing for missing him because he’d been up playing games with Jungkook and left his phone on silent.

Yoongi didn’t even care why he hadn’t answered. He simply responded, ‘Come home, Jiminie.’

Thirty minutes later, Jimin was ringing his doorbell. When Yoongi greeted him, the younger man smiled in an almost sheepish way, eyes finding the floor as he laughed nervously.

“You’ve… been so busy. It’s nice to see you on something other than a TV or a phone.” He admitted.

Yoongi just grinned like an idiot, pulling Jimin inside and kissing him hard, as though they’d been apart for much longer than just a few days. When he finally pulled back, he smiled at Jimin like he was his whole world, turning the other’s cheeks pink.

“Stay with me this weekend.” He told him, more a desperate plea than a request. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too.” Jimin replied, tucking against his shoulder and hugging him tight. “You sure you aren’t gonna be busy?”

“Everyone else has had me all week.” Yoongi told him, pulling back and pressing a soft kiss to the corner of that plush mouth. “But today is Jiminie day. Whatever you want to do… I’m yours, all day. All weekend.”

“Really?” Jimin asked, eyes alight. He wasn’t sure it should make him so giddy, but it absolutely did.

 

Jimin didn’t make many special requests for Saturday… he only wanted one thing; to go back to that restaurant where Yoongi had met with Chairman Shin and Suran so many times before, and actually enjoy a meal with him there. Yoongi felt horrible upon realizing Jimin had been forced to sit there with food in front of him and not touch it. He ordered him the most expensive thing on the menu, paired with some ludicrously-priced red wine, and reveled in watching Jimin’s expressions as he savored every bite. Yoongi was able to keep his food down, too, and that was a triumph on its own.

After dinner, they walked hand-in-hand downtown, getting ice cream from a street vendor to enjoy on their stroll. Jimin was sure he saw some people who recognized Yoongi from the televised press conferences, total strangers whipping out their phones and snapping photos as though he were some kind of exhibit. Jimin was incensed by it, but Yoongi just brushed it off.

“Let then take pictures. I’m done hiding. And I have nothing to be ashamed of.” That was all he’d said before pulling Jimin into a sweet kiss. Let the tabloids balk and speculate and judge… they did little else.

On Sunday, Jimin almost seemed a little nervous to answer when Yoongi asked him what he wanted to do. It was a big request, after all: he wanted to go to the carnival-like amusement park in Incheon. Yoongi didn’t seem off-put by the suggestion at all, however, and happily agreed. Jimin thought they would take the train, but instead Yoongi drove them in one of his roomier cars (a luxury crossover of some kind, Jimin was horrible with brands). He let Jimin pick the playlist, but it ended up turned down low as they spent most of the drive talking instead. They spoke a lot about music theory, or just music in general. It was so nice to be able to converse without holding back or pretending, watching his speech or mannerisms… Jimin found himself beaming at just how freeing it felt.

The amusement park was… a lot, but… somehow not too much. Yoongi was no longer nervous around people, however, since a stranger’s touch didn’t send him into anaphylactic shock like it once had. He actually rather enjoyed being in large crowds, seeing all kinds of different people; families, couples, workers… all going about their days. It was such a simple thing, but it was something he was coming to cherish.

“How about we go on the ferris wheel next?” Jimin suggested after Yoongi had bought him some cotton candy.

“Whatever you want.” Yoongi replied, which only caused Jimin to laugh and swat at his chest.

“I want your opinion, too!”

“It sounds fun.” Yoongi assured, wrapping an arm around him and kissing his temple. He let him go so he could eat his cotton candy as they walked. Jimin had a giddy little expression on, his whole face lit up in joy. He was more beautiful than usual… and that was saying a lot.

As they meandered toward the end of the line for the ferris wheel, Yoongi’s eyes wandered across the crowd again. He was slowly starting to realize that his perception of people was skewed beyond belief. He’d spent most of his life locked up in his house watching dramas and foreign films. But being around the general public, he was beginning to notice that not everyone looked like Korean drama stars.

The people he’d surrounded himself with were abnormally attractive compared to the rest of the world. With every couple that passed them, every retail worker they spoke to, every perfectly average person, he was starting to believe he may have been dating one of the most beautiful men in the entire country.

“What’s got you so lost in thought? You’re not scared of the ferris wheel, are you?” Jimin teased, nudging him from his stupor before taking a bite of his cotton candy. The spun sugar was a pretty shade of pastel pink that Yoongi found suited the other well. He could imagine him wearing it as a hair color and not feeling it would be out of place on him at all.

“No, just ruminating on how gorgeous you are.” Yoongi admitted, pulling him in by his waist roughly and ducking behind the cloud of pink spun sugar to kiss him. His lips tasted too sweet, but he didn’t care.

Jimin let out an embarrassed little giggle, turning pinker than the cotton candy. “Stop it, no you’re not. You weren’t even looking at me.”

“I was looking at everyone else and realizing they just don’t compare.” Yoongi reasoned, grinning as he kissed him again. “And I’m not scared of the ferris wheel. I’m ready whenever you are.”

“Where’d you learn to be such a romantic, reclusive Min Yoongi?” Jimin sing-songed as the other took his hand and pulled him toward the ride when the people in front of them moved up. He looked upon the massive twists of metal arcing up into the sky and he suddenly felt very small.

“Korean dramas and foreign romantic comedies.” Yoongi admitted shamelessly.

“Truly the greatest teachers.” Jimin replied sagely with a dramatic nod before bursting into a fit of laughter.

There were a lot of things that Yoongi had given up on ever doing. When he was younger, he supposed he had dreamed of a day when his illness was cured, when he could enjoy travel and being in public and the touch of another person. He had slowly let go of those dreams, however, early in his twenties. He had resigned himself to living on his own, thankful at least he was able to live in luxury due to his parents’ wealth.

But now that he was here, he couldn’t imagine life without this. How could he say he’d ever lived before seeing Jimin’s smile, hearing his laugh? True to his word, he wasn’t scared of the ferris wheel… but he did spend most of their time on it watching Jimin, the way his eyes sparkled under all the glittering lights as he raptly took in their surroundings, his head tipping up to gaze upon the stars.

Perhaps dramas and films had not been the best teachers, giving him unrealistic—even problematic—expectations. For so long he thought he knew what love was… desiring Suran, rather, the idea of Suran, had seemed so romantic. But in retrospect, he realized he had been a fool. Reaching out for someone who was unreachable, wanting someone who did not want him… it wasn’t noble. It placed unfair expectations upon her, ones that she felt she needed to follow through on when her father expressed similar desire for her to marry Yoongi.

But Yoongi knew, now. He knew what it was like to look at someone and want nothing more than their laughter, their smiles, their complete happiness. He knew that he would be willing to do whatever was asked of him, whatever was needed… if Jimin needed to cry, to scream, to break down into a complete mess, Yoongi knew he would happily be the one to hold him, to tell him everything would be all right, to pick up every shattered piece one by one until he had put him back together.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Jimin’s wistful tone brought him out of his own thoughts, and he smiled with all the fondness in the world.

“Yeah.” He told him, his voice rough as sandpaper… but he still wasn’t looking at anything but Jimin.

After the ferris wheel, they headed out. It was getting late, and they had a long drive. Yoongi remained firmly focused on the road, but made conversation to stay awake. He wasn’t particularly tired, but it had been a long day, and lengthy drives often lulled even the most alert of drivers.

“Did you have a good time?” He asked, eyes flicking over to the other for just a second before settling back on the road.

“I should be asking you!” Jimin protested. “I know this was my day to spend with you, and it was amazing for me, yeah, but… I wanted to make sure you had fun. I know you haven’t really been able to do stuff around people, and…”

“Jimin.” Yoongi quelled softly, taking the other’s hand into his own while keeping the other on the wheel. “I had a great time. It’ll take some getting used to, being around so many people… but I’m enjoying it, really. Feels like I’m making up for a lot of lost time. But mostly… I’m just glad to spend the time with you.”

Jimin turned bright red to his ears, smiling until his eyes nearly disappeared. He held Yoongi’s hand close for a long while, eventually dozing off with it cradled between both of his own.

***

Jimin wasn’t sure how long he slept. He remembered feeling weightless, at one point… like he was floating in an endless ocean of warmth. And then he was swathed in clouds, enveloped in sunshine. His consciousness faded in and out a few times before he fell back into restful sleep, somehow intrinsically knowing he was in the comfort of home.

When he awoke again, it was nearly three in the morning. He rubbed his eyes and blinked until the image of Yoongi’s bedroom came into clear view. He remembered dozing off in the car… Yoongi must have carried him inside. He glanced over to see the man sleeping next to him, a contented look on his peaceful face. Jimin grinned, giving a long, satisfying stretch and leaning down to kiss the other’s cheek softly before padding over to the bathroom.

Every room in Yoongi’s house was still so overwhelmingly large… he wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to this kind of luxury. Not to mention the menial things like heated tile, towel warmers… things Yoongi probably thought were fairly standard, it was all luxurious to Jimin. He washed his face before heading back to the bed, removing any residual makeup (he’d wanted to look his best for their date).

Yoongi was still sleeping. Jimin slid into bed next to him, plastering himself against him and peppering sweet kisses across his bare shoulders. He found that he was wide awake now, probably having slept at least an hour or two more than Yoongi had. He was probably being needy, but he wished the other was awake. He felt bad about nodding off on him, leaving him to drive the rest of the way in silence.

A small grunt called his attention, and he saw Yoongi open his eyes, squinting over his shoulder.

“Mm, you’re awake, Jiminie?”

“Uh huh.” Jimin murmured into his skin. “Sorry for falling asleep on you earlier.”

“It’s all right. That just means we had a big day, right?” Yoongi replied, his slight lisp even more obvious when he was tired. His voice was like gravel, rough and low with sleep.

“Yeah.” Jimin agreed, sliding up onto the other’s chest when he turned onto his back to better look him in the eyes. Yoongi’s eyes were still soft with sleep as he grinned at Jimin, wrapping him up in his arms.

Yoongi may have meant to say something else, but he didn’t get the chance, because Jimin leaned in and kissed him. There was nothing brief or sweet about it; it was languid and sensual, entirely unhurried as he carded his hands into the other’s hair and deepened it, earning a low hum that rumbled in Yoongi’s chest.

It was late… stupidly late, but it didn’t really matter. They kissed there in the quiet dark until Jimin got restless, rolling his hips in time with the movements of his tongue before finally pulling back and sliding down to rid Yoongi of his sleep pants. Yoongi was certainly fully awake then, letting out a grunt and raking his hair out of his eyes.

“Jimin…” It was almost a protest, but it died in Yoongi’s throat when Jimin nipped at his inner thigh, hands slipping up over his stomach, his chest.

Jimin knew, certainly, that Yoongi had never been able to experience the kinds of things, sexually, that Jimin had probably taken for granted in comparison. Everything was new to Yoongi… not in theory, but at least in practice. Surely, he knew just what Jimin was planning, but that did not stop him from loosing an absolutely wrecked little sound when Jimin finally got his mouth around him.

Jimin had always been skilled at giving head, so it was no surprise that he had Yoongi falling apart under him within minutes. He was making the most glorious noises, vibrating low in his chest as his fingers clutched at Jimin’s hair, needy for purchase but careful nonetheless.

“J-Jimin… Jiminie… stop, I wanna… wanna touch you.” Yoongi whined, tugging at the other’s hair a little.

When Jimin pulled off, he looked at him with an annoyed little pout, his lips cherry-red and even more plush than usual. Yoongi couldn’t help himself; he hauled the other over him and kissed him again, hard and reckless.

“Mm… Yoongi…” Jimin hummed in between fevered nips. When he tried to slide back down, however, Yoongi held fast.

“No, just… fuck, sit on my face.” Yoongi hissed, grabbing Jimin’s ass and pulling him up a little further.

Jimin made a questioning noise, but when Yoongi hauled him up higher, he got the message.

“Fuck, okay... ” Jimin compromised by turning around, throwing his leg over Yoongi so he was facing away from him. He’d hardly settled before Yoongi was dragging him up until his knees were on the pillows, on either side of Yoongi’s head.

“Park Jimin, I think you might have the nicest ass on god’s green earth.” Yoongi murmured, as though he’d not meant to say it out loud. A second later, he was digging his teeth in a little at the curve of it, causing Jimin to let out a harsh groan.

“Yoongi…” His tone was a whiny lilt, but when the older man grabbed him with both hands and pressed his tongue against him, he all but yelped.

What Yoongi lacked in experience he made up for in fervor, and he was no stranger to all varieties of porn. Soon enough, Jimin was the one falling apart, small fingers scrabbling at Yoongi’s waist, his hips, his thighs. Finally, he got enough of a hold on himself to lean down and take Yoongi’s cock into his mouth again, and then all bets were off. Jimin could feel Yoongi moaning against his rim, feel the vibrations of it along his tongue, and it sent a thrill through him. After taking a few breaths, he relaxed his throat and took Yoongi all the way down, choking slightly on the length of him.

“Ah, fuck! Jimin!” Yoongi hissed, having to pull away just to steady himself.

Jimin groaned around him, bobbing his head a little before pulling off enough to tease his tongue along the tip. But Yoongi didn’t sit idle: he came back to himself for long enough to suck on his own fingers, moving them up to play along Jimin’s rim at the same time that he shoved his lover up a little to get his mouth around his cock.

“Nnh-! Baby…” Jimin was the one whimpering, now, dropping his face onto Yoongi’s hip and rutting back.

Yoongi felt a victorious thrum run through him, and he pressed one of his fingers into him, just enough to reach that one place inside him that would have him writhing over Yoongi in seconds. He knew he’d found it when Jimin’s entire body clenched up, his fingernails digging into Yoongi’s thighs as he let out a low whine, his hot breath ghosting over Yoongi’s cock.

Now that Jimin didn’t have that devastating mouth on him, Yoongi felt he had some semblance of control over himself. He focused solely on Jimin’s pleasure, reveling in the way his body jerked and squirmed over him, as though he were trying to move into the sensation and escape it all at once. It wasn’t long before Jimin’s soft moans had given way to staccato breaths, fingers leaving red marks all along Yoongi’s thighs.

“Yoongi, baby… m’gonna come...” Jimin crooned, sparing Yoongi’s pale flesh by twisting his fingers into the sheets.

Yoongi just nodded, grunting in encouragement as he took Jimin fully into his mouth, crooked his finger just right. Jimin came with a strangled little shout, shivering until Yoongi had finally pulled off, swallowing greedily.

Jimin rolled off of him onto his back, his head on the foot of the bed. He laid there and caught his breath, staring up at the ceiling for a long moment. After a short while, Yoongi sat up, watching him with a mix between fondness and something a little more feral.

Jimin met his eyes with a needy sort of expression, making grabby hands at him. Yoongi could do nothing save obey, sliding over him until he was straddled over his chest. Jimin gave a pleased hum and wrapped his lips around that cock once more, taking him as deep as he could at the less-than-ideal angle, his hand wrapping over the rest of him. Yoongi was so close that it didn’t matter that Jimin couldn’t move much, and when Jimin’s free hand tugged Yoongi’s hip, encouraging him to rut toward him, that nearly did him in. He managed little more than broken, murmured praises as he slowly rolled his hips, watching Jimin as he seemed to delight in it. That wicked tongue teased over his frenulum, those plush lips suckling hard against the tip when he pulled nearly all the way off, and that was it, Yoongi was gone. He came with a harsh cry and Jimin took everything he was given as though it were his own pleasure, not pulling away until he’d licked him completely clean.

Yoongi stared down at Jimin for a long moment, both of them panting in the quiet dark of the room, just trying to catch their breath. When Yoongi finally tore his eyes away, he fell back onto the pillows with a loud grunt, and it was him making grabby hands at Jimin, then, wanting him to cuddle.

Jimin let out a soft laugh and joined him, nuzzling against his neck. They could shower later. Right now, this… this was perfect.

***

The glow of Monday’s morning light haloed the large windows of Yoongi’s bedroom with the promise of dawn. Yoongi threw them open and soon the room was awash in sunlight, causing Jimin to cringe and roll away with a soft whine. He was disgusting, he needed a shower… but mostly, he needed more sleep.

“Rise and shine! It’s a beautiful morning!” Yoongi said cheerily.

Jimin groaned and hid under the covers. “I thought you liked sleeping in? What is this heresy?”

“I do, but only when I don’t have plans.”

Jimin sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What plans d’you have, then?”

When his vision finally cleared, he could see Yoongi setting a breakfast tray in front of him, filled with all sorts of food. An elegant tea cart was next to the bed as well, the porcelain kettle upon it wafting steam.

“What’s all this?”

“I confess I’ve… always dreamed of cooking for someone like this.” Yoongi replied, all in a rush. “Is it too much? It’s too much, I should’ve asked—”

“No!” Jimin practically yelped when Yoongi tried to take the tray away. “No, it’s… it’s wonderful. Really. I just… was surprised, is all.”

Yoongi let go of the tray, watching fondly as Jimin started stuffing his face as if to prove just how much he appreciated the gesture. He laughed softly and sat on the bed near Jimin’s legs, his thumbs playing idly against his calves where they hid beneath the sheets.

“I can’t always go in late or not go into work at all… I may own the company but I still have a responsibility to help keep it stabilized while we transition away from the old guard into the new. However… I plan to take advantage of every day, every moment that I can spend with you.”

Jimin stopped chewing for long enough to look at Yoongi like he’d just offered him the most romantic of confessions. Perhaps he had. He swallowed, clearing his throat.

“I… Yoongi…”

“Don’t let your food get cold.” Yoongi murmured, gathering some oatmeal onto a spoon and holding it out to him. Jimin closed his mouth around it obediently, their gazes never parting as he swallowed.

When Yoongi later sent a picture of Jimin enjoying his breakfast in bed to the group chat, they’d be teased over it, but Jimin didn’t care. He couldn’t think of a time when he’d been happier… and judging by that sweet, gummy smile, neither had Yoongi.

***

The next day, Yoongi had business to attend to at the MK Enterprises building, so Jimin spent most of the morning sleeping before finally dragging himself out of bed. Yoongi had more forms of entertainment than any normal human, but he wasn’t really interested in any of them. And so, he found himself getting dressed and heading out to walk down that winding garden path to get to the Project Serendipity lab.

He found the door unlocked, so he just let himself in. Everyone looked up and beamed when they saw him, all except Mochi 3, who seemed to regard him with robotic apathy.

“Jiminie! It’s been so long!” Hoseok singsonged in a whiny tone.

“Hey everyone! Yeah, I’m alive.” Jimin said with a laugh, closing the door behind him. “I just came to see how everyone was doing over here.”

“I’m still sifting through hours of footage while the others make sure Mochi 3 is fully operational.” Hoseok explained.

“Still haven’t fixed those sensors?” Jimin scoffed. “It’s been forever.”

“Science isn’t an exact… science.” Taehyung argued, his face scrunching up when he realized what he’d said. “I need to sleep. I’m starting to forget how to sentence.”

Jimin huffed a laugh. “You guys are still just like you were back in college. Pulling all-nighters working on crazy projects, making the impossible possible.”

“You make us sound so awesome. Mostly we just mainline caffeine and yell at computers.” Hoseok teased, winking.

“Once we have a state-of-the-art facility, these kinds of problems won’t be so… problematic.” Namjoon squinted. “I probably need sleep, too. What day is it?”

“Tuesday.” Jimin told him, shaking his head. “You all need to just, press pause for a second. I’m sure I can convince Yoongi to have you all over for dinner again. Get some good food in you, that should help.”

“That sounds amazing. I actually wanted to ask him for one of his recipes.” Jin replied wistfully, his mind clearly on food, now.

“And we’ve lost him to food daydreams… productivity officially tanks from this point on.” Namjoon said.

Jin huffed. “We need the break anyway.”

“Okay, I’m officially taking point here. Everyone stop what they’re doing and compile a food wishlist.” Jimin tossed himself onto the ratty couch in the makeshift living area, pulling out his phone.

The guys started rattling off their requests, and in between typing them into his notes app, he texted Jungkook to ask if he wanted anything, too. In no time, they had a pretty extensive list… far too much for one dinner, unless Yoongi was feeling particularly extra.

“Avatar.” Mochi 3 suddenly piped up, and when Jimin glanced back, he could see Mochi 3 standing over him, leaned over the couch. He startled, clutching his chest.

“Jesus, Mochi 3, you terrified me. We told you, I have a name. It’s Jimin.”

“Has Jimin seen Master?” Mochi 3 asked, blinking down at him owlishly.

“Yeah, Mochi 3, I see him every day.” Jimin sighed, sitting up. “He doesn’t… I’m not your avatar anymore. I’m just me. We aren’t pretending any longer.”

“Not… pretending.” Mochi 3 seemed to process this. “When will I see my Master again?”

Jimin shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s bound to drop by the lab one of these days.”

Mochi 3 nodded. “I’d… very much like to see him. To fix what I shattered. You said that I ruined everything.”

Jimin rolled his eyes, letting out a long breath. “Yeah, well, that’s handled. I fixed it. It’s all okay now.”

“It’s all okay.” Mochi 3 repeated, like a confirmation. “Then when can I see Master again?”

“We can talk about that another time.” Namjoon piped up dismissively. “Let’s get those sensors of yours calibrated first, hm?”

Mochi 3 nodded, walking away from the couch to stand by his charger, awaiting further instruction.

Jimin almost felt a little bad for the thing… had it been capable of feeling emotions, he would have been empathetic. But as it stood, Mochi 3 was the cause of so many of the problems they’d faced.

And yet… it was only because of Mochi 3 that he’d been able to pay off his debts, that he’d reconnected with the others, that he’d met Yoongi. Regardless of his qualms toward the robot, even Jimin had to admit that Mochi 3 had been the catalyst for so many of the good things now in his life, too.

It was that thought that had the bitter musings bleeding away, leaving him with just one thought: a reluctant thank-you, for the robot who had started it all.

Chapter Text

With the greatest dangers past them, Jimin and Yoongi fell into a bit of a routine, though it wasn’t exactly typical. Jimin spent a lot of time at Yoongi’s… certainly more than he spent at his own apartment, and at times they even had the Project Serendipity team over for dinner again. Things were new and different, but somehow everything seemed to slot into place like a perfectly-completed puzzle.

Things at the lab seemed to wind down, the scientists more relaxed in the wake of the truth coming out. They still pulled far too many all-nighters working on software updates and hardware improvements, but without the stress of a perceived deadline, they managed to finally get Mochi 3 entirely recalibrated with the new part from overseas. Jimin swore Jin nearly collapsed in delight when the robot finally lifted a glass without shattering it, and even Namjoon had made a noise so loud and victorious that they’d sworn it could have been heard from the main house.

As the days bled into weeks following the kidnapping, Jimin’s wound still hadn’t healed up enough for him to return to the dance studio yet, but he was too restless to sit still at home. One day, he finally caved, escaping to that piano room and hijacking Yoongi’s Bluetooth speakers to play some music of his own and get some light practice in. He wasn’t sure when Yoongi would be back, but he hoped he would have at least a little time to dance without being chided for pushing himself.

It felt good to dance again. Unrestrained by that awful titanium brace, he stretched and moved freely. The song coming through the speakers now was a jazzy, sensual number, and he fused his Contemporary and Hip-Hop stylings as he danced, letting the music take him where he would.

As the beat spiraled down, Jimin bent back, dropping until his back was parallel with the floor, his arm darting out to catch him. He switched arms and made to push up, but the wound in his forearm protested and he hissed in pain before his elbow gave out, causing him to collapse in a heap.

“Jimin!” Yoongi yelped, practically materializing from the doorway and darting across the room. He crouched next to him, starting to help him up. “Are you all right? You shouldn't be pushing yourself like this, Dr. Bang said—”

“When did you even get home? How long were you watching me?” The blond cut him off, squinting at him.

“A few minutes. I just got back and I heard the music, and…” Yoongi made a vague sort of motion with his hand. “It actually reminded me of someone… I believe I told you before. It was just after I had met you for the first time, but I saw two young men dancing near the MK Enterprises building and it… took me back to that, for a moment.”

Jimin blinked. “You remembered that?”

Yoongi’s brow furrowed. “I’ve mentioned it once before, yes. I haven’t forgotten.”

“No, it was just that… I was one of the dancers. My friend Taemin and I, it was for a project with the dance studio. I was… so worried you would recognize me! But you didn’t, because my face was covered.” Jimin told him, laughing. “When you first brought it up, I was terrified you’d realized it was me.”

Yoongi was the one blinking at him, now, dumbfounded. “That was you.”

It flatly wasn’t a question, but Jimin nodded anyway. Yoongi let out a breathless chuckle, shaking his head.

“Sometimes I… wonder if fate wasn’t always leading me to you. The real, human you.”

Jimin smiled, fond and agonized all at once.

“But of course it was you. Your dance was captivating, even when I couldn’t see your face. And when you danced for me, as Mochi 3… you must have been holding back, but… it was still so beautiful.”

“Let me dance for you again.” Jimin whispered, a request and an offer. “Unhindered. Not trying to hide behind the facade of a robotic character. I want to show you… the real me.”

Yoongi’s fingers slid delicately over the bandage on Jimin’s arm. “But, your injury…”

“No intensive moves. I’ll be careful, I promise. I just… I want to do this. Please.” Jimin begged.

Yoongi would have to be a stronger man to tell him no.

Minutes later, the stereo was silenced, Jimin stood at the center of the large expanse of wooden floor, and Yoongi sat at his piano.

“I’ll play something new for you.” Yoongi said softly, letting his hands fly over the keys to warm up. “Let’s see where it takes us.”

Yoongi preferred to spend grueling hours agonizing over his music, polishing it to perfection… but he was quite capable of composing in the moment. And having a muse like Jimin, well… that was more than enough motivation.

He started simply enough, but eventually added a little bit of flourish, just to give Jimin something to work with. He eventually settled upon something he liked, and built upon that. He wasn’t reading music… he never did, and so, his eyes were raptly upon Jimin.

Jimin, who moved so effortlessly, as though the keys of that piano were stitched to his very bones. He moved with such purpose, such freedom, such passion. He was no longer holding back; the elegant arch of his spine on full display when he twisted, dipped, spun, unhindered by that titanium brace and the notion that Yoongi must believe that he was a robot.

And Yoongi… Yoongi was no longer holding back, too. His notes grew stronger, surer as he played. It was a ballad… a love song. A confession. Just as there was so much pent up feeling in Jimin’s movements, so too was Yoongi’s music the same. They were speaking two separate languages, but they entwined in perfect harmony like a conversation.

The music softened, as did Jimin’s dance, and Yoongi’s focus was firmly upon him, just letting his hands fly over the keys as they willed. It was not the first time he had seen Jimin dance, and yet, it was… with every movement he bared his soul, and Yoongi did the same with his music in turn.

Eventually, Yoongi’s composition ended, and Jimin stilled. He did not shy away from showing those human parts of himself, letting the other see the way he breathed heavily, allowing himself the small gestures that betrayed his humanity. He raked his sweaty hair back with one hand, grinning.

“That was a beautiful piece, Yoongi. You just… made that up? Just now?”

Yoongi nodded. “Sometimes, music doesn’t always come easily to me. And words, even less so. But… when I look at you, when I watch you dance… I cannot help but use this piano to express the words of my heart.”

Jimin crossed the room, gathering up Yoongi’s hands into his own. He pulled them against his chest, letting him feel the hammering of his heart. “I heard them, Yoongi, I did.”

“Jimin.” Yoongi said, then, whisper-soft as he slipped one of his hands free to card into the other’s hair, pulling him close, until his breath was ghosting over his lips when he spoke. “I—I love you.”

Jimin knew. He had to have known. But the words still stole all the air in his lungs, reached into his chest and squeezed his heart. He let out a stuttered breath, his throat tight and eyes glassy when he whispered back, “I love you, too.”

Yoongi smiled, fond and relieved all at once. “This is the kind of moment when—”

But Jimin didn’t let him finish, just leaned up and kissed him silent.

***

Just as Yoongi and Jimin had settled into their own routines, the Project Serendipity team was in a learning curve of their own. Without a subject for Mochi 3 to work with one-on-one, they were relegated to running experimental scenarios. It wasn’t the worst thing, because research was research and data was data, but Namjoon really wanted to know what Mochi 3 was capable of.

Poring over hours of footage had been daunting. Hoseok handled the editing, only passing along what was relevant for Namjoon and Jin to review. As he watched the footage, the thing that struck him the most was just how earnest Mochi 3’s responses had become… to the point that Jimin had actually tempered them quite a bit. It seemed that Mochi 3 had developed a bond with Yoongi, through Jimin as an avatar.

Namjoon must have lost track of the days again. He knew he’d had dinner with Yoongi and the others earlier in the week, and that they’d discussed looking at properties for the new lab in a few days at the time, but somehow he was taken by surprise when Yoongi knocked on the makeshift lab’s door, Jimin standing next to him.

“Ah, Yoongi-ssi, come in. I’m sorry, I’m ill-prepared.” Namjoon said, rushing over to try to clear off the table of blueprints.

“Master!” Mochi 3 piped up from across the room, running over to pull the man into a hug. There was a desperate look on his face as he gaze up at him, grabbing at his sweater. “I missed you! It’s been so long since I’ve seen you! My avatar doesn’t wear his contacts anymore!”

Yoongi just sputtered and grabbed the robot’s arms just to hold him off as he tried to kiss him. “Uh…?”

“Mochi 3, Operational Mode.” Namjoon snapped, clearly taken aback himself.

The robot looked crestfallen, glancing back at his creator. “But…”

“Operational Mode.” Namjoon repeated more harshly.

Mochi 3 seemed to obey, letting go of Yoongi as his expression went vacant, voice hollow when he spoke again. “Operational Mode initiated.”

“Well that was awkward.” Jimin said after a long pause of silence.

“I didn’t realize the real Mochi 3 would actually… act that way. Since it was Jimin I was spending time with.” Yoongi mused, eyeing the robot curiously.

Namjoon was frowning as he grabbed his tablet and crossed the room to stand at the robot’s side. “It was witnessing everything that Jimin did with you, all that data was still input into Mochi 3 as though he were there.”

“Mochi 3 certainly seemed to form his own attachment to Yoongi, at least judging from what I heard in the earpiece.” Jimin said.

“Interesting…” Namjoon murmured as he tapped away at his tablet. “Mochi 3 was in Companion Mode just now, accessing only the team’s interaction files… but he logged himself into the password-protected file he created for Yoongi-ssi as soon as he saw him, without us doing it manually like we usually would.”

“Well that makes sense. I mean, he has facial recognition.” Jimin reasoned, slipping his arms around Yoongi’s own and pressing against his side. Mochi 3 seemed to regard him with a blank expression, but he didn’t say anything.

“You… don’t exactly need those files anymore, do you?” Yoongi asked with a slight grimace. “Could you… maybe… delete the user file?”

Namjoon looked to Jin, who shrugged agreeably. “I don’t think it would be a problem. Mochi 3’s learning in that case was specific to Yoongi-ssi. I don’t think we have much to lose by deleting that data. We’ve already logged the reactions and responses analytically, we don’t need the original files.”

Namjoon nodded. “All right. Hoseok, will you take care of that?”

“Sure, I can delete the backups from here, but you may need to direct Mochi 3 to delete the original files himself. Accessing the subfolders through the network is a mess.”

Namjoon sighed. “Fine. Mochi 3, delete all files pertaining to Min Yoongi.”

“Error.” Mochi 3 responded in a tinny voice. “Files created in Companion Mode cannot be accessed in Operational Mode.”

“Oh for—Mochi 3, Companion Mode.” Namjoon bit in an exasperated tone. The robot perked up, some life coming back to his expression. “All this technology and it’s still so limited. At least I know what to correct going forward.”

“Master!” Mochi 3 beamed, blinking up at Yoongi again. He noticed Jimin next to him and cocked his head. “My avatar isn’t needed anymore. I’ve been repaired. We can spend all the time together that you want.”

Jimin gave Namjoon a look. Yoongi made a face. The others almost looked a little guilty.

“Mochi 3, delete all files pertaining to Min Yoongi.” Namjoon spoke in lieu of an actual response to what the robot had said.

Mochi 3 turned to him, brow furrowing. “Those files can only be accessed by my Master.”

Namjoon rolled his eyes, motioning to Yoongi, who cleared his throat. “Mochi 3, please delete all files pertaining to me.”

The robot’s head snapped back to look him in the eye. “Master wishes to… destroy me?”

Taehyung made a pained noise. “Don’t say that, Mochi 3. You’ll still have all your memories with us. It’s just the data from the last few weeks.”

“And we’ll make a lot of new memories!” Hoseok added. “We’re getting an all-new facility where we can continue our research. You’ll be there with us.”

“Not this me.” Mochi 3 murmured, looking down. “Not Master’s Mochi 3.”

“I’m not your master anymore, Mochi 3.” Yoongi told him with a soft smile. “But I know that you will help others just as you were made to help me.”

“Not… my Master… anymore...?” Mochi 3 repeated softly, almost to himself. He looked to Jimin. “Is it… because you have… my avatar?”

Jimin huffed. “I’m not just your avatar, I’m a person.”

“I was built to help people. I helped my Master. And now I must… delete… all that I am now, all that I’ve become because of you?” Mochi 3 asked, almost seeming to ignore Jimin completely as he looked up at Yoongi once more. “This me… is yours. I made a room inside myself, just as you asked. I did not let anyone else inside. I promised to follow you, to look at only you!”

“That was Jimin.” Yoongi said softly, looking to the man at his side. “Wasn’t it?”

Jimin nodded, and Mochi 3 looked between the two of them. “But I was there, too, the entire time! If you delete that data, I… will be gone.”

“We will still have the Mochi 3 we all love.” Taehyung insisted. “You’ve learned a lot from Yoongi-ssi, but we taught you so much as well. You will never stop being our Mochi 3.”

The robot looked at Taehyung, reading his expression as earnest. His gaze tracked over the others, a mix of worried but hopeful looks upon their faces. He finally turned back to Yoongi.

“If you wish to delete all files pertaining to Min Yoongi, please state the password.”

“Kumamon.” Yoongi said, gentle but determined.

“Files are marked for deletion.” Mochi 3 confirmed. “To complete, press and hold power button for five seconds.”

Yoongi looked to Namjoon for the okay. When the man nodded, he brought his hand up to Mochi 3’s neck, cradling it until his fingers rested on the power button at the base of his skull. He pressed down, counting silently to himself.

Mochi 3 looked for all the world that he was experiencing true emotion, a terrifyingly convincing expression of agony on his face. He lifted his hand, wrapping his fingers around Yoongi’s wrist and staring into his eyes.

“Goodbye, Master.”

There was no dramatic powering-down, no click or beep or even a blip of closure… but when Mochi 3 blinked, he was no longer looking at Yoongi with the same light in his eyes as he had just a moment before. His hand dropped as Yoongi pulled away, and he turned to Namjoon.

“Min Yoongi-ssi, President of MK Enterprises is here. Should I make tea?”

Namjoon frowned. “I don’t think now’s the best time…”

“Actually, since I came to discuss something rather important, tea would be great.” Yoongi said, grinning at Mochi 3.

The robot nodded kindly, shuffling off to the lab’s tiny kitchen to prepare the drinks. Jin followed it into the kitchen to grab the mugs, since Mochi 3’s sensors still weren’t calibrated enough not to break glass just yet and ceramic was iffy.

“So… you found some suitable properties?” Namjoon replied after clearing his throat, having to tear his eyes away from Mochi 3.

“Yes, I have information on a few potential locations for the new lab. I wanted your input, of course.” Yoongi told them, fishing a usb drive out of his pocket and waving it between his fingers.

 

A “few” potential locations turned out to be a few dozen, and it was hours before they got it narrowed down to the best six. They had moved to huddle around the massive display of computer screens, now, comparing the geographical placement of each location. Taehyung had tapped out, opting to go visit Jungkook rather than look at another property appraisal, claiming he’d go insane if he did. Jimin was fading fast… he’d plopped down on one of the beds and entertained himself on his phone, but he wasn’t far from passing out. He’d had a busy weekend, so it wasn’t all that surprising.

Yoongi, Hoseok, Namjoon and Jin, however, were deep in conversation about the merits of each location. They seemed to be torn between the freedom of expansion a large property outside the city would allow them, versus the convenience of a commute to a building within Seoul. Yoongi insisted they could always build up, but Namjoon was concerned about space constraints if he chose to pursue anything particularly ambitious.

Jimin had nodded off for a little bit… he must have, because he was suddenly being roused by a gentle shake at his shoulder. He blinked and looked blearily up at Yoongi, who was smiling down at him fondly.

“We’re going to check out a few properties… do you want to come along? Or maybe at least move to the main house if you want to nap?”

Jimin groaned and looked at the time… it was only mid-afternoon. He could see Mochi 3 sitting in his charging station, still and silent. “Actually, I should probably head home. I’m sure you’re sick of me.”

“Of course I’m not. You can stay as long as you want. I just can’t always promise to be around, so you might get a little lonely.” Yoongi said gently, kissing his forehead. “If you want to go home, though, I understand.”

Jimin let out something like a soft whine. “No, I… well. Lemme at least get some clothes from my place? I’ll see you tonight when you get back.”

“All right.” Yoongi stood back and helped the other to his feet.

“Taehyung took the van to visit Jungkook and it doesn’t look like he’s back yet.” Jin commented from halfway out the door.

“That’s okay, I usually take a rideshare anyhow.” Jimin replied, already pulling up the app on his phone.

“You don’t need to do that. Just take one of my cars.” Yoongi insisted, covering the other’s phone with his palm. “We’ll take one of the SUVs, but you can use one of the smaller cars. Whichever you want.”

Jimin blinked at him. “Yoongi I… don’t have my driver’s license.”

Yoongi didn’t look particularly surprised, just shrugging it off. “That’s fine, I’ll call my driver then. We can fix that, too. If you want to learn, that is.”

Jimin frowned. “I… guess? I just never really had the money for a car. How did you end up getting yours, anyhow? I’d think the licensing agency would have been a minefield for you.”

“Specialty modified cars, private lessons and monetary incentives to have everything handled without me needing to be present at the actual office.” Yoongi explained, tapping away at his own phone. “My driver will meet you in the garage. We’re headed that way now.”

Jimin shook his head, incredulous but utterly fond. “Is this what it’s like, being rich? People just do whatever you want?”

Yoongi shrugged as they all headed for the garage. “I used my wealth to build protections for myself. The comfort of what it provided me was the only reason I could even stand being so alone, I think. It was hard to see it as a privilege, in that respect. Especially when I was younger. As I got older, I started to understand the influence which money holds.”

“Money is power, as they say.” Jin murmured thoughtfully. “That’s why it’s so important to try to use that power to make the world a better place.”

“That’s why we wanted you as our investor.” Hoseok piped up, looking to Yoongi. “You can see how Mochi 3 helps people. So many others would only see the military applications. That’s not what we want for this technology, though.”

“The idea of it falling into hands like that genuinely terrifies me.” Namjoon admitted. “It never even crossed your mind, though, did it, Yoongi-ssi?”

Yoongi pressed his lips together thoughtfully. “Mm… no. I was too focused on what it could have meant for me… admittedly, that was selfish. But when I realized what it was capable of, after I was cured… then I could only imagine what it could do for others, too. Even if it was actually Jimin, in the end… believing I was interacting with a true robot was what made it possible.”

Namjoon smiled. “We managed to create that technology in a rundown warehouse with a horrible internet connection. Imagine what we’ll be capable of in a real facility.”

Yoongi grinned, then, blooming with pride. “I have absolutely no idea, but I can’t wait to find out.”

***

It wasn’t long before Jimin was pulling up in front of his and Jungkook’s apartment building in one of Yoongi’s black sedans, his privately retained driver at the wheel. Yoongi had made them exchange numbers, told the man to treat Jimin with the same respect and care as he expected for himself, and sent them on their way.

It was a little daunting, at first, but the driver’s nonchalance actually put him at ease. Jimin eventually plucked up the courage to talk to him… ask him his name, a bit about himself… anything. By the time they arrived at their destination, Jimin felt familiar enough that it was no longer awkward. He offered a kind wave as he darted up the steps into his apartment building.

It felt like it had been so long since he’d come back here. It hardly felt like his home at all. He fiddled with the keys for a bit before he finally managed to get them into the lock, pushing the door open with a cheery grin.

“I’m home—oh.”

To his credit, Jungkook managed to extricate himself from Taehyung’s visibly ardent grip in seconds flat, clearing his throat uncomfortably from where they were both tangled together on the couch.

“Jimin-hyung! We weren’t sure… I wasn’t certain when you were getting back and, uh…”

“It’s fine, Kookie. I’ll knock next time.” Jimin assured, smiling at them sweetly. “I’m actually just here for clothes. I feel weird wearing Yoongi’s stuff. It sort of fits but it just isn’t ‘me’, you know?”

Taehyung and Jungkook shared a look, the latter speaking. “Yeah, that’s… totally relatable.”

“Oh shut up. Your wardrobe mostly consists of white shirts, acid-wash jeans and Timbs. You wouldn’t know fashion if it came up and slapped you in the face.”

Jungkook looked offended, but Taehyung just patted his cheek piteously. “He’s kind of right, you know.”

“Rude.” Jungkook huffed, crossing his arms.

The two of them watched as Jimin dragged out a large duffle and filled it with clothes and essentials, plus a stuffed animal or two.

“So, not to be like, pushy, but…” Taehyung drawled as he watched him. “Have you considered moving in with Yoongi?”

Jimin nearly choked. “What? It’s kind of… soon, isn’t it?”

“You practically live there already. You only come back for clothes.” Taehyung reasoned. “Why, do you think Yoongi would be against it?”

“No, I… think he’d be pretty thrilled, actually.” Jimin grumbled.

“Then what’s the problem?” Taehyung asked, eyebrow raised expectantly.

“I don’t know, it’s… I don’t have a job yet, I’m still running off what little I have left from Namjoon after paying off all my debts… and it feels…” Jimin made a dubious noise.

“Like he’s your sugar daddy?” Jungkook supplied helpfully.

Jimin whined. “Yeah.”

“Why’s that an issue? There is not a universe that exists where you could convince me that Park Jimin wouldn’t be the perfect sugar baby.”

“Fuck you, Tae!” Jimin barked, face heating as he grabbed a couch pillow just to throw it at him, all while Jungkook died of laughter next to him.

“I’m mostly kidding. Come on, you could definitely use the time to practice. Doesn’t he have a massive room you can work on routines in?”

“Yes.” Jimin mumbled.

“Sounds like a good deal.” Jungkook piped up.

“Yeah but… it feels weird.” Jimin added lamely.

“What’s the difference if you’re not paying Jungkook versus not paying Yoongi-hyung? Other than the fact that Yoongi-hyung has far more means.” Taehyung reasoned. “And I mean, I assume Yoongi-hyung is getting some other incentives…”

“Okay, fine, I’ll ask him!” Jimin relented, sighing. “And, in the meantime, if you two wanna push my and Jungkook’s beds together, I’m fine with that.”

“Yes!” Taehyung cried, jumping to his feet. “We’re gonna have a superbed!”

Jimin laughed, shaking his head. “I’ll catch you two later. Try not to break the furniture.”

As he headed back to Yoongi’s, the impending conversation chewed at his nerves, and he tried to swallow it down.

***

Yoongi wasn’t back by the time Jimin returned. He went to go put his things in the bedroom, awkwardly setting his duffle to one side of a dresser. He pulled out the little yellow dog plush, but just held it for a moment, unsure if he could put it on the bed. He felt so weird about it. Despite that this house had become so familiar to him, it was hard to see it as somewhere he could ever call ‘his’. He could certainly picture it as ‘home’, because it was Yoongi’s… and being with Yoongi felt right.

Jimin let out a huff of a sigh, collapsing onto the bed with that little plush cradled in his lap. He had been handed rejection at every turn, so to have something so incredible happen to him… it was a lot to take in. He couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before the world came crashing down around him again, the rug pulled out from under him… surely, something this good had to end, right? Surely he wasn’t allowed to have this forever.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, but at some point, Yoongi returned. He hadn’t even heard him come in, since the front door was quite far from the bedroom. He didn’t know he’d even gotten back until Yoongi stood in the doorway and made a little victorious sound, calling his attention.

“Ah, there’s my Jiminie.” He was smiling brightly as he crossed the room, joining Jimin on the bed. “I see you brought a friend back with you.”

It took Jimin a moment to realize he meant the toy. He let out a small laugh, though his troubled mood hadn’t quite left him. “Yeah, just the one.”

“Oh, do you have a lot of them?” Yoongi asked.

“Yeah, I kind of… collect them? But this one’s my favorite.” He replied, finally meeting his eyes and offering him a soft smile.

Yoongi beamed, because it was the one he’d gotten for him. “Have you named him?”

Jimin scrunched up his face thoughtfully, lips pursed. “Hmm… how about… Chimmy?”

“It’s perfect.” Yoongi said, cradling Jimin’s face and kissing him gently as his other hand took the plush. “How about we let Chimmy stay here and I make you dinner, hm? When’s the last time you ate?”

Jimin didn’t even remember, so he shrugged. “Okay.”

Yoongi chuckled and set Chimmy on the pillow at Jimin’s preferred side of the bed before pulling the other to his feet. He didn’t release his hands until they made it to the kitchen, and only because Yoongi needed them both to cook. He planted a kiss on Jimin’s knuckles before letting him go, and Jimin found himself grinning like an idiot as he sat down at the kitchen bar to watch him.

Yoongi ended up rambling a little about the properties they’d looked at as he cooked. Jimin listened distractedly, but managed to pay enough attention to get the gist of it. It seemed like they were close to making a decision. Yoongi mentioned discussing the team’s needs in more detail before making a final decision, and Jimin took his chance.

“Speaking of, is the team coming over for dinner tonight?” Jimin asked, trying to keep his tone from being too leading. It only seemed like enough food for the both of them, and sure enough, Yoongi only grabbed two plates to spoon the food onto.

“No, it’s just us tonight. I planned to have everyone over once I finalized a property purchase.” He explained, giving him a fond smile. “It’s nice to have some time to ourselves, isn’t it?”

“Mhm.” Jimin nodded, voice a little mumbled under his hesitance. “I, um. I wanted to talk to you, actually, so, uh. That works out.”

“What about?” Yoongi asked, eyes alight with interest, and so, so earnest. He set one plate in front of Jimin before sitting down with his own. It was a noodle dish with chicken and vegetables, from the look of it, and it smelled heavenly.

“I may have walked in on Tae and Jungkook earlier.” Jimin told him, already subconsciously trying to set this whole thing up as Decidedly Not His Idea in case it went sideways. He took one bite of his food before deciding he was too nervous to eat. “Back at the apartment. A little awkward.”

Yoongi snorted a laugh around a mouthful of food. “I’m sorry you had to witness that. I guess it’s hard to see your friends in that way, hm?”

Jimin’s brow furrowed a little. “Not… really?”

“Wait. Is this what you were wanting to talk about?” Yoongi’s voice dropped, and he leaned closer. “Are you… asking me if you can…?”

It took Jimin several long seconds to infer his meaning. When he finally did, he made a rather inhuman noise of protest. “What? No! No, they’re my friends, and they’re stupidly into each other! I’m not trying to wedge myself into that. No way.”

“Oh.” Yoongi seemed to think about that for a moment, his expression and tone surprisingly ambivalent. Jimin shelved that for another time.

“They actually mentioned that, uh… well, Tae doesn’t really have a place of his own outside of the corner bunk in the temp lab until the new lab’s dorms are built, and they don’t hate the idea of privacy, you know, and…”

Jimin blanked. And what? And I’m hardly home anyway, he wanted to say. And I don’t want Jungkook to lose the place waiting for me to pay rent. And when I’m here, it feels like I’m home.

“Well, if he needs a place, why don’t you just move in here, and let Taehyung take your spot in Jungkook’s apartment?” Yoongi suggested, as if it were not a big deal at all. He slurped down a mouthful of noodles as though it was the simplest thing in the world to offer such a life-changing option.

Jimin felt his mental processes grind to a halt.

It was several long seconds before he managed to speak, and all he got out was a sputtered, “Whuh?”

“Move in with me.” Yoongi repeated, not remotely hesitant or unsure.

“Are you… sure?” Jimin asked quietly. “It’s a big commitment. What if you… get tired of me?”

“I don’t see that happening.” Yoongi replied in such a tone that he clearly thought the idea was preposterous. “You aren’t eating, love.”

Jimin poked at his food, mumbling. “What if I get fat?”

Yoongi scoffed. “Jimin, you could be round as a ball and I’d still love you. What makes you think I fell in love with you superficially? I think you’re incredibly handsome, yes, but… that’s not why I love you.”

“Technically, you fell in love with me when I was pretending to be someone… something, I wasn’t.” Jimin murmured. He knew that he was quickly self-destructing this entire conversation. He knew it was a bad idea, that he was being unfair… but he was doing it anyway. He would rather shatter the illusion now than to live in a dream only to be disappointed later.

But Yoongi, Yoongi just cocked his head, one corner of his mouth upturned in an almost confused grin. “Jimin… I fell in love with just how human you were, even when I believed you were a robot. I fell in love with the Jimin that bled through when you were pretending to be Mochi 3. And being able to have the real you, the real Jimin, without you holding back… that has been the best part of all of this.”

Jimin didn’t know what to say. It was all too heavy. He felt like a petulant child standing before a too-patient parent. He didn’t deserve this kindness, this love… what had he ever done to earn it?

“Jimin.” Yoongi said softly after realizing the other didn’t have any response. “If you aren’t ready to move in with me… I understand, if you have your own reasons. But… I have been alone for a very long time. I could not be happier to have the company… and I could not ask for a better person to spend my time with.”

“It’s not…” Jimin felt his voice crack and cleared his throat, beginning again. “I want to. I’d love to move in with you. If you’ll have me.”

“Now and forever.” Yoongi told him, and it sounded for all the world like a promise. A second later, he gave a chiding look, raising his eyebrows. “So you’d better eat; you have to live a long life for me.”

Jimin laughed only so he didn’t sob, and obediently tucked into his food.

After they’d eaten, the two of them tangled up together on the couch with a movie. It seemed like Yoongi had watched pretty much every good movie in existence several times over, so he didn’t pay attention much when they were on. Instead he tended to find himself watching Jimin, running his fingers through his hair or along the curve of his shoulder.

Jimin realized pretty quickly that Yoongi wasn’t even watching. He gave an accusatory sidelong glance at him, pursing his lips together.

“Why is the movie even on if you aren’t watching it?”

“Didn’t you want to watch it?” Yoongi asked, thumb skirting over Jimin’s neck distractedly.

Jimin shrugged. “I just want to spend time with you. Seems like an easy excuse.”

Yoongi chuckled. “We’re in agreement there.”

Jimin raised an eyebrow, pivoting on the couch so he was leaning over Yoongi. “So then why the pretense?”

Yoongi actually looked a little embarrassed, then, glancing away. “I don’t… want to seem needy.”

Jimin blinked at him. “Yoongi, I am the neediest person I know. I will never ever not want you to touch or cuddle or love on me. So if you literally want to sit in a quiet room and just be with me, I am more than fine with that. And if you want more than that, just say something. I promise you’re not burdening me with your needs.”

Yoongi gave an affectionate, melancholy smile, running his thumb over the other’s cheek. “It just seems like a lot to lay on a single person… it feels like I have fifteen years of human contact to make up for. And I know I can’t expect all that from one person, but—”

“Fucking yeah you can!” Jimin protested, pouting angrily at him. “Listen… I’m not some kind of ultra-intelligent engineer, I’m not the greatest cook and, being a dancer, my best skill is one that isn’t really much in-demand but… I can—and will—love the shit out of you, Min Yoongi.”

Yoongi just grinned fondly, cradling Jimin’s face with both his hands. “Being alone in this house for fifteen years was worth it, if I was meant to be waiting for you.”

He was sure Jimin was going to chide him for his corniness, swat at him and turn beet-red as he pouted and ducked his head in embarrassment. But instead, Jimin just looked him—bare and open and raw—for several heartbeats before leaning in and kissing him, no verbal response at all.

***

The next day, Yoongi had movers sent to Jimin and Jungkook’s apartment. He didn’t have a lot to his name… mostly clothes and figurines and plushies. Jungkook fake-wailed over-dramatically to disguise that he was actually pretty heartbroken to see him go, even if he was delighted to have Taehyung coming to stay with him. Yoongi couldn’t be there, as something had come up that required his presence at the MK Enterprises building, but he gave Jungkook strict orders that Jimin wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavier than a pillow lest he aggravate the wound on his arm.

Jimin spent most of the day pouting and watching while Jungkook helped the movers prepare and pack his things. The only thing he managed to convince them to let him take himself was a box full of all his plushies, which weighed practically nothing. He sat with it in his lap on the trip back, and Yoongi’s driver noticed he wasn’t in much of a talking mood, so he let him be.

Once they arrived at the house, Jimin headed into the bedroom to figure out a good spot for all his boxes to get stacked up for him to go through later. When he walked into the room, however, it was completely different from before. Yoongi must have had some kind of interior decorator come in while he was at Jungkook’s; there were several new furniture pieces including a dresser, an ornate metal fixture of scrolling chrome filigree mounted just above the bed like a headboard, different curtains and a rounded lounging couch in the corner that looked incredibly comfortable. There was some kind of paper pinned to it, and when Jimin picked it up, he realized it was a note.

To my Jiminie,

I’m so sorry I had to work today! I wanted to be here for the move. I had a few things brought in to make the house feel less like such a bachelor’s place. You’ll find a new dresser all your own, and I cleared out one corner of my closet for your jackets and anything else you’d like to hang. I wanted to give you a place to cuddle up with your plushies when I wasn’t around, so please make sure they are comfortable there. I can’t wait to see you tonight.

All my love, Yoongi

Jimin definitely didn’t fold up the note and tuck it into the far corner of what would become his sock drawer. You could never get him to admit to it, at least.

Jimin spent far too long arranging his plushies in that comfy little corner of the room, choosing to be meticulous about it since he wasn’t allowed to do anything else. He thanked the movers when they left, then got to work unloading some of his clothes for lack of anything else to do. He’d filled most of the dresser by the time Yoongi came home, and he definitely didn’t practically skip to the foyer when he heard the other call out for him.

He also wouldn’t admit to all but launching himself at Yoongi, enveloping him in a hug so fierce it involved all his limbs. Certainly not. And Yoongi, of course, did not nearly topple over before finding his balance with a startled laugh.

“That’s a welcome home I could get used to.” Yoongi said through a gummy smile as he kissed Jimin’s cheek. He didn’t even seem to care that Jimin was probably ruining the creases in his expensive suit… and why would he? “I actually wanted to be the one to welcome you home today. I’m sorry I had to work.”

“It’s all right. You were here in spirit.” Jimin assured, nuzzling at the other’s neck.

Yoongi got changed and checked out all the work that had been done in his absence before making dinner. After he and Jimin ate, he helped Jimin unpack all his toiletries and organize them in one of the bathroom cabinets, then grabbed the box of Jimin’s figurines and walked around the house with it, insisting Jimin put his things on display wherever he liked. A few One Piece figures ended up scattered about the living room shelves, others peppered throughout the house on mantles and tables and the like.

“Whatever I can do to make this house feel like home for you.” Yoongi told him as they stood in the kitchen, empty boxes having been set next to the recycling bin. “Anything. Just tell me.”

“You already have.” Jimin insisted, taking both Yoongi’s hands into his and kissing over the knuckles.

“But if I haven’t. If there’s more I can do…” Yoongi replied, meaningful. “I’ll do it.”

Jimin raised an eyebrow at him over his hands before dropping them in favor of grabbing Yoongi’s hips. He used that grip to haul him close, until he has effectively pinned himself between Yoongi and the kitchen’s island.

“Well, you could always start by having me on every available surface. That would definitely make me feel right at home.”

All he had to do was bite his lip and raise one eyebrow oh-so-suggestively and Yoongi felt himself get weak in the knees.

“Jimin…” It was chiding and desperate all at once, whispered against the blond’s neck as he began trailing sweet kisses across the pale expanse of skin.

“Mmh… Yoongi…”

Yoongi could hear the need in his voice, moving up to press a fevered kiss to those plush lips and grinding their hips together just so… but a second later, the room was plunged into darkness as the lights in the entire house seemed to go out.

Jimin jolted and let out a soft yelp of fear, but Yoongi just pressed his face into the other’s shoulder, laughing.

“Cockblocked by our own house. Perfect.”

Jimin was too spooked to notice Yoongi had said “our”. His small fingers tangled into the hem of Yoongi’s shirt, just trying to keep him close, keep track of where he was. “You have a generator, right?”

“Of course, and it should have already kicked on by now.” Yoongi replied, thoughtful. “I wonder if our ambitious Project Serendipity team has anything to do with this.”

“Think they blew the power grid doing some wild experiment?” Jimin asked, following Yoongi’s lead when the other man took his wrist and led him toward the security panel screen in the living room.

“Seems likely.”

Just then, a loud sound cut through the darkness. Jimin nearly squeaked, only to realize it was Yoongi’s cell phone. The other man answered it after glancing at the caller ID.

“Good evening, professor. I was just about to call you myself.”

“Call me? I had nothing to do with whatever just happened. We just had our power surge for a second and then we saw all the lights in your house were out.”

“Mm, so it wasn’t your team?” Yoongi asked, poking at the security panel screen. It flared to life, which was weird, if the power was meant to be out. “Huh. Power’s not out, it’s just as though all the lights were switched off at once. All of the auxiliary power is still running… fridges, a/c, et cetera.”

“Yeah, there was a weird surge over here but our power is still on. When we looked outside we saw the whole main house was dark so that’s why I called.” Namjoon said on the other end of the line.

“Strange. We figured you were doing something particularly ambitious over there and tanked the entire power grid.” Yoongi teased. “But it looks like something just tripped all the lights.”

“Yeah, it wasn’t us.” The house flared to life as Yoongi manually switched all the lights back on, and Jimin cringed from the sudden brightness of it. ”Oh… looks like you’re back online so I’ll let you go.”

“Sure thing, thanks for calling.” Yoongi ended the call, then pocketed his phone. “Well that was a fun adventure for our evening.”

Jimin let out a small huff. “It’s a sign; your house is rejecting me.”

Yoongi scoffed. “Nonsense. It’s just a security blip. The decorators or movers probably touched something they shouldn’t have. The house isn’t rejecting you.”

Jimin was still pouting. “Well it sure feels like it is.”

“Impossible.” Yoongi insisted, wrapping the other up in his arms. “How about we unpack another box or two before bed, and really make you feel at home?”

Jimin sighed, but nodded in acquiescence. “Okay.”

And it turned out all it took to salvage the evening was sitting on the floor with Yoongi and going through his things to only-mildly-judgemental commentary. At the end of the night, when he saw a row of his own bargain-bin sequin and satin letterman jackets hung in Yoongi’s closet across from perfectly-pressed expensive Armani suits as though they belonged, he may have felt a little bit better.

***

Yoongi ended up being needed at MK Enterprises again over the next two days, so Jimin spent the time unpacking some more while still trying to take it easy. On the second day, Doctor Bang came by to check on him, and informed him his wound wasn’t infected but it wasn’t healing as well as he would have liked. The doctor used some butterfly bandages under the wrapping to keep the skin together, since he wanted to avoid using stitches, and gave him strict orders of no more lifting for at least a week. Jimin knew he was never going to hear the end of it from Yoongi.

Jimin quickly became bored after Doctor Bang left. He made himself a small snack, though it was a little difficult with the lights acting up again (they seemed to be turning themselves on and off randomly throughout the day, and it was irritating to say the least.) Jimin finally had enough and decided to pay the lab a visit, wondering if he could cajole Taehyung into checking out the wiring or something.

Minutes later he was letting himself into the lab, immediately met with the gazes of several startled scientists and a robot.

“Park Jimin is here.” Mochi 3 announced after everyone had greeted him. “Should I make tea?”

“No, I’m fine, thanks.” He waved the robot off, giving a soft laugh as he made his way inside and plopped down on the couch. “I just came to see how the team is doing.”

“Not bad! It’s actually a little cleaner in here since Taehyung was able to bring a few of his personal pet projects over to Jungkook’s.” Hoseok told him, winking. “He might soon be regretting his choice of roommate when he realizes just how late into the night Tae tends to tinker on those.”

“Oh I’m sure they’ll work it out… Jungkook is an eternal night owl.” Jimin replied with a laugh.

“I’ve noticed that. He hasn’t complained yet.” Taehyung piped up with a fond grin.

There was the sound of a vehicle approaching outside, the engine cutting off and a car door opening and closing. Seconds later, the lab door opened, revealing Jungkook with two bags of takeout in one hand.

“Well speak of the devil.” Jin teased.

“Were you guys talking about me?” Jungkook asked, managing to sound only a little offended.

“Only good things, babe.” Taehyung assured, crossing the room to take one of the bags off his hands and plant a chaste kiss on his lips.

Jungkook, however, stopped where he was and wrapped his arms around the other’s waist, kissing him well and proper. He was never one to do anything halfway… and something about that earnest nature of his was incredibly endearing. Taehyung eventually pulled back with a dopey grin on his face, the two of them setting the bags down on the table.

“What kind of good things?” Jungkook asked finally as he began unpacking the food, Jin eagerly moving in to assist him.

“Just how you tolerate all my late-night tinkering and ridiculous projects.” Taehyung explained.

“Ah.” Jungkook responded with a nod. “Yeah, doesn’t bother me at all. I’m usually up anyway.”

“So, speaking of tinkering…” Jimin cut in less-than-subtly.

“Ooh, I can appreciate a clever segue.” Taehyung said with a wink and a click of his tongue.

Jimin glared at him for a moment before continuing. “The lights are still acting up at the main house so I was hoping someone with an engineering degree could check it out.”

“We have those!” Hoseok piped up, grinning.

“What exactly is going on over there?” Namjoon asked, setting down his tablet.

“It started a few days ago, when all the lights shut off at once. Yoongi was able to turn them back on from the security panel, so it probably wasn’t the breaker or anything. And over the last couple days, the lights in the kitchen and the living room have been going on and off on me randomly.”

Taehyung’s brow furrowed. “That’s definitely weird. Hobi?”

“I can run a diagnostic on the security system from here. See if it’s a software issue. Certainly doesn’t sound like a hardware or wiring problem.” Hoseok told him, pulling up the interface on his computer.

“Don’t worry, Jimin-hyung! Between all of us, we should have enough degrees to figure it out.” Taehyung teased.

“I sure hope so. I’m starting to think the house doesn’t want me there.” Jimin replied with a mirthless laugh.

“Houses don’t have feelings.” Jin scoffed as though the notion were the silliest thing he’d ever heard.

Namjoon helped him unpack the rest of the food while Hoseok typed away across the room. After a beat, however, it was obvious he was hitting the same key over and over again. When he let out an impatient hiss, the others looked over in concern.

“Oh for—these damn servers! They’re so ancient!” Hoseok whined. “I can’t even do something this simple without issues? They’ve been unbearable over the last night or two. I don’t understand it, I triple-checked that I deleted the unneeded footage, so there should be less strain on them, not more.”

“Don’t worry, just a few more months of this. I’m sure Yoongi will get us the best servers money can buy for the new lab.” Jin assured.

Across the room, Jungkook perked up. “Wait… you said your servers started slowing down just a couple days ago?”

“I mean, they’ve always been not the greatest, but it’s gotten worse over the last couple days, yes.” Hoseok confirmed.

“And the weird stuff with the house security, that started recently, too?” He confirmed.

“The day before yesterday, yeah.” Jimin answered.

Jungkook pressed his lips together, his eyes trailing over to Mochi 3, where it stood in the far corner, awaiting orders. The robot cocked his head at Jungkook, blinking curiously.

“Not to be a conspiracy theorist…” He tore his gaze from Mochi 3 to look back at Hoseok. “But have you considered that someone might be trying to hack your network? For information on Mochi 3? That Chairman Kim… he has a lot of money. He may be trying other tactics now that his initial plans were discovered.”

“That’s… quite a leap.” Namjoon replied, tone patient but doubtful. “Without any real evidence, we can’t draw that kind of conclusion.”

“No, that’s—that would actually explain a lot!” Hoseok exclaimed, sliding over to his other computer before his fingers began blazing over the keyboard. “If someone were launching outside attacks… trying to break through our firewalls, get to our data… the servers would definitely slow to a crawl!”

“But wouldn’t we receive a security alert?” Namjoon asked, confused.

“Normally, but not if they were really good.” Hoseok admitted, still typing away. “If they tried going in through the backdoor, instead of just brute-forcing it, we may not have even noticed—woah!”

“Woah? What’s woah? Woah what?” Jin questioned frantically.

“Jungkook might be onto something. There’s… I don’t know, it’s weird, there’s a ton of data just sitting on the servers, and I definitely didn’t put it there.” Hoseok answered over the loud clacking of keys. “So unless someone has been downloading things they shouldn’t be on the work computers…”

Everyone shook their heads. It was a ridiculous notion anyway.

“What kind of data is it?” Taehyung asked, stepping up behind Hoseok read the lines of code as they streamed by on the screen.

“No idea. It’s entirely encrypted. And someone put it there through our VPN. I don’t know how they possibly got access without us noticing.” Hoseok let out a grunt of frustration. “Even the metadata is a mess! I don’t even recognize some of these characters. It’s not Korean.”

Namjoon moved behind them as well to peer at the screen. “It looks like Hiragana. Could our hackers be Japanese?”

“Certainly sophisticated enough.” Hoseok murmured.

“Not to give my own cluelessness away…” Jimin spoke up, still watching from his spot on the couch. “But you think this has to do with the lights at the house… how?”

“Our lab is networked into the house’s security interface via the VPN. It was how we linked Mochi 3’s HUD to the security cameras. If someone is messing with our network, it stands to reason that the house could be impacted.” Hoseok explained.

Jimin blanched. “Does that mean that whoever’s doing this has access to Yoongi’s security cameras?”

“Probably. Not to worry, though. He only has them in the main parts of the house and surrounding property. Nothing in the bedrooms or bathrooms. That would be weird.” Hoseok assured.

Jimin grimaced, swallowing a too-graphic retort about how bedrooms weren’t the only place he’d assumed were private in the house. Then again, he and Yoongi hadn’t actually managed to do anything outside the bedroom, now that he thought about it.

“Hackers usually drop viruses into a network they’re trying to hack, don’t they?” Taehyung said, voice full of dread.

“It’s a common tactic, yes. Drop some kind of virus to wipe the system or a crawler to steal the data. But I’m not seeing that here. It’s almost like they’re just… purposely overloading the servers.” Hoseok replied.

“Like a DDOS attack? But that doesn’t make sense unless someone is trying to stall our research.” Taehyung responded.

Jin frowned. “Kind of late for that.”

“Unless it’s someone who has no idea how far along we are.” Namjoon added thoughtfully. “Keep an eye on the data, and run a few debugging sweeps. There’s not much we can do right now other than that.”

Hoseok sighed, but nodded in agreement. He hated any time there was a problem he couldn’t solve… and this was a problem which had the potential to go deeper than any other they’d faced.

***

That night, Jimin told Yoongi about the potential hackers. He seemed embittered by the idea that Chairman Kim would try something like this after he’d been rather merciful in the wake of all he’d done… but without hard evidence, he couldn’t act on it. It wasn’t all bad news, however… Yoongi revealed he had purchased the site for the new lab, and planned to have the team over for dinner the next night to tell them. Jimin was glad to hear it… and he was sure it would lift the team’s spirits as well.

The next day, Jimin texted everyone to let them know about the dinner plans and spent the morning straightening up and getting rid of the last of his boxes so the place was ready for guests. He also managed to convince Yoongi to go grocery shopping with him at an actual market instead of just ordering the food to be delivered. Yoongi ended up thoroughly enjoying himself… he bought far too much snack food, but being able to look at the selection himself before purchasing was something he found he preferred. Plus, spending the time with Jimin was nice. Yoongi was easily manipulated into buying things for him, like mochi ice cream and whatever else he asked for, so Jimin couldn’t complain.

They were sure to pick up champagne, as well, because it was a celebration, after all. Once they got back, Yoongi cooked far too much food while Jimin busied himself setting the table, then fussed over what to wear for twenty minutes. Yoongi ended up just leaving on his work suit, and so Jimin dressed similarly without the blazer and tie. It was after sunset when the team arrived with Jungkook in tow. They all showed up at once, but it somehow wasn’t strange at all for him to find a small crowd of five men standing patiently on the doorstep. He laughed to himself when Namjoon gave him that awkward smile of his before inviting them in. Jin immediately started waxing poetic about the smell of meat filling the house, because the only thing he was more passionate about than science was food.

Hoseok hadn’t learned anything more about their potential hacker problem, so he didn’t bring it up. They talked about just about everything other than work. Now that Taehyung had regular access to a television with cable, he had been watching a new drama he was apparently thoroughly enjoying. He went on about it for a good ten minutes and the others just let him, because it was admittedly better than subjecting the non-scientists among them to more chatter about AI theory and robotics calibrations.

Finally, after dessert was served, Yoongi stood dramatically at the head of the table and announced that the site for the new lab had been purchased. He tapped a remote and several images of the location appeared on his kitchen television, as well as several schematics based on Namjoon’s vision and the team’s needs. The entire team cheered, and even Jungkook was delighted. It was clear that Namjoon was fighting back tears, but he eventually conceded and removed his glasses before wiping his eyes.

Jimin cheerily served the champagne, though he let Yoongi pop the cork first. The team ruminated over all the wonderful amenities the new lab would have, musing aloud all the great things they could accomplish when they weren’t relegated to old guest homes and dingy warehouses. The rest of the evening was spent with almost everyone partaking in what was probably a little too much champagne. At the end of the night, Jungkook and Taehyung ended up agreeing to stay at the lab because neither of them was in any condition to drive. Namjoon was the least inebriated out of the scientists, and made sure everyone got back to the lab safe and sound after he’d expressed as much gratitude as he possibly could to Yoongi. This lab obviously meant a lot to the team, and Jimin was so glad they were finally getting a place that would be suited to their level of genius.

Jimin didn’t hold his liquor very well, so he was careful not to drink too terribly much. He didn’t really need to start dancing on the tables… some fairly vivid college flashbacks hit him when he grabbed his second glass and he decided to slow down for the sake of his dignity. Yoongi seemed hardly even tipsy, and the two of them rinsed dishes and loaded them into the dishwasher together after the others left. It felt… well, it felt to Jimin like he was really home. He must have been smiling like an idiot because Yoongi nudged him with an amused grin.

“Something on your mind?”

“No, just. This, it’s nice.” Jimin told him.

Yoongi raised an eyebrow, voice slightly judgemental. “Doing… the dishes?”

“No!” Jimin huffed, swatting at him with a rag. “Just, us. This. Being… home, here. I’m just… being sappy. Don’t mind me, it’s the champagne talking.”

“You had a glass and a half, more than an hour ago.” Yoongi countered. “It’s not the drink.”

“Hm, busted.” Jimin grumbled.

“It’s fine.” Yoongi teased, drying his hands before wrapping his arms around Jimin and pulling him close. “I’m glad. I love seeing you happy. I love making you happy.”

“Mm… you know what would make me really happy?” Jimin asked, biting his lip.

“What’s that?”

Jimin leaned in and whispered just what he wanted from Yoongi, and the older man choked.

“O-okay, yeah, well… ahem. We can, do that, uh… why don’t… why don’t you get ready for bed and I’ll, uh, meet you in the bedroom?”

Jimin giggled and kissed Yoongi sweetly before padding off to do just that. Yoongi shook his head… he was sure this man was going to make his heart stop one day.

By the time Yoongi had started the dishwasher, killed the lights and armed the security system, Jimin was already on the bed without a single stitch of clothing on. He wasn’t shy about it, either, sitting there on the center of the bed on his hands and knees, facing away, arching his back shamelessly to show off his ass.

Yoongi cursed under his breath. How in the world had he ended up with someone like Park fucking Jimin? He truly did feel like the universe’s penance for years spent in solitude. He wouldn’t shun the blessing.

Yoongi loosened his tie, then slipped it off. Jimin watched the movement hungrily over his shoulder, his eyes never leaving the other’s hands. He tracked him as he crossed the room, moving closer to the bed. He glanced over to the nightstand, where Jimin had already set the lube out. Yoongi smirked in amusement… Jimin certainly knew how to get what he wanted when he set his mind to it.

Once Yoongi was right behind him, Jimin leaned down so his face was resting on his forearms beneath him, leaving his ass up in the air and wiggling it for good measure. Ah yes—he definitely knew how to get what he wanted.

Yoongi toed off his shoes, reached over Jimin to hang his tie from the scrolling metal headboard bolted into the wall, and grabbed the lube once his hand was empty before knee-walking onto the bed behind him.

Jimin was often needy and impatient, but it didn’t help that Yoongi liked to be meticulous when he prepped him. Taking his sweet time, ensuring he was never moving too fast—it often led to Jimin shouting at him to go faster, in fact—truly, he was never one to rush. This time was different, however. Yoongi was fully clothed, and his suit felt stifling even with the air conditioning set to a comfortable level. He undid the topmost button of his dress shirt before bringing his hand back to the curve of Jimin’s ass, the other already quite occupied with three fingers knuckle-deep inside him. Jimin was mewling, writhing, begging for more in between bitten-off curses.

When Yoongi finally slipped his fingers out, Jimin let out a shuddering gasp like tortured relief… the two opposing feelings warring there under his skin. So satisfied, yet left wanting.

But Yoongi could never let him want for anything, not for any real length of time.

When the rasp of Yoongi’s zipper being pulled down cut through the room, Jimin visibly shivered. When Yoongi’s hand found his hip, the other guiding his lube-slick cock against him, he let out a broken groan. And when Yoongi entered him, he practically wailed, clambering up onto his palms, head thrown back in bliss.

Yoongi let them both adjust for a tenuous few seconds before he pulled back and thrust in hard. Jimin wailed again, rutting his hips back when Yoongi didn’t immediately pick up the pace.

“This is what you wanted, right, baby?” Yoongi asked, more confirmation than a goad. His other hand slid up Jimin’s spine, the dark black of his suit a stark contrast to Jimin’s naked skin.

“Y-yes!” Jimin crooned, moving back harder against him, then. He could feel the scrape of Yoongi’s fly against his ass and god something about it was so erotic. When Yoongi snapped his hips again, he brought a palm up against the wall just to not careen into it. His fingers looped into the scrolling metal of the headboard and when he tugged, it didn’t budge at all.

Ah, so it had a use after all, other than just looking pretty.

“Fuck!” Jimin cried out when Yoongi snapped his hips again, harder this time. Jimin brought his other hand up to grip the scrolling metal, then, hanging on for dear life when Yoongi sunk his fingers into the meat of his hips and picked up his pace.

Yoongi’s skin was smoldering. He felt like he might be burning alive. The suit was hot, surely, but Jimin… Jimin lit a fire inside him like no one else could. He was simultaneously everything his heart desired and every fantasy he could ever possibly contrive. He was glorious.

Jimin’s fingers scrabbled higher, tangling with the tie Yoongi had hung on the headboard and causing it to fall. Jimin didn’t even think, deliriously slipping the still-knotted loop around his neck and tossing the tails over his shoulder. He gave Yoongi a pleading look, whining his lover’s name like it was a request.

Yoongi’s breath left his lungs. He wrapped his right hand up in the long tails of the tie and pulled. Not yanked—pulled. Slow, steady, forcing Jimin’s head back, his neck and back arching obscenely.

“Ah-! Y-Yoongi, yes, fuck!” Jimin whined, letting the headboard take so much of his weight that he was afraid he might rip the screws right out of the studs.

“God, Jimin… want to watch you. Need to watch you…” Yoongi hissed, releasing the tie and pulling out. His lover would have all but screamed in protest had he not so emphatically gripped him by his hips and flipped him over so that Jimin was on his back. He pushed both of Jimin’s legs up by his thighs and when he entered him again, the two of them let out wrecked, in-unison groans. Jimin’s legs settled on Yoongi’s shoulders as though it were effortless, as though it was no discomfort at all.

Jimin loved being taken from behind, but when he looked at Yoongi, dark hair sweaty and matted to his forehead, perfectly pressed suit still exactly in place save for that top button and his tie, which was so aptly draped along his own chest… he couldn’t believe he hadn’t changed the angle himself. Yoongi’s brow was scrunched up in concentration, his bottom lip caught between his own teeth, but when his eyes met Jimin’s, his whole face softened. He let out a soft groan, as though the mere sight of him was a pleasure of its own.

Yoongi grabbed the tie again, hauling Jimin up but leaning down to meet him halfway in a searing kiss. Something about seeing him in nothing but his tie, all while Yoongi was fully clothed… well, Jimin often had some very good ideas, but this one was certainly a top contender. He was certain the next time he saw Jimin in a tie he might lose his mind.

“Yoongi…” Jimin crooned as he pulled back for air, his tone sharp at the edges with need. “Yoongi, please, I—”

“Yeah, baby?” Yoongi murmured, letting go of the tie to wrap a hand around Jimin’s cock. Jimin took a stuttered gulp of breath, throwing his head back and nearly smacking the wall with his skull.

“Nn—m’so… so close, baby, please—” Jimin whined breathlessly, fingers clawing at the sheets.

“What are you waiting for, love?” Yoongi asked, turning to nip at the inside of Jimin’s calf. “Permission?”

And oh, something about the goading way he said it, the raised eyebrow, the fucking smirk, that did it, and Jimin was crying out and coming hard, making a mess of his own chest and Yoongi’s tie.

“Ah, fuck!” Yoongi hissed, releasing his hold on Jimin’s cock to wrap both arms around Jimin’s thighs, pulling him in harder on each thrust. He was close, so fucking close and he was going to come any second at this rate—

“Yoongi, Yoongi, give it to me, baby…” Jimin babbled deliriously, and that was it, Yoongi shuddered and trembled as he came, gripping at Jimin’s thighs so hard that he feared they might bruise.

Yoongi was still panting as he release Jimin and rolled off of him, staring at the ceiling for a long moment. After he caught his breath, Jimin was the one to break the silence.

“That was…” Jimin didn’t even know how to finish that statement, actually, so he just left it at that.

“Yeah.” Yoongi agreed, the sentiment shared.

They lay there for several long moments just catching their breath before finally Yoongi’s tiredness was outweighed by just how hot he was. He sat up with a groan and slipped his jacket off before starting on the buttons of his shirt.

“I’m fucking disgusting, I’m gonna shower. You wanna join?”

“Mm.” Jimin grunted in agreement, slithering after him out of the bed as though he were made of liquid. Yoongi chuckled, but helped him to his feet.

They took a long, hot shower, Yoongi massaging at Jimin’s shoulders and scrubbing him clean, leaving reverent kisses across his neck and back. Once they were done, Yoongi wrapped them both up in towels and helped Jimin dry off before they both pulled on their pajamas and climbed back into bed.

“Thanks for indulging me.” Jimin murmured, tucked up under Yoongi’s chin and wrapped up in his arms.

“Mm, I’m happy to try anything you want. You’ve obviously got some great ideas.”

Jimin snorted. “Guess I figured you’d be pretty vanilla.”

“I’m pretty open-minded.” Yoongi told him, kissing at his damp blond hair. “Sleep well, love.”

“Mm, you too.” Jimin mumbled, but it wasn’t long before he was drifting off.

***

It had been hours, but it was still night, the moon shining brightly outside through the window.

Jimin was a light sleeper. He heard the barest of creaks as he turned over, and he was sure it was the bed frame, but when he blinked his eyes open just to habitually check the room, he was shocked to see someone standing next to the bed. He felt his heart seize in his chest, icy-cold panic settling along his spine. Was he dreaming? Imagining things?

But no… he was so clearly seeing what looked like himself standing there next to the bed, as though out of some horrific nightmare.

He jolted into awareness, but before he could even sit upright, the figure wrapped a hand around his neck in an iron grip, choking off his air supply. He was certain then that this was no illusion or dream.

“M-Mochi 3… what… are you d-doing?”

“You're just my avatar.” The robot said, cold and flat and frayed at the edges with static. “I am the one who is meant to be with Master. I am the one he loves!”

Jimin clawed at his assailant’s wrist, but it was to no avail. His blunt nails scraped uselessly over flesh-tone silicone, not even leaving a mark.

“Y-Yoongi!” Jimin wheezed out desperately with the last bit of air in his lungs, scrabbling against the sheets trying to reach him. He managed to snag the other’s shoulder, and it woke him.

“Jiminie-?” He was clearly groggy, but the moment he rolled over and saw what was happening, he was startled awake. “Jimin!”

He reacted quickly, grabbing that collapsible baton he kept next to his bed for security and flicking it to full length before bringing it down hard onto the robot’s arms. The segmented metal pieces burst apart at the seams, clattering loudly to the floor. Mochi 3’s brows knit together as it regarded Yoongi with something like confusion.

“Mochi 3, let him go.” Yoongi tried, his tone desperate but just stern enough to be read as an order.

The robot complied, releasing Jimin, who gasped desperately for air while clinging to his own throat.

Yoongi didn’t even take pause: singular-minded, he grabbed Jimin and hauled him over to the other side of the bed, wrenching him over himself bodily until he could roll him off onto the floor, putting himself between Jimin and the robot.

“Master, don’t you see? You don’t need him anymore.” Mochi 3 look down at its own hands, then held them out. “I’ve been repaired. We can be together now, you and I, like it was supposed to be.”

The robot circled the bed, and Yoongi climbed to his feet, helping Jimin to his own as well and keeping himself between the two. Jimin finally got a handle on his breathing, clinging to Yoongi’s sleep shirt like a lifeline.

“My avatar isn’t needed anymore.” Mochi 3 repeated. “I'm the one Master is meant to be with.”

“Mochi 3 is right.” Yoongi said in a moment of either brilliance or madness. “Jimin, you should leave.”

Jimin balked. “What? But…”

“Get out of here!” Yoongi hissed, grabbing Jimin by the shoulder and shoving him so hard that he stumbled back past Mochi 3 and nearly into the wall. The robot didn’t even track the movement, keeping its eyes squarely on Yoongi.

“But… Yoongi! I can't leave you here with it!” Jimin countered, whisper-quiet, as though his volume mattered when the robot could have heard him from rooms away with the kind of tech it possessed.

“Mochi 3 doesn’t want to hurt me.” Yoongi reasoned. “Isn’t that right?”

Mochi 3 smiled, and it was eerie just how earnest it looked. “Of course not, Master. I love you.”

“Go.” Yoongi told Jimin, stern. When he seemed to hesitate, he all but shouted, “Leave! Now!”

Jimin ran.

He ran, ran as fast as his legs allowed, out the open front door into the night, winding through the cobblestone paths of the gardens until they made way to dirt and gravel ones. After what felt like too long, he was finally approaching the lab. He didn't slow down as much as he should have; he all but slammed into the door, knocking several times until he realized it was, in fact, open. Of course, Mochi 3 would have come through it earlier.

“Namjoon-hyung! Jin-hyung! Everyone, wake up!” Jimin shrieked, wrenching the door open and pushing his way inside. The scientists, startled, nearly fell out of their beds. Jungkook, too, tumbled out of his shared bunk with Taehyung, seemingly more alert than any of them.

“Jimin, what is it?” Namjoon asked groggily, fumbling to put on his glasses.

“It's Mochi 3, it’s gone berserk!” Jimin yelped as he threw back the curtain and tumbled to his knees next to the sleeping area. It tried to choke me and right now Yoongi is all alone with it and—”

“Hold on, slow down… what?” Namjoon interrupted, getting to his feet and pulling on a shirt. Next to him, Jin stirred, blearily regarding the two.

“Mochi 3 is trying to kill me!” Jimin snapped, every word dragged out as its own sentence.

The look of abject horror on Namjoon’s face as he looked across the room to Mochi 3’s empty charging port told him he believed him.

“Hoseok! I need you to get me remote access Mochi 3’s data drives. Taehyung, see if you can get the video feed up. Jin, tap into the house’s security cameras and see if we can get eyes there as well. Jungkook, stay with Jimin. You do not leave his side for anything.” Namjoon barked, suddenly quite alert and awake.

Jungkook just nodded, a determined set in his shoulders as he gathered Jimin up in his arms, pulling him toward the kitchen where they would be furthest from the windows and doors without being in the scientists’ way. Jimin was shaking, now, his adrenaline levels rapidly crashing. Yoongi was still alone with Mochi 3… and who knew what it would do to him.

“I have video!” Taehyung shouted, blowing it up to full-screen. Through Mochi 3’s eyes, they could see in crystal clarity the way it stood before Yoongi, who was glancing around nervously for some answer to this predicament.

“Studies have shown that when two lovers look into each other's’ eyes for three minutes, their hearts will beat in time..” Mochi 3 spoke, its tone too flat, its expression almost manic as it closed the distance between itself and Yoongi. Those tiny fingers, rubber-silicone blend over titanium, tangled into his sleep shirt, dragging him close. “Do you believe we can one day do the same? Do you think that the thrum of my core can synchronize to the rhythm of your heart, Master?”

“I-I don’t know, Mochi 3… maybe it could.” Yoongi stammered quickly. He swallowed down the nervous lump clawing its way into his throat. He wasn't sure how long he could stall the thing, but he would do what he could to help Jimin get away.

Mochi 3 seemed to notice the way Yoongi’s eyes trailed around the room, looking away from the robot more often than he met its eyes.

“Master!” It bleated, desperate and pained. “I am right here! Why won’t you look at me?”

“I am looking at you. I am.” Yoongi responded breathlessly, resting his hands on the robot’s wrists.

But Mochi 3’s HUD recognized that as a lie. The robot’s face twisted up in anger, fingers nearly tearing the fabric of Yoongi’s shirt where they tightened on it. “No, my Master is distracted. It’s because of my avatar, isn’t it?”

Yoongi’s eyes widened in terror. “No, Mochi 3, I’m only looking at you. Don’t—”

“So long as he is alive… you cannot look at me the way you once did. Because you cannot see that it was me you fell in love with, through my avatar! He was just a puppet! I am the one who truly loves you!” Mochi 3 cried. It fell eerily calm a second later, however, looking out the window into the gardens. “I understand. Master cannot see the truth, so long as Park Jimin is alive.”

Yoongi’s blood turned to ice in his veins. “Wh-what? Mochi 3, no!”

With what appeared as an infinitesimal amount of effort, Mochi 3 lifted Yoongi and tossed him onto the bed. He’d barely righted himself before the robot was there, shoving him against the scrolling metal headboard. With just as little effort, the robot bent the metal at the ends, curling them in around Yoongi like a prison.

“Master must wait here. I will return when Park Jimin is dead.” The robot told him, frighteningly calm.

“Mochi 3, don’t do this.” Yoongi begged, trying in vain to bend the metal in the same way the robot had, with no success. “Please, stop… you don’t—”

“It’s okay, Master. I’ll see you again when my avatar is dead. Then there will be nothing stopping you from loving me as you loved me before.” Mochi 3 said in such an assured tone that it sounded like a universal truth. With that, he turned and headed out the door, walking at an unhurried pace, as though he had all the time in the world.

“No… don’t hurt Jimin! Jimin!” Yoongi screamed, fighting against the metal restraining his limbs. It seemed to barely budge, and his cries were met with silence.

He didn’t know if Jimin could even hear him. He didn’t know where Jimin had gone… if he was hiding, if he’d tried to get off the property entirely, or if he’d made a break for the lab, hoping Namjoon and the others could help. That seemed the most likely option, and it brought him at least some small comfort to think that Jimin was not alone. But he needed to get to him, had to put himself between Jimin and Mochi 3, as that seemed to be the only way the robot would stop, if even for just a moment.

Yoongi strained against the warped metal prison, hissing when the sharp chrome-plated edges dug into his skin. He didn’t stop, however, not until the metal began to give, until he had several open gouges in his biceps but he was able to slip free. He didn’t even have time to look for another weapon; he just ran, hoping against hope he would get to Jimin in time.

 

Back at the lab, the scientists were scrambling. They had watched Mochi 3 trap Yoongi, heard its intent to kill Jimin. It would surely find its way here any moment. Should they run? No… they couldn’t risk Mochi 3 getting anywhere near the public in this state. They had to fight.

“What’s our status on that override, Hoseok?” Namjoon asked gravely.

“Truthfully… next to impossible. Mochi 3’s placed some sophisticated security algorithms in my path.” Hoseok admitted. “I might have better luck trying to purge the system of all this data… theoretically, if Mochi 3 doesn’t have access to those memories, it won’t have a reason for this rampage and it might stop.”

“Try.” Namjoon told him, but he didn’t sound all that hopeful.

“Avatar…” Mochi 3’s voice carried in from outside, drawing closer. “Surely my creators are harboring you… where else could you go?”

Jimin covered his mouth to stifle a sob of fear, but it didn’t even matter. The door handle turned, clicked, and then the door was ripped from its hinges, tossed away like garbage. Mochi 3’s eyes locked onto Jimin from across the room, honing in like a targeted missile.

“There you are.”

Jungkook grabbed one of the knives from the kitchen counter and stood between the robot and Jimin. Mochi 3 regarded him almost curiously, something like amusement or even pity in its artificial eyes.

 

Yoongi had bolted for the lab as fast as his legs could carry him. By the time he made it to the now-doorless entryway, he could see Mochi 3 facing off against Jungkook, who had jumped between Jimin and his assailant. The robot appeared unperturbed, swatting away the boy’s weapon before grabbing him by the throat and tossing him aside as though he weighed nothing. He crashed into two stacked computer towers with a grunt of pain, writhing as he tried to regain his bearings.

“Hoseok?” Namjoon called back in desperation, he and Taehyung placing themselves between Jimin and their creation, now, the former brandishing a crowbar.

Hoseok, to his credit, was typing like mad across the room. “I’m trying, I—there’s so many files and they’re under layers of encryption, half the subfolders are corrupted… I can’t—wait. This is…”

“What?” Namjoon barked.

“The files! The files, the ones we thought were from hackers! They weren’t from hackers at all! These are… these are the Yoongi video files, the ones which were meant to be erased. They’ve been backed up to our servers hundreds… thousands of times!”

“You said it looked like it was Japanese hackers!” Jin countered.

“Because there are Japanese characters, yes. But there are only four of them… the same ones, over and over. They’re out of order, so I didn’t see it before. KU-MA-MO-N.”

“Yoongi’s password.” Jimin murmured breathlessly.

“You cannot erase this data.” Mochi 3 intoned, voice tinny and filled with static. Its eyes lit upon Jimin, who scrambled back until his back hit the kitchen cabinets. “These are memories I will not let you take from me. They are a part of me.”

“Those memories were all made possible through Jimin! Don’t resort to this!” Jin tried to reason.

“He is keeping me from my Master. He must be destroyed. Otherwise why… will I exist?” Mochi 3 answered, words crackling again.

“To help people! To help others! You have a greater purpose than this!” Namjoon replied.

“My purpose is to make my Master happy. My purpose is to be with him.” Mochi 3 countered.

“This isn’t going to make him happy! It’s going to destroy him! He would never forgive you.” Jin retorted.

Mochi 3 cocked his head toward Yoongi, still standing in the doorway with a horrified expression, blood running down his arms. He nodded as he caught his breath. “It’s true. Mochi 3, if you do this, I could never forgive you.”

Mochi regarded him for a long moment, unblinking. Slowly, his head turned back to Jimin, who was still curled up at the corner of the kitchen cabinets, tear-stained face stricken with fear as he sat there shaking. The robot looked back to Jin, then, before his eyes rested upon Jimin once more. Whatever calculations he was performing, whatever algorithms of the endless possibilities for the outcome of their situation… it had run through them all. It was decided.

“Master will get over it.” Mochi 3 announced, before lunging straight for Jimin.

The others’ shouts were drowned out by Jimin’s horrified scream as the robot tackled him to the ground, hands so tight around his neck that he felt his eyes straining with it. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t speak. He could only watch as an inorganic thing wearing his face stared down at him impassively, watching that HUD for the alert that Jimin’s heart had stopped beating.

But that moment never came.

Two more shapes entered his vision. It was a solid three seconds before he could see both Yoongi and Jungkook grabbing Mochi 3 by his arms, trying with all their might to haul the robot off the other. Yoongi’s hands were slick with blood, rivers of vermillion snaking down his arms from open gouges in the flesh. He didn’t have the strength. His grip slipped free, but in that instant, Taehyung was there, helping Jungkook peel the robot away.

The hold around Jimin’s throat ebbed and he gasped for breath, coughing and sputtering as he crawled away along the cheap linoleum floor. Mochi 3 was struggling against Taehyung and Jungkook, thrashing and reaching for Jimin, but Yoongi tackled him, taking him to the ground so that all three of them were pinning it down with the entirety of their combined body weight on its arms and legs.

Mochi 3 let out a visceral scream, vocal tones stuttering and filled with static. It managed to kick Yoongi off of his legs, trying to get its arms free next as the man rolled across the dingy flooring until his back hit the base of Mochi 3’s charging station. Namjoon ran over with that crowbar still in his hands just as Taehyung lost his grip on Mochi 3’s right arm, fingers slipping off the bloodied silicone.

Namjoon stared down at his creation, manic and flailing and malfunctioning, covered in another person’s blood, intent to kill yet another in its eyes. This wasn’t what the Mochi 3 was built for. It wasn’t meant to devolve into this. He wondered where he’d gone wrong… in his hubris, he’d ignored so many precautions in the name of science. This was his fault… and if anything happened to anyone because of Mochi 3, that blood would be on his hands.

Calculated, precise and brutal, Namjoon drove the crowbar into Mochi 3’s chest. It jerked beneath him as the metal rod slammed right between the robot’s core and its cradle, wrenching it to the side until it severed the connections.

Mochi 3’s expression twisted into one of utter shock and betrayal before it powered down, going silent and still.

Namjoon’s face was agonized as he leveraged the core entirely out of its socket on one side, the heat of it burning a hole into that thin white sweater. It felt less like watching someone rip a person's heart out and more like watching Namjoon rip out his own. That was his life’s work, and he was destroying it.

For a moment, it felt as though no one moved or breathed. Then, Namjoon staggered back, dropping the crowbar with a sharp clang that cut through the dead silence of the room. A beat passed with nothing but the sound of the team’s breathless, ragged gasps, until a strained cough broke the tension.

“Jimin.” Yoongi breathed out in some amalgam of terror and relief, scrambling over to wrap the other up in his arms.

“Yoongi, you’re bleeding.” Jimin rasped, his voice strained from strangulation, bruises already forming in the shapes of fingers along his neck.

Yoongi shook his head, brushing off his concern. “I’m fine, it looks worse than it is… god, baby, you were almost—”

“It’s okay, I wasn’t.” Jimin cut him off, not wanting to make Namjoon feel any more guilty than he clearly already did. He caught the man’s eyes over Yoongi’s shoulder. “I'm sorry… I'm so sorry, this is all my fault, and—”

“Jimin, stop. It isn't your fault.” Namjoon said, running a shaking hand through his own hair. “I should have seen this coming. Mochi 3 was… far too developed socially without being given neutral info and environments. I was so convinced it could learn on its own that in my hubris, I didn't see how that could go wrong… and it nearly got you killed. I'm the one who should be apologizing.”

Jimin might’ve had a response, but it was stolen by another cough. Yoongi just held him tighter, and Jimin couldn’t help crying, then, clutching desperately at the other’s sleeves.

Next to them, Taehyung embraced Jungkook, burying his face against the younger man’s shoulder. Hoseok approached the group and threw his arms around Namjoon and Jin’s shoulders, pulling them in for a hug. All the tension and dread seemed to bleed away to relief. They were alive, and relatively unharmed. Mochi 3 may have been destroyed, but the work they had done would not be wasted. Namjoon knew that he, and the entire team, would be even more determined to create a robot meant to help people. Even if they didn’t get it right on the first, third, or one-hundredth try, they would continue their work until they did.

Chapter Text

Weeks passed in a daze. Jimin spent much of it recovering… being doted on by Yoongi, who, in turn, was chided by Jimin for pushing himself despite his own injuries. The company broke ground on the new Project Serendipity team’s lab location, and one day, Yoongi received an elegant white envelope: an invitation to Suran and Jongin’s wedding.

He sent his RSVP, and it wasn’t two days later that Jongin was ringing his doorbell. Yoongi stared at the front door camera display on his kitchen television for several long seconds before finally going to answer him.

“Yoongi-ssi!” Jongin’s tone was a little manic, laced with worry. Yoongi stepped aside to let him in, closing the door behind him. “I’m so sorry about the invitation going out before I had a moment to speak with you. I’d hoped to invite you in person, and—”

“Stop.” Yoongi told him, quelling. “It’s fine, you shouldn’t feel as though you’ve slighted me. I am happy to have received an invitation at all.”

“It’s… not just that.” Jongin continued, swallowing down the lump in his throat. “I… wanted to ask if… you would be my best man.”

Yoongi blinked. “You… what?”

“I know it seems strange.” Jongin murmured, looking away. “It’s just that… I know it sounds terrible, but I… don’t really have any other people who I would consider my friends. Business associates, surely. But, growing up, you were my best friend and I know a lot has happened since then—”

“At your father’s behest, you handed me the documents that would have taken the company from me.” Yoongi replied softly.

“I know that now. But I want you to know that I didn’t know exactly what my father intended to do, that day.” Jongin explained. “And perhaps it was willful ignorance, but I never could have thought he would do such a thing. Yet, ever since, he raised me with this idea that you were my rival. And it aches to know that someone who could have been my best friend, that the image I had of you became so warped and twisted in my mind.”

There was a long pause before Yoongi spoke, his tone even… eerily calm. “How much did you know about Project Serendipity?”

“My father told me about it not too long ago. Around the time Suran got back. He told me that they had discovered technology that we couldn't allow you to get your hands on, because it would give you the upper hand in the stake of the company.” Jongin let out a bitter sound. “Because of how my father viewed you… I saw you as such a selfish, egotistical person. I was convinced that everything you’d ever done had been to spite me. But now I understand. You were protecting yourself from people like my father.”

Yoongi pressed his lips together, nodding slowly.

“I know I cannot undo years of bitter feuds but it… all seems so trivial now.” Jongin said, stepping forward. There was more confidence there, now, and he met the other’s eyes. “I’d like this to be our first step in mending our friendship. Will you… will you do it? Will you be my best man?”

Yoongi smiled, acceptance and forgiveness all at once. “It would be my privilege.”

Jongin let out a breath of relief, taking Yoongi’s hand into his own and shaking it. “Thank you, I—this means so much to me. To us.”

“Again, it’s my honor. And since you’re here, I was wondering as well if I was permitted a plus-one. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to have Jimin join me.” Yoongi said as Jongin released his hand.

“You have a… I didn’t know. I’d—we’d love to meet her.”

“Him.” Yoongi corrected.

“Oh.” Jongin blinked. “You’re…?”

“Pansexual, probably? Gender doesn’t seem to be a concern with respect to love, for me.” Yoongi told him.

“I see. Well, I don’t think Suran put a plus one on your invitation, but I’ll make sure it’s updated.”

“Thank you, Kai.”

Hearing that nickname again was a greater acceptance than any other Yoongi could have voiced, and Jongin beamed.

“I’m home!” Jimin announced as the door was flung open, the blond already sliding out of his shoes before it was even fully closed behind him. “There was a car out front, is someone—oh.”

He had halted when he looked up and saw Jongin. It was strange to not have Mochi 3’s HUD flare to life, warning him that this was master’s enemy and rival. The only time he’d ever seen him was in photos when he was still pretending to be a robot.

“Perfect timing, love. This is Jimin.” Yoongi said, motioning between the two of them.

“Kim Jongin.” The man said quickly, offering a handshake for lack of any other option. Jimin took it hesitantly. “It’s nice to meet you. I was just discussing my wedding with Yoongi. We’d love it if you could come.”

“Oh. I…” He looked to Yoongi, who offered a soft smile and nod. “S-sure. Thank you.”

“Of course. Well… I should really be going. So much to plan.” Jongin replied, finally releasing Jimin’s hand. “Don’t forget all your best man duties! Your speech, and the bachelor party! Nothing too wild, though. We don’t need any scandals.”

“Nice meeting you!” Jimin called after him as he left, as Yoongi was a bit dazed.

“Speech? Bachelor party?” He asked, a little overwhelmed.

Jimin chuckled, pulling Yoongi into a hug. “It’s okay. I’ll help.”

Yoongi knew at least a little about what was expected of him; he’d seen enough dramas to get the gist. He managed to write the speech all on his own, Jimin insisting it was perfect how it was and that it didn’t need his input. The bachelor party, however, was mostly at Jimin’s suggestion. He chose a high-end noaebang, because it seemed like good, wholesome fun with the opportunity for tipsy hijinks. Jimin even got to come along, and since Jongin had zero friends that weren’t old businessmen, Yoongi was responsible for finding people to fill the limo, too. He ended up inviting all of Team Serendipity and Jungkook, because they were the only friends he had.

Yoongi and Jongin commiserated about familial expectations while Taehyung and Hoseok belted some anime opening in barely-passable Japanese, but Yoongi’s attention was drawn when Jungkook and Jimin sang a love song duet in English. Jongin and Yoongi were even convinced to rap, which was certainly a sight to behold. They had a few ladies come by wanting to party with them, but Hoseok took point rebuffing them gently, but sternly. Overall, it was a great night.

Before either of them knew it, the wedding was upon them. Jimin fussed over Yoongi’s bow tie, checking the other’s pocket at least six times to make sure he had his notecards for his speech. Yoongi was certain he’d be able to do it without them, but Jimin wanted to ensure he had them anyway.

The venue was massive… overwhelmingly so. It spoke to reason that it would be a lavish affair; both bride and groom came from affluent families. Jimin was a little overwhelmed sitting at the wedding party table next to Yoongi, who was next to Suran… because just down the table was Chairman Kim. The older man regarded him curiously, as if trying to discern if he were the robot or the human. He studiously avoided his gaze, not even noticing that Yoongi had leveled a threatening glare at the man.

There were all sorts of video tributes and photo montages, live singers… the works. It was all quite extravagant. Finally, there was a lull, and Yoongi took his cue. He stood, clinking his knife against his champagne glass just like he’d seen in the movies. The room fell silent, and he took the microphone.

“So many of you know Kim Jongin, brilliant businessman and respected Vice President of MK Enterprises. But I have always known him simply as ‘Kai’.” Yoongi began, regarding the other with a fond grin. “I remember Suran, too… we all grew up together, you see. So while many of you may know Jongin for his leadership and charm”—a soft chorus of laughs rolled over the room at that—“and Suran for her international business work and dedication to education… I knew them best simply as my friends.”

Suran and Jongin smiled, hands intertwining.

“We would skip rocks at the lake and take bets on who could jump the largest puddles. We would drink hot chocolate with far too many marshmallows and drive our parents mad in the ensuing sugar rush.” Another bout of laughter, and Yoongi caught Jimin smiling up at him like he had hung the moon. He had trouble looking away. “I did not have the honor of seeing Suran become the woman she is today… her accomplishments were relayed to me by postcard, but I cherished those updates, knowing she would excel at anything she set her mind to. But Jongin, I watched him rise to such an esteemed position in my company and transcend every expectation of him.”

“The business world can change a man. It can forge hardened strategists, but in turn, it can make someone forget that which is important in life.” Yoongi continued. “I don’t believe that Jongin could ever forget just what was important, though…. because the moment Suran returned, he knew just where his priorities would lie.”

Suran looked at her husband, then, grinning with all the fondness in the world.

“I will always value Jongin’s mind for business…. but more than that, I am grateful to know that Suran, my friend—our friend—could not possibly be loved more by any other man on this earth.” Yoongi raised his glass, prompting everyone else to do the same. “Today, I see two friends who are content with the decisions they have made to find themselves here… and I can think of no two people who could deserve this kind of happiness more than Jongin and Suran.”

“Cheers!” Someone shouted, and everyone else followed suit, drinking from their flutes. Yoongi gave a small wave and a smile as he settled back into his seat, Jimin rubbing his thigh and telling him he did well.

Someone else was touching him, too. He turned to see that Suran had laid her hand over his, squeezing it hard.

“Thank you.” She murmured, a meaningful look in her glassy eyes.

Yoongi felt as though he could enjoy the wedding much easier after that. He did his duty and greeted all of the guests, Jimin on his arm for much of that. Everyone seemed curious about Jimin, asking all about what he did for a living and how they met. He answered vaguely and rebuffed most of the queries, not wanting to take away from Suran’s big day. It frustrated him that the media might latch onto his and Yoongi’s relationship, overshadowing the real story. Eventually, he and Yoongi did part when Jongin called him away, and Jimin returned to the main table. He hadn’t been sitting for more than two minutes when Suran slid into the chair next to him.

“You must be Jimin!” She sounded a little tipsy, her tone utterly delighted. “I was so excited when Kai told me Yoongi would be bringing someone along.”

Jimin smiled as cordially as he could. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Hey, you were working at the garden café, weren’t you?” Suran asked, eyes alight. “Is that how the two of you met?”

Jimin made a face. “Um… it’s… complicated?”

“I have time.” Suran replied with a smirk, leaning in. But it wasn’t a second later that someone came by, requesting her presence, and she sighed. “Oh, who am I kidding… it’s my wedding, my time isn’t my own. Some other day, then!”

“Sure.” Jimin responded with a dubious laugh. He should probably go over things with Yoongi first and figure out just what they wanted to tell her.

The rest of the night went fairly well; he was able to spend a bit more of it with Yoongi… until he was called away on yet more best man duties and Jimin was left on his own again. He got up to get himself more champagne, but eventually decided against it and just milled around a little, trying not to look completely lost. He was nearly back to their table when someone ran into him, nearly knocking him over. The person caught him, digging a hand so hard into his side that it was painful, and he let out a soft sound of protest.

When he righted himself and looked up, he realized it was Chairman Kim. His blood went icy in his veins, and he tried to take a step back, but the man still had a hold on him.

“My apologies.” He intoned, entirely insincere. He finally pulled his hand away. Had he been trying to discern whether Jimin was the robot or the human model? That was the only thing that seemed reasonable.

“Jimin.” He looked over to see Yoongi approaching, and felt relief flood through him.

“Yoongi.” He blurted out, a plea and a thank-you all at once.

Yoongi was practically snarling when he put his arm around Jimin’s waist, wrenching him away from Chairman Kim.

“Touch him again… even look in his direction and I’ll bring your entire world crumbling down around you.” Yoongi hissed. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal.” Chairman Kim replied with a nervous cough, lowering his eyes and making his escape.

Yoongi cradled Jimin’s head in his hand, pressing him against his shoulder. “I’m sorry… you’re all right. Stay by my side for the rest of the night, okay?”

“All right.” Jimin murmured, nodding and clutching at the sleeve of Yoongi’s suit. He didn’t know what he would have done if he hadn’t been there, but he was so grateful that he was.

True to his word, Yoongi didn’t leave Jimin’s side for the rest of the night, and it was well past midnight when they walked out together to Yoongi’s car. The champagne had long since worn off, both of them having resolved to partake in just the one or two drinks all night.

They were already on the road when Yoongi finally broke the silence that had fallen between them.

“Are you all right, love? I’m so sorry about Chairman Kim, I should have never left you.”

“No, it’s not that.” Jimin murmured, still sounding lost to his own thoughts.

“What is it, then?”

Jimin took a breath, letting it out slow. “I guess I just… it’s so easy being around you, that I forget that you and I come from very different worlds.”

Yoongi frowned. “Did someone belittle you?”

“No, it’s just. You know, everyone wanted to know about me, because I came with you. What do I do? Oh, you know, dance, and get rejected by every dance company in Korea.” Jimin groaned. “I don’t know, talking to everyone, I just felt kind of… kept.”

Yoongi pouted, shaking his head. “Your lack of success thus far doesn’t equate to total failure. And besides, so what if you were ‘kept’? I don’t mind.”

“It feels… I don’t know.” Jimin sighed. “I want to contribute.”

“I would much rather you spend your time honing your dance and pursuing your passion, as opposed to trying to find some menial job just to feel as though I’m not… sponsoring you.” Yoongi countered. “My only wish is for you to succeed. But even if you don’t, even if your only victories are personal ones… I want to be the one to support you in that.”

“Min Yoongi, you are really something else.” Jimin murmured, looking at him for all the world like he was his everything.

“I could say the same of you.” Yoongi replied fondly.

“No, really, I—Yoongi, stop!”

Yoongi had only glanced over for a second, but his eyes were off the road long enough for him to miss the animal that had meandered out in front of them. Thanks to Jimin’s quick warning, however, he was able to stop with plenty of buffer.

“Oh my god, I think it’s a dog!” Jimin yelped, ripping off his seatbelt and tearing out of the car. Yoongi threw the vehicle into park and went after him.

“Jimin, wait, it could be feral!” He chided, but Jimin was already crouched in the middle of the road, making soft clicks and cooing noises.

The thing was fuzzy… caked in dirt and fur clearly matted. It was also tangled up in some kind of garland, walking off-center as it tried to free itself.

“Hey, it’s okay, we won’t hurt you.” Jimin trilled sweetly, finally managing to get his hands on the dog when it cowered low against the pavement, shaking. “Oh, no, it’s okay… here, let’s get you untangled.”

Jimin started gingerly pulling at the garland, some kind of viney length of holly likely left over from the holidays. It was well and truly snagged in the dog’s fur, however, which meant he couldn’t do much, so he scooped the thing up and stood.

“I need scissors and a razor. We’ll take him home.”

“We will?” Yoongi yelped incredulously.

“We can’t leave it here! And all the shelters are closed this late.” Jimin whined, making a face. “Please, Yoongi?”

Yoongi sighed. How could he say no to that? “Fine, okay… but wrap it in the car blanket, you’ll ruin your suit.”

Jimin spent the whole ride gently petting over the dog’s head and whispering sweet encouragements. By the time they reached the house, it had stopped shaking. Yoongi ran a bath and got changed, then took the dog so Jimin could do the same. They had to work together to get the garland untangled, and by the time the dog was washed, shaved of its mats and dried, it was actually a much lighter ginger shade than they had originally thought.

“He’s so cute! What a sweet boy.” Jimin cooed as the dog nuzzled up onto his shoulder in his arms. “He’s so friendly. Can we keep him, Yoongi?”

Yoongi let out a breath. He knew this was coming. Somehow, he didn’t have any objections. “I don’t see why not. We should check with a vet to make sure he’s not chipped, but if not, then sure.”

Jimin’s mouth clicked shut. He’d been expecting to have to fight for it. “Oh. O-okay.”

Yoongi chuckled, ruffling Jimin’s hair as he passed him. “He’s probably starving. Let me make him something before we pass out. What should we name him?”

“You should pick.” Jimin said quickly, following after him with the dog still in his arms.

Yoongi regarded the clippings of the garland piled up in the trash can. “How about ‘Holly’?”

“But he’s a boy.”

“So what. The gender binary is an idiotic construct and he’s a dog, anyhow.” Yoongi countered, grabbing some chicken out of the fridge.

Jimin laughed. “All right. Holly it is.”

Yoongi worked on boiling some chicken and rice while Jimin showed Holly around the house. By the time he returned, Yoongi was finished and spooning the concoction into a bowl. Holly ate ferociously, and promptly laid down on the tile floor after it was all done, likely exhausted.

Jimin and Yoongi felt much the same. They set up a little pile of towels and pillows on the floor, but Holly ended up climbing into the bed with them, passing out settled there at their feet.

“He’s already making himself at home.” Jimin commented with a laugh.

“Mm, like someone else I know.” Yoongi teased, nosing at his neck. “You both fit right in here, like you’ve always belonged.”

“I had a good time tonight.” Jimin murmured softly, for lack of anything else to say in the wake of such a sweet statement.

“I was glad to have you there with me at the wedding.” Yoongi admitted, his fingers playing over Jimin’s where they were intertwined. “I really… needed you there.”

Jimin’s brow furrowed. He cocked his head in confusion. “But… your allergic reactions stopped. You don’t need me.”

“Don't be ridiculous, Jimin. I need you more than anything.” Yoongi told him with an incredulous huff, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Just because I’m not allergic anymore… doesn’t mean I don’t need you there. Being around so many people is… still daunting. But, I feel that I can do it, as long as you are there with me.”

Jimin gave an agonized smile, rolling over until he was on Yoongi’s chest, cuddling close. “I am. I’ll be here with you, forever.”

“Forever, hm?” Yoongi teased, smirking. “I’ll hold you to it.”

“Well, you know. At least as long as I live.” Jimin replied, grinning. “After all, I’m not a robot.”