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wish we'd fall in love

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[the prelude]

This is how Jimin meets Kim Namjoon—

They’re having lunch. Brunch. Something of the sort, not that Jimin’s really keeping track, just that he knows he likes this boy and his long loose limbs and his dimples and he had wanted to talk to him more, talk to him in a certain kind of way, maybe, if the cards land right. So now they’re here, face to face across a smorgasbord of sweet things, gooey and syrupy, and Jimin is twirling the little spoon from some mango pudding dessert in his mouth, getting the dripping sauce a little bit over his lips, trying to figure out how Kim Namjoon fucks.

See, Namjoon isn’t like Jimin’s usual kind of guy, which mostly means he doesn’t look very breakable or like he wants to break things, the sort of man teetering on the edge of masculinity so fragile it might just shatter if Jimin poked it with a finger. Or his dick. The kind of guy who Jimin doesn’t have to care about. The kind of guy that satiates the part of him that likes to watch things shatter, likes to poke and prod and demand until he uncovers the soft, pliant parts underneath all that fake bravado. Likes feeling powerful.

But Kim Namjoon isn’t one of those. He looks nice. He looks like the kind of boy Jimin might flirt with for a night and then never call back, because he doesn’t actually want to hurt anyone unless they lashed out first, and Jimin doesn’t really do feelings these days.

But, but—they’ve known each other for long enough now, and lately they’ve been dancing around each other, some energy shifted, and every time Jimin sees him, he can’t help but let his eyes linger on the low dip of his shirt collars, the long taper of his fingers, those goddamn dimples that peak out when Namjoon laughs. There’s something exhilarating about that, because Namjoon is at once so careless with his laughter and then abruptly careful, hiding his face—and those goddamn dimples—whenever he laughs too hard, and Jimin wants to pry his hands away, kind of wants to kiss that full-blown smile, just to see what happens.

So they have brunch. Halfway through, Namjoon pauses and straightens up in his seat, like he’s realizing something. “Is this a date?” he asks, little desert spoon held loosely in one hand, brows furrowed like he’s been trying to figure it out to no avail, so now he’s asking.

Jimin giggles. Can’t help it. God, he really is cute. He leans forward in his chair and licks a bit of sauce of his lips. “You tell me.”

Namjoon’s eye flicker down, hold for a long, long time on Jimin’s mouth. But then he pushes back, a hesitant bent to his mouth. “Only if you want it to be,” he says. Considerate.

And the mask of careful confidence he’s built up over the course of brunch crumbles, just a bit at the corners.

If you want, Namjoon said. What do I want?

The smile Jimin has put on suddenly feels a little tighter, like he has to work to keep it bright and eager on his mouth. He puts the dessert spoon down, smoothing his finger over the edge of the napkin rustling under his plate on the table. “I’m not sure about that,” he finds himself saying, trying to lace in some amount of flirting, enough to keep Namjoon interested, but—not enough to commit.

And Namjoon probably senses that, but he’s a good sport about it. Jimin tries to tell himself he’s not disappointed when Namjoon dips his head in a nod. “Alright,” he says. “Friends, then.”

Jimin thinks again, what do I want this to be? What do I want?

“I’d like that,” he says instead. “Friends.”

It’s wholly unfair that Namjoon doesn’t even blink at the shift in atmosphere. He sits up straighter, puts his hands flat on the table, a bright gleam in his eyes as he says, “All my other friends say that I talk too much about my work, so stop me any time if you get bored. But do you want to hang out some more today, maybe?”

Jimin leans forward on his elbows, enough to let the loose collar of his button up fall open, just a little, because he doesn’t know how to navigate a budding friendship without flirting. Doesn’t miss the way Namjoon’s eyes flicker, too, right down to the split of fabric. But he doesn’t say anything else, and Jimin isn’t very good at wanting.

“Tell me about your work,” Jimin demands, because demanding has always been easier.

The crinkle at the corner of Namjoon’s lips is almost too much to bear. “Well,” he says, as if he’d just been waiting for that cue, “I went back to school recently, because I started getting into philosophy texts in the tail end of undergrad, and it’s like the fucking cheesiest thing, I swear, but it’s been helping me a lot in my music.”

“You do music?”

Namjoon makes a little wiggling motion with his hand. “Sure,” he says. “On the side.”

And Jimin hooks a foot into the leg of his chair, rocks it back and forth. “Well obviously that means you have to show me some time,” he says, and Namjoon agrees with the sort of easy confidence that tells Jimin it’s not really just on the side, and that’s how it starts.

//

“God,” Jimin says, dropping his bag under the little table of the comics cafe and slumping back into the loveseat with Taehyung, “It’s been such a long week.”

Taehyung automatically curls his arms around Jimin’s torso. Across from them, Namjoon bends back the cover of his manga in a way that makes Jimin wince a little. “That bad?” he asks, grimacing.

Jimin pouts. “I swear to god no one who’s coming to the gym this week knows what a rhythm is let alone can follow it. I’m so tired of this job.”

Taehyung rests his chin on Jimin’s shoulder. “That’s a lie. You love your job.”

“Not today,” Jimin growls.

Namjoon sets his book down on the table, and it’s only now that Jimin actually registers that they’re sitting in a comics cafe right now, and not, like, a proper sit down restaurant or something. He twists around, blinking. “Actually, why are we meeting up here?”

“I like it here,” Taehyung says, as if that explains anything at all.

“It’s quiet, but not as quiet as the library,” Namjoon says. “I come here to work sometimes. People tend to leave you alone?”

Jimin can’t help but curl his smile into something with more of a mocking edge. “You mean everyone who comes out to these places is an anti-social nerd,” he says. When Taehyung whines, Jimin reaches back to pat him on the head. “Except you, Taetae.”

Namjoon laughs. “I guess you could say that.”

The flash of his dimples again, those stupid enticing things, makes Jimin’s mood sour for no real discernable reason. It’s been so long since they became real friends, and Jimin still can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to kiss him, and it makes his cranky mood all the more worse when Namjoon casually picks up his glasses from the table and slides them over his face, the bulky frames that really should make him look like one of those anti-social nerds only framing eyes in a way that makes them look sharper. Darker, even in this brightly lit cafe filled with cute cartoons.

As if sensing the cloud around his head, Taehyung squeezes at his waist. “Jiminie,” he says, “what’s wrong?”

And because Jimin can never lie to Taehyung, he sighs, kicks at the table, and says, “I dumped that asshole I’ve been seeing.”

The corner of Namjoon’s mouth droops. “Shit,” he says. “That sucks.”

Taehyung hums in agreement, reaching out to pat Jimin’s thigh comfortingly.

Jimin flops back. “Stupid, really,” he says, “I should’ve seen it coming.”

And Namjoon, thoughtful as always, says, “You’re not stupid, Jimin-ah. Don’t blame yourself for someone else being a dick.”

There’s an edge of tension to his chest that Jimin doesn’t know how to explain. “Yeah, well,” he says, “I was the one who missed all the signs.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Taehyung asks, squeezing him some more.

“Ugh,” Jimin says. “He told me no one was bringing a plus one to this stupid party with his friends, and then I saw some shit on Insta, and either way it was obviously a lie. He just—” here, embarrassingly, his voice strains, nearly a crack. Jimin scowls at nothing in particular and scuffs at the ground. “He just obviously didn’t want to be seen with me with his friends, which means he was a fucker who just wanted to get fucked or whatever. God. Why do I even bother?”

At his back, Taehyung snorts. “You sure know how to pick ‘em.”

Jimin whirls around, happy to have someone to be angry at. “Excuse me,” he says hotly, “but it’s not my fault that I’m some sort of magnet for shitty men.”

“You don’t have to date then, you know,” Taehyung says.

Jimin pouts. “Taehyung.”

“I know, I know,” Taehyung says, his voice a low rumble against Jimin neck. “But I’m going to keep bringing it up, even if you hate me, you know?”

“Gross,” Jimin says. He glances back over to Namjoon warily, even that feeling weirdly tense, like touching a livewire. “Sorry,” he says, “I didn’t mean to crash and just complain at you.”

Namjoon’s frowning. “No, it’s fine,” he says. “That guy sounds like a real piece of work.”

Jimin snorts. “Tell me about it.”

It’s still stupid, but the look on Namjoon’s face is—Jimin looks at him properly, full on, turning it this way and that and can only concern in the gentle lines, the crease of his brows. Namjoon sighs, shoulders drooping. “Hey,” he says, slipping into what all their friends have helpfully deemed advice voice, “you know you deserve better, right?”

Advice voice makes Jimin shiver, a little. He hates to admit it, but the cadence, the sincerity dripping off of his words, all of it makes Jimin want to believe.

He hunches his shoulders, feeling suddenly a little vulnerable, like Namjoon had blown apart the air of casual disdain sheltering the rising tide of actual, honest to god hurt inside him. Taehyung’s the one warm at his back, but he feels like Namjoon’s presence is heavier.

“Well,” Jimin says.

“No, really,” Namjoon insists. “You deserve someone who’ll take care of you properly,” he says.

And Jimin is stupid and weak but he’s not stupid and weak enough to think Namjoon means anything real. So he laughs, curls his hand underneath his chin, and bats his eyelashes. “If you were my boyfriend, Joonie-ah,” he says, singsong teasing, “would you take care of me?”

But instead of rolling his eyes, playing along, Namjoon tugs at the collar of his shirt. Like he’s embarrassed. Like he’s sheepish. “Of course I would,” he says, plain and simple.

“Oh,” Jimin says, suddenly hot.

After that, he sort of tunes out of the conversation.

He’s vaguely aware of it happening around and over him, Namjoon and Taehyung chatting about the latest update on some title Jimin’s never heard of, the lull of their voice and the cafe subsuming him. He sits, thinking about the asshole’s rough hands and rougher words. Thinks about all the other assholes before him, full of snide comments about Jimin’s ass, meant to persuade Jimin into sitting pretty and conceding to being fucked, because someone who looked like him surely, surely was meant to lie back and let someone else do all the work and cry a little when he was supposed to, right? Thinks about control, and taking it away from everyone who tried to take it away from him.

Thinks about being taken care of, how impossible it sounds.

Taehyung doesn’t make him talk. Namjoon doesn’t say anything about the strange blip in the conversation. And Jimin is grateful, but it drives him crazy a little bit, how he has to think about it. Makes him spend the rest of the afternoon on edge, waiting.

Wondering.

//

[the first time]

And that’s the problem, because Jimin can’t stop thinking about it, now, can’t stop wondering what Namjoon meant? Was it a sex thing? Casual confidence, taking care of someone. Jimin can’t stop scrutinizing when he sees Namjoon give a guest lecture one day, the lilt of his voice soft but commanding, and is that what he meant? Does he like to couch suggestions in that voice when he’s fucking someone? Or before? Jimin hates it, but his mind goes wild, hooked onto the pauses at the end of Namjoon’s every sentence, a shiver running down his spine when Namjoon firmly tells a student to hold on to that question, we’ll get to them at the end, no please attached.

So, obviously, he invites himself over to Namjoon’s right after, plasters himself firmly to the side of the armchair Namjoon drops himself in as soon as he gets home like a fucking grandfather.

Namjoon’s reading, because of course he is, and he’s taken the blazer off but not the dress-shirt, and it’s—it’s the cutest fucking dress-shirt in the history of dress-shirts, light blue and spotted with little embroidered whales of all things, but it’s still making Jimin hot under the collar because Namjoon has his sleeves rolled up three quarters, which only makes the muscle corded along his arms all the more obvious, the fabric bunched up tight at his elbows.

Jimin perches on the armrest, drapes himself all over Namjoon’s broad shoulders. “Jooooonie,” he says, his voice dropping into a whine, “Joonie what did you mean, that other day? I can’t figure you out.”

Namjoon doesn’t look up from his book. “What?”

“You’re so cute,” Jimin says, pinches at Namjoon’s cheek, and Namjoon sits there and lets him, a little smile tugging at his mouth when Jimin reaches in with both fingers and tugs, looks for where the dimples usually are. “So cute,” Jimin says again.

“Mmph,” Namjoon manages, his face still smushed between Jimin’s fingers.

“I don’t get it,” Jimin whines again, trying to make himself annoying as humanly possible. “What did you mean you’d take care of me? Jooon. Joonie. I wanna know.”

This close, he can feel Namjoon still.

Carefully, he takes his hands off of Namjoon’s face. “Please tell me,” Jimin says, sucking his bottom lip between his teeth. And it’s the same damn act he puts on for the bewildered straight boys, the ones who think they can flash some abs and Jimin will happily let them stick their dicks in him, but this time, Jimin thinks, maybe, maybe, he won’t turn it on its head. Maybe he wants to know. What it’s like. What Namjoon is like.

Namjoon lowers his book, look at Jimin sidelong over the rim of his black-frame glasses. “I mean,” he says, “I could show you.”

Dark eyes, but kind eyes, gentle insistence in the unwavering stare. And Jimin won’t admit it, but he chickens out a little at the promise in that gaze, the steadiness of it, how unlike Namjoon’s usual hesitance it is, heady and rich. Like I could show you means everything, suddenly overwhelming.

Jimin closes his mouth, turns his nose up, and hops off the couch. “It’s going to take more than that to get me in your bed, Joonie-ah,” he calls, as if he hasn’t been thinking about it, as if he hasn’t been trying to prod this exact reaction out of Namjoon. Nonchalant. Jimin knows this game.

Turns around, starts to walk away, makes sure to tug at his shirt so his ass is definitely on full display, but Namjoon, apparently, knows how to play, too, because when Jimin is impatient enough to sneak a little look out of the corner of his eye, Namjoon has gone back to reading. Isn’t even paying attention. Doesn’t say a word, book shoved in his face, long, long fingers tapping up against the spine, turning the pages.

Jimin gets as far as the hallway, halfway to unlacing his converse, when something inside him snaps.

Back inside, Namjoon is still reading.

Jimin plucks the goddamn book out of his hands, climbs all the way up into his lap, legs straddled on either side, and kisses him.

Kisses him like he means it, kisses him like something real, and Namjoon only responds in kind, his hands coming to the small of Jimin’s back and cradling there. With a shiver, Jimin thinks about Namjoon’s hands, how they could probably nearly span his waist, and a sharp spike of heat digs in where he imagines Namjoon might press his thumbs, right at the divot in his hip bones. Wants it. Wants him to do something, but all Namjoon does is rest his fingers gently at the dip in Jimin’s spine, doesn’t even wander any farther down to his ass. Careful.

Seems happy enough to let Jimin lead, too, a direct counterpoint to what he said. Jimin kisses down and he knows it’s sloppy and messy, wet and open, their mouths barely slotting against each other. Jimin knows it’s hungry, knows it’s a bit desperate, thinks maybe it comes off like he’s trying to prove something, but Namjoon only tilts his chin up to meet him. His mouth soft and pliant, falling open over and over, letting Jimin curl his tongue in. Stupid, but it only makes Jimin frustrated, makes the languid heat spread, glow, but too slow, not enough.

Jimin pulls back, running his hands through Namjoon’s hair, feels tightly wound, held on edge, like there’s something he’s missing. “I thought you were going to show me,” he murmurs.

Namjoon grins, wide, goofy, dimpled, fucking adorable. “Thought you didn’t want it,” he says.

“Shut up,” Jimin says. Kisses him again. Closed mouth and hard. “Show me.”

Namjoon looks at him for another second. Blinks like he’s considering, and Jimin feels oddly put on the spot. Knows he looks like a mess, lips spit slicked and pink, the collar of his shirt somehow crooked and dragged down, sitting perched on Namjoon’s lap like a prize. And the sudden halt, the aching cold between them, the calculation Jimin knows is in Namjoon’s head right now, all of it makes Jimin feel wide open, looked at, and even though it’s just Namjoon’s kind eyes this time, he can’t help but get up in his head about it.

“I want it,” Jimin says, to quiet the sudden coil of doubt seizing his insides. “I want you.”

And then—“Okay,” Namjoon says, “okay.”

And he does move his hands, lower, wrap them around Jimin’s waist and the pressure is exactly as good as Jimin thought it would be, tight and guiding, pressing them together with all that heat. All that closeness. And Namjoon kisses him this time, searing and harder, kisses him like a gentle tide, like drowning, but slowly. Doesn’t try and shove his tongue down Jimin’s throat, only pulls it straight across Jimin’s lower lip. It’s still not a question. Jimin tightens his hands in Namjoon’s hair and opens his mouth with a little whimper he can’t help.

Namjoon kisses like a man who knows exactly what he wants. Namjoon kisses like a man who has all the time in the world. Lands a sloppy kiss at the corner of Jimin’s mouth and takes his sweet time to correct course, lazily drags his tongue in Jimin’s mouth, in, out, like they’re already fucking, right here, right now. Rubs little circles in Jimin’s skin with his thumbs and holds him there, even when his hips reflexively buck a little, and when Jimin flushes red and feels himself getting hard, Namjoon holds them just the bit apart, teasing, makes Jimin wonder.

When it’s too much, when Jimin is self conscious with how fucking badly he wants to grind down in Namjoon’s lap right the fuck now, when it’s a bit terrifying, the heady flood of want, still desperate and messy inside him even though Namjoon seems to want something slower, easier, when all of it threatens to overwhelm him, Jimin pulls back.

He curls himself down, cups the back of Namjoon’s head. Pretends he’s less terrified than he actually is when he leans in and whispers, “Right here, Joonie-ah?” in his ear.

They lurch, Namjoon’s grip tightens nearly enough to hurt, and for a second Jimin thinks he might be getting picked up and something inside him recoils, breaks like a broken elastic band.

But Namjoon only lifts him up enough to put him gently back down again on his feet. Reaches out and grips Jimin’s chin, presses another kiss right on the centre of Jimin’s lips. Asks, “Okay? You okay, Jimin-ah?”

Jimin, not trusting his own voice, nods.

“Okay,” Namjoon says again, and then, “good.” One syllable, and it sends a fucking shiver right down Jimin’s back. He catches Jimin by the wrist, fingers long, wrapped all the way around, and Jimin lets himself be pulled, follows Namjoon down the hall like he knows what he’s doing, Namjoon’s assurance the only assurance he has.

At the bedroom door, Namjoon pushes him forward gently, one hand splayed on the small of his back. Jimin goes, steps forward, carried like with a tide.

“You wanna sit down for me, Jiminie?” Namjoon asks, quiet, low.

Jimin bites his lip. “Okay,” he says, pitches his own voice lower, too, flicks his eyes up from under his fringe as he tosses himself on the bed and sprawls out on the backboard.

Namjoon closes the door. Click.

Tosses his blazer—which he’s brought up for some reason—onto his desk. It’s not very cluttered up here, and it’s not exactly Jimin’s first time stepping foot in Namjoon’s room either, but everything seems so much less familiar. The ticking of the clock loud in his ears.

Namjoon pauses to fiddle with one of his ridiculous number of figurines on his shelf. Picks a pen up from the ground and sets it back on the table. Moves his blazer from the desk onto the chair, smooths out the sleeves. Straightens the papers on his desk, neat and steady. Adjusts a banner on his wall.

“Hyuung,” Jimin says, cajoling, “don’t ignore me.”

Namjoon half turns, one corner of his mouth quirked up. “Patience, Jimin-ah,” he says.

“But Namjoooooon-hyuuuung.” Jimin flops onto his stomach, then immediately regrets it, because this stupid attention game doesn’t do anything to sap the lazy heat pooling in his stomach, dripping. Only makes it worse, really, makes a flush tickle at his shoulders, full body. And flipping over only makes his half hard dick rub up in his pants, makes him buzz tighter, want Namjoon to goddamn stop rearranging his room and come over even more.

“Just a second,” Namjoon says, less nonchalant than Jimin would’ve expected, like he’s nervous. Like he’s not doing this on purpose.

Jimin narrows his eyes and shimmies closer to the backboard. “Joonie-ah,” he says, undoing the top half of his button up. He shrugs it mostly off one shoulder, pulling himself up and sitting back on his heels.

“Hm?”

“Joonie-ah look over here.”

Namjoon finally puts down the last of his cute little figurines. Right when Namjoon turns around, Jimin pulls at his lip with his teeth, makes the most devastating face he can manage—and Jimin is very good at devastating faces.

Namjoon visibly swallows.

“C’mere, hyung,” Jimin says, shaking his head back, tipping his chin up in a way that he knows drives everyone crazy, hooding his gaze. Jimin isn’t always the best with words, or, at least, he’s not nearly as good as Namjoon is. Doesn’t know how to be eloquent, be beautiful with what he says. But he’s always been good at this, the siren call of his body, the lines of his form, perfect whether he’s dancing or he’s trying to get a boy in bed with him. It’s all the same in the end. Everything in a look, a subtle twist in his spine, saying come, come, look at me, I’m beautiful.

Namjoon is no exception. He abandons his pursuit of cleaning the room or whatever he was trying to do, crosses to the side of the bed, and kisses him. Kisses him more urgently than before, grips Jimin’s shoulder with one hand, all the heavy weight of him spread out over Jimin’s back, his collarbone. Jimin wants to sink down into the bed, his limbs heavy, suddenly clumsier, all that eloquent control dripping out of his fingertips. Namjoon kisses him and it feels like that’s all that’s keeping Jimin upright: his warm lips, his gentle but insistent hand.

“There we go,” Jimin murmurs, shuffling back and letting Namjoon climb onto the bed properly.

Namjoon huffs a laugh—this close, Jimin can feel it ghost over his shoulder. “You’re really sure?”

“I said I was, didn’t I?” Jimin raises an eyebrow. “Or are you actually the nervous one?”

“Of course I’m nervous,” Namjoon says. “It’s you,” he says, and it slips out of his mouth so easily that Jimin feels something lurch in his stomach.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just…” Namjoon’s thumb comes up, rubs at the side of Jimin’s face, a sudden swipe of warmth, a match abruptly struck and spitting flames. “You’re my friend. Don’t wanna make this weird,” he mutters.

“It’s not weird,” Jimin says. “We’re just having fun.”

The furrow between Namjoon’s brow smooths out. “Okay,” he says, and tips their foreheads together. “Red for no, yeah?”

“Sounds good,” Jimin breathes, then lifts himself up for another kiss to seal the deal.

Namjoon indulges him, lazy again, slow and agonizing. Barely-touch kisses, all that hot pressure there and then gone. “Take your shirt off,” Namjoon murmurs in the spaces between. Jimin makes a noise and tries to ease them back into a deeper kiss, wants this easy part to last, wants all this drizzling heat to build, make the sex better, but Namjoon holds off, purses his lips. Leans back. “Take your shirt off,” he says again, and the hand that was at his shoulder lifts, trails down to Jimin’s open collar, plucks open another button.

Where Jimin’s bare skin touches the air feels cold and shivery, different from when he undid the buttons himself. Exposed. The rest of him feels hot, tight. Namjoon doesn’t move, doesn’t lean back farther, waits.

Jimin takes his goddamn shirt off.

Namjoon chuckles when he throws the thing over his shoulder. Jimin huffs. “Satisfied?” he asks, but then Namjoon’s eyes aren’t on his face anymore, and all the heady weight of that gaze lands on him, solemn and serious somehow.

“Yeah,” Namjoon says. He cups Jimin’s face with his hands, kisses him once, still barely there, nothing compared to the intensity in his eyes.

“Namjoon,” Jimin says.

“Mmhm?”

“Kiss me like you mean it.”

Namjoon does. Deep and hard, still tugging Jimin’s face up a bit, cradling his jaw with those big hands, long fingers, everything warm. Jimin closes his eyes, lets it happen, is kissed. He trails his own hands across Namjoon’s chest, down, down, undoing the buttons as he goes until he can pull the dress shirt all the way open. Runs his hands over the smooth skin underneath, traces light lines over all of that broad chest. Feels Namjoon tense a bit, underneath, and is satisfied by it.

“Jimin,” Namjoon says, “pants.” No please attached.

“Okay,” Jimin says, hands moving before he processes the words, rucks off his pants and boxers both with an easy move. It’s not until he shifts back onto his knees, feels the sheets rubbing lightly over his legs, that Jimin realizes Namjoon still has all his clothes on, the only thing exposed the tanned planes of his stomach. It should make Jimin feel more naked, maybe even vulnerable, but there’s a small growing thrill racing over his skin. Like this is as much of a performance as anything onstage: the stripping away of layers the same as putting them on, a blooming confidence that comes from being in his own skin, laid bare. A challenge.

“Kiss me, Joonie,” Jimin says, pulling Namjoon’s hands away from his face and placing them firmly on his back.

Namjoon’s hands curl. Nails scraping Jimin’s skin. Feels good like that. Jimin wiggles his hips, getting closer, pushing Namjoon further into the bed so he can straddle over his lap. Namjoon’s hands stroke across his back, dipping lower, barely touching the curve of his ass. Doesn’t kiss him.

Touch me, Jimin thinks, doesn’t say it. Feels too desperate, too much. Leans in and does the kissing himself instead, works Namjoon’s mouth open again, rocks against him. The soft wetness of Namjoon’s mouth. The lazy stoke of Namjoon’s fingers. The scraping pressure of Namjoon’s jeans against his bare cock. Fuck me, Jimin thinks, and is startled by the fierceness of the thought, the clarity. Namjoon is barely doing anything. But Jimin wants him to, wants him to relish in Jimin’s body, wants him to be desperate for it the way the other boys were. Wants him to try and be rough, aggressive. Wants him to want Jimin.

Namjoon slides his hands back up, pulls Jimin back by the hips. They come apart with a soft gasp—Jimin doesn’t want to admit it comes from him, but Namjoon only smiles, maybe even smirks. Either way the quirk of his lips unveils that goddamn dimple, so obscenely adorable. Jimin wants to bite it.

“Wait a second,” Namjoon says and it’s almost casual. Jimin’s face burns.

“Where you going, Joonie?” he asks, trying to hide the tremor he feels hiding somewhere in his chest.

Namjoon raises an eyebrow, reached back into his bedside drawer, grabs a bottle of lube and rolls back to face Jimin. “Still good?”

Jimin bites his lip, grabs onto Namjoon’s forearms. “Good,” he says. “More kissing first, please.” Smiles leans into the embrace.

“I can do more kissing,” Namjoon says.

Want me, Jimin thinks, curving up into the kiss. Bites down hard on Namjoon’s lip. Threads his hands into Namjoon’s hair and tugs, pulls them close enough that he’s resting on Namjoon’s lap, his erection hard and pressed between their stomachs, messy. Jimin likes it messy. Climbs all over Namjoon, gets the edges of his shirt damp with pre-come. Likes the drag of skin over his tip, the warm swell of human contact, barest pressure, sweetly built, making him feel tight and loose all at the same time.

Namjoon holds onto him like he can’t get enough. Cradles his face, runs his hands over his shoulders, down the sweep of his collarbones, makes Jimin feel taken care of.

He moves to mouth at Jimin’s neck, dragging the wet heat down. Jimin startles, his grip tightening, but Namjoon only starts to suck, dislodging a soft moan from Jimin’s throat. Underneath the haze of pleasure, it hurts, just a touch. Something prickling, light and sharp as needles. “I’m gonna remember,” Jimin murmurs, closing his eyes against the gentle pressure, Namjoon’s teeth scraping over his flushed skin. “Is that what you want?”

Namjoon’s response is a blinding grin, and then he ducks his head again, trailing kisses down, straight line against his sternum until he veers left, flicks a tongue against Jimin’s nipple. Jimin sucks in a sharp breath, goosebumps prickling on his arms. Like everything, Namjoon takes this slow, gets everything wet, rolls his tongue around the nub teasingly.

“Joonie-ah,” Jimin says again, “c’mon, stop playing.”

Namjoon looks up. His eyes are hooded, impossible to read. His hand comes up to tweak at his other nipple. “Okay,” he says, and then something’s being pressed into Jimin’s hand. The lube.

Jimin bites down on his lip. “Do you want me to…”

“Want you to be comfortable,” Namjoon murmurs, stupidly sincere, and Jimin almost hates this more, that he knows Namjoon isn’t messing around. Namjoon pulls him close, then trails his hand down the small of his back, over the curve of his ass. “And I want to see you,” Namjoon says, his breath hot and tickling, still ghosting over Jimin’s neck.

Oh, Jimin thinks, feeling like he’s already wide open.

Namjoon presses another kiss to Jimin’s neck, lower than the first. Hot determination floods through Jimin’s body, and he flicks the cap off the bottle, squeezes liberally as best as he can one-handed. Namjoon’s already gone back to kissing around Jimin’s nipple, the press of his lips so plush and soft, a counterpoint to the tight pinch of his fingers on the other side, because he’s not going to make this easy.

“You’re lucky I’m good at multitasking,” Jimin whispers, which brings a soft chuckle out of Namjoon, enough to make Jimin feel giddy.

I want to see you, Namjoon had said, and Jimin can hear the truth of that statement in his tone of voice, in the soothing circle he’s rubbing into Jimin’s shoulder with one hand, even though his other, kneading into Jimin’s nipple, is being anything but soothing. It means: I want to see you vulnerable. It means: open yourself for me. It means: let me really see you, no pretences.

Makes Jimin jittery, on edge more so than the feel of naked skin on skin.

But he’s committed. Never let it be said that Park Jimin is a quitter.

As Namjoon continues to give his complete attention to soft little licks, nips, bites, everything to make Jimin hot and flush and distracted, he slicks up his fingers with lube, spreads his knees over Namjoon’s lap, and starts to tease at his entrance. He sucks his bottom lip between his teeth—if Namjoon wants to see, he’ll give him a show.

If he’s tight, it’s because it’s been a while. Jimin works a finger in, slow and careful, lets the soft little gasp slip out of his lips. Spreads himself more over Namjoon’s lap, trying to get the angle right. Everything is hot, a spreading burn as he fingers into himself, wiggling a little to get used to the pressure. They shift back, Namjoon half on his back, and Jimin’s cock is still rubbing up on his stomach, another font of desperate pressure as Namjoon notices. Wraps a hand around the base.

Jimin groans, long and low. “God, I hate you,” he says.

Namjoon only falls back on his elbow, starts to lazily pump at his cock, his eyes still heady, insistent. Jimin falters, thinks about what he looks like right now. His knees sunk into the bed, finger two knuckles deep in his own ass, helpless to do anything as Namjoon thumbs over his leaking slit.

But Namjoon stills, too. Pulls his hand away.

Jimin whines. It’s pathetic, but he does, too on edge to try and wrench control back. It’s supposed to be a show, but Jimin’s not the one writing the script. He reaches for his cock, wanting to touch, wanting to be touched.

“Don’t stop,” Namjoon says, gently wraps his hand around Jimin’s wrist.

“What?” Jimin says, but then he shifts and—oh yeah, he definitely still has a finger inside himself. “Oh,” he says, and then, “Goddammit, Joon, really?”

“You’re the one who said you were good at multitasking,” Namjoon says, dimples peeking out around his grin. He lets Jimin’s hand go, and then tips his chin up, watching. His own pre-come, lingering on his wrist—it’s not exactly a tie, but the wet of it, messy, is something like a reminder. Not to push the line. Jimin keeps the hand loose and out of the way by his side as he circles another finger around his hole, then pushes in. A bit too quick, and he hisses out a breath at the sudden hot stretch, and then Namjoon’s hand is on his dick again and it pushes him right up to some edge, vertigo swooping low in his stomach.

“Careful Joonie,” Jimin says, gritting his teeth as he settles, gets used to the feel of both his fingers, pushing up at his walls inside. “Keep doing that and I’m gonna come before you even have your pants off.”

Namjoon raises an eyebrow. “I believe in you,” he says, which is patently absurd because he’s said it a thousand times to Jimin before—I believe in you when auditions go badly, I believe in you when the future feels too daunting, I believe in you when Jimin is just feeling a little shitty and needs someone to talk to. It’s like his body has a fucking Pavlovian reflex. Jimin immediately feels a little more relaxed, a different sort of warmth spreading in his chest, the simmering flames of inspiration fuelled by Kim Namjoon’s reassuring words.

Enough to scissor his fingers, working himself loose and ready, leans up a bit on his knees to angle himself in deeper.

“That’s good, babe,” Namjoon murmurs, his fingers long and gentle with Jimin’s cock, barely stroking, just holding him. The heat and contact no less good. For a moment, they don’t talk, just breathe. Jimin thinks he’s too loud, too much, too everything, his mouth open and moaning when Namjoon does something particularly good with a twist of his wrist, but Namjoon only murmurs, good, yeah, just like that, and, babe, and Jimin shudders.

“Hey,” Namjoon says, “You feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says, fucking his fingers in and out, the soft squelch of the lube against his shallow pants. Is busy working himself wider, doesn’t want to stop because last time he stopped, so did Namjoon.

“Jimin-ah.”

“I—what?” the word nearly comes out in a hiss, pulling him out of the steady rhythm he’d gotten into. Jimin stills, comes back to himself a little. Looks up to see Namjoon just… watching. Not in a some terrible, intense way. Just watching, his cheeks a little flushed pink, those full lips parted—and he looks. Well, like he’s been making out with someone, a little bit fucked up, his hair messy and sticking up from his forehead, pupils blown wide.

“Sorry,” Namjoon mutters, his gaze dropping. “I just… you’re just…”

“I’m what?” Jimin asks, was aiming for coy, but mostly it comes out a little breathless, like he just wants to know. And he does. He wants to know.

Namjoon flushes deeper. For a man who still has a hand on Jimin’s cock and the rest of Jimin perched prettily on his lap, he’s suddenly surprisingly bashful. “This is so stupid,” he mutters, but then he pulls his head back up, holds Jimin’s gaze straight on again, says, “you’re just fucking gorgeous, okay? God. Sorry. That’s so cheesy.”

If Jimin was with anyone else, he might’ve preened. Fluttered his eyes. Flaunted everything about him that could be described as gorgeous as if that could hide the ugliness he sometimes felt inside.

But this is Namjoon. Casual as they’d agreed, Jimin thinks that maybe, Namjoon means it.

“Joonie,” he whispers, trying to halt the rising panic crawling up his throat, “I think it’s time you actually fucked me.”

Namjoon’s mouth parts more. “You’re okay?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says, slipping his fingers out, everything liquid. “Please, just…”

“Okay, I’m just gonna—” Without waiting for a response, Namjoon puts a hand gently on Jimin’s shoulder, tipping him back onto the bed.

Jimin’s breath hitches, his hand coming down to fist in the soft sheets. Shouldn’t make a difference. But, here, lying back, looking up as Namjoon tosses his shirt aside and starts to unbuckle his belt, Jimin feels—a little bit helpless. The fluttering nerves only badger more at his stomach when Namjoon kicks off his jeans. Jimin eyes the hard length of his cock, already beading with pre-come, imagines himself, back arched, blowjob lips curved around a moan, taking it inch by inch and looking exactly like the pretty little slut all those other boys thought he would be.

He wiggles his toes in Namjoon’s face, tells himself to calm his breathing.

Namjoon leans back. “You trying to kick me in the head?”

“I want a foot massage,” Jimin says, pouting.

“Really?”

“Really.”

Namjoon chuckles lowly, catches Jimin’s heel with a hand. And—Jesus, even that makes Jimin feel small, Namjoon’s thumb pressing into the flat of his foot, how easily his fingers wrap all around. “Like that?” Namjoon asks, clearly humouring him, and Jimin makes a show of humming contentedly and letting his eyes shutter closed.

The worst part is, Namjoon is pretty good at this. Jimin finds himself relaxing into his soft touch, the pads of his fingers digging into his heel, all the tickling sensation lazily crawling up his leg.

“Mm,” Jimin says, his hand unclenching in the sheets.

And then Namjoon leans forward, starts to push his leg back.

Jimin’s eyes fly open.

“Good?” Namjoon asks, starts massaging up Jimin’s calf as he reach out and catches his other foot.

It does feel good. Like electric anticipation. Namjoon, pushing his legs further apart—Jimin’s flexible, he knows he has that kind of body, easily bendable, knows how easy it would be for Namjoon to spread him wide open, prop his legs up on Namjoon’s shoulders, and fuck him like this. Into the backboard, his dick shoved up against his own stomach with each thrust. Helpless.

Maybe it’s showing, in his breathing. Or his eyes, or how he’s not responding, all the words dried up in his throat. Fuck, Jimin knows he’s a mess, right now.

“Are you still okay?” Namjoon finally asks, stilling. He sits back a bit on his heels, the pressure on Jimin’s legs not insistent anymore. Turns gentle, Namjoon’s thumb rubbing little reassuring circles into his ankle.

Jimin opens his mouth, finds there’s a lump in his throat, finds his eyes suddenly burning.

“We can stop, if you want,” Namjoon says.

Jimin breathes in deep through his nose, releases it slowly through his teeth. “‘M sorry,” he finally says, when he feels safe enough to talk without bursting into embarrassing tears again. “I just—I thought I was okay, but then you—” he gestures up, a bit, can’t quite look Namjoon in the eyes, can’t quite look at himself, loose and still aching to be filled. “I’m just… nervey, I guess,” he finishes, shrinking a bit into himself. “Sorry, sorry, we can still—I don’t want to leave you just hanging, I can—”

“Jimin,” Namjoon cuts in, thankfully, because Jimin has no fucking clue what he’s offering to do. Suck him off? That feels anticlimactic and stupid, frankly. “It’s okay,” Namjoon says, and it sounds like he means it.

“I…”

“Just tell me what you want,” Namjoon says, and there’s none of the quiet authority in his voice anymore, none of the shy imploring, either. Just kindness. Patience. It makes Jimin feel small, but in a different way—something closer to taken care of. Enough to calm his breathing into something steady if still a little shallow.

Namjoon sits back more, lets go of his ankle, and Jimin fights the urge to tug his knees up to his chest.

“Tell me what you want,” Namjoon says again. “I just want to make you feel good. We can stop right now and go back downstairs, or whatever. Seriously.”

Tell me what you want.

Jimin wants a lot of things, all of them flashing in his mind right at this moment. He wants to not be freaking out. He wants to hookup with someone without getting weird about it. He wants the feeling of someone close, sweat and heat and all the softness of the hidden parts of you, the visceral rush of fucking and being fucked both, wants to get out of his head and fall back into that space. He wants Namjoon. He wants to be able to want Namjoon without all these hangups. He wants to be feel whole and unbroken. He wants to let himself be loved.

“I want you on your back,” Jimin finally whispers. Eases up, climbs to his knees.

“Okay,” Namjoon says easily. Then, a beat later, “then, are we still…”

Jimin shrugs. “I’m already prepped, and I…” He crawls forward, grabs onto Namjoon’s face. “I want this,” he says. “I still want you.” Kisses him, slower this time, eases himself back into the undertow of curling need, the want he knows is there, just like he said.

Namjoon lets him. He tips his face up, lets Jimin kiss him deeper, swallows him, falling back onto the bed when Jimin pushes. His hands come up, graze over Jimin’s ribs, the hard peaks of his nipples, leave behind shivering goosebumps in their wake and Jimin wants him. Kisses harder. Jimin kisses him until he can’t stand it anymore, the bruising want, the anticipation, all of it.

“You’re so good, Joonie-ah,” he murmurs, pulling back, and Namjoon stays, looks up at him with something sparking in his eyes. When he runs a hand along the length of Namjoon’s cock, the gaze doesn’t change even with the little crease that forms in his forehead, the way his nostrils flare like he’s pulling in a breath. Jimin scrapes his nail lightly along the slit, watches for how Namjoon’s mouth flattens in a line, but, still, those clear eyes. Open eyes.

“Okay?” Namjoon asks, as if he’s not the one sitting there and letting Jimin do whatever he wants.

“Okay,” Jimin breathes, and he’s the one who closes his eyes when he lines himself up over the nudging tip of Namjoon’s cock. He steadies himself with a hand on Namjoon’s chest, pushing him deeper into the bed as he carefully eases himself down. The burn of it is something of distraction. Jimin sucks his bottom lip between his teeth to hold back the small whimpers that want to escape.

“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon says, laying a hand Jimin’s.

Jimin grits his teeth, buries himself in the slow stretch, filling him out, the simmering heat like molasses, thick and sticky, the inside of his thighs shaking a bit from the effort. Namjoon’s breathing hard, his chest heaving under Jimin’s hand. His heartbeat loud and rhythmic, the rattle syncopated against Jimin’s own racing pulse.

It’s only when he finally bottoms out that he opens his eyes, looks down. “What?” he asks, quiet. “Are we still okay?”

Namjoon nods, rapidly. His lips are all bite-swollen, like he’s holding himself back, too. “It’s okay,” he’s saying, his hand pressed tightly over Jimin’s fingers. “You don’t have to hide. It’s okay.”

A lull, in their breathing, Jimin feels it. The stillness. The stutter in his heart, and then it all comes spilling out of him, the dammed up emotions, all the fear and doubt and, sparkling in all of it, the buried lede of fondness for this stupid man and his stupid earnest honesty.

“Dammit Joonie,” Jimin says, still trembling.

Namjoon smiles, wide and full, dimples flashing again.

Jimin’s hips start to shift without him thinking of it. Slow at first, grinding down, taking in more of Namjoon’s cock with each swivel of his hips, his heels digging into the bed.

Namjoon, the bastard, lets his mouth fall open, a thin groan wisping out, the sound of it sending a shiver down Jimin’s back. The skin of his chest is hot under Jimin’s fingertips, sticky with sweat. He starts to move in earnest, rocking forward, fucking himself on Namjoon’s cock, the slip slide of the lube filthy, the loose heat radiating, all of him alight.

“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon says, the tail end of Jimin’s name dissolving into another moan, shuddering and loud. His hips buck, thrusting up even as Jimin drops himself back down, and Jimin finally lets his own breathy gasp out into the air, the sound high and reedy against Namjoon’s low, rumbling voice.

He digs his nails into Namjoon’s chest, moves faster, chasing the angle and savouring the suddenly sweet burn. Namjoon pulls his hand off, leans up, holds Jimin by the small of his back, and it’s more romantic than they have any right to, Jimin’s lips parting as he falls into a kiss right at Namjoon’s neck, tastes the salt off his skin. Despite all his best efforts, here he is, laid bare. Namjoon meets him halfway, his next thrust hitting somewhere deep inside that scatters all of Jimin’s reservations, rips apart all the careful walls he’s built up. The high, keening moan that Namjoon drags out of his throat sounds like desperation, like everything Jimin is afraid of, sounds like a chasing want, alcohol-poison. And maybe Namjoon can hear it. Maybe he knows. He levels into the rhythm, hitting that same angle, holds Jimin down with that same searing grasp around his waist.

“Namjoon,” he gasps, curling a hand over his aching cock, so close.

“Okay?” Namjoon asks, and there’s a smile there, grin curling at the edges of his words, like he knows exactly what the fuck he’s doing. He’s panting, heavy, even as he keeps thrusting up, relentless, chasing as much as Jimin is.

“Okay,” Jimin says, half a groan. “Okay, I’m okay, please, just.”

“I got you,” Namjoon murmurs, and that shouldn’t be as fucking good as it is, but something about the rumble in Namjoon’s voice, the steadiness, how he’s not stopping, doesn’t stop, I got you, only keeps holding Jimin and fucking him all in tandem, I got you, over and over until Jimin cracks with it.

Comes over his hand, spilling between both their stomachs, still cradled in Namjoon’s arms.

“Fuck, Joonie,” he says, his teeth scraping against Namjoon’s skin.

Namjoon unhooks his hands from Jimin’s waist, brushes them against his cheeks. “Good?” he asks.

Jimin almost laughs, lighter, his limbs languid. He nods, kisses the pad of Namjoon’s thumb as it sweeps by his lip. He shakes away the urge to bury his face in those big hands, shy away, instead he takes Namjoon by the shoulders and sucks another kiss over the dip at his clavicle. “So good,” he whispers, then pushes Namjoon back into the pillows. “Now let me. Let me take care of you.”

Namjoon watches him with hooded eyes as Jimin takes him to the edge. Slower, this time, a sinuous sway of his hips like a heaving tide. Jimin watches Namjoon’s eyes darken, his pupils like bleeding ink, the red bloom of his lips. He twists his hips and savours every little gasp and pant he receives, waits until the moment Namjoon’s eyes finally snap shut, drags his gaze down the honeyed hollow of his throat, sweat slicked and glistening, holds off until he sees the harsh bob of his swallow, then digs his knees in and grinds down hard.

There’s a rush of heat, as Namjoon finally comes inside him, and then everything goes quiet. Soft.

Jimin pulls off carefully, rolls off on his side. He’s still debating if they’re allowed to cuddle when Namjoon’s finger comes up to trace at the inside of his elbow, gentle little squiggles.

“Good?” Jimin asks to the ceiling.

Namjoon shuffles closer, leans up on his elbow. “Can I kiss you?” he asks, still tracing.

Too close, Jimin thinks, but he still feels oddly fragile, the post-orgasm haze making everything a little blurrier at the edges, the wreckage of his emotions still too fresh to try and rebuild. He curls into Namjoon’s touch, tips his chin up. “Okay.”

Namjoon leans down, kisses him something sweet. His hand cups the nape of Jimin’s neck, pulls him close. Kisses like a whisper, like a question. Jimin parts his lips in answer, but he keeps a hand again lightly on Namjoon’s chest, a distance. Okay, for now. For now, he can let himself be kissed and pretend it’s love, pretend it’s something he can have, a promise that lasts. The light shutters in from outside, pink and vibrant, like the whole world is giving this moment up for them.

For the first time, Jimin finds himself wanting it. A different sort of ache, the tang of having something but knowing it’s just for now. Something he’s never let himself reach for before.

Eventually, Namjoon pulls back. He’s still grinning, the wide curve of his mouth radiant. Bits of his hair hang over his forehead, jostled out of the usually neatly brushed back style. He sits up and stretches, vertebrae cracking a bit. “Gonna go grab some towels,” he says. “You want anything else?”

Jimin starfishes out on the bed. “I’m fine,” he says, smiling back, folding everything that’d come undone back into his chest.

When Namjoon pads out of the room, he takes all the lingering heat away with him, leaving Jimin alone with his thoughts. He feels strangely hollowed out. He thinks, so this is what Kim Namjoon likes, but scrubs the thought away, because it’s not really. Thinks, did I mess up? Thinks, he wanted to kiss me.

He’s still mired in the maze of his own thoughts when Namjoon comes back, towel in hand. And it’s still a bit too quiet, and Jimin knows Namjoon isn’t stupid, can probably read the mood better than even he can, but still, he can’t muster up the strength to do more than smile wanly when he comes over to sit by the side of the bed.

“Gimme,” Jimin says, sticking his hand out, demanding.

The side of Namjoon’s mouth quirks up in a smile. He hands the towel over, then clambours into bed and drags the blankets up to his chin, looking stupidly adorable. The fondness in Jimin’s chest flares, and, he imagines it again, what this would look like if they were dating, or had something, anything, some anchor of emotion stronger than the dull ember of affection softly glowing between them right now. What would it be like to love Kim Namjoon?

Jimin busies himself with cleaning up instead of trying to hunt for the answer.

“Uhm,” Namjoon starts, the word sounding thick in his mouth.

Jimin hums, tilts his head as if to say, go on.

“Do you want to stay, maybe?” Namjoon says, the words coming out in a rush. His grin turns a little bashful, halting at the corners. “I mean, just, it’s probably easier since you live pretty far off campus? No pressure! I’m not trying to force you into anything you’re uncomfortable, I just thought I’d offer, please don’t read anything weird into it.” He finishes off the spiel with a little grimace, self-directed.

Jimin laughs.

Somehow, the force of it dislodges the sludge in his throat, breaks away the detritus clogging up his every thought. For now, he thinks everything is okay. For now, they’ve slipped back into the comfortable roles of friendship, and it’s not like Jimin’s never slept over at his place or anything. For now, this is good enough.

“Thanks, Joonie,” he says quietly, and pretends there’s nothing more to it than gratitude for not having to trek all the way back home. “I’d love that.”

If the lingering space between them later that night in the dark bothers him, Jimin doesn’t think about it.

//

Jimin would love to say he’s brave enough to talk about it.

But, alas.

Which means they go half a week without even talking about other things, and then, slowly, the time trickles away like water between cupped hands, and then it’s too awkward to bring anything up, ever, so Jimin resigns himself to eternal silence.

The official story, the one he tells himself: he and Namjoon fucked; it was fun, nothing else, and that’s the end of it.

“Hey,” Taehyung says, snapping him out of his thoughts, “were you listening?”

Jimin smiles. “Yeah. Sure. Totally.”

Taehyung gives him a look that says, bitch I don’t believe you, but he barrels forward anyways. “So you’re okay with next Friday night, then.”

Jimin manages to hold out for a few slow blinks, trying desperately to dig out whatever it was they were talking about from his subconscious (which must have been paying attention at some level, right?) before he caves and shrinks back a little, a bit of a giggle slipping out. “For… what now exactly, dearest Taehyungie?”

Rolling his eyes, Taehyung flips his phone over, shows Jimin the screen. “Just a get together Yoongi’s holding—something about his and Jin’s half anniversary? It’s the only night Namjoon could get away from his TA’ing job and it’s not supposed to run super late and—You really weren’t paying attention literally at all, were you?”

Jimin covers his face with his hands. “I’m sorrryyyy,” he says.

“Something you wanna talk about?”

“No.”

Taehyung’s hands circle his wrists. “Jiminie…”

“No!”

And then there’s the blinding sun, and Taehyung’s face right up against his. Taehyung flicks his nose. “You’re hiding something.”

“Am not,” Jimin says, but his shoulders slump and he lets Taehyung pry his hands all the way off his face. “I can go to the thing, can you text the group chat for me?”

Taehyung narrows his eyes. “You sure you don’t want to talk?”

Jimin worries at his lip. If it was anything else, he’d have been in Tae’s apartment the morning after, talking himself hoarse until he either figured it out or let Tae hug him through his dumb emotions. But it’s Namjoon. As in, their mutual friend Namjoon. As in, Tae’s roommate for years until he’d moved out for grad school Namjoon. As in, possibly the only person Jimin doesn’t want to talk about with his best friend.

“Yeah,” he says, falling over onto Taehyung’s shoulder. “I’m good, promise.”

And Taehyung’s face still looks skeptical, but he doesn’t push it, which is one of the reasons why Jimin loves him with his entire heart.

They settle back into complaining—Taehyung’s internship is exhausting, dream job as it might be to work as a designer for the first time; Jimin’s not sure if he wants to keep his side gig teaching dance at the local gym—and it’s almost soothing to bury all his feelings into the generalized anxiety of life and uncertainty. An easier kind of worry. Still, somewhere prickling in the back of his mind is a high pitched screaming, next Friday!!!!!, and, Namjoon’s going to be there!!!!!!!!, and, you’re so fucked!!!!!

Jimin turns his smile up a notch to try and drown it out.

//

“Why are you putting on makeup?” Taehyung asks innocently when he sticks his head into the washroom.

Jimin nearly scatters all their stuff off the counter. He jumps, runs a hand through his hair once, and then again for good measure. “What?” he practically yelps. “Should I not? Do I look nervous? Am I sweating? Oh my god Taehyungie I can’t do this.”

Taehyung pauses, then steps fully into the bathroom and lets the door fall shut with a gentle click behind him. “You’re not hiding anything at all,” he half-drawls.

Jimin peers at himself in the mirror. He looked a little tired earlier today, is all. A bit of concealer to blot away the dark circles from working too many hours never hurt. Or a dab of eyeshadow, just to make it look more deliberate. And, you know, while he’s here, lip gloss never hurt anyone. He braces his elbows on the sink, traces the swirl of the drain with his eyes. “I slept with Namjoon,” he tells it miserably.

Taehyung makes a little noise of understanding. “Was he weird about it?”

No,” Jimin practically wails. “I was the one who got all weird, and I don’t—I don’t really know how to feel about the whole thing now, and maybe I just wanted to look a little less like I’d been dead on my feet for a week when we went to go see him. Is all. That’s it, honestly, I swear.”

Taehyung touches a hand between his shoulder blades. “That’s it?”

“Well, I mean…”

“Jiminie,” Taehyung says, brushing a hand over the nape of his neck. “I’m not going to judge you.”

“I just got freaked out,” Jimin says, “and he was really nice about it. And also I kind of want to do it again.”

“Hm,” Taehyung says, and then there are hands at Jimin’s shoulders, steering him over to the toilet seat.

Jimin feels a little bit like a manhandled toddler, but the nerves in his stomach make it hard for him to fight back too much, so he sits and pouts, staring up.

“I think,” Taehyung says, “you don’t just want to sleep with him, I think you like him.”

“What? No. Impossible. I haven’t talked to him in a week.”

“Exactly.”

A laugh bubbles out. Jimin presses a hand to his mouth to push it back. “How’s that logic follow?”

Taehyung crosses his arms and looks impossibly smug. “Look, you haven’t dated in years, right?”

“Which means no reason to start again now.”

“You’ve also been sleeping with a bunch of assholes.”

“Are you trying to slut shame me?”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “That’s not my point!”

“Then what is your point?”

“I think you’re scared,” Taehyung says. He leans in, plants a hand on the toilet bowl in a way that might’ve been trying to be intimidating, but mostly is ridiculous. Jimin leans back a little bit so he doesn’t go all cross-eyed. “It might feel harder to let yourself be opened up and be hurt for it than it is to keep yourself hidden forever, but it’s going to just make you sad in the long run, Jiminie.” And the look on his face is suddenly so solemn and earnest that Jimin does kind of feel like a coward, right then.

“Is that supposed to be a bad sex joke?” he asks weakly.

Taehyung gives him a look.

And—well, there’s truth in it, like there’s truth in everything Taehyung says. Taehyung rarely gets this serious, and every time, Jimin feels a little carved open by his words, a little, well, like he said. Opened up. But it’s worth it every time, the things that this person brings into his life, the ability to be unreservedly honest with his best friend.

Jimin thinks about the pink of dusk, that same colour spread out like a balm over Namjoon’s face, thinks about wanting to be loved.

“I’m not scared of him,” Jimin finally says. “I’m scared about what it means to want him.”

Gently, Taehyung brushes a hand through his hair. “You’re allowed to want things.”

“I know.”

“You’re allowed to do things that make you happy.”

“I know.”

“Things that make you feel good.”

“Okay, that one has to be a weird sex joke.”

Taehyung grins, wide and unbashful, and Jimin wants to take that smile and impress the essence of it into everything he does. Unapologetic. Taehyung smiles like he has nothing to hide. Taehyung smiles like there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.

Jimin takes a little, shallow breath. “Okay,” he says, quiet. “I do like him. What am I supposed to do about that?”

“You can hold it,” Taehyung says.

Jimin looks up through his bangs. “What,” he says, “does that mean.”

“Sometimes when I have an idea for a design, I don’t write it down right away. I used to write everything down. And then I’d get invested in something that turns out I didn’t actually like all that much to begin with. I wasn’t so good at knowing which decisions were good and which decisions I only felt obligated to make. Anyways, now when I get an idea I just hold it for a little bit.” Taehyung actually cups his hands, like he’s propping up something precious in the nexus of his elegant hands, the tips of his fingers curling up protectively. “Take it with me, imagine what it would look like on all the people I come across on the street, imagine it living out in the wild. And then, if it’s still with me and just as vibrant in a few weeks, that’s when I draw it out for real.”

There’s a little square of pink glitter stuck in one of Taehyung’s nail beds, a piece of whatever he was working on that never came off. Jimin thinks about liking Namjoon like that, the barest idea of an emotion, the smallest piece of something real. “What if you forget it? What if you’ve missed your chance?”

Taehyung flicks his hands out and makes a little pah sound. “Then it wasn’t worth keeping. The most important ideas stay with me. I think you know what I mean.”

The thing is, Jimin does. It’s a roundabout metaphor, sure, but Jimin thinks about the fleeting moments of pretend, how nice they felt, but how insubstantial he knows they are. He thinks about cupping his hands, right up at his sternum, pressing the potential for caring for Namjoon into his chest to keep safe there. “Okay,” he says, “yeah, okay. I do know what you mean.”

“Can we go to the party now?” Taehyung asks, innocently blinking.

“Yeah,” Jimin says, letting Taehyung pull him up and off the toilet seat.

“Oh good,” Taehyung says, his smile not budging an inch as he starts to shove Jimin out the door, “because we’re already half an hour late and I was in charge of getting the drinks.”

//

[take two]

A chorus of boos greet them when they walk in through the door. Jimin rushes in, closes his eyes in mock bliss and holds his hands up as if they’re cheering for him instead. Behind him, Taehyung slinks in, carrying a few packs of beer and bottles of cheap soju.

Something hits Jimin in the brow. He peaks an eye open to see Jungkook all the way in the living room, aiming another paper ball up, ready to shoot. When he catches Jimin’s gaze, his eyes widen and he hurls himself backwards off the arm of the couch and curls up next to Hoseok. But just when Jimin is in the middle of rolling his eyes, a hand shoots out from the armadillo mound that is Jungkook and flicks the paper ball right square in the middle of Jimin’s forehead.

Jimin struggles out of his shoes, then takes off at a dead run.

“Hobi-hyung told me to do it!” Jungkook shouts as Jimin folds his shoulders back, tries to get at his middle.

“I did,” Hoseok admits, so Jimin shoves him off the couch to get a better angle at tickling Jungkook, who’s given up trying to defend himself and is hiccuping with laughter now, his legs kicking up in the air.

“Apologize!” Jimin shouts.

“You guys were late!”

“What if you’d hit my eye!”

“Eyepatches are sexy!” Jungkook shouts between giggles. “I would’ve—would’ve been doing you a favour.”

“Are you calling me ugly?” Jimin all but screeches.

Eventually, Jungkook manages to leverage an arm underneath Jimin’s fingers, and then he does something too fast for Jimin to follow, and then—there goes the world, they’re both pitching down and landing hard on the ground.

“Ow,” Hoseok says when the dust has settled. “I think you dislocated my pinky.”

Jimin rolls over, then sprawls out in front of the couch. Jungkook does some complicated spinning thing that eventually builds enough momentum to hurl him back into an upright position. He pats down his T-shirt in satisfaction, grinning. Takes a little bow at the end of his, his feet pointing in, adorable incarnate.

Taehyung sets the drinks down on the table and hugs him from behind. “One of these days,” he intones, “Jimin is going to actually kill you, and then I will be stuck with the unfortunate duty of having to hide your body from the police.”

“Yah,” Jimin calls up, “who do you take me for? I can hide a body without you.”

“Of course you can,” Taehyung says primly. “I would just feel too left out.”

A snort announces Yoongi’s presence, holding a platter of fruits as he emerges from the kitchen. There’s a small frenzy when he puts the platter down on the coffee table, Hoseok popping up from the ground, pinky miraculously healed, and he and Taehyung fight over the mandarin slices for a little, nevermind that there’s a whole spread of them.

Trailing behind him is Seokjin, a French press with tea in hand. “Is Namjoon here yet?” Seokjin asks as he sets the tea down.

Jimin stills.

“Don’t think so,” Hoseok says, mouth stuffed full.

Jungkook makes a face. “Ugh I feel so old.”

Instantly, all eyes turn onto him. He collapses back into the couch, nose scrunching. “What?”

“If you’re old, Jungkook-ah,” Yoongi says, “then I’m a senior citizen.”

Silence.

Yoongi frowns. “You guys were supposed to deny that.”

Seokjin slings an arm around his shoulder. “I can’t deny the truth, my darling Yoongi-yah. I fell in love with an old man.”

“You are literally the only one here older than me.”

“I meant!” Jungkook shouts over the bickering. “Why do we have fruits? Who eats fruits at a friend party? Where’s the snacks?”

“Kitchen,” Yoongi says, and Jungkook makes a little fist pump in the air before practically zooming out of the room. A moment later, they hear the distinct sound of rummaging coming from the kitchen, kind of like the sound of a dozen raccoons would make if they were rooting around in the trash for something edible to haul back to their tiny raccoon lair.

Jimin rolls over. “Is Joon coming?” he can’t help but ask.

On the couch, Taehyung discretely raises an eyebrow.

“He said he was,” Seokjin says, pulling out his phone. “Yeah, hasn’t cancelled.”

“Oh,” is the only thing that Jimin can manage. He fights the urge to roll all the way over on his face.

“Hm,” Jin says.

“What,” Jimin says.

“Suspicious.”

Jimin pokes him hard in the knee. “No,” he says.

“You can’t tell someone to stop being suspicious,” Seokjin says, his brows furrowed delicately. “You know that only makes them more suspicious, right? Right, Jimin-ah?”

Jimin pouts. “No,” he says again, widening his eyes.

Seokjin returns the look, and then they’re suddenly locked in a strange stare contest and Jimin can’t blink first because they would mean admitting defeat and also Seokjin tricking him into doing something as absurd as confessing his feelings. But then—

But then.

“Hey guys,” Kim Namjoon says as he walks through the door.

Jimin blinks.

Before Seokjin can crow triumphantly, he jerks his gaze away, but that’s when Namjoon nearly trips over something in the doorway and the sound of it along with his resounding yelp manages to drag Jimin’s eyes over to him, like he’s some secret magnetic bean pole, which also means that Jimin’s given himself completely and utterly away. He sighs, pillows his chin on the carpet, and resigns himself to watching Namjoon.

He stumbles a little getting his boots off, which is cuter than it has any right to be. But after he’s shed all the layers of his winter clothing like an astronaut taking off his life-supporting if extremely bulky gear, he steps into the hall like actually he’s an actor playing an unreasonably hot astronaut in the latest hit movie, and he’s just come in from set all glamourous and tall. He’s got a lot of leg going on, is what Jimin means. A lot of leg in dark slacks that are a bit wide at the bottom, the sharp line of them making his legs look even longer, somehow. Or maybe that’s just the angle Jimin’s looking from. From down here, he could swear Namjoon was 90% leg (the other 10% being dimple, of course).

“Sorry I’m late,” Namjoon says, grimacing in a weird way as he drops something in a plastic bag on the table. “I brought fried chicken?”

As if summoned, Jungkook bursts back into the room. “Chicken?” he asks, his voice reaching near supersonic pitch.

Namjoon makes a wonky gesture with his hand, and then there’s a Jungkook shaped blur zipping past them and plucking up the entire bag.

“Where were you?” Yoongi asks, then shoves at Taehyung next to him. “Hey, budge over.”

In response, Taehyung shoves himself closer to Yoongi, squishing him up against the armrest. Yoongi makes a little startled whine, but doesn’t complain.

Namjoon drops in the space Taehyung leaves behind. “I got caught up grading,” he says, his hand going up to his face as if to push up glasses that aren’t there. And it shouldn’t really be that hot, but Jimin thinks about Namjoon sitting at his desk, reading glasses perched on his nose, chewing on a pencil or something and has to shove his face directly onto the carpet.

“Yah, Jiminie,” Hoseok says, kicking a leg under the table to poke at Jimin’s shin. “That’s unhygienic.”

“Mmph,” says Jimin.

“Oh?” Namjoon says from above them, sounding like he’s very far away and Jimin is hearing him through a thick layer of cotton. “Jimin’s here?”

“He’s on the ground,” Seokjin says. And then, in a voice that makes it absolutely clear that he’s got a shit-eating smile plastered right on his face, he says, “He got so flustered by your presence that he had to lie down, and now I think he’s trying to become one with the floor.”

“Oh,” Namjoon says, like it’s the most fascinating thing in the world. Then, “is he okay?”

Jimin manages to scramble up without banging his head on the table. “I’m fine!” he half shouts, trying to smooth down his shirt where it’s gone all rumply and rucked halfway up his chest.

“Are you sure?” Namjoon asks, and there’s a familiar little crinkle in his brows, now, a familiar way he looks at Jimin, like he’s something to be cherished and protected all at once, and Jimin feels something crack a little just behind his sternum, some liquid hot emotion trickling down from there. Confirmation, that he wasn’t making it up. That there’s something behind Namjoon’s eyes that’s looking at Jimin like he’s—he’s someone important to him.

Jimin swallows. “Yeah,” he says. “I’m okay.”

And then Namjoon smiles, wide and open and reassuring, and Jimin’s head spins with how easy it looks. He forces his own lips to turn up, like he’s not suddenly so self aware it hurts to exist in his own skin, the dull prickle of anxiety like sandpaper scraping up and down his arms.

“You look a little pale,” Namjoon says. “Do you want to sit?”

Jimin looks at the couch, packed full of Yoongi, Taehyung, Namjoon, and Seokjin, in that order. He shrugs and makes his way over to perch on one of armrests, but Seokjin reaches out and catches his arm. “Plenty of room,” he says, beaming. He cants his head over to Namjoon with a significant and obvious eyebrow waggle.

It’s stupid, really. Seokjin probably thinks Jimin has a crush, something sweet and innocent. Maybe Jimin’s fucked it all up anyways, made everything awkward. Maybe he should’ve held back his feelings, kept them from reaching out and tangling all over Namjoon like weeds. But Seokjin doesn’t know all that, and Seokjin is just being his usual brash self, like back when he’d basically forced the whole group together by sheer force of personality alone, and Jimin knows he won’t take it to any offense if he makes up some excuse and sits somewhere else. Anywhere else.

But. There’s a different sort of prickle, crawling up his spine. Something indignant, tugging his lips into a frown.

Jimin huffs, marches over, and plops himself down in Namjoon’s lap.

Seokjin’s mouth clicks shut.

It’s only after Jimin’s already taunted Seokjin with a series of silent eyebrow raises and aggressive juts of his chin that the rest of his brain turns back on.

“Uhm,” Namjoon says. His hands are hovering a little bit above Jimin’s thighs, because there’s really no room on the couch for him to put them down.

Jimin tamps down his rising panic, ignores Tae’s desperate pinch on the side of his leg. “Is this okay?” he asks instead, leaning back, flush against Namjoon’s chest.

He can feel the rumble of Namjoon’s chest when he says, “Yeah, okay. Sure,” can feel the way he swallows afterwards.

Fuck, Jimin thinks. But his hands move of their own accord, grab onto Namjoon’s wrists, pushes his arms firmly around Jimin’s waist.

“Oh,” Namjoon says. Jimin can’t see his face from here, but there’s something thick and complicated in his voice.

Jimin very resolutely tries not to think about what that might mean. Tries not to remember what Namjoon’s hands feel like, either, though the comforting warmth of his body, the solidness of it underneath his thighs—all of that’s hard to ignore.

He thinks, get up get up, move before you embarrass yourself more than you already have, but it’s like a slow, sinking stubbornness has taking up residence in his muscles. Every second that creeps by makes it harder to move, do anything, and by now the party’s moved on without him so it’s too awkward to do anything other than sit, perched lightly, Namjoon’s hands sunk around his hips.

They rest there so easy, Jimin thinks. Those long fingers, light enough that it doesn’t feel possessive or weird. But there enough for Jimin to know. To feel something like reassured. To let him lean back and feel like Namjoon might catch him.

//

Eventually, the party dovetails into shitty drinking games, as all their get togethers do. Jungkook, nursing a glass of soda instead of anything alcoholic, sprawls out on the grounds regardless. Jimin thinks that maybe they’re playing truth or dare. He’s mostly pre-occupied by the fact that 1) he’s still sitting on Namjoon’s lap despite the rest of the group having dispersed at some point and the whole couch being free besides him, now, and 2) he’s a little buzzy-drunk himself, the remnants of a couple empty soju bottles knocked over each other on the table before him, which makes it hard to hold back the dangerous little impulses nuzzled up inside him, threatening to escape like so many fizzy bubbles.

“Joonie,” he whispers, and it’s like his voice is coming from someone else. Someone who cares less. Someone who isn’t juggling about a dozen contradicting opinions on how they feel about Kim Namjoon. Someone who’s a little horny and sitting right up against a very hot boy. Someone who doesn’t know what Kim Namjoon’s dick feels like, yet, but someone who’s eager to find out. “Joonie-ah,” Jimin whispers, skirts a hand close to Namjoon’s waistband, knows he’s flirting but can’t seem to turn it off, “I’m bored.”

Beneath him, Namjoon is very still. “They look like they’re having fun,” he says. The gesture he makes, kind of a jutting out motion with his chin, because his hands are still very much attached to Jimin’s waist, brings him that much closer. Nearly hooked over Jimin’s shoulder.

Jungkook lets out a cackle, and then shoots to his feet lightning fast. He’s missing a sock and his jacket. He shoots out of the room, Taehyung running after on his heels.

“Hm,” Jimin says. “Not sure I’d call that fun.”

“Do you want,” Namjoon says very seriously, “to hear about the spider I found in the washroom earlier.”

Jimin half twists around. “Ew,” he says, scrunching his nose. “Why would I want to hear about that?”

“I dunno,” Namjoon say, his breath a hot puff against Jimin’s neck. “It was cute. I thought it was a good excuse maybe. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.” And there’s an undercurrent of—that same something, from earlier, the complication, the catch in Namjoon’s voice that has nothing to do with his opinion about random bathroom spiders.

Jimin tips his head, twisting his fingers into Namjoon’s belt loops. “Would you kill a spider for me if I asked?”

Namjoon pauses. And when Jimin pulls himself forward and turns properly so he can see the look on Namjoon’s face, it looks like he’s actually thinking about it. Contemplative, in that way he is when no one else is looking. There’s a bit of hair that’s escaped the pull of gel, brushing up against Namjoon’s forehead. He looks like he’s thinking about the secrets of the universe. He’s holding Jimin still so carefully.

“If you were the one who asked,” Namjoon says, “then it’s on you. You’re the real murderer.”

Jimin bristles. “But you’d be complicit. Like, contract assassins aren’t less guilty than their bosses, you know?”

At that, Namjoon startles. His entire face brightens, inside out. He takes a hand off of Jimin’s waist and Jimin is half about to protest when he uses it to push back that piece of hair, instead, tucks it neatly against the rest of his clean cut, exposing the glorious expanse of his forehead, all that skin that Jimin wants to touch. “Are we having a moral argument?” he asks, replacing his hand on Jimin’s hip, hot and heavy. “Is that what’s happening?”

Jimin kisses him.

All at once, Namjoon stiffens. “Jimin,” he says, leaning back, his hands coming up, tapping him on the shoulders, “Jimin-ah.”

Jimin pouts. “Is this not good?” he whispers. His legs are awkwardly pinned, halfway on the couch and halfway not. Namjoon is blinking at him with that complicated thing stuck in the shine off his eyes. Namjoon is the best person Jimin knows, maybe. That he’s putting distance between them is only making Jimin want for more.

“You’re so good,” Namjoon says, and for a brief, jarring moment, Jimin believes him. Could see himself believing Namjoon, over and over, in the simple sincerity of those words.

Except, Namjoon doesn’t know the true parts of him. Not really. Not the dark places that Jimin doesn’t even know himself, musty and rotting with time and neglect, stuck too deep now for him to have any hope of excavating. And maybe at a house party, halfway to drunkenly making out with the same boy you (soberly) hooked up with a week prior isn’t the best thing to be thinking about all the ways he’s broken, but then again maybe that’s precisely Jimin’s problem in the first place.

“Then you don’t want me,” Jimin says, knows that’s unfair. Namjoon is beautiful. He’s so good, and kind, and careful, and Jimin doesn’t know what to do other than lean in and press another kiss to the corner of his mouth like he might be able to have him.

“No, no,” Namjoon says, and his hands are definitely squeezing, tighter, like his body is asking Jimin for something even if his mouth isn’t. “That’s not what I mean.”

“Then what’s the problem?” Jimin asks desperately. “Kiss me, Joonie.”

Namjoon does.

They slide together just like the first time. Jimin doesn’t think about breaking things. He doesn’t think about wanting things he shouldn’t. He thinks about the hard bristles of gelled hair under his palm as he scrapes his nails against Namjoon’s scalp, he thinks about the beer he can taste off of Namjoon’s tongue, slightly bitter, like a reminder, thinks about how easy this can be, if only he doesn’t think so much.

When they break apart again, it’s because Jimin pushes off of Namjoon’s lap and no other reason. In the absence of the roar of bloodrush in his ears, Jimin hears a faint groan from a passed out Hoseok, somewhere in the vicinity, which abruptly brings him back to where they actually are. He’s not actually sure where Yoongi or Jin have disappeared to, considering it’s their house.

Either way, not the ideal place to get off. Jimin’s a responsible adult. That’s what the bathroom’s for.

He flutters his lashes, beckons with his hand and eyes and the jut of his hip. “Show me that spider,” he says. “I wanna see.”

Namjoon’s mouth quirks into a smile as he reaches up and takes Jimin’s hand. “Not gonna kill it?”

“I’m feeling merciful today,” Jimin says.

//

They stumble into the bathroom already making out.

It’s like a switch has flipped, and Namjoon goes for it as eagerly as Jimin wants him to, all hands and teeth and not bothering to kick the door shut again as they barely manage not to crash into the mirror hanging over the sink. Maybe he’s trying to think less, too, but this is exactly what Jimin needs, all heat and no reason, all edge and no hesitation.

Jimin slides his hands up Namjoon’s shirt and presses his fingers into the curves of his back, their hips flush. He takes and takes and Namjoon gives. A different sort of care. Namjoon nips at his lips, cups Jimin’s face with his big hands, kisses him like a drowning man tasting air.

“Wait, wait,” Jimin says, his nails digging into Namjoon’s back.

“Yeah?” Namjoon asks. “What is it, Jiminie. Tell me what you need,” he says, and all of that thick complication from earlier bubbles to the surface, enough for Jimin to finally understand what it is.

Want. Longing. Something desperate.

All things festering inside Jimin.

“Namjoon,” Jimin whispers, winding his arms around Namjoon’s neck. “Kiss me like you love me.”

He wonders if Namjoon is pretending, too. They kiss like they know each other. Like they’re not about to hook up in a bathroom. Namjoon curls a hand over the nape of Jimin’s neck, hooks him close by the waist, and if his fingers are shaking a little bit, Jimin doesn’t mention it. Just like how Namjoon doesn’t say anything about the scrape of Jimin’s nails down his back, a little too sharp because all Jimin knows how to do is to kiss him harder, convince himself that this is all he wants. This, messy and ugly. This, unbuckling Namjoon’s belt and pushing him against the tiles. This, licking hot into his mouth as Jimin shoves his hand down his pants, runs a hand down the line of his erection through his briefs.

“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon says, his eyes squeezed shut.

“Good?” Jimin asks, tipping his head forward, bumping their noses together.

Namjoon cracks his eyes open, just barely. “Are you sure?” he whispers, his voice teetering on the edge of hoarse.

In response, Jimin kisses him again, swallows all his sweet, poisonous words of consideration. His head is too heavy to think through what he’s sure of, tonight. Easier to not.

He doesn’t know what Namjoon likes, not really—fast or slow, gentle, rough, does he like it when Jimin slips his hand under his waistband and grasps his cock in hand? Does he like the rocking rhythm, does he like Jimin kissing him in tandem, wet and sloppy? There are goosebumps shivering down Namjoon’s back. When Jimin sinks his teeth into his bottom lip, Namjoon moans, his breath rushing out in a hot fan over Jimin’s face. Is it good? Jimin wants to rip him open, know where to press harder, where to brush feather light, how to make him love it.

Their teeth knock together, the pain of it sparking through the haze around Jimin’s head. Namjoon hisses, and his hand comes up to cup the back of Jimin’s head. Gentle. His fingers dip into his hair, sending a shiver jittering down Jimin’s spine.

“You okay?”

Jimin runs a tongue over his teeth. “Peachy.”

They still, a bit. He drags a hand lazily over Namjoon’s slit, grins at the colour blooming high on his cheeks.

“God,” Namjoon says, “you’re so gorgeous. Jimin, you’ve been driving me crazy all night.”

“Yeah?” Jimin asks, breathy. “You could’ve touched, you know,” he says, breezy and coy. He slows his strokes, circles the base of Namjoon’s cock teasingly. “I would’ve let you.”

And then, instead of reaching out, Namjoon pulls his hand back. His thumb grazes the edge of Jimin’s ear, impossibly tender. “Honestly all I wanted,” he says, tracing a shallow line down, following the curve of the shell, “was to stay next to you.”

It sounds like a truth, coming so earnestly out of Namjoon’s mouth, and Jimin hates him for it.

He feels suddenly unmoored, lost in the heady scent of sex in the stale bathroom air, the salt of sweat lingering on his tongue, somewhere underneath all that the remnants of fruity soju, clogging up his taste buds. Feels like too much. Feels like in over his head. Jimin thinks about learning how to fall, once upon a time, learning how to hit the dance floor without cracking or tearing. The trick was to roll with it, toss yourself deeper and faster into the fall, no matter how panicked you felt. Here, falling for Namjoon, Jimin gives himself up to the momentum.

“You have me,” he whispers, leaning into Namjoon’s touch. “Whenever you want. However long you want.”

Namjoon’s mouth twitches, like he’s fighting a smile. “You’re drunk, Jiminie,” he says, fond. “Don’t say things you don’t mean.”

“But I do,” Jimin says, his mouth forming the words before he can even give them proper shape.

Namjoon’s face is holding all this tension, his eyes boring down, gaze just missing Jimin’s. “I—”

“I want you,” Jimin says, the half-truth of it falling from his lips easier than the full thing. I like you. I think I could feel more, if I tried. I want you to love me.

“Okay,” Namjoon says. “Then kiss me, Jiminie. Kiss me like you love me.”

It’s not a question.

Jimin complies.

They fall back into each other, slower but with more honesty. Jimin kisses open-mouthed and resumes his petting, savouring every shudder and gasp he manages to pull out of Namjoon. Namjoon, who stands and lets him explore, who murmurs exactly what Jimin needs to hear when Jimin touches him, turns all of his usual eloquence into single syllables—yes, yes, right there, god, Jimin. There’s a kind of pleasure, in hearing it. Something sharp tugs at Jimin’s gut, spark-gas-flame. He feels powerful that he knows this about Namjoon, now. Namjoon, who bites his lip when he eventually comes, hard enough to make it bloodless, a brief seam of white until he shudders, unclenches his jaw, and all that lovely red comes flooding back. Jimin goes up on his tiptoes, kisses the swell of that lip, sure and sweet.

Namjoon rocks their hips together, cradles Jimin’s face with both his hands and it’s enough to make him feel safe. He slips a hand under his own waistband, whispers, no, no, please just hold me like that, when Namjoon notices and tries to reach down.

And he does. His eyes flicker down at the careful moan Jimin lets out when he finally curls a hand around his own dick, but he only flushes a little.

Namjoon holds him with his hands, steady as anything that Jimin has ever known, and he’s already harder than he thought, pressed right up to the hazy white edge, so it only takes the barest amount of coaxing, his hand tight and knowing exactly where he likes to be touched, for the orgasm to wash over him, quick and overwhelming. And it’s stupid, it’s the alcohol in his system, it’s the insistent lights digging through his eyelids too sharp, it’s all of it that makes sudden tears prickle at his eyes, even more overwhelming.

“Oh my god,” Namjoon says, already swiping at Jimin’s cheeks with his thumbs. “Are—are you alright? Shit, I’m—Jiminie? Are you—”

“I’m fine,” Jimin cuts in, thickly, but then his next exhale catches on a sudden lump in his throat and, somehow, more tears are slipping out and he can’t staunch the flow. Namjoon’s face swims in front of him, blurry through a watery film. “I’m fine,” he says again, half trying to convince himself.

“Did—do you want to me go, or?”

No,” Jimin half wails. “I’m okay, I’m okay, I promise, I just…” There’s no good way to finish the sentence so he wipes his palms on his pants (gross) and sniffles, reaching up to grabs Namjoon’s wrists.

“Hey,” Namjoon says, a dash of seriousness caught in his voice now. He carefully wipes under Jimin’s eyes again, bringing his face back into focus. He doesn’t look mad, but there’s a furrow in between his brow, something uncertain in the fall of his mouth. Still kiss-swollen, so it makes the small frown all the more prominent. “I think,” he says, “we need to talk.”

Jimin hiccups, only a little miserably. “Yeah,” he agrees. “We do.”

//

[an intermission]

There’s nowhere to go without running into inquisitive faces, and as much as Jimin loves his friends, he doesn’t exactly want them to stick their noses into what’s become something of the most awkward situation he’s ever gotten himself into. Besides, he has a feeling Taehyung would pin him down with that distressingly disconcerting stare, because he’s sort of done exactly the opposite of what Tae had kindly advised him to do. There were no gentle holding of feelings tonight.

Jimin perches on the edge of the bathtub. Namjoon’s sitting on the toilet, and he keeps running his hands through his hair, making strands of it stick up. The two of them look so thoroughly messy and fucked up that Jimin nearly laughs.

Instead, he knocks their knees together, because Yoongi’s bathroom is small enough they’re squished close enough to do that.

Namjoon opens his mouth. Closes it. Opens it again to say, “I guess that wasn’t the best idea.”

Even here, now, the bathroom tiles squeaking under his socks, the faint feeling of wanting to crawl out of his skin and be literally anywhere else, Jimin remembers the gentle care in everything Namjoon does, the feeling of his hands on Jimin’s hips, ready to catch him. Thinks: he thinks this was a mistake. Thinks: he didn’t want me. Fresh tears well up, stupid, stupid, and he presses the heel of his palms into his eyes until he sees stars and they go away.

And then, like he’s a fucking mind reader or something, Namjoon reaches out and puts a hand on Jimin’s knee. “Hey,” he says, “I don’t mean that in, like, a bad way or anything? Like, I don’t—you—” Jimin peeks out from under his fingers to see his face flushing brilliant red, and it eases the pressure on his chest a little, lets him breathe a little deeper. “You’re great,” Namjoon finally says, his hand squeezing. “I just mean, I think maybe we should’ve been more clear with what we wanted. Or—I should’ve been more clear.”

“What’s that mean?” Jimin asks, a whisper, barely daring to hope.

Namjoon’s face goes redder. “I guess I haven’t been honest with you,” he starts. “And I’m sorry if I brought too much unnecessary baggage into this, but I didn’t want to say no when you were asking.”

“Joonie,” Jimin says, his voice so close to cracking, “please just tell me what you mean. What did you want?”

“I—” Namjoon blinks, once, twice, then scratches at his neck and lets out a dry chuckle. “I’m halfway to being in love with you, Jimin.”

“Oh.”

“And I guess I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you like that if I was going to be all emotional about it, but you were asking, and I didn’t know how to say no. Or, more like, I don’t want to say no to you, I never want to say no to you, and jesus god this is embarrassing I’m going to stop talking now. Just. I’m sorry. I fucked up.”

Distantly, Jimin doesn’t think he should be surprised. He’s heard it all in Namjoon’s voice, hasn’t he? The heaviness of want, something tender all wrapped up in the care and attention he’s given Jimin. Halfway in love doesn’t seem so farfetched. Underneath it all, Jimin thinks maybe he should be happy about it. Mostly, all he can feel is a dizzying fear, like the rising tide, threatening to wrench him away into open waters, dazed and uncertain. He grips the edge of the bathtub tight, fingers straining against the porcelain.

“Do you really have feelings for me, Joonie?” he asks.

Namjoon hangs his head. “Yes,” he says.

“Why…,” Jimin trails off, looking up through the mop of his fringe, blinking hard. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I didn’t think you wanted me to,” Namjoon says. “I guess. I didn’t want to burden you with them. You said you wanted to have fun. I—”

Jimin laughs, a spitting sort of thing. “Is that what you thought?”

Under the slanting light, Namjoon’s face is stricken. His hand slips from Jimin’s knee. “Not that like,” he says, even though Jimin isn’t sure there’s any other meaning he can find in the words, “not—I mean I didn’t want to make something complicated when it didn’t need to be. That’s all.”

“Why didn’t it need to be complicated?” Jimin asks, very quietly.

Namjoon closes his mouth.

“Did you think I didn’t want you to like me? That all I ever wanted was no strings attached?”

“I—well, you never said,” Namjoon says, the curl of his mouth a frown, now.

He’s right, and Jimin is being a unfair, but all of that falls away in the face of all the breathless hurt slowly threatening to strangle him. “No, but then you just—you just assumed,” Jimin says, raising his shoulders, hunching in over the edge of the bathtub. “Why didn’t you say no, Joonie? Please, just tell me the truth.”

Namjoon’s neck is stiff as he says, “I didn’t think I could get anything more, and I—I just wanted to be with you.” Immediately, he grimaces like he can’t stand the taste of his own words coming out of his own mouth.

The honesty, Jimin appreciates.

The rest of it makes him want to untether himself to his own body, so he doesn’t have to think about it, this, any of it. It suddenly feels hot and stifling, his face flushed and splotchy. Jimin feels too anchored down, too aware of all the places his skin is sticky and sweaty, the soft whoosh of breath between his lips, his unkempt hair and clothing—does he look like someone who fucks and flees? Is that what Namjoon thinks of him? Kind, accommodating, non-confrontational Namjoon, willing to let Jimin jerk him off in a bathroom because he thinks this is just the kind of thing that Jimin wants.

You’re being unreasonable, some snide voice in Jimin’s head says. It sounds a lot like himself, at his meanest. You’re the one who said all you wanted was to have fun. You’re the one who pulled him in here like some half-rate slut. You’re the one who’s too much of a coward to admit that you might have real feelings, so why should you expect anyone else to see?

Namjoon is still looking at him attentively. Jimin thinks that anyone else would’ve left, by now, and that makes it all worse, somehow.

He takes in a slow inhale, deep through his nostrils. “Namjoon-hyung,” he says, trying to keep his voice measured. “I think we both messed up.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon says. “I think you’re right.”

“I never wanted you to think that about me,” Jimin says. It sounds like he’s hearing his own voice from far away, raw with honesty. “That I’m easy, or cheap, you know?”

“Jimin,” Namjoon starts. He jerks up, like he wants to reach out, but thinks better of it and folds his hands in his lap, tugging at a stray thread on his jeans. “I don’t,” he says. “I don’t think any of that. Sometimes I just can’t convince myself that anyone would ever like me—it’s not about you or what you’re capable of. I just didn’t think that you’d ever be interested in me.”

All of it makes sense. The rational, logical part of his brain is nodding along, cataloguing the words. All of it makes so much sense. Jimin knows what that is, not wanting to burden anyone with all his feelings. But the terrible voice whispers, he’s lying, whispers, he doesn’t think you have a heart, isn’t that so awful, whispers, you’re not capable of loving anyone properly anyways, so why bother.

It’s been a while since it was this bad. Jimin suddenly feels on the verge of falling apart, everything going wrong all at once. He props his elbows onto his knees, looks down. “Okay,” he says, because he doesn’t know what else to.

“Please believe me,” Namjoon says, sounding just as shitty.

Jimin lets his fingers dangle in front of him, useless. He shrugs helplessly. “Okay,” he says again.

There’s the barest of contact, Namjoon’s hand brushing up against his knee again, just once. By the time Jimin looks up, Namjoon’s already standing.

“It’s not that I don’t want to talk,” he says, feather soft. “It’s just that I think we’re not in the right place to? I don’t know about you,” he says with a wry hook to the corner of his mouth, “but I need to do some… processing. Is that okay?” He hesitates, lingers a bit, like he’d stay if Jimin asked him to. There’s this look he gets, something, and Jimin wants to say it’s fondness. There’s this look he gets that softens out his whole face, smooths out even the edge of his dimples, until Jimin swears there’s nothing there but kindness incarnate.

But Jimin doesn’t want kindness, not now.

“Yeah,” he says, “I think you’re right. I want to talk, too. I don’t—I’m not mad at you or anything, I just need some space to think.”

Namjoon nods, once.

“Joonie?” Jimin calls before he gets to the door, still stupid to the core.

A pause. “Yeah?”

“I do like you,” Jimin admits to Namjoon’s back. “I thought I liked you too much, that’s why I was crying. I think you should know.”

Namjoon’s shoulders tighten, but he doesn’t turn around. “Yeah, yeah,” he says, meaningless filler words. “Okay. Thank you for telling me. I’m so sorry.”

And then he practically flees.

When the door clicks shut behind him, Jimin lets himself fall back into the bathtub. It’s kind of cold pressed up to his bare skin. Hard, not exactly comfortable, but the rigid wedge of it against his tailbone is something of an anchor. Goosebumps prickle up and down his arms. Jimin huffs and drops his head against the tiles, kicking his feet a little bit.

He thinks, mildly, that he probably should’ve listened to Taehyung.

The pleasant buzz of alcohol in his head turns into something sharper, needles instead of bubbles. Jimin closes his eyes and there’s only static knocking around inside his skull, like all the means things he wants to say to himself have melded together to make one angry roar, more physical pain than any sort of coherent thought. Jimin kind of wishes he had the courage to pick himself up and find what’s left of the soju from the living room. Dull the edges of the knives inside his head.

From here, if he opens his eyes just barely, he can see the bathroom mirror hanging off the door. It’s a bit skewed, his head tilted at the wrong angle to see anything full on, but he can see himself. He can see himself like someone else might see him. There’s a mark, blooming on the edge of his collarbone that he hadn’t even noticed. Love-bite-red, not even the forgiving purple of the kind of bruise you get in a fight. So fucking obvious. His hair’s a mess. His eyes are kind of bloodshot, but Jimin doesn’t think he has the energy for crying. He looks stupid. He looks movie ready, the extra in all those party shots who looks like he’d gladly drop down and suck someone’s dick so the director can get something edgy in.

Before he can do something wholly stupid like punch the mirror and break his hand, the door swings open.

The messy image of himself disappears, replaced abruptly by the only person he wants to see right now.

“Jiminie,” Taehyung says, not a lick of judgment in his low murmur.

The world turns watery all over again. Taehyung is just about the only person Jimin never feels pathetic around, but his treacherous mind can’t help but keep whispering all the ways he has to look terrible right now anyways, wrecked, debauched. “I’m sad, Taehyungie,” he manages to say above the noise. “I’m really sad.”

Taehyung clicks the door shut but before Jimin can crane his neck to get back to the mirror, he shuffles closer and sits on the edge of the bathtub, effectively blocking his view. Leaning in, he rests a hand on the crown of Jimin’s head, soft and big, the pressure of it a familiar comfort.

Jimin tucks his chin against his chest, trying not to blink.

“Do you want to go home?” Taehyung asks carefully.

Jimin closes his eyes. “Yeah.”

“Everyone else is passed out outside,” Taehyung explains. “Actually I think Jungkook managed to claim Yoongi and Jin’s room for himself.” A pause. “Namjoon left. Either way, no one will notice if we slip out.”

Jimin thinks: if he saw Namjoon leaving then he has to know—but what are you kidding, as soon as he stepped in here, he knew—but either way you didn’t listen to him and now he probably thinks you ignored all his good advice on purpose, and he hates you, he has to hate you, or think you’re stupid or—

“Hey,” Taehyung says. His hand is still loosely threading through Jimin’s hair, but it’s not insistent. Doesn’t feel like an expectation of anything. “You didn’t do anything wrong, okay?”

Jimin slumps down further into the bathtub.

Taehyung sighs and rolls his eyes. “C’mon, get up,” he says, reaching out and grasping Jimin by the shoulders. “Home first, talk later.”

Jimin pouts. “Don’t wanna talk.”

In response, Taehyung raises a single eyebrow.

Something about the familiar rhythm of it startles half of laugh out of Jimin’s chest. And, with it, it feels like his lungs are clearing out, just the bit. Easier breathing, the fog lifting enough from his brain for his actual reason to kick back in and realize how much of this is more than ridiculous. There’s still the ringing buzz in his ears, the sullen dread that weighs down his limbs, full-body. But there’s Taehyung’s hand pulling at his elbow, the sound of his own buoyant laugh ringing in his ears like a reminder.

Get up, Jimin tells himself, and he does.

“There we go,” Taehyung says, still holding on with a hand but sticking his tongue out when Jimin rights himself properly and rubs at his sore tailbone. “Ready to blow this place, Park Jiminie?”

Jimin bats his eyelashes, places a hand on Tae’s shoulder. “Ready when you are, handsome.”

//

Later, cushioned in the dark of his own bedroom, the story presses at the inside of his lips, ready to unfurl.

“You were right,” Jimin starts off. “Should’ve held ‘em.”

Taehyung huffs a laugh. They’re both under the blankets, face to face. Taehyung rolls over and cushions a hand under his cheek and asks, “Held what?”

Jimin’s mouth drops open. “My feelings,” he hisses. “This was your metaphor.”

“Hm,” Taehyung hums. “Was it? I don’t remember.”

“You asshole.”

Taehyung smiles. “Tell me what happened, Jimin-ah. I’m sleepy.”

Jimin chews on the inside of his cheek, thinking. “It’s silly,” he starts.

Taehyung tsks.

“It was. You found me in the bathtub.

“I don’t know,” Taehyung says, “maybe the context called for completely appropriate bathtub wallowing.”

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Jimin murmurs. “I just wanted to kiss him. He was talking about saving the spiders and it was so cute and all I wanted to do was kiss him.”

Taehyung nods, once. “Understandable.”

“I was a little tipsy, I guess.” Jimin closes his eyes against the softness of the pillow, lets his own breathing fill up the space in front of him, the shallow in and out, whispering through his bones and echoing in his ears. Safe, he thinks to himself. It’s safe here. “I just had too many feelings to hold,” he says, and his voice is all vibrations and sound, the words fuzzy around the edges. “I wanted him to know, but it’s—s’hard for me to say, Taetae, you know?”

“Yeah,” Taehyung says. “I know.”

“And then he said he liked me, and I freaked out a little.”

A shuffling sound. Jimin opens his eyes to see Taehyung suddenly a lot closer, his eyes like two blinking marbles. “That’s good though, right?” he says, a tentative smile spreading on his face. “Didn’t you want him to like you?’

The sucker punch feeling of Namjoon, confessing, is hard to explain. Jimin purses his lips, trying to write off the careful hope gleaming in Taehyung’s eyes. “It’s complicated,” he says, but it sounds flat and lame even to himself. “It’s scary,” he tries and that’s better, feels more true. “Sometimes it’s scary knowing that something you thought was just a game was more real for both of you, you know?”

Taehyung hums. “I suppose. Was that it? Did he leave because you freaked out?”

“Sort of? I was madder than I expected, I think.”

“Why?”

Jimin knows that Taehyung has always seen the better side of him. In the beginning, it made their relationship rocky, when Jimin was unwilling to let down his walls for anyone and Taehyung insisted on pretending they didn’t exist. But even then, Taehyung always seemed to know, intuitively, the softest parts of Jimin, knew exactly what terrible, fragile emotions were caught between his ribcage, feeding into the beating heart of him.

So it’s hard to explain to Tae now, the heartbreak of realizing someone hadn’t seen all of that.

He twiddles with the stray threads on his pillow, breathes out. “He didn’t tell me, because he thought all I wanted was to fuck him.”

Taehyung laughs. “That’s not what you wanted?”

Jimin scowls. “That’s not the point, I was mad because he just assumed and—mmph.”

Taehyung squishes Jimin’s cheeks together, pulling their foreheads close in the dark. “I know, Jiminie,” he says. “But you can’t keep blaming people for believing you when you lie to them.” He gives Jimin’s cheek one last pat, then pulls away. “I don’t think you’re a liar or a bad person,” he continues, as if he hasn’t just verbally smacked Jimin across the face, “But sometimes people have gentler intentions than you think they do.”

Even though Taehyung’s let go, Jimin can’t make his mouth obey to form new words.

“Otherwise, the person you hurt the most is yourself, and I don’t like it when people hurt my best friend,” Taehyung finishes. Then smiles, open and wide.

Jimin shrinks back. “I wasn’t trying to lie.”

“I know.”

“I just liked him so much, and it’s—it’s so fucking scary to like someone and not know if you can trust them with it.”

“I know.”

“Do you think he’s mad at me?”

Taehyung huffs another laugh. “I think he’s mad at himself, probably, right now.”

Jimin frowns. “I don’t like that,” he says, realizing the truth of it as the words slide out of his mouth.

“Hmm, good to know.”

“Wha—”

Taehyung’s finger lands on his lips. “Tomorrow, you will text him, and you will talk. Talk, and just that, I mean it. And you will figure it out. I promise. But now, we sleep.”

Jimin bats his hand away. “But, what if—”

Taehyung grunts, and it’s loud enough that Jimin nearly startles back in the bed. “Sleep, Jiminie,” Taehyung says, his eyes very wide and very insistent and very terrifying. “Please,” he says, and his brows crease a bit desperately.

Jimin stifles a laugh. “Okay, okay,” he says. “Sleep.”

Another grunt, this time more content than despairing Jimin thinks, and Taehyung rolls all the way over and drapes all his arms over Jimin like an overgrown octopus. Jimin giggles and leans back into the embrace.

He lies awake for a long time, admittedly. Mind blank, but staring into the shadowy dark, listening to the sound of Taehyung’s breathing rushing up against the back of his neck. All the feelings inside him rattling like a wasting cough. Jimin thinks, with the sort of clarity you get when it’s 3AM and you can’t sleep, that he could let them fester. They could grow like bacteria, like mold, like the tiny creeping roots of moss digging into the lining of his lungs and throat until he was crowded with nothing but the hurt.

But he could excise them. That was the other option. The option that drew sharp hurt at first, a carving knife prying up crusted over emotions out of the still-tender wounds in his heart. But, but, but. The kinder option, in the end.

Jimin sighs, falling limp against his pillows again and closing his eyes. Counts the ins and outs of his breathing, imagines exhaling poison and seeds and ugly, rooting things until he falls asleep.

//

The next day, he texts Namjoon before he can lose the nerve. Short and simple, which might be a little mean, but Jimin doesn’t have the space in his head to agonize over the wording of a text right now.

hey. im ready to talk now.

Namjoon replies within fifteen minutes. come to my office @ 5?

Jimin stares at the words on his phone for a long while after that, until the pixels swim and blur and he’s not really reading anything anymore, just tracing over shapes and patterns with his dry eyes. Doesn’t read much like an exchange between friends. Maybe Namjoon had read his curt tone and matched it. The phone in his hand feels far away, like his arm is miles long, like there’s a firm boundary between reality, where he’s texted Namjoon and they’re going to talk in three hours, and his terrified self, trapped in the hummingbird cage of his chest.

He scrubs at his eyes and tells himself not to think about it too hard. Paces around campus for the full three hours instead of doing anything useful with his time.

At the end of it, he finds himself standing in front of Namjoon’s door.

//

Jimin paces for nearly ten minutes. It’s not anything he’d ever admit to anyone—not even Taehyung, not even in the dark safe spaces they have—but he gets there fifteen minutes early, spends ten of those in the stairwell down the hall fiddling with his phone pretending to stare at something requiring all his concentration, then paces for another ten. Up and down, trying to dispel all the excess energy in the pumping of blood, the working of muscle. By the end of it, he doesn’t feel any better, and there are angry red crescents on his palms, and he’s already five minutes late and counting.

Stupid, stupid, he chides himself, and then puts on his best and most casual smile, and knocks on Namjoon’s door.

Quiet, only for a moment. Enough for thoughts to start trickling in, weaseling like insects. Jimin ignores the goosebumps shivering up his arms.

“Yeah?” Namjoon finally calls.

Jimin opens the door and peeks in sideways, beaming. “It’s me!” he calls.

The slow but assured smile spreads across Namjoon’s face like a sunrise, and Jimin feels something knot in his stomach. Something good or bad, he doesn’t really know, but it’s like a hook, holding him firmly to solid ground. He nudges the door and lets it swing all the way open.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Namjoon says before he can bluster his way into something dumb and sunny and avoiding the issue.

Jimin suddenly wishes he had the door back, if only to hide the way his legs are suddenly shaky. “Yeah,” he says instead. His hair falls in his face, a shock of bleach blond, drier than he’d like, but he hasn’t been bothering to keep up with treating it lately. He sucks his bottom lip between his teeth, hovers at the door. “Can I come in?”

The speed at which Namjoon jumps out of his cute little swivel chair is enough to send it spinning. Jimin can’t help but giggle as Namjoon edges out of the way, gesturing wildly. “Yeah, uh,” he says, “feel free to—sit? Or not. We can stand, if that’s what you want, but I thought it’d be… nicer… if you had a place to sit down.”

“Don’t you wanna sit, Joonie?” Jimin asks.

Namjoon makes a face. “Honestly I’ve been sitting all day. So, not particularly?” He narrows his eyes, pushes his hair back, and that shouldn’t make Jimin’s throat as dry as it does, but, well, it’s still Namjoon. “Is this a test? Would you be more comfortable if I sat down?” he asks, and that dispels most of the hot, authoritative TA aura, brings out the strong dork energy instead. Jimin stifles another giggle.

It’s so fucking easy to slide back into teasing with Namjoon.

“Nah,” he says, and glides back to perch himself on the edge of Namjoon’s desk, feet kicking against the armrest of the chair. “I don’t want to steal your chair.”

Namjoon’s smile quirks up one side. “But you’re okay with getting it dusty?”

In response, Jimin grinds the heel of his shoe down on the armrest.

Namjoon laughs. It makes Jimin want to wilt in relief, that there’s nothing awkward lingering between them. It makes him doubt himself, a little, too, makes him try and read things into the faint bags hanging underneath Namjoon’s eyes, the faintly dishevelled look about his hair, like he’d carded his hand through one too many times. The loose sleeves, hanging unbuttoned. Was that because of him? Had Namjoon lost as much sleep as he did, last night, were they both lying awake in the dark together, thoughts tangled up even now?

Jimin pats the side of the desk next to him.

Namjoon comes, settles up against him. They’re close enough for Jimin to be hyperaware of his presence—not close enough to touch.

“So,” Namjoon says, popping the word.

So,” Jimin returns.

Namjoon braces his hands on the desk. “You said you were ready to talk?” His words, usually so self-assured, usually so measured like he’d spent all his time silent thinking about exactly what he wants to say, sound weak, now. Distantly hopeful.

Even though Jimin feels ready to lie all over again, clamp down all his defenses and make something up, flee back into the comfort of awkward friendship, he nods. Because who is he to stomp all over that hope? “Yeah,” he says. “Maybe this is too soon, but—but I did a lot of thinking, and I’m still not sure how I feel, but I wanted to talk to you to figure out where we go from here.” These words—honest ones, fearful ones, uncertain ones—feel like prying teeth out of his jaws.

Namjoon nods, a few rapid ones in a row, but it doesn’t look distracted. His brow touch together, like he’s thinking. “I think I need to start with apologizing properly,” he says.

“Joonie—”

“Please,” Namjoon says, quiet.

Jimin’s heart beats an echoing thud. “Okay,” he says, his eyes trained on the scuff marks on his sneakers, the back and forth swivel of the chair as he drags it around.

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says, and Jimin holds his breath very carefully. “I didn’t realize that my own insecurities could hurt other people, and that was really stupid.” Out of the corner of Jimin’s eyes, he thinks he sees Namjoon’s face turned somewhere towards him. “I’m sorry I made you feel invalidated. I know it doesn’t mean much, but I never thought that about you—I think you love so many people, Jimin-ah. I see it every single day, spilling out of you. When you bring coffee around for Jungkook when he’s studying, when you model for Taehyung whenever he needs, when you go out with Yoongi just to make sure he doesn’t drink himself under the table trying to figure out the next song. All those polaroids you collect. Please don’t think I think you’re—you’re easy, or that I only wanted to sleep with you. I just—I think you’re amazing, Jimin.”

Jimin nearly chokes on the breath when he finally releases it. His face burning, he turns and gives Namjoon a furious glare. “Joonie!”

Namjoon has the gall to smile sheepishly, though there’s a smug tint to how wide it is, taking up his entire face. “Did you not like that? I can start over. I practiced it a lot.”

Jimin puts a hand up to his mouth to muffle the slightly desperate, keening noise that wants to slip out. “I hate you,” he hisses when he regains the ability to speak. “I hate you so much.

The smile is just as wide, but Namjoon seems to falter a little. “Okay but. Really, are you mad?”

“No!” Jimin nearly falls off the desk with how violently he rears around. “How could I be! I’m not a monster!”

“I know,” Namjoon says, his chin tilted up, all the smugness back in full force. “Isn’t that what I just said?”

Beneath the wild indignance, the sheer rage filling up Jimin’s ears, there’s a thorn of fondness. Small enough to wedge itself past all his defenses. Jutted up right against his spine like a stubborn pea, a kernel that’s not want or need or anything complicated. Nothing like the thousands of layers of emotions swirling in Jimin’s head, just a simple truth: he likes Namjoon. He just likes him, plain and simple. He likes hearing him talk about the things he loves, the autumn sky, poetry, music, that otters hold hands when they go to sleep, isn’t that cute, Jimin-ah? Likes the quiet, authoritative air he exudes sometimes, something of a reassurance—if I figured it out, so can you. Likes him. Likes him.

Or maybe it’s always been there, and all of Namjoon’s words have just made it impossible to ignore, now.

Jimin deflates, under the weight of all this liking. “You always know exactly the right thing to say,” he says, and the voice inside his head whispers, what if he’s just saying it, what if he just doesn’t want you to be mad at him, what if he’s lying.

Namjoon pauses, like he senses something’s shifted. “You make that sound like a bad thing.”

And Jimin thinks of Tae’s voice again, calling him a liar. Or—kinder, he reminds himself—telling him not to hide behind lies anymore.

“It’s not,” Jimin says. Scrubs a hand against his fact. “It’s not, but can I ask you something kind of stupid?”

Namjoon nods. “Sure.”

“Yah,” Jimin says, peeking out through his fingers, “aren’t you supposed to tell me no question is stupid? What kind of a teacher are you even?”

“Well I haven’t heard the question yet, have I?”

And then, somewhere between the laugh that Namjoon teases out of him and the fear of being judged for what would turn out to be an actual stupid question, Jimin manages to ask, “Do you mean it?”

Namjoon opens his mouth, then stops. He leans in a bit, his shoulder to Jimin’s shoulder, a gently insistent press. “That’s not a stupid question,” he says. “And I guess I know nothing I’m saying right now is going to make you believe it, but I meant every single word.”

It’s exactly the right thing. Jimin tries not to curl in on himself. “I…”

“It’s okay,” Namjoon says, easy. “You don’t have to believe me yet. But I can tell you however many times you need to hear it, if you want.”

Jimin nibbles on his lip. “How are you so good at this?”

Namjoon bursts out laughing. Jimin shoots him a dirty look under his fringe, but can’t his own mouth from smiling when he sees the hysterical look in Namjoon’s eyes. “Stop laughing at me, Joonie,” he says, kicking his legs out from the desk.

“Sorry, sorry,” Namjoon says, his eyes squeezing together. He leans back, his arms stretched out behind him, the line of his body taut under the loose collared shirt. “It’s just, like, oh my god Jimin I’m not good at this at all. I have no fucking clue what I’m doing.”

Maybe he should feel a little bad for it, but this is what makes Jimin feel better, all at once, a hot-blooded rush of relief in his ears. He pulls his legs up on the desk, sits criss-cross as he spins himself to face Namjoon full on. “But you are,” he insists. “You knew exactly what I was worried about. You sure you’re not a mind-reader, Joonie?”

Namjoon lets his head fall back, face turned towards the ceiling. The tanned column of his throat bobs as he swallows. “You know, when I was younger, I used to have the worst stutter. I mean, it wasn’t that serious, but, like, I’d get in front of anyone important and all the words I wanted to say would try and come out all at once. It made so much sense in my head everything coming out was this string of gibberish and no one knew what I was trying to say. And then eventually I’d get so nervous about how to say things properly I’d just say them inside my head a thousand times and never to anyone out loud.”

Jimin scoots forward on the desk. “That sounds hard.”

“Yeah, well,” Namjoon says.

“What changed?” How did you get better? How did you fix yourself?

Namjoon shrugs. “Sometimes I still get nervous and say the wrong fucking thing. Like yesterday.”

“But,” Jimin says, biting his lip.

And Namjoon turns his head, his hair flopping about over his eyes, his smile small, but carved into his face. One dimple deep. “And sometimes I get all the words right, like today.”

“Oh,” Jimin says, “oh no, I’m sorry,” and then there are tears prickling at his eyes again, weak and thin. He blinks, and his cheeks are wet, and he’s pitching forward aimlessly until—

“Hey,” Namjoon says, catching him. “Why’re you sorry for?”

“For not being honest,” Jimin wails into Namjoon’s sleeve. “It’s not your fault, Joonie, I was the one who was too chickenshit to tell you I liked you a lot, I was the one who didn’t want you to know I liked you a lot, I was the one who was lying because I don’t fucking know what to say and I—” he tries to inhale, but finds he can’t, and the growing pressure on his chest makes him light-headed, panicky, and, and.

Namjoon draws an arm around his shoulders, holds a hand at the nape of his neck. “Hey, breathe first, Jiminie, okay?” he says, his voice so loud and so close.

“What?”

Namjoon pulls him into a half hug, Jimin’s ear pressed up against his solid chest, his whole torso moving up and down with every deep breath Namjoon pulls in himself. “Just breathe,” Namjoon says, his thumb running little circles over Jimin’s shoulder. “It’s okay.”

Jimin sucks in a breath through his mouth. In, out, in, out. “‘M sorry,” he says again, hiccuping.

“It’s okay,” Namjoon is still saying. “It’s okay.”

It’s okay, until Jimin manages to fill his lungs with all the air he needs, until the room stops spinning. Until most of the panic has subsided and he feels suddenly exhausted, wrung out, like all the tension he’s been holding inside for weeks and weeks and weeks is finally coming out.

Until the embarrassment starts to creep back in, his cheek still smushed up against Namjoon’s chest.

Jimin pushes weakly, but Namjoon doesn’t let him go. “Namjoon-ah,” he whines.

“Jimin-ah.”

“Lemme go.”

When he finally says something, Namjoon’s voice is barely audible. “Don’t wanna,” he whispers, nothing more than a breath against Jimin’s ear.

Jimin squeezes his eyes shut. “But I fucked up.”

“I think we both fucked up.”

Jimin laughs helplessly. “Guess so.”

“I just—is that okay?” Namjoon asks, still holding onto him. “I want us to be okay.”

There, nestled against the soft comfort of Namjoon’s arms, Jimin gives pause. Slows down the crowding thoughts, stops trying to see himself outside in. Thinks about the soft core of him, the inside pieces he’s so afraid of sometimes, the breakable boy he’s hiding. Namjoon wants them to be okay; Jimin remembers the first crack in his glass wall, the two of them skin against skin, Namjoon saying, tell me what you want. And Jimin hadn’t let himself want anything but everything physical.

What does he want, now?

Stupid, the meaner version of himself whispers, but fainter than ever, fading even now.

“Me too,” Jimin says. He pushes gently on Namjoon’s chest, and Namjoon loosens his grip enough for Jimin to pull back and look at him. Finally, facing those dark eyes, letting the full force of Namjoon’s sincere gaze erode at all the layers of him. “I want us to be okay, too,” Jimin says. “I want us to be more than okay. I want to—I meant it, you know? Yesterday?”

“Meant what?”

“I want to kiss you like you love me,” Jimin mumbles. “I want you to kiss me like I love you.”

Pink creeps over Namjoon’s face like dawn, crawls over the bridge of his nose, marks the dips and valleys of his cheeks with softness. Jimin thinks about a love like that, slow but assured, as steady as the turn of the earth. “Maybe I want all that, too,” Namjoon says.

“What if we mess it up, again?”

“I don’t know,” Namjoon says. “But I’m gonna try my best not to.”

He says it like it’s simple, like living with all that terrifying uncertainty is easy. Jimin thinks about all the ways he can hurt, can be hurt, how such a small simple misunderstanding can spiral into so much heartache, thinks about all the ways it’ll hurt more, once he lets himself admit to caring. “What if it goes wrong anyways?” he whispers.

Namjoon’s arms tighten, just the bit. He fidgets with something behind Jimin’s back, his leg shuffling around on the desk like he can’t get used to sitting there. His mouth is serious and lovely when he says, definitively, “Is it worth it?”

“Is what worth it?”

“If it goes wrong, if we mess up all the ways two people can mess up, do you think it’ll be worth it?”

Not am I worth it? Not even are we worth it. What’s the question here? What does Jimin want?

The answer comes easy. After all this time, there’s no use hiding behind empty words, false pretenses. Is it worth it? The chance to love, and be loved?

“Yes,” Jimin says before he can second guess himself. “God, yes, okay, it’s fucking worth it, Joonie. I want to try.”

If his blush was the dawn, Namjoon’s smile now is moonbeam bright, shy but brilliant, the light of it setting Jimin’s cheeks gently aglow. “Tell me what you want,” Namjoon says, like he’s a mind reader after all. “What do you want to try?”

“I want you, Namjoon,” Jimin whispers. The last truth he has to offer.

Namjoon brings their foreheads together, presses fingers into the small of Jimin’s back. “Okay,” he says. “You can have that. You can have me.”

//

They do, despite all the drama, decide to do things nice and slow. Which means, spending time together, which really means dating. Which means Jimin is nervous about meeting up with Namjoon before class for a short hike and a trip to the coffee shop, despite the fact that 1) he knows what Namjoon’s dick looks like and 2) this isn’t even the first time they’ve done this.

Instead of forcing Namjoon to go to his and Taehyung’s cramped up apartment, they meet at the bus stop just outside campus. All of which ultimately points to Jimin sitting inside the little shelter, his hood pulled up over his head and shivering a bit, because even though it’s spring, it’s still cold at 6AM in the morning, bare faced and stifling a yawn as he waits for Namjoon to show. He tugs his legs up, wedges his heels in at the edge of the seat.

When Namjoon turns the corner, Jimin spots him almost immediately. He looks like a walking clothing catalogue, all the layers of the collection swathing his body, shirt and jacket and big woolen cardigan all. Jimin presses his fingers to his mouth to stifle a fond giggle as Namjoon nearly trips on the sidewalk curb, his messenger bag swinging wildly as he runs up the street.

Jimin waits for Namjoon to come to him.

Instead of coming in, Namjoon sticks his head into the shelter. “Hey!” he shouts, a bit too loud for this early, his voice echoing between the glass doors. “Ready to go?”

Jimin carefully places his feet on the ground, one at a time. Dusting off his pants, he rocks up to standing, hands shoved into the pocket of his hoodie. “Took you long enough.”

Namjoon rolls his eyes. “I’m like two minutes late.”

“No way,” Jimin says, shaking out his sleeve to check his watch. The hands are ticked a few millimetres past 6:03 and he crows in triumph, shoving his wrist in Namjoon’s face. “See? More than that!”

“Well,” Namjoon says, stepping back and bending forward in an exaggerated bow, “my sincerest apologies for being three minutes and twenty seconds late.”

“How you gonna make it up to me?”

“I humbly offer up an extra muffin to go.”

Jimin laughs and reaches out to grab Namjoon’s hand, pulling him back upright. “Acceptable,” he says.

They duck out of the shelter and into the crisp morning’s blue. Jimin breathes easier this time of day, his lungs eager for the sharpness of the cold, his shoulders a little looser, like the air isn’t quite thick enough to weigh down on him yet. Still, with sleep lurking in the corners of his eyes, Jimin doesn’t want to do much more than walk, not ready to ponder anything other than the trilling notes of birdsong, the answering harmony in the dying blare of some early delivery truck careening through the streets.

Namjoon likes to talk in the morning. It’s a fact he’s tucked away over the last few weeks, slotted into his collection of things to know about Namjoon, next to ‘likes to admire interior decoration’ and ‘bought a pair of baby shoes once just because he thought they were cute and they matched his aesthetic’.

Namjoon likes to talk, so instead of filling his brain with buzzing worries to start his day, Jimin listens, and he breathes.

Hands still linked, Jimin tilts his head towards Namjoon’s quiet murmur, mixed in with the light tap of their boots over crunching gravel.

“I’m stuck on this one section,” he’s saying. He’s talking, of course, about his dissertation, and Jimin understands maybe 60% of what he says about it on a good day, but that’s no matter. “I’m trying to figure out how to keep the accessible, which is basically impossible, because all philosophy academics write like they’re purposefully trying to scare you away from the subject,” he says, his free hand waving around in the air like he’s going to summon the solution to all his problems with a flick of his wrist.

“Mm,” Jimin says. “I can confirm.”

Namjoon laughs. His breath ghosts into the air, a wisp of white. He has a beanie covering his head, but he scratches at his hair underneath, then tugs at the hem of his cardigan.

“You cold?” Jimin asks.

“Huh?”

“You keep pulling at your jacket.”

Namjoon looks down, like he’s only just noticed. “Oh,” he says. “No, actually, I think I might be overheating a little.”

Jimin snuggles up underneath his arm, folds himself next to the soft cardigan. “Mmm blessed warmth,” he mumbles, nuzzling his face up against Namjoon’s shoulder.

Namjoon laughs again and drapes his arm over Jimin’s shoulder, their hands still linked. “Sorry,” he says. “I fidget when I’m nervous.”

“I know,” Jimin mumbles, the warmth lulling him into a sleepier daze.

“Oh?”

“I’ve been keeping track,” Jimin says, then takes a deep inhale of the chilly air again to dispel heat-haze fuzz, and when his head clears, he finds he’s not as embarrassed as he thought to admit to this little piece of emotional investment, to show Namjoon this is how he cares. “You’ve been studying English lately, you don’t like the taste of coffee but you drink it too often anyways because you’re always working late, but you hate getting up in the mornings but do it anyways because you love how quiet the streets get this early, you dress like a hipster even though you shop online at all the expensive places, and you like playing with things when you’re talking. Like now.”

Jimin wiggles his fingers. And Namjoon doesn’t stop turning them in his own hand, doesn’t stop squeezing lightly on each joint, doesn’t stop tracing the curve of Jimin’s cuticles with the edge of his nail, a shivering line of contact barely felt. He just looks down, brows furrowed, and when he says, “Oh,” Jimin sees the little puff of condensation in front of his face more than he hears Namjoon’s actual voice.

“I’ve been paying attention,” Jimin says.

It’s only then that Namjoon startles, his hand freezing around Jimin’s wrist.

“Don’t stop,” Jimin says. Then, because too much honesty this early isn’t good for your digestion, he scowls. “What, did you think I was just nodding along and not listening this whole time?”

“‘Course not,” Namjoon says. He turns their hands, palm to palm. Jimin’s fits so nicely inside his, their fingers falling together loosely with nothing but the gravity of them. “You hate that bottle of gin in my studio, mostly because you want to drink it and I won’t let you, you look at yourself when you pass by glass buildings, you like to wear rings because they weigh your hands down, grounding you can carry around with you everywhere.” He spins the ring on Jimin’s thumb when he talks, dragging the raised edge around full circle. “You like sweet things, but you take your coffee black.”

And Jimin thinks he understands the quiet devastation of that little oh from earlier. He feels it in his chest, right now. Here, with the sun cresting over the tops of skyscraper buildings, a second sunrise in the same morning, the rays of light so bright he sees nothing but white when he blinks, Jimin feels peeled open, seen in the best way.

“Joonie-ah,” he says. “That’s so embarrassing.”

“What, because I’ve been paying attention too?”

Jimin makes a little whining sound, deep in his throat. “What the fuck,” he says. “That’s not okay.”

“I can stop anytime,” Namjoon says, grinning. “I bet I could forget all those things if I really wanted to. Replace them with something important, like Kantian ethics.”

“Namjoon fact number thirty-five,” Jimin declares, “you’re a fucking nerd.

“Jimin fact number twenty-three,” Namjoon says softly, “you’re mean when you care too much about someone.”

And Jimin could call him a liar, or deny it, or, well, say any of the bubbling mean things on his tongue, but Namjoon’s caught him in a catch-22, and he knows it. Jimin scrunches up his face, resorting to non-verbal ways of expressing his displeasure, such as: stamping a foot on the ground, bunching up his shoulders, or—giving up when Namjoon just stands there and smiles serenely, rising up on the balls of his feet, kissing him.

Really, it’s more of a light peck, enough to catch a flash of minty toothpaste, the curve of Namjoon’s lips as he smiles. Here, in this weird in-between place they’re supposed to be staying in, kissing Namjoon is different than all those desperate, grasping times from before. Not so much slower as less frenzied. Not proving anything other than that Jimin wants to.

“Jimin fact number twenty-four,” Jimin says, and Namjoon cants his head forward, patient, waiting, always listening. “I’m getting cold,” he says and Namjoon steals another momentary kiss and the warmth of him seeps down into Jimin’s bones, in time with the rising sun.

//

And so, as they say, it goes. All the tentative kisses turn into something closer to casual domesticity; eventually, Namjoon stops texting to ask if they’re going to meet up in the morning—they just do. Every Tuesday, Jimin comes over and brings takeout while Namjoon grades. Sometimes, Namjoon stops by to watch Jimin work out the choreography for the classes he teaches at the community centre and Jimin isn’t even self conscious about it. Jimin learns a lot about Kantian ethics; Namjoon learns how to spot someone doing advanced yoga techniques, all the right places to hold your hand, the right amount of pressure, when to let go.

Until one day, Jimin wakes up, and realizes he’s not scared anymore.

Of the future, sure. Of all the things that could go wrong, fucking absolutely.

But of hidden barbs behind Namjoon’s words? Of doubts that he doesn’t mean what he says? Jimin opens his eyes one morning to the sound of Taehyung blending something in the kitchen, and realizes the threat of all of that feels as insubstantial as the spread of sunrise over his cheeks. All the words are still there, hovering underneath the surface of his thoughts, but he doesn’t believe them anymore.

He texts Namjoon joonie-ah I want to celebrate and gets what!!! what happened? good news? in response.

Jimin giggles and pulls his sheets up to his chin. us becoming official, he texts, and tosses his phone in the corner of the room in lieu of some more sleep.

//

“You’re officially the worst,” Namjoon says at dinner.

Jimin swirls his wine around in the glass. “Wow, Namjoon,” he says, “what happened to consent? Did you just assume we were dating already? How is that in any way ethical?”

“I should never have taught you how to talk about ethics.”

Jimin smiles and takes a sip of his wine.

But when he sets the (admittedly more full than probably recommended) glass down, there’s a stupid, wide, goofy grin on Namjoon’s face. The one that makes him look more like an emoji than a human being, his eyes more wrinkle than seeing implement. “Oh no,” Jimin whispers, “full dimple.” He reaches out and pokes Namjoon’s cheek. “Joon? You still with us?”

“No,” Namjoon says, though it comes out vaguely muffled because of Jimin pinching half of his face. “I’m too happy. Leave me to die, now, please.”

“You can’t die,” Jimin says.

“Why not?”

“Where else would I find a boyfriend? Mars? I’d rather date that little robot up there everyone’s been talking about than any of the boys down here, to be honest.”

Namjoon makes a non-smile face and says, “The Opportunity Rover died last week.”

“Oh,” says Jimin. “Guess there’s really no one else, then.”

“Well, Curiosity’s definitely still alive, so if you really wanted to—” He yelps as Jimin pulls him up from the table by the scruff of his shirt. “Wait, stop, you’re gonna knock something over.”

“Kiss me, you stupid nerd man,” Jimin whispers, yanking him closer.

To his immense credit, instead of heading the precarious position of their wine, Namjoon complies. Brief but chaste, but there’s a thrill of it, the bravery of kissing in such a stupid, stupid place, right out in the open. Kissing his boyfriend, Jimin thinks, and dares to slip a hand under the collar of Namjoon’s shirt to toy at the edge of his collarbone. And when they do end up knocking over the full plate of pasta and the waiter comes running over with the sort of customer service poker face that means he’ll be cursing their ancestors’ names to his coworkers come closing break, Namjoon slips a hand into Jimin’s back pocket and keeps it there, sharing a secret grin as they bow and apologize and get summarily, if politely, kicked out of the restaurant.

“I can’t believe you got us kicked out of the first celebratory dinner we go on,” Namjoon says as they walk down the streets.

“Hey, it takes two to tango, mister.”

Namjoon’s shoulders shake with laughter. “That was the shortest dinner I’ve ever had.”

“And they made us pay for it, too.” Jimin tips his head back, looks at the skyscrapers stretched up over his head. “In retrospect, not my best decision.”

“Hmm, definitely not.”

“In my defense, I was very emotional.”

And then, doing that thing he does where he turns all their stupid, joking conversations into something with more longevity, more care, Namjoon leans down to knock their temples together and says, “So was I.”

Jimin is half certain all his best memories are going to come tinged with stupid robot jokes and angry restaurant managers from now on. “I know,” he whispers. “You went full dimple.”

This time, when they kiss again, it’s long and slow and sweet, blanketed by the night of the city. Namjoon pulls him close, hand still in his pocket, and kisses him with the tang of wine, rich and dark. There’s still people out, but they all pass in that indifferent way that all city people do, and Jimin lets himself kiss his boyfriend in the middle of the street because he knows he can, pleased at how everyone passing around them will know. Namjoon threads his other hand into the strands of hair framing Jimin’s face, cupping the edge of his jaw, and that one point of skin to skin contact, Namjoon’s fingers against his face, sends a shower of sparks skittering over his skin. Electric bright as the lights igniting around them.

“Hey,” Jimin says, grabbing onto Namjoon’s wrist. “I don’t think I want dinner anymore.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon says, lips still parted. “Me neither.”

//

[this time, with feelings]

The door to Namjoon’s apartment slides shut with a dull little click. Inside, it’s shivery dark, the bright of the city languishing in little puddles underneath the windows at the kitchen, the living room, leaking out from behind the bedroom door.

“Do you not close your drapes?” Jimin asks.

“Nah,” Namjoon says. “I like the light, and besides I’m high enough that I don’t really care.”

“It is kind of pretty,” Jimin says, stepping into the middle of the living room. He turns a little circle, appraising the play of light, how it makes Namjoon’s whole apartment look different here than in the day, drenched in reds and blues and shadows.

A hand at the back of his waist sends a jolt jumping up his spine. Jimin turns and Namjoon’s got his blazer off, the shirt underneath bunched up at his elbows and half unbuttoned already, mostly covered in shadows but outside’s bluish tint pooling in his collarbones, glistening on his lips, burnishing the lock of hair that falls over his forehead.

“What, no apartment tour?” Jimin asks.

Namjoon slides his hand up Jimin’s forearm, thumb pressed into the thin skin underneath his elbow. “It’s not like you haven’t been here before.”

“I want the highlights version, then,” Jimin says. “Bedroom first.”

Namjoon cants his head forward. “After you.”

Jimin tugs himself free of Namjoon’s grip, manages to turn his back on his hooded eyes, the lingering glint of lowlight swallowed up by all his dark, heady gaze. He dances forward, slow enough to feel Namjoon’s heat behind him as he walks, fast enough to stay just out of reach. Floorboards creak under his feet, and the gentle click of Namjoon’s door is loud in his ears as he pushes in.

Inside, it’s the same as he remembers: all clutter, perfectly in tune to the kind of person Jimin’s learned Namjoon is. The bed is well-made, smoothed out, untouched in contrast to the lived-in-ness of the rest of the room. There’s no urgency in the way that Namjoon steps into the room after him, no desperation in the quiet shush of the door as it shuts. Only a gentle reassurance in how Namjoon comes up from behind, loops his arms around Jimin’s waist, nestles his chin on Jimin’s shoulder.

“Are we okay?” is the first thing that he asks, a low rumble against Jimin’s neck.

It makes Jimin want to take him apart, right there. Fuck like horny teenagers or emotionally constipated adults against the wall. But that’s the Jimin and Namjoon of a few months ago, and Jimin likes to think that he’s learned how to be patient.

He leans up into Namjoon’s embrace and turns his head, catching his lower lip in a meandering open-mouthed kiss. Feels Namjoon’s smile underneath, there and then gone when Jimin takes his lip and sucks.

“Goddamn,” Namjoon murmurs between kisses, “Jimin.”

“Shh, Joonie-ah,” Jimin says. He steps out of the circle of Namjoon’s arms again, pulls him forward.

“What do you want, Jimin-ah?” Namjoon asks, following.

Jimin sits on the edge of the bed, his hands flat against new creases in the sheets, looks up. “I just want you. I just want you to kiss me.”

“Okay,” Namjoon says. And he does, leaning down, arms bracketed on either side of Jimin’s body, and all Jimin can think of is how different this feels from the first time, all loose limbs and lazy heat, but how he’s still the same Jimin, fundamentally, how there’s the prickle of panic, brushing at the back of his mind at how caged in he could feel.

Same Jimin, but, he wants to believe, more honest. More committed to letting people in.

“Can we move?” he asks. “Wanna lie down.”

Namjoon straightens up so fast, it makes Jimin want to laugh. “Yeah,” he says, rapidfire. “Yeah, yeah, of course. Make yourself comfortable.” Maybe it’s silly, how quick he is to comply, but it lights a new sort of heat in the pit of Jimin’s stomach.

Makes him less self-conscious about taking things slow, easing himself into a calm enough mindset to love and be loved. To bring himself fully into his body in the way that he wants to be for this.

Jimin stis up cross-legged, leans back on his palms and looks at Namjoon through his lashes. “Mmm, it’s hot in here.”

“Is it?”

He pulls his collar away, undoes the top button. “You wanna see me take my shirt off, Joonie?”

Namjoon has his lips together like he’s trying not to laugh, but he shuffles onto the bed next to him, resting back against the pillows in a way that manages to look laid back and expectant all at once, his chin tilted up, the long, sinuous column of his neck full display. “Yeah,” he says, “I really do.”

Jimin bites down on his lip, fingers nimble, pulling open just enough buttons to drag the silky shirt off one shoulder. He knows he looks good. That’s never been the thing. Jimin knows exactly how to frame his skin in bunched fabric to show off the delicate curve of clavicle, how to make himself look desirable. It’s just never felt this sensual for him, before, the slow burn that is this drawing out of vulnerability. Namjoon’s eyes don’t scald him, it doesn’t feel like he’s peeling back his own skin as he slips the shirt off his other shoulder.

Instead, his skin is flush with the good kind of heat, his fingers leaving trails of shivering fire in their wake. Namjoon watching more intimate than Namjoon touching him, the path his gaze traces down Jimin’s sternum like a gentle caress.

Jimin tosses the shirt, thinks, this is good, thinks, I’m okay, and then he stops thinking.

“C’mere,” Namjoon murmurs and Jimin crawls over so they’re face to face on the bed. Namjoon hooks his hands over Jimin’s jaw to draw him into a kiss and Jimin opens his mouth, lets Namjoon in. Namjoon sets the pace, kisses like a man with all the time in the world. Like they have all the time in the world. Their noses bump together and their teeth nearly clash, but Namjoon holds steady, holds firm. Jimin is content to let him, his tongue slipping past Jimin’s lips and curling deep in his mouth, kissing him like there’s nowhere else in the world Namjoon wants to be.

“Hey,” Jimin whispers when they come up for breath.

“Mm?”

“I want you to fuck me,” Jimin says, his fingers hooking into the loops of Namjoon’s belt. He drags a hand over the bulge at his crotch, just barely grinding his palm down, and has to bite down on his lip hard when it drags a low moan out of Namjoon’s throat, Namjoon’s hands tightening against his jaw. “I want you to take care of me, Joonie,” Jimin says, “make me forget there’s a world outside. Make me forget there’s anything to worry about.”

Namjoon reaches up, brushes a hand through Jimin’s hair. “Is that what you want?” he asks, not like he’s making sure, more like he’s telling Jimin all the things he wants to do in the low grind of his voice, a promise.

Jimin lies back properly in the bed, puts a hand on Namjoon’s wrist, holds his grip down firm in his hair. “Yeah,” he whispers. “Fuck me like you love me, Joonie-ah.”

Namjoon’s laugh is a breeze over his face. “I do, Jimin,” he says. “God, do I love you.”

“Then show me.”

Namjoon kisses him again, harder, sloppier, the angle not quite right, but deep and bruising—a kiss boiled down to its visceral parts, plush and wet and beating with the red hot of want. Namjoon kisses Jimin like love, circles his wrist and pushes him deeper into the bed, and Jimin feels a soft halo of safe warmth, nothing surrounding him but soft sheets and pink-glazed love.

“Close your eyes,” Namjoon says when he pulls back.

“Why?” Jimin murmurs. “Wanna see you.”

Namjoon presses a kiss just underneath Jimin’s jaw, whispering up to his ear. “Let me make you feel good,” he says. “Do you trust me?”

“Yes,” Jimin says, half a realization.

“Then close your eyes for me,” Namjoon murmurs, and Jimin obeys, stretching his bare arms over his head, settling down on his back as he lets his suddenly heavy lids slide shut. The dark drapes down around him, and everything else instantly sharpens. The shallow drag of his lungs, every lingering creak of the bed. All the places Namjoon is touching him like flares in the dark, aching points of pressure that sends pleasure skittering over his skin, carving lines to the core of him, hot and slithering. Namjoon stays with his lips gentle against Jimin’s pulse point, a whispering reminder, makes Jimin wait for it.

Careful tension ratchets in his hips, inch by inch every time Namjoon shifts, his nose nudging up against Jimin’s sensitive skin, the barest suggestion of a kiss, something wet.

And then he pulls away.

Unwittingly, a whine drags out of Jimin’s throat, and it’s only the press of Namjoon’s hand weaving into his hair that keeps him from blinking in surprise.

“Good?” Namjoon asks.

Jimin grabs Namjoon’s wrist, a reassurance that he’s still there. “Yeah,” he says, surprised at how breathy his voice his, how hard it is to think and say much of anything at all, everything on his mind the dip of Namjoon’s legs bracketing him on the bed, the whistle of air over his bare stomach, a buzzing need on his lips. He wants to be kissed, wants more weight, wants the heady heat of a body pressing down on his, and the emptiness above him aches like bruising.

“I’m gonna sit up,” Namjoon says. “M’not leaving. Trust me.”

“Okay,” Jimin says, and when Namjoon gently unlaces his fingers from the hair at Jimin’s temple, leaving him with nothing but a dishevelled fringe and anticipation, he gets it, he fucking gets it, this stupid plunge into the dark, the inherent eroticism of not knowing.

Fingers, there, ghosting along his ribs. Electric heat arcs straight to his crotch, and Jimin feels drawn tight just from that barest touch.

“Namjoon,” he gasps, and gets a more insistent scrape in response, fluttering under his ribs, tickling enough to make him squirm. “Namjoon.”

And then nothing, again, and Jimin cranes his neck, arches his back as if that’ll force Namjoon to touch him properly, rucks his hips up to look more inviting against the sheets. Tries to go for his usual languid grace, but ends up feeling desperate instead. For a brief flash, he thinks of what he might look like, twisting around like he’s begging for it, practically panting with just one finger sliding on him, but the thought dissipates when Namjoon finally, finally, holds tight onto his waist, leans down enough so Jimin can feel the heat off his skin.

“Jimin-ah,” Namjoon says, gliding his thumbs over the curve of Jimin’s hips, close to the hem of his pants, enough of a suggestion to make his cock ache. “You’re so beautiful,” he whispers. “I’m afraid to touch.”

And Jimin thinks: only you.

Says: “It’s okay, Joon-ah.” Says: “I want you to.” Says: “You can have me.”

“God,” Namjoon murmurs, his hands tightening. He dips down to press a kiss at Jimin’s sternum, his voice rumbling through Jimin’s fucking bones when he says, “You’re gorgeous,” says, “love you so much,” says, “I got you.”

Jimin’s hands find Namjoon’s hair in the dark. His fingers twist in the locks, still stiff with gel, when Namjoon licks a trail down his chest, kisses growing sloppier as he goes, all teeth and lingering, drizzling heat. All the way until Namjoon’s lips find the line down to his crotch, hovering where fabric meets skin.

Namjoon nips at the top of his jeans, hard enough for unforgiving friction, rough against Jimin’s dick. He sucks in a harsh breath as Namjoon does it again, the delicate sweep of his breath fanning over Jimin’s skin a counterpart to the edge of excruciating pleasure, denim scraping raw over his erection.

“Dammit Namjoon,” Jimin growls. “Don’t you know how to undo a fly?”

“Nah,” Namjoon says, but even as he says it, there’s another harsh tug, the slight ease of pressure that makes Jimin think he’s pulled the button loose.

“Jesus would you hurry up?” Jimin asks, trying not to jerk too much as Namjoon moves back up, nosing just above his waistband, his hands still tight around Jimin’s hips. “Namjoon. You fucking asshole oh my god.”

Namjoon laughs, and fucking hell, even that vibrates against Jimin’s skin. “Why are you being so mean to me?”

“‘Cause I like you,” Jimin says. “And if you don’t get these goddamn pants off me, I’ll do it myself.”

He reaches down, but stops short when Namjoon lets go of his hips to circle around his wrists instead, pinning his arms down on either side. For a startling moment, all the fight bleeds out of him, and Jimin feels boneless and still, the tension snapped inside him and seeping languid heat out to all his limbs. Then, Namjoon presses down, pushing Jimin into the bed, and all of it comes roaring back, his body a taut line, everything singing.

Jimin squeezes his eyes tighter. “Joonie?” he asks, uncertain again in the face of it.

“Just be patient, Jiminie,” Namjoon murmurs, and then there’s a soft rustle, another gentle tug at the waist of his pants that draws a sharp breath out of his mouth. Unzipping, dragging down—Namjoon’s hands are still holding tight onto his wrists, and there’s a clumsiness to the pulling at his crotch that tells Jimin he must be using his mouth. Slow, but smooth, a hot line straight down. Jimin’s legs tremble with the effort not to jerk right up into Namjoon’s face, to hold still under the onslaught of sensation.

Namjoon moves his hands to tug the jeans off of Jimin’s legs, but Jimin keeps his hands where they are. A challenge, he thinks, to wait and see, relish in the kiss of cool air on his exposed legs. Namjoon digs his fingers into his bare calves, massages up and down, and Jimin finds himself relaxing back into the bed, his breath a soft sight between his lips, something of a blanket of haze drifting over him.

“Still good?” Namjoon asks.

“Mmm.”

“Can you wait for me?” Namjoon asks.

“Depends. You gonna come back, Joonie?”

“Of course,” Namjoon says, and there’s a kiss inside his thigh, light and fluttering, and Jimin shifts, spreads his legs open a bit instinctively even as Namjoon pulls back and leaves him lying there.

More rustling, cloth and fabric. Jimin imagines Namjoon carefully undoing all his buttons, imagines him peeling back linen white to reveal tanned skin, not quite so carefully, maybe, maybe that was the sound of him tossing his shirt aside because despite all his pretenses, he feels the buzzing anticipation in the air, too. Jimin imagines the dip of his hips into the top of his jeans, faded and blue, imagines Namjoon twisting around and rucking his own pants off—there’s a quiet little thump, a muffled curse, and Jimin has to stifle a giggle, his mental image shifting to Namjoon kicking the bedpost, the creak of the bed underneath them as he finally gets rid of all that fabric.

The creak of the bed as he comes back, rocking closer.

“How long are you gonna make me wait, Joonie?” Jimin asks. There’s a flush crawling up his face, he knows. Prickling, ripe. Maybe it’s crawling down, too. Either way, he’s hard and surrounded by so many soft things—all he wants is a hand on him, anywhere, the shush of skin on skin, contact.

In response, Namjoon taps his ankle, and then his briefs are being eased off. Jimin can feel them almost damp dragging on his own thighs. Namjoon leaves his cock mercilessly unattended to, but he does nudge Jimin’s legs apart again, slides his hands up the curve of Jimin’s ass, lifts him just enough so he can press fingers into the divots of his spine, force him to arch his back.

Waits.

“What do you want, Jimin?” Namjoon asks, his hands smoothing over his hot skin. “Tell me what you want.”

“You know what I want,” Jimin says.

“I wanna hear you say it,” Namjoon says, and he’s close enough that Jimin feels the ghost of his words, gliding over the tip of his aching dick. “Tell me what you want, Jimin-ah.”

“Dammit Joon,” Jimin says, his hands tightening in the sheets, tries to cant his hips up, but there’s no give in his muscles.

Namjoon dips lower, flicks his tongue against Jimin’s cock, just once. Wets the tip enough that when he pulls away, the shock of cold air burns. Jimin whines, his toes curling, need like prickling needles digging under his skin. “Please,” he says, dizzy, “please, Namjoon, just touch me already.”

“Well,” Namjoon says, still teasing, his thumbs hooked over the jut of Jimin’s hip bones so that when he says, soft and sharp and quick, “since you’re asking so nicely,” and smiles once, and then takes Jimin deep enough that he can feel the tight warmth of his throat, he’s holding Jimin down firmly enough that all Jimin can do is cry out, the tension arcing up his spine and stretched out his throat instead.

After that, Namjoon is relentless. There’s nothing tender in the sharp lick of his tongue, nothing soft even in how his lips close around Jimin’s cock like a vice, and maybe there’s nothing of his earlier consideration, hesitance, but it turns everything into feeling rather than thought: sweat dripping down his neck; thin red lining the inside of his eyelids; soft, wet sounds—and Jimin realizes that’s exactly what he needs. What he wants.

“Namjoon,” he manages, grasping blindly out, “stop, wait, I’m close.”

Even then, Namjoon takes his damn sweet time, sliding off with a long drag of his tongue, base to tip. Jimin imagines his still straining cock, messy with spit and pre-come, and is still thinking of it when Namjoon shifts up, surprising him with a deep kiss, dragging all of the mess into Jimin’s open mouth. Jimin groans, sloppy, the tang of himself sharp on his tongue, the edge of sweet wine still curled around both their mouths. Namjoon kisses him hard and bruising, like a thoughtless man chasing something, and then he pulls back, leaving Jimin waiting again.

“Don’t you want me to make you feel good?” Namjoon murmurs, his hand in Jimin’s hair gentle like his kiss wasn’t.

Jimin licks his lips, deliberately clumsy, smearing more glossy saliva around his mouth, a small thrill rising in him when he feels Namjoon’s hand tighten at that. “I do,” he says.

Namjoon kisses him again, short and sweet. “Then let me make you come,” he whispers.

Jimin breathes out, fluttering. “I thought I said I wanted you to fuck me, Joonie.”

There’s a sharp inhale, Namjoon’s other hand, cupping Jimin’s face, and then he’s being kissed again, Namjoon’s hand sliding out of his hair to hold him by the back of his neck, lifting him up and into the kiss. “Mmmm,” Jimin says, letting himself go pliant in Namjoon’s arms, “you like hearing me say that?”

“Yeah,” Namjoon says, burying his face in Jimin’s neck. “I do.”

Jimin tilts his chin up, sliding his eyes just enough to see Namjoon leaning over him, blurry but brilliant. “Then do it, Namjoon,” he says. “I’m don’t want to be patient anymore. Fuck me.”

Namjoon groans, a muffled, strangled thing. “Okay,” he says, then kisses a trail down to Jimin’s navel, and then he’s grabbing the bottle of lube he must’ve gotten earlier.

Jimin hisses at the first touch, the flick of cold, and settles back down with his eyes falling shut as easy as breathing, trying to find that space again when everything was noise and sensation.

But then—Namjoon traces his rim once, pauses. “Jimin,” he says.

“What? Do you need me to—” he shifts, spreading a little wider, but Namjoon puts a hand on his thigh and he goes still.

“Open you eyes for me,” Namjoon says. And before Jimin can even think about looking at himself, this debauchery he’s always been afraid to confront, Namjoon presses a light, glancing kiss inside his thigh. Makes him forget everything but the trickle of want, quickly filling him up again. And then, “You’re beautiful,” Namjoon says, another kiss on the other side. “Let me show you.”

So Jimin opens his eyes, drinks in the sight of them both. Namjoon with his lips sex swollen, kneeling between his legs without the empty reverence everyone else does. Smiling, instead, kind and lovely, like he doesn’t have a hand covered in lube, still stroking the edge of Jimin’s hole. Or like he’s here, fully in this moment, seeing Jimin instead of some hot, fuckable stranger. Jimin blinks and sees his own arousal, his cock hard against his stomach, his thighs decorated with marks like petals not quite grown, pink just barely blossoming into purple, and settles into ease with it. With himself.

He lets go of another shaky breath and stretches his arms up languidly, committed. “Okay,” he says, “I’m watching,” and remembers all the ways he loves himself, loves the stretch of his own muscles as he moves, stomach lean and shaped because he’s worked for it, all the elegant lines of him inviting. He likes how ready he looks, the hot flush making his skin prickle. He likes that Namjoon’s eyes are dark and darkening, and the sweat trickling down his temple, the matching blush of his cheeks.

Namjoon holds his gaze and rubs his finger around Jimin’s entrance once more before finally taking the plunge. Jimin’s cock twitches with the steady burn, his thighs clenching automatically before he manages to steady himself again. Namjoon doesn’t stop and everything is slick as he pushes the rest of the way through, his gaze flickering downward.

“Don’t stop,” Jimin says, and, “I’m still looking,” and Namjoon dips his head and puts his mouth back on Jimin’s dick even as he adds a second finger.

Jimin lets loose a filthy moan when Namjoon fucks in deeper with his hand, stretching him looser in a way that lets the heat rush in faster. He catches his bottom lip in his teeth, bites down hard enough to make it bloom red and enticing for nobody but himself.

He pulls himself wider, twisting and hiking a leg up. Jimin bats his eyes, his lashes brushing up against his cheek, and the sight of himself scissored opened, Namjoon’s long fingers disappearing into himself with every careful pump, makes him more desperate for more. Maybe the restless, whining sound that leaks out of his mind is how Namjoon knows, or maybe he’s a mind reader after all, because he picks up the pace, working Jimin wider until his fingers slide in without protest, the persistent burn fading into aching need.

“Okay,” Jimin says, “I’m okay.”

Namjoon looks back up, meets his eyes. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says, and Namjoon pulls back, slicks his own dick with the lube left over on his hand, and when he pushes into Jimin there’s nothing left but the simple truth of their pleasure, want bleeding into want. The sweetest sort of burn, the firm reminder of another body with his, Namjoon’s own shuddering groan mingling with Jimin’s grit-teeth gasp. Breath against breath. Namjoon’s hands on his hips again, an anchor as he finally slides all the way in.

Jimin grabs onto Namjoon’s shoulders, curves his fingers around that supple strength, the spread of warmth over his skin. Namjoon looks at him, a crease in his brow, his mouth parted and breathing hard. “You okay?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Jimin says without hesitating. He traces up, hooks his hands around the back of Namjoon’s neck and drags him down for a kiss. When Namjoon shifts, he feels it, a slice of white heat deep inside, and he groans loud and long into Namjoon’s mouth.

Namjoon smiles. “Good?”

“Shut up,” Jimin says.

“Still so mean,” Namjoon murmurs.

Jimin digs his nails into Namjoon’s neck, feeling wild and undone. “You haven’t seen mean yet,” he grumbles, then lets himself fall back down onto the pillows, tipping his head back imperiously. “Now give me what I asked for.”

The edge of Namjoon’s smile knifes up into a smirk. He ducks his head, mock contrite, but holds Jimin’s gaze the whole time. “Yes, sir,” he says, and before Jimin can even process the sudden dip in his stomach from hearing that, Namjoon starts to move.

“Shit,” Jimin says, squeezing his eyes shut as Namjoon finally fucks him, rocking their hips together, slow but steady, a bedrock rhythm like base, the pound of Jimin’s heart. Jimin wants to melt into this moment, this beautiful sort of fade to black, everything around him falling away until there’s just his own panting breath, Namjoon making him feel good.

“Hey,” Namjoon says, his voice thick. Then, a touch at his chin, tipping his face up. “Look at me,” Namjoon says, and it sounds like begging.

Jimin opens his eyes, and Namjoon huffs a laugh, his arms falling to bracket around Jimin’s head.

They don’t kiss. Jimin reaches up to curls his fingers around Namjoon’s wrists, squeezing tight as Namjoon rocks faster, coaxing him softer with every thrust, and they just look at each other. Jimin’s lips part, something like wonder or awe mingling with the rolling pleasure lapping deep inside him. Namjoon shudders, grunts, his hair spilling messily over his forehead now, but he never looks away. So there’s just that dark gaze, locked onto his, the thing that pierces most truthfully to the core of him.

There’s a tightness in his chest, some unfathomable welling up of emotion. Jimin has to tip his chin up to properly look at Namjoon and when he swallows, he feels the bob of his own throat, the little exhale Namjoon lets loose over his face. Jimin looks up at Namjoon and there’s only naked want splashed in red over his face. Jimin moves with the rhythm, grinding down as Namjoon thrusts up, and there’s only his own bared want in the soft breathless thing that escapes his own mouth. Simple.

Jimin blinks, knowing that he’ll open his eyes to Namjoon’s face, nothing else. And the thought of it makes him want to laugh, makes him reach up to hold that lovely face, soft between his palms. He thinks he wants to cry again, but in a good way. He feels full, too many emotions crowding inside him, ready to spill over, but not in a self-conscious way.

Namjoon smiles underneath his hands, and Jimin looks up at him and sees love reflected in his eyes. Or, refracted, glinting off his bright pupils and dazzling over them both.

“Joonie-ah,” Jimin says.

“Jiminie,” Namjoon returns, his voice thick.

“Love you,” Jimin says, “I love you,” and Namjoon’s arms start to shake around him, and Jimin pulls him down into a shallow, slanting kiss.

And then after that there’s nothing else to say, and Jimin grabs onto Namjoon’s hips and coaxes him into picking up the pace, rolling his own hips into every thrust over and over until he can’t think but for the slow grind, steady but intense, all burn and stretch and the gentle insistence of falling apart. And when Jimin realizes that Namjoon’s moving with him, not following, not guiding, but finding the same sweet rhythm of Jimin chasing his own want, something inside him twists. Pulls. And he doesn’t come desperately or like cracking apart—Jimin twists up as Namjoon grinds down, and the orgasm breaks over him, a crash of clarity, something certain.

Jimin sighs, letting himself fall back in the bright, boneless haze, and hums happily as Namjoon buries his face in Jimin’s neck. Nips at the skin there as he moves in a few last, slow thrusts, then pulls out just before he’s spilling into his own hand with a quiet groan, the rumble of it echoing over Jimin’s skin.

After, they breathe. Namjoon lingers, presses more kisses to Jimin’s neck until it starts to tickle and Jimin has to shove him away.

With a small huff, Namjoon rolls over on his back. “What, no cuddling?” he mumbles, reaching up blindly.

Jimin scoffs. “It’s like you don’t even know me,” he says. “Of course I want to cuddle, but only after you get me a washcloth and some water, mister.”

Namjoon chuckles. “So demanding,” he says, but he’s already getting up, his side of the bed loosening as he swings off it. “You’re feeling okay?” he asks before he leaves.

Jimin nestles into the sheets, wriggling a little. The sheets drag over his skin, not unpleasantly, but a bit grating, and he feels mostly warm. Heat unspooled between his legs, his waist a little achy. “Satisfied and sore,” he declares. “Now shoo. I’m fine.”

Namjoon looks at him like he doesn’t want to leave, which makes Jimin giggle a bit at the ridiculousness of it all, a little light-headed to be the recipient of this kind of love, so fully unabashed. But eventually, Namjoon manages to pull himself away, and Jimin’s left on his own in the cooly shadowed bedroom. Strange, how unabashed he is, too. Jimin lets his eyes flutter shut, tired and spun out enough that he can lie in this pleasant haze to wait.

When Namjoon comes back, Jimin hears the soft pad of his footsteps first. He keeps his eyes shut, just to see what Namjoon will do with that, and he doesn’t disappoint, bending down to press a light kiss to Jimin’s lips.

“Mm, still so eager?” Jimin teases, blinking to see Namjoon beaming down at him again.

“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees. “Actually, I can’t get enough of you.”

Jimin splutters, tries to push Namjoon away again. “God,” he groans, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you so much.”

But Namjoon only catches his wrist, says, “That’s fine. But I’m still claiming my cuddles.”

“Only if you brought me my washcloth.”

And Namjoon’s eyes turn impossibly gentler. “Let me clean you up?”

Jimin bites his lip. “Okay,” he says, and wonders if this is how it’s going to be, if it was possible to have something so lovely like this, letting someone in so easily without even a second thought. If he can be so fucking lucky.

After, Namjoon makes good on his threat. Jimin snuggles up, hooks his chin over Namjoon’s chest, and lets himself be held. It’s dark outside, now, properly, the two of them sunk in the black of night, the room lit only by the soft glow of a deskside clock, speckles of citylight pierced through the curtains. Jimin lets himself breathe, full and deep.

It’s safe here.

Jimin turns his face, nuzzles his nose into Namjoon’s chest. “What’re you thinking about right now?” he asks, sleepy but content.

Namjoon’s arm tightens around his shoulders. “Hm,” he starts, then lapses into silence, and Jimin doesn’t feel the usual urge to fill it up. Is content to wait. Eventually, Namjoon rests his chin right on top of Jimin’s head, nestled in his hair, and says, “Honestly, nothing in particular.”

“Kim Namjoon? Not thinking?”

Namjoon’s light chuckles vibrate up into Jimin’s cheek. “I’m thinking about how lucky I am, but that was too cheesy to say. I’m thinking about you, but that was even cheesier. I’m thinking about how I could be scared because I don’t know if this is forever, but that’s too defeatist and I didn’t want to say it. So, really, when you get rid of all the bullshit, I’m thinking about not much at all.”

Jimin snorts. “Is that right?”

“I think,” Namjoon says, “that I’m happy.”

Outside, a siren wails. Loud and lonely in the night, but then it’s joined by the roar of wheels, a snippet of some rock song tangling with the high pitched note, the two tones dancing into the night as they wane together. Jimin smiles. “Yeah,” he says. “Me too.”

Namjoon shifts, pulling the covers up. “I’m tired,” he mumbles.

“Mmm,” says Jimin, thinks about complementary chords, thinks about what love sounds like. It could sound just like this, the rustling contentedness of sleeping next to someone inside the music of the night. “Sleep, then,” he says.

“Okay,” Namjoon says. And then they sleep, and Jimin is happy.

//

Generally, this is how one of Jimin’s days goes: he drags himself up early enough to watch the sun touch the edge of sky, gentle pink unfurling over the world as he grumbles and bangs around and tries to wake all the way up; he breathes deep and meets Namjoon by the streetside bus stop and they go for coffee (they take turns bringing each other muffins and sweets, sticky and crumbly and delicious); he goes to work, has a decent time, practices for auditions and other such things and tries not to think too hard about the future; he hates himself a little bit, and then he talks himself out of it; he crashes Namjoon’s office hours and goads him into enough pretend schoolboy roleplay to make Namjoon turn bright red; they walk under the evening sky together, too; later, at night, he confesses his secret shames, all the biting bits of his day that are hard to talk about anywhere other than under the covers; Namjoon does the same.

Things get better, and they don’t.

Jimin says, under the bright sun of noon one day: I’m not always happy.

Namjoon says, buried under enough grading to drown himself in paper: I’m worried about running out of time.

Jimin says: I hate knowing that I can’t control how people see me.

Namjoon says: I’ve been thinking about the world ending a lot.

But either way, there’s lots of kissing.

Jimin says, tracing a finger slowly up Namjoon’s palm, his forearm, the crook of his elbow: I want to be happy, and you help.

Namjoon says, draped all the way around Jimin’s back like a particularly sentient blanket cape: You make my brain quieter when it wants to be loud.

Jimin says, eyes wide open: You see me, Joon. You know who I am.

Namjoon says, winking a stupid, squishy, happy wink: I think you’re forever.

Jimin thinks he’s learning how to be honest, bit by bit. How to pry open the sometimes seemingly seamless door to everything he’s scared of. How to make himself softer and more vulnerable, trust that it won’t be used against him. He’s quick to snap and quicker to take careless words too truthfully, but he’s learning to be slower to break his own heart. Namjoon trades him kisses for secrets, and Jimin is learning how to let himself deserve them.

On an unremarkable day, bright and early, Jimin sits with his feet propped up on the wall of the bus stop. He has a muffin tucked into his bag and change rattling in his pocket for coffee. Namjoon’s a solid fifteen minutes late, but aside from the slight tingle of anxiety shivering up his arms like the cold, he’s okay with that. It’s just another thing to deal with. Jimin kicks at the glass wall of the shelter and snuggles into his scarf, waiting.

At seventeen minutes past six in the morning, Namjoon careens into the shelter, his cheeks pink from running.

Jimin grins. “Hey slowpoke,” he says.

Namjoon ducks his head, dimples peeking out around the embarrassed smile. “Sorry,” he says. “Would you believe me if I said there was construction and that’s why I’m late?”

Jimin raises an eyebrow.

“Well, okay, so I got lost when I tried to go around it.”

The peal of laughter bursts out of him like a starburst sunrise. Jimin unfurls from the bench, giggling. “How far’d you go before you checked your phone?”

Namjoon’s already pink cheeks darken. “Like, nearly a kilometre.”

“Honestly,” Jimin says, “one of these days you’ll fall into a manhole and I’ll have to plan your funeral.”

“Oh, is that what the worst part of that experience will be for you?”

“I’m very meticulous,” Jimin says. “It would be very taxing.”

“Make sure my coffin’s made out of wood,” Namjoon says. “I’m very much into wood these days.”

And Jimin laughs again, arms wrapped around his side to keep from falling over. “What else would it be made out of?” he asks, and Namjoon shrugs, and for a sharp, startling moment, Jimin feels absolutely certain. Of the softness of the world, of being with Namjoon, of himself. It’s easy to fake a stumble and fall into Namjoon’s shoulder, easier to tuck his head into the crook of Namjoon’s neck, breathe in the waft of smoke and dust trailing from his jacket.

“Hey,” Namjoon says, like this is the first time they’ve seen each other that day, after all. “Good morning.”

“Hi,” Jimin says, the world disappearing because he’s smiling so much.

“Can I kiss you?” Namjoon asks, like this is the first time, too.

So Jimin leans up on his tiptoes and kisses this boy he loves with a mouthful of promises. Voiceless, wordless, but enough for him. What felt like so long ago, Namjoon had asked: is it worth it? Is this worth it? A maybe-temporary sort of love, the way all love is; a maybe-fragile trust, like all trust starts. Jimin drops back down to his heels, and he catches a glimpse of himself out of the corner of his eye, reflected back through the glass pane of the shelter. Hair messy, wrapped around Namjoon, lips pinker than his nose and obviously kiss-touched. Clingy, his brain supplies, shameless, but he swallows the sound of the words like so many lies.

“Joonie-ah?” Jimin whispers.

“Mm?”

“Did you kiss me like you love me?”

And Namjoon smiles like the goddamn sun, like a sweeping glow, like love. “Did you?”

“Yeah,” Jimin says. “Of course.”

“Of course,” Namjoon echoes, and then he kisses him again, and Jimin looks wide-eyed at the glint of the boy in the glass, kissing his boyfriend inside the pink-wash brilliance of dawn, and knows it’s the truth of him.