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help me hold onto you

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Lately, Jimin’s found himself thinking about the first time he’d ever seen Taehyung upset. They’d only known each other for a handful of months, and for all that time Taehyung was a sort of confusing ball of light, bouncing around him happily. Confusing mostly because Jimin had never met anyone with less worry dragging them down — Jimin’s own mind was constantly consumed with things to worry about, and it was almost baffling to meet someone so clear and light, all thin blown glass made to look unbreakable. He took everything as it came, head-on, a pleasant expression on his face, and Jimin found it bizarre and captivating.

He welcomed having a friend; they had met by chance, really, at a school event, but he was the first person Jimin had met in Seoul who managed to seem friendly without intimidating the hell out of him. Jimin liked him, this strange person he met, but it was hard to feel like he could relate to him at first.

Jimin remembers vividly how it felt for that notion of Taehyung to shatter in his mind — how it felt to step back, look sideways a little, and see Taehyung in a clearer light. He remembers the image, Taehyung with his face and his shoulders turned in, a different version of himself. He was sitting on his dorm room bed, face in his hands, and when Jimin walked in he looked up with red eyes. Jimin felt a little shock for a moment, at someone he had already started painting with golden sunshine colors in his mind turning just right for Jimin to see their blue parts.

“Oh,” Jimin remembered saying in a soft voice. “Oh no.”

“Jimin,” Taehyung muttered from his spot. “Right. I — sorry, I lost track of time. I forgot you were coming over.”

“I...yeah. Sorry. Your door was cracked open. I should have knocked.” Jimin felt himself say the words, but he couldn’t stop looking at the way Taehyung’s face looked all wrong. No sweet glint in his eyes, no easy amusement at the corner of his lips.

“No, it’s —” Taehyung’s voice cracked, and Jimin could almost feel it, almost hear the sound of something in him cracking too. It was a resonant crack, the kind Jimin didn’t know what to do with. He swallowed, and without thinking about it any more, he walked forward, raised a leg up to get up onto Taehyung’s bed and crawled over to him. Before today, he thought, he wouldn’t have. Before Jimin could see a fracture line spreading down Taehyung, a weak point, he’s not sure that he would feel like he could. In that moment, though, it was easy. He put his arms around Taehyung, in a crooked awkward hug, and leaned his forehead against Taehyung’s temple.

Taehyung, in his arms, let out a ragged breath. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I wanted to,” Jimin told him quietly. “I want to help. Does this help?”

Taehyung didn’t say anything else. He just nodded against Jimin’s shoulder. So Jimin hugged him a little tighter, like maybe he could force the pieces of him back together if he tried. It was worth a shot, anyway.

They sat like that for a while. Taehyung talked, in bits and pieces, in that slow way of his. Where he only tells you a little at a time because he doesn’t know how to put what’s next. Jimin was getting used to that already, even so soon after knowing him. He talked about missing home, about missing his grandparents and his siblings. He sounded lonely and lost, and Jimin thought this was the best he had understood Taehyung so far. Jimin knew lonely and lost, after all.

Jimin, for the first time since he moved to Seoul half a year ago, felt close to another person in a way that made him feel terrifyingly hopeful. This was the first real thing he felt with anyone in so long, wrapped around Taehyung in his shitty dorm room bed. Since friends years ago, maybe, before Jimin turned so focused and competitive with himself, back when he let himself care about anything but dance and school. And god, what a scary feeling.

Jimin was mulling that over, the warm pulse of fear in his mind, when Taehyung pulled back and looked up at him with red, puffy eyes. “Jimin-ah,” he said softly. “Thank you.”

And there was simply no amount of nerves or worry that could stop him from saying, “Anytime, Taehyung-ah.”

And he meant it. He decided then and there that he meant it.

++

A step back. That’s what Taehyung had called it, a couple weeks ago when they stood outside the bar and Jimin finally saw how deep the wounds he left were. He didn’t mean to, he never meant to, but thinking about that just makes him spiral into guilt. A long spiralling slide down as he wonders just how much he’s hurt Taehyung in the last five years.

So he steps back. Embarrassed, guilty, sorry, he steps back. He and Taehyung haven’t spoken one-on-one in weeks, their text thread moving lower and lower down Jimin’s list of recent messages. He still gets invited to their group gatherings, still replies in their seven-person group chat, but less. That’s only fair, he figures. He doesn’t get to stay on equal footing in the group of friends that Taehyung brought to him in the first place. They should all resent him, really, and it’s charity that they don’t. Yoongi seemed to that night, though Jimin’s not sure if that makes him feel better or worse about the whole situation. But Jungkook — Jimin has a feeling Jungkook isn’t thrilled with him either.

His mind, anxious, quick to fidget with any thought until it weighs on him, holds him in limbo for a few weeks, hanging indecisively between the idea that everyone hates him and that everything’s fine. Wake up, commute to work, teach a class, everyone hates you, stop overreacting, call your friends, wait don’t, everyone hates you — it’s a space Jimin is familiar with, but it still isn’t fun to be in, and god, Jimin thinks he picked the worst possible time to start living alone. He’s never been good at it; he’s always liked how having other people in his space would remind him that he’s real, that he’s a person, that he needs to take care of himself. Left to his own devices, he gets a little lost.

His least favorite part of everything, of all of this, is how much he misses Taehyung. Or maybe it’s how guilty he feels for missing Taehyung.

 

It takes Jimin three weeks after that night at the bar to gather the courage to just call Jungkook already. It feels something like a solution, a salve at least, for the way he’s spinning in circles unproductively in his head, just feeling vaguely guilty all the time. Sometimes he feels so out of touch with himself, like the inner monologue in his head is just a dramatic, unhelpful tenant who he has to try to take care of with no idea how. He feels bad about everything, but he’s not able to figure out exactly how he feels about what, or why, or how to fix any of it. Talking to someone else, talking to Jungkook, will at least be a small reprieve. Maybe even a step forward.

(Or maybe it will go terribly and Jimin will just feel even worse, and —)

“Hey,” Jimin says when Jungkook picks up, relieved that he doesn’t have to leave a voicemail.

“Hey, hyung,” Jungkook says, sounding distracted. “What’s up?”

“I am...kind of losing my mind right now, actually,” Jimin says, trying to play it off like a joke with a laugh. “I’ve been cooped up alone too much, and I was just — I thought of you, and I missed you. I just wanted to see if...I don’t know. You were free?”

“Oh.” Jungkook pauses. “I...yeah. I’m free.”

There’s another pause, then, and Jimin feels nervous for a moment. It’s a familiar kind of nerves; he remembers feeling like this when he first reached out to Jungkook about moving back to Seoul. He didn’t ever want to look too closely at what was causing it, the tightness in his gut just thinking about walking back into the life he left, and he doesn’t much want to now, either. (It’s hard to ignore the Taehyung at the center of it all, though.)

“Do you want to come over?” Jimin asks, pushing through his own anxiety. “I think I could use the company.”

“Sure, hyung,” Jungkook tells him, and Jimin tries not to listen for annoyance in his voice.

Things with Jungkook will be fine, he tries to convince himself. It’ll make him feel more settled, less rattled over the Taehyung situation, just to talk to a friend again. It’ll make him stop wallowing in guilt over everything. It will feel normal. Right?

 

Things don’t feel normal.

“Hey!” Jimin greeted Jungkook when he arrived, so forcefully trying to project cheerfulness that he saw Jungkook look taken aback for a moment. He hesitated, blinking, before he responded in turn, and that was Jimin’s first hint that things weren’t going stellar.

Jimin carried on, hoping he could just push through whatever awkwardness was hanging between them, but he could tell Jungkook wasn’t convinced. It only took half an hour of forced conversation, Jimin trying valiantly to remember how they usually talked to each other, before he broke. He was familiar with the panicked, frantic feeling in his brain — he’d been dealing with the sharp pinpricks of anxiety for years, but in his years abroad, he at least learned to try and lean away from it instead of leaning in.

He sighs, sitting on his couch across from Jungkook, whose face had been hard to read since he walked in.

“Hey,” Jimin starts. “I’m sorry things are weird.” He figures it’s an okay place to start, anyway.

Jungkook raises his eyebrows. “I really thought you were gonna keep bending over backwards to not talk about it.”

Jimin winces. “That’s...fair,” he admits.

Jungkook shrugs at him. “I guess I’m glad you’re sorry.”

“I...didn’t mean to make things such a mess,” Jimin says quietly.

Jungkook hums in acknowledgement, and Jimin looks at him, examining his expression closely.

“You know I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Jimin says, voice even softer, afraid of the realization he’s having. The realization that maybe Jungkook has actually already taken a side.

Jungkook sighs, brings his knees up to his chest. He would look young if it wasn’t for his hair, longer now than it ever was on the young version of Jungkook he knew. “That’s what I wanted to think, yeah,” Jungkook tells him. “I don’t want to think you’re an asshole, hyung.”

“But?” Jimin prompts, swallowing nervously again. His stomach feels sunken in, hollow and twisted up all at once.

Jungkook looks up from where he was picking at a fray in his jeans to make eye contact with Jimin. “But...I really thought you knew. Before all of this. Years ago, I thought you must have known how Taehyung felt.”

Jimin feels nauseous, made to look at it head-on like this. Motion sickness from the very suggestion. He’s reminded of why he always avoids confronting these things. And of course it’s Jungkook — kind, but wickedly observant and smart, always good at telling Jimin something new about himself. And that feels even worse, the idea that Jungkook’s been watching him this whole time, waiting for him to stop doing it all wrong.

“I…” Jimin thinks, pauses, swallows hard. “How long have you known?”

Jungkook shrugs. “Well, I wasn’t certain until I nursed Taehyung out of his breakup coma when you left. But I had a guess before that.”

“You had a guess,” Jimin repeats.

“Hyung,” Jungkook starts seriously. “Everyone had a guess. Taehyung is a pretty open book.”

Jimin wishes that didn’t make him feel worse. He isn’t sure what to say, stomach still feeling hollow and strange over the whole conversation.

Jungkook keeps talking. “I just...even after you left, part of me always thought...I don’t know, that you felt the same way, I guess.”

Jimin looks at him, heartbeat loud in his ears. “You did?” He asks, almost in a whisper. It’s not really a conscious choice, but maybe that’s just all he can muster at the moment.

Jungkook is still hugging his knees to his chest, looking down at the rips in his jeans rather than Jimin. “There was this time back before I even knew you very well, we went out drinking with the four of us. You got really drunk,” Jungkook says with a soft chuckle, not much of a smile on his face. “And I ended up helping you home. I don’t think you remember, you didn’t the next day, but you got kind of sad on the train and when I asked you what was wrong, you told me you just wanted Taehyung forever. You wanted to be with him forever. You said it really serious.”

Jimin feels his face go hot. Jungkook’s right, he doesn’t remember, but that makes it worse. “I cannot believe you never told me that.”

Jungkook shrugs again. “I didn’t think I needed to. I thought I was witnessing, like, a breakthrough that I shouldn’t have been there for. Like you realized, all of a sudden. And ever since then, I just...hoped you would both eventually get there. It seemed like if anyone was meant to sort their shit out and figure it out together, it was you guys. When you told me you were coming back...I just assumed…” Jungkook trails off.

“Oh,” Jimin says softly. He gives a humorless laugh. “Yeah, that would have made sense, wouldn’t it?”

“So you didn’t know? And you didn’t...feel the same way?” Jungkook asks him, finally looking back up at him.

Jimin feels a familiar frozen kind of feeling. Like he isn’t sure how to get any of what’s in his head out in the open for anyone else to see.

“You know I never realized I liked men before I met Taehyung?” Jimin asks, and watches Jungkook’s face transform with confusion. He can relate. “The first couple weeks I knew him, I couldn’t figure out what it was about him that made him seem so interesting to me. And then I saw him kiss a boy, casually, in public, and something clicked. I never wanted something like that before, and I didn’t even know I wanted it until I saw it in front of me.”

“No,” Jungkook answers quietly. “I didn’t know that.”

Jimin nods. “I thought it made me seem immature,” he says. “To have not figured it out before. To not be confident about it. I always told people I realized in high school, so I didn’t seem so behind.”

He stops talking, gathers his thoughts for a moment. And it’s hard, because none of them want to come along — they’re so used to running to the corners where he never looks. “I always feel like I’m the last person to know anything. And I’m definitely the last person to figure out what to do about it.”

“I meant what I said to you that night, I guess. I did want Taehyung forever. Sometimes I would look at him and everything just felt right, and easy, and perfect, and I wanted to keep it so bad. And that scared the shit out of me. Taehyung scared the shit out of me, for so many reasons,” Jimin says with another small laugh. “He was so sure of himself all the time. He made friends with everyone, and it was so easy for him. He was just this...this person with his arms wide open, letting everything in, floating around like it was no big deal. He was so handsome, and charismatic, and he was the scariest person I had ever met, and he liked me.”

Jimin sighs to himself, leans back against his couch. “He knew everything about me and cared about me so much and I cared about him so much. And yeah, I guess I...should have known. That Taehyung treated me differently, that it was something else. But I...I don’t know, I never looked too hard at it, and Taehyung never made me. We were just like that. I thought it was just...us.”

“I know you had reasons for leaving,” Jungkook interjects quietly, looking over at him with a more serious expression than Jimin usually sees on him. “Reasons that weren’t about Taehyung. And I always figured maybe some reasons that were about Taehyung, but — whatever. You left, for your own reasons. I could always get that, but...why did you come back? To Seoul?”

Jimin looks back at him, then closes his eyes, embarrassed to voice this out loud for the first time. “I was so lonely,” he admits softly. “I kept waiting for it to feel less lonely, but it never did. And I just...finally broke. Literally,” he says, patting a hand on his left kneecap, flinching at the phantom pain of a bad fall. “So that didn’t help. But mentally, too. I couldn’t keep ignoring all of the reasons I regretted leaving anymore. It...really wears on you, apparently, to keep that up for years.”

Jungkook snorts. “No shit.” Jimin shoots him a look, and Jungkook looks right back.

“It was selfish, hyung,” Jungkook tells him. “To run out of the picture and just waltz right back in without even trying to figure out why you left in the first place. And, you know, the fucking ramifications of it. You ghosted Taehyung —”

“Hey,” Jimin starts. “I stopped reaching out because he started deleting every picture of me from all of his social media.”

“Which you had to go looking for to notice,” Jungkook accuses.

“Yeah, I did! I did go looking for them. I was alone, Jungkook. I was alone after being so together for so long, and I went looking for those stupid pictures and their stupid captions all the time. And it’s like one night I just fucking disappeared, like Taehyung wanted to pretend we were never friends at all, like he was — I don’t know, making room for someone else. Like he had a new...person. And I just couldn’t handle that. I always knew I was more replaceable to him than he was to me, but —”

“Replaceable?” Jungkook asks in surprise. He furrows his eyebrows at Jimin. “Are you that deep in your own head, you can’t see that he’s never loved anyone like he loves you?”

It feels like a punch. It feels like pressing on a new bruise, an instant soreness. “I’m too smart to be that optimistic about anyone,” Jimin says, voice stiff.

“No, you’re too busy criticizing yourself to see anything for what it is,” Jungkook says, standing up. Jimin, nervous, follows suit. Jungkook opens his mouth, looks like he wants to keep talking in his frustrated tone, but then he just sighs and shakes his head.

“Look. I don’t know how you feel. I don’t even know if you know how you feel. But you know how Taehyung feels, and you need to figure out what you want from him. And then you need to let him know. Okay?”

No, not okay. No, absolutely fucking insurmountable. Has Jungkook been listening? That’s the whole problem. He doesn’t know how to figure out what he wants from Taehyung — he never fucking has! He stares at Jungkook, thoughts racing, and it must be a long enough moment that Jungkook starts to feel bad for him. He steps forward, wraps his arms around Jimin in a tight hug.

“I love you, hyung. I know you’re not good at this. But you owe it to him.”

Jimin nods against Jungkook’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

“You should tell him that too,” Jungkook says, breath against Jimin’s neck in a way that’s comforting despite the way his words give him another pang of guilt.

Jungkook leaves.

Jimin spends the rest of the evening circling around his neighborhood in the cold, hoping to outpace every thought in his head, just to get a little break. The knowledge that this is going to take him so much longer to figure out weighs heavy in his mind, but for a few hours, at least, he lets himself stop thinking.

++

When Jimin left, what he missed most was their mornings.

They had lots of mornings, spread across apartments and dorm rooms and years of their lives. Jimin remembers the first one, waking up with Taehyung wrapped around him after a night out that they were too drunk to end alone. They were squeezed in a twin-size dorm bed, pressed together uncomfortably, and the sensation was still new then. To be held. Maybe, actually, it was the first time someone had ever held him like that.

He woke up feeling warm and surprised. He stayed still, not sure of the etiquette here — in fact, he wasn’t sure about any bit of this, if it was normal, if he was supposed to be here. He knew Taehyung was affectionate, but this felt like maybe too much? Maybe it was embarrassing? Maybe Taehyung would be upset with him?

A million concerns lined themselves up in his mind, taking turns giving him more and more things to worry about, and maybe he would have listened to them if Taehyung hadn’t stirred behind him, where his chest was pressed against Jimin’s back. The queue of anxious thoughts in his mind quieted as he used every bit of his sense of hearing to listen to Taehyung groan and yawn close to his ear. The breath against his neck was new, too, and he found he liked the warmth.

Taehyung muttered, “Morning,” and then he pulled Jimin in closer, hugging against him tighter.

Oh, Jimin thought. Okay. It was okay, then. He let himself be held, mind going quieter than he was used to it being on a regular basis, and he...liked it. Liked the feeling of Taehyung behind him, around him, even if it was too warm under the covers. Sunlight was coming in through the curtains, but the sun wasn’t high enough to shine directly, so instead the room just glowed. And when Jimin closed his eyes, he could still see it, warm and comforting.

It was the most relaxed he had felt in a year. Maybe more. He exhaled slow and heavy, let the tension he always carried around in his shoulders go, and swallowed. He wondered, distantly, in his quiet mind, if he was allowed to like this so much. Just distantly, though, because Taehyung made him surer of things than he would be otherwise. Taehyung thought this was normal — he could think this was normal too.

So Jimin settled back into Taehyung’s arms, closed his eyes, and stayed there for three years.

 

And on mornings years later when he woke up alone, in a capsule of a bunk bed on a tour bus in another country, he found sometimes that he ached with phantom pain at the thought of it.

++

Jimin spends the next week of his life in a distracted haze, thoughts spinning in useless circles every day.

He takes the train to work, takes the train home, hears figure this out echo in his head on a loop, just frequent enough that it’s hard to let himself focus on anything else. Especially frequent when something reminds him of Taehyung — a dog on the street, a shop window, a jazz record in a cafe he’s never been to before. One night Jimin hears a ballad that Taehyung used to sing at karaoke, and he freezes in front of the store he’s walking by, where the door opening let the sound out. He stays there, staring in at the window, lit up in the dark winter evening, and feels a rush of sadness wash over him with the sound.

Work is a good distraction. It’s hard to think much about himself at all in front of a room full of teenagers in spandex looking at him with grudges in their eyes as he walks them through a section in a song over and over again, until it’s right. This choreography takes a lot of his energy, too, which he’s thankful for. It makes sleep easier.

“Hey,” Eunbi calls to him after the kids leave one night. She’s holding an extra water bottle, and throws it to him from arguably too far away. Jimin surges forward to catch it, giving her a look.

“Yeah?” Jimin asks, twisting the cap off. Eunbi looks him over, only a little judgmental — and he knows exactly what it looks like when she’s being judgmental, after months of working in the same dance studio. She kind of sighs to herself, and then she asks, “Are you alright?”

Jimin blinks, standing there holding his open water bottle and staring at her. It’s maybe the most personal thing she’s ever asked him. Not that he minds; he likes the way she manages to be both no-nonsense and extremely charming, helpful but not too familiar. Jimin likes her — they fell into a sort of friendly professional rapport with each other almost immediately after meeting. But it’s new, her expressing interest in his life outside of small talk. And her expression is new too, almost like she’s concerned but doesn’t want to be.

“I — yeah, I’m good,” he answers her finally, after far too long of a pause. He takes a sip of his water and tries to project normality. When he lowers his head back down and looks at her, her eyes are narrowed, unimpressed. Fully judgmental now, then.

“I mean, you’re not good. Like, keep your business to yourself if you want to, but you don’t have to lie,” she says with a shrug. “You’ve seemed out of it for a while, so I figured I’d try to be a nice person, that’s all. But you don’t have to talk about it, I mean —”

“Sorry,” Jimin interrupts her, echoing in the studio against the mirrored walls and gymnasium floors. “Thanks for asking. Just...personal stuff. Messy personal stuff, that’s all.”

Eunbi nods at him, giving him a sympathetic look. “Sorry about your messy personal stuff.”

“Oh, you know,” Jimin says vaguely, waving his hand dismissively. He glances over at her and she almost looks like she’s waiting for him to go on, and — Jimin’s been listening to nothing but his own thoughts for days. He can’t help himself. “Sorry if this is really personal, but — have you ever dated someone you were friends with first?”

Eunbi looks at him for a moment. “A few times, yeah,” she tells him.

Jimin nods. Opens his mouth, closes it, shakes his head. “Sorry,” he says again. “This is probably a weird conversation to have at work, with a coworker. Sorry.”

“Hey, stop apologizing,” Eunbi says, sits down on the floor of the studio. “You’ve been a nervous wreck for weeks. I’ll give you dating advice if that’s what it takes to get you to start scolding during class again instead of letting everyone off easy.” She’s smirking from her position on the floor, palms flat behind her on the polished wood floor.

Jimin sighs to himself before nodding. “Fair enough.” He sits down next to her, and it suddenly reminds him of being in college, the way he and his friends would stay behind in the school practice rooms, the feeling of being too vulnerable while surrounded by mirrors. Weird.

“It’s a long story,” he starts, “But my best friend...I guess they’ve had feelings for me for a long time. And I never...I don’t know how to know how I feel about that.”

“That does sound messy,” Eunbi comments. Jimin breathes out a laugh to himself.

“You never thought of them like that before?” She asks, looking curious.

Jimin runs a hand through his hair with a sigh. “I’ve always just thought of them as — them. We were really close. He was like my other half.”

“Oh thank god you’re gay,” Eunbi says immediately through a quiet sigh of relief.

Jimin goes pink. “Oh. Oops,” he mutters.

Eunbi shakes her head and waves him off, her chin-length hair swinging around her face. “Don’t worry about it, me too.”

Jimin breathes out a matching sigh of relief. “Good.”

“You know other half is what married couples say, right?” Eunbi asks him, getting back on track. She’s raising an eyebrow at him.

Jimin feels the warmth return to his face. He feels caught, but he didn’t do anything wrong. He swallows. “Yeah, but...it’s different. I think.”

“So you’re best friends. You’re really close. He’s your other half. But you don’t have feelings for him?”

“I don’t...know,” he admits quietly. “Before this, before he told me, I just...we were just different. I’ve never had another friends like him, where we just...where everything was so easy. I never questioned anything about our friendship, because he never did. He acted like I shouldn’t read into anything, so I...didn’t.” He finishes speaking and becomes aware that his face feels hot now, an embarrassed blush on his cheeks that keeps getting worse. “God, this is embarrassing. I’m sorry to dump this on you —”

“No, no. I’m invested now,” Eunbi says, dismissing him. She looks at him with her eyes narrowed, like she’s trying to figure something out. “Not to be juvenile, but you never thought about even kissing him?”

The question is so surprising to Jimin, mostly because he hadn’t even thought to ask it. The situation felt bigger than that — he was too busy overanalyzing every interaction the two of them ever had, every facial expression he’s ever seen Taehyung make. He hadn’t even considered asking himself about something as simple as attraction.

Maybe, though, he just hadn’t felt the need. After all, it’s an obvious answer. He remembers years of watching Taehyung kiss his way through New Years parties, throwing himself at people with an easy laugh and smudged dark red lipstick that he had a girl apply to his lips in the bathroom. And he remembers, even through fuzzy drunk memories, a sting of jealousy. He never thought much of it; of course he wanted to kiss Taehyung. Didn’t everyone?

“All his friends want to kiss him,” Jimin says with a little laugh. Eunbi looks unimpressed. “Yeah, but I’m assuming he doesn’t wanna date the rest of them,” she tells him simply.

Jimin blinks at her. “I hadn’t thought of it like that,” he admits.

Eunbi rolls her eyes good-naturedly at him, laughing quietly. “Hey, I don’t wanna rush you into any conclusions, but I think if your best friend is your other half and you’d like to kiss them, you might like him too.”

“Right,” Jimin agrees, feeling dazed by the conversation.

“So good luck, I guess,” Eunbi tells him, pulling herself up off the floor. “If you show up to work on Monday bitchy again instead of all quiet, I’ll know you’re back to normal and you maybe have a boyfriend.”

“Hey,” Jimin chides her.

“I thought we were getting personal,” Eunbi tells him with a smirk. She tucks her hair behind her ear before reaching a hand down to help him up.

Jimin takes it, pulling himself onto his feet, but he feels sideways as he stands upright. Tilted decisively at an angle as he reels from the way someone was able to look him in the eye and tell him the answer was obvious.

 

Some amount of time later, he finds himself waiting for his train home. He doesn’t remember the walk there. He was too busy thinking about the time a few months ago, the night he stayed over at Taehyung’s after a group gathering and crawled into his bed just like he had always done. It was second-nature, even after a four year break, and before he fell asleep that night he thought to himself how much he had missed it.

Waking up the next morning felt even better. It felt like a dream — a literal dream, because Jimin had dreams like that a lot while he was abroad. About waking up in Taehyung’s bed, the world muffled outside of the calm of his blankets. It was real, though, the arm around his waist, the smell of another person. It wasn’t unlike being eighteen and letting himself be held for the first time. The sudden knowledge that this was something he could just...do.

When he looks up again he’s home, hanging his coat on the rack and kicking his shoes off messily, barely even aware of putting one foot in front of the other. He stops in front of his small kitchen table, looks down at the painting that’s been sitting on it since his birthday, and swallows. He remembers a younger Taehyung, paint-stained fingers and a goofy smile and the way he blushed when Jimin complimented the same painting then. The way Jimin liked it, making Taehyung feel good, because Taehyung looked so happy.

Selfish, Jungkook called him. For coming back to Seoul without figuring this out. He’s right, Jimin knows; Jimin’s always been selfish. He likes taking, and he’s good at it. He wants attention, he’s needy for affection, he’s always had hungry eyes and hands desperate to be held. That was the thing, though. Taehyung never made him feel greedy. Taehyung just smiled, held Jimin steady, no conditions.

Taehyung was the first person he was ever good at taking care of. There was something about the way Taehyung trusted him so fast, so open and easy, that made Jimin want to protect him, and he was more than happy to follow through on that urge. It felt so good to help Taehyung, a person who anyone could tell was kind just by looking at him. Jimin found that he would do so much for the rush he got when Taehyung looked up at him, told him, “I love you, Jiminnie,” voice sweet and earnest. To be looked at like you’re something lovely by someone like Taehyung —

Jimin looks at the painting and he thinks about Taehyung’s face in the alley the last night they spoke in private and he starts crying before he realizes he’s doing it. The tears are involuntary, and he barely reacts to them as he picks up the canvas, runs his fingers over textured paint.

“Shit,” he mutters to himself, just to hear the sound of his own voice, anything other than the noise of his thoughts swirling around his head. “Fuck.”

Jimin takes a shower. He stands still and quiet under the water, and wishes quietly to himself that there were someone to wash his hair for him. He wishes someone would dry his back with a towel, hold him close to their chest even if he doesn’t deserve any of it right now, because suddenly he feels so...fragile.

He wishes it was Taehyung. But that’s not new.

You might like him too.

The memory of Eunbi’s smirk as she said it, not unkind, just teasing, makes him feel embarrassed.

Why are these things so easy for other people? How can they look at him and expect him to know how he feels about anything, let alone something as big and strange as this? Something as important as Taehyung?

Jimin washes his own hair, dries himself off, and goes to bed by himself.

++

Jimin has been wondering, would he have been able to handle this better if Taehyung told him years ago?

Maybe if they were still twenty, and Taehyung had looked at him sweet and honest and told him he liked him, maybe things would be different. Maybe they’d stay up all night talking about it, kiss just to try it out, spend three days in each other’s dorm beds and leave as boyfriends.

Jimin can’t talk to Taehyung about it now. That’s the part that’s so hard, he thinks, but he knows he can’t open his mouth to Taehyung until he has it figured out. It wouldn’t be fair to do anything else. When they were twenty, before Taehyung had carried years of ache and before Jimin had packed some more onto his back, that wouldn’t have been part of it.

It’s an interesting alternate reality, the one he dreams up while he stirs his coffee. The one where Jimin listened to what Taehyung must have been trying to tell him with his arm around Jimin’s waist in bed, chest warm against Jimin’s back, hands steady. The one where Jimin never left. The one where Taehyung didn’t scare him so bad that he ran.

That’s the other thing he can’t look at himself in the mirror about. He’s been lying about it for so long that it hurts more to tell himself the truth now than it ever would have back then, but he knows it’s true. He knows Taehyung was part of the reason why he left.

Or maybe not Taehyung specifically, but — the idea of him, at least. The fear he couldn’t ever shake, that they couldn’t last forever. That he loved Taehyung way too much to not get hurt eventually. School was ending, and Taehyung was going to stay put, get a good job he deserved, get to do art some way, somehow, because that’s who Taehyung was. Patient and determined and able to make anything into something good for himself.

Jimin wasn’t like that. Jimin wanted big things that never came for him. He worked and he worked and he never quite managed to get what he wanted. So of course Taehyung wouldn’t last, not after they got into the real world and met other people. Taehyung was good at people too, in a way Jimin wasn’t, really.

He remembers one night close to graduation, when they went to some class celebration or something. He remembers watching Taehyung from across the room, chatting casually to a girl Jimin didn’t know. And he thought to himself then, without much reason to but unable to stop himself, I bet he’ll get married young. It made him nauseous instantly, just the thought, and he refused to think more about that. Because as soon as Taehyung found something real, Jimin wasn’t sure where that left him. Probably not waking up in Taehyung’s apartment anymore, if he had to guess.

Because they had always been something other — bigger than friends, but infamously not together. They repeated it countless times to acquaintances, friends, even family once, when Jimin’s younger brother visited him in Seoul. A joking little explanation of their relationship, because everyone could tell it was too much. Neither of them had ever dated anyone that stuck, but Taehyung would one day, Jimin knew. He was too good not to find someone who loved him.

You might like him too, he hears again in his mind at the memory. For the millionth time in the last few days, since the night Eunbi said it.

He thinks it would have been different, if they had done this earlier. He wishes they had done this earlier. He wishes — Jimin sighs, putting his coffee down on the table. Not for the first time, he wishes he was a different kind of person altogether.

He misses Taehyung. He misses Taehyung and he needs to figure out why and how and in exactly what way and it’s been sitting on his chest, heavy and demanding his attention, for almost two weeks. Or maybe longer than that, but that’s the problem, he’s not sure. It’s everything he hates, this mess of sticky feelings he’s been living with, impossible to shake, and he’s so frustrated with it.

He sighs to himself, coming back into his body and out of his thoughts, rubs a hand across his face, and decides to take a small break from feeling sorry for himself. It’ll be waiting for him later, he knows, so he figures he might as well get out of his apartment for a little while and take a break from himself.

It feels almost good to walk outside, wearing nicer-than-necessary clothes and listening to other people exist. He gets a snack from a vendor on the street, looks at shop windows, watches people on the sidewalk, and for the better part of an hour, manages to get out of his own head a little bit.

He careens right back into his own head, though, when he steps into a cafe to warm the cold from his cheeks and almost runs right into Namjoon and Hoseok. Jimin stumbles back to avoid a collision, and he watches Hoseok swoop in quickly to grab Namjoon’s coffee cup out of his hand before he can spill it as he steps back as well. When Hoseok looks toward him, Jimin watches surprise register on his face.

“Oh! Jimin!” Hoseok says, extending his arm to hand Namjoon his coffee back.

Jimin pauses, knocked bodily back into everything he was avoiding thinking about. “Hi,” he says after a moment that’s maybe too long. He puts a smile on his face to make up for it. “Sorry, hyung,” he adds, looking toward Namjoon apologetically.

Namjoon shakes his head, grabbing his coffee from Hoseok. “No, it’s fine,” he says kindly, eyes narrowing from his smile, and Jimin feels comforted, distantly. Namjoon has always felt comforting to him.

“I really like this place, Jiminnie, thanks for telling me about it,” Hoseok tells him happily. “Funny running into you!”

“Yeah,” Jimin agrees with a nod. “I’m just...out and about.”

Hoseok is looking at Namjoon for a moment, and Namjoon looks back at him. He looks blank, and then he seems to get whatever Hoseok is sending to him telepathically because he nods. Jimin raises an eyebrow, waiting to be clued in.

“Namjoon-ah, I’m going into that bookshop next door. I told you I want to look for a gift,” Hoseok says, patting Namjoon’s shoulder. “Meet me over there.”

Namjoon nods, waving at him. “Yeah, one sec.”

Jimin raises his other eyebrow, looking between them.

“It was good seeing you, Jiminnie,” Hoseok says, stepping forward toward him. He puts a hand on Jimin’s shoulder too, pauses for a moment before he says, “I hope you’re doing good. Let’s see each other soon, okay?” And sometimes Jimin has a hard time getting a read on Hoseok, the way he’s so good at being loud to cover anything quiet, but in this moment Hoseok reeks of honesty and gentleness. Frankly, it’s enough to make him ache a little, but that’s not really Hoseok’s fault.

“Sure, hyung,” Jimin answers, hoping he doesn’t sound too emotionally affected from someone showing him even a small amount of care. He’s been sensitive lately.

Hoseok walks out, leaving Jimin with Namjoon. Jimin turns to him expectantly and Namjoon says, with a sheepish smile, “You got a second to talk?”

Jimin makes a considering face as he wonders what exactly this conversation is going to be about. He nods, leading Namjoon over to a small table tucked off to the side. “What’s up?”

“Ah, it’s not a big deal or anything, I just...wanted to let you know, I guess,” Namjoon starts, looking almost embarrassed? Jimin smiles, amused a little — he knows it’s not anything too serious, or Namjoon would get to his point. “Me and Hoseok started dating.”

Oh. He doesn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t that. “Oh wow,” he manages, pulling a smile onto his face. “That’s great, hyung.” His throat feels tight. He tries not to think about it.

“It’s a...new thing. And telling people is even newer,” Namjoon says with a nervous laugh. “I just wanted to tell you.”

“I’m really happy for you, hyung,” Jimin says, voice trained into something positive and polite. Not that he’s not happy for Namjoon — Jimin’s been watching Hoseok circle him since he met him, and he was kind of rooting for them. It’s just that he hadn’t thought about it since before — well, the Taehyung thing. Jimin swallows.

Namjoon, perceptive as he is, must be able to sniff out something off in Jimin’s expression, because his eyebrows furrow slightly. “Hey, I wanted to say, I know things are kind of —”

“Can I ask you something, hyung?” Jimin interrupts, wanting desperately not to hear the end of Namjoon’s sentence. He can tell from the soft tone of his voice.

He catches Namjoon off-guard, but he nods at Jimin after a moment.

“You think a lot,” Jimin starts, laughing softly to himself. “How did you figure out whether or not Hoseok was a good idea?”

Namjoon looks him over. Jimin looks down at his own hands on the table.

“I didn’t,” Namjoon answers him after a moment. Jimin looks back up at him curiously. “I don’t know if he’s a good idea or not.” Namjoon laughs at himself, a familiar self-deprecating smile. “I mean, we work together. It’s kind of a mess, really, isn’t it? But,” he pauses, makes a what can you do? kind of hand gesture, “it seemed worth a try.”

Jimin nods, pulling at one of the rings on his fingers just to have something to do with his hands. “What if it goes wrong?”

Namjoon lets out an exaggerated sigh, still smiling a little. “Well, I’ll need to find a new editor. And that would really be annoying, starting over like that. Hoseok is a good editor and I trust his opinion, you know? In the grand scheme of things, though, probably a short setback. Not the end of the world. And besides, what if it goes right?”

Jimin stares at him, like if he looks hard enough he could maybe absorb some of Namjoon’s optimism. He doesn’t know what to say, how to convince Namjoon that it isn’t that easy. “Most things with me tend to go wrong,” he goes with, voice quiet.

“I know you think they do,” Namjoon tells him. Jimin winces, nodding; he should have seen that coming, the way Namjoon can tell someone they’re being stupid so kindly. “But you’ve always thought a lot of things about yourself that I didn’t agree with.”

Jimin looks sidelong out the cafe window, sitting with that. He sighs. “Even if — I mean, even if anything was an option,” he starts vaguely, “Hyung, do you really think...I don’t know, that we could do it right?”

“Jiminnie, nobody knows you better than Taehyung and nobody loves you more,” Namjoon says. “You know that, right?”

Jimin looks over at him, not sure how to react to that. Namjoon doesn’t wait for him to. “Nobody knows Taehyung better than you, either. When you left, me and Jungkookie realized how much of him he only trusted with you. I think if you finally talked about all this, you could be really good for each other.”

Jimin hums, eyes feeling a little wet, not trusting his voice at the moment. He looks back out the window, away from the earnest look on Namjoon’s face.

“I think it’s worth a try, anyway,” Namjoon says quietly. “For people who love each other as much as you two.”

“Hyung,” Jimin says, swallowing. “If I fuck it up again, how do I move on from that?”

“At least you’ll know you tried to fix it.” Namjoon reaches out, puts a hand on top of Jimin’s on the table, and the touch almost startles him. “This time, don’t leave.”

Jimin looks back at Namjoon and sees a kind look on his face, honest and convincing because Namjoon tends to say things that he really believes with enough sincerity that he makes other people believe them too. Comforting to see he hadn’t lost his touch, really, Jimin thinks.

“Talk to him, Jiminnie,” Namjoon tells him, squeezing his hand before he stands up from his chair at the cafe table. Jimin nods, because Namjoon has convinced him he should.

Jimin lingers at the table even after Namjoon walks out of the cafe, and he watches out the window next to him as Namjoon walks into the bookstore next door. He sits there long enough to see him and Hoseok walk back out, holding hands in a way Jimin can tell from here is tentative. And something about it, the thought of something new and warm that he knows Namjoon well enough to know is careful, makes him feel acutely lonely and acutely stupid.

It’s not a sudden realization, this thing he’s come to after weeks and months. Not like he’s always seen in movies and dramas, where it only takes the right glance and touch of the hands to know you have feelings for someone. It’s not a lightbulb going off. Instead, it feels more like he started peeling back a tiny piece of wallpaper in the run-down house sitting at the center of him, and once the mess was made, he had to keep going, inch by inch with his fingernails until it was all gone. It’s easy to get lost in, that kind of thing, until you step back and realize you tore down more than you thought, that you’ve started something you have no choice but to finish.

Jimin leaves the cafe without getting a drink after all.

++

Sometimes, on weekends when Jimin and Taehyung wanted to particularly indulge themselves, they would build forts in Jimin’s living room. They dragged Jimin’s mattress out into the living room and spent way too long building a structure big enough to watch a drama on someone’s laptop and laze around inside of, and they would shut themselves in like they were still in junior high instead of college.

Jimin remembers one of those weekends, after they had each had a couple beers and were lying on their backs staring up at the patterned quilt they used for the ceiling of the fort, they were talking. Just talking, aimlessly and endlessly like they were good at doing, bickering in between. Jimin was tucked against Taehyung’s side, the skin of their torsos touching where their shirts had ridden up from wriggling against the sheets lazily. He felt warm, only partially from the beer and the warm light filtering in from the lamp outside of the blanket walls. Mostly just because he liked this, and he needed it after a long week.

Taehyung turned to him and asked, “How’s it going with Yejun?”

Jimin blinked to himself. Right. He had forgotten. “I...stopped seeing him, actually,” Jimin said.

“Oh no,” Taehyung said, pulling himself up onto his elbows to look over at Jimin. “Did something happen?”

“Ah, not really,” Jimin said, shaking his head. “Just felt like it ran its course. We didn’t have a lot in common.” Jimin had liked being with him well enough, Yejun, the guy from his friend’s writing class. He seemed nice. The sex was kind of fun. It had just started to feel…boring, after dating him for a few weeks.

It was weird — Jimin always found himself wishing he was with someone, that he had someone to infatuated with, but as soon as these things started, he felt his interest in them drain. Maybe it was a defense mechanism or something, or maybe he just was too busy to really want to have a boyfriend. It was always too annoying, the way that dating someone cut into his time with the rest of his friends. He was supposed to have a date tonight, actually, before he talked to Yejun the other day and called things off.

And really, Jimin thought, glancing at Taehyung, he’d rather be here anyway.

++

A week before Taehyung’s birthday, Jimin finds himself outside of Taehyung’s apartment building, taking in a deep breath before he punches in the code to the building and lets himself in. It’s cold out, sharp cold air filling his lungs for a moment, and he thinks the shock to his system is good for him.

It’s Friday night, a time and day that he and Taehyung agreed on over text; Jimin has been restless and itching with nerves for a week, but he figured the least he could do was give Taehyung warning of this conversation. But hi, are you free sometime this week to talk? in a mid-afternoon message was the warning he gave, and even his immediate panicky follow-up of (nothing bad?) didn’t do much to convince him he wasn’t being dramatic.

Charitably, though, Taehyung gave him a time. So Jimin, armed with a small gift bag, an outfit that took more effort than usual and an extremely nervous pulse, showed up.

When Taehyung answers the door to his apartment, he gives Jimin a small smile that doesn’t reach his eyes and it stings worse than the wind outside did. “Hi,” Taehyung says, voice small too. The pulse of guilt hits Jimin immediately, and he swallows, trying to ignore it.

“Hi,” Jimin echoes. They both pause for a moment, looking at each other uncertainly, and then Taehyung takes a step back, ushering Jimin forward, and they remember how to be people again. They go through their normal people tasks — Jimin takes his shoes off, Taehyung offers him a drink, a practiced script — and they eventually find themselves at Taehyung’s dining table. There’s the noise of the electric kettle on the counter, because Jimin let himself accept Taehyung’s offer of tea. It will be something to wrap his hands around, at the very least.

Jimin sets the gift bag he’s been holding onto the table, scooting it over toward Taehyung. “I brought you a birthday gift. Sorry it’s early, I bought it a while ago, and I just...wanted to give it to you now.” Jimin says. “I don’t — you’re not obligated to like, invite me to anything, if you do anything. For your birthday. So I just wanted to make sure you got it.” He blinks, biting down to keep himself from nervously babbling.

Taehyung raises his eyebrows, taking the gift bag curiously. When he reaches in and fishes out a jewelry box, Jimin feels suddenly and intensely embarrassed. Why did he bring a gift? Is this manipulative? Jewelry feels manipulative. Not that he’s ever given anyone jewelry before, but. He keeps his eyes trained on Taehyung nervously, watches as Taehyung opens the box slowly and his face looks surprised in...an okay way? Maybe?

“Oh,” Taehyung says, lifting his fingers to the necklace in the box. “From that vintage shop. You went back for it?”

“You really liked it,” Jimin offers as an explanation. He watched Taehyung look at it in the case in the shop, eyes fixated on it, and Jimin wanted him to have it. It was a desire for Taehyung to have something he loved that made him come back for it weeks later, even if it was kind of silly and expensive.

Taehyung’s eyes linger on the necklace, thumb brushing over the dangling green stone hanging from the gold chain, but he drags them up to meet Jimin’s. “Yeah, I did. Thank you.” His expression is hard to read, and it makes Jimin squirm in his seat.

Unable to hold himself back any longer, and unable to hear Taehyung thank him for anything before he says it, Jimin says in a rush, “I’m so sorry.”

Taehyung’s face turns more serious, but the surprise stays. He sets the jewelry box down on the table in front of him. “What?”

“For everything,” Jimin says, feeling single-mindedly focused in a familiar way. Not unlike the way stepping onto a stage for a performance used to feel, really, the way his mind feels empty and he feels too blinded by stage lights to look at the audience. He’s looking right at Taehyung, but he can feel the glare of a spotlight. “For...I don’t know, acting like things were normal, even after you told me how you felt. But also for not telling you when I came back to Seoul.” Jimin pauses, then feels the need to add, “And maybe for coming back at all. And...for not texting you.” He pauses again, looking at Taehyung, the way his face hasn’t changed. “And for leaving.”

Silence hangs between them. Taehyung is good at letting silence hang. Jimin knows he needs to stop talking, let Taehyung absorb that, but he’s practically vibrating with nerves at this point and he wants to just keep going.

Behind his head, Taehyung’s electric kettle clicks off, and Jimin flinches out of his focus on their conversation.

“Ah,” Taehyung mutters, standing up.

Jimin squirms, unwilling to stop his momentum. “It’s really fine —”

“No, no,” Taehyung waves him off. “I’ll get you tea.”

The air is quiet and Jimin feels tense. He wishes he didn’t, but it’s unfamiliar, this kind of purposeful vulnerability, not to mention catching up on five years’ worth of it.

“Do you really mean that you’re sorry you ever came back?” Taehyung asks him, voice quiet. Jimin turns in his chair to look at Taehyung in front of his kitchen counter, carefully pouring hot water into a ceramic mug for Jimin.

“No, not like that,” Jimin says. “I mean that...I’m sorry I did it how I did. I should have talked to you before I moved back here for — well, for you,” he admits softly.

Taehyung looks up at him, face still hard to read, but there’s something sharp there. Jimin swallows.

“Taehyung, I’ve been thinking a lot,” Jimin starts, voice feeling too quiet when he hears it out loud. But he’s too nervous to be able to change it much, really. Taehyung is looking at him still, something searching in his expression. “About why I acted the way I did back then, why I left. It was a good opportunity, there were real reasons, but...there was something else, too. I’ve never been very good at knowing how I feel, so it took a lot of time to figure out how scared I was back then. And why.”

Taehyung’s face goes confused. He turns away from the kitchen counter to face Jimin. “In school? What were you scared about?”

Jimin breathes in deep, exhales heavy. “You’ve always been really brave, Taehyung. And so — so certain about things. I’ve never had any of that, you know. I’ve always just been this mess of anxiety and worry. Meeting you was like meeting another species, the way you just let yourself...be. And I think it was good for me, in a lot of ways, but it was also so scary sometimes.”

Taehyung looks at Jimin, looks like he’s waiting for more. Right, more — Jimin has more. He has so much more he has to say, even if he’s not sure how to say it.

“You looked at me like you were so sure. All the time,” Jimin says, struggling saying something that feels so delicate out loud like that. “You did even after I came back.”

“I was sure,” Taehyung says softly. “I always felt sure about you.”

Jimin gives a weak laugh. “That’s fucking terrifying, Taehyung.”

“Weren’t you sure about me too?” Taehyung asks.

“Yeah,” Jimin answers. “That’s what made it even scarier.”

Taehyung frowns. “I don’t even know what that means.”

“I know you don’t,” Jimin says with a half-smile. “It’s not how you work. But to me, you were like this...unbelievable person. Everyone loves you. And even though I was your favorite, I felt like it was only a matter of time until I wasn’t. Especially once school ended.”

“You really thought that?” Taehyung asked, voice quiet and surprised.

Jimin shrugs. “I don’t know. I thought it enough. One of the reasons I jumped so fast when I got that touring gig was...I was just scared, Taehyung. Of you, and the way I felt so close to you, so attached, and how badly it would hurt when you...I don’t know, moved on to something else eventually,” he mumbles the ending, embarrassed even as he says it. “So I left first. I ran.”

Across from him, Taehyung’s eyebrows are furrowed like he doesn’t understand.

“And — and I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out, but,” Jimin swallows, heart thumping uncertainly. “I realized most people must not feel that way about someone they just want to be friends with. And that I never felt that way about anyone else.”

Jimin picks his posture up, tries to put on a brave face, takes a breath leading up to the finale of this speech, near-rehearsed with the amount of time he spent writing out all the things he wanted to say tonight. “I don’t want to take a step back, Taehyung, that’s why I came over. I don’t — I never wanted to think about it, about the way we are with each other and what it meant, because I convinced myself I didn’t need to. Because we were too close to need to. Because we were always just...us. But I’ve been thinking about it.”

Taehyung doesn’t speak. Just looks at him, jaw set, waiting, listening.

“I want you in every way,” Jimin says, and now his straight, square shoulders feel at odds with the softness of his voice. “I think I always did.”

There’s a moment of silence, a pause. Jimin feels his heartbeat, loud and erratic, and for a moment there’s more fear. Nerves. Doubt that he should have done this at all.

Then Taehyung lets out a deep exhale. “Stand up, will you?” He asks softly. Jimin, scared out of his wits, obliges. He gets up from his chair, looks across the few feet of space between them. “Just to make sure I’m understanding you —” Taehyung starts, but Jimin interrupts him.

“I have feelings for you, Taehyung,”

Taehyung nods slowly, looking down at his kitchen floor, and then he laughs to himself.

“What?” Jimin asks.

“I can’t believe you really gave me a whole speech,” Taehyung says, sounding amused. “I didn’t have a speech.”

“I told you, I’ve been thinking a lot,” Jimin says, trying to sound only a little defensive.

“Yeah,” Taehyung agrees, still smiling. “It takes you an hour to figure out what pizza toppings you want, I can’t imagine the amount of thinking you’ve been doing lately.”

“Taehyung-ah,” Jimin complains, putting a whine in his voice.

“You’re so stupid,” Taehyung tells him, laughing a little. “You’re a real idiot, Park Jimin.”

“Yah,” Jimin whines, but Taehyung is walking toward him with a smile on his face, and Jimin finds it terribly infectious.

“I sit around for years with this. Pacing around, keeping it to myself,” Taehyung says, stepping into Jimin’s space. “And the thought just hadn’t occurred to you.”

“I think I didn’t want it to occur to me,” Jimin tells him, looking up at him but not quite meeting his eyes. “We were so good, Taehyung. I loved you so much, I really — I thought you were so great. And you treated me so...so sweetly,” Jimin says with an embarrassed little laugh, only a little self-deprecating, “And I convinced myself to just follow your lead. Thinking about it more would have made it harder for me, and I...was selfish.”

“I was selfish too,” Taehyung says. “It was selfish to not tell you how I felt earlier. I didn’t want to mess us up.”

“I’m sorry for the last couple months. Those were selfish too. Even after you told me, I still...tried to push it under the rug. It was shitty, and I’m sorry that I hurt you. I was just...desperate. I came back to Seoul hoping we would feel the same as we always did, and I didn’t want it to disappear again.” Jimin bites his lip, pausing before he goes on, looking up at Taehyung’s face. “And I’m sorry for leaving.” It’s almost a hug, this thing they’re in, except they’re not quite touching. Just hovering close to each other, tangential, like they’re afraid to close the gap any further. “I really am.”

“It’s okay,” Taehyung tells him, voice softer now. “I’m glad you came back.”

Jimin nods. They look at each other for a moment, faces close.

“You should have told me,” Taehyung says. “That you were scared of...I don’t know, how I made you feel. Of me. I didn’t know.”

“It felt so awful. I didn’t want you to know I was scared of anything. You weren’t scared of anything,” Jimin says, looking down from Taehyung’s gaze. “And it wasn’t because of you. You were just you. It was my fault for being...me.”

“Hey,” Taehyung says. His voice is serious. “I like you. I’m glad you’re you. Being you doesn’t need to mean that you worry over stuff that you don’t tell anyone else. If you told someone else, they might help you worry about it less.”

Jimin blinks at him. “You make it sound easy.”

“It is easy, once you get used to doing it.” Taehyung’s face is so earnest, it makes Jimin flustered. He puts a hand on Jimin’s shoulder, steadying. “You’ve always taken care of me, Jiminnie. I can take care of you too.”

“You do take care of me,” Jimin tells him quietly. He doesn’t know how to explain that he’s never felt like he was getting the short end of the deal here.

“I can take care of you better,” Taehyung argues. “If you tell me what’s in your head.”

“I...thanks,” Jimin says softly. He doesn’t have to fight Taehyung on this, he realizes. He can just try to accept it, that someone actively wants to care for him enough to say it outright. Enough to hear the problems he invents for himself, the obstacle courses he sets in his mind that make it more difficult to enjoy anything without doubting it. It feels uncomfortable letting himself believe it, but he tries, for Taehyung’s sake.

“I was scared of lots of things, for the record,” Taehyung tells him, and Jimin looks up at him, waiting for more. “For one, I was scared of anything between us changing. I pretended for a long time, that I didn’t feel like this. And I was so scared that you would find out, or…” He trails off, looking own at the floor. “I was scared of losing people. After my grandma…” He looks to the side, shakes his head. “You put me back together, you know. I didn’t want to lose you too.”

Jimin swallows. It’s been a long time since he thought about that. “It was unfair of me to think that,” he says softly. “Of course you were scared of things. Sorry.” Taehyung nods, looking him in the eye again.

“I’ve had a rough couple of months,” Taehyung tells him, giving a humorless chuckle. “Trying to figure out what we are, what we ever were if you didn’t have feelings for me was...hard. I guess I didn’t realize how much I was expecting that you’d want me back, until you said you didn’t.” As he says it, Jimin can see fatigue in Taehyung’s expression, like maybe he hasn’t been sleeping well. Jimin knows the feeling.

“I’m sorry,” Jimin says again. “I think I was the last one to know that I had feelings for you. I’ve never had anyone like you in my life, Taehyung, I didn’t...you were like home. And you never seemed to question that, so I didn’t either. It felt really good not to question it. ”

“I felt like that too sometimes. Like maybe I just shouldn’t have ever questioned anything about our friendship, because it felt so easy. Before I figured out how I felt, but after too. I guess I don’t really blame you.” Taehyung sighs. “I always knew we were different people. We do feelings really differently. It’s okay that it took you a while to get there, and...thanks for the apology,” he says.

“Anytime. Let me know if you ever want a refill on any of those apologies. I think I owe you a few,” Jimin tells him, feeling slightly breathless with relief at the knot that’s been in his chest over this for weeks slowly untightening. It feels surreal, almost, for this to actually happen, to have a distant view of a maybe-happy ending on the horizon. Taehyung moves his hand back from Jimin’s shoulder to his upper back then, pulling him in slightly closer.

“Jiminnie. You really like me?” Taehyung asks in an almost-whisper. And after weeks and months of trying desperately to analyze the way Taehyung makes him feel, really feel, the big real feelings that Jimin by nature has always avoided looking at, he can recognize the fondness he feels. It’s warm and sweet and Jimin wants to reach his hands out and hold Taehyung’s face, the way he always has. Wants to hold Taehyung in the palm of his hand and kiss his forehead gently, because that’s how Taehyung has always made Jimin feel. He feels a heart-deep shiver, looking at the sweet expression on Taehyung’s face. Taehyung has always been so sweet.

“I like you a lot,” Jimin answers him. He presses a half-step further, their chests pressed together. And then, because he’s feeling punch-drunk without much to lose, he asks, “Can I kiss you?”

“Idiot,” Taehyung tells him again, sounding breathless, and then he leans down. Jimin lifts onto his toes to close the distance between them, and he meets Taehyung in the middle eagerly.

There’s a feeling of relief, kissing Taehyung. A sigh of comfort, like letting the tension in your shoulders relax after a long day. It feels like someone scratching your back in a spot you hadn’t even realized had been itching for years. And if Jimin had still had any doubts about his own feelings before coming here today, they’re gone now, in the face of how good it feels to kiss Taehyung, the way it feels like they should have done this from the beginning.

“Oh,” Taehyung breathes, pulling back to exhale.

“I was always jealous, on New Years,” Jimin tells him quietly, feeling compelled to say exactly what’s on his mind. “Watching you kiss everyone but me.”

“Jealous,” Taehyung repeats, dull surprise in his voice. “Very platonic.”

“I thought I was so needy,” Jimin offers with an apologetic half-smile. “That I didn’t like seeing you give anyone attention but me. But...I guess maybe I just wished I got one too.”

“Stop talking,” Taehyung tells him, and Jimin laughs into their next kiss. Taehyung brings his hands up to hold Jimin’s jaw, and Jimin feels lit up at the touch. His hands feel good there, familiar but new, comforting but shocking. Jimin lets his arms wrap around Taehyung’s waist, pulls himself in tighter against Taehyung, and it’s remarkable how he fits there just like he always has.

They kiss like they’re trying to make up for lost time. Maybe it’s subconscious. In a breath, Jimin mutters, “I missed you.”

“Really,” Taehyung mutters, “Stop talking.”

“Shouldn’t we talk more?” Jimin asks. He’s gotten the impression from Namjoon that these things involve a lot of talking.

“Probably,” Taehyung agrees, but he goes back in for another kiss and Jimin follows easily. After all, he and Taehyung have always been able to communicate pretty well through touch.

Taehyung is a good kisser, and that’s maybe the least surprising thing Jimin’s ever learned about him. Still, it’s nice, to be held so gently, kissed so well by him. Jimin feels hot with it, the strange feeling of being wanted so much. After all, no one has ever wanted him the way Taehyung does, and he certainly hasn’t wanted anyone else like this before either.

In fact, a troubling thought crosses his mind as they kiss — if this is what it’s supposed to feel like, what was he doing with the people he’s dated before this? Why didn’t he ever notice that it never felt as right as this does? Maybe that’s why he always felt himself drifting from anyone who paid him attention after a few months. Everything felt impermanent, uninteresting next to something like Taehyung, even if Jimin hadn’t really figured out why they slotted together so well.

He doesn’t have the capacity to linger long on that, though. This isn’t a time for introspection; he’s had enough of that lately. This is a time for Taehyung’s tongue licking into his mouth, a hand on his jaw and the other in his hair, Jimin’s hands on Taehyung’s chest now. Jimin pulls away from Taehyung for a moment so he can back himself up against the counter, moving his hands to push himself up onto the surface. He pulls Taehyung in by his shirt, spreading his legs so Taehyung can stand between them.

“Oh,” Taehyung says again. He moves the forgotten teacup full of nothing but hot water, pushing it further away from them on the counter, and then he places his hands on the tops of Jimin’s thighs, moves them up to his hips with a glance upward at Jimin’s expression. Taehyung looks up at him cautiously, like he’s waiting for Jimin to stop him.

Jimin says, “I want you. You know that, right?”

“I’m adapting,” Taehyung tells him. “You rejected me recently.”

Jimin winces. “Did I say sorry for that yet?”

“Maybe. I’ve lost count,” Taehyung says. “I think the apology is implied in the kissing.”

“I want you. I’ve always wanted you, I think,” Jimin says, voice quiet on instinct, like saying the truth too loud will make an alarm go off. “It just got all mixed up.”

“I’m glad you figured it out,” Taehyung says. His hands are back on Jimin’s thighs now, and Jimin likes them there.

“Yeah, me too. Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting on your kitchen counter like this right now, and I’m really enjoying it so far.”

“I think it’s really hot that you’re on the counter,” Taehyung tells him earnestly.

“I do too,” Jimin says in a stage whisper, leaning in close to Taehyung’s ear with a smile. He turns his head and presses a kiss to Taehyung’s temple, a familiar gesture. It feels better, though, when it’s followed up by Taehyung leaning up to meet his mouth with a kiss, insistent and slow.

Jimin leans into it, pressing forward into Taehyung’s body, and god it feels good. For as scary as this felt to him for the past month, when he’s been running this scenario through his head over and over again to figure out how he feels about it, it feels so easy in the moment. Like lying his head on Taehyung’s lap on his couch, or curling up against his side. Jimin figures they did so much of the work years ago; they already know how to fit around each other, how to touch each other softly, with care. They’ve always been attracted to each other the way stubborn opposite magnetic poles are, refusing to part. It’s easier to lean into it than it ever was to figure out where the line they were supposed to stop was.

It’s so easy to keep kissing Taehyung, slow and heavy, their chests pressed together. Taehyung’s hands run up and down his thighs, thumbs running across Jimin’s inseam, and Jimin has his arms wrapped around the back of Taehyung’s neck, holding him close. It’s so good, and Jimin thinks the last time he felt so reverently about making out with someone, he was probably fifteen.

Maybe this is how it feels when you love someone, he thinks, and the thought catches him by surprise. He pulls back from Taehyung, an involuntary flinch, and Taehyung looks at him, eyes questioning. Jimin shakes his head dismissively — no time for that particular train of thought right now. Instead, he says, “This is really good.”

“Yes,” Taehyung agrees easily, and then he leans down to kiss Jimin’s neck. Jimin sighs, leaning his head back. Taehyung brings up one of his hands to unbutton the top button of the loose button-up shirt Jimin has tucked into his little black jeans, pulling his shirt collar back to kiss Jimin’s collarbone. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t pick an outfit that made him look good, but mostly just to trick his own confidence; he didn’t think it was a practical concern. He likes the little ceremony of it, though, someone unbuttoning his shirt. He thinks about Taehyung undressing him, purposeful and patient, and it sounds so hot that he pulls Taehyung back up to kiss him on the lips, urgently because he needs it. Jimin brings his hands back down to Taehyung’s waist, then his hips, before pushing underneath the hem of Taehyung’s sweater.

Taehyung’s softer in the stomach and the hips than he ever used to be, back when Jimin knew his body arguably too well. He’s filled out more in the last few years. Jimin likes it, the way Taehyung feels solid under his hands, the way his body gives way softly. Jimin’s thumbs brush lightly against Taehyung’s stomach as he moves his hands up his bare sides, and Taehyung makes a soft noise in his throat, encouraging.

“Are we gonna do this on the counter?” Jimin asks, pulling back just enough from Taehyung’s mouth to say it. “Because I’m in favor of the idea.” Taehyung pulls back further to look at Jimin.

“What are we doing, exactly?” Taehyung asks him, and Jimin pauses, looking to gauge his reaction. Taehyung’s expression is open, curious.

“Whatever you want,” Jimin answers, glancing down to Taehyung’s lips before he pulls his gaze up, to the flush on his cheeks and the freckle on his nose and then the brown of his eyes.

“Took you two months to figure out you have feelings for me but ten minutes to decide you’re ready to have sex with me?” Taehyung asks, expression teasing, but Jimin sees his blush go deeper. It’s sweet, Taehyung is unbearably sweet, and that’s not a new thought or feeling but it certainly feels better now that he’s kissed him. It’s like he has an outlet for the concentrated affection Jimin feels built up in the hollows of him, stacked and stored for so long.

“Yes,” Jimin tells him easily. “Being attracted to you comes very easy to me. And having the feelings part figured out makes it even easier.”

“Good to know,” Taehyung mutters, sounding slightly overwhelmed.

Jimin pulls back — maybe he was misreading Taehyung, maybe this is too fast. “We don’t have to do anything if you don’t want, it’s really —”

“No,” Taehyung interrupts, shaking his head. “I’d really like to have sex with you. I told you, I’m adapting.”

“Oh,” Jimin says, unable to stop a small pleased smile from showing on his face. “Okay. So, counter?”

“I am not having sex with you for the first time in my kitchen,” Taehyung tells him decisively. “I want a little more romance than that, Jimin.”

Jimin pouts. “You think I can’t give you romance on a kitchen counter?”

“I don’t find anything romantic about surfaces without pillows,” Taehyung says with furrowed eyebrows. “Some of them may be sexy, but they are not romantic.”

Jimin hums. “Okay. Tell me about your romantic plan, then.”

“There’s no plan,” Taehyung tells him, leaning into Jimin’s touch. “Just wanna be on a bed. Maybe light some candles. I’m a simple man.”

Jimin brings one of his hands up to slide up Taehyung’s torso, pushing his sweater up as he goes. “Candles. That is kind of romantic.”

Taehyung’s hands grab Jimin’s hips, thumbs on his hip bones. “I’ve maybe thought about this a little.”

It makes Jimin feel warm, thinking about Taehyung thinking about this. He feels warm over the way Taehyung says things like that, too, the way something honest and vulnerable will fall out of his mouth carelessly, like he doesn’t understand why he would ever keep it to himself. He’s always been like that, and it’s always sent a little thrill up Jimin’s spine. What’s more nerve-wracking than someone who tells the truth?

“The sex is gonna be really good, isn’t it?” Jimin asks, voice soft as he leans close enough to Taehyung that their noses rest against each other.

“It has been every time I’ve thought about it,” Taehyung teases, and Jimin takes the bait, leans in to kiss him again urgently.

Maybe it’s stupid, rushing into sex like this before they even really figure out anything else. It certainly wasn’t what Jimin was expecting from the evening. But the two of them are who they are — affectionate, handsy, desperate for each others’ touch. Maybe this was inevitable, their magnetic poles sticking together immediately and resolutely, finally lined up correctly. It would explain why Jimin is finding it so difficult to pull away.

They move off of the counter eventually, but don’t get far before Taehyung backs him into a wall, setting him momentarily on fire. Jimin bites Taehyung’s lip, angles himself so the top of his thigh grinds against Taehyung’s dick, already half-hard. Taehyung lets out a little surprised noise, voice deep and warm in Jimin’s ear, and Jimin is obsessed with it. He’s consumed with the need to draw out a thousand more of those noises, all low and pretty and turned on. It’s sort of overwhelming, the way just kissing has made him need to touch every inch of Taehyung, make him his.

In staggering steps, pausing every few to kiss again, breathless, they make their way across Taehyung’s apartment. Outside of Taehyung’s bedroom, he pulls away, making a face at Jimin.

“Sorry for the mess,” he says, looking embarrassed.

Jimin snorts, amused. “I don’t care what your bedroom looks like, dummy. There’s no amount of dirty laundry that would make me not want to fuck you right now.”

“What an honor,” Taehyung tells him, pinching Jimin’s waist in a ticklish spot. Jimin jumps, groaning in complaint.

“Tickling me is also not romantic. If you can veto kitchen counters, I can veto tickling.”

“I didn’t veto kitchen counters forever, just like, the first time —”

“I think it could be first-time level romantic! It’s spontaneous, it’s passionate,” Jimin argues, and Taehyung looks at him for a moment like he’s weighing that argument.

“But my bedroom already has lube in it,” Taehyung says. “What’s less romantic than sitting naked on a cold kitchen counter waiting for me to get lube?”

“I would say that this conversation is getting close,” Jimin says.

Taehyung looks flustered for a moment, then makes a good-naturedly annoyed face. “I keep telling you to stop talking.”

“Seems like if you really want to shut me up, you would fuck me,” Jimin says with a shrug.

“I’m trying to,” Taehyung retorts with a huff, and Jimin lets out a laugh, bright and happy. It feels so good, a normal bickering conversation between them except with Taehyung’s hand on Jimin’s waist, the memory of his lips still tingling against Jimin’s. Jimin has always liked teasing Taehyung, the way Taehyung would pout and whine, and he can see the pout in Taehyung’s expression now. It’s so endearing, everything about Taehyung is so endearing. Jimin leans up to kiss him again, because he can, because it’s such a satisfying response to the way he’s burnt up with love for Taehyung sometimes. He’s just so cute, so sweet, Jimin wants to dig his hands into him, sink his teeth into him. That’s a familiar feeling, the same one that always made him squeeze Taehyung into a hug or pull at his arm until Taehyung whined. Like a puppy tugging at a playmate’s ear, nipping with his teeth. It feels better expressed like this, though, with his teeth biting into Taehyung’s bottom lip and a hand finding its way to Taehyung’s ass.

Taehyung pulls him backward, through the doorway and into his bedroom. They stumble through, hands on each other, until they reach Taehyung’s bed. His room really is a mess, but Jimin’s apartment is too after weeks of being preoccupied and lonely. The mess doesn’t phase him, it almost feels fitting; Jimin has always felt like Taehyung knows the messiest parts of him in a way most people didn’t. It’s silly, but it’s comforting to see some of Taehyung’s mess in front of him, real, reminding him this isn’t supposed to be perfect.

Jimin has spent a lot of his life looking for perfection. He likes to believe he’s grown up a little since then, gotten more comfortable with facing reality instead of pushing himself blindly toward a goal. Starting teaching has been like that, a negotiation with all the parts of himself that were allergic to settling. It’s taken him months to figure out that teaching feels good, in a lot of the same ways performing felt good. It feels even better sometimes. There’s still guilt tucked messily into his chest over the last few months with Taehyung, but he tries to use the same logic now, that they’re okay even if Jimin didn’t figure this out sooner. Even if he should have done it better. It can still be good. They can still be something really good. A bit of tension he hadn’t realized he was carrying relaxes in him, and he tosses himself backward against the bed, looking up at Taehyung.

“When you thought about this,” Jimin starts, propping himself up on his elbows as he looked over at Taehyung, still standing at the edge of the bed, “Who topped?”

Taehyung looks momentarily surprised, but adapts quickly. “Depended on the day,” he shrugs. “I want to, though, if that’s alright.”

He says it with an earnestness that pushes aside Jimin’s teasing act, catches him off-guard and makes him laugh, endeared. “Yeah. It’s alright,” he says, and then he reaches a hand out toward Taehyung, waving for him to come onto the bed.

It feels strange, so much anticipation built between them in the quiet of Taehyung’s bedroom. Years’ worth, Jimin figures, even if he was slow to feel it. The air around them is heavy as they go back and forth in the awkwardly human dance of kissing, pulling clothes halfway off, rearranging bodies. Taehyung leans overtop of Jimin, shirt off, pants unbuttoned, and pauses.

“Is there anything I should know?” Taehyung asks him.

“Like what?” Jimin asks, picking his hips up off of the bed to finish taking his pants off. Taehyung has a hand on Jimin’s hip, resting there still after pushing at the waistband of his jeans, and all Jimin can think about is how much he’d like Taehyung to keep touching him.

“I don’t know. Specific likes or dislikes. Requests.” Taehyung shrugs with one shoulder.

“Hm,” Jimin mutters, thinking. He brings his hands up to run down Taehyung’s chest, still feeling a little giddy at the casual touch. He’s missed touching Taehyung so much, and now there’s so much of it to do. “I can’t put weight on my knees for very long. It’s a little limiting. Nothing else specific, though. I’m flexible.”

Taehyung nods down at him. Jimin feels curious. “What about you? Do you have anything to share? Likes and dislikes?” His hands are at Taehyung’s sides, warm against his skin.

“I like you,” Taehyung tells him, leaning his weight further down until he’s low over Jimin on the bed, most of them touching. “I like your mouth. And your tattoos,” he mutters, bringing his hand up to run lightly over the lettering on his chest. “And your hands, and your legs.”

Jimin feels a blush rise from his chest to his face. “That’s — now you made me look bad,” he huffs, flustered. Taehyung grins down at him, pleased, and Jimin pouts.

“I told you, I’ve been thinking about this for a while.”

“Well, I’ve — thought about you, too” Jimin argues, voice going a little timid after a confident start. He pushes through it, though, ignoring the anxious voice in his mind that sounds panicked, out of its depth. He swallows, brings his hands up to Taehyung’s jaw. “I like your ears, and your freckles. I like your voice. And your body. I’ve always really liked your body.”

Taehyung hums. “And you still do?” He asks, a chuckle in his voice, though he looks flattered.

“I think I like it more,” Jimin answers honestly. “But I’d like your body no matter what, because it’s yours.”

“That’s sweet,” Taehyung tells him, a shy smile on his face. “I do also like a bunch of other weird stuff, but I figured we probably weren’t gonna go there right now.”

“When are we?” Jimin asks. “Tomorrow?”

“Maybe next week,” Taehyung offers.

“Wow, a whole week. That’s a long buffer. How weird? Like able to purchase from a sex store, or something more niche?”

“How many purchases do you make at sex stores?” Taehyung asks him, head tilted to the side curiously.

Jimin shrugs with one shoulder. “I told you, I’m flexible.”

They look at each other for a moment, the air between them sparking with something new and fun and wholly them, before Taehyung says, “You’re so sexy,” and Jimin replies, voice quick, “Then touch me more,” and they’re back to kissing. It feels urgent.

Taehyung follows directions — his hands are all over Jimin, and the feeling is comforting, thrilling, somehow both at once. It’s been a while since they were so closely acquainted with each other’s bodies, and it feels like Taehyung is trying to learn his all over again. His hands brush against Jimin’s skin, up and down his chest, his stomach, his sides.

“Stop,” Jimin says through a breathy laugh with Taehyung’s hand on his ribs, breathes the words against Taehyung’s lips. “You know I’m ticklish there.”

“Just checking,” Taehyung tells him before another soft kiss. His fingers move up to Jimin’s nipple, pressing experimentally.

“Ah,” Jimin breathes, mouth dropping open on instinct. Taehyung kisses his cheek, then his jaw, pressing his thumb against Jimin’s nipple again before skating his hand down to Jimin’s stomach, just at the waistband of his briefs. His hands are big, Jimin knows this logically, but the only person who’s been touching him lately is himself, and the difference in the feeling is a little shocking.

“Wanna touch you,” Taehyung breathes against Jimin’s jaw, voice deep, and Jimin feels it reverberate against him.

“Yeah,” Jimin agrees easily. “Yes.” He lifts his hips again, inviting Taehyung to undress him, and Taehyung catches on, pushing Jimin’s briefs down his hips until Jimin can kick them off.

Taehyung is looking him up and down, a dazed sort of look on his face, and Jimin feels a surge of confidence. This, at least, Jimin is comfortable in. Demanding attention, getting someone to look at him the way Taehyung is looking at him. Every familiar feeling is amplified, electrified, new and strange, but underneath all that it’s the same rhythm of sex that Jimin is used to. He’s always liked being wanted.

“Get on your back,” Jimin tells him, looking right back, and Taehyung nods. He pulls back off of Jimin and flops to his side, looking up at Jimin expectantly. Taehyung’s half-hard in his little boxer-briefs, and the look of him leaves Jimin a little hungry. Without much more thought, Jimin straddles Taehyung’s waist, seating himself just above Taehyung’s dick and looking down at him with half-lidded eyes.

“Oh,” Taehyung mutters on impact, and Jimin watches his eyes drag up and down his body again, slower, more intentional. “You’re gorgeous.”

“Yeah?” Jimin asks, shifting his weight back until he can almost feel Taehyung against him. Taehyung nods below him, hips shifting up toward Jimin, and Jimin takes it as encouragement. He scoots back just enough to feel Taehyung’s hard-on pressed against the curve of his ass, moves backward against him. Taehyung lets out a low noise, thrusts against Jimin what little he can with Jimin’s weight on him. Jimin exhales, wanting. He wants a little more of this, though, first. He leans forward, letting his weight rest against Taehyung’s body, their chests flush, and kisses Taehyung once, hard. Taehyung kisses him back enthusiastically, hips still thrusting up slow and rhythmic against Jimin’s ass.

Jimin reaches for Taehyung’s hand, and Taehyung’s fingers grip his, a gesture so sweet that Jimin lets it stand for a moment before he continues what he had in mind, bringing their clasped hands to his ass before letting go. Taehyung catches on, big hand gripping Jimin’s hip and moving down. Jimin hums at the feeling, Taehyung’s grip digging into the meat of his thigh, spreading him just slightly like it’s an experiment. He leans down and kisses Taehyung’s jaw, down the side of his neck, and Taehyung touches him slowly, all gentleness with a strong grip that gets stronger, like Taehyung’s trying to figure out where Jimin’s line is. Jimin doesn’t stop him, likes the feeling, likes it even more when Taehyung really commits and lets his nails dig into Jimin’s skin.

“Feels good,” he murmurs against Taehyung’s neck, and Taehyung nods. And as much as he’d like Taehyung to keep doing this, keep edging closer to the inside of his thighs, he has other plans. He moves his body down, out of Taehyung’s grip, so he can kiss down the rest of Taehyung’s throat, down to his collarbones and then his chest. Taehyung makes another low noise, and Jimin wants to hear a million of them, doesn’t want them to stop. He kisses down to Taehyung’s nipple, kissing across his chest to the other one too, listening to Taehyung’s sharp exhales and half-moans. He’s hard now, pressed insistently against Jimin’s stomach, and Jimin feels his mouth water at the thought. He looks up at Taehyung through his eyelashes and finds Taehyung looking back at him, neck craned up to do it. Jimin runs his tongue along Taehyung’s nipple and Taehyung’s head falls back against the bed with an exhale.

Jimin pushes himself further down, kissing down Taehyung’s stomach until his lips are touching the soft fabric of Taehyung’s underwear. Taehyung’s legs fall further apart at the feeling, leaving Jimin between them with a racing heart. He mouths lazily at Taehyung through his underwear and Taehyung moans quietly, hips bucking up. Jimin brings a hand to the inside of Taehyung’s thigh, rubbing at the skin there and making Taehyung twitch a little. He moves his hand further up, until he can slide his thumb past the leg of Taehyung’s boxer-briefs, touching the skin just underneath. The noise Taehyung makes then is a little louder, and Jimin likes it.

He keeps up like that for a minute, kissing at Taehyung through the fabric, hands moving to almost touch him, until Taehyung speaks up in a raspy voice. “Please,” he says, “More.” And Jimin never did like telling him no.

Jimin pulls back, moving his hands to pull down Taehyung’s underwear a little roughly, impatient now. And now it’s his turn to look at Taehyung, body long and pretty, cock hard. Kind of big, but Jimin knew that already. He feels momentarily grateful that he’s been channeling all of his anxious energy into frequent masturbation lately, fucking himself often enough that this shouldn’t take too much preperation.

First things first, though, he lies back down between Taehyung’s thighs, pressing kisses from Taehyung’s thigh up to his hip. Taehyung props himself up on his elbows, and when Jimin notices, he looks up at Taehyung to meet his eyes.

“Hey,” Jimin breathes, letting out a breath of laughter.

“Hi,” Taehyung replies simply, voice soft. His face is open and honest and lovestruck, so sweet that Jimin was sure his skin had tasted of sugar this whole time. Jimin swallows, feeling a pulse of nerves at the way Taehyung loves him, the weight of it. But then he exhales, focuses on the warm rush in his chest, the roller coaster feeling in his stomach that reminds him how happy he is right now.

He wants to say something to Taehyung, but it’s shaped too much like “I love you,” in his mouth, and he can’t do that right now. So instead Jimin does something that comes more naturally to him and licks his lips, puts his hands on Taehyung’s hips before leaning down to press a kiss at the crease of his thigh. Taehyung brings his hands on top of Jimin’s, moves to interlace their fingers again, and Jimin lets him. He keeps his left hand joined together with Taehyung’s, but brings his right hand close to his face, bringing Taehyung with him.

Jimin looks up at Taehyung as he leads Taehyung’s fingers to his mouth, dropping his own hand once Taehyung catches on, his eyes widening slightly. He slips two fingertips into Jimin’s mouth and Jimin licks at them, amused when Taehyung’s cock twitches. Taehyung pushes his fingers farther, and Jimin leans forward, making it easier for him. He licks around them, up to the pads of his fingers and then back down, enjoying the way Taehyung is squirming underneath him as he does. When he pulls his head back up, he nips gently at the pad of Taehyung’s index finger before pulling his head back altogether. Taehyung moves his hand to follow his mouth, but Jimin grabs it with his own hand, leading it down to Taehyung’s cock.

Jimin guides Taehyung’s fingers down the length of his dick, leaving a trail of Jimin’s spit as he goes. Something in Jimin feels deeply satisfied at it, like he’s just done something to mark his territory. All the parts of him that always wanted to twist posessively around Taehyung are pleased in a way that makes his stomach flip a little. Jimin’s hand rests on top of Taehyung’s, and with their fingers almost intertwined, Jimin leads Taehyung’s hand to grip loosely around his dick, his own hand working with Taehyung’s.

Jimin lets his mouth fall open, lowers his head again, just enough that the head of Taehyung’s cock can sit on his tongue, slide against his spit-wet lips. He licks around the head lazily as his hand moves with Taehyung to stroke him, slide getting easier with the spit. Taehyung lets out a hard breath, and Jimin glances up at him briefly to see his eyes closed, face turned up toward his ceiling serenely.

“Pretty Taehyungie,” Jimin says, pulling his mouth back momentarily, and it startles Taehyung into looking at him. He has a satisfied little smile on his face, confident, and Jimin likes it. There’s a pang in Jimin’s chest at that, a sudden reminder of how much he likes the person Taehyung is right now. The person Taehyung was five years ago is special to him, something fragile wrapped in cloth in his chest, kept safe, but this Taehyung is different and good. Steadier, quieter, a little more serious. Jimin wonders if he is too.

He stays like that for a couple minutes, teasing Taehyung with his tongue as his hand moves slowly. He’s savoring it a little. The longer he goes, the harder Taehyung exhales, eyebrows knitted together as his mouth falls open. “Jimin,” Taehyung mutters, pulling his hand away from his dick, and Jimin pulls his head up to look at him, going still.

“Wanna touch you,” Taehyung tells him again, tone a little desperate this time. “Come here.”

Jimin pulls back, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before pulling himself back up the bed toward Taehyung. Taehyung has his arms out, ready to grab Jimin into a close hold before Jimin’s even prepared for it.

Taehyung doesn’t seem concerned with giving Jimin time to react. “You’re so sexy,” he breathes, bringing a hand to run down Jimin’s side and across his ass. He turns up on his side so they’re facing each other, next to each other on the bed, and it’s another moment of familiar-but-not. Taehyung brings his hand back up Jimin’s body, then down his chest and slowly down to his stomach, and Jimin leans into the touch, tilting his head up to kiss Taehyung again. Jimin hums, content, and when Taehyung lets his hand wrap around Jimin’s dick, the noise gets caught in his throat, sounding strange.

Taehyung lets out a little laugh, and Jimin pulls back, offended. Taehyung’s hand is still around his dick. “Don’t laugh at me,” Jimin says, face pulling into a pout without his permission.

“You sounded funny,” Taehyung defends himself. He smiles sheepishly at Jimin.

“You look funny,” Jimin retorts with no particular heat in his voice.

“Really?” Taehyung asks, sounding and looking earnest.

Jimin looks him over with the pout still on his face. “No,” he admits. Taehyung laughs again, his face pressed into the crook of Jimin’s neck. On instinct, Jimin reaches behind his head to put a hand in his hair, fingers gripped loosely, and Taehyung exhales, sounding pleased about it.

They wind tightly around each other for a while, hands moving, Jimin breathing heavy as Taehyung touches him just enough to tease. Eventually Taehyung moves away from him to grab lube and Jimin is left lying there alone momentarily, pulse loud in his mind. He’s aching for more; he looks over at Taehyung’s back hungrily, eyes darting from the breadth of his shoulders down to his ass. When Taehyung turns back toward him, Jimin doesn’t even have it in himself to be ashamed.

“Come on,” Jimin tells him, shifting his hips on the bed just to have something to do. “I need you.”

Taehyung blinks at him, eyes big and slow. He seems frozen for a moment before he moves back toward Jimin, settling back into the way they were wrapped up before, facing each other on their sides. Jimin moves to envelop him quickly, getting arms around the back of his neck and hiking one of his knees up over Taehyung’s hip. He feels the urge to cling, which isn’t uncommon when it comes to Taehyung, but more intense than he’s used to.

“You need me?” Taehyung asks him, voice deep and soft. He has his face pressed close to Jimin’s neck, his breath tickling Jimin. He kisses the side of Jimin’s throat gently.

“I need you all the time,” Jimin says. It feels more honest than he knows what to do with. Taehyung exhales against Jimin’s skin, kissing his neck again, rougher.

“You promise?” Taehyung asks him. He pulls his head back, and Jimin glances down to find Taehyung looking up at him, radiating the kind of vulnerability that makes Jimin want to sweat and clench his jaw, puts a tremor in his hand. Jimin swallows, forcing himself to take the full brunt of Taehyung, the sheer terrifying Taehyungness of it all, without flinching away. He can do this. He wants to do this.

“Yeah,” Jimin breathes. “I promise.”

Taehyung doesn’t say anything else in response; he takes the hand that he just slicked with lube and brings it abruptly back down to wrap around Jimin’s dick, gripping him properly this time. Jimin makes a noise, surprised, but closes his eyes at the feeling. Taehyung strokes him slowly, steadily, thumb sliding up the vein on the underside of Jimin’s cock. Jimin whines softly, bucking his hips toward Taehyung. His legs are spread wide, one of his knees still straddled up over Taehyung’s hips, but he still wants more. More contact, a better angle, Taehyung to go a little quicker. He lets out a shuddering breath as Taehyung mouths against his neck, messy with spit and teeth — Jimin likes it too much, he thinks.

It surprises him, the way he suddenly feels like he might tip over the edge as Taehyung’s hand keeps moving on his dick. “Tae-Taehyungie,” he stutters, gripping into Taehyung’s upper back with his fingernails. “Stop,” he manages in a breath, and Taehyung goes still quickly, pulling his face away from Jimin’s neck to look at him. Jimin exhales roughly, trying to ignore the way he wants to buck his hips forward, rut against Taehyung til he comes. He breathes deep for a moment, resting his forehead against Taehyung’s shoulder.

“I want you to fuck me,” Jimin says in a weak voice, leaning his head closer to Taehyung’s chest to press an errant kiss to his collarbone. “You can’t make me come yet.”

“Ugh,” Taehyung says, and Jimin can tell without looking that he’s joking, maybe even making a face. Jimin smiles weakly against Taehyung’s skin. “I wish we could just go for infinite rounds.”

“I mean,” Jimin says, feeling put-back-together enough to bring his head up, look Taehyung in the eye. “We can’t go for infinite rounds all at once, but I’m up for infinite rounds.”

“Maybe if we start with like, a few a day, we can start to make real progress,” Taehyung suggests, a laugh in his voice.

“Yeah, maybe just like three, or four, or maybe five rounds a day,” Jimin agrees, leaning up to kiss Taehyung. The two of them break out in smiles, though, not able to keep the kiss going for long.

Jimin reaches for Taehyung’s still-slick hand, grabs him by the wrist and brings his hand past his dick, lower; Taehyung gets the point quickly and eagerly, fingertips brushing down Jimin’s perineum before he feels them press gently at his entrance. He’s reminded suddenly of how long it’s been since he’s done this. The feeling makes him shiver, goosebumps on his skin. Taehyung lets his index finger keep pressing, pushing into him shallow and slow. Jimin sucks in a breath at the feeling, tensing for a moment, but it’s good, an easy stretch. His hips relax, just barely rocking back against Taehyung, letting him push in deeper.

They keep it up, Taehyung going slow, inch by inch, finger by finger, until Jimin is trembling around the full length of his first three fingers, both of them breathing heavy. Jimin feels pulled taut, voice cracking every few seconds, his skin sweat-damp.

“Pause,” Jimin breathes, eyes pressed closed, trying to back away from another looming orgasm. Taehyung’s fingers are so close to his prostate, and he wants to rock his hips back to get him there and keep him there, but he makes himself stay still. His fingernails dig into Taehyung’s shoulders again, but if Taehyung minds, he doesn’t mention it.

“You good?” Taehyung asks him, and Jimin swears he can feel the low rumble of his voice everywhere on his skin. Fuck, he’s turned on.

“Yeah,” Jimin replies, voice shaking. “Just...gimme a second.” He lets out a few deep breaths, trying to calm back down. “This isn’t going to last long, is it?” He asks, letting out a shaky laugh.

“I don’t think there’s any reality where it takes me longer than a minute and a half to come,” Taehyung says, sounding unfairly put-together.

“Maybe by round ten we’ll manage to last five minutes or so,” Jimin says with another weak laugh. He feels a little delirious at this point, if he’s being honest, so absurdly turned on that everything feels a little funny. With a deep breath, he pulls his hips up, away from Taehyung’s fingers, and Taehyung pulls the rest of the way out. Jimin shudders again at the feeling before flopping over onto his back, turning his head to look at Taehyung expectantly.

Taehyung nods, looking comically serious as he pulls himself up on his knees. Jimin lets his legs fall open, making room for Taehyung, and Taehyung scoots himself over until he’s between them. He grabs Jimin’s hips like he’s going to lift him, and Jimin helps, lifting his lower half up to be repositioned; when they finally settle, Taehyung is sat on his knees, legs spread, with the backs of Jimin’s thighs resting on the tops of Taehyung’s, suspended a little in air. Jimin’s legs fall further apart and Taehyung’s hands slide up his sides, brushing up to his chest then back down to his hips.

Jimin picks himself up on his elbows to look at Taehyung, his cock half-hard between his legs as he unwraps the condom he grabbed earlier, forgotten on the other side of the bed. Jimin watches Taehyung slide it onto himself, then grab the lube again, slicking himself up with an exhale as he strokes himself briefly, just enough to get hard again. When he finishes, he looks at Jimin, hesitating for a moment like he’s looking for reassurance.

“Are you —” Taehyung starts, but Jimin doesn’t have the patience to let him finish. “Yes,” he interrupts, eager and aching, and Taehyung just nods. He nods to himself again after a pause before shifting his hips forward and pressing into Jimin.

And oh, god. Jimin sees stars immediately, oversensitive and so beyond ready to come. He lets out a whine, uncontrollable, as Taehyung presses his length into him slowly. He’s vaguely aware of Taehyung letting out a heavy breath, like he’s holding himself back, but he can barely even focus on anything outside of his own body.

“Taehyung,” he breathes, swallowing hard. “You can — you — please.”

“Right,” Taehyung agrees, voice audible even through the rush of blood in Jimin’s ears, and then he pulls out before thrusting in again, quick, making Jimin feel sort of like he’s been electrocuted.

The slow restraint doesn’t last long. It’s only a few thrusts before Taehyung leans his body over Jimin’s, pushing Jimin’s legs closer to him, angle getting deeper. Then things go fast; Taehyung’s hips pumping, breathy sounds falling out of his lips above Jimin’s face, so pretty. Mouth so pretty, face so pretty as he loses himself, one of his hands wrapped loose and uncoordinated around Jimin’s cock. Jimin tries to hang on, but he comes first, body going tight and tense as he slams head-first into the most intense orgasm he’s had in recent memory. He lets out a shaking groan, body still moving in time with Taehyung’s thrusts, and before the sound drops out of the air, Taehyung follows him over the edge, crying out in a low voice on a final pump of his hips as he comes.

Their bodies go limp, Taehyung dropping his weight onto Jimin as his hips twitch through the last of his orgasm, and Jimin pants against Taehyung’s shoulder, feeling weak.

“Fuck,” Taehyung mutters in a trembling voice. Jimin hums, physically incapable of forming words at the moment. “That was really good, right?”

In response, Jimin wraps his arms around Taehyung, letting one hand run down his back while the other comes up to stroke his hair, tugging his hair a little bit. He kisses Taehyung’s shoulder gently twice, then bites at him softly, just because he wants to.

“Yeah,” Jimin breathes. He doesn’t want to move, likes the weight of Taehyung on top of him, even kind of likes the feeling of him still inside of Jimin. It feels kind of overwhelming and overfamiliar in a way that he finds comforting, which probably says something about them, but he doesn’t care. When Taehyung twitches backward like he wants to leave, Jimin groans slightly and pulls him back.

“Stay,” he says, tightens his arms around Taehyung. “This feels good.”

Taehyung hums low in Jimin’s ear, lets his body relax on top of Jimin’s. And Jimin, for all his nerves and indecision, for all the ways he’s been wondering for weeks if he’s even capable of knowing how he feels about something as big as this, knows that this is right. He feels like something’s been clicked into place, a satisfying solution to a years-long puzzle. It’s a big swooping feeling, a full-body kind of catharsis.

Maybe he really does love him. The real way, the big way that he’s always avoided before. The thought is electric, sends a jolt through him, and he closes his eyes tight. He can figure that out another time.

“Can I stay with you for a while? Or is that too much?” Jimin asks, voice just above a whisper. Taehyung pulls back a little and Jimin lets him, lets Taehyung look down at him with his hair sweaty against his forehead and his face open and sweet. And for some reason Jimin feels incredibly fragile in this moment, like all the vulnerability of all of this is hitting him all at once.

“Stay forever,” Taehyung tells him in his usual low, honest cadence.

Jimin swallows, blinks at Taehyung before he pushes himself up a little to meet Taehyung’s lips in a kiss. “Okay,” he breathes against Taehyung’s mouth.

It feels like a promise, and it feels strange and magic around the edges, and it feels scary, and it feels good. Jimin wraps his arms around the back of Taehyung’s neck again and pulls him back in.

Eventually they pull apart, clean up just enough to feel like people again, but neither of them get dressed. They curl around each other, bare in more ways than one, hands on each other like they’ve never touched before. Jimin feels tired, eyes heavy, but it’s against his will; he’d much prefer to stay awake, memorize the way the rise and fall of Taehyung’s breath feels against his back again, skin against skin. His mind is racing, too, keeping him more awake than he should be.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers into the dark of Taehyung’s bedroom at some point, the sentiment eating at him again. “About everything.”

Taehyung doesn’t respond right away, and Jimin wonders if he’s already asleep. But then his voice comes, sleepy and low. “I forgive you.”

“You do that too much,” Jimin tells him. Taehyung hugs him tighter, pulls him back against his chest.

“No I don’t,” Taehyung argues. “I know you think you’re the only one of us who can fuck up, but you’re wrong. And you forgive me when I fuck up, too.”

Jimin swallows, feeling surprised at the warning burn of tears coming to his eyes. Little ones, not a big heaving cry, just reactionary pinpricks at the bracing wind of Taehyung’s kindness.

“Will you still forgive me tomorrow?” Jimin asks. Tomorrow, when they’re dressed again, when their endorphins have slept this off, when the shock is gone.

“Will you still be sorry?” Taehyung asks back.

“Yes,” Jimin answers easily. He imagines it will probably take him months, maybe years, to stop feeling apologetic about this.

“Then yes.” Taehyung’s hand traces shapes on Jimin’s ribcage, the touch light, and he presses a kiss to the nape of Jimin’s neck.

Jimin brings one of his hands up to hold Taehyung’s, fingers fitting together just like they always have.

“Goodnight, Jiminnie,” Taehyung says with a sleepy little sigh, squeezing Jimin’s hand before his grip relaxes again.

Jimin sleeps better than he has in months.

++

The thing that Jimin didn’t predict about all of this is the way he and Taehyung both seem to be compelled to stick together as tight as possible. He should have, maybe, but it feels like something out of their control, the way he can’t bear to take his hands off of him, the way Taehyung seems to return the feeling. They wake up stuck together, sweaty from proximity but neither of them moving, and they shuffle off to the shower together without much conversation about it. It just feels more natural than separating, than sitting apart from each other for even ten minutes.

Jimin’s not complaining, though. It feels like the level of touch, of affection, that he’s been chasing from Taehyung for years. In retrospect, they make so much more sense to Jimin now, now that they can press together wetly in the shower and kiss, barely even sexual, just for the sake of closeness. The way he used to want to crawl under Taehyung’s skin and stay there — he can’t believe he didn’t recognize it sooner.

They stumble through a shared morning routine like they’re tied together for a three-legged race, almost comically. For as tight as they’re bound together, though, it doesn’t feel like much of a change in their dynamic otherwise. Taehyung sings a little ballad to himself while he makes rice and fried eggs; Jimin laughs at the little surprised noises he makes at cooking oil popping against his skin; they get pulled into a stupid little play-fighting conversation that escalates into a weird roleplaying scene with fake voices; it feels like them.

It feels natural to fall back together after they eat their simple breakfast, pressed against each other on the couch in their underwear. It feels like the culmination of a thousand quiet morning between them, in sleep clothes and mussed hair and with their arms around each other. This — Jimin wrangled into Taehyung’s lap, hands on his shoulders, under his jaw, down his arms, wherever he can reach, Taehyung’s arms wrapped around Jimin’s waist, their lips pressed together — this feels like a reasonable escalation.

“Are you still looking for romance?” Jimin asks Taehyung as he kisses his way down Jimin’s neck, over the faint red marks he left the night before. “Or are you up for fucking me here?”

“Only if you’ll fuck me on the kitchen counter later,” Taehyung answers, looking up at Jimin with a teasing expression.

“Are we still trying for a few times a day?” Jimin asks with a smirk.

Taehyung’s about to reply back, matching Jimin’s smirk, but the sound of a knock on Taehyung’s front door interrupts him, both of them turning to look at the door with surprised faces. They both pause, but before either of them can react, his lock turns, and there’s the noise of voices on the other end.

For a moment Jimin is convinced this is some sort of polite and extremely ill-timed robbery. But instead, Jimin, frozen in place straddled over Taehyung’s lap on the couch, is met with the surprised expression of Jungkook over the back of the couch. He feels himself flush instantly, eyes widening.

“Oh,” Jungkook says, holding eye contact with Jimin.

“What?” Another voice, Namjoon’s voice, asks. And Jimin still hasn’t moved, feeling unable to in the moment, so he gets to repeat the experience with Namjoon as he shuffles into the doorway. To Namjoon’s credit, he looks much more embarrassed than Jungkook does as he realizes what they’re reacting to.

“Hi,” Jimin says weakly, giving an embarrassed smile.

“Jiminnie, get off me, please,” Taehyung mutters, and Jimin flops off onto the couch, blush going deeper at the realization that he hadn’t done that yet. Taehyung turns on the couch to face the two at the door, looking much less flustered than Jimin thinks he should.

“Are you naked?” Jungkook asks with a complaint in his voice.

“No,” Taehyung answers easily.

Jungkook gives a relieved sigh and walks in. “Good,” he says. Jimin grabs a blanket from the back of Taehyung sofa, covering himself with it quickly. He glances back to Namjoon in the doorway, who looks like he’s questioning Jungkook’s logic but follows him in anyway.

“You didn’t answer any of my texts,” Jungkook tells Taehyung with an annoyed pout. “I was worried about you.”

Jimin glances at Taehyung, whose eyes widen cartoonishly. “Oh shit,” he mutters, then gets up from the couch and scurries off quickly to his bedroom.

Jimin looks between Jungkook and Namjoon, pulling the blanket over himself further in the quiet. “Good to see you both,” he offers weakly.

“So things went...well, I guess,” Namjoon replies.

“Thanks for the advice, hyung,” Jimin says quietly, and Namjoon, likely despite himself, gives him a small smile.

“Wow,” Taehyung’s voice echoes down the hall, “Twenty-three missed messages.”

“Yeah, you dick! I thought —” Jungkook glances back at Jimin. “Sorry, Jimin,” he interjects, before turning back to Taehyung, “I thought you got broken up with again.”

“Yeah, that’s really understandable,” Taehyung replies calmly. “But no!” He smiles brightly at Jungkook, evidently trying to get rid of the annoyed look from his face through sheer force of will.

“Well great. I’m glad you’re having a good morning,” Jungkook says, still trying to sound irritated, but Jimin can hear the relief in his voice. “You can go back to...whatever you were doing, then. I’ll take all of my deep worry and concern and just leave.”

“I mean, I’d probably recommend that, yeah,” Taehyung tells him with a clap on the shoulder. Jungkook gives him another glare before Taehyung breaks, letting out a little laugh at himself. “Sorry, Kookie. I didn’t think. Thanks for worrying about me,” he says quieter, more serious.

Jungkook rolls his eyes, but it’s good-natured. He looks back at Jimin again, then between the two of them. “So you’re...so this is happening?”

Taehyung looks at Jimin for the answer, so Jimin gives it. “Yeah,” he says, trying to gauge Jungkook’s reaction to that. Not negative, at least, it seems.

“Sorry if you wanted some time before we knew,” Namjoon says, aiming it mostly at Jimin, and Jimin feels a familiar rush of warmth toward him.

“No, it’s...I understand why you would worry,” Jimin tells him, looks toward Jungkook too. “If you knew I was...that we were seeing each other yesterday. I get it. It’s okay that you know.”

There’s more he’d like to say. More apologies he should give, he guesses, for the fact that they’ve been the ones who have had to clean up the Taehyung-shaped messes he’s left. It doesn’t seem like the right time to do all that, but the weight of his guilt sits with him as he looks at Jungkook.

“I’m glad you figured it all out,” Jungkook tells him, voice more serious now.

Jimin nods, lets a small grin spread on his face. “Me too. Thank you.”

“We should probably go, Jungkook,” Namjoon says, and that seems to remind Jungkook that Taehyung is standing there in his underwear.

“Right. Yeah.” He turns to Taehyung, giving him a menacing look. “You owe me for this stress.”

“I’ll buy you dinner,” Taehyung tells him easily. He grabs both sides of Jungkook’s face and squeezes them together, making his lips pucker. Jimin laughs to himself at Jungkook’s squished cheeks and angry eyebrows. Taehyung leans in and kisses Jungkook on the cheek then, big and exaggerated, and Jungkook looks even more annoyed. “Maybe like next week, though, because I think I’m going to be busy for a while.”

“I already got it, okay, you don’t need to tell me out loud,” Jungkook complains with a whine. “I lived with you when you two weren’t dating, I don’t even want to begin to imagine.”

At that, Namjoon looks concerned, like the thought just occurred to him. “Hm. Yeah,” he says quietly. “We should go.”

Jimin blushes again, face warm, and covers his face. “I don’t like this,” he says into his hands.

“Good,” Jungkook tells him, making a teasing face at him. Despite the situation, Jimin feels a little relief at that; things have been a little strained with Jungkook since the last time they saw each other in person, that night in Jimin’s apartment.

“See you soon,” Namjoon says, pulling Jungkook along. “We’re happy for you.” Jimin is a little touched at that, even under these stupid circumstances.

When he hears the front door click closed again, Jimin groans to himself, burying his face in his hands again.

“What?” Taehyung asks. Jimin looks up, and Taehyung continues to look entirely unfazed

“That was embarrassing,” Jimin answers, standing up from his spot on the couch, still wrapped in the blanket. “Don’t you feel embarrassment?”

“Sometimes,” Taehyung responds. “Rarely. Very rarely, with Jungkook and Namjoon. Also,” he says, stepping into Jimin’s space and wriggling his way under the blanket, “I’m kind of, like, unshakably happy right now.”

“Oh,” Jimin says, looking up at Taehyung’s pleased, earnest face. “Well, that’s sweet.”

Taehyung leans in, puts his hands on either side of Jimin’s face and presses a kiss to his lips. It’s so nice, the ease of the motion, and Jimin’s eyes stay closed for a moment even after Taehyung pulls back.

“I’m happy too,” Jimin tells him. “This feels good, Taehyung.”

“This?” Taehyung asks, looking around at them and the blanket.

“No,” Jimin tells him with a quiet laugh. He puts a hand out against Taehyung’s chest, skimming along the skin just under his collarbone. “The other this.”

“Yeah,” Taehyung says. He strokes across Jimin’s cheek with one of his thumbs, and Jimin feels cared for, warm. The sun is just high enough in the sky that it’s starting to come through Taehyung’s windows, and Jimin feels bright with it, with all of it.

“Did you miss me in the mornings?” Jimin asks, because the thought has simply lived inside his own mind for too long to keep it to himself anymore.

A ghost of a smile twitches across Taehyung’s face in response. He breathes a soft laugh before he says, voice soft, “Yes.” He brings his hands down to Jimin’s waist, one looping around to spread across his lower back, pull him closer. Jimin does him one better, drops the blanket he’s still holding behind Taeyung’s back, abandons it in favor of wrapping his arms around Taehyung tightly and hugging him, burying his face in Taehyung’s neck.

And Jimin is glad to remember how nice it is to be held.

++

The next week of Jimin’s life passes in a blur, a heart-skipping sort of lightness following him around every day. The days are just an excuse to get to the nights, back to Taehyung’s apartment, dinners eaten pressed together on the couch instead of at the table, too unwilling to be apart. They laugh and kiss and have more sex than Jimin has ever had in such a short period in his entire life.

And god, it’s good.

It snows all week, making Taehyung’s apartment feel even more like an oasis, a warm little bubble of warmth and light in the middle of a Seoul-shaped snowglobe. Christmas comes and they make hotteok for breakfast, get sticky with sugar and watch the snow fall out the windows before getting back into bed for the rest of the day. And among all the touching, the easy curious press of skin they can’t seem to stop, there’s talking. Some of the conversation too serious for the circumstances; when Taehyung asks Jimin if he feels comfortable calling Taehyung his boyfriend, it’s while Jimin’s hand is on his dick, during a particularly slow and conversational round of foreplay.

He’s not sure that anyone would recommend to discuss the future of a new relationship while on your knees, but it seems to be working for them, so Jimin doesn’t see a reason not to.

He knows he needs to go back to reality soon; he has his own home, and can’t spend every second of his free time with Taehyung. They should take it slower, go on real dates instead of living like they’ve been together for all these years, but it’s nice to have it for a little while. A sugary little honeymoon bubble, something they can let themselves indulge in after so many years of bittersweet.

Jimin decides he’ll go home after New Years, go back to his normal life, start trying to convince himself that this thing with Taehyung is just normal now.

First, though, he’s decided that a New Year’s birthday party for Taehyung is essential. It’s an old tradition he’d love to revive, and he’s certainly in a mood to celebrate these days. In between workdays and nights with Taehyung, he invites their friends, just the seven of them, and even gathers some decorations. Taehyung is tasked with cleaning his apartment, making it seem less like a messy sex den than it’s looked for the last week.

Jimin goes home the morning for the party, eager to raid his own wardrobe again, feeling pleased in a teenager kind of way to have someone to dress up for. In his best-fitting jeans, a t-shirt just short enough to show a sliver of skin at his hips, and a cardigan that Taehyung bought him years ago, he feels cute. He feels cuter when he gets back to Taehyung’s and he crowds into his space sweetly, kisses his jaw insistently. And it’s just...nice. Every day, Jimin thinks about how nice it is. Sometimes so much that he forgets to feel guilty about how much sooner they could have had this.

The night is good. It’s so good to see everyone again, after his strange self-inflicted isolation from them all for so long, too guilty to face Taehyung’s friends. They share too many bottles of champagne spread across Taehyung’s living room, laughing loudly over the music, curated by Jungkook.

Early on, Jimin seeks out Yoongi, powering through his bubbling nervousness over seeing him one on one by the overwhelming urge to make things okay.

“Hyung,” Jimin says, stood just behind him. Yoongi turns to him, looking the way he usually looked to Jimin, hard to read and a little intimidating.

“Jimin-ah,” Yoongi responds, not unfriendly.

“I just wanted to say,” he pauses, his nerves getting the better of him in his hesitance. “I...sorry, for the last time we talked.”

Yoongi pauses for a moment, looking him over. “Thanks for saying so,” he says after a moment, nodding at him. “I was a little harsh too.”

Jimin shakes his head. “I get it. Trust me, I...get it. The urge to protect him,” he says, nodding toward where Taehyung is chatting animatedly with Seokjin on the other side of the living room. “I couldn’t see anything clearly. It hurt to have someone point out I was hurting him. I think I was maybe a little jealous of you.”

“That’s flattering,” Yoongi replies with a little chuckle. “I’m glad you guys worked it out. Really. I know we haven’t known you long,” he says, and Jimin fills in the we, Seokjin and Hoseok, “But we’re all happy for you.”

“I’m glad he has you. You seem like a good friend,” Jimin tells him. It’s maybe a little more forward and open than he’s used to being, but he supposes that’s what spending all his time with Taehyung does to him.

“Yah, you don’t need to get sappy,” Yoongi complains, making a face, and then it’s Jimin’s turn to laugh at him.

Jimin feels the familiar sensation of Taehyung behind him, wrapping his arms around Jimin’s middle and resting his chin on top of Jimin’s head.

“You two getting along?” Taehyung asks, less joke in his voice than he intends, Jimin thinks.

“I was actually just in the middle of threatening him, so how dare you interrupt,” Yoongi tells Taehyung in a deadpan voice.

“I honestly think I would bet on Jimin in a fight, hyung, and not just because he’s my boyfriend. He’s weirdly strong.”

“I do not need to hear about your sex life,” Yoongi tells him with a grimace. Taehyung lets out a laugh at that, surprised.

“Yoongi-hyung, come here, tell Seokjin-hyung —” Jungkook starts, calling from the sofa, but he’s interrupted by an incomprehensible shriek from Seokjin.

“Clearly, I’m needed elsewhere,” Yoongi says in a sarcastic voice. He gives them a grin and a little salute as he walks off.

Jimin finds Taehyung’s hand on his waist and locks their fingers together loosely, comfortable. Taehyung sways them back and forth a little, bobbing along with the rhythm of a semi-familiar song playing from a speaker on the other side of the room. Jimin turns and matches his energy, the two of them dancing lackadaisically and sharing smiles.

 

By the countdown to midnight, Jimin is comfortably tipsy, laughing too much at everyone’s jokes, stuck to Taehyung’s side like glue. And it’s another memory rewritten, the feeling of Taehyung steady against him replacing the feeling of a handful of New Years spent reckless and lonely, wanting something he didn’t know he wanted.

When the clock strikes twelve, Taehyung abandons tradition and kisses him. It’s the hundredth time they’ve kissed today, but it still feels...purposeful. Like a conscious act of improving on the past. They stay close together afterward, both of them caught in the novelty of it, and Jimin feels a grin bloom on his face, a flush hit his cheeks.

The other are distracted, laughing about something, teasing Namjoon, maybe? But he and Taehyung are suspended there in each other’s air, noses almost touching. And quietly, just barely loud enough for Jimin to hear, Taehyung says, “You know I love you, right?”

Jimin isn’t expecting it, but it doesn’t surprise him too much, either. He nods, smile still on his face.

“Give me some time to reply to that, okay?” Jimin asks in return. He has a feeling Taehyung expected that, but he’s trying to get into the habit of saying how he feels instead of assuming Taehyung knows.

“You can have as much time as you want, Jimin. I’ll be here,” Taehyung tells him. Jimin nods again. And he knows, in the deepest, scaredest parts of him that this is it. That if anything is love, it’s this. But he’s slow and cautious by nature, after all, and he’s glad Taehyung knows that.

“Can you two knock it off? Haven’t you been fucking for like ten straight days, can’t you take a moment to be present?” Seokjin calls over to them in a faux-bitchy little voice, and Jungkook lets out a little high-pitched giggle.

“Oh, just let them be,” Namjoon argues, clearly also tipsy from the way he’s leaned against Hoseok’s chest.

“Don’t speak to me, honeymoon phase number two,” Seokjin says flatly.

“Please. Do you think they’re even capable of a honeymoon phase, with their combined anxiety levels?” Yoongi snorts, gesturing over to the Hoseok-and-Namjoon shaped pile on the couch.

“Hey!” Hoseok responds, but there’s a surprised laugh falling out of his math. Jimin joins along, turning back toward the group but letting his hand stay in place where it’s resting on Taehyung’s thigh.

 

Later in the night, after everyone managed to stumble into cabs close to three in the morning, it’s Taehyung and Jimin again, alone in the quiet warm mess they all created. Most of the lights are out, and there’s snow falling outside again, and something about the light coming in from outside and the fizzy feeling of champagne still sparkling in his head makes him grab Taehyung by the hand and lead him out to the little balcony. Taehyung giggles and follows, pliant in Jimin’s hands in a way that Jimin can’t get enough of lately.

It smells clean and fresh outside, the way winter smells, and looking at Taehyung feels so distinctly like looking at fireworks, all bright excitement and a little bit of awe. There’s that big swooping feeling in his chest again, the one that comes so often these days, the thing he’s trying not to call love.

“Happy birthday,” Jimin tells Taehyung instead of the other thing, the harder thing. That will come with time, he thinks.

“I love you,” Taehyung says in return.

The snow is cold, but Jimin feels overheated, like maybe there’s cartoon steam coming off him. He leans toward Taehyung and grips at him greedily, squeezing the soft skin at his hips. They kiss, and the motion is a little lazy this late at night, this much wine in their systems, but it feels just as needy and desperate as the first time they did it.

It’s a new year, Jimin thinks. And for the first time in a long time, he feels optimistic about that.