Namjoon wakes up with a start and rubs his eyes, not sure what woke him. He lays in his bed for a couple minutes just listening to the noises of the house when he hears it. A soft whimper. Someone is crying. Namjoon rolls to his side and quietly climbs out of bed, shivering when his feet hit the cold floor. He moves slowly down the hall, listening to see which room the sound is coming from. He hears it again and the sound pierces his heart like a dagger. It’s coming from Jimin’s room. He knocks lightly on the door and hears a muffled sob and then a sniffle.
“Jiminie? Are you okay?” he asks, heart racing with worry.
There is no answer. Namjoon waits, thinking maybe Jimin fell back asleep. He slides to the floor and sits outside the door just in case. And then he hears it again. A choked sob.
“Jimin, I’m coming in,” he says quietly, not wanting to wake anyone else. He pushes the door open and the light from the hall floods the room so that Namjoon sees Jimin curled into a ball on his bed. Even in the dim light, Namjoon can tell he is shaking. He closes the door behind him and moves to kneel beside Jimin’s bed. “What’s wrong?” he asks. His voice cracking with concern. He waits for an answer but realizes that Jimin is still asleep. Jimin lets out a soft whimper and tosses slightly.
“No! Please don’t…” Jimin mumbles, still asleep. Tears are streaming down his face and Namjoon hesitates for a split second, trying to decide how to wake him without startling him.
“Jimin…” he says. Too quiet. “Jimin…” he repeats, louder this time as he approaches him and kneels next to the bed. He sets a hand on his shoulder and squeezes gently, whispering his name over and over and trying to shake him out of his nightmare. “Wake up, Jimin… It’s just a dream… You’re okay…”
“Please don’t hurt me!” Jimin says loudly, sitting up and scrambling away from Namjoon, eyes wide. He is shaking and Namjoon steps back from the bed.
“It’s okay… You had a nightmare… You’re safe…” Namjoon says and Jimin relaxes for a split second before curling into himself and starting to sob. He covers his mouth with his hands and his whole body is trembling.
Namjoon sits on the edge of the bed, not reaching out for fear of startling him again but wanting more than anything to hold him. “What was it?” Namjoon asks against his better judgement. But maybe talking about it will help somehow.
“N-no-noth... it’s st-stupid...” Jimin says. Namjoon watches him for a minute, his chest is heaving, tears streaming down his face.
“I’m sure it’s not stupid,” Namjoon says, concern overflowing as he opens his arms to Jimin. Jimin looks at the arms held out and shakes his head.
“I… I can’t m-move,” he says before another sob breaks out of his mouth and fresh tears spill from his eyes.
Namjoon doesn’t hesitate he moves to lay down next to Jimin and wraps his arms tightly around his trembling form. He knows the feeling of crippling panic and feels his own eyes fill with tears as Jimin starts crying harder than ever.
“Why do they hate me?” Jimin asks through sobs muffled by his hand. Namjoon’s heart stills.
“E-everyone... They said they would.... threatened to... Just.... W-what d-did I d-do?” Jimin says, his voice scratchy.
“Baby… Jiminie… It was just a dream… A nightmare…” Namjoon says, setting a hand on Jimin’s chest and rubbing in soothing circles. “You’re okay… It wasn’t real…” he repeats over and over, willing himself to stay calm. Jimin bites his lip and reaches for his phone. He unlocks it and starts looking through his messages.
He hiccups as he scrolls and Namjoon scoots so that he is sitting against Jimin’s headboard and then pulls Jimin into his lap so that he is sitting against Namjoon’s chest. “I c-can’t find the messages…” Jimin says, sniffling. He is still shaking.
“What messages?” Namjoon asks.
“P-people threatening… Um, s-saying they’ll hurt me,” Jimin replies. His voice is so quiet Namjoon has to strain to hear him. He tightens his arms around him instinctively, pulling him against his chest and rubbing his arms. Jimin turns to bury his face in his chest and Namjoon can tell he is still crying. “But the messages are gone…”
“Jimin, you were asleep. There are no messages. It was a nightmare…” Namjoon replies tenderly.
“O-oh…,” Jimin says, his breath shuttering as tears continue to stream down his face. “It just felt so real,” Jimin says, checking his phone again and then tossing it away to cover his face, embarrassed. He is shaking so hard that the headboard is knocking against the wall like a bird pecking and Namjoon is desperate to find a way to comfort him.
“It’s okay… Everything is okay… I’ve got you,” Namjoon says. He turns Jimin in his lap so that he can cradle him like a baby and feels Jimin turn into him and grip him as if his life depends on it. Jimin tangles one hand in Namjoon’s oversized t-shirt and buries his face under his other arm, crying harder somehow.
“S-s-sorry hyung,” he manages to say, and he is gasping for breath, choking on his tears. Namjoon sits up slightly and props Jimin up with an arm behind his back.
“Breathe…” he says softly, over and over. Leaving one arm behind Jimin to support him, he takes his other hand and gently pries Jimin’s arm off of his face. “Hey… Look at me… You’re okay… It’s okay…” Jimin’s eyes are swollen and tear-filled, but he locks eyes with Namjoon and follows along as Namjoon counts to three and instructs him to breathe in and out. Namjoon continues to count until he feels Jimin’s breathing slow.
Jimin blinks a couple of times and wipes his eyes harshly. “I’m sorry,” he says, looking mortified.
“What are you sorry for?” Namjoon asks, pulling Jimin closer, holding him tighter.
Jimin takes a shuttered breath and then says, “Did I wake you up?”
“No,” Namjoon lies. “I was up. And besides, even if I wasn’t… You don’t have to apologize for having a nightmare, Min.”
“It felt so real…” Jimin says, burying his face in Namjoon’s chest.
“I know… I’m so sorry, Min. It sounded scary…”
“It was,” Jimin replies, sniffling and tickling Namjoon’s sternum with his nose.
“How can I take your mind off it?” Namjoon asks, running a hand through Jimin’s hair to get the tear soaked strands off his face. Jimin shrugs. He is still shaking and Namjoon thinks hard. “Do you want to try and go back to sleep?” he asks.
“No!” Jimin replies in a panic, wrapping both arms around Namjoon’s middle tightly. “Please don’t leave me!”
“I won’t leave…” Namjoon says, and he plays with Jimin’s hair. Blonde strands slide easily through his fingers, sweaty and tear soaked, but still somehow soft. After a while, Jimin takes a deep breath. He isn’t shaking anymore.
“Are you tired, hyung?” he asks, voice small.
“Can we… uhm, maybe go for a bike ride?” Jimin asks.
Namjoon is surprised at the question and furrows his brow in confusion. “Now?”
“It’s okay if you don’t want to and I know it’s stupid I was just thinking that maybe it would help me get my mind off the dream but I know it’s late and it’s cold and it’s stupid and I’m sorry—” Jimin rambles and Namjoon shushes him, pressing a finger to his pillow lips.
“Let’s do it!” Namjoon says, brushing Jimin’s hair back one more time and subconsciously leaning down to kiss him on the forehead.
“Really?” Jimin asks, eyes wide. Namjoon nods and shifts so that Jimin can sit up.
“Why not? Just let me throw some clothes on and we can go,” Namjoon says, moving again and starting to shift Jimin off his lap. Jimin’s hands grip his waist again in panic.
“Don’t leave me alone!” he says, looking into Namjoon’s eyes with surprising intensity.
“Okay, I won’t leave you,” Namjoon replies. “But you have to put some warm clothes on…”
Jimin nods and slides off Namjoon’s lap, looking back at him every couple of seconds as if expecting Namjoon to somehow disappear. He walks across the wood floor, bare feet slapping with each step and pulls clothes out of the dresser. Namjoon looks out the window while Jimin changes and doesn’t look over until Jimin clears his throat.
“Uh, I’m ready,” Jimin says.
“Okay, come with me so I can change and then we’ll go.” Namjoon extends a hand for Jimin and is surprised when instead of taking it, Jimin curls against his side, wrapping both arms around his middle and making it hard to walk. Namjoon can’t help but chuckle as he wraps his arm around Jimin and does his best to avoid stepping on his feet. Once in his room, Jimin lets go and sits on the edge of Namjoon’s bed.
“You were asleep, weren’t you?” Jimin asks, eyes narrowing as he looks at Namjoon’s clearly slept in bed and his phone on his nightstand. Namjoon blushes but ignores the question as he hunts for warm clothes in his wardrobe. He hesitates for a second before pulling his shirt off. Jimin stares, unabashed, and Namjoon feels silly for being self-conscious when Jimin has seen him without clothes hundreds of times. He pulls a pair of warm sweats on and then a pair of socks and grabs his phone from the nightstand before extending a hand again to Jimin.
“Okay, let’s do this,” Namjoon says. Jimin takes the outstretched hand and entwines their fingers as they walk quietly down the hall, careful steps to avoid waking the other members. In the entryway, Jimin pulls a black beanie over his head and Namjoon reaches for a ball cap and a face mask. They both pull sneakers on and then make their way to the elevator down to the garage level. A security guard stationed in the entry to the garage smiles at them as they make their way to the bike rack. It’s cold even in the garage and Namjoon looks at Jimin.
“You sure that’s going to be warm enough?” he asks. Jimin nods and smiles, his eyes still puffy from crying.
“Yep. Once we’re riding I’ll be fine,” Jimin says, unlocking a bike and climbing on. Namjoon does the same and they ride out of the parking garage together.
The brisk air makes Namjoon’s eyes water as they move out onto the quiet street. Seoul never sleeps, but late at night it is so peaceful. Namjoon revels in the feeling of being unwatched. He lets Jimin lead the way and unconsciously keeps an eye out for crowds or cameras. It’s probably late enough that no one will bother them. They ride the familiar path toward the river in silence, their breathing heavy over the background sounds of the city. A siren whales in the distance and Namjoon looks around, still somewhat nervous that they are out and unprotected.
“They’re open 24 hours!” Jimin calls from a few feet in front of him and he gestures to a food stall up ahead. Namjoon can smell the cinnamon and his mouth waters as they park their bikes and approach the stand. They order hotteok and a bottle of water to share and walk their bikes to a bench not far away. Jimin sits close, leaning against Namjoon as they eat in silence, passing the water back and forth. When they finish, Namjoon takes the trash to a bin and returns to sit next to Jimin.
“Feeling any better?” he asks, eyes searching Jimin’s face.
“Much… Thanks, hyung. I really do feel silly for getting so upset…”
“Don’t…” Namjoon says, reaching for Jimin’s face and changing his mind with his hand halfway there, pretending to pick a fuzz off Jimin’s beanie instead. “It’s okay to be scared sometimes,” he says.
“Thanks, hyung. For everything. For always taking care of me because I am such a mess,” Jimin says. His voice is light but Namjoon doesn’t miss the self-deprecation in the words.
“You don’t need me to take care of you,” Namjoon says, and he lifts his hand again, this time brave enough to pull Jimin’s mask down slightly so he can see his whole face. “And you’re not a mess.” He trails his fingers along Jimin’s jawline and stares hard at him, deep in thought but somehow not really sure what he is thinking about. He feels Jimin shift slightly and snaps out of his reverie, dropping his hand and blushing hard. “Sorry…”
Jimin reaches for his hand. His fingers are cold and they close tightly around Namjoon’s wrist. “Don’t stop,” Jimin whispers, taking the mask all the way off and leaning closer. Namjoon lifts both hands and cups Jimin’s face, watching Jimin lick his lips and feeling his stomach swoop like he is falling down stairs. A police car passes behind them, sirens blaring and Namjoon bites his lip and pulls back.
“Should we… uh, should we stay out and watch the sunrise?” he asks, dropping his hands once again and suddenly feeling nervous. “I know a good spot.”
Jimin nods. His eyes lock with Namjoon’s and Namjoon clears his throat in an attempt to clear his head before he stands and goes to the spot they left their bikes.
“It’s not far,” Namjoon says as he swings a leg over his bike and waits for Jimin to do the same. He kicks off and pedals hard, heading up the hill and away from the river. He tries to concentrate on anything but can’t stop thinking about the way Jimin’s tongue slid across his lips and the look in his eyes. The sky around them lightens slowly as they continue to pedal. Namjoon looks back frequently to make sure Jimin is okay, but hesitates as they approach an overlook when he sees cars in the road. “Jimin, you go ahead of me,” he calls, and he rides off to the side to let Jimin pass. There are people here, despite the late hour and Namjoon hopes that his spot will be empty. “Go to the left,” he calls after Jimin and they pedal further up the hill to a spot which is thankfully completely deserted. The sky is a light blue now and Namjoon smiles at their timing as he tugs his mask off. He can see his breath freezing in the winter air as he huffs and tries to catch his breath.
“It’s beautiful!” Jimin says. He is walking in circles and marveling at the fact that they can see the whole city from here.
“I come here to write sometimes,” Namjoon says, propping his bike on the kickstand and sitting on a wooden bench. Jimin continues to stare in the direction of the rising sun and Namjoon simply watches in silence. The moon is still hovering in the sky above and Namjoon smiles to himself thinking about the last song he wrote from this place. He closes his eyes and leans back against the bench. The sounds of the city are barely audible from here and for the first time in a while he feels completely free.
“What are you thinking about?” Jimin asks, sitting down on the bench next to Namjoon. Namjoon keeps his eyes closed and feels Jimin’s hand on his thigh, pinky finger brushing his own. His stomach flips and he tries hard not to blush.
“Nothing really,” Namjoon replies. “Sometimes it’s nice not to think… You know? Just to pretend like nothing matters and be carefree…” He feels Jimin shifting next to him and opens his eyes to see Jimin’s face inches from his own.
“Yeah…” Jimin says, and he smiles so that his eyes disappear. “It would be nice not to think all the time… To just… be able to live… To do whatever we want…” he says. He is leaning against Namjoon now, his hands pressed against Namjoon’s chest and suddenly Namjoon can’t breathe. He can almost taste Jimin’s breath and can’t stop looking at his lips.
“It’s hard…” Namjoon says. “Not to… Not to... to worry…” he mumbles, losing his train of thought. He feels like his brain is fogging with each breath he takes. Jimin is so close.
“Can we just pretend for a minute?” Jimin asks, his voice shaking slightly.
“To be normal? Can we pretend that no one cares what we do and that what we want actually matters? Pretend that I don’t have nightmares because of sasaengs…” he takes a deep breath. “Pretend that we are out tonight because you wanted to be with me and not because I woke up crying—”
Namjoon surges forward and presses his lips hard against Jimin’s, catching him by surprise. It takes Jimin a second to recover before he is returning the pressure and wrapping his arms around Namjoon’s neck, making Namjoon shiver. The kiss lasts only seconds, closed mouthed and chaste, but somehow the sparks in Namjoon’s chest are now a raging fire. He pulls back and opens his eyes, smiling when he sees that Jimin is smiling. He looks shy and his cheeks are pink, whether from the cold or from blushing Namjoon isn’t sure. He lifts a hand to Jimin’s jaw and brushes his cheek with his thumb. “I’m not pretending,” he whispers.
“What?” Jimin whispers back.
Namjoon answers by pressing forward again, tasting Jimin’s lips as the smallest gasp escapes them. He covers Jimin’s mouth with his own, stomach swooping as his lips part and he feels Jimin’s do the same. He traces the line of Jimin’s lips with his tongue and feels the wet heat of Jimin’s tongue dart into his mouth. He grabs Jimin’s waist and pulls him onto his lap, desperate for him to be closer, wanting Jimin to know how much he wants him. Trying to put every ounce of feeling into the kiss and knowing that it will never be enough, he slips his hands under Jimin’s hoodie and Jimin shudders at the feeling of his cold hands. His skin is impossibly soft and Namjoon groans with want, squeezing Jimin’s sides hard and trying to pull him somehow closer. Jimin’s hands hold Namjoon’s face and he nips gently at Namjoon’s bottom lip. Their tongues slide together sloppily, wet and desperate like two people who have waited too long for this moment. Their teeth bump in their fervor and Jimin giggles, pulling back just slightly.
His lips are swollen, shining and Namjoon feels a rush of helplessness, unable to think of anything but the person in front of him. He kisses Jimin again, soft, slow and feels Jimin melt into him completely. And Namjoon knows he’s not pretending and that this is what’s real. This is the first time that he feels like he is being honest. He feels exposed and vulnerable. Like his soul is laid bare for Jimin to see. He hopes Jimin understands. Hoping against all hope that Jimin feels the same. He presses their foreheads together as if he can somehow pass his thoughts to Jimin that way. Jimin smiles. It’s shy and sweet and Namjoon’s chest feels like a thousand birds are beating their wings and trying to escape.
They stay like that until the sun peaks over the horizon, its blinding light the only thing that could stop Namjoon from looking at Jimin, memorizing his face. He squints against the light and just like that, Jimin moves away. Namjoon feels the loss instantly, a pit forming in his stomach as Jimin stands and turns to face the sunrise. He watches Jimin watch the sun and wishes he could read his mind. He realizes he is holding his breath and lets out a deep sigh to get some air. When Jimin turns, Namjoon watches his face, desperate for some clue as to what Jimin is thinking. Jimin doesn’t speak. He looks happier than Namjoon has seen him in a long time and as he moves, Namjoon’s mouth goes dry and he stands, moving to take one of Jimin’s hands.
“Of every thought I’ve had about you, and there’ve been millions… The one that never occurred to me was that my mind wasn’t exaggerating,” he whispers, unable to speak any louder for fear that his voice will crack. “Jimin, you’re incredible. And I really really like you,” he says, feeling silly. It feels like a middle school confession but he just can’t stand not knowing if Jimin feels the same way.
Jimin nods and his eyes disappear into his smile. He takes two more steps closer and wraps both arms around Namjoon’s neck, before standing on tip toes and kissing Namjoon gently on the lips. “I like you too, Joonie…” he says, dropping to stand flat footed again and pulling Namjoon close so that he can rest his head on his chest. Namjoon feels like fireworks are going off in his head. He can’t believe that Jimin likes him back. He is literally stunned into silence and can do nothing but watch the sun climb the sky behind Jimin’s head. “I’m not dreaming this time, right?” Jimin asks.
Namjoon looks down and kisses him on the nose before replying, “Nope. This time you’re wide awake.”