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When You Touch Me (I Die Just a Little Inside)

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There’s a responsibility everyone feels toward the youngest member, Jimin understands—so when Yoongi stays up all night to finish a track, he’s driven and an adult, and also functions the best on minimal sleep, and while Namjoon might check on him, or Hoseok might play enforcer and lug him back around three, they leave him to his own devices. But, when Jimin wants to practice until the same time, their newest album playing on repeat, he’s lucky to last until one.

“You’re perfect already, Jiminie,” Taehyung laughs, slinging an arm around his neck.

Jimin bobs to the side with Taehyung’s additional weight, smiling with him, though his eyes are in the distance, imagining the next steps to the uninterrupted song, until Jeongguk clicks off the music.

“Maybe not perfect,” he begins, somber façade cracking when Jimin shoots him a murderous glare, Jeongguk bursting into laughter. “But if you outstrip us during practice, what are you going to do? Stare at Taehyung’s flat ass the entire time?”

“Yah, Jeon Jeongguk!” Abandoning the maknae, Taehyung chases his same-age friend around the dance studio, leaving Jimin to scowl through his blush, knowing they wouldn’t leave until he went with them. A bolder part of him wants to correct Jeongguk and profess Taehyung’s ass isn’t the one he’d watch, but the moment is lost in their whooping, culminating in Taehyung almost tackling Jeongguk.

Jimin strides over to snag his water bottle, eyes finding Jeongguk’s butt in the mirror, which he forlornly watches until Taehyung catches him, eyebrows raising suggestively.

Scowling at his hyung, Jimin snaps his gaze away, resenting being placed in a band with six stupid boys—until the warm scent of takeout greets him back at their dorm, Yoongi insistent that Jimin eat some before bed.

 

--

 

Really, it started around their first music show win—when his drive crested a hill, unveiling a reality where they could create and put on shows, and actually earn a net profit for themselves. In the years prior to “I Need U” era, while Jimin enjoyed performing more than anything, he was a passive observer in his own success. Droves of fans turned out for the fansigns and events, their fanbase loyal like any other, but somehow Jimin never felt like he deserved the adoration.

Once they started winning, Jimin began to believe that his efforts were getting him somewhere, despite knowing their collective success depended on so many factors—the least of all him individually. His dreams are haunted by his friends from back home texting or calling and asking, “I thought you joined a boyband? Oh, you did? Never heard of them.”

Cold, callous, entirely false—but Jimin cried a lot in those early days, sure he wasn’t good enough, sure that if he just worked harder, that BTS could make it big. His hyungs, who spent years trying to get noticed on their own, deserved it. They worked so hard, and when they were dieted within an inch of their lives, the company determining that they look hot even at the cost of their heath, his hyungs would slip him convenience store kimbap, noodles—scared because, for as little as they ate, he would eat less. He would dance out of love until his feet fell off, but something more possessed him in those early days.

Big, beautiful Seoul overwhelmed him, and he didn’t know how to talk to these hyungs—these men who came out there while he was still in school to chase their dreams, these respectable people who would do anything, even join a boyband, for a chance that people might hear their music or their voices.

In those early days, where Jimin only emerged from his own obsession to feign normalcy for the fans, his hyungs would tug him to meals, remind him to sleep, guide him and snap at him for his own lack of self-preservation, only to embrace him when he would cry.

And while they all would brush a hand through his hair, warning him in increasingly warm tones about the importance of sustaining yourself through the hard times, only Jeongguk’s familiar, abbreviated, rounded Busan accent alleviated the homesickness. Because, at the heart of it, he worried about uprooting his life and future opportunities to come to Seoul, while mourning the lack of salt in the air and the crisp, smooth accent derived from a difference in attitudes.

“You have a Seoulite’s attitude,” his mother always chided him when she would catch him dancing late at night in his room, “just focus on schoolwork and everything will come together.”

Plenty of times before their coveted “I Need U” recognition, Jeongguk would find him slumped against the mirror in their practice room, the reflective surface clouded with steam from his hot back, and he would crouch next to him.

“We’ll get there, Jiminie.” He would promise, voice rough from the long hours of vocal practice. “Don’t work yourself to death before we get there.”

Normally, he would brush off those kinds of concerns from his hyungs, but when Jeongguk would say them, his eyes would close so he could saver the way Jeongguk shaped his words. Around the others, he uses the proper vowels, removing one subject that variety hosts could tease him about, but with Jimin, they both know he’d never give it up for a cheap joke.

Then, a hand would card up through his hair, the motion so gentle that Jimin cried the first few times Jeongguk did them, which stopped the touches until Jimin confessed that the tears were appreciative.

“You’ve got your whole future ahead of you, kid,” he murmurs. “You’re going to smoke all the hyungs who think they’re better than you.”

“Yah,” he grumbles, cracking an eye open, “not a kid.”

Jeongguk’s expression splits into a bright grin. “Sure, Jimin.”

More encouraging words might have been in his future, but a second wind of energy surges through him, and he smacks Jeongguk, fleeing when his hyung aims to retaliate.

He sleeps early that night, the scent of Jeongguk’s shampoo clinging to his palate, Jimin giggling to himself, feeling safe, yet flustered, as he snagged it on a whim, despite knowing his hyung doesn’t like sharing his things. Possible retribution is worth falling asleep, wreathed in the familiar scent, limbs more relaxed than they’d ever been, since he came to Seoul.

 

--

 

Fans converge around them almost everywhere they go, even if their faces are covered by hats, face masks, and sunglasses. They can identify them by their accessories or body shapes, and despite their mummified faces, the fans can and still want to snap pictures of their outfits. Jimin adores the attention and dresses up for them, but on days where his only chance for sleep is on their flight, Jimin just can’t deal with the bustle.

One day, on their way out for their Japanese Danger promotions, he trips, falls behind the protective circle of his hyungs, and the fans descend upon him, shrieking for their “oppa” even though he knows most of them can’t be younger than him, couldn’t pursue him on a school day all the way to the airport, and the conglomerate of heat and perfume scent overwhelms him.

“Hyung,” his voice cracks, Jimin unsure who he’s calling for, the constant flashing of cameras building in his chest to what feels like a sob.

The next thing he knows, a body forces its way past the masses, the girls’ eyes all wide, flecked with stars as Jeongguk wraps a protective arm around him, drawing the maknae to him as he guides them back to the others. Taehyung, the only one sans sunglasses, shares a panicked glance with their manager, unsure why Jimin fell back.

Not wanting the fans to get in trouble, Jimin waves to them and a majority squeal, before Sejin ushers them on, the man thankfully sticking to his free side, as Jeongguk refuses to vacate his supportive position even as they board the plane.

When they collapse into their seats, Jeongguk seated to block Jimin from the aisle, he finally asks, “Are you alright? What was up with that?”

“I tripped.” He leans his head against the back of the seat, exhaustion churning in his gut, like a creeping, consuming sickness. “I’m alright.”

“Are you sure?” Jeongguk removes his sunglasses, tucks them up under his hat, and rests his hand on Jimin’s forearm.

Gaze flickering to where their arms brushed, Jimin swallows, emotion welling in him, and he finds himself admitting, “No. I’ve been feeling awful all day.”

“Sick?” Jeongguk’s eyes widen, so doe-like, and Jimin wishes vehemently for them to stay like that. Even though the man shot up in height over the past year and showed no signs of his growth slowing, it would break Jimin’s heart if his hyung ever grew into his eyes.

“Not physically.”

“Oh.” Jeongguk’s fingers slip under his hand, clinging to him with a gentle grip. “I’m here if you like, need anything, you know?”

Unable to find the words, instead focused on how his heart rate kicked up, rapid at the sensation of Jeongguk’s longer fingers slipping around his, Jimin exhales, hums in agreement.

“You can even lean on me, if you want?”

Risking a glance in the elder’s direction, Jimin swallows his pride, throat dry, wishing he could summon a stewardess for water already, and lays his head against Jeongguk’s shoulder, the sensation warming his chest, chasing the melancholy away for his lingering moments awake.

It’s not a long flight, but he wakes up feeling slightly more whole than he had in his own bed.

 

--

 

From those small moments of comfort, Jimin’s problem compounds in interviews, at awards shows—anything where he can’t hide from Jeongguk in performances or behind instructors. Not that he avoids him; when they’re together, Jimin can’t keep his hands off him and leans into his space, or clings to his arm when bored or just in the mood to annoy him. Because, when he finally breaks Jeongguk, the man swats at him or chases him around, a surefire way to draw laughter from their workaholic maknae.

During award shows, he fights not to press their knees together beneath the table, cheeks flushing as his knees only reach halfway to Jeongguk’s, height evened out, but not forgotten, beneath the tablecloths. And, when Taehyung and Yoongi steal the spots beside Jeongguk, he spends the show pouting, shooting sullen glances at the others, until Hoseok or Seokjin draw him out of his stupor with silly jokes, or Namjoon warns about an incoming camera.

After later recollection, Jimin can define the exact moment the members’ understanding of the situation morphed from mere favoritism to something more.

In an interview for their first Japanese album, each member is questioned about their ideal types, and Jimin answers that height doesn’t matter too much to him, and that the ideal feature of a significant other would be their compatibility.

“She would have to feel like home,” Jimin extrapolates. “Warm and loving and supportive.”

No one thought anything of that, even Jimin, despite the “she” tasting leaden in his mouth.

Then, in an interview for a show, the hosts ask Jimin, Yoongi, and Jeongguk who they would want a hypothetical sister of theirs to date in their group.

Jimin pretends to consider it, but replies in the vein of what the company would prefer, his choice not at all dictated by wanting any of his hyungs to himself: “I would want my sister to date Seokjin-hyung. His cooking is unreal, and I could come over and eat it whenever I wanted.”

The members cackle, Seokjin swatting at him, his sweet laughter ringing out when Jeongguk agrees, joking that he was going to say Hoseok, but Seokjin’s cooking changed his mind.

That day, compared to the interview when questioned who they would date, if they were a girl, where Jeongguk answers Seokjin, Jimin couldn’t uphold his natural smile, his lips aching from attempting to maintain decorum.

Instead of his original answer, his mind blanking, he informs the host, with a serious nod, that he would date himself.

“I’m the cutest, I know what I like, and I’m friendly and warm.” He smiles, tone and expression pleasant, forcing himself not to glance at the other members, who choke and laugh at his words. Someone elbows him, but he shrugs, unwilling to break while under the scrutiny of television show cameras. Later, Namjoon would approach him, but waves him off, muttering about being tired, unwilling to extract his pride and whine about Jeongguk choosing Seokjin over him.

Attempting to drag him out of his funk, Yoongi invites him to his studio under the premise of singing some vocals for a track he produced, an old dream between the two of them, and possibly the only request that Jimin would accept for the grilling he knew his hyung would subject him to.

As expected, after two hours of work, Yoongi fetches a bottle of water from a minifridge, calling a temporary pause, so Jimin could rest his voice.

Energized and sweaty, he collapses back against Yoongi’s comfy couch, anticipating the third-degree, and sighing softly when his hyung delivers.

“What’s with you and Jeongguk? You haven’t looked at him in about a week, which I would find impressive if you both weren’t sulking.”

Jimin pouts, glances up at Yoongi through his eyelashes. “I haven’t been sulking.”

“Put those away,” the rapper sighs, yanking his cap off his head, hand ruffling his freshly dyed hair. “By trying to get out of it, you just confirmed it—you realize that?”

“Hyung,” he begins, but Yoongi shakes his head, stopping him.

“Whatever it is, I’m your last warning before Namjoon sits you both down for a talk.”

Scowling, Jimin prepares himself to rebuff more comments, but Yoongi goes quiet after his last sentence, draining the rest of his bottle of water, knowing his message is received.

 

--

 

Back when BTS was an idea, rather than a solidified concept, Jeongguk was the slender, petite one: despite Jeongguk beating Jimin out in height by a smidgen, Jimin danced for years and sported the muscular, tight body as the result of parents who assumed he would try for Julliard, perform in Russian ballets. They never dreamed his thirst for dancing and attention would guide him to one of the cruelest public professions, but they also never grasped the depths of Jimin’s obsession. He didn’t just want to dance for a living; he wanted to do it in the shower, in his sleep, surrounded by those that wanted it just as much as he.

And sure; Hoseok felt the same about dancing, and the rest of them shared his thirst for rapping, or singing, or producing, or experiences (and riches), but as they all aged around him, growing into their industry, Jeongguk shot up, surprising them all with his decision to exercise, as if it would give him some control over his body that idoldom had taken from him.

The first time Jimin notices the fruits of Jeongguk’s obsession, he’s awake far too early for their schedule, having slid into bed long before the others the night prior due to a debilitating headache. After a reflective minute, he rises to fetch a glass of water, a burning sensation behind his eyes combining with the dryness in his mouth to urge him forward. Without noticing the other empty bed in his room.

Shuffling into their kitchen, he pauses at the sight of the fridge already open, broad shoulders and chest backlit by the exposed lightbulb, the figure that has to be Seokjin, with his damn body type, but isn’t.

Jimin freezes, blinking dumbly as the man drinks straight from the carton of milk, his throat bobbing with each swallow, a pair of boxers low on his hips, as if to taunt Jimin with the potential of more. The lack of hair that Jimin knows Jeongguk shaves.

“Seokjin’s gonna kill you.”

Startling, Jeongguk chokes on his mouthful, one hand pressing to his chest as he wheezes, attempting to catch his breath, to the delight of Jimin. Tiny giggles escape as he waits to ensure the other can breathe before mocking him.

“Fucking hell, Jimin,” he grits out when the coughing subsides.

“What? It’s the truth.”

“It’s also three am.” Jeongguk squints in the bright light and kicks the door shut, plunging the room back into darkness, lit faintly from the light pollution their blinds couldn’t cut out. “What are you doing up?”

The darkness lends an intimacy to the warmth of the air, Jimin’s arms wrapping around himself nevertheless, chills consuming him, the contrast between Jeongguk’s bare skin and his dark boxers still distinguishable with his glasses on.

“I—” he turns to face back toward their bedroom, “just woke up early. Went to bed too early last night.”

“Yeah, are you feeling any better?”

Jimin hears him approach, but doesn’t dare look, only realizing how he condemned himself when a pair of arms curl around his waist, a strong, sturdy mountain pressing to his back. Jeongguk was privy to backhugs at events, as he enjoyed pressing all of his weight onto the maknae, until Jimin would stagger, or, more often, he would brace himself and bear his weight, an unstoppable force meeting his immovable stubbornness.

Now, Jeongguk’s chin on his shoulder, Jimin’s mind short-circuits, body flushing to match a burning face, and he snaps, “What are you doing?”

Instead of pouting, Jeongguk pinches his side, snickering when Jimin yelps and tries to jolt away. “You didn’t answer me. I’m worried.”

“Jeon Jeongguk—”

“That’s hyung to you, brat. First poor Seokjin-hyung, now me. Are you older than us all in your dreams?”

He smells like his shampoo and soap, like a clean, teenage boy—a simple pleasure Jimin never experienced, having leapt without looking back into his career, figuring he would have time for girls and dating when he was rich, when he achieved his dreams. Those magazines his schoolmates always carried with them, declaring the best way to find their “dream man” bespoke of opportunities falling at the right, or during carefully cultivated moments. Romance could happen to anyone at any time—like some morbid matchmaker’s version of “the end is nigh.” Falling in love would come to you; in fact, it could drop into your lap at any moment.

Jimin trembles within Jeongguk’s arms with the sheer force of want that slams through him, loving how safe he feels within the confines of the man’s touches, knowing he could never admit it.

“Jiminie?”

A pregnant pause passes and Jimin sighs. “I’m fine. Please let me go.”

Jeongguk hangs on, as expected, the elder man confused and disbelieving his assertion, but they play a dangerous game that Jimin knows in his biology, but not in his own head. A game Jimin is too frightened to continue.

“Let go.”

He might protest, the hands on his stomach loosening their grip, Jeongguk’s pretty lips curving down as he tries to understand, cogs firing at full throttle, but Jimin insists, says again, “Let go,” and finally, Jeongguk does, arms falling limp like those of a cut marionette.

The flooring is cool beneath his feet and Jimin strides forward, hands clenched at his sides as he retreats to their shared bedroom, banking on Hoseok’s presence to abate any further questioning. Jeongguk might have poised his support to avoid overwhelming the maknae, but his touch, the heat of his body, like a damn furnace, seared through him, rendering him a few hours of pretending, until he could warrant rising for a shower without worrying the other members.

 

--

 

Distance ebbs and flows between them as they prepare for their next comeback, the pair unable to avoid each other amid dance and vocal practices, and every other bout of madness that comes with maintaining a public image in the ephemeral, ruthless scene of pop music.

They are thrust onto shows, Jimin careening from his aegyo impressions, to the newest fad induced by Twice’s Sana, to sexual, pelvic-thrusting, adapted girl-group dances. His crowd wreathes for him, screams and yearns for him with obvious hunger that embarrasses Jimin as much as it builds him up. He cannot believe they choose to watch him—cheer for him, when there are Hoseok and Taehyung and Yoongi and Namjoon and Seokjin and Jeongguk.

Oh, Jeongguk.

Part of him revels in the attention, while another only waits for Jeongguk to take his turn, attempting to sex-ify Red Velvet’s latest single, just as caught in his sharp, smooth motions as the crowd. As if he hadn’t seen Jeongguk rehearse those very moves over and over that morning.

Despite himself and the barrier he chose to erect, he “wow”s with the rest of the crowd, clapping and bouncing over to his hyung once he finishes, and they return to their seats.

Being an idol means training for everything—including camera-certified behavior and speech, so while Jimin catches the flicker of surprise in his hyung’s eyes when he pats the man’s butt, Jeongguk grins at him and lets his hand rest on Jimin’s knee when they settle. To anyone else, it would appear a casual touch between friends—to some fangirls, perhaps a conduit to imagine Jeongguk touching them like that—but only Jimin could feel the rigidity in his hand.

Hyung or no, Jeongguk had no more clue how to handle the other night than Jimin.

 

--

 

Sleeping in the vans home, or hiding amongst one of the five other members, Jimin upholds his distance from his favorite hyung for another week, burying himself in choreo and the damn high note in his pre-chorus, until, as per-usual, one of the elder boys steps in.

Perhaps sensing he would run if Namjoon approachs him, Seokjin waits for him by their stove, the delectable fragrance of cooking meat luring him in like rats to a pipe.

“What are you cooking?” Jimin inhales, mouth watering as he closes in on his hyung.

“Dinner,” Seokjin says, head turning to glance at the maknae. “It should be done in a few minutes, if you’d like some?”

Nodding, he settles at their table and plays around on his phone, searching himself on the internet and blushing when he discovers a forum screaming over their last live performance, and how many people (not just girls) are swooning over his body. Honestly, for as many people that accuse him of a bloated face or plastic surgery, the legions of fans soothed that hurt. It overwhelms him to think how many people find him attractive, but that is one thing he no longer worries about.

When he’s in shape, at least.

Seokjin transfers the strips of meat to a long plate, the steady clinking luring him into a false sense of security, until his hyung sets the plate down in the center of the table, along with a separate plate of the leaf wraps and two bowls of rice.

“Is it just us?” Jimin’s eyebrows bunch together with concern.

“Yup.” Seokjin offers him a cheerful smile as he removes his apron, hangs it up, and then takes the other seat.

Alarm bells ringing, Jimin shakes his head, not willing to abandon Seokjin’s cooking just because he senses an incoming lecture, and takes a pair of proffered chopsticks, beginning to assemble some meat strips onto a wrap.

Seokjin copies him, and the paranoia is its own pulse in his head, anticipation cramping his motions as he transfers some cooked garlic and green peppers over top, bringing the creation to his lips. He takes one bite, eyes shutting with bliss, and Seokjin asks, “Do you like it?”

“Mm,” he moans, not bothering to look at his hyung.

Chuckling, they eat in contented silence for a few long beats, before Seokjin begins, “You know, you’ve seemed off lately. Is it anything you’d like to talk to hyung about?”

Jimin freezes, hands clenching around his wrap, and he shakes his head, cheeks puffed out from the amount of food in his mouth.

Chuckling, Seokjin assembles another wrap, and breezes on, “It can’t be easy to grow up in an industry like this. You haven’t dated anyone since you came to Seoul, right?”

Cheeks flaming, Jimin’s mind jolting to a few Music Bank shows where he spent extra hours on his knees, or with the hot, plush lips of his sunbaes on his, he protests weakly, “I’ve fooled around with plenty of people, hyung.”

“Everyone fools around, Jiminie. I’m saying, you haven’t dated anyone.”

That Jimin nods to, and Seokjin hums, “I’m not trying to insult you, but that means you’ve never had a long-term, serious relationship. You moved here when you were fourteen, yeah? So it makes sense if romantic feelings scare you.”

“What are you talking about?” He blusters, fingers clenching around his chopsticks.

“Jiminie,” Seokjin pauses, setting his food down. “You like Jeongguk, right?”

His heart seizes in his chest, Jimin’s eyes widen, and he shakes his head, frantic to deny such an absurd claim. “Of course not! I mean, I like all of you. You all take such good care of me.”

“Why are you afraid to admit it?” Seokjin props his elbow on the table, leans against his hand. He doesn’t seem frustrated, his gaze hovering somewhere between sad and disappointed. “You know us: We would never judge you for it, even if Jeongguk doesn’t feel the same way.”

And Seokjin, damn him, knew what his words would do, as they rip a hole in Jimin’s chest, unveiling the fear that runs deeper than simple homophobia. Jeongguk couldn’t love him, couldn’t want to hold him close, because when a facsimile of the population liked boys, he already met the quota for their band.

“That’s a cliché, hyung,” he pouts. “Just because I dance—”

“Jimin.”

“If he liked me, and we got caught, it would ruin us,” Jimin cuts through the bullshit, knowing Seokjin could outlast him, would follow him until he forced the conversation out of him. “All of us—not just me and him. BTS would be done for, even if you managed to come back after kicking us out. I mean, it’d be nice to see you get more lines,” Seokjin snorted, “but it would kill our rising popularity and I can’t do that to you guys.” He grabs for his wrap, biting into it with a vengeance. “Besides, he’s never expressed any interest.”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Seokjin chides him, smiling gently when it elicits a snort from the maknae. “And I can’t speak for the other members, but Jeongguk…have you seen him with girls? Whether he likes them or not, he can’t talk to them normally or look them in the eyes unless he rehearses it and builds himself up. I’m not saying that makes him gay, but at the very least, that implies he wouldn’t be the best with boys, who aren’t socially acceptable to like.”

Seokjin spoons up a mouthful of rice. “You can’t assume with him. I know that’s hard to hear, but you need to talk to him. The distance between you two is hurting everyone.”

After chewing, waiting for a response, and not getting one, Seokjin finishes, reaching across the table to take Jimin’s hand, “And as for us…why did you join BigHit?”

“To be famous,” he answers automatically, “to be able to dance and be praised for it and make plenty of money, so I can take good care of my parents and myself.” Easy; the mantra he repeats to himself on the hardest days, or hungriest nights.

“Why did you want to dance?”

Jimin squints at him. “Because I love it and I’m good at it. And if I’m not good enough, I’ll work until I am.”

“Exactly. You did this because it makes you happy. Money and success are one thing, but you thought dancing would make you happy, yes?”

“Yes?”

Seokjin rises to fetch two glasses from the cabinet, filling both with water, speaking once the faucet quiets, “Why would you deny yourself happiness, if that was the point of this in the first place?”

“I don’t need Jeongguk to be happy,” he protests.

Seokjin drains his, places the second in front of Jimin. “Perhaps not. But that doesn’t mean you deserve to be miserable without him.”

Staring into the glass, Jimin listens as his hyung implores, “At least talk to him. Tell him how you feel and let it all go.”

“Someone loses no matter what he says,” Jimin whispers, but Seokjin only leans down to hug him, words unnecessary when they both know he has gotten through to Jimin.

 

--

 

Things return to normal in stages; Jimin begs food off Jeongguk’s plate, petitions for him when they debate what movie to watch, and has begun meeting his eyes when he feels the man’s gaze on him. Smiles are the next step—the pair exchanging them with increasing brightness until Jimin hides in his hands, stomach swimming with excitement, as his chest aches with warning. Nothing has changed about the acceptability of his feelings, no matter what Seokjin said.

Jeongguk clings to him as they travel to their fansign for the day, hanging over his shoulders like a backpack, and Jimin huffs at him. “Aren’t you the hyung? You’re acting like a child.”

He pinches Jimin’s side as they part, climbing into their van, and Jimin squawks, flailing and kicking at his hyung as he steps into the car, nearly falling when Jeongguk grabs his ankle and pulls, only releasing him at the sharp, tired words of Sejin, Namjoon backing him up with a slight shake of his head.

Jimin announces that Jeongguk is his worst hyung and plants himself between Taehyung and Hoseok, despite the position ensuring no sleep for the ride, unless some miracle would knock them both out.

Needless to say, he spends an hour listening to Hoseok and Taehyung sing along to the music playing over the speakers, the latter enthusiastic as he tells Jimin about the newest episode of some anime that he finished the night prior.

Jeongguk, the lucky bastard, sleeps the entire ride with his earphones in, his head resting on Namjoon’s shoulder, who might have dozed off at one point, but somehow still chides Hoseok every time his voice peaks too high. Jimin tries to listen to his hyungs, but oftentimes, as they lose themselves in the harmonies of the latest VIXX single, he locates Jeongguk’s peaceful, soft features in the rearview mirror.

When they arrive, they clamber out and yawn as a collective, most members sleeping anew as their stylists primp and paint them, Jimin staying awake only long enough to guide his coordinator, guilt shimmering at the edges of his mind as he coaxes the noona to paint his lips a sinful pink, his eye makeup sultry to contrast.

“It looks like you’re going on stage,” she laughs, picking out a normal, white button-up. “It’s okay, I’ll tidy you up.”

“What if I wanted to look like a heartthrob?” He pouts, it shifting into a scowl as she giggles.

“Why are you like this?” He whines, as she affixes a pink flower accessory to his collar.

“Hush,” she pats his shoulder, “you look like a blooming flower. You’ll know ‘em dead.”

Jimin mutters that he hopes so, but soon enough, it’s show time and they emerge to their long table, the dreaded markers indicating where they would sit. Staff usher them to their spots, and Jimin swallows his deluge of nerves when Jeongguk settles to his right, Yoongi to his left, unlikely to distract or save Jimin since he’d been privy to his feelings for a while now.

Within easy reach, Jeongguk’s hand finds his thigh beneath the table, squeezing as the queue opens, allowing the girls up, the first squeaking to Namjoon with enthusiasm, professing her undying admiration for his skills, and begging him to write a cute message just for her. Unfazed by the usual adoration, Namjoon beams at her and writes that she’s as cute as Ryan (gag).

Without thinking about it, he glances at Jeongguk, not needing to speak for the elder to guess his thoughts, and they hide laughter behind their hands. Jeongguk swipes at him after a moment, causing his laughter to stutter out in louder bursts, flashes blinking in his peripheral vision as fans snap pictures of their “cute bromance.”

As if a bucket of cold water had been thrown over him, Jimin sobers, and by the time the fan settles in front of him, his poker face steals control, and he smiles at her, focusing on her being first in line. Not to gloat, but to be first in line, she must have waited since early in the morning, before they even arrived, and he could admire such tenacity. This girl is going places.

He signs her album, listens intently as she praises his skills, how he works so hard, and he returns the compliments, vowing to her that if “a lump like me” could succeed, then she could defeat any hardships in her life.

The fan recoils, stunned by his open encouragement, and her eyes well up, panic surging through Jimin for a moment, before she bows a full 90 degrees, drawing the attention of Yoongi, Jeongguk, and some staff, the girl thanking him three times before shifting to speak with Yoongi, who casts him a curious, disparaging look before he smiles at her.

Jimin slips into his fansign mindset, his giddiness and playful nature seizing him as they usually do, the side of him that loves to perform well for a crowd driving him to aid a fan in settling a flower crown atop Yoongi’s gray hair.

His hyung casts him a deliberate look, threatening retribution in the cool way he cultivated over the years, and Jimin giggles with the girl, taking her hand and never seeing the Cony headband until she plunks it onto his head, left vulnerable by his imagined solidarity. He doesn’t have to look at Yoongi to see the smug upturn of his lips, but he does swat at Jeongguk when he laughs.

“Don’t be mean, oppa!” The girl chides Jeongguk, or perhaps them both. “Jimin oppa looks so cute!”

“He does,” Jeongguk agrees, his cheeks bunching, unveiling the youthful softness that he likes disavowing as the hyung. “The bunny’s almost as squishy as he is.”

Just for that, every fan after that girl who offered a headband to Jeongguk would have the item stolen after they’d pass, Jimin shuffling the headbands as he saw fit, finally stopping with a delicate flower crown, ribbons trailing from the back. Jeongguk’s stupidly large hands grasp his own, preventing him from swapping it with a felt, bear-eared headband.

“Jiminie,” he murmurs, voice low to prevent the fans from hearing, the tone skittering through him like a cold wind.

“What?”

Time slows, hands slide down Jimin’s arms, burning even through the long sleeves, and despite the early summer heat and humidity, Jimin doesn’t mind. Instead, his training saves him, and he yanks his hands free, shooting Jeongguk a pouting frown, so that any fans (all the fans) that caught the exchange could peg it to the maknae harassing his elder until Jeongguk stopped him.

But, they don’t see Jeongguk’s hands, one settling on his own lap, while the other envelops Jimin’s right thigh, squeezing the hard muscle. It would feel supportive, or even like a warning, if his fingers didn’t trail over his slacks, nails a faint threat through the thin material.

Gulping, he casts a quick glance upward, but Jeongguk is greeting the next fan, another in an endless line, and he clenches his hands in his lap, forcing his mind to the event, away from the slow, upward path Jeongguk traces.

When the organizers call a halt for a performance, Jimin leaps away from Jeongguk’s touch, fearful of where his hyung’s hand might have ended up. He could have brushed him off at any opportunity, or beseeched Yoongi to help him, but Jimin only sat there, sweating over it.

He threw himself into their performance, and after their aegyo-version of one song, Jimin body-rolled with the complete force of his own frustration, hearing the fans scream enough to match, his hyungs eyes glued to him as he moves.

Living with them for so long, they could sense his nuances—knew his dances and what they revealed, if he changed up the choreography. Jimin hates it in that moment, feet brutal as they find and scuff the floor, trying to push his helpless desire out along with the emotions Jeon Jeongguk thought he could just drag out of him kicking and screaming.

Jimin couldn’t break. He wouldn’t.

 

--

 

That night when they return, he offers to shower last, brushing off his hyungs’ concerns with a brittle, biting “I want to go for a run.”

“Jimin,” Namjoon protests, cautions on the tip of his tongue, about the danger of encountering fans on his lonesome, but Jimin can’t rationalize disappearing to their dance studio, so he marches into their bedroom, shedding his clothes. Fans who waited for them to arrive at the hall snapped pictures of them in the clothes they originally wore there, and Jimin frankly didn’t want to sweat in 400.000 won jeans.

Changing into an unassuming pair of sweats and its matching hoodie, he speeds through the living room, dodging around the remaining hyungs, with Yoongi showering and Hoseok toweling off the residual sweat from the day’s humidity in the bathroom alongside him.

Namjoon shifts to touch his arm, opening his mouth to protest and try to talk him out of it, but Jimin tunes him out, eyes flintlike upon the door as he laces up his sneakers.

Instead, Jeongguk steps around them both, his long legs flailing as he fits himself in front of the door, his eyes narrowed as he positions himself as a barrier.

“Get out of my way.”

“No.”

A gentler hand finds his shoulder, Taehyung’s expression troubled, and he offers the only olive branch Jimin will get: “Why don’t you go to the studio? I mean, you really need to rest, but you really shouldn’t—”

“Got it.” His words clip out, Taehyung withdrawing like Jimin bit him, and he rises to his feet, finding a reservoir of resilience toward Jeongguk that he previously warranted didn’t exist. “Move.”

Jeonggok’s hands clench, his arms flexing, and Jimin inhales, the motion delicate, refusing to weaken as the elder assaults his senses, Jimin swearing he can smell his shampoo and feel the heat of his skin, even with plenty of space between them.

“Move, Jeongguk.” And his voice is ice chips, barely belongs to him. He brushes past the wide-eyed, beautiful anger of his hyung, and he screams into his hands on the elevator ride down, vowing not to return until he could outrun his damn weakness.

 

--

 

He yanks a face mask from the pocket of his hoodie and runs, circling the city blocks, pumping his arms mechanically at his sides, so as not to alarm others he might pass: salaried-workers commuting late, university students out for snacks, actual thieves and the two serial killers that statistically lived in Seoul at that moment.

Yet, when he circles back to the dorm, pulse pounding in his ears, he discovers a few lone prowlers lurking a few buildings down, likely having been shooed off the property by the guard BigHit installed after that one fan snuck into the building.

Wheeling back around, swearing under his breath, he shoots a text to the guard, hoping he will venture out to escort Jimin, so he won’t have to fumble with his key and rebuff potential crazies at the same time.

Voice hoarse, the man not trusting him, he promised he would open the door after confirming with the other members and they hung up, Jimin’s back pressed to the brick of another building, the nauseating scent of garbage left out to cook in the sun keeping him company until the door cracks open. The fans’ heads poke up like Taehyung would come sauntering out at two am, but the man stood there, his tall stature sending the girls scurrying further down the block.

Jimin tore past them, not flinching when one of them cried out in surprise, only a pang of regret resonating, hoping he hadn’t scared them.

Darting through the door, the guard let it swing closed, his judgmental gaze nothing next to Jeongguk’s looming figure, leaning against the wall beside the guard’s station. His dark eyes shine with disapproval, but Jimin stomps past him, legs feeling leaden.

Swinging around, Jeongguk calls a “goodnight” to the guard, and plants himself beside Jimin as the shorter man viciously jabs at the elevator’s button.

“If you’re here to tell me off, I really don’t want to hear it.”

Jeongguk plants his elbow against the wall, head leaning against his hand, and he frowns against his own squished cheek, Jimin ignoring it. “Are you okay?”

“What? Why wouldn’t—” He stops at Jeongguk’s humorless expression. “No.”

“Good. I was worried we’d have to make Hobi-hyung sleep on the couch tonight.”

Cheeks flaming against his will, Jimin scowls at the elevator doors, forcing his mind away from less innocent thoughts. “Why would he sleep on the couch?”

“Because I’d bother you until you told me what’s going on with you.”

“What does it matter, Guk?” He flails his arms to punctuate his point, uncaring he dropped the “hyung.” “You can’t fix it and I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Can I at least help you feel better?” He pleads as the elevator arrives. “I’ll buy you jjangmyeon, or meat, or we can listen to your playlist tomorrow when we go into practice. I’ll let you shower before me.”

Shoulders crowding against his ears, Jimin mutters, “It sounds like you think you have to apologize for something.”

Jeongguk and he step into the elevator, Jimin pressing for their floor, and the elder admits, “I know I don’t, but I feel like I do. And I’d give that up anyway just to see you smile again, like normal. You get into these funks sometimes, and it worries me.” He takes a step closer. “I know I might not be the best one to talk about, but you know Yoongi-hyung and Namjoon-hyung would want to help you, too.”

Jimin’s eyes flash and he wheels to face Jeongguk. “I am not depressed.”

Hands rising to quell Jimin’s outburst, Jeongguk sighs, “Then what are you, Jimin? You were fine at the fansign, but then the entire ride home, you shut me out. You don’t sit by me. It’s like you keep remembering you hate me, then forget—rinse and repeat.”

The numbers click upward and Jimin scoffs, “Did you ever think it’s not something wrong with me?”

Silence falls and before he can retract his words, the pain in Jeongguk’s body language stills him, his hyung laughing as he spits, “Did you really just ask that? Are you really going to say your moods are my fault, when I’m just trying to help you?”

His raised voice cuts off as the elevator arrives, neither wanting their nosy hyungs to overhear them, and Jimin says, “I don’t want you to help me. I want you to leave me alone.”

Stepping out, Jeongguk hesitates, asks, “Do you really?”

Jimin can’t answer; he walks to punch in their door code, but is stopped when Jeongguk grabs his arm, fingers tight where they hold him, as if he fears Jimin will run.

“Jimin,” his gaze cuts through him. “Was it my hand on your thigh today?”

Fear, ice-shattering and jagged, cuts through him and his eyes widen, Jimin jerking his arm back, his protest gurgled, as if he choked on the “no!” But, as every cliché rom-com would say, the quickness and thoughtless nature of his denial spoke a thousand words to Jeongguk, who releases him.

Who allows him to key in the code for their room, and even grants him the favor of falling asleep while Jimin showers, so he can retreat under his covers without Jeongguk’s eyes on him.

 

--

 

It begins small; he loiters after Hoseok and Jeongguk tear out of the room, driven by the promise of breakfast or still-hot shower water, and he slips into Jeongguk’s closet. The first time, his emotions a volatile cocktail, he plans to shred one of the man’s shirts for the satisfaction, hoping that if he can draw anger from the elder, that it might replace whatever he thought he learned that other night.

Instead, he sniffs the fabric, slumping when it only smells like their fabric softener, and not like his hyung.

The scissors sit within reach, but he bundles up the shirt and hides it away in his own closet.

 

--

 

These petty acts of theft morph into fashion shows when Hoseok and Jeongguk aren’t home—Jimin free to tug the clothes on with no one to discover his transgressions. Once or twice Taehyung barges in, searching for him, and he would fling the shirt across the room, blaming his shirtless state on changing. Bless him, Taehyung never caught on.

But, his true triumph wasn’t for the oversize shirts, hanging off his shoulders, filling him with warmth at how petite they made him feel, as if he could substitute the shirt for Jeongguk himself. No; his breakthrough came in a specific bout of curiosity, as he picks up Jeongguk’s mattress and rummages in his pillow case, checking for hidden goodies.

His pillow smells the way Jimin hoped his clean shirts would—and so in the midst of missing his hyung, of avoiding speaking to him, clinging onto the others, he would hole himself up with Jeongguk’s dirty pillow cases when the loneliness in his chest becomes unbearable.

Jimin dredges through his motivations, half perturbed himself, but finds no regret.

He beings to wish Jeongguk would notice when he steals the shirts from his closet.

They dye his hair crazy colors for their comebacks, set him as the center of their choreo despite Hoseok deserving it more, and the radio hosts coo over his sweetness, the softness to his features, and the way his coordinator picks sweaters for him that swallow his hands, yet swim off his collarbones. Friends from back home message him, teasing him about replacing IU as the nation’s sweetheart, and he exclaims as they expect about the stylists, refusing to admit that he begs for pink hair, so he could match his eyes and lips to the shade, perfect and soft and kissable.

Jeongguk’s stylists, meanwhile, dye some tips of his hair a similar shade, and Jimin swallows his admiring sigh, shooing away the thoughts that compare the matching pink to couple’s t-shirts, wishing he could link them. Wishing their profession allowed him to fold himself into Jeongguk’s arms, lips finding his hyung’s while the man wraps him up.

His favorite dreams feature waking up in Jeongguk’s arms, and somewhere along the line, Jimin convinces himself that daydreams can’t hurt anyone, so long as he tells no one. So long as Jeongguk stays his hyung and nothing more.

Finally legal, half his hyungs plaster him with alcohol, encouraged to offer him the traditional method of coping with a workaholic attitude and an unrecruited crush, while the others protest their maknae drinking his sorrows away.

Each night he falls into bed inebriated, he finds the shallow, comfortable sleep giving way about an hour or two before they need to wake, and he shuffles over to Jeongguk’s closet, the chill air of spring piercing through their window.

Jimin grabs a sweater of Jeongguk’s—a large, white thing—and drapes it over his bare chest, his regular sleeping shirt discarded in the drunken heat from earlier, the maknae grumbling to himself under his breath—wordless displeasure at the chill.

This, unlike his t-shirts, smells like Jeongguk, indicating he wore it once, briefly, most like, and then tucked it back into his closet without washing it. Burying his nose in the collar, Jimin slumps back against the closet’s door, inhaling and sighing, his heart aching. He might have stood there for a good twenty minutes before finally rocking on his heels, fixing himself upright again. But, instead of retreating to his own bed, which seems so far away, he glances at Jeongguk, the man splayed out on his back, lips slightly parted, and he sits next to him.

Jeongguk’s nose wrinkles and he rolls onto his side, instincts urging him to roll away from that which would attempt to wake him, and Jimin takes the unconscious sense of self-preservation as an invitation.

Drunk Jimin, uncaring how his actions would effect waking Jimin, slips under Jeongguk’s covers to spoon him from behind, everything warm and perfect, his arm winding around his hyung’s slender waist to prevent him from rolling away.

He wakes hours later, when Jeongguk stirs, shifting in his hold to roll around, his eyes cracked open, expression not entirely awake.

“Jiminie?”

His rough voice sends shivers down Jimin’s spine, and his arm tightens around the man’s waist, Jimin shuffling closer, pressing his cold toes to Jeongguk’s thighs.

Swearing, jerking back, Jeongguk grumbles, “What are you doing? Damn cold toes.”

Giggling, Jimin murmurs, “I was cold last night, hyung. Can I stay?”

Ready sleep pounces, digging its talons back into Jeongguk, and he mumbles a non-cohesive reply, his own arm draping over Jimin’s form, holding him close.

Jimin’s heart gives a tired throb in his chest, relishing how small Jeongguk’s muscular arm makes him feel, before he follows after his hyung.

 

--

 

Jeongguk wakes first, having not plastered himself so thoroughly with soju the night prior, and Jimin pries his eyelids open as he climbs out of bed, not fast enough to feign sleep when his hyung greets him, voice gentle.

“Do you need painkillers, Jiminie?”

“No,” his voice rasps and he attempts to clear his throat, “but I would kill for a glass of water.”

Nodding, Jeongguk gathers clothes for a shower, and leaves the room, taking twice as long to return if he’d been uninterrupted. Jimin scowls at himself, shedding the sweater and stuffs it back in Jeongguk’s wardrobe, movements jerky and paranoid, scared that his hyung would call him out. Already, he hates himself for the excuses prepped on the tip of his tongue.

But, when Jeongguk returns with a tall glass of water, he says nothing and smiles, coaxing, “If you want a little extra sleep, I can wake you up once I’m done showering.”

Jimin shakes his head; better to face the hyungs with coffee in him. “I’ll be fine.”

Jeongguk reaches to ruffle his bangs, expression pained beneath the usual affection. “You’re always fine. Doesn’t mean you can’t use a little help here and there, you know.”

“You talk like I’m some idiot kid,” he snips, venturing to his own wardrobe to yank out a pair of fitted jeans and a bold button-up, Jimin unwilling to linger in the grayness that lurked around him when he thought about something too hard.

“You act like it, sometimes.”

Wheeling around, prepared for a fight, Jimin only sees the man slipping through the doorway, his clean pair of boxers in hand, retreating like a coward.

Swiping his phone, he ventures into the living room with his nose buried in his own Naver results, needing to read something positive to lighten the funk he woke up in.

He runs into Namjoon in his blind walk, but rather than a lecture, the taller man’s eyes just find his, grave and disapproving, before Namjoon steps around him and continues on his journey to his bedroom.

Unnerved, Jimin glances up and finds similar expressions on everyone’s features, even Taehyung’s pinched and uncomfortable, Hoseok’s nose hidden in his mug of coffee. Traitor.

Guessing Hoseok told the others about where Jimin slept the night prior, he stomps to the coffee machine and pours himself a mug, teeth grinding as he contemplates throwing hands before any of them can back him into a corner. Yet, as he snags an apple for breakfast, no one says anything—though Seokjin and Taehyung’s eyes never leave him, even when he confronts them with glares.

When it’s his turn to shower, he flees from the crypt of their living room.

 

--

 

Touches between them stop again, but rather than at his own design, now Jeongguk withdraws and hangs off of Yoongi or Seokjin, cackling when Taehyung clings to him. Jimin feels like a pariah amongst his own members, feels like they all know and blame him for daring to breach that space with Jeongguk—but then in the same breath, Hoseok pats his back, eyes concerned beneath the smiling veneer.

Somehow, his lack of questions drives Jimin to blurt out, as his coordinator smudges eye makeup onto his waterline, “Everyone knows I slept with him. Why would you tell them?”

Hoseok doesn’t break his gaze, maintains the usual standpoint that his hyungs know best, but what he admits floors Jimin and knocks him from his pedestal of righteousness: “Because you’re hurting him. You do stuff like this, then you freeze him out.”

Jimin opens his mouth to protest, but Hoseok cuts him off, “You’ve been like this as long as we’ve known you—someone pets you on broadcast and you scowl at them, but if they do it during a movie, you curl against them. Someone might feed you, or you might ignore them if they try. You never like accepting your hyungs taking care of you. And that’s fine for us; we always assumed you’d break through that eventually, and you have gotten better, but after this with Jeongguk, you’ve put walls back up that we haven’t seen since 2013.” He exhales, “That effects all of us.”

Blindsided, expression caught in the headlights of an oncoming car he somehow missed, Jimin blubbers, “I—that’s not—”

But Hoseok is walking away; Hoseok casts him one sad glance in the mirror, and then is gone.

 

--

 

When no one speaks to him on the drive home that night, Jimin takes the time to consider everything his hyungs said to him over time; how he locks his emotions up, chases his hyungs away from him, and how, with his clothing-thievery and climbing into bed with Jeongguk, he acts like a cat, rather than a human with a crush. Something that demands specific wants and refuses anything he doesn’t initiate.

They will leave for Hawaii soon, and Jimin only thinks that he doesn’t want to spend the entire journey with the uncertainty between the other members and him. Especially with Jeongguk.

Jimin arrives home first from a fansign with Namjoon, Yoongi, and Hoseok, the latter having commissioned the others to help him with a bar on his mixtape he’d gotten stuck on. The remaining members of BTS promised to bring food home, and Jimin follows after the rappers with a plan in mind, his heart racing, sickness throbbing in his temples. He’s terrified.

In an attempt to calm himself before his big confrontation, he locates Jeongguk’s sweater, the same that he stole those nights ago, delighted that it still smells like it did then, though he doesn’t connect the points together, and seats himself on the edge of his hyung’s mattress, determined to begin with a distinct impression.

However, Taehyung barges in first, the brightest and hardest of his hyungs to rebuff, though the sight of Jimin in Jeongguk’s sweater, on his bed, with no pants on, freezes him, and he squeaks out, “We brought food for you, Jiminie,” before fleeing the scene. Jimin would giggle, if his nerves hadn’t choked him.

Seconds tick by, and then the door is cracking open once more, Jeongguk poking his head in with a consternated frown, as if Taehyung’s words were just ominous enough to stay vague. When he catches sight of Jimin, the tight edges of his briefs visible beneath the white sweater, he steps into the room, eyes wide for a breath before he steadies his features.

“Are you waiting for me or Hobi-hyung?”

The joke cracks through the nervous air and Jimin laughs, reaching up to push his hair back, off his face. “You, hyung.”

“And you stole my sweater.” His arms cross his chest, Jeongguk so tall and strong, a contrast to the cute, beanpole Jimin met as a kid.

“It smells like you,” he murmurs, eyes softening as they trail over Jeongguk’s features, still clad in makeup, a silly contrast to his comfortable hoodie. “I wish the noonas wouldn’t conceal your mole.”

Jeongguk sucks his lower lip into his mouth, on instinct, and he joins Jimin on the edge of his bed. “What’s this about?”

“I needed to apologize.” His hands fall to his lap, fingers picking at the hem of the sweater. “I’ve been icing you out a lot.” When Jeongguk doesn’t interject, he continues, “It’s hard for me…there’s a standard for okay and not-okay, and while things get messy sometimes, I was never prepared to deal with…this.”

“And what is this?” His voice is gentle, comforting, but not at all confused.

Eyes narrowing with suspicion, Jimin chances a look upward, and blurts out, needing to see the shock and awe or lack thereof to confirm, “I have feelings for you, hyung. Jeongguk-hyung.” He exhales shakily. “I have for a while, and I’m sorry it got in the way of our friendship.”

And, just as he suspected, Jeongguk hides a smile, lips pinching together, instead of withdrawing from him or gaping, as the elder was wont to do when taken off guard.

“You knew!” His voice breaks, flustered.

“I did,” Jeongguk hums, laughter in his voice, but he reaches to lay a hand over one of Jimin’s. “It’s a little obvious.”

“It would have to be, for you to notice.”

“Yah!” Jeongguk swats him, “Don’t be a brat just because you’re not as discreet as you wish you were.”

Hiding in his hands, he moans, “How long have you known? Why didn’t you say anything?”

Reaching to tug his hands from his cheeks, eyes warm and glittering, Jeongguk laces their fingers together and refuses to look away, even as Jimin ducks his head, attempts to turn away.

“I haven’t ‘known’ until today, but I guessed after the fansign. I thought I knew after I woke up with you in my bed.” He sighs, “Or, maybe I hoped. And I didn’t say anything because you’re bad with feelings, Jiminie. I figured until you came to me, trying to say anything would just drive you away.”

“And you don’t want that?”

“I don’t.” He squeezes Jimin’s hands, shifts so their knees brush, and his gaze is sucking the breath from his lungs. “I’ve been hoping you’d return my feelings for years.”

The world slams to a stop and Jimin gapes at him, hands limp where Jeongguk holds him, and he protests, cheeks warming, “You can’t have liked me for years! I would have noticed!”

Jeongguk laughs, and despite his scowl, the elder shakes his head. “You never did. Seokjin-hyung would tease me about Taehyung smacking your butt during War of Hormone, because apparently I got this ‘look.’” He groans, and Jimin slips his hands free, so he can lean against Jeongguk, overwhelmed, yet unable to forget that this hyung was always closest to him. This hyung is only two years older than him, still young by the standards of the world, and Jimin curls against his side, a warm smile growing on his lips when Jeongguk wraps his arms around him.

“You look so pretty like this, Jiminie,” he murmurs, head resting against his own.

“Pretty?” The word swims in his gut, urging Jimin closer to his hyung, and he glances up at the overpowering need.

“Pretty in my clothes.”

Their eyes meet, Jeongguk’s voice low, rumbling with suppressed emotion, and Jimin leans up before he can talk himself out of it, their lips meeting in a sweet tangle, his hands pressing to Jeongguk’s firm chest. His thoughts surge with possibility and Jeongguk kisses him back with ferocity, the confession bleeding into desperate joy, Jimin swinging a leg over his hyung’s lap to situate himself there.

Tugging Jimin fully into his lap, Jeongguk kisses him again and again, nipping at his bottom lip then soothing it with his tongue, the motion sending Jimin’s head spinning, his hands rubbing over the elder’s chest in appreciate motions as their lips meet and part and meet anew. Part of Jimin wants to beg for more—more touches, less clothing, and his first genuine opportunity to examine Jeongguk’s delicious upper body, but someone knocks at the door as their tongues meet, one of Jimin’s hands dangerously tracing the lines of Jeongguk’s abs over his shirt.

“Dinner’s ready,” Namjoon calls, his steady, gentle voice the only thing that tugs them away from each other, though Jimin forgetting about Namjoon the moment their eyes meet.

Jeongguk always had the most beautiful eyes he knew, and Jimin steals another kiss after noting the intensity in his hyung’s gaze.

“We should go eat,” he mumbles against Jimin’s lips, “and let them know we’re okay.”

“They’re going to stare,” Jimin groans, tracing the red, kiss-swollen shape to Jeongguk’s lips, “we look like we’ve been making out. And Taehyung probably told them how I’m dressed.”

Smirking, Jeongguk shrugs, “Maybe you shouldn’t have dressed up for me. Or…down.” His eyes trail over Jimin, the maknae blushing, flustered, and asks, “Were you worried I wouldn’t forgive you, or did you want to jump my bones?”

“Jeongguk!” He growls, “Neither!”

He pinches Jimin’s side, grinning so bright that it derails Jimin’s anger. “That’s hyung to you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbles, crossing his arms as he climbs off of Jeongguk’s lap. “It’s not like you ever behave like a hyung.”

Rising from the bed, Jeongguk considers his words, and then in one foul swoop, scoops Jimin up over his shoulder, and smacks his butt, scolding, “Be more respectful to your hyung.”

And it might have been the blood rushing to his head from the position, or the feel of Jeongguk’s hand on his butt, but the fight left Jimin, and he could only cling to his hyung, thinking Jeongguk would be the death of him.

 

--

 

The hyungs’ eyes pin them in place as they leave the bedroom, Jimin clad in a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt that belongs to Jeongguk, the choices of a man who spent too long in an over-air-conditioned apartment. But if that wasn’t enough of an ownership marker, when Jimin lengthens his strides to match Jeongguk’s their hands are interlaced.

Taehyung wolf-whistles, and this breaks the tension coating the air between the pair and the table of Jimin’s hyungs. Yoongi bellows, “it’s about time!” and Namjoon laughs, dimples on full display as Hoseok bemoans sharing a bedroom with the “happy couple.”

Seokjin claps Jimin on the back as he passes, and it takes him aback, how happy his hyungs are for him, despite this relationship being a threat to everything they spent the last half a decade building. He flashes back to the advice given to him along the way: There is no point to any of this, if it isn’t what he wants—if it doesn’t make him happy. He could have an office job and accomplish just as much. And they aren’t just business partners: BTS as a whole are a family, who want to see Jimin at his happiest, achieving his dreams alongside the others.

Emboldened, he rocks up onto his tiptoes and presses a kiss to Jeongguk’s cheek, cackling when the cheerful cries morph into gagging and calls to “get a room!”

Dating Jeongguk is only the first step; and more than anything else, his hyungs’ support sends his heart singing. And, as they cover for him in years to come, the affection in Jeongguk’s familiar drawl only growing, their protection bolsters him, until his little wish for happiness becomes a symphony sung by many.