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The first time Park Jimin drowned, he was at his cousin Jisoo’s birthday party.

It was summer and a blistering hot one at that. Leaving the cool relief of the kidney bean shaped pool didn't feel like an option. While all the other kids swarmed around the ice cream cake with grabby hands, Jimin had picked up someone's floaty, the kind you're supposed to fit your legs and arms into, sit in. Only he got tangled, and now the plastic was covering his head, his mouth, restricting his arms.

He drifted out to the deep end of the pool fast, a place where he couldn’t stand on his own two feet without being underwater entirely. The water was in his eyes, burning, couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swim, couldn’t yell, water tasted gross, couldn’t breathe, lungs burning, can’t breathe, help, can’t breathe—

The wild thrashing from his legs had drawn the attention of his mother, who didn’t hesitate to dive headfirst into the pool in her pretty sundress and pull him out, hollering her head off at him, part fury and part weepy relief, Jimin coughing and sputtering pool water, breathing air like it was the only thing he knew how to do. He spent the rest of the party sitting on the lawn chairs, far away from the water, wrapped in a towel. He refused to go anywhere unless mom was holding his hand. If he was going to go anywhere near the deep end, he was not going to do it alone.

His parents had a talk shortly after, and decided Jimin should learn to swim as soon as possible.

Before ballet, before jazz, before he ever set foot in a dance studio, there was breast stroke, and back stroke, and front crawl. There were flutter-kicks with a foam board. There was learning how to dive off the high jump.

Jimin was smaller than most of the other kids. He struggled to move through the water as graceful and as quick. You'll grow into it, mom had assured him, you’ll learn. And he did. He worked harder than anyone in the class. He swam every day, and moved through the ranks quickly, despite being younger, despite being small for his age.

Graduation from swim lessons ended with a treading water test. That's all there was to be done. Jumping from the high board into that big deep end, some twenty feet of chlorine-bright blue, and treading water. Ten minutes keeping his head above the surface was all he needed. Ten minutes.

It was hell.

Jimin's legs burned. His shoulders screamed. His lungs heaved. There was a lifeguard raft for him to grab if he felt like he was going to go under, but he didn't dare reach it. He could do this. He could do okay on his own. He could swim. He could tread water.

But the water was so blue he couldn’t see the bottom it, and at six and a half years old Jimin was still afraid of great white sharks and giant squid, all those terrifying things that lurk beneath the surface, can’t see them, but you know they’re there. It didn’t matter that this was a pool, that he knew there was nothing to be afraid of.

The sense of deep water was overwhelming, terrifying, but Jimin couldn’t stop. Wouldn’t stop.

He kept his head up. His legs kicked furious, mule-stubborn. He let the pain make a home in his muscles, and he finished. Didn’t let himself sink, for a full ten minutes.  

When he grabbed onto the raft, he sobbed with exhaustion. The teacher signed a certification saying he’d completed the course, Jimin’s mom bought him shaved ice to celebrate, and that was that.

Swimming wasn't hard. Really it was just knowing how to paddle. How to cup your hands to make fins, how to keep your head above water. Swimming was nothing more than staying afloat, and staying moving. Swimming was about looking at your surroundings, calculating how long you have to stay afloat, and giving it your best shot until the life raft gets thrown to you.

Right now, Jimin’s miles away from any body of water. Years away from the dumb kid who nearly drowned himself out of sheer stupidity. The situation currently—standing in his best friend’s bedroom, t-minus twelve hours and forty two minutes until The Day™—is nothing like that.

(It’s everything like that, in a way. The rules are different, but the challenge remains the same, only instead of treading water for ten minutes, it’s living for six months and eighteen days without his best friend.)

It’s going to be fine. All Jimin just has to do is stay afloat.

He knows how to do this, how to swim in deep waters. He’s done it before, and survived worse.

Like a life raft, the comfort of having a best friend is knowing they’re there for you. Not necessarily depending on them. It’s more about knowing the life raft is there on the off chance he does need it, that it’s within arm’s length rather than, say, nine thousand five hundred and eighty kilometers across the globe.

Not that anyone’s counting.

A little voice in his head says Jimin can’t function on his own without Kim Taehyung, and for the most part he knows that’s not true.

It just feels kind-of-sort-of true right now.

“T-minus twelve hours and forty one minutes until The Day™."

“You are so dramatic,” Taehyung jokes, making a glib attempt to lighten the mood, even though has no need to. Jimin’s perfected a neutral tone when talking about the departure. “The Day T.M., honestly. I am going to be fine.”

“I didn’t say you weren’t.”

“Didn’t have to. I can feel the worry coming from you in waves, so I’ll repeat myself: I’m going to be fine. I promise not to talk to any Scientologists.”

“I’m sure that’s what Katie Holmes said, and look what happened.”

They’ve been lobbying back and forth like this for a while, because there’s a big elephant in the room and that elephant is Taehyung’s suitcase, open wide on his bed. They’re doing a pretty good job of it so far, playing in the shallows, pretending like everything’s not about to change tomorrow.

“Ah, you make a rational point.”

Of course he does. Jimin smirks, taking petty satisfaction, even though all they’re doing is exchanging meaningless banter.

It’s all he can do, because right now it feels like he’s stuck in quicksand, located somewhere around the “denial” stage of the grieving scale. The dig-your-heels-into-the-ground-and-tug stage because no, no, Jimin’s best friend is not leaving him alone for six months and eighteen days to go study abroad in some godforsaken foreign country. Not on Jimin’s watch.

(He is absolutely doing that on Jimin’s watch. Taehyung has been accepted to this incredibly prestigious art program with a special grant to cover the entire semester abroad and Jimin’s so proud of him he could cry. He’s not going to demand his best friend stay behind so he can feel secure in himself. He’s not going to be needy about this. He’s not.)

“Who’s driving you to the airport? Please don’t tell me you’re going to experiment with hitchhiking tomorrow, of all times.”

“I’ve enlisted our favorite lackey,” says Taehyung with a grin. “You might know him? Tall? Muscle pig with bambi eyes? Frequently talks smack like he has the right to? You basically raised him?”

“Ah, yes. That little shit. Now that I think on it, being left alone with Jeongguk is going to be the worst part of this whole you going abroad thing.”

“Not the me being gone part?”

“Of course not,” says Jimin breezily.

Taehyung prattles on about Jeongguk’s piece of shit car and how he hopes it doesn’t explode on the way to the airport, but Jimin’s only half listening.

The other half of him, the quieter half, the half that is giving off waves of worry, is thinking about swimming.

It’s dumb and it’s morbid, but sometimes Jimin has to remind himself that he knows how to do it. Swim. Keep afloat. Sinking isn't an option when he knows perfectly well how to survive.

This isn’t life or death. Taehyung is only going abroad in the states for a semester.

Still—Park Jimin is about to be in open water. A place he hasn’t been by himself for quite some time.

This, he knows, is a half-problem. A half-concern. Sometimes Jimin gets twisted up in his own head, has to consciously untangle everything to reveal them for what they really are. An irrational thought wrapped inside an insecurity and topped with extra worry-wart sauce that whispers the entire spring semester is going to fucking suck without Taehyung and then he’s going to come back from America and be all worldly and cool and educated and he’s going to drop you just like that.

“Now, I know you said this semester is going to suck without me, so I have a new proposal.” Taehyung folds one of seventeen t-shirts that he’s been trying to narrow down to twelve for the last hour, because he's decided to procrastinate packing until the last minute, of course. “The weather here is going to be miserable, and LA is going to be beautiful and sunny. So I think you should definitely stow away in my suitcase. There’s nothing left for you here.”

"Taehyung, my dearest friend, my partner in crime, the one person on this earth that I would bury a body for, you’ve packed half your closet in that suitcase. There's no way I'm fitting in it."

“I dunno, there’s definitely room in the side pocket.”

Jimin knows by now when his friend is talking because he wants to, and when he’s talking to fill a silence. It’s the latter, right now, but he doesn’t comment on it.

Taehyung sighs petulantly, discarding one of the seventeen shirt choices to the ground. “This is unfair. Why can’t you come with me? I’m not even going to have fun.”

“Stop.” Jimin smiles, and means it. “You're going to have the time of your life and you know it.”

Taehyung looks up, shooting Jimin a small smile as he leans all his weight and tries to stuff sixteen shirts into his already full suitcase. “Yeah, I am. Still going to miss you though.”

“You’re so dramatic,” Jimin parrots back, then comes over to help Taehyung sandwich the t-shirts into his suitcase.

This is the most sentimental they’re going to get. A week ago, at Taehyung’s going away karaoke extravaganza, he’d grabbed Jimin by the face and pressed their foreheads together, completely plastered but whispering fiercely, “Park Jimin, don’t you dare let me get sentimental before I go. Don’t you let me cry, listen, look into my eyes, listen to my face. I am going to miss each you so much. But if you let me get emo, I will never get on that plane. I need you to be my rock, Jimin.”

And Jimin, equally drunk, full of bittersweet and big blooming love for his best friend, had promised.

No emo. No sentimental.

Nevertheless—

Jimin hates this feeling.

He’s known that Taehyung is leaving ever since he got the letter of acceptance to the study abroad program in early October. But it's one thing thinking my person is going away in the spring and a whole other thing thinking My person is going away soon. Tomorrow. He's going to walk out the door in just a few hours. And I won’t see him for six months and eighteen days.

Taehyung is Jimin’s best friend in the whole entire world. He didn’t think it was possible to have a friendship so solid and good. For two and a half years now they’ve been joined at the hip. The longest they've been apart since the first day of college was two weeks, tops. Even then, that first summer break, they switched off crashing at each other’s houses, taking trains back and forth between Daegu and Busan. They have been inseparable. Or, they were. Not anymore.

This isn’t a bad thing. This is a completely normal and functional thing.

This, Jimin figures, is how people grow up.

Nevertheless, Jimin feels like he’s preemptively bruised. Bracing for impact. Diving.

He knows it’s not showing on his face, but Taehyung wouldn’t be his best friend if he didn’t pick up on it anyway.

“Here,” Taehyung says, attempting to slam the lid closed. “Help me sit on this.”

They sit on the suitcase, which Taehyung takes as an excuse to lean his forehead against Jimin’s shoulder. Rub his nose into Jimin’s sleeve with a weird cryptid groan until Jimin swats at him, laughing.

They settle. They breathe.

“We’re gonna rock this long distance thing,” says Taehyung. “We totally are. We’re going to be the most functional long distance relationship to have ever existed, even with the heinous time differences. I’ll skype and text every day.”

“Snapchat too. We have to keep our streaks up.”

“I’d rather perish than lose those streaks.”

And that’s that. They can totally do this. Even if it feels daunting right here and now.

Jimin is going to miss him so very much.

Taehyung hops off, evaluating the very-much-not-closed suitcase. “Do you think the clothes have shrunk from the combined weight of our asses?”

“Something tells me that’s not how it works.”

“What if I took out all my ties and airmailed them? That’s like—at least half of the bulk.”

“Pick three ties,” says Jimin, hopping off and walking towards the door. “Burn the rest.”

Hey.”

“Also, please don’t forget to clean so your subletter doesn’t run screaming from the premises. Really need to not have this go south before spring semester even starts.”

“Roger that.”

Wait a second.

Jimin turns, squinting, because only now does it occur to him. He’d been too distracted with trying not to think about Taehyung’s departure to think about maybe the most crucial part of Taehyung’s departure.

“You did find one, right?”

“Find one what?”

"...A subletter. Another roommate. Someone to take over your lease until you get back. Someone to live with me so I don’t end up in destitution. Oh my god.”

For a split second, Taehyung’s expression is innocently blank. Which is all it takes for Jimin’s mind goes into crisis overdrive, run through all the possible bad outcomes in an instant. It’s the kind of thing you get used to doing when Kim Taehyung is your best friend, and something Jimin learned within the first month of their living together. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

Bad Outcome A) Taehyung didn’t find a roommate and Jimin gets evicted; Bad Outcome B) Taehyung didn’t find a roommate and Jimin has to pick the first rando willing to move in; or Bad Outcome C) Taehyung didn’t find a roommate and Jimin has to become a cam boy to make up the difference in rent.

Before he can start mentally calculating the cost of exactly how many online jerk off sessions he’d need to do a week, Taehyung laughs, gusty and loud. “I’m kidding. God, so quick to doubt me. You should have seen your face.”

“Punk!” Jimin slugs him on the shoulder. “What does that mean?”

“Obviously.” Taehyung waves a hand in the air, casual and blasé. "Obviously I found you a roommate. A good roommate. An amazing roommate.”

“Are you lying or deliberately stalling? I can’t tell.”

“I found you a roommate, I swear!”

“You're talking a big game for someone who promised to introduce me to a Kim Taehyung replacement well over a month ago.”

“Perfection takes time, my dear Jimothy. What—was I supposed to just pick the first rando to message me about the ad?”

Jimin crosses his arms over his chest. ”I'm not the one who created a 200 question application to fill out, and then demanded three rounds of interviews."

“Look,” Taehyung sniffs, pulling out a few dozen ties from his suitcase, one by one. “You said you'd never be able to replace me. If you’ll remember, I looked into cloning myself.”

“And then discovered you couldn’t clone yourself.”

“Couldn’t get the funding. However, I dedicated the entirety of last semester to finding someone that could come as close as possible to the real thing. It wasn’t easy, finding someone as smart and as dashing and as wonderful as I am.”

“Get to the point, Tae.”

“I wanted someone solid, but you’d be surprised how many shitbags there are looking for housing, so after the questionnaire weeded out the weak, I managed to narrow it down potential candidates for interviews. I interviewed a ton of people.”

“How many?”

“Uh. Upwards of twenty? Probably closer to thirty though.”

Jesus christ. “That seems extreme.”

“Nevertheless, I have a feeling you’ll like my final choice.”

“Well? Who are they?”

“He’s quite the esteemed scholar.”

Jimin gives Taehyung a doubtful look. “Esteemed scholar?”

“Seriously. Kind of a legend in the gender studies department, even though he’s not even a major. Also in the music school; apparently Jeonggukie knows who he is? Somehow? I honestly don’t even know what exactly he’s focusing on school wise. He seems to be everywhere in the academic community.”

“And he’s signed the lease? What’s his name?”

“Yup! Paperwork all put in, background check approved. He seems very clean and neat and promised me to take excellent care of you.”

“I’m not a puppy, you know.”

“Embrace the Fursona, Jimin. Embrace it.”

“A name, Taehyung. Give me a name!”

“Park Jimin,” says Taehyung with a dramatic flourish to his hands, “My dearest friend for whom my whole heart beats, you will be living with none other than Mr. Kimberly Namjoonington the III, Esquire. Esteemed Scholar, Respected Gentleman, Musical Prodigy, etcetera.”

“Cool,” Jimin says, though it is not at all cool. He’s getting a brand new roommate tomorrow. For the first time since ever having a roommate in the first place. It’s chill. It’s fine. He’ll be fine. He’s just gotta swim. He just has to keep his head above water.

“Mind telling me when I’m going to meet this guy?”

“He’ll be here first thing in the morning, probably around the time I board my flight. He’s still out of town on break.”

“What the—how’d you interview him if he’s not here?”

“Duh, Skype. See? I can do the distance thing!” Taehyung says with a wide, shit-eating grin.

*

Mr. Kimberly Namjoonington the III, Esquire, Esteemed Scholar, Respected Gentleman, Musical Prodigy, Etcetera, is not what Jimin was expecting.

Considering how long Jimin has known of this guy’s existence, there wasn’t much time to think about it. Jimin doesn’t know why the words “esteemed scholar” and “gender studies” conjured up a short, greasy-haired bookworm in his head, someone who looks like they suffer from vitamin-D deficiency after spending too much time in the library.

Whatever the reasons, Mr. Kimberly Namjoonington the III looks nothing like that.

“It’s Namjoon. Just Namjoon.”

The guy standing in Jimin’s doorway chuckles nervously, scratching at the back of his neck. “Taehyung found it extremely amusing that I can quote Shakespeare by heart after I mentioned studying English lit, and uh, got latched onto modifying my name to ‘sound more Shakespearean’, I suppose. He thought it was funny. And then picked Kimberly because according to him ‘there can only be one’. To which I pointed out that there were significantly more Kims in Korea than the two of us. For example; my friend Jin—Kim Seokjin. But then Taehyung said he’d take care of Seokjin soon enough, and also did I want to live with his roommate for a semester and—well. Here I am. New roommate Kim Namjoon at your service.”

His new roommate bows, and it’s the sudden movement of his torso bending and then straightening once more that makes Jimin realize the guy’s looking down at Jimin as he talks. Down down. Because Kim Namjoon’s a good several inches taller than Jimin. He’s definitely not short, definitely not greasy-haired, and definitely not pasty.

He does appear nervous, though. Lifts his head before he completes the bow and meets Jimin’s gaze with a wide-eyed look, like a deer in the headlights.

Jimin’s not staring, but also he’s not not staring.

Everything is sort of a lot right now.

“I’m going to take a wild guess that you don’t go by Parkothy McJimjams,” Kim Namjoon says weakly. “Because uh, that’s what Taehyung told me to call you.”

“I can’t imagine what kind of blackmail Taehyung has got on you to make you agree to live with me if he was acting like that.” Jimin bows back. “I’m Park Jimin, your new roommate. Can I get you some coffee? I was just about to make some.”

“Nice to meet you, Jimin-ssi. Um, I’m not much of a coffee drinker, sorry. I should actually go get my stuff, my friend’s waiting with his car in the fire lane.”

“Please, ‘Jimin’ is fine. Your key is hanging on the coatrack, you need help moving stuff?”

“No, I think I’ve got it, thank you.” And then, quietly, “Jimin,” as an afterthought.

Namjoon bows again before he goes, albeit awkwardly, and Jimin thinks to himself this won’t be so bad. he seems nice. as long as he pays the rent on time, I really don’t have room to complain.

Jimin makes his coffee and kale smoothie and watches Namjoon wander in and out over the next hour. He brings in boxes and bulky trash bags of clothing, a heavy suitcase that looks to be full of books. He doesn’t ask for help, only politely inquires once where his room is.

When he’s done, flushed from exertion and damp in the forehead, Jimin gives him a quick tour of the place and a run-down of the rules. Walks him around the apartment, shows him how the shower works, points out the laundry unit at the end of the hallway, talking as he goes. Namjoon keeps apace, nodding so intently it’s as if he’s about to be quizzed.

“I’m sure Taehyung told you the big stuff. I take care of the bills, I’ll charge you accordingly. Recycling goes out on Tuesdays. Chore chart’s on the fridge, let me know if you have questions about it. You can have friends over anytime, but—any huge groups of people, parties, please check with me first. I’m generally cool with that stuff, I just prefer to know beforehand, ya know?

“Yeah, absolutely. You don’t have much to worry about, I’m not much of a partier but. Friends. I have those,” he nods. “Got it.”

“So, friends are cool. If you have a significant other stay the night, or a hookup, that’s fine just—again, let me know there’s so I don’t think think they’re a murderer if I bump into them.”

“No worries there. I am extremely single.”

It’s said in such a deadly serious tone, Jimin thinks Namjoon’s joking for a second. But there’s a visible tinge of pink stealing over his face when Jimin glances at him, like he’s more and more mortified with each sentence he utters.

“Riiight.” Jimin plows on, for both of their sakes. “There’s a list of numbers on the fridge—the super for the building, the nearest hospital, the gas company, my phone. My schedule is often packed, especially towards the end of the semester with dance rehearsals, but I text back pretty quick, so that’s the best way to get ahold of me for anything.”

Namjoon nods. It looks like he’s decided to omit verbal responses altogether.

“I usually take showers first thing in the morning. We can coordinate a schedule. Do you have a designated day that you like to do laundry?” Jimin asks, then glances down as his phone buzzes a long beat in his pocket. “Sorry, I have to take this.”

“No worries,” Namjoon says. “I’ll just—”

Then he scurries off to his room.

Jimin whips out his phone. “Tae? What’s going on? Are you alright? Did Jeongguk’s car explode? Did you bring something illegal in your suitcase?”

“Don’t be mad, okay?” Taehyung’s voice sounds weird over the phone, high and tight and wrong. A few hours ago he was bouncing on his way out the door with a shouted TTFN TA TA FOR NOW! and a kiss to Jiimin’s cheek. “Please don’t be mad.”

“I’m not mad, are you alright?” Jimin crosses the apartment, closes his door and leans back against it, clutching the phone to his ear. “Hey. I’m not mad. What’s up?”

“Hypothetically speaking, what if I didn’t go to America.”

A pause. Jimin can hear intercom announcements in the background, suitcases rolling, other voices overlapping. Taehyung breathing shakily into the phone, the way he does when he’s trying not to cry.

“Hypothetically, I wouldn’t be mad at you. But I’d want to know your reasons.”

“What better reason could there be than wanting to be with my best friend?”

“Taehyungie,” Jimin says firmly. “Remember when we binge watched Friends?”

“Yeah.”

“And remember in season ten how Ross begged Rachel to get off the plane and Rachel did and completely ruined her chances at an amazing career just to be with him?”

“Hated that guy.”

“Exactly. I’m not going to tell you to come back, babe.”

“But it’d be easier if I stayed.”

“Easier, maybe. But I don’t think you’d be very happy about it, deep down. You’re so excited about this program, about LA. Even if it means risking a kidnapping and becoming a Scientologist.”

“I really don’t want to be a Scientologist.”

“I know, hon.”

“Tom Cruise scares me,” says Taehyung, then bursts into audible tears.

“No. No no no, don’t cry Tae.” Jimin cups his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone. He doubts Namjoon is the kind of person to listen in on private conversations, but he does it just the same. Maybe it’s more for him, anyways. “It’ll be alright, I promise.”

“I don’t think I can do this,” Taehyung sobs. “I can’t get on that plane. I can’t leave my whole life and take off for another country. What was I thinking? My english isn’t that good. I won’t know anyone. I can’t do this.”

“Hey, hey! You’re going to make friends, you’re the friendliest person I know, everyone is going to love you. There’s so much great stuff out in LA. Celebrities! Palm trees! Disneyland!”

“You’re just saying words,” Taehyung wails, and Jimin has to laugh, even as he feels a lump rise in his throat. “They don’t mean anything because I’m going to be all by myself.”

“And you’re going to be amazing. You’re the most talented artist in that whole group. You’re going to be the best. You’re going to destroy all those entitled white kids.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. Remember when you got into the program? How they said that they only reward one full scholarship. You were that one, Tae. Out of all the other applicants. You have to go, you have to find out how good you are. You have to learn how to swim.”

“Right,” Taehyung says faintly, then, a little louder, “You’re right.”

“Thanks. I love being right. Music to my ears.”

Another announcement rings out over the intercom in the background, and Jimin can hear it. His eyes sting.

“It’s time,” he says gently, forcing his voice steady. “Go get ‘em tiger.”

Taehyung laughs, a wet sound. “I love you Park Jiminie. So much. I’m going to miss you every day.”

“And I, you. Now get your ass on that plane, and go be brilliant. This whole trip isn’t worth it unless I get to brag obnoxiously about my amazing best friend to everyone I know.”

“They’re gonna put my name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, that’s how good I’ll be.”

“Text me when you land.”

“Will do. Love you.”

“If you see Tom Cruise, punch him in the nads and run.”

Taehyung’s laughter is the last thing he hears before he ends the call.

In the next room, he can hear the shift of boxes, the sound of drawers being opened, of someone moving in to temporarily fill the gap. Jimin should go over soon. Finish his question about laundry.

For now he slides down the door until he hits the floor. Closes his eyes. Breathes.

*

unknown number>>>jimin
hi jimin are you there?
it’s kim namjoon

jimin
there as in at home? sry, in class
what’s up

unknown number
hey i’m so sorry to bother you but i think i'm locked out of the apartment

jimin
what?????did you lose your key?

unknown number
no, i just can't get in

jimin
have u tried jiggling the lock

Not Taehyung
i don't want to break it

jimin
you're not going to break it i promise
the lock is old and warped as shit.
turn your key a quarter turn to the left and then give it a little jiggle and a kick
works every time
i gotta go back to class, keep me posted

Not Taehyung
it's not going to work.
wait
nvm

jimin
did it work? :)

Not Taehyung
yeah
sorry

jimin
no worries hyung

*

Kim Namjoon is…polite.

This is pretty much the only descriptor that Jimin can glean at first.

Whenever they run into each other—Jimin coming into the kitchen in the morning, coming home after classes, or bumping into Namjoon as Namjoon’s heading out the door—Namjoon always greets him. Always says hi how are you and Jimin says good, and you? and Namjoon says good and nods, and that is that.

Politeness isn’t a bad thing. But Namjoon’s so polite. Too polite.

He is super tidy. He’s never up late making a racket. He doesn’t leave his dirty socks lying around for Jimin to pick up and yell at him about. He removes his outdated produce from fridge regularly and takes out the trash on his assigned days. He pays wifi and utilities the second Jimin sends a reminder text. He even sorts his recyclables. There is nothing he doesn’t do to be a perfectly attentive and respectful roommate.

Well, except for the thing where Jimin doesn’t even know when Namjoon is home, he’s that quiet. Quiet as a mouse. One night Jimin is singing to himself in the living room as he tidies up and Namjoon scares the everliving shit out him when he comes out of his bedroom. But being too quiet isn’t a valid grievance for a roommate, so Jimin doesn’t comment on it.

Spring semester starts with a bang, a furious blizzard bringing them into the first week and coating the ground in white. It’s not until two weeks in—coming into the kitchen to get some water, Namjoon at the table doing homework, running through the same scripted routine hi how are you good and you when Jimin suddenly realizes that he hasn’t got a clue who his new roommate actually is. Which makes him all the more aware of how much he’s already missing his previous roommate.

Snow settles, a muted down comforter over the ground, puddles being tracked into the dance building, all the hallways slippery.

Jimin fills time in what ways he can. Not that it takes much effort, he’s insanely busy with class and rehearsal and already stressed about workload after the first week back.

But there are gaps now.

Days that would often end with Taehyung, watching Ghibli movies or really bad reality tv, cuddling on the couch next to the space heater, talking as they did homework; all those days end with a quiet apartment. End with Jimin feeling restless and cagey.

Namjoon’s not always home, his schedule seems to be perpendicular to Jimin’s most days. But even if they did have similar hours lined up, there’s a stilted politeness with Namjoon. Perfectly civil, completely awkward, Jimin often feels like that’s on him. Namjoon has given Jimin no reason to be standoffish.

But—Namjoon’s not Taehyung. And Jimin knows that’s unfair, but he’s not going to strike up a convo with someone as if they’ve been best friends for two and a half years. Namjoon is nice, but he’s essentially a complete stranger. They’ve barely exchanged more than a few words at a time, stuck on that permanent loop of hi how are you good and you every time they cross paths.

It’s things like this that make the gaps Taehyung would so easily fill almost unbearable. It’s living with a person that he’s not comfortable around, who isn’t comfortable around him, the two of them trying to speak a language that neither can understand.

It’s late on Wednesday night, around 1 a.m., when Jimin is woken up by a shattering sound.

He bolts out of bed, dead to the world seconds ago but now raring with adrenaline, sprinting to the kitchen, groping for his phone to dial 119 and—

“I am so sorry,” yelps Namjoon, standing in the center of the kitchen, the remnants of a broken coffee mug lying around his feet. “I can pay for that.”

Jimin slumps back in relief against the fridge.

“It’s fine.” He looks down at the shards, catches a glimpse of Salt Bae. “Ah, you broke Taehyung’s meme mug.”

Namjoon makes a high-pitched deflated noise, like a balloon when you pull the nozzle tight and let only a little air escape. “I’m sorry, fuck, I was making tea and the water made the mug too hot when I touched it and—oh hell, did I wake you? Fuck, I’m sorry for that too.”

Jimin waves him off. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah. Didn’t step on anything just. Surprised me.”

“Cool,” Jimin cracks a yawn. “I’ll get the broom.”

They clean up the mess in silence. Jimin’s not upset, but Namjoon seems downright miserable, brow furrowed and jaw jutting in concentration as he sweeps up all the pieces.

It’s the most emotion he’s displayed since the day he moved in, but Jimin doesn’t feel very victorious about it.

*

The second time it happens, Namjoon hadn’t even burnt himself this time.

Jimin had seen it, Jimin was in the room. Namjoon had literally just lifted the mug from the dish drain and somehow dropped it with a clatter and crash onto the floor.

“That was from Tae’s first ceramics class,” Jimin says, feeling apprehensive, trying not to overreact because it’s a mug, and an ugly one at that. But Taehyung had proudly strutted into the kitchen with it their freshman year and they’d kept it ever since, even with it being kind of hideous and misshapen. Then, catching Namjoon’s wince, he adds, “Seriously, don’t worry about it.”

“I’ll clean this one up,” says Namjoon with a weak laugh. “I’m sorry. I should probably buy some red solo cups and use those for drinking instead.”

“Maybe try one of those indestructible sippy-cups.”

The quip slips out on instinct, and Jimin knows he’s fucked up the second it does.

If this were Taehyung, it’d be funny, because he and Tae have a two year streak of giving each other shit. Tae would respond with some aegyo baby talk and they’d both crack up.

But Jimin catches the way Namjoon flushes, and immediately regrets it.

“Yeah. Ha,” Namjoon makes an flat and odd sounding honk, like he meant to laugh casually but tried too hard to make it sound genuine.

He darts around the kitchen, like he’s trying to be small and unnoticed. Quiet as a mouse, always. Jimin’s trying to read and relax on one of his few open mornings but he keeps getting distracted watching Namjoon trying to navigate their kitchen, timid and unsure as he looks for the dustpan, still unfamiliar with where everything goes.

“Under the sink.” It comes out sounding almost annoyed, and Jimin doesn’t like that. He doesn’t like the way he sounds.

Namjoon winces. “Right, sorry,” and opens the cabinet.

“All good.”

Jimin’s supposed to be reading. He’s supposed to be de-stressing. Instead, from the corner of his eye, he watches how Namjoon sweeps up the ceramic pieces so careful, hands picking up the pieces in slow, gentle movements, how he places them in a recycled paper bag before putting the paper bag in the trash can, then wipes the kitchen floor with a damp paper towel to get any bits he might have missed.

Then, mess cleaned up, Namjoon collects his laptop from the kitchen table and retreats—quiet, quiet—to his room.

Jimin almost points out that he never finished making his tea, but Namjoon seems too mortified right now and Jimin doesn’t want to be cruel.

*

The third time Namjoon breaks a mug, Jimin doesn’t let him get a word out before he’s picking up the shards up himself.

“Jimin, wait—”

“It’s fine,” Jimin snaps, though he’s not mad at Namjoon, not really.

It’s one of those souvenir mugs. Taehyung bought it for Jimin the first time Jimin visited him in Daegu. It was cheap and kind of small and there’s no reason Jimin should be mad about it.

One of the broken pieces cuts his palm. Not deep, just a surface sting, thin line of red rising to the surface. Jimin swears, drops the piece to the floor.

“Do you need a bandaid?”

“I need to get to practice.” Jimin feels like an asshole. He is being an asshole. It’s just a shitty mug. He doesn’t understand why he’s so upset. “I’ll just use the first aid kit in the dance building, I'm headed there anyways.”

Namjoon’s hands flutter around Jimin’s wrist and fingers like he wants to touch, but stops with a look at Jimin’s face. Jimin doesn’t know what he sees there, but it’s enough to stop him in his tracks. School’s starting to get stressful and Jimin feels weird, pressure cooking up underneath his skin, behind his eyes, the start of a tension headache. He can only imagine what he looks like right now.

Namjoon retreats.

“I’m so sorry,” he says. “I’m such a klutz, I—”

“No worries,” says Jimin, and smiles at Namjoon, looks him in the eye and breathes through the seawater that’s suddenly choking him. “No worries.”

*

That afternoon, Taehyung calls.

It’s only 11 p.m., relax, he assures Jimin, who picks up the phone with a “Bitch why the hell are you awake,” like he wasn’t aching with missing him.

Jimin’s standing in the entry hall of the dance school, slipping on his boots and trying to avoid all the murky puddles that have been tracked in.

Beyond the tall glass windows, the world is bone white. The building is heated but Jimin can feel the chill creeping past the glass. Braces himself for it as he wraps up in his beanie and scarf, tucks his phone against his ear.

“How is it?” Jimin asks, and he hates that he can’t be mean enough or petty enough to hope that Taehyung is miserable, to hope that he misses everything and wants to come back home immediately.

His boots crunch in the snow, and Taehyung talks.

It’s amazing. The weather is gorgeous, balmy, I’m already so tan I’m basically living my most beautiful life. I love all my classes. I’ve made so many friends. My english fucking sucks and I’ve embarrassed myself so many times but I’m working on it. You’d hate it here. But they have this place called k-town? Like it’s own mini Korea? It’s amazing. It makes me homesick even though I’m not homesick yet, I’m having too much fun.

He tells Jimin about his roommate, Do Jihan, another Korean exchange student. They’ve bonded over watching lots of American Netflix to improve their english (Taehyung manages to tell Jimin the entire plot of Stranger Things in five minutes). He’s been trying all the weird bougie food that LA has to offer. His favorite is the sushi burritos, which make no logical sense but are somehow delicious.

The longer Taehyung talks, the less Jimin can feel the cold, the softer the snow crunches beneath his boots. The less frigid and stiff he feels. It’s not the longest conversation he’s had since Taehyung’s left, it’s just the first one where he doesn’t feel awkward or fake or like he’s trying too hard.

Jimin misses Taehyung incredibly.

How’s the new roommate?

Jimin thinks of the quiet apartment, of tall and nervous and polite Kim Namjoon, of the three broken mugs.

“He’s fine,” Jimin says, and instantly feels guilty for it. “He’s great.”

And you? How’s my favorite person in the whole wide world?

He glances at his watch; it’s almost midnight in LA. Everything that Jimin wants to vent about—the upcoming casting announcements for the spring recital, the financial aid office being late sending him his scholarship money for rent, his awful professor who doesn't understand that this is Japanese 102 and Jimin is not supposed to know the conditional form yet—it’s been bubbling up for days like boiling brine but he swallows it back down, ignores how it scalds.

It wouldn’t be fair of him, he doesn’t want to take up Taehyung’s time, not when Tae is probably tired.

“I’m good,” Jimin says, feels needy and selfish in a way that makes him want to crawl out of his skin. What’s wrong with him? He doesn’t know how to make it go away. “I’m good, and you need to sleep. Or go finish Stranger Things so you can recap season two for me.”

You’re right. Let’s Skype on Saturday, okay? No matter how late it is here. Miss you.

“Sounds good,” whispers Jimin. “Bye Tae.”

The line goes dead, and for a second Jimin just stands still. Breathing in the smell of snowfall and salt. Like he just stepped out of the sea back home, a place where flurries mix in with the sand, white on white.

In the nearby dollar store, Jimin beelines straight for the kitchenware aisle, combs until he finds what he needs. He makes a point to compliment the cashier on her hairstyle and donates the leftover change from his purchase to a homeless man at the nearest bus stop and things aren’t really good right now but, at the very least, he feels a little less wretched as he heads home.

*

He doesn’t have to wait for Namjoon to get home, as it turns out. Namjoon is already there, hovering in the doorway like an indecisive ghost, shifting on foot between the kitchen and the living room.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Namjoon starts, but he doesn’t say how are you. Instead, he says, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

It’s only then that Jimin takes in the scene before him, and not just the sad looking boy. The emptied bottle of glue on the table, the discarded plastic gloves, the acrid smell of chemicals.

The Daegu Mug, smack dab in the center of the newspaper covering the kitchen table. Painstakingly glued back together.

Shuffling a little closer, Namjoon says, “I think there’s enough krazy glue on there to keep it from leaking but uh, you might need to give it a trial run.”

“How long did this take you?” Jimin picks up the piecemeal mug.

“Um,” Namjoon scratches at the back of his neck. “Not too long. I just felt—feel— really bad about all the broken mugs. I am so sorry Jimin.”

Jimin looks up at Namjoon, all the worry knit between his brows. He kind of wants to laugh, because this is ridiculous, only right now he feels more like crying.

“It’s okay.” He sets down the his bag on the kitchen table and removes the thermos mug from the newspaper he’d wrapped it in. It was a little pricier than the dollar-items but Jimin felt that it would do the job. It has a Gudetama pattern on it. It is apparently unbreakable when dropped.

He holds it out. “This is for you.”

“Oh.” Namjoon’s eyes go very wide. “Oh my gosh, you didn’t have to do this. How much do I owe you for—”

“Please,” Jimin waves him off. “You don’t need to pay me back. It’s a gift. To thank you for being such a great roommate. I really appreciate you being so wonderful and tidy and thoughtful. Considering how I genuinely thought Taehyung was going to select a closeted Furry to be my roommate, I can’t tell you what a relief it is that it’s you.”

He wants to say other stuff too. Like, sorry I’ve seemed cold or sorry for not getting to know you or sorry for generally being terrible please don’t hate me but that feels like an admission of something Jimin does not want to acknowledge within himself. Not yet.

“Probably not a good time to ask if I can wash my Fursona costume then, is it,” says Namjoon, the only show of humor in the glittering of his eyes.

“Don’t even joke about that.” Jimin shudders, and hands over the thermos to Namjoon who takes it so carefully, turns it over in his hands.

Jimin watches. Waits.

The smile that spreads across Namjoon’s face is weighted to one side, a dimple revealing itself at the corner of his left cheek.

*

Despite the assumption most people make when meeting the two of them, Jeon Jeongguk is not actually related to Jimin.

Okay, technically, they’re cousins by marriage, something Jimin takes great great effort to thrive on the technicality of. He is proud to be able to say that he is of no blood relation whatsoever to this embarrassing nerdy cretin of a child.

“You love me so much,” Jeongguk says, mouth stuffed with whatever he managed to find at the back of the kitchen cabinets because—like some sort of burrowing opossum or dumpster raccoon—he has foraged all available snacks from the apartment within three minutes of walking through the door. “You love me so much. I’m your Busan Bro for life.”

“First off all, I was born in Busan first. Second of all, you’re my cousin by marriage only, and I’ll die on the hill of that technicality. Thirdly, I’m your hyung, not your bro.”

“You hang out with me for the first time in weeks and this is all you have to say? That’s cold, hyung.”

“Is it my fault you never answer texts? Am I really the one to blame here when I’m the one being left on read?”

“Can I have these cheese puffs?” Jeongguk resurfaces from his cupboard reconnaissance.

“Uh. How expired are they.”

Jeongguk rotates the bag in his hand, purses his lips. “Moderately to very, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

“You’re disgusting.”

“Love you too.”

The truth—regardless of who married who in the family—is that Jeongguk is the closest thing Jimin has to a kid brother. He’s been tagging along after Jimin ever since they were in diapers, both annoying and sweet. Equal parts wide-eyed naivety and snarky idiocy. He’s two years younger than Jimin, which is the reason they didn’t end up as roommates when Jimin went to university—and by the time Jeongguk started school, Jimin was rooming with Tae.

But Jimin thinks it’s been good for him. Jeongguk’s shy, but he’s doing well for himself as a freshman. Lives in the dorms with a mix of animation and video production majors like him, all of whom seem equally nerdy but seem to love and look after Jeongguk in a way that satisfies Jimin, makes it so he doesn’t have to worry too much.

Looking at Jeongguk, happily munching on cheese puffs so expired they’re basically atomic dust, it seems that he’s doing just fine.

“How are classes going?”

“Ugh. Boring. Like, the workload is fine, I’m doing well. I’m just—” Jeongguk licks a fine powder of neon orange off a finger. “Bored as fuck. I can’t wait to start doing the hard stuff.”

“You only say that because you’re ahead of everyone at your level.”

“Yeah well,” he shrugs. “I miss Taehyung. He’d make this semester fun.”

“I cannot think of a worse combination than your boredom and Taehyung’s allergy to it.”

“Remember the time we made the mentos and Pepsi fountain?”

“Of course I do. How can I forget when the splat mark is still on the ceiling?”

“Good times,” Jeongguk smiles dreamily. “So, what’s up?”

“What’s up?”

“Yeah, like, why am I over here eating your stale food instead of like, partying it up, getting laid.”

“You’ve never done either of those things in your entire life.”

“That you know of,” Jeongguk says peevishly. “All I’m saying is, it is out of character for you to want to hang out in your apartment on a Friday night.”

“The door is not locked, feel free to go,” says Jimin coolly. “I decided to tend to my duties as a Busan Bro and check in with my sweet dongsaeng.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, tears open a packet of beef jerky with his teeth, and the white lie flies right over his head.

It’s true that Jimin hasn’t seen Jeongguk in a minute but, they also have one of those relationships that exists outside of things like time and distance. He can go a whole month and not see Jeongguk and then Jeongguk shows up and within two minutes Jimin feels like they’ve been together for five months. That’s half the truth.

The other half of the truth was that Jimin got home, realized he actually didn’t have too much homework tonight, didn’t feel like going out to a party—and there is always a party to go to—but also didn’t want to be alone. Jimin had no way of knowing whether Namjoon was out or not, because Namjoon’s sneaky like that. So the apartment felt extremely empty, too empty.

Jimin had taken a long hot shower, done a face mask, pampered himself silly for all of half an hour, before he’d picked up his phone and texted come over bitch.

He couldn’t tell Jeongguk ‘what’s up’ even if he wanted to, because the second Jeongguk walked in, the antsy unsettled feeling retreated like a phantom pain Jimin might have imagined.

Before Jimin can casually evade more questions the door to the apartment opens, a cluster of voices overlapping outside in the hallway, as the most beautiful man that Jimin has ever seen walks through the door.

It’s a bit of a surprise, because Jimin was expecting Namjoon, if anything. Evidently, so was Jeongguk, who sees the beautiful man and goes very still, cheeks stuffed with food, mouth coated with orange, like a chipmunk in clown makeup.

“Greetings gentlemen,” the beautiful man says, as the door opens wider and Jimin spots Namjoon, two other figures in tow behind him. “Okay if we crash the party?”

Jeongguk swallows down what looks like a painful amount of beef jerky, and blurts, “Yes please.”

Jimin casts a sharp look in Jeongguk’s direction, but Jeongguk ignores him.

“Hey!” Namjoon shoulders through the door. “Hope it’s okay, I brought some friends.”

“It’s totally fine, just ignore the heathen at the table,” Jimin replies, and then gasps as he recognizes one of the two guys bringing up the rear.

“J-hooooope!” Jimin crows, leaning back in his chair, delighted as Jung Hoseok’s grin spreads wide and he bounds forward, ruffling Jimin’s hair and smacking a kiss to his forehead with a shriek.

He’d only just seen Hoseok a few hours ago in the dance building, but seeing Hoseok springs a well of joy in Jimin’s chest, regardless of how long it’s been. He has that effect on people.

“Park Jiminie! Fucking hell, I was hoping it’d be you. Namjoonie mentioned he was living with a Park Jimin and I said, ‘Surely that can’t be my Park Jimin, my sun and moon and stars and all that I hold dear? The only good dancer in this whole bitchass program?’ Ugh, I’m so glad it’s you. Oh, shit!” Hoseok steps backward from the kisses he’s raining on Jimin’s forehead, tugs the other guy forward, one who Jimin doesn’t recognize. “This is Yoongi, my boyfriend.”

“Uh, shouldn’t I be doing the intros around here? Am I not the host?” Namjoon says, his voice edging on laughter. He seems like a whole new creature right now, loose and relaxed. He’s smiling so much. “Well, you clearly know Hoseok. This is Min Yoongi. We’ve been roommates for eight years.”

“Oh man,” Jimin teases. “Eight years. Big shoes to fill.”

“Not really,” says Hoseok. “Hyung’s feet are tiny.”

“Now that’s just woefully untrue.” Yoongi playfully elbows Hoseok’s side, flinty-eyed as he steps forward and sizes Jimin up.

“You don’t have anything to worry about.” His voice is rough, but his smile tells another story. “You’re filling the shoes just fine, if what Namjoon says about you is anything to go by.”

“Oh?” Jimin raises an eyebrow and looks to Namjoon. “Been gossiping about me, have we?”

“I mean,” Beautiful Man interjects, “I’m not sure I’d call it gossip so much as I’d call it non-stop screa—”

“And this is Seokjin,” Namjoon half-shouts. “I met him back when I was working at the Library, he tried to hit on me to get out of paying two years worth of backed up fines.”

“Wow. Is this the picture you paint of me?” Seokjin scoffs. “That I’m a cheat? A conman? A whore?”

“You literally told me to introduce you by telling this exact story.”

“Pretty sure I told you to tell people that I graciously allowed you to be gifted by my presence after an honorable business transaction, but go off I guess.”

“But did you get the fines waived?” Jeongguk bursts, sitting oddly straight at the kitchen table, posture erect, face mysteriously devoid of cheese dust.

Seokjin blinks, like he’s only just noticed Jeongguk’s presence in the room. He tips his head and narrows his eyes slightly, considering. It’s hard to tell whether Jeongguk is titillated or terrified by the attention.

“I didn’t,” Seokjin says lightly. “But I did get three phone numbers from other student workers and Namjoon-ah’s invaluable friendship so, you win some you lose some.”

“Wow.” Jeongguk leans forward in his seat against the table.

“Well, I guess that means you’ve all met my cousin Jeongguk,” Jimin sighs. “I apologize in advance, we are related by marriage only. It’s nice to meet you Seokjin-hyung and Yoongi-hyung. Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge, because the cabinets are officially cleaned out.”

“Bless you,” says Hoseok, making his way towards the fridge. “We were supposed to be at our favorite bar for tonight but it’s being fumigated.”

“Why is a bar that needs to be fumigated even considered your favorite bar?”

“Okay, when I say ‘favorite’, please do not take that literally,” Hoseok laughs. “Really it means ‘my boyfriend and your roommate hate capitalism and paying more than twenty-thousand won for a drink’. It’s a dive bar that’s probably condemned, but we’re unfortunately creatures of habit. Or we were, until the roaches came.”

“I hope it’s okay,” Namjoon says to Jimin as he settles down with a drink, “I know I didn’t text in advance, I’d assumed you’d be out. Just say the word and I’ll kick them out.”

“It’s okay,” says Jimin, and it is.

He doesn’t feel apprehensive or defensive of a space where his best friend should be. He likes Hoseok. And Jeongguk is shy but he doesn’t seem to mind the intrusion of new people, certainly doesn’t seem to mind Seokjin.

Jimin smiles up at Namjoon. “But I do want to hear the whole story of the library fines.”

“I just want to say,” Seokjin cuts in loudly, “Before my reputation is further sullied, that I did not know that Namjoon-ah had a girlfriend when I hit on him.”

“No offense hyung, but a dude being straight has never stopped your chaotic ass before,” Hoseok snickers, then, turning to Jimin with a cryptic wink. “Not that our beloved Joonie is at all hetero, in case you were wondering.”

“Neither am I,” Jeokgguk half-shouts, staring at Seokjin with rapt attention at the same exact moment Namjoon cuts in with, “ANYWAYS—” and launches into the saga.

The story about the library fines turns into the story of how Namjoon met Yoongi, which Yoongi does not spare any detail on. Jimin listens to all of them talk back and forth, a chorus of loud voices that overlap. They speak like people with history do—filling in the finer details of each other’s stories, peppering every moment with inside jokes and sarcasm.

It’s a strangely delightful combination, all six of them clustered together. Namjoon’s friends pull chairs up to the table and prop themselves on the counters of the tiny kitchen, cracking open beers and daring one another to try the moderately-to-very expired cheese puffs that remain. It’s one of those things that you wouldn’t think would work, but does.

For the first time since they’ve met, Jimin sees Namjoon laugh, after Seokjin tells this truly godawful pun that shouldn’t be funny, but somehow is. Jimin’s never heard Namjoon laugh, really laugh, this loud kind of gusty sound. A tiny part of Jimin, the part that’s been keeping a respectful distance, treating Namjoon like an acquaintance, wants to hear it again.

Across the stable, Jeongguk is staring at Seokjin with the strangest look on his face, and Seokjin’s looking back, something of a confident smirk playing about his mouth. It’s a weird energy. Jimin doesn’t really know what to think of it, until—

“God,” Seokjin sighs, not even ten seconds after Jeongguk has excused himself to go use the bathroom. He leans over and elbows Namjoon. “I can’t believe I’m going to sleep with him.”

“You—Jin, you don’t have to.”

“Nope,” he says, resigned. “I’m gonna.”

Jimin laughs, and Namjoon catches it, giving a smile of his own.

He’s lived with Namjoon a full month, but tonight’s the first time Jimin sees him smile, sees him truly relax, lean back in a chair, get really into a story, expressive hands, eyes flickering as he runs from one into another.

Huh, he thinks to himself, watching Namjoon rib Yoongi for sleeping through the entire first day of classes their freshman year. It’s like looking at a sunset through stained glass, the shape and color of the light changing, shifting, blooming, the more he looks at it.

Huh.

*

The odd sharp thing plucking at Jimin’s heart strings doesn’t go away, not over the weekend, not into the next week.

He throws himself into what he’s good at—dance, school, making others feel comfortable and happy.

Sometimes Jimin has to find a way to put something in his body, process it through muscle memory and movement, to make peace with it. Usually he has dance for that, occasionally goes running and pounds it out there too. It's as if any emotion he has isn't quite real unless he has laid it in his bones.

Today, he's walking.

Jimin's usually a fast walker, but today he tries to wander. Taking himself at a leisurely pace through the winding pathways of the park instead of heading straight for home the way he usually does. Fresh air does something to his blood, churns up current in still waters, keeps the silt of his feelings from settling too much.

It comes as a surprise when he sees his roommate. Namjoon is sitting on a bench with his legs stretched out, heels crossed on the gravel, face tilted upwards, like he can feel the sunlight that’s hidden behind all the gloomy grey skies.

Around him is a literal swarm of squirrels. Five or six of them. Darting under his legs and around the bench in circles, chasing each other up the trees.

This moment seems sacred. Like Jimin shouldn’t be here. Then he thinks of the pricked curiosity from the other night, the shape of Namjoon’s smile when he’s among friends, and decides now is as good a time as any to see if he can become that too. Friends.

He’s been standing here for too long. It’s starting to feel creepy. Jimin gives himself a mental kick and trots over. “Hey stranger.”

Namjoon starts. “Jimin! Hey! What are you doing here?”

“Class is out for the day.” Jimin shrugs. “Thought I'd walk. How about you?”

“Oh, I come here all the time. That makes it sound like I have no life which—true. But here’s where I get a lot of reading done for my classes.”

“A bit cold for reading, don’t you think?” Jimin’s breath fogs in the air as if to prove his point.

“Yeah. But not too cold for thinking.”

“Ah.” Jimin nods. He’s standing an awkward yard or so away from the bench, like he could just keep walking in the opposite direction if he wanted to. He swings back on his heels, unsure of himself.

“Would you like to sit?” Namjoon takes the decision right out of Jimin’s hands, pats the bench space beside him. “Don’t worry about the squirrels, they’re friendly.”

"I can see that,” says Jimin wryly, as he sits next to Namjoon. "You seem to have quite the squad here.”

Namjoon clears his throat. “Guys, this is Jimin. Jimin, meet the guys.” Then, pointing at each of them individually, like he can tell them apart. “This is Tupac, Nas, Pharrell, and Brad Pitt."

"Brad Pitt?"

"Ah, Jin named that one. Don’t ask, it’s a thing with him.”

Jimin takes out a taro cake from his bag that he’d bought in between classes. He’s barely had a thing to eat all day, and it’s an active effort not to shove the whole thing into his mouth.

“So, is this what you do in your spare time? Wander off and make little animal friends?”

“No,” says Namjoon and then, as if on cue, a fat little sparrow drops down from one of the low hanging tree branches and lands on Namjoon’s shoulder. Namjoon grins sheepishly. “Okay, maybe sometimes.”

“Is it just the woodland creatures in the club?”

“Oh, hardly. Feel lucky that we’re not on a beach.”

“Why?”

“Because I’d be digging in the sand looking for crabs, or searching the shallows for stingrays.”

“Aren’t stingrays dangerous?”

“They’re giant sea pancakes is what they are. It is my life’s greatest ambition to kiss one.”

“Oh my god.”

“Hello, sweet thing,” Namjoon coos at the sparrow, slowly raising his arm so the bird can hop along its length, closer and closer to his face.

“Jesus christ, it’s like you’re a Disney princess.” Jimin says, and Namjoon laughs, looking pleased, the movement jostling his arm and forcing the sparrow to take flight.

Jimin’s not paying attention, too busy watching the sparrow, the boy, the boy with the sparrow, and ultimately that’s why he doesn’t notice the squirrel creeping along the bench until it snatches the taro cake from his hands and takes off.

Namjoon gapes at Jimin. Jimin gapes at Namjoon.

“That squirrel took my snack!”

“Tupac!” Namjoon shouts up the tree. “Bring that back!”

Tupac does not.

“Evidently your animal telepathy skills need some practice.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon sighs, then stands. “We should probably head home before it gets too dark. You got plans tonight?”

“Nah,” Jimin shrugs. “All free.”

He doesn’t mention that there’s an optional dance rehearsal tonight for anyone who wants to go over this week’s choreo a few more times. Jimin could go, but he figures it’s okay if he slacks just this once.

At first it’s a bit awkward, neither of them seems to know what pace to walk at, whether or not to start a conversation or enjoy the silence. Then Jimin says Okay, but why did Jin-hyung name the squirrel Brad Pitt and they’re off.

By the time the story of Brad Pitt the Squirrel has wrapped—surprisingly more involved than Jimin ever expected it to be—they’re wandering along some side streets a couple blocks from their apartment. They pass by the backdoor to a restaurant, the smell of food drifting outside, and Jimin’s stomach makes a horrible, creepy, not at all cute noise.

He laughs, not bothering to pretend they both didn’t hear his stomach growl. “God, I haven’t had anything but half a taro cake today. I’m starving.”

“Oh,” Namjoon stops short, standing stiff and awkward and polite all over again. For a second it looks like he might explode with pressure before he blurts, “Um. Doyouannamaybegetsomethingtoeat?”

Jimin blinks, a little taken aback by the outburst, then smiles. “I’d love to, but I don’t have my wallet on me.”

“That’s okay, let hyung buy you dinner.”

“Oh, so you’re my protective hyung now, huh? One squirrel attack and you gotta look after me?”

“Someone’s got to. Since all you thought to eat today was a taro cake.”

They wander around to the front entrance of the building, some half outdoor half indoor ramen place, the kind of place that serves a ridiculous portion size of food for a ridiculously small amount of money.

“I’ll pay you back,” Jimin promises, looking over the menu.

“Don’t worry about it. Consider Tupac’s debt paid on my behalf.”

It’s the first time they’ve shared a meal together that didn’t feature one of them dashing out the door within a few minutes to go to class.

It’s the first time they’ve spent over an hour within each other’s company.

It’s the first time they’ve talked about something further then hi how are you good and you? and Jimin likes it.

Talking to Namjoon doesn’t feel like trying to fill empty space for the sake of having something to say. It feels good, comfortable. Their food arrives and Jimin watches quietly as Namjoon talks through the steam rising from their bowls. Jimin learns the most about people that way, letting them talk about themselves and listening, really listening, to what they have to say.

He does have some questions himself, though.

“So, I have to admit, I’m a little confused. Why were you on facebook looking for a roommate when you had Yoongi?”

“Ah, nothing bad really. I chose to move out from our place.”

“But…why? He’s your best friend. You lived with him for eight years, he told me so himself like, five times the other night.”

“Honestly? Because he’s in love. Like, incredibly disgustingly in love, but he’s too nice to kick me out.” Namjoon blows on a spoonful of ramen, thinking for a second. “In the end, he didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. He insisted that I wasn’t being a burden, that he wanted to keep living with me, but like. I could tell he really wanted to live with Hoseok.”

“They’ve been together for a while, yeah?”

“About a year, but it feels longer than that. Hyung’s been gone for Hoseok for like, eons. And Hoseok was always crashing at our place anyways, it wasn’t a problem, I love them and I want them to be happy. But you kind of just. You get a sense for when you’re intruding on someone’s lives together. They’d never admit it, not in a million years, and that’s why I had to be the one to leave. I’m pretty sure they could get married and still wouldn’t ask me to move out.”

“So,” says Namjoon, “I sat them down, said ‘you know I love you both so much, but I am frankly tired of having to wear headphones to sleep as much as you’re probably tired of trying to be quiet while you bang’, and then some more emo stuff about how I love them and how nothing’s going to change. I just want them to have the life together that they’re capable of. That big great steady love.”

“That’s noble of you.”

Namjoon shrugs. “I wasn’t trying to be noble. I just. Don’t ever want someone to be sad, or hurt, or like, kept from happiness, because of me.”

“Still, finding a random roommate last minute, that’s pretty damn noble.”

“I guess.”

By the time Jimin finishes his ramen he learns that Namjoon is double majoring in music production and English, with a double minor in gender studies and philosophy (“They won’t let me do a triple major on paper, but the gender studies is basically the third one.”). He learns that Namjoon started school and took almost a full year to decide on a major, because he took too many classes and liked too many things. That in addition to a full course-load, Namjoon makes music with Yoongi and, on occasion, Hoseok. Apparently he has an old mixtape up on Soundcloud (“I’m not giving you the link,” Namjoon swears, even when Jimin pleads. “It’s from a point in my life before I knew what sex and respecting women were. No.”) and he’s working on another one that he wants to release before he begins grad school in the fall.

He learns that Namjoon is funny, in this wry witty sort of way. Clever. Quick.

The longer they talk, the less Jimin finds himself trying to compare Namjoon and Taehyung. The more they seem like separate, different people. The more Jimin appreciates that difference, likes it even.

Outside, it’s frigid in the air. The sky a murky black, suggesting a storm is on the way.

“Hey, you’ve got an eyelash,” says Jimin, peering up at Namjoon under the streetlights.

“Do I?” Namjoon paws at his cheek, smushing his face a bit. Cute. “Did I get it?”

“No, it’s—c’mere.” Jimin stands on his tiptoes, reaches upwards, gently touches Namjoon’s jaw to hold him still with one hand while he plucks the eyelash off the bridge of his nose with the other.

Namjoon doesn’t move.

Jimin settles back on his heels, but the pavement is slick with ice. He flails, slipping about for a perilous moment, before a pair of long arms grab him and tug him close, keeping him from toppling over.

He giggles, crushed up uncomfortably against Namjoon’s chest, forehead knocking against his chin. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Namjoon says, a little breathless.

“Aha!” Jimin holds his pinky up, eyelash still in tact. “Make a wish, hyung.”

Namjoon’s mouth pops open, a soft pucker of surprise as he takes in the offer of Jimin’s pinkie, going cross-eyed as he does. After a brief moment of struggle he obediently closes his eyes. Blows.

“Don’t tell me what you wished for,” Jimin warns, the two of them turning to walk back to the apartment. “Or else it won’t come true.”

“I’ll take it to the grave,” Namjoon replies.

Snow starts to fall, but Jimin doesn’t notice it until he’s brushing it off himself by the time they get home.

*

jimin>>>kim namjoon
hey im at the grocery store, u need anything?

kim namjoon
what? oh
that’s okay, i’m good
i don’t want anything

jimin
thats not what i asked hyung
are you low on anything food-wise?
hows the toilet paper arsenal looking?

kim namjoon
i mean yeah i guess i’m low on like, snacks
toilet paper is fine, just checked

jimin
cool! anything in particular?

jimin
hyung? you there?
hello???
okay im just gonna do some guessing, store is closing soon
hope you dont have peanut allergies !!

kim namjoon
SORRY I ONLY JUST SAW UR TEXTS I FELL ASLEEP
midterms are the worst
oh
looks like you’re home
and asleep too
wow
thank you for all the snacks, jimin.
wow you really
you didn't have to go all out
thank you.

jimin
no problem :D

*

jimin>>>taetae
you know i cannot believe i’m saying this
and believe you me when i say i dont want to say this
but you did a good job on the roommate search
miss u, u butt

taetae
YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I DID
ugh i miss you too wtf

jimin
you hanging in there alright? haven’t been indoctrinated into a cult yet?

taetae
no cults yet
actually feeling pretty shitty and homesick today
u still up? can you talk?

jimin
always

[FACETIME CALL 1:09:57]

*

For a while, Jimin tries to simply swim. Goes to class, goes to rehearsal, pushes himself hard, keeps himself busy.

But that’s the thing about the ocean, he supposes. It’s not some tame limited thing. It doesn’t have parameters, signs that tell you how far down the bottom is. How far there is to sink. One cascading wave, one rip curl tide, and he’s pulled deep, deep, deep.

Like he’d never learned to swim at all.

*

The loneliness that lives in absence of his best friend is a tangible thing, a shadow out of the corner of his eye. It’s bearable during the daylight hours, when he’s busy.

But at night, the loneliness grows claws and sharp teeth. At night, it wraps gnarled hands around Jimin’s throat.

There’s a stretch of time, one of Jimin’s earliest memories as a kid, where he developed this very bizarre fear of not being able to fall asleep. He’d get ready for bed, feel tired, brush his teeth, change into his jammies, crawl beneath the covers. And then, if he couldn’t fall asleep in five minutes or less: panic. Crying. Hard to breathe. Can’t breathe. Running to the kitchen to sob into his mother’s lap. i can’t sleep. i can’t sleep. i don’t know what to do.

It was a child’s fear. Something irrational, a monster under the bed.

can’t sleep.

yes you can, sweetheart. go back to bed, go on. you just have to be patient. think about nice things. close your eyes.

It went on like that for a month or so. Started with panic, ended with his mom sending him off to bed with a cup of chamomile tea. He rarely ever managed to drink the whole cup, but the act of drinking tea in general soothed him. And eventually, like a loose tooth, like all things that just fade out with growth, the panic went away, and Jimin was able to sleep again.

But every once in a while, sitting in the dark with eyes open does that to him. Seizes all the air in his lungs. i have so much to do tomorrow. what if i can’t sleep. i can’t sleep. i have to be awake in four hours. i’m exhausted, why can’t i sleep.

Right now, Jimin is just trying very hard to breathe.

i miss you so much he texted Taehyung about an hour ago. this sucks.

It’s 3 a.m. right now, so Taehyung should be awake in LA. But he’s also busy. He has class. That’s okay. That’s totally okay. They’d just talked the other day, it’s fine, Jimin is fine.

It’s just that on bad days Jimin curls up in bed with Taehyung, or vice versa, Taehyung stomping into the room and flopping onto Jimin like an octopus.

Now, on a bad day, on a terrible day, on a day that sticks to the roof of his mouth in a way that he can’t swallow down, like stale peanut butter—Jimin’s tiny twin mattress feels too large. His room is cavernous. The walls seem to stretch up into the black without end.

He’d read somewhere once that deep sea divers hit a point where the water stops holding them up and begins pushing down, buoyancy becoming gravity as the divers are pulled into the crushing dark at the bottom of the sea.

Jimin curls onto his side, and the space is cold around him. Oppressive.

He flicks his messages open and closed again. Types out another text but doesn’t send it. This is stupid. He’s being needy. He just needs to—just.

He’s had stupider ideas than showing up at Kim Namjoon’s door wrapped in a blanket. He’s sure of it.

He just can’t think of any right now.

Can’t think of anything in general when Namjoon opens the door, blinking at Jimin through thick-rimmed glasses.

“Jimin?” Namjoon looks confused. As if there were another person inside the apartment that he was expecting.

“Hi,” says Jimin, and feels like an idiot. He peers up at Namjoon, eyes adjusting to the only source of light in the middle of the dark apartment. “I’m sorry, it’s late, I know.”

“Do you want to come in?” Namjoon asks, and the gaze behind his lenses isn’t confusion any longer, but worry.

Jimin nods.

It’s the first time he’s ever been in Namjoon’s room. Even though it’s now February and they have technically been living together for an entire month give or take.

A month. Taehyung has been gone an entire month. How the fuck is Jimin supposed to make it through another five?

Jimin surveys the space. Namjoon is subletting, so he hasn’t exactly done much with the place. It’s still all of Taehyung’s things. Taehyung’s poster collage from all his art shows. His Van Gogh posters. Ticket stubs from all the stuff they’ve done together. Unlike most things about Taehyung, there is no organization whatsoever to the walls. It’s just sort of an amalgamation of all their adventures.

There are a few changes, which Jimin notes. Speakers, for one. A pretty elaborate sound system, judging from the colorful way they glow. Empty plates cluttering the night stand, the Gudetama thermos. A gigantic bag of pixie stick candy sitting in an open desk drawer, at least half empty.

A few plushies on the bed. Or, a lot of plushies on the bed. Jesus christ, that’s a lot of plushies.

“Um.” Jimin almost jumps at the sound of Namjoon’s voice. He’s hovering in the doorway uncertainly. Like he’s the one intruding rather than Jimin. “Is everything okay?”

He’s wearing plaid pajama pants and a loose grey hoodie. The pajama pants are several inches too short. Jimin can see the knobby bone of his ankles.

“Yes. I’m okay. I was just wondering how things were going. For you. As a roommate.”

“Things are good. Just working on a midterm project.”

“Cool.”

Namjoon nods, brow furrowing. He almost pouts when he thinks. “And you? Alright?”

“Yeah!” Jimin says, too bright. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Sorry, it’s probably not my business. It just seems like something’s bothering you.”

“Nope, just popping by.” And then, because Jimin has lost his mind entirely at this point, “Can I sleep with you?”

He realizes his mistake a second later because Namjoon’s face goes absolutely puce. “Not like that! I mean, just like, sleep. Literal sleep.”

“Sleep.” Namjoon repeats, and despite the proven innocence, the red of his face is not fading any time soon. “You want to sleep with me.”

“It’s cool if you don’t, I don’t know what made me ask. It’s just. Usually Tae and I. It’s a thing we do.”

“Yeah. He mentioned that when he was telling me about the Proper Care and Keeping of Jimin.”

“The what.”

“The Proper—it was a manual and a powerpoint that were emailed to me when he had me sign the lease. I think it was mostly a joke, but. He did mention the sleeping thing.” Namjoon pauses, looks at Jimin like he’s waiting for Jimin to say something. “Did you…do you want to cuddle?”

Jimin quite frankly wants to die, but there’s no coming back from this now, even with the sweet reprieve of death.

“You know what. Forget I said anything.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insinuate—”

“You weren’t—”

“You just look like you’re upset and Taehyung mentioned cuddling—”

“I can’t sleep.”

The second the words spill from Jimin’s mouth, they seem so childish. Like he’s a second grader ashamed to admit he can’t do division problems, some petty and sullen adolescent. “I can’t sleep. And, I dunno, when this happens I sleep with Taehyung. I realize how ridiculous that sounds. And I don’t need care or keeping I just. It helps when there’s another person nearby. That’s all.”

Namjoon nods, and there’s a little crease in his brow, like he’s working so hard to understand whatever mess Jimin has dumped in his lap, trying to carefully untangle it, string by string.

“Okay. Okay, Jimin. What can I do? How can I help?”

With Taehyung, cuddling is second nature. It’s easy to curl up together like kittens until they’re comfortable. Until the panic gives up tugging at Jimin’s sleeve and walks out for the night. Until he can breathe again.

It is not that way with Namjoon.

For starters, Namjoon seems terrified to touch him.

Legitimately terrified. Like he’s worried he’s going to offend Jimin by laying a finger on him which, Jimin appreciates the respect of personal space, but also he deliberately asked for this.

They lay down on the bed, and Namjoon places his arm around Jimin’s shoulder like it’s paining him to do so. That’s it. One arm on Jimin’s shoulders, a touch so light Jimin can barely feel it. Jimin tries to press his cheek to Namjoon’s chest, the way he does to Taehyung, only Namjoon is stiff as a board through his sweatshirt and not relaxing. His knees are locked. It’s like trying on new ballet shoes fresh out of the box, right before Jimin breaks them in. All the parts where they need to be, but hard and unforgiving in every sense of the word.

It is extremely uncomfortable and Jimin extremely wants to erase the entire past twenty minutes and have never left the dark of his room. Being alone in that dark would honestly be preferable to this.

“Are you comfortable?”

No. “Yeah, thanks.”

Silence. Neither of them are good at faking deep calm breaths. Nor faking sleep. Namjoon could not be more tense if he tried.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Namjoon says, and Jimin has never heard someone sound like they want to talk about anything less in the history of forever, so—

“I’m sorry.” Jimin bolts upright in the dark. He sighs and scrubs a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, this is weird, I’ve made it weird.”

Namjoon sits up beside him. “No, please, it’s me, it’s all me.”

They sit there, breathing harshly.

“You know what,” Namjoon stands and walks back over to his desk chair. “Why don’t we put a pause on the sleeping together for now.”

“Oh. Yeah. Okay.” Jimin toes out of the bed, miserable. He didn’t think it was possible to feel worse than he was feeling before he walked in here. “I’ll just—”

“Wait, where are you going?”

“I—,” Jimin frowns. “Didn’t you want me to leave?”

“No. Sorry, I meant to say that I think me cuddling you is not actually comforting. I don’t want you to be alone, but also I feel like I’m making things worse by being the great big awkward giraffe that I am, so, sorry for that.”

“I don’t think you’re an awkward giraffe.”

“Thank you,” says Namjoon. “Why don’t I work on my project, and you try to get some sleep?”

“I don’t want to bother you.”

“You’re not. I truly don’t mind, you’re just sleeping while I work.”

“I don’t need to be here,” Jimin says, but does not move. “It’s so dumb.”

“It’s not dumb,” Namjoon says adamantly. “It’s not. Whatever you’re going through, whatever is making you not sleep, it’s not dumb. I promise.”

They stare at each other for a few beats. Jimin’s toes are pressed into the carpet, poised to run.

“Please,” says Namjoon. “Stay.”

Jimin stays.

Namjoon apologizes a few more times, for the light, for the ruckus, for having a squeaky desk chair, but eventually he gets back to work. Hunches over the desk that’s too small for him, in the chair that doesn’t properly accommodate his legs. Namjoon at work feels like watching thought in real time. The smallest movement draws Jimin’s attention, the clicking of a mouse, rattle of a keyboard, the way he’ll push his glasses up into his hair to rub at his eyes, and then pull them back down again.

For a while, Jimin thinks he won’t ever fall asleep. He’s a light sleeper. The smallest noise rouses him. He has trouble with it even in his own room, his own space.

So he keeps his eyes on Namjoon, the shape of his back as it curves when he reaches for his earbuds, his thermos mug, his phone. Watches as Namjoon drums his fingers against the keypad of his laptop, mutters to himself occasionally as he jots something down.

When Jimin’s body settles, when the taut wire of his chest loosens, he allows himself to turn over, pressing his body close to the wall, making sure there’s plenty of room for Namjoon when he decides to come to bed.

That’s how Jimin finally falls asleep, curled with his back to the room, snuggled beneath sheets that smell like sea foam and detergent and boy. Eyes on Namjoon’s shadow, stretched out across pale grey paint. Listening to the scratch of pencil, rhythms in whispers, long fingers on a keyboard.

*

The second time Jimin drowns he's fourteen, riding along in the backseat of his dad’s old BMW.

Dance class did not go well. Today was a lyrical style workshop, and an extremely important one at that. A well-known choreographer was visiting their school, teaching a routine, working with them on technique. It was an honor to be invited to attend, only the best made the cut.

Jimin made the cut.

It was such an important day, but then he had to go and screw it up with his fouette turn, screw up so bad that the instructor stopped the entire class mid-combination. Pulled Jimin up in front of everyone and made him demonstrate the fouette again. And again. Again.

Again, once more, he’d droned in this expressionless voice, like Jimin had unlimited energy, like he wasn’t pouring sweat. Again. Jimin did it, everyone’s eyes on him, he did it until it was perfect. Until he did not waver, not once. Landed it, again and again and again.

And then, just before Jimin felt on the brink of collapse, the choreographer had dismissed the class for a water break. Said they’d reconvene in ten to go over the eight-counts.

Your face, he had tutted disapprovingly, looking down at Jimin as he bowed, too soft for dance.

In an instant, every bit of bubbly eagerness he’d been feeling this morning had turned to humiliation, whirling with anxiety in the pit of his stomach like hot tar.

He voluntarily shifted to the back of the formation, and did not try to move forward for the remainder of the day.

Jimin is fourteen and curled against the car door in the passenger seat, feverish forehead against the cold window, breathing fog as the winter white world slides by. Dad pulls over to a gas station, heads inside to pay at the register. Jimin sits in the silence, trying to be calm, but everything in him feels so loud. His head feels so loud.

He is so stupid. Why couldn’t he do the routine right. He was so tired. Why was he so tired. So weak. He didn’t practice enough, that’s why. He must practice harder. God, it’s been hours now, but he can still hear the voice in his head on loop, so bored and detached, like Jimin’s mediocrity is not even worth expressing disappointment over.

Again, again, too soft, again, can’t breathe, again, again, again, help, can’t breathe—

There’s no deep end in sight, no bright blue water, but Jimin feels exactly like drowning. Like the water is crushing him from all sides. There’s no life raft, no timer, just Jimin and endless ocean, riptide pulling him under and down, away from the surface, from sunlight.

When his dad gets back in the car, Jimin is doubled over in his seat, gasping, shaking, tears streaking down his too soft cheeks. It takes all of his father’s gentle words, one hand wrapped around Jimin’s wrist, another hand stroking sweaty hair off his face, to get him to resurface.

Even then, his stomach hurts throughout the next day, like he’d choked down a bucket of saltwater.

*

Jimin wakes with a start and squints. The desk lamp is still on.

Namjoon is seated on the floor at his feet. Head tipped back against the mattress, glasses pushed up into his brown hair. Like he’d meant to take a break, rest his eyes, and hadn’t gotten back up.

Jimin left plenty of space for him on the mattress. He’s sure he did.

guess he didn’t want to share with me

He pulls the comforter off the bed and over Namjoon’s shoulders, props a pillow beneath his head, takes extra care to remove his glasses and set them on the night stand.

Then he slips out the door on tiptoe, careful not to make a sound.

*

“So, I want to apologize.”

Namjoon wandered in to the kitchen maybe ten minutes ago, is puttering about with the electric kettle. He’s a tea drinker, Jimin has learned by now. But there’s not enough room for both a coffee-maker and an electric kettle with their limited counter space. So Namjoon carefully takes his own in and out of the cupboard every single morning.

He looks up, frowning in confusion. “Apologize for what?”

“Mostly for acting so bizarre last night.”

“It’s okay. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to help.”

“Actually, I’d like to ask for your advice, if that’s alright.” Jimin’s thought about it, hard. Namjoon seems like a good person to talk to.

Namjoon takes a seat at the kitchen table, gives Jimin his full attention.

“I think,” Jimin confesses. “I’m having a hard time adapting with Taehyung gone. And I thought I would be fine. I’m not, like, dependent on him for survival or anything. But it’s made me realize that I don’t like being alone very much. I don’t always have friends on call. And my go-to person, who would do the same with me, is currently in another country. And, please don’t take this the wrong way but—I’ve noticed you spend a lot of time by yourself. You said the other day that you go walking a lot. And I was wondering if you had any advice for how to get better at it. Being alone.”

“Are you afraid of being alone?”

“Maybe? I don’t know.” Jimin tucks his knees up beneath his chin, curls small on the kitchen chair. “I just get ansty. And my head can be so loud sometimes. Also I just—like people. I know the obvious answer here is ‘get a life, Jimin’, or ‘find some other friends, Jimin’ but I don’t want to like—find a temporary fix until Tae comes back. Whatever this problem is, I want to solve it, you know? I want to be self sufficient.”

“Why me?”

“Because,” Jimin looks closely at Namjoon. “You seem like a person who is completely okay with being alone. So, if you have any words of wisdom, I’d like to hear them.”

“Get lost,” says Namjoon.

“…Uh.”

“No, like literally. That’s my advice. Get lost. Pick a place and go there and then wander away from it. Have an adventure not with your friends, or your classmates, have an adventure just with yourself. That’s what I do.”

“You just wander around like an idiot?”

“Yeah! Kind of.” Namjoon laughs a bit. “It’s like—we all have different kinds of relationships, right? Girlfriend, boyfriend, best friends, mentors, family. We nourish and tend to those relationships in different ways. They require time and cognizant effort, right?”

“Right.”

“Well, that goes for your relationship with yourself,” Namjoon says, smiling like the train of thought has at last arrived at the station. “You gotta date yourself.”

“I’m sorry.” Jimin blinks. “What.”

“Date yourself,” Namjoon repeats, and then, with more gusto in his voice. “Date yoself!”

“Oh my god.”

“Date yoself!”

“Stop saying it like that.”

“Sorry,” Namjoon chuckles. “But, yeah, try doing stuff that’s fun with friends, only do it on your own. Not errands though, no grocery shopping or laundry but like. Take yourself to the movies.”

“I can’t go to the movies by myself,” Jimin whines. “People are going to think I’m a loser.”

“Lots of people go to the movies alone. I think you’ll be surprised by how many people won’t think anything of you at all.”

“Okay, and then after the movies, then what.”

“Well,” Namjoon hums thoughtfully. “Whatever you want to do, I guess. Wherever your heart takes you.”

Jimin wrinkles his nose. “That’s so corny.”

“Oh, definitely. But did it make sense?”

It’s a simple task. Take himself on a date. Do things he wants to do. Relax, and be comfortable with himself. Learn to be alone with himself.

“I think so,” says Jimin.

*

Jimin goes to the movies.

He spends extensive time watching trailers of everything that’s playing in the theaters, selects a few that he’s interested in. Shows up for the matinee and just sort of stays for half of the day. Sneaks out of one theater and into another. He watches some indie drama where the acting is really good but there’s a lot of crying. He watches a kids animated film that makes him laugh. He catches the tail end of a raunchy romantic comedy. Most everyone in that particular audience is couples, people ducking into each other in their laughter, arms around shoulders, kisses shared in the dark. It doesn’t sour Jimin’s stomach the way he thought it might. He likes losing himself in the experience, knowing he can react however and think however and he doesn’t have to worry about another person’s opinion.

When he gets out of the movies, the sun is on its way to the horizon, a gold coin dropping out of sight in exchange for gumball blue skies. He walks a distance from the theater, takes in the sights of the city, the cramped buildings, the food carts. He could go home, maybe he should go home.

He wanders into the night market instead. Taehyung drags him here sometimes, because food is cheap and it’s local and everything tastes good and Taehyung is perpetually hungry, but Jimin’s not hungry right now.

He wanders between the individual food carts, people hawking their fresh made eats, sweet potatoes steaming like active volcanoes in the winter air. There is a pulse to the city, a circulation to the way everyone moves in these crowded streets, couples holding hands, children ducking and weaving between the stands, choruses of laughter filtering out of the nearest bar. An old auntie with a violin sits outside in a rocking chair, her hands withered but pitch perfect as she plays a lilting aria.

No one pays Jimin any mind.

In the busy market, Jimin stands still, waits for the frantic feeling of lost to steal his breath. To drown him. For the frantic notion of being very alone in a crowded place to get to him, but it doesn’t come. The air is aglow with orange lights, smells like spices, like cooked meat, like fresh steamed rice.

Jimin feels the movement, the pulse of it all, somewhere at the base of his lungs. Somewhere in a space within that doesn’t have a name. Deeper than his marrow, warmer and thrumming faster than his blood.

For the first time in a minute, he feels like he’s experiencing life as it happens. Not life in retrospect, trapped on loop, reminiscing and running over mistakes. Not life in the future, the unknown and the doubt and the what ifs. But life now, as it is, as Jimin is, the air fragrant and cold, singing of strings and laughter and dialects that contrast, that overlap.

There, in that private primal space, Jimin finds room to breathe again. Or maybe, time to breathe. Not struggling so hard to keep above the surface, a pleasant lightness to him.

“What will it be, young man?” A kindly withered man asks Jimin from over a bakery case.

He makes it back to the apartment long after dark.

“Hey!” Namjoon’s on the couch, and judging by the rumpled look of his soft hair, he was sleeping. “I was beginning to wonder where you were.”

“Oh you know,” Jimin keeps his tone light. “Just out and about.”

Namjoon nods, a knowing glint in his eye.

“I bought you something.”

“You already got me a mug, Jimin, this is getting out of hand.”

“Just open it.” Jimin chides, and passes the box over to Namjoon, who lifts the lid and gasps.

“Is this…ryan?”

“Yeah! It’s a ryan cake. I noticed you had a few plushies on your bed, so this seemed like a safe bet.” Jimin fidgets. “But if you don’t like cake, I’m gonna feel like kind of an idiot.”

“Oh my god.” Namjoon’s whole face lights up, like someone shook up a jar of fireflies and placed it right behind his eyes. “Oh my god, this is so amazing.”

Namjoon leaps up and dashes to the kitchen, returns a few seconds later with two forks in hand, crash landing into the couch with a huff.

When he takes a bite, the incandescent smile he gives Jimin has not one dimple, but two.

*

Living with Namjoon is odd at first. Not just because he’s a stranger to Jimin. But also because, well, he’s kind of a weirdo.

Not the bad kind of weirdo, but—the kind who puts not one, not two, but three heaping spoonfuls of sugar into his tea, in addition to a fuckton of cream. Jimin watches all of this happen one morning, right in front of him, and feels like he’s witnessing an honest to god murder.

Namjoon looks up, blinking innocently. “What?”

“Sweet tooth, much?” Jimin asks uneasily. “What did that tea ever do to you to deserve this?”

Namjoon shrugs, and puts a fourth spoonful of sugar into his own mouth. Jimin holds back a gag.

Not the bad kind of weirdo. But the kind who listens to Earth, Wind & Fire in the shower, a shower that takes forfuckingever.

Longer than Taehyung, somehow, who Jimin had assumed held the world record for longest ever shower. One morning, Jimin has to pee, he really has to pee, and he’s all for respecting other people’s privacy—especially people he doesn’t know all that well—but there’s only one bathroom in this apartment and Jimin outright refuses to pee in a bottle. Also, the lock on the bathroom door undoes itself if you jimmy the handle a bit.

Jimin hears a yelp and something clattering loudly to the floor in the shower. The curtain isn’t see through but he averts his eyes anyway.

“Sorry!” he chirps. “Gotta pee, couldn’t wait.”

Not the bad kind of weirdo. But the kind who’s always got a book in his hand. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Namjoon is reading for school or reading for pleasure, the sheer fucking volume of his reading arsenal is impressive and intimidating.

Not the bad kind of weirdo. But the kind who is sort of a klutz. It’s not so much as Namjoon trips and falls like some kind of romantic comedy heroine rather that he breaks things extremely quick.

The kind of weirdo who takes a fortune cookie when Jimin offers it, and bites into the whole thing, almost eating the paper fortune inside.

The kind of weirdo who lies in the center of the carpet with headphones on—so still that Jimin nearly trips over him on multiple occasions walking through the living room.

Apart from this lying down with headphones thing, Namjoon doesn’t have many rituals that Jimin can see. He doesn’t do his homework solely in his room, or eat in a designated space of the apartment. Much of what Namjoon does is either outside of the apartment, or done so quietly that Jimin doesn’t notice it.

Except for the lying in the center of the floor thing. That happens at least once a week, if not multiple nights a week.

Jimin’s got no idea as to what Namjoon could be listening to. It’s engrossing enough that Namjoon neither moves or speaks when Jimin enters the apartment.

The first few times, Jimin’s convinced Namjoon’s just sleeping with headphones on. But it doesn’t make sense why he wouldn’t go to his own room. No. Something about whatever specific album he’s listening to demands that he be lying on his back, long limbs spread in the thick carpet, eyes closed. Jimin makes up a whole slew of possibilities. One of those weird positive affirmation meditation tapes, a hypnosis track, the entire Hannah Montana discography.

But he eventually runs out of ways to amuse himself. Namjoon is a much more interesting person when Jimin’s actually talking to him instead of making shit up in his head.

“What do you listen to?” he asks one night, as Namjoon finally shows signs of life after lying like a deadman for no less than an hour. “Is it a meditation tape?”

Jimin’s supposed to be reading on the couch, balled up in a hoodie, a dog-eared copy of the Princess Bride balanced on his knees. He’s supposed to be reading, and he kind of is, but he’s been keeping a careful eye on Namjoon.

Namjoon slides the headphones down to hang about his neck, thumbs at his phone. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“Oh I,” Jimin looks down at his book, creases and re-creases the corner. “I just noticed you seem very into whatever you’re hearing, and I was wondering what it was.”

“Whale songs.”

“Whale songs?”

“Not like, sea shanties about whales. I mean actual songs sung by actual whales.”

“Whales don’t sing.”

“Well, I guess the proper phraseology here would be ‘whale communication sounds’. Most people don’t know this, but whales have an immensely complex language, clicks and snorts and noises that all mean a million different things. Like, they’ve been on this earth for fifteen million years or so, they’ve had so much more time to develop a vocabulary, it’s way bigger than ours. They rely on echo-location and can have conversations for hours and hours without stopping. So, they’re not really songs, but the echoing in water makes it sound like songs and I—.” Namjoon stops suddenly. “Sorry,” he says, and Jimin watches his eyes physically dim, like splashing a bucket of water on a campfire, everything going flat and smoky with a sharp hiss. “I didn’t mean to ramble.”

He looks apologetic without reason. It’s hard to imagine anyone dismissing or belittling Namjoon for being excited about something but—Jimin can see the signs of it in the downward direction of his gaze, the offset of his shoulders.

“Can I listen?”

Namjoon’s eyelashes flutter as he blinks, surprised, like he can’t quite believe Jimin’s question.

“You don’t have to. Seriously, I know it’s weird.”

“Are you saying I can’t listen?”

“No!” Namjoon bursts, then clears his throat. “I mean, yes, of course you can. Sorry.” He lifts the headphones from his neck, holds them out like an offering, refuses to look Jimin in the eye.

Jimin slides off the edge of the couch and onto the carpet, book forgotten. Sits criss-cross applesauce adjacent to Namjoon. Takes the headphones. Adjusts the tightness. Namjoon seems to be waiting for confirmation that Jimin is braced to hear actual songs by actual whales so Jimin gives a nod and a thumbs up. Closes his eyes.

For a moment, it’s white noise silent. Then a low, almost subliminal rumble starts in Jimin’s ears, the world outside going muted, softer. The rumble grows until it just drowns him, subterranean and sinking. He’s underwater. He’s drifting. He’s—

A singular and beautiful sound falls over his ears. Resonates in his chest. Followed by another seconds later, then another. It’s not crooning, or humming, it’s not a note or a sound that Jimin could name if he didn’t know exactly what he was listening to. It bounces about in his bones, in his skull, like shouting into a cavern, the sound reverberating against the walls of him, going out one way and coming back different, unfamiliar. A higher pitch followed by a lower one, overlapping and pouring over itself.

Jimin thinks there are corners of the world that make you feel like you’re witnessing something ancient and bigger than you could ever hope to understand. Like watching the tide on a full moon back in Busan, the way she twines the waves together, or walking through the forest Jimin’s parents took him to see very long ago, trees big as houses, bigger than houses, bigger than any building Jimin had seen. Being among that forest, at that moonlit shoreline, and in this moment right here, it’s all the same feeling. Makes the hair on his arms stand up, makes his skin feel hypersensitive.

Aching. Haunting. Alive.

He understands why Namjoon refers to them as songs.

Namjoon’s voice, from above water, almost too soft to pick out. “You hear that?”

Jimin does.

“Yeah,” he whispers, not wanting to interrupt that pretty lilting. “I hear it.”

He loses track of minutes and seconds, not asleep but adrift, listening.

When he opens his eyes, Namjoon is looking at him with rapt attention, like he’s searching for something in Jimin’s reaction. Jimin removes the headphones, and Namjoon lets out a breath.

“That was amazing. Where’d you find these?”

“Took an environmental studies class my freshman year. Apparently there’s enough boat traffic in the ocean to drown out the whale songs so they can’t hear each other, which decreases mating. So I got curious and did some research, and now it’s kind of like, my happy place, I suppose.”

“Why whale songs?” Jimin asks.

Namjoon props his chin on his hands, thinking for a moment, “I think because there’s no rhythm. No beat. No melody. There’s no physical structure to whale songs whatsoever. Yet it’s still undeniably music. It’s still beautiful. That can be difficult to find sometimes.”

“How do you mean?”

It’s only now, that he’s looking Namjoon head on, that he sees how off he looks. Like every inch of him is full, full to the brim and struggling to maintain surface tension, exhausted from holding everything together.

Jimin thinks he knows the feeling but he waits, doesn’t dare to make a sound, and lets Namjoon begin to siphon some of the feeling out.

“Some days it’s like—like I can’t make music. Which is ridiculous because I take a full course load and only two of my classes this semester don’t actually require me to think about music. But I think studying a thing so intensively kind of makes me sick of it. Or forget how to do it well. I have to like, unpack the bullshit that’s been stuffed into me by Academic Institutions.”

He makes a huffing sound that could be a laugh, only it’s bitter, sharp edged. “The irony of going to music school is that sometimes I think it’s made me hate music. I don’t like that.”

“So whale songs—”

“Help, yeah. It’s like,” here Namjoon pauses for a second, brows coming together. “It’s like forgetting breathing.”

Jimin blinks. “Okay, now you’ve lost me.”

“We’re humans, we have to breathe right? But we don’t obsess over it. We’re not sitting here constantly counting our breaths, our heartbeats, reminding ourselves to do it. We don’t have to think about it, we’re just alive and existing. Breathing.” Namjoon tucks into himself a little tighter, and he looks small. He looks very small, and young, even though Jimin knows that by comparison he is neither of those things.

“That’s what whale songs do for me with music. Make me forget. Takes out all the overthinking I do and all the worrying about stanzas and key changes and lyrics. There’s nothing about this music that reminds me of music and yet it’s still music. It just is.”

Jimin sits very still. Puts the headphones back on after a beat. Lets soft crooning and clicks wash over him again. Closes his eyes, slips back underwater. Lets himself be.

It’s like someone undoes the zipper of his spine, tension unlocking vertebrae to vertebrae until he’s no longer uptight. He wasn’t feeling particularly bad today but maybe he’d had it wrong the whole time. Maybe he’d been overthinking his tempo and his form during dance class, maybe the pressure was getting to him deep down, the way it aways does.

“Does that make sense?” Namjoon asks. He looks wary. Unsure. He’s a few feet away from Jimin but for some reason, maybe the softness of his voice, he feels much closer.

“Yeah,” Jimin says, and smiles, even as his stomach swoops. “Yeah, it does. Can we listen again, together?”

“I’ll grab my bluetooth speaker,” Namjoon says, and almost trips over himself running to retrieve it.

*

jimin
would you like to know some fun whale facts kim namjoon

namjoon
i dont know
am i aiding and abetting some serious procrastination park jimin?

jimin
maybe so...

namjoon
can’t argue with that i guess
whaddya got

jimin
did u know that there are currently a team of scientists working to decipher the language of sperm whales with the intention of saving the species by showcasing its higher brain power and intelligence to humans?

namjoon
oh my god
you found the whale communication tedtalk on youtube didnt you

jimin
i did :)

namjoon
what kind of smile is that
is that a passive aggressive smile or a real smile

jimin
it's a real smile!
why would i be passive aggressive about whales
they are large and noble creatures

namjoon
idk because i did something to upset you
its 2018 smile emoji is the new knife emoji

jimin
a) what would you have done to upset me
b) what’s wrong with smiling!

namjoon
idk!!!!

jimin
we should come up with something else then

namjoon
what do you mean something else

jimin
like if i want to smile at you but i dont want you to think that i’m going to kill you
we need an emoji for that
but what

namjoon
hm
(Smiling Cat Face With Open Mouth )?

jimin
how is a smiling cat any better than a smiley face
you might as well send me a picture of yoongi-hyung

namjoon
u know what: fair

jimin
how about (Spouting Whale )?

namjoon
what does a whale have to do with smiling

jimin
nothing really!
it just makes me think of you now
bc of the whale songs
plus
you know

namjoon

no i dont know park jimin
please :) elaborate :)

jimin
okay you know what that is kind of terrifying now that i’m on the receiving end
i mean you know!!!
you’re sort of big and long
not unlike a whale
but not in a bad way!
like i said! they are big and noble creatures!

namjoon
hm
guess that makes you a vaquita then

jimin
what is a vaquitSKDFDKFG;D;JF
MY SEARCH RESULTS JUST LOADED
IM SCREAMING HOW DARE YOU

namjoon
how dare i compare you to the smallest porpoise on the planet earth?
i don’t know /what/ came into me

jimin
this is LIBEL AND SLANDER

namjoon
they are tiny and rare creatures
you can’t tell me it doesn’t fit

jimin
…I GUESS
but just for calling me small we have to use the whale emojis now

namjoon
that’s not how democracy works

jimin
sorry! can’t debate! decision is made! gotta go study now!!!!!
(Spouting Whale )

namjoon
sigh
(Spouting Whale )(Spouting Whale )(Spouting Whale )!

*

“Hello?” The camera is shaky and grainy and lags every few seconds but there—just a few feet from the lens, is the undeniable boxy smile of his best friend grinning at him. “Hi! Hello! Jimin-ah, my one true love!”

“Hi,” Jimin smiles. “Hi Tae.”

The snow has begun to melt outside, first slow, then fast, everything in half puddles and half snow drifts. From what Jimin has seen of all the pictures Tae has sent him, it's balmy and sunny and has rained all of one day since his flight landed. Taehyung’s roommate is out so he takes Jimin on a little virtual tour of the tiny dorm, chatting animatedly.

Jimin tucks his knees up under his chin, lets Tae talk, basking in the familiarity of their exchange. Then Jimin talks for a bit about his classes, which are getting a little overwhelming, but nothing Jimin can’t handle. He tells Taehyung about the dance show and the latest drama between the other dance major students. Taehyung—who knows everyone’s names and personal history because Jimin is nothing if not a thorough gossip—listens intently.

A knock on the door sounds as Namjoon peeks his head in. “Hey, can I bother you for a sec?”

“Yeah sure thing, I was just skyping with Taehyung. Say hi, Tae.”

“Hi Tae!” Taehyung waves, and Namjoon laughs, waves back, eyes wide and expressive. Cute. “Are you being nice to my best friend?”

“Yes.” Namjoon shoots a small smile in Jimin’s direction.

“Did you need something?” Jimin turns away from the camera a bit, giving Namjoon his attention.

“The guys and I are going bowling tonight, thought I’d see if you want to come along? You can bring Jeongguk, if you want.”

“Ah, sorry,” says Jimin. “I’m a little swamped with work tonight.”

“Okay, no worries, just thought I'd put it out there.”

“Yeah, sure thing. Thank you for thinking of me.”

Namjoon goes. “Bye Taehyung, good to see you.”

‘You too dude!” Tae says, then—the literal second Namjoon has left the room: “Okay, what was that about?”

“What was what?”

“You told me yourself like ten minutes ago that you don't have a single assignment to do tonight. What’s up?”

“Nothing.” Jimin shifts in the desk chair, pushing his toes against the floor so it rolls to the side an inch. “Just didn't feel like going out.”

Last year, in the springtime, Taehyung’s grandmother died. For almost a month he was inconsolable—Jimin had been terrified with not knowing what to do. There are only so many ways to ease someone's pain, and no way to take it away from them completely. But Jimin made sure to be there for Tae, even when every effort made to help felt pointless. Gradually, Taehyung had stepped out of the storm of grief. And at the end of it, on the first good day in weeks, he'd turned to Jimin out of the blue and said, you’re my best friend. I will always be there for you, Jiminie. Always, and for anything, no matter how bad.

They have a code by now, Jimin and Taehyung, a system where they call each other on their bullshit when the other is lying, or keeping secrets. Jimin doesn't have anything that he’s hiding from Tae. It’s hard to hide something which has no name or definition yet. It just sits in the pit of Jimin's stomach, undefinable sludge, melting snow mixed in with ugly dirt. When he knows it, or has a grasp on it, maybe then he'll bring it up.

“Nothing” will have to do for now.

“That's not what I meant,” Taehyung says, snapping Jimin out of his thoughts. “I mean, what is up with you and Namjoon?”

Jimin blinks. “There is no ‘me and Namjoon’.”

“Listen, I’m pretty much a Geiger counter for homosexual magnetism, and y'all are hitting Chernobyl levels of tension there.”

“I don't know what any of that means.”

“Are you sleeping with him?”

“No! He’s my roommate.”

“So you want to sleep with him.”

“Tae!”

“Sorry!” Tae throws his hands up. “Must have read the situation wrong. You're all blurry, I can hardly see your face. I got a vibe, I thought I’d ask.”

“Okay well,” says Jimin cautiously. “I’m not sleeping with him.”

“But you would given the chance, right? You would make a very complimentary couple.”

“I’m hanging up now.”

*

Jimin doesn’t remember all too much from applying to college, but from what he remembers it was a nightmare. Senior year as a whole—from exams to graduation to waiting waiting waiting on tenterhooks for acceptance letters to arrive—a goddamn nightmare.

That period in Jimin’s life felt exactly like drowning.

He knew how to swim but how was he supposed to swim when there’s no water. It was like that day in his dad’s car at the gas station but longer, slower—drawn out over weeks of not sleeping and working harder than he’s ever worked in his life. Drowning on dry land.

When sleep came, it was all fitful dreams about being on the bottom of the pool, being tangled in a plastic floatie, small legs kicking furiously, small arms thrashing, trying so so hard to hold his breath, keep the burn and the hurt and the sick of the chlorine out. He’d wake up gasping, drenched in sweat like he’d been hauled out of the sea. It would take hours for him to calm down, lying on his side like a fish out of water, shaking.

He developed a stomach ache that lasted a whole month before the winter holidays, like he drank too much coffee and now everything in him has turned black, acidic, bitter to the taste. Didn’t tell anyone because he figured he could take it, because he’d been handling everything else just fine. It got so bad that Jimin couldn’t eat without feeling like he was going to throw up, which felt like his body was punishing him for taking a break, for rewarding himself when he’d done too little.

As a dancer, Jimin was aware of his weight always, but it dropped so easily then. His face, so soft looking, too soft for dance, always too soft, became sharper. Hollower.

And then it was over. What once felt unbearable was suddenly behind him, fading into the blue. He made it through his exams, pulled damn near perfect scores, nailed every single one of his dance auditions. The acceptance letter he wanted most arrived, and Jimin, finally satisfied, slept for almost an entire day straight, was sick in bed for a week after.

It was a scary and awful part of his life. Worse, because it didn’t feel like there was an escape from it. No surface to break, no sunlight to swim towards, no escaping the pressure that came at him from all sides.

He hasn’t been back to that place since, but every now and then Jimin sees flickers of it. Glimpses. Thinks he can hear the deep ocean creature that had wrapped its grip around Jimin’s leg and pulled him down down down stirring again, considering him, wondering if he’s going to put up just as much of a fight.

Sometimes, like the time he first set foot on campus and didn’t talk to anyone for several days, before he met Taehyung. Sometimes, like the time he bombed his first ever college exam, and thought he was going to flunk out, despite it being just one test. Sometimes, like the time he rolled his ankle before the freshman showcase and thought he’d have to bow out to heal.

Sometimes, like now.

“Yo, Jimin.”

Jimin blinks, comes back into himself. “Sorry.”

Namjoon doesn’t look irritated. The side of his mouth twitches, like he wants to laugh, and Jimin must look really dumb right now. His hands are all twisted up in his napkin, tearing it into neat strips to lay out over one another on the table.

“Where’d you go just now?” The question isn’t accusing but rather kind, like Namjoon gets it, doesn’t feel irritated for it even though it’s clear Jimin hasn’t been listen to him.

“Nowhere.” Jimin shakes his head, forces out a half laugh, scoots closer to the table, to Namjoon, leaning in. “I’m right here.”

“You let me monologue about my existential theory class for a full two minutes before I noticed you weren’t listening. You sure?”

Around them, the quiet scrape of forks and plates. A bus boy swings by with a tray of dishes, looking harried.

They found this place a few weeks back, he and Namjoon, and immediately claimed it as their spot. Or rather, Namjoon found it, wandered in one day while he was searching for an ATM machine, and came sprinting all the way back to the apartment to tell Jimin about it. Jimin’s kind of shocked Taehyung hadn’t found it before, what with his general knack for finding as many nearby eateries as possible.

The restaurant is a scant few blocks away from the apartment, one of those hole-in-the-wall places where the entrance is part of a back alley and looks like a condemned building than anything else.

But the inside is warmly lit, and cozy, little tea tables where you sit on the ground and they serve good good stuff. The stuff that tastes too good on these sort of endless rainy nights. Hot tea, pat bingsoo, injeolmi toast and red bean buns, and open and available until midnight. Quiet, good for studying, in a way that all the bustling coffeeshops closer to campus aren’t. It was as if the place knew they needed somewhere else to be on these late rainy nights, rather than making ramen in the apartment, or hanging out in the crowded campus cafes, and decided to reveal itself to them.

“Sorry,” Jimin repeats. “Just tired. Bad day.”

There’s a hangnail on Jimin’s thumb. He’s been picking and peeling at it for the better part of their meal, along with the napkin, making the skin around his finger angry and red. It will bleed soon if he doesn’t stop.

Jimin messed up in rehearsal earlier this morning and it's been hanging over him like a raincloud ever since, like a vapor of tear gas, something that stings and hurts but he breathes through it and keeps going through because he doesn't have time to stop, doesn’t have time to recover, he does not have time to think about all the million and one ways he fucked up.

There's so much that buzzes around inside his head. He never knows how to quiet the thoughts. It’s not so much anxiety like other people have. At least, he doesn't think it is. He’s seen Jeonggukie's panic attacks, has sat with him through some of the worst ones. This feels like a landslide. This feels like the tumble off the cliff right before he crashes into the water. Like with one mistake comes one bad thought and then another, and by the end of the thought he's talked himself out of going to college, out of doing dance as a major, out of trying to hack it in Seoul, thinking he could ever make it here when he was Busan born and bred.

It doesn't always go that way. He's good at heading those thoughts off before they become actions.

you're too hard on yourself, Taehyung had told him once. what would you say to me if I was talking like that?

I would tell you to shut the fuck up, Jimin had mumbled, teary eyed, his face shoved into Taehyung's shoulder after he’d sprained his wrist in rehearsal, and had to sit out for a whole week to properly recover.

It's what he tries to tell himself. Be like Taehyung. Think like Taehyung. Tae has bad days just like everyone else, but when he makes a mistake or people criticize him, he’s unaffected. Untouchable. One time Taehyung grew his hair out so long random people started telling him to get a haircut, and he was completely unbothered. It’s maybe the one point in their even keeled relationship them that makes Jimin absolutely jealous. They are vastly different people but rarely ever does Jimin feel envy with regards to Taehyung.

Except for this. He very much envies how easy it is for Taehyung to just be.

“Is that all?” Namjoon asks, because he does that now. He asks Jimin what’s wrong and he doesn’t apologize for prying, because he cares. “What’s on your mind?”

What’s on Jimin’s mind is this:

Sometimes, he thinks he is not very good at being a person.

He’s never voiced it out loud. Not even to Taehyung. Because Taehyung is the kind of person who would say that’s ridiculous. of course you are a person. you’re my favorite person. And he would mean it, wholeheartedly, and Jimin would probably feel a little better, and think he’s right.

But the feeling would persist. Cling to the soles of Jimin’s shoes like old gum, like tar from the sand on the beach, something not easily removed, something he carries with him as he goes about his day. A niggling nuisance of a feeling that makes his stomach turn, creeps up on him if he sits still for too long, is by himself for too long.

What’s on Jimin’s mind is that he’s bad at being a person because most days he feels like he’s not his own person. Some days it feels like playing dress up. Like putting on pieces of a person, doll parts, together, and just assuming that the final product is him.

He worries, worries so much, that if you were to lay him out on a cold metal table, carve him down the middle, peel back layer by layer of Park Jimin down to his bones and take away his dance commitments, take away his friends, the interests he has because his friends had them first, that he doesn’t have much of a personality on his own. There wouldn’t be much to him, apart from his incessant need to be liked, to be good at things. He worries constantly that he’s not very interesting beyond that.

Sometimes he gets twitchy over it, frantic. Sometimes he’ll double text someone and think that was so stupid why would you do that. Sometimes a friend cancels plans and he panics slightly, wondering if they’ve grown tired of him. He works really hard to make people like him. He doesn’t like it when people don’t. Even in a competitive program where that’s almost impossible, he tries so hard.

What’s on Jimin’s mind is that he lacks the natural gravitas of someone like Taehyung, who’s exuberance comes easy as breathing. Even Jeongguk, who’s shy and anxious in his own right, has his share of friends, people who gravitate towards him because he’s naive looking and sweet. Jeongguk doesn’t have to try really hard to make friends, people drift towards him. In a different way than that of Taehyung, who just exudes light, but still, people drift towards him.

Jimin has friends too. He just feels, more often than not, that maybe they don’t really know him. Because he doesn’t even know himself. Because he’s not a real person. He’s just a slapdash mixed bag of whatever personality traits seem most agreeable to being liked, admired, attractive.

Sometimes, Jimin thinks that he tries too hard to be nice people. That he should chill the fuck out. Sometimes, when he gets the impression that someone doesn’t like him, or maybe is neutral about him, he feels everything in him tie up in knots. Over and over and over.

Some days he is fine. He tells himself that it’s okay that he puts this effort into being liked, and it’s okay that others don’t. Other days, he feels like he doesn’t know who he is on his own. Like all his interests, his passions, the things he’s liked, all the experiences who make up who he is, he’s stolen from other people. Like he’s some kind of social plagiarist.

When he has these thoughts, he tries to talk them down with the simplest mantra. That he is a good person. That he is trying his hardest to be good. That he is trying to be a kind in a world that is not often kind back. If that makes him a little neurotic, a little adrift in an identity crisis, it’s not the worst thing in the world.

He thinks the only time he feels like his own self and nobody else’s is when he dances. But somedays it’s hard to dance without feeling like he’s doing everything wrong, so even that is touch and go.

Some days feel like Jimin feels like there’s pieces he has to put together of himself before he walks out the door. Not because he’s broken but, rather because he never knows what version of himself he needs to be each day. Some assembly required.

Taehyung wasn’t really the cure to that. He was more the balm. Jimin never felt like he was pretending around him. But now Taehyung's gone and all that’s left is for Jimin to take one look at all his parts and think this isn’t working, this isn’t enough, i am such a fucking fake.

He's not fake. Not at all. It’s just that some days he’s not sure if the real him is good enough to exchange for the fake one that has all his shit together on the outside.

What’s on Jimin’s mind? Where the fuck to even begin.

He sucks in a breath as he tugs the hangnail free, a tiny bead of blood gathering in the nail bed.  

“Jimin, can I touch you?”

Jimin makes a wounded noise in his throat, doesn’t even sound like him. Then Namjoon is moving across the booth. He doesn’t wrap Jimin up in his arms the way Taehyung would, seal himself to Jimin’s side like a barnacle.

Instead, Namjoon gently lifts Jimin’s red and angry hand from where it sits in his lap. Turns it over in his. Strokes one finger down the soft palm, intersecting with the life line. Then he takes Jimin’s other hand, just sort of loosely holding them, fingertips folded under Jimin’s, the lightest pressure, something unthinking, tentative. It’s not like Namjoon is holding Jimin’s hands, only touching them.

Outside, it pours.

“Sorry for being needy.”

“What?” Namjoon blinks, but his hands don’t move. “No, what are you talking about?”

“I am. I’m sorry. I know I ask a lot of you, I take up a lot of your time. It’s weird not having Tae around and I know it’s shitty to take it out on you. I should be better at being on my own and dealing with my own crap.”

“I don’t think so,” Namjoon says with a frown. “People need people. That’s not something to be ashamed over. You’re not a bad person for needing people.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course, anything.”

“Do you ever worry that you’re not a person?” Jimin’s talking before he can think too much about it. “Like, if you weren’t in school, if you didn’t work, if you didn’t have societal obligations, or friends with things in common, that you wouldn’t know who you were at all? Sorry, that’s dumb.”

“Jimin,” says Namjoon. “I worry about that like, all the time.”

“Yeah?” Something in Jimin’s chest lifts.

“Yeah, fucking constantly. Jesus christ.” Namjoon’s dimple does this thing. He’s not quite smiling but it’s there, barely visible, the smallest little divot in his cheek. Jimin wants to press his thumb to it. Measure it. Know the exact concavity of that tiny crease. “I have this existential crisis like, oh I don’t know, every other week or so.”

“Every week, huh?” Jimin doesn’t know why it’s so funny, but Namjoon’s voice has grown into laughter that shakes his shoulders.

“Yeah. And it’s always triggered by the smallest thing. It’s so weird. Like, someone tells me offhand that I’m so smart, I should be a college professor, and twenty minutes later I’m downspiraling because I’m worried I’m taking the wrong career path and ruining my entire goddamn life and I’m going to end up homeless and eaten by my cats.”

“You have cats?”

“In the scenario where I die old and alone, yes.”

Jimin starts to laugh, first just a low squeak in his throat. Namjoon’s expression brightens. Then they’re both kind of laughing, leaning into each other.

“It’s really not funny, but I second guess myself as a human being like every other fucking day. Sometimes I feel like Kim Namjoon is a myth, he doesn’t exist, and if he does, then I sure as hell haven’t found him yet.”

“How can you say that? You’re like—you’re so grounded. And involved. You’re studying all these amazing subjects and doing all these impressive things. You like being alone with yourself.”

“That doesn’t mean I have a clue what I want to do, or if what I want is what I should be doing, or if I’m just doing things because my friends are, the list of worries is endless.” Namjoon fixes Jimin with a somber look. “But I suppose all that really matters is what kind of person you want to be, and if you’re taking steps towards being that person.”

“I want to be a person who is strong,” Jimin says, the truth crashing over his head like a cascade of water, another riptide wave. “I want to be somebody that can handle when things get difficult, or impossible. I know I’m tiny but I don’t ever want anyone to think that I’m—that I’m weak.”

“Is that how you think I see you?”

“No,” Jimin says forcefully. “It’s how I see myself. I ask to sleep in your bed, I text you non stop, I barge in when you’re studying, I drag you out to get dinner—”

“And you think I mind that?”

“I think you don’t want to get kicked out of the apartment, so you’ll suffer however you need to.”

Namjoon takes this in, looking thoughtful. He doesn’t dismiss Jimin’s concerns with a wave of his hand. He rubs a single thumb over Jimin’s knuckles, brushing the scar on Jimin’s ring finger from that time he climbed a chain link fence in middle school. All the other kids had climbed it so easy. It had been effortless to them. Jimin ripped his hand open and had to get stitches.

“I’m sorry. I—”

“No. Just wait. I’m thinking out what I want to say.” Namjoon pauses, looks up at Jimin, then down again. Their green tea ice cream is a puddle in the bowl by now. They’ve been here for hours, Jimin thinks. The restaurant is practically empty. The harried looking bus boy has finished cleaning up all the tables except for theirs.

“You know what I think?” Namjoon says, after a long moment.

“What do you think?”

“I think you spend a lot of time taking care of other people. And that’s wonderful and admirable and means you’re a good person, because you listen when people talk and you take in what they say. You care. But that doesn’t mean you’re devoid of a personality. Or that you are fake. Or weak. If you weren’t a person, or you were a fake person, you wouldn’t have a roommate posting a 200-question application just to find someone worthy of living with you. You wouldn’t have Jung Hoseok—the literal prodigy of the dance program—rant endlessly about how great you are. People adore you because you are a good person. And for what it's worth, I happen to love spending time with you. Period. I get that that’s confusing, and you still need to find that feeling within yourself. But I hope you understand that.”

Namjoon gathers Jimin’s hands in his, folding his fingers over and giving them a squeeze. “You deserve to feel like a person as much as anyone in this world. But I don't think it’s as easy as it seems, so don’t beat yourself up, okay?”

Jimin squeezes back.

*

Later, back at the apartment, after taking a hot shower and bundling into his warmest flannel pajamas, Jimin walks down the hall by Namjoon’s bedroom, toweling through his hair.

The door is propped open.

Namjoon is bent over and peeling rain spattered jeans off his legs and reaching for pajama pants. He’s already traded his t-shirt for a baggy sweater with the neckline cut out.

The fabric stretches beyond the delicate angle of his collarbones, kisses along his sternum. He looks a little cold, but gradually warming, skin gone dusky with flush.

Right…there, in a place down low low low in Jimin’s belly. The barest flicker.

He remembers the day Namjoon first moved in, how he knew even then, meeting Namjoon and feeling slightly bowled over by his height, the shape of his eyes, even as Jimin’s mind was hung up on other things.

He has always been aware that Namjoon is attractive. Long as he is limber, the shape of his mouth just as lovely as his eyes.

But it had been a passing observation then, a far off and momentary thing. Like seeing a lightning strike from a distance, white veins streaking across a dark sky, and not thinking much of it until long after, as the low rumble of thunder echoes in the pit of his stomach.

Namjoon yawns, stretches his full height, shoulders flexing, wiry and lean, both big and small. He is beautiful.

Thunder rolls through Jimin, rattling him.

He raps his knuckles on the doorframe, before he overthinks it.

“Oh, hey. You feeling better?”

Jimin nods, runs the towel over his head again. The roots of his hair are getting dark again, he’ll need to rebleach them soon. “I think so. Thank you, again.”

“No problem,” says Namjoon, and then, casting his eyes down, then forcing them upwards once again. “Do you want to sleep in my bed tonight?”

Jimin nods, too tired and grateful to feel guilty.

In bed, they curl up, opposing parentheses. Not touching. Jimin wriggles closer to Namjoon but Namjoon almost-but-not-quite flinches away.

“Does this bother you?” Jimin asks. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“It’s…not that.”

Jimin props his head up on his hand, looking at Namjoon. “Then what is it?”

Namjoon’s breath ghosts over the shell of Jimin’s ear. “I guess I’m just not used to it. I don’t mind being cuddled, I’m just, not a particularly cuddly person.”

“Kim Namjoon, you have a bed full of plushies that says different.”

“Hm. Maybe I’m not very good at it.”

“Maybe,” Jimin says, sneaking an arm around Namjoon’s waist, “you need to practice.”

He doesn’t pull any closer, but lets his arm hang loose and thrown over Namjoon’s side, and closes his eyes.

*

When Jimin wakes up, Namjoon is asleep on the floor again, sitting with his back to the mattress, face tilted towards Jimin.

Quietly, Jimin reaches forward, buries his fingers in the soft brown of Namjoon’s hair, sweeps his bangs back.

Namjoon makes a quiet noise in his sleep, the tail end of a sigh. Jimin’s heart clenches in his chest.

He slips out of bed.

*

namjoon
did u know that the aorta of a blue whale is so big that a small child can crawl through it?

jimin
now look who’s procrastinating? (Spouting Whale )

namjoon
in my defense i have been in this prison bunker of a music lab for ten hours straight
i think i’m losing my mind

jimin
what a conundrum
the music lab by the dog statue?
hmm maybe i can distract you
have you seen that video of the beluga whales who like listening to mariachi music?? ?

namjoon
the WHAT

jimin
[LINK ATTACHED]

namjoon
oh my god
they’re so cute wtf
(Spouting Whale )(Loudly Crying Face )(Spouting Whale )(Loudly Crying Face )(Spouting Whale )(Loudly Crying Face )(Spouting Whale )(Loudly Crying Face )
do u think they’ll kick me out if i weep over belugas who love El Mariachi

jimin
i feel that you’re actually in a healthy middle ground re: beluga induced weeping
based on what i’ve seen

namjoon
good to know

jimin
speaking of public campus locations
let me into the studio
i come bearing gifts (Spouting Whale )

*

namjoon
hey! what are you up to rn

jimin
on a date

namjoon
whaaaaaat
with who

jimin
a date with mySELF hyung
remember? like you told me to?
or have u already forgotten that time u shouted “DATE YOSELF” at me for like, an hour

namjoon
what is this, the third date?
sounds like things are getting kind of serious ;)

jimin
if you must know
yes
things are quite serious between me myself and i
really finding myself hard to resist

namjoon
i cant imagine who wouldnt

jimin
okay this extended metaphor is getting weird im not gonna lie

namjoon
lmao thank god
are you near campus rn?

jimin
yah, im at that new cat cafe that just opened up

namjoon
omg are u really
are u cuddling with kittens

jimin
yes and its the best date ive EVER BEEN ON
ive NEVER been so content
they take pictures of customers with the cats and print them out to decorate the walls
LOOK HOW CUTE

namjoon
wow
i mean
yeah that’s
that’s very cute jimin

jimin
I KNOW RIGHT!!!
LOOK AT HER FACE.
HER NAME IS STELLALUNA.
I WANNA /CRY/

namjoon
same

jimin
lol what?

namjoon
i mean same, she’s so freaking cute

jimin
im in heaven
anyways, whatd ya need?

namjoon
oh! i was going to ask if you wanted to grab some food, but don’t let me interrupt your date!

jimin
its okay!
not quite ready to take things back to my place

namjoon
you’re right. this metaphor is getting weird

jimin
haha
wanna meet at our usual spot?

namjoon
well actually i’m
right outside
coincidentally
sorry that sounded a lot less weird in my head djhfgsjdhfsdf

jimin
omg
there you are
(Spouting Whale )(Spouting Whale )(Spouting Whale )

*

namjoon
hey

jimin
??? hey
its 3am, are you okay?

namjoon
were you asleep?

jimin
no
were you?

namjoon
nope.
come to my room?

jimin
one sec

*

jimin
hello!!!!

namjoon
what’s poppin jimin-ssi

jimin
fjgsdlfshdfd stop
anyways
huge favor to ask
might not even be possible but you’d literally be saving my life

namjoon
what's up

jimin
can you grab my leg warmers and bring them to me?
its probably out of your way and idk if youre even home so please dont do it if its too much

namjoon
yah ofc
i’m on my way to meet yoongi hyung i’ll swing by
where are ur leg warmers?

jimin
should be in the bottom of my closet next to my shoes

namjoon
found them!!
which dance building?

jimin
building C, room 204
you're my HERO kim namjoon
(Spouting Whale )(Cherry Blossom )(Spouting Whale )

*

“Who is that?” Youngjae hisses in a whisper, directing a jerk of his head towards the door. “And what is he doing in the dance building.”

Youngjae makes a point, even if his tone is more condescending than it needs to be.

Namjoon could not look more out of place, more awkward, standing at the threshold in a room full of dancers, people lifting their feet over their heads, showing skin, wearing their hair back in neat buns or cut short entirely.

“Is he here for you or me?” Hoseok asks, untwisting from a backbend and looking over.

“Me,” says Jimin. “Just me.”

He detaches from his own little corner, sidesteps someone doing a grand jete across the floor—showoff, he thinks—and beelines for Namjoon, skipping, almost careens into him as he skids to a stop.

“Hi.” Jimin smiles, popping up on his toes so he’s right up in Namjoon’s face, bouncing back on his heels with a laugh.

Namjoon grins back and his whole face sort of scrunches up with it. Like Jimin’s done something particularly cute or endearing.

“Hi,” Namjoon says, then blushes, weirdly enough. “I hope I’m not interrupting, I should have texted and waited outside.”

“It’s okay, thanks for coming.”

Namjoon nods, and his gaze drift over Jimin’s shoulder, inquisitive. “What are you rehearsing for?”

“End of the semester recital,” answers Jimin. “Today we’re learning floor work.”

“Cool.” Namjoon bobs his head up and down.

Around them, Jimin can sense curious eyes, as the other dancers in the hall take notice of Namjoon’s presence. It’s not against the rules for “outsiders” to come into the studio, it just doesn’t happen often. Dance majors are kind of clique-y and run in their own tight knit circles. They stick to their own kind.

Meanwhile, Namjoon’s wearing loose fitting overalls over a grey t-shirt, complete with a pink baseball cap, thick rimmed glasses and these clunky lumberjack boots. He’s got a philosophy book tucked under his arm. His eyes skitter shyly away from the wall of mirrors every time he spots his reflection. Everything about him just screams not a dancer, but it’s not a bad thing.

If anything, it’s a comfort. Jimin’s been in this room going on four hours now. He finds the change in persona is incredibly refreshing.

That it’s Namjoon in particular just happens to be a perk.

“So this recital,” Namjoon asks, fiddling with the straps of his overalls. “Are you in it?”

“Yeah, I’m a dance captain.”

“Dance captain?”

“Yeah, like, I’m in charge of knowing all the choreo, even for the songs I’m not in, so I can teach it to the others or go over it with anyone who needs help. Basically like a teacher’s aide. It’s fun, Hoseokie-hyung used to do it, but he’s choreographing this time.”

“Wow. You have to know every single dance?”

Jimin shrugs, suddenly flustered. “It’s no big deal, really.”

Namjoon is outright grinning now, eyes wide. “It’s a very big deal. You are very cool, Jimin.”

Jimin laughs despite himself. “Very cool?”

“Yeah.” Namjoon nods, smiling. “Very.”

If there is a name for whatever emotion goes alongside wanting to gently cup someone’s dimpled cheeks, just because, Jimin doesn’t know it. Whatever it’s called, he’s chock full of it. This entire long Saturday has been one large impending headache, and now it’s as if the headache never existed in the first place.

He doesn’t realize he’s just sort of smiling stupidly at Namjoon until Namjoon politely asks, “When’s the show?”

“Uh, about a month from now. So, if I stop coming home, just assume it’s because I’m sleeping here.”

“Yikes, that doesn’t look very comfortable.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” says Jimin sagely. “See, I’ve been rehearsing here for almost three years. I can sleep anywhere in the dance building. I take power naps in the 2nd floor stairwell near the professor’s offices. Keep a pillow in my locker and everything.”

It’s probably not a big deal, the way that Namjoon smiles. It’s probably not a big deal that Jimin loves it, the way he smiles. It’s probably not a big deal that he needs to stretch out his hamstrings some more. That everyone’s full out watching them in the doorway. That the professor’s going to come back from their smoke break any minute now. Jimin should get back.

Probably.

But the afternoon sunlight streaming through the open door turns Namjoon’s eyes the prettiest shade of brown, coffee with an extra dollop of cream. Jimin doesn’t want to budge.

Somewhere off to Jimin’s left, he can hear Hoseok’s very distinct cough. It seems to startle both of them.

Namjoon gives an odd salute. “Well I'll see ya,” followed by an outburst of, “Oh! I almost forgot, duh.”

He shoves a hand in his book bag and emerges with a bundle of emerald green leg warmers. “Here you go.”

Jimin takes the leg warmers, cradles them to his chest, looks up at Namjoon. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Namjoon nods, voice all-business. “Have a good rehearsal, captain.”

And then he winks. He fucking winks. Jimin cannot.

He holds his hand up in a small wave. “Bye.”

There’s an absolutely wild moment, where Jimin imagines forgetting class entirely and following Namjoon out into the sun.

“Is that your boy toy?” Youngjae asks peevishly when Jimin comes back, “What a strange gangly man.”

“Mind your own business, bitch,” Jimin says, and bends over to put on his leg warmers so Hoseok can't see him blushing.

*

A few weeks later, Min Yoongi is waiting for Jimin after class.

The appearance of Yoongi himself isn’t totally out of the ordinary. He swings by on occasion, usually to bring Hoseok lunch or tea or sometimes just to say hi. Not always, but enough that all the other dancers tease Hoseok, cooing and cat calling whenever he sashays over to Yoongi, beaming.

Yoongi doesn’t seem to mind the ribbing, and neither does Hoseok. Half the time, it’s like they don’t even notice what’s happening around them.

But today, when afternoon ballet wraps up and lets out, Min Yoongi is standing at the door and his eyes do not drift towards Hoseok. They settle on Jimin, and stay there, a fixed intensity that Jimin knows is a yeah, I’m talking to you, kid.

“What’s up, hyung?” Jimin jogs over.

“I need a favor,” Yoongi says, voice pitched low. “Regarding Namjoon.”

Other students file out the door past them. Jimin should be joining them, he’s got Writing 340 in about half an hour, but Yoongi’s words vanish the thought from his mind.

“Hit me.”

“Have you seen Namjoon-ah today?”

Jimin thinks. He’s been up since six, but he hadn’t run into Namjoon in the kitchen for their morning go-around. The apartment had been quiet when he left, Jimin had just figured Namjoon had overslept, or was already gone.

“No,” says Jimin, stomach lurching guiltily. “No, I haven’t.”

“I think he’s upset about something, he won’t tell me what, but he’s AWOL. He didn’t come to class this morning, and when I texted him I didn’t really get a response.

“Did something happen?” Jimin’s throat feels tight (hard to breathe, can’t breathe), “Did something—”

“We had music project crit together yesterday, but he seemed fine then. Maybe he got bad feedback from our professor, though I don’t understand how—,” Yoongi breaks off, pinches the bridge of his nose. “Look, I’m probably overreacting, he’s most likely fine, probably under the weather or something. But I’ve known him for eight years. I know him, and I know something’s off. And if it’s not, then I’m just being a worrisome hyung. Would you be willing to check on him? Please?”

Hoseok joins them. “You hear from Joon yet?” he mutters to Yoongi, who shakes his head.

“I—.” The words dry up in Jimin’s mouth. “Do you want my apartment keys? I can let you in if you want to talk to him.”

Yoongi shakes his head. “If he wanted to talk to me he would have. Same with Hoseok, or Jin-hyung. We’ve tried. Please, Jimin.”

Jimin looks between the two of them. Hoseok’s eyes are wide, forehead creased, and Yoongi’s staring more intensely than Jimin’s ever seen him stare.

“Okay,” Jimin nods. “I’ll try.”

*

He takes his time getting home, walking instead of sprinting the way he wants to, trying to think up a way to make Namjoon feel any better, while simultaneously battling the voice in his head saying why me why did yoongi ask me. Yoongi could have taken Jimin’s house keys, he could have come with Jimin, but he asked Jimin to do this, and Jimin alone.

Though Jimin isn’t always sure of himself, he is sure that he is a good friend. He knows when someone’s not feeling themselves, he has a talent for making them feel better. Taehyung once told Jimin his super power was crazy mad sixth sense empathy, and that sounds about right.

It’s not even that he can tell what’s bothering them—be it sadness or anger or something else. It’s just this solid coarse feeling of wrong that goes off in his chest. Rubs the wrong way against his skin.

The apartment walls are bleeding with that feeling when he lets himself in.

It's like being suddenly colorblind. The air feels thin, the yellows and blues sapped from the picture of their apartment, the red and greens blurring together in a muddy olive.

Namjoon’s not seated in the center of the soft rug doing homework, nor haunched over the kitchen table with his mug. He's not laid prone on the carpet, eyes closed.

He’s so still that Jimin nearly misses him, balled up like a crumpled paper, sitting in the farthest corner of the couch like he’s not sure how he got there. Like he’d been tossed. His eyes are open, but it’s an absentminded sort of staring. Vacant. Sad.

Jimin wants to fling himself across the distance and burrow himself against Namjoon’s side, but he swallows that urge down.

“Hey!” he chirps, going for false brightness just in case he's misreading the situation and Namjoon’s just feeling tired. Though he knows, he knows it’s not just tired. The room feels drained of all it’s warmth. Namjoon is not looking at him, nor speaking.

“Hoseok-hyung says hi,” Jimin chatters on. “I’m so happy to have some free time before things start getting nuts with rehearal. How was your day?”

Namjoon’s gaze slides over to Jimin, slow moving, like tires spinning in a snow drift.

“Fine.”

There are shadows under his eyes, Jimin can see them from where he stands. When was the last time he slept?

If Jimin’s going to help Namjoon at all, it’s not going to be here.

Jimin thinks of the big blue-grey weather outside. Of the sun's prying fingers in beams. Of finding Namjoon on a park bench all those weeks ago, looking completely content among the squirrels, even in the cold weather.

"Do you want to go for a walk with me?"

Namjoon’s gaze focuses a little more and he blinks, like he’s not quite sure he heard Jimin correctly. Like he’s half asleep and only just starting to gain consciousness. “What?”

Jimin looks at the crack in the curtains, as if he can see the big wide sky. “It's a nice day out. I'm kind of keyed up but I don't feel like doing homework. Walk with me?”

A pause, where he can't tell whether or not Namjoon's going to say yes.

Then, a movement, a fold and crease, Namjoon untucking his legs and setting his bare feet on the carpet.

“Okay,” he says softly, like he’s trying to talk himself into it, psych himself up. “Okay, yeah, let’s go for a walk.”

They walk.

At first, they just go in circles within the neighborhood, and Jimin doesn’t say anything because he considers it a feat that he got Namjoon outside in the first place.

The air in his lungs feels good. Rains came hard again last night, that particular after-storm smell inescapable, soaked into the pavement beneath their feet. It’s nippy out, despite the sun peeking through the clouds. Jimin bundles up in his leather jacket and a warm scarf that Taehyung gifted to him and walks alongside Namjoon in silence.

Namjoon doesn't even seem to be thinking, gaze locked on the grounds. He moves on autopilot, like the brakes in the engine are broken and there's no point in stopping or trying to slow down. He just goes and goes and goes. Doesn't even realize his long legs have pushed him far ahead until Jimin shouts, from twenty feet behind, “Hey! Wait up!”

Namjoon halts, blinking like he’d been startled awake again. Finally looks up from the pavement. Jimin jogs up to him, slightly out of breath.

He doesn’t quite smile, but there’s something playing at the corners of his mouth. Like he’s thinking about it.

“Sorry. I forget.”

“Forget to let the rest of us normal sized people keep up with your legs?”

That not-quite-smile grows like vines, almost reaches his eyes. “Something like that. You walk very slow.”

“Hey,” Jimin pouts. “That’s offensive. I’ll have you know that I am a natural born power walker. It's not my fault you take one step and suddenly you're in another country.”

Namjoon shrugs, but his lips are still curved. “Fair.”

It goes on like that. Every once in a while Namjoon gets ahead, like he's forgotten he’s with someone, goes off a bit on his own. Until Jimin softly calls to him, joonie, wait for me, and catches up. Save for those fleeting almost-smiles, Namjoon isn’t saying all too much. But that’s okay. Jimin doesn't need or want Namjoon to be anything more than what he's capable of being for right now and that's okay. That's very okay.

They stop by a coffeeshop at Jimin's request, where Jimin orders two teas and briefly sneaks a text to Yoongi with him rn, will keep u posted.

Tea in hand, they drift out of the neighborhood, head towards the park nearby, the one with the cherry blossom trees.

In early spring, most of the trees are only just beginning to bloom, grey branches dotted with pink buds. The air smells just on the right side of sweet, just the right side of good. The sky is true blue and periwinkle where the clouds threaten to overtake the sun. They reach the park, the trees, all the signs of winter coming to a stop, and Namjoon slows his steps a little more. Jimin no longer has to skip a bit to keep up. A cool breeze brushes against his warm cheeks. Their shoes crunch on the gravel in the quiet.

At some point, Jimin spots a bench under one particular cherry blossom tree. The one in the fullest bloom. He takes a seat, crushing fallen petals under his thighs as he does so. Tips his head back, lets some of the flowers fall into his hair, one getting caught on his lip for him to sputter around and spit out with a laugh.

When he opens his eyes, Namjoon is looking at him, standing still in the middle of the empty path, looking stunned. Then the expression is gone just as quick as it came, and he walks over to stand right in front of Jimin. Reaches out a hand to playfully ruffle Jimin’s hair, brushing blossoms into his lap.

It feels good, being touched like this, but Jimin doesn’t know how to say that without destroying the very subtle net he’s constructed over the last hour or so of walking so he just smiles and pats the seat beside him until Namjoon sits. He does not put purposeful space between him the way he often does. His knee knocks Jimin's and it feels like permission. Or a question. So Jimin settles his hand on Namjoon's knee. It feels like the right thing to do.

Namjoon looks down at Jimin's hand for a pause.

He doesn’t say anything.

Then, after a while. After their tea has cooled, after the steam has fettered out, after the sun has passed overhead, begun to sink gently beneath the trees, like a marble falling through thick honey, Namjoon speaks.

“You remember when you said sometimes you feel like you’re not a person.”

“Yes.” Jimin shifts, crossing his legs on the bench and turning to face Namjoon fully. “Are you feeling that way right now?”

“I feel that way most of the time,” says Namjoon, quietly. “But today it feels especially bad.”

Jimin hums a low, sympathetic sound, can’t help it. “Did something happen?”

“No. And that’s what’s awful about it. I was writing a paper, going about my evening yesterday, thinking about grad school next fall. And then suddenly I was like, freaking out about my future. Freaking out about my career. Freaking about who I am, am I Kim Namjoon, am I my music, am I my grades, who am I, do I even have an answer to that question.”

“I’m not sure there is one,” says Jimin truthfully. “At least, not right now. Not so early in life.”

“I think I just need to—” Namjoon huffs, like he can't find the words and he's frustrated about it. “I’m unspooled. I guess. You know when you buy yarn and it's all nicely woven together. Well, I feel the opposite of that. I feel tangled and messy, nothing in the right place.”

“Okay.” Jimin squeezes his hand at Namjoon's knee, strokes his hand over the frayed hole in the kneecap. “That's okay, hyung.”

“It’s not. I’m supposed to be better at this. I really am. I have so much to do, this really isn’t the time to be having a breakdown about my place in the universe.”

“Are you trying your best?”

“I think so.”

“Then you don't need to be better,” Jimin says simply. “You’re doing exactly what you need to. You are good, and kind, and trying your best. The rest will sort itself out in time.”

“Oh,” says Namjoon, and looks up at the streaky blue sky.

Namjoon doesn't speak anymore about why the aura around him is greyscale and rainy and Jimin doesn't try to offer any further words of comfort. It’s possible that’s not what Namjoon needs right now. Maybe he’s sick of words and thoughts and needs the quiet. Jimin feels his phone go off, knows he’s missed his weekly Skype call with Tae, but he keeps his hand on Namjoon's knee. Every once and a while scrapes his thumb over the rough material of the jeans. Namjoon never moves away or asks him to stop.

“You had class today.” It isn’t a question, and Namjoon says it with a frown, like he only just realized.

Jimin shrugs. “So did you. I like to think that the world won’t end if we take a little time for ourselves. Plus,” he loops his arm through Namjoon’s, pulls them together, “It’s such a lovely day.”

“It is.” Namjoon tips his head towards the sky, in the direction of where the sun would be if it weren’t sinking behind the trees, like he can feel the rays tucked just behind the cherry blossoms.

Then, when the sun disappears entirely, Jimin leans over, setting his forehead against Namjoon’s shoulder.

“Let’s go home.”

Not back to the apartment. But Home, with a capital H.

At home, Jimin takes out Namjoon’s electric kettle. He pushes another cup of peppermint tea into Namjoon's hands like that’ll do something to help him thaw. Namjoon keeps inhaling so deep. Like he's trying to keep all that fresh air inside him, locked deep in his belly.

Namjoon goes to take a shower but even after that he hovers, the way he used to when he first moved in. Unsure of himself, unsure of what to ask for, how to ask for it. It feels like an admission. Namjoon’s talking to him in code. In quiet body language, in the way his frame is bent and compressed, like he is trying very hard to be small.

“Okay if I crash in your bed?” Jimin asks, keeping his voice casual and his eyes focused on washing the dishes. “Think the AC has been busted in my room, it’s kind of warm in there lately. The breeze never quite drifts in the way I want it to.”

Namjoon nods silently, hugs himself a little tighter, and that's that.

After brushing his teeth and changing into his own sleep shirt and boxers, Jimin finds Namjoon already in bed, curled up facing the wall, in the space where Jimin usually ends up. He lies so still, the exposed skin of his shoulders equal parts vulnerable and closed off, with plenty of room for Jimin to crawl in beside him.

An idea flits through Jimin’s mind, and he moves to the desk, thumbing through his phone apps until he finds what he needs.

Then, he settles one knee on the bed, easing slowly down. Hesitates, for just a second.

“Hyung,” he whispers. “Can I touch you?”

Namjoon lets go of a shuddery sigh, nods against the pillow and Jimin doesn’t hesitate. Plasters himself up against Namjoon's back like it’s something he's done every day for the last few months. Which they have, in a way. They have shared the bed enough times that Jimin has lost count. Just not like this, exactly.

Jimin squeezes Namjoon around his middle, tight. Spreads his hand as wide as it’ll go over Namjoon’s stomach, covering what ground he can. Tucks his knees to the back of Namjoon’s, fits them together like puzzle pieces, like lock and key. He can’t exactly hook his chin over Namjoon’s shoulder so he just pushes his forehead to the wing of Namjoon’s shoulder blade, nuzzles the skin there, breathes in deep, breathes out warm, presses himself against Namjoon’s back like a second skin.

He can feel Namjoon’s chest expand through his tank-top, the curve of his ribs against Jimin’s wrist and forearm. The breaths are long on the inhale, but shaky on the exhale. Jimin nuzzles at Namjoon’s shoulder some more, brushing a freckle with the tip of his nose. After a minute of just breathing, Namjoon’s hand slips over Jimin’s, fingers folding over his knuckles, absently stroking over the bumps one at a time, like playing a scale on piano keys, over and over.

The sounds of the ocean of whale songs bloom gently throughout the room, the blue-green light emanating from the speaker casting them in an underwater glow. Jimin anchors himself in the sound of that, in the feel Namjoon's breath. The way it coasts through both of them. The sensation of his soft skin, the pads of his fingertips as they drag over Jimin’s knuckles, again and again. The way Namjoon trembles every once in a while, shudders that he cuts off by breathing deep, by stroking over the back of Jimin’s hand.

“Thank you,” Namjoon whispers, and tucks his knees a little tighter.

Jimin holds him tighter in response. Curls around Namjoon as much as his body will allow. He doesn’t know if he is helping, but the shudders are coming farther and farther apart, and the forced deep breathing becomes genuine, as Namjoon goes entirely still in Jimin’s arms, his hand curled in a loose circle about Jimin’s wrist. Finally asleep.

He should go. Namjoon didn’t tell him to stay after he fell asleep. Maybe Jimin should do Namjoon the same courtesy that Namjoon does him, go down to the floor and fall asleep there. He should probably go. He should—

Namjoon rolls over in his sleep, a soft grace note slipping out of him. Almost like he’s humming in his dreams. He pushes his face into Jimin's chest, throws an arm over Jimin’s waist. His hair smells like shampoo. Like cool air. Like peppermint tea.

Jimin is so fond.

He falls asleep before he can draw up the courage to leave.

*

jimin>>>tae
hEY im sorry i missed you yesterday (Loudly Crying Face )

taehyung
no worries! we’re even now bc the last time u Skype called me i was drunk and hung up on u by accident so
ur good <3

jimin
i feel like we haven’t talked in ages lmao
even tho it’s only been a few days

tae
SAME SAME
we’re about to be on spring break here and my friends are planning a trip up the coast
might be out of service for a bit
but things are okay? you’re okay? how’s namjoon?

jimin
omg that sounds fun ;;
things are okay, i am okay
namjoon is good

tae
you two getting along?

jimin
yeah
yeah i think we are

taehyung
but not TOO good, right?
he’s a good roommate like he’ll never hurt you or leave dishes in the sink
but he’s not the bEST, right?

jimin
no
that spot is saved exclusively for you

tae
:)

*

Living with Namjoon is odd at first. And then, quite suddenly, not odd at all.

Talking to Namjoon is easy. They talk about everything, even when their tastes don’t quite align. Namjoon’s favorite books are pretty much the polar opposite of Jimin’s—who prefers fantasy and the escapism of magic, while Namjoon likes the kind of books that make you think and feel. But they have a two hour debate about their respective Hogwarts houses, and Jimin borrows one of Namjoon’s Murakami books to read in-between classes.

So they talk about books, and music, their families, how they grew up. Namjoon never runs out of questions about dance, and Jimin is endlessly curious about Ilsan, and somehow, between all the things they don’t know about each other, and all the things they don’t quite agree on, they find this endless common ground.

Jimin really likes the way Namjoon talks.

There is something about the consideration he puts into his responses, the space between the words that gives them weight. Like how sometimes he will ask Namjoon a question, or offer a point, and Namjoon will take a long pause. Jimin can always tell here that he’s thinking, really truly thinking, about the words he wants to put out into the world.

Namjoon is conscientious in every way. He speaks like pruning flowers. Gently, with careful hands and slow movements. Sometimes he’ll say something and then backtrack, correct himself, elaborate on what he really meant. Namjoon means everything he says. Sincerely. Genuinely. They never have a conversation where Jimin feels like he’s being lied to, like Namjoon is being dishonest, or hiding his real thoughts.

When Namjoon asks him for his opinion, like he genuinely wants to know what Jimin thinks. He listens like Jimin’s words have weight too. And it’s not that Taehyung and Jeongguk and his other friends don’t do that. But it’s different—they feel grafted to him in their love, unconditional.

With Namjoon, it’s new. And it makes Jimin feel like more of a person every day, makes him aware of how he matters.

Life pushes on the same as it always does, but Jimin begins to measure days in conversation, in interaction, each increment of the week marked by times he sees a dimpled smile.

And just like that, it’s April.

The city gives one last vicious shake to free itself from winter’s grip. Like a dog after a rigorous bath, winter goes and spring comes in with a spray of showers that fade in and out. The air smells sticky sweet with dew and blooming flowers. It’s still cool out, but the frigid bite to the air has retreated altogether. In its place, the crisp smell of new and green and life pushing up through the soil. Beneath the smell of city—beneath the asphalt, the tinny metallic metropolis smell—there’s spring, there’s warmth, and the reminder that not all cold things last forever.

About once a week Jimin gets home from class early or Namjoon is heading to the library for an all nighter or they just happen to run into each other with a handful of free time and Namjoon says want to go for a walk? and Jimin finds that he can’t say no, no matter how tired or sore he may be.

Truthfully, Jimin’s more the type to cluster himself in some hideyhole coffeeshop with friends, go somewhere with Tae, stay in and play video games with Jeongguk. But Namjoon seems to like the fresh air more than he likes anything else in the world, so when Namjoon says want to go? Jimin says of course, yes, let me get my shoes.

Missing Taehyung doesn’t really go away—Jimin never expected it to. They text every day (Taehyung’s doing great, he’s putting together a portfolio concept for the art show at the end of the semester, he’s making plans to go with his friends to LA Pride before he flies home, he saw Lady Gaga in a Starbucks and nearly passed out).

Jimin misses him like crazy, but the panic has ebbed away. The sense of not being able to do this on his own goes. And in its place grows a different feeling. Something a little more solid takes root in Jimin’s bones, keeps him stable, keeps him from capsizing, both when he’s alone and when he’s with people.

In the moments he feels stressed out or sad or frustrated or lonely, he tries his best to tell himself that it’s okay that he feels these things. That he’s a person. That he’s allowed to feel.

It’s a work in progress. Jimin feels pretty okay with that.

And on the days he doesn’t feel okay with it, on the days where his head feels like it could explode with the pressure of rehearsal and class and trying to figure out exactly who he is, being around Namjoon is a balm, a boon. Something good and untouched by bad things in the world.

He tries as hard as he can to be that for Namjoon in turn.

“Are you an angel?” Namjoon asks, on the third day in a row that Jimin brings him green tea. He’s been practically chained to a desk at the library, working on a particularly grueling essay.

“I’m a fairy,” Jimin insists, and boops Namjoon on the nose just to be cheeky.

Namjoon laughs. He has been doing that more and more around Jimin. These loud deep booming sounds.

Their schedules are both horrifically full, but they’ve taken to having study dates in the park. Grabbing dinner in the local markets and strolling back to their campus on nights where Jimin has rehearsal until late and Namjoon has free time to spare. It calms Jimin more than he can say.

Some nights, Jimin still can’t sleep. He doesn’t worry anymore about disturbing Namjoon when he knocks on his door, but Namjoon still always maintains a careful distance between them. He touches Jimin only when Jimin asks, and more times often than not Jimin wakes to find Namjoon asleep on the floor again, back leaned up agains the mattress, jaw slack, eyes closed.

Some nights, neither of them sleep. And from the bluetooth speaker on Namjoon’s dresser drifts the crooning sound of whales.

*

In mid-April, a few weeks away from tech, a boy in one of Jimin’s classes asks him out.

His name is Taemin. He’s music major who played first chair violin in the orchestra pit for one of Jimin’s ballet recitals last year. They’ve talked a few times, when Jimin was stretching before warmups and Taemin was tuning up in the pit. He seems very nice. Handsome, with a sharp cheekbones and jawline and intensely dreamy eyes. He asks Jimin out for a coffee Jimin seriously considers saying yes, because Taemin is sweet and cute and Jimin could use a good time.

Taemin takes the rejection gracefully. Plays it off with a smile. Sorry, Jimin says, and means it, it’s just that I’m sort of interested in someone else right now.

He says it because it’s the easy way out. But once the words are out there, floating in the air like dust motes, always there but suddenly visible in sun, Jimin can’t stop thinking about them. The simple statement multiplies, spreading off into further fidgeting thoughts until they fill his head so he can’t think about much else.

interested in someone else—

“Hey, can you take a picture of me?”

interested in—

This is a thing he and Namjoon to do now, when there is time to be found. Taking photos of each other, when the weather is nice, when the lighting is just right.

It’s cherry blossom season. Namjoon’s wearing a loose blue shirt and flowy pants, hair burnished gold in the afternoon light, holding out his phone to Jimin, eyebrows raised.

—someone else.

It’s not as much of a lie as he’d originally thought, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that Jimin knows how to compartmentalize casual dating while crushing on other people, but for some reason isn’t able to do it now.

The point is that he’s in way over his head, which is not something Jimin has ever been when it comes to dating.

The point is that Jimin has never had an issue getting what he wants.

The point is that there are cute boys, there are hot boys. There are even, on rare occasion, sexy as hell boys.

But then there’s—

Namjoon, sitting cross-legged on the floor, hair sticking up in tufts, dragging a pen against his bottom lip as he thinks, chews on the tip. His legs go for miles, knobby knees and a jut of ankle that is inexplicably cute.

Then there’s—

Namjoon rolling out of bed in the morning, stumbling into the kitchen half-asleep, in a tank top and boxer shorts. The weather is warming up now, and the flannel pajamas have been stored away. Namjoon’s arms are long, his legs are longer. His skin is golden tan. He is always so damn tall.

Then there’s—

Namjoon taking Jimin’s hands in his, playing with them idly, sometimes mid-conversation. He’ll be saying something to Seokjin or Yoongi but he’ll be turning Jimin’s hands over in his, tracing over the life line in Jimin’s hand, brushing a thumb over his knuckles. When he lets them drop, it’s only ever because he seemed to notice what he was doing. Like he’d forgotten himself.

His hands are so much bigger than Jimin’s.

Then there’s—

How Namjoon falls asleep with his mouth hanging open. How Namjoon pouts when he’s thinking, pushes his bottom lip out just so. How Namjoon bites his lip, scrapes his teeth, when he’s worrying over something. How Jimin sometimes wonders if Namjoon’s mouth is as soft as it is pink.

Then there’s—

The way Namjoon falls against Jimin sometimes. Bends and curves around Jimin when they’re talking real close. Jimin loves it. Loves it. Craves it constantly. Hates when Namjoon isn’t touching him. Hates when Namjoon laughs and falls away from him instead of towards. He wants to be the sun in Namjoon’s orbit, and he knows its selfish to want that, to desire that sort of gravity, but he wants it. Wants. It makes him ache.

Then there’s—

Sometimes there’s something in the way Namjoon looks at Jimin, something in the pitch of his voice when they’re up late at night talking in between bouts of silence as they do homework. There’s something about Namjoon’s voice, unnamed and intangible, that makes Jimin feel seen. Like he has weight in this world, like his presence here alone is meaningful. Not that Namjoon completes him, but rather that knowing Namjoon has made him aware that he is a complete person in and of himself. And that’s a concept which Jimin feels shaky and unsure of every day but Namjoon looks at him, and Jimin thinks he gets it.

Just maybe.

Meanwhile, there’s a calendar in Jimin’s room counting down the days until Taehyung comes back. Until Namjoon moves out. The days crossed out in red are beginning to exceed blank ones. And Jimin is so excited, so ready for Tae to be back. But it also means Namjoon leaves, and Jimin isn’t quite sure how he feels about that.

Occasionally, in the midst of life updates and live blow-by-blows of American TV, Taehyung will ask how’s namjoon?

he’s good! is what Jimin always responds with.

He sometimes thinks about telling Tae the truth, telling him about whale songs and cuddling and Taemin and squirrels and teahouses and how Namjoon is fine, he’s wonderful, he’s brilliant, he makes me so happy.

But Jimin gets the feeling that once he’d get started, he’d never be able to shut up.

*

Chapter Text

It’s tech week for the dance recital in a few days, which means that this is probably the last thing that Jimin should be doing.

“Hey,” he says as soon as Jeongguk picks up the phone. “I wanna go out tonight. You down?”

“The fuck—we’re two weeks out from finals and you want to go clubbing? Are you insane?”

Possibly. It’s eight o’clock, Jimin just got home after an all day Saturday rehearsal, but the urge is undeniable. He wants to blow off steam, maybe have a few drinks and get a little sloppy, wants to jam, to quote Taehyung. He should be turning in early and resting up, but he knows himself well enough to know when he needs to unwind in other ways.

"A bitch knows what a bitch wants. You in?"

“Did you not hear me? It’s two weeks until finals. I’m holding off about three different illnesses with nothing but Emergen-C and sheer willpower, and you're asking me if I want to go out to a club for a night of drinking and other bad decisions?”

“Fine, I get it. You're an incessant prude. God, you're annoying.”

“Thanks.”

“I liked you a lot more when you were irresponsible. What happened to fun Jeongguk?”

“He got into the top animation program in the country and realized he didn't actually know shit. Next question.”

“You know I’m almost missing pepsi and mentos fountains.” Jimin grumbles, then stops as he hears a vaguely familiar voice in the background, saying something to Jeongguk.

“Jeongguk-ah. Do you have someone over?”

There’s a pause. “Not technically, no.”

“Where are you?”

“None of your business,” Jeongguk says, and then shushes whoever is talking. “It’s a dog.”

“You don’t have a dog. And dogs don’t laugh.”

“Should you get going? You gotta find a partner in crime for a night of debauchery, as you are tiny and small and need parental supervision.”

“Ugh. Hate you.”

“Hate you too, be safe. Use protection.”

“Same to you,” says Jimin smugly, and hangs up immediately after hearing Jeongguk’s flustered squawk.

Jimin flicks a glance at Namjoon’s door, wide open. The likelihood of Namjoon wanting to go out clubbing with Jimin is laughable—not in a mean way, it just doesn’t seem like something Namjoon would ever enjoy doing but hey, it couldn’t hurt to ask, right?

“Hey,” Jimin peeks his head around the corner.

“Hey Jimin.” Namjoon pushes his glasses up into his hair, smiles so wide. The dimples are out in full force today, and all Jimin did was say hello. “What's up?”

“Kind of a weird question, feel free to say no but, do you want to go out tonight? I know finals are right around the corner but, I really wanna dance, like, drunk white girl dance. Hands in the air like I don't care, that sort of thing.” Jimin finds himself flushing. “Normally I wouldn’t bother you, but my go-to drunk white girl Mr. Jeon Jeongguk is being a stick in the mud, so.”

Namjoon hesitates for just a second, and Jimin sees all the books spread out on his bed, the very obvious signs of intense homework mode.

“You know what,” Namjoon looks up, tosses his glasses aside. “Fuck it. I’ve been at this all day, let’s go out. I could stand to let loose. It’ll be fun.”

*

Jimin’s not exactly regretting his choice. He’s also not not regretting it.

He starts off with a round of shots for him and Namjoon the second they arrive at the club. Downs his immediately after they clink glasses, all the while trying to keep his gaze away from Namjoon’s thighs.

(Jimin was putting the finishing touches on his eye makeup when Namjoon came in to say he was ready. Jimin—in ripped jeans and a loose dress shirt with just the right amount of buttons undone—had looked up at the sound of Namjoon’s voice and nearly swallowed his fucking tongue.)

“Should I be worried?” Namjoon jokes, as Jimin finishes his lemon drop shot by immediately flagging the bartender down to order more. “Are we going to die tonight?”

“Nah,” says Jimin. “I’m just getting warmed up.”

“You know, Taehyung warned me that you’d try to drink me under the table. But I didn’t believe him. You’re so—”

“Strong? Capable? Full of densely packed muscle and ironclad alcohol tolerance?”

“I was gonna say compact, but that works too.”

“Keep the height jokes coming. You’ll regret it in the morning,” Jimin mutters darkly. “What do you want?”

“You decide,” Namjoon shrugs, as the bartender raises his eyebrows at them. “You’re better at this than me.”

“Hm, then I’ll have two AMFs please,” Jimin tells the bartender.

“AMFs?” says Namjoon uneasily.

“Damn,” Jimin jokes. “You really don’t get out much do you.”

“I’m more of a beer guy. What’s it stand for?”

Jimin grins, settles a hand on Namjoon’s knee (which doesn’t count as looking, it doesn’t) and whispers conspiratorially, “Adios, motherfucker.”

There aren’t a ton of gay clubs in Seoul, but lots of trial and error adventures with Tae have managed to locate the few good ones out here in Itaewon. Initially they did it to find hookups, but then it just began to feel like a safer place to let loose in general, not just when the need to get laid arose. Or, not safe, because there’s still lots of creeps even in the queer community, but comfortable.

He and Namjoon get their AMFs, find a squishy couch to sit on in the corner. It takes Jimin upwards of three times to convince Namjoon that his drink isn’t going to kill him before he actually tries it. Even then, Namjoon takes dainty sips as Jimin finishes his in under two minutes. The two of them talk about class and music and Namjoon asks about Jimin’s dance recital and how things are going and normally Jimin would be content to sit and talk but he’s not here for talking.

He also isn’t sure how much longer he can make up excuses to not stare at Namjoon, who’s wearing black leather skinnies that look painted onto his legs, a loose t-shirt tucked into the pants with the collar cut so low so Jimin can see his sternum.

And then, the piece de resistance, because Jimin isn’t suffering enough: a delicate looking velvet choker with small silver charm dangling at the hollow of his throat. Jimin’s great at keeping his expression neutral, but even he can only take so much.

“Dance with me,” he stands and holds his hand out to Namjoon, leaning in and shouting over the music.

“Uh, no.”

“Why not?”

“Jimin,” Namjoon looks at Jimin like he’s crazy. “I’m a terrible dancer.”

“No one’s a terrible dancer. Except maybe Taylor Swift, but that’s like, strictly an anomaly. C’mon.” Jimin tugs him by his arm, doing his best impression of a sad puppy dog. “Please.”

“Are you pouting at me Park Jimin?”

“Dunno, is it working?” Jimin pushes his bottom lip out as far as he can get, puts his hand on the back of the couch they’re seated on and leans right into Namjoon’s space, making him go a bit cross-eyed.

“Maybe.”

“I really wanna dance. I haven’t danced for fun in so long,” Jimin whines, drawing out every other word like a child. “C’moooon, just one song. Pretty please, hyung?”

Namjoon sighs like he regrets everything that brought him to this moment, but there’s no hiding his smile as he gives in, standing.

He offers his arm like they’re at a debutante ball and Jimin’s asking to punch his dance card for the next waltz. Like they’re not in the middle of a gay club where most of the people dancing look like they’d rather be doing a certain something else much more.

Jimin ignores the offered gentleman’s arm, reaches for Namjoon’s hand instead and laces their fingers together, tugs Namjoon after him, cutting through the crowd.

Namjoon sticks close, apologizes every time he steps on Jimin’s heel. The crowd doesn’t exactly part around them, it’s crazy packed in here, but Jimin finds them a pocket of space near the center of the dance floor, turns and settles his hands on Namjoon’s shoulders as some angry dubstep song blares.

“Let’s do this,” says Namjoon, like they’re attempting heart surgery or some equally dangerous and complex task.

He places his hands respectably on Jimin’s waist, the barest pressure. His elbows are locked, arms fully extended, keeping Jimin a rather awkward amount of distance away as he begins to move in the most awkward two-step Jimin’s ever encountered. He is not making eye contact, focusing at something past Jimin’s ear.

It’s remarkably tame, and Jimin hates the prick of disappointment that comes with that. Kim Namjoon, always so well behaved, so careful, so respectful.

Kim Namjoon, always so polite.

On top of being tame, it’s also awkward as shit, even with two drinks in him. Like being at a middle school dance, except Jimin can’t even remember eighth grade being this bad, what the hell.

“Uh, what are you doing?”

“Leaving room for Jesus,” Namjoon says, very seriously.

Jimin can’t help it, he bursts out laughing, body tipping forward with the force of it, tripping over himself and colliding with Namjoon’s chest, delighting in the rumbling oof he hears over his head. Namjoon’s hands jump around Jimin’s back to steady him. Always so ready to catch him, no matter how haphazardly Jimin’s coming at him.

“Jesus doesn’t need to dance with us, Joonie,” Jimin says, and then, feeling brave, feeling just on this side of reckless, leaning against Namjoon’s chest, smiling up at him, “Don’t want to dance with Jesus, anyway.”

The dubstep fades, a softer song kicking in behind it. Not quite a slow song, but slower. The woozy kind of song, with a sound that makes you feel drunker than you are.

Jimin spreads his hands out over the breadth of Namjoon’s shoulders, sliding up and down like he’s trying to rub warmth into them. “Loosen up, hyung, you got this. Just—do what the music tells you to do. Have fun with it.”

“My ex told me once that I look like a giraffe in roller skates when I dance.”

“Well, your ex is a dick. It’s not about what you look like. It’s about how you feel. Try it.”

Namjoon is not a terrible dancer. He’s really not. Anyone that knows music the way he does can’t possibly be. He’s just awkward, in the way of someone who is very aware of their body, of the way that they look next to other people.

It takes a minute. Jimin bobs his head to the music like a chicken and makes a dumb face and Namjoon finally cracks a smile, rolling his eyes, and starts to move.

Jimin takes Namjoon’s hands again, because he’s two drinks in and that feels like an okay thing to do. Laces their fingers together. Swings their hands around in the air, kind of silly, making shapes and formations, and doesn’t let go until Namjoon laughs again, loses some of the tension in his spine.

The music is good, some sweet duet with an 80s pop vibe, lyrics in english, something romantic. The kind of song that would sound good quiet too, playing on the kitchen radio while they dance, sound just as good as it does now.

They move with the music, less silly as the song goes on. Closer. No more room for Jesus now.

It’s not so much grinding the way Jimin probably would with other guys. He doesn’t know if Namjoon would like that. If he’d be made immediately uncomfortable by it. It’s more a suggestion of grinding. Rolling his body within that tight space between them but not touching, save for where he’s wrapped his arms around around Namjoon’s neck, fingers brushing the damp hair at the nape of his neck.

When Namjoon gets into it, really truly gets into it, he tips his head back, eyes closed, and smiles. He doesn’t swivel his hips the way Jimin would, the way most guys dancing with Jimin would. The movements of his body are more subtle, pond ripples rather than waves, but he still looks good.

Really good, shit. Pink and purple lights from the stage turn his skin rose gold and ultraviolet in turns. Jimin can make out all the planes of his face, the way his dimples stand out more in the odd mix of bright light and dark shadow, the indentation where he bites at his lip from time to time.

There’s a trickle of sweat from his temple running along the column of his neck. Jimin wants to reach up and thumb it away. Jimin wants to lean in and lick it off.

When the song ends, it’s like a spell being broken. Music surges back into an upbeat EDM remix and the energy in the room follows it, bodies clustering a little more, moving faster, jumping up and down. Jimin watches as Namjoon comes back into himself, carefully composed, sheepish as he smiles in Jimin’s direction.

If Jimin asked Namjoon to dance again, he’d say yes. Jimin knows it without asking, but Jimin doesn’t want to torture him. He doesn’t want to be selfish.

“Want to get another drink?” he asks and Namjoon, looking relieved, nods.

Jimin doesn’t think twice when he grabs Namjoon’s hand, holds tight as they leave the dance floor and head for the back.

It’s packed as hell around the bar too, everyone clamoring for the attention of the bartenders, shouting over each other. Jimin ducks and weaves his way through, wrestles a spot for both of them to stand and order, but Namjoon hangs back.

“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” he shouts in Jimin’s ear, prodding him ahead. He notices the very second Namjoon lets go of his hand.

“Two screaming orgasms and two mai tais!” Jimin orders loudly, delighting in the way that Namjoon’s face goes pink this time, and not at all from the lights in the club.

They find a tiny standing table over by the bar, sipping at their drinks, Namjoon wincing, ribbing Jimin for his drink choice.

“Whatever,” Jimin coos, after finishing off the shot with a smack of his lips and reaching for the mai tai. “You don’t get to complain when you’re too shy to talk to the bartender.”

“I’m not shy.”

“Then what is it?”

“It just seemed to be the more logical choice. Letting you order.”

“How do you mean?” Jimin frowns, stabbing at the cherry in his drink with a straw and popping it in his mouth.

“Nothing bad, it’s just that you draw attention way more than me. I’m…,” Namjoon’s hand flutters uselessly at his side. “I’m kind of invisible in a place like this.”

Okay, now Jimin’s lost track of the conversation entirely, the tone of Namjoon’s words at odd with the loud and the flashy and the jubilant around them.

“As in a club? A dance party? What do you mean, invisible?”

“No, you know, like. Like a gay club. Invisible, like, I’m not—you know.” His hand flutters again. Nervous.

“It’s a gay club,” Jimin teases, alcohol bubbling in his system, making him giddy. “You’re a gay dude. Or, queer, at least, Hoseok mentioned—,” Jimin shakes his head. “Anyway, point is, this place was made for our visibility.”

“Yours, maybe.” Namjoon shrugs, and there’s something in his voice that makes Jimin look at him, really look at him, part the curtain of tipsiness and see how uncomfortable Namjoon looks, more uncomfortable than he was on the dance floor. There’s a set to his shoulders that makes him seem small. “I don’t really fit the stereotypical gay club vibe.”

“And I do?”

“You’re petite and ripped and sexy as hell. I think you’re good.”

Any other day, any other moment, shit, five minutes ago even, Namjoon calling Jimin sexy as hell would have had Jimin preening. But here, now, it just makes him feel sour in his stomach, sweet sugary alcohol turning to bile.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way, either,” says Namjoon. “It’s just, everyone knows the best way to flag down a bartender is being hot.”

Even as he says these awful and sad things, Namjoon’s smiling kindly like he gets it, like he’s not upset about it, like he’s accepted that he’s always going to be viewed as second helpings in a community where he’s supposed to feel safe and welcome and that—that makes Jimin furious. Makes him want to tear down the walls of this place and fight everyone until they see what he sees. He wants to sit right here and make Namjoon tell him, tell him everything, Jimin wants a fucking list of names, wants to know all the people who made Kim Namjoon feel like he wasn’t hot enough or queer enough or whatever enough to be here.

“That,” Jimin says, after grappling with murderous rage for a solid ten seconds. “Is bullshit.”

“It’s whatever,” Namjoon says, and if Jimin didn’t know him by now, he’d believe him. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom. You good?”

“Yeah,” says Jimin, feeling all twisted up and sad inside.

He watches closely as Namjoon side steps through the crowd, watches the people around him, next to him. Namjoon’s got on those devastating leather pants and his choker. He certainly looks queer enough. Visible enough.

Namjoon is beautiful, and Jimin thinks that he is beautiful. But there’s no denying that most of the people in this room are a very specific definition of the word. A tailored and curated image of muscle-toned and manicured. Here, “beautiful” is version of sexy that’s paint-by-numbers, every color in its respective place, not too much variance in between.

Namjoon is beautiful, but no one bumps into him on purpose, no one approaches him to flirt, asks to buy him a drink.  

Jimin slams back the rest of his mai tai when Namjoon finally fades from view. This is stupid, he thinks to himself. As if there’s some sort of test, like one of those tasteless Buzzfeed quizzes. “Order Some Fast Food And We’ll Guess How Visibly Queer You Are!”. As if Jimin had randomly picked french fries and scored 100%, and Namjoon had picked chicken wings and gotten a 0.

I think you’re good, Namjoon had said, but that couldn’t possibly be right. He’s no better or worse than Jimin. He looks different than Jimin, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t beautiful. This is so stupid.

It’s embarrassing how quickly Jimin is proven wrong.

The guy who taps Jimin’s shoulder not even a full minute after Namjoon has left looks like someone who posts abs-only photos as their Tinder profile pic. He’s ripped, like Jimin. Has a stripe in his eyebrow and a piercing in his nose and Jimin has never before felt such a strong surge of anger towards a complete stranger who he has no reason to hate.

“Hey sweet thing,” the guy smiles, one hundred percent confidence, like he already knows the answer to the question he’s going to ask. “Can I buy you a drink?”

It just seems so pedestrian. He’s a fucking cliche. They both are. This never bothered Jimin before. Hell, he maybe even played it up, because he was in on the joke, even benefited from it.

Now, he almost feels sick.

Jimin has the guy order him a Suck, Bang & Blow, feeling self-destructive in every sort of way. They make brief small talk and Jimin feigns aloof disinterest until the guy leaves, and lets that drink tip him right over the edge from happily tipsy to well and truly drunk. Finally.

Ten minutes later, Namjoon still isn’t back. And Jimin’s sitting here, all eyes on him, as every horny dude in a twenty foot radius locks onto him like sharks smelling blood in the water. And he can’t even enjoy it. He honestly can’t even enjoy the attention.

Jimin flags down the bartender and knocks back one more shot for good measure right as the DJ switches tracks and oh, oh, Jimin likes this one. A pounding bass line accompanied by a voice both sultry and pure, crooning about being so into you into you into you. One of those songs that thuds in your chest and floods your veins. One that you can’t not dance to. It’s pointless to even try.

on the dance floor, he texts Namjoon, meet u back at the table in a few songs

Jimin shoves his way through the thick of the crowd, unsteady on his feet but just enough that it looks like he’s really into the music. Finds himself a spot right at the front of the dance floor, nestled up to the speakers and the stage, where the music’s so loud it vibrates his teeth, drowns out his thoughts.

For a while he just tips his head back, lets his body sway back and forth.

People are looking. He likes that they’re looking now. It doesn’t feel bad when he’s dancing, when he’s doing things that are beautiful with purpose, intent. Sometimes it just feels good to be looked at, to be admired. Usually he’d be looking for someone to hit up, a hot guy to grind against, maybe kiss a little, see how their bodies fit in other ways, but tonight he just wants to dance. To be admired in that distant, unapproachable way.

But it turns out the sharks followed him here, too.

The first guy dances towards him in Jimin’s line of sight, loops a beefy arm around Jimin’s waist and pulls him close. Jimin indulges him for a verse, then turns away.

The second guy comes up from behind, his grip rougher, more possessive. But the guy can move, can keep up with Jimin, and isn’t trying to cop a feel yet, so Jimin lets it happen. Lets himself dance. But now the guy’s hands are on his ass and that’s—typical. Jimin didn’t expect less, but he also knows he doesn’t want more. He detaches with a coquettish smile, a flirty wink.

Another guy makes eye contact that’s deliberate and full of intent and so Jimin, knowing exactly what’s coming next, ducks and weaves, dances into his own little pocket again, this time at the edge of the dance floor. Throws himself into the music so intensely that no one wants to touch him. Or, they want to, but they can’t.

The alcohol is in his blood as much as the music is, he’s feeling it head to toe—the music, the crowd, everything colorful and smearing together at the edges—he doesn’t even know how he notices Namjoon on his periphery. Maybe Jimin was looking for him.

He’s not the tallest guy in the room, it stands to say that he doesn’t exactly tower over anyone. But he’s there, and he’s watching Jimin.

A chill trips down Jimin’s spine.

He doesn’t think he’s been caught yet, watching Namjoon watching him. Jimin’s bangs are in his eyes and he’s moving a lot, so it stands to reason that Namjoon is staring at him without seeing Jimin staring back.

He wants to say there’s dark heat glittering in Namjoon’s eyes, indubitable sin, that Namjoon’s looking at him the way everyone else in this club is looking at Jimin. But the distance between them is too great and Jimin is, frankly, too drunk to tell.

Still, he wants Namjoon to be looking at him like that, and maybe that makes all the difference. He wants Namjoon to be the one staring at him with want and Namjoon to be the one to be dancing up on him, even if he’s awkward, even if he’s not ripped. Or maybe because of that.

The realization slides over Jimin’s skin like cool water, and so he dances like it.

Dances like he wants Namjoon. Dances like he’s with Namjoon.  

Dances like Namjoon wants him, like Jimin knows it.

The sleeve of his shirt has given up completely, his whole shoulder bare and exposed as he turns, does a bit of a backbend, body a live wire. Not so much an explicit suggestion of sex—he knows all too well how to move his body and in which ways to communicate whatever he wants—so much as it is a simple request.

look at me, look at me, please look at me. I want you to look at me. I want it. want you.

He wonders if it’s possible for someone so good to have a single less than-pure-intention. If it exists in Namjoon, Jimin can’t see it here.

The song ends and with it, Jimin’s urge to be out on the floor by himself. Drunk, getting drunker maybe, the last drink sealing the deal on his solid inebriation.

He overestimates the distance to Namjoon and trips happily into him all over again. Namjoon’s hands feel so good when they grip his shoulders, steady him.

“Mm,” Jimin hums nonsensically. “I’m drunk. Let’s go, Mister Namjoon.”

“You sure? I mean,” Namjoon glances over Jimin’s shoulder, where Jimin can feel one of the guys from the dance floor hovering, trying to get Jimin’s attention. “I can take a cab by myself if you want to…”

“What, get dicked?” replies Jimin, and is rewarded by the way Namjoon colors at the words; he really is just a bottomless well of purity, damn him.

Jimin swivels his head around to look the lurking guy in the eye, makes a quick shooing gesture with his hand.

“It’s you I came with, and it’s you I’m going home with.” Jimin wraps both his arms around Namjoon’s one arm, tugging him close. “Don’t wanna go home with anyone else, Joonie.”

“Right,” Namjoon says, and his voice sounds a little different, a little tender, but also Jimin is drunk, so he’s probably imagining it. “Okay. Okay, Jimin, we’ll go.”

Outside, Jimin’s ears ring with the sudden loss of loud noise, everything a bit muted. He clings to Namjoon’s arm and looks up at Namjoon’s face, lit by the glow of streetlamp and phone screen as he orders a cab.

Jimin feels better than before, distanced from the anger now, thanks to alcohol and open air.

Still, he can’t stop thinking about their conversation, Namjoon’s posture as he calmly told Jimin, in so many words, that he doesn’t belong in places like this.

It’s whatever, Namjoon had said.

But Jimin knows Namjoon. Knows that Namjoon never wants to say the wrong thing. He doesn’t want other people to know he’s hurt or scared by something, because he thinks it’s inconveniencing them. His pain is a quiet thing, shrouded in politeness and deferring to others.

So, maybe it’s whatever, maybe it’s a small thing. But with Namjoon, the small things are big things. Just as they are with Jimin.

Maybe they’re both making mountains out of molehills as they tackle these seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Or maybe everyone deserves to feel like a person, and the things which get in the way of that cannot be quantified or watered down because they are not, in fact, whatever.

Or maybe Jimin is just hella drunk.

“Looks like our rides here,” says Namjoon, and Jimin blinks, because he’s probably been staring at Namjoon for five minutes now. “You feeling queasy at all?”

Vigorously shaking his head makes the world tilt, so Jimin grabs Namjoon’s arm tighter, just to be safe. “Won’t throw up. I promise. Just wanna go home with you.”

Jimin must be in a sorry state, because Namjoon doesn’t even protest when Jimin swings his legs over Namjoon’s thighs in the car, nor when Jimin winds his arms around Namjoon’s neck and presses his face into Namjoon’s shoulder. Namjoon’s shirt smells like smoke from the club, and beneath that—fresh linen. Clean like rain. Jimin loves that smell, breathes it in over and over and watches Namjoon look out the window, the soft tilt of his mouth, the shadowy arch of his brow.

“Pretty,” he breathes.

“Pardon?”

“I said you’re pretty,” Jimin repeats, tongue pleasantly numb, words difficult to chew. “Pretty Namjoon.”

“I…” Namjoon blinks once, several times more, then turns to face the window again. “Okay.”

“Mister Namjoon,” says Jimin loudly. “Look at me, sir.”

Namjoon turns, bringing them nose to nose. Or maybe the alcohol makes it seem that way. Whatever the reason, Namjoon feels very close.

His arms are around Jimin now, holding Jimin to him as much as Jimin is draping against him. His hands are perfect and polite on Jimin’s back. Not copping a feel, never copping a feel, because he is kind and respectful and Jimin is drunk and all those hot and ripped guys in the club wouldn’t know kind and respectful if it came up and kicked them in the balls—

“Yes?” Namjoon asks as his nose, that cute button nose, brushes against Jimin’s, eyelashes sweeping.

How could anyone not adore Kim Namjoon? He deserves so much better than whatever the shit people have been giving him. He’s so…he’s so.

“You’re so good,” Jimin sighs.

He lets his head fall to Namjoon’s shoulder with a thump, a bit overcome, the drunken force of his affection for this beautiful boy raining down heavy.

“You’re just—you’re Namjoon, you know? And it’s like? What the fuck. You don’t even know. You literally have no idea. You’re good. So good.”

they don’t deserve you, he wants to say, none of them do.

Even drunk, Jimin knows that means he doesn’t deserve Namjoon either. But that’s a reality he’s not prepared to face quite yet, so he bites it back, babbles, “You’re so good, hyung. The best. Namjoonie hyung.”

Beneath him, Namjoon has gone still, like he’s listening to whale songs. Then, so gently Jimin almost doesn’t notice, Namjoon’s arms loosen their hold, make a slow retreat from where they were touching and holding him.

“Yeah, okay. Okay. Thank you, Jimin.”

Jimin shakes his head in protest, mouth dragging against Namjoon’s collarbone, the base of his neck where the skin is warm and delicate.

He can’t ask Namjoon to touch him or to hold him, can’t get the words out the way he wants to. They seem selfish, and Jimin doesn’t want to be selfish. Doesn’t want to take advantage of Namjoon’s kindness.

“I’m so tired.”

“Yeah,” says Namjoon, as Jimin hazily registers a ghost of a touch on the back of his head, long fingers in his hair. It feels so good Jimin presses back into the hand, like a cat, like he’s full of want and absolutely nothing else. “Yeah, me too.”

*

When Jimin stumbles into bed that night, he drags Namjoon with him.

*

Typically, Jimin’s a quick and early riser. It doesn’t take much, maybe a few chirps of his alarm clock, before he’s pushing forward into the day. He likes to start every morning with momentum, get going before he can think too much about it and convince himself to go back to bed.

Right now though, awareness comes in increments. First in the sunlight splayed over his chest. Then the echoing twitch throughout muscle groups of his body, like a stiff tin-man coming back to life, limb by limb.

He feels so good, content and sleepy, if not a little hungover. The faintest of headaches, but it’ll fade once he drinks some water. There’s no way he’s getting up. Not that he could even if he wanted to, not with an entire Namjoon wrapped around him.

Awareness cranks from two to five hundred as the events of last night slam into Jimin.

Namjoon.

Once, while procrastinating the first of many essays, Taehyung fell headfirst down an internet wormhole of cute animal pics, resurfacing only to blow up Jimin’s phone with images of baby possums in pockets and kittens in teacups. His favorites by far, however, were the photos of harvest mice sleeping in tulips. In Tae’s defense, they were indeed very cute. There was something about seeing such a small creature all snug and cozy in the center of a flower, the way the delicate petals curved around their tiny mousy bodies.

Jimin imagines that this is how the harvest mice might feel.

Namjoon is curled around Jimin entirely, body a warm and solid line, chest pressed to Jimin’s back. He’s got one arm looped over Jimin’s waist, hand clenched in the fabric of Jimin’s sleep shirt, just over his navel. His other arm is pillowed beneath Jimin’s head, Jimin’s nose smushed against the subtle curve of his bicep. Their legs are tangled together. He can feel Namjoon’s sleep heavy breaths on the nape of his neck.

He never touches Jimin like this, without any semblance of boundary or appropriateness. Drunk Jimin must have begged him to cuddle. How embarrassing.

you should go, says the tiny voice in his head. you really should not be sticking around. he always leaves before you wake up. you should leave.

shut up, Jimin tells the voice. just let me have this. i need this. Softer, a little more bashful. i want this.

He wants this so very bad.

Maybe for a while there it was just about being touched. About the casual physical intimacy Jimin was no longer getting in the absence of his best friend, something he had always counted on in the walls of this apartment.

But somewhere between the first whale song and last night, it so clearly became about more than that. About not just needing to touch, but about needing to touch Namjoon, and now he’s fucking drowning in it.

It’s this overwhelming feeling of being doused in light, in warm tea, in something whole and comforting and familiar. Jimin’s woken up a hundred and one ways in this bed. Never once has he thought to himself god, don't make me get up, please don't make me get up.

He can't tell if his breathing changed or he made a noise—maybe both. But after a moment there’s a rumbled sleepy noise and, “Jimin?” mumbled into his hair.

Jimin rolls over and it’s a huge mistake. Namjoon’s right there, eyes big and brown and sleepy and Jimin's really not the type for gay crises but he's having one in real time right now. Lying here in bed, pressed to Namjoon like it will physically hurt him to separate.

They blink at each other in silence. Jimin can feel Namjoon's arms wrapped so tight around him, holding him so firm yet careful.

He could lean forward and they’d be kissing. It wouldn’t even be that hard. It’d be like falling. One clumsy trip and they’d be mouth to mouth. He’d finally know what Namjoon tastes like.

Before he gets the chance, Namjoon cringes. Withdraws his arms from Jimin, the way he had in the back of the cab last night. “Sorry.”

“What are you sorry for?”

Namjoon rolls over a bit, putting more space between them. “Sorry for the stealth cuddling. Didn’t mean to get all over you."

“It’s fine, really.”

Jimin watches Namjoon for a minute. He shuffles over to the nightstand, pick up a water bottle and opens it. His sleep shirt is tight around the shoulders and swims around his waist. It lifts a little as he drinks. Jimin sees a strip of stomach, and entertains the idea of going dark-eyed and seductive, of getting this boy back in his bed.

“Recovery breakfast?” Namjoon offers Jimin the half finished water bottle. His hair is adorably sleep mussed.

Maybe that was the Jimin of last night, Six Drinks Jimin. But that's not the Jimin of right now. This Jimin feels timid. Unsure if this beautiful and kind and thoughtful and utterly confounding boy would even want to be touched by Jimin. Let alone be kissed.

After five months of living together, Jimin still can’t fucking tell.

*

On Sundays Namjoon camps out in one of two places: at the library, which leaves the apartment feeling strangely empty, the smallest of noises seeming to echo; or on the floor of the living room, all his books and laptop scattered around him in a specific layout, like conducting some kind of ritual.

Today, it’s the latter.

To Jimin, Sundays are typically conditioning days. Where he comes home from sunrise dance rehearsal tired and lethargic and wanting to do absolutely nothing other than maybe drink a glass of juice and take a nap in the sun, soak up what he can before he drags himself up to finish the rest of his assignments before the week begins.

He's doing that now, sort of, on this particular Sunday. Only this particular Sunday he's feeling very lazy, damn near lethargic. His entire core is aching in a way that’s pleasant, which means it’ll be not so pleasant come tomorrow, stretched out on the couch and unable to bring himself to move the small distance down the hallway to take a proper shower.

On this particular Sunday, Jimin’s going to crawl, nay, inch across the floor like a snake, just so he can avoid standing up. So when he accidentally rolls too far and ends up hanging halfway off the couch where he was stretched, nearly upside down, Jimin really can't be bothered to correct himself. Too tired. Just lets himself sort of hang there, the blood rushing to his head. Feeling wrung out in a good kind of way. Like being tossed in the dryer for an extra cycle, spun around until all his wrinkles come out, but ultimately feeling warm, smelling like sea breeze, when he emerges.

It’s a Sunday, and it’s quiet, and Jimin—so often craving the noise and clamor of a friend group, a social outing—finds himself luxuriating in the peace of this moment. The wholeness of a golden hour.

Jimin’s got his eyes closed, singing to himself, the world a wash of crimson as the morning sun bears down on his eyelids. Namjoon was playing some instrumental track a few minutes ago, one of those two-measure pieces that he’s trying to pick apart and gently remove something from without ruining it. Around the tenth loop or so, Jimin picked up on it, started making up a harmony in his head, or maybe it was just the piano line that Namjoon had been adding in.

He hangs there from the couch, off-kilter, his striped shirt falling a little, baring his stomach to the sunlight pouring through the window, sings it over and over, to himself, to the sun.

“You’re going to hurt your neck.” Namjoon, from a few feet away.

“I’m entirely composed of gelatin right now. Don’t you worry.”

“No one’s that flexible.” Jimin’s eyes are closed but there’s a sound to Kim Namjoon’s smile. Jimin can’t see it but he knows it’s there, directs himself to it, like finding his spot during a pirouette, the object of focus in the room that keeps him from getting dizzy.

“That sounds like quitter talk to me.”

“You’re going to fall.” The smile becomes a grin.

“Not gonna fall.”

“Jimin.”

“Jiminie.”

“Jimin-ah. Parkothy McJimjams.”

Jimin doesn’t know what it is that happens. Not exactly.

He laughs, maybe because of Namjoon’s tone, or maybe because of the nicknames, or maybe because the sun filled him to capacity and he couldn’t contain it any longer. He tries to ease off the couch but he’s laughing too hard so he slides to the floor with a soft thump, a clumsy landing that he certainly does not stick.

Jimin tumbles a bit, falls against something solid, collapses into giggles as his head spins, as the world rights itself. Opens his eyes, only to find himself with his head in Namjoon’s lap, wrapped around Namjoon’s leg like it’s his center of gravity, holding him up. Their gazes catch.

Jimin doesn’t know what it is that happens. But he feels it, like the tension of muscles before a high jump.

Sometimes when he’s dancing, holding the perfect arabesque, Jimin thinks he can feel the world turn on its axis. That if he’s still enough, poised enough, he can feel the world as it rotates, like a ballerina in a music box.

And in the midst of that stillness and that constant turning there are moments—tiny fractal shards of moments—where it seems that the whole world holds its breath. Stands on edge. Pauses in the tinkling music. Says wait a minute now, look there—

Jimin looks.

Namjoon’s eyes are so round. It’s an odd thing to notice, but those eyes are fixed on Jimin, and they just look huge. Shocked. The same way he looked when he dropped and shattered that first mug on the kitchen floor. The way he looked the first time Jimin ever knocked on his door, sleep-deprived and panicking. The way he looked when Jimin brought him that ryan cake after his self-date.

It’s the way he is always looking at Jimin, that sort of soft mouthed slack jawed surprise. Like he wasn’t expecting it. Like he doesn’t understand it. Like he’s been dropped smack dab in the middle of a movie, in media res, without a clue as to how he got there.

This would be the perfect moment to kiss him. Here, gilded in Sunday morning, dust motes drifting about the air like fireflies.

Jimin wants very much to kiss Namjoon, but he is trying to be less needy with what he wants. Less selfish. So he looks.

But these moments are just moments, and the world cannot hold forever. A door slamming down the hallway, a body thundering past their doorway with the heavy slap of flip-flops.

The world exhales.

“Hey.” Jimin reaches up with his hand, taps lightly at Namjoon’s temple with a knuckle. “What’s going on up there?”

Namjoon twitches, shakes his head a bit like he just woke up from a nap, disoriented. Still, he doesn’t move from where he is, letting Jimin be curled against him.

“Nothing, just day dreaming.” Namjoon shakes himself once more, then smiles. “How about some tea?”

He moves before Jimin can say no stay here, wanna stay here, before Jimin can catch him and hold him still so nothing about this moment shifts or changes.

Several minutes later he hands Jimin a cup of green tea made just the way he likes it. Then he gathers all his books from the floor, says he’s going to the library, and does not come back until after dark.

*

“Places in five, people!”

Everyone in the dressing room snaps to, pushes closer to the mirrors for last minute touches on hair and makeup, adjusting straps on their costumes.

On Jimin’s phone are several different text messages.

One from Taehyung, which he must have set an alarm for in order to send from LA at 4 a.m. (BREAK A LEG!!!!!!!! followed by about 50 emojis). Texts from mom and dad separately, as well as a text from Jeongguk (will b at the show tmrw but break a leg 2nite bitchass).

A text from Namjoon, which came off as a bit cryptic.

joonie
knock ‘em dead! can’t wait! (Spouting Whale )

Well maybe not that cryptic. Namjoon had seen him leave the house this morning, all his makeup and hair products in tow. He knew what was happening this weekend, but what the heck is can’t wait about?

jimin>>>joonie
??

Namjoon hadn’t responded, and that was well over an hour ago. Jimin’s fixing his lip stain and pondering over the text when the stage manager finally calls places, and then it quickly slips from his mind.

All the other dancers move in tense silence. Hardly anyone is speaking. It’s nerves galore. Jimin gets it. Hoseok’s hyping everyone backstage and in the wings as best as he can but there’s not much that can be done.

Showtime is showtime, and sometimes there’s no way to chase away those nerves other than to dance it out.

*

After, Jimin takes his time getting changed out of his costume. His hands are shaking a little, a performance habit he’s never truly been able to outgrow after all this time.

That went well. That went—really well. Jimin’s always the first to self criticize and hyper analyze but even he’s surprised by how solid that run was.

He doesn’t have these moments often. The i wonder what else i am capable of kind of moments. Oftentimes his life moves too fast to think beyond “I want this” and “I must do this”, and not considering the odds.

Oftentimes, the doubt and uncertainty wins out before anything else.

Not today, though. Today Jimin just feels full of potential, a well brimming over with it. It’s rare, and he wants to cherish it. The other dancers change quickly out of their costumes and dash out to the post-recital reception but Jimin lingers for a moment. Stares hard at his reflection in the mirror, the striking blonde slicked back and princely. It feels a bit like coming face to face with his reflection while being drunk. It takes a second to truly recognize himself, and not because of the makeup and glamour.

The boy in the mirror just danced a near flawless Spring Showcase. He dance captained an entire show that performed beautifully and he did it all on his own. He did that.

Satisfaction is a rare delicacy and damn does it taste good.

When he finally composes himself enough to wander out from backstage, most of the clusters of families and classmates have cleared out by now.

There’s no one here for Jimin and that’s okay. Maybe more okay than it would have been a few months ago, even. He knows Taehyung would be there screaming his head off front row if he could, knows Jeongguk will be tomorrow.

For now, Jimin is tired, and the idea of going home to sleep for twelve hours before waking for the matinee performance is very appealing.

Jimin almost, almost, walks past him.

“Hey Captain!” A familiar voice sounds off to his left.

He turns, and—

“Oh my god. You never responded to my text!” Jimin shouts, jogging over to Namjoon and feeling his adrenaline kick back up again.

He looks so handsome. The red button down he’s got on is bright and cleanly pressed, just like his khaki pants. His glasses are thick rimmed and a bit owlish. He’s dressed smart, and although the dance recital isn’t exactly a formal event, it’s clear Namjoon put cognizant effort into his outfit. Like it mattered that he dressed up for this.

“I wanted it to be a surprise! I always come to support Hoseok at these things anyhow, but of course I came. I couldn’t miss my favorite dance captain perform.”

Jimin’s heart soars high like a bottle rocket—

“Oh, and these are for you.” Namjoon brings his hand out from behind his back.

—and bursts in a shower of golden sparks.

Clutched in Namjoon’s hand is a tangle of flowers, all twisted together and beautiful. Not just a ready-made bouquet, the kind of flowers they sell right outside the box office before the show. No, it looks like Namjoon walked into a flower shop and talked through his choices; Jimin spots peonies, chrysanthemums and sunflowers, the fragrance sweet but not overpowering. He buries his face into them, inhales deep like he can plant them in the base of his lungs.

He’s not sure if he’s starry-eyed as he looks back up at Namjoon, but it damn well feels like it.

“You didn’t—”

“Were you—”

They speak and cut off simultaneously, blushing. Something is happening beneath the surface of Jimin’s skin. Like he’s coming down with a fever. Adrenaline pumping, too warm. He feels that he could go and do the whole performance all over again, could go all night.

“You first,” says Namjoon.

“You didn’t have to get me flowers.”

“I know.”

“This must’ve cost a lot.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Namjoon shrugs. “I know a guy.”

“Your turn now.”

“Oh, I was asking if you were going out to meet with the other dancers. I think Hoseok said they’re going to that 24/7 breakfast place, he’s probably there with Yoongi-hyung right now if you want to join them.”

Jimin wasn’t planning on it, but he’s so happy right now he doubts he’ll be able to sleep if he goes straight home.

“Yeah,” Jimin says, and takes Namjoon’s hand in his. “But you gotta come with me.”

They take their time getting to the restaurant and walk in right as Hoseok and Yoongi are bowing out, saying their goodbyes and congratulations. Jimin introduces Namjoon to some of his other friends from class. Seulgi and Lisa tease Namjoon about being so shy. Sana asks him about his major and his music.

Jimin should probably order an omelette, something packed with protein, but sees Namjoon eyeing someone else’s chocolate chip pancakes and knows the decision is made.

They’re last to arrive, so their food is as well. It doesn’t matter. Jimin’s other classmates pay their checks and head out, but he and Namjoon stay, splitting their full sack of pancakes, ankles tangled together under the table, flowers laid beside their plate.

Namjoon pays, says it’s his treat, holds the door open for Jimin. There’s a moment when Jimin thinks he feels a fluttering pressure at the base of his spine, like Namjoon went to put his hand on the small of his back but thought better of it.

And Jimin starts to wonder.

The walk back to the apartment is unhurried, guided by in street lights as they talk in low voices. It’s like a movie, all this quiet, the pavement wet and glistening from street cleaning. Namjoon throws his head back in laughter, dimples carving deep, and Jimin wonders.

Anyone that has ever wanted Park Jimin has told him so. Has made a move of some form, aware that Jimin’s ass is a hot commodity and not to be taken for granted. Taehyung has jokingly called Jimin a succubus before, but there’s an element of truth in that. People make their intentions clear when it comes to him, and he’s not ashamed to admit it.

If any other queer dude on the planet bought Jimin flowers and paid for his chocolate chip pancakes and walked him home, it wouldn’t even be a question. This is Namjoon, however, and with Namjoon there is always the given fact that he is the nicest person on the planet. He is wonderful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to make out nonstop for nine hours the way Jimin maybe wants to.

Plus, Namjoon is shy. So shy. Five minutes ago he did aegyo while impersonating one of his squirrel friends and then covered his entire face in embarrassment.

There’s one month left before Namjoon’s lease is up, Jimin figures. One month left to figure it out. That’s plenty of time.

*

jimin>>>punkass kid
how do i know if someone likes me

punkass kid
what is this, kindergarten?

jimin
ill tell your mom about the bucket incident so help me god

punkass kid
fine jesus
idk hyung
dont they usually drop right to their knees around you

jimin
dont be crass
i need moral support not dick jokes

punkass kid
technically speaking
how does anyone fall for anyone
are we not all just cavorting about like asteroids
waiting until we crash into another astroid by sheer fate

jimin
wow
your stoned taehyung impressions have been spot on lately
ur the worst and so unhelpful but A+ keep up the good work

punkass kid
love u 2 bro

*

jimin>>>taetae
permission to ask a question with zero context and get an honest answer without being judged???

taetae
permission granted

jimin
how do u know someones into you if theyre just a super nice polite complimentary wonderful person and like this with //everyone//

taetae
i meanthere’s a million and one psychological manipulation hoops u can jump through for mixed results but one is for sure tried and true to find out if a guy’s into u

jimin
and what’s that

taetae
ask him how he feels :)

jimin
huh
thats surprisingly straightforward of you

taetae
oh the first part of that message didn’t send sdjfjksdfjka
sry im on the metro

jimin
???

taetae
suck his dick and then
that’s the first part ^^
suck his dick and then ask him how he feels :)

jimin
say hi to tom cruise for me when you meet him in hell

*

The next time Jimin drowns—

It’s 2 a.m. and he only just got back from practicing his choreography exam at the studio. He’s sore in every sense of the word, aching with exhaustion, but he doesn’t even have to open his mouth before Namjoon’s conjured up a cup of tea out of thin air, is ushering Jimin in to a hot shower.

The next time Jimin drowns, he and Namjoon are both too tired from cramming for finals to cook, so they do takeout. Order way too many things and split the lot between the two of them. They don’t necessarily have the money for it, but sometimes it’s good to be broke and full of food, even if only a little while. Jimin gets barbecue sauce on his nose and Namjoon teases him for a good five minutes when he can’t get at it with his tongue, eventually reaches across the table and thumbs it off, makes this cute scrunching face afterwards, like Jimin’s done something particularly endearing.

The next time Jimin drowns, he’s just re-colored his hair, touched up the roots and deep conditioned it. It’s soft and sunny looking. Namjoon runs his fingers through it. Ruffles it. He says that Jimin he looks like a baby duckling. The weather outside has been sweltering for at least a week but only then does Jimin feel summer in the marrow of him, that inescapable bone-deep warmth.

The next time Jimin drowns, Namjoon is passed out on the couch, feet dangling off the edge, snuffling slightly in his sleep, an open book face down on his belly. Jimin should probably take a shower or get to studying but instead he drops his backpack, walks to the couch, and curls up against Namjoon’s body like he fits there. Makes sure to dog-ear Namjoon’s place in the book before he sets it aside.

The next time Jimin drowns, it’s the last day of finals week. 11 pm. Jimin comes back from submitting his last paper to find Namjoon jamming out to some song on the bluetooth speakers. It’s 11 p.m. He’s either hopped up on caffeine or maybe he’s just in a really good mood, finally free of the semester. He grabs Jimin by the wrists, hands wrapping around them so easy, and swings them both about the room in a wide arc. dance with me jiminie, this song, god, i can’t get enough of it, listen to this music break, listen, right there? can you hear it? here lemme back it up so you can listen and watching Jimin’s face with big brown eyes, drinking up Jimin’s every reaction. Breaking out into the most dazzling smile when Jimin starts to dance with him. When Jimin loves the song just as much. They jump on the couch, they air guitar like idiots, they jam until they collapse into giggles, leaning against each other, breathless and grinning.

The next time Jimin drowns, it doesn’t feel like drowning. Or, it feels like a different kind of drowning. A not bad kind. Here, the water is warm, and inviting, holding him up instead of pulling him down.

He wonders if Namjoon feels the same.

He hopes Namjoon feels the same.

Then suddenly it’s June. Then suddenly, Namjoon has a working stack of apartment brochures, post-its with addresses and phone numbers scribbled down, doesn’t spend so much time studying as he spends looking for a new place. Jimin doesn’t know how the search is going, but according to Hoseok, it’s going well.

(“You know you could just ask him yourself, right?”

“I didn’t want to make him anxious in case it wasn’t working out.”

“Well it is. He’s found a few cheap one-bedrooms and thinks he might have enough in the budget to hire movers or buy fancy furniture.”

“Great,” says Jimin, stretching his quad and breathing into the burn. “Great.”)

Then it’s summer, then it’s school’s out, then it’s the week of Tae’s return, then it’s Namjoon, beginning to sort all his things out into boxes, slowly and carefully phasing himself out of their shared space.

Then it’s Jimin, at last beginning to panic.

*

jimin>>>joonie
hey

joonie
hey

jimin
so
you’re moving out in a week

joonie
i am, yes
did you just now realize this?

jimin
i mean like i knew but i didnt /know/ ya know?

joonie
yeah, i think i do
semester kinda flew by fast

jimin
yeah
anyways the reason i was asking was bc! we should do something! for your last night here!
taes coming back sunday, he says his flight is landing at 6am or so
but we should do something just you and me!

joonie
oh
like what kind of something?

jimin
like a date!

joonie
a date?

jimin
yeah, because were roommates?
a sort of Last Night On Earth celebration!

joonie
i’m not dying, jimin.
you realize that i’m just moving out, right?

jimin
:( why don’t you want to go on a date with me :(

joonie
a roommate date, you mean

jimin
yes of course
because were roommates
but we wont be in a week or so
please hyung :<

joonie
what is :<

jimin
its a pout
i am pouting

joonie
that’s entirely unnecessary

jimin
imagine me standing in front of you
big puppy dog eyes: wide open
bottom lip: fully engaged

joonie
oh no
not the puppy dog eyes
i’m weak

jimin
can u imagine it namjoon

joonie
yes i can
and it’s so sad

jimin
yeah, thats right
i am ///pitiful///
please pity me hyung
go on a roommate date with me

joonie
because we’re roommates

jimin
exactly

joonie
saturday night work?

jimin
yes!!! ahhhhhH
were gonna paint the town RED kim namjoon!!!!!!!!!

joonie
(Spouting Whale )

jimin
(Spouting Whale )(Spouting Whale )(Spouting Whale )!

*

By the time Saturday night rolls around, this is the line of logic that Jimin works himself up to: if Namjoon wants Jimin, Jimin will know.

They’re adults, right? They are not in kindergarten, where crushes are something to be hidden or scared of. If Namjoon likes Jimin, he will make a move.

Still, it can’t hurt to put just a bit of effort and suggestion into their Last Night. Couldn’t hurt to don those dark rinse jeans that make his ass look its curviest and a tank top with a sheer looking shrug to go over it. Couldn’t hurt to do his research and find a restaurant that’s delicious without being over the top expensive, some place with cozy low lighting and booths for two.

It can’t hurt to sit close to Namjoon, making sure to laugh (not that he has to put effort into that, Namjoon makes him laugh the same way he makes Jimin smile—easy easy). Can’t do any damage to innocently settle a hand on Namjoon’s thigh when he leans over to try a bite of his food.

The food is cheap, so they splurge on an expensive bottle of rose (Namjoon smiling sly, wicked, clinking his glass to Jimin’s) and it’s simply perfect. Jimin wants to capture this moment in plaster and stick it in a snow globe, fill the center with water and glitter so it stays this way forever—sparkling and magical and lovely.

At one point, Jimin laughs at something Namjoon says, leaning into his lap, but this time he doesn’t take the hand away from where it sits on Namjoon’s knee.

Namjoon’s arm, once on the back of the booth, is now around Jimin’s shoulders, Jimin can feel the warmth of his fingertips through the sheer material of his shirt. It makes him shiver, right in the middle of summer.

They don’t get drunk, but they’re somewhere in the general direction of it when they head back to the apartment. Namjoon’s hand on the small of his back, Jimin’s fingers fumbling a bit as he lets them into the apartment, laughing, kicks off his shoes and trips through the door.

“Okay, there’s no way you’re as drunk as you are.”

“I’m not drunk.”

“Sure,” says Namjoon, crossing his arms over his chest and narrowing his eyes, a smile tugging at his mouth.

There’s music coming from somewhere in the apartment complex, drifts in through the window, echoing along the walls of the courtyard outside. Something old, with piano, some kind of nostalgic old love song.

Jimin follows it into the living room, closes his eyes and sways a bit.

“What are you doing?” Namjoon’s eyes crinkle at him.

“I’m dancing, Joonie,” Jimin sing-songs. “Duh.”

He twirls to prove his point.

“You know, I’m not exactly an expert, but I’ve seen you dance, and this is not it.”

Jimin waves his arms about, spinning in circles, feeling woozy and warm. Not drunk but just—happy.

“I can feel your judgement from over here and I want you to know that I don’t appreciate it.”

“Not judging.”

“What, you don’t like it when I dance?” Jimin pivots on his toes, playful.

“I didn’t say that.”

Something about Namjoon’s voice is different, a scant centimeter away from the tone Jimin expected to hear. What should sound playful sounds quieter, more contained. He’s standing in the space between the kitchen and living room, like he can’t decide whether he wants to enter or not, and he’s watching Jimin.

Weeks ago, back in the club, Jimin had looked at Namjoon and wondered what it would be like to dance for him. Imagined putting on a show just for Namjoon, imagined the glittering dark of this eyes on him, how good it would feel.

He’s not as drunk as he was then. It’s not as dark as it was then. There’s no thumping bass or smell of bodies pressed together to make Jimin feel so hungry. There’s the sound of music through the window. There’s the scent of summer, thick with humidity and tepid.

There’s Namjoon, with eyes on locked on Jimin as he sways gracelessly, slowly, freely.

(If he wants me, I’ll know.)

“I’m not drunk,” repeats Jimin.

“Okay.” A wry twist of lips.

“If I were drunk,” Jimin asks, “would I do this?”

He promptly slut drops to the floor and bounces back up.

The wry twist becomes a full blown smile, lurch of shoulders as Namjoon holds back a laugh. “Oh no, a drunk person would never do that.”

“You’re mocking me.” Jimin glares petulantly, but anticipation buzzes in his fingertips, at the base of his spine.

It doesn’t feel like being mocked. It feels like almost being touched, the way Namjoon is looking at him, teasing him.

(If he wants me—)

“Fine, how about this?” Jimin asks, and launches into a double pirouette.

This move he does underestimate. Because he may not be drunk but going into a double on several glasses of wine and no actual traction on the living room carpet is probably never a good idea.

The room blurs by, and then he’s tilting, off balance, lurching forward, definitely going to crash into the floor.

Namjoon crashes into him instead, Jimin slamming into his chest haphazardly. They topple backwards onto the couch, both grunting as Jimin falls on top of Namjoon.

“Sorry,” Jimin groans.

“No harm done.” Namjoon wheezes back.

Jimin goes to push himself up and off, laughing as he does, and stops.

His elbows are on either side of Namjoon’s head on the couch, caging him in. He can feel Namjoon’s palms on the small of his back. Namjoon is beneath him, looking up at him. His eyes aren’t wide or shocked or terrified he’s just—looking at Jimin.

He’s looking at Jimin like he wants to kiss him.

Now, Jimin starts to feel dizzy.

(If he wants me—)

The moment’s here. It’s here and it’s happening. Namjoon looking at him like that, his arms around Jimin so warm and solid. Namjoon is going to kiss him. Namjoon is going to tilt his mouth up and kiss Jimin. Jimin can feel it, the fine line of distance between them, all the different ways they are pressed together, all the months of build to get to this, right here, right now. Jimin’s eyes drop shut, and he parts his lips.

Namjoon is going to kiss him.

Namjoon is going to kiss him.

Namjoon is not kissing him.

Jimin eyes flutter back open. Why isn’t Namjoon kissing him?

The singing feeling of yes yes yes fizzles out. Now it’s—weird, because they’re both staring at each other, and they’re close, so damn close, but they’re not saying anything, or doing anything, it feels like neither of them are breathing, and then—

The front door opens.

“SURPRISE!” Kim Taehyung bursts into the apartment. “GUESS WHO GOT AN EARLIER FLIGHT OUT AND IS BACK IN TOWN.”

*

Taehyung has been awake for twenty-five hours, something he proudly informs Jimin of as he unloads the dozen or so souvenirs he bought Jimin from his suitcase. Apparently he went to Disneyland, and then immediately got on a flight back to Seoul, which he’d changed on a last minute whim when a space opened up.

He is wired on something he calls Four Loko—Jimin doesn’t even want to know—talking a mile a minute and hugging Jimin in between every other sentence, smacking kisses to his cheeks. He also does the same to Namjoon, who had gotten up from the couch (after Jimin had gotten up off of him) and has not looked at Jimin since.

Taehyung is nut brown tan and has grown his hair out even further, bleached it blonde like Jimin’s. He has never looked happier or healthier. Jimin is over the moon to see him.

Jimin is also—maybe more than anyone in the entire history of forever—cockblocked.

He is aware, more or less, of Namjoon hovering in the background. Namjoon’s answering Taehyung’s rapid-fire questions and talking politely but it’s like Jimin can’t help but notice every single movement he makes, the way their bodies orient around each other in the space of the room, like opposing atoms.

Namjoon is keeping his distance. Even as he pays rapt attention to Taehyung’s talking, Jimin is aware of that.

“Oh my god,” Taehyung suddenly blurts. “I have to pee so bad, talk amongst yourselves, please excuse me—”

He makes a mad dash down the hall and slams the bathroom door.

It is utterly and horrifically silent.

What’s going on. This shouldn’t be awkward, he doesn’t know why Namjoon is looking like that. Like—

“I should go,” Namjoon says, without looking at Jimin.

“I mean it’s—it’s pretty late? You can crash on the couch.” you can crash with me.

“Nah, I have my apartment keys and all my stuff is moved in. I was mostly just staying until Taehyung came back anyways so. There’s no point, really.” Namjoon makes this odd shrugging jerk of a nod and that stings, just a bit. “I’ll just let you guys get caught up. I don’t want to intrude.”

“You’re—you’re not,” says Jimin, frowning. “Namjoon—”

“It’s fine, Jimin, really.”

He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know what went wrong. They’d been talking, Jimin had been dancing. He must have missed something, something is not right, and now Namjoon won’t look at him.

“Okay.” Jimin says, and it’s wrong, it’s all wrong, Namjoon isn’t supposed to look so distraught, he’s not supposed to be leaving. Even if Tae is here, Namjoon doesn’t have to just go like that. “You don’t have to go though? Like, I’m totally fine with you staying the night.”

“Uh,” Taehyung exits of the bathroom, “am I interrupting something?”

“I’m heading out,” says Namjoon, the same instant Jimin says, “No, you’re good.”

Jimin looks over at Namjoon, but Namjoon’s already grabbing a bag from his room, shoving the last of his clothes and essentials, and heading for the door. He bids Taehyung goodnight with a kind smile and leaves his keys on the table. It’s like he can’t leave fast enough.

“See you around?” Jimin asks desperately.

Namjoon nods. “Of course. See you.”

He closes the door so gently they barely hear the lock click.

“Okay,” says Taehyung, “not to call you a liar, I’ve had a lot of caffeine and cannot be held responsible, but I feel like I was definitely interrupting something.”

*

He gives it seventy two hours.

On the third day that Namjoon doesn’t call, text, or stop by to say hello, Jimin takes matters into his own hands.

He knows where Namjoon lives, helped deliver a few boxes there after class one day, even if he didn’t go up to the apartment. Now that there’s an excuse—a few pieces of mail addressed to Namjoon and also Namjoon’s thermos mug left behind—Jimin figures fuck it, why not.

jimin>>>joonie
hey!!!!are u home rn?

joonie
yeah, just getting settled in
did i forget some stuff?
sorry, i can swing by

jimin
u did, but don’t worry i’ll come to you! i’m nearby anyways

Namjoon doesn’t respond to say yes or no so Jimin takes that and runs with it. He doesn’t quite know what he’s going to say to Namjoon, how he’s going to formulate it. Mostly he just wants to understand what the fuck happened the other night. Why Namjoon had been literally about to kiss him and then bolted. Maybe Jimin rushed things. Maybe Namjoon wasn’t ready. Maybe he needs to tell Namjoon that they don’t even have to kiss, that’s fine, Jimin just wants to keep seeing him. Doesn’t want Namjoon to just move out of his life entirely.

And maybe, once they talk that out, Jimin can ask him out on a proper date. A real date.

He thinks he’s brave enough to say the words hey I want to keep seeing you. He can do this.

By the time he’s rounding the corner, he’s almost optimistic that things will go well.

*

Namjoon’s new apartment is lovely.

Maybe a small secret terrible part of Jimin wanted it to be run down, wanted it to be roach infested, wanted it to be too cold or too hot or have shitty ac but it is really, truly, lovely. The walls are a warm wash of yellow, different from the pale blue of his and Tae's apartment. The color is very becoming to Namjoon, who opened the door to Jimin five minutes ago and said come on in without looking Jimin in the eye.

The apartment is lovely, but the energy between them is horrifically stilted. Namjoon invited Jimin in, offered him something to drink, Jimin declined, and now they’re both just standing there, staring at each other like idiots.

“Oh!” Jimin brightens, finally thinking of a conversation starter, “I have some mail for you and your mug.”

“Ah. Thank you. You can set it on the counter. Did I forget anything else?"

Jimin thinks about the large grey hoodie that Namjoon left behind the couch. The one that smells like him. Jimin picked it up and had every intention of bringing it over here today. Until he didn’t.

“Don't think so.”

“Cool,” Namjoon nods. “Cool.”

Pause.

“So, how’s the new place working out?” Jimin asks, feeling slightly queasy. “Miss me?"

He means it as a joke. It’s not. He misses Namjoon immensely, and it’s only been three days. Everything is wrong between them. Jimin doesn't know how to fix it.

But that, he supposes, is what happens when you almost kiss your roommate. That's what happens when you decide to get drunk and dance until you fall over and dance for him like you want him to fuck you and when you finally get what you want—you do nothing. And he does nothing.

Maybe Jimin deserves this in a way.

“Oh, I love it.” Namjoon glances around. “It’s great. Rents cheap as hell and the place is clean and spacious.”

Then he looks Jimin in the eye, smiling so big and bright, and says, “This is going to be perfect, having a place all to myself."

Ah.

It’s not a sucker punch to the face. It’s more like Jimin feels a prick, the tiniest prick, just beneath his ribcage, and it’s suddenly like all the air is seeping out of him, molecule by molecule, and will continue to seep until he’s fully deflated, some kind of sad rubber casing for what used to be a balloon.

The implication of the words is clear: Namjoon is happier without him. He wants to be alone. Or at least, without Jimin. He prefers it.

Namjoon didn’t say whether or not he misses Jimin. It’s alright though. In the end, he didn’t need to.

Jimin grins so hard his vision blurs for a heartbeat. “That's awesome. I am so happy for you.”

The worst part of it is, he means it. Namjoon deserves this, he deserves to have everything he wants.

“Thanks,” says Namjoon. “I’m so happy here.”

The worst part of it is, he knows Namjoon means it too.

The worst part of it is, Jimin kept Namjoon’s hoodie so he had an excuse to come back if he needed it. Now, sitting in the warm yellow of the most lovely apartment, Jimin doesn’t think he can ever bring himself to visit again.

“Well, I should go,” he says, grinning too hard, cheeks sore. “Tae and I had plans. Don’t want to keep him waiting.”

“Right.” Namjoon stands, still smiling so bright and polite. “Okay.”

Jimin gathers one last look, because he’s selfish that way. He’s confused but even he knows how to admit defeat. Admit that he read the situation wrong. That Namjoon didn’t, doesn’t—

“See you around, Kim Namjoon,” Jimin says, and closes the door.

*

All things considered, Jimin does pretty well holding it in. Tae doesn’t even notice something’s wrong. Or, he only asks why Jimin looks like he’s about to cry three times, and leaves it at that.

Jimin does pretty well. Until he breaks the mug. He’s making tea with the shitty mug, the mug that Namjoon spent a literal day gluing back together.

And Jimin, like a klutz, breaks it again.

“Woah,” Taehyung says, watching Jimin slide down against the kitchen cabinet and starting to cry. “Woah! Jimin! It’s just a mug, it’s all good.”

“It’s not that,” Jimin wails.

“I mean. I know it’s not that. You’ve looked like a kicked puppy for like a week now. Can you tell me what this is about?”

Jimin shakes his head where it’s buried in his arms.

“Okay, can we play twenty questions?”

Again, Jimin shakes his head.

“Alright then, can I offer some vague and not at all targeted advice that could hypothetically help you with your predicament that I have no idea about because I don’t know you my dear best friend like the back of my hand?”

Jimin sniffs, raises his head, and shrugs. Taehyung slides down to sit beside him, pets his hair.

“Before I give my sage advice, do you want to know a secret?”

“Is it about the baby raccoon you raised in your closet last year? Because I already know about that.”

“You know, it’s not, but let’s put a pin in that one for later. No, the secret is this: there was only one real reason that I picked Namjoon to be your roommate.”

“What?”

“Question #157 on the roommate application. ‘You’re stranded in a remote forest or beach with no access to technology for twenty-four hours, what do you do?’ Most people answered something like look for shelter or call for help, others went full out Bear Grylls. But Namjoon,” Taehyung smiles now, “Kim Namjoon said that he’d go look for little sand crabs. Or frogs. That he’d take full advantage of the moment and go look for the things often missed in the world. Apparently he likes small creatures.”

“Am I the small creature in this anecdote?” Jimin sniffs.

“No.”

“Then what are you saying?”

“I’m saying I picked Namjoon because his answer to #157 told me that he is a gentle person. And that he would be good to you as a roommate. Kind. I think,” Taehyung hesitates, “I think it’s more than a roommate predicament between you two currently. Not that I know anything about your personal life or why you’re crying on the kitchen floor but, this is the advice I bestow. He’s a good person. Whatever you guys are at odds over, I know you can work it out. I know you will work it out. And I know this because it’s why I picked him. Because he’s the kind of guy who would glue shitty mugs back together. Because I knew he would cradle you in his large hands with all the kindness in the world, as if he were holding a sand crab.”

Jimin’s eyes water again, and his lip trembles. “So I am the small creature in this metaphor.”

“Oh, absolutely the tiniest.” Taehyung nods, and hugs Jimin tight.

*

A week after Namjoon moves out, a week after Taehyung gets back—Jimin goes home to Busan to clear his head.

He makes the trek by himself, gets a one way ticket and packs his bag, leaves Taehyung a note telling him where he’s gone.

Hometowns become a liminal space after you move out; Taehyung proposed this theory after their first summer home over a long distance call. It’s a theory that Jimin was skeptical of at first, but he thinks he gets it now, returning to a place that is wholly familiar yet the energy is different, off. Something not quite right and unsettling, even when everything seems the same.

The trick is realizing that you’re the thing that’s changed. Not the place itself.

Jimin wants to call up all his old friends before he realizes that most of them don’t live here anymore. That they’ve moved on with their lives same as him.

Multiple times—Jimin takes out his phone and types out a long draft of a message with no recipient selected. Stares at the jumble of words, the i’m sorry (he doesn’t know what he’s exactly apologizing for), the can we talk?(he’s not even sure what he wants to say) and the i miss you so much (that is the one thing he is sure of, the missing) before he deletes it all, switches back over to scroll through Instagram, bored.

He gets so bored he actually asks his mom to give him something to do, and she’s is all too happy to provide. Jimin’s out on a grocery run, picking up herbs and extra fish oil when he hears—

“Jimin?”

For a frozen second of panic, he almost thinks it’s Namjoon calling to him from aisle twelve. But that’s ridiculous, why would Namjoon come to Busan. Namjoon’s too busy being happy and content in his perfect apartment all alone.

Secondly, the voice didn’t sound like Namjoon whatsoever. Then he turns, and sees Seokjin walking over to him.

Which is odd, because he has no clue as to why Seokjin would be here in Busan either.

“What are you doing here?” It’s Jimin who should be asking the question, but Seokjins the one speaking, tipping his head to the side and smiling warmly.

“Visiting family. What are you doing here?”

Seokjin smirks, flicking his bangs as he purses his lips. Lifts a box of condoms out of his basket up to eye-level and waggles his eyebrows.

“You came all the way out to Busan to get laid?”

“Don’t act like you wouldn’t,” Seokjin scoffs. “I recognize a chaos gay when I see one.”

Then he narrows his eyes, looking Jimin up and down like he’s searching for something. “Everything okay at home?”

“Yeah just,” Jimin waves his hand absently, “resting for a bit. Needed to get out of Seoul and recharge.”

“You know, you’re cute, I’ll give you that, but you’re a terrible liar beneath all that.” He reaches into the freezer nearest to him. “Let’s chat. You want a popsicle?”

So Seokjin buys Jimin a popsicle. They go outside as the sun is setting, sitting on the curb outside of the grocery store with bags at their feet.

“Don’t take this the wrong way but,” Seokjin bites off the end of his popsicle and chews noisily. “I sort of expected you to be back in Seoul all cozied up with Namjoonie.”

“Why would I be cozied…” he trails off at the Don’t-Bullshit-Me look that Seokjin gives him. “Fine. Well, I’m not. So.”

“Did something happen?”

“I think that’s the problem. Nothing has happened.” Jimin tries to bite into the popsicle like Seokjin and flinches as a wave of brain freeze hits him teeth first.

“Interesting. Because Yoongi and Hoseok say that Namjoon-ah is acting the way he does when we let him watch documentaries about ocean pollution while he’s stoned.”

“Which means..?”

“He’s one sad sack of shit is what that means. Ergo, something must have happened.”

Jimin cringes. “Things were fine, I guess, and then we were hanging out. I think he was going to kiss me and then he just…didn’t. And then he moved out.”

“Why didn’t you kiss him?”

“Because,” Jimin frets, “I figured if he wanted me, he would say something. I didn’t want to take advantage of him or make him uncomfortable, that’s basically all I’ve done the entire time we lived together. If it was going to happen, I wanted it to be on his terms.”

Seokjin takes another gigantic bite of popsicle, smacking his lips for a moment before he asks, “Jimin, have you ever been rejected?”

Jimin balks. “I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.”

“So that’s a no.”

“Don’t act like you have either, hyung.”

“Oh, never,” says Seokjin. “Namjoonie was an exception, but he was taken, so it doesn’t count. Though one time I asked out this guy and he broke up with his boyfriend on the spot to be with me so like, do with that what you will.”

“Is there a point to this tangent?”

“Yes, and it’s this: I know people like us are too handsome or, in your case, too cute, to stoop to having to ask people out. But seriously, if you don’t step down from your pedestal and ask Namjoon out as soon as fucking possible, you are going to break his sweet heart.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Get over yourself, Jimin. You are not always going to be the one pursued, and you are not always going to be the one someone says yes to. Quit being such a scaredy cat and please fucking go for it before I lose my mind.”

“I did,” Jimin says. “I was practically in his lap. All he had to do was—and he didn’t, Jin. He got up and left.”

“Okay, so go see him and demand a do-over.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not.”

“Because.”

“What are you afraid of?”

“Nothing.” Everything.

And that’s the thing of it, isn’t it? That’s the damned thing.

It’s the unfamiliar, the unknown, the stuff that feels nebulous and abstract in concept. The absence of an anchor, of something to cling to. The intangible. Things he can’t see or touch, only question, what if I can’t cut it as a dancer? what if I don’t get into college? what if my best friend changes, what if we both change, and we can’t be friends anymore? what if I can’t sleep? what if he doesn’t want me?

Jimin’s afraid of all of it. Terrified, even.

In his hand, the popsicle is melting and dripping down his wrist to the ground in bright red drops, like blood.

Seokjin is looking at him with understanding. “I think you need to try again. And this time, you need to actually use your words, Jiminie. Namjoon is a very intelligent being and one of the most wonderful people I know, but sometimes he has all of one braincell to his name and you have to be patient with him. Use your words.”

“I don’t want to use my words.”

“Fine. Then use your dick. Use whatever methods, just fucking tell him how you feel.”

“What if he says no?” Jimin asks in a small voice. “What if I missed my chance.”

“Okay, welcome to Jin Tells It Like It Is. I’m your Host, Jin. You cannot know what’s going to happen. You just cannot. There’s always going to be what ifs and maybes and if you obsess over that you’ll never do anything for fear of shit you can’t predict.” Seokjin softens. “The good stuff rarely ever comes because you anticipated it. Take it from me, okay? I’m a ten in a world of fives. I know what I’m talking about.”

“I’m a ten too,” Jimin says petulantly.

“At best you’re a nine point three. There is only one ten.”

Jimin finishes his popsicle in silence, tosses the stick in the trashcan.

“So, since you’re telling it like it is,” he says after a long moment. “You and Jeongguk, huh?”

Seokjin does something Jimin has never, ever seen him do.

He blushes.

“Uh, yeah,” he scratches at the back of his neck. “That obvious, huh?”

“Not really. I just know Jeongguk better than most people. Also, you told all of us that you were going to sleep with him the first day you met.”

“Did I? Huh. Sounds like something I would do.”

“How long has it been going on, you two?”

Seokjin shrugs, the gesture a lot less casual than it’s supposed to look. “It was supposed to be a one time thing, blowing off steam but uh. He’s sweet. A complete menace who gives me grey hairs every other day but. Yeah. We’re figuring it out.”

“Must be a big deal if you’re meeting the family.”

“He needed a date for some old teacher’s wedding. I’m just doing him a favor, it’s nothing.”

“Like me and Namjoon are nothing?”

“Yeah.” Seokjin looks at him, eyes twinkling. “Like that.”

Jimin looks out at the sunset and mutters, “I hate that I know what size condoms you wear, especially now that you’re using them with my cousin.”

“Y’all literally aren’t even related. Besides, what makes you think that these are for my dick?”

“Christ, that’s even worse. Forget I said anything, change the subject.”

“Fine. Wanna hear my popsicle stick joke?”

“Shoot.”

“What did the hotdog say after the race?” Seokjin pauses for dramatic effect and then bursts out, “I’m the wiener!”

It is not even the slightest bit funny. They both crack the fuck up anyhow.

*

In his old room, like so many nights before, Jimin can’t sleep.

He lies on a bed that somehow stills fits him, stares up at the ceiling and thinks about how he feels so young. How he sometimes still feels six years old, sinking in the deep end of the pool at a birthday party. A drowning that started sixteen years ago, hasn’t really let up since. He thinks about the things he clings to to stay afloat—how none of it sticks. He thinks about all the things he knows and doesn’t know, and those which he is afraid of. How his mother had pulled him out of the pool, sundress dripping.

What are you afraid of?

At dawn, Jimin gets up. Grabs a bike that he hasn’t touched in years from the garage and pedals out of the driveway, night sky becoming dark blue, pinking up at the edges of the horizon. He bikes out past houses that he played in when he was younger, out onto the main road, heads down to the shoreline, feet kicked out, pedals flying.

On the beach tide is high, waves lapping at the sand with frothy foam, churning smoothly in waves that curl and uncurl in themselves.

Jimin scoops up a stray shovel and pail before they can drift off, sets them up high on a wall. Stares at the water, the wide and clear and jewel blue, the brown seaweed beds of the shallows, the rocks off to the left covered in starfish, barnacles. Down the way, there’s a runner pounding barefoot against the wet sand, headphones in. A boat drifting far off the coast, casting anchor.

All quiet, save for the waves.

As a kid—it was a game his friends played, how you spent days in the sun when you lived just a few miles from the beach. Who could make it the farthest past the shallows before caving, swimming back, whether afraid of open water, or drowning, or riptide current, or sharks. Jimin never participated then, even when he knew how to keep himself alive.

What are you afraid of?

Now, he removes his t-shirt and his shorts, sets them down in a neat pile on the sand. The water is cold when he steps in, cold in a way that will be a blessing in a few hours time when the sun rises fully in all its blistering heat, but right now feels like a shock to the system. Not unbearable, not painful, not life threatening, but cold. Unrelenting.

He steps out purposefully into the swell of the ocean, suppressing shivers, clenching his jaw, doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t stop. Doesn’t look back to the shore. He marches right into the shallows until he is waist deep, the cold flicking against his navel.

There—a few hundred yards off. Jimin squints, tries to gauge the distance. A buoy, marking the end of the safety zone for swimmers. The start of deeper waters.

A wave crests above him, building higher, rises to cascade, threatens to knock him down.

What are you afraid of?

Jimin gulps a lungful of air, and dives beneath it.

He swims, arms and legs a flurry of motion, slicing through the cold water, keeping himself warm. He’s still small in the same ways he was when he was younger, but he’s stronger this time around.

Jimin is strong.

He breathes when he surfaces, bitter salt on his tongue, doesn’t think about the ocean floor beneath his feet or worry about being able to reach it. He does not look back for a lifeguard. He does not try to wonder how long he has to hold out before he can rest, before he can get on the life raft. He swims, without stopping. And he swims. And he swims. And his arms burn and his legs feel fatigue cramp in the muscles but he keeps swimming, keeps going, dives beneath waves until he’s beyond their reach and out in the open water.

The buoy is getting closer and closer, much larger now that he’s near it. He swims all the way without stopping, slaps the side of it with his hand like a game of tag when he gets there, algae and moss scraping off on his palm. It takes him a minute to catch his breath, so he drifts on his back in the water for a brief moment, just breathing.

He did it.

Jimin waits for the unease to sink in, for the pressure to be too much. For the sense of how alone in this sea he is to overwhelm him, overcome him, send him into a panic. A can’t breathe sort of down spiral. He waits in the open waters, braced for it. Waits for the moment he has to cling onto the buoy for fear of being pulled down into the crushing black.

It doesn’t come.

The sun is rising now. And when Jimin feels his fingers and toes start to prune he clambers up onto the buoy, tracks the movement of the horizon. His breathing evens out.

Out here the water is wide open, limitless. There is so much of unknown depth beneath his feet, and a heavy blue all around him. The buoy bobs up and down, his calves occasionally dipping beneath the surface of the water. Cold, but not unbearable.

Cold, but soothing.

Jimin tucks a knee under his chin, lets the motion of the waves rock him back and forth, sifts between all things in his head that demand he keep going, demand he not be still. He thinks about school, and his future, that far off ink blot on a blank white canvas. About all the things he doesn’t know about himself, wants to know, wants to be better at. He thinks about Taehyung, about friendship, about the people you tether yourself to, how that tether is an active choice. He thinks about being kind even when the world is cruel.

Thinks about Namjoon.

Imagines Namjoon, pictures him all the way over on the shoreline, like he’s there, bent over, hands dug deep in the sand, burrowing for crabs.

Namjoon, who tries to appreciate the tiny intricacies of this big and terrifying world, tries not to worry about the deep open waters, or how to swim beyond them. Namjoon, who sees his fears for what they are, and tries to welcome them, embrace them in a way that doesn’t deny their existence. Namjoon, who is so content to wander, to be alone, to not do things just for the sake of moving. Namjoon, with his warm eyes and his clumsy hands that are also so kind, so so kind. Namjoon who makes Jimin want to be brave. And unselfish. Who makes Jimin feel, feel, feel.

The waves lap and splash against the buoy, asking a question, prying gently and Jimin breathes the answer in turn, tries not let the words shake, namjoon, namjoon, his name is kim namjoon, he is lovely, yes, of course I love him, yes, I do, kim namjoon, namjoon

He says the name in a whisper, in a litany, speaks it to the sea, tastes like salt, and they’re lyrics without tune or cadence but that doesn’t make them less true. He thinks of Namjoon explaining whale songs to him, how music doesn’t have to be well organized or completely understandable or known to just be beautiful. To exist perfectly just as it is.

Maybe, in that same sort of way, love is like that too. Maybe not everything demands justification, or proof, or ten minutes of treading water to see if you can handle the strain. Maybe Jimin can just love in this true blue, bottomless, high tide sort of way. Maybe he doesn’t have to swim beyond it to earn it, suffer just to prove he can survive.

Maybe he can just float, here. Exist, here.

Love, here.

The golden yolk of the sun crawls above the water, and still Jimin can see the moon, pale periwinkle, high in the sky, whispers the song to her too before she goes.

He’s tired, aching, but in a good way. In a real way, so he doesn’t have to worry about what comes next or swimming back and how much more tired that will make him. The unknown is okay.

He can float, does float. Crawls off of the buoy, slips back into the water, tips his nose back towards the sun, breathes. Floats. The sound of the underwater in his ears isn’t oppressive. It’s nice. In this moment, he thinks there’s music in that, too. In this moment, he can hear the world turn.

In this moment, it feels like Jimin is exactly where he needs to be.

He waits until the sun makes an earnest debut, not a trace of night left in the sky, until the deep blue holding him up becomes gilded in gold ripples.

He waits, then swims the same hundred yards of return distance, takes his time, swims and swims and breathes and swims, but still feels like he’s floating, like the ocean is holding him up, guiding him to where he’s got to get to, to whom.

It’s so tender and understanding, the way the beckoning tumble of the waves push him back to shore.

*

Namjoon isn’t home.

It’s 11 a.m., Jimin just took a cab straight from the station after getting off the first morning train out from Busan, and Namjoon isn’t home.

It’s fine, Jimin tells himself. It’s okay. He’s probably busy. He can come over later. He can text Namjoon, see if he’s somewhere and willing to meet up. It’s going to be fine.

He carries his duffle bag all the way home and the shower he took before he left feels moot now in the packed heat of the pavement.

“Dude, what are you doing here?” Taehyung pops his head out of the kitchen. “Why aren’t you with Namjoon?”

“He wasn’t home.” Jimin shrugs. “It’s fine, I’m going to text him and see where he’s at.”

“Did you not see him on the way back from his place? He was just here like twenty minutes ago.”

Jimin stops in his tracks. “He what.”

“Yeah! He was banging on the door, interrupted my spa time. He wanted to talk to you, it seemed very urgent.”

“I went straight to his apartment from the train station, he wasn’t there.”

“Well yeah, that’s because he was here.” Taehyung’s eyes go wide as saucers. He claps his hands together. “Oh my god. Y’all went to each other’s houses looking to reconcile. Ohmygodohmygod. You know what this means, right?”

“It means I have to go back to his apartment.” Jimin drops his duffle bag down. “Right now.”

“Better yet, it means that we’re on the Epic Romantic Near-Miss trope, and I know exactly which part comes next.” Taehyung sprints to his bedroom. “I’ve literally waited ten years to get the chance to DJ the epic run sequence of someone else’s romantic comedy. This is just like that one scene from Love, Actually. Oh my god, where is my iPod.”

“What the fuck do you need your iPod for?”

“A soundtrack? Obviously.”

“Tae, I don’t have time for motivational jams, I have to go,” Jimin shouts, and runs down the stairs.

He’s down the stairs and out the door when he hears music absolutely blasting from the windows of his apartment up above. This must be the soundtrack, a song that sounds suspiciously like Sexxx Dreams by Lady Gaga which—unconventional. But a good beat, enough to set Jimin to a jog.

“GO GET YOUR MAN, JIMIN,” Taehyung screams out the window, startling passersby. “GO GET YOUR MAN, AND DON’T YOU DARE GET BACK UNTIL YOU ARE GOOD AND LAID.”

 

*

The walk to Namjoon’s apartment is a solid fifteen minutes. He gets there in five.

“Jimin?” Namjoon opens the door. “What are you—Taehyung said you were in Busan.”

“Well, I’m back now. Hi.” Namjoon looks absolutely bewildered, which makes sense, because Jimin pounded on the door for about twenty seconds straight without stopping. “Hi. Can I come in?”

Namjoon steps aside, and Jimin steps in, closing the door behind him, trying to catch his breath, but it’s kind hard to when Namjoon is looking at him like that. He must have gotten out of the shower a few minutes ago because his hair is dripping a bit onto his t-shirt and his skin looks steam-damp and clean.

For a moment, Jimin just looks at him.

“How are you?” Namjoon asks, his tone poised and careful.

Jimin brushes the question aside. “Tae said you came by our place. That you wanted to talk to me.”

“Oh, yeah.” Namjoon shrugs. “It’s no big deal, don’t worry about it.”

Jimin reaches up, touches Namjoon’s face, guiding his chin up to look at him. “No. I want to know what you wanted to talk about. Joonie, please tell me. Even if it’s small. I want to know.”

Namjoon inhales sharply. Holds it.

“It’s not small,” he says, after a long moment. “It’s actually big. Really big. You might hate me.”

“I wont hate you. I couldn’t. I promise, I won’t be mean.”

Namjoon closes his eyes and laughs to himself, a rough wounded sound. “I know that. You’re not mean, Jimin, you could never be mean.”

“That’s not entirely true. I can be vicious when I want to be.”

“Not to me,” Namjoon says. “You’re so kind—you’re so—”

He stops, blinking wildly, like he’s remembering himself. Jimin’s heart begins to beat fast again.

“The other day,” Namjoon says, the words spaced out, even, calm. “The other day when you came over, you asked me what I thought about my new place, and I told you that I loved it, that I loved having a space to myself. Do you remember?”

It’s like a finger pressing down on an already blossomed bruise. Jimin nods. “I remember.”

Namjoon’s jaw works, like he’s thinking hard. “I think I messed up there. I mean, I said the words because I thought they were what you wanted to hear. I thought you wanted me to be happy on my own. But that’s not what I should have said, because while it was the truth, it was only a half-truth. Which is really just a lie when you think about it.”

“What should you have said,” asks Jimin breathlessly. “What did you want to say?”

“I should have said that I like this apartment a lot. I like it because it’s spacious. Because it’s closer to the studio where I record. I like that there’s an in-house laundry unit. I like that I can get sunlight in my bedroom first thing in the morning.”

Now, Namjoon looks up at Jimin. “I like the kitchen. I like that there’s so much counter space. Enough room for both a coffee maker and an electric kettle.”

Jimin’s stomach swoops.

“I like that there’s extra space in my closet, even if it means the room itself is a little cramped. Like, if someone wanted to visit, wanted to keep their clothes here, they could do that. I like that I have room for a mattress that isn’t a twin. I don’t like this place because I’m alone. I like it because I’m free to share it with someone, if I wanted to. With my own place, I have space. I have,” Namjoon inhales sharply, like he’s forgotten to breathe in between sentences, and his lungs are trying to catch up as he looks at Jimin, eyes the warmest brown, “I have space for you, Jimin. That’s what I should have said. That’s what I wanted to say, but I got scared. I have space for you here, if you want it.”

If there were ever a moment of stillness in which you could feel the world turn—it’s here. Standing in Kim Namjoon’s kitchen, morning sunshine on the checkered kitchen floor.

“If I want it,” says Jimin, when he’s found his voice.

Once Namjoon gets started, it’s like he has a hard time stopping.

“You terrify me. Which like, I’ve told myself is not a good basis for attraction to someone. But that night, Jesus Christ, I almost kissed you, Jimin. I wanted to. Maybe I should have, because it felt like you would kiss me back. But it was just so big all of a sudden, and I thought that you were drunk, that you didn’t actually want it, and that I’d imagined everything between us. It was like this big block in my head that made me hesitate—and then Taehyung came home and then you came over to bring me my mug and I just panicked. I was worried you’d noticed that I was upset, or that you knew I had feelings for you and had come over to like, let me down easy, so I lied and bullshitted and pretended like everything was fine. Because I didn’t want to make things inconvenient for you, I didn’t want to be selfish.”

For a thunderous moment of silence, they stare at each other.

“And now?” The words crack in the back of Jimin’s throat. “What about now?’

“I realized,” Namjoon pauses, “I realized that being selfish was also not telling you how I felt. That that wasn’t fair to you. Even if you didn’t reciprocate the feelings which—you might not, and that’s okay, but—”

“Well I do. I very much reciprocate those feelings.”

“It’s okay if you don’t, really.” Namjoon steamrolls right past the statement like he didn’t hear it at all. “Because I know I’m a lot. I know I’m like, a big dumb guy shaped like a noodle who breaks everything and is a general disaster, like I know this, and I’m working on it—”

“Kiss me,” Jimin breathes.

“I—,” Namjoon blinks, thrown, “Don’t you want to hear the rest of my speech?”

“Kim motherfucking Namjoon, if you don’t kiss me right this second, you big dumb noodle shaped ma—”

Namjoon crosses the space of the kitchen in two long strides and kisses him.

Only to immediately pull away seconds later. “Sorry! I’m sorry, I cut you off, that was rude, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, please finish what you were mmph—

Jimin throws his arms around Namjoon’s neck with all his might, and cuts him off right back, pressing their lips together, firm and sweet.

“Namjoon,” Jimin says, the second he pulls away from Namjoon’s mouth, only to lean up again, stretch up onto his tiptoes to get at his mouth, “Kim Namjoon,” another kiss, quick and sweet, because he doesn’t know how much he is able to reveal of himself, doesn’t want to scare Namjoon off with the gale force winds, with the utter fucking hurricane of his love, “Kimberly Namjoonington the III, kiss me again. Please.”

“Okay.” The word shakes against Jimin’s mouth.

Namjoon kisses him, gentler this time. Brings up those big hands, those long fingers, cups Jimin’s face. Brushes a thumb over the apple of Jimin’s cheek. Blinks like he’s half asleep and trying to wake himself, or maybe trying to fall back asleep before the dream ends.

He tilts Jimin’s face up and leans in but Jimin’s already tilting for him, a sunflower in full bloom, pulled up and forward, until their lips touch again.

It’s not until now, this kiss, that it feels real. Sunk in. Like the body catching up to a rapid change in temperature, it hits Jimin’s nerve like alcohol, like being three shots deep and only just now realizing you’re drunk. He sways a bit on his toes, stretching up. Namjoon bends over him a bit, smiling against Jimin’s mouth. Strokes that thumb slow against his cheek as he kisses Jimin once, twice, sighs into it.

“I can’t believe this,” Namjoon says dreamily, his voice quiet, breath ghosting over Jimin’s lips. “I can’t believe this is happening. Is this real, what the hell.”

“Not sure,” Jimin breathes back, feeling all shuddery good, down to his toes. “Better keep kissing me, gather more evidence to fuel your hypothesis. Scientific inquiry and all that.”

“Right.” He pulls Jimin flush against him, brushes their mouths together.

Namjoon kisses so sweet.

It’s as if all those spoonfuls of sugar, all those pixie sticks, all those honey drenched teas have been absorbed into his very bones because Namjoon tastes sweet, is sweet, so sweet it makes Jimin’s teeth ache.

Namjoon kisses with all the unhurried tentativeness of someone who is trying very hard to savor every last drop of what they’re given. Like Jimin is sweet, too.

Every time Namjoon starts to pull back, potentially end a kiss, Jimin pushes up onto his toes and strains forward. Chases after his mouth until Namjoon releases a shivery exhale, leans in again. He kisses the corners of Jimin’s mouth, the bottom lip, the top, the center, presses in closer, firmer. Each kiss dissolving seamlessly into the next, dragging, getting longer, more intense.

Jimin parts his lips, tongue flicking against Namjoon’s lower lip, and Namjoon lets out a quiet punched out sound. Like he’s almost hurting. Jimin’s eyes flutter open, taking in the furrowed concentration written over Namjoon’s brow.

“You good?” he whispers, tipping their foreheads together.

“Mhm.” Namjoon nods, jaw clenched, eyes closed, like he’s silently warring with himself.

“Are you sure? You look like you’re in pain.”

“Sorry, I’m not. It’s just—”

“Just what?” Jimin brushes Namjoon’s cheek in a butterfly kiss. “Tell me. You can tell me anything.”

Namjoon steps back a little, makes that odd scrunching face, his shy face, covers his mouth like he’s trying to wipe the expression off. Then, he settles his hands on Jimin’s waist, gentle gentle, the barest pressure of his fingertips. His eyes are open, and they are earnest, and they do not waver as he looks Jimin straight on.

“I have wanted this for a while now.”

“Me too,” says Jimin, stomach doing back hand springs.

Lips brush against Jimin’s temple, settle in his hair to whisper, “I have wanted this for so long. Wanted you. So I want it to be good for you.”

“It already is,” Jimin pushes onto his toes once more, pulling Namjoon’s face to his, punctuates every thought with a kiss. “It’s good, it’s so good. Is it good for you?”

“I—” Namjoon stops, like he has to parse it out, then realizes how incriminating that pause seems. “Yes, of course, it’s good for me. I’ve been over here pining forever.”

“Then it’s good for me too.” Jimin brings their lips together, breath shared between them. “And don’t even talk about pining. I’ve been over here wanting you for literal months.”

Namjoon pulls back from another kiss, and Jimin would be annoyed, if it weren’t for the absolutely dumbstruck look on his face. “Months? You—”

“Yes, months, Kim Namjoon.” Jimin drags his mouth down this time, kisses a path down Namjoon’s neck, measuring the intake of breath, the way Namjoon’s fingertips squeeze at his waist. “It’s been hell. I have been suffering greatly. So let’s please not waste time.”

Always the multi-tasker, Jimin pulls Namjoon in and walks backward, Namjoon’s shirt clutched in his fists, until his back hits the counter. Then, hardly breaking the rhythm in their kiss, he hoists himself up, hooks his heels around the back of Namjoon’s thighs and pulls him close. Lets all the months of suffering work itself out in how he opens his mouth to Namjoon, as if to say take what you want, it’s yours, I want it, I’m yours.

Namjoon makes that soft noise into Jimin’s mouth this time and Jimin echoes him right back. Still, Namjoon’s tentative. His tongue darts between Jimin’s lips, giving him just a taste.

It hits Jimin in a molten urge. He wants—he wants to mess Namjoon up just a little. Wants to take his calm and his composure and thoughtfulness and shake it up a bit, see what he ends up with.

He kisses Namjoon with more purpose, touches with clearer intent, pulls him even closer, buries his fingers in Namjoon’s soft hair, scratching lightly against his scalp. Namjoon’s hands spasm a bit, shaky again when he takes a breath. Jimin urges Namjoon forward with his heels, until Namjoon’s hips are no longer comfortably distanced from the vee of Jimin’s thighs, until Namjoon’s gasping into his mouth, giving Jimin the opportunity to worry at his bottom lip with his teeth.

He had wondered to himself once if Namjoon’s mouth was as soft as it is pink, and he was wrong.

It’s softer.

Jimin had a handle on things a minute ago, but suddenly he’s not so sure. They’re in that heady ambiguous space of kissing. The kind that could drag on for hours just like this. The kind that you put music on for, because two hour long make-outs always need a soundtrack. But also the kind that could go forward. Could be more, if one of them speaks it into existence.

Breathless and trying to regain his footing, Jimin pulls out of the kiss, drags his mouth back down to Namjoon’s neck, kissing and tonguing at the skin there. Namjoon tilts his head to the side, encouraging, and Jimin sucks at the spot, rewarded by another hiccup in Namjoon’s breath, another place Jimin gets to mess him up just a bit.

He doesn’t want to be the one to ask, even if he can feel a growing and insistent pressure between his legs.

Namjoon’s hands release Jimin’s waist, slide down his thighs, squeeze at the tight muscle there, slide back to grip his ass. But then just as things are getting good, thank god, just as Jimin’s being yanked forward, bringing their hips together, Namjoon pulls back again.

“You know,” Jimin gasps, slumping a bit where he’s sitting. “I’m starting to get whiplash here.”

“Do you want to stop?” asks Namjoon. “We can stop, we don’t have to—we don’t have to go further. This is so great, but I don’t want to rush things if you—”

“I think we’ve waited long enough,” says Jimin. “Unless you want to take it slow. But I am absolutely content with fucking right here on the kitchen floor.”

Jesus.”

“Whatever suits you, hyung,” Jimin singsongs, grinning at Namjoon’s expression. “But seriously, this is good as it is, too. We can take it slow, I don’t mind.”

If Jimin is being completely honest—he’s kind of expecting Namjoon to say yes, let’s take it slow, let’s go on the standard three dates and flirt, let’s kiss quietly for a few months until we’re absolutely sure. He’s been watching Kim Namjoon for months now, how he carefully handpicks all his decisions, chooses his words. It’s not a disappointment, nor a bad thing, but he’s sort of expecting Namjoon to put a halt to this.

He is not expecting Namjoon to look up at him with a quiet, glittering look of determination in his eye.

“Fuck that,” says Namjoon, and lifts Jimin right off the counter.

Jimin yelps in surprise, clutching tightly at Namjoon’s shoulders, swings his legs around Namjoon’s waist, but Namjoon’s holding him up just fine, even has a bit of room to mouth at Jimin’s neck, plant wet kisses at the base of his throat.

“W-what the fuck.” Jimin squirms.

“Sorry, should I stop?” Namjoon says, and slowly begins to lower Jimin to the floor, which brings their hips together in more interesting ways that make Jimin shudder, curl in on himself just a bit, hissing through his teeth. But he doesn’t let himself drop to the ground.

“Don’t stop,” he gasps against Namjoon’s neck, and Jesus Christ, there’s no way they’re taking things slow. No fucking way. Not when he can feel Namjoon’s arms, holding him up, carrying him. Namjoon’s hands, splayed and gripping at his ass and thighs. “You just picked me up, you fucking liar. You’re not made of noodles at all.”

“I mean,” Namjoon slowly rotates them, begins a cautious trek towards the bedroom, his breath hot and damp on Jimin’s neck, “I guess I’ve been doing pilates.”

“Pilates,” says Jimin faintly.

“Yes?” Namjoon sounds confused, halting in his steps. “Sorry, this is probably degrading as hell, I’ll put you down—”

Jimin moves before Namjoon can carry out his thought, gives a sudden and sharp roll of his hips downwards, lets Namjoon knows exactly how he feels about being put down. Then, as Namjoon is gasping, still holding him up, Jimin leans forward and tugs slightly at his earlobe, teeth and tongue.

“Carry me to bed, Joonie,” he whispers, “wanna make you feel good.”

Namjoon curses, and speeds up his pace.

There’s something strange about going to bed in the morning, stumbling through kisses and touches across sun dappled carpet, entering a room he’s never been in before, Namjoon’s hands steady under him.

It occurs to Jimin that he’s never had sex for the first time with someone in the morning. An odd realization—but it’s usually done with lights out, or at least, darkness to tuck into, shadows to stow away the vulnerable parts of yourself while you figure out how to be close to a person.

In morning, Namjoon’s so pretty Jimin can’t stand it. He sets Jimin down on the bed careful, only Jimin doesn’t want to be careful, reaches up and pulls Namjoon in by the front of his shirt, pulls Namjoon down on top of him, pressing their bodies together in a line.

Namjoon feels so good against him. Jimin can’t wait to get him naked.

“I can’t wait to get you naked.”

Namjoon blushes, tries hide his face but Jimin laughs and kisses him before he can, laughs as Namjoon kisses back at his mouth, getting teeth instead of lips. Laughter trades in for small whimpers as he gets a taste of the wet heat of Namjoon’s mouth again. As Namjoon finally quits hovering and lets his hips grind downward. It goes like that for a bit, but Jimin’s too impatient for Namjoon’s steady slow pace. He hooks his foot just right and flips Namjoon over, ruts against Namjoon’s thigh.

Beneath him, Namjoon trembles, holds Jimin tighter to him. He seems to be hitting that mental barrier once more, Jimin peeps that furrow creeping back into his brow.

He reaches up this time, presses a light kiss against his Adam’s apple. “Hey. You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what.” Namjoon returns the gesture, a brush of his lips over Jimin’s cheek.

“Look like I’m hurting you somehow.” Jimin pulls back, so he can see Namjoon’s face. “Do you want to slow down, have you never—”

“No, no, I’ve done this before.” Namjoon blinks up at the ceiling, seeming wholly overwhelmed. “I’ve been with other people just—different. This feels different.”

It feels like an admission for both of them. Different, a word with weight and gravity.

“Yeah.” Jimin nods, feeling something tighten high in his throat. “Yeah, I get what you mean.”

“It’s not that I don’t want this, I do. I’m just on overload right now. You make me feel…” Namjoon cuts off before he says the word, turns the loveliest shade of rose-gold.

“Tell me?” Jimin says, the uplift in the words turning it into a question rather than a command.

He needs to hear it, he wants to hear it. He leans forward, over Namjoon, noses along his neck, presses kisses to the moles there, scattered like stars on his collarbone and shoulder.

“You make me feel so good,” Namjoon exhales into Jimin’s hair, “And safe. And that seems like a simple thing, but it’s me, you know, I’m always in my head, but you make me kind of forget to be, if that makes sense. Now I’m rambling but, yeah.”

But yeah. Jimin feels dizzy with the rush that steals over him, mix of want and unfiltered affection, pulsing throughout his body. This time, when he leans down to kiss, Namjoon meets him in the middle, pushing up onto his elbows, matching Jimin’s fervor in the way he presses forward, in the way his hands wander, skim up beneath the fabric of Jimin’s t-shirt and touch him. His fingertips trace lazy patterns across Jimin’s stomach and Jimin’s hips buck mid-air, throwing off the rhythm of their kiss.

“You make me feel good too,” he says, both of them looking down at where Namjoon’s hand is on Jimin’s skin. “Make me feel good all the time, shit.”

Namjoon doesn't say anything else, but he does run his hands along the slope of Jimin’s spine, rubs circles with his thumbs at the dimples of his back, hands questing further and further beneath the material of Jimin’s shirt. Jimin shivers and sways forward, works an incriminating mark on Namjoon’s neck. Scrapes his teeth lightly against Namjoon’s collarbone, feeling how Namjoon’s hips arch off the bed beneath him. It’s incredibly satisfying, the dazed way he gasps against Jimin’s mouth.

“Yeah?” Jimin grinds down on Namjoon, their hips once again coming together, an awkward angle, rough clothed friction, right on the line of close-but-not-quite pleasure. Namjoon keens through clenched teeth, his hands splayed on Jimin’s waist.

“Fuck, baby.”

And that—that does something to Jimin. Hits a place in him previously untouched. He’s not the hugest fan of pet names. Maybe it’s the way he says it, with adoration and longing. Maybe it’s that it’s Namjoon. Whatever the reason, Jimin feels his skin erupt in gentle goosebumps, and he grinds down again, more desperate, delights in how Namjoon reciprocates, guiding Jimin’s hips against him.

The air is soupy and sun-stained, Jimin feels so good, he feels so good with Namjoon, their hips working together as they pant into each other’s mouths, creating friction that’s going everywhere and nowhere, fast.

“Can I,” Namjoon’s fingertips brush up the hem of Jimin’s shirt, and Jimin nods.

“Yeah, yeah.”

Namjoon wrestles Jimin’s shirt over his head and Jimin, really truly over the concept of clothing and decency, immediately bends down to shuck his jeans and boxers off.

When he straightens up, runs a hand through his hair, Namjoon is gaping at him, like he hadn’t just been touching the same body he’s looking at.

Jimin stares back. He’s not insecure about being naked, but he is standing there, bare as the day he was born, very aware of how the boy on the bed is clothed.

“Fuck,” says Namjoon, in a tone that’s unlike anything Jimin’s ever heard before. Like being out of breath at the top of a summit, after the trek up the steep arduous trail, the air thin and stealing the oxygen from your lungs, can hardly breathe, but look at that sunrise, look at that wide blue sky, look at the whole world at your feet.

Only Namjoon’s not looking at a wide blue sky or a gold painted sunrise.

He’s looking at Jimin.

“What.” Breathless, like he’s on the summit too.

“You are beautiful,” Namjoon says, and it doesn’t sound cliche coming from him, or like he’s trying to get into Jimin’s pants. It just sounds like Namjoon, all that genuine warmth and sincerity, all those things that Jimin loves—loves—about him being offered for Jimin to snatch up and gobble down. He looks dumbstruck, reverent.

“You are so beautiful, I am so—” he cuts off, face screwing up in an expression that looks like he’s going to scream or cry but really he’s laughing to himself, “Fucking hell, Park Jimin.”

“Yeah?” says Jimin, feeling shaky in his chest. Feeling like he’s hurtling for the surface, diving straight in.

“God,” Namjoon says, then, sitting halfway up on the bed, bringing a trembling hand up, thumb brushing the groove of Jimin’s hip, “Can I touch you, can I please—”

“Wait, you too, wanna see you first. Wanna see.”

There’s a bit of maneuvering, Jimin kneeling half on the bed so he can pull Namjoon’s t-shirt over his head, cast it aside. Namjoon doing an awkward shimmy as he pulls his sweatpants down, knees bunched up a bit to his chest.

Then Namjoon leans back on his palms, legs sprawled, in nothing but black boxer briefs.

For a moment, Jimin just sort of stares at him, mouth dry. Namjoon’s mouth is kiss swollen, dark pink, the center of a cherry blossom in fullest bloom.

Fucking hell.

“Sorry,” Namjoon mumbles.

Jimin blinks. “Literally what could you possibly be apologizing for.”

Namjoon glances down at his chest. “I know I’m not like, super sexy. Washboard abs, that sort of stuff. Just—sorry.”

“Again, why are you apologizing.”

“I know you’ve dated some hot guys in the past,” says Namjoon, in a tone that says he’s regretting every word as he says it, “And I’m—I know I’m different, physically, than what you’re used to. Like, I know you like me, obviously, I’m not doubting that, you like me for who I am and that’s all that matters. I just wanted to apologize for the lack of six pack you may have noticed. I am also aware as I say this that I am killing the mood and ruining everything, but communication is important, and I promise whatever I lack in visual I’ll make up for in substance and enthusiasm.”

For a moment, Jimin almost can’t believe what he’s hearing. Namjoon’s shifting across the sheets, staring at the ceiling, and Jimin is reminded of the same posture he had the night they went out to dance.

That’s not going to happen, Jimin decides. He’ll make sure Namjoon never feels that way again if it fucking kills him.

“Look at me,” he says in a low voice.

Namjoon’s eyes snap to Jimin.

“Allow me to make something crystal clear. I don’t want a six pack. I want you.”

Namjoon makes this frustrated noise. “I mean, I get that. Logically, I know what you mean.”

Jimin snakes his hands under the backs of Namjoon’s knees, pulling him down the mattress in one swift motion until Namjoon’s lying flat, legs dangling off the edge. He pauses, lets his eyes drag over Namjoon’s body, all the way down to the tips of his toes, and back up to meet his gaze.

“No,” he tells Namjoon, “You really don’t.”

Then he bends right over and kisses Namjoon’s knobby kneecap, the side of his calf, the faint tan line from wearing shorts out in the sun.

“These legs,” Jimin breathes against Namjoon’s thigh, “Are the worst thing to ever happen to me.”

Namjoon is blinking up at the ceiling, dazed. “I’m…sorry?”

“And these.” Jimin continues, ignoring Namjoon as he moves to suck a small mark higher up on Namjoon’s thigh, doesn’t relent until Namjoon’s hands tangle in his hair and tug. “These too.”

He kisses a path up one thigh, lean muscle twitching beneath his mouth, grips the other thigh tightly with his hand, massaging it. Kisses Namjoon’s hip, the fine line of dark hair that leads up to his bellybutton, leads down to—

“I thought you said my legs were too long.” Namjoon squirms beneath him.

“Of course they are,” scoffs Jimin. “It’s frankly offensive. That doesn’t mean they’re not also extremely fucking sexy.”

“Sexy.” Namjoon’s resulting laugh cuts off with a curse, as Jimin drags blunt fingernails down one thigh to emphasize his point.

“Yeah,” Jimin echoes back. “Sexy.”

The words are supposed to be seductive, it’s supposed to be said with sin dripping from every syllable.

There’s a bit of that here, a bit of heat, as he kisses at the juncture where Namjoon’s devastating legs join his devastating hips. But the heat is on low setting, simmer rather than burn, because in his heart there’s the cool blue swell of the ocean inside him. A thing that’s steady and rising and older than any flickering flame has been.

“This too,” says Jimin, not quite sure what exactly he’s doing anymore with this narration as he places his hands on Namjoon’s stomach, flat and a little soft and wonderful. Lets his hands drag upwards, fingertips ghosting over Namjoon’s nipples, touching the subtle curvature of his pecs, sliding up to his shoulders. “And this, and this.”

He does his best to brush kisses along the places he touches, tries to make them wet and dirty but really just ends up making them gentle, unhurried, sweet sweet sweet. There’s an unbearable wave of emotion rising in him, twisted up alongside the absolute turn on it is to have this sort of power over a person. To be the one to make them sound like Namjoon sounds right now.

He kisses up the barely there shape of Namjoon’s ribs, his sternum. Takes his time, works his way up Namjoon’s chest to his shoulders to his neck, to his open and gasping mouth, kisses Namjoon fiercely, and pours everything into it. Offers up all that ocean.

“Do you get it now,” he breathes into Namjoon’s mouth, feeling wild, feeling wonderful. “How much I want you.”

Namjoon’s nod is a barely perceptible thing, then he’s kissing Jimin back just as desperately, gripping Jimin’s hair so tight it hurts, so tight it’s good, until Jimin’s in his fucking lap, grinding his naked body against Namjoon’s naked stomach.

“Can I—” Jimin’s nodding before Namjoon finishes the question, and so Namjoon wraps a hand around Jimin and strokes.

“O-oh.”

Jimin’s head falls forward, onto Namjoon’s shoulder, mouth open. He hadn’t realized how badly he’d needed to be touched there, couldn’t possibly fathom how good it would feel to be touched by Namjoon, until it’s happening.

“’S good, Jimin?” Namjoon asks, like it’s hard to interpret the way Jimin is full on shivering in his arms.

Jimin nods, unable to conjure any actual words to mind at the moment, whimpers quietly into his neck.

Namjoon nods back, kisses Jimin’s cheek, his chin, the vulnerable patch of skin behind his ear, and his hand—long fingers, smooth palm, warm skin, fuck—picks up a steady rhythm. Slow upstroke, thumb swiping over the head, fingernail catching in the slit, scraping lightly at the precome gathered there at the head.

Eyes closed, face buried in Namjoon’s neck, Jimin can hear it, the obscene whisper of skin on skin, of shaky breath. It takes a second to register Namjoon’s voice too, quiet, just for him, “So beautiful, you are so beautiful. Love touching you, love the way you feel, the way you sound.”

Jimin makes a totally indecent sound, a drawn out moan, hips twitching upwards into Namjoon’s hand. That’s sort of what the whole world filters down to. Namjoon’s voice and the hotslicktight pressure as he touches Jimin’s cock.

He makes the mistake of looking down at the space between their bodies, the visual of Namjoon’s big hand on him, and almost fucking loses it. He’s already so close. Fuck. He’s not going to last much longer with Namjoon saying such sweet things in his ear, touching him so perfect—

“Stop.” Jimin forces his eyes open, lifts his head from Namjoon’s shoulder.

Namjoon freezes. “Sorry, did I hurt you?”

“No, no,” Jimin reassures. “Just—don’t wanna come like this. C’mon, Joonie. Wanna touch you too. Wanna make you feel good too.”

“I already feel good,” Namjoon protests, yet following Jimin’s gesture and rolling over to the side, his back bearing a single scratch where Jimin must have dragged his hand down it. Jesus.

“Fine, then I wanna make you come,” says Jimin, victorious at Namjoon’s full body shiver, halfway to pulling down his underwear off. “C’mere.”

And then, Namjoon’s turning his back and kicking his underwear aside.

And then, they’re both facing each other across the bed, Namjoon’s cock heavy between his legs.

Jimin knows it’s not polite to stare and all but—damn.

Their gazes meet, and Jimin sees the dark heat he feels reflected back at him. Namjoon bites his bottom lip.

Jimin’s beckons Namjoon over to him, meeting him with a soft kiss and a gentle hand at his waist, stroking up and down his side. Presses their chests together, nipples brushing, breaths mingling.

Jimin licks into his mouth, and Namjoon groans.

“How do you want to do this?” He feels frenzied, blood heated and wild eyed.

Namjoon kisses him, nibbles at his bottom lip until Jimin groans right back.

“Like this,” he says, pulling Jimin against him, and lying back on the pillows until Jimin’s sitting on top. He gathers Jimin’s wrists in his hands, places them on his chest so Jimin is tilted forward, their faces close. “Like you like this.”

“Right.” Jimin nods, his thoughts jangling around chaotically. “And you want—you want to—”

Namjoon puts his hand on Jimin again, Jimin’s thought process evaporating as he shudders, hips churning in little circles. “It’s like you said Jimin-ah, wanna touch you, wanna make you come.”

Jesus.” Jimin swears.

He adjusts his position, Namjoon’s legs falling open to make room for him. Joins their hips, cocks sliding together, both of them gasping at the contact. Jimin plants his hands on Namjoon’s chest, works their bodies together in a slow motion, drawing out the pressure, the movement.

“C’mon baby,” Namjoon urges, voice like velvet falling over Jimin’s ears, pitched low and striking deep. “C’mon, that’s it, like that, so beautiful.”

It doesn’t take much. Namjoon’s hands guiding his hips, Namjoon’s words entering his lungs like smoke. Jimin can feel Namjoon, can feel Namjoon, the line of heat of his body bare and pushing against Jimin’s, not a single barrier between them and god, he feels so exposed, and it’s fucking incredible. Jimin tries to drag it out, tries to make it good, but he’s too close, too frantic. Making this frustrated keening noise as he moves against Namjoon. It’s too much, it’s not enough, it’s going to be the death of him.

“I can’t.” A dry sob bursts out of Jimin’s chest, pleasure spiking high in his belly, building slowly, threatening to release. “Namjoon—”

Namjoon sits up, wraps one hand around both of them, squeezing and moving with this delicious friction, wet and slow moving. With the other hand, he touches Jimin’s jaw, Jimin’s cheek, Jimin’s mouth, steady and tender. Loving.

Jimin comes. The warmth in his gut blooms and spreads throughout his limbs, spiraling outwards, knocking the air from his lungs, mind locked in a perfect pocket of silence. Body blissfully empty of thought until the heat loosens, clears.

“Shit.”

He can’t tell if it’s him or Namjoon that says it. But Jimin doesn’t trust himself to speak right now.

He flops forward with a grunt onto Namjoon’s chest, feeling like a puddle of goo. The hand that was on Jimin’s face brushes the sweaty hair back from his face, patiently sweeps down his back, like trying to call Jimin down to earth.

Jimin’s completely spent, but he’s also aware of the tiniest little shudder beneath him, the insistent pressure of Namjoon’s cock against his belly, hard and leaking at the tip.

“Your turn,” he mumbles drowsily.

“No, I—I’m good. It’s no big deal. Seriously, we can stop.”

Jimin rolls off onto the bedspread and pulls Namjoon on top of him, immediately liking the comfortable weight against his chest, the sensation of compression. He watches, slightly fascinated, as Namjoon’s hips buck against his, cock sliding along his pelvic line. Watches Namjoon’s eyes clench shut, feels the tremor of his body against his own.

Sated, exhausted, Jimin curls a hand around Namjoon, and Namjoon thrusts up into the loose circle of his fingers, releasing a helpless whimper against Jimin’s throat.

“That’s it,” Jimin whispers encouragingly, too worn out to move much but eager to do his part just the same.

It’s a whole mess between their bodies, sticky and a little gross but kind of perfect. Because Namjoon rolls his hips against Jimin, again and again, and the slide is hot and smooth. Jimin presses open mouthed kisses against Namjoon’s neck, little nips, tastes salt and skin.

He still in floating in the post-coital comedown, but Namjoon’s grinding against him so good, and the weight and shape of him in Jimin’s hand is another kind of adrenaline rush. Jimin grips his hand tighter, which Namjoon seems to like, because his hips stutter, freeze, as he sucks in a sharp breath and makes this bitten off noise, like he’s trying to muffle himself.

“Hey, none of that.” Jimin surges up to nip at his mouth too, a gentle scold. “Wanna hear you make those pretty sounds.”

Namjoon’s eyes flutter open and he looks at Jimin, nods, and releases his bottom lip from his teeth. He stares at Jimin, the sounds spilling from him still quiet, but no longer swallowed down. His whole body is flushed and damp, mouth bitten red. Hips moving more erratically, jagged. On the edge, and coming apart at the seams.

“C’mon,” urges Jimin, body lethargic but mind pulsing with something dark and heady and yearning. “C’mon, Joon-ah, want to feel you, want to feel you come, can you do that for me sweetheart? Let me hear you, I wanna see, you look so sexy like this, you sound so good, c’mon, won’t you please just come for me?”

Blindly, Namjoon’s gropes for Jimin’s other hand, laces their fingers together to press into the bed. His eyes are half open, glassy, looking at Jimin like Jimin’s the second fucking coming, like he can’t look away.

“Sweetheart,” Jimin whispers. “That’s it, sweetheart.”

Above him, against him, Namjoon silently gasps. Trembles. Comes.

Jimin strokes him through it, hand warm and wet, the slide so good, keeping his grip tight, until Namjoon’s hips stop moving, until he hisses from the sensitivity, faced shoved against Jimin’s neck as he presses against him, still shaking as he comes down. All the while pressing these little soundless kisses into Jimin’s neck and shoulders as he catches his breath. Whispers Jimin’s name, over and over and over again in this quiet awed tone that brings a lump to Jimin’s throat. He waits until he feels Namjoon’s heartbeat start to slow. Their fingers are still tangled.

“You good?” Jimin kisses his cheek.

At last, Namjoon lifts his head up and nods, kisses Jimin’s cheek right back. “I’m good.”

“Gonna get cleaned up.”

Namjoon rolls onto his side to let Jimin up. Jimin slips from the bed real quick and walks to the bathroom. He likes the picture of himself in the mirror—bright eyed and sweaty, mouth stained pink. Namjoon looks good on him, so to speak.

He comes back with a damp washcloth to find Namjoon staring up at the ceiling. Not asleep, but looking dazed, overwhelmed. Like earlier, seeing Jimin naked for the first time, but different. More vulnerable.

Jimin brushes a hand over his thigh. “Okay if I touch you?”

Again, Namjoon nods.

In soft, gentle strokes, Jimin cleans Namjoon’s stomach and thighs, careful around the spot where he’s most sensitive.

When that’s dealt with, he tosses the cloth aside and crawls right between Namjoon’s legs, lays over his chest. Props his chin on his hands, splayed over Namjoon’s breastbone. Namjoon’s still staring up at the ceiling, deep in thought.

“Hey,” Jimin calls softly, only putting a little needy whine in his tone, just a bit of pout in his lips. He kisses Namjoon’s sternum, his collarbone, the hollow of his throat, “Where’d you go Kim Namjoon?”

Namjoon blinks, eyes focused and adoring, a relaxed smile stretching across his cheeks. Dimples dimples dimples. Jimin taps his mouth with a single finger, pout spreading to a grin as Namjoon crests beneath him like a wave, hands coming up to frame his face as he kisses him, lips parting sweetly.

“I’m here, Park Jimin,” he says, and brings their mouths together again and again and again, till Jimin’s all but drowning in it. “I am right here.”

*

In bed, Jimin throws a clean sheet over the both of them. Even though it’s comfortably warm in the apartment, the blanket makes a tent over their heads, a little bubble of sheet forming around them, slowly drifting down, like when you were kids playing with the giant parachute, trying to see how long it would dome around you. Namjoon lies on his side facing Jimin, his cheek pressed into the pillow, body glowing gold from the light filtering through the blanket.

In bed, they look at each other for a moment, careful, quiet, until Namjoon opens his arm out and Jimin goes to him like gravity, like the mattress is tilting and there’s no choice but to tip into Namjoon’s space, pressing their bodies together. Warm skin to warm skin.

In bed, Namjoon cradles Jimin’s face in his hands, touch delicate as moth’s wings. Not like Jimin’s fragile and breakable, but like he is worth being handled carefully. Gold tough as nails, but valuable enough that one must be gentle just the same. He thumbs at the apples of Jimin’s cheeks, brushes his lips there too.

Jimin hums, a soft sound. Off in the distance, beyond the fire escape, a twittering bird sings. Jimin walks his fingers along the curve of Namjoon’s shoulder, taps at the mole at the base of Namjoon’s neck, follows it up with a kiss. Namjoon makes this noise, a harmony to Jimin’s earlier note.

It’s as if some knotted up thing inside Namjoon has finally been worked loose. He touches Jimin with no hesitation. His smile looks as if it will never fade away.

*

“You’re gonna laugh.”

“I’m not gonna laugh.”

“Okay,” Namjoon relents, pausing in the lines he’s brushing over Jimin’s bare back, the pads of his fingers painting swirls into his skin, “Okay. It was like, it was maybe the day I moved in. When you opened the door.”

Jimin lifts his head from the pillow. “You’re kidding me.”

“I thought you were so cute. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I tried to hint at you that I was single and then made it sound like I was a fucking virgin.”

“I remember that.” Jimin laughs. “It was sweet.”

“You know all those times we’d be hanging out and I’d suddenly get up and say I had to go to the library?”

“…Yeah?”

“Lies. Nine times out of ten I’d end up at Hoseok and Yoongi-hyung’s apartment having a massive gay breakdown on their futon. They started demanding I bring booze over every time as payment.”

“Oh my god.”

*

“It’s not fair,” Jimin complains, pressing his thumbs to Namjoon’s cheeks so hard he knows it probably hurts. “Most people get lucky to have even one dimple. You have two, and they’re literal caves in your face.”

“Of course I have two, who has one dimple?” Namjoon asks, taking the opportunity to seize Jimin’s hand and press kisses to his fingertips.

“I have one dimple,” pouts Jimin. “And I am extremely offended that you haven’t noticed it.”

“You’re lying. I definitely would have noticed if you had a dimple.”

Jimin purses his lips in a haughty twisted smirk, jabs his pinky at his cheek. “See? Dimple.”

Hands on Jimin’s face, Namjoon’s eyes bright as he leans in.

“Huh,” says Namjoon, “I don’t see anything.”

“You do too. You’re just being an elitist now.”

“An elitist?”

“Yeah. A dimple elitist.”

“Well then,” Namjoon kisses Jimin’s nose, Jimin’s jaw, Jimin’s cheek, over and over and over. “Guess I’ll have to keep kissing you until I find it.”

“Shame, that.”

“Aha,” Namjoon whispers, presses his lips on the indentation, “There it is.”

He smiles, pressing his lips to the divot of Jimin’s cheek, grinning as it deepens, laughing hard when Jimin’s squirms, kissing it over and over again. Jimin can feel the wonderful sound deep in Namjoon’s belly, against his fingertips.

“I can only take so much,” Jimin pleads. “Have mercy on me.”

“Never.” Namjoon smiles into Jimin’s skin. “Gonna kiss the heck out of this dimple.”

“You’re the worst,” Jimin sighs, and doesn’t mean one word of it.

*

“This is so embarrassing.” His face is absolutely pink from blushing.

“You’re doing amazing sweetie, keep going.”

Namjoon sighs. “I love your smile.”

“Finish,” prods Jimin, hand sliding up Namjoon’s thighs as they bracket his waist.

“I love—I love your face when you dance,” Namjoon says, and he brings his hands up to frame Jimin’s face, like it’s not too soft for dance. Not too soft at all.

“Mmm, finish.” Jimin tilts their mouths together, Namjoon kissing at his teeth as he grins.

“Let’s finish,” Namjoon starts, then stops again as Jimin pulls out of reach, teasing. “Let’s finish this relationship.”

“Oh no, we’re breaking up?” Namjoon’s breath wheezes as Jimin pushes off of him, kissing down his stomach. “What a shame. We never even saw our prime.”

“Terrible shame.”

“The biggest shame. I had so many plans for this body.”

“Pardon?”

“It’s just tragic really. All the hot sex we’re never going to have because you said let’s finish this relationship.”

“Wait, stop. I take it back.”

*

“I’m going to get some water. You want anything?”

“Water’s fine.”

Namjoon swings his legs off the bed and rifles around on the floor for clothing. There is something incredibly sexy about watching Namjoon get dressed, which sounds contradictory, given how long they’ve been lying around naked. He likes the shape of Namjoon’s back, the way the muscle shifts as he moves, the delicate curve of his spine as he bends over, grabs a hoodie, starts to slip into it.

“You know what,” says Jimin. “Forget what I said about water. C’mere.”

Namjoon stops, looks over his bare shoulder at Jimin, half-dressed, mussed looking. Catches the look in Jimin’s eye and then lifts his shoulder a bit, gaze coy, flutters his eyelashes coquettishly. Like he’s almost shy. Almost.

“Like what you see?”

“Namjoon-hyung.” Jimin says, very seriously. “Come over here. It’s an emergency.”

“Oh yeah?” The fucker smirks, like he knows exactly what he is doing. “What kind of emergency, Jiminie.”

“A very serious one.”

“Gonna need you to elaborate, baby.”

Jimin gets to his knees, crawls over. “I have a growth, and I need you to check it out.”

“Sounds dangerous.”

“It’s a sexy growth. This is a sex-mergency.”

Namjoon cracks up so hard he falls off the damn bed, and Jimin tumbles after him because why the fuck not. He bruises his knee on the hardwood floor in a way that’ll be black and blue for days but Namjoon kisses it better. Kisses other things, too. More than makes up for the haphazard trip to the floor, glass of water forgotten entirely.

“I’m like your pinky toe, hyung,” Jimin tries again some time later, trying not to gasp, which is a huge effort considering that there is a Namjoon between his legs. “You’re gonna bang me on every piece of furniture of your apartment.”

“Can we please not talk about feet while we are naked,” Namjoon groans, yet kisses his way down Jimin’s tummy, light little nuzzling presses of lips that make Jimin arch his back off the floor.

Jimin winds his fingers into his hair. “So you’re saying foot fetish is off the table.”

“I’m saying let me at least suck your dick with a shred of dignity,” Namjoon sighs, slumping against Jimin as all the fight goes out of him. “Jesus Christ.”

*

“I love your laugh.”

“Finish.” Namjoon’s fingers, twined with his among the sheets.

“I love your words. I love hearing you speak.”

“F-finish.” Namjoon’s breath, hot on his neck.

“Love you.” Jimin’s gasp, pressing the words into kisses where he can. “Namjoon-ah, love you so bad, please—”

Namjoon’s eyes closed, letting out the gentlest sigh, as if Jimin has spread a balm on a wound.

*

taetae>>>jimin
omfg jiminie
i know ur getting ur guts rearranged rn or vice versa bc hashtag equality
but jeonggukie is here
and he brought a MAN
and i do not use that word lightly
he’s a whole serving size full nutritional value M A N
you’re missing //everything//

taetae
and now ur friend hoseok is here with some other guy???? and we’re all drinking together?
what the hell did i miss while i was gone
and why are all these new men so hot
????????????

taetae
heNL o jwimin ssi
this s is t a e
mdrank
dronk
DRUKN
WERE HAVING A PRATAYYYYYY
TELL KIMBERLY I SAID HEWWO
JUNGKOOKI E HAS   HUS BANDO????? FJCUIK

taetae
Hello Jimin, this is Seokjin.
I have confiscated Taehyung’s phone for his own good. I’ll give it back to him in the morning.
Happy to see things have worked out with you and Joonie. At least, that’s what I assume happened, as Taehyung has proudly informed all of us that you’re at his place getting your guts rearranged as we speak.

taetae
This is Seokjin again. Just curious: who do you think would win in an underwater battle, a tiger or a shark?

taetae
hi its tae i threw up in the shower but i survived (Raised Fist )
okay i know you’ve got the libido of zeus and the stamina of a thoroughbred, or whatever
but you’ve been MIA for more than 24 HOURS
I NEED CONFIRMATION THAT UR ALIVE
IF YOU DONT TEXT ME IN FIVE MINUTES I’M CALLING THE POLICE

jimin
omfghkskjdjasdas
im alive!!!!! pls dont call the police
sorry, i forgot to check my phone

taetae
oh thank gOD
have u been fucking this whole time? how are u texting rn?

jimin
i have two hands don’t i?

taetae
DKCL;SDFV7DFIV STOP
ok but srsly are u coming home or is this goodbye forever :(
i miss u :(
jeongguk got white girl wasted in front of his man and u missed it
i tried 2 film it but jin attacked me

jimin
i’ll be home in an hour
me n joon just gotta make it an even number

taetae
lol even number wut
oh
OH……
u kno ur my best friend and id die for you
but you kind of terrify me

jimin
:)

*

“Thanks again for letting me borrow clothes,” says Jimin. “Tae would never have let me hear the end of it if I showed up in a walk of shame outfit.”

“Yeah, for sure,” says Namjoon, who has finally, blessedly, put clothes back on. “I’ll text you when your stuff comes out of the drier.”

“Even then, I might still burn that outfit. It's seen too much.”

“Would love to get my shirt back, though.”

“Hm, no can do,” Jimin hums, shoving his nose into the collar of the t-shirt he’d picked out of Namjoon’s closet, which is big and loose and comfy. “I’m keeping this forever, and it’s going right in my drawer alongside the hoodie you left behind.”

“Is that so?”

“Yup.”

They’re stalling in the kitchen, Jimin fiddling with his phone before shoving it in his pocket. Namjoon bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. His hair, like Jimin’s, is damp from the shower, and there’s a glorious hickie on his neck and this is collectively the worst possible argument to get Jimin to leave this apartment right now.

Despite what Jimin allowed Taehyung to think—they really didn’t have that much sex. (Not that much, at least.) Mostly they’d just talked. And kissed. And giggled. There was a lot of giggling and kissing. Netflix was on at one point probably, but there may have been too much giggling and kissing to tell.

Jimin feels exhausted and positively stupid with happiness.

“I really need to go.”

“Agreed.”

Neither of them move.

“Namjoon, tell me to go.”

“Jimin, go.”

“No.” Jimin points at his mouth. “One more kiss.”

“The last time you said that, we ruined your clothes.”

“Yeah but that was the warm-up goodbye kiss, obviously.”

“Among other things.”

“How about a dimple kiss,” Jimin perks up. “Perfectly harmless. That way we can’t cheat.”

Namjoon sighs, but he indulges anyhow. Leans in towards Jimin’s left cheek, squawking at the last second that Jimin turns to meet his mouth.

“Cheater,” Namjoon laughs against him.

“I like to think of myself as an innovator,” Jimin says, yanking him down by the collar of his shirt.

A minute later, Jimin’s phone buzzes against Namjoon’s hand, cupped solidly on Jimin’s ass, and they both groan as they pull back.

“Bye.” He pecks Namjoon one last time.

“Bye,” says Namjoon, pecking him right back.

Jimin’s halfway down the hallway and heading for the stairwell when Namjoon’s door opens and he blurts, “Speaking of returning my shirt, if you come by and I’m not home, you can just let yourself in with this.”

Jimin turns to find his boyfriend—his boyfriend—standing in the doorway. The expression of nervousness on his face now seems almost uncharacteristic, Jimin hasn’t seen it once in around twenty-four hours.

In Namjoon’s flat palm, like offering feed to a spooked horse, is a small brassy key.

“Please don’t panic,” he says in a rush, seeing Jimin’s totally blank expression. “This isn’t me asking you to move in or anything. It’s too soon, I know, I mean, god, we haven’t even technically been on a first date, and I want to do things right, and I would never ask you to just up and leave Tae like that, but. I dunno. I have this spare key for emergencies, but I’m a person who loses everything. Like, literally. One time I lost my freaking passport while I was abroad and had to call the embassy. It’s seriously a problem. Anyways, I have this key, so I figured you’re a super responsible person that I might see often enough that I could give this to you for safe-keeping?”

Namjoon pauses for just the briefest second, as if waiting for Jimin to say something, then forges ahead.

“And, you know, this is new,” he gestures to the space them. “Us. But it felt like a no brainer, because you’re responsible, and I trust you, and we’ve already technically lived together so it’s not weird for you to show up and let yourself in. Because it’s you, and I am always happy to see you. Anyways. It’s yours, if you want it.”

Silence. Stillness. The whole world holding its breath.

Jimin walks over and lifts the key from Namjoon’s palm, cradles it in his hand, and the smile Namjoon gives him feels like diving into the highest tide. Feels like sinking into the purest and deepest blue.

Feels like he’ll never be afraid to drown again.

*

fin.