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Never Mind, Never Mine

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“good morning to everyone in school except for every teacher’s pet park jimin!”

“good lord, jeongguk, i have neither the time nor the crayons to go over this again, brat-”

“nani the fuck, jimin ssi-

according to information source exhibit T (for taehyung) this massive rivalry had begun because of that one fluke test: the one that jeongguk had written the multiple choice options on his eraser and rolled it like dice to hurry and submit so he could sleep for the rest of the period. like a kahoot quiz, timing was also considered- and in sheer luck, he'd gotten full marks. a full solid 100%, clocked in within a minute that even the supervising TA was surprised. jimin, on the other hand, first boy to submit after him, had also attained full marks, but reached second place since he meticulously calculated and double checked his answers. he's mad not because jeonguk came in first, but he's mad that jeongguk came in first despite doing nothing.

since it was the first time anyone in advanced mathematics had beaten the formidable park jimin, jeongguk obviously waved the red 100% test score in jimin's face, maximising the opportunity. lady luck would never stop by again after this, so duh he would shove it in jimin's face with a shit eating grin. stupid jimin and his satisfied smile whenever miss kwak would announce the results with first place going to him always, without fail.

that was the beginning of all of it.


jimin's perpetually attacking his nonexistent mathematical skills, while jeongguk attacks his easiest weakness- his height. it's the average height for an asian male, but compared to his close friends, jimin looks petite in size. also, anything shorter than jeongguk, he considers tiny.

although jeongguk easily gets fired up, jimin is aggressive too- when jeongguk riles him up, he didn't hesitate to dodge the incoming smack and instead stomp on his foot, before kicking the back of his knees to make him buckle and almost kneel. essentially, top 10 worst anime plot twists ranked number one. the smirk jimin had that time as he stacked the heel of his red soled shoes on jeongguk's back (he was being considerate, okay? so the white shirt wouldn't have a footprint) made his hate boner grow a hundred times in size- which meant it was now the size of busan, daegu, ilsan and geochang combined.


“you copied me! i dyed my hair pink over break and now you wanna try pink streaks in your coconut headass bangs, huh jeon jeongguk?!”

“as if you didn't start wearing a leather jacket after i did-!”

“i did not! the same happened when i went blonde! and you recently wore coloured lenses a day after i did, you prick!”

“everybody started wearing them because of bts, you dumbass, not everything’s about you-!”

“you also wore prescription glasses after i started it-”

“so we all can't have bad eyesight from gaming at 2am anymore, huh?”

“to hell with your OwOwatch! anyway i was born in busan first-”

“don't you dare disrespect my game, and park jimin you're being unreasonable! who gives a shit whether you were born first-!”


apart from the jarring points of view and clashing, overly competitive natures, everybody knew them as the black and white couple- jimin usually decked in chic white dress shirts and loafers, while jeongguk resides in oversized comfy clothes, especially his black stussy hoodie. otherwise, it's the opposite- jeongguk in his nth white shirt of the week with a beanie, jimin in an all black coordi.

“sexy lovely and cute my ass, your outfit is ugly as shit, you munchkin, with those pretentious blue tinted sunglasses-”

“says the one with 24 white shirts, jeon- who the hell needs so many of the same damn shirt! one for each hour of the day, huh?!”

“oh shut up, you're always decked in luxurious brands, you got a sugar daddy or something?”

“as if you have the right to come at me for my fashion, looking like some ugly-”

“knock it off, black and white couple, we're trying to study here-”

“s-sorry.”


jimin learns from experience that hoseok hyung and namjoon hyung bear the brunt of most of their dumb (flirt-fight) arguments, namjoon always looks so done and hoseok looks like he wants to strangle them. it's just that, both of them have these really cute dimples and soft cheeks, allowing them to get away from “i’ll kill you park jimin and jeon jeongguk” to “i’ll kill you two and he’ll help bury the bodies uwu”.

when jeongguk hears that jimin has a diploma in piano, he immediately goes ahead to sign up and learn it too- it was always on his bucket list anyway. jimin catches wind that jeongguk's learning drums, and a week later he's learnt all sorts of eye catching tricks to tossing and spinning drumsticks and a mic. jimin sings for music department recordings sometimes, so the showy fucker (jeongguk's words) of course has his own silver mic with his name engraved in caps lock arial font size 13 when performing.

it goes without saying that when jeongguk hears jimin can dance, he picks up hip hop with ease, being extremely physically inclined- to which jimin proceeds to master the exact genre after his own contemporary style, and even learns bachata to ensure jeongguk's put off his trail. thus, jeongguk vows to deeply entrench the fact that he's bigger, stronger, and more muscular than park jimin. also, if jimin ever gets a muscle or strength kink, he's going to be completely fucked- because jeongguk swears by every god he'll make jimin drool, make his life with a living hell with all the casual flexes. just ‘cause he can. that's right. it's the most foolproof plan, since there seems to be nothing jimin cannot do.

(in conclusion, the hate boner never really ends.)


of course, with rigorous gym routines atop of training and more running and bulking and more extra training, it would eventually accumulate into over exertion and muscle strain. it gets so bad that jeongguk needs to be admitted to the hospital just before a muscle or ligament tear erupts. it's a dull week for jimin (not that he's keeping a lookout at the lonely empty seat) despite having his fair share of friends. the week passes slowly. a peaceful week, that everybody seems to sense something amiss, the atmosphere not as noisy and chaotic as it should be.

jeongguk always knew lady luck would only allow him to rub his math test scores in jimin's face once. he happens to be unlucky enough, medical certificate only excusing him till a day before a semester test. jimin is as usual, top student, and jeongguk sulks bitterly watching that proud smile. miss kwak empathetically sighs at the results sheet, announcing those under 30% will need to study for a retest next term. unfortunately, jeongguk's score was the reverse digits. yikes. “jeongguk ssi, i understand that you were in the hospital recuperating- but i have to say, your mathematic grades are really... something else.” there are some sniggers in class as jeongguk scowls, and his concerned teacher just has to suggest the worst plan on earth.

“ah! how about we get someone to tutor you? you have a free period every wednesday afternoon, don't you?” she runs down the list of the individual scores on the name list, shaking her head at the evident highs and lows. (the only time jeongguk is a bottom, is in mathematics class- ceteris paribus. period. ) jeongguk unwittingly clenches his fists, a bad feeling washing over him as he spots some obnoxious classmates with clasped hands, praying they get to tutor jeongguk oppa. he feels nauseous. anyone but girls and park ji-

“-min ssi, what do you say?” miss kwak sweetly says, “you've been the top student for a long time now, and i've heard all your tutees in remedial classes ended up doing quite well. would that be okay?”

“no!” it's not jimin, but jeongguk that has a vehement yell of objection. miss kwak! how could you do this to me! i studied so hard for math you know! how could you betray- “no! i mean,” he swallows, suddenly aware of his outburst attracting all the eyes of the other students, “i'm sure jimin ssi is a holistic, fantastically well rounded scholar that is very, very busy with his multiple commitments, so he's definitely not avai-”

“i'm free, miss kwak~!” jimin interjects gleefully, putting his stupid baby hands into the air, with the ugly silver rings, and his teacher lets out an audible sigh of relief. stupid midget even has the nerve to pretend flipping through his schedule book, then circle the dates and starring them to write a reminder. “wonderful. i'll be expecting better results from you next time, jeongguk ssi. class is dismissed!”

when jeongguk meets jimin's eyes with a ferocious glare, all he sees is a hoodie framing jimin's dumb face, a wicked peace sign and a kitten-like tongue going blep. the devil works hard but park jimin works harder. disgusting.


it turns out, actually, that jimin is pretty damn good at explaining. jeongguk hates to admit it, but he was being difficult initially and had refused to learn. jimin's actually really patient and good with teaching actual useful exam tips, armed with practical examples for easier understanding. a jimin user manual version of mathematics for dummies called jeon jeongguk 101.  

“i don't want to owe you anything.” jeongguk sets a can of coffee grimly on the table, lips pressed into a tight line, can clutched tightly with white knuckles. how embarrassing that he stared so much in the past to even know jimin's coffee order.

instead of any form of retaliation, jimin has a mysterious smile as he pops open the tab, adam’s apple gracefully bobbing as he gulps down the latte. “why? my beauty made you stop functioning?”

“y-you wish!” jeongguk retorts, evidently flustered, turning back to his practice questions, and jimin reveals nothing more, only flashes a teasing megawatt smile. stupid jimin and his cute crooked tooth. wait, did he just think cute-! unbelievable!

“jeonggukie… you need to change the signs when transferring the 5x over to the other side…” jimin sighs, propping up his chin on his palm lazily, but eyes as sharp and alert as ever.

“s-sorry.” after making the 5x a negative, he stops.

“uh. what do i do now.”

“you solve the quadratic and then substitute it back into the integral, then split the fraction before factorising again into simplest form?”

“...”

“jeon jeongguk i swear to god-”

oh come on! like anybody would get that shit right on the first attempt other than park jimin. ugh, a pure math nerd. jeongguk gets it right after two explanations though, but additionally with another two just because he wants to hear jimin talk. to see how long he can last before he goes thirsty with no more coffee or water and his throat goes dry and raspy and maybe beg jeongguk for water. it's not because his voice is kinda nice, soothing even. absolutely not.


“oh please all high and mighty park jimin knows how to do is sit pretty-”

“at least i am pretty, jeon,” jeongguk can hear the roll of his eyes as a firm hand grips his shoulder, causing him to unwittingly tense. the warm breath that ghosts past the shell of his ear makes him hot, and very, very bothered, in a angry and going to fume way. “you're not even pretty enough to be this stupid, jeongguk-ah.”


taehyung funds him tissues to dab away the drying tear stains and blow the remnants of his stuffy nose, the result of a touching documentary during class. jeongguk so happens to walk by. for god's sake, really? this had to be a joke.

“oho, is park jimin crying? ” jeongguk teases, eyebrow cocked condescendingly, as taehyung ardently flocks to his best friend's defence. “come on, we were watching a short clip of a documentary where this puppy stood up to bigger intimidating dogs to fend for his owner, even though he knew he wouldn't make it.” taehyung visibly droops as he gives a summary, “most of the girls cried too. it was really sad.”

“why bother, this guy is heartless- let's go, taetae.”

“excuse me?” jeongguk retorts, even though jimin's tiny whisper wasn't for him. “i have feelings too-”

“oh, so now you're ‘jeon jeongguk is bad at feelings’? good for you then, you're excused. taehyung, let's go-”

“and then what are you, huh? ‘park jimin is a sweetheart’? ‘park jimin is a tease’? you're obviously caught in a lie-” he fires back with equal, if not more annoyance, and taehyung gets caught in the verbal crossfire. not again, taehyung internally wails, large hands covering his face. these fights were inevitable and also plentiful- there was no way around it other than time and circumstance.

“guys… it's only ten in the morning… please, let's go on with a chill and peaceful day, okay? uhh, should i dance to yes or yes to make this situation less hostile and awkward?”

“tae-”

“... hyung-”

“aww, look! you guys even complete each other's sentences! that's so cute-”

 

“we do not! kim taehyung i thought you were on my side-”

“that is so not cute! taehyung hyung i thought we made it clear we're sworn enemies-

“and i don't even like twice, tae, that's the jeongyeon group-”

“hyung you were supposed to be siding me-

the instant clash of an agitated exchange of satoori bickering makes the supposed moodmaker feel an oncoming headache that’ll last till late afternoon. jesus christ, fam.

“ah, see, you guys even have some magical telepathy thing going on,” taehyung cheesily says, throwing them each a finger gun. “woulda shoved you guys into some gym closet and locked you in for seven minutes, but- holy crap jimin we're running late-”

the digital clock on one of the pillars tells them they only have two minutes left before the bell rang, since the documentary had prolonged their class; adamant protests to finish the clip in order to know the ending had led it to extend into the break.

“oh shoot- we're going to be late, taehyung, hurry up professor seon is announcing our test results-!” jimin's eyes are wide open as he tugs on taehyung’s sleeve, yelling a “this is all your fault jeon jeongguk!” as the two of them run to the opposite end of the hallway to reach their lecture theatre.

 

for some reason, it makes jeongguk feel good, hearing jimin screaming his name (albeit in irritance) like that.


“okay, all of you: listen up. namjoon just said he would chose drake over eminem. um, hello? joon? this is 2018, sir, we need to honour the legends and not some viral song challenge dude-”

“hyung, drake has other great songs like fake love! and i'm currently listening to sicko mode-”

“kim namjoon i am ashamed to have lived with you for eight consecutive years in the same neighbourhood, since 13 november 2010.” yoongi has his arms crossed while the rest of them opt for the chicken and pork on their plates rather than the beef.

“aww, he's so over dramatic!” hoseok laughs contagiously, “i love it.”

“yah, he calls me an uncle but this friend over here is so sappy he even remembers the dates of every anniversary.” seokjin points with a spoon, amused, and namjoon gets inspired. “yoongi hyung, how about you ask the rest of them- you'll see.”

of course seokjin is up for interrogation first, since he's the eldest. “aha! i only support local legends. i only listen to bts. you know bts? international pop k sensation sunshine rainbow traditional transfer usb hub shrimp bts?

everybody has to either hide their face in embarrassment (facepalm meets cringe. a nice cute type cringe.) or try not to laugh. (except for jimin though, he's everybody's supporter and laughs at all seokjin's dad jokes:( jimin really likes the maknae of bts! seokjin’s bias is mr. worldwide handsome.) “...i recognise a legend when i see one, but go off.” yoongi smiles, “jin hyung passes. next-”

“hobi, drake or eminem?” before hoseok can open his mouth to answer, yoongi barges in with a fiercely defensive pout and a finger over hoseok’s lips. hoseok definitely will choose drake, he's nuts about in my feelings. (kiki, do you love me converted into yoonie, do you love me every damn night. as if yoongi wouldn't know.) “my boyfriend is exempted by default. definite pass either way. moving on-”

“aww yoonie… i love you~

“mm. s-same.” yoongi grumbles as hoseok smooches him, but the pink on his cheeks say otherwise. “jimin?”

“of course it's eminem!”

“good boy. jeongguk?”

“........”

“somebody hold my beer- don't even get me started, the boy listens to justin sunbaenim and charlie puth hyung .” jimin laments, after chewing his food, using inverted commas in the air, “he doesn't even call me with proper honorifics and he calls them freaking hyung and sunbaenim!”

“at least they're good, what d’you even listen to, jimin ssi? ” jeongguk laces with mock sarcasm. jimin hyung his ass.

“good? you have the musical taste of a teaspoon! have you ever heard of a whole shawn mendes? khalid? both talented and good looking and younger than you, excuse your ears?”

“yeah yeah, whatever,” jeongguk rolls his eyes, “and why, ‘cause you into younger guys?” the opposite happens when his hyungs and taehyung start laughing, instead of fuelling the furore jeongguk thought he would've won hands down. seokjin's windshield wiper laugh refuses to die down, and jimin does his best to hide his face in his hands, but they're too small. jeon jeongguk, you're an idiot! why would you say something so obvious?! can't you tell i've been liking someone younger for so long… also, shawn is very handsome, better than justin! facts are facts.

“i also listen to troye sivan and he's great, mind you, midget.” ha! nice save, jeongguk.

“... t-troye is good,” jimin murmurs, wetting his lips, “but he's- he’s also my age.”

“ohhh, so jiminnie likes younger guys and jeonggukie likes old men? okay, got it!” taehyung concludes, pure charming and oblivious as he dips fries into ketchup.

“it's not like that, you dimwit!” jeongguk throws a carrot stick at him and jimin confiscates his fries.

 (huh, was the age thing supposed to be a hint or what.)


“... i still don't get it.”

jimin rakes his hand through his hair for the umpteenth time, and jeongguk vaguely smells floral and vanilla notes every time he does that. that's such a girly smell. yucks. “jeonggukie, are you even paying attention? i've explained this at least six times…”

another wednesday, another weary headache.

“maybe you're just a shitty tutor-

“oh yeah? look at your grades before you speak. you wouldn't need me if you passed.

“in my defence, i was in the hospital-”

“so what. do i look like i wanna be here as well?”

across the desk, jeongguk can see the dark circles framing jimin's eyes, can hear the mild annoyance and tiredness in his voice. heck, is that a cut on his neck? jimin can see jeongguk shifting uncomfortably in his seat, spinning his mechanical pencil, squinting as if the printed equations were foes. “would you like to take a short break first,” jimin says, to nothing in particular, rearranging his notes and trying to keep his cool. he rummages in his bag and pulls out something, tosses it to jeongguk with a murmur.

“...” how the hell did jimin hit the nail on the head and get matcha kitkat, of all things. the best kit kat flavour. matcha. kit. kat.

“how do i know you didn't poison it?” it's stupid, he knows, but it's the least dumb thing his half fried brain can offer. the afternoon sun makes him drowsy, and it's not his fault all the content heavy and intense reading classes were scheduled back to back today. he feels so dead.

“you're really unbearable, you know,” jimin glowers, lips pressed into a thin line, brows knitted, rolling his eyes before staring straight into jeongguk's, tearing the wrapper with his teeth. (you know, in the not-that-attractive-okay-fine-actually-pretty-damn-hot-if-it's-not-jimin way the guys in bl manga tear condoms. there. he said it. don't lie bitch, you all know what scene he's referring to.) come to think of it, jimin often pulls off his pen caps with his teeth when he's really immersed in lecture, too focused on taking notes quickly before the slides change. it's remotely sexy? he snaps out of his daydream when jimin munches on the chocolate wafer, and dramatically announces, “oh, jeon, it's poisoned, i'm going to die!

and jeongguk wants to squish him to death. did he say squish? no. it's more of like a if i see a pjm, i floor it. yes. that type of chaotic energy. a wild, good chaotic gay type of energy. what a drama queen- he really should've taken the kit kat instead of running his mouth to argue with jimin. it's more of a habit, a reflex rather than a reaction; and now his mouth is watering, stomach protesting for green tea kit kat as he slumps on the table, a loud betrayal from his stomach emanating as a growl. he scowls when jimin laughs at him and devours the remnants of the bar in slow motion. suck a dick, park jimin! actually wait- my dick? … okay stop, hold up, calm down, pause rewind replay: park jimin can hop off and suck on not my dick-

the more jeongguk watches, the more betrayed he feels. the nerve of jimin to take out a whole damn packet of matcha kit kat, wave it in front of his large eyes. “what do good boys say, jeon jeonggukie?” die, park jimin. he whines to the table when jimin's using a kit kat as literal bait, like he's taunting him and playing with him like his own (kit) kat. his stupid unending, bottomless pit of a stomach just has to growl again and make jimin laugh at him. he usually thanks his bottomless stomach at eat-all-you-can buffets and sponsored meals from nice hyungs, but now, he resents it like it's the spawn of satan.

“please,” he pitifully whines, looking away shamefacedly, stretching out a palm. “please, who?

“... please, jimin hyung, ” he can't believe he's actually succumbing to jimin's antics for a fucking kit kat. “good boy. you're the goodest boy, aren't you.” it's funny because jimin actually pats his head, hands stroking his hair a little longer than necessary (not that jeongguk minds, it's kinda nice) and he empties out the remaining kit kats onto his hand, before he realises that jeongguk’s hands are hot and they'll melt. he puts them back into the packet with a small exclamation, placing the original bag into jeongguk's palm.

“what.” he begged for one and now jimin's giving him the whole thing? what alternate universe is this? is he dreaming? since when did let's get this bread become let's get this kitkat? in this goddamn economy? this must be a bad dream- his alarm should be ringing soon. this time, he won't even bother hitting snooze- he'll jolt up and get out of bed asap.

he must've indeed fallen asleep while jimin taught him how to do disintegration and algebraic manipulation. (wait, he means integration. sorry, not everybody's good at math like park jimin, you know. but yeah, he feels like disintegrating too.)

“um. i think you by now you should have my number, right?” either dream or real jimin says, and jeongguk nods, half awake. a squint at the clock signals 5 minutes before the next class, and jimin is a punctual student. meh, this is a dream. he'll be waking up in pink bunny pajamas. whatever.

“see you next wednesday. make sure to finish your tutorials, i'll be checking.”

“ngh.”

he doesn't catch the small smile playing on jimin's lips as he adjusts his glasses, ruffles his hair. “you still like the matcha ones best, huh.”

only when the bell rings and jeongguk gets rudely shoved out of his seat with the change of classes, bag full of kit kats in his hand, does he realise he wasn't dreaming.


jeongguk needs to find a date. stat. there's this relative who's always bragging about her son snagging this rich girl coming from some ‘built-up grand business’, looking down on him since forever just because he's still in university and still not attached- otherwise concluding he must be either repulsive to girls, impotent or unwanted; in other words, aunt seohee is a complete bitch. she even makes the ‘golden son’ of hers personally ring him up, and when the phone is passed over, “why, my dear nephew, do you finally have a date to bring? my son is only two years older and he's brought home multiple girls! it's been two full decades and i can't believe a boy like you is still sitting on the shelf, as if nobody would-” he's so angry. who is this bitch to discuss or even poke her nose into his love life, existent or not?

his mobile pings, a reminder from jimin that an assignment module was due tomorrow. forget her golden son- this is a golden opportunity; an epiphany.

“jimin!” he grits in to the landline with a loud growl, “i'm bringing a plus one, dearest auntie, called jimin.” that would do it. he purposely left out the gender pronouns so he could fuck with her later, a snotty homophobe, at the actual reunion slash gathering or whatever the hell she's inviting him to. “i'm actually doing very well, as you asked. my date is called jimin. park jimin. and i'm doing just fine. goodbye.”

the smugness as he hangs up on her screeches fades into worry as soon as he snaps back into reality. he could always find a girl to play the part, but that would compromise her feelings, and expose his preferences; paying or taking advantage of someone else who crushed on him was just wrong. but he'd also had the wicked intent of messing with her parochial views. and he needs one boy that would play the part- his mom knows the kim line due to a prior project, and yoongi and hoseok hyung are already together. everyone else has girlfriends, is taken, or is busy for chuseok.

there's not much problem in dealing with her arrogant air and hetero comments et al- he's used to it. but the problem is, how the hell is he going to get jimin to come with him? they hate each other with a vengeance-

 

well. shit.


ultimately, jeongguk comes to the conclusion that if jimin agrees (over his dead body, he predicts with a sulk), then they’ll have to fake date so it's actually convincing when jeongguk shoves into aunt seohee’s face that she's a complete bitch and that he's a hundred percent, glorifyingly gay. he almost gags at the thought of it, because damn, they'd have to be holding hands and kissing and stuff. but he said what he said in a pique of anger over the phone, and his honour is at stake, either way.


after sleepless nights of tossing and turning, unfaltering biting of chapped lips, a more toned down and conscious about the insults, he goes to jimin with his head low; eyes desperately avoiding contact, almost like a wounded puppy in surrender- complete with ears flattened, invisible tail wedged between his thighs. it's humiliating and pathetic as fuck, but it's his only option for now. he's this close to begging, willing to even go on his knees if not for his subliminal pride.

“and what’s in it for me?”

“i'll do your laundry and even wash… your u-underwear… and socks…” damn this whole thing.

“oh? looks like someone’s pretty desperate~” jimin sing songs, and jeongguk is losing it, fists clenched so tight his blunt nails dig deep crescent coffins in his palm. he might as well just die.

“i'll- i’ll do anything if you say yes,” he falters, looking away trying to save whatever ego is left- not that there’s much remaining anyway. jimin coyly smiles, “even nudes? even kissing my toes and letting me record it? even wearing a sweater with my face printed on the front and with i love jimin in new times roman in font size 72, bolded, italicised and underlined on the back of it and worshipping me for the rest of the day?”

jeongguk… just what kind of awful situation and circumstance did you get into this time? volunteering to wash even my socks and underwear… must be pretty darn bad, then. how do you always land yourself in these sorta things… of course i’d help you if i could, you know-

he's utterly stumped and stupefied at how jimin is saying everything in one breath with a fucking smirk, stupid smug face inching closer to his own with a grating ass smile because he knows jeongguk has no choice but to comply! (let's be real, what other choice does he have?) and the fact that jimin could think of such a sadistic form of punishment- what kind of sick bastard- almost as if he had these planned a long time ago, the way they slipped out of his mouth like poisonous, golden honey trap. it’s so, so degrading he wants to just cease to exist.

he begrudgingly grits out a submissive yes and jimin just laughs; it would be a carefree one on a normal day, but on this very day and in this particular instant, it sounds utterly biting, humiliating and mocking. curse his loud mouth and jeongguk's own for running his mouth and saying jimin. JIMIN! of all the fucking people in the school. for fuck’s sake.

“f-fine. just… please make yourself free on that day.”

jimin stares straight into his soul, deadpan, so grave and yet so elegiac that jeongguk feels the hair on his arms rise.

“ha. actually, on second thought- as i would amiably like to quote, shakespeare’s hamlet, act III, scene III, line 87, ‘no.’

“you dick! you motherfucking piece of-” jeongguk is boiling, and he’s pretty sure he’s popped a blood vessel somewhere, his jugular vein bulging out on his neck in response to his provocateur. his mind is a garbled mess of loss and frustration that he can't even get his words out right. “you bastard, always playing hard to get-” quit playing with me, you psycho! just reject it and go-

“just kidding, i'm free. promise.”

in the midst of his confused rage roller coaster, he almost forgets that jimin grabs his hand to make him a pinky promise. that is, he's jolted back to reality when jimin breezes pass him with a hint of orange blossom, and his last finger still tingling from where the promise was made, still bent in the shape of it. eh? it's done? he instinctively reaches out to grab jimin’s wrist harshly.

“huh.”

“you said you need me to act as your date. i said okay.”

“just like that?” no fucking way. and after aeons of squabbling? fighting 24/7? jimin definitely had some ulterior motive. “no. you're hiding something- you want something atrocious in return, don't you.”

“i'll take a rain check then, if it's fine with you…” he's making that stupid innocent but coy look, with his red lips jutted out, fringe shielding his shy gaze. “i'll be helping you out of sympathy and compassion, so make sure not to get too conceited, jeongguk-ah.”

jeongguk gnashes his teeth, wanting so badly to retaliate, but he's screwed if jimin calls of the deal. and since park jimin, for the love of god, is his only lifeline in this circumstance, he has no choice. screw all of this. conceited?! me?! look at your smug faux innocent grin, you vixen-

(from then on, it marks the end of jeongguk’s freedom, and the beginning of being forced to comply to (most of) jimin’s whims and fancies.)


“park, i need your help.” there’s this math question he’s stuck with, and since jimin is relaxing, he might as well ruin his fun. miss kwak did assign him as his tutor, after all.

“say please help me, jimin hyung and maybe i'll consider,” jimin smiles at him, teasing, despite the fact that he's already on his feet and ready to go.

“you assh-” jeongguk mutters grumpily to himself, stomping over to haul jimin over his shoulder and slap his butt just to show him not to mess with him. jimin gives a little squeak in response, as if pressing a squeaky toy.

“whoa, look at you, jeongguk! ass- erting dominance,” seokjin applauds, in dramatic slow claps, shaking his head, while yoongi squints at him. “oh come on, hyung, ass if that was funny-”

it only causes seokjin to switch on his addictive windshield wiper laugh, and yoongi shows the slightest hint of a smile as jeongguk fumes, a poor jimin still mauled over his shoulder like a potato sack, not showing the teensiest bit of protest.

“so this what you've been up to these days? some sort of kinky activity with jeon-”

“n-no! it's not what it looks like hyungs! um, we kind of-”

jeongguk takes off- yes, sprints off carrying jimin- to avoid any other explanation that could potentially sabotage their act. it only leaves the two of jimin's roommates even more curious.


mid-sems approach, and all of a sudden, they're out on a precious sunday before another onslaught of papers, buying matching shirts, eating matching set meals and sharing bingsu once more. it's nice that they now have a companion that's somewhat always available for them; something like a backup, but a little closer, a little more of a tinted and fogged image. a blurred idea of a good friend and an act, a comforting alternative and yet not quite the first choice. what goes on? they even go to the arcade to play with the claw machines. hell, what is this? it's not like they're on a da- oh. right. they're on a ‘date’. (the inverted commas are very important, mind you.) the store owner catches jimin pouting when he doesn't catch the plushie after seven consecutive tries, and sympathetically takes a spare from the machine itself to give it to jimin.

“i hope this doesn't ruin your date,” the old lady says, handing over the soft toy, a chick, with a knowing chuckle. “when i was your age…” jimin listens to her story with puppy eyes, nodding as she pours her heart out about how precious young love is, and jeongguk taps his foot impatiently when the ahjumma gives jimin a hug and wants to take a photo with him to put at her stall, since she claims he looks like an idol that she watches on tv all the time.

“why'd you even pay attention to her…” jeongguk mutters, scouring for a nice place to have lunch. “she looked lonely, gukkie, have a heart!” the swat of jimin's hand against his chest is playful, but the sorrow in his voice made him think otherwise.


in spite of all the other synonymous terms they've dubbed it, they find themselves on yet another random ‘date’ to get used to each other- so that everything goes smoothly on the Big Day (yes, with capitals for Strong Emphasis). they even buy couple-y items, courtesy of jimin. as they walk to the train station, passing by a park, jimin pauses abruptly, looks curiously at the pavement. “jeon, you better make sure the bird stays here till i'm back or i'm cancelling on you.” with a quick brief statement, he leaves jeongguk speechless and exasperated as he runs off to god knows where. he decides complying would the best way out for now. what the hell is park jimin doing this time? and wait, what bird?!

he crouches down slowly, so as not to scare the bird, and now he understands why- the pigeon only has one foot, helplessly hopping around to find either shelter or food. trust jimin to spot these type of things. “goodness,” jeongguk gasps, “hey buddy… i do feel sorry for you and i hope you find food but please, please don't fly away… you're my only hope! if jimin bails on me i'm gonna die, and- and-” and then i'll be a gay embarrassment not only to my whole family but also a liar to my relatives, and it's all because of a bird and stupid park jimin. i'll be ridiculed and scorned! and mocked and-

the progressively louder footsteps of maison margiela boots should've been an indication, but jeongguk's thoughts were far too deafening and obtrusive in his head. blinking at the squatting figure next to him, oh thank god, the bird was still there. “hold it,” jimin grumbles, shoving the convenience store’s plastic bag into his arms, before carefully peeling the wrapping of a sandwich and breaking the bread into peckable crumbs for the bird. “you poor thing,” jimin cooes with furrowed brows, “you must be starving, so eat up.” he rummages in the bag to pull out a small yogurt drink with the tiny straw (fits in his hand nicely- just a casual observation by jeongguk), ordering jeongguk to dispose all the plastic peelings into a recycling bin.

who knew jimin would be this compassionate? if animals loved you, it was pretty telling of how nice a person you are, right? and here he is, all confused, snapping a very picture perfect shot of jimin trying to feed the pigeon the drink, mumbling to himself. it's supposed to be blackmail material, jeongguk persuades himself, when he realises that there's no bitter or malicious intent behind it. that's weird. they're enemies. sworn nemeses!

“oh. i forgot birds can't sip from straws…” jeongguk feels like swearing. how the hell can somebody be this cute?! and of all people, park jimin?! seriously. the more he thinks about it, the more he concludes he must've offended all the gods possible in his past life.

“jeon!”

“a-ah. yeah, what?” oh great. he's making himself a fool again by spacing out. easier to wear his real heart on an oversized, comfy hoodie sleeve than a tough manly leather jacket, huh. “the milk’s for you. the coffee’s mine.” it hadn't occurred to him that he's still cuddling the bag of cookies and two drinks. shit, he really needed to stop getting so immersed in his own thoughts, it's bad not only for their potential rapport, but also jimin's impression of him- not like that mattered, but wouldn't it show if they ended up ‘not close enough’ on the day itself? getting exposed with a fake lover would be two hundred times more humiliating than a plus one bailing out halfway. geez.

“you remember i like banana milk?” jeongguk muses, as jimin tenderly scoops the bird up, patting its feathers as it chirps at him with complete trust, bringing it to the water fountain. “no i don't,” jimin snaps back, gentle, “it happened to be next to the sandwiches, that's all.”


 

since valentine’s day was around the corner, it's been decided that they would go out on the streets together as a couple- since everywhere would be bustling with pairs, regardless of gender identity or types of love. all couples would be out inching towards the day. a quaint restaurant around the bend makes an appealing choice, especially with the special couple menu with enticing discounts.

“yours, mine, mine, mine, yours, mine.” with every word, jeongguk points at the territory of freshly served food he decides to hog from the sharing platter, apart from his own choice of main course. “oh, okay,” is all jimin squeaks back, devoid of any protest or question. it makes a teeny tiny bit of jeongguk feel weird- he'd expected some form of retort, or at least a petulant pout or a stark proclamation of unfairness, even if there wasn't any following up action. but there was nothing; not even any conversation going on through the meal, except for the occasional exclamation of ‘this is good!’ or how value for money the food is. jimin is done with his smaller portion, daintily finished all the vegetables rejected by the boy opposite him. silence fills between them, background chatter of other couples and overhead audio as white noise. the clanking of cutlery, the snap of a camera shutter, the repetition of orders.

halfway through his second helping, jeongguk feels bad. after all, jimin had not signed up for this disastrous experience- he'd only been roped in because of jeongguk's ineloquence at that moment. “i can't finish,” he says dumbly, shifting the plate of pork belly (it's the best part, okay.) into jimin's half of the table. it's his now. “i'm too full, so you have to eat it instead.” he's lying, but his pride stands in the way- no way in hell is he going to tell jimin hey, hyung sorry for being a selfish brat! i'm just kind of territorial by nature and i like to pick and choose what's mine; even though i still can eat everything, i feel bad so you should eat this instead.

“but you were wolfing down everything just moments ago-” his stomach just has to make some noise, a small gurgle out of nowhere, in spite of being neither hungry nor full. “jeongguk, i'm not hungry- please have it instead,” jimin's doing that deadass stupid smile again. the one that obviously translates into “hyung is full just watching you eat, it's alright.” it's infuriating.

the plate gets pushed back into his sight, like this is some competition of formalities. “it's gastric, and also i don't want people to think i'm bullying you.” jeongguk rolls his eyes to feign annoyance, “so can you please just eat this and lessen my guilt, thank you.” he's sulking as the plate shifts back to jimin, anchored by an outstretched hand so that it remains in front of jimin permanently.

“guilt?” jimin echoes, “oh, no jeongguk, i'm okay with eating less, you don't have to feel bad… i'm not that skinny anymore, so i should lose that extra weight anyway-”

“will you just be quiet and eat? i w-want to see you eat this. now. there, i said it, happy?” it's a myriad of confusion, brashness, embarrassment and affection, and jimin takes it all in, touching his nose with his fourth finger, tilting his head, and blinking until he gets it. he's so pretty, what the hell. hopefully he won't have to pull the ‘boyfriend card’ just yet to make jimin eat.

“o-okay.” he gets a mouthful of tender meat in, until he suddenly gets up after he's swallowed it. “where d’you think you're going now?” jeongguk’s asking in a deep, intimidating voice for some reason, and it makes jimin's heart race. “don't worry, i won't abandon you or the food, i just- um.  thought of something,”

he returns with a plate of cheesecake, setting it in front of jeongguk’s nose. “here.” his eyes are glowing with pride and happiness the way he sees jeongguk’s eyes glow too, salivating. “b-but… i didn't… order…” he's resisting it with a fierce blush, begrudgingly moving the plate in jimin's direction, since jimin was the one who went to the counter to order it. it's not exactly his, neither is it deserving of him, since he was selfish and called dibs on all the nicer dishes of their set lunch. aww, jimin almost coos, restraint evident in jeongguk's face- like training a puppy not to eat treats in front of its face. he's making effort to be nice. that's so sweet of you, jeongguk-ah. thank you for trying. i appreciate it. my little puppy prince.

“i bought it for you, no worries! i know pork belly is your favourite, so the fact that you gave the last strip to me means... a lot, i presume. also, if you're still not full, i'll buy you a chocolate cake too! a twosome place nearby has splendid chocolate cakes,” jeongguk doesn't even wait for jimin to finish rambling, smiling to himself as he licks the dessert fork clean, cheesecake tasting so lovingly delicious. maybe he should offer or feed jimin some? nah, that'd be so strange. “uh. thanks, i guess.” how did he even know i like cheesecake and chocolate cake? weirdo.

“casual observation,” jimin replies to his thoughts, out of nowhere, and jeongguk swears he's prescient. like who the heck would hear this type of thing? and reply at the precise, exact moment?! jeongguk gulps down water to avoid swearing or making a not so tactful comment, especially after they've progressed considerably better than expected. “keep your friends close and... your enemies closer, right?” jimin adds in later, hands tucked between his thighs, after he's done.

maybe jimin's not that great an actor after all. maybe he and jeongguk both aren't.

the aftertaste of the cheesecake somehow feels a little sour in his mouth.


sometimes they forget they're supposed to be ‘dating’, and slip back effortlessly into their usual feuding period, heated row one after another. jeongguk's fuming because it seems like now that they're speculated more or less to be ‘official’, his guy friends (to his side bros: i trusted you! ) are all hinting at it, congratulating him. it’s true he’s been deviating from his buddies to spend time with jimin, though. the main consensus seems to be a resounding:

“lucky you. i would've dated jimin if he were a girl.” so the moment he sees jimin, he automatically feels himself bust not a nut (this is reserved for jimin's manspread), but a few blood vessels. so of course it's reflex to pick a fight.

“not you again, jimothy-”

“shut up, jungcock!”

“no you shut up, thottius park!”

“jeon jungle book i swear, if you-”

god knows what this debate is about again, but jeongguk's just ticked off. he's now known as jimin's boyfriend instead of homeboy jeongguk and it's ever so triggering since it isn't even real.

“at least i don't go everywhere whoring myself out-!” the moment the words leave his mouth, he instantly regrets. he can see the split second flash in jimin's eyes, his gaze one of hurt, shock. “j-jeon jeongguk! you- you can say that i'm a piece of shit or a thot-! or that i play hard to get sometimes- but! y-you absolutely cannot say that of me! i'm- i'm not a whore or anything- i don't- i would never-!” his eyes look watery as he shakes his head, moving his hands in an agitated manner but with calm eloquence; please say sike. jeongguk didn't say that, right? you don't mean it... you were just joking, right? as his head bobs with confusion and ambivalence, his earrings that are jangling make jeongguk feel even worse, since they look like they're also wagging their fingers, swaying in disagreement and disappointment. shame on you, jeongguk, they seem to echo.

taehyung comes jogging back from the washroom, as soon as the silence permanently sits. it nestles between to them like an invisible wall, albeit locking eyes still. a tinted glass. don't cry, jimin. he's not worth it. “whoa, trouble in paradise this quick?”

immediately their eyes widen, now aware that they're supposed to be dating. they have to keep it up, for the sake of reputation. “y-yeah, i hurt jiminnie hyung…” jeongguk mumbles almost inaudibly, hiding his gaze as he rubs his neck, while jimin tells taehyung it's nothing to worry about. “aha! if i buy you guys burgers, will you promise to kiss and make up? should we get mom's touch? the new bacon burger is pretty good… or we could get burger king! i have coupons!” jeongguk usually lights up at the mention of free food, so when he still looks sullen, taehyung pinches his cheeks, cooing at him like a baby. (he is and will always be their gang of seven’s baby.) “yah, i promise not to drop any ketchup and fries on your shirt, okay. you in? the lady at burger king always gives me a huge discount, i think she recognises me as a regular!”

jimin rolls his eyes, punching taehyung fondly. “that's because you're good looking, tae. miss burger king lady has obviously been smitten with you since you stepped in asking for extra large cola and fries lookin’ all cute and sweaty after a morning jog, mr. handsome.” taehyung grins in a cute rectangle, and jimin's smiling. an ephemeral one. after declining the offer, jeongguk wants to apologise for his rash words- but jimin's quicker in fleeing the scene.


jimin doesn't pick up his calls or reply to his messages, so he mans up, plucks up his courage, and makes sure he reaches early to catch jimin outside his classroom before he starts the first lesson. there's no math today. “u-uh! hyung!” he frantically perks up upon spotting the elder, “t-this is, uh, for you.” a bundle of baby's breath gets shoved into jimin's hands. some frantic texts to taehyung had taught him jimin really likes flowers.

“i'msorryaboutyesterdayiwasn’tthinkingright.” jeongguk hurries, time and pride not on his side. “ihurtyourfeelingssotosaysorrylet’sgooutonadate.”

“sorry, what? did you say something?” jimin mumbles, removing an airpod, and jeongguk almost shits himself. fuck, i have to fucking say that shit again. he doesn't know jimin's just toying with him, earphones no longer working since five minutes because it ran out of battery- he'd forgotten to bring the case to charge them, but was too lazy to take them out, too sleepy to interact with acquaintances if he were earbuds-free. shit me, i was being an asshole yesterday so of course karma bites me in the ass and i have to do this embarrassing thing again. jimin almost has to hold in a giggle, jeongguk's expression is priceless- frowning but mouth looking like he's shook. even though the words had hurt, he'd gotten over it after a tub of lemon sorbet (kind of, no biggie) but it was sweet that jeongguk was trying to make up for it. that's so cute, jeonggukie. look at you, he almost tickles his chin and fawns over him. coochie coochie coo, my cute little jeonggukie. 

“i said i was s-sorry, hyung.” he mutters after sucking in a deep breath, inhaling and exhaling in shame. “i was being flippant yesterday- and uh, said something mean to you thoughtlessly. so. uh. let's go on a d-date so i can make it up to you.” it's even more embarrassing now that he can't clump his words together and has to say them slowly. his ears are burning. of all people his stupid brain had to choose jimin in that phone call.

“aww, such a mature gentleman, aren't you, jeon jeonggukie?” when jimin melts into a smile, he makes sure to defend himself. “s-since! since we're supposed to be together and that crap. no homo.” that no homo disclaimer? pure genius. ugh, his mind.

(he tells jimin to message him the details, and when jimin sends it, together with many hearts and kissy faces, it makes him scoff.)

((smile, actually. not that anybody saw.))

(((you know what. never mind, he smiled okay? it was a smile of relief. no homo!)))


 

jeongguk's surprised when jimin puts in the effort to doll up really nicely, decked in a fashion statement he had coined as ‘the cutest outfit ever’ on instagram. jeongguk's only wearing some all black coordination, paired with a black bucket hat. to be honest, he thought the hat was already an accessory, but god damn, look at jimin. he's wearing this chevron green polo with embroidery with a red baseball cap, ripped jeans, looking straight out of some idol type of music video. jeongguk has to admit, it's cute. jimin even tells him shyly when they're buying entrance tickets that he wanted to wear glasses to complete his cutest outfit, but he was afraid he'd overdo it on the first date. something in jeongguk's heart squeezes.

earlier this morning, he was trying to persuade jimin the maybe just a movie would be better, and then they could part ways and go home to sleep or whatever. but jimin's forgotten jeongguk said last night (on text) that he'd let him call the shots today. so instead, he tries to convince him to go to the coex aquarium in gangnam over the cinema. “pleeeeeease, jeonggukie, please?” he's jutting out his lips cutely as he swings his shoulders, tugging at jeongguk's bicep in a hopeful bid. they're free anyway, and it would benefit greatly to start getting into character or else their cover would be blown- which also translated into creating and even more chaotic mess, atop of the controversial subject of being gay. not that their close friends would mind, but you know, the gossip would spread and everything.

jimin's first stop is a petting zone for the stingrays, a special exhibit only for a week. as jeongguk grouches by the side, an adventurous jimin kisses the stingray- jeongguk swears he sees it blush, immediately stop squirming in the caretaker’s hold, instead relishing in jimin's tiny kisses peppered all over its face. it's wings are flapping so happily that he swears he can't tell if it's jimin cooing at it or vice versa. it almost seems as if the stupid swimming thing is gloating at him, the way jimin pays complete attention to it as he gets educated on a stingray’s lifespan, its barbed tail and other dumb fun facts jeongguk couldn't care less about.

jimin pulls him across the various exhibits, in high spirits, clutching his hand and excitedly moving in wonder, him getting tugged along like a pull string toy. he doesn't know why, but he's sulking. but the fish and sharks are pretty. jimin is, too.

“jeonggukie, hurry! we're going to miss the feeding ti- jeongguk?” jimin cups his cheeks in concern, and jeongguk hastily brushes them off lest jimin feel the burn. “what.” he answers brusquely, sneaker digging into the floor petulantly. “just go if you wanna see the feeding or whatever. i’ll racce around…”

“you don't want to see the penguins?” jimin asks, hands hovering above his arm, as if scared if he's not allowed to touch any inch of jeongguk's skin; eyes drooping, lips parted. he must be disappointed, look at that kittenpup face. “i-it's okay! if you don't want to, we could always go home now,” looking for the direction boards pointing to the exit, jimin tries his best to smile, and something clenches painfully in jeongguk's chest. “i’m sorry, i didn't know you hated aquariums so much… next time, let's just have a meal- would that be better? hm, it says go straight and turn right, i think we're in the middle of the fourth exhibit-”

“oh, no! i don't mean that,” jeongguk gushes. it's not that he hates aquariums, they're quite neat, but it's just- how can jimin call this a date when it's so… distant? so awkward. makes his chest constrict yet again for no reason. “don't people do more than this on dates?” he blurts, before screwing his eyes shut.

so maybe he shouldn't have done that.

i want to kiss him.

wait, what? did he, jeon jeongguk, actually, of all thoughts and all the people in the world, just think that he wanted to kiss his arch enemy, number one eternal rival, the most infuriating nemesis on this living earth-

i wanted to fucking kiss him?! what even is this feeling- oh, yeah it must be lust- i'm going crazy, there is no way i would willingly kiss that tiny thing- stupid, i should go home and get it out of my system. that must be it! there is no way-

he's sweating buckets internally while a blush creeps up on jimin's face, still ruminating over jeongguk's mindless comment of being more than friends and less than lovers, making him shy away immediately. “so… um. do you want to hold hands? you seemed uncomfortable so i stopped-” jeongguk snatches his tiny hands to clasp in his, with a huff. he's still pouting for no reason. “you should pay attention to me too, you know…” he mutters under his breath. and something clicks in jimin's head. “jeongguk-ah, are you maybe, um. bold of me, but are you maybe, uh, jealous?”

“why would i be? what is there to be jealous of, huh? it's not like those water pancakes-” it's the lust and possession speaking, that's right- and no, jimin did not seduce me (he's not that great!!!) but instead i walked into his cuteass trap with a highly strung libido. yeah. very that.

the worry in jimin's eyes evidently melt away as he bursts into laughter, body slamming into the nearest solid surface. (basically, jeongguk.) “oh, is my baby jeonlous? did you feel neglected? when your boyfriend kissed the stingray?” jimin coos, tickling his chin in affection. “‘m not,” jeongguk mutters again, lips puckering in a sulk, eyes gloomy. so there was a reason why he was pouting. but really, jeongguk? jealous of a fucking stingray? some ugly shiny flappy fish? a soggy water pancake? this is the 21st century, hello? “and you're not my boyfriend, park jimin. we're just pretending-

“i know.” his voice is hushed, not at all sprinkled with any sarcasm or bite. “but if you wanted kisses you could always ask,” jimin tells him more quietly, looking into his eyes in a little tender, a lot of fond. “hyung would give it to you if you asked.” i'd even give you fifty kisses right here and now if you really wanted- all you ever had to do was ask.

“tsk. over my dead body,” jeongguk grits, but he doesn't let go of jimin's hands. stupid family reunion. wouldn't even have to go through all this hassle if not for that bitch aunt seohee. of all times, she had to call when jimin texted a reminder to complete his work, so that at the spur of the moment he would say his name, and then-

and then he feels something warm touch his neck. did jimin just-

“i- i think i need to go to the washroom. uh! give me ten minutes-!” jimin whizzes away too quick (hizzuk!) to see jeongguk a stuttering mess, crouching on the floor in embarrassment. none of this is real so why are they even bothering? his cheeks grow warm, begging to differ. yuck. the air conditioning here must be faulty.

jimin comes back with an irresistibly bright smile, some giggles, and a victorious wave of two soft toy stingray keychains from the souvenir store, which he hooks to both their bags. jeongguk doesn't even bother refuting as he melts a little. just a tiny little bit. (and yes, the stingray has a cute embroidered smile and pink cheeks to represent it blushing.)


“um! j-jimin ssi!” jeongguk gets out, mouth moving faster than his brain so that he doesn't have reaction time to think twice.

“yes?”

“um!” he awkwardly bends down a little, tries to manoeuvre his lanky arms around jimin. and with an awkward gap, he manages to pat jimin's back in a bid to appreciate his help. “um. thanks, i guess?”

jimin just waddles a little closer, closing the gap, sighing in content as he hugs jeongguk's waist, pats his back in a much gentler and warmer way. “thank you for making my day too, jeonggukie.”

“n-no problem,” he swallows, hoping jimin cannot hear how jittery his heart is, see how flushed his face is, feel the heat and touch the goosebumps on his skin. he's not exactly that familiar to skinship and physical closeness- only during contact sports at most. but jimin is used to it, good at it, remembers it and exudes it. breathes it. as if he were a memory foam cushion that remembered and absorbed all the feelings he felt, and conveyed it back in a hug. it's so strange and awesome and phenomenal altogether.

it's almost as if you can feel everything through jimin's eyes, his tenderness, his touches; it's magical. jeongguk hates to admit- but it is so very wonderful. cathartic. therapeutic. so special.

as jimin turns to go with a shy wave, he gets called back, yet again. “jimin ssi!” jeongguk calls, jogging afront to catch up. “wait!” there's still something he needs to do. peeling open his satchel, he takes out a white tulip. forgiveness, purity and serenity. “i'm sorry again- for yesterday. the W word was a very bad choice. jeong- jeonggukie has reflected,” the last few words are mumbled, akin to small font and tiny pout, in a highly embarrassed and sincere manner that jimin almost feels bad for being upset. jeongguk logic tells himself that it's nice to be nice, and not nice to be rude and mean. “are you- are you still mad?” darling… your stutter when you get all flustered is so endearing, i love it.

“jeongguk…” he sighs, a little dreamy, a little thankful. “not anymore; white tulips for forgiveness? you sure did your homework.” jimin muses, causing jeongguk to flush. “i admit it did hurt, but i've heard worse. thank you for being considerate and thoughtful. it's… very nice of you.” jimin holds his hands to tell him this, and he feels his heart badump in uneven beats. what are you doing jeongguk? i'm so sad. how could you be this cute...

“oh and uh! ji- jimin ssi,” jeongguk says, before they part ways, “idiot and dumbass is okay, right?”

jimin almost falls to the floor in laughter, to which jeongguk is not amused. he catches jimin in one swoop, because his brain tells him: you gotta.

“yes, dumbass is okay, you dumbass.” jimin pinches his cheeks coyly, to which he shouts said insult in an annoyed tone. jimin laughs even harder.

and god knows when jimin ssi, a satirical version of jimin's complaints of him not using proper honorifics (jimin is the hyung, and he needs to assert dominance formally especially since jeongguk is so big!), a nickname coined in impulsive sarcasm, had become a term of endearment instead.

(on the train ride home, jimin can't take his eyes off the white tulip, fingers tracing its smooth petals, simplistic beauty. his mind replays the mumble he'd caught under jeongguk's breath when he couldn't keep his eyes off the beautiful fish and corals, and jeongguk wanted to leave. aegi-yah, ka ja- let's go, baby. )

((he also managed to secretly take a polaroid of them holding hands. it was wonderful.))


 

“but we're ‘dating’, right?”

jimin asks him to drop the formalities- just so it seems more natural. realer. and through the increasing time spent (from zero interactions outside of math class and a few identical lectures), jeongguk's thrown a different perspective of this intricate little creature. unlike how everybody somehow has this fallacy that jimin is overdressed and undermined, someone sensual and oozes out sexual masculinity, is a whole flirt and some ‘slutty omega’ looking for a well endowed and high libidinous alpha; they either see him as too feminine when he’s his caring self that loves cute things, or too masculine when he's being firm, assertive and serious; he can see why it's confusing for the casuals (this is why you're a casual) and how it is, of course, a big fat lie. how appalling and dehumanizing for them to attach labels on a beautiful personality that they'll never have a chance of coming into contact with. shame on them.

jimin is thoughtful, he's thorough, he's tactful; he's methodical, mesmerizing, magnetic; it would be a shame to classify a multidimensional and multidisciplinary person as someone lascivious, just because he goes out of his way to tease his friends or coyly play a little. jimin is soft- he's a well drawn out and well thought out person. he cares far too much or not at all- he loves with everything he could possibly have. he's not a home wrecker, he's definitely not somebody that would abandon a person after having a tryst; in the first place, a man this devoted and committed would never leave someone he loved, much less be an alleged infidel. jimin is very beautiful, inside and out, a vessel of kindness, diligence and purity drizzled with a sinful come hither gaze that could melt into starshine. a sweetheart. a superior celestial body in human form.

jimin is just jimin.

(jimin is a very beautiful soul. too beautiful to be even encompassed by mere words, sometimes.)


jimin’s called him out for a heart-to-heart talk to establish rules, not wanting overstep boundaries, guised as a meeting in case of ‘not being a convincing show if i don't know what not to say’. jeongguk is surprised jimin actually takes it so seriously to the point he brings a journal and takes notes like it's a goddamn project.

“so. any ex’s name i should avoid? any past crushes? nonexistent love life?”

“ehm. before the whole male only fixation thing i used to think ji-eun noona was really pretty…”

“she is,” jimin agrees, writing her name and doodling hearts besides her name next to a big fat ♡JEON JEONGGUKIE♡ in marker. “and the gay awakening?”

“uh. you know him, i guess…”

“whomst?” now he's really interested.

“n-namjoon hyung…”

“what?”

“w-what.”

“he is handsome, i guess. and also really intelligent. and also so adorable.” jimin's stomach drops, churns at the truth. where's the lie? namjoon is the epitome of a gentleman. so well spoken and polished and put together. and his dimples! who wouldn't fall for those cute illegal dimples! his dimples!

“and he's very nice to me.” jeongguk quietly adds, before everything goes numb. “and you, hyung?”

“ah, me? i used to like this guy around elementary school-ish? back in busan.” there's a wistful twitch of his lips. “never quite liked anyone as intensely after that.”

“oh, wow.” jeongguk slaps his mouth immediately after the unnecessary sound effect. “sorry, i-”

“nah, it's okay. if that wasn't sarcasm, yeah i guess i'm just sentimental and i dunno. never could fall in love with anybody so deeply after that. i was so young. don't even know what that was all about.”

“wait! so no exes? not at all?! seriously, jimin-”

“had one or two casual dates but nope, not really any serious ex in the picture to consider,” jimin beams, popping the ‘p’ with his pretty lips, “had a number of people woo me or try to court me, but nothing came to fruition. uh, not bragging or anything.”

“d’you still like that one guy?” jeongguk asks, earnestly, because damn. jimin sure was devoted, even as a kid. “honestly… a little? just a little bit. sometimes i still think of him. completely no idea where he is, but i hope he's doing good. no matter the outcome of his relationship status, or his wealth or academic interest and whatever, but if he's happy... then i think that's great. 

(it's a half truth, half lie.)

jeongguk can only gape. who knew jimin would be this kind of person? so many people saw him as a player or a frat boy just because he attracted too much attention with his charismatic personality and killer looks. he looked so effortless with his charming smiles, sweeping people off their feet with innate panache. this was really… the polar opposite. “people either love me or hate me, i guess,” jimin smiles, as if in tandem with his thoughts, “sadly, there doesn't seem to be an in between... so, jeon, do you hate me or love me?”

he really should've seen this coming. jimin's an intellectual, he's adroit at steering conversations the way he wants; he can flirt, can tease, but he also can be serious, vulnerable, cunning. he's mercurial and volatile in the most beautifully intricate of ways. like fractals- oh god, not the math allusions- jimin was really starting to grow on him, wasn’t he.

“definitely the latter.” jeongguk says defiantly, without skipping a beat, confidently leaning back in his chair, leaving jimin to scrunch his nose, looking like he's just about to sneeze. in reality, he's confused. is jeongguk a dumbass or simply trying to be funny?

“i'm sorry?”

“what. i said what i said- i hate you. ” it doesn't take much for jimin to smack his hand to his forehead, jeongguk's… really an idiot. a phd in dumbassery. “sweetie, did you pass your language classes?”

“o-of course i did! what do you mean if i pa-”

“it's the former and latter… so um. you literally. uh, said that. uh. you loved me. indirectly, but still.”

oh great. so now on top of mathematics tutoring, he's going to need intermediate korean and english lessons to boot. good job, jeongguk. the things i did: that.

“what the shit,” is all he whispers to himself, and it makes jimin laugh, for some reason. his cheeks are all pink with every giggle. “i think i'd be okay with tutoring korean as well, even though the sciences are my strong suit-”

“park jimin i hate you!”

an awkward silence.

“so-”

“anyway-”

 

“you can go first-”

“after you-”

 

“this is so infuriating let's just play rock paper scissors for democracy, damn it-”

(jimin wins.)

“you know, if this was some korean drama, we'd probably be head over heels pining over each other by now… the producers would put the cheesy voice overs by now- this would be around episode 13?”

jeongguk snorts, but he's smiling. “yeah like what? tiny weightlifting fairy park jimin?”

“hmm, that's cute, but i think i'd like a show called jeongguk better, since goblin and jeongguk are synonymous- wahhh! ” he's being tickled in counterattack as jeongguk doesn't know what else to do. he'd swear and wrestle him to the ground if it were yugyeom, or punch mingyu and guilt trip him into a free meal. but he can't possibly slap jimin or refute back much, since they aren't all that close and he doesn't know what's triggering or inappropriate. yeah, they aren't even that close other that petty fights every day, right?

it somehow ends up in a tickle fight with jimin ending on top of him, in his lap, both of them breathless from squirming and laughing. “i'm so sorry-”

“i shouldn't have started it-”

“we're going to be late-”

jimin almost combusts at how easily jeongguk manhandles him and tosses him over his shoulder, one hand on his bubble butt, the other juggling their books and bags. jeongguk catches him mumbling “strong man jeon jeongguk” as they reach the lecture hall five minutes after the bell rings.

jeongguk has very nice hands, jimin notes. he doesn't know he's said it aloud, directly into jeongguk's ear.


 

they've crafted out a list of not to-dos. or at least, unless strictly necessary.

  1. no kissing!!!!!! NO
  2. no extreme skinship, but we have no choice so hand holding is acceptable wbk
  3. no making out or netflix and chill, disgusting
  4. splitting the bill, go dutch since we (jeonggukie is!) broke
  5. no insults unless alone, try to use pet names (blegh) instead for realism, esp around hyungs, take note!
  6. no sleeping together on the same bed (use the couch or convertible bed, share cost of extra blanket if needed)
  7. no disgusting couple outfits period unless doing it for the gram/snap + remember to comment ew (with hearts noooooooooooooooo)
  8. no disgusting ‘i love you’s in this household no juST NO
  9. no dates unless important and there's stuff to plan/sort out
  10. no falling in love. ABSOLUTELY NOT

 

it seems agreeable, so far.


 

“i hit the person nearest to me when i get embarrassed…” jimin shyly confesses, “so i think to make it look like we're really going steady, you should hug me.”

“what! are you out of your mind? why would i do that?!”

“come oooooon, jeonggukie! be a little more considerate! think of our weight differences! if you hit me i'll fall down and die! and leave a huge dent in the floor. and my parents will hunt you down. and you’ll have to pay for the repair works. and the school will put you in detention.”

“...”

“therefore, if i hit you, you should hug me.”

“... you're ridiculous, but whatever.”

(that still means a yes, right?)


 

“by the way, jeonggukie… you know how couples act, don't you? i say ‘i love you’ a lot, so you better start replying with ‘love you too’~” he can hear the pout in jimin's voice, when jimin tells him with the most mischievous of voices that jeongguk is officially going to be called chubs and baby boy, he retorts in spite with even more repulsive ones. milder ones being honey, darling and baby. those are easier than the prettiest charming fairy angel little ice prince to grace this world, park jimin.

“shut up, princess jimin.”


 

they've chosen to lurk at night since nobody can see them if they're holding hands (not even themselves if it gets real dark) and since it's always busier at night, it gives more inconspicuity. it's already been tensioned up as jimin had sat on jeongguk's lap (free estate!) while waiting in line to eat at a popular ramen shop. since the wait was over half an hour with only one seat outside left for the customers waiting in line, jimin was decided to sit on jeongguk's thighs. (it's true he's lighter, but not that his thighs couldn't support jeongguk- the younger just refuses to admit he's gone a little softer.)

“jimin hyung, you suck.”

it comes out in the middle of nowhere, when they're holding hands (yucks!) in the middle of hongdae after the piping hot noodles. jimin tilts his head to the side, wondering what could've prompted this sudden sputter of forced words.

“as a matter of fact, i do. quite good at it too, i should like to think. and what about that?” it takes a few moments for his words to simmer, for both of them to turn pink at the implications. it takes another minute for jimin to walk them into a more secluded and less rowdy lane selling food instead of skincare and clothing shops blasting kpop to attract customers. “i'm joking. is anything the matter, jeonggukie? that came out rather abruptly- did hyung to something to make you uncom-”

“we used to bicker every single second we meet and then now that we're so called dating it feels funny and i don't know what to say.”

jimin blinks owlishly before bursting into a fit of giggles. “oh jeonggukie, you really are the cutest little bunny-! i'm really,” he's flying all over and steadying himself by grabbing onto jeongguk. the latter vaguely recalls that jimin's always falling over like this because he cannot see when he's laughing, and that's really not cute at all. really. he'slyingit’ssofuckingcutewhatthefuck. to add the cherry on top, jimin's wearing this brown fuzzy llama-fur jacket that makes him look like a literal cuddly teddy bear. jeongguk's so utterly devastated. fuck.

“if there's nothing to say then you can scold me, still. it's perfectly okay, jeon. just make sure not to do it in school, you'd get called out immediately.”

“... you're the worst, park. i hate you, you loser.” that's what he says, but the cozy brown fluff jimin wears prompts him to hold jimin's icy hands and shove his tiny palm into jeongguk's own coat pocket. the baby squeaks in jimin's ministrations are very nice hallucinations at this point in time. to, you know, justify his not-so-rational actions.

“it's an honour to be your worst. bold of you to assume i don't already hate you too, you loser.”

somehow, the H word is no longer spoken with malice, mutually.

jimin's hand curls in so nicely with his fingers, inside his coat pocket. under the pretext that he's cold, and jeongguk won't tolerate it if he gets lost. after all, hongdae is bustling with life at night. it's only logical as jimin's fake boyfriend to take care of him.


nobody knows when jimin's stuff gets shifted over to jeongguk's dorm room- neither does anyone comment on it.

since jeongguk's room is nearer to the dance studio, jimin plops onto the bed after a fresh shower (he now has a spare key) only for jeongguk to return from evening classes seeing him sleeping on the bed, wrapped in a bath towel. he smells just like jeongguk's soap, curled up like a little kitten, snoring softly with his mouth open. it's so… precious. so vulnerable and yet so mesmerizingly beautiful. jeongguk takes off his bomber jacket to drape over the boy on his bed, before he does a double take, gingerly creeping in to sleep next to jimin. it feels too intimate, makes his skin crawl- in his defence, there's no other place to sleep save for the convertible mattress under it, but somehow it makes him feel a certain sort of way.

he camps over at taehyung and hoseok’s room for the night.


“why the long face?” jimin's been moping around the whole day, lips in a perpetual pout, and occasionally mumbling to himself.

“i can't go out with taeminnie hyung, jonginnie hyung or sungwoonie hyung because they all say i should spend time with my boyfriend!” it's not unusual when one friend gets attached, and slowly withdraws from friend circles, missing out on more outings due to relationship commitments- and since everybody knows jimin is a sweetheart, they nicely advise him that it's alright to stay with jeongguk instead of going out to play billiards with them, assuming he'd try his best to accommodate. “and it's not like we're even dating!”

jeongguk cringes, and he isn't really in any position to say something because it is a problem stemming from him. oops. “... would you like to have dinner together, hyung?” jimin knows that whenever jeongguk uses hyung, he's either guilty, thankful, or both.

“fine.”

jeongguk makes sure to buy jimin something in quiet gratitude, even dumps a red rose inside for added measure. instead of telling jimin “i saw this and thought of you,” he goes for “this was on sale and since you were nice enough to ditch your friends, i bought it for you, tiny.”

(it's a mini lemon yellow beret inside the paper bag. jimin wears it for a whole two weeks, no matter his outfit’s colours or prints. jeongguk may or may not have thought it looked lovely on him, which was why he actually bought it. jimin likes lemons and lemons are yellow. and yellow is jimin's colour.)


 

jimin ends up sleeping in jeongguk's bed more often than he should, according to the roster they'd drawn up. “have you never read those stories? and then they were roommates?

jeongguk dramatically gasps, “and for some reason they get locked in a room and there's only. one. bed.

jimin fakes a shocked face, eyes widened comically, mouth wide open.

it's nice being friends, actually.

wait, friends?

“um. so, you wanna try sleeping together tonight? just today, since the mattress is wet from the coffee i spilt.”

“i could use the dryer to get the mattress to dry..?” jeongguk's thoroughly unconvinced at his own statement, and jimin looks unimpressed. the blow dryer would take years. plus, the coffee smell. stupid jimin.

“it's not like i want to, but it's just that what if your mom asks us to spend the night-”

“eh, you're right- she actually does say that sometimes…”

oh my god, jeonggukie is really an idiot…

(the idiot was a very nice big spoon.)


 

“how's the most beautiful boy in the world doing today?”

instead of flirting back with the girl casually stopping by their table at the cafe, jeongguk gives them a wide grin, eyes bunched, as he turns to face jimin. “i don't know, how are you feeling today, jimin ssi?” jimin's eyes widen, cheeks blushing instantly, turning the shade of the strawberry milkshake he sips on quietly to avoid a reply. the girl with layers of makeup and flamboyant manicured nails seems to get jeongguk's not-so-het implications, scurrying off with ashamed apologies. ha! that should teach her not to mess with the Powerful Gays.

“... did you, um. did you really mean it?” jimin mumbles softly when their food arrives, poking his fork into his tonkatsu, knife neatly slicing his omelette.

“mean what, jagi-yah ?” jeongguk's voice is gleeful, finally having the upper hand in teasing jimin back, having a devious time gleefully chomping up his food. “jeonggukie… you know what i'm talking about!” seeing jimin whine with his plush lips jutted out somehow makes his chest puff up in pride, lips twitch into a smug grin.

he called me jagi-yah, i wanna die… that's so! so embarrassing..! he just- so naturally! jagi! yah! he really out here-! he just called me jagi-yah...

“i mean, sometimes i wonder why god was so mean to bless you of all people with beauty and brain. the most terrible decision ever.”

jimin's flushed smile reassures him that he secretly knows it's a backhanded compliment laced as an insult.

… love you too, jagi-yah.


rock paper scissors is the only democratic way of finding an equitable solution, so they've decided that loser eats the second dish. two mains were ordered, and the heavenly smelling tenderloin steak makes jeongguk lose his mind in waiting for the other random meat they've decided to share. he almost whines when jimin slices the beef and shoves a piece in front of his face, it looks so succulent and delectable that he almost salivates on the spot. he gulps as he parts his lips, only for jimin to withdraw the slice of steak, taunting him with it before devouring.

he's losing his mind to hunger, when jimin's smug smile softens, morphs into something more tender than the meat or the baked potato with sour cream and bacon. or the escargot appetizer. jimin cuts up an even bigger piece, dips it into the sauce, nudging the generous portion to his lips. sorry for teasing, you're hungry, aren't you.

“here. the sauce is good.” jeongguk wraps a strong grip around jimin's hands to steady the fork, just so he won't get played again, ensuring he obtains the precious medium rare steak.

as he chews and makes a noise of contentment, he forgets to release his grip on jimin's hand.

his wrists are so pretty and small.


“are you tired?”

jimin's been progressively lagging behind after dinner, rubbing at his eyes. while it's true that he usually takes his own sweet time to savour and take in every moment, (proclaiming the view is ‘so beautiful’ every five seconds when sightseeing) doesn't proceed until he's sure he can master his next move 200%, this is an unnatural dallying. jimin had been cooped up preparing for some guest appearance in a dance concert lately, and yet forked out some precious time to have a meal, half a day wasted with jeongguk. he could've been sleeping, studying, or practicing- and yet he forgoes that for him. is it odd that he feels touched?

“no… jus’ sleepy… food coma…” his eyes are barely opening. “idiot,” jeongguk grumbles, settling into a mid squat, “get on.”

“huh. for what.”

“you're an airhead-” jeongguk exasperatedly scoops him up into a bridal carry, as opposed to a piggyback. anyway, having jimin on his back would bend his thighs into a more painful stance, no?

“uwah! put me down-”

“be quiet, now that i've wasted the energy to pick you up, i'm carrying you all the way back to make my effort worth.”

“o-okay.”

jimin falls asleep almost instantly in his arms, head gracefully nestled on his chest, arms gradually drooping from around his neck to a limp pile atop his abdomen. he looks even tinier when asleep in my arms. like a baby calico cat. a small kitten. jeongguk almost feels bad when has to wake jimin up to bathe, and get a fresh change of clothes. he lets jimin sleep in his bed instead of the makeshift mattress from now on.


 

now that they’ve kept at least one of each other’s secrets as a safeguard, proximity dwindles just a tad bit; jeongguk’s more comfortable around him, and jimin’s less stoic, more relaxed and smiley with him. it doesn’t bar them from playing pranks and teasing each other, though. in light of april fools, jeongguk had almost given jimin a heart attack, creeping up on him and pulling a party popper. jimin jumped in fright and wailed, while jeongguk had only laughed haughtily at him being such a scaredy-cat, not telling him of the two confetti strands stuck in his hair. not that it was cute and made jimin appear more like a fairy, but jeongguk did it to embarrass him in front of his varsity mates. (especially that wonho guy, whom jimin seems to have a soft spot for. and the people that stare at jimin with heart eyes that aren't even in his dancer friend circle, like the chanyeol dude. and the sejun boy. and eunkwang. hyungseob. jun. heechul. shinwon. wooshin. fucking jimin effect. )

jimin gets his revenge by tapping on jeongguk’s shoulder, whining his name repeatedly, only for the taller boy to whip around with a grimace, as jimin’s index finger pokes his cheek. hard.

“i want to punch your stupid face-”

“ehehe, with what, your mouth?”

 

his cheeks were warm.


jeongguk soon comes to realise he loves bullying jimin, pulling the strings of his hoodie taut around his head, until he looks like a little egg, a mini beauty blender, until only the glossy lips and pink cheeks can be seen. he cackles in the most evil of laughs, and jimin only swats him away, scolds him with no malice. when jimin tries to stop him, foreseeing his actions, jeongguk visibly softens- his hands can't even wrap completely around his wrist, or even his silver mic. ultimately, jimin gets free piggyback rides in apology and pulls his hood to cover his vision only after they reach jeongguk's room, so that even if he falls he hits the bed.

it's the little things that count, right?


it's finally april. the first of april: the almighty april fool's day, serving as an official trial run for their grand stage in autumn. a full dressed rehearsal. they have to practice in advance to keep it tight, with no errors in sight; if the friends they see almost everyday can't clock it, neither will the distant and estranged relatives jeongguk sees only once or twice a year for festivities.


 

the news spreads on campus like wildfire, the rumour mill churning voraciously, with everybody in utter disbelief when they see jeongguk drive jimin to school, exactly at peak hour, when all the students would enter campus. they walk side by side, already a whole ton closer as compared to being repelled at opposite ends of the hallways. the people were divided- speculations either took the stance of i cannot believe it, are you actually serious that these two idiots are in love and going out together?! or a complete 180 of we been knew! when you're bickering 24/7, it's bound to happen. they've been married for years now, just a status reverse from enemies to lovers.

the inner circle or their friend group though (seokjinnie and the six babies), more or less are initially inclined to take the former.

“h-haha. yeah. i guess we're dating?”

“we are calling for a meeting after lecture.”

at 3pm sharp, they have a tea break meeting asap: an emergency council with five members of the jury sitting opposite the alleged couple. seokjin moderates in the center, the other 2 friends both on each sides. jimin makes sure to put on extra good boy behaviour, so the friend bunch is convinced and he can prove jeongguk that he'd made the right decision of choosing him.

“i can't believe we had to find out through twitter? like excuse me? me?? twitter???” seokjin begins, “i raised you two kids and this is how you treat me? one is my overworked roommate and the other like my younger dumb brother? after the countless orders of free meat i dished out? you let me find through my blue bird app?!” his face is all red and jimin has to try his best to refrain from laughing. everything's going smoothly- he'd exited jeongguk's room, holding his hand with messy hair, timed exactly according to schedule when one of the girls who liked jeongguk (and was always on social media!!) would spot them. of course she'd upload a photo or send it to her friends, isn't that an integral part of peak millennial culture?

“ah, hyuuuuung,” jimin pouts, holding his hand, “i'm sorry… you're still the best though! i love your pasta! and i'm your favourite kitchen helper, right? don't be mad, hyuuuuuung… i'll tell you whatever you want to hear, okay? stuff nobody on twitter knows,” it makes a convincing argument as the panel of five discuss amongst themselves, and jeongguk starts panicking, looking at jimin for help.

“let's get it,” jimin mouths to him with a corny smile, but that does little to comfort jeongguk. if this whole lie flops, then his chuseok plan will be cancelled, and he'll be doomed and condemned for life. his mind flashes back to just moments before the interrogation. jimin had met up with him earlier to brief him about it.

“don't worry, i'm a good actor,” jimin had said with a smirk, “won't you leave it to me, gukkie?”

“if you must know, my jeonggukie here’s pretty affable, ” jimin sends a wink to him when jeongguk's mouth opens slightly, then snaps shut into a teeth clench when jimin continues. “right, oppa? ” oh boy. the elder was definitely having his cake and eating it too.

“holy shit jimin calls him oppa- everybody go home, kooks goes batshit when even the nicest of the noonas try saying oppa-!”

“what! so you guys have fuc-”

“who said that, hyung?” jimin pouts, batting his pretty eyes, “i didn't mean F-able, i meant-”

“affable, as in polite, friendly, easy to talk to.” namjoon supplies, and jimin gives him a thumbs up. “not everything is about sex, you know.”

“b-but! have you guys… done it?” taehyung asks, index fingers poking together sheepishly, “you know…” one hand morphs into an okay sign, the other index remaining.

“taehyung, that's rude…” namjoon chides playfully, “so. did you guys have sex.”

“hyung!” taehyung gasps, mortified and utterly betrayed, turning to his food with a hmph. yeontan would never betray him like that!

“o-of course!” jimin retorts indignantly, “jeonggukie doesn't only just look this amazing on the outside you know,”

“ji- jimin hyung!” he's not even speaking, too nervous that he'll blurt something irrelevant or foil their pretense, and yet he's getting dragged back in by jimin, his stupid boyfriend . another question gets thrown their way.

“i see. and so how many times do you do it a week?”

jimin's caught off guard, allowing jeongguk to see him turn the slightest shade of pink, lips wetted in panic before his pretty eyes twinkle into a playful smile. the hands he's wrapped around jeongguk’s arm tightens, coils around like a python, as his cheek gets squished into jeongguk's shoulder blade.

“... once a week,” jimin mumbles, smooth like a snake, and the panel of interrogators start their own murmuring. while they're distracted, jimin mouths jeongguk a sorry, with a sheepish smile. “-we take a break.”

it throws the jury off guard, as well as jeongguk, into a cacophony of screeches and flustered expressions. the hyungs are all screaming.

“oh my fuck, that's too much info, you idiot-”

“six days a week?!”

“jimin, i always knew you were wilding out there but not like that-

“-and with jeongguk! which of you crackheads asked that question, we need to talk-”

jeongguk grips jimin's hand more tightly, partially amused and even more so embarrassed- it's funny how everyone buys into it so quickly, and his fears are quelled. that is, before they calm down and try to find a loophole to expose them- if possible. before this, there was an uproar among the student body, heated and adamant that they'd never see the day jimin and jeongguk would even see eye to eye on any matter. jeongguk heard he'd crushed the hopes and hearts of many girls and some boys on campus, and he felt bad. he's had his fair share of infatuations too. the fangirls were not taking it well- but at least the weird love letters in the lockers stopped coming.


 

according to op’s fanaccount on her twitter, (read: not so credible source) she'd seen them leaving jeongguk's room more than three times, often sweaty, which also explained why they'd been withdrawing from friend meets and even turning down movie nights and bowling and chill with the other permutations of five. of course, it drew suspicion, and even the RA was aware of their presence- and more and more people gossiped and came to multiple conclusions. what they don't know is, they're usually cooped up with snacks and instant ramen, studying math, often involving bets. the bedroom hair and profuse sweating… bench presses and push up competitions. goddamn sit up races and squats. if jimin wins, jeongguk gets more math assignments to complete. if jeongguk wins, his deadline is extended, with three less questions to do. seems ridiculous, polar opposite of the lewd suggestions, but hey, it's simple, extremely competitive and good for academics while keeping fit.

jimin smells like clean linen, his soap, and a hint of orange blossom cologne when he leans in too close to jeongguk.


 

“wait, when did you two even get together? i knew something was fishy- i guessed you two were finally cool at all, but i wasn't expecting something like... boyfriends.

“october-”

“december-”

they look at each other upon saying the wrong month at the same time, but jimin pats his thigh as if he's got everything under control. “gukkie confessed in october after my birthday, but we waited and tested things out… finally had our first official date before christmas,” he lies smoothly. “we went to- we went to see the first snow.”

it's jimin's own dream winter date, but since the situation calls for it, he might as well plant that idea. the others raise their brows but it seems solid so far, the way jimin smoothly makes his way through the questions, hands somehow resting atop of jeongguk's fidgety ones, as he meanders through. jeongguk's honestly impressed, at how calm and steady jimin is even in adversity or a crisis as such, with enough maturity to be level headed. he's panicking on the inside, trying to internally pull himself together. come on, guk- mama ain't raise no weak busan bitch!

“so. i have something to get off my chest-” maybe he should try to be more involved in the conversation, a boyfriend would be eager to show off his significant other, right?

“you shirt can't possibly come off now, gukkie…” jimin shyly traces funny patterns into the fabric of his shirt tautly strung across his chest and he sputters, not knowing jimin was this great at flirting. the other five sharing the table have mortified faces, turned pale or jaws hanging open. or maybe a mix of the above.

(jeongguk learns from today that jimin has the poutiest pout. a powerful pout that nobody can say no to.)

“wait, so are you guys aren't friends with benefits or? fuckbuddies? one night stand? i still find this whole concept hard to believe-”

“busan… boyfriends…?” jeongguk mumbles, the first two associated but not not explicitly spoiling their fake status quo of a transaction.

“busan boyfriends!” jimin echoes brightly, jeongguk finally contributing something audible and useful, as opposed to his nonverbal garbled sounds in embarrassment, letting jimin do the talking.

“i don't believe it! how could jeonggukie possibly like you? you guys have been fighting all year long and it's not like it's possible-” hoseok’s befuddled, and they're all smelling something fishy, but unable put a ring on it. since when did jimin and jeongguk bounce off each other's statements so well? complete the ‘truth’ like two equal halves?

“hmm. by the way, hobi hyung, a little birdie told me that you proposed to yoongi hyung in the bathroom stall? you know, it's easy to decipher your identity since you guys have matching anklets and those tacky, matching heart henna tattoos…” jimin says with an innocent bat of his eyelashes, pout laden in his voice. “mind enlightening me? apparently constipated sounds were heard so i'm just curious… was it a belated anniversary gift? or maybe a mid birthday present to both of you since your birthdays are 19 days apart… 20 days if we're talking about a leap year,” jeongguk almost bursts out laughing when he sees yoongi covering his blushing face with his hands, the melanin drain from hoseok’s face. “isn't it uncomfortable? it's not like it's possible to blow-”

“you guys suddenly seem very compatible, jiminnie.” jimin is all smiles. “thank you, hoseokie hyung! always knew i would have your blessings.” yoongi’s busy sipping coffee and looking away to avoid any more of this topic. when in doubt, blackmail. if blackmail doesn't work, use sabotage.

“but hoseok hyung, why did you choose the bathroom, though? of all places you would go down on one knee, the washroom? and blow flower petals or scented candles that yoongi hyung likes there? that's not very romantic...” taehyung’s always had this uncanny, innocent knack of wording the most lewd of things into an oblivious, childlike query. yoongi chokes on his coffee and jeongguk wants to die. he's pretty sure hoseok’s also losing it. jimin's muffling his giggles into jeongguk's shoulder. namjoon’s been done since the conversation started. taehyung’s still worried that the janitors might have a hard time if the allegedly ‘blown’ flower petals would clog the sewage systems. “wouldn't a chapel be nice? or like, a park, since nature is beautiful…”

the table’s filled with two horrified faces and five types of laughs. “next time when you're getting it on, at least take off the anklets, okay? we already know you're soul partners or whatever.” yoongi turns a dark crimson, curling into hoseok’s arms.

“well, taehyung,” seokjin clears his throat, “just to be more precise he didn't go down on one knee-”

“oh my god, god bless you jin hyung, i really owe you one big time-”

“he went down on both knees.”

“i take that back. fuck you-”

“excuse you! which year were you born in, jung hoseok?”

“... ‘94,”

“and you, min yoongi?”

“1993!” jimin answers on his behalf, mid wheeze. he's been laughing and almost falling off his seat more than three times, if not for jeongguk holding his waist.

“and when was i born?”

“in ‘92!” taehyung chimes in, giving a high five to jimin. he really doesn't understand rules, but if the game is fun, he's in.

“and so who's older?”

“seokjin hyung~” it's now a chorus of namjoon and jeongguk, with overlapping high fives watching the other couple defenceless and dying inside. yoongi was right when he once said that seokjin’s obliviously adroit at cutting off the flow of any type of conversation, but today he's extremely thankful. the tension in the air’s been broken in the most bizarre of methods.

“and so, what do you say for swearing at me, hoseok?”

“... sorry hyung.”

“and you, min yoongi?”

sometimes, a finger says a thousand words. (such as: what does age have to do with this? i didn't sign up for this collaterals damage. fuck capitalism, fuck the bourgeoisie and fuck age superiority; i should never have let hoseok convince me the bathroom stalls were safe, after almost getting caught with the fuckin’ cat ears even though they were cute- )

“hyung, i still don't understand. why the toilet-


 

“please tell me you guys aren't the pda type.” yoongi remarks drily, “as if jeongguk would…” (he needs to back up his boyfriend.)

jimin blinks, and the rest look satisfied that they've finally stumped him, to call it a bluff. but no, jimin’s fortunately always a step ahead- seems like always having his nose buried in a book did have it's advantages, right? he shyly leans up to kiss jeongguk's cheek. it happens so spontaneously that everybody is rendered speechless, jeongguk himself providing the perfect reaction. “h-hyung…” jeongguk chokes out a whine, bashful and embarrassed but also dying on the inside, “we're in public…” jimin switches so fast sometimes it's hard to catch up; he only knew seokjin and taehyung had acting backgrounds, but jimin-! honestly, was there anything jimin couldn't do? (other than him, of course.)

the others start gagging and coughing, verdict more or less to be announced as accepted. the triumphant face of jimin glowing like killawatt highlighter strongly resonated; trophy boyfriend indeed.


before the end of the nerve wracking ordeal, they finally arrive at the million dollar question. jimin's fully prepared, q&a session thoroughly studied for, savage and ready to fire back if needed.

“so. who tops and who bottoms?”

“taehyung, sweetie-” jimin pinches the bridge of his nose, and sends jeongguk a reassuring rub on the back (where none of the rest can see) when he sees bambi eyes go wide, jaw dropped, completely dumbfounded. clearly he hadn't prepared as thoroughly.

well shit, i didn't even think of all these! we're definitely gonna get exposed, damn it-

-it's okay, hyung’s got you, jeongguk-ah.

“i know it's a very vital question, isn't it? particularly if people like reading yaoi webtoons or manga… always so concerned about the seme and uke, who tops or bottoms, hm? but do you see me asking about you, kim taehyung, and park bogum, kim minjae, park seojoon, choi minho, byun baek-”

jimin counts off his fingers with each name attached, causing taehyung to frantically wave his hands at him and order him to shut up. thank god he decided to come out of the womb at the last moments of 1995. if he'd popped out the subsequent year… jimin would never let him live.

“actually, it doesn't matter, u-uh. what matters is if you guys are happy, right?” sometimes curiosity kills the cat, even if it happens to be a baby tiger cub.

seokjin’s quietly asking namjoon who those men are, while yoongi raises his coffee cup in agreement, drinking to it. clink clink, bitches. somehow, the satisfied smile on jimin's face makes the corners of jeongguk's own mouth twitch up.

who knew so much power was hidden inside a tiny manggae at the size of a mere 173cm. (173.6cm to be exact, but he's taller than yoongi with insoles!!) a little manggaetteok. a small but immensely powerful mochi.

“any more questions?” six heads shake in response (yes, jeongguk too very badly wants to get this over and done with), prompting jimin to continue. “if that's the case, court adjourned! we'll tell you if we decide to get married one day, you guys can be the best men of honour. i have good taste so you guys will be dressing and eating good! probably the plan would be yves saint laurent, lanvin and prada for now...”

taking jeongguk's hand, jimin leads him out of the hole he'd dug deeper into, figuratively dusting him off and leaving the rest of their friends gagging at the cheesiness or smiling as their little skit was bound to unfold.


a safe distance away from the cafeteria, jimin stops, lets go of his hand, startling him. it almost feels like something's missing; jimin's been all over him the past hour or so, and strangely, it never felt forced or weird- it felt so warm. so nice. not that he'd ever say it aloud, though.

“where'd you even learn to flirt like that,” is all jeongguk can blurt out, and jimin looks him in the eye before putting on a small, wry smile. he should be proud of himself for saving their asses, but somehow, he looks sad; almost like a melancholic renaissance sculpture of a cupid.

“darwinian theory. survival of the fittest,” a tiny laugh accompanies it, as jimin shoves his hands into his pockets, “i hope i did well enough. hyungs and tae seemed to buy it, so-”

“thank you,” it's so out of the blue, but he feels compelled to say it. jimin's in no way obligated to do such a rubbish act for the sake of his ego or whatnot.

“don't worry, hyung’s a good actor.” the beam that comes together with the ruffle of jeongguk's hair is anything but happy. sincere, but sad. “take care.”


 

jeongguk gets nervous when they part, jimin to the library and him for the track. his friends are oddly perceptive to the smallest of things and most obscure of subjects; it just depends on who, when and what they've observed. if five brains manage to piece five perspectives together and accurately, he's screwed. plus, they have the top brains in there.

true to his gut, he feels a hearty clap on his shoulder and fully bracing himself for namjoon or taehyung to either bug or tease him, but it's seokjin.

“jeongguk-ah. i don't know if you were feeling awkward with so many of us just now, but i want you to know that no matter what it is, i will support you, and please take good care of jiminnie for me.”

“hyung,” jeongguk whines, a little upset that this is all a farce, and seokjin looks so genuinely supportive and encouraging. “it's not like we're really getting married and all…”

“i'm happy your gaze towards him has softened, you know? and just know that even if a dream needs to crumble, do it slowly. jimin… may or may not have wanted certain things for a very long time.”

“huh? hyung- hyung! what do you mean-” all he's left with is the back view of seokjin's coat lying taut on broad shoulders and a little wave, before his silhouette gets camouflaged by the sudden surge of students at the sound of dismissal.


 

“what's with the limp, park?” jeongguk's lounging on the bed in sweats, playing games on his phone, when jimin returns, neck stiff, muscles sore from dancing. jeongguk’s after school club activities have been cut severely due to his prior muscle condition, so he’s always loafing about and gaming if possible. “‘s nothing. just tired.”

“you liar,” jeongguk throws his phone on the bed, bouncing off and ready to tease him- what he does not expect to see is huge purple bruises littered all over the exposed knee from his ripped jeans. good lord, his ankle looks swollen too. the hand slapped over his neck seems as if a makeshift invisible brace over it. jimin winces when jeongguk unknowingly pounces on him, fully prepared to bully him into hogging the bed tonight since jimin was late by an hour from their stipulated room curfew. this was really a sight to behold- a sight that jeongguk now wishes he didn't have to see.

“oh my god,” jeongguk breathes, “hyung are you seriously okay? sorry, i didn't mean to-”

“leave me be. i'll just take a quick bath and sleep. i'll be alright.” jimin looks so tired. sounds tired. is tired and fully exhausted.

“it's the stupid fan dance, isn't it.”

“fuck off, don't call my dance routine stupid, stupid-

“i'm going to fucking murder your dance instructor. this is ridiculous! even if you're the not best dancer, how can he overwork you like that! it's not fair and not right-” jeongguk’s seen the snippets of jimin’s dance on the team’s instagram, and he has to say, jimin did amazing. from the 15 seconds or so, he was beauty and grace, could easily punch jeongguk in the face (with the orange feathery fan); and he had jeongguk watching on loop in a daze.

with a strong penchant for going viral (he's beautiful) ultimately the clip would get spread and embedded as a reaction video- the ugly behavior of certain (foreign probably. he remembers the person's user being maia or something. mayo? ) dehumanising people commenting that it was a mating dance for courtship, in particular another male in jimin's dance team. those bitches can fuck right off. first of all, love is love and it's not the shipping of two males that is the point- the issue here is that it’s a traditional style and art form paying tribute to their heritage, not to be reduced to just a fucking mating dance- jimin isn't a bird, miss mayo. it's a dance that jimin has executed perfectly and done justice to, brought pride to people of korean culture and descent. he's doing a fantastic job. jeongguk secretly hopes jimin didn’t see those awful commentaries. (he reported the bulk of it anyway.)

“it's really okay… it's true i'm not the best, so obviously i have to practice more and-” jimin seems and sounds so resigned it almost hurts.

“i'm still going to kill him.” jeongguk deadpans, but i think you are the best, jimin. i really do. um, for dance, at least. you have the cleanest lines and the most humbling of attitudes despite the highest qualifications. that itself is commendable already. i am ready!!! to hunt down anyone being rude or sarcastic about it-

“just sit down, stupid.” jeongguk protectively puts an arm around him, careful not to further wound his injured spots, guides him to sit at the foot of the bed. “i'm sweaty and smelly, jeongguk. i need to take a shower. look, you clean freak, i’ll dirty your bed-”

“you shut up and sit, i'm good at doing laundry, okay?” jimin remains clammed up when he comes back with some warm water in a small tub, motioning for jimin to soak his feet. “if you're afraid of dirtying my bed then you damn well sit on my lap and stop moving.” next comes the first aid kit with aloe vera gel and some soothing cream for burns. because that clearly is floorburn and floorburn hurts like a bitch. jeongguk's thighs make a very good lap pillow.

“thank you,” jimin says softly, caressing his hair, patting his head like an older brother fondly watching their younger sibling grow up, become sensitive and mature. “i'm just doing this b-because i need you to be in your best form! if not… if not who's gonna a-accompany me to the chuseok celebration,” jimin's eyes are unreadable as jeongguk swallows, not knowing how else to put it- it's weird isn't it, that they've grown a little more attached, a little closer; there's no mutual good or hard feelings, just a transaction, a symbiotic relationship that had an expiry- a due date, a deadline, a target to meet.

“don't worry, it's only april approaching may, guk. september is a long way to go, you know.” jimin's hand had stopped stroking his hair, instead motioning for jeongguk to pass him the salve. “i can do it myself. it's late, you should get some sleep. you have a morning class tomorrow. good night.” he dries off his own feet with the towel jeongguk brought, continues to slowly limp his way to the bathroom with the pail of water.

jeongguk had opened his mouth to say something, but the words never came out.

(jimin only finds out the next morning jeongguk had shifted him from the mattress on the floor to the bed, tucked him into a blanket burrito. the alarms have been turned off for him to sleep in- there's even some coffee, hard boiled eggs and toast on the table, although now cold. a packet of salonpas and squiggly note on scrap paper tells jimin he's free to eat the vitamins and supplements jeongguk hides in his cupboards, always being stingy about sharing since they were expensive.

the food may be cold, but jimin's heart is warm. so, so very warm.


 

“hey jeonggukie, are you still underage?”

“what! of course i'm not-” jeongguk shoots back hotly, earning a snigger.

“sorry, always saw you as a kid.”

oh come on, park-”

“it's jimin hyung, you rascal, i'm your boyfriend, remem-”

they're in itaewon at night, when a drunk man stumbles into them, with a can of beer in his hand. his lopsided smile looks a little too sleazy for jeongguk's liking. “nice girl you got here, boy.” he tries to touch jimin as he stumbles forward, and jeongguk catches jimin rolling his eyes, hands signalling him to pay no mind against the blaring echo of club bangers emanating from the basements, or the smell of alcohol and cigarettes; it's the clubbing district, thus plenty of drunkards loitering about, along the streets, paired with loud and boisterous teenagers and flashing lights, the smell of smoke and booze, rambunctious chatter.

let's go, jimin seems to say, but like hell if a person named jeon jeongguk's just going to let go . fucking asshole had the guts to call jimin a girl and touch him? guy was really asking for a beating. jimin is very pretty, but what's up with people always seeing him as a girl? he may be effeminate, maybe, like to wear cute things, yes- but he identifies as a fucking man. what's wrong with men being feminine or cute? fucking hell. plus, jimin had only recovered from his injuries recently. a lot of precious time and money in which jeongguk had invested to nurture him back to health, mind you. so of course he's getting touchy and hot headed when someone's trying his boyfriend. for now.

“say sorry to jimin!” he doesn't know what the hell he’s doing, fighting (not just yet, anyway) for jimin's pride or dignity or whatever. it doesn't matter if jimin allows it to pass this once- it's just wrong. the guy probably doesn't even know jimin is called jimin. what the shit is he doing? he must be out of his mind. he just feels his brain exploding at the thought of this random ass crusty looking busted homeless drunken bastard smelling like weed (yes, he really went there) insulting jimin, feminizing him, and degrading him. jimin didn't even do anything, you rotten slimy perverted grimy smelly old man! (he'd run out of bad adjectives to curse, but you get the drift.)

“jeongguk, please, it's fine-”

“young bastard… getting all protective of your bitch, eh?” he reeks of cheap alcohol, the slurring of his uncouth words making jeongguk reel. he feels utterly sickened and disgusted. you absolutely do not call jimin a bitch, you hear me?! first of all, you don't have the right- second of all, you don't deserve to even look at him, bastard. turns out, guy was really a drunk idiot. eyes unfocused, limbs uncoordinated. the few magazines he'd held in one hand before being strewn to the side, of gravure idols and full paged titties should've been a presage to his intentions; there’s even the faint remnants of a rolled up blunt if one looked closer. the shatter of glass, a primal incoherent shout; he wanes, bumbles, tossing the can to the side and opting for a broken beer bottle. he completely misses as he swings a weak arm blindly, but it makes jeongguk step down the pavement in a bid to regain his balance with the dude swaying and charging at him in blunt force. the tip of the glass grazes past jeongguk's left cheek, just before jimin knocks it out of the drunkard’s hand.

“jeon jeongguk!” jimin pulls him back up the kerb just before a motorcycle whizzes by, eyes wide and mouth open in shock, clinging onto him tightly. the headlights had illuminated over him, like a spotlight shining down on him, just like it were the trailer of an action movie; they stumble back, as one, with jimin staggering to gain a foothold and grab the railing to break any possible fall. the club-goers and pedestrians taking a smoke break by the roads are staring, but nobody could care less. they're all inebriated, high, apathetic.

jimin's eye makeup is smoky, but his gaze is smoking. he's mad. very mad- and that's never a good sign. (there's hearsay that jimin getting angry is the personification of wrath unleashed.) patting jeongguk to the corner of the sidewalk, assuring himself and putting him safely along the metal rails, he pulls his right sweater sleeve up to his elbows, adjusts his cap. jeongguk almost whistles. shit’s about to go down.

“you may call me miss bitch, but please also know that i don't miss, bitch. ” he swings a perfect blow to the drunkard’s left cheek, leaving the guy clutching his face in agony, spewing expletives at both of them. is that his gums bleeding? he can see a crowd of onlookers gather from across the road, with hollers and cheers of daebak! reaching his ears. it's like a free show to them, public entertainment, and jimin bows melodramatically  even returning a thumbs up with the other hand propping his hip sassily.

“that one’s for jeonggukie- you can insult me all you want, but ain't nobody allowed to fuck with my man like that, got it? ” the menacing growl attached to the darkened countenance makes jeongguk shudder. jimin really is a force to be reckoned with.

something else in jeongguk's heart stirs, stutters, swoons even; like, damn bitch, what a fucking keeper. (that is, if only jimin was truly his boyfriend.) it sparks off a massive chain reaction of irregular heartbeats, like jimin had successfully thrown a stone across the waters that made 100 ripples before in sank into the deep sea. jimin mentioned before that he was good at stone skipping, hadn't he?

“- and this one’s for my new friends across the street.” with a half-assed kick to the stomach, jimin scoffs, as he tugs on jeongguk's leather jacket slightly, strides forth as cool as a cucumber. jeongguk's still trying to take in everything. “i'm sorry we can't exactly practice some late night romantic hand holding now, ‘cuz my hands are kinda dirty.”

the music fades as they enter a mall, quieter and less rowdy. brighter and less sleazy. jeongguk brings him to the washroom, watches him thoroughly wash his hands with soap, dry them with a paper towel. watches as jimin pats a wet square of tissue, hisses at the mild sting. it's not a big bleeding one, more like a paper cut congealing. “i'm sorry,” he whispers. he doesn't have a proper reason to apologise, and here he is, taking jimin's smaller hands into his. “...does it hurt?”

“of course it does.” jimin replies back, a small smile on his lips. his knuckles will bruise tomorrow. it's so cute when jeongguk's worried. he looks like a lost puppy, and it's adorable. “were you worried, boyfriend?”

“e-excuse me park jimin! i'm trying to be nice and serious here-!”

“it's park jimin hyung to you, brat. i'm sorry for going all jiu jitsu mode, i probably ruined the whole mood. it was supposed to be a chill night out for some drinks… but also, the guy asked for it! and you could've died!” he takes a step closer, shaking his head in déjà vu to the oncoming headlights just minutes ago, jeongguk staring at the motorcyclist, frozen with his large bambi eyes.

“and what would i do then?” jeongguk gulps at the all too genuine crestfallen eyes, doesn't understand why he's feeling hot and giddy for no apparent reason. maybe it's the toilet ventilation that sucks. “i know you could've stood up for yourself, but i- uh. i'm not trying to belittle you or anything, really. i just got really mad and-!” he stops when he hears jimin giggle, almost collapsing against the sink in another of his full body flinging, and he can feel his cheeks heat up when the words roll off his tongue without hesitation. “and?”

“... and in that moment i just- i thought you were really cool, hyung.”

he sees something shine in jimin's eyes for a split second, then it morphs into something more cheeky, teasing, a tacit invitation for him to keep going. anyway, it's late and there's nobody and he's in his feelings, so who's gonna stop him? if jimin gets drunk later, maybe he'll forget. “i never thought i'd see you fight, though. the rumours and all that with you either being a kickass black belt in martial arts or a tiny damsel in distress! some part of me always knew you weren't that defenceless, i hate it when people say you're just a pretty face-” he halts to take a deep breath, expression a mix of shy and unable to look at jimin versus occasional glances monitoring that jimin isn't offended. i hate it. i hate it that everyone thinks you're a flirt and a fuckboy and all that when you're not. you're a very kind and loving and generous sweetheart- although i won’t say that up front. yet.

“so uh. i'm somewhat glad i got to see that. yeah.” he doesn't know why every piece of news involving jimin now affects him so much- especially the negative and hate inducing ones, with fake clickbait-esque titles meaning to bash or smear his name. (those make him so mad. although, over time, he realises most of it stems from jealousy.) he knows he's rambling, but it's because there's just something so comforting about jimin's presence. soothing. like he could be the worst sinner in the world on his knees, confessing his sins to satan himself and jimin would be at satan’s right hand and still pat his head, telling him it's okay and he's not on his way to hell. even if he is.

“that's... very sweet of you. i appreciate the thought.” it takes a moment of silence before jimin comes up with such a well put together statement and eloquent conclusion. some voice in the back of his head makes jeongguk wonder why he's singing jimin's praises instead of jeering at him. it feels so foreign, but so welcomed. it's weird. it makes his stomach knot up, get all jittery. but it's a nice kind of weird. a good type of weird.

“and, and-”

he's suddenly so shy. the way jimin's looking up at him so fondly and in the reflection of the mirror clutching his hand, at him blabbering on like a goddamn kid talking about his favourite cartoons, getting praised in class for the best drawing with the most star stickers. jimin's so patient and so fucking pretty that it's slowly but surely driving jeongguk insane. it's true. jimin's always brain over brawn, but his hand to hand combat exists. he's a lover and a fighter, but his brain usually does the calculating before his hands; (after all, he really loves mathematics, right? how could jeongguk forget his dumbass teacher assigning jimin to tutor him?) truth be told, park jimin is a literal dreamboat. people downplay that far too much, jeongguk himself included. and he stands corrected.

“and?”

“and you usually factually assault people with your mouth and not your fists, and so-”

jimin's lips are so warm as they brush against his own chapped ones, thin layer of cherry sugar balm fading. it's only instinct that he's melting and blushing and a literal hot mess, hands teetering past where jimin had just chastely pecked him in good fun. “why, so i do assault people with my mouth, don't i?” what a tease. “and so?” he pushes the prompt back to jeongguk, as if he had no responsibility in such an unusual but interesting turn of events.

“a-and so-!” jeongguk's definitely flustered, and he can see the smile in jimin's eyes as he waits for his verbal meltdown, the honey waterfall from jeongguk's glittery eyes to trickling into incoherent, honey laden words. “... and so i forgot what i wanted to say,” he adds quietly, cheeks too red to meet eyes with jimin, whom he's pretty sure is toying with him. sworn enemies, his ass. he's not even sure what they are now. bros? friends? good friends? all nighter friends? one month stand? best friends’ friend? sub duo from their clique of seven?

black and white couple.

“i'm hungry, let's go get spicy chicken, okay? there's this shop nearby that has excellent reviews for chimaek...” jimin's not only good at reading books, but maybe also situations. all jeongguk can do is dumbly nod, and hold his hand on the way out, until they reach the eatery. that is, to protect jimin from other weird men, of course.

thereafter, he protectively drapes one arm over jimin's shoulder, or his waist. as a safeguard. just in case. jimin's too pretty for his own good, anyway. he almost coos when jeongguk shoots a murderous glare at a random man checking him out, subconsciously leaning in to jeongguk's touch- and surprisingly the latter doesn't make any protest. a grunt or two, yes- but it's a very tsundere way of holding jimin close, and he appreciates it. the thought of it alone makes him shy and giddy enough to bump into a lamppost while pretending he wasn't staring at jeongguk. the latter just wants to keep jimin in a box layered with bubble wrap.

(that's the story of how jeongguk got he tiny scar on his left cheek.)

 

and so in that moment i thought- that i really wanted to protect you with my own hands-

because i probably couldn't stand the sight of seeing you getting hurt anymore.


it's only when night falls that they can discreetly ‘test out holding hands’, so to speak, since it would evade many questions if they were seen, easier to deny regardless. be it deny what others had seen, or what they themselves felt. jeongguk doesn't know why his eyes are so fixated on jimin tonight. like a gravitational pull. he feels like a helpless satellite geo-orbiting around a star. a bright, brilliant, dazzling star.

“hm? is there something on my face?” jimin instantly covers his cheeks, squishing them together, “why… why is jeonggukie staring at me like that.”

“close your eyes.”

jimin complies obediently, and he inches closer, till they're just a millimeter apart from their noses touching. and when jeongguk's nose accidentally boops jimin's cute little nose, the latter’s pretty eyes flutter open with a tiny gasp, seeing jeongguk in the viewpoint should jeongguk go in close to the front camera with a fish-eye lens, seeing his gorgeous doe eyes looking like panoramic googly eyes. jeongguk blows a puff of air at him teasingly, grinning and showing big bunny-like front teeth.

“aish, you little sh-” before he can make any coherent scolding out, he feels jeongguk's chapped lips touch his own, sees him press their lips together and pull away just as quick; as if if he were to blink at that exact moment, he could've dispelled it as a hallucination, but no- he witnessed it. how could he ever forget it? he felt it. he swears he did. a star that had decided to drift into a peaceful, eternal sleep nanoseconds after seeing the satellite he'd longed to see again, after a successive entire orbit of a lifespan.

“did you-”

“no.”

jimin keeps quiet about it- doesn't utter a single word about it, to jeongguk’s relief- but it doesn't stop him from smiling for the rest of the night until his cheek muscles hurt.

Chapter Text

jimin often buys him things, remembers the camera bag he stares a little too longingly at, the more expensive cakes that reflect in his shining eyes. the rationale?“we're boyfriends for now, this is what couples do, isn’t it?”

it makes him feel indebted, lacking; to think jimin would be this observant, meticulous- a deadly precision for reading the atmosphere, a predilection to dote and shower love onto the people around him. sometimes, it’s difficult to even perceive that such a well rounded individual such as jimin exists. the list of things jimin had uncannily predicted or derived from pure discernment was endless- from type of lip balm, shoe size, cake flavors, timing, habitual routines, circadian clock; jimin’s got them all.

while jimin delves in the art of subtlety, jeongguk relies on the opposite; jimin is tactful, revels in the intangibles, whereas jeongguk is unrefined but forthright- he finds it easier to purchase physical things as a means to the end of something impalpable, ethereal. tangible means to an intangible end. in a wry irony, they complete each other; the perfect half to counteract, to retain optimum balance. sometimes he wants to show appreciation, but he doesn’t know how. jimin’s better at his job of being a present fairy- even tying an impromptu red ribbon on his head for seokjin’s birthday when he forgot to bring the actual present to school. jeongguk will stick with the title of laundry fairy.

a leisurely stroll in sinchon makes him halt when he passes by a quaint clothes shop, the piece on display capturing his attention. jimin would look beautiful in this. even if he's more calculative about his expenses, tends to prefer spending minimally, he finds himself walking in. the tinkle of the welcome bells as he enquires about the white billowy shirt with matching white pants, with dainty silver embellishments and fluttery trumpet sleeves that flare at the wrists. the fabric used is cooling, soft to the touch. silky, just like jimin's skin. eye catching but simplistic, just like jimin.

it feels funny buying something for jimin, his presumed boyfriend, as his supposed boyfriend. it feels funny that he knows jimin's measurements, tells the lady where to alter, where to taper. it's all part of the ploy anyway. it's a worthy investment.

jimin would look so good in this- but why..? why do i even bother? he's not even my real boyfriend… why am i thinking of him? i'm here to try the newly opened dessert parlour…

a wistful smile twitches up in the reflection of himself, dressed in all black, as he still hands over his card to purchase the two piece.

 

so they're really the black and white couple, huh.


“hurry up, jeon, bite here-” jimin taps his neck, tantalising skin glistening, “do it before i leave so it'll be seasoned enough for tomorrow.”

“do we have to?” jeongguk softly replies, scratching the nape of his neck. no way in hell he was going to let jimin have any chance to laugh at him in relation to this fake dating bullshit. who knew what he'd tell his loudmouthed friends as blackmail! maybe jimin was a bad idea after all-

“could it be…” jimin's coming closer to him, neck looking so, so inviting, “that our little jeon jeonggukie doesn't know how to make a hickey? or is a terrible kisser?” the huge smirk makes jeongguk want to punch him until he sees stars- he looks so cocky and yet he has the right to brag; jimin's an excellent kisser and jeongguk hates admitting, but he felt so… wanted when jimin had kissed him that day. it felt so... funny. a very complex feeling.

“s-shut up, you bratty midget.” jeongguk grits, hands clenched into fists, “say one more word about this and you'll-” jimin will never let me live this down.

“it's okay. i can teach you.” his smile is still there, but it's a little more tender than the demeaning one just moments ago. it makes jeongguk's heart beat faster, makes his mind go blank and not know how to think. “ah, jeon. if i looked like that i wouldn't know how to act either.” was he too explicit? or maybe jeongguk was too dense to realise jimin was ready to risk it all by now.

“what did you say?” jeongguk grumbles, stupid jimin- one moment he was all condescending and gloating and the next moment mumbling to himself with the sides of his mouth twitched up in a mysterious manner. to hell with him! if only jeongguk hadn't said his name on instinct that day, everything would've been far easier.

“do you want to learn?” there's hesitance in jimin's voice, tentative. “i promise i won't laugh. just… i dunno. make it more convincing,” jeongguk only makes a noncommittal noise of acknowledgement, as jimin gently tilts his head to the side, exposing the unmarred, porcelain skin with honeyed, caramelised, bronzed overtones. it's just a bite and a suck, isn't it? he taps his neck, afraid, inviting. jimin looks so tantalising. delicious and delectable. it awakens a tiny portion of the ravenous hunger jeongguk never knew he possessed. to keep and to mark. to serve, to protect. to possess, to desire.

“maybe if you… closed your eyes, and pretend that i'm someone you really want- and, um. someone... you like, someone you'd want to have all to yourself and- then maybe, maybe- ” jimin's choking on the words he never thought he'd ever want to say aloud, biting down on his plump lower lip to stop whatever he was feeling, dispel any form of emotion. jeongguk's just staring at him with a worried frown, cocking his head to the side in confusion. stop it, jimin! what do you think you're doing? he quickly disguises the sob building up in his throat as a cough, looking away until his vision goes clear again. “i'm sorry. i'm thinking too far- maybe… let's just stick to the makeup, okay? i'm good at that, so don't worry,” jimin's breathing picks up, shallow but fast paced. like the air all around him was suddenly nonexistent.

“i'm sorry, i need- i need to go.”

jeongguk thought he saw the sliver of a teardrop, as the light reflected off jimin's face.


jimin had went back to his room with seokjin and yoongi to spend the night, and it's only during math lessons the next day that he discovers jeongguk has concealer dabbed all over his arms, littered with bite marks and odd shaped bruises.

“oh my goodness, jeongguk, did you hurt yourself-”

upon closer inspection, he realises jeongguk was practising. how to make a hickey, by biting himself. he's so sad. jeongguk doesn't answer when jimin probes, finally realising, and confirming with the fierce flush flaring on jeongguk’s face. “it's okay, if it's this bad then let's not-”

jeongguk gets dragged back to his dorm room immediately after class, despite protests and even attempted aegyo to go grab food first. jimin adamantly drags him back through the long walk, cleaning and washing his hands before applying aloe vera gel from the first aid kit to make it feel better. “you dummy, i wasn't meaning for you to really bite your own hand like that,” jeongguk keeps quiet through the whole painfully embarrassing ordeal, eyes softening only when jimin isn't looking.

(in the midst of running for the antiseptic and gel, jimin got a cut on his leg because he was clumsy. jeongguk doesn't understand how he get injured so easily, tripping on air. they attend lectures the next day sporting matching yellow pororo plasters, courtesy of jeongguk.)


in addition to recent embarrassing moments, jeongguk will never forget how he opened an unsuspecting link sent to one of his group chats, waiting for jimin to finish with his bath. his friend (bambam) had sent a link saying it was a ‘trending meme video’, but had led to a porno instead. jimin… often so has the best timings.

“it's! it's not what it looks like!” jeongguk violently yells into the room, when jimin steps out smelling fresh, steam trailing out of the bathroom, towel soaking up the tousled inky mess on his head. oh lawd, he's coming. he's heading for the hair dryer. “looks like what?” jimin quizzically stares at him, then glances at the moving pictures on jeongguk's phone, haphazardly tossed aside in surrender. it's still playing, you cute little shit.

“ah, we've all been there, it's okay…” jeongguk doesn't know if his pink cheeks are a result of the hot water or the moans coming out of his phone at volume five. then, he realises, if he had quietly closed and switched apps, jimin wouldn't have noticed a thing. “you like that, hm? baby 49?” jimin sends him a wink and a flying kiss as he sits in front of the mirror, hot air fluffing up wet black strands.

“someone sent it into the ‘97 line group! they said it was a meme!” their volumes have to be raised with the addition of the dryer joining the conversation, “do the number numbers 115G and 121X ring a bell?”

“s-shut up!” sometimes, jeongguk is easy to bully- when he gets all flustered. he closes kakao with a mortified expression, stares blankly as jimin dries his hair, embarrassed to even pick up his phone. “it's not! what you think! i really thought it was a funny video-” he doesn't know why he feels the urge to justify himself, as if to justify the fact he's remained a loyal boyfriend, and his boyfriend is satisfying enough. “can't hear you!” jimin yells, with the coyest of grins that makes jeongguk want to throw a hairbrush at him, but said object is already in jimin's hand. stupid bambam, i'm going to kill you! you too, park jimin, you're next!

“aww, is my baby getting shy? my little jungoo, my baby jungoogie~”

(is this bad that jeongguk likes it, just a little? being babied sometimes?)

the room turns dead silent as jimin switches the dryer off, and jeongguk gulps, feels his face heat up as jimin crawls under the covers, “the bathroom’s all yours now,” he whispers, tracing a heart onto jeongguk's stomach, and it makes his insides flip, churn, toss and flip over once more. “you're free to find your release in there, if you wish,” jeongguk feels his face burn, at the hidden implications of jimin's words. “i swear, it's really not-” his protests are weak, but the kindness that shines behind the come hither gaze tells him jimin knows he wasn't up to something promiscuous.

“come now,” jimin says sweetly, devilish smile fully aware of the double entendre, “if you want me to drop this then you take the bed tonight. i’ll personally catch you since it'll be noisy if you try anything funny.” you liar, jeongguk almost wants to say, you just heard i strained my muscles because i started going for training again. i saw you asking the team's manager about my training regiment. jimin's always been taking the bed these days, as per jeongguk's orders (aka purposely losing at games like rock paper scissors). and why would anybody forsake the comfy bed for a lousy thin convertible mattress on the floor?

“i'm calling dibs on the makeshift bed! also, being a cop for a day would be cool, i've always wanted to be a policeman.”

“then arrest me, officer.” jeongguk says, all of a sudden. he doesn't even know what overcame him. fuck the police. wait, fuck the police? police officer jimin? holy shit, oh god NO. not jimin! no fucking jimin- their eyes meet, enter into a penetrating gaze, a suffocating cell of deadlock, handcuffed to a ward of permanent silence. when jimin stares at him deadpan, opening his pretty mouth to say something, jeongguk dashes straight for the bathroom, lets the running cold water wash over him.

calm down, you idiot. seriously, what was that about.


they're at a gamer store, looking at the figurines- or at least, it's jeongguk that's looking. jimin's been sulking because jeongguk said no to visiting a museum. “you can see everything online! why should we pay to see that.” jeongguk had retorted at the rolling of jimin's eyes, who then insulted the younger as a peak millennial.

“but i'm hungry….” jimin whines, resting his chin on jeongguk's shoulder, “jeonggukie, you can search all this and see them on naver, can we go?” he comically mimics jeongguk's previous counter to his special museum event, to which jeongguk smiles, decides to play with him further. “okay, ten minutes.”

“jeon jeonggukie~” jimin's making kissy noises, the smooching sounds travelling closer and closer to the nape of his neck. jeongguk freezes. he's torn between what to do. to get kissed or not to get kissed- that is the question. “if we don't go now i'm going to kiss you!”

“i didn't realise ten minutes was up oh yes let's go, shall we?” jeongguk's speaking so rapidly in splutter that jimin gets sent into a fit of giggles, and he kisses his neck anyway.

(contrary to popular belief, jimin actually gets shy after being a whining and pouty baby.)


jimin searching the directions to the museum after the meal and shit, jeongguk completely freezes when he sees yoongi and hoseok out on a date, with taehyung tagging along as main photographer. judging by how yeontan- taehyung's puppy- is out with them, yeontan’s probably out for a walk with his owner and favourite uncles. (hoseok is his ultimate favourite uncle! jimin is his godpa!) at the rate they're walking, they might meet; they're inching closer, and jeongguk immediately switches to boyfriend mode, draping his hands over jimin's pretty curved waist as he searches directions on his phone. hugging him from the back, resting his chin on jimin's shoulder. the shorter boy in blue and white vertical stripes barely makes any comment- no flinching, no questions asked, as if it were a normal thing he'd be accustomed to. jeongguk naturally closes his eyes, reveling in the moment; he's so confused, but it's such a comforting position, a nice warm fleeting feeling, a source of morning calm. jimin hums him a song he's been listening to lately, because he's attentive and thoughtful like that, and something in jeongguk's heart wavers. flutters, maybe.

hoseok yells in the distance to say hello, and taehyung comes rushing over, snapping a spontaneous shot on his mono film camera. yeontan’s yipping happily upon seeing jimin, with yoongi lagging behind, glancing at his matching AP watch with hoseok. maybe the five (+1 dog) of them could have a meal together. jeongguk would pay for jimin, just for today, since he's feeling sweet and generous; jeongguk won’t take no for an answer when he's persistent, so when it does come to fruition, jimin quietly orders the cheapest thing on the menu without drinks or dessert. but jimin always orders coffee, jeongguk notes.

after they part, with jimin playing with yeontan and helping him fly with his octopus plushie, he buys jeongguk a little present on the way home to thank him. it's a coloured hoodie, in response to jeongguk's twenty shades of black and white wardrobe.


when you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes- but when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls. jimin felt he finally understood what that saying meant, when taehyung gifts him the developed monochromatic candid photo of jeongguk back hugging him from that day.


“you're pretty,” jimin blurts one fine morning over their usual lunch table, and jeongguk is almost offended- he's supposed to look manly. masculine. that's the image he's going for. superior alpha male. (so that everyone can keep their hands and eyes off jimin, thank you very much.)

“coming from you, park jimin, 22, the prettiest-”

“no! look at your eyes! they sparkle like diamonds! and your pretty little waist! it's so tiny-”

“shut up! says who? you're prettier! you have the prettiest eyes in the universe, you dumbass-”

“your little habits are really so cute and pretty! like the way you wipe your sweat! and your delicate fingers-”

“are you kidding me right now, park jimin?! you're like. unreal and freakin’ deadass stunning and so fucking beautiful and you're really gonna argue with me on something that's a fact-

“jeon jeongguk you loser you listen up! you are so pretty! what's wrong with you, you look in the mirror everyday!”

“oh come on god jimin, look at your proportions first, will you? you're built like that and you still dare to say that someone else is prettier, are you insane-!”

“shut up jeongguk i'm older and born in busan first but that doesn't mean you can't be prettier, you idiot!”

“you ask me about mirrors but you just looked into the mirror this morning as well, you loser!”

 

seokjin and yoongi mutter something about old married couple bickering while the rest of their friends watch on in wonder. taehyung’s too relieved that he no longer needs to mediate. if you'd told them just months ago that jimin and jeongguk would've been arguing at the top of their lungs about who's prettier, all of them would bet their puppies against it. who was stupider or more of an asshole sounded more likely- it was absolutely impossible. namjoon's face screams when can we get outta here, while hoseok's mirrors his with a y'all done?

(and yet, here both of them are, not bickering over who's the biggest asshole, but who claims the title of prettiest boy in the whole intergalactic universe. )


sometimes, jeongguk feels compelled to see jimin, like a habitual routine. he feels inclined to see him, for the lack of any other reason, and so will proceed to text him regarding math. while it is true he lacks understanding in the irrelevant number subject, on the flipside it also meant that he wouldn't mind doing something he hated if he could see someone he loved more. wait, loved? (sorry, wrong word.) someone he hated more. yeah. that sounded more apt. they're still rivals.


the months go by, and july comes. they've become so comfortable around each other, attracting rather than repelling. it's nice. they now call it a date without inverted commas.

“sorry, was running late and couldn't find my hair wax so i didn't style my hair,” jeongguk reports sheepishly, shifting his bangs to make it look more decent from his bed hair- but he doesn't know that jimin's looking at a snack. scratch that, full course meal. he's decked in a yellow spao checked shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, tucked into baby blue ripped jeans to accentuate his tiny waist.

“don't say that,” jimin replies, adjusting his collar properly, deft hands running down his sleeves, adjusting the folds, smoothing every crease. jeongguk gulps when jimin unbuttons another at button the top, after his fingers complete the trail of adjusting the amount of fabric rolled up and tucked in. “you look so good. and i like you with your hair down.”

he likes it with my hair down. welp, time to dispose all the wax and hairsprays. jimin's busy combing jeongguk's fringe with his fingers, shifting the dark brown wisps to an effortless sweep, following his parting so they won't block his vision but he'll still look decent. “you put in effort today!” his smile is so sincere that jeongguk almost melts into a puddle of goo, literally jungoo, and he may or may not have regretted not dressing up the previous times they've met. i'm just dressing up to show jimin what he's missing out on, he tells himself, i'm dressed nicely to assert dominance.

but deep down, in his heart of hearts, he knows. knows he's dressed up solely to impress jimin. only jimin.

“a-ah. you think so?” it's no use. no matter how coy he'd like to play, he turns to putty in jimin's hands. so warm and malleable. so loving and sweet. he feels a surge in pride, his chest puffing up, unwittingly so happy when he hears jimin compliment him on his outfit. (jimin even notices he’s sprayed some sweet smelling musk to go along with the bright yellows of his shirt, and gets terribly fond, irrevocably soft.)

jimin is aware that jeongguk's put in a tremendous effort today- the realization makes him feel fuzzy and warm all over. a colourful, non black outfit on top of the fact that he's tucked in his shirt; these are the two things jeongguk makes a stark adjustment to in his dressing for important events. jimin usually kills the ‘boyfriend’ look on the daily, so there's nothing new about his stunning model-like gait and the mesmerizing aura in his strut. whereas for jeongguk. his all black everything for every occasion counterpart, he's dressed up so nicely it makes jimin's heart soar. he's so touched, elated.

“jeongguk, you look like you'd be an excellent personification of your shirt.”

“uhhhhh, yellow cotton?”

“... boyfriend material.”

they both want to die.


it's definitely the boyfriend outfit today.

“hey, you better eat all of this and dessert...” everything else gets cut off, when jimin gets all short circuited. dangshin he called me dangshin he said dangshin hskdjdjhdjshghshshsh he used dangshin hng please!!! bury me! first jagi-yah and he said yeobo to make fun of me but he said dangshin as a slip of the tongue how does he expect me to survive today- HE CALLED ME DANGSHIN HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO REACT-! 911 HE SAID DANGSHIN I’M FADING-

jeongguk smiles knowingly, lips curling up in a smug grin when he sees jimin's confused and red countenance. he takes note to call jimin dangshin more often, slipping it into casual conversation just to see him react ever so endearingly.


while filming a vlog for remembrance, (jimin's idea) they buy snacks (jeongguk's idea) and pocky on the way. “jimin ssi, say ahhhhh~” and he coos at jimin like he's a baby, to which he closes his eyes and juts out his lips, almost misses it like how he misses his own straw. that's so cute wtfgshshdjdjskhdbshsb????!!!?????!!??!

“jeonggukie, ahhhhhh~” and they even do it to the poor (blushing) camera. finally, the packet is finished, and jimin opens the corn puffs, tossing them up high to catch them hands free. he even asks jeongguk to aim well, throw them towards him, to show him how good he is. he happens to crane his neck back too fast, choking on the chocolate snack.

“oh my god- jimin! jimin are you okay-” jeongguk's alarmed, patting his back and guiding him to a free seat on a public bench. “i'm sorry, are you okay? do you want water-” jimin's still sputtering, calming down with tears in his eyes, patting his chest. “‘m fine,” he coughs, “will be okay, gimme a bit-”

jeongguk sits next to him, gently stroking his back, watching him with worried eyes. “good to go, honey?” he doesn't know what compelled him to say that, but he did. handed a bottle of water with a straw, jimin breaks into the loveliest of smiles, wiping away the tears from choking so hard.

“mhm! i'm okay now, thank you.”

jeongguk mentally reminds himself to only trust himself with feeding jimin physically with his hands. no throwing or tossing stuff like grapes or popcorn. (a choking hazard!)

they forgot the camera captured the nuanced intimacy of everything.


jeongguk is designated driver since jimin has no licence. he's driving jimin home after a long week, and a long day of fun loving. many laughs. a few awkward brushes of their fingers. some hand holding. one kiss. two hugs. many photos, some polaroids.

they're talking about the day as jeongguk steers with one hand, cruising down the road until the car before them suddenly halts, and jeongguk brakes hard to prevent them from colliding. the impact causes both of them to jerk forward slightly, and his first spontaneous reaction is to hold jimin down.

“you okay, angel?” jimin can hear the worry laced in his voice, eyes frantic as he looks for any sign of hurt when the vehicle stops, having tried to beat the red light.

“i'm good, thank you.” his heart's beating so fast, because of the inertia and oh god, did jeongguk just call him angel. shit, he's the one that's supposed to be jimin's check and balance- to make sure his feelings don't spiral out of hand, go off tangent. but what exactly is he doing? does he even know how much it makes jimin feel? how much it means?

why'd you have to be so cute?

it's impossible to ignore you-

nobody says anything when jeongguk leaves his hand on jimin's thigh for the remainder of the ride, ariana grande softly playing on the radio.

just say goodnight and go.

jeongguk insists on sending him off to the doorstep, but jimin still stands facing him, not entering the passcode to the apartment. he tells jeongguk to bend down a little after seeing their reflection in each other's eyes. it's awkward, and they're both pretty sure what's about to happen, but they leave it be. jimin gives him a chaste peck on the lips, “goodnight, jeonggukie. thank you for sending me home,” it's a warm glow, a rosy hue high on his cheeks. turning quickly to hide it, about to rapidly punch in his pin to rush in to conceal his embarrassment, a firm grip on his wrist stops him.

“wait! o-one more,” jeongguk’s fingers are beckoning, telling him to come closer, before tenderly grabbing jimin's cheeks in his large (yaoi) hands. “one more, if uh, if that's okay?” they're both chewing on their lip, biting the inside of their cheek, nervous, hearts beating as one, thudding away in a unanimous echo. after all, we're just pretending, aren't we? it's all an act. we're just faking it till we make it for his chuseok event. it's modern realism. we're being practical. modernist pragmatism.

jimin can feel the heat radiating from jeongguk’s face after a small kiss on his cheek and being just mere nanometers apart, noses so close to meeting yet again; barriers of the heart let down a long time ago. “your hands are so dry,” jimin mumbles, caressing his calloused palms, cheek nuzzling into them. “is this because you work out so much? you need to take care of yourself, jeongguk-ah, or hyung will get worried you know.”

jimin's pretty, pretty eyes light up and curl into little crescents when he remembers something, temporarily leaving jeongguk and barging into his house with a hold on a minute! trailing behind to keep jeongguk company. the seconds tick pass, but jeongguk feels no irritation. or annoyance. or anything to find fault with anymore. ha, he's just sleepy, probably. nighttime has gotten him all sappy and sentimental.

“here you go,” jimin's beaming up at him ever so sweetly, gifting him a bottle of johnson’s baby hand lotion, and another lightly scented sky moringa and lavender hand cream. “i didn't have time to wrap it nicely or anything, but since you have sensitive skin i think these would be good for now! i'm sorry i tested the cream once-”

jeongguk doesn't know how else to reciprocate other than by kissing jimin softly to show his appreciation; it's strange that he feels a simple thank you isn't enough anymore, and it feels so… normal and right to be kissing jimin so randomly.

“i don't think you keep track, this is the first time you've kissed me without any initiation so… thank you?” jimin's speaking so shyly, so softly like a secret, so very bashful as his cheeks are blush pink and squished together cutely, shoulders bunched up and eyes trained on the ground.

fuck, it almost makes jeongguk want to kiss him again for no goddamn reason.

“i dunno, i just did it ‘cause i wanted to, so don't get too full of yourself, park.” his soft gaze and mellow tone begs to differ- an unreadable expression passes jimin's face, before he gives jeongguk's free hand a squeeze, smile still plastered on but shrunken by a bit. just a bit. so little that jeongguk wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't been paying such close attention to jimin these days. “thank you for walking me to the door, anyway. i hope you like the smell of the cream-” since when did running fingers through your hair look so attractive? “and please drive home safely, it's late. good night, jeongguk.”

jeongguk didn't tell him he'd love whatever fragrance it brought. jimin doesn't turn around before entering his house to see his hopeful wave of goodbye, his mumble of i’ll text you when i get home.

(however, jimin sends him a heart, thumbs up and smiley face- with the eyesmile and blushing cheeks- back, instantly after he sends a quick text to inform jimin he's reached his front door; it's an immediate read and faster than lightning speed reply; almost as if he'd been patiently waiting, and waiting.

and perhaps he still is.)


all jeongguk knows is that this semester, all tutor and tutee pairs in mathematics class have been arranged to sit beside each other, a pilot study to enhance snu’s effective learning system. all he knows is that the vital tests have been pushed back by a week, and jimin doesn't tattle on him like he usually would when he dozes off in class. instead, he feels jimin ruffle his coconut hair, and subconsciously purrs in response. he knows jimin will share or take notes for him in his stead.

he doesn't know that jimin had negotiated with miss kwak to postpone the test he's supposed to pass with flying colours (remember the 3%? tragic.) in a convincing case of not fully preparing jeongguk; he tells their teacher that he feels fully responsible for jeongguk’s promotion criteria, especially since he's been tasked to fulfil it. jeongguk's been utterly exhausted from training and preparation for sports heats in some national event. he doesn't know that when nobody’s looking, jimin kisses his hair, only when his fallen asleep. and then he blushes after, smiling to himself as he takes down notes for both of them.

he doesn't know when the bickering became all half bark and no bite, how the hand holding became instinct and inclination over the purposeful orchestration of a deliberately schemed event.


jeongguk finds himself gradually sulking when he thinks about this shower thought: even in his normal ministrations, the way jimin usually carries himself, jeongguk is convinced that jimin turns any man gay. like, he's not even kidding- even the waiter, a cashier, a man that bumps into him in a busy night market, a schoolmate; they all meet his blank gaze and start swooning for no reason. something primal inside of jeongguk wants to growl at them to stop staring like that, but by now he knows it is the jimin effect. and he absolutely knows exactly how effective that is. there's just something about jimin- even a simple hello or smile or crossing paths make you feel a certain way.

a certain type of way that jeongguk wants to, and ardently needs to suppress before it's too late.


the autumn winds come by around late august, the changing of seasons with leaves turning into warmer colours, making seoul’s nature laden landscape seem even more dreamy. the rustling of fallen leaves, the beautiful colour changes of the trees, the slight chill making everybody bundle up and wear more layers rather than shed them.

jimin's more sensitive than others, naturally, and his nose turns pink easily in the cold whilst his cheeks grow blush pink in the heat. jeongguk feels his heart throb in uneven beats, as he fumbles with the red plaid scarf in his hands. to give or not to give? when he sees jimin with his arms around himself, nose looking like it's frostbitten, he thinks he knows the answer.

“goodness. at least have the decency to hide that ugly red nose,” jeongguk grumbles in false compliance, heart beating even faster, louder in his chest as he bundles jimin with the scarf he'd bought the other day; smelling like him after spending a long contemplation period hidden away in his wardrobe. from jimin's eyes alone, he can detect surprise and bashfulness- through the demure and unassuming lens of the most expressive eyes ever. he sees jimin play with his fingers, toes pointing inward instead of his normal dancer stance of V formation. he takes his time wrapping the scarf around jimin, making sure he'll be warm. jimin bows slightly and says his thanks politely. jeongguk realises he pulls off any colour. jimin scurries away for class, fingers playing with the fringe at the end of the scarf. i hope you like it. i hope it keeps you warm.

i want it to keep you warm.

he wonders if jimin could hear his heart loudly protesting for him to say those words.


they take the ktx from seoul to busan over the chuseok golden weekend, arriving one day before the event. arriving late into the evening, jeongguk knocks out after a convenient store’s worth of dinner. he wakes up smelling seaweed soup and sees jimin wearing fuzzy yellow puppy slippers (it's called chimmy apparently) and wearing his oversized white shirt that looks so baggy on him.

he must've made some sort of noise to get jimin to turn around, beaming at him with a wink, “morning. like what you see, baby?” and he groans, typical jimin. he digresses from the rhetoric. “hyung. i thought you didn't like raw seaweed? especially the ones in stew or soup.”

“but you like it.” is all jimin replies, going back to manning the pot, making jeongguk chides himself internally for having perverse thoughts. jimin even looks good in a plain large white shirt. (you can't blame him. he'd soon find out jimin really delivers, bone(r) apple tea.) his very proportioned physique would fit so nicely in my arms- wait. what in hell was this second thought? he mutters a thanks , and proceeds to wash up lest he pull an arrestmeofficer2.0 . he steals three of jimin's rings while the latter’s busy in the kitchen, just to get back at him in playful fun.


jeongguk had mentioned to friends before that he needs someone to scold him and put him in place, someone that makes good seaweed soup and someone that reminds him to put on lip balm. only after stealing jimin's rings from his accessory box on the vanity, does he see the new packaging of a honey scrub lip balm, wrapped in ribbon. there's a memo beside it that said remember to give jeongguk.


wandering about jimin's house, he reaches the destination of the kitchen, observes the rice cooker in jimin's house has a worn out chicken sticker by the buttons. he strangely feels a deja vu as if he's seen this pot before- he remembers the large dent in the side of the pot that resembles a duck butt. maybe that batch all had dents and were on sale so most busan families had one. yeah, he faintly remembers his own rice cooker having dents too.

jimin whips up a delicious brunch omakase, when jeongguk seems to be talking to his rice cooker instead of answering his question of jajangmyun or kimbap.


after some studying and more snacks, jeongguk grows restless. they start gaming, then have dinner, then get ready for bed. this is jimin's house, empty since his parents are spending chuseok overseas. jimin always comes home whenever he can, so chuseok isn't that ‘significant’ compared to those kids that only go back to their hometown once or twice a year.

it's jimin's house, so of course he's free to come out of the bath in just his underwear. and coupled with the not so healthy thoughts of jimin in his oversized white shirt, jeongguk finds himself in a highly inappropriate situation. jeongguk hopes his expression doesn't give him away, trying to hide under the duvet. jimin had let him shower first since he was a guest. “jeonggukie, what are you doing?” shit, you idiot. think of yeontan, think of yeontan biting you, think of yeontan chasing you down-

jimin flips over the duvet, towel slipping off his hair, and then he realises why jeongguk's reacted like that. “i'm flattered i caused such a big package of commotion.”

night has fallen, and there's the sound of cicadas, occasional car horns, a bird singing. the previous sound of water running, flipping of covers, footsteps now halted. “it's n-not what you think,” jeongguk falters, sputtering, déjà vu washing over him. except this time, he's lying.

as jimin's hands trail south, reaching for the elastic of jeongguk's sweats, two hasty hands grab his wrists tightly, paired with ashamed, wide eyes. “no- don't-”

“we’re already friends at this point of time, aren't we? i'm just throwing in a couple of benefits-”

“t-the last time hyesung hyung, we- he blew me i- i came so fast and i-” his lips are wobbly, bitten white, tears glistening in his large wandrous eyes. “he laughed at me a-and i really didn't mean to-” what a mess- the most embarrassing virgin encounter that nobody even knew, park jimin was the first to know; for him to know of such a shameful thing, to see me cry! of all the people in the world-

“baby boy… jeongguk, please-”

it was so humiliating to him that jeongguk never brought it up to anyone, and the quickie that one midsummer night tryst was, was hushed into oblivion since he had some blackmail material on hand as well. an amiably parted truce.

it's strange how it's no longer a bitter feeling that jimin is the first person to be aware of it; it's more of a relief, a bottled up confession weighed down by his own shoulders now opened up, uncapped.

“but hyesung hyung said-”

“don't ever, ever bring up another man like this when i'm with you, got that?” the growl that resonates from jimin's red lips sends a shiver down his spine, eyes stinging and heavy and so utterly focused on jeongguk. his skin tingling and on fire as jimin cups his face tenderly, wipes away his tears. “i'm so sorry-” but jimin's already kissing away his tears, grabbing tissues, caressing his hair so gently jeongguk thinks he might be dreaming. he's so pretty, so gentle.

“but you're- you'll laugh if i come so fast again,” jeongguk whispers, hiccuping, refusing to meet jimin's eyes; so terribly ashamed. he's a man, he's not supposed to be- whatever he is right now in terms of physical affection, of a fucking blowjob. if he lasts less than ten seconds, it's going to be so humiliating- even worse than washing jimin's socks and underwear. “no, i won't.” jimin is so beautiful, so gentle. “i'm going to give you the suck of your life- we'll see if you ever remember any other man after this.” jeongguk's eyes look at him with worry, with a conflictive aura. scared. ambivalent.

jimin just putting his arms around him, comforting him however best he can, resting his head on jeongguk’s shoulder as a reassuring hand rubs his side. “it's really okay, jeongguk. let's go to sleep? i can always take the floor if you're uncomfortable. i think i still have a sleeping bag somewhere…”

“no, it's just- i- but i'm so sensitive, hyung-”

and also sensitive with this issue. but, but if it's you, then-

“of course, if you're uncomfortable then i'll stop. completely. i just don't want to touch um, it again if it's sensitive, it might hurt so… um. you could take care of it by yourself? the bathroom’s there, the wifi is strong here, um. i can go next door- no wait, are you loud? i can camp in the kitchen if you want. i have spare uh, clothes if you want-”

“...hyung,” jeongguk softly whines back, falling forward in embarrassment, both the tip of his nose and his concealed head a rosy flush. “you can't just say something like that…” why is he getting so shy of a sudden? it's not like he's anticipating jimin to do anything mind blowing, or become established fuckbuddies or friends with benefits; that'd only mean he'd owe jimin even more. “i don't mind if you took care of me, i just- i-”

“i see.” jimin scoots closer to him, cups his innocent face in his small hands. he's looking up at jeongguk with kind radiance, a certain sort of glow.

“i can and i will. if i hurt you or you want to stop, yell or punch me in the face or whatever, okay? do what you have to do. as an apology let me take care of you, hm? my precious guest.” he reaches down for jeongguk's sweatpants, a clear, wet patch greeting him once more as he meets an undeniably shy and embarrassed jeongguk, one hand covering his mouth. how impossibly cute- jimin has hunger in his eyes and a rampant desire to make him come undone, pun fully intended. make him melt, pliant in his hands, plaint in his mouth. sending a very, very flirtatious wink to see jeongguk go even redder, jimin clasps his hands together as if in prayer before going down. “thank you for the meal, jeonggukie.”

 

(blue balls and white ribbons, velvet walls and violent inhibitions;

glass skin, paper hearts. cherry lips, crystal eyes;  a fire surged, fragile as ice.)

he's so pretty, so gentle.

“don't you- don't you wanna put it in?” jimin asks in a quiet voice, awfully shy. both their bodies are unclothed, covered in a sheen of sweat, apart from black and white calvin klein underwear, thumbs tugging at the band of his elastic. since they've already arrived at this stage, then-

“no-” it's curt, but jeongguk doesn't know how else to respond.

“o-oh.” he's not supposed to feel crestfallen, is he? it's the expected answer, and only answer. they're not sex friends, not fuckbuddies. they're fake dating, to put it bluntly. point blank. how ridiculously stupid of him. so wilful. so wishful. “i thought m-maybe if you wanted- i thought i could-” look away, jimin. empty your mind, don't even think about it- not at all.

“it's not like that- i- um! it's me, it's not you! it's never you, i promise,” jeongguk says frantically, hands hot against jimin's skin, making him shiver. jeongguk steadies him, holds him down. it's not your fault, angel. like a lighthouse in the freight of a dark night, guiding a stranded boat to safety on an island. jimin is the sole wildflower that jeongguk finds on the deserted island- a flower he doesn't ever want to let go off, even though he knows the island is deserted and he might need to consume the flower’s nectar to stay alive. crush it, devour it. deflower it. it's an endangered, beautiful flower in the vast foliage he watches over, vows to protect at all costs. even if he wakes up and it's all a dream.

i grew a flower that couldn't be bloomed, in a dream that can't come true.

there's no desert island. there's no exotic flower. it's just him. and jimin.

if i did it with you, i'd want to make love to you, if that even sounds remotely possible; plus, it will hurt, won't it? i've searched it up before... i'd want you to be comfortable too. i'd never hurt you on purpose, jimin. i promise.

see, look, it's never you, jimin- he said so himself. what happened to your resolve? you're getting soft, getting too weak. and all for a boy! a boy that… may not ever know the truth. a boy that won't reciprocate your unrequited love.


as promised, jimin had given him the sweetest, if not most intimate gift; made the sounds coming out of his mouth even sweeter. made the memories of his first time doing something like that incredibly sweet, too.


jimin makes sure to clean up, for hygiene purposes, and so that jeongguk has the nicest experience he can have, and even gets a glass of water in case he gets thirsty, with some snack to put at the nightstand. would good night jeongguk be better, or good night jeon? the former too close, the latter too distant; he's only seen jeongguk's dick and felt it, and it's not as if they've progressed tremendously far whatsoever. it's not as if they're really boyfriends or soulmates or partners or whatever they call it. it's not as if-

“good night, jiminnie hyung.”

right- hyung and dongsaeng, under the pretext of boyfriends to rile a certain relative up at his chuseok family event, now elevated to a one night stand. right. get it together, park jimin.

“good night, jeon jeongguk.”

that's right, work and business partners. that's all.

is jeongguk an aftercare person? how much is too much? have we broken each other's boundaries? did i cross the line tonight? did i make you feel good? are you feeling okay? was that too much?

(have they already broken every listed rule from that day in may? march?)

it's soft as he tenderly caresses jeongguk's hair, ever so gently. only an obliviously blind person would think jimin was pretending to be his boyfriend. and yet the first person that came to mind fitting this criterion perfectly, was the sleeping boy his eyes had always laid on. he whispers the three forbidden words to him, after confirming jeongguk's asleep. presses a forbidden kiss to his hair, his forehead. yet another forbidden touch as he entangles their fingers together, smiling to himself- with the nobility and benevolence of a king.

he curls into jeongguk's sleeping form, trying his best to relish whatever futile warmth that would suffice, maybe, just for tonight.

 

“i love you, jeongguk.”


he'd struggled, trying his best to fight the fatigue, wanting to thank jimin for the wildest ride of his life. jimin's disappeared after wiping away all access fluids and sweat- and he can hear the rustle of plastic wrap, glass thud against the wooden nightstand; can hear the soft padding of jimin's feel against the floor as he draws close. his eyes are fighting, fighting to open- it's difficult. what should he say? what would be appropriate? thank you for eating my dick. that's crude, vulgar; jimin deserves better than that. he deserves sophistication, reverence. the best things in life.

“good night, jiminnie hyung.” the words leave his lips like an emergency drill, uttered in case he falls asleep, the endearing version altered to fit instead of a laconic hyung. he hears jimin tell him good night, jeon jeongguk, and he feels his heart pang before he shuts down and drifts off into sleep.

we were just jeon jeongguk and park jimin. that's all we ever were.

 

just two bodies lying next to each other on the same bed.

just two hearts beating not as one, but in syncopation.

 

just two shades of tender in a tug of war.


jimin is so beautiful; he comprises of a sturdy bone structure with pretty, flowy lines. little dimples in his back, the sharp dip in the v-line of his hips, the pristinely cut mandible, effortless clavicles; and yet there's an equally permanent softness, in his rosy cheeks, his fluffy hair, his soft little tummy with hibernating abs, his plump ass; born to have his presence felt. born to be a star in the making.

jeongguk wakes up in the middle of the night, hungry- true to jimin's prediction- he wakes up to them holding hands, and tries his best to gently untwine them to grab the water. jimin's face is glowing, and it's nothing largely post-coital per se. jimin after sex would probably have the grace of a madonna and the charm of an adonis; the wit of lyrical poetry like sappho, an ode to aphrodite; the intellect of coeus, sitting at the crux of the axis of heaven, around which the constellations revolved- probably of heavenly oracles too. blessed with the radiance of the sun and the cold beauty of the moon, topped with the sparkles of the stars and fluffiness of the clouds. even the thought of it was lovely and ravishing. jimin is lovely and ravishing.

he sees jimin holding his hand as he sleeps, an enchanting little sleeping beauty. he feels something in his chest tighten, windpipe constrict. “do you love me, jimin? is this and everything else you've done for me, all out of love?” there's a million other things he'd like to ask, but he's so afraid; not much of the backlash or discrimination, but more of the hurt and consequences regarding the most beautiful person in the world sleeping beside him. my little angel. “i don't know what i'm feeling, jimin. i'm so confused and unsure-” he whispers, tone soft, apprehensive, eyes ambivalent but so very honest and tender. “i hope one day i'll understand enough- i promise to make it up to you. i can't say what we are now, but i know that really like you very much, at least.” instead of bringing jimin's hands up to him, he bends forward to kiss his knuckles instead, closing in. closing in with the semblance of a bow, reminiscent of a knight pledging allegiance to his prince. he kisses the crown of jimin's head, too. the replacement of the intangible halo jimin wears.

“i love being with you, and your company- thank you... for loving me, jimin.”

i love you, too.


“i take it your aunt’s the typical ‘all men must be tall and manly’ and women must be ‘demure and soft-spoken, a domestic housewife’ archetype?” jeongguk wakes up to an already half done up jimin, looking ever so ethereal especially with his blurry just-woken-up vision. rubbing his eyes only makes jimin look more unreal. ethereal. surreal.

“yup, you got it. a whole sourpuss. my female cousin couldn't get a pixie cut or wear shorts because it was too ‘boyish’ and she opposed to it so badly like said cousin wants to break the law or something trashy.”

having risen early, jimin had even help jeongguk pack and rearrange his luggage, his suitcase from seoul that he would bring along to his house, making sure he wouldn't leave any of his things in jimin's house by accident. seeing the sunrise himself, jimin had ample time to raid his closet, eventually deciding on a white dress shirt with flowy sleeves and ribbons attached at the ends. there's even a lace sheer inside that peeps out from the exposed clavicles and dip into his chest, faint stitching of i am red with love. putting on some makeup, a choker and long dangly earrings with crystals. he wanted to go all out and wear boots with heels, but jeongguk said she wouldn't see them, so he settled with more comfortable loafers. just before leaving his house, jeongguk makes him remove the choker.

“why? i thought it would complete the look- how about a harness, then?”

absolutely not. you'd look too irresistible and my horny cousins might start drooling.”

you're all mine.

whilst driving, jimin keeps quiet the whole ride en route, nervously checking his outfit multiple times, getting distracted by every car whizzing by outside, the colour of the trees. “what's wrong?” he's so nervous he keeps fidgeting, playing with his rings, touching the ysl pendant on his neck. “worried?”

“... a little.” jeongguk continues driving, now with one hand on the steering wheel, and holds his hand with the other. “as much as i hope it will be a success, even if we screw up, it's also not that bad, i guess. thanks in advance for saying okay to this rubbish event, though. owe you one no matter the outcome.”

don't worry, love. we'll do just fine. i promise. hyung’s a good actor, remember?


after introducing jimin to his mother, jeongguk eagerly congratulates his brother on his engagement to his girlfriend, and goes to extend his greetings. meanwhile, jimin bustles his way to the kitchen to assist his mother.

“mrs jeon, do you need any help-”

“oh yes please, you could help by moving the samgye-! why, wait- pocky? is that- is that really you?” she exclaims, in pleasant surprise, peeping to check if jeongguk is within earshot. jimin gets his cheeks pinched, and the resultant smile is a beautiful dewy afterglow. “ah. so you remember me, mrs jeon?”

“of course i do! the kids called you meonji, and your mother was a such delightful lady! we still kept in touch for a bit after moving to seoul- oh my, you've really grown up! how is she doing? to think you'd end up with my spoilt brat of a son, of all people-”

“mrs jeon…  it's not like that,” jimin blushes, briefly telling her the premises of coming here, and how jeongguk really doesn't have any clue about their past. “you really changed and grew up so well, and auntie is just fine! we don't need so much formality. mrs jeon makes me sound so old!” jeongguk's mom tells him kindly, patting her wrinkles, “but your smile never changed. i think that's what clicked- you still resemble a toy pomeranian, so cute. if only our jeongguk was half as good...”

jeongguk frowns as he partially tries to eavesdrop, mid conversation with his brother, straining his ears. how come his mom is so chummy with jimin when they've only just met? pinching jimin's cheeks like he's the son in this household. dust particles? toy dog? changed? grew up so well? half as good? just what exactly was this gibberish his mother was saying? then again, he couldn't hear that well since it was a discreet conversation; maybe it's true that jimin's really good at handling people, particularly adults- the nasty rumours regarding his grades were of course, spurred on by how close he was with his professors and lecturers, regardless of gender. it makes jeongguk frown in distaste. sex for grades was definitely out of the question, a disgusting allegation, but his mom? why do they seem so familiar- yeah, jimin is from busan and all that, but it's as if they've met again after a long, long time.

“do you need help in the kitchen?” he's already rolling up his sleeves as jeongguk's mom instructs him to bring out the japchae, scoop up more of the banchan into sharing platters.

jimin's actually quite manly… should be an ideal husband, to the general public, at least.

“please send your parents my regards, jimin-ah. they raised you so well. meanwhile i've still got an immature brat on my hands…” jeongguk's managed to worm his way in, in need of a drink.

“mom! that's mean! you can't just pick on me alone~ hyung’s here too, you have to pick on him too-”

(too bad, jeongguk didn't manage to find out what they were talking about.)


“oh wow, would you look at that- every chuseok reunion’s social recluse has brought a plus one! damn, jeongguk,” his cousin wolf whistles, checking jimin out, “you managed to score a trophy boyfriend this time eh?”

“shut up-”

“all your boy toy probably knows is how to play house and dress up after moani-”

“for the record, jeon beomchul, all your nine fucking ex girlfriends combined couldn't even come close to jimin’s pinky finger. also, you're a total piece of shit.”

“whoa there- what are you getting so worked up for, huh, faggot? look at where you are before you talk, loner! took you so long- what, a decade? - just to find one pathetic fuckboy to fuel your disgusting homosexual fantasies . ew, i feel so goddamn sorry for you.”

“and i don't fucking think about you at all. jimin and i are doing wonderful. and he's perfect for me. so sit your heterosexual ass down and kindly shut the fuck up.”

the way he clapped back so naturally, so in your face and presumably unbothered somehow rolled off his tongue without missing a beat. as he stomps off to find jimin, a particular phrase just refuses to get out of his mind, looping like a broken replay button; where did that confidence and boldness in supposed truth even come from?

“and he's perfect for me.”

more relatives come swarming in, family by family, and the dishes that get served out one at a time (to ensure freshness) amid formalities and idle talk cause jimin and jeongguk to drift, each busy in their own worlds, be it entertaining others, helping out with the plating, catching up with cousins. eventually, they find their way back.

“i heard parts of the commotion just now,” jimin whispers, after both of them have piled away with the food, slinking into a comfortable corner with soft chairs. “are you feeling okay, jeongguk? i never knew how, uh, insular some of your relatives were. i hope, um- beomchul? is that his name?- doesn't give you shit for this anymore. he seems like a complete douchebag...”

“just say narrow minded and chauvinistic. ‘s fine,” jeongguk grumbles back, pork and lettuce stuffed into his cheeks, “they've been dicks for so long. glad i finally had a reason to fight back,”

“but i don't want anyone to have any misgivings about you, guk- they can say whatever they want about me, but for you-

“i don't care.” the frown on his face tells jimin otherwise, and so the elder scoots in closer, letting their shoulders bump and thighs touch to let jeongguk know he's not alone. “thanks, anyway. i seriously owe you one, park.”

“hey, we're supposed to be boyfriends,” jimin pouts, scrunching his nose, as his chopsticks deposit extra slices of meat he'd taken for his boyfriend. “at least say hyung, brat, it's not that hard-” it makes jeongguk smile, just a little, and he scrunches his nose back, returning jimin with sheepish vegetables.

“okay, tiny hyung. thank you.”

(only the facebook photos his mother uploads a week later would tell him he'd been grinning full bunny smile at jimin the entire time, whenever they were together. needless to say, jimin looked flawless in every candid as well- he was best dressed, jeongguk will give him that.)


“and where do you see yourself in 10 years, jeongguk's friend?”

jimin's pretty sure his relatives just want to find any plausible excuse to break them up, insult jeongguk’s sexual preferences- in a typical asian prospectus, if he were an arts student, he'd be condemned with ‘no career prospects’. if he were a science student and not at the top, he'd be labelled ‘unbecoming’, ‘not good enough’. if he were to be ambitious and have his life mapped out, it would be deemed arrogance; if he said he had no plans and would play along with whatever panned out, they'd call him a dreamer, a good for nothing. anything could be an excuse or a flaw, if you wanted it to be.

(plus, he finally understands why jeongguk asked him to skip the choker after seeing some of his crass younger cousins, flirting as if for a cheap hour, a cheap thrill, regardless of gender. jimin serves them backhanded comments on a plastic platter before excusing himself. maybe he should've worn the harness to mess with them.)

yet, to think his genuine answer would roll off his tongue so naturally that even thinking of a snarky comment would be unnecessary.

“i'll still be in love with jeongguk.”

it is but the truth- merely untold to the byronic hero of jimin's romance arc.

aunt seohee has nothing else to say (she's fuming after jimin's innocent reply left her spouse dumbfounded) other than mutter under her breath that the devil has planted this gay disease in jeongguk, making him spread these ‘satanic germs’ to other men. how uncouth and ignorant. jimin just pretends to step on her feet pettily, since jeongguk works out harder than the devil himself, anyway. required an exorcism his ass.


when jimin goes there, he makes sure to play the part to perfection- and he's pretty sure over a few glasses of champagne he's successfully seduced both his cousin and rich girlfriend in question. take that, jeongguk's homophobic wrinkly raisin aunt with small clit energy!

jimin gets a little tipsy with the never ending makgeolli and soju and beer available, ever so touchy (not that jeongguk's complaining) when he's playing the part perfectly to look ever so convincing. jimin's head perpetually lies on his shoulder when seated at the dinner table, fluffy hair tickling his neck, and when he looks up with a supposed-to-be-fake but somehow-looked-oddly-beautiful-and-genuine smile, his lips are so fucking close to kissing jeongguk. his cheek or jaw or whatever. lips on skin. just so damn close, making their heartbeats strung taut like livewire. and his stupidly cute tiny baby hands roaming across his chest just to subtly mark territory, drawing invisible hearts all over his chest and playfully grazing past two particular sensitive spots to tease him when nobody was looking. it makes jeongguk's heart palpitate even faster, even when they've deviated to a corner, inhaling the warm natural scent of jimin, mingled with the fruity shampoo and the light spray of cologne he spritzed earlier on. he's pretty sure jimin can feel his heartbeat when his hand lingers and burns his skin.

jeongguk nearly snaps when the attached cousins all try to make small talk with jimin, some protectively holding him by the waist and guiding him away, especially in tactless topics like how do guys have sex anyway? bunch of hypocritical prudes. it's obvious the way the place is segregated from the two of them, some of the conservative and close minded adults touchy about the topic of sexuality apart from a heterosexual relationship, thinking being gay is a disease- and those who were infected were ‘disgusting and rotten children’ and sinners that could not be forgiven. see you in hell, relatives.

heading to the kitchen together to fetch more plates and get the remaining stew, jeongguk sees her approaching. shit, think fast, guk! be quick, it's your chance-

“quick- hurry, jimin, kiss me-” his collar automatically gets exposed, showing off the fresh lovebites that were planted as red herrings. jimin tastes like peach flavoured soju and the spicy chicken he'd just eaten, both of them putting in extra effort to make just a little more noise than necessary, moaning and sucking, making wet wanton noises, but out of earshot save for people blindly stumbling into the kitchen. sure enough his prey walks in on them, as they're busy in each other's arms, and starts cursing. “these fucking gay faggots-!” were her words, and jimin catches the disgruntled murmuring about aids and herpes and rolls his eyes as jeongguk releases his wet bottom lip with a pop.

“t-thanks.”

they're both grinning stupidly, so out of breath, and jimin's lips are so plump and red and deliciously addictive that he doesn't know how he's going to explain if they go back now; i am red with love. he's dizzy, and they're both very red in the face as well, and jeongguk decides to open some cans of chilled oolong tea from the fridge in hopes of relieving the, you know, heat.

judging by how much each of them are blushing, they're both probably not thinking straight. oh, not at all.


jeongguk discovers that unlike their ‘couple fights’ and senseless arguments in school, jimin is a polite, sweet boy. they stay a little longer even after the rest of the extended jeon family leave or get chased out, and jeongguk takes jimin to his room, where they have a mini champagne party to celebrate, cheers to a successful day. jimin is so delightfully radiant when he smiles in bliss, giggles like it's the sound of a precious angel being born. he gets drunk, drunk enough to facetime jeongguk when they're just one square foldable table apart on the parquet floor.

night soon falls, and jeongguk has to take him home. they drive in peace, jimin singing along to the radio’s kpop jams in aegyo mode, until they arrive at his house. he gets out of the car, but refuses to leave jeongguk's arms, continuing to hold hands, squishing his cheeks in protest against jeongguk's chest.

“nooooooo! d-don't wanna go home!” he kisses jeongguk sloppily while drunk, so tipsy, as jeongguk just stares back. blank. it's suddenly so awkward even though just hours ago, they had successfully recreated some steamy mess in the kitchen- and yet something feels so presaged. like they've built a house made of cards with them inside, instead of a concrete and safe one to protect, to nurture. they duck when a faint strike of lightning streaks the sky, a roll of thunder following in the distance.

he feels like he should do something, anything at all to reciprocate; but his body refuses to comply, and he's frozen, like he'd looked into the eyes of medusa- except that jimin was so much more beautiful up close.

when jimin looks back into his glazed eyes, staring dazed into them for god knows how long. then something finally clicks, in that fraction of a second that felt like eternity.

“i'm- i’m so sorry- ” is all he can choke out, eyes moistening, stepping back cautiously and he almost trips. almost like he's burnt his hand after playing with matches. a paper heart he'd folded and hidden away but still ended up charred. burnt to nothing. it's instinct now for jeongguk to want to catch him to break his fall, but jimin doesn't need him; not anymore. he's steadied himself on his own two feet after staggering back three more- jeongguk barely grabs anything, but manages to grasp two of his fingers.

it starts to drizzle, as if the rain knew their predicament and wanted to comfort them. wanted to either bring them closer or pull them apart, like some dramatic irony.

he doesn't know if it's the alcohol or his wholehearted feelings; and he shakes his head, as if a silent plea for jeongguk to release him of his invisible, enamouring hold; i never knew we had matching forehead and neck moles- or am i just drunk and hallucinating? is this a dream but jeongguk comes in closer, one step, two, three- and kisses jimin in the rain. so gently, and so very softly as if he were experimenting, playing with fire; as if afraid that one extra shred of a paper heart would cause an irreversible explosion, the remnants whisked into the inferno. irreversibly singed. “you promised- but you never did-”

“what do you mean?” jeongguk retorts, infinitely perplexed, the pelts of rainwater drenching them. two souls connected just by the touch of the tips of a finger. “i promised what? we did everything we said we would? what do you-” what is jimin talking about? it's not like he violated or went hard against any of the terms they listed down together. that's right, together. the rain gets louder, forcing them to speak up to be heard. 

“let's break up,” jimin swallows, lips pressed tightly together to stop them from quivering. the rain is so cold, and it enshrouds them in loneliness, vastness, painful longing. makes it more apparent that they're being wedged apart, the harsh pitter patter of rain making their sight of the other hazy. an illusion. “oh wait, we can't break up if we were never together-” i'm an idiot, that's what i am. just a fool for you. i'm so, so stupid- it's unrequited, jimin. go home! leave! just go! 

“jimin-” how could you say that? we did so much together- as pretend boyfriends, i know, but still-! “what are you talking about! i know it's over, but-” 

“you're right. it's over.” there's a wistful smile on his face, their shirts now see through, but the wearer’s heart not transparent; hair matted down by water and gravity, but a heart filled with longing would always float adrift. maybe it isn't a drizzle or a shower, but a thunderstorm, a lasting downpour. 

it feels even sadder because it's supposed to be romantic in the rain, isn't it?

“jimin, look at me-” tell me you never felt anything at all, then i'll believe-  

“you never remembered-” jimin comes close to him once more, bodies separated by two wet pieces of cloth pressed together for the last time. he feels the wet tears down jimin's face stain his shirt, the rain immune and immiscible- his tears a heavyweight pulling them both down, together, made even heavier in tandem with the cloudburst.

 

“i love you.”

 

it's a whisper that's barely audible amidst the heavy downpour; a hushed caress waved aside and swept away in the form of profuse tears from the clouds.

he doesn't know if it's the alcohol or his wholehearted feelings; but when they pull apart jimin's eyes are so pretty and he looks like a deer in the headlights, red lips plump and swollen, earrings dangling as he continues to shake his head, fumbles to get into his apartment. you stared at my rice cooker, and i thought you remembered-

the funny thing is, jeongguk didn't drink a single drop of alcohol.


that was saturday night.

today was late sunday morning. there were so many questions jeongguk had been dying to ask, to say- did you catch a cold? did you bundle up? did i make you cry more? i hope you managed to fall asleep. i wish i could've held you then; jimin, what did you mean?

jimin, jimin, jimin.

he subconsciously leads himself to loiter around jimin's apartment, wanting to ask him about last night. there are so many burning questions on the tip of his tongue; but jimin keeps his shoe rack and sneakers inside, so he doesn't exactly have a clear indicator whether he's out or at home- and he doesn't want to call, since it's on his part that he's pressing the matter, and jimin's not at all obliged to respond. after hesitating for so long, he gingerly presses the doorbell. no answer. 

he waits for two minutes, rings again- nope. right, jimin must be busy- he's always on the go, going for classes, volunteering for charity work, busy studying. of course jimin wouldn't be at home, it was just his wishful thinking;  like it was a novel and the main characters had finally reached the climax of a confrontation in the rain, and ended up together by a deus ex machina. that's bullshit, the thinks, it's for the ratings and to pander to the masses. real life doesn't work like that.  

we can't all behave like people in a novel, can we?

he leaves, after hovering around for a bit longer, just in case he ‘coincidentally’ bumps into jimin, who's coming back from, say maybe a jog or the bakery shop or something. but who is he kidding? maybe jimin doesn't even remember what went down last night. he'd mentioned before that his memories are vague when he gets too tipsy.

it takes three seconds for jimin to take a deep breath and wipe his clammy hands on his shirt, another five minutes for him to open the door. the vague fragments, the guilt, the worry, the anxiety; one peek through the peephole had made him hesitate, his heart jump- long enough to drive jeongguk away. 

“sorry t-” 

sorry to have kept you waiting.  

jeongguk's already gone. gone before jimin could even explain that he took a little too long to put on a nicer jumper and spray some orange blossom cologne. maybe he'd said something wrong yesterday.


on his way to the train station, jeongguk can feel his eyes moistening, lips bitten sore. even the vending machine mocks him when his banana milk doesn't drop down, and he kicks the old machine, punches it for good measure. out comes his banana milk, with an additional can of coffee rolling down as if the machine was comforting him, saying sorry. jeongguk pats the metal side of the dispensary, hugging it as he leans his head on the display of cans, attracting weird stares. he couldn't care less. not at this point, anyway.

i'm sorry i couldn't wait for you, much less wait on you. 

(the coffee dispensed had fatefully happened to be jimin's go to order at every beverage vending machine. his favourite creamy latte.)


it's almost evening when he gets home, listless, his mother busy cleaning up after having some other neighbours over for a chuseok luncheon.

“guk-ah! i found one of your old photo albums while finding some decorative plates in the storage- you should take a look. no wonder why i found jimin-ah to be familiar.”

there's a photo of him and jimin, in the sandpit, jimin squatting in a black parka. a photo of jeongguk swinging the merry go round too fast with a tiny jimin spotted at the base of the shortest slide that the kids had called lame, as it wasn't the cool long spiral ones. a photo of jeongguk having climbed to the top of the expansive obstacle course structure, wearing his ‘king of the playground’ sash the other kids made for him. in the background he spies a little boy carrying the inner lid of the rice cooker pot, new to the busan estate.

and there's one last picture, of jeongguk conquering the monkey bars like a pro, while one boy stares at him, waiting for him at the seesaw.


the dreaded monday looms over, phasing into the next day; jimin had a whole afternoon and night to ponder over his actions, all a mere haze, clouded by foggy memories of hugging and so much rain, them getting drenched. i remember jeongguk drove me home safely. but the deal is done, and prior to acceptance of the deal, jimin had promised himself to let go after it was complete. he goes around with his normal schedule, acting like nothing significant happened during the long weekend, slipping back to his usual bubbly self.

did that really not mean anything? as usual, jeongguk spots him from afar, a finely tuned talent now. a part of him sinks, heart beating so slowly, crestfallen. does he not remember? what was he doing… jeongguk came to the conclusion that he was an idiot: if jimin could be such a splendid actor in front of all his relatives, then it made complete sense that what they had between them was never love, right?


“do you know where my jimin ssi-” it rolls off so naturally, the way darling, my boyfriend, angel princess, threatens to spill from his lips in relation to words synonymous with one man. “i mean- do you know where park jimin is?”

“did something happen with you and guk? he's been sullen and moping about these days…”

“huh? what happened to my baby-?” wait, jeongguk isn't his, what is he even talking about? never been his, never will be; just a sham relationship that got enacted so well, staged as melodramatic and a perfect rerun of a kdrama. he's not mine- overgrown and like a huge baby, yes; but he's not my baby. “sorry- i wanted to ask what happened to jeon, but i think... i don't want to know any more. please excuse me,”


the campus was limited to a finite amount of space, so without a doubt they were bound to meet again. just a matter of when. they cross paths again later than expected, having the time to internalize, ruminate, cogitate. long enough for the tension to be sliced, but too short to let everything pass. long enough for the red string of fate to be cut, but too short for them to give up and throw their half of the string away.

“um, jimin hyung?”

“sorry, is this important? my time is precious, jeon, and i have a couple assignments-” jimin feigns indifference, trying his best to set up an annoyed countenance. it's probably not working.

i'm lying. i'd set aside all the time in the world for you.

“it's about us.” 

what do you mean, ‘us’? we were never meant to be, jeongguk. it's just you and i. no ‘us’.

jimin acquiesces, frowning. “make it quick.”

“do you remember what happened on saturday?” jimin acts cool and normal on the outside, but panics on the inside. he throws in a nonchalant shrug. “not really, why? we pulled it off, didn't we?”

“oh…” why are his shoulders drooping? his eyes so lacklustre? his eye bags look horrendous. “so you were completely unaware of what you did?”

“uh, i guess?”

“you kissed me.” jeongguk blurts. you kissed me and i never wanted it to end.

“so. was i a good kisser then? did it re-emphasise once again, the big gay energy you radiate?” fake it, jimin. put on a smile, jimin. play dumb, jimin. don't let it show, jimin.

“jimin, please! i'm trying to be serious-” why are you pushing me away? do you really not care? why-

“it's hyung to you, jeon. and also, five minutes is up. goodbye!”

do you not want an ‘us’ anymore?

it's the second time jeongguk's been left hanging.

but he doesn't see jimin leave with his plush lips bitten tightly between his teeth, eyes full of resolve.

don't cry, jimin. forget him, jimin. don't look back, jimin.

the memories don't flood back immediately, but more like a viscous trickle through the remnants of the stifling day.

perhaps he never remembered.

 

jeongguk shed some tears that day. the first time in almost a year.


“everyone, a new kid!”

he was spotted standing by the unloading van with his parents, he was a five year old holding the inner pot of the rice cooker since he had been adamant in helping to move house. the other kids at the playground were shouting and calling him over to join them, to which the small boy nodded in the distance. he gets queried on his age, what shows he likes, and whether he likes to play hopscotch and leapfrog; as he was the new kid, he didn't know that the lines drawn in the sand would indicate the king of the playground’s designated area of the week- those who wished to enter had to say the password and ask for permission, or they would be punished. 

originally, the king of the playground was chosen every week by who won at marbles, fighting spiders, or competing to see who reached the top of the rope dome structure first. however, a boy named jeongguk was always physically active and much faster than the rest of them despite a younger age- so they devised the territory cordons since he always won anyway, and it wasn't fun if things stayed the same. the girls mostly played with their dolls and cooking sets in the corner, the less muddy and drier side to the boys, since they would get rowdy and tease them by scooping sand into their pots of toy vegetables and ‘chicken stew’ in wicked fun. 

“m-my name is jimin,” the small boy had said after the neighbourhood children fawned over him, and he revealed he was older than most of them, but ended up smaller in physique. some called him rice cooker boy, others pocky or meonji, since he resembled the toy puppy that was the latest fad, and was lightweight and tiny like a dust particle. initially, he was very welcome, invited to play marbles with them, and share their toy cars and trucks. but after finding out he was a proper mannered mommy’s boy, the other boys started to distance from him. he was very much welcome to play with the girls, but he felt out of place since they liked to play house and dress up, instead of sandcastles and cops and robbers. the boys liked dinosaurs too, but more for the scare factor and to prank the girls, while jimin thought dinosaurs were cool and wanted to know interesting facts about them. 

there comes a cloudy sunday afternoon, the usual day for all the children to gather- but many failed to turn up since the weather didn't look good, parents forbidding them to go outside. only the tougher boys came out to play. jimin had unknowingly sat at the seesaw, waiting for a companion, unaware there was a line drawn. he'd almost never been invited to any playing of soldiers or knights, so he didn't know the rules. 

“he's so small!” the chorus of laments buzz, “and he thinks he can steal the king’s area! we must protect the king! whoever sits with him at the seesaw must marry him, since he broke the rules- he must be spanked!” 

“please, i never- ” jimin can only watch on with wide eyes as his plea falls on deaf ears, labelled as ‘no fun’ since he wouldn't play rough with them, always asking for permission to sit on the swings or slide first- a goody two shoes, while the other boys all rambunctiously yelled and tussled with each other, getting down and dirty. they'd planned on charging at him to deliver him as captor to the king- but with short attention spans, jimin was quickly forgotten, watching the other boys soon switching to play pretend-pirates, looking for treasure in the expansive pirate ship-like installation with high swirly slides. even when rice cooker boy plays on the swings, he's happy with swinging in the breeze, tiny dinosaur squeaky shoes lifted above ground- while the other boys are all about who can reach higher heights, who can kick off their sandals and slippers a further distance while swinging. 

rice cooker boy was different.

“i like puppy. i wanna play on the seesaw.” the king had spoken, and jimin felt a sense of liberation. acceptance; if the king said an order, every other opinion would be vetoed, right? it was the first time another boy had wanted to sit with him on he seesaw. jeongguk had played with him even though he was usually left alone, playing hopscotch or jump rope by himself. or catching stones if the girls would let him borrow- that's how he got so good at it.

“w-will you promise to play with me on the merry go round next week?” jimin asks sticking out his last finger, eyes fraught with worry, since it would be his first time playing with the more ‘dangerous’ parts of the playground equipment. the boys went as fast as they could on the merry go rounds until the got so dizzy.

“yeah!” jeongguk pinky promises him, enthusiastically nodding until the paper crown from burger king falls off his head. “see you, rice cooker boy!”

jimin had never felt so relieved and excited, in his whole six years. 

“hey! jeongguk! weren't you hanging around with tiny pocky that day? i think he's waiting for you-” his knight of the day reports, pointing at jimin as jeongguk ascends the monkey bars.

“nah, i was bored, i love climbing and playing in the treehouse more!”

 

and jimin waits-

 

and waits

 

and waits.

then he grows up, and moves to seoul. the king of the playground had already moved out, but he never budged from the home that jimin built for him, deep in the recesses of his heart.


jeonggukie, you didn't know my wildly beating heart wrote you a letter when i was six or so, did you? i wrote you a poem in my shaky beginner level hangul, in blue and yellow crayons. i still remember: i drew a photo of us holding hands, sitting on the seesaw. you gave me flowers in the picture, and i gave you my favourite dinosaur toy. i was still naïve and not that great at sentences, because i got shy easily- and being smaller than average, it was difficult to make playfriends. you were so active and loud and adorable and when i saw you it was so difficult to even say anything.

i held my letter, in secret, waiting to give it to you. i hid it in my pocket and waited for you, every sunday. i would wait at the merry go round ride that you promised, then sit at the seesaw when i got chased away by the bigger rambunctious boys.

i didn't know my mother was busy and had forgotten to tell me you already moved to seoul.

i crushed it and threw the letter away before anyone could find out, embarrassed and disappointed and upset and ashamed. liking another boy is wrong and weird, isn't it? it's the only secret i've ever kept. i started school and didn't go to the playground again, until my last day in busan as a teenager, before i moved to seoul as well.

 

i remember that i sat on the seesaw, and

i thought about you for a long, long time.


as it should rightfully end, the rehearsed breakup reaches the ears of their close friends first, but more as a shameful secret rather than a victorious grand slam. not at all a smug “ha! fooled you!”  with an elaborate recount of their triumphant melodrama, but a quietened, “yeah. we were kinda never together since the start.”


“why you sad?” namjoon asks, when jeongguk politely stands at a distance from his cubicle in the study room, face sullen, not sure if he's making the right decisions.

deciding idk nan molla (reference to a pop culture meme) isn't the best way to respond, jeongguk plops down in the seat besides namjoon. the fact that the latter put down his book (kafka) meant that jeongguk was priority; and his heart is racing ever so rapidly. he wonders if it's because of the person beside him, or the person he's about to bring up.

“why the face? you're definitely not okay. you need some advice, don't you.” jeongguk nods, biting his cheeks, plucking baby hairs on his chin.

“hyung, can i ask you a question?”

“sure.”

“how do you know if you like someone?”

“is this... about jimin?”

he goes silent, only the hum of the air conditioning there to buy him time. “it's not,” he lies, large eyes not able to meet namjoon's, and he knows both of them know it's a false truth. “not everything is about him…”

“if you say so. why the sudden question? i thought you recently uh. ‘broke up’ or something?” he uses his fingers to gesture quotation marks, over the course of the year they'd gotten so close- to say the school had been bamboozled would be too far a reach. jeongguk makes no reply, so namjoon carries on.

“the person you have in mind is male, i take it?” jeongguk nods. “is he still single?”

“he kinda has this ‘it's complicated’ relationship with another guy, so…”

“man, that sucks,” namjoon says, “but at least you know he's good with men, so you're down pat for that aspect.” the wetting of his lips, soft exhalation of his breathing. “and what exactly makes you suspect you like him? why are you confused about it?” namjoon's voice is so soothing, but jeongguk imagines that if it were jimin, he'd be holding his hands ever so tenderly, with softened eyes and a mellowed voice. the comforting, consoling voice only jimin possessed.

“my heart just hurts sometimes when i think of him.” jeongguk's lips are trembling, and he doesn't even know why. “i think of him ending with another guy and- and i don't like it-!” it's too late. a tear falls, then another.

and another.

“i'm so sorry to hear that,” rubbing his back, namjoon tries to his sleeves to absorb the tears. he doesn't know where his tissues went. “i don't even know why i'm crying, hyung-”

“shh, it's okay- would you like a hug?”

jeongguk nods, receiving a hearty embrace. if jimin were here, he'd enter into a warm embrace, soak away all jeongguk's sadness, take away all his pain. jimin's hugs are pure magic.“‘s just so weird, ‘nd i dunno why i'm feeling like this, i don't even think- we don't have any purposeful interactions anymore, i- i don't know-”

oh, jeongguk, you're in love with jimin- how'd you only realise now?

“so. jeongguk. what are the first few things you think of when someone says his name, or refers to him? you don't have to give me a concrete answer though, this is just a guide for you to reflect...” namjoon's voice drones out, replaced by his own thoughts. jimin is very pretty. a present fairy. observant. a blushing, nodding mochi. cares a lot and very detailed. jimin is kind, he likes animals. jimin is my boyfr-

“i presume you know what track to carry on from..?” namjoon's warm hand on his arm allows him to drift back to reality. “uhm! y-yes…” it's strange. jimin is my boyfriend. how did that come about? it's not like anything was that real, right? just a deal to piss his aunt off after blurting his name, in exchange for a favour that jimin still keeps- but why does his chest painfully constrict the more he thinks about it? why does his heart hurt? this cannot be it-

“you should know that everything goes- eventually, for sure, definitely. some things are just a phase, they come and go; but if you want it to stay, you can. there's a poem named invictus, but william ernest henley- it says ‘i am the master of my own fate.’ but of course, you could also go down nietzsche's route of amor fati- to come to love your own fate.”

jimin is a fairy. an angel. he's kind, very soft, and so, so sweet. so precious. he fits nicely in my arms. he's caring. tender. he's so pretty, so gentle.

there's only one way to find out. maybe he's attracted to all nice, gentlemanly men once he gets to know them better? that sounds shitty when strung into a sentence, but his brain urges him to go for it, as if it would be a very strong testament to a burning question he always knew the answer to. 

jimin is strong. he's very attractive. oh so beautiful. quite innocent? has very cute toes. a blinding smile. likes holding hands. always tripping. cute nose scrunch when confused. always runs fingers through floofy hair. likes touching his bangs a lot. jimin is a good boyfriend, would be a great husband.

“do you feel better now?”

“if i'm asking for um. a small favour… and it will make me instantly better, will you say okay?” his cheeks are flaring, heart starting once more.

“if it's not anything immoral or unethical, it's okay, i guess?”

“can i still give you a kiss?” jeongguk squeaks, enlightened but still shy, watching his crush of years peering back at him with curious eyes. “it's just a kiss on the forehead! sorry if you or your partner if there is one isn't okay-”

“... just one i guess. you better do it quick-”

he wastes no time in sprinting over to stand behind him, bashfully tipping forward to plant a forehead kiss. namjoon gets so flustered seeing jeongguk being all awestruck, so pink unlike his sturdy and headstrong personality around people. it's late and the self study room is much quieter, most students gone home or out for dinner.

“why me, though. you could've asked jim-”

“because i liked you when i was younger-!” jeongguk bursts out saying in one second, glad to get it out of his system, but also squeezing his eyes shut for fear of a disapproving or disgusted face.

“guk?”

“um, yeah?”

“i'm flattered, i never knew-”

“i know. but you were always looking at yoongi hyung. i knew i never had a chance.”

“... you knew?” there's a wistful smile on namjoon's face, the perfect dimples showing. “but he's with seok now. happy for them.” i have to be. “so i know how you feel, trust me. i'm glad you opened up about it. proud of you.”

jeongguk dives in for another hug, this time with more emotion resonated, silence that was comforting.

“but enough of me. while i do understand that not everything is about your favourite park jimin-”

“he's- he’s not my favourite!”

“casual observations, but jeongguk, why do you always call him shortass, dumbass, stupidass? i think the second syllable is… an introspective vantage point into what's really in your heart?” namjoon ignores his little sulk, keeps going with a knowing smile. “there's still love that stems from hate- you do realise that you like seeing jimin steal and wear your clothes, right? i don't know if you've noticed, but whenever someone around your build approaches jimin with a friendly smile, you automatically get sent into defensive alpha mode. you literally start glaring daggers, and your chest puffs up; jimin ends up attached to your hand super glued around his waist.”

“... a-ah, do i really do that?” it's a soft murmur, a tiny smile that graces his lips, a sheepish running of his hands through his hair. it's a jiminism he's picked up.

“there's a famous saying that goes ‘if you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours- and if they don't, they never were.’ but take my word, jeongguk- if you love someone, don't let them go. no matter what it takes.”

don't let jimin go, you idiot.

listening to namjoon speak makes him feel all philosophical and enlightened, lighter than before. “thanks hyung, i'll treat you to coffee one day!”

“no problem, kid. hope to see you and your boy together at the end, whoever the boy is.”

jimin will be waiting for you at the end of the road, jeongguk. trust me.


“yoonseokjin hyungs!” jimin sniffs, entering their room, “did you- did you all see the video-” someone circulated a looped video of jeongguk kissing namjoon’s forehead, and it's even been submitted onto the snu confessions page. it's horrible. a complete nightmare for jimin. like a lost puppy, jimin clambers into their bed with sobs, seokjin giving him a big, big hug. by now, probably only social recluses wouldn't have seen the video. it's gone viral for the students, namjoon being one of the boys most people respected, someone many had started to crush on after his first year’s valedictorian speech.

it seems like hoseok’s out on errands, since he's usually sneaking in to spend time with yoongi, who's always cooped up in the room. “sorry, small seok is busy, big seok will have to do for now,” seokjin pats his head. “does jeongguk know..?”

“it's stupid… he still! he doesn't even know… i know i said i would be over him, but i love him, hyungs, and i don't know what to do-” jimin cries, causing yoongi to walk across half the room (a rare feat for someone that isn't his boyfriend) just for more cuddles. they're stuck like a sandwich, size wise overpowered by the bread (seokjin) followed by two mini layers of ingredients (jimin, yoongi) or jam. more like a thick shibuya toast with cream and honey. most of jimin’s belongings have been collected and transported back into this original room of his, thanks to seokjin. “do you want to eat a home cooked meal?” jimin always finds comfort in the concept of a home.

“y-yes please,” he says softly, blowing his nose, the video still playing in his head. “and namjoon hyung was the person he liked first and now he's with him, i just- it's not fair, hyungs! i love him, i really do…”

“we're sorry to hear it too, our dear jimin...”

yoongi helps to cook him tonkatsu, while seokjin makes him mochi and tiramisu, to welcome him back into their shared room. tira-miss-u so mochi. it gets jimin to laugh for the first time in a long while. he lies in bed that night, seeing the retweets, likes and comments escalating on the post, feels his heart all heavy and about to topple, spill over, filled to the brim with quiet endurance.

“perhaps it's for the betterment of both of us.”


the table arrangements have changed to single desks at yet another rotation, miss kwak having been promoted to a higher year's class. the only thing that keeps jimin bound to jeongguk is mathematics. and even so, he's fulfilled the promotion criteria, got above 90% for the final test. jimin's job has been done. winter break will be here soon- if only he could endure it, just hang in there a bit more. while he staunchly tries to avoid jeongguk like the plague, the latter is unfazed and insistent on pestering him, chasing him down to no end. jeongguk had literally ran after him once, until being stopped by a teacher. jimin almost felt sorry and stopped to turn back and ask if he was alright, but willed himself not to. he can't give in at this point. 

jeongguk doesn’t understand- jimin used to have this glorious smile whenever he was announced as first in class, full of gratification and self-satisfaction. now, it’s a mere hollow nod of acknowledgement, the only thing derived out of it and A on his progress report. on the contrary, it’s jeongguk that feels a warm surge of pride. for jimin. he works so hard, it’s what he deserves. park jimin did that, and his title is well earned. he can’t help but feel happy, all tingly as a genuine smile finds its way to his lips. but jimin has never smiled at him again, ever since that fateful day. even if he does attempt a smile jeongguk’s way, it’s artificial, fake. forced.

“i'm sorry jeon, i'm not free-”

“jimin oppa! it's your turn to consult mr kang!”

“ah, yes, thank you!” shooting an apologetic glance at jeongguk, he scurries his way out urgently with some worksheets and his pencil box, leaving jeongguk to wait with his satchel and other belongings. twenty minutes fly by, jeongguk having caught up with all his instagram and twitter feeds, and jimin's still not back. he impatiently drums his fingers on the table top, thinking of his next move. should he continue waiting here? or should he come back tomorrow first thing in the morning? or maybe wait outside the staff office? or-

with jeongguk as the only boy in the empty classroom, a strong gust of wind blows some loose leaf papers off the front desk, other books flying from the tables near the windows- which all happen to be open despite the chilly weather. shutting them and collecting the sheets, he realises he's been too caught up in his thoughts, sleepy and bored and preoccupied and dazed to have even noticed jimin's dinosaur notebook fallen to the ground, split in the middle, the one with a permanent crease due to frequent flipping. he has no intention of invading jimin's privacy, but when he flips it headfirst, he's greeted with a page full of remnants of flower petals.

something pangs painfully in jeongguk's heart when he sees a small doodle of a heart, within it written manggaeddeok x mandeok boy; jeongguk’s home was located in busan, mandeok. manggaeddeok-? it makes him soft. little mochi cheeked jimin, so pure and untainted. as he gives a forlorn smile to no one, he sees polaroids on the previous page that makes the page sag forward. it’s the white tulip he’d given to jimin. when they went to the aquarium early this year. however, it's the list on the adjacent page that catches him off guard, a list that extinguishes the torch he never knew he'd been carrying.

 

PROGRESS

✓ kissed: on the lips, the cheeks most i think?

✓nose boops (hehehe jeonggukie likes touching my nose! he says it’s cute…)

✓held hands- jeonggukie has very nice hands!!!

✓hugged- he is very warm

✓✓flirted (a lot… sorry gukkie ㅠㅠ)

✓ jerked off

✓ slept together (platonic)

✓ slept together (ah. that time in busan ㅠㅠ)

✓ loved (platonic) (we're at least friends now! )

✓ loved (erotic)

 

there's only one task unchecked, with a reminder at the bottom of the page:

 

loved (romantic)*

 

**(99.9% unlikely… so don't get your hopes up, jimin-ah:( be strong! you know it won't happen. you can do it… you'll let him go, won't you?)

 

jeongguk doesn't know why he feels so sick all of a sudden. he feels like throwing up. feels something like nausea wash over him like an endless tide. wave after wave. ceaselessly. feels something putrid. rancid. foul.

 

fucking fuck.


it’s been four days since the twitter video had came to his attention, but had never left jimin’s mind. (it’s from a new account, the old one exposing him and jeongguk bullied into deactivation.) he says he’s unaffected and unbothered, but he knows he is. his friends can tell, too.  he wonders if jeongguk is finally happy. wonders if jeongguk still giggles when he gets shy about something. wonders if jeongguk finally gets to know what love feels like.

jeongguk was gone when he came back from consultation with mr kang, taking the long detour on purpose, deliberately stopping by the water fountain, washing his hands to buy time, even making small talk with some acquaintances on the way back in hopes he won’t have to face jeongguk. he doesn’t know if it’s relief or disenchantment he should be feeling when he’s received by an empty classroom, windows and doors shut, his memo books and some forms stacked neatly on his desk. there are two shiny things on top of it, acting as a makeshift paperweight. two of his rings from his accessory box in busan.


more overthinking. more sleepless nights. more drowning in work to distract himself. less time for self care. less portions to eat. less happy thoughts- his mind just drew a blank wherever possible. it’s no use going in circles, wandering and meandering in aimless betwixt. there needs to be a denouement. something set in concrete, the perennial allegorical of an end.

does jeongguk still think of him? is jeongguk happy? he can’t be over something if he doesn’t learn to let go- and he has to face himself in order to love himself or love another once again. according to logic, he needs to clear all remnants of their relationship that never was- jimin takes a long walk in the cold with no jacket on, just a thin sweater. the sweater that jeongguk said he looked cute in. he thinks better when he’s surrounded by single digit temperatures, it forces him to think. he remembers jeongguk holding his hands in his pockets to keep him warm. the red scarf. jeongguk’s jacket he never returned. he remembers all of it, starts tearing up and breaking down by the han river with a nostalgic smile. a kind stranger offers him tissues, but even the tissue packet has pink bunnies printed on it; it’s difficult to say thank you when all you can think of is someone you can’t have.

and i still want you.

he finally remembers something he hasn’t reclaimed. one last thing he needs to complete in order to leave this huge mess and clusterfuck of feelings behind, buried deep. it’s difficult, but he will try.

he has to.


today marks the ninth month since they’ve embarked on their tumultuous journey of being more than friends, less than lovers. enemies to business partners. associates to companions. accomplices to friends. and friends… to nothing.

maybe enemies should have remained the better choice all this while. 

“hey jeon.”

it's not even a jeongguk or a funny nickname. just his surname. jeon. he can’t help but show the confusion and irresolution on his face- jimin’s been unresponsive and quick to avoid him, so why start another conversation in the middle of a chilly autumn afternoon? and when it's just the two of them alone. wouldn't a crowded place be more apt? easier to run and hide after. easily slip back and into the unsuspecting crowds incognito.

“jeongg- jeon, do you remember that favour you still owe me?” the smile plastered on his face is so bittersweet. it makes jeongguk think back to the time jimin laughed so carefree and beautiful. it hurts. so painful. pitiful. pathetic, almost.

but i still want you.

“i thought about it and… you promised anything, right?” jeongguk sees his eyes shift, adam’s apple bob as he swallows. he still looks beautiful in spite of the pallor of his face. so pretty, so gentle.

you promised;

“yeah, i said what i said, but-” but now i'd give you the world, anything if i could. if you'd allow me to bestow you with the stars and the milky way. anything you wanted. jeongguk wants so desperately just to hold his face, his hands, his waist, anything. just to have jimin snug in his arms again. just one last time. and another last time. and another.

jimin finds himself rushing and falling into jeongguk's embrace, like the last jigsaw puzzle piece remaining to complete the whole picture. tumbles in vulnerability, stumbles like jeongguk's the only stronghold he has left. i missed you, jimin.

 

“please love me.”

 

“what? jimin, i don't unders-”

“i know this sounds ridiculous, and i'm not expecting a lot- just maybe one week? or one day- no, that's too short- how about two days? why the fuck am i even negotiating-” he's smiling up at jeongguk but his countenance is one of brokenness, inexpressible pathos; his voice barely holding on, tender half-broken tones full of longing and yearning. jeongguk feels whatever’s left of his broken heart rip further into shreds, into smithereens, into nothingness. how can the person who’s made him so whole become so broken?

“it sounds pathetic, i realise- it's supposed to be a favour you owe me, and look what i'm doing now-” shut up, jimin- haven't you heard? he’s dating namjoon or someone else. he's taken, you idiot. you need to stop your nonsensical farce- everybody today told you he's with namjoon, confirmed it, and sent you the video! he's with namjoon- your hyung and good friend, kim fucking namjoon-

he's shaking, too far gone, and when jeongguk asks, “are you crying, please don't-” he breaks down harder and curls into a little ball, in the private study room jeongguk had booked for personal use. he always should’ve known jimin cries even harder when someone asks if he's crying, instead of a pacifying don't cry. ironically, it was namjoon hyung that told him that a long time ago.

somehow, seeing jimin all beaten down and worn out, his mind takes him back to a particular image his brain had subconsciously registered, branded in his mind. the last thing jimin had told him before they went ‘public’, had to put on a whole dramatic soap opera for their close friends to make the story believable.

“i'm a good actor- won't you leave it to me, gukkie?”

oh how the tables have turned, as jeongguk wipes away his tears. fuck. he absolutely cannot stand jimin crying. ever. the worst sight in the whole fucking milky way and andromeda galaxy. so he shuffles forward, holds him so tenderly, slowly caging him with his arms and pulling him closer, closer, and even closer. he can feel the trembling of jimin's lips and his shallow breaths, eyes welling up with the most priceless and precious of tears any human could shed.

“won't you consider? one day? just one- ” he's holding out his endearingly tiny fingers when jeongguk pulls apart, just pushing past a sweater paw, testing his fucking adorable meter and also his resolve. “if you could do it for a month or so, w-what's another day to you!”

“jimin, you can't buy love-”

“... isn't that why i'm using the fucking favour you owe me?”

“y-you can't buy my love when you already have it.”

he's staring hotly into jimin's glassy jewel-like eyes, fire attempting to melt them like ice- but diamonds can only be cut by another diamond. those eyes stare at him like he’s grown ten heads, like he’s saying something preposterous, absurd.

“ah, fuck this-” he's angry and growly and shaking water droplets in his hair off like an angry pup claiming back his pack’s territory. “park jimin! i'm in love with you, so shut up already-”

“you liar! y-you kissed namjoon hyung-”

“on the forehead, you dumbass-”

“but you never kiss me there!”

“is that what you want, jimin ssi?”

“i! i just… i just want one kith,” he lisps softly, worried and looking down as if he'd said something silly, eyes all puffy and swollen. “one kith and i- i'll do my best to forget you.” the yellow beret sitting pretty on his head only makes jeongguk want to spoil his baby rotten. he's all pink from crying when jeongguk just tackles him down and kisses him everywhere. his lips, his cheeks, his nose, his eyelids, his temples, his forehead- peppers every inch his face with butterfly kisses.

jimin's eyes are sparkling in disbelief and wonder, staring hollowly back at him. “angel, no… please-” staring at jimin's vulnerable crying face makes the tears well up in his own eyes, “you'll make me cry, you crybaby. my darling, my beloved jimin ssi.” the tears roll down his face as he cups jimin's face, thumbs wiping his wet tear streaks. “stop crying, please, jimin, you'll make me even softer and weaker for you…”

“i-it's all your fault!” jimin whines, “if only i didn't feel so much about you, i wouldn't keep crying! i love jeonggukie, that's why i-”

“i love you, angel.”

“y-you're lying,” jimin sniffs weakly, “you're with namjoonie, i'm dreaming, i have to wake up-” jeonggukie stop, if you don't know what you're saying then stop this, please- my heart can only handle so much… i wish i didn't love you so much, then you wouldn't always see me crying about or over you… i'm so embarrassed, i'm so sorry-

“yah, listen up, park jimin- i'm only going to say it once,” jeongguk exhales loudly, a sob catching in his throat, pinning jimin against the wall so he cannot escape. besides, he's all teary eyed, the poor boy will probably bump into someone or hit a door because of all the water in his crystalline eyes. “i like you. i don't know when, but i just know that i can't let you go anymore; i want to monopolize you, i want you all to myself, you idiot. of all people, it had to be you… i keep seeing you in everything i do and it's frankly driving me crazy-” he pauses to catch his breath, biting his lip as the tears fall with rising emotion, watching as jimin hiccups, so prettily even when crying; steadies his own nerves for what he's about to say. “i want you, jimin- hyung if you'd like- i want you, i want you. and if i can't have you all to myself, n-neither can anyone else!”

“jungoo,” jimin sobs, lisp eminent, arms automatically pulling jeongguk into his hold, fastening themselves around his neck, “i was jungoogie’s a long time ago; i gave my heart to you when we first met at the playground- i've always been yours-”

i love you, rice cooker boy.

“stop crying, jwimin ssi,” jeongguk laughs, holding in his sniffles, “i’m not going to be your boyfriend if you don't stop crying,”

“b-but jungoo is also crying-!” jeonggukie… you're the cutest, and i love you. you're my baby bun, my baby boy. thank you for loving me- “don't cry, kookoo, diminnie loves you!”

“shut up, i don't count. smile for me, please, darling? just one,”

“i will, if- if jungoogie gives me another kith-” his nose is all stuffy and he sounds like the cutest little thing in the world. jeongguk's baby. his little angel.

“jwimin-ah… the world's resources are scarce, we can't just have your eyes spilling precious diamonds, can we? for sustainable living... please think about the future generations,” jeongguk laughs tossing his head back through tears as jimin grows bashful, trying his best to hold his sniffles in. the diamonds and pearls on his cheeks are gently swept away by jeongguk's fingers, tained on his lips. “don't cry, jungoo,” the glitter on his face is wiped away by pure intentions and the cutest little fingers, train of tear stains peppered with kittenish kisses, soft giggles.

all it takes is a boop on the nose and a peck on the lips for jeongguk to unlock the nation's sweetheart’s most beautiful and beloved smile.

again and again and again.

(“‘m sleepy. carry.” jimin lisps via a big fat kissable pout, after their uncontrollably melodramatic cryfest, and jeongguk obliges, duh. who could resist that? what is else is he gonna say? other than yes?)


it gets awkward as they sit two spaces away from each other on jeongguk's bed, the mattress disposed soon after jimin's disappearance from his safe space. after the meltdown, it seems like everything's been heightened and yet calmed down all at the same time. they're just sitting in silence, apart from jimin's sniffles and jeongguk snatching up tissues for him, fiercely dabbing at his own leaking tear streaks. he's not crying.

“... you wanna talk? or would you like something hot to drink?”

“‘m sleepy,” jimin mumbles, eyes puffy and precious nose all rose red, cheeks as rosy as pink peonies. his jumper makes him look even smaller somehow. “c-coffee would be nice, though?”

“uh. you can sleep first? the- the bed is all yours. always has been. coffee will be done when you wake up. um, good night, jimin ssi.”


“it's simple, just say ‘i love you jimin’. i love you jimin. i love you jimin.” he's mumbling to himself, practicing, in case he suddenly cannot find the right words to say again. i love you jimin, i love you jimin-

when jimin wakes up, he's hit by jeongguk's bright bambi eyes, his baby blue coffee mug gone cold, a sudden flurry of words.

“so are we-”

“do we still-”

“you can go first-” they both say in unison, eyes growing shy when they read each other's mind, looking away, but hands sneakily finding their way to link a finger. jeongguk suddenly forgets what he was supposed to say.

“so… we're good now?” he asks meekly, “no more avoiding me?”

“no more. i'm sorry… i didn't know that you also-”

“would you like to go out with me?” jeongguk blurts as he leans in, grabbing jimin's hands, gazing at him ever so earnestly. how could jimin ever say no to his forever boy?

he punches him weakly in response, the air cleared an hour ago. he feels his heart thud. slowly, but it's there. starting up again, starting over. “we've been going out this whole while, you dummy.”

“no! i mean like- like for real. like out. on a date. as my, you know. official legitimate actual boyfriend.”

it takes jimin a moment to process, let the cogs turn in his head, before he lets out the most innocent and precious of gasps, half-sweaterpaws flying up to cover his mouth and then his face, before the shyness floods in together with the indescribably breathtaking sight of his rosy cheeks flushing, sweet little eyes transforming into crescent moons. his smile is one of the most alluring things of all time, and it makes jeongguk's heart beat so fucking fast. yes fucking homo. yes to all of it. yes.

“i-! i do, i do-”

jeongguk's tackled down into a bear hug, jimin's cute crinkly smile so, so infectious it spreads to jeongguk in less than a heartbeat. “jimin, you can't just say that…”

“huh? a prank-!”

“no, you dumbass- if you tell me ‘i do’ so easily it's going to be all your fault i can't marry anyone else other than you!”

jimin's face contorts into exasperation, happiness, fondness and gratitude all at once, and god is he the most beautiful boy to have graced jeongguk's life. he's so pretty, so beautiful, so gorgeous; it makes jeongguk wonder how his stupidity and (literal) myopia had caused him to dismiss jimin as ugly and disgusting. he's the sweetest little thing. even god himself said so, the last time jeongguk checked. (via facetime, this morning.)

“so… we're boyfriends now?” jimin's voice is tentative, as he traces invisible constellations on jeongguk's cheek, finger caressing the cheek scar, speaking in pout as he lies parallel, stacked on top of jeongguk on the bed.

“w-well, we've engaged in matters of the flesh and other things so-”

jimin softly pecks him on the lips through giggles, “matters of the flesh! " jimin laughs in exasperation, "my sweet little puppy prince,” with his smile gracing them after. he looks just like an angel. jeongguk's baby angel. “you're so lovely, jimin.”

“that's all you have to say, jeonggukie? that's all my official boyfriend has to say after his official first kiss by his real boyfriend?” the pout intensifies, and so does jimin's natural cuteness. his attempted forced aegyo is a complete horror story, but he's just so charming even in his ministrations and daily routines. he makes even the most mundane of things attractive- like walking and breathing and laughing. jimin whining alone could get him 3 million views on a video, at least. and now that they've confirmed the status quo, he's going to mess jeongguk up even more. how absolutely devastating. he's going to live his life in absolute shambles because he's going to die of cardiac arrest everyday. jimin's too cute and charming and unreal to classify as a mere mortal, a mere human being. jimin is a celestial boy- jeongguk is the boy that lives on the moon, waiting for him to come by. 

“w-well it's not my fault looking at you makes me feel so damn much! i just- there are so many things i wanna say but it just doesn't come out and i end up saying the lamest things, it's so infuriating and sometimes i-” his frown deepens, and it's obvious jimin regrets his teasing. “hey- i'm just joking, jeongguk. it's okay. i'm aware i have a praise kink, but i don't need to be fed every other hour, you know... i'm good at dieting! i do understand how it is- but! just knowing that we feel the same… honestly, that alone is already enough for me.” when jimin giggles, it sometimes sounds like an euhehehehe and it's so freaking cute, like a fairy is born- it should be illegal to be this adorable. “i never really planned to reach this far, anyw ahhh-!

“i love you, jimin.”

jeongguk yanks his pretty little face down, hands smelling vaguely like jimin's hand cream and cradling his cheeks, pulling him into a gentle kiss. it's so soft, so sybaritic; like playful little waves licking at their lips, fervent, tumultuous; like moths to a flame- fervid, indulging, dionysiac. languid and loving and longing.

“wait. jeongguk, is that- is that my ring?”

“oh, this? yeah. stole it when i stayed at your house in busan.” his smile is one of sheer bliss, as they lay down side by side, cuddling on the bed, so tired but so content. i won't ever let you go.

“it's my favourite ring… and just now many did you steal! i was looking for this particular one for so long! if only you told me-”

“i only took three. then i guess i've got no choice, gotta buy you a better ring then, for the proposal, the engagement, and the wedding.” it's so satisfying watching jimin go from soft to rude on stage, or from shy to shyer in real life. his natural beauty and aegyo only makes jeongguk fall even harder.

“j-jeon jeongguk- you can't just say that! but make sure you buy a set, okay, so at least ours will match...” the only thing that matches right now is jeongguk's cheeks to jimin's rosy blush.

“oh and now that we're together, what are we gonna tell the hyungs and taetae.”

about that.

shit.


“jimin-ah, my mother found photos of us back in the busan days- you know, the seesaw? i didn’t know that was you- you looked... so different? and i still have no idea how the hell you knew who i was.”

“you look the same, you just got harder-” jeongguk peeks at his abdomen through his shirt, and jimin flushes, smacking him. “n-not those! i mean your facial muscles and all that. you know. muscles and the jawline. not the, um. the thing.

“just say big dick.” another smack. “but i seriously- how did you know like that does not even make sense? excuse me jimin ssi am i that memorable-” jeongguk's incredulous expression softens when he hears jimin's explanation. goddamnit.

“i remember we had matching pinky moles.” jimin says, with a nostalgic smile, “so when i saw your fingers in math class that day… i knew you were the one.” was that the day you said i had nice hands when i carried you?

jeongguk makes a promise to keep jimin as his and only his, for the rest of his life. jimin truly is The One.


unbeknownst to jeongguk, jimin had always liked him, recognised him from the start, the very beginning; something just clicked automatically, soulmate system kicking in inherently. after crossing paths once more, jimin figured he didn't recognise him- many would agree his glow up after puberty was no joke. hit him like a goddamn private jet and fire truck. all the fat had melted away, his tiny stature now at least a national average, his proportions in pictures good enough to look 1.8m. his heart had softened, features galvanised, image established.

if fighting with jeongguk could make him notice jimin, allow them to interact more, have a reason to talk to each other, then never mind; he'd be more than willing to play the villain in jeongguk's university life. so be it. he didn't mind being insulted in a never ending bickering. seeing jeongguk healthy and happy around the others were more than enough.

the matching beauty marks were never a symbol that prompted jimin to remember, recollect their origins- they were a symbol of confirmation.


vacation rolls by, and they move in together into a small studio apartment off campus, the landlord a relative of jimin's. when jimin is up, he wakes up to a blissful looking jeongguk, eyes full of tenderness and devotion, gazing at him. the jeongguk that usually wants to sleep in as much as possible. the jeongguk that he's always dreamed of being together with, waking up early and watching him sleep, waiting for him to rise with quiet contentment. the jeongguk he falls asleep to as his last thought, rouses to as his first thought the next day.

“good morning, sleepyhead.”

“g’morning, koo. s-stop staring at me, why are you up this early-” jimin's all bleary, looking like a fluffy newborn kitten.

“wanted to see how angels wake up.”

“jeon! jeon jeongguk!” jimin's clearly flustered, morning rosy blush in full flare, like a rosebud in bloom. “it's not good that my heart is beating so fast just when i start the day! scientifically, you shouldn't-”

“my clever little angel, aren't you.” jeongguk murmurs, inching in to give him his kisses, pulling the blankets to bring them closer. “my nerdy baby.”

“i'm not! i jus’ like to read!” jimin's eyes are barely cracked open, his hair floofed into an odd cotton candy shape, lips and cheeks jutted out and puffy from water retention. he's so adorable.

“go wash up, darling. wanna bring you somewhere.”

“wanna sleep,” jimin whines, flopping back into bed and pulling jeongguk's arm down with him as a makeshift teddy bear. “okay,” jeongguk replies sweetly, caressing his hair. “twenty more minutes, then.”

after closing his eyes for less than ten seconds, jimin's eyes flutter open, droopy with ardent affection. jeongguk's still watching over him, like he was a rabbit fairy. jimin's guardian angel, his bodyguard. “jeonggukie? are you not sleeping too?”

“nah, i like watching you sleep. plus, i'm wide awake.”

“oh…” jimin bites his lips in worry, he woke up early to go on a date with me. “i'm not sleepy anymore- i'll wash up and then we can go, okay?”

“jimin, it's okay to sleep if you're tired.”

“no, i feel alive just looking at you,” jimin mumbles, pinkening once more, before shyly giving jeongguk a smooch on the cheek. “g-good morning to the love of my life-” then he waddles off (please imagine the squeaky shoes, those are vital) to hunt for his yellow chick mug and toothbrush.


they have a nice breakfast at a café, jeongguk ordering loads to share, making sure he eats up, making sure jimin beams with equal radiance as the sun when he orders jimin a latte art with hearts. then, he takes jimin to the children's grand park in gwangjin-gu, where there's a bigger version, a replica of the circular ball-like merry go round back in busan.

“i promised to play with you on the merry go round, right? i'm sorry i took so long.” jimin boards the colourful metal construction, pretty smile soon leaving his face as he starts clinging onto the centre pole for dear life.

“jeon jeongguk! this is too fast!” jeongguk's haversack is flying off his back, and would've flung off if not for the straps. it's filled with jimin's yelling and screaming, while jeongguk laughs in glee, going faster and faster as a thrill seeking kid once more. “i wasn't called king of the playground for nothing, you know.”

“dizzy! dizzy!” jimin wails, colour starting to drain from his face, all pale. jeongguk halts at once, causing jimin to try and hop off it immediately- only to almost trip and fall into the bushes a few steps away. “honey? honey, are you okay? baby?” jeongguk's so worried, mouth agape and eyes so wide, the size of sugar apricots. “dizzy,” jimin repeats softly, causing his boyfriend to guiltily guide him to the park benches, holding his hand. “i'm sorry, jimin! i swear, i was just playing-”

“just hold me.” he doesn't need the benches, he just needs jeongguk's arms around his waist. “jimin, i think it's better for you to sit-”

“but this is maximum security,” jimin says, words muffled into his chest, and jeongguk covers his face in jimin's hair, arms tightening around jimin. this is so embarrassing. his hair smells so sweet. “me holding you is considered maximum security?”

“mm. better than a house.”

“how is this better than a house-!”

“i love you.” jimin says with large eyes that glisten in the faint sunlight, “and i'm so happy to be with you. and the home is where the heart is, right? so jeonggukie is my house. with my own burglar alarm and police system ‘cause you're big and strong enough to protect me.” it's now jimin supporting jeongguk, whose burying his burning face on jimin's shoulder. “who allowed you to be this cute…”

“um, you did.”

(you're my portable home, portable battery charger, and portable boyfriend all in one.)


“i'm sorry we missed your birthday…” jimin apologetically says, “i think birthdays are important and must be celebrated- but we were too busy with work and chuseok-”

“don't worry,” jeongguk waves him off, “i've been indifferent to my birthday since i hit puberty.”

“what! no, that's impossible, it's important-”

“don't bother-”

“if it's not important to you, it's important to me…” jimin mumbles, “so please tell me what you want. i'll buy it for you if i can.”

“anything?”

“yeah. anything.”

jeongguk spends an unnecessarily long time to contemplate, bullshitting his way as jimin watches on with innocent eyes. “hmm… an apartment?”

jimin wants to kill him. “where will i get the money for an apartment jeon jeongguk-!”

“just kidding. i'll be the one buying you the apartment.”

“t-that's not fair, you can't just-” jimin's gotten all flustered, a stuttering mess, as jeongguk takes the opportunity to go on, “we missed your birthday too, so let's just call it quits this year.”

“but jeonggukie!” jimin whines, “mine doesn't matter, yours does-”

“what do you mean yours doesn't matter! you're my boyfriend! it matters, you dumbass!”

they start squabbling again, arguing over who is more important- it's a fight that neither one is willing to back down from. other things like colours of the bed sheets, what type of cuisine to eat at, where to go: they all could be negotiated, reached with a compromise. but this? hell no.

“okay. i thought of it. i know what i want for my birthday, so will you pipe down now?”

“yes! please tell me what you want-” jimin visibly brightens up, not telling him about the multiple clothes, the camera bag, the cosmetics in his house he'd stashed away, bought on many occasions that he'd thought about jeongguk on.

“i want to get married on the moon.”

“jeongguk…” jimin softens in mild exasperation, “you know that's far fetched,”

“shut up. you said you'd do your best.”

“... okay, i promise to go to the moon with you.” jeongguk presses a kiss to his forehead, “and you, jimin ssi? i'll get you whatever you want, too. even though i’ll be needing time to save up for our apartment…”

“i want to be the person you marry when we go to the moon.”

“jimin, don't be an idiot- you know i meant marrying you when we go there-”

“you didn't specify, you dummy, you just said getting married there-”

“use common sense, jimin! if i don't marry you who am i going to marry!”

“... but you said it could be anything i want-”

“no, this is not counted, you're only allowed to marry me-

“then your wedding on the moon is also forfeited because i'm the only one who would be dumb enough to promise to go to the moon with you-”

“how can you say that! the rabbit fairies on the moon would be offended-!”

(it's just another idyllic day in the ‘jimin and jeongguk are newlyweds on their honeymoon but still seem like they're dating’ phase.)


while waking aimlessly, they find their way back to the cafe that they'd dined at for valentine’s- except that that was because their value meal was more wallet friendly, a begrudging agreement to claim they were together in order to satisfy certain terms and conditions.

“one order of the couple set lunch please.” jeongguk doesn't even hesitate proclaiming to the world now, that jimin is his. he's showing jimin off like nobody's business, to the extent that jimin has to step on his foot to make him shut up. it's so embarrassing and endearing that he's so proud of jimin. he wasn't expecting jeongguk to be this loud and open about it, to brag about him so soon, and be often gets caught staring at jeongguk with sweet puppy eyes, while for vice versa, jeongguk stares at him with honey drooping eyes when he isn't watching.


“you're really good looking, sir.” the waitress tells jimin, shy but respectfully, as she serves their food. “o-oh. thank you,” jimin dips his head politely, evidently radiating. “she's so cute.” jeongguk gapes dramatically. um park jimin? bitch me too the fuck? she ain't special?

“stop looking at her!” jeongguk pouts, as jimin stares at him in amusement. “i… i'm cuter, right?” jeongguk's pulling the sleeves of his sweater, petty, moping as if jimin had stolen all the mini fridge’s banana milk. “hyung, just this morning you said i was cute… i remembered to say ‘i love you’ today too...” jimin immediately scoots over to his side of the couch, “baby…” jeongguk only puffs his cheeks and plays coy, because it's nice when jimin pays attention to him and only him. “you love me, right?”

“jeongguk… sweetheart, stop being cute, i'll want to kiss you in public and do stupid things with you.”

“then do it! i said you were handsome and pretty and you didn't stare at me like that.”

“i don't think you can look at me when you're on the road, love.”

“well-!” jeongguk knows he's fighting a losing battle, but it's okay not to win only if it's jimin. “you have to give me a kiss before i forgive you.”

“who's asking for your forgiveness-”

jeongguk's pout is in full force when he cups jimin's cheeks and squishes them together, making his lips protrude cutely, before kissing him.

“you're only allowed to make lovesick puppy eyes at me, g-got it?” it's embarrassing that he stutters, faltering as he realises jimin's fond gaze is directed two hundred percent at him. because you’re so irresistibly charming and i’ll get jealous, stupid. i’m still putting wonho on probation. i should probably work out to get even more muscles.

“i’ve always had eyes for you and only you! what are you talking about, best boyfriend in the world?”

it's always the nicest feeling in the whole universe, to be in jimin's presence.


“jimin, if you wake up now, i'm not going to kiss you.” he's gotten up early to study and practice dance despite doing them both for a full day yesterday and sleeping at the crack of dawn. jeongguk just wants to spoil and pamper him, but also wants him to love himself more. kisses always work. almost immediately, jimin ducks under the yellow blankets, eyes shut tightly. “i'm sleeping!” he says, as if it would be more convincing. “i'm sleeping now, do i not get my kisses...”

jeongguk tickles him and peppers his face with pecks all over, littering his face with exaggerated mwahs that make jimin giggle and cuddle him. he's playing by the rules, eyes still closed. he swipes jimin's cute little nose that he adores so much, earning a kitten like scrunch. “jimin, you're not sleeping, i guess i'll have to ban kisses for a week. this is bad-”

“noooooo! please, i need my kisses- jiminnie will sleep now.” he falls asleep easily, in jeongguk's arms around him to keep him safe. “baby, as if i could go a day without wanting to kiss your pouty face and plump cheeks. you're so beautiful and i need to reaffirm that.” jeongguk's smiling as he strokes jimin's hair, so very fond. he swears his boyfriend is the most adorable creature to grace this planet.


jeongguk is upset- it had briefly snowed on the seventh of november, past midnight, and he'd woken up to severe buzzing of his phone, multiple spam notifications regarding some last minute work. he sees the news article pop out in the notification bar, and hesitates whether he should wake jimin- he remembers that jimin once said (back in april) his dream date was to see the first snow with the one he loved, japanese culture believed that if you did so, your love would be long and everlasting.

he shifts in bed, scrolling down the top news alerts, only to find out it's a sporadic light rain. even if jimin woke up, it may not even be snowing anymore. the figure beside him stirs, sensitive to movement, light and noise. “jeonggukie? why’re you up?”

“oh my god, did i wake you, i'm sorry…”

“you can't sleep?”

“nah, i had many messages coming in and saw some article saying that it started to snow… wanted to let you see the first snow… with… me…” he fumbles with his words, not exactly sure how dumb it will sound to jimin. how would such a coincidence even happen? he feels jimin circle his waist with his arms, cold little nose boop against his shoulder blade, cheek squished on his back. “we can always see the first snow next year, and every year after that, ‘cause we'll last a long time, right? now sleep.” jimin's pulling him back to bed, frown still adorning his face, as he uses a finger to brush jimin's bangs away from his eyes, both staring at each other as they lie on their sides.

“b-but this is different! this is our first snow… it's gonna be so special for you. i know you like that kind of thing-”

“not so much since it's with you, guk.” jimin's smile glows even in the dark. “i'll still be seeing the first snow with you even if i'm eighty. you know that. wait, do humans still live so long? or is the average lifespan now at sixty something-”

“i love you,” jeongguk interjects, pulling him closer by the waist. “you're such an idiot sometimes but i love you, jimin.”

“yes, i am aware,” jimin laughs, “anything else to add?”

“you're the worst,” jeongguk complains with a huge smile, “i regret dating you.”

“no you didn't! you love me, you meanie! you just said so-” jimin's so easy to tease, even more so when jeongguk's aware that he himself is jimin's weakness, his soft spot. the fact alone makes him melt into hearts for jimin.

“love you too, guk.”

he also finds out the quickest way to appease jimin other than listening to him is to kiss him. then cuddle. then tell him his true feelings- of love. mostly love. works like a charm, always.


they both can't sleep, jimin worrying about not being perfectly in time for his dance steps, jeongguk fussing over him not sleeping. there's also the worries of grades, deadlines, commitments. when they reach the skating rink, it's close to 4am on the 8th of november. jeongguk holds his hand, tells him to practice his serendipity dance on ice- jimin would be the perfect figure skater. he's wearing the white outfit jeongguk had bought for him in sinchon, black puma coat in the lockers. he looked dazzling, like he could be the male equivalent of kim yuna.

jimin is enthralling, beautiful with every little move. the hours go by, skating hand in hand, skating with some kids there, doing a silly ballroom waltz together as if there wasn't anyone else. just the two of them in their own world. “since i can't let you see the snow, i'll let you glide on frozen snow. on ice.” his cheeks are all ruddy as he tells it to jimin, about to exit the building. he's going to take jimin to breakfast, then bring him to eat bingsu- snowflake ice shavings for dessert.

“jeongguk… it's no big deal! i'm just so happy to be your boyfriend. you can take me to tokyo disneyland next year to see the snow! we'll sit in the spinning teacups as the snow falls around us.” he's all dreamy, lost in his romantic vision, and jeongguk has the urge to just hold him close and never let go. “you're so pure. so lovely. my little snowflake.”

“then you're my big snowflake,” jimin laughs, “my favourite snowdrop.” he pulls jimin in closer, by the waist, causing jimin to gasp, fall into his grasp. “stop being clumsy, will you?” jeongguk bullies him, “i guess it can't be helped, i'll have to take care of you till we're old.”

“says who! i'm better at taking care of you!” as they step out of the building, something falls onto jimin's hair. “jeongguk, stop messing with my hair-”

“i'm not! i was just staring at your face-”

“why are you staring at my face-”

“because you're pretty, and you're all mine.” jimin's winter flush is so adorable. he plucks out the white in jimin's black hair, showing jimin his find with a little dance and overly excited yells. he grabs jimin, carrying him and lifting him by the butt, something he's always wanted to try after watching a kdrama- kisses him softly as jimin holds his face in his tiny hands, their lips combining in a continuation to the slow waltz in the rink.

“i love you.”

“jeongguk, this is getting old, can we please move on-”

“shut up! you haven't said it back yet-”

“...i love you the most, jeongguk.”

“no, i love you more-

“i'm older! i've loved you for two more years-”

“but i said i love you first-

“you did not! i did-

 

 

it's beginning to snow.