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Seasons After Spring

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A Long Time Ago

Kim Namjoon is ambitious.  Kim Namjoon is determined.  Kim Namjoon has dreams.

Kim Namjoon also wishes he got to sleep in.  Kim Namjoon wishes he hadn’t stayed up so late playing BioShock.  Kim Namjoon wishes the people around him would cut him just a little more slack.

In other words, Kim Namjoon is a teenager.

He shows up for rehearsal a little too tired, a little too grumpy, and a little too eager in ways he tries to hide.  He’s so ready for trainee days to be over.  He thinks can finally see debut on the horizon and it’s nerve-wracking but it’s so close, all he can do is keep running toward it.

They haven’t even finalized the line-up, though.  There’s a new batch of trainees starting this week, just a few.  Namjoon barely acknowledges them when he first walks into the studio.  He’ll be introduced soon.  For now, he just sits by the wall, hides in his hoodie and watches out of the corner of his eye.

And there’s this kid.  He’s got a baby face and he’s wearing leggings with this bright pattern on them and a backwards baseball cap.  He’s talking to the other trainees, goofing around like he’s trying to impress them.  Laughing he steps back, arms up poised above his head.  Then he does a pirouette like a damn ballet dancer, spinning like a top.

Well. This is new.

Chapter Text

Namjoon has always had this thing when it comes to Jimin.  It’s not like he’s spent years pining, nothing that exciting or intense.  But from day one, there’s been this attraction.  Over the years it’s turned into a small and accepted feature of Namjoon’s inner life.  It was there when they were awkward teenagers together, Jimin too round-faced and Namjoon all long limbs that didn’t fit together quite right.  And it’s still there now.  Sometimes it flares up when Jimin shifts into that fey, ethereal creature he’s learned to carve himself into, all pale skin, soft lips and sharp eyes gazing out from under smoky eyeliner.  Sometimes it’s there when he sees Jimin puffy-faced and rumpled, his flexible limbs stretched out at odd angles while he sleeps on the floor.  And sometimes it’s there when there’s really nothing at all, just a smile, just the light on his face.

Jimin is also one of Namjoon’s close friends, one of his brothers-in-arms in this insane journey they’re all on, a confidant, a soothing presence, and an artistic collaborator.  And Namjoon thinks that’s far too much to risk by bringing his thing out into the open.  So this vague want just sort of sits there, this back-burner presence, waxing and waning over the years.  Sometimes it’s almost completely gone, faded and forgotten.  Other times it comes back with such full force it knocks the air out of his chest.  It’s just how things are.

And besides, Namjoon tells himself, he mostly likes women.  He has no idea what to do with the awkward feelings he’s had about the small handful of men he’d sort of wanted to kiss and girls are just so much easier.  He knows how to flirt with them, where his hands should go.  So it’s girls and that’s just fine.  He likes girls.

Dating as an idol is- to put it inelegantly- weird and difficult.  He’d always known it would be and he’s grateful that for him it was never banned outright, that the contract he’d been far too young to sign allowed him the space for a sliver of a personal life.  But even then, it was always going to be a mess.

Still, he’s managed to have two actual relationships over the course of his idol-life. 

The first he met in a class he audited, back when he was still trying to collect a college credit or two online in whatever time he could scrape together.  Sometimes he’d get permission from a university to go sit in a real class for a day or two and feed that part of him that still wanted to be the good student, the avid learner.   Mostly he audited philosophy.  He’d gone to poetry and literature classes at first but he hated the way they were taught.  And as someone who already put together words for a living, it felt beyond frustrating.  So philosophy it was. 

The class had been about Hegel.  The Phenomenology of Spirit.  She sat in the front row and asked questions it never would have occurred to him to ask.  He’d caught up to her after class, awkwardly almost begged her to have coffee with him.  He didn’t really have anyone to talk to about half the things he read and he was dying for a real conversation with someone who really studied them, wanted so badly to hear more about what she thought and why.

The relationship managed to hold on for several months.  She was an academic smart, curious and observant.  She was pretty, dryly funny, and kind to a fault.  They could sit in comfortable silence and read books together and he liked that.  It was like being with the sort of girl Kim Namjoon would have dreamed up in high school.

But Namjoon wasn’t that person who would have dreamed her up, anymore, and the whole relationship cracked under it.  It was too much with his the erratic schedule, the people always buzzing around him, his face popping up in public more and more, while at the same time they always had to be covert.  The tight constraints on his private life meant that when he finally could spend time with her, he was usually intense and demanding.  And even though he could see what he was doing, he couldn’t stop himself.  She said it was like living hidden behind a thunderstorm.  It wasn’t a life anyone would want to lead.  She was gone and he couldn’t blame her.

The second was Eunbi.  Eunbi name's alone would carry a kind of heavy weight in the group, during and after, as if she’d smashed into all their lives, not just his.  She was older than Namjoon, absolutely a woman, not a girl.  She was brilliant, opinionated and blunt but could also be deeply charming when she wanted to be.

They met at some gala he’d been talked into attending.  Becoming the kind of person people would want at a gala like this- rich enough, famous enough- had happened so fast, swept him up so quickly, he wasn’t sure what to do with himself.  It wasn’t an entertainment event and he’d felt bored and, even more so, out of place.  Eunbi had approached him.  She’d known his music.  She knew a lot about music, period.  She’d said something sharp and clever, a challenge in her eyes as she peered at him over her drink and he was done for.  He’d managed to say just the right thing back, something equally sharp and clever and suddenly all his nerves and boredom had drifted away.  He’d spent the rest of the night feeling like he was inhabiting some idealized version of himself, wanting to stay that way for her forever. 

Being with her was exhilarating.  She was from a rich family and traveled nearly as often as Namjoon.  There were even times when they’d find their schedules putting them in the same city in another part of the world- Hong Kong, Tokyo, once even Paris.  They squeezed each other into the cracks in their schedules.  She was used to attention and used to being discrete.  None of the complications that came with being an idol seemed to bother her or even register as anything beyond practicalities. 

But it was also hard being everything he wanted to be for her, trying to always be that person he’d felt like that first night.  Effortlessly cool, stylish, and brilliant.  It was like living as if he was RM every moment and never stepping off stage.  But that just wasn't who he was all the time, not even most of the time.  He was also the person who collected figurines, who knew the names of Pokemon, who played dumb phone games with Jin, and who unironically recommended The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Who still called his mother every Sunday.  Who was half blind without contacts.  Who could sleep away almost 24 hours straight in the middle of a depressive episode.  Who could be ordinary and weak and disappointingly human.

In the end nearly every part of their relationship exhausted him down to his core.  But it still felt like his chest had been ripped open when it was over.  On the surface it was a gracious and mutual break up, neither one of them wanting to take the hit to their pride that would come with being the one who’d been broken up with.  It was much crueler underneath.

After it was over he felt like he was going to drown in loss and rage and bone deep sorrow.  He let it wash out of him, into almost an entire album of aching lyrics.

He was lucky that he had his friends and bandmates to catch him.  They gave him space to work himself to death or sleep all day and then picked him up again and shook him when it was time to stop all that and behave like a person again.  Everyone tried to make him happier in their own ways.  Jin was always cheerful and trying to make him laugh.  He found himself drowning in hooks from Yoongi and the other producers, invitations to use them.  Jackson took him out, got him blazingly drunk and let him rant until he passed out on his couch.  They ate haejang-guk the next morning, and mumbled about regretting their life choices. 

And on the lingering bad days when he thought he might go under, Jimin would appear seemingly out of nowhere and just hug him.  He was good like that, not getting uncomfortable around other people’s sadness or falling back to a clap on the shoulder with the empty offer of “tell me if there’s anything I can do.”  He was just there, calmly present, listening when Namjoon wanted to talk.  And Namjoon was always grateful.

And as he got better Namjoon knew he could be just a little too aware of the muscles in Jimin’s back when he hugged him, the lines of his slim waist when Namjoon hugged him back.  A little too aware of just how pretty he was when Jimin smiled just to make Namjoon smile back.  But he didn’t think too much about it.  It was just that thing inside his chest, back again and whispering how nice it would be to touch just a little more, just a little longer. 

Eventually the adage about time and wounds proved it was somewhat true.  Namjoon moved on and even though there weren’t any particular girls or women to move on to, life was full anyway.  There was work and rehearsals, accolades and interviews.  There were friends and people to collaborate with and late nights in his studio.  More often than not, he and Yoongi ended the day stuffed into their separate spaces, not seeing each other but almost daring each other to be the first to shake their head, come back to the real world and go home. 

Yoongi almost always won. 

And some nights Jimin was there, too, on the other side of the building, alone in the dance studio, perfecting this sequence or that.  Probably, Namjoon thought, he did it knowing he’d be the one to have to patiently re-explain things and nudge things along with him and Jin.  But sometimes, Namjoon knew, he was just dancing off everything that stuck to him.  Using the empty space to cast off as much stress and worry and frustration as he could.

It wasn’t Namjoon’s thing but he definitely understood it.

 

*     *     *

 

“Do you want to go for a walk?”  Namjoon leans tiredly in the door frame. 

Jimin doesn’t turn to look at him, just responds to his reflection in the dance studio mirror.

“I’m pretty gross.  You sure you want to hang out with me?”  He pats his face with a towel, almost for emphasis.  His t-shirt is obviously sticky and covered in sweat.

“I don't want to lick you.”  Namjoon gestures with his head.  “Come on.”

“It’s one in the morning.”  Jimin protests but he’s already walking toward his shoes and coat. 

“Exactly.  Late nights echo sometimes.  I don’t want to be alone.”

“Sometimes, you can be very weird.”  The retort is a tease, soft with no bite.

“You like to sleep on the floor.”

“Point.”  He slides his second shoe on.  “Let’s go.”

 

*     *     *

 

The nice thing about being friends with Jimin is that he lets Namjoon do things like this.  Doesn’t tease him about being melodramatic.  He’ll just go on a one am walk with Namjoon.  He’ll wander around a park and over to the empty children’s playground equipment and not really ask for an explanation.  Which is good because Namjoon doesn’t have one.  He'd really just wanted to go for a walk.

This is good, he thinks.  Peaceful just being with someone in this emptied out nighttime, only the scattered, hazy lampposts to look at them.

Jimin flops on to a swing, rocking back and forth for a moment, staring up at the sky.

“You know, this really is a good kind of quiet.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees.  “It’s like everything is empty but the echo is gone.”

Jimin looks at him, sweaty hair still messy and sticking up at odd angles.  He gives Namjoon one of those half smiles, eyes twinkling, full lips quirking up on one side.

Namjoon takes in his face, everything sharper in the dim light of the park lamps, casting shadows across his delicate features.  The thing, Namjoon thinks, the thing is on the upswing again.

 

*     *     *

 

It’s not like going on walks is a new thing.  They go on a lot of walks together, actually.  Jimin comes with him most mornings to walk Rapmon and sometimes to take Kim Daily pics.  And they both like to take in beautiful places when they travel, going at a slow and meditative pace that just annoys the rest of their bandmates.  Late night walks are just a new addition to an existing repertoire.  It’ll be a late night- 12:30, one am, two and they’ll take a detour before they go home.

And conversations are different at night.  Namjoon has always felt like things float a little freer after a certain time, like they’re less attached to real life, lighter and unmoored.  He likes that feeling, wishes he could bottle it.  When moonrise, it's your time, he sings to himself, sometimes. 

He’s not sure if it’s weird to get your own songs stuck in your head.  Or maybe, he thinks it’s the other way around.  They’re your songs because they were stuck in your head.  Putting them down doesn’t necessarily get them unstuck. 

Sometimes he saves thoughts like this, small questions that don’t really have answers.  Little koans to pull out when they’re wandering around.

Jimin can usually tell.

“Holding on to that one for a while, hyung?” he says, usually laughing, sincere and smiling.

He always tries to think of an answer, though, and the whole thing makes Namjoon feel a little warmer inside.

 

*     *     *

 

Namjoon and Jimin are laying on the park grass, staring at the sky.  The ground is a little too cold but they don’t really want to get up, either.

“Eunbi’s leaving Seoul.”  It’s not one of the things that Namjoon had meant to talk about but it comes out, anyway.

Jimin looks over at him, eyebrows knitting together.

“Like, for good?”

Namjoon nods. 

“Yeah.  London.  I think.  I don’t really know the details, I just saw the post.”  Her social media is even more finely curated than his is.  Always relentlessly polished and professional.  Never any of the dumb moments of goofiness, honesty or spontaneity that find their way in and follow him out into the world.  There are no Park Jimins in her life allowed to interrupt her with surprise visits or silly dances. 

“How do you feel about that?”  Jimin’s propped up on his arm now, looking down at Namjoon, a worried look on his face.

“Fine?  I think?”  Namjoon shrugs.  “I don’t really care but it’s just like…” he bites his lip looking for some better words.  “It’s like this whole chapter in my life was over but now the book has been slammed shut and I can see just how much time I wasted reading it.”

Jimin sits up and pulls a small flask out of his coat pocket.  He looks thoughtful as he takes a swig and tosses it at Namjoon.

“That’s dumb.” 

“Gee, thanks.”  Namjoon catches it and sits up to take his own swallow.  It’s whisky and it burns in a way that tells him it’s probably cheap.  He holds it up questioningly and then tosses it back to Jimin. 

“Thought it’d be good to keep warm, wasn’t looking for fancy.” Jimin shrugs. “Anyway,” he says firmly, “I didn’t mean it like that.”  He tosses back another drink, rings and small fingers barely peeking out from the sleeves of the large sweater under his jacket.  Namjoon likes the contrast, adorable sweater paws holding on to cheap, covert whiskey.  “What I meant was that it’s dumb to say that you wasted your time.  Did it feel like you were wasting it while you were in it?”

“No, but…”

“Hyung, you of all people would never spend a year hanging out with someone if they weren’t worth your time.  Sure, it ended but that just means it didn’t work out.  Have a little faith that past you got something out of it.”

“Okay,” Namjoon concedes.  “But also you hated her.”

“I didn’t hate her.”  Jimin holds the flask out then pulls it back when Namjoon reaches for it.  Namjoon falls forward a bit and Jimin falls back on his elbows with a laugh.

“You asshole.”  Namjoon lunges at him a bit to make a grab for the flask but he knows it's just play and he laughs, too. 

“I didn’t hate her!”  Jimin protests again, pulling something of a dodge, which is really just him hitting the ground again and turning on his side while Namjoon’s arms cage him on either side.  He’s really laughing now, slightly curled in on himself, flask protected up against his chest.

It’s a nonsensical point of pride now, so Namjoon pulls a dirty move, pinching Jimin’s waist so he squeaks and squirms, ticklish right there.  He reaches for the flask when Jimin jumps and once it’s in his hand he collapses in his own fit of laughter, half laying on Jimin, head falling between his shoulder and his neck.  The whole thing is just so dumb.  He doesn’t even like the whiskey but he took the stupid bait anyway.

Namjoon rolls on to his back next to Jimin and takes a drink, trying to ignore the burn on his tongue and throat.

“That’s what I didn’t like.”  Jimin says staring up at the sky, catching his breath.

“What?”

“I never saw you laugh with her.  It made me kind of sad.”

Namjoon turns to look at his friend.  His cheeks are flush in the cool air and he looks thoughtful and a little dazed.

“Oh,” is all Namjoon says in response.

 

*     *     *

 

“Explain to me how this award show hook up thing works, I really want to know.”

They’re on another walk, days later.  It’s past midnight and Namjoon is trying to keep his voice down, even though there is absolutely no one else in the park who could hear them and their constant giggling makes it harder to hear.

“How did we even end up talking about this,” Jimin giggles back, his voice full of mock protest.

“I’m serious!  I want to know how it works!”

“Okay, okay.”  Jimin takes two deep breaths and steadies himself while they start walking again.  “So you know how hotels usually give you a spare room key or if you lose yours you can just go down and they’ll a make a new one for you?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, if you wanna be really quiet about it, you write your room number on the back of the extra card and slip it to the guy you plan on seeing later.  That way they can just come by and as long as no one sees, no one notices.  No knocking, nothing like that.”

“Smooth.”  Namjoon nods.  “And sneaky.”

Jimin giggles again.

“That’s us.  The gays.  We’re sneaky.”  He has to stop walking because he’s laughing too hard again.  So is Namjoon and they’re falling into each other, grabbing each other’s arms, punch drunk on how late it is and the energy of the whole conversation. 

“But seriously,” Jimin wipes a tear off the corner of his eye.  “Mostly we just stop by each other’s rooms.  A guy going to say hi to another guy in his room doesn’t raise a lot of eyebrows unless it’s super late or something.”

“Ugh, going out with guys has got to be so much easier.”

“Namjoon-hyung, that is the dumbest thing you’ve ever said.”  Jimin’s still smiling but his face has fallen a bit and the giggling is completely gone now.  “Gay.  Idols.  Korea.  Come on.”  He holds up a finger for each item on his list like he’s counting off.

“Sorry, that was dumb.”  Namjoon immediately feels insensitive and stupid, shoves his hands in his pockets reflexively.  He sighs and looks up.  “Fuck Mohammad going to the mountain.  This time the mountain really needs to come to Mohammad.”

“What does that mean?”  Jimin’s nose scrunches up in confusion.

“It means,” Namjoon says, eyes wandering over to Jimin’s face, “that you’re perfect.  And the world needs to catch up and change around you.”

“Oh.”  It’s dark but Namjoon can tell that Jimin is blushing as he turns to keep walking.  “You wanna tell that to my parents?  They’re still insisting I just haven’t met the right girl, yet.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake.”

“Basically.”  He shrugs.  “Love them to pieces except that bit.  That bit sucks.”

Namjoon doesn’t say anything, he knows there’s nothing really to say.  He just takes his hand out, reaches over, grabs Jimin’s and laces their fingers together.  He hates anything that makes Jimin feel small.

Jimin turns to look up him as they keep walking, a curious look and a small smile on his face.

Namjoon squeezes his hand in response.

 

*     *     *

 

It’s the middle of the afternoon and Namjoon has wandered out of his studio.  There are no rehearsals scheduled for the day and he needs a break from trying to work out the lyrics for the bridge in a song.  His brain is mush and he’s spent so much time juggling words he’s not sure how they fit together, anymore.

He finds Jin practicing piano in one of the music rooms.  He thinks about bothering him but Jin looks so deep in concentration, Namjoon figures it’d be kind of a dick move to interrupt right now.  He wanders over to get some coffee, half hoping he’ll hear Hosoek or Jungkook or someone talking in one of the side rooms and he can slide into their conversation. 

Instead he hears classical music coming from one of the dance studios.  He pokes his head in and sees Jimin.  He’s not dancing one of their routines.  It’s something modern.  It’s something he does sometimes just to stay in practice, he says.  He’s got bare feet and his toes point when he jumps.  Namjoon can see the muscles in his legs flex underneath his slightly loose leggings and the worn t-shirt he’s wearing swirls around when he moves his arms.

The thing spreads over Namjoon’s chest, warm and hungry, as he slips through the door. 

Namjoon has always loved this, always been captivated by the way Jimin moves.  The first time Namjoon had seen him dance he’d been struck dumb.  He hadn’t spent time around formal dancers before and hadn’t quite known what to do with that much grace and strength up close. 

He makes his way along the side wall of the studio to sits down to watch but Jimin stops and turns to him before he can make it to a chair.

“Uh-uh.  Dance studio.  If you’re going to be in here you have to dance.”

“I don’t think that’s…”

“I reserved the space, my rules.”

“Okay.  Sorry, I just needed a break.”  Namjoon holds his hands up in surrender.  “I’m polite, I’m out.”

“No, that not what I meant.  It’s fine.”  Jimin says quickly.  “Come do something easy with me.”  He holds his arms out.  “It’s 3/4 time, we can waltz.  Shoes off, though, I don’t want to lose my toes.”

“This is a terrible idea.”  Namjoon is already undoing his laces.

“Shut up and come here, hyung.”  He gestures back with his hands, arms still out.

“Don’t tell your hyung to shut up,” Namjoon retorts, walking over to stand in front of Jimin.  “Okay, now what.”

“I’ll be the guy and you be the girl.”

Namjoon looks down at him.  Flat-footed, Jimin’s chin comes up to Namjoon’s shoulder.

“You sure?”

“I know what I’m doing, so I lead.”  He grabs Namjoon’s left hand and places it on his shoulder.  He puts Namjoon’s right hand in his left and holds their arms out to the side, slipping his other hand behind the side of Namjoon’s waist.  “Okay, just one big step back and then two small steps.  Then one big step back on the other side and two small steps.  And repeat.”

“Terrible idea.”  Namjoon says again.

“And go.”

They go in a straight line and Jimin wasn’t really lying.  It is easy, just steps.  Even going backward, he can do that much.  And Jimin’s hands pushing him back and guiding him really do help.

“See?”  Jimin smiles up at him.  Namjoon knows he loves being right.  “And now it’s the same thing but we turn a bit.”

Jimin tries to guide him around but Namjoon’s feet don’t like complications and it’s a mess.  Jimin pushes him around the floor but it’s still a disaster and they’re laughing and when Jimin tries to pull a pretend upset, posh face, eye brows raised and mouth pulled back, they just laugh harder. 

The music ends and their laughing slows down.  They’re not dancing anymore, just standing there with their arms around each other.  And Namjoon realizes things have gotten quiet.

“You know,” he says, to fill the silence.  “I read once that the waltz was pretty out there when it was invented.  All these old Europeans were scandalized that men and women got to get close and touch each other while they danced.”

“Yeah, I know,” Jimin replies.  “Dance of the devil, I think.”

Namjoon’s brain registers that they’ve shifted.  Jimin’s small hand is spread out on his lower back and Namjoon’s hand somehow slid off Jimin’s shoulder and sits high between his shoulder blades, just below his neck.  Jimin is looking up at him and Namjoon can’t quite read his expression.  He just knows the air is heavy and he can’t hear anything now, just his blood pounding in his ears.

“Hey,” Namjoon jumps back at the sound of Yoongi’s voice, he’s standing in the doorway.  “I’ve been looking for you.  PDogg and I need you in the studio for a minute.”

“Right, sure, lemme grab my shoes.”  He turns to Jimin.  “Thanks for the impromptu dance lesson.”

Jimin gives a short wave.  “Any time.”

The thing in Namjoon’s chest is going absolutely wild.

 

*     *     *

 

It’s late and Namjoon is laying on his bed, staring at the ceiling, music pounding in his headphones.  He can’t stop replaying that stupid moment from the dance studio in his head.  When he tries, his mind just drifts back to thighs and ass and that look on Jimin’s face when he dances.  He’s a giant ball of lust and uncertainty and it’s a combination that really sucks.

It’s not like he hasn’t let his mind off the hook to think about Jimin like that before.  You don’t spend years living with someone you’re attracted to without an escape valve.  But this was different.  This wasn’t a few minutes fantasizing in the shower and then shoving the images down into the void the second after he’s done. This had been real flesh-and-blood Jimin.  Touching and looking and the air thick with real consequences on the horizon.

He wonders if he imagined it.  Maybe he is just that sexually frustrated, wants to be touched that badly.

He’s a pretty shit rock star, as far as that goes, he thinks.  In another time or part of the world someone in his place would have wild parties all the time, someone different every night.  Instead he’s Kim Namjoon: boring, serial monogamist. 

He tries to imagine it, picking up groupies to take back to the hotel after a show.  Tries to imagine himself in the middle of a late 90s rap video, putting himself in the place of Biggie Smalls surrounded by attractive women dancing in tight, tiny dresses.

The fantasy slides off like teflon.  At this point he's read too much, swallowed up too much feminist theory, just doesn’t and can’t look at anyone as disposable like that.  Just the image makes him feel sour inside.

He picks up his phone, tapping out a message to Eunbi.  He’s pretty sure she hasn’t left for London, yet. 

She’d gotten in touch with him a couple of times since they’d broken up.  He’d felt like shit walking out of her apartment in the morning.  But he hadn’t said no.

He erases the message before he can send it.

He puts his phone down and stares at the ceiling again, wondering what real Jimin is like in bed, not fantasy Jimin.  Namjoon thinks he’s probably shy and gentle, blushing and laughing.  Jimin probably has fun when he goes to bed, he thinks, makes his partners happy just by being in the same room as them.  Just like in the rest of his life.

Namjoon picks up his phone and scrolls through a list of Spotify stations.  He really needs to stop thinking about this.  He picks out one that plays whale sounds over calming synthesizers and bullshit spa music.  This is a bad train of thought and a line that just cannot be crossed.  He closes his eyes and wills himself to relax.  I just need a good night’s sleep, he thinks.  Come on, whales, help me out here.

 

*    *    *

 

“Are you in or are you out?!”  Jin shouts tapping cards on the table in between shuffles. Taehyung, sits next to him at the table and Hosoek is doling out poker chips.

“I told you I was coming.  Hold the fuck on,” Yoongi grumbles walking out of the kitchen, a beer in hand. 

“Still don’t know how to play,” Jungkook says from the couch, barely looking up from his video game.

“We could still teach you.” Hobi says from the table.

“Nah, don’t need another thing I’m good at.”

“You just don’t want to watch me kick your ass,” Yoongi says, sitting down.

It’s late fall and they have a guest house on the beach.  They’re leaving the country in a week and a half to go tour and they’ve got a long weekend to breathe before their whole schedule goes to shit for a long, long time.  So here they are, taking full advantage.

“You in?”  Jin asks Jimin and Namjoon, ignoring Yoongi and Jungkook needling each other. 

“In a bit,” says Namjoon from the doorway.

“We wanted to catch sunset from the beach.”  Jimin is putting his shoes, running slower than Namjoon for no obvious reason whatsoever.  “It’s gonna look awesome.”

“Um-hmm,” Taehyung turns to Hosoek to imitate him.  “What a lovely atmosphere, hyung.”

“Oh yes,” Hobi says back, blinking big and doe-eyed getting in on the joke.  “So peaceful.  So pretty.”

“Let’s walk at a snail’s pace so we can enjoy everything.”

“Oh let’s.  And say ooh and ahh a lot.”

“Oooooh.  Ahhhhh.”  They say in exaggerated unison.

“Okay,” Jimin says, finishing his second sneaker.  “That’s it, we’re out.”

“We’ll see you in about an hour,” Namjoon waves.  “And then I’m taking all your money.”

 

*     *     *

 

The beach is almost completely empty.  That’s why they’re here in the first place.  It’s a tourist spot but they’re so far into the off season they hardly have to worry about being bothered while they hide out here.

“It is pretty,” says Jimin defiantly, as they make their way down the boardwalk, oranges and reds blooming in the sky over the ocean.

“Absolutely,” Namjoon hums.  A gust of wind picks up and he pulls his jacket around him.  “Also kinda cold.  We might be kinda dumb.”

“Dumb but appreciative,” Jimin counters.

“Dumb but appreciative,” Namjoon agrees. 

They stop long enough for Jimin to take a picture of Namjoon with the sunset behind him.  Namjoon finds Jimin’s love of instant cameras absolutely endearing.  They’re photographed constantly and he appreciates that Jimin likes to collect his own memories, analogue and private.

Still, the tips of his fingers are starting to go numb and he’d really like to get out of the wind.  They make their way over to the area of the boardwalk where people buy cheap food and watered down drinks in the summer.  Everything’s closed up, of course, but there’s tables scattered around, some of them set off into alcoves meant to be shady and cool in the heat.  They find one situated in a way that it cuts down on the occasional gusts and park themselves on the top of the table, feet on the seat. 

Jimin sits hunched over and pressed up to his side, hands stuffed deep in his jacket pockets, as he stares into the fading light.

“This may not have been the best idea.” Namjoon concedes.

“We’re here, hyung.  We have to see this through to twilight.”  Jimin nods with mock half-serious determination.

“Okay, you win.”

Jimin presses up a little closer and it’s nice.  He’s warm and the lines of his body feel good.  The thing in Namjoon’s chest prods him and Namjoon presses back a bit so their shoulders and thighs are flush together.

It’s quiet but it’s a good quiet.  Namjoon turns to look at Jimin and Jimin is already looking at him.  And then.

It’s less of a kiss at first, than a brushing of lips.  Faces close, just barely pushing past the point of plausible deniability.  But then there’s contact and neither of them are pulling back.  So they lean in.  It’s chaste but Namjoon can feel Jimin’s lips against his and it’s sweet.  It’s so sweet he’s pushing for a bit more, their mouths opening just a bit, lips moving gently against each other.  Something hot and cold all at once runs from his chest all the way down to his stomach.

And then just like that it’s over and Namjoon feels like he’s been hit by a thousand pounds of responsibility as he realizes exactly what they’ve just done.

“We can’t…” he says.  There’s so many endings to that sentence.  So many things screaming in his head all at once.  They can’t threaten their group dynamics by fucking around.  If things went well, it could be a problem.  If things went badly, it would be a problem.  If the wrong person ever saw them, their whole careers could go up in smoke.  And that would hurt the rest of the group.  And then it wouldn’t just be the group, so many other people would be affected if things fell apart.

But Namjoon doesn’t get any of this out.

“I know,” Jimin says before he can finish his sentence.  “But can we just… not talk about all of that just yet?”

“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees, staring out at the water.  He doesn’t really want to have that conversation, either.  He knows he has to, knows it’s his job to, but he still doesn’t want to.

“I guess,” Jimin says hesitantly after a long pause, “it’s nice knowing that I’m not going crazy.”

Namjoon laughs a little and rubs awkwardly at his jeans with his thumb.

“Yeah, I know exactly you mean.”

They stare out for a little while longer.  Pinks and yellows have faded, leaving only darkening oranges and reds in their wake.

“I kinda always thought you were straight.”  Jimin says, finally.  “Although, I don’t know if you ever said that.”

“Mostly.  Kind of.  Sort of.”  Namjoon looks down at his feet, the toes of this particular pair of sneakers are extremely scuffed and somehow it seems right.  “I mean but there’s exceptions.  Obviously.  Some pretty big exceptions.”

“Oh.”

Jimin doesn’t push any further and Namjoon is glad.  He hates that he’s not sure what else to say about it.  He’s pretty sure that he sounds like an asshole but he hopes Jimin knows him well enough to know he doesn’t want to.

“I can’t believe you kissed me back,” Namjoon says.  Jimin sits a little straighter apparently a little surprised by this.

“Oh.  Well, you know.  Poor impulse control and all of that.”

Jimin’s reaches over and pulls one of Namjoon’s hands into his, winding their fingers together.  Jimin’s hands are small and delicate but not particularly feminine.  There’s a hell of a grip lurking under there, Namjoon knows.  Jimin’s rings press against his fingers and his bracelets fall against his wrist.  It’s familiar but more intimate now and Namjoon’s hand feels warm from the implication.

There’s so much they should be talking about right now.  Feelings and wants and what this means for their friendship.  But all of that’s on hold because in the end it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter what Jimin is thinking, it doesn’t really matter if Namjoon never finds out.  There’s nothing beyond this and they both know it.

Namjoon looks over at Jimin staring out at the fading sun.  His features are dashed with sinking colors of the sun, shadows highlighting the curve of his cheeks and the dark color of his eyes.  He runs his hand through his hair and soft strands fall around his face.  The breeze makes his earrings jangle, twinkling with reflected light.

“You really do look like a fairy prince, sometimes.”  Namjoon hears himself say.  “Like you stepped out of a storybook.”

Jimin meets his gaze, one eyebrow slightly raised.  He doesn’t say anything, though, because in the next moment, Namjoon’s mouth is on Jimin’s again.  This time the kiss is open and desirous, lips and tongues and just slow, building want.  Jimin’s winds his free hand through Namjoon’s hair and Namjoon lets his hand rest on Jimin’s thigh before sliding up to wrap around his hip.

The thing has taken over and for just a moment Namjoon gives in and surrenders.

 

*     *     *

 

They’re holding hands again when they walk up to the guest house, the world having gone dark around them.

“So,” Namjoon says, when they get to the door, turning to look at Jimin directly.

“So,” Jimin responds.

“We should have that talk.”

“It’s okay, hyung.”  Jimin stares down at his shoes.  “I think we both know the whole thing.  Careers, idols, everyone else, etc.”

“Yeah, that whole thing.”  There’s a long pause.  Najmoon hasn’t let Jimin’s hand go but he doesn’t know what else to say.  “This sucks,” he says finally.

“Yeah, it really does.”

Jimin looks up at him and they stay like that for a moment, in some kind of frozen orbit around each other.  Then Jimin reaches up to wrap a hand around the back of Namjoon’s neck and pull him down for one last kiss.  It’s slow and deep and Namjoon pulls Jimin close to him thinking, this is the end, this has to be the end.

He pulls away eventually and steps back, putting some space between the two of them.  “Well... goodnight, I guess.”  He reaches a hand out, trying to put some awkward comedy into the situation.  Jimin shakes it, laughing just the barest amount at the stupidity of the gesture.  Then Jimin’s arms are around his shoulders and he’s hugging Namjoon tightly.

“Goodnight, hyung,” he whispers into Namjoon’s neck.

Namjoon embraces him back, just for a moment.

“Goodnight.”

And then Namjoon has to go into the house.  He has to walk away.  He keeps his eyes down like he might damn Eurydice if he glances back.

It’s time to mercy kill the thing, he thinks.  It should have died a long time ago.

Chapter Text

A Long Time Ago

The lighting in the studio bathroom is florescent and harsh and when Jimin stares in the mirror, his own unpretty face stares back at him.

He’s pretty sure Kim Namjoon doesn’t like him.  He’s only known him for a month but it’s pretty obvious how the older boy feels.

Jimin blinks at himself. 

This is bad.  Namjoon is going to be the group leader and if Namjoon doesn’t like him that means Jimin is probably going wash out as a trainee.

The sensible part of himself tells him that it’s not a big deal.  If he doesn’t make it past the trainee stage he’ll just go back to Busan.  He won’t have to feel homesick and there will be other things he can try.

The part of himself that is really in control hates failure.  Is scared to death this is his one big chance and can’t deal with the idea that he could blow it.

No matter how hard he stares, his reflection doesn’t have any sage advice.

Jimin sort of admires Namjoon, even if the older boy doesn’t like him.  Namjoon creates things and Jimin has always admired people who can do that.  He admires Namjoon’s ratty composition notebooks and how they pile up, full of new words and ideas.

That’s not what Jimin does.  Jimin performs.  He takes things other people have made, their words, their choreography, their music.  He tries to pour himself into those shapes, to make those shapes as perfect and personal as possible. 

He sighs.

That’s all there is to it.  He is who he is and he can only do what he does.  He’ll work harder.  Be a better singer, a better dancer.  Even if Namjoon doesn’t like him, hopefully if he works hard enough they’ll all see that he can be useful, that he’s something close enough to talent to be an asset.

He washes his hands like he’s scrubbing in for surgery.  It feels like preparing.  He rubs his skin just this side of raw, a little painful.  He can do this.  He’s good at getting through things.

Chapter Text

Jimin doesn’t go inside.  Instead he walks up a set of outside stairs on the side of the guest house to a porch that overlooks the backyard and a fire pit.  He sits heavily in one of the wicker lounge chairs and doesn’t move for a while, legs bent, hands clasped between his knees, staring off into the distance.  Eventually the breeze picks up again and he can feel his cheeks stinging. Oh. He’s been crying.

“Jiminie?”  A door slides open and he hears Taehyung’s voice.  “I thought I saw you come up here,” he flops down to sit sideways on to the lounge chair next to Jimin and his demeanor changes as soon as he sees his face.  “Hey, whoa. What happened? Are you okay?”

Jimin doesn’t turn to look at his friend.  Even moving that much feels like it would take too much energy.  He sucks in a shaky breath.

“Do you ever get tired of having to give things up?  For this? You know, for what we do?” His voice sounds far away as he talks.

“You mean to be idols?”

Jimin nods.

“Yeah, of course.  But everything in life’s a trade-off, right?”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

There’s a heavy silence and Tae looks at Jimin like he’s expecting him to say more and explain what he meant.  He doesn’t. Jimin can feel time ticking by. Taehyung pulls his glasses off and nervously taps them against his fingers.

“I’m going to ask you something and please don’t get mad.”

“O…kay?”   

“Is this about Namjoon?”

Jimin’s attention snaps into focus and he looks at Taehyung. He hadn’t breathed a word about how things seemed different lately.  He hadn’t even been sure whether or not it had all been in his head until tonight.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean…” Tae taps his glasses a few more times before sliding them back on.  “I saw you guys. Tonight. Out front.”

“Oh!”  It hadn’t even occurred to him that anyone else would be watching.

“I’m pretty sure no one else saw.  They were all playing poker. I just happened to be going back to the room.”

“Oh.  Oh good.”  Jimin feels his chest relax.  Tae seeing is one thing. Talking to Tae is liking talking to a diary that can hug back.  But he really doesn’t want to have to talk about this with more people right now.

“So...” Taehyung prompts.  “Has this been going on for a while or…?”

Jimin shakes his head.

“That was the first time.  I mean, not that. But tonight.  That was sort of goodbye, I guess but…” Before Jimin can get anything else out, Taehyung is climbing into the lounge chair.  There’s not really space for two but Taehyung is wrapping Jimin in his arms, pulling him toward his chest. Jimin realizes he’s started crying again and leans forward, lets himself fall into his friend, not really caring if he messes up shirt.

“You wanna tell me about it?” Taehyung says softly, hands rubbing at Jimin’s back.

“I don’t know when things changed,” Jimin replies quietly.  “We’ve just been spending a little more time together, nothing weird, but it… it’s been really good.  And then we kissed tonight and it was really nice. The beach. Sunset. And it just happened. It was so picture perfect, Tae.  And I don’t get that. I’ve never had that.”

Taehyung rests his cheek on the top of Jimin’s head and squeezes him harder.  “I know, Jiminie. I know.”

“I want to know what happens after that.  But I don’t get to find out. Because we can’t .  Because it could mess everything up.  And now we get to spend 12 hours a day together and mess around in front of the camera like everything’s fine and…”  Jimin takes a deep breath. “And I know I just explained one of the big reasons why it would be a terrible idea for anything to happen between the two of us.  But… but I still feel like I want it and I don’t know how to stop that.”

“Oh, Jiminie…”  Taehyung pets his hair.  “My Jiminie.”

Jimin hears the sliding glass door open and laughter comes pouring out of the house in the background.

“You guys going to come in?” Hoseok calls out.

“In a minute,” Taehyung calls back.  “We’re just talking.”

“Okay.  Just so you know, I think Jungkook is hustling Yoongi and it’s totally worth watching.”

“Amazing.  We’ll be in a bit.”

The door slides shut again, muffling the noise from inside.

“How was Namjoon doing when you left,” Jimin asks softly.  It feels strange to think of Namjoon just inside placing bets and drinking along with everyone else.

“He told Jin he head a headache when he came in and went to bed.  That’s why I came to find you.”

“Oh.”

“You’re saying that a lot tonight.”

“I’m having a bad night.  I’m allowed to be repetitive.”

“I’ll allow it.”  Taehyung hums a bit while he pets Jimin’s hair.  “Okay, so about this thing. Do you remember what happened after my torrid affair with Jungkook?”

Jimin pulls back to look at his friend.  “You never had a torrid affair with Jungkook.”

“Exactly.”  Tae points upward gesturing triumphantly.

“…did you want to have a torrid affair with Jungkook?”

“Oh heck no.  Not even a little.”

“So your point is?”

“I was buying myself time while I figured out what else I want to say.”

Jimin puts his head back on Taehyung’s chest with a sigh.  “Fine. But your next torrid affair had better be real.”

“Duly noted.  So,” Taehyung’s voice gets softer, “what I’m wondering is if it’s about Namjoon or just everything else.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” he shrugs, “it’s like you said.  There was the beach and the sunset and the whole picturesque… picture.  Maybe that’s the thing you’re really hung up on?”

“Oh.  Maybe?  I don’t know.”

“I don’t know, either.”  Jimin feels Taehyung’s chest puff up a bit while he takes a deep breath.  "But if it makes you feel better, I can absolutely promise you’re going to get that someday.  Flowers, champagne, dancing, the full romance kit-and-kaboodle, all nine yards. Someday you are going to get just mind-blowingly swept off your feet.”

Jimin’s eyes start to prick again.  It sounds so… good. And so unlikely.

“How can you promise that?”

“Because you are entirely too good to be unswept, my friend.  Astoundingly, earth-shatteringly sweepable. By the time you settle down you’ll be so tired of being swept you’ll hope the last guy has a mop.”

Jimin gives a little involuntary laugh at that.  “Better than being vacuumed, I guess.”

“Absolutely.  That would suck.”

Jimin hits his shoulder.  “You go inside and give that joke back to Jin right this instant.”

Taehyung laughs, throaty, familiar and warm.

 

*     *     *

 

Tae is dead wrong.  Jimin wakes up with this absolute certainty in mind.

The beach and the sunset were nice but it is absolutely Namjoon and not the romantic ideal that is the temptation.  Jimin is grateful to him, he knows Tae was trying to give him an emotional out. He just happens to be dead wrong.

The problem is that Namjoon is Namjoon.  He’s good-looking, brilliant, introspective and charismatic.  That much is a given, out there for the world to see. But it’s Jimin who can get him to stop being serious for a while.  Jimin who’s allowed to goof around with him, to poke fun at him, to do silly things and to be as touchy-feely as he wants.  Namjoon will play along and laugh with him. Namjoon will let his guard down around Jimin in general. He’ll talk to Jimin about his feelings or have long conversations about absolutely nothing at all.  And he always lifts Jimin up. If he’s around, he never lets him feels small. He’s got a sixth sense about when Jimin needs reassurance and praise.

And if you take all those things, all the ways that good-looking, brilliant Kim Namjoon is friends with Jimin specifically, if you take them all and put them at a slightly different angle, it’s easy to see why Jimin’s heart would twitch when it looked like there might be something else.  He shouldn’t have but it’s easy to see why, when Namjoon started looking at him a certain way, he let his world tilt, just a little.

And now he’s stuck here, in this tilted world and he doesn’t know how to put it right side up again.

He still has a good day, all of those thoughts aside.  Jimin is still on vacation with six of his favorite people and it’s hard for that to be bad.  He spends the morning curled up with Jungkook watching some anime the younger one has been raving about.  Then two of them go out to lunch with Tae and Jimin laughs so hard he almost slips under the table. In the afternoon he goes on a grocery and booze run with Yoongi.  The shopkeeper recognizes them under their baseball caps and facemasks but he doesn't make a fuss. He gets into an extended conversation with Yoongi about Scotch and they drop words like “peaty” and “Islay” before he politely asks for autographs for his daughter. That evening Jimin and Hoseok play sous-chef to Jin and make a massive meal.  Miraculously the group dynamics make it so that there’s enough distance and enough going on that, surprisingly, there's not really a moment for things to get awkward between him and Namjoon. That’s good. All in all it’s a really, really good day.

Now it’s late and dark and they’re all circled up outside in the back. There’s no wind tonight and they’ve got an enormous fire going in the fire pit.  They’re all varying levels of drunk at this point and some of them are a little of high. They’ve still got tomorrow to sleep it off, so tonight is just for getting companionably wasted.  Being young and not caring.

Jin and Yoongi are going at what has been dubbed “The World’s Worst Rap Battle.”  Yoongi will shoot something intelligible at him that’s really some minor dig on Jin and Jin keeps making goofy faces and throwing out dad jokes that he pretends are on beat.  Between rounds Hoseok offers color commentary, miming holding a microphone like he’s reporting on a sporting event.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like once again Jin has failed to find the beat.  He gets no more points this round, plus a three point reduction for his second pun.  Min Suga is still going strong but he may get a deduction for bringing up Jin’s Mario collection a second time.  Let’s listen in and see if he can find something original to say. Aaaaand go!”

Taehyung takes that moment to try and beatbox.  It goes so badly he’s giggling after just a few seconds, his lips making rubbery buzzing noises while he tries to get a hold of himself.

Jimin feels like he’s never going to stop laughing.  Everything feels light and fuzzy and wonderful. He loves them all so much.  

Namjoon’s foot taps into Jimin’s.  They’re sitting next to each and they’ve been playing this dumb game since they started getting drunk.  It’s not enough for anyone else to notice but they keep pushing on each other’s feet and catching each other off guard.  Jimin turns and sticks his tongue out at Namjoon. Namjoon wrinkles his nose at him in response.

It’s cute.  It’s really not fair that he can be cute.

Taehyung makes a second try at beatboxing and it’s even worse than the first.

“Okay,” Namjoon says getting up.  “I need another drink if that’s happening.”

Jimin picks up his own beer and realizes it’s sadly empty.  “Me, too.”

They wander to the kitchen together, not really saying anything.  The floor feels a little less solid as he walks. He’s hit the floaty stage of drunk he decides.

He’s digging around in the kitchen drawer, trying to find the bottle opener when he hears Namjoon.

“You look good tonight.”

Jimin pauses and looks down at himself.  He’s wearing jeans and a gray sweater, nothing particularly exciting.  “Thanks, I think.” He says, finally finding the bottle opener and prying the caps off two beers.  “I did absolutely nothing?”

“Yeah,” Namjoon says softly, “That’s kinda the problem.”  He pulls a small vape rig out of his pocket and takes a long drag.  He holds it for a moment, blankly looking off into the distance before opening his mouth and letting the smoke curl up into the air as he exhales slowly.

Like some kind of sexy dragon Jimin’s mind unhelpfully supplies, as if that makes any kind of sense.

“Want a hit?”

“Sure.”

Jimin holds his hand out but Namjoon doesn’t pass it to him.  Instead he pulls another drag of smoke into his mouth and leans forward.  Jimin knows what he’s doing and opens his mouth just enough to suck in when Namjoon gently blows the smoke between his lips.  

Namjoon doesn’t move back.  When Jimin gently exhales his lips brush against Namjoon’s.  Then there’s the barely there, teasing feeling of Namjoon’s tongue on his bottom lip and Jimin doesn’t think- he hasn’t thought this whole time, honestly.  He leans in and presses into Namjoon’s mouth, let’s himself open up for Namjoon.

Jimin is dizzy and intoxicated and time has gone all pear-shaped so he has no idea how long they spend there.  But they stand there in the kitchen kissing slowly, hands wandering over each other’s bodies like this is normal, something they do all the time.  Like it’s just the natural progression of their evening.

When they break, Jimin gestures weakly in the direction of their friends.  “We should…”

“Yeah,” Namjoon agrees, just as weakly.  “Probably.”

They pick up their bottles and start to walk out.

“Actually…” There’s a den in the guest house with a big TV, comfy chairs and a large couch.  The door isn’t far off the kitchen and Namjoon gestures toward it. “Can we…?”

Jimin isn’t sure what he means, maybe he wants to talk or maybe he needs something from the room.

“Sure.”

The second they get through the door Namjoon shuts it and gracelessly hits the button lock.  It’s a minor miracle that they have the presence of mind to set their beer bottles on a bookshelf near the door because it’s no time at all before Jimin’s back is pressed against the wall and Namjoon is kissing his lips and his neck, hungry and sloppy and hands everywhere and it feels so good.

Jimin pushes Namjoon back, makes him back up halfway across the room, kissing him the entire time, until Namjoon sits down on the couch.  Jimin is right after him, straddling his lap and Namjoon’s hands immediately run up his thighs then settle on his ass. He runs his hands over Namjoon’s chest and through his hair.  He grinds down and can feel Namjoon getting hard beneath him. The wet sounds of their mouths and their panting breaths ring in Jimin’s ears, filthy and wonderful.

Namjoon shifts, repositions them so that he’s laying on top of Jimin between his legs.  Namjoon's erection presses against him as their hips move together and fuck, fuck, fuck it’s so good.

Jimin remembers something from earlier in the day and an idea drifts into his head and makes his stomach jump.  He calms down enough to pull back a bit, reaches up and cups Namjoon’s face in his hands.

“Namjoon.”  His voice sounds quiet and a little desperate.

“Yeah?”

“Do you want to have sex?”  Jimin knows it’s too fast and too soon but he also knows this feeling.  There’s no time for sweet build up, there’s just a narrow window to grab intimacy before it slams shut again.  He knows the window is only open because they’re drunk and because they can blame it on intoxication and bad judgement but it’s still open, so he asks.

“Fuck yes.”  Namjoon dips down to kiss his neck again and the response is breathy against his skin.  Then Namjoon slides up a bit, propping himself up on his arms. Jimin can see him starting to think, starting to worry.  “But we can’t. There’s no way, everyone would hear us… we shouldn’t even be doing this, we probably…”

“There’s a love motel.”  Jimin cuts him off. “Like a ten minute walk from here.  I noticed it when I was out today.”

He can see Namjoon swallow.  He looks like he’s staring at headlights.

“Or not.”  His stomach clenches and he tries to course correct.  “We really don’t…”

This time Namjoon cuts him off.  

“Let’s go.”

Time has dilated again and Jimin has no idea how long it's been since they left their friends to get drinks.  They’ll be gone for a while longer, though, so Jimin has the presence of mind to send a quick text to Taehyung with a cover story that they’re going for a walk and that they’ll be back whenever.  They leave the barely drunk beers in the den, grab their jackets and slip out the front door, fingers gently winding around each other as they go down the street. The air crackles and Jimin feels like he’s covered in static electricity.

“What if someone catches us?”  Namjoon asks more breathing than speaking.

Catches them checking in to the motel, Jimin assumes he means.  Someone from the public recognizing them. “These places are supposed to be discrete. But we can say it was for a prank.  That we were going to take some dumb photos and send them to Tae or something.”

“Okay, weirdly plausible.”

They end up not needing a cover.  Jimin checks them in and the old man at the desk barely looks up, let alone recognizes him.  Credit card, key, done.

The room, as expected, is terrible.  It’s purple everywhere- purple sheets, purple walls, purple floor- splashed with animal print throw pillows, curtains and rugs.

Neither one of them gets out a crack about it, though. They’ve barely shut the door before Namjoon is kissing him again, deep and desperate, hands cradling Jimin’s face.  Kissing Namjoon Jimin has to tilt his head back, he has to reach up to connect and it’s something of a new experience for him. He usually likes guys closer to his own height.

“You’re too tall,” he complains, maneuvering Namjoon over to the bed.  Namjoon sits down and Jimin kisses him, then nudges him to scoot up and lay down on his back.  Jimin straddles him and leans over to kiss him again.

He likes that Namjoon isn’t really an idol kind of handsome.  He cleans up well and dresses even better but he’s not naturally a flower boy and has never really pushed himself to become one.  He’s tall and fit, sure, but most of all he’s attractive in the way that extremely charismatic people are attractive. It’s just who he is.  It’s in the way he holds himself, how he moves through the world.

Right now it makes Jimin feel like he's just won some kind of grand prize.

“You’re bossy.”  Namjoon says when they pause for breath.  

“Is that a bad thing?”

“Fuck no.”  His hands run up Jimin’s body under his shirt.  There’s a piercing on his right nipple and Namjoon runs a finger over it, making Jimin shiver.  “I jacked off for a week thinking about you when you got this thing,” he says absently, almost dreamily.

Holy shit.

An electric shiver runs down Jimin’s spine and he leans over to kiss the other man again.

“You know,” he says, face hovering just above Namjoon’s “girls really love your dimples.”

“Are you a girl?”  Namjoon smirks, playing along.

“Not even a little bit.  But I really do like them.”  Jimin tilts Namjoon’s face one way and then the other, laying a soft kiss on each one.

Not a girl.  The sentence melts through the fog of Jimin’s brain.

“Have you ever had sex with a guy before?”

Namjoon shakes his head.

That’s what he thought.  

“Are you sure you want to?”  Even this drunk, Jimin can do the math and knows that it’s better to ask now and not have sex than deal with a sexual identity panic later.

“Trust me,” Namjoon says sitting up enough to pull up Jimin’s t-shirt and help him take it off.  “I really fucking want to.” His voice is rough with lust and his hands rest on Jimin’s waist as he leans in to place open mouth kisses on Jimin’s chest before settling over the pierced nipple, gently running over it with his tongue.  

Jimin moans.  Fuck but he wants this.

Suddenly a thought occurs to him.  In some ways he's the more experienced one here.  That's… interesting.

“Hey, I'm kinda like your gay hyung, huh.” He runs his hands over Namjoon's shoulders.  Namjoon looks up at him. “You're my dongsaeng,” Jimin giggles. Yeah, he's definitely not sober.

“That's really not sexy.”

“Dongsaeng,” Jimin says again, lightly booping Namjoon's nose.

“Alright,” Namjoon shifts them around, using his larger frame to switch positions so that Jimin is under him lying on the bed.  “You need to shut up.” His mouth covers Jimin's, keeping his lips and tongue busy. Jimin reaches down and they stop long enough for him to pull Namjoon's t-shirt off and toss it to the side, somewhere in the vicinity of Namjoon's jacket and that weird, bright-colored cardigan he'd been wearing. He runs his hands up the smooth skin of Namjoon's back and yeah, this is good- really good- but it's not naked enough. Namjoon must have had the same idea since they reach down to undo each other's pants at pretty much the same time.  They're a bit too drunk though and after they both fumble for a moment they give up and settle for stripping off their own pants and underwear.

And then Namjoon is on top of him again and there’s just too much to touch and kiss.  He wants it all and he wants it now and it’s so much he doesn’t know what to do except lean into the feeling of skin on skin, of feeling Namjoon pressed up against his hip, every bit as turned on as he is.  Somewhere in his haze, though, Jimin realizes that unless Namjoon is as much of a wunderkind at this as he is at other things (and he might be, Jimin spares a thought for talents yet uncovered), Jimin should probably ask for what he wants.  

Namjoon is back to kissing down his neck and collarbone, so Jimin’s voice comes out a little hoarse and breathless.  “Will you fuck me?”

Namjoon lets out a small noise that’s somewhere between a hiccup and a moan and rests his forehead on Jimin’s shoulder.  “How are you actually a walking sex fantasy…”

“What?”

His attention snaps back to Jimin.  “I mean yes.” He looks at Jimin, eyes glazed and intense.  “Yes to everything.”

There’s condoms and lube on the nightstand.  (Thank you love motel.) Jimin opens himself up since it’s the first time.  (Only time, his brain corrects. He bitterly shoves that interjection back and down.)  When he lowers himself down, Namjoon’s eyes flutter shut and he says in a shaky voice, “fuck, you feel so good.”  (Who actually says things like that?)

It’s a little messy and imperfect.  It’s a first time and they’re intoxicated and full of pent up energy and it’s flying out of them at angles.  But whatever else is missing in skill is made up for in sheer enthusiasm. Namjoon seems hellbent on making Jimin feel good, like he’s trying to pass some kind of test.  Jimin wants him to feel the same way but at the same time Namjoon looks like wants to devour him, like he’s been starving. Jimin just wants to drown in that. He gets off on Namjoon looking at him like that.

When it’s over they lay next to each other, chests rising and falling heavily while they come back to their senses.

“Holy shit,” Namjoon breaths, voice rough as it drifts into the air.

“Yeah.  Holy shit,” Jimin agrees, voice equally breathy and rough.

“That was really good.”  Namjoon says after another beat.

“Yeah.”  They’re both laying with their arms raised above their heads and Jimin lets his hand float over, lets the backs of his fingers lightly intertwine with Namjoon’s.

“That makes sense.”

“Oh?”  Jimin looks over at Najmoon.  He’s gazing at Jimin, lips turned up slightly.

“We both really like being good at things.”

Jimin laughs a little.  “Well, you should see me when I’m trying to be perfectionist.”

“Jesus.”  Namjoon says to no one in particular.  He sits up a little to take the condom off and for the first time seems to really notice Jimin’s come all over his stomach and chest.  “Huh,” he says a little dumbly, gently running his fingers over himself.

“Sorry about that,” Jimin says, his heart skipping a tiny beat while he grabs the closest thing he can find to clean it off with and hands it to Namjoon.

“Don’t be sorry.  It’s hot as fuck,” Namjoon says, wiping off his chest.

He lays back down on the bed and rolls on to his side to look at Jimin.  Jimin rolls to his side to face him.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Namjoon runs the back of fingers up Jimin’s cheekbone and down the line of his jaw, the touch so sweet and gentle.

“I like you,” he says softly.

It sounds like the strangest thing to Jimin.  Like they haven’t known each other for years. Like they aren’t already tied together in so many ways.

Still.  Jimin holds his gaze and says it back.

“I like you, too.”

 

*     *    *

 

Purple.  The first thing Jimin thinks in the morning is purple.  He’s sleeping on purple sheets. The next thing he notices is a zebra striped throw pillow on the edge of the bed.  

Weird.

Wait a minute.

Jimin eyes snap all the way open and he realizes in a rush where he woke up.  He’s suddenly very aware that he’s naked, that there’s a naked Namjoon behind him and that Namjoon is spooning him with an arm slung over Jimin’s waist.  

“Namjoon?”

There’s a bit of a grunt and a shuffle behind him.

What the hell is Namjoon going to say when he wakes up?  What is Jimin going to say?  

Jimin has really fucked up this time.  His stomach lurches and he’s not sure if it’s the hangover or the realization that this is all his fault.

His panic is cut a bit short when Namjoon pulls him closer and nuzzles the back of his neck.  Jimin takes a deep breath. Let’s himself relax and enjoy the feeling. Then he tries again.

“Namjoon?  Hyung?” He says it a bit louder this time, running a hand up Namjoon’s arm.

“Huh, wha?”  

Jimin feels him jolt awake.

“Oh shit.” Namjoon rolls over and Jimin's back gets a little colder.  “My head.” There’s a little groan. “Ugh, I hate everything right now.”

Jimin gets up and looks around for his jacket and phone. He feels self-conscious, so he fishes his underwear out of the pile of clothes on the floor and puts them on before flopping back on to the bed.

Five texts and three missed calls from Taehyung and one missed call from Jungkook.  Great.

“It's still pretty early. Everyone will probably still be asleep if we go back now.”

“Hooray for small miracles.”  Namjoon sits up.  “Are my boxers over there?”

Jimin leans over his side, untangles them from Namjoon's pants and tosses them over.

“Thanks.”  A marginally more clothed Namjoon looks around. “Wow.  This room really is kind of terrible.”

“Yeah.”

“Knock-off, dollar-store Prince terrible.”

“Discount strip-club chic terrible.”

“‘There is no sex in the champagne room.’” Namjoon declares authoritatively.

“What?”

“It's a… thing. Nevermind.”

There's a long stretch of awkward silence.  Jimin just lays on the bed waiting for something to happen.  Eventually, he says, “I'm sorry.”

“What?”  Namjoon sounds surprised.

“This was my idea.  I'm sorry I made things weirder.”

“I'm… I'm pretty sure this was a two man job.”

There's the edge of a joke there but Jimin let's it drop and doesn't say anything.

“You really weren't how I expected,” Namjoon says absently.

“You had expectations?” Jimin remembers Namjoon saying something about fantasies last night.  He wonders how much Namjoon has thought about this.

“I just thought you’d be… I dunno, shyer or something.”

“…sorry?”

“No, no it was awesome.  You were awesome. Seriously.”  Namjoon rubs at his temples. “I shouldn't be talking about this.”

“Well, I’d rather hear that I’m good at sex than bad at it, I guess.”

Namjoon smiles, still holding his head in his hands.

“I’m sorry if I wasn’t… I mean, I hope I was okay.”

“You were fine!” Jimin’s hand flies out to rest on Namjoon’s shoulder.  “Wait, I didn’t mean it like that. It was great. You were great. That just came out weird.”

Namjoon chuckles then pushes his fingers together and taps them against his mouth, looking up and across the room.

“Well, now that we’ve established the sex was good, what do we do now?”

Jimin reaches over and picks up one of the zebra striped throw pillows, hugging it to his chest.  He’s not even sure what that means. They’d pretty well established what the line was. Then they’d sprinted to the other side of that line.  What was left to do except quietly shuffle back to where they were before? Is it a question of how, he wonders? Is it just damage control?

“I don’t know.”

“What do you want to do?” Namjoon turns to look at him, face open and honest.

I want to go back to sleep, Jimin thinks.  I want to go back to sleep with you, wake up later, have a hungover breakfast together, flirt shamelessly over coffee and then, at some point, I want to have sex with you again, but this time I want to be sober.

“I don’t know,” he says.

Namjoon flops down on his back and stares at the ceiling.  “I don’t know either.”

The awkward silence sits there again.

“Okay,” Namjoon says eventually.  “I think we should talk about this later.  We're both hungover- at least I sure as hell am- and we probably need to get back to the house unless we want to explain to everyone where we were all night. Which I really don't want to, at least not right now.”

Jimin nods.  “Makes sense.”

“So we'll both think about things and talk when we're ready?”

What is there to talk about?  Jimin wonders again. What can they say except for ‘we can't do this’ and ‘I know?’

He wonders what Namjoon is thinking but he doesn't ask.

“I think that's a good idea.”

Jimin picks up their clothes from the floor and hands Namjoon’s to him.

“Well that’s a thing.”

“What?”

Namjoon holds up his t-shirt.  It’s smeared with dried come. That must have been what Jimin had handed him to clean up with the night before.

“Whoops.”  Is the only thing Jimin can think of to say.

Namjoon puts it on anyway.  The cardigan mostly covers it but it’s still weird and a little hot to think of Namjoon wearing… evidence.

The walk back to the house is relatively quiet.  The combination of hangovers and awkwardness mean it’s easier not to talk.  They do quickly figure out a cover story. They’d decided to stay up and watch the sunrise and fell asleep on the beach.  They’ll get chewed out for being reckless but it’s at least sort of believable. Conversation falls off after that.

They get their small miracle and it’s early enough that no one is awake when they get back to the house.  Before he goes to his room, Namjoon grabs Jimin’s hand.

“We’ll talk, right?”

Jimin nods.  “Of course.”

Namjoon hesitates, then he presses a quick kiss against Jimin’s temple and quietly disappears upstairs.

Jimin thinks about going back to bed, he’s tired enough, but he’s also wired and his mind is prodding him with all kinds of things.  Instead he takes a shower, changes into fresh clothes and goes to the kitchen to make himself some coffee.

He knows he has no right to complain about his life.   He’s been given more than his wildest dreams and he's grateful for it.  He's grateful that he gets to make music, grateful that they've been so astoundingly successful.  He's grateful for their fans and the relationship they get to have with them. He really does love them in this strange overwhelming way and he feels so lucky he gets to know what that love feels like.  He gets to make art he believes in and to do it with people he loves. He gets to travel the world, meet people admires and makes an extraordinary amount of money.

It's insane that anyone should get so much in a life. And he's grateful and humbled by it.  All of it.

But there's still things he wants.  He wants to get off a plane like a normal person, no crowds, no one flashing cameras he has to look perfect for.  He wants to be able to go out for a meal with a female friend without worrying about blurry pictures and tabloid dating speculations.  He wants to be able to sleep in more, see his family more, just be a boring human more. And right now he wants to go up to Namjoon’s room, crawl into his bed and ask for… something.  He’s not even sure what he wants to ask for but he still wants to ask.

But he knows he can’t.  Mentally, he adds Namjoon to the second list.  The list that tries to pay for everything he gets in the first one, even though he’ll never really be able to balance the scales.

He’s sitting at the kitchen table with his coffee, staring off into space when Taehyung walks in.

“Oh thank god, you’re okay.”

“Yeah, sorry.”  Jimin mentally shakes himself and tries to come back to Earth.  “I didn’t see your texts and everything until this morning. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Tae sits down across from him.  “Where did you go?”

“To the beach.  We were drunk and decided we were going to watch the sunrise.  Unfortunately, like I said, we were drunk so we fell asleep.” He’s just blatantly lied to his best friend.  He doesn’t have the energy to talk about it now, though. He’ll fill things in later. Tae will understand.

He seems to understand that something is missing, anyway.

“And…?”

“And we talked,” Jimin says.  “Worked things out.” That’s sort of true.  Sort of. The first part maybe. Kind of. “I think we’re back to normal now.  Or we will be,” he adds. Blatant lie number two. You’re a really great human being this morning, Park, his mind adds sarcastically.  But still. He doesn’t like the look of worry in his friend’s face.

“You okay?”

“Yeah.”  No. “Just hungover.”

“Good.”  He flops folds his arms on the table and flops his head down.  “I feel like shit. Pet my hair, Jiminie.”

Jimin reaches over and runs his fingers through the other man’s hair.  “My poor Taetae. We gotta get you a better alcohol tolerance.”

“Maybe we can buy one online.”

“I’ll get you anything you want.  Promise.”

 

*     *     *

 

That afternoon a driver comes with a luxury van to ferry them back to Seoul.  They pile in, everyone relaxed and companionable. Taehyung and Jin are both still a little hungover, so the ride is quiet.  Jungkook naps next to him while Jimin stares out of the window at the landscape and the buildings rushing past and thinks.

Fuck, you feel so good.

I like you.

What do you want to do?

Chapter Text

A long time ago

The restaurant smells like grease and the tables are scuffed.  Namjoon can see where someone has scratched a small tag in the corner of the window when he looks out.  But they’re broke, it’s late, and the noodles are cheap, so it works for them.

Yoongi is angry.  Really, really angry and the table he and Namjoon are sitting at wobbles unevenly when he gestures too much.  He’s not angry at Namjoon, he’s angry about the panel they were on and about how he felt ambushed when one of the other rappers started needling them about being idols.

Which.  Is that what they are?  Namjoon isn’t sure. On one hand, yes, sure, that’s the structure, they debuted on the music shows, they have that stupid dance move where they all show their abs.  But.

He’s staring blankly at the tag but he’s listening to Yoongi.  Yoongi never just yells. When he’s mad he thinks. He thinks angry and angry Yoongi thinks about interesting things.  Right now he’s running with what might very well be a full on dissertation about hip hop as performance art. He’s drawing lines from Run DMC through to Jay-Z and Nicky Minaj, with a significant detours back to talk about Snoop Dogg and Foxy Brown.  It’s good. It’s smart.

Yoongi’s phone vibrates and he looks down at the cracked screen before turning the screen off and putting it down.  Namjoon raises an eyebrow.

“Some guy I went out with.  I’ll get back later.” And then he’s back to Foxy Brown.

Yoongi has a tendency to drop important information like this.  Conversational.

(“Are you going to see your parents for the holidays?”  “Nah, they haven’t talked to me in six months. Where do you want to go for dinner?”)

Namjoon’s a little surprised but he doesn’t really care that much, so he doesn’t comment.

(One day Yoongi will make a similar off-hand comment to a Japanese radio host about not having a preference one way or another.  Their manager will freak out at him afterwards. Namjoon will be delighted.)

He goes back to staring out of the window.  He feels like he’s starting to see outlines of something while he listens to Yoongi.  Something worth making. He can’t quite figure it out, yet. But it’s there. Shimmering and indistinct in the distance, waiting for him to be able to figure it out.

Chapter Text

“Backalicious.  First album, I think… the one with Alphabet Aerobics .  Dammit.  No idea about the song title.”

Do This My Way .  It's a B side, so I’d say you totally get points for that.”  Namjoon lays on Jackson’s floor, Jackson sprawled on the couch above him.  There’s a half-smoked blunt in his hand while he scrolls through the songs on his phone, currently hooked up to Jackson’s expensive and beautiful sound system.  Namjoon’s always like the smell of blunts. There’s probably some weird 90s rap idealization going on there but there’s something about the smell of pot and cigar wrappers that’s sort of nice and vaguely soothing.

“Okay, I got a hard one for you.”  He sits up a little and passes to Jackson while he presses play on a different track.  Jackson looks thoughtful while he takes a long inhale before putting the blunt down on the end table.  He sits for a minute, letting the bars wash over him.

“No idea.  Sounds 80s, though.”

Roxanne’s Revenge .  Roxanne Shante.  One of the very first great female MCs.  She was only 14 and it was all improvised, just one take.   One take.  ”

Jackson shakes his head and shrugs.  “Okay, that is a deeeeeep cut.”

Namjoon sighs.

“Look up the Roxanne Wars, man.  Worth it, I promise.”

Jackson nudges his shoulder with his foot.

“You said you needed to talk.”

It’s true.  Namjoon had said that.  They fly out on tour in a just a few days and Namjoon is being extremely irresponsible.  He should be sleeping. Instead he’s laying around at Jackson’s and getting stoned while they quiz each other on hip-hop.  Extremely irresponsible seems to be his M.O. all of a sudden, though.

He had really needed to talk to someone about what happened on his long weekend.  But now that he’s here, he’s relaxed and content and thinks he might be perfectly happy to let the next few hours just float away.

Jackson nudges him with his foot again.  “Namjoon.” Tap. “Namjoon.” Tap. “Namjoon.”  Tap. “Come on. It’s bad to keep things repressed.”  Tap. “Namjoon.”

“Okay, okay, stop it.”  Namjoon pushes his foot away.  “So.”

“Yes?”  Jackson leans over chin in hand.

“Don’t look so interested.”

“I’m always interested in you.  Talk.”

Namjoon rubs his face with his hands.  “So I slept with a guy.”

“Okay.  And?”

Namjoon realizes he was expecting some kind of reaction from that.  He’d wanted some kind of reaction to that.  In the same moment he also remembers that Jackson doesn't react to a lot of things and that’s one of the reasons Namjoon likes him.

“With another idol.”

“It happens.”

“…with one of my bandmates.”

“Okay.  So that’s been known to happen, too.  Which one? Was it good?”

“Jimin.”

“Aw.  You went for cute.  That’s both adorable and perfectly you.”

“And it was really, really good.”  Namjoon sighs and lays back down on the floor with a thump.

“So why are you upset about it?”  Jackson leans back, eyes still on Namjoon, a worried little crinkle in his brow.  “Are things screwed up between the two of you?”

“No.”  He shakes his head.  Between rehearsals and preparations there hasn’t really been a second for them to talk alone and honestly, he hasn’t tried to make one.  But it seems okay. Maybe it’s because they’re so busy but things haven’t been noticeably weird. “At least I don’t think so. Not for now anyway.  I just. It’s a really, really bad idea and I feel shitty about it.”

“If things are fine with you guys, the problem is what, that someone will find out?”

“That's the short version, I guess.”

“So then don’t let it get out there.”  Jackson reaches over and fishes the blunt out of the ashtray on the table and picks up a lighter.  “The weird thing about our lives is that we can do whatever we want, just as long as no one knows.”

“You think it’s that easy?”

“Sure.”  Jackson shrugs.  “Why not?”

“That’s just not…” Namjoon shakes his head again.  “I don’t know.”

“Hey and if you’re sleeping with guys now, that’s good for me.”  Jackson grins wolfishly. “Now I might actually have a chance.”

Namjoon looks at him and narrows his eyes.

“You know, I honestly have no idea whether or not you’re kidding with that stuff.”

“Fantastic.”  His smile turns sweet and innocent.  “That’s exactly how I want it.” He gestures at Namjoon’s phone.  “Now gimmee another one.”

Namjoon does some quick scrolling and settles on a track.

“Okay.  A present for you.  Sticking with the female MCs.”  He presses play.

Girls, you better watch out.  Some guys are only a-bout…

“Lauryn!”  Jackson throws his hands up, calling out happily before dropping them back over his heart.  “My lady! My lovely, perfect, perfect lady.”

 

*     *     *

 

There's enough going on in the days leading up to the tour that Namjoon’s warring impulses have to declare an armistice.  His life is a living to-do list and all he can do is cross off one item after another.

Rehearse, coordinate, study, wave at the camera, practice, go to a meeting, rehearse, wave at the camera, attend another meeting.  Rehearse, rehearse some more, wave at the camera. Go to a meeting, study, wave at the camera, rehearse. Go to the airport, wave at the camera.  Get on an airplane. Study. Try to sleep. Get off the airplane. Wave at the camera. Go to the hotel. Meet with the managers. Finally go to his own room. Collapse on the bed.

Realize there is one of those doors between neighboring rooms at the hotel.

Realize that Jimin's room is on the other side.

Realize that that he's been handed time and privacy on a platter.

Realize the armistice is over.  One of his impulses is going to have to win.

Namjoon breathes.  He's tired but he has to stay awake for at least a couple of hours.  It'll be worse for his jet-lag if he doesn't.

He walks over to the shared door and knocks.

“Jimin?”  He knocks again.  “It’s Namjoon.” He’s feeling a little dumb, standing there knocking on the door when things like phones and text messages exist, when he hears the bolt turn on the other side.

When he opens the door, Jimin is still wearing the black jeans and white button down he deplaned in but now the shirt is untucked and rumpled and his hair is sticking out on one side of his head.  He’s blinking owlishly at Namjoon.

“Fell asleep, huh.”

“I was reading.”

“Rookie mistake.”

Jimin looks at him darkly.  “Reading.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Okay, I dozed off in the middle of a page.  You win.”

“Can we talk?”

He stands to the side and gestures at his room.  “You wanna come in?”

“Yeah, if that’s okay.”

“Sure.”

Jimin sits at the top of the bed, back against the headboard.  Namjoon follows him in and sits on the edge of the bed.

Jimin’s got three different bags already open, half their contents strewn around the room.  Namjoon gives himself 24 hours before his own room looks even worse. He’s got two different books on the end table and Namjoon looks to see what he's been reading and…

“Hyung?”

Right.  He’s supposed to be saying something right now.

Namjoon collects himself and looks up at Jimin.

And… he’s Jimin.  Even worn out from a long flight, he looks puckish and angelic.  I know what it’s like to kiss you, Namjoon thinks. I know what it’s like to touch you.  And just like that, all the thoughts that have been held back for days come tumbling forward.  They chaotically swirl and collide until they take the shape of a single word.

Please.

Namjoon looks into his eyes.  “What do you want?”

Jimin sighs a little.  “I don’t know what you mean, I-”

Namjoon is leaning in and kissing him before he can finish that sentence.  

Please.

Jimin goes stock still for a moment and Namjoon almost pulls away.  But then his hands are in Namjoon's hair, holding on to him and Jimin is kissing him back.  Namjoon feels something akin to relief.

Namjoon pulls away just enough that he can talk, his forehead almost resting on Jimin’s.

“That,” he says simply.

Please.

Jimin’s fingers rest on the back of Namjoon’s neck and there’s a quiet in the room.

“This,” he says softly.  “I don’t know what this is.  But I want it.”

“Me, too.”

That sit like that, just in each other’s space.  Breathing each other’s air. Namjoon sits up, pulling Jimin’s hands into his lap.

He fixates on Jimin’s hands for a moment.  There’s no rings, no bracelets. They feel strangely naked and Namjoon runs the pad of his thumb over Jimin’s knuckles.

“If no one else knows.  If it’s just you and me.  We could. I think.” Namjoon hadn’t walked in knowing what he was going to say but it seems like this is it.

Jimin seems thoughtful.  If he’s shocked he doesn’t show it.  “Okay.” His voice is barely more than breath.

“Okay?”  Namjoon looks up at him feeling surprisingly hopeful.

“I'm tired of giving things up.”  Jimin fidgets with Namjoon's hand.  “I didn't even like what I had for breakfast this morning and… I want this.”  He says again.

“Then I'm in.”  Namjoon feels his chest going all light and fluttery.  Feels himself starting to smile.

“I'm in, too.”  And Jimin is smiling back at him.  

But then there's a slight hitch in Namjoon's brain.  Even though it feels like gravity is just a touch lighter right now, habits still reassert themselves.  Responsibility. It's who he is.

“BTS has to come first, though. No matter what, this can't affect anyone else.”  Well, he's just killed the moment.

“Yeah.  Agreed.” Namjoon looks Jimin in the eyes.  He can see that he's just as serious as he is.

Of course he is.  That's who Jimin is, too.

“Kiss me.”  Jimin sounds a bit uncertain but it's not a question.

Right now, Namjoon is inclined to follow orders.

So he lets gravity release him again.  Lets himself fall forward and slide a hand up to cup Jimin's face. He lets himself drown.  Just exist in this moment.

It's different than the other times they've kissed. It’s not a drunk kiss, not a last kiss, not a shouldn't-be-a-kiss.  It's just a kiss. There will be other kisses after this one. It's a little warmer. A little happier.

“I feel like I just walked off a cliff.”  Jimin says quietly when they pause, face millimeters from Namjoon's, hand gentle on his cheek.

“I think I know exactly what you mean.”

He does.  He feels like a mess of adrenaline and joy.  As though for a moment he hadn’t known if he’d live or die.  But here he is on the other side. Alive.

Namjoon kisses him again and this time it's a bit more insistent.  A little bit more like celebrating. Jimin kisses him back, hands running down over his chest.  Their hands start to wander and they slip down to the bed, like it’s a piece of choreography they’ve already learned.

He’s exhausted but he doesn’t really care.  Wanting and having and wanting are curling through him now and the tiredness just makes him feel a little strange.  Like he’s outside of himself but more aware of everything he’s feeling all at once.

It’s different from the guest house or the motel.  There’s nothing frantic or demanding this time around.  They don’t even take off their clothes, although Namjoon does slide his hands under Jimin’s shirt feeling the lean muscles underneath.  He kisses down Jimin’s neck and across his collarbone. (Namjoon has a thing for Jimin’s collarbone. Namjoon could probably write a long, annotated treatise about all the parts of Jimin's body he's got a thing for.)  He doesn’t even realize how hard he is until Jimin’s hand brushes the front of his jeans and he leans into the light contact without a second thought.

Jimin prompts him to roll on to his back and Namjoon complies.  He gets another deep kiss for this and then Jimin is kissing down his neck and then his chest.    He pushes Namjoon’s shirt up and lays kisses on the lowest part of Namjoon’s stomach, tongue flicking out ever so slightly near his hip.  Some soft, gasping noise comes out of Namjoon’s mouth. Then he undoes Namjoons pants and Namjoon lifts his hips so he can pull them down.  There’s more sweet, wet kisses near his hip, lower now and working inward.

Jimin looks up at Namjoon, eyes dark and questioning.  Namjoon nods, even though he’s not sure what he just gave permission for or if he was really asked for permission at all.

Then Jimin’s mouth is on him and oh fuck.

Namjoon considers himself an atheist. But right now he thinks he'd be willing to convert to any religion that will let him personally thank whichever god made this happen.

He thinks he sees stars behind his eyes when he comes.

He lays there warm and satisfied.  Mentally he crosses another fantasy off his list.       

That's something he does now. Goddamn.

Namjoon pulls Jimin in for a kiss and lets his own hands drift down to where he can feel Jimin still hard in his jeans.  He gets the button undone and Jimin helps him pull the tight pants down over his hips.

He’d touched Jimin that night in the motel and Namjoon had liked it.  But now he’s sober and he’s worried that he’s not going to be any good at this.  He wants to reciprocate, though.

He starts with light touches.  That must be okay because Jimin kisses him harder.  He touches him a bit more and then takes him fully into his hand.  Jimin’s hand slips from Namjoon’s hair to his shoulder and he makes a small encouraging noise, so that must be okay, too.

It’s sort of like touching himself.  But not really. Okay, not at all. The feeling is different and the angle is different and there’s the sheer excitement of just touching another person.  It’s satisfying in a way he can’t quite describe. But mostly just being able to feel in his hand how turned on Jimin is sends shivers down his spine.

Okay.  Guys? Pretty good.

Everything Jimin feels tends to paint itself across his features.  There’s freedom and concentration across his brow and his barely parted lips when he dances.  When he laughs or smiles, joy spreads over his whole face from his enormous smile to his half-moon eyes.  When he’s angry his lips press together forcefully and his eyes go terrifyingly sharp.

Jimin’s face when he’s about to come is a piece of art Namjoon could hang in a museum.  His mouth falls slightly open, soft pants coming out of his full lips, his cheeks go pink, and his eyes go hazy and wide.

Namjoon has to kiss him like that, deep and hard.  Jimin moans loudly into his mouth when he comes.

Namjoon grabs a tissue to clean himself up and they pull up their pants.  Then boneless they both fall back on the bed.

“Well, that was more fun than I thought I’d have tonight,” Jimin says finally, a smile on his lips.

“We should hang out again sometime,” Namjoon smiles back at him.  He feels comfortable and soft. There’s no awkwardness or heaviness left in the air.   Despite everything, it’s still just… them.

“Definitely.  I’ll text you.”  Jimin laughs and Namjoon gives him a small kiss.

“So.”  Jimin reaches out and starts playing with Namjoon’s shirt.

“Hmm?”

“You… didn’t happen to pack condoms and lube, did you?”

“Not in my usual travel bag.  You?”

“Nope.”

“So we should get some?”

Jimin slides his hands from Namjoon’s shoulders down to his chest and back up again.  “Depends on how happy you want to make me.”

Flirt.

This whole thing is probably going to kill him if it keeps up like this, he thinks.  BTS’s Kim Namjoon found dead in a hotel room. Cause of death: Mind blown. Along with everything else.

He wraps an arm around Jimin’s waist and pulls him a little closer.  “I want to make you very happy.”  Jimin gives him one of those little laughs that sounds like bells ringing.  “I’ll figure it out.”

“Cool.”

They lay there for a while, enjoying the comfortable silence and being close to each other.  It’s warm and nice and Namjoon can feel himself starting to nod off.

“I don’t think I’m going to make it much longer.”  He says, yawning.

Jimin shakes his head.  “Me neither.”

Namjoon contemplates going to their separate beds.  He doesn’t really like the idea. He likes the way it feels laying next to Jimin, sure, but it also just doesn’t feel right.  He doesn’t like idea of saying “well, I had a nice time, I’ll see you later,” as though he was some half-stranger after a third date.

“Do you want to stay the night?”  He asks with another yawn.

“Hyung, we're in my bed.”

Right. “So can I stay?”

“I'll be mad if you don't.”

“Mmm.  Last thing I want is a mad Jiminie.”

Jimin goes off to do whatever five-step skincare regimen he’s using right now while Namjoon just slides out of his pants and his shirt and gets under the covers.  Namjoon is too tired to worry about any of that tonight. Jimin comes back, strips down to his underwear, turns off the light and gets into bed next to Namjoon. Namjoon wraps himself around Jimin’s back and lays an arm over him, interlacing their fingers in front of Jimin's chest.

“Namjoon?”  Jimin’s voice sounds uncertain in the dark.

“Yeah?”

“This is good, right?”

For the first time that night a flicker of doubt makes its way across Namjoon’s mind.

He presses a kiss into the back of Jimin’s neck.

“Yeah.  It’s good.”

It’s quiet as they drift off to sleep.

 

*     *    *

 

They wake up to the sound of both their alarms going off at the same time.  There’s a moment of chaos as they both jump for their phones, shocked awake by the unfamiliar noise of the other alarm.  They collapse on to the bed after they’re done fumbling and shutting them off.

“Not in my top ten favorite ways to wake up,” Namjoon says dryly, rubbing his face with his hands.

“At least I’m wide awake now, I guess.”  Jimin turns to Namjoon. “So what’s on your schedule today.”

“Just the tourist stuff and then I’m coming back here early to go over things for interviews tomorrow and work on some other stuff.  You?”

If they can, the label always schedules them a day before their first engagements, so they can adjust after big international flight.  Completely jet-lagged stars are a bad look. In practice that usually means a day of wandering around wherever they are, while they take pictures for social media.  It’s not so bad.

“Same tourist stuff and then I’m going out to dinner with Tae, Kookie and Hobi.  Probably won’t be back until late.”

Namjoon nods.  “Okay, showers.  Showers are a thing.  I need to get up.”

Instead Jimin leans over to kiss him.  It’s sweet and lazy, a good morning kiss.

Namjoon is pretty sure he can get used to this. He's pretty sure he wants to get used to this.

When he opens his eyes he sees Jimin, eyes sparkling and light colored hair going every which way.

“Hey, Fairy Prince.”

“I thought I was an angel without wings” Jimin teases.

“You can be both.”

“Do you think it’ll be hard today,” Jimin asks, switching topics “acting like nothing's changed?”

“I think it’ll be fine,” Namjoon takes Jimin’s hand and presses the palm to his lips.  “I don’t think anyone’s ever been ruthlessly interrogated for being in a good mood.”

“Fair.”  Jimin gives him another quick kiss.  “Okay, go shower. I’m kicking you out.”

Namjoon laughs.  “Yes, sir.” He sneaks in one last kiss of his own before picking up his clothes and leaving.

Walking through the door to his own room and seeing his own unslept in bed is disorienting.  It feels like he left this room years ago and not just the night before.

He throws his clothes on the floor and goes into the bathroom.  He looks at his reflection in the mirror. He still looks tired but there’s also a sense of glee that even he can see pouring out of him.  He has to stop smiling so much for one.

He feels like a teenage girl.  He wants to jump up and down and giggle.  He's not going to, though.

Still.  He does need to get some of this out of his system.

He jumps around and punches the air instead.

 

*     *    *

                                          

Before breakfast Namjoon goes to the hotel lobby.  There's an ATM in one corner and he takes out a handful of bills.  Then he walks toward to the concierge’s desk and looks over hopefully.  There's an older man and a younger woman about his age behind the counter.  They're both shuffling around paperwork at different parts of the desk, heads down.  Namjoon does a quick calculation and approaches the woman. As soon as he's up to the counter her head pops up.

“Hi. What can I help you with this morning?” Her tone sits right on the line between peppy and professional.

“Hi, so I have a really awkward request.”

She smiles.  “Well, we're here to help.  What can I do for you?”

Namjoon takes a deep breath.  This is going to be uncomfortable as hell but he thinks he’s got it figured out.

“Okay, so one of the guys on our staff is a friend of mine.  He’s dating someone else on staff and basically... they forgot to bring condoms.  And he asked me to help him out because our schedules are packed and I speak English and he doesn't so,” he laughs nervously and runs a hand over his face, “...I must be a really good friend.”

She smiles broadly covering her mouth with her hand.  “That's really kind of sweet and adorable.”

“Thanks.”  He blushes and taps the counter.  The blush, at least isn't an act. “Would it be possible to have someone pick up some condoms and lube and drop them off in my room?”

“I think we can manage that.  Any particular brands?”

“I have no idea. Honestly, he should take what he can get at this point.”  Namjoon laughs and she laughs a little with him. “Thank you for not making this weird.”

She leans in a little conspiratorially.  “I’ll let you in on a secret. Sometimes people have sex in hotels.  Even really nice ones.”

Namjoon bursts out laughing. For real this time.  She smiles back at him, genuine, not just polite. She’s definitely one of the good ones.

“Well, thank you, anyway.”  He hands the bills in his hand over. “Just keep the rest as a tip.” There's more than enough to pay for things and then give both her and whatever poor porter that’s is going to get sent out on the errand obscene tips.  Somehow that makes him feel a little less awkward.

She takes the money and asks for his room number.  He gives it to her and thanks her again, making sure to look grateful and put upon by his “friend.”

As he's walking away he hears one of the women from the check-in desk come over and loudly whisper to the concierge. “That's one of the guys from BTS!”

“From who?”

The front desk woman starts talking excitedly. Namjoon wishes he could eavesdrop and hear how she describes them but it's not really practical and he needs to get to breakfast, anyway.

Oh well.  At least he just gave them a good story to tell at parties.

 

*     *     *

 

“Why are you so happy this morning.”  Yoongi scowls at him over coffee.

“I dunno. I guess I just slept well.”

“Hyung, are you becoming a morning person?”  

Namjoon looks over to see Jungkook.  His voice is teasing and he’s already filming on his portable camera.  Jungkook is a morning person.  Because of course he is.  

Normally, Namjoon would swat at him at say something half-serious like, “get that thing out of my face.”  Instead he just shrugs and says, “maybe.”

“Weird.”  Yoongi says flatly.

 

*     *     *

 

That morning he goes to an art museum with Yoongi, Taehyung, Jimin and a couple of staff members.  There’s a great modern sculpture exhibit and a photography exhibit. They take pictures with everything they can, making peace signs, finger hearts, or just giant smiles.  Some of it is really interesting and Namjoon is content to read the descriptions on the placards and translate for the others when they ask. Taehyung has some strong opinions about composition, things he loves, things he hates.  He goes delighted and glassy-eyed over a series from one photographer.

Namjoon likes spending time with Tae like this.  He can turn on a dime from ridiculous to serious and engaged and Namjoon thinks that makes him see things a little differently.  He likes seeing what Tae sees, all the details coming in at angles that Namjoon never would have noticed.

Namjoon would also like a cookie for how well he’s doing.  He wants to sneakily hold Jimin’s hand or pull him around a corner and kiss him or do some other stupid, giddy thing.  But he doesn’t. He’s playing the long game, he tells himself. The fewer chances he takes the more likely it is this whole thing will work at all.

They meet back up with Hoseok, Jungkook, and Jin for a late lunch.  Somehow Hoseok has managed to shop his way through half the city already and Jungkook and Jin look pretty much done.  Afterward everyone else goes off to see some tourist site and Jin and Jungkook come back to the hotel with Namjoon; Jin so he can do some rehearsing, Jungkook just because he needs some privacy and quiet time.

When Namjoon gets back to his room, there's a large, discrete-looking paper bag sitting on the table.  He unfolds the top and looks inside.

“Oh my god.”

Once he gets over the shock, it's hilarious.

Namjoon spends 20 minutes looking at the interview briefing before he gets a text from Jimin.

Okay, so hypothetically, how would you feel if I had a headache and came back early.

I’d feel bad you had a headache.

...but maybe I could help?

Is that flirty?  Does that sound flirty?  Do they flirt? Is that a thing they do now?  It seems like something they do now. Wait… was that something they did before?  This second-guessing what he says to Jimin is definitely new, at least.

He’s assuming the actual question is whether or not he’s okay to clear his night for a sequel to last night.  The straight-forward answer to that is just a garble of excited hormones followed by a “yes, please.” But that's not really a text.

Glad you're willing to take care of me. :)

I'll be back in an hour or so.

See you soon.

Namjoon puts down his phone and tries to focus on the briefing again.  He puts it to the side after 5 minutes. He can't focus and he's practically got the damn thing memorized anyway.  He'd planned on spending the rest of the evening fiddling with some solo stuff but that idea's pretty much dead, too.

He's still not down from the high he started the day on, only now there's a serving of anxiety on the side.

He pulls out his laptop and starts researching.

There's no internal confusion or worry about the idea of being involved with a guy.  He knows himself well enough by now. That's fine. Honestly, he's giving himself a quiet pat on the back.

But this isn't just a guy.  This is Jimin.   And Jimin deserves a lot better than having to completely 101 some guy in his 20s tiptoeing around on the Kinsey scale.  Namjoon needs a crash course so he can play catch up.

So.  Internet.  Now all he has to do is figure out the keywords that get him something helpful and not “barely legal twinks sitting on cakes” or something.

Are you there, Google? It's me, Namjoon.

An hour later he's sitting on his bed with his computer, completely engrossed. He hears a knock on the shared door and slams the laptop shut on instinct.

“It's unlocked.”

The door swings open and Jimin slips through.

“How’re you feeling?”

Jimin sits on the edge of Namjoon’s bed leaning back on his hands.  “I thought I was getting a migraine but I seem to be magically feeling a lot better.  How’re you feeling?”

“Oh fine.  You know. Just a day.”  Namjoon is already smiling a little.

“And I thought you said you were going to be in a good mood.”  Jimin smiles back at him.

“Okay, want to hear something really dumb?”

“Always.”

“I may have done a happy dance in the bathroom this morning.”  Namjoon scrunches his face, peeking out of one eye.

Jimin laughs.  There’s a hint of a cute blush on his cheeks.  “I may have done the same thing?”

“I think we may both be huge dorks.”

“Maybe.”  Jimin looks happy.  Namjoon likes that. Happy looks on him.  

Jimin is wearing those long dangly earrings of his.  Namjoon likes those, likes the way they frame his face.  They tickle the back of his hand a bit when Namjoon leans in to kiss him.  

His heart tumbles over a beat because he gets to just do that.

“Want to see something hilarious?”

“Oh absolutely.”

With any girlfriend he’d ever had Namjoon would be mortified.  But he knows Jimin will find this just as funny as he does, so he gets the paper bag, opens it and dumps the entire contents on the bed.

There are boxes and boxes of condoms.  Different brands, different types, different sizes and shapes. There’s also about a dozen bottles of lubricant, running a full range of brands and types.

“Oh my god.  Namjoon. What did you do?”   Jimin laughs into his hands, looking both scandalized and extremely entertained.

“I didn’t do anything!” Namjoon protests.  “I asked concierge services to pick up a couple of things and apparently ‘I don’t know what brand’ translated into buying an entire drug store.”

“Oh god,” Jimin says picking up a bottle.  “I think this one’s cherry flavored.” He hands it to Namjoon to check if he read the label correctly.

“Well,’ Namjoon confirms, “if you want the world’s grossest pancakes, I guess we’re prepared.”

“Wow.  Just wow.”  Jimin takes in everything on the bed a little longer, still amazed.  “I feel like I’ve just been issued a challenge.”

“I guess,” Namjoon says, ruffling his own hair thoughtfully, “we’d better have a lot of sex or else there’s going to be some hotel staff who’ll be really disappointed in us.”

“Yeah?”  Jimin is looking at him curiously and Namjoon realizes what he’s just said.

“Well, I didn’t mean right this second or anything.”

Before that thought goes any further, Jimin is kissing him and he’s extremely demanding.

Apparently, Namjoon's really into that.  

“Okay, so I want to confess something.”  Namjoon says when they pause to catch their breath.  He’s laying half on top of Jimin, caging him with his arms while he looks down at him.

“Yeah?”  He gets a raised eyebrow while Jimin plays with the collar of his shirt.

“I kind of spent the hour before you showed up doing gay sex research online.”

Jimin runs his hands up Namjoon's arms and over his shoulders.  He seems more thoughtful than anything and Namjoon appreciates that.

“Did you find anything you wanted to try?”

“With you?”  Namjoon lets out a small breathy laugh and he can feel his cheeks getting warmer.  “Everything.”

Okay, that was embarrassing.  On the other hand, Namjoon’s been pretty much been nothing but embarrassing since Jimin walked in the room.  And it doesn’t feel humiliating it’s… safe.

Jimin smiles up at him.  “Well, we’ll see what we can do.”

Namjoon really doesn't have a response to that, so he just leans down and kisses him again.

“We should talk really quick, though,” Jimin says after a moment, pushing him back a bit.  “Preferences.”

“Okay.”

“So, um, I don’t know what you want to try and I’m definitely on board with figuring out what you like in a new context. But, um,” he’s gone a little shy and mumbling and it feels strange to Namjoon.  “You might have already picked this up but personally I, uh, I’m really into being fucked.”

“Okay.  Putting aside that that’s awesome for me because a bunch fantasies I’ve already had are embarrassingly relevant now- why do you sound nervous?”  Namjoon feels genuinely confused. They’re making out in a sea of condom boxes for crying out loud. And has he been listening to Namjoon? If things were going to get awkward they would have gotten there a long time ago.

“Some guys- not a lot a lot but some- just get kind of weird and shitty about it,” Jimin shrugs.  “Like, they think a little less of you if that’s what you want, even if they’re more than happy to be on the giving end.”

Namjoon is completely blindsided.

“That is… just the dumbest shit.”  He pulls away from Jimin a little. He feels genuinely annoyed and a little angry.  “Like, seriously some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.” It’s not something Namjoon’s done but he’s familiar with how things are set up and there’s nothing mysterious about it.  “It’s just, no offense, such a blase, normal human preference. That’s just so dumb.

Jimin is watching him with a thoughtful look on his face.

“Kim Namjoon, you’re pretty good, you know that?”

Namjoon gives a short embarrassed laugh at the completely unwarranted praise.  “So, I think there was something about a challenge?” He says, deflecting.

“I love a good challenge,” Jimin reaches over again so he can wrap his arms around Namjoon’s neck.  “I mean, you know that I can get really competitive.”

Yeah, Namjoon's pretty aware.

Most of the boxes and the bottles get pushed off the bed straight on to the floor but really, the mess is the last thing either of them want to worry about right now.

Even before the night at the motel Namjoon had seen Jimin mostly naked.  Between dressing rooms and costume fittings and just living together, he’s seen it.  There’s something very different about being the one to undress Jimin, though. It’s like unwrapping a present.  It might be something you've seen on the shelves a hundred times but it’s completely different when it’s yours. There’s so many parts of his body that Namjoon wants to lavish attention on now that he’s allowed to touch.  So many places he wants to leave slow kisses and run over with his hands. But he thinks it’s probably too much right now so mostly he focuses on touching Jimin in ways that he thinks will make him feel good. (He does, however, allow himself considerable latitude to appreciate his ass.  It’s an ass so perfect it has an international nickname. No one on earth could expect him to resist.)

There’s no rush, this time they take their time.  It’s exciting and sweet and new in the way their first time should have been.  It's not perfect but that’s good, too. It’s the two of them, here on earth. It’s real.

There is a little 101.  But Jimin’s a good teacher and frankly, Namjoon's (literally) a famously good student.

Jimin is also very flexible.

Namjoon’s known that for a long time, though, so he also gets to cross a couple more items off his list.

 

*     *    *

 

The next day is a band meeting followed by an extended series of interviews and then an initial walkthrough of the venue they’ll be performing at.  

For the interviews they sit in front of a background sprinkled with their logos and run through interview after interview with various television and online media outlets, each of them getting their turn.

The interviews vary wildly depending on the interviewer.  As usual the language barrier means they have to lean heavily on Namjoon to answer questions but the rest of them do their best to contribute when they can.  Sometimes the interviewers have good instincts and give them space for that. Other times interviewers give them useless quizzes or set pieces that should be played up for comedy, but the lag in language destroys the timing and they’re not as funny as they should be.  Rarely they’ll get one that asks serious questions about their projects or the different artistic roles they all play. Those are the best. Namjoon isn’t the best comedian when he can’t play off the others. But when he gets to talk seriously he becomes intense and more eloquent.  When he gets to talk about art and ideas, he’s captivating.

During a later interview for a celebrity gossip show Namjoon reflexively answers a question by quoting Nietzsche.  He’s halfway through explaining it when it suddenly sinks in that, yes, he’s sitting on a gossip show talking about Nietzsche.  The bottle blonde interviewing them looks extremely confused.

So that happens.

 

*      *     *

 

“So, should I call you oppa now?” Jimin smiles at him cheekily from where he’s sitting on the bed.

“What?  No. What?”

“Oh oppa!” Jimin grabs him by his shirt, eyes big, doing his best parody of a drama heroine.  “I'm swooning!”

“You've never swooned in your life.”  Namjoon says dryly. He's just joking but Jimin looks a little hurt.  

“I can be a swooner.  Given the right conditions, I can swoon.”

“You've said it so many times that word just sounds weird now.”

“Swooooon.” Jimin places the back of his hand on his forehead and falls backward so his head lands in Namjoon's lap.  He looks up and grins again. “Oppa.”

“Well, this was fun.”  Namjoon feigns getting up to leave.  He's trying so hard not to laugh.

“Wait, stop.”  Jimin, is giggling so hard now it's hard for him to talk.  “I'm just overtired and silly. Come back.”

Namjoon sits back down on the bed.  Jimin gets ahold of himself. He loops his arms over Namjoon's shoulders.  Jimin leans in and kisses him sweet and deep.

And has Namjoon mentioned how much he likes this new dimension to their relationship? Like, really, really, really likes it.

Jimin pulls back and smiles at him impishly.

“Oppa.”

Namjoon laughs so hard he almost falls over.

 

*     *     *

 

There’s sound checks and rehearsals.  They film an evening talk show. The concerts go well.  

Namjoon loves concerts.  He gets a kind of high off of them.  He loves the crowd. He loves their crowd.  He loves finding ways to communicate with them, pull them in and hold on to them and then let them go.  He loves watching all the puzzle pieces come together and make up that thing they do. He loves the goofing off in the later part of the show, all of them, the band and the crowd, deliriously happy together.  

After, he spends his nights in Jimin’s room.  He gets kind of high off that, too.

 

*     *     *

 

Being in adjoining rooms isn’t something that was going to last for long.  Soon enough they’re on to the next city and Namjoon knows they’re going to have to figure something out.

Shortly after they check in Namjoon takes his extra keycard and writes his room number on it with a marker.  Then he slips it into the folder with Jimin’s call sheet.

He sees Jimin stifle a startled laugh when he opens his folder.

The next morning when Jimin slips out of Namjoon’s room, there’s another key with a number on the bedside table.

 

*     *     *

 

They’re in Jimin’s room in their underwear.  Neither of them are tired, yet, so they’re playing some puzzle game on his Switch.  

Unsurprisingly, it’s gotten competitive.

“Okay,” Jimin says, “let’s give this some stakes.”

“Go for it.  What do you want?”

“Loser gives the winner a blow job.”

Namjoon still hasn’t gotten there, yet.  And he doesn’t think Jimin is pushing him right now.  Honestly, he sounds like it’s a joke.

Namjoon’s thinking about it though and his mouth has run almost completely dry.

“I’m in.”

He loses so badly it’s almost comical.

“So… I guess now I have to blow you?”

“You sure? You don't have to.”  Jimin regards him and his face is soft, the competitiveness completely gone.

He really is too sweet.

“Nope, a bets a bet.  I’m a man of my word.”  

Jimin laughs as he climbs on the bed.  “Great. An honorable blow job.”

Namjoon kneels below him.  Nothing about this is particularly sexy.  A bit flirty at best. At best.   Also he has no idea what he’s doing.  He thinks he can try and imitate what he likes but that's not really the same thing.

But.

He’s got a little latitude right now, so he’s going to use it.

He never lets himself take as much time as he wants kissing or touching here or there.  That's because he wants to spend whole hours mapping out the features of Jimin’s body and memorizing patches of skin.  But it’s too much and he knows that.

He guides Jimin’s legs apart and starts placing slow kisses up the insides of his thighs.  He takes his time, appreciating the firmness of the muscles, the graceful curve of them. He continues upward pressing kisses on Jimin’s hips through his boxer briefs, before moving over to ghost his mouth over the line of his cock.  He’s half hard and Namjoon feels him getting harder while his lips brush against him and he hears a little hitch in Jimin’s breath.

Namjoon’s still not over relishing that tangible  arousal.

He keeps pressing kisses into Jimin’s stomach while he pulls down his underwear, Jimin lifting his hips without being prompted.

Okay.  If he’s terrible at this, at least he knows Jimin will be nice about it.

It turns out, the best thing, by far, are the noises Jimin makes.  His breath gets rough and there are ragged little sounds that come out from time to time and oh god, Namjoon loves knowing that he’s the one making him make those noises.  But he’s also surprised by how much he likes the feeling. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise given he already knows he likes going down on women. But to his mind it’s still sort of an unexpected thing to learn about himself, reality doing fantasies one better.

Eventually Jimin’s little noises get more insistent, his hips rise a little and there’s a hand in Namjoon’s hair.

“I’m going to… I’m going to…”

Namjoon swallows half out of surprise.

Jimin lays there catching his breath and Namjoon watches his chest rise and fall in bit of a daze.  Eventually, he sits up, though.

“Come here.  My turn”

“Um.”

Namjoon looks down at his sticky hand and ruined boxers.

Definitely adding this to the list of things he likes now.

 

*     *     *

 

There’s another city and another.  More rehearsals more concerts, more talk shows, more interviews.  More tourist excursions, more photos for social media.

They slowly come up with a system for keeping things out of sight.  They can’t see each other all that often. Aside from their punishing schedule, Jimin has always been more social than Namjoon and while Namjoon will spend his down time working on projects as often as not, Jimin always drinks with Jin, goes out with Taehyung, stays in with Jungkook, lavishes affection on Hoseok and just generally demands Yoongi’s attention from time to time.  That can't change. Nothing noticeable can change.

It’s fine.  They slip in and out of each other’s rooms.  They start deleting their texts to each other as soon as they’re sent and received.  They don't act differently in front of anyone else, no inside jokes, no flirting.

Namjoon mostly feels okay.  Mostly he’s too happy to feel guilty and beyond that, he lets himself just worry about the practicalities.

At the end of one interview Namjoon realizes that Jimin has spent almost the entire time with his hand resting possessively on Namjoon’s thigh.

That night Namjoon frantically gets on the internet.  He never looks at fan posts or videos. Seeing someone pick apart your every physical tic or interaction with the people in your life is enough to build a new neurosis in five minutes flat.  He doesn’t mind it’s there but absolutely stays away. Right now, though, he’s grateful for the information. He needs to calculate a baseline, somehow.

As it turns out, there are entire supercuts of the two of them sitting there with their hands on each other’s thighs.

First of all: He’s not going to judge anyone but to his mind this is somewhere up there with the ten hour supercuts of whatever.  It’s his thigh, so he’s not entirely sure he gets the joke.

Secondly:  He’s relieved that means nothing actually happened and the interview today won’t be anything noticeable beyond a blip for the fangirls.

Finally:  Jesus Christ, they really do touch each other’s thighs a lot.

 

*     *     *

 

“Beautiful.”  They’re in another country, standing on a high arching bridge, staring down at the enormous river that bifurcates the city.  It’s a sunny day and light bounces off the water and the buildings on either side, giving everything a sort of crystal sheen.  They’ve got a morning to wander around and it’s just Namjoon and Jimin right now, cooing over lovely scenery.

“Boo.”

“What?” Namjoon turns to look at Jimin, frowning a little.

“You’re supposed to be the one good with words.”  Jimin says, continuing to stare out at the water. “This is awesome.  Come up with something better.”

“What, you want me to write a poem for you?”

“Yes.”  Jimin pounds a fist into his palm for emphasis.  “I demand poetry.”

“Not fair, I’ve got the morning off.”

Still, they're silent.  Namjoon thinks that Jimin knows that he’s thinking about it, anyway.

“Okay,” Namjoon stands back and stretches a bit.  

“You are full of hidden depths, you overflow your banks
You would drown me with your wine-dark grace
But I will build a bridge, so that I can be with you”

Jimin is still staring out at the water, leaning on the railing of the bridge.

“Hey,” Namjoon nudges him.  “I wrote a poem. You’re supposed to say something.”

Jimin runs his hand through his hair and smiles up at him.

“Beautiful.”

 

*     *    *

 

“Okay, we have to use this.  As in not just while we're here, not just tonight, but right now.”  Namjoon’s suite on this stop is enormous and there is a two person Jacuzzi in the bathroom that Jimin is gesturing at.

Namjoon hesitates.  He’s not sure why he hesitates.  There’s just something differently intimate about the idea.

“What’s up?”  Jimin nudges him. “It’ll be really good for our muscles.  And I hate to be the one to tell you this, Joonie, but I’ve already seen you naked.”

Namjoon shakes his head.  “Nothing, nothing’s up.  Go for it.”

He lets Jimin fill up the tub and dump in whatever it is he wants to make enormous bubbles.  Namjoon gets in first and he watches Jimin slip in and for the thousandth time, lets his eyes roam wherever they want.

Jimin reminds him of a jungle cat.  Not in a predatory way. In the way that the lions in a nature documentary he’d watched had looked.  They were the embodiment of strength and grace. But they also spent a lot of time napping in awkward positions, snuggling, and playing stupid roly-poly games.  He’d seen footage of a young lion stumbling on a tree root and had immediately thought, oh yes. That’s Jimin.

Almost on cue Jimin slips and drops to the bottom of the tub.  He emerges seconds later pushing his hair back and wiping water out of his eyes.

“Don’t you dare laugh.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”  Namjoon scoops up a giant pile of bubbles and puts it on his head.  “Okay, now I’m going to laugh.”

Jimin responds by shoving water toward Namjoon but Namjoon hooks him by the waist and pulls him in.  His size gives him an advantage in the water and Jimin actually squeaks. He holds on to him for second and just looks at him.

“Hey, I captured a fairy prince.”

Jimin makes a face at him but he gives Namjoon a kiss anyway before he pushes back to lean against the opposite side of the tub.

They lay there for a while everything silent.  The water is warm and relaxing and everything smells good.  His legs brush up against Jimin’s before they lightly tangle together between the two of them.

It feels good and he wants to say something about it.  About his contentment doing absolutely nothing together.  About how sweet the moment feels. That’s he’s glad to be here with Jimin.  Instead what comes out is:

“Can I eat your ass?”

Namjoon, what the everloving hell, he thinks.  You used to not be a completely embarrassing human being.  You used to have some game.

Jimin looks up at him a bit startled.

“Sorry, I was just thinking about the bath and being clean and…”

“Sure.”  He leans back again and stares at the ceiling.  “I like it when you get flustered. It makes me feel powerful.”

Namjoon splashes him for that.  All he gets back is a laugh.

Eventually, they’re out of the bath and toweled off.  Jimin lays naked on the bed facedown, his legs parted and his arms folded under his head.  He looks comfortable and relaxed, like he’s waiting for a massage.

Namjoon runs his hands up Jimin’s legs, eventually settling on the curve on his ass.  He takes a moment to enjoy the feeling in his hands before dipping his head down.

He’s not instantly spectacular at it.  It takes some time before he figures out what Jimin likes, what makes him roll his hips up chasing Namjoon’s tongue, what makes the little high pitched noises come out of his mouth.  But he does get there and it’s glorious.

Namjoon decides he wants more, he wants deeper, louder moans from the other man.  He breaks with a quick, “I’ll be right back” and goes to get lube. He picks up the cherry.  Edible.

He slowly adds his fingers to the mix.  The cherry lube tastes like that artificial candy flavor, a little too fake and sweet but he keeps going.  He’s on a mission now, chasing volume and the rise and fall of Jimin’s hips.

“Joonie…”

Yeah, that’s good.

“Joonie… fuck me already.   Please just fuck me.”

Okay… new plan.  Great new plan.

Jimin is in the same position on the bed when Namjoon enters him.  Something about it makes Namjoon want to be a little rougher, go a little harder.  He grips Jimin’s hip with one hand and holds himself up with the other. Jimin just moans louder, encourages him to keep going.  Later the phrase “fucked into the mattress” will float into Namjoon’s head and he’ll think, “oh, yeah. That.” For now though, there’s just wordless voices and chasing pleasure until they’ve followed it to the very peak.

“You okay?”  Namjoon asks afterwards, running a hand over Jimin’s back, still out of breath.

“So, okay,” is the muffled, half-slurred reply.  “Beyond okay. So good.”

Namjoon flops on his back and just breaths for a minute, letting his body come back to earth.

“I don’t think,” he says, “I’m ever going to be able to eat a fruit roll-up again without getting turned on.”

Their combined punch-drunk laughter bounces around the room.

 

*     *     *

 

There’s more rehearsals and sound checks.  More photoshoots. More concerts. More cities.

They break more records.  They all have champagne.

These are the people he wants to take over the world with, Namjoon thinks.

Some days he stares and what they’ve built and just marvels.

 

*     *    *

 

They had a show tonight.  It was a really good show.  After a show Namjoon usually feels like he’s been hollowed and filled back up with pure electricity a dozen times.  

It comes out in different ways.  Sometimes he goes back to his room and writes until he falls asleep.  Sometimes he just stares at the ceiling, vibrating. If it’s the last show for a while, sometimes he lets Jin and Yoongi talk him into getting stupidly drunk.  

Tonight he is full of adrenaline and Jimin has been in his space all night and oh my god but he just wants to fuck.

They barely bother to be subtle about it.  Jimin just goes to Namjoon’s room with him.  They have some pretense about getting the bottles from his minibar but the elevators work out just so that they don’t even need it.  They walk into the room together and Namjoon instantly has him back up against the door. Jimin's wearing one of those thick belts of his and Namjoon loves that he can just grab him by it.  He pulls him over to the bed and then his hands are working to undo the damn thing and unbutton Jimin’s pants. They both smell like sweat and show and residual make-up and Namjoon does. not. care.

Then there’s a knock at the door and they both freeze.

“Uh, just a second,” Namjoon calls out.

They look at each other.  They’re flushed, their hair is a mess, and their pants are undone.  If it’s one of the guys he’ll want to come in and it’ll be pretty obvious what was going on, even with their pants zipped up.

Namjoon walks over to the door and looks through the peephole.  Jimin just sits and watches him.

Namjoon opens the door a crack.

“Hey, sorry.  I was in the bathroom, what’s up?”

“PD Bang just wanted to go over tomorrow’s schedule with you,” says the staffer.

“Sure.  Tell him I’ll be in his room in ten?”

“Will do.”

Namjoon shuts the door.

He and Jimin look at each other.

That was the nearest thing they’d had to a close call since this whole thing started.

Namjoon’s heart is pounding in his chest.

“Well, that was terrifying,” Jimin says finally.

“Yeah.”

“No more coming up straight after shows, I guess.”

“That’s probably a really good idea.”  There was, in fact, a much greater than zero chance that someone would want to talk to him after the concert.   Namjoon had just completely disregarded that.

Namjoon wonders how much trouble they would be in.  He wonders who would yell the hardest, the longest. Who would be the angriest about all the little lies they’ve already told.

He looks at Jimin, running his hands through his bright-colored hair, a small line of worry between his eyes.

He’ll just have to make sure it never comes to that, that’s all.

 

*     *    *

 

They keep going like that for the rest of that part of the tour.  They’re careful and when they can manage it they slip into each other's rooms and they have sex and they talk and sometimes they have sex again.  And, honestly, Namjoon feels good. He’s spent the whole tour getting less sleep than he would normally, which is utterly insane considering how little sleep they get anyway, but he still feels good.  

But eventually it's been two months and it's almost time to go back to Seoul for a while.

They’re lying in Namjoon’s room, naked, still coming down off an oxytocin high.  Jimin’s head is on Namjoon’s stomach and Namjoon is lightly tracing lazy patterns over Jimin's chest.

“So what,” Namjoon asks slowly,  “do you want to do when we get home?”

“Hooking up at the house is probably a really bad idea.”

He’s right.  The close call with the staffer was bad enough.  There’s no way that it wouldn’t be a thousand times more risky with five housemates.

“So, I guess we spend a small fortune on hotel rooms?”  Namjoon's glad neither of them has suggested ending it. He feels relieved that's not on the table.

Jimin grabs his hand and starts gently playing with his fingers.

“I have an idea but it’s a little out there.”

“Shoot.”

“Let’s rent an apartment.”

“What?”

“Like one of those furnished apartments businessmen get when they travel.  We can do a month to month and it’ll be there when we want it.”

“A pied-à-terre.”

“A what?”

“A small second apartment that only gets used sometimes,” Namjoon explains.

“Yeah, like that.  But less annoying and French.”  Jimin reaches up to pinch his side and Namjoon jumps a little.  “If it doesn’t work, we give it up after a month.”

Namjoon thinks for a minute.

It does sound a little out there.

Every aspect of his life is a little out there, though, including this one.

“Okay.  Let’s do it.”

Chapter Text

A long time ago

Jimin finds him sitting on a bench by the bus stop near their apartment watching the traffic whiz by.  It’s one of the places he goes when he’s overwhelmed.

The kid gets overwhelmed a lot.

“Can I sit next to you?”

Jungkook looks over at him.  He’d be kind of adorable if those big doe eyes weren’t so stressed. 

“Suit yourself.”

Jimin slides right next to him and joins him at staring at the cars.

“Having a hard day?”

The kid shrugs.

Jimin’s not that much older than he is and innate talent pours out of Jungkook in ways that makes it easy to forget his age when he performs.  But off-stage, sometimes Jimin feels like he’s staring down at him from a two-year age gap and a thousand feet of experience.

“Watched any good traffic lately?”

He shrugs again.

Jimin watches him for a minute.  “You know, if it gets too much, you can always leave.”

Jungkook sits straight up and whips around to look at him.  “I’ve been here longer than you, hyung. Don’t tell me to leave.”

“No, no, no.”  Jimin waves his hands.  “That’s totally not what I meant.”  Good job, Park. He smacks himself mentally.  You are a terrible cheer-up wagon. “What I meant was that if it eats you, it’s not worth it.  We’re performers.” He gestures between the two of them. “If you want to do what we do, you can’t go around getting rid of pieces of yourself.  It’s not worth it. We all want you to stay. Oh my gosh, we need you to stay.  But if it’s eating you, you can find something that doesn’t.  And do it better.” Jimin smiles at him and rubs his shoulder a bit.  “You’ve always got an escape hatch. You’re not trapped. And as long as you stay, you’ve got us.  Okay?” Jimin isn’t sure how much of an “us” there is between all of them but he knows there’s at least there’s him and Taehyung.  That’s close enough.

When he gets to the end, Jungkook gives him a small smile. 

“Okay.”

Jimin smiles back.  

“You wanna ditch this bench and get some ice cream?”

“You’ve got ice cream money?”  

“Oh, rolling in it.  I think I can afford two scoops.”

This gets him a real smile.  It’s innocent and his overbite makes it a little goofy but in a way that’s attractive and endearing.  Like the sound of a scratch that reminds you you’re listening to a real record.

Please stay, Jimin thinks.  I really want to listen to the record play.

Chapter Text

Jimin is in love.

Okay, not in love, in love but the apartment is pretty great.  Yes, it’s got an inoffensive sort of style that says “no one really lives here” but for the most part, it’s perfect.  It’s something of an open floor plan with a living room space to the left and a kitchen with a breakfast bar to the right when you walk in.  A sliding door in the back of the living room leads to a large master bedroom and bath. There are floor to ceiling windows with enormous drapes in the living room and the bedroom.

But what’s really great, is the spiral staircase right in the middle, between the living room and kitchen spaces leading up to a private roof deck.

Jimin is mostly in love with the staircase.

The most important features, though, are that it’s far enough from home and the studio they don’t really have to be worried about being spotted by bandmates or co-workers and the neighborhood is tony enough that security and a certain amount of anonymity shouldn’t be a problem.

The staircase is important, too, though.

Jimin sits down on the couch and starts messing with the remote that controls the entertainment center.  Namjoon is on his way over from running some errands and Jimin is excited to show him his find. He’d spent far too much time at the tail end of the tour gleefully scrolling through listings on housing sites.  Namjoon had jokingly threatened to have management put him on one of those real estate reality shows.

Jimin doesn’t really know why he’s so excited about the whole apartment thing.  Maybe it just feels a little more settled than sneaking into hotel rooms. A safe little bubble world.  

There’s a knock and Jimin springs toward the door and opens it with a flourish.

“Ta-dah!”

Namjoon stands there and looks around appreciatively.

“This is a lot nicer than I was expecting.”

“I can't believe you doubted my real estate acumen.”

Namjoon wanders over to the breakfast bar, setting down a shopping bag with some books on the counter.  Jimin eyes the bag while Namjoon pulls off his scarf and coat. He debates pawing through the books now but decides he'll look at them later.  Jimin’s been borrowing Namjoon's books and forgetting to give them back for years now.

“I still can’t believe we’re doing this.”

“Which part?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Namjoon says wandering over to idley look through the cupboards.  They’re mostly bare except for a few coffee pods and plastic utensils. “Basically everything from you kissing me on the beach going forward?”  

“I was pretty sure you kissed me.”

“Um-hm.”

They may have had this particular argument before.  A few times.

Jimin pulls Namjoon away from the counter and loops his arms around his shoulders.  He's getting used to the height thing. He likes the way Namjoon has to get close to him and look down like this.

“So I think we need some rules for this place.” Jimin says seriously.  

“What kind of rules?”  Namjoon's expression is equally serious.

“Important ones.”  Jimin slips into a smile.  “The first one is you have to kiss me when you come in.”

Namjoon smiles back and slips his hands around Jimin’s waist.  It's this particular warm smile that Jimin's only ever seen when it's just the two of them.

“I like that rule.”  He says before obediently tipping his head down.

Jimin likes kissing Namjoon.  Namjoon always kisses like he means it even if Jimin isn’t always sure exactly what it is he means.  Whatever Namjoon means now, it’s light and happy.

They wander around the small apartment.  They make idle plans for the giant bathtub and the roofdeck.  There's not much to see though, so it's not long before Jimin is being pressed into the mattress while Namjoon trails lazy kisses down his neck.

It's still shocking to him sometimes, being wanted this much.  But he's more than happy to give in. To lose himself in breath and bodies and let the thousand little worries buzzing in his ears fade away.

Later that afternoon, Jimin is laying on the bed on his stomach, his arms folded under his head.  He's relishing that post-coital feeling, like his bones and brain are  made of jello, while he watches Namjoon put his underwear back on.

“I feel like we’re having an affair.”  Jimin says contemplatively.

“If you got married, I'm really mad that I wasn't on the guest list.”

Without cheating on anyone,” Jimin corrects.

Namjoon stops getting dressed long enough to look thoughtful.

“We kind of are.

“Good for us.” Jimin gives a very lazy thumbs up. “We've invented the world's first extramarital-affair for unmarried people.” He feels uncomfortable now, though.  The joke is near enough to true to sit wrong.

Namjoon must be thinking the same thing because he immediately changes the subject.

“We need nickname.  We can’t just say ‘the apartment,’ it’s going to get confusing.”  He says, sitting back on the bed and leaning against the headboard.

“How about ‘the-place-Jimin-found-because-he's-brilliant-at-real-estate’.”

“Mmm. Too wordy.”

“Kim Namjoon’s sex pad.”

“Oh god.”

“Wonderland.”  Jimin yawns.

“Wonderland?”

“Yeah.  It's all double-life-ish.  So it’s like we're through the looking-glass.  Or down the rabbit hole. Or… metaphor something, something.”

“It sounds like a sex club or a carnival ride.”

“It’s terrible.   You shouldn’t make me think right now.”

“Okay,” Namjoon sits up. “We'll figure it out later.” His hand comes down landing a light smack on Jimin's ass.  “Pants on. I want to go get dinner before we go home.”

“Well, that was a romantic way to ask me on a date,” Jimin says sarcastically.  He gets up and starts figuring out where his clothes all ended up, anyway.

“Come on, I'm hungry.”

Jerk.  Jimin is definitely borrowing one of Namjoon's books without asking now.  

 

*     *     *

 

For the most part, they surprise themselves at how good they are at hiding it. They don't disappear too much. Their cover stories are believable. Their texts stay rigorously deleted.  They're careful. The stakes feel too high not to be.

There are really only three incidents where they mess up.

The first incident happens just a few days after they come home.  They’re sitting on the floor in the living room in the condo and Jimin is giving Namjoon a shoulder rub.  That’s normal. That’s fine.

But then Jimin declares he's done and Namjoon leans back on his chest.  Jimin wraps his arms around his front because that's where they feel like they should go.  His skin is soft and he smells good and Jimin is feeling fond, so without really thinking he starts leaving tiny kisses on his neck.  Namjoon sinks into him more and makes a contented noise.

Then they hear Jungkook and Jin’s voices coming down the hall and Jimin snaps out of it and practically throws Namjoon forward.  Namjoon still looks a bit dazed when they walk into the living room and abruptly cut off a conversation about action movies mid-stream.

“Whoa,” Jin says looking around.  “There’s a weird vibe in here.”

Namjoon recovers quickly and nods at Jimin. “Someone just happened to kick me when he sat down on the floor.”

“It's not my fault you take up so much space,” Jimin shoots back.

Jungkook looks at them strangely. “You know what, I don't really want to know.”  He flops down on the couch and turns back to Jin. “If we watch John Wick 2, I'm still going to need you to explain the whole assassin economy to me.”

“Easy.  They've got their own special coins…”

“I know that. But why? And why are there so many assassins?   Are there really enough people that need killing to support a whole industry?”

“On that note, I’m going to go grab a snack,” Jimin says getting up.  His heart is pounding and even though his voice is calm, he needs some distance.  “You guys want anything?”

“Everything salty,” Jungkook says.  “Like, just get every potato chip and seaweed snack throw them all on the table.”

“Oooh.  And grab the leftover takeout, too.”

“Why do I feel like a caterer all of a sudden.”

“I mean, if you’re catering I’ll take some bulgogi,” Jin jokes.  “Ooh, wait. Why did the butcher work extra hours?”

“I’m leaving.”

“He needed to make ends meat!”

Namjoon gives a laugh that seems almost involuntary.

Jimin throws him a dirty look like he’s been betrayed.

 

*     *     *

 

Not long after they start meeting at the apartment Namjoon walks in holding a cardboard tube.

“I got something for you.”

Jimin looks at him crossly from where he’s sitting on the couch.

“Rule number one, Joonie.”

Namjoon gives a quick laugh but he sits down next to Jimin, anyway and kisses him hello.  Jimin smiles at him, placated.

“Okay, show me what you got.”

Namjoon pulls a poster out of the tube and unrolls it.

“Oh my god.”

“Turns out there was a club called Wonderland in Seoul the 90s.  I was in a music store earlier and I found this completely by accident.”

Jimin stares at it.  It’s got vaguely creepy smiley faces and red and yellow squiggly lines.  The word “Wonderland” runs across the middle in a font that hasn’t been used seriously in decades.

“Oh my god,” he says again.  “I was just kidding about that nickname.”

“Um-hm.”  Namjoon hums as he goes to pin it to the wall.  “This is entirely your fault. You put this out into the universe.”

Jimin just blinks at the ugly thing.  Then suddenly he has an idea. He walks over to his bag and pulls out his instant camera.  

“Hey.”  Namjoon turns around and gets surprised by a flash.  “Aaand one more.” He grabs Namjoon before he can protest and takes a second photo of the two of them.  

“Alright,” he says.  “We’re going to fix this travesty piece by piece.”  He pins the photos on the poster as soon as the pictures develop.  They’re nothing special but it doesn’t matter. They cover a little space.  “Okay. Just like… a hundred more photos to go.”

Namjoon swings an arm over his shoulder, clearly entertained.  “Godspeed and good luck with that.”

 

*     *     *

 

The pictures slowly multiply.  They find a coffee shop near the apartment that Jimin loves and soon there are pictures of pastries and latte art.  More selfies, more pictures of Namjoon when he’s not expecting it. It snows and there’s a picture of Jimin standing on the roof trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue.  They’re all pictures of small moments but one by one they start cover pieces of the poster.

 

*     *     *

 

The second incident happens in one of the recording studios.  Jimin has been rehearsing a song by himself but there's a couple of bars that he can't quite figure out.  Namjoon happens to be walking down the hall when Jimin pokes his head out in frustration, so Namjoon gets recruited to give him an opinion.  

“It's these measures right here.” Jimin points at the screen of the computer he's been using to play back the accompaniment.  “Do you think it should sound more like this,” he presses play and sings through the part, a breathy edge in his voice, “or this.” He puts the track back and sings the same part again, a little more throaty this time.

Namjoon leans back in his chair and thinks.  Jimin hears him hum through the melody a few times.  “Sing it the first way again?” Jimin does. He leans back and hums some more.  

“Okay,” he says finally.  “Maybe try doing it the first way on the first verse and then when you get to the same melody again on the second verse go the second way.  I know it kind of doesn’t match but I think you can play with it and use it to build up.”

Jimin thinks about it and then quietly sings through both verses in double time under his breath.

“Okay,” he nods.  “It’s kinda weird but I think I can play around with that.  I’ll give that a shot.” Jimin jots down a couple of notes in his phone.  “Thanks, Joonie. Sorry to pull you away from whatever you had to do.” And he has to smile at him because finding moments to work on things with him is something Namjoon’s always done.  And it must be a soft smile because Namjoon smiles back at him and it’s sweet and fond.

“Anything for a fairy prince,” he says teasingly.  And then he leans over and presses a kiss to Jimin’s lips.

Jimin smiles into the kiss for a moment but then it hits him that they’re at work and he freezes.

He pulls back and glances around.  He knows there was no one here to hear the pet names or see the kiss but he can’t help but check.

“Careful,” he says quietly.  

“Yeah, sorry.”  Namjoon looks contrite.

Jimin spends the rest of the afternoon nervously jumping back to terrifying scenarios of ‘what if’ and there’s a weight that sits in the bottom of his stomach for the rest of the day.

 

*     *     *

 

Soon it’s award show season.  Everything gets eaten up by it.  There’s one special live performance after another.  An extra bit of choreography here. Some new staging there.  New costuming, new venues, new cameras. It’s a marathon run at the pace of a sprint.

Jimin can’t complain, though.  They’re given plumb spots at every show.  When they get the schedules there’s a silence in the room.  Half of them look giddy and excited. The other half look like samurai in a period movie, filled to the brim with silent determination.

Rehearsals start out cheerful and light.  They laugh a lot and ideas bounce around the room.  Eventually, though, they’re too worn out for laughter.  Practice becomes just practice and at the end of the day they ride home almost too tired to talk.

They win awards.  So many awards. At every show.  Jimin wants to cry because it’s so much.  It’s too much. Hoseok does cry. Jin cries.  Tae bursts into full on sobs at one point, his face buried in Jungkook’s chest.  

They’d decided a long time ago that they were allowed to cry in public.  That having naked feelings was something they felt was important, particularly for a group of men.  They don't cry on purpose but they’ve gotten used to not hiding it.

Back at the studio Jimin and Hoseok stare at the trophies.  How is this our life, Hoseok asks. You worked for it, hyung, Jimin answers.  We all worked for it, Hoseok comes back.

But Jimin knows the scales aren’t balanced.  All the work, all the things given up on one side, they still don’t pay for everything they’ve gotten in return.  They never will.

He’s learning to live with that.  There’s nothing left but to be grateful.  To be happy that what they put out into the world matters to people.

He’s tired in other ways, too.  He misses Namjoon. With everything there’s been no time for them, no chance to get away.  Some nights he lays there exhausted but awake, staring at the ceiling and listening to the sound of Hoseok’s light snores.   It’s usually a comforting sound. Now he just tries to pinpoint the moment his bed started to feel so empty.

In the end he can only pick up that feeling and put it on the payment side of the scale.  He says a tiny prayer into the dark that just maybe, in some small way it’ll help the balance.  Just a little.

 

*     *     *

 

They finally have a weekend.  Most of the group is out of town and they have time.  Jimin is going to use every last second he gets.

The door to Wonderland has barely shut before they’re kissing urgently and messily, hands all over each other.  

“I missed you.”  Namjoon gets out as they stumble toward the couch.

“I missed you, so much.”

“It’s amazing how much you can miss someone you see all the time.”  Namjoon sits down and pulls Jimin toward him.

“It’s not the same.”  He says between kisses as he straddles Namjoon’s lap.  “Not the same.” Their position means that Jimin’s looking down on Namjoon slightly and he holds his face in his hands and lays kiss after kiss on him.  Jimin wants so much. He wants to make love. He wants to talk. He wants to fill up on Namjoon’s attention and drink down hours just the two of them. He gets to have this, so he wants, he wants, he wants.

Then his phone rings.

Jimin doesn’t know why he picks it up.  Maybe some sixth sense told him who was calling before he looked at the screen.

“Hi, Tae.”  Jimin settles back on Namjoon’s lap and Namjoon rests his hands on his hips.  

“What’re you up to?  My plans got cancelled so I’m down to go see a dumb movie and eat a million pounds of gummi candy, if you want to.”

“Oh, uh.”  

He looks at Namjoon, his eyes a little wide.  His mind races. He’s supposed to have until tomorrow. He really, really wants until tomorrow.  

“I’m actually on my way to a date,” he lies.

“Oh really. ”   Great.  Now Tae sounds interested.

“Yeah.  I’ll tell you about it later okay?”

“Sure, sure.  Have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.  Unless you’re into that.”

“Gross.”

“Talk to you later.”

“See you soon.”

Jimin clicks off the phone.  

“You okay?”  Namjoon looks concerned and he starts rubbing comforting circles on Jimin's back.

“Fine.  I think.  I don't know.”

“It's okay if you've got feelings about it.”

“But this is supposed to be our weekend.”  He sounds like he's whining.

“Still is.”  Namjoon picks up one of Jimin's hands and presses his fingers to his lips.

Jimin slides off Namjoon's lap to sit next to him. He props an elbow on the back of the couch and rests his head in his hand.  He looks up and just takes in Namjoon's face. Jimin gently runs his fingers over one of Namjoon's eyebrows and then down his cheek.  He runs the pad of his thumb over his bottom lip. Namjoon has a lovely smile, dimples and all, but his heart lives and breathes through his eyes.  Right now he looks like a storm of things. Fondness. Kindness. A little sadness.

“I just wish it was easier,” Jimin says quietly.

“What part?”

“All of it.”

“I get that.”  Namjoon takes his hand and laces their fingers together.

“I don't see any way out, though.” Jimin confesses.  Everything that was there a few months ago is still there. Now it's just in for a penny, in for a pound. “And I don't want to…” The unspoken “give you up” hangs in the air.

“Hey,” Namjoon says shaking his hand a little. “To be fair, you hate easy.” His voice is light and teasing.

“I like you,” Jimin teases back.

“Yowch.”

“Well,” Jimin shrugs, smiling mischievously.  “You did put out pretty fast.”

“Okay, that's it.  Serious conversation is over.”  Namjoon runs his fingers through Jimin’s hair and then leans over to kiss him.  “Let's go make up for lost time. And then you can buy me dinner.”

“Oh, I can, huh.”

“Hey, if I'm easy, at the very least I shouldn’t be paying for dinner.”

 

*     *     *

 

Later that night they’re sitting on the floor devouring a pile of Japanese take-out.  

(“I didn’t really mean it,” Namjoon protests.

“Relax, baby, I got you,” Jimin giggles, putting his credit card in for the online order.

He’s being viciously tickled the second he presses submit.)

“So, you’re on a date, huh,” Namjoon says picking up a piece of sashimi.  

“I panicked.  It was the only thing I could think of on the spot that would keep me out until tomorrow.”

“I get super jealous of fictional people.  FYI.”

“I’ll keep that in mind in case I want to start going out with my imaginary friend.”  

They both reach for the last piece of tamago at the same time.  Instead of either one of them being gracious they just start knocking each other’s chopsticks back until it’s almost a tiny sword fight.

“Wait, wait,” Jimin laughs.  “I got it.” He reaches down and neatly breaks the tamago into two pieces.  He picks up one half and Namjoon lets him feed it to him before taking the other half for himself.

“Seriously, though,” Namjoon continues through a mouthful of egg.  “It’s not the worst idea.”

“You want me to go on a date?”

Namjoon shrugs.  “There are worse covers.  Fake boyfriend could work for a while.  You just have to be intentionally vague about it.”

Jimin thinks.  Unlike anything else it would almost be the truth.

“Okay, maybe,” he concedes.

“Also,” Namjoon adds.  “Out until tomorrow afternoon?  That is a really good date.”

“Absolutely wild,” Jimin shakes his head.  “Already feels like I’ve known him forever.”

“Wild,” Namjoon agrees.  “You know what would be a great cover,” he says picking up a piece of sushi and dipping it in the soy sauce.  “If we had some kind of hobby that was just the two of us.”

“I thought that was sex.”

Namjoon almost chokes on his tuna.

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin wakes up before Namjoon.  He always does, whether it’s five minutes or an hour.  It just works out that way.

He’s watching Namjoon sleep and the way light comes in from the cracks in the curtains makes the whole room feel warm and hazy in the morning.

He wants to reach over and trace Namjoon’s face but he resists.  He doesn’t want to wake him up. Instead he lets his eyes wander over the planes of his face and watches.

Jimin knows he’s balancing another set of scales now.  Every lie he’s told, every secret he’s kept, every time he’s been a terrible friend, that’s on one side.  Being able to wake up here with Namjoon is on the other.

Unlike the scales he balances for his career, he’s got no idea what these weigh.  He just hopes he can keep both sides from falling. Somehow.

When did it become you, he wonders.  When was the moment things changed.

There have been so many ways they’ve related to each other over the years.  At first Namjoon intimidated the hell out of him. Then they’d become friendly, they’d gotten along.  Then they’d become friends. Then close friends.

And then they became whatever they are now.

Jimin gives in and lightly runs the tip of his finger down the bridge of his nose.  Namjoon’s eyes slowly blink open. They look a little different in the morning light, a little lighter and clearer.  Namjoon gives him a small, sleepy smile.

It hasn’t been that long, in the scheme of things.  But out of all of them, this way of being together is his favorite by far.

 

*     *     *

 

They go back out for the second leg of the tour.  This one is shorter, only a month.

Jimin loves being on tour.  It’s exhausting, sure, but he loves connecting to the audience.  More than that, he loves communicating with the audience. He’s a performer through and through.  He has to be perfect in everything because he wants to live for them, get caught up in them, wants to be able to give them the same thing back, like some sort of enormous, messy relationship built and torn apart again every evening.

Sometimes when he gets back to the hotel he gets on the internet and pulls up the video chat so he can be with them more, tired though he is.  Pandering some people call it. There will be other comments complaining that the record company pushes him too hard. Let the poor guy get some sleep, they’ll say.

They’re wrong.  He’s just never really ready for it to end.  When Jimin falls in love, he falls in love hard.  And Jimin falls in love with every crowd at every show.  

He gets a text one night in the middle of a broadcast.

So, theoretically, if I wanted to summon a fairy prince would I need some kind of spell or can I just promise a bunch of sexual favors.  How does that work.

He gives a startled little laugh and a grin that gets caught on camera.

He turns the phone screen off and waves it at the camera.

“Namjoon-hyung told me to finish up so I can get some sleep.  He’s a good leader and a good friend,” he laughs. “He worries about me.”

Ironically, that moment gets clipped out and tossed around the internet.  Proof of their adorable friendship.

Later that night they’re drifting off to sleep.  Namjoon is curled around him and he places a kiss at the juncture of his neck and his shoulder.  

“You smell good,” he murmurs sleepily.  “How do you always smell good.”

“Fairy magic,” Jimin mumbles back.

 

*     *     *

 

They come back.  More pictures go up over the poster and on the wall.  Sometimes they get captions. A pair of empty shot glasses: “That was a bad idea.”  Tickets to a misadvertised European film that turned out to be about a murderer: “Jimin wants me dead.”  Namjoon glaring over morning coffee: “Grumpy, but cute.”

For a while there is a dog that will not stop following Namjoon around.  For a few weeks every time Namjoon arrives, it's sitting by the front door looking pleased. Jimin snaps a picture and writes under it “NAMJOON, WHEN WILL YOU ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR SON.”

Namjoon takes it down.  Jimin puts it back. It goes back and forth a half a dozen times before it stays up, crumpled but not defeated.

 

*     *     *

 

“Jiminieee, you're killing me.”  Taehyung leans over the table at the bar.

“What do you want from me?”  

“Details.  I told you, I need details.” He turns to the young man next to him. “Kookie, tell him I'm dying without details.”

Jungkook freezes beer at his lips. Eyes wide he looks at Taehyung, looks back at Jimin, looks back at Taehyung and then takes his drink without saying a word.

“Can we please talk about something else?  Like, how about Jungkook’s sex life?”

There's a small choking noise and the sound of a beer bottle being set down a bit too hard

“Don't scare the child, Jiminie.”

“He's not a child. He goes on dates. He went on a date last week.”

“Bad date.  Don't want to talk about it,” Jungkook interjects quickly.

Taehyung’s attention shifts at this.

“You didn't tell me it was bad.”

“Just...awkward.”

“What happened?” Jimin picks up his own drink and leans over interested.

“Wait a minute.” Taehyung turns back to Jimin.  “You are not distracting me from mystery boyfriend that easily.”

“Not a boyfriend. Just some guy I've been seeing.” Jimin hates this conversation.  He hates lying to his friends. But the lie is useful and… no one knows is no one knows and that really means no one.  

Scales.  Stupid scales.

“Taetae, when I can tell you things I will. There's just really not that much to tell right now. Okay?”  Tae looks disappointed but not angry. “Now can we go back to interrogating Jungkook? Boys are so five minutes ago.  I want to hear about girls now.”

“Alright.”  Taehyung sighs.

They both turn to look at Jungkook at the same time.

Jungkook looks at them impassively.  “Is it too late to join GOT7?”

“Absolutely.”  Tae nods. “You're stuck with us. Spill.”

 

*     *     *

 

The third incident is by far the worst.

It’s late at night at the studio.  Jimin had stayed late practicing. Namjoon is still working.  It’s just like it used to be. Except now instead of going for late night walks on nights like this, most of the time they head to the second apartment for an hour.  Or a night, if they’re feeling daring and they think they can get away with it.

Jimin is ready to go.  He’s been sitting on the love seat in the back of Namjoon’s studio and playing on his phone, hoping Namjoon would get the hint.  Apparently not.

He walks over to Namjoon’s desk and rests his elbows on it, holding his face in his hands.  He stares at the screen, the different tracks of soundwaves running parallel to each other.

“Hmm,” he says.

“What?”  Namjoon takes off the big studio headphones.  Jimin turns his face to look at him.

“I need attention.”  He smiles and Namjoon laughs.

“Fine.”  Namjoon surprises him by grabbing him by the waist and pulling him onto his lap. 

Jimin squeaks and almost falls on the floor but somehow he has the presence of mind to situate himself so that he winds up as stable as he can be on the office chair, one foot lightly resting on the floor and one of his arms around Namjoon’s neck.

“Careful,” Jimin says, although he's still smiling. “Yoongi's probably around and you never put a lock on your door.”

“Nope.  He went home before you came by.”

“Oh.  Well then.”  Jimin leans down just a bit and kisses Namjoon. There doesn't feel like there's a rush or anything to worry about, so the kiss grows and deepens, neither of them in a hurry to end it. Namjoon slowly starts sliding a hand up the inside of Jimin's thigh and Jimin can feel himself responding to the touch. He's idly contemplating moving to the love seat and just going at it here in the studio when there's a knock at the door.

Jimin half springs up, half gets pushed off Namjoon's lap.  He immediately drops down into a squat to hide the beginnings of an erection plainly visible under his sweatpants and hopes it looks like he's just been hanging out here having a late night conversation.  

“Yeah?”  Namjoon calls out, adjusting himself slightly.

Slo Rabbit pokes his head through the door.  Ordinarily Jimin likes the producer a lot. He’s patient, funny, and musically imaginative.  Right now he hates him a little just for existing.

“Hey.  I know it’s super late but I’ve got a hook that I thought you might be into.”  He glances over and notices Jimin. “Hey, Jimin. What're you still doing here?”

Jimin nods at Namjoon.  “Trying to get this one to go home.  What’s your excuse?”

“Just messing around with some stuff.”  He looks back at Namjoon.

“I really was about to head out.”  Namjoon shrugs. “Can I swing by in the morning?”

“Sure.” The producer looks around the room like he wants to ask something and then shakes his head. “‘night, man.”

“‘night.”

Jimin gives a sharp little wave and gets a nod in return.

As he leaves, there's a look on his face that tells Jimin there's going to be questions in the morning.

“Sorry, I didn’t think about anyone else still being here.”  Namjoon's voice is quiet. The sweet atmosphere from earlier is gone, replaced by something more tense and a little terrifying.

“Neither did I.”  Jimin sits on the floor and stares at the figurines lining the opposite wall.  “Joonie?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we go hide from the world for a bit?”

“Yeah,” Namjoon looks down at his hands. “The world can fuck off for a while.”

“Wonderland?”  Jimin asks hopefully. It's late enough that if they just leave early in the morning no one will notice they've been missing.

“Yeah.”

“That nickname is still terrible.”  Jimin says absently.

“Still your fault.”  Namjoon says almost on reflex.  Namjoon looks up at him and there's a small smile on his face.

“What?”

“I'm gonna kiss the hell out of you when we get there.”

Jimin's heart feels a little lighter, his terror a little smaller.

“Counting on it,” he smiles back.

 

*     *     *

 

One of the record companies throws a party to celebrate the extraordinary success of a new album.  It’s still something like an industry event but it’s less formal and most of them go so that they can congratulate their colleagues.

Jimin is talking to some friends when he notices Namjoon on the other side of the room.  He’s wearing those wireframe glasses Jimin likes so much, the ones that make him look like some kind of distinguished 1960s intellectual, and he’s the middle of a conversation with some group of someones or other, gesturing with a drink in his hand to emphasize whatever point he’s making.

Jimin lets himself drift into a daydream.  In his mind he sees himself standing next to Namjoon, too in his space to be platonic. Namjoon absently slips an arm around his waist and pulls him in. Someone makes a comment about how cute they are, how good they look together.  In his daydream, Jimin blushes a little and says thank you. Namjoon smiles at him and gives his waist a little squeeze. And then everyone goes back to their conversation because it's all ordinary and unremarkable.

It's a small little dream, not particularly detailed or intense.  

“Oh no.”

Chanyeol’s voice brings Jimin out of it.

“What?”

He nods in a direction, trying to be as discreet as someone as tall as he is can be.  

Jimin follows his line of sight and sees Jungkook talking to a very pretty woman.  He looks so nervous Jimin's afraid he's going to drop his drink.

“Oh wow.  Someone should save him.”

“Hey, you’re his hyung.”

Right.  Jimin the wingman.  Sure. There’s a universe where that could work.

 

*     *     *

 

Later that evening Jimin is leaning on the railing on a balcony outside the party, just sort of staring into the middle distance.  It’s still a bit too cold out but Jimin gets overwhelmed by crowds sometimes and he needed a break. The only other people outside are a couple at the far end of the balcony, too caught up in each other to notice anyone else.

Namjoon comes over and leans on the railing next to him.  “I heard a rumor that you swooped in and got Jungkook a girl’s phone number.”  

“Not really.  I kind of just hung out at arms reach, so he could grab me if he felt faint.”  Jimin smiles and Namjoon lets out a single sharp laugh.

“Why do you think he gets so nervous around women, anyway?”

“I blame it on being raised by Yoongi.  And wolves. But mostly Yoongi.”

Jimin hears the woman on the other end of the balcony burst into laughter.  

“Joonie?”  There’s no one here so he lets his hand drift over and barely weaves together the backs of his fingers with Namjoon’s.

“Hmm?”

“Make love to me.”

“Here?”

Jimin shakes his head.  “When this is over. Take me back to Wonderland and make love to me.”

He hears Namjoon take a deep breath.  They hadn’t planned on this, so Jimin knows he’s suggesting something a little more risky.

“Is this a request or a demand?”

Jimin looks up at him curiously.  “What if it was a demand?”

There’s something a little strange in Namjoon’s eyes but they twinkle.  “Then I guess I’d have to do what you want.”

 

*     *     *

 

It’s obscenely late by the time they get to the apartment.  Under most circumstances Jimin would just want to collapse and sleep but right now he’s got other priorities.  They get their coats and shoes off and Jimin playfully shoves at Namjoon’s chest.

“Bedroom.”  

Namjoon goes straight there and Jimin all but pushes him down on the bed.

“You like it when I tell you what to do, ” Jimin teases, climbing on top of him.

“Yeah.”  It’s soft but serious.

Jimin stills and looks down at Namjoon’s face.

“Really.”

“Yeah.”

“Really, really.”

“I get it, I’m weird.  Stop it.” Namjoon starts to look away.  Jimin grabs a fist of his hair and pulls his head back so Namjoon has to look at him.

“Really, really, really.”

“Yes.”  Namjoon’s cheeks are pink and he swallows when he says it.

“Sit up,” Jimin climbs off of him.

“What?”

“Sit up.  I’m telling you what to do.”

Namjoon compiles but he looks a little confused.  Jimin takes a breath. He has no idea what he’s doing but he’s just decided to do this.  If Namjoon likes it, he wants to try. He’s a performer. He can improvise.

Jimin straddles Namjoon, this time up on his knees so he’s looking down on Namjoon from above.  He grabs his hair again and pulls his head back so that he’s looking up at Jimin.

“Here’s what we’re going to do then.  You’re going to take my pants off. Then you’re going to suck me off while you prep me.  Then I’m going to ride you until I come. Is that alright?” Does that sound hot or just stupid?  Jimin has no idea.

Namjoon looks surprised and dazed but he nods.  Okay, that’s probably a good sign. Still.

“Words, Joonie.”  Jimin grips his hair a little tighter. “Is that good?”  

“Yeah.” He nods as much as he can, his voice a little hoarse. “Good.”

Not too much later they’re in the same position again, Jimin kneeling in front of Namjoon who is sitting on the bed.  This time though, his clothes are off and he has to keep a hand on Namjoon’s shoulder to steady himself while Namjoon diligently follows his instructions.

This was not the best idea he thinks.  It feels so good and he really wants to just come like this, right in Namjoon’s mouth with his fingers in his ass.  Any other day that would be great but he has an instinct that if he’s going to do this whole giving orders thing, the flip side is that he has to actually do what he says he’ll do.

“Joonie,” he gasps, pushing away a little.  Namjoon doesn’t move. If anything, he picks up his efforts.  “Joonie!” Jimin pushes his shoulder harder and this time he backs off.  “Shirt off. Lay down.” Jimin takes a chance to breathe and get ahold of himself while Namjoon strips his shirt off.  Then Jimin unbuckles his belt and unzips his pants and Namjoon lifts his hips up a little so Jimin can pull everything off and drop it on the floor.  

Jimin can tell how hard he is without even having been touched, yet.  Right now, Namjoon’s eagar and compliant all at once. It makes Jimin a little curious how far he can push things and just how much of this Namjoon wants.

Jimin sticks to his plan, though, and instead of touching Namjoon, he climbs on top of him again, and slowly takes him inside while Namjoon moans softly below him.  Once they’ve established a rhythm, he takes Namjoon’s wrists in his hands and pins them behind his head. Jimin knows he’s strong so he leans into it, really holds him down.  He wants to make sure Namjoon knows it, too.

“We're good together aren't we, Joonie?”  He pants, rolling his hips. “Tell me we're good together.”

“So good, baby.”  His voice is breathy and thick and his eyes are half closed.  “So good. So good.”

He lets go of Namjoon's wrists and he reaches up to grab Jimin’s hips.  Holding on to him for leverage his hips start to snap up forcefully while he pulls Jimin back down on to him.

Jimin gasps at the change and the sudden intensity.  He catches himself as he leans forward and his nails dig into Namjoon's chest just a little.  Namjoon lets go of his hips and his hands cover Jimin’s lightly.

“Harder.”

Jimin doesn’t think twice, he just does what he’s been asked and curls his fingers, pressing his nails into the skin underneath with as much force as he dares.  Namjoon gasps but it doesn’t sound like pain. At least not entirely.

He lightly pushes on Jimin’s hands, not away but encouraging them to move down.

“Scratch me.”

Jimin digs his nails in again, just as hard and rakes them down Namjoon’s chest, leaving bright red marks in his wake.  

That’s the exact moment that Namjoon comes.

After it’s over, after Jimin’s also found his release and they’re laying inches apart on the bed, Jimin watches Namjoon.  He looks beyond relaxed, his eyes half closed and hazy. The red marks are still on his chest and they look like they’ll be there for a while.  The angry welts run almost from his shoulders to his stomach.

They should really talk about this.

“Joonie, you okay?”

“Mm-hmm.  Blissed out.”  The words come out murmured and half unintelligible.

“Good.”  Jimin tries to sound something other than relieved.

He lets Namjoon come back to consciousness a little more, eyes slowly blinking open.  He waits until Namjoon looks like he’s back with him before he says anything.

“So… um, we should talk.  About that. The, uh, telling you what to do and the scratching.”

“I’m sorry.  I know it’s weird.”  Namjoon’s face goes completely scarlet and he looks away from Jimin.  He sounds… ashamed.

Jimin doesn’t like that.  At all.

“I like it when people kiss my feet.”  Jimin sits up and the words rush out of his mouth almost without him thinking.

“What?”  Namjoon looks at him again, thoroughly confused.  

“Like… not sexually,” Jimin amends.  “But a lot of the time dancers end up with really messed up looking feet.  So it makes me stupidly happy if someone thinks I have pretty feet. Embarrassingly happy.”  He pauses and takes a breath. “I’m just saying everyone’s got their things. And it’s fine. Your things are fine.  I just thought we should talk. Before we do that again.”

“Again?”

“I mean, maybe not every time.  But if it’s what you like...” Jimin pauses and pushes Namjoon’s hair back from his forehead.  He’s a little sweaty but the motion of it feels nice. “We can talk about it. For sometimes.”

Namjoon just looks at him for a while.  Like he’s expecting a catch or a punchline.

“Sometimes,” he says finally.  “I don’t like it all the time. But sometimes.”

“Sometimes is okay,” Jimin agrees, laying back down.

They face each other and a comfortable silence drifts over the room.

“I’ll kiss your feet sometimes.”  Namjoon says, finally.

“I didn't mean that entirely literally.”

“But they’re very pretty feet.”

Jimin laughs a little at that.  “Now you’re just pandering to me.”

Namjoon reaches over and holds Jimin’s face in his hand.  “And you are absolutely worth pandering to.”

 

*     *     *

 

They have a fitting the next day.  Red scratches and nail marks still decorate Namjoon’s chest and stomach.

It’s pretty obvious just looking at them that there’s only one way they could have gotten there.

Namjoon has to change shirts and everyone sees them.  A member of the wardrobe staff looks alarmed but Namjoon shoots her a look and she says nothing.  Jimin feels like he’d be mortified in Namjoon’s place.

There’s a weird thrill to seeing that Namjoon isn’t.  Namjoon never looks at him but they both know he put them there.  It feels like shouting something secret and dangerous while at the same time hiding some place far away and safe.

 

*     *     *

 

Somehow Jimin made it through award season and the second leg of the tour and he was fine but it’s recording the new album that does it.  He can feel it, the stress piling up. He can objectively see that he’s not being so healthy. But he is getting through one day at a time and so he concentrates on that.  It can’t be that bad if he’s still going forward, doing what needs to be done.

Hoseok keeps asking if he’s okay.  But Hoseok always worries. “We have to keep our Jiminie healthy,” he says over and over again.  And Jimin nods and agrees health is important.

Jin never says anything but one night he makes Jimin’s favorite noodle dish as a surprise.  Just for him. Jin hasn’t cooked in forever. He hasn’t had the time. Jimin wants to bow on the floor and apologize for hardly being able to eat it.  Instead he lies and says that it was wonderful and he devoured the whole thing.

It’s fine.  Everything’s fine.

And then Namjoon asks him to come with him to one of the practice rooms at the studio.  He locks the door when they walk in. Jimin instantly feels trapped.

“You aren’t eating.”

Nothing subtle here.  Namjoon’s voice is level and matter-of-fact.  It’s not accusatory but he still sounds upset.

“I’m fine.  Really.”

As soon as Jimin can get this conversation to end the better for everyone.

“No, you’re not.”

“Excuse me?”  Jimin is incredulous.  

“I said you’re not okay and we need to talk.”

“Since when do you get to decide that I’m not okay?”  

“I’m not deciding, I’m observing.”  Some of the calm leeches out of Namjoon’s voice.

“I said, I’m fine.  And you need to believe me.”  Jimin snaps back.

“You’re not.”  His voice escalates.

“I am!”

“Then why aren’t you eating!”

“I said I was fine!”  Jimin has never been more grateful the practice rooms are soundproof.  

“Listen, we’re not leaving this room until we talk about this.”  His voice is angry and low like he’s giving an order.

Jimin feels like he’s trapped in a corner.  Like he’s an animal that needs to kick and claw his way out.

“You let me leave right now or I swear to god, I will go out there and tell every last person that we’re sleeping together.”  As soon as it comes out of his mouth, he can’t believe he’s said it. Like he’s threatened to drop a nuclear bomb on them both.

Namjoon looks like bottled fury.

“You can go out there and tell everyone exactly how I like it in excruciating detail, if it means you’ll take care of yourself.”  

Jimin feels like he’s been punched.  In the space of a second he’s completely shocked and empty, all at once.

He drops into a crouch, his head in his hands.  He runs his fingers through his hair a few times.  He's still undeniably upset at Namjoon but all the desire to scream and yell has been knocked out of him.

“This... this isn’t how you talk to someone with food issues,” he says finally.  His voice is soft but he’s glad he can keep it stable.

Namjoon sits defeatedly on the couch.  “I… I just don’t know what to do.”

“Nothing?”  Jimin looks up at him, still crouched, hands in his hair.  “I mean, seriously. You can’t fix this. There’s nothing you can do that will magically make me better.”

Namjoon examines his face, thinking.  Jimin just watches Namjoon watching him, wishing this was over already.  The air in the isolated room is a sticky silence.

“Can you tell me what it’s like?”  He asks eventually. “I mean, no judgement and I promise I won’t do anything.  But… I just want have a chance to understand. What’s going on. For you.” Words catch and stumble as they come out of Namjoon's mouth and it sounds strange to Jimin's ears.

Jimin sits down on the floor and runs his nails over the carpet.  He likes the way the fibers feel against his fingers. They’re scratchy and rough and soft all at once.  The tactile sensation is grounding.

He feels like he thinks forever about what he should say or if he should even try to answer Namjoon’s question.  Namjoon doesn’t say anything else, though. He just waits.

“It’s control,” he says finally.  “Sometimes I feel like I can’t control anything in my life but I can control this.”  He looks up at Namjoon. He’s listening but true to his promise, there’s nothing judgemental in his face.  “I never mean to, at first,” he continues. “It’ll be like things are overwhelming and I’ll think ‘oh, I need to be in better shape for this or look better for that’ so I pay more attention to what I’m eating.  And then, like, it feels good that I’m in charge of something .  There’s all these impulses but I can control them and that makes me feel better.”

“Okay,”  Namjoon nods.  “So… you feel better?  Emotionally? When you don’t eat?”

Jimin shakes his head.  He crosses his arms over his knees, rests his head on them and keeps talking to the air.  “Not really. It’s pretty bad. Everything gets bent out of shape and… I hate it. I’m hungry all the time but if I eat, I lose.  Everything looks good but also terrifying and awful and actually eating anything never feels good, it just feels like failure.” He pauses, considering.  “But sometimes I’ll almost love it, though. There are days where I can stick to whatever rules I have that day and it feels like I've got a handle on everything that matters.  Like being hungry still hurts but not giving into it feels like this amazing accomplishment. And then I’ll have a day where I eat some ramen and it just makes me hate myself so much.”  He breathes deeply. He’s never tried to explain this to anyone except the therapist the label had hired the first time around when he was passing out at rehearsal. And that was someone trained in this stuff.  “This probably sounds fucking crazy.” He lets out a bitter little laugh.

Namjoon leans back on the couch sighing.  “Not really. When I get depressed- like when it gets really bad- it’s like there’s this other voice in my head, that’s just hating me all the time.  Like, it’s really me but it’s also not really me at the same time. Sort of like a nega-me from a video game that knows all my weaknesses and exactly what's going to hurt the most.  If I could control it…” he stares at the ceiling thoughtfully and licks his lips. “I think I’d try just about anything.”

Jimin just nods but he doesn’t move.  Instead Namjoon gets up and comes around to sit behind him.  He wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist and pulls his back toward his chest.  

“I’m sorry,” he says softly.  “I think this is the best I’ve got.”

They sit there for a while and Jimin just lets him hold him, lets himself start to feel safe against the warmth of Namjoon's chest.

“I’ll try.”  His voice is barely more than a whisper.

“Hmm?”

“I’ll try,” he says a little louder.  “Eating. I’ll try to be better. But I can’t promise, alright?”

He feels Namjoon nod.

“That’s enough.  That’s all you can do.”  He presses a kiss against his head.  “If it gets worse, though, will you tell me?  Or someone? We’ll call the therapist again. Or something else.  You don’t have to figure this out alone, okay?”

“Okay.”  Jimin's done being angry. He’s upset about being ambushed but mostly he just feels humiliated and tired.  He feels exhausted. Emotionally. Physically. Everything.

“Can we take a nap?”  He asks. He doesn’t know why but he feels like he can demand something right now so he's going to.  “I know it’s the middle of the day but… I think I need to play hooky for a minute.”

He’s barely finished his sentence before Namjoon is pulling him over to the couch.  It’s too narrow but Namjoon squeezes them together. Jimin focuses on that warm feeling of being held and for just a moment, he lets everything outside the locked door float away.  And then he’s drifting off, safe on his own little island.

He wakes up a half an hour later.  Namjoon is completely out, snoring lightly with his mouth open.  Jimin looks down and realizes he left a small circle of drool on Namjoon’s shirt.

He’s still a little annoyed at the confrontation.  A little hurt in ways he can’t explain. But Jimin still wonders for a moment if Namjoon will stick around or if eventually, Jimin's going to turn out to be such a mess it won't be worth it. He doesn't know.  What he does know, though, is that you when find someone who lets you drool on their chest, that’s someone you try to keep.

 

*     *     *

 

Perhaps surprisingly what helps the episode end isn’t his schedule getting any lighter.  What helps is a dance solo.

They’re putting together pieces for a special fan concert.  Early on they’re working on the outline with the director and the idea of short solos for all the members gets floated.  Jimin surprises himself by how much he likes the idea of a dance solo. Maybe it’s Hobi nodding excitedly like he’s his own personal cheer section but Jimin gets caught up and then it’s in the show.

There’s only a few weeks of rehearsals, stuffed between everything else, but it’s good for him.  He stays late, alone, picking over his every move in the mirror, adjusting this small thing and that.  He lets his brain unwind into wordless puzzle solving. Between trying and being distracted the food thing gets better bit by bit.  The dance piece starts to eat up the nervous energy that had been going toward ruthlessly counting every calorie between dawn and dusk.  And then one day he eats dinner just because he's hungry and doesn't do a single piece of math.

He’s still focusing on something, on one thing he can completely control, but it’s a better thing, so as far as that goes, it’s good.  

If there’s a sigh of relief around him, he doesn’t notice.  It just feels like things are sliding back to normal and he lets them.

He works, he dances, he laughs with his friends.

And when it's possible, he slips away and kisses Namjoon.

 

*     *     *

 

The pictures on the wall in Wonderland keep adding up.  Eventually the name of the club is the only thing still visible on the poster.  All around it stolen moments spread out in ever expanding constellations.

Chapter Text

Some Time Ago

It’s Taehyung’s room so Jimin doesn’t knock.  It’s also Namjoon’s room but he knows Jimin’s not going to find that argument persuasive so he gave up on that fight before he even tried.

It’s not like Namjoon would argue right now, anyway.  He’s feels like he's lost so many battles he should just quit.  

“Namjoon-hyung?”

Right.  Tae’s not even here.  Does Namjoon have to get up?  He really doesn’t want to move from where he’s spread out on the bed.

“What?”

His lips feel heavy.  His whole face feels heavy.  Everything feels heavy.

Go away.

“I brought you some tea.  And a sandwich. I figured you missed lunch.  So. Hi.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Namjoon sees him set a tray down on the desk next to his bed.  He turns his face away.

“I’m not hungry.”

Good job, Namjoon.  You can’t stop being an asshole for one minute, can you.

“Okay.”  Jimin leaves the tray, anyway.  Then he goes to Namjoon’s bookshelf, pulls something off and then goes to sit on Taehyung’s bed with his own bottle of tea.

And he sits.  And reads.

Namjoon lays there waiting for him to be gone.  Waiting for Tae to come in and collect him or something.  Because it was a lot easier to think about just what a shit human being he is when no one else was around.  And quite frankly, that’s the only thing he can think about right now. But if Jimin is here he’s going to feel like he should at least be trying to be okay because Jimin does not deserve to have to put up with this shit.  And he doesn't know if he can do that.

Jesus, the only thing Namjoon is good for is to lay here and feel like shit and he can’t even do that right.

Fuck him coming and going.  What is the fucking point of him.

Jimin is still on Taehyung’s bed.  Still reading.

Namjoon goes back and forth.  He berates and insults himself in his mind.  He cowers in front of himself and begs for the abuse to end.  He gets angry at himself for making Jimin put up with this, even though he can't actually hear any of it.  

He needs to make Jimin leave.  If he can get that out, get Jimin away from him, at least he’ll have done one fucking thing right today.

Namjoon opens his mouth to bark at him to leave.

“I’m sorry.”  This creaking noise that used to be his voice comes out.  In the same moment his face feels like it’s cracking. He doesn’t move an inch.  Just still stares at the ceiling. Small waterfalls slip out of the corners of his eyes and run down his temples.

Jimin crosses the small room and sits next to him.  He slips a gentle hand on one of Namjoon’s and squeezes.

“I just… I’m fucking everything up.  And I’m going to fuck everything up. And I’m so sorry.  I want to be better I'm just…”

“You're fine.”

“But I'm not, I'm…” Words stick in his throat like like they're made of glue. Like they want to choke him from the inside.

It doesn't matter. It's not like he can get into a debate about how worthless he is.

Jimin just sits there, watching, his hand still warm in Namjoon’s.

Why is he still here.  

But he is.

Namjoon tries to blink back some tears.  He’s being so unreasonable. He reaches down and finally finds some words he can unstick enough to speak.

“Thanks for the sandwich.”

“It's probably kinda soggy by now.  And it was kind of so-so to begin with.  So. With all those caveats: you're welcome.”

Jimin smiles.

Namjoon tilts his head just enough that he can see it.  

“I hate feeling like this.”

“I know.”  Jimin squeezes Namjoon’s hand again.

Namjoon sits up on his bed and pulls the sandwich off the tray.  It’s one of the pre-wrapped deli ones and he fiddles with the plastic wrap.  

Namjoon wants out.  He wants out so badly.  He’s been trapped on his bed for hours and he wants to be done.  He wants the feeling of bars around him and the monologue in his head and the deep physical ache in his chest to let him go, even though escaping any of it feels impossible.  

Namjoon doesn't have the words “depression” and “anxiety.”  Or rather he does, he knows them pretty well, but he hasn’t learned to admit they're the names of his own monsters, yet.

What he does have is a soggy, mediocre sandwich.  And that's as good of a toe-hold for crawling back into the world as any.

Later that day Yoongi and Jin will come to see him. Namjoon will cry again, his body disobeying every command to remain calm. He'll hate it and he'll try to yell but Yoongi is good with angry and even better at spotting bullshit, so it won’t do much.  Jin will remain steady and compassionate and eventually Namjoon will start to talk. And the three of them will talk for hours.

It will be the day that Namjoon starts to learn how to ask for help.

But none of that has happened, yet.  For now there’s just a sandwich. And there is Jimin sitting next to him on his bed.

So Namjoon eats.

Chapter Text

“Dance with me,” Jimin holds his arms out at Namjoon, clearly expecting him to get up from the lounge chair.

It's a warm day, almost summer but not quite, they’re outside on the roof deck at Wonderland and the Latin pop Jimin put on floats around in the background.  He's a little high, they’ve been drinking sangria, and he’s got nowhere to be for the rest of the day.

(Jimin had made the sangria himself and Namjoon had been duly impressed.  Sort of.

“That’s not a drink, that’s a fruit salad.”

“Correction.  This is a drink with alcoholic fruit for dessert.”)

Namjoon is so fucking happy right now.

It's not just this random day-drinking weekend afternoon- although that's pretty good- it’s… everything.  

They finished the new album.  Namjoon always keeps pouring over songs, long after they’re done, finding the musical equivalent of commas he wishes had been switched for semicolons.  He feels good about the album, though. It’s not perfect (nothing ever will be) but they all poured themselves into it and he feels secure that it doesn’t belong to him, that together they made something much bigger and more important.

He feels full of words and ideas these days, too.   Sometimes pulling out lyrics and concepts feels like being in a wrestling match.  But at the moment he’s on the opposite side of that. It’s less like fighting and more like dancing.

Jimin seems healthy.  The relapse this spring had scared the shit out of him but it'd been short.  Jimin hadn’t drifted away for long, he’d come back again. And Namjoon knows these things are almost never better forever, so that’s good enough for him.

And their thing, it’s good in a way he can’t really explain.  It’s hard. He gets tired of cover stories and lies and being so damn careful all the time.  He gets tired of sudden bouts of anxiety when he can’t remember if he deleted the text that said, “you looked good today,” or “I've been thinking about you” or just “See you Saturday?”  But that always stops mattering the moment he actually gets to kiss him and touch him. It stops mattering in those moments when sweet, playful Jimin isn’t trying to make anyone in the world smile except for him.  

So Namjoon takes one last small hit, takes Jimin’s hands and stands up.  Everything feels a little light and fantasy-like around him. Some of it is the pot.  Some of it is just being so content down to his toes.

“Okay, so what’re we doing.”

“Salsa.”

“Nope, no idea.”

“Come on, come on.”  Jimin gestures him out to the open part of the deck.  He’s got a pair of giant dark sunglasses perched on his button nose and like always, it’s unbearably cute.  “I’ll be the guy you be the girl.”

“How do you know all these, anyway?”

Jimin shrugs.  “No idea. Just sort of in the air, I guess.”  He slips his hand around Namjoon's waist and takes Namjoon's hand in his.  “Or YouTube. Really don't remember.” Namjoon places his other hand on Jimin's shoulder without having to be told.  “Okay, for you, it’s gonna be back-back-front, front-front-back.” Jimin does a very small scale demonstration while he talks before just launching them into the dance.  There is absolutely no chance Namjoon is doing this right but it really doesn’t matter. “And…” Jimin moves a hand down to rest on Namjoon’s hip. “Don’t forget to move your hips.  I know from experience you’re pretty good at that.”

Namjoon laughs in surprise and feels himself blush a little.  Jimin says shit like that when he’s been drinking. He’s been known to say that kind of thing when he’s sober but it’s worse when he’s been drinking.  Personally, Namjoon’s never been a huge fan of booze. He likes it every once in a while but if he's not going to be sober he’d rather smoke and let his head float away on some train of thought or another.  Jimin loves drinking, though. And it's easy to see why. He has a great time when he drinks. He gets energetic and goofy and blunt.

“You're fun, you know that?”

“I've been told that.”  Jimin smiles up at him. “So are you.”

“Nah.  When people want to be nice to me they call me smart or interesting.  Or cool. I don’t get fun, though.” He hold an arm out and spins Jimin around.  Screw it if he's not leading. They're just messing around.

“Well, I think you are.”  Jimin spins back in so that he’s back to front with Namjoon now and stays that way, Namjoon’s arms around him.  He presses back against Namjoon ever so lightly as he keeps dancing with tiny steps, hips swaying as he runs a hand up Namjoon's arm.  

Sometimes Namjoon still can’t believe he gets to have sex with this person.  He must have saved an angel from a traffic accident in a past life or some other equally amazing karmic act.  

“Besides,” Jimin says turning back and repositioning them to keep dancing.  “Nobody calls me cool.”

“You're cool.”

“No, I'm not.”

“Sure you are.”  Namjoon takes Jimin by the hips and pulls him in toward him.  “You're handsome. And talented. And fun. And cute. And cool.” Namjoon punctuates each item on his list with a staccato kiss.  “But you know what?” He says, smiling down at Jimin faces centimeters apart.

“What?” Jimin grins up at him.

“Still not sure if you've got jams.”

“Kim Namjoon!” Jimin pushes at Namjoon’s chest. “You cannot make me think we're having a moment and then fucking meme me!”  Namjoon laughs as he wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist to keep him from getting away. “I take it back, you're not fun. I'm taking the fun back.”

Namjoon doesn’t respond.  He’s too busy leaving smiling kisses down Jimin’s neck.  When he looks back at him, Jimin has a happy, impish look on his face that the sunglasses can't hide.  

Namjoon leans in to kiss him and he kisses back without hesitation.  

Namjoon’s life is so good right now.

 

*     *     *

 

It's the morning of another weekend and Namjoon wakes up with the bone deep satisfaction that comes from a night of really good sex.

It'd been different. He'd wanted to try it from the other side.  And that had been weird at first. Not uncomfortable, he’d just spent most of the lead up not being very sure that it was his thing. The idea of it turned him on.  And Jimin had been touching him and using that sweet but authoritative voice, so his dick had been interested pretty much by default. He just wasn't sure the specifics of it were that great.

Until they were past all of the preamble and then all of a sudden it really fucking was.

Great that is.

Holy shit but he gets it now.  Not just intellectually or theoretically.  He gets it.

Except now he's awake and he's kind of sore. He doesn't mind it too much but he's pretty sure he's going to spend the day being very aware of how he’s sitting.

Namjoon fishes out some pajama pants and a t-shirt and heads out of the bedroom.  Jimin is sitting at the breakfast bar, drinking coffee and reading the news on his phone.

“Hey,” he says, looking up when Namjoon walks in.

“Morning.”  Namjoon gives him a kiss before sitting on the chair next to him.

Yeah. He’s aware.

“I'm not saying last night wasn’t awesome- it was- but how are you not sore just all the time.”

Jimin laughs out loud before he takes pity and stands up to rub Namjoon's shoulders and neck.  Namjoon makes a grateful happy noise and lets his head fall on his folded arms.

“You get used to it.”  He leans forward and half whispers chidingly in Namjoon's ear.  “Mostly, you learn to relax. ”  He straightens up. “I'll get you some coffee.” Then he leans over to say one more thing in Namjoon's ear before he kisses him on the back of the neck.  “Dongsaeng.”

Namjoon makes a half-hearted attempt to smack at him without looking up.  Jimin just steps back and laughs again as he goes to get the coffee.

Life is so good.

 

*     *     *

 

There’s another morning and Jimin has to leave before Namjoon.  They rarely leave at the same time, anyway. It’s a lot less suspicious if they’re not always showing up at home or at the studio together.

“Wait,” Namjoon says, grabbing his hand before he goes out the door.  Jimin is wearing a button down shirt undone so his collarbone is a bit exposed and his hair is messed up just enough and Namjoon aches a little watching him walk away.

“What?”

“I just came up with a second rule.”  Namjoon slips his hands around his waist and Jimin lets him pull him closer.  “You have to kiss me before you leave.”

Jimin smiles up at him and rests his arms on Namjoon’s shoulders.  

“That’s a good second rule.”

Namjoon’s getting ridiculous, he knows.  But at least Jimin is right there with him.

And it's so good.

 

*     *     *

 

It’s bad.  Namjoon and Hoseok are sitting in Hoseok’s studio trying to figure out what to do.

“I wouldn’t be so worried,” Hoseok says, his knee bouncing up and down with nervous energy.  “But he had the relapse this spring and…yeah.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

Namjoon is glad Hoseok wanted to talk.  He knows he’s not the only one who has to try not to hover a little too closely after this spring but that also makes him doubt his instincts.  He doesn’t want to be imposing or overprotective. So it’s good and bad to know he’s not the only one who noticed. Good that someone else noticed.  Bad that there was anything to notice at all.

Jimin has suddenly just been gone this week.  Technically he’s still there.  He’s been living in their condo, going in to rehearsals.  But he’s not really. Namjoon assumes eating has gone straight out the window the past few days but the thing that worries him most is how Jimin is suddenly withdrawn to the point of cracking.

It’s not like this spring.  Jimin had tried much harder, been much better at covering things up this spring.  But if he is headed toward another relapse, figuring something out now rather than later is the better option.

“And no idea?”  He’d batted aside Namjoon’s attempts to check in but it’s entirely possible he confided in someone else.

Hoseok shakes his head.

“He won’t talk to me.  And I don’t really want to push.”

Namjoon nods.  He knows Hoseok’s talking to him right now because he’s the group leader.  Because he’s the one who’s going to have to go to management and shout “man down!”  It’s not that he’s not supposed to worry, to care for its own sake. But they also have a comeback coming up, so this is also a strategy session and Namjoon gets that.  It’s his job to live in that sometimes uncomfortable intersection between concern and pragmatism.

He really hates that right now.  He’s having a hard time giving a damn about pragmatism.  

Generally speaking, Hoseok’s space is more spare than Namjoon’s.   He's got a couple of weird stress balls on his desk, though, and Namjoon picks up one shaped like a rubber duck.  He squeezes it a few times hoping it’ll help him center his mind a little. He gives up after the little duck head bending and popping out from the pressure is just a bit too weird for him.

“Okay, how about this.”  Namjoon throws the poor stress-duck up in the air and catches it while he talks.  “Let’s triage. For all we know it’s just general stress, so let's start there. I’ll talk to management and get us a couple of days off and see if I can get Jimin up to agree to go someplace and relax for a few days. Like a spa or something.  And if that helps, great and we’ll go from there. If not, we’ll talk to him about calling his therapist or looking at something else.”

“Hey, look at you.”  Hoseok teases. “Fancy.  Demanding days off.”

“Oh, I’ll go full diva on this one if I have to.”  

“Do we get to do that?”

“Man, we’ve earned enough credit at this point.”  Namjoon tosses the duck a little more forcefully and it makes a *thwap* noise when he catches it again.  “About time we spend some of it.”

Hoseok snorts at that.

“I don’t diva.  You can go diva.  I’m too nice to be a diva.  People like me too much”

Namjoon tosses the stress ball to him in response.  Unsurprisingly, Hoseok flinches and smacks it away instead of catching it.  

“Not fair, you can't hit me with my own duck.”

“You were supposed to catch that.”

“You think I should go with him?”

“The duck?”

“Jimin.”

Namjoon had just assumed it'd be a foregone conclusion that he’d be going with Jimin. Of course, he realizes, that conclusion wouldn’t be foregone to anyone but him.  And Hoseok's always been protective of Jimin.

“If it’s okay, I’d like to go with him.  I think PD Bang will be more likely to go for it if I’m going.”    

That uncomfortable space between concern and pragmatism suddenly feels not just uncomfortable but unbearable.  Namjoon should just say he needs to know Jimin is going to be okay. That’s really not something he needs an excuse for.  He wonders just how much he should go fuck himself for not being able to say that out loud.

He sticks with the excuse, anyway.

 

*     *     *

 

Namjoon doesn’t throw his weight around often- or ever, actually.  He’s diplomatic in his role as go-between between band and management.  It’s just not in his nature to make demands or not take other people’s feelings and ideas into account.

So it’s a little strange to walk into his boss’s office, ready to dig in his heels and fight, if he has to.

In the end, his resolve isn’t really necessary.  He talks to PD Bang and talks to their manager. He doesn’t ask.  He just says Jimin needs time off and he’s taking him on a mental health break.  He doesn’t elaborate, just says it’s necessary. He rarely approaches them like this with the decision already made, and they’re not unsympathetic.  In remarkably little time they have the next few days off and he’s apologizing to an administrative staffer for enlisting her to find them a retreat in basically no time at all.

(She’s sweet in general and she’s sweet to him but Namjoon’s not so far out of the loop that he doesn’t recognize an obnoxious job when he sees one and he has the decency to feel a little bad about it.)

Then all that's left is to talk to Jimin. He knows he has to find a way to do it so he doesn't feel ambushed.  After that all he can do is hope that he agrees to go along with Namjoon's plan.

It's hard pinning Jimin down, though.  In the end Namjoon just waits him out outside one of the dance studios.  It’s late when Jimin finally turns off the music and Namjoon feels like he can knock and poke his head in the door.

“Joonie.”  Jimin stops in the middle of putting some things in his backpack and looks up at him.  He looks flushed from dancing, the color in his cheeks making him look healthier than he has all day.  Namjoon hopes that’s not just an illusion.

“Hey.  Can we talk for a minute?”

“I…” Jimin stutters on his words a bit as he stands up.  “Okay. I’m really tired, though.”

“That’s kinda what I wanted to talk about?”  Namjoon sits down in one of the folding chairs on the edge of the room and Jimin cautiously sits near him.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, um.”  Okay, how does he phrase this without it sounding like it did the last time when he’d fucked it all up.  “I mean, how’re you doing?” He asks.

“Fine.”  Jimin sits up and pulls his feet back, like he’s trying to put a little more more distance between the two of them.  

“Good.”  Namjoon hates this.  They both know something’s wrong but they’re stuck in this awkward holding pattern.  “How do you feel about the comeback?”

“I need more work.”  Jimin shrugs. “Like always.”

“I know this comeback is stressful but honestly, we’ll be fine.  I feel really good about it.” That’s only mostly true but it’ll be worse if Jimin doesn’t get better.  “We could really use a break, though. So, I wanted to run something past you.” Namjoon takes a deep breath.  “I got us some time off. We can take off, just the two of us. I figured it out so that it won’t look weird.”

Jimin shakes his head and Namjoon feels irrationally annoyed at that.  It’s not like Namjoon thinks he’s that much of a prize but it feels like rejection.

“No.  Thank you, though.”  Jimin’s voice is small and his eyes gaze down.  His shoulders hunch a little and his hands wrap around the edge of the folding chair.  “I need to rehearse.”

Namjoon tries again.  “One of the assistants found this spa resort in the mountains that we could check in to.  It’d be really quiet. We could hike a little. Melt all the shit out in the sauna. Be in a better place for the comeback.”  

“Joonie, I know what you’re doing.”  Jimin runs his hands through his hair.  He looks frustrated. “I know I’m stressed but you don’t have to worry.”  He swallows and looks up at him. “And you did the whole leader thing well.  I’ll make sure everyone knows you’re good at your job.”

Namjoon feels like he’s been smacked across the face. Because, yes, okay, everything personal and professional has gotten messed up in really uncomfortable ways.  And if nothing else, he’s realizing that he's going to have to worry about that later. But he really hoped Jimin would know better. That he’d be able to see through that.  Hoped he’d know that the way he’s physically recoiling is killing Namjoon right now.

He doesn’t know what else to do and he feels defensive, so he just says it out loud.

“I’m your lover.”  All the confidence has fallen out of his voice.  Even he can hear it. “Doesn’t that mean I get to worry about you?”

Jimin crumples in response.  Namjoon doesn’t say anything else.  He just waits, silence thrumming through the room, while Jimin sits there and stares at the floor.

“Okay,” Jimin says finally.  “Let’s go.” He sounds like he’s about to cry.

Namjoon isn’t sure whether or not he’s relieved.

 

*     *     *

 

He's in the middle of packing, clothes carefully spread out on his bed when someone opens the door to Namjoon’s room and walks in.  A very familiar tall man with bright disheveled hair and wireframe glasses walks over and flops down on Namjoon’s bed on top of half the clothes.

“Tae, you know we don’t share a room, anymore, right.”

“Pretty sure I noticed.” He looks up at Namjoon curiously.  “Why?”

“Knocking is a thing.”

“Oh yeah.”  His head plops back down. “ I’ve seen people do it.”

Taehyung hasn’t knocked on his door once since they stopped rooming together and probably never will.  Bringing it up feels more like the terms and conditions on a website at this point. Obligatory but there’s really no expectation that it’s going to mean anything.

Namjoon goes back to sorting through clothes, getting to the ones currently not being laid on first.

“You know you don't need to pack that much for a few days,” Taehyung observes.  

“It's a process.”

“Gotta look sharp for those squirrels.”

“Did you have something to say or are you just here to wrinkle all my shirts?”

“Wouldn't be getting wrinkled if they weren't on your bed.  Hence, not my fault.”

Namjoon guesses that somewhere that’s logical to someone.  

Taehyung sits up and starts refolding the messed up clothing, anyway.  

“So,” Namjoon tries to sound conversational as he walks over to his closet to pull out some shoes.  “Do you know what’s going on with Jimin?”

“Not all of it.”  Taehyung runs a hand over a shirt, contemplatively smoothing it out.  “Part of it, though.”

He doesn’t say anything else, though, and Namjoon picks up the hint.

“And you can’t enlighten me, can you.”

“Sorry, not my place,” he says shaking his head.

“It’s okay.”

Taehyung looks up at him.  “Are you…?” His expression is unreadable and Namjoon really has no idea what he’s being asked.

“Am I what?”

There’s a beat and the younger man looks him over like he’s searching for something.  “Nothing,” he says finally. “Lost my train of thought.”

Namjoon sighs and stuffs some socks into his suitcase probably with a bit too much force.  He feels like he needs to justify himself for some reason.

“Do you remember that time really early on when Jungkook was insanely homesick and Jin took him home for the weekend?”  

“Yeah.”  Taehyung nods.  “That was really sweet.”

“That’s kind of what I’m hoping for.  Sometimes all we need is a break and a completely different context.”

“I get you.”  Taehyung takes his glasses off and fiddles with them thoughtfully.  “Just… don’t be hard on him, okay?”

“Wait, when have I ever…?”

“Never, never.”  Tae waves his hands.  “Just if he doesn’t want to talk, it’s gotta be okay, okay?  That’s all I really wanted to say.”

“Okay.”  Of course, it’s okay.  Namjoon would never force Jimin to tell him anything.  And maybe Namjoon’s not going to be the recipient of Jimin’s confessions the same way Taehyung is.  He feels a little aching twinge at that but he hides it and gives Taehyung a comforting little clap on the shoulder.  “I promise. That’s fine.”

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin is quiet on the drive out.  He mostly stares out the window and presses his lips together like he’s thinking.  He makes a couple of attempts to sound upbeat, he picks out a song to listen to, comments a little on the weather forecast.  It’s odd and forced but Namjoon lets it slide. In a backwards way, he appreciates the effort.

When they get there Namjoon tries to be cheerful enough for the both of them.  Somehow that’s even worse.

The resort is small and expensive.  He thinks the word is boutique. Namjoon hasn’t even had money that long and he’s already tired of the slightly sterile feeling of places for rich people.  Even knowing someone is always watching, he almost likes it better when they vacation on camera, bunking up together and goofing around more or less like normal people.  But these kinds of places are good at privacy so that’s that for now.

They have two suites, even though they'll just be staying together in one.  They have to keep up appearances, so it is what it is. Namjoon does his best to float around, praise the amenities, point out activities in the travel brochure. That's not normally what he does and it feels like doing an awkward imitation of Jimin in front of him.  He knows they can both feel how ersatz it is. For his part, Jimin is feigning interest again. He seems anxious and on edge but he goes through the motions of responding to Namjoon and Namjoon tries to return the favor by acting like he believes him.

Trying is better than shutting down, Namjoon keeps telling himself. All he can do right now is be patient and present.  Keep the door open.

The door opens sooner than he expects.

He's going through the room service menus and trying to figure out some inoffensive way to tell Jimin not to worry about ordering anything he wants for dinner, even if it's a plate of celery and a diet coke. He won't say a word or even throw a look.  If he is relapsing, Namjoon wants to make it clear that he’s not going to spend the weekend haranguing him about food or pressuring him. That’s not the point and he knows it won’t help anything.

When he walks into the main area of the suite, menus in hand, Jimin is sitting cross-legged on the couch, hands in his lap, staring into space.  He looks small and folded up. Drowning in his long-sleeved t-shirt.

“Hey, so about dinner…”

“Namjoon, can we talk?”

“Of course.”  

Namjoon.  Not Joonie.  

He puts the menus down and sits on the couch next to him.  Probably a little too fast.

“I… I’m sorry.”  Jimin looks down at his hands.  “I thought I could fake my way through this but I can’t.”

“That’s fine.  Be however you need to be.  That's sort of the point.”

“Yeah but I should have told you about this before we left.”  A pair of tears streak down his cheeks. He wipes at them clumsily with flat hands like he wants to erase them entirely.  “Because now we’re out in the middle of nowhere and you probably aren’t going to like me as much afterward. And I’m pretty sure you’re not going to want to kiss me, anymore.”  He looks up and gives Namjoon a heartbreaking little smile. “At least we’ve got two suites, huh.”

Namjoon’s mind is racing.  He can feel his heart in his chest.  No matter what it is, he already instinctively knows that Jimin is so wrong about both those assertions that he has a surprising urge to scream that at him.  He tempers himself, though. Stays calm.

“I’m really sure that’s not true.  But I’m listening.”

“So,” Jimin takes an enormous breath and stares straight while he speaks. “Earlier this week there was a reply to a tweet I made.  One of the social media people made sure I saw it because it was an old teacher of mine and they thought it was sweet.” He’s strangely motionless and the longer he talks, the farther away he looks.  

“He was my music teacher when I was 15.  He knew I wanted to be a performer and he was really supportive.  And he was really nice to me, at first.” Namjoon can see tears reforming at the corners of his eyes but Jimin remains still. “He told me that he could help me, get me auditions and contacts.  It was exciting.” Namjoon watches a heavy tear fall down Jimin’s cheek. He doesn’t wipe it away, just he stops and breathes deeply a few times. “And then… then he told me he loved me. And I guess... I guess I believed him.”  

There’s more tears slowly falling that Jimin just lets fall.  Namjoon is willing himself to move, to do something, because suddenly he can see the horrible thing that’s coming with perfect clarity, but he feels frozen, his limbs locked in place.  

“Because… because he started taking me to love motels.  And I let him. I let him do whatever he wanted.” He stays staring straight ahead but his shoulders and chest start shaking.  “And I’ve tried so hard not to think about it but it’s still there. I still did that. And now you know.” Jimin starts crying in earnest now, sniffling and sobbing.  “And I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Oh Christ.   Christ.   I swear to god, I’m here.”  Namjoon’s limbs finally, finally snap to attention and he pulls Jimin toward him, holding him as tight as he can against his chest.  He can feel Jimin shaking in his arms but he doesn’t let go. “Not going anywhere. I’ve got you. You’re okay. I’ve got you.”

Jimin lets Namjoon hold him until his crying slows and he regains some semblance of composure through very deep breaths.  Then he extricates himself from Namjoon’s arms. He looks like he wants to say something else as he sits up but Namjoon reaches out and holds his face in both his hands.  He holds Jimin’s eyes with his because he needs to be the one to talk first.

“First, you are exactly the same person to me you were ten minutes ago.  I need you to believe that. Secondly, none of this is your fault. You were a kid.   You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You don’t understand.”  Jimin pulls Namjoon’s hands away from his face but he doesn’t look away.  “I hated it but I never said no. I went with him.”

You were a kid.   He was someone who had power over your future.  It’s NOT your fault. That’s why it’s a literal fucking crime.”

Jimin just shakes his head, almost in disbelief.  “You were 15 when you signed up with Big Hit. Did PD Bang take advantage of you?”

“Honestly?  Yeah, kinda. It was a lot to put on a 15 year old.”  Namjoon knows he sounds annoyed but he’s fighting with the point, not Jimin.  And he’s going to kill this stupid idea if it’s the last thing he does. “But I also had my parents looking out for me, a lawyer who looked over my contract, and no one asked me to take off my clothes.  So yeah. I was young as shit. But it is different.”

Jimin shakes his head and stares at down at his hands in his lap for a while.

“I’m just so scared,” he says finally, voice back to being small again.

“Of?”

“Tae’s the only other person I’ve ever talked to about this.  But when it happened my… my parents found out. It stayed pretty quiet for bunch of reasons.  But he was fired over it. So someone could figure it out. And if they do, it’ll become one of the biggest things anyone knows about me.”  He drops his face into his hands like he’s hiding. “I don’t want to be known for this. I really don’t.”

“That won’t happen.  I promise.” Namjoon reaches out and gently wraps a hand over Jimin’s forearm and runs his thumb over his wrist.   

“How.”  Jimin’s voice is flat.

“Superpowers.”  Namjoon says lightly.  “Also PR people. Mostly PR people.”

Jimin gives the tiniest laugh at that.  It sounds like a papercut feels.

He doesn’t know what to do now and Jimin doesn’t say anything so they sit there silently for awhile.

“Can I hold you?”  He asks eventually. Less for Jimin than himself, if he’s honest.

Jimin looks up at him and wipes away a few remaining tears.

“Okay.” His tone is emotionless but Namjoon takes him at his word, anyway.  He half pulls, half guides him so that they're laying back on the couch and he’s holding Jimin in his arms, his head resting on the top of Namjoon’s chest.

Jimin is smaller than Namjoon but it’s impossible to hold him without also being aware of how strong and solid he is.  Holding him like this makes him feel like Jimin is tethering him, keeping him on Earth. Namjoon has a twinge of guilt over how comforting that feels right now.

Namjoon loses track of how long they lay there.  He doesn't know what to say and Jimin doesn't move.  Bit by bit, the room falls into a half lit haze as the summer sun slowly sets.  It's getting later but it was already into evening when they started talking. Maybe they've been laying here 20 minutes. Maybe an hour. Namjoon doesn't know.

Time is forced back into definite parameters, though, when his stomach decides to loudly announce its dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs.

“Wow,” Jimin remarks sitting up a little. “I don't know if that was louder because I was laying on you or if you’re actually in a hostage situation with your stomach.”

“Probably both?  We should order some room service before it decides to shoot the nearest bystander.”

“Yeah, probably.”

Things get quiet again as Namjoon gets up to get the menus.  The moment of normalcy is gone just as quickly as it came, the weight and strangeness of the evening pushes back down on them.

Jimin orders a meal and Namjoon doesn't comment just like he promised himself he wouldn't.  He manages to keep to that right up until they’re actually in the middle of dinner.

“I’m glad you’re eating.”  Between the general lack of conversation and his relief it slips out before he can stop it.

Jimin freezes in an almost comical position with his chopsticks halfway to his mouth.

“What does that mean?”

“We… I… I mean, everyone thought… after this spring…”  

Jimin puts his chopsticks down.

“We’re here because you all thought I was fucking up the food thing again,” he says flatly.

“No!”  Namjoon protests.  “I mean, yes. I just really wouldn’t phrase it like that.”

Jimin’s gaze drops.  His face looks heartbreakingly sad.

"I really am just a giant fucking mess, aren’t I.”

Okay.  This? Generalized self-loathing?  This is familiar territory. Namjoon knows this landscape.

“You know, Yoongi always makes me go out for coffee with him when he thinks I might be getting depressed.”  Jimin doesn’t respond and Namjoon goes back to his dinner, sounding conversational. “Really pisses me off, too.  Only time he ever does that is when he thinks I’m on a downswing.” Namjoon pauses and chews thoughtfully. “In the moment, anyway.  Once we actually go, it’s a really good idea. I try to do the same for him. It’s good to have someone check in on you who has an outside view and kinda knows what it’s like.”

“I don't think I ever knew that.”

“It's the shitty mental health club. Definitely not worth the price of admission.”

“No.  No, it is not.”

“My point is, we’re all kind of a mess?  I think it’s pretty much the human condition.  It just comes out in different ways.” Namjoon pauses.  “Please don’t ever tell him this but sometimes it makes me feel better when I think about Jin,” he confesses.  “Rich kid. Happy family. Perfect life. Except that he was the fuck-up son and everyone made sure he knew that, even if they didn’t say it.  Like, he honestly believed that he was going to spend the rest of his life in some middle management position that he hated because it was gonna be handed to him to keep him busy and he didn’t think he was good enough for anything else.  That totally fucked him up in its own special way.” Namjoon shrugs. “If getting a golden spoon doesn’t get you out of it, what hope do the rest of us have, ya know?”

“Namjoon.  I get what you're saying but I think my stuff is a little different.”

“So's mine. So's Yoongi’s.  It's why we have to lean on each other.”  Namjoon puts his chopsticks down and looks at Jimin until Jimin looks him back in the eyes. “You know how much time you've spent looking after me over the years?”

“What, I don't…”  Jimin frowns.

“All those times you've just been present when I couldn’t deal.”

“That's just…”

“Do you remember that time you brought me a sandwich?”

“No?”  Jimin sounds genuinely confused.

“I was in the middle of this really bad depressive episode and you brought me a sandwich and you sat with me.  And it was this really not great deli sandwich, I dunno how long it'd been sitting there. But it made me realize I was hungry and I ate it.  It was the first time I felt human in a really long time.” Namjoon feels the memory creeping over his mind, hot and fresh with the retelling.  “Best sandwich ever.”

“Joonie…”

“I want to be the person who brings you a sandwich.” Namjoon says softly, feeling like he's confessing something.  “If that's okay.”

Jimin looks like he's going to cry again.  He nods.

 

*     *     *

 

They spend the rest of the evening watching TV to distract themselves.  Jimin seems wiped and Namjoon can't blame him. So they hop around the channels a bit and make a few tired jokes about this and that. After a while Jimin announces that he wants to go to bed early. He jumps in the shower while Namjoon gathers up the room service dishes and sets them outside the door.  Then he flicks around the channels for a bit longer before deciding there's no point and heading to bed himself.

Jimin is still up and sitting cross legged on the bed when Namjoon walks in. His hair is damp and swept back, save for a couple of pieces that keep falling in falling his face.  He's wearing a soft looking t-shirt and fiddling with the cuffs of his pajama pants.

“Joonie?”

“Yeah?  Namjoon gets on the bed and sits down across from him.

“I… I know what you said.  I'm really glad I have you as a friend.  But… everything we talked about. It's a big deal and if you decide you want to stop… the other things, with us… I want you to know I understand.”

“Jimin, it wasn’t your fault.  I…”

Jimin cuts him off.

“No, I get that.  I get that you mean that.  I’m pretty broken, though.”  He reaches up to wipe away tears with flat hands, clearly trying to remain composed even though he can’t.  “And I get that it’s a lot. And you really didn’t sign up for this.” He takes a deep breath to center himself, even as he wipes away more tears.  “I’d understand. I wouldn’t blame you.”

Namjoon bites his lips.  He wants to scream again.  He wants to scream that Jimin is so wrong but not because Jimin is wrong because the idea is wrong.  He wants to scream at the idea until it never touches Jimin’s head again. Instead he sits for a moment, deciding that whatever anxiety his silence is causing is worth it to find the right words.

“People aren’t like farmer’s market produce,” he says finally.  “It’s not picking around in the bin trying to find the peach without bruises.  You pick the people in your life because you want them in your life.” He reaches out takes Jimin’s hand, rubbing the back with his thumb.  “And when you find out that they’ve been hurt, especially when it’s really bad, you don’t put them back and look for another one you just…” Namjoon hears himself starting to sound less even, less calm but he keeps going, “you get really mad and you hurt for them because it’s not peaches and it’s people and…” he can feel a firey tension growing in his chest and his train of thought falters, thrown off balance by the feeling he wants to get out.  “And fuck this metaphor, honestly, I don’t know where else I was going with it. You’re not a peach. You are beautiful and you’re amazing and I want you. I want you so much. All of you. You make my life so much better.  I want to be with you.”

And there it is.  The enormous, dangerous reality that’s he’s been avoiding, deflecting with work or sex.  The reason he never said this or that out loud.

And now it's in the open and he has to own it. Accept that he could be wounded.  Accept that things are different now.

Jimin all but throws himself at Namjoon and wraps his arms around him.

“I don’t deserve you,” he hiccups into Namjoon’s neck and Namjoon can feel a fresh batch of wet tears on his skin.

He pulls Jimin close and holds him tight.

“Bullshit.  Bullshit. Bullshit.”  He buries his head in Jimin's shoulder and whispers it like a mantra.  You deserve so much more than me, he thinks. But please, keep me anyway.  Keep me anyway.

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin falls asleep not too long after, once they're done holding each other and he’s been washed out of tears.  Namjoon doesn’t blame him at all, he imagines Jimin must be emotionally exhausted and physically drained by now.  Namjoon is wide awake, though, and once he’s certain that Jimin’s steady breaths mean he’s not waking up any time soon, Namjoon carefully climbs out of bed and goes to the other room in the suite.  

Namjoon takes out his phone and takes half an hour scrolling through their twitter feed until he finds the destructive tweet.  

So proud of my former student.  So glad that I could play a tiny part in his extraordinary success.

Motherfucker.

He deletes it and blocks him on twitter.  Then he goes through every account he has access to and blocks him on those, too, when he can find him.  Then he writes an email to the social media and PR people at Big Hit and has him blacklisted from anything and everything he can.

Namjoon has never hated anyone before.  He’s hated people in an indefinite sort of way.  He hates genocidal dictators and people who jail dissidents and violent racists.  But he’s never hated an individual, never really felt that burning specificity. He finds himself sliding into a fantasy of traveling back in time and beating the teacher bloody before anything could happen.

He can’t do that.  So instead he impulsively opens his bank account and orders a transfer of a significant amount of money.  Not enough to change his tax bracket but enough to raise the eyebrows of whoever has to process it. Some advisor somewhere is going to give him shit about it later, he knows. He anonymously sends it to their UNICEF fund and turns his phone off.

He wonders what it costs to save a kid from going through something like that.  What’s the going rate on a human heart.

Namjoon is unbelievably tired.  He’s awake but every bone in his body aches and his feelings are so worn through he can hardly tell what they are anymore.   He wants to just sit motionless on the hotel couch and stare at the ceiling until the world moves around him.

Then he thinks about Jimin, just on the other side of the door, fast asleep.  And fuck this couch, Namjoon needs to be near him.  Needs to know empirically that he’s there and safe.  

Namjoon goes back to bed and just as carefully slides back in.  Jimin wakes up just enough to roll over and and curl into Namjoon’s chest before falling fully back into sleep.

He feels warm and relaxed.  

He smells good.  

He always smells good.

Fairy magic.

 

*     *     *

 

“I want to go hiking.”  Jimin declares the next morning while they’re eating breakfast in the retreat restaurant.

“It’s supposed to rain today.”

“60%.  That means a 40% chance of not being rained on.  And the world owes me something good this morning, so we'll be fine.”

“You sure?”  Namjoon had had ideas about staying and steaming himself to death before falling asleep under a book since the weather is supposed to turn but he’s up for nearly anything Jimin wants right now.

“Yes.  40%. I can do math.”  He gives Namjoon a smug little smile and Namjoon feels like he could explode it's so good to see.  

“I meant risking the rain.  And I don’t know if you can do math.  I’ve seen you try and split a check.”

“No one can split a check,” Jimin protests.  “ No one.”

“I’ll go with you on one condition.”

“What that?”

“Last bite of your kimchi.”

“Extortion.”

“Negotiation,” Namjoon counters.

“Fine.”

Namjoon reaches over and plucks the kimchi out of Jimin's bowl.  It's housemade and very good but he doesn’t really care about the kimchi.  It's just that bantering feels good and he'd wanted to exact a price for agreeing.

After breakfast they head up to the room and take their time digging out walking shoes and putting water bottles and a few other things in a backpack before they head out.

The trail starts off near enough to the resort to walk to the trailhead.  From there it leads up to a scenic overlook at the top of the mountain. It’s overcast and the air smells like ozone.  Not surprisingly, the trail is mostly empty.

It's paved, less a trail and more of a path really, so despite the up hill climb the walk is easy enough.  They’re mostly quiet as they go.  They make a few cracks here and there.  They stop to look at flowers and birds a couple of times and Jimin saves them as pictures.   It's slow going but not bad.

But Namjoon notices the sky getting darker and darker as they go.  Eventually he hears a deep rumble of thunder in the distance and looks at Jimin.  Jimin doesn’t react, though, just keeps going, so Namjoon doesn't react either and goes along with him.

Eventually, however, forecasts turn into realities.

“I think it’s starting to rain.”  Namjoon says, holding a hand out to catch the falling drops.

“Of course it is.  Of course it fucking is.”  Jimin sounds angry and disappointed, like this wasn’t the predictable outcome.

“Let’s at least get under the trees.  Hopefully it’ll let up soon.”

Jimin follows him off the trail and they stand under some branches high enough to shelter them.  They're not to the top yet but there's an outlook not far off, a break in the trees on a natural ledge with a wooden railing so hikers can pause to peer down at the valley below. Namjoon watches as lightning breaks across the sky in the distance and counts the seconds until the sound comes rumbling after.

“I’m just so sick of this.”

“What?”  Namjoon snaps back into focus and looks back at Jimin.

“Everything.  Feeling like this.  All of it.”

There's another clap of thunder, near enough that Namjoon can feel it when it hits.  Jimin drops down to a flat footed crouch. Namjoon crouches next to him and starts rubbing his back in what he hopes feels like a comforting way.  Jimin just gives a throaty laugh and shakes his head. There’s another flash of lightning in the distance and it's close now. Namjoon barely gets to “two” before the deafening crash follows almost immediately after.

Jimin snaps up and runs straight to the rail.  Namjoon watches as he leans out and screams into the valley.  

It’s loud and indistinct and muffled by the downpour.  Namjoon follows him out into the rain but stays a couple of paces back to give Jimin his space.  The rain swallows up most of the noise but Namjoon is close enough to hear it turn into words.

“I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING.   ANYTHING!

Jimin stands there teeth clenched, eyes wide and angry.  There's another deafening thunderclap, although somehow this time Namjoon missed the lightning.

He see Jimin take an enormous breath.  Then he leans out and yells again.

NOTHING!!”

Even with the steady drumbeat of raindrops hitting the trees and the ground Namjoon feels like the word must echo and bounce around the whole world below.

Jimin's breathing slows as he leans on the railing.  His shoulders slump and shake a bit. Finally, though, he turns around and seems to notice for the first time that Namjoon is standing there.

Namjoon holds out a hand and Jimin takes it and steps in close to him.  Rivulets of water streak down their cheeks and stream off the brims of their baseball caps.  Their hair, their clothes, everything is soaked through with the rain by now but neither one of them moves.

Jimin reaches up and kisses him.  It's starts gently but almost immediately there's a rising force to it, like he’s dying for human contact.  Namjoon kisses back and pulls Jimin against him, trying annihilate every millimeter that stands between them.

In the grand scheme of things, it probably isn't the best moment for it.  But nonetheless it is the moment where Namjoon is blindsided by a single thought.  

This is real.

Not just Namjoon's feelings but what's between the two of them.  It's as if it's so tangible he can see the shape of his future shifting around it.  

And that doesn’t scare him.  

It makes him feel brave.

 

*     *     *    

 

They're already soaked so even though it drizzles for a while, they head back up the trail, anyway, determined to get to the top.  There's no one else around and Namjoon takes Jimin's hand in his as the walk. Everything is soaked through with the quiet after the storm.

When they finally get to the summit they're the only two there, no one else mad enough to make the hike in the rain. The storm is clearing and they ignore every informational placard and just stare at the view as the sun breaks through the clouds. They can see for miles from here and they watch as bit by bit light spreads onto the world below.

On their way back down they run into two young women making the hike up.  The young women recognize them and politely ask for pictures, giggling with nervous excitement.  Despite everything that's happened that day, Jimin smiles at them and rather than being annoyed, he blushes at the attention. He's sweet and gracious and Namjoon knows that's what they'll tell all their friends.  Because it's not and it never has been an act. It's just who Jimin is to the foundation of himself.

When they get back to the room they go for towels and hot showers but not before Namjoon sneaks in a few more rain scented kisses.  He's a little woozy with an emotion he can't define and it comes out as pure affection.

That night they stay up late talking about anything and everything.  Eventually they give up and go to bed but they just end up talking more, like the grown up version of a slumber party.  It feels soft and confessional, as if the boundaries of the room are keeping them together in some kind of safe haven while the rest of the world floats by outside.

The conversation has drifted back and forth between the silly and the serious and right now, they’re all but whispering in the dark, deep in a serious ebb.  

“I’m usually okay,” Jimin says.  “But sometimes something reminds me and it rushes up again.  This week, with the tweet, though. It felt like it just happened, like there hadn’t been any time at all.”

“That sounds… I dunno, I don’t want to use the word normal but that sounds like how these things usually work.”

“It fucking sucks.”

“Yeah.”  Namjoon pauses.  “Do you want to talk to someone when we get back?  No one has to know why, if you don’t want to.”

“Maybe.”  

“Okay.” It’s a sincere response so that's good enough.  There’s also a somewhat self-indulgent question that’s been eating at Namjoon all day.  

“Can I ask you something?”  

“Sure.”

“If it makes you feel bad you don’t have to answer it and we’ll change the subject, okay?”

“Okay.”

Namjoon takes a deep breath.

“You said something about love motels when you were younger.  I just wondered… our first time was in a love motel and I… I know I didn’t know anything but I hope that wasn’t weird or bad.”

Jimin shakes his head and he doesn’t look upset.

“It’s kind of the opposite, actually.  It’s really nice to have a good memory in one.”  He reaches out and finds Namjoon’s hand. “That was a good night for me.”

“That was good night for me, too.”

“What I can remember of it, anyway,” Jimin amends.

“Oh god, we were tanked.”

“So tanked.”

“And the decor.  That was weird.”

“I dunno.”  Jimin muses.  “I was thinking we could do a similar thing in Wonderland.  Keep to a theme.”

“Whelp,” Namjoon says, turning over.  “This relationship was nice while it lasted.  Please enjoy your animal prints.”

Jimin scoots behind him and doesn’t so much spoon him as wrap himself around Namjoon like a capuchin monkey.

“Sorry, you can’t get out of this.  I’ve got you.”

His grip seems a little bit ernest, though, and Namjoon realizes belatedly that wasn't the best joke right now.  He puts a hand on Jimin’s arm, half returning the hug.

“You know I’m not going anywhere.”

“You understand why I thought you might want to, though, right.”  Jimin says softly.

Namjoon wriggles a little and prods Jimin so that they can talk to face to face again.

“Do you know why I like to call you fairy prince?”

“I always thought it was kind of a sex thing, honestly.”

Namjoon feels a twinge.  

“Okay, a little,” he concedes.  “It did start because you are very cute.”  He hears the tiniest laugh and can make out the edges of that bright smile in the dark.  “But there’s also this thing about you. It’s like you’re really strong but you’re also really soft.  You go through so much and you push yourself to do so much. But then it never makes you hard. You always have all this energy to care about everyone around you and find so much joy in just being alive.  You’re an amazing person. There’s a reason everyone thinks you’re kind of magic.”

“I wasn’t fishing for compliments,” Jimin places a small kiss on Namjoon’s nose.  “But thank you.”

“I just wish I could make you see yourself like I see you.”

“I wish I could do the same thing for you,” Jimin says cuddling up to Namjoon’s side.  

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin is already out of bed by the time Namjoon gets up.  Namjoon finds him in the next room. There’s a handful of pictures on the coffee table and Jimin is looking at them with a marker in his hand.

“Hey,” Namjoon says, sitting next to him.  “What’s all this?”

“Embracing the fairy thing,” Jimin says.  “Symbolically.”

“Oh?”

“Strong and soft is a lot better than broken.”  He gives Namjoon a little smile. “Trying to make myself believe that’s me.”

Namjoon looks at the table.  The pictures are from last night when Jimin took a small pile of them on a whim.  There’s a bunch of him and a few of Namjoon. Underneath one of the pictures he’s written “Park Jimin is a Fairy Prince.”  And underneath another, “Park Jimin is a Good Fairy.”

“I like that.”

“I’d be nice to have gotten there by a shorter route but what can you do.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Just that it’s been a long couple of days.”

Something finally sinks into Namjoon’s head and he feels a lead weight in his gut.

“I’m really sorry.”

“What?”

“I really fucked this up.  I should have asked if you wanted to go with Tae or Hobi or go home or something else altogether.  Or nothing” He looks down at his hands. They seem too big and clumsy, even though they're just sitting there and he’s not doing anything with them at all.  “I was really selfish. I just wanted to be the person to be there for you. I wasn’t thinking about what you'd need.” Jesus, he really is an asshole.  “I’m sorry.”

A marker slams down on the table in front of him with a dull thwack.

“Pick out two pictures.”

“What?”

“I want you to pick out two pictures of yourself and then you’re going to write two things.  One, ‘Kim Namjoon is kind’ and two ‘Kim Namjoon is a good person.’”

“Huh?”

“Just do it.”

Namjoon picks up the marker and grabs the first photo in front of him and complies.

“It’s kind of the opposite of selfish to want to make sure the people you care about are okay.”  He pauses fiddling with one of the pictures. “But maybe don’t be so quick to kidnap me next time?  Although, I wasn’t really talking so…”

“I promise not to kidnap you, if you promise to try and talk when it’s important,” Namjoon says, finishing with the second photo.

“Okay, but that sounds kind of like a threat so maybe just no kidnapping period?  But yeah. Deal.”

Namjoon scoots back and maneuvers Jimin toward him so he’s sitting between his legs, back pressed against Namjoon’s chest.  He wraps his arms around him and rests his chin on his shoulder. “No kidnapping, more talking. Deal.”

Jimin leans back and presses his cheek against Namjoon’s head.  “We’re us, right,” he asks. “I mean, there’s an us.”  

Namjoon thinks back to the moment in the forest and he thinks he understands what Jimin is saying.  This is real.

“Yeah, there is absolutely an us.”

Jimin stays in his arms for another moment then leans forward to grab his camera.  He lifts it up and snaps a picture of the two of them. Namjoon watches it develop, the two of them looking up, snuggled up together in their pajamas.  They look sleep mussed and messy. It’s not the prettiest picture that’s ever been taken of either of them but they look happy.

When it’s finished developing Jimin grabs a marker and writes a label on the bottom of the picture.

Everything’s going to be okay.

 

*     *     *

 

The following weekend Namjoon is out to lunch with Jackson.  The other rapper is catching him up on his recent trip to the US, jumping from complaining about a radio interview to talking excitedly about this person and that person he’s in talks with to a completely ridiculous story about a Los Angeles shopping trip that somehow ended up in an ER visit followed by a wild date with one of the nurses.

He sounds like a kid in a candy store, except the candy store just happens to be his whole life.

Namjoon is pretty content to eat his noodles, listen and occasionally interject to give his friend shit.  

“Speaking of wild nights, you never told me how things shook out with Jimin.”

“What?”  Namjoon looks up, surprised.

“I know it was months ago but you were really freaked out about it.   Then you just never brought it up again.”

He’s been as intentionally silent with Jackson as anyone.  Namjoon thinks back to their conversation and impulsively phrases his response.

“I don't really have anything to tell.”

Jackson is looking at him and he can see things turning behind his eyes.

“Good not anything to tell or bad not anything to tell.”  He finally asks.

Namjoon knows he should swerve.  He should erase the ambiguity that he just created.  

“Extremely good,” he says instead, trying to sound casual while he stuffs more noodles in his mouth.

“Cool.  Glad it worked out.”  Jackson looks at him softly.  Then on a dime he’s back to the rundown of his American adventures as though Namjoon hadn't said anything at all. 

Chapter Text

Some Time Ago

 

“We're kind of famous.”  Taehyung says laying in the grass, staring up at the sky.  His head is right next to Jimin's, stretched out in the opposite direction.  The light pollution from the city means they can only see half a dozen stars if they squint.  But it’s a clear night, so they've spent the last half an hour pretending they can find constellations.

“I think that's true.”

“That's utterly wild.”

“It really is.”  The sky stretches out enormous above him and Jimin feels odd and contradictory, thinking about being kind of big when he feels so small in the scope of the universe.

“I know we dreamed about it…”

“But you're right, it's still crazy that it actually happened.” Jimin points at an area of the sky.  “Little Dipper.”

“Pretty sure you already saw that one.”  Taehyung points to another patch of sky “Over there.”

“Big Dipper then.  They look the same so I got confused.”

“Easy mistake to make.  No astronomer or astrologer in the world would fault you.”

“Thank you.”

Taehyung contemplatively beats a little rhythm on his stomach and makes some weird noises with his lips.

“We're kind of a weird famous, though,” he says finally.

“What do you mean?”

“Name one other idol group that sits around reading 100 year old German novels.”

“I think I like 100 year old German novels,” Jimin responds defensively.

“Or who had to do a feminist theory crash course.”

“Namjoon-hyung and Yoongi-hyung thought it was important.  That criticism really freaked them out.”

“Or who get plotlines about killing their abusive, alcoholic dad.”

“You’re a really good actor, though.”  He puts his hands behind his head like he’s just won an argument.  “That shouldn’t be wasted.”

“I’m just saying.  We’re weird famous.”  Taehyung points at another patch of sky.  “Bowl of ramen.”

“That’s not a constellation.”

“Hey!  We’re pretending.  I can imagine whatever I want.”

“Fine.”  Jimin points at another patch of sky.  “Scottish Fold.”

“That’s very specific.”

“I didn’t want to just say ‘cat,’ okay?”

“Point.  Scottish Fold it is.”

“So what’s wrong with being weird famous, anyway?”  Jimin asks, curious if there was somewhere Taehyung had been going this.

“Absolutely nothing.  I don’t think I could do regular famous.  I’d be fired in a week.”

“Yeah, you would.”

“Hey!”  He reaches over and smacks Jimin’s elbow.  “You’re supposed to be on my side!”

“I am on your side.  You like to think about things differently, though- a good different.  You’d go and say the wrong thing to the wrong person and they wouldn’t know something brilliant when they heard it.  And poof. You’d be gone. Too good and creative for this world.”

“I could do it.”  Taehyung huffs.

“And you would die of boredom in a week.”

“...probably.”  

There’s a lull in conversation and Jimin listens to the rush of traffic beyond the edges of the park.  The breeze blows strands of hair across his forehead while he scans the sky for more fictional constellations.  

“Jimin?”  Taehyung’s voice is soft and serious.

“Yeah?”

“I don't think I could do this without you.”

“That's not true.”  Jimin turns to look at him.  “You're brilliant and talented and hardworking.  You'd be fine without me.”

“I wouldn't, though.”  Taehyung shakes his head then points up at the sky. “Rhinoceros.” His hand comes back down and lands heavily on his chest. “You're right.  I think about things differently. And… I dunno. If you hadn’t been here to listen to me and prop me up since the beginning, I wouldn’t still be here.  Weird famous or normal famous or even not famous but still going.”

Jimin's instinct is to say that he's wrong but he also knows Taehyung isn’t pushing for reassurance or praise, so he leaves it.

“I guess that settles it then,” Jimin says decisively, turning to look back up at the sky.

“What?”

“Never become famous without your best friend.”

“Never,” Taehyung agrees.  There’s a pause before he reaches up and points again.  “Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night .”

“...you know, I think I see it.”

Chapter Text

It’s far, far too late to still be awake, especially when there is rehearsal in the morning.  Namjoon is still sitting at his desk in his room, though, focused intently on his laptop.  And there’s no sign that he’s going to quit for the night any time soon.

“Joonie,” Jimin slips his arms over his shoulders down his chest to loosely embrace him from behind.  “Go to bed.  It’s so late.”  He sounds like he’s nagging.  That's because that’s exactly what he’s doing.

This is Jimin’s third attempt to make Namjoon go to sleep that night.  

The first one was subtle.  He brought him herbal tea and simply said, “to help you get some sleep,” punctuated by a kiss on the head.

An hour later he’d retrieved the empty mug with a “promise me you’ll go to sleep soon?”  He’d gotten a distracted nod and a noise of agreement in response.

Which brings him to where he is now.  Awake at stupid o’clock in the morning and reduced to nagging.

“I just have to finish this. It's fine.”  Namjoon gives him a little pat on the arm and glances up to give him a quick unconvincing smile.

Jimin knows the problem isn’t looming deadlines.  The problem is the United States of America.  Well, maybe not the whole country or even very much of it, but he wants to pout at something and a country on the other side of the world is as good of a candidate as any.  He can’t really pick a fight with a country, so that’ll keep him out of trouble at the very least.

They’d just returned from an international press tour to promote the new album and single.  For the most part, it had gone well.  He feels like they’ve come to a sort of truce with the American talk shows.  They’re learning how to be a bit more at ease with the particular American sense of humor and kinds of self-seriousness.  The talk shows have acknowledged that they’re not going anywhere soon and are treating them a bit less like a novelty. 

The problem is that every sojourn to America means American reviews and thinkpieces follow them home.  Jimin can’t sit down and read them without someone else translating but he’s picked up that they generally fall into two categories:

In the first category, the writers know or research about who they are.  They know they're trying to do something, make something and they write about that.  Those are fine, gratifying even, even if the reviewer is critical of what they do. 

The second category, though, are the ones that get to Namjoon.  Those are the ones where they’re given a couple of paragraphs out of obligation.  The ones where they’re waved off as a cute boy band, usually with an off-hand comment about their hair colors or makeup, as though that was the most interesting thing they were capable of constructing.

Namjoon hates being written off.  Jimin knows he’s learned to flirt with the camera, to pose, to become a picture on a photo card.  That he even has fun with it now.  But Jimin also knows that Namjoon really lives and dies in his head. Knows he lives by consuming ideas, twisting them, combining them, rejecting them. That it shapes everything in his life from his clothing to the way he piles layers of meaning into everything he creates and forms words into intricate puzzles.

It's something Jimin figured out instinctually a long time ago when he realized the key to getting Namjoon to dance.  A demonstration was nothing without an explanation.  Make it a problem for the mind, not the body.   For Namjoon everything happens there first.

So Namjoon hates being dismissed.  Hates being transformed into surface.  Jimin imagines that for him, it's like being told he just doesn't exist. Or if he does, it doesn't matter.

Jimin is almost certain that's the feeling that's still keeping him up. He’s working on a project with an American collaborator, so Jimin can only imagine that it makes the need to prove himself twice as bad.  But even geniuses need to sleep. So he tries again.

“I’m not leaving you alone until you go to sleep.”

“I just have to finish this.”

“You can do it tomorrow.”

“It’ll be late.”

“Send an email. Everyone in the world knows you're doing 15 things at once. A few more hours is not going to kill anyone.”

“No, because that’s not professional,” Namjoon retorts.

“Don’t get snippy.”

Namjoon scrubs his hands across his face.  

“You should go crash out.  There’s no reason you should be up just because I am.  You don’t need to worry about me.”

Jimin leans in a bit more, holds him a little tighter and rests his chin on Namjoon’s shoulder.

“I'm your lover. Doesn't that mean I get to worry about you?”

Namjoon let's out what can only be described as a resigned groan.

“Should have known that line would come back to get me,” he says, running a hand up one of Jimin’s arms.

“Hmm.”  Jimin squeezes him a little in response.

“Would you stay?”

“Mm?”

“If I agree to go to bed, will you stay?”

“Of course.” Jimin leans his head against Namjoon’s.  “Anyone asks, I fell asleep trying to get you to go to bed and you didn’t have the heart to kick me out.”

Namjoon closes his eyes, nuzzles back and sighs a little.  “Just let me wrap up this last thing?”

“Okay.  Just don't take too long.” Jimin pats him on the chest and then straightens up and wanders over to Namjoon's bed.

He thought he'd waste a few minutes mucking around on his phone but he must have fallen asleep because the one minute he's looking at Twitter and the next minute Namjoon is gently shaking his shoulder while the world fades back into focus.

“Hey, get under the covers.”

Jimin glances at the clock on his phone before clumsily setting it on the end table.

“You took a while.”

“Sorry.”

Jimin doesn't respond.  He just gracelessly pulls off his shorts and crawls into bed while Namjoon shuts off the light.

When he gets into bed Jimin half-expects Namjoon to grab on to him and hold him like he's a stuffed animal.  Instead, he loops an arm around him and lays with his head on Jimin's chest so that Jimin is holding him instead. Jimin rests a hand on his back and starts combing his fingers through Namjoon's hair.

“It'll feel better in the morning,” Jimin promises sleepily.  Namjoon doesn't say anything back but he gives Jimin an affectionate squeeze, curls up a little more into his side.

It's kinda cute, Jimin thinks.  It's still not entirely fair that he can be cute.

He stays awake as long as he can, gently carding his fingers through the other man's hair until he feels his breathing slow, before he lets himself he slip away from consciousness.  

His dreams that night are vivid but indistinct, more like images floating by than stories. At one point he startles awake, sure someone opened Namjoon's door and looked inside.  

But when he opens his eyes the door is shut and there's no one there except Namjoon, fast asleep beside him.

 

*     *     *

 

They’re shooting a video that day and everyone is gathered around a screen watching a playback of the last take.  Jimin stands cuddled up against Namjoon's back while they watch, one arm around his waist, another over his shoulder, hands clasped over Namjoon's chest.

No one gives him a second look. It's established that pretty much anyone who lets him, he’ll hang off them like a koala.  He’s just naturally physically affectionate.  He likes being able to touch and hold the people he cares about, to exist in their spaces.  No personal bubble, Yoongi had called it once.    

But sometimes these days he just has an urge to be close to Namjoon, like something in his skin isn’t quieted until he touches him.  So he's glad he can stand there with his arms around Namjoon and his chin on his shoulder and there’s nothing strange about it.  Or at least nothing strange beyond Jimin’s own personal strange, which isn’t that strange to anyone anymore.  

It's funny when he thinks about it, how easy it's been not to change his behavior around Namjoon.  Because there really hasn't been much he'd change.  Their relationship has been full of touching and teasing for a long time, already.

He's not entirely sure what to make of that.

He stares at the playback screen over Namjoon's shoulder, looking for tiny things he can tweak and improve. Namjoon says a few things, gesturing a little as he talks but not making any moves to shift Jimin off of him.

They’ve spent the morning doing the same scene over and over again and as everyone talks, Jimin stops making notes in his head. Everyone seems satisfied enough to go on, so Jimin's just going to have to make peace with what's on film.  

Which also means it’s finally time to break for lunch before starting on solo shots.  

Most of them head over to rifle through their bags first, pull out their cellphones, books, headphones, things like that.  Like it always is during a shoot, the film studio is full of people.  Camera people, set coordinators, costumers, lighting people, managers, assistants.  There are people whose jobs Jimin isn’t even sure of.  (Jimin knows there’s someone called a key grip but damned if he knows what a grip does.) 

The point is that there are a lot of people around so it takes a minute before any of them register a woman walking toward them with a big friendly smile.  The sort of woman who can wear heels and jeans, like she casually stepped out of a fashion blog. 

“Namjoon!”  She calls out and there’s a little wave.

Jimin looks up at that, noticing her the same time everyone else does.

The ex.  Eunbi. 

“Hey!”  Namjoon goes over to greet her.  When she turns her face he gives her a kiss on the cheek.  “I didn’t think you were coming by.”

Wasn’t she supposed to be safely tucked away far, far away from them on the other side of the world.

“Well, I wound up having some time, so here I am.”

Jimin realizes he hasn’t so much as breathed since he’s seen her and determinedly goes back to digging in his bag.

There’s a reason.  There has to be a reason, right?

He hears her saying hi to other band members.  They’re being polite.   

Jimin gets to care about this, right?  Gets to wonder why he doesn’t know anything about this and why she’s just here.  

Jimin takes a deep breath.  He’s going to have some faith in Namjoon.  Namjoon deserves that from him.  He can ask about this later.

“So,” she says turning back to Namjoon.  “Can I steal you for lunch?”

“Actually, with the filming schedule…”

Of course, the assistant director picks that moment to walk by.

“You’re not on call for a couple of hours,” she says.  “Go, go.  Have fun.  Just be back and in makeup by 2:00.”

“Gimme a minute to change and wash my face?”  Namjoon says.

“Take your time.  I’m sure someone will keep me company.”  She smiles.  Confident.  Charming.

Jimin doesn't look to see if Namjoon smiles back before he heads to the dressing room.  

Jimin really has to stop pretending he can’t find something in the bottom of his bag.  He manages to pull himself up and face the world.

“Hi, Jimin.”  She gives him a cute, little wave and a smile.  Of course, he’s the only one here who hasn’t acknowledged her existence.  

“Hey, welcome back.”  He gives her a little wave in return.  “Are you staying or just saying hi?”

“Back on business but trying to find time to be social.  Britain won’t get rid of me that easily, although the food seems to be trying.”

“I didn’t actually think it was bad, the few times we were there,” Jin interjects, saving Jimin. “There was this Thai place near Piccadilly Circus that cooks everything over charcoal that was just amazing.”

“Oh!  Kiln!   I love that place. I wasn’t serious about the food. It's not that bad, it's really more of a joke. Except…” she leans forward a little conspiratorially. “...marmite.”

Jin laughs loudly and Jimin takes this as his moment to escape, giving another polite wave while she and Jin go back to making small talk about restaurants and Western food.

Of course, she knew the restaurant. Of course, she can just drop herself into a conversation about foodie culture that sounds like Greek to Jimin.

He thinks about going to the dressing room to find Namjoon but it’s not like they’d be able to talk in any kind of straightforward way, anyway, and he’s really not in the mood to talk at cross purposes.  Instead, he just goes over to craft services and piles up a plate before going to find everyone else in the break room. 

Jimin still hates eating on filming days, can’t help but worry it’ll show up on camera.  But he pokes at his food, anyway, thinking:  Try.  I promised. 

“So do we think she’s back?” Yoongi asks while they eat, not entirely happy sounding.

“She said she was just visiting,” Jimin replies.

“Nah, I mean,” and he points in the direction of the dressing room with his chopsticks.  

“I hope not,” says Hoseok grabbing his chest.  “I don’t think my poor heart can take another round of that.”

“I don’t think my sanity can take another round of that.”  Yoongi retorts.

“Aw.  I liked her,” Jungkook says.  Yoongi gives him a look and he shrugs.  “She used to send us those awesome catering orders and that really good champagne after shows.”

Jimin looks down at his lunch.  It's fine.

He remembers the surprise meals from fantastic restaurants that would show up every once in a while on busy rehearsal or shoot days.  Namjoon had said she was trying to be supportive.  Jimin had figured she was just trying to buy everyone's approval.

“You know there’s gonna be another one, anyway,” Hoseok says.  

“What’s that mean?”  Taehyung asks.

“He’s got a type,” Hoseok replies.

“Really smart, attractive women who aren’t willing to put up with his bullshit,”  Yoongi adds.  “If he’s going to have a type, that’s not a bad one.”

Jimin is still staring at his plate.  He sort of wants to die right now.  He sort of wants to scream.  He sort of wants to disappear into the couch cushions and never come out.

“Hey guys,” Taehyung is looking over at him.  “This is kind of a shitty topic of conversation.  Can we talk about something else?”

“Fair enough,” Hoseok concedes.

Jin comes back to join them and Jimin realizes that means that Namjoon must have come back and gone out with her.  

“I’m gonna go bug the makeup department,” Jimin declares, tossing out his mostly uneaten lunch.  “I’ll see you guys in a bit.”

 

*     *     *

 

He’s not on call yet for makeup and anyway, the makeup artists are still relaxing in the corner on their break.  He gives them a quick hello and says there’s no rush, he just needs a place to hang out, whenever they want, whenever they’re supposed to do his touch-ups is fine.

He sits in one of the makeup chairs and stares in the mirror and off into space.

Jimin feels at home in the makeup chair.  He loves makeup. He loves watching the process of it, how this bit of color or that bit changes his face. His favorite part is the eyes. When he looks at himself, his eyes always feel a little too small to him, one of the first things he notices when he critiques his face. But add a bit of liner, some carefully applied smoke, and color and suddenly they're his most prominent feature.

He knows he drives the makeup artists crazy. He’s learned enough about it now that he has strong opinions about how it should look, what techniques he favors, the subtle differences he wants for every comeback.  He likes to have his eyes done up for rehearsals so he can see how his face looks when he performs.  He's gotten better at doing it himself but it's still not up to his standards.  So it's not uncommon for him to be agitating for help with some tightliner in the middle of the afternoon.

Jimin buys them a lot of fruit baskets and lunches to apologize.  He knows that no matter how polite he is, he's still sort of a terror.

He used to pretend he hated it.  In the very beginning Yoongi and Namjoon had grumbled about doing makeup at all, so he’d tried his best to hide his fascination.  He’d wanted to be more like his hyungs, to swagger with some kind of hip-hop masculinity.  But the distance between him and that ideal might as well have been measured in miles.  Yet, he had tried so hard.  He felt like everything would be a little easier, he might feel a little better about himself if he could only get a little closer. 

He’d let go of that idea as he’d grown into himself, though.  No matter how many sports jerseys he wore or chains they tried to put on him, underneath it all he’d always be a little too delicate, a little too unserious, a little too eager to physically show affection and crave affection in return.  And things had changed around him, the group changed, and he’d let himself change with it.  Maybe he even helped it change.  Bit by bit he’d made a space he could shape around himself instead of the other way around.  Jimin on stage standing in 4th position, graceful and expressive.  Jimin off stage bent over laughing, smiling and blushing.

Whether he thinks he is or not, he likes being called pretty now.  A fairy.  Mochi sexy is what Namjoon likes to call him when he's teasing.  He likes his makeup and jewelry and tailored suits and sweaters that swallow him up. It suits him better than feigning rugged masculinity.  It feels easier.  He likes himself a little better now.

“There’s going to be another one… smart, attractive women...”

He feels the old terror of falling short creeping up his spine.

He knows they didn’t mean anything by it but he'd wanted to yell at his friends that they don't know anything. That Namjoon makes love to him.  That he laughs and dances with him. That he stayed with Jimin while he broke down on the side of a mountain and then kissed him until he could breathe again.

But why would they know that.  They don't even know that Namjoon kisses men.  That pretty men are also his type.

He knows everything Namjoon’s said about not going anywhere.  But now out of the blue, he’s out to lunch with his ex-girlfriend and Jimin can’t help but wonder what the hell that means.  And what if there is a woman who comes along?  Someone lovely and smart that Namjoon could just be with without worrying and hiding all the time.  Her or someone else.  Could Jimin really be selfish enough to try and keep him?  Would he really be worth giving that up for?

Jimin sees Taehyung sit down in the chair next to him in the mirror.  Jimin realizes he’s been absently twirling one of the very expensive makeup brushes around his fingers while he thinks.  He puts it back on the counter a little guiltily.

“Hey,” says mirror Taehyung.

“Hi,” says Jimin addressing the reflection.  

Mirror Taehyung’s face is a bit drawn and he taps his fingers on his lips while he looks at Jimin’s reflection.  “About the conversation at lunch today,” he says.  “Are you okay?”

“What?”  He turns to look at real-Taehyung sitting next to him.  “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because you guys had that thing.”  His friend shrugs.  “And you looked really miserable.”

Jimin feels his heart quicken a little.

“Did anyone else notice?”  

Taehyung shakes his head.  “Don’t think so.”

“Okay.”  Good.  His heart slows down, just a bit.  

“So…” Taehyung asks carefully.  “Are you still carrying a torch?”

Jimin leans forward and absently grabs another brush and taps it rapidly against his fingers while he thinks about how to respond.  More like a stupid bonfire at this point, he thinks.

“Kind of,” he concedes.

“Do you want to talk about it?”  Taehyung plucks the make-up brush from Jimin’s hand and starts seesawing it rapidly with his first two fingers, his own version of the same nervous tick.

“I don’t know.  Feelings suck.  They’re complicated.”  

“I, um…” Taehyung looks down and lets the brush smack against the palm of his other hand a few times.  “I kinda picked up that you still have feelings for him.  Before today.”

Jimin’s heart stops.  

“How?”  His voice comes out as a squeak.

Taehyung opens his mouth and then shuts it again, looking like he decided to change tactics midthought.  

“Just little things… I've been wondering about the boyfriend we’ve never met.”

Jimin’s mind races.  Either Taehyung knows he's been running off with Namjoon or thinks he’s been off with someone to make himself forget about Namjoon.  

He’s struck mute with a strange terror.  He’s so used to wanting to tell Taehyung everything.  And he still does.  But over the last several months he’s gotten used to hiding this part of his life just as habitually.

There’s more to it than instinctual secret keeping, though.  Even more than not even knowing where to begin or being afraid of how his friend will react.  Jimin doesn’t want Taehyung to find out and think Namjoon makes him unhappy.  He can’t stomach the idea, even if Jimin is hurt and confused and angry right now.  Especially because Jimin is hurt and confused and angry right now.  He doesn’t want that to be the first thing Tae sees.

It’s all too much to feel in one day.  And the one person he could talk to about all this, the one person he wants to talk to about all this is currently out to lunch with his ex-girlfriend which is what started this whole thing.  

“Taetae,” he says softly, not really trusting his own voice.  “Can we not talk about this now?  Please?”

“Of course, of course.”  He must have sounded particularly upset because Taehyung looks worried and suddenly he’s putting the makeup brush back and fiddling with the contents of the makeup counter like he’s been ordered to organize it.  

The head makeup artist notices him, though and comes over to frustratedly wave Taehyung’s hands away from her tools.  Then she gets the attention of a PA and asks him to go get Yoongi because he has the first solo shoot, so she needs to get started on his makeup now.  Then her assistant is leaning over and thanking Jimin for already being there because they need to get started on him next and it’s going to take an extra minute isn’t it, she says with a light laugh.

And just like that the break is over and there are a million things happening around them again, a million moving parts they’re supposed to move with.

And Jimin is glad for it.  Glad for the distraction.  Glad he doesn’t have to finish his conversation.  Glad he’ll have something to pour himself into other than his thoughts.

But right now all he has to do is sit back and appreciate the hands working precisely over his face, knowing the paints and pigments will make him better than he was before.

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin gets to Wonderland first that night.  They have a very busy week and it’d been a trick to scrape together an hour or two.  He’s angry at Namjoon for not being there when he walks in the door.  Angrier that he’s not there in five minutes, in ten.  He said he’d get there first.

When Namjoon does get in, the first thing out of his mouth is an apology.  Something about traffic and his taxi driver.  It doesn’t matter.  He could have come in telling Jimin he’d stopped to rescue a busload of orphans from the Han River and Jimin wouldn’t have cared.

“Glad you decided to show up at all,”  Jimin says, taking a bottle of seltzer out of the fridge.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Namjoon pauses halfway through toeing one of his shoes off.

“It means you don’t have to be here if you don’t want to.”  He unscrews the bottle cap.  There’s the sound of the fizzy release of gas, almost for emphasis. “No one’s making you.”

“Christ, I said I was sorry about the traffic.”

“Fuck the traffic, Namjoon.”  He sounds angry.  He knows he’s angry about a lot of things and he can’t stop himself right now.  Can’t make himself sound nice.

“Then what the fuck is this about?”  Namjoon stands there demanding, still not having moved from the entryway.

And just like that, Jimin explodes.  He sets the glass bottle down on the counter top a little too hard and the bubbles rise up and fizzy water starts spilling out from under the cap.

“YOU TELL ME!”  Jimin turns around gets a glass then comes back and slams down it on the counter next to the bottle.  “No wait, you don’t tell me.  You don’t tell me your fucking ex-girlfriend is back.  You don’t tell me you’ve been talking to her.  You don’t tell me you’re going out to lunch with her.  You don’t tell me anything, apparently.”

“I have an explanation.”  

“Do you?  Do I get to hear it?  Or is that the kind of thing only girls get from you.  Boys just get to hang out in the dark because fuck us, huh?”  He pours the water in the glass.  There’s already a puddle on the counter where the water spilled out but it makes him feel like he’s doing something normal, like he’s not acting completely unreasonable.

“Oh fuck you.” Namjoon throws his hands up and walks into the apartment collapsing on the couch in a furious heap.  “You do not even get to pretend that’s why everything’s secret.”

“It’s not the secrecy.” Jimin follows him into the living room.  Even though the front part of the apartment is essentially one open area, the staircase makes it feel like there’s a divide, so there’s still this sensation that he’s pursuing him.  “But it is a little fucking weird that you’ve never talked to any of our friends about your sexuality,”  Jimin continues.  “That I’m magically also the only one who knows you’re not 100% straight.”

“What the fuck is there to talk about?”  Namjoon turns toward him.  “There’s never been a guy in my life before you.  It’s not my fault that people have these heteronormative ideas…”

“Oh fuck off.”  That response is so infuriatingly Namjoon.  It makes him want to scream.  So he does.  “So you took a couple of gender studies courses.  That doesn’t get you out of acting like a goddamn human being!”

“Just tell me what you want from me!”  Namjoon roars back with equal volume.

“I want to know that you ever thought about it.”  Jimin sets his glass down on the coffee table with a thud.  He doesn’t move away.  He stays where he is and leans in toward Namjoon while he goes on.  “That you had some moment where you sat and looked in the mirror or freaked out or just owned your shit.  Because I don’t buy that you’re just that magically laid back and enlightened you never had to think about it before.”

“Fine!  I had a freakout, okay?  I never told you about it because it was a really long time ago and it was over you and it really fucking sucked.”  His words come out in an angry rush and he gestures like he’s giving Jimin something.  “So here’s my stupid shit.  I hope you’re happy.”

Jimin was not expecting that response.  

“What?”  He straightens up, confused.  What comes out is incredulous rather than angry.

Namjoon looks like his mind has caught up with his words and he slowly deflates, then leans back, falling heavily against the back of the couch.

“I had this massive crush on you.”  He says slowly, not looking up at Jimin.  “Back when we were teenagers.  When we first met each other.”

“But you hated me when we first met,” Jimin protests without thinking.  

“I didn’t hate you.”  Namjoon’s voice is suddenly very quiet.  His hands drop to his lap and he stares at them.

Realization dawns on Jimin.  

“That’s why you were so mean to me the first couple of months we knew each other.”

Namjoon nods.  

“I’m sorry.  I should have been better.”

Namjoon looks miserable and Jimin has enough sense to realize that he’s prodded Namjoon into telling him something that makes him profoundly uncomfortable.  That he’s hit a deep and tender weak spot.

Jimin sits down next to him on the couch.  Namjoon looks utterly defeated and Jimin doesn’t have it inside himself to yell anymore.  

“It’s not… it’s not like I thought it was wrong or anything, it was just really confusing.”  Namjoon goes on, sounding gutted, even though Jimin hasn’t prompted him.  “I felt like I should have figured that kind of thing out before then, you know?  I didn’t know what to do with myself so I turned into that elementary school kid pulling on the pigtails of the girl he likes all over again.  Only, you know.  Worse.  A lot worse.”

Jimin stares at the undrunk glass of water sitting on the coffee table, rewriting history in his mind while the bubbles rise up and pop.

Namjoon had gotten his first official song-writing credit around then.  A surprisingly pro-LGBT pop song for a labelmate girl group.  Jimin had had two seconds in the background of the video.

This certainly puts a new gloss on that.

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says again.

Jimin shakes his head and looks back at him.  They’ve never actually talked about the rocky first few months they knew each other.  Jimin had sort of chalked it up to being teenagers and bad first impressions and moved on from that.  He never imagined there was something there Namjoon would still be carrying around with him.

“Don’t be sorry.  You were allowed to be a dumb kid.  It’s okay.”  He lightly pushes at Namjoon’s calf with his foot for emphasis.  

“Oh, were we allowed to be dumb kids?”

Jimin gives a rough little laugh at that.  Not really, he thinks.  But the point still stands.

“You’re not the only guy I’ve ever liked.”  Namjoon leans over and rests his elbows on his knees.  “But there haven’t been that many on balance.  A few.  And.”  He looks down and rubs the back of his head, thinking.  “I don’t know.  It’s all so fuzzy when I try to break down who I like.  And I feel like an asshole because it feels like it should be really simple to define but it’s just not.”  He sighs.  “And you get into your 20s and just been one thing, so like, why waste time trying to explain it to anyone else?  And then you happened and I thought it was okay because I like you and I was happy.  I figured that was enough.”

“It is.”  Jimin slips one of his hands over Namjoon’s.  He isn’t sure exactly what Namjoon is saying, doesn’t really get what he means by ‘fuzzy.’  But he’s not going to sit here and police him.  If Namjoon likes him, that’s more than enough.

He’s also in the middle of what feels like a much bigger realization- at least to him.  He'd spent so much time today worrying about being the first guy Namjoon had ever been with and it'd never occurred to him that it might make Namjoon insecure.

He thinks back to that wonderful, silly day right after things had started, at the hotel with the boxes and boxes of condoms.  He'd been so nervous about his own insecurities he'd barely registered what Namjoon had said.

I kinda spent an hour doing gay sex research before you showed up.

It'd been sweet and funny at the time- it still was- but he should have picked up on it what was underneath it.  Should have picked up on it at some point.  

“I’m sorry,” he says at last.  “You don’t have to explain yourself and I shouldn’t have put you through the wringer.  I just panicked today.  After you left there was this stupid conversation everyone was having over lunch about if you were getting back together, what kind of women you like…”

“Christ.”

“...and I was upset and I panicked and so I picked a fight because I didn’t know what else to do, I guess.”

“I really fucked up today,” Namjoon says quietly.

Jimin doesn’t even know the whole story but he’s ready to agree.  He doesn't say anything, though.

“I should have talked to you or texted you or something.”  Namjoon leans his head back and stares at the ceiling.  “I really should have texted you.  That would have been so easy.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Honestly?  I kinda panicked and I didn’t think about it and mostly I was just really dumb.  Then I figured I’d see you here and…” he finishes the sentence with a shrug.

“And?”

“Eunbi texted me last night and wanted to have dinner.  I assumed she wanted to hook up, so told I couldn’t, that we were filming today.  I was trying to be nice, so I said she could swing by if she wanted.  She said she probably couldn’t and I thought that was the end of it.”  Namjoon sighs and swallows.  “I didn’t expect her to actually come by.”

Jimin picks up the seltzer and finally takes a long drink out of the glass. “Can I ask a question?” He asks contemplatively tapping the glass with his fingers.  “I get to care about her showing up?  That’s okay... right?”

“The venn diagram of people who are allowed to care and you,” Namjoon says slowly, “is a circle.”

“I really freaked out,” Jimin admits quietly.  

“I’m sorry.”

“I was surprised- bad surprised- and then there was that whole thing at lunch and I couldn’t stop wondering what would happen if there was her… or some other girl… and everything was easier and…”

Jimin feels a hand rest on his forearm and his fingers still on the glass.

“I’m not going anywhere.”  Namjoon’s voice sounds absolute.  “I’m really sorry.  I really fucked up.”

“It’s okay.  It happens.”  A thought crosses his mind and he lets out a little laugh, despite himself.

“What?”

“It’s just… I think we had our first big fight.”  He looks up at Namjoon.  He’s not sure why this is so funny but he can’t stop smiling now.  Like a real couple, he almost says but doesn’t.

“I think so…”

“It’s just sort of a... relationship milestone.  Like, we’re okay, right?”

“I hope so.”

“Well, then good for us.  I feel like we should high five or something.”

Namjoon laughs at that.  Then he holds up a hand.  “Achievement unlocked,” he proclaims while their hands smack together.

Jimin really starts laughing at that.  He falls into Namjoon while he laughs and Namjoon falls forward laughing, too.  Then Jimin is being dragged into an embrace, arms tight around him.

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says, holding on to him.  

“I’m sorry, too.”  Jimin rests his head on Namjoon’s shoulder and just enjoys feeling close to him.  “I don’t care if you talk to her,” he says softly.  He wants to make sure Namjoon knows he’s not trying to be possessive.  He was just scared.  It’s not like she’s some unknown specter from Namjoon’s past.  He’d been there before her, during her.  He’d helped pick up the pieces after.  And thinking about it reminds him just how strange their situation is.  “Just no more surprises, okay?”

“I promise,” Namjoon says back.  “No more surprises.” 

They sit like that for a little while longer.  The moment is sweet and serious until Namjoon’s voice breaks the silence again.

“We get to have really hot makeup sex now, right?”

Jimin laughs and buries a little further into his shoulder.

“Oh god.  I hope so.”

I want to know what happens next.  That’s what Jimin had said months ago.

Apparently, this is what happens next.  The harder stuff.  The mistakes.

He thinks he’s okay with that.

 

*     *     *

 

A few days later Jimin wakes up on Sunday morning, laying on his side, the world slowly fading into focus around the feeling of soft kisses being laid across his shoulder.

“Mmm.”  He might have meant to say good morning but he’s not quite awake enough for words quite yet and it just comes out as a contented hum.

“I just had the best dream,” the voice behind him is low and sweet.

“Yeah?”  Jimin shuts his eyes again and doesn’t move.  Just focuses on the tender little kisses and the strong arm wrapping around him.

“I dreamed I woke up and we were naked in bed together.”

“We are naked in bed together,” he laughs and reaches a hand back to affectionately run through Namjoon's hair while he slots their legs together.  He turns his head to look at Namjoon and gets a soft smile and a warm, slow kiss in response.  There’s a hint of morning breath but it doesn’t even register with Jimin to mind.  

“Yay,” Namjoon says, quietly.  “Dreams come true.” 

“You’re in a good mood,” he smiles up at Namjoon.

“Yup,” he smiles back.

“Me too.” Jimin rolls back on to his side and wraps Namjoon's arms around him, still grinning, even though Namjoon can't see.  Jimin lays there mapping the feeling of Namjoon’s body in his mind- broad chest, long legs, strong arms.  Admiring all of it by the warmth of touch alone.

After a bit, Namjoon’s hands start to drift over Jimin’s body.  Fingers lightly tracing the line of his hip and the tops of his thighs.  A flat hand running over his stomach up to his chest, fingers grazing his piercing, making him shudder a little.  He can feel Namjoon getting hard behind him and he rolls his ass back, rocks his hips a little while he’s being caressed.  It feels good and he likes feeling that Namjoon’s turned on, likes feeling him pressed up against him.  When Namjoon reaches down to start stroking him gently, he turns his head to face Namjoon again, grabbing his hair while he kisses him, not urgently but still deep and full of desire.

It turns into slow, weekend morning sex.  The kind of sex that people indulge in when everything’s familiar and comfortable and there’s nowhere to be but right where they are.  

Jimin loves this kind of sex.  Loves it to the tips of his toes.  Loves it with Namjoon. 

They lay in bed afterward exchanging little kisses, content and completely relaxed.  Eventually the world starts to fade back into focus and other needs and wants start to make themselves known.

“It’s not fair,” Jimin says contemplatively.

“What’s not fair?”

“I’m having a really strong craving.”

“For?”

“A cortado and a sticky bun from Cup & Cup.”  Jimin covers his face a little because he feels like it’s a ridiculous thing to be thinking about after sex.  But it’s Jimin’s favorite in the neighborhood.  And they’ve finished filming and after spending a week not wanting to eat his appetite is back and feeling indulgent.

“And?” Namjoon prompts.

“But that means getting out of bed and I’m warm and happy and I don’t think I ever want to move.”

“I’ll go.”

“You don’t have to do that.”  Jimin smiles.  “That really wasn’t the point.”

“I know.”  Namjoon presses a quick light finger to his nose and then gives him a light kiss.  “But I like doing things that make you happy,” he says climbing out of bed.

“Wait,” Jimin protests, propping himself up on one arm.  “I really didn’t mean to make you run out.”

“I know.”  Namjoon pulls on his pants before ducking into the closet to get a shirt.  “But I’m going and I need you to do one thing for me.”

“What’s that?”

Namjoon throws on a t-shirt emblazoned with an artwork that Jimin vaguely recognizes but can’t name at the moment.  He’s also never seen it before and he has to marvel at Namjoon’s ability to stock a closet, even in a part-time secret apartment.

“I need you to stay here, relax, and look handsome.”

Jimin laughs.  “It’s first thing in the morning, I’m pretty sure I’m nowhere near handsome.”

“Mmm.  Lies.”  Namjoon bends down to give him one last quick kiss.  “I’ll be back in a bit.”

Once Namjoon is out of the apartment Jimin lays on the bed and stares at the ceiling.  He feels so happy.  So utterly, giddy, heart-flutteringly happy.  With the apartment empty that feeling expands and fills the room.

For some reason, the quiet also means that his mind drifts back to Taehyung and their conversation earlier this week.

He’s slowly coming to the realization that this isn’t going to last forever.  Someone or multiple someones are going to figure it out eventually and confront them about it.

That thought scares him a little.  It feels like consequences.  So he tries not to think about it.  And he definitely doesn’t want to make it real by talking about it.  But the inevitability of it is hanging in the air and he thinks it’s making them a little more reckless.  They take a little more time for themselves.  They probably aren’t quite as good at covering it up.

Maybe they’re just getting greedy.

Jimin crawls out of bed and finds a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt before walking out into the living room.  Impulsively, he picks up his phone and calls a number as he lays down on the couch.

“Jiminie!”

“Hey, Taetae.  What’re you up to?”

“Mostly moping.  I’m all alone and I have no friends.”

“Hey, no guilt trips!” He says indignantly.  “Where’s Jungkook?”

“Apparently one of the film crew guys knows some professional video game players?  League of Legends or something?  Anyway, he was out playing with nerds until zero o’clock in the morning.”

“You play video games, too,” Jimin chides him.

“Yeah but like, I’m not locked in a basement and chugging energy drinks until I pick up sponsorships.”  There’s a thoughtful pause on the other end.  “Who do you think gets less sunlight: e-sports players or idols?  Do you think there’s a paper on that somewhere?  Some kind of vampire index or something?”

“I dunno.  But it might be fun to look for?  There was that guy who published a whole paper about cats being liquid.”

“Whelp.  I know what I’m doing this afternoon.  Where are you, anyway?”

“I’m at… I’m at the kinda-sort-of-but-not-really-boyfriend’s apartment.”

“Jimin.”  There’s that damn pause.  That pause Taehyung’s been making a lot lately while he phrases things carefully.  “I know you said you couldn’t give me details but can I ask you something?”

“Okay.”  Jimin’s heart is suddenly in his throat.  

“This guy… he’s… he’s good to you, right?  Makes you happy?”

Yeah, this is why he called.  Even if he’s not ready to talk about it yet or find out what exactly Taehyung suspects, this is what he wants him to know.

“So good.”  Jimin smiles even though Taehyung can’t see him.  “I’m currently laying here doing nothing while he’s out getting me pastries and coffee just because I woke up with a craving.”

“That sounds nice.”

“It is.”  Jimin swallows.  He’s not even entirely sure what’s happening in this conversation but it’s closer to honest than he’s been in a long time.  And there’s something else he needs to say out loud that he doesn’t think he’s quite ready to say to Namjoon, yet. 

“Tae,” he says softly.

“Yeah?”

“I think I’m falling in love.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”  Jimin feels like he’s going to tear up from the weight of it which seems strange given how light he’s felt all morning.  “Like, not “I have a crush” love.  In love, in love.  Grown-up in love.”

“Wow.”

“It’s just… I am so happy.”  Jimin goes on.  “I really need you to know that.  And I’m so sorry for being so abtruse but I’ll explain it all eventually, I promise.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.  There’s a good reason, I swear.  It’s nothing bad.  It’s just…” his voice falls off a little “complicated.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“If you’re happy, I trust you.”

Jimin hears someone outside the door.  It has to be Namjoon.

“Hey, I gotta go.  Coffee and pastries are here.  Sorry to cut things short.”

“Nah.  Enjoy your breakfast.”

“Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Jimin hangs up the phone just as the door opens.

“Mission successful!”  Namjoon declares, taking off his shoes.

“Yay!”  Jimin sits up and throws his hands up in celebration.

Namjoon sets a carrier with two cups of coffee and a small pink cardboard box on the coffee table then goes to hang up his jacket.  Jimin leans his head on the back of the couch as Namjoon walks behind it.

“Spiderman kiss.”

Namjoon stops and laughs a little before bending over to kiss him softly, faces pointing in opposite directions.

“You are the absolute best, you know that?” Jimin says, smiling up at him.

“Because I got breakfast?”

“What can I say.  You’re cute and my standards are low.”

Namjoon grins back, dimples on full display.

“You know what?  I’ll take it.”

 

Chapter Text

Some Time Ago

 

Namjoon is hiding with Jin.

Okay, not hiding-hiding.  They’ve been at the comic book cafe for two hours, though, and have no plans to leave anytime soon.

So far they’ve debated One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach and Jin has let loose some weird theories about Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo.  Now they’re reading Attack on Titan and One Punch Man.

Compared to everything else they’re supposed to be doing this week, it feels like hiding.  Hiding from adulthood, anyway.

“Do you ever think you’ll feel like a grown-up?” Namjoon asks idly, thumbing through the pages.

“Grown-ups can read comics,” Jin shoots back.

“No, I mean… like do you think there’s ever a point where you feel like you’re not faking it?  At least a little. Or do you think everyone runs around feeling like they don’t know what’s going on sometimes.”

“Definitely the second one.”  Jin takes a drink of coffee and settles back in his chair.  “I never feel like I know what’s going on.”

“Ha ha,” Namjoon says sarcastically.

“You think too much.”

Namjoon frowns.  “It’s in my makeup.  It’s what I’m good at.”

“Yeah but you can’t be good at everything.  Sometimes you feel lost at sea and then,” he gestures expansively.  “You read comics.”

Jin isn’t really this relaxed about life, Namjoon knows.  He works furiously at anything put in front of him. He’s going to be the only one of them to finish a degree.  And he’s already talking about getting a master’s. He just keeps it all a little under the surface. Manages it a bit better.

That’s probably why he’d always been on Namjoon’s dream team.  Even though originally he’d been recruited just for being handsome.  Even though he hadn’t had much experience at the start.  Namjoon needed someone with as much drive as the rest of them but who could step back from taking themself so seriously.

Also, they’re both kind of geeks.  He really likes having someone else around who knows facts about pokemon.

Jin smacks him on the arm with the book he’s holding.

“Stop it.  I can hear you thinking.”

“That’s not a bad thing.”  Namjoon protests.

“I can’t concentrate.  Order us some ramen to make up for it.”

“Fine.”

“Hey,” Jin leans over conspiratorially.  “Do you know how you end grace before eating noodles?”  He pauses for effect. Namjoon knows what’s coming. He can’t stop it.  “Ra-men.”

Namjoon laughs.  Why the hell does he laugh at that.

Chapter Text

The first thing Namjoon notices when he walks into Wonderland is the cheap paper banner proclaiming “Happy Birthday!”  The second thing he notices is Jimin standing right under it with a bow tied around his head.

“First of all, it not my birthday, yet,” he says laughing while he takes off his shoes.  “Second of all, I’m kind of sad you got me the same thing you got Jin.”

“Well, first of all,” Jimin says walking over and slipping his hands over Namjoon’s shoulders, “I thought it’d be nice to do something just the two of us.”  He tips his head back. “First rule.” Namjoon obediently dips his head down and kisses him hello. He tastes like happiness and cherry chapstick.

There’s a small, quiet voice in the back of Namjoon’s head that’s started to complain about not tasting that every day.

“And second of all?” Namjoon asks.

“Second of all,” Jimin bites his lip and looks up at him mischievously.  “Unlike Jin, you actually get to unwrap your present.”

“Well, happy birthday to me, then,” Namjoon says, placing a couple of small kisses under his ear.

“You also have a real present,” Jimin giggles, pushing him away.  “Go sit down.”

“You really didn’t have to,” Namjoon protests sitting on the couch.

“I wanted to, so you have to indulge me,” Jimin says taking the bow off his head and walking into the bedroom.  

He comes back a moment later and sits next to Namjoon, handing him a small rectangular box wrapped in shiny paper with a small pink bow on it.

The first thing Namjoon does is pluck the bow off and put it in Jimin’s hair.  Jimin scrunches up his face with exaggerated fake annoyance. Namjoon pats him on the head in response.  

“So cuuuute.”

“Open it.”  Jimin nudges his hand.

“Impatient.”

“Yes.  I want to know if you like it.”

“Okay.”  Namjoon is curious, too.  He hadn’t been expecting any of this.  Jimin had made it sound like he was so worn out from planning and rehearsing the next tour, he’d honestly half expected that they’d just fall asleep curled up watching a movie together.  

That sneaky little...

He gets the paper off and reveals a delicate white box underneath.  When he opens it there’s a necklace inside. The bottom half is a silver chain but in an intricate twisting pattern.  On the top half tiny beads of some very blue stone - lapis if he had to guess but he’s not one hundred percent sure - travel all the way up to the clasp.

“Do you like it?” Jimin asks.

“I didn’t realize we were at the jewelry stage in our relationship,” Namjoon jokes.  Then he glances up at Jimin’s face and realizes he might have taken his protest seriously.  “Hey, kidding.” He says softly. “It’s beautiful. Thank you.”

“It’s from the same designer who did the ring of mine that you really like,” Jimin explains.

“It’s really great.”  Namjoon takes the necklace out of the box and turns around.  “Help me out?”

Namjoon’s perfectly capable of putting a necklace on but Jimin’s delicate fingers brush up against the back of neck while he fastens it and that feels important somehow.  Jimin kisses him at the base of his neck right below the clasp and there’s a tight ache in his heart.

“Glad you like it.”

Namjoon reaches back and places a hand on Jimin’s.

“I love it.”

The moment hangs there until Jimin bounces up again like a spring let loose.

“Okay.  Stay there.” He makes a down gesture like he's telling a large dog or trained bear to keep sitting before dashing off to the other side of the apartment.

Jimin can transform into a ball of barely contained energy when he decides to focus entirely on someone.  He thrives on attention from other people but he loves lavishing it on others just as much.

Namjoon will probably never say it out loud, but he relishes it when he's the one at the center of it.  Even when Jimin’s just trying to drive Namjoon crazy.

Jimin makes a few trips back and forth from the kitchen coming back with glasses, plates, chopsticks, wine and then what looks like almost every dish he likes from his favorite restaurant, spreading it all out on the coffee table.

“There is no way we're going to be able to eat all this,” Namjoon says when Jimin sits down.

“You know that's not the point.” Jimin says, rewarding Namjoon with a quick bonk from the thick end of his chopsticks. Then he picks up a wine key and goes to work nimbly cutting the foil off the wine bottle. “The point is that we're celebrating you.  Besides,” he says twisting into the cork. “There's always leftovers or people we could give it to or something not wasteful. But that's for tomorrow, okay?” He pulls out the cork and there's a sharp “pop,” as if the wine agrees with his reasoning.

“You know you’re amazing right?” Namjoon feels a little overwhelmed by the whole thing and isn't sure what else to say.

“I am very good at opening wine bottles.”  Jimin smiles, filling their glasses.

“Yes.  That's exactly what I meant,” Namjoon replies flatly.

Dinner is good.  They goof around and poke fun at each other and laugh.  Jimin laughs so hard he almost knocks a bowl of rice on to the floor but Namjoon catches it… and then it slips out of his hands, anyway.  It’s a remarkable display of mutual clumsiness and it makes them laugh even harder. When he gets up to get a dust pan Jimin can barely stand up straight he’s laughing so hard.  He tries to tell Namjoon to stay where he is but it just comes out as some garbled noises and stupid hand gestures.

It’s the kind of thing that will never be funny to anyone else, never be funny in the retelling.  It's not really a joke, just the culmination of a moment. In its own way, that makes it even better.

They have another glass of wine after dinner and Jimin takes pictures- the food, the wine, the necklace, Namjoon, them smiling together- and sets them aside.  His favorites will go on the wall later. Then Jimin shuffles Namjoon off with instructions to take a bath while he cleans up.

Namjoon’s never been much of a bath person but Jimin is insistent that it’ll be good for stress and tired muscles and Namjoon is happy to let Jimin direct him through his plans for the evening.  Jimin fills the bathtub with lavender scented salts and bubbles and Namjoon can’t deny that it does feel good. He almost dozes off a couple of times, both his mind and body relaxed and loose from the wine and the hot water.

After his second time of almost nodding off, he finally pulls himself out of the tub.  He towels off and throws on his boxers, heading out to find Jimin. He feels serene and content and he’s got a half a mind to ask for a massage, since it is his birthday after all.

Instead, he walks into the bedroom, and his brain utterly freezes.

Jimin is laying on the bed, propped up on his arms.  He’s wearing nothing but a pair of green lace boy shorts tight across his hips.  He’s got glitter in his hair, glitter shines on his naked skin, and he’s peering at Namjoon from under dusky eye makeup.

“Holy fairy prince,” Namjoon spits out without thinking.

Jimin’s mouth quirks up into one of those half-smiles.

“That was the general idea.  Also,” he gestures at the body glitter. “Edible.  Just so you know.”

“So, uh, what were you thinking,” Namjoon asks, still standing by the door to the bathroom.  He’s desperate to touch, don’t get him wrong, but Jimin has clearly had plans for this evening and that makes Namjoon not want to move until he’s given permission.  

Jimin sets his shoulders back in a sort-of-cheese-cakey way that’s meant to be attractive.

It is.  Very much.

“Whatever you want.  Anything.”

Namjoon is aching already and he’s not entirely sure if he’s ever gotten hard this quickly in his life.

He stays where he is though, pausing to think first about what he wants.  Which is fine because apparently what he wants to do right now is stare at Jimin and drink him up with his eyes.

There’s this balance to Jimin that utterly fascinates Namjoon.  He’s got a delicate face with high cheekbones and full lips but he’s also compact and muscular.  He’s small but powerful. Sometimes he can be seem effeminate, cutely drawing in on himself, small hands gracefully flying up to cover his face when he’s laughing or embarrassed.  Other times he moves in ways where he takes controls the space around him, legs spread out when he sits, the position of his shoulders when he moves. Namjoon is fascinated that any one person can be so alternatingly beautiful and adorable and masculine and he’s drawn to all those contradictory spaces in between.   

He’s a little obsessed with Jimin’s body, honestly.  Was at the beginning and still is, even though it’s intimately familiar now.  He’s knows he’s a little far gone, a little too fascinated with the shape of his face, with every angle and curve and bit of musculature.  He gets this way, gets too focused, too intense. He knows he’s a little past healthy in his idealization.

But.

Right now there is lace.  And glitter brushed skin. And smoke-lined, coquettish eyes.

And it’s Namjoon’s birthday.

And Jimin is remarkably indulgent of his grab-bag of kinks.  And he’s been told he can do whatever he wants.

So fuck it if it’s weird.  It’s what he’s wanted to do ever since their first day together.

“I want to touch you,” he says.  “Everywhere. And I want to take my time.”

“Alright.”  Jimin gives him another seductive smile and tilts his head like an invitation.

The first thing Namjoon does after he closes the space between them is kiss Jimin. Not gently, not sweetly.  He pushes into his mouth and kisses him like he wants to devour him.

Because he does.

But there's a flicker of doubt in his stomach after he pulls back.  

“Tell me if this gets strange, okay?”

Jimin gives him a look. It's a like a look he usually reserves for the stage and the camera and but it’s more honest than that.  Namjoon feels his chest go tight having it directed solely at him.

“Joonie,” Jimin says slowly, running his fingers over the necklace and Namjoon’s skin.  He stares into Namjoon's eyes. “I love how much you want me.” His voice is soft and it sounds like a confession.

Namjoon feels the blood in his ears and his pulse reduced to a heavy thud.  Time stills and he feels locked in orbit around this single moment.

Namjoon is ravenous.  And Jimin wants to be eaten.

It's easily the most erotic moment in his life so far.

Namjoon slides down the bed a bit.  He lifts up one of Jimin's feet and deliberately kisses every toe. He doesn't have a thing for feet but Jimin's composure breaks and his hands fly up to cover a sudden smile and a short giggle.  Namjoon grins back. This is what he wants. He wants Jimin, not the poster version of him.

From there he starts in earnest, laying kisses around his ankle and then sliding his fingers up to gently caress his calf.  He leaves kisses there too and presses one behind Jimin's knee. He makes his way up and lavishes attention on Jimin's thigh with his lips, his tongue, his hands, until he feels like he's explored every last inch.  He kisses over the lace covering Jimin’s hip and keeps going like that, gently kissing every finger, pressing his mouth more roughly into his chest, hands caressing everything, gently, roughly, in between. He tries to avoid Jimin's cock, saving that for last.  He can't entirely help himself, though. Halfway through, he runs his lips, featherlight, up Jimin's length, straining against the lace. Namjoon hears the smallest gasp and looks up at Jimin. His face is flushed, he eyes are blown and dark, and his full lips are parted while he breathes heavily. Namjoon gives him another kiss, rough and demanding, before continuing what he started.

His mind gently slides into a blank space where nothing exists but skin punctuated by the sounds of little gasps.  There's no one in the world but the two of them, nothing outside the bedroom door. He sinks into adoration and lust until nothing is left and he's reduced to pure sensation.

When they finally make love Namjoon hears his own voice melt through the fog, almost outside himself, “ All mine, baby, all mine.”

He doesn't think twice about it, though, because Jimin is clutching him tightly and Namjoon can hear him panting softly in his ear.

You're mine, mine, mine, mine…”

 

*     *     *

 

It's barely light out when Namjoon wakes up the next morning. Jimin is searching around the bedroom for something. He's looks dressed and ready to leave. Namjoon blurrily remembers Jimin saying he had an early dance practice today.

“Sorry, sorry,” Jimin says in a half-whisper.  “Go back to sleep.”

“‘sokay.”

Namjoon watches him until Jimin finally finds what he was looking for, his wallet apparently.

“Hey,” he says propping himself up on his arms a little. “Second rule.”

Jimin comes over and kisses him quickly but sweetly.  “See you, soon.”

“See you soon.”

Then he has to rush out so he isn't late.

He misses him before the door even shuts.

Namjoon lays in bed wide awake now.  He runs his fingers over the necklace, warm against his skin.  When he looks down he sees streaks of glitter on his skin, he notices streaks of glitter on the sheets.

He feels so alone right now.

He’ll see him again soon enough.  But it'll be different. He'll have to remember that there’s supposed to be a sort of distance between the two of them.  Listen to Jimin call him Namjoon-hyung instead Joonie .   Pretend he doesn't feel what he feels.  

Namjoon presses the heels of his hands hard against his eyes and a pair of tears slip out.  He’s so tired of this. He's so tired of living in the cracks. Of carefully empty beds and stolen slices of time.  It’s not exhilarating anymore. It just hurts.

Namjoon opens his eyes and takes a few deep breaths.

He’s being ridiculous.  He’s got just about everything he wants in life and it’s silly and ungrateful complaining that it just doesn’t fit together right.

He stretches and forces himself out of bed. He takes another deep breath.  And another.

Then he goes to shower.  To erase all the lingering glitter pressed into his skin.

 

*     *     *

 

Namjoon can’t sleep.  There’s nothing wrong.  It’s an ordinary weeknight and he’s not particularly stressed over anything (not more than usual, anyway.)  It’s just one of those nights where it’s two am and his body just won’t get on board.

He wanders out to the living room with a comic book, hoping that maybe if he just stops trying for a bit, he’ll nod off.

He finds Jimin in the living room, sitting on the floor, back against the couch, while the glow of a laptop on the coffee table in front of him lights up his face.  Namjoon sits down right next to him, and Jimin jumps a little, clearly startled, and makes and extremely undignified squeaking noise.

“You scared the hell out of me.”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to.”  He shuffles a little closer and swings an ankle over Jimin’s under the table.  “That was really cute, though.”

“I’ll show you cute.”  He moves to give Namjoon a flick to the forehead and Namjoon scrunches his eyes shut in anticipation of the hit.

He gets a quick tap of a fingertip on the nose instead.

“See?  Cute.”

Namjoon bites at Jimin’s finger and he snaps his hand back.

“What’re you doing up, anyway?”  Namjoon asks.

“Can't sleep. Falling down YouTube rabbit holes.  What about you?”

“Same. Must be something in the air tonight.”

“Must be.”

“What're you watching?” Namjoon looks over at the screen curiously. There's a woman on the screen in a tutu, her leg raised at an awkward angle from being paused mid something.  A ballet dancer.

“Seo Hee.  Turns out she was one the youngest prima ballerinas at the American Ballet Theater.  And the first Korean.” Jimin yawns. “And she’s awesome.” He presses play and Namjoon watches the dancer finish her jump then spin and glide around the stage.  “Not usually my thing but like I said. Rabbit hole. I think I'm a little obsessed with her now.”

Namjoon looks at the name on the screen and carefully commits it to memory.  He's not sure when he started but he has an ongoing file he keeps in his head labelled “things that Park Jimin likes.” The contents are all over the map- morning sex, holding hands, prosecco, romantic movies, light novels, designer jewelry, complaining about politics, and dogs, to name a few. Some things Namjoon knew before. Some of it is new.  He keeps track of it all though, just in case it might be useful one day or another.

“Should I be jealous?” Namjoon jokes.

“Yes.”  Jimin says sarcastically, still rapt by the screen. “I like girls now and I'm leaving you for a completely inaccessible famous dancer on the other side of the world.”

“I knew that would happen.”

“That's a very detailed prediction.”

“Me and Nostradamus,” Namjoon replies.

The video ends and Jimin moves the laptop a little so it's pointing more toward Namjoon.

“Your turn.  Show me the last thing you got sucked into.”

Namjoon only has to think for a moment before he types something into the search bar.

“I was looking something up the other night and I ended up spending at least an hour watching old hyphy videos on my phone.”  Namjoon pulls up a decade old video with terrible resolution and presses play.

“What’s a hyphy.”

“This rap style from Northern California.”  Namjoon puts on an authoritative voice and counts off on his fingers.  “It’s basically about dancing, doing car tricks and ecstasy.”

“So that’s an amazing combi… wait a minute, is he sampling the Ghostbuster’s theme song?”

Namjoon tosses up his hands and bops his shoulders around to the song like that’s an answer.  Jimin laughs. Namjoon loves it when he can make him laugh. Jimin puts his hands up, too and they goofily bounce along together to the silly, upbeat track, playing quietly on the laptops tinny speakers, barely audible above the giggles that seem always on the verge of breaking out.

After the song is over they calm down and Jimin puts on another dance video.  The soft music washes over them and it feels more fitting for a dark living room in the middle of the night.  Jimin cuddles up to Namjoon and rests his head on his shoulder. Namjoon reaches over and takes Jimin’s hand, interlacing their fingers together.

It’s past two am and Namjoon has to be awake in less than four and a half hours.  He’s going to be completely wiped the next day.

But that’s fine.  He’s glad he couldn’t sleep.

 

*     *     *

 

"What are you doing here?" Jimin asks, shaking his umbrella as he walks into Wonderland.  It's a miserable, gray day and rain beats down on the full-length windows filling the apartment with an arrhythmic tattoo.

Namjoon is sitting at the breakfast bar and gestures at a battered composition notebook in front of him.   "I needed a quiet place to work. Am I not supposed to be here?"

"No, no," Jimin says, pulling off wet shoes and socks. Namjoon can see damp patches on his sleeves and the hem of his shirt.  "I came by to drop off a present for Hobi-hyung. I just wanted to hide it some place he won't find it."

"Definitely won't find it here."

"Yup!"

Jimin picks up his shopping bags and heads to the bedroom. He comes out again a few minutes later, the shirt he'd been wearing exchanged for a dry sweater.

"Hey," he says, looping his arms over Namjoon's shoulders.  "First rule." Namjoon smiles and pulls him in and kisses him, short but sweet.

"Hey, you."

Jimin smiles back and turns toward the kitchen.  "I'm going to make myself some tea. Want some?"

"Sure," Namjoon nods and looks back down at his notebook.

Jimin puts the kettle on, then stretches out on the couch and starts reading something on his phone.

The lyrics that were in Namjoon's head have drifted away but he doesn't really mind.  Outside the storm is picking up and the sound of the rain on the windows is getting louder and more insistent.  But it's warm and cozy in the apartment and he's just happy to enjoy that contrast.

The kettle goes off and Jimin hops up to get it, bare feet padding into the kitchen.  He's facing away from Namjoon and Namjoon watches as he makes the tea, humming a little as he pours the water.

"I love you."

The words fly past Namjoon's teeth and out of his mouth before he can stop them.  He shouldn’t have said them now. There should have been a moment. There should have been something romantic.  There should have been something special but he's just said them now in the kitchen for no reason just sitting there in his rattiest hoodie and Jimin still hasn't turned around and oh god maybe this was a mis...

"I love you, too."

Namjoon's heart starts beating again.

And his mind completely stops.

Jimin loves him.

Park Jimin loves him.

Namjoon gets there so quickly, he’s not even sure how, but a moment later he’s got Jimin pressed against the countertop and he’s kissing him like he’s forgotten what words are and this is all that’s left.

When they pause for breath, Jimin’s chest rises and falls just a bit too rapidly, and he’s wearing the biggest smile Namjoon has ever seen on his face.

“I love you.”

Namjoon struggles to catch his own breath and smiles back just as broadly.

“I love you, too.”

Then Namjoon is being kissed again and Jimin is pulling on his hoodie, trying to get it off.

He’s not getting any more work done this afternoon.  That’s fine. The world can go to hell in a handbasket right now and that’d be fine.  Nothing has truly changed but his universe has narrowed down to the confirmation of a single reality.

They’re in love.

Namjoon can’t even hear the rain.

 

*     *     *

 

Later that evening Namjoon starts drafting lyrics for a new song.  The tentative title is “Home.”

 

*     *     *

 

The next couple of days are almost unbearable.  It’s not that Namjoon isn’t happy. It’s that he is.   He’s feeling high as a kite but he can’t tell anyone how he got up here.

He wants to grab the nearest person, point to Jimin and shout it’s him, that amazing person over there loves him.

It’s exhausting in its own way.

(“I can’t focus at all today,” Jimin whispers to him on a break.

“Thank god, neither can I,” Namjoon says just as quietly.  He has some passing thought about hormones and feelings and triggering events.  Then he looks at Jimin and Jimin bursts into a smile. Namjoon automatically smiles right back and then they both giggle.

Kim Namjoon giggles.

Someone asks what’s so funny and they get some strange looks.  They hurry to say something about an inside joke and the moment is instantly dead.

Mostly.)

Maybe that’s why Namjoon ends up testing the waters a little, even if he hadn’t planned to.  He needs to vent so much that things start to boil out.

They’re not doing much.  He and Jin are killing time between shots at a photoshoot playing the dumbest game on their phones.  It’s mostly interior decorating and to Namjoon the only thing more embarrassing than how addictive it is, is how excited he and Jin get about showing each other new virtual rugs.  

“So, I want to run something past you,” Namjoon says on an impulse, carefully not looking up from his phone.  “Yes!” He exclaims.

“What?”

“I just got a bonus for my matching living room set.”

“No, I mean what did you want to run past me.  Although, let me see.”

Namjoon is laying on a couch in the break room, Jin is an armchair next to him with his feet up on the table.  Namjoon holds the screen behind his head so that Jin can lean forward and see it.

“Niiiice.”  Jin sits back and Namjoon goes back to shopping for kitchen tiles.  “Anyway, what was the thing?”

Namjoon breathes.  Anxiety is catching up to his spur-of-the-moment decision.

“So I’ve been seeing someone.”

“Did you get back together with Eunbi?”  Jin says, obviously trying to sound casual.

Namjoon sits up sharply, probably protesting a little too loudly, a little too defensively.

“What!?  No! No, no, no, no, no.  Not even a little.”

“Sorry, sorry, just a guess.  Keep going.”

“So…” Namjoon says.  “I’ve been seeing a guy.”

Jin puts his phone down.  Apparently, Namjoon has his attention now.

“Alright.”

“I just... I kinda had a crush on for a really long time.  Like, not this huge thing but in the back of my head, I always thought he was cute.  And we got together.”

“Yeah?” Jin is smiling a little at him.  “And it’s going well?”

“I think…” Namjoon swallows.  “I’m in love. With him.”

“Wow.”  Jin snaps up and blinks.  “Why didn’t you tell any of us before, if it’s serious?  It’s not the guy thing is it? Okay, you got me, it was a curveball but, Namjoon, you know none of us are going to care.  Right?” He looks a little wounded. “Right?”

“That’s not it,” Namjoon assures him.  This part of the conversation is feeling more and more surreal.

“So then where is he?”

“Huh?”

“I mean, how am I supposed to approve of him if you don’t bring him around?”  Jin crosses his arms and leans back in the chair looking at him disapprovingly.  “Don’t make me sound like your mom. I will call your mother again and tell her you’re making me sound like your mom.  And you know this is not an idle threat.”

Jin had actually done that, not once but twice, when Namjoon had had a particularly bad cold and had refused to take a sick day.

It'd been both ridiculous and effective.  Namjoon is very glad his parents have a sense of humor.

“It’s a little complicated.  I think you will definitely approve of him as a person?  I just don’t know about us together.”

Jin frowns.

“That’s both confusing and not at all reassuring.”

“I’m sorry.”  Why the hell did Namjoon bring this up.  

Jin sighs.

“Do you want me to keep this between us until you’ve got things more figured out?”

“Yeah.  If that’s okay.”  Namjoon can, he realizes with a small bit of relief, erase this if he has to.  All he has to do is fabricate a breakup and the whole thing just becomes a weird private situation.  In the bottom of his stomach, though, he knows he doesn’t want to.

“I am the best at being friends.” Jin continues, picking his phone back up.  “Please remember that later.”

“A+.  Will give you top scores on the exam.”

“Now could people stop getting mystery boyfriends?”  Jin says flicking at his screen. “It’s getting really annoying.  First Jimin and now you. I swear to god, if Jungkook’s gamer friends turn out to be a mystery boyfriend I am quitting BTS and starting a heavy metal band.”

 

*     *     *

 

Namjoon goes for a walk the next night, by himself.  He needs to think. He can’t deal with the way things are, not any more.  Even if he could, he knows that he and Jimin are both tip-toeing to the edge of blowing everything, anyway.  Something is going to have to shift or give. Somehow.

He goes to the park he and Jimin had walked through so much last fall.  He finds the playground and sits on a swing.

He remembers seeing Jimin’s face that first midnight walk when he’d sat in the same place.  How striking he’d looked bathed street lights and shadows. He remembers play-fighting over a flask of whiskey not far from here.  Peppering Jimin with all the unanswerable “what-ifs” that float around in his mind while they wandered around.

Jimin’s voice bounces around his head while he thinks.

(“Dance studio.  If you’re going to be in here you have to dance.”)

It’s been a year since this all started.  

(“It’s nice knowing that I’m not going crazy.”

“Do you want to have sex?”

“I don’t know what this is.  But I want it.”)

It's been a year since he'd stood in front of the guest house, utterly certain that nothing could, would, or should happen between the two of them.  Instead of nothing, it’s been a year of kisses, confessions, fights, making love, stupid jokes, pet names, crises, small adventures and conversations.

(“Wonderland...like we're through the looking-glass.  Or down the rabbit hole.”

“I said, I’m fine.  And you need to believe me.”

“I thought I could fake my way through this but I can’t.”)

It's different now. If he had to pick between his career and Jimin... he'd just have to refuse to choose. There is no choice anymore.

(“We’re us, right.  I mean, there’s an us. ”    

“I think we had our first big fight… it’s sort of a relationship milestone.“)

He wonders if that makes him a bad leader, bad at this responsibility he's been entrusted with. He wonders if everyone would lose respect for him for being so selfish.  For ignoring everything that could go wrong and throwing himself into this for sex and a vague fluttering feeling in his chest. For becoming a habitual liar over something that could have blown up in everyone's face.  For falling in love with one of his friends. With someone he wasn’t supposed to.

(“I love how much you want me.”)

Namjoon sits and stares into the night while the last year echoes around his mind.  He leans his head against the chain of the swing as he thinks, rocking back and forth ever so slightly.  

They were good as friends.  Jimin is exuberance and thoughtfulness and comedy and grace and clingy affection and a thousand other things that made Namjoon like him.

He thinks they’re better together.  Jimin is warm skin and late night talks and fits of laughter and flirtation and effortless understanding and a thousand other things that make Namjoon love him.  

He fits Namjoon.  Not Namjoon like he used to think of himself or Namjoon as he wants to be.  Namjoon as Namjoon. Namjoon in cheap pajamas or designer clothes. Namjoon drinking up the crowd or working himself to death in his studio.  Namjoon goofing around or crushed by anxiety.

He fits.  They fit.

(“I love you.”)

Everything is different now.

He thinks he knows what he wants to do.

 

*     *     *

 

He’s going to do it right this time.  It’s a weird relationship juncture without a lot of precedents but he’s still going to actually try to do it right.

So far, Namjoon has done every part of this wrong.  The first time he kissed Jimin he’d also made him cry.  The first time they’d slept together they’d been drunk. In the beginning, half the time he’d hid his emotions behind sex.  When he’d finally come to terms with his feelings, Jimin had been at his lowest point. He’d told Jimin that he loved him without any preamble or romance, he’d just spat it out.

Jimin’s favorite movie used to be The Notebook, for Christ’s sake.

It really is time for Namjoon to stop fucking up.

He takes off early Saturday afternoon and picks up flowers and champagne before he goes to Wonderland.  He fridges the champagne and then goes up to the roof deck and strings fairy lights everywhere they’ll go, all around the railing and the edge of the roof and sets up portable speakers.  

It’s unseasonably warm and takes more work than he expected.  After he’s done Namjoon is sweaty and hungry. So he quickly eats a dinner he can hardly taste and then jumps in the shower.  Once he’s clean, he styles his hair and puts on a suit and a button-down shirt. Granted, it’s not like Jimin hasn’t seen him in a pile of different suits before but he still wants to look good for him.  Look like he’s putting in some effort.

Okay.  It’s also a bespoke suit and he hasn’t had a chance to wear it, yet.  So sue him. He still wants to look nice.

On a whim he pulls the eyeliner out of the small collection of makeup Jimin keeps on the bathroom counter.

In about 30 seconds he’s scrubbing his face because he’s never actually learned how to do that and he’s not entirely sure why he thought this particular moment would be a good time to try.

He looks at himself in the mirror after he towels his face off.  He still looks nice, right? Right?

He jumps around a few times to get rid of the nervous energy.  His Italian leather shoes make undignified squeaky noises.

He gets the flowers and champagne and heads up to the roof.  He turns on the lights and the music. Then he does one last visual sweep.  He decides the flowers and the champagne sitting on the table are a little over the top.  Maybe way too over the top. He doesn’t have a lot of time, though, so he just hides them behind a chair in the corner.

He hears the sound of the front door opening and closing.

“Joonie?”  Jimin’s voice drifts up from the apartment below.

Namjoon leans through the door.  “I’m on the roof; come up.”

A moment later Jimin emerges on to the roof deck.  He’s wearing a black sweater and black jeans with plenty of silver jewelry.  He sort of twinkles and blends into the night. He’s not dressed up for anything but he’s beautiful.  He’s always beautiful.

Namjoon really is completely, overwhelmingly in love with him.

“What’s all this?”  Jimin glances around, eyes wide and curious.

“Come dance with me.”  Namjoon holds out a hand and Jimin smiles and walks over to him.  Before he does anything else, though, Namjoon leans down and kisses him gently.  “Hi,” he says smiling back at Jimin.

“Hello, you.”

“So,” Namjoon asks, straightening out a little.  “Guy or girl?”

“I’ll let you be the guy tonight,” Jimin says, stepping close and putting a hand on Namjoon’s shoulder.  Namjoon takes his other hand and slides a hand around Jimin’s waist.

The dance is nothing really.  There’s no actual step. The songs on the playlist are sweet and slow.  There’s really no way to dance to them other than for them to hold each other while they sway in time with the music.  

“So,” Jimin says, resting his head on Namjoon’s shoulder.  “Do you want to tell me what this is about? Or are you just wearing a suit so I’ll tell you, you look hot.”

“I’m wearing a suit because it’s important.”  Namjoon rests his cheek on his head and shuts his eyes.  Jimin’s hair is a little rough from being bleached and dyed so many times but it still feels good.  And whatever he styles it with makes it smell good.

“I love you.”  

He can feel Jimin smile again.

“I love you, too.”

Namjoon’s still not used to saying it or hearing it.  Not in a bad way. In a way that makes him want to say it and hear it all the time.

“I wanted to talk to you something.”

“Hmm.”

Namjoon separates them a little so that he can look Jimin in the face.  

“I want to tell people about us.”

“What?”  Jimin’s eyebrows knit and he takes a step back.

“Not everyone, everyone.  Just the people close to us.”

“I… don’t know.”  Jimin sits heavily on one of the deck chairs.

Okay.  This is his moment.  Namjoon’s going to do his best.

“I think we can still keep it quiet.  And avoid, well you know,” Namjoon gestures vaguely at the distance.  “All of that. It’s not like the people in our life aren’t trustworthy.  And I’ve been thinking,” He sits down in the chair next to Jimin’s at an angle so they’re facing each other.  “There’s a big difference between not telling everyone when this first started and talking to our friends now.” He leans over and takes each of Jimin’s hands in his own.  “A year ago there wasn’t anything. Just a giant maybe. If that. But.” Namjoon looks Jimin squarely in the eyes. “Park Jimin,” he says seriously. “Fairy Prince. We’ve gotten through so much.  I love you. The rest of the world is just going to have to deal with that.”

There are tears floating around the corners of Jimin’s eyes now.  He bites his lip while he holds Namjoon’s gaze.

“I need to be extremely insecure right now, if that’s okay.”

“Okay.”  

“This is the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had in my life.  I know that sounds completely insane considering everything but… I’m scared of what will happen if things change.  Say it all works out and we have a more normal-ish relationship. What if we only work when we’re running around? What if things get boring?  I know it’s dumb but,” Jimin shakes his head and looks down. “It’s running through my mind so I needed to say it.”

“I want boring.”

Jimin looks up at him and raises a judgemental eyebrow.

“Okay, not boring-boring.  But fighting over the sheets boring.  What should we do for dinner boring. Cuddling and watching TV together boring.  I want to plan weekend trips and have awkward dinners with each other’s parents and put down your name as my emergency contact.  I want to be able to kiss you every day because I mean it and it’s just what we do. I want to be first in line to be there when you have a bad day.  I want all that stuff and I want it all the time and I want it to be just how things are. Or as close as we can get to that, anyway.”

Namjoon realizes his heart went off the rails at some point during his speech.  He’s not entirely sure what he’ll do if Jimin says no. If he says he doesn’t think it’s worth the risk.  

“You want me to be your emergency contact?”  

“That’s the part you picked up on.”  Namjoon says flatly.

“Sorry.”  Namjoon can see Jimin pushing down a laugh.  “It kind of stuck out.” Jimin takes a deep breath.  “Okay,” he says decisively. “I want it, too.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.  All of it.”

Namjoon is smiling so broadly now that he can tell his face is going to ache later on.  

“But,” Jimin caveats.  “I think there’s going to be some pushback.  And I think some people might get really upset at us.”  He squeezes Namjoon’s hands. “So can we start small? Maybe just tell the guys and go from there?”

Namjoon nods.  “Yeah, that sounds good.  We’ll figure out how we want to do it.”

“Cool.”  Jimin’s attention drifts and he’s looking at something over Namjoon’s shoulder.  “What’s that?”

Namjoon looks behind him at what Jimin is seeing and realizes it’s the champagne and flowers hidden behind the chair in the corner.

“Oh, um, that…” he starts to explain.  But Jimin is already up and pulling the chair away.  “I kind of felt like I went overboard at the last minute and didn’t want things to be uncomfortable.”  Jimin picks the flowers up and when he looks at Namjoon he’s got tears in his eyes again.

“For the record, I like flowers,” he says softly.

“Good to know.”  Namjoon says dumbly, quickly adding that to his file.  The tears aren’t going away, though, instead one of them slips down Jimin’s cheek.  Namjoon rushes over and wipes it off with his thumb. “Sorry, I made it weird, anyway, didn’t I.”

“It’s… it’s not that.”  Jimin shakes his head. “It’s just that Tae was trying to make me feel better once.  So he told me that someday someone was going to sweep me off my feet with flowers and dancing and champagne.  And I thought, ‘that’s nice but that’s never going to happen.’ But…” he puts the flowers down and gestures around abstractly at the lights and the flowers and everything.  Then reaches up to cup Namjoon’s face in his hands, his lips quivering as he they turn upward and another tear falls. “I’m swept, Joonie. Completely and totally swept right now.”

“Yeah?”  Namjoon feels a little lighter.  Like maybe he finally did something right.  “Maybe a bit of a swoon, too?” He can’t help himself from teasing, remembering a conversation from a while ago.  “Maybe?”

“Completely and totally swooning, too.”  Jimin grins, a tear following the last one's path.  “Because my boyfriend is completely and totally wonderful.”  Namjoon can feel his face heating up from the praise and Jimin’s continued gaze.  “I love you so much.”

There’s a feeling inside Namjoon that’s so big he has no idea what to do with it.  It feels bigger than his body, like love and excitement and joy have burst out and encased him in an impenetrable bubble.  He wants to shout all his happiness from the rooftop until he’s too exhausted to go on.

Instead, he pulls Jimin in and kisses the daylights out of him.

 

*     *     *

 

Namjoon is in a good mood when he gets home the next evening.  Jimin had had plans and he’s out to dinner with Jungkook, Taehyung, and Hoseok now.  So Namjoon had spent most of the day working on personal projects in his studio before wandering around aimlessly for a bit and then devouring some street food when he got hungry.

He’d needed a day alone in his head.  Now everything has settled into a vague but pervasive sense of contentment with his life.  It’s a good place to be.

He’s thrown off kilter when he walks in the living room and sees Jin and Yoongi sitting there looking serious.

“Hey, we need to talk.”  Yoongi’s voice is even; he doesn’t sound mad.

“Sure.”  Namjoon sits down with them.  He tries to sound casual. But he can tell that something in the air is off.  “What’s up?”

“We want to talk about you and Jimin,” Jin says gently.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, Namjoon’s mind repeats in a loop.  They haven’t talked this through, yet. They haven’t figured out what they want to say.  He does know they were supposed to have this conversation together, though.

The sound feels like it’s been sucked out of the room and all Namjoon can hear is the buzzing in his ears.

“Okay,” he says calmly.  

“We noticed you guys have been gone at the same time.”  Yoongi says, keeping that even tone in his voice. “A lot.  We just want to know what’s going on.”

Namjoon isn’t going to make them pull it out of him and he’s not going to deflect.  They know.

“We’re lovers,” Namjoon says simply.  “We’re together.”

Yoongi’s eyes go a bit wide and he looks like words just got sucked out of his mouth.  Jin just sits and blinks.

Okay, so they didn’t know.  Well, this is a different conversation than the one he thought he was having.

“For how long,” Yoongi asks.

“A year.”

“Shit.”

“I’m the dumbest person in Bangtan,” Jin says suddenly.  “You basically told me and I couldn't figure it out.”  He looks at Yoongi. “I’m really an idiot, did you know that?”

“Nah,” Yoongi rubs his eyes with one of his hands then rubs the back of his neck.  “You can’t see things you’d never imagine looking for.”

“What did you think was going on?”  Namjoon asks curiously. He should probably be freaking out more but he really wants to know.

“I don’t know!”  Yoongi gestures at him.  “You’ve been acting all secret lately and neither one of you have a history of having the healthiest coping mechanisms.  And we’re always under a lot of pressure, so. I don’t know. We were just really fucking worried, okay?”

Right.  Shitty mental health club.  That’s what this was supposed to be about.

“We’re good,” Namjoon reassures him.  “We’re both really good. Really, really, really good.”

“I get it,” Yoongi stops him.

“Were you going to tell us?”  Jin asks.

“We’ve been planning on telling you guys.  We just… hadn’t figured out how to do it, yet.”

“Maybe just a group text that says, ‘Surprise!  We’re fucking!’” Yoongi suggests.

Jin throws him the dirtiest look.

Namjoon barks out a laugh, despite himself.   “We were thinking something a little classier.”

“Good point.  Maybe write it on a greeting card.”  Yoongi bends over and rubs his face with his hands.  “What the fuck are we going to do about this.”

“What do you mean?”

“If anyone ever finds out about this, it’s gonna be really fucking bad, you know that right?”  Yoongi snaps at him. “It’d be international tabloid fodder for… god, I don’t even know how long.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Can I be honest about something,” Jin asks.

“Sure.”

“It feels really weird knowing you guys hid something this big from all of us.  It kinda hurts.”

“I’m sorry.”  Namjoon hopes he sounds contrite because he feels it.

Yoongi lets his head thump on the back of the couch.  “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck,” he croaks to no one in particular.  

Okay.  So Namjoon needs to have this incredibly emotionally awkward conversation with his friends.  That’s happening.  But he has the presence of mind to realize it’ll be worse if everyone else walks in and the conversation starts from zero all over again.

“Is it okay if I call Jimin?”  Namjoon sounds like he’s asking his teacher permission but he really has no idea how to navigate this.  “I know we have a bunch of stuff to talk about but I want to give him a heads up so he doesn’t come home and feel ambushed.”

“Yeah, yeah.  Sure.” Yoongi waves him off.

Namjoon overhears him turn to Jin as he walks out of the room.

“This is so weird.  So unbelievably weird.”

“Oh yeah,” Jin agrees.  “Also, I’m still an idiot.”

“What exactly did he tell you?”

Namjoon makes himself keep walking away from the conversation.

It’s not like he expected that anyone would jump up and be happy for him.  It’s too big of a mess for that.

Still.  It stings.

Chapter Text

Not That Long Ago

 

The new apartment is enormous.  Actually, it’s a condo. And they own it.  Jimin knows they all can’t stop thinking about the difference between this and the one room they all crammed into at the very beginning.  

The room he’s going to share with Hoseok is about the size of that old apartment.  Like everything else in the currently empty condo, it echoes with space.

They’re the only ones still sharing a room but Jimin doesn’t care, not even a little.  He likes sharing a room with Hoseok, likes having someone he adores so much close by. Also:

“Hyung, this closet is enormous !”  Jimin pops his head out and then pops back in to spin in circles.   

“The bathroom is even better!”  Hoseok calls back.

As the only ones sharing, they get the master bedroom with the fancy ensuite bathroom and the extra-extra large walk in closets.  It’s a pretty sweet deal, as far as Jimin is concerned.

Hoseok bursts into the closet and grabs him by the waist while he spins, laughingly pulling him back into the bedroom.  “Some day,” he says with a grand gesture and an arm slung over Jimin’s shoulders. “All of this will be ours.”

“It is ours,” Jimin giggles.  

“Amazing.”  Hoseok reaches, grabs him and spins him out like a ballroom dancer, half a victory dance, half just relishing in the space.

Hoseok has always been physical with Jimin.  Maybe it started because they’re both dancers but it pretty quickly turned into him throwing his arms around Jimin, grabbing him and messing with him, dipping him and making exaggerated faux romantic gestures at him.

That last one.

He hated it at the start.  It was just a little too far to be a play for fan service.  And then one day he’d finally exploded.

“Stop it!”  He’d screamed, pushing Hoseok away from him with tears in his eyes.  “Stop fucking with me because I like guys!”

Aaaand that had been how he’d come out to Bangtang.

Hoseok had just locked into place, his eyes shocked but suddenly very sharp.  “I didn’t know.” He’d said. “But I would never.” And then he’d walked up to Jimin and pointed at him for emphasis.  “And if,” he’d said seriously, “anyone ever gives you shit about that, you tell me immediately.  Got it?”

Jimin had just nodded dumbly.

That was also Hoseok.  The best protective hyung he could have ever possibly asked for.

Jimin lets go of Hoseok’s hand and throws his arms out.  He whoops loudly and the noise echoes around the space.

This is going to be so good.  This is going to be home.

Chapter Text

They're sitting in the back of Jin's brother's restaurant when Jimin's phone rings. The private room is meant for larger parties, and there's too much space for just Jimin, Taehyung, Jungkook and Hoseok.  But it's Jin's brother's restaurant, so he lets them sit there when they want to go out to eat without being disturbed.

They're not doing much, just eating and talking about the movie they’d gone to see, when his phone goes off.  Jimin looks down and his forehead immediately knits. Namjoon never calls. Namjoon texts. If he's calling that means… something.

“Hey, I gotta take this,” he says getting up. He texts Namjoon ‘call you right back’ and goes to lock himself in the bathroom. He feels ridiculous but it's the only private space he can think of right now.

“Hey,” he says when Namjoon picks up. “Is everything okay?”

“Kind of?  I'm not having the evening I thought I'd have, I'll tell you that much.”

“What happened?”

“So, Yoongi and Jin know about us.”

The bathroom is a small, elegant room with wood panelling, and ever so slightly dim lighting that’s supposed to signal class or comfort or something.  The world goes a little unreal around him when Namjoon tells him this, though, and instead of calming, everything feels not quite solid enough and a little hazy around the edges.

“Really?”

“Yeah.  It’s… it’s been a weird night already.  I came home and they wanted to talk to me about us.”

Jimin nods dumbly even though Namjoon can’t see him.

“So I came out and said we were together.  And it turns out that’s not what they were talking about at all.”   Namjoon sounds frustrated and a little agitated.  Jimin can almost hear him being mean to himself in his head.

“What were they talking about?”  Jimin asks.

“I don’t know.  They just noticed we were gone together a lot and guessed that we were doing hard drugs or drinking ourselves to death or running a cock-fighting ring or I don’t even know.”

“Joonie.”  Hazy and unreal bathroom walls aside, Jimin can tell it’s not his turn to have a freak out right now.  “I’m sure it’s fine,” he says in his best firm-but-comforting voice. “We were going to talk to everyone, anyway, right?”

“Yeah.  It just hasn’t been the most graceful conversation so far.”

“Are they upset?”  

“No, not really?  Maybe a little. Jin’s hurt we didn’t tell him.  Yoongi’s freaking out about the tabloid implications.  I don’t think they’re mad at us, though.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“So what do you want to do about the rest of the guys?  I think things are officially out in the open as of tonight.”  

“I guess I’ll go talk to them now.”

“You sure?”   Namjoon sounds surprised.

No, he's not sure. He hasn't had the time to psych himself up for this, he has no idea what his plan is, and frankly, he wants Namjoon to be there because this is nerve wracking as hell. But the ball's rolling now, so the conversation is going to happen one way or another.

“I mean, I think the sooner everyone's on the same page the better? Also, I don't think I can sit here and finish dinner now.  I think it's a band-aid ripping thing.”

“Alright. And if you change your mind and want to wait until we can talk to them together, that's alright, too.”

“Thanks.  It'll be okay.  Deep breaths.”

“It'll be fine.”   He hears Namjoon take his own deep breath and sigh.   “Okay, I'm going to go finish talking to Jin and Yoongi.”

“Good luck. I love you.”

“I love you, too.  I’ll see you at home soon.”

Jimin hangs up and stares at his phone.

They don’t really talk on the phone so they’ve never done the casual “I love you” end to a phone conversation before.

It felt natural.  It felt easy.

Jimin takes a few deep breaths.  This is what's on the other side.  He’ll get to say “I love you” when he says goodbye like emotional punctuation.  Becauses that’s his person on the other end of the line. That’s his person waiting for him at home.  

He looks at himself in the mirror while he washes his hands.  Jimin doesn’t really need to wash his hands but there’s something about the tiny ritual that makes him feel like he’s got a bit more control.

He's going to do this.  He’s going to go out there and undo a year of subterfuge.  It’ll be fine. Because these are his friends.

He looks into his own eyes.  His mirror image stares back.  He takes another deep breath.

Alright, he thinks.  Let’s do this.

 

*     *     *

 

“Everything okay?” Hoseok asks when Jimin walks back into the backroom.

“Yeah,” Jimin nods.  “But I need to talk to you guys about something.”  He leans on the back of his chair, rocking back and forth a little.  He's not sure how to phrase this. “It’s about Namjoon and I. We’re… um… we’ll it’s been a while and… I mean he and I…”

“You’re in a relationship,” Taehyung finishes for him.

Jimin turns to look at him.

“How long have you  known?” He has to ask.

“A while.  I guessed. And then I figured out I was right.”  He puts a hand on Jimin’s wrist and guides him to sit back down.  “We can talk about it later but I think you need to fill in our friends first.”

Jimin looks back and sees Jungkook and Hoseok staring at him and looking baffled.

“So, um, what Tae said.  We’re together. Romantically.  For about a year now.”

Jungkook’s face looks unreadable.  Hoseok is staring at him in shock.

“And you didn’t tell us?”  Hoseok asks.

“That’s what this is.  Me telling you.” Jimin rubs the pads of his fingers on the tablecloth, trying to get rid of some of his nervous energy.  “We thought it was a good idea to keep it quiet for a while.”

“A year is a long time.”  

“I know.”

“And since when does Namjoon go for guys?”  Hoseok’s statement sounds oddly challenging.  

“That’s really not a relevant part of this conversation,” Taehyung jumps in.  There’s an edge of anger to his voice.

“I’m sorry.”  Hoseok snaps back.  “I’m just in a bit of shock over the fact that two of my closest friends and creative partners, one of whom I thought was straight, are not only seeing each other but have been actively hiding it from us for a year.  I think I’m allowed to have kind of a reaction here.”

“Not at Jimin, you’re not.”  Taehyung sounds strict, like he’s lecturing.  “Like you said, these are our friends so we’re going to cut them a bit of slack and hear them out okay?”

“You already knew!”  The older man is all but yelling now, gesturing while he talks.  “You’ve had, I don’t know how long to get used to this. And I’m sorry, I love you Jimin and I will calm down eventually, but what the hell happens if they break up?  We’re in a band with both John and Yoko, now. And hell, let’s not even think about what’s gonna happen if someone else finds out. Because let me tell you, dating scandal between members is a hell of a way for the world’s biggest K-pop act to go out in flames.”

“You need to calm the fuck down.”

“I’m not having this conversation with you, Tae, I’m having it with Jimin.”

“And you’re not going to talk to him like that!”  Taehyung breaks, really shouting now.

“Stop!”  Jimin yells at the two of them.  “I know it’s fucked up that Namjoon and I lied to you about a lot of shit and we’re going to have to make up for that.  But we’re together and we're in love and that’s the end of it, so we’re just going to have to figure this out.”

“Why did you sneak around in the first place?”  Hoseok swivels to look at him. “I don’t know if either of you noticed but our entire lives are pretty wrapped up in creating things together and living in each other’s pockets.  Being honest is kind of the only way this works.”

“Oh come on,” Taehyung jumps in again.  “Don’t act like none of us get any kind of private life.  You know that’s insane.”

“And you know that’s not what I’m talking about,” Hoseok barks back.  “It’s not like they both went out and found boyfriends. Dating a co-worker is a terrible idea.  I don’t even know what this is.”

“If you could just stop for one…”

“I said stop it!”  Jimin yells again. “I can’t deal with you.”

“See?”  Taehyung says to Hoseok pointing at Jimin.  “All you’re doing is making Jimin upset.”

“Either of you.”  Jimin says coldly turning to Taehyung.  “I need both of you to leave now. Just go home and I’ll talk to you there.  Separately.” He looks between the two of them. “ Both of you.

“Jimin,” Hoseok’s voice is calmer and a little worried.

“I said leave! ”  He just shouts back.

Hoseok and Taehyung both look shell shocked at his outburst but they comply, anyway, looking at him with a mix of concern and confusion and hurt as they leave the room.

Jimin sits there with his head in his hands, willing himself not to cry.  When he looks up again he sees Jungkook sitting across from him, watching him with a soft and concerned look on his face.

“You’ve been weirdly silent through this whole thing,” Jimin remarks.

“I’ve just been thinking.”  Jungkook shrugs. He tips his head a little to the side.  “I think I ship it?”

“You can’t say that about your friends,” Jimin says, sitting up.  “That’s extremely weird.”

“I don’t know.  I can see it. And I can see you being good for each other.  So I’m happy for you.”

“That’s it?”  Jimin looks at him incredulously.

“I mean, what else is there?”  Jungkook shrugs. “If you’re happy, I’m happy.”

Jimin moves around the table to sit next to him.  He needs a hug so badly right now he all but throws his arms around Jungkook.  Jungkook wraps his arms around him and gives him a squeeze.

“You know what a wise man once told me?”  He asks Jimin softly.

“What?”

“If you want to do what we do, you can’t go around getting rid of pieces of yourself.  And I think being in love is a pretty big piece.”

“It is,” Jimin says.  He really wants to cry now.  “It’s huge.”

“Also,” Jungkook goes on, letting him go.  “It’s really adorable. He’s so tall and you’re so short.  It’s like you’re a pocket-sized boyfriend.”

“Oh my god.  You are the worst friend.”

“Okay,” he says reaching for his beer.  “How about travel size?"

 

*     *     *

 

It feels strange coming home.  Like everything’s changed but still completely familiar.  The art on the walls, the furniture they picked out together, the worn out rug in the entry way that no one can be bothered to replace - it’s all the same.  It’s the same place he’s been coming home to for a long time now. His place in it is a little different though. And so it feels like everything has shifted, just by an inch.

Jimin finds Namjoon in the kitchen, sitting at the table with a book and what smells like an extremely strong cup of coffee.  Jimin places a hand on his arm and sits down next to him.

“Hey.”

Namjoon looks up at him.

“Hey.  How’d it go?”

Jimin just sighs.  Then he leans in, takes Namjoon’s face in his hands and presses their mouths together for a relatively chaste but firm kiss.

“That was my reward,” he says sitting back.  “For getting through that.”

“Went that well, huh.”  

Jimin crooks an arm on the table and lays his head down. “It was a page from my nightmare journal.   Hobi-hyung freaked out. It turns out Tae figured it out a while ago and he freaked out at Hobi for freaking out.  I yelled at them both for yelling and made them leave. The only good news is that Jungkook is so on board I think he's probably making a fansite as we speak.”

“Well, thank god for Jungkook.”  Namjoon reaches over and starts running his fingers through Jimin's hair.   “Are you okay?”

Jimin takes Namjoon's hand in his and pulls it toward him so he can pillow his cheek on it. “Better now.  I still have to talk to Tae and Hobi-hyung separately, though. How'd it go for you? How was the rest of your conversation?”

“A little surreal.  Jin says he just needs a minute to get used to it and Yoongi’s still a little panicked about the PR of it all but I think it’ll be okay.”

“Since when is Yoongi worried about PR.”

“I think since he needs something to yell about.” Namjoon shrugs. “We should have a meeting with everyone in a few days,” he says sounding serious and responsible.  “Give things a couple of days to settle and then let everybody get everything out of their system. Hash out whatever needs to be hashed.”

They’ve all had their fights over the years.  Their disagreements. Their screaming matches.  Living like they do, it’s impossible not to. And they’ve also always resolved them together.  Two people’s problem is seven people’s problem. Except Namjoon. The only time Jimin can remember Namjoon fighting with anyone is when he and Yoongi first met and fought like cats in a bag.  And that had mostly been before Jimin even showed up. Namjoon stays back. Namjoon mediates.

Jimin squeezes his hand.  “Stop. You do not need to problem solve this.  At least not now.”

Namjoon rests his chin on his fist so that he’s more or less eye-level with Jimin now.  He looks like he's considering something while he looks at him. “You know,” he's says slowly. “I think I've got a thing for your lips.”

Jimin can’t help but break into a smile.  “You’ve got a thing for my everything,” He teases.

“Nah.”  Namjoon points at his face. “Not so hot on that left eyebrow. That's the one that pops up and gets judgey at me.”

Jimin raises an eyebrow.

“Yeah, just like that.”

Jimin lets out a short laugh.

Namjoon takes his hand back, sits up and glances at his phone.

“Damn.  I'm supposed to be calling my parents around now.”

“It's okay. I need to go talk to Tae and Hobi, anyway.”

“Hey, quick question,” Namjoon says standing up.

“Yeah?”  Jimin sits up, paying attention.

“I know it’s not what we talked about but can I tell my parents about us?  I know it sounds dumb but I kinda want to hear someone be happy for me.”

Jimin’s mind immediately flashes back to his own parents and that one sticking point.  He’s hit by a fear that Namjoon’s being naive in a way that he doesn’t realize. But it seems important to him.  And one way or another Jimin will be here.

“Of course.  Let me know how it goes.”

“Cool.  Let me know if you need back up with Tae or Hobi.”  Then he bends down and smiling a little, gives Jimin a kiss.  “Love you.”

“Even my left eyebrow?”

“Even your left eyebrow.”

“Okay, then I guess I love you, too.”  He pulls Namjoon down for another small kiss.  Namjoon smiles at him and then leaves a peck on his eyebrow, making Jimin giggle, before walking out of the room.   

Jimin sits at the table alone for a moment.  He picks up Namjoon’s half-empty mug of coffee and sniffs it.  It’s black and heinous and who is drinking coffee this late, anyway.  

He’s hit by the thought that this whole unreal evening is over a man who stress-drinks caffeinated sludge.

Jimin takes a disgusting, lukewarm gulp for courage and sets the mug back down.

It’s his man who stress-drinks caffeinated sludge.  Might as well roll with it.

 

*     *     *

 

Taehyung in playing some game on his computer when Jimin walks into his room.  It's full of flashing colors and fighting and looks like it would be loud if Tae weren't wearing heavy clamshell headphones.  Jimin doesn’t pay close enough attention to figure out what it is, though. He just walks in and sits cross legged on Taehyung’s bed, and waits quietly for him to pause.

Eventually, Taehyung lets out a groan of frustration and angrily pulls off the headphones.  He finally notices Jimin and swivels around in his desk chair.

“Hey, how long have you been there?”

“Just a couple of minutes. Can we talk?”

“I just died,” Tae spreads his hands out magnanimously.  “I'm all yours.”

“I wanted to say I was sorry. For what happened at the restaurant.”  Jimin wills himself not to look down or fidget.

“Yeah,” Taehyung says, propping his feet up on the bed and slumping down in the desk chair a little. “That went almost as bad as possible.”

“I'm not sure how that could have gone worse.”

Taehyung shrugs.  “We could have been naked and in front of our high school biology teacher.  She hated us.”

“Point.  I'm still really sorry, though.”

“It's okay.  I don't think it was totally your fault.  But,” he pauses and windshield wipers his feet back and forth. “Is it okay if we talk about everything now?”

“Yes.  Please.” Jimin probably sounds too eager but he wants more than anything right now to close the space he made between himself and his friend.   And if anything good came out of that stupid yelling match, it’s the hope that maybe he can. “Can I ask you a question first?”

“Sure.”

“How did you figure it out?”  He’s not sure why he needs to know this so much.  Maybe for his own sense of the narrative for the last year.  Maybe just to know how long Taehyung knows he’s been lying to him.

Taehyung shrugs.  “Like I said. I guessed.  You guys were both stupidly happy during the last tour.  But then you told me that you were seeing someone and I thought maybe I was wrong.  And then…”

“And then?”

“The someone never appeared so I put two and two together.”  The bed shakes a little as Taehyung taps his feet together and Jimin has to resist the urge to reach over and still them.  “Aaaaand then I thought I'd left something in Namjoon's room one night. I’d stayed up way too late playing video games and I figured I'd pop in and he'd be crashed out.  And I saw you guys. In bed. Looking very cuddly.”

Jimin swallows.  “I thought I heard someone come in but I thought it was just a dream,” he said almost to himself. “Why didn’t you say anything?”  He hates the way it comes out. Like he’s blaming Tae for something.

“I tried.  That day his ex showed up.  But you went into panic mode so I figured I’d let you bring it up.”

“I’m sorry.”  Jimin looks down and picks at his socks, unable to hold back his own nervous tics any longer.  “If it makes you feel any better we got into a huge fight that night.”

“It doesn’t?”  Tae looks at him questioningly.

“It was kind of a good thing at the end.  It was just a really bad day, is all I’m saying.”

Taehyung climbs on the bed and sits across from Jimin mirroring his cross-legged posture.  It makes Jimin feel a little like he’s in middle school, hashing out some teenage drama while the parents go about their lives on the other side of the bedroom door.

“I covered for you.  A little.” Taehyung tells him seriously.  “ Some.” He corrects, tiling his head and thinking.  “Okay. A lot. I actually covered for you guys a lot.”

“How?”  It feels unsurprising that he owes Taehyung for something.  But it also knocks him a little that he owes him for this, too.  

“Mostly redirecting conversations.  Acting like I knew things. Making excuses.  Whatever.” Taehyung reaches over and pulls on Jimin’s sock where he’d been fiddling with it and then gives him what feels like is supposed to be a comforting pat on the ankle.  “If I’d have known Jin and Yoongi were going to pounce on Namjoon tonight, I would have told you. Sorry.”

“You do not need to apologize.”  Jimin emphasizes.

“I just want things to go back to normal for us.”  Taehyung says, looking back up at him. “I don’t want there to be this thing between us that we can’t talk about, again.”

“Me, too.”  Jimin nods, eager and hopeful all over again.   “And I’m so sorry there ever was.”

“Can I ask why you hid it in the first place?”

“Because…”  Jimin pauses to think, wanting to choose his words carefully this time.  “Because it was really a irresponsible idea at the beginning. But we figured that if no one else knew then it wouldn’t affect anyone else.  And no one meant no one.” He swallows. “And then the longer it kept going the worse the consequences seemed because it was still the same thing only now we’d spent more time covering it up.  I don’t know if it’s the best reasoning but… we kind of made this little bubble world and it was really easy not to want to risk popping it.”

Taehyung nods.  “I’ve been really worried about you,” he says quietly.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s just…” he goes back to plucking at Jimin’s sock.  “The only other time you’ve ever lied to me was when you weren’t eating.”

“Jesus, Tae.”  Jimin feels like he’s been hit in the chest.  A completely new wave of guilt washes over him.  “I’m so sorry,” is all he can think of to say.

“And no offense to Namjoon,” Taehyung goes on, “you know I love him but… I’ve seen him be kind of a shitty boyfriend in the past.  And I know what you said before… but just for me, I really need you to look me in the eyes and tell me everything is okay.”

“So okay.”  Jimin grabs his hand so Taehyung looks up at him.  “So beyond okay.” He holds, Taehyung’s gaze, willing him to see everything he’s saying.  “You know I had some rough times over the last year.  And he was there for me. For all of it. All of it.”  Jimin presses as much implication as he can into the statement, hoping he gets it.

Taehyung looks at him softly and squeezes his hand.  “And?” He prods.

“And there have been a lot of really good times, too.”

“And?”

“And it just works with us.”

“And?”

“And he loves me.”

“And?”

“And what?”  Jimin says a little exasperatedly.  “Do you want me to tell you the sex is amazing?”

“I mean, it wouldn’t hurt.”

“The sex is amazing,” Jimin deadpans.

“Good.  I’m very, very happy for you.”  Taehyung gives him a half smile like he’s just won an argument.  Jimin feels that hope that everything is almost okay again, a grip of tension just waiting to be released.

“So are we okay?  Do I get your blessing?”

“I mean,” Taehyung leans back on his arms, “I'm still a little worried about Namjoon not being as perfect as you deserve but that’s a very high bar.  So in general?  I think I'm team Jijoon over here.”

“Gross.”

“What?”

“No portmanteau names.  Not today, not ever.” There’s no bite to it, though.  Just a relieved smile spreading across his face.

Taehyung leans over suddenly and hugs him tightly.  “I think I missed you.”

Jimin hugs him back with just as much force.   “I think I missed you, too.” He feels Taehyung’s face getting damp and his own eyes start threatening to run over.

“I’m always on your side,” Taehyung says.  “ Always .  Just promise me we’re never going to let a secret this big get between us again.”

“Never,” Jimin promises.  “I’m so sorry I lied to you.”  They’re both a mess. They both cry easily so it’s not the first time they’ve wound up crying together.  Not by a long shot. This time though, doesn’t feel like sympathy or empathy. It feels like catharsis. “And thank you.  For everything. I think I owe you forever.”

“It’s okay.  I already owe you forever.  I think that’s what best friends do.”

Jimin sits back and reaches over to gently wipe the tears off Taehyung’s cheeks with the long sleeve of his shirt pulled over his hand.  

“Forever,” he says, his own face still wet.  “Forever and ever and ever. I promise.”

 

*     *     *

 

To Jimin’s surprise the first thing Hoseok does when he sees him is hug him.  Granted he hugs Jimin because Jimin looks like shit at this point but it’s still a hug, so that’s probably a good thing.  He and Yoongi are sitting in the den talking and they go quiet when Jimin walks in. Then Hoseok stands up and the first words out of his mouth really are, “you look like shit,” followed by a hug.

“I just finished talking to Tae,” Jimin says, as if that’s that’s enough of an explanation for why he’s all puffy, red-eyed, and blotchy.

Once he pulls back from Hoseok, though, he realizes something.

Jimin is kind of pissed.  

Sure, maybe Jimin could have handled the whole situation better but Hoseok still sat there in a restaurant and shouted at him and that really sucked.

“So,” he says with a shrug.  “Tae doesn’t hate me. How about the two of you?”

“Nobody hates you,” Yoongi says, although there’s an exasperated tone in his voice.

“Cool.  So can we have an adult conversation about this or do you guys just want to yell a bunch?”  He’s being sarcastic and snappy but he can't seem to stop himself.

“Okay, maybe I deserved that,” Hoseok says calmly.  “But you guys did drop a hell of a bomb on us tonight.”

“Well, it wasn’t supposed to come out like this.  But we didn’t exactly predict an intervention.”

“Wait, you want us to apologize for caring about our friends?”  Hoseok blinks at him disbelieving.

“No, but,” he turns to Yoongi, not sure why this hasn’t occurred to him before.  “Why did you only talk to Namjoon, anyway? If you were worried about both of us.”

“I was going to talk to you after dinner,” Hoseok says, the forced calm back in his voice.  

“Well,” Jimin turns back to Hoseok, his voice still dripping with barely contained frustration.  “We talked during dinner and you know we’re not into cock-fighting, so maybe can you be happy for me now?”

“You know what, Jiminie,” Hoseok says, throwing his hands up.  “I can’t talk about this tonight. We're both tired and there's already been one shouting match. Let's just talk about it tomorrow when we've all had a chance to get some sleep.”

“Fine.”  Jimin says sharply.

“Fine?”  He sounds incredulous.

“I'm tired, I don't know what else you want me to say.”  Jimin pulls his shirt over his hands and grips the cuffs.  “Let's talk later when we can actually be nice to each other.”

“Guys, that's actually a really good idea,” Yoongi jumps in.  “Stop sounding like you're having a fight and we’ll talk about things tomorrow.”

Jimin has an extremely childish urge to point at Hoseok and shout “he started it!” He doesn't though.  He’s pretty sure this round’s on him.

“Okay, fine.”  Jimin nods. “Good night, I guess.”

“Good night.”  Hoseok’s voice sounds stilted.

There’s another awkward moment in the air.  Jimin wants to say something else but Yoongi’s watching him from the couch and he knows it’s going to be no good trying to get in the last word.  So he walks past Hoseok and out the door.

 

*     *     *

 

The first thing Jimin does after he walks into Namjoon’s room is lay down on the floor.  

Jimin likes the floor.  Floors are solid. Floors feel cool and comforting.  He’s been known to sleep on the floor.

He’s still there on his stomach five minutes later when Namjoon walks in.

“Oooh-kay,” he says, stepping awkwardly over Jimin’s limbs.  “Is this my new rug?”

“Yes.  I live here now.  I’m furniture. Never make me get up.”

“I don’t know.  What if I redecorate?”

Jimin looks up at him crossly.  “I’m a classic. I’m a set piece.  Build the room around me.” He drops his head back down on the floor.

Namjoon sits down by him and starts rubbing up and down his back.  It’s calming and affectionate and Jimin lets himself close his eyes and appreciate it.

“How’d it go with your parents?”  He half-asks, half mumbles.

“Okay.  I think I surprised them more than I meant to.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Nah.  It’s okay.  My mom’s going with my dad on this business trip to Japan so the conversation got cut short so they could finish packing, anyway.  How’d things go with Tae and Hoseok?”

Jimin rolls over on his back and scoots up so that he’s laying in Namjoon’s lap.  Then he reaches back and pulls Namjoon’s hands on to his chest and holds them there.  

“We need to buy Tae a fruit basket.  Or a fruit of the month club. Or something entirely not-fruit related to show that we’re grateful.”

“Oh?”

“Apparently, he covered for us a whole bunch.”  Jimin interlaces his fingers with Namjoon’s and squeezes his hands a bit.  “I guess we aren’t as smooth as we thought we were.”

“Wow.  Damn.”

“Yeah.”

“And Hoseok?”

“I can’t not get into a fight tonight.  I was just really snappy and Yoongi made us promise to talk tomorrow instead.”  Jimin buries a little further into Namjoon’s lap, resting his head on the top of his thigh.

“From what I heard he went kind of hard on you.”

“Oh?”

“I ran into Jungkook.  Also, I don’t think he knew what to do so he shook my hand?  It was cute.”

Jimin has to laugh a little at that but he doesn't say anything.  It's only been a few hours but the evening feels like it's stretched out for a million years.

“Jimin?”  Namjoon says seriously.

“Yes?”

“This has been a extremely bizarre and and emotional evening.”

“Yeah.”

“And you should know that I recognize that we can both be bad at dealing with our feelings in difficult situations.”

“True.”

“And I think we should be aware of that and make an effort to check in with each other and be supportive.”

“Okay.”

“So, all that being said, and recognized as very important…”

“Yes?”

“I’m worn out and right now I really just want to get too stoned to think and fall asleep watching anime,” he says, all attempts at maturity washing out of his voice.

Jimin struggles to stifle a grin.

“Namjoon?” He says, trying to sound just as serious as Namjoon had.

“Yes?”

“I’d like to point out that's not usually my thing.”

“Fair.”

“However, as your boyfriend, I also feel like I should make an effort to engage in your interests.”

“Okay.”

“But above all…

“Yeah?”

“I am so tired of talking.  That sounds amazing. Give me five minutes to go take out my contacts.”

 

*     *     *

 

“Wait, you actually said the thing about cock-fighting?”  Namjoon is sitting with Jimin on his bed practically doubled over with laughter.

“Why is that so funny?”  Jimin’s sides are starting to hurt.  He’s not entirely sure why he’s laughing anymore but he’s also not sober enough to question it.

“Seriously,” Namjoon straightens up and tries to sound disapproving.  “Is that what they’re calling it these days.”

Jimin laughs so hard Namjoon has to catch him before he falls off the bed.

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin wakes up the next morning a little groggy and cotton-mouthed but happy.  Namjoon is next to him and he likes that. He likes not waking up alone.

Jimin curls up around the other man's back and slips an arm over his side, big spooning him.  Namjoon stirs awake and Jimin holds him just a little tighter.

“Morning.”

“Morning,” Jimin says back, laying a kiss on the nape of Namjoon's neck.  Namjoon squeezes Jimin's hand in response.

Jimin knows they both just woke up but his mind is already running out of bed and to what’s on the other side of the door.  “Do you think today’s going to be weird?”

Namjoon rolls onto his back and stretches his long limbs.  “Everything’s weird until it’s normal.”

“That’s almost tauto… torto… whatever that word is where a sentence just says the thing it says,” Jimin says, propping his head up on an elbow.

“Tauto..logical.”  Namjoon yawns, cutting the word in half.  “Too big of a word for first thing in the morning.”

Namjoon looks over at him and he’s wearing an expression that only comes out when he's half asleep or completely fuzzy and relaxed. It's nakedly adoring and it makes Jimin's heart flip a little every time he sees it.

He can wait for normal.  He’s already got good.

 

*     *     *

 

The next couple of days aren’t what Jimin would call weird but he’d certainly use the word unbalanced.  By now the seven of them have a dynamic so worn into them it might as well have been cut there by a glacier.  But suddenly that’s shifted. As though overnight a tectonic plate has moved underneath them.

Jimin and Hoseok talk.  Sort of. They each apologize for their behavior but things stall out after that.  Jimin isn’t sure what else to say and it seems like Hoseok doesn't know either. Jimin tries to give him space.  He spends his nights in Namjoon’s room.

He’s not sure if that makes it better or worse.

Namjoon is still remarkably Namjoon.  He’s still patient and even-tempered.  On top of the usual rehearsals and practices, he sits through tour scheduling meetings with management.  Then he sits down with all of them to talk about what works, what’s going to need accomodations and what’s just physically impossible to the point of provoking swears.  He acts like the elephant in the room was always part of the furniture. No one else at the label picks up anything is amiss. That’s a relief.

And Jimin… Jimin isn’t sure how to act.  He’s not sure what to do when he’s in the same room as Namjoon, anymore.  He doesn’t know if he should sit close to him or if that’s too clingy.  Or if he’ll look like he’s keeping his distance if he stays away. If he’s still allowed to make fun of him or do things to prompt Namjoon into calling him cute or if that’s all weird flirting territory now.  If he’ll make people uncomfortable by being too happy. Or if he isn’t happy enough, if they’ll take it to mean this whole relationship isn’t important. He knows he’s overthinking constantly but he can’t stop .

It’s late and Namjoon’s sitting against the headboard of his bed and reading a book when Jimin gracelessly throws himself down on the bed next to him.

“Okay, confession time.”

Namjoon looks down at Jimin.

“What’s up?”

“I think I am terrible at this boyfriend thing.  I have no idea what I’m doing and no idea how I’m supposed to act around you when we’re not alone.”

Namjoon shuts his book and slumps down.

“Oh thank god, neither do I.”

“It’s weird isn’t it?” Jimin says half sitting up.  “I’m second guessing every little thing all the time.  I’m terrible at this.  I don’t know why I’m so bad at this but I think I am.”

“I think it’s the situation?”  Namjoon picks up the line of thought.  “But still.” He makes a frustrated gesture in the air.  “Out of all the people in the universe, how do I feel awkward around you ?”

Jimin sighs and pulls a pillow into his lap.  He didn’t even feel this off-kilter when things first started between the two of them and he was just getting used to acting like nothing was going on.

“Hey, Joonie?”

“Yeah?”

“Wanna be terrible boyfriends with me?  Like, we just accept it and we’ll be terrible boyfriends together.”

Namjoon lets out a small huffing laugh.  “Yeah, totally. Let’s be terrible boyfriends.”  

“So, so bad at it.”  Jimin says starting to smile.

“Borderline incompetent.”  Namjoon leans over and gives Jimin a small kiss.

“Absolutely awful,” Jimin counters, trading another small smiling kiss.

“Just the worst.”  Namjoon leans in again and this time he lets the kiss deepen, turn into something sweeter and more intense.

It’s a little surreal to Jimin, kissing Namjoon at home without looking over his shoulder.  But everyone already knows so there’s no point in holding back behind closed doors. And kissing Namjoon just feels like safety and affection and sex and everything that’s right with his world.

When Jimin pulls back he’s mostly laying on the bed with Namjoon above him.  Namjoon looks a little dazed, like all the measured togetherness has finally drained out of his face.  He just looks a man in desperate need of something to give him a break.

Jimin wants a distraction, wants to shed off some of the built up stress in his body.

The necklace Jimin gave Namjoon is hanging around his neck.  It makes him feel warm knowing that he’s still wearing it. It also makes him feel deeply possessive.  Jimin reaches up and wraps the necklace around his hand. He gently pulls Namjoon toward him and kisses him again, this time fierce and controlling.

“Joonie,” he says, his voice even and decisive.  “Get up and make sure the door is locked. Then come back here,” he tosses his head back suggestively, “and make me very happy.”

He lets go of the necklace and Namjoon doesn’t hesitate for a second.

 

*     *     *

 

Of course, that’s also the night Namjoon gets food poisoning.

Not right that second.  More like around two am when Jimin wakes up to an empty bed and the sound of retching in the bathroom down the hallway.

When Namjoon stumbles back in, his face is a mess of pain and he collapses heavily into bed.  Jimin is over him in an instant.

“Are you okay?”

“It’s gotta be something I ate.  I’ll be fine.”

He twists and groans a little and Jimin puts a hand on his forehead.  

“Jesus, you’re burning up.  I don’t think you’re okay.”

“I’ll be fine.”  His breath sounds a little too ragged for Jimin’s comfort.  “We’re filming tomorrow. I’ll be fine by then.”

It’s true, they are filming.  But it’s a just an episode of a thing for the internet.  It’s not a million dollar project.

“If you’re sick, you’re sick.  If you’re feeling this bad in the morning, promise me you’ll go to the doctor?”

“Sure, yeah.”

He doesn’t sound convincing but Jimin lets it lay there.

He doesn’t get much sleep the rest of the night, either.  Namjoon is up two more times, stomach still heaving even though there’s nothing left.  In between he tosses around uncomfortably, clearly in a lot more pain than he’s willing to admit.

By early morning Jimin is ready to call Namjoon on his half-promise and haul him to the doctor himself except that all of a sudden he’s… fine.  He still seems warm to Jimin but he’s not in pain or throwing up anymore, so Jimin can’t really argue.

They all head over to the studio together for an early-ish call.  Even for something that’s just going to be edited into an hour of them playing silly games, there’s still hair and makeup and lighting tests.

They’ve been there an hour and a half when Namjoon excuses himself to go lay down in one of the practice rooms.  Jimin feels a twinge of worry but he can’t do much given that a hair stylist is currently flat-ironing his hair. And he’s learned the hard way not to move when there’s something over 300 degrees near his head.  They’ve finally finished his makeup (yes, this is casual, but he still wants plenty of liner and please hold back on the shadow, thank you) and he’s pawing through shirts with one of he wardrobe people when he notices a text on his phone.

You win.  Doctor.

The text is already ten minutes old and Jimin all but runs out of the room.

When he opens the door to the practice room he's immediately hit by the acrid smell of bile coming from a garbage can in the corner of the small room. Namjoon is stretched out on the couch, just a little too long, feet on one of the arms.  He's pale and Jimin can see the sheen of sweat before he's even next to him.

“Joonie?” He says softly, placing a hand on Namjoon's forehead.  If he was burning up before, he's fire itself right now.

“Jesus fucking Christ it hurts,” Namjoon says hoarsely, eyes squeezing shut while he speaks.  

He's calling an ambulance.  It’s an instinct he never knew he had but somehow Jimin knows beyond a shadow of a doubt this is an ambulance situation.  

He takes one of Namjoon’s hands while he calls and is surprised and a little relieved when Namjoon grips it tightly.

There are other people in the room by the time he gets off the phone.  Yoongi. Jungkook. A few staffers.

“Somebody needs to tell whoever in the building needs to know that there are EMTs coming,” Jimin says decisively before turning back to Namjoon, still pale and taking erratic shallow breaths with his eyes closed tightly in a pained expression.

Behind him he hears Yoongi keeping people clear of the room while what feels like everyone in the world comes by to see what's wrong.

There's too many people. There's always too many people.

PD Bang comes in, though, looking frantic and worried and Jimin feels the need to catch him up, at least.

“He was throwing up last night. And there's a high fever now.  And he’s in a lot of pain.”

Almost on cue, Namjoon's back arches and he makes a painful sucking noise through his teeth.

And then in no time at all- or the longest moments of Jimin's life, depending on how you want to count it- the EMTs are there.  There's a woman and a man and they're asking for information. Jimin rattles it off, times symptoms, everything, while they get an impossibly shaky Namjoon up and onto the gurney.

As they wheel the gurney out of the room, the wheels run over Namjoon's glasses.  No one noticed them on the floor and they break in half with a sharp crunching noise.

It hits Jimin there's no way he can just stay here.

“Let me ride in the ambulance,” he calls out dashing after, two steps behind the EMTs.  “I'm the boyfriend,” he pleads.

One if the EMTs pauses just long enough to give him a look before nodding.

“Come on.”

The ambulance is an ambulance.  It's comfortingly sterile and he sits in the back with the female EMT, surrounded by all kinds of medical things he doesn't know the names or purposes of.  She prods Namjoon's midsection and he arches up and gasps, eyes wide. Then she nods and puts an IV in and explains that she's giving Namjoon something to dull the pain.  

He looks small lying there.  It feels so wrong. Not because Namjoon is taller than Jimin but because Namjoon always takes up space and attention, just by being alive.

Jimin slips his hand into Namjoon's. Even his hands seem smaller.

“We won't tell anyone,” the EMT says reassuringly.

It takes Jimin a moment to understand what she's saying.  For just a moment he'd forgotten that his face is on billboards. That they live on a tightrope.

He just shouted that Namjoon was his boyfriend in front of practically every human being at BigHit.

He doesn't feel anything about it, one way or the other right now.

“Thank you,” he says softly but sincerely.  “What's wrong with him?”

“I can't make an official diagnosis but it's probably his appendix. You said he was feeling better for a few hours?”

Jimin nods.

“It might have ruptured then. We'll know for sure when we get to the hospital.”

Jimin nods again.

“Again, I can't make an official diagnosis, but even if it did rupture, there's a very high probability that things will be fine.”

A very high probability.

It's the worst good news Jimin has ever heard in his life.

 

*     *     *

 

Once they're at the hospital the diagnosis is confirmed and Namjoon is being whisked away to surgery. Jimin finds himself standing in front of a doctor who is gently explaining everything to him.  Then a nurse is handing him all of Namjoon's valuables- rings, earrings, the necklace. And then he's being led to the waiting area. To wait.

He sits in a daze.  He just holds on to the little plastic bag with all the jewelry and stares at it, as though some kind of answer will come through like tea leaves.

Out if the corner of his eye, he notices a pair of long legs sit down in the chair next to him.  A comforting arm reaches over and rubs his shoulder.

“How’re you holding up?” Jin asks gently.

“I've been better,” Jimin shakes his head.

He turns to Jin and starts rattling off what the doctor said, the diagnosis, surgery, everything.  He's interrupted, though, by a young girl probably eleven. Maybe twelve. She smiles at them jittery and nervous.

“Hi.  Um, hi, hi,” she giggles.

“Hi,” Jin says back.

She shoves a greeting card in front of them, “Sorry to interrupt but I love you guys so much and my sister, she has a broken leg and it would make her so, so happy, if maybe I could say I saw you and gave her a card?”

She vibrates while she gives them another cautious smile, obviously a little proud of having made it through her speech without imploding.

Jimin is dumbstruck that this is how the universe really works.  Right here. Right now. In a hospital waiting room.

But she's also just a kid.  Who's also in a waiting room worrying about someone.

“Sure,” he says pulling up a smile.  “We'd be happy to.” He takes the pen and the card.  “What's her name?”

There's the usual what's your name, nice to meet you and then a  good luck, tell your sister we said ‘fighting!’ And then she's gone.

Jimin turns back to Jin to pick up where he left off but then there's another voice saying, “excuse me.”

Jimin looks up and sees a young nurse standing in front of them.  

“Hi.”

“If you'd like, we can have you wait in one of the exam rooms, so you can have some privacy.”

Jimin looks up and realizes that half the waiting room is watching them while pretending not to.  The offer is probably for everyone else, just as much as it is for them.

“Yeah, that’d be great,” Jin says, speaking up for both of them.

Once they’re situated in the exam room, side by side in awkward plastic chairs, Jimin realizes his hands are shaking a little, maybe his everything is shaking.  He wants to explain, he hopes maybe Jin can understand, just a little, just how enormous everything feels.

“I know you weren’t around for… you know.  And I know it’s all our fault but he’s my… that’s my…” Jimin puts a hand over his mouth struggling for words.  Jin wraps an arm around his shoulders and places a hand on his knee.

“Jimin,” he cuts him off, firmly.  “It’s okay. We’ve got you. I promise.”

Jimin runs his hands through his hair and stares at the floor.  A few tears drip straight down and make tiny puddles on the tile, dotted with hints of gray from his eye make up.

“I love him so much,” he says quietly.

“I know, I know.”  Jin is quiet for a bit, rubbing a comforting hand over his back.  “I brought you a few things,” Jin says bending over to get his bag.  He hands Jimin his phone, Namjoon’s phone, and a packet of make-up remover wipes.  Jimin looks at him a little questioning on the last one. “I had a feeling your eyeliner miiiiight not hold up.”

Jimin gives a rough little chuckle.  

“Yeah, probably.”  

Jimin stares at Namjoon’s phone.  Shit.

“I need to call his parents,” he says to no one in particular.  He’s not looking forward to the conversation but they need to know.  He bites his lip, swipes the screen and hits the “emergency” icon on the lock screen.  Namjoon’s parents numbers pop up as two out of three numbers on the top. Jimin gives a startled laugh.  “That asshole.”

“What?”

He holds the phone up for Jin to see the third name.

“He made me his emergency contact.”

 

*     *     *

 

It takes Jimin a little while to reach Namjoon’s parents.  He remembers they’re out of the country so he leaves a message on both phones and hopes for the best.  He hears back from Namjoon’s mom within an hour. He tries to be comforting but doesn’t have a lot of information, yet, just that Namjoon’s in surgery and they’re waiting.  She’s already looking for flights by the time they finish their short conversation and that’s that.

Everyone comes in shifts.  Jin stays with him for a while and then Yoongi and Jungkook come and force him to eat lunch.  The doctor comes out and tells them the surgery went well and Namjoon should be awake enough for visitors in a few hours.

Taehyung and Hoseok come after Yoongi and Jungkook.  Jimin has to wonder how they figured this schedule out and if they drew straws.  At least the truce between Taehyung and Hoseok seems to be holding.

Jimin is sitting the same chair in the same windowless room he’s spent most of the day when the nurse comes in and says that Namjoon’s awake enough for company.

Hoseok pats him on the back.

“That means you’re up.  Go see your man.”

Jimin looks at him with a bit of surprise but he doesn’t linger too long.

Namjoon is okay.  Namjoon is awake.

 

*     *     *

 

“Fairy Prince!” The groggy, slurred voice says excitedly when Jimin walks into the room.  

Jimin gives a little laugh and goes over to sit next to Namjoon.

“How’re you feeling?”

“Sleepy, fuzzy, okay.  Terrible.” He turns his hand palm up and Jimin takes the cue to slip his hand into Namjoon’s.  “You’re here.” He smiles woozily.

“Of course I am.  And you are on some painkillers.”

“Uh-huh.”  He squeezes Jimin’s hand lightly.

“I’m so glad you’re okay.”

“And you’re here.”  Namjoon gives him a goofy, unsober smile.

“You already said that,” Jimin grins back.

“Oh.  Well. You’re still here.  That’s good.”

There’s a knock on the frame of the door and Taehyung and Hoseok poke their heads in.  

“Hey,” Jimin says.  “He’s awake.”

“I’m awake.  Ish.” Namjoon confirms.

“He’s also drugged,” Jimin adds.

“I’m fine,” Namjoon whines, his head rolling back a little.

“Hooray!”  Hoseok mimes throwing confetti as he walks into the room.  “So, how’re you doing?” He asks, as he and Taehyung sit down on the opposite side of the bed.

“Good.”  He turns to look at Hoseok.  “Jimin is here.”

“We’ve been going over that,” Jimin says, patting Namjoon’s arm with playful condescension.  

“But it’s true!”  Namjoon protests. “Hey,” he asks Taehyung.  “Did you know Jiminie is pretty? Like really, really pretty.”

“Do you want me to record this?”  Taehyung asks Jimin. “So that we can show it to him and embarrass him later?”

“Oh yes,” Jimin nods.  “Yes, please.

 

*     *     *

 

Namjoon falls back asleep not long afterwards, drifting off into a cloud of painkillers and the residual anaesthesia.  Taehyung and Hoseok go to get dinner but Jimin refuses to leave the hospital room, so they tell him they’ll bring him something back.

Jimin watches Namjoon sleep, relief coursing through his body.  A very high probability was a very high probability, but nothing is better than actually okay.  

“You’re not going anywhere,” he whispers.  “You promised.”

Namjoon wakes up again and is a bit more coherent.  Jimin talks to him a bit and manages to tell him that his mom had some issues getting on a flight but that she’ll be there in the morning.  It seems like it gets through. He falls back asleep and when he wakes up again late that evening, he’s more or less back to full cognizance.  

Taehyung and Hoseok are still there, whatever visitation system they had seemingly frozen now that Namjoon is awake.  

“This sucks,” Namjoon complains when Taehyung turns on the TV and starts flipping through channels.

“What?”  Taehyung points at the rerun he’s currently stopped on.  “‘Love in the Moonlight’ is a modern classic.”

“No,” Namjoon says irritably.  “And just so we don’t get stuck on this, you can go tell Bo-gum I think he’s great.  The end.” He blinks heavily a few times. “The problem is that I’m awake enough to know that everything’s blurry as shit and I don’t have my glasses.”

“Oh no.”  Jimin’s hand flys up to his mouth.

“What?”

“Your glasses were smashed on the way to the hospital.  But you’ve got extras right?” Namjoon has to have extras.  Namjoon has dozens of everything.

“I think I have a pair at home.  In my room. Probably on my desk somewhere?”

“Okay, I’ll see if someone can grab them.”  Jimin picks up his phone to call Jungkook.

“I know for a fact you’ve got at least half a dozen pairs,” Hoseok says.

“Oh well…”

Jimin fills the sentence in in his mind.  Maybe a pair left at his parents’. Another pair left in a hotel room.  One broken. Another just lost. Maybe one buried in the back of somewhere because he doesn’t like them any more.  The possibilities are endless.

“They probably got Namjooned,” he says.

“What?”  Hoseok asks.

“You know.  Lost, left, or broken.  Namjooned.”

“Hey!”  Namjoon protests.  “You can’t just verb me like…”

“Hi, Jungkook!”  Jimin mouths sorry at Namjoon and points at the phone- but he obviously doesn’t mean it.  “I need you to go to Namjoon’s room and find his spare glasses. He thinks they’re on his desk.”  He waits while Jungkook keeps him on the phone while he goes to the room. “No, he’s pretty awake now.  Doing well. Say hi, Namjoon,” he holds the phone up.

“Hi.”

“Jungkook says hi, he’s glad you’re okay and he’s coming to visit tomorrow morning.” He relays to Namjoon before going back to his conversation.  “Uh-huh. Huh-uh. Yeah, go ahead and put the mugs in the sink. Nope. Uh-huh. Okay. Cool. Thanks, Kookie. Let me know.” He turns back to Namjoon.  “He says he can’t find them. He’s going to keep looking though and he promises not to be creepy going through your room.”

Namjoon sighs.  “It’s okay. I really appreciate it anyway.”  Then he rolls his head back and groans a little.

“What?”

“I remembered where my spare glasses are.  They’re on the bedside table in Wonderland.”

“That’s okay,” Jimin says.  “I’ll go get them and come back.  If I leave now, I’ll have plenty of time before visitors get kicked out.”

“Jimin, no.  You need to go home, not run around.  You look exhausted.”

“I’m fine,” Jimin protests.

“Will one of you back me up, here?”  Namjoon asks turning to Hoseok and Taehyung.

“We’ll do this then,” Hoseok offers.  “We’ll go, get the glasses, Tae can take Jimin home and I’ll swing by and drop them off.”

Jimin frowns.  “I don’t want to leave you alone.”

“I’m really about ready to fall asleep again.  Go, go.”

“Joonie, I…”

“I just had surgery, I get to win.”

Jimin glares at him.  He would play that card.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Sure, sure?”

“Yes, yes.”

Jimin sighs and leans over the side of the hospital bed so his face is inches away from Namjoon’s.  “Promise me you’ll call or text if you need anything?”

“Yes.”

“And if you think of anything you want me to bring in the morning, you’ll let me know?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re sure, sure, sure you don’t want me to stay.”

“Yes, yes, yes.  I seriously am about to drop off again and I’ll feel better if I know you’re going to get some sleep.”

“Okay.  I’ll be back first thing in the morning.”  Jimin leaves a light kiss on his lips. “I love you.”

“Love you, too.”  The words hang there for a moment between them.  Then Jimin straightens up and Namjoon immediately turns to Taehyung.  “Tae, can you make sure he actually takes care of himself?”

Taehyung snaps to attention and salutes sharply.  “I’m on it.”

 

*     *     *

 

The car ride is quiet.  Taehyung sits in the back.  Hoseok drives and Jimin stares out the window, not saying much except to offer directions.

Namjoon had been right, Taehyung thinks.  Jimin is clearly worn down to the nub and now that he’s not bouncing around being overprotective, he’s completely lost inside of himself.

It’s not the first, or even the fourth, thing on his mind today but Taehyung won’t lie, it’d been interesting watching Jimin and Namjoon interact tonight.  The patter, the I love yous, the background possessiveness. It makes him feel like he might have done the right thing.

Taehyung doesn’t really have a well-thought out explanation for why he did what he did, buying them time, adding his own distractions and tiny lies when Jimin and Namjoon had gotten careless or just plain stupid.  It makes even less sense given all the fears and misgivings he had about the whole thing, anyway. All he knows is that: 1) Jimin has been there for almost every moment of self-doubt, anxiety, and frustration for years now.  He’s impossibly patient and Taehyung’s biggest fan and the best friend he could possible ask for. 2) The list of people in his life who just get him instead of calling him weird or an alien or even joking about him being a mash-up of genius and stupidity is painfully short.  3) In some part of Taehyung’s head Jimin will always be that lonely boy he’d plucked up at school, lost behind his thick accent and a wall of shyness.  

At the end of the day, if Jimin killed someone Taehyung would help hide the body and then take the stand and perjure himself on his behalf.  It’s just what it is.

It had felt unnatural having this thing they didn’t talk about but Taehyung had been willing to wait.  He’d figured that was up to Jimin and being patient was just another step in hiding the body.  But he’s so glad that’s over now. He thinks maybe now he can just be happy for his friends and he and Jimin can go back to the way things should be, without a sliver of daylight between the two of them.

So with all of that settled, he’s really curious about the details.

“Okay,” Taehyung breaks the silence in the car.  “I’ll ask. What the hell’s a ‘Wonderland.’”

“Our pied-a-terre.”  Jimin says absently.

“Your what?” Hoseok asks.

“A small second apartment that only gets used some time.”

“Huh.”  The uncomfortable silence doesn’t lift.

“How long have you had it?”  Taehyung follows up.

“Nine months.  No, ten months.  Maybe a little longer?  Something like that.”

“And it’s called Wonderland because…?”

“Because,” Jimin says still staring out the window.  “It’s a terrible nickname and that's all Namjoon’s fault.”

Jimin isn’t any more forthcoming, though, and Taehyung lets it drop.  Occasionally, Jimin speaks up to give Hoseok a direction but that’s about it.

It’s really funny, Taehyung thinks.  Out of all the people in their group to have a secret affair, it had to be the two who don’t drive.  He wonders if that made getting caught more or less likely. He spends the rest of the trip trying to figure out that math.

 

*     *     *

 

Taehyung doesn’t know what he was expecting but what he sees when he walks in is not it.  It’s not big but it’s nice. The thing that really throws him, though, is how lived-in it feels.  There’s a box of Jimin’s favorite tea on the kitchen counter. One of Namjoon’s moleskins is sits on an end table.  A throw that Taehyung recognizes is laying over the back of the living room couch. The little bowl where Jimin dropped his keys without thinking.  Extra hoodies hanging by the door. The disorganized books on the small bookshelf.  Little reminder notes stuck to the refrigerator.

But then he notices the wall.

Taehyung stands there entranced, staring at the enormous collage of instant photos radiating out from a mostly covered poster.  There are pictures of ordinary things; coffee drinks, noodle dishes, landscapes. There are selfies and pictures of each other, laughing and smiling.  Some of them have captions on them. There’s one picture of Jimin beautificaly asleep in bed, naked except for a blanket barely clinging on for decency.  The caption in Namjoon’s handwriting reads, “Fairy Prince in Repose.” There’s a picture of Namjoon right next to it, asleep with his mouth half open, arms and legs at awkward angles.  The caption in Jimin’s handwriting reads, “Fairy Prince Gets Revenge.” There are a few of pictures of them together with sweet and goofy expressions on their face. There are jokes, affirmations, and romantic gestures.  There’s one of those photo booth photo sets that ends with a kiss.

It is plainly and obviously the story of two people falling in love.

It’s like staring at an alternate universe that has been running parallel to his own.

Hoseok walks up next to him and his eyes run up and down the wall, taking in the cheap poster and the surrounding galaxy of photographs.

“Holy shit.”

“Yeah.”

“Wow.”  Hoseok blinks again.  “This is intense.”

Hoseok’s still extremely bothered by this whole thing, although Taehyung can’t put his finger on the exact thing getting to him so badly.  He’s not even sure Hoseok knows. Still, Taehyung gets that he’s trying. So that’s good enough.

“You should take a couple of pictures to Namjoon when you go back,” Taehyung suggests.  “It might be nice while he’s in the hospital.”

“Sure.”

He does some quick calculations about the type of photos to pick and then plucks three off the wall and hands them to Hoseok.  In one picture Jimin is holding Namjoon’s cheek in one hand and pressing a kiss to the other side of his face. Namjoon is making that scrunched up happy face he makes sometimes, eyes squeezed shut and an enormous closed-mouth smile.  The second one is just Jimin’s face glancing over at the camera with a small but genuine smile. The last one is the two of them in pajamas gazing up at the camera with the caption, “everything’s going to be alright.” It seems appropriate.

There’s a muffled sob from the bedroom and Taehyung’s head snaps up like a startled cat.

“Jimin?”  He walks into the bedroom, trying to step softly so he doesn’t startle him.  He finds Jimin sitting on the floor leaning against the side of the bed away from the door.  Namjoon’s glasses are on the floor next to him and he’s holding on to a large black sweater, tears running down his cheeks.  

“I’m sorry,” he says as soon as he sees Taehyung, wiping at his cheeks with flat fingers.  “I didn’t mean to, I just…”

Taehyung sits down next to him and puts a hand on his thigh.  “Hey, hey. Since when do we not cry in front of each other.”

Jimin gives a little hiccup and a nod.  “I was just so scared this morning. So scared.”  He pulls the sweater to his chest. Taehyung figures it must be one of Namjoon’s.  “And it just sort of hit me, that I yelled that in front of everyone and…” He rocks back and forth a bit, clutching the sweater a little tighter.  “Everyone’s got to be so mad at me. I know you guys have been great today but everyone’s got to be so mad. ”  He hiccups again and Taehyung and can see the sobs starting to rise up again.  “And I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense but that’s why we hid it, we didn’t want to make things hard for anyone.  Didn’t want there to be a scandal because we didn’t want that to affect anything. And,” he stops rocking buries his face in the sweater while tears starting to come in earnest again.  “I love him so much and I was just so scared.”

To Taehyung’s surprise Hoseok’s voice cuts in before he has a chance to say anything.  He’d been so caught up in what Jimin had been saying that he didn’t even notice Hoseok come and lay horizontally across the bed propped up on his elbows.

“I had a realization.  Just a minute ago. Looking at those photos.”

“What?”  Jimin sniffles, trying pull himself together again.

“You guys are one of those disgustingly cute couples, aren’t you.”

“What?”  Jimin looks up at Hoseok, a look of genuine surprise on his face.

“You guys were cute before.  I can’t even imagine how bad it is now that you’re actually a couple.”  He smiles a little at Jimin. “You’re really going to give us all a toothache, huh.”

“I… I don’t know.”  Jimin says hesitatingly but with a little smile.  “I guess we’ll find out.”

“We thought I’d bring back a couple of pictures,” Hoseok says, holding out the three they’d picked.  “Is this okay?”

Jimin looks over the photos in Hoseok’s hand and pulls out the one with the caption on it.  “Not this one,” he says. “There’s context. But… the other two are good. Thank you. That’s a really sweet idea.”

“Sure.”  Hoseok reaches over and ruffles Jimin’s hair.  “We’ll figure everything out. Don’t worry.”

Taehyung hasn’t stopped looking at Hoseok curiously this whole time.  

His mind is currently flying off at 45 degree angles thinking along two lines at once.  On one hand, he’s wondering what exactly made Hoseok flip so hard or if he just hates seeing Jimin cry that much.  Either is totally plausible. You’d have to be a kitten-hating monster not to hate seeing Jimin cry.

On the other hand, what he said has sent Taehyung’s mind rolling back at top speed, like he’s watching a bunch of stock footage played at double time.  Namjoon going all giggly and scrunchy-faced whenever he thinks Jimin is or does something cute. Namjoon calling Jimin sexy while he admires a performance or almost completely unprompted.  Namjoon falling asleep on Jimin’s shoulder, letting Jimin use his lap as his pillow, letting Jimin stand around in a backhug with his chin propped up on Namjoon’s shoulder.

How long has Namjoon had a crush on Jimin, anyway?  And seriously, why did none of them ever call him on it?  Neither question is of earth-shattering- or really any- importance.  He’s curious, though.

“Come on, Jiminie,” he says handing Namjoon’s glasses to Hoseok.  “Let’s get you home. I promised I’d make you get some sleep.” He stands up and holds a hand out for Jimin.  “I’ll even let you bring the security-sweater.”

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin does bring the sweater home with him.  He feels ridiculous but he also can’t bring himself to put it down and he knows Taehyung isn’t judging him about it, so the sweater comes.

Jin, Yoongi, and Jungkook all check on him when he gets in.  It’s nice. He doesn’t feel like he deserves it but he lets them offer him tea and hugs and ask how he is.  He gives them the latest update on how Namjoon is doing and then lets Taehyung manhandle him toward his bedroom with a not-so-idle threat to check later to make sure his light is out, like Tae is his mother at a weeknight bedtime.

He sits dumbly on the side of his bed for a while, just motionless and thankful to have stopped, just for a moment.  He gradually realizes he still has the sweater in his lap and runs his fingers over it. It’s unbelievably soft. He looks at the tag.  He’s been getting snot and tears all over a 100% cashmere sweater. There’s probably something funny or symbolic or ironic about that but he doesn’t have the energy to think through to get there.

He drops off surprisingly quickly, once he’s pulled up the reserves to clean up and crawl into bed.  He wakes up a little before dawn, though. He’s still tired but he feels a little less worn. There’s some optimism crawling around the edges of his mind and things have shifted just a bit from processing his fears to focusing on the fact that Namjoon really is okay and it’s just recovery from here out.

He gets dressed and makes himself coffee before heading out to be at the hospital the moment visiting hours start.  It’s still painfully early and no one else is awake, so he leaves a note and just goes.

When he gets to Namjoon’s room Namjoon’s mother is sitting in the chair next to his bed.  She looks up when Jimin walks in the room. Namjoon is still asleep, so Jimin doesn’t say anything, just gives a polite little bow.

“Jimin.”  She smiles a little and Jimin can see the dimples she clearly gave to her son.  “Let’s go outside,” she whispers gesturing to the door a little. “I’d like to talk a bit.”

Jimin’s stomach tenses.  He likes Namjoon’s mom, they all do.  She’s warm and informal and a little strange.  Exactly who you’d expect if you looked at Kim Namjoon and worked backwards.

Still, she wants to talk to him.  And all Namjoon had said was that he’d surprised his parents more than he meant to.  So Jimin braces himself to hear her thank him for being such a good friend, with a heavy emphasis on the word friend.  And that’s if he’s lucky. It’s entirely possible she’ll thank him for everything and then firmly tell him he’s no longer needed.

Jimin is thrown off guard when she steps through the door and embraces him.  She’s a little shorter than he is and her arms wind around his shoulders in a way that he can feel how tired she is and how scared she was.  He hugs her back tightly because he understands. Every last inch of his body understands.

Finally, she steps back and takes him in, one hand still resting on his shoulder.

“I’m so glad Namjoon has someone like you.”

Oh.

“I’m just glad he’s okay.”

She nods.  “That too. Absolutely, that too.”  She pats his arm signaling him to walk down the hall with her.  “Let’s go get some coffee before Namjoon wakes up. I’ve been awake for 24 hours and could really use the caffeine.”

“Sounds like a good idea.  Cafeteria’s this way.”

“Excellent.”  She pats his shoulder again and has this look like she’s finishing another thought mid-stream.  “Next time you boys have a break, you should come visit for a bit.”

Jimin has been rubbed so raw over the last day, the last week.  Maybe that’s why he feels like his throat is about to close up. Like he might cry for the hundredth time.

“I’d really like that.”

“Good.  And I want to hear stories about the two of you.”  She glances over at him as they walk down the hall.  She looks tired but there’s a bit of a twinkle in her eyes.  “Between the two of us, I’m sure we can embarrass my son for at least an entire weekend.”

“Okay,” Jimin laughs. “Now that I’d really like.”

 

*     *     *

 

It’s late morning when Jackson strides into the room carrying a teddy bear that’s not enormous but a little bit too large to be practical.  Jimin is the only one with Namjoon at the moment and he’s holding Namjoon’s hand, fingers intertwined. The first thing Jackson does is gesture between the two of them.

“So are we talking about this now?”

“Hi,” says Namjoon.  “And sure.”

“Great.”  He sets the teddy bear down on a chair by the door.  The teddy bear stares into the room, unblinking but adorable.  “First of all, though,” he says going to sit on the side of the bed opposite Jimin.  “How’re you feeling? Also, I have a short speech.”

“Like I’ve been hit in the gut by a truck.”  Namjoon replies. “I’ve got great painkillers for when it gets bad, though.”

“Well that’s good.”

“So what’s the speech?”

“I looked some things up on the internet.  Did you know there is a 1-2% chance for your appendix to burst as quick as it did?”

“Um, no?”

“Well there is.  Which leads me to my point.  You do not have to be exceptional at everything.  Next time you have an organ that decides to go haywire, you just chill the fuck out, okay?”  Jackson folds his arms and leans back in his chair. “And never scare the shit out of me like that again.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Namjoon says flatly.  “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Thanks.  So,” Jackson says turning to Jimin, “if we’re talking about this now, I have three things.”

“Yes?”  Jimin looks at him curiously.  Honestly, he’s just entertained at this point.

“One,” he says ticking off a finger.  “He can be terrible about talking about shit that’s bothering him.  Kicking him a bunch or just getting him really drunk usually works.”

“Okay,” Jimin’s lips quirk up a little.

“Two,” Jackson ticks off a second finger.  “If he makes a playlist it’s eight to ten songs max.   Otherwise you are in for some really obscure shit.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“And three,” he holds up a final finger.  “Namjoon and I still get to have a portmanteau name.”

“That’s fine,” Jimin says throwing up his hands in willing surrender.  “I really don’t want one.”

“We don’t have a portmanteau name,” Namjoon cuts in.

“That’s because you rejected all my ideas!” Jackson protests.

“They were all terrible.”

“Hey, I tried.”

“You’re a rapper.  Try better.”

“You know what,” Jimin says standing up.  “I’m going to get another cup of terrible hospital coffee.  I’ll be back in a bit.”

He hears them go back to bantering as he walks out into the hall.  Then Jackson’s voice clearly floats out of the room.

“By the way, man.   Nice pull.”

Jimin has to clap a hand over his mouth so he doesn’t startle half the hospital with a surprised bark of laughter.

 

Chapter Text

Not very long ago...

 

“Okay, so you’re going to think about spinning a plate,” Jimin says holding up a finger and pantomiming pushing a plate with his other hand, while Jin and Namjoon watch him.  “You give it a push in one direction and the plate spins. One push and the whole thing goes around. It’s like that.” He pats the right side of his body. “Almost all the force is going to come from here.”  He holds his finger with the imaginary plate up again. “If you think about the physics for a second, when the plate spins, a point the inside doesn’t have as far to go as a point on the outside, so the points on the outside spin faster.  Same thing with the jump.” He pats his left side. “This side isn’t going to go very far.” He pats his right side again. “This is the side that’s going to cover all the distance. But this is where the push comes from. Hold your body the right way, force becomes torque and you'll just naturally rotate before you land.  Got it?”

“Sort of,” Jin says squinting at Jimin’s fingers.

“Short version: just throw the right side of your body into the air as much as you can, keep your knees bent the right way and science takes care of the rest.”

“I don’t know if I trust science.  Science was mean to me when I was a kid,” Jin replies.

“Whelp.  Time to kiss and make up.”

Jimin slow walks them through the jump.  Step up. Push. Legs like this. Back like this.  First foot down. Second foot down. And… it makes sense.  Namjoon had watched it demonstrated a half a dozen times this afternoon but now he thinks he gets it.  There’s concepts here he can hook into in his mind. A reason why things work.

A half an hour later he and Jin have both managed it a few times and they’re putting it in the context of choreography.  They’re both a bit sweaty and thirsty, though, so they break for a bit while Jimin runs off to make a phone call.

“You know,” Jin says in between gulping down water, “I’m pretty convinced that he’s kind of a genius.”

“Probably,” Namjoon agrees, draining a water bottle.  “God bless him for helping out the slow kids.” Jin gives a breathy chuckle at that.  

There’s that stupid, fluttery thing in his chest again.  He starts to push it away but Jimin picks that exact moment to walk back into the room.  He runs a hand through his this sweat damp hair and then gives them that full-face smile, like there’s nowhere else in the world he’d rather be.  

The thing buries deeper into Namjoon’s chest and curls into a single, aching pin prick of want.

He sighs.

Chapter Text

When Namjoon is released from the hospital, he comes home with antibiotics, some painkillers Jimin insists on calling “happy pills,” and ten pages of instructions that basically boil down to ‘sleep for a week and don’t eat anything exciting.’

Namjoon spends most of the first few days either falling asleep on the couch in the den or falling asleep on the couch in the living room when he needs a change of scenery.  Between the pills and recovering he only drifts into alertness for an hour or two before having to completely fade back out again.

He’s reasonably aware of what’s going on around him, though.  His mom takes the train in the mornings and stocks the fridge with the kind of bland foods the doctors ordered and generally fusses in a way that reminds him of being a kid with the flu, wrapped up on the couch and too sick to go to school.  Jimin seems like he’s rarely more than an arm’s length away, always there somehow when he wakes up, usually there when he drifts off again.

When he’s cognizant enough, Namjoon realizes that the two of them are in cahoots and that this is something that is going to drive him nuts further down the line.  He never says this out loud, though.  Instead, he takes that thought, with all its implications, wraps it up and holds on to it to carry with him through the twilight zones between sleeping and awake.  

He goes in and out.  Half-drunk cups of tea and barely eaten meals disappear in between.  Movies pause and wait to be picked up later.  Books appear neatly bookmarked and sitting on end tables when he clearly remembers them slipping through his fingers.  

Jimin sleeps next to him at night.  Once or twice when he’s had the energy to get a little pushy and annoying Namjoon tries to tell Jimin that he should sleep in his own bed for his own sake.  Get some rest, he says, he doesn’t need to worry about Namjoon so much.

Namjoon gets a quick and sharp no for his efforts.

He’s glad.  Namjoon wants him there.

Namjoon’s nights are a lot like his days only in bed instead of on a couch.  He drifts in and out only this time when there are stretches of lucidity he stares into the dark.

There are a thousand things that should and do keep his mind racing in these periods.  He worries about tour preparations, about delayed filming schedules, about how many rehearsals he’s missing.  He worries about lyrics he owes someone for a collaboration and just worries about words in general.  He stays awake creating bilingual puzzles and attempting to slam together phrases into poetic forms as if language is a fickle housecat threatening to leave if it doesn’t get enough attention.

When he can get his mind to slow down, though, he stares at the ceiling feeling grateful.  

He’s not a fan of his current circumstances.  He hates being sick, hates having to lay here, hates knowing he won’t be getting up and running out of the house tomorrow.  And he doesn’t want to think about what happened.  Doesn’t want to think about EMTs or ambulance rides or the note of panic underneath Jimin’s voice.  Doesn’t want to think about being in so much pain reality had been reduced to a red hot fever dream.  Doesn’t want to think about how he’d stupidly laid there and grit his teeth and told himself he just had to get through a few hours so he could get up and what… record some video?  Someday he’s going to have to reconcile at all, pick through his memories and deal with it.  Just not… now.

Instead, he’s grateful.  He’s grateful for his friends and his family.  He’s grateful that he’s taken care of and loved and that he can collapse and have a place to fall.  

But what he thinks about most is the man asleep in bed next to him.  He tries to wrap his mind around all the years they had together leading up to where they are now.  

He wonders if maybe it was inevitable.  If given enough time shoved together it would have happened one way or another.  He hates that idea, though.  It feels like saying the years friendship and camaraderie didn’t matter in their own right and that’s just not true.

On the other hand, he hates even more the idea that this might not have happened.  That somehow he might have missed this.  That Jimin might never have been his Jimin.  That he might never have been Jimin’s Joonie.  There’s a sour, empty feeling in his throat when he tries to imagine it.

And yet, Namjoon can’t shake the feeling that he’s getting away with something.  That they were never supposed to happen.  That Jimin wasn’t supposed to be his person.  The phrase “not supposed to” looms over him, spelled out in tangled complications.

Above all, though, he thinks about everything he wants to say right now.  His entire situation makes him feel desperate and needy and he wants to thank Jimin over and over again for being there, for taking care of him, for just existing.  But he doesn’t because Namjoon’s just not used to this.  Not used wanting another person around this badly.  Not used to being aware of a yawning gap when they’re gone.

“I think I’m going to be like this for a little while,” Namjoon confesses.  He’s got his arms around Jimin, holding him from behind as they sit on the couch.

“Like what?”

“Clingy.”  Namjoon nuzzles his head in a bit and kisses the juncture between his neck and shoulder.

“I’m human saran wrap,” Jimin replies kissing the top of his head.  “It’s not like I mind.”

“I know it’s just…” Namjoon shuts his eyes.  He knows why.  But saying it out loud skates dangerously close to starting to deal with things.  Fever.  Fear.  Pain.  “With everything that’s happened…”

“There’s been a lot,” Jimin says, giving him permission to not finish his sentence.

“Yeah.”

“A lot all at once.”

Namjoon counts back the days.  It hadn’t been that long ago that he’d been wearing a suit and hiding flowers behind deck chairs.

Now he’s not only been to the hospital but they’ve also gone from no one knowing about them to Namjoon being pretty sure his mom is about ready to offer Jimin the family china.

“I’m sorry.”  Namjoon squeezes Jimin but keeps his head on his shoulder while he talks.

“What?”

“I gave this big speech about how I wanted us to have all the good stuff and the day-to-day stuff and then I just collapsed on you.  Not exactly what I promised.”

“Oh, hard disagree.”

“Oh?”  Namjoon sits up and pulls back enough to look at him.

“I think this is covered under boring day-to-day stuff,” Jimin gives him one of those smaller smiles.  One of the puckish ones that’s not a full-faced grin.  “I’m pretty sure this is squarely in the boring stuff category.  I think we are definitely boring boyfriends now.”

“Boring, terrible boyfriends,” Namjoon corrects.

“Boring, terrible, clingy boyfriends,” Jimin further amends, pulling Namjoon’s arms around him again.  

“So bad at this,” Namjoon says smiling and putting his head back on Jimin’s shoulder.  “We should never inflict this on anyone else.”

“I’m going to consider being with you a public service,” Jimin says patting his arm.

“Oh you suck,” Namjoon makes a hiccuping, choking noise and draws back a bit.

“What?”  Jimin looks genuinely concerned.

“You can’t make me laugh.  It hurts.”

“Oh well.” He relaxes again.  “See, this is why it’s a good thing you’re keeping me away from the public.”

Namjoon makes the hiccupping, choking noise again.  Jimin gets a sharp pinch to the waist that sends him six inches in the air with a loud squeak in return.

 

*     *     *

 

After a few days, Namjoon can more or less get by on his own.  He doesn't feel great and he's in no shape to go back to work but he can lay off the pain meds, get his own lunch and make it through an entire romantic comedy without a nap.

(“Trust me,” Yoongi had told him.  “it's the best thing when you're really sick.  You can fall asleep and when you wake up it's still the same two people who haven't figured out they're in love with each other.  It's like the plot hasn’t moved.”

It had turned out Yoongi was right.  “I think,” Namjoon had told him when he was a little fuzzy but still awake, “I'm developing a thing for early 90s Meg Ryan.”

Yoongi had nodded sagely in agreement.  And Namjoon had realized they had also just agreed to never speak of any of this again.)

Jimin can't justify staying at home all the time and parental intervention gets renegotiated to texts and phone calls and reassurances. Still, schedules get worked out so that most of the time someone’s home with Namjoon for at least a couple more days.  Namjoon knows protesting won't help so he pretends he doesn't notice how deliberate it is.

Even though everything's still upside down because he's stuck at home recovering, he can feel things starting to drift into the new normal.  Before he'd gone to the hospital, everything had felt unbalanced and unsure.  And while it's tempting to ascribe the sort of renewed domestic tranquility to everyone feeling sorry for him, he knows that it's more than that.  Everyone’s getting used to the idea of him and Jimin because clearly, that’s just what it is now.

Everything's weird until it's normal.

Which is great but Namjoon is also starting to get really tired of being cooped up in the house.

He spends more time on social media. He doesn't post anything but it feels like a window to the outside world.

Of course, word has gotten out that Namjoon had been rushed to the hospital.  Big Hit releases the predictable press release: he's fine, he's recovering at home, please respect his privacy.

Just as predictably, the Big Hit offices fill up with deliveries of flowers and well-wishes.  It's the kind of thing that's always going to feel overwhelming. Jimin tweets out a picture thanking everyone for their kindness. It's a selfie in front of a sea of flowers and he looks like he stepped out of a shojo manga.

Then there are the equally predictable tweets screaming at Big Hit.  Because clearly, the only reason he'd end up in the hospital is that the label is working him to death.  They pick apart every interview he's given in the last six months to point out where he might have looked even remotely tired.  It’s the only logical explanation for why he would get sick.

Namjoon can’t help but think that these people would be extremely disappointed if they ever met him.  It probably wouldn't be very satisfying finding out that he’s just a guy.  That not every last thread of his life is connected to being an idol or an artist or whatever.  That sometimes really ordinary things go wrong in his life because again, he's just a guy. Then again, he's also pretty sure that if that corner of the internet found out his dentist is always telling him to floss more, they could find a way to decide that’s a scandal, too.  There's probably no winning.

There’s also a report that pops up from a nurse’s sister’s best friend saying that everyone came by but Jimin stayed in the hospital the entire time.

It doesn’t get spread too widely but Namjoon sees it tossed around with a lot of comments about “MY HEART” and “THOSE BOYS *WEEPS*”  That’s sweet.  It's still a little surreal having someone else be so invested in your relationships but it's also kind of warm.  Like knowing you have a pile of willing friends off in the distance.  

That is until someone gets the CCTV footage.  Uncomfortable doesn't begin to describe what that's like.

He doesn’t know why but he watches the grainy, sped up video.  Watches Jimin sit there slumped and motionless.  Watches Jin come in and sit with him.  Watches the girl come up to talk to them.  Watches the nurse come and lead them away.  That’s it.  

“Looks like he was only there for half an hour, guys. *whomp-whomp*”  Twitter says.  “You can’t expect Jimin to do nothing but take care of everyone, chill out.”  “Seriously, though.  If he left because one person talked to him, that’s kind of an asshole move.”  “Not gonna lie, I’m kinda disappointed in him.”

That’s when Namjoon starts spitting out some choice swear words.

That’s also when Jimin threatens to take his phone away.

“Seriously, I know you’re laid up but you need to get off social media.  You’re going to drive yourself insane.”

“It’s just some serious bullshit.”

“Okay, you’re going to drive me insane.”  Jimin grabs his phone and holds it over his head.  “I will give this back so long as you promise to only look at texts and cat pictures.”

“Don’t be like that,” Jin interjects, looking up from his phone on the other side of the den.  “He should get to look at dog pictures, too.”

“Cat pictures and dog pictures,” Jimin amends decisively.  “Maybe bunny pictures, if you’re good.

“I’ll get off soon, I swear.”

“Not even close to good enough. It's mine now.” Jimin pockets the phone.  “I'm going to make some tea. I'll be back,” he says on his way out of the room.

Namjoon opens his mouth to complain to Jin.

“Don't even,” Jin says before he can get a word out.  “You love it.”

Namjoon shuts his mouth.  

He still wants his phone back.  

“Jimin!”  He calls out.  “If I tell you you're handsome can I have my phone?”

Jimin’s face pops through the doorway.

“How handsome.”

“So devastatingly good-looking I get the internet back?”

He can feel Jimin squinting at him.

“That’s the laziest flattery I’ve ever heard in my life.  Nope.”  And he's gone again.

“Wow,” Jin says mildly, not even glancing up this time.  “You are going to spend a lot of time in the dog house if you don’t get better at that,”  

Namjoon sighs heavily and picks up a book.

 

*     *     *

 

After about a week out of the hospital, Namjoon goes back to work.  Mostly.  He's under doctor's orders not to engage in intense physical activities. So that means no dance rehearsal.  

He's has a small panic attack about this.  Their tour kicks off in a few weeks and even though he's supposed to be cleared for exercise before then, he'll still be incredibly out of practice at that point.  

There's a plan though. He'll perform without dancing for the first few shows.  They’ll get space for extra practices in between until he feels like he's up to speed.

Namjoon still feels terrible about it, a mix of hot guilt and disappointment.

“Don't make me do this,” Yoongi says when he finds a brooding Namjoon with a cup of coffee in the break room.

“What?”

“Give you one of the ‘you’ talks.”

“One of the ‘me’ talks?” Namjoon looks up at him questioningly.

“Yeah.  It's a classic Namjoon talk.”  Yoongi clears his throat. “Your health is most important. The audience will understand. The audience will be able to tell if you're pushing yourself too hard and that will make them sad.  Making the audience sad is bad.  We all support you.”  Yoongi says it like a grocery list, ticking off his fingers while he bullet points.  Then pauses to count at the end, like he's trying to make sure he got it all. “Same talk you’ve given just about everyone at least once.”

“Oh.”  Namjoon pauses.  So this is what being on the other side of that feels like.  Huh.  “Yeah, that makes sense.”

“It better, you wrote it.”  Yoongi grabs his own coffee.  He shakes himself with a little shudder as he leaves the room.  “Ugh.  Don’t ever make me be you again.”

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin has a different response.  The first time Namjoon shows up to rehearsal just to watch, just to keep everything in his head, he hands Namjoon a new composition book and a pen.

“Take notes,” he says simply.  

“You think that’ll help?”

“You dance up here,” Jimin points at his head with the pen.  “It’ll help you.

So Namjoon does.  He’s not exactly sure how to take notes on choreography but he tries.  First, he writes out the steps.  Then he makes little observations.  Then he makes notes of parts he was having trouble with before. 

The second practice though, he goes off the rails.  He starts the same way but then it slips.  He’s still watching, still focused but now it’s turning into something else.  The way most of their choreography works, it’s words to concepts and then concepts into movements.  As he watches, he blocks out the songs entirely and goes backward.  Movements to concepts to words.

He’s not sure what he’s doing but it feels like there might be another one of those ideas in the distance.  Shimmering and indistinct.  Waiting for him to be able to figure it out.

 

*     *     *

 

Jungkook has a girlfriend.  Well, he doesn’t use that word but there’s a girl, anyway.  He announces that she’s coming to meet him at the studio before they go out and nervously asks everyone to be nice to her.  He sounds a bit like he’s introducing her to his parents and it’s adorable.

“Thank god,” Taehyung jokes privately.  “I thought I’d lost him to a den of nerds and Overwatch parties.  Now at least he’ll have something else to do.”

“Again,” Jimin says with a hint of exasperation, “you play video games, too.”

Namjoon stays out of it and very intentionally does not have an opinion.

She shows up right at the end of a vocal rehearsal, catching Jungkook’s eye and waving a little from the doorway.

She is not at all what Namjoon was expecting.  

When Jungkook gets set up, it’s usually with other idols or maybe a young actress.  They’re all very poised and pretty and polished.  Don’t get him wrong, they’ve all been perfectly lovely people but the girl who walks in is pretty in a very different way.  She’s not a camera ready pretty, she’s real-life pretty.  She’s a little disheveled, she wears chucks and cat-eye eyeliner and her hair is accented with streaks of different colors all bundled up in a messy half bun on top of her head.  And Namjoon can already tell she’s container of barely restrained energy. 

Jungkook’s face lights up when he sees her and he immediately runs over to talk to her.   And for once, he looks completely at ease.

He brings her over and introduces her to everyone.  She’s bright and funny and teases Jungkook in this way that’s competitive but also very soft and affectionate and Namjoon thinks that he likes her a lot.

And then she mentions how cool it is that her team is going to be competing in Europe at the same time that they’ll be there on tour because...

Right.  The professional gamers Taehyung’s been only half-seriously throwing a fit over.  That’s her.

They’re really terrible at putting two and two together.  All of them.

Namjoon wonders if this is the kind of thing they need to have a meeting about.

She excuses herself to the ladies room before they leave and Jungkook turns to Namjoon like he’s looking for approval.

“What do you think?”

“She seems pretty great.”

“She’s basically the coolest person ever, hyung,” Jungkook gushes.  “I don’t know why she likes me.”

Because you’re a very handsome, extremely talented and successful international pop star?  Who wouldn’t like you?  That’s what Namjoon’s mind fills in.  But he doesn’t say it.

Because that’s been the problem, isn’t it?  That’s not the real answer.  The real answer is that Jungkook is sweet and warm and fun and can be kind of a dork and Namjoon’s willing to bet they have a ton of things in common.  Unlike the girls he usually goes out with.  The ones who make him unbelievably nervous.  The ones he’s supposed to like.

And Namjoon is hit with another, much more profound, realization.

“Supposed to” is a stupid and completely made up idea.

“Because you’re great,” Namjoon replies instead.

Jungkook smiles over at him, “You think so?”

“One thousand percent.”

She comes back, pauses to show Jungkook the Wonder Woman socks she’d forgotten to point out earlier (he completely loves them), and the two of take off for the evening.

“Omigosh,” Jimin says, excitedly clapping at his upper arm.  “They’re so cute.”

Namjoon doesn’t say anything.  Instead, he wraps his arms around Jimin’s waist and pulls him close to him so that they’re face to face.

“What’s this for?”  

All the times Namjoon thought it wasn’t supposed to be Jimin.  It wasn’t supposed to be them.  He wasn’t supposed to let this happen.  

He finally lets the idea go.  There is no supposed to.  There just is.

“Because I’m an idiot,” Namjoon says simply.  

“Aw.  You’ve got some moments now and then,” Jimin says loosely wrapping his arms around Namjoon’s neck.

“Thanks.  Glad I have you to recognize that.”

“Stick with me, kid,” Jimin teases with a grin.  “I think we could really go places.”

 

*     *     *

 

The label, however, doesn’t exactly see it that way.  There’s still the fact that Jimin shouted about their relationship in front of pretty much the entire company.  And management has some thoughts about that.

Once Namjoon is back at work and healthy enough not to be the target of constant sympathy he gets in trouble.  Or at least it feels like that.  He’s not entirely sure if he can get into trouble in the sort of “getting called to the principal’s office” kind of way anymore.  He’s a little too aware of how responsible they are for everyone’s paycheck at this point.  But he does have to have a meeting with PD Bang about the whole thing.

It doesn’t go well.

It starts out uncomfortable but civil.  It’s also clear the PD has in the back of his head that this means that everything could collapse at any moment now and that he and Jimin have been absolutely nothing but irresponsible.  Nothing gets worked out.  It escalates.

For the first time in his life, Namjoon storms out of an office.

Somehow, though, it does get worked out.  Yoongi does… something, Namjoon is never exactly clear on what.  But the second conversation involves both him and Jimin and is much more reasonable.  They agree to be careful, agree that a scandal wouldn’t be good for anyone. 

Then they have to have a long and awkward conversation with a senior agent at their PR firm.  She asks them a raft of invasive questions that make Namjoon instinctively recoil.  But they answer honestly while an assistant types notes into his laptop at a million miles an hour.  And eventually, they’re done sitting in a glass-encased conference room and drinking bottled water while they rake over their personal lives.

He and Jimin treat themselves to some very fancy coffee and the rest of the afternoon off as reward to themselves for getting through it.  

Finally, the label sends out a general but very pointed reminder to all the staff that they signed NDAs and the members’ personal lives are off limits.

And that’s that.

Well, mostly.

Jimin also makes an awkward request with management that he and Namjoon share hotel rooms on tour.

Afterward, Namjoon points out that he needs a room so that there’s space for all his portable studio equipment, anyway, and they don’t need anyone’s permission to just stay together.  It’s still two rooms, no matter how you slice it.

He watches Jimin’s face as it dawns on him that the entire uncomfortable conversation he just had was completely unnecessary.  

Namjoon is probably a terrible person but he starts laughing so hard he can barely stand up straight and has to lean on Jimin for support.

“Oh shut up,” Jimin says playfully pushing Namjoon off of him but starting to laugh despite himself.

“No, no.”  Namjoon steadies himself, placing a hand on Jimin’s shoulder in mock seriousness, trying to calm down enough to get through a sentence.  “It is vitally important to Big Hit that we have space to fuck.” 

Jimin drops into a crouch, too overtaken by embarrassed laughter to stand up anymore.

“I hate you so, so much right now.”

 

*     *     *

 

They decide to close up Wonderland before they go on tour.  They’ll be gone for a while and anyway, they don’t really need it anymore.  It also feels like a sort of act of good faith.  Almost a promise not to conceal something this big again.

Hoseok offers to drive and help out.  Namjoon is pretty sure he’s in good enough shape to put some things in suitcases but Jimin is still on an overprotective high alert and insists that they’ll have it all done by the time he’s able to come by.

It seems like a peace offering, too, so Namjoon relents and lets Hoseok and Jimin handle most of it.  By the time Namjoon gets there almost everything is packed up. 

It’s so strange seeing everything gathered together in a few pieces of luggage.  But it’s also strange realizing just how many things they’d ended up putting in this place.  Clothes.  Dishes.  Shampoo.  Books.  Snacks.  Umbrellas.  It’s all ordinary stuff but it makes Namjoon realize they had a sliver of a life here.  It’s surprisingly hard to let it go.

He knows he's being sentimental but the empty wall looks almost mournful, stripped of its poster and photographs. Jimin has a photo album, though, every picture sitting neatly in a sleeve. It feels good to know it's coming with them.

Hoseok takes the last suitcase down, saying he'll wait for them at the car.  He seems to get they need a moment to say goodbye. Namjoon isn't sure what he and Jimin talked about this morning but they seem happily on the same page.

Namjoon stands in the kitchen. The apartment's not really empty. It looks more or less like it did when they first got it.  It seems to echo, though.  

“It's bizarre to think this place isn't ours, anymore." Namjoon comments mildly.  

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

No more coming late. No more leaving early. No more “first rule, Joonie” when he walks in the door.

“Hey.”  He grabs Jimin's hand and pulls him closer.  “Second rule.”

“Nope.”

Namjoon frowns.  He doesn’t think Jimin has ever refused to kiss him before and he feels unreasonably petulant about it.

“Why not?”

“Rule two says I have to kiss you when I leave but,” Jimin takes his other hand, too, and looks up at him.  “We’re walking out together and no one’s going anywhere.” 

Namjoon huffs a little smile.  “Okay then.  Kiss me because you love me.”

“I can do that,” Jimin says, smiling back.

And he does.

In the end, Namjoon’s glad they don’t close the door with a kiss goodbye.

 

*     *     *

 

The month after Namjoon gets out of the hospital is one of the longest of his life.  

There are a lot of good things.  He recovers.  He goes back to work.  Things start to settle into the new normal.  He doesn’t have to police the way he acts around Jimin anymore.  They can exist in each other's spaces and spend time together pretty much whenever they want.  It feels wild not having to worry about logistics or gymnastics.

Jimin’s birthday also comes and goes.  And while Namjoon wasn’t able to plan a whole thing like Jimin had, he’s still pretty sure he managed to nail the first birthday as the official boyfriend.

(Taehyung had asked Namjoon if he’d wanted help with Jimin’s present, warning him, “this is important, hyung.”

Taehyung had also given Namjoon an honest-to-god application to date Jimin just a few days prior, so Namjoon really hadn’t been inclined to do anything but say “I’ve already got it” and kick him out of his room.  After reminding him to knock.  Again.

The day of there’d been the whole surprise cake thing, recorded for social media.  And for someone who thrives on attention, Jimin tends to get shy and flustered at things like that, and it never fails to be charming.  

After the cameras had been turned off so they could celebrate privately, Namjoon had casually given Jimin some flowers and an envelope.

Taehyung had given him a slightly exasperated look that seemed to say, “That’s it?”

Then Jimin’s eyes had gone a bit wide after opening the envelope.

“What is it?”  Hoseok had asked.

“It’s box seat tickets to go to the American Ballet Theater when we’re in New York” Jimin had said pulling out a pair of tickets printed in English wrapped in a note in Korean.  “And this says Seo Hee is dancing the lead,” he’d said grinning broadly.  “Aaaand…” he’d pulled out the rest of the papers that were stuffed into the envelope.  “...there’s what looks like a bunch of emails but it’s all in English,” he’d finished flatly.

“Well,” Namjoon had said, trying to sound casual.  “I got our manager to contact the manager at ABT and a long story and a ton of emails later… she’s meeting us for drinks after the show.”

Jimin’s eyes had gotten even wider for a second.  Then he’d squealed, “Joonie!” and jumped up and kissed him in front of everyone.

Then Jimin had had to explain everything to a very confused everyone else, bubbling over with excitement while he had talked.

Namjoon had leaned over and smugly whispered to Taehyung, “I told you I had this.  Don’t be surprised I pay attention.”

Namjoon won’t lie.  That had felt really good.)

All of this would have been fantastic without any asterisks if it weren’t for one problem.  Namjoon is dating one of the most attractive people he’s ever met and he doesn’t have to sneak around anymore.  He’s also literally under doctor’s orders not to exert himself physically or get his heart rate up.

So THAT’S fun.

He’s pretty sure he hasn’t been this sexually frustrated since he was a teenager.

Namjoon isn’t too worried about the prohibition but Jimin is overprotective and adamant.  Still, Namjoon thinks that it’s the sort of thing Jimin’s bound to let go of, given the right moment.

He wakes Jimin up over one morning with lazy kisses and they lay there for a while, just enjoying the closeness of their sleepy bodies.  His hands map the shape of Jimin's back and run through his hair.  Then one slips down to appreciate the curve of his ass and pull him closer and… Namjoon is firmly being pushed in the opposite direction by his breathless boyfriend who firmly says:

“We need to stop.”

Another night they're watching a movie and Jimin has his head pillowed on Namjoon's thigh. Namjoon has a hand on resting on his hip and he rubs a little, affectionate, not sexual.  Then his hand slowly makes its way down and slides under Jimin's t-shirt, still not doing much, just running his fingers over the lines of his stomach. Namjoon pushes his luck even further, getting closer and closer to the waist of his jeans.  Then he’s just barely pushing past, fingers brushing over smooth skin and just a millimeter or two below the elastic band of his underwear and…

Jimin slaps his hand.

Jimin slaps his hand.

Finally, one evening he walks into the living room and gives up. Jimin is on the floor, legs spread impossibly wide while he leans over, casually flipping through a book.

“You're actually physically torturing me now.  You know that, right.”

Jimin looks up surprised like he hadn't heard him come in. “I'm just stretching.  It's good for you.”

“It's not good for me,” Namjoon says gracelessly flopping down to lay on the couch in defeat. “I already want to bend you over just about every surface in our house and now,” he waves a hand at Jimin, legs still out in a wildly obtuse v, “this.”

Namjoon realizes he's whining.  1)  Namjoon does not whine.  2) Whining has never gotten anyone laid.  Ever.

The judgemental eyebrow goes up.

“Well, that was graphic,” Jimin deadpans.  “Also, I don't think the people we live with would be too happy about that.”

Namjoon sighs and scrubs his hands over his face. “I'm sorry, I'm just not…”

“... good at not being one hundred percent?” Jimin cuts in, moving to sit next to Namjoon.  

“Yeah.”

“Really,” Jimin says, feigning surprise. “I hadn't noticed.”

“Thanks.”

“If it helps, none of us are good at that.  We all kinda suck at sitting back.”

“Yeah, you’re pretty much the worst,” Namjoon says, pretending to contemplate.  

“Excuse me!”  Jimin hits him lightly on the upper arm.  “Jin had to call your mom on you. Twice.  You are literally the guy whose appendix burst because he didn’t want to take a sick day.”

“Oh, so you can hit me but you can’t make out with me,” Namjoon jokes, ignoring Jimin’s retort.

Instead of laughing, Jimin takes one of Namjoon's hands and holds it in both of his, rubbing a little at the juncture between his thumb and his palm. “Can I be serious for a second?”

“Of course.”

“The day you went to the hospital… It scared the shit out of me.  I just really, really, really need you to be okay.”  Jimin looks up at him and there's this look in his eyes.  Like something's slipped.  He looks powerless and sad. “Can we please just follow doctor's orders? Please?”

He looks small. Namjoon hates anything that makes Jimin feel small. And right now that's him.

Shit.

“Okay.” He squeezes one of Jimin's hands and looks into his eyes. “To the letter.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.  To the punctuation even.”

“Thank you.”  Jimin leans in and kisses him softly.  

He’s going to be better, Namjoon promises himself.  He’s going to be better for him. 

 

*     *     *

 

Jimin reserves the dance studio for himself one evening.  Modern dance.  Keeping in practice.  That whole thing.

Namjoon shows up just as he’s finished warm up and is cueing up the music.

He holds up the composition notebook Jimin gave him before Jimin can protest.

“Dance studio.  I’m here to dance.”

Jimin gives him a curious look but doesn’t say anything.  He nods and presses play.  And then he’s off.

Namjoon sits and watches and thinks.  

Grace.  And strength.  Emotion.  And control.

He opens the notebook, tunes out the music and starts to work.

Movement.  To concepts.  To words.

 

*     *     *

 

Just left the doctor’s office.

Yeah?

Yup.  And I’m cleared for intense physical activities.

Oh!

The texts Namjoon gets in response are disappointingly monosyllabic.  The reception Namjoon gets when he comes home is even less verbal but it's also a lot less disappointing and much more expressive.

Namjoon’s never been shoved up against a door without any warning and kissed to hell and back.  And now that he has, he’s certainly not going to complain about it.  At all.

But he still has his jacket and his shoes on and he’s aware that they live with other people.  And he still has a shred of dignity.

“Um, gimme a second,” he says awkwardly.

Jimin steps back.  He doesn’t say in anything in response.  Instead, he hooks a thumb under the bottom of his shirt and lifts it up to reveal a toned abdomen and a line of lace peeking up above the waistband of his jeans.

And dignity is dead.  Namjoon never liked dignity much, anyway.

He gets his shoes off in record time and practically races Jimin to his bedroom.

As soon as they get inside Jimin all but throws Namjoon on the bed. Then he climbs on top of Namjoon straddling him and sitting back.  

“So,” Jimin purrs, his hands wandering over Namjoon's chest. “What do you want to do?”

Namjoon runs his hands up his thighs. God, he's really missed those thighs.  He's really missed a lot of things.

“With you?” He says, a smile spreading across his face. “Everything.”

 

*     *     *

 

Namjoon has absolutely no idea how much time has passed when he finally collapses onto to his back, sweaty, out of breath, and body positively thrumming.  

“I am really glad we started having sex.”  He gets out between breaths. 

“Yeah, that was definitely a good life decision,” Jimin says, voice also breathy and ragged.

They both laugh a little but neither one of them moves while they catch their breath.  Then Jimin stretches one leg back and then trades it for the other, nearly folding himself in half when he pulls each one toward his chest.

“Don’t do that,” Namjoon waves at him.  “I’m not up for another round, yet.”

Jimin laughs.  “You know I’m flexible for reasons that have nothing to with getting you off, right.”

“And yet,” Namjoon raises a finger, “you’re very good at it.”

Jimin gives him a broad grin. “I like goofy post-sex Namjoon.”

Namjoon huffs a chuckle and pushes a sticky bit of his hair back, sweat drying on his forehead.  Then he looks back at Jimin.  His hair is flying out in all directions where he ran a hand through it.  The pale skin of his chest is still flushed from exertion.  And the only evidence left of the eyeliner he'd been wearing is a melted streak of gray near the corner of his eye.  He’s looking back at Namjoon, a warm, lazy grin decorating his face.

“I love you,” Namjoon says like it's obvious and a revelation, all at once.

“I'm thirsty.”

There's a beat and then Jimin's brain catches up with his mouth. He turns pink and tries to hide his head beneath a pillow.  

“I mean, I love you, too,” he squeezes out between hiccuping laughs.  “I am thirsty but I meant to say I love you, first.”

Namjoon thinks he's going to die he's laughing so hard.  “That was amazing,” he manages to get out, punctuating his words with hand claps. “I'm second to a glass of water.  If that.”

“Shut up!”  Jimin whacks him with the pillow.  “My brain is fuzzy, it's not my fault.”

“No, it's good to know where things stand in your subconscious.”

“You…!” And Jimin is on him grabbing Namjoon's face between his hands. He peppers kisses on his forehead, his cheeks, his nose and his chin. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” he insists over and over while Namjoon scrunches up his face and laughs again.

Namjoon wraps his arms around Jimin and pulls him close.

“Mine,” he says simply.

“Yup.” Jimin gives Namjoon one more soft kiss on his forehead. “Mine.”

“Yup.”

“... I'm still thirsty, though.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon admits. “So am I.”

 

*     *     *

 

Now that Namjoon has stopped worrying about how he and Jimin are supposed to act around other people, he finds himself doing exactly what he’d wanted to do before everyone found out like they did and things got derailed.  Which is shout to the world that he and Jimin are in love and that’s fucking awesome.  

“Oh god.  You really are turning into a morning person,” Yoongi gripes in response to one of Namjoon’s fuzzy smiles over breakfast.

“We get it, you like each other,” Jin says teasing him after yet another story that starts with, “So this one time Jimin and I…”

“Eeee!”  Jungkook squeaks happily when he notices the pictures Hoseok brought Namjoon in the hospital sitting carefully framed in his studio.

“I was right.  You’re cute.”  Hoseok accuses, walking into the living room where they’re giggling and play-fighting over the remote.

“You’ve started locking your door,” Taehyung complains.  Namjoon doesn’t respond, just watches as he pauses and works backward.  “Nevermind,” he amends.  “I am very okay with that.”

In the end, though, not that much changes in how they act in front of other people.  For a long time now they’ve sat in each other’s spaces, fallen into each other’s laps when they laughed, teased or praised each other openly.

Maybe now there's an extra hand on a shoulder or a hip that wouldn't have been there before.  Maybe an inside joke.  But mostly, not much changes.

Mostly it's like it always was.  

Just a lot more.  

 

*     *     *

 

They have the first show of the tour, the hometown kick-off.  The stadium is packed.  The crowds are wild.  Namjoon has to stay to the side at times, he can’t dance, but he still fills up the stage every chance he gets, raps with a fire that’s been building up all month.  Everything he tosses out he gets back a thousandfold. 

He feels like the goddamn king of the world.

When they address the crowd he thanks everyone for their support while he was in the hospital and gets a wall of loving cheers back.  He apologizes for not dancing and then says, “I don’t know, maybe that’s a good thing” and Jin counters, “no, no, I need someone to make me look good.”  Tens of thousands of voices laugh but it’s affectionate and in on the joke.

During the back of the show when they’re all messing around, Jimin decides he has permission to really get in his face.  He hangs off him and pinches his cheeks.  He’s cute and annoying and Namjoon gives in and gives just as good as he gets, their usual banter transformed into a kind of physical back and forth that just works.  It doesn’t distract from anything else going on but it throws more energy around the stage and draws cheers from the crowd.

After the show, they’re handed towels and water as they file back to the green room to catch their breath and come down from the show.  There’s champagne waiting for them, a toast to the first show of the tour.  Jimin opens the bottle and pours everyone a bubbly glass and they toast.  After he drains his glass, he flops down on the couch with his legs on Taehyung’s and lays his head on Namjoon’s lap.  He smiles up at Namjoon, wide and radiant and Namjoon gives a little laugh and grins back down at him as he lays a possessive arm across his chest.

He really is the goddamn king of the world.

 

*     *     *

 

“Wake up.”  Namjoon leans over and shakes Jimin’s shoulder.  “Come on.  Wake up.”  There’s probably a nicer way to do this but right now he’s aiming for effective.

“Wha…?”  Jimin’s eyes blink open and he looks around.  It’s still dark out and there’s no light filtering in behind the curtains yet.  “Joonie, it’s so fucking early.”

“This was your idea.  Get up.”

“Aw fuck.”  He rubs his eyes.  “It was, wasn’t it.”  He shakes his head like he’s trying to knock all the residual sleep out of it.  “Okay, I’m excited.  I’m awake.  This was a great idea.”

Jimin awake, Namjoon gets up and digs out a pair of jeans and a sweater.  Normally he’s not chomping at the bit to get up at before dawn but they leave the country to go on tour tomorrow.  And this is something Jimin had wanted to do before they left.  A few hours of quiet time, just the two of them.  And Namjoon is more than happy to go along with it because… it’s Jimin.

And Namjoon has this thing when it comes to Jimin.  He’s cute and he’s funny and he makes Namjoon smile and laugh, sometimes even despite himself.  When Jimin laughs, he laughs with his entire body.  When he smiles, he smiles with his entire face.  When he does anything, he puts his entire being into it, without reservation.  He’s smart and he’s thoughtful and he’s kind.   He’s just right for Namjoon to throw an arm over his shoulder without even thinking.  And when Namjoon slips a hand around his waist and pulls him in, he always fits perfectly into Namjoon’s side.  

They go to the kitchen where they make coffee and throw together some things for breakfast.  They whisper and they move carefully, trying to make sure they don’t wake up any of their housemates.

“Ack, no.”  Jimin expresses as much discontent as he can at a single decibel, taking two bananas out of the canvas bag on the counter.  “That’ll get beat up and by the time we stop everything will smell like rotten banana.”

“Okay, wanna pass me a durian?” Namjoon jokes.  

“Ha ha.”

Food packed and thermoses filled with coffee they grab jackets, face masks, and caps before they head out the door.  There’s something about Jimin’s face when he wears a knit cap, like a picture that’s been framed. 

“Hey.  Before we go.”

Jimin looks over at him and Namjoon pulls him in for a kiss.  Jimin smiles into the kiss and melts against him.  Namjoon thinks he’s probably never going to get tired of the way this feels.

Namjoon has this thing when it comes to Jimin.  He’s indulgent and open in bed and usually more than happy to go along with whatever’s been in the back of Namjoon’s mind.  But he’s also the kind of person who uses the phrase “make love” and really means it.  He has a hidden romantic streak a mile wide, filled with little dreams he feels like he doesn't deserve.  And Namjoon wants to build an entire hobby out of pulling those dreams out into the real world.

They head down to the garage of the apartment complex, walking past the rows of luxury cars and sensible sedans to open up the bike room.  They pull out a pair of cruiser bikes and put breakfast in the baskets on the front. 

They wave at security as they leave the complex and walk the bikes out to the street.  Then there's a quick disagreement about what the best way to go is.

“No, if we take a left at the end of the street we can take a short cut to the bike path.”

“But it doesn’t matter because we’ll end up having to go around, anyway.”

It doesn’t last long.  They figure things out, make a plan, and then they’re off.  It’s not a big deal.

But Namjoon has this thing when it comes to Jimin.  He can see a mile away that inevitably there will be conflicts and fights. He knows Jimin can be demanding and lashes out when he's hurt.  Namjoon knows that he can get wrapped up in his head or in trying to fix things and ends up being dismissive or controlling.  But he also knows that it's fine. He knows that a yelling match won't be the end.  They're just human.  And they know how to talk through the noise.  They know how to untangle all the knots until things fall into place again.

Once they get to the path, the river stretches out deep and dark beside them as they ride.  Overhead the light is threatening to break, sky fading from black to a deep purple.

Jimin films a little and has Namjoon pull over to the side of the path for a bit.  He takes a picture of the two of them, gazing up at the camera.  They look happy and Jimin declares it’s good enough for social media, even though they’re both barefaced and not dressed for anything.

Well, he takes five more pictures just in case.  He wants backups so he can decide what works later.  Namjoon gets it.

And Namjoon has this thing when it comes to Jimin.  He knows Jimin has his own private agonies and he wants to be there before he can paper over them with smiles and denials.  He wants him to know that he’s not alone.  He wants to be a safe place for him to hide in.  An island where he can shelter when the storms inevitably roar to life and threaten to tear him down.

They keep making their way down the river until they reach a park at a bend where they’re looking more north-east than straight north.  They park the bikes and take out breakfast to eat on a park bench while they watch the sun come up across the river.

Dawn is really breaking now, the whole city slowly bathed in the first pink blush of morning.  It’s amazing to Namjoon that no matter how long he lives here, no matter how much time he spends staring at the streets and the bridges and the buildings, in a moment like this it can all look brand new again from a distance.

He doesn’t say anything but Jimin leans his shoulder against Namjoon’s and sighs like he understands.

Namjoon has this thing when it comes to Jimin.  He wants to bury himself in his chest when he’s overwhelmed.  He wants Jimin’s compassion and care when he’s crumbling.  He wants to run away to him when he’s exhausted.  He wants him to guard all the confusing and humiliating parts of himself and tell him over and over again that it’s okay, that he’s okay.

Namjoon feels a tap on his ankle and realizes Jimin has just kicked him lightly.

“Hey,” he glances over at Namjoon.  He’s curious, not annoyed.  “Where’d you go?”

“Just thinking.”  Namjoon shrugs, looking out over the river.  “About us.  About our thing.”

“Hmm,” Jimin says, sipping his coffee and leaning against him again, as he turns back to watch the sunrise.  “I like our thing.”

The breaking light is casting colors over the water now, sharp oranges and reds.  They ripple in front of Namjoon, a reflection of dawn dancing in front of his eyes.

“Yeah,” he says, leaning back against Jimin.  “Me too.”

Chapter Text

Not too far in the future

 

“I think this part needs to go over here,” Jimin says pointing at the notebook.  “You need some space before you land.”

Namjoon glances back down at the book then presses play on the arrangement on the laptop, singing the revised order under his breath.

“We need to change the rhythm in this middle section then,” he says pointing at the words.

“Hmm…”  Jimin drops down to a crouch, resting his chin on his forearms folded on the edge of the desk.

It’s a new sort of thing that they’re working on.  Namjoon had said it might be complete nonsense when he first showed Jimin his dance notebooks, as he’d called them, but instead, Jimin had shaken his head.  There was an instinctual sense as soon as he looked at them. All these phrases were written down but instead of some kind of linear form, they were connected by swooping and swirling lines, crashing into heavier ones, lighter ones spinning off into nothing.  

It was less a story than a series of images tied together in ways that don’t want to hold still.

And so they were working on it now, laying it all over music.  It was fun to talk about too, a different kind of vocabulary for how they're putting everything together.  “The verb needs to be cleaner and sharper here.” “Let’s see if we can get more rotation out of this part.” “Do you think this phrase is graceful enough?”

Neither one of them is sure what it’s going to look like in the end.  But it’s interesting and exciting and they both love working on it.

“Ooh!”  Jimin’s head pops up.  “What if instead of changing the words you just stretch the middle syllables.  Make the word spin around. Like a pirouette.”

Namjoon runs through the line a couple of times, his rapper’s tongue bending the sounds around until they slide into place.

“Yeah,” he smiles at Jimin.  “A pirouette.”

Chapter Text

Bonus Track 1:  Hyungs

Two days before the hospital

Jungkook sits on his bed in his room, fingers flying over the game on his phone.  

He is very done for the day today and would like very much to be alone and to ignore his hyungs.

He really wants to ignore his hyungs.

Because apparently everyone wants to act like they’re living in a drama and Jungkook has really never liked those.  If suddenly everyone knew kung-fu and they all turned out to be assassins or something, that’d be fun.  But nope.  He gets dropped into a drama, not an action movie.

He’s tapping the phone a little harder than he needs to right now and there’s a satisfying little thumping rhythm while he hits the falling tiles.

So Jimin and Namjoon hooked up. Jimin is wonderful and Namjoon is wonderful and if they’re happy then that’s fantastic.  Wonderful people deserve each other.  Love is pretty great.

But nope.  Not good enough for the rest of his hyungs.  Instead, everything around him is crackling with bristling tension like there’s been a knock-down, drag-out fight.

Argh.  Jungkook had wanted to get away from the whole thing.  Instead he brought it in here with him.

He closes down the game and starts flipping through songs on his phone looking for something he wants to listen to.  Then his phone vibrates and a little text box slides down before disappearing again.

Yejin (Ninja Queen)
Wanna see how my day went?  *pic*

Jungkook opens the text immediately and sees a selfie of her sitting in a coffee shop, elbow on the table, chin resting on her palm and her tongue slightly out in an “uck” face.

Before he messages back, he spends three minutes taking half a dozen selfies, mouth drawn to the side and his own eyes exaggeratedly wide with frustration.

Oh man, I’m sorry.

Here’s my day, btw.

He attaches his best frustrated face pic.  Or at least the one that feels cutest.

Aw.  What’s going on with you?

Gonna kill my hyungs.  You? 

Gonna kill my oppas.

Love it when we have things in common.

Just dead hyungs and oppas everywhere.  Great foundation for a relationship.

There’s another picture.  This time she’s holding up a butter knife and pretending to look threatening.

Jungkook laughs out loud.  Then he saves the picture.  And the one before, too.  She’s got her hair up in buns on either side of her head today and pink strands are falling around her face.  He spends about 10 seconds pausing on how cute it is, despite the silliness of the photos.

Poor hyungs and oppas.  Never saw it coming.

Jungkook bites his lip.

What’re you up to tonight?  Wanna meet up and commiserate?

He holds his breath for a moment.

That sounds awesome.

And he exhales.

Come over to my place and we’ll make murder plans?

Jungkook grins at his phone.

Lemme know when’s good for you and I’ll be there with ice cream.

Mint chip.

Obviously.

8:00?

Perfect.

Forget his hyungs.  Jungkook is having a great day.

 

 

Bonus Track 2:  Man Up and Put On Your Mom Jeans

The day Namjoon is rushed to the hospital

Jin does not like being responsible.

Okay, rephrase that. Jin is extremely responsible.  He doesn't like having to act like it though.

But there's a reason the joke is that he's the mom of the group.

“I’m going to the hospital,” he says turning to Jungkook and Yoongi half a moment after Namjoon has disappeared.  “But we should work out a rotation so that we’re there in shifts.”

“Shifts?” Jungkook asks.

“I don’t know what’s up but I don’t think Jimin’s going to leave until it’s figured out.  So just in case… you guys should come by this afternoon.  Then tell Tae and Hoseok to come this evening.”  There is no rhyme or reason to this division of labor, just who happens to be in front of him.  “We’ll see how the day goes.  But I think it’d be a good idea to also have someone there and someone at home.  And to make sure we don’t all get totally worn out.”

“Okay,” Yoongi nods.  “We’ll figure things out here.  Text us once you’ve got a better idea of what’s going on.”

“Uh, guys?” Jungkook is looking around.  Jin was so caught up in organization he didn’t notice the buzzing around him.  It feels like everyone in the building is talking to the person next to them in slightly hushed tones.  

Well this whole morning is a nightmare on a lot of levels.

That’s not his problem right now.  Let everyone else figure that part out.

Jin sees both Namjoon’s and Jimin’s phones on the floor and grabs them before heading back to the prep room.  He grabs his bag and stuffs some tissues in it and steals a packet of make-up wipes.

Jimin probably looks like the heroine in a break-up scene by now.

Okay, he thinks, anything he’s missing?  He runs by the break room and grabs a couple of protein bars and bottles of water on his way out.

Dammit.  He really has turned into a mom.

One of the producers grabs him on the way out.

“Hey, is that true?  Like, how long has that been going on?”

Jin doesn't have to ask what that means.  And anyway, he's known about it for what? Not even four days now?  And Jin has felt weird about it for four days.  He’s still not over it.  

“I gotta go.”  He’s not dealing with that right now.

When he’s finally at the hospital, finally checked in as a guest, and finally directed to the waiting room he sees Jimin.  He’s staring at a plastic bag in his hands, stock still, a little statue of frozen fear and vulnerability.

Jin’s heart breaks.  

He’s over it.

He sits down next to Jimin and affectionately rubs his friend’s shoulder.

“How’re you holding up?”

 

 

Bonus Track 3:  Yoongi Feels Pretty Good

Two weeks after the hospital

Yoongi hears the shouting before he sees Namjoon storm out of the office, obviously choking back tears, jaw set hurt and angry.  Yoongi had only made out a few words that PD Bang had yelled and “Jimin” and “professional responsibility” were in there.

So he knows what that was about.

Yoongi is mad before he knows it.  Suddenly he understands something in his gut and Yoongi is furious. Pure unadulterated rage carries him into his boss’s office and he’s slamming the door shut before his brain fully catches what he’s doing.

“Yoongi, now is a really bad time.”  PD Bang sounds tired and upset.

Yoongi doesn’t care.  He doesn’t get angry, really truly angry, very often.  But when he does his mouth has a tendency to run and he can’t really give two shits about stopping it.

“Shut up.”  His voice is level with barely contained rage.  “You are going to shut up and you are going to listen because you have just done one of the most fucking stupid things I have ever seen in my life.”  The PD looks up at him surprised and alarmed.  Yoongi has had his rages but he’s never talked to his boss like this.  Not even close.

“You’ve got no idea what it’s like.  You don’t know what it’s like to have to put your entire personal life into the shadows.  And yeah that’s what we signed up for but fuck that.  And I’m sorry, I’m sorry if two of your stars dared to have feelings for one fucking minute but you do not make them feel shit about that.”  Yoongi hits the desk for emphasis.  PD Bang looks like he’s going to say something but Yoongi barrels on.  “That kid you just let run out of your office?”  He points emphatically at the door.  “How the fuck do you think he feels right now.  How the fuck.  And even if you don’t give a damn about that, that’s one your fucking golden geese you crushed right there.”  Yoongi pauses, he breathes.  He’s furious about so much right now, it’s hard to stay on track.  “I know,” he starts again forcing himself to be quieter, more level, “that this is a big fucking deal.  That if this gets out, it’s not just them, it’s my career, it’s all of us that are going to get fucked.  But come on, this is Namjoon and Jimin.  Two of the least impulsive people I’ve ever met in my life.  This didn’t start last week.  This has been going on for a year.  And it’s been fine.  Fine.  And we’re their family so you know what that means?”

The PD is just staring at him now like he’s hypnotized, completely shocked into near silence.  He sounds dazed when he answers Yoongi’s rhetorical question.

“What?”

“That means that you call our PR people and have them come up with a response to half a dozen worst-case scenarios because that’s what the fuck we pay them for.  That means we take stock and realize that if this gets out we might be fucked in some places but there’s a whole chunk of the world that’ll be fine and we’ll figure out how to thread that needle.  And then we hope it never comes to that.  We go back and we tell our friends that we support them because that’s what.  you.  fucking.  do.”

Yoongi collapses into one of the chairs in front of PD Bang’s desk.  Up until the moment he’d seen Namjoon tear out of the office Yoongi had resented them both, at least a little, for making all their lives a bit more precarious.  But it’s not them.  It’s their whole context that’s the issue.  So many stupid things conspiring together to make any of this difficult.

He feels empty and washed out after his outburst.  But he keeps his eyes steadily fixed on the PD.  He’d gotten into a few scrapes when he was younger.  He knows you don’t let up when you’re tired.  You let up when you’ve won.

PD Bang stares back at him.

Yoongi wonders if there’s a universe where he could fire him.

The older man sighs and rubs his face with his hands.  Yoongi remembers he wouldn’t fire him.  He’s not that kind of person, he didn’t build that kind of place.  None of them would still be here if it was. 

“Okay,” he says after a long pause.  He looks like every possible human emotion has run through him in the past ten minutes.

“Okay?”

“We’ll figure it out.”         

 

*     *     *

 

Yoongi finds Namjoon in his studio sitting in his desk chair and staring blankly at his phone.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”  Namjoon doesn’t even look up.

“So… what’s going on.”

“Oh just trying to figure out how to tell my boyfriend that I probably really fucked up both our careers.  What’s going on with you.”

“Yeah, about that.”  Yoongi sits down on the love seat, elbows on his knees.  “I think you’ll be okay.”  Namjoon looks up and raises his eyebrows.  “We talked it out.  I mean, I mostly screamed but yeah.  I think I got through.”

Yoongi stands up again.  He can be bad at big feelings and right now it feels like there’s going to be a lot of them.  He claps a hand on Namjoon’s shoulder before the look on his face can turn into words.

“It’ll be okay.”

Then he walks out.

Yoongi feels pretty good right now.

Before he gets two steps, though, he turns on his heel and pops his head back in the door.

“I’m really happy for you.  Don’t fuck this up.”

He shuts the door and hears a soft and slightly confused, “thank… you?” as he leaves.

Now Yoongi feels pretty good.

 

 

Bonus Track 4:  An Application to Date Park Jimin (Version 3.1)

Two and a half weeks out of the hospital

Namjoon is sitting on the couch reading a book when Taehyung finds him and hands him a stack of paperwork.  It looks like a quiz.  A really long quiz.

“If you want to date Jimin, this is the application.”

“Excuse me?”

“I expect this in my office by Friday.”

“Tae, you don’t have an office.”

Friday,” he says almost threateningly and then walks away.

Namjoon stares down at the pile of papers in his hands.

“Really?” he says to no one.  “Really?

 

*     *     *

 

Namjoon figures that Taehyung might not actually expect him to finish this insane application he put together.  Which is exactly why Namjoon is filling it out right now.  If he doesn’t, he reasons, Taehyung will hold it over his head and use it to give him shit whenever it’s convenient.  This way, at least Namjoon gets to fuck with him a bit.

He’s gets through the first couple of pages of boilerplate questions pretty quickly.

(Name: Kim Namjoon

Address:  I live with you.  We co-own the same condo.

Telephone number:  You texted me five minutes ago.

Bank account number: No.

Favorite color: Black)

His pace slows down when he gets to the top of page three.

Please select how you identify:

a)  straight

b)  bi

c)  gay

Note:  If you have selected a, please know that no one cares if you are experimenting.  You have automatically failed this test.  Please throw yourself in the trash and stay away from Park Jimin forever.

Namjoon draws back when he sees the note.  He hopes it’s just a general warning.  He gets a feeling that it’s not, though, that there’s something real behind it.  It makes his heart hurt. 

Namjoon stares at the question longer than he feels like a rational person should.  He debates writing something about sexuality being a spectrum not a binary and chastising Taehyung for being reductive but that feels like a dick move more than anything.  He circles B, instead.  Technically correct.  Close enough.  In any event, not really anyone's business other than his and Jimin's.

And, honestly, when he thinks about, it’s not just sex.  There’s a million little things Namjoon has realized he likes.  He likes picking out who gets what role in a dance.  He likes the way Jimin is smaller and more delicate than he is but he also likes that he’s stronger.  He likes the way it feels when Jimin curls into his side but he also likes just laying on Jimin’s chest, being held and that being okay.  There’s this way that all these roles he’s used to keep sort of being shaken up and turned around and he keeps finding new ways that he likes it like that.  He thinks he’d want it like that no matter what the gender of the person he’s with.  It feels comfortable in a way he didn’t realize he was missing.

He reads the rest of the questions on the page, all of them about sexual tastes.  It’s surprisingly vanilla.

He slashes the entire section red and writes to the side.

1)  I’m not going to tell you the details of our sex life.

2)  You should have consulted Jimin on these.  He’s more interesting than you want him to be.

Okay, that seems sufficiently obnoxious.  Moving on.

Namjoon fills out a few other questions- allergies, favorite movies, describe your ideal vacation.  He corrects the handful of typos he sees in bright red, makes small comments next to questions that annoy him.  (“Please describe your musical tastes.” “Jesus, Tae, you didn’t tailor this to me at all did you.”)

Please describe your plans for your first date or your first date, if it’s already occurred.

Once Jimin had asked him what would have happened if they hadn’t known each other, if their lives had gone differently and they’d just happened to run into each other in a coffee shop.  Met in some completely ordinary way.  Namjoon had spun out a sort of love-at-first sight story for him, because even if it was silly, hearing it had made Jimin’s eyes soft and painted his face with a small dreamy smile.

In real life, Namjoon knows that if that were true, if he didn’t know Jimin and just saw him in a coffee shop one day, he’d be completely bowled over.  You’d probably be able to knock him down with a feather.  But he has no idea if he’d be able to pluck up his courage and ask him to have coffee with him.  Or dinner and a movie.  Or out for a drink.  Something.  He’d like to think he would.  But he’s honestly not sure he’d be that brave.

Right now, though, he’s a little jealous of the hypothetical version of them.  They never had that coffee.  Never had dinner and a movie.  Never had that drink.  Never got to have that exciting, nerve-wracking first date, all ordinary hopes and awkwardness.  Instead they’d had a lot of covert sex in hotel rooms.  Which had been great but it’s not… that.

He wonders if maybe it’s not too late.  

Please describe your intentions with Park Jimin.

It’s the last question.  The phrasing and the context make the question painfully cheesy and a little silly.  It still stares back at him, heavy and meaningful.  He tries to think of snarky answers he can use to annoy Taehyung but nothing comes.

Fuck it, Namjoon decides.  

Might as well go with the truth.

 

*     *     *

 

“Namjoon-hyung, good news!”  Taehyung hugs him, entirely too exuberant for the first thing in the morning.  Namjoon is standing in their kitchen making himself a cup of coffee.  He hasn’t even figured out breakfast, yet.

“What happened?”

“You passed.  88%.  Solid B+.”

“Thank you?”  Namjoon sips at his coffee.  “Passed what?”

“The application.  You passed and you are now clear to date Park Jimin.”

“Oh.  Good.  Good thing.”  He raises his mug in a small toast.  “Good for me.”

“Yup.”  Jungkook is sitting at the breakfast table and Taehyung reaches over him to grab a banana.  “It was kinda dicey but… the last question.” He puts his hand on Namjoon’s shoulder on his way out of the room and there’s something kind and sincere in his eyes.  “Damn.”

Namjoon’s still groggy so it takes a moment for things to sink in.

“Wait, what? ” he says turning to Jungkook.  “How do you get graded on an application?  And what the hell happened to the other 12%?”

“Hey,” Jungkook shrugs, mouth full of toast.  “Just be happy you passed.”

 

 

Bonus Track 5:  Scales and Pictures

Three weeks after the hospital

Hoseok is trying.  He’s a good friend, so he’s trying hard.

He feels like he’s going through something like the stages of grief.  It’s not grief- that’d be silly.  But there's a cycle of emotions and he knows he’s going to land on acceptance at the end.  But he’s not there, yet.  So he’s trying.  He’s pretending.

That’s why he offers to help Jimin pack.  That’s why he slides a present on to the back seat before they go.

Acceptance.  He’s going to end up there, so why not play-act like he already is.  

“I don’t remember where I’m going, so you’ll have to give me directions again.”

“Sure,” Jimin nods.  “We could just type the address into your phone, though.”

Hoseok makes a face.

“I like Jiminie’s voice.  And I really hate the automated voice.  She always sounds like she’s mad at me.”

“Okay, make a left, then,” Jimin says as they pull out into the street.

They make their way across the city to the little apartment, making small talk and jokes about the songs on the radio.

Hoseok does his best not to react when they walk through the door.  But it’s strange finding out your friends were leading some kind of a double life.  Harder still when you’ve stayed awake worrying about them too many times and you find out that this… this is where they were the whole time.

“So,” Hoseok says holding out a paper shopping bag.  “I bought you something.”

Jimin peeks inside.

“A photo album,” he says, pulling it out.

“For your wall.”  Hoseok says scratching the back of his head.  “I assumed you’d want to take it with you.”

“Oh!”  Jimin makes a choking laugh and covers his smile with his hand.

“What?”

Jimin runs his hand over the front of the album.  The word “wonderland” runs across it.  Hoseok had thought it’d be sweet.

“The whole thing… it started because I made this joke.  And then Namjoon found this horrible poster, so I wanted to cover it up.  Which is what started the pictures.”  He looks up at Hoseok and Hoseok can see tears glittering around the edges of his eyes.  “We kind of kept the nickname to annoy each other.  It’s a little funny to take it with us.”  Then he reaches for Hoseok and hugs him tightly.  “Thank you.”

Hoseok hugs him back.  For some reason that little bit of context makes him feel a little better.  Makes the whole surreal thing just an inch more grounded.

“Can I ask you something?”  Hoseok asks letting him go.

“Anything.  What’s up?”

“Your relationship.  I know it’s none of my business.  And I need you to know that I get that.”

“Okay.”

“But.”  Hoseok takes a breath and says a tiny prayer that Jimin’s going to understand.  “It sort of is.  And I don’t mean that in any kind of invasive way,” he rushes to add.  “But we don’t have normal lives.  We’re all sort of hooked together and there’s been kind of a set way that works for a long time now.”

“That’s true.”  Jimin watches him, photo album clutched to his chest like a teenager holding a textbook.

“Your whole thing… that changes all of that.  So it’s going to take some getting used to.  I’m not trying to be a dick here…”

“I know,” Jimin interjects, nodding.  

“But it’s a new thing and there’s a lot of new ‘what ifs’ now that weren’t there before.”

Jimin just nods again, letting him talk.

“So, what I need to know...”  He balls his fists and spreads his fingers out a couple of times, like he’s casting off nervous energy.  “Let me rephrase that.  I want to be the good supportive friend.  And I’m going to be.  But I need to hear you tell me that we’re going to fine.”

“We’re going to be fine.”  Jimin doesn’t hesitate to repeat his words.  “I get that maybe this all feels weird but…”  He walks over and puts the album on the breakfast bar.  “I keep this set of scales in my head,” he says holding his hands out flat, palms up.  “On one side is all the good stuff we get.  All the success and what we do and everything.  On the other side is all the crap stuff.  Just about everything in my life goes on the scale.”  He lifts the second hand up and drops the first one down.  “No matter how much stuff ends up on the other side, the first side is always heavier.  So there’s a limit to how much things can get to me because this,” he holds up the second hand a little more, “is never going to be able to balance out this,” he gestures with the lower hand.

“Okay,” Hoseok has no idea where this is going but he wants Jimin to know he’s following.

“All of us.  That’s not on the scale.  And I don’t think… I mean, I know Namjoon doesn’t think about it that way, the scales and everything, but it’s the same thing for him.  All of us together, it's too important for that. And Namjoon and I…” Jimin shakes his head and sticks his hands in his back pockets.  “We’re not on the scale either.  And that’s why we’ll be okay.  There’s no balancing act.  And there never will be.  It all just is.”

Hoseok nods but he’s seeing something different than what he asked Jimin, now.  He’s seeing the through line from Jimin crying in the bedroom through what he’s saying now and into the future.  He realizes there’s going to be movers.  Furniture shuffling around.  It is different now.  But it’s going to stay different.  

Their lives are so strange.  In no time at all they’ve gone from practically begging to fill up a 400 person theater to suddenly packing stadiums.  Instead of seasons their lives are broken up in cycles of creating, rehearsing, and being bombarded with promotional projects and interviews.  He wouldn’t give an inch of it up but it makes it hard to stay on his feet and keep his balance.  Sometimes their unit at the center of everything feels like the only stable point in the universe.

That changing is terrifying.

And there’s also Jimin.  Hoseok loves him to bits, no doubt.  They have tons of things in common from dancing to just having naturally optimistic personalities.  He loves the way they can bounce off each other’s energy.  But there’s always been this fragile edge to Jimin, this reason that Hoseok has always wanted to stand between him and the world.

Once in an interview they were asked who in the group they talked to when they were sad.  Everyone had pointed at Jimin.  Jimin had pointed at him.

But Namjoon’s the one Jimin ran off with when he was breaking.

He finds himself wondering what it’s going to be like having his own room.  

“So,” he says picking the album up and walking over to the wall.  “I want to hear some stories about this stuff while we take it down.”

“Okay.”  Jimin walks over and smiles at him.  Then he points to a picture of himself holding a cupcake.  His mouth is full and he's laughing, half covering his mouth with his hand.  There's frosting on his lips, his fingers, and a bit on his bangs.  “This was just so, so dumb…”

Hoseok takes the picture off the wall and looks at it.  

Jimin looks so happy.  And no matter what else, Hoseok likes that.

 

 

Bonus Track 6:  The Romance Package

One month into the tour

This whole stable-adult-I-love-you relationship thing throws Jimin more than he expected it to.  Not in a bad way, in this way where he keeps getting knocked back an inch or two over something completely innocuous.  

Like now.  Right now he’s standing in the hotel bathroom with a mouth full of mouthwash that’s starting to burn his cheeks because he noticed their toothbrushes on the counter and stopped in his tracks.

Jimin’s just never had this before, never had someone whose presence was assumed.  And yes, because it’s Namjoon and they’ve lived together for years, this is not the first time he’s looked down and seen Namjoon’s toothbrush next to his and known it belongs there but… even the goddamn toothbrushes are different.  The toothbrushes are better.

They’re toothbrushes, for god’s sake.  But they’re their toothbrushes.

“Jimin?”  There’s a short rap on the door-frame and Jimin spits out the mouthwash, thrown back into motion like he’s been caught in the middle of something.

“Hey, what’s up?” he says in between rinsing his mouth out and wiping his face off with a towel.  

Namjoon is standing there in bathroom doorway, already comfortably tucked into a hoodie and pajama pants, face decorated with a pair of black plastic frame glasses.  Jimin likes him like this. Cozy. Intimate. 

“So it looks like we’re going to have tomorrow night free.”

Jimin’s brow creases.  Unexpected free time on a tour…

“Is everything okay?  Did something happen?”

“No, no!”  Namjoon waves a hand.  “Good news.  The venue wanted to juggle some things around on their end and asked if we can do soundcheck earlier, that’s all.”

Jimin relaxes a little.  “Oh, cool.”

“So… having started this off in what looks like the worst way possible now,” Namjoon leans his head on the door frame and smiles a little mischievously.  “Can I take you on a date tomorrow?”

Jimin smiles.  “I dunno.  I think I’ve gotta check my calendar.”  Namjoon gives him a look.  “Yes, of course, absolutely.  What do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know, yet.  But I thought it might be fun to do the whole first date thing where I bring you flowers and tell you you look nice and then we go have dinner or something.  Since we never got to do that.”

It’s a very cute Archie comic book idea of a date.  “That sounds great.”  Jimin walks over and tugs on the strings of Namjoon’s hoodie a little.  “But don’t forget I’m still a boy in this scenario, okay?” 

“Sure.  I just happen to know you're a boy who likes flowers.”  Namjoon counters.

“Oh totally.  You have to bring me flowers.”  Jimin gives him a little smile and lets his hands fall from the hoodie strings to rest on to Namjoon’s chest.  “Just make sure they’re manly flowers.”

“Only the manliest flowers for the fairy prince,” Namjoon teases.

Jimin laughs and lets him claim a mint-flavored kiss.

 

*     *     *

 

There are no flowers, manly or otherwise.  Jimin isn't even slightly surprised. They started early but of course the soundcheck runs late. And there's an uninspiring dinner of greasy Chinese food brought in once it becomes obvious that they’re not getting out before well into evening.

He does his best to hide it, he’s still focused, still on point, but Jimin can see Namjoon’s disappointment while he pokes at his chicken and broccoli.

So Jimin comes up with a plan.  He draws up google maps on his phone and pulls one of the translators aside, practically shoving the map in his face.  Route determined he finds one of the more indulgent managers and all but corners him until he agrees to alternative arrangements to take them back to their hotel.

Luckily, it’s not too late when they’re done for the evening.  They’re all a little worn out from the long day but Jimin is determined now.  The second tech says they’re done he shoves a face mask and a cap at Namjoon and tells him to get his coat.  

“Okay, let’s go.”

“Go where?”

“Date.  Come on.”

Namjoon looks surprised but he’s pliant and he lets Jimin quickly guide him past security shouting, “all worked out with the managers, back in a bit!” before anyone can stop them or forcefully insist on chaperoning.   

“So where are we going?”  Namjoon asks, once they’re outside the stadium.  

“Coffee and a walk.”  Jimin shrugs.  “Seems like a classic first date thing.”

“I thought I was supposed to take you out.”

“Well, you’re dating a gentleman so get used to it.”

Namjoon’s face is half hidden by the paper mask but Jimin can tell by his eyes that he’s smiling.

“Okay.”

The walk to the cafe is a little annoying, the footpath on the bridge runs right next to the cars and they have to take another path over a freeway.  It’s not picturesque but at least it’s quick.

“Order for me,” Jimin says when they get inside the little cafe.  “I want a hot chocolate.  To go.”

“I don’t speak French,” Namjoon responds.

“Well, you can read a menu a lot better than I can.  So go use your super power.”

Namjoon throws him a look.  “You know, you’re a lot better than…”

“Hot cocoa, Joonie.”  Jimin pushes on his back.  “Go.”  This was his idea but the idea of having to sound out a pile of foreign letters that stand for noises he can only half-make sounds like one of the circles of hell right now.  Being a gentleman has its limits.  French is one of those limits.

As expected Namjoon competently gets them a couple of hot drinks and somehow even manages to draw out a laugh and a smile from the girl behind the register.  Not much later they have paper cups in hand and are crossing the freeway again.  But instead of leading them back to the stadium, this time Jimin guides them to a footpath that runs by the canal.  

It’s quiet and empty.  They can hear the rushing water and the path is lit by pools of light from regularly placed lampposts.  It reminds him a little of when they go on walks at home.  It’s peaceful and despite their mad break for it, Jimin can feel the tension of the day drifting away. 

They banter while they walk and for a bit they play at pretending to make first date small talk.  What's your sign, your blood type... is that your go-to hot beverage?  Easy surface questions they've never needed to ask.  The silly play-acting lasts about five sentences until, "so, what do you do" comes up and Jimin gives Namjoon this "wow-I'm-shocked" face and says, "You're kidding! I'm in BTS, too!"

It's hilarious but it also feels like there's too many heavy jokes packed into that one line to ever completely pull them out. Conversation drifts into other things after that.

At the end of the path, they come to another bridge across the canal, but this one is a footbridge.  The stadium and their real lives are on the other side, so they stop in the middle and lean on the railing, watching the water flow by below.  

“Thanks,” Namjoon says, “this was nice.”

“Your idea,” Jimin nudges him a little.  “And thanks for…” he holds up his paper cup.

“You’re welcome.”  There’s a ‘you could have done it yourself’ floating in the air but Jimin knows Namjoon won’t say it.  He’s good about knowing when to be encouraging and when not to poke Jimin’s anxieties.

“Can I ask you a question?”  Jimin says after a moment of silence.

“Sure.”

“Why did this matter so much to you?  It’s nice but…”

“I was just thinking…” Namjoon taps his cup on the rail a few times.  “There’s a lot of things we’ve missed or haven’t done.  And I want you to have everything,” he admits.  “The whole romance package.  I don’t want you to look back and think you had to give anything up or skip anything because our lives are weird.  It’s just… I like seeing you happy.  I like it when I can make you happy.”

Jimin sips his cocoa and stares out at the dark water for a bit.

“You know you do, right.  Make me happy.”

“I hope so.”

“I think,” he says, taking Namjoon’s hand in his, “sometimes you forget how much I like you.  I like having the whole Namjoon package in my life.  That’s the best thing.”

“Thanks.”  Namjoon smiles and squeezes his hand.  “I like the whole Jimin package, too.”  He pauses.  “Can I ask you a question now?”

“Shoot.”

“What kind of flowers are manly?”

“I have no idea.”  Jimin laughs.  “I was dying to see what you’d come up with.”

“Next day off we get, I’m asking the first florist I find.”

“Probably something spikey and weird.”

“There’s a joke about stamen somewhere in there.”

Jimin laughs again.  “Is that dirty?  I have no idea if that’s a dirty joke.”

“I think that depends on how you feel about flower genitals.”

Jimin lets go of Namjoon’s hand because he’s laughing so hard now, he needs to hold on to the railing.

“I’m going to be randomly thinking about flower junk and laughing all night, now.  Thanks a lot for that.”

“Flower junk is a great phrase,” Namjoon laughs.

Jimin gets himself together and straightens up so that he can look Namjoon in the eyes, even though he’s still smiling.  “Okay, my turn to ask another question.”

“Okay.”  Namjoon responds taking a sip of his coffee.

“Do you put out on the first date?”

Namjoon almost does an honest-to-god spit take.  “Not usually” he says after he’s managed to swallow. “But,” he looks over at Jimin a little suggestively.

“Yeah?”

“I think I could be talked into it.”

“Make an exception for me?”  Jimin asks pressing his side up against Namjoon’s a little.

“Yeah,” he takes Jimin’s hand again and smiles at him.  “I've got a good feeling about this one.”

 

 

Bonus Track 7:  Thank you, Mrs. Park

Six weeks into the tour

“Jimin, do you know where my notebook is?”  Namjoon’s voice floats out of the bedroom into the living room of the hotel suite.

“In your bag, the over the shoulder satchel one,” Jimin calls back, drawing a card.  Jungkook and Taehyung look over their hands at him a little curiously.

“That’s the red one.  I need the blue one.”

“Drawer.  Bedside table.  You put it there so you wouldn’t lose it.”  

There’s the sound of a drawer opening and closing.

“Thanks.”

Jungkook and Taehyung are still looking at him curiously.  

“I know where his stuff is and he knows where my stuff is.”  Jimin shrugs.  “Don’t ask me why.”

Taehyung glances around the suite.  They’re definitely the two messiest people and the combined powers of their disarray is impressive.  

“I’m amazed that anyone knows where anything is,” Jungkook replies, playing a card.

Jungkook is relentlessly organized.  Because of course he is.

“Hey, we can’t all be Marie Kondo,” Taehyung retorts.

“Your shirts don’t need to give you joy to go in the closet.  They just need to go in the closet.”

“So,” Jimin says changing the subject while he draws another card, “did I tell you guys there’s a Mrs. Park now?”

“What’s that mean?”  Taehyung asks.

“Hi,” Namjoon raises his hand, walking into the room.  He has a pen in his mouth while he sifts through a small pile of papers.

Taehyung is pretty sure the expression on his face mirrors Jungkook’s.  Which is a little confused, a little shocked and completely frozen. 

Jimin cracks up and claps his hands.

“Here,” he gets up, picks up a hotel ‘thank you’ card and sets it down on the table where they’re playing cards.  “Cleaning staff figured out there are two people staying here and the room’s under my name.  So the card’s addressed to ‘Mr. and Mrs. Park.’”

“Second time now,” Namjoon holds up two fingers, still talking through the pen that’s in his mouth.

“That’s hysterical,” Taehyung says picking up the little card and turning it around in his hands.

“Next time, you’re Mrs. Kim.”  Namjoon tells Jimin, stuffing the papers into a folder, apparently satisfied.

“Probably not.”

“Yeah, probably not.”  Namjoon concedes.  “Okay, gotta go do interview prep.”  He leans over and gives Jimin a quick kiss.  “Love you.”

“Love you.  See you soon.”

And Namjoon is out the door.

Taehyung had wondered what this was going to be like, after things calmed down.  It’d been hard to picture what it was going to be like having a couple in the group.  He hadn’t thought there’d be five third wheels but he still hadn’t been sure what it’d look like.  He was a little disappointed in himself, honestly.  It felt like a lack of imagination on his part.

It turns out it’s domestic.  It’s kind of nice.

“Hey, I have something for you.”  Taehyung digs around in his bag a bit, then pulls out a stack of stapled papers and hands them to Jimin.  He’d thought about giving this to him earlier but Taehyung had wanted to wait until things felt like they were settled.  He wanted it to be a nice gesture and not another bit of melodrama.

“Oh my god, Tae.  Namjoon told me about this.”

“What is it?”  Jungkook leans over to look at it.

“It’s an application.  Tae gave Namjoon an application to date me.”

“Oh, yeah.  Heard about that.”  He says going back to the game, laying another card on the table.  “He passed.  That’s good.”

“I can’t decide if you’re my best friend or worst.”  Jimin says to Taehyung, flipping through the pages.

“Excuse me for having standards.”  Taehyung takes the quiz back, flips to the last page and gives it back to Jimin.  “Anyway, this is the part I thought you’d want to read.”

’Please describe your intentions…’”  Jimin puts the paper down and glares at Taehyung.  “Do you seriously think I’m your daughter or something?  And you’re my regressive 1950s dad now?”

“Just read it.”  Seriously.  Jimin can be incredibly stubborn sometimes.

Jimin sighs and looks back at the application.  

Taehyung hadn’t been sure what he’d been expecting when he’d written that question.  Maybe sarcasm.  Hopefully a nice indication of something good.

That’s not what he’d gotten.

Taehyung has been singing Namjoon’s words for years now.  He knows his cadences, his quirks, and above all, he knows how astoundingly good he is at piecing together whole worlds from his feelings.

He can only imagine that it’s another thing entirely to have those words directed at you.  About you.

As if on cue, Jimin’s hand moves up to cover his mouth as he reads and Taehyung can see the paper shake, just a little.  Jungkook leans over again to read over Jimin’s shoulder.

“Whoa.”

“Can I keep this,” Jimin says quietly.  He gets his hand to still and swallows.

“I thought you might want to.”

There’s a kind of happy ache in Taehyung’s chest.

Good job, Mrs. Park, he thinks.  Well done.