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Chasing Clouds

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There was a look Taehyung got in his eye sometimes.

Like a thought, sparking brilliantly, and then sinking back down, impossible to chase through a distracted, caffeinated, sleep-deprived haze. Like a memory triggered by a certain smell, vanishing just as quickly as it appeared. Like a cloud formation, blowing away before one has the time to point it out to a friend. Except, Jimin wasn't chasing something within himself; he was chasing that look, and what it meant, to the centre of Taehyung's heart.

The difficulty was, Taehyung's heart was an ever-shifting thing.

"Baby," Jimin said, catching Taehyung around the waist.

"Hmm?" Taehyung said, turning to look at Jimin. His expression was almost comical; wide eyes, pursed mouth, and raised eyebrows, harbouring none of the darker elements it had just a moment before.

The clouds had blown away.

"You okay?"

"Um, yeah?" Taehyung tilted his head to the side. "Why would I not be?"

Jimin smiled. "Forget it."

Without warning, Taehyung dropped downwards, seizing Jimin around the thighs and lifting him. The two of them teetered—shuddering, perilous steps across the gravel-strewn asphalt, Jimin pounding Taehyung's shoulder blades, his raspy, honey-toned yells soaring past minivans, SUVs, smacking up against the chipped brick, the convenience store windows, turning the heads of various disapproving and curious shoppers hauling armfuls of grocery bags back into their cars.

Taehyung's army boot glanced off the cement base of a streetlamp. There was a blur, a frantic scraping sound; Taehyung's shouting blended with Jimin's and then WHAM, there they were, Jimin flat on his back just like he knew he would eventually be.

"Fuck," he panted, multiple times, around bursts of laughter.

Taehyung's giggles were muffled through the fabric of Jimin's shirt.

"Oh my god," Jimin groaned, reaching up and running a hand through his hair—luminescent silvery lilac; Taehyung had dyed it just last week.

"Break anything?" Taehyung said, his head popping up out of nowhere.

"No. Ugh, I don't think so."

"Good."

Taehyung's face flopped back down, this time directly into Jimin's crotch.

Jimin snorted.

"What?" Taehyung asked, his deep voice rumbling right through Jimin's jeans.

"Get your face out of there."

Taehyung laughed.

"Stop, I can feel your voice in weird places."

"Weird?" Taehyung raised his head once more. "Park Jimin, I never knew you to be so crass."

Before Jimin could respond, Taehyung seized his hips from either side, buried his face even deeper in Jimin's crotch, and hummed so loudly a couple loading what looked like an elaborate cat scratch tower looked over.

"Tae—!" Jimin yelled, his voice lilting up at the end. He rolled away, half-laughing, half-gasping, and Taehyung finally let off.

They lay like that for a while. Two university boys, sprawled next to a long line of metal recycling bins, one wearing ripped pants and a jean-jacket, the other in a big, drapey sweater and tight jeans, gazing up at clouds, like some species of urban mammal nesting in its natural steely environment.

After what could have been five minutes, or fifteen, or maybe even half an hour, Jimin wasn't sure, Taehyung turned to look at him. The windblown day had left the sky huge and brimming over with dilute light. It shone down on Taehyung as though he were a flower in a greenhouse. His fluttering red hair looked almost psychedelic against their grey surroundings. He'd painted his lips with a purple sampler from Walmart, messily, which clashed with the rest of his clothing in the best way. His sweater fell off one shoulder, exposing collar bones, chest. His tan skin glowed.

"You're beautiful," Jimin muttered, no longer aware of the dull ache in his elbow, the scrapey feeling on one of his shoulders.

"You too," Taehyung said softly.

*

Jimin remembered the day he met Taehyung.

Growing bored with the game of beer pong in the garage, Taehyung had wandered upstairs. Jimin's room, consequently, was also upstairs—he'd been renting with a handful of seniors; a rundown, artsy flophouse that he still missed sometimes. Jimin had followed after him after a couple minutes, just to make sure that this peculiar newcomer wasn't stealing something or snooping around his things or puking all over his washroom.

He checked Namjoon's room. Nothing. Nobody in Hobi's room or Onew's room either. The washroom was empty, but an ominous breeze pushed his bedroom door open, the hinges groaning as though the door were five times its actual weight. He stumbled hurriedly into his room, inhaling as if to speak, but, to his bafflement, nobody was there either.

He took a moment to scan his things. Desk, backpack, clothes, all in order. It wasn't that Jimin was an overly materialistic or possessive person at heart, but he'd never been anything close to wealthy, not like his friend Jin, for example, and he really couldn't afford to pay for another laptop anytime soon. His parents had scraped together some cash and bought it for him as a graduation present, seeing as it was a requirement for most university programs those days. Thankfully his tuition had been mostly paid for by scholarships.

"Hello?" he asked uncertainly.

Nobody answered and he was finally forced to acknowledge, even through the distracting haze caused by the three or four beers he'd just drunk in swift succession, the fact that his window was wide open and the covers on his bed just below it were visibly mussed.

"Great," he murmured.

He hopped onto his bed and stuck his head out the window. The house they were renting was old, with so many bizarre quirks that he'd stopped questioning the rational behind its architecture. Outside his window there was a ledge, big enough for a large flowerbox, maybe, that led over to the side of the roof.

"Hello?" he yelled.

Nothing.

He groaned. Part of him wanted to shut the window, go back downstairs, continue pummelling Jungkook's ass at beer pong, and pretend he'd never seen anything. That was the easy route. But was it though? If the strange guy with the purple hair and frilly poncho—one of Namjoon's friends?—ended up falling off the roof and totalling himself, that would mean a night of flickering cop lights, paperwork, and the strong potential that Jimin would never sleep soundly in this room ever again. Not to mention the fact that he would feel terrible about it.

Accepting his fate, he hauled himself up through the window frame and out onto the ledge. It was a windless night, thankfully, but his socks were still a little slippery of the dusty surface. He inched towards the roof until a figure came into view.

"Hey," he shouted.

The guy turned around, his eyes darting all over the place. They finally zeroed in on Jimin, and then he waved. "Hello!"

"What are you doing up there?"

"Window-gazing."

Jimin crawled onto the roof and was pleased to find that the tiles had a lot more grip than the little ledge. "Window-gazing? Sounds creepy."

"It's like star-gazing, but because there's so much light pollution in the city, I gaze upon our metropolitan... the concrete cosmos of..." he sighed impatiently. "Just get up here and you'll understand. I can't explain it properly."

Perhaps it was the four beers, or Jimin's genuinely playful disposition, but he found himself submitting to this stranger's demands without question, crawling up the length of the roof and joining him on the elevated ridge.

"Kim Taehyung."

"Park Jimin." A pause. "Are you eating chocolate?"

"It's seventy-five percent dark, organic. Want a piece?"

Jimin stuck the end of the chocolate in his mouth, sucking thoughtfully. Taehyung's eyes lingered. Jimin became quite aware of himself. He blinked, fighting the impulse to fidget.

"So," Taehyung said, his eyes slipping back to the skyline. "See all the skyscrapers? How they leave their lights on? But only some? Probably not just the ones where people are working, though, but lots and lots, sapping energy that could be used for other more useful things?" Jimin nodded. "They kinda look like stars. You can even pick out constellations, if you're on the ball." He slipped a little flask out of a pocket somewhere in his poncho and took a sip. "Hence, I give you, window-gazing."

"Not so creepy after all."

Taehyung laughed.

"What's that?"

"Fernet."

Jimin wrinkled his nose. "Dark chocolate and fernet? What kind of a pairing is that?"

"Take a sip."

"No thanks."

"Come on," Taehyung said, suddenly childlike. He stuck out his lips, pouting, and turned towards Jimin, dropping both his hands on his thigh. "It's good for your digestion."

"Fine," Jimin laughed, taking the flask.

Taehyung watched him fixedly.

"Okay, fine." Jimin put the flask to his lips and took a sip. "God that's..."

"Herbal, right?"

"Medicinal is more how I'd describe it," Jimin said, scrunching up his face. After a moment, he took another sip. Taehyung laughed in delight.

Now that he wasn't pouting, Taehyung's features had settled into something so neutral his expression was almost blank. There was something mysterious about those eyes, burning with life, and questions, and feelings, but giving absolutely nothing away. His hair stirred around his face. Up close, and in the dark, without the lime green poncho scorching his retinas, Jimin could see just how beautiful Taehyung was. Ethereal, almost.

"What are you looking at?"

Jimin smirked, turning away and taking another sip of the lukewarm fernet because there was nothing else to do.

You're beautiful.

You're stunning.

I'm so intrigued by your strangeness.

These were all things he might've come out and said if life hadn't taught him the foolishness in such honesty. People didn't want a bared heart; at least not at first, and for someone as wickedly gorgeous and Taehyung, maybe never. His beauty was dangerous. Atypical. No wonder he had the nerve to wear an outfit like that. He probably had people throwing themselves at him all the time.

Before he had time to feel too embarrassed, Taehyung shoved another piece of chocolate into his mouth.

*

It was a Thursday. Jimin had class the next day. He was pretty sure Taehyung did, too, but when he got back from practice, he found Taehyung lounging in his bed, sketching something on a ripped piece of mayfair and sipping out of a 26 of gin.

"Hey, friendo."

"Oh, hey," Taehyung said, glancing up in mock surprise.

"Was that full when you started?"

Taehyung reached to Jimin's nightstand, retrieved an abandoned coffee cup, dumped a colossal gush into it, and handed it to Jimin with impressive poise given how much was missing from the bottle.

"Look, I drew you."

Jimin quirked his head around. "Wow. I like my legs."

"Really?" Taehyung grinned up at him, groping around for his thigh. "Because I like them too."

"Stop it," Jimin giggled, giving Taehyung a little shove.

Taehyung, mid-sip, slopped gin all down his neck. He might've acted madder if Jimin hadn't already been collapsing to the floor in a fit of breathless laughter.

He floundered at the side of the bed. His hands lingered on Taehyung's. Taehyung's thumb rested gently on top of his knuckles, rubbing a small circle.

And then Taehyung pulled away, so quickly he smacked his elbow against the headboard. Jimin hauled himself into a chair. Taehyung added little details to his drawing. The silence that hung between them was definitely not a relaxed one. Jimin took a sip of gin.

"Don't you have class tomorrow?"

"Yeah."

"Didn't you have class today?"

Taehyung rolled his eyes. "Yes, Dad. And before you ask, I didn't go."

They'd only known each other for a couple months, but Jimin had enough experience with Taehyung's moods to know that prying any further was asking for trouble. One time, Taehyung had walked out of a diner, mid-meal, leaving Jimin with an unpaid bill, two half-eaten sandwiches, and a room full of curious eyes. As much as Jimin needed to study for his midterm, he really didn't want Taehyung to leave.

No matter how much they saw each other, Jimin never seemed to want Taehyung to leave. Whenever he was foolish enough to admit this to himself, the notion struck terror into his very soul.

"It's good stuff," he conceded, smacking his lips together.

"My grandma sent me some money. Said I should treat myself, so I did."

"Think she's worried about you?"

"What responsible caregiver wouldn't worry about a university-going progeny?"

"Fair enough," Jimin said, glancing at Taehyung sidelong. Taehyung was a huge fan of deflection. Jimin usually rolled with the punches, but he also liked letting Taehyung know that he wasn't dumb enough not to realize what was going on.

Taehyung's eyes flitted to the wall. He swallowed uneasily, and then took another large sip of gin.

"So, there's something I should, uh, probably tell you."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Taehyung scrunched up his face into a grimace. "It's nothing big. Just wanted to get it out of the way. Kinda stupid."

Jimin watched Taehyung carefully. For whatever reason, he felt that Taehyung was finally getting around to the reason he was getting drunk in Jimin's bed at 2:30 in the afternoon on a school day. His heart thumped at an uncomfortable pace in his chest.

"I mean, it's not like it has to be some big confession or something," Taehyung rambled. "We're just friends, so it really isn't even that important, but I just wanted you to know, in case—" he hiccupped, his eyes darting madly around the room "you found out from someone else, like Namjoon-hyung, or something like that—"

"Tae," Jimin said softly. "It's alright. You can tell me."

Taehyung recoiled into himself and Jimin immediately regretted it. Friends. That's all they were, friends, something he was violently reminded of every time he made the mistake of trespassing into something too emotional, too caring, and Taehyung boarded up his walls faster than if a hundred tons of toxic chemicals had just been dropped into the air.

Jimin leaned back in his chair, his lips pursed together. He couldn't seem to wipe the worried expression off his face. Taehyung stared straight ahead, avoiding looking at him at all costs.

"So, you might be kind of annoyed at me for keeping this to myself. But what can I say? Sorry?" Taehyung raised his shoulders a little, as if Jimin were already angry with him and he was dismissing Jimin's anger with an offhand shrug.

Jimin remained silent. There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Then, Taehyung raised the bottle, took a long, glugging draught, and belched.

"I'm trans."

More silence. Jimin had forgotten he was holding a paper cup of gin. He'd forgotten Onew was downstairs, clanging pots and pans around as he started making dinner. He'd forgotten about anything except for this person in front of him, who as scowling at the wall as if someone had just punched him the stomach.

"Trans?" Taehyung repeated. "As in, I was born assigned female at birth, but then, dysphoria, and surgery, and hormones, and stuff—" he waved a dismissive hand in the air "And now here I am. There you go." He made a motion like a magician might make at the same time as saying ta-da.

"I know what trans is," Jimin spluttered, putting his gin on the desk. "I'm just, Tae... I'm just wondering why you waited so long to tell me."

"What, do you except me to spill every single one of my secrets just because we've known each other a few months?" Taehyung's voice was uncharacteristically hoarse, frantic. "Just because we happen to get along really well?"

"I... I, no, I didn't expect that." Jimin took a deep breath, exhaling as slowly as he could manage. "I guess I just wonder if I ever gave off the vibe that I... wouldn't be alright with it?"

"No," Taehyung conceded. "No, you didn't..."

"So then why—"

"Because I wasn't sure!" Taehyung blurted. Everything in him, every ounce of forced apathy and poise, seemed to have fallen away. His mouth was wide and trembling, his eyes stretched open into something desperate and raw. "You seem really cool, and you're always nice to me, but how could I know? I've had people turn on me without warning, people I was so sure were going to be alright with it, but then they left me, they left me, Chim..."

Jimin crawled onto the bed and wrapped his arms around Taehyung, pulling him close. Taehyung, for the first time in history, didn't push him away.

"I don't want you to leave..."

"Shhh," Jimin said, stroking Taehyung's hair. "I'm not going to leave."

Taehyung reached desperately for the gin and took a shaky sip. "It's stupid, I know, but I could really use a friend right now, and we get along pretty freaking well..."

"Friend," Jimin said, without thinking.

"Well, yeah." Taehyung turned to face Jimin, swaying slightly. "Wait... what?"

"Friendship is great," Jimin blurted, his eyes wide.

Taehyung stared at him for a long moment.

"Listen," Jimin said, waving him away. "It's stupid. I didn't mean to interrupt. I'm all ears for you. There's so much I want to know—"

Taehyung kissed him. Jimin might have been taken off guard, except that there was a part of him that was completely ready for something like this to happen, always yearning, leaning towards his friend, open, waiting. The moment Taehyung's wet, gin-slicked lips collided with his, that part of him surged, kissing Taehyung back in desperation, drinking in his boozy breath like nectar, running a hand up his back and into his messy lilac nape.

"Wait," Jimin gasped, pulling away.

"What?" Taehyung asked, expressionless once more, despite the tearstains running down his face in salty tracks.

"We should probably stop."

"Why?"

"Well, because..."

Taehyung, drunk and ridiculous, lurched forward and kissed Jimin's neck.

"Are you saying," he muttered, "that you don't like it?"

A shiver ran through Jimin's entire body. He kept clenching and unclenching his jaw.

"No. I'm not saying that."

"Then what's the problem?"

Jimin was unaccustomed to this new, no-nonsense version of Taehyung; or maybe, he just wasn't used to it in a sexual context. Just last Monday Taehyung had looked at him with the same unfazed, unimpressed blankness when Jimin had refused to go drinking with him after their first class.

When Jimin really thought about it, how long had Taehyung been trying to get him drunk so he could tell him this?

Taehyung sat down on his lap at weird angle.

"Ouch," Jimin grunted.

"What's wrong?"

"Just..." Jimin shuffled around. "It feels like my dick got folded in half..."

"Oh." Without any ceremony whatsoever, Taehyung moved back, unzipped Jimin's jeans, and shoved his hand down the front of his boxers. Jimin's entire body pushed forward, into the touch, his back arching off the mattress.

"Is this okay?" Jimin's voice was high and shaky.

"Does it look like it isn't okay?"

"Just want to make sure... that you're... comfortable with your b-body, and everything—"

Taehyung pulled off his sweater, hurling it to the ground. "I'm really comfortable with my body." He reached down to unzip his own pants. "It's just other people that seem to have a problem with it."

"Who?" Jimin asked, his eyes roaming over his friend's slender torso. Just around his nipples there were a few puckers, small scars left behind from what must have been the keyhole surgery. "Crazy people?"

"Not sure," Taehyung grunted, yanking stubbornly at Jimin's jeans. He seemed hell-bent on getting both of them naked as soon as possible.

Jimin might've resisted if he hadn't already been so lost. His whole body burned with the want Taehyung had awakened in him on that rooftop the first night, sipping fernet and sucking on organic dark chocolate. He gasped as Taehyung's long, slender hand took him, and relished in Taehyung's quick inhalations as he rolled his fingers between Taehyung's legs, and fumbled with the condom as Taehyung clumsily sucked his nipples. Not long after Taehyung's savage moans were resounding through the apartment, as well as Jimin's, and the bed shook with their combined forces, and Jimin could tell that this was definitely not Taehyung's first time doing something like this.

*

It was a long time until Taehyung showed Jimin his emotions again.

It wasn't like he wasn't emotional in other ways. The two of them laughed their guts out almost constantly, like when Jimin did something stupid and Taehyung called him out on it, or when Taehyung imitated someone impeccably, or when Namjoon or Onew or Hoseok complained about how loud they'd been the night before. And he was passionate, too. Both of them were dance majors, but Taehyung had a minor in drawing. There were times when he was standing in front of a work of art and his walls fell away, giving over to unadulterated fascination.

It was just the desperation. The sadness. Jimin hadn't seen those since that night in his room, drunk off gin and hidden secrets. There were times when he thought he saw something similar surfacing, peeking through, but it often disappeared before he could get a hold of it.

"I feel like sex," Taehyung announced, pulling a blood red lollipop out of his mouth with a pop. A table of girls nearby glanced over curiously.

The two of them were in a cafe. Jimin leaned forward and set his chin on his hands, holding them up with his elbows. "Oh yeah?" He smiled sweetly, ignoring the continued glances from the table over. "Where?" he mused. "When? How?"

"In the washroom of this cafe. Right now. You doing me up on the counter so I can get myself off with my hand."

Jimin swallowed. "Do you have any condoms?"

"Mais oui, Monsieur."

Just as they were standing up a clerk came by to clear away their cups. Taehyung handed her a napkin to help out.

"Thank you—oh my!" she straightened up, giving him a once over. "I just love your style!"

Taehyung happened to be wearing a pair of Thai fishermen pants that day, a skin-tight polka-dotted muscle shirt, and a leather jacket.

"I love gals who can pull off the edgy look," she carried on. "I wish I had the body for it, but I just don't."

Jimin glanced between the two of them. He inhaled, about to say something, but then Taehyung interrupted him.

"Thanks," he said, smiling a big, boxy grin. "But for the record, you totally could."

"Awe, thanks hun."

The clerk beamed, making her way back to the kitchen.

"What the fuck," Jimin muttered, his eyes trailing after her. "Gals who can pull off the edgy look?"

"Forget it."  

"But it's crazy! There isn't an iota of boob on you. Look, this thing you're wearing is almost as tight as a bathing suit, and you've even got a little facial hair—"

"Forget it," Taehyung repeated, a little harshly.

Jimin fell silent.

Taehyung shook his head, as if he were shaking off his feelings, like a dog shaking water from its fur. "I'm sorry Chim," he said, grabbing at the front of Jimin's shirt. "I just don't feel like making a scene. Now why don't you hurry up and fuck me in this washroom, before I end up having to do it myself?"

Taehyung seemed completely serene as they made their way down the hallway, into one of the two single-stall washrooms. It was only as Jimin was pumping into him, bracing himself against a nearby shelf, which rattled loudly against the wall with every thrust, that Jimin noticed anything amiss. Taehyung was biting his hand to keep from yelling, touching himself with the other. Lost in the commotion, somewhere along the line a single tear had slid from one of his eyes, down the side of his face, his eyebrows arching upwards in heightened pleasure, so heightened it almost seemed despairing.

When Jimin asked him about it later, he said he'd accidentally bitten his own hand too hard.

*

"Sometimes you just don't feel like being analyzed, you know?"

The two of them were in the studio. It was May, but seeing as both of them were renting off campus, they'd decided to stay in town and score some credits with a spring seminar. A semi-famous choreographer was teaching the class, someone Jimin had spent hours watching on Youtube. Both he and Taehyung were thrilled to have someone from the queer community teaching the class, seeing as the instructor identified as non-binary.

"What do you mean?"

"Like, it's satisfying to come off as a guy, you know?" Taehyung wiped sweat off his forehead with a towel. "But sometimes you don't want to think about the details. Was I wearing the right shirt today? Did they see my flat chest? Am I taking enough testosterone?" He shook his head. "It's a slippery slope. You can end up feeling like you're walking out onto a stage every time you leave your front door. And not a fun stage. A freaky stage, with tons of critics and nasty journalists watching. It's enough to give anybody stage fright."

"Have you ever felt like that?"

"Yup." Taehyung nodded. "It felt really dysfunctional. I don't want to go there ever again."

The two of them were sitting on the floor, stretching. The instructor was off near the sound unit, chatting with a couple students who'd lingered behind to ask questions.

"What I said the other day was stupid," Jimin said good-naturedly. "About the clerk in the cafe."

"No," Taehyung said. "Don't feel bad. It's just, sometimes trans people get tired of hearing about their physical appearance. At least in a gender-y way. Do I look like a boy, do I look like a girl, why, why not, blah blah blah. I mean, I'm lucky, with how deep my voice dropped and everything, but some people aren't, some people can't help their wide hips or high voices, some people won't ever be able to afford the surgeries and hormones they want, but does that make their identity any less valid—any less real?" Taehyung took a swig from his water bottle, shaking his head. "I was still a guy, even when I had my boobs. I'd still be a guy even if I still had them."

"Yeah, that makes total sense."

"I'm glad you think so."

Both of them hauled themselves to their feet.

"I admire you, you know. For being so resilient. I keep fucking up this part of the choreography, and I even cried about it last night."

"What can I say?" Taehyung stepped away, doing a little pirouette. "Life must go on."

"True."

Jimin turned towards the mirror and started grinding the choreography again.

"Besides," Taehyung shouted from across the studio, still pirouetting. "You look really hot when you cry. I think it's kind of sexy, hope you don't mind!"

Jimin stopped mid-lunge, covering his face with his hands. Several classmates laughed.

*

There was a nice bar just down from their new place. Once the lease lapsed, Jimin, Taehyung, Namjoon, and Jungkook had decided to get a place together, closer to campus. Hoseok had fled for the hills, aka a musty bungalow down the block with Yoongi and Jin, far from the wall he'd shared with Jimin in the last place. Hoseok had always found it more difficult to sleep through noise than Namjoon. Jungkook, on the other hand, had no idea what he was getting into, but splitting the rent four ways was a lot cheaper than three and Namjoon, good sport that he was, took the room next to Taehyung's to avoid the likelihood of Jungkook getting cold feet.

Early September; they still had a few days left of summer before classes attacked with full force. Taehyung had dragged them down to the bar to celebrate. Jungkook sat in a big, squashy leather chair, and Taehyung sat in his lap, both of them watching Jimin and Namjoon take their turns at pool.

Jimin sunk two stripes in a row. On the third, he whooped loudly, much to Namjoon's despair.

"Nice job, baby," Taehyung muttered, pushing the straw around in his Caesar. Most of the ice cubes had melted, leaving it a cloudy, watermelon-coloured slurry. It was unlike him to drink so slowly. Jimin wondered if it had something to do with the heat.

"Thanks," he said, striding over to pour himself a beer from the pitcher. He smirked at the two of them. "Well, aren't you two cute."

Taehyung's head drooped against the wall. Jungkook yawned.

"Here." Jimin handed Taehyung the glass. "It's cold."

Taehyung took a little, lethargic sip. After a minute, he straightened up a bit. "Mmm, that's good."

"Here, Kookie." Jimin poured him one.

"JK, get over here and take your turn," Namjoon said.

Jungkook stood up, shoving Taehyung off his lap. Taehyung caught his footing like a baby giraffe fresh from the womb. Still stumbling, he chugged the rest of the beer, and then patted his stomach. "Well, I feel much better now."

"I'm glad." Jimin kissed his cheek.

He smiled, giving Jimin a quick peck on the mouth. "Gotta pee!"

There was a new bartender in that day. Jimin had noticed him earlier. Kind of hot, tattoos, ponytail. He and Taehyung had developed a list of code words that made it easier to point out hot people to each other without them noticing. Taehyung hadn't dropped any hints yet, but he was pretty sure Taehyung had noticed him too. Not window-shopping, but people-gazing; 'you can look at stars simply because they're pretty; not because you actually want them for your own,' Taehyung had instructed him in the mall one day, sipping loose-leaf tea out of a massive porcelain cup.

Jungkook sunk three solids and then the cue ball. Jimin was fishing it out of the ball return when he caught a glimpse of Taehyung making his way back from the washroom. As he passed the bar, the hot ponytail bartender guy flagged him down. The two of them exchanged a few words, and then the bartender flushed deep red. Taehyung shook his head, waving his hand and laughing, and the guy shrunk off to the other end of the bar.

"What was that about?"

"Oh." Taehyung's voice was higher than usual; oddly strained. "He just asked me to use the other washroom next time."

"What?"

"Not like, insultingly. He thought I'd gotten it mixed up, but then I told him I was a guy and he got super embarrassed." Taehyung's laugh had no heart in it. "I told him it's alright. I know I can be kind of feminine sometimes."

"You didn't have to placate him like that—"

"But he was cute." Taehyung shrugged, shuffling his feet. "And I dunno, I just didn't want to..." He sighed.

"Tae?"

Taehyung shook his head.

"Do you wanna leave?"

Taehyung pressed his lips together.

"Okay, guys," Jimin said, laying some cash down on the table. "We're taking off. Catch you back at the house?"

"Is everything okay?" Jungkook asked.

"Uh, it's just..."

Catching sight of Taehyung's expression, Namjoon nodded. "Sounds good. Let us know if you need anything."

The moment they burst out into the scorching sun Taehyung's face crumpled.

"Baby."

"It isn't their faults," Taehyung whimpered, trying to cover his face with a hand. "They don't know any better. They're just living their lives."

"Yeah, but still, they should be more careful—"

"They don't know! They don't owe me anything."

Taehyung's feet slowed to a standstill. After a moment, he took a few exhausted steps and leaned against the side of a shop. Jimin stood in front of him, gently rubbing his tears away with a thumb, standing close enough to hopefully shelter him from some of the passers-by; not that either one of them had ever been that averted to public spectacles.

But this was different from fucking in a public restroom or roughhousing in the food court on campus. This wasn't a joke. This wasn't fun. Jimin had only ever seen Taehyung cry once before, and it broke his heart to think of how sad he must be feeling to arrive at that point today.  

"It's just so fucking annoying. I don't know what I'm supposed to do." Taehyung's mouth curved down into a pained grimace. "I shouldn't care. I don't want to care. But this week has just been so hard, with that mix-up at work, and almost not getting my student loan on time, and just feeling kind of depressed for some reason, not sure why, and then that thing happened just now, and the worst thing is, I still have to fucking pee because the only stall in the men's washroom was out of order."

"Oh my god," Jimin gasped. "What if someone needed to take a shit?"

"I know!"

"It can be an urgent thing—I mean, I get the beer shits sometimes, if the taps aren't clean—"

"Jiminnie," Taehyung gasped, his sobs mingling with laughter. "Oh my god—"

"Come on," Jimin said, pulling Taehyung off the wall. "Let's find you a washroom. I kind of need to pee as well."

They ended up deciding on a public park just off campus, with a little fountain in the middle, a bunch of arched bridges, and a nice thick patch of bushes where both of them were able to urinate in perfect comfort.

"That's better," Taehyung sighed, zipping up his fly.

"I know right..."

Taehyung wandered forlornly in Jimin's direction. Jimin held out his arms, and Taehyung broke into a sprint, tumbling into him so hard Jimin was pushed against a tree.

"Are you okay?"

"I still feel sad," Taehyung groaned into Jimin's chest. "I don't know why. It's annoying."

Jimin smiled softly.

"It's okay, Tae."

It wasn't that he liked seeing Taehyung like this. It was just, every time Taehyung bounced back miraculously after suffering what Jimin would've deemed a pretty soul-crushing disappointment, Jimin wondered where all that pent-up sadness went. He knew there must be a secret corridor in Taehyung's heart where he kept it all, but seldom was Jimin allowed to enter. Sometimes he glimpsed it, quickly, but was evicted the moment Taehyung regained his composure. Today, though, instead of hurling him out of his secret lair, humiliated at the unexpected intrusion, Taehyung was lingering. There was something tentative about it, almost questioning.

Are you okay with this?

"Life can actually be so hard."

"You got that right," Taehyung sighed, wiping his nose.

"It makes sense to feel sad sometimes."

"I know. It's just, sometimes, unless I just slap myself together, it feels like... like, if I give in to the darkness, it feels like I might tumble into it completely, and not be able to get back up."

Jimin hummed, taking in Taehyung's words.

"I've been there, Jimin. In that darkness. It's so heavy, so hard to move. So, I can't always afford to stay sad. That's what being resilient is all about." Taehyung smiled crookedly. "I don't think you would like it very much if I fell into that pit."

"Of course not!" Jimin whispered loudly. "I don't want you to be sad. But if you ever did fall, I'd be there for you every step of the way."

"Jiminnie," Taehyung said, staring at him straight in the face. "I think I love you."

Jimin smiled until his eyes narrowed into crescent moons.

"I mean, you're my best friend," Taehyung rationalized. "And we're both dancers, we have loads of common interests. We've known each other for years."

Jimin began to laugh.

"What?"

"No, it's true," Jimin said, regaining some poise. "It all makes sense, really. The reasons why you love me."

Taehyung pouted. "Did I say something wrong?"

"No, baby." Jimin couldn't seem to wipe the smile off his face. "You're just so funny. I love you too." Before Taehyung could say anything, Jimin pulled him into a big hug, spinning them in little circles. "I really, really do," he sung under his breath.

Eventually Taehyung began to laugh, and it was music to Jimin's ears.

*

"I think I'm gay," Jungkook grunted.

Troye Sivan writhed and thrashed on the television screen, in strobe-style black-and-white, his clothes whipping in the wind like a rain-drenched flag around a pole.

"Why limit yourself?" Taehyung called over from the kitchen. He chopped something loudly. "Traditional gayness is so boring. Guys, girls, everything in between and outside of that is fair game to me. It's a freaking buffet!" Another loud thwack.

"How long have you two been dating again?"

"Um, let's see." Jimin did the math. "Three years?"

Jungkook snickered, his eyes still locked on Troye Sivan's lissom frame. "So. You knew you were gay, when?"

"Pan," Jimin corrected him.

"Right so..."

"Basically everything I just said." Taehyung emerged from the kitchen with a dripping cutting board covered in large, uneven slices of honeydew melon. He slammed it down on the foot table.

"It basically means sex or gender doesn't matter in finding people attractive. Thanks, Tae."

"Oh, food," Jungkook grunted, tearing his eyes away from the screen long enough to snatch up a piece.

"So you've been having some gay thoughts?"

"I think so," Jungkook nodded. "I mean, look at him. He's really hot."

"I wouldn't worry about it too much," Taehyung said.

Jungkook glanced up at Taehyung, his lips moist with melon juice. "And I mean, you're pretty hot."

"Why, thank you."

Jungkook's eyes flickered to Jimin, and he opened his mouth as if to add something else, but then he fell silent, blushing all the way down his neck. The two of them had known each other since childhood, having grown up in the same town, and so it maybe felt just a little weird for Jungkook to start complimenting him on his hotness at this point in their lives. Jimin's laugh was like a chime. He covered his mouth with one of his delicate hands.

Jungkook fought to regain a sense of normalcy. "Would that make me... gay? Bisexual?"

"That's for you to decide, really."

"That's for him to explore," Taehyung weighed in.

"You don't really need to label yourself. Unless you want to."

"Labels help a lot of people to feel a sense of solidarity," Taehyung added, "but some people feel constrained by them."

Jungkook nodded, staring vaguely into space. "Makes sense."

"I like pansexuality because it feels more approachable," Taehyung said. "At least to a trans guy like myself. There isn't much room for me in standard definitions of what most gay men or straight women are looking for."

"Right."

Jimin unearthed a piece of melon that was almost pyramidal.

"It's nice not to have to wax eloquent about my genitalia every time I want to get to know someone, if you know what I mean. To just know that if they shove their hands down my pants, they'll be happy with whatever they find, and still respect the fact that I'm a dude." Taehyung shrugged. "That's pansexuality for you."

"Is that how it was for you two?" Jungkook motioned to Jimin. "You just shoved your hands down his pants, and then you were off to the races?"

"Kind of the reverse, actually—" Jimin said.

Taehyung smacked Jimin's shoulder. Jimin laughed his high, tinkling laugh again.

"But you can't just choose to be pansexual..."

"I don't know," Taehyung mused. "I don't know how much of our attraction is based on biology and how much is conditioning, or a complex interaction of the two. You know, the same nature versus nurture bullshit." He tossed a rind back onto the cutting board. "Are we really only attracted to people because they have a dick or a vagina—and not everyone has just one or the other of those, either; think intersex people, or trans people, like me, whose genitals change after hormone therapy—or are we attracted to people because they're women or men? And if so, what even is a woman or a man? Where do we learn those concepts? And where do people who are neither, who are non-binary, fit into all of this?"

"I see what you're saying," Jungkook said. "It isn't really clear..."

"Yeah. I mean, I would never want to point my finger at a gay person and tell them to learn how to find the opposite sex attractive. Yuck. I just get irritated when somebody tells me I'm not a real boy just because I don't have a penis. I've gotten that from a lot of cis gay guys. Probably something about this age-old aversion to the vagina, which at one time might've been partially justified, given how many of them were forced to be with women against their wills, but geez, it isn't just women who have vaginas, guys."

"Yeah, that's stupid," Jimin said. "You're the sexiest boy I know."

"Seriously," Jungkook added.

"Yeah, they need to shut the fuck up," Namjoon said, coming down the stairs in his pyjamas.

"The same way it feels nasty when allegedly straight guys hit on me just because I have a snatch," Taehyung said, leaning back on the couch. "God, I could go on about my genitals all day."

There was an awkward pause.

"Oh, don't worry," Taehyung assured everybody. "I know that's not what you guys were doing. You're all much gayer than you realize, anyway."

"Pretty much," Jungkook said.

Namjoon burst into laughter. So did Jimin, squeezing Taehyung's leg. He'd already heard about all of this before, during dozens upon dozens of conversations with Taehyung, along with a fair amount of his own personal research into the matter, but it still made him happy to hear Taehyung being so open with other people. The more people Taehyung felt he could trust, the better. It made Jimin's heart feel buoyant and warm.

"Throw on something by LP," Namjoon said, settling in beside Jimin. "They're a seriously talented songwriter."

"Great idea."

The melon juice was sticky on Jimin's fingertips. He licked it off each one, watching Taehyung in his peripherals. Eventually he got to his pinky and Taehyung heaved a sigh.

"You okay, hun?"

"Jesus christ," Taehyung muttered under his breath. "I'm suddenly horny as fuck."

Jimin smiled sweetly. "Sorry."

"No, it's fine." Taehyung absent-mindedly ran his hand up and down Jimin's thigh. "I'll know better the next time I cut up a melon..."

*

"Have you done this before?"

Taehyung rolled his hips forward, coming to rest for a second against Jimin's hips. He took a second to catch his breath, and then met Jimin's eye with a tiny smirk. "Shouldn't I be the one asking you that?"

Jimin was too far gone to return Taehyung's sass. His head pushed hard against the pillow. His slender neck stretched up to a razor-sharp jawline, a pair of swollen lips, smoky eyes fixed almost drunkenly on Taehyung's mouth, even though they kept threatening to roll back in his head. "You're j-just really good at this, I dunno—"

"Am I?" For all his attitude, Taehyung's voice was rather shaky. He licked his lips, running a thumb over Jimin's mouth. "I'm glad. God, you're sexy."

Jimin smiled deliriously. Taehyung must've been slowly pulling out while they chatted, because he suddenly moved forward, driving the strap-on straight into Jimin's prostate. Jimin's little laugh turned into a high-pitched moan.

"Jesus, Tae, I can feel you all the way up my spine."

"Good..."

Taehyung held himself up on his arms. In the light of Jimin's lamp, his shoulders looked especially sculpted. Taehyung was strong; stronger than his slender figure let on, even though he hardly ever hit the gym, pretending he couldn't hear them whenever Jimin and Jungkook tried to get him to come along.

"Oh man," Taehyung grunted, sinking to his elbows and quickening his pace.

Jimin would have asked what was up if he'd currently been capable of speech. Taehyung had Jimin's legs up on his shoulders now, and his hand wrapped tight around his cock, and was driving into him, all with such a elegant and natural rhythm he felt likely to explode at any second.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck—"

He came hard, spread wide, with Taehyung inside him and around him, like a tree twining its branches all throughout his body.

Taehyung gave him one last stroke, and then lifted his hand, licking a line of cum off his forefinger as Jimin continued to shudder underneath him.

"P-pull out, baby—"

"Oh, right."

A moment later Taehyung crashed down on the bed beside him. Jimin rolled his head on the pillow to look at him. Strands of wet, golden-blond hair tumbled into Taehyung's eyes, but apart from that, he hardly looked like he'd exerted himself at all.

"Do you need anything?"

Taehyung smiled softly. He had so many smiles; the closed-lip one; the beaming, toothy, boxy one; and this one—teeth and lips slightly parted, eyes narrowing, nothing but warmth and confidence and easy contentment.

"You already got me off like, three times."

Jimin shrugged. "It doesn't exactly get old."

Taehyung wrapped Jimin in his arms. "Let me take care of you now," he muttered, pressing a kiss to Jimin's cheek. "Let me pamper my sweet, sweet Chim Chim." Jimin began to giggle.

That didn't stop him from sucking Taehyung off in the shower, after Taehyung had meticulously scrubbed every inch of his body with a rough cloth and a bar of goat-milk, lavender-scented soap. Taehyung gripped the sides of the shower, little whimpers and curse words mingling with the rush of the water, his body swollen and sensitive in Jimin's mouth, their tan forms encased in clouds of floral-scented mist, and Jimin could not envision a day when he would not desire this person with the same vehemence as he'd learned to that night on the rooftop of the old apartment.

*

Taehyung stumbled backstage, panting loudly. Jimin and Amber hurried over with a towel.

"You okay?" Amber asked, wiping sweat off his forehead.

"Yeah." Taehyung reached for Jimin's water bottle and chugged. "The final part of that number is freaking intense."

"No kidding," Jimin said. "Chani's choreography is always pretty wild."

"You signed up for how many numbers this year?" Amber asked.

"I'm not sure..."

"Like, a million," Jimin said.

"Hurry up," Hoseok called over from around a pillar. "Jimin, you're up after this one!"

Spring showcases were always hectic, but this time they'd partnered up with a local dance troop most of the semester, collaborating on workshops and choreography. It was amazing, as usual, being exposed to new approaches; so inspiring, in fact, that almost twice as many people than usual stepped up to choreograph numbers, resulting in an incredibly ambitious set list. It was almost impossible, in the excitement of everything, not to sign up for your friend's numbers, and the numbers that especially intrigued you, and the numbers directed by prominent members of the dance troop that espoused a style you wanted to learn more about. Jimin had managed to keep his to nine, but, somehow, Taehyung had ended up dancing in eleven, and both of them had been run ragged attempting to keep up with their other classes at the same time as getting everything together.

Still, Taehyung looked angelic in his flowing white bellbottoms and baby-blue chiffon. He chugged more water and closed his eyes while Amber scrubbed at his nape with the towel. Soon it was stained pink.

"This washout dye comes out so fast," she said.

"Yeah, it's annoying."

Jimin blew Taehyung a kiss and then he was off. As he burst through the curtain with the others in his formation, it felt a little bit like diving into a pool of water. The music took him, enveloping him with its fluid touch. The bass ran up through the stage, through his thighs, into his back. He rolled, dropped, pushed, and twirled. He forgot people were watching. He forgot he was tired.

"You were born to dance," Hoseok said to him the second he got off stage.

"So were you," Jimin gasped.

The two of them bumped fists.

He hurried to the curtain, watching Taehyung stride into centre-stage for his solo number. He was sweating, breathless; a little delirious, even, almost like he'd just been going at it with Taehyung for two hours straight, but dancing always made him feel a little like that.

The silver designs on Taehyung's coat blazed in the stage lights. His pink hair glowed like a campfire set by a bunch of fairies in a magical forest. The music started, he began to dance, and Jimin traced his movements with his eyes, feeling them with heightened profundity, almost as if he were dancing next to Taehyung in a duet that was taking place in an alternate realm.

"He's really something, isn't he?" Amber said to his left.

"He really is."

"I can hardly believe how good-looking he is sometimes—like a movie star or something."

"It's true."

Jimin smiled to himself, watching Taehyung cover his eyes with a hand, clench at an invisible mask, and then toss it away into the darkness.

*

Drinking, lots of drinking, and bodies pressed in close against each other; more music, and the roar of voices redounding off tight walls and high ceilings. Jimin wove around a group of breakdancers, a solocup of wine in either hand. Somebody stepped on his foot. He took a sip of wine, not because he particularly needed it, but because at the rate it was sloshing out onto the floor, he wanted to get some down before it all disappeared.

"Jiiiiimiiiin," Yoongi hollered, smacking his shoulder before vanishing back into the crowd. Jimin let fly a loud laugh. He squeezed himself around someone extremely muscular, dressed in a glittering choker and leather pants, and emerged on the edge of the dance floor.

"Holy shit," he cackled to himself.

Jungkook and Namjoon were pressed up close against each other, grinding it out college-style with their eyes closed, as they sometimes did when they were hammered out of their minds. Rather, when Jungkook drank too much, he was likely to grind up on anyone; Namjoon kept his drunken habits reserved for his close friends. Taehyung had come up behind Jungkook, resting his chin on his shoulder, draping his hands almost lazily around his waist.

Jimin sidled up behind his boyfriend and offered him the half-empty cup of merlot. Taehyung bolted the entire thing in one go. Jimin followed suit and the cups seemed to vanish seconds later, tumbling away into the blur.

Taehyung dropped his head back on Jimin's shoulder.

"Hey sexy."

Jimin smiled, kissing his nose. "Hey."

Taehyung tried to turn around, but Jimin shuffled closer, pressing Taehyung right into Jungkook's ass. Taehyung laughed, a little breathless, and reached back to grab at one of Jimin's thighs. Someone whistled from the crowd.

"Chim," Taehyung muttered, barely audible over the music. Too many hands were on Jimin's body to originate from Taehyung alone. Somewhere he thought he heard Namjoon say something, all low and sloppy. Jungkook had turned around to face Taehyung, and was that Yoongi coming up behind Jimin?

Eventually they broke away. Taehyung grabbed his hand, stumbling past groups of people, houseplants, countertops packed with bottles of liquor and wine, over carpeted floors and parquet, until they burst out onto some kind of balcony. The cool night air hit Jimin in the face like a wall.

"You're drunk, aren't you?"

Jimin smiled innocently, stumbling sideways into the railing.

Taehyung caught him around the waist. "Easy cowboy."

"What about you?" Jimin heard himself ask. "Are you drunk?"

"A little," Taehyung laughed. "Okay, maybe not just a little."

"You were amazing today."

"So were you."

The two of them had finally stopped lurching. They leaned against the wall, arms wrapped around each other, sucking in lungfuls of sweet spring air. Something was in full-bloom; perhaps the apple tree across the yard.

"We made it."

Taehyung started to giggle. "I didn't think we were going to at one point."

"So many numbers..."

"It's weird to think that we don't have to practise anything tomorrow."

"Nice of Jin to throw this afterparty."

"Chim, I felt you getting hard when you were grinding me into Kookie's ass."

"Well, I'm still kind of hard."

"I can see that."

"I don't even know what happened."

"It was kind of fun, whatever it was," Taehyung said with a shrug.

"You aren't jealous, are you?"

"No, not if you aren't."

Jimin took a step back. "What does that mean?"

"It means you didn't seem to care either way, so what does it matter?"

"You're the one who was all over Kookie while I was off getting drinks!"

"Listen, can we just... not talk about this right now?" Taehyung's eyes roamed ominously over the deck.

Jimin heaved a sigh. "Tae..."

Taehyung turned and walked back through the deck doors into the house. Jimin followed him, tripping over the doorframe. If he weren't a dancer, he probably would've ended up face-planting on the carpet. Five minutes later they were in the same formation outside, Jimin trailing behind Taehyung, stumbling in the direction of their apartment.

"Are you okay?" Jimin yelled.

"I don't want to talk about it."

"But Tae—"

"I don't want to talk about it while we're drunk," Taehyung barked. "It's a terrible idea."

Jimin managed to hold his peace until they got back to the apartment. The moment they stepped through the door, he blurted, "I don't know what I did wrong."

Taehyung refused to meet his eye. Without saying a word, he stripped off his shoes, grabbed a can of coconut water from the fridge, and disappeared to his room. No matter how many times Jimin knocked on his door, he wouldn't open up.

"Baby," he moaned, sprawled on his side outside Taehyung's door. "Listen, I'm sorry."

There was no response.

Jimin shivered. The hardwood had begun to dig into his shoulder. He pushed himself into a sitting position and was immediately assailed by a wave of dizziness. He lurched to his feet, crashed through the washroom door, and barely made it to the toilet in time.

*

A warm breeze stirred the sheets. Jimin smacked his lips together, momentarily forgetting why he felt like complete and utter shit. Someone had opened his window. Someone had put a glass of water by his bed. Come to think of it, someone had put him in his bed.

He reached for the glass of water. It felt like it weighed fifty pounds. His wrist trembled as he angled it towards his face. He sipped at it feebly.

Someone stirred behind him.

"T-tae?" he asked, dropping the glass back onto the nightstand with a clunk.

"Chim?" a raspy voice emanated from behind. "You okay?"

"Um." Jimin took a minute to assemble his thoughts. "I feel like shit."

"We went really hard last night."

"Yeah, wow."

Taehyung pushed himself up on a forearm, reached for the glass of water, and held it to Jimin's lips. "Drink more. It'll help."

Jimin eventually drank the entire glass. His head seemed to lighten a little bit.

"Are you feeling okay?"

Taehyung lay his head on the pillow. "I'm alright."

"About last night, I'm sorry—"

"No, no," Taehyung sighed, closing his eyes. "It wasn't your fault."

There was a moment of silence.

"What happened?" Jimin asked sheepishly. "I don't really remember."

"It's stupid."

"Please tell me."

"Fine," Taehyung groaned. "Well, remember that time we joked about having a threesome with Kookie and then you said it might actually be kind of hot, despite being incredibly weird?"

"Okay..."

"Well, I thought about it last night. I wondered if you might like it if I, uh, got up in his business. He was already in full-form with Namjoon, and neither of them seemed to mind."

"So you thought that I..."

"Would find it sexy, which you clearly did," Taehyung muttered.

"Well... I'm sorry, Tae. It's just you've never seemed to mind that kind of thing before. That one night I gave Namjoon a lapdance—"

"That was different. That was a dare." Taehyung exhaled. "Listen, I don't even know why it bothered me. I just felt you getting hard, and I wondered if you were getting hard because of me, or because of the fact that I was grinding on Kookie, or maybe just because of Kookie himself—"

"We're childhood friends!"

"But you said you wouldn't mind a threesome—"

"I was mostly kidding—"

"Jimin," Taehyung intoned. "Is a strap-on not enough? Would you like some real cock, is that it?"

The retort Jimin had been planning died in his throat. "Tae," he whispered. "Is that what you've been worrying about?"

Taehyung stared fixedly at Jimin's chest.

"Tae," Jimin said, shuffling closer.

A tear brimmed over one of Taehyung's eyes and pooled on the bridge of his nose. He made no move to wipe it away.

"I love you more than anybody in this world."

"That doesn't mean you don't have wants and needs—"

"Tae."

Jimin wished Taehyung could see into his mind. See the way Jimin felt when he watched Taehyung dancing on stage. See how many times Taehyung popped into his thoughts over the course of a day. See how much he held back, so as not to burden Taehyung with the strength of his emotions.

"That's ridiculous," he muttered, running a hand over Taehyung's arm. "I'm serious, Tae. You make me so happy."

"So why did you get hard when—"

"I'm... I'm actually kind of embarrassed about that." Jimin closed his eyes. "To tell you the truth, I got a little jealous when I came back and found you grinding on Jungkook. But I thought you wanted it, so I pushed you closer. I mean, I did find it cute, too, but I'd forgotten about our threesome conversation at that point, and then, something about the whole thing just..." He laughed sheepishly. "There was so much movement, and heat, and I guess I just..."

"You were jealous?"

Jimin inhaled deeply. "You're incredibly beautiful, Tae, do you know that?"

Taehyung's stared at him blankly.

"Amber said so. Minho said so. I've heard it more times than I can count. And that doesn't make me jealous, don't worry. It's just, the truth is, I know they're right. You're an amazing person. I feel it, right here..." He pressed a hand to his chest. "I feel it all the time. And sometimes it scares me. Sometimes, I don't know what I'd do if I ever lost you..."

"Chim—"

"So I want you to have what you need. I want to let you breathe. I never want you to feel held back by me."

"Chim," Taehyung laboured. "You must know... that you're beautiful too? No," he insisted, dismissing Jimin's eye roll, "I mean it."

Jimin gazed at Taehyung. He felt weakened, by his hangover, yes, but also by how desperately he wanted Taehyung to understand.

"I don't want anybody's cock but yours," he whispered.

"I don't actually care about that," Taehyung said. "You're right, a threesome might be hot one day; just as long as you aren't looking to bang some cis guy because you've gotten tired of me."

"Taehyung." Tears had begun to trickle down Jimin's face and he didn't even care. "I could never get tired of you. You're so fascinating. You're, you're like, the meaning to my whole life, and I..."

Taehyung stared at him, his eyes wide.

"Sorry." Jimin wiped at one of his eyes. "I'll stop."

"Sorry for what?"

"For putting all that on you."

Taehyung shuffled forward, kissing Jimin on the lips. Jimin parted his lips instinctively, but he was surprised to find that Taehyung wasn't taking it there just then. Taehyung kissed him softly, running a hand down his cheek, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear with such loving, tender affection that Jimin began to cry even harder.

He was used to Taehyung fixing things with sex. It was like hitting a reset button; changing the channel to something so sweet and juicy and fun that they forgot about everything else. Emotions weren't dealt with so much as flipped around.

But this was different. Taehyung didn't seem to be running away today. He played with Jimin's hair and quietly watched him cry. Every emotion Jimin felt—sadness, worry, helplessness, love—all pooled in his chest, with nowhere to go. He kept expecting, almost hoping Taehyung would roll him onto his back and reach down his pants, or start sucking his neck, or playing with his nipples, but he never did.

Eventually his tears died down. He sniffed heartily, and Taehyung kissed him one more time.

"Gosh," was all Jimin could manage.

"I'm sorry I got so nuts about the trans stuff again..."

"Taehyung. I don't mind. I don't ever mind. I want you to talk to me about these things whenever they come up..."

"I wish they wouldn't."

"Me too, but only because I hate seeing you worry like that."

"I'm sorry I can be so difficult."

"Shh," Jimin said, shaking his head. "You aren't difficult. You're great..."

There were still dozens of emotions swirling inside him. He still hadn't figured out what he was going to do with them. Seeming to sense this, Taehyung shuffled closer, wrapping his arms around him.

"I love you."

"I love you too, Tae."

"I love you too fucking much," Taehyung added, almost warily.

Jimin snuggled into Taehyung's shirt, inhaling his familiar scent. He sighed happily.

"I'm with you for the long-haul, babe," he muttered. "I know it's really hard being trans sometimes. I know we've talked about it a lot, but please don't ever feel like you can't bring something up, even if it feels like we've talked about it before."

Taehyung's chin was on top of his head. He couldn't see what face he was making, but his voice was uncharacteristically soft. "Alright."

"I'm here for you."

"Okay... thanks Chim."

They dozed off in the morning sun, hand-in-hand. Big, poofy clouds took turns rolling over the sun, shifting the light in the room from grey, to cream, to gold, and back again. Spring breezes ruffled their hair; two messy bursts of pink and blond splayed over Jimin's dark blue pillowcase. Later, when Jimin awoke, his headache had abated, but the emotions were still there.

He didn't mind as much now.

In some ways, they were beautiful. Just like the clouds that drifted behind Taehyung's eyes.

 

FIN