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Taehyung’s working theory is that everyone is a little bit queer.

He has next to no proof for this theory, but that’s never stopped him before. It just sort of seems to him, personally, that girls are good and boys are good and walking the spectrum between two fixed points is also good, and that most people deserve to have something good in their lives. That if there were, historically, less weird social hangups about what bits go where, everyone would find the idea of at least experimenting to be worthwhile.

All of this to say: he’s definitely winning gay chicken with Seokjin.

It had started out as a bit of goofing around while they practiced for It’s Definitely You. The song is romantic as hell and Taehyung would defy anyone who heard it to not look the nearest person to them lovingly in the eyes while creeping inexorably closer.

...Admittedly, Jin is not actually the closest person to him when Tae first does this. But he is the person singing the song with him, which is even more thematically appropriate. That, and Jin is usually down for anything involving Shenanigans, and Tae can feel that familiar little buzz under his skin, the one that never gets old, the fluttering anticipation of an impending performance.

It helps. To mess around with his fellow members, to remind himself that he loves this, loves them, wouldn’t be doing anything else with anyone else in the whole world. He scrunches his face up, points at Jin and gives an exaggerated wink, and Jin--

Jin nearly falls the fuck over.

There’s a hoot of laughter from the sidelines where Jungkook has paused in his conquering of Bangtanlandia (population: Jimin) by the sword (status: incorporeal) to watch them. Jin, consummate professional that he is, somehow manages to mime strangling their youngest member without missing a beat in the song, and Taehyung would almost be willing to brush the whole thing off as a blip if Jin’s ears weren’t glowing bright red.

Interesting, Tae thinks, and resolves to give his hyung a break while he considers this.

“Jimin-ah,” he says later that night, when they’re home and Jimin is upside down on Taehyung’s bed and Taehyung is sitting on the floor leaning back against it, and their heads are so close that he could whisper and Jimin would still be able to hear him. He doesn’t need to whisper, they’re alone in the room together, but - he could. “Jimin-ah, do you think that Jin-hyung is into guys?”

“What?” There’s a pause, some rustling. Taehyung feels the mattress dip behind his neck, before a dark blur in his peripheral alerts him to the approach of Jimin’s face. “Taehyung, what?”

“What do you mean, what? That’s a pretty straightforward question, I thought.”

“Why do you care if Jin-hyung is into guys?”

“I think,” Taehyung says slowly, because this is not exactly the reaction he was expecting, “that depends on what you mean by care?”

Jimin is wearing a sheet mask that’s gone a little sideways at the mouth, maybe because of all his moving around, or maybe because of the way his lips turn out at the corners right now. He’s cute, Taehyung thinks, but that’s nothing new. Jimin is always cute, even when he’s at the stage of his skincare routine that makes him look like an axe murderer.

“You’ve never asked if I - if anyone else was into guys.”

“I’ve never really thought about it?”

“But you’re thinking about Jin-hyung being into guys?”

“Yes?” Taehyung squints at him, like he’s going to find the missing piece of this conversation somewhere in the wrinkled lines of the sheet mask. It’s hard to tell, but he suspects Jimin is frowning and can’t figure out why. “Is that a problem?”

“What?” Jimin says again. He snorts, unconvincingly, and pulls his face away from Taehyung. It’s only in the chill of his absence that Tae realises just how close he had been, how nice the soft brush of his breath was over Tae’s skin. The mattress shifts some more as Jimin throws himself - aggressively - onto his back again. “No. Why would that be a problem? It’s not a problem. I just think it’s weird, that we’ve known each other forever, and you’re only asking if someone is into boys now, and it’s Jin-hyung.”

Which, when he puts it that way, Taehyung supposes it is sort of weird. The question has been largely academic while they’re in Bangtan, at least for him - there’s nothing official about dating in their contracts, but industry standards are industry standards. He knows some of the others have skirted the edges of sex and romance in the past, but the details have eluded him over the years. He’d always figured that, if he needed to know anything, someone would tell him. That they all understood he loved and supported them no matter what.

It’s a little distressing now to think that maybe he hasn’t been entirely clear about that. He surges to his feet, startling a yelp out of Jimin who isn’t as relaxed as he’s pretending to be, staring up at Tae with wide eyes and a wider mouth. The sheet mask is thoroughly disturbed by now. Tae hopes he didn’t swallow any of the product.

“Wh--”

“Don’t say what again,” Taehyung pleads. He drops onto the mattress, knees first. Jimin sits up with a squeak before he can straddle his shins, so he’s just sort of awkwardly balanced, staring at his best friend. “You know I know you like guys and I’m fine with that, right?”

He’s not sure what to expect. Maybe it’s the sheet mask hiding his features, or maybe it’s because Taehyung has unwittingly steered them into unknown waters for the first time since they were teenagers, but he doesn’t like it. He’s used to knowing, if not exactly, then at least approximately what Jimin is thinking. What he’s about to do next. When he’d first brought the topic of Jin up next to boys, he’d expected idle speculation and not much else. Hadn’t anticipated that the answer would actually matter.

But something has shifted. In the air, in the earth, or at least in their dorm. Taehyung isn’t sure how, or why, but this conversation suddenly matters very much, and he wants to establish some basic facts given these new parameters. Like his undying love and support for Park Jimin.

Park Jimin, who - who reaches up and tugs off the sheet mask. His head dips down as he does it, so it’s a second or two before Taehyung can see the way his face rearranges - the soft slide of his lips into a smile, the crinkle at the corner of his eyes, the indefinable light that Jimin only ever really turns on for him.

Something in his chest unclenches. Jimin wraps his small hands around Tae’s wrists demandingly, tugging them up to his face.

“Pat,” he instructs. “Your piano hands are better for this than mine are.”

“I can’t actually play the piano that well,” he complains, tapping his fingers over the excess serum anyway. It’s somehow smooth and sticky at the same time, and Taehyung absently hopes the no snails were harmed in the making of this sheet mask copy on the packet isn’t just marketing spin. “Jimin. You didn’t answer.”

“I told you about the first time I kissed a guy and you demanded an hour long play by play,” Jimin says, and his mouth is unbearably fond as it twists in Tae’s direction.

“I wanted to know who you thought was good enough to be the great Park Jimin’s first kiss.”

“I spent more time telling you about it than I did kissing him.”

Jimin raises his eyebrows at him like this is supposed to mean something significant, and Taehyung thinks Jimin always wants to share the important parts of his life with me, thinks I hope he knows I feel the same. The serum has gone tacky on Tae’s fingertips, moisture sticking them together for half a heartbeat longer than normal. He taps a few more times, watches Jimin’s eyebrows come down, watches his eyes flutter shut. Like he’s enjoying the sensation. Like he’s disappointed in Taehyung’s silence.

The serum dissipates, into Jimin’s skin or Taehyung’s, or both. He cups Jimin’s face, silently thanks the snails for their sacrifices, thinks that he should probably do a double cleanse soon, says, “You know I love you, Jimin-ah?”

There’s a twitch between Jimin’s eyebrows that Taehyung doesn’t get. The corners of his mouth have fallen down again; Taehyung presses a thumb into the edge of what used to be a smile, trying to pull it back.

It twitches to life. Hard to tell, if it’s a newborn thing or in its death throes.

“Yeah,” Jimin says. “Yeah Tae, I know.”

*

“Anyway,” he says later, when he’s leaving to go back to his own room, the one he shares with Hobi, even though they’ve fallen asleep together plenty of times before. “Anyway, I don’t think Jin-hyung is into guys like, generally speaking. I mean, you’d probably have to ask him, but I always got the sense he just liked individual people.”

Jimin nods firmly, as though he’s come to some sort of decision. Tae, laying back on his hands and not entirely sure why Jimin is leaving or what he can do to get him to stay, stares.

“I can’t tell if that means you think I should go for it or not.”

Fire flashes in Jimin’s face in a way that makes Tae want to lurch back, a child learning why they shouldn’t touch a hot stove. “Who said anything about going for anything?”

“No one! Well, I did, just now, but I wasn’t serious. Mostly. Just, um, curious, I guess? Seokjinnie - Jin feels safe.”

He twists his piano fingers together. He hadn’t even realised the stove was on.

“Oh.” Jimin’s shoulders drop. “Tae. Taehyungie, why didn’t you say something?”

Didn’t want to worry you.

Didn’t want you to think I was bad at this.

Didn’t want to ask you to help, and have you say no.

The thing is, he loves Jimin. He loves all of the boys, but Jimin is special. Jimin is his soulmate, and he’ll tell him everything in the world, except about how he wants to try kissing with someone he can trust. Because Jimin is a lot of things, but he’s not safe. Not for Tae, and not for his heart.

So he smiles with all his teeth and his eyes nearly shut and probably pulls it off. He’s good at acting, even around this boy.

“Wasn’t really thinking about it until he started acting weird, that’s all. Yah, why do you look so worried? I’m fine, Jiminie. I’d say if I wasn’t.”

The lie works as intended. Taehyung watches the knot of tension in Jimin’s form unwind, leaving him loose and hopefully not too frayed at the edges. Jimin runs a hand back through his hair, which falls more or less into the exact same spot it had been in before, kind of like the two of them.

“I think you should go for whatever you want to go for,” Jimin says. “And I’ll be here for you no matter what, okay?”

*

It’s a very nice sentiment. Taehyung holds it close to his heart, even as sleep eludes him and he stares up into darkness and pretends the ceiling isn’t there, that he and his bed are just floating in some indeterminable void from which the only escape is actually closing his eyes and not having his own thoughts haunt him.

It lasts - the sentiment, not the sleeplessness - approximately twelve hours. Taehyung isn’t one to linger on his own upset, not like some of the others. No, he’s far more likely to throw himself into the next thing and see if that helps, or at least stops the hurt, and this whole Jin thing has him interested. Like a good kind of hangnail, catching on the edge of his awareness every time he stops thinking about it. He’s not sure if he wants to rip it off, or keep playing with it.

Jin keeps looking over at him. And like, they’re performing together, or practicing their performance. It’s good to interact with the people you’re on stage with, and maybe it’s nothing, except Tae can see the steadily growing flush at Jin’s ears, and he’s barely even done anything yet.

It’s sweet. Jimin never blushes when Tae looks at him too long, always preens like he’s receiving his due and that’s the sort of thing that makes Tae’s whole heart clench in his chest because that’s exactly what he wants to give Jimin, that pride and pleasure of being Seen.

But this is nice too. This new shyness, this feeling of maybe having the upper hand in an interaction with too many feelings thick in the air, in knowing how to swim instead of waiting to be rescued. He keeps his ears perked for a bad joke, for some sign that Jin is trying to assert dominance over the situation, return them to normal, but all he can hear is their song, it’s gonna be you inevitable in his ears.

He’d told Jimin that Jin was safe, and that’s part of it - a trust in his hyung, knowing that no matter how Tae manages to break something, Jin will always help pick up the pieces. But there are other truths folded into that, things like Jin is beautiful, like he laughs as though he’s not, like, he laughs like he wants you to laugh too, but it’s okay if you don’t. He’s hard to fluster but somehow Tae manages anyway, turning his body and his face and his voice towards him in the practice room, i’ll sacrifice myself to protect you and that--

That’s when he sees Jimin.

That’s approximately when the sentiment - the ‘I’ll be here for you no matter what’ - runs out. Honestly, Tae is kind of impressed that he managed to hold onto it for this long. Not because this is a serious thing, or because Jimin won’t be there for him if he needs him, but because the camera is on them and Taehyung’s attention is on Jin and something about this combination wipes out the ‘no matter what’ part for Jimin, gets under his skin and makes him needy.

Tae bites back a grin at the sight of his friend shuffling from a chair to stand right behind him, forcing the camera to shift away from Jin and his high note if it wants to catch what is the admittedly adorable sight of Jimin carefully buttoning himself into a chicken onesie.

He keeps his back resolutely turned despite the laughter threatening to break free from his chest. Jin’s doing his fucking best to maintain professionalism, but no one does cute like Jimin does cute and Jin doesn’t have the advantage of being able to turn his back on the guy like Tae can (or else Tae would definitely be dissolving right now).

The song swings back to Tae. In the interests in giving the camera to Jin and also continuing this game of chicken he’s been winning for the past couple of days, he shimmies forward, daring Jin to run. Jin tears a faintly befuddled gaze away from Jimin and his onesie and Tae can see the familiar light of Shenanigans spark in his eyes, finally, as he stalks the music back towards Tae.

(Somewhere behind him is an irritated huff, too low for the filming to pick up on. Taehyung wonder how many of the buttons Jimin has managed to do up. Wonders if he has the hood on yet. Wonders if he’d smile, if Taehyung turned around right now.

He doesn’t).

Jin is giving the situation (and Taehyung) a healthy dose of eye-rolling as they approach each other, the music thudding through both of them, and the lyrics spill out of him drama-perfect, it’s gonna be you, and all Taehyung feels is - light. Laughter beating at the bars of his ribs even as he draws a more serious look on his face, getting closer and closer.

Kim Seokjin is beautiful and he remains beautiful as they get up in each other’s faces, as Jin cracks and cackles, high-pitched and wheezing, as their foreheads press together and Taehyung can feel the fondness there, right next to a general sort of bewilderment. Because Jin is not, as Tae has thought this whole time, playing gay chicken with him. Or any kind of chicken.

He’s beautiful but it’s beauty like the sky, or a statue, some work of art meant for looking and keeping your hands well away from. Taehyung considers, in that split second of feeling the hot brush of Jin’s breath tangling with his, if that’s one of those rules meant for breaking. If he wants badly enough to risk, or if it’s just one of those idle fantasies, a what if I ran this red light right now sort of thought.

Jin laughs, breaks away from Tae, lifts the mic back to his mouth and keeps singing because this isn’t their song, really, but a song. Another song, and singing those is what they do, because they’re Bangtan, and Taehyung is sort of breathless with how close he came to screwing that up.

*

Jimin has the hood of the chicken suit up. He’s fucking adorable, a little tuft of black hair sticking out the front. He can’t push it back while he’s wearing the thing, and Taehyung’s fingers itch to do it for him.

He doesn’t look at Taehyung again.

*

“Taehyung-ah? Do you have a sec?”

Taehyung might be a good actor, but no amount of drama training in the world can stop the rush of blood to his cheeks when Jin says his name. He glances around the room for a quick escape, but Jin has picked his moment perfectly - the others are all gone, and his stupid shoulders are blocking the door.

(His shoulders aren’t stupid. They’re fine, Tae is just finding it difficult to breathe all of a sudden).

“Sure,” he says, because that is apparently his only option. Hiding his face under his hood, he does a quick ear check on Jin. They’re not like, bright red or anything, but holding steady at a pink blush that says whatever he’s about to say is going to get embarrassing.

Cool. Cool cool cool cool.

“Look.” Abruptly, Jin’s hands are on his shoulders, and Taehyung finds himself on the receiving end of a Very Serious look. He can’t decide if he’s relieved (at least he’s not about to be made fun of) or fucking terrified. “You know I love you, right?”

“Ah.” Taehyung ducks his head. “Jin-hyung it’s fine, you don’t have to--”

“I do. It’s about to get real awkward for about five seconds, but after that it’ll be fine. I promise.”

Tae thinks he’s kind, thinks I guess I can survive this, thinks of all those times that Jin has slid into a situation with a joke or an anecdote to take the heat off him, all those times he’s popped up with food or conversation or a sliver of advice just when Tae seems to need it. He shoves his hood back off his face hurriedly, waits.

“You’re one of the best people I know, and I’ll kill anyone who says otherwise,” he says solemnly. “But I’m not, um, interested. In you. Sexually or romantically. Emotionally? Absolutely. In who you are as a human being? Without a question. In teaching you how to make ramyeon without burning the water? It’s a life goal of mine. But - but not those first two, and I’m very sorry if I somehow gave you the impression that I was, and am happy to do whatever you need to help you be okay about this unfortunate situation.”

Taehyung looks somewhere over Jin’s left shoulder because oh man, was he not wrong about this being awkward. But he counts, one, two, three, (and Jin’s face relaxes a bit here, putting things together), four, five and lets out a breath, slow and steady. Jin is still there, hands still on his shoulders, you know I love you, right? a comfort. He’s always known how to be a good big brother.

“I wanna say,” Taehyung says slowly, measuring his words, “that I was like, seventy percent messing around. You kept turning red.” He sighs. “In hindsight, that was probably discomfort and not you getting flustered over my great seduction technique, huh?”

Jin narrows his eyes at him. “Do you...often seduce people by wriggling like a fish?”

Tae wriggles then, squirming away from Jin’s hold to smack in in the arm. “Hyung.

“Hey, if that’s what works for you I’m not questioning it, I’m just saying. You’re an internationally famous idol, you have options.”

“You’re the worst and I hate you.”

“Don’t lie, Taehyungie, we both know I’m the greatest in the world.”

He waits a beat, expecting a teasing follow up, a you like me at least thirty percent or something, but the look in Jin’s eye is just unbearably fond and it occurs to Taehyung that - Jin wouldn’t. That he figures this is probably, or at least could be, a sort of sensitive topic, that he’s not going to poke at what might be an open wound.

He’s really asking for a hug, is what Taehyung decides, even though they’re both sweaty and gross and Jin complains loudly because he does everything loudly when he’s trying to pretend he doesn’t have feelings, but his arms come up around Taehyung and he hugs back just as tightly, letting Tae press his face into his shoulder.

“You know,” Jin says, when he’s done yelling and they’re still hugging, “if you need to talk about thirty percent or something, I’ll listen. Whatever you need.”

“I mean,” Taehyung mumbles into his shoulder. “You do have a good face, hyung. It’s pretty self-explanatory.”

Jin squeaks his familiar laugh and it’s Taehyung’s turned to be fond, and so, so thankful he thinks his heart might explode. A part of him thinks he could probably still ask, in a friend sort of way, just pull back and say, ‘anyway the reason I was trying to fluster you in the gay way is because boys and kissing is still a huge mystery to me and I would like to figure it out before I do something really stupid like try to kiss Jimin’.

And the rest of him remembers those five seconds of awkward and thinks, maybe not. Jin is safe, but Jin is emphatically not interested. In fact, after all of this, Taehyung’s not even sure--

“Hey, do you even like guys?”

Jin chokes, softly, on nothing at all as Taehyung untangles himself and does another quick ear check. Bright red. He’s struck a nerve.

“Yah, why do you say that like I’m the one who’s been caught trying to seduce an older man?”

“One, three years older is not that much older. Two - because I want to know. Isn’t that enough?”

Ah, but it’s not quite the truth. They work in an industry that loves to see boys almost kiss, that would get very abruptly complicated if they actually did. Maybe this whole mess isn’t just about feeling safe, emotionally.

Maybe it’s about feeling a little less alone. There’s Jimin, there’s always been Jimin, but Taehyung has always felt weird bringing it up around his best friend, beyond any of the details Jimin has mentioned first. Taehyung is beginning to suspect that he might be a bit of a coward.

“There’s been a couple,” Jin blurts, and Tae’s attention ricochets right back to him because he’d like, suspected, sure, but confirmation is something else. Confirmation is a glow in his chest, a soft oh echoing in his heart. “Of men, I mean. A couple of guys. It’s not that I didn’t trust you, I just wanted you and the others to have - I don’t know, plausible deniability if it ever came up.”

Tae opens his mouth angrily, ready to defend Bangtan’s honour and Jin’s as well - like they’d ever hang him out to dry, whether they knew or not. Like they’d ever be anything other than completely supportive.

(Like that didn’t make at least three of them who were queer, now. Four, maybe, depending on Yoongi. It might have been nice, to know that before approximately now).

“Don’t look at me like that, I’m starting to think it wasn’t the greatest idea.” Jin crosses his arms, uncrosses them. Looks at Tae, half lost and half found, all heartfelt. “You - d’you wanna head back home? I can tell you about them. We can talk.”

There were a lot of things Tae had braced for when Jin had first said his name. Humiliation, for one. Discomfort, largely. This rush of warmth as the defensiveness fades away, this feeling of looking at his hyung and feeling seen all at once - he hadn’t anticipated that.

He likes it. Thinks it’s better, probably, than fucking around with one sided gay chicken.

“Yeah,” he says, threading his arm with Jin’s dragging him from the studio. “Yeah, I think I’d really like that.”

*

Taehyung bumps into Jimin coming out of the bathroom later. He must have just showered, his hair wet and shoved back off his forehead, skin pinked from the heat, and Taehyung ignores the urge to follow that flush down his throat, over his collarbones, the one shoulder bared by the loose neck of his shirt. Because Jimin’s eyes are red-rimmed and his expression is curiously blank when he realises it’s Taehyung he’d just run into. No smile, no laughter, not even a tired nudge into his shoulder with his forehead. It’s like he doesn’t want to see him.

“H-hey.” Taehyung catches him with a hand to the chest as he tries to push past, and something hurts in his throat, scratchy and sick. “Jimin-ah, is everything okay?”

That wins him a smile, creased at the corners like it’s been pulled out too often lately, forced into place. “Fine, fine. Just tired. What’s different, right? How was your thing with Jin?”

Taehyung opens his mouth.

“Actually, I have to go meet Yoongi-hyung, so never mind. I’ll talk to you later, okay Taehyungie?”

It’s not okay, not really, but before Taehyung can figure out how to put that into words Jimin is gently batting his hand away, hurrying off down the corridor. Taehyung swallows like that’ll make the thick feeling in his throat go down, but all it seems to do is stick it there worse.

*

taehyung [23.17]

jin-hyung does like guys btw

taehyung [23.23]

that’s not me breaching his privacy or anything!

he said i could tell u

jiminie [00.57]

hey thats great

im really happy for u

promise

*

The next day is a full rehearsal at the venue and they’re supposed to be celebrating so all traces of the sombre and sad Jimin he’d run into the night before have of course disappeared. It’s discomforting, Taehyung thinks, to realise how complete his friend’s mask is. How, if he didn’t know there was something wrong, he might not have been able to figure it out.

Jin instigates the Shenanigans this time and Tae grins, the two of them stalking across the stage, looking back at each other dramatically and this - at least this can be normal, can be comforting, can be stupid. He looks around for Jimin and finds him still fucking around with Jungkook, the two of them in their animal onesies, and Taehyung has to beg for a break before they practice again. If he tries to sing around the lump in his throat right now, he’s going to crack.

He tries to get Jimin alone when they stop for food, but the other boy seems to vanish into thin air. No one seems to know where he’s gone, or if they do they’re not telling, and Taehyung can’t decide what’s worse - Jimin being on his own when something is so obviously bothering him, or Jimin not wanting to be around Tae when something is so obviously bothering him.

As though that thing might be Tae.

*

Taehyung is an idol. He sings, he dances, he acts on occasion. What he’s not is a prophet, or a fortune teller, but he has this vision of a terrible future anyway, one where Jimin smiles at him and doesn’t stop, where Taehyung asks him how he is and just gets fine in response, an unended line of okays covering a truth that Jimin won’t tell him and Tae can’t seem to guess.

He’s spent so much time with the thought of Jimin not being safe, too scared to break his own heart and shatter the thing that lives between them, he’d never stopped to ask if he was safe for Jimin. If maybe he was the rocks, Jimin the swimmer being dashed to pieces against him.

Jimin likes other boys, a sensible sounding part of Taehyung’s brain points out. Jimin tells you all about those other boys. Jimin’s had plenty of time to say something, if this is a problem for him.

All of that is true, but there’s an equally sensible part of Taehyung’s heart that knows how bad Jimin can be with his feelings, that knows he loves so fucking much but it comes out sideways sometimes, that knows he can be petty and attention seeking and desperate to protect his own ego.

That knows Jimin would bend over backwards to make sure any of them were happy, even if it meant sacrificing himself. It’s been years, and they still haven’t been able to convince him that if he’s miserable, they all are.

Taehyung goes to bed early that night, staring at his phone. Thumbing over the last message from Jimin, the characters in promise blurring together. Thinks of Jin’s hands on his shoulders and his kind, gentle face. It’s about to get real awkward for about five seconds, but after that it’ll be fine. How fucking brave that was, to broach the topic not knowing what the outcome was going to be.

taehyung [21.27]

hey

are you awake?

i think we should talk

i need to tell you something

*

Taehyung is being crushed to death.

It’s not actually that bad? Not that he’s ever really envisioned dying like this before, but if he had, he would have assumed more pain. Some blood, probably. Definitely broken bones. But the worst he feels is kind of warm, not great as the weather creeps into summer, but not terrible either.

“I can tell you’re awake.” A blunt finger pushes his cheek, the physical manifestation of the frown he can hear in Jimin’s voice. “Taehyungie. I lied to you.”

There’s a lot in this situation that doesn’t make sense. Is Jimin being crushed to death too? But he probably wouldn’t sound frowny if that was what was happening. Probably wouldn’t be poking Taehyung in the face, either. And while they’re on the probablies, chances were high he wouldn’t be sitting on--

“Oh my god.”

Taehyung sits up so fast he nearly knocks skulls with Jimin, because Jimin is sitting on his stomach, one knee digging into the mattress on either side of him - straddling, Taehyung thinks wildly, the term is straddling. No one is being crushed to death, unless they’re talking metaphorically, in which case Taehyung might be about to expire. He stares at Jimin, whose face is bare inches away from him, breath hot and startled and smelling vaguely of mint, like he’s already brushed his teeth.

Taehyung hasn’t brushed his teeth. He’s so close, and Taehyung’s mouth is so furry, and that’s the creeping edge of hysteria, probably, threatening to drag him under.

“Close,” Jimin murmurs, and he sort of - he places his hands behind him and leans back, but doesn’t do much else to seperate them, to remove his ass from Taehyung’s waist. In fact, all it really does is put the long stretch of Jimin’s torso on display, and he’s only wearing a singlet right now in deference to the heat.

That’s a lot of bare skin on display for Taehyung’s benefit. Or - wow, not his benefit, Jimin doesn’t dress like this for Taehyung.

Does he?

“You,” Tae starts, because he has to start somewhere and Jimin seems as good a place as any. “Um. You lied, Jiminie? About what?”

Being fine, probably, and Taehyung is half relieved and half annoyed that it’s at least coming up. Relieved, because the last day or two has been kind of hellish. Annoyed, because he didn’t get the chance to break the ice himself.

“Being okay with you and Jin.”

“Me and--”

“When I said,” Jimin enunciates carefully, “that you should go for whatever you wanted to go for, I was lying.”

And see, Taehyung had sort of started putting that together. That maybe Jimin had been less supportive friend, and more of a martyr in that situation. That maybe he was turning out to be kind of a bad martyr. Which, thank fuck, because Taehyung isn’t sure he would have gotten there on his own, without Jimin’s truly egregious sulking.

He bites down on a smile, ducking on his head. “You were, huh?”

“Are you smiling? I swear to god, Taehyung-ah, you better not be laughing at me. I have been too upset about this mess for too long for you to be laughing at me.”

“I’m not laughing! I promise, no laughter here.”

“Then why are you smiling? This is rude. I’m being rude, Taehyung. You should be sailing into the sunset with Jin-hyung on the yacht that the two of you are going to buy together to escape the mess that is Bangtan and me, and here I am sitting on you at five-twelve in the morning telling you that I lied to you because I like you, and when I said that you should go for whatever you wanted to go for, I meant that you should go for me.”

Taehyung reaches up, reaches out, taps his piano fingers over the curve of Jimin’s cheekbone where an angry flush has settled. He’s not crying, but Taehyung can hear the threat in his voice, the way he tries to cover it by being ridiculous, this real emotion that he can’t keep inside anymore.

That’s okay. Neither can’t Tae.

“I am a little upset about the five in the morning thing,” Taehyung admits. Jimin snorts, the sound wet as he leans into Taehyung’s touch, closing his eyes. And Tae can’t help himself, bringing his other hand up to cup Jimin’s jaw, cradling his precious face in his palms. “Jimin. Jimin-ah. There’s nothing going on between Jin and me.”

The frown comes back. Jimin’s face is a little smushed, a lot adorable. “You don’t have to lie to protect my feelings.”

“I’m not.”

“You said he liked guys.”

“I didn’t say what guys,” Taehyung points out. If Jin’s support had been a warmth in his chest, this moment is like someone flicked a cigarette butt into the tinder-dry grass of his heart. There’s a whole fucking forest fire in there now, and he’s going to burn up from the joy of it. “He turned me down, Jimin. I mean - I didn’t actually ask anything, he just sort of panicked and wanted to make sure that I knew he wasn’t interested, which is probably a good thing because I wasn’t really interested either. In him. Still very interested in guys. One in particular.”

Small hands come up to encircle his wrists. Taehyung can feel the tremor in them and wants nothing more than to sooth it, to tell Jimin it’s going to be okay, to prove it to him. But they need to - maybe they need to be gentle with each other right now, careful. Maybe the thing they need to prove first is that they’re safe here, with each other.

Jimin must have shoved his curtains open before he took up residence on Taehyung’s torso, because the morning sun is a buttery yellow spread across his face, picking out the rich colour in his iris, burnt umber and russet and a thousand other shades that Taehyung doesn’t have paints for but wants to recreate anyway. Wants to capture this moment in something more reliable than memory, the way Jimin watches him, how his gaze flicks to Taehyung’s mouth and back up again, the uncertain crook to his lips that threatens to become a smile.

There’s something coy in Jimin’s mouth when he speaks, in the way he cocks his head. He relaxes in inches, going loose at his hinges, elbows and knees and neck. All soft and sweet for Taehyung, for this new reality they’re building between them.

“Which guy?”

“Jimin.”

“Are you telling me off, or is that your answer? I can’t t--”

Taehyung has never been especially known for his patience, or his impulse control. His words don’t seem to be doing him any favours right now either, so he doesn’t think he can be blamed for the way he lurches forwards, Jimin’s face still cupped in his hands, drawing him halfway into a kiss that’s part mint and part morning breath and all blazing heat. Jimin doesn’t even hesitate to part his lips, tongue easing along the seam of Taehyung’s mouth, teasing his bottom lip, as eager to take as Taehyung is to give.

“I was scared,” Taehyung admits in between kisses, breathless, smoothing his hands back over Jimin’s cheeks, tucking a loose lock of hair behind his hair, anchoring at his waist so he can drag the other boy closer. “I was scared of having too many serious feelings for you and thinking you had none for me at all, so I told myself I just wanted to practice, that I didn’t want anything real--”

“I have so many serious feelings for you,” Jimin gasps, pressing biting kisses to his mouth, his jaw, his neck, his mouth again. His fingers tangle in Taehyung’s hair and they’re all wrapped up in each other and the warmth of the morning now. “I was waiting. I thought - god, I thought we were inevitable, I thought you just needed time and then you started talking about Jin-hyung and I wanted to murder someone because I’d left it too late, I was so stupid.”

“Ah, you’re never stupid, Jiminie.” He breaks away, just for a second, just to breath, before realising that breathing is over-rated. Kisses Jimin again, soft and slow and lazy, their foreheads braced against each other, hands gentle on each other’s bodies. “You thought we were inevitable?”

Jimin flushes, all summer roses under golden skin, and Taehyung is in love. Has been in love this whole time.

“Didn’t you?” Jimin whispers. “Taehyungie, Taehyung-ah, didn’t you?”

Taehyung can only laugh, helpless under the onslaught of his own emotions. He shifts, tucking his face into the bare stretch of Jimin’s shoulder, breathing in sleep and sweat and something indefinably Jimin. It’s so easy, to slip into this, from one closeness to another. A different flavour of the same beautiful thing.

“Of course,” he murmurs, holding him close. He’s not sure how to convince his fingers to let him go, actually. “Of course I did.”