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Pretty Little Dancer

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This wasn't how Jeongguk had seen himself celebrating his own birthday, but his friends had insisted and he wasn't about to argue. He was currently too drunk to levy a good enough argument in the first place.

The club was dark, hazy with smoke, the neon strips round the perimeter an electric blue that made everything feel both cold and close all at once. The stage was currently occupied by a man in leather who seemed to be trying very hard to bend his spine around the pole he was gyrating on. Jeongguk couldn't focus on it but he was sure that it couldn't be healthy for anyone to be that bendy.

Mingyu looked sidelong at Jeongguk as they weaved their way to the bar, leaning dangerously. “I'm gonna have the absolute worst hangover tomorrow,” he decided.

Jeongguk frowned blearily over at his friend. “No skipping practice, hangover or no.”

Mingyu made a whining noise that made Jeongguk snort. “Even on his birthday, he's obsessed with fucking practice.”

“No,” Taehyung ordered, “no practice talk. Only talk if it's about more liquor.”

The bartender looked at them disapprovingly as they finally got to the counter but Jeongguk couldn't tell if it was because of the number of tattoos among himself and his friends or the fact that they were very obviously drunk.

This didn't stop them ordering more drinks and moving back to their seats in the booths before the stage. The lights dimmed just as the leather-clad man gave a parting wave and left the stage. The DJ was talking, introducing the dancer who was coming next but Jeongguk was too focused on downing what was left in Mingyu’s drink. “I'm being a good friend,” he complained as Taehyung flicked him in the forehead. “He's the one who's gonna have a hangover tomorrow and you know he's a whiny bitch when he's feeling gross.”

“Fuck you, I am not!” Mingyu protested.

Then the club went dark and they went silent, Jeongguk turning his attention to the stage. The group had been in the club for almost an hour at this point and the introduction of another dancer hadn't called for changes in lighting before now.

Blue spotlights shone on the stage, on a man clad entirely in black, his hair bleached white in the spotlight. His back was to the audience, showcasing what Jeongguk thought may have been a tattoo through the mesh of his shirt. He squinted to look closer and saw the outline of wings over the man's shoulder blades.

He swallowed.

The music started, a pulsing drum beat and not much else. Jeongguk saw the man on stage exhale and roll his shoulders. Then he raised his arms above his head and started to move.

Jeongguk's jaw dropped.

He'd never seen a man belly dance before. The sharp movements of his narrow hips were hypnotizing to watch and the smooth line of his waist in the mesh shirt had Jeongguk's mouth going very dry.

The dancer's back was still to the crowd but Jeongguk was more than a little hypnotized already by the way he moved. He heard the song begin to ramp up, a melody joining the drums as the man's body moved in a sinuous roll. Just as the lyrics started, the man turned around and Jeongguk truly thought he may have just died and gone to heaven.

The man on stage was unfairly beautiful. His hair was still bleached white under the harsh spotlight but Jeongguk could see the silvery purple underneath the glow. The man's eyes were dark, lined with kohl that made them piercing and impossible to look away from. He was mouthing the words to the song, drawing Jeongguk's eye to how plush and soft his lips looked, a smooth pink that looked nearly innocent, completely opposed to the gyrations of his hips to the pulsing music.

Jeongguk reached for his drink and gratefully swallowed some down to soothe his dry throat, still staring at the man on the stage.

The man had taken to the pole, his shirt half open and the leather of his pants straining against his thighs. He bit his lip as he recited the lyrics and Jeongguk's head started to swim. How the man got up to the top of the pole so quickly was beyond Jeongguk, but he was up there, clinging to the metal with his hands as he spun in a dizzying circle that ended with him grinding against the pole.

Jeongguk was starting to think that he would never have a throat that wasn't dry ever again when the man touched the stage and fell into a split that should have been impossible in the leather pants.

Somewhere between the first verse and the chorus, the man lost his shirt and Jeongguk had been right. There was a large tattoo on his back, wings curving up sharply from his shoulder blades and dipping down to rest against the small of his back, feathers splayed across his waist. There was also a line of text going down his spine but Jeongguk was too far to read what it said. He suspected he would have to be much closer to ever see what the words were.

He shouldn't have been surprised that the leather pants followed the shirt soon after, nor that there was only the tiniest pair of briefs Jeongguk had ever seen underneath them.

The man's movements were slow and calculated, every step designed to hypnotize and seduce. It was working. Jeongguk was very much hypnotized and seduced.

He saw the man smile on the stage, fleeting and cocky, and Jeongguk coughed into his fist, his throat painfully dry.

Too soon, or maybe after a few eternities (Jeongguk couldn't tell), the song was over and the man was scooping up his clothes and leaving the stage.

For the first time in what felt like an eon, Jeongguk took a breath, finding that he'd lost it somewhere between the first drum beat and the last arrogant smirk.

“He was good, right?” he heard distantly then felt someone nudge his bicep and finally registered that someone was talking to him. Mingyu. Mingyu was talking to him.

“Uh…what?” Jeongguk tried. The words felt unwieldy coming out of his mouth, as though his tongue was bent in an odd direction. Mingyu gave him a smile that he simply didn't trust then gave Taehyung a look. Jeongguk frowned and looked at Taehyung – or, looked at the place where he was sure Taehyung had been only 5 minutes ago.

Mingyu sank back into the booth and swallowed down his drink with a smug grin. Then Taehyung was back and another dancer was taking the stage. Both he and Mingyu looked beyond untrustworthy but Jeongguk was still a little drunk and still a lot disoriented from the dancer. The dancer who was currently clothed and walking toward where he, Mingyu, and Taehyung were sitting.

Jeongguk blinked a little spastically and had to double check that he wasn't seeing things. Then the dancer stopped in front of them, looking between the three of them in turn. Finally, his eyes rested on Jeongguk. “I'm taking it that you're the friend,” he said, making Jeongguk feel like he'd walked into a conversation that he had no context for.


“That's him,” Taehyung said, a shit-eating grin curving his lips up. Mingyu huffed a laugh into his glass.

The dancer looked Jeongguk up and down then said, “You'll do. Come on, then,” and took hold of his wrist, dragging him up from his seat with a surprising amount of strength.

The dancer was shorter than him, which Jeongguk hadn't been able to tell on the stage. But this information was kind of lost in the act of the dancer leading him away and Jeongguk was suddenly just a little too scattered to understand what the hell was going on. He stammered out a few incoherent noises that ultimately devolved to nothing, but he managed a glare at his friends, who were keeled over laughing at him. Traitors.

The dancer led him through an archway lit with blue LED lights and down a narrow hallway. There were private rooms lining the hallway and Jeongguk pointedly ignored some of the sounds he heard. His head felt hot and the alcohol in his system made everything feel just a bit surreal. The blue light reflected off the back of the dancer's head, making him look unreal. He pulled Jeongguk into an unoccupied room which would have been entirely unassuming were it not for the heavy atmosphere of sex in the air.

Jeongguk allowed himself to be led into the room. It was empty save a couch that made him more than a little nervous, a cabinet in the corner, and a small table that held a speaker. The dancer closed the door behind them and directed Jeongguk to the couch.

Jeongguk cleared his throat and sat down, ramrod straight, afraid of whatever had happened on this couch before he'd gotten to it.

As if sensing it, the dancer gave a soft laugh. “This is my room. The couch is clean.” Jeongguk nodded but couldn't relax. “And, it's going to stay that way. I know that Tae knows but I don't do anything beyond dances here. Keep your hands, your lips, and your dick to yourself or I'll beat your ass into the carpet. Clear?”

Jeongguk mildly registered that he'd just been threatened and that the dancer somehow knew Taehyung enough to call him ‘Tae’, but he was far more interested in the husky quality of the man's voice, the way his lips moved as he spoke the words. “Uh-huh.” He hadn't been able to manage more than embarrassing grunting noises in the dancer's general direction since he'd first spoken to him and somehow, Jeongguk was sure that the man thought he was mute. “Um. I mean, yeah. I got you.”

The dancer relaxed minutely then walked over to the table and sat down on top of it, leaning back on his palms and leveling Jeongguk with a piercing stare. “So,” he said and Jeongguk straightened further in his seat. “Tae told me it was your birthday.” Jeongguk nodded. “How old are you now?”

“22–” he cleared his throat again, having croaked the word – “22. They thought bringing me to a strip club was a good way to celebrate.”

The man gave a soft chuckle that made Jeongguk feel just a little giddy and he stood, walking over to the cabinet. He pulled it open and revealed a small mini fridge. He grabbed a couple small bottles of water, then handed one to Jeongguk and opened his own, downing a few swallows. Jeongguk actively ignored the way his lips looked against the mouth of the bottle as he drank his own.

“22,” the dancer said, leaning back on his hands again and staring at Jeongguk. “You're kind of a baby, huh?”

Jeongguk huffed. “I am not.”

The dancer smiled, looking him over again. “I guess not. Babies aren't allowed to have that many tattoos.” Jeongguk wasn't sure if the man was intentionally making his voice as throaty as it was but he liked it and hated it all at once. The way the man looked at him had him feeling woefully exposed, as if he was being stalked by a giant jungle cat.

“Tae should've told me that all his friends were this cute, though,” the man went on, gesturing casually with a hand. Jeongguk felt just a little dizzy. “You wanna tell me your name?”

The dancer's voice had gone slightly breathy and Jeongguk kind of wanted to melt into the couch a little – a lot. He nodded a little dumbly then cleared his throat when he realized he would actually have to answer. “J-Jeongguk. I'm Jeongguk.”

The dancer's eyebrow lilted up in something that looked vaguely like amusement then he nodded. “Do you mind if I get more comfortable then, Jeongguk?” The way he said it would almost have tricked Jeongguk into thinking that he was shy had it not been for the overly confident blaze in the dancer’s eyes that still had him feeling like prey. He shook his head a bit too quickly to hide the eagerness and didn't have the presence of mind to play it off.

The dancer didn't seem to mind. He just stripped off his leather pants agonizingly slowly and sat beside Jeongguk on the couch. He reached for the small speaker and turned it on. Soft pulsing music filtered into the otherwise silent room. “You want me to dance to anything specific?” he asked politely and Jeongguk shook his head again.

“Whatever you want is fine.” Jeongguk’s voice came out in a mortifying squeak but he didn't have the mental space to think about it just now because the dancer was standing before him, his loose shirt hanging open just enough for Jeongguk to see the hollows of his collarbones and wish he could touch them.

“Remember your manners, Jeongguk,” the dancer reminded him and Jeongguk balled his hands into fists at his side, keeping himself rigid. The dancer leaned closer and holy shit, he smelled good. “You can relax. I won't bite you, even if you want me to.” Jeongguk didn't think the dancer knew how impossible it was to relax when he was focused on it, but he tried to pry his shoulders from his earlobes anyway and loose some of the tension from his neck. The dancer's lips parted and he breathed, “Ready?” Jeongguk wasn't sure if he responded or not but the dancer was suddenly straddling his thighs, looking down at him.

He looked up at the dancer and was sure he was looking at an actual god. Then the dancer started moving his hips in a slow grind and Jeongguk clenched his hands against the reflex to touch, to grab hold of the waist that led to those hips, to smooth his hands up the dancer's back and feel the place where the wings were inked into his skin.

The way the man moved had to be illegal all over Korea, he was sure of it. No one was allowed to be this bendy and get away with it, Jeongguk was damn near certain. The dancer breathed the words of the song into his ears and Jeongguk felt more than a little dizzy. He realized that he hadn't been breathing and inhaled, looking up at the dancer. The man looked down at him, seeming very pleased with himself as he slowly drove Jeongguk crazy.

“You're…you're really good at this,” Jeongguk finally managed to say.

The dancer smiled. “I know,” he answered, turning in Jeongguk's lap so that his back was pressed to Jeongguk's chest and, fuck, this was worse, this was way worse. Cuz he was already kinda hard in his jeans in the first place but now he had the dancer's entire ass on his dick and this was so much worse. He was beating Taehyung and Mingyu’s asses after this. They were going to fucking die.

The dancer bent forward, giving Jeongguk a full view of his ass, and Jeongguk started counting backwards from 100 as his head spun and spun with the spicy scent of the man's cologne and the mesmerizing music that the dancer was moving in time to. He took the time to look at the wings on the man's back. He still couldn't read the words through the mesh of the shirt, but he liked looking at the way the tattoo moved with his body. He put his hands under his own thighs and balled his fists tighter.

The dancer leaned back so that his head touched Jeongguk's shoulder as his hips moved and Jeongguk was sure he was going to pass out. He kind of wanted this to be over but he also didn't want the man to stop and he also wanted to go back in time so that he could vehemently refuse being brought to this damn club.

The dancer stood then and looked down at him curiously. He ran his hands over his own chest, popping the buttons on the shirt as he did until it hung loose and open. Jeongguk hadn't been able to see it from the stage but there was a small diamond ring in the man's belly button.

He was going to fucking die in this room, he was sure of it. “Holy fuck,” he murmured, shoving his hands further under his thighs.

The man was dancing for him still, his hips and thighs moving in ways that had Jeongguk praying to whatever higher power may have deigned to listen. Then the man was on his knees between Jeongguk's legs and he started counting backward from 100 again. Then the man crawled into his lap, pantomiming riding him and whispering the words of the song in Jeongguk's ear.

Then it was over and the dancer was rolling off of him and leaning against the arm of the couch, his gaze hungry, predatory, and his full lips pulled into a satisfied smirk that Jeongguk wanted to kiss.

“You're a good boy. You know how to mind your manners,” the dancer said softly. Jeongguk swallowed hard. He wasn't sure how to respond to this. The dancer didn't seem to want him to answer anyway, as he was standing and pulling on his pants again, which left Jeongguk feeling both bereft and grateful at once. “Come on,” the man said, holding out a hand to Jeongguk. “I'll take you back to your friends.”

Jeongguk honestly wasn't sure he could move.

He was pretty sure his bones had melted somewhere between being led into this room in the first place and the man dry-humping him. But the dancer was looking at him expectantly and he didn't want to disappoint so he shakily stood.

The dancer looked him over again, that hungry gaze making him feel like he was stripped bare for the man to examine. “You might wanna…” he said finally, looking pointedly at Jeongguk's crotch.

Jeongguk finally registered what was going on and hurried to adjust himself in his jeans. “Sorry. I'm sorry,” he babbled, his head feeling hot.

The man laughed, a cute, squeaky kind of sound that was distinctly human and made him that much more attractive. “It's okay. It happens. I'm hot.” He said this with a wink, as if he and Jeongguk were in on some kind of secret. “Ready?” Jeongguk nodded and the man took his hand this time, leading him to the door.

The music in the club felt louder after the nearly deafening intimacy of the quiet in the dancer's room. When he caught sight of Taehyung and Mingyu, they were already laughing at him like the backstabbing hyenas they were and Jeongguk wanted to die.

“You're a sweet one, Jeongguk. Come back and see me, okay?” the dancer said quietly, looking up at him with what seemed to be a genuine smile.

“Thank you,” Jeongguk answered automatically. The dancer squeezed his hand then released him and turned to go back through the blue archway. “Wait!” Jeongguk called in a slight panic. The dancer looked back at him, puzzled. “What's your name?”

The man's face relaxed into a smile again. “Jimin,” he answered. Then he was gone.


Jeongguk went to sit between his asshole friends again, feeling different. He watched the rest of the dancers without much interest, his mind still clouded with a sharp cologne, a husky voice, a cocky smile, a squeaky laugh.

He waited to see if Jimin would be dancing again tonight but it didn't seem so. So, he eventually let his friends lead him home, feeling far more sober than he had when he'd walked into the place. Or, maybe, just a different kind of drunk.

A shopping bag was thrown in his general direction and Jeongguk sat up from where he was laying on the couch. “Happy birthday, loser,” he heard Yugyeom say and smirked.

Yugyeom walked over and promptly sat on his shins, making Jeongguk yelp. “Get off, you heavy piece of shit,” he complained, jerking his legs to make his friend move.

“Quit your bitching. You had enough strength for that dancer to sit all over you,” he heard and groaned.

“Literally why the fuck haven't I kicked your ass yet, Kim?” Jeongguk wondered aloud, leveling a venomous glare at Mingyu.

Mingyu gave him a beatific smile and looked at Yugyeom conspiratorially. “You shoulda seen him, man. I think he's just now getting the jizz and drool stains out of his pants.”

“Fuck you,” Jeongguk groused, shoving a cackling Yugyeom off his legs so he could go get his guitar. “Shut up and practice.”

Yugyeom and Mingyu were talking about him in hushed tones but Jeongguk made a valiant effort to ignore them.

Minghao’s house was a decent enough place for them to practice. The upstairs loft where they were currently congregated was covered in band posters, club fliers, and concert merch. One of the walls was filled with their scribbles in sharpie, some words in English, some in Korean. And Jeongguk was pretty sure that sometime over the years, Taehyung had drawn a dick on the wall. He'd done it because they'd tried to restrict practices to band members only. He and Jeongguk had been dating at the time and Taehyung was a goddamn distraction.

It obviously hadn't worked. Which was why Taehyung was walking into the loft space with an open bag of chips in one hand and his sketchbook in the other. “Play me music, whores,” he said by way of greeting, flopping onto the couch Jeongguk had just been occupying. He shook his hair out of his eyes. He'd recently dyed it pink and it was longer now, falling into his eyes and hitting the tattoo on his cheekbone. Jeongguk saw a sheen of plastic on his wrist.

“New tat?” he asked, letting his guitar hang loose in his hand. He walked over to where Taehyung was laying currently elbow deep in his bag of chips. Taehyung looked up at him then gave him a goofy grin and nodded, holding out his wrist for Jeongguk to examine. He stared at the unintelligible pattern of abstract swirls and lines, some in color, some black and grey. It matched the rest of his tattoos but was also distinct enough to stand out on his own. His arms were entirely covered in ink, swirling designs of roses and thorns and abstract patterns that made no sense to anyone but him, being that he'd designed them in the first place.

“Pretty, huh?” Taehyung said with a satisfied grin. Jeongguk made a humming noise of acknowledgment, turning back to his guitar, plucking a few notes.

They heard a door close and everyone shifted a bit more in their seats, making room for Minghao. “Sorry, sorry,” Minghao mumbled, looking annoyed. “My boss is a fucking prick.”

They all made noises of understanding. Minghao’s boss was notoriously a piece of shit. Minghao pulled his drumsticks out of his back pocket and shoved his hair out of his eyes. It had gotten much longer, curling over his neck and falling into his eyes. He sat down at his drum kit and looked expectantly at Jeongguk. Jeongguk looked round and everyone was staring at him. He realized belatedly that they were all waiting on his cue.

Taehyung snickered to the side. “Once he stops obsessing over Jimin, he'll be back. Until then, expect that vacant stare to be permanent.”

Jeongguk huffed and strummed a chord. “You two fucking suck,” he grumbled. He hadn't been thinking about Jimin. At all. He was at practice. Why the fuck would he be obsessing over exactly what the words in Jimin's tattoo said? He decided on a song and told them so they could all straighten up and leave him the fuck alone about Jimin.

Taehyung and Mingyu had been giving him shit since his birthday a week ago. So what if he'd been a little bit more spacey than usual? Why was that their business? And why did they automatically think that it had something to do with Jimin? He was nothing more than a customer to Jimin. Jeongguk didn't even know him.

Though…he kinda wanted to.

He knew it was a little stupid being that he didn't know shit about Jimin besides his name and his job. But he couldn't shake the desire to at least see the man again.

But that wasn't any of Mingyu and Taehyung's business. He made it through practice, his mind somewhere close to the club where Jimin worked.

He wasn't obsessed.

He was just…curious.

So what if his curiosity led him to the club that night? That wasn't anyone else's concern but his.

The difference between coming to the club tonight and having gone on his birthday was that, this time, Jeongguk was sober.

He walked into the club, seeing the dance floor on the top floor and immediately turning to the inconspicuous staircase that led down. The bouncer standing in front of the stairs carded him then let him pass.

Jeongguk took a deep breath and walked down the stairs.

The club was as dark and hazy as he remembered, the lights casting a blue tinge on the smoke in the air. There were tables round the perimeter of the room and a bar to the right of the entrance. Right in the center of the room, there was a stage, in the center of which was a pole. Currently, however, the dancer on stage was ignoring the pole completely, choosing instead to stand on the catwalk further into the room and dance there. The man's hips were lethal – literally no body roll should be that smooth – but he wasn't the dancer Jeongguk was here for.

Jeongguk scanned the room, noting the people at the tables. He hadn't expected to see anyone familiar and he didn't. So he shifted his eyes to the bar instead.

He could see a few people hanging around on the barstools. There were two in particular that caught Jeongguk's eye. One of the men looked sleepy. There was simply no other way to describe him. He had small eyes and a shock of blond hair messily shaken over his head, and he was speaking, his small lips pouting as he talked. The man beside him had a hood pulled over his head but his hair was light too. Jeongguk squinted at it, thinking it looked vaguely familiar. He couldn't tell if it was blond from this distance or the dusty purple that Jimin had had when he'd come here. The blond apparently said something funny because the man with the hood bent double with a squeaky laugh, smacking the blond’s shoulder.

Squeaky laugh.

That was him.

Jeongguk relaxed minutely and took a step towards the bar, then another, until he was on a barstool further away from the two than he wanted to be but close enough that Jimin could probably still hear him if he spoke loudly enough.

The blond gestured lazily with his hand and pointed at the dancer on stage, who was looking right at him with a downright licentious look on his face. Jeongguk saw the blond smirk then say something low to Jimin. Jimin's back was to him so he couldn't tell if Jimin responded or not, but he could see him pushing the blond in the general direction of the stage.

Jeongguk frowned. What was he even doing here? Best case scenario, Jimin thought he was just a dedicated customer trying to be a regular. But…more than likely, he just looked like a creep stalking a guy because he’d gotten a hard-on once.

“Staring is impolite, you know,” he heard and Jimin turned around, looking distinctly bored.

Jeongguk's face felt hot. “S-Sorry…I didn't mean…I like your tattoo.” Jeongguk mentally kicked himself.

Jimin raised a brow at him. “Me too. That's why I have it. Is there something you wanted or…?”

Jeongguk swallowed, wishing he'd had the forethought to order a drink so his mouth didn't feel so dry and his hands didn't feel so useless. “I just kinda wanted…can I date you?” Jeongguk really wished he'd just chosen not to come here tonight because obviously he couldn't get a handle on his damn mouth.

Jimin's eyebrows met his hairline and he turned to face Jeongguk, looking at him more carefully. Then his face relaxed. “Oh, it's you. Tae's cute tatted baby friend.” Jeongguk wasn't sure how to respond to this. “I'm shit with names so I don't actually remember…”

“Jeongguk,” he answered, feeling somewhat relieved that he didn't just open his mouth and say something stupid.

Jimin made a small sound of recognition. “So did you just say you wanna date me?” Jeongguk nodded. It was clearly safer for him to just not talk when Jimin was around. Jimin examined his face for a long moment then let out a soft chuckle. “I don't date my customers, cutie. So, no. You can't date me.”

Jeongguk couldn't find it in himself to be disappointed. He'd kind of known it was a long shot to begin with. As far as Jimin was concerned, he was nothing but a slightly overzealous customer. “That's fair,” he answered.

Jimin took a pull from the drink in his hand, watching Jeongguk over the rim of the glass. “Why would you wanna date me anyway? I could be an ax murderer with a fursuit. You don't know me.”

“Yeah…” Jeongguk agreed slowly. “But I want to. Isn't that the point of dating in the first place?”

Jimin snorted indelicately. “Let's not mince words, Jeongguk. I'm a stripper. People don't ask me on dates to ‘get to know me’. They ask me on dates to try and fuck me. And I don't fuck my customers either. Not my thing.”

Jeongguk blinked a little spastically. “No, I mean, that isn't–”

“So you don't want to fuck me then? Is that what you're telling me?” He raised a brow challengingly.

Jeongguk's hands began to sweat. “Um…I mean, I'm not blind. I know you're fucking gorgeous but…that's not what I'm here for.”

Jimin studied him, his full lips pulled into a tight line and his eyes narrowed. Then he let out a low, “Ah, you're one of those.” Jeongguk had no idea what that meant. “I don't need saving, okay? I dance because I like to dance. I'm here because I want to be, not because I have to be. No one is forcing me. I don't have a tragic backstory and a shit life that left me with no other choice. I just…really like my job. And I'm really good at it. So put your cape away.”

Jimin made to turn away, but Jeongguk spoke. “That…that isn't it either. I don't think you need saving. I mean…the very first time we met, you threatened to beat my ass into the carpet. You can take care of yourself.”

Jimin preened a bit at this. “Yes. I can. So what would I need you for?” He leveled Jeongguk with a hard stare.

Jeongguk shook his head. “I don't think you need me.”

Jimin frowned. “Then what are you doing here? What's your deal?”

“I just like talking to you,” Jeongguk answered with a shrug.

Jimin stared at him, looking him up and down again, his eyes piercing, making Jeongguk feel like he was being x-rayed. “Well, if you just wanna take up my time, you can pay me for it,” he decided.

Jeongguk nodded. “Okay. W-when? Like…should I just come here?”

Jimin smirked. “You're a customer, aren't you?” Jeongguk supposed he was. He nodded. “Then yes. You would come here.” Jeongguk felt the conversation ending as Jimin swallowed down what remained of his drink. He looked toward the stage and Jeongguk studied his profile.

Jeongguk wasn’t entirely sure what he'd come here for. He hadn't truly expected for Jimin to fall all over him and be thrilled to be asked out; he genuinely didn't seem like that type of person.

But there was something almost…thrilling about him. Besides being unfairly gorgeous, he was also intimidating as all hell. Jeongguk didn't doubt whatsoever that Jimin could beat his ass into a carpet if he wanted.

Okay so maybe Jeongguk was a little obsessed. Shut up, Taehyung.

Maybe he'd actually done the stupid thing and developed a crush on a man who didn't see him as anything more than a customer.

But…so far, it didn't seem to be doing any harm.

“Are you dancing tonight?” Jeongguk asked, apropos of nothing.

Jimin's eyes flicked over to him, as if surprised that he was still there. “Are you paying me for it?” he asked, amusement heavy in his tone.

Jeongguk mentally calculated how much he had in his bank account. It was paltry, he couldn't lie, but Jimin was worth it. Either that or he was a giant fool. Who cared? “Sure. How much is it?”

Jimin looked mildly surprised by this, his eyes getting big and round. “Are you serious?”

“Does it mean I get to talk to you more?” Jeongguk asked.

Jimin blinked slow then licked his lips. “Sure. Your money.” He stood from his barstool then looked at the bartender. “Remember his face, Jin. If I go missing, he's the one who did it.” Jeongguk reflexively looked over at the bartender, another unfairly pretty and terribly intimidating person who leveled him with a barely concealed glare. He waved at the bartender then felt stupid and stopped. Jimin snorted and started weaving through the crowd. He didn't grab Jeongguk's hand this time so he just had to keep up.

When they made it back to the private rooms, Jimin opened the door and ushered him inside, closing it behind them both. “How many songs do you want?” Jimin asked, standing by the door and looking warily over at him.

Jeongguk blinked and stood in front of the couch. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Um…I don't actually know. I don't know how this works.”

Jimin's face relaxed into a small smile. “Cute,” he said quietly. Then cleared his throat and unzipped his jacket, shaking the hood off his head. The hazy blue lights made his hair look even more purple. Jimin walked over to where Jeongguk was standing then raised a brow at him. “Sit,” he said. Jeongguk sat. “So, I charge per song. But if you buy more songs, you get a special. Kinda. Just a cheaper rate per song for buying in bulk.”

Buying in bulk. Jeongguk snorted at the phrasing but Jimin raised a brow at him and he hid it behind a very unconvincing cough. “Sorry.” Jimin kept talking then, listing his prices. Jeongguk calculated again. He would just barely have enough to cover his groceries if he bought a few songs, but he could figure out the money later. He paid without comment. “So…do you have to dance while we talk?”

Jimin raised his eyebrows again. “You don't want me to?”

Jeongguk gnawed on his bottom lip. “It's not that. You're just…really distracting.”

At this, Jimin laughed, the sound soft and sweet. “It's your money to spend how you want, cutie. Tell me what you want.” He sat down on the couch beside Jeongguk, leaving a healthy amount of space between them, and pulled off his hoodie entirely.

Underneath, he looked…entirely normal. He wasn't wearing mesh shirts and leather pants. Just regular jeans and a t-shirt. And his eyes weren't lined with kohl this time either, no smoky makeup. “You're really pretty,” Jeongguk said without thinking.

Jimin flashed him a smile. “I know,” he said breezily. “So…?”

Oh, right. Jimin had asked him a question. “I kinda…just wanna…talk to you.”


Jeongguk started with the first thing he could think of. “What made you wanna be a stripper?” He only realized after that it could be read wrong. “Not that there's anything wrong with it! I just, you said you do it because you want to. How did you know you wanted to…I guess…?”

Jimin was staring at him, humor in his eyes. “Well…I just fell into it. I used to do more than this.” He indicated the club with a wave of his hand.

Jeongguk pounced on the small bit of information. “Like what?”

Jimin smiled at him. “What about you? What do you do that you can even afford my time this way?”

“Oh, I just do music,” he answered.

“What kind of music?”

Jeongguk explained that he and some of his friends from high school had all gotten together during freshman year and started a band. “It isn't huge, but we make decent money from it now. People like our stuff.”

Jimin's eyes shone with something that looked like interest. “Yeah? Lemme hear.” So Jeongguk played it for him. He scrolled through a few of the songs on his phone and played snippets of his favorites. Jimin listened without reaction for a moment, until Jeongguk stopped flipping through music, then hummed. “I like it. The singer is amazing.”

Jeongguk felt his face go hot again. “Thanks.”

“That's you?” Jimin asked, seeming genuinely surprised. Jeongguk nodded. Jimin didn't respond save to nod once and lick his lips. “Is that all you listen to?”

“Huh?” Jeongguk had been staring at his lips and focused now on what was coming out of them.

“That whiny, screaming rock shit. Is that all you listen to?” Jimin looked amused again, as if he was in on some joke Jeongguk had missed.

“Oh, um. No. Tae wouldn't let me get away with that even if I did. Neither would Yugyeom.”

Jimin leaned closer, resting his chin in the cup of his palm. “What else do you listen to, then?” Jeongguk told him. He didn't remember the last time he'd talked this much to someone he didn't know. Music talk bled into talk about his old major and the simple explanation for why he’d dropped out. He told Jimin a lot. But Jimin didn't tell him much whatsoever, preferring instead to just listen and prompt him to keep talking.

Before he knew it, the time was gone and Jimin was standing, stretching. Jeongguk caught sight of the belly button ring again. “How long have you had that?”

Jimin looked down at him carefully, then smirked. “Your time’s up, cutie. Maybe I'll tell you next time.”

Next time.

Jimin was sure that there would be a next time. Jeongguk was too. But he still couldn't help feeling a little played. “You barely talked at all,” he said.

Jimin looked at him curiously. “I prefer to listen.”

Jeongguk huffed a little petulantly. “I barely know anything about you,” he complained.

“I prefer that too.” Jeongguk supposed he couldn't blame the man. After all, he really was just a customer. What did it matter what he wanted when Jimin had no true obligation to give it to him? “But,” Jimin went on slowly, “maybe I'll tell you more one day. You seem like an okay kid.”

Jeongguk bristled. “Kid,” he repeated.

Jimin smiled beatifically. “Sorry,” he said, not seeming at all abashed. Jeongguk stared at him, tracing Jimin's features with his eyes, taking him in. Jimin was staring at him too, landing finally on his eyes. “You are, though,” he said quietly. “I don't think Tae would be friends with a guy who wasn't a decent person.” Jeongguk swallowed. “Come on. I'll lead you out. As much as I'd love for you to sit here and pay to admire me, I actually do have things to do tonight.”

Jeongguk jolted to his feet. “Right. Sorry.”

Jimin didn't hold his hand as he led him out of the room and he didn't tell Jeongguk to come back and see him either. He didn't need to. He already knew Jeongguk would be back.

Jeongguk knew it too.

☆ ☆ ☆

Jimin double checked the address of the building and steeled himself. Then he walked into the tattoo parlor.

The shop was filled with color, the couches to the left of the door all various shades of grey in various states of wear. The walls were covered in art, tattoo pieces. Some of them were photographs of the work on actual skin. Some of them were drawings that no doubt came from the tattoo artists’ portfolios. Directly in front of the door, there was a reception desk. A man with softly waved brown hair curling over his brows was at the desk, his long legs crossed on the end opposite the register. Jimin steeled himself. Taehyung's cousin was going to be a problem. To the right of the desk, there was a glass case with piercings, bars and balls in multiple shapes and colors and styles. Behind the desk, there was a hallway that led to the rooms and a soft buzzing drone filtered from it.

He shook his hair out of his face and walked past the front where Taehyung's cousin was sitting, reading through a poetry book. “Hey, Joon. Where's Tae?”

Taehyung's cousin didn't look up from the book in his inked hand, merely flipped a page and said, “He's in the back with a client. Should be done in a few. You may as well grab some couch till he's done.” Jimin huffed a little impatiently and grabbed some couch. “I thought you forgot where this place was. Been a few months, hasn't it?” He looked at Jimin over the top of his book with sharply intelligent eyes.

“You know it's been over 2 years, Namjoon,” he sighed, allowing the inevitable conversation to proceed.

“My point exactly. Where the hell have you been, Jimin?”

Jimin shrugged. “Around. I went away for a while after he and I broke up then I came back here.”

Namjoon looked back at his book and flipped a page with a tattooed finger. “Was the breakup really that bad that you needed to run?”

“Fuck you, it wasn't about Tae at all.”

Namjoon didn't dignify this with a response, merely hummed. There was a long pause. Then, softly, “He really needed you around last year, you know. He was a mess after his dad died.”

Jimin sighed. “I know,” he said quietly. “But I just–” The drone of the tattoo gun in the back of the shop stopped. Namjoon and Jimin looked at each other then Taehyung's soft laughter filtered into the shop as he spoke to his client. They both relaxed. “Trust me, Namjoon. You would have hated me more had I stuck around and made it worse. You know that. So ease up, papa bear.”

Namjoon made an incoherent grumbling noise and didn't respond but the tension in the shop dissipated slightly.

There was shuffling and talking, and Taehyung appeared with a tall woman walking in front of him. He was giving her aftercare instructions even as she signed to pay, repeating them just in case. She smirked at him and left the shop with a word of thanks and a small incline of her head.

Finally, Taehyung looked over and noticed him. “Jiminie. What're you doing here?” he said, surprised.

Namjoon grumbled again and closed his book. “I'm going to lunch. If you two decide to fuck all over the shop, at least throw away the condoms cuz if they're under my desk when I get back, I'll feed them to you.” Then he stood and walked out of the shop, flipping the sign to ‘closed’ as he did.

Jimin rolled his eyes and looked at Taehyung. “Sorry, I probably should have called first but–”

Taehyung gave him a warm smile. “Don't be ridiculous. You know you can come here whenever.” He turned and headed to the back of the shop, waving Jimin after him. “I'm just surprised. It's been a while.”

Jimin hummed at this and followed him. “Yeah, I was just as surprised to see you at my club.”

Taehyung looked back at him with a wry smile. “I didn't even know you worked there. We were just there to fuck with Ggukie,” he chuckled.

Taehyung's room was a soft purple that seemed entirely opposed to the black and grey tattoo designs spaced all over the wall. There were a few prints from famous photographers and painters, along with random stuffed animals all over his table, including the little tiger that Jimin had gotten him forever ago when they'd dated.

“So, what's the occasion?” Taehyung asked, sitting in the small swivel chair in front of his table of supplies. He gestured that Jimin could sit on the tattoo chair itself.

Jimin chewed his lip and shoved his hair out of his eyes again. “It's actually about your friend. The cute one.”

Taehyung blinked. “You're gonna have to be more specific, Jiminie,” he said with a soft laugh.

Jimin smirked at him then sat on the tattoo chair. “I mean the one you bought a dance for. Jeongguk.”

“Ohhhhh,” Taehyung said. “What about him?”

“What's his deal? He showed up at my job last night and tried to ask me out then bought a fuckton of dances and tried to ask me questions.” Jimin sounded more than a little bewildered by the time he was done. “I trust you, so I didn't call security on him the first time but I gotta know what the fuck his problem is.”

Taehyung looked at him in silence for a full 15 seconds then burst into laughter, his face splitting in a wide smile Jimin hadn't seen in his general direction in a long time. He'd waited far too long to come back to Taehyung's shop.

“I can't believe he actually went back!” Taehyung said between giggles. “He's so fucking whipped, oh my god, it's so much worse than we thought!” Jimin tried to ignore his friend laughing but it was too contagious for him not to at least crack a small smile. “Jiminie, I have no clue what spell you put on him, but he's been off his ass thinking about you ever since. It's damn near unethical,” he said, his face straightening into a serious mask with effort. “This is how addicts are made.” He snorted again and leaned back in his chair. “Mingyu is gonna fucking die.”

Finally, Taehyung relaxed into his chair and let out a happy little sigh. “Okay so Ggukie actually came back to your club to ask you out?”

Jimin nodded. “Yeah, it was weird. I mean, he isn't the first and he probably won't be the last but it's odd as shit. I don't need a savior from that place.”

Taehyung frowned. “I don't think that's what he's after. He's not the saving type. He's got too much of his own shit going on, you know?” His eyes flicked knowingly over to Jimin, but he didn't expand so Jimin let it go. “Besides, he's a good guy. Quiet, though.”

Jimin snorted at this. “Since when? He could barely shut up when he talked to me.”

Taehyung shrugged and shook his hair out of his face. “He likes you. So, he talks,” he said simply.

Jimin narrowed his eyes at this. “That doesn't make any sense. He doesn't even know me.”

“With you, it doesn't take much, Jiminie,” Taehyung said matter-of-factly. “And Gguk isn't the type to waste time once he sees something or someone he wants.”

Jimin frowned. “How long have you known him?”

Taehyung stared at him for a moment, his brows mashed into a line on his forehead before his expression smoothed. “Little under 2 years. He was my boyfriend for a while.”

Jimin blinked. “What?”

“I figured out pretty quick that he and I just weren't gonna work,” Taehyung said with a goofy grin. “He's too much like you.”

Jimin bit his lip again. “I don't know if I should be offended or not.”

Taehyung laughed. “Of course not. I just mean he's not really…hm. He's not the ‘married with kids’ type.” Jimin exhaled. “If you're asking me if you can trust him, you can,” Taehyung said softly. His expression became very gentle and Jimin couldn't tell who it was directed at, him or Jeongguk. “He's a good guy. I know you're iffy about new people but…I wouldn't have trusted him with you if I didn't think so. And I wouldn't have trusted you with him either.”

Jimin let this marinate. “So…what am I supposed to do with him?” he asked, feeling a bit off balance.

Taehyung snorted. “C’mon, Jiminie. You know how this crush shit works. Just talk to him.”

“Crush?” Jimin echoed.

Taehyung gave him a knowing smirk. “If you didn't have one, you wouldn't have come here.”

“I'm sorry about that, by the way,” Jimin said quietly. “I should have come back sooner. I shouldn't have disappeared like that. Even if we weren't together anymore, we were still friends. I shouldn't have left you alone when –”

“Hey,” Taehyung cut him off. He stood and rested his hand on Jimin's shoulder. “I don't care about that. Joonie does cuz he's an overprotective asshole but I don't. You had your own shit going on too. It wasn't your job to keep me together.”

Jimin looked up at him and sighed. “Being your friend never felt like a job, Tae. I was there cuz I wanted to be. And I wasn't when you needed me to be. I'm sorry about that.”

Taehyung frowned. “Is that why you stopped coming to the shop?” he asked, sounding bewildered. Jimin nodded slowly. “Have you been cheating on me with another tattoo artist?!” he squawked.

Jimin stared at him in disbelief then chuckled. “Of course not. We both know this body only gets the best. And we both know you're the best in Seoul.”

Taehyung narrowed his eyes. “Just Seoul?” he prompted.

Jimin snorted and pushed him. “Fine, in all of Korea. All of Asia. Whatever. Point is, I didn't get any more work after you. Promise.”

Taehyung gave him a blinding smile. “Good. And fuck that other shit. We're friends. Shit happens and we get over it and keep being friends. That's how it works. Yeah?”

Jimin stared at Taehyung, looking for a shred of insincerity anywhere and finding none. He wrapped his arms around Taehyung's middle and rested his head on his chest. “You're the best, Tae.”

Taehyung hugged him back. “You are too, Jiminie,” he said quietly. “You're my favorite, you know that.” Jimin relaxed against him and felt Taehyung kiss his hair, the way he always had. Taehyung pulled away. “Come around more, you dick. I miss my best friend,” he demanded, his face folded into a petulant frown.

Jimin smiled.

The next time Jeongguk showed up at the club, Jimin was dancing. He was on the stage and the lights were blinding him just a little but he could make out the long, lean figure. His set was almost up and he'd gotten as undressed as he was going to be.

The song came to an end and he grabbed his clothes from the stage floor, heading to the back so he could dress. “Your favorite customer is here,” he said as he got into the dressing room.

Hoseok looked up at him through the mirror, pulling the eyeliner pencil away from his eyes. “Huh? Oh, Yoongi?” His face melted into a smile and he turned back to the mirror.

“You're gonna make your boyfriend go bankrupt just to watch you dry hump the stage,” Jimin chuckled, sitting down in the chair next to Hoseok. He looked at his reflection in the mirror, annoyed at his eyeliner, and reached for his bag.

“Serves him right. He's got extra disposable income,” Hoseok snorted, running a brush through his dark hair. “If he's gonna do fuckall with it in the first place, I may as well have it.” Hoseok shrugged then stood and pulled the tiny shorts up his legs. “How do I look?”

Jimin rolled his eyes. “Hot as fuck as per usual. Go work, you bum.”

Hoseok smiled at him and kissed his hair. “Brat.” And he was gone just as the DJ announced his arrival.

Jimin heard Hoseok’s music start and pulled a comb through his hair, getting out any extra glitter that wasn't supposed to be there, before he was satisfied and stood to go make the rounds.

As he walked back into the club proper, Jimin slipped back into work mode, all flirting and winking and subtle touching. A few of the men there asked for private dances. More than a few of the people he talked to were far too drunk to still be here, but he wasn't about to turn down the inebriated and generous. He could feel eyes on him as he circled the room, but he couldn't tell if they belonged to Jeongguk or the general population in the club. Perhaps both. He was sure that Jeongguk wasn't just here for the sake of being here so Jimin knew he was watching too.

He worked his way through his customers. It was a relatively slow night being that it was a weekday, but he still had a decent amount of money for the night before his next set. He was making his way to the bar when he noticed that Jeongguk was sitting at the bar, looking for all the world like he'd just stepped out of a photo shoot.

Jimin hadn't been kidding when he'd called the guy cute. Jeongguk was cute. Tall, lean with musculature that he'd truly had to be up close to see. He was in a regular black t-shirt today, his ink-covered arms on full display. His dark hair was covering his face as he looked down at his phone, his fingers moving deftly across the screen. He wasn't paying any attention whatsoever to the dancer on the stage or the people around him. Two pointed cones peeked from his eyebrow, which Jimin had noticed the very first night. He'd noticed the hoop in his nose and the bevy of metal rings along his ears too.

Jimin had just noticed.

He got to the bar and Jin gave him a small grin. “Your stalker here has been waiting for a while,” Jin said drily. Jeongguk looked up, startled, his eyes wide.

“Let him wait,” Jimin said with a wave of his hand and Jin snorted, handing him a glass of whiskey. Finally, Jimin looked over at Jeongguk, who was still staring at him. “So, you're back.”

Jeongguk blinked then his face relaxed into a smile. Cute. “Yeah, I'm back. Sorry, is it too soon?” His face clouded and Jimin felt like he'd just taken candy from a baby. “I can come back–”

“Relax, Jeongguk,” Jimin said, trying not to laugh. “It's your money. I can't stop you being here.”

“I can,” Jin said as he filled a glass with beer. He gave Jeongguk a smile that looked less like a smile and more like a baring of teeth. Jimin bit back the snort at Jeongguk's expression. He looked as though he was ready to bolt.

“Be nice, Jin,” Jimin chided him. “He's harmless.” Jeongguk nodded quickly in agreement, as if Jin's approval somehow mattered to him. Jimin cleared his throat delicately and Jeongguk looked back at him, relaxing minutely when Jin walked down the bar to hand the beer to a customer. “So, what do you want?”

Jeongguk shrugged. “Just to talk to you.”

Jimin scanned the crowd of people as he drank more from his glass. “Well…I have one more set tonight, but I can entertain you a bit before I leave?” he suggested, turning back to Jeongguk. Jeongguk was staring at him, his expression hard to decipher. But his eyes were gentle. Taehyung trusted this guy enough to be okay with Jimin seducing him or entertaining him. “Stop staring, cutie. I know I look good. But I need you to focus.” Jeongguk’s eyes went wide and his face colored just a little at the cheeks. Cute.

“Um…yeah, that's fine. Whatever’s easiest. I'm not picky.”

Jimin drained what was left in his glass and stood. “Fine by me.” Jeongguk visibly swallowed when he leaned a little closer. “Be sure to get a good seat for my last set,” Jimin breathed then pulled away entirely. Jeongguk's entire face had gone red and Jimin didn't even try to hide the small chuckle that bubbled from his lips. Jeongguk nodded quickly, stammering out a few agreements before he gave up and ordered a beer.

Jimin left him to it and went back so he could get in his last dance before his last set. When he finally got on the stage, he saw that Jeongguk had done what he'd asked and gotten a better seat. Good.

When his music started, Jimin moved.

He'd meant it when he’d told Jeongguk that he loved his job and knew he was good at it.

He was.

Jimin knew how to seduce. He knew how to move his body to get exactly the kind of responses he wanted from the people he was trying to pry money out of. Jeongguk, like most of the men there, was already entranced from the first step. But, unlike some of the men watching him, Jeongguk didn't look like he wanted to eat Jimin whole, just like he wasn't entirely sure that Jimin was human. He looked as though he'd just seen the sun for the first time.

There was something kind of intoxicating about that, about being seen as something worthy of fascination that way.

Like when Jimin had first met him, Jeongguk's eyes only darkened a few times. When he'd first seen his belly button ring, Jimin had been sure that Jeongguk was going to either break the ‘no touching’ rule or break his own fingers in an effort not to. And when Jimin pulled open his shirt now, he saw that familiar dark flash in his eyes. That's what he wanted. He wasn't sure what Jeongguk’s true motives were, if Taehyung had been right in saying that Jeongguk just liked him. But he wanted to see how long it took for Jeongguk to show his true colors, how long it took him to become a rutting animal like the rest of the customers here.

When his set was over, he didn't bother getting dressed entirely, just pulled on his shirt and went to go collect Jeongguk from where he seemed planted in his seat. Jeongguk stared at him with wide eyes. When Jimin crooked a finger to tell him to follow, Jeongguk scrambled to his feet and walked to his side.

Like last time, when they gotten into Jimin's room, Jeongguk sat down and asked him questions. The dark look that he'd seen directed at his belly button ring didn't show up again. Instead, he just wanted to know if Jimin had family here, where he'd grown up, what his favorite food was.

Jimin didn't answer many questions. He didn't trust Jeongguk much with any of this information, but he figured his favorite food was harmless enough. And Jeongguk's face lit up entirely when he answered. “I can bring you some one day when I come,” he mused.

Jimin raised a brow. “You're going to bring me my favorite food just because you know what it is now?”

Jeongguk looked at him sidelong, giving him a small smile. “Well…you like it. Why wouldn't I?”

Jimin blinked and narrowed his eyes. “I'm still not sleeping with you,” he reminded him.

Jeongguk’s smile widened and Jimin bit his lip. “I know. You don't have to.”

“I don't get you,” Jimin said finally. Jeongguk frowned slightly. “What do you actually want? Like, what are you expecting to gain from this? For all you know, I'm just using you because you're stupid enough to keep giving me your money.”

Jeongguk studied him then licked his lips. “Yeah…I know that's possible. I might be the world's biggest idiot right now. But…I mostly just like hanging out with you. You kinda make me feel like I'm drunk. But in a good way.” He looked down at his hands. “It's kinda dumb but…I guess if I ever get too broke for you to put up with me, then I'll just go away. Or if I ever wake up and realize I'm a dumbass.” He gave Jimin a lopsided grin.

Jimin considered this, filed it away to think about later. “What's your favorite food?” he asked quietly and Jeongguk was off and talking again as if Jimin had never interrupted.

When the time was up, Jeongguk leaned back against the arm of the couch, further away from Jimin than he'd been when he first sat down. “So…” Jeongguk said softly, “you probably won't let me walk you home, huh?”

Jimin couldn't help the surprised laugh that left his throat. “Are you fucking serious?” he snorted.

Jeongguk gave him a look that could only be described as fond. “Of course. How are you getting home?”

“The same way I always do,” Jimin answered without implication. “I don't need you to walk me home.”

Jeongguk nodded at this, deflated a little. “I know you don't,” he murmured. “I won't hold you then. I know you're probably tired. Dealing with creeps like me all night.”

Jimin frowned. “I don't think you're a creep.”

Jeongguk looked sidelong at him. “You don't?”

Jimin thought about this. Thus far, Jeongguk had been about as creepy as any other obsessed customer but he hadn't been nearly as demanding. He'd just shown up and asked for Jimin's time. Not his body. Just his time. “No,” Jimin decided. “I don't.”

The smile Jeongguk gave him was blinding. “Thank you,” he replied simply.

Something stirred in Jimin then, something he couldn't identify. He led Jeongguk out of his room and into the club proper. Jeongguk gave him a small wave and walked out of the club. Jimin watched him go.

“So,” he heard and turned. Yoongi looked at him with a crooked smile. “Who's he? This is the second or third time that he's been here. Jin's been watching him.”

Jimin relaxed. “He's one of Tae's friends.”

Yoongi's face went slightly slack as he thought. “Oh. Tae. Your ex. So, what's his deal? He isn't being weird, is he?”

Jimin snorted and patted Yoongi's shoulder, leading him back to the dressing rooms. “Easy, Yoongi. He's not doing anything. He just likes to talk to me, I guess.” He walked over to his bag and rummaged through for his street clothes. When he turned again, Yoongi had an armful of Hoseok and looked distinctly pink. “Besides, Jin scares the shit out of him.”

“Kid's smart at least,” Hoseok replied. “Jin is scary as fuck.” He pressed his lips to Yoongi's cheek. “Hurry up, Jimin, I wanna go suck my boyfriend's dick now.”

Jimin looked at Hoseok and Yoongi through the mirror as he wiped his makeup off. “Please,” he said drily. “If you're gonna suck him off, just use your room. Don't subject me to that.”

Yoongi chuckled and tightened his arms around Hoseok. “We'll behave. He can be a good boy. Are you hungry?” Hoseok huffed impatiently.

Jimin threw away the soiled makeup wipes and pulled on his jeans and hoodie. “Nah, just tired. I won't make Hoseok wait.”

“Finally,” Hoseok cheered, “some damn consideration. Maybe Jimin should be my boyfriend instead since you wanna be an ass.” Yoongi snorted and kissed him. Jimin grabbed his bag and followed them out of the dressing room. They stopped by the bar to speak to Jin and pay him their fees for the night before they walked up the stairs and out of the club.

As always, Jimin climbed into the back of Yoongi's car and tuned them out while they drove him home. Hoseok flirted and Yoongi ignored him and they were so disgustingly cute that it made Jimin's teeth hurt.

“So, that guy,” he heard from the front seat and looked at Hoseok. “New regular? He's cute.”

Jimin nodded, ignoring the second bit, his mind turning back to Jeongguk. “Yeah, he pays nice.”

Hoseok sighed dramatically. “I need a new regular.”

“The fuck am I supposed to be?” Yoongi whined.

Hoseok gave him a sweet smile. “The love of my life, of course.”

Jimin rolled his eyes. “You two are annoying.”

“You love us,” Hoseok trilled.

Jimin went back to looking out of the window as the city crawled past them. You probably won't let me walk you home, huh? Jimin's house wasn't terribly far from the club. Walking distance was a stretch but it would be good for a long walk with someone he was talking to.

It was honestly juvenile. No one had asked to walk Jimin home since middle school. It was like Jeongguk had just asked if he could carry his books or something. It just seemed so young to ask something so simple. But…it was also really fucking cute.

Jeongguk in general was just really fucking cute.

His personality didn't really match his aesthetic. Before he talked, Jeongguk looked like he was spoiling for a fight or like he'd just gotten out of one. But he was as scary as a box of kittens.

So far.

Jimin sighed. He didn't trust him. Plain and simple. He'd been dancing long enough to know that guys like Jeongguk always started out sweet until they didn't get what they want. Then they got nasty. Jimin wished he would just hurry up and get it over with already. Before it was too late.

Before Jimin made the mistake of believing him when he said, ‘I just like hanging out with you’.

“Jimin, are you okay?”

He blinked and realized that the car had been sitting in front of his house for a while. He sat upright and looked at Hoseok, who looked concerned. “Yeah, sorry. Just tired.”

Hoseok hummed but didn't look convinced. “Let us know when you get inside. We aren't leaving till you do.”

“Yeah. Thanks, guys.”

“Get some rest, Minie,” Yoongi said quietly.

Jimin got out of the car and gave them a small wave. The car didn't move but he walked into his house anyway. He trudged up the stairs to his room and texted that he was inside and the doors were locked. He heard Yoongi's car start and knew that they'd driven off.

Jimin exhaled, walking to his bathroom to shower off the day. The water beat down on his sore muscles. He let the stress melt away as he washed the product out of his hair, let the random glitter swirl down the drain. When he was satisfied, he padded out of his bathroom and into his kitchen so he could pour himself a glass of wine. He curled up on his couch and clicked on the TV, not caring what was on. He wasn't watching it anyway.

His mind was far away, back in his room at the club. You kinda make me feel like I'm drunk. But in a good way. Jimin had heard similar sentiments before, especially from his customers. That was his ultimate goal. Make his customers feel a little loopy so that they cracked open their wallets. It wasn't hard. A wink here, a cocky smirk there, a bitten lip or two and most men were tamed and compliant. Some of them demanded more than the teasing but they also never showed up in his room again.

Jeongguk though…

He hadn't demanded anything. He hadn't so much as tried to touch him. So maybe Jeongguk truly was harmless.

Even so, Jimin's policy still stood. He didn't fuck his customers. And he didn't date them either. Jimin swallowed down some of the wine in his glass.

Jeongguk might have been cute. Maybe even gorgeous. And he seemed harmless enough. He was respectful and kind of awkward and generally seemed to be sweet.

He drained what was in his glass and set it on his coffee table. Jeongguk could be all those things. But he was a customer.

And that was all he would ever be.

☆ ☆ ☆

Jeongguk hadn't needed to have a job since he and his band had given their first actual show in a venue. And that had been years ago. But he was considering getting one now. Just something part time.

Because the bulk of his money was now going to Jimin.

It had been a couple weeks at this point and Jeongguk had been to see him a lot. Taehyung and Mingyu had told Yugyeom and Minghao about his birthday and he'd been sufficiently teased over it but they'd eventually lost interest with him ignoring them.

Now they just called Jimin his boyfriend. Taehyung was the only one who didn't, but Jeongguk knew that Taehyung and Jimin had history so Taehyung knew the ‘boyfriend’ jibe was just bullshit.

Practice was ending and Jeongguk was tired. They'd been at it for hours and his ears were ringing.

“We should be good for this weekend, huh?” Minghao asked, twirling one of his drumsticks between his thumb and forefinger.

“Of course we will. We always are,” Yugyeom crowed, holding his bass in his arms like a lover. His phone rang and he pulled it from his pocket. When he saw who was calling, his smile dropped and he sighed heavily. He handed his bass to Jeongguk and started toward the stairs. “Hello?”

Jeongguk looked at Mingyu, who shook his head, his gaze steely. “His boyfriend has become more and more controlling lately. I don't fucking like it,” he said quietly. “Gyeommie isn't seeing it but I don't trust it. I told him we don't like that asshole.”

Jeongguk shook his head and sighed, putting Yugyeom’s bass in his case and zipping it up. “You know how hard-headed he is about shit like this.”

Minghao sighed. “I wish he would just move out of that fucking apartment. I told him I've got plenty of space here. He doesn't have to keep living with random guys.”

Jeongguk nodded. “Of course he doesn't. He knows we'll take care of him but…he thinks this is best.”

“So you're just okay with this, Gguk?” Mingyu demanded.

Jeongguk narrowed his eyes. “Fucking of course I'm not. He's one of my best friends. Why the fuck would I be okay with some asshole treating him like shit?”

“Then fucking say something, Jeongguk. He isn't going to listen to us. But he might listen to you.”

Jeongguk looked away from Mingyu to Minghao, who reluctantly nodded his agreement. “Gyu’s right, Gguk. He won't listen to us.”

Jeongguk looked back at Mingyu. “I'll talk to him,” he said quietly. He packed up his own guitar and grabbed Yugyeom’s bass. “I'll see you tomorrow.”

He walked down the stairs and followed the sound of Yugyeom’s voice through the hallway into the living room. His friend was pacing behind the couch and talking into the phone. “Fine, fine. Fucking relax, okay? I just gotta get my shit and I'm on my way.” There was a burst of speech over the phone and Yugyeom went slightly pale. “Geez, I'm sorry.” He looked down at his phone, looking a little lost.

Jeongguk cleared his throat and Yugyeom turned back, schooling his features into something more neutral. “Oh. Hey, Gguk.” Jeongguk handed him his bass. “Thanks.” He looked down at his phone. “How much did you hear?”

“Enough,” Jeongguk answered. “He shouldn't talk to you like that.”

Yugyeom sighed, his shoulders falling. “Don't you start too, Ggukie. I don't need this shit from you too. The Mings are already annoying as fuck about it.”

“They're just worried about you, Gyeommie. I am too.”

“Well, don't be,” Yugyeom snapped, hefting his bass. “I'm fine. Just fucking back off.” Then he turned and walked out of the house, slamming the front door behind him.

Jeongguk watched him go, feeling annoyed. Yugyeom was just snippy because his boyfriend was being a dick. But that didn't make him feel any better. He walked out of the house not long after and headed home to drop off his guitar. He didn't stay long, instead walked down to Taehyung's shop. He walked into the door and past the reception desk. “Hey, Joon.” Namjoon gave him a nod and flipped a page in his book.

“In the back!” he heard and walked down the hallway to Taehyung's room. He sat on the tattoo chair and waited. “Almost done,” Taehyung said as he sketched. “My client is coming to look over it tomorrow so I gotta get it done before he kicks my ass.” He gave Jeongguk a goofy smile which fell almost immediately when he took in Jeongguk’s expression. He dropped his pencil and turned to him. “Ggukie, what's going on?”

“Yugyeom is a fucking asshole and so is his stupid fucking boyfriend,” Jeongguk snapped, flopping back onto the tattoo chair and staring at the ceiling.

“Yugyeom? He's not an asshole though.”

Jeongguk shrugged. “Well, he is when he's dating that fucker. The guy called and yelled at him for 900 years about who knows what and Yugyeom told us to back off because we're worried about him.”

“You're right to be worried about him,” Taehyung said quietly, closing his sketchbook. “Yugyeom puts up with a lot of shit.”

“Exactly my point,” Jeongguk exclaimed, sitting up again and looking at his friend. “And you know how bad it was last time. He won't know that it's bad until it's too late cuz he's too fucking pigheaded to see the signs for what they are.”

“Be nice, Ggukie,” Taehyung chided him gently, patting his thigh. “You know where that comes from as well as I do. He just wants to be loved.”

“That isn't fucking love, Tae. And you know it,” Jeongguk said through gritted teeth.

“I know, honey, but that doesn't change how Yugyeom sees things. He isn't being pigheaded. He's just…used to it hurting. You know?”

Jeongguk's throat felt tight. “If he keeps going out with people like this, one of them will end up killing him, Taehyung. They'll end up killing him.”

Taehyung sighed and wrapped his arms around Jeongguk tight. “No, they won't. As long as Yugyeom has you and the Mings, he'll be fine.” Jeongguk relaxed into Taehyung, let himself be held. Taehyung was always good at things like this, always had been the best at calming him down, getting to the root of what really had him upset. He sniffed and Taehyung kissed his hair. “It'll be okay, Ggukie. Just give him some time. Okay?” Jeongguk nodded against his shoulder and Taehyung pulled away.

Jeongguk looked down at his hands, feeling slightly embarrassed at his outburst. “Yugyeom isn't an asshole,” he said quietly.

“No, he isn't,” Taehyung agreed. “A little self-destructive sometimes, but not an asshole. And when it all goes to shit, he's gonna need you.” Jeongguk nodded and Taehyung kissed his hair again. “Now go away. I need to finish this stencil or I'm out at least 300k tomorrow.”

Jeongguk gave him a soft smile. “Thanks, Tae.”

Taehyung sat down in his swivel chair, opening his sketchbook, and Jeongguk got up and left the room, walking through the front after giving Namjoon a wave that he wasn't sure was returned, and turning down the street.

The night was cool. A little too cool for the light leather jacket he was wearing but he was comfortable regardless. He wandered aimlessly through the streets, following wherever his feet took him as he listened to music on his phone. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised to end up at Jimin's club. Maybe that was where he'd been heading the whole time.

It was late so there was no guarantee that Jimin was even there still, but he tried it anyway, walking into the building and down the stairs to the club. He'd been there so often at this point that the bouncer didn't even card him anymore, just let him through.

He was in luck.

Jimin was just getting off the stage when he got there. He saw Jimin see him, saw the way his eyebrows leapt in surprise as he turned to walk to the back.

Jeongguk sat down at the bar. “Back again, stalker?” he heard and turned to look at the bartender. Jin was giving him a wry smile as he made a drink.

Jeongguk returned it with a small smile of his own. “I didn't actually plan on coming here tonight,” he said quietly.

Jin hummed, looking him over. “You look like shit.”

“I feel like it too,” Jeongguk chuckled.

Jin slid him a beer and didn't ask questions, which he was grateful for. When he heard a soft voice say, “I didn't expect you to come again so soon. You normally wait a couple days,” he turned to look at Jimin and gave him a smile.

Jimin frowned at him. “What's wrong?”

Jeongguk shook his head. “Nothing.”

Jimin studied him. “You wanna come back?” He swallowed down some of his beer and hesitated. “Just come on. I won't charge you. As much.” Jimin gave him a cheeky grin and Jeongguk acquiesced with another smile. He let himself be led back to Jimin's room. He found himself relaxing when he finally got to the couch. Jimin was on the other end, looking mildly windswept and as beautiful as always. “So what brings you here?”

Jeongguk shook his head. “Just kinda ended up here, I guess,” he said softly, looking down at his hands.

“You look upset, cutie. You haven't called me gorgeous one single time and you've been here almost 5 minutes,” Jimin chided him, poking his shoulder.

Jeongguk chuckled and looked up. “You don't need me to tell you you're gorgeous.” He examined the man's face, familiar and unfair as always. “You already know how beautiful you are.”

Jimin visibly swallowed and Jeongguk may have been hallucinating but he was sure that Jimin's cheeks went a little warm. “Yeah, well,” he said, recovering quickly, “I still like to hear it. I'm gonna start charging you compliments too.”

Jeongguk smiled. “I can do that.” Jimin relaxed into the arm of the couch. “Tell me about your day,” he said and Jimin raised a brow.

“Why don't you tell me about yours instead,” Jimin suggested. “You're the one who looks like your heart just got its ass kicked.”

Jeongguk laughed. “Nothing that bad. Just…” He sobered. “I'm just worried about one of my friends. He's…” He scrubbed his face with his hands. “I just don't wanna see him get hurt again and he's on the path to getting hurt again.”

“Tell me about him,” Jimin prodded.

So Jeongguk did. He told him about how long he and Yugyeom had known each other, how Yugyeom’s upbringing and his were very similar but they'd handled it in very different ways. “He went around looking for love in all the wrong places.”

“And you?” Jimin asked.

Jeongguk looked at him levelly. “Being that I'm here, maybe he and I aren't that different,” he murmured, looking away. There was a beat of silence then he went on. “He just has shit history with guys. And because he's so willing to forgive, they'll walk all over him and treat him like shit cuz they know he won't go anywhere. Not until it's damn near too late.”

Jimin was easy to talk to about most everything – that was why Jeongguk kept coming in the first place. Jimin was a good listener. He wished sometimes that he didn't always fall into talking and talking and talking. Because that meant that Jimin didn't. He never got any closer to Jimin, not to his own mind anyway. And, he supposed that was fine. The inane crush he had on the man would eventually fade away, he was sure of it.

Jimin kept things coolly professional and distant at all times, which was his job. And Jeongguk hadn't tried to cross that line between customer and dancer since he'd first bumbled his attempt to ask the man out almost a month ago. But there was something about tonight that made Jeongguk feel just a little reckless.

Because Jimin had been subtly trying to cheer him up since he'd been here, saying absurd things that made him laugh and even volunteering little bits of information that, while not telling Jeongguk much, still told him something.

So, he felt a little luckier than normal as Jimin walked him out of the room. “Hey, y-you should come watch us perform…one day.”

Jimin looked over at him in confusion. “Your band?” Jeongguk nodded and felt a little dumb for saying it in the first place. Jimin examined him. “You want me to come watch you sing?” he asked softly.

“Um…I mean, obviously you don't have to,” Jeongguk backtracked, rubbing the back of his neck and wishing the floor would swallow him. “I just mean, like, if you ever get bored or…something.”

Jimin watched him, x-raying him again. “When is your next show?”

“This weekend.”

Jimin pursed his lips. “Is Tae going?”

Jeongguk nodded. “Of course. He comes to all of them.”

Jimin hummed at this. “I'll think about it,” he said finally. “Go home. Get some sleep.” He gave Jeongguk a small smile then left him alone.

And somehow, Jeongguk felt like he was walking on clouds the whole way home.

☆ ☆ ☆

“So,” Jimin said quietly, gritting his teeth against the burning. Taehyung’s eyes flicked up to his briefly while he toweled away the ink and blood. “You're going to Jeongguk's show?”

Taehyung flashed him a smile. “Of course,” he answered, turning back to the tattoo he was currently carving into Jimin's skin. “I love watching him perform. He's like a totally different person.”

“Is he? How?”

Taehyung hummed. “He's just…an awkward dorky kid when he's not on stage. But you put a spotlight on him and he turns into someone else.” He looked at Jimin with a wink. “That's why I started dating him in the first place. He's hot.”

Jimin thought Jeongguk was hot regardless but he didn't say so. That wasn't anyone's business but his.

“Why are you asking anyway? How did you know he had…?” The tattoo gun stilled and Taehyung looked at him, amused. “He asked you to the show, didn't he?”

Jimin looked at the ceiling. “So?”

“Ugh, just go out with him already. You're killing me.”

The tattoo gun touched his skin again and he rolled his eyes. “Just because he asked me to his show doesn't mean I like him or wanna be with him. That's on him. He's still a customer.”

“Oh please,” Taehyung snorted. “Every time you come hang out with me, he's somehow brought up.”

“Is not,” Jimin insisted.

Taehyung raised a brow at him. “When I asked you what you wanted for lunch last week, you told me that Jeongguk had brought you a plate of sushi the other day.”

“We were talking about food!” Jimin tried weakly.

“We were looking at a BBQ place, Jiminie.”

Jimin let it go. “Fine, okay so he's cute. That doesn't change shit, Tae. I don't date my customers.”

Taehyung shrugged. “You dated me.”

“Yeah but you, like, barely count. You only bought my videos, like, three times.”

“The difference being? I saw you naked before you were even my boyfriend. Jeongguk hasn't even touched you yet.”

Jimin sighed. “Stop making sense, Tae. I'm getting a headache.”

The tattoo gun shut off entirely and Taehyung sighed. “Jiminie, stop that. Stop waiting on the other shoe to drop with him. Seriously. He's a good guy.”

“Tae, he's your friend. Of course you're gonna think he's a good guy. You're biased.”

“So? I don't hang out with assholes.” Taehyung shook his hair out of his eyes. “You like him. And he likes you. What's the problem?”

“I don't trust him.” The room went silent. Jimin didn't look over at Taehyung, merely stared at the ceiling. Taehyung didn't prod, probably already knew that Jimin would continue. “He's just a customer. Okay? It won't take long before he calls me a whore and tries to kick my ass for not sucking his dick.”

“If he tries that shit, I'll kill him,” Taehyung shrugged. “But you're projecting, Jimin. He isn't even like that. He came to my shop all bitch-whipped over you because you told him what kind of movies you like. If he had heart eyes any bigger, he'd be floating down the street like a cartoon character.”

“Why the hell do you care so much anyway?” Jimin griped. “It isn't like it's your business if he and I date or not.”

“Then stop fucking making it my business. Both of you need to quit coming to my goddamn shop and asking about the other. Neither of you have even noticed that I have a whole ass fucking boyfriend now because you're both too smitten to pay attention to anyone but your fucking selves,” Taehyung snapped.

Jimin felt a little guilty at this. “You…you're dating someone? Since when?”

“Two weeks ago,” Taehyung huffed. “And I can't get a word in edgewise between Ggukie waxing poetic about how pretty your eyes are and you loudly pretending you still see him as ‘just a fucking customer’.”

“I…sorry, Tae. I'm sorry.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Taehyung griped, rolling his eyes. “If you're gonna deny that you care about him, then fine. It's your life. But it would make my life so much easier if you would stop bullshitting.”

Jimin thought about this, his mind racing. Taehyung went back to tattooing his thigh.

“Let me come to his show with you,” he said finally, his words quiet.

Taehyung smiled. “Duh. It starts at 8. I get in early cuz I'm a friend of the band.”

The room fell into silence again for a beat, then Jimin said, “So boyfriend, huh?” and Taehyung's smile became extra gooey.

Jimin wasn't used to feeling nervous about what he wore. If he wasn't at work wearing barely anything, he was channeling his inner couch potato.

It was 7 and he hadn't even done anything to his hair yet, let alone chosen his outfit. And Taehyung would be here any minute. “Jimin, he met you at the club,” Hoseok said over video chat. “He's already seen you damn near naked and humping a floor. Why would he care what you're wearing?”

Jimin let out a strangled, whining noise. “That's not the damn point.”

“Since when do you care anyway?” he heard and looked back to see Yoongi's chin hooked over Hoseok’s shoulder. He was staring into the camera at Jimin.

Jimin felt his face go hot. “Shut up,” he grumbled.

“Just wear whatever. You know you'll look hot regardless,” Hoseok chirped.

“But I don't want him to think that I care if I look hot,” Jimin complained.

“Frankly, I don't think he'll care one way or the other. I think your creepy little stalker will just be glad that you showed up,” Yoongi pointed out.

“He isn't creepy and he isn't a stalker,” Jimin huffed, turning to his closet again with a venomous glare.

“Regardless. Just put on some clothes,” Hoseok said. “We love you very much but you're interrupting date night and I'm trying to get some dick tonight.” He waggled his brows and Jimin groaned. Hoseok blew him a kiss then cut off the call.

There was a knock at the door and he ran to go open it. Taehyung looked at him critically. “As much as Jeongguk would appreciate you having your ass out at his show, I think you'd be more comfortable in actual pants, honey,” Taehyung decided.

Jimin didn't even dignify this with a response, just turned to go back to his room. Taehyung followed with a giggle, closing the front door.

Jimin grabbed the first pair of pants he could find and shoved his legs into them. He didn't need Taehyung giving him equally unhelpful advice about what to wear.

“So you're going for that ‘I'm hot but I didn't try cuz I don't care’ look, huh?” Taehyung said, not even trying to hide the amused grin.

“Fuck you,” Jimin retorted, looking in his mirror and giving up on his hair. He grabbed a beanie and shoved it on then patted his pants for his wallet and phone. “Shit, keys.” He grabbed them then turned to Taehyung. “This is as good as it gets. And this show better be worth all this stress.”

Taehyung snorted. “Not stressful at all for me, Jiminie.” Jimin huffed but didn't respond.

The venue was decently large and there was already a line of people waiting to get inside. Taehyung and Jimin were carded when Taehyung gave his name then they were let inside. The venue was nearly empty this early. There was still about 20 minutes before the show actually started so the people milling around were mostly crew and other friends of the band. Taehyung got a place right up close to the stage, smack in the middle, and told Jimin to stay put, then took off to the bar.

The place was probably a nightclub when people weren't performing there. The space where the handful of tables were seemed to be a giant dance floor. There were people hanging around on the second floor, some with drinks in their hands, some leaning over the balcony, some sitting on the floor and letting their feet dangle over the stage.

The venue was enough to hold at least a thousand people, maybe 1500. That was more people than Jimin probably performed for in a week. He narrowed his eyes. He'd been to shows like this before where the crowd was hectic and huge but intimate all at once. He wondered how filled the venue would actually be then thought of the line outside the club.

“I think they overfilled the venue this time,” Taehyung mused as he showed up again, this time with bottles of beer hanging between his fingers. He placed two of the bottles in front of Jimin and took a swig from one of the others in his fingers. “This place is gonna be packed. I don't even know why they put the tables here. They're gonna have to move them so drink quick.”

“Does he always play shows that are packed?” Jimin wondered aloud.

Taehyung nodded. “Yeah, they're getting really popular. I won't be surprised if there are suits in the audience this time. There were last time.”


“People trying to sign them,” Taehyung explained. “The only reason they haven't taken a deal yet is because the deals haven't been good enough. Jeongguk's a good leader. He knows their worth. And they keep drawing bigger and bigger crowds. They don't actually need an agency behind them and they know it.”

Jimin digested this in silence, swallowing down more of his beer.

Just as Taehyung had predicted, a few minutes later, people who worked at the venue started clearing out the few tables in front of the stage. Jimin still had a beer left but he didn't complain. He wasn't there to drink anyway.

He'd only heard Jeongguk's music in passing when they'd first talked. Though he'd thought about it, he hadn't actually looked up any of their music beyond that. He'd liked what he’d heard well enough. He wasn't typically a whiny rock kind of person, but he didn't hate it.

At this precise moment, with the doors to the venue opening and people beginning to fill the floor, people rushing to get as close as possible to the stage, he was curious about who exactly it was he'd been spending time with for the past month.

Who was Jeongguk really that people were shoving and small fights were breaking out over being close to the stage like this?

“Jiminie, hold onto this partition and don't move. Their fans are fucking terrible sometimes. They'll trample you for a chance to get close,” Taehyung warned him. Jimin swallowed and held onto the partition. Taehyung made a noise of approval and wrapped his arm around the partition too.

The lights dimmed and the crowd behind him started crushing forward. Taehyung grabbed him and tugged him closer, leveling a threatening glare at the people behind them.

Jimin stared up at the stage. Slowly, one by one, people took the stage, four silhouettes. The last silhouette to take the stage was one he recognized, long and lean. Jimin swallowed.

He saw the familiar silhouette string a guitar over his shoulders, then a chord rang out in the venue. The crowd lost its collective shit and suddenly Jimin was being jostled and the lights came on and the band was playing.

Jeongguk was the one in the center, as he'd expected, along with three other boys that Jimin didn't recognize whatsoever. The song had a driving beat, enough to match a frantic heart rate, and the whole crowd was moving to it. The people behind him knew the words and shrieked them up at the stage. Taehyung had long since devolved into a twisting, squirming mess.

Jimin had no idea what he'd expected from Jeongguk's band, but it hadn't been this. This was hysteria. This was madness. This was hypnosis, created by their music alone, by Jeongguk's voice alone.

The thrumming of the bassist reverberated up Jimin's shoes and into his spine, making him feel like a plucked string, and the whole crowd vibrated with energy.

The drummer held the crowd's heart in his hands, giving them all one heartbeat to sync to. The crowd followed his lead, letting him carry them away. The drummer was a crowd favorite apparently. Because he winked at the crowd and one of the girls behind Jimin made a very convincing fainting noise.

And the guitars wailed like banshees, howling like tamed demons, held in place by the hands of their guitarists only. Watching Jeongguk and the other guitarist play was like watching a holy ritual, a rapture.

And through it all, Jimin had refused to look at anything beyond the general direction of the stage and the people around him.

Because he was afraid of what he'd see should he actually look at Jeongguk. But he heard, “He sees you,” in Taehyung's deep register and had no choice but to. So, he looked.

And he was trapped.

Jeongguk was staring right at him, looking miles away from the awkward customer who'd stuttered when he'd asked Jimin to the show in the first place.

There was nothing awkward about him now. There was nothing unsure or even gentle about him now. Taehyung had been right. He looked like an entirely different person.

He looked like a predator. He looked the way Jimin felt when he was on stage.

And he was looking right at Jimin.

For a moment, there was nobody else in the venue, just Jeongguk singing him lyrics he didn't recognize and Jimin hanging onto his every syllable. Then Jeongguk smirked – cocky – and looked away toward the rest of the crowd as if Jimin wasn't even there.

Jimin blinked, shaking himself slightly, and looked sidelong at Taehyung. Taehyung grinned at him. “Told you,” he mouthed and Jimin looked back to the stage.

The set progressed. Every now and then, Jimin caught Jeongguk staring at him as he sang. It didn't last long, just long enough for Jimin to feel like his body was melting.

Taehyung had been right.

Jeongguk was hot. It truly wasn't fair. He'd known that Jeongguk was attractive. It didn't take much beyond eyes to see that. But this…other being on the stage in front of him was the very definition of sin.

The song he was singing now was a little slower, giving him a reason to croon into the microphone, outlining it with his hands like a lover, before he went back to playing his guitar. His hair was getting spiky at the sides from sweat and his eyes were dark enough to swallow Jimin whole.

The set went on with Taehyung moving beside him and the crowd crushing against him but Jimin couldn't focus on anything but the way Jeongguk moved on that stage. When the last song was over, the facade snapped and all four of them just looked like a bunch of goofy high school kids playing at being rockstars instead of truly intimidating performers who'd just blown the whole venue away.

When they finally left the stage, Jimin felt both drained and energized all at once, as if he'd been given a shot of espresso just in time for his whole body to collapse from exhaustion. He let go of the partition and exhaled slow. He watched the venue empty, saw the crowd of hundreds slowly filter out of the club, leaving their debris and voices behind. He felt cold and somewhat out of place. “Come on, let's go back,” he heard and looked over at Taehyung. His friend examined him then snorted. “Wipe the drool off your chin.”

Jimin actually swiped at his chin before realizing that Taehyung was full of shit and shoving him. Taehyung laughed and grabbed his wrist, tugging him along.

Jimin wasn't actually sure that he wanted to see Jeongguk right now. He wasn't sure that he wanted to see Jeongguk ever again, in all honesty. He hadn't trusted Jeongguk much before this, but he wasn't sure he trusted him whatsoever now. He'd kept saying that Jeongguk was harmless.

But Jeongguk had looked anything but harmless tonight.

It was too late for him to do much protesting about it, however, because Taehyung had led him into their dressing room and all of the members were there already, wiping at their foreheads with towels and changing into more comfortable clothes.

Jeongguk was among them, leaning against the wall with his guitar case slung over his shoulder and looking supremely bored. He'd already changed out of the tight, ripped jeans into regular joggers, which Jimin was immensely grateful for. He caught sight of Taehyung and Jimin and his eyes lit up. He gave them both a wide, victorious smile that honestly had Jimin just a bit floored. How many different versions of Jeongguk was he going to be seeing tonight? “Did you like it?” Jeongguk said eagerly, grabbing hold of Taehyung's arm.

Taehyung released him and swept Jeongguk into a tight hug, pulling him off his feet and making him cackle with laughter. “You were amazing, Ggukie,” Taehyung said warmly, kissing his forehead when he'd set him down again. “And you know you were because you always are.”

“And what the fuck were we?” demanded one of the other members. “Chopped goddamn liver?”

Taehyung released Jeongguk, then walked toward the one who'd spoken and swept him up into a tight hug too. “Of course you weren't, Mingyu,” he wailed. “You're my favorite, sign my dick so I know it's real.” Mingyu laughed and shoved him away. “Wait, don't you want a kiss too? Bring me your forehead,” Taehyung squawked.

Mingyu took off through the small room, yelling at the other members to keep Taehyung and his lips away.

“You're the one who bitched, Kim,” said the one Jimin recognized as the drummer. “Shoulda kept your mouth shut like me and Gyeommie.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Mingyu puffed, trying hard not to back himself into a corner with Taehyung.

Jimin leaned against the wall, feeling wholly out of place and watching the four of them bicker. “So…how'd you like the show?” he heard and jumped.

He whirled to look at the source of the voice. Jeongguk was staring down at him, his expression somewhat guarded, more so than it had ever been before when he'd talked to Jimin. Jimin stared at him and bit his lip. “You guys were really good,” he said at last, looking away. Jeongguk relaxed. “I didn't know any of the songs, but you sound even better live than you did on your phone.”

Jeongguk gave him a soft smile. “Thank you.”

Jimin watched him warily. “You…you're someone else when you're on stage,” he said quietly.

Jeongguk frowned at this. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

Jimin thought about it. “Neither, I think. It's just a thing.”

Jeongguk relaxed again and leaned on the wall beside him, watching his friends. “Well, you're different on stage too. I think it just comes with the territory.” Jimin accepted that this made sense.

Mingyu made a very loud wailing noise. Taehyung had apparently succeeded in kissing his forehead. “Jesus, Tae, get off me before I call the fucking cops!” he whined loudly, giving Taehyung a weak punch in the stomach. “And you three are fucking traitors! You just sat here and let me be attacked by this asshole!”

The drummer gave a loud snort and the bassist said, “Don't look at us, man. We don't want Tae coming after us with that mouth of his. We all know where that thing’s been.” He shot Jeongguk an accusatory glance.

Taehyung waggled his eyebrows and Mingyu made a wounded sound. “I'm calling the fucking army.” Jeongguk laughed with his bandmates.

“How about all four of you hurry up so we can go eat?” Taehyung suggested, rubbing his stomach.

“I'm waiting just like you are,” Jeongguk said with a chuckle. “It's those three primadonnas over there.”

“Fuck you, Jeon,” Mingyu griped. The other members busied themselves with packing up.

Jimin wasn't sure that he wanted to go out to eat with them. He wasn't sure he wanted to do anything but go home and think about his life. Jeongguk was suddenly taking up so much more real estate in his head and he needed to figure out why.

Taehyung said that it was because he just liked him. But Jimin didn't get crushes in that way. That just wasn't how he worked. It wasn't something so small and insignificant as that.


“Are you coming with us?” Jeongguk asked quietly, looking sidelong at Jimin. “You…I mean, you totally don't have to. I know we're kinda dorky but…you can. The guys are all sweet when they aren't running from Tae's mouth.” Jeongguk gave a self-deprecating chuckle and rubbed the back of his neck.

“I kinda just wanna be alone,” Jimin said slowly. Jeongguk pursed his lips and his shoulders fell slightly. “But…you can be alone with me, if you want.”

Jeongguk's eyes went wide then he smiled and nodded. “Yeah.”

“Don't expect anything, Jeongguk,” Jimin reminded him. The reminder was just as much for himself. He wasn't sleeping with Jeongguk tonight. He wasn't.

“I don't,” Jeongguk said with a small smile. “I just like hanging out with you.” Jimin ignored that his heart skipped a little. Just a little. Jeongguk had told him that a million times at this point. This time was no different. “Gimme two seconds and we can go wherever.”

Jimin let him go, watched him goof off with his friends for a minute, then hand his guitar off to the drummer. There were a few wolf whistles from Mingyu and the bassist but Jeongguk ignored them. Taehyung walked up to Jimin and wrapped him in a hug. “Use protection,” he said into Jimin's ear.

Jimin snorted and shoved him away. “I'm not sleeping with him, Tae.”

Taehyung’s smile became gentle. “He isn't what you're thinking, Jiminie. Just give him a shot. Yeah?”

Jimin exhaled slow. “Yeah,” he said, more to himself than to Taehyung.

Taehyung gave him a smile then walked off to where the other band members were. “Feed me, whores,” he said loudly and the drummer tackled him.

Jeongguk pulled away from the fray and met Jimin by the door. “Ready?” Jimin nodded and they walked out of the back door of the venue, out into the alley behind the place. “Where are we going?” Jeongguk asked.

Jimin thought about it. Then he decided. “I know a place,” he said quietly. “Come on.” Jeongguk fell in step beside him and they walked out of the alley. He didn't ask questions when Jimin hailed a cab, nor when he gave an address. He just sat in the backseat with Jimin and hummed lowly under his breath.

Jimin stared at the place where Jeongguk's hand rested in his lap. He'd held his hand before but that had been more for the sake of being a good host than anything else. Now, he was slightly fixated on it and he couldn't figure out what it was that had him focused on it so much. The cab came to a stop and they got out. The reality of the situation struck Jimin then. Jeongguk knew next to nothing about him. There was nothing saying that Jimin hadn’t brought Jeongguk out here to do him harm and Jeongguk had no reason to believe that he had the best intentions.

But Jeongguk had come anyway.

“You trust me,” Jimin said quietly.

Jeongguk turned to look at him. “Of course. I don’t have a reason not to.” He gave Jimin a small smile. “Where to?”

Jimin looked at him then swallowed and gestured that Jeongguk should follow. Jeongguk followed. Jimin led them through the small field, up a low hill and down to the small pit behind it. There wasn’t much in the pit, just patches of dirt and trash from the high school kids who came here to drink and smoke without their parents finding out. There were a few old tires scattered around on the ground and a rusty swing set to the side. That was where Jimin headed. Jeongguk followed him quietly. When Jimin sat down on one of the seats, Jeongguk’s arms immediately moved, reflexively trying to catch him. Jimin smiled. “It’s fine,” he said softly.

Jeongguk didn’t move to sit on the swing, but he relaxed, still eying the swing set warily. “What is this place?”

Jimin pumped his legs shallowly, not moving far. “I come here to think sometimes,” he said. “I used to come here a lot during college.”

Jeongguk made a noise of understanding and put his hands in his pockets. “You were gonna come here after the show?” Jimin nodded. “Then what’s on your mind?”

Jimin pumped his legs again and let out a small puff of laughter. “Would you believe me if I said you?”

Jeongguk’s eyes went wide. “Really? Why?”

Jimin sighed. “Because you scare me,” he said quietly.

Jeongguk blinked a little spastically. “I'm sorry,” he said quickly. “I'm not…I don't know what I'm doing but I can–”

“It's not that, Jeongguk,” Jimin looked at him, examining his face. “I just don't get you. So I can't trust you.”

“Get me?” Jeongguk said blankly.

Jimin exhaled. “I keep waiting on you to drop the act and turn into some entitled creep like the rest of my customers do.”

Jeongguk bit his lip. “There…isn’t an act to drop, Jimin.” He rubbed the back of his neck and looked away. “I know you don’t fully believe me but…I really do just like hanging out with you. I don’t want anything.”

Jimin scoffed. “So you don’t want to fuck me whatsoever?”

Jeongguk turned to look at him, his ears slightly red. “I mean…I do like you but, I’m not expecting anything from you. I can get over a crush. If you didn’t wanna be anything but friends or even if you just wanted me to go away, that would be fine. You don’t owe me anything just cuz I like you.”

Jimin stared at him, looking at him as if for the first time. “You really mean that, don’t you?” Jeongguk nodded firmly. Jimin swallowed and looked down at his feet. “I believe you,” he whispered and meant it. He looked up at Jeongguk again and found him smiling. He bit his lip. “So, you dated Tae too, huh?” He pumped his legs and Jeongguk moved to the side of the swing set.

“Yeah, it was forever ago,” Jeongguk answered, leaning against the pole closest to Jimin. “We didn’t last long.”

Jimin laughed. “Me either. Didn’t last 6 months. He just kinda stuck around though.” This time, when Jeongguk asked him questions, Jimin tried not to dodge as many of them. Jeongguk was able to figure out if something was too sensitive and just knew when to let it pass. Mostly though, Jimin just listened. It was easier.

Jeongguk unnerved him. Jimin couldn't nail down why he felt the creeping of nerves under his skin, as if he was in some kind of danger, when Jeongguk hadn't so much as touched him. Jeongguk was just standing beside the swing set, his hands in his pockets as he spoke, looking at Jimin swing. He didn't look like the cocky monster he'd been on stage and he didn't fully look like the awed but terrified customer either.

Had Jimin met Jeongguk under different circumstances, he was almost certain that he would have tried getting the man in bed. He would've had to, if only to add a notch as gorgeous as Jeongguk to his bed post.

He thought of the way Jeongguk had looked on stage, tried to make that image mesh with the way Jeongguk looked now, in his element, comfortable. He had a quiet confidence that made sense, didn't seem as out of place as he normally did when Jimin was working. Maybe the club was just overwhelming and that was why Jeongguk always looked a little awkward.

Even so…Jimin found that he was trying. He'd told Taehyung he would give the guy a chance and he was. Kind of. At least, it was more than he'd given Jeongguk before now.

The night was getting cooler and Jeongguk was starting to look tired before they finally fell silent. Jimin stopped swinging. “We should go. It's getting late,” he said quietly. Jeongguk stood from where he was leaning on the set, waiting. Jimin led them up the hill again, heading toward the street. “Did you actually want to walk me home that day?”

Jeongguk looked over at him in surprise. He licked his lips. “Yeah. It's a little…childish, I guess, but I did.” He gave Jimin a small smile that crinkled his nose. Cute.

Jimin nodded. “Well, then walk me home. I'm this way.” He jabbed his thumb over his shoulder. Jeongguk fell in step beside him, looking like he was over the moon, and Jimin's face felt hot. Like when they'd been in the cab, Jimin was unnecessarily focused on Jeongguk's hand. He'd seen those hands clenched into fists to restrain themselves, curled around the back of Jeongguk's neck when he was feeling bashful, holding onto a guitar and microphone as if they had been created to be there. And he'd felt them around his own once. Just once.

Jimin walked them to his house in silence, thinking. When he stopped, Jeongguk did too, looking down at him in slight confusion. Jimin looked round and realized that he'd gotten them to his house already. “This is me,” he said, indicating the townhouse they'd stopped in front of.

Jeongguk made a noise of understanding and looked at the house, then back at Jimin. “You live here on your own?”

“Why? Are you gonna try to rob me?”

Jeongguk laughed. “Definitely not. That's a lot of effort.” He quieted then relaxed some, looking down at Jimin. “I'm glad you came,” he said quietly, a small smile on his lips. “I didn't actually think you would. So, thank you. It means a lot to me.”

Jimin felt his heart stutter and looked away. He wasn't sure how to respond to that. “It's fine,” he said finally. “I had fun.” Jeongguk beamed at him. Jimin stepped back, heading toward his house. He didn't know why he was lingering like this. He was tired and he knew Jeongguk was tired too. But he wasn't all that keen to say goodbye just yet. He exhaled and told himself to snap out of it. “Lemme know when you get home?”

Jeongguk gave him a wry smile. “I mean…I would love to, but I don't have your phone number.”

Right. Okay. He hadn't thought about that. He pulled his phone from his pocket and handed it to Jeongguk. Jeongguk obediently entered his phone number then texted himself and gave it back. Before he could think, Jimin stood on his toes and kissed his cheek.

Jeongguk froze and Jimin backed entirely away, thankfully not tripping on his way up the stairs. “Go home, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk blinked a few times before he relaxed and gave Jimin the cutest, dopiest grin he'd ever seen. “Yeah. G’night.” And he turned to walk back the way they'd come.

Jimin watched him till he was out of sight then hurried into the house before he could do anything else stupid, like telling him to come back and stay.

When Jeongguk texted him, I'm home. Sleep well 💕, Jimin buried his head in his pillow and firmly ignored the fluttering in his stomach.

☆ ☆ ☆

“Jeon, open this fucking door before I break it down and beat your ass with it,” Jeongguk heard followed by three sharp kicks to his front door. He groaned and rolled out of bed, brushing the crumpled bits of paper off his chest as he walked up the hallway to open the door.

Mingyu brushed past him and flopped onto his couch. Minghao was a bit more polite, handing Jeongguk a cup of coffee – a fucking lifesaver, truly.

“What do you want, Kim?” he asked groggily. “Why are you even at my house this early?”

Minghao’s lips turned down in disapproval. “It's almost 1, Ggukie.”

Jeongguk slurped from his coffee and looked blearily down at his phone resting almost dead on his desk next to the picture. His eyes widened when he saw that Minghao was right. “Shit. I didn't mean to sleep this long. I missed practice, didn't I?”

“Not entirely. We were headed to the house when we realized that you've been missing since the damn show. That was like three days ago, Gguk,” Mingyu said breezily.

Jeongguk sat next to Mingyu and drank more of his coffee. “Sorry. I've been writing.”

Minghao hummed and looked around the apartment. “Figured. There's paper fucking everywhere. When's the last time you cleaned your apartment?” Jeongguk flicked him off and Minghao smirked. “Did you write us something good at least?”

Jeongguk straightened and put his coffee down on the table in front of his couch then reached for one of the guitars that was scattered around his house. He plucked out a few chords before he actually started to play the melody that had been in his head for a few days.

Minghao hummed. “I like it. Bring it to the loft. It needs a beat behind it, and I don't have my sticks here.”

“Hurry up and get a shower,” Mingyu ordered and Jeongguk marched. When he'd scrubbed his skin clean and brushed his teeth, he walked back out to the living room. “Have you heard from Yugyeom?” Mingyu asked, looking mildly concerned. “He's been gone almost as long as you have. I just had this asshole for company,” he said, jerking his head in Minghao’s direction. Minghao rolled his eyes.

Jeongguk shook his head as he plugged up his phone. “Not at all,” he said, scrolling through his messages. He found nothing from Yugyeom. Just messages from Minghao and Mingyu, a few from Taehyung, and one that made him feel a little warm.

Jimin💕: When are you coming to watch me again? I'm bored.

The message had been sent late last night while Jeongguk had been playing so he responded to it now, saying he'd be there tonight.

“Oh, for fucks sake, can you quit being all goopy over your boyfriend and focus? Yugyeom might have been abducted by aliens,” Mingyu huffed.

Jeongguk looked over at him. “I'm not goopy.”

“That is the single goopiest smile I've ever seen on your face in my entire life, Jeon. I'm actually afraid for my well-being,” Mingyu deadpanned.

Jeongguk hadn't realized he'd been smiling but it didn't prove anything anyway. “Whatever. Let's just go get Yugyeom so we can practice this.”

Yugyeom didn't answer when they got to the apartment he shared with his boyfriend. And he didn't answer his phone. Jeongguk frowned and started knocking. Mingyu took a more direct approach and kicked the door the same as he'd done to Jeongguk's. “Open up, Kim!” he demanded.

It took a moment, but the door was finally pulled open. Yugyeom looked out at them with tired eyes. “I have neighbors, Mingyu. Stop kicking my fucking door.”

“Gyeommie…are you okay?” Minghao asked softly, his expression concerned. Yugyeom had dark smudges under his eyes, like he hadn't slept in days, and he looked exhausted. So maybe he hadn't. “Can we come in?”

Yugyeom shook his head. “No. Lemme get a shower and I'll be out in a few.” Before any of them could protest, Yugyeom closed the door again.

Jeongguk felt something uneasy curl in his stomach. “I don't like this, guys. I don't like when he looks like this.”

Mingyu nudged his shoulder. “Gguk, we gotta do something.”

Minghao shook his head and sighed heavily. “Yeah, but what? He won't leave the asshole and he won't listen to us.”

Jeongguk shook his head and was going to respond but felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out.

Jimin💕: Fine. Bring me sushi, cutie.

He couldn't help the small smile. Yugyeom opened the door again, breaking the small bubble Jeongguk had been in and letting reality bleed in through the edges. “Why do you all look like you're on your way to a funeral?” Yugyeom asked, trying for mocking and just coming out tired.

“You tell us, Kim,” Mingyu said levelly. “Are we?”

There was a fragile silence. “Fuck you, Mingyu,” Yugyeom said and sounded like he meant it. “If we're going to practice then let's go. But if you're just gonna be a fucking asshole about my boyfriend all day, then I'm going the hell back inside. Figure it out now before I take a step off this landing.” None of them spoke. “Good. Let's go.”

They followed Yugyeom down the stairs and out of the apartment complex. The silence that blanketed them was uneasy, tenuous. Normally there was far less tension, far more cursing, far more horseplay. But they made it to the loft in utter silence, none of them all that keen on addressing the true problem.

Jeongguk was sure of it at this point. Yugyeom knew that something was wrong with his relationship. But…he was in denial. And he was lashing out at anyone who wanted to force him to see what was obvious.

Even if it meant pushing his friends away.

Minghao and Mingyu walked up the stairs to the loft and Yugyeom made to follow but Jeongguk grabbed his wrist. “Wait.”

“Don't wanna hear it, Jeongguk,” Yugyeom said sharply. “I literally don't give a fuck what you have to say right now.”

“Yugyeom, listen,” Jeongguk insisted. “I don't know what's going on with you and your boyfriend. But I've seen you like this before and I'm fucking scared, okay? I'm fucking scared for you.”

“Well, don't be,” Yugyeom snapped. “For once in your fucking life, Jeongguk, mind your own goddamn business. I don't need it. Okay?”

“Yes, you do,” Jeongguk pressed. “Look at yourself. Since when do you fight with fucking Mingyu of all people? Since when do you talk to us like this?”

Yugyeom looked surprised, his eyes going wide, then a little glassy. He looked away and rubbed his arm with his free hand. “I'm sorry. I'm just sick of you three riding my ass about him. You don't know him, so you don't understand.”

“I don't need to know him to know that he's fucking hurting you. You look like you haven't slept in a month. You look like a fucking vampire.”

Yugyeom gave a thin chuckle at this. “My final form,” he said drily. Jeongguk huffed out a laugh through his nose. “It's not that serious, Jeongguk. He doesn't hit me or whatever else you're thinking. We just got into a really bad fight a couple days ago.”

Jeongguk released him and sighed. “That isn't helping his case, Gyeommie. It's not.”

Yugyeom rolled his eyes. “Lay off, Ggukie. Couples fight. It happens. It isn't the end of the world.” Jeongguk wanted to respond that one fight shouldn't make Yugyeom look this broken down. It wasn't right. “I bet you and your new boyf are gonna bicker too.”

Jeongguk felt his face warm. “He isn't my boyfriend,” he mumbled.

“Yet,” Yugyeom amended. He sighed. “Look, Ggukie. Just trust me, okay? If it gets too bad, I'll just leave. Trust that I know when enough is enough.”

Jeongguk wanted to retort that this was already enough. That Yugyeom had already put up with far too much. But he knew it would fall on deaf ears. He pulled Yugyeom into a hug. “Fine. But don't be stupid, Gyeommie. Okay?” Yugyeom nodded against his shoulder. “I'm serious, Yugyeom. Don't wait until it gets that far.”

Yugyeom nodded again and shrugged from under Jeongguk's hands. “I know, Gguk. Come on. I don't wanna think about this anymore. I just wanna play.”

Jeongguk allowed this and followed Yugyeom up the stairs. He couldn't shake the feeling that this wouldn't be the last time he and Yugyeom had this conversation. He knew his friend. He knew that Yugyeom wouldn't get out before it got serious.

Because it was already serious. And Yugyeom wanted everyone to back off. Jeongguk didn't want to push Yugyeom away, but he didn't want to watch his friend be destroyed either.

He swallowed his sigh and grabbed his guitar. He would have to let it go for now. Yugyeom had given him no other option.

That night, he sat with Jimin, watching him eat sushi with a wide grin on his face. He hadn't been back to the club since Jimin had come to see his band perform. He hadn't realized he'd missed being here. Maybe he'd just missed Jimin.

“So, where have you been?” Jimin asked as he picked a piece of sushi out of the small box Jeongguk had brought with him. He leaned back against the couch and popped it into his mouth.

Jeongguk mirrored him, leaning against the arm of the couch. “Home, mostly. Writing. Happens sometimes.”

Jimin looked at him sidelong. “Yeah, well…you should at least text me or something. How else am I supposed to get my daily dose of compliments?”

Jeongguk grinned and filed this away. “So, you missed me, huh?”

“Hardly,” Jimin sniffed. His face went slightly pink and the arrogant look on his face wasn't at all convincing. “I just enjoy having you worship me.”

Jeongguk bit his lip. “You want me to worship you?”

Jimin raised a brow. “Don't I deserve it?” Jeongguk nodded. He did. Jimin bit his lip against a smile. “Tell me something,” Jimin asked at last, standing and going to the cabinet in the corner. When he came back to the couch, the small bottle of water in his hands was half empty and he was chewing something that smelled like strawberry. “Why don't you want me to dance for you anymore?”

Jeongguk swallowed. “It's not that,” he said quietly. “It's just…I don't know. I don't want you to feel like you have to be ‘on’ if I'm back here. Besides, I don't care what we do. I just–”

“You just like hanging out with me,” Jimin finished. Jeongguk nodded a little sheepishly – just how many times had he said that? “But,” Jimin mused, “what if I like dancing for you?”

Jeongguk stopped breathing. Jimin stood before him, slotting himself between his legs and resting his hands on Jeongguk's shoulders. Jeongguk's head started to swim and he inhaled. Jimin was wearing that spicy cologne again, the one that had gotten Jeongguk damn near drunk the first time he'd danced for him. “And do you?”

Jimin hummed lightly and leaned close. Jeongguk put his hands under his thighs again. “Maybe a little. You're so cute when you're like this,” he murmured. “You look like I'm about to eat you.”

Jeongguk exhaled slow. “I feel like you are too.”

Jimin hummed again, sliding onto his lap and resting against his shoulder. “Maybe I am,” he decided, his lips brushing light against Jeongguk's neck, making him shiver.

“Jimin…” Jeongguk wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to finish the sentence with, only that his head felt hot and he really wanted to put his hands on Jimin's waist and pull him closer. He wasn't sure if doing that would cross a line, so he didn't.

Jimin had told him that he was scared. Jeongguk could understand why. He knew that people were likely to take liberties with the dancers simply because of their jobs and he wanted so badly not to do anything that would make Jimin shove him firmly into that ‘creepy customer’ category and shut him out completely.

Jimin leaned away and looked down at him. He was close, as close as he had been the first time he'd danced for him. But this was different. Jimin didn't look as sure as he looked down at Jeongguk, didn't look as confident. He looked a little nervous, a little out of his element. He licked his lips and Jeongguk’s eyes unconsciously flicked to them. And Jimin had seen it, he knew, because he was too close not to have noticed. He saw Jimin swallow, felt one of Jimin's hands move to the back of his neck.

Jeongguk waited. He could see the indecision in Jimin's face, the conflict, and he didn't press. He just stared up at him, let him decide.

Finally, Jimin sighed. “Walk me home?” he asked softly. Jeongguk nodded. Jimin climbed off his lap and stretched. “Wait for me at the bar. I have to go get dressed.” Jeongguk nodded again and left the room. He felt Jimin staring at him as he went.

When Jimin walked to the bar about 20 minutes later, he looked considerably less conflicted and much more comfortable. He was wearing the giant hoodie that he'd been wearing when Jeongguk had fucked up asking him out. “Ready?” he asked. Jeongguk nodded and Jimin led them out of the club. Jeongguk felt eyes on him as he moved and looked back. The bartender was staring at him hard and so was the sleepy-looking blond he'd seen Jimin talking to forever ago. He followed Jimin up the stairs and out onto the street.

When they'd gotten onto the sidewalk, Jimin took his hand. “Come on,” he said quietly and led Jeongguk down the street. Jeongguk didn't mention the fact that Jimin's fingers were laced with his or that his palm was a little sweaty or that his cheeks were kind of pink.

Jimin was hard to get to. He was hard to read and even harder to get to open up. But…since the performance, he was at least trying. And Jeongguk wasn't about to make it harder by mentioning those things. He didn't want Jimin running scared or cutting him off. Jimin hadn't given him much, just small things, like the confusion in his gaze, welcoming Jeongguk into his thinking spot, a quick kiss on the cheek after he even showed up to a performance. Just little things. But they were beginning to add up and Jeongguk couldn't help feeling just a little greedy.

Jimin slowed in front of his house but didn't release him. “You know…” he said slowly, looking away. “Taehyung is the one who told me to ease up on you.”

Jeongguk blinked. “He what?”

Jimin gave him a small smile and nodded. “Yeah. He told me that you're not gonna turn out to be some asshole in disguise so I should at least give you a chance.” Jeongguk nodded his understanding. He would have to buy Taehyung dinner or something. “I meant it when I said you scare me.”

“I know,” Jeongguk answered. “I wish I didn't. I'm not gonna hurt you.”

Jimin shook his head a little sadly. “You can't know that, Jeongguk.”

“Okay, fair,” Jeongguk acquiesced, “but I would never try to.”

Jimin looked up at him, studying him, like he was trying to see right through him. “You wouldn't, would you?” The words were barely audible, as if he wasn't talking to Jeongguk at all.

He tightened his fingers then quickly leaned up and brushed his lips over Jeongguk's. It was over so fast, Jeongguk wasn't sure what had just happened until he felt Jimin's fingers go slack in his, making to pull away. “Jimin,” Jeongguk said and Jimin stopped moving, looking at him warily.

Jeongguk's hand moved slow, curving lightly over Jimin's cheek. Jimin's eyes fluttered and his cheeks went even more pink. His fingers tightened in Jeongguk's and he looped his arm around Jeongguk's neck, pulling him down.

This time, Jeongguk could actually feel Jimin's lips against his, soft and hesitant, as if he was waiting. His fingers curled lightly into Jeongguk's hair, pulling him closer as their lips moved slowly together. When Jeongguk felt Jimin's hand pull out of his, he finally put his hand at Jimin's waist, holding him tighter, closer. Jimin made a soft sound in the back of his throat and relaxed against Jeongguk's body.

Jeongguk could taste him, the remaining sweetness from whatever strawberry-flavored thing Jimin had been chewing earlier. As close as Jimin was, the kiss was still relatively chaste and Jeongguk didn't push it, didn't deepen it, just let Jimin do what he wanted.

Jimin pulled away slightly and looked at him, still studying his face, then kissed him again. Jeongguk wrapped his arms tight around him, holding him closer. Jimin pushed him away and looked down at the nonexistent space between them, his breathing faster than it would normally be. He rested his forehead on Jeongguk's shoulder, still not releasing him yet.

Jeongguk couldn't be sure how long they stood there, but he could feel when Jimin pulled away. He steadied himself and let the dancer go. Jimin was still looking at him cagily, as if he expected Jeongguk to disappear in a puff of smoke or bolt. Jeongguk smiled and Jimin relaxed. “Let me know when you get home?”

Jeongguk pressed a kiss to his forehead then backed away entirely. “Yeah. I'll see you later.”

And he turned away to go home, feeling his heart racing in his chest. Yeah, he definitely owed Taehyung dinner.

Jimin disappeared over the next few days. He didn't answer when Jeongguk texted or called even. And he wasn't at the club. His sleepy blond friend had told Jeongguk that Jimin wasn't feeling well. “He'll be back when he's better, stalker.”

Jeongguk hadn't bothered to tell the man that he wasn't a stalker because he'd been far more concerned about Jimin not feeling well.

“I don't know what to even do, Tae,” Jeongguk complained, flopping onto the couch at Taehyung's shop in an unceremonious heap. “It's like he just disappeared.”

Taehyung flipped to another page in his magazine. “You'll survive, Gguk.”

“I just wanna be sure that he's okay.”

Taehyung looked up at him, shaking the pink hair out of his eyes. “Jimin always answers his texts if it's someone he wants to talk to. He hasn't been answering me, you, or Yoongi. So, whatever it is, it's something that's really bothering him.”

“That's not making me feel any better, Tae.” Jeongguk said. “And who's Yoongi?”

“Yoongi's his blond friend, the one who kinda looks like a bodyguard. I met him a few nights ago.” Taehyung leveled a steady glance at him. “And it isn't meant to. It's to tell you that you're right to be concerned. But…he'll reach out when he's ready. Just give him his space for now.”

Jeongguk sighed. “Yeah…fuck it, I guess. Come stick metal in my ear.”

“Why does that sound wrong when you say it, Ggukie?”

Jeongguk didn't know how he'd ended up in this useless field. He was only here because it reminded him of Jimin and was as close as he could get right now without being a total creep.

He looked warily at the rusty swing set. Perhaps Jimin was able to swing on it because he actually was a god on earth and didn't have to worry about small things like rotted metal and gravity. He tried it anyway, fully prepared to land on his ass when the set inevitably gave but it held him. He made a small satisfied noise and pumped his legs.

The swing creaked loudly under his weight and he rethought his comfort. But it didn't seem to be giving anytime soon so he kept swinging.

He liked this place. It wasn't as though it was particularly beautiful. As far as Jeongguk was concerned, it was a literal dump. Nothing grew here, not even weeds. It was filled with trash and empty of everything except this terrifying swing set and a bunch of rusted and moldy old tires.

But…that night, when Jimin had brought him here, the moonlight had filtered down across his face and lit up everything. The debris on the ground and the forgotten swing set hadn't been able to dampen Jimin. Because he'd truly been what was making the place beautiful.

Jeongguk hadn't known what to expect from Jimin when he'd first met him, first tried to talk to him. He hadn't had any expectations. He'd honestly thought Jimin was just going to call security and get him banned from the club for being a weirdo but…Jimin had entertained him and even let him in a little. Just a little.

He certainly hadn't anticipated liking Jimin as much as he did.

Jeongguk could see himself being with Jimin for a while. Maybe for a long time. Beyond being obviously gorgeous, Jimin was also perceptive. A good listener. A kind person. He was cautious with his heart, which made Jeongguk wonder how many people had broken it. But it also made Jeongguk think he was smart. It wasn't always wise to wear hearts on sleeves. Jeongguk had learned that. Sometimes, leaving himself open like that had led to nothing but unnecessary pain. Sometimes, it was better to hide away a little.

He didn't feel like he had to with Jimin, though. He wasn't sure what they were. Friends, not really. People who had a mutual understanding, mostly. But he was sure that, if things went on as they were, he wouldn't have to worry about Jimin making him doubt his own instincts again. He wouldn't have to worry about Jimin being the one to break him.

“What are you doing here?” he heard and immediately stopped swinging. He looked over to the source of the voice and saw Jimin standing there, looking for all the world like a miracle.

Jimin raised a brow and Jeongguk examined his face. His eyes were puffy, as if he'd been crying, and his face was paler than usual. He looked tired and his expression was drawn, guarded. His dark eyes watched Jeongguk warily, like Jeongguk was going to attack him. His hair was covered by a black hood and his arms were crossed, his whole body closed off.

“You're not actually stalking me, are you?” Jimin asked, his voice just as tired as he looked.

“No, I'm not stalking you. I…actually just came here cuz you were on my mind. I was worried about you.”

Jimin's arms tightened around himself. “I'm fine,” he said tightly.

Jeongguk swallowed. “You don't look fine, Jimin.”

“It's none of your fucking business, Jeongguk,” Jimin said. The words were sharp and a little slurred, but his voice was very tired.

“I know,” Jeongguk said quietly. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't have come. I didn't think you would be here.” Jimin opened his mouth to speak then made a strangled little noise and closed it again, looking away. Jeongguk stood from the swing, feeling like a fool. “I'm gonna go. Okay? Are you sure you're okay? You don't need anything?”

Jimin stared at him and his eyes went glassy. He looked quickly away and let out a sharp bark of laughter. “Why do you care more than they do?” he said to no one. Then he looked at Jeongguk again, who was feeling a little bewildered. “Take me home, Jeongguk,” he said firmly.

Jeongguk blinked. “You…you want me to walk you home?”

Jimin walked closer to him and shook his head. “Take me back to your place. Take me home.” It was only now that Jeongguk noticed how unsteady Jimin was on his feet, the rosiness of his cheeks. He was drunk.

“I…I don't know that that's a good idea…”

Jimin's face crumpled heartbreakingly. “Ah, gotcha. I'm not your pretty little dancer with no problems so you don't want me anymore either.”

Jeongguk's eyes went wide. “No, that isn't…I mean, Jimin, you're drunk.”


“So you don't want what you're asking for,” Jeongguk tried.

He had no clue how Jimin had gotten so close or how he'd ended up with his back against the pole of the swings. But Jimin was getting closer, wrapping his arms around Jeongguk's neck and pulling him into a slow kiss.

Jeongguk's heart slammed in his chest and he kissed him back, forgetting for just a moment that there was something seriously wrong with Jimin. He was normally much more careful than this, much more controlled. The alcohol had stripped Jimin of his caution and he was kissing Jeongguk as if he was a lifeline, the only thing holding him afloat. “Don't tell me what I want.” Jimin's dark eyes bored up into his. “Just take me home, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk pulled away from him, trying to focus. “We should just…go back to your place,” Jeongguk said.

Jimin stubbornly shook his head and pulled away entirely. “Don't wanna. If you won't take me home, someone else will.” He turned and started up the hill toward the street.

Jeongguk hesitated for just a moment, thinking of Jimin, drunk and obviously vulnerable, stumbling around Seoul looking for trouble that he would no doubt find. Then he was up the hill faster than Jimin and standing in front of him, panting a little. “Just…just wait. I'll take you home. Okay? Come home with me.”

Jimin looked up at him a little blearily then nodded. “Yeah. I like you better than some other random anyway.” He latched onto Jeongguk's hand and held it in his while Jeongguk hailed a cab for them. “You're cuter than anyone,” Jimin said as they climbed into the cab. Jeongguk gave the driver his address and tried to buckle Jimin into a seatbelt but it wasn't happening being that Jimin refused to let go of his arm.

Jimin kept murmuring things that Jeongguk didn't pay full attention to as he let Taehyung know that Jimin was with him and was staying the night. Taehyung immediately called him.

“The fuck do you mean he's spending the night with you?” Taehyung said into the phone. “What's he even doing with you?” Jeongguk explained that he'd gone for a walk and ended up at Jimin's swing set just in time for Jimin to show up. “And…why is he coming home with you if he's drunk?”

“It's either he comes home with me or some rando tries to take advantage of him in a club somewhere,” Jeongguk said quietly, looking at Jimin. Jimin was staring at him, his eyes shining a little. “He's safer with me than he is walking the streets.”

Taehyung waited a beat. “Let me talk to Jimin.”

Jeongguk obediently handed the phone to Jimin, who took it with his free hand. “Hmm?” His dark eyes disappeared when he smiled. “TaeTae,” he crooned. “Your friend is cute. Tell him to be my boyfriend.”

Jeongguk swallowed and stopped listening. He didn't look at Jimin again until he felt him nudge his shoulder. Jeongguk took the phone from him. “The last time I heard him this bad was forever ago,” Taehyung said softly. “I'm glad he's with you, Ggukie. Just…take good care of him. Okay? Don't do anything stupid. He's gonna feel like the world's biggest dumbass tomorrow.”

“Do you know why he's like this, Tae?” Jeongguk asked quietly, hopefully too quietly for Jimin to hear.

Taehyung hummed. “Yeah. I do. But…it's up to him to tell you. Just…just be good to him.”

Jeongguk nodded, though he knew he couldn't be seen, and the line went dead. The cab pulled up in front of Jeongguk's apartment and the cabbie looked back at him, looking glad to be rid of them. Jeongguk couldn't find it in himself to blame the man. He paid and pulled Jimin out of the car after him. Slowly, they made their way to the elevator that led to Jeongguk's floor.

It only now occurred to him that his apartment was probably a mess. Jimin was too drunk to care but that didn't make it less embarrassing.

He opened his door and Jimin stepped inside, cautious, as if he was expecting someone to jump out of the corner to scare him. “Just us?” he asked, stepping out of his shoes. “No roommates?”

Jeongguk moved them closer to the door as he locked it. “Just us,” he confirmed, not fully thinking about it. He led Jimin to the couch. “Here, sit down. I'll go get you some water.”

“No, no water. Liquor. Gimme liquor or don't bring me anything.” Jeongguk looked down at Jimin, who stared innocently up at him. “Don't wanna be sober,” Jimin whispered.

Right. Jimin was going through something right now. So, sobriety wasn't going to be appealing. He nodded. “Just stay here. I'll set up the bed, okay?” Jimin nodded and Jeongguk walked quickly to his bedroom.

Simply put, the room was a fucking nightmare. There were random empty cups of ramen everywhere, empty beer bottles, crumpled bits of paper with disjointed lyrics he'd already decided against using, clothes strewn here and there that reminding Jeongguk how much he needed to do laundry. He quickly stuffed all the trash into a bag and threw the clothes in his hamper so he could wash them tomorrow, resolving himself to shove them into the closet for now. Then he stripped the bedsheets and threw down a fresh set. When he was satisfied, he walked back to the living room. Jimin was still sitting where he had been on the couch, but there was a beer in his hands now. He'd apparently gone rummaging through Jeongguk's fridge while he was waiting.

Jeongguk looked at the beer but didn't say anything about it. “Come on. You need sleep, Jimin.”

Jimin put the beer on the table and stood, his expression neutral. He took Jeongguk's hand again and led them to the bedroom as if he'd been there before. Once inside, he pressed Jeongguk against the wall and kissed him. Like before, the kiss was slow, deep and leading. Jeongguk could read his intentions clearly. Jimin didn't want to be in this room alone. He pressed his body against Jeongguk's and Jeongguk broke the kiss to exhale a little rough, holding onto Jimin's waist. “Jeongguk, want you, okay? Fuck me.”

Jeongguk ground his teeth and shook his head. “Not tonight.”

“Jeonggukie…give me what I want. I know you want me,” Jimin said quietly. And he was right. Jeongguk did want him. Everything Jimin was offering, he wanted to take for himself, to lose himself in Jimin's warm skin, in his husky voice, in his soft kiss.


“Not tonight, Jimin. Okay?”

Jimin looked at him, his eyes shining. “Ggukie…Ggukie, please.”

Jeongguk thought it through. Jimin wasn't trying to hear ‘no’ tonight. But Jeongguk wasn't about to take advantage of the fact that Jimin was drunk either. Which meant that he had to get a bit creative. He nodded and kissed Jimin again, leading him back to the bed. Jimin finally relaxed against him, let himself be led. When he fell onto the mattress, Jeongguk lay on the side of it. Jimin curled up close to him and kissed him again. Jeongguk let him. They'd kissed before this. That wasn't a line that he'd crossed.

It was when Jimin started rutting against his body that Jeongguk stopped him. “Not tonight, sweetheart. Be patient,” he murmured, kissing his hair.

Jimin gave him a plaintive whimper but didn't say anything about it, just held onto Jeongguk's shirt and buried his face in his chest. Jeongguk held onto him, pressing soft kisses to his hair every now and then and smoothing his hand up and down Jimin's spine. He was sure that Jimin had finally gone to sleep when he heard him speak. “I really like you, Ggukie,” Jimin said softly. “Scares me.” He looked up at Jeongguk, blinking away sleep, as if the words were imperative enough for him to fight rest over. “I don't wanna be scared of you anymore.”

Jeongguk felt his heart stutter and reminded himself that Jimin was drunk. He likely wouldn't want Jeongguk to know any of this in the morning. Even so, he couldn't help responding. “You don't have to be scared of me, sweetheart,” he whispered.

“You won't hurt me?” Jeongguk shook his head and Jimin sighed in something that felt like contentment. He burrowed into Jeongguk's chest and didn't speak again.

When Jeongguk was sure that he was asleep, he disentangled himself from Jimin, covering him with the blanket and making sure he had enough pillows. Jimin didn't stir. Jeongguk looked down at him, smoothing his hair out of his eyes. He leaned down and kissed his hair then pulled away.

He grabbed a bottle of water and some headache medicine from the bathroom and put them on the nightstand, then pulled Jimin's phone from his pocket and plugged it up so it wasn't dead in the morning. Then he closed the bedroom door quietly and went to his linen closet.

He grabbed a spare pillow and blanket and flopped down on his couch, staring up at his ceiling. This wasn't what Jeongguk had expected from Jimin letting him in. But he liked this better than anything else. Jimin had told him that he couldn't trust him. And, Jeongguk supposed, that was fair. But, Jimin had trusted him enough to be brought to his house, had trusted him enough to even let Jeongguk see how upset he was, even if unintentionally.

I don't wanna be scared of you anymore.

You don't have to be, Jimin, he thought to himself. You never had to be.

☆ ☆ ☆

Jimin felt like death when he woke up. His head was killing him and his mouth tasted like the inside of a bar smelled. “What the fuck,” he grunted. His body felt like he'd lost a fight with a steamroller. He whined and cracked open an eye.


He slowly sat up, looking at the unfamiliar room. There were band posters everywhere, a few random sketchbooks strewn about, a ratty pair of combat boots in front of the closet. He looked to the side and saw a bottle of water and a blister pack of headache medicine on a tiny nightstand beside the bed. Without thinking, he swallowed them down, taking half the bottle of water down with them, then shoved his hair out of his face. His phone was on the nightstand too and it vibrated now with a call. He looked down at the screen then answered.

“Sleep well?” Taehyung drawled into the phone.

“I feel like ass,” Jimin complained.

“This is why we don't drink, kids.” Jimin made a noise like a dying whale and flopped back onto the pillows. “Do you remember anything from last night?”

Jimin thought about it, let the disparate bits of memory float to the surface. He remembered Jeongguk on his swing set, the streetlights crossing Jeongguk's face in a cab, looking through a fridge and thinking about how empty it was before snatching a beer. Oh. He remembered more…Jeongguk's lips against his, his fingers tracing Jimin's spine, his soft voice saying, not tonight, sweetheart.

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “I remember Jeongguk.”

Taehyung made a noise of approval. “Good. Do you…wanna talk about it?”

“No,” Jimin said quickly. “I just want to shower and get the hell out of here before I embarrass myself some more.”

“I don't think Jeongguk will mind you staying for a while,” Taehyung mused. Jimin chose not to respond to this. It wasn't about Jeongguk. “Go grab a shower then. I'll tell Yoongi you're okay.”

“Thanks, Tae.”

Jimin let the call disconnect and looked around the small bedroom. It was decently clean. There was a giant Iron Man poster on the closet door. Someone had drawn a mustache on Iron Man’s mask on the poster. Jimin's lips curled in a smile. Jeongguk had pictures of the band hanging on the mirror above his dresser, which looked way too large to be shoved into the small corner it was in. An equally too large TV was hanging on the wall next to the bathroom with a mess of console cables hanging beneath it, a controller sitting on top of the table underneath it. The room was mostly grey everywhere, the carpets, the walls, the comforter. The sheets he was wrapped up in were a pale blue and smelled like fabric softener.

All in all, the room was kinda cramped and a little awkwardly laid out, but it was comfortable.

He slipped out of the sheets and went to look at the Iron Man poster more closely when the bedroom door opened softly behind him. He turned to look and Jeongguk stared at him like a deer in headlights. “I didn't know you were awake, sorry. I just needed my…” He pointed uselessly at Jimin's phone. “Charger.” He didn't move to grab it, just stared at Jimin. “How are you feeling?” he asked at last.

Jimin rubbed his arms with his hands. “Like shit. Sorry about,” he waved his hand to indicate the situation, “all of this.”

Jeongguk quickly shook his head. “Don't be. It's okay. I'm just glad you're safe.”

Jimin nodded and waited a beat, turning to look at the poster again when he asked, “We didn't…last night…”

“No,” Jeongguk said firmly. “No, you just kissed me a lot.” Jimin turned to him and Jeongguk's ears went a little red. “Not…that I'm complaining. I just mean it didn't go any further than that.” Jimin nodded. Jeongguk's face went slack. “Ah…I did reach into your back pocket to get your phone after you were asleep, but it wasn't to feel your ass, I swear. It was just where your phone was.” His ears went entirely red.

Jimin rubbed his arms again. “Thank you, Jeongguk. You didn't have to do all this.”

Jeongguk frowned. “I didn't do anything, Jimin.”

Jimin wanted to say that that was a huge part of the reason he was grateful, but he couldn't figure out how to articulate how he felt so he let it go. “I feel kinda…gross,” he said instead.

Jeongguk’s mouth made a little O and he said, “Right. One sec. Lemme…” He walked out of the bedroom for a moment then came back with towels. He handed them to him then pointed at the closet. “You can wear whatever you want in there. My stuff might be a little big on you though,” he said with a small frown. His lips pursed into a thin line. “Oh, right. I don't have a spare toothbrush. I can go get you one. Did you want breakfast or…?”

Jimin looked down at the towels. “You don't have to do all this, Jeongguk. I can just freshen up and get out of your hair.”

Jeongguk deflated a little. “You…I mean, you don't have to rush off. You obviously can if you want, you just…don't have to. You can stay.”

Jimin was still looking down at the towels. “You want me to stay?”

He heard Jeongguk chuckle. “Of course I do. I like having you here.”

Jimin looked up at him, trying to figure him out. It wasn't working. Maybe Jeongguk really did just like him being around. “So…breakfast?”

Jeongguk perked up again. “What do you wanna eat? I'll get it for you.”

“Yoongi's got me addicted to iced americanos so…maybe one of those? And I guess food too. Whatever is fine. I’m not really hungry.”

Jeongguk nodded. “My phone is kinda dead, but I won't be far.” He thought about it then shook his head. “I'll charge it a little just in case, then I'll go,” he decided instead and walked to get his charger from by the bed, unplugging Jimin's phone and plugging up his own. “C’mon, I'll show you how to work the shower before I go.”

Jimin let himself be led around the house. He knew how to work a shower, but he let Jeongguk be a good host anyway, simply because it gave him an excuse to look at him.

Jeongguk had been up for a while it seemed, his dark hair kinda fluffy and all over his head. He looked comfortable in the loose joggers and the dark shirt that seemed to be his go-to. Jimin got to look at his tattoos, looking at the colors curve round his arms. Superheroes, he saw now. He had a half sleeve on his right arm dedicated to superheroes. Jimin recognized the Avengers, Iron Man at the foreground. The inside of his wrist had a small tattoo, a stylized flower with a small semicolon hidden in the lines that Jimin wouldn't have noticed had he not known what it was. He bit his lip as his stomach twisted, then looked at Jeongguk's face instead and found that he was being watched. “Are you okay?”

Jimin nodded and looked down at his towels again, then put them on the side of the sink and grabbed a fistful of Jeongguk's shirt. He pulled him closer and rested his head against Jeongguk's shoulder. Jeongguk wound his arms around Jimin's waist and held him. “You sure you're okay?” he asked softly. Jimin shook his head. “You wanna tell me about it?” Jimin shook his head again. Jeongguk kissed his hair. “Okay. But you can if you ever want to.” Jimin didn't respond to this save to pull him closer.

They stayed like this for a long moment, neither speaking, Jeongguk just holding onto him and Jimin letting himself be held. Finally, he exhaled and moved away. Jeongguk released him. He didn't look up, couldn't, but he felt Jeongguk's fingers in his hair then felt a soft kiss to his forehead. “I'm gonna go get your coffee,” Jeongguk murmured. “Call me if you need anything, okay?” Jimin nodded and Jeongguk left the bathroom.

Jimin felt overwhelmed. Jeongguk was overwhelming. He hadn't done anything but exist and Jimin felt a little like he wanted to cry. He heard the front door to the apartment open then close and relaxed. Maybe it would be better for him to just go.

Because he felt like, if he stayed, he would never want to leave.

Jimin ignored this thought, let it pass, and turned on the shower so he could wash off the sluggish hangover and the night. He felt better when he stepped out of the spray, less groggy and emotional, more like himself. He realized that he hadn't brought any of Jeongguk's clothes into the bathroom with him and quickly hitched the towel around his waist to go get some.

Just as he stepped out of the bathroom, the front door opened again and Jeongguk stepped inside, carrying a huge bag and a large coffee. He closed the door and looked blankly down the hall, his face going tomato red when he saw Jimin. “Sorry, sorry.” He quickly turned to face the front door, almost running into it, still holding the bag. “I'm not staring at you, I promise.”

Jimin snorted and walked up behind him. When he touched Jeongguk's arm, Jeongguk jumped and looked over at him, a little bewildered. “Toothbrush?” Jimin asked, quirking a brow in amusement. Jeongguk fumbled a little but handed him the clear package. Jimin turned and walked back down the hall, going to grab some of Jeongguk's clothes. He didn't look too hard, just grabbed some of his sweatpants and a t-shirt and pulled them on. Then he padded back to the bathroom and brushed his teeth.

When he was satisfied, he walked out of the bathroom. Jeongguk was sitting at his kitchen table, looking a lot like he was debating the secrets of the universe, before Jimin cleared his throat and he looked up. He saw Jeongguk's eyes rake over his frame, first down then up again. Then he licked his lips and stood, shaking himself slightly. He grabbed the coffee and handed it to him. Jimin swallowed some down, feeling much more human. He made a small noise of satisfaction and put the coffee on the table, looking at Jeongguk.

“I, um,” Jeongguk started, “I didn't know what you liked for breakfast, so I just bought a bunch of shit.”

Jimin looked at the large plastic bag and snorted. “Did you buy the whole store?”

Jeongguk rubbed the back of his neck and gave him a small grin. “Maybe.”

Jimin laughed and found Jeongguk looking at him, a soft smile on his lips. He sobered some. “Jeongguk–” His words were cut off by someone banging on the front door loud enough to make them both jump.

Jeongguk frowned. “Mingyu, I swear to fucking god,” he said under his breath and went to open the door. When he did, he deflated entirely. “Um, hi?”

“Where the fuck is he?” Jimin heard and internally groaned. “What did you do to him? I swear to fuck, you creep, if anything is wrong with him, I’ll beat the shit out of you. Jimin! Jimin, get out here right the fuck now!”

“Uh…” Jeongguk looked floored and Jimin saw why. A very loud, very angry Min Yoongi currently looked like he was going to punch Jeongguk's lights out. He had a fistful of Jeongguk's shirt and had shoved him into a wall.

“Yoongi, relax. I'm fine,” Jimin said, his hands up, palms out. “Put him down, he didn't do anything.”

“Are you sure? Because if I find out he did, I'm snapping his fucking spine,” Yoongi demanded, looking very much like he wanted to snap a spine or two.

“He didn't. I know he didn't. Let him go.”

Yoongi looked suspiciously between Jeongguk and Jimin before he released Jeongguk and his eyes settled on Jimin. “And you,” he snarled, slowly walking closer. “Are you out of your fucking mind?! Hoseok was worried sick about you! He almost called the fucking cops, Jimin. You could have gotten hurt. You could have been fucking killed. Had he,” he jabbed his thumb back in Jeongguk's direction, “been a different kind of person, we might never have fucking seen you again. Do you have any idea how much running around this goddamn city I've done?!” His voice was a shout when he finished. He scrubbed his face with his hands and softly said, “Hoseok thought you'd…” then he looked back at Jeongguk and left the statement hanging.

“I wouldn't have done that, Yoongi,” Jimin said quietly, immediately feeling guilty.

“He didn't know that, Jimin. He's been scared shitless all night. I don't think he's slept since you left.”

Jimin felt even worse. “I'm sorry,” he said, looking down at his feet. “I shouldn't have…I just…” He shoved his hair out of his eyes. “I shouldn't have run off without saying anything. I'm sorry I scared you.”

Yoongi deflated with a heavy sigh, his dark eyes losing their fury. “Are you okay?” he asked quietly. Jimin nodded. He wrapped his arms around Jimin and held him tight. “Are you sure?” Jimin nodded again, hugging him back. “Don't fucking scare me like that, Minie. We thought we lost you.”

Jimin didn't respond to that, just let his friend hold him. Yoongi was shaking. Whether with residual anger or fear, he couldn't tell. It didn't ultimately matter. He finally pulled away and examined Jimin's face. “I'm fine, Yoongi. I promise. I'm okay.”

Yoongi stared at him for a moment more, as if to really make sure, then nodded and released him. “Fine. I'm gonna go get Hoseok from your place. Call him as soon as I leave this house, Jimin. If you aren't on the phone before I leave this building, I'm stealing your kneecaps.” Jimin smiled and nodded, looking down at his feet. Yoongi turned and looked at Jeongguk, who still looked a little shell-shocked, his eyes big and round. “You. I'm sorry I barged into your house and almost kicked your ass. Thank you for taking care of Jimin.”

“It's fine,” Jeongguk said faintly, straightening.

Yoongi looked back at Jimin. “Get on the fucking phone, Jimin, I'm not kidding. Kneecaps. Call Hoseok and tell him you're sorry for being a fucking dick.”

Then, Yoongi turned on his heel and walked out of the apartment. Jimin went to call Hoseok before Yoongi made good on his words. Hoseok yelled at him for a while for disappearing then promptly wailed that he'd been terrified and devolved into a crying mess. He couldn't understand what Hoseok was saying anymore but he heard Yoongi's name and then Yoongi's voice came through the line, telling him to be careful. Jimin left them to it and walked back into the living room. Jeongguk was sitting on his couch, playing on his phone. He looked up when Jimin appeared, moving his legs so there was room on the couch.

“I'm sorry about all that,” Jimin said as he sat down, curling up in the corner of the couch, wrapping his arms round his legs. “Yoongi's really…protective.”

Jeongguk waved it away. “It's good that you have people like that in your life. He's fucking scary though.”

Jimin chuckled. “Yeah, he is.” He sighed. This would be a good enough time for him to tell Jeongguk about Yoongi. Hoseok too for that matter. There was so much that he hadn't shared at this point, so much that Jeongguk just didn't know. Jimin could tell him. He'd almost gotten his ass beat this morning for no good reason so Jimin figured a little explanation was the least he could do. Maybe.

Jeongguk was looking at him. He cleared his throat. “Um…you wanna go to practice with me?”

Jimin blinked, pulled from his own thoughts by Jeongguk's voice. “Practice?” he echoed.

Jeongguk nodded. “Yeah. I have practice today but…I kinda don't want you to leave yet, so.” He gave Jimin a dopey smile.

Jimin considered. “What time is your practice over?”

“Whenever we get bored basically,” Jeongguk shrugged. “We typically run over our set list but we don't have another gig scheduled for about a week so I figured we would just fuck around.”

Jimin hummed. “Well…I'll stay but I have to work tonight.”

“Oh, right,” Jeongguk frowned. “I guess I can't really keep you here all day. Sorry, I just–”

“It's fine, Jeongguk,” Jimin cut him off. “I like hanging out with you too.”

Jeongguk’s eyes went wide then his face split into a happy smile. “‘Kay.” He unfolded himself from the couch and disappeared into the kitchen for a moment. Then he went to grab the giant bag of food on the kitchen table and Jimin's coffee. He handed the cup to him and rummaged in the bag for food. When he found what he wanted, he ripped open the package and took a huge bite.

“What do you do when you aren't practicing and hanging out with me then?” Jimin asked slowly, looking into the bag and finding a random egg sandwich. Jeongguk hadn't been lying when he'd said he might have bought the whole store.

“Writing mostly. Or Netflix. I like Netflix the best.” Jeongguk flicked on the TV as if to prove the point, then handed the remote to Jimin. “Here, you can watch what you want.”

Jimin looked at the remote as though it would bite him then took it and looked through Netflix. Jeongguk had a ridiculous amount of anime in his recommendations, along with horror movies and a little too many children's cartoons for Jimin to not laugh at. Jeongguk didn't seem at all abashed, just smiled when Jimin pointed it out. Jimin let one of the cartoons play and reached for the egg sandwich. He ate it slowly while Jeongguk inhaled another bun of some kind.

Jimin wasn't actually watching the cartoon. The sandwich had settled his stomach despite his lack of appetite, and his head wasn't hurting as badly anymore. He drank from his coffee and watched Jeongguk.

Jeongguk must have felt him watching cuz his ears turned slightly red then he looked over at Jimin. “We don't have to watch this,” he said apologetically. “I know it's probably–”

Jimin shook his head and Jeongguk stopped talking. Jimin steeled himself then moved closer to him, so that he was sitting right against Jeongguk's side, then he rested his head on Jeongguk's shoulder and relaxed. “What time do you go to practice?” Jimin asked quietly.

“Couple hours,” Jeongguk answered, sounding a little breathless. Jimin could feel Jeongguk's voice vibrating through his chest. “You can, um…you can sleep more, if you want.” Jimin nodded and moved closer, settling on his lap instead and resting against his shoulder. He sighed in contentment, felt Jeongguk's hand resting at the small of his back.

Jimin pulled away slightly, looked down at Jeongguk, who looked dazed. Without thinking about it, Jimin kissed him, felt Jeongguk melt into the couch and hold him closer. Like the first time Jimin had kissed him, Jeongguk seemed to be waiting, hesitating, like he was afraid Jimin would run if he took too much.

He smoothed his hands up Jimin's back, soothing him, and Jimin felt himself letting go. Jeongguk had been perfectly patient. And Jimin was tired of being afraid of him. So, he let the kiss deepen, let his lips linger on Jeongguk's. When his teeth brushed Jeongguk's bottom lip, he felt him shiver, the fingers along his back clenching just slightly before they relaxed and held him tighter.

Jeongguk wasn't as hesitant then, kissing him back in earnest. When Jimin licked across his bottom lip, he opened for him, his heart racing against Jimin's hand. Jimin's hands smoothed up his chest, one of them sliding into his hair as their lips moved together.

Jimin wanted so badly. He didn't know what he wanted, just more of it. More of this. More of Jeongguk's pulse spiking beneath his fingers. More of Jeongguk's lips tasting his. More of Jeongguk's arms around him, his hands against his cheek, his fingers tracing the tattoo on his back. He just wanted more.

He didn't know when it had happened, when the kiss had become less urgent, more lazy. But he wanted more of this too. He wanted more of everything as long as he had it with Jeongguk. It wasn't enough. This wasn't enough.

He pulled away, overwhelmed, and looked down at Jeongguk. Jeongguk's eyes were still closed as Jimin studied his face, the sharp brows, the soft red lips, the silver hoop in his nostril, the cones in his eyebrow. Then Jeongguk’s eyes fluttered open and Jimin wanted to melt. Jeongguk’s eyes were deep brown and wide and focused only on him, as if he was an otherworldly blessing.

“Jimin…” he whispered.

Jimin liked the way his name sounded in Jeongguk's voice, liked the way the word was almost a term of endearment with as sweetly as he said it. He liked the way Jeongguk was looking at him, like he was the only thing that mattered. He liked the way Jeongguk's arms were still around him, holding him close, holding him steady. He felt safe. Which he hadn't felt with anyone but Yoongi and Hoseok in years.

He just…really liked Jeongguk.

Much more than he had anticipated he would. That scared him too. Not because he thought Jeongguk would do him harm, but because he hadn't trusted anyone enough to love them for years. But he could see himself loving Jeongguk. And, if Jeongguk truly was as gentle as he'd been thus far, it wouldn't take long. That was what scared him more than anything.

He exhaled slow and lay his head against Jeongguk's shoulder again, letting himself be held. “Are you comfortable like this?” Jeongguk asked quietly.

Jimin nodded. “I'm comfortable with you,” he answered, the statement unintentionally weighty. Jeongguk kissed his forehead and Jimin's eyes slid shut. Jeongguk didn't speak anymore after that, just held onto him, his fingers tracing Jimin's spine the way that they had last night. It was soothing. “Thank you for taking care of me. You didn't have to.”

“I know,” Jeongguk replied. “But I like to.”

Jimin believed him. He relaxed against Jeongguk's body, his eyes still closed. He ignored everything but the way Jeongguk's hands felt smoothing up and down his back, letting the action lull him into sleep. Sometime after he'd fallen asleep, Jeongguk moved, trying to reach for his phone. Jimin made an incoherent whining noise and moved closer to him just as Jeongguk pulled his phone free. Jimin fell back into sleep with the sound of Jeongguk's voice against his cheek.

The sun was hanging lower in the sky when he was woken up hours later. Jeongguk kissed his forehead and rubbed his back with intention, trying to wake him. “Jimin. Jimin, we have to get up, sweetheart.”

Jimin groaned and burrowed closer to him. “Don't wanna,” he said, his voice heavy with sleep. “Comfortable.” Jeongguk laughed low in his throat and that was the sound that ultimately shook the haze from Jimin's mind. He sat up and looked around, momentarily not remembering where he was, then looking down at Jeongguk’s placid expression. “Right…” he breathed. “You have practice.”

Jeongguk nodded a little guiltily. “I would've let you sleep, but…I had to move. I did wait as long as I could though.”

“It's okay, Jeongguk. I'm operating on your schedule here,” Jimin said as he stretched. He leaned back and felt his back pop satisfyingly, feeling Jeongguk's hands still at his waist. When he looked down at Jeongguk again, his eyes had gone somewhat dark and he was fixated on Jimin's stomach. “You like this thing, don't you?” Jimin asked, lifting up his shirt and indicating the belly button ring.

Jeongguk's fingers smoothed along his waist again. “Yeah,” he said quietly, licking his lips. “Yeah, I like it.”

Something in Jimin stirred then, watching Jeongguk bite his lip then look up and school his face into something more neutral. He gave Jimin a small lopsided grin.

Jimin leaned down and kissed him, not letting it linger for too long before he pulled away. Jeongguk had the same dark look in his eyes, the same look that he had seen when Jeongguk had caught sight of his belly button ring on stage, the same dark look that he'd worn when he was performing just a few days ago.

Jeongguk wanted him.

Jimin shouldn't have been surprised by this; Jeongguk had met him at his job after all. It was Jimin's job to seduce, to make his customers want. And Jeongguk had been sufficiently seduced from the first.

But this was something very different. Jimin wasn't trying to seduce him. He was just sitting on him and trying to fully wake up. Yet, Jeongguk had looked at him as though he was up on stage, driving the club wild. There were so many different parts to Jeongguk, so many different pieces of him that Jimin was coming to like that much more. And that look was quickly becoming one of them.

Jimin slid off Jeongguk's lap. “Oh!” Jeongguk said, leaping to his feet. “I washed your clothes while you were on the phone. Here.” He took off through his kitchen to a small washer/dryer unit and handed Jimin his clothes.

“Thank you.” Jimin took them. Jeongguk backed away, saying he was going to shower, and Jimin was alone. He heard the shower going as he walked into Jeongguk's room to change. He walked to the closet to put the clothes he'd borrowed back where they belonged when the shower shut off. Jimin didn't pay it any attention, hanging the sweatpants back in the closet. When he turned to leave the closet, he was met with the sight of Jeongguk in just his joggers, his hair damp from the shower. He was looking down at his phone, his thumbs flying across the screen.

Jimin leaned against the door jamb and watched him. Jeongguk had a good body, the lean musculature that was always hinted at when he was dressed on full display now. He could see the beginnings of a really large tattoo on his back, a samurai in black, grey, and red, the art style traditional. It wasn't entirely finished yet but Jimin could see what it was going to become and liked it. Jeongguk turned around, his face still shoved into his phone, and Jimin felt his mouth go dry when he saw the piercing in Jeongguk's nipple. Just one.

With effort, Jimin swallowed. The joggers were riding low and Jimin could see the small cut where his thigh met his waist, the line of hard muscle along his abdomen.

Pure sin.

Jeongguk looked like pure sin and he wasn't even doing anything. He was just standing there, unwittingly being checked out. He sighed and threw his phone to the bed then looked up.

When he caught sight of Jimin, he honest to god squeaked. Jimin couldn't help the laugh. Jeongguk recovered quickly, his face going tomato red. “Well, that's embarrassing. How long have you been standing there?”

“A while,” Jimin answered, still laughing. Jeongguk nodded his understanding and Jimin relaxed a little. “You're, like, unfairly hot. You know that, right?”

Jeongguk's eyes went wide. “Um…no? I dunno. Maybe. I get called that enough.”

“It's true,” Jimin confirmed. “You have no right to be this gorgeous. Just…wow.”

Jeongguk's face relaxed into a smile. “Coming from you, I'll take that as a compliment. Thank you.”

Jimin's heart ached. Jeongguk was so sweet, it wasn't fair. “Sorry I don't have better manners. You saw me shirtless and almost ran into a door trying to look away.”

Jeongguk chuckled, looking down at his feet. “I mean, I don't want you to think I'm just here for your body.”

“And you have no issues whatsoever with me being here only for your body?” Jimin teased.

“Nope,” Jeongguk shrugged with a smirk. “As long as you're here.”

Oh, come on. “You can't just say shit like that and not expect me to fall for you, Jeongguk,” Jimin chided him, walking toward him and touching his arm. “It's not fair.”

“You can fall for me all you like,” Jeongguk smiled. “I don't mind.” Then he kissed him and Jimin felt his mind clouding just a little. There was an odd giddiness to this kiss, to being here with him. Jimin couldn't get close enough and he kind of wanted to rip Jeongguk's pants off and ride him into next summer but he also kind of wanted to lay next to Jeongguk and just do more of this, this soft kissing, touching, laughing thing they were doing that didn't make any sense but didn't really need to.

Jeongguk was overwhelming.

He pulled away and Jimin was grateful. “We gotta get going. I think I'm already late. Mingyu is gonna give me so much shit for this,” he groaned.

“Mingyu?” Jimin said, sitting on the bed and watching Jeongguk pull on a shirt from his closet. Now that he knew it was there, the nipple ring was all Jimin could think about. He licked his lips.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk said, pulling a comb through his hair. “He was the one running from Tae.”


Jeongguk moved around the room, grabbing the guitar case that was next to his dresser and patting his pockets for wallet, phone, keys. “Ready?” Jimin let himself be led out of the house, let himself be led down to the subway. Apparently Jeongguk was really late and it was giving him this oddly nervous energy that kept his leg bouncing. Jimin laced their fingers together and moved closer. Jeongguk's leg stopped bouncing.

When they got to the small house, Jeongguk walked into the front door without knocking, leading Jimin behind him. The bottom floor was dark and there was a lot of noise coming from the staircase. Jimin looked up and saw that there were people on the second-floor loft, looking down at them over the banister. “Jeon brought his boyfriend,” one of them crowed.

“Shut up, Kim,” Jeongguk huffed, adjusting his hand in Jimin's and leading them up the stairs.

“So glad you stopped getting pounded long enough to show up to your actual job,” the guy said again.

“Mingyu, I swear to fucking god,” Jeongguk groused. “I will throw you over that balcony.”

Mingyu waggled his brows, not looking sorry in the slightest.

“Play me music, whores,” Jimin heard in a very familiar voice. “I don't hear music.” Just as they cleared the landing, he saw Taehyung laying on a couch shoved in the corner, his sketchbook on his stomach, his pencil flailing in the air like a conductor's baton.

“Shut the fuck up, Tae,” said the drummer, looking exhausted. “You've been saying that for the past hour and we told you we were waiting for that asshole,” he complained, jerking his head in Jeongguk's direction.

“Sorry, I'm sorry,” Jeongguk said quickly.

“Lay off, Minghao,” Mingyu said with a smirk. “Jeongguk was very obviously busy.”

“Geez, do you ever shut up?” Jimin wondered aloud and the drummer let out a very undignified snort. Jeongguk gave him that cute nose-crinkling smile and Mingyu had the nerve to look wounded.

“No. Mingyu literally never shuts up,” Minghao confirmed. “He's the reason we're all gonna be grey before we're 30.”

“Jiminie!” he heard and then was yanked into a tight hug that had his chest aching. Somewhere between Minghao laughing and Taehyung shouting his name, Jeongguk's hand had been pulled from his. This annoyed him a little, but he let it go because Taehyung had pulled away and was interrogating him too quickly for Jimin to register the questions or respond. Taehyung turned to Jeongguk then. He hugged him too then whispered something in his ear and Jeongguk shook his head. Then Taehyung was crowding him again and pulling him down the stairs and away from the band. He heard Jeongguk's voice directing them to set up and quit giving him shit.

“So?” Taehyung demanded when they'd gotten downstairs and away from the loft space, where the band had begun to play.

Jimin looked at him. “Tae, what are you even doing here?”

Taehyung looked down at him. “I'm always at their practices if I don't have shit to do. My client for today rescheduled so I did a few walk-ins then gave the shop over to Joonie. It's technically his day anyway.” He flopped down onto a sofa in the living room. “What's way more interesting is what you're doing here.” He patted the space beside him on the couch and Jimin sat. “So? Are you two dating yet?”

Jimin shook his head. “No. I just like hanging out with him.”

Taehyung gave him a pained look. “Jimin,” he groaned. “Can you just get married already and stop this?”

“I did what you said, Tae. I'm giving him a chance,” Jimin said, rolling his eyes. He smiled, looking down at his hands. “I like him.”

Taehyung gave him a warm smile. “Told you,” he said smugly. “I knew you did.” Jimin let him have this. “So,” Taehyung began again, his words softer and his tone much more serious. “When did they come?”

Jimin's heart ached. Of course Taehyung hadn't forgotten. “They just appeared at my fucking house, Tae,” he said quietly. “I was on my way to work and they were just there. My mom pretended and my dad didn't and I fucking hate when they find me.”

Taehyung put his arm around Jimin's shoulders. “I knew it,” he muttered. “I knew they'd shown up again. Did he start that shit again?”

“You know he did,” Jimin said bitterly. “The ugly fucker stayed in my goddamn house for 2 days so that he could talk about how much of a disappointment I am. He talked about how hurt my old fiancée was that I left her, told me about how much better a son Jihyun is than me and how Jihyun is gonna stop pitying me soon enough and stop talking to me and that they all hate what I've become and that they liked me better when I was miserable and…” Jimin shoved his hair out of his face. “And it was just fucking terrible. I don’t even know how the fuck they found me. I have to move. Again.”

“Did you talk to Jihyun?” Taehyung asked quietly.

“Yeah, I called him after they left. He said we would meet up this weekend and talk about it. He’s trying to get me to go back to Busan but…it’s not happening. I’m not leaving Seoul to go and pretend to be a happy family with them. I’m just not doing it.”

“You don’t need to, Jiminie,” Taehyung said firmly. “You have a fucking family. You don’t need to go back to the one that birthed you and pretend anything. You can stay with the one you created and be loved for who you are.”

Jimin leaned into him with a heavy sigh. “Thanks, Tae.” He sat up again and shook his hair out of his face. “I sometimes wish I’d just stayed at that stupid law firm and married Dohee and did what they wanted me to do.”

Taehyung was shaking his head before Jimin even finished talking. “Doing what they wanted you to do is what put you on that bridge, Jimin. You were right to walk away from it.”

Jimin felt his gut twist. He couldn’t disagree, didn’t. He knew that Taehyung was right, so he sighed and sank back into the couch. “I keep thinking, Jeongguk has no idea what the hell he’s trying to walk into. He’s gonna turn tail and run as soon as he figures out how fucked up my family is.”

“I think you’d be surprised how well he understands,” Taehyung said softly. “He has a past too, Jiminie.”

Jimin looked over. Taehyung’s gaze was steady. “What do you mean?”

Taehyung shook his head. “Not my story to tell. Maybe you need to just…talk to him. For real. About more than just the little shit.”

“That’s hard, Tae.”

“All the best things in life are worth the effort. And Jeongguk is worth the effort,” Taehyung said sagely. “I meant it when I said he’s a good guy. I trust him with you for a reason.” He looked sidelong at Jimin. “If I didn’t think he would be good for you, we would have left before you even got to see him that night. And if I didn’t think you would be good for him, there is no way on earth I would have trusted you with him. Ever.”

Jimin frowned. “You couldn’t have stopped us if we really wanted to be together.”

Taehyung looked wholly unbothered. “No, but I would definitely have made it harder.”

Jimin let it pass because he didn’t doubt Taehyung for a moment. He sighed. “I might. I like talking to him.” Taehyung made a noise of approval and the band went quiet. “I was drunk as shit last night and he didn’t do anything.”

“Good. He wasn’t supposed to,” Taehyung said firmly.

Jimin rolled his eyes. “My point is that, had he really been just some creepy customer trying to get me into bed, he would have.”

“I told you, the guy is so smitten, it’s damn near an illness. He just likes you. Anyone can see it.” Taehyung looked at him. “Even you can.”

Jimin wouldn’t deny it. “Of course I can,” he said softly.

“Good,” Taehyung said, smacking his thigh. “Then get married and make me lots of gay babies.”

Jimin raised his eyebrows. “What if the baby comes out straight?”

“Park Jimin, don’t you dare curse your unborn child like this.”

Jimin snorted a laugh and the band started up again. He stood and looked at the loft further down the hallway where Jeongguk and his band were playing. Jeongguk was facing away from him, focused on the other guitarist, Mingyu. He had a wide smile on his face as they played and looked like that was where he belonged.

Jimin found himself smiling and bit his bottom lip, ready to turn away. Jeongguk glanced over in his direction then looked surprised that he was standing there. He gave Jimin a bright smile and turned back to the band.

Cute. So fucking cute.

Practice for them lasted for only a few hours. During that time, Taehyung and Jimin had gone out to get food, said food had ended up being thrown at Mingyu, then Mingyu had had to go get more food, along with the drummer, Minghao. While they were going to get more food, Taehyung talked to the bassist in low tones. Jimin couldn’t hear but whatever it was, it looked serious, the bassist’s answers clipped and his lips pursed.

Jeongguk gestured that Jimin should follow and led him out of the back door of the house. There was a small garden in the back, slightly overgrown and weedy, but obviously someone was at least trying to maintain it. Jeongguk sat on the stairs of the deck that they’d walked out onto, facing the overgrown garden and letting out a contented sigh. “You’re not bored of me yet?” he asked easily, looking over as Jimin joined him on the steps. “I’m glad Tae’s here. I haven’t been able to talk to you at all because practice.”

Jimin shook his head. “It’s fine. I like watching you play. You look like you’re having fun.”

Jeongguk gave him a wide smile. “I am,” he said simply.

Jimin looked out to the garden, the overgrown hedges. “I have to go soon. Work.”

“Ah…right. I forgot about that,” he said quietly. He looked down at his hands. “I kept you all day.”

Jimin let this linger for a moment. Jeongguk had kept him all day. But it hadn't been because Jimin didn't want him to. “So, keep me longer then,” he suggested. Jeongguk looked over at him, a little confused. “Come let me dance for you.”

Jeongguk blinked. “You want me to come to work with you?” Jimin nodded. Jeongguk straightened, as though that solved things. “When do you need to leave?”

Jimin thought about it. “I have to go back home and get my bag. So…probably 20 minutes?”

Jeongguk didn't make him wait that long. By the time Minghao and Mingyu got back with their food, Jeongguk had packed up his guitar. He gave it to Taehyung and told them that they were leaving. Then he took Jimin's hand and led him out of the house. The band waved at him as he went, Minghao giving him a warm smile while Mingyu called out to Jeongguk to suck his dick.

Jimin found himself smiling. “I like them. The bassist doesn't talk much.”

Jeongguk looked down at him. “Yugyeom is normally more friendly. He's…going through some shit.”

“Is that the friend you told me about?” Jimin remembered. Jeongguk nodded and didn't expand. He looked upset. Jimin watched him but the troubled expression didn't leave his face. Jimin stopped and Jeongguk looked down at him. “He'll be okay, Jeongguk. He's got you.”

Jeongguk examined him then leaned down and kissed him. “Thank you, sweetheart.”

Jimin's heart skipped and he started walking again, feeling mollified by the more relaxed expression on Jeongguk's face.

Maybe you just need to…talk to him. For real. About more than just the little shit.

Taehyung was right. He needed to talk about the shit that mattered. He swallowed, feeling nerves thrum in his stomach.

He just had to get through his shift first.

And he would talk to Jeongguk. For real.

☆ ☆ ☆

Jeongguk hadn't planned on hanging out at the strip club tonight. But he wasn't going to turn down Jimin asking him to stay. So keep me longer then. Come let me dance for you. Such a small request.

Maybe Jeongguk wasn't the only one who didn't want to say goodbye just yet. He settled into a barstool while Jimin went to go get ready for work. “Oh, stalker,” he heard.

Jeongguk looked to the source of the words and saw the sleepy blond who'd barged into his house earlier. He straightened and the man examined him. “Hi,” he said slowly.

The blond looked him up and down, as if he was sizing him up. “Sorry about earlier,” he said at last, letting his eyes rest on Jeongguk's.

“It's fine,” Jeongguk said again. “I'm glad he has people looking out for him.”

“Including yourself, apparently,” the man said, resting against the bar.

Jeongguk swallowed. “I…I mean, yeah.”

“So, what's your issue? You actually like him or you just trying to fuck him?” the man demanded. He had a lazy drawl that made his words a little longer and his eyes were sharp, making Jeongguk feel exposed. He wondered if the man was intentionally being hostile or if that was just the way he talked, matter-of-fact and without any fluff. “I've seen him go through enough and you're not about to be another mess I have to clean up because you hurt him.”

Jeongguk shook his head. “I actually like him. A lot. Way more than I probably should,” he said, his voice going softer toward the end. He looked down at his hands. “That probably makes me a fool but…”

“No, it doesn't,” the man said firmly. “Hurting him would make you a fool. Because I would have to kill you.” Jeongguk looked at the man. He was about Jimin's height and a bit skinnier but, somehow, Jeongguk didn't doubt for a moment that the man could actually kill him. And he had no doubt that the man would. The man was staring at him, his dark eyes piercing, as if he could see through him into his soul. Jeongguk wondered idly if Jimin had learned that stare from this man. “He likes you,” the man said at last.

Jeongguk blinked. “You think so?”

“I know so.” The man turned to look at the stage, his eyes going warm as he looked at the dancer on stage. Jeongguk watched with him. The dancer was one that he recognized. He was the one who'd been dancing when Jeongguk had first come back. “He went with you last night. That means something.” The man looked back over at him.

Jeongguk was a little dumbfounded. “Does it?”

The man nodded. “Yeah. It does.” He didn't elaborate and Jeongguk didn't expect him to. “We're probably gonna be seeing more of each other then, being that you're here.”


“I'm always here too,” the man explained. He pointed to the stage with his chin. “He's my boyfriend. So, I stay around cuz he likes me to.” Jeongguk made a sound of understanding, looking at the man on the stage again. “I'm Yoongi.”

Jeongguk looked back at the blond man. “Yeah, I figured. Jimin told me you're pretty protective.”

Yoongi nodded. “I am.” He looked to the stage again. “Jimin's been through enough.” The words were said softly, so softly that Jeongguk wasn't sure that the man was even talking to him. But he heard him regardless.

He cleared his throat. “I'm Jeongguk,” he said.

The man looked at him. “Good to know,” he said and Jeongguk was wary. “Then I'll know what name to carve on your tombstone.” He flashed Jeongguk a wide, goofy smile that entirely shattered the seriousness of his words. Jeongguk chuckled.

They looked back at the stage just as Jimin stepped onto it. His back was to the crowd again and the fishnet shirt he was wearing showed the tattoo that Jeongguk still hadn't been able to read.

Jeongguk watched him in amazement. The more time he spent with Jimin, the more awed he was by how different he was on stage vs. how he was in real life.

Jimin still had a subtle confidence in his own sex appeal; he knew he was fucking gorgeous – which was easily the sexiest thing about him to Jeongguk. But outside of that, he was hesitant. He was slow to move closer, but when he did, Jeongguk felt like he was being swallowed whole. Jimin was like the tides, the gentle pulse of gravity, the inevitability of his approach. He was getting closer to Jeongguk, letting him in, little by little. Jeongguk just had to be patient, just had to wait a little longer, and Jimin would be covering him.

Jimin's set finished and he smirked as he got off the stage. When he came from the back, he was dressed. Slowly, he worked his way round the perimeter of the club, every now and then, disappearing in the back so that he could give a customer a private dance.

“That doesn't bother you? You don't get jealous at all?” he heard and looked over to where Yoongi was sitting. Jeongguk got the distinct feeling that he was being tested. He shook his head. “You don't mind whatsoever that people look at him like they wanna fuck him into next week and that he dances on people like he's trying to let them?”

Jeongguk frowned and shook his head again. “Jimin said he likes his job. Why would I be upset because he's doing it?”

“You have prospects in him, don't you? You're totally fine with your potential partner being everyone's fantasy?”

“Why shouldn't he be?” Jeongguk shrugged. “I can't blame anyone else for knowing that he's beautiful. And I can't be angry that he's doing exactly what he was doing before I showed up. It's just work. He likes to dance. I like to see him happy. We both win.”

Yoongi stared at him hard. “I like you,” he decided.

Whatever the test had been, Jeongguk had apparently passed. “Um…thanks.”

Yoongi grunted out an acknowledgment and turned back to the stage. Jimin was trying to walk toward the bar, waving off a customer who seemed to be making requests.

“Get that creepy fucker out of my goddamn club,” Jeongguk heard and whirled around. Jin was standing behind the bar, a towel over his shoulder, staring hard at the customer that Jimin was trying to get rid of. Yoongi turned to look where they were looking and his eyes narrowed. “He's shown up here every night for the last week, asking for Jimin.”

Jimin made it to the bar and the customer was still following him. “…don't see why you won't when other dancers do,” the man was saying.

“Look,” Jimin said, whirling on him. “I said no, fuckstick. And I meant it. Get lost.”

The man's face clouded and he clenched his hands into fists. Before he could pull one back to punch him, Jimin grabbed the man's crotch in a death grip that made Jeongguk wince. The man made a very high-pitched squeaking noise and tried to back away. Jimin's hand tightened, his expression furious. “I said, get fucking lost. And if you want to keep this,” he twisted his hand and Jeongguk closed his legs, “you'll keep it the fuck away from me for the rest of your life. Get me?” The man nodded quickly and Jimin released him.

“Now get the fuck out of my club. And if I see you in here again, you won't leave it in one piece,” Jin said firmly, his arms akimbo. The man walked quickly out of the club, his gait uneven and his face very red.

Jimin huffed out an exhale and sat at the bar, looking unruffled. He looked sidelong at Jeongguk, his expression careful. Jeongguk studied him in awe, then felt his lips curve up into a small smile. Jimin relaxed and Jin slid him a drink. “I have a while until my next set,” he said quietly. Jeongguk nodded. “You wanna come back for a bit?” Jeongguk nodded again. Jimin swallowed some of his liquor and looked back to the stage. “Hoseok told me to tell you that he wants chicken for dinner,” he said, presumably talking to Yoongi.

Yoongi looked sidelong at him and nodded. “Thanks.” He pulled out his phone and called someone just as Jimin touched Jeongguk's shoulder. He gestured for Jeongguk to follow and led him to the back.

This time, he sat closer to Jeongguk on the couch. Their fingers slid together easily and Jeongguk relaxed, feeling Jimin's head rest on his shoulder. “Can I ask you something?” he said and Jimin looked at him warily. “Is Yoongi in a gang?”

Jimin stared at him incredulously for a moment then burst into laughter, bending double. Jeongguk couldn't help the small smile. Jimin didn't laugh too much. He'd chuckle or snicker, but his full-bodied laugh hadn't shown up much. Jeongguk liked when he laughed. It was cute and made him feel more tangible, more real. Not as much an intimidating deity and more just a truly beautiful man.

“Yoongi's not in a gang, Jeongguk,” Jimin answered at last, still giggling. “He's a CEO. Which…is pretty similar, I guess. But,” he shrugged, “he's mostly legal.”

Jeongguk frowned. “Mostly?”

Jimin gave him a serene smile. “Mostly,” he said, not elaborating. “He does kinda act like a mob boss sometimes though.”

Jeongguk nodded. “Yeah, he said he would kill me if I hurt you. And I'm not stupid enough to think he's joking.”

“He's not.” Jeongguk filed this away. “Has he scared you off?” Jimin asked, his tone neutral. “He's good at that.”

Jeongguk shook his head. “I don't plan on hurting you, so I've got nothing to worry about.”

Jimin stared at him, his expression hard to read. “Good,” he said softly, looking down. He moved closer and rested on Jeongguk's shoulder again. Jeongguk couldn't tell if Jimin meant that it was good he hadn't been scared off or that he didn't plan on hurting him. Either way, both were true. He tightened his fingers in Jimin's and felt him relax further against his body.

“He's like my big brother,” Jimin murmured. “He's been looking out for me since Hoseok brought me home.”

“You live with Hoseok?”

Jimin shook his head. “Not anymore. I used to.” He sighed. “What about you? Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

Jeongguk felt his heart stop and his throat tightened. He looked down at the tattoo on his wrist. “Not anymore,” he said quietly.

Jimin pulled away and looked at him but Jeongguk didn't respond, just let the upset pass. He felt Jimin's hand against his cheek and looked over at him. Jimin was frowning, studying his face. “Are you okay?”

Jeongguk covered Jimin's hand with his own. “I'm fine, sweetheart,” he answered then leaned back against the couch and sighed. “I guess the guys would be as close to brothers as I've got. They're my best friends.”

Jimin made a soft noise of acknowledgment. Jeongguk could feel his eyes on him, could tell that Jimin was trying to read his mind with his gaze alone. Then he felt Jimin's fingers tighten in his. “Shit,” Jimin hissed, standing. “I'm supposed to be up in a few. Come on.” Jeongguk let himself be led. Just before Jimin opened the door, he turned to look at Jeongguk again, his expression slightly conflicted, then he kissed him quickly. “Go on,” he said softly. “Get a good seat.”

Jeongguk nodded and walked back into the club proper. He got a beer before he chose a seat close to the stage. By the time Jimin got to the stage, Jeongguk felt more like himself.

Jimin couldn't have known. Jeongguk relaxed a little more into his seat and swallowed some of his beer. Jeongguk would tell him soon. He would have to. Her birthday was coming up anyway.

He didn't miss that Jimin had noticed that he was upset by the question. And he didn't miss that Jimin didn't pry. Jimin had just tried to make him feel better. That was the second time he'd done that.

Jimin started dancing and Jeongguk felt himself smiling. Jimin always looked unbelievable on stage. He looked exactly as perfect as he always did, like he was created specifically to do this. He enjoyed being up there and it showed. Jeongguk loved watching him. Jimin was mouthing the words to his song as he danced, his lips pulled into a small smile. Jeongguk leaned forward and watched him work.

Jimin didn't come get him after his second set but Jeongguk didn't move. He just pulled out his phone and reached for his beer again. “So Yoongi told me you're the one who took care of Jimin last night,” he heard and jumped. He looked up and saw that one of the dancer's was standing in front of him, the one that Yoongi had called his boyfriend.

The man was lean and had dark hair. His wide eyes were critical as he examined Jeongguk's face, his lips pulled into a thin line.


The man sat down next to him and took Jeongguk's hand between both of his. “Thank goodness,” he said quietly. “That little asshole scared the shit out of me.”

“Ah,” Jeongguk said, connecting the dots. “You're Hoseok.”

The man nodded and gave him a wide smile. “That's me. So you must be Jeongguk.” Jeongguk's eyes widened. “Yoongi told me,” he grinned. Jeongguk supposed that this made sense. “So, come to the back. We should talk.”

Jeongguk looked a little dumbfounded. “Um…you're not gonna…”

“I said ‘talk’, Jeongguk. Jimin would not be happy if I danced for you,” he said with a laugh.

Jeongguk let the man lead him away, looking for Jimin and finding him on his way out of the back with a customer. Jimin looked between Hoseok and Jeongguk for a moment and Jeongguk froze. Jimin raised a brow then looked at Hoseok. “Be nice,” he said and led the customer back to the front.

Hoseok pulled him into a different room. This one had lights that were a bit more purple, but it ultimately looked the same as Jimin's room. “Sit, sit,” Hoseok fussed, shooing him over to the couch. Jeongguk sat, back ramrod straight. Hoseok pulled open his cabinet and brought out two small bottles of water. “Mind if I smoke?” he asked and Jeongguk shook his head. Hoseok nodded and lit a cigarette then joined him on the couch, handing him one of the bottles of water.

“Are…are you gonna threaten me too?” Jeongguk asked slowly.

Hoseok looked at him with wide eyes then chuckled and tapped his ashes into the ashtray on the table. “No. I don't need to do that. Yoongi already did, I'm sure,” he answered, leaning back against the couch. “I'm actually just curious as to why Jimin?”

Jeongguk blinked. “Um…what?”

Hoseok looked at him sidelong, his eyes shrewd. “Why Jimin? You're good-looking enough. You're a musician. Got that whole cutesy bad boy thing going for you. So why Jimin? Of all the people I'm sure you can be with, why Jimin?”

Jeongguk idly wondered how Hoseok knew he was a musician but mostly he was trying to figure out the point of the question. “Um…I just…like him?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

Jeongguk shook himself. “I like him. That's all.”

Hoseok hummed and took another drag on his cigarette, blowing the smoke upward and away from Jeongguk's face. “Uh-huh. And what is it that you like?”

Jeongguk pursed his lips against the obvious answer, because Hoseok was likely looking for more specificity than him saying, ‘everything’. “He's different when he's off stage,” Jeongguk said slowly. “When he's working, he acts like everyone can know everything about him at a moment’s notice. But he's not like that at all. He's careful. And he doesn't miss much, thinks a lot. Maybe too much.” He sighed and leaned back against the couch, looking down at his hands. “I wish I knew everything about him sometimes. He's just an interesting man. I don't think I've ever met someone like him. I can't figure him out.”

“So, does that mean that once you do figure him out, you'll disappear too?”

Jeongguk looked up at Hoseok in surprise. Hoseok’s eyes were still calculating. “No,” Jeongguk answered. “I wanna be with him.”

Hoseok stared at him for a long moment. “You wanna be with him,” he repeated then sighed. “Look, I'm not here to scare you off or tell you I'll beat your ass or whatever else. Jimin can take care of himself. I'm just here to request one thing.” Jeongguk straightened, waited. “If there is any doubt in your head that you can be with him truly – any at all – please leave before he gets hurt.”

Jeongguk's eyes widened. “Why…would I…”

Hoseok shook his head. “We sell a fantasy here, Jeongguk. People lap it up and expect us to be the same. No problems – or sometimes, literally every problem known to mankind – and ready to be swept up by some customer with a deep wallet. But we're just human beings with our own shit going on same as anyone else. Jimin is content now. Maybe not ecstatically happy but he's content. I don't want that to change, especially not now. I just worry that you're still coming at this from a place of…fantasy. That's all.”

Jeongguk shook his head. “No, nothing like that. I mean…I kinda relate. People do the same shit to me and my band.” He chuckled lightly. “Besides,” he said softly, “the last thing I wanna do is hurt him. I care about him too.”

Hoseok stared at him and Jeongguk stared back. Then the dancer put out his cigarette and stood. “I'm glad to hear that,” he said, giving Jeongguk a small smile. “He talks about you constantly so obviously he likes you. When I was staying with him the other day, he kept mentioning how he was worried you'd take off once he told you more about him.”

Jeongguk shook his head again. “I'm not going anywhere unless he wants me to.”

Hoseok patted Jeongguk's cheek. “You're a sweetheart, Jeongguk.” He gave Jeongguk a tiny smile that showed dimples right at the side of his lips. “Come on. I don't want him to think I'm murdering you.”

Jimin was leaning on the wall opposite Hoseok’s room when they walked out. He looked at Hoseok, a small frown on his lips. Jeongguk watched in fascination while they had a silent conversation that ended with Hoseok grinning and Jimin rolling his eyes. Hoseok patted Jeongguk's shoulder and walked back into the club.

Jimin turned his eyes on him and his face folded into a pout. “You missed my last set,” he said petulantly.

Jeongguk’s face relaxed into a smile. “I didn't wanna be rude to your friend.”

Jimin huffed and moved closer, sliding his fingers into Jeongguk's. “Fine. Then I guess you'll just have to come to my room so I can dance for you there.” Jeongguk felt his pulse spike and he nodded mutely, following Jimin into his room.

He was far more comfortable here. Jimin's friends were intimidating. And they kept grilling him. On the one hand, he was glad that Jimin had people who cared about him this way. But on the other, he was worried that he would fuck up and they would warn Jimin away from him.

Jimin didn't look like he'd been warned away though. He was looking at Jeongguk as if he was starving and Jeongguk was the only food in the room. He pushed Jeongguk down onto the couch and turned to the speaker on the table, playing a song that was slow and heady. “You can touch me this time,” Jimin said softly then he started to move.

Jeongguk thought he may have actually died in Hoseok’s room and heaven was Jimin's room, with Jimin dancing in front of him, his body rolling as his overshirt came undone and fell to the floor, leaving only the fishnet shirt in its place.

When Jimin crossed the room to sit on his lap, Jeongguk was sure he'd died. Jimin's back was pressed against his chest while his body moved and Jeongguk was dead. He knew he was. Or this was just a really realistic dream. Because Jimin had moved Jeongguk's hands to the tops of his thighs and was whispering the words to the song as his hips rolled.

Jeongguk's head felt hot and he didn't even try to resist clenching his fingers along the smooth skin of Jimin's thighs. Jimin was all hard muscle under velvet soft skin and the juxtaposition was making Jeongguk's head swim. Jimin moved and Jeongguk's hand slid across his stomach, touching the place where the belly button ring dangled against his skin. “Holy fuck,” he breathed and Jimin turned in his lap, facing him.

His thighs were on either side of Jeongguk's, his hands resting on Jeongguk's shoulders. He pulled his shirt over his head and threw it to the floor then leaned close and kissed him. He was still grinding on Jeongguk's lap and Jeongguk was sure he was about to pass out.

His hands smoothed up Jimin's back, feeling his shoulder blades as if he could trace the wings inked there, and Jimin licked into his mouth. Jeongguk pulled him closer, feeling dizzy. Jimin's fingers were in his hair, holding him close, and Jeongguk had forgotten how to breathe. Jimin pulled away and looked down at him, still dancing. “Jimin…” Jeongguk said weakly, holding onto his waist tightly. Jimin smirked at him and rolled off his lap – actually rolled – landing on the floor in a split. Holy fuck, Jeongguk wanted him.

He thought of the night before, Jimin kissing him slow and deep, like he wanted Jeongguk to swallow him whole. Jimin moved between his legs, looking up at him as he licked his lips, and Jeongguk let out an embarrassing whining noise. Jimin smirked and climbed into his lap again. This time he didn't hesitate, he just kissed him, holding him close and grinding on Jeongguk's lap.

Jeongguk wrapped an arm tight around him, following the roll of Jimin's body with his free hand, lost in the way Jimin was kissing him.

Jimin's fingers smoothed down his chest, over his nipple ring, and Jeongguk pulled away and looked up at him. Jimin was staring down at him as he played with the small beaded hoop in his nipple and Jeongguk felt electricity shooting down his spine. “Baby…” he whispered, his head falling onto the back of the couch. Jimin made a soft sound deep in his chest and Jeongguk felt lips on his throat. “Are you trying to make me come in this room?” Jeongguk asked, a little bewildered.

Jimin huffed out a laugh. “No,” he murmured, kissing him again. “But I like this thing.” Jeongguk exhaled rough and pulled Jimin's lips down to his again.

Jimin moved his hands into Jeongguk's hair and stopped moving. The song had ended. He wasn't even pretending to dance anymore. He was just kissing him. Jimin wasn't kissing him the way he had last night, as if he needed Jeongguk to breathe. Instead, he was kissing Jeongguk like he wanted to prove a point. Jeongguk just let him, feeling his head spinning. Jimin finally pulled away and Jeongguk had a hard time finding his eyes to open them again. When he finally did, Jimin was staring down at him, his expression warm. “I really like you,” he said softly.

Jeongguk blinked then smiled wide. “I really like you too.”

Jimin ducked his head, pressing a soft kiss to Jeongguk's cheek, then stood. “Wait for me at the bar,” he said. Like the first time Jimin had danced for him, Jeongguk wasn't sure that he could move. When he said as much, Jimin laughed at him, the cute squeaky sound that made Jeongguk smile. He pulled on his shirt again and waited.

When Jeongguk was sure that his knees wouldn't buckle, he stood and walked over to Jimin. Jimin examined him, a small smirk on his lips. Jeongguk cupped Jimin's face in his hands and kissed him, slow and sweet.

When he pulled away, Jimin's eyes were dancing. “Go on,” he murmured and Jeongguk left to go to the bar.

Jin and Yoongi were talking at the bar when he got there and Yoongi looked over at him, studying his expression. Then he burst into laughter. “Yeah, I remember when Hoseok first truly danced for me too,” he said fondly. “I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I'm still not fully convinced that I haven't.”

Jeongguk looked at him with wide eyes. “How long have you and Hoseok been together?”

“Going on 4 years,” Yoongi said with a warm smile. “Still feels like a dream.”

Jimin and Hoseok showed up not long after that, both of them sliding Jin money then waving and leading Yoongi and Jeongguk away. Hoseok, Yoongi, and Jimin talked a little outside of the club, Jimin's fingers laced lightly with Jeongguk's. Yoongi said something that Jeongguk wasn't paying attention to and Jimin laughed again. Jeongguk really liked that sound.

“Be careful,” Hoseok said, giving them both a small wave. “And let us know when you get home.” Jimin said he would and led Jeongguk away. Jeongguk could feel their eyes boring into the back of his head as he went.

Jimin never talked much when Jeongguk walked him home. Jeongguk didn't mind it. Jimin seemed to like the silence and he wasn't about to break it. But tonight, there was something different in the space between them, a buzzing anticipation. When they got to Jimin's house, Jimin looked at him a little warily. “Do…you wanna stay for a little?”

Jeongguk smiled and nodded. “Yeah. I didn't really wanna say goodbye yet.”

Jimin gave him a small smile then sobered. “Come on.” He led Jeongguk up the stairs and unlocked the door to his house, then let him inside.

The place was huge, bigger than it looked from the outside. Immediately in front of the door, there were two staircases, one leading up, the other leading down. They pulled off their shoes and Jimin led him up to the second floor. At the top of the landing, there was a large kitchen that flowed into a dining room. To the left, there was a long hallway with a soft light on in a room at the very end. To the right of the stairs, there was a living room with a large TV and an impressive surround sound system. The place was different shades of cream and off white, making it feel warm and bright at once. Small blue accents were all over, in the rugs and curtains and decorative nothings everywhere.

“Are you hungry?” Jimin asked distractedly, dropping his bag in the living room and walking to the kitchen. “I'm not cooking but I can order out.” He turned to look at Jeongguk. “Since you fed me this morning, it's only fair,” he smirked. Jeongguk agreed to this, realizing he hadn't eaten since practice forever ago. He and Jimin pored over menus at the bar by the dining table then decided and Jimin called it in. “Go ahead and get comfortable. I'm gonna…get out of work mode,” Jimin said, waving dismissively toward the living room. He scooped up his bag and disappeared down the hallway.

Jeongguk obediently headed to the living room and sat on one of the couches. He heard a shower start and pulled out his phone, sitting more comfortably to wait.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there, playing around with lyrics in his head. Long enough that he'd had to get up to get the food when someone knocked on the door. When Jimin finally came back into the living room, Jeongguk looked up from his notes app. Jimin was in a large hoodie, looking warily at him. His hair was damp and his eyes flicked around the room, as if looking for something out of place. When he saw that everything was the same, he relaxed and sat down on the opposite end of the couch.

“Food's here,” Jeongguk said uselessly.

The anticipation was back, the buzzing in the air. Jimin's eyes flicked to his and he looked nervous. He stared and Jeongguk could see him thinking as he chewed his bottom lip. Finally, he sighed. “We should eat.”

Jimin was waiting for something. Whatever it was, Jeongguk wouldn't press. He wouldn't force anything. Jimin would reveal it soon enough. Jimin tried to let Jeongguk pick a movie to watch but Jeongguk just kept asking him what he liked before settling on one of Jimin’s favorites, some horror movie from decades ago.

Jimin settled against Jeongguk's side while they ate, the air around him still vibrating. Jeongguk finished eating long before the movie was over and rested his arm around Jimin's shoulders. Jimin relaxed against him, leaning against his chest. He was still staring at the screen, but Jeongguk could tell he wasn't watching the movie.

Jimin's shoulders tensed and he sighed, turning off the TV and turning to look at Jeongguk. “It was my parents,” he said quietly.

Jeongguk turned to face him. “Your parents what?”

“That's why I was fucked up last night.” Jimin sat up and shook his hair out of his eyes, putting distance between them. He seemed to need the space so Jeongguk didn't protest. Jimin's eyes flicked to his then quickly away. Jeongguk swallowed. Jimin looked scared. “My parents showed up at my house.”

“I…take it you and your parents don't get along,” Jeongguk prompted.

Jimin laughed, a little bitterly, not the cute squeaky laugh that Jeongguk liked. “No. We aren't close.”

Jeongguk nodded his understanding. “Me and my parents aren't either,” he said.

Jimin looked a little surprised at this then recovered and went on. “My dad hates me especially,” he said slowly, looking over at Jeongguk again. He cleared his throat. “Um…he has ever since I quit my old job.”

“What was your old job?”

Jimin gave him a small smile. “I was the youngest partner at one of my dad's law firms.”

Jeongguk's eyebrows met his hairline. “You were a lawyer?”

Jimin nodded. “A damn good one. I was one of the best lawyers in the firm. Easy. I'd taken on a giant case for Lotte before I finally quit.”

Jeongguk looked around Jimin's house with new eyes. “So, that's how you can afford all this,” he breathed.

Jimin shrugged. “In part. I make decent money at the club too but, I also don't have to pay for this place.” His expression soured. “And now that they know where I live, I'm going to have to move again anyway. So, it doesn't matter.” He looked around the house. “It's a shame. I like this place.”

“Why would you have to move?” Jeongguk asked.

“Because I don't want them to ever be able to find me,” Jimin answered. “My dad comes to my house and calls me a disappointment for days on end and my mom pretends like we're all some big happy family and I'm just disgusted by it. They both hate me. I know they do. My mom's just a little better at hiding it.”

The way he said the words was matter-of-fact, distant, but he had his arms crossed against his chest again, closing his body off. It bothered him more than he let on. “How could anyone hate you?” Jeongguk whispered. He didn't understand. “Least of all, your parents.”

Jimin gave that sharp, bitter laugh again. “This is what happens when you have parents who demand that you be someone you aren't. Either you kick them out of your life or conform until it kills you.”

Jeongguk couldn't help it. He winced, rubbing his fingers over his wrist tattoo. “So, you got away from them,” he said softly.

Jimin nodded firmly. “They wanted me to stay at their law firm and marry Dohee and give them lots of grandkids. But,” he shook his head, “it was killing me. The only relief I had was the hidden account online where I would do videos and stuff.” He smiled a little. “It was pretty popular.”

Jeongguk swallowed. “V-videos,” he repeated.

Jimin looked sidelong at him. “Porn,” he expounded. “Law by day, porn by night. Dohee caught me once and she was fucking pissed.”

“Dohee.” Jeongguk was beginning to feel a bit stupid for repeating everything Jimin was saying but Jimin was talking so quickly that he kept missing important bits.

Jimin nodded. “Yeah, my ex-fiancée.”

Jeongguk felt his jaw drop. “You were engaged?”

Jimin hummed in agreement. “Yep. And the wedding was already planned. We were friends all through school. She didn't care that I'd graduated early. She said she wasn't gonna stop loving me so my parents kinda convinced me to ask her out. I'd come out to them the week before. They ignored me.” The last words were said somewhat sadly but Jimin recovered quickly. “Anyway, when it was all said and done, Dohee was the first person I told that I was quitting my job. I told her that I was quitting her too.” He looked down at his hands. “I'd been leading her on for years at that point, so she was really hurt.” He shoved his hair back with his hands then lay his head against the back of his couch. “I shouldn't have kept it going for as long as I did. Dohee didn't deserve that. I still kinda hate myself for that. She still kinda hates me too. And I truly don't blame her.”

Jeongguk sighed, a little floored. When he'd thought of Jimin, he'd seen only this entity that existed in that club, doing what he obviously loved to do. It had never occurred to him that Jimin had had a whole separate life before he started dancing. And, even if it had, he would never have thought that Jimin had been a lawyer with a fiancée and a secret porn account.

“After I tried to–” Jimin cut himself off, his eyes flicking quickly to Jeongguk's, then he amended. “When I met Hoseok, I had just quit my job and broken off my engagement. My parents were furious. My dad told me if I left the law firm, he would disown me. I told him to go ahead and do it.” He smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. “That was the first time in my life someone ever punched me.” Jeongguk's eyes went wide just as Jimin's smile went a little smug. “I beat the shit out of him.” His smile dropped. “My mom called the cops and the fucker tried to press charges. I told the cops that he'd started it and he let it go. He kicked me out and told me that if he ever saw me again, he would kill me.”

Jeongguk’s frown deepened. “That's fucking disgusting.”

Jimin shrugged breezily. “He only said that cuz he knew I would beat his ass if he tried to hit me again.” He leaned against the opposite arm of the couch and sighed. “My younger brother found out about everything and he was pissed. He told my parents off and called me. When found me at Hoseok’s and begged me to come back home, I refused. So, he let it go. He's in real estate so he eventually just helped me get an apartment. My parents found me and started randomly showing up so that they could try and get me to do what they wanted. I moved without Jihyun’s help and they found me again. Then Jihyun got me this place and they found me a few days ago.”

“Why don't you just get a restraining order on them?” Jeongguk asked, feeling alarmed.

Jimin gave him a sad smile. “Would you believe me if I told you that I still have hope? That one day, maybe they'll change their mind, see that I'm not giving up who I am now, and apologize for everything?”

Jeongguk's heart ached. “Jimin…”

Jimin shook his head. “At this point, I know it's a pipe dream. But can you blame me? Most kids don't want to be rejected by their parents.” He scrubbed his face with his hands. “I don't have a choice now, though. Cuz I can't keep moving away every time they find me. I have to just give up on them.”

Jeongguk wanted to reach for him, to hold onto him, to tell him that it would be okay. But Jimin didn't seem to need or want the platitudes. And he was still far away, like he needed space. So Jeongguk just swallowed and let it pass. “Sometimes,” he said softly, thinking of his own parents and trying to leave the acid out of his tone, “it's better to say goodbye for good.”

Jimin looked up at him, studying his face. “Something you learned from your own parents?” he asked softly.

Jeongguk gritted his teeth. “Yeah.”

Jimin stared at him then sighed. “Parents fucking suck sometimes,” he decided firmly. “Hoseok and Yoongi are better parents to me and they didn't give birth to me.”

“They're definitely the right kind of scary about you,” Jeongguk agreed.

Jimin gave him a wide smile. “Yeah, they are.”

The room went silent for a long moment, the anticipation around Jimin having disappeared while they were talking.

It hit Jeongguk then. That was what had had Jimin so nervous and on edge. The idea of telling Jeongguk that had scared him. This was the sort of information that Jeongguk could easily use against him. This was the sort of information Jeongguk could use to hurt him if he truly wanted to. And Jimin had trusted him with it. He felt his heart stutter.

“Thank you for telling me that,” Jeongguk said softly. Jimin looked sidelong at him, still too far away for Jeongguk's liking. “And your parents are wrong about you. If who you aren't isn't good enough for them then you don't need them. Because you're perfect to me.”

Jimin chewed on his bottom lip and his face went a little pink round the center. “You wanna…stay?”

Jeongguk thought about this. “Do you want me to?” Jimin hesitated for a moment then nodded. “Okay.”

Jimin stopped chewing his lip and smirked. “I already have spare toothbrushes so you won't see me running into a door to not look at you when I go get you one,” he sniffed, pulling him to his feet. Jeongguk chuckled and let himself be led down the hallway. There were a few closed doors down the hallway but Jimin led him through the one at the very end of the hall. Inside, there was a relatively large bedroom.

There was more blue in this room. The bedclothes were a deep royal blue that reminded Jeongguk of the ocean at night. The bed in front of the windows was large and looked comfortable. The room had clothes and shoes haphazardly thrown all over. Jeongguk suddenly didn't feel so bad about his own apartment. There was a TV mounted to the wall beside the bed and the closet door was slightly open, showing it to be surprisingly organized.

“Oh, you'll need a charger,” Jimin said to himself, letting go of Jeongguk's hand and walking to one of the nightstands. He rummaged around the drawer before he pulled out a cord with a small, triumphant, “Found it.” He went around the side of the bed and plugged it up. Then he turned to look critically at Jeongguk. “I would offer you spare clothes but you're long as shit, so I have nothing that'll fit you.”

Jeongguk shrugged. “It's fine. I just like being here.”

Jimin sat on the bed and unzipped his hoodie, throwing it to the floor. He was just wearing a regular t-shirt underneath and loose shorts that looked comfortable. He held out his hand in Jeongguk's direction. “C’mere.”

Jeongguk moved like a man magnetized, heading toward the bed and sitting beside him. Jimin had turned on the TV and was looking through for the movie they'd started and promptly forgotten about when he'd started talking.

Jimin relaxed into his bed, leaning against the headboard. “I like you being here too,” he said quietly, sliding his fingers into Jeongguk's again and staring at the screen. He relaxed against Jeongguk's shoulder and his eyes slid shut. They didn't speak for a long moment, then Jimin moved Jeongguk's arm, moving it so that it rested over his shoulders and he was tucked into Jeongguk's chest. He sighed in contentment, his eyes still closed.

Jeongguk stared at the movie without seeing it, acutely aware of the fact that he and Jimin were both very much sober and curled up in a huge bed in the middle of the night. This was very different than last night or even from being in Jimin's room at the club. Jimin wasn't drunk and vulnerable or still in ‘work mode’ and trying to prove a point.

“I can feel you thinking, Jeongguk,” Jimin said quietly, looking up at him. He rested his chin on Jeongguk's shoulder, close enough for Jeongguk to see the way his eyelashes fanned over his dark eyes. “What're you thinking about?”

Jeongguk swallowed. “Just you,” he answered truthfully.

Jimin gave him a soft smile. “Cute,” he said quietly and moved. He slid down beneath the blankets and shut off the light. He lay on his side, looking at Jeongguk expectantly. The light from the TV cast his features in hazy relief, making him look a little unreal. Jeongguk slid down in the bed beside him, beneath the covers.

Jimin blinked slow, watching Jeongguk watch him. “You really think I'm perfect?” he asked softly. Jeongguk nodded without hesitation. Jimin reached for him, his fingers moving soft along Jeongguk's cheek, then his lips. “You're wrong, honey,” he whispered.

Jeongguk pressed his lips to Jimin's fingers, saw his small smile at the action, the way his cheeks went slightly pink in the light of the TV. Jeongguk put his hand at Jimin's waist, saw him look up and move closer. “Even if you aren't perfect, you didn't deserve that from them. Or anyone. You deserve better than that.”

Jimin curved his hand against Jeongguk's cheek and Jeongguk's eyes slid shut. “You're sweet to me, Jeongguk,” Jimin said quietly. “Why are you so sweet to me?” Jeongguk opened his eyes but Jimin didn't wait for him to answer, just kissed him soft and slow, like he was afraid to take too much.

Jeongguk's hand tightened on his waist and he pulled him closer instinctively. Jimin moved easily, pressing himself against the line of Jeongguk's body. The kiss didn't deepen and Jeongguk didn't press, just held him tighter while Jimin explored him, deepened it on his own. Jeongguk could feel his pulse racing like it always did when Jimin kissed him. He felt his head clouding and his whole mind was focused only on Jimin, the way his fingers curled into his hair, the way Jimin's body kept moving closer, though there was no space between them anymore. It was like he couldn't get close enough either.

Jimin grabbed a fistful of Jeongguk's shirt and pulled him closer, half on top of him, and Jeongguk broke the kiss, feeling dizzy and a little (lot) overwhelmed. He needed to know what the limits were before he lost himself entirely. “Jimin…”

Jimin pressed another kiss to his lips and shook his head. “I'm not sleeping with you. Just…kiss me.”

Jeongguk did as Jimin bade him, kissed him. The urgency of Jimin's lips against his made him think that maybe Jimin wanted him too. Maybe Jimin wanted him just as badly and in just as many ways. When Jimin's hand slid beneath his shirt, Jeongguk broke the kiss again, feeling his pants getting uncomfortable. “Jimin,” he murmured again.

He looked down at him, was struck by how much he liked…this. He smoothed his thumb over Jimin's lips, the lips he'd been wanting to kiss since he'd first seen him. He looked at his dark eyes, expressive and sometimes shuttered and perfectly warm brown, eyes that Jeongguk was sure had spent more time studying him than anything else. He combed his fingers through Jimin's soft hair, the same dusty purple that it had been when he'd first met him, maybe a little faded now, but still making him look like some kind of god on earth. “You're so beautiful,” he said quietly. He hadn't intended the words to come out, but he meant them, so he didn't regret them.

Jimin's cheeks warmed and he visibly swallowed. He made a soft whining noise and pulled Jeongguk's lips down to his again. When Jimin's tongue met his, Jeongguk shivered. He felt Jimin's body roll against his, not as smoothly as it did when he was on stage, not a conscious choice. His hands clenched in Jeongguk's hair and he let out a quiet moan.

Jeongguk felt like his body was melting and he let Jimin pull him entirely on top of him. Jimin was shaking, his hands smoothing up Jeongguk's back. “Take this stupid thing off,” he breathed, pulling at Jeongguk's shirt, and Jeongguk was not about to tell him no. He pulled it off in one movement and Jimin pulled him down again, his arms tight around Jeongguk's neck. He smoothed his hands down Jeongguk's chest, a satisfied sound in his throat. “Tell me,” Jimin said, breathless as Jeongguk kissed down his jaw. “Tell me why you don't have the other one pierced.”

Jeongguk smirked. “I got it done when I was drunk and forgot about it. Why, you want the other one pierced too?”

Jimin bit his lip and hummed. “Maybe,” he breathed. Jeongguk chuckled lightly and Jimin kissed him again, his hands moving across Jeongguk's waist.

Jimin moved against him again, a stuttered, unconscious movement, and Jeongguk gasped out his name, his body feeling hot. He moved his lips to Jimin's throat, slowly suckling a bruise into the skin. Jimin's fingers clenched along his shoulder blades. “Jeongguk…Ggukie…” Jeongguk felt Jimin press against him again and felt the stiffness in his shorts. Jimin was just as affected by him as he was by Jimin. He let go then, ground against Jimin intentionally. Jimin let out a breathy sound that Jeongguk liked and moved to kiss him again.

Jeongguk felt Jimin trembling against him as they ground against each other, hands roaming. At some point, Jimin grabbed his ass and pressed him closer, the friction addictive. “Baby…” Jeongguk whispered. Jimin made a soft, satisfied sound and Jeongguk looked down at him curiously. Jimin looked a little dazed and his eyes were hooded, his lips kiss-swollen. He quirked a brow in question. “You like it when I call you baby,” Jeongguk said quietly.

Jimin bit his lip and smiled. “I like it when you call me baby,” he confirmed and kissed him again. Jeongguk felt his body heating as Jimin moved against him, his head swimming. He was so entirely consumed by it all, by Jimin's hands in his hair, along his back, by Jimin's lips against his, by his flavor, by the soft sounds Jimin made as their bodies met. Jeongguk was kissing along his shoulder when Jimin's breathing sped and he moaned again, his fingers clenching along Jeongguk's shoulder blades. “I…Jeongguk…I'm gonna…” He sounded almost surprised.

Jeongguk kissed him again and whispered, “Go ahead, baby.” Jimin tensed against him and let go, his whole body trembling as he came. Jeongguk stilled against him, pressing kisses to his jaw and smoothing his hair.

Jimin panted as he finally relaxed into the mattress. Jeongguk looked down at him, watched when his eyes fluttered open, watched him lick his lips. Jimin stared at him hungrily then moved so that Jeongguk was lying on his side. He kissed him again, slow and deep. Jeongguk felt Jimin's hand smoothing along his waist then sliding to his front, cupping him. His breathing stopped and he broke the kiss, a little bewildered.

Jimin licked his lips as he slid his hand beneath the waistband of Jeongguk's sweats. When Jimin touched him, Jeongguk's eyes slid shut. “Fuck…”

The angle was a little awkward but Jeongguk was too lost to actually care because Jimin was touching him. How many times had he dreamed about this? It didn't take many strokes to bring him over the edge, to have him gasping out Jimin's name as he came. Jimin kissed him again while he caught his breath. When Jeongguk's eyes finally opened, Jimin was looking at him, his eyes dancing again. He smiled. “No one has made me come in my pants since high school, Ggukie,” he said, quirking his brow. Jeongguk chuckled.

Jimin eventually got out of bed, demanding Jeongguk's pants and leaving him nearly naked beneath the blankets. Jeongguk heard him singing to himself while he was in the bathroom, then heard a washer start. When he got back to the bedroom, he was carrying a pair of shorts and looking at them critically. “I think these will do for tonight.” Jeongguk took them gratefully and pulled them on. When he reached for his shirt, Jimin quirked a brow. Jeongguk slowly put the shirt down again and Jimin smiled.

When they slid beneath the blankets again, the room was dark, the movie having gone off while they were otherwise occupied. Jimin kissed him again, chaste and lazy, then tucked himself into Jeongguk's chest and sighed. They didn't speak, just let the night swallow them. Jimin pressed his lips to Jeongguk's shoulder and lay his arm across his waist, moving closer before stilling.

Jeongguk's fingers traced Jimin's spine slowly. He felt like perhaps he needed to say something, to thank him or maybe tell him how much he cared about him, but he couldn't think of the words.

“I like this,” Jimin said softly and Jeongguk felt like that was right. Simple words. Perfect ones.

“Me too.”

The night slipped by. Jeongguk wasn't sure when he'd slept better. He woke the next morning with Jimin in his arms, his back pressed against Jeongguk's chest. He pulled Jimin closer and pressed a kiss to his hair. Jimin made a complaining, sleepy noise and crinkled his nose, burying his head in his pillow. Finally, he sat up with a wide yawn.

Jeongguk watched him rub his hands through his hair and stretch. Jimin finally registered the arm around his waist and looked sidelong at Jeongguk. He blinked then his eyes flicked to Jeongguk's lips. He grinned. “I would kiss you but. Morning breath.”

Jeongguk snorted and sat up just in time for his phone to ring. He looked at the nightstand and frowned, then answered. “Yeah?” The voice on the other end was unintelligible. He knew that it was Mingyu, but he was talking too quickly for Jeongguk to understand. “Gyu, wait, wait. Slow down. Say it again.”

“It's Yugyeom. Something happened to Yugyeom,” Mingyu said thickly, trying to be understood. “Gguk, you need to get over here. I think…” He didn't finish the statement, his voice choking off into something that sounded like a sob.

Jeongguk's stomach dropped. “Yeah, I'm on my way now,” he answered, pulling himself out of the bed and reaching for his shirt.

Jimin looked at him in concern as he hung up the call. “Jeongguk?”

“Yugyeom,” Jeongguk answered grimly and Jimin nodded his understanding.

He walked round the bed and looked at him. “He'll be okay, Jeongguk.” Jeongguk relaxed a little, his shoulders falling from his ears. “Come on.”

Jimin led him to the bathroom and handed him a spare toothbrush then disappeared. When he came back, he had his own toothbrush in his mouth and handed Jeongguk his pants, then disappeared again. When he showed up again, he had a cup of coffee in his hand and Jeongguk was dressed and unplugging his phone.

Jimin leaned against the door jamb and watched him, drinking from his mug. He didn't bother to get dressed, just said, “Ready?” when Jeongguk turned to look at him. He led him toward the front door and Jeongguk had walked out when he turned. Jimin's expression was hard to read as he studied Jeongguk. Then he leaned up and kissed him, soft and lingering. “Call me later,” he said quietly.

Jeongguk grinned. “‘Kay.” And he turned to walk down the stairs and up the street. He'd been with Jimin all day yesterday, so it felt odd to not be with him now. He sighed and headed for the subway.

Jeongguk needed to focus.

Something was wrong with Yugyeom.

☆ ☆ ☆

Jimin had to admit that he was feeling a little cheated when Jeongguk didn't show up at his job for a few days. He'd gotten a handful of texts, but they'd been so sparing and devoid of anything that Jimin had eventually stopped responding.

Maybe he'd been played.

He didn't like to think so but maybe he had. It had been boring at the club without him. Jimin still liked to dance, of course, but he also liked having Jeongguk to perform for.

Maybe he'd just gotten spoiled after spending the day with Jeongguk. He hadn't wanted to let him go that early, but he wasn't about to keep Jeongguk from his friends, not when he knew that Yugyeom could possibly need him right now. And Jeongguk had made good on his words to call him but he'd sounded so tired and distracted that Jimin had eventually just gotten off the phone to let him sleep.

“Stop brooding, it's ruining my routine,” Hoseok chided him with a frown, landing on his feet from Jimin's pole.

“I'm not brooding,” Jimin huffed. “And your routine is fine.”

Hoseok crossed the room and flopped down on Jimin's couch with a heavy sigh. “Okay, so your little boy toy has been MIA for a couple days. Isn't that what you did literally last week? Maybe he just needs some space.”

Jimin shook his head. “It isn't about that. He sounds terrible, Hoseok. I'm worried about him.”

Hoseok hummed at this. “Did you talk to his friend? Maybe he knows something.”

Jimin shook his head. “Tae's been hard to get hold of too. Which is really unusual. Something is wrong.”

Hoseok sobered some at the tone of Jimin's voice. “Maybe we should go see him, then,” he suggested softly.

Jimin sighed. “Maybe. He'll wanna see the tattoo anyway.”

They walked up to the second floor of Jimin's house so he could get ready to go. Hoseok came with him to the tattoo parlor despite Jimin insisting that he would be fine on his own. When they got to Taehyung's shop, Namjoon was flopped on one of the couches, flipping through a magazine. His long legs were in front of him, crossed at the ankles. The rips in his jeans showed the tattoo on his thigh.

He looked up briefly when they walked in. “He's with a client,” he said by way of greeting then his eyes flicked over to Hoseok. Namjoon looked at him appraisingly then went back to his magazine. “I think he's done though. They're probably just making out.”

Jimin raised his brows. “What?” Namjoon flipped a page and didn't answer, a small smirk on his lips.

Hoseok patted Jimin's arm and Jimin looked back. “Yoongi wants me to meet him for lunch. You okay here?”

Jimin rolled his eyes. “I'm fine, go.” Hoseok grinned then kissed his hair and waved as he left. Jimin turned back to Namjoon. “Why is Tae making out with clients?”

Namjoon’s smirk widened into a smile and he said, “Go see,” then turned a page. So Jimin did. He walked down the hallway leading to Taehyung's room. He found Taehyung standing between his client's legs, kissing him, just like Namjoon had said he would be. The man had long, dark, wavy hair and his arms were covered in black and grey ink. They were wrapped tight around Taehyung's waist, one of his hands even sliding Taehyung's shirt up.

The man seemed to notice Jimin before Taehyung did and pulled away, looking a little sheepish. “I think your next client is here,” he said, his voice surprisingly soft.

Taehyung looked over and snorted. “That's not my client, babe,” he said, snickering. He introduced the man as Bogum. “He's my boyfriend,” he said to Jimin with a syrupy sweet smile, resting his cheek against the top of the man's head.

“Ohhhhhh,” Jimin said, understanding. The client was his boyfriend, so it made sense that Taehyung was making out with him. “Nice to meet you,” he said, giving Bogum a wave.

Bogum sent him a somewhat bashful smile and looked back at Taehyung. “I'm gonna go,” he said softly. “Are you coming back tonight?”

Taehyung shrugged. “Depends. Are you feeding me?” Bogum stood and leaned down to whisper in Taehyung's ear. Whatever he told him made Taehyung snort. “Yeah, okay, I'll be back tonight. Shoo. I need to get ready for my actual next client.”

Bogum gave Taehyung a very sweet smile and kissed him again. He gave Jimin a small bow and left.

Taehyung was still smiling when he sat in his swivel chair and opened his sketchbook.

“So,” Jimin said, taking his spot on the tattoo chair, “he seems smitten as fuck.”

Taehyung’s smile widened. “He is,” he answered simply. He turned to face Jimin. “So what's up? Between you and Jeongguk, my phone has been going off nonstop for 72 hours. Did you two have a fight or something?”

Jimin frowned. “No, nothing like that. Where the hell have you been anyway?”

Taehyung smiled again. “With Bogum. I took a couple days off and just hung out with him. He's getting way more work lately so I've gotta get him while I can.”


Taehyung shrugged. “He's an actor. Whatever. The point is I had to turn my phone off so you clingy bitches would leave me alone to get some dick in peace. What's going on?”

Jimin smirked then sobered. “Wait…Jeongguk has been calling you too?” Taehyung nodded. “Have you talked to him yet?”

Taehyung frowned and shook his head. “Why?”

“Can you?” Jimin asked quietly. “I'm worried about him. I think–” His words were cut off by the sound of the shop door opening.

They looked at each other when Jeongguk's voice filtered softly through the shop, too low to be understood but clear enough to be unmistakably Jeongguk. “Well, I guess I won't have to call him after all,” Taehyung said thoughtfully.

“Tae? Taehyung!” Namjoon called, sounding stressed. Jimin heard and Taehyung stood, looking alarmed. He walked out of his room without waiting and Jimin followed.

“Ggukie, what the…” Taehyung said when they got into the front of the shop. Jeongguk was wrapped in Namjoon’s arms, visibly shaking. His face was hidden in Namjoon’s shoulder and he looked up when he heard Taehyung's voice.

Jimin stopped walking.

Jeongguk's face was very red and he looked like he was on the verge of tears. His expression cracked painfully when he saw Taehyung and Namjoon released him just as Taehyung wrapped him in a tight hug. “Ggukie, what is it? What happened?!” Taehyung sounded entirely bewildered.

Jimin stared at them, stunned. Jeongguk was talking but his voice was so low and unsteady that Jimin couldn't make sense of it. He heard Yugyeom’s name but couldn't understand much else. Taehyung soothed him with soft words and eventually, Jeongguk's face wasn't as red and he didn't look like he was on the verge of a breakdown anymore. He just clung to Taehyung.

Jimin found his mobility again and walked forward slowly. Jeongguk caught sight of him at last and his whole body relaxed. “Jimin…” Then he was moving away from Taehyung and wrapping Jimin tight in his arms. His whole body was still shaking.

Jimin heard Jeongguk's breathing stutter, tripping over itself, and held onto him. “What's wrong, honey? What happened?” he asked softly. He looked at Taehyung, hoping for some kind of explanation, but Taehyung was leaning against the front desk on his phone, talking to someone in a soft voice.

“Yugyeom got hurt,” Jeongguk said at last, his voice trembling and breaking. “It would have been worse had we not gotten there. Gyu had gone to hang out with him and heard this weird noise.” His body shook again, as if he was freezing, and Jimin rubbed his back, trying to soothe.

“Is Yugyeom okay?”

“He will be,” Jeongguk said softly, finally pulling away. Jimin cupped Jeongguk's cheeks in his hands. “We had to watch him cuz his stupid boyfriend was looking for him, trying to make him come back.” Jeongguk's tired eyes flashed with pure fury. “Fucker wouldn't let up. It was creepy as shit.”

“Where's Yugyeom now?”

Jeongguk's eyes shone and he looked down. “Minghao’s. He's safe.” His shoulders fell and, for a moment, Jimin was sure that the dam would break and he would actually cry. “He was on the floor passed out when we got to the apartment. The back of his head was bleeding a lot.” Jimin's eyes widened in mute horror. “We got him out of there and he's been moving around our places for the past couple days before we decided to just wait for his boyfriend at Minghao’s.”

“Did he find Yugyeom there?” Jimin heard Namjoon ask tightly and saw that Taehyung and Namjoon were standing closer now, listening to Jeongguk talk.

Jeongguk nodded miserably. “He did. He banged on the door forever until we got outside.” His eyes sparked with anger again. “He didn't let up until we beat his fucking ass. He said he was gonna call the cops, but apparently he hasn't yet. Yugyeom hasn't spoken since we got him. We took him to the hospital to get him checked out cuz we were scared he wouldn't be able to talk anymore but he's fine. He's just not saying anything. It's scaring the shit out of us.”

Jimin rubbed his back again, pulling him close, and Jeongguk relaxed against him. “I'll go see him tonight,” Taehyung said quietly. “Maybe it'll help.” Jeongguk nodded but didn't look hopeful. He just tightened his arms around Jimin and didn't speak again. Jeongguk's breathing shuddered and Jimin kissed his shoulder, feeling helpless.

“You look exhausted, Ggukie,” Namjoon said, smoothing Jeongguk's hair. “You need to get some rest too. You won't be any good to Yugyeom if you don't.”

“I keep waiting on him to just break,” Jeongguk answered softly. “He hasn't been sleeping either.”

Namjoon made a small noise of disapproval and patted Jeongguk's shoulder. “I'll go sit with him. Go home and get some sleep. Okay?” Before Jeongguk could agree, Namjoon was kissing Jeongguk's forehead and walking out of the shop.

“Joonie is right, Ggukie,” Taehyung said softly. “You need sleep and you need food. I bet you haven't been eating. Any of you.” Jeongguk shrugged and held tighter to Jimin. “Yugyeom will be okay, Jeongguk. Remember? He has the band. He has us. He's not alone. He'll get through this. Okay?” Jeongguk sniffled and nodded. “Go home. I'll look after him tonight.”

Jeongguk nodded again. “Thanks, Tae,” he whispered. Taehyung kissed his hair and looked meaningfully at Jimin.

Jimin moved away slightly and looked up at Jeongguk. “Come on, honey. I'll take you home,” he said softly. Jeongguk nodded and let himself be led out of the shop. He didn't speak when Jimin got them a cab, just told the driver his address and leaned his head back against the seat, his eyes closed as he let out a heavy sigh. Jimin laced their fingers together but Jeongguk didn't react save to tighten his grip.

They got to Jeongguk's house in silence. Jimin wasn't sure what to do. Jeongguk just held his hand as they walked up the stairs to his floor. He was pulling his keys out of his pocket to open the door when Jimin finally spoke. “Jeongguk…I’m not sure how to help?” He mentally kicked himself then tried again. “What do you need? What can I do?”

Jeongguk looked back at him just as he got the door open. Even though his eyes were tired, they were gentle as he looked at Jimin. “Can you just…stay?” Jimin nodded without hesitation and walked in after him.

When they got into the house, Jimin sat on the couch and Jeongguk sat beside him. He leaned against Jimin's shoulder, his arms around his waist. When Jimin reclined to make the position more comfortable, Jeongguk adjusted and sighed in contentment, laying half on top of him, his face tucked beneath Jimin's jaw. Jimin smoothed his hair, letting his lips brush Jeongguk's forehead.

They didn't speak. Jeongguk just held onto him and Jimin listened to him breathe. He could tell that Jeongguk still wasn't sleeping, could tell that his mind was still back at Minghao’s house, still with Yugyeom.

“Jimin?” Jimin hummed his acknowledgment and Jeongguk shifted, looking up at him. “You know that I would never do that to you, right?” Jimin frowned, not fully understanding. “I would never do that to you,” Jeongguk repeated, his voice tightening.

Jimin kissed his hair. “I know you wouldn't, honey,” he replied, catching on. “I know you're not that type of person.”

Jeongguk relaxed against him again, his arms tightening around Jimin's waist. “I'm sorry that I haven't talked to you much. There was a lot going on.”

Jimin shook his head. “I'm just glad you're okay. I was worried about you.”

Jeongguk frowned slightly then looked up at him again. “Me, why?”

Jimin smoothed his fingers through Jeongguk's hair and Jeongguk's eyes slid shut. “I thought that maybe you were hurt or something. Or that…” He bit his lip, almost embarrassed to speak the words now, “Or that you didn't want me anymore.”

Jeongguk moved, looking down at him, his eyes wide. “No,” he breathed. “No, baby, that wasn't it at all.”

Jimin shushed him. “I know. It's a little silly to think about now,” he said with a small smile.

Jeongguk smoothed his thumb across Jimin's cheekbone. “Always want you,” he murmured, examining his face as though trying to memorize it. “I missed you.” Jimin swallowed. Jeongguk didn't give him a chance to answer, just kissed him. Jimin felt something release in his chest and kissed him back. It was gentle, his lips soft and familiar and quickly becoming Jimin's favorite. Jeongguk pulled away and relaxed against his shoulder again, a soft sigh leaving his lips.

This time, when the silence stretched, Jimin could tell that Jeongguk had fallen into sleep. He eventually turned on the TV and watched a random anime from Jeongguk's recommendations. He was halfway into the 10th episode (and thoroughly engrossed; Jeongguk had taste) when Jeongguk stirred again. His arms tightened around Jimin and he grumbled sleepily to himself, shifting slightly onto his side and pulling Jimin with him. He rested on Jimin's shoulder again and exhaled in contentment.

“Are you awake yet?” Jimin asked, looking down at him. Jeongguk frowned lightly, his nose crinkling as he shook his head. Jimin huffed out a laugh through his nose. Cute. “Okay.” Jeongguk relaxed against him. Had it not been for Jeongguk's thumb smoothing against his shirt, he would have assumed that Jeongguk actually had gone back to sleep. “We should eat. I bet you're hungry.”

Jeongguk snuffled a little, still not fully awake, and looked sleepily up at him. “Tae’ll kick my ass if I don't eat something,” he murmured.

“I will too.” Jeongguk gave him a sweet smile, blinking slow. So fucking cute. “Get up. I'll get us some pizza.”

Jeongguk looked wholly unenthusiastic about the idea of having to move but he did as Jimin bade him, sitting up with a yawn and shaking his hair out of his face. He reached for his phone as he rubbed his eyes and made a call.

Jimin sat upright, realizing that one of his legs had fallen asleep with Jeongguk's weight on it as he'd slept.

“How is he?” Jeongguk said softly into the phone. He listened and whatever he heard had his shoulders relaxing, a relieved sigh leaving his lips. “Thank goodness. I'm glad. Is he talking at all?” More silence. Jeongguk nodded at nothing in particular. “Yeah…maybe not. It'll probably be Tae who does it.” Without looking, Jeongguk slipped his fingers into Jimin's, holding them lightly, as if it was a habit. He leaned back against the couch and hummed. “Maybe. We should talk to him about it. See how he feels. He needs one. That bastard probably won't stop and I don't wanna keep beating his ugly face into the ground. It doesn't look good for us.” There was a beat of silence then Jeongguk let out a loud snort and snickered. “Whatever, you prick.” The call ended not long after.

Jeongguk looked at him, his expression serene. “So, he's feeling better?” Jimin asked.

Jeongguk's face folded into a frown. “Well…not necessarily. But he's sleeping now. And Gyu said he cried a little earlier and it might finally be hitting him. So that's progress.” Jimin nodded his agreement. “What kinda pizza?”

He and Jimin pored over a menu, much as they had a few nights ago and, like then, they watched movies while they ate. When the food was gone, the sun was setting. “I have to work tonight,” Jimin said, feeling almost guilty about this.

Jeongguk gave him a small smile. “Will you come back after?” He nodded without hesitation. Jeongguk's smile widened. “Thank you.” He walked him to the door and kissed him, slow and sweet. Jimin could tell Jeongguk didn't want him to leave but Jeongguk didn't raise a fuss, just told him to have fun and call if he needed anything.

During his shift, most of Jimin's mental real estate was taken up by Jeongguk. He wondered if Jeongguk had gone back to sleep. Or, maybe if he'd eaten more. If he would need to. How long had Jeongguk forgone eating while he was with Yugyeom? How long had he gone without sleep?

He wondered if Jeongguk had broken down once he'd gone. He'd looked like he was mere moments from it when he'd been in Taehyung's shop. Jimin hadn't liked that. Jeongguk had never looked that upset before. He'd seen Jeongguk a little disappointed before maybe, a bit embarrassed, but never as though he was on the verge of tears. He wondered how often that happened.

Jeongguk truly cared about his friends if it affected him that deeply when one of them got hurt. I guess the guys would be as close to brothers as I've got. They're my best friends. He'd been worried about Yugyeom a lot since Jimin had first met him.

Jimin couldn't help but wonder. If Jeongguk cared that much about his friends, surely, he cared just as much for his partners…right?

He seemed to care about Jimin anyway. He hadn't turned tail and run the minute Yoongi showed up, guns blazing. He hadn't tried to get more than conversation from Hoseok, had even made sure that that was all Hoseok wanted, from what he'd been told. He'd kept coming back after Jimin had snubbed him the first time. And the second. He'd kept his hands to himself when he could easily have taken advantage of Jimin's drunkenness.

Yes, Jimin decided, Jeongguk cared about him. A lot. Maybe more than he should for it to be so early in their…relationship? Jimin frowned. “No,” he said softly, then remembered himself. He was on stage. He needed to focus.

That night, as Hoseok and Yoongi drove him to Jeongguk's house, Jimin wondered about that mental misstep. He and Jeongguk weren't in a relationship…not technically. They were…well, even saying they were friends was a stretch. Because there was still so much he didn't know about Jeongguk, so much he still wanted to know. And there were still things Jeongguk didn't know about him either.

But…Jimin also really fucking liked him. He was sweet and cute and sexy and a damn good kisser. And Jimin felt safe with him. He didn't feel like he needed his back against a wall all the time with Jeongguk, not anymore. Not the way he had before. He was still apprehensive but…it had more to do with him wanting Jeongguk to stick around than him thinking Jeongguk was going to hurt him in some way.

Plus, Yoongi and Hoseok liked him.

They had told Jimin as much. Both of them had apparently talked to him, though he hadn't seen Yoongi talking to Jeongguk whatsoever. Hoseok liking Jeongguk was kind of a given. Hoseok had always been the more friendly of the two of them. He trusted a little easier.

Yoongi, on the other hand, didn't like anyone who got close to Jimin. No one. He didn't trust anyone with Jimin and he wasn't often wrong. His instincts were sharp and he knew exactly how intimidating he was. He used it to his advantage, to suss out people who meant Jimin and Hoseok harm and keep them far away.

Jimin trusted Yoongi's instincts. And if even Yoongi liked him, Jeongguk couldn't be that bad.

So maybe he and Jeongguk weren't in a relationship but they certainly weren't nothing.

Not with as deeply as Jimin had already fallen.

“Let us know when you get inside,” Hoseok said, as always, giving him a small smile from the front seat.

Jimin said he would and Yoongi called, “Go get some dick, Minie!”

He laughed out loud and hurried up the stairs to Jeongguk's apartment, feeling giddy as he knocked on the door. It took a moment, but the door was pulled open. Jeongguk looked like he'd just woken up, but his eyes lit up when he saw Jimin. “Hey,” he said softly and moved to let him inside.

Jimin felt calm washing over him and he stepped into the apartment, being sure to let Hoseok and Yoongi know that he'd gotten in before Yoongi tried to break the door down again.

Jeongguk had apparently ordered more food while Jimin had been working. It was sitting on his coffee table half-eaten and abandoned. There was an acoustic guitar sitting on the couch and a pile of paper on the table with words and lines scratched out and written hastily in the margins.

“You were playing?” Jimin asked, though the answer was obvious.

Jeongguk rubbed the back of his neck and smiled softly. “Um…just a little. I just woke up a bit ago.”

“I'm gonna use your shower but, you should play for me.” Jeongguk blinked at him then gestured for him to proceed and sat back down on the couch. This time, Jimin didn't forget to grab some of Jeongguk's clothes before he showered. When he was satisfied, he walked back into the living room. Jeongguk was leaning over his guitar, writing a word onto his scrap paper. He looked up when Jimin appeared. His eyes moved over Jimin slowly, first down, then up. Then he licked his lips and looked up at Jimin's face.

That was the second time Jeongguk had done that, stared at him like that. Jimin smirked as he sat on the couch. “You like when I wear your clothes,” he observed.

Jeongguk's ears went a little red and he rubbed the back of his neck again. “That obvious, huh?”

Jimin chuckled and pointed to his guitar. “Play for me.”

Jeongguk straightened some. “What do you want me to play?”

Jimin shrugged. “Whatever you want. Whatever you were playing before I got here.”

Jeongguk's face unexpectedly flooded with color and he swallowed. “Um…” He cleared his throat and Jimin watched him in amusement. He wasn't sure what had Jeongguk so embarrassed, but he was cute. He looked down at his guitar and adjusted his fingers. Then, Jeongguk started to play.

The melody was soft, something that he hadn't expected to hear given the type of music Jeongguk and his band played. There had been slower and softer songs, but the other members had added an edge. This, however, was almost like a lullaby, soft and sweet and easy. Jimin watched him and found himself smiling. Jeongguk didn't look at him as he played, just stared down at his fretboard, though Jimin was sure he didn't need to. His face lost some of its color as he played, forgetting himself in the song. Jimin leaned against the back of the couch and wrapped his arms around his legs, listening.

He could hear it sometimes, in the back of his head, how the song could sound with the rest of the band. With Mingyu and Yugyeom and Minghao playing their parts to make the song fuller. He could hear how Jeongguk's voice would weave through the melody, how it would play with the notes in his guitar. He could see Jeongguk performing this and bringing the whole venue to its knees, leaving them all at his mercy and hopelessly in love.

But this…even with that being an attractive image, this itself was enough. Just this. Just Jeongguk on his own, doing something he loved.

The notes abruptly ended and Jimin looked up, not having realized that his eyes had closed as he listened. “Why’d you stop?” he asked softly.

Jeongguk crinkled his nose. “That's all I've got so far,” he said with a self-deprecating smile. “It's not finished yet.”

Jimin nodded his understanding. “It's pretty. I really like it.”

Jeongguk's eyes lit up. “Yeah?”


Jeongguk leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “Thank you,” he said simply and put the guitar on the side of the couch, leaning back. “How was work? You have fun?”

Jimin smiled. “Always,” he answered. “What’d you do after I left?”

Jeongguk straightened. “I went to check on Yugyeom. He's talking now. Tae is a miracle worker, I swear he is.” Quiet relief weaved into his words and he looked more relaxed than Jimin had seen him all day. “He's gonna file for a restraining order and try to press charges.”


Jeongguk’s lips curved up a little. “This is the most proactive he's been about his own safety. I'm proud of him,” he said through a yawn.

“You should sleep. It's late and you need it,” Jimin urged him. Jeongguk acquiesced and got up to put away his leftovers and guitar. Jimin waited then followed him to the bedroom.

They lay facing each other in the darkness. Jimin normally fell asleep with his TV on but Jeongguk didn't. The only light in the room came from the moon without. The room felt more intimate this way, closer, made everything feel like a secret to only be whispered. Jeongguk was looking at him, half his features in shadow because of the moon. “Thank you for staying.” His voice was soft, barely audible. “I don't know what I would have done without you.”

Jimin felt his chest warm. “It's okay,” he answered just as quietly. He moved closer and Jeongguk wrapped his arms around him, pulling him the rest of the way. When Jimin kissed him, he could feel Jeongguk's heart start to race. There really was something gratifying about that, being able to physically tell how affected Jeongguk was by him.

The last time they'd been in bed together, Jeongguk had looked woefully confused behind the obvious dazedness that Jimin seemed to cause whenever he got close. But he'd given Jimin what he needed without even knowing it. Jimin typically dealt with stressful things he didn't like thinking about (like the fact that he'd just told Jeongguk all kinds of personal information) with sex. It was why he'd had the secret porn account to begin with. He'd hated his job and his home, so he got off and let that carry him away temporarily.

Jeongguk, on the other hand, just seemed to be particularly clingy when things were hard. He didn't deepen the kiss when Jimin kissed him again, didn't grasp him tighter or start to lose himself in Jimin's body the way he had last time. He just held him close and kissed him. He looked at Jimin in something like awe, as if Jimin was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

So many pieces to Jeongguk. So many parts. And this was another one of Jimin's favorites. The way he looked at him. Like he saw Jimin for who he was and had been and still thought the sun rose and set by Jimin's whim.

Jeongguk tucked his face beneath Jimin's jaw, resting on his shoulder as he had earlier and relaxing into the mattress. It didn't take long before Jeongguk was asleep, his breathing slow and even.

Jimin played with his hair as he slept, the soft strands tickling his fingers. He felt himself finally relaxing entirely, letting go.

Letting himself fall.

☆ ☆ ☆

Going on a short hiatus when the band already had a decent but impatient following was risky. But it was the best choice Jeongguk had been able to make. Yugyeom needed a break. And the rest of the band had vehemently disagreed when Yugyeom had suggested they just temporarily get another bassist.

“We didn't start this damn band just to replace each member one by one. We make it together or not at all,” Mingyu had said firmly, his voice uncharacteristically serious. Jeongguk and Minghao had agreed without question. Yugyeom’s eyes had shone and he’d looked down at the bed he was sitting on. “Now, shove over so we can give you cuddles, you fucker.” Mingyu had tackled him and left Yugyeom yelling and laughing at once. Which was a nice change from his usual heavy, stoic silence.

Jeongguk had been the one to go with Yugyeom to get the restraining order. Yugyeom hadn't held his hand since they were freshmen, but he'd done it as he was talking to the cops that day. And that night, Yugyeom had gone to bed early. Jeongguk had been certain that he hadn't eaten.

A few days after everything had gone to shit, Jeongguk and Mingyu had gone to Yugyeom’s ex’s apartment to collect what was left of Yugyeom’s things. The bastard hadn't even spoken to them, just opened the door and dramatically held onto his still-swollen nose when he saw Mingyu. Mingyu had glared viciously, as if begging the man to do something, while Jeongguk gathered what Yugyeom had asked for.

When they'd packed everything into Minghao’s car, Jeongguk had told the man, “Stay away from him. Just do yourselves both the favor and stay away from him.”

The man had sneered nastily and slammed the door in their faces.

Yugyeom hadn't eaten much that day either.

With the lack of money from their performances to tide them over, Mingyu had taken a job with Minghao and Jeongguk had gone to work at Taehyung's shop. It wasn't nearly as fun for him as performing but he needed to pay the bills some way and he couldn't get by on his savings for long.

What this meant was that his time was now split between the shop and Yugyeom, leaving little left for him to go to Jimin's club. He wouldn't have been able to afford the dances anymore anyway.

Not that Jimin was charging him anymore, but Jeongguk still loved to compensate a job well done.

Jimin had become an almost permanent fixture in his life, as constant as Taehyung and his band. He was almost always at the shop if he wasn't working. And they rarely slept apart at this point. Either Jimin was crashing at his house, wearing his clothes (because he knew that Jeongguk liked when he did) or he was telling Jeongguk to walk him home from work, which inevitably led to Jeongguk staying.

Jeongguk was sitting in the loft with Yugyeom, listening to him pluck on his bass. Yugyeom hadn't done a lot of talking since that day. The gash at the back of his head had healed much better than he'd expected it would, but he was still vacant sometimes.

“You know something?” he said into the loft. Jeongguk looked up from where he'd been texting Jimin. “I'm fucking angry,” Yugyeom went on. He was staring out the window into the backyard. Jeongguk straightened where he was sitting on the couch.

“I don't blame you,” Jeongguk said slowly, putting the phone on his lap and looking at his friend. “I would be too.”

“He promised he would never do that, Gguk,” Yugyeom said softly, looking down at his bass. His eyes went glassy but Jeongguk didn't say anything about it. “He promised he would never hit me.”

“He shouldn't have had to promise something so basic,” Jeongguk said.

“He shouldn't have,” Yugyeom agreed. “But I made him. Cuz I didn't want to go through this shit again.” Yugyeom pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. “This is the second time. I don't…I don't understand.”

Jeongguk sighed. “Gyeommie, don't. You didn't deserve that. Either time.”

“That's not true. Not this time, Ggukie,” Yugyeom said softly, looking down at his bass again and cradling it in his hands. “The first time, sure. But this time? You told me. The Mings told me. But I stayed with him.”

“That doesn't mean you deserved this, Yugyeom,” Jeongguk said firmly. “It doesn't. And I'm not going to sit here and let you believe that you did. He shouldn't have put his hands on you. Period. This is on him.”

Yugyeom shook his head and wiped angrily at his eyes. “I feel so fucking stupid,” he choked out behind a bitter laugh.

Jeongguk felt his heart break a little. “You're not stupid for believing someone when they say they love you,” he said softly.

Yugyeom’s body shook but he just held onto his bass and ignored it. “I fucking hate him,” he hissed. “I fucking hate him so much.”

“We all do,” Jeongguk heard and saw Mingyu and Minghao coming up the stairs into the loft. Yugyeom looked up at them. “Fuck that guy. If he ever even thinks about breathing in your direction again, we'll beat his skull into the ground.”

Yugyeom gave them a small puff of laughter. Just a little. “Thanks, Gyu.” He looked between them. “All of you. Thank you.”

Mingyu huffed. “You don't have to thank us for this, Gyeommie,” he deadpanned. “We love you, you asshole. And you'd better eat all this chicken too,” he said, holding up a plastic bag. “We're all very poor right now but we got you chicken anyways. Give us your soul in gratitude.”

Yugyeom actually laughed now. “You want me to give you my soul for some damn chicken?”

“It's very good chicken, Yugyeom,” Mingyu said sternly.

Yugyeom snorted and leaned back onto the couch. The tension eased a little as he laughed. “Fine. Soul chicken it is.” Minghao put the bag on the floor in front of the couch and Yugyeom plucked a few notes on his bass. “Can we play? I just…I want to go back to normal. Before he ruined everything.”

“Fuck yes we can fucking play,” Mingyu cheered. “It's been way too fucking quiet in this house.”

The loft got louder as they ate, Mingyu and Minghao bickering as per usual and Jeongguk laughing at their antics. Yugyeom talked sometimes and smiled sometimes. It was more than they'd gotten in weeks. It was much closer to normal.

Later, Yugyeom went with Jeongguk to the tattoo parlor. Yugyeom wasn't talking much and he looked kind of tired but there was a blaze of determination in his eyes as he stepped into the shop.

Taehyung was talking to Namjoon when they walked in. Namjoon was watching him gesture wildly in mild fascination. “Okay, but Charizards should have been a dragon type,” Taehyung went on. “Literally look at them. They look way more dragon-y than a damn Dratini.”

“Dratini isn't even its final form, Tae, that's literally not fair,” Namjoon disagreed. “Dragonite looks…mildly dragon-y.”

Taehyung rolled his eyes and made to speak again then caught sight of Yugyeom and Jeongguk walking into the shop. “No, please,” Jeongguk said drily, flopping onto one of the couches. “Don't let us interrupt your thesis on Charizard.”

Taehyung flicked him off and wrapped his arms around Yugyeom. “Gyeommie is my new best friend because Ggukie is being a bitch,” he informed the room at large. Namjoon grabbed a magazine and promptly went back to ignoring the world, a smile on his lips. “So, what's up?” he said to Yugyeom. “You haven't been to my shop in ages.”

The shop door opened again and Jimin walked in, shoving his hair back with his sunglasses and looking at the people in the shop. “Yugyeom,” he said in surprise. “Long time no see.”

Yugyeom gave him a small bow and a smile. “Hey, Jimin.” Taehyung gestured that Yugyeom should come to the back and they walked to his room.

Jimin sat next to Jeongguk and laced their fingers together, leaving his work bag on the floor by the couch. Jeongguk felt himself smile and he rested his head on Jimin's shoulder.

“How's he doing?” Jimin asked softly.

“Better,” Jeongguk said. “Better than he was.”

“I'm glad. You look better when you're not worried so much,” Jimin decided.

Jeongguk snickered. “I must have been a wreck then. Have no clue how you keep waking up to my tragedy of a face.”

Jimin laughed. “It isn't a total tragedy,” he amended, kissing him once. “Just partially.”

“Can you two get out? It smells dangerously gay in here,” Namjoon said flatly, still not looking at them. He adjusted his boots on the counter, crossing his ankles again. “Go get me lunch before your shift, you bum.”

Jeongguk crinkled his nose and snorted. “Fine. C’mon, Jimin.”

They cleared out and wandered the streets for a little, heading for the small noodle shop a couple blocks over. It was getting colder as winter finally made an appearance but Jeongguk felt warm enough. Jimin was bundled in a giant hoodie again. Those seemed to be his favorites. It took Jeongguk a minute to realize that the hoodie was his. He smiled as they finally got to the shop.

Jeongguk scanned the menu, looking for Namjoon’s favorite then ordered and went to one of the small tables to wait. Jimin was looking out of the shop’s window at nothing in particular, his chin resting in the cup of his palm. Jeongguk watched him for a moment.

Jimin had been in his life for a total of two months at this point. They shared beds and, apparently, clothes, and Jimin had been there when everything had gone to shit with Yugyeom. He'd been soothing on those days when Jeongguk just felt powerless and calming on those days when Jeongguk was angry, ready to go beat the ex’s teeth in. And he'd been bolstering on the days when Jeongguk was worried for the future of the band, worried that they would never play again.

Jimin had been through this whole ordeal with him and taken it all in stride, as if he felt like he should just be here even when they both knew he had no obligation to be. Jeongguk had no claim on him and Jimin hadn't exactly given him a sign that he had a right to try and stake one either, despite Jeongguk wanting to.

He wanted to know where they stood, what they were. Jeongguk loved things as they were now, kinda syrupy slow and sweet but without obligation either way. He liked that there wasn't a rush. He wasn't in one anyway.

But, at the very least, he wanted to know how Jimin actually wanted this to play out. It would help him to rein in his heart, if he needed to avoid getting hurt when this ended. If it ended. If Jimin wanted it to.

He needed to know whether or not he was just here for the interim space while Jimin found who he truly wanted to be with.

Jeongguk took his hand across the table and he saw Jimin's cheek lift in a small smile, though he didn't look away from the window as Jeongguk laced their fingers together. “You're staring, honey,” he said softly and Jeongguk smirked.

“Yeah, I am.”

Jimin's smile widened. The server brought Namjoon’s food and they stood to leave, walking out of the shop, still linked by their fingers. When they got back to the tattoo parlor, Namjoon took the bag with a sigh of contentment and kissed Jeongguk on the forehead before he disappeared into his room.

“So, um,” Jeongguk said slowly, taking Namjoon’s place at the front desk. “Are you ever gonna let me take you out?”

Jimin looked at him in mild surprise as he grabbed his bag from the floor and put it over his shoulder. “You mean, like, on a date?” Jeongguk nodded. Jimin walked closer, standing between his legs and looking at him. He studied Jeongguk's face, the way he always did when he was trying to figure out Jeongguk's motives. Then he swallowed and said, “You really wanna do that dinner and a movie shit with me, Jeongguk?” Jeongguk nodded again. Jimin smiled and cupped Jeongguk's cheeks in his palms, kissed him, lingering and slow. “Yeah, okay. You tell me when.” Another sweet kiss. “I gotta go. I'll see you later.”

Then Jimin was waving and walking out of the shop, pulling his sunglasses down over his eyes again. Jeongguk watched him go with a small smile on his face.

“See? Told you. It's an illness,” he heard and looked back. Taehyung was staring at Yugyeom grimly. “Guy's completely gone,” he said and Yugyeom shook his head.

Jeongguk rolled his eyes and looked back toward the window. Then a thought occurred to him. “Where the hell am I supposed to take him?”

“No clue. Just be romantic or something,” Taehyung said, waving him off. “And write Gyeommie into my book for next Saturday.”

Jeongguk grabbed Taehyung's appointment book without looking then registered what had been said. “Wait, you're getting a tattoo?” he asked, looking back at Yugyeom.

Yugyeom gave him a shrug. “Tats are self-care,” he replied.

Jeongguk nodded and wrote in Yugyeom’s appointment. “True.”

Jeongguk made it to Jimin's club just in time for him to get off. Taehyung was his best friend, but he was a taskmaster as an employer. He'd only just let him off after a lot of whining on Jeongguk's part.

Jimin was walking up to the bar in his hoodie, talking to Hoseok. He saw Yoongi wrap his arms around Hoseok’s waist and Jimin and Jin shared a look while Jimin paid him. Jeongguk walked to the bar and Jimin finally caught sight of him. His expression softened slightly and he smiled. “About time you got here,” he sniffed when Jeongguk had gotten close enough. “I thought I was gonna have to walk myself home.” Jeongguk grinned and felt Jimin's fingers wind around his. He was led up the stairs and out of the club after Hoseok and Yoongi. Jimin talked to Yoongi for a minute while Hoseok tried his damndest to grab Yoongi's ass. When Yoongi let out a very high-pitched yelp and looked back at Hoseok in shock, Jimin snorted and led Jeongguk away, the sound of Hoseok cackling at their backs.

Jimin had a contented smile on his lips as they walked. The night was cold but Jimin still didn't seem to be in any rush. He didn't even ask if Jeongguk was staying tonight, just opened his door and pulled him inside.

Jeongguk knew his routine at this point, just waited for him in his bedroom while he showered off the night. When Jimin walked out of the bathroom, his hair damp and his eyes drooping, Jeongguk had already lain beneath the blankets and was watching one of Jimin's black and white movies.

Jimin curled up on his chest and exhaled. “So, when are you wining and dining me?” he asked lowly, his hand smoothing over Jeongguk's stomach. “It can't be during the weekends. Those are my best days.”

Jeongguk hummed and pulled him closer. “I can work with that. What do you wanna do?”

Jimin's eyes flicked up to his and he bit his lip. “Mm. Surprise me.” He quirked a brow at him. “Do you put out on the first date?”

Jeongguk snickered. “Maybe for you,” he decided. Jimin smiled into his kiss.

For the first time in almost three weeks, the loft was filled with music again. Yugyeom had gotten his new tattoo and seemed to come to peace with everything. “When the tat heals, I will too,” he answered when Jeongguk had asked him about it.

Yugyeom was currently writing lyrics down on a notepad, the cap of the pen between his teeth as Minghao fucked around with his drums and Mingyu tried to weave around the melody Yugyeom had given them. “Let's go again,” Yugyeom said, his tone focused as he put the pen down on the pad. The bass started again and Minghao waited a beat before joining him.

Not only was Yugyeom playing, he was writing again. Jeongguk hadn't seen Yugyeom write a song for them since before his last breakup. That task had fallen mostly to Jeongguk and Minghao. Even Mingyu had tried his hand at it, but he was more the type to create on the fly and randomly shit out masterpieces every now and then.

He let Yugyeom direct his guitar, feeling his world clicking back into place. One of his best friends was back and his band was playing again. He thought tentatively about booking another few gigs for them so that he and Mingyu could quit their new jobs, but he would have to talk to Yugyeom about it first. The Mings were already raring to go; they'd been itching for another performance since their last one.

They all loved to perform. It was the best high they could get while completely sober. Plus, it paid way better than being a glorified gopher at a tattoo parlor, even if said tattoo parlor was run by Taehyung.

Besides, he liked to look down at Jimin from the stage. The first time, Jimin had looked entirely shocked, like he'd never seen Jeongguk before that moment. And maybe he hadn't, not really. Being on stage gave Jeongguk a different kind of rush and maybe it had been just as apparent to Jimin as it was to him.

“Ugh, it needs something,” Yugyeom complained and Jeongguk paid attention as Yugyeom tried to explain. By the time practice was over, Yugyeom was sufficiently more satisfied with the song. He held his bass across his lap and rubbed his stomach. “I'm starving. Feed me.”

“Feed yourself,” Minghao scoffed.

Jeongguk just sat back and watched as they bickered, a small smile on his face. This was normal. The house was loud again and it was so much better than it feeling like a tomb. “I gotta go,” he told the room at large, earning their attention as he stood to go.

“Are you dumping us for your boyfriend, Jeon?” Mingyu squawked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

Jeongguk nodded without hesitation. “Absolutely. That's exactly what I'm doing.”

Mingyu looked comically betrayed and Yugyeom snorted. Jeongguk let his friends' laughter follow him out of the house, letting the normalcy warm him as he made his way to Jimin's.

He didn't understand why he was nervous right now. He and Jimin spent a lot of their time together. And they'd eaten together before multiple times; it kinda came with the territory when they were constantly at each other's houses.

But there was something that felt ‘official’ about going on a date, like he was gonna fuck up or somehow change the tenuous framework that their relationship operated within. Taking Jimin out was different than hanging out at his house. It was him saying to the world that Jimin was someone important enough to be seen out of doors with him. In a country that still really hated people like him and his friends, it was a statement. Or pure defiance.

Moreover, it was him showing Jimin just how much Jeongguk valued him.

Maybe it would be a good way to give this…whatever it was he had with Jimin a name. Some validity. Some weight.

Either that or Jeongguk was just overthinking because of nerves. Probably.

He knocked on Jimin's door, shifting his weight from foot to foot to get the cold out of his limbs and work out some of the nervous energy. It took a moment, but the door opened and Jimin looked at him curiously, adjusting his bathrobe on his frame. “You're early,” he said mildly.

“Sorry,” Jeongguk puffed, inexplicably winded. Maybe he'd walked too fast on his way over here.

Jimin leaned against the door. “Eager to see me?” he asked, smirking.


Jimin chuckled and moved aside. “You may as well come in. I have to get dressed.” Jeongguk nodded and walked robotically into the house. He stood awkwardly at the top of the landing, not sure what he should be doing. His hands felt useless and his throat was a little dry. Jimin, as always, made it easy. He pulled Jeongguk into his room. There was music playing in his bathroom and the closet had been ripped open, some of its contents scattered over Jimin's bed. He shoved some of his clothes to the other side of the bed, clearing off a space for Jeongguk, then went back to his bathroom, singing quietly under his breath.

Jeongguk took in the state of the room. Jimin was normally a bit messy but it looked like a tornado had come through the place. There were clothes and shoes everywhere. His normally organized closet looked like it had been gutted and Jeongguk was 99% sure that the clothes on his bed represented at least half of what the giant closet normally held. Even in his chaos, there was normally a sense of order in Jimin's room. There was none now.


Maybe Jeongguk wasn't the only one who was nervous, then.

Jimin walked out of the bathroom and looked consideringly first at Jeongguk, then down at the mountain of clothes on his bed. He clicked his tongue and grabbed the first pair of jeans his hands touched then walked back to his bathroom, his robe falling loose and open. Jeongguk's face felt hot and he looked down at his phone, just for something to do with his hands.

When Jimin walked out of the bathroom the next time, he flicked off the bathroom light and brought his phone with him, still singing along to the music that was playing from it.

Jeongguk's mouth went very dry.

Jimin wasn't wearing a shirt and the jeans he had on were so tight they may as well have not been there at all. The belly button ring dangled just over his zipper and Jeongguk caught sight of the tattoo on his back as he turned his attention to his closet, hanging up his clothes again.

For the first time, Jeongguk was close enough to read it. The text along his spine read, Broken wings can fly again.

He swallowed.

“I can feel you staring, Ggukie,” Jimin pointed out, hanging up his clothes again. He poked his head out of his closet.

“I just…really like that tattoo,” Jeongguk said faintly.

Jimin examined his face, then relaxed. “Thank you,” he said softly.

Jimin replaced everything in his closet quickly, methodically, as if he constantly tore up his closet and had to put everything away. When Jeongguk looked up again, the room was back to its normal state of chaos and Jimin had pulled on a shirt. He looked perfect as always and Jeongguk had to remind himself that they were supposed to be going out tonight, that he shouldn't be wrapping his arms around Jimin's waist and pulling him into a kiss right now, that they had things to do, conversations to have. Jimin didn't resist him, just wrapped his arms lightly around Jeongguk's neck and smiled into the kiss.

Jeongguk could honestly do this all day, just this, just holding onto the gorgeous man in his arms and pretending like the world spun purely for Jimin alone.

But his stomach growled and Jimin pulled away, snickering. “We should probably go,” he said softly, his eyes dancing. “Because if we don't leave this room, we won't leave this room.” Jeongguk wasn't sure if Jimin meant for his voice to be as throaty as it was but the heavy implication had his stomach tightening. Jeongguk nodded and kissed him again, then pulled away.

Jimin hummed lightly under his breath in the cab on their way to the restaurant. He stared out of the window, his fingers laced with Jeongguk's on his lap. His thumb moved in small circles against Jeongguk's skin, an unconscious movement. When he caught Jeongguk staring at him, he smiled and turned back to the window, his cheek still lifted.

The hostess at the restaurant gave them a bright customer service smile when they walked in, then took in their hands, laced together, and did a double take. Her smile went a bit plastic, but she didn't react beyond bringing them to their table and handing them their menus.

Jimin didn't respond to it whatsoever, just looked over the menu and smirked. “You brought me to a sushi place,” he noted and Jeongguk smiled a little sheepishly. “You're sweet to me.” He looked down at the menu, still smiling.

Jeongguk was probably falling a little bit in love with that smile.

The rest of dinner passed without incident and Jimin reclaimed his hand once they left the restaurant. Jeongguk hadn't had much of an actual plan for what they'd do after dinner. Going to a movie seemed too cliché and they watched movies together all the time anyway. But Jimin didn't seem to mind walking. He talked a little about one of the cases he'd done at his old job and how outdone he used to be by people trying to take advantage of the law.

They were heading towards the river when Jimin stopped talking. Jimin was normally quiet when they walked so this didn't strike Jeongguk as odd. They kept walking, slow, and the silence started to feel heavier. Jimin's hand tightened in his and he stopped. “We're going to the river?” he asked quietly.

Jeongguk nodded. It seemed like a good enough place for them to hang out until it was time for them to go home. Jimin visibly swallowed and looked away, gnawing on his bottom lip. “Are you okay?” Jeongguk asked.

Jimin looked up at him again. “I don't want to go to the river,” he said quickly, his voice low. He looked a little like he wanted to run off.

Jeongguk blinked. “We…we don't have to. Um…we can do something else.”

Jimin looked at him gratefully, his eyes shining a little. “Please.” They crossed the street at the corner and started back the way they'd come. Jimin's hands were shaking and Jeongguk couldn't tell if it was just from the cold or from whatever it was that had Jimin so spooked. “I want to swing,” Jimin decided at last.

Jeongguk felt a little less duck-footed as they got into the cab and headed for Jimin's field and his creaky swing set. Jimin held his hand in the car still but his back was ramrod straight and he was still chewing on his lip. Jeongguk wasn't sure why Jimin looked so stressed but he felt terrible. The silence felt like an indictment this time, condemning him as guilty. Maybe he should have just stuck to spending time at Jimin's house, instead of trying to take things further. This was an unmitigated disaster.

Still, Jimin held onto his hand, his thumbs still moving against Jeongguk's skin.

Jimin had brought him to the small field a few times since Jeongguk had gone alone. Sometimes he talked and let Jeongguk listen. Sometimes he just sat on the swings, pumping his legs, looking like he was going to take flight and never touch the ground again. Either way, every time, Jeongguk was in awe of him.

And, despite him feeling a little guilty, he was still in awe of Jimin now as Jimin sat on his swing and pumped his legs lightly. He didn't try to swing higher. So it was a talking day. Jeongguk waited.

“The river…scares me,” Jimin said slowly, looking down at his lap then releasing a heavy sigh and looking at Jeongguk. “You couldn't have known so I don't blame you. I used to love it.” He gave Jeongguk a small smile and pumped his legs shallowly once more. “The Han River used to be my favorite place in Seoul. I used to go there every single day for lunch and go there after work to avoid going home.”

Jeongguk swallowed and watched Jimin swing for a moment, digesting this. If Jimin had once loved the river that much, something had happened to make it scare him. He wasn't sure that he wanted to ask. He wasn't sure that it was his place to.

Jimin looked at him again. “That changed when I tried to jump into it.”

Jeongguk’s eyes widened. “J…jump?”

Jimin bit his lip and nodded. “I tried to jump off the bridge into the river. It was right before I finally quit my job and broke it off with Dohee.”

Jeongguk's mind flicked back to the first time he'd ever stayed at Jimin's house, hazy words bubbling to the surface now. After I tried to… Jimin had cut himself off, changed the sentence. “You were trying to…”

Jimin nodded. “Yep. I was trying to be done with life. Hoseok is the one who found me and literally talked me off the bridge. I think he was more upset than I was. He told me later he'd been going to meet Yoongi somewhere and he'd seen me getting ready to jump. I don't remember a lot of it. He immediately brought me to his house and I remember waking up and seeing Yoongi and being completely terrified. I screamed so loud that Yoongi got scared.” He laughed lightly and swung his legs beneath him again. His face relaxed into a small smile. “Hoseok saved my life. He brought me to the club and let me dance with him a few times after I told him everything and I fell in love with it.” His smile widened. “It made me so fucking happy to be up there and just be…me. I've always loved dance. I did ballet, contemporary, I even tried my hand at hip-hop.” He chuckled.

Jeongguk's mind was spinning. “You did ballet?” he choked out.

Jimin nodded happily. “When I was a kid. My parents loved to have me in dance classes, so they had recitals to brag about to their friends. But…” his smile faded some, “when I got to college, they told me I couldn't dance anymore. At all. They would only let me go to Seoul for college if I took business classes only. Otherwise I was gonna be stuck in Busan with them. So, I let it go.” He shrugged. “I figured if I couldn't do what I loved, I could at least be away from them. So, I got to Seoul and did the prodigy thing until I made partner at the firm. It was a good profitable life and it was killing me. So, I ended up on the bridge. I haven't been able to go to the river since then. I kept thinking about how far the drop was, how fast the water was moving, how quickly I would have been swept under.” He shuddered. “I didn't want to die. I wanted to live. And the life I had wasn't granting me that.”

There was silence after that. Jeongguk looked down at his wrist, the place where the tattoo would be visible if it weren't covered with leather right now. “And now?”

Jimin looked sidelong at him, gave him a triumphant smile. “Now I live,” he said simply. His eyes flicked to Jeongguk's wrist. “I wanna ask. Who's the semicolon for?” His voice was soft. Jeongguk swallowed.

Thus far, Jeongguk had kept that to himself. But Jimin had given him far more, had opened up much further than Jeongguk had at this point. And Jimin had trusted him with his past. Maybe Jeongguk could trust him too. He knew he could.

“Um…it's for my baby sister,” he said quietly, looking away.

Jimin stopped swinging. “I didn't know you have a sister.”

Jeongguk shook his head. “She didn't have a Hoseok so…I don't. Not anymore.”

Jimin stood and walked over to him. He wrapped his arms around Jeongguk’s waist and held tight. “I shouldn't have asked. I'm sorry.” Jeongguk sighed and hugged him back. “You don't have to tell me if you don't want to.”

“I want to,” Jeongguk answered, finding the words to be true. Jimin pulled away, worry etched into his features. Jeongguk kissed his forehead. “Besides, it was my parents that ultimately killed her.”

Jimin frowned in confusion. Jeongguk pulled away and took Jimin's place on the swing. He saw Jimin smile gently at this but kept his eyes forward as he spoke.

“My sister was assigned as a boy when she was born. And my parents loved it, having two sons and blah blah. But…she wasn't a boy. Not really. Just assigned that way, y’know?” He smiled, thinking. “She was such a funny kid. Always giving me shit. We were both gay, but she was kind of alone in being trans. I had to learn about it to even begin to be a good brother to her. But she never told my parents while she was still alive. She couldn't have. They would have rejected her outright and immediately cut her off. They'd already given us hell for being gay. Her being trans would have shot them over the deep end.”

Jeongguk swallowed. “I blamed myself for it for a long time,” he said softly. “Because she didn't end it until I went away to college. She begged me not to go, to just wait two more years and she could come with me. I protected her while I was there but once I got into school, I had no choice but to leave.” He scrubbed his face with his hands, the cold of the night finally touching him. “My parents found out about her makeup and everything and trashed all of it. They made her get a fucking buzzcut. And told her that if they ever saw her doing that shit again, they'd beat her.”

“That's fucking terrible.” Jimin's voice brought him back a little, out of the haze of memory.

“I tried to protect her from Seoul. I did. I tried to get my parents to lay off. I told them to just send her to me – I would take care of her myself.” He shook his head and felt his shoulders fall. “I was too late with that offer, it turns out,” he whispered.

“Jeongguk…you couldn't have known,” Jimin said softly.

“I went to her funeral and, even though she'd come out to them in her letter, they still said they'd lost a beautiful son and brother.” Jeongguk scoffed bitterly. “I told them that unless they changed those stupid fucking programs and used her correct name, I would never speak to them again. They obviously thought I was bluffing.”

“How long has it been since you talked to them?”

“It'll be three years next week. She ended it on her birthday,” Jeongguk answered. He sighed again. “She would have been turning 20 this year.”

Jimin took his hand and pulled him to his feet, wrapping his arms tight around him again. “I'm so sorry,” he said softly.

Jeongguk shook his head but he wasn't sure why he did. He just didn't want apologies. Not from anyone but the people responsible. And his parents would never give him that. Jimin looked up at him and Jeongguk kissed him, needed something. Needed to be closer. “She would have teased me about you constantly,” Jeongguk said, a small smile on his lips.

Jimin bit his lip. “What kind of flower is it?” he asked.

“Sunflower,” Jeongguk answered automatically. “They were her favorite.”

Jimin nodded, looking down at his wrist. “Thank you for telling me about her.” Jeongguk ducked his head, feeling exposed. He rested his hands on Jimin's waist, pulling him closer, and lay his head on Jimin's shoulder. Jimin let him stay like this for a moment then pulled away. “Come on. Let's go back to my place.”

Jeongguk agreed to this, let himself be led. This time, the silence was less strained and more normal. Jeongguk still felt uncomfortably exposed and he kept looking at Jimin, looking for something. Like he was waiting on Jimin to reject everything and tell Jeongguk to never speak to him again.

But Jimin didn't look like he was thinking that whatsoever. His expression was thoughtful and his fingers were tight in Jeongguk's. When they got to his house, Jimin didn't release him, just led him to the living room and sat him on the couch then disappeared down the hallway.

Jeongguk's fingers were freezing so he didn't strip off his jacket immediately, just let the heat finally melt the chill from the tip of his nose. The house started to smell sweet and Jeongguk heard Jimin humming quietly in the kitchen. He finally pulled off his jacket and got more comfortable on the couch. When Jimin appeared again, he had two mugs in his hands, handed one of them to Jeongguk. Jeongguk recognized the sweet smell.

“You've had hot chocolate this whole time and never made me any?” he said accusatorily.

Jimin smiled beatifically at him, sitting beside him on the couch. “It's only for special occasions.”

“And what's the occasion?”

Jimin took a slow sip from his mug. “One of the best first dates ever,” he said softly. Jeongguk felt his throat go dry. He'd almost forgotten that this was supposed to be a date. Things had gotten so unexpectedly personal that he'd forgotten that they weren't just hanging out for the sake of hanging out. “You can take me on another one whenever you'd like.” He gave Jeongguk a slow smile. Jeongguk smiled back.

That night, Jimin curled up beside him in bed, resting in the hollow of his throat, his fingers moving slow and soft over Jeongguk's arm. He pressed his lips against the skin of Jeongguk's shoulder, moving closer. There was no urgency to his touch, just a hesitant kind of haze around the way he moved, as if he was sleepwalking.

Jeongguk let his arm rest across Jimin's waist, where it fit best, let his fingers travel the length of his spine. Jimin made a contented sound and kissed his jaw. Jeongguk let his lips touch Jimin's hair, his temple. “I'm glad you didn't jump,” he said after an eternity of this.

“Me too,” Jimin said softly. The room blanketed itself in silence once more, save the whisper of fingers against skin, soft kisses over eyelids, cheekbones. Jimin's fingers curled into his hair and Jeongguk felt his eyes slide shut. Jimin was lightly scratching his scalp, as if he was petting a dog, but it made something in Jeongguk's spine melt. He relaxed entirely into the bed, his lips finding Jimin's forehead.

Jeongguk couldn't tell how long they lay in bed like this, with the small touches that led to nothing keeping them both from fully falling into sleep. The night dragged on, the house warm. Jeongguk didn't feel so exposed anymore, which, he suspected, was what Jimin had hoped for in the first place. He'd given Jeongguk the ability to decompress from the heaviness of it all. He didn't like talking about his sister much because most people just didn't understand. And it was better for him to avoid the fights.

But Jimin hadn't been that way. He'd just been…Jimin. The same Jimin he'd been the whole time Jeongguk had known him. Jimin pulled slightly away, finally looking up at him. His eyes were heavy with sleep. “I'm glad I met you,” he murmured.

Jeongguk pulled him closer again, kissing his forehead, his cheeks, his jaw, his lips. Jimin's fingers threaded into his hair again, soft, and Jeongguk relaxed further against him. The only place that existed now was the space between Jimin's arms, his hands still tracing gentle over Jeongguk's skin.

It wasn't often that Jeongguk felt like he needed to be taken care of. He'd been taking care of himself since he'd left for college. He'd gotten used to doing so. He had the support of his friends and his own gumption that kept him functioning. So, it didn't happen often that he felt like he needed to just be. But…Jimin was giving him that now, without even knowing it.

Jimin's hands were warm against his skin, his lips soft as they moved against Jeongguk's. His body felt liquid, flowing beneath Jimin's fingers, rippling beneath his kiss. Jimin's hand cupped his cheek, the warmth radiating into his skin. His fingers tightened against Jimin's waist and Jimin made a soft sound in the back of his throat. His hands smoothed down Jeongguk's chest, his fingers tangling in the fabric of Jeongguk's shirt.

Jimin pulled away and looked at him again. His eyes roved over Jeongguk's face, not like he was studying it the way they normally did. He was looking at Jeongguk the way he looked at Hoseok sometimes, the way he looked at Yoongi, the way he looked at Taehyung. He was looking at Jeongguk as though he was impossibly precious and Jeongguk felt like he couldn't breathe. Then Jimin kissed him again and he really couldn't breathe.

He'd thought before that Jimin was like the tides, moving in slowly but inevitably until he covered Jeongguk entirely, taking him under. And he'd been right. He felt like he'd been taken under, swallowed whole, and he let go, let himself fall into Jimin.

Jimin rolled him onto his back and climbed on top of him. Jeongguk let himself be moved, frowning slightly because Jimin wasn't as close anymore. He opened his mouth to protest but Jimin shook his head, cupping Jeongguk's face between his hands. “Hush, honey,” he murmured. Jeongguk relaxed again, waiting. “Sit up for me.” He did as Jimin bade him and was rewarded with Jimin's lips on his again, lingering and slow. He didn't realize Jimin had pulled his shirt off until they had to break the kiss to get it over his head. He blinked, looking up at Jimin as he was pushed back into the mattress.

The sheets felt cool on his skin but Jimin was touching him so he couldn't fully focus on it. Jimin's hands smoothed along the planes of his chest, over his shoulders, his thumbs dipping into the hollow of his collarbones. There was no rush to his hands, no urgency. They were barely there, soft and hovering, outlining his body. Jeongguk's eyes slid shut. He felt Jimin's lips against his and his heart sped. Jimin moved, kissing down his jaw, over his collarbones, his shoulders. Jeongguk swallowed, his heart still pounding.

Time didn't exist here so Jeongguk couldn't be sure how many times Jimin's lips brushed his skin, how many circuits his mouth had traced across his body. There was no urgency to his movements, no hurry. Jeongguk felt as if his whole being was now just a part of the mattress. He couldn't move, didn't want to, just wanted more of this. More of Jimin's hands smoothing over his skin, more of this unhurried haze they occupied.

Jimin kissed him again and something in Jeongguk let go entirely, a small thread of desperation pulsing down his spine now. Jimin seemed to feel it too, his lips taking on a more urgent cadence against Jeongguk's. Jeongguk found his hands again, smoothed them up Jimin's back, holding him closer, and the kiss deepened.

Where there had been only warmth for an eternity, there was now a slow flame burning beneath Jeongguk's skin. He couldn't get close enough. His heart was racing, trying to beat through his chest. Jimin's tongue flicked across his bottom lip and he opened for him, tasting him.

Jimin's fingers threaded into his hair, holding him steady as Jeongguk was hopelessly lost. Jimin pulled away and Jeongguk was dazed. “Can I touch you?” Jimin asked, his voice soft.

Jeongguk's heart jolted and he nodded. “Please,” he whispered.

This time, when Jimin's lips traveled over his skin, there was urgency in his rhythm. He left open-mouthed kisses over his chest, nipped at his collarbones, marked his throat. And his hands roamed, venturing further and further down until he had handfuls of Jeongguk's thighs.

Jeongguk's eyes were shut again and he couldn't tell where Jimin was. He was trying to focus on his breathing, being that he'd lost it somewhere between Jimin kissing him and now. When his pants were peeled from his body, he just let it happen, his skin erupting into goosebumps as Jimin's hands moved down his legs. He heard the fabric hit the floor, then Jimin was kissing him again, grounding him. He heard more fabric rustling and opened his eyes. Jimin had thrown his shirt to the floor.

He was staring at Jeongguk, his bottom lip between his teeth. “Jimin…” Jeongguk said softly and Jimin's eyes went warm.

He cupped Jeongguk's face in his hands again, shushing him. Jeongguk watched Jimin move down his body, watched as lips moved over his thighs, his stomach, his waist.

Jeongguk’s breath stuttered and he moaned, his fingers clenching in the bedsheets. When Jimin's lips met his again, it was in a desperate clash. His fingers were tight in Jeongguk's hair, his mouth open and hot, his rhythm dizzying. Jeongguk held him closer, matching his desperation. “Wanna fuck you,” he heard Jimin whisper and Jeongguk's stomach clenched as he nodded.

When Jimin moved this time, Jeongguk made a whining noise that would have embarrassed him had he the presence of mind to care, but, as it was, he was far more worried about where the hell Jimin had gone. He heard a bit of rustling and the haze in his mind melted just long enough for him to realize that Jimin was rummaging through his nightstand. He relaxed when he felt Jimin cover him again.

He felt Jimin's hands pressing his thighs open and relaxed into the sheets. Jimin was kissing his thighs, making his pulse jump as his body trembled. He heard a small cap open then close and willed himself to relax. He felt Jimin's lube-slick fingers at his entrance and bit his lip against a soft moan, trying to steady his breathing, as Jimin pressed into him.

Jeongguk's body tensed – it had been a while since he'd let someone fuck him – and Jimin soothed him, smoothing his hand across Jeongguk's thigh. “Just relax for me, honey,” he said softly, pressing a kiss to the inside of his knee. Jeongguk tried, slowing his breathing and willing his body to go back to being putty.

Then he felt Jimin's mouth on his dick and he moaned. “Jimin…fuck…” His body melted, jolting as his dick hit the back of Jimin's throat. He felt Jimin's finger press deeper into him, but the breach didn't feel as uncomfortable now. He let his eyes open, looked down and saw Jimin staring at him, his dark eyes shining the way they did when he was on stage, making Jeongguk feel like prey. He whimpered and bit his lip again, his heart racing.

The slow heat that had been building beneath Jeongguk's skin seemed to engulf him now, his whole body feeling too sensitive.

Jimin pressed another finger into him and swallowed around him at once, leaving Jeongguk's head spinning. For the millionth time, he let go, giving into him, giving into Jimin.

Jimin's fingers crooked up, hitting his center, and he arched off the bed as stars blazed behind his eyelids. “Ah…oh, god, Jimin…” Jimin made a small sound of satisfaction that vibrated in his throat and made Jeongguk hiss and clench his hands in the sheets again. Jimin held onto his hips, stopping him bucking them up, and swallowed around him again as his fingers fucked into him. He could feel heat pooling in his stomach, pressure tightening. “Jimin, please, need you…baby, please…” he babbled, hands floundering uselessly.

“Yeah,” Jimin said quietly, pulling away from him and grabbing the condom he'd pulled from the nightstand. He kicked off his shorts – Jeongguk had truly forgotten that he was still wearing them – and rolled it down over him. Then he was pushing Jeongguk's legs higher, leaving him exposed and open. Jeongguk's head felt hot and Jimin looked at him, licking his lips.

Then he was pressing into him and Jeongguk couldn't focus anymore, could barely breathe. He felt Jimin's soft hands smoothing over his skin, meeting the junction between his waist and his thighs and pulling him down, pressing into Jeongguk fully. Jeongguk's back arched off the bed again and he moaned, long and low and broken. Jimin wasn't moving yet, was trying to give him time to adjust, but Jeongguk was too impatient. “Jimin…you…baby, move,” he choked out.

Jimin held onto his waist and moved.

Jeongguk felt goosebumps on his skin, his body feeling electric in the places Jimin touched him. Distantly, he heard Jimin moan his name, felt Jimin's fingers clench on his thighs, his hands tightening on Jeongguk's waist.

Jeongguk looked at him, raising himself on his elbows so he could see. Jimin's hips moved the way they did when he was dancing, slow and torturously smooth. His belly button ring caught the moonlight and had Jeongguk focused on the roll of his stomach. Heat washed over him in a wave and he fell onto his back again, his mind hazy and focused only on the man inside him.

Jimin was unfairly gorgeous, Jeongguk had always known that. But there was something about him being the sole cause of the pleasure etched across Jimin's features that had him floating. He looked fucking ethereal, eternal, unbelievably beautiful. Jimin leaned over him, draping his body over Jeongguk's, and kissed him. The change in angle was hitting him perfectly and Jeongguk trembled, the heat in his gut tightening further. He clung desperately to Jimin's shoulders, whimpering as Jimin rocked into him, steady and maddening. Jeongguk wasn't going to last long with Jimin this close, this deep, this precise. He wasn't. He whined low in his throat and Jimin kissed him again, his hand smoothing up to Jeongguk's nipple ring and sending lightning down Jeongguk's spine.

“Jimin…baby, I'm…fuck, fuck…” Jimin twisted the piercing sharply in his fingers and Jeongguk cried out, the pressure in his stomach coiling tighter, his dick leaking precum. “So close…Jimin, please.”

Jimin leaned away and watched Jeongguk's face as he pumped into him, one of his hands stroking Jeongguk in time with his thrusts. Jeongguk's body was on fire, he was sure of it. Jimin bit his lip as he fucked into him harder. “Go ahead, Ggukie. Wanna feel you come,” he murmured.

Jeongguk let go, his release making his body shake. He could barely hear Jimin saying, “Fucking gorgeous,” and moaning his name. He felt Jimin's hand smoothing his hair, soothing him, felt Jimin kissing him. He held tight to Jimin's shoulders, his body oversensitive. Jimin wasn't pumping into him anymore, was pressing kisses to his forehead and his cheeks. Jeongguk was searching, looking, and Jimin kissed him again. He felt his body relax as Jimin's lips moved over his.

When Jeongguk finally found his eyes to open them again, Jimin was looking down at him in something like awe. “Holy fuck,” Jeongguk panted. Jimin laughed then, the cute squeaky sound that Jeongguk loved, and pulled out, making both of them hiss. He still looked painfully hard. Jeongguk pulled him closer, kissing him deep and rolling on top of him. Jimin's laughter choked off into a breathy sigh as Jeongguk's lips traveled down his body. Jeongguk pulled off the condom and let his tongue flick over Jimin's swollen head.

Jimin whined and grabbed a fistful of Jeongguk's hair. Jeongguk swallowed Jimin down and felt the hand in his hair tighten then release. Jimin's hips rolled automatically, bucking into his mouth, and Jeongguk moaned, swallowing around him and making Jimin keen. “Ggukie…baby, I'm so…fuck…”

Jeongguk sucked him down faster, his hands holding Jimin's thighs apart so he could get better access. He'd heard Jimin come only once before this, but he seemed to have memorized the sound, because he could hear it building, could feel his body tensing below Jeongguk's mouth. Jeongguk moaned and he felt Jimin's body jolt. “I'm coming, oh god…” Jimin's words were probably meant as a warning, being that Jeongguk was still sucking him, but he ignored them, swallowing Jimin down and feeling his release shoot into his mouth. Jeongguk kept sucking him, milking everything from him, until Jimin weakly said, “Kiss me.”

He swallowed and moved, meeting Jimin's lips with his own in a feverish kiss. The blankets had been stripped from their bodies and, though the house was warm, Jeongguk trembled a little with cold. Jimin moved closer to him, his breath coming in pants and his arms tight around Jeongguk's waist.

When Jimin finally pulled away and tucked his face into the crook of Jeongguk's neck, the room went silent once more. Jeongguk's heart slowed, his breathing returning to a normal rhythm. He felt Jimin's hands smoothing over his arms again, soft and slow, felt Jimin's lips pressing against his shoulder. Jeongguk looked down at him and saw Jimin's eyes flutter open, saw his lips pull into a small smile. Jimin smoothed the pad of his thumb across Jeongguk's cheekbone and Jeongguk kissed him.

When he'd first met Jimin, he'd been sure that he'd done the stupid thing and developed a crush on a man who saw him as nothing more than a customer. But now he was sure he'd done something even more stupid.

And fallen in love with him.

☆ ☆ ☆

Jimin didn't know jack shit about buying flowers. So, the sunflowers he was staring at in the flower shop were making him more than a little nervous. Would it be stupid to ask Jeongguk to keep the things in water during such a time? Would it be better to just leave them at her grave? Or maybe next to her picture with the incense? Or would it be presumptuous to even bring them, considering that Jeongguk's sister was still something very private that he'd only just been granted knowledge of?

“Do you need help at all, son?” asked the kindly old man who worked there. Jimin looked a little helplessly back at him and the wizened old man gave him a knowing smile that showed the most perfect teeth Jimin had ever seen. His lisp revealed them to be dentures. “Getting something for your sweetheart?” he asked, giving Jimin a wink.

Jimin looked back at the sunflowers and shook his hair out of his face.

“Girls like sunflowers,” the old man went on, as if Jimin had answered. “Especially during winter. They bring back summer.”

Jimin hummed, thinking of the flower on Jeongguk's wrist. “I'll take a few of them then,” he decided. The old man gave him that perfectly artificial smile again and started talking about other flowers at lightning speed. Jimin only caught ‘yellow solid aster’ and ‘baby's breath’ before he checked out entirely and just watched the old man work.

He put together a perfect bouquet in record time, still talking about various types of flowers. The old man had obviously found his calling if he was this passionate about flowers when Jimin barely thought about them whatsoever. The man handed him a small bouquet with tiny white and yellow blossoms hidden between the sunflowers. The whole bouquet was pretty and beyond out of season, but it was worth the extra money. As Jimin paid for it, the old man gave him another conspiratorial wink. “Whatever you did to make your lady mad, those will help,” he said with a watery chuckle.

Jimin swallowed the annoyance, just gave the man a small bow and left the shop. Winter had finally decided to show its face so there was no way in hell that Jimin was walking all the way to Jeongguk's apartment from here. He protected the small bouquet from the wind and quickly got into a cab.

As the car pulled up to Jeongguk's apartment, he felt something like nerves crawling beneath his skin. He really wasn't sure that he should have brought these. What if Jeongguk didn't want him there whatsoever on her birthday? Maybe he was crossing a line by even intruding.

He walked up the stairs to Jeongguk's apartment with hesitation in his stride. It took him a moment to even decide to knock and when he had raised his hand to, the door was already open, showing a very tired, very surprised-looking Jeongguk on the other side. He had his coat on and was carrying a small plastic trash bag. “Jimin…”

“I probably should have called first but…I wanted to – actually, I don't know what I wanted to do but I guess I figured–” Jimin rambled, trying to both explain himself and hide the flowers at once. He really shouldn't have come here on a day like today.

Jeongguk took in his face, then his eyes flicked to the obvious bunch of yellow and white in Jimin's hand. “You brought her sunflowers,” he breathed.

Jimin stopped talking, waiting on Jeongguk to go off or slam the door in his face. Jeongguk did neither of those things, however. He put down the trash bag and held his hand out for them. Jimin swallowed and handed them over. Jeongguk took the flowers in one hand and Jimin's wrist in the other and pulled them both inside the apartment. Jimin pushed the door shut behind him and let himself be led further into the house.

On Jeongguk's small desk, there was a framed picture with burning incense in front of it. Jimin stayed behind him, watching him smile softly at the picture then lay the flowers down before it tenderly.

Jeongguk slid his hand from Jimin's wrist to his hand and laced their fingers together, still looking at the picture. The small smile on his lips fell and he swallowed visibly, his eyes growing glassy. He looked away, looked at Jimin. “Thank you for bringing them.” He smoothed the pad of his thumb over Jimin's cheekbone then his lips, then kissed his forehead and held onto him tight. Jimin rested against Jeongguk's shoulder, his arms around Jeongguk's waist. “I'm glad you're here,” Jeongguk said softly.

Jimin relaxed against his body, relief filling him. “I was worried you wouldn't want me here today.”

Jeongguk huffed out a laugh through his nose. “I always want you here, sweetheart.” His arms tightened. “Especially today.”

Jimin swallowed and held him tighter. He was used to Jeongguk saying unfairly sweet things to him but there was something about this time that made Jimin feel more than a little taken over. He felt his heart pounding in his chest. Especially today. Jimin had made the right call then.

When he'd spoken to Taehyung about it, Taehyung had told him that Jeongguk normally made himself scarce on this day, not talking to much of anyone and not answering the door. “He's pretty private about it. It's not really anyone else's grief to share,” Taehyung had told him. “He made an exception for me when we were together though. He might make one for you too.”

Jimin had debated for two days whether or not to even bother to show up. He didn't want to be left standing outside the apartment in the middle of winter just because Jeongguk went into hermit mode. But he didn't want to demand that Jeongguk let him inside when they didn't have nearly the amount of certainty in their relationship that Jeongguk and Taehyung had had at the time. Both options had felt either too aloof and cold or too invasive and presumptuous.

Jeongguk kissed his forehead again and pulled away. “You can stay here. I have to take out the trash.”

Jimin nodded and released him. He watched Jeongguk go, staring at the back of his leather jacket, the grey hood covering his hair. His shoulders were a little less tense than they had been when he'd first opened the door and seen Jimin standing there. The front door closed behind him and Jimin looked back to the small framed picture on Jeongguk's desk. He leaned down to look at it.

He could immediately tell which one was Jeongguk. He looked to be about 14 and had his mouth open in a wide smile that showed large front teeth. One of his eyes was closed in a wink and the other was crinkled by his smile. He had his arm thrown around another, smaller person who definitely looked like his sibling. She looked a little nervous and a little excited at once, her lips pulled into a small smile as she leaned into Jeongguk. She had a small pink bow holding back her bangs and her hair looked to be about as long as Taehyung's was now, curling over her eyebrows and under her chin. She was wearing a thin t-shirt and a pair of swim trunks, standing in front of the ocean with Jeongguk, who was shirtless and scrawny but looked confident enough. The angle of the picture made Jimin think that Jeongguk had been the one to take it, randomly turning a camera onto himself and his sister and snapping a picture of them in front of the ocean.

Jimin swallowed. He recognized the beach they were standing on as one of the ones he and his family had gone to in Busan during the summers there.

“You grew up in Busan?” he said to himself. He and Jeongguk had that in common, it seemed.

He looked over Jeongguk's sister. She had her shoulders up round her ears, a little nervous and uncomfortable like most preteens growing into their bodies. One of her arms was wrapped around her middle, closing off her body, while the other was wrapped tight around Jeongguk.

Even in such an innocuous picture, it could be seen how much Jeongguk adored his sister. And how much she relied on him. Jimin felt his throat tighten. He stared at the picture, his mind far away, listening to the waves on the shore, them speaking to one another in whispers.

He heard the door open again and quickly stood, trying to get a handle on himself. He felt Jeongguk's arms around his waist, pulling him back into Jeongguk's chest, and relaxed into him. “What was her name?” he whispered.

“She'd decided on Jungmi,” Jeongguk answered, his voice small. He pointed towards the picture. “This was a little after she told me that she was trans. I stole one of my classmate’s hair bows and gave it to her. She loved it but she was scared to wear it at home. So, during that vacation, she told me she wanted to go walking down the beach where no one else was around. Then she pulled it out of her trunks and put it on. She…” His arms tightened around Jimin and his breathing stuttered before he recovered. “Um. She'd brought a camera with her and asked me to take the picture for her. So, I did.”

Jimin rested his hands on top of Jeongguk's arms and Jeongguk shrugged. “This is the only picture she ever liked of herself. So, this is my favorite one.”

“She trusted you a lot,” Jimin murmured. Jeongguk’s breath stuttered in his chest again and, for a moment, Jimin thought he would cry. “You’re a good brother, Jeongguk.”

“I miss her,” Jeongguk whispered. “I miss her so much.”

Jimin couldn't think of what to say to this. There was no way he could think to help with this. He still had his younger sibling. He wouldn't know what to do without Jihyun either. He turned in Jeongguk's arms and wrapped his arms around his neck. Jeongguk's arms tightened impossibly around his waist.

They stood there for a long moment, Jeongguk holding tightly to him, and Jimin holding him back just as tightly, willing Jeongguk's body to stop shaking. He pulled away and looked up. Jeongguk's face was very red and he looked like he was going to cry. Jimin pulled him close and Jeongguk's eyes slid shut, resting his forehead against Jimin's. “I really am glad you're here, Jimin,” he said softly.

Jimin relaxed against him. “Me too.”

For the most part, that was the most time they spent vertically. Most of their time was spent on the couch, with Jeongguk's head tucked under Jimin's chin, his arms tight about his waist, same as he had when Yugyeom had gotten hurt. He didn't move except to get closer to Jimin. Sometimes, his body started to shake, his breathing tripping over itself, and he would cling tighter. Sometimes, he would fall asleep, his hold going lax, only for it to tighten again when something woke him. Jimin just let himself be held.

When he'd first met Jeongguk, he would never have imagined that he would be in this situation. Thinking back on it, his distrust of Jeongguk was almost laughable now. Pitiable. Jeongguk was easily one of the sweetest people he'd ever known, someone who loved impossibly, in that deep and forever kind of way that Jimin had only seen manifest in Yoongi and Hoseok. He felt Jeongguk's arms tighten reflexively around him and adjusted so that he was more comfortable. Jimin felt his lips pulling into a small smile and he kissed Jeongguk's hair.

The only people who knew about Jimin trying to jump were Hoseok, Yoongi, and Taehyung. He hadn't even told Jihyun. And he certainly hadn't told his parents. They would only have tried to have him locked away in a psych ward somewhere.

However, he'd been able to tell Jeongguk with relative ease. He hadn't been terrified that Jeongguk would judge him to be unwell or somehow not the same person as he'd always been purely because he had almost given in once. It normally scared him to think that people would immediately assume the worst of him without knowing, especially here. There was so much stigma around it all, admitting to being depressed or even suicidal. People trying to get past the stigma meant a lot of people were cruel about it.


Jeongguk hadn't looked at him any differently. And he even still treated him the same. Jeongguk simply treated Jimin like he was important to him. And…Jimin was finally beginning to believe that he was.

This wasn't just some random flash in the pan for Jimin. Not anymore. He'd made the decision to let go, made the decision to fall. And he had been taken under in a matter of moments, in far too deep without warning. Jeongguk was the first person in ages to actually make Jimin nervous. Jimin didn't typically feel awkward, especially not around people who claimed to like him. But, Jeongguk opening his front door had been enough to make Jimin's brain disappear and his mouth ramble unchecked until he'd finally gotten a handle on them.

If he could truly trust Jeongguk with his past…maybe he could trust him with more than that.

Maybe he could trust Jeongguk to be good to him.

To love him.

Jeongguk stirred again in his sleep, making soft waking up noises that made Jimin smile. He kissed Jeongguk's hair again. Jeongguk yawned wide and smoothed his hand up Jimin's waist. “Have you eaten today?” Jimin asked quietly.

Jeongguk shook his head once. “Not hungry,” he muttered, his voice still heavy with sleep.

“Remember that whole ‘Tae and I will kick your ass if you don't eat’ thing? Yeah, that's still in effect,” Jimin said drily and earned a small chuckle. Jeongguk looked up at him, his eyes still sleepy and low. Jimin ignored the way his heart skipped.

“Well, you're scary as shit when you get mad, so I guess I'd better eat,” Jeongguk acquiesced. He moved, hovering over Jimin's body. Jimin swallowed. Jeongguk was staring at him, a little dazed, a little sleepy, and his expression was warm. When Jimin leaned up, Jeongguk gave him what he wanted, kissed him, chaste and waiting. When he pulled away, he looked a little more awake and he had a soft smile on his lips. He pulled away entirely and stretched, going to his desk to light another stick of incense. His fingers brushed the flowers and Jimin heard him sigh lightly. He looked back at Jimin. “What're we eating?”

Jimin examined him, considering. Then, “Cook for me.”

Jeongguk's eyes went wide. “Me?” He actually pointed at his own chest and Jimin snickered as he nodded. “What do you want me to cook?” he asked slowly.

“Whatever you think you make best,” Jimin said serenely.

Jeongguk looked a little bewildered for a moment then he chuckled. “‘Kay.” He walked to his kitchen and Jimin followed, a smile still resting on his lips.

Jeongguk moved with ease around his kitchen, making Jimin think he did a bit more cooking than he let on. He didn't seem to mind when Jimin came behind him, stealing bits of meat or vegetables, just smiled to himself as he worked around him.

Mostly, though, Jimin just watched, studying him. After Taehyung, he'd dated around a little, not staying with people for longer than a handful of months at the very most. There had been a few people that he'd actually tried the relationship thing with but…ultimately it had led to nothing. Which was why Yoongi was so protective in the first place. There had been more than a few who had tried to shake him like Jeongguk did when they'd first met, more than a few who'd tried for that ‘bashful customer who means well’ act and Jimin had fallen for it. But, he'd long since separated Jeongguk from that pack of assholes.

Jeongguk was his own brand of sincere, his own brand of real.

And, despite Jimin's initial hesitance and the overprotectiveness of his friends, Jeongguk had stayed the same. In the small things. In the way Jeongguk looked at him, in the way he accommodated him, in the way he accepted him wholly. Jimin was used to the facade fading or thinning round the edges after a few weeks. But it was nearly Christmas and Jeongguk had remained exactly the same person he'd been when Jimin had first met him.

Jimin trusted him to remain this way. Just this, him concentrating too hard on a boiling pot or giving Jimin a sleepy smile when he first woke up or watching him in awe while he was at work. Just this.


Jeongguk made a noise of acknowledgment and turned toward him, still looking warily at the pot before facing him. His face relaxed into a small smile as he looked at him. Jimin studied him. He didn't expect a facade to snap, a mask to fall, a flash of something that made him think twice and there was nothing. He saw Jeongguk's ears go a bit red and he rubbed the back of his neck lightly. “Is…is my face weird?”

Jimin smiled. “Not any more so than usual,” he answered and Jeongguk huffed out a laugh through his nose. “I just like looking at you.” He saw Jeongguk swallow and his face went entirely red. Jeongguk looked as though he was going to respond then looked down at the boiling pot and hissed out a curse, pulling it off the stove. “I should keep you,” Jimin said, watching him stir.

Jeongguk froze and his eyes flicked over to Jimin. He looked a little confused and a little hopeful and a little dazed all at once. “You…should keep me?” he repeated slowly.

Jimin nodded. He peered into the kitchen. “Rice is done,” he pointed out and Jeongguk swore again, turning to the rice cooker.

They ate in Jeongguk's bedroom, the anime Jimin had been engrossed in a while ago on the screen. Jeongguk leaned against his shoulder once he'd finished eating and let out a small contented sigh. “Sorry I've just been sleeping all day,” he said through a yawn.

Jimin shook his head and kissed Jeongguk's hair. “Sleep as much as you want.”

Jeongguk hummed and relaxed further against him. “You must have been bored,” he said quietly, his eyes sliding shut. “I know I'm not really good company right now.”

“Yeah, you are,” Jimin disagreed, threading his fingers into Jeongguk's hair and feeling him all but purr in approval. “I'm just glad you wanted me to stay.”

Jeongguk wrapped his arms around Jimin and pulled him closer. “Always want you to stay,” he murmured. He gave another yawn and didn't speak anymore, just held onto Jimin and let sleep slowly claim him. He rested easier than he had earlier, his sleep not being broken up nearly so often. Jimin waited until he felt Jeongguk's hold loosen slightly, his breathing deep, then he extricated himself from Jeongguk's arms. Jeongguk’s nose crinkled lightly in his sleep but he didn't stir. The light of the moon shone over his face, making his lashes look longer than they were.

Jimin walked out of the bedroom, taking their dinner dishes with him to wash. He put away the leftovers on the stove and tried to leave the kitchen a bit cleaner. Then he walked into the living room, adjusting the cushions on the couch so they were shaped less like a Jeongguk-sized lump and more like an actual couch. Finally, he walked to Jeongguk's desk and swept the ashes off the table. He put the flowers in a small cup of water – he was entirely unsurprised that Jeongguk didn't have a vase; who the hell just had vases? – and lit another stick of incense, this time placing it in a holder so that the ashes didn't fall onto the desk like they had been. Satisfied, he turned out the lights in the front of the house and headed back to the bedroom. Jeongguk was in the same position he'd left him in, moonlight still shining on his features.

He crawled back into the bed with him, reaching, and Jeongguk moved, his eyes fluttering open. He blinked sleepily and rubbed one of his eyes. “Jimin?” Jimin kissed his jaw and moved closer, sighing in contentment when he felt Jeongguk's arms wrap around him. Jeongguk made a sleepy humming noise and let out a sigh. Jimin let his own eyes close when he heard Jeongguk's breathing go deep again.

It was early and Jimin wasn't actually tired, but he was comfortable and seemed to always sleep better when Jeongguk was with him. So, he wasn't entirely sure when he got to sleep, but he knew when he woke slightly. Jimin was so attuned to Jeongguk when he slept that he woke up when Jeongguk did. He didn't open his eyes yet, didn't want to. Jeongguk moved a lot in his sleep, so he would settle soon enough and go back to sleep.

He felt Jeongguk's lips on his hair, his fingers smoothing across Jimin's spine lazily, just the way Jimin liked. Sleep pulled him deeper, then Jeongguk spoke, his voice soft enough to barely be heard, so soft that Jimin only heard what was said because he was pressed against Jeongguk's chest.

“I love you, Jimin,” Jeongguk murmured.

Jimin's eyes snapped open but he didn't move. He felt Jeongguk kiss his hair again and hold him tighter. Jeongguk didn't speak again and, eventually, Jimin could tell that he'd gone back to sleep.

But Jimin couldn't sleep. His heart was pounding in his chest, damn near breaking through his ribs, so hard that he was sure Jeongguk could feel it. Jimin had been told that before, of course. Jeongguk wasn't the first one. But, it definitely wasn't what Jimin had anticipated.

Sure, eventually, those words would have come and he would have thought it made sense. But, he and Jeongguk had known each other for less than six months. They weren't even technically together – despite that being a discussion they would have soon if Jimin had his way.

Suddenly, Jimin felt an overwhelming pressure to not fuck this up. Jeongguk hadn't been nearly so hesitant as he had, had been far more trusting, far more open, and far more honest about how he felt about Jimin from the very beginning. Jimin had been the one to slow things down to a snail's pace for the sake of caution. Jeongguk had dived in headfirst with eyes wide open. And Jimin was sure that he wasn't even supposed to have heard Jeongguk say those words in the first place.

Jeongguk loved him. He'd said he loved him.

Maybe what Jimin had given him wasn't enough, didn't match what Jeongguk had given him, was giving him.

Maybe Jimin wasn't doing this whole thing right.

He wanted to be with Jeongguk. Today hadn't been the day to ask that for obvious reasons but it was what he'd decided on regardless. Even so, maybe that wasn't enough. Jeongguk deserved to be loved too. He deserved to be with someone who was as willing to jump in headfirst as he was. He deserved someone who wasn't so suspicious, someone who wasn't so scared, someone who wasn't so…

So much like Jimin.

Jeongguk had seen Jimin dance and given him his heart right away, as if he was eager to be rid of it. And that was weighty. Because he didn't want to be someone who hurt Jeongguk. He cared about him too much.

The next morning, Jeongguk was woken by his phone ringing. As usual, he pulled Jimin closer as he answered, his face pinched and puffy with sleep. “Yeah?” he croaked, his voice deeper than normal from disuse. “Gyeommie did what?” He sounded more awake and sat up, a small smile tugging his lips up. “Are you serious?” Jimin watched his face light up like Christmas. He felt his heart pang. “I'll be there soon. Did I leave my guitar with you?” Jeongguk climbed out of bed and yawned widely. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just bring the damn guitar, asshole,” he laughed. He dropped the phone on the bed and looked at Jimin, who had yet to sit up. “We got another gig. Yugyeom booked it yesterday.” His smile was brilliant and he looked triumphant, even with his hair still sticking up in all directions and his face lined with creases from his pillowcase.

Jimin ached. He smiled slightly. “So, you're gonna play for me again?”

Jeongguk's smile widened. “Anytime you want, baby,” he said.

God, he was so sweet.

Jimin needed to go.

Jeongguk showered quick and gave Jimin a soft kiss on the forehead before he ducked out of the house, leaving Jimin to wash up. Jimin felt lost. He didn't want to be the reason why that smile faded. He didn't want to be the reason why Jeongguk got hurt. And he wasn't sure that he wouldn't be, that he couldn't be. There were so many different ways that he could hurt Jeongguk. He hadn't seen that small disappointed twist to Jeongguk's lips in a while, but he didn't want to ever again.

Jimin liked it far better when Jeongguk smiled.

He thought of the day before, Jeongguk letting him in, in more ways than one. Jeongguk had trusted him with something extremely personal and sensitive. He'd trusted Jimin not to hurt him, not to be cruel about his sister, not to be insensitive and regressive in a world already far too much so. He'd trusted Jimin with his own pain, then turned around and trusted him with his heart.

Jimin stepped out of the shower and grabbed Jeongguk's clothes, as had become his habit when he stayed the night, then felt his heart pang again. He heard the front door open and saw Jeongguk walking into the house. “It's fucking cold,” he complained to himself, kicking off his boots at the front door. He'd brought food with him and was holding a drink carrier. He saw Jimin walking toward him and his face lit up again. “Okay, I know you like the iced americanos but it's fucking freezing out there, so I just got one without the ice.” His face folded into a small frown. “I probably should have asked you first. Is that okay or do you want me to–”

Jimin kissed him and felt Jeongguk relax against him, felt his lips pull up into a smile. “The regular one is fine, honey,” Jimin answered, grabbing the drink carrier and walking into the living room.

Jeongguk was filled with nervous energy the whole time they ate. He mentioned how they'd been writing a lot more music lately and that they might actually be ready to prepare a whole album soon. And the whole time, Jimin watched him, feeling completely unworthy of the way Jeongguk smiled at him. Jeongguk seemed to notice this, his eyes becoming worried. “Are you okay?”

Jimin felt even worse. “I'm fine, honey,” he said softly, grabbing Jeongguk's hand across the couch. He leaned his head against Jeongguk's shoulder and felt lips brush his hair. “I just have a lot on my mind.”

“You wanna tell me about it?” Jeongguk asked softly.

Jimin shook his head. “Not yet. This is enough.” Jeongguk kissed his hair again. “I know you have to go soon, so just a few more minutes, okay?” Jeongguk moved his thumb across Jimin's skin, soothing him. Jimin gave himself just a few minutes. Not long. Just enough to be with him like this, simple and without worrying that he was fucking this all up terribly. Then he sat up and sighed heavily. “Okay. I need to go to Tae's,” he decided.

Jeongguk blinked, then stood. “I'll walk you.”

So, he did. He gave Jimin gloves to wear because it was fucking freezing outside, and they walked to the tattoo parlor. Jimin's mind was racing and Jeongguk had the same excitement as he moved, albeit a bit muted, and Jimin caught him staring a couple times, trying to read his mind, it seemed.

When they got to the tattoo parlor, Jeongguk didn't go inside. “I'm like…99% sure Tae fired me and I don't want him to throw a shoe at me cuz I quit showing up after Yugyeom started playing again,” he said, snickering. He cradled Jimin's face in his hands, his expression open and content, sobering some. He was looking at Jimin as if trying to figure him out, the way Jimin always looked at him.

Jimin exhaled then leaned up and kissed him, slow and lingering. “Pick me up from work later?” he asked when he'd pulled away.

Jeongguk blinked his eyes open, looking a little awestruck. He gave Jimin a wide, dopey smile. “Yeah. I'll see you later.” Then he was gone, walking into the crowded street with his hood pulled over his hair. Jimin watched him go then walked into Taehyung's shop.

“So, is there a reason you're making out with your boyfriend outside the shop?” Namjoon asked drily, reading through his book at the reception desk and not looking up.

Jimin made a sound like a dying whale. “Not now, Joon, I'm in the middle of a crisis,” he groaned.

“Aren't you always?”

“Oh, fuck off,” Jimin huffed, stalking past him into the back hallway. Namjoon laughed at him as he went. Jimin walked into Taehyung's room and found Bogum sitting in the tattoo chair while Taehyung drew on his arm in eyeliner with an obscene amount of focus.

Bogum looked up at him, his expression going from painfully smitten to mildly surprised in an instant. “TaeTae,” he said softly and Taehyung looked up at Bogum, then followed his eye line to Jimin. His eyebrows shot to his hairline.

“Jiminie, what're you doing here? I figured you'd be with Jeongguk today.” Jimin sighed heavily and leaned against the door jamb, giving him a meaningful look. Taehyung gave him an understanding nod then looked at Bogum. “Baby, can you go get me a mcguffin?”

Bogum looked wholly confused. “A…a what?”

“A mcguffin. They sell it in places. Can you go get me one please?”

Bogum blinked and Jimin tried not to laugh. “Yeah…? Okay, I'll go get you one. I'll be right back.” He stood, still looking entirely nonplussed, and pulled on his coat. Taehyung capped the eyeliner and put it on his table, then patted his lips with his forefinger. Bogum’s confusion melted into a tiny smile and he kissed Taehyung once, then again and pulled away. “You're sure it's called a mcguffin?” he asked slowly. Taehyung gave him a placid smile and nodded. Bogum’s face melted into bewilderment again and he left the room.

Jimin snorted and he and Taehyung tried to shush themselves so that Bogum didn't hear them laughing. Taehyung waved him inside and gestured that he should shut the door. He finally relaxed with a happy little sigh and leaned back in his swivel chair. “So, what's up?”

Jimin sat on the tattoo chair and looked down at his lap, sobering. “He said he loves me,” he said quietly.

Taehyung said nothing for a moment and, when Jimin peeked at him, his expression was thoughtful. “That sounds about right,” he decided, looking at Jimin. “What's the problem?”

“How the hell does that sound right?!” Jimin exclaimed.

Taehyung shrugged. “Cuz we’re talking about Ggukie,” he said simply.

“What the hell kind of difference does that make?”

Taehyung smiled. “I told you, Jiminie, Gguk isn't the type to hesitate if he sees something or someone he wants. That includes everything. He decided he wanted to love you a long time ago. It was just a matter of him letting himself.” Jimin sighed, shoving his hair out of his face. “How'd you answer him?”

Jimin shook his head. “I didn't. I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to hear it in the first place. He said it while he thought I was sleeping.”

Taehyung made a noise of understanding. “Ah. What a sap,” he chuckled.

“Tae, what the hell am I supposed to do?” Jimin whined. “That's a lot of fucking pressure.”

Taehyung raised his brows. “Pressure why? You don't have to love him right now. He wouldn't ask that of you.”

“That isn't the problem, Tae,” Jimin said, shaking his head. “It's not about him giving me pressure at all. It's because I don't want to fuck this up. I really don't want to fuck this up, Tae.” He felt his body tense and looked down at the floor again. “I don't wanna hurt him.”

“So, don't,” Taehyung said as if it were obvious. And it probably was.

“I don't know that I won't, though, Tae,” Jimin insisted. “I don't know that I won't do something that makes him regret loving me or even trusting me.”

Taehyung’s eyes narrowed. “Are you planning on cheating on him?”

Jimin frowned. “Of course not.”

“Abusing him?”

Jimin's frown deepened. “Why the fuck would I do that?”

“Taking advantage of him or generally being a fucking asshole?”

Jimin felt anger burning in his stomach. “Taehyung, you know I would never do that. What the fuck are you asking me that for?”

Taehyung's expression cleared. “Then I don't get what you're freaking out for,” he said with a shrug. “You're not a bad boyfriend who needs to watch yourself. You're a good guy just like he is.”

Jimin deflated, chewing his bottom lip. “I just…I just want him to be happy.”

“That's a good thing.”

“And I'm worried that I'll make him unhappy somehow. Like…maybe he'll realize one day that I'm…” Jimin floundered for a word but couldn't think of one. “I'm not like him, Tae. He trusted me so easily. It took me forever to even think that maybe he could be a decent person, but he trusted me from the beginning. He just…he deserves someone just as open with him, right?”

Taehyung debated, his eyes flicking to the side as he thought. “Well,” he said slowly, licking his lips, “are you still not open with him?”

Jimin shrugged. “I am mostly. He knows basically everything there is to know at this point.”

Taehyung raised a brow. “Jiminie, I'm really not seeing the problem here.”

Jimin sighed heavily. “I'm scared I'm gonna ruin it. I'm scared I'm gonna hurt him.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Taehyung said, leaning forward. “You have no intention of being a shithead to him, or actively going out of your way to be cruel, or cheating on him. You care about him enough to even worry about this in the first place. And you just want to see him happy. But you're freaking yourself out because he said he loves you. That about sum things up?”

Jimin crinkled his nose. “It sounds stupid when you say it like that.”

Taehyung snorted. “That's cuz it is stupid, honey,” he chuckled. Jimin bit his lip then gave him a reluctant smile. “If you worry this much about something like that, then you're already doing things right, Jimin,” he said gently. “You care about him just as much as he cares about you.”

He was going to keep talking but his phone rang and he looked down at his table to answer it. “Hey, baby.” There was a long pause and Jimin could hear a distressed voice over the end. Taehyung pulled the phone away from his face, which had split into a wide smile, and bit his lip to keep from laughing. “Baby, it's okay. I don't need a mcguffin anymore,” he said sweetly. “Come back and lemme finish drawing on you.” He said his goodbyes and snickered. “He's so fucking cute.”

Jimin relaxed into the tattoo chair, his mind silent for the first time since he'd heard Jeongguk say those words the night before.

“You love him too, y’know,” he heard and looked sidelong at his friend, floored.

“I what?”

Taehyung nodded sagely. “Yeah, you do. I can tell. Just cuz you're scared to say the word doesn't mean it isn't painfully obvious.”

Jimin blinked then waved off the words. “That doesn't make sense, Tae. We haven't even known each other that long.”

Taehyung shrugged. “So? You don't need to have a decade-long courtship to know if you love someone.”

“Who the fuck says ‘courtship’? This isn't medieval England,” Jimin said drily.

Taehyung flicked him off and went on. “Regardless. I can tell.”

Jimin stared at him and Taehyung stared back steadily. “I…maybe,” he said finally. “I don't know. I haven't thought about it yet.”

“Doesn't mean it isn't true,” Taehyung trilled, grabbing his sketchbook from his table and cracking it open. He showed Jimin the new stencil he was working on. “I'm finally starting on my legs,” he said with a small excited jig. “Joonie is doing this one for me,” he said.

A thought occurred to Jimin then. “Hey…are you the one who pierced Jeongguk's nipple?”

Taehyung smirked and shook his head. “Joonie did.” Jimin suddenly felt the need to give Namjoon everything on the planet ever.

They turned at the sound of steps down the hallway and a very distressed-looking Bogum appeared. “I looked everywhere, TaeTae, and no one knows what the hell a mcguffin even is,” he puffed as he walked into the room. He pulled off his coat. “Someone tried to send me to McDonald's cuz they thought I wanted breakfast. You'll have to show me a picture of it and I'll try to find one for you, I promise.”

Taehyung snickered and stood to kiss him. “It's okay, babe. I have one.” Bogum looked slightly mollified, wrapped his arms around Taehyung's waist and kissed him again. Jimin took this as his cue to leave and quickly ducked out of the room before he found himself in the middle of an unintentional orgy.

Jimin was in the back, lining his eyes with kohl, when Hoseok walked back from his set. “Your favorite customer is here,” Hoseok said smugly.

Jimin met his eyes in the mirror. “Jeongguk?”

Hoseok sat down in front of one of the mirrors and nodded, running his fingers through his hair to pat it back into place. “And he brought an entourage. I have no clue who the rest of those kids are, but they look scruffy. Jin already threatened them all within an inch of their life from what I could tell.”

“Oh,” Jimin said, turning back to his eyeliner. “He brought his friends.”

“His friends?”

“His band,” Jimin clarified, satisfied with his eyeliner and looking at his hair in the mirror. “They're kind of chaotic but they're sweet.”

Hoseok made a noise of understanding and stood. “I'm gonna go dance on dicks now. Hurry up and get to the stage.” He smacked a sloppy kiss on Jimin's cheek, making him yell in protest, then giggled his way out to the club proper. Jimin wiped his cheek and gave him a reluctant smile.

When he got to the stage, he could see Jeongguk and his friends piled into a booth, drinks already on the table in front of them and a very serious-looking amount of bickering going on between Mingyu and Minghao on opposite ends of their small table. Jeongguk and Yugyeom were leaning against each other, laughing. Cute.

Jimin's music started and he took his position, then started to dance. He was the only one at the club who belly danced and it got him a lot of attention.

It had certainly gotten him Jeongguk's.

As it was, Jimin loved being on the stage regardless. He loved dancing and seeing the men in front of him want while knowing that they could never have. It was gratifying to see exactly what sort of effect he had on people, seeing these men ball their hands into fists, seeing them licking their lips and staring at him like starving beasts, seeing them swallow down copious amounts of alcohol to soothe dry throats, seeing the thickness of their wallets gradually deplete to nothing as they gave him everything they had.

He loved to move his body in sinuous rolls and climb the pole and do acrobatic slides and spins against the metal. It was a workout that had long since stopped being truly painful. The pleasant ache in his bones was addictive and it kept him coming back. The stage lights were bright and hot, but he loved the way it made his skin glow golden, made his hair damn near white, made him look unreal, divine.

Because that was how he felt on stage anyway.


And that feeling was always redoubled when Jeongguk was in the audience. Because Jeongguk looked at him like he truly believed Jimin was possibly a god.

Beyond it being a huge ego boost, there was also something very heady about seducing both the men who had literally no chance of ever being with him and the one who actually was with him at the same time, being able to see that he was driving Jeongguk wild.

Jeongguk's eyes were on him now, awestruck as always, his gaze an almost tangible thing as it roved over Jimin's body. The men in the crowd probably saw that Jimin was paying extra attention to Jeongguk and it made them jealous, fighting for his attention by giving bigger and bigger tips until he turned to grace them with his presence. It was a fun push and pull. He could see one of the men in particular giving Jeongguk a dirty look while the band gave Jeongguk shit and he swallowed down some of his drink.

By the time his set was over, the man had turned away from Jeongguk, focused instead on his wallet. Which meant that jealousy was going to give Jimin a hefty payday tonight.

He would have to buy Jeongguk dinner. The guy was good for business.

As he normally did, Jeongguk stayed for Jimin's entire shift, sometimes playing on his phone, sometimes fucking around with his friends – who'd gotten more and more rowdy the more alcohol they'd had; Jin was going to murder them probably. Every now and then, Jimin would catch Jeongguk staring at him, his expression very different from the others that were directed at Jimin in the club. Others were licentious, hungry, and sometimes entitled.

Jeongguk just looked at him like he loved him.

It made Jimin's head feel hot and kind of pulled him out of work mode, made him forget that he and Jeongguk weren't the only ones in the room. So, he didn't look over often.

Once or twice, he caught sight of Yugyeom talking to someone in another booth, some guy that Jimin had seen a few times, but never danced for. The guy seemed to come here just to drink and look from what Jimin remembered but it didn't matter to Jimin because he was in the middle of leading a customer to the back.

Dancing for his customers was very different than dancing for Jeongguk. More than once that night, he'd had to tell some creep to keep his hands to himself. Look but don't touch, not even just because of the rules of the club. But because there was only one pair of hands he wanted on his body. And they damn sure didn't belong to this scruffy trucker type who was asking (and paying) for more of his time.

The night passed relatively quickly, with Jimin doing a few more sets and a lot more dances. He'd made more than enough money for the night when he was done. He stepped off the stage after his final set and went to go collect Jeongguk without bothering to dress fully. Mingyu was nearly asleep on Minghao’s shoulder, still talking shit from what Jimin could gather, and Yugyeom was still talking to the silent regular who never got dances. Minghao and Jeongguk were talking in low tones, ignoring Mingyu. Jimin stopped in front of the table and Jeongguk's eyes flicked to him. He smiled and stood without needing to be asked, following Jimin to the back.

Once inside his room, Jimin pressed Jeongguk against the wall and kissed him. Jeongguk made a small sound of surprise then wrapped his arms around Jimin's waist and kissed him back just as earnestly. He felt Jeongguk's hands smoothing up his back and melted, pulling him closer. Jeongguk's heart raced beneath his fingertips and Jimin found that the cadence matched his own.

He pulled away, feeling a little lost still, and looked at him. Jeongguk’s eyes were still closed but he had a small smile on his lips. He rested his forehead against Jimin's. “What was that for?”

Jimin shrugged. “I just like dancing for you,” he said softly. Jeongguk finally looked at him, his expression impossibly gentle. “I like when you're here watching me. I never understood it when Hoseok said it, but I get it now. It's way more fun to be up there when I know you're watching me too.”

Jeongguk kissed him again. “I'll watch you whenever you want, then,” he decided. Jimin's heart ached and he pulled him close. “Oh, I wanted to ask you. There's a Christmas-birthday party type thing at Minghao’s this weekend. You wanna come with me?”

Jimin frowned and pulled away slightly. “Christmas is tomorrow, Ggukie.”

Jeongguk gave him that nose-crinkling smile he loved and snickered. “I know but Tae didn't want us to throw him a birthday party and we have a gig the day after tomorrow so we figured we would just mash it all up into one thing and do it this weekend.”

Jimin hummed and pulled him close again. “Yeah, I'll come with you.” Jeongguk squeezed him. “I wanted to ask you something too.” Nerves took him over now and he stepped away, needing space. Jeongguk let him go, looking at him curiously. “Um…” Jeongguk was the only person in forever to make him nervous like this. He rubbed his arms. “So, I wanted to ask you yesterday but timing,” he said, looking at a point just above Jeongguk's head. He swallowed. “You wanna be my boyfriend?” The words came out in a rush and his face felt hot.

Jeongguk's eyebrows shot into his hairline. He pointed at his own chest. “Me?” Jimin made a noncommittal sound, shrugging slightly. Jeongguk's face split wide in a smile. “Of course I do,” he said simply.

Jimin looked at him, his face still feeling warm. “Yeah?”

Jeongguk walked over to him, a smile still on his lips, and he cupped Jimin's cheeks in his palms, then kissed him. “Yeah, I really do.” He kissed him again, smiling, and Jimin kissed him back. There was a little too much teeth because of them smiling but Jimin thought it was perfect.

Jimin had a feeling.

A very suspicious feeling.

That Taehyung might have been right.

You love him too, y’know. Just cuz you're scared to say the word doesn't mean it isn't painfully obvious.

It wasn't as if it was some sort of crime to be in love with his boyfriend (his boyfriend!) but it definitely wasn't what Jimin would have expected would come from giving some stuttering friend of Taehyung's a lap dance months ago.

He looked at Jeongguk from across the packed living room. Everything was kinda loud and kinda tinsel-y and a lot chaotic and Jimin was pretty sure someone somewhere was smoking weed because it was very hazy in the room, but it was okay. He had a red cup with questionable contents, but he trusted it because Jeongguk had been the one to get it for him and he was drinking his own just fine.

The party was raucous. There was simply no other way to describe it. From what he could tell, literally everyone he knew and a bunch of people he didn't know were at the party, including Jin and Namjoon who were standing by the drinks. Namjoon was reading a book on his phone, it seemed, but his body was turned to Jin and his cheek was lifted as Jin spoke quietly to him.

Hoseok and Yoongi had come with him then immediately disappeared onto the dance floor because that was Hoseok’s second home anyway and Yoongi wasn't going to turn down his boyfriend begging him for a dance.

Taehyung had shown up with far too many bottles of liquor and a very loud, “Entertain me, whores!” Bogum behind him had looked hopelessly in love as he'd picked up Taehyung's hat from where he'd dropped it on the floor on his way in. Taehyung had apparently already been drinking so he leaned against Bogum, pressing kisses to his cheek and calling him cute. Bogum’s face had been red the entire time.

The regular that Yugyeom had been talking to a few nights ago was here too, looking a little more comfortable, a small smile on his face as he spoke to Yugyeom in hushed tones in a corner. Neither of them was drinking but they looked like they were smoking something between themselves.

Mingyu and Minghao had tackled Taehyung and smeared his face with cake, effectively ruining the icing, only to be chased around the crowded house by an indignant Taehyung throwing water in their general direction. When Bogum had come to collect Taehyung and clean off his face, Minghao and Mingyu had disappeared into the crowd, laughing like mad.

They were now standing next to Jeongguk, who was talking animatedly about something Jimin couldn't hear. He was too far away.

Jimin wasn't normally a party type of person. He preferred private spaces where people weren't crushed into a small area trying to call it fun. He didn't mind parties, had done more than enough of them in high school and college, but he'd ultimately deemed them not his natural habitat after he'd joined the law firm.

The house was hectic and there was loud music playing. The loft was closed off to the guests, so everyone was crammed onto the first floor. There was a loud cry of, “Play me music for my birthday!” and the four members of the band looked back at Taehyung, Minghao peeking over Jeongguk's shoulder.

Jimin saw them gather around Taehyung from the corners of the room they'd been standing in. Jimin watched them talk to one another, Taehyung vaguely whiny because he was tipsy and demanding and Mingyu encouraging his antics because he was also nowhere close to sober. Jimin swallowed more of his drink and saw Jeongguk break away from the crowd, walking over to him. Jimin felt his lips pull into a smile.

When Jeongguk reached him, Jimin kissed him, feeling Jeongguk's hands at his waist. “You want us to play you a specific song?” Jeongguk asked, his lips right at Jimin's ear so he could be heard over the sound system.

Jimin shook his head and kissed him again. “Just play me whatever you want me to hear.”

Jeongguk grinned widely and nodded, releasing him and stepping away. Somewhere between Taehyung demanding the band play for him and Jeongguk walking away, the sound system had gone silent and the crowd of guests was looking expectantly up at the loft. Minghao was already upstairs, pulling his drumsticks from some small pocket that Jimin couldn't see. The amps were plugged up and the guitars plugged in with an electric hum that sent a ripple of excitement through the small crowd of people. There was a microphone that was normally kept in the back corner of the loft, but it was front and center now, facing the guests.

Jeongguk slung his guitar over his neck and pulled his pick from between his teeth. Jimin felt an arm land heavy around his neck and he was pulled into the middle of the crowd by Taehyung. “Jiminie, they're gonna play for me!” Taehyung crowed, his words slightly slurred and a little too loud.

Bogum appeared, holding a bottle of water, and handed it to Taehyung, who drank half of it then gave him a sloppy kiss that left Bogum’s face red.

The first chord struck the crowd and Taehyung leaned heavy against Jimin, holding his bottle of water high in the air. Jeongguk smiled down at them from the loft and looked out at the crowd at large.

Then, he started to play.

The music from the sound system had been loud but this was louder, in a much better way. Jimin stared up at him, swallowing more of his drink.

Like when they'd been on a much bigger stage in a much bigger venue, they took control of the whole crowd, making them move as one, giving them one heartbeat to sync to, one rhythm to follow. During one of the songs, Yugyeom and Jeongguk actually switched places so that Yugyeom could sing it. The melody was angry and loud and raw and perfect. The whole band looked proud of him and Yugyeom himself looked triumphant.

One of the songs that they played was a melody that Jimin recognized as the soft almost-lullaby that Jeongguk had played for him a few weeks back. It had apparently been finished and, as Jimin had suspected, the other members added a sharp edge that kept the crowd jumping. Jeongguk's voice is what made it sweet and soft though, despite the pulsing beat behind it, the heavy bass that gave weight to the song, gravity. It sounded full and total with the band. But Jimin kept thinking about Jeongguk playing for him.

“He's singing to you,” he heard and looked sidelong at Taehyung, who still looked bleary and a little drunk, but his eyes were sharp nonetheless. Jimin frowned and shook his head slowly. Couldn't be. Taehyung nodded stubbornly. “Listen to the lyrics. He's talking to you.”

Jimin doubted it but he did as his best friend bade him and listened to the lyrics. Then, his eyes went wide. Jeongguk was looking right at him, then his eyes flicked to the rest of the crowd.

Jeongguk was singing to him.

His throat tightened. Jeongguk looked down at him again, his eyes dark and piercing and, yeah, Taehyung was probably right (as always). Jimin was probably just a little bit in love with him.

When the song ended, Jeongguk winked at him then looked away, back toward his band members, then they jumped into something else that wasn't nearly so sweet, loud and ragey and raucous, just like the band itself. The guests moved as one, jumping in time with the band. Jimin was almost sure that they were going to get a noise complaint, but he knew they wouldn't care. He swallowed down what remained of Taehyung's water and moved with the rest of the crowd, watching his boyfriend work.

When their impromptu set was over, they put down their instruments and looked down over the yelling crowd, Taehyung's voice the loudest among them. When they finally descended from the loft, they were immediately set upon by the majority of the crowd, and Jimin squeezed himself out of the fray, heading back to the wall he'd been standing on in the first place.

Hoseok and Yoongi appeared out of the fray as well, Yoongi looking murderously at the people who'd bumped into Hoseok and Hoseok oblivious as ever, clinging to him. His cheeks were red and he was a little louder than normal. Hoseok was drunk. “So that's your stalker boyfriend person's music, huh?” he slurred, hanging off of Yoongi like an old cardigan.

Jimin smiled, his eyes instinctively flicking to Jeongguk then back. “Yeah, that's them.”

“They're amazing,” Hoseok declared, his voice loud enough to carry. “I like the little one. The little mad one. I like him. Not your boyfriend person, the other one.”

Jimin snickered. “Yugyeom,” he supplied.

“Sure, yeah,” Hoseok agreed. “That one. I like him singing.”

“I'll let him know that,” Jimin said and Hoseok crowed out his agreement, still draped over Yoongi.

“I'm gonna take him home,” Yoongi said, looking at Hoseok with a small smile on his face. Hoseok looked back at him then gave him a very enthusiastic and sloppy kiss that left Yoongi chuckling to himself. He looked over at Jimin. “You're going to Jeongguk's tonight, right?”

Jimin frowned then shrugged. “No clue. But I'll let you know when I get home, wherever that is.”

Yoongi kissed his hair. “Please do.” He turned to Hoseok and pulled him upright. “Come on, love. Let's get you home.”

“Do I get to suck your dick if I go?” Hoseok asked consideringly.

Yoongi snorted. “No, you get to take a nap and fight that hangover you just gave yourself. Come on.” Hoseok whined incoherently as Yoongi led him out of the house.

Jimin watched them go, feeling something sweet curl in his chest. Then he was all but mowed over by a very heavy, very much not sober Taehyung. He stumbled forward then turned to look at his best friend. “Yeah,” Taehyung said with a wide smile. “You love him.” He kissed the very top of Jimin's head with a loud smack. “Go get some dick, Jiminie. It's my birthday and I demand it!”

Bogum showed up behind him, holding Taehyung's hat and maneuvering him into his coat. “I'm gonna take him home too,” Bogum said softly. “He's gonna be so whiny tomorrow.”

Jimin chuckled lightly. “Let me know when you get in,” he said. But with the way Taehyung was kissing Bogum’s neck, Jimin was sure that the flustered-sounding, “I'll try,” he got from Bogum was the best he was gonna get. He watched his best friend being led out of the front door and turned his attention to his own boyfriend.

The music had been put on the sound system again, albeit at a much lower volume being that people were slowly winding down. The room had become hazier, more pungent smoke filling the air.

Jeongguk moved his way through the crowd of people, focused on Jimin. “You guys were amazing,” he said when Jeongguk got close enough to hear him. Jeongguk smiled. Jimin grabbed a fistful of Jeongguk's shirt and pulled him closer. Jeongguk came easily and Jimin leaned close. “That song,” he murmured and Jeongguk's face went a little red. “Is that for me?” Jeongguk bit his lip then nodded. “You wrote me a song, Ggukie?” Jeongguk nodded again.

Jimin nodded slowly, considering this. Then he looked at Jeongguk, whose eyes had gone wide. “Whose house is closer, mine or yours?” Jimin asked.

Jeongguk looked a bit confused. “Um…it depends on which way you go but probably mine.”

Jimin nodded and moved closer again. “Then take me home. I wanna show you how much I loved that song,” he murmured.

Jeongguk's expression cleared and he smiled wide. “I'll go get your coat.” Jimin watched him go, feeling a sense of relief. He would be glad to be rid of the crowd. He'd be glad to have Jeongguk to himself.

Jeongguk reappeared holding Jimin's coat and being followed by the jeering of his friends. He handed the coat to Jimin and turned to Mingyu. “Mingyu, I swear to fucking god,” he groaned. “I will throw you into the snow.”

“That's a lot of energy you plan on expending there,” Mingyu jeered, leaning against Minghao, his words slightly slurred.

Jimin snorted and slid his fingers into Jeongguk's. Mingyu leaned more heavily on Minghao’s shoulder as they walked toward the door. “Use protection, Jeon!” Mingyu yelled.

Jeongguk turned back to him. “You use protection, Kim,” he called back, looking meaningfully between Mingyu and Minghao. Mingyu’s face went surprisingly red and he flipped Jeongguk off.

Jeongguk cackled his way out of the house, Jimin tugging him down the street. Jimin was too impatient to walk and Jeongguk didn't seem too keen on waiting either if the way he'd kissed him outside of the house was any indication.

Once the cab had stopped in front of Jeongguk's apartment, they piled out, Jimin urgently pulling Jeongguk towards the apartment, and Jeongguk chuckling under his breath.

When they finally got into the house, Jeongguk could barely get the door shut before Jimin had pulled him into a desperate kiss. Jeongguk wrapped his arm around Jimin's waist, pulling him closer, a soft, satisfied sound leaving his throat. Jimin tugged on his coat, trying to get it off Jeongguk's shoulders. Jeongguk obliged him, tossing his coat to the floor and starting on Jimin's.

“Shit,” Jimin hissed. “I have to tell them I got home or Yoongi will break your face.”

Jeongguk hummed, moving his lips to Jimin's neck. “Go ahead. I can focus on this,” he muttered, snickering, then Jimin felt him suckling a bruise into his neck. He rolled his head back on his shoulders and pulled Jeongguk closer, tugging his phone out of his jeans as he went. He tried to text one-handed with Jeongguk kissing him again, but eventually just sent a picture of Jeongguk kissing his neck and dropped the phone on top of their coats.

Jimin had no clue how he'd been pulled out of his shoes but Jeongguk had his back pressed against the wall and Jimin's legs were around his waist. Jeongguk was kissing him even as he held him upright and Jimin's fingers kept tightening into his hair, destroying the perfectly coiffed devil-may-care look that Jeongguk had gone for earlier. He felt Jeongguk's tongue tracing the column of his throat and moaned, tightening his arms around his neck.

“Jeongguk,” he panted between meetings of their lips. “Jeongguk, fuck me. Fuck me, I need…” Jeongguk groaned and his hold on Jimin's thighs tightened. He pulled away from the wall and walked them down the hallway to his bedroom.

When Jimin was aware again, he was looking up at Jeongguk as he was placed on the mattress. Jeongguk was hovering between his legs and staring down at him, that dark look in his eyes making Jimin's body feel hot. Jimin sat up and straddled him, capturing his lips in another kiss. When their tongues met, Jimin melted against him, grabbing fistfuls of Jeongguk's shirt, trying to pull him closer. He felt Jeongguk's hands on his ass and his breathing sped.

He tugged at Jeongguk's shirt, pulling it over his head and throwing it to the floor. Jeongguk looked up at him as Jimin's hands smoothed down his chest. He popped the buttons on Jimin's shirt and pulled it off of him, kissing him again, his lips desperate and open, leaving a haze to fill Jimin's mind, making him lose focus on everything that wasn't Jeongguk and his body. He felt their chests meet and the warmth of Jeongguk's skin felt like open flames against his own.

Jeongguk held onto him and smoothed his hands up Jimin's back, ducking his head low to color florid bruises onto his collarbones, on his chest. Jimin's breath came in a rush and he keened, holding him closer. Jeongguk shifted so that Jimin was beneath him on the bed again and his fingers deftly popped open Jimin's jeans. He pressed his hand inside and found Jimin hard and aching. Jimin arched off the bed with a gasp. “Jeongguk…please, baby…want you…”

Jeongguk made a sound of approval low in his chest and pulled Jimin free of his jeans and briefs, tossing them to the collection of clothes on the floor. He stood and pulled his own off, smirking when Jimin whistled at him. When his lips met Jimin's again, they were skin to skin, leaving Jimin feeling dizzy at the amount of real estate Jeongguk actually took up. They'd only done this once before, but it felt familiar, being with him this way.

“Ggukie,” Jimin breathed. Jeongguk made a small sound of acknowledgment, his lips still preoccupied with Jimin's skin. “Ggukie, I want you to come inside me.”

Jeongguk pulled away, his eyes wide. “Holy fuck,” he whispered then kissed him again. He pulled away and sat up, his expression thoughtful. “I need to go get…hold on. I'll be right back.”

Jimin whined in protest but Jeongguk kissed him quiet. He watched Jeongguk go, staring at his ass – it was a cute ass, why wouldn't he stare? He lay back on the sheets that smelled like Jeongguk, his body still sensitive because of Jeongguk, his dick aching because of Jeongguk. When his hand touched his own dick, he keened at the relief, his body relaxing minutely just to tense up again. He didn't want to come yet but he needed something. He needed Jeongguk.

“So pretty,” Jeongguk said softly and Jimin's eyes snapped open. He hadn't realized he'd shut them to begin with. But now Jeongguk was staring at him like he was prey and Jimin's skin tingled. He rolled onto his stomach and got to his knees. “Oh my god,” he heard Jeongguk whisper, then felt a hand at his waist. “So fucking pretty.” He felt Jeongguk's lips along his spine, open-mouthed kisses along his skin.

“Fuck me, Jeongguk,” Jimin said again, his voice a plea.

“Ssh, I've got you, sweetheart,” Jeongguk answered, finally climbing onto the bed behind him. Jimin felt his body automatically tense, ready for Jeongguk, but Jeongguk moved again. “Let me see you, baby,” he said softly, his hands smoothing down Jimin's thighs.

Jimin whimpered and held himself open. Jeongguk pressed a kiss to one of his cheeks and Jimin heard plastic opening behind him. When he finally felt Jeongguk touch him, he nearly sobbed with relief, a low whine leaving his throat. “Jeongguk…” He heard a plastic cap open then Jeongguk’s lube-slick fingers smoothed over his hole and Jimin nearly buckled.

“I haven't even started yet,” Jeongguk said with a low chuckle. Jimin huffed. Then Jeongguk pressed a finger into him to one knuckle. Jimin knew he wouldn't need much prep – he'd known that this was what he wanted before he'd gone to the party – but he wasn't about to tell Jeongguk to stop because fuck, he had long fingers. Jeongguk could tell. “You got ready for me, sweetheart?”

Jimin nodded. “Wanted you all day,” he answered softly. “Give me what I want, baby.”

Jeongguk smoothed his hand down Jimin's spine, pushing his chest to the mattress, and pressed another finger into him. Jimin's hand clenched into a fist in the pillow as Jeongguk's fingers pumped into him. He moaned Jeongguk's name, biting his lip and rocking back onto his fingers. He felt Jeongguk's hand tighten on his waist as he crooked his fingers up and Jimin choked out a gasp. Jeongguk was looking and then Jimin saw stars. He couldn't hear himself moaning over the pound of his heartbeat in his ears and the crackle of electricity down his spine from Jeongguk's fingers. “Right there, Ggukie, fuck…”

Jeongguk hummed and pressed another finger into him and Jimin fucked himself back on them. He felt Jeongguk's fingertips brushing his center every time he moved and his stomach tightened. He was going to come if Jeongguk let him continue this way and Jeongguk seemed to know this. He pulled his fingers free and Jimin whimpered, feeling hollow.

Then he felt Jeongguk's lips at his shoulder, moving down his back, his hips lining up with Jimin's. His hands smoothed up Jimin's inner thighs, spreading them wider. Jimin rutted back against him but Jeongguk's hand held him steady. “Be good for me, baby,” he murmured and Jimin bit his lip, trying to catch his breath.

He felt Jeongguk smooth his hands down his back, then hike his hips further up. Then Jeongguk was pressing into him slowly and god, Jimin should have probably prepped more. He gasped, forgetting to breathe for a moment. One of Jeongguk's hands circled to his front, wrapping around his dick and giving a few loose and lazy strokes, just enough to distract Jimin from the burn of the stretch. It took a moment, but finally, Jeongguk was flush against him.

“Let me know when, sweetheart,” Jeongguk said softly, pressing a kiss to the back of his neck and soothing the base of his spine. Jimin waited, trying to catch his breath. Finally, his body relaxed and he shallowly moved back against him. Jeongguk's hand tightened on his skin and he hissed.

“Ggukie, move,” Jimin breathed and Jeongguk pulled away from him. He gave a few experimental pumps into him, shallow and slow. But this was enough to have Jimin gasping, his head fogging again, haze settling over him. Then, Jeongguk lost the careful cadence, fucking into him harder, and Jimin melted into the sheets. “Jeongguk…” he moaned and heard Jeongguk gasp out his name. “Baby…harder…I need…”

Jeongguk gave him what he wanted, pounding into him hard enough to make his body move up the bed a little. Jimin cried out and Jeongguk's hands clenched on his waist, holding him steady as he fucked into him.

Jimin pressed himself up onto his hands and one of Jeongguk's arms belted around his waist, pulling him the rest of the way until his head fell back onto Jeongguk's shoulder, his back flush with his chest. From this angle, Jeongguk was brushing right against his core. Jimin's thighs started to shake and he was grateful that Jeongguk was holding him up.

“Ah…Ggukie…wanna…” His words disappeared in a whine as Jeongguk thrust into him again, slow and deep.

“Tell me what you want,” Jeongguk murmured, his lips brushing Jimin's ear and making him shiver.

“Ride you,” Jimin managed finally. “Wanna ride you.”

Jeongguk swore under his breath. “Yeah, okay.” When he pulled out, Jimin was sure that he would buckle but Jeongguk held him upright, pressing soothing kisses to his shoulder so that Jimin could catch his breath.

He wasn't fully focused on how he was moved but when he was aware again, Jeongguk was beneath him and he was laying on his chest. Jimin pushed himself upright, shoving his hair back. He slid Jeongguk inside him again with a sigh of relief. Jeongguk's hands smoothed up his thighs, resting at his waist. He looked down and saw Jeongguk staring at him, his eyes roving over Jimin's body, flicking to his belly button ring. He licked his lips. “Take what you want, baby,” he murmured and Jimin felt heat washing over him again, started to ride. He saw Jeongguk's head press back into the pillows, his lips between his teeth. “Baby…”

Jimin lost himself to the feeling, bouncing onto him and holding himself upright with hands against Jeongguk's chest. His eyes slid closed and the pressure in his stomach tightened again, coiling hot and heavy in his gut. “Fuck, fuck, Ggukie…” Jeongguk thrust into him and heat washed over him again, smothering him, drowning him. He couldn't even speak before he was thrown over the edge, spilling white along his own chest.

His pulse jackhammered in his ears and his breath came in sharp pants. He felt Jeongguk's hands smoothing up his back again and realized that he'd sat up, holding onto him. Jeongguk's lips left soft kisses along his face, soothing him. When Jimin finally found his eyes to open them, Jeongguk was looking at him, seeming awestruck. “I want more,” Jimin said softly.

Jeongguk's eyes darkened again and he quirked a brow. “You think you can come for me again, sweetheart?” he asked.

Jimin nodded. “Want more,” he said again. Jeongguk kissed him then, his arms tightening around Jimin's waist as their tongues met. God, Jimin was so gone for him. When he pulled away, Jeongguk was above him again, resting on his forearms. He looked down at Jimin, his eyes warm. He kissed him again, slow and lingering, leading. Heat flicked to life again in Jimin's stomach.

Jeongguk's hand smoothed down Jimin's body, down his chest, over his waist, across his thighs. When he felt Jeongguk's fingers slide between his thighs, he jolted, sensitive. Jeongguk looked down at him, examining his face. Then he moved, his lips traveling over Jimin's jaw. When Jimin whined, Jeongguk said, “You want me to worship you, right?” Jimin smirked up at him and nodded. Jeongguk smiled and went back to tasting Jimin's skin.

Jimin sank into it, letting the haze cloud his mind again, his hands resting on Jeongguk's shoulders. He felt Jeongguk's tongue on his nipple and keened, gasping out a curse. He swallowed. Jeongguk's mouth traveled over his skin, finally getting to the place Jimin wanted him most, right between his thighs. He felt fingers pressing into him again and whimpered, still sensitive. Jeongguk left open-mouthed kisses along his inner thighs, then moved lower, pressing Jimin's legs up enough for him to lick slow over Jimin's hole.

“Oh, fuck…” His fingers found Jeongguk's hair and they tightened into fists. Jeongguk moaned against him, licking into him and making Jimin's breath stutter. Jeongguk's tongue was wicked and Jimin fucked himself down, pressing closer to Jeongguk's mouth. He felt himself getting hard again and Jeongguk replaced his tongue with his fingers again, rubbing his center while he sucked him down, slowly bringing him to full hardness once more. Jimin knew that he wouldn't last long if Jeongguk kept this up. “Ggukie,” he whined, tugging his hair. Jeongguk moaned low, vibrating against his dick.

Jeongguk obliged him, though, finally crawling up his body again and sliding inside without preamble. Jimin felt one of his legs being spread wider and he kissed him, hitching his leg over Jeongguk's waist. Then Jeongguk fucked into him and he cried out, breaking the kiss. Jeongguk wasn't careful this time, fucked into him hard and fast and Jimin held onto his shoulders, moaning his name.

He felt Jeongguk's lips against his throat again, adding another bruise to his collection. “You feel so good,” Jeongguk murmured, fucking into him hard and making Jimin forget to breathe. “Made for my dick. You take me so well, so perfect, baby.”

Jimin felt heat wash over him. “Oh my god,” he panted. “Jeongguk…”

“So pretty for me, Jimin, so perfect for me,” Jeongguk said, his teeth catching Jimin's skin and leaving his body tingling. Jimin felt his eyes prick and his fingers clenched on Jeongguk's shoulders, his mouth open in a silent scream, small gasps punched out of him by Jeongguk's rhythm. “Mine,” he heard and his stomach tightened. “My Jimin.”

Jeongguk pulled away from him then, resting on his forearms again. Jimin's eyes slid shut and he bit his lip, feeling his gut tightening again. “Look at me, gorgeous,” Jeongguk said softly, his breath coming in pants. “Wanna see how good I make you feel.” It took him a moment, but Jimin found his eyes to open them. His vision was blurry, but he could make out Jeongguk's face, staring down at him, his eyes dark enough to swallow Jimin whole, his brows furrowed in ecstasy as his rhythm sped. He felt Jeongguk's fingers in his hair and his eyes closed for a moment. “Let me see you, pretty,” Jeongguk said again, his fingers tightening into a fist and making Jimin's scalp tingle.

Jimin's heart pounded in his ears again, his core tightening impossibly and heat drowning him in waves. “Gonna come, Ggukie, I'm gonna…” Jimin's words were incoherent but he heard Jeongguk moan his name and then felt a desperate kiss that had him melting even as his body tensed.

“Come for me, gorgeous,” Jeongguk murmured in his ear. “Come for this dick.”

And Jimin was gone, falling over the edge again, Jeongguk's name on his lips. He felt Jeongguk’s body tense then heard him let out a long, low moan, his breath coming in harsh pants as he spilled into Jimin.

Time became liquid then, syrupy and thick, and Jimin couldn't really remember where they were anymore, only that Jeongguk was holding onto him tight enough to bruise and his body felt like it was made of vapor.

After an eternity, Jeongguk pulled away from him, looking down at him in wonder. Jimin blinked up at his boyfriend, finally finding one of his limbs. He moved his hand to Jeongguk's cheek, smoothing against the soft skin there. Jeongguk's expression warmed. “I love you,” Jimin said quietly.

Jeongguk's eyes went wide then he gave Jimin the single dopiest smile he'd ever seen in his life. He kissed him, soft and sweet. “I love you too, Jimin,” he answered just as softly. He rested on Jimin's shoulder for a moment then said, “I know this is kinda getting gross and you probably want your phone, but I need a sec. I can't actually feel my legs.”

Jimin snorted a laugh and felt Jeongguk's arms tighten around him. “I can't either.” Jeongguk kissed him again and there was still too much teeth from them smiling but this was Jimin's favorite. Because this was perfect.

They were perfect.

☆ ☆ ☆

One Year Later

“Baby, why the hell do they try to blind you up here, what the fuck?” Jeongguk asked, trying to catch sight of Jimin through the hot stage lights and failing a little. “Am I doing this right?”

He heard Jimin laughing at him from one of the booths as he fumbled his way around the stage. “Not at all,” Jimin called up to him and Jeongguk could finally see. Jimin's eyes were shining and he had a wide smile on his lips. “Keep going, though.”

Jeongguk held onto the pole and tried to climb up it the way he'd seen Jimin do a million times before. He immediately felt ridiculous and weak. “Jimin, exactly how much upper body strength do you have?” he asked, sounding betrayed.

“Apparently more than you, twig limbs. Get it in gear,” Jeongguk heard Mingyu jeer from the booth and Jimin snorted again.

“Mingyu, I swear to fucking god,” Jeongguk grumbled and tried to climb the pole again.

The club had been shut for the night because of Jimin's birthday. At the very back, Jin and Namjoon were watching him from the bar, both of them talking to one another quietly, Namjoon laughing behind his hands at something Jin said. No one really knew how it had happened but Jin and Namjoon had become really good friends over the last year. Jeongguk was suspicious that they were probably more than that, but they weren't telling and no one was fool enough to ask. Sitting beside them were Hoseok and Yoongi. Hoseok was loudly cheering from the back, holding up a drink with one hand and holding to Yoongi with the other. Yoongi was muffling his laughter into Hoseok’s jacket, looking entirely smitten.

In front of the stage Jeongguk was currently fumbling on, Mingyu and Minghao were sitting in the booth with Jimin, making very loud jokes at his expense and encouraging Jimin’s laughter at him. No one really knew what was going on between Mingyu and Minghao but there was definitely an understanding there. They were still annoying and bickered constantly so Jeongguk was just glad they kept it to themselves a bit more now.

Taehyung was sitting on Bogum’s lap, loudly whistling at the stage and tossing random coins at Jeongguk, trying to hit him in the head. He'd succeeded a few times and Jeongguk was going to fucking kill him. Taehyung had almost covered the top half of one of his thighs in tattoos and his hair had been dyed a million times over the last year before he finally settled on blond. It had grown out long enough to him to be able to put it in a low ponytail now and he took great pleasure in whipping people with it because Taehyung was an asshole.

Yugyeom wasn't paying attention to Jeongguk whatsoever, instead was talking to his partner, the quiet guy he'd been talking to at the Christmas party forever ago. They'd learned that the guy's name was Youngjae and, after Yoongi and Namjoon grilled the actual shit out of him, he'd finally been given clearance to be with Yugyeom. Yugyeom had thought they were all being ridiculous, but no one was taking any more chances. And thus far, Yugyeom seemed happy. Youngjae treated him well.

Regardless, when Jeongguk tried to do a split, Yugyeom looked at him and snickered. “Trying to split your dick in two isn't impressive, Gguk, no one's gonna pay for that,” he called. Mingyu and Minghao took up the mantle of whistling at him and Taehyung hit him in the head with another coin. Jeongguk threw it back at him and missed.

“Come on, honey, I know you can work your hips better than that,” Jimin said suggestively, raising his eyebrow and grinning wide. There was a loud amount of hooting from their friends and Jeongguk's head felt hot.

“I'm not good at this,” he decided finally.

“No. You absolutely are not,” Jimin said serenely, pulling him down from the stage and smacking a kiss to his lips. “But,” he said leaning close, “if you come back to my room, I can show you how to do it right.” Jeongguk felt himself go entirely red.

“Jimin is fucking in the back room,” Taehyung said loudly and Jeongguk gave him a withering look. Tattletale.

“No spunk on my fucking couches,” Jin ordered, raising a whiskey bottle threateningly.

Jimin smirked and took Jeongguk's hand. He kissed him, long and lingering, and led him to the back, beyond the blue lights, and into his room. When the door closed, the hooting of their friends was drowned out and it was just Jimin and Jeongguk.

“Oh, I did have something I wanted to give you,” Jeongguk said, following Jimin to the couch and letting him climb onto his lap. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys.

Jimin heard the jingling and his eyes went wide. Jeongguk handed them to him and he looked at them in confusion.

They'd gone looking for apartments in the last few months but the majority of the places they'd wanted had been too expensive or too far from everyone and neither of them had wanted that. There had been one apartment in particular that Jimin had loved more than any of them. It had been perfect. Big and bright with tons of windows and closer to Hoseok and Yoongi's and Taehyung's apartments than either of their old places had been. There was plenty of room for Jimin's pole and all his clothes and lots of room for Jeongguk's band to practice should they ever need to. Yoongi had been helping him to build a small studio so that they could record their music, but it wouldn't have fit in the places they could afford.

But the apartment had been pretty far out of their price range and Jeongguk hadn't liked to see Jimin disappointed. He'd worked with Yoongi and Jihyun to get the place without Jimin knowing, and, after a bit of negotiation and far too much paperwork for Jeongguk's taste, they'd finally been given the go-ahead to move in next week.

“Ggukie, what are these?” Jimin said, holding the keys in his hand as though he was afraid they would disappear if he touched them.

“We got the new apartment. We can move in next week,” Jeongguk said, trying for casual but unable to fully hide his own excitement.

Jimin's eyes fluttered and he stared down at the keys. “The pretty one?” he asked softly. Jeongguk nodded. “You got me my dream apartment. For my birthday.” Jeongguk nodded again. Jimin smiled down at the keys and wrapped his arms tight around Jeongguk's neck. “I fucking love you,” he whispered. Jeongguk smiled and hugged him back. He let himself be pulled into a soft kiss, slow and sweet. Then Jimin pulled away and smiled at him. He stood from Jeongguk's lap and straightened, leaving his keys on the table and pulling off his hoodie. “Now, I'm gonna show you what you fucked up on that stage. Cuz I love you, but you'd be a garbage stripper.”

Jeongguk snickered and leaned back, watching his boyfriend do what he loved best, watching his Jimin dance for him.