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New Romantics

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There are two types of people in this world: morning people, and those who want to shoot morning people.

Yoongi falls firmly within the second category.

And the incessant, loud ringing of the doorbell does nothing to disprove that fact. Tossing in bed, Yoongi groans, barely awake to register any coherent thought. It’s probably the neighbors. Some deliveryman for the family with their three kids or Jung Hoseok two doors down. 

Dingdingdingding—

Who the fuck orders things at this hour? It’s way too early—the sun’s still up, fuck's sake. Yoongi wants to make full use of his snooze time as much as possible, thank you very much. He shoves his head beneath his pillow to drown out the endless buzzing ricocheting off the walls like a loudhailer, waiting for the noise to cease.

But it doesn’t. It prattles on and on, not unlike the way his mother used to nag at him for shirking dishwashing duty back in high school.

Somewhere behind his closed eyes and at the back of his mind, Yoongi wonders if the bell is actually ringing for him, but then he dismisses the thought as soon as it comes. Of course not. The last time he had friends over was... ah, right. 

Never.

It’s definitely for the folks next door.

“Min Yoongi-ssi?”

Or not.

Breath snagging, Yoongi’s eyes crack opens. His first thought is: who?

And then: why?

Because let it be known that Min Yoongi is not a person of parties. He’s not huge on inviting people to come within the range of his personal space, let alone his own damn living quarters, so who in the world could be looking for him—knowing his name, even—at hell o’clock in the morning?

He drags his feet from bed and trudges to the door, yawning while stretching, and when he peeks through the peephole, he finds a tall man clad in a suit standing on the other side. Like, an actual formal suit, with a tie and all, this early in the morning. An insurance agent? If so, that’s fucked up. Just goes to show what next sales tactics these relentless white-collar workers are up to these days. They sure have a lot of nerve knocking from door-to-door now.

Yoongi frowns and calls out, “What the hell do you want?”

A muffled voice from the other side of the door answers, “Hello! It would be better to explain face to face.”

“How do I know you’re not trying to break in and rob me?” Yoongi slurs the question, still groggy.

A pause. “With all due respect—if that were the case, I wouldn’t bother to knock.”

Fair point. With a sigh, Yoongi keys in his passcode and opens the door just a crack, barely enough for a gust of summer air to blow through, and his bleary eyes land on his uninvited guest’s face. The man is as tall as a tree, one arm clutching a thick file of papers while the other hand holds a leather laptop bag. He smiles at Yoongi and gives a small wave. 

Yoongi crinkles his nose. “So. How can I help you?”

“Hello,” says Mr. Suit Guy. “I’m Kim Namjoon, your grandfather’s lawyer, and I’m here to discuss your assets.”

Yoongi blinks. His grandfather? He’s never even met the old man, was never introduced to him. “My... assets?”

The man nods, moving forward to invite himself into Yoongi’s flat. “Yes. If we could sit down—“

“I’m sorry but,” Yoongi bars Namjoon’s entry with a pale arm, “what is going on here, exactly?”

Namjoon pauses, startled, then flashes him a look heavy with pity. “Min Yoongi-ssi. I’m afraid your grandfather is dead.”

 


 

By all means, this is not how Yoongi envisioned his Saturday morning would go.

He and Namjoon are sitting across from each other at the dining table, and for the first fifteen minutes, his brain completely zones out, glossing through the details of whatever Namjoon is rambling on about.

It’s too early in the morning and Yoongi hasn’t ingested enough caffeine to spark his brain cells to life yet, because a typical weekend for him involves sleeping through breakfast and lunch and only waking up near dusk. He fights to keep his bleary eyes open as each unfamiliar term and law jargon coming from Namjoon’s mouth zip right over his head, with the exception of the four words he’d said earlier—yourgrandfatherisdead—replaying in his mind over and over like a broken telecom message.

It’s surreal.

Yoongi doesn’t quite know how to react to this shred of knowledge—grief seems too intimate of a word to feel for someone who’s been sorely absent from his life 99% of the time. He didn’t even know he had a grandparent who was, well... alive.

(Well, not anymore, but you know.)

So he ends up just sitting there listlessly, mouth parted and mind scrambling for a more appropriate response—what do you say to a member of the law enforcement society barging into your house at the asscrack of dawn, bearing news of the death of a long-lost grandfather?

It’s not until Namjoon says something about a “will” and “10 million” and “inheritance”—in that order, respectively—that Yoongi’s ears perk up and suddenly he forgets his quenching thirst for coffee because, come on: money? He can talk money.

“Wait,” Yoongi interrupts, blood surging. “What did you just say?”

Namjoon pauses and looks up from the sheaf of papers that have scattered across the dining table. “Um. That the funeral will take place three days from now, and will last a week—“

“No.” Yoongi waves a hand in the air, mimicking a rewinding gesture. “Earlier, before that.”

“Ah. The late Yoon Janghyuk has stated in his final will that upon his death, his only grandson Min Yoongi will be entitled to inherit 10 billion won in his name,” Namjoon repeats in one breath.

Yoongi inhales a staggering breath and sits back, mind racing to string sentences together. Blinking rapidly, he rests a palm across his forehead because—wow. 

Whoa. Since when did he have a filthy rich grandfather? And why did his mother never make a single mention of her family background all throughout Yoongi’s growing years? Seriously. A heads-up would’ve been nice.

“Did you just say ten billion?” Yoongi says in a whoosh of a breath, feeling dizzy all of a sudden. He pinches the underside of his wrist to make sure he’s not having a fancy dream. Ten billion is enough to get him almost anything he wants. A lifetime’s worth of bills paid for. He could even move out, if he wants to.

Namjoon nods. “Ten billion in assets, correct.”

Not million. It’s more than enough money to sustain him, more than enough to ensure he lives a comfortable life. Yoongi’s eyes widen. “Um. Wow.”

The attorney clears his throat. “Now, as I was saying—“

“Could you tell me more about this particular inheritance,” Yoongi can’t help himself from cutting in again. “And how one might go about um, procuring it.”

Namjoon must see right through his bullshit, because he sighs and unlatches his glasses from the bridge of his nose. Using the hem of his sleeve to wipe it clean, he asks in a plaintive tone, “Min Yoongi-ssi, are you perhaps married?”

“To my job? Hell yeah.”

Namjoon chuckles in wry amusement. “Then in that case I might as well say I am, too.”

Yoongi’s brow creases and he sits forward. “I don’t follow.”

“Which is why if you would allow me to elaborate further, I would explain the terms of Yoon Janghyuk’s will—“

A loud crash steals their attention, followed by a hiss. Yoongi turns to where his cat, a Scottish Fold named Madeleine, is stalking out of the bedroom and glaring daggers at the space where Namjoon sits.

Namjoon groans and buries his head in his hands. “Am I just long-winded, or do people not finish talking in this house?”

Yoongi stands up and scoops the cat in his arms, stroking her ginger fur in an attempt to tamp down the aggression. “It’s okay,” he croons under his breath. “This man won’t harm me.”

On the contrary. Namjoon is the surrogate key to his financial fulfillment.

“As I was saying.” Namjoon adjusts the glasses back on his nose, and it glints from the late morning sun filtering in through the blinds. “From my observations, you are not married.”

Shrugging, Yoongi says, “I don’t really see where you’re going with this...”

“Which means you won’t be able to claim your inheritance.”

Yoongi stops short. “Why not?”

Namjoon shuffles through his pile of paperwork until he finds the right sheet, and points to a paragraph. “It states here on clause three that…”

Yoongi leans forward to read along, and his heart plummets.

 

iii. Min Yoongi shall inherit all aforementioned assets given the circumstances in which he is bound by legal and credible marriage.

 

“What the fuck.”

There are moments in life where you look out the window and see a glorious landscape just beyond reach, only to stand up and find the door locked from the outside in.

This is one of them.

Yoongi’s mouth hangs open, and he lets out a tiny disbelieving scoff. “You’re kidding me.”

Namjoon’s apologetic smile tells him otherwise, and amidst the dread and dark panic twisting in his gut all Yoongi musters is: “But why?”

“In his final months, your grandfather became a very... sentimental man,” says Namjoon, lowering his gaze. “It’s not my place to assume his reasons, but I believe he sincerely wanted to ‘make up for all his mistakes’ throughout his lifetime. And that includes you and your family.”

Yoongi’s mood dampens. He doesn’t want to steer the conversation in that direction. With a deep sigh, he asks, “So what happens next?”

“As Mr. Yoon’s representing attorney, it is within my power to safekeep the assets at least until you find a spouse,” Namjoon replies. He purses his lips, pushing up the rim of his glasses. “But there’s this other clause...”

Yoongi groans. “Another one?”

“It says that if you are not married within the year, the inheritance will be split among your other relatives.”

Horror curdles at the pit of Yoongi’s stomach. No. There is no way in hell he is letting that happen. He clenches his fists.

“So since you’re not married—“

“Yet.”

Namjoon raises his eyebrows. “Beg your pardon?”

“I said I’m not married,” Yoongi affirms dryly. “Not yet, at least.”

The attorney gives him a curious look, and something stubborn and resolute forms in Yoongi’s chest. Truth be told, he has no clue what he’s supposed to do from here onwards, but at that moment only one thing matters: he’s motherfucking rich now.

(Sort of.)

 


 

“What’s with the long face?”

Seokjin twists the combination to his locker, and it springs open with a rustic clang. “Wait, no. Don’t tell me. Somebody stole your slippers outside your apartment again. Or you’re behind on bills. Or... your cat’s sick?”

Sighing, Yoongi buttons his navy blue vest over his crisp white collared shirt—basic uniform. No employee at the Blue Rose Jazz Bar is allowed to look “unpresentable”, or so his manager says. Seokjin places a lot of emphasis on first impressions, though it’s probably just an elaborate excuse to dress up all fancy to “match the setting’s smokey atmosphere”. Whatever.

“Worse,” Yoongi mutters.

“And here I thought you couldn’t have possibly looked any gloomier than you usually do. Is Madeleine okay?” Seokjin shakes a can of hairspray. “Why so angsty?”

If it wasn’t already obvious, Yoongi’s not the find-someone-and-settle-down type. He keeps it simple. Roof over his head, food on the table, cat in his lap. Never in his twenty-five years of existence did he ever imagine the day would come where he’d lament, “...I need to get married.”

The jiggling sound of the hairspray can ceases, and the spraying noise stops. Silence hangs between them so loudly that Yoongi hears the rush of the air vents in the ceiling.

Seokjin is staring at him. “Yoongi. Are you on drugs?”

“You’re making me sound like a cynic misanthrope hermit crab.”

“Correction,” Seokjin intercepts, looking like he’s finally recovering from the initial shock. “A cynic misanthrope hermit crab who also happens to be a ruthless punctuality snob.”

“My most redeeming qualities.”

“You’re welcome.” His manager smooths his gel-slicked hair and shuts his locker. “But that’s beside the point. Correct me if I’m wrong, but did I just hear you say the M-word?”

Yoongi’s deadpan stare gives it all away.

“Shocking.” Seokjin emits a low whistle. “I have so many questions.”

“And I have so many pieces to get through before the night is over.” Yoongi reluctantly puts on the small, fake teal blue rose on his breast pocket—the finishing touch, cherry on top, according to Seokjin—and picks up his sheet music. “That piano’s not gonna play itself.”

“This conversation is not over!” Seokjin bellows when Yoongi steps through the curtains that lead into the Blue Rose’s mini stage. “You have a lot of answering to do!”

Yoongi only huffs under his breath, then sits on a low, black leather bench in the middle of the wooden stage.

The first touch of the ivory keys sends his mind to a different realm, and for the first time since the chaos of this morning Yoongi closes his eyes and relaxes completely, losing himself to a medley of Davis and Ellington and Sinatra’s bests.

It’s different, with music. Yoongi doesn’t have to put on a smile, doesn’t have to think, just lets his fingers dance down the piano as if his bones and the keys are made of the same ivory. Playing at the Blue Rose might only be a part-time weekend gig, but it’s a sacred window of time to him. Whenever he lets muscle memory take over, playing pianissimo to serve as background ambience, Yoongi allows his gaze to roam while patrons sashay in and out of the underground jazz bar.

Most of them are regulars, beloved customers who return time and again. There’s Jinwoon and Hakyeon, striding in arm-in-arm while exchanging secret smiles only forbidden lovers understand. There’s also the Japanese ‘benefactor’ who always arrives with a different lady each week.

Most of the faces here are familiar, but occasionally they do get newcomers.

Like this one.

The first thing Yoongi notices is his hair—sunburst gold, so effortless in the way each strand swishes this way and that that you’d think it grew out of the guy’s head naturally.

The second thing that grabs Yoongi’s attention is the way the young man walks—like the world is a stage and he owns it. He’s not that tall; perhaps even the same height as Yoongi, but when he walks it’s like the entire room holds it breath and shifts to accommodate his presence. And Yoongi’s not the type of guy to be fazed by first impressions, but when the young man looks up and catches him staring, his heart tumbles backwards and Yoongi ends up pressing the wrong key at the wrong time.

What comes out of the piano is a pathetic, off-beat, wrong note.

Grimacing, Yoongi rips his gaze away and focus back on the music—lest he get fired for messing up such a simple piece—but his senses are hyper aware of which booth Blondie chooses to sit, and Yoongi is (pleasantly) surprised to realize that it’s at the table 2 meters across him.

Focus, Min Yoongi.

It’s just another attractive stranger. That’s it. No need to lose his wits over one face. Yoongi takes a deep breath and forces his eyes to stay low on the keys, even though they’re itching to stray back to where he sits.

The guy’s probably taken anyway.

And... surprise surprise, he’s not wrong.

Because not more than ten minutes later, a man built like bricks strides into the club like a bulldozer, nearly colliding into a poor waiter before sliding into the booth to press a sloppy kiss to Blondie’s cheek.

Yoongi purses his lips.

A smile blossoms across Blondie’s face, and he leans in to whisper into his boyfriend’s ear.

Yoongi averts his gaze. They’re always taken, at the end of the day. Disappointed but not surprised.

The rest of the night blurs by. He may or may not have slammed the piano too hard. It even gets to the point where Seokjin waltzes past where Yoongi’s piano pedestal stands, whispering surreptitiously behind his hand, “Tone down the angst a bit, won’t you?”

Only when Yoongi reaches the second-to-the-last song of the night does the chaos ensue.

Don’t get him wrong, it’s not like he was deliberately eavesdropping. It’s just kind of hard not to listen when two people start a screeching match two feet away from you. It’s also hard not to look, because as much as Yoongi hates disruption in his life, he can’t say he hates witnessing drama. He’s a busybody like that.

Look but don’t meddle: that’s his personal policy.

“You’re what?” he hears Blondie exclaim, high-pitched and petulant.

The guy next to him—his boyfriend, Yoongi presumes—lets out a string of hurried murmurs that he can’t hear, but the next thing he knows, Blondie is dropping a string of loud curses left and right as if he’s beatboxing each word. Then he picks up a wine glass and dumps its cherry-red liquid contents into his boyfriend’s face.

Yoongi has to remind his fingers not to seize up while playing.

“Jimin, wait. Babe—“

“Don’t ever call me that,” Blondie snaps, eyes red with outrage. “Especially not when you’ve been engaged this whole fucking time, Choi Sungjoon. How gracious of you to only inform me now.”

Behind the piano, Yoongi’s eyes widen and his jaw drops. Well, damn.

“But we can always keep this up, you know?” argues the asshole, which has Jimin’s hand smacking the side of his face.

“Don’t make me your side project,” Jimin bites out, and Yoongi can’t help but press each key faster, speeding up the tempo to somehow accompany this tension.

“Tell you what,” Jimin spits out, intentionally making his voice ring out across the entire bar. “And this bar is my witness. You’re getting married next month? Well, Choi Sungjoon, guess what.”

Tears are welling up in his eyes—Yoongi can see the breakdown from 50 yards away.

“If you can get married, then so can I,” Jimin continues, his voice breathy and cracking at the end. “I swear I will marry the first man I run into, from now on. Just you fucking wait and see, dirtbag.”

At his words, Yoongi’s hands pause, hovering over the piano keys.

What?

He swears he’s hearing things. He must be getting desperate, and the prospect of inheriting ten billion won is messing with his perception. Yoongi doesn’t get to ponder this over, because the next moment, Jimin picks up his things and scoots out of his booth seat unceremoniously.

“Jimin, wait—“

“You have no right,” Jimin half-growls, half-whimpers. “You have no right to— oh!”

At the last moment, Jimin trips over one side of the table leg jutting out of the booth, and he falls, almost in slow motion...

...and barrels face-first into Yoongi’s chest.

Later, Yoongi will regret sliding out of the safety of his piano bench and acting before thinking. Later, he’ll question what the hell could’ve gotten into him for being so brash and bold and dumb.

Right now though, as he holds this wide-eyed stranger steady, all he rasps out is a low, despairing, “Hi. Will you marry me?”

 


 

Park Jimin is no stranger to proposals.

At the prime, tender age of twenty-three years young, he’s already amassed a suite of impromptu confessions and wedding offers that sits at the back of his mind like a row of trophies left to collect dust on a shelf. Ego fluffers, each one of them.

He’s aware of his charisma, knows how to work his gait and facial expressions to his advantage. Park Jimin is no stranger to the world of proposals, but in his twenty-three years of life, never has he been on the receiving end of one from a random stranger out of the blue.

Yet here he is now, red-cheeked and tear-streaked, staring into the deep brown eyes of a guy whose hair is the color of midnight on a rainy evening, and all Jimin can think is: Who the hell asks for a hand in marriage in place of a simple ‘hello’?

That, but also a panicked: Not here. Not now.

Because this is not how this particular scenario was supposed to go. He was supposed to make a clean exit, leave Sungjoon in the bar and paint him as a huge thirsty asshat. Just like they’d agreed.

Stricken, Jimin’s mouth freezes momentarily as he grapples for a reaction. “Um.”

The guy in front of him blinks, and he seems to catch a hold of his actions,  because then he releases Jimin’s elbows and steps back with a mortified bow. “M-my bad. I didn’t—“

“Shhh,” Jimin shushes, feeling like his brain is disassembling itself, hyper aware of the eyes on them. The ambient chatter inside the jazz bar has lowered to a stunned silence, and Jimin’s instincts scream for him to flee, bring this outside. Someone has interrupted his little performance, waltzed into his stage without his permission. Unacceptable.

Before the guy can stutter more, Jimin grasps him by the shoulders and pushes, pushes, pushes him up past the flight of stairs that lead up to ground level, wheeling the stranger out into the fresh, open air.

The guy stammers a slew of baffled protests, but Jimin is not having it. “Do you know what you’ve just done?”

“Sorry, I acted without thinking—“

“You nearly blew it.” Jimin fumes as he turns to pin the stranger down with a harsh glower. Granted, he’d managed to pull off the ruse well, had shed the most convincing crocodile tears he could, but still. “I almost broke character!”

Black Haired Dude stares dumbly at him. “Uh. What are you– I’m lost.“

Jimin glances behind his shoulder, scanning for possible eavesdroppers, before stepping close to the guy—and wow, it’s not everyday he meets a cutie whose height matches his for perfect kissing range—to whisper:

Listen. Everything you saw there? Was staged, but between you and me, let’s say it was all completely and wholly true.” The words slip past Jimin’s mouth without filter, and at the back of his mind he wonders why the hell he’s divulging Top Secret Matters to a random stranger.

Two weeks ago, his high school friend Sungjoon pinged him on KakaoTalk to share his miserable story of woe—that he, a gym instructor, has gathered himself some rabid admirers who’ve turned into stalkers over time.

And Park Jimin, theatre graduate, had agreed to help shake them off. After all, he’s built quite a steady repertoire, being everyone’s go-to contact person when it comes to fooling people for blind. Their little sly conman, able to pull off any believable act without breaking a sweat.

Which brings them to this night with Operation Make Sungjoon Unavailable, and the whole time Jimin was already priding himself on being such a talented actor that Sungjoon’s nasty fans from two tables over started sporting horrified expressions at their little spat.

Until this guy.

This guy was not a part of the plan at all.

“And to answer your question,” Jimin quips curtly, carding a hand through his hair out of habit. In the autumn air, his breath comes out in white puffs of mist. “No, I won’t marry you.”

Black Haired Dude blanches at his words. “It’s fine. It’s not like I expected—“

“I mean, please,” Jimin continues with a laugh. “I know I’m pretty, but marriage? Right away? Isn’t that taking it a little too far? I don’t even know you, sir.”

“Like I said—“

“And honestly. I’m too good for you. So no thanks, I’m staying single.”

The apologetic shine in the guy’s eyes diminishes into something resembling affront. “Wait,” he says slowly. “So... you weren’t heartbroken?”

Finally, he’s catching on!” Jimin claps his hands together and gives Black Haired Dude a pity-pat on the shoulder, grinning for no reason. Maybe he’s tipsy.

“Anyway, it’s a flattering offer, mister, but no.” Jimin pastes on the sickly sweet smile he always uses in front of his friends’ mothers. “I’m not that cheap.”

He spins to leave, but hears at the last moment:

“But it all seemed so real.”

Jimin chuckles, congratulating himself for fooling every last person in that bar. “Honey, that’s just called acting.”

 


 

“Just when I thought you were finally doing something cool in your life, you come strutting back in here looking like a wet kitten,” Seokjin remarks the moment Yoongi steps back inside the Blue Rose’s staff locker room. 

Yoongi drops into a chair and buries his face in his hands.

“Do me a favor, won’t you?” he says, feeling like... like gum stuck to the sole of a shoe. Small and dirty and all things unnecessary. “Just put me on like. Stocking duty next week.”

“Those fingers are for piano-ing, not appliance-checking” comes Seokjin’s lightning-fast reply.

“Though I could definitely think of a lot more uses for long fingers.” He waggles his eyebrows suggestively.

Any other time, Yoongi would have rolled his eyes, maybe even laughed if he’s in a particularly good mood. But now he just sighs, sniffles and looks down at the floor.

Never has he ever felt such magnitude of humiliation before. Yoongi’s comfort zone lies in staying within the sidelines, watching life pass him by. He’s not quite sure what stings more: that he’s made a fool out of putting himself out there, or that he just got brutally rejected.

He hears footsteps drawing near, and when he looks up he finds Seokjin looming over him, arms crossed. “Min Yoongi.”

“Mmph.” Yoongi doesn’t look up.

“What the hell is going on?” Seokjin asks. “First you tell me you need to get married, and now you’re proposing to strangers.”

Yoongi sighs again, the words ‘Ten billion dollars’ bouncing back and forth in his mind like a pinball.

“I mean, what am I supposed to expect now?” Seokjin carries on. “Next thing I know, you’ll be taking off to become a rap star, or that you’re training to be a monk. Bald and—“

The noise of the walk-in freezer’s door interrupts Seokjin’s monologue, and Taehyung’s teal blue-dyed head pops out, eyes wide and curious. “Did anything happen while I was inside?”

Seokjin sends him a pointed look. “You missed out. Yoongi proposed to a stranger just now.”

“No way.” The younger waiter’s mouth falls open. “Everything always happens when I’m on freezer duty.”

“I don’t know, it’s not a very Yoongi thing to do,” Seokjin singsongs, talking about Yoongi as if he’s not right there sitting in the same room.

Taehyung nods. “There’s an ulterior motive. There’s always one with him.”

“Go ahead. Ask him why. My bet is: he’s high.”

“I’m not high, or drunk, or whatever the hell you’re thinking,” Yoongi defends himself before launching into a brief recap of everything that happened since this morning. When he finishes, Taehyung goes quiet while Seokjin bursts out laughing.

“So you need to find a wife—“

“Or a husband,” Yoongi adds.

“Or a husband, just for the sake of claiming your money from a grandfather you’ve never met?” Seokjin asks, leaning against the side of the lockers. “Either you’re a lucky bastard, or this is a scam.”

“The attorney himself explained it to me.”

Yoongi isn’t about to let his manager’s skepticism dampen his already rotten mood. “It’s the real thing, hyung. This is my ticket to paradise.”

Seokjin studies him for a moment, trying to gauge just how serious he is about this. “Well. Do you want me to set up a blind date?”

Yoongi swallows. Him, meet new people? Make attempts at flirting and get them interested in marriage? He might as well scale the Pyramids of Giza. He scratches his head. “No need. Thing is, I’m not really interested in the whole falling in love shit. No time for that.”

Seokjin shrugs and weaves through the curtains to return to the Blue Rose’s main floor. “Suit yourself.”

In the wake of his manager’s departure, Yoongi sags against his locker, thoughts in a jumble. What now?

“You don’t have to.”

He glances up to find Taehyung pacing back and forth in front of, eyes glinting with something either utterly brilliant or utterly ridiculous. Yoongi knows that look: the trademark Scheming Face. “What do you mean?”

“You’re just getting married, hyung,” Taehyung says casually. “It’s not like you have to love them, right?”

Squinting his eyes, Yoongi says, “I don’t know where you’re going with this, but that face is giving me bad idea vibes.”

“It’s the face of a genius at work,” Taehyung chides in mock offense. “Learn the difference, hyung.”

“Did you forget when you suggested we should name our cocktails after sex terms?” Yoongi fires.

“Hey! Flaming Orgasm is iconic! And the customers love them!” Taehyung cries, before rearranging his face in a placating smile. “Anyway. Trust me on this. Because I think I might know just the perfect person for you.”

Yoongi can spot a Bad Idea from a mile away, and it’s safe to say that this one is already giving him an ominous feeling. “Who?”

Taehyung smiles, looking genuinely pleased with himself. “A friend.”

 


 

When Jimin gets home later that night, he hardly makes it past the first flight of stairs leading into his [rented] apartment complex when his spots his belongings—his clothes, his sheets, his books, his suitcase—dumped outside the main entrance like a pile of garbage.

!!!!!!!!!!!!

Letting out a small cry, he rushes forward and picks up his dirtied laundry, trying to gather every last item in his arms. What the hell is going on? Jimin has half a mind to storm into the apartment and knock on the landlady’s front door—

“Park Jimin!” comes a shrill shriek.

Jimin freezes mid-scramble. Looks like there’s no need to go looking.

Straightening his spine, he turns around to come face to face with who else but his landlady—a short, middle-aged woman in a pale nightdress that makes her look sickly green.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Jimin suppresses a horrified gasp when he sees a triangular bald spot on the crown of her head, which was definitely not there the last time he’d seen her. “H-hi, Mrs. Kwon.”

“You dare show your face in my premises?” Mrs. Kwon sneers, raising a hanger in the air, and Jimin feels like he’s twelve years old again, running away from his mother’s ass whooping after accidentally breaking her favorite flower vase. “Huh? After what you did—“

“Mrs. Kwon!” Jimin cries as he inches backwards. “I-isn’t it a lovely night? Perfect for some... um. Relaxation? Yoga?”

“Yoga, my ass!” Mrs. Kwon screeches, eyes livid. “Relaxing is the last thing on my mind right now. I’ve lost so much hair, you filthy scoundrel, all because of you, and now I’m balding even more because of stress!”

Jimin can only flash what he hopes is a remorseful expression as he kneels on the gravel. “I’m so, so sorry—“

“You’re only sorry you got caught, rat,” his landlady interjects, face red, nostrils flaring. She points at her half-shorn head. “And you’re paying for all this damage, eh? I’m going to court and slamming your name.”

Jimin gasps. “But I don’t have- I just graduated from university!” In other words: broke.

“You think I care? Get out. And never come back unless you’re settling for my damages and your overdue rent.”

And that is how Jimin finds himself hauling his ass down the streets of metropolitan Seoul, lugging around two suitcases, one grocery bag of leftover takeout food, and a backpack weighing heavy on his shoulders, cursing himself for his terrible circumstances that he can’t exactly not blame himself for, all because—

“You sold what to your landlady?” Taehyung chokes through a mouthful of bibimbap, and Jimin pushes a cup of cold water towards his best friend.

Jimin clucks his tongue. “Some homemade hair products.”

Taehyung gives him a pointed look. “Homemade.

“Okay, fine. It was just a little bit of... leg wax.”

“Leg. Fucking. Wax.”

“Small doses! And it wasn’t even obvious!” Jimin cries indignantly, cheeks puffed into a pout. “Plus, I designed that purple uniform on the bottle!”

“Jiminie, Chimchim, Jimbo,” Taehyung says, putting his chopsticks down. “Breathe, man. Loosen those shoulders. It’s not good for your blood pressure.”

Jimin lets out a breath he didn’t even know he’d been bottling up.

“I know you’re quite the entrepreneur, but... okay. Why?”

Jimin stabs his rice bowl with a spoon. “The grind never stops, Tae. You know I can’t let my family know how it’s really like for me here.” After all the fuss he’d made back in Busan to go out and find ‘better acting opportunities’ in Seoul, he can’t quit now. No turning back.

“Didn’t you say you were waiting for Big Apple Performing Group to get back to you with audition results?”

Jimin gasps, eyes blowing wide, and he scrambles for his phone. “Shit, that was today. Thanks for reminding me.”

A few swipes and taps later, he pulls up the email alert from his dream company. Jimin’s heart pounds in his ears as he scrolls through the list of names scheduled for a callback, only for his chest to deflate when he reaches the end of the webpage and—

“My name’s not here.”

Taehyung gives an empathetic sigh. “Better luck next time—“

“There’s no next time,” Jimin says, heart sinking, swallowing down the lump forming in his throat. Big Apple only has yearly intakes. “At least, not until next year.”

“Then you have a year to keep improving yourself!”

Here’s to the fools who dream.

It’s a line Jimin fondly remembers from his favorite recent musical, Lala Land, sung by Emma Stone as she auditions for a role that she’s been coveting throughout the movie. Jimin remembers himself, sitting starry-eyed in the cinema, charmed to the bone. He remembers wanting to belt out a sudden tune, remembers the way his chest fluttered as if that song had been birthed into the seed of his soul, telling himself he would definitely be successful if he worked—tried—hard enough.

But sometimes even your 100% falls short.

“Y’know, Tae...” His words quieten, and he fiddles with the bottlecap of a soju bottle on the table. “I used to believe dreams were made of stardust, and that mine would hopefully be big & bright enough so someone might pay attention and say, ‘Hey, let’s give this one a chance.’

Jimin locks his jaw, feels his stomach clench. He’s tried. He’s been trying. He’s tired. “But then I realized maybe dreams are just that. Things you can only imagine while you sleep.” A traitorous teardrop leaks out of the corner of his left eye. “Fuck. I think I drank too much." He leans forward to rest his forehead on the table. “I’m just another tryhard who’s never gonna be able to pay back my student loans. And now I’m about to get sued for some ahjumma’s hair loss, and I have no place to stay.”

“You can stay with me,” Taehyung offers quietly.

“Nah.” Jimin waves his hands absently mid-air. “I’ll owe you too much. As if I don’t already.” He gives a humorless giggle. “I don’t leech off of friends.”

Silence hangs in the air between them like a tapestry, until Taehyung speaks. “Jimin?”

“Mmm?”

“What if I told you there might be a way I could help?” There’s a quaver to Taehyung’s voice that wasn’t there before.

“Don’t give me money, Taehyung-ah.”

“I’m not.” A pregnant pause. “At least, it won’t be me giving it to you. And you can work for it. With your acting chops.”

“You say that as if you’re not my fellow theatre major graduate.”

“Yeah, but...” Taehyung’s voice trails off, because they both know he doesn’t have to worry about auditioning when he’s the one who got street-casted while walking down Hongdae a few months back. “I’m just saying. You need something that you can’t earn from a monthly paycheck. And… I think there’s a way.”

Rubbing his nose, Jimin raises his head and fixes his blurry gaze on his best friend, and that’s how he knows Taehyung isn’t kidding. “How much does it pay?”

“Uhh. Falls within ten billion won. I think half.”

Jimin’s insides jolt. “Tell me more.”

 


 

Yoongi cannot believe he’s letting himself get roped into this.

It’s not the first time he’s fallen into one of Kim Taehyung’s schemes. The guy has a knack for Inventive Ideas, though Yoongi can confidently say that there’s a 2:10 chance that his ideas are actually... feasible.

So while it’s not the first time he’s falling into one of Kim Taehyung’s brainchild schemes, Yoongi is taking a huge leap of faith with this one.

There’s a coffee shop two blocks down Yoongi’s apartment called Bean There Done That, and that’s where Yoongi sits now, beside the glass windows and trying his best not to wring his hands together in nervousness. He actually wore a nice, crisp grey shirt paired with dark jeans today instead of opting for one of his usual hoodies and ripped jeggings. Somehow this feels like a blind date, even though Yoongi’s better, rational brain knows it’s anything but.

Park Jimin. That’s the name of the guy that Taehyung is recommending as a candidate for marriage. As if marriage is just a contest you have to win instead of a lifetime commitment.

It almost sounds similar to a certain young man’s name from last night’s kerfuffle, but Yoongi waves it off. There’s no way. For all he knows, there could be a hundred Park Jimins staying within the vicinity of Myeongdong alone. Min Yoongi doesn’t think his luck is that bad.

He glances at his wristwatch.

2:03pm. Where is he? Yoongi hates to think he’s an anal stickler for punctuality to the point of aggression, but it’s actually one of the traits Seokjin has gotten right about him from the get-go. Time is gold—once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.

He sighs through gritted teeth. Tardiness, tardiness—the most despicable of all attitudes. You never know if you can depend on people. Tapping his foot restlessly, Yoongi picks up a random magazine with a glossy cover from a coffee table at the right side of his armrest.

It takes 7 more minutes and 43 seconds of Yoongi casually leafing through the shitty magazine when the air across him shifts and, from his peripheral vision through either side of the magazine, he senses someone sitting down.

“Hello, good afternoon,” a silky voice greets.

Yoongi’s blood goes cold.

That voice is way too familiar for his liking. Slowly, ever so slowly, Yoongi peeks over the top of the magazine to observe who the newcomer is, and what he sees sends his nerve endings haywire.

“Have you already had lunch? I haven’t and I’m starv– oh.”

Of all the damn men in the world. Same golden hair, same slender build, same caramel eyes, glinting to reflect sunlight streaming into the cafe.

It’s him– that Jimin.

Yoongi lowers the magazine on the table, expecting to be bamboozled with scorn and self-entitled haughtiness, but by some miracle or a 180-degree twist in personality, the shock in Jimin’s eyes quickly shift into hesitation and even embarrassment.

What. Yoongi shifts in his seat. “It’s you.”

"Unfortunately." Jimin nods once, firm. “Anyway! Look, let’s cut to the chase. I um, changed my mind.”

“About?”

“Marrying you. I say yes.” Jimin doesn’t waste any time, and to Yoongi’s surprise, he finds the same quiet desperation that he’s sure his own eyes must have held the night before. “I do.”

Yoongk bristles, startled. “Is that so?” he says, low and careful. “How come?”

“I heard there was a…” Jimin snags his upper lip beneath his teeth, “...compensation for it.”

Money—how it drives people in circles. Only then does Yoongi understand what exactly Jimin’s here for. Taehyung must have relayed him the predicament Yoongi’s in. It’s almost laughable, how they’re both after the same thing and resorting to drastic measure for it. Yoongi arches an eyebrow. “Y’sure?”

Jimin worries his lower lip, and overhead Yoongi notices an Ed Sheeran song filtering in through the speakers:

 

'Cause you need me, man, I don't need you 

You need me man, I don't need you

You need me, man, I don’t need you at all

 

“Yes.”

Feeling daring, somewhat feral, Yoongi asks, “Well, what if I told you my offer doesn’t stand anymore?”

No, please—“ Jimin’s eyes fall shut, like he’s holding something back, as he says, “Please. I’m sorry for all I said last night, but...” He exhales shakily, a quiet helplessness straining his eyes, before he molds his face in an impressively calm mask. “C’mon. Let’s help each other out. We’ll call ourselves the new romantics: partners in crime, 21st century millennials making money out of marriage. Like a movie, but in real life. So.”

Yoongi smirks, feeling like he has the upper hand now after remembering the way Jimin pretty much treating him like gum stuck to the bottom of his shoe last night. “So what?”

Jimin rolls his eyes and sighs. “Do you want to get married or not?”

How the tables have turned. If they go through with this, Yoongi will either get very, very rich or very, very screwed over. Either way, there’s only one way up. He shrugs, makes it obvious that this isn’t his personal choice, but oh well.

“I do.”

Chapter Text

“So let me get this straight,” drawls his soon-to-be (fake) husband, crossing his legs over the armchair while he tucks a blond strand behind his ear. “How long are we supposed to be husbands for?”

“Six months, at most,” Yoongi answers simply. Surely that’s enough to be considered ‘legal’. Heaven forbid he remain enmeshed in an unwanted matrimony for any longer. “We’ll say it was a whirlwind romance—we settled too quick. Then we’ll divorce and part ways as unlikely friends.” 

It didn’t take much to convince Yoongi to say “yes”, and truth be told, it’s not like he was dead-set on refusing Jimin. After all, they both know what they need from each other, and Jimin seems to be a good enough of an actor to trust him with this. Yoongi’s just petty enough to want to make the guy squirm a little after being so rude the previous night.

“Right. Okay. Sounds legit enough,” Jimin states with a thoughtful nod, but then holds up an index finger with a pause. “But! I feel like we need to get some basic rules down before we embark on this partnership.”

“Partnership,” Yoongi repeats with a snort. “You make it sound like this is a serious business.”

“It might be illegal, but it is a business, and I am 100% serious.” Jimin clasps his fingers over his crossed knees and leans forward with an all-knowing look. “And FYI: for every business agreement, you need to have a mutually agreed-upon set of terms and conditions, Mister… wait, what’s your name again?”

Un-fucking-believable. “So you know my face but you don’t know my name.”

“Tomato, tomato. You could be John or Michael, and I’d still do this. Anyway. As I was saying.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes and leans against his armchair.

Overhead, warm acoustic music fills the cafe, much too happy for his own liking, and he can’t help feeling like a guitar string being played by this conman, even though he should be the one calling the shots here. “Min Yoongi.”

“Min Yoongi. Right. Damn, I’m really doing this with a guy whose name I just learned, huh...” Jimin mutters audibly to himself. “Anyway, let me re-introduce myself properly. Park Jimin, at your service. And I’m telling you, Yoongi-ssi, I won’t let you down here, but to make things fair you’ve got to listen to my requests, too.”

Yoongi closes his eyes and sips his coffee to ward off the headache, but waves him on. “Go ahead. Shoot.” He reminds himself that he’s gonna be the one with the money, and that he’s the one in charge here. He can’t let some slightly-better-looking-than-average guy sweep him off his feet and throw him overboard.

But he should’ve seen the mischievous glint in Jimin’s eyes sooner. “Okay, one: We split the money 50-50.”

Liquid spurts out of Yoongi’s nose, and Jimin instinctively leans away, nose scrunching in disgust. Letting out a throaty squeak, Yoongi tries not to shrink away from the weird stares he’s earning from the people sitting around them. “H-half? You’re fucking kidding.”

“I mean, did you think I was gonna do this for free?” Jimin says with a serene smile, fixing his flowy white shirt with a collar so wide it’s practically an off-shoulder top. He never breaks eye contact with Yoongi, never shows a sign of uncertainty. “You think this is charity? I know how much you’re supposed to inherit, anyway. Taehyung told me.”

Kim Taehyung. Yoongi likes the guy enough, but sometimes the rascal’s too honest for his own good. “You guys friends?”

“The best. Known each other since high school.”

Yoongi sighs. He should’ve known better than to trust A Taehyung Scheme. Now it’s too late to back out; he’s dipped one foot into the water already. There’s no coming back from this, and it’s not like he can back out when there’s good money on the line.

“Besides”—Jimin winks at him, eyes aglow—“isn’t marriage supposed to be about being half of a whole?”

“No.” Yoongi protests without missing a beat, trying to sound strong but feeling lightheaded all of a sudden. There goes his rightful inheritance, slipping away before he can even hold it. “That’s… that’s way too much.”

“Hey,” Jimin presses on. “Don’t think you’re getting a highly competent actor for fun and games only. Come on, Yoonderella, aren’t we both doing each other a favor here? Win-win!”

Yoonderella?” Yoongi splutters.

Jimin gestures to the entirety of Yoongi’s person. “You’re legiterally living a typical rags-to-riches fairytale. Let me be your handsome prince charming.”

That logic doesn’t even make sense. More like gold digger. With a disbelieving laugh, Yoongi shakes his head. “Look. Not that I don’t want to share, but let’s be realistic, alright? I say 10 percent.”

“Too low.” Jimin rebukes, clicking his tongue and squinting his eyes at Yoongi like he’s a bug he can’t wait to squish. “For that price, you’ll never get another like me.”

“Oh, please. How do I even know you won’t fuck up?”

Jimin’s mouth gives way to a knowing smile—one that has Yoongi shuddering with either fear or intimidation (he can’t tell for sure)—and says, “Because you believed me.”

“Believed you for... what?” Yoongi furrows his brows.

“Last night at that jazz club. You witnessed my very-public staged breakup and thought, ‘Oh no, poor guy’s getting the heartbreak of his life’.” Jimin presses the back of his hand to his forehead and feigns fainting, slumping against the armchair’s padded backrest. “You even chased after me to make sure I was okay.”

“Actually, I did it to ask you to marry me,” Yoongi corrects. “Since you said you’d marry the first guy you ran into.”

“Yeah, yeah, for this little sham of yours.” Jimin dismisses him with a wave and straightens up where he’s sitting. “But the point is, you believed it all, which makes me a damn convincing actor.”

And Yoongi can’t even deny it, so he settles for stewing silently with narrowed eyes while Jimin says, “In other words: I’m the perfect man for this. So how about forty percent?”

“Bullshit. Fifteen,” Yoongi counter-offers, eyes twitching.

“Noooo. Thirty-five.”

“Twenty.”

“Thirty.”

Slamming a fist against the coffee table lightly, Yoongi’s jaw strains in an effort to keep his cool, and he physically has to force the words out: “…twenty-five. Last call.”

That seems to mollify Jimin, because then he nods with a new shine to his eyes. “Deal.”

Yoongi sighs, forlorn. “Deal.”

“Great! With the financial terms are settled, this brings me to point two,” Jimin chirps, holding up two fingers to punctuate his sentence.

Yoongi stares at him, aghast. “There’s more?” 

Jimin hums, eyes focused on his mug of coffee as his fingers graze its rim lightly. This time when he speaks, he’s more hesitant. “Two: you’ll um, you’ll let me stay in your place.”

Yoongi’s brow creases. “I kinda thought that was a given. Married couples live together, don’t they?” 

Inwardly, he’s relieved that the guy seems chill with staying under one roof. Not doing so would raise a huge flag. This way, it’s easier to convince the attorney that they are, in fact, in love and all that jazz. (Big yikes.)

Relief floods Jimin’s eyes, and for the first time since he met him, Yoongi thinks this is his first glimpse of seeing raw gratefulness in the guy’s face. “I’m guessing you don’t have your own place.”

Jimin shrugs. “Nothing in life is permanent.”

“Sounds like an excuse.”

“I like to see it as more of a hurdle. Glass is half-full and all that.” Jimin clears his throat and changes the subject the way the breeze changes directions on a windy day. “What about you?”

“What about me what?”

“Surely you’ve got your own set of rules you want to play by. Tell me now. Let’s put it all out in writing.” Reaching for his back pocket, Jimin pulls out his mobile phone and with a few taps, shares a Google documents folder with Yoongi. “After we get everything finalized, I’ll print this out and we can like, sign over it.”

“How formal of you.”

“It’s called self-preservation.”

Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to have something to refer back to in case anything between their arrangements goes haywire. Yoongi whips out his phone and opens the shared file. “You’re a stickler for rules, aren’t you?”

“Pah!” Jimin busts out a laugh, before leaning forward to rest his chin in the cup of his palms. “No. In theatre, there’s this thing they teach you called stage blocking. We get to act however we want as long as we stay within our blockings.”

“So?”

So. Rules are like markers,” Jimin explains. “You know them well enough to bend them, but never break them.”

For the rest of the afternoon, Yoongi and Jimin come up with a list of “Unbreakable House Rules”, a.k.a their contract terms, which comprise the following:

 

Unbreakable Terms Of Contract

 

1.) Secrecy Pactunder no circumstance should both parties reveal the nature of this marriage.

2.) The inheritance will be split 25-75.

3.) No sharing of groceries and toiletries.

4.) Curfew of 1am because Jimin needs enough sleep for his skin regimen.

5.) Bills must be split.

      5a.) If Jimin uses the bathtub, he pays for the extra water bills.

6.) Jimin must feed Madeleine while Yoongi is at work

 

“Who the hell is Madeleine?”

“I’d appreciate it,” Yoongi interjects sharply, “if you could keep ‘hell’ and my baby’s name apart from each other.”

Jimin gasps. “You have a daughter?

Yoongi hums in thought. “Well, I guess. She’s my baby.”

“I see.” Jimin gives him a long, thoughtful look. “I guess after we marry, that’ll make me your Baby No. 2 then, huh?” 

The quick, icy stare that Yoongi sends his way says otherwise. Jimin snickers wickedly and returns his attention to his phone. “Yeah, guess not. Just thought I’d ask.”

They continue typing away on their shared Google document:

 

7) No unwarranted ‘cheating’

8) No sex with anyone

 

Yoongi-ssi. I have a frank question,” Jimin pipes up, yanking Yoongi out of his concentration.

“What.”

“Do you think this is realistic?”

“Are you one of those people who needs sex every two days?” Yoongi asks, glancing up from his phone.

“No, what do you take me for?” Jimin scoffs. “I’m just saying. No sex as in, with other people? Or with you?”

“No!” Heat spreads to Yoongi’s ears, and he shakes his head vehemently. Jimin might be handsome, but he’s not into fornicating with people he’s not romantically invested in. Yoongi doesn’t roll like that. “I mean. Both, of course. What would people think if you went sleeping around while you’re married?” He points a finger at Point #6 on their contract terms. “That breaks the non-cheating rule.”

“Wow. I just… wow. I can’t believe I’m not gonna get any for the next half a year,” he hears Jimin grumble sulkily, hardly fazed by Yoongi’s outward rejection. “Oh, but wait. But won’t people suspect anything?”

Forehead creasing, Yoongi sets down his cup. “What do you mean?”

“Like. Don’t married couples like to get it on all the time?”

“Yes...” Nodding slowly, Yoongi struggles to connect the dots. “So..?”

“We need to show some kind of proof that we’re actually”—Jimin’s eyes rove over Yoongi’s body in a way that has his blood thrumming—”fucking each other.”

A warbled noise exits Yoongi’s throat, and his stomach feels like it’s just been gutted. “You can’t be suggesting—“

“So, what about hickeys?” Jimin straight-up offers. “I give you some and you give me some every now and then. That should be enough, no?”

Yoongi shakes his head, eyes nearly bulging out of his head. “Nope. Hey. Don’t get carried away. Let me set another rule: No PDA.”

“No PDA?” Jimin gawps at him, mouth hanging open as if Yoongi just told him that Donald Trump is Mother Teresa’s successor. “Are you even hearing yourself?”

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “What about it?”

“People are gonna think we’re either sexually retired vampires or a pair of 15-year-old virgins in a TV drama who treat hand-holding as peak romance!”

“That’s the thing,” Yoongi bites back, folding his arms with a frown. What’s not clicking? The way he sees it, things should be going a lot simpler than this. No means no. “There’s nothing romantic about this! Romance is a no-no.”

“You say romance like it’s a dirty word,” Jimin notes.

“Because it is!” Yoongi huffs, throwing both hands in the air. “Romance is dead. It died with Shakespeare.”

“For someone who just insulted the arts, I’m surprised you know how to pronounce ‘Shakespeare’.”

Yoongi balks at his words. Granted, that’s the only name he could think of, but hey, he never claimed to be well-versed in the literary arts. “My point is, PDA is a no-go for me. You ever watch this flick called ‘Friends With Benefits’?”

Jimin frowns in suspicion. “What about it?”

Yoongi may not be an expert on relationships, but he does know one thing, and that is: “Every fuck buddy story out there ends with them falling in love. It’s like a rom-com formula, yeah? So I’d love it if your hands stayed off my body, and that we set some clear boundaries here.”

But it seems like Jimin’s not having it. “Oh please, get over yourself.”

He ignores the remark. “Whatever. Look. You and I can’t fall in love with each other, okay? So if you ever find yourself catching feelings for me, here’s a pro-tip: Don’t.”

Jimin actually laughs loud enough to startle the waiter walking past their table. “Bold of you to think I’d actually fall for the likes of you. I have no time for that. I’m heading for Broadway the moment our divorce papers are signed, and I’m never looking back.”

“Good. Keep it that way then.” Yoongi smoothes the fabric his pants even though there aren’t any creases there. “It’s for the best.”

“What’s so wrong with it, though?” Jimin asks. “Love is love. You’re such an anti. Too bitter for someone your age.”

Yoongi grits his teeth, unsure of what to say. There’s nothing wrong with love per se, but he doesn’t think he’s right for it, either. Not anymore.

Love is a ghost. You think it’s dead and you’ll never come across it again, but then it creeps back to you... and you’re never the same after. He has no space in his life for that kind of negativity. “Feelings just over-complicate things, and that breaks my mojo. The way I see it, life is a wave, and I’m just in it for the ride. Keep it chill, you know? I go with the flow. No need for any tide of unnecessary”—he blanches at his own words—”lovey dovey feelings.”

Jimin lets out a low whistle. “I don’t know if maybe you’re just a repressed writer or a frustrated artist, because that was actually poetic.”

Yoongi shrugs his comment off. “All I’m trying to say is, it’s inconvenient. Don’t expect me to actually be a husband to you. I won’t bother you, either. Let’s not get personal.”

“And that’s perfectly fine with me. Really.” Jimin holds up both hands in a show of surrender, eyebrows raised. “But let me just point out that while I appreciate everything you said... do you think life’s a movie?” He folds his arms and gives Yoongi a pensive look. “Because I wish it were, but it isn’t, so cut that out.”

“Cut what out?”

“That narrow perspective when it comes to displaying affection. You said so yourself: be realistic. So if you want this to work, to actually be convincing, you need to compromise.”

Yoongi tongues at the insides of his cheeks, feeling reprimanded for some reason. “So what’s your solution?”

“Minimal PDA,” announces Jimin, crossing his legs again and sitting back like he’s already bored of the conversation. “Just basics. Hand-holding, at least. A hug every now and then. You gotta give me something to work with here, man. I can’t be expected to play lovestruck newlyweds with a piece of cardboard.”

Yoongi swallows back the swear word rising up his throat. What an asshole. A rude, self-centered primadonna. Still, he has to keep his cool, and in hindsight, what Jimin is suggesting doesn’t sound half as bad. Min Yoongi is not an inflexible man; he can compromise. “Fine, fine. But only when you really have to. I’m not really…” He looks away, eyes lazily landing on the barista layering whipped cream on a pink ice-blended drink that looks like diabetes in a cup. “I’m not really very comfortable with being touchy-feely in public.”

“Fine with me. I can adjust to that.”

 

9.) Minimal PDA

 

“You know, I’m surprised you’re devoted to this already.”

Jimin smiles wanly. “Haven’t you heard? To be an actor, you don’t play the part. You be the part.”

It occurs to Yoongi then, the gravity of the scheme they’re about to commit. Sham marriage. If they’re caught, they could go to prison for this. Yoongi can’t let himself imagine the various dire consequences they could face. He can’t let them happen—not with his freedom and 10 billion won at stake. He shakes his thoughts away, heart pounding. “Just remember: nothing personal. Don’t you go falling in love with me”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “Please. No offense, but you’re not even my type. I’d rather jump into the Han River naked in December. Like I said—this is strictly a business deal. You didn’t even have to say that because you have my word: I, Park Jimin, am never falling in love with you.”

“Perfect.” Yoongi nods. “Me neither.”

They decide to lay down the full list of Unbreakable House Rules, reading them off again one by one to double-confirm everything, before ending it with—

 

10.) NO FALLING IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER.

 

“Okay, this sounds good,” Yoongi starts. “Now let’s shake hands on this.”

“Nuh-uh.” Jimin gives a single shake of his head and holds up a hand instead. “Pinky swear on it.”

Yoongi furrows his brows and gives Jimin a funny look, but Jimin’s expression remains stubborn, so he groans and rubs a hand over his face. “For fuck’s sake.” He reaches a hand across the cafe table, pinky finger raised, and meets Jimin’s shorter one to loop them together in a pinky promise and a thumb bump. “I don’t know what’s the point of all this.”

“Pinky promises are very serious affairs,” Jimin says, face solemn, and Yoongi just shakes his head with a bemused scoff. “Break one and you break the pact.”

“Right. Anyway, I’ve got to go, because I have a funeral to attend this afternoon.” Yoongi pulls away from Jimin’s hand and stands.

“Oh?” Jimin blinks up at him, watching him gather his things before he asks, “Whose?”

“In case you weren’t paying attention,” Yoongi says, grabbing his messenger bag. “I have a long-lost grandfather who just passed away, so I’m visiting this afternoon to pay my respects.”

“Can I go with you?”

Yoongi pauses and looks back over his shoulder. “Whatever for?”

There’s a thoughtful look that passes over Jimin’s face before he meets Yoongi’s eyes with steely determination. “As someone who’s marrying you soon, that makes me your fiancé now, right? So I should go pay respects, too.”

“You don’t really have to—”

“You can take it as a test, too.” Jimin stands up and walks by him. “Like an audition. See if I’m really fit for this role you want to put me in. If not, then at least it’s not too late to back out.”

Yoongi regards him for several long heartbeats, not sure if he should be bringing in a fake fiance at an event as serious as this.

“I’m being sincere,” Jimin adds, chewing on his lower lip and actually seeming hesitant for once. “Really, I do— I want to support your mourning somehow. It would feel rude not to.”

There’s no harm in trying, and anyway, it’s tradition for close peers and even strangers to drop by at a huge funeral. And based on what Yoongi gathered, his grandfather’s funeral is by no means a small one. He sighs and rubs the back of his neck. “Fine. But go home and get changed first. I’ll pick you up in a few hours.”

 


 

“How’s this? Do I look somber enough?”

Jimin turns around and stretches out his arms to show his current attire—combed-back hair, a plain black suit and black polished oxfords—to which Taehyung looks up from his video game for a second long enough to give a nod of approval. “Good to go.”

Outside, a car’s horn blares and makes them both jump.

Jimin nods and tugs at the lapels of his suit. “That would be Yoongi.”

“He’s older than us, you know,” Taehyung quips, pausing his game. “He’s a hyung.”

Jimin makes a face. “Heh. I don’t think he’d appreciate me calling him that. Guy’s a prick, Tae. Always yabbering on and on about keeping a distance and not taking things personal. As if I can’t think and decide for myself.”

Taehyung flashes him a small smile. “That would be Yoongi-hyung, all right. He’s pretty reserved.”

“More like unfriendly.” Jimin reaches out to brush back the bangs falling over his best friend’s forehead, and heaves a sigh before facing the full-length mirror mounted on Taehyung’s bedroom wall. “I’m really doing this, aren’t I, Tae?”

“You’ll do fine.” They both know they’re talking about more than just paying respects at a rich man’s funeral. Taehyung cups his cheeks and pats his head like a dog owner would his pet. “Fighting, Park Chimchim! You got this, you always do.”

The car honks again, and Jimin takes that as his last cue to go. He bids Taehyung a quick goodbye, before stepping out of his apartment and clambering down the flight of staircases to the ground level, where Yoongi’s black Honda waits.

“I thought I told you I’d be here at 5pm” is the first grumpy sentence Jimin hears when he opens the door to the passenger seat. He glances at his wristwatch.

“I’m not even late.

“It’s 5:05pm now,” Yoongi says, reversing and turning the wheel. “That’s five minutes over the specified time.”

“Geez, let me live. It’s not like it killed you or anything.”

Yoongi glowers at him.

Ah, so he’s the type of irritating dick who doesn’t understand the meaning of letting people off the hook. He’s worse than Jimin’s high school terror teacher—a.k.a their infamous discipline master who used to walk around the campus with a thin stick to smack naughty students’ ankles with whenever they misbehaved. 

Jimin shrugs half-heartedly, and salutes in mockery. “Sorry, Captain Discipline. I’ll make sure this offense will not be repeated.”

His ‘fiancé’ side-eyes him, but says nothing more, and Jimin reckons he’s probably going to have to grow accustomed to this kind of stoic, stiff silence for the next six months. Crud. It’s going to be a miserable marriage, he can already predict it.

Why he thought it was a good idea to volunteer to pay respects to a stranger’s grandfather, he doesn’t even know. Jimin sighs and sags against the seat.

“Seatbelt.”

Jimin glances at his husband-to-be. “Oh, so now you’re trying to be caring towards me.”

“It’s called ‘basic road safety’.” Yoongi maneuvers the car out of the narrow alley and drives into the main street. “Accidents happen all the time.”

Jimin rolls his eyes, buckling his seatbelt. “Pessimist.”

Realist.

Jimin shakes his head and chooses not to retort, because he’d be wasting his breath trying to argue with the guy. Instead, he steers the conversation to a different topic. “So what’s up with your family and how are you inheriting so much money, anyway? Are you like, a chaebol or something?”

Yoongi huffs, eyes on the road, and for the briefest second Jimin almost admires the way his side profile looks striking against the waning afternoon sunlight—features both soft and sharp at the same time. Chiseled jawline but soft nose. Fox eyes but thin lips. A walking contradiction.

“It’s nothing like that.”

Jimin blinks, and shrugs. “Were you close to your grandfather?”

“No.” Yoongi bites at the insides of his cheeks, letting the silence pulse through the air between them. “I didn’t know him at all, to be honest. One day a lawyer just came knocking on my door and told me about it and I realized that I never wondered why I never asked my mom about my family on her side.”

That’s unusual. Jimin’s lips work themselves into a curious pout. “So… where is she?”

“Where’s who?”

“Your mom.” Jimin watches the way Yoongi’s pupils narrow at the mention of the word. “She never told you about her family? And now you’re apparently going to be crazy rich? That’s a little strange, isn’t it?”

“That’s what I’m about to find out.” Yoongi’s gaze flickers to him for a moment. “And honestly, I’d rather not talk about it.”

Jimin’s lips zip closed, not missing the way Yoongi dodged his questions like a pro “Oh. Okay.” Nothing personal, he reminds himself. It would be best to stay clear of anything too personal with Min Yoongi.

They arrive at the funeral home just as the sun is setting in upscale Cheongdam-dong, and Jimin forces his gaze down, trying not to gawk at the number of standing bouquets with ribbons of condolences lining up the hallway just for the one and only ongoing funeral in a privately booked hall. Feeling self-conscious, he dusts away non-existent flecks from his suit. Whoever Yoongi’s grandfather was, he must’ve been filthy rich to warrant this much of a grand send-off.

Of all the mysteries that he wants to solve when it comes to Min Yoongi, Jimin wonders if Yoongi wished he could have known his grandfather before he died.

They turn into the main funeral hall, where muffled cries are coming from. Jimin spots a photo frame of an elderly man adorned in wreaths standing in the middle of a table, also similarly festooned in neat arrangements flora. The smell of burning incense hangs in the air in a macabre welcome, and Jimin follows Yoongi who makes a beeline to bow to the chief mourners.

The moment Yoongi steps into the hall, dead silence ensues, and three of the chief mourners kneeling on the right side of the room stand up, their faces turning red. One of them is a middle aged man; the other looks like a high school kid, while the last one is a woman with a wrinkled face, her long black hair tied in a single braid.

None of them look pleased to see Yoongi.

“Who are you?” one of them, the man who looks to be in his mid-forties, asks Yoongi in a voice gone hoarse from crying. He’s sporting a severe case of eyebags, pale skin sallow from the grief and lack of sleep, and Jimin suppresses the urge to pat his hand and tell him everything would be okay.

“You look familiar…” adds in the woman, tall and regal in her stance despite the distress written all over her face.

Yoongi bows in a deep 90-degree angle. “Min Yoongi, daughter of Min Sooha—”

A strangled cry escapes the woman. “Get out.” She shoves Yoongi’s shoulder, pushing him out of the funeral hall, and Jimin catches the look of panic in Yoongi’s eyes before he dips his head in shame. “Get out! My sister’s name is Yoon Sooha, not Min. We don’t acknowledge family going by the name, Min.”

“Father disowned your mother long ago,” hisses the middle-aged man, glaring at Yoongi. When Yoongi doesn’t budge, only maintaining his bowing pose, the man grabs him by the collar of his shirt to force their eyes to meet. “You hear me? You have no right to be here, not when your mother was an eloping bitch with that scum who left the both of you in crippling debt. We don’t want you here!”

Jimin’s throat tightens at the sight of Yoongi’s eyes going red with tears of barely repressed hate, but his mind reels at everything he just heard. Too much is going by to process, but all he knows at this very moment is that nobody deserves to be yelled at like that, especially by their own family. Granted, this is probably the first time Yoongi is seeing his family, but they have no right to step on his dignity like this. Jimin scoffs and places a careful hand over the man’s, which are fisting Yoongi’s collar.

“Excuse me,” Jimin interjects, keeping his voice even and modulated. “I would like to pay my respects to the deceased. Kindly let me pass.”

Taken aback, the middle-aged man clamps his mouth shut.

It’s a subtle hint that they shouldn’t be crowding around a funeral home in a fight, and both Yoongi and the middle-aged man—his uncle, perhaps?—back away from each other to let Jimin kneel and bow twice to the photo of Yoongi’s late grandfather. He closes his eyes each time his forehead touches the floor, and prays:

Dear Yoongi’s grandfather, I am your grandson’s fiancé. Please forgive me for tainting your last will. Please rest well. I will

Jimin’s eyes open as his thoughts unscramble, and he feels the weight of the grief in the room pressing down on his shoulders, feels the anguish from the subdued silence that surrounds him, as if Yoongi and his uncle had only then remembered that they’re here to mourn, not fight.

I will try my best to protect your grandson.

The unspoken promise bubbles out of nowhere, but Jimin finds that he doesn’t mind. He can’t promise to be a good husband because that’s going to sound too much like the lie that it is, but he can at least promise to help protect people when they need it.

Like now, case in point.

When Jimin straightens up from his kneeling positions does Yoongi’s nameless uncle splutter in disbelief, “And who are you?”

Jimin meets him straight in the eye, fearless, and rests a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. “I’m this man’s husband-to-be. Now, please allow him to pay his respects to the deceased as well.”

 


 

“Sorry you had to witness that.”

Jimin shrugs, pouring a shot of soju for both himself and Yoongi. “It’s family. It gets pretty chaotic. Not really surprised there.”

They’re sitting across each other at a traditional pojangmacha—one of the tented street food stalls lined up along the road leading to Yoongi’s apartment, and Jimin watches as Yoongi downs the shot in one gulp.

“It’s my first time meeting them,” he says with a small sniff. “I didn’t know that she… that my mother was…” He trails off with a sigh, and pours himself another shot of liquor. “I don’t know, man.”

Jimin pushes their ordered plate of spicy tteokbboki in his direction. “Eat. You look like a nightmare.”

“I’m good. M’okay.”

“Suit yourself.” Jimin shrugs, still studying the man slumped opposite him. “Do you, um. Want to talk about it?”

“No.” The reply is firm. “I don’t even want to think about it.”

Sounds fair enough. Family issues are a persona non grata topic, then. Jimin nods and shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He’s always considered himself to be a people person, somebody who gets along with men and women alike from all walks of life, but something about Min Yoongi makes him pause. He grows hesitant. It’s the strangest thing.

“Thanks for earlier, by the way.”

“No problem.”

“So does this mean I pass the audition for the role of your husband?” Jimin asks, offering a more lighthearted smile.

“Yeah, yeah.” Yoongi waves a hand in front of his face. “Pass.”

“Yes!” Jimin pumps a fist in the air in triumph, though nothing about the mood between them calls for celebration, so he lowers his hands instead. Rather than pursuing the unspoken matter further, Jimin decides to tweak its direction. “Speaking of family, since I’ve kind of met yours, in a way… I think it’s time for you to meet mine, too. And, you know, let people know that we’re getting married.”

Yoongi looks up at him, eyes slightly unfocused for a second, before they sharpen to his usual cool and alert demeanor. He sighs, long and loud. “Right. We need to start telling people.”

“Yep.”

“I don’t have that much of a family to speak of,” Yoongi says, and Jimin almost wants to poke his cheek just so that his lips would twitch upwards. “But I do have a few friends to tell.”

 


 

It’s almost the same routine for Yoongi later that night: he arrives at the Blue Rose’s back-of-house, opens his locker and puts on his uniform while making small talk with his manager. Except this time he drops the bomb: “So, I’m getting married.”

Seokjin drops the hairspray can.

Yoongi bends down to pick it up and hands it back to Seokjin. “You dropped this. And your jaw.”

“You can’t just— you really— yah,” Seokjin stutters, blinking his eyes like he can’t believe what he heard. “You’re shitting me.”

“Nah.” Yoongi buttons the collar all the way up.

“You mean to tell me that somehow, by miracle, found someone willing to actually marry your ass in just one day?”

“Yep.”

“Who in the world would torture themselves like that?” Seokjin mutters quietly, and Yoongi scoffs. “You can’t expect me to believe you fell in love so fast.”

“Who said anything about falling in love? It’s just marriage. It’s not like I have to love the person,” Yoongi states, checking his hair in the locker mirror.

Seokjin just stares at him like his head’s gotten chopped clean off his shoulders. “Right. Let me just go and marry Brad Pitt, then.”

“Look, let’s just say we hit it off right away, alright?” Yoongi continues in his most diplomatic tone, choosing his words carefully so as not to let it on that this whole thing is a sham. He might be close to Seokjin, but still. Nobody can suspect their scheme.

“We went out, met up for a date, and thought we could give it a shot, you know?” At the corner of his vision, Yoongi spies Taehyung entering the locker room while whistling, and when their eyes lock, Yoongi tries his best to send a Telepathic Message:

Don’t tell a single soul.

Taehyung raises his eyebrows and nods, miming zipping his lips closed.

“But marriage isn’t something you can just rush, Yoons,” Seokjin reasons, looking baffled. “You’ve never struck me as the type of person who jumps into things blindly.”

Alas, the things people do for money.

Yoongi flashes his manager a wry smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “I don’t really have a choice, do I?”

“Why?” Seokjin’s brows knit together, until his eyes clear. “Oh. Ohhhh. Is it because of that thing with your grandfather—“

Pulse spiking, Yoongi hurries to deflect him.

“No, well kind of, but also no. It’s not what you think. I really do want to marry him. Like I said,” Yoongi can feel his brain struggling to reach for the right words. “He and I uh, complete each other.”

That seems to catch Seokjin off-guard. “Oh. That’s... aww, that’s cute.”

Yoongi’s shoulders draw back, tension easing. “Right.”

“Who is he, actually?” Seokjin prods, the suspicion in his eyes vanishing. “Who’s the unlucky guy?”

“Piss off.” Yoongi sends him a mock-dirty look. “Name’s Park Jimin.”

“Isn’t that the one you proposed to last night?”

“Well, yeah.” Yoongi shrugs on his newly ironed vest, and tucks the red rose into its breast pocket. “He told me he changed his mind. Must’ve been my irresistible charm.”

Both Seokjin and Taehyung snort. “Anyway,” Seokjin starts. “So how’re you preparing for the wedding?”

Yoongi halts, fingers holding onto the stalk of the fake rose. “I... haven’t thought about it.”

In all honesty, isn’t marriage supposed to be just like signing a contract for a new job at a firm? The way he imagined it, Yoongi only expected to get the paperwork underway. Sign the right documents, announce their married status and then get the money. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Right?

But then he realizes– well, he can’t say that out loud, not if he wants to be convincing. If he wants the world to believe his lie... what was it Jimin said again?

You don’t play the part. You become the part.

Seokjin’s smile drops, and he crosses his arms like a stern teacher. “Please don’t tell me you’re planning not to host a wedding ceremony. I was really hoping to get invited.”

“They just wanna settle down quick,” Taehyung offers.

Yoongi nods in agreement. “Yep. That. What he said. I can’t wait to... move in together and... share a bed and, uh, the rest of my life... with him.” Words—who knew saying them could physically pain him so? “Heh.”

Taehyung clears his throat and gives him a pointed look.

“Well, at least make sure you have a prenuptial photoshoot then,” Seokjin recommends in that pseudo-aggressive way of his that doesn’t really make space for the other party to refuse. “For memories’ sake. You’re going to want to look back at everything fondly.”

Hell no.

“Give it some thought,” Seokjin continues. “At the very least, it’ll make your families happy. And the whole world will know about you.”

That catches Yoongi’s attention, because it does make sense—a prenup photoshoot could be solid evidence that would support their ruse. And so it goes, that later that evening after finishing his medley, Yoongi presses a number into his phone and calls—

“Hello?” answers Jungkook’s sleepy voice. “Hyung?”

“Hey, Kook.”

“What’s up? I’m trying to film a self mukbang here.”

Yoongi smiles despite himself.

There’s a reason why he only works at the Blue Rose as a part-time pianist on weekends: he’s occupied by his day job on weekdays at the Serendipity Studio. As a photographer, he can’t be picky—be it graduation portraits, baby showers, weddings, you name it—he accepts whatever project gets the income rolling in. Some might argue it’s not the most stable job, but you’d be surprised at how many neophytes are willing to fork out big bucks just to have their ‘special’ moments’ captured by a professional DSLR.

“We don’t have any shoots lined up on our calendar tomorrow, right?” Yoongi asks.

“Nope.” Jungkook answers. He’s only 20, working as an intern, and while he’s still starting out as a part time uni student, he keeps improving by leaps and bounds. Yoongi has no doubt the kid will surpass him in terms of skills soon enough. “It’s our free day. Why?”

“We’ve got an impromptu shoot. Wedding prenup,” informs Yoongi. “Freeform, there’s no rules for this one. I’m leaving you to think of a concept, yeah?”

Jungkook makes a surprised noise from the end of the line. “Whoa, wait. But nobody called to book us, hyung. Whose wedding is it?”

Yoongi lets out a slow exhale, a pained smile twitching at the corner of his lips. “Mine.”

 


 

There should be a special place in hell for whoever designs 5-storey apartment buildings without damned elevators. 

Seriously, this is the 21st century. As if South Korea doesn’t have enough stairs everywhere already. Huffing and puffing, Jimin hauls his feet up the last set of stairs leading up to the rooftop floor, lugging two suitcases behind him. His shirt is matted to his back, sweat dripping down his temples, and he tamps down the urge to strip right then and there.

Curse this midsummer heat.

“Damn you, Min Yoongi,” he grumbles, adjusting the strap of his backpack on his shoulder while hauling his two suitcases up the last rung of the creaky metal ladder leading to the rooftop. “Damn you and your 100-year-old habitat.” 

Of all the places he could live in, Min Yoongi just so happens to reside in a crusty rooftop flat, the kind with an open deck that would probably be considered romantic at night… though in Jimin’s frank opinion, it’s a straight up frying pan within direct range from the Sun’s heat. He glances up at the unit number—#05-05—and rings the bell, grimacing when his index finger comes away coated with dust just from pressing the doorbell alone.

A minute later, the doorknob twists to show Yoongi, hair shower-tousled and clad in a loose pair of grey pajamas that, in Jimin’s humble opinion, washes his skin tone out. Adorably. But he isn’t admitting that. “Wow. If I had to name a palette shade after you, it would be Corpse Ash.”

Yoongi does not look amused by his show of brevity and wit. “Hello to you, too.”

Jimin fake-smiles and shoots fingers hearts. “Hey honeyboy. Munchkin cake.”

Yoongi wrinkles his nose. “Cut that out.”

“But nicknames are a couple thing,” Jimin declares, eyeing the way Yoongi’s tousled black hair sticks up in a way that reminds him of cat ears. “How about... Lil Meow Meow?”

“No.”

“Mewtwo?” Jimin waggles his eyebrows. “I choose you?”

“No. No nicknames.” Pushing the door to open wider, Yoongi steps aside to let him through—though Jimin can feel his reluctance radiating in waves. “So uh, this is my place.”

“Your place is…” Jimin’s gaze darts around the one-room, and instantly his blood pressure climbs to fatal levels. Whatever he meant to say dies halfway through his throat, and his mouth goes dry.

It’s like a hurricane rampaged through the apartment.

There’s dirty laundry strewn on every visible surface, scratch marks zigzag down the curtains—what kind of nails are capable of those? Surely not humans ones?—and there’s a growing pile of unwashed dishes by the sink, their edges browning with unspecified remnants of food clumps. There’s also this putrid smell—a heady mix of dried sweat and dead fish and old gym shoes—that makes Jimin’s stomach roll with a wave of nausea. He has to physically suppress the urge to wretch.

“You uh, you can put your stuff down on the floor for now,” Yoongi says awkwardly.

Dizzy, Jimin tilts his chin down, searching. “Where.”

“Huh?”

“Where is the floor?”

Maybe he’s going blind. Jimin can’t tell if the apartment is carpeted or built with wooden floorboards, because there’s discarded stuff covering every inch of standing ground. How the hell does Yoongi pick his way through this? “I can’t find it amidst all this… trash.”

Beside him, Yoongi emits a perplexed chortle, dodging his question regardless. “How about you give me your bags? I’ll bring it up to your room?”

His room. Jimin hopes that at least there’s one place in this dumpsite that doesn’t look like it’s been bulldozed over by a raging tornado. “Um. Okay. Lead the way.”

“Come on, it’s right here—“

Yoongi’s words get cut off by the sound of high-pitched, disgruntled meowing, and before Jimin knows it, suddenly a giant piece of orange, aggressive fluff launches itself at his chest, hissing and clawing.

“Madeleine, no!”

Too late. Jimin screams bloody murder and falls backwards on his butt with a thud, his suitcases clattering aside as he struggles to pry whatever monstrosity has clung onto him. He screams louder when a stray piece of unknown furniture jabs at his left asscheek. Hurts like a fucking lego block.

It takes more than a few tries for Yoongi to finally lift the little devil off Jimin, and by then his hair is sticking out in all directions and the front of his shirt’s been frayed to shreds, white threads hanging loose like limp noodles. But rather than tending to him, Min Yoongi makes himself busy trying to appease his attacker. The culprit. It bares its teeth at Jimin, raw gold eyes flashing with warning.

“You never told me you had a cat!” Jimin seethes, breathing hard and clutching his damaged tee. “Look what he did!”

“It’s a she!” Yoongi snaps, eyes veering sharply to meet his, like he’s just committed a major offence. “And she has a name. Don’t you, Madeleine?” He shifts his attention back to the meowing cat. 

Jimin’s eyes widen, thunderstruck, as realization swoops down on him.

That’s Madeleine?” he splutters, spitting out ginger fur that have strayed into his mouth. Disgusting. Don’t get him wrong—he loves furkids, was often dubbed as Animal Whisperer back at home, but this feline is just.

Unusually vile.

Jimin can feel the weight of Madeleine’s glare on him, prickling his skin. Maybe he should start looking up contact numbers for nearby friendly neighborhood exorcists. You know, for safety precautions.

Petting the Scottish Fold’s head, Yoongi sends him a puzzled glare. “Who else would it be? I told you I had a baby!”

Jimin blinks, nearly forgetting the pain in his ass. “…Ohh.”

Yoongi eases his cat off his arms, and she skitters out of sight without wasting a single second. “She’s family. The one that you’re supposed to feed whenever I’m out. It’s on the contract, remember?”

Family. Jimin’s mind flashes to his parents and brother back in Busan.

He would have liked to say something substantial, something remotely smart, but again, all that exits his mouth is, “Oh.”

This is what he gets for bouncing from one conclusion to the next. Damn it. And all this time he thought Yoongi was an overprotective single dad.

“Yeah, oh,” Yoongi mocks, giving Jimin a look as if to say, ‘You dumbass’, and Jimin feels heat rise to his ears.

“I see.”

“Anyway, you okay?” Yoongi pads closer, holding out a hand to help him up, but Jimin swats it away.

“Shoo.”

“Sheesh.” Yoongi wipes his hand against his pyjamas. “No need to be so iffy. Was just making sure if you were fine.”

“I’m very much fine, no thanks to you.” He pushes to his feet and reaches for his bags. “So, where’s my room?”

Yoongi sends him one last long, searching look before cocking his chin upwards. “Upstairs, over there.”

Jimin looks up, following his gaze.

And his blood freezes in his veins.

Because only then does he realize that Yoongi lives in a one-room, studio-type rooftop flat—the open concept kind with a limited floor plan featuring a double-decked second floor that overlooks the lower level below.

Which means: there’s only one ‘bedroom’ upstairs. Yoongi’s…and now, Jimin’s, too.

“Oh.”

Yoongi must see the look of utter dismay on Jimin’s face, because he hurries to clarify: “Don’t worry. I put a divider between your side of the space and mine, and rolled out a futon mattress, so it’ll be cozy for you.”

“Cozy,” Jimin echoes, heart sinking.

“Yeah.” Yoongi nods like a salesman trying to lock down a failing deal. “And technically, you won’t see me with the divider up, so we’ll both have privacy. If not, you can just... you can just ignore me.”

Jimin chews on his lower lip, weighing his options, until he realizes—he doesn’t have any. It’s either this, or the streets. But if it’s a matter of the lesser of two evils, Jimin might just choose to sleep outside instead. This place stinks. How long has it been since the floor met a broom? Since the ceiling was brushed with a feather duster? 

“There’s a mini-desk on your side,” Yoongi’s words tumble out in a rush as Jimin’s silence draws on and on.

“Well, it’s mine, actually, but I pushed it to your side just in case you needed it. There’s a shelf for books, too. No closet though, sorry about that. I know it’s on short notice—”

“Are you okay with sleeping with the lights on?” Jimin asks, cutting him off sharply.

Yoongi stops to stare, confusion glazing over his obsidian eyes. “Uh. I usually sleep with them off…”

“I don’t.” Jimin announces with a sniff before waltzing deeper into the loft and climbing up the ladder leading up to the cramped ‘second floor’—if it can even be called that.

He hates to admit it, but something about Yoongi’s earnest effort scraped down at his initial distaste. He turns to look at his husband-to-be, standing downstairs. “But I’ll just get a nightlight, hmm? Other than that, I can... I supposed I can make do with this.”

Jimin tries not to smile when he sees the pent-up tension seep out of Yoongi’s body. He scratches the back of his ears. “Great. Cool. Welcome to my humble abode, I guess.”

“Your apartment’s a rubbish dumpster, though,” Jimin says nonchalantly, his voice carrying a singsong tune.

“I think I need to edit that contract, add a little something about regular weekly spring cleaning days. When was the last time you did your laundry, honeyboy?”

“Stop calling me that.” Yoongi frowns, then tilts his head to one side. “Not too long ago. It’s only been… 2 weeks?”

Gasping, Jimin can practically feel his eyes rolling to the back of his head. “What– why?”

“To save water bills.”

Unbelievable. Jimin cannot live like this. He won’t be able to sleep soundly at night not knowing if there might be cockroaches crawling over his face.

Six months, he reminds himself. Bear with it for 6 months, and you’ll get away scot-free, with millions sitting safe in your bank account. 

“You need to start working on that. This place,” Jimin waves a finger around the entire apartment, “—needs a major revamp.”

“It’s okay to me, though.”

“But not me,” Jimin retorts. “Also, you should probably stay off the ramen.”

“How did you know I’ve been eating ramen?” Yoongi stammers.

Because Jimin can smell it in the stale air. “You just strike me as the type who hardly spends enough time at home to bother cleaning. I bet you stay up late hours working. That needs to change, too. Hell. At this rate you might die of cardiac arrest by age thirty.”

He can’t help his nurturing side from coming out. And perhaps Jimin’s been talking too much, because the bashful, sullen look on Yoongi’s face suddenly slips off, replaced by a suspicious one. “I’m surprised you’re already taking over like this. Since when did you care about me?”

Jimin’s lips clamp shut, and it’s all he can do not to scoff petulantly. Please. He doesn’t care. None of that. He’s just… being hygienic. “Just be grateful that I’m a compassionate thespian who cares about the well-being of all mankind.”

Yoongi shakes his head with a dry chuckle. “Whatever. Anyway, you can unpack later. Get dressed. Wear something nice.” He checks his wristwatch. “We’re leaving in 10 minutes.”

“Where to?” Jimin asks with an eyebrow raise, and a foolish, childlike part of him hopes with part-suspicion and part-trepidation that Yoongi might be thinking of taking him out to dinner to celebrate his ‘moving in’ day. “What are we doing?”

“Making sure this plan is foolproof,” Yoongi replies, then after a heartbeat, turns to Jimin and fixes him with a curious look. 

“What?” Jimin asks, squinting.

“How good are you at posing for pictures?”

 


 

Yoongi lingers by the door, adjusting the pink tie underneath his light grey suit (made of cheap satin) for the fiftieth time. “You done yet?”

“Hold up.” Jimin’s voice is muffled behind the toilet’s door. “Be out in a bit.”

So much for leaving in 10 minutes. It’s been, what—20 now?

They’d both agreed to wear something along the lines of grey—the most neutral color in the world, in Yoongi’s opinion—before Jimin suggested they throw in some pink, too. Yoongi relented, and before he knew it, Jimin was insisting on doing his hair and makeup as well. That was where he drew the line and refused.

“Are you taking a dump there?” Yoongi calls out.

“Noooo.” A few more clattering noises, and then the hinge creaks as the bathroom door opens. “Done. Tada!”

Yoongi grunts and glances up. “Jimin, we’re running late—“

He stops short, feeling the words halt and tangle at the tip of his tongue.

“So?” Jimin asks. “Is this okay?”

It’s nearly identical to what Yoongi’s wearing—grey tux and pants so light it’s nearly white, but instead of a long necktie, there’s a tiny dusty rose bowtie knotted around Jimin’s collar like a necklace. His face, though—now that’s a whole other league.

Gel-slicked blond hair, plump limps dusted with glitter, cheeks a rosy angel-pink. He’d even managed to color his eyelids a darker shade of bronze, and damn if Yoongi doesn’t catch himself gawking for the briefest second.

“You look...” Come on, tongue. Come on, brain.

“Yes..?”

Yoongi glances away, scratching behind his ears & feeling his cheeks warm for absolutely no valid reason at all. “You look weird.”

He hears a maddened gasp. Jimin brushes past him roughly. “No need to be so rude about it.”

You look like a fairy prince, was what Yoongi meant.

But it’s not like Jimin needs to hear that. The guy has more than enough self-confidence to fill up an entire hot-air balloon already. So Yoongi seethes silently, watching Jimin strut down the corridor and leaving him to lock the door.

Jimin doesn’t need his compliments.

 


 

“It’s gonna be where?” Yoongi sputters into the phone as he turns into the highway, unable to digest what he just heard.

“Gwacheon Planetarium, hyung,” Jungkook’s voices soothes. 

“But why?” Yoongi asks. “Why not just, I dunno, some nearby park? Like Hanggang Park? Or Yeouido?”

“Hyung!” Jungkook chides. “You left me in-charge, remember? This is peak romance, true romance! Like Titanic, but outer space!”

“Kook-ah. They both died in Titanic.”

“No, only Jack did,” Jimin chimes in from the passenger seat, and Yoongi rolls his eyes.

“Won’t it be expensive? What about the entrance fees?” he presses.

“No worries. I’m covering this one. It’s not everyday I get to shoot my hyung’s pre-wedding pics.” Jungkook’s tone shifts to something more childlike. “But I still can’t believe you never told me earlier!”

Well, it’s not like I planned it earlier, is what Yoongi doesn’t say. Out loud, he sighs. “Whatever, let’s just. Let’s just get this over and done with.”

Jungkook is standing at the entrance of the planetarium when Yoongi emerges from the parking lot with Jimin in tow. There a giant DSLR hanging around his neck, and he’s dressed in an oversized black hoodie with the hood pulled up, which is not the norm especially in summer. When he spots the two of them, Jungkook nods once. “Yo.”

“Hey, Kook.” Yoongi smiles, the first genuine one in a while.

And then he just kind of... stands there, and Jungkook stands there, and Jimin stands beside him, and the silence hanging over their group grows so awkward that Yoongi’s smile twitches.

“Yo,” Jungkook repeats.

“Ah. Right.” He clears his throat and gestures to Jimin. “This is—“

“Park Jimin, hi, nice to meet you!” Jimin whooshes past Yoongi in a blur of motion, and the next thing he knows, his fake fiance is shaking Jungkook’s hand with a bright smile. “You’re my honeyboy’s friend, right?”

Yoongi chokes on nothing but air.

“H-honey...” Jungkook wheezes at that, and his cheeks flush with the effort it takes not to burst out laughing. “Yeah, but we work together. At the studio.”

Jimin nods like he understand it all even though Yoongi hasn’t told him shit. “That’s so impressive. You must be good.”

The tips of Jungkook’s ears start pinking under Jimin’s constant barrage of praises until Yoongi herds them towards the ticketing entrance, “Okay. Time’s ticking, let’s go.”

Jungkook leads the way in. Jimin lingers behind, and when Yoongi walks by, he slips his hand into his. Yoongi stiffens, and he nearly seizes up on the spot when Jimin pushes his face veeery close to Yoongi’s cheek and advises, “Relax.”

Up close, he smells like fresh peonies and ripe raspberries and praline, and his voice, usually thin and soft, is lower than usual.

As someone who’s always been the one behind the camera, Min Yoongi is, for once, at a loss. He grunts in acknowledgement. “Mmm.”

“I got you.” Jimin’s breath is warm against the base of Yoongi’s neck and he shudders, stifling the need to turn his head sideways the smallest bit—

“Hey! Come on!” Jungkook yells, and Yoongi blinks and moves his head out of Jimin’s range.

He probably shouldn’t draw too near the guy. It’s like Jimin has a magnetic force that lures everyone to him, and Yoongi has no need for anything like that.

 


 

Stepping inside a planetarium is like dipping your feet into a puddle of stars, only to fall in and find yourself parading through infinite galaxies.

“Just lean back-to-back against each other,” Jungkook instructs gently, bending at the knee to get a good angle.

Yoongi and Jimin comply as they’re told. It’s warm where the backs of their shoulders press against each other, and strands of Jimin’s hair tickle the back of Yoongi’s neck. He gasps when he feels Jimin link a pinky finger to his.

“Nice,” Jungkook comments offhandedly. Flash.

Yoongi lets his own pinky loop around Jimin’s. For the photoshoot’s sake, he’s gonna have to put up with all this skinship. 'Put up' as in, secretly enjoy.

(Hey, Yoongi never said he hated holding hands.)

“Now face each other,” Jungkook says. “And just pose naturally.”

Turning on his heel, Yoongi finds himself directly face-to-face with Jimin.

“Hello,” Jimin whispers to him with a soft smile, and under the faint purple-ocean-night sky light, he looks like a lost dream. Yoongi returns his greeting with a tight smile, not trusting himself to talk.

“Where’s the pose?” Jungkook all but whines, concentration breaking. “Come on. Put your hands around each other or something!”

Warning bells of panic start going off in Yoongi’s head, and his breathing quickens. He can’t believe he’s really doing this.

“Put your hands on my waist.”

“H-huh?” Yoongi ekes out, feeling the urge to shrink away under Jimin’s mocha eyes.

“Do it,” Jimin hisses through a smile, loud enough for only Yoongi to hear.

But it seems like muscle atrophy has taken over Yoongi’s nervous system, because his arms don’t make a single move. Jimin lets out an exasperated grunt and reaches for both of Yoongi’s hands to plant them firmly on his torso—one on the side of his waist, and one against the small of his back. Gulping, Yoongi tries to make it look less stiff, like he’s done this a million times before, but if he were honest with himself it sorta feels like he’s looking at his hands through the lens of someone else, as though his limbs are foreign entities that aren’t attached to his body.

“Breathe, honeyboy,” Jimin murmurs, and his voice is a symphony of satin and silk. “And hold me. Like this.”

Yoongi gulps, fingertips twitching. “Y-you’re quite a natural at this, huh.”

“Of course,” Jimin answers, calm and confident while smiling for the camera. “This is my comfort zone.”

“Could you both look up like you’re stargazing together?” requests Jungkook.

“Sure,” Jimin answers, then adds, “although I don’t really have to, because I’m already standing next to one.” And then he rests his head down flat against Yoongi’s shoulder.

Snap, goes the camera flash. “Beautiful!” Jungkook gushes. “Wah. Yoongi-hyung, you really lucked out.”

By now, Yoongi’s pulse has picked up to an erratic rate. Which is weird, because he hasn’t even ingested any coffee today. Must be the stars and the dim light turning him woozy. And then Jungkook’s final instruction cuts through the noise in Yoongi’s mind:

“Now, kiss.”

Both Jimin and Yoongi freeze in each other’s arms, and their eyes lock, blown wide like a pair of deer caught in headlights.

“What?” Jungkook laments. “No kiss under the stars? Just one. It’ll complete this set.”

Times like these are when Conversing With Eyes play an important role. Without saying a word, the two of them exchange back and forth—

Jimin: Now what?

Yoongi gives a firm, nearly imperceptible shake of his head. No fucking way.

Jimin rolls his eyes. Then he gives a series of forced, awkward giggles. “Jungkook... what if we just, you know, skipped this?”

Jungkook frowns. “Just one kiss?”

“We’re both really, um. Private people,” Jimin explains, and for once Yoongi sees him flounder for the right words to say. “Right, Yoons?”

Jimin turns his head back to meet Yoongi’s gaze, their faces inches apart, their eyes focused on communicating without speaking.

So engrossed in each other are they that they completely forget that they’re in a public space, which means children are free to roam about, and it’s at that last crucial nanosecond—when two boys are clinging to each other tight and Yoongi can count each eyelash lining Jimin’s eyelids and their faces are close so close so close—that a rowdy little boy skitters past and shoves Yoongi out of his way.

Which, you know.

Pushes Yoongi right into his beau’s face, and he stumbles forward, bracing himself just in time not to fall but bringing his lips crashing down against Jimin’s.

Snap.

“Perfect!” Jungkook squeals, a fanboy in the making.

Yoongi’s brain short-circuits.

 

 

Chapter Text

In the blink of an eye, their noses are smooshed together, lips clashing in an awkward mismatch. Too startled to process what’s happening, Jimin breaks the kiss first, stumbling back with a gasp but holding Yoongi by the elbows to keep himself steady. “Oh, um.”

Yoongi gasps and flinches away as if Jimin’s touch is cancer. Meanwhile, Jungkook is clapping like a caffeinated seal, grinning from ear to ear. 

“Yes!” He studies his camera’s display screen, then looks up at them both.

Yoongi makes a choking squirrel noise, and Jimin flashes Jungkook a smile as fake as the stars twinkling in the vaulted ceiling. It’s the kind of perfected smile that belies every single sensation underneath—the way Jimin’s pulse is galloping, how his cheeks probably look like they’re blooming carnations, and the fact that he can only smile because his tongue is too tied for anything else.

On the other hand, Yoongi seems to be fine. Embarrassed and slightly surprised by the twist of events, but fine, in all the ways Jimin is very much… not.

“Could you guys do it again?” requests Jungkook.

Jimin watches from the corner of his eye as his husband-to-be steps away and folds his arms over his chest with a look of horror. “No. No more.”

Jungkook groans and glances down at his camera’s viewfinder. “Awww, c’mon, hyung, it was a perfect shot—“

“Exactly. You got everything you wanted, right?” Yoongi clarifies, adjusting his tie. “So we’re done here.”

“Well, technically speaking, but it’s always good to have backups—“

“It’s all good. Let’s go. I think we can make do with that.” Not bothering to wait for them, Yoongi clicks two heels together before stalking off. Once or twice, his eyes flicker momentarily to Jimin, but they never quite meet gazes. He leaves Jimin and Jungkook there, standing stranded underneath a parade of stars cruising the planetarium ceiling, and it takes three seconds for Jimin’s brain to catch up with whatever the heck just happened.

Well.

Shit. He shifts awkwardly from foot to foot. He and Yoongi just broke a rule, didn’t they?

But it’s okay, right? It’s not like they intended for it to happen. And Jimin’s not the one who initiated it—heck, Yoongi was the one who leaned in first! Jimin shakes his head. The absolute nerve of that guy to act as if Jimin’s lips carry some rabid skin disease. Yoongi doesn’t deserve Jimin’s lips at all. His fingers twitch with the urge to start rubbing at his violated mouth, but then Jungkook clears his throat and Jimin remembers that he isn’t alone.

“Hyung’s a great guy, isn’t he?” Jungkook starts, before his voice turns shy. “I admire him a lot. I’m glad he found someone.”

“Really?” Jimin blinks in confusion. Clearly, he was not informed. “Who?”

Jungkook’s eyebrows knit together and he gives Jimin a funny look.

Ohhh. Yes. Right. Silly me.” Jimin laughs, high-pitched and throaty. Damage control, damage control—where art thou? “Of course. Haha!”

“I know he’s not the most talkative or friendliest person,” Jungkook continues to dispel the awkward pause hanging between them. “So don’t mind if I ask—how did you do it?”

Jimin tilts his head to one side. “How what?”

“Make him fall in love with you? How’d you meet?”

Meet? Jimin remembers it all too clearly: the look of desperation in Yoongi’s face, remembers the combined feeling of ‘annoyed’ and ‘flattered’ at varying degrees because of his out-of-the-blue proposal in the middle of the jazz bar. “It’s a long story. Let’s just say we uh… fell, for each other right away.” It’s only a white lie, since technically speaking, Jimin did trip and barrel into Yoongi’s chest that night.

“That,” Jungkook sighs, a waltz of nebulae reflected in his dark eyes, “is so romantic. Must’ve been love at first sight.”

Right. Slowly, Jimin’s lips curve up, a wicked lightbulb flickering on over his head. “Oh, totally. Yoongi was like, already head over heels for me.”

Jungkook makes a face that kind of looks like the OwO emoji. “Never thought he’d be the type to, but then again, you’re really pretty, Jimin-hyung. I can’t say I don’t believe you.”

It’s the nicest thing he’s heard all week. “N’awww, shucks.” Jimin’s smile widens, and he licks over his lower lip to bite back a chuckle while his ankles cross over each other at the compliment. “You think?”

“Totally. So then, what was it about Yoongi-hyung that you liked?”

“Oh, my honeyboy?” Shit. Jimin doesn’t have a single clue. What does he like about common plain folksmen such as Min Yoongi? 

Focus, Jimin, he tells himself. Gotta be the part. He untucks his ankles and stands up straighter. “I just like the way he takes care of me. He holds my hand and massages my feet a lot. He loves feet.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows jump in surprise. “Feet? Yoongi-hyung?”

“Yeah, I guess I’m not supposed to say it”—Jimin is so going to die; he knows it, but it’s too late to backtrack now because the lie is already halfway out his tongue—“but Yoongi has a... foot fetish.”

Jungkook looks traumatized.

“Oi,” a voice cuts through their talk. “What are you guys waiting for?” Yoongi grumbles from several paces away, head poking out from the corner of the planetarium observatory.

“Let’s keep all of this a secret between you and I, hmm?” Jimin whispers in a hurry, mimics zipping his lips.  

Jungkook gives a wide-eyed nod and ekes out, “C-Congratulations to you two.”

Satisfied, Jimin glances up and pastes a sickeningly sweet smile on his face before answering, “Coming, honeyboy!”

With a dismissive huff, Yoongi looks away without making eye contact, making sure to put at least three steps’ distance between himself and Jimin.

Weird.

 


 

Cold silence.

It’s all Jimin can hear on the car drive home; neither him nor Yoongi make a move to break the palpable tension between them. He doesn’t want to start first. What’s he supposed to say—’Nice kiss, totally unexpected but hey, great finishing touch!’?

His fingers drum rhythmically against his knees and he gnaws on his lower lip over and over. Maybe silence is the way to go. Yoongi could be really ashamed and embarrassed for having broken his own self-enforced rule. Maybe they don’t even have to talk about it; pretend it didn’t happen—

“It wasn’t on purpose, right?” Yoongi pipes up from the driver’s seat, keeping his eyes on the road. There’s a stoplight at an intersection ahead, and Jimin’s hoping it stays green so that the car won’t slow to a halt and give either of them a reason to look at each other. “I mean, of course it wasn’t, because some kid pushed me from behind, so you should know—”

“I know,” Jimin says, slow and deliberate to calm Yoongi’s rambling, “But if I were to be honest with you, I think you’ll eventually have to get used to kissing me.”

The stoplight turns red. Yoongi’s foot hits the brake. 

He turns to Jimin with wide comically wide eyes, accentuating the dark circles beneath them, and Jimin thinks he looks like a panda now that they’re not standing beneath the glamour of a thousand artificial twinkling lights.“What are you trying to—“

“It won’t be the last time.” Jimin declares matter-of-factly, twisting his body and to face Yoongi. “Because we still have to get through the wedding, don’t we? We’ll need to kiss then, too. And for every other time we’re in public, we can’t drop the act.“

“Wait.” Yoongi frowns in a way that sends a chill of foreboding down Jimin’s arms. “What do you mean, wedding?

“The ceremony, of course...?” Jimin blinks. How could Yoongi have forgotten about something so big? Jimin already has the flow of events lined up in his mind: they’ll both don traditional hanboks (or maybe modern suits, depending on the motif); proclaim their vows in front of friends and family, then head to the reception where there will be a long table serving food and wine.

And cake. Of course. One could never miss out on the grand wedding cake. Jimin’s thinking of ordering one made from organic dark chocolate, with mousse and cherries on top. Anything as long as there aren’t any mangoes on it. “...and then we’ll do a cake waltz, and a lovers’ toast to show how devoted we are to each other,” he finishes with a swoon, hands clasped together. Meanwhile beside him, he misses the way Yoongi grows more and more horrified with every lavish detail he divulges.

“I think you’re mistaken,” Yoongi says, pursing his lips, and Jimin stops short. “We’re just getting married, but I wasn’t thinking of hosting any kind of wedding shenanigans. Just… sign the legal documents and all.”

Hold up. Jimin’s lips curve down. He gives Yoongi a long, deliberate look, the kind that’s usually enough to make other people give in. But Jimin figures Yoongi’s not like other people, because he sighs and adds with a tone of finality, “It’ll save us both the money, anyway. Time, too. I’m busy.”

Busy?” Jimin echoes. “With what?” 

“Work. People actually have lives to live, Jimin.” Yoongi shoots him a discombobulated glance. “Though I can’t say the same for you, living in a merry-go-round and all.”

“I do not live in a merry-go-round!” Jimin says with an affronted scoff, returning Yoongi’s look with a hard glare of his own. “So I’m sorry for not being as busy as you. Even if all you do is play the piano at a jazz bar on weekends.”

“Excuse you? You hardly know me.” Yoongi launches into a tireless tirade of how “I work at a studio!” and how he’s a freelance lecturer teaching digital photography every Monday evening at the local university, which makes him a man who hardly sleeps for the sake of earning a stable income. Jimin’s eyes widen because, whoa.

At least one of them has their shit together. Not every South Korean lives the way Yoongi does. Not everyone has their own apartment or ride at the ripe age of twenty-five, especially in this economy. Heck, Jimin has friends who still live with their parents at twenty-three years old. It’s more common than one would think.

For once, he’s bereft of any argument, and whatever wisecrack he had ready on his tongue is left dangling in the air. “Oh. I see.” Clearing his throat, Jimin decides to pat the leather seat of the car appreciatively, and glances about in an attempt to diffuse the tension. “Man… I guess it really does take work to have your own car and house, huh?”

“This was my mother’s car, but I have to maintain everything else on my own,” Yoongi explains with a tiny nose scrunch. “And for that, I need to work. Where do you think money comes from?” His fingers flex around the steering wheel. “Time is gold, and a wedding ceremony will burn a hole in our pockets. So... don’t give me that look.”

Jimin turns away. “What look?”

“I don’t know, I’m not a mind-reader.” Yoongi directs his gaze back to the road.

With a wistful sigh, Jimin leans against the passenger seat, feeling like he just lost on a casino bet. “You know, I’m glad this isn’t real. I think I’d regret going without a ceremony.”

In all honesty, if not for the ‘bounty’, he would never marry a guy like Yoongi. People like Yoongi don’t fit with people like Jimin. They’re way too different—like a snowstorm and a heatwave, nightmare and daydream—and Jimin can only hope that the next few months will pass by like a bullet train lest he drives himself mad from sharing the same space as Mr. McBoring.

“Save your wedding ceremony for someone who actually wants to marry you,” Yoongi states, and Jimin rolls his eyes to mask the unbidden sting from those words.

The stoplight turns green.

 


 

There’s a man waiting outside Yoongi’s front door when they arrive.

“Hyung!” he cries the moment his eyes land on Jimin’s husband-to-be, before flickering over to Jimin. In the scant, sepia light of the rooftop’s lone lantern hanging above a rusted post, his face is half-hidden in the shadows of the night, though his features stand out nonetheless. Sharp nose, high cheekbones, dark red hair.

“Hoseok,” Yoongi greets back, deadpan as ever. “What’s up?”

“Mind if I borrow your toolbox?” asks the man called Hoseok, scratching the back of his head as he glances over the other side of the rooftop terrace, and when Jimin follows his gaze, he spos a white door he hadn’t noticed the first time he set foot in Yoongi’s flat this afternoon. “The door broke and I just realized I left mine at my brother’s place.” With a small wave, he flashes Jimin a friendly, questioning smile. “Hello.”

“Sure. I’ll take it out for you. And ah, yeah.” Yoongi gestures between them. “Jimin, this is Jung Hoseok. Lives in the flat next to mine. Hobi, this is Park Jimin. My...” Yoongi’s hand flails in the air, and he looks like he’s choking on his next few words. “My...”

Jimin slips back into Acting Mode. Moving closer, he links arms with Yoongi. “Fiance. We’re getting married.”

It takes no longer than two seconds for his announcement to spark a reaction.

“Married?” Jung Hoseok sputters and backs up a step, and his eyes flick back and forth from Jimin to Yoongi as if they just told him they’re aliens from Area 51. “Dude. Duuuude. For real?”

“Usually people say ‘Congratulations’, but you do you, I guess,” Yoongi says, but now he’s grinning in a relaxed way Jimin hasn’t seen before. 

“It’s not that!” Hoseok blurts, hands waving excitedly in front of him, and in under a minute Jimin deduces that everything about this guy is loud and big and unabashed. “I’m fucking stoked for you! You deserve it, especially after—“

Yoongi shoots him a pointed look so sharp it could cut metal, and Hoseok hops subjects easily. “And I guess you’ve never mentioned anything... about... I mean it’s different this time, no?”

This time? Jimin wonders, but he doesn’t ask, otherwise it would look like he knows next to nothing about his supposed husband-to-be in front of Hoseok. He glances sideways, where Yoongi is smiling, but this time it doesn’t quite reach his eyes, and so Jimin fakes a yawn and leans closer to say loudly, “I’m tired, honeyboy. Let’s go in now, hmm?”

It’s not like he cares, Jimin tells himself. He just wants out of this weird awkward air. It’s not his style at all. Yoongi’s arm freezes at the term of endearment, but Hoseok breaks out into a soft smile and he makes cooing noises at them. 

“D’awww. You guys are sweet. So when’s the wedding? Please tell me I’m part of your best man squad.”

Jimin’s smile dips below freezing point, while Yoongi wrinkles his nose. 

“We’re not having one.”

Hoseok’s eyebrows practically jump to his hairline. “Oh. I guess you haven’t changed your mind all that much, have you?”

Impossibly, Yoongi’s grin grows more strained, and Jimin chooses to yawn louder. Tugging him aside, Jimin says, “Like, I’m really tired. Wanna sleep.”

”Right.” Hoseok clears his throat and he starts backtracking with a sheepish face. “It’s getting late. I won’t bother anymore. You two lovebirds have a good night. Yoongi-hyung, the toolbox, alright?”

“Yeah, be out with it in a bit,” Yoongi calls out at his retreating figure, spine stiff and face frozen, though Jimin can’t really tell what set him off. 

They walk around the rooftop, back to the other side of the terrace and unlock the front door’s password. The warm, orange light right inside the apartment’s narrow corridor switches on just as the door clicks shut, and while they slip their shoes off, Jimin ducks out of the way in time to avoid Madeleine’s hissing lunge for his face. Thank God for good reflexes. If Yoongi’s constant negative juju doesn’t strangle him, Jimin fears this cat just might be his tipping point to the underworld.

“Hi, baby,” Yoongi whispers, bending down to pet the ginger demon.

Jimin stretches his arms and rolls his shoulders back to loosen them, glad to finally be away from prying eyes. It’s been a long day. As much as he loves acting, it’s not easy putting on a front 24/7 whenever he’s outside. It’s a massive shift when the world is your stage rather than a theatre hall. Hopefully it’ll get better the more he gets used to it.

“Be right back,” Yoongi tells him as he pads into the kitchen, reaching for a toolkit inside a storage cupboard beneath the sink and heading for the door. “You can unpack and settle in.” Before stepping out, he pauses and turns to face Jimin. “And uh, sorry for the trouble today.”

“Yoongi-ssi.

“Yeah?”

Jimin opens his mouth, then slowly lets it fall closed. He’s got half a mind to ask what’s wrong, but his gut instinct tells him not to pry, and so he won’t. What’s the point in asking? He’ll only be here for six months, after all. It’s none of his business. The less he knows about Yoongi, the better. 

So he shakes his head and smiles. “Nothing. Just wanted to say: you have booger on your face.”

Yoongi scoffs, but then checks his face, and when he finds nothing, he glares at Jimin. “Jerk.”

“Killjoy.”

“Gooberface.”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “Weak shot. Try harder. Anyway, shoo. I’m gonna get changed. Go fix Hoseok’s door now or whatever.”

Right before the door shuts, Jimin shouts: “Boogerhead.”

 


 

Let it be known the Yoongi is an advocate of peace. Much like time, silence is something of a precious mineral, valuable especially when he’s at home. He thrives in tranquility, like a seedling sprouting leaves when left in total zen mode.

But this?

‘CAUSE ALL OF ME, LOVES ALL OF YOU—“ Jimin’s muffled voice erupts from the shower, overpowering the noise of water splattering against the tiled floor.

This is not peace.

This is anarchy.

With each passing minute, Jimin’s singing booms louder and Madeleine grows more agitated and Yoongi’s blood curdles like a kettle reaching peak boiling point.

This simply won’t do.

With an impatient huff, Yoongi marches over and knocks on the bathroom door none too gently. “Oi. Are you done yet?”

The singing halts abruptly, leaving only the splashing of shower water against tiles echoing in the momentary pause. “What? I can’t hear you!”

“I said”—Yoongi inhales and tries once more—“are you done showering? We need to talk.”

The shower ceases running, and a few moments later, the bathroom door slides open and out steps Jimin, clad only in a fluffy white towel from the waist down. Water droplets slide down from the tips of his hair and land on his honey-glazed shoulders, and Yoongi’s breath hitches.

It’s like watching a TV commercial, except in real life. A few years back, Yoongi remembers seeing a showerhead commercial, all slow-mo and sensual, and an uninvited voice at the back of his mind tells him this is it. 

“Come again?” Jimin says, flicking water out of his hair. Any other person shaking their head left and right like that would make them look like a wet dog after the rain, but not Park Jimin.

Park Jimin was built for the camera, and Yoongi knows for the fact that the human eye, in many ways, is a camera.

This camera is panicking.

“Come?” Yoongi sputters, and he struggles to remember why he stepped up here in the first place. All he can think of is how there is much to be said about the gay screaming inside him at this very moment. It’s hard not to let his eyes stray down to Jimin’s torso, but they do, and the first thing he sees are—

Wash. Board. Abs.

A younger Yoongi would be tempted to do laundry on them.

“Yeah.” Jimin nods, and Yoongi follows the slight, upwards tilt of his chin. “You were saying?”

Damn. Who knew chins could look so... delicate? In a petite way. Chins—who knew?

It must take eons for Yoongi to form a coherent word, because then Jimin sends him a funny look and shrugs, taking his silence as a form of dismissal. “Weirdo.” 

Still towelling off his hair, Jimin sidesteps Yoongi and picks his way through the apartment’s carefully curated mess (in Yoongi’s opinion—he knows exactly where everything is, don’t let the author fool you) but at the last footstep, he fails to glimpse the stray piece of tin foil covering a misplaced banana peel from plain sight.

Jimin slips and yelps.

Yoongi’s brain prompts itself into savior mode, and he rushes forward to steady Jimin, but in his haste he trips on a coffee table unseen under a stack of files and newspapers, so he ends up grabbing Jimin’s... towel... off his waist instead.

Thud.

They crash to the floor, one atop the other. Madeleine jumps at the disturbance and scurries under the couch. Meanwhile, pain spreads from Yoongi’s elbow where it jabs against the floorboards, and he feels his head land on something warm and squishy.

And lengthy.

He groans, cracking an eye open—

“Get your face off my balls!”

Yoongi’s heart thunders in his ribcage as he turns and finds himself face to face with— oh.

Blood rushes to his face. He wheezes.

Jimin screams bloody murder and scrambles away. Yoongi crawls backwards. Somewhere upstairs, Madeleine lets out an earsplitting screech.

All this, and it’s only Jimin’s first day of moving in.

 


 

“We need to talk,” Yoongi forces himself to croak out as a conversation starter much later, and sets down his mug of chai tea on the dining table. He’s sitting at one end while Jimin’s plopped at the other, cocooned in a thick pullover and pyjamas and sulking with a pout.

“Don’t glare at me like that,” Yoongi snaps, massaging his temples. What a day. What a fucking day. “You know it was an accident.”

“Apologize first. You touched my talala,” Jimin sniffs. “My dingle-dee.”

“Who the fuck calls their—“ Yoongi sucks in a sharp breath to cut himself off, pushing back the retort about to slip off from his tongue. 

Must. Stay. Calm. Times like these, he must exercise absolute patience. Yoongi reckons this must be a test. He can’t lose his cool over ridiculous things. He’s lived 24 years, and he’s seen his fair share of the unusual. “You know what, never mind. Let’s at least have a civil conversation this time.”

But Jimin is as stubborn as a mule. “Apologize first.”

“I wasn’t the one who slipped first!”

“You were the one who caused me to slip because this flat hasn’t been cleaned out since the Dark Ages!” Jimin explodes with a sudden ferocity that makes Yoongi blink twice. “You should be grateful my family jewels are intact!”

“Well, you should’ve looked where you were going!”

Jimin throws his head back and laughs; the kind of deranged, humorless cackle that witches can only ever hope to achieve. “Oh, so now you’re pointing fingers because you can’t accept the fact that you live like a barbarian!”

“Hey! I’m a clean guy!” Yoongi spits. “I shave!”

“Yeah, like what? Every 5 weeks? Give me a break.” Jimin’s expression darkens with embarrassment and when he looks away, Yoongi spies a red flush rising up his face.

He bites at the inside of his cheeks. “Fine.”

Jimin lifts an eyebrow, and Yoongi bites at the insides of his cheeks before huffing:

“I’m sorry for disrobing you.”

But that doesn’t seem to satisfy his future fake husband. Jimin cocks his head to one side, egging him on. “And...?”

For fuck’s sake. “And face-planting into your nuts.”

Never in a million years did Yoongi think he’d be saying such an atrocious sentence. But then Jimin’s expression brightens, even by just a fraction. 

“Just don’t let it happen again. And please, let me clean this place. It’s a literal wasteland. Do you even own a broom? We need to set some type of order here.”

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you,” Yoongi says with a snap of his fingers. “While you’re living with me, we need to establish some basic house rules.”

Jimin does a half-shrug. “Sounds reasonable to me.”

“Okay, right.” Yoongi nods and brings out his phone. “Let’s write this down. One: no singing in the shower.”

Jimin gasps and lands both palms face-down on the table. “That’s ridiculous! That’s censorship!”

Yoongi shrugs. “Hey, my house, my rules. Madeleine doesn’t like noise, and I don’t think my neighbors appreciate it much, either.”

He thinks he’s won when he doesn’t hear a direct argument, but then Jimin’s expression drops as he trains his eyes to his own steaming cup of chai tea. “I see. Does my singing suck? It does, doesn’t it?”

The question is so sudden that it startles Yoongi into silence. Jimin’s shoulders are drooping, and his lips are doing that thing where they twitch south like he’s trying to fight back a whimper, and Yoongi bristles at the defeat in his tone.

“It’s okay. I’ll just never sing again,” sighs Jimin, and he looks out forlornly over the window. “My voice... will never again be heard…”

Yoongi’s eyebrows draw together. The guy sounds so broken, so hurt. It’s a side of Jimin he has never really seen before. “H-hey. Come on, to be fair—“

“When I was six years old,” Jimin mumbles, pressing a hand against his chest as though to cradle a breaking heart. “I used to dream of becoming a performer. Singing, dancing. But then my kindergarten teacher told my mum it was pointless because my voice is terrible, and now it kind of feels like... like...” He trails off, eyes falling shut. “I just have so many feelings.

Fucking hell. Yoongi rubs the back of his neck. “Fine. Fine, you can sing in the shower—“

Jimin’s eyes snap open with renewed vigor.

“—on one condition.”

“Yeah?” There it is—the megawatt smile has returned.

“Only until 6pm,” Yoongi says sternly. “Since you requested a 1am sleeping curfew in lieu of your skin regimen, then I’m enforcing a singing curfew. Okay? I just don’t want to disturb the neighbors.”

“You mean Hoseok?”

“There’s a family two doors away.” The settlement area in Yoongi’s neighborhood features apartment complexes that stand in such a compact space—literally so tight-knit together—that he considers people living in the next building over to be his neighbors, too.

“Deal!” Jimin chirps happily, eyes slinking off into half moons, and something like amusement makes Yoongi huff a small chortle.

This little shit.

He continues. “Two: no more walking around half-naked in my apartment. For uh, obvious safety reasons.”

Again, Jimin’s face falls. “I-is there anything about my rippling pectorals that bother you?”

And Yoongi, being the self-proclaimed prideful bastard that he is, doesn’t have the heart to be truthful. “Don’t be so full of yourself. Of course not.”

“We’re both men, so it’s fine.” Jimin’s face is stern, eyes serious, and for some reason Yoongi feels like the one who’s being unreasonable here. “There’s nothing I have that you don’t. As long as we steer clear of each other’s boundaries and be respectful, then it’s fine, right?”

Technically, he isn’t wrong.

“I mean. Well, what if you slip again—“

“Pish, posh. This place will be cleaned so that it doesn’t happen again,” Jimin promises. “And it’s in the middle of summer, Yoongi. How can you expect me to wear clothes indoors?”

Yoongi scratches the back of his ear with a groan of frustration. “Fine. Okay. Fine.”

Jimin cheers with a loud whoop, and Yoongi has a nagging feeling that he’s getting the shorter end of the stick here. “Three: your things are yours, and what’s mine is mine.”

“Fair enough.” Jimins sips from his mug. “Let me suggest #4: laundry and cleaning should be weekly.”

“OK with me,” Yoongi says. Then a thought gutters him. “Wait. You mean I have to clean?

“Duh?” Jimin folds his arms. “We need to compromise to live together. Your rules and mine have to be balanced.”

It’s not exactly Yoongi’s idea of a fun time, and dread fills his tummy at the prospect of having to pick up his ass and put more effort than necessary in, say, the simple movement of throwing his dirty shirts in the general direction of his laundry hamper like he always does. Jimin’s asking for too much, but he pushes it away for now. He’ll deal later. “I’ll think about it.”

 


 

“So you’re really doing this, huh?” Taehyung chirps through the FaceTime screen. Both he and Jimin are brushing their teeth together at their respective sinks—it’s a thing between them, where they always make time to do things together every once in a while, no matter how small. “Moving in and fending for yourself, taking control of your life.”

Jimin gargles and spits before replying. “By marrying a guy with the personality of a concrete slab. Yay, go me.”

“Just think of the benefits.” Taehyung’s voice is muffled beneath his foaming toothpaste. “Free lodging! How’s the house—“

“You have see this place, Tae. It’s a landfill.”

“Like I said, you could’ve roomed with me, Chim,” Tae carries on. He pauses to spit, then works on his upper molars. “Buh you ah thoo stuh-bborn!”

“I can’t do that to you.” Jimin shakes his head. 

“What did I tell you? Stubborn.”

“Only ‘cause I know your landlord would throw us both out when he finds out you’re letting me stay without rent.”

Taehyung doesn’t make a comment on his words, making a show of busying himself with brushing the roof of his mouth, and Jimin knows him well enough to take his silence as sullen affirmation. “But that’s okay. I’ll be fine, Tae. It’s only for half a year, anyway.”

“At least tell me you like the guy?”

“We...” Jimin hums thoughtfully, his brain flashing with a mental image of Yoongi with his coal-black hair and droopy, elusive cat eyes. “We tolerate each other.” In a loose sense of the word, he supposes that he and Yoongi do tolerate each other well enough—if you can consider a couple of well-timed insults and an interjecting hiss from Madeleine here and there as casual ‘banter’. A part of him is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that this is the kind of guy he'll be living with everyday for the next half a year.

“Yoongi-hyung’s nice, Jimin-ah,” Taehyung says, wiping the corner of his mouth with a hand towel. “Quiet and a little savage, but you’re in good hands. Take it from me. At least you know he’s not going to try and cut out your kidney overnight to sell it to the black market next morning.”

“Reassuring.” Not. Jimin doesn’t think that’s nearly as comforting as Taehyung hoped it would sound. “Has that actually happened before?”

“No, because like I said, Yoongi’s nice,” Taehyung shares as a form of rational explanation, and Jimin can only nod and smile crookedly.

“Many people are nice, Taehyung-ah. That doesn’t make them lovable.”

“Luckily, you don’t have to actually love him.”

Jimin sniffs, bending down to spit into the sink. His best friend does have a point. At least Jimin’s not living with a pervert or a creep or whatever else threat to society lurks out there. 

It’s just... a little tragic, perhaps. Growing up, Jimin had always believed he’d find love the way they do in the movies—he’ll run into someone and sparks would fly, and then he’ll date that person long enough to want to live with them for life. Isn’t that what marriage is? Yoongi might be nice enough, but Jimin’s not looking for nice. He’s not even looking to settle at all. There’s a whole world out there—out of his reach and out of his grasp, because he’s just another fresh graduate stumbling out of university and landing rock-bottom on his ass.

Jimin doesn’t need nice. He has the power of youth and time on his side, and this is no age to be thinking about the boring, mundane things. He wants firecrackers. He needs wonder and fairydust and an open heart that will lift him to new heights. The kind that soars on two wings. 

“You’re crying again,” Taehyung notes darkly. “Who are we burying?”

“Pffft.” Jimin swipes at his glistening eyes. “No one, silly. And I wasn’t crying. That was... condensation. From the hot shower.”

Truth be told, marrying was the last thing Park Jimin ever imagined doing straight after graduation. He wants to feel the electric thrum of adrenaline pulsing through his veins as he takes the last bow and the audience roars with applause. He wants to see and hear; wants to be seen and heard.

“Chim. I only have 1 question.” Taehyung moves his self-camera so close to his face until only his nostrils are visible, and Jimin finds the energy to smile despite it all.

“What?”

“Are you sure?” Taehyung asks. “I remember you telling me you only want to marry once, for life.”

“I know that, but this isn’t my idea of a marriage anyway,” Jimin replies, returning his toothbrush to its designated mug and grabbing his phone from where it rests on the sink. “This is just a business deal.”

Weddings. What does he know about them, really?

“But are you sure about this?” Taehyung presses on. “It’s not yet too late. You can still opt out, you know! Then at least you won’t regret anything.”

“Either way, I’ll still be miserable, won’t I?” Jimin chortles bitterly. “But at least after this, I’ll get that cash. One less problem to think about. Then I’m leaving Seoul to hunt for what’s out there.” It’s all he’s banking on.

Taehyung regards him without moving for a long time, his toothbrush still enclosed in his mouth, and the moments drags on for so long that Jimin fears the Internet connection is messing up their video call. 

Then his best friends sighs and says, “I’ll make sure Yoongi-hyung takes care of you while I’m not around, then.” Taehyung starts pounding at his chest for added effect. “Leave it to me.”

Jimin chuckles. “It’s okay, really.”

“By the way,” Taehyung says. “When are you introducing Yoongi-hyung to your parents?”

 


 

Slam, goes a small, portable whiteboard on the kitchen table. Yoongi startles and nearly chokes on the soup he’s sipping on. “The hell..?”

Jimin slides into the chair directly across him, his golden hair still damp from the shower. “We need to decide on our Couple History. And fake out social media profiles so that we look convincing enough.”

“What are you talking about?”

“See this?” Jimin points at a mark called ‘Genesis’ right at the top of a basic flowchart spanning the width of the whiteboard. “This is where and how we met. We should draft a timeline of the whens-and-whats of our passionate relationship. Gag.” Jimin mimes puking, before continuing, “We need every detail, and we need to fake ‘dating’ stuff.”

Dating stuff?” Yoongi repeats, blanching, and he sets his spoon down. “Do I want to know what your purpose for all this trouble is...?”

“I’m introducing you to my parents tomorrow.”

Yoongi freezes. Shit. The thought of meeting Jimin’s parents—of receiving their blessings—hadn’t crossed his mind at all. “Can’t we just get married without—”

“I know what you’re thinking,” Jimin interjects with a sharp look that has Yoongi’s tummy churning uncomfortably. “And that’s a solid no. I don’t want to lie to my parents any more than I already am about this marriage. Which means I need to tell them you’ll be my husband at a dinner reservation I made for tomorrow evening. Please don’t fuck it up.”

All this damned effort for what’s not real. Yoongi’s already sick of it and they’re not even officially married yet. He folds his arms and sighs, trying to ignore the headache that’s beginning to throb in his temples. Since Jimin keeps calling their scheme a business deal, then Yoongi better get a good return of investment for this.  “Fine. You want to make up a story? We’ll make up a story. So tell me then: how, exactly, did we first meet each other?”

 


 

The sky was cornflower blue, the breeze as sweet as caramel on corn kennel. Jimin crouched low to feed the tip of a carrot to a pair of bonded rabbits in their pen. It was his first day volunteering at the animal shelter.

“They’re a pretty tame pair,” chimed in a husky voice, deeper than an ocean’s trench. Jimin’s pulse quickened at the sound of that delicious baritone, and when he looked up, he locked gazes with warm mocha eyes that reminded him of his favorite coffee beans.

“Hi,” said the Owner Of Mocha Eyes, gazing down at Jimin as though witnessing the descent of an angel from the skies. “You’re new, right? I’m Yoongi, and I’ll be taking you around today.”

 


 

“That’s bullshit,” Yoongi rebukes. “What, are you trying to write the next Nicholas Sparks novel now? Ridiculous.” Seriously. How’s Jimin even coming up with this? The way he’s describing this is way too out of character that it’s actually funny.

“Why not?” Jimin retorts. “It’s a perfect meet-cute cover story: two boys finding love at an animal shelter!”

Yoongi snorts in disbelief with a firm shake of his head. “Right, if only I actually worked in one before. If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve got my hands full, schedule packed.  How’re you going to convince everyone, including my friends, that I worked at an animal shelter?”

“You seem animal friendly enough,” Jimin reasons, cocking his head to where Madeleine snoozes on her cat tree.

“Do not bring Madeleine into this, she’s a special case,” Yoongi snaps.

Jimin grunts in exasperation. “Fine, since you’re such a genius, why don’t you come up with a cover story then, huh?”

At his words, Yoongi arches an eyebrow. Now that’s something up his alley. “How about this...”

 


 

There was a boy at the dumpster alley.

Yoongi had been minding his own business, barbecue sauce on his titties, strolling past to take out the trash, when the sight of an unmoving figure caught his attention. Raindrops pattered and puddles splashed as he drew closer. The air was dense and cold, and when the boy was only three paces away from him, Yoongi paused to peer closer at his face. Ashen. Pale.

Was he breathing? Or even alive?

He had half a mind to turn and walk away, but then he heard a faint, "H-help..."

Yoongi froze. Glanced back.

The boy's eyes were open, and his hand was raised as though reaching for Yoongi, while the other hand clutched at his thigh.

His thigh that was stained crimson from a gunshot wound.

 


 

"Are you kidding me?" Jimin splutters, looking 50 shades peeved and 5 seconds away from ripping all of Yoongi’s hair off his scalp. "You found me bleeding to death in the trash?"

Yoongi nods with a satisfied hum. "And I, being the kind-hearted samaritan that I am, nursed you back to health. Then you fell in love with me."

"That's delusional!" Jimin bites out, standing up and jabbing the poor whiteboard between them. "Nobody's gonna believe that! Do you think you're in a James Bond movie?"

"Clearly, you've no taste. I was thinking more Andrew Lau," Yoongi says. "Y'know, The Infernal Affairs..?"

Jimin groans and sinks back into his chair, tipping his head back as though to ward off a headache. "Do you know Hamlet, Yoongi?"

"Isn't he the guy who fell in love with Juliet?"

Jimin looks ready to kill. Yoongi can't deny he loves it. Something electric about angering him.

Then Jimin arranges his expression into a calm mask, and he rubs his hands over his face before saying, "To quote Hamlet, Act III, Scene III, Line 87: no."

Yoongi makes a face. "Great. So who's the killjoy now?"

Jimin holds up both hands in a show of guilt-free innocence. "Hey, don't look at me. I'm not the one suggesting we involve bloodshed in our love story."

Touché. 

Yoongi decides, at that moment, that Jimin kinda sucks, because somehow he always has a sharp comeback for every last one of Yoongi's snarky remarks--something he's only used to getting from the likes of Kim Seokjin, and that's only okay because he's a manager. He makes a weary noise and rubs the back of his neck.  “Can’t we just– I don’t know, can’t we just say we met on Tinder and clicked right away?”

Jimin clucks his tongue and shook his head. “Honestly, if I saw your profile on Tinder, I’d have swiped left.”

This insufferable little diva.

“You’re fucking impossible.” Yoongi shuts his eyes and massages the bridge of his noise, wondering how in the world he ended up like this. What in the name of horrible fate did he ever do to deserve this type of disrespect? And in his own home, too! “Let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, that we both swiped right, alright?”

“But that’s so boring.” Jimin grimaces.

“You’d be surprised at how many successful relationships start from boring beginnings,” Yoongi muses defiantly, and he sees the exact moment that Jimin’s eyes flicker at the realization that he’s dead serious about his suggestion.

“Wait, so you’re not joking?”

Yoongi harrumphs his affirmation.

“N’aww, really? But come on.” Giving him a pensive look, Jimin drawls,”…Tinder, seriously?”

Yoongi leans forward on the table and levels Jimin with his most exasperated stare. “Look at me, Park Jimin. Take a good, long look at my face. What do you see?”

“Eyebags.”

“Wrong.” Yoongi taps his own chin. “This, this is what you call misery. And I’m starting to think you have a Make Yoongi Miserable agenda going on. You gotta work here with me, alright?”

“I actually am trying to make it work!” Jimin says, miffed, and he points at the empty whiteboard once more.

“Okay, fine. Tinder it is. But you texted me first.”

“Fair enough.” Yoongi nods. “We got to know each other and fell in love through a series of long, late-night texts—“

“—and nudes,” Jimin volunteers.

Yoongi’s patience must be A+ by now. “Can we take out the ‘nudes’ part?”

“You’ve seen my entire package, Min Yoongi. Pretty sure at this point, you can testify to that.” Jimin’s mouth twitches, and his demeanor shifts, eyes glinting devilishly. “And I can always make up a story about yours. Unless… don’t tell me—you’re shy?” He flutters his eyelashes.

“I’m not being shy.“

Narrowing his eyes, Jimin challenges, “So show me.”

“I’ll show you!” Yoongi storms out out of the dining area and shuffles towards a desk, where he keeps his stationery. Then he pulls out what he’s searching for—a 15cm ruler—and stomps back over to Jimin to slam it on the table.

Jimin takes one look at the flat stripe of the transparent ruler before he explodes into peals of laughter, clutching his stomach for good measure and nearly toppling off from his chair. “You didn’t— did you just... I was only teasing you, Yoongi!”

Well.

Fuck.

Yoongi bites down on his lower lip as the words sink in, cheeks turning crimson as he dips his chin and stammers, “You– how was I supposed to know that?” 

Fantastic, now he’s made a complete fool of himself. Good thing he didn’t specify the actual length.

Meanwhile, Jimin is wiping tears of glee from the corners of his eyes. “You’re actually hilarious when you’re not busy being Mr. Cranky McGrumperson.”

“I’m not a grump. I’m a realist.”

For some reason, Jimin laughs harder. “So I guess the ruler is a realistic model, then?”

Rolling his eyes, Yoongi marches back to his rightful throne—the head of the kitchen table—and plops down with arms folded, waiting for Jimin to calm down from the hysteria. Disgruntled as he may be, for some reason he doesn’t mind hearing those squeaking giggles a bit longer. It dawns on him then, that it’s the first time he’s hearing Jimin laugh without restraint, no holds barred, and it’s surprisingly—

Surprisingly—

Calming. Against his better will, Yoongi doesn’t even realize he’s starting to smile as he watches Jimin laugh his heart out.

Cute.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

Yoongi jumps and blinks, yanked out of his daze. Jimin is staring at him like he’s grown three heads, and he swallows and tugs at the hem of shirt shirt before replying, “Like what?”

Jimin waves his hands in the air contemplatively. “Like you’ve seen the light.”

Because his face glows like something holy when he laughs like that. So much so that Yoongi was momentarily compelled to imagine what it might’ve been like if they’d met under different circumstances. Would they be friends? More than?

Not that it matters. Yoongi wrinkles his nose and shifts to a more comfortable sitting position. “Don’t be dramatic.”

“Says the James Bond wannabe. Anyway, let’s straighten the details of YoonMin’s very romantic but very fake relationship out and fill this little thing up, hmm?” Jimin holds up the still-empty whiteboard with a hopeful smile, and only then does Yoongi realize how off-tangent they’ve gone. There’s something about being around Jimin that kinda sorta makes him forget he had worries in the first place.

But there’s another term that hooked his notice, a single word written at the top of their fake relationship chart. “Yoonmin?

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

“Yeah.” Jimin waggles his eyebrows playfully. “Our names combined. Cute, right?”

“More like gross.” Yoongi utterly hates it. The last time he had put his name together with somebody else’s, it had been years ago, back when—

“You mean ‘creative’, I’ll take the compliment.” Jimin shoots. “Anyway, if you have anything else you want to add to make the relationship seem more natural, feel free.”

Yoongi shakes his head, but then scoots his chair closer beside Jimin and grabs a whiteboard marker, if only to give his brain something to do instead of straying to places he doesn’t want to it be.

The things this little shit is making him do.

They spend the next half an hour outlining an entire relationship until it looks realistic and believable enough, and by the end of their brainstorming session they come up with a little flowchart that marks the “genesis” of their relationship, starting with a box at the top of the page labelled “Tinder”, and ending with “Engagement”.

They agree to attach the flowchart and the basic house rules as part of their contract. Jimin insists on the both of them owning hardcopies ‘for record keeping’, but just as Yoongi stands up to print it out, Jimin blurts, “Wait! Just... one last thing.”

Yoongi lowers his ass back down on the chair. “And that would be…?”

“We need to update our social media profiles with pictures of each other.”

Yoongi’s mouth parts in the shape of a small ‘o’. “Why?”

“Hello?” Jimin gestures in the air between them. “Who’s going to believe we’re about to get married when we legiterally don’t have a trace of our so-called relationship online? This isn’t the 60s. We need to make our marriage socially relevant.

“I just don’t see the point of it…” Yoongi lets his words fade into the unknown, feeling dubious. He’s never been one to care much about his online presence, and would rather put effort in what goes on in real life than what’s out on the cybersphere. “Can’t we just, I don’t know, say we kept it private?”

Jimin waggles an index finger at him. “Tsk tsk. Think of it as business marketing. Or PR. We’re promoting goodwill by sharing wonderful news of our love.”

Yoongi feigns gagging. “Ew.”

Ew, my ass. Just do it, you can thank me later,” Jimin quips, already whipping out his phone and tapping away to open his social media apps. “Besides, if you’re going to meet my parents to ask for their blessings, they’re going to want to see proof of how involved we are in each other’s lives.”

Right. The parents. He has a point, and so against his initial misgivings, Yoongi obliges with a groan and pulls out his own phone. “Fine.” 

“Here, you can start with my face,” Jimin says proudly, leaning forward on the table and making a heart shape sign with his hands in front of my face. “This is me showing how much I heart you.”

Yoongi groans, but snaps the photo anyway. It’s his first photo of Jimin, with his blonde hair curling slightly at the ends and his angelic smile hiding the rabid fairy beneath. The camera shutter resounds with a fake clicking sound, and Jimin nods in satisfaction as he leans back. “Good. You can post that tomorrow after we take more pictures.”

Gaping at him, Yoongi stammers, “We’re taking more?

“Of course,” says Jimin. “Different photos, different settings. Couples take photos of each other all the time, don’t they?” He stands up and heads for the stairs. “So rest up. Tomorrow’s going to be busy. I hope you’ll be ready.”

The words are exactly as ominous as they sound, and Yoongi has no doubt in his bone that Jimin intended it. To say that he’s not keen to be scrutinized by a stranger’s parents would be a major understatement.

(It’s another one of those uncalled for moments where Yoongi wishes he at least had one parent alive so he, too, could have folks to introduce Jimin to.)

Be ready, Jimin had said.

Yoongi fears he’ll never be.

 


 

The number one rule of making images Instagram-worthy is the element of ‘being candid’. Make it natural, like special moments captured in the nick of time. 

At least, that’s what Jimin says.

Though there’s nothing very candid about this.

“Okay, can you move a little closer? Just a little.”

Snap.

They’re in one of the many hipster coffee shops along the gingko tree-lined streets of Garosu-gil, set near the busy heart of uptown Gangnam, because Jimin had suggested staging a ‘cafe date’ as a setting for them to start taking ‘couple’ pictures and selfies with one another. Having a wedding prenup is one thing, but keeping snapshots of each other’s daily lives is another.

It’s been a while since Yoongi has gone out on a ‘date’, and even though this isn’t even a real one to begin with, he finds his energy levels already on a steep decline, like a battery about to get drained. Romance is an investment, one that he’s not prepared to make. He’s reminded once more why marriage never really crossed his mind—it’s already hard enough looking after himself and his cat. Adding another person into the mix would only result in a colossal headache.

“I’m going to sip my coffee. Take a picture?” Jimin angles his sitting position in such a way that the light filtering in through the cafe’s windows set his face in a warm afternoon glow. 

Yoongi sighs, but follows suit. “There. Happy?”

Jimin glances at the preview of his photo on the phone screen, and nods. “My turn. Yoongi-ssi, could you tilt your head down a bit so it looks like you’re stirring your coffee without looking at my phone camera?”

Holy shit, is this really a thing couples do? Take pretty pictures and brag about each other on social media? Not that Yoongi’s against it or anything, but if he had a boyfriend for real, he thinks he’d much rather keep whatever goes on between them private, a secret shared between two people, and two people only. Not two people and the rest of the world.

“Okay, great!” Jimin chirps, admiring the most recent photo of Yoongi he’d taken on his phone. “I’m gonna post some tonight and save the other pictures for later so that we don’t spam our followers’ feeds.”

“As if you have followers?” Yoongi teases.

“Only over two thousand,” Jimin states with a proud wink. “Got a lot of friends.”

Unlike Yoongi. Times like these, he duly notes that Jimin is an actor. Which probably means he has a big social circle, and has had more than a few stints to build up his name in the industry, right? “I don’t know how you guys work in your career, but if you’re an actor, does that mean you’ve been in like. Uh. Movies? Dramas?”

Jimin’s pupils dilate at Yoongi’s question, though he shakes his head. “Not that kind of actor. I want to be onstage.”

“Ah.” Yoongi nods slowly. “Reciting Shakespeare?”

A snort. “Listen to my Acting For Dummies 101: Theatre’s evolved, okay? It’s gone from just stage plays to grand musicals and even silent, non-dialogue acts. Educate yourself a little,” Jimin chides as he takes a sip of his coffee, though there’s no mean undertone to his voice. “There’s even a musical where people rap.”

Yoongi’s ears perk up. How does that even work in theatre? “Rap? You’re shitting me. There’s no way.”

Yes way. It’s called Hamilton. Really cool masterpiece, from the clips I’ve seen floating around online.”

“You haven’t watched it yet?”

Jimin scrunches up his nose. “It hasn’t come to South Korea yet. Maybe someday. Maybe when we divorce I’ll get myself a ticket and book a flight to the States to catch the next show, who knows.”

Yoongi suppresses the urge to flick his forehead. “You’re getting ahead of yourself, young man. We’re not even married yet, and we don’t know if this thing is going to work.”

“That’s why we’re putting all of this effort to faking it, no?” Jimin grins at him, setting his empty coffee cup down on the table. “Come on. We got time to kill before dinner with my folks.”

They spend the rest of the day faking their #RelationshipGoals snapshots, trying to rack up enough fake content to decorate their feeds with. At one point in time, while they’re on an escalator in a shopping mall, Jimin taps Yoongi’s shoulder and tells them to take a picture of their shoes while they stand close together.

“What for?”

“Aesthetic.”

“You and your aesthetic agenda, I swear,” Yoongi grumbles as he turns around on the escalator and brings out his phone. He takes the picture, but upon review, finds that there seems to be something missing from it. Photographers would call it ‘the human touch’. Yoongi frowns and glances at Jimin, then opens his camera app once more.

“Hold my hand, Park Jimin.”

Jimin’s gaze lifts to his. “Ooooh. Finally warming up to it, I see.”

Yoongi clucks his tongue in irritation. “Quick, before the escalator ends.”

Cautiously, Jimin slips his hand into his, and Yoongi ignores the way Jimin’s skin warmer than his, how soft it feels against his calloused fingers. It’s just another hand, he tells himself. Nothing to get his boxers in a twist over. 

Snap, goes the shutter as he captures an image of their hands and feet, and Yoongi steps off the escalator, dropping Jimin’s hand right away as if it’s a hot iron scalding him. “Done.”

Carefully, he re-arranges the photos on his feed and posts them accordingly:

 

 

  

All this extravagance for the sake of aesthetic. Yoongi’s just about done with it all.

 


 

On the other hand—

Jimin isn’t. He’s far from done. Always an opportunist, he sees potential in every moment he spends with his soon-to-be husband, so he’s always got his phone camera ready. Like now, for instance, as he sits in the passenger seat of Yoongi’s car  on the way to the restaurant where they’ll meet his parents, Jimin says, “Yoongi, give me your hand again!”

“What? Jimin, I’m driving!

“Then gimme your hand when you hit the next stoplight.”

“What for?” Yoongi mutters, but when they do reach the intersection, he (reluctantly) lets Jimin take his hand, much to Jimin’s smug satisfaction.

“Do it for the ‘Gram.” Jimin grins as he positions his camera, taking a picture of their interlocked hands, before unceremoniously dropping Yoongi’s hands the moment he gets the photo. Yoongi hisses when his knuckles knock against the handbrake, but Jimin could care less. “There. Done. Don’t we look like #RelationshipGoals now?"

"You mean #FakeRelationshipGoals."

Jimin ignores him. "Uploading.”

 

 

 

He hears Yoongi release a low but audible gasp beside him. “Hey, is that me on your feed?”

Jimin feigns cluelessness, and hums, “Where?”

“That latest one. Isn’t that me?”

“Yeah, from this morning.” Terse silence fills the air, and Jimin glances at Yoongi. “What? I took it this morning while you were still asleep, okay! And I didn’t show your face.” 

When Yoongi sends him a dark look, Jimin gulps. He hadn’t meant any harm, and though he would never admit it, he thought Yoongi looked like a sleeping cat when he passed by his bed that morning. Tame and totally unlike how he really is when conscious. “Okay, sorry. I’ll delete it—”

“Nah. Just... just keep it,” Yoongi surprises him by mumbling, rolling his shoulders back as though trying to ease tension off them. “It’ll probably make it seem more convincing that we’re engaged to be married, right?”

Jimin chews on his lower lip, and he finds himself saying quietly. “That’s the whole reason why I posted it.”

“Then keep it.” Yoongi sighs as they turn into the restaurant’s carpark. “Just ask me for permission next time.”

His words don’t stop the first twinge of shame from roiling deep in Jimin’s gut. He sinks just a little bit more into his seat, and does a small salute sign over his forehead. “Roger that.”

 


 

Yoongi hears their feet before he sees them.

They’re seated side-by-side at the sushi restaurant when the tatami-style door slides open, and lo and behold, Jimin’s parents stand there in the hallway, dressed in semi-formal attire that makes Yoongi feel self-conscious all of a sudden. He glances down at his white shirt and pants and wonders if he looks presentable enough.

Jimin’s father is a tall, clean-shaven man with greying roots, and Yoongi sees how Jimin inherited his father’s eyebrows and prominent cheekbones. He’s resting a hand on Mrs. Park’s shoulder, whose face lights up the moment her eyes land on Jimin, but then she blinks when her gaze shifts over to Yoongi, before heading straight for her son.

“Jimin-ah!” she says, arms reaching for her son right away as they stand up to greet them. Jimin inherited those trademark twinkling eyes, her alabaster complexion and most of all, her height. She’s as petite and slender as her son, and she’s got the smile of somebody who would give him the whole world should Jimin ever ask for it. Yoongi can’t deny the small twang of jealousy at the way she squeezes Jimin in her embrace, can’t quite push away the invasive thought that if only his mum were still here—

“Hi, mum, dad.” Jimin squirms out of his mother’s grasp with a flustered grin, though the affection in his eyes is evident.

“Why didn’t you answer my call last night? I was going to ask if you wanted us to bring your favorite fishcakes from Busan,” Mrs. Park chides, sweeping her head over her shoulder as she turns to face Yoongi. “And you must be Yoongi.”

“I’m honored to meet you.” He bows to both of them, dipping his torso to a 90-degree angle. Internally, he’s crossing his fingers. “Min Yoongi.”

“And where are your parents?” Mr. Park scans the private dining room, and Yoongi swallows hard. Of course the first thing they’d ask for after meeting him would be his parents. After all, it’s tradition in South Korea for families to meet before marriage.

“They’re…” Yoongi purses his lips, feeling lead course through his blood. “They’re not around.”

Pin-drop silence stretches out in the air as his words sink in, and suddenly the room feels too cramped, the air too thick. Mrs. Park exchanges a look with her husband, and Yoongi can only imagine what Jimin’s parents must be thinking. No, scratch that. He doesn’t want to imagine how they must be judging him. But then:

“I see,” Mrs. Park pats him on the shoulder and smiles at him, not unkind, and something like warm relief uncoils in the pit of Yoongi’s stomach. “We should order first, no?”

Beside Yoongi, Jimin lets out a whoosh of breath and nods enthusiastically. “Great idea!” He tugs at his parents’ arms and guides them to sit opposite at the table. Yoongi is so busy staring at the floor that he misses the fleeting look of mild concern sent his way.

Phase One: clear, Yoongi muses. Thank heavens Jimin’s parents are calm and merciful and kind (and all the things Jimin isn’t, judging from what Yoongi’s seen of him so far.)

Yep, thank God for calm people.

 


 

Or maybe not.

NO WEDDING CEREMONY?” wails Mrs. Park, looking like Jimin just told her that the world is teetering on the verge of collapse in less than three days. She slams her hands against the wooden table

“We would prefer not to have one,” Yoongi barely ekes out, feeling himself shrink with each passing minute. “The marriage would be a quiet affair.”

“No, no, that can’t be.” Mrs. Park sets her chopsticks down, brown eyes harried and gaunt. “You need to have one. Jimin is my first son, what would the neighbors and his relatives think if he married without a wedding celebration?”

“But mum, the money—” Jimin begins in an attempt to back Yoongi up.

“Isn’t a problem,” finishes his dad in a steadfast manner. “We’ll pay for everything, and help you make arrangements.”

“Indeed.” Jimin’s mother puts on her best I Am The Mother voice, a look of determination etched into the laugh lines along her eyes. Yoongi cringes inwardly. “After the dinner, I want you two to go out and look for wedding rings right away. Don’t think I didn’t notice.” Her eyes veer down to Jimin and Yoongi’s empty ring fingers, and Yoongi tries not to scream inside. 

It doesn’t seem like Jimin’s parents will back down, and so he settles for a small, defeated nod.

Hidden from the couple’s horrified stares, Jimin nudges Yoongi’s foot under the table, before he fixes him with an I-told-you-so look.

Yoongi sends him a strained smile. So much for going lowkey.

 


 

Plans. How quickly they change. Like tides rising and falling, Yoongi can never predict when—or what—his next high or low will be. Life is like water and sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

And now, a curveball has been hurled at him.

A wedding ceremony, Mrs. Park had insisted. Neither Yoongi nor Jimin had been able to protest—Mrs. Park’s brand of stubborness was on a whole different level, and only after sitting down with her did Yoongi realize which parent Jimin inherited his feisty personality from.

Good thing she agreed to help plan the wedding.

“Have you decided yet, sir?” asks the saleslady behind the counter. The glass in front of her carries a brilliant array of different wedding bands and rings—from plain golds to jewel-encrusted silvers to customized rose golds. They shimmer up at Yoongi as though hoping to be picked.

If you asked him to be truthful, he’d say he could hardly give two fucks about what he wears on his finger to show off the fact that he will be a married man soon. A big, guilty part of him doesn’t feel worthy enough to wear something real or purely made just for something as fake as this whole arrangement. He doesn’t deserve this kind of warm treatment, but he can’t exactly refuse, what with Jimin’s parents thinking he’s The One for their son. The way Mrs. Park immediately welcomed him makes Yoongi feel like an impostor, and his skin crawls with the memory of every teary smile she’d sent his way. 

This is getting out of hand. Jimin’s family doesn’t deserve to be fooled like this.

Yet here they are, because Jimin is (lucky) enough to have parents who want to ‘hand him off’ as in a manner as grand and graceful as possible. It’s too late to back out now—Yoongi is going to have to carry this lie with him to his grave, and so will Jimin. They’re no better than the average scammer, at this rate. Doubt swirls over Yoongi’s psyche. Maybe he should have given this more thought before jumping in so carelessly.

“Those look unique,” Jimin says, pointing to a pair behind the glass. 

Yoongi blinks, pulled out of his reverie, and looks down at the pair of rings that Jimin is pointing to: a rose gold diamond ring paired with an onyx band. Way, way too expensive-looking to be anything below bursting their budget.

“Looks tacky,” Yoongi vetoes, scanning beneath the panel until a brilliant glint catches his eye. He nods at the set. “How about those?” It’s simple enough—a gold and silver band: one engraved with the moon, the other featuring the sun surrounded by rays.

“Why moon and sun?” Jimin asks, doubtful.

“Because when I go up, you go down.”

Jimin elbows his side. “Stop being an ass.”

“Ow. Your elbows are made of cut glass, what the fuck.” Hissing, Yoongi steps away and rubs his rib. “I’m just saying—I don’t really want to wear something too... loud.”

“Right. Of course. You’re ashamed to let the world know you have a husband,” Jimin comments cattily.

Fake husband.” Yoongi wrinkles his nose. “I mean, it’s not like we’re really—“

Before he can say more, Jimin moves close and covers his mouth with the palm of his hand, casting a surreptitious grin at the saleslady studying them with a keen eye behind the glass counter.

Shit. That was a close call. Yoongi bites his tongue, pulse surging. Meanwhile, Jimin gives a forced chuckle and leans in close to Yoongi in a way that, to the public eye, might look like he’s whispering lovingly into his fiance’s ear, or even pressing his lips to Yoongi’s neck.

But Jimin hisses exasperatedly, “Careful, Min Yoongi. We can’t raise suspicion.”

He should be listening with rapt attention, but Yoongi’s having a hard time focusing on words, because damn if Jimin doesn’t smell fantastic. Of bergamot and honeysuckle and a unique kind of musk that he has never found on anyone other than Park Jimin himself. He smells like sin and serenity rolled into one.

“You, uh—“

Jimin’s eyes snap to his, not moving his face away. “What? Something on my face?”

Yoongi clears his throat; steps backwards. “You don’t have to worry,” he catches himself saying curtly. “I know what I’m doing.” He points out the silver bands to the saleslady. “We’ll take those.”

This time round, when Jimin protests and whines to get the rose gold pair, Yoongi ignores him. There’s a strange buzz of satisfaction that courses through him at not having to obey, and he grins contentedly to himself.

Yoongi might be getting married, but he’s still a free man.

 


 

Later in the car, while Yoongi is driving, Jimin turns to him with a grave look on his face. Not a single word comes out from him, so Yoongi glances sideways with a questioning look. “Just say it.”

Jimin nods. “After we marry, let’s….” He clears his throat and purses his lips, eyes trained anywhere but Yoongi. “Let’s not get in the way of each other’s careers. As in, don’t meddle in my personal business and I won’t mess up yours.”

“I thought that was a given.” Yoongi frowns. “What more is there?”

“Future job prospects,” Jimin says flat-out. “As in, whatever role we play in this relationship takes a backseat in the face of our jobs. So like, if I have an interview tomorrow, or next week, then I’d appreciate if you won’t ask me to turn up elsewhere as your pretend hubby.”

Only then does understanding strike Yoongi’s gut like the steel edge of a jackhammer—the simpering desperation with which Jimin had approached him, the sudden change in decision to marry him... it all makes sense now. Why hadn’t he noticed sooner? “So you’re unemployed.”

“I prefer the term, ‘job seeker’, please,” Jimin replies primly. “So. Can I have your word on that?”

Yoongi gives him a half-shouldered shrug. “I mean, yeah. Sure. No meddling in each other’s personal matters, I’m all for it. Good luck on the job hunt.”

“Thanks.” Jimin’s lips form a tight smile. “That’s good to hear.”

“Good,” Yoongi echoes, before holding up a hand. “Let’s shake on it, then we can go off and enjoy our last night as single people.”

Tomorrow, he’ll be Min-Park Yoongi. Tomorrow, he’ll be legally bound to someone else.

Strange.

“Please. Handshakes are overrated,” Jimin answers, before bringing up a pinky finger that looks shorter than a toothpick. “I prefer pinky promises.”

Yoongi snorts. “Again with the pinky swearing? Seriously?”

“It’s all or nothing, honeyboy. I won’t sign the marriage contract unless you give the pinky.”

“Park Jimin, I swear—“

“Just do it. Trust me, it’s more powerful that way,” Jimin says, and were it not for the solemn reverence on his face, Yoongi would’ve laughed and refused outright. “Promise me you’ll uphold the contract. And that we’ll never hurt each other trying to.”

Any other person, Yoongi would have turned his nose up at and walked away from. But they need each other and they both know it. And given that Jimin looks like a 5-year-old trusting a good friend not to break the sacred pinky pact, Yoongi’s resolve crumbles and he loops his own, much longer pinky finger with Jimin’s. “Promise.”

And promises, as everybody but them knows, are made to be broken.

 


 

Yoongi feels like he might puke.

It's supposed to be a small, intimate affair—30 people at most—but judging by the number of people streaming into the wedding hall, he's dead sure he's counted more than 50 guests now. That's 20 more than he braced himself to fake a smile for.

"Jimin!"

And here comes another ahjumma who rushes up to Jimin and kisses the apples of his cheeks, which are glowing extra rosy even under this horrible fluorescent lighting. The guy wasn’t joking when he said he takes skincare very seriously.

In South Korea, it's common tradition for grooms to stand outside the wedding hall's lobby to greet guests. And that's exactly what he and Park—well, soon to be Min-Park Jimin are doing right now, ushering attendees in before the ceremony starts, their hands clasped primly in front of them in a classic show of politeness. Dressed in matching grey suits and pink bowties, they look like a matching pair of Build-A-Bear dolls, and Yoongi feels like a cosplayer in his own wedding. Only when the first guest appeared earlier did it truly sink in that yes, he's really tying the knot today, and even though it's only for half a year, something about it feels so drastic.

When the lanky figure of a familiar bespectacled lawyer comes into view, Yoongi reminds himself to stand straighter, look prouder.

"Min Yoongi-ssi," Kim Namjoon greets with a warm smile that reaches his tired eyes for once, "thank you for generously inviting me to your wedding."

Yoongi plasters a strained smile in return. I need you to witness this, is what he manages to hold himself back from saying. "It's a pleasure of mine."

Behind Namjoon, he catches Jimin's eye and tries to send him a mental message that this is THAT lawyer, come here quick.

Understanding floods Jimin's eyes. He leans in close to whisper to his parents, who are standing beside him (Yoongi had never felt hollow looking at his own empty side) and excuses himself to sidle next to him.

"Honeyboy," Jimin croons, reaching for Yoongi's tie. "It's crooked."

Ignoring his own inward cringe, Yoongi rests a hand on the small of Jimin's back and gestures to the lawyer standing in front of them. "Jimin, this is attorney Kim Namjoon, representing my grandfather."

With a small smile, Jimin dips his head in greeting. "Honored to meet you!"

Flustered, Namjoon lets out a low noise and shakes his head. "No no, pleasure's all mine. I'm happy for the two of you." His casts Yoongi a sideways glance. "Congratulations."

"Thank you," he and Jimin answer simultaneously. Jimin rests a hand on Yoongi's chest for good measure, and Yoongi hopes his heartbeat isn't thudding hard enough for Jimin's palm to feel underneath the fabric of his suit.

They watch Namjoon head inside the hall in silence.

"So that’s him, huh? The one we're duping?" Jimin whispers into the shell of Yoongi’s ear.

He nods. "Y-yeah."

Jimin smirks. "No sweat, it's a done deal."

Yoongi exhales in relief when Jimin carefully pulls away and steps back to his parents. They spend the last few minutes ushering latecomers in, and when it's time for the ceremony to begin, the doors start closing. Jimin goes in first. He enters with his hanbok-clad mother trailing behind, and Yoongi almost falls into step with him—

"Min Yoongi, can I have a quick word with you?"

Yoongi's gut twists at the booming baritone, and slowly, he turns on his heel to find Mr. Park staring him down, forehead creased.

"Yes, sir...?" Yoongi can't help it—he squeaks, legs trembling in the older man's presence, knowing full well that neither of Jimin's parents know what kind of sham this whole union is.

Mr. Park waits for the doors to close before he steps towards Yoongi. His eyes soften. "Hey, relax."

A nervous breath whooshes out of Yoongi, followed by a low chuckle. "Sorry, sir—"

"Abeoji," Jimin's father corrects him, and there's warmth in his voice that sounds like what Yoongi always imagined his own dad would carry, if he knew his son was getting married. “Please, call me that.” 

Something inside of Yoongi crumbles, and suddenly the back of his eyes sting as though burned. Mr. Park is regarding him with look so gentle and soft... and he does not deserve it.

He does not deserve it one bit. Yoongi's throat closes up and forces his gaze down, to his polished dress shoes.

Abeoji. Yoongi doesn't allow himself to say it. It's not something he can bring himself to. No matter what anybody says, he will never have the right to. Everything about this marriage is a lie, and if there is one thing he doesn't ever want to fake, it's calling another person's parent, 'father'.

He's not that kind of bastard.

Mr. Park smiles at him, soft as feathers and bright as sunshine, but Yoongi's not blind to the way his eyes water. "About about Jiminie... I know he can be difficult sometimes."

Yoongi licks over his lower lip, tries to keep it from trembling. His stomach clenches, and it takes all of his might to keep his jaw from tightening. “He’ll be fine, sir. He’ll be fine with me.”

"Of course you’d say that. I was once like you are now, young and eager, but I know it won't be easy," Mr. Park sighs sheepishly. "My wife and I can only hope we've done whatever parenting we should've done right. But this boy... he has a heart of gold, Yoongi. I trust you to take care of that for him."

Though it's not a question, something about the way the words leave the man's lips compels Yoongi to nod in response.

"It's just..." And oh no, oh fuck, Jimin's father is sniffling now and Yoongi averts his gaze so that the guilt doesn't overwhelm him—"he's my eldest, you know?"

"S-Sir..."

“Our Jimin laughs a little too loud when he’s happy. Let him. He likes to eat chocolate when he’s stressed. Let him, but help keep an eye on his food, too. When he’s upset, he will want to splurge on shopping and drink bottles of soju, then regret it in the morning. There will be times when he’ll ask you to get lost. Please don’t let him. You”—Mr. Park swallows, and Yoongi looks away under the intensity of his gaze—“you can handle that, right?”

Yoongi heaves a shaky chuckle and nods.

"I'm not asking that you don't make him cry—hell, I've been married for 25 years and I know what that's like," adds Jimin's father in a hurry. Then his voice cracks even when he chortles under his breath. "I just hope that at times when Jimin does cry... then he doesn't have to endure it all alone."

And Yoongi would never admit it to this day, but at that moment, stripped bare and brought to his knees in front of a man who raised Jimin to be the person he is today, he lets one teardrop escape the corner of his eye.

"Don't worry," he affirms, heart heavy. "You can trust me."

 


 

Before he steps out from the cover of the shadows to walk down the aisle, Jimin feels a tap on his shoulder, and he turns around to find his mother smiling at him, eyes shining under the warm lights of the wedding hall.

"My baby," she says, voice flute-sweet. "Well, not for long. You’re my not-so-baby anymore, am I right?"

Jimin's eyebrows jump up in surprise. "Oh? You should be sitting down there—"

Park Yumi shushes him. "At least let me have this for the last time, hmm?" She takes his face in her hands and hums a soft tune she used to sing him to sleep years ago, and Jimin kind of wants to cry.

Jimin swallows an unexpected lump down his throat, and he forces a deep breath in and out. "Mama, I'm—"

"You're happy, right?" she asks, voice warbling. "With him?"

No. Jimin wants to be honest, but he'd rather not break his mother's heart any more than he already is doing to his own.

"He's going to protect your dreams," she whispers, hope clear as day in her eyes. “...right?”

This is not fair. This is emotional blackmail! Jimin has never understood what it means to 'have cold feet' below, but he supposes this prickling sensation in his heart must be dangerously close. His chest tightens, throat clogging with a lump that he can’t dislodge. "Mama..."

"Ah, my bad." Park Yumi seems to catch herself and she steps back, regaining composure while lifting her eyes upwards so that her tears don't roll down and ruin her mascara. "But you can't blame me!" She grins. "I just want to make sure I'm handing over my baby to the right man."

Jimin doesn't have the right words to say, so he doesn't even try. He chooses to hug her, long and tight, as it occurs to him that—

That—

This is his last time carrying the Park family name solo.

"It'll be worth it," he murmurs into his mother's ear. At least that's not a lie.

Mrs. Park sighs and melts into his hold, and Jimin kisses her forehead just as she lets him go.

Down, down, down the aisle to marry a man he doesn't love.

On the way to the altar, he lets teardrops streak down his cheeks, but not for the reasons his mother must be thinking.

 


 

Park Jimin and Min Yoongi marry on a warm summer day, where birds soar over a magnolia sky they can't see beyond the cover of a fluorescent-lit wedding hall ceiling. They exchange vows, voices trembling because they're overcome with a tide of emotions that the crowd mistakes for love.

And when they kiss, they keep it brief and chaste. Meanwhile everyone claps and cheers, calling them shy lovebirds.

Really though, it's nothing more than a sealing stamp that closes their deal.

 


 

"To the newlyweds!"

"Cheers!"

Wine glasses clink, silverware clatters and laughter echoes throughout the wedding reception hall. There's a jazz band (some college friends Yoongi specially commissioned for this day) busting out a classic Queen song on the makeshift stage in one corner.

 

Can anybody find me somebody to love?
Oh, each morning I get up, I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet
Take a look in the mirror and cry

 

Hell, yeah does Yoongi want to sob a little. Not out of happiness, mind you, but at the inexplicable sense of wrongness settling in his soul. Neither the music nor the crowd sending them congratulations serves to lift the foul mood Yoongi's sunk into.

 

I work hard every day of my life
I work 'til I ache in my bones
At the end (at the end of the day)
I take home my hard-earned pay
All on my own

 

Bone-deep weary; alone and alone and alone even at his own damn wedding. Yoongi feels like... like sewage water at the bottom of a drainage canal. Which doesn’t make sense. He’s one step closer to getting his rightful inheritance, so why do his insides feel all sorts of not-right?

"You look like you're going to murder that fish," Jimin remarks, nodding at his plate. "News flash: it's dead. What's it ever done to you?"

On a better night, Yoongi would muster up the energy to at least make a witty enough comeback to irritate the guy, but tonight he barely lifts an eyebrow in Jimin's direction.

They've just finished making their rounds to greet every guest at each table, and now he and Jimin are stuck sitting together at an elaborately-decorated table at the head of the reception hall, forced to eat fancy-ass food Yoongi has no appetite for and forced to listen to everyone launch into some form of merrymaking that seems to exclude them rather than celebrate them.

He steals a glance three tables down, where Taehyung, having somehow taken up the role of a self-proclaimed bartender, is busy pouring wine for Hoseok and Jungkook, who looks over-eager to be drinking alcohol now that he's finally legally of age. How they all met, Yoongi has no clue.

"Yoongi-yah!"

Out of the blue, a pink-cheeked and bright-eyed Seokjin appears before him, waving a cream-white envelope in one hand. He places it on the growing stack at the edge of their table. "My mandatory wedding gift. Congratulations, you two!" He blows a kiss at Jimin.

Jimin offers him a toothy smile in return, and if Yoongi didn't know better he'd think Jimin has never looked so blissed out than he does now. Something about the guy makes Yoongi wonder if he has an ON/OFF switch inside him that he can just conveniently flick whenever.

Seokjin saunters a few steps away, but not before he sways on his feet and nearly stumbles... just in time for a certain lawyer to steady him by the shoulders.

Yoongi cocks his head thoughtfully as he Namjoon and Seokjin’s eyes widen almost comically at the sight of each other.

“You okay?” His ears catch Namjoon’s low rasp. Seokjin nods slowly, eyes glazed as he leans into the attorney. “Hi. My name’s Kim Namjoon.”

Seokjin gulps. “Hello, I’m gay.”

Beside Yoongi, Jimin whistles quietly. “Glad to know at least some of us are finding true love here today.”

Yoongi suppresses the urge to kick his shin under the table. Wouldn’t look good for the newlyweds to start beating each other’s faces instead of meat on their wedding day, would it?

“Aren’t you gonna eat?” Jimin says again.

“Not hungry.”

“Well. Then do you want your coleslaw?” His (now) husband eyes his plate.

Yoongi shakes his head and pushes his plate towards Jimin. “Feel free to help yourself.”

Jimin goes quiet—the kind of unnerving silence that Yoongi’s gradually learning to read as: scheming and brainstorming mode.

He sighs. “What are you thinking?”

“Why don’t you try feeding me?” Jimin suggests, and this time there’s no telltale teasing smile, no waggling eyebrows. 

Wheezing, Yoongi unfolds his arms and sits upright. “Here? Now? In public?”

“Here, now, in public.”

Yoongi scowls. “You have hands. Do it yourself.”

“Oh, you don’t want to?” Jimin says, an uptick of a challenge in his tone. “Fine. I’ll do it then. Say ah~”

“I swear, Park Jimin—“

Min-Park Jimin,” his fake husband corrects.

Yoongi shuts his eyes, but parts his lips. “Fine. Ahh.”

With a wicked grin, Jimin feeds him using his own spoon, and it takes all of Yoongi’s dignity not to bend down and cower behind the table, especially when their audience starts wolf-whistling at their display of lovesick affection.

“Aww, Yoongi-hyung’s blushing!” Taehyung croons from the bar.

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all. Yoongi stares at his hands on his lap while Jimin laughs out loud and pats his head.

“I propose another toast”—Hoseok calls out across the room—“to our lovebirds. Yoongi, I never thought you had it in you, but here we are. Cheers!”

“Cheers!”

The music swells right then, and switches to a song with a faster tempo. It’s an old, familiar melody—one that the crowd whoops at from hearing the first chord. Beside him, Jimin jumps up with an excited shriek. 

“Chimchim, your favorite song!” Taehyung shouts giddily.

Then, to Yoongi’s utter surprise, Jimin deadass /vaults/ over their table and makes a beeline for the dancefloor where Taehyung’s already wriggling like a worm. Guests laugh & part to make way for them, and Jimin lip syncs in perfect timing:

 

Go on, go on, 
Leave me breathless!

 

Yoongi, being a music aficionado himself, knows this song very well, because it was his mother’s favorite too, before she passed away.

“Breathless, The Corrs,” he mutters under his breath, not even realizing that the corners of his mouth are curving up. “Not bad, Park Jimin.”

He would have been perfectly content sitting back in the sidelines and watching Jimin take the dancefloor by storm, but what completely blows Yoongi’s mind is the moment Jimin turns around—

Locks gazes with him—

And beckons him forward with an index finger, eyes alight and alive. Yoongi’s pretty sure his lungs stop working, and it’s not until their guests start chanting his name that he realizes they’re... waiting for him to do something?

But what?

“Yoongi, Yoongi, Yoongi!” chants the crowd like a tribe hooting for a show.

“First dance!” Jungkook yells with a shit-eating grin.

“Nooo,” Yoongi groans.

He lowers his head to hide his face in his hands, but not a moment later he feels a firm pull, and the next thing he knows, Jimin is coaxing him to the dancefloor while singing in his ear:

 

The daylight’s fading slowly;
but time with you is standing still
I’m waiting for you only

 

Yoongi can’t help it—his face breaks out into a flustered grin, eyes crinkling and cheeks bunching up, and he tries to scamper away, but Jimin loops two arms around his waist to keep him from fleeing the dancefloor.

“You’re not going anywhere, honeyboy!” Jimin yells playfully.

It’s futile, and Yoongi knows it, so he decides to quit struggling and just... lets Jimin guide his hands to his husband’s waist.

The whooping grows wild.

Yoongi fights back a smile when his land on a smudge of chocolate cake smeared across the corner of Jimin’s lips, pulled back in a smile. Perhaps it’s not what Jimin had had in mind when he’d described his dream wedding to Yoongi days ago, but between the two of them, Yoongi figures he might as well give him the cake waltz he wants, all the same. With a silky laugh, Jimin brings both arms around Yoongi neck and murmurs the next line:

“The slightest touch and I feel weak.”

It’s euphoric.

A low chortle escapes Yoongi, and he leans in to whisper roughly into the shell of Jimin’s ear, “You are going to be the death of me, Park Jimin.”

He feels Jimin shiver beneath his touch. “That’s Min-Park Jimin for you, loverboy.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes and grins, and it’s hard, it’s hard to fight back the burst of adrenaline coursing through his veins, and he tells himself that despite the grandeur of this lie, this small moment—

This small moment might just be the one thing that’s real.

He can at least have this moment for himself. Because Jimin is smiling at him, pure and unadulterated. Jimin is smiling with his half-moon eyes and Yoongi thinks, for the first time since they met, that perhaps he might allow himself to get used to this.

Because as far as weddings go, this one seems—

“Kiss!” Seokjin wolf-whistles out of nowhere.

That’s all it takes to get the ball rolling—soon enough, the entire reception hall is buzzing the same electric chant:

“Kiss, kiss, kiss!”

And maybe it’s the warm lights, casting Jimin’s cheeks in a rosy glow. Or maybe it’s the measly two glasses of wine that Yoongi downed earlier, popping fireworks in his blood and turning his brain to useless mush. Whatever it is, he’ll blame it on the wine. He’ll blame it on the lights. Heck, he’ll blame it in the crowd that asked for a show in the first place.

He’s left breathless.

Smiling until his gums peek out, Yoongi leans forward and gives Jimin’s chocolate-coated lips the kissing they deserve.

Chapter Text

It’s like being submerged in pool water—the whole world slows down, and Yoongi’s not sure he’s hearing the sudden uproar of cheering and squealing around them that well, because all he can taste is tang of chocolate mixed with cherry wine sweet and warm on Jimin’s lips.

Jimin’s lips, moving against his own.

This has never happened before. 

Granted, they’ve only kissed once (or twice, if you count that barely-there post-vows peck earlier at the ceremony), but on both counts Jimin has never kissed Yoongi back, never fisted Yoongi’s collar the way his fingers do now, never met his lips with as much gusto the way he does at this moment. Yoongi’s head spins, and he reaches up to cradle his fake husband’s jaw just as Jimin’s hands flatten against his collarbones to skim towards his shoulders—

“Get a room, you two!” someone shrieks. Maybe Seokjin. Maybe not. Maybe it was a warning bell ringing at the back of Yoongi’s mind, telling him to think.

What the fuck. What the hell is he doing?

Yoongi’s eyes snap open. At the same time, the world around him crashes back into sharp focus, like paused video set to play once more. The reception hall is bright, too bright, but also humid, and Yoongi fears he might start suffocating from the lack of air in his brain.

His lips freeze of their own accord. He pulls away from Jimin’s kiss, but the rest of his body stays locked in their intimate embrace. Yoongi dares not step away. He’s not foolish enough to behave like he’s shell-shocked to be seen kissing his husband in public. 

Meanwhile, Jimin’s eyelids slowly flutter open. For a split second, Yoongi thinks he hears him grunt, watching as dazed confusion glosses over his brown eyes. 

Almost as if Jimin is disgruntled at having been interrupted. 

Which is a stupid thought to have, Yoongi berates himself. Get a grip. 

They’re both breathing raggedly as they stare, flushed and wide-eyed, at each other. Then Jimin sucks in a soft breath and smoothes his palms over Yoongi’s rumpled collar, and Yoongi wills his heartbeat to stop thundering erratically lest Jimin feel it beneath his fingertips.

“We get it, you’re grossly in love,” Yoongi hears someone say. Sounds like Jungkook, he figures.

“Some of us are trying to be happily single here,” Seokjin adds extra loudly, before sneaking a sideways glance to where Namjoon is studying the ceiling’s architecture. “Or maybe not.”

“Um,” Jimin says as he stares at a vague spot on Yoongi’s shirt without wavering, like he’s hyperfocusing on a non-existent loose thread there. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down as he swallows thickly, and maybe it’s a trick of the lights or the liquor getting into his system, but his cheeks are redder than usual, too. One corner of his eyebrow twitches involuntarily, and it’s almost like he refuses to make eye contact with Yoongi—

—who releases him from his hold first. Stepping backwards, Yoongi rubs a hand over his chin, then his ears, then the back of his neck, before deciding to cage them in the safety of his pants pockets. Just in case they do something as reckless as reach for Jimin’s hand or whatever.

Damn, wine really does him in, huh?

“I just remembered,” Yoongi finds his voice, finally, “that I uh, haven’t finished my coleslaw yet.” He gulps, lifting a shaky finger and pointing weakly towards their dining table. “And the soup.”

Jimin purses his lips and nods, eyes trained on Yoongi’s shoes. “Right. The soup.”

“There’s cake, too,” Yoongi mumbles. At this point he’s just going with whatever his brain feeds his mouth.

“Yes, cake.” Jimin’s gaze snaps up and lands on him, and to Yoongi’s surprise, all trace of disquiet has vanished from his expression. Jimin smiles at him like they hadn’t just made out on the dancefloor, and Yoongi tries to ignore the fact that he’s unintentionally kissed away the chocolate mousse icing smudged on Jimin’s mouth earlier. “I do love me some dessert.”

Then Jimin loops an arm around Yoongi’s, taking charge to dispel the awkward situation like the champ he is, and half-drags, half-dances his way through the smirking crowd to sit back at their table.

Yoongi feels like he’s floating through it all in a daze.

The rest of the evening blurs in a sequence of terse conversation and forced smiles as guests stream out of the hall, and in that time, Yoongi decides—

Jimin’s lips to him are what poisoned apples are to Snow White.

A mental note: Yoongi must steer clear of them from now on.

 


 

The ride back home is rife with a stifling tension that makes his skin itch, and Yoongi is expecting Jimin to either:

 

1) blow up at him for acting brashly;

2) insult his most-probably-terrible liplock prowess;

3) offer kissing lessons;

4) all of the above, in that exact succession

 

But no. Jimin, as Yoongi should have (un)expected, is as unpredictable as a hailstorm on a midsummer night’s eve. “I have an idea.”

“Hmm?” Yoongi can’t help it but startle—he’s feeling extra jumpy tonight, like a soldier waiting for the first cannon to fire during a raid. There’s a rustling noise as Jimin twists his position to face Yoongi from the passenger seat, bringing his legs up, and Yoongi frowns. “Feet off the dashboard, Jimin.”

Jimin groans and lets his legs drop. “And here I thought we were starting to get chummy with each other.”

Yoongi swallows. The memory of those lips still scald his tongue like the lick of fire. If, by “getting chummy”, Jimin’s referring to their earlier mishap, then Yoongi’s not really sure if he wants to have this conversation—

“As you were saying.” Yoongi clears his throat to change the subject. “You had an idea?”

It’s been hours since then. He’s sober now—heck, if Yoongi has to he honest with himself, he knows he wasn’t really drunk in the first place—and he’s not going to let himself get carried away by any antics this time.

Jimin quacks giddily. “So I was thinking—that kiss was great.

“What—“

“So. Can we establish like some kind of monetary system here?” Jimin says, stroking his chin. “Because I was thinking, you know, maybe we could come to a civil agreement when it comes to strategically executed public displays of affection.”

Yoongi narrows his eyes.

“Are you suggesting I pay for—”

Jimin nods, smiling. “Exactly that. I know we said minimal PDA on the contract, but! You’ll still need me and my… um, PDA services... to convince everyone that you’re married married. Of course, I’ll set different rates for each different kind of PDA. How about: $50 for each time you grab my ass.”

“The fuck?” Yoongi curses. A stoplight ahead turns red at the last minute and he rams hard on the brakes, shoving both him and Jimin forward with the force of inertia. “What, is that ass made of gold?”

“It’s made of ME,” Jimin sniffs. “Better than gold.” He grips his seatbelt and glances at Yoongi. “And please drive safely.”

“That’s just unrealistic, you can’t expect me to pay for wanting to touch you—“

“Ha, so you do want to touch me—“

“—because I need my money!” Yoongi finishes curtly. “Didn’t you hear what Namjoon said to us before leaving earlier? He said he’ll be keeping an eye on us first.”

It had been a passing remark as the guests were filing out of the reception hall. Namjoon was the last to hand over his wedding gift, and after placing an envelope hinting at a fat stack of cash inside, he grinned at Yoongi and said, “You should have told me you had a fiance when I dropped by your place earlier this month, Yoongi-ssi.” He sent Jimin a cordial smile.

Yoongi had chuckled in that awkward way of his and replied, “Well. I did say I wasn’t married yet.”

The attorney had thrown his head back and laughed good naturedly. “I’ll be discussing the terms of your grandfather’s will six months from now, then.”

In other words, I’ll be keeping an eye on you first.

“I don’t understand how that man’s mind works,” Jimin comments offhandedly. “We even kissed in front of him! Which—great acting, by the way. Real convincing. Who knew you had it in you to impress me?” Jimin pat-pat-pats Yoongi’s head; to which Yoongi hisses for him to fuck off. “Killjoy.”

“Hey, I’m fun.” Yoongi scowls in defense, “And stop trying to mess my hair up, you’re so annoying.”

In response, Jimin snickers and pokes his right cheek with a finger before leaning back on his side of the passenger seat, and Yoongi nearly loses grip of the steering wheel.

“So I take it as a yes?” Jimin says, studying his cuticles. “The PDA thing, I mean. If you want that lawyer to believe this ploy, you’re going to have to show him how much you luuurve me.”

Yoongi snorts. “It’s a no for me.”

“Sure, Simon Cowell.”

“I’m serious.” Yoongi tightens his grip on the wheel and steps harder on the gas pedal. Money for fake intimacy? What a joke. “Nothing you say can make me change my mind.”

 


 

“So I changed my mind,” Yoongi says first thing the next morning when he joins Jimin across the dining table while carrying a mug of coffee in one hand. At his words, Jimin snorts out his own coffee as he laughs hard, and it strikes Yoongi then—this is their first breakfast as a married couple. It’s (un)surprisingly underwhelming. “And I was thinking— wait, what’s that smell?

“You mean aroma,” Jimin corrects matter-of-factly, glancing behind him where Yoongi sees a small purple candle mounted on one of his tabletop counters. “It’s my Yankee Candle. Honey lavender gelato.”

“Why are you lighting candles in my house?” Yoongi mutters darkly. It’s way too early in the morning for his nose to start working overtime.

“Have you smelled this place?” Jimin counters with a disdainful sniff. “This might come as a shock to you, but it reeks like you’re storing dead bodies in it. This candle is for purifying purposes.”

Yoongi doesn’t appreciate the underhanded jab at his hygiene and cleaning habits, but he doesn’t really have much to argue for because Jimin does have a fair point, so he chooses to let it slide with a wrinkle of his nose. Maybe Madeleine might conveniently knock the stupid candle off the table one day and get rid of it for good. Hey, a man can hope.

“So tell me, Simon Cowell. To what do I owe your sudden 180-degree change of heart?” asks his fake husband, swirling the contents of his coffee cup.

Right. Yoongi sits and sighs, face solemn. “Hear me out. I had a nightmare last night. A wildly prophetic nightmare.”

“I’ll bet.” Jimin sips from his mug. “No wonder you were snoring so loud.”

“Fact: I do not snore.

“Oh yeah? Says who?” Jimin glances towards the couch, where Yoongi’s ginger cat is sleeping with her belly up. “Did your little Scottish Fold verbalize it to you?”

It’s too early in the morning for this verbal showdown, and Yoongi can already feel a headache throbbing at his temples. He ignores Jimin’s catty remark. “As I was saying. I had a bad dream.”

“Since I have ears, I might as well listen.”

 


 

It started out like any other normal dream, as far as Yoongi’s repressed subconscious goes.

He was sitting under a giant banyan tree, headphones plugged into Aerosmith and falling asleep—even in his dreams, he sleeps—when suddenly the earth beneath him gave way and he fell…

...into a giant lake of cash! His inheritance!

It was great at first, and he spent an entire afternoon lazing about and swimming in his money, at least until Yoongi tried to paddle to land and realized that the money had disappeared, and the lake was empty, replaced by blood.

His only saving grace was a lifebuoy that dropped from the sky, but looking up, Yoongi saw who had hurled it at him.

Of course, who else would it be other than Park Jimin?

Yoongi screamed for help, to be pulled to safety, but then Dream Jimin said: “But you told me no. You rejected me. So... no.”

Yoongi bolted up into sitting position, drenched in cold sweat.

 


 

“Damn,” Jimin says, regarding him with a new, freaked-out look like he’s worried about Yoongi’s blood pressure. “You have... wild dreams.”

Yoongi shrugs. He’s never been into superstitions, but he doesn’t want to risk losing his precious money.  “And I’m not taking any chances. So let’s do this.”

They sit and discuss for over an hour, and at the end of it they come up with a draft of different pricings.

 

Ruling Monetary System:
 

Hand-holding: $10 *

Hugs: $20 *

Ass grab: $50 *

Cheek kisses: $80 *

Actual mouth-to-mouth kisses: $150*, no discounts

*(Prices may vary on public holidays.)

 

For some reason, maybe gut instinct, Yoongi feels like he’s getting the shorter end of the stick here. Jimin is grinning wide with pride as their deal comes to a close, and the sun is shining and all is well and good, but Yoongi feels like he just has to say something—

—and so of all fucked up things he could say, he blurts out as a joke: “So. How much for a good fuck?”

Regret floods him the moment the words leave his mouth, and a knifelike twang of guilt and shame pierces him when the delirious smile on Jimin’s face turns black in an instant.

“I beg your pardon?”

Yoongi sneezes. Maybe he’s lucid. The world is floaty. He’s not thinking clearly. The headache is slowly spreading from his temples to pound at the base of his skull, and all he wants right now is to shut the curtains, tuck Madeleine close to his chest, curl up and sleep. As he always does whenever he’s put on the spot, Yoongi chuckles anxiously. “Chill. It was a joke.”

“Not a funny one,” Jimin retorts in a tone Yoongi’s has never heard him use before.

Yoongi wrinkles his nose and shuts his eyes, mood souring. “You’re just taking advantage of me, so why not let me, too? Since you’re pretty much selling your body, I might as well call my friends and let them have their way with—“

The slap that smacks across his face is so loud that Madeleine starts yowling, awakened from her slumber.

But the dead silence that follows rings louder. Yoongi bites at the insides of his cheeks and raises a hand to where Jimin must’ve left a handprint on his face. Slowly, he turns his head, and sees Jimin standing, chair toppled over behind him, tears of fury pooling at his eyes.

Yoongi braces his ears for a round of screaming, but what floors him is the broken dignity in Jimin’s voice when he speaks, low and steady: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not the one who strictly said ‘no sex’. Coming from you, this is low. Really low. I hope you’ll reflect.”

That’s all Jimin says.

That’s all Jimin says, but for some reason, Yoongi wishes he’d resorted to yelling mad nonsense into his ears instead. Ducking his head low, Jimin pushes off from the kitchen table and picks up a mini backpack that Yoongi didn’t notice earlier.

“Where are you going?” Yoongi calls out belatedly.

He hears no response, only a sniffling whimper as Jimin steps outside and slams the front door shut with an echoing bang.

Yoongi sighs. The nasty headache has taken over his whole skull now. “Fuck this.”

All this, and it’s only 7am in the morning.

 


 

“I married an asshole.”

“Usually couples start saying that two years into the marriage,” Taehyung’s answer is quickfire and indifferent. “It’s been, what—a day?”

Jimin dips his dumplings—they decided to eat takeout dinner from the deli downstairs—into soy sauce. “Of sorts.”

Three, actually. It’s been three days, to be more accurate, since Jimin stormed out of that dumping ground and its resident jackass and headed straight for Taehyung’s cramped rooftop room. In the time between now and then, he attended an audition and applied for a few part-time jobs. Not once has Jimin given himself the privilege of time to mull over the situation, and chooses to keep his mind preoccupied with even the most trivial matters so that it doesn’t stray to He Whose Name Remains Unutterable. “I can’t wait to divorce him.”

Shaking his head, Taehyung clucks his tongue before shoving his piece of sashimi into his mouth. “So much for wedded bliss, amirite.”

“He’s despicable, Tae.”

“You keep saying that, but you refuse to tell me what it is exactly that set you off like that.”

“His existence. His existence alone is a giant blister on the face of this planet.” Jimin shoves a piece of kimchi into his mouth, not interested in elaborating further.

Taehyung gives him a wary eye. “No offense, Chim, I’m not taking sides, but I’ve known Yoongi-hyung since I started working at the Blue Rose and he doesn’t really strike me as someone hateful.”

Jimin scoffs. Nobody gets it. Not even his best friend, of all people. It’s not Taehyung’s fault, though—Jimin just isn’t too keen to divulge the details of why Yoongi’s words enraged him so much, because as much as he knows Taehyung won’t judge him, Jimin can’t help feeling ashamed to let his best friend know that he’d attempted to charge Yoongi for something as simple as touching him. So instead, he says, “You’d be surprised at how people’s true colors start showing when you share the same roof as them. Speaking of—hey, will your landlord mind if I crash here for a few more days?”

“As long as you don’t let yourself get seen.” Taehyung pops another sushi into his mouth, and he chews in silence before speaking again. “Why? How much longer are you planning to stay?”

“Dunno. Forever?”

Taehyung shoots him a pointed look. He doesn’t say what’s running through Jimin’s mind; doesn’t have to.

You can’t avoid him forever.

Jimin knows very well that he can’t run away from a possible nasty confrontation for the rest of his life, and he knows he can’t wear the same two shirts he stashed in his backpack, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“Stop thinking so loud. And don’t make that judgy face. You’re killing my vibe.”

Taehyung snorts and opens a can of Coke. It hisses as the fizz escapes, before he gulps in down in one go and burps. “Let’s test that—so what am I thinking?”

That Jimin should probably head home and settle things like the adult he’s supposed to be. But the thing about pride is that the bigger it is, the more it gets in the way. Jimin’s frown deepens. “No. I’m not gonna. I can’t even stand his face right now, Taetae.”

Taehyung shrugs and scratches his head. “Jimin-ah. Not tryna preach here, but genuine question.”

“What.”

“Won’t you just create problems for yourself like this? If you two keep fighting, how’s anybody going to believe you?” Taehyung modulates. “That means bye bye money, no?”

Jimin scrunches up his nose. “Don’t all married couples fight?”

“Yeah, but not with murderous intent. Stop jabbing your sushi like that, you’re ripping the seaweed.”

“Oh.” Jimin’s aggressive grip on his wooden chopsticks loosens, and he looks down to find a burst mush of sushi.

Taehyung serves him a half-pitying, half-freaked look. “In less than a week, you’ve turned from Jimin: Lover of Laughter, into Jimin: Enemy of Kelp. What has marriage done to you?”

Jimin ignores the wisecrack, mind tracing back to Taehyung’s earlier comment. He has a good point.

See, If Jimin and He Whose Name Remains Unutterable are to uphold this charade, then they can’t be half-assed about their efforts. And anyway, it’s not like Jimin can avoid returning to the guy’s apartment—literally all his things are there. His suitcase, his scripts, his laptop. Something’s gotta give, and unfortunately in this case, that something—or someone—seems to be Jimin.

Because he sure as hell knows it won’t be Yoongi. The asshole hasn’t even texted him for the last 3 days. Not a single text, no apology in sight.

And that’s what ticks him off.

“He just makes me so...” Jimin exhales a slow, calming breath, the kind that he’s seen on zen YouTube channels. “...angry.”

Taehyung picks up another piece of tamago sushi and nods, like he knows instinctively to just let Jimin vent without interruption.

“And I can’t read him at all, Tae. He’s like a grumpy old cat. I never know what to expect or predict what he’s thinking, and it’s like I’m walking on eggshells in his house 24/7.”

Eggshells. Knowing the flat’s state of untidiness, Jimin supposes that’s not even an exaggeration. 

In many ways, it’s therapeutic, being able to release all of Jimin’s pent up rage like a wine bottle uncorked for the first time. Talking to Taehyung alone is already helping to lift his mood tremendously, and by the time 8pm in the evening rolls around, Jimin is smiling again.

It’s half past eight when Jimin stretches and stands up, yawning. Taehyung forces him to drink water because surely all that yabbering must’ve exhausted his throat.

“You should go home.”

Jimin pouts. “Can’t I stay?”

“I’d love to let you, you know I would, but…” Taehyung winces, and he looks physically pained to say no, but he still does it anyway, nodding at their finished boxes of sushi “Chim, maybe you should learn to fix and clean up after your own mess.”

Jimin is not quite sure if he was truly referring to their empty sushi containers.

He’s always prided himself on being a good listener, so that’s how Jimin finds himself climbing the stairs at Yoongi’s stupid rooftop terrace, looking up at that blasted unit number. Dread curls in the pit of his tummy like rattlesnake tails, and he rolls his shoulders back to keep the anxiety of another confrontation at bay. He knows how volatile his temper can be, how his mouth lets loose when he's furious.

The plan is to sneak in and sleep quietly, without stirring shit.

...which would have been perfectly executable, provided that Jimin knows the passcode.

Which he most certainly... does not. It’s ridiculous; amidst the flurry of wedding preparations and day-to-day routines, Jimin realizes Yoongi had never revealed to him the door’s passcode. With an annoyed grunt, Jimin jangles the doorknob, as if jiggling it here and there would make the door budge and swing open for entry. 

So much for a smooth Operation Sneak In.

His eyes latch onto the doorbell to the left. It’s not like he has much of a choice. It’s either texting Yoongi to let him in—which, no fucking way in hell would Jimin even attempt to do—or ring the doorbell incessantly to announce his return. At least the doorbell can be used to make Yoongi’s life a little more hellish. With an evil smirk, Jimin raises an index finger and presses the doorbell again and again, without stopping, and he hears the resounding bell ring loud inside the apartment, accompanied by Madeleine’s enraged meowing.

Here comes destruction, Min Yoongi, Jimin thinks, feeling smug. The guy has no idea what’s coming—Jimin is a volcano waiting to erupt, hot magma coursing through his veins. The last few days has given him downtime to recover from the initial hurt of the comments hurled his way, but today he will strike back in full force.

That’s the plan.

After standing outside and attacking the doorbell for forever and a half, the door finally creaks open.

“You purposely kept the passcode from me, didn’t you—“ Jimin’s eyes blow wide, and his first insult dies in his throat.

Yoongi looks like crap.

He’s peering at Jimin through slits of squinted eyes as if he can’t bear to open them all the way, face pallid and sickly green. His usually silky black hair is tangled, not in the cute-tousled way but in the haven’t-showered-in-days way, and his ashen lips are chapped and dry. At the sight of Jimin though, Yoongi’s pinched expression smoothens and gives out into relief. “You.”

Jimin swallows, blinking, before he finds his voice. “Yeah. It’s me, jerk. What, did you eat poisoned noodles—hey!“

At that moment, Yoongi sways and collapses towards Jimin.

 


 

For someone so miniature, Yoongi weighs like a bag of bricks.

With a small cry, Jimin reaches out and catches his husband in his arms right before his body thuds to the floor.  “Whoa—“ He groans against Yoongi’s weight, nearly bending over backwards, and hooks him by the arms. “Yoongi, hey, what’s going on with you?” Jimin grumbles, half-pissed off that his grand payback plan’s been shoved to the back burner for the moment. The other of half of him is growing worried, especially when he places a palm against Yoongi’s forehead.

Jimin gasps.

“You’re burning up,” he says, though he doubts Yoongi’s conscious enough to hear him, judging by the way his eyelids stay firmly shut. “What the hell, I’m gone for three days and you go and run a high fever like this. Seriously, hyung.”

A meow catches Jimin’s attention. Madeleine lurks from behind a laundry pile, eyeing Jimin warily, and she doesn’t plod any closer. But she doesn’t downright attack him either, and Jimin supposes that must mean he’s not completely unwelcome. (Maybe Madeleine knows her cat dad needs some care.)

With a grunt of effort, Jimin heaves Yoongi bridal-style, which proves to be a challenge considering that he’s got a backpack over his shoulders, and a few times he nearly trips over all the clutter on the floor. Setting Yoongi down on the nearest couch, Jimin pushes aside books and discarded shirts.

“You”—Jimin shrugs off his backpack—“are a fucking”—he makes sure Yoongi’s head is nestled comfortably against the couch—“nightmare. You hear that? A pain in the ass. I can’t believe I have to do this.”

Technically, he doesn’t have to. They're not committed to taking care of each other or doing anything married couples do. Jimin could just grab a bag and go. He could leave Yoongi alone here, wait for his fever to naturally subside, but Jimin is not that kind of heartless bastard. And anyway, Taehyung would kick him out if he found out Jimin was crawling back to his place after abandoning his beloved favorite jazz pianist.

Madeleine jumps on the couch and paws and prods gently at Yoongi’s chest with a soft mewl, before looking up at Jimin with large eyes.

“Don’t look at me like that, I’m not the one who made him this way,” Jimin grumbles. “Shoo.”

Of course she doesn’t listen. I shall do exactly as you please, said no cat ever. Madeleine curls up against Yoongi’s head and stares unblinkingly at Jimin as if she can read his mind, as if she knows he’s got half a mind to walk out the door. Another soft meow has Jimin sighing and hanging his head in defeat. “Fine, you win. It’s not like I was planning to leave him.”

He casts his gaze about the apartment, wondering where he should start looking for a medical box or first aid cabinet, and heads for the kitchen cupboards. The kitchen is always a good place to start. 

But before he can take more than two steps away, a hand grabs Jimin’s wrist from behind. He freezes, and looks down just in time to find Yoongi’s fingers, pale and thin, loosening from Jimin’s wrist and sliding back to rest on the couch.

“...go.”

Jimin’s frown deepens. “What did you say?”

Stupid Min Yoongi. Is he really kicking him out when he’s just trying to help?

“Don’t go,” Yoongi croaks, sounding delirious, though his voice remains hoarse and low. “Sorry.”

Jimin’s blinks, and a smidgen of his irritation crumbles like dust. “I’m just going to the kitchen.”

“But you’ll leave again,” Yoongi whines, cracking one eye to peer up at Jimin before the rest of his words get drowned out by hacking coughs.

Jimin’s breath hitches. “Water, you need water. Wait here.”

“Don’t go.”

“You fucking idiot, the kitchen is literally the next room!” Jimin squats down so that he’s face-to-face with Yoongi, who closes his eyes again as if ashamed to look Jimin in the eye. “Look. You’re not okay, okay? So let me just do this and then we’ll talk.”

Silence, and then Yoongi mumbles, “Third cabinet to the right. Under the sink.”

With a huff, Jimin stands and heads for the kitchen, and sure enough, there’s a medical kit with a bright red cross sign on it. He grabs an empty glass and fills it with lukewarm water, then speedwalks back to the living room, where Yoongi’s coughing grows louder and thicker.

“Here, drink this—wait,” Jimin is halfway through pulling out tablets of Ibuprofen before he catches himself stricken. “No, you haven’t eaten, have you?”

Yoongi shrugs, which Jimin takes as a no.

“Goodness’ sake, Yoongi,” he groans and races back to the kitchen.

There aren’t many ingredients to begin with, and most of Yoongi’s condiments are expired (what the actual fuck), but after some bustling about Jimin manages to whip up a quick bowl of porridge, courtesy of years of staying with his grandma in Busan during school holidays. She always used to make the same for him whenever he fell ill.

“Here.” Sitting cross-legged on the floor beside the sofa, Jimin picks up a spoon and blows to cool the porridge down. “Eat.”

Yoongi’s eyes flutter open, and he regards the bowl in Jimin’s hands with mild distaste. “But that’s sick people food.”

Jimin rolls his eyes.“I swear, if you don’t eat this, I am walking out that door.”

“I was just kidding,” Yoongi pipes up right away, and though his voice is weak and dry, Jimin forces back the urge to smile. “I’m actually fucking famished.”

There is nothing to smile about, Jimin reminds himself. He’s supposed to be upset. “This isn’t enough. We should go to a hospital—“

“No,” Yoongi protests right away, voice rough and raw. “No hospitals.”

“But your fever’s high—“

Please.” There’s an unnatural high pitch to Yoongi’s tone, like he’s squeaking on the verge of tears. “I really hate it there.”

Jimin pauses, taking in the look of desperation on Yoongi’s face. What’s there to fear about hospitals? But he doesn’t bother to question Yoongi, not when he’s barely coherent like this. Instead, he dangles a clear plastic of medicine from his fingers and says, “Okay. In that case, after you finish, make sure to take 2 tablets of this”—Jimin points to the tray where the glass of water and meds are—“and drink two, no three, glasses of water. I’m gonna clean up.”

By “clean up”, Jimin wanted to clear away all the clutter on the floor that’s turning the air inside the flat musty, but in reality all he manages is to pick up the dirty clothes and toss them into the laundry basket before Yoongi’s calling for his name again. Jimin has just successfully lit his honey lavender gelato Yankee candle when he hears from the living room:

“Finished, Jimin, done.”

It’s like the guy retrogresses to babyhood under his feverish delirium, which Jimin confirms when Yoongi pouts and makes a small whining noise when he forces him to dunk down another glass of water.

“Stop whining, you baby.”

“I’m gonna get water poisoning! You’re killing me!”

“Yeah, and you’re gonna get even more water now, because it’s time to shower.” Jimin feels Yoongi’s forehead once more, and he sighs when the continues to burn at his touch. “Up, up. Get your ass to the bathroom.”

It takes another ten minutes to get Yoongi to quit complaining.

“Are you going to help me shower?” Yoongi asks right as he steps into the bathroom, forcing out a joke even though his face ashen with the effort to stand upright.

The gall of this dude. Jimin pushes down the urge to punch a wall or something, and directs a saccharine sweet smile at Yoongi. “I’d rather eat my own fist, no thank you.”

Yoongi makes a face. “My body...is so weak though...”

Jimin shoos Yoongi and closes the door.

In the time it takes Yoongi to shower, Jimin manages to throw out the trash and wash the dishes. He’s halfway through setting the photo frames lined along a wooden shelf at the corner of the living room when he spots a picture that makes him blink twice.

It’s a photo of Yoongi, looking a few years younger with a smile Jimin has never seen on his face, and he’s holding up a trophy for some piano competition.

Min Yoongi. Champion, 2016.

But it’s not the trophy that piques Jimin’s interest.

It’s the smiling guy pressing a kiss to Yoongi’s cheek.

And though it’s none of Jimin’s business, he can’t help but wonder—who? He doesn’t want to snoop, but it’s only struck him now that Yoongi could have possibly had exes before.

(Of course he did. Stupid.)

The sound of the bathroom door unlocking breaks Jimin out of his thoughts. He makes haste to set the remaining picture frames upright and hurries to peek around the hallway leading to the bathroom. Yoongi stands outside clad in a plain white pullover and black track pants, toweling off his damp hair, and when he sees Jimin he blinks as though surprised to find that he stayed.

“How are you feeling?”

“Like shit.” Another coughs tears out of Yoongi’s throat, and he rubs at his drooping eyelids. “Wanna sleep. Come on, Jiminie.”

Jimin lets out a scandalized scoff. Jiminie? Not even Taehyung calls him that. “You’re really out of it, huh.” He wonders if any of the meds he gave Yoongi turns people loopy.

Feeling like his own dad, Jimin leads—well, more like drags, really—Yoongi upstairs and tucks him into bed. Yoongi obliges without protest, and when yawns like a newborn kitten, Jimin has to suppress his own laugh. 

It’s like dealing with an entirely different person. “Maybe you should be sick more often.”

“Hey.” Yoongi’s eyes are already closing, but he manages to sound wounded. “That’s mean.”

Jimin tsk-tsks his tongue. Who knew the guy would be this clingy? “You’re nicer when you’re sick.”

Yoongi hums, slipping into slumber, and Jimin spins around to take his turn at showering downstairs. But there’s that hand again, this time clutching the hem of Jimin’s t-shirt.

“M’sorry,” Yoongi murmurs, and Jimin wonders if he’s aware of what he’s doing at all. “I’m sorry, Jimin.”

Slowly, Jimin turns back around, chest constricting in an unfamiliar riptide of emotion.

Only the bedside lamp is switched on in the second floor. The longer Jimin studies Yoongi’s sleep-soft face, the less he looks like the devil’s spawn.

“Don’t go.” Yoongi presses his cheek against the back of Jimin’s hand and lets out a nearly inaudible, “Miss my mama.”

With a sigh, Jimin bends over, reaching for Yoongi fingers to pry them off his shirt on by hand. No man is an island, he muses. Even the seemingly coldest person needs someone sometimes. “I’m not going anywhere, honeyboy.”

Rather than dropping Yoongi’s hand, Jimin clutches it with both of his. “So rest now, okay? That’s an order.” 

As he lowers himself to sit beside the floor mattress, Yoongi sniffles in his sleep, and Jimin tightens his grip on his hands, wondering how in the hell he ended up here.

“You sure you don’t want to go to a hospital?” he asks for good measure.

“No,” Yoongi breathes slowly, voice thick with sleep. “Here’s fine. No hospital.”

“Okay, alright.” Jimin pats the back of Yoongi’s hand in a steady rhythm, then reaches over to smoothen the crease marring the space between his husband’s brows until it disappears. “Just sleep, then. I’ll stay right here, honeyboy.”

Before Jimin realizes it, his own eyelids start drooping heavy within a matter of minutes, and his head drops on top of his and Yoongi's interlaced hands. In the gentle thick of the night, Yoongi and Jimin doze off together, their hearts beating a steady rhythm that lull them into rare, shared peace.

Tomorrow, then they’ll talk. 

Chapter Text

Yoongi awakens to the warm aroma of home-cooked food.

For the stupidest, silliest second he imagines he must be 10 years old again, waking up in this same flat to the faint noise sound of pots and pans clanging, along with his mother’s occasional exclamation whenever she knocked something over. He lies still on his floor mattress, curled up in fetal position the way he always does because the blankets never seem to hug his form just right, taking this moment to inhale the scent of comfort. Of gone love.

Then the cloud fogging his memory lifts, and Yoongi sits upright.

Bits and pieces of scattered images from last night flash across his mind—Madeleine meowing because he missed her feeding time, then Jimin ringing the doorbell like a madman, Yoongi dragging himself to let him in... and then what?

This is where his memory glitches. But Yoongi pauses, narrowing his eyes when he realizes—

That’s right. Jimin’s back.

And if the savory scent wafting through the air is any indication to go by, he’s still here. Yoongi can’t for the life of him remember when the last time his apartment smelled anything other than, well, Not Fresh.

Gingerly, Yoongi climbs down the ladder and creeps his way down the hall leading to the kitchen, trying to maintain stealth, but then the floorboards creak under the weight of his left foot. (It’s always that creaky floorboard. Yoongi should see to it soon.)

“Oh. You’re up?” a voice breaks the quiet air.

With a small gasp, Yoongi jumps like a cornered cat and takes a tentative stride backwards, out of the kitchen, until his spine hits hallway’s wall. Jimin emerges from the kitchen and saunters right past him, carrying a big bowl of steaming mushroom soup towards the dining table.

“It’s only instant soup from the convenience store downstairs, you didn’t have enough ingredients in the fridge,” Jimin says by way of explanation, before he looks up and directs his sharp gaze at Yoongi, eyes scanning his features. “You look better. Let me feel your forehead.”

A strangled sound escapes Yoongi, and when Jimin glides towards him he splutters, “M-my—“

Pressing a palm against his forehead, Jimin nods once. “Yeah. Fever’s gone down.” His tone is curt and clipped, and he hardly bothers to maintain eye contact with Yoongi before he turns back to the table. Yoongi watches his every move with a weary stare, feeling like a soldier tromping through a minefield.

“Well?” Jimin says when he notices that Yoongi hasn’t moved an inch from where he’s pressed against the wall. “Aren’t you going to eat?”

Nothing’s clicking in Yoongi’s head. He could’ve sworn Jimin was red-faced with fury both when he’d left and returned to the apartment. What happened last night that he’s so calm now? The last memorable interaction Yoongi remembers with Jimin was their stupid argument from a few days ago—

His eyes widen at the memory of his own crass words. Stupid argument. Stupid Min Yoongi. Him and his vile mouth. Jaw twitching, he asks, “Are you... still angry?”

Jimin studies him with an unreadable look in his eyes, and after a momentary pause he says, “If you’re not going to eat, then I’ll just finish this all by myself.”

Panic sends Yoongi’s heartbeat into overdrive, and he pushes off from the wall, closing the distance between him and the dining table in three strides. “No. I’ll eat.” 

He sits across Jimin, feeling compelled to not make noise as his chair scrapes backwards, because for some reason Jimin is behaving like a ticking time bomb right now, ready to explode at any moment. Yoongi doesn’t want to set him off from this ceasefire. He picks up a spoon with a mumble of gratitude, and as he slurps the soup, warmth trickles down his throat, soothing the flaming ache there and he looks up at Jimin with newfound appreciation. “It’s good. Thank you.”

Jimin eyes him warily. “It’s just Campbell’s.”

“No.” Yoongi shakes his head and sets his spoon down. “I mean... thank you. For coming back last night to uh”—he swallows heavily—“take care of me while I was sick.” He doesn’t remember much in the haze of his high fever, but he knows this much: Jimin stayed with him all night.

Silence cools the air between them.

Jimin doesn’t make any wisecrack comment, doesn’t say “You’re welcome” as he usual might, just stares at him like he’s waiting for something. Yoongi looks down to where his fingers are lacing and unlacing over one another. His stomach curdles and twists tighter with every second that passes.

“Did you mean what you said last night?”

Blinking in confusion, Yoongi looks up and asks, “What did I say?”

Probably not the right thing to say, seeing as Jimin’s face contorts and he sighs roughly before standing from the dining table. “I give up. It’s pointless with you. I can’t believe I thought you might have been sincere—“

“I’m sorry.”

The words leave Yoongi’s mouth in one breath as if they have a life of their own. “I’m sorry for what I said to you, Jimin. I shouldn’t have even thought it.” Feeling small, Yoongi forces himself to meet Jimin’s heated gaze. “I’m sorry I don’t remember last night that well. Please don’t be mad.”

Jimin stares at him for a long moment until the silence growing between them feels too painful to bear, before he lowers himself to the chair where he was sitting earlier. “I’m not mad, I’m hurt. What you said was way out of line.”

“I overstepped, I know. I’m sorry.”

“For what, exactly?” Jimin asks, his voice climbing an octave higher, and Yoongi winces. “For insulting me? For having to be told off to get the hint? Maybe you’re just sorry you made me explode in the first place.”

“Everything I said,” Yoongi forces out, remorse crashing through him in waves. “Everything I said was uncalled for. I just said it because”—he pauses in hesitation—”because I was also hoping you’d see, from your point-of-view, how ridiculous your demands sounded.”

Jimin chews on his lower lip and looks away, looking like he’s actually considering Yoongi’s words and taking them to heart for once. “You could’ve said so from the very start, geez.”

But Yoongi is slowly realizing that Jimin has a knack for getting what he wants, and the whole world would just let him, Yoongi included. He wouldn’t have been able to say “no.” It’s just that… he wanted to voice out his thoughts for once. To be heard, because people like Jimin have a tendency to steamroll over everything they walk on, and Yoongi grabbed the chance to speak before it was too late. He just didn’t expect his words to come out the way they did.

“But I understand what you mean now,” Jimin says with a thoughtful nod.  “So. Apology accepted. But if this ever happens again... I’m breaking off this agreement. Don’t even expect me to look back.”

The unsettled sensation brewing at the pit of Yoongi’s tummy loosens and morphs to relief. He closes his eyes and sighs, feeling like a cinderblock has been lifted off his chest. “Good. T-thank you. That’s really good to hear.” From now on he has to be more mindful of things he says.

“Good,” Jimin echoes in a more muted tone. “Help yourself to the food, by the way.”

Nodding, Yoongi continues to sip at the soup, and asks in his most careful tone before he loses the courage, “But if you don’t mind me asking... why?”

Jimin hums in question. “Why what?”

“Why the need to price affection?” Yoongi sets his spoon down again, watching Jimin’s face.

He sees the way Jimin blanches and shrinks into himself, like he’s shy—no, not shy—more like ashamed.

“I’ll admit, you did have a point, I think part of me was unknowingly trying to take advantage of you,” he says, dipping his head low between his shoulders. “It’s mostly because I’m in a tight pinch at the moment.”

Yoongi eats quietly, gives Jimin time to gather his thoughts, all while keeping watch of Jimin’s face—it’s an open canvas, in his opinion, on which every emotion he feels paints itself. Jimin wears his heart on his sleeve like he’s not afraid people might brush him the wrong way.

Yoongi has to make sure he doesn’t.

“Promise me you’re not going to laugh,” Jimin warns.

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “Should I be scared..?”

“No, no, it’s just...” Jimin’s cheeks bloom crimson, and he ducks his head when he says in a small voice, “I need some urgent money to pay for... damages.”

It’s a word that Yoongi’s only heard from the likes of law films and criminal shows, so his heart pounds in staccato when he asks, “Is there... are you, by any chance, living a secret mafia life? Or wait. Did you vandalise someone’s car?” The possibilities are endless.

“No, what the heck.” Jimin shakes his head and his hands before him vehemently. “What do you take me for? Uncultured swine?”

“Then what is it? Spit it out, I won’t judge.”

“I accidentally made my landlady’s hair fall off because I sold her leg wax as homemade herbal shampoo.”

Yoongi chokes on his soup mid-sip, and he coughs violently, reaching for the nearest glass of water—

“Hey, that’s mine—“

—he doesn’t really pay attention to what Jimin is saying, focusing on the way the water runs down his throat. Yoongi sets in on the table. “You did what?

“You heard me.” Jimin squint his eyes, but his lips are molded in a sheepish pout that Yoongi’s illogical side has the urge to do something stupid with. Like kiss it off his face. “Granted, it was one of my lesser successful experiments.”

Yoongi grins so wide his cheeks hurt. “Why am I not surprised?”

“You promised not to laugh!”

“Do I look like I’m laughing? I’m smiling like an idiot because of you, Park Jimin. That’s two different things.” Yoongi clears his throat and swirls the soup with his spoon. “So. How much do you have to pay?”

“Close to two million won.”

Yoongi whistles, gobsmacked. “That’s... a lot.”

Jimin sniffs, but Yoongi swears that if he looked closer, he’s fighting back an embarrassed smile. “Yeah. A scalp’s worth of fortune.”

Yoongi lets out a short burst of giggles, which is weird, because Min Yoongi has never been one to giggle.

Or so he thought.

Or so until a certain someone came along.

“Don’t laugh!”

Yoongi pokes out a tongue and teases, “Park Jimin, you are one scary person.”

“That’s Min-Park Jimin for you.” Jimin juts out his chin as if rising to the challenge. “As if you’re one to talk!”

“Why, why, why?” Yoongi fires, readying himself for yet another exchange of comebacks. It’s something he’s growing used to, being around Jimin. “What did I do now?”

“I’m not the one who was baby-talking and wishing for his mum last night,” Jimin says. “How’d you even fall sick?”

Yoongi’s next witty retort dies on his tongue. Despite not remembering clearly every detail of what happened whilst he was sick the previous night, he vividly recollects how he’s gotten to that point in the first place.

This is how it went.

After Jimin stomped out of the house, Yoongi had initially shrugged it off at first, thinking Jimin would be back sooner or later. And so he went about doing his routine, the way he always did: got dressed, headed to the photo studio for a day of work, then returned home just in time to feed Madeleine, expecting Jimin to be looking him down with his trademark glower.

But Jimin wasn’t there. 

He wasn’t there the next morning either, and the longer he stayed gone, the more Yoongi grew worried. What if something bad happened to Jimin while he was outside? Should he text? Call?

Yoongi doesn’t want his own history to repeat itself. But it wasn’t like Jimin was his; they were lawfully committed to each other only on paper. Yoongi told himself he had no right to ask for his whereabouts, and so he did the next best thing: wait for Jimin to come home.

He stayed up waiting at the bus stop two streets down their apartment. And he would have remained there until dawn broke over the Seoul skyline, had the sky not let out a downpour of sudden rain. Left without a choice, Yoongi raced back to his place using only his hands for an umbrella, hanging his head in defeat.

Perhaps Jimin had had enough of him. Perhaps he would never return.

And yet here he is now, hair sleep-mussed and sure, sure his eyes a little bloodshot, but his hair is haloed by morning light filtering in through the blinds, and there are flecks of sun rays dancing in those warm browns that makes Yoongi feel like—

Like he’s stumbling into an oasis after treading across the desert. But he would never admit to that. With a noncommittal shrug, Yoongi shares, “Bad ramen.”

Jimin snorts as if to say, I told you so. "This is why I told you to lay off that stuff, Yoongi."

"Hyung," Yoongi corrects, and Jimin blinks slowly. "Call me hyung. If you'd like, I mean."

He shrugs. "Right. Hyung, you should really start looking into healthier food options."

Yoongi says nothing, just nods and smiles and lets his fake husband prattle on about the different dietary functions each food group serve. Maybe he's still groggy, because somehow it almost feels like there’s a thin veil of mist hanging over Yoongi’s head, casting everything around him in a warm, hazy light. The grey dread that swept him in its rising tides had long since stilled to calm waters.

"...I mean, look at your kitchen pantry! When was the last time you had a proper, home-cooked meal?" Jimin chatters on. "I swear, you're lucky I was here last night. Heaven knows you would've faded or something."

Yeah, Yoongi silently agrees, I’m lucky, alright.

“Also, can we start setting up a cleaning roster? I figured we should split the chores— hello? Hyung?” Jimin waves a hand right in front of Yoongi. “Earth to Yoongi-hyung. Are you listening to me?”

Yoongi blinks, but the strange mist clouding his mind doesn’t, and he reacts slowly, like a man learning to breathe after being submerged in water for so long. “...nngh?”

“Are you okay? I think you’re still sick,” Jimin comments with a concerned hiss, worry returning to his eyes. “You’re scaring me.”

Yoongi leans forward and drops his head in his hands, willing himself to fucking snap out of it. It's the strangest thing, the way his palms are clammy and his heartbeat is galloping at 9am on a Saturday morning. There's nothing to be excited about, so what gives?

"Maybe," he muses, more to himself that Jimin. "Sorry you had to put up with me last night. Did I say anything too weird?"

Jimin shakes his head. "Honestly I was tuning you out. LOL."

Yoongi sighs in relief— 

"Although you were extra clingy and whiny." Jimin grins at him.

Yoongi's breath catches in Gay Panic. "I was?"

"Mm-hmm." Jimin nods nonchalantly. "You acted like I was leaving for good whenever I stood up. If you were anyone else, I'd call it cute." He laughs at his own words like he just said the world's best joke. "What's up with that?"

Yoongi leans back on his chair, cradling his own elbows to hug himself, forgetting his soup. It's gotten lukewarm anyway. "I just... wanted to make sure you heard me apologize before you, I don't know, before you left."

"Where would I go?"

Shrugging, Yoongi stays quiet.

Memory. They're small, fragile things, and if frayed too thin they can disappear forever. But sometimes they don't. Some stay forever, locked and loaded. 

There's a room in Yoongi's heart with a door that hasn't opened in three years. "I... I lost someone the same way. Before."

 


 

Folding in on himself like that, Yoongi looks like a cornered cat. Jimin makes no comment about it, though. He waits. People often paint him as the life of the party in any social gathering, but little do they know that it's just him riding along everyone's vibe and energy.

Jimin likes to think of himself as a chameleon, or maybe some magical mood matcher that reflects the emotions of whoever is within his immediate vicinity. Park Jimin prides himself on being able to read people like that. It's an essential technique actors have to possess, after all.

Across the table, Yoongi's struggling to form words, like perhaps his tongue has twisted in on itself, so Jimin steps in helpfully, his curiosity getting the better of him. "Is it that person in the picture with you?" He glances at the shelf, its frames now arranged in neat rows.

Yoongi flinches as though Jimin pinched his arm, then gives a restrained sigh. "Yeah."

Jimin waits for him to continue, but he doesn't.

And he doesn't.

And he doesn't.

"Not to be a nosy busybody here," Jimin begins slowly, "but I can't help wondering—"

"He's gone."

There are several implications to this. Several meanings and magnitudes. Jimin can't decide how literally he should interpret one word, but judging by the look on Yoongi's face, this version of "gone" must lie somewhere in the Very Unpleasant end of the spectrum. "Oh. I see… I'm sorry I asked."

Yoongi shrugs. "It was years ago."

He lips spill the words indifferently, as if the passage of time alone is enough to erase shared history, but his eyes tell a different story. Jimin doesn't press, doesn't prod.

He simply nods, because he knows what heartache looks like.

Jimin's eyes stray downwards, trailing the faint blue veins tracing down Yoongi's knuckles, and he wonders if he should reach out for where he's gripping the edge of the dining table tightly. Probably not a good idea. Yoongi doesn't like it when people overstep, and so he won't.

However.

He does slide his hand so that it rests just mere inches from Yoongi's to brush their pinkies together. It works like a charm—Yoongi's vice-like hold on the table loosens, and the tension in his shoulders relaxes until he sinks back in his chair like a deflating balloon.

It's time to steer the conversation to an earlier, more lighthearted topic. Jimin doesn't know exactly what made Yoongi behave like the world would end if Jimin left the house while he was sick, but he can hazard a wild guess. "If you were that worried, you could have texted me."

"But you're not my boyfriend."

Jimin cringes. Fair enough; they’re not anything to each other except perhaps housemates, and so he must tread carefully so as not to overstep any unspoken boundaries. "I mean, as much as it pains me to say this, I can excuse you texting me about, um, these kind of things. If you're worried, if you're sad, or whatever. I guess I'm cool with it." 

The anguish in Yoongi's eyes lifts. "Really?" 

He sounds so hopeful that Jimin doesn't find the will to pluck his usual snark from its hiding spot. "Mm-hmm."

"This isn't a scam, is it?" Yoongi has the audacity to joke. There's a twitch at the corner of his mouth, and Jimin kind of feels like he just won something.

"When it comes to cheering you up, I won't to charge you," Jimin affirms. "I like listening. I like being there. For my friends, I mean."

Yoongi arches an eyebrow at him, the smile gracing his lips slowly transforming into a half-smirk. "Oh?"

"We're friends, right? Bros?"

"Wow, did I just get leveled up in your good books?" Yoongi ventures, before a cough escapes him. Right away, Jimin stands to fetch him a glass of water. Not that he cares about the guy, but because if he doesn't do this, Yoongi will keep drinking from his glass.

"Be honored, hyung," Jimin says as Yoongi accepts the glass from him. "I don't often do favors for free."

Yoongi shakes his head with an unwitting smile, letting a comfortable silence settle over them before he pipes up, "Let's do it."

"Do what?"

"Pay back what you owe your ex-landlady. How much are we looking at?"

Jimin pauses, and feels his insides melt.

We. Something about the way Yoongi says it makes it seem like they’re a team, in for the long haul together even though technically this was solely Jimin’s mess to fix. Yoongi says it so easily, like he never thought otherwise.

Jimin repeats the amount, watching Yoongi’s face carefully, but his face doesn’t distort, and he never once makes fun of Jimin’s (mis)adventures. Yoongi is respectful in a quiet, often awkward, but endearing way, and Jimin feels grateful down to every last bone in his body. 

He nods. “Okay. I’ll agree to your PDA charges. Even though they’re terrible.”

Jimin’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “For real?” He really thought they’d be scrapping it, especially since it’s what started their whole fight. 

Taehyung’s right. Maybe Yoongi is a nice guy after all.

Yoongi yawns, stretching his arms over his head like a kitten. “Yeah. I’ll just consider it community service done on my part. Charity.”

Jimin snorts. Nope, nope, nope. He takes it back. Yoongi is not your typical good samaritan at all. He’s little more than a bug to Jimin. And someday, if Yoongi doesn’t watch out for himself and sleep with one eye open at night, Jimin might just squish him. Serves him right.

“We need some bug spray,” he remarks, pushing off from the table and heading for the sink.

“What, no ‘thank you’?” Yoongi calls out after him.

“You’re annoying!”

“Stop being mean to a bro, bro.”

There’s a pause while Jimin brandishes the chopping knife from the knife stand. “Min Yoongi, you should’ve just sat there and ate your food.”

“That’s Min-Park Yoongi-hyung for you. Bro.

He’s irritating, Jimin decides.

(But at least he’s laughing.)

 


 

There are only 2 kinds of messages that you receive from your manager-slash-boss:

 

1) The kind that makes you groan

2) The kind that makes you pump the air in victory because HELLO PROMOTION!

 

The one Yoongi opens on his phone that night, sadly, belongs to the former.

He sighs when he sees the KakaoTalk ID light up his phone screen just as he’s unlocking the front door to his—their, now that Jimin lives here too—apartment.

 

jinsengroot

YAH

 

jinsengroot: 

emergency. im banging your lawyer

i guess you could say it’s an... emer-jin-cy

 

agustddaeng: 

????? is that the punchline

 

jinsengroot:

My love life is not a joke!!

 

 

When Yoongi doesn’t bother replying, Seokjin starts calling his number.

“First of all: he’s not my lawyer, and secondly, it’s not an emergency if it’s nothing life-threatening,” Yoongi says the moments the line connects.

“But it is! It actually is a matter of life and death,” answers Seokjin. “Because before sexy times, we’re going on a date.”

Yoongi furrows his brows. “And that’s... a bad thing?”

“It’s great! It is. But,” Here, Seokjin pauses for added dramatic effect. “I want to impress him.”

“So? Just be yourself, hyung.”

“I can’t impress him if we’re going to see a Shakespeare play. I serve tables, not sonnets.”

Yoongi suggests for him to scour the web and pull up some of those short YouTube clips summarizing Shakespeare’s works, but then Seokjin shoots back with—

“I have a better plan. Your husband is an actor right?”

Warning bells go off in Yoongi’s head, but he’s too curious. “Why?”

He’s lounging on the sofa, phone pressed to one ear while both of his feet are resting after a tiring day at the photo studio.

“Can I borrow Jimin for an evening?” Seokjin requests in a tone /challenging/ him to refuse. “Wait, you should come too. Let’s make it a double-date.”

One does not simply refuse Kim Seokjin, unless they want the Disapproving Glare directed their way. Legend has it that few have survived said angry look, and even fewer have lived to tell the tale.

Yoongi doesn't want to incur his manager's wrath.

Hence the present situation.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream?" Jimin trills out in pure delight, a smile breaking out over his face when Yoongi passes him the printed e-ticket that he bought online. "Are you kidding me? That’s an instant yes! But wait. Why?"

"What do you mean, why?"

"What's the occasion?" Jimin asks. "Your birthday?"

"No, mine's already passed." Yoongi rubs the back of his neck. "Seokjin's going out with Namjoon to watch Shakespeare but he's not exactly confident. Wants a hypeman who knows about theatre. But only if you want to, no pressure."

He doesn't tell Jimin it's a double-date. Because it isn't.

Right?

 


 

Wrong.

It's evident from the very first moment Namjoon and Seokjin come into view that this is not a matter of "4 bros hanging out because they're not gay"—on all counts, this is an unmistakable prelude to blossoming romance. Namjoon and Seokjin are dressed to impress, in the most casual way. Collared button-up shirts paired with denim shorts, sneakers snug on their feet.

Meanwhile, Yoongi and Jimin are both dressed down, because Yoongi had insisted it would be “just a regular hangout”, and so he’s here wearing a plain black tee and black jeans, while Jimin’s in ripped jeans and a loose white shirt that is borderline unholy by the way it keeps falling off one shoulder and showing his collarbones. Not that Yoongi was paying attention whatsoever.

Yoongi feels Jimin's flat glare aimed his way, and he whispers, "Like I said, this isn't a date. This is... companionship. It’s okay not to dress up."

Jimin, watching the pair make googly eyes at each other as they approach, makes a sound as if to say, Yeah, right. "So we're classic third-wheelers?"

"In a sense." With a sheepish face, Yoongi says, "Just play along, will you? Jin-hyung's really nervous about this."

Honestly, Yoongi doesn't even have to be here, since Jimin's the one Seokjin needs, but he figured he might as well show Namjoon how happily wed they are.

Shakespeare In the Park. This date is painfully, obviously not Seokjin's quintessential idea of a good time, so Yoongi guesses it must be Namjoon's brainchild. So here they are now, standing outside of the park as more and more audience guests mill about while the sunset clouds roll by in swathes of pink-gold-purple.

RIght now, Yoongi feels like codfish in a sea of salmon. He has never been much of a literature buff, because his interests lie primarily in music and sports, but on the way here Jimin kept trying to convince him that this was THE golden chance for his first 'Shakespearience'—

("I understand you've never seen a play by him, and that's NOT good. Grow. Learn. Be better.")

—and for once, Yoongi found himself without a witty retort, so he went with it.

It makes sense that Yoongi should lose his Shakespearean virginity in this manner. At the park with three other men, under the stars. 

(That sounds so wrong, but the point stands resolute.)

"Did we keep you waiting?" Seokjin says as he and Namjoon draw near. At the sight of his grandfather's attorney, Yoongi instinctively moves closer to Jimin, putting an arm around his shoulders. Jimin follows suit as if they're dancing a practiced piece—he molds into Yoongi's hold.

“It’s okay, I’m happy you both invited us. We’d hate to intrude,” Jimin says with perfect timing and an expertly sweetened tone, as if he’s following a script. He's a natural, not letting a single emotion betray his expression, and Yoongi will never stop marveling at how he does it.

Seokjin laughs, but Yoongi can tell it’s forced, because he sounds nowhere like a window being wiped clean. “What are you talking about, of course you’re welcome here, Jimin-ah.” He glances at Yoongi. “And you, too.”

Great. How he loves feeling like a tag-along.

The ticket collector at the entrance ushers them into the open-air venue after they each show their tickets, and they pick out a spot somewhere in the middle of the grassy field on which to spread their picnic mat over. Not too far back that they can’t see the actors’ faces, but not so near the makeshift stage that they can’t appreciate the overall grandeur of the backdrop.

"I've always wanted to see this play," Namjoon starts, tone completely different from how he sounded back at the wedding.

"Me too," Seokjin says, wriggling his butt so that he's sitting comfortably. Yoongi eyes the space between him and Namjoon, noting how there's barely any despite this reportedly being their first date, then looks at the space between him and Jimin.

They're seated like co-workers. Yoongi doesn’t know what to do about it, so he doesn’t make a move to close the gap. This ever-present, unnamed tension between them is like… well, it’s kinda like wisdom teeth. You know it’s there, that it’s growing, but you don’t do anything about it because it might hurt.

“I’m surprised you actually agreed,” Namjoon is saying, tugging at his collar because they’re all sweating in the summer heat of this early evening. “I didn’t think you’d be the type who’d enjoy this.”

Seokjin scoffs like he can’t believe what he's hearing. “Are you kidding me? I love English! I'm quite fluent. Hello-hi-nice to meet you-howareyou?”

Namjoon stares at him, dazzled. "Whoa."

Yoongi bites down on his lip, and beside him, Jimin forces back a giggle.

More and more audience members file into sitting area, and Yoongi notices how most of them are couples, tucked into the hollow of each other's embraces as if there's a special space carved out just for them. Among the four of them, they make light banter, with Jimin often chiming in to help Seokjin whenever he starts floundering on his literature intel. Yoongi sits back, satisfied with letting them do the talking, and he doesn't even notice the conversation has swung into the topic of his and Jimin's relationship until Seokjin asks:

"So, tell me." His gaze flickers back and forth between them. "Between the two of you, who confessed first?"

"Yeah," Namjoon says. "I'm curious. Who said ‘I love you’ first?"

Yoongi's inhales sharply as both he and Jimin both freeze, exchanging stricken glances with each other. 

Shit.

Because for all the hours they spent planning and brainstorming a feasible relationship timeline, they hadn't gone over that particular detail. Yoongi never even thought that sort of thing mattered to couples. Jimin never brought it up either, so it must not be very important.

Until now.

“So?” Seokjin presses with an impish grin. “C’mon, Yoons, indulge me a little. Who said the L-word first?”

There’s no getting out of this. It’s like that terrifying millisecond of a moment, Yoongi muses, where you know an oncoming truck is about to hit, so you brace yourself for impact. Yoongi knows himself well, knows how he’s hardly the type to put feelings into words very well; music, yes. Words? Not so much.

So it’s without hesitation when he blurts out, “Jimin—“

...at the exact same instance that Jimin declares unblinkingly, “Yoongi did.”

They pause.

Silence is a hot-air balloon that inflates between them, and Yoongi isn’t sure whether he wants to facepalm or smack Jimin, until he feels a brief nudge at the corner of his elbow and all too late realizes that Jimin has sidled up next to him, smiling ice daggers his way.

Darling,” Jimin croons out loud. “I think you’ve gotten forgetful.”

“Aw,” croons Namjoon, scrunching up his face like he’s just witnessed the cutest exchange ever. “Is it like one of those moments where you’re so in love all the lines get blurred?”

Yoongi laughs, which Namjoon takes as bashful affirmation while Seokjin just regards them with a soft smile. Little do they know: he’s laughing for a completely different reason. He’s not about to let Jimin defeat him. Not this time. This is a battle of wills—he must prevail.

“Don’t you remember, petal?” Yoongi says, plucking the nickname off the top of his head. “That time when you first heard me play piano, you immediately fell for me. Can’t believe you forgot about that.”

Jimin narrows his eyes at him for a nanosecond. Then he barks out a peal of laughter. “How funny! Because I’m pretty sure it was YOU who fell for ME first.”

“Pfftt.” Yoongi wags a finger in the air, not even noticing the way his tone lifts in a teasing lilt. “It was you all along, sunshine. Don’t deny it.”

Jimin almost looks horrified by his experimental pet names, but he keeps his features in check. He swats Yoongi’s arm playfully.

“Stop acting so shy, honeyboy macaron pecan pie.” 

Yoongi suppresses the urge to gag.

Jimin’s grin, albeit seemingly sweet to onlookers, is a challenge for Yoongi to engage in a duel of snark. He brandishes their wedding bands. “I mean. Didn’t you propose first, hmm?”

From his periphery, Yoongi feels Namjoon and Seokjin’s eyes on them—awed, if a little rattled, and he overhears a series of hushed murmurs:

(“Look at sizzling that chemistry,” says Namjoon.

“Yeah. You can’t tell if they want to kill each or kiss each other. How thrilling.”)

At that moment, the makeshift houselights overhead dim until the night sky shrouds them, dotted only by a faint line of warm, sepia fairy lights strung around the perimeter of the grass field.

A serene female voice announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Shakespeare In The Park...” 

As the announcer continues, informing that the show will be starting in 10 minutes, their little group takes time to settle down on their picnic mat and for the most part, the audience quietens to an excited hush. Conversation drops, and Yoongi lets their heated ‘who-said-what-first’ discourse go for the time being. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who said it first.

Because at the end of the day, it’s all fake and fictional, anyway. Between him and Jimin, there is no real love to speak of. Jimin seems more than well aware of that, because for once he doesn’t insist on arguing with him.

Yoongi does not want to argue about (fake) matters of the heart. 

He’s saved from overthinking when Namjoon states with a sigh like a lovestruck poet-slash-playwright, looking up at the evening sky:

“Has it ever occurred to you that when you look at the moon, it’s the exact one that the likes of William Shakespeare and the Great King Sejong looked at every night?“

And it’s a good diversion, Yoongi thinks. It’s good that he’s on this not-double-date together with other people after all, so that he’s not left to stew in unspoken, repressed emotions. It’s a fine distraction, having another couple around to serve as a reminder of what real, newfound love looks like.

Even if one of them talks like he’s reciting a soliloquy straight out of a Shakespeare manuscript.

”I feel like... the moon, although sentient, is this evergreen existence. It’s the one common denominator binding humanity, along with the sun and its stars.”

Yoongi glances at Jimin, who’s staring at Namjoon with speechless admiration (or shock, who knows), before letting his gaze slide over to Seokjin.

“I know, right?” says his manager, nodding eagerly. “Like. Wow. The moon! It’s just so… big. And round.”

“Fascinating stuff.”

“Totally.”

Namjoon and Seokjin share amused, adoring gazes, and it’s sick and twisted, they way they behave and seem more married than Yoongi and Jimin are—even though this is supposed to be a first date.

Screw romance, Yoongi seethes quietly. Such a capitalist agenda, making money out of dating.

He wants to share this sentiment with his co-third wheeler, but when he turns, Jimin doesn’t meet his eyes. So.

Whatever.

Five minutes before the curtains rise, Namjoon excuses himself to the bathroom, and Yoongi studies the way Seokjin watches the guy leave, eyes glassy and bewitched.

There’s this strange silence permeating the air between him and Jimin that feels thick with some unnamed tension, and with each passing second Yoongi grows more desperate to cast it away. And so he does the next best thing, which is... to lean forward and speak to Seokjin instead.

(He’s never claimed to be Good At Feelings, nor an expert conversationalist.)

“That bad, huh?” Yoongi asks.

Seokjin swoons and sighs. “He’s sensitive and deep. I appreciate that. Gotta love me a man in touch with his emotions.”

Jimin releases a garbled snort, the first sound he’s making after his weird silent treatment. “I wish I could relate.”

Yoongi frowns, bewildered. What’s going on with him?

He’s not the only one l eft wondering. Seokjin faces Jimin, eyebrows raised. “What’s this, trouble in paradise?”

And Yoongi finds he doesn’t like entertaining even a sliver of the idea that Jimin is possibly upset. Which is what he looks like right now, even though there’s no reason to act so damned pissy.

A man in touch with his emotions, Seokjin said.

A new thought strikes him.

Is Jimin implying that—

“Yoongi has no romantic bone in his body,” declares Jimin with a soft sniff. “Can’t even admit that he said he loved me first.”

Oh. Understanding sinks into Yoongi. So that was why?

For fuck’s sake.

Park Jimin you tiny idiot, he thinks. A big dumbie. Yoongi can’t for the life of him comprehend why Jimin would make such a big deal out of who allegedly confessed first. Must be a pride thing.

Scooting over so that he’s pressed against Jimin’s side, Yoongi leans closer while Seokjin explains to his fake husband patronizingly:

“Well, you know how Yoongi is. He’s not very showy with emotions, you know—“

Bullshit.

Yoongi presses his lips to Jimin’s forehead.

And it may or may not be Yoongi’s intention to let his mouth linger against Jimin’s skin, but that’s how he feels the exact moment Jimin freezes with a soft gasp under his touch.

It’s warm and dark out. Nighttime has fallen completely and the sun has laid to rest, so he can’t clearly see Jimin’s reaction, can only feel the way his husband suddenly seems to emit extra heat from every pore. Seokjin has fallen silent, but Yoongi doesn’t care much right now. Pulling back just a few inches from Jimin’s face, he murmurs none-too-quietly, “You know I show it differently.”

Jimin stays unmoving, staring at him with lips parted perpetually, until Namjoon returns and reclaims his sit on the picnic mat just in time for the show to start.

Feeling satisfied with himself, Yoongi sits back and pats Jimin on the head. He waves down a food peddler meandering through the seated audience to buy two corn cobs, one of which he offers to Jimin with hopeful smile. “We’re okay, right?”

Swallowing hard, Jimin nods and accepts the corn.

The curtains rise.

 


 

For all its farcical usage of fairies and magic and fantastical tropes, at its heart, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a beloved classic comedy about a love square between two couples that gets seriously jumbled up and more chaotic as the story unfolds. It's undoubtedly Jimin's favorite. Growing up, he'd come to learn every line, every word as if it's been etched into the crevices of his heart, but for some reason, tonight they ring a little differently in his ears. 

When Lysander declares in Act I, Scene I, that—

"The course of true love never did run smooth."

Jimin is surprised to find himself nodding along, though for what reason, he wouldn't know even if you asked him. Perhaps the actor is so convincing that he can make any person in the audience dwell in his love for Hermia, can make them feel drunk off of their mutual devotion.

It's a summer night in Seoul, smack dab in the middle of the season, and the evening air around them is as warm as toast. In spite of it all, Jimin finds his thigh pressing against Yoongi's and when he clocks this fact in halfway through Demetrius' lines, he thinks: This is okay.

It's a slow downhill slide, how their limbs gravitate towards each other like they have opposing magnets attached to them. It's a summer night in Seoul, and Jimin's forehead tingles with a fiery zing left behind by Yoongi’s lips, but the lessening space between him and Yoongi is even warmer.

This is okay.

It's what Jimin chants to himself inwardly. After all, he and Yoongi are friends, aren't they? Bros, like they’d agreed. Jimin has never been one to shy away from outright displays of closeness and affection. Affection shouldn't affect him, not like this.

As if the place where their skin touches, burns.

But this should be okay. Jimin glances to where Namjoon and Seokjin are wrapped around each other, cuddling as if they're on a couch within the privacy of a house instead of in public, and he convinces himself that compared to them, he and Yoongi are being polite enough. Cordial.

Onstage, Helena is reciting:

 

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."

 

And Jimin is so absorbed in the actress' performance that he jumps, startled, when he feels Yoongi's breath ghost over the shell of his ear.

Jimin's pulse hops, and he waits for Yoongi to say something, but he never does.

It's dark out, and only the stage is illuminated, decorated in medieval splendor so that it steals the audience's attention, but for all the focusing Jimin is trying to do, he can't help but be hyper aware of the presence sitting beside him.

Stupid Yoongi.

This is unfair. Jimin needs to focus!

And then.

"This'll sound dumb," Yoongi rasps, his confusion coming out low and muted. "But where are the Greek gods and goddesses?"

It's like a fully wound up spring uncoils itself from the bottom of Jimin's stomach, and before he can stop himself, a giggle bubbles out of him.

 


 

Finally, he smiles. Jimin looks best like that, Yoongi muses with mounting satisfaction. When he's smiling.

Not that he's particularly concerned or anything. It's just that the guy's been tense all night, and Yoongi just wanted to help him relax a little. He has zero clue why Jimin's been acting off tonight, like he's constipated, because it's totally unlike him at all. Yoongi thinks it would be most economically beneficial if they could behave more naturally as a married couple, especially in front of Namjoon.

And it starts with: improving Jimin's mood? Check.

Yoongi watches him chortle and hiccup behind his hand. "Ah, hyung! Just watch and I can explain it to you afterwards, if you want. Okay?"

There it is—those two crescents moons have appeared. That's the smile, Yoongi thinks. He nods and sits back. "Sure."

Sometime halfway into the production, pale yellow summertime fireflies start flitter-fluttering into the park's vicinity, and they flicker bright enough that they distract Yoongi (he's been distracted this whole time by... er, various things) and Jimin, who reaches out two hands to catch a lone firefly in his palms.

Yoongi shouldn't care. He should be paying attention to the scene onstage as the 4 lovers tumble apart, but for all the glitz and grandeur of what unfolds before them, he finds the wonder in Jimin's face more riveting. There's something about the way Jimin's eyes light up when he lifts his palm to take a peek at his captured firefly, something about the way his irises shine like they ought to be named after a nebula of their own. Liquid starlight against hazel filaments.

Jimin is incandescent.

And although they're in a summer heatwave, a chill zings down Yoongi's spine. It's hard look away. His ears ring with Demetrius' words:

 

Are you sure/

That we are awake? It seems to me/

That yet we sleep, we dream

 

Jimin opens his hands, lets the firefly take flight into the air.

This is a fever dream, Yoongi thinks to himself. This is a fever dream that he's not quite sure he's ready to wake up from.

Someone is dying onstage. Someone is crying onstage. Maybe Yoongi doesn't care, but their final words ring out into the open night.

 

My soul is in the sky.

Tongue, lose thy light

 

He watches the way Jimin's lips move to recite along the next line as he watches the firefly soar back into the sky: "Moon, take thy flight."

Yoongi exhales, soft, shallow.

There are many pretty things in the world. Eye-catching art pieces, countless attractive faces. All of them lovely in their own right, but none of them called Jimin. Jimin, with his pillow lips parted as wonder ignites his face. Jimin, stellar by starlight, fireflies dancing in his eyes.

And Yoongi doesn't often think of many things as particularly beautiful—

But this one is.

(How he wishes he brought his trusty old camera with him tonight. Some moments deserve a forever kind of capture.)

"You okay?"

It's only when Jimin catches him opening gawking that Yoongi catches ahold of himself. He averts his gaze, eyes snapping back to where the stage stands, while his cheeks burn with the heat of a solar flare. "Mm-hmm."

He has to be okay.

 

Chapter Text

“So, good night unto you all.

Give me your hands, if we be friends,

And Robin shall restore amends.”

 

The lights go out, and with the departure of Puck comes the end of the midsummer night’s dream. As the cast makes their final bow, the audience breaks out into applause, with Jimin cheering louder than most.

The curtain falls. He exhales, awed.

There is always a small pocket of time, a moment after every theatrical spectacle ends—or perhaps several moments dragged out into Hesitation—where Jimin sits back, dazzled, and revels in the lingering suspension of disbelief. For the last few hours he’s immersed himself into the whimsical world created by one of his favorite playwrights, and it’s always a whiplash whenever he has to yank himself back to reality.

Because his reality... well.

This is reality:

Yoongi, sleeping on his shoulder. Yoongi, having nodded off into slumber nearing the final act of the play. And Jimin would be damned if he denied that the guy didn’t look adorable like that. Less feral, more feline.

(If only Yoongi wasn’t snoring.)

(And if only he wasn’t doing this in the face of Shakespeare-sunbaenim.)

“Hey.” Jimin jostles Yoongi’s head off his right shoulder. With a loud snort, Yoongi startles into wakefulness, bleary eyes blinking drowsily.

“...mmgh?”

“Play’s over.” Jimin’s eyes dart about the park, where audience members, including Namjoon and Seokjin, are haphazardly picking up their picnic mats from the spot next to Jimin and Yoongi’s. “Wake up. Everyone’s leaving.”

Yoongi yawns, stretching his arms over his head. Jimin scoffs, shakes his head and unfolds his body from sitting cross-legged. He feels his joints stretch with a satisfying crunch. “I can’t believe you slept through Shakespeare.”

“Only in the second half.” Yoongi stands up and clears stray grass off the mat, and they follow their friends out.

“That’s where it gets spicy!” Jimin laments, and he cringes at the way he sounds like a whining kid. “It’s a comedy, hyung! What’s not clicking? You’re supposed to be laughing, not snoring.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’d laugh, if only I understood all that medieval gobblespeak.”

Which is a total lie, because if there's 1 thing Jimin is certain about in this whole arrangement of theirs, it's that:

 

1) Yoongi loves his cat

2) Yoongi understands English, given how he can spend Sunday mornings on the couch marathoning Netflix shows without needing subtitles.

"Just say you hate Shakespeare and go," he teases as they exit the park and part ways with Seokjin and Namjoon (whose eyes haven't left each other's since the show ended). 

He's expecting Yoongi to rebut him with a scathing remark, as per their usual verbal combat, but tonight Yoongi just shakes his head in defeat and says, "I just found something more interesting to watch than Shakespeare, is all."

Jimin's heart thuds. Those words kill whatever snappy comeback he's got in stored at the back of his throat, and he falls silent on their walk back to the carpark. When Yoongi opens the car door for him -- which is definitely a new thing, because rarely does Yoongi exhibit such acts of chivalry -- all Jimin can do is nod dumbly and slide into the passenger seat.

He tells himself not too think too much of it. The sky was beautiful tonight, aglow with sparkling fireflies, so Yoongi must've gotten distracted by those. Yeah. Jimin can't blame the guy for not paying attention, especially when he, too, has been out-of-sorts all night.

All because of one stupid forehead kiss.

When Yoongi starts the engine, Jimin turns to him with a smirk. "So. Pay up."

To which Yoongi replies with an equally mischievous grin as he revs the car engine to life, "I think not."

Hello?” Jimin scoffs. "And I think you've forgotten what you just agreed to. The PDA agreement, remember?"

If Yoongi thinks he'll shimmy out of this, then he's got another think coming. Jimin is not one to let promise breakers off easily. 

But his fake husband only flashes him a serene smile as he backs out of the parking lot, one hand bracing itself over the back of Jimin's passenger seat headrest. (Jimin tries very hard not to let his eyes stray to the veins rippling down Yoongi's arm).

"Precisely. I remember it."

"So..?" Jimin lets his words linger in the air.

"So that's also how I know that there was no term stated for forehead kisses.

Jimin's blood runs cold. Oh.

Damn.

That never occurred to him.

Yoongi gives him a smug look that says, Ha, I win, which only infuriates him more.

"You're a sly fox," he sneers with narrowed eyes, which seems to amuse Yoongi, whose grin only spreads wider. 

"So I've been told."

"That's cheating! You're cheating!"

Yoongi mock gasps. "I'd never, never cheat on you, sunshine blob."

Jimin pinches his arm.

"Ow! Hey!"

"Enough with the nicknames," Jimin yips, miffed. He crosses his arms and leans against the seat.

Yoongi groans, rubbing his free left hand over the right arm while he mans the steering wheel. "Or else what? You gonna start charging me for nicknames, too?"

"Bitch, I might!"

"You started it." It's irritating how Jimin can practically hear the grin in Yoongi's drawl. Which is irritating as hell. Though he would never admit it, Jimin knows he has a knack for charming the wits out of anybody into giving into what he wants. The fact that Yoongi seems immune to the classic Park Jimin Charisma is baffling to him.

Underneath the irritation though, lies a sort of creeping fear. 

"But I told you," Jimin says, more subdued now. "I'm getting sued. I need money to pay for damages, you know?"

"I know."

Yoongi turns a corner that leads into their apartment complex's parking area. "And I also know, that there are more ways to earn money than coercing your fake husband into it, Jimin. Find a job." Gone is the mirth in his voice, replaced by something solemn.

"I am trying!"

Despite his will, Jimin's voice turns up an octave. "But it's not easy, not for people who want to pursue this field."

There's a surplus of aspiring graduates like Jimin, but not enough demand for... graduates like Jimin. A shot at a stage production is a needle in a haystack.

"It's hard, okay? I've been browsing Naver and blogs for auditions and casting calls but so far it's all moot. I need some time."

"And in that time," Yoongi says, and Jimin grows adamant at how the guy refuses to coddle him, like Taehyung probably would. "Do something else."

But that's the thing about dreams—you get so hell-bent on achieving them that the rest of the world vanishes, and your vision tunnels into one goal, and one goal only. Jimin doesn't think he's cut out for much else. He has a target, and that's all he will aim for. "What are you—"

“You have two feet. Stand. You have two hands. Climb. Crawl if you must. Just ‘cause you’re in a shit place doesn’t mean you have to do shit things," Yoongi says, and though he keeps his eyes ahead, his voice is not unkind.

Jimin swallows, silenced for once.

"But it's unfair." What's the point of studying something for years, only to end up not using it?

"Are you really gonna let unfairness beat you down like that?" Yoongi asks, pulling the key out of the ignition. "Funny. I never thought you'd be the type to back down so easily."

At his words, Jimin fires back in his most petulant tone, "Of course not!"

Yoongi shrugs, stepping out of the car. "I'm just saying. Do what you can, while you can. Look, if you want, I can even sit down with you later to search for for part-time jobs.”

It's strange how one generous offer can work magic into tired bones. Jimin smiles, feeling hope for the first time in a while as he clambers out of the car. "Really?"

Yoongi nods. "As a little token of appreciation for coming with me tonight. And the uh, cool Shakespearience."

He offers a tentative fist, and Jimin reaches over the car's roof to bump against it lightly. So this is what being part of a team must feel like. Yoongi can be nice, Jimin thinks with a slow smile, when he decides not to be a shithead. "Thanks, bro."

"No problem... bro."

 


 

It had taken eternities of browsing the Internet before either of them found anything worth an application, mostly because most of the casting calls were for CFs or mini dramas, for which Jimin harbored no interest.

“Why are you so picky?” Yoongi would grumble everytime.

And each time, Jimin would reply, “I want the live, stage experience. There’s nothing more authentic than that.”

Only when it was nearing 2am in the morning, just as Jimin was about to call it quits for the time being, did Yoongi mouse over an ad that caught his attention.

“Okay, I know this is a bit of a reach but… why don’t you try this?”

It was for an audition for the role of sugarplum fairies Lotte World’s latest weekend parade show, open to all.

 

Looking For Parade Actors/Performers!

One-month commitment to a Fantasy-themed show.

Prior experience in performing arts a bonus.

 

Auditions end of June.

For more details, contact xxxxxxxx.

Join us now!

 

The audition was next week. One one hand, it was a far reach from the kind of job Jimin wanted, but It was also a one-in-a-million kind of opportunity. Yoongi’s earlier words rang back in Jimin’s head, and he decided that beggars can’t be choosers. Every actor started somewhere. Tom Cruise must’ve started out with small roles, too. Who was Jimin to shoot everything down, right?

“Sounds interesting,” Jimin said with a slow nod, and he shot Yoongi an appreciative smile. “I think I’ll apply.”

“Won’t you be uncomfortable in the costumes, though?” Yoongi asked, eyes scanning through the costume and measurement requirements for the sugarplum fairy role. Slender build, lithe form—Jimin fits right in.

“Please, what’s wrong with that?” Jimin said with a quizzical arch of his brow. “Real men wear tights.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes, but there’s curve to his mouth that he doesn’t bother masking. “Go get it, then.”

And so went the application. Much to his surprise, Jimin received a callback for an audition a few days after the preliminary audition and passed the final round. Fast forward another week and here he is, attending the last full-dress rehearsal the night before the opening weekend.

While the role isn’t too demanding—most of it is learning to act silly and wave at kids—there are a number of  stunts required of Jimin to pull off, and he has to learn it all by the following Saturday.

Training for it in just one week has not been easy. In fact, it’s a lot more daunting than he thought it would be.

As someone with a dance background on top of his acting experience, Jimin is able to carry himself light on his feet and do flips well enough on his own. But he always gets stuck when a stunt calls for teamwork. After all, he’s used to flying solo.

Before he did a theatre degree in college, Jimin was a member of his high school’s contemporary dance club. One of their exercises was called “The Trust Fall”, in which he had to get vaulted in the air and trust that he co-dancers would catch him. This parade stunt reminds him of that stupid exercise, and Jimin can’t help the dread twisting in his tummy whenever the music swells, cuing for him to leap off the parade float and land safely in his co-masctos’ arms on ground. 

Landing is easy. Falling is hard. Jimin had always prided himself on his independence, and so whenever it gets to this part, it’s like a clockwork switch in him just… freezes.

For all the big talk he’s done, Jimin wonders if he can actually walk it out.

“I didn’t hire you for you to mess up the routine like this,” his supervisor tells him at the changing rooms after the last rehearsal. She’s wearing the amusement park’s staff tee-shirt, and a enamel badge with the name “Shin Ruwon” plated on it. There’s an edge to her voice that tells Jimin that this is very much a warning despite her gentle tone. “Get it together, Park, won’t you? First show is tomorrow, and we need you to be able to make that jump.”

But I’m not an acrobat, Jimin refrains from arguing. Twisting his fingers at the hem of his shirt, he requests instead, “Maybe if you could let me perform without the fairy wings…?” As a killer piece of the sugarplum fairy getup, they have to wear a pair of gaudy wings on their backs, and more often the not it gets in the way of Jimin’s movements.

“The wings are part of the costume, and the costume is part of the parade,” Ruwon interjects with a firm shake of her head. “But if you ask me if you’re still part of the parade, I’m not very sure.” When she sees the panic glinting in Jimin’s eyes, she heaves an apologetic sigh. “Look. I’ll give you this weekend’s first show as a trial test. Prove to me if you can be part of this season’s Fantasy Parade, but I can’t spend too many chances on you, Park. I hope you understand.”

 


 

Ever since Yoongi arrived home that night, he can’t help but notice how his fake husband has been antsy. He’s noticed that Jimin seems to have a penchant for bustling about the house—pacing back and forth and moving things around, only to put them back where he picked them up—whenever he’s anxious or restless. Tonight, Yoongi just wants to get a good sleep after working his ass off, but Jimin’s incessant fretting is making him restless, too.

“I thought you said you wanted to keep the light’s out curfew at 1am?” Yoongi calls out from his side of the room. He can’t see what Jimin is doing because of the foldable divider separating them, but he can hear all kinds of scratching, thudding noises, and he’d be lying if he said he isn’t the least bit curious.

The thumping noise of footsteps halts for a second, before they resume as Jimin starts pacing across the floor again. Yoongi hears a loud sigh. “I can’t help it. Tomorrow’s the first Saturday show. Opening parade.”

“Already?” Yoongi’s ears perk up, and he rolls over to one side, pillowing his head over his left arm to face Jimin’s side of the room. He can only imagine the look on Jimin’s face—eyebrows drawn together, lips pursed. Madeleine lounges by his pillow, eyes already closed, and Yoongi shifts so that he doesn’t rouse her from her slumber. “Time flies. Could’ve sworn you auditioned for the part last week.”

“Yeah.”

“What time’s the parade?” He wonders if he should just fold this stupid divider between his bed and Jimin’s sleeping futon so they can talk more casually, but decides not to. Jimin asked for privacy despite the shared status of this room, and Yoongi won’t go back on his word. He’d hate to pry.

“11am in the morning. But I have to be there earlier because the sugarplum performers are going to do a mini photo session with the first 50 guests who arrive at the park,” Jimin replies, and though he tries to keep his voice light, Yoongi hears the nervousness in it.

“Well… all the best. Break a leg.”

Jimin hisses at his words like a wounded hyena, and Yoongi hears the rustling of sheets from the other side of the room, which means his fake husband must have climbed into bed now. Good. At least the anxious pacing has ceased and the thumping noise has stopped.

“Thanks,” replies Jimin, a crack in his voice punctuation his word. “But I’ll try not to. Not in this case, anyway.”

Yoongi frowns. That doesn’t seem to bode well. “Should I be concerned?”

Jimin makes a whooshing noise from the other side of the divider. “Nah. I’m good, man. Thanks, but I got this.”

Yoongi wonders just how true that is.

 


 

“Say, ‘kimchi’!”

Jimin forces his lips to pull back in a practiced smile. By this point, he has pretty much mastered the art of looking naturally relaxed in this gaudy costume. He’s clad in a turquoise-and-pink monstrosity, with a gooey blue-colored spandex top stretched over his torso and tights wrapped around his legs. Around his hips, strips of thin, sheer pink frills hang loosely to give off the illusion of flow everytime he would twirl, though Jimin feels rather stupid in them. A pair of gigantic, silver wings wrought of finely woven muslin covers the entire span of his back. Jimin barely moves for fear of smacking someone’s face with it. Heck, he can’t even reach behind and scratch away at the itchy fabric.

And so he stands as still as a tree, rooted to the floor while early birds visiting the amusement park queue up to take photos with him and two other members of the sugarplum parade troupe. It’s nearing the end of the line, and Jimin would be lying if he said he’s not looking forward to returning to the performers’ lounge to stretch. 

A little girl wedges herself between Jimin and his co-performers Yeji and Junhyung, and they crowd around her like doting older siblings, cooing as they pose for the camera. The shutter goes off, and she totters away, hugging each of them in turn.

It’s 10am—Jimin’s got an hour ‘til showtime. He can’t help but keep track of the time, not out of excitement but because every second that ticks by feels like a step closer to his imminent failure.

“Alright, unfortunately our sugarplum fairies have to leave soon to prepare for the parade, so if everyone else would please crowd around them, we’ll take a last picture together,” announces the photographer. He beckons for the last few people in the queue to hurry up and compress themselves so that they could let Jimin’s troupe off earlier. Jimin veers off to the far left to give the center space to the rest of the park-goers, and as they find their spots, a beady-eyed young man with an oil-slicked forehead sidle up next to Jimin, and loops an arm around hiss waist.

Jimin’s blood freezes.

He’s not even acquaintances with the guy, let alone familiar enough to be okay with what others might see as ‘friendly’ contact. What’s he supposed to say? His stomach curdles like spoilt milk. Jimin shimmies aside ever so slightly, trying to shake the man’s arm off, but the dumbass must mistake it as a show of giddiness, because then he shifts his arm to sling it over Jimin’s shoulder, bringing him close in an almost headlock.

Dickwad. Jimin inhales deeply, feeling his temper bubble higher. 

Fine. They want a hissy fit? So be it. Doesn’t matter if he gets fired on the spot, he’ll fucking smack this toad and give him a piece of his—

“Excuse me, sorry, coming through,” a husky growl spears through the crowd. Jimin’s head snaps right, and lo and behold, there’s his fake husband, casually dressed in a beige shirt with the letters, “FG’ on it, black jeans, and a black cap.  

What.

His mouth parts in surprise, and his brain struggles to register what he’s seeing. Yoongi is cutting his way across their group already posing for the camera, and they hurl disgruntled remarks at him as he weaves through them until he ends up almost beside Jimin. When he looks up at the (much taller) unwanted stranger who’s clinging onto Jimin, he nods curtly. “Excuse me. I’d like to stand here.”

—is what he comes out of his mouth, though the look on his face says anything but. Unhand him, you boar, Yoongi’s eyebrow arch seems to convey. If the guy latching onto Jimin has half a brain to speak of, he would get the message by now.

He does not. While Jimin tries to squirm out of his grasp, Sir Dickface’s nostrils flare as he glowers at Yoongi. “Who are you?”

At this, Yoongi’s cool gaze slides over to Jimin. “His husband.”

“Alright, everybody strike a pose, come on,” grumbles the photographer, tapping his finger against his camera and shaking his head. “Let’s snap this picture and get going. Say kimchi!”

Without waiting for the slimy guy to protest, Yoongi moves next to Jimin, squeezing his considerably smaller form in the gap between then, before resting a gentle hand over his shoulder. It’s warm and steady and all solid. 

Jimin doesn’t realize how badly he’s shaking with repressed rage until he hears Yoongi murmur in a rough voice, “Take it easy, yeah?”

Jimin blinks, feels his shoulders loosen at those words. Though his first instinct is to shake off anybody who touches him, something about Yoongi’s reassuring touch makes him think twice. On top of that, it’s easier to breathe now that Sir Dickface isn’t touching him anymore. Jimin looks at Yoongi with raised eyebrows, questions multiplying in his mind. 

Yoongi doesn’t meet his eye, instead keeping his gaze directed forward as he smiles for the group picture. Still stunned, Jimin releases a soft whoosh of breath, and when the camera shutter clicks, he’s certain he must look like a fool staring at Yoongi in the photo whilst everyone else is wearing their best Insta-worthy smiles.

The photo op session ends. Yoongi’s hand lifts away from Jimin’s shoulder as he steps away, taking the secure warmth of his proximity with him. The people crowding around them disperse, and Jimin is so swept up in the fizzle of his own short-circuiting thoughts that he doesn’t notice the dark look Yoongi shoots at the slimy dude from earlier. It takes Jimin an extended heartbeat to orient himself, and he shakes his head, gaze snapping to Yoongi.

“Hey!” he manages to exclaim. “What are you doing here?”

Yoongi’s lips twitch up the slightest millimeter, like he’s suppressing a smile. “What, am I not allowed to enter amusement parks?”

Jimin makes a face at him. “I’m just saying, I didn’t expect to see you here. Alone, too.” He can’t help it; his brain immediately jumps to conclusion. Is Yoongi here to support him? Cheer him on? When Yoongi scratches the back of his ear, Jimin stifles a gratified smile.

Cute.

“I’m not here alone.”

Or maybe not.

“Oh,” Jimin says, feeling his mood flatline for no reason. Which should not be, because if he is performing in an hour, he needs to be in tip-top condition, both physically and mentally. He can’t get sidetracked. 

“Alright, let’s move behind the park, sugarplum dancers,” announces Jimin’s park guide. “We’ve got fifty mintues ‘til showtime.”

Jimin hardly hears it, too preoccupied. He wonders: is Yoongi perhaps here on a date? If so, with who?

Yoongi is nodding, hands in his pockets. “Yeah, I’m here with--”

“Hey hyung,” a new voice chirps in, and they both look up to find Jungkook in a white tee and jeans with TImberlands jogging up to them, waving his hands. “Sorry I’m late.” His gaze sweeps over to Jimin, and he does a double take. “Woah! Nice costume, Jimin-hyung.”

Jimin’s heart calms at the sight of the young photographer apprentice giving him a thumbs up. Nothing to worry about, then. “Hi, Jungkook.”

“Kookie here got ditched by his date—” Yoongi starts, but Jungkook interrupts the sentence by shushing him in panic, pressing a finger to Yoongi’s lips, and a low giggle bubbles out of Jimin.

“I didn’t get ditched, I’m the one who ditched!” Jungkook protests indignantly as he grips Yoongi in a playful headlock. Yoongi just lets him, his eyes slinking off with the size of his smile. “Get your facts straight, hyung!”

“Yeah, yeah. Thanks for the spare ticket, anyway.” Yoongi’s eyes lock with Jimin’s, and his face turns serious as he disentangles his neck from Jungkook’s grasp. Standing upright, he glances at his wristwatch. “You mentioned the parade starts at 11, right?”

Jimin nods, a lump forming in his throat.

“And uh,” Yoongi clears his throat, “you ready?”

“Kinda.” Jimin scrunches up his face. “I’m dead sure I’ll screw it up.”

Yoongi’s gaze stays trained on him for so long that Jimin starts rubbing his nose awkwardly. They stand in front of each other, neither quite knowing where to place their hands. “Um....”

“Tell you what,” blurts Yoongi. “Let’s make a bet, shall we?”

Eyes narrowing, Jimin tilts his head to one side. “What kind of bet?”

“If you make it through this show without ‘screwing up’, as you say, then I’ll do whatever you want me to do. But just for today.”

Jimin’s heartbeat spikes, and a grin snakes its way up his face. Min Yoongi, offering to be at his creative mind’s mercy? The possibilities are endless. Since he’ll be free to go after this morning parade’s over, he supposes he wouldn’t mind spending the day with these two guys. He could ask Yoongi to be his personal assistant for a day. He could make Yoongi meow at Madeleine tonight. He could make Yoong piggyback him when his feet gets tired. It’s is too tempting of an offer to pass up. “I like that.”

“But if you do, though I doubt it, you’ll have to go through all the extreme rides in this theme park,” Yoongi finishes with a smirk, and Jimin’s jaw unhinges. He doesn’t miss the uptick of a challenge lacing Yoongi’s tone, and something about it riles up his competitive side.

“Park Jimin, what are you still doing there?” 

Jimin squeaks and nearly jumps out of his skin at the thin bark coming from his theme park ranger, a woman who is herding the other sugarplum dancers back like lost cattle. Jimin turns to his fake husband and Jungkook. “I’ll meet you after the show, yeah!”

“Wait, so do we have a deal?” Yoongi asks, crossing his arms and tapping his fingers over his biceps.

Jimin raises a thumbs up. “Yeah, yeah! Deal. See ya!”

Yoongi nods. And then: “You got this.”

Only three words, but warmth radiates in Jimin’s body like a light bulb, and he turns away. Although it’s rare, Yoongi really can be nice when he wants to be.

With a hurried goodbye, he scurries towards where the rest of the parade performers are warming up to retouch his stage makeup. There’s newfound adrenaline coursing through him -- partly the desire to do well but also largely due to this sudden visceral ache to impress certain new members of the audience today. There’s electricity flowing in his blood, and Jimin shakes his legs not in nervous anxiety, but in anticipation. He smiles at himself in the mirror as he turns this way and that, appreciating the way glitter of his makeup highlights his face’s best features. He’s ready to rumble.

Suddenly, this show doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.

 


 

When Yoongi was nine years old and a lot less jaded, his mother brought him to Lotte World for the first time. They ate corndogs and she bought him candy floss, and they rode every possible ride that allowed children of his height inside. Back then, there were fewer varieties of entertainment—no VR stations and special effects booths powered by modern technological advancements. 

But Yoongi remembers the way his heart soared at even the simplest flume ride, remembers the simple joy of being dazzled by friendly, costumed dancers and undulating carousels. He liked the carousel best, liked the way the warm lights fragmented in his eyes while music tinkled out over the speakers. Though the world had been bigger then, it was less scary than it is now. Probably because he had his mama’s hand to hold.

Funny how terrifying life gets the older you become. 

Now, he wonders where all that magic had gone. Fizzled up and out into the air, maybe. Time had worn away at his soul, and no longer is Yoongi the little boy swept away by faux enchanted machinations. Despite being the world’s largest indoor amusement park, everything in Lotte World seems a tad bit too small and claustrophobic for Yoongi. He feels distant from it all, as if he’s walking underwater while the rest of the world operates happily in plain sight.

Where’s the “amusement” part in this amusement park? Everything is too polished and muted and manufactured. As he and Jungkook wait for the parade to start, standing along the sides of the barricade, he wonders if he shouldn’t have come here after all. There are too many children, too many happy couples, too many dizzying lights. 

The announcer comes on the speakers, and with a burst of whimsical orchestra music, the show starts. One my one, multi-colored floats wheel past them—there’s one shaped like a crescent moon with a girl in a rabbit costume sitting on it; another mimicking a card with a lady dressed as the Queen of Hearts in a nod to Alice in Wonderland. Jimin had mentioned the theme of the show is Fantasy, and it sure as hell looks like they’re pulling out all stops for this production.

Each float is flanked by dancers waving and smiling and shaking hands with children surrounding them. Ah, the children. Don’t even get him started on these brats. Yoongi is not in the habit of being around kids, and today he’s already paid audience to too many tantrums from little devils too many times to count.

“Where’s Jimin-hyung?” Jungkook wonders aloud, leaning over the barricade to peek further down the line of floats heading their way. “Think you can spot him?”

Yoongi shrugs. “Look for the sugarplum fairies or some shit.” A troupe of leprechauns and elves march past them, and one of them — a pretty young lady — blows a kiss their way. Jungkook smiles good-naturedly, but Yoongi wrinkles his nose and averts his gaze. 

Why did he even bother coming here? It’s not like he cares about Jimin.

“What’s he like?” Jungkook asks.

“What’s who like?”

“Your husband.”

Yoongi shrugs, too busy peering down the line of floats to pay close attention to his answer. “Eh. He’s a handful, but he’s my handful.”

A snicker. “You’re whipped,” Jungkook says, and Yoongi’s head swivels to his friend. He’s ready to make a tirade of denials, but then remembers to keep his mouth shut when Jungkook continues cheekily, “Such a supportive husband.”

Right—he can’t go around acting like he and Jimin aren’t a couple in front of Jungkook, otherwise their cover will be blown. Yoong grunts, ignoring the way his cheeks turn a shade warmer at those words. “Just doing what I gotta.”

Why did he agree to come here?

Beside him, Jungkook gasps and points down the parade. “There he is!”

Sailing towards them is a pastel confection of a floating pod—it looks like a giant oak tree on wheels, except its leaves are covered in pink glitter, and the trunk is mint green rather than brown. Its branches are as thick as elephant trunks stretch outwards from its main bark, and from one of them hangs Jimin, dressed in his winged sugarplum fairy costume, standing on both feet. By some stroke of luck, their parade float stops directly in front of where Yoongi and Jungkook are, and Yoongi cranes his neck to watch.

Graceful as feline, Jimin walks the length of the tree’s fake ‘branch’ in a precarious balancing act, smiling like he does this everyday, like he wasn’t fretting over this act literally just the night before. Meanwhile below him, more sugarplum fairies are on the floor, forming a dancing circle and twirling pirouettes in perfect sync. With every twist, they reach into hidden pockets in their frilly skirts to hurl out bursts of confetti, making the children in the audience clap and shriek with delight.

Yoongi could care less about those dancers on the floor. Eyes wide, he keeps his gaze glued to Jimin up there on the tree. Jimin never told him what kind of act he was slated to do for his part, and had Yoongi known how unique the routine would be, he would’ve put in more effort to cheer his fake husband on. As it is, though, he can only stand watch in the audience and hope for the best. 

The music swells—a blaring symphony of trumpets accompanied by an orchestra of clarinet and strings. Standing at the tip of the branch, Jimin’s arms spread out, unfurling like a bird’s wings, and as he starts swaying from side to side, his eyes find Yoongi in the crowd.

Their eyes meet.

Every other sound fades into the background, turning into white noise. Pinned under that stare, Yoongi wets his lower lip, stomach flip-flopping. Why does it feel like Jimin’s waiting for something? Yoongi’s got only a millisecond to nod and mouth, “Go.”

It my or may not have been the right thing to do, the right thing to say. But then Jimin’s lips quirk up as if in acknowledgement, and Yoongi’s heart flips. 

Closing his eyes, Jimin crouches down… and leaps from the float, like a cheerleader taking a trust fall. Below, his fellow sugarplum performers are waiting to catch him. When Jimin lands in their arms, they set him down on the floor, before surrounding him like a safety cocoon and concealing him from the audience’s eyes.

The parade watchers fall into a hushed, curious hum, eyes transfixed on the cluster of sugarplum fairies. Yoongi doesn’t realize how he’s waiting with bated breath. What comes next? 

They need not wait long. A moment later, the sugarplum fairies leap away in a synchronized arabesque, and Jimin emerges from the middle, his silver wings now blinking with what must be the trick of yellow LED lights, but for that suspended moment seem like fragments of sunlight captured in gossamer wings.

The crowd erupts in oohs and aahs, clapping in amazement. Yoongi applauds, too. Beside Yoongi, Jungkook lets out a prolonged “Waaaah”, his big black pupils dilated and utterly bewitched. 

The music carries on, and the sugarplum fairies walk ahead, gearing up to repeat their mini-act farther down the line. The parade continues. Yoongi rocks back on his heels, feeling oddly contented as if Jimin’s success were his own, too.

“He’s really good,” he can’t help but brag to Jungkook, hooking a thumb over his shoulder to where Jimin’s troupe is making their way down the parade. “You should have seen how anxious he was last night.”

Jungkook turns to him with a smile. “Like I said. Whipped.”

“I’m just being frank. I know talent when I see it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jungkook says, leaning one shoulder against the barricade as members of the audience start scattering back to resume their day in the theme park. “But hey—this means Jimin won your bet now, didn’t he?”

Yoongi turns pale. Fuck. He’d gotten so caught up in watching the parade that he forgot their deal. “Shit.”

 


 

“Great show back there, everyone,” praises the showmaster, a light-haired young man standing in front. Jimin sits among his co-performers, sweaty from the just having ended the parade. They’re gathered at a main hall in one of the amusement park’s staff buildings for the post-show debrief--beside the showmaster, Jimin spies his own float supervisor Ruwon beaming at everyone, hands clasped behind her back.

Jimin gulps. He hopes his performance was at least satisfactory to her. Will she beam down at him too? 

Later, when all parade participants get dismissed on a good note, Jimin is making his way back to the male changing rooms when he hears Ruwon call out for his name. 

Drat. Jimin turns around to find her less than ten paces away, hands on her waist. Small but terrible. How could all the world’s ferocity fit into such a tiny woman?

Bowing, Jimin lips his lower lip in worry. Here goes nothing. He inches forward.

“You surprised us out there, Park,” Ruwon starts, and Jimin’s worry mounts. He can’t tell if that’s a good kind of surprised or a you’re-out-of-this-show kind of surprised. “Me, most of all.”

Nevertheless, he tries to give a casual smile. “Th-thank you..?

“And that’s why I’m here to tell you that—”

Jimin flinches, stomach tightening.

“—I have faith you can stay with the fantasy parade for it’s full run time.” 

He muffles his gasp, and his eyes widen. Did he hear that right?

With an upward lilt to her tone, Ruwon steps forward and half-claps, half-thumps Jimin on the shoulder, smiling. “Well done, Park. See you around for the next three weeks.”

 


 

“Floating on cloud nine” would be an understatement to how Jimin feels when he emerges from the staff gantry and back into the perimeters of the theme park. Sure, it’s a temporary gig that won’t last more than a month, but at least he got it. With his own efforts and hard work. Him, a fresh graduate!

“Yoongi-hyu— I mean, honeyboy!” Jimin cries out.

Yoongi and Jungkook are waiting for him by a food stand near the staff entrance area, and they turn around at his call. Skipping happily, Jimin bites his lower lip, feeling like if humans could burst at the seams with happiness, then he’d be pouring liquid sunlight out of every pore by now. He feels like euphoria incarnate.

“Hi, hyung,” Jungkook says with a nod, biting into a churro.

“Hi,” Jimin chirps, cheeks bunching up from the force of his smile. He points at the golden brown sticks of churros in Yoongi’s right hand, while looping an arm over his fake husband’s left, hyper aware of their audience in the form of Jeon Jungkook. “Are those for me? I’m starved. Thanks.”

Yoongi stutters in dismay while Jimin plucks one out from his hand, but doesn’t complain like Jimin is expecting him to.

“Brat,” he mutters, though he doesn’t pull free from Jimin’s arm. Turning around, he buys himself a hotdog, and squirts a tube of ketchup on it. “You seem happy,” he quips without looking at Jimin, though Jimin can already hear the question mark in those words. “We saw the parade.”

Jimin’s smile spreads wider. “You did? Did you see me?”

“Mmm. I think so? Here and there.”

“Did I— did I do well?” Jimin asks in an impish tone, and he makes a conscious effort not to tuck one ankle behind the other. Yoongi falls silent, only regards him with one of his unreadable gazes that makes it hard to guess what he must be thinking. As irrational as it sounds, even though Yoongi’s opinion shouldn’t really matter because Jimin wasn’t performing solely for him, Jimin wants to know. 

Tell me I did good, he almost wants to request, because nobody else will. Right as Yoongi parts his mouth to draw up an answer, though, Jungkook speaks.

“That looked like a scary jumping stunt, hyung.” comments Yoongi’s photographer apprentice while chewing a mouthful of corndog.

“Did it hurt when you fell?” Yoongi asks, glancing at Jimin’s legs as though checking to see if Jimin’s hurt himself.

“What, from heaven?” Jimin jokes with a wink. “Hell, yeah. Even lost my wings and all.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes, and the fleeting moment between them earlier dissipates.

“Anyway! I come bearing good news,” Jimin states, puffing out his chest in pride the way a five-year-old with a star sticker on his hand would. Both guys turn to him, and he continues with a small giggle, “I’m performing for the rest of the Fantasy Parade shows!”

Yoongi’s left eyebrow quirks up, as does one corner of his mouth when he sighs in what seems like relief. “That’s good. That’s really good. Congratulations on landing your first gig.”

“Congrats, hyung!” Jungkook says, clapping Jimin so hard on the shoulder that Jimin nearly chokes on the churro he’s chewing. “Anna oop— sorry!” The three of them share a laugh that warms Jimin’s stomach. 

“Thanks,” Jimin says, and reminds himself to text Taehyung about his small accomplishment. Then, with a devious smirk, he tilts his head to one side and addresses his fake husband coyly, “So... I guess this means you have to do whatever I want you to, right, honeyboy? That was our deal.”

He and Jungkook burst into snickers when Yoongi makes a face and rubs the back of his neck. “Let’s get it over and done with quick,” he grumbles.

Quick? Jimin doesn’t think so. He’s always liked to enjoy things without rushing. Turning around slowly, Jimin considers the options at hand while observing their surroundings. If he wanted to let Yoongi off easy, he could perhaps just dare him to do as Yoongi had asked of him—to hop onto every extreme ride in the theme park. But that wouldn’t be very fun. Maybe he should employ another mind to help brainstorm with him. 

With a loud hum, Jimin cocks his head backwards and says, “What do you think, Jungkook? Any ideas for my honeyboy here?”

“I don’t like the sound of this…” Yoongi notes with narrowed eyes.

Jungkook chews on his corndog, lips pursing thoughtfully. Overhead, a roller coaster car whizzes past them -- one of those rides with 360-degree loops that sounds like thunder rolling whenever it whooshes by. It’s an extreme ride meant to weed out the weak.

Jimin gasps at the same time that Jungkook’s eyes go round, and they share mischievous grins in an almost comical lightbulb moment, pointing at each other. Extreme rides.

“Yeah, I don’t like the sound of this.” Yoongi crosses his arms. 

Honeyboy,” Jimin drawls sweetly. “You worry too much.”

 


 

“No.”

“Yes.”

“I won’t do it.”

“Let’s not go back on our word, shall we?” Jimin waggles his eyebrows, fanning himself with one of the theme park maps that Jungkook had grabbed on their way to join the queue for this ride.Technically speaking, as part of the deal, only Yoongi will be going in, since Jimin and Jungkook won’t be taking the ride. “I clearly remember you saying I can ask you to do whatever I wanted. So here it is—your forfeit. Don’t tell me you can’t handle it?”

He tries not to grin too wickedly when Yoongi looks up at the ride looming over them and visibly pales at its height. His fake husband stands unblinking, pupils blown wide as the Gyro Drop remains suspended at the top of the tower-like structure for a prolonged heartbeat… before literally dropping downwards at the speed of light. Screams of terror erupt from the people on the ride, and Jimin himself is secretly glad he doesn’t have to get on that ride.

He’d probably lose his lunch during the petrifying plunge down.

Yoongi gulps and tugs at the collar of his tee, licking his lips over and over. “I can handle it. No big deal.”

“We’ll film it,” Jungkook says like an excited little boy. “You know, for safekeeping.”

Yoongi shoots them both his dark glare but makes no comment, choosing to simper in his trademark silence. Jimin smirks. This is what you get for dancing with fire.

“Don’t forget to do that… extra thing. The cherry on top.” Jimin reminds him, and Yoongi groans, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Park Jimin, I really hate you right now.”

“That’s Min-Park Jimin for you, and don’t worry, I hate you too, honeyboy,” Jimin bites back, matching Yoongi’s bitter demeanor with his own sickly sweetness. Beside them, Jungkook wheezes, thinking it’s just their way of expressing some underlying term of endearment. He couldn’t be any more wrong, but Jimin’s not about to correct him.

Fifteen minutes of waiting sees the ride keeper ushering Yoongi to make his way into the Gyro Drop’s seats, and as he walks in, he glances over his shoulder and flashes them one last “you-will-pay-for-this’ look, making Jimin and Jungkook share giddy sniggers. 

They step back from the queue at and step outside of the Gyro Drop’s pen, watching from a safe distance as the ride attendant straps Yoongi into the seat. When the ride’s car starts rising towards the tower’s peak, Jimin cranes his neck and giggles at the way Yoongi’s legs dangle from where he’s sitting. From down here, he looks so impossibly—

Tiny,” Jungkook remarks offhandedly, lifting his camera phone to capture every second of Yoongi ascent (and consequential descent). “Your husband is just a tiny man, Jimin-hyung.”

Little shit. Jimin shoves him playfully on the shoulder. “It’s one of his… um”—he chews on his inner cheek, racking his brain for a positive description—“more charming points.”

Their conversation dies down naturally when Jimin lifts his face to watch the Gyro Drop closely again. He knows for a fact that each time the ride’s car reaches the very top of the tower, it will stay still for a few seconds to let its riders soak in the view, before letting gravity do its thing.

And… this is it. This is the momentJimin holds his breath, heart racing with anticipation. He keeps his eyes peeled to Yoongi’s side of the ride, waiting for the, uh, cherry on top.

A second passes. Then two. Soon enough, the ride will start careening downwards, and the crucial chance will be gone. Jimin grunts. What’s taking Yoongi so long—

“PARK JIMIN IS THE BEST!! KKAEPJJANG!

—is what Yoongi screams from where he sits, right at the very top of the tower. Not more than half a second later, the Gyro Drop car plummets downwards, and Yoongi’s words morph into a terrified yell along with all the other riders beside him.

A keening, hysterical noise punches out from the depths of Jimin’s chest, and he clutches his tummy while Jungkook doubles over with laughter, raising a thumbs up. He and Jimin high five each other, both wiping tears of joy from the corners of his eyes.

“Wah. I swear. In all the time I’ve known him, I’ve never seen Yoongi-hyung do something like that,” Jungkook manages to say between hiccuping giggles. “It’s true love, true love.”

Jimin’s laughter gives way into an incredulous snort. How cheesy. He never pegged Jungkook as the type who’d say such things, but people really do surprise you. “Yoongi will flip if he hears you say that.”

“I’m just glad he has you. He’s different, somehow.” Jungkook pockets his phone, having successfully saved the video of Yoongi’s forfeit dare. “I bet your dates together must be fun.” 

All humor dies in his throat, and Jimin pauses. Wait a second. Is this considered a date? Surely it isn’t. By all means, none of what’s been happening today can be considered anywhere close to a date. It might seem like one, but it isn’t. Simply spending time with each other doesn’t count. This is a Not-Date, and he and Yoongi are not dating. 

“This isn’t a date, though,” he mumbles in defense, but Jungkook seems to interpret his words differently, because his expression turns sheepish.

“Yeah, I know. Sorry for third wheeling.” Jimin can hear the sadness in his voice. “I just didn’t want to waste the tickets after… you know.”

He gives Jimin a small, wistful smile, and something about the look in his eyes tugs at Jimin’s heartstrings. “Hey, listen. Whoever stood you up today has no clue what they’re missing out on. You’re a total catch!”

Jungkook wrinkles his nose, dubious. Although he’s only spent time with him on a few occasions because of Yoongi, for some reason Jimin already wants to smother the guy with hugs and drive away all the bad things in the world from him. “Think of it this way: that’s one less potential asshole to worry about. Hey, I could even set you up with a friend, if you’re looking for a blind date. Do you have an ideal type?”

He’s half expecting Jungkook to reject his suggestion, but to his surprise the younger guy actually cocks his head thoughtfully. “I don’t think I’m that picky. Just… I don’t know, I want someone who looks after me and holds my hand when it feels like the world’s spinning too fast. Isn’t that what everyone wants?”

“Awww.” Jimin knows what a hopeless romantic when he sees it, being one himself. He hopes with all his heart that Jungkook never has to get his heart burned. “That’s sweet.”

“Just keep it a secret, okay, hyung?” Jungkook pleads just as Jimin spots Yoongi exiting the Gyro Drop’s from his peripheral vision. “I’m telling you this because… yeah, just ‘cause.” He shrugs.

And it’s nice. Having somebody confide in you, share a piece of their heart with you, is always something that makes Jimin feel like a winter blanket worthy of warming another spirit. He decides: he wants to be a good friend to Jungkook, and not just because he has to keep up pretenses of being Yoongi’s husband. Just because he and Yoongi aren’t real doesn’t mean Jimin can’t be real with others, too. So when Yoongi steps closer to them, faca a mask of white, Jimin does reply, choosing to mimic sealing his lips and sending Jungkook a wink as if to say, You secret’s safe with me.

To Yoongi, Jimin’s face splits into a megawatt smile as he points up at the whooping Gyro Drop and asks, “Did it hurt when you fell?”

Yoongi sends him a flat look. “To my near imminent death? Yeah. Fun times.”

With a high chuckle, Jimin pats his shoulder as if to congratulate him. “We caught that scream on video. Good job, honeyboy.”

“Just say you want me miserable and go.” If possible, Yoongi’s face turns ever more dead. He looks one second away from just straight up face-planting into the floor and not moving for a couple of hundred years, and Jimin sort of enjoys that. There’s something about pressing each of Yoongi’s buttons and irritating the hell out of him that’s just so damn fun. Call him a sadist all you want. 

“You guys mind if I check out the VR ride?” Jungkook asks, pointing in the direction of the indoor park. “I think the line for that one’s gotten shorter. Gotta go.” He takes off running without even waiting for either Yoongi or Jimin to reply, and in the wake of his departure, they exchange baffled looks.

“I think he’s trying to give us some alone time,” Jimin concludes with an amused smirk, inwardly congratulating himself for acting so convincingly, while Yoongi scoffs loudly.

“As if I want to spend any more time with you.”

Jimin rolls his eyes and holds up both hands in defense, biting back a snooty remark. “Fine, we can split up if you like. I’m going. Bye.” He turns, spotting a little boy toddling about while holding a stick of pink cotton candy in one hand, and decides he wants one, too.

So he follows the direction in which the kid came from, but realizes he’s not walking alone. He hears familiar footfalls from behind and stops, spinning on his heel with an squinted eyes. “Why are you following me?”

“I wasn’t following you,” Yoongi denies adamantly, hands in his pockets and mouth turned up in a pout as he nods towards the male toilets. “Was just going in the same direction, geez.”

Jimin clamps his mouth shut and lets it slide, and they part ways, Yoongi heading left while he goes right. Out here in the outdoor area of the theme park, the sweltering summer sun beats down on Jimin’s shoulders, and as he buys himself a blushing stick of cotton candy, he orders the last can of orange juice visible on the food stand’s mini fridge at the same time he hears a familiar voice say:

“One orange juice, please.”

Jimin clenches his jaw, and whips his head to the right. There Yoongi stands, hand already stretched out to pay. Why oh why, of all the thousands of park goers in Lotte World, is he running into the very person he doesn’t want to spend time with? It’s like a curse or something. A curse called Yoongi. “Stop messing with me.”

Yoongi clucks his tongue and gestures to the can of orange juice in a very calculated manner, like a business man negotiating the terms of a contract in a meeting. “I am merely buying myself a beverage.”

“But I ordered it first.”

“Whoops, would you look at that; I’m already paying. Sucks to be slow.”

“Hah.” Anger bubbles in the pit of Jimin’s stomach, and he throws his head back with a huff of disbelief. “I can’t believe this.” Why is Yoongi being so childish? Already his good mood from being a confirmed recruit for the parade is wearing away. He’s about to snap hard when the staff at the food stall clears his throat nervously.

“Um, Sir, we do have more drinks available—”

Jimin holds up a finger, and points at the orange juice with a glare directed at Yoongi. “But I want that one.” If Yoongi thinks he’s going down without a fight, he’s got another think coming. Jimin goes by the motto of, ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit’, after all. He is a lover and a fighter. He is both rain and thunder.

(The food stall seller licks his lower lip with a gulp, eyes flickering awkwardly between Jimin and Yoongi. He is not getting paid enough for this job.)

“Let’s settle this diplomatically,” Yoongi suggests, holding out a hand. Jimin has half a mind to reject it, thinking he’s offering a handshake, until Yoongi says, “Rock papers scissors. Whoever wins gets to buy the drink.”

Jimin narrows his eyes, and he starts cracking his knuckles. “Fine by me.”

In high school, Jimin had always reigned supreme as the Rock-Papers-Scissors King. Never once has he lost a match, and he owes it all to both a keen sense of people’s vibes, and good luck. Yoongi is no big deal for him. He radiates phantom, shadow-like energy in every direction. Predictable, forgettable. Jimin can already see how this round will go: of course Yoongi will opt for scissors.

So they shake their fists thrice in the air, and set down their battle weapons. “Rock, papers, scissors!”

Hah!” Jimin whoops in premature victory, not bothering to look at their hands. “I knew it, I obviously—”

“Lost.” Yoongi’s smirk is a lion’s predatory snarl. Jimin’s smile freezes, and his eyes zoom downwards in a sort of tunnel-vision manner. 

He’d placed his bet—rock, assuming that Yoongi would lay down scissors—but that’s the thing. Jimin went on an assumption. In truth, Yoongi had dealt him a full palm with five fingers splayed out—paper. A landslide win.

Jimin’s heart sinks like quicksand, hot shame seeping into his bloodstream. Alas! He had gambled, and lost disgracefully. Now, he has fallen into the deep pits of shame. With a gasp, he stumbles back, staring at his traitorous hand. Meanwhile, Yoongi’s mouth quirks up in smug triumph as he pays for the ice-cold can of orange juice. He doesn’t have to say anything for Jimin to know how much he must be gloating in his mind. 

(“Or they could’ve just waited for me to restock the fridge...” mutters the food stall employee, completely mystified by the dramatic display. What a strange couple.)

This is how their day goes. As the Sun begins to sink in the sky and the stars blink awake, Yoongi and Jimin somehow, wholly and completely against their will, get paired up together in almost every ride they go on. They tell themselves it’s only pure coincidence that they end up picking the same rides—none of them the extreme, soul-shattering ones, because neither have the stomach for such—and by the time Jimin is slinging one leg onto a silver-horned unicorn at the roundabout  carousel, he’s not even surprised when Yoongi hops onto the fancy pink pony beside his. 

There comes a time in life when you just stop questioning why fate or kismet or whatever keeps trying to shove you into a corner. By now, Jimin wouldn’t be surprised if he walked the ends of the earth and still ended up crossing paths with the idiot.

The carousel starts turning, and Jimin’s unicorn bobs up and down at a languid pace. Ignoring Yoongi’s stupid face right beside him, he chooses to focus on the way the carousel’s lightbulbs paints his vision in a watercolour world of yellow so intense it’s almost golden. He’s always liked carousels—simple and consistent; never tries to drop-kick you or pull the ground from your feet like any of those massively intimidating Gyro rides.

That is, until the horses jolt and the speed gears up a notch, and suddenly the merry-go-round starts spinning faster than Jimin thought it would. As someone who’s lived in Busan and devoted most of his time to school all his life, Jimin never really bothered to visit amusement parks in Seoul as a child before, simply because Busan had smaller (but no less entertaining) theme parks of their own. 

And so it comes as a surprise to him that this particular carousel ride is a lot faster than most. Heck, is this the kind of thrill young children seek these days?

The ride is only two minutes long, but unpleasant things always seem to drag forever, so before long, Jimin feels bile rising up his throat. He fears he might retch any second now. He grips the unicorn’s horn and hangs his head low to keep his vision from blurring. Acid is sloshing all over his tummy, and the world seems to spin before his very eyes. This is not good. 

“Hey.” Someone touches his shoulder—light, hesitant. Looking up, Jimin finds Yoongi’s arm stretched out towards him, and maybe it’s the glow of the carousel lights, but his fake husband almost looks concerned, the space between his eyebrows pinched. “You okay? You look like you’re going to be sick.”

“I’m good.” Jimin hisses out a low breath, closing his eyes against the rush of the air lashing at his cheeks as the merry-go-round carouses on. “Just… need to stand on stable ground again. Or hold something stable.”

Yoongi falls silent, and Jimin thinks that’s the end of the conversation. After all, they’re just business partners who happen to be married. Yoongi doesn’t have to do anything for him, per se. Nothing personal and all that jazz.

Jimin drops his head. But then he feels another tap at his shoulder, and when he looks up, this time Yoongi is offering his forearm in his direction. “Hang on tight.”

I want someone who looks after me and holds my hand when it feels like the world’s spinning too fast, Jungkook’s earlier words replay in Jimin’s mind. 

“Well?” Yoongi prods, motioning for Jimin to hold on.

Isn’t that what everyone wants?

Jimin supposes he’s a little lucky. 

The carousel continues spinning. From this angle, Yoongi looks like some kind of archangel, the lights haloing his head like a smattering of stars. It’s unfair. Jimin would be inclined to refuse and push that arm away, especially given how annoying Yoongi has been up to this point.

But he doesn’t. He blames it on the nauseating dizziness when his fingers close around Yoongi’s forearm and holds on, waiting for the rest of the ride to be over. 

It’s not stable ground, but it’ll do.

(At least, that’s what Jimin tells himself.)

Chapter Text

 

mochims:

hey hyung

i put a hamper near the kitchen~ 

toss your dirty laundry there 

 

agustddaeng:

Cool. ok.

 

 


 

 

 

mochims:

HEY.

i thought i told you to put your dirty socks in the laundry hamper!!

 

mochims:

[image attached]

what’s this on the shoe rack…….

>:(

 

 

agustddaeng:

Ah. oops.

 

Despite the Yoongi’s not-so-lukewarm treatment towards him nowadays, Jimin still can’t help but get irked by some of his… habits. The guy doesn’t seem to come with a built-in system for orderliness. 

Jimin’s not surprised that Yoongi never listens to any effort he makes to encourage a coordinated attempt at keeping the flat neat. Even after complaining about it, Yoongi doesn’t even offer so much as an apology for not keeping up his end of the bargain when it comes to tidying their shared living space. He probably thinks it’s just a joke.

Naturally, that much pent-up frustration can only stay repressed for so long. It all comes to a head one Saturday morning, when Jimin’s patience finally wears thin. Knowing that he is but a temporary performer at the Lotte World parade, he went ahead and secured himself another audition for a local play slated later in the afternoon. Already his bones feel jittery, and being cooped up in this apartment does nothing to ease the dragons in his tummy. Every nook and cranny is dirty and dingy, and Jimin thinks he’s had quite enough.

If his fake husband isn’t going to cooperate with him, then he’s left with no choice: he must take matters into his own hands. Yoongi stepped out early for a weekend baby shower photoshoot with Jungkook earlier, but he said he’d be back in time for lunch.

Sighing like a soldier gearing up for war, Jimin puts on his armor—a headband to keep his curly bangs off is face and a face mask to protect himself from dust bunnies—and arms himself with his primary weapons: a feather duster, a broom, and a rag.

“It’s time,” he mutter under his breath, surveying his first venue: the kitchen. With another deep breath, Jimin steels his nerves for a morning of Rapid Intense Housekeeping, and steps forth into battle. 

The first half an hour is productive. He manages to clear away unnecessary clutter to make the kitchen less of an eyesore. The sink finally gets unplugged; the dishwasher emptied. It’s going good. Great, even. But the peaceful period is a momentary relief, because not Yoongi at home means—

Jimin is alone with Madeleine for the time being.

Madeleine, with her unshakable will to make Jimin’s life hell on earth. When Jimin climbs up the second floor to grab his earphones, he finds hell on earth in the form of his mattress.

His jaw drops. “What the hell...?”

Despite having her own scratching post, Madeleine seems to have taken a (sadistic) interest in Jimin’s pillowcase. His side of the bedroom is a wreck while Yoongi’s side remains pristinely untouched. Now though, sitting prim and proper in front of his shredded sheets, the ginger devil looks up at him with wide, innocent eyes as if to say, Who? Me?

At the sight of his tattered bedding, Jimin lets an anguished sob and tugs at the ends of his hair, tilting is face up to the ceiling. “Why?” Then, to Madeleine, “What did I ever do to you, kitty?”

She stares him down.  She, cat. Jimin, human.

There is no doubt who’s superior, and they both know that.

For all her wickedness, Jimin can only groan and whine as he proceeds to clean up the mess she made. “I know you don’t like me, but I can’t figure out why.”

She eyes his every move, golden gaze unblinking.

Jimin remarks sarcastically, “So sorry I had to invade your happy life with your master.

Madeleine hisses at the word.

“Fine, fine. Your dad. Happy?”

Madeleine ceases hissing, choosing to stick her nose up in the air and saunter off, but not before knocking over a broomstick with a swish of her tail.

(Jimin swears the cat can understand advanced human linguistics.)

(Maybe he should suggest to Yoongi to lend Madeleine to the local shaman.)

Little does she know, Jimin has an ace card hidden up his sleeve. A cleaning companion. 

“Ta-da!” he yips with a grin a little while later, squatting to put down his latest online purchase from a secondhand seller—a robot vacuum cleaner. It’s a black 2017 Roomba model in the shape of a disc, barely older than three years. The previous owner had gotten a new one and Jimin had immediately jumped at the chance to snag it at more than three-quarters off its original price. A total steal, if you ask him.

He presses the power button, and the Roomba whirs to life. As its infrared sensors make sense of its indoor surroundings, it starts to turn slowly, wheeling to and fro. Meanwhile, sitting on a rug a few paces away, Jimin spies the exact moment Madeleine freezes, eyes glued to the vacuum cleaner. 

Jimin smiles, giddy. “Meet your new friend, kitty!”

The Roomba spins and chugs towards Madeleine. As it approaches closer, she pushes up on all fours, ginger tail puffing as if to back away from an intruder. First she bares her teeth at the robot, but then outright hisses at it when the Roomba doesn’t seem to take the warning. Madeleine shimmies her butt as though preparing for a catfight. Jimin purses his lips.

“It’s a robot, it’s not gonna listen to—” He’s hardly done talking when Madeleine yowls, pounces on the Roomba and… lands smack on top of it. She goes stock-still once more as the battery-operated vacuum continues to move. Tucking her paws close, she settles into a crouching position, stricken confusion seeping into her golden eyes. The Roomba carries on with its work.

Jimin has to stifle a giggle as he watches Yoongi’s ginger cat spin slowly on top of it, nonplussed. Instead of throwing another hissy fit and kicking up a storm like he would expect, Madeleine quietly lets the Roomba sweep her off her feet—literally. The duo wheel out of the living room at a snail’s pace, whirring and dusting as they go along. Jimin scratches his head, baffled but nonetheless amused.

Maybe the cat will finally be distracted enough not to give him hell while he cleans.

But that’s not the end of it, no. 

Later, when Jimin tries feeding her with raw food, she knocks over her bowl and spills water across the floor. While he attempts to mop the floor, she hops onto the mop’s head so that it sweeps her along, which makes swinging it back and forth a more tiring and heavier task to do. Whenever Jimin tries to pick her up, she nips at his fingers and even once managed to scratch his wrists.

Jimin heaves a longsuffering sigh. “What am I gonna do with you, you bratty kitty?”

Obviously they are Not Friends. At the corner of his eye, he spots a blue cage under the kitchen sink, and a lightbulb idea strikes him.

Jimin smiles, more to himself than at anything else.

 


 

Maddened crying and meowing ricochets throughout the apartment, not unlike a crazed siren’s screeching. 

“I’m sorry, Madeleine!” Jimin calls out, grinning sheepishly while wiping age-old stains away from the coffee table. “Just for a while, okay?”

Somehow by some miracle, he managed to lure her into her cage, after which he closed and stashed in a cramped space under the stairs. Jail time for the bratty kitty. A brilliant idea, if Jimin might say so himself. 

Now that the cat’s out of the way, it’s so much easier to clean and tidy up the place—a habit of his whenever he’s anxious or nervous. He’s got an audition later, and he really needs to work off these jitters. Jimin busies himself with putting away all the shit Yoongi left littering the floor—laundry, discarded ramen cups (how many weeks old is the mold growing along its rim?!), dirty towels, crumbs of kibble and unidentifiable expired junk food—you name it, it’s there.

Jimin’s been itching to clear this flat for a while now, and now that he has the chance to, he doesn’t hold back. Growing up, his mother had always make sure to whoop his ass if he didn’t clean his room at least once every week. Jimin breathes easier in clean environments, and he’s not about to stop carrying his habits now.

He sorts the apartment’s shit in two piles: Trash and Not Trash.

Everything broken, and unusable or no longer functional goes to the trash pile, while the rest gets rearranged around the house in a neater fashion. At the back of his mind, Jimin wonders if he should start working for Yoongi as a part-time housekeeper or something, but that wouldn’t really work for him, he later muses. Neither would it work for the author of this story.

It takes a few hours and blood, sweat, tears and three cans of Lysol spray to get rid of the smell and turn every surface spick and span, but Jimin pulls through. It’s when he’s putting away the last of the cleaning products that the door passcode clicks and Yoongi steps inside.

“Oh. Hey!” Jimin turns around with a large grin despite the summer sweat dripping down his back. “Welcome back!”

At the sight of his flat, Yoongi stops dead.

“I cleaned the house while you were gone, and holy shit,” Jimin gushes, unable to keep the excitement out of his voice. “You never told me you owned a Wii console! Or that you had soft rugs underneath all that gunk!”

Yoongi’s eyes dart left and right, up and down. A small thud against his ankle has him glancing down, where Jimin’s new Roomba spins to avoid hitting his feet again.  “This is...”

“I got a Roomba! To help out with housekeeping,” Jimin supplements with a proud tilt of his chin. And just to piss Yoongi off for fun, he can't help adding with a smirk, “I’ve decided to call it Yoonderella. Since it’s the closest thing to having you actually do some cleaning of your own accord.”

Yoongi’s gaze snaps up to meet his, but in light of the adrenaline rush from being proud of his efforts, Jimin misses the sharp glint in his fake husband’s eyes.

“So. Like it?” Jimin bites his lower lip, cheeks flushed, tucking a strand of hair behind his air. “I did do a pretty darn good job, didn’t I? It’s like a different place now. No need to thank—“

“You touched my things.” Yoongi’s voice is frosty. His camera bag drops to the floor.

Jimin winces, and he feels the smile on his face drop. “What do you— I mean, of course? I had to, that’s what cleaning means—“

“I thought we agreed to mind our own business.”

Now that his senses are more alert, Jimin can hear it—the tremulous simper in Yoongi’s voice, belied by his calm mask. He should probably apologize. Ask Yoongi not to misunderstand his intentions. But Jimin hates backing down.

“Duh?” he huffs, jabbing a finger to point to the floor. “In case you haven’t noticed, I live here too, Min Yoongi. My living space is my business, too.”

“This is my house.”

Jimin’s mouth clamps shut, shards of ice jamming in his veins. He stands with his hands curling into fists, contemplating his next comeback, when—

From under the stairs, Madeleine yowls at the sound of Yoongi’s voice.

Yoongi stiffens, and his eyes harden. “You locked Madeleine in.”

“I was cleaning and she kept making a mess—“ Jimin hasn’t even finished his sentence when Yoongi shoves past him, rough and hasty as he makes a beeline for the space under the stairs and pulls out Madeleine’s cage. When he looks up, his eyes hold fire.

“She hates confined spaces.” Though he doesn’t say it, his tone drips thick with blame and accusation, and the look on his face makes Jimin stumble back a step.

He’s never seen Yoongi this livid. Ever. Jimin squirms where he stands as Yoongi shoulders past him to fetch his cat. When he finds his voice, it comes out as a throaty squeak. “I didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t know,” Yoongi snaps, bending down to unlock the Scottish Fold’s cage door. Madeleine meows loudly as she leaps into his arms and hides her head under his right armpit. “You don’t fucking know shit, because you don’t think of anyone or anything but yourself, Park Jimin.”

Jimin’s jaw clenches, nostrils flaring. “That’s not true, I was trying to help make—“

“Did you not consider that I keep my place this way because I have no problem with it?” Yoongi seethes, straightening up and marching closer. Each step seems to make the floorboards creak;  rattles Jimin’s bones. “Because I know where everything is?”

“I was trying to help—“

“Did I ask for your help?”

A lump forms in Jimin’s throat. His chest tightens. He reminds himself to inhale slowly. There’s lead gathering in his stomach, making it feel heavier than it actually is.

“Did I?” Yoongi’s eyes flash with the shadow of unbridled fury, his already raspy voice lowering with every syllable. He shoots the robot vacuum cleaner a steely glower. “And did you think you could just barge into my own damn house and turn it upside down?”

“Look, I had no idea, okay? Sheesh, I get it, you’re a little mad—“

“I’m not mad—“

“And you’re also not letting me finish speaking!” Jimin explodes, feeling his own face flaming with the effort of pushing down the urge to stomp a foot down. 

“Fine, so talk!” Yoongi shuts his eyes and massages the bridge of his nose.

“All I did was take out the trash and put things back in place,” Jimin struggles to keep his voice even. “I didn’t do shit, it’s not what you’re thinking, I promise. I just threw out the old stuff.”

At his words, Yoongi’s eyes snap open in panic, before sweeping the entirety of the living room. He sucks in a shuddering breath and points at an empty space beside the window. “Where’s my keyboard?”

His question is met with almost-silence, save for the whirring of the vacuum cleaner that clutters the air.

“Oh, that old thing?” Jimin scratches his head sheepishly. “I threw it out.”

This time it’s not fury that unravels in Yoongi’s eyes.

It’s pain, pure and severe. In a flash his features distort and he lets out a warbled cry like he’s been socked in the gut, barely coherent but sounding something like, “Why.”

Jimin blinks, taken aback. “Um. It’s just a broken keyboard. I plugged it in and it wouldn’t light up. So.”

The way Yoongi sags reminds him of how a child breaks down when he finds out that his favorite toy is broken. Dread starts coiling in Jimin’s stomach as Yoongi grits out, “Where.”

“H-huh?” Dread and Guilt have come hand-in-hand now. 

“Where is it?” Yoongi asks in a wounded tone.

With mounting anxiety, Jimin raises his hand and hooks a thumb to point behind his shoulder. “Downstairs, at the public dumspter by the chute.”

Cursing under his breath, Yoongi wastes no time shouldering his way out, squirming through the space between Jimin and the front door.

There are five floors between Yoongi’s apartment and ground level, five floors with no elevator. As Jimin trails after him feeling like a dog, he realizes that this is his first time seeing Yoongi so frazzled. The guy always carries himself with such a gentle aura of calmness.

And over what?

A broken instrument? Jimin doesn’t get it.

When they step outdoors, Yoongi staggers down the narrow alley beside their building, not stopping until he reaches the dumping area where all unused appliances are thrown.

“Hyung—“ Jimin pants.

But it’s like Yoongi’s gone deaf, tuning out the chaos of the world in his mad hunt for that one thing. Squatting low, he ransacks the pile of throwaway electronics and stacks of discarded cardboard boxes until he finds what he’s looking for.

(Good thing it’s only been an hour since Jimin threw it out.)

It’s a small keyboard, almost like a giant toy. The kind of instrument an 11-year-old child might practise with if he’s still beginning to learn the piano. Dingy, dirty, with yellowed keys.

But Yoongi clings onto it.

He hugs the instrument to his chest with a half-sob, half-sigh of relief, and sinks to the ground as if all energy has now fled Yoongi’s body in the aftermath of his discovery. Jimin lingers back, shifting his weight from foot to foot uncomfortably. He clears his throat, a maelstrom of words stringing together behind his tongue. Questions, comments, words of comfort he could possibly offer.  

But then—of all the foolish things he could have possibly done—Jimin laughs. “Seriously, hyung? It’s pretty old. C’mon, we can buy you a new one—“

Yoongi lifts his face to look at him.

Jimin’s words fall away from his mouth, and so does his unwitting laugh.

Because he’s never seen Yoongi cry before.

His husband’s eyes are red and glistening, and when he sniffles, a teardrop escapes one corner. Yoongi drops his head to let his hair fall over and hide his face. Jimin stands, speechless.

Because he’s never seen Yoongi cry before, and it’s worse than a fist to his face.

“Hey,” Jimin forces himself to croak. He tries again; tries to find a more stable, reassuring voice. He’s usually so good at this, at comforting people, so why does he falter in the face of Yoongi’s tears?

He steps forward. “Hyung, I didn’t know it was that important.”

Yoongi was right. He doesn’t know shit.

“You shouldn’t have thrown it out just like that,” Yoongi mutters brokenly. He’s still kneeling on the asphalt ground. Jimin sympathizes. He can understand, to some degree, why Yoongi is behaving like this. The guy’s a jazz pianist, after all.

But.

Although Jimin doesn’t exactly know what’s going on... he does know a thing or two about hoarding. He sighs, running a hand through his hair. “Look. I understand if you’re a collector,” he says placatingly. “And that maybe you like to hoard things? I mean, I’ve seen your place. You’ve got lots of stuff. But you can’t make space for new things in your life if you’re so stubborn about keeping what’s already old and broken.”

At his words, Yoongi lets out a small, disbelieving huff and pierces him with a helpless look. “You don’t get it.”

Jimin shakes his head slowly. He must stand his ground. Park Jimin never backs down. “No, I think maybe you’re the one who doesn’t get it? Bad habits need to be curbed, hyung.”

Yoongi flinches as if Jimin just slapped him the same way he did the first time. “Bad habits,” he repeats humorlessly, standing and clutching the keyboard like it’s his lifeline.

Jimin nods. “Bad and broken things are worthless.”

It’s not the right thing to say, by all means, and Jimin realizes it too late when his words seems to set off another switch in Yoongi. Shit. With his eyes brimming with a mixture of hurt and disappointment, Yoongi tells him huskily, “Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean it’s worthless.”

Without another word, Yoongi strides past Jimin and heads back into the apartment building, leaving Jimin standing outside feeling like he’s just missed a red herring hiding right under his nose.

No, he tells himself, feeling bruised. This isn’t right.

Vexed, Jimin hurries up the flight of stairs, ignoring the way his thighs burn for reprieve, and follows Yoongi down the corridor leading to their shared apartment. But just as he reaches the front door to step inside, Yoongi turns around and levels him with a worldless stare.

“Get out.”

Jimin bristles, stomach feeling hollowed out like it’s being carved by ice shards. “Huh? What, no why—“

“Get. Out.” Yoongi’s face is gaunt and haggard, and the last thing Jimin sees before the door slams shut in his face is the faint quiver to Yoongi’s chapped lower lip.

Jimin’s throat constricts. Something white-hot flares up inside him, and he kicks lightly at the bottom of the door. “Fuck you, Yoongi!”

“Fuck you, too!”

“Hey!” a muffled voice screams out from two doors down, and Jimin freezes.

It’s Hoseok. Yoongi’s rooftop cohabitator in the apartment behind. “What’s the big idea? You lovebirds okay there?”

The world goes deathly silent.

“Don’t tell me you two are fighting?” Hoseok continues, his voice as loud as a horn despite the distance.

In spite of it all, the need for cover-up overpowers anger. “Nope don’t worry, just flirting!” Jimin shouts back, jaw tight.

“We like it loud and aggressive!” Yoongi adds after a heartbeat’s hesitation from behind the closed door. 

The silence ensues again. Jimin’s palms turn clammy, insides tumbling with the fear that he’s blown their little act. But then:

“Kinky shits. Tone it down, will you? Some of us aren’t married here.”

Relief pours out of Jimin, and his shoulders sag against the door at the same time he feels Yoongi’s weight lean on it from the other side. 

What now? Tornadoes can’t even compare to the whirlwinding turmoil of emotions searing through him right now. Jimin knows he must’ve done something very wrong, but at the same time he hardly thinks he deserves to be treated like trash to be taken out. Not when he’s been the one sweating buckets to discard the actual rubbish from this apartment since this morning. He shields his eyes from the sun glaring down at him and sighs.

Fuck, he doesn’t need this extra stress. Hoarsely, he croaks, “I have an audition later, you know?” Hopefully Yoongi’s hearing this.

There’s no response, so Jimin takes it as he’s just talking to himself, if only to help alleviate his own anxiety. “I have an audition later,” he repeats, voice cracking. “And I got so nervous that I started cleaning, hoping to distract myself. So... now you know why I did it. I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

Still no reply. Maybe Jimin is just talking to himself at this point. Twiddling his fingers, he adds, “Or hurt. I didn’t mean to upset anyone.” Now that some of his blind rage has dissipated, he can think more rationally. Jimin cards his fingers over his hair and swallows hard. “But I also understand you need to be alone. So I’ll just do as you said. I’ll get out. Sorry for the trouble.”

Heaving another sigh, he stands. Yoongi had asked him to scram, and scram he will. He’ll stay outside until after the audition, maybe crash Taehyung’s place to shower and get dressed. Taehyung has a great wardrobe, so it should sustain both him and Jimin for a while. Maybe Jimin won’t even need to return. 

It’s too tiring to stay here.

And because this is real life, there’s no slow motion-and-music sequence where the door opens and Yoongi comes out running to backhug Jimin.

Nothing like that at all.

The door behind him doesn’t open. Yoongi doesn’t try keep him from walking away.

Jimin leaves.

 


 

It’s not until several hours later, while waiting inside the holding room before he meets the casting crew, that Jimin’s pocket vibrates with 1 New KakaoTalk message.

 

 

agustddaeng: 

don’t stumble over your lines.


agustddaeng: 

you’ll do fine even if you think you won’t.

 

 

A sharp puff breath, a slow tug pulling free from his chest—the world blurs soft and hazy; the world goes calm. Jimin stops wringing his hands in the hem of his shirt as the sandstorm in his gut stills. 

All that’s left is a sigh, soft as a feather.

And Jimin smiles.

 


 

Nonetheless, to say that he’s uneasy about returning later that night would be a major understatement. A text of encouragement is one thing, but that doesn’t mean everything’s fine and dandy now. What if Yoongi is still pissed off with him? How does one tread lightly after a fight like that? 

So when Jimin hears muffled jazz music wafting out from behind the door, his hand stills against the digital passcode lock.

This is new. For the last few weeks he’s stayed at Yoongi’s place, he’s never once heard actual music playing in his house. Keying in the passcode, he unlocks the door and steps inside, toeing off his shoes, and does a double take at the scent that hits him.

Of herbs and spices, of smoke and salt. There’s a savory flavor in the air that’s far from how the apartment typically smells like—or tastes like, really—and Jimin’s mouth waters at the first sniff. Someone’s cooking.

No, scratch that.

Yoongi is cooking.

Either the world is ending, or this is not his fake husband, Jimin muses to himself. His tummy grumbles as he quietly pads across the living room, his nose guiding him to the kitchen against his better will, and sure enough—there’s Yoongi, back to him, busying himself at the kitchen stove. The aroma of meat being grilled thickens in the air, and Jimin remarks, “Smells good.”

At the sound of his voice, Yoongi jumps and his head swivels over to him. “Oh. You’re back. Didn’t hear you come in.”

For someone who always has a witty comment or two up his sleeve, Jimin only leans against the kitchen’s doorframe and surveys Yoongi in his pink apron, a little floored. He looks small and delicate, standing in the cramped kitchen with Madeleine curling her tail around his ankles. His black hair’s sticking up in different directions, cheeks flushed from the stove’s heat. In all the time since he moved in, Jimin has never seen the guy step willingly into the kitchen to clear the sink, let alone voluntarily cook, and after a long day out, the very sight of him like this is strangely—

Calming.

“Well, here I am,” Jimin offers by way if greeting, remembering himself. “Hey.”

Maybe the jazz music was a good idea, a good placeholder for the heavy silence growing between them like a gathering of clouds.

“Hey yourself.” Yoongi looks over his shoulder and locks eyes with him.

For a brief moment, they only look at each other wordlessly that way, and Jimin thinks he catches a flicker of something akin to sheepishness behind those elfish eyes. He chews on his inner cheeks, feeling like a boy unsure how to bring a conversation forward, to break the awkward silence, until Yoongi clears his throat and asks, “How’d the audition go?”

Okay, at least they’re on speaking terms.

Jimin lifts his right shoulder in a half-shrug and says noncommittally, “Same old, same old. They said they’ll get back to me by the the end of the week with the results. I’m not very confident.”

“Why not?” Yoongi turns off the stove and arranges the pork belly strips on a plate.

“Just... you know. When you get rejected often enough you learn not to get your hopes up too high.”

Yoongi hums. “That’s called pessimism, no?”

“I’d take a leaf out of your book call it realism.” Jimin catches himself before he starts to sound like he’s challenging Yoongi, who raises a quizzical eyebrow at him but doesn’t press further.

Jimin watches him bustle around the kitchen, feeling like he should be doing something, and Yoongi mist sense his unease because glances at him and says, “Help me with the rice, will you? And set the table, too.”

“Okay— wait,” Jimin tilts his head aside. “You mean… I can eat with you?”

Yoongi gives him a funny look. “Did you think I was going to eat all of this alone?”

No, Jimin wants to say. It’s because they’d agreed not to share groceries and meals, and he doesn’t want to overstep yet again. The last time they shared food was when Yoongi was down with fever. “I mean, we don’t really—“

“Sit.”

Yoongi gestures to the dining table, eyebrows scrunched together as though daring Jimin to refuse, though he looks far from intimidating standing there in his apron. “Consider this a rare treat.”

O... kay. Jimin nods and moves to set the table, and that’s how they work around each other—quiet and steady, as though dancing an unspoken, choreographed waltz, and moments later they’re sitting opposite each other at their usual (Jimin is surprised to realize he has a usual spot now) seats on the table.

But nobody makes a move to eat first. Underneath the table, Jimin’s fingers drum against his thighs. He licks his lower lip in hesitation.

Apologies—swift to hear, hard to say. It’s as if Jimin’s tongue has lodged itself to the back of his throat, halting all forms of speech. He knows he has to say it, knows that he’s done something upsetting, but that doesn’t make his stomach squirm and twist at the thought of his pride being crushed.

Park Jimin likes to be liked, wants to be flawless so that he doesn’t have to apologize so often. 

Still, he has to try. “Um.”

Yoongi’s gaze flickers up from the empty plates on the table to his face. Jimin parts his mouth only to close it again like a goldfish. He points at the food and whistles in appreciation. “Pork belly. Nice. I’ve been craving it all day.”

Shit, shit no. That’s not what he meant to say.

Yoongi nods but doesn’t say anything, and the silence grows so loud Jimin wonders if he’s gone deaf.

He inhales. Exhales. A second ticks by, then two. Small doses of infinities pass. Somewhere inside the house, Madeleine meows. 

Jimin ducks his head, unable to maintain eye contact. Pursing his lips, he finally musters enough the guts to eke out, in the softest voice possible:

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi drawls at the same time, eyes downcast.

They both pause, and look up at each other at the same time.

Jimin’s pulse spikes. “You go first.”

“No, you first.” 

“Okay.” With a sigh, Jimin lets his thoughts spill like a broken dam. “I’m sorry, hyung. For messing with your things, for locking Madeleine”—Yoongi flinches—“and most of all, for throwing out what’s not... mine. You were right,” he admits. “I still don’t understand many things about you.” Yoongi is a closed book, that much Jimin has figured out. A closed book with every last page scrawled in cursive penmanship. Pretty, but hard to read. 

Jimin would be a fool if he said he’s not the least bit curious to learn how to.

“But I want to,” he adds. “I want to try and live peacefully with you.”

Yoongi’s brows rise, eyes widening by a fraction, and the intensity in them makes Jimin look away.

“But I just wanted to say, you were wrong about me, too.” Jimin clenches and unclenches his fists, flexing his fingers atop the table. “Yes, I acted without thinking, but not selfishly. You crossed that line.”

“I didn’t mean to,” Yoongi quips in a hurry, worry marring his brows. “I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was pissed off and I just...” he runs a hand through his hair, his next words coming out as a perplexed huff, “I really hate it when people touch my things without my permission, Jimin-ah.”

“I know, and I’ll be more mindful about that.” Jimin says, then casts his gaze about. “But you gotta admit, your house looks so much better when it’s neat.”

At this, the left side of Yoongi’s mouth quirks upwards. “Well, yeah. I gotta thank you for that. It’s not really the cleaning I was against, you know? It’s just... next time, talk to me about things first. Please?”

Yoongi doesn’t always say please to him, perhaps partly due to his personality or the fact that he’s older, and hearing it softens the magma that’s been coursing through Jimin’s veins all day.

“Yeah, I can get with that.” Jimin says, swallowing down a lump in his throat. “You can talk to me, too. About... things.”

There’s an implication in his words that  Yoongi’s sharp ears don’t miss. His gaze snaps to Jimin’s, and he opens his mouth, and Jimin thinks he might finally say something, but all that comes out is... “Yeah. Okay.”

Jimin sighs. “I’ll listen to you. You know?”

“I know.” Yoongi’s gaze returns to hide behind that unreadable filter that Jimin wishes he could take down.

Still, he takes those words as assurance enough. With a smile as peace offering, he picks up the spoon and chopsticks. “Anyway, I’d hate for the food to go cold. Look at this! Who knew you could cook?”

Yoongi’s posture relaxes, and now he smiles for real. “Hey—I happen to be a Real Adult.”

The knot of unease in pit of Jimin’s stomach untangles itself, and he comforts himself with the knowledge that no matter what happens, he’ll always have this verbal duel with Yoongi to fall back on.

(The world could be falling apart and they’d still probably bicker to death.)

“Oh, I wouldn’t know, I’m not the one who baby-talks when I’m sick.” 

“That was one time,” Yoongi splutters as Jimin picks up a strip of pork belly and dips it in sauce, and as fireworks of flavors burst in his mouth, he gasps dramatically.

“Wah, hyung! This is good!”

Yoongi wrinkles his nose, but there’s an unwitting smile gracing his lips when he says all bashful, “It’s literally just meat.”

“But it’s Yoongi’s Meat! I love it.”

Silence punctuates Jimin’s remark, and only then does he realize...

Faint crimson bleeds into Jimin’s cheeks. “Oh. Oops?”

Yoongi bursts out laughing.

Eyes crinkling, pink gums showing, shoulders shaking up and down. Silent staccato as it may be, Yoongi laughs like he’s never known true comedy until they met, and Jimin sits back with a smile and thinks, That’s the laugh.

And though it used to be irritating to be laughed at by Yoongi, right now Jimin finds himself grinning back, half of him relieved and the other other half swimming in the dazzle and drumbeat of something soft and new unfurling in his chest. A rosebud learning to bloom.

“The photos arrived, by the way,” Yoongi mentions after he’s calmed down, smiling as he chews on a spoonful of rice and pork belly.

Jimin arches an eyebrow. “Photos?”

“The prenup and wedding photos. They’re on the coffee table in the living room. Jungkook came by earlier to drop them off.”

After the table has been cleared and the dishes washed, Jimin pads back into the living room to find a life-sized frame of their wedding portrait, gilded and ready to be hung. It’s a candid shot by Jungkook, with neither of them looking into the camera, and something about it makes Jimin flush.

“Ah. Saw them?” Yoongi’s drawls huskily from behind, coming up to stand beside him. He crosses his arms, studying the portrait. Jimin wonders if he’s seeing the same thing as he is.

Jungkook is one talented lad. Jimin doesn’t even remember doing it, but the kid managed to catch that one candid moment where Jimin had snuck up to wrap his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders, the both of them smiling at some unseen thing beyond the frame.

 

 

“What were we even looking at here?” asks Yoongi, voice faint.

Jimin shrugs. “The 10 billion won we’re about to get?”

Yoongi nudges him by the elbow with a low chortle. “Old sport. I’m surprised these came out well.”

“Why?”

“Let’s just say was super nervous that day.”

“Again, why?”

“I was marrying you.”

Jimin blinks, and his head snaps up so he can regard Yoongi properly. “What do you mean by that?”

Like a rabbit caught in a snare, he glimpses Yoongi biting his lower lip before stammering, “I- I mean. As in. We were doing something risky! Who wouldn’t be scared?”

Jimin nods. But of course. Marriage fraud is a very valid concern. Jimin doesn’t understand why he feels disappointed that Yoongi wasn’t nervous about marrying him, Park Jimin, for who he was. He shouldn’t even be entertaining such notions.

After all, none of this is real. Jimin scrunches up his nose and clears his throat. “So. Where do we put this?” 

And because he is watching Yoongi’s face closely, he catches the exact moment when Yoongi’s eyes flicker to the left corner of the living room.

At the shelf holding his framed pictures with his ex, who remains unnamed until now. Jimin follows his gaze, feeling the bright expression he’s plastered on his face slip for some reason.

With a casual shrug, Yoongi turns around and walks towards the bathroom, leaving Jimin to deal with the portrait. “Ah, well. We can keep the portrait away in the storage room, and I can stash the smaller pictures in an envelope inside one of my drawers.”

Jimin’s heart sinks against his better will. “Really? You want to put them away?”

“Well, they’re bulky, don’t you think?”

So he has no space for their wedding pictures, and yet he keeps years-old frames on his shelf. Funny how that works. Jimin shakes his head and rolls his shoulders back to ease the building tension in them. “Oh.”

It’s not like he was fully expecting Yoongi to be enthusiastic about hanging the photos up on the wall, but Jimin thinks they look way too pretty to be kept away. “But the pictures came out so well,” he mumbles under his breath, glancing at the shelf once more.

The bathroom door clicks shut.

Jimin's shoulders droop. Perhaps there really is no extra space for a Park Jimin in Yoongi’s life.

And that should be okay.

 


 

But sometimes, just sometimes, Jimin almost believes there might be.

Later, as they’re in the darkness of their shared room on the secnd floor with the divider drawn up between them, Jimin hears all sorts of rustling and rumpling of bedsheets from Yoongi’s side of the room. It’s not characteristic of him to be this fidgety, especially since Jimin’s gotten used to him to be the type who can fall asleep almost anywhere as long as he can lie down. Jimin shrugs it off. We all have our restless moments. But then—

“Are you still awake?” comes Yoongi’s coarse rasp, throat dry because they haven’t uttered a word to each other since they turned the lights off.

Jimin stares at the ceiling, wondering if he should pretend to be asleep already. But he’s not an outright liar, so he whispers, “Mm-hmm. Why?”

The sheets rustle again, and Jimin imagines Yoongi shifting his position so that they’re facing each other. Yoongi on the left, Jimin on the right. 

He follows suit, angling his body so that he’s lying on his left side, and cushions his head with his own arm. “Can’t sleep, hyung?”

Yoongi doesn’t reply to that, and it quiet falls around the house again for so long that Jimin almost believes that his fake husband has slipped into slumber. Jimin wishes he could be as chatty and outgoing with Yoongi as he typically is with most everyone else, but there’s always something about the man that makes him pause, makes him reconsider himself. 

It’s like Jimin’s never really reflected much about his own actions and behavior until the guy came along. Or maybe it’s the way something about Yoongi’s sadness feels familiar, like stumbling into a mirror and finding a broken reflection from years ago.

Then, breaking through his stream of consciousness, Yoongi pipes up quietly, “Hey. Want some beer?”

Jimin’s never heard an offer so tempting. When it doubt, alcohol prevails.

There are a few cans in the refrigerator, and they take out two for each of them before assuming seats at the low-lying table outside on the rooftop terrace. It’s way past midnight, and the city has settled into a muffled quiet, the kind that belongs to 3AM conversations under the sweet sanctuary of sheets. 

They sit across each other, legs crossed, unspeaking. Jimin watches his fake husband watch the night sky. A soft breeze picks up in the air, brushing Yoongi’s bangs back to reveal a smooth forehead. His eyes glitter amber from the lampposts lining the streets below them, like a mermaid’s scales in sunset. What goes on behind those eyes? Still waters on the surface, whirlpooling tides beneath? 

As the beer cools his throat, Jimin revels in this still calmness between him and Yoongi—for once, this silence doesn’t feel unwelcome. With an appreciative nod at the rooftop terrace, he starts, “Pretty crazy how the same place can look different at night, huh? You could start a rooftop bar here.”

His fake husband gives him a wry smile and takes a swig of his beer. Long moments pass, and still, Yoongi makes no sound, and Jimin is halfway through convincing himself that maybe Yoongi just wants a silent drinking buddy. Probably. 

“It was a gift from my mum.”

Jimin’s mind pings, struggling to connect the dots. Setting his beer can down, he sits up straighter, waiting for Yoongi to continue.

“I was 9 years old, just another kid who wanted to go for piano classes like everyone else my age back then.” Yoongi’s voice is so hoarse and soft that Jimin strains his ears to catch some of his words clearly. “But we couldn’t afford it, so she got me that secondhand keyboard.”

Jimin chews on his lower lip and tucks his knees under his chin. “You must’ve loved it so much.”

“I actually didn’t,” Yoongi chuckles dryly, sipping his can. “Hated the fact that my friends had nicer things. But eh, I had to make do with that I got. The keyboard was from her boss’ daughter.”

Try as he might, Jimin can’t for the life of him imagine a child version of the man Yoongi is now, hammering away at a kiddie keyboard with a giant frown on his face. “Bet you were the grumpiest kid back then.”

A scoff. “Like you’re one to talk. You’re a raging blob of fury.”

This time it’s Jimin’s turn to make a scandalized sound. “Excuse me?”

“You’re excused,” Yoongi says with a low laugh, and Jimin wonders if it’s illegal to start putting lizards in people’s hair while they sleep. Who knows, it could be a good countermeasure for Yoongi’s constant teasing. 

“And yeah, you were right,” Yoongi tells him, his thumb tracing over the edge of his beer can.

“About what?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Why?” Jimin makes a big show of clucking his tongue and shaking his head. “You ate too much meat and now you have an upset stomach, don’t you? Don’t you dare fart in my direction—”

“Tomorrow’s her death anniversary.”

Jimin’s mouth goes dry, his joking words crumbling to dust at the tip of his tongue. His first knee-jerk reaction is to giggle nervously. This has got to be some joke. 

But Yoongi holds his gaze without a hint of a smile. Jimin’s eyes flit down to his left hand, which shakes while he grips his beer can, and every lighthearted reply fades from his mind.

Why?

Why hadn’t Yoongi said so sooner?

Jimin had always known by gut instinct that Yoongi’s parents were no longer around in ways more than just one. They weren’t in Seoul. They weren’t in the world at all. He’d guessed it, but never brought it up, fearing he’d only intrude. 

He just didn’t know that Yoongi was keeping something so important bottled up until now.

“So if I’ve been extra grumpy lately, well… yeah.” Yoongi licks over his lower lips, pain flashing across his eyes. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down as he swallows. “And I know it’s probably not a very good reason—”

“No.” Jimin shakes his head.

“Right. See? Even you agree with me. Anyway—”

“What I mean is,” Jimin interjects softly, reaching out to gently place one hand on top of Yoongi’s knee, “that there’s no need to apologize about feeling that way.”

Yoongi stiffens, eyes frozen on his hand, like it’s an alien substance on the planes of his body. Jimin knows they’re not in the habit of being all touchy feely with each other, knows that Yoongi isn’t very into skinship, but the need to comfort blazes in him so strongly that he can’t not. 

But he doesn’t want to make the guy any more uncomfortable, either. So with a rueful smile, Jimin resorts to patting Yoongi’s knee twice and draws backwards to fold his knees under his chin once more. “Are you visiting her tomorrow?”

A crease forms in the space between Yoongi’s brows. “...yeah.”

“Well then,” Jimin says with a tone of finality, downing the last drop of his beer. He all but slams the beer can down on the table with a light thunk. “Let me go with you.”

 


 

“Are you ready?” Yoongi calls out the next morning as he tugs his socks on. 

“Yep.” Jimin emerges from the bathroom, folding the sleeves of his shirt. “Is it very far?” 

“Not really.” Yoongi checks his watch. “We can get back for lunch in time to feed Madeleine.”

Speaking of which. Where did his little chonker go?  Yoongi cranes his neck to peer into the living room. No sign of her. 

“Have you seen her?” he asks as Jimin draws closer, slinging a messenger bag on.

His fake husband glances at him. “She’s upstairs with Yoonderella, I think?”

Yoongi makes a face. That stupid Roomba. Surely his cat wouldn’t befriend unwarranted lumps of metal in the house. Madeleine has better decision-making skills than that. He’s got nothing against the robot vacuum cleaner, but the way Jimin is treating it like a pet, even naming it, ruffles his feathers. “Whatever.”

Bounding up the stairs, Yoongi peeks into the room and finds the ginger cat lying on her hammock by his bed, eyes closed.

Relief fills his veins. “Aha, you were sleeping all along.” Yoongi asks, keeping his voice soft. Bending down, he scratches Madeleine’s chin gently. “Not gonna send your butler dad off today, hmm?”

With a small sniff, Madeleine’s eyelids pop open. She blinks up sleepily at Yoong for a few seconds... and pushes his hand away with her little paw. 

Yoongi frowns. 

Usually, Madeleine never misses the chance to send him off at the door each morning. And sure, though she may be a bit of a menace towards strangers, she has never once outwardly rejected Yoongi’s affections before. Strange.  

But before he can ruminate over it further, he hears Jimin call out from downstairs, “Come on, hyung! Don’t keep her waiting!”

Sparing one last glance at his furbaby, Yoongi turns around and clambers down the stairs. “Coming.”

 


 

For someone who values the importance of peace and quiet so much, Yoongi hates stepping into a columbarium.

There are many kind of silences—uncomfortable, like that time when he got asked a question he couldn’t answer at a job interview; awkward, like when he and Jimin first kissed during that planetarium photoshoot with Jungkook, and easy: like those rare moments when Jimin actually bothers to hold proper conversations with him.

Silences like those are never physical; never make you want to bolt and run for fresh air. Silences like those don’t weigh heavy on your chest, crushing your lungs and constricting your windpipe.

Five years had gone by, and Yoongi still loathes stepping into a columbarium. He hates the sound of his own footfalls, so painfully loud against tiles of this almost church-like, quiet hallway. He hates the way the air is so damn soundless it burns static in his ears. Every room here takes on a preserved, serene quality, like a pendulum suspended in time, and he feels like an outlier, being a live human being in a room full of ashes.

Once upon a time, these ashes had lived, laughed and loved, too. 

He turns to the room located at the furthest end of the south wing, Jimin following close behind. There’s a another couple inside, paying respects to their relatives. 

Here, there are roughly one fifty other cremation urns tucked into their respective niches, but the one Yoongi’s eyes land on is on top of the middle row. Behind a thin, transparent glass, a woman’s portrait smiles down at him, and Yoongi ignores the tug at his chest. For the rest of his life, this is how he will remember her: cropped black hair, warm brown irises, laugh lines along the ridges of her eyes, and a smile that could outshine the moon.

“Hi, eomma.

Jimin steps beside him and bows as a form of greeting. Yoongi lets him introduce himself, lets him pay respects, all the while hoping that his mother might someday forgive them for entering a loveless marriage in the name of money. What would she say to him, if she say him right now? 

He’d always wondered. Would she support his decisions? Probably not. She’d call him brash, cuss and kick him out for a day, but then call him back home with promises of cooking his favorite kimchi jjigae. 

And what of the murky past she’s been keeping under wraps from him all this time? Yoongi didn’t even know how affluent his mother’s side of the family was until he visited his grandfather’s funeral. Then again, there was a lot he didn’t know. Like his own father, for one.

They stand there without speaking, both lost in their own thoughts. Jimin’s eyes flit through every ornament placed on the mantle with Min Sooha—her photo frame, a gold necklace, a certificate of achievement commending her exemplary work.

“Your mum was an engineer?” Jimin asks softly, as though afraid to break the silence. 

Yoongi nods. “Best of her team. I hate it.”

Jimin makes a startled sound from the back of his throat. “Why? What’s wrong with her job?”

Unable to keep the bitterness from his voice, Yoongi simpers, “It’s what killed her.”

Now that the floodgates are open, the memories come rushing back, though they don’t quite burn as much as they used to. Like a pencil worn thin, the feelings attached to those memories have gone blunt, losing their edge. But he still remembers it clearly.

Yoongi had been in university when he received that frantic call from his mother’s brother-in-law about how Sooha had fallen to her death after an ‘incident’ at the construction site. Her team had been sent to investigate a faulty T-Beam when the bridge gave way.

“The last thing she promised me was that she’d get me a new keyboard,” Yoongi shares, voice thick. He doesn’t look at Jimin, doesn’t have the guts to. Instead, he holds his gaze where his mother’s portrait stands.

He thinks he hears someone sniffle, but when he turns, Jimin is clearing his throat and tugging at the collar of his shirt. “I’m really… I’m sorry to hear that.”

Yoongi would hazard a guess that Jimin’s eyes are glassy for reasons more than the stuffy air around them, but he doesn’t make a remark. He shrugs half-heartedly. “Nothing you can do about it.”

Jimin stares at his feet, contemplating. “What about your dad?”

“Never knew him.”  The bastard had up and fled before he was even born, and Sooha had never talked about him, kept no trace of him except his surname. Yoongi doesn’t hate the guy. How do you hate a person who was never present in your life to begin with? Instead he feels nothing, except sympathy for his mother at having eloped with a monster. Because that seems to be the case, doesn’t it? Rich heiress runs away from her family to spend forever with the man she loves.

What a fairytale that turned out to be.

Yoongi sighs. “It doesn’t really matter. I can support myself now, and besides,” he casts Jimin a sidelong glance. “I have you.”

Jimin sucks in a sharp intake of breath, and there it is again—that charged silence.

It’s a different kind, though. It’s not heavy, nor uncomfortable, nor awkward. Silences like those are never physical, never makes his skin burn; not in the way that this one makes Yoongi want to crawl into a hole and perhaps eat his own fist so that he may never spout nonsense again.

Yoongi doesn’t quite have the courage to look him in the eyes and affirm his statement. Clicking his heels together, he spins around to make a beeline out of the room, if only to hide from his mother’s prying eyes. Oh, how she’d tease him mercilessly, if she were here. 

(She’d love Jimin, if she were here.)

And so Yoongi is well out of earshot when Jimin concedes, looking reverently up at the photo of his mother-in-law, “Yeah. Don’t worry. He has me.”

 


 

A reset button. That’s what he and Yoongi need, Jimin thinks. Sure, they got off the wrong foot, but it’s never too late to start over and make for a more amicable partnership, right?

They’ve been less hostile to each other these days. Jimin’s not dumb. Ever since their big row, he’s noticed the way Yoongi no longer seems annoyed by every fibre of his being. Jimin, too, doesn’t really want to put Yoongi’s family jewels out of commission with every satirical remark he makes. It’s been an uphill slope lately.

With every uphill slope, however, comes a sudden cliff.

And it presents itself that same night, while Yoongi is working his shift at the Blue Rose.

“Hello?”

“Hyung?” Keeping the phone pressed to his ear, Jimin paces the length of the kitchen, casting concerned glances towards the couch every now and then. “It’s Madeleine. I think she’s sick.”

 

Chapter Text


Tales From The Life and Times of A Domestic Cat.

 

In the beginning of the end, there was only a red cardboard box.

She remembers it all too well—the way her Hoomans had driven to a secluded alley, taken her out of her carrier and placed her inside a thin cardboard box so that she wouldn’t get rained on. Not once did it occur to her that that would be the last time she would see them.

Then came the waiting.

When the rainstorm poured and her cardboard home turned too soggy and cold for her tender paws, she’d meowed and meowed for her Hoomans, but nobody came.

It didn’t smell very nice in that dingy alley. There were unfamiliar shadows always lurking here and there; vermin squeaking at her from unseen corners. She didn’t know how to deal with her new, frightening neighbors, because she’d spent her entire life growing up in the safety and comfort of a warm home. She was glad, at least, to be protected by her (now-damp) cardboard.

But when the rubbish collectors came and took that, too, she suddenly found herself without a home, with only a very hungry tummy for company.

Still, she waited. Waited day after day for her Hoomans to come back and fetch her—surely they were searching for her! Surely they were worried! Perhaps they got lost and did not know how to find her.

She waited, until the searing heat burnt her paws and she was forced to leap away from direct contact with the asphalt streets.

The tipping point came in the form of a stray dog—a wretched, drooling creature it was, sniffing at her ginger tail as though she were a meal. They dog had a missing tail himself, and so, fearing he might want to steal hers, she fled to the nearest building she could find. Up, up, up the stairs she scrambled, until she burst into… an open rooftop.

Right in the middle of that rooftop stood a low, wooden table. Her golden eyes had zeroed in on the quiet shelter beneath that table, and immediately she thought: shelter.

In the beginning of her new life, there was a rooftop, a wooden table, and a sad boy living in the house across it.

 


  

“Okay, alright. I know you don’t like me, but can we agree not to make each other’s lives hell?” Jimin all but cries out, holding a pillow out in front of his body like a protective shield in case Madeleine decides to lash out and rip his hair off his scalp. The cat’s been moodier today, even more so than usual—the constant hissing is one thing, but the desperate meowing now is another. Jimin would’ve rushed and cooed and offered her some comfort right away, if only she wouldn’t shrink away from his touch everytime. One moment she's moping on the floor, the next moment she's jumping away from Jimin whenever he got too close. Seems like she only accepts affection from Yoongi.

She won’t even eat with him within her sight. Here Jimin is, squatting down in front of her food bowl to fill it with her usual wet food, but Madeleine only watches him from the staircase, steely eyes flashing, not making a move to approach her food bowl. First degree tantrum at its finest.

“Okay, kitty. I’m just going to leave your food here, and you can eat whenever you want.” Turning around, Jimin tiptoes back to the living room, and only when he disappears from sight does Madeleine leap off the stairs and approach her food.

How is it harder to take care of a cat than a toddler? Jimin has a young brother back home, and he doesn’t remember it ever being this hard to keep Jinwoon happy. Kids play-fight and throw tantrums too, but at least they don’t hiss at you like you’re the spawn of the devil. 

He sighs. Yoongi won’t be home for at least another half an hour, and in the time between now and then, Jimin only needs to make sure Madeleine doesn’t claw his eyes out.  He leaves the cat alone to let it eat in peace, and sits down in front of his laptop on the dining table to resume his hunt for a permanent job. The Lotte World role he scored at the parade will only last until the end of the month, and he can’t afford to lose any time finding a replacement income earner. 

Five and a half more months, he tells himself. Five and a half more months before he gets the money he signed up here for. He just has to keep his wits about until then. Let time fly by. 

When the passcode lock on the front door chimes, Jimin looks up to find Yoongi already toeing off his shoes, eyebrows drawn together in worry. “Where is she? Is she eating? She wasn’t very active yesterday and I thought...” 

“Hello to you, too,” Jimin replies, nodding towards the kitchen. “She’s eating all right, but only when she can’t see me. She’s a picky one.”

“Chicken is her favorite. That should do the trick.” Yoongi takes off in the direction where Jimin pointed. “Did you book a vet visit? They’re only open until 10pm on weekdays— hi, baby.” Bending down, his voice softens as he pats Madeleine’s head while she licks the last drop of her wet food. She blinks up at him slowly, then plods away to hide under the kitchen sink.

“Yeah,” answers Jimin, watching the way Yoongi’s face falls when his own cat avoids him. “Yeah, I was just waiting for you to come back.”

“All right, I’m going.” Sighing, Yoongi zips past Jimin to fetch Madeleine’s carrier from the storage room, shoulders tense, and Jimin licks his lower lip uncertainly.

“Do you, uh…” Jimin folds his arms. “Do you want me to go with you?”

Yoongi pauses. Turns around. There’s a curious tilt to his mouth, like he can’t quite decide if he should smile or frown. “You want to?”

“If you don’t mind. Just so that I’ll know what to do in case there’s a kitty emergency again next time.” Jimin fiddles with the hem of his shirt, eyes downcast. “I’m sorry your cat doesn’t like me, hyung. But I do want to learn how to handle her.”

He hears a soft exhale, and when he looks up again, Yoongi is regarding him with another one of his piercing, unreadable expressions, the kind that has bees buzzing and thrumming in Jimin’s gut. 

“What?” Jimin asks, voice faint.

“Nothing,” Yoongi says, passing the carrier to Jimin. “Here. You get Madeleine in, and I’ll start the car.”

 


 

Like hospitals, the air in veterinarian clinics always carries the distinct smell of disinfectant and air purifiers. Unlike hospitals though, it’s strikingly obvious that the vet clinic’s vanilla-scented purifiers aren’t trying to clean off the twang of blood, but rather the combined stink of animal poop, musty fur and other odors. 

As they sit side by side in the waiting area at the vet’s, with Madeleine meowing for release from her carrier and Yoongi trying to soothe her with his low replies, Jimin comments, “You really love her, don’t you?”

Yoongi shoots him a sideways look as if to say, Duh. “She’s a good girl. Just… not very cozy with strangers.”

“I’m not a stranger, though?”

“It’ll take some time. She’ll get used to you, eventually.” Yoongi leans back on his seat and clears his throat. “She was an abandoned rescue. I think she has this fear of getting left behind after she gets attached to someone.”

“Is that so?” Jimin asks, wondering if they’re still even talking about Madeleine anymore. “What’s she like once she gets attached?” 

“The sweetest. Very loyal.” Yoongi’s eyes darken as they focus on Jimin’s face, and belatedly, Jimin realizes their elbows are touching. “Protective.”

Hello, elbows. Jimin’s mouth runs dry. Who knew knobbly joints could emit tingles to each other? Jimin wills himself to snap out of it, and he shakes his head and leans back. “I see. Anyone would be lucky to have Madeleine, then. How did you find her, anyway?”

At this, Yoongi blinks, and a fond looks crosses his mocha eyes. “It’s a long story…”

 


 

There he is, the Hooman with the sad eyes. Walking home with the same sloping slouch to his shoulders, dragging his feet like he doesn’t want to. His head hangs low between his shoulders, and he has eyebags as dark as bruises. She knows not his name, only his face. 

The ginger cat trails after this Sad Boy, staying in the shadows.

This is research.

 


 

Research has been fruitful. She knows Sad Boy lives on the rooftop too, like she does. But unlike her, he doesn’t live under the shadow of a table. Everyday, he steps inside a house.

It must be nice to have a home.

 


 

Sad Boy is decidedly becoming Less Sad with each passing evening that he slips out the back of the rooftop and feeds her raw meat on the parapet ledge.

On his better moods, it’s chicken.

On days when the circles under his eyes droop a little heavier, it’s just... a can of cat food.

She likes chicken.

 


 

Sad Boy does not appear that evening. Nor for the rest of the week.

She is not curious, simply… hungry, yes that’s it.

She’s just hungry. Even though her jelly-bellies and inner gut churn at the lack of knowledge of her worthy hooman’s whereabouts.

Where is he?

 


 

Liquid is pouring from her hooman’s eyes. 

Sad Boy is sitting by the sidewalk, clutching his chest with quiet whimpers, and she thinks: he is losing water at an alarming rate.

This is not okay.

Slowly, because she’s been burnt by one overly excited homo sapien too many, she creeps out from under a parked truck and butts her head against his ankle with a soft purr.

With a gasp-hiccup, Sad Boy startles and stares at her, teardrops clinging to his eyelashes.

 


 

“It’s pretty funny, actually. One day this ginger cat just randomly appeared on my rooftop. I was feeding her for a few months before she approached me and started following me into my apartment every night,” shares Yoongi, feeling warm. “Then one thing led to another and... yeah. So I took her in. Guess you could say we’re family now.”

Beside him, Jimin hums, nodding. “Okay, but why that name?”

“Because her fur is the color of madeleines?” Yoongi says. “You know, the French cake?”

He watches as a slow smile zips through Jimin’s face, baffled but amused. “No way. Seriously? You named your cat after pastry?”

“It’s visual poetry,” Yoongi points out. “She found me at my lowest. It was really the best case of timing.”

He can still remember it, vivid as a projected image in his brain—those clouded, darker times when one day slipped into the next without his permission. Yoongi remembers waking up from nightmare to nightmare.

It happens to the best of us; when you least expect it. And for Yoongi, at a time when he thought he might just... let go, somebody walked into his life.

For some, it’s a person, or a book, or a song.

For him, it was Madeleine.

And now... maybe, just maybe, this boy with hair the color of starlight sitting beside him, too. When Yoongi first got himself into this marriage arrangement, he’d never once expected that Jimin might care about anything involving him, let alone his pet cat. But the guy didn’t even think twice to change out of his blue, cloud-dotted pyjamas to accompany Yoongi to the vet. 

“Thanks,” Yoongi finds himself blurting out, before he purses his lips.

Jimin looks at him, tilting his head. “What for?”

Yoongi shrugs and tries to play it off. “Just, eh. Thanks in general.”

Before Jimin could answer or question him further, the vet’s assistant pokes her head out and calls them in, and Yoongi feels relief pour out of his every pore. He sighs. Saved in the nick of time.

 


 

Stress.

That’s the number one reason that the vet cites.

“Her vitals are okay, her urine tract is functioning well, and her digestive system is in good shape,” Dr. Kang says in a silken, soothing voice. She can’t be older than 30, and she has the kind of sweet smile that could melt even the toughest of glaciers. Jimin may or may not have been bedazzled by the warmth in her eyes. No wonder Madeleine didn’t thrash when she took her from Yoongi’s arms to do their routine check-up.

Dr. Kang continues, “Being lethargic is a sign that she is under pressure, perhaps due to a recent change in environment.”

Beside Jimin, Yoongi squirms in his seat uncomfortably. “We, uh, just got married, and my husband and I have just started living together,” he says, gesturing to Jimin with a concerned expression. “Could that be a reason?”

“I would doubt so,” Dr. Kang hums, stroking Madeleine’s chin. Despite loathing strangers, the Scottish Fold seems docile towards her. “While of course it depends on every cat, one person wouldn’t be hard to adjust to, especially if she was already familiar with your husband from before. I’d say the stress could be triggered by noise, or perhaps affected by her owners’ emotions.”

“What do you mean?” Jimin asks, tugging at the collar of his pyjamas.

“If couples fight or show distress in front of their pets, the pets have a tendency to absorb those emotions for themselves. Cats are especially attuned to their humans’ feelings, so our sweet Madeleine here might be having a hard time if there has been any”—Dr. Kang glances nervously between the two of them—”possible tumult at home.”

Jimin and Yoongi exchange sheepish glances. It certainly has been turbulent lately, no thanks to their constant bouts of quarreling almost every day. Jimin can clearly see the regret writing itself all over Yoongi’s face, and he himself feels bad for unintentionally causing another innocent animal unwarranted stress. 

And so it happens, that Jimin makes a promise to himself that he will get along with Yoongi’s cat, no matter how many pieces of kibble or Ciao Churu it takes. He makes a mental note not to flare up in front of Yoongi, and in the car ride on the way back home they made a silent pact to try not to fight as much anymore. 

Thenceforth, Operation Tame The Beast begins (Jimin doesn’t tell Yoongi this). Luckily for him, Madeleine is a food-motivated type of feline, and he thinks this is where it gets easier for him to try and forge a closer bond with her. 

Or so he thinks.

“Here, kitty,” he croons one Wednesday evening while Yoongi is still out at work. Jimin crawls towards Madeleine on all fours, with a black cat mask securely tied in front of his face (he reckons she might feel more comfortable if Jimin parades around as a fellow cat for a while). “It’s me, I’m a friend. Your friendly neighborhood black stray.”

Madeleine, lying in a belly flop position on her cat bed, cracks one eye open at him. Jimin sees this as the chance to wield his main weapon—Ciao Churu. “I have a treat for you,” he murmurs, tearing open the liquid treat. He tells himself he’s playing the role of a natural wildlife photographer, playing his chances at getting close to a tigress at rest.

Madeleine’s pupils blow wide, and she twists and turns until she’s on all fours, too. Hey golden eyes follow the tube of Ciao Churu as Jimin holds out the treat for her. He crawling sideways, and she eyes his every move warily, as though ready to jerk away should Jimin prowl too near. Then the black cat mask gets slips down his chin, all skewed on his face, and Madeleine jumps away at the sight of Jimin’s face. 

Jimin stops crawling to adjust the mask, cursing under his breath. 

“What are you doing?” A new voice cuts through the air.

Jimin’s back stiffens, and his hands freeze in front of his cat mask. Shit. His head whips around, and there Yoongi stands by the front door, his hair wind-tousled, bag slung on one shoulder, camera strapped to the other. Home early from work. “H-hey, hyung. I thought you’d be here later.”

“You didn’t answer my question.” A chuckle rings out across the apartment as Yoongi drops his camera bag on the couch. Is that a smirk twitching at one side of his mouth? It must be. Jimin is about to die of mortification. “What’s up with the cat mask, Jimin?”

“None of your business.”

“Oh, really?” Jimin could almost hear the smug smile in Yoongi’s voice as he comes closer, squats down next to his and thrusts his camera’s screen at him. Yep, definitely smirking. “So what did I just record?”

He hits play. The video starts out jerky, as though Yoongi was hurrying to start recording, then steadies as the camera focuses on Jimin crawling at one corner of the house, meowing at Madeleine in an attempt at conversation, all while wearing a black cat mask covering his face.

Holy shit. He looks even more ridiculous than he thought. Jimin didn’t even think he was meowing, but here he is. With a horrified gasp, he makes a face and turns to Yoongi with pleading eyes. “Hyung, delete that! I look like an idiot.”

Yoongi’s gums peek through his grin, and he’s looking at Jimin with a helplessly amused expression as if he’s thinking, Help me, oh no, my husband is dumb. “No way. Might fuck around and get this trending on Naver.”

“Hyung!” Jimin cries, reaching out at swats his arm. Yoongi ignores him, smiling as he continues to watch at the video. “ Min-Park Yoongi .”

Yoongi’s eyes flit towards him, and he half-snickers, half-huffs, “Maybe if you say ‘please’, I might consider.”

“Never.”

“Meow for me, then.”

Now he knows where Madeleine got her snarky attitude from. Jimin scoffs and stands up, though he himself can’t quite fight back the smile working its way up his face. Stupid Yoongi. May a lizard poop on top of his head while he sleeps tonight. 

“You’re impossible. Whatever. Do what you want. But I’m warning you”—Jimin strolls towards the staircase, but then turns around and squints his eyes at Yoongi—”you’ve started war, hyung. You better sleep with one eye open tonight.”

In a way, Jimin thinks this kind of situation is exactly what Madeleine’s vet was warning them against. Declaring war in the household? Sounds like a nuclear bomb waiting to explode. But then again, in many ways, this time round it feels like a different kind of ‘battle’. Because this time, their faces are both mere seconds away from splitting apart from the force of their grins.

 


 

Back on her perch beneath her cat tree, Madeleine has learned to press her paw on the Ciao Churu tube which Jimin had all but dropped and forgotten on the carpet. With a calculated push, she feeds herself by squeezing the flavored liquid treat out.

Chicken purée. It’s tasty.

(Whatever these two hoomans are bickering about now, she could hardly care, because at this point she already knows how to tell the difference between their actual fighting, and covert bonding.)

 


 

When Yoongi wakes up, it’s to the smell of eggs and the sound of silverware, and when he plods downstairs he finds Jimin already setting the table.

“I’m only returning the favor,” says his husband. “Since I have a job interview this morning, i figured I might as well cook for you, too.”

“You’re leaving already?” Yoongi, trying to rub the grogginess out of his face.

“Mm-hmm.” There’s another one of Jimin’s scheming smiles present on his face—one that Yoongi should have started being suspicious of. When Jimin casts him a sidelong glance, he explodes into giggles.

“What? What’s so funny?” croaks Yoongi.

“Nothing.” Jimin shakes his head and averts his eyes away, but when he looks at Yoongi again his grin returns.

“I swear, something’s off.”

Jimin waggles his eyebrows and grabs his bag as he saunters out the door. “Or maybe something’s on.”

Yoongi eats in silence and watches him go, wondering what's up as he eats breakfast alone with Madeleine. It’s not until much later, when he steps into the bathroom and checks the mirror, that Yoongi finally gets it.

The little shit drew cat whiskers on his cheeks. There's even a cat snout—one huge blob of a dot of permanent marker ink, drawn on his nose.

“PARK JIMIN!”

Stuck to the mirror is a neon orange sticky note, on which Yoongi reads in Jimin’s lazy scrawl:

 

Payback time, Mr. Catsu!!! >:)

 

Fuming, Yoongi snatches the note off, and crumples it in his fist. He exchanges glances with Madeleine on the floor, who wears a severe expression on her little snout, as though she absolutely understands what utter treachery and betrayal Yoongi has just been served.

Yoongi looks at the front door where Jimin headed out and grunts. So his husband wants a prank showdown, huh?

Oh, it’s on.

 

Chapter Text

Love is patient, love is kind. Prank your husband every time. 

Okay, that may not have been part of their wedding vows, but in hindsight, Jimin should have known better. See, usually, he’s the one to wake up first—Yoongi may be the one with a job, but Jimin’s the morning bird. 

But today, Yoongi’s side of the room is empty.

Jimin thinks nothing of it at first. Maybe the guy has an early shoot or a gig to attend. So he gets up to do his normal routine: make the bed, go downstairs, wash his face, feed Madeleine, make breakfast in the kitchen. No-brainer.

It takes getting through half of those chores before Jimin’s brain becomes fully awake, and after Madeleine is licking into her bowl, he starts breakfast. To reach the kitchen, he must first pass through a long corridor.

To his surprise, today that corridor has been...decorated. More specifically, it’s been strung with row after row of polaroid pictures hanging from bright purple yarn, and at first Jimin thinks maybe this is some kind of unique side project by Yoongi—for all he knows, this could be a special, crucial stage in developing film photos. He steps closer to the right side of the hall, eyes narrowed curiously, and only when he gets a clearer look does Jimin’s jaw drop to the floor.

Pasted all over the hallways walls are polaroids of him sleeping through the night with his mouth open. There’s a closeup of his eyelids, his nostrils, his dopey smile as he dreams.

“What the heck...” Jimin trails off, flabbergasted, before he quickly snaps out of his daze and pinches his own cheek. It stings. So nope, not a dream. “Yoongi, you are so, so dead.”

With an angry growl, he snatches the pictures off and walks down the hall until he finds a note:

 

“Two can play at that game, don’t you think so, Sleeping Beauty?”

— your loving husband xx

 

p.s you snore when you sleep too

 

“Hah,” Jimin huffs, blood surging with irritated adrenaline. “You really think you can beat me at my own game, huh.”

Madeleine sashays into the corridor, her ginger tail swishing behind her as she eyes the polaroid banners on the wall. Jimin fixes her with a squinted glower.

Let Yoongi run with his evil schemes. Let him think he won. But Jimin is unafraid to strike back. 

This is now a full on bloodbath.

With a glint in his eye, he squats down and tells Madeleine, “Your dad has no idea what’s going to hit him, kitty. He should’ve picked an opponent his match.”

 


 

There are days when Yoongi stumbles home half-asleep, brain diffused; days when a photoshoot has been particularly taxing. They drain him of nearly all mobile dexterity, and more often than not he’s left roaming around like a mindless zombie.

Today was one of those days.

He’s barely coherent when the door unlocks and he removes his shoes, doesn’t even bother to grunt in reply when Jimin’s silky voice greets him. All his mind screams is:

Wash. Bed. Sleep.

And that’s what Yoongi does—he makes a beeline for the bathroom to take a nice hot shower. His eyelids are drooping by the time he steps out and grabs his toothbrush and toothpaste. Yoongi doesn’t bother looking at what he’s doing, lets his movements go according to muscle memory. He’s tired, he’s two seconds away from knocking out cold.

But his brain jolts back to life when his tongue burns as if there’s expired salt on it, and he realizes that there’s something... off... about his toothpaste. It’s not bubbling. Toothpaste usually bubbles, no? Moreover, it tastes like… like rotten liquid of some sort.

Yoongi spits and takes a good close look at the travel-sized tube:

 

 

 

“PARK JIMIN!”

From the other side of the bathroom door ricochets a muffled, high-pitched guffaw. “That’s Min-Park Jimin for you, good sir!”

(On the windowsill, as the night deepens and the bickering intensifies, Madeleine rolls to stretch on her belly, jaws wide in a yawn. 

This is none of her problem.

Alas, humans and their frivolous conundrums.)

 


 

Jimin: 2

Yoongi: 1

 

It becomes their thing, where not a day passes by without either of them pulling the rug out from the other’s feet. Jimin isn’t too bothered, because he knows for a fact that he’s on a winning streak at the moment.

It’s just that sometimes, Yoongi can be a sneaky pecan, too.

“Do you want a cup of tea?”

Jimin looks up from his laptop, to where Yoongi is halfway plodding towards the kitchen. His expression is nowhere near conniving, and Jimin deems this a harmless enough question... “Sure.”

Maybe this is finally the end of their little prank war, Jimin muses as Yoongi returns to the living room with two mugs in hand.

“Thank you,” Jimin says as Yoongi passes him the—

 

 

“Cup of T,” his fake husband snickers, hightailing it out of the room before Jimin has the chance to explode.

 


 

Jimin: 2

Yoongi: 2

 

And so it begins. This is how the next few weeks pass—a back-and-forth of wit and mischief; a push-and-pull game of outsmarting each other. Yoongi would be lying if he said he isn’t enjoying it in the least. Not that he’s keeping track, but he knows for a fact that they’re tied in scoring.

Tonight he has already mentally prepped himself for whatever course of “attack” Jimin might be planning for him (he’s thinking perhaps a nerf gun fight—Yoongi wouldn’t put it past Jimin to come up with it) but on the drive home he remembers he hasn’t eaten before his shift at he Blue Rose. Plugging in his earpiece, Yoongi dials Jimin, who answers at the third ring.

“Fancy you actually calling me, dear husband. ” His voice is a silvery sing-song even on the line. Yoongi forces himself not to smile.

“Hey, Jimin. Do me a small favor?”

“You know I don’t often do favors for free.”

“Fine, I’ll let you use the the bathtub for the whole week in exchange without charging you for the extra water bill.”

“Just kidding—what was it that you needed?”

Yoongi rolls his eyes, fingers tapping against the steering wheel.

“So uh, I haven’t eaten dinner,” he confesses sheepishly.

Jimin hums in worry. “Hyung, you shouldn’t skip meals.”

Yoongi shrugs even though Jimin can’t see him. “Anyway. I just remembered I bought pasta the other day, so could you help me put in on the stove to get it ready?”

“Roger that, consider it done.”

“Thanks, blob.”

“Shut up , that’s the stupidest nickname in all of namehood,” Jimin hisses, before the line goes dead.

Not long after, Yoongi swings the front door open, stomach grumbling and ready for dinner. After greeting Jimin, he struts towards the kitchen in excitement, only to find—

 

 

Jimin pokes his head through the doorway with a wicked grin. “I put in on the stove for you.”

“I can see that.” Turning around, Yoongi flashes him his most unimpressed stare. “Gee, thanks a lot for assisting the starving man.”

“You’re most welcome.”

Yoongi’s frown deepens into a pout as he dips his chin downwards, shoulders sagging. “I was really hungry,” he finds himself saying in a small voice.

Giggling at the expression his face, Jimin surprises him by entering the kitchen. “C’mon, now. Don’t pull that face on me. Here, let me do it.”

Yoongi doesn’t budge, and something in Jimin’s eyes soften as he taps an index finger against the underside of Yoongi’s chin. “Hey.”

It’s hard not to sulk. Yoongi bristles and turns his face away, still pouting, and Jimin lets out a longsuffering sigh. The next thing Yoongi hears is a soft, “Look at me, hyung.”

When Yoongi refuses to listen, Jimin says, “Oh, yeah. Did you hear about that Italian chef that died?”

Huh. Yoongi blinks and turns to his husband. “What?”

“Based on what I heard, I think he...” Jimin leans close to his ear to whisper like he’s sharing a conspiracy theory, “— pasta way .”

It takes all of Yoongi’s might not to start chuckling, so he wrinkles his nose hard instead to mimic an exaggerated cringe. “Hah. That was a such bad one.”

Jimin grins at him and pat-pat-pats his cheek. “Nuh-uh! You smiled. You were gonna laugh.”

Yoongi swats his hands away like it’s a housefly. “Was not.”

“Was, too.”

“Was not.”

“Was, too.”

“You’re annoying.”

Jimin only shakes his head, smiling, and shoos him out of the kitchen by bumping his hip against Yoongi’s. “Go shower and change or something. I’ll take care of this.”

Shuffling out of the kitchen, Yoongi doesn’t argue. Not tonight.

Because it’s one of their better nights.

 


 

The last prank isn’t even planned. It just happens because the both of them have a knack for teasing and headassery whenever they breathe in the same room.

“Don’t you ever miss sex, hyung?”

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, with the air so warm and humid it drives Jimin nuts.

It’s the kind of stuffy weather that invites stripping, not for the sake of seduction, but to cool down, but because Jimin has little control over his smart mouth, he blurts out the first thought that entered his brain with regards to ‘stripping’.

“Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?” Yoongi’s sitting by the open window, the ceiling fan and the standing fan both on full blast and trained on him, and Jimin quietly curses the guy for hogging all ventilation in the house.

“Nah. Just kidding,” Jimin mutters, before switching topics breezily.

He thinks that’s it, that’s the end of the conversation, but later on, right before dinner he gets proven wrong when he finds a note from Yoongi (who went down to buy groceries) waiting for Jimin on his desk.

 

 

Jimin’s breath catches in his throat, and he blinks once, twice before daring to touch the coupon.

No way. This is too sudden. He didn’t think Yoongi would actually follow through and break his own pact! He feels like he might faint from the whiplash. 

Unfolding the paper, he reads with buzzing nerves:

 

 

“Min-Park Yoongi,” Jimin swears under his breath, feeling sorry for his sad balls. Out of nowhere, he hears Madeleine meowing, and finds her staring at him from her perch atop her cat tree.

“Your dad is a troll,” Jimin tells her point-blank, crumpling the note in his hand. She blinks at him, slow and unbothered. She’s lucky, Jimin mopes inwardly, that she isn’t married to a tease.

(Not that he wants anything from Yoongi. Not at all. He’s just very, very touch-starved.) 

In spite of it all, Jimin doesn’t throw away the note, choosing to slip it in between the pages of a notebook instead. He’s not a very sentimental guy, at least not as much as Yoongi is, but he’d like to remember this stupid little thing.

For keepsakes after all of this is over.

 


 

“WHAT ARE THOOOOSE ?” Yoongi cries as he eyes the abomination that his fake husband is wearing on his feet.

Jimin is sitting on the couch dressed in pyjamas the color of Swedish nightingales. This author does not know what a Swedish nightingale’s feathers look like, and thus Jimin is wearing pyjamas in the color according to the reader’s imagination.

But also—yellow chick slippers.

With an impish grin, Jimin lifts both legs to brandish the eggyolk- y slippers in the air. “Cute, aren’t they?”

“You’ve got ducks on your feet.”

Baby chicks,” Jimin corrects with nock affront as Yoongi closes the front door behind him and drops his camera bag on the sofa. “And I’ll have you know that you have your own pair.”

Yoongi balks at his words. “You brought us matching slippers? What are we, a couple?”

Jimin gives him a flat look as if to say, Duh. “I just figured—we need to up the ante a little bit to look more convincing!”

“No.” Yoongi shakes his head, heading to the dining table to eat the takeout Chinese that he brought home. “No way in hell am I going to get caught wearing couple slippers.”

“You haven’t even seen them yet, look”—Jimin sidles up to him with black cat slippers in hand—“ta-da!”

 

 

 

It’s ridiculously cute. “It’s a cat,” says Yoongi, very intelligently. What are words?

“I tried to find a pair in Madeleine’s ginger shade but only found this,” Jimin says, cheeks glowing crimson. “And nobody’s gonna see you wear them, they’re indoor slippers.”

“They’re lame.”

A look of hurt washes over Jimin’s eyes, and his lower lip juts out. “They’re just slippers, come on.”

Yoongi’s chest tightens, and his blood rushes with a nervous uptick. He hesitates—part of him wants to say yes, wants to accede and indulge, but another part holds him back. He should be setting some boundaries, stepping back for space. Jimin is treating him like they’re actually together, and for what?

Getting any closer by pretending to be a couple even without anyone’s eyes on them... is just pushing it too far.

Swallowing thickly, Yoongi ignores the protest swelling in his heart, and gently coaxes the slippers out of Jimin’s hands. “One cat is more than enough in this household, Jimin.”

His words land where they’re supposed to. Jimin lets his arms drop by his side, and he hangs his head. 

“Sorry,” he mumbles, and spins on his heel. “I just. Didn’t want your bare feet going cold on the floor.”

Yoongi’s stomach churns, but he make no move to backtrack.

They don’t talk for the rest of the night.

 


 

Not Talking To Each Other is a dark cloud; a grey cumulonimbus that lasts an entire week.

Not that Jimin is counting, or anything. It’s just that something about this distance makes him feel hollowed out from the inside out. The terse silence between them is foreign. The lack of conversation and the absence of bickering sucks out all the energy in the house.

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Taehyung says over breakfast one morning (Jimin had left the flat earlier, having decided that having breakfast with a friend was better than eating awkwardly with a stranger-slash-husband.)

“Why?” Jimin jabs a fork at a cherry tomato, feeling lousy and sullen for no good reason.

“You’re establishing distance and setting healthy boundaries with your housemate,” Taehyung deduces. “Yoongi-hyung’s an easy person to do business with. You’ve got it all worked out for you.”

Jimin hums, eyes averted, and parrots, “Business. You’re right.”

Maybe he’s gotten too comfortable these days. Maybe he should take the advice thrown at him and distance himself before he gets unnecessarily attached to anyone or anything. After all, it’s been too calm and happy lately. Sharing the roof with with Yoongi has started making Jimin feel like he’s living in a castle on a cloud, one that’s too good to be true.

And so, it is with newfound resolve that Jimin marches back home later that evening—

—only to see it crumble to ashes and dust the moment he steps through he front door.

The first things his eyes tunnel-vision onto as he enters the dining room are the two mugs sitting on the table: a yellow one with a chibi cartoon of a baby chick and a black one with a cat. Picking up the yellow mug, Jimin traces his fingers along its handle, marvelling at how eerily similar the design look to the slippers he bought last week.

 

 

“They were on sale,” Yoongi’s low rasp pierces Jimin’s awed silence as he comes in from the living room. “Saw it. Got it.”

“I thought you said—“

“I know what I said,” Yoongi interjects, shy and shy and shy, as he walks closer and leans against the dining table a few inches away from where Jimin is standing. “And I thought about it again and realized—eh, wouldn’t hurt to try looking more convincing.”

Jimin huffs out the quietest of giggles, sets the mug down on the table and reaches over to brush away a stray lock of hair falling over Yoongi’s eyes. This man is building him a castle on a cloud indeed, and he doesn’t even realize it. Yoongi jumps at his touch, startled, but doesn’t flinch away from his touch.

“Does this mean you’re okay with the slippers, too?” Jimin asks hoarsely, not daring to hope.

Yoongi lifts his left shoulder up in one of his trademark one-shouldered shrugs. “Only indoors, please.”

A smile pulls up at Jimin’s lips, taking hope with it. “Sounds fair enough to me.”

 


 

As more days pass and they slowly adjust to a life of cohabitation, Yoongi notes that the constant serious fighting and pranking has ceased, too. That doesn’t make it any less boring for them, though, because he and Jimin still find plenty of things to squabble over.

Case in point, Yoongi’s phone is vibrating with a constant barrage of texts, and it takes great effort not to let it distract him from playing the set list allocated to him by the Blue Rose.

Afterwards, when he does check his phone, the texts read:

 

mochims:
just 1 question
are u or are u not using my shampoo

 

mochims: 
cos i swear i just bought it two weeks ago and now IT RAN OUT already

 

mochims:
min-park yoongi


mochims:
dont u dare tell me this was madeleine’s doing,,,

 

agustddaeng:
...and what about it.

 

mochims:
:O
GUILTY AS CHARGED!!
shampoo thief!

 

mochims:
its ok im generous u can have it.

 

agustddaeng:
ur the best. ily—

 

Yoongi gasps and cringes big time at the realization that his fingers have started typing the L-word, even though it’s in short form. Disgusting. This is blasphemy, he tells himself. Untruth! Panic rising in his throat, he presses the backspace button in rapid succession to erase the message, and types a whole new one. His heart thuds even as he sends the corrected text.

 

agustddaeng:
thanks, oh gracious benefactor. ㅋㅋㅋ

 

mochims:
don’t mind the little... changes i made to the bottle tho

 

agustddaeng:
what

 

 

mochims:


mochims:
:))))

 

agustddaeng: 
petty. i approve.

 

mochims:
quit flirting with me UGH



agustddaeng:
i dont flirt with tiny blobs.

 

mochims:
sSTOP

 

agustddaeng:
blob blob little blob

 

“What are you smiling at?” Seokjin’s voice yanks Yoongi out of his daze as he walks into the locker room.

“Huh?” Yoongi shakes his head and looks up from his phone.

“You look like you just won the lottery,” Seokjin says, flashing him a weird look. “Oh, wait. Now that you’re married, you might as well have, right? Good for you.”

The smile dips from Yoongi’s face, and he presses his lips together in a thin line. Seokjin doesn’t know about the deal, so him saying this is probably completely metaphorical. It hits too close to the truth, though.

“Y-yeah. Jimin is every lottery winner’s dream come true,” Yoongi says tightly, and as the words leave his mouth, Yoongi wonders just how much of it still rings true for him now. What does Jimin mean to him now? Weeks ago he wouldn’t hesitate to say “money”, but now...

“He’s your happiness, I get it.” Seokjin combs his hair in front of his locker mirror. “You’re lucky you found each other.”

Yoongi pockets his phone and unbuttons his vest. “That’s some cheesy romantic shit you’ve got there. We’re not like that.”

“Don’t try to hide it from me.” Seokjin rebukes with a shrug, busying himself with the mirror. “I see the way your face changes whenever he calls, Yoongi. It’s like—“

“Like what?”

“Like you know something that special only comes once in a lifetime.” Satisfied with his gel-slicked hairstyle, Seokjin smiles at his reflection and turns to Yoongi. “And that kind of love, I can only hope you take good care of it, man. Nurture it. Cherish it.”

Yoongi bites on his inner cheek, his throat tight all of a sudden. None of that is true, but Seokjin says it with so much conviction and sincerity he might fool even Yoongi into believing it, too. “I could say the same for you.”

“You don’t need to worry about me. Joon’s lovely.”

What would it have been like, Yoongi wonders, if he’d met and dated Jimin the way Seokjin and Namjoon are taking their relationship?

How different would things be?

Would they even have a chance?

With a sharp inhale, Yoongi shakes his head. He shouldn’t be thinking this.

“Don’t mind if I ask,” Seokjin’s voice cuts through his thoughts, “but how is married life? I’m still surprised you of all people tied the knot first.”

It’s not exactly a guarded secret that Yoongi’s been averse to matrimony for pretty much his whole life, having learned from his mother’s own disastrous, arranged one. The one that made her run away from her family and start a new independent life in Seoul. To him, marriage had always struck as a kind of a prison sentence. He swore he’d never put himself through the same emotional wringer as her.

And he hadn’t, for the longest time. He refused to get married.

Even when his his long-lost flame wished to.

“It’s...” Yoongi’s brows knit together. How does he explain what having a fake partner is like? “It’s like running a full-speed train without tracks. I’m just grasping around, really.”

“It’s hard,” Seokjin concurs, nodding along. “But it’ll be worth it. I’m proud of you, Yoongi-yah. You’re building a new life with someone you love. It won’t be simple, but it will be worth it, and I hope the more you get used to it, it’ll only gets easier.”

 


 

As things go, Yoongi is pretty darn certain Seokjin may have been lying. 

Because it sure as hell doesn’t get easier. He’s living testament of that, because here he is, standing guilty in front of a red-faced Jimin on a Sunday afternoon, as his fake husband fumes in front of him with his arms crossed.

“Would any of you care to explain,” Jimin seethes, glaring between Yoongi, Madeleine and the now-defunct Roomba machine on one corner of the floor. No matter how many times he presses the power button, the robot vacuum just won’t turn on anymore. “How the hell this happened?”

“It was an accident,” Yoongi says in a rush. “I didn’t mean for it to happen.”

“I bet that’s what your mama said when she got pregnant with you, too!”

Yoongi scowls at Jimin, but whereas he would otherwise be irritated if it were anyone else, he’s surprised to realize that he almost wants to chortle at Jimin’s tantrum. (Which is a dangerous thing, he reminds himself. Laughing in front of an angry Jimin is the number one way to incur his wrath. In other words: a death invitation.)

The crime scene started out like this:

Jimin, claiming to have errands to attend to, had left the house earlier that morning and turned the Roomba on so that there would at least be some form cleaning done even while he was out. Yoongi gladly stood out of the robot vacuum’s way, minding his own business and watching movies on Netflix, while Madeleine entertained herself by hopping on top of the Roomba and riding it as it went about cleaning every nook and cranny of the apartment. All was well, and peace reigned in the house.

Until.

Yoongi bolted out of his slouch on the couch the moment he heard Madeleine’s high-pitch yowl. Scuttling into the kitchen, he realized that the Roomba had accidentally sucked in Madeleine’s long, furry tail, and now his pet cat was struggling to kick it off, thrashing wildly like a moth on fire. Approaching the robot vacuum cleaner to shut it off meant risking getting his arms scratched nasty, so Yoongi couldn’t come any closer.

Heart in his mouth, Yoongi acted out of panic. He opened the fridge, grabbed the nearest pitcher, and… poured ice-cold water on the Roomba. Immediately, the robot vacuum’s whirring ceased, sputtering out like a fuse, and it stopped moving. Madeleine scrambled away scot-free, meowing and crying, and Yoongi had rushed over to soothe his baby right away.

It was only when he turned around and started seeing smoke coming out of the robot vacuum that razor-sharp terror gripped Yoongi by the lungs. 

Shit. Jimin would raise heaven and hell once he found out.

Which… he now is.

“You broke my Roomba,” Jimin said, eyes flashing like lightning in the late-afternoon sunlight. He looks like he might explode any moment now, something frenetic in the twitch in his jaw. “You killed Yoonderella.”

Sighing, Yoongi avoids eye contact with Jimin as he says morosely, “I’m sorry, Jiminie. It was threatening Madeleine’s life.”

“She’s friends with the vacuum, hyung! How could it hurt her? Jimin retorts, brows knitted together. “Where was she hurt? Show me.”

“Her tail.”

“Her tail?” Jimin directs his gaze to roam over Madeleine’s form, one eyebrow arched. “Are you sure? I see no sign of injury.”

Yoongi grimaces and glances at Madeleine in search of proof, but she’s unbothered, lazing on the windowsill and licking her paw. Lucky for her, her tail didn’t get wounded at all in that power struggle with the Roomba, and she managed to escape unscathed. Which is great and all, except it makes Yoongi look like a huge liar. Great, now he thinks I’m making stories up.

Yoongi has never felt so betrayed by his cat in his life.

“I swear, your vacuum was attacking her tail,” he defends himself once more, but his whine fades when he sees Jimin’s teary eyes. He freezes. The anger and fury in his husband has diminished to a dull throb now, making way for something almost like grief to shine through.

“It’s okay,” Jimin says, sniffling as he bends down and gathers the circular robot vacuum in his arms. What is this ache tugging at Yoongi’s heart at the sight of those glistening eyes? “Never mind, hyung. I’ll just hold a small funeral and dispose of it tonight.”

“I’ll get you a new one,” Yoongi musters weakly, but Jimin is already out of earshot, shoulders drooping and mouth set in an ever-pout, clutching his precious robot vacuum.

That explains the makeshift funeral shrine now set up at the far corner of the living room. A Roomba shrine. Yoongi can only stand back and watch apprehensively as, on top of a small table drawer, Jimin lights a few scented candles and gingerly places a photo frame of his recently deceased black Roomba in the middle.

“In honor and remembrance of Yoonderella, June 2019 - July 2019. Loyal cleaning companion, and friend to felines. May she rest in peace,” Jimin mumbles, heartbroken. He bows low to the photo of ‘Yoonderella’, then gestures for Yoongi to pay his respects as well with a pointed glower.

Sighing in defeat, Yoongi gets down on his knees, too, and bows to the Roomba. “May she rest in peace,” he echoes, fighting hard not to roll his eyes. 

That night, Jimin refuses to talk to him and gives him the sulking, cold shoulder all the way until lights out. Meanwhile, Yoongi stays awake until way into the wee hours of the morning, shopping online for the same exact Roomba brand as a replacement. Seokjin may have been right about one thing, Yoongi thinks. Marriage sure is tough work.

But hey, he can’t say it’s not worth it.

 


 

“Jimin-ah.”

Silence. It’s been a few days since the Roomba massacre, and Jimin would be lying if he said he has completely brushed off the fiasco. It’s not that he’s mad at Yoongi, not anymore at least. He’s just a little embarrassed to have reacted so extravagantly and made a huge fuss over a machine, one that could have potentially endangered Madeleine, and now he’s embarrassed to start talking to his fake husband without losing face.

“Hey, I know you’re still mad. Just wanted to let you know I’m stepping out to buy Madeleine’s gift.”

Jimin’s eyes snap away from where he’s writing his latest cover letter to a theater company in downtown Seoul. “Gift? What for?”

Slinging his messenger bag over his shoulder, Yoongi’s eyes go wide at having elicited a response from Jimin. He blinks, and two splotches of pink bloom over his cheeks. “It’s uh, it’s her birthday today. I’m picking up a few items from the pet store for her.”

Jimin’s mouth parts in surprise. Today? Here he is, mourning the death of a non-living thing, while Yoongi is already celebrating the upcoming birthday of his very-much-alive pet Scottish Fold. Damn it. He feels guilty for having unknowingly turned a blind eye to the people of this household. “O-oh. You never told me. How old is she now?”

Yoongi licks over his lower lip nervously. “She’s turning two. Hey, you’re not still mad at me, are you?”

Jimin cringes inwardly. He may be petty, but he’s not that cruel. “It’s fine, let’s not bring it up again. Let bygones be bygones.” He clears his throat and gathers the courage ot suggest, “Why don’t we throw a mini birthday party for Madeleine?”

Yoongi’s eyebrows shoot upwards. “Party? You know she hates strangers.”

“We don’t have to invite anybody,” Jimin reasons, ideas already coming to life in his head. He gestures between them. “It could just be the three of us.”

Yoongi looks dubious, head cocked to one side. “You don’t have to—”

“Tell you what, I’ll get the party stuff ready,” Jimin suggests as a way to make up for the cold shoulder he’s been giving Yoongi over the last few days. He’s never been one to shy away from helping out with party plans. And besides, it’s not like this is a big blowout. Just a party hat, a cake, some birthday candles.  “You go get your gifts, and I’ll prepare the house.” 

That seems to convince Yoongi, because then his features slacken from his worried face scrunch, and he nods. “Sure, I guess. I’ll be back later.”

With that, he turns on his heel, and the front door clicks shut, leaving Jimin to his own devices. A small smile curves up his mouth, and he rubs his hands like a sorcerer handed a new wand.

Time to make some magic.

 


 

The moment the front door opens, Yoongi smells vanilla wafting in the air. Did Jimin bake a cake? Sniffing the aroma, he takes off his boots, slips his feet into those awful black cat slippers from Jimin, and lugs in the huge box containing the new hammock he purchased for Madeleine. “Jimin? Hey, Imight need some help unboxing these—”

He halts when he enters the living room.

White and gold party streamers hang across the wall, and multi-colored bowls of kitty treats are on his usually vacant coffee table. Pink cat-eared balloons bob up against the ceiling like bubbles. Madeleine’s cat tree has been strung with balls of yellow and orange yarn, and the words, “Happy Birthday, Madeleine!” are tacked against the right side of the wall in outlandishly bold block letters, like some sort of college frat font. It looks like every kid’s dream cat-themed birthday party. 

Yoongi jumps at the sound of a party horn tooting from his left.

“Ta-da!” Jimin says, beaming proudly. He’s dressed in loose baby blue trousers and a baggy white T-shirt that says, “Nobody will love you like your cat”, and there’s a pair of black cat ears nestled in his blonde hair. “How is it? Not too bad, right?” 

Yoongi can only gape at him, at his newly decorated house, and at Madeleine, who is sitting on the sofa wearing a tiny, glittering purple party hat on her head. The first thing Yoongi bothers to ask is, “You managed to get her to wear it?”

Jimin blinks, and nods. “It was a bit of a tussle, but she finally wore it without scratching me. I know, I’m amazed, too. I have a feeling she likes being the birthday girl. Look, I bought cupcakes. Got both chocolate and vanilla because I wasn’t sure what you’d like.”

He gestures to the dining table, where a box of a dozen cat-shaped cupcakes lie with the lid open. Yoongi bites back an amazed whoosh of breath as he makes a slow, 360- turn around his apartment. “You did all of this?”

Jimin rubs the back of his neck. “Is… is it overkill?”

“No, I mean…” Yoongi finds himself at a loss for words. Nobody’s ever bothered to make an effort like this for him (well, his cat) before. He feels like a newly awoken deer peering into the bright gleam of breaking dawn way too early. Unprepared, caught off-guard. How does one react? “It’s not bad, yeah.”

“Considering that you’re usually a lot meaner than that, I’ll take it as a compliment.” Jimin preens under Yoongi’s non-praise.

“Hey, I’m nice.”

Jimin rolls his eyes, but the small smile doesn’t slip off his face. He points at the box Yoongi is carrying. “What’s that?”

“Cat hammock. Might set it up later.”

“Okay. I can help you with that.” Jimin nods thoughtfully. “Wanna eat first? I got tuna cake for Madeleine, and I don’t wanna keep her waiting.”

“Wait, um…” Yoongi scratches the back of his ear. How does one go about doing this? He reaches into the other paperbag that he’s holding, feeling his ears burn warmer than usual. Taking out a box, he passes it to Jimin. “For you.”

“Huh?” Jimin glances down, and his eyes widen at the logo on the box. “Holy shit. Yoongi.” Jaw falling open, his gaze flickers from Yoongi to the box and back to him again, as if he can’t quite grasp the wonderful reality of this situation. “Hyung. No way. A new Roomba?”

“It was on sale,” comes Yoongi’s perfunctory reason. The perfect lie. “I know it’s not the same as the one I broke, but… ah, you know. At least we have another one. And it’s a newer model.”

“You honestly didn’t have to,” Jimin says, voice soft as he cradles the box in his arms. “Besides, isn’t it Madeleine’s birthday? You shouldn’t be giving me gifts.”

Yoongi makes a face, ignoring the way his neck heats up at the sight of Jimin’s soft smile. He hasn’t seen that smile in days. “Tsk. Just shut up and take it, okay? If you don’t want it, I can return it—”

“No, no, it’s miiiine,” Jimin blusters, hugging the unopened Roomba box close to his chest. Looking straight into Yoongi’s eyes, with his round cheeks blushing, he says in a sweet whisper, “Thank you, hyung. I appreciate it.”

Yoongi averts his gaze with a shrug, and walks over to lift Madeleine off the couch to nuzzle his nose against her head. “S’nothing.”

Still, Jimin doesn’t make a move, remaining standstill while leaning against the dinner table, and when Yoongi looks up, he finds his fake husband with a dumb, glazed over look on his face. “What?”

Jimin blinks. “Nothing. Lemme fetch the cake.”

He bounces off into the kitchen and shuffles out carrying a small, cat-friendly cake with a lit number 2 wax candle pierced on top of it. As he gently places the birthday tuna cake on the table, Jimin sings the happy birthday song, and Yoongi walks over to blow out the candle with Madeleine in his arms, before setting her on the table. The candlelight flickers out. With wide eyes, Madeleine approaches her cake and sniffs at it.

“Happy birthday, Min Madeleine!” Jimin chirps, clapping his hands in glee and blowing on the party horn while Madeleine digs into her cake.

“Wrong,” Yoongi mutters, and when Jimin frowns at him, he corrects, “It’s Min-Park Madeleine, isn’t it?”

Jimin’s grin morphs into an unreadable look, like he’s not sure if Yoongi’s fucking with him or actually meaning what he’s saying. A heartbeat passes. The clock on the wall ticks by. Madeleine’s swishing tail smacks against their chests. When Yoongi doesn’t take back his words, Jimin settles for a bewildered smile. “Well, you could put it that way, I guess. I don’t mind.”

Yoongi nods and grabs a cupcake off its box. Chocolate. “Good. Min-Park Madeleine it is, then.”

 


  

While cleaning up their party mess later that night, Yoongi realizes he has has started noticing more of Jimin’s preferences.

It’s a rite of passage, he tells himself, when it comes to living with another person. Of course you’ll notice what they like or don’t like. It’s only inevitable. Very natural.

And Park Jimin ( Min-Park Jimin, a nagging voice at the back of his mind automatically corrects), seems to have a hardcore fascination for any and all things patterned in the shape of clouds.

It’s in everything he uses, everything he wears.

Jimin’s favorite baggy shirt has a giant cloud on it. His laptop is peppered with glossy cloud stickers. Heck, his phone case is the color of a cloud-riddled spring sky. And tonight, after they’ve cleaned the place, he observes silently whilst Jimin scrolls through his laptop, lying belly-flop on the carpeted floor. Yoongi eyes the huge cloud white printed over—of all places—his rear end. A cloud-shaped butt.

And that’s how Yoongi unwittingly starts calling him—

“Cloud baby.”

It suits Jimin, he thinks.

Jimin, whose laugh sounds like it belongs to somewhere higher than the ground. Jimin, whose loud mouth belies his dandelion heart. Jimin, whose caramel eyes melts hearts faster than clouds do on rainy days.

“Psst. Cloud baby. Oi.”

Jimin’s gaze flickers up from his laptop screen to Yoongi. “Are you... calling me?”

Yoongi smirks at him from behind the book he’s reading as he lounges on his favorite armchair, Madeleine on his lap. “It’s you.”

“Me?” Jimin tilts his head.

“If you’re responding, that means an inherent part of you acknowledges that you are, in fact, a certified cloudbaby.”

Jimin gives him a strange look, nose scrunching up under the thick-rimmed glasses he only ever wears at home, before his attention returns to his laptop screen. “You’re being weird again, honeyboy.”

“Cloud baby,” Yoongi teases, oddly satisfied with himself.

“Weirdo.”

Yoongi grins to himself.

(At least Jimin never told him not to use it.)

 


 

Perhaps Seokjin was right. It does get easier.

With each new morning that he wakes up to find Jimin bustling around the kitchen or sitting on the couch browsing through channels, Yoongi feels his own psyche slipping into a daydream. One that he secretly wishes could be true.

It gets easier waking up in the middle of the night to Jimin’s high-pitched shrieks because YOONGI GO KILL THAT COCKROACH OH FUCK IT’S FLYING—

It gets easier trading comments over which shoes match which pants; gets easier coming home to find another presence in the house.

The first time they try to bathe Madeleine together, she kicks up a literal splashing fuss that ends up with Jimin soaked on the bathroom floor from head to toe instead of her , and as Yoongi stands there laughing out loud and holding his cat, he wonders if this is something he can look back on fondly.

(He wonders, maybe, if he still wants this to end.)

Chapter Text


 

In news and current affairs: Jimin has developed a bit of a... habit.

Or perhaps not a habit, at least not a conscious one, and it’s not like Yoongi is deliberately making things up in his mind, but the fact of the matter remains that Jimin has been swinging by the Blue Rose a lot more frequently. Yoongi would either be halfway through a setlist when he’d spy a familiar shock of sunburst golden hair bobbing through the crowd in the bar, or he’d take a quick break at the locker room, only to return to the bar’s floor and find Jimin already there, chatting up whoever the bartender on duty for the night is.

The reason for his visits always vary. Last Saturday he popped into the jazz bar because he was supposedly “going to eat late supper with Taehyung after his shift’, and the night after that, he appeared at the bar yet again to “give Taehyung moral support”. 

It doesn’t escape Yoongi’s attention that this happens exclusively during his own shifts in the weekends, despite the fact that Taehyung works other days, too. 

Not that he’s overthinking anything. For all he knows, weekends are reserved for Taehyung-and-Jimin bonding time. It’s none of Yoongi’s business. It’s not like Jimin actually talks to him whenever he’s at the Blue Rose, anyway. His husband just seems to have this tendency to just… linger and lurk nearby. 

So Yoongi’s not too surprised when Jimin, dressed in dark jeans and a loose, silk shirt that looks like a sky full of stars under the jazz bar’s ambient lamplights, walks in through the curtained underground entrance again tonight.

Except—

“Oh? Jimin-ah!” Seokjin greets just as Yoongi is stepping off the stairs of the low wooden stage where he usually sits to play the piano. “You’ve been showing up here a lot these days. Been into jazz lately, huh?”

“Heyyy.” Jimin nods at the manager, and it could’ve been Yoongi’s imagination, but he could’ve sworn he caught Jimin’s eyes sweeping over to where he’s standing for the briefest of moments before he beams and answers, “Mmm… something like that.”

“Taehyung’s off today, though.” Seokjin hums. “Oh, but Yoongi’s here. He just finished, and we’re closing soon. I guess you’re here to see him?”

Yoongi spies Jimin throwing yet another surreptitious glance at him again before rushing to reply, nearly stumbling over his words, “Here? For my husband? No! I’m just. I’m here to look at the Blue Rose... architecture.”

Seokjin furrows his brows. “Architecture?”

“Yep. I LOVE your eye for design.” Spotting the nearest pillar, Jimin runs a hand through its surface and exclaims, “My, my! What fine, delicate carving you’ve had done here! Wow, Jin-hyung, you’ve made art out of this bar!”

Yoongi stifles a snort. Jimin has been to his jazz bar way too often to consider its rustic detailing and the pseudo-1920s, art deco-slash-baroque interior to be anything new to his eyes anymore. Surely Seokjin won’t buy that lie. 

He overestimated his colleague too much.

“Aww shucks,” croons the manager as Jimin eases himself into one of the corner booths with his back facing Yoongi. “You’re too sweet.”

Having just finished the last song of his set, Yoongi steps down the wooden stage and walks up behind Jimin, who’s standing by his designated booth seat. Not bothering to tap his shoulder, Yoongi leans and whispers into Jimin’s ear when he reaches the booth, “Hey.”

With a surprised jump, Jimin gasps and turns around, eyes almost comically wide. “Oh? Yoongi? Heeey! Didn’t expect to see you here tonight, what a coincidence haha!” Grinning, he shoots finger guns at Yoongi.

“I literally work here.” Yoongi lifts a bemused eyebrow as he slides into the booth seat opposite Jimin.

“Right, yes. How could I have forgotten?”

From where he’s standing, Seokjin chortles and edges away. “I’ll leave you guys now. Just holler when you want to order, Jimin-ah.”

Jimin sends the manager a mini salute. “Roger that.”

They watch Seokjin walk away, neither addressing the charged silence growing between them. Shrugging off his stiff vest, Yoongi asks in his most casual tone, “So, what’s up?” 

At 1am in the morning, it’s nearing closing time, and by now tipsy and tipsier patrons have begun stumbling out of the Blue Rose hand-in-hand with either their beaus or lovers for the night. It’s the status quo around here, a quiet frenzy that Yoongi is accustomed to witnessing.

People don’t usually go inside bars to admire architectural feats.

His husband studies him with a thoughtful look, lips quirking like he knows a secret Yoongi doesn’t, and parts his mouth to answer just as a female waitress pauses by their booth to ask if they wish to order drinks. Jimin opts for a lychee martini while Yoongi gets a virgin mojito.

She nods. “One Virgin Harlequinn and one Strap Me Down, coming right up.”

Yoongi buries his face in his hands, cheeks hot, and Jimin bursts into squeaking giggles. “Do I want to know how this place named its drinks?”

“It’s a long story. You should ask Taehyung,” groans Yoongi.

“You know, it’s strange, I could’ve sworn you’d be the type to go for hard liquor,” Jimin observes when the waitress walks off.

Yoongi wrinkles his nose. “Am driving tonight. Gotta stay sober. Anyway,” he repeats his query, “ what brings you here? Madeleine doing OK?” Surely Jimin wouldn’t take the time and money to come down to Yoongi’s workplace if nothing urgent was happening to his cat, right?

“Madeleine’s fine,” Jimin says, the features of his face flickering in the dancing flame of the table’s mini candle.

“Then, why—“

“What, a guy can’t visit his husband at work every now and then?”

Yoongi’s eyes widen, caught off-guard. “Wait. You’re actually here for me—“

“Just kidding!” Jimin cuts his guess off with a faux hearty laugh, eyes crinkling upwards in a forced grin. “Actually, yeah. I noticed Madeleine wasn’t um, eating well tonight. So I came down here to... tell you. Yup.”

Alarmed, Yoongi grabs his vest and stands to leave. “Then we have to go home—“

“Wait!” Jimin holds out a hand to bar him. Yoongi pauses.

“But—“

“What I mean to say is, s-she’s fine! Just that she didn’t finish her dinner tonight,” Jimin says by way of a rushed explanation, sounding more and more choked up as he goes.

Oh. Ohhh. That makes sense, then. With a sigh of relief, Yoongi sinks back down on the black leather booth seat. “She does that sometimes. Especially when it’s not chicken, my picky girl.”

Humming thoughtfully, Jimin says, “It wasn’t chicken tonight.”

“That explains it. Chicken is the key to her heart.” Yoongi himself had discovered that long ago. “I wouldn’t worry too much.”

“Okay… so, stay then,” Jimin cajoles him. “Stay put for now, hmm? And anyway, we ordered drinks already!” He cocks his head in the direction of the bar, from which clanging noise of the stainless cocktail shaker echoes.

Yoongi nods, and leans against the seat, feeling more relaxed now. As long as the baby isn’t hurt. “But let’s go home once we finish them, okay?”

Jimin studies him intently. “Okay.”

Somewhere in the bar, Seokjin's put on a low, ambient saxophone medley—Autumn Leaves by Chet Baker. Yoongi's done with tonight's set list, and now that the main crowd's gone, there's less chatter, more rich notes painting the air like amber honey. Yoong’s blood thrums in response to the music, tapping his feet under the table and lightly drumming his fingers against the mahogany, and perhaps he’s more than a little unnerved, because it's gradually sinking in right now that he and Jimin have never really been...alone like this before.

Never have they gone out for a night, like regular friends would.

Across him, Jimin bops his head to the rhythm, watching the bartender shake the mixer. His hands lie on the table, unmoving. Yoongi's eyes betray him by staring at each small, dainty finger. How can the fingers of a man look so... tiny?

"Everything about you is short," he blurts without thinking.

Jimin blanches at him. WIth a comment like that, Yoongi's expecting him to bite back and redirect the insult at him, maybe point out how they're both the exact same height, but tonight there's something almost feral glinting in Jimin's eyes when he smirks and quips—

"Well. Not everything."

Yoongi's chokes on air, heart lurching like he's been thrown off a bell tower, and closes his eyes for fear of going dizzy. What the actual fuck. He swears under his breath. "Hell. Could you just, please—"

"Strap Me Down," the waitress' nasal voice cuts in, holding a tray with two glasses, "and one Virgin Harlequinn."

They both fall silent as she places their drinks on the table, Yoongi sending Jimin panicked looks, Jimin grinning back like he’s a saint sent for salvation, and when she’s gone Yoongi is certain that the wicked tension lingering in the air has blown itself out of proportion.

"So how long have you been working here in the Blue Rose?" Jimin breaks the thick silence, tracing the edge of his martini glass with an index finger, and Yoongi can physically feel knots in his chest loosen at the harmless question.

"About a year, I figured I needed a side gig if I was going to take care of Madeleine."

"How come?"

"Freelance pay is... sporadic at best," Yoongi answers, tugging at his collar to loosen from scratching against his throat. "It's not the most stable lifestyle, and vet expenses were burning a hole in my pocket. So."

Jimin nods, sipping his martini. "And how long have you had Madeleine?"

"I think I first took her in… two years ago? But wait"—Yoongi narrows his eyes—"what's with the questions?" This is most definitely not the norm. Going out to have a sit-down-heart-to-heart-talk is not their thing, has never been a "thing" between them to begin with. What's Jimin got up his sleeve?

"I just figured, you know..." Jimin shrugs noncommittally and ducks his head, staring at his a vague spot on the table. "I don't really know much about the person I married? Doesn't that strike you as, I dunno, weird? I know your habits and how you look at home but not... you."  

Yoongi lifts an eyebrow in masked surprise. 

Jimin clears his throat to backtrack. "And! What if people ask me to describe my husband? I wouldn't know where to start!"

It's a fair case, Yoongi must admit. Technically speaking, he, too,  knows little to nothing about Jimin's... likes or dislikes outside of what they've established at home. Jimin's dreams. His hobbies. His pet peeves. Or whatever other shit they must've missed out on. "Fine. But let's make it fair."

Jimin tilts his head to one side in a birdlike manner. "How?"

"If you ask me a question, then I get to ask something, too. Fair trade."

"Ah, so you want to play Twenty Questions."

"I mean, if you want to stop at twenty, sure," Yoongi says with a casual smirk as he drapes an arm across the booth seat. "But I could go on all night."

It's not supposed to be a competition, not really, but as everything usually goes with Jimin, Yoongi feels compelled to win.

"Let's up the stakes," Jimin suggests, his lips curving up. Did he put shimmer on them? They look extra glossy even in low light. Not that Yoongi was paying attention. "How about—whoever avoids answering the most questions has to pay for the drinks?"

Yoongi makes a big show of giving him a thumbs up sign. "Fine by me, cloud baby."

 


 

Back in the ancient days, before gladiators entered arenas to meet their opponents (and eventual bloody doom), they would pause with bated breath, calculate the risks of the onslaught, and pray to the deities for good luck (or mercy).

Yoongi thinks this must be what it felt like. With narrowed eyes, he and Jimin share a long, cautious look in a final face-off, hands curled atop their respective laps, under the table and hidden from each other’s line of sight. Jimin is the prime enemy. Yoongi must not let his decision show.

A brief exchange of nods, and then:

“Rock papers scissors!”

“Hah!” Jimin lets out a whoop of triumph at the outcome: him, with rock. Yoongi, with scissors. “I win!”

A string of profanity slips from under Yoongi’s breath. Here ye, here ye, for he has been defeated. Damn his yin and yang.

However: he will only lose once. “Okay. So shoot.”

Jimin doesn’t hesitate before launching his first cannonball question. “Favorite female Korean singers?” 

“Suran, HEIZE, Lee Sora,” comes Yoongi’s quickfire answer, barely needing to think. “My turn. Favorite play or movie?”

“The Notebook.”

Yoongi blinks. Jimin never really struck him as the type who’d like sappy flicks. “Whoa—“

“My turn!”

Jimin makes a big show of coming up with his next question, stroking his chin and all. “Would you rather own a pet dinosaur or a pet dragon?”

“What kind of question is that—“

“We didn’t have any rules about what kind of question are or aren’t valid,” Jimin interjects. “So.”

He has a point. They hadn’t made any pre-game agreements on what they could ask each other. Anything and everything goes. Maybe he should’ve considered the rules lore carefully before jumping into this. “Honestly I’d don’t need a pet dino or dragon. Madeleine’s enough.”

Jimin purses his lips and squints his eyes Yoongi. “Nah, that’s no fun. Okay, then what if Madeleine grew wings?”

“Wings? What the fu—“

“I’m just saying,” Jimin says with a shrug. “A pet cat with wings sounds so cool. In another, alternate life, if I had a cat with wings I would name it, like, Kashmere. Maybe.”

Yoongi can only stare. “Okay...?”

“But if I had to choose? Pet dragon for sure.” Jimin makes flappy wing gestures with his arms. “Dracarys!”

Yoongi snorts. “You watch Game Of Thrones?”

“Used to, but I can’t acknowledge Season 8. Anyway. Your turn.”

“Okay, here—why acting?”

“It’s fun. And also because then I get to be someone better and not Park Jimin.”

The response comes so lightning-quick that Yoongi struggles to properly absorb what Jimin just said before another question is hurled his way: 

“What about you? Why choose photography?” His husband nods towards the bar’s wooden stage. “You’re good at the piano.”

“Uh. Well. Because,” Yoongi licks over his upper lip. Why indeed? He scratches the shell of his ear and clucks his tongue. “You’re gonna think it’s stupid.”

“I can’t say for sure if you’re not telling anything.”

“When I was 12,” Yoongi’s tongue finally budges, “my mum and I visited Everland for the first time. There was this little corner booth where guests could take pictures with balloons and character mascots.”

Jimin waves him on, face expectant.

“So you might be thinking, I probably wanted to become a mascot, right? But no. Honestly... what caught my eye was the photographer behind the station’s camera.” Yoongi fiddles with his wedding bands, eyes trained on the glinting silver. He’s never shared this with anyone before. “It’s like magic. I thought: how nice it must be, to make people happy by just snapping photos.”

“Doesn’t sound like a very Yoongi thing to say.”

Yoongi chortles and continues, “When you hold a camera, you have the power to make people smile even for those few seconds, you know?”

“I know. That’s... that’s actually how I feel about acting,” says Jimin with a slow, understanding nod, and it’s nice. Nice to know that Yoongi’s words were heard, even agreed with. “There’s this... power, that you get, in creating a smile on someone’s face.”

“Even if it’s fake.”

“Even if it’s fake,” concurs Jimin with a rueful sigh, and Yoongi wonders if they’re even still talking about the same thing anymore.

Overhead, Chet Baker’s song transitions to Herman’s Habit, and Jimin waves at a passing waitress to order dark rum with cola. Yoongi’s eyes veer to the left side of the table, where Jimin’s empty martini glass stands like a giraffe. “Another drink? Are you sure? You just had your martini.”

Jimin huffs a laugh like he’s just heard the joke of the year. “Please. That was water, a mere appetizer.” He dismisses the waitress with a wink.

“I doubt that,” Yoongi counters, crossing his arms. For someone with a slender build and a high-strung psyche like Jimin, he really doesn’t think the guy can hold his liquor all that well. Jimin is already a handful while sober. What more when he’s tipsy? Big yikes. “You strike me as a lightweight.”

Fluttering his eyelashes, Jimin leans forward to rest his chin on the back of his clasped fingers. “Why, hmm? Are you worried your cloud baby’s going to pass out on you?”

Yoongi flicks him on the nose. “Brat.”

“Ouch much.” Jimin hisses at him like an angry kitten and rubs his red nose.

“Anyway, let’s do rock, paper scissors again—I think we lost track of the questions’ flow,” Yoongi says, already readying his fists. This time round, he wins using paper against Jimin’s fisted rock. The next question weighs like lead on his tongue, and he has to chew on his lower lip a few times before finally eking out, “H-have you. Have you dated anybody before?”

“Duh. Of course.” Jimin shrugs just as the waiter arrives to serve a glass of rum. “My turn. Are you a virgin?”

“No. Are you?”

“No.”

“Okay.” They nod at each other, both playing the question off as if Jimin was simply asking about the weather. Yoongi sips at his drink and looks around, pretending to marvel at the way Seokjin’s genuine, expensive-ass candelabra reflects light like a church’s mosaic windows, sending beams fragmenting across the bar’s interior this way and that. Psychedelic, really.

And then, Jimin drops yet another dynamite: “Hyung, do you like to give or take?”

What.

Yoongi forgets to breathe. What is air? What are lungs? Heart, be still. Don’t look into those eyes. He clears his throat, squirms in his seat. “T-that’s a little—“

“I’m just curious, really,” Jimin adds, tilting his head to one side as he leans against the booth. “Do you?”

Yoongi swallows hard, blood rushing to his ears. “I— you— fuck, both. I can do both.” He groans and buries his face in his hands while Jimin hums thoughtfully.

“I do both, too. But I’d only take from someone I trust.”

“I did NOT need to know that,” Yoongi mumbles, feeling his bones turn to jelly. His stomach feels like it might combust anytime soon, and he has no guts to lift head. Imagination, imagination, get lost.

Seeming to sense his embarrassment, Jimin gently asks instead, “Did you ever imagine yourself getting married?”

It’s a weight off his shoulders to answer something different, and Yoongi finally drops his hands from his face. The answer to this one is simple and straightforward. “No. Never.”

Jimin blinks, eyebrows shooting up his forehead. “But you caved in so easily for this—“

“Because of the money,” Yoongi cuts in, not noting the way Jimin’s eyes darken in a split second.

“Right. The money.”

“Marriage isn’t important to me. It’s just. Too much for me. Tough work.” Long ago, Yoongi had once heard about marriage playing on the radio, one which he deeply related to, and it went a little something like this:

 

Marriage is about

Picking pretty words

Saying pretty compliments

And making a pretty night

 

Marriage is about

Meeting a good person

Having a good love

And buying a good house

 

But that’s hard for me

So I’m just turning on the TV by myself

Going outside in comfortable clothes

Buying strong alcohol by myself

So I’m going to Namsan by myself

I’m walking along Han River by myself

I’m eating dinner because

It’s all too hard

 

Don’t criticize me for living without love

Don’t feel bad for me right now

 

Sometimes, you make bad faces and sharp words

Say hurtful things

Then you become strangers

 

So this is how I feel

I’m afraid of that

That’s hard for me

 

While he talks about that song, Jimin sips wordlessly at his rum and regards him with a severe look on his face, almost as if he pities Yoongi for holding such macabre sentiments. That, or maybe he’s trying to understand where Yoongi’s coming from. Yoongi can’t say for sure, can’t read his mind. He wishes he knew how Jimin feels about marriage, then realizes that of course he could just ask, right then and there.

“What about you?” Yoongi stirs the long spoon in his virgin mojito glass. “Say, If you’ve ever pictured yourself married, where would your ideal honeymoon be?”

Jimin rakes his hand through his hair, and Yoongi tries not to go slack-jawed at the way each strand seems to weave lush and silky around his fingers. “I’m okay with anywhere, as long as we’re making good memories together. Oh, and like I told you before—I want to visit Broadway. With that someone special, if ever. Someday, maybe.” 

Funny how their lives have started becoming peppered with ambivalent ifs and somedays and maybes despite their married status. Isn’t tying the knot supposed to bring some sort of security to a person? 

Then again… none of this is real, after all. Yoongi concludes tentatively, “So… New York?”

Jimin nods, a wistful smile tugging at his lips. “Even just once. I’d like to see that stage. Watch a nice musical with someone who cares about what I love.”

Yoongi has never wanted to book plane tickets right then and there at that very moment so bad. But he can’t, not when he’s borderline broke, barely getting by with what little income he’s earning. With a deep sigh, he changes the topic and mumbles, “Do you have any more questions for me?”

Jimin sips his rum (how the hell is the glass half-empty already?!) and leans forward with both arms on the table, before whispering, “That boy in the photoframes on the shelf at home.”

Yoongi’s breath catches.

“What’s his name?” Jimin keeps his voice light and casual, but Yoongi senses a hint of caution there too, and he knows that Jimin would gladly drop the topic the moment Yoongi shows any sign of discomfort.

But there’s no point lying, or avoiding this talk. Yoongi licks over his lower lip, and ekes out in a tight voice, “...Yeoreum.”

Child of summer. In the Korean language, it's a literal translation of the word summer. Yooongi’s tongue recoils the moment hears hears his own voice as if he’s spitting ashes and brimstone instead of a two-syllable word. It feels taboo to say that name, even though at the very literal level, it simply stands for the name of a season. He doesn’t think he has the right to say it, not like that, not again. 

There’s a prolonged beat in the space between him and Jimin that turns into hesitation, hanging taut like unwound coil, before Jimin presses, “If I asked about how you two met... would you—“

“Pass.” Yoongi curls his fingers into a fist and hides his hands under the table, not wanting to let Jimin know how this still gets to him. This is supposed to be a fun night. A date, if you will. “My turn. How did you, uh, meet Taehyung?”

The mention of his best friend’s name has Jimin’s face cracking a smile, and the concern marring the space between his eyebrows lifts. Yoongi gives an inward sigh of relief. Crisis averted. Explaining himself is not one of his best qualities.

“When I moved to Seoul Arts from Busan, Taehyung was my seatmate. And that was the day I realized you can’t be within a 50-meter radius from Kim Taehyung without becoming his friend,” Jimin shares, a fond faraway haze falling over his eyes. “I’m surprised he wanted to be close friends with me.”

“Why not?”

“I’m nothing that special—“

“Bullshit,” Yoongi scoffs indignantly. “You’re pretty damn wonderful, Jimin. Don’t tell yourself otherwise. And I’m sure Taehyung saw that in you.”

Jimin’s eyes widen at his words.

“And for the record? What you said earlier? Well,” Yoongi adds, heated. He’s on a roll. “I think, honestly, that Park Jimin is the best boy.”

“If you think that was supposed to be touching... I gotta be honest,” Jimin says with a low laugh, “‘Cause it lowkey feels like you just praised me like a dog.”

“That’s a you problem, not mine.” Yoongi grins and feels his face relax, the leftover tension seeping away from his shoulders. He scrunches his face just when Jimin calls for a different waiter, this time ordering a long island tea.

“Are you sure you can take that much hard liquor?” Yoongi checks with a concerned frown, eyeing the amount of glasses that the waiter is clearing off from their table. 

Jimin waves him off. “I’m good.”

“Just make sure you don’t go puking on me later.”

Jimin wrinkles his nose and rolls his eyes. “Yeah, you don’t need to worry ‘bout that. Let me ask an easier question now—what would your life be like if you hadn’t found Madeleine?”

Yoongi’s frown deepens. A life without his cat? Unthinkable. Though if he really considers it, he’d probably still be in the same state as he’d been when she saved him—a little lonely, a little lost, a lot sad. That’s the thing about cats—one does not simply decide adopt them; they adopt you, and declare you theirs. It’s one of those unspoken yet understood rules of the world that applies to all of mankind.

“I’d be a lot worse off without her, to be honest. She... uh. She means a lot to me,” Yoongi finally croaks out, bricks weighing his chest down, and he clears his throat; tries to smile. When he bed was empty and hollow with no one to whisper to him It’s all right, and his mother could only smile at him from photographs, Madeleine had been that warm, solid presence he clung to. “Found me at my rock bottom, she did.”

Yoongi looks down at the table, at where his hand is mere inches away from Jimin’s, and wonders if it might be okay to wish he could lean on him, too. To hold that hand, reach out for that warmth. Instead he asks, “Honestly, do you even like cats?”

Jimin’s eyeballs bulge out indignantly. “Of course! Your Madeleine is just a special case, always on the defense. She’s the first one to make me question if my animal whispering instincts are still intact, actually.”

One side of Yoongi’s mouth curls up in a semi-smile. “Seems like she’s adjusting to you, though.”

“I’m gonna earn her trust, don’t worry. We just need time.” Jimin nods, determined as ever. “Okay, my turn to ask. Where do you go off to every Thursday night? Don’t act like I haven’t noticed you disappearing every week.”

Yoongi’s lips part, slackened with surprise. He didn’t think Jimin would’ve bothered to notice his absence. There’s no particular reason to, so why would he? “I— uh…” 

He must look like a goldfish bubbling in water, opening and closing his mouth like this.

“Do you have like a side gig? A third job?” Jimin prods, eyes shining curiously. “Damn, you’re a lot more hardworking than I thought, then—”

“It’s for therapy.” There. Yoongi doesn’t remember saying the words, but they’re out now, and he dares not look at Jimin in the eye. “Every Thursday. It’s for my therapy sessions.”

In the wake of his confession, Jimin grows quiet. Just in time, the waiter arrives with his new order, saving what probably would’ve been a mortifying awkward silence. They sit without exchanging a word or a glance, until the waiter strides away and leaves them to their privacy once more. Yoongi sips at his nearly-forgotten virgin mojito and ducks his head to hide his face beneath his overgrown bangs.

“Hyung,” Jimin whispers, voice soft as a whimper, “honestly, I won’t judge, I’m just curious about what happened to you back then—“

“I can tell you at home tonight, before we go to bed,” Yoongi surprises himself by saying before he can take his words back. “Just not... not now.”

Coming from him it probably sounds too harsh or elusive, but then Jimin’s eyes light up at his words, at the smallest prospect of finally hearing him open up even just by a tiny crack, and Yoongi prides himself for not ruining their first and only night out. Later, he might actually muster the courage to talk. He can do it. His therapist has always told him that the first step to trusting someone again was to let them listen to your stories, no matter how trivial. Open up, she would say. And hey, if he’s going to live with Jimin, he’s going to have to start trusting the guy.

Just… not right at this very moment. Yet.

"Anyway," Yoongi says, dipping his head and mussing up his bangs to cover the way his eyes feel a little mistier than usual. "It's my turn to ask you something now."

Jimin, sipping on his second glass of long island tea (since when the hell did he order that?) nods. "Fire away."

"What made you agree to marry me?" Yoongi gathers the guts to lift up his own chin, working up a smirk paired with an eyebrow quirk. "I mean, apart from my exuberantly dashing looks."

Jimin nearly squirts out his drink mid-sip. "You give yourself too much credit, honeyboy. Haven't we both established I'm broke?"

"Yeah, I know that. Okay, let me rephrase my question." Yoongi sits upright and leans forward, elbows propped on the table. "What are your plans after our deal’s done?"

"After this?" 

"Yeah, after we divorce. What would you do with all that money? Travel? Buy a car?"

"Ah, fantasizing about money," Jimin quips in a sing-song manner. "Everyone's favorite past time!"

"I'm serious." Yoongi reaches out a hand out to wipe away a fleck of dust on Jimin's eyelid. Jimin keeps his eyes shut and holds still to let him, posture easy and relaxed. "And a little curious, to be frank."

Jimin waves a hand in the air in circles like he's wielding a wand, and says, "In Busan, there's this house by the sea that's been empty for a few years now." He opens his arms wide. "Biiig house. Overlooking the beach, salt in the air. I want my parents to live there."

Yoongi blinks, momentarily taken aback. This is not the answer he was expecting. "Well, what about yourself?"

"’What about me’? I don’t need such a big house." Jimin rests his chin on the table, before his attention is snatched by a waiter who passes by and asks for tequila.

("Screaming Yeehaw shots, got it.")

Yoongi watches uneasily as Jimin throws a flirtatious grin rig the waiter walks off, and finds himself gnawing on a thumbnail. Should he or should not he comment on that? They're in public. Public! If Seokjin saw his own husband flirting with other men... Yoongi's eyes dart around the bar.

Nope, no Seokjin in sight.

Still, it doesn't feel very right. Feels kind of crummy in his tummy, really.

"Next time you want to drink anything, I'll order for you," Yoongi remarks gruffly.

Jiimin grows petulant. "Why!"

"Your taste in liquor is shit. Try an Irish bomb."

Jimin rolls his eyes and shakes his head. "I like my liquor like I like my men. Hard but flavorful."

"Hey, Irish bomb is good!" Yoongi all but scowls. 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You were saying?"

Right. Yoongi clears his throat. "Like I said—don't you have any plans for yourself?"

"You mean apart from paying off my student loans and hopefully go debt-free after paying for Mrs. Kwon's roasted scalp? Not really." Jimin chews on the inside of his cheeks, contemplating. "But."

"But?"

"Broadway. Audition. Maybe." Jimin flushes, clenching and unclenching his fingers into fists. "But it's a pipe dream, I know—"

"Hey, hey, hey," Yoongi interjects, grabbing Jimin's hands because at this point he already knows Jimin's body language, can read the telltale signs when he's about to fold in on himself. "None of that. I'm not asking about what you think is or isn't realistic, you blob."

Jimin pauses, eyes lingering on their linked fingers, before his shoulders relax and he sends Yoongi a soft, glassy-eyed smile. He lets Yoongi hold onto his hands, and they keep them there, on the table between their warm bodies.

Yoongi squeezes his hand. "Wanna know a secret?"

Jimin sends him a pointed look as if to say, What?

"Back when I was younger, like 16 years old, I wanted to be a rapper."

"You wanted to wrap gifts?"

A low laugh rumbles in Yoongi's chest. "No, silly. I wanted to rap. Write songs, perform onstage."

"What happened to that?"

Life happened, that's what. But Yoongi doesn't want to discourage Jimin any further. "I decided not to pursue it. It was a choice I made, consciously. But that doesn't mean I couldn't be one if I wanted to. Dreams are like—"

"Clouds," Jimin says. "High above and out of reach."

Yoongi pauses, stricken, words lodged in his throat. "You really think that?"

Jimin nods. "Dreams are clouds. So close yet so far."

The waiter arrives with tequila, and their hands unclasp from each other to make space.

"You know, I used to dance. A lot. I did contemporary dance in high school." Jimin downs a shot. "But I changed my major in university after realizing I'd probably have a higher chance at making it that way, because come on—dancing AND acting? Double whammy! I thought I was good. Thought I was talented." Down, there goes another shot.

"Jimin, slow down—"

"But as it turns out, I'm no special snowflake. Everyone's amazing, everyone's outstanding at something. I can't"—Jimin glugs another shot—"I can't be the person I wished I could be when I was 10 years old. I bet that Park Jimin would be really ashamed. I even married for money, fuck’s sake."

His words send a tremor that cuts through Yoongi's gut, and Yoongi can only hold in a sharp breath, stunned speechless. He had no idea. He had no clue Jimin's been silently beating himself down, over and over, the way he is now. 

"Do you know what I find in my email everyday?" Jimin slurs, eyes going hazy. He jabs down hard at the table with his index finger. "Rejection, rejection, rejection. It's like the world's saying to me, 'Hey, man. You're not’ "—his lower lip trembles, and he gulps, hands shaking—" ’you're not cut out for this'. Hyung, I wasted my youth. My friends have all moved ahead in life, but I’m still here."

Yoongi sits, frozen and wishing he could offer some form of comfort, but he doesn't. Doesn't know where to start, doesn't have the proper words ready on his tongue. His heat thuds a little too hard, so much so that he fears his ribcage might bruise. He figures maybe Jimin’s ribcage is bruised too, what with all that burden weighing his chest down.

Still, brave and as ever, Jimin doesn't let a single teardrop roll down his face. He opts for closing his eyes and pressing both palms against them. “I was raised thinking I could rule the world, but really, the world’s ruling over me. I’m nowhere near as great as I dreamed to be.” 

With a slow, deep exhale, Jimin grabs his glass and downs two shots, one after the other, as if he's trying to use whatever available alcohol is there to wash down the words jabbing into his throat.

"Hey," Yoongi chides gently, prying the shot glasses from his hands. "I think you've had enough."

It's like watching a solar flare diffusing, or seeing a glass chandelier shatter, watching Jimin bury his head in his hands with a soft sniffle. Yoongi has never seen him break like this. Jimin is supposed to be the beacon here, the one who charms his way into people's hearts.

"Deep breaths, Jiminie." Yoongi says, wishing he had a warm fuzzy blanket at his disposal right now. "Take it one day at a time."

"Sorry, I must've—" Jimin lifts his head and massages his temples with both eyes closed, "—I ruined the mood, didn't I? Let's just talk about something else."

"I think we should head home—"

"No." Jimin grips Yoongi's hand tightly to keep him from standing. "Stay with me here. Even just for a while longer." His eyes are red and bright and desperate. "Please, hyung. I don't want to gooo. I like this. I really like..." He pauses, catches himself from stumbling over his next word. "I like this."

And how could Yoongi ever deny that helpless face? He peers dubiously at Jimin, torn. "Are you sure?"

Jimin nods, pointing at the tequila. "I still have this bottle to get through."

So with a sigh, Yoongi sits, and as the night deepens, Jimin's cheeks turn rosier and rosier. With every shot he drinks, he starts giggling again.

(Yoongi is getting increasingly concerned for the well-being of his liver.)

"Do you sing, hyung?"

"I don't sing."

Sniffle. "Then, what about dancing?"

"I don't dance either," Yoongi answers, curt and cautious, before jumping with a start as Jimin suddenly slams a hand against the mahogany table with an exaggerated gasp.

"That's abominable! A crime!" Jimin cries out, punctuating his words with a series of loud thwacks against the table, and though the Blue Rose is close to empty now, a few heads from neighboring tables turn their way. Yoongi all but shrinks into his seat. “You are the enemy of joy! Art anti!”

Yoongi reaches forward to clamp a hand against Jimin's mouth, horrified. "Cut it out, Jiminie!"

Jimin shoves his arms away, red-faced. "I bet youuu, have never w-watched a musical, too."

"I haven't. So what about it?"

Jimin waves an accusatory finger in the air. "That settles it, then. I must introduce you to the world of musicals. For research."

Yoongi gulps. "For research?"

"For research," Jimin repeats, voice firm and steady despite his shining eyes.

It's hard not to crack the smallest of amused smiles at his antics, and Yoongi rests his chin on his palm when he asks, "Will you even remember any of this tomorrow?"

"Absolutely not! And that's why I need to ask you everything now," Jimin answers with a dopey grin.

Yoongi rolls his eyes. This boy is hopeless.

(Yoongi, too, is hopeless.)

"So? What is it?"

"What was your first impression of meee?" Mirroring his position, Jimin leans forward and props his chin up with a palm, too. His voice is melted silver. His sandy hair is falling into his starlit eyes.

Watching those dancing eyes, Yoongi makes the swift decision that maybe just for tonight, he can afford to be honest, too. "First impression, huh? I gotta say you were… disarming."

Jimin explodes into giggles like he just heard the funniest joke in human history. "Honestly, I saw you first that night. Playing the piano. Wanted to ask for your number," he babbles. "But you asked to marry me and I thought, okay, creep alert."

"I'm not a creep," Yoongi sulks.

Jimin shrugs. "Who would've thought I'd agree in the end, right? Hey, hey, tell me something." He reaches for Yoongi's ear and drags his head closer to whisper, "do you have an ideal type? What are your preferred boyfriend-ly qualities, hyung?"

He's so close that Yoongi can feel his breath hot in his ear. So close that if Yoongi turned his head the slightest angle, he might kiss him senseless like he did during their wedding reception.

You, is what Yoongi manages to push back from his tongue. There’s glitter from Jimin’s eyeshadow falling into his eyelashes in a thin, angelic layer. He’s glowing again, candlelight in the dark, and it takes all of Yoongi’s self-restraint to gently push Jimin’s forehead backwards with an index finger. “How about instead of that, I’ll tell you what I don’t like.”

Jimin peers up at him, eyes hooded with his chin nestled into one palm. “I’m listening.”

“I’ll be honest with you—I don’t like people much. The world’s full of shitheads. I don’t like anyone, really.” Then, releasing a breath like it’s his last, Yoongi dares, “Except maybe you.”

Jimin points at his own chest, eyes bleary. “Me?”

Yoongi’s heart is in his throat. This is madness, but he takes comfort in the fact that the guy won’t remember anything come morning. “Yeah. I guess you’re tolerable enough.”

With a snort, Jimin flicks his chin. “Duh. I’m cute.”

Yoongi tsk-tsks and catches Jimin’s fingers mid-flick, before keeping them clasped in his hands and bringing it down on the table again. “Annoying.” He hopes Jimin can’t feel how clammy his hands are, how they tremble when they’re skin-to-skin like this.

But Jimin seems to have other plans, and snatches his hand out of Yoongi’s grasp with a teasing smile that’s seconds away from driving Yoongi crazy. “Nah-uh. Hand-holding, honeyboy? You think you’re being sneaky? Are you ready to pay for that?”

Yoongi scoffs without answering.

Giggling, Jimin states, “So I’m your ideal type.”

“I never said that.”

“You might as well have. Describe your ideal type then.”

Yoongi falls silent, and stares at Jimin.

Corn hair that looks like a barn haystack in the mornings; a sharp jawline paired with soft apple cheeks.

Luscious lips.

He gulps, looking away. “I don’t have any.”

“Liar.” Jimin grins at him, and Yoongi’s pulse hops in time with the jazz tune coloring the air between them amber and rose. “You’re a bad liar.”

Yoongi smirks. “Am I?”

“Yep. What happened to answering honestly, hyung?”

A laugh like soft bells. A stride that outstruts a runway model. A smile that outshines the damn sun. Heart of gold, spirit of silver.

It’s all of these things; none of which Yoongi bothers saying aloud. He needs diversion. “It doesn’t really matter, does it? I can’t go around dating anybody right now. W-what about you? What qualities do you find attractive?”

Jimin taps a finger against his chin, humming. “A man who keeps his word.  Respects my parents. Takes care of himself and his loved ones.” He sighs and slumps on the table face-down. “I think I met one, but I’m a dumbfuck and keep pushing him away.”

Yoongi frowns. “Who?”

“Secret!”

This is alarming news, and Yoongi perks up in his seat. “You do know you’re married, right?”

“And what about it?” Jimin says.

“You can’t just—“ Yoongi lowers his warning hiss to a hushed whisper. “It wouldn’t be very proper if you were seen out with other men without me.”

A gasp. Jimin’s jaw unhinges at Yoongi’s words as if this is his first time realizing it, though Yoongi is certain it’s the buzz messing with his coherence. He hiccups. “That’s so, so sad. Tragedy!”

“When you’re married, you shouldn’t act single,” Yoongi says matter-of-factly.

“Does that mean I’m only allowed to date you?” Jimin asks with puppy-dog eyes.

This is, by far, one of the stranger turns their many conversations have taken tonight. Yoongi licks his lips and says honestly, “I-if you want to.”

“Hmmm.” Disappointment oozes from Jimin’s tone.

Yoongi knows none of what they’re talking about right now can possibly happen, so he goes a step further and asks, very hypothetically: “Would you, though?”

“Huh?” Jimin lifts his head and meets his gaze.

“If we met differently,” Thump. Thump. “Would you... would you date me?”

A hiccup rattles Jimin’s shoulders, and Yoongi watches his features carefully, trying to make out any hint of disgust or a sense of loathing at his question. But Jimin’s glassy eyes are unreadable, and after a long moment of silence, Yoongi shakes his head. “It’s okay—“

“Yes.”

Firecrackers go off in Yoongi’s chest, and a new surge of adrenaline rushes up to his temples. No way. There is no way he heard that right. He bends forward to catch a closer look at Jimin’s expression; his face dances in the shadows draped over the Blue Rose. “D’you mean that?”

Jimin shrugs, blinking slowly, and when he parts his lips Yoongi braces his nerves for an answer, but then all that comes out is, “The floor is swimming, Yoonie. Don’t feel so good.”

Yoongi’s shoulders droop, and he sighs. So much for... for what, really?

What the everloving fuck was he hoping for?

“Let’s get you home,” he drawls, raking a hand through his hair in frustration because he can’t very well rip every last strand out regardless of how bummed he is. “I’ll drive.”

Jimin giggles and reaches over to—Yoongi stiffens, stricken—squish Yoongi’s cheeks between his palms, adding in some cooing noises over how cute he is and how soft his face feels. 

“Yep, that’s it, we’re going home,” Yoongi declares, gently peeling Jimin’s hands off his face.

“Home, home. Of course,” his husband half-babbles, half-slurs. “You’re going to take me home”—Jimin slides off the booth—“you’re going to drive me home, and then you’re going to be my home.” While trying to stand on wobbly legs, he stumbles in time for Yoongi to catch him by his elbow.

“Careful,” Yoongi warns, but when he tries to walk, Jimin holds him still by clinging onto his neck and and buries his face in Yoongi’s chest.

“Hang on,” Jimin says, voice light and airy and slightly muffled. “Waiiit. Move closer, you smell fantastic.” He sniffs Yoongi’s collar, and Yoongi freezes.

“Jimin—“ With a garbled huff, Yoongi shifts his head away to avoid bumping his chin against Jimin’s forehead, letting his hands slide from Jimin’s elbows to his slim waist in an attempt keep him from staggering over. “Come on, walk properly—“

“Carry me.”

Yoongi freezes. “Huh?”

Jimin tightens his hold on the nape of Yoongi’s neck, his fingers warm and warm and warm. He leans his weight into Yoongi, and they both tilt so far backwards Yoong thinks his back might snap in two. “Hey. Oi—“

Several paces behind, he hears Seokjin jeer, “Get a room! We’re closing.”

Yoongi’s eyes fall closed, and he grits his teeth. Fuck it. Fuck this. It’s 3am and he’s bone-weary with the most beautiful boy to walk this Earth practically flinging himself at him, barely coherent. He has no energy to deal with much more. “Okay, fine. Fine, you whiny kitten.”

Gingerly, he unlatches Jimin’s arms from around his neck, but at the last moment Jimin’s fingers clench around Yoongi’s collar, making him halt.

“Hyung,” Jimin breathes, gaze flickering from Yoongi’s nose to his lips. He gulps hard, Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. “I...”

Heartbeat picking up a timpani rhythm, Yoongi reminds himself to breathe. “You what?”

There’s no soft background music filtering through the air anymore, no white noise to distract himself with. The Blue Rose has emptied its pockets of patrons, leaving silence as fragile as glass in their wake.

“I just...” As if testing the waters, Jimin inches his face forward the tiniest bit, into the small hairsbreadth of electric space between his and Yoongi’s lips. “You…I...”

Yoongi does not move away. “You just what?”

Jimin rests his forehead against his, breath warm against Yoongi’s cheek. “I want to remember this.”

Then his head tips forward to rest on Yoongi’s shoulder, body collapsing as he passes out. 

Knocked out cold.

What. The. Fuck.

Standing as still as a statue, it takes more than a few seconds for Yoongi to make sense of what just happened, and he releases a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

“I can’t believe this,” he grunts under his breath as he turns around, maneuvering Jimin onto his back to carry him. “Min-Park Jimin, you insufferable tease.”

He calls out a hasty goodbye to Seokjin and climbs the stairs leading from the Blue Rose’s basement bar to the open air.

There’s a sweet summer breeze outside that Yoongi inhales grateful lungfuls of the moment he bursts from the main entrance. From behind, Jimin’s head is tucked into the juncture of his shoulder, arms wound loosely around his neck. Yoongi lets out a groan as he shifts his weight.

“You couldn’t have waited five more seconds before passing out?” he grumbles, scanning the parking lot for his black Hyundai. “You’re a pain in the neck. Are you listening? A pain in the neck. Literally.” When Jimin only groans in response, Yoongi sighs and marches on.

But he goes no further than three strides before Jimin’s legs are thrashing, kicking in the air and making him stumble.

“What, what?” Yoongi snaps, patience wearing thin. Is there a law against dropping your dearest spouse in the middle of an empty parking lot? Ah, temptation.

“Hyuuung, I want...”

“What do you want? Fucking spit it out already.”

“Want...” Jimin’s ankle knocks against Yoongi’s hip, and he lets out a loud hiss of pain. “Need. To... pee.”

Hell. Yoongi gasps aloud. “Jimin, you better not piss on my back or else! I’m dropping your ass!”

“Pee, lemme pee.” Jimin starts singing the Pokemon theme song like a madman on the loose. “I wanna pee, the very best. Like no one ever was~”

Swearing loudly, Yoongi lets Jimin off and ushers him to a secluded corner behind the Blue Rose to let him do his liquid business.

“Done~” Jimin says, zipping his jeans and scampering back to hop onto Yoongi’s back without warning.

With a strangled cry, Yoongi’s knees buckle, but he regains his balance right before they both crash on the ground. “Hands off.” He swats Jimin’s hands away. “You just pissed.”

“But I’ll fall—“

Yoongi grabs Jimin’s forearms and settles them around his neck. “Keep them like this, idiot.”

“Hands off, arms on. Aye, captain.”

This is definitely one of the most peculiar nights Yoongi has ever had. Part of him wants to believe this is a ridiculous dream.

They both grow quiet as Yoongi walks across the carpark. Jimin stops kicking, staying so still that Yoongi can imagine feeling his heartbeat thudding against his back. The night lulls him into sighing deeply.

Only does he realize, moments later, that his shoulder is wet. Yoongi pauses. This fucking baby. “Are you drooling on my shirt now?”

He hears a muffled sniffle, and feels Jimin shake his head with a shaky inhale.

“Hey. Jimin. Cloud baby. Are you… are you crying?”

“No.” Another sniffle.

But of course he’d say no. Yoongi mentally smacks himself. The first rule of dealing with someone who’s crying is: never ask if they are. It only worsens the waterworks.

“Bad headache?” Yoongi asks gently, taking carefully measured steps so as not to jostle Jimin’s position too much. “Bad stomach?”

"Mmmm." Jimin mumbles, tightening his arms around Yoongi's neck. "My chest just. Hurts a little bit."

Yoongi hums in understanding. "Heart burn? See, this is what happens when you get yourself shit-faced like that, you brat. You ever heard of alcohol poisoning? You shouldn't—"

He halts mid-sentence when Jimin presses a sloppy kiss to his cheek.

"You complain so much, Yoonie. Shut up." 

Yoongi's mouth goes dry.

Sniffling again, Jimin buries his face into the crook of Yoongi's neck. Voice muffled, he slurs, "You make me so sad."

Back in middle school, when Yoongi was but a lanky pre-pubescent teenager, his class went for a field trip that had a bungee-jumping park. Not wanting to be touted as a lame killjoy, he'd risen to the challenge of his friends, who'd dared him to jump first. He wanted to be brave. Yoongi still remembers the rush he felt that day, the way his blood zinged up and down his veins as he stood strapped and harnessed at the edge of the sky, ready to make the freefall of a lifetime.

But this?

This is no freefall. This is a slow, sweet descent to madness.

His heart feels like it might jump out of his ribcage. Swallowing hard, Yoongi forces out hoarsely, "Great. So everything's my fault, huh?"

Jimin nods, stray locks of his hair tickling Yoongi's jaw. "Yep. You hurt me so beautifully."

Yoongi snorts. "I'm not the one who drank myself stupid."

Jimin doesn't respond to that, and the world goes quiet once more as Yoongi approaches his car. He counts the steps to the door. Three. Two. One.

(He's reaching it too quick, too soon.)

"You're good person, hyung," Jimin slurs, voice thick with sleep. "Way too good. I wish..."

Yoongi's breath hitches, and he waits for Jimin to finish those words, but he doesn't.

And he doesn't.

And he doesn't.

"You wish what?" Yoongi asks into the quiet night. He turns his head to find Jimin snoring away, and his heart heaves like it's being yanked out of him.

(This is way worse than bungee-jumping.)

They reach the car. Yoongi opens the passenger seat's door and lowers Jimin inside, cradling his head so that it doesn't hit the roof. When he slides into the driver's seat, he finds Jimin curled up on the seat beside him, hugging his knees.

Why Yoongi stops to stare at him, he'll never understand. Jimin's hammered, head lolling forward, one shot away from a total mess. But there's warm light flittering across his hair, his cheeks and his eyelashes, filtering in from a faulty lamp post outside, and he looks like—

Like—

Like some version of a future in an alternate world that Yoongi would've wanted to keep forever. Quietly, he takes out his phone to snap a photo, not because Jimin is pretty (never) but because this iconic moment should go with their Wall of Shame polaroid exhibit at home.

Or so he tells himself. At this point, Yoongi is willing to believe any lie to lift his spirits.

Yoongi keys in the ignition and the engine roars to life, and as he backs out of the carpark, he flicks the radio on to fill the sombre mood bristling in the air.

At half past 3am in the morning, there aren't many radio stations broadcasting actively, so he's left to listen to one of those graveyard shift programmes that plays music no one remembers to listen to anymore. Static crackles to life. Accompanied by a piano, Elton John's voice serenades:

 

Pretty eyed, pirate smile,

You'll marry a music man

 

Right before Yoongi turns into the main road, he glances sideways and panics when he realizes— shit.  

Jimin's seatbelt isn't buckled yet. Unconscious, his head is lolling left and right.

So Yoongi pulls over at the side of the road and leans over to reach for the seatbelt.

 

Piano man he makes his stand

In the auditorium

 

Jimin shifts with his eyes closed, sound asleep, and Yoongi manages to fasten the seatbelt without waking him.

 

But oh how it feels so real

Lying here with no one near

Only you and you can hear me

When I say softly,

Slowly—

 

Satisfied with his regard for road safety, Yoongi leans back and settles himself in the driver's seat. He reaches for the steering wheel...

...just as a smaller, pale trembling hand shoots out and folds over his wrist.

 

Hold me closer, tiny dancer

Count the headlights on the highway

 

Sucking in a sharp breath, Yoongi's gaze snaps to the right.

Jimin is looking straight at him, left hand closed over Yoongi's right wrist. His touch burns and soothes at the same time. Yoongi swallows thickly, transfixed by how headlights from passing cars play hide and seek in Jimin's eyes in a fairytale neon glow.

Carefully, like he's afraid Yoongi might wrench away from his touch, Jimin slides his hands towards his bigger palm and interlaces their fingers.

"I thought you were asleep," Yoongi murmurs, glancing down. He doesn't pull his hand free.

 

Lay me down in sheets of linen

You had a busy day today

 

"I am," Jimin answers quietly, before leaning against the backrest and turning his head to face the front. "And I think I’m still dreaming.”

They don’t speak for the rest of the ride home, but they don’t untangle their fingers from each other’s, either.

And later at home, as Yoongi lays Jimin down to sleep on sheets of linen, he brushes back his bangs and almost considers leaning in to press a kiss to his forehead.

But he doesn’t.

Instead, Yoongi brushes his lips to Jimin’s temple, barely touching his skin, and whispers, feeling hollow and teary-eyed for absolutely no reason:

“Good night, cloud baby.”

 


  

Chapter Text

Jimin crashes to consciousness at the gentle tap-tap-tap of a furry paw against his cheek.

For a moment his heart seizes, his clouded brain thinking maybe there’s a bug crawling across his face, but then he hears a soft, worried mewl, and he lets out a tired, guttural groan.

“Madeleine?” he croaks, but with his parched throat all that comes out is a warbled, “Madnggh?”

Another answering meow, and this time Jimin feels the unmistakable sensation of fur grazing against his neck. It takes a long moment to wake up completely, because Jimin’s eyelids feel like they’re glued shut, but when he does he flinches right away at the blinding sunlight streaming in through the window.

What time is it? Heck, what day is it?

Then comes the pounding headache.

“Nggghhaahh” is all that comes out of his mouth as he rolls over, one hand trying to massage the pain away. At the reassurance that he’s alive, Madeleine leaps off of Jimin’s chest and struts away as if she was never trying to cuddle him in the first place.

With incredible slowness, Jimin crawls out of his floor mattress, each movement punctuated by a loud groan, and drags his slipper-clad feet downstairs.

The living room buzzes with the low noise of a TV, and when he plods in he finds Yoongi watching The Walking Dead on the couch.

“Morning,” Yoongi greets without glancing at him. He points at the TV screen, where a zombie is prowling the street. “That’s you. You wake up like one.”

Jimin narrows his eyes and grunts. He’s surprisingly chipper today for someone who most definitely is not a morning person. But Jimin is in no mood to do verbal tennis today, so he just waddles across the living room in his chick slippers to prepare his own breakfast—

“There’s a bowl of dumpling soup on the table. And I refilled the water pitcher,” Yoongi’s voice cuts in from behind. “Help yourself.”

Rubbing his bleary eyes, Jimin turns around to face his husband. “You cooked for me?”

“No, Madeleine actually has a culinary arts degree. Go eat and get back to bed after.”

“You’re being surprisingly charitable today.”

“It’s called, ‘human sacrifice’.”

Jimin rolls his eyes, but before resuming his trip to the dining table he spots Yoongi’s black kitty slippers. 

They’re on his feet, propped up on the couch’s armchair.

“Cute slippers,” Jimin quips, something sweet coursing in his blood. “Wonder who bought them.”

That’s when Yoongi finally slides his gaze across the room to meet Jimin’s, and he says with a disarming gummy smile, “My cloud baby did.”

Jimin has never yeeted himself out of the living room so fast.

 


 

Later in the afternoon when Jimin returns to the land of the living with at least the slightest sliver of refreshment, he stretches and yawns, the headache having subsided. Rolling over, his eyes land on a tray of water with some Advil and a small bottle of mild ginseng tonic on the low table beside him. Only now does he wonder how much alcohol he downed last night for him to be this hungover. Jimin is by no means a lightweight, and he can stand his ground in most social drinking competitions. Thinking back, he realizes he doesn’t even know what he drank last night.

Which means: he has no recollection of what the hell he did last night. Zero. Nada.

Jimin’s mouth falls open and he clutches his cheeks, horrified. Did he say anything too brave? Too out-of-this-world? He thinks back to this morning when he first woke up. Since Yoongi was teasing already him like that, then he must have let loose and done something embarrassing last night. Park Jimin hardly ever gets smashed, but when he does…

He shakes his head and groans. He doesn’t even want to remember. There is something wildly comforting in Not Knowing Things. Maybe if Jimin pretends like nothing happened, then the world will follow suit.

(But then again.... curiosity has always been one of his blind spots.)

He heads down to the bathroom to splash water on his face, and when he sees the stubble growing across his jaw, he puts on some shaving cream to start freshening up.

Whenever Jimin finds himself in a Situation, his mode of action has always been to clean—the house, his face.

“You’re awake.”

Jimin nearly jumps out of his skin at the sound of Yoongi’s voice by the bathroom door. He eyes his husband through the mirror’s reflection—Yoongi’s hair is dishevelled in a way that makes Jimin want to run his hands through it, and he looks... good.

Unfair.

Jimin is used to being the one ogled by men and women alike, so he doesn’t really understand what it is about Yoongi that invites the eye. The guy’s as plain as a cardboard box! His cat eyes aren’t that pretty. His porcelain skin isn’t that good. He’s so average! Average!

“Mmm,” Jimin replies, moving the razor down his chin in a slow drag. “Thanks for the food. And the tonic.”

Yoongi nods silently and leans against the doorframe, studying him like he’s a microscope specimen.

Jimin turns around. “What?”

A shrug. “Nothing.”

“Then stop staring!”

“Can’t.”

Jimin’s eyes blow wide in incredulity, and now there’s that tingle again, starting in his chest and spreading to his tummy. “W-why—“

“‘Cause you missed a spot.” Yoongi points to an area over his own jaw. “Right there.”

Jimin’s heart plummets. Oh. False alarm. “Here?”

“More to the left.”

Jimin obliges. “Here?”

Yoongi clucks his tongue and steps inside the bathroom, disgruntled. “Here. Let me do it. Sit.”

It’s not clear if Jimin remembers passing him the razor, but before he knows it, he’s sitting on the toilet bowl’s cover with Yoongi hovering over him.

“Does being drunk magically reduce your muscle reflexes?” Yoongi teases as he holds Jimin steady on one shoulder, while his other hand gently works the razor over his chin, eyes focused.

His eyes.

Jimin has never known true color until he saw the amber in Yoongi’s eyes.

He gulps and averts his gaze. He wonders what he must look like right now, cheeks flaming with a white beard of shaving cream over the lower half of his face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

With a chortle, Yoongi nudges Jimin’s head to the right to get a better angle.

“How do you feel now?”

Jimin’s throat tightens. Is Yoongi—this Yoongi who hardly shares anything personal—really asking about feelings? What’s Jimin supposed to say? 

‘I’m really loving the way you’re looking at me right now’?

“What kind of, um. Feelings?” Jimin asks.

Yoongi frowns, the space between his eyebrows creasing. “Weren’t you hungover?”

Jimin blinks, and the pitter-patter of his heart calms. Right. Get a grip, Jimin. “Mmm, less shitty now. At least there aren’t hammers in my head anymore, gosh.”

“Good.” Yoongi tilts his face, bring his lips directly in Jimin’s line of sight, and Jimin purses his own.

Did he kiss those lips last night? Did he do anything to Yoongi? He wants to yeet himself out a window. Memory—how frail it stands in the face of inebriation!

Jimin has pride, and Pride says: Don’t ask.

He is not ready for a tête-à-tête with Yoongi to recap last night’s events. Jimin curls his fingers tight over the hem of his own shirt to keep from saying anything that might embarrass himself further. Conceal, don’t feel.

Don’t ask don’t ask don’t—

“Jimin-ah.” Yoongi breaks the charged silence in the air. Jimin feels the hairs at the nape of his neck rise at the way Yoongi’s lips form his name. 

“Yeah?” Jimin answers in a garbled pitch. He squints his eyes, bracing himself. 

Yoongi’s fingers hesitate, withdrawing inches away from Jimin’s jaw. “Listen. I know you’re aiming to be an actor, and you’re more into stage acts, but I was just wondering if you’re up for a modeling gig?”

Jimin blinks up at him owlishly. This was not what he expected to hear. “What do you mean?”

“Like. As a temporary stint.” Yoongi presses the razor to Jimin’s skin once more to resume shaving, keeping his wrist steady. “Jungkook and I have a photoshoot scheduled tomorrow night, but the model backed out on us at the last minute, and I was just wondering… I  mean, you seemed like the right fit for the job, appearance-wise, and I thought— if you’re up for it—”

“Hyung, that’s amazing,” Jimin cuts his fake husband off, a sensation in his chest fizzling out like a bathbomb dipped in warm water. “It’ll be great for my portfolio.”

“Don’t worry, it’ll be a paid job.”

Jimin’s surprised that he isn’t even thinking of the money. “Even if it’s not, I’d really… I’d like to help even as an emergency stand-in.”

He doesn’t miss that way Yoongi’s eyes soften by a fraction while they’re focused on a patch of facial hair along Jimin’s jaw. Doesn’t miss the way the late afternoon late slanting through the window turns his usually-dark irises into something golden, something holy. A faint smile tugs at Yoongi’s lips. “Great. I’ll let the crew know they can stop searching for a back-up now.”

“Thanks, hyung.” Jimin hopes Yoongi can hear the sincerity in his voice. “Really.”

Yoongi’s smile widens, and he brings up his free hand to cradle the back of Jimin’s head. Jimin almost chokes on his own spit, then forces himself to keep breathing evenly.

This is new.

“It’s nothing. Glad to help.”

The bathroom suddenly feels too crowded and stuffy. Jimin briefly considers jumping out the the window or scuttling away, but there’s still shaving cream on his face. He just has to grit his teeth through this weird closeness and get this whole ordeal over and done with. He tries not to fidget, and he doesn’t know where to look, so he settles for a random spot at the far end of the bathroom wall. The quiet between them feels like a hot air balloon.

Well, Jimin thinks to himself. At least Yoongi seems chill about last night, whatever may have happened. He’s not mentioning it, after all.

“So,” Yoongi quips, the corner of his mouth curling up in the tiniest of smirks. “Last night was wild.”

Or maybe not.

Jimin winces and flinches away, forgetting the fact that his husband has a thin but sharp razor pressed against his jaw, and that’s how he feels the exact moment when his skin breaks.

From outside the bathroom, a yawning Madeleine jumps out of her skin when she hears an explosion of—

“OWWWWW!”

 


 

A cloud-shaped Band-Aid adorns Jimin’s left cheek.

“Never again,” he seethes, squinty-eyed. “Never again will I let your hands near my face.”

They’re sitting opposite each other on the dining table (it’s becoming a Conference Point for them, Jimin notices) with Yoongi staring back at him with a completely blasé expression.

“I told you to hold still,” Yoongi defends himself. “Which... you didn’t.”

“That’s because of what you said!”

“What?” Yoongi says, sipping his tea. He’d insisted that Jimin drink plenty of fluids, so here they are now. “About last night? I wasn’t lying, was I? You were there.”

Jimin pouts glumly, not offering a retort, and across him, he sees Yoongi’s eyes flicker with doubt.

“Unless...” Yoongi sets his tea down, a muscle ticking in his jaw. “You don’t remember?”

Jimin makes a face. What’s he being so disappointed for? He should be glad Jimin’s more than willing to not remember.

But of course, Jimin being Jimin, he’s not about to back down. “Of course I remember,” he huffs with a prideful tilt of his jaw. His tainted, scathed jaw. Hopefully the razor wound won’t scar.

Yoongi regards him with a careful look, a myriad of emotions warring across his face.

“You do?” His eyes light up.

“I NEVER forget,” Jimin lies. “In fact, I can even give you a blow-by-blow recap of the whole thing.”

Yoongi’s eyebrows quirk up in surprise. “Is that so?”

Nodding vigorously, Jimin leans forward. “It went a little something like this...”

 


 

There was a boy in the bar winking across the Blue Rose, trying to catch Jimin’s attention. At first he served rum; but when Jimin asked for a long island tea, he served it again.

Jimin dubbed him as Nameless Cutie #1.

But as a married man, Jimin HAD to ignore him.

Yoongi was as quiet as a pantomime, sitting in the booth with him with his arms crossed, talking about how capitalism is damning the way the world economy works. Jimin, being a kind listening ear, paid him all the attention in the world. They had to look as in love as possible.

But then!

Perhaps it was the shimmer that Jimin applied to make his lips look extra glossy that night, or the vanilla perfume he’d worn to smell like A Snacc ™, but soon enough, a long line of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes were lining up to snap a selfie with him.

But Jimin was a Man Of Morals. Mustering his most angelic smile, he crossed his hands to mimic an “X” symbol while a visibly jealous Yoongi growled—

“He’s married, you fuckers.” 

“Sorry!” Jimin said while waving bye-bye, voice low and sultry and chocolatey and hazelnutty and everything yummy-ish.

 


 

“You were very protective,” Jimin says, nodding with feigned approval. “It was an impressive act.”

“Mmmm.” Yoongi sits unmoving across him with an unreadable look on his face, silent the whole time Jimin rambled on with his fake story. “Really, now?”

“Yup. Great acting from both of us.” He glances at Yoongi, expecting him to call him out on his bullshit, but finds, for the briefest moment, that—

Yoongi looks on the verge of crying. Tears pooling in the corner of his red-rimmed eyes, Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows heavily.

Huh.

“Hyung, what’s wrong?”

Yoongi hangs his head low between his shoulders and wipes the back of his hand across his face. “Nothing,” he ekes out, something raw and hurt in his tone. “Just got something in my eye.”

“Don’t be weird,” Jimin says cautiously.

“You remembered it wrong.”

Jimin freezes. Uh oh. Caught in a lie. He tips his head to one side in a thinking position. “I may or may not have missed out on a few details...”

With a shake of his head, Yoongi lifts his face again, and this time his expression molded into a mask of perfected calmness. As if he wasn’t close to breaking down mere moments ago. “No. You’re wrong.”

Question marks go off in Jimin’s head, and he bites on his lower lip. “What... what happened, then?”

There. It’s out. Jimin might as well have said he doesn’t remembers shit.

Yoongi smirks, but it looks forced. A non-smirk. Still, he drawls teasingly, “This was what happened...”

 


 

There Jimin stood on the bar countertop, wiggling around and playing air-guitar while screaming at the top of his lungs, “MAMAAAAAA~ OOOOOH!”

Yoongi, being a Responsible Adult, tried his best to get him to come down. Woe, woe. Such is the life of a married man.

Later on when they stepped inside the apartment, Jimin started stripping until he was only in his baby blue, cloud-patterned boxers, much to Yoongi’s mortification. Careful and concerned, Yoongi inched to the opposite end of the kitchen, towards the bathroom so he could shower.

But without warning, Semi-Naked Jimin leapt on the dining table and crawled towards Yoongi while purring.

“Rawr,” mewled Jimin, face pink as a cherub’s. “Rawr me up, sexycheeks. I need me sum lovin’.”

Horrified, Yoongi scuttled away to hide in the bathroom.

 


 

“Are you sure you’re not describing the plot of a bad indie porno?” Jimin interjects indignantly, because he knows himself, and knows he would never do such scandalous acts even while drunk. “Oh. Ohhh, hyung. You naughty kitty. Maybe those are your fantasies about me~”

But Yoongi just shrugs with an empty smile in his eyes now. “You gave me hell last night, Jiminie. I was in sooo much pain.” He clutches his chest and scrunches up his face dramatically.

Jimin pouts. “No way.”

“The truth is how we experience it. I could tell you right now, that...” Yoongi trails off, hesitating.

“What?” Jimin presses, all fired up and ready to shoot him down.

Yoongi inhales before cracking another small smile. “That you almost pissed on my back, and kissed my cheek, and held my hand all the way home...” He locks eyes with Jimin. “That could be another kind of truth, too.”

The way he says it, it sounds like something regular couples would do. So normal. So boring. Jimin almost wants to believe him. But they’re by no means a regular couple, not even a real one, so Jimin emits a loud laugh. “Aw. That’s cute, honeyboy, but impossible. Even if it was true, you should know that I tend to spout nonsense when I’m wasted. Hey, you should do that with your next boyfriend after we divorce.”

Pain shoots through Yoongi’s eyes, sharp as shock. It’s like watching a sunflower wither, the way he slouches and cradles his elbows, folding in on himself. He doesn’t tease back, and Jimin gets the vague feeling that he must’ve blurted something very, very wrong.

But what?

“So, um. Don’t worry,” Jimin adds in a valiant attempt to save the mood. “You can just disregard whatever happened last night, because it probably didn’t mean anything. I know I don’t remember, but still… I really hope I didn’t do anything offensive to you.”

Another curtain of quiet sits between them like a discarded piece of unwashed fabric, and the longer it drags on, the more Jimin’s fingers fidget under he table. His mind itches for him to say something, but his lips fail to form the words.

Somewhere in the house, Madeleine meows for dinner.

“Hyung, are we—“

“Excuse me.” Yoongi stands. “Time for feeding.”

He pushes off from the dining table without making eye contact with Jimin, who can only watch him go with a giant question mark over his head that grows bigger and bigger.

Yoongi doesn’t talk to him for the rest of the night, and it’s such a startling contrast to how he’s been treating Jimin this morning that Jimin can’t help but find it as vaguely—

Unnatural.

What just happened?

 


 

If there’s anything life has taught Yoongi in his 25 years of existence, it’s that expectation is the root of all heartache. He should have known better than to think things might go somewhere after… after everything that happened at the Blue Rose. Hell, even having such thoughts feel like a violation of the rules he and Jimin had laid down at the beginning of this deal. He shouldn’t.

That doesn’t mean he can help it. Min Yoongi is not a smooth liar, and he knows how hard it would be to pretend like he’s 100% fine. It's all Jimin's fault. How can one man drink himself to the point of amnesia? Yoongi grunts in frustration. Why he feels so crippled, he doesn’t exactly know. Feels a lot like eating poisoned sushi, the way his stomach swoops whenever Jimin draws near.

Which is why today is especially excruciating.

“Do you need me to bring any change of clothes for the shoot?” Jimin asks from upstairs while Yoongi is tending to Madeleine’s water fountain in the kitchen.

“No.” Yoongi scritches Madeleine chin and straightens up, hooking his camera bag over his left shoulder. “Everything we’ll need is already at the venue. Are you done yet?”

“Nooo,” Jimin moans in despair. “My hair’s not cooperating with me today. Wait for me, hyung!”

Yoongi purses his lips and scratches the back of his head, regret flooding him. He shouldn’t have asked Jimin to be their backup model for this shoot. It’s hard enough sharing the same roof with all their recent awkwardness going on. How’s he going to steer clear and keep composed now?

As if sensing Yoongi’s ire, Madeleine circles his ankles and mews softly up at him. Yoongi sniffles. “It’ll be fine,” he murmurs, more to himself than anyone else. He glances down at his pet cat with a stern stare, only half-aware of the pout marring his lips. He can’t help his Bitter McBitterson side from leaking. “And as for you, young lady, try not to fraternize with the enemy, alright? Park Jimin is not our friend. Or else you’ll get burned like I did.”

Madeleine’s golden eyes stare up at him for a prolonged heartbeat, before she breaks their telepathic gaze by licking her paw.

“What?” Jimin’s voice shouts from upstairs again. “Were you saying something to me? I didn’t hear you clearly.”

Yoongi grimaces. “No. Nothing.” He pats Madeleine’s head. To Jimin, he calls out flatly, “I’ll wait in the car. Hurry up.”

“Ah, hyung, c’mon, at least tell me I look good before we leave the house—”

The front door slams shut before Yoongi can bear to listen to the rest of his fake husband’s plea.

 


 

Perhaps the heavens are conspiring to bring down Yoongi’s Operation Ignore Park Jimin As Much As Possible, because when he arrives at the studio he finds Jungkook regarding him and Jimin with sharp shock.

“Hyung,” Jungkook greets Yoongi, all shifty eyes and furtive glances at Jimin. He walks closer and whispers under his breath, “Jimin-hyung is our backup model? You’re okay with him doing it?”

Yoongi narrows his eyes. “Why not? I offered and we’re both cool with it.”

“Yeah, I mean, I’m not questioning you guys or whatever,” Jungkook looks down at a clipboard in his hands. “It’s just that most of the sets involves only trunks, remember? This is a men’s swimsuit shoot magazine feature.”

It feels like ice shards are scraping against the walls of Yoongi’s throat, and he stifles a choking noise. “Wait, what? I thought it was a catalogue for men’s sleepwear.”

Jungkook sends him a funny look. “The client sent us the new concept last week, didn’t you check your email? They said they wanted us to focus on the swimsuit line?”

Well. Fuck.

The two of them sneak a glance behind at Jimin, who’s looking at them with innocent, wide eyes. Yoongi feels the start of a headache pounding at his temples. He’s by no means a prude, and he believes in staying professional at work, but spending an afternoon taking photos of your half-naked fake husband is not exactly how he planned his day to go. 

All of this, and it’s only 10am in the morning.

“So, what do you guys need me to change into? Where are the outfits?” Jimin asks, fingers fiddling with his collar.

Yoongi turns around and addresses his fake husband, bringing up Jungkook’s clipboard like some sort of shield in front of his chest. He gives an annoyed sigh. “Jimin.”

Jimin walks over to them, eyes on the clipboard. “Is that the shot list?”

“Yeah, and uh…” Yoongi works through a tick in his jaw. “You don’t actually have to do much.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Just strip.”

Jimin’s expression morphs from curiosity to utter discombobulation, and Yoongi’s already stumbling through his words in a half-hearted attempt to explain the situation. When he finishes talking, he checks to make sure Jimin doesn’t look uncomfortable with the concept. “So, are you alright with that?”

Yoongi keeps his eyes on Jimin’s face when his husband nods feebly, rubbing his arms. “I’m not all that confident because my body’s nothing too great, but I’ll try my best.”

Good. Yoongi nods and steps back wordlessly. Heaven knows he would call the whole gig off in a heartbeat if Jimin said no. Beside them, Jungkook claps his hands together and grins.

“Okay, let’s set up the lights. We’ll start when the client arrives to oversee the shoot.”

An hour later sees them waiting for Jimin to come out of the changing room, and Yoongi finds himself antsy at the thought of everyone in this studio seeing his… well, his business partner… in this manner. It’s not like he owns Jimin, and he knows that, but it’s hard to fight down the irritation flaring in him when the brand client, Choi Hyunwoo, lets out a wolf whistle when Jimin struts into the studio dressed in—

Yoongi licks over his lower lip. 

Jimin is clad in a pair of tight-fitting, grey trunks that map out every muscle rippling in his upper thighs. Under the studio’s bright lights, his honey skin glows in a way that makes Yoongi want to ogle and look away, both at the same time. Jimin rolls his shoulders back, dragging Yoongi’s attention to his well-defined torso, which looks extra slick from the oil that the makeup artist had applied all over his bare skin.

Yoongi kind of wants to dissipate into thin air.

There’s a painful silence enveloping the studio, and only when Jungkook clears his throat and nudges him with an elbow does Yoongi realize that everyone’s waiting for his first instructions.

Yoongi clears his throat loudly. “Right. Park Jimin-ssi, if you would take your place at the stool, please.” He gestures to the high seat in the middle of the studio, and Jimin obeys without a word. 

Contrary to Yoongi’s fears, the first half of the shoot goes by smoothly. Jimin is a pro at posing. He knows how to work with lights to bring out his best angles, hardly needing much prompting from the camera crew. He flirts with the camera without even knowing it, and Yoongi finds himself relaxing.

Yoongi falls into the work-induced haze that he always gets in whenever he’s engrossed with his photography, and for a fantastic  few hours, it’s just so… easy to get lost in this rhythm. For a short moment in time, Yoongi allows himself to admire all of Jimin through his lens. Allows himself to take in the full glory of his husband’s jawline, the graceful swan-like arch of his back, the rapture in his come-hither eyes whenever he tilts his head to one side.

That is, until they take a break, and Yoongi hears the tinkle of Jimin’s laughter from behind while he’s busy scrolling through their shots so far. When he looks up, his gaze lands onto where Jimin is sitting in his stool, playful slapping Choi Hyunwoo who’s whispering jokes into his ear. Yoongi fights the urge to roll his eyes. 

“They seem friendly,” Jungkook quips noncommittally beside him, also looking through their camera roll.

Yoongi doesn’t allow himself to fume. He has no right. “Probably doing it to please the client. I don’t care.”

He feels Jungkook glance at him, but is grateful when the younger doesn’t press. 

The shoot carries on into the better part of the afternoon. This time Jimin is in a pair of black and red trunks that’s even shorter than the last. Yoongi tries to fall back into the same comfortable working pace from earlier, but this time it’s just a tad more irritating when Choi Hyunwoo keeps commanding him to “zoom in closer” or “try to catch the brand name on the wasitband’s lining” because doing so would mean zooming into Jimin’s crotch. If Yoongi didn’t know any better, he’d peg the client for a pervert or something. 

Through the viewfinder, he suddenly spots Jimin rubbing at his arms, shivering, and Yoongi realizes—the studio is fully air-conditioned, with two blasting at full speed to keep their lighting equipment from overheating. Everyone here is in long-sleeved tops, except for Jimin. How long has the guy been tolerating the cold?

“Min Yoongi-ssi?”

Yoongi jolts back to reality, finding his client staring at him expectantly. “Pardon?”

“I said, I didn’t really like the shot you took just now. Give me a set only focusing on the lower half,” Choi Hyunwoo orders with an arched eyebrow. “And can someone put more lip balm on the model? His lips are cracking.”

“That’s because it’s cold,” Yoongi finds himself saying. “I suggest we take another break and turn up the A/C’s temperature for the time being.”

“No, I think we can go for another round of takes—”

“Choi Hyunwoo-ssi,” Yoongi enunciates, calm and careful. He sets his camera down on a nearby studio crate. “My model is feeling cold.”

The client’s mouth screws shut and he regards Yoongi with interest. “Very well. Last break before we wrap up, then?”

Yoongi nods, and he motions for the studio’s floor manager to turn down the aircon’s fan. Walking over to his messenger bag, he rummages around to pull out a shirt—only a thin yellow flannel, but it’s all he’s got—and strolls over to a half-naked Jimin sitting in the middle of the studio. He dumps the shirt over his fake husband’s head, which earns him a surprised noise from Jimin, before returning to his post by the camera stands without a single word. 

He has nothing helpful to say, so he doesn’t bother.

Through it all, Yoongi is aware of the smirk Jungkook is sending his way. While they’re standing close together to check their shots, Jungkook mentions in a lighthearted tone, “‘Don’t care’, my ass.”

Yoongi scowls at him.

This is not good.

 


 

“Oh? Jimin-ah,” Hoseok says the moment he spots Jimin walking in through Bean There Done That cafe. He’s dressed in a barista’s uniform, halfway through wiping a table. “Morning! Coffee?”

“No.” Jimin shakes his head and points at the sign taped to the glass entrance door. “Job.”

It’s been a few days since the photoshoot gig, the last time he and Yoongi last said more than two words to each other. Jimin can’t help but feel like Yoongi’s been getting more and more distant these days, and he’d be lying if he said it doesn’t suck a little. Even in their brief interactions at home Yoongi stayed cold and curt, behaving as if he was being forced to even look at Jimin. Jimin had tried several tactics to get Yoongi to… well, pay more attention to him, including assigning chores and asking about Madeleine’s vet visiting schedules, but something in Yoongi seems to have shifted. He only answers Jimin’s questions and leaves it at that, never bothering to engage in  longer conversations like he used to.

It’s unnerving, the way the thick air between them never seems to ease.

It’s weird getting used to aloof silence from someone you never thought twice about cracking a joke to. Ever since that day when Jimin woke up from his hangover, Yoongi’s attitude towards him swerved to a major U-turn.

And it shows. With Yoongi, actions speak louder than words.

Last night, Jimin found his black kitty slippers collecting dust on top of a shelf inside the storage room. A dead giveaway. And this morning, Yoongi drank from a plain black mug instead of his matching pair with Jimin’s chickie.

He’s being so loud without saying a single word.

Jimin wonders if he’s done something to warrant a kicking-out from Yoongi. Try as he might, Jimin could not for the life of him figure out what or where exactly they went wrong. Was it something he said? Something he did? Who knows.

He’d typically ask, but Yoongi hardly even spares him a glance these days, so why bother getting humiliated by rejection? And Jimin is not the most patient of people, especially with those who like to throw passive-aggressive tantrums, so... no thanks.

To rid himself of the hopeless sensation gnawing at his gut, he decided to make use of his current free time by finding a part-time job.

Like this.

“You can start right away tomorrow, so I guess we’ll see each other then,” Hoseok says brightly, beaming as his eyes scan Jimin’s resume. “How’s Yoongi, by the way?”

Jimin stares at his neighbour. Why do people love to ask about spouses as if they’re an extension of yourself?

“He’s...” Jimin bites his lip, because he doesn’t really know. He’s no mind-reader, and though he can guess that Yoongi’s been upset lately, he can’t figure out why or what is causing him to act so detached.

With a shrug, he answers, “He’s Yoongi, same old, same as usual.”

Hoseok offers him a small smile. “I’m actually starting to wonder what’s considered “same old” for hyung these days, because he’s been so different since you two got married.”

Jimin blinks. “He has?”

“Yeah. Brighter somehow, more full of life.”

“Why—how was he like... before?”

“Just... different.” Hoseok’s eyes go clouded as he seems to think back to a distant memory in the past, and he almost looks like he might spill more, but at that moment a customer arrives and he hustles to attend to them. “Peak hour’s coming, sorry Jimin. Hey, see you tomorrow?”

“See you—“ Jimin doesn’t even get to finish his words before Hoseok is jumping out of his chair at a secluded corner of the cafe where they both had their preliminary application interview talk, “...tomorrow.”

And so it goes, that for the following week, Jimin keeps himself preoccupied with his new part-time job. This, he juggles with audition days and role-hunts, all the while never forsaking his Madeleine feeding duties (the little ginger monster is growing on him, he hates to admit).

Jimin doesn’t give himself time to overthink. Idle hands make for idle minds.

He works, learning to wait tables and mop floors, and gets pretty darn good at brewing a mean espresso. He works because it’s better than wasting away somewhere that feels empty even when there’s another presence inside. The flat is an ice castle.

In theory, it’s a good coping mechanism, replacing a gaping hole with menial tasks. In theory, it should keep Jimin busy to the point of numbness.

But sometimes, a traitorous thought or two slips through.

Sometimes—not always though, of course not—when he gets home drained to the bone, Jimin wishes he’d have arms to run home to, or at least a listening ear to rant about fussy coffeeshop customers to. But there’s usually nobody at home for that—partly due to his own fault. He deliberately chose a work schedule so that he runs into Yoongi as little as possible. The less they see each other, the better.

That’s the worst thing about missing somebody—when they’re right next to you, sharing the same roof and same space, but still feel light years apart anyway.

But Jimin is no rocket man, and so he doesn’t know how to breach that distance.

Some days it’s okay. After all, Jimin reminds himself, it’s not like Yoongi’s obligated to make small talk with him. In hindsight, they’re little more than housemates. Co-tenants.

But on other days when Jimin loses a role (yet again)... well.

It gets Less Okay.

“I know what you’re thinking, and I’m not complaining, okay? This is not a rant. This is... a monologue, of sorts,” Jimin begins, sitting on the windowsill while hugging his knees. “It’s just. Don’t you think the house has been quiet, recently?”

In front of him, Madeleine yawns.

“You’ve been sensing it too, haven’t you?” Jimin shakes his head and stares up at the cloudless, moonless sky through the windowpane. Heck, even the sky is lonely without its moon.

(Pale things shine best in the shadows, he muses.)

Madeleine sits upright and paws at her ear.

“Tell me a secret, Madeleine.” Jimin sits cross-legged, and levels what he hopes is an earnest stare at the Persian. "Why does Yoongi-hyung have such a hot-and-cold personality?"

Madeleine stares at him unblinkingly, and Jimin pouts.

“Right. Good answer. Okay, next question. How did your dad live alone like this for years, in all this... this unbearable silence?”

A new thought pierces him then.  If a week of this crushing quiet is already driving him to breaking point, how has Yoongi been coping all this while?

Jimin has never claimed to be an emotional genius, but he does know a thing or 2 about being alone for too long, one of them being: loneliness eats away at you. A termite—that’s what it is. It finds the frailest wooden beams cracking in your sanity and gnaws away, away, away.

In that split-second, a montage of scenarios flash across Jimin’s mind:

Yoongi, eating cup ramen alone.

Yoongi, cheering over his favorite baseball team winning on TV alone.

Yoongi, curled up in bed, crying alone when his fever’s too high to get out of the house.

There is much to be said about heartache—it comes in varying levels. From pinched sensations to tight, heaving gasps; so visceral it’s almost physical. This time for Jimin, it’s the latter.

Something in him shifts when his eyes land on Madeleine again, licking her paw.

“I don’t understand a lot about Yoongi,” Jimin tells her, soft like he’s sharing a secret. “But I think I understand why he cherishes you so much.”

Madeleine pauses to give him a long, careful look. And then a miracle happens, right before his very eyes.

Madeleine crawls across the windowsill and plops down on his lap, purring like she knows what he just told her. 

It’s the first time in a while that Jimin’s smiled without forcing himself to. His gaze softens, and he pats her furry little head. “Thank you.”

It seems that there’s more than just one relationship he has to learn how to nurture in this household.

 


 

Eventually their cold war ends, but not in the way Jimin hoped it would.

See, recently every time he passes by that certain wooden shelf in the living room, his eyes always seem to latch onto that neat row of photographs of Yoongi and his ex. And though he knows it’s not his right to be against them—it is Yoongi’s apartment, after all—seeing those frames displayed for the whole world to see makes Jimin feel like he’s forcing sour bile down his throat all the time.

Especially whenever he recalls how Yoongi had so mindlessly tossed away their wedding photos—official photographs, at that!—to the bottom of a drawer and at the back of the storage room.

It’s a strong point, he thinks. Strong enough to warrant striking up a talk with Yoongi. He pops his head into the kitchen doorway, and asks Yoongi who’s eating his own self-prepared supper on the table: “Do you have a spare second?”

Yoongi jumps as though Jimin had screamed in his ear even though it was but a question asked in a normal tone. He glances up. “Why?”

Jimin hooks a thumb back over his shoulder. “I’m cleaning the living room and I’m thinking of...” He hesitates, chewing on the insides of his cheeks. “I want to keep those photo frames away.”

If Yoongi’s face was cold moments ago, nothing can live up to how his face darkens now. “Why.”

Jimin feels like he might pee his pants. He twiddles his thumbs at the hem of his shirt, concealing half his body behind the doorway. “Just... I was just concerned, you know. What if Namjoon drops by unannounced, and sees those pictures instead of—“

“Instead of what?”

“Instead of the wedding photos.” Jimin exhales a shaky breath, and when Yoongi doesn’t answer, frosty silence rips the air between them. “Our wedding photos.”

“Bullshit,” Yoongi gripes, metal spoon clattering against his ceramic plate. “What the everloving fuck made you think—“

“It’s not fair! Look, I’m the one you married,” Jimin finds himself saying, growing agitated even though he doesn’t know why. “So it makes no sense for you be keeping memorabilia around because it would ruin our—“

“Ruin our what, exactly?” Yoongi hisses, eyes turning red. “Because there is no way I’m taking those down.”

This is not the direction Jimin was aiming for. He wanted to tease, wanted to play-fight. Nothing like this. But Yoongi’s being too brash again, and he can’t help scoffing, “Fuck me up, Yoongi, at least learn how to move on—“

Yoongi huffs out a laugh, the kind that’s so devoid of any humor it’s borderline manic. “Move on? You have no right to tell me how I should feel about the only person who’s ever bothered to love me. Cared about me.”

“Hey, I care about you—“

“For real,” Yoongi adds in spite.

Jimin’s mouth clamps shut, and he can only stand and stare, breathing in rasps.

Yoongi shuts his eyes and rubs a hand over his face, taking a few deep, calming breaths. “Look, why did you even ask when you knew I’d say no?”

“I was lonely.” Truth. Honesty. There’s blood rushing in Jimin’s temples, so loud he can barely hear his own breathing. “I just wanted to talk to you again.”

Yoongi’s eyes snap open, but Jimin rushes to finish his sentence. Otherwise he’d never be able to say these words again: “To tell you the truth, it feels like I’m fighting for space with a ghost in your memory, and that’s just…” 

The most sickening kind of fight, he continues in his head, but never says. He lets his words fade into terse silence, heart rattling against his ribcage.

Why is he even saying all of this?

For the quickest second, Yoongi’s face distorts like he’s pushing down a grimace. Then he parts his lips and states sotto voce, “Jimin-ah. You know none of this is real, right?”

Jimin’s lungs tighten until it feels like all air is choking out of him. Right. He oughtn’t forget. None of this is real, he reminds himself, even though the pinpricks in his heart feel like anything but fake.

How does one respond to that?

Yoongi’s right—he hasn’t forgotten their original agreement, so Jimin shouldn’t let himself get carried away, either. “Yeah.”

“Good.” Slowly, like he’s afraid of stepping on another landmine, Yoongi backs away towards the dining table to return to his near-forgotten plate of japchae, head ducked, leaving Jimin standing there, skin feeling raw like he’s just gotten sun burnt.

Snap out of it, says a voice at the back of his mind.

Jimin turns around and drags his feet away, feeling like his soul just deep-dived into a trench it can’t swim away from.

He thinks: this is getting way out of hand.

(He thinks: at least Madeleine accepts him.)

 


 

“What’s with the long face?”

Jimin slouches against at armchair at a corner of Bean There Done That. It’s his mid-shift break, but he’s got no appetite to speak of, and so he scurried away here for some much-needed solace.

Hoseok must’ve noticed him moping about.

Shrugging, Jimin sighs, “I’m not making any face.”

“Yeah, you are. You’ve been frowning and sighing all day.”

“That’s not true.” Jimin sighs, shoulders sagging. Yoongi used to call him blob, and maybe he is, what with the way he just wants to mold and melt into the floor now.

“But you just did it again.” Hoseok grabs a stool and sits across him, face open and earnest. “Everything okay at home?”

No. “Yeah,” Jimin says, shaking his head.

“You say yes but you shake your head. Seems fishy to me.”

Oh. Jimin didn’t even realize his own body language.

He lifts his head and peers up at Hoseok. “It’s hard sometimes.”

“Well, what can I say.” Hoseok shrugs, one foot jiggling with his ankle crossed at his knee, “it really be like that sometimes. What’s it about? Come on, hyung will listen to you.”

Jimin is not the type to bare his heart and soul out to just anyone, especially when his problem involves something as high-risk as marriage fraud, so he settles for a milder version of the truth. “Just... I got into a fight with Yoongi.”

Hoseok nods. “It really be like that.”

“I know you’ve known him longer than I have, what with you guys being neighbors for so long...” Jimin bites his lip, thoughts tangled. “And I know I’m supposed to know him the best—“

“—but sometimes you just need an insider’s advice? I gotchuuu,” Hoseok chirps, leaning forward.

“It’s just that I find it tough trying to understand him sometimes,” Jimin confesses. “Weird, right? You must be wondering why I married someone I haven’t known completely...”

“Mmm?” Hoseok shakes his head. “I don’t think so? It’s never possible to fully know someone, Jimin.”

Jimin’s eyebrows shoot up. “You think?”

“Of course. Your own lifetime will probably never be enough to discover another person’s lifetime. It’s just how it is. I’m quoting one of my dad’s favorite books, by the way.” Hoseok winks.

“What’s it called?”

“I dunno, I made it up.”

Jimin grins for the first time since his fallout last night, and Hoseok holds up a hand for a high-five. “Yeaaah. That’s more like it. That’s our happy Jimin!”

Taking this chance, Jimin hazards a private question, “Hoseok-hyung. Have you ever heard about... um. Any of Yoongi’s exes before?”

Hoseok gasps. “You mean he’s never told you?”

“Told me what?” Jimin fights his hardest from looking too clueless, too eager.

Uncertainty flickers through Hoseok’s eyes, and he looks down when he answers, “This one, I think you’ll have to talk to Yoongi. Ever tried just talking?”

Talking—what a concept.

“I’m no relationship expert”—Hoseok leans forward like he’s about to dish out some top-secret code—“but I’ve learned that people tend to fight less when they don’t, like, fight.

Jimin scrunches up his nose. “What?”

“I mean TALK. It’s that simple.” Hoseok makes cute noises as he holds up both hands to mime sock puppets talking to each other. “Say what you want. Ask what you want. And make sure to listen carefully. Try not to get angry without hearing everything first.”

It’s as simple and difficult as that.

Those are the thoughts circling Jimin’s mind while he’s climbing the stairs to their rooftop flat. Since Yoongi won’t be home early tonight, will the whole place to himself to ruminate for a while—

Not.

Jimin pauses with one leg up the final rung of the staircase as he hears a soulful melody playing in the air. Somebody’s brought their speakers out to the rooftop sitting area.

It’s not live music, so it’s definitely not Yoongi playing any instrument, but Jimin follows the sound without thinking twice, and that’s how he finds Yoongi sitting on the low wooden table in the middle of the building’s rooftop terrace. He’s resting with his head buried in his forearms, propped up on both knees. Sleeping?

Or maybe not. At the sound of Jimin’s slippers padding closer, Yoongi raises his head and peeks up at him through red-rimmed eyes.

Brimming with unshed tears.

Jimin’s heart clenches and he drops low to sit across his husband, eyes never leaving Yoongi’s face. “Hey.”

“You’re home,” sniffles Yoongi, button nose reddening as he rubs a hand over it.

It’s like the sight of those sad eyes is tearing down whatever walls of pride around Jimin’s heart, because he answers softly, truthfully, “Yeah. Yes, I’m home. What are you doing out here?”

Yoongi sighs, and hides his face once more. Jimin’s eyes catch the glint of empty beer cans surrounding Yoongi. “I can’t believe you went drinking without me,” he jokes to lighten up the mood, despite knowing full well that Yoongi’s not obligated to do anything together with him. The only response this gets from Yoongi is a despondent sigh.

Jimin has only ever seen Yoongi cry once before, when he was hugging his precious keyboard close to his chest, and seeing it again makes him feel less than dirt. Tears don’t suit Yoongi.

“Why are you crying, hyung?” he asks. “Who are we beating up?”

“Am not crying.” Yoongi’s voice is muffled into the table.

“Let me rephrase that,” Jimin says, and against his better self he reaches out to run his fingers soothingly through Yoongi’s mop of raven hair. Tension melts away from Yoongi’s shoulders at his touch, and Jimin finds the courage to prod further. “Hyung, I’m gonna ask you something, and you don’t have to answer, but...” He inhales, and releases a slow breath. “I hope you will. I’m here to listen.”

Yoongi stays unmoving, but Jimin knows he’s listening. He doesn't want to believe that people like Yoongi are broken by design, so he musters frayed ends of his courage to ask, fearing his heart might crack at the answer: “Hyung, what’s making you sad?”

 


 

What’s making you sad, Jimin asked, and Yoongi finds that he has a million answers and yet none all at once.

Sadness—it’s supposed to be a feeling, isn’t it? But Yoongi has lived undivided from it for far too long long now that it feels part of him rather than a separate thing. And so he shrugs listlessly, wishing he had a foolproof reply that Jimin might understand. He has no clue where to start. The words don’t come, and yet—

And yet, Jimin waits. Patient, none of yesterday’s fury etched in his face, and Yoongi yearns.

Oh, how he yearns to answer.

Yoongi’s heart is a house. Some doors are ever-locked with the keys thrown away. It’s how he’s always been.

Until Jimin. Until he came knocking, trying to wedge a way in even with no key in his pocket. Yoongi lifts his head to meet Jimin’s eyes. 

“I first met Yeoreum in university.”

 


 

At some point in our lives, we’ll always have that person—the one that got away.

Yoongi remembers it all too well.

He’d been a college freshman from Daegu back then. As it was with most young adults savoring their first taste of freedom away from home, college kids were hungry. Hungry for experience, hungry for a sense of belonging, hungry to find love.

Yoongi’s roommate was a prime example of that. Barely two weeks after settling into dorm life, he found himself getting periodically kicked by his roommate and his girlfriend so they could be alone. Stubborn as he might be, Yoongi had never been one to scream back and refuse outright, and so he always obliged even when it pissed him off. On late nights like those, he found solace not in places like the dorm’s common lounge, nor in the reading room, but in the laundry room, of all places.

“I used to sit on this low stool at the corner of the laundry room,” Yoongi recounts, eyes trained on a single spot on the table where he and Jimin are sitting. He opens a new beer can and takes a swig. “And then I’d read a book there or study my notes for hours until my roommate texted me that it was okay to return.”

“What a dick.”

Yoongi gives a wry smile. “But if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have found something. Or someone.”

It had become his hiding spot of some sorts, that corner in the laundry room that Yoongi had come to claim spiritually. That was until he walked in one day and saw—

Somebody was sitting on his stool. His stool! At his corner! Abominable!

Granted, Yoongi hadn’t been able to cuss him or chase him off, and he owed that largely to the fact that when the Spot Stealer looked up at him, Yoongi’s brain froze at the sight of a mop of bright red curls falling into lacquer-dark eyes. There was no collision of stars behind his eyes, no aligning of the planets to signify some type of kismet taking place, but the sight of that heart-shaped face and slender nose had Yoongi’s interest had soaring to an all-time high.

Tongue-tied as he'd gotten, all he could do was point at the stool and mutter, “That’s my place.”

The curly-haired boy blinked up at him once, twice, before hurrying to rise from the stool like a nervous puppy. “O-oh. Sorry, I didn’t know you—“

“It’s fine.” Yoongi cleared his throat, wondering what to do with his own hands. “It’s only mine, like, in spirit.”

The boy paused, uncertain, and smiled. “I hope you don’t mind if I barge in, then.”

And Yoongi knew then and there—he was a goner. “You doin’ laundry or some shit?”

“Nope.” Curly Hair’s eyes darted about the room. “Running away from my roomate’s sexcapades.”

Yoongi snorted. “Ah, wouldn’t I know. Funny you should say that.”

The boy hummed curiously. “Why?”

“It seems we’re on the same boat.”

“Oh.” Curly Hair regarded him intently, and Yoongi pursed his lips. “I hope that doesn’t become a nightly thing.”

“It gets worse, trust me. Sex is a drug.”

His name was Hwang Yeoreum, and he was a sociology major. He lived one floor above, and like Yoongi, he was a freshman.

He was also, as Yoongi noted, very much into men. That much he made clear after their first conversation, judging by the sparkle in his eyes with each glance.

Some people, you meet for the first time but immediately click with as if you’ve known each other since birth. Yoongi wasn’t inclined to believe in the concept of fate and soulmates until Yeoreum came along and proved how... how easy it could be. Talking, laughing, sharing.

And so it happened, that as time went by, that little corner in the laundry room became their thing. Their secret hideout, a safe space they held between them like an inside joke the rest of the world wasn’t privy. They weren’t friends, not yet, but they were something else. It wasn’t until Yoongi attended a New Year’s Eve party months later, where he ran into the same guy with that familiar head of curls, red as rose petals. He smelled like fine wine and bergamot, and when he looked into Yoongi’s eyes under the gleam of party lights, Yoongi had the vague feeling that Yeoreum knew exactly what he wanted that night.

They’d both been tipsy when the new year rolled in, but in the mid-winter cold, they’d shared one scarf, and also their shy first kiss.

The following year was a blur of bliss.

Loving Yeoreum came as easy as breathing. He was sweet, never overbearing, and always gave Yoongi space without him having to ask for it. They respected one another as partners and individuals, and Yoongi was comfortable. They were similar.

Too similar, sometimes.

Not that it was a problem—Yoongi had had no previous relationships to compare with, and so he wasn’t sure if that was what love, true love, was supposed feel like. Where was the adrenaline rush, that surge of dizzying energy?

He couldn’t know for sure, and he wondered if that was the sort of feeling that grew with time. When they shared earphones on the subway, Yoongi thought: This is love.

When Mrs. Min showed Yoongi’s childhood pictures to Yeoreum, he thought: No, maybe this is.

When Yeoreum told him all about his past thinking his future was Yoongi, Yoongi mused: This must be it.

And when his mother passed away from an accident at her workplace and Yoongi bawled all night into Yeoreum’s chest, he then believed: This. This is love.

But loving someone is different from being in love with someone. 

Yoongi realized it too far, too late.

“What do you mean by that?” Jimin asks, and Yoongi has no idea how his fake husband is now sitting beside him instead of across him, but here they are, arms touching, and he doesn’t have the heart to complain. Besides, he’s warm to sit next to.

Jimin is the fire to Yoongi’s ice.

Yoongi sighs, forlorn. “I pulled the coward card.”

Two years. He and Yeoreum had been together for two years by then, and Yoongi never doubted he’d have tried to make it last longer if only Yeoreum didn’t show up at his apartment one night and suggested—

“Let’s move in together.”

It’s one thing to be in a relationship, and quite another to start living together as a couple. Perhaps at some point during their time together, one or the other veered off-track, because Yoongi didn’t know if he wanted to go the way Yeoreum wanted anymore. He wasn’t ready.

It had been their one of their rare but worst arguments, a tear-fest that lasted for over and hour and ended up with Yoongi breaking things off, because they were going nowhere, and they’d both become different people.

Love can last, yes, but over time some people’s hearts change. It happens.

Yeoreum walked out of Yoongi’s life in the middle of the night carrying a box of all his belongings that had gradually piled up in Yoongi’s apartment, eyes blurry with tears.

But then.

Then came the screech of tires.

Then came the hospital’s call.

Then came the crash and burn.

Afterwards, outside the hospital’s emergency room, what mercilessly stabbed at Yoongi’s heart was the last mental image he ever had of Yeoreum: tear-streaked cheeks and damp hair matted to his forehead, as he told Yoongi before stepping out the door for one final time: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t be enough for you.”

The last straw for Yoongi came in the form of his mother crying outside the operating room. She’d noticed him lingering nearby, and when their eyes met, hers flashing, she called him—

“Murderer,” Yoongi croaks now, unable to look into Jimin’s eyes. Jimin’s hand slips into his, holding him tight.

“What a bitch,” Jimin remarks bitterly.

Here’s what they don’t tell you about grief: it’s never pure. It’s never just outright agony. It’s a cyclone of guilt and shame and regret and that fucking, cursed “what-if”.

What if. What if. What if.

Two words that haunted Yoongi every night for the three years that followed after. For all that he has done, all the pain he has caused, Min Yoongi believes has no right to fall in love anymore, or be loved in return.

He’s not allowed. Forgetting would be a rude disservice, and moving on would be like breaking an unspoken promise sealed by someone else’s lifetime cut short. 

The worst part is he has nobody to blame. Life is a mystery like that. There’s no big bad villain, no conniving ex, no single entity to point fingers at when he doesn’t get his happily ever after. Some people are only meant to stay as our ‘once upon a time’, but nothing more.

It’s been a brutal three years. Some days he almost thinks he’s okay, but there will always come the occasional bouts of time when the memories hit him unbidden, with the force of a tidal wave that keeps him bed-ridden for days on end. It’s a long, tedious work in progress.

A loud sniffle breaks Yoongi out of his hazy walk down memory lane, and his head snaps to the right. Beside him, Jimin is covering his mouth with both hands to muffle the sound of his sobs, but it does nothing to stall the fat teardrops streaming down from his eyes to his chin.

Yoongi nudges him gently. “O-oi. What’s wrong?” He pokes an index finger into the squishy side of Jimin’s tricep. “Why’re you crying? It’s...” He swallows down the urge to whimper, too. “It’s nothing much—“

“Nothing?” Jimin repeats, eyes wide and petulant, lowering his hands from his face. “Hyung, please. You’re seriously—I want to—“

Apprehensive, Yoongi watches a myriad of warring emotions flit through Jimin’s face before he finally shuts his eyes and says, in an even tone that makes it apparent how much he’s trying to modulate his voice, “It’s okay, you know, to tell me that you’re hurting.” Jimin punctuates his words with a deep sigh.

Yoongi’s tummy pinches, chest caving in, and he looks down at where his clammy palms are settled over his knees. The words don’t come, but Jimin seems to understand him anyway. Then Yoongi reels in shock when he asks—

“Permission to hug you, hyung?”

Yoongi blinks dumbly. Before he knows it, Jimin is tilting his body to an angle that best accommodates their position, and wraps both arms around Yoongi, folding him into his calm warmth. Yoongi stiffens when he feels Jimin’s chest heaving against his own with a series of sniffles and hiccups, and as he rests his chin on Jimin’s shoulder he asks again, “Hey. Why are you the one crying here?”

Shouldn’t he be the one bawling his eyes out? Yet his eyes are dry.

(At least, Yoongi would like to believe he is doing an impeccable job of masking his expressions.)

“Just let me cry for you on your behalf,” Jimin murmurs into his neck. “I’m... I’m sorry. I never knew. So, allow me to ache for you.”

That’s when the dam breaks, and Yoongi allows one tear to drop. He may or may not have let out a soft sob. Yoongi’s grip on Jimin’s shirt tightens. “It’s OK. You couldn’t have known.”

“Thank you for sharing this with me,” Jimin continues, his fingers rubbing soothing patterns into Yoongi’s back. “Thank you for trusting me, hyung. I just... wow, I’m sorry for being a bitch all this time.”

Yoongi nestles his head into the juncture of Jimin’s neck and shoulder. He says nothing, because for the first time in a long time, he thinks maybe there’s so much more said in the silences that weave between him and Jimin than when they’re saying one thing but meaning another.

“Hyung, have you ever considered grief therapy?” Jimin asks gently.

“I’m working on it,” Yoongi answers with a dry chuckle. “Where do you think I disappear off to every Thursday night?”

Jimin pulls back and looks at him with wide eyes, glittering with tears under the rooftop’s soft lamp lights. “Then in that case, would you mind let me come along every now and then? Just... I don’t know. To support you.”

And there it is—Jimin’s nervous habit blasting in full force. The ways he’s picking at the underside of his fingernails, the way his chin is dipped so low it’s close to touching his chest.

Yoong reaches out to pat him on the head. “Let me consider that.”

Jimin’s mouth twitches upwards. “Um. And also—“ he hesitates.

“Hmm?” Yoongi shoots him an inquiring look.

Worrying his lower lip, Jimin enunciates slowly, carefully:

“I’d really, truly appreciate it if we could do this more. If you could let me be there for you, offer comfort when you’re down. At least let me be a friend to you. Please.”

It’s just the two of them alone together on the rooftop. Save for the occasional passing car in the street below, it’s quiet, so much so that if Yoongi strains to listen he might hear each thud of Jimin’s heart against his ribs. The jazz music that’s been playing all along from his phone’s speakers has long since dwindled into nothingness as Yoongi’s playlist reaches its end.

Friends.

Yoongi can roll with that. They can be friendly, this time without pretenses. It’s a good, honest start. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

The black kitty slippers are back on Yoongi’s feet when he plods into the kitchen the following morning, guided by his nose. The aroma of coffee swathes the air in a way that reminds him of warm bread and early visits to the bakery. When he steps inside, yawning, the scene that greets his vision consists of:

 

1) Jimin at the coffeemaker, back facing Yoongi;

2) A plate of garlic bread on the counter beside him;

3) Madeleine, her whole body slung lazily on his shoulder, tail flicking left and right.

 

This is a first. Yoongi tries to rub the leftover sleep away from his bleary eyes, certain he must still be dreaming.

“Baby,” he rasps, throat still hoarse. “What are you doing there?”

He realizes his words too late when Jimin’s entire body stiffens, back muscles tightening. Slowly, Jimin turns around, and Yoongi smacks his mouth shut and ducks his head so that the shadow of his bangs will cover his eyes.

Maybe he ought to grow a mullet, or a ponytail that he can flip over his face and cover his crimson cheeks whenever his brain goes mush like this.

Jimin must be staring at him. Yoongi isn’t a psychic, but recently he seems to have developed a highly sensitive Jimin Radar—a JimDar—that can pick up the slightest hint of attention from his fake husband.

Right now, the JimDar is screaming: Eyes on you. Abort mission.

Before either of them can stutter a word though, Madeleine gives a soft meow and hops from Jimin’s shoulder to the kitchen counter to the floor, before bounding across the kitchen to nuzzle Yoongi’s feet, tail swishing around his ankles.

Thank heavens. Yoongi looks up, points at Madeleine, and states with a smug look at the slack-jawed Jimin: “I was talking to her.”

A short pause. Then Jimin huffs and busies himself with the coffeemaker again. “Glad to see your usual snark is still intact.”

“Good morning to you, too.” Yoongi clears his throat, eyes trailing Jimin as he grabs their matching mugs off the counter.

“Here.” Jimin passes him a steaming mug of coffee as he walks by. “Yours.”

“Thanks.” It’s been a while since Yoongi saw that black cat mug. He’ll never admit it, but he appreciates having it around the house again. Why did he even put it away? It’s just a liquid container. Sheesh.

Learning to eat breakfast together again is like re-tracing the steps of an old forgotten waltz. Yoongi does his best to keep their conversation casual, but today, Jimin is acting... unusual. Or perhaps just a bit more careful since last night’s tear-fest. Like he’s tiptoeing on eggshells.

“Just spit it out, Jiminie,” Yoongi says after Jimin says, ‘Hyung...’ for the third time without following through with a complete sentence. “You’re making me anxious, you blob.”

Licking over his lower lip, Jimin lowers his chopsticks and takes a good, long look at Yoongi.

“What?” Yoongi says, one arched eyebrow doing the rest of the talking for him.

“How are you feeling?”

A veil of stillness falls over them, and Yoongi casts his eyes down. “I’m okay.” He looks up in time to see Jimin crack a tender smile.

Jimin nods, eyes glittering with a kindness that compels Yoongi to smile back. “Okay. But I want to say something.” He inhales and releases a slow exhale, then says, “I want to apologize for wanting to... um. For suggesting that we take down the photoframes.”

Yoongi blinks, and glances at the shelf across the living room. Something in his gut clenches, and he nods. “Mmmm. Thank you.”

“I know you miss him, so I won’t overstep.” Jimin grimaces as if remembering The Keyboard Incident. “Again, that is.”

Yoongi’s smile slips. Now there’s acid churning in his stomach, not because what Jimin said is true, but because he’s starting to realize—

It’s actually the other way round.

It’s been creeping up on Yoongi for weeks now, and though he doesn’t know what to call this drop-in-the-tunmy, metal-lead sensation that overcomes him, he knows he’s been torn up for a while not because he can’t forget Yeoreum, but because—

Because—

He hasn’t thought much of him since Jimin moved in.

It’s not that I’m missing Yeoreum, Yoongi wants to correct the young man sitting across him. It’s that I’m guilty.

Instead, he swallows a mouthful of bitter caffeine and forces his lips to curve up. “Yeah. Okay. Thanks for understanding.”

(Even though Jimin doesn’t understand.)

Jimin nods.

Then a phone vibrates, spreading a low hum rumbling through the dining table, and Yoongi wonders who could possibly be calling him this early on a Sunday morning. It’s way too early for anyone to be making phone calls past hell o’clock, damn it.

But then Jimin reaches over the table and answers his own phone. “Hi, mum.”

Yoongi sips at his cat mug, slipping into a Sunday morning daze as low chatter crackles from Jimin’s phone. He jumps when Jimin jolts upright, standing up while smacking a hand against the dining table’s edge.

“You’re downstairs?!”

Yoongi freezes and sets his mug down.

“Now?” Jimin glances at him.

Stricken, Yoongi sends him a wide-eyed stare.

Jimin covers the phone screen and mouths in response, She’s coming up.

Yoongi curses under his breath. “Is this a habit of your mum’s?” He hisses, scrambling to change out of his flannel pyjamas. “Dropping by unannounced?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jimin is saying into his phone, before shushing Yoongi with a Fierce Look. “Okay, yeah, he’s awake. See you, bye.” He drops the call and tells Yoongi, “Not to cause alarm, but my mother is a bit of a neat freak, so please don’t take offense when she comes in and starts nitpicking your house.”

Like mother, like son then. Now Yoongi understands where Jimin’s attitude came from. He looks around the flat, pensive. “It’s pretty clean now, isn’t it?”

Jimin laughs drily, clearing their mugs into the sink. “Oh, honeyboy. I did what I could, but you’re in for a storm.”

Yoongi gulps. “Thanks for the heads up...?”

“Now, remember what we talked about. Act natural, act like you’re madly in love with me, okay?” Jimin smoothes a hand over his own hair and shirt to look more presentable. “Oh, wait. I have an idea.”

Yoongi’s breath hitches when Jimin starts prowling towards him like a wild tiger circling its prey, and he backs up until he hits the wall. What?

Jimin rests a hand over his shoulder and leans in. “Hold still for me.”

“What are y—“

Jimin latches his lips onto Yoongi’s throat.

With a warbled gasp that sounds like a wheezing cat, Yoongi’s heartbeat stutters, and he’s sure he must be astral projecting into the second realm. Jimin’s upper teeth snag against the sensitive skin of his throat. Then, he sucks.

Horns and sirens blare in Yoongi’s head.

Jimin’s breath ghosts across his skin, and his warm mouth sends a very unnecessary shudder rippling down Yoongi’s throat. Breathing has turned into a myth. The world blurs. Words lose their purpose. Holy shit, is that Jimin’s tongue flicking across his skin? Yoongi’s vision swims, and his knees wobble.

“Ji-Jimin—“

Then, as sudden as it began, the moment ends. With a loud smack as his lips part from Yoongi’s throat, Jimin steps back and appraises his handiwork while Yoongi breathes raggedly like he just raced a marathon.

“There.” He smiles in satisfaction and pats Yoongi’s left cheek lightly. “Hmmm. That should do the trick.”

Yoongi only lets out an incoherent croak. One might deem it very Victorian, but in the aftermath of a boyfriend-less three years, the barest hint of physical intimacy is enough to rip his wits to shambles.

“What’s with that look?” Jimin frowns, before a hint of realization crosses his eyes. “Oh—you wanna give me one, too?”

Yoongi’s legs are still trembling against the wall, bu he gathers his words enough in a brave attempt at a cohesive response. “If you want—“

The doorbell rings, and said Brave Attempt dissipates to thin air. Yoongi’s tongue twists around itself.

“That’s her.” Jimin glances at the door apprehensively. “Come on.”

 


 

“Jimin-ah!”

No wider than two feet has the door opened before Park Yeonhee launches herself at her son, arms wide open as she peppers his face with kisses. “My baby, I missed you!”

Jimin half-giggles, half-groans at the onslaught of affection, squirming out of her grasp. “Hi, mum.”

Mrs. Park detaches from her son and approaches Yoongi, who gives her low bow before she sets him upright with a little shoulder squeeze. “Yoongi dear, have you lost weight?” She glances back at Jimin. “You two, have you been feeding on dust? Newlyweds need to be healthy!”

Jimin shrugs. He the exact moment his mother spots the bruising mark on Yoongi’s throat, and a devilish look crosses her face. “You know... to fuel these activities.”

Yoongi flushes and looks away. 

Jimin holds back a laugh, choosing instead to brace himself for a fresh round of Worried Mothering.

“But anyway! Not to worry, I brought some homemade kimchi for you.” Mrs. Park saunters over to a paper bag that she placed by the door and brings it forward. “And fresh veggies! Fruits, too, from grandma’s vineyard. She says hi by the way, Jimin. And don’t forget to call her.”

“Mum,” Jimin begins, already overwhelmed. He glances to the left and notices Yoongi has slinked off into the house if only to hold Madeleine back from going on feral attack mode. “Thank you. I missed you too. Just wondering... what, um, what brings you to Seoul today? I didn’t know you were in town!”

Mrs. Park shrugs and sing-songs, “Ah, well. Just thought I’d check in on you today and wanted to surprise you, so here I am!” She lifts the paper bags and follows Jimin to place them on the dining table.

“Oh.” Jimin chuckles nervously.

His mother pauses, and when she turns around to face Jimin, there’s a pout on her lips, clear as day. “Why? Am I not… am I allowed?”

Jimin shakes his head, the rest of his words coming out in a breathy rush. “No!”

“My son doesn’t need me anymore…”

“Not at all. You’re welcome here, right honeyboy?” Jimin hurls a panicked glance over his shoulder at Yoongi, and from somewhere behind, he hears Yoongi chortle dryly, muttering something about “like mother, like son”.

Jimin rolls his eyes internally and tries to ignore the wisecrack. He prepares three cups of chrysanthemum tea and sits his mother down at the dining table. Moments later, Yoongi joins them and sits beside Jimin, having calmed down Madeleine after working his magic. Not wasting the opportunity to prove his worth as a fake husband, Jimin weaves their fingers together.

Awkward silence.

“So,” Mrs. Park says, sitting opposite them. “Have you been well?”

“Mm-hmm!” Jimin replies almost automatically, and he cringes inwardly when his voice comes out a little too brightly for his own liking. But he’s not too worried. The thing with mothers, as he has learned from experience, is that you just need to say ‘OK’ over and over until they leave you alone. Wash, rinse, repeat.

“I hope my son hasn’t been causing too much trouble,” she directs at Yoongi with an imploring look.

Yoongi groans and casts Jimin a sidelong glance, his eyes speaking of unfathomable scandals that has Jimin’s pulse soaring. “Actually, Jimin’s been a total”—Jimin squeezes his hand just a taaad bit too tight, enough to make Yoongi hiss in pain—“a total... sweetheart, eommonim,” he finishes with a scowl towards Jimin in a silent screw you look. “Nothing but lovely.”

It must not be convincing enough, because then Mrs. Park frowns at the both of them, and it strikes Jimin at that moment that he and Yoongi have been speaking in jondaemal instead of banmal when addressing each other.

Which shouldn’t be the case, especially for married couples.

Making sure to drop the honorifics, Jimin lets out a lovesick sigh and coos adoringly as he pinches Yoongi’s cheek. “Isn’t he the cutest? I treat you well, don’t I, hubby?”

Yoongi reaches out to squeeze Jimin’s cheeks back harder. “Mmm, you treat me so well I shed tears of joy.”

Across the table, Mrs. Park awww’s at their gross display of affection, teary-eyed. “I’m glad to hear that.”

(Further back, lurking on the stairs, Madeleine shakes her head and flops up to sleep on Yoongi’s mattress. She has witnessed too much bullshit today.)

“So, are you making each other happy?” 

Mrs. Park’s next question all but throws Jimin off, and his throat dries up. His hands drop from where he’s cradling Yoongi’s face, suddenly overcome with an unspeakable sensation where he can’t look Yoongi in the eye. He feels like a cornered puppy in a shelter, unsure of whether to trust or to lie.

What should he say? Yoongi drives him up the wall on most days, but if Jimin were honest with himself, deep down inside he knows he can’t deny that the answer is—

“Yes.”

Jimin’s eyes widen. It’s not his own voice that said it. Turning to Yoongi, he finds his fake husband smiling at his mother with a gentle warmth coloring his eyes. He reaches for Jimin’s hand and guides it to his lap, before placing his own hand on top of it. “He’s my peace.”

Something in Jimin’s chest jolts, and with the serious way Yoongi is looking straight into his mother’s eyes like this is the most sincere thing he’s ever said, Jimin fights back the urge to cry. Yoongi must be lying, because there’s no way he’d label their daily arguments ‘peace’. 

There’s are pebbles in his throat. Jimin gulps to push them down, but he can’t, and so he sits there, stunned speechless.

“That’s the best feeling!” Park Seonhee exclaims, clasping her hands together. “I’d love to say it’s all bliss from now on, but I can’t promise that.” She giggles, brushing hair out of her eyes, and sitting here swooning happily like this for her son, Jimin can imagine a glimpse of what she must have been like as a giddy teenager. “But ah, you know, marriage is an adventure. You think happily ever after ends with a wedding? Hah! This is only the beginning, really.”

Conversation flows smoothly for the next half an hour, with a few well-timed flirty remarks here and there and some visible exhibitions of physical proximity, and Jimin almost thinks this is going swimmingly well, until—

“Jimin, who’s that in those pictures?”

Mrs. Park is staring across the distance between the kitchen and the living room, where the framed photos of Yeoreum are arranged on a shelf, eyes narrowed.

Yoongi’s palm stiffens in Jimin’s hold, and Jimin can practically feel his husband’s pulse quickening beneath his fingers.

“I could’ve sworn you already had blond hair when you two were together...” Mrs. Park muses, more to herself than to the couple. Frown lines crease her skin.

“Um,” Jimin gulps, “that’s—“

“My cousin,” Yoongi interjects without warning.

Jimin gapes at him, mouth hanging open. Like hell anybody’s gonna believe that. Who takes selfies kissing their cousin’s cheek? He lets his eyes scan the row of photographs—awards celebrations, a few selfies, a portrait that was most likely taken by Yoongi. None of the photos suggests a mere familial type of love. They’re doomed.

“A very affectionate cousin,” Yoongi finished lamely.

Jimin counts down the seconds before the inevitable explosion. He and his mother have a similar temper—only hers leans more to the loud kind rather than Jimin’s restrained-but-scathing anger. There goes all the ruse they’ve been keeping up, flushing down the drain.

Game over.

But Mrs. Park surprises them by humming thoughtfully. “Oh. That’s so sweet, I feel so embarrassed now.” She giggles behind her hand. “Silly me, I almost thought it was something else because of my myopia.”

Jimin releases a deep breath he never even realized he was holding.

Beside him, Yoongi’s body sags against the chair’s backrest as he rubs his temple. Both of their hands have gone clammy so they draw apart, and exchange a slightly apprehensive but amazed look.

Holy shit.

Holy fucking shit.

Then Mrs. Park starts fumbling through her purse. “Now, where did I put my glasses...”

A surge of panic rips through Jimin. “Mum!” he cries out, high-pitched and choked up. “How about I show you around, um... aha!” He snaps his fingers. “Yoongi and I have started this cute Wall of...”

(“Shame,” Yoongi mumbles.)

“—Fame,” Jimin modifies, “down the hall. Wanna see?”

That catches Mrs. Park’s attention hook, line and sinker, and she claps her hands in delight; glasses forgotten in an instant. “What an adorable idea. So show me.”

“I’ll show you.” Relieved, Jimin stands while communicating with Yoongi using only gestures and facial expressions. It goes a little like—

Jimin, with wide eyes: I’ll distract her while you do something.

Yoongi, mouth agape and eyebrows furrowed: Do what?

Jimin, snarling at him with bared teeth behind his mother’s back: I don’t know, just make sure she doesn’t get curious about them!

All without words.

So it goes, that while Jimin leads his mother down the corridor featuring their Wall of Fame (Shame), and his mum laughs at their silly pictures, Yoongi makes haste to temporarily clear away any and all items that might cast the slightest suspicion over their ‘relationship’.

“What about upstairs?” questions Mrs. Park, done with viewing the Wall Of Fame as if she’s just gone through a museum gallery. “I’d love to see how my son is settling in, and please tell me you wash your sheets.” She grins at Jimin.

And how is he supposed to deny his mummy dearest?

As they climb up the stairs, Jimin’s heart begins to hammer harder in the cage of his chest. He crosses his fingers behind his back, hoping Yoongi didn’t forget about how their mattresses are separated by a divider.

They step up the last rung.

Yoongi’s there, folding a blanket, arms spread out. “Sorry for the mess,” he says with a perfectly-molded combination of shyness and earnestness.

Jimin sweeps his gaze across the room. The divider is gone, and the mattresses have been pushed together, covered by a large blanket that makes it look like a cushion meant for couples.

Thank goodness. Relief, heavy as lead, washes over Jimin, and while Mrs. Park smiles her approval, he gives Yoongi the faintest hint of a surreptitious smile. Thank you.

Yoongi nods at him, and does a subtle thumbs-up while continuing to fold the blanket.

Jimin’s grin widens. He almost convinces himself this is it, that nothing else could possibly stress him out further than this inspection, until much later whilst they’re accompanying Mrs. Park halfway out the door.

She spins around with a severe look, index finger raised. “One last thing, though.”

Yoongi and Jimin reach for each other’s hands to squeeze tight, both holding their breaths.

Tsk-tsking, Jimin’s mother chides gently, “Please get some new furniture. No offense, Yoongi dear, but the flat would look much less dilapidated with a newer, nicer bed. Rugs and lights, too.”

Jimin gawps at his mum, and Yoongi tries to make a defense statement by mumbling, “But It looks perfectly alright the way it is...”

“You have funds gifted from your wedding, no?” Mrs. Park advises, turning back to wear her sandals. “Try to pamper yourselves as a couple, trust me.”

And because respecting parents, the elderly and in-laws have always been of utmost importance by South Korean norms, this is how, later that afternoon, Jimin and Yoongi find themselves reluctantly walking through the entrance of—

 

 

The first hour is the most taxing 60 minutes of Jimin’s life, and suddenly he’s thrown back to their first few weeks post-marriage, where he hated Yoongi’s guts to the core.

“Lame,” Yoongi grumbles at a pastel beige rug.

The hanging lamp—

“Lame.”

The lime green armchair—

“Lame.”

As it is, Jimin is now devising a plan to lead Yoongi into the middle of this labyrinthine building just to ghost him halfway through. Serves Yoongi right to go mad trying to search for him after all this! Jimin doesn’t care!

Except he remembers the terror of losing his mum at the supermarket once upon a time, so he holds back.

“Could you just, like, zip it for 2 minutes?” Jimin hisses, holding up his fingers to mimic the 👌🏻 emoji. “I am this close to karate chopping and yeeting your ass off this planet.”

Glum-faced with both hands shoved into his pockets, Yoongi shrugs and rolls his head back. Bored.

“I don’t get it,” Jimin says with rising irritation as they wheel their pushcart down an aisle of mirrors. “Why’d you even tag along if you didn’t want to come in the first place? You could’ve let me do this alone. You don’t have to be here, anyway.”

Yoongi cocks his head aside and looks at him wordlessly for a prolonged moment.

“What?” Jimin snaps, making eye contact through the mirror in front of them instead of in person. “Say something.”

“You told me to zip it for 2 minutes.”

Jimin grunts and spins away, maneuvering the shopping cart towards an isle of gardening deco. “Annoying.”

“For the record,” Yoongi chimes, jogging forward to catch up with him, “I’m the one with the car, and I don’t really see you lugging back that bedframe and furniture alone.”

“I can take a cab.”

“Like hell you will.” Yoongi nudges Jimin aside and pushes the cart with him. “I have to take care of you.”

Jimin pretends he didn’t hear that; ignores Yoongi’s words the way he ignores the dragonflies taking flight in his belly. 

Eventually they enter the section where all the showrooms are set up. At the sight of the first living room, Jimin sits with a sigh. “Oooh, this is a pretty one. Lemme rest for a sec.”

 

 

He reaches down to lightly massage his calves, feet aching from having walked around for so long, then feels the space on the couch beside him shift. With the face of a man in critique mode, Yoongi runs a hand over the sofa’s cushioned seat. “This is exactly the kind of aesthetic I’m going for when I live in a penthouse someday.”

Jimin arches an eyebrow and stifles a snort, looking around at the sparsely decorated showroom, painted in dark, muted colors. “A penthouse? Really?”

“Yeah, I’m gonna make big bucks, open my own photography studio, and get a place at the highest floor of a Gangnam condo. Someday.” Yoongi lifts both hands and mimics pulling out a measuring stick across the space of the room. “It’ll be just like this: not too big but not too small, either. Perfect accommodation.”

Jimin considers the minimalist coffee table and the peerless cupboards. “It’s very Yoongi-esque.”

“Of course, we’ll make sure to pick out some curtains that you like, and find a storage space for all your stage costumes or else it’ll ruin the whole aesthetic—”

“We?” Jimin repeats, and Yoongi goes quiet when his implication sinks in. He gulps and looks away, and Jimin forces his gaze down to his own shoes.

They both know they would be divorced by the time Yoongi gets to move out of his rooftop flat. There would be no more ‘we’ to speak of, not in that version of the future.

“Right. I mean, you can visit me and Madeleine every now and then and uh…” Yoongi’s eyes flicker with dismay, but he shakes his head and switches topics. 

Patting the sofa that they’re sitting on, he says, “Anyway. This one’s pretty comfy. Wanna get it?”

Jimin sighs, but goes along nonetheless, not wanting to spoil the rest of the shopping trip. “Oh, so now you’re being helpful with opinions, when it comes to stuff that facilitates resting?”

Yoongi makes a face at him, and Jimin rolls his eyes. 

His fake husband can really be such a whiny kid sometimes. Rather than bickering further with him though, Jimin hums in consideration. “There’s more to go. Kinda want to see the rest. We’re only at the first one, mind you.”

They meander in and out of different living room sets, exchanging a comment here and there, but ultimately agree not to get a sofa just yet.

 

 

“I mean, we can always come back next time and see if they have new ones,” Jimin remarks.

“Yeah, the one at home’s still sturdy, anyway.”

En route to the bedroom showrooms, they pass by an aisle illuminated by different lighting furniture, from lamps to hanging projectiles to chandeliers. Jimin excitedly points out different designs, all of which Yoongi flat-out rejects, citing that Madeleine might either swing from them or knock over then shatter.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jimin spots a small, cloud-shaped plush toy and points at it. “Hyung, don’t you think Madeleine will like that?”

“Okay, one—Madeleine doesn’t play with toys like that,” Yoongi counters with a smirk. “And two—are you sure you’re not the one who wants it?”

Jimin snorts and glares at him. “Don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t want it.”

“Whatever you say, cloud baby.”

(It’s not until much later, while at the checkout counter, that he realizes the cloud-pillow toy has magically been slipped into their pushcart.)

It’s so easy, with Yoongi. Talking to him comes as naturally as blinking. They amble and ramble like they’ve been doing this forever, like they weren’t meant to be elsewhere doing else-things, and Jimin tells himself that just for this one afternoon, he can allow the act to drop. Ease off from the faux-husband role. Relax for a moment in time. Play paper houses with a paper husband.

In the time it takes to stroll through the rest of the glammed-up showrooms, they’ve managed to get into a heated debate about the proper sizing for bathroom mirrors, capitalism, and even the existence of pizza in the Joseon era.

“Consider this: maybe we did know how to make an early, pre-modern version of the classic pizza,” Yoongi says as they walk. “Just that we called it bread instead of pizza.”

“How are you even sure?” Jimin retaliates, flummoxed. “There’s no existing picture to back you up.”

“Jiminie, you seem to forget there were virtually no cameras back then.”

Jimin pinches his arm lightly with a scowl. “You suck.”

“Ow, hey! Come on, play fair!”

(When Yoongi is laughing like this, it’s almost possible for Jimin to believe that his husband has never known sadness.)

Next: choose a bed.

“Anything caught your eye so far?” Jimin asks as they walk through the maze of different bedrooms. It’s always fascinating, how interior design works. There’s one styled like a Hawaiian paradise, all periwinkle and alabaster white wood; another designed to mimic a classic Victorian era, with arched doors and an actual table candelabra.

Yoongi lets his gaze roam around, before his face lights up and he grabs Jimin’s hand to pull him towards one showroom. “This. Looks easy to set up.” He glances at Jimin. “What...um, what do you think?”

Jimin swallows hard. He was expecting to choose two twin sized beds. Not like:

 

 

“It’s not single bed,” Jimin comments flatly, and the moment the words leave his mouth, Yoongi’s grip on his hand loosens.

“Oh. Right.” Yoongi clears his throat, scratching the back of his ear. “It’s okay. I mean. I just thought that the dark, uh, color suits my style a lot.”

“No, no,” Jimin rushes to stop him. “We can just always keep this as… well, as backup.” He gives Yoongi a tight-lipped smile. “In case we don’t find any nice twin beds, that is.”

Yoongi’s gaze falters, and he slips his hands into his jeans pockets again. “Cool. Sounds good.”

They needn’t look too far. In the next showroom, Jimin’s eyes light up the moment he sees the two beds on display, surrounded by a curtain canopy of warm fairy lights casting its white sheets in a rose gold glow.

 

 

“This is beautiful,” he says, awed, before doing a running-jump onto the mattress.

“Are you talking about the twin beds or the”—Yoongi points to the one beside them—“the canopy bed? They’re both pretty.”

“I like the twin beds.”

“I think the canopy one looks more comfortable.” Yoongi strides towards his preferred bed and lies down flat on his back. “A double bed has more space, too. See?”

 

 

Fair point. It does look comfortable, fluffed up with different cushions. The sight of Yoongi lying down on it like he’s never rested better anywhere else isn’t helping Jimin from staying true to his initial choice. “But... it’s not single-sized—”

“Come over here,” Yoongi beckons, making grabby hands. “Try.”

Jimin can’t say how it happened, but all he knows now is that Yoongi is pulling him to lay down beside him to ‘test the mattress’, and as Jimin settles back against it, he shields his eyes to avoid getting blinded from looking up at all the fairy lights draped over the curtains. 

They lie side by side. Still and speechless. Jimin can feel the warmth radiating from having Yoongi so close, can imagine moving his hand just an inch to the side so that he might brush and link pinkies with Yoongi.

In another life, maybe he would have.

“Hyung,” Jimin croaks.

In another life. Oh, the things he’d allow himself to do. The people he’d let himself be free to love wholly.

“Yeah?” comes Yoongi’s equally hoarse drawl.

Overhead, IKEA’s central speakers start playing a new melody—City of Stars. Jimin bites back an appreciative smile. Whoever played the La La Land Soundtrack deserves a raise.

City of Stars, are you shining just for me?

Twinkle. It’s bright, looking up at the smithereens of lights and lying down here like this.

It’s warm and solid, with Yoongi here beside him, steady and true as dawn after dusk and so, very real.

City of Stars, there’s so much that I can’t see.

Jimin’s eyes fall closed when he asks: “In another life, if you could be another person, who would you choose to be?”

Jimin doesn’t understand why he asked that, or what kind of answer he’s even looking for. His fingers curl around the ironed sheets beneath them, and he realizes they’re trembling. He feels like a leaf, separated from his once-branch, descending to make ripples in a calm lake. 

Yoongi lies quiet, then turns to one side to face Jimin, propping up his head with one arm. “Your husband.”

Jimin’s eyes snap open.

Who knows? Is this the start of something wonderful and new?

Never has Jimin turned his head to one side so fast. He expects Yoongi to tease him yet again, to crack a joke or two, but... their eyes lock, and there’s nothing Jimin finds there to laugh about.

Their eyes lock.

Yoongi’s gaze never wavers. He of the moon eyes and sugar smile. 

With a shaky inhale, Jimin shifts so that he too, is lying on his side, pillowing his head with one arm to face Yoongi. There’s a water dam waiting to burst behind his eyes, but he doesn’t trust himself to let go just yet. 

Voice tremulous, Jimin asks, “Really?”

He could reach out. Touch Yoongi’s chin, tilt his face so that Jimin can bid those pink lips hello with his own under the heat of these fairy lights. It would be so easy. 

Yoongi holds his breath, dainty as a daydream, and the moment folds over them like a storybook’s page waiting to be turned.

Except—

“Excuse me,” a clipped female voice interrupts, coarse as gravel.

Jimin and Yoongi spring apart from each other like they’ve just set their skin on fire.

A woman dressed in the standard IKEA uniform looms over them, arms crossed, face stern. “Please refrain from copulating on our beddings.”

They both mumble apologies and scramble to their feet, gesturing awkwardly with their hands as if they’ve lost a place in the world now that their two-piece puzzle has been snapped apart. 

The IKEA staff walks away, and as she does, the speakers seems to mockingly sing in Jimin’s ears:

Or one more dream that I cannot make true?

In the dreadful silence that follows, Jimin and Yoongi exchange a glance, only to look away the moment their eyes meet.

If Jimin is a leaf, then he supposes this must be what it feels like to dip chaos into calm waters, to create ripples without meaning to. Now he’s left to sink in its resulting riptide.

“So. The canopy bed seems like a good choice—“ Yoongi begins.

“Canopy bed, yeah. Yeah.” Jimin rests both palms against his cheeks to cool them down. “We’ll get that. And then let’s go home.”

(Later, Jimin will wonder why he agreed to buy a double bed, but not now. Right now, his brain is out of order.)

He fears that the drive home will be awkward, but then at the first stoplight, Yoongi looks over at him and grumbles, “Who the fuck uses the word “copulate” for sex?”

And then Jimin is laughing his head off like he hasn’t got a worry in world, once more catapulted back into what he’s now beginning to recognize as their comfort zone. This where they should stick to. 

He laughs because he’d rather not cry. He laughs because he can’t love.

But what replays itself over and over in Jimin’s mind like a broken record, as he lies wide awake staring at the ceiling that night, is the fact that Yoongi didn’t affirm his last question.

But he didn’t say no, either.

Chapter Text

It’s been a lot more peaceful these days, Yoongi notices. Summer is coming to a close; leaves are blushing, the breeze caresses his cheeks a little more coolly now, and he and Jimin have been fighting less ever since he’d opened up about Yeoreum.

It’s like they’ve quietly gone back to their easygoing dynamic.

Or, well... not really.

In ways more than one, things have returned to the way they were, and yet not completely. The two of them are still the same, but different.

Jimin still frequents the Blue Rose, but he no longer makes excuses that he’s there solely for Taehyung. Yoongi still whines about having to do dreary chores like laundry and cleaning the bathroom, but he finds no energy to argue when they both work together to install that new, troublesome four-poster canopy bed upstairs. Truth be told, Yoongi makes a pretty decent handyman when he actually tries, and he’s sure that it would have taken Jimin more than half a day to piece the new bed together if he hadn’t offered to help.

(The flushed smile on Jimin’s face while admiring their finished bed was a reward in and of itself, so Yoongi internally commends himself for the the effort.)

Contrary to what his initial qualms, sleeping in one bed isn’t as awkward as Yoongi thought it would be. As it turns out, there really is enough space for the both of them, and even Madeleine has taken to curling up in a small space between Yoongi and Jimin every night.

As the days pass, they fall into an unspoken, comfortable rhythm. There is now a chore roster tacked against the fridge door—courtesy of Jimin—that they must strictly adhere to ‘in order to maintain peace and harmony’, and though it’s a brand new adjustment for Yoongi, he can’t say he hates it, because this chore roster? Is the first actual proof in a long time that Yoongi is finally part of something as a co-team player. One half of a whole.

(He’d be lying if he said he dislikes being the answer to someone’s duet, even if said duet is an ode to housekeeping.)

The Wall Of Shame is still there, but the newer polaroids have turned less incriminating, tease-worthy moments captured by Yoongi: there’s one with just Jimin asleep on the couch; another with Madeleine play-boxing Jimin’s chest after freaking out from his particularly unsuccessful nail-clipping attempt. Yoongi’s most recent favorite picture is stuck to the upper right corner of the rapidly-crowding wall, featuring Jimin’s golden bedhead—the kind that he sports during early mornings when he’s too drowsy to say anything more than three words at a time.

They have also— and Yoongi thinks this is a moment to take note of—completely stopped addressing each other in jondaemal.

Yep, the Min-Park apartment is now a banmal household. Honorifics have been put in the coffin.

And so: things are the same, but they’re changing on a molecular level. Case in point: when Jimin suggested they should be on friendlier terms, he literally fucking meant it.

Yoongi knows Jimin has always been open with body language and physical affection with everyone, but these days he’s been on the receiving end of Jimin’s light, assuring touches coupled with those honey eyes and sunny smile, and it sends his JimDar pinging like a pre-teen crazed with hormones for the first time. It’s not that Yoongi doesn’t want to receive affection, it’s just that... he doesn’t know how to.

And once again, it’s like Jimin gets that aspect of him. Always making the first move to give Yoongi a quick shoulder squeeze when they pass by each other in the kitchen every morning; always being the one to smack Yoongi’s arms while nearly bending over laughing too hard from a joke to let Yoongi know he’s funny.

Jimin treats him like a flower seedling these days, but then calls it “being friendly”.

“Hyung, come give me a friendly high five!” Jimin would say after they successfully kill a rat in the bathroom.

“Hyung, how about a friendly hug?”

“This is a friendly dinner treat, hyung.”

Meanwhile, it’s all Yoongi can do not to combust from all this friendliness.

His therapist always advises him to try and be more openly receiving about others’ pure intentions towards him, and that’s how, while driving home from Therapy Thursday, Yoongi suggests casually:

“What’s your opinion on hand-holding?” He keeps his eyes on the road so that he doesn’t have to see if Jimin is making a face at his words or displaying any sort of disgust at the notion at all. “The friend kind, of course.”

Jimin hums in thought, playing a game on his phone. “I’m cool with that.”

The small hope in Yoongi flares to a big hope. “Yeah. Friends hold hands. It’s a thing these days, isn’t it?”

With a nonchalant shrug, Jimin says, eyes illuminated from a small blue screen, “It’s always been a thing. I hold hands with Tae all the time.”

Yoongi purses his lips. Okay, that’s not quite where he intends to direct this conversation to. But Jimin says no more, and Yoongi just keeps on driving in silence, and he almost decides to drop the topic, but then tries again in a lighthearted tone: “My hands are numb.”

Jimin blanches and finally looks at him, before glancing out the side window as if to say, autumn’s barely begun. “A little early for that, don’t you think? Are you catching the flu? How’s your temperature? Maybe when we get home you can take some meds—“

“What I’m trying to say here is”—Yoongi interjects, glancing at his fingers gripping the steering wheel—“between you and I, how about engaging in some friendly hand-holding from now on? Strictly platonic.”

Jimin blinks, smiles wanly. “Hmm, but wouldn’t it be weird since to do that when there’s nobody around to see—“

“Hey, Jimin.”

From his periphery, he senses Jimin’s mouth fall closed, before he says, “Yeah?”

Any maybe something near-demonic is making Yoongi feel free tonight, extra willing to loosen his brain-mouth filter, because he holds out a hand across the passenger seat. “Hold.”

Jimin stares at it like the colossal dumb-dumb he can be. “Huh, but you’re driving?”

“Just hold my hand, okay?” Yoongi almost implores, his hand still hanging in the air between them like an inanimate thing. “I need some friendly energy tonight.”

“Okay, but what if our hands go clammy? Won’t your steering wheel stink?”

Yoongi sighs. This clown. Wrinkling his nose, he tentatively pulls his hand away in defeat to curl it back around the steering wheel. He’s turning into the street where his apartment stands when he jeers, “That’s it. Please move out now. It’s over.”

He tries not to chuckle when true panic floods Jimin’s eyes. “Huh? But. WHY?”

“You are of no use to me.” Yoongi grimaces dramatically and flexes his fingers against the wheel. “Ah, woe. What a disappointed husband I am. Maybe I’m only destined to hold cat paws for life—“

His words stutter when Jimin grabs his right hand and squeezes it tight. Yoongi almost swerves into the wrong lane.

“Sheesh,” Jimin says, using both hands to rub circles against Yoongi’s. “I was just teasing.”

Yoongi bites down on a smile threatening to give away his giddiness, and he doesn’t allow himself to wonder if Jimin can feel his quickened pulse this way. They swing their intertwined fingers between them on the walk from the car to the flat’s staircase, and Yoongi thinks: yeah, this friendly thing can work.

(The fact that Jimin doesn’t even charge money for affection anymore never crosses his mind.)

When keying in the passcode to their front door, Jimin tries to let go, but not before he’s tugged back.

“If you run away, you’re dead,” says Yoongi. “I have two hands for this purpose.”

Jimin rolls his eyes while Yoongi keys in the passcode with his left hand. “For someone who can’t act, you’re a lot more dramatic than me.”

“Excuse you, I can act—“

“You wear your heart on your sleeve, hyung,” Jimin retorts as they toe off their shoes. “It’s comedy material.”

“That so?” Yoongi spins on his heel without warning, trapping Jimin between the front door and his own body.

Jimin lets out a small squeak when his back presses flat against the front door, pupils dilating. Cocking his head to one side, Yoongi leans his head closer to Jimin’s ear and murmurs, “So what’s it saying now then, oh great physiognomist?”

Jimin backs up and clears his throat, pinned down by the weight of Yoongi’s stare. “It’s saying...”

Yoongi quirks an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

He watches the way Jimin’s Adam’s apple trembles as he gulps. Yoongi can’t help it—there’s just something so magic about the way Jimin gets flustered. His eyes wander down to Jimin’s lips, and he catches a whiff of Jimin’s special musk, the one that makes him smell like sin and salvation both at the same time.

Yoongi can feel himself smirking. If Jimin is that good at reading people, then maybe he knows what this... friendly thing between them is potentially headed for.

“Do you?” Yoongi asks, voice dropping low, “Do you know?”

Jimin’s gaze stays unwavering despite the erratic rise and fall of his chest, and for a fleeting moment Yoongi almost thinks: maybe he does. “I—“

Yoongi’s phone rings.

With a groan, he steps back and fumbles around his pocket, and Jimin takes the open opportunity to scurry free, hightailing it to the living room in record time.

“What.” Yoongi huffs into the phone.

“YAH, Min Yoongi!” Seokjin’s voice screeches from the other end of the line.

“That’s Min-Park Yoongi for you,” Yoongi corrects, eyes following the way Jimin scoops Madeleine into his arms and gives her nose a light peck. “What’s up.”

“I may have a gig for you.”

Yoongi frowns. “To play piano? I’m good, no thanks—”

“Let me finish speaking first, you punk.”

Yoongi makes a face. "Shoot."

"Sooo," In a span of a nanosecond, Seokjin's tone goes from reprimanding to coy, "Joon and I are celebrating our 100-day Anniversary next weekend."

"And?"

"We're hosting a beach party, so I'm commissioning you and Jungkook to join as photographers."

But of course. Trust Kim Seokjin to bound over 100 miles extra for a simple event. Bemused, Yoongi scratches his head. "I could take you up on that, but do you just, like, want us to follow you guys around being all lovey dovey? What are we supposed to capture?"

"My proposal."

Yoongi inhales sharply, his mouth forming the shape of a small 'o'. "Whoa. Wow, hyung congrats."

"Don't." Seokjin's voice grows nervous. "Not until he says yes."

"Yeah, but I'll root for you all the same." Yoongi smiles, genuinely happy for his manager. "Are you sure, though?"

"About Namjoon?"

"Yeah, I mean it's been what— three months?"

Seokjin scoffs. "Yah. That's rich, coming from someone who proposed on the spot and got married a week later."

Yoongi flushes. Right. But he can’t even say he regrets it. Things were different, back then. "Jimin's a special one."

"Aren't they all?" Seokjin answers. "Anyway, is that a yes or a yes? Look, to make it feel less like a job and more like a holiday, you can even bring Jimin with you, if you want."

Grinning, Yoongi pauses right by the kitchen doorway, watching as Jimin squats to feed Madeleine.

"Okay, call."

"Sweet. Bring extra clothes, yeah? It'll be an overnight stay."

Jimin walks up to Yoongi as he hangs up, Madeleine in his arms and a question on his face.

Yoongi fights back a grin. A month ago, Madeleine would have clawed Jimin’s eyes out for even daring to pick her up. He pockets his phone. "Pack up."

Jimin looks horrified. "You're kicking me out?"

It’s hard not to smile. Yoongi shakes his head and ruffles his husband’s hair. "No. We're going to the beach."

 


 

The car horn honks.

“Yah, Yoongi,” Seokjin greets as he rolls down the driver’s seat window. His eyes flit over to the empty space behind Yoongi. “Where’s Jimin?”

Opening the door to the rear, Yoongi mutters, “Can’t come with.”

“N’aww,” Jungkook says, already inside and scooting over to make some space for him. “Why not?”

Yoongi grimaces, mood already souring. “He told me he’s got a company retreat with the guys he works with at the café today.”

“Clashing schedules, huh,” Jungkook remarks with a hum, placing headphones over his ears as the car speeds off. “Maybe he just didn’t know how to turn you down, hyung.”

“So Jimin is a Yoonmin anti,” Namjoon comments, peering through the rearview mirror.

“What’s a ‘YoonMin’?” Yoongi sulks. He hopes Namjoon won’t think that he and Jimin aren’t in love just because Jimin didn’t come. His legs bounce up and down involuntarily. The trip hasn’t started but he’s ready for it to be over.

“It’s your ship name,” Taehyung chimes from the other end of the rear. “Hey, hyung. You should’ve told me he wasn’t gonna come! I’d have convinced him.”

“Yeah, well he’s not here, so let’s just. Drive.” Yoongi leans back with a sniff. “And no offense, but why’re you even here?”

“Cousin perks,” Seokjin answers, and Yoongi’s eyes shoot up. He didn’t know that. “Taehyung’s here with us as—“

“Moral and logistic support,” Taehyung interjects, waggling his eyebrows secretively. “You know, for the big—“

Seokjin shushes him with a piercing death look, hands tight around the wheel.

“For the what?” asks Namjoon, and when nervous silence answers him, he repeats, “For the what, Jin?”

“The big BBQ pit party, babe.” Seokjin’s head swivels around to shoot Taehyung a pointed glower as if to say, if you ruin the surprise I will stuff you in the trunk. Then he turns back around and sends his boyfriend a sweet smile. “Taehyung’s here as the designated grill-keeper.”

Namjoon nods, eyes fully trusting and earnest. “You’re really the best at keeping everything in check.”

“I know. Don’t forget to buckle your seatbelt, love.”

Yoongi sighs and stares out the window, wishing he’d brought sunglasses against the too-bright dawn breaking out across the horizon. So everyone’s here but him.

For most of the morning drive, Yoongi keeps to himself, not really in the mood to play small talk with anyone, even his own friends. It’s ironic how everything they pass by on the road reminds him of Jimin. Like the convenience store they stop by playing ‘Breathless’—his favorite song—and the ice cream brand that Jungkook bought, which Yoongi is dead sure Jimin would have clamored and fought tooth and nail to get a lick of. 

It’s one of the little things he’s learned about the guy—never attempt to withhold ice cream from Jimin. He will go feral.

The worst thing is—the beach they visit is at Busan.

“Jimin would’ve loved it here,” Yoongi remarks under his breath as he steps outside and stretches like a newborn kitten. “It’s his hometown.”

“Mine too!” Jungkook swats his arm.

Yoongi hums nonchalantly. “Sure, but Jimin was born in Busan first.”

“How is that even connected?” Jungkook pouts, jogging to catch up with him.

From the corner of his eye, Yoongi senses Taehyung watching him intently, but he pays him no mind. Lugging his camera bag from the trunk, Yoongi says resignedly, “Let’s just get to work, okay?”

And work they do. As the morning wanes into afternoon, Yoongi focuses his energy on capturing good shots, while he sets Jungkook to be on the videocam. They take a few behind-the-scenes footage, all while making it seem like a simple outing vlog just so that Seokjin’s boyfriend won’t sense a thing. Luckily, Namjoon is surprisingly easy to distract—as sharply intelligent as the man is, he’s got the blind trust of a toddler’s.

The JimDar stays relatively quiet, which throws Yoongi off, because he’s gotten used to a daily routine of panicking whenever Jimin comes to near him. Seokjin tells him he must be suffering from a case of Newlywed Syndrome—that period of infatuation where everything is bliss—but of course that’s nothing but pure BS, in Yoongi’s opinion. They’re not even a real married couple, and he sure as hell doesn’t miss Jimin.

“Stop frowning like that, you’re killing my vibe,” Seokjin hisses while they set up camp, tent and pillows and firewood and all, on the soft sand. It’s all dim and romantic and Yoongi hates it.

“Fine, whatever.” It’s still day out, and the sun won’t set for a few more hours, but later there will be a campfire and everyone’s going to have fun and Yoongi’s going to have to endure filming Seokjin and Namjoon being lovey dovey... which will undoubtedly make him feel like a sad single man.

Yoongi doesn’t miss Jimin, but a part of him can’t help but think that maybe Jimin should be here, too. You know, just for this incredible seaside view. And the fact that this is his hometown.

(He wonders if he can look for any seaside houses that Jimin might want to consider getting for his parents.)

Earlier he’d contemplated dropping a quick call, but Yoongi figured Jimin would prefer not to he disturbed. He’d hate Yoongi for ruining his company retreat after hearing his voice.

“I know you miss him,” Seokjin says as he stacks the pillows against one another. “But try to play along today, won’t you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Yoongi denies with a sniff, but there’s no bite to his tone, and he feels kind of sick. Heartsick.

In an effort to ‘liven things up’ Seokjin proposes that they play—cue drumroll—Truth or Dare.

“What are we, 12?” Yoongi grumbles, before joining the circle of guys around a table anyway.

“Not that juvenile. It’s more of Drink Or Dare,” Seokjin says, placing shot glasses in front of everyone. “If you avoid a dare or don’t answer a question, you drink. Simple rule.”

(At his words, Taehyung makes a face, and waves down a waiter to keep a can of coke on standby.)

They’re sat around a long table at a beach bar called the Seven Seas, taking a break not only to wait out the rest of the blazing early afternoon heat, but also highkey because Seokjin privately mentioned to them something about needing to ‘’unwind” before his big P-word later.

It’s a Saturday afternoon, and though the sun’s still up, the bar is already teeming with patrons. The air weighs thick and heavy with the scent of beer and booze, the area filled with chatter as people poured amber liquid down their throats, and Yoongi thinks: none of these people would hold a candle against Jimin in a drinking contest.

“We’ll go in a circle, starting with Yoongi,” Seokjin says, taking the lead. “So, just between us buddies here, how’s the sex life of a married man like?”

Yoongi wheezes on air; harder still when Jungkook snickers and adds, “Jimin-hyung once told me something about... feet.”

What.

“Oooh.” Taehyung releases a low whistle. “Didn’t know Yoongi-hyung was a kinky one.”

“I don’t—what are you even—“ Yoongi stammers, tongue tripping to get his words out, as the others laugh good-naturedly. “There’s no such thing!”

“Right, right.” Seokjin grins, nudging him with an elbow. “Stop being shy.”

Yoongi narrows his eyes, the gears in his mind racing a mile a minute. Min-Park-fucking-Jimin. He is dead. He is so, so dead—

“He probably wants to keep it private, guys,” Namjoon says, thought he’s also grinning. “Let Yoongi indulge in feet all he wants.”

Yoongi drops his face into his hands, heat creeping up the back of his neck. Combustion seems to be the only way out. That, or... as a new thought hits him, Yoongi grins. Payback.

“Jimin loves collars,” he says, casually leaning back. “Also, bedroom acrobatics? He’s the full package. A total circus.”

His friends gape at him, wide-eyed, except for Taehyung who’s grinning like a loon.

“Wow,” Jungkook breathes. “That’s so... mature.”

“That must require a lot of stamina,” Namjoon muses, brows knitting together as he gulps down a mouthful of beer. “Say, how many calories does one round of sex burn? Has any of you ever wondered that?”

The table goes quiet. Birds chirp. Waves crash against the shore. Beside Yoongi, Taehyung quips, “I like rabbits.”

“Next!” Seokjin announces, already massaging the bridge of his nose, though Yoongi doesn’t miss the way his manager leans over to Namjoon to whisper how they can talk about ‘Googling the answer together’ later.

They go five rounds around the circle, with Yoongi downing 3 shots, Jungkook accepting the dare to do a double flip-handstand on the table, Seokjin belting out Whitney Houston and Taehyung getting dared to ask for the bartender’s number. 

When the time comes for Yoongi’s last round, Namjoon asks, “Tell me. How did you and Jimin meet, again?”

There’s liquor running through Yoongi’s veins, and he’s feeling warmer than usual, but he’s still sober enough to remember the relationship history that he and Jimin had initially agreed on. “Oh, y’know. Normal story. We met on Tinder, go to know each other, then he introduced me to Taehyung… the rest is history.”

There. The perfect, infallible cover story. Yoongi smiles, satisfied with his convincing delivery, and Namjoon nods, fully convinced.

It’s just that Seokjin and Jungkook are both giving him these long, weird stares, and a small knot twists in Yoongi’s gut, but he can’t say why.

With a confused hum, Seokjin says, “That’s not how you met, though? Didn’t you propose to him the moment you saw him at—“

“LOOK!” exclaims Taehyung, pointing at the shore. “Namjoon-hyung, crabs!”

Like a lighthouse switched on, Namjoon’s eyes turn bright, and in an instant he’s tripping over his flip-flops. “Where?!”

“Come on, I’ll go with you!” Taehyung looks back over his shoulder and winks at Yoongi as if to say, I got you, before taking off with Namjoon in the direction of the shoreline. Yoongi licks over his lower lip, grateful for the distraction. 

Meanwhile, Seokjin and Jungkook remain at the table, giving him suspicious looks.

“I knew it,” says Seokjin after a long, pregnant pause.

“Knew what?” Yoongi chuckles, but it’s a tremulous, high-pitched sound that betrays his nerves. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“And I,” Jungkook says. “Am very confused.”

Yoongi bites at the inner sides of his cheeks, feeling like he’s about to face a time bomb. He briefly considers bolting out of is seat or waving down a waiter to order another round of beer, all in the name of not getting busted.

But Seokjin just sighs, and puts up both hands like he’s given up trying to argue. “It’s your life, Yoongi. What’s done is done. How long will you stay with him?”

Yoongi can feel Jungkook’s gaze burning into his skull as he answers in defeat, “December. Before the new year.”

“Wait, what—“ Jungkook’s eyes grow impossibly wider than they already are. “Is this about Jimin-hyung?”

“It’s a long story.” Yoongi purses his lips. “Let’s not start.” He sends Seokjin his most imploring expression and pleads, “Don’t tell Namjoon?”

Seokjin doesn’t acknowledge the question. “You’re in it for the money.”

Yoongi looks up, expecting his manager to be glaring at him with disgust, maybe even revulsion, but all he finds is sadness in those deep browns. Seokjin sighs. “And Jimin is, too. Am I right? That wedding, everything else... all for the cash.”

There’s no lying out of this one. Yoongi can’t, not with the way he’s been with himself and everyone else, so now he lets loose; comes clean for the first time: “I mean… I was.”

“Was?” Seokjin frowns, like he’s just found a clue to a question he wasn’t even asking. “Care to elaborate?”

(“I’m lost,” says Jungkook, scratching his head.)

“I don’t know, okay?” Yoongi sighs, slumping over the tables and burying his head into his arms. Blood is rushing in his ears, seeming to block every last strand of rational sense in his brain. His voice is muffled as he continues, “It’s complicated. I don’t think I even understand myself these days.”

“Take it in stride,” Seokjin urges. “These things take time to figure out.”

That’s the thing. There’s too much to process and too little time to sit down and ponder over it that Yoongi hardly thinks he’ll get himself straight. What even is this emotion? Who knows! He doesn’t want to risk it, doesn’t want to sacrifice the companionship he now has with Jimin. Then there’s the fact that he doesn’t believe he deserves to feel anything close to love again, not after what happened with Yeoreum. Yoongi is a caged bird, wings flat against his back.

There’s just. Too much. He can’t bear to begin thinking about it all. Keeping his head down, Yoongi mumbles, “I have a question.”

“If you’re going to ask me to forgive you for lying about something as big as marriage, don’t,” admonishes Seokjin, bitter but not unkind. He’s never unkind, despite his loose tongue and loud opinions.

“Nah. I deserve it.” Yoongi shifts his face, and rests his head to one side on the table. “How did you know?”

“How did I know what?”

(“Y’all mind I go order some drinks?” Jungkook asks, perplexed. Both men wave him off with a nod and he scurries off like a kid allowed on a playground.)

“About Namjoon,” Yoongi looks across the shore, where the lawyer and Taehyung squat and frolick among crabs. “How’d you know he was the one?”

“You’re probably wondering why I’m already ready to propose after only knowing him for 100 days, huh.” Seokjin takes a swig of lager, letting the glass thunk against the wooden table. “Honestly, you don’t. You never know, because there’s no such thing as The One. People don’t come in ready-made matches, Yoongi-yah. You have to work to fit.”

There’s only one person at the back of Yoongi’s mind, and the image of Jimin, in every small moment they’ve shared, bloom as memories. Jimin grinning like a menace after a prank; Jimin cursing after stubbing his toe at the coffee table; Jimin crying every time they fight.

“As for Namjoon...” Seokjin smiles, soft and dazzled. “I just knew. You’ll know it too, Yoongi, when someone cares about you. Joon wants us to work. I think that’s what matters the most. I’m not getting any younger here, so I thought, if I’m getting married, then I might as well choose a partner who makes me feel safe; who’s willing to grow with me.”

“That’s deep.”

“That’s love,” Seokjin says. “It’s work and commitment. Not some fancy romance thing that plays out in the movies, but every once in a while it’s fun to indulge in that, too. That’s why we’re here.” He gestures his arms out in a grand flourish.

From the shore, Namjoon lets out a piercing shriek.

“Aaand that is my cue to check up on him,” Seokjin chuckles, sliding out of the wooden bench just as Jungkook returns with a glass of banana milk (Yoongi will not ask how he even procured that at a beach bar. The boy is made of wonders.)

“JK, let’s catch some crabs,” Jin beckons.

They walk off, arms slung over each other’s shoulders, and leave Yoongi to wallow alone in self-pity at their table. In the late afternoon, sunlight pierces through the canopy of coconut leaves overhead, blinding him. Yoongi sighs and buries his head into his folded arms again.

He’s close to dozing off when he senses a new presence sliding into the bench opposite him on the table, and a heavily-accented voice in the Busan dialect calls out to him, “Hey, pretty boy. You come here often?”

Yoongi grunts, not bothering to lift his head. “Go away, I’m married.”

His response is met with silence, and the chatter in the bar rises once more. Yoongi is convinced that he successfully warded the stranger off when he hears a familiar, tinkling giggle.

His whole body stiffens.

Then, in the Seoul accent: “Honeyboy, who knew you were that loyal?”

Yoongi lifts his head so quick he almost snaps his neck. No. No way. He’s supposed to be away, out on his company retreat, so Yoongi must be imagining it all when he sees—

Jimin, his Jimin, sitting shirtless across him with a smile carved out of pearls. 

Maybe in another story, Yoongi would have gasped and fainted, or risen from his sitting position to kiss his husband’s pretty lips, or done something equally swoon-worthy of the movie screen. But as it is, Yoongi can only gawk as he asks, “Where is your shirt?!”

To which Jimin throws his head back, hair falling from his forehead, and laughs so hard that he almost knocks himself off the bench. And Yoongi has never been overcome with such a darling sense of gladness, seeing someone laugh like this. Like a seed sprouting, a mirroring smile blooms across Yoongi’s face, and he realizes it’s the first time he’s smiling for real today.

“Does it matter?” Jimin asks, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes as his giggles subside. “We’re at the beach! I’m here now, aren’t I?”

Yeah, you are. Please let this be real, Yoongi doesn’t say. Instead he pinches himself; glad it hurts. “What are you trying to say?”

“I could sense it.” Jimin lifts an index finger up in the air, mimicking a radio’s antenna. “My Yoongi Radar was acting up, telling me you were so miserable and lost and gone without me.”

“Lies.” Yoongi rolls his eyes, sitting straight at his full height now. “FYI, I was busy all day.”

“Good for you!” Jimin says, playfully picking up honorifics  in a teasing tone. “I’m glad you have a life, Yoongi-ssi!”

“Why, thank you soooo much for your concern, Jimin-ssi,” Yoongi retorts, his cheeks pulled back in a grin he can’t suppress, before switching back to banmal. “Brat. What’s the real reason you’re here, anyway?”

“Told you.” Jimin shrugs and looks over his shoulder, just as Yoongi spots Hoseok waving from a few tables over. “Company retreat. I was really surprised to see you here!”

“I know right, who knew?” Yoongi wrinkles his nose. “Me and my bad luck.”

Jimin reaches out to pinch his ear.

“Ow!”

Yoongi rubs at the sore spot at his earlobe, before extending a hand to lightly flick Jimin’s button nose. 

“Hey!”

“Serves you right.” Yoongi glances at the group of guys at Jimin’s table. “Will you, uh... how long will you guys be around? Are you staying overnight?”

Jimin nods. “We’re staying at the motel nearby.”

Yoongi’s eyes widen, and he double-checks his own hearing. “Motel?”

“Yeah. Kind of like a chalet? Pretty cramped space, but it’ll do. It’s just one night.”

That doesn’t doesn’t too reassuring. “Just one night” is a dangerous term. That’s what everyone says. But Yoongi has heard enough horror stories surrounding the words “just one night”, and more often than not there are unspeakable things like witchcraft and seduction involved. Yoongi tongues at his inner cheek, unsettled. “Are you okay with that, though?”

Seokjin had booked a row of huts for them to stay at, and Yoongi is staying alone in one of them. He has half a mind to invite Jimin to stay over, but then—

Jimin shrugs. “I’ve lived in dorms. This is nothing.”

“Think of your sanitary well-being,” Yoongi urges, licking his lower lip. “Also, will you really be comfortable tangled up with other bodies like that?”

“I mean. Cuddling’s fine with me.”

“Yeah, but not with me.”

The silence that ensues following his words is as painful as a sore throat. Yoongi’s mouth goes dry, and he looks down, focusing one an age-old stain on the teak table. “Like. Personally speaking, I don’t like cuddling with strangers myself. So I thought maybe you wouldn’t, too.”

“Ohhhh.” Jimin hums thoughtfully, nodding. “Phew. I thought for a second you were getting jealous or something there.”

Cheeks warming, Yoongi huffs loudly and waves a hand to play it cool. “Nah. I’m just concerned for you as a... friend.”

Jimin nods again, leaning back as if starting to push off to leave the table, but right at that moment they both hear Seokjin shouting about putting “Operation P” underway, and Yoongi takes the opportunity to snatch his husband from the grip of his coffeeshop workmates. Literally.

“Wait.” Tugging at Jimin’s wrist, Yoongi says, “wanna see a proposal?”

 


 

“Operation P” consists of two phases—

 

(1) planting the seeds, and 

(2) reaping the harvest. 

By now, all of them have left the beach bar and returned to their mini campsite, and Yoongi and Jimin are casually packing extra cans of beer into their ice box when Seokjin subtly begins Phase 1.

“Guys, guys,” says the Blue Rose’s manager, “anybody wanna to go on a treasure hunt?”

Right on cue, Taehyung’s hand shoots up as he lounges on a beach blanket beside Jungkook. “Me.”

Namjoon looks up from where he’s wrangling their packed food from its foil wrapping, eyes sparking with interest. “I thought we were gonna start the BBQ grill for dinner now?”

“Not yet,” Seokjin says, standing and pulling him by the wrist. “I heard the locals talking about some urban legend earlier at the bar, Joon. Apparently there’s buried treasure lying somewhere here.” He lowers his voice to a conspiratory hush. “From the time of pirates.

Namjoon’s brows dip together. “In the 21st century?”

“They’re modern pirates.”

“But from where?” Namjoon persists, and Yoongi exchanges nervous glances with the rest of the guys.

“Well, that’s what we’re about to find out, right?” Jimin chimes in like a pro. “It’s called an urban legend for a reason. Who knows?”

“That’s the mystery part if it,” adds in Taehyung with a mischievous grin. He rubs his hands together in glee. “Who else is in?”

Namjoon shrugs noncommittally. “I mean, if you all want to, sure. Count me in.”

Yoongi feels Seokjin sigh in relief beside him. Thank goodness for actors and improvisation.

They split into three groups—Taehyung and Jungkook together with Hoseok (who suddenly popped up to join them out of nowhere like a bulldozer) in one team, and Seokjin and Jimin in another, leaving Yoongi to embark on the pre-planned “beach hunt” with Namjoon.

And for a damn good purpose, too. He’s the frontman, designated to make sure Namjoon gets to where he’s supposed to be. Yoongi is slinging his DSLR over his neck when Seokjin hands Namjoon a crumpled up note that was supposedly obtained from ‘the ancient locals’ to ‘help find the lost treasure’.

“To make things more competitive, let’s go separate ways,” says Seokjin, pulling Jimin by the arm in the opposite direction of the beach. “Bye!”

And then Yoongi’s left standing alone with Namjoon to make sure the man doesn’t go off-track, while the rest of the guys prepare for the hunt’s grand finale. 

In other words: Min Yoongi is the babysitter. 

Which is... weird, given how Kim Namjoon is literally the one who holds the key to Yoongi’s future assets.

Whatever worry he has is put to rest when Namjoon shrugs. “Let’s win this thing,” he says, looking down at the wrinkled note in his large hands.

Yoong raises his camera and snaps a photo of Namjoon reading the clue. “So what does it say?” 

He clocks the way Namjoon’s pupils dilate as he reads through the note once, twice, before tilting his palm in Yoongi’s direction to let him see:

“It’s a quote.”

 

At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.

—Plato

 

Follow the footprints to the heart;

Uncover rhyme and riddle

For the journey to start.

 

“Follow the footprints to the...” Namjoon grows quiet, contemplating the words over and over. He looks at Yoongi, parts his mouth as if about to say something, before promptly shutting it. “Okay. How am I supposed to start—“ he spins around and stares at the—

Footprints in the sand.

Granted, they’re at the beach, so there are over a thousand footprints wedged in the sand all over them, but as both Yoongi and Namjoon follows its track, they spot how there’s only one particular set leading to a rock-and-stone formation in the sand, shaped like a heart.

Yoongi stifles a laugh. Seokjin, you sappy motherfucker. His ideas literally could not have stood out more if he wanted. "I guess the pirates were into heart patterns."

Yoongi tells Namjoon to go ahead and follow the footprints, while he lingers a few steps behind to (lowkey) film him from the back. Namjoon marches down the shoreline, beelining for the heart-shaped rocks, and picks up a standout stone wrapped in a black sheet of paper. 

He glances up at Yoongi and brandishes it with a glint in his eyes. "I guess the pirates used colored paper in their time, too."

"Just read it, man."

As promised, the second clue is a famous quote from a children’s books author, though it’s distorted to look read like an indecipherable riddle, and Wow, Yoongi thinks, 10/10 for effort, Kim Seokjin.

The note was designed to look like a pitch-black night sky smattered with stars. Frowning, both he and Namjoon squint their eyes to read the tiny white font:

 

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world THREATENED around you because FIRE the greatest secrets BUT are always hidden THAT in the most WAS unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never LONG AGO find it.

 

It’s safe to say that Yoongi is very much stumped. But he’s not that worried—after all, his job is to capture this whole moment, not crack riddles and poems with his subject. Moreover, Seokjin is the one who planned this hunt, so he should know his own boyfriend well enough to figure shit out. 

Still, he tries to appear like a team-player: “I guess there’s a coded message in there somewhere.”

“It’s Hozier,” Namjoon speaks without missing a heartbeat.

That was fast. “It’s—what?” Yoongi doesn’t fake his surprise.

“Do you have a pen?”

Yoongi pulls one out of his pocket—courtesy of Seokjin, who predicted this—and hands it over to Namjoon who scribbles with his tongue peeking out:

 

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world THREATENED around you because FIRE the greatest secrets BUT are always hidden THAT in the most WAS unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never LONG AGO find it.

 

Written out, the irregular words spell: Threatened fire but that was long ago.

“This line is a piece of lyric,” Namjoon explains, a small smile spreading across his face. “From… my favorite song.”

“Huh. The pirates had great taste.”

Namjoon gives him a knowing sideways glance. “Jin set this up, didn’t he?”

Yoongi makes his most Innocent Face. “I know nothing.”

One eyebrow raised, Namjoon returns his attention to the clue. “So we cracked this part, but that doesn’t really tell me anything.” His jaw clicks. tightening as his concentration deepens. “Unless...” He whips out his phone and plays the song.

Yoongi strains to listen. “Uh...”

“You got anything?”

“No. Can we listen again?” Truth be told, Seokjin never revealed the answers to Yoongi, so he’s as much in the dark about this as Namjoon. “Maybe there’s another line there with a hint?”

“Or maybe...” Namjoon re-reads the note. “Look with glittering eyes...“

Yoongi suppresses a groan, tries not to let his thoughts roam over to what Jimin must be doing right now. He must be helping Seokjin with the set-up. Kind Jimin, sweet Jimin, always ready to lend a helping hand when it comes to his friends. That he’s here at all is a miracle.

“I got it.” Namjoon snaps his fingers, eyes shining with newfound discovery. “The song’s length is 4:28.”

Yoongi frowns. “And so?”

“And so! 28 divided by 4 is seven, right?” Namjoon turns his head this way and that like an eager puppy. “And if you look around—with glittering eyes, tell me, Yoongi—what do you see?”

Yoongi hums in thought. “Shirtless men.”

Ddaeng,” corrects Namjoon, throwing him a ‘WTF’ look. “Look behind you. That’s the beach bar. What’s its name?”

“Seven Seas?”

“Yes!” Namjoon hops about with a yelp. “28 divided by 4 is 7. Come on, let’s go!”

“How’d you even—“ Yoongi shakes his head as he drags his feet through the sand to catch up with the human-sized golden retriever leading the way. “You know what, I’m not even gonna ask.”

They reach the Seven Seas, and instantly Namjoon strides down an aisle of hanging oil lamps. “Here.”

“Are you sure about this?” Yoongi asks behind the camera in his hands, not even bothering to pretend to think anymore. Kim Namjoon is a man with brains large enough to rule a planet, so.

“Nope, but I have a hunch.” Namjoon stops at a specific oil lamp that’s been blown out, its flame burning low. “The lyric.”

“What about the lyric?” Yoongi asks.

Namjoon crouches low, and reaches beneath the metal plate of the oil lamp, and to Yoongi’s shock, his fingers pull out a tiny card in the shape of a flame. “Threatened fire but that was long ago. This is the only lamp that’s not burning anymore. Simple logic.”

“I—“ Yoongi pauses to let out a long, low whistle. “Wow.” 

How the fuck did Seokjin think of all this? How well does he know Kim Namjoon enough to predict his thoughts? Yoongi lifts his camera and takes a photo.

“Anyway, what does this card say?”

Namjoon turns the card in his direction.

 

I know a place where no one’s lost

I know a place where no one cries

Crying at all is not allowed

Not in my castle on a cloud

 

“Okay, I know this,” Yoongi says, feeling smug. Looks like all those hours upon hours of Jimin’s raving to him about the wonders and glory of the musical that is Les Misérables aren’t useless after all. “This was originally a novel written by Victor Hugo—“

“There!” Namjoon cries, pointing at a small structure by the shoreline, standing dangerously close to the crashing waves. It’s a sandcastle... built inside the drawing of a cloud.

 

 

Literally: a castle on a cloud.

Yoongi’s jaw drops, gobsmacked.

Kim Seokjin—of fucking course.

Namjoon waddles over with him in tow, and as they approach Yoongi makes out a flagstick poking into the sandcastle. A drawing of a sad, crying emoji printed on the flag.

“Crying at all is not allowed,” Namjoon murmurs in thought, bending down.

“...not in my castle on a cloud,” Yoongi finishes as Namjoon pulls out the flag.

And out pops a white note, twirled tight around the flagstick’s handle. With clumsy fingers, Namjoon uncoils the final clue, nearly stumbling over the sandcastle as he does so, and reads:

 

Follow the blue flags down the line

Answer a lifetime’s promise to be mine.

 

Yoongi snaps the shutter at the exact moment that Namjoon’s eyes go wide, and the next time his lawyer looks up to locks eyes with him, they’re glistening with the force of this understanding.

“He— this—“ Namjoon sucks in a breath, fingers quivering, before he purses his lips.

“So?” Yoongi’s gut coils, and he holds in a breath while crossing both hands and toes. This is it—it’s make it or break it. “Are you?”

His camera zooms in to the way Namjoon’s fingers tremble while holding the paper note. The lawyer stares down at the flag—blue as a summer’s sky, blue as dragonfly wings—and looks back at Yoongi, thunderstruck.

He turns.

And follows the trail of blue flags leading to a turn in the shoreline, towards a more secluded spot beneath the cover of palm trees, where his lover stands waiting. Yoongi’s chest loosens with relief at the sight of Namjoon sprinting for dear life, before he snaps out of it and remembers he’s supposed to be filming this!

They round the sharp bend in the shoreline, and—there.

Kim Seokjin stands with his back ramrod straight, dark parted and gel-slicked back, and among the beach-goers milling about he stands out in a pair of denim shorts and a crisp pink shirt with a black bowtie. Behind him reads:

 

 

Namjoon draws near, eyes on the sand, before he lifts his soft gaze to Seokjin, who clears his throat and speaks: 

“Joon-ah.” His voice warbles, so he tries again. “Hey.”

Feeling very much like a third party, Yoongi steps back and films while hiding behind a tree, trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible.

Seokjin fidgets with his bowtie. “Fuck, this thing itches.”

Namjoon suppresses a laugh by covering his mouth.

“Anyway—Namjoon-ah. My parents always told me the man I’ll one day marry should make me feel the same as when I see my fried chicken order coming at the restaurant.”

From a few meters away, Yoongi hears a snicker and a hushed “shhh”, and he glances to the left where he spots the other 4 guys hiding behind a bush, squished altogether. A tingle runs up and down his spin the moment he spots at Jimin, who has the audacity to wink at him. Yoongi reverts his attention to the camera, willing himself not to lose focus.

“But you—“ Seokjin pauses to buy himself time to push down his nervous chuckle when Namjoon inches forward, face written in awe and wonder and all things happy. “You’re not just fried chicken. You’re the whole damn buffet line. An 8-course Michelin star meal, my Kim Namjoon.”

Namjoon half-laughs, half-sobs, making weird noises while pressing the back of his hands to his eyelids like he can’t believe all of this. Yoongi angles his camera just in time to catch Seokjin getting down on one knee (and cursing loudly when the sand bites into his kneecaps).

“And I thought—hey, I think you’re the man I want to eat a lifetime’s worth of fried chicken with. And visit the Vatican City with, like you always wanted to. And scuba-dive into the Great Barrier Reef with. I’d do it all. With you.” Seokjin grins, brings out a silver band, and his voice trembles with his next words: “So... will you marry me?”

And Yoongi knows he should be pouring his 100% focus into capturing this special moment, knows how much Seokjin trusted him for this, but at the last second he averts his gaze and locks eyes with Jimin, squatting behind the shrubs.

Jimin is staring back at him, eyes glazed with something unreadable.

Yoongi doesn’t let himself break their gaze. 

Never in his life did he ever imagine himself marrying someone, let alone wishing for a do-over for that one and only time he proposed like the loser he is, but here he is now. 

Here they are now, and Jimin’s eyes are glassy, and Yoongi’s heart twists at the thought that—

That—

Jimin must be wishing he received a proposal as heartfelt and fancy as this one. 

There was nothing magnificent about their arrangement from the very beginning, that much Yoongi knows, but he can’t help feeling like he should have given Jimin the treatment he deserves. Yoongi shouldn’t have grabbed him off the side of a bar and popped the question as if he was asking for someone’s number.

He doesn’t hear Namjoon’s answer, only snapping back to reality at the triumphant cheering that erupts around him, and the next thing Yoongi knows, Namjoon and Seokjin are tangled in liplock like they’re each other’s dying breath of fresh air in the middle of a seastorm.

Yoongi tears his gaze away from Jimin’s sad eyes, swearing under his breath and lifting his camera to his eyes to start snapping away. The proposal was a success—good! He’s happy for his friends, truly. This is a stunning prelude to forever!

So why does his heart feel so heavy?

 


 

“Cheers!”

“To the husbands-to-be!” yells Taehyung.

“Congrats!”

The clinking of beer cans, the whooping of red-cheeked men; merrymaking drapes over the air like a bubble shaped by laughter. Yoongi supposes this must be what the poets mean when they say, “love is in the air”. Namjoon and Seokjin have been attached at the hip since the big Yes Moment a while ago, and everyone’s in a good mood, except maybe for Jimin. He’s been quiet since they got back to the campsite, albeit smiling along and cheering for the happy couple. Not that Yoongi was paying attention.

It’s none of his business anyway, so Yoongi busies himself with the barbecue grill, a pair of tongs on one hand and a small fan to man the flame in the other. Whenever he’s part of a social gathering, he likes making himself useful even in the most understated, smallest ways possible, like this.

Yoongi gets so hyper-focused on his meat-grilling task that he tunes out the rest of the world, and so when someone goes—

“Boo!”

—beside him with a jumpscare, Yoongi nearly leaps out of his own skin, promptly dropping the tongs and knocking the back of his hand against the hot metal grill. It sears into his pale skin, and he hisses and flicks his hand in the air, staggering backwards before glaring at whoever dared to disturb him. “What the actual fuck—“

“Sorry!” Jimin gasps, eyes widening at the injury he caused. “Hyung, sorry—“

“Honeyboy,” Yoongi corrects sullenly.

Jimin’s mouth falls closed. “What?”

“Remember, we’re in public. We need to act the part.” Still hissing in pain, Yoongi makes his way to the back of the campsite tent in search of some ice, antiseptic and ointments. Jimin tails after him with a barrage of apologies.

“Does it hurt very much?” Jimin tries to reach for his knuckles, but Yoongi swats his hands off with a click of his tongue. “Aw, come on. I just wanted to check if you were okay.”

“M’fine,” Yoongi grouches, turning away to bandage his knuckles. “Just a little burn.”

Jimin tries to reach for his hand again, but Yoongi snatches it away out of knee-jerk reflexes. “No.”

“Coming from the hand-holding monster, I’m surprised.”

He’s surprisingly being a lot more cheerful despite his somber face moments ago. Yoongi makes a face. “Whatever. Anyway, remember what I just said. I know Namjoon is very... distracted... at the moment, but”—Yoongi licks his lower lip—“I uh, need to tell you something.”

“What?”

“We kind of got busted.”

Jimin’s pupils dilate in fear, and his smile freezes. “What. Wait, why? How?”

Yoongi sighs. He relays the events of the afternoon to Jimin, whose mouth curls up in a sneer as the story unfolds, and with each passing second Yoongi just wishes he could melt and slither away from that Disappointed Stare.

“So, Jungkook and Seokjin-hyung know?”

Yoongi nods sheepishly.

Jimin’s mouth curves down, face grim. “But nobody else does, right? Apart from Tae, of course. So. Let’s keep it that way.”

“What do we do about it?”

Worrying his lower lip, Jimin shakes his head. “We just gotta show Namjoon-hyung how ‘in love’ we are, then. He’s our main guy, after all.” His gaze slides over to the lawyer, irritation painted across his features, before he turns around to walk back to where the rest are singing and laughing. “Seriously, hyung, I leave your side for one day and we almost get exposed.”

“That’s why you shouldn’t leave my side at all.”

Jimin halts.

“As in, you know,” Yoongi hurries to add, pulse spiking and ears warming. “For safekeeping purposes!”

Jimin’s shoulders sag, and he glares backwards at Yoongi. “Right. Now, do your safekeeping duties and act like my husband, properly. Otherwise we’re fooling nobody here.”

And so it goes, that for a good portion of the late afternoon, as the sun begins to curtsy in the sky, Yoongi and Jimin spend time cooing over and coddling each other to barf-inducing levels.

“Munchkin! Put some sunscreen on!” Jimin croons in a sickeningly sweet voice.

Yoongi turns to him, an equally saccharine smile on his face, and lifts his hand to show off his bandaged knuckles. “I’m already burnt, thank you very much. How about you let me put on sunscreen on your back?”

“Mmm, yes. I do love it when you lather thick stuff over me.”

(Between them, Jungkook exchanges horrified looks with Taehyung.)

While everyone else enjoys the barbecue, Yoongi squirts a bottle of sunblock over his hand and pretty much smacks it over Jimin’s shoulder the same way he would hurl a slab of meat on the BBQ grill.

“Yes,” Jimin hisses and lets out a whine. “Harder! Harder!”

(Jungkook’s eyes are growing increasingly bigger and more mortified.)

Later, as everyone shouts for a group picture, all seven of them crowd around and squeeze into each other’s spaces, cramming multiple bodies in the three measly picnic chairs they brought with them until Yoongi is left squished on one of the chairs.

“We can’t fit everyone in the selfie!”

“Yes we can,” Seokjin huffs, stretching his arm farther forward to accommodate all of their faces. “Squeeze in!”

“I’m legit getting squished here,” Yoongi grumbles. “Jimin, come closer, your face isn’t in the screen—“

“Fine,” is the answer he hears from his husband, and then—

Jimin sits on Yoongi’s lap.

Yoongi lets out a choked gasp at the warm body draping itself all over him; feels the exact spot where Jimin’s ass plants against his thighs. He reminds himself to breathe—a challenge, considering the way Jimin snakes both arms around his neck and leans in to whisper, “Smile, honeyboy.”

Whatthefuck, Yoongi’s brain supplies helpfully as Jimin’s breath ghosts against his ears. What the actual fuck. Jimin is going to be his personal death and destruction. The boy is made of ambrosia and allure. He’s never even this bold at home, and Yoongi isn’t sure if he can survive a cannonball like this.

Snap, goes the selfie shutter.

Days from now, when Yoongi sees their group photo on their Kakao groupchat, he will cringe at the way he’s smiling as if he’s being held at gunpoint by a demon. Which he might as well be.

Jimin slides off his lap with an innocent smile.

It’s going to be a long evening.

 


 

After the selfie sessions, Taehyung pulls Jimin aside with a Knowing Look on his face. Jimin knows this specific look. It’s one that’s probably trying to say—

“No offense,” Taehyung drawls, cradling Jimin’s cheek with a half-smirk, half-smile. “But it’s so obvious.”

Jimin’s breathing turns shallow, heart rate quickening. “W-what is, TaeTae?”

Taehyung sends him a pointed look, complete with the eyebrow arch, and Jimin thinks this is it, his one and only best friend has never failed to read him before, so now’s finally time to hear it aloud:

“It’s so obvious you guys are forcing it.”

Jimin blinks. Huh?

“What?” This was not what he expected Taehyung to tell him. Jimin doesn’t know what he expected, really, just not... this.

“You guys don’t look like you’re a real married couple,” Taehyung critiques. “Be natural!”

“What do you mean, ‘be natural’?” Jimin asks, a tiny part of him growing agitated and confused.

“I mean whatever antics you’ve been up to with Yoongi-hyung for the last hour. You both just look like clowns, if I’ll be honest.”

Tilting his head to one side, Jimin frowns. “Then what do you want me—us, I mean—to do?”

Taehyung’s eyes probe into his for a prolonged moment. “I think you already know.”

“Know what?”

“If you want to look like a convincing couple,” Taehyung advises as his baritone drops an octave deeper when he murmurs, “Drop the act. Don’t fake what’s already real. Okay?”

His words drop-kick Jimin in the gut. 

“Yah, Taehyung-ah! Come on, we need someone for the meat grill!” Seokjin calls out.

“Coming~” Taehyug sashays out of Jimin’s sight, leaving him reeling with words he doesn’t fully grasp and a funny feeling tickling his chest.

How strange.

 


 

As the sun continues bowing out of the horizon and the skyline splits in two, the late summer breeze kicks in. Before long, Hoseok is starting the campfire—from flicker to flame—and all seven of them make a cosy human circle to keep themselves warm.

Yoongi sits next to Jimin. “So. Husband reporting for duty.” He pops open a can of beer and passes it to Jimin, who accepts it with a silent nod of thanks.

“Anything wrong?” Yoongi asks, nudging him by the shoulder. “Do you need to get back to your workmates already?”

Refusing to look in his eyes, Jimin shakes his head slowly. “Not really. They know Hoseok-hyung and I are with you guys. I guess I’m just. A little worn out.”

Yoongi knows his moods by now, so he doesn’t press, doesn’t insist on peppering Jimin with anymore overwhelming questions, so he takes it upon himself to inch closer just in case Jimin wants to rest his head... somewhere softer. Just in case.

“I miss Madeleine,” Jimin sighs, staring down at his phone wallpaper. Yoongi follows his gaze and chuckles at the photo of his cat dangling off the laundry rack like a bodybuilder at the local gym’s pull-up bars.

“Understandable,” Yoongi says, sipping on his beer and relishing in the way it cools throat on the way down. “But I’ll have you know she’s staying at a fancy cat hotel in Myeongdong as we speak.”

“Damn. Meanwhile we’re camping out here like hobos,” Jimin remarks with a chortle.

“Wah, is that Yoongi-hyung’s rabid cat on as your lock screen, Jimin-ah?” Hoseok’s voice sails through the air. He’s sitting on the other side of Jimin, having caught a glimpse of his phone wallpaper. “You managed to tame the beast?”

“Madeleine is not rabid.” Yoongi is tempted to bare his teeth at his neighbor, but Jimin holds him back with a stern look.

Jimin shushes Hoseok good-naturedly. “Madeleine’s a sweetheart, okay? She’s just shy.” He looks at Yoongi, and something about the way he says his next words makes Yoongi ache. Not breaking eye contact with his husband, he speaks, “Okay, and maybe a little cranky and difficult at first, yeah. It takes time, but... she’s worth it.”

“Hah.” To diffuse the unnamed tension growing in his tummy, Yoongi reaches out and—he can’t help it—boops Jimin’s nose with his index finger, smiling. “Jiminie, admit it. You’re a sucker for my cat.”

“Mmm, maybe. I have a thing for lil meow meows, it seems.”

Yoongi ducks his head so that his bangs are covering his eyes, face reddening. He doesn’t notice how long they both sit there—surrounded by people but still alone together—in front of a crackling orange campfire that spouts embers into the late summer wind. It could be hours, maybe minutes, but then someone, Jungkook probably, brings out a portable stereo.

His cheeks are pinker than a cherub’s, and he’s got the goofiest smile on his face when he lifts his mini stereo-speaker and announces, “Nights like these, we need music.”

He turns the speaker on, and heavy metal music pierces the air (and Yoongi’s eardrums).

“Make it stop!”

“Yeah! ROCK ON!” Jungkook mimes playing an air guitar, complete with orgasmic facial expressions.

“Jeon-fucking-Jungkook,” Seokjin admonishes, rising from his cuddle huddle with Namjoon. “You know I love and respect you, but let’s lay off the wild concert music tonight, yeah?”

Not one to be fazed, Jungkook whips out his phone. “Okay, cool. I have a playlist for saps like you. I’m your man, hyung. I got this.”

In an instant, the song changes to a sweet melody, one that makes Jimin perk up with delight. “Oh, I love this one.”

Yoongi strains his ears to listen:

 

I look at you now and 

I want this forever

I might not deserve it but 

there's nothing better

Don't know how I ever did it all without you

 

“It’s by Lauv,” Jungkook slurs, stumbling over his pronunciation. “Because—I lauv you guys!”

Yoongi chuckles, endeared, as do the rest of the guys. Peaceful evenings like these make him want to scrap his life and start over anew. Strip his old skin and live as a new self. 

He feels a sharp nudge from beside him, and then before he can clock what’s happening, Jimin’s pulling him up by the wrists, smiling at Yoongi as he ambles backwards.

“What are you doing?” Yoongi asks, mouth curving up.

Jimin walks them closer to the campfire. “Dance with me.”

“I told you, I don’t dance.” Yoongi glances to one side, where Namjoon and Seokjin are locked in a lovers’ entwine, and feels himself pale in comparison. Where do his hands go? How does he learn to touch this shirtless, ethereal masterpierce before him? “Also, you still don’t have a shirt on.”

“Pffft. What do clothes have to do with anything?” Jimin grabs his hand, guiding it to his waist, and takes the other so that they’re clasping fingers just as the song on the stereo shifts to something soft and tinkling; a serenade to the sunset.

 

You’re in my arms,

and all the world is calm—

The music playing on,

For only two

 

“You don’t dance?” Jimin says. “Really?”

Yoongi nods. “Really.”

“Well, look at you now.”

“This is called swaying. Not even close to... whatever the fuck you actors do. I have two left feet.”

Jimin grins and slides his hand to Yoongi’s nape. “I’ll be your right foot, then.”

“Bold of you to think I wouldn’t still trip and embarrass myself.” Yoongi gulps, and he can hear the blood rushing through his ears, crashing with the waves, as he watches the way sunlight plays on Jimin’s eyelashes, reflected by the seawater shimmering like mermaid scales.

“What’s with the face?” Jimin teases, before his eyes turn stricken and he dips his face in a self-conscious move. “Shit, you’re staring at my scar from that Shaving Incident, aren’t you? What’s wrong? What are you looking at?”

“Nothing.” Yoongi laughs. “Just... appreciating.”

“Appreciating what?”

“The view,” Yoongi confesses. “It’s lovely.”

Jimin stops swaying.

“What?” Yoongi’s hands freeze at the same moment he feels a shiver run down Jimin’s body, goosebumps rising on his skin. “Eh, fuck. You cold?”

Shaking his head, Jimin croaks, “Honeyboy.”

 

So close to reaching

That famous happy end

Almost believing

This one's not pretend

 

“What?” asks Yoongi, lightning sparking down his veins, but he tries to ignore it.

“Do you remember my first rule for acting?”

 

And now you're beside me

And look how far we've come

So far we are, so close

 

Yoongi shakes his head. “Not sure if you’ve noticed, but you’ve set plenty of rules since we met.”

And they’ve already broken so many of them. Yoongi doesn’t want to start taking count.

“My main rule was,” Jimin’s caramel eyes darken. “You don’t play the part, you be the part.”

The sun is bidding farewell; dusk is descending and Venus is rising. There’s a flame burning beside them: a bigger one still igniting somewhere secret inside Yoongi’s chest. Kindling awakening. Embers in the dark. “Yeah?”

“Just for tonight, could we...” Jimin’s voice turns hoarse, like he can’t. Yoongi doesn’t trust himself to speak, so he waits, keeping his eyes on Jimin, until the boy in his arms drops his face into Yoongi’s shoulder like he’s given up trying to speak.

Disappointment is a grey cloud that dampens Yoongi’s spirits.

But—

“Just for tonight, is it okay if we act like none of this is fake?”

Panic mounts Yoongi’s mind, and he whips his head around, but their friends have already started slumping against one another in a pile of inebriation. Seokjin and Namjoon have snuck away someplace else, and there’s no threat, nobody to risk getting exposed to.

“Tae advised me, see?” Jimin adds in a rush, words tumbling out in a clunky rhythm. “He said that we should stop trying so hard, so I thought, I don’t know, maybe if we drop the act just for a day, give ourselves a break...”

“So, you don’t want to half-ass this married thing.”

“Kind of? We could, um. Do a test trial. Y’know how new games have betas?” Jimin raises his face, cheeks splotched as pink as rose petals.

He’s not making sense; he’s running out of words. He’s babbling, mind fraying, yet so mesmerizing Yoongi can’t even pay attention to the sunset. Jimin will never know how Yoongi’s legs are shaking, how his mind is buzzing with a thousand flittering thoughts at once. Jimin will never understand how much Yoongi has yearned to try, has always wondered what a day without pretenses might be like.

Jimin is the flint that sparks the embers; the fuel that holds the flame. Yoongi wants to reach out without getting burned. He has for a while now, and it’s taken growing tired of his guilt over Yeoreum to realize.

Aphrodite has taken the reins, and Venus has flooded his veins.

“Just for today,” Yoongi affirms, before tightening both arms around Jimin’s waist and pulling him close.

To hell with it. No more half-hearted acting.

Jimin gasps, but the smile that blossoms across his face is unmistakable, so full of shy relief that Yoongi’s eyes sting.

Before Yoongi can lean his face in, though, Jimin holds up one index finger against his lips, smile turning playful as mirth dances in his eyes. “Just for today, I’m not charging you for kissing me in public.”

“Really? Let’s test that.”

Yoongi kisses Jimin’s index finger.

He feels Jimin gasp at his touch, feels the rising expansion of his chest, and suddenly Yoongi is 18 again, learning to kiss for the first time, learning to swallow a sweet sound for the first time, because to hell if Jimin isn’t the discovery he’s been waiting to find all along.

Namjoon may have found treasure today, but Yoongi found something equally priceless.

Jimin grazes Yoongi’s lower lip with his thumb, dark eyes glittering the way they did underneath an umbrella of fireflies so long ago, but that was then. Now it’s different.

They’re different.

Slowly, like he’s a man in a desert savoring every last drop of water, Yoongi leans close and presses his lips against Jimin’s forehead. Jimin’s chest rumbles beneath his touch, and Yoongi giggles, too. Like a kid at a park with too much energy on a Sunday morning. At the back of his mind, all Yoongi wants is for this NOT to be yet another dream, or daydream, or any-dream at all.

He tilts his head down to peck Jimin’s nose, and Jimin’s fingers clench around Yoongi’s biceps as he wrinkles his nose in response. “You’re being slow.”

Every nerve-ending in Yoongi’s body is trembling, lit like firecrackers, but he finds the voice to tease, “Nah. Time is relative. You’re just impatient.”

Jimin grunts and nuzzles his neck, and Yoongi pulls him in just to revel in his velvet softness. Like a cupcake, in boy form.

If this is just them playing lovers for one day, then Yoongi won’t pass up the opportunity to seize the fucking day.

Heart in his throat, he lifts Jimin’s chin with an index finger, and the last thing he sees is his own smiling face reflected in Jimin’s irises before leaning in—

—just as a giant inflatable beach ball rampages from out of nowhere and hits Yoongi in the head, knocking him off his feet.

Stars, the dizzying kind. They explode in his mind like fireworks shot too early. Yoongi crashes butt-first in the sand.

“Hyung!” Jimin’s voice chuckles.

“Sorry!” a little girl’s worried voice shrieks from a distance. Yoongi blinks, completely thrown off, as a family with two daughters come bounding up to them with a string of apologies rolling off their tongues.

“It’s okay, he’s fine,” Yoongi vaguely hears Jimin answer for him.

Yoongi glares at the beach ball when the girls pick it up and bow to him for the last time. He hopes it gets punctured sometime tonight.

“Honeyboy.” Jimin’s bubbly voice grounds him back to reality. He reaches for Yoongi’s hands to pull him up from his funk. Like he always does.

Yoongi frowns. “That hurt.”

“Did it?” Though there’s genuine concern in Jimin’s eyes, it’s nothing compared to the tender happiness in them. He reaches out to rub the pads of his fingers against the side of Yoongi’s head in soothing circles. “Don’t worry, I got you.”

Something inside Yoongi stills; a calm surrender that settles his soul. He nods. “Yeah, you got me.”

It’s okay, he tells himself, feeling like a star glowing from within. They’ve got the rest of the day. 

Slowly, their slumbering friends stir awake at the campsite, the beer beginning to wear off.

Yoongi grins and grips Jimin’s hands tight.

The night has only just begun.

Chapter Text

Salt in the breeze, sand in his hair. Beer on his tongue; sparks grazing his mouth where Yoongi’s lips had ghosted. Although the autumn has started painting Busan in awnings of scarlet, Jimin feels like a firefly caught in the heart of a summer daydream.

When he was 18, he once hopped aboard a taxi and made small talk with the driver, who spoke of his expecting wife and the home they’d built together at a small rooftop unit near Dong-myo, and Jimin had secretly marvelled at the way the driver’s lips formed around his wife’s name.

As if his life was a prayer hung on a string, and his wife was the salvation that tied the knot.

Knots—they’re all Jimin can feel right now, twisting and churning in his tummy like happy dragonflies, as Yoongi opens another can of beer and offers it to him.

“Thank you,” Jimin says, reaching for the can, but at the last moment Yoongi grabs his hand, and Jimin pauses. “What?”

Giving him a mischievous smile, Yoongi dips his head and brushes his lips over the back of his Jimin’s hand. Just because he can. Just for this night.

Jimin’s heart stutters.

Throat clenching, Jimin looks away and tucks his hand close to his chest, the can of beer in the other. “Not fair,” he mutters sulkily.

He’s not used to this. Not used to receiving open affection from Yoongi, and for the first time in his life Jimin is left clueless how to react.

Not that he has to, because just then someone—Taehyung, maybe Jungkook—turns up the mini-stereo’s volume and shouts, “YOONGI-HYUNG, COME OUT! I challenge you to a dance battle!”

Which steals Yoongi’s attention away from Jimin, who makes a face at the interruption. As usual.

But Jimin can’t complain, not when he’s finally seeing Yoongi smile like this—carefree, relaxed—as if no problem in the world can faze him. In the time he’s spent with Yoongi, Jimin has hardly ever witnessed this kind of radiance illuminating from his husband.

“Fine. But just this once,” Yoongi accedes with a grin, standing to dust loose sand from his shorts. Before he goes, he turns around and pulls off his baggy jersey shirt (classic Yoongi—he’s dressed in a T-shirt underneath) and hurls it at Jimin’s lap. “You. Don’t catch a cold.”

Jimin purses his lips to contain the smile threatening to split his face, fisting the jersey’s fabric. He’s not one to oblige to another’s words, but he pulls the shirt over his head nonetheless, watching Yoongi waddles over to dance in the middle of their camp circle. It smells like seasalt and Yoongi’s unique musk. Jimin hugs the oversized material around his body.

As the night deepens and the empty beer cans pile up in the trash bag, emotions run higher, and their group gets WILD wild. Not long after, Jimin finds himself bending over backwards from laughing too hard as he watches Yoongi shimmy his butt in a hardcore dance off with Seokjin.

“GO, HYUNG!” Taehyung hollers from the side, grinning like a mad hatter.

“I’m placing bets on Yoongi-hyung,” Jungkook whispers to Jimin, eyes glittering with euphoria.

Beside them, Namjoon shakes his head. “Seokjin will win.”

“It’s always Jin for you,” says Hoseok.

“Loser has to dip their head into the water”—Taehyung gleefully points to the shoreline, which is probably freezing now that nighttime has fallen—“and stay under for 5 seconds!”

“Since when did this become a competition?” Jimin asks, bemused. He’d come here hoping to get some lip action, but that’s the thing about plans—they hardly ever follow intention.

But as is the case with being around Yoongi’s friends, it doesn’t matter as long as they’re all happy. Jimin is starting to realize that these are the people who could make watching paint dry entertaining. He wonders if he can allow himself to get used to this warm sense of camaraderie, if he’ll ever feel this cavalier again.

Jimin wonders if, after this charade is over and they’ve parted ways, he can somehow keep in touch with Yoongi. Keep these guys in his life.

He’s yanked out of his thoughts when Jungkook lets out a wild yell as Yoongi and Seokjin plants their knees on the floor and start spinning, like breakdancers in the streets of Hongdae.

Jimin shakes his head with a chortle, but joins in the shouting. “Go, honeyboy!”

But then their excited cheering dies down a second later, when Yoongi and Seokjin’s heads collide against each other from spinning closer than necessary.

Thwunk.

Both men cry out, cursing under their breaths. Yoongi reels backwards, clutching the area over his eyebrow, which—to everyone’s surprise—has actually started bleeding. 

Jimin gasps, tummy lurching with worry, and he’s on his feet at once, rushing to squat by Yoongi’s side. “Hyung. Hyung, you okay?”

Hissing in pain, Yoongi makes grabby hands at him, all the while groaning. “Doctor, I need a doctor. Maybe even surgery. My eye!”

“Don’t be dramatic,” Jimin chides, feeling the air behind him whizz as Namjoon also rushes to bend down and help Seokjin stand upright. “Let me see.”

He leads a whining Yoongi by the hand to the side of the campsite, right behind the tents where he thought he saw a First-Aid box earlier, and pushes him to sit. Here, it’s just the two of them, and Yoongi’s pained hissing escalates like the man-child he is.

“Shhh,” Jimin murmurs, raising a finger over Yoongi’s face to graze the area near the injury. “Hands off your face, please.”

“How bad is it?”

Jimin inspects the wound and hums, making a Concerned Face. “Oh, no. Hyung… I’m afraid... you’re gonna need stitches. Like. 24 of them, give or take. Probably hit your skull, too. Time to call an ambulance.”

“Really?” Yoongi panics for a split-second, then flashes him a flat, un-amused look. Jimin giggles.

 “Min-Park Jimin, don’t mess with me.”

At his words, Jimin’s breath falters, the hand reaching for the medical box freezing, before he flicks the clasp open and rummages through it, keeping his eyes averted. Yoongi has said his name before—many times, even, but not like this.

Not like the way the taxi driver uttered his wife’s name.

“It’s just a cut, nothing too deep,” Jimin explains, taking out a small bottle of Betadine to dip a cotton swab into it. “Now hold still. This might sting a bit. Can you open your legs a bit? I need to see the wound closer.”

Yoongi follows suit in a much more subdued silence.

Shuffling into the space between his husband’s thighs, Jimin brings a hand up to Yoongi’s face to dab the cotton swab over the cut above his eyebrow, the tip of his tongue is peeking out of the side of his mouth. Yoongi wrinkles his nose in pain. “Sorry, honeyboy.”

“It’s fine.”

Jimin uses his other hand to keep Yoongi’s bangs from falling over his eyes the way they always do, and he gets so focused on the whole First-Aid process that he doesn’t realize that Yoongi’s protests have since faded. Pasting a Band-Aid over the cut, Jimin says, “There we—“

Jimin locks eyes with Yoongi, only to find him already staring at him with those trademark half-gone moon eyes, a dopey grin on his face.

Adorable. He smacks Yoongi’s shoulder lightly. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“That thing you do when you’re looking at me. It’s so creepy.”

“Then where am I supposed to look?”

“I don’t know!” Jimin folds the medical kit’s lid closed and tucks it away. “Elsewhere. Just, stop staring.”

He makes a move to step back, to perhaps put some distance between them, but gasps when he feels Yoongi’s arms loop around his waist.

Jimin sucks in a sharp breath, heart jackrabbitting and vision spinning when Yoongi tightens his hold by using his thighs to squeeze him closer. Unbelievable. Once again, this kind of affection is a first. It’s like their earlier agreement unshackled Yoongi from something.

“Stop looking at you, huh?” Yoongi drawls, his warm breath ghosting over Jimin’s navel—with him sitting and Jimin standing, his head is nestled right into Jimin’s belly, and it’s doing things to him. Makes Jimin want to keep his stomach muscles taut, flat. “No can do.”

Jimin fights to keep his cool. “If that’s you flirting, don’t ever try it with anyone else.”

“Oh, please.” Yoongi scoffs with a sharp bark of laughter, and Jimin smiles, running one hand over his husband’s soft inky hair. “You’re one to talk.”

“Hey! I’m great at flirting!” Jimin retorts, swatting Yoongi’s forearms playfully.

“That so? Prove it then. I’d like to see you try—“

Jimin cuts Yoongi off by leaning down to kiss him smack on the lips.

It’s a chaste one, too fast to even be considered a real kiss, and he honestly wasn’t even intending to do it. The urge was just too strong to suppress. Jimin breaks it off without looking Yoongi in the eye. “There. That should teach you not to—“

This time, he’s the one who gets cut off short when Yoongi pulls him down by his jersey shirt, and kisses him again.

And although they’ve kissed a handful of times before, there’s something different about this one. Deeper, gentler. Maybe it’s in the way Jimin is already kneeling on the sand, automatically snaking both arms around Yoongi’s neck as if he’s been waiting to do this since who-knows-when.

Maybe it’s the way Yoongi is cradling his jaw, like Jimin is wrought of porcelain china; or the tender in the way his tongue licks over the seam of Jimin’s lips. With a small gasp, Jimin giggles into the kiss, and he can feel Yoongi’s lips smile against his, and he thinks:

This must be the kind of feeling poets have spent lifetimes trying to pin down into words. The very core and essence of what Shakespeare had sleepless nights trying to pen down.

Perhaps Taehyung was onto something there, with what he told Jimin.

Jimin’s hands roam upwards, to Yoongi’s soft hair; and his stomach swoops at the grunt that escapes his husband. Yoongi’s fingers are so warm against his face, thumbs brushing over his cheeks in slow circles that send shudders sparking down his spine. And then before he knows it, Jimin is back to straddling Yoongi’s strong thighs again, but this time he’s not intent on leaving anytime soon. 

He has kissed plenty of guys—he can feign his way through almost anything now, because actors are some of the best liars in the world—but Yoongi is not just a guy to him, at least not anymore. Not when the smallest nip at Jimin’s lip makes him whimper, has him crumbling.

Maybe Yoongi’s lips are a kind of enchanted fruit, like the one from his grandmother’s fairytales—of faeries and goblins, witchcraft and sorcery. This one only leaves Jimin craving for more, makes his pulse skitter and stumble.

But as with all magic spells, it hardly ever lasts. 

When they finally break apart for air, their chests are heaving, lips cherry-swollen—each with their own kind of branded fruit—and Jimin stares at the way the glowing embers of the campfire flicker, flicker, flicker as reflections in Yoongi’s eyes. In a way, Jimin feels like that.

A blaze ignited.

“What was that for?” he questions breathlessly, pressing his forehead against Yoongi’s. He touches his own lower lip, as though he can’t believe what he just willingly participated in.

“Now that,” Yoongi tucks a lock of hair behind Jimin’s ear, “is what you call a kiss. You should learn from me more.”

Jimin scoffs in disbelief, but there’s no bite to his tone when he says, “Excuse me, you kiss like a trout.” He waves his hands in the space between them in an effort to demonstrate his words. “All lip, no tongue.”

Yoongi huffs, catches his wrists mid-air, and holds them still. “Oh?”

“Yeah, if there’s anyone who should be getting practice here, it’s you—“

“So, you want to try?” Yoongi’s voice is a bass tune carrying over all the other notes in the air, finding its way home in Jimin’s ears as he leans close. “Gotta admit, we haven’t really ‘practised’ much.”

Jimin swallows thickly. This is a side of Min Yoongi that Jimin has never seen before. He’s bold; a tiger set loose. And it elicits something rare and unthinkable in Jimin—shyness. It spreads through him, flooding his cheeks rosy, and he shuts his eyes closed. “I, um—“

“You what? Hmm?” Yoongi brushes his lips over Jimin’s eyelids, and this, he decides, is his breaking point.

“Need to pee!” Jimin cries out hoarsely, scrambling away from Yoongi’s lap and nearly tripping over his own feet sinking in the sand in his haste to get away. “See ya!”

From behind him, Yoongi’s laughter rises over all other sounds, and it does nothing to calm Jimin’s racing heartbeat.

Damn it.

Yoongi may have caught him off-guard this time round, but he should beware. Jimin grins to himself. Next time, he will be locked and loaded, ready to strike back.

 


 

“You really love him, huh?”

Yoongi startles at the voice creeping up from behind him, and he finds Hoseok standing there with a stupid grin on his face, face orange in the firelight. “Can I sit here, or is it strictly for Jimin?”

“Yeah,” Yoongi says, and even he isn’t sure which question he’s answering.

“I was just messin’ with you,” Hoseok laughs good-naturedly, sitting cross legged beside Yoongi with a can of beer in hand. “‘Course you love him. He’s your husband, after all.”

Yoongi remains quiet, guilty. That’s right—Hoseok and Namjoon are the only ones left who aren’t aware of his lies.

The thing about lies is that once you start piling them on, they snowball on you, until they become an avalanche of deception that you’re forced to uphold without a choice. Yoongi would’ve liked to be more honest with Hoseok—his neighbor wasn’t just a friend; he was the brother who picked up the pieces at a time when Yoongi’s life was falling apart. The only person who cared to drop by his place with some takeout chicken after not seeing Yoongi step out of his apartment for days. At one time, he’d even looked after Madeleine when Yoongi left for a photoshoot that sent him to Jeju, though in hindsight that had been an excuse to get away from the shithole that his life in Seoul had become after his mother and Yeoreum had passed on.

“You look happier these days, hyung.” Hoseok says to Yoongi, eyes trained on the campfire. “I’m happy for you. I’m glad you found someone else, especially after what happened with Yeoreum—“

“Seok-ah,” Yoongi croaks, swallowing down the lump in his throat. “It’s not like that. You speak as if I’m replacing him.”

Hoseok glances at him, pursing his lips. “Sorry.”

“Yeoreum was Yeoreum.” Yoongi digs his toes into the sand, watching them wiggle in the flicker of the fire. “Jimin is Jimin. It’s different. I’m different.”

He’s an honest believer that people cannot be replaced; as if the human heart is capable of holding space for only one. Yoongi likes to think of his heart as a book—many chapters, plenty of blank pages ahead. And Yeoreum’s chapter had long since passed. But... “There’s no way I could ever forget, you know? For as long as long as I’m alive, it’s something I’ll always carry with me.”

Hoseok nods. “Of course. Letting go is one thing, but forgetting is another.”

Yoongi takes a swig of beer. “That, indeed.”

“Y’know, I always lowkey expected you’d end up marrying Yeoreum.”

Yoongi stills, breathing turning labored.

“So why didn’t you? What was it about Jimin?”

There is a plethora of reasons for that. They’d been too young, fresh out of university; Yoongi still had dreams he wanted to chase after first; neither of them truly knew their game plan. “Winging it” was slowly becoming defunct, a method the Adult World looked down on.

There is a plethora of reasons Yoongi could have chosen from, but he shrugs and says simply, “I was never in love with him. Can’t force myself to love someone I don’t.”

“Who?”

It’s an indirect confession and a half, but Yoongi has no guts to be upfront about it just yet. “You know who.”

“Hoseok-hyung,” a voice pipes up.

Yoongi’s chest expands and he smiles at the sound of Jimin’s voice behind them, and he turns around with a giddy grin. “Hey. Jiminie—“

He stops cold.

Jimin’s eyes are watery and red.

“Jimin-ah,” Hoseok asks, “are you alright?”

“Just fine.” Jimin’s voice is frost-fire. “Shouldn’t we be heading back?”

Yoongi watches, baffled, as Jimin crosses his arms and looks back to the far distance, at the other side of the beach where a group of different people lounge. “The other guys must be looking for us already, we excuses ourselves the company retreat halfway, remember?”

“Jimin,” Yoongi calls out, standing. “What’s wrong? You good?”

“I’m fine.”

Yoongi blanches when Jimin sends him a sharp look of hurt, before his mind rises in a tide of confusion.

What’s going on? Yoongi worries his lower lip. Did he offend Jimin by going too far and joking about his kissing skills earlier?

He steps towards his husband, reaching out for a hug. “If this was about earlier, I was only joking. You know?“

“Oh, do I know.” Jimin winces and recoils from his touch as if Yoongi is some virus-bearer. “I know very well, Min Yoongi, that it’s all just one big joke to you. I hate myself for almost believing.”

Yoongi’s blood goes cold, and his arms drop by his sides. What the actual fuck? This is too much of a sudden change in attitude, especially for someone as warm and kind as Jimin. “I don’t understand. I thought we said drop the act—“

“That, you did. Your true colors came out.”

“Uh,” Hoseok shifts his eyes between them, wary and uncertain, “you two, how about we—“

“I’m sorry I’m not good enough for you, okay?” Jimin seethes, brows furrowed, and something in Yoongi wilts.

Yeoreum had told him the exact some words, once upon a nightmare. “What— I don’t get you, please—“

“Don’t touch me,” Jimin says, stepping backwards, gaze downcast and voice shaking. “Just—please.”

Yoongi’s fingers curl into the hem of his shirt, and he tucks them into his pockets just so that they won’t betray him by trying to reach for Jimin again. “I… Okay.”

“YAH!” Seokjin shouts. Yoongi looks up to find the rest of their friends waving excitedly and jogging towards them. 

“We found out there’s a karaoke machine near the beach bar!” Seokjin grabs his arm.

“Noraebang! Noraebang!” Jungkook chants, clearly tipsy but not ready to give into intoxication.

“Come on, let’s go, hyung,” Jimin urges in a small voice, but Hoseok shakes his head and smiles.

“How about when we finish this round of karaoke, Jimin?” Yoongi’s neighbor offers. “Best to get the bad juju out of our system! Don’t you agree?”

“What are you waiting for!” Seokjin and Taehyung each both grab Yoongi and Jimin, dragging them towards wherever they’re going to next, but the matter of the fact is that Yoongi can’t be bothered to care—not when Jimin looks on the verge of tears like this.

There’s only one way Yoongi can think of making it better.

He needs to lay his feelings out straight once and for all.

 


 

There are ice cubes in Jimin’s stomach. That’s all he can think of while he sulks on the karaoke room’s booth seat, flanked by Taehyung and Jungkook who are belting their lungs out to a power ballad.

Yoongi and Hoseok probably think he’s overreacting, but he isn’t. Jimin tells himself it’s only natural to feel hurt, especially after what he heard.

What was it that Hoseok asked—‘What is it about Jimin’?

But that isn’t even the killing shot. What drove a hammer into Jimin’s chest was how Yoongi confidently denied being in love with him.

And all this time he thought... what? Jimin shakes his head. Of fucking course Min Yoongi wouldn’t fall for someone like him—jobless Jimin, money-scum Jimin, liar Jimin. There’s nothing to love about him, especially when he’s been such a bitch towards Yoongi for so long. 

He’s here right now too, sitting on the opposite end of the karaoke room’s booth seats, not making eye contact with Jimin. 

Guilty as charged. Jimin vows never to believe a single word that spits out of that pretty mouth from now on. Otherwise he’d be selling himself short.

Sawdust in his mouth, dregs in his gut. Hot tears stinging the back of his eyelids, crescent moons indented into his palms from clenching his fists too hard. Jimin feels like a bamboo raft caught for dead in a savage seastorm, ashen clouds spreading across his skies.

“Yoongi-hyung, it’s your turn!” Hoseok  urges while Seokjin screeches into the microphone, and yeah, perhaps this isn’t exactly the most ideal place to sulk in, because then someone—maybe Namjoon or Jungkook, is pulling Jimin by the forearms and insisting that they sing a duet.

Jimin grimaces and shakes his head. “No, I’m good. Not tonight, guys.”

And perhaps there’s something about his expression, because right then Jungkook and Namjoon pause and stare at him in mild concern before backing down.

“Everything okay?” queries Namjoon, sitting beside him.

No, Jimin wants to scream. I am sad and upset because I married a man to fool you for the sake of money but now everything is ruined.

But he can’t say those words, especially to the last person who needs the truth, so Jimin just nods and lets out a small, bitter lie. “Yeah.”

“It’s okay, I’ll sing this song alone,” he hears Yoongi’s voice reverberating around the room as he speaks the shitty, bejeweled microphone. “I’ll just dedicate it to someone special.”

A chorus of ‘awwww’s’ and ‘eeeee’s’ erupt, and Jimin rolls eyes. What a liar of a man. He closes his eyes, wishing that he could close his ears, too.

Especially after what comes next.

“Jimin-ah, I’m a shitty singer,” Yoongi says into the mic, soft and slow and shy. “But this song is for you.”

Jimin sniffles and jerks his chin to one side.

“Love ya, cloud baby.”

Jimin’s blood runs cold. His eyes snap wide open, pulse spiking.

“Ooooooh,” their friends chorus.

It’s like having all air punched out from his lungs, hearing those words. Especially when he knows they’re all just lies on lies on lies in front of Namjoon.

If only that was the truth. 

But it isn’t, and Jimin kind of wants to cry. 

The first rule of being an actor, though, is to be able to manipulate every expression that shows on your face. To be able to handle emotions so that he doesn’t over or underact. So Jimin stays completely unmoving in his seat, fighting to keep his expression even, and lets Yoongi finish belting out the damn song. As soon as it ends, he stands up and makes a beeline for the karaoke room’s door.

“Excuse me,” he mutters, picking his way through the tangle of bodies on the floor and the legs resting over the table.

“Jimin-ah,” Hoseok says. “Leaving already?”

Nodding, Jimin rubs his eyes to pretends to yawn to hide the fact that he’s fighting back tears. “Kind of. Tired. See ya tomorrow.”

He doesn’t spare a lingering glance at Yoongi as he heads out the door.

What a shitty way to end the night.

 


 

Or maybe... not the end, at least not yet. Whatever it may be—fate, destiny, kismet, some aligning of the planets and stars—there seems to be some entity that’s hell-bent on keeping Jimin unhappy.

What?” he ekes out, staring at his supposed overnight bunk buddies.

“Yeah, the lady at the receptionist made a big mistake and mixed up our booking with another family’s,” grumbles Hakyeon, one of the coffeeshop managers, scratching the back of his head. “She says they’ll refund us, but now we’re left to share 2 beds for 4 people... well, now it’s 5, if you want to stay with us.”

If you want. Something about the way Hakyeon says those words convinces Jimin that they sure as hell don’t want him no matter what.

He sighs. Nobody ever wants him, do they?

“It’s fine,” Jimin mumbles at last. “I have a few friends here anyway, too. Let me just pack my things.”

While packing his duffel bag, he shoots a text to Taehyung, asking his best friend to come fetch him so that Jimin can somehow convince him to let him stay over for the night. He’ll sleep in Taehyung’s hut tonight, and leave early in the morning so that he doesn’t have to see Yoongi.

 


 

vantaesty:
soi noticed chim walked out on us earlier

 

agustddaeng:
what’s your point.

 

vantaesty: 
did u guys fight lol

 

agustddaeng: 
i don’t know. something’s off. 
i can’t even talk to him because he went off to his motel already

 

vantaesty:

 ...did he? :)

 


 

Jimin waits for Taehyung, sitting on the stairs leading up to his beach motel, his chin resting on both palms. Up above, the crescent moon cuts across the sky like a pale claw, and he sigh, kicking at a stray leaf near his foot.

He would’ve walked alone to get to the huts, but the beach is huge and he doesn’t know exactly how to find them. He’d hate to risk looking like an idiot crawling back after his dramatic exit.

Jimin picks at a loose thread at the hem of the jersey he’s wearing until he realizes belatedly that—fuck, it’s Yoongi’s. Jimin pulls it off his head and throws on a spare shirt, shivering against the beach breeze. Damn.

He’s lowered his guard too much tonight. Must have been that heady mix of alcohol and the beach wind draping the scent of Yoongi’s cedar and coconut shampoo all over Jimin’s senses. Now is the perfect time to snap out of it, because they’re not—

They’re not real. Never was.

“Jimin-ah!”

He looks up to find Hakyeon clambering down the staircase holding a pair of yellow chick slippers in one hand, the one he’d bought to match Yoongi’s kitty slippers. “You forgot these by the door.”

“Oh.” Jimin’s heart weighs heavy as he stares at its orange beak. “Thanks, but I’m—“

“Keeping it,” answers a rough voice.

Jimin’s breath catches, and he feels the speaker’s all-consuming presence striding past him before he sees the person’s face.

“Thank you for safekeeping them,” Yoongi answers with measured tact, sliding the slippers out of Hakyeon’s hands. “My Jiminie here can be a bit of a klutz sometimes.”

Jimin’s heart both sings and sinks at the sight of that tousled black hair, tousled by the breeze, and he’s not sure if he wants to scream or stare. “What are you—where’s Tae—“

“He’s still out with friends, and he’s bunking with Jungkook,” Yoongi answers. “Guess that means you’re stuck with me.”

Jimin stares. Stuck, as in… rooming with the guy?

“Jimin,” Hakyeon says, scrutinizing Yoongi from head to toe, and then he slides closer to rest a hand on Jimin’s shoulder. “Do you know this person?”

It’s something he always gets teased about at Bean There Done That—Jimin is the barista who gets the most numbers from strangers, so his co-workers started the running joke that ‘we need to protect our little Jiminie from strange men!’

Jimin clears his throat, clocking the way Yoongi’s eyes narrow by a fraction at Hakyeon’s hand on him. What’s he supposed to say? But then—

Jagiya,” Yoongi calls him, the word trickling slow from his lips like melted honey. 

Jimin's jaw hangs open at the same time that Hakyeon lifts his hand off his shoulder.

"Shit, sorry man." Hakyeon’s eyes flit nervously between the two. "Didn't know you were... I mean, Jimin never mentioned..."

"He didn't?" Yoongi's gaze darkens, and irritation picks away at Jimin.

He has no right. Absolutely no right to be acting like an overprotective boyfriend—no, husband—after everything he just spilled to Hoseok. After revealing their agreement which was supposed to be kept secret.

Jimin scoffs and picks up his bags. "Yeah. Didn't have to." He waves goodbye to Hakyeon and marches off.

“Tsk. Where do you think you’re going?” Yoongi’s hand closes over his shoulder from behind, but Jimin shrugs it off.

“What do you want?” he snaps, feeling stupid and way too vulnerable standing there with his bags as if he’s a homeless bastard. 

Because he is—home is nowhere.

“For you to stop acting like a priss”—Yoongi grits his teeth so hard that Jimin can see that tick beneath his jaw tightening—“and quit being a pain in the ass. And FYI, the huts are the opposite way.”

“Who says I’m coming with you?” Jimin can feel his temper rising like hot wind. Yoongi has always been loose-lipped with his insults, but tonight Jimin doesn’t feel like being playful. Every word that exits the asshole’s mouth does nothing to soothe him.

“What are you trying to—“

“I’m laying off you, okay?” Jimin says. “Since I’m such a pain in the ass, after al.”

Yoongi looks seconds away from clawing his own eyeballs out. He hisses an inhale, works at unclenching his jaw, then says in a low voice, “Listen, I don’t know what got into you, or if I said something fucked up, but can you at least spare me this headache and tell me what’s wrong?”

So Jimin is just a headache to him. Noted with gratitude.

“Please. Can we just”—Yoongi pinches the bridge of his nose, eyes closing—“sit down somewhere and sort this out? This is a mess. We can talk about your- your feelings or whatever—“

If anything, Yoongi is the last person who deserves to hear whatever Jimin is feeling. “Why?”

Yoongi gives him a strange look. “Why what?”

“Why do you need to know anything?” Jimin says, his voice lowering to that hoarse rasp the way it always does when his blood is curdling like this. “Do you enjoy confusing me?”

It doesn’t escape his notice that despite his misgivings and plans to stay away, they’ve moved closer to the beach now. Jimin hates that a part of him is so readily inclined to give in to Yoongi. 

For someone who had so adamantly refused to get intimate when this entire scam started, Yoongi sure seems like he’s forgotten himself. And somewhere along the way, Jimin has, too.

“Maybe you should remember,” Jimin seethes, “our agreement is—“

“Yoongi?” a soft voice interjects.

Jimin’s words fade to dust when he sees all emotion on Yoongi’s features freeze the moment they hear it, before they distort in a myriad of colors, like an abstract painting under the beach lamplights—dismantled grey confusion, the crimson smear of mortification; that stroke of desperate blue.

Panic. Orange like emergency sirens, like the dim lamp post hovering over their heads.

“It is you.” This time it’s a masculine voice. Jimin turns to find a middle-aged man and woman walking down a the cemented path along the edge of the beach hand-in-hand. Coming towards them.

He hears Yoongi inhale, so quick and sharp that the wind might as well be spikes puncturing his lungs. “Mrs. Hwang. Mr Hwang.”

Hwang. The surname tugs at a wisp of Jimin’s memory, but in the furious fog clogging his brain, he struggles to pinpoint where he heard it from. As the couple approaches them, their faces come under the wan sepia light. They’re both dressed to the nines, clad in matching velvets and satins and high collars like they just came from an elaborate ceremony rather than the seaside. Fine lines adorn their faces like cracks on a pavement.

Neither of them are smiling.

“I’m glad to see you’re well,” quips the woman, sounding anything but.

Yoongi’s eyes turn downwards at their presence, submissive and docile as he bows a full ninety degrees. “It’s an honor to run into each other again,” he recites like a memorized eulogy. “It’s been a long time.”

The man—with balding hair worthy of a pigeon’s nest, Jimin notes—gives a haughty cough. “Not that long. Three years is nothing compared to how long we raised—“

“Janghyuk and I were just walking back to our hotels,” cuts in the woman. She smiles, but it’s layered in frost. “Haeri was married today.”

“I noticed there was a beach wedding earlier this afternoon,” Yoongi says robotically, eyes vacant and haunted. Jimin stays rooted to the ground. “Congratulations.”

“Never say that to us,” sneers Janghyuk. “Not when Yeoreum should’ve married first.”

Jimin catches the wounded look that strikes across Yoongi’s eyes before he ducks his head low once more, and a sidelong glance at his hands is the only telltale sign Jimin needs.

Yoongi is clenching his fists so hard his knuckles are turning ghost-white.

“I—“ Yoongi croaks.

It all clicks immediately, like a record paused suddenly set to spin again. Stories about Yoongi’s ex resurface in Jimin’s mind, slamming at the front of his brain that he gasps at his failure to recognize that cursed name earlier. His gaze weaves back and forth between Yoongi and Yeoreum’s parents, glaring down at him like he’s the one source of all misery and dishonor in the world.

Jimin can’t even blame them. Heaven knows his own parents would ransack the entire world upside down if he died right after getting mercilessly heartbroken.

Parents will be parents. It’s a rule of thumb that parental love extends beyond lifetime—both yours and theirs. Jimin cannot fault them for their pain.

But Yoongi has spent too much time carrying a burden that was nobody’s to begin with, too.

Pain cannot compensate for loss.

And so, as loudly and conspicuously as he can, Jimin yawns and stretches his arms out, before grabbing Yoongi’s hand. “Jagiya, I thought you were escorting me back to our hut?”

Yoongi jumps like a startled cat, and whips his head to stare at Jimin, and only when his fingers twitch in his grip that Jimin realizes how freezing clammy his hands have become. Like his mind had spiralled somewhere dark.

Please, Jimin prays. Don’t go where I can’t reach for you.

‘Jagiya’...?” parrots the Mrs. Hwang, eyes flitting back and forth between the two of them. “Yoongi, I’m beyond disturbed to know that while we’ve been grieving over the loss of a precious life, you’ve been frolicking about with cheap men.”

Jimin feels Yoongi’s fingers clench in his grasp.

“What did you expect, Mirae,” comments Yeoreum’s father. “Like attracts like.”

“With all due respect,” Jimin refutes, not knowing where he finds the strength to keep his voice even and steady in spite of the riot in his chest. He’d rather scream at them, damn them. But Jimin refuses to stoop as low, and he does not want to add fuel to the fire building in Yoongi’s eyes. 

There’s no need for underhanded digs. “Yoongi doesn’t owe you his life. Your son dated him, and my husband and I are both deeply sorry for your loss, but...” Jimin stares them down in the eye, cocking his chin to one side. Bite me, go ahead. “...He deserves to move on. You, too.”

All of this, he states in a voice as calm and gentle as possible. Jimin is the kind of typhoon nobody can predict—but when he hits, he lands true. “I hope you find happiness. Sincerely.”

If there’s one thing his mother taught him, it’s kindness.

He tugs Yoongi aside. “Come on.”

And just like he did at their wedding reception when Yoongi was mortified by the crowd’s whooping after kissing him, Jimin leads the way out of the spotlight, away from the world’s prying eyes. He keeps a tight hold of Yoongi’s hand, afraid he might slip away once they let go.

For all the hurt and anguish he feels, Jimin can’t afford to lose the privilege of holding this hand.

He is no stranger to the world of pain. He, too, has been broken, bruised, battered. But he will never know the depth of Yoongi’s grief, and so all he can do is to... be here for him.  He doesn’t know where they’re going, doesn’t really care. All he knows is that going somewhere is better than being stuck nowhere.

And so they walk. Not a single word exchanged, but it’s not like they have to.

Words won’t suffice, but—

Yoongi knows. Jimin knows.

He doesn’t realize how far they’ve travelled down the shore until he feels cold liquid seeping into the gaps between his toes, and when he snaps out of his reverie and looks down, he’s faced with the inky expanse of the sea.

The sea—blinding in the sunset, now as black as night. His footsteps halt, and Yoongi stumbles after behind him.

“It’s cold,” Jimin says, wiggling his toes, and Yoongi only hums lowly when he steps beside him. The breeze caresses his cheeks and nips at his lips; a quiet comfort.

Yoongi squeezes his hand. And then: “It’s warm.”

Pressing his lips in a thin line, Jimin glances sideways, and their eyes meet. He watches Yoongi’s mouth twitch, like he’s trying not to break his mask of calmness. Oh, how Jimin wishes he could trace the crescent moon tips of those lips; kiss them into smiling. Yoongi looks best when his face is swathed in joy.

He does none of those.

“Thank you.” Yoongi’s fingers are no longer stone-cold, thawed by Jimin’s hand. “And... If there’s anything I said to upset you—“

“It’s nothing.”

“But you seemed so mad...” Yoongi swallows hard, voice warbling. “I thought I ruined something.”

“You didn’t. I’ll be fine.” Jimin forces down the bile rising in this throat. “So. You should, too.”

It’s painfully clear that Yoongi is still not over Yeoreum. Jimin won’t interfere. Though he can’t be too sure of how Yoongi feels about... this, and whatever this unspoken thing is between them—if there even is one—he finds that he doesn’t want to push whatever he’s been throwing a tantrum over all evening.

For Yoongi, Jimin can set his pride aside. He’s been through enough pain to last him nine lifetimes already. The least Jimin could do is not to add onto his list of worries. 

This is a ceasefire of sorts.

So when Yoongi looks at him, eyes glassy, and asks: “You can tell me.”

Jimin shakes his head. “I’ll be okay. Really.” To distract from the prodding, he squats down, squinting at the sand underfoot, before pointing to a pale object half-buried in the sand. “What’s that?”

Yoongi bends down beside him, and lifts the object out. “It’s a sea conch.”

“You know, my mum used to tell me that the sea carries music, and if you put your ear into a conch, you’ll hear it sing.” Jimin gently cradles the conch out of Yoongi’s hands and presses his own hears against the pale pink conch. The echo of rushing waves ricochet in his eardrums in a calming rhythm, lulling his erratic pulse. “You hear that? Listen.”

He reaches out and rests the conch against Yoongi’s ears. His fake husband quirks an eyebrow at him, as if to day, Really, now? But obliges nonetheless. Yoongi closes his eyes and hums. After a prolonged moment of quiet, he asks, “And your point is…?”

Jimin smiles dryly. “Sometimes when I feel like life’s being too edgy, I sit down and remind myself that there’s a huuuge world out there, things bigger than myself. Like the sea. When I see it, listen to it, for a short while my own worries start to feel very…”

“Small,” Yoongi finishes, and Jimin nods. He hopes the man can understand what he’s trying to say, hopes that Yoongi doesn’t allow himself to sink deeper into the muddied ocean of his own mind. Man’s greatest enemy is himself. Jimin doesn’t want Yoongi to get washed away.

Life is a wave, he thinks. Ups and downs; ups and downs.

Though the biggest downer of tonight’s events is: Jimin is beginning to get an inkling that he cares about Yoongi as more than a mere friend. It’s a thought as terrifying as an last-minute impromptu audition.

“Jimin-ah,” Yoongi mumbles, nudging his elbow. 

“Hmm?”

“Are we okay?”

They lock gazes. Smiling but they’re close to tears. The midnight sea shimmers with scattered moonlight, but Yoongi’s eyes glisten brighter with an emotion Jimin can’t bring himself to learn. 

“Yeah.” 

Not really.

But he sure as hell isn’t about to go around broadcasting it, especially not to Yoongi, of all people.

Yoongi, who just deserves to be happy. Yoongi, whom Jimin would hate to inconvenience the most with odd, whimsical fantasies.

Besides, he can’t risk a face-to-face rejection.

 


 

“By the way, hyung. We’ve been walking for a while now, and you haven’t let go of my hand.”

“I mean. It’s cold outside. We need human warmth.”

“Right.”

Silence wraps them again, and then.

“Hyung.”

“What?”

“I have no clue where we’re going.”

“Shit. Okay. Hut’s that way.”

 


 

Never one to be outdone, Seokjin booked an entire row of huts just for their group of friends to sleep over for the night. Jimin lets Yoongi lead him down a line of thatched roofs and fairy lights, chick slippers in his left hand and Jimin’s hand in his right.

 

 

“Sorry to intrude,” Jimin mumbles as he takes off his flip-flops and steps into his chick slippers. 

Yoongi gives him a pointed look as if to say, You fool. “We’ve been living together for months, and now you say that?”

“Hey, let me express my gratitude and modesty.”

Yoongi snorts, and as they step through the wooden door, Jimin pauses when he sees that—

There is only one bed in the hut.

“That’s not a problem, is it?” Yoongi says, rubbing the back of his neck, ears reddening. “I mean, we do have the double bed at home...”

“Yeah, but...” Jimin gulps, trailing off into hesitation. At home, they had Madeleine on the bed with them. At least there were three of them, and Jimin liked to think of it as a sleepover.

Technically speaking, this could be a sleepover too, a casual episode between regular bros, but in light of Jimin’s life-altering epiphany from literally mere moments ago, he’s not quite sure how to continue going about this whole, ‘we’re bros and friends’ charade they’ve been at.

How does one begin to process more-than-bro type of feelings? What category does that belong in? More than bros but less than hoes? Perhaps Jimin should Google that later. You know, when Yoongi’s not looking.

Damn. Crushes are hard.

Jimin covers his mouth, and lets out a keen that sounds like a kettle losing steam. 

He has...

He has a crush.

“Why? What?” Yoongi’s eyes dart about the wooden floorboard creaking beneath their weight. “Did you see a bug somewhere?”

Nope, no bugs. Except for one, lodged in Jimin’s heart.

A—

A lovebug.

!!!!!!

Jimin wants to screech incoherently into the great wide unknown. “Fuck.”

Yoongi gives him a funny look, and finally lets go of his hand to take Jimin’s duffel bag from him. Jimin watches the way prominent veins line his husband’s arms as Yoongi lifts the duffel bag from his shoulder and dumps it onto the bed. Come to think of it, Yoongi does have a pretty attractive physique. Jimin has seen him shirtless back home several times, but now there’s a new layer of awareness trickling in him, making him consider every facet of Yoongi’s appearance. Broad shoulders and slim waist and— 

Yoongi crosses the hut to rummage around his own bag for a towel, taking out a plain white one. “Here. Bathroom’s out back.”

“I have my own towel,” Jimin hurries to zip open his duffel bag to take out a blue one.

“Good. You look like you need a cold shower.”

“Huh? Why?”

Cheeks flushing crimson, Yoongi hangs his head low to let his bangs cover his eyes, before he clears his throat and points in the general direction of Jimin’s nether regions.

Jimin gasps again, and glances down.

Fuck. Little Jimjams needs to calm down. “I’ll be right back.”

 


 

[Google Search Engine History]

“do boners mean feelings”

“signs someone likes you”

“best cat food brands”

“busan beach homes”

“how to deal with possible rejection”

 

“Here.”

Yoongi looks up from his phone’s search engine just as a thin sheet of plastic lands on his lap. He eyes the glossy sheen of the cover. “What’s this?”

“Face mask.” Jimin towels off his wet hair, his face seeming redder than usual, but Yoongi owes it to the hot shower and bad lighting.

“What for?” Yoongi frowns, turning his phone’s brightness to zero. He may or may not be embarrassed to have to resort to Googling about the correlation between penile functions and romantic feelings, or ways to deal with rejection. He’s grasping at strands of an answer here. Despite having confessed flat-out earlier, he’s not 100% sure if Jimin heard him right.

“To get rid of your wrinkles,” Jimin states with a you-should-trust-me look. “With all the scowling you’ve done today, you need to relax. Take it as a spa night.”

“Spa night?” Yoongi blinks.

“Yeah. We’ll put on masks and lay beside each other like spa buddies do!”

“Spa buddies.”

“Yup.” Jimin’s tone is restrained, like he’s trying not to scream.

But Yoongi’s only half-listening, even while he obliges and lies on his pillow while layering the cold sheet mask over his face.

Should he ask? Maybe not. Jimin hasn’t mentioned anything.

“Hey, I have an idea!” Jimin blurts out in fake cheer. Yoongi feels the space beside him shift where Jimin sinks into the pillow, face coated in a mud pack. “For the full relaxing experience, how about we put on some of that elevator music you like so much?”

Yoongi scoffs. “Excuse you, jazz is not elevator music—“

“Where did I put my phone? Ah, here it is.” Jimin notches the speaker’s volume up high, and he presses back into the pillow with a sigh as the first notes of a saxophone filters the air, making no room for awkward silence.

He seems to be extra antsy tonight. It’s like Jimin can’t keep still, and the way he drums his fingers atop his chest and jiggles his foot gnaws on Yoongi’s nerve-endings.

“Can you— can you stop wiggling? You’re like an earthworm on caffeine overdose.”

Jimin snorts but doesn’t retort. Yoongi can make a guess as to why.

Jimin is nervous. His body language spells it all out for him. “Jimin-ah.”

“Uh. Yeah?”

Yoongi turns his head to one side, angled just enough so that the mask won’t droop off of his face. “About everything I said today... you know I mean it, right?”

He hopes with all of his heart that Jimin understands what he’s talking about, but when he sees how there’s only hurt and confusion flashing through Jimin’s eyes, Yoongi frowns.

With a wistful smile, Jimin nods like he’s admitting defeat. “I know. I’ll remember my place. You should, too.”

Yoongi bristles. He briefly considers if he heard right. That... wasn’t quite the response he was hoping to get, but what was he expecting, really? He’d gone out on a limb earlier. For all he knows, this is just an indirect rejection from Jimin, who’s too kind to say no.

The thought makes Yoongi’s throat tighten. “Oh. Good.”

“Yeah. Good.”

Yoongi sighs and purses his lips. That’s it, then. The day is ending, and so is their agreement to drop this act. It’s been fun, he muses, to have spent this evening in a little snowglobe of temporary cheer. Tomorrow, he’s going to have to put all walls up again.

But there is one thing he can be honest about, at least.

Between them, he can feel Jimin’s hand lower to rest by his side, and when their fingers brush, Yoongi takes the leap of faith he wishes he had back in IKEA. 

He links their pinkies together, hopes Jimin doesn’t feel his pulse racing madly. “It’s been really fun. Today.”

Though they’ve been sleeping in the same bed since that furniture shopping day, they’ve never laid down beside each other just like this, soft music rippling in the air, two heartbeats outracing each other. No Madeleine to busy themselves with. No house chores to mind.

So when Jimin reaches for his whole hand and laces their fingers together, tears burn in Yoongi’s eyes.

It’s always like this, every time. Under Jimin’s touch, he is a spring day waiting to bloom. He is the water burbling from the depths of this earth, trickling slow and shy.

“The best,” Jimin answers softly. “It’s been the best day.”

Yoongi wants more than just to hold this hand, but he makes no move to reach for more than what he’s allowed.

“Even though Madeleine wasn’t here,” Jimin adds with a crinkle of his nose, and Yoongi chuckles.

“We’ll see her again tomorrow. Wanna come pick her up with me?” Even though the mention of tomorrow brings a visceral ache to Yoongi’s chest, he rejoices at the thought of being reunited with his baby.

Well, his Baby #1.

He glances at Jimin again, who’s frowning. “What?”

“Nothing. I’m just imagining—man, if she were here she would have clawed all of that awful Hwang Janghyuk’s remaining hair out. Leave him bald for good.”

Yoongi releases a scandalized but amused gasp. “You savage.

“They were going overboard!” Jimin fires back, petulant. “It was really rude.”

Yoongi jabs his side, and Jimin flinches away with a sharp laugh. “Stop, that tickles. I might smudge this mask into the pillow, hyung!”

“Then you’ll pay for the extra service charges yourself,” Yoongi teases, nudging Jimin with his elbow.

“If I fall off this bed, you’re dead.”

Yoongi grins, feeling the weight of the night lift from his chest at the sound of Jimin’s laugh. “You know what else Madeleine would have done?”

“What?”

“She’d hiss at that guy who was all over you right before I picked you up at the motel earlier.”

Jimin hums. “Hakyeon? Why?”

Yoongi still remembers the lewd way Jimin’s co-worker was looking at him, like he was a piece of meat to be grilled and devoured. The nerve of that guy. “He was clearly trying to get with you.”

“He’s just being a protective hyung, though?”

“What. No way.” Yoongi sets upright and fluffs the pillow behind his back. “And don’t even get me started on how you never told anybody at that cafe you work in that you’re married!”

“Hoseok-hyung knows.” Jimin’s lips turn out in a pout.

“Yeah, but still. Your other colleagues don’t—“

“What’s the point? We’re divorcing in December, anyway.”

Yoongi stops short, heart sinking.

Right. He has no right to be acting like this, acting like he’s truly married to Jimin. Jimin isn’t an object to be possessed. But feelings are hard tamp down, so—

“I’m imposing sanctions on you,” Yoongi simpers, picking at a loose thread on his shorts.

Sitting upright, Jimin scoffs in disbelief. He crosses his arms. “What?”

“I can’t allow you to indulge other men or trade your services,” Yoongi sulks despite himself.

“That’s— that’s ridiculous! And unfair.”

“You know what’s unfair?” Yoongi retorts. “Other people get to touch you all the time! Like— like Taehyung, he gets to hug you without needing to pay.”

“Taehyung’s my best friend!” Jimin shoots back. “And remember, I’m not charging you for whatever we did today, am I?”

Here they are again, arguing for no reason. Making business out of a deal that shouldn’t have had rules to begin with. Yoongi grunts.

“Yeah, whatever. So everyone else gets free cuddles but I don’t.”

“But I hugged you for free today—“

“I don’t want it to be just for today.”

Jimin’s words cut off, and Yoongi’s ears burn beneath the intensity of the gaze directed his way. He takes a last leap of faith. Yoongi can feel his lower lip quivering when he closes his eyes and admits in the quietest of voices, almost a murmur, “And I’d appreciate it if you only held my hand. Like this, like now.”

Fuck. He’s doomed. Yoongi took it too far. He feels the air crackle around them with the new chill of an awkward silence. Jimin does not speak a word.

“Sorry. That was– that was weird.”

“No,” Jimin whispers, faint and low. “It’s fine. I’ll just... yeah, it’s fine.” He chews his lower lip, contemplating, and turns to pull Yoongi’s hands in his lap. “This. This is okay?”

With a slow exhale, Yoongi nods. “Mmm-hmmm.”

Jimin cradles Yoongi’s cheek, his fingers so warm that Yoongi has a hard time refraining from leaning into his touch. “And this? Okay?”

“Well, technically you’re touching the gooey mask, not my face, but you do you,” Yoongi quips, then lets out a hiss of mock pain when Jimin lightly smacks his cheek in a reprimanding gesture.

“I’m just checking. What’s okay and what’s not.”

“That’s okay, too.” 

Jimin gives him a long, intent stare, the kind that has Yoongi wondering what he’s thinking, and it stretches out for so long that Yoongi starts fidgeting with his collar. “What?”

“Let’s stop it, then.”

It’s like a bullet shoots through Yoongi. He swears he almost stops beathing, eyes widening. “Stop what?”

Jimin lifts their clasped hands, eyes swimming with emotion. “As in, let’s stop with the pay-for-PDA thing. I’m dropping it. You don’t have to pay anymore, since I’m working to earn money now anyway, bit by bit.”

Yoongi has never felt relief flood through him the way it does right now like a giant tsunami, and his shoulders sag against the pillows. “I thought—“

“But on one condition,” Jimin says, eyes imploring like he’s trying to send across a message. “No more lies, honeyboy. Okay?”

Yoongi has no recollection of ever lying to Jimin—at least not recently, if he counts out that white lie about eating the last packet of instant ramen the other day. Lies? What lies? He furrows his brows. “Um. Okay...? If you’re mad about that, I’m sorry.”

Jimin sighs, rueful. “I know you are.” He settles back on the pillow, bringing Yoongi to press back on the mattress again. “But I’ve had enough of these mind games, hyung. Let’s just get this over and done with as peacefully as possible.”

Over and done with. Like Yoongi’s just a chore to finish.

It’s the truth anyway. and with Jimin’s unwillingness to reply to his confession, Yoongi just... accepts it. He’ll take what he can get, from now on. For the rest of their marriage he’ll make sure he makes the most of every moment spent with Jimin.

(At least hugs are free now.)

 


 

(Later, he’s too deep in slumber to feel Jimin peeling the now-dried mask off his face for him, too fast asleep to note the lips pressing against his forehead with a whispered, ‘Good night. I wish this wasn’t pretend’.)

 


 

“Still awake?”

Sitting outside on the hut’s rickety plank stairs, Jimin’s head lifts to find Taehyung ambling towards him, hands in his pocket. He gives his best friend a wry smile. “I could say the same for you. Out drinking?”

Taehyung snorts and lifts the polaroid camera slung around his neck. “Keepsakes. Wanna go through them with me?”

Without replying, Jimin scoots over to make space beside him for Taehyung to sit. An unspoken invitation. When Taehyung steps up the stairs and it creaks, he glances at the hut behind Jimin. “Won’t we make noise?”

Jimin scrunches his nose. “It’s okay. He sleeps like a log.”

Taehyung plops beside him and brandishes a fanny pack where he’s been keeping his stack of polaroids. “I kept seeing cool stuff today, Chim. Check this out.”

“Cool stuff as in...” Jimin trails off with a knowing smirk as he shuffles through endless polaroid shots of—

Jungkook.

Jungkook laughing, eyes slinking off. Jungkook doing a handstand. Jungkook with a camera covering half his face. Jimin hums. “Cool stuff indeed.”

Taehyung meets his look eye to eye and waggles his eyebrows. “He was just conveniently there. So I took photos. Simple as that.”

If only Jimin’s own dilemma was that simple or easy. With a forced smile, he sighs and shoves Taehyung playfully. “Little shit. Thanks for abandoning me earlier, by the way.”

“What? What’d I do?”

“You left me”—Jimin continues flipping through the polaroids until he freezes on a random picture—“with him.”

Taehyung cranes his neck like a giraffe to peer at the polaroid that Jimin is holding with trembling fingers. “Ah. Him. Oops?”

Jimin stares. It’s a photo of him putting a Band-Aid over Yoongi’s eyebrow earlier, and from Taehyung vantage point the smile on Yoongi’s face is clear. Jimin’s neck heats up.

The ghost of Yoongi’s kiss still lingers on his lips, like fine wine. 

(Sometimes, if Jimin is in the mood to indulge his more romantic nature, he wants to believe that Yoongi wants him the way he seems to in the picture.)

“So?” Taehyung’s voice snaps him back to reality.

Jimin blinks. “So what?”

“So did you guys make up?” Taehyung raises an eyebrow at him. “I’m guessing you did, if you’re staying in his hut.”

Jimin hesitates. “In a way, I guess? I don’t know.”

“What set you off in the first place?”

Jimin ducks his head in shame.

“Chim?” Taehyung’s finger lift his chin, coaxing him to meet his eyes, because his best friend has never let run away from himself, and he’s not about to let Jimin do the same now. “Is everything okay?”

There’s so much packed in that one question.

“No.” Jimin’s answer is immediate. “It’s not.”

It hasn’t for a while now. All this time Jimin felt like he’s finally learning to stand on his own, finding his mold in the world, only to realize he’s been stood atop a rug all along. And now... that rug’s being yanked out from under him by a force he can’t stop.

“Why?” Taehyung swipes the pad of his thumb beneath Jimin’s eyes, and only when it comes away damp does Jimin realize his tears were spilling. “It’s hard, isn’t it?”

Jimin shrugs and pulls his face away to look up at the blank, stygian sky. “It’s whatever.”

“‘Cause of Yoongi-hyung?”

Jimin shakes his head. There’s nothing to blame about Yoongi. This is all on Jimin. He sucks in a slow breath, then whispers, “Remember back in school, when they taught us about things like method acting, how not to break character..?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, I feel like I’m breaking. In every possible way.”

Taehyung’s eyes never leave his. “Breaking what?”

The rules. The character that Jimin’s molded for himself. In theater, when you receive a script, you stick to it. Sure, you can make a few ad libs and improvisions here and there, but there script remains the same. If your Character A falls for someone’s Character B, then that’s just the script’s direction, too. Nothing personal.

Jimin can’t help but feel like somewhere down the line, he’s gotten confused; gone off-script. “My rules. Maybe I got so into my role that I stopped acting the part.”

“The mark of a seasoned actor,” Taehyung comments, mimicking a chef’s kiss gesture. “Chim Chim, you’ve improved!”

“What I mean to say is...” Jimin’s throat goes dry, and it’s all he can do not to flee the scene. “I think he’s growing on me. And I don’t– I don’t actually mind?”

Taehyung’s mouth splits in a wide grin and he claps Jimin in the back. “There you go!” He laughs, then tries to tamp it down to a series of repressed snickers. “That wasn’t so hard, was it? Although ‘growing on you’ is a major understatement, in my opinion.”

“That’s the thing!”

Jimin stares at his toes, his chin tucked over his knees as he hugs his legs close. “This wasn’t supposed to start feeling so... real. It’s just an acting job, isn’t it? And now”—he gulps—“now I have to deal with this problem.”

“Why should it be a problem?”

“Huh?” Jimin glances at his best friend.

Taehyung is looking at him like he just told him he eats without washing his hands first. “Why should it be a problem if you start liking your”—he waves a hand in the air to grapple for an appropriate word—“your co-conspirator?”

“Because,” Jimin starts.

“Because what?”

And Jimin finds that he has no proper answer. In hindsight, there’s not much holding him back. Still, he resists. “It’s not a good idea to fall for someone you’re acting with. Look at the Song-Song Couple, for example. I don’t want to get attached.”

Taehyung gives him a pointed look. “I mean, you and Yoongi-hyung are going to divorce too, anyway, right? Like the original plan.”

Jimin falls quiet.

“Unless... you don’t want to divorce him.”

“No!” Jimin hisses. “I mean yes, it still has to happen—“

“Then what’s wrong with—“

“Because!” Jimin gripes through gritted teeth, growing frazzled with each passing second. “I can’t fall in love with him, only to have to divorce him later on. I can’t, Tae.”

“Like I said, why not—“

“He’s not in love with me.” The words taste like poison on his tongue.

That makes Taehyung halt completely, and he stares at Jimin long and hard. “You can’t be serious. I see the way he looks at you and I’m telling you, Yoongi-hyung has never looked that happy in all the time I’ve known him.”

“But I heard him say it,” Jimin insists. “He said so.” He presses his lips in a thin line and lowers his head. “And he has a whole ex that he can’t get over. I could never– I couldn’t ever hope to compare.”

“Even so,” Taehyung argues, not backing down. “Even if that’s true, you don’t know for sure if Yoongi-hyung will still feel that way tomorrow. Or next week.”

He sounds so convinced that Jimin wants to believe his words. He presses the back of his hands to his eyelids, wiping hot tears away with his knuckles and taking deep breaths to still his hammering heart. He hates this, hates conflict with Taehyung. “It’s impossible.”

“You can’t possibly know that.” Taehyung reaches for Jimin and wraps both arms around his shoulders, rubbing his hand along Jimin’s back in soothing circles. “Chim Chiiiim-ah~ you’re a funny guy.”

“What’s so funny about my misery?” Jimin sniffles, snot running down his nose.

“Dude. You’re worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet. Take a chill pill. Breathe, okay?”

Jimin inhales deeply and releases it in one slow breath.

“Don’t overthink,” Taehyung says, pulling back and fixing Jimin’s bangs. “You’re literally freaking out over a crush.”

A crush. Because that’s all this is, isn’t it? When Taehyung puts it like that, Jimin suddenly feels sheepish, like he was overreacting about something so simple. “Yeah. It’s just a crush, but what do I do about it?”

Taehyung sighs and shakes his head. “Wah, I’m so done. Jimin.”

“Hmm?” Jimin rubs his nose.

“This whole thing is between you and Yoongi-hyung. I can’t tell you what to do.” Taehyung plucks out the polaroid of him and Yoongi and presses it into Jimin’s hands. “Ball’s in your court. You know what to do. It’s your call.”

Jimin has a vague idea, but knowing what to do doesn’t mean wanting to do it.

“The heart is a bird, Chim,” Taehyung murmurs as he stands and helps him up, “happier when set free.”

“Do I have to make a decision now?” Jimin asks, drying his eyes before daring to step back into his hut.

Taehyung shrugs. “Up to you. If you’re sure about how you feel. Are you?”

Jimin shakes his head. It all feels too new, too fresh, and letting anything out seems too drastic. 

“Then relax, bro. Seriously. You’ll be fine.” Taehyung winks at him as he walks backwards to his own hut while still facing Jimin. “And if he hurts you, call me. I’ll come with the baseball bat from that frat party we busted into last year.”

Jimin heaves a half-laugh, half-sob.

There’s a calm assurance in the knowledge that no matter how many relationships might come and go in his life, at least he has his bedrock in one Kim Taehyung. It’s not everyday you find warm hands that will hold your mind together even when your heart breaks. He lets Taehyung squeeze him one last time before climbing back to sleep.

The inside of the hut is illuminated only by the dim orange lamp hanging from the slanted ceiling, leaving the shadows to crawl into more secluded corners, and that’s why it takes as long as Jimin reaching already halfway across the bed when he sees the deep frown marring Yoongi’s sleeping face.

Jimin cocks his own side and rests his knee on the edge of the bed to peer closer. “Hyung...?”

He notices the sweat breaking out over Yoongi’s forehead, and the way his eyes are rolling rapidly beneath his closed eyelids, and Jimin’s heart lurches in alarm.

“Yoongi-hyung!”

 


 

In his dream, the same damn scenario plays over and over before Yoongi, like all of his fears caught in a timeless loop. Dreams are soundless, but he couldn’t possibly have imagined the way his own voice roared so loud his throat felt raw, nor the slamming of the door. 

Unlike the other times he’s had this nightmare, though, the figure that leaves his home sports not a head of copper-red hair, but blond.

That tumblr of sandy curls burns his mind until it disappears from his mind’s eye, and when Yoongi’s phone trills with that call from the hospital, they tell him a name he could never, never bear to hear together with we’re-sorry’s and we-tried-our-best’s.

You shouldn’t have let him go.

The thought is a cobra that twists and uncoils from Yoongi’s gut, snaking out with snapping jaws to tighten around his throat. He writhes, lungs on fire, until he feels only—

Venom. Venom runs in his  veins instead of blood—a poisoned tumult, thick and terrible under his skin. In Yoongi’s dream, the sun has forgotten to rise, and he’s left to swim in midnight waters. He flails, arms spread out, but there are metal chains shackled to ankles, and he sinks—

Down,

 

down,

 

—down.

 

“...gi-hyung!”

Yoongi’s eyes snap open with a sharp gasp, heart hammering in his ribcage, and the world is dark, the heat descends upon his skin, and he is unraveled like a mirror broken in shards sevenfold with no chance of piecing back together. Yoongi pants, wondering why whether he shuts his eyes or opens them, his vision stays ensconced in tunnel-blackness.

A warm finger. Pressed against his cheek. He jolts with a small cry.

“Yoongi-hyung?”

Moonshine bleeds into the the darkness.

“Hey, are you okay?” Now there’s a hand cradling his face, another running through his hair; slowly, like an unfurling flower, Yoongi opens his eyes to follow the sound of that silver-sweet voice.

The sea subsides, and his ankles are free.

“Deep breaths, jagi. You were having a nightmare.” Arms wrap around his shoulders, and Yoongi goes pliant, lets himself be cocooned in a blast furnace embrace.

“Water. You need some water—“

“Jimin.” It’s a harsh croak, the first that pushes to the front of Yoongi’s mind.

Jimin. Funny how one name can anchor a wandering soul.

“Yes, I’m here, I’m here.” Jimin tightens his hold around Yoongi, having crawled in the bed with him, and tucks his head into his chest. “But let me get you a waterbottle, alright—“

“Don’t,” Yoongi whispers, both hands curling around the hem of Jimin’s shirt. “Don’t go. Stay.”

Had he been more alert, a secret part of him would’ve wondered if he might have uttered the same words to the same person once upon a time, under a feverish haze.

Yoongi feels Jimin’s Adam’s apple move against his forehead as he gulps. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Yet. 

But he will soon. People always do. It would be so easy to lose this safety net. Tears spring to Yoongi’s eyes, and he burrows his face into Jimin’s shirt. “Stay always,” he mumbles, but the words are lost as muffled sounds pressed into his husband’s chest.

They lie quiet and unmoving together, until Yoongi’s heart returns to a tempo that matches Jimin’s.

“I saw you,” Yoongi whispers. “In my dream.”

“As a pretty fairy? Aww, thanks,” Jimin attempts at a lighthearted joke, and Yoongi doesn’t respond. He likes Jimin’s version better.

It’s dark, he thinks, and perhaps it’ll be for longer than he thought.

But at least he’s not alone. There had been a time that Yoongi once believed love would be burning red, like Yeoreum’s fiery temper; as crimson as his hair. But now, peering up into Jimin’s stardew eyes fraught with worry, his sandy locks illuminated by the hut’s warm lamp, understanding dawns on Yoongi.

Love isn’t red; it’s golden. 

Like daylight.

 


 

When Yoongi’s heartbeat steadies and his breathing becomes sleep-labored, Jimin pulls away from their embrace just a few inches to study his face.

There are dried tear-tracks streaking down the corners of Yoongi’s eyes, which Jimin thumbs away gently, feeling hollow. He’d like to kiss those tears away, kiss the guilt and doubt and shame away until they rust to dust, but he doesn’t know if he reserves any right to come closer than they already are now.

And so Jimin does the next best thing: he reaches for Yoongi’s hand, turning it slowly so that he won’t wake, and brushes his lips tenderly against each knuckle that Yoongi burned from the grill earlier this afternoon when Jimin snuck up to him.

It feels like eons ago.

“What am I going to do with you, hyung?” Jimin murmurs, tucking an arm to pillow his own head while carding his fingers through Yoongi’s hair.

Yoongi’s face remains impassive in his sleep, and watching him like this, Jimin wishes he could capture this moment and lock it somewhere sacred and secret in him forever. His husband burrows his face deeper into Jimin’s chest, breathing steady and even. 

Jimin sniffles to hold back a sob, and cradles the nape of Yoongi’s neck gently the way his mother used to when he had nightmares as a child. There are words sitting on his tongue, words he’s not allowed to think, let alone say. So instead, Jimin leans in and presses his lips every-so-lightly against the small cut on Yoongi’s eyebrow.

With the end of summer comes a rise and fall of seasons—a marked shift from blazing heat to calm cool—and though Jimin has never been a big believer in kismet or fate, he can’t help but think that this is some conspiracy written by the stars, in which he jumps blind—

—and Falls.

Chapter Text

There is a gigantic gingko tree that grows outside of Yoongi’s second floor bedroom window, so tall that wayward twigs from its topmost canopy often go rat-tat-tat against the windowpane on windy days. 

A few weeks ago, its branches bore soft leaves as green as olives.

Now, a week after their late summer getaway to the beach, the tree’s gingko leaves have turned into a crisp blend of goldenrod and pumpkin orange, falling one by one like dancers bowing out for one last finale. The glass window has also begun to condense during nights whenever the temperature drops low enough to warrant turning on the indoor heating system.

For the snugglers and cuddle lovers, this is the perfect weather. But for those who have, say, morning opening shifts at a local coffee shop… well.

Easier said than done. Despite being an early riser, there’s always been something about autumn that compels Jimin to sleep in, if only to burrow into his blanket for a little while longer. The urge to stay in bed hits him especially hard today, because it’s warm under the covers, so damn warm...

Jimin stirs awake to gentle nuzzling from Madeleine’s nose. At the sound of his soft “mmmm”, the ginger cat hops off the bed, tail swishing in the air (she seems to have taken up the job of being a morning call these days.) 

It takes a groggy yawn and the fluttering of Jimin’s bleary eyes for him to realize where exactly that snuggly warmth is emanating from. 

When Jimin’s vision sharpens into focus, he zeroes in on dark, butterfly-soft eyelashes, mere inches from his own. 

Yoongi’s eyes are closed, breathing light and labored as the morning light spills in through their bedroom window.

Jimin blinks. It takes his brain cells more than a few seconds to register the arm draped over his waist, and that he himself has one leg hooked over Yoongi’s hips.

“Ngrraahh!”

He shrieks like a strangled rooster, scooting away and rolling over so desperately that he drops from the bed’s edge in a blanket burrito. In his haste to disentangle their limbs, he also inadvertently… kicks Yoongi off the other side of the bed, none too gently.

Thud. 

His husband hits the floor, and there’s a terrible quiet that permeates the air, followed by a low groan. 

“The fuck… Jimin?”

“Hyung!” Jimin says, pulse skyrocketing way too dangerously so early in the morning. He clambers back on the mattress and crawls to the other side to pull Yoongi up. “Sorry, you were just- I didn’t mean to… ah, shit.”

“Mmm.” Yoongi yawns, sitting up and scratching the back of his tousled bedhead. He hardly seems to register the full weight of the situation, eyes still half-lidded with sleep. “What’s wrong?” 

There’s a rough, sulky tinge to his voice, and Jimin feels his cheeks warming as Yoongi climbs back under the covers. 

“I just…” His eyes dart around until they land on Madeleine, who’s watching them with an unbothered gaze from her window hammock, “I was, um... making space for Madeleine to join…”

His excuse is so shitty that Jimin trails off, at a loss for anything better to say. But to his surprise, Yoongi is too groggy in the wee hours of the morning to actually pay attention to his blabbering. He just gives another hum and reaches for Jimin again. “‘Kay. Back to sleep, back to sleep.”

Jimin feels every nerve-ending freeze when warm fingers tug at his waist. His brain trills: Red alert! Mayday, mayday!

He recoils and shimmies out of Yoongi’s arms. “N-no, um. I gotta get to work.”

Yoongi makes a soft grumbling noise that sounds like a whine, before he huffs and turns to the other side, the blankets rustling with his movement. “Suit yourself.”

“Yeah. See you… um, tonight,” Jimin answers, scuttling off the bed with the speed of a kid running away from the school counsellor. 

He’s got half a mind to shake his fake husband awake and screech, What are you doing?, because nowhere in their contract does he remember there ever being a clause about mutual cuddling. 

Does Yoongi think that dropping their paid PDA pact means he gets to do that from now on? Because that’s a very dangerous thing to do. Not to mention highkey terrifying. Jimin is not ready for this kind intimacy, nope. 

Especially because—and he realizes this with a sinking feeling—he can’t deny he’d enjoy it, too.

Close. That was way too close. Jimin can’t help it—ever since their beach getaway trip to Busan, he has become hyper-aware of Yoongi’s proximity to him at all times. It’s like there’s a new electric fuse that’s lit itself between them; one that’s powered by any semblance of skin-to-skin action, growing strong and stronger whenever they draw near enough to touch. Just the other day, when Yoongi called Jimin at work to ask what he’d like for dinner, Jimin nearly had a meltdown right there in the middle of his shift at the thought that it’s such a husband-ly thing to do.  

He feels like a live wire these days, ready to short-circuit if pushed too far.

“I need to catch a break,” he says to Taehyung during his lunch break later that day. Sometimes his best friend swings by the cafe on his free days. “I just need to, like, breathe a little. Yoongi-hyung is hogging the air in the apartment.”

“Weird way of saying your husband is breathtaking, but okay.” Taehyung takes a sip of his hot chocolate.

Jimin pierces a fork into his egg-and-mushroom crepe. “I’m serious, Tae. He’s becoming too nice to me these days. It’s problematic.”

Taehyung barks out a laugh. “Again, why?”

“Because,” Jimin swallows before speaking again, “it’s going to confuse me even more. The other day I told him he’d look great with lighter hair, and when he came home that same night, I nearly thought there was an intruder entering the house.”

“Why?”

“Because he suddenly dyed his hair silver!“ Jimin throws his hands up in the air, dropping his fork. It hits his plate with a tinny clang. “With an undercut, Tae!

Taehyung’s eyes grow wide, and he lets out a low whistle. “Woah. I can’t wait to see him at the Blue Rose.”

“And even though silver is such an elderly folk color, he looked so good I wanted to cry—”

“Chim-chim.”

“Then this morning when he was scooping out Madeleine’s poop from her litter tray, his hair was sticking up all messy and cute, holy shit—”

“Are you here to complain about him or praise him, Park Jimin?” Taehyung cocks his head to one side, eyes glinting with a knowing look. 

Jimin’s mouth falls closed. With a pout, he picks up his fork again; smooshes a forkful of crepe into his mouth. Yoongi really does look good with his new hairstyle, but he’s not about to ramble about that again. “It’s just not fair.”

“What isn’t?”

“That I’m the only one feeling this weird awkward atmosphere in the house now.” Jimin sighs. It irks him that he can’t just… start a conversation with Yoongi without stuttering or blushing these days. “It used to be a lot peaceful, before.”

“From what I remember, you were calling me every day to whine about your Latest Argument Of The Day,” Taehyung counters, a grin gracing his lips. “Compared to then, what you’ve got going almost sounds like a honeymoon paradise.”

Jimin emits a humorless chuckle. “You know he doesn’t like me that way.”

“Jimin. He literally said he loves you when we were at the beach karaoke bar.”

“Yeah, but not the whole thing.” Jimin leans back and crosses his arms, looking out the window to avoid Taehyung’s gaze. “He said, ‘Love ya’, not ‘I love you’.”

“Is there a difference?”

“Of course there is.” Jimin is a staunch believer that the way an individual phrases their words tells you plenty about their inner feelings. “There are varying levels of it. To me, ‘Love ya’ is something you can just casually say to a friend, you know? Or your cat.”

“So maybe Yoongi-hyung loves you the way he loves Madeleine. Isn’t that a good thing?”

But Jimin doesn’t want just Madeleine-tier love. “Still. It’s a huge leap from ‘I love you’ like a—”

“Husband?”

“...yeah.” Jimin gulps. “Like that.”

“So you want to hear him say it, then,” Taehyung concludes with a smirk. “I love you.”

“Of course I— don’t,” Jimin corrects himself at the last second, feeling heat creep up his neck. He shoots his best friend a pointed gaze. “Shut up, don’t give me that look. I’m only waiting until December so all of this can finally be over.”

Taehyung flashes him a doubtful and almost patronizing look as if to say, And here we have a Class A idiot, but he doesn’t say anything more, and Jimin heaves another sigh, watching a bird fly past the window. He reaches over to the windowpane’s glass, fogged over with condensation, and draws tiny little hearts on it, sniffling piteously. 

(Taehyung curses under his breath, something like the lines of “...so done.”)

Shakespeare-sunbaenim was right when he wrote “Love is a smoke and is made with the fume of sighs”, because Jimin feels like he’s been reduced to a wistful mess after the Busan trip. 

Damn it. He’s never usually this wishy-washy. Maybe he shouldn't have joined that company trip.

He refuses to think about anything even mildly related with Yoongi anymore, but these days the man’s name pervades the front of Jimin’s brain like a nasty virus he he can’t get rid of: Yoongi Yoongi Yoongi pretty honeyboy. Jimin could be walking around the mall and spot a camera for sale and think, Yoongi would love this. Or he’d be cruising the raw meat section of the supermarket and remember the way Yoongi’s eyes light up whenever there’s bulgogi on the table. Heck, he was even tempted to buy a new kick toy for Madeleine from the pet store he passed by on the way to work this morning.

Stupid, dumb crush. It’s an invisible burden that Jimin never even asked for. 

Like gravity, but worse.

 


 

“You’ve been awfully quiet lately.”

Jimin pauses mid-chew, and sets down the piece of fried shrimp in his chopsticks. “I- I have?” He grabs a glass of water and gulps down a mouthful. 

Yoongi nods, sitting across him while picking at his own bowl, eyes downcast. “It’s weird.”

A defensive wheeze escapes Jimin. “What makes you say so?”

“Because you’re only quiet when you’re sad, or sick, or angry.” Worry seeps into Yoongi’s voice, and when he looks up at Jimin, the sepia light from the overhead lamp colors his eyes golden brown, stark against his moonlight-silver locks. “Everything all right?”

“Hah!” Jimin tries not to acknowledge the flip-flopping in his stomach. He clears his throat and pops a small shrimp into his mouth. “Of course. All’s good. Better than ever. A-OK. Yep.”

Yoongi stares at him. “Have I done anything to upset you?”

“Nooo.” Jimin shakes his head vehemently and puts out a thumbs-up sign. “If I were mad at you, I’d tell you right away.”

“True.” Yoongi shrugs and takes a sip of water, though his goldenrod eyes keep probing into Jimin’s. “You’re not sick or anything, are you?”

“Not at all.” Jimin pauses briefly, before changing his mind. Should he..? “I mean, actually… yes.”

Across him, Yoongi tenses, and blinks slowly. “What kind? Fever? Migraine? I hear there’s a flu going around these days…”

Jimin shakes his head, pursing his lips. “Heartsick.”

Yoongi’s chopsticks freeze mid-air. He sets them down, waits expectantly for Jimin to elaborate. 

“I’m serious,” Jimin says, leaning forward on his forearms. He has no idea where he’s going with this, but it’s like his brain-to-mouth filter’s been blocked when he continues, “Hyung. I think I have someone I like.”

He hopes Yoongi might get the hint, but the burning curiosity in Yoongi’s eyes slips off, his irises darkening with something cold. 

“Oh. Is that so?”

Under the dining table, Jimin wrangles the hem of his shirt in his fingers. “Yeah.”

“Is it…” Yoongi tongues at the insides of his cheeks, looking hesitant, “...is it somebody I know?”

Jimin nods, pulse skipping. 

Yoongi’s frown deepens, and he sits back waiting for an elaboration, but Jimin keeps his lips zipped. He wants Yoongi to connect the dots for himself, wishing his husband would get it the way he always seems to understand what Jimin needs without ever being told. 

Eye contact, Jimin decides, is a form of communication they’ve nailed down to a tee. He quirks one brow, and Yoongi’s eyes narrow like he’s trying to unpiece his mind. Come on, Jimin thinks, it’s so obvious who.

They stare at each other for a solid minute until it turns into a mini staring competition, neither one backing down first. 

When the silence grows too big, Yoongi caves in. “From your workplace?” 

Again, Jimin nods, because technically speaking, this house is a workplace in many ways. After all, he’s staying here to earn millions after their divorce, isn’t he? “You could say that.”

“Is it Hoseok? Or that guy Hakyeon? Wait.” Yoongi lets out a huff and shakes his head. “I’m not even going to try to guess. It’s none of my business.” He chortles to himself, but it sounds flat, echoing in the dining room to make it feel bigger and emptier than it is.

Jimin’s heart plummets to the floor, and the nervous thrill in his blood gets dampened, slows down with dismay. He opens his mouth to drop more clues, but at that moment Yoongi pushes off from the dining table, plate in hand. A signal that the conversation is over.

“I’ll do the dishes tonight. You can help clean up after Madeleine.”

Jimin’s lower lip juts out. “Okay.”

 


 

Not okay, he thinks to himself while tending to Madeleine’s water fountain and bowl. She circles his ankles while purring, her tail flicking to and fro. Jimin squats and pats her head.

“Your dad is an idiot, isn’t he?” he says, whispering even though he knows Yoongi can’t hear him from where he’s currently showering in the bathroom. “Booo, what a loser.”

Madeleine meows, staring at him unblinkingly. 

“I’m glad you agree with me. Hey, can I tell you a secret?” Jimin’s eyes dart back and forth surreptitiously, like he’s expecting somebody to pop out of nowhere and bust him. “I have a crush on your dad, Madeleine.” 

There. It’s out. As the words leave his mouth, Jimin snags his lower lip below his teeth and hugs himself to keep from squealing, giddiness warming him all over. It feels good to say that out loud, especially to someone as important as Madeleine.

Her honeyed eyes grow wide, as though she understood him. Jimin presses a finger to his lips.

“You can’t tell anyone, okay?” He glares in the direction of the bathroom. “Especially not to him.

She blinks thrice at him, slowly. Jimin grins and pecks the tip of her nose. “Good girl.”

Madeleine lets out a soft mewl and licks his chin once before stalking away, leaving Jimin to tend to her post-meal mess. Jimin stands up and carries her bowl to the kitchen sink, smiling to himself.

At least there’s someone in this household he can trust to be honest with.

 


 

The next day, Jimin gets up earlier than usual to give himself more time to do his makeup and style his hair. He received an email over the weekend about an audition for an understudy role at a small local play—a 9AM one, because the applicant who was slated to go at that timing backed out at the last minute so it was the only available slot. 

While the Jimin from months ago would have stuck his chin up and sneered at such an insignificant role, now he’s just glad he’s getting a chance at all.

Yoongi is still fast asleep by the time Jimin is lacing his boots and shrugging on a coat to ward off the autumn chill. From below, a meow catches his attention and he smiles down at Madeleine, sitting by the doorway. 

“I’ll be back in the afternoon, baby,” he murmurs, scratching her ear. “Wish me luck.”

He recites his lines and meditates on the bus to the theater company’s building, trying to get into the zone. ‘Acting Mode’ is the only place he can completely disengage from reality nowadays, which, Jimin supposes, says a lot about how much he’s not acting anymore when he’s playing Yoongi’s husband.

The role he’s auditioning for is a supporting character, best friend to the musical’s main female lead. According to the the script’s excerpt, Kwon Minhyuk is ‘an aspiring street singer who wants to debut as an idol but finds out that he must make a choice between his dream and his girlfriend’. A pretty straightforward character, in Jimin’s opinion.

Yet the trembling in his fingers says otherwise. Truth be told, Jimin’s never had to face a similar dilemma. He’s always been the kind of person who achieved what he wanted as long as he worked hard enough to chase after it. To be asked to make a decision between two life-changing things is something he can’t personally relate to. 

So when his phone buzzes in his pocket while he’s in the waiting room, Jimin feels his nerves dissipate by a fraction. It’s from Yoongi.



agustddaeng:

break a leg

you should’ve woken me before you left tho

 

mochims:

Haha. Thanks :)

 

agustddaeng:

nervous?

 

mochims:

A little bit...

 

agustddaeng:

you’re gonna kill it, I just know it

fighting :>



Jimin scrunches his nose at the little emoji from Yoongi’s text, fondness seeping into every corner of his chest. Funny how they can have cold wars but easily resume taking the next day as if nothing happened.

“Park Jimin?” a voice calls from the open doorway, and the chatter from other hopefuls in the waiting room lowers to a hush.

Jimin rises to his feet. “Yes?”

“It’s your turn,” says the speaker—the assistant casting director—and Jimin nods.

He gathers his things and trails after the woman, clutching his script tight in one hand. His heart beats like a trapped bird. It always does, every time he has to face a new panel of casting crew. This time, though, the memory of Yoongi’s little smiley emoji pops into his mind, and Jimin allows himself a small smile to ease the tension in his spine.

Unlike previews auditions from major companies, there are only two people from the production team inside the room, including the woman who called out his name earlier. She sits one a long table beside a stone-faced young man with electric blue hair.

“I’m Choi Kyunghee, and this is the casting director, Yoo Bin,” she says, gesturing to the space in the middle of the room in front of them. “Please stand on the indicated X mark in the middle and introduce yourself.”

Jimin follows suit, and when he bows to end his greeting, Kyunghee nods.

“Any time now, Park Jimin-ssi.”

And so Jimin recites his given lines with as much gusto as he can, articulating his words with a ferocity that he imagines would suit a dreamer like Kwon Minhyuk. In this regard, he realizes he can connect with the role—both he and Minhyuk possess the same despairing fire for their dreams.

After he finishes his last line, Kyunghee asks, flipping through his application form, “It says here that you’re trained in dancing, but this role requires someone with a singing voice. Have you prepared anything for us?”

Jimin nods, highly aware of the man sitting beside her, silent as a panther.

Kyunghee hums, “Then, let us hear you.”

Clearing his throat, Jimin opens his mouth, tests his vocal tone. “Ah, ah. Okay. Ready.”

He launches into a sweet ballad by Ben, and it’s not even clear to him why he chose to this song until he’s singing the lyrics out loud and realizes: he’s been thinking of Yoongi all this time. His eyes fall shut as the lyrics pour out of him.



My once calm heart is now shaking

Without knowing, I keep looking at you

Naturally, I always want to be close to you

I’m waiting for you to come to me



“Stop.”

Jimin’s throat clams up in the middle of the song, and his eyes flutter open.

The casting director, Yoo Bin, is staring at him with a small frown crinkling the space between his eyebrows. Jimin feels his pulse thrum with a new kind of fear, one that leaves his fingers shaking.

“You have a lovely voice,” remarks Yoo Bin, his tone flat, gaze piercing. Jimin wants to squirm under those steely eyes. 

“Um,” he stammers.

“But Kwon Minhyuk is a person torn between two decisions tearing him apart,” Yoo Bin continues. “We want an actor who can flesh out that emotion, make it palpable to whoever in the audience watches him. And we want to hear it in his voice.”

Jimin swallows hard.

“Let me ask you,” says Yoo Bin. “Right now, if you had to choose between this role and people you love—say, your family—which one would you pick?”

Jimin’s mouth goes dry, and his stomach feels like it’s being drilled in with a thousand holes. 

“We don’t want to make this audition last too long,” Kyunghee interjects, standing up, “so if that’s all you have for us—”

“No!” Jimin cries out without thinking, and the two casting crew members blink at him. He steadies his nerves, then grits out, “I can do it. Let me sing another song. I’ll prove to you that I can bring Kwon Minhyuk to life.”

Kyunghee and Yoo Bin exchange glances. 

Jimin purses his lips and hangs his head, thinking he’s screwed up all chances now, until he hears:

“Very well.” Kyunghee nods and sinks back to her seat. “You have one song to change our minds.”

New hope flares in Jimin’s heart, so big and bright it almost renders him breathless. He nods vigorously and inhales, then sings his favorite lines from IU’s ‘Ending Scene’. 

 

Make sure you eat well, because it’ll all pass

You’ll be able to sleep well like you did before

I really mean it from the bottom of my heart

You have the right to become happier

I really hope you meet someone

Who will love you more than you do

I’m sorry that’s not me

It’s not easy to give.

 


 

Yoongi keys in the passcode to his front door, shivering even under the layers of thermal clothing he’s wearing under his black coat. October is just around the corner, which means Yoongi’s least favorite time of the year fast approaching. He’s not really a fan of snow and all the pointless end-of-year festivities that come with it. People love to make a huge deal out of autumn leaves and the first snowfall of the season because they give them excuses to cuddle while drinking hot tea or chocolate or whatever. Blergh. Snow, in his opinion, is for the ski fanatics and hopeless romantics, of which he is neither.

The door opens soundlessly, and he toes off his boots before hanging his coat on the wall rack. 

“M’home,” he mutters, rolling his shoulders back as he drops his camera bag to the nearest armchair.

The lights in his apartment are low, save for one small lamp on a table at the corner of the living room, and Yoongi thinks Jimin is probably still out who-knows-where. Then he draws nearer to the couch and notices the lump draped haphazardly over it.

Jimin is snoring away on the sofa, one leg draped over the backrest, one forearm covering his eyes, his golden hair a frenzied mess splayed over the cushioned armrest.

And Madeleine is tucked into the warm center of his stomach, curled up with her eyes closed.

Yoongi huffs, bemused, and rests his hands over his waist, unable to stifle the smile on his face. 

He glances across the kitchen, where he spies the dining table laden with a bowl of bibimbap and mandu. Jimin must’ve cooked for them tonight. Yoongi sighs, no longer feeling the outdoor chill from earlier.

The urge to laugh out loud and perhaps start tap-dancing on the spot consumes him, and before he can stop himself, Yoongi lets out the smallest of giggles, before he schools his expression into a calmer one. “Jimin, you little idiot.”

This is one of those moments in life that calls for memorabilia. Tip-toeing across the living room, Yoongi fishes out his DSLR and adjusts it to low-light settings, then crouches by the sofa and snaps a few shots of Jimin and Madeleine’s sleeping forms.

The sound of the shutter must wake his husband though, because right then Jimin jerks awake just as Yoongi takes his last picture. He cracks an eye open and groans through a soundless yawn.  “...hyung?”

Feeling silly, Yoongi tucks the camera to one side and stands up. “Hi.”

“Did you just arrive?” Jimin glances at the clock, lips curled up in a pout.

Yoongi nods. “Late night shoot today. Why’re you sleeping there?”

Jimin yawns again, but doesn’t sit upright when he notices Madeleine still curled up on his stomach. He pets her head and answers sleepily, “I must’ve dozed off while watching TV.”

Cute. Way too cute. Yoongi has to keep his tongue in check, lest he accidentally do something stupid, like propose to him again or something. He inclines his head towards the kitchen. “You cooked?”

“Yeah. Left some for you on the table. Go eat, I’m already done.” Jimin’s eyes slowly fall closed. “I’m so sleepy, hyung. I’ll just stay here.”

“Nah, you won’t.” Yoongi gently taps Jimin’s upper arm. “Go upstairs, cloud baby.”

After much whining and protesting and Jimin threatening to castrate him, Yoongi finally succeeds in getting his husband to drag his sleepy ass upstairs. He lifts Madeleine and carries her to her cat hammock, making sure she’s comfortable before pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

“He’s a dummy, isn’t he?” Yoongi whispers to Madeleine, keeping his voice low even though he knows Jimin is probably already in deep slumber upstairs. “You like him?”

Madeleine’s ears twitch, and Yoongi takes that for an affirmative. “Me too, baby. Me, too.”

 


 

When Jimin wakes up the next morning, it’s to the smell of Yoongi’s cooking, and he smiles while sniffing the air.

It’s become a bit of a mechanical routine for them—Jimin prepares breakfast on weekdays, while Yoongi cooks on weekends and on days when Jimin has a morning shift at Bean The Done That. Jimin no longer needs to check his phone to realize that it’s a Saturday. The scent of herbs and coffee in the air is enough.

With his yellow chick slippers-clad feet, Jimin pads noiselessly into the kitchen, where Yoongi is setting the dining table, Madeleine draped across his left shoulder.

“Morning.”

“Morning,” Yoongi greets, a little too chirpy for someone of his nature, and at once, Jimin’s radar is up and running.

“What’s up?” he asks cautiously, slipping into one chair. “You seem to be in a good mood.”

Yoongi gives a half-shouldered shrug. “Eh, nothing much. Why?”

Jimin squints at him. “I can’t trust that face.”

“What face?”

“You’re smiling too much,” Jimin points out.

“Pfft. You make me sound like a killjoy.”

Jimin lifts an eyebrow and cranes his neck forward as if to say, Duh?

His wariness does nothing to faze Yoongi’s bubbly spirits though, because all his husband says is, “Turn the TV on for me, Jimin-ah. I want to watch the morning news.”

“You?” Jimin all but splutters. “Want to watch the news?” Okay, something is definitely up. The Min Yoongi he knows is more interested in documentaries and baseball reruns than the dreary news.

“Yeah. What about it?”

Jimin is not one to judge without giving the benefit of doubt, so he supposes maybe Yoongi has had a sudden change of heart. “Nothing. Just a little surprised, is all.”

“The remote’s on the coffee table in front of the couch.”

Jimin rolls his eyes, but gets up anyway. “Couldn’t you have turned it on yourself?” he mutters under his breath, trudging out of the kitchen and towards the sofa.

When he gets there, he stops short, eyes glued on the wall.

Or what used to be there, but now isn’t.

!!!!!!!!!

“Hyung?” Jimin calls out, voice high-pitched. His gaze sweeps over to the bookshelves, and yep—his eyes aren’t deceiving him. The photo frames of Yoongi with Yeoreum no longer grace the living room. Neither are they on the bookshelves nor the tabletops, and especially not the wall.

Instead, what hangs there is now his and Yoongi’s life-sized wedding portrait, the one that Yoongi had insisted on keeping in the storage room to collect dust, months before.

“Yeah?” Yoongi answers from the dining table, the pride evident in his voice.

Tears prickle the back of Jimin’s eyes, and he swipes at them before returning to sit across Yoongi “Did you take down the photos there? The one with…”

“Yeah.” Yoongi nods, picking at his food. “I replaced them with our wedding ceremony pictures.”

Jimn’s heart squeezes hard. He gathers his courage to ask quietly. “Why?”

“What do you mean, why?” Yoongi glances up at him and averts his gaze right away, drumming his fingers on the table. “It’s… uh. It’s a contingency move. In case your mom drops by again.”

Oh.

Of course that’s the reason. They can’t afford to have anybody becoming suspicious of the nature of their marriage, especially Jimin’s mother. It’s a perfectly rational reason, and Jimin hates that he hates it. His shoulders droop as he nods. “I see.”

“You like it?” Yoongi asks, and if only Jimin had bothered to look into his eyes, he’d find childlike hope twinkling in them.

But as it is, Jimin is twiddling with his hands in his lap, and all he sees feels is his own frown, his own disappointment. “It’s whatever. Do what you like.”

Silence punctures the light air between them, dragging it down with new, heavy claws. Jimin wonders if there’ll ever be a day that he doesn’t feel hope whenever Yoongi does anything vaguely touching again.

“Oh.” Yoongi’s voice is faint. 

Only one word, but it’s enough to mirror the exact same dismay blackening Jimin’s heart.

 


 

Still, unlike last time when Jimin would tip-toe around Yoongi and give him the cold shoulder after every small upsetting talk, now he reminds himself to push through each day while keeping cordial terms witn Yoongi. He doesn’t want to lose this companionship they have—even if it means gritting his teeth and tamping down his temper when things don’t go his way.

Why? Jimin often finds himself asking every day. Why him, heart?

Min Yoongi is nothing too spectacular or outstanding, unlike the previous men Jimin has had intensely passionate flings with. So what if his cheeks crinkle and his eyes disappear when he laughs, or his nose scrunches up like a kitten’s when he finds something vile? So what if his earthy musk sends Jimin reeling on overdrive everytime they’re tucked under the same blanket?

None of that changes the fact that Min Yoongi is singlehandedly the most complicated person Jimin has ever had to deal with—that much hasn’t changed since the beginning.

He’s still not the easiest person to read, even after living under the same roof for months. Sometimes Yoongi gets this faraway, dazed look in his eyes like he’s sinking in a place or time Jimin can’t go, and it’s—it’s terrifying. Jimin would like to hold him in a coat pocket, keep him there.

There is a fine line between respecting and invading Yoongi’s privacy. Jimin is still learning to walk it. He presumes there must be levels to understanding people, and that when it comes to his husband, he’s still probably at, like, Level 5 out of 10. Only halfway there. 

It’s why Jimin always chooses to accompany Yoongi on weekly Thursday Therapy sessions, misunderstandings or not, if only to grasp a better understanding of what goes on in the pianist’s mind.

“Can I ask you something?” Yoongi interrupts the silence in the car on the way home.

“Aren’t you already asking something, when you say that?” Jimin smirks, eyes drawn to his phone.

Yoongi rolls his eyes. Then: “Serious talk. Do you… uh, not like having our photos on the wall?”

Jimin’s fingers pause mid-type on his phone’s keyboard. His gaze flicks to the driver’s seat, where Yoongi sits with a taut back, and he licks his lips before forming a reply. “It’s your house, hyung. Why does it matter if I like it or not?”

Boundaries, he chants to himself. Boundaries. Respect him.

Yoongi drums his fingers against the steering wheel, a muscle in his jaw twitching. “I wanted to make sure you were comfortable with it, too. When the pictures first arrived you seemed excited to hang them up.”

“That was before I knew what the... other frames on your bookshelves meant to you,” Jimin replies plainly. He feels like he’s treading landmine territory, and he can’t figure out why he avoids saying Yeoreum like it’s a bad word.

“Yeah, but what about... now?” Yoongi says, eyes on the road. “Do you want to keep them up? Our pictures?”

“Like I said, it’s whatever—“

“Do you like it or not?”

“Yes, I like it, okay!” Jimin blurts out loud. His heartbeat skips as the words leave his mouth, but now that his first wall’s down, he can’t quite rein in the barrage of truths that follow. “I like it so much, hyung. I want to keep them there for a long time.”

Hell. What is he even talking about anymore? 

Jimin’s blood thrums in his ears, and for some reason his chest feels knocked out of breath, like he just raced through a hundred-meter dash. 

“Ah.” Yoongi goes quiet, and Jimin dips his chin to stare at his boots under the dashboard. Damn it. Here he goes again, running his mouth off without regard for the consequences. He shouldn’t have said anything—now Yoongi’s going to keep the photographs up for sure, just because Jimin said he wanted to.

“When we were at the beach, you told me no more lies,” Yoongi suddenly says.

Jimin nods sullenly. “Yeah. What about it?”

“So… I’ll be honest.” Yoongi clears his throat. “I put the portrait and the pictures up just because I wanted to.” 

His voice is no more than a whisper, but in the terse silence of the car, Jimin hears the words loud and clear. “And also because, well, I think the pictures came out well. Kook did a good job. Your smile was… it was nice. You looked… pretty.” 

Pretty. Jimin clenches his fingers and crosses his arms to fold his hands under his armpits, in case he does something stupid like cup Yoongi’s face or reach for his hand. His neck feels so warm, shit. 

Fighting back a full-cheeked blush, Jimin nods, glancing out the passenger window. “You looked pretty, too. In your tux and all.” 

Ah, that came out as a stupid squeak. Jimin hides his face in his coat’s high collar, flushing.

Yoongi hums, soft and low. “Now that I think about it, I don’t really remember much about the wedding,” His tone has switched to something more conversational, and he’s smiling now, the headlights from various cars ahead painting his eyes in flickering shades of crimson.

“I know, right?” Looking back, Jimin only remembers feeling like a tightrope walker under the heat of the wedding hall’s lights, in danger of plunging to his death with the slightest misstep. He’d faked his smile the entire night, then downed glass after glass of wine to make himself feel better. “Me, neither.”

“I remember making a promise to your dad, though,” Yoongi mentions, and Jimin sits up, twisting around to face him.

Now that’s something he never knew about. “Really? About what?”

Yoongi’s mouth quirks up as he turns into the driveway leading into their apartment complex’s parking lot. “Secret.”

Jimin harrumphs at him, and sticks his tongue out. He leans back against the passenger seat. “So much for no more lies!”

“Come on, cloud baby. Secrets aren’t lies.”

“But they—“ Jimin’s phone cuts off his retort, buzzing with a call from an unknown number. ”Hold that thought.” Swiping to the green ‘answer’ button, he presses the phone against his right ear. “Hello?”

“Park Jimin-ssi?”

Jimin’s brows dip together. “Yes, speaking.”

“This is Choi Kyunghee from A-Star Theater Group. We’ve gone over the recording of your recent audition, and would like to invite you for a callback on Monday for the role of Kwon Minhyuk…”

It’s like stepping into a soundproofed studio. All noise fades save for the caller’s modulated voice, and even then, Kyunghee’s words of congratulations blend into each other in a word-soup until Jimin isn’t too sure if he’s dreaming his desperation into a projected sense of reality or if he’s truly hearing correctly.

Yoongi is shutting off the car’s engine when Jimin’s inner psyche snaps back to the present.

“...able to make it, Jimin-ssi?”

Jimin hiccups. Yoongi sends him a questioning eyebrow raise.

“Hello?”

“Yes,” Jimin breathes, his answer more air than voice. He steps out of the car and shuts the door, feeling hope inflate inside of him, marking him a brand new person. “Yes, I’ll be there. Thank you.”

He clicks off the call. Leans back against the passenger door. He lets out a small sigh, pulse skittering.

“No way,” he mutters to himself, eyes wide.

The car beeps as Yoongi locks it, and Jimin nearly jumps out of his skin. He turns and finds his husband on the other side, face a mask of worry. 

Yoongi frowns. “Well? Why’re you tearing up?”

Is he? Jimin sniffles and dabs at the corner of his eyes, only for his fingers to come away wet. He meets Yoongi’s concerned gaze, and finally allows the relief to wash over him in the form of a big, elated grin. “Yoongi. Hyung. Yoongi .”

“What? Why?” Yoongi rounds the front of the car in big strides. “What happened?”

“I got a callback.” After months of bitter rejections, this is an oasis in the middle of a sand-spangled desert. 

Yoongi’s eyes blow wide, stutters, “Really?” and Jimin nods, letting out a choked half-sob—the kind of sound you make when there’s a fishbone stuck down your throat. 

And then Jimin feels arms wrap around him, pressing him against a solid, coated chest. By instinct, he winds his own arms around Yoongi’s neck to return the embrace, feels his husband’s pulse thud-thud-thudding against his ears. Jimin would like to card his hands through Yoongi’s hair and kiss him stupid, but he clings onto what little self-control he has left, keeps himself in check even through his triumphant daze.

“That’s so good.” Yoongi’s voice is a quiet, sweet rumble that vibrates in his chest, and Jimin squeezes him tight. “You’re amazing.”

“Someone finally wants me,” Jimin mumbles into the crook of Yoongi’s neck, and to his surprise, Yoongi pulls back and cradles his jaw.

“Many people want you,” quips his husband in an almost chiding tone. Jimin wants to think of it as half of a confession.

Do you, though?, he holds his tongue back from asking. He stays silent, letting Yoongi thumb away the teardrops leaking down the sides of his cheeks.

Jimin leans forward and rests his left cheek against Yoongi’s shoulder again, if only to hide his face and bask in the sanctuary of his husband’s hold. 

Husband. Partner. Spouse. Not fake. How long has he stopped thinking of Yoongi as a temporary accessory in his life? 

They stand there in the middle of the empty carpark like two lovers reunited after a decade apart, and for a moment Jimin allows himself to think they truly are. He wonders if Yoongi can feel his heartbeat, too.

“Congratulations,” Yoongi whispers, patting the nape of Jimin’s neck. “When is it? The callback. I can drive you there.”

And Jimin wants to cry again, not because of the news, but because Yoongi’s being too damn—

—nice. It’s so nice that Jimin is beginning to want more, and that’s a risk he can’t trust himself to make. What he needs is distance.

(What he craves is everything but.)

Jimin forces himself to stumble back a step, though he lets Yoongi’s touch linger around his forearms. “Um. This Monday at 5pm sharp.”

Yoongi’s face falls. “I have a shoot.”

“It’s okay!” Jimin carefully (reluctantly) wriggles out of Yoongi’s grasp, bowing out when the man responds by tightening his grip… then letting go. “I can go myself, no worries. It’s what I’ve been doing all this while, after all.”

Meaning: it’s a rule in their routine now; part of their unspoken script— Yoongi heads to work while Jimin goes for auditions alone. They shouldn’t disturb the status quo.

Yoongi pockets his hands, nodding slowly as he, too, backtracks. “Sure. Text me how it goes. Or whatever.”

Jimin cracks a smile, and he punches Yoongi’s arm lightly in what he hopes is a total bro gesture. “Or whatever.”

 


 

Jimin lands the role.

He first breaks the news to Taehyung, who blows up his phone not even a minute later with a barrage of emojis and incoherent keyboard smashing. Then his phone lights up with his best friend’s number, and Jimin is grinning from ear to ear when he answers.

“We must celebrate!!!!!” is the first thing Taehyung proposes, and Jimin is more than happy to recount every last detail with him over chicken and soju at a tented food stall that same night. It’s an early October Monday; cool enough to herd the evening crowd indoors come nightfall, but not so much that he can’t spend a night out to celebrate. Jimin’s got the night off thanks to Hoseok who agreed to cover his shift at Bean There Done That. 

Taehyung tackles him with a running bear hug as soon as they meet, and they cry over their bad days and even worse luck. Then they sigh over their gold and gone high school days, burying their fears in their drinks and their tears for the days they believed they could fly. The night wastes away with jokes over how cavalier they used to be, with missing the dreams they’d conspire, the beautiful insanity of not knowing any better.

Jimin laughs through his tears—if he closes his eyes, he’s sure this moment will fade away, and reality will come crashing back down on him. 

How the hell did they get here? They’d been mere boys as late as yesterday. Then they sat down for a minute, and grew up into men. 

“We’ve grown up, haven’t we?” Jimin muses, the back of his eyes burning. Taehyung’s glittering eyes tell him: Adulting is exhausting. Let’s tire together.

“Yeah.” Taehyung downs a shot of soju, and grins at him softly. He swipes at his runny nose, the way he always used to when they were 14. “We have.”

And as for Yoongi… well, Jimin supposes he can spring up the good news later when he gets home. Or tomorrow over breakfast. But for now, for one evening, he and Taehyung stay infinite.

(He hasn’t received any texts from the man, so Yoongi is probably still out on his photoshoot. He’s been working late these days, Jimin notes with a nose scrunch. Either he’s still out, or he’s already asleep.)

He’s not wrong. When Jimin gets home way past midnight, his clothes reeking of soju, he puts on his chick slippers and stumbles into their shared flat to find Yoongi knocked out and dreaming away.

But not on the bed.

Jimin braces one arm against the doorframe to steady himself, peering through the darkened hallway. The light at the kitchen is the only one switched on. His eyes squint and zeroes in on the figure hunched over the dining table.

Yoongi is fast asleep with his head down, silver hair spread out over his forearms. Upon closer scrutiny, Jimin realizes that there’s a bowl of untouched kimchi jjigae on the table where he would usually sit, now gone cold.

A fierce wave of affection washes over Jimin, so overwhelming his knees wobble and he lowers himself on the seat across Yoongi. His husband must be dead tired; not even the scraping noise of the chair being pulled back wakes him.

Jimin likes him so much his head might implode.

“You’re driving me crazy,” he whispers to nobody in particular, resting his forehead on the tabletop. Jimin reaches across the table and rakes light fingers over Yoongi’s hair, the way he’s always wanted to ever since he dyed his hair. “You hear that? Absolutely nuts.”

In response to his gentle touch, Yoongi hums and stirs in his sleep, flipping his head to the other side so that his right cheek now rests on the table.

Jimin leans back on the chair, heart heavy, and glances down below the dining table.

The urge to start blubbering consumes him again. Yoongi’s feet are tucked into his black kitty slippers, the one he absolutely refused to wear at first but now drags around everywhere in the house. It’s almost funny, the difference a few weeks make. Jimin would laugh if it weren’t so tragic. Who was the one who swore he’d never fall for a ‘killjoy’ like Min Yoongi again?

He’s fooling nobody here, except maybe himself and Yoongi. Even then, it’s already a far stretch. Jimin sighs and slides his right foot forward, inch by inch, until the fluffy chick on his slipper meets the black cat on Yoongi’s in a small, chaste kiss.

“Hyung,” Jimin whispers into the hollow air, the first teardrop sliding to his chin. Fool’s love for a fool’s heart. “I’m scared.”

He buries his head in his hands, rubbing his face and sniffling, and he almost gets up from the dining table when he hears a hoarse, quiet murmur from Yoongi’s sleeping form:

“Don’t be.”