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           Jimin is going to kill Hoseok.  He’s serious this time.  His friend doesn’t know it, but Jimin is for sure going to go home and straight up murder him, but best friend status can’t even cover this.

           Because who doesn’t warn a guy?  I mean, seriously.  He can excuse the height difference, because Jimin’s always liked guys who are taller than him, something about feeling small next to them and, okay, yeah, he’s threatened to inflict bodily harm on Hoseok before, because admitting that to him one night was a grave mistake as Hoseok promptly keeled over in laughter for some annoying reason.   Jimin is a perfectly average height, thank you very much, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel small around someone. It’s a trust and vulnerability thing, not like Hoseok with his giant-sized ego and head constantly up his own ass would be able to understand.

           So, no, he’s not slighted about the lack of a warning about the guy’s size. His shoulder width is probably twice the size of Jimin’s, and that’s incredibly hot.

           It’s not the guy’s appearance, either, because while it had caught him off guard to the point where he actually god damned stuttered like a flustered school girl and blushed like an innocent virgin which he is anything but, there are no complaints to be found in the looks department.  The guy is breathtaking, really, and while Jimin can listen when someone needs him to, he prefers to talk, but he has been staring more than anything else, because there’s a lot to look at.  Namely, these cute little moles dotted all over the guy’s face.  It’s like his face is a treasure map, and Jimin’s not sure what he’s looking for, but he sure is excited to find it.

           No, no, Jimin won’t murder Hoseok for the lack of warning about his blind date’s looks.  Jimin is sure glad the term “blind” is metaphorical, because it would be an absolute tragedy if he wasn’t able to see this guy’s face and body, even if it is mostly hidden by flowing pants and a giant sweater.

           The mannerisms and over excitedness aren’t even what do it, because Jimin’s glad the guy is clearly not nervous.  He is.  He’s been nervous all week about this.  He really can’t believe he’s stooped this low, but he sucks at being single, and Hoseok is so done with listening to his whining, and while he’ll never say no to cuddling unless he has someone over, sometimes it’s just not really what Jimin needs.  Wants.

           The guy in front of him reminds Jimin of a puppy, though his voice screams grown man.  Alpha. Watch out.  Rawr, I’ll take you from behind.  Except he has this stupidly sweet smile that whispers sweetheart and romantic and long walks under the stars and cuddles near a fire and hot cocoa and fuck, Jimin is going to kill Hoseok.

           Because everything was going so well, so, so well.  So well.  So, so well, like, how much well-er could it get?  Jimin was pretty sure he had just met his soulmate or some shit, but then the guy’s phone rang, and because he wanted to be polite, he waved at him to take it, and he tried not to stare too much over his drink and attempted to occupy his time and attention on random strangers in the coffee shop, but making eye contact with people you don’t know is extremely awkward and embarrassing, so it didn’t last long.  

           Plus, the guy smiled so sweetly, like, sickeningly sweet, like he looked dopey and high or something, his face all relaxed and smooth and soft, and Jimin sighed a little as he placed his chin in his hand to smile back and stare unabashedly at his blind date who he was definitely going to kiss when they left and hold his hand as they walked home and call him tomorrow and marry him in a week and adopt eight babies with and—

           “Yeah, he’s really cute,” the guy said, smiling even brighter at Jimin. Jimin wanted to melt.  It would be a good way to go.  His eyes could linger for a while in his puddle of goo and just blink up at the guy until everything went dark.  

          “What?  No, babe,” the guy continued, and of course the word made Jimin come back to his senses just a little, because he wasn’t calling him babe, he was talking to someone, and sure, he had called Hoseok babe once or twice, or even baby, when he seemed inconsolable and Jimin just didn’t know what else to do, the word simply slipping out as a term of endearment for his best friend, but this wasn’t that type of babe.  This was “babe” whispered in your ear during a slow fuck or “babe” said nonchalantly when you come home to find your one-true-love cooking you dinner in only his sweatpants and an apron like it’s the most normal and right thing to greet your eyes the second your door opens.

          “No, I am not going to bring him home after the first date,” he laughed.  The guy straight up laughed, and it was so gorgeous that Jimin almost forgot what he had just said.  Because Jimin loves laughing.  He loves laughs.  Laughter is the best medicine, he fully believes.  Laughs are unique to each person.  He himself kind of hates his laugh, kind of hates how it makes his eyes squint shut so he goes temporarily blind, kind of hates how he often loses his balance, he who is usually so poised, but he loves hearing other people laugh.  And this guy has an amazing laugh.

          “Yeah, yeah, love you, too, you dork.  See you soon.”  The guy plunged his phone back in his pocket and then leaned across the table, all smiles and eagerness filling his eyes, a hint of mischievousness and fun that Jimin really, really wants to chase, but then the guy opened his pretty mouth again, his perfect white teeth all in neat little rows gleaming at Jimin, and said,

          “Sorry, that was my boyfriend.  Where were we?”

          Jimin is really, really, really going to kill Hoseok when he gets home.

 

           Apparently, Hoseok didn’t “do it on purpose.”  Apparently, Hoseok “thought he [Jimin] knew.”  Apparently, Hoseok “assumed Tae would lead with that!” Apparently, Hoseok “swore I mentioned them to you before!”

           Apparently, Hoseok thinks Jimin is kidding when he mutters under his breath that he’d “better lock his door at night.”

           Maybe Jimin likes to exaggerate.  But he is not and never will be into taken guys.  He made that mistake once in college, completely unaware, and was not about to get called the “other woman.”  Guy.  Whatever. It hurt too much.  Not that he felt bad about cheating on someone; he hadn’t been the one in a relationship, so he hadn’t been riddled with life-altering guilt doomed to rise up and catch him unaware whenever he was least expecting it. But he had felt used.  Worthless.  And that stung too much.

           So he gets up immediately, only to pause when the guy, Tae, Taehyung, Kim Taehyung, who, alas, he now could not and would never marry, not even kiss!—not even a kiss? he’s going to kick Hoseok’s ass for stealing away what he didn’t even know he wanted, needed! until thirty-minutes ago—stops him, looking so surprised and innocent that Jimin had to stay and explain.

           “I’m not into dating you if you have a boyfriend,” he explains simply, and Tae’s face falls a little before he actually looks sheepish.

           “Ah. I get that.  But, like, Yoongi doesn’t care.  Really.  I know you probably think,” he rushes out when Jimin rolls his eyes and starts to get up again, “that they all say that.  Like that sounds like something some asshole would totally say, and then you’d find out later he wasn’t serious and suddenly you’re made out to be the bad guy.”  

           Well, marks for Tae, Jimin supposes, for being so spot on.  Almost as if he has experience in the matter like Jimin does.

           “But I swear, Yoongi and I aren’t weird or anything, he just is okay with me dating other people.  Well, okay, we are weird.  But not because of that.  And, okay, not so much the dating part.  I mean, I’d love to date you, though I’ve clearly already messed this up.  Look,” Tae sighs, rubbing his hands over his face, and, oh no, Jimin is a sucker for people in distress, and he sinks back into his chair, waiting for the rest of the story like a true sap.  

          He’s gotten better at not being a doormat these days, and he’s not as easily manipulated as he used to be, mainly because he’s gotten really good at manipulating others, no that he gets any joy out of doing so, of course not, but a guy’s got to protect himself somehow sometimes!  It’s just, he knows his nature is still to just let people do whatever they want to him and with him, so he tries to stay rational and on guard while Tae continues.

           “Yoongi and I have been dating for two years, and he’s asexual, so we don’t, you—you know what asexual is, right?”

           “Yes,” Jimin says slowly, and Tae sighs in relief like Jimin’s just told him his grandma is going to be fine, she isn’t going to die, everything will be alright, Tae, breathe!

           “Okay, cool.  I just, some people think they do, and they don’t.  Not to say you don’t.  Anyway, he’s perfect.  Wouldn’t change a thing about him.  It was all his idea a few months ago to let me, uh, hook up with people, always with his prior knowledge and agreement, obviously!  But we didn’t really like that.  We’re both, uh, not into casual stuff, you know?  So we’ve been looking for someone to join us—”

           “I’m not into that,” Jimin stops him, though he tries to do it softly.

           “Yeah, I see that.  That’s okay. I’m sorry I didn’t lead with that. I thought Hoseok, well, he said something about you, um, being open to the idea?”

           “Oh my god,” Jimin scowls.  “I am literally going to kill him.  Look, I don’t know what Hoseok told you.  Whatever he did, just forget it.  I don’t date or hook up with people in relationships, even if it sounds like you’re cool with that.  That’s cool. I’m glad to know you’re not a sleaze bag.  It’d be a real shame, honestly.  So I’m sorry for the miscommunication and wasting your time.”

           “Whoa,” Tae says, reaching out for his hand again as Jimin tries to get up.  “No time wasted.  Please, just, I mean, you can go if you really want to, but I thought we were doing alright until I messed up.  Maybe we could just talk for a bit longer?  I feel really bad.  Can I make it up to you?  Oh, oh, I could tell you about that time when Hoseok ripped his pants backstage.  Have you heard that one?”

           “I have not,” Jimin says slowly, sitting back down and giving the guy another look over.  Jimin has always been good at reading people.  He can’t tell if the guy is lying or not, but he has no reason to not believe him.  He’s still going to kill Hoseok for not warning him, and he is really, really disappointed he isn’t going to get to kiss this guy, but maybe he can add him to his list of cuddle partners one day, or at least put him on his friend’s contact list. If nothing else, he can stay for another few minutes.  It’ll be worth it to hear an embarrassing story about Hoseok.  Jimin loves embarrassing stories about Hoseok.

           “Okay, okay, this is going to be good,” Tae says, leaning in again, his face full of eagerness as he dives into the story as animated as possible.  He even has this thing where he adjusts his voice to sound like Hoseok—though it sounds nothing like Hoseok—and, yeah, it is good. Jimin finds himself laughing until he almost falls out of his chair, and the content and pleased and proud smile Tae gives him when he’s done is so good, Jimin almost thinks about letting Hoseok off the hook by the time the date turned “date” is over.

           Almost.  He’s still going to find a bug to put on him while he’s sleeping to scare the shit out of him as soon as he can, but still, he sometimes does that just for fun, so Hoseok is actually lucky.

 

           His luck is already looking up by the time he leaves the shop because not only does he leave with Tae’s number and plans to meet Yoongi later that weekend without Hoseok, because that’s just one of the punishments he has come up for his best friend, but there’s also a legit, freaking daddy-long leg outside the shop that he manages to scoop into a cup to carry home.  He probably looks a little like a crazy person as he holds the cup close to his jacket, a snicker on his lips even on the crowded subway, but he controls himself by the time he gets home.

           Revenge is sweet, sweet, sweet when he greets Hoseok with a smile and a hug when he opens the door and goes on and on about how amazing Tae was and how he can’t wait to see him again soon and then goes to bed like everything is fine only to creep into Hoseok’s room when he’s fast asleep in his comfortable little dream world like the clueless fool he is.

           The scream he lets out a few seconds later when Jimin is already snuggled back in bed is so, so good, that Jimin can’t help but fall asleep with a huge grin on his face.

 

           Hoseok has been designing clothes for years, and Tae has been his recent obsession for modeling them for the past couple of months.  Jimin is honestly surprised he hasn’t met the guy sooner, but Hoseok has always been extremely protective of his models which, to Jimin, makes no sense.  Their faces and bodies get plastered on screens and billboards and magazine covers if they’re lucky, so it’s not like they stay a secret for long.  He thinks it’s just a little bit of Hoseok’s way of dealing with his insecurity; like how he’s afraid if he lets people see his designs too soon before they’re perfect, they won’t come out right.  Jimin learned long ago to stop asking to look and just waits until Hoseok shows him these days.  He doesn’t get it, really, but Hoseok is Hoseok.

           And, after meeting Tae, he gets it a little more.  He’d want to keep him all to himself, too, if he could.

           He can’t, though, because apparently he belongs to some guy named Min Yoongi that Jimin is going to meet tonight, and even though he had initially told Hoseok he was not invited, he’s changed his mind only because he knows he’s going to get awkward at some point and feel like a third wheel even if Tae and Yoongi are lovely and as welcoming as possible, and he’d rather not come home sad, much less sad and drunk.  Still, he made Hoseok show him every picture he had of Tae for more payback, and even then, all of the guy’s wide smiles and tan skin didn’t make Jimin feel like their debt is settled.

           His plan backfires just a little, because apparently Yoongi and Hoseok are best friends, or at least act like it when they show up at Tae and his boyfriend’s apartment, and Jimin not only feels confused and betrayed—again!—but he also feels replaced.  Feeling replaced is as bad as being an old dishrag, a broken plate, a shoe without its laces.  Jimin doesn’t want to be a shoe without its laces.

          It’s a good thing Tae turns out to be just as lovely as the last time Jimin saw him, though, as he pulled Jimin in from where he was a little frozen in confusion from seeing his best friend throw a small pale man around like a rag doll.  The guy was just laughing and enjoying his limbs flying everywhere as Hoseok shook him more than hugged him, and Jimin felt incredibly left out.

           “They’ve been like that since Yoongi came by one time to pick me up from work,” Tae grins, rolling his eyes as he pours Jimin a drink.  “Something about bonding over puppies or something.  That’s just Hoseok, ya know?”

           Jimin does know.  It doesn’t make him feel any better, though, not really, but after a few glasses of wine and a civilized handshake with Yoongi, he discovers that every surface in Tae and Yoongi’s apartment is soft, and he fits well into one of the lounge chairs in their cozy living room.  The soft material practically engulfing him makes him feel a little safer, though he’s pretty sure that’s also the alcohol dulling his senses, but he can’t complain.

          Yoongi, he figures out after Hoseok has released him, isn’t all that bad.  Initially he’s intimidating as fuck; when Yoongi’s not smiling, Jimin feels his gaze on him like he’s judging him for turning down Tae, and, honestly, Jimin starts to sweat a little, feeling incredibly stupid for ever turning Tae down, because, seriously, who does that?  

          But the scrutiny ends after a while, and Jimin feels like the guy’s done a full body scan and seen his internal organs and knows his backstory and every stupid mistake he’s ever made, but he also thinks he’s been accepted, whatever that means, because Yoongi looks peaceful and even smiles gently at him when he accidentally makes eye contact a few times.

          Yoongi, Jimin learns, is also actually hilarious. He sits most of the time just listening to Hoseok and Tae chat about work and gossiping about people, as they do, and Yoongi does the same, occasionally nudging his boyfriend to add something or ask about who they’re talking about or when the thing they’re referencing occurred, but otherwise he just sits back and hums and nods occasionally.

          Except when he adds a comment or delivers a line so out of the blue Jimin has to look around the room before making sure the guy is being serious.  He’s witty and quick to read the room and everything he says is so deadpan Jimin isn’t sure if he should laugh or not, but once he sees Tae smile and crack up, Jimin lets himself laugh, too, so eventually he just starts practically snorting at everything Yoongi ends up saying, because the guy is honestly ridiculous.

          He seems to know it, too, because he starts smirking toward Jimin after each comment, and Jimin kind of hates Hoseok again for ever introducing him to these people, but he sort of loves him, too, especially when he’s drunk enough to move closer to Yoongi so he can ask him things.

          Someone called him nosy once, but he prefers to label himself curious and inquisitive.  He’s rude, but he’s not a prude, and he honestly wants to know Yoongi’s side of everything, so when Tae and Hoseok seem considerably distracted—why it matters if the person is wearing stripes or lines surely can’t matter that much; aren’t they the same fucking thing?—Jimin plops down as close as he dares to next to Yoongi on the couch he and Tae are currently occupying.  The guy gives him a little eyebrow raise but also a raise of his glass that Jimin gladly clinks with his own.

          “So,” Jimin begins, and, yes, he can hear how slurred his words already are, but he’s been matching Yoongi glass for glass tonight because he really wants the guy to accept him for some reason because he feels a little bad about not accepting Tae’s proposal or whatever, it’s not like he was going to get married to him.  He wanted to.  He’s really gorgeous.  He’s—

          “Yes?” Yoongi says, biting his lip to avoid smirking at Jimin who’s definitely lost his train of thought.

          “Oh.  Oh, I forgot what I was going to ask.  No, wait. Maybe it was, oh yeah, what do you do?”

          “Do?” Yoongi says like it’s a dumb question, and Jimin groans a little because it’s a normal question every adult asks and gets asked, and the guy should just answer him.

          “You know, for a job.  A living.  Tae models. You?”

          “I exist,” Yoongi drawls.

          “You—you get paid for that?”

          “I wish.”

          “Oh,” Jimin says, growing more and more confused. “So.  Do you do anything?”

          “I breathe, sleep, eat, drink, the usual,” Yoongi shrugs.

          “Oh, so, you don’t have a job?” Jimin asks, cocking his head.  Yoongi shrugs again before taking another sip of his drink.

          “Yoongi is an artist,” Tae interjects, reaching over to pat his boyfriend’s thigh.  “And no one understands him enough to appreciate his work, so he often says fuck the establishment and the man and doesn’t let himself succumb to society’s expectations which means, in the capitalistic sense, he does not, quote unquote, work for a living.  He does not live to work.  He lives to live, and he thrives at doing just that.”

          “Oh,” Jimin blinks, looking at Hoseok for help because Tae’s explanation has made no sense at all.  Maybe Jimin is just drunker or more drunk or drunkedly worse than he thought he was.  Yoongi nods at Tae, though, before going back to sipping his wine, like he’s just found the cure to cancer.

          “What do you do?”

          “I’m a personal assistant,” Jimin explains easily, because it should be that simple to answer what one does for a living, but whatever.

          “Oh, for Hoseok?”

          “What?  No, ew.”

          “Rude, you’d be lucky to be my assistant,” Hoseok says, sticking his tongue out.

          “You couldn’t pay me enough,” Jimin huffs back.

          “An actor or something?  A model?” Yoongi asks.

          “Nothing that exciting.  Just a guy who plays video games.”

          “A guy who—” Yoongi says slowly before trailing off.  He looks at Tae for a second.  “People can do that?”

          “What, actually be good at games?  Just because you’re not—” Tae starts before Yoongi elbows him in the stomach, causing him to wince before laughing.  “Yes, babe, people legit make a ton of money playing games these days.  It’s crazy.”

          “What the fuck does he need a personal assistant for?” Yoongi says, still clearly not following.  Jimin sighs, not blaming him.  He doesn’t really understand some days, either.

          “Sexist of you to assume it’s a guy,” Tae chides playfully, and Yoongi looks so upset for a second that Jimin almost wants to make Tae apologize, but he barely knows him, and it’s probably just the alcohol speaking.  Besides, it is a guy he works for.

          “He gets invited to a lot of conferences and stuff. He’s pretty big on YouTube.  Has a ton of fans.  I sort through mail and packages and arrange all of his meetings with sponsors.  Tae’s right, it’s pretty crazy that he’s made a living out of it.  It’s not, like, my dream job or anything, but it pays really well and isn’t too overwhelming.  My hours are usually pretty flexible, and my office is anywhere I want it to be, and we get a lot of free samples of cool stuff, even though I don’t use most of them because I don’t play games.  But we get to travel sometimes, too, and that’s just the best!”

          “Wait, you get free shit?” Tae says, practically leaning over Yoongi to crowd into Jimin’s space.  Yoongi doesn’t seem to mind.  In fact, he just puts his elbows on Tae’s back, turning it into a table of sorts as he finishes another glass of wine.  He seems checked-out of the conversation already, and Jimin makes a mental note to not talk about games around him again.  He shrugs at Tae’s question.

          “Yeah, but, like I said, I rarely keep it or use it.”

          “I’ll gladly take anything off your hands you don’t want,” Tae says eagerly.

          “Or not.  It’ll only fuel his addiction,” Yoongi retorts, patting his boyfriend’s back like he’s a child.  Tae pouts like one, too, which Jimin finds so cute he has to scoot back.  He’s not opposed to giving Tae anything he doesn’t want; he usually gives it to Hoseok or sells it, honestly, but he’s not sure if Yoongi is being serious, so he doesn’t know what to say.

          “I’ll see what I can do next time,” he finally settles on, and the answer seems to placate both of the men.  The conversation doesn’t die, but they do move on to other topics, and by the time Hoseok finally mumbles that it’s time to go, Jimin all but stumbles home with his friend.

          He forgot to ask Yoongi anything about his and Tae’s relationship and arrangement, but that’s not a big deal.  He has this feeling that he’ll see them again.  It sits in his stomach and makes him warmer than all the wine he drank does.  It wraps around him snugger than his blankets do when he gets into bed and sees Tae’s sent him a text making sure he got home safely.  It leaves him a little unsteady even more so than the alcohol he drank does, though, because he can’t help but wonder after meeting Yoongi and seeing him and Tae interact and move around each other and stare into each other’s eyes so lovingly that he made a mistake walking away from being a part of it.

          He’s drunk, though, and he knows it’s just the longing for someone of his own that makes him think any of that.  Why he can’t just have a piece and be satisfied has never made sense to him.  He wants the whole damn cake.  He wants someone of his own.  His own man. Person.  He wants someone to look at him like he’s special and important. Wants someone to hold him.  He wants someone to want him like he wants cake.

          Fuck, Jimin really wants some cake.

          Maybe he’ll add that to the list of things Hoseok has to buy him before he forgives him for not warning him about how he was going to fall hopelessly in love with a couple he can’t have at all.

          Just like he can’t have cake right now, because he’s drunk and in bed and so tired and there’s no cake in their apartment.

          Yeah, he’s definitely going to make Hoseok buy him cake tomorrow.

 

          Hoseok does, in fact, not buy Jimin cake the next day because he is an asshole who worries too much about carbs and calories and sugar and refined sugar and corn syrup and sucrose and artificial sweeteners and Jimin just really wants some sugar, Hoseok’s warning about it all going to his hips some day like a middle-aged woman past her child-bearing years be damned!  And, honestly, fuck Hoseok, because Jimin’s thighs and butt, the two areas surrounding his hips like glorious buns and donuts and slices of steaming bread glazed in sticky syrupy sugar icing, are his best assets.  No one has ever complained about his ass being too big or anything.  Or his thighs.  Everyone loves Jimin’s thighs.  And his ass. Why else would assets sound like ass, anyway?  It’s just one reason why Jimin believes God must exist.  That very word made him a true believer.

          His thought process also confirmed that he is probably still hung over, and while he had talked big the night before about loving his job because he usually got to set his own hours, he failed to mention how it often led him to working on Saturdays.  Players never stop playing, Jungkook had probably said at some point without realizing how differently Jimin was going to interpret it.  There was some minor competition starting at ten, then, and Jungkook just told him to meet him there, but, like the good assistant he is, he was going to bring him coffee to help energize him.

          Not actually coffee.  Jungkook hates coffee.  His little nose scrunches up and he sticks his tongue out every time he tastes it, so Jimin, being the great assistant that he is, always buys him what he really wants: banana milk.  But, because Jimin is the best assistant, he pours said banana milk into a coffee cup and puts a lid on it, even reminding Jungkook every time they’re in public to “Be careful, it’s hot,” because Jimin is really good at lying through his teeth when he needs to.  Jungkook probably wouldn’t care if people knew, but Jimin would die if people discovered his twenty-three-year-old grown-ass friend who played games for a living like a child drank banana milk.  Like a child.

          So he’s standing in line at the only place in town that he knows of that sells sweet buns and fresh banana milk which he is pretty sure is false advertisement.  It wasn’t like banana milk was made from freshly squeezed banana cows or pureed bananas straight from the tree mixed with milk rushed directly over from the dairy farm.  Jimin is pretty sure there are no actual bananas in banana milk and it’s completely artificial and full of fake sugars—Hoseok’s voice loud and clear in his head agreeing with him—but it’s Jungkook’s favorite place, and Jimin is a great assistant.

          He orders himself two buns and giggles at the word bun just to spite Hoseok’s voice in his head before ordering himself a coffee, because he’s refined and dignified and mature and likes his coffee—black with extra sugar, thank you very much—before doing his best to stand out of the way.  It’s hard to do in Seoul, even with his small stature, but he makes himself look like he’s taking up less space and importance by digging out his phone to tell Jungkook for the eighth time that he’ll be there before the tournament starts and the boy needn’t worry.

          Jungkook, for all his endearing qualities, has so many superstitions and pre-game rituals that Jimin is surprised he doesn’t draw cult circles in his spare time.  The milk is just one of them, and while he doesn’t always require Jimin to be there for the rest of them (tying his shoes by double knotting them while singing a ridiculous song about a bunny under his breath, wearing only a long white shirt with a black bucket hat and either jeans or black cargo pants like he couldn’t get more frat-boy slash ready-to-go-fishing-or-hunting, saying “Let’s get it” before each round, to name a few), Jimin enjoys seeing him go through it, like, literally Jungkook has this face that just looks like he’s going through it, whatever it is, and Jimin hates to miss it, but he also thinks the boy just likes having him around now like he’s also part of the rituals, and Jimin may be an okay assistant, but he’s a great friend, so he hopes their order doesn’t take much longer.

          Someone slightly bumps him as they move forward to get their order, enough of a slight for Jimin to look up and put his phone away in case someone is trying to be aggressively passive aggressive and let him know he’s in the way or something, but they apologize as they move away. Still, Jungkook has been appeased, so Jimin waits by looking around the store.  He frequents it more than he would ever admit to Hoseok, so he recognizes the workers more than the customers themselves.  There’s one man he may have noticed before, but otherwise everyone is a stranger.

          And Jimin knows how to people watch.  He doesn’t let his gaze linger for more than two seconds, one if he happens to make eye contact.  Jimin loves people watching.  He loves when he finds people watching him, too, because it makes him feel bold and small and powerful and silly all at the same time.  The double-take is perhaps his favorite move. Mainly because it is always so obvious. His go-to is the prolonged stare in passing, his gaze following the person as they walk by a clear indication that he’s interested.  But he’s seen the double-take done on himself more than he can count.  He’s not immune to it, and he can’t avoid doing it himself some days, and this morning was apparently one of them.

           Though, if pressed, he would probably only say he did a double-take because there were two of them.

           Jimin’s lived in Seoul for six years, ever since he came up for school from Busan, so he’s seen a lot of hot, tall guys.  But most of Seoul is filled with average, boring, just a’ight looking men. Normal.  Jimin knows the people he hangs out with are not normal.  Jungkook is, even if clueless, extremely attractive, especially when his hair is a bit longer and turns fluffy and curly. Hoseok could be a model himself even if he prefers to dress them.  Yoongi with his pale skin had a sort of ethereal air to him that Jimin could easily picture in a magazine spread with soft glowing lights surrounding him.  And while he just met him, Jimin is sure Taehyung is the most attractive man in Seoul.  Except now Jimin saw the two men in front of him, and he was starting to think he was going to have to retract his previous statement.

           The men are both tall.  He could probably only come up to their shoulders if they didn’t have shoes on. He’d have to reach on his tippy toes to kiss them, which he is definitely not thinking about doing to a stranger at nine in the morning, but still.  They’re both broad, too, though one more than the other.  The one with dark hair is a bit bigger and radiating so much confident energy that Jimin is reminding of Hoseok for a brief second when he’s at his bitchiest and most terrifying, and this guy’s face has been chiseled and sculpted by the gods or God or whoever came up with the word “asset,” so while his companion is cute and has dimples that pop out when he smiles, the other guy is so gorgeous Jimin doesn’t hear his name the first time it’s called out.

           He only hears it when he turns away because the guy’s head turned at the sound of his name, and Jimin can’t stick around to see if the guy’s gaze lingers on him as he bumbles like an idiot with his banana milk as he practically hisses for a third, empty cup and slinks into the corner to complete transferring the drinks before rushing off.

           The thing is, Jimin looks enough at other people to just know when he’s being looked at, so he manages to spill several drops of the milk and almost forgets to add sugar to his coffee, his hands shaking a little, before he makes it out the door.

           He isn’t sure why, but Jimin is pretty sure the whole embarrassing incident is somehow still Hoseok’s fault, and he eats both of the sweet buns in retaliation before he even makes it to Jungkook’s competition.

 

           Jungkook is tying his shoe when Jimin shows up, but he’s still easy to spot bending down in his black hoodie that Jimin is 100% positive is covering up a white shirt.  Jimin knows Jungkook loves competitions except he also knows he hates them because he has to leave his house for them.  He can’t play in his room with his chair, and while he’s gotten better over the years at playing while surrounded by other people and other noises and other smells, he still hates it, so Jimin approaches him from the front, waving a little at him even though his hands are full as he does and bends down beside him to hand over his “coffee.”

           “I thought you weren’t coming,” the guy actually whines.

           “What, even after the twenty messages I sent telling you I would be here soon?” Jimin scoffs, knowing one of his jobs beforehand is to get Jungkook’s mind off of stressing.  “Okay, so, you know how I told you about my blind date?” he says, knowing discussing his extremely sad dating life always distracts Jungkook.

           “Yeah?”

           “So I went to his place last night to meet his boyfriend.  And he’s a huge gamer, by the way.”

           “Yeah?  Has he heard of me?”

           “I don’t know.  I didn’t ask.”

           “Hyung,” Jungkook whines again.

           “What?  Not every gamer has heard of you, Jungkook.”

           “Every gamer should, though.  Isn’t that, like, literally your job?  To make sure every gamer knows who I am?”

           “I don’t remember that being on my job’s description,” Jimin sighs, standing up with Jungkook’s now empty cup.

           “Well, I’ll make sure to add it before your next monthly evaluation.”

           “Okay, boss,” Jimin chides, rolling his eyes while looking for a trashcan. He and Jungkook both know his monthly evaluations are complete jokes.  It’s usually Jungkook saying “How are we doing?” and Jimin telling him his statistics and who’s contacted him for sponsorship or something, and that’s it because Jungkook doesn’t have the head or attention for that kind of knowledge, which is why he hired Jimin in the first place.  Jungkook’s never actually told Jimin if he’s doing a bad or good job, but things are going well.  

          He leaves Jungkook hopping on his feet and flexing his fingers as if he was about to enter a boxing ring for a second to get rid of their trash before coming back to give him a quick shoulder and back massage.  If anything, Jimin enjoys how extra Jungkook is about video games.  If nothing else, it’s entertaining, and that’s what games are supposed to be about.

           Jimin hates how much he knows about games, now, as he never cared for them BJ (no, no, not that!  Before Jungkook!).  But he knows exactly what Jungkook’s playing, and exactly what each item does before the alert is even finished popping up on the screen when Jungkook’s character picks it up.  He knows how good Jungkook is, too, and can tell what his chances are of winning as soon as a round starts.  They’re very high today, so he finds himself tuning out as he stands behind his friend, simply there for moral support to a certain extent.  They can mingle and network afterwards, after Jungkook’s won or at least made a good enough impression on whoever won to strike up a conversation with later.

           Jimin pretty much hates how he can picture what’s happening on the screen even if he isn’t looking, and he kind of hates how his mind, even amid all of the blood-curdling screams and explosion of gunfire booming over the speakers, keeps picturing the guy from the shop in a blue sweater with a giant white whale on it who had caught his eye so easily.

           Jimin especially hates how he starts to feel a little lethargic and grumpy the longer the game lasts, the sugar in his system rebelling against him and trying to take him out, making him yawn and want to curl up and nap.  Jimin really, really hates how Hoseok is always right about how he shouldn’t eat said stupid sweet buns.  Maybe one day Jimin will actually listen to his friend, but that will probably be the day Jimin stops thinking about tall handsome strangers looking at him just briefly with enough curiosity and intensity in their eyes for him to know they are interested.  And, hell, that’s never going to fucking happen, so Hoseok can stuff a sweet bun right up his sweet bun for all Jimin cares.

 

          Jimin does not go back to the store the next day to see if the dark-haired, broad-shouldered man is there.

          Really, he doesn’t.

          He doesn’t go back the next weekend, either.

          Honestly.

          Mainly because Jungkook wants to go to Busan to do some filming with one of his gamer friends, and Jimin loves visiting his family now that he doesn’t have to, so he’s glad for the quick getaway.

          So he really doesn’t go back to get more sweet buns while looking for a particular sweet bun not on the menu for a couple of weeks.  

          In fact, he forgets all about the guy.  It’s not like they had a Moment.

          He did have a Moment, however, with someone on the train the other day.  Jungkook and he had just gotten back into town, and as neither of them knew how to cook well nor had the energy or patience for it after a weekend away, they decided to go out which inevitably meant drinking a little, too.

          And by a little, Jimin means a lot.  He remembers when Jungkook didn’t used to drink. Now, the kid keeps up with him and has a much better tolerance than him, much to Jimin’s annoyance.  He blames it on his muscles.  And he was blaming and poking said muscles on the train when he had his Moment with someone else.

          Jimin gets it.  Someone sees someone being all touchy-touchy with someone and they start thinking what being touchy touchy with that person would be like instead of them touchy touchy the person they’re touchy touchy.  And Jungkook doesn’t like being touched much.  He puts up with Jimin’s pokes and proddings because—well, Jimin isn’t sure why, but the kid always has this soft grin on his face when Jimin gets close—and he likes to flaunt how well he takes his alcohol.  He likes to tease Jimin.  He’s a jerk.  A real jerk. Honestly, he’s so mean.  He’s so mean.  So rude.  Honestly, he should be nicer to Jimin.  He should respect his hyung.

          “Jimin, hyung,” Jungkook snickers not respectfully at all when Jimin has been poking his hard abs while leaning on his shoulder for a bit too long, every word he previously thought was staying in his head apparently dribbling out of his lips for an embarrassing amount of time. “Maybe keep all that to yourself? We’ll be home soon.”

          “Oh,” Jimin says too loudly, drawing the word out like he’s going to tease Jungkook back, like he’s in on a secret with him that he doesn’t want anyone else to know but he wants them to know that he knows and isn’t going to tell them, “Jungkook, what will they say?”

          “Who, hyung?” Jungkook laughs, steading Jimin as the train jolts.

          “The people,” Jimin whispers back, gesturing at the crowd on the train.  The train in Seoul is always crowded, and because people are used to that and used to people being weird on the train, people usually don’t look when people are doing anything abnormal.  The normalcy is to be not normal.  For someone to look is abnormal.  That’s why Jimin’s eyes halt on the guy looking at him, the slightest hint of a smile on his face.  But Jimin can see it.  It’s like one of Tae’s moles on his face.  He likes Tae’s face.  It’s a pretty face.  It’s like how Jungkook’s lips only quirk up on one side of his face.  Jimin sees his lopsided smile.  He doesn’t even know this guy, but he can tell the man is smiling at him.

          Not in a “Aw, what a cutie” like someone’s dad might smile at him.  

          Not in a “Aw, he’s drunk, how silly” like someone’s best friend who’s Been There might.

          Not in a “Aw, look at that idiot being an idiot” like Hoseok might smile at him.

          No, this is a “I want you to poke my abs like that and lean on me for support when you’re slightly drunk” smile.  

          Jimin just knows it is.   Jimin would love to poke the guy’s abs and lean on him until they were on the ground, face to face and poking each other in other ways.

          So, of course, he giggles, leans on Jungkook’s chest, and fucking wiggles his fingers at the man in a wave.

          Jungkook follows his fingers and waves politely at the man who waves back, and Jimin starts to wave again, a little more enthusiastically like when you’re at a concert or sporting event and someone starts the wave that at first you think is a stupid way to spend your time but by the third time it comes around you’re riding it like a bull at a rodeo, and by damn you’re going to make sure that wave continues until the freaking event starts if you’re the last one moving, but Jungkook grabs his hand and nods toward the man again before trapping Jimin forever.

          So Jimin whines.  Jungkook is ruining his Moment with the guy.  He hasn’t had a Moment in a long time.  He doesn’t get to have many Moments as a guy with another guy who’s interested in guys like only guys who likes guys can in Seoul, so Jungkook is being the worst.  Just the worst.

          “Jimin,” Jungkook laughs, though he’s a little serious as he pushes Jimin until he’s standing up on his own two feet again that hadn’t melted away or left him, apparently.  “Hyung, stop talking now, yeah?  This is our stop.  Let’s go.”

          “But the waving man!” Jimin whines, trying to look around for the guy as Jungkook bustles him out of the car, his torso too big for Jimin to see around.

          “Yeah, yeah,” Jungkook says absentmindedly, not listening to Jimin’s plight, “wave goodbye.”

          Jimin does, his little hand sticking out behind Jungkook’s back.  He really hopes the guy sees.

          He was really cute, even if his hoodie had a cartoon character on it.

          Jimin isn’t sure why he wakes up thinking about sweet buns the next morning.  If he was able to think about it more coherently, he would probably begin to see a pattern in his life of wanting sugar the morning after drinking too much, but patterns should be left up to Hoseok.

 

          One pattern that never ceases to fail is how stressed out Hoseok gets in October.  He always has a fall and winter line which means he always has a show to put on which means he’s always uptight for about a month.  And tense Hoseok is intense.  Hoseok is one of the sweetest guys Jimin knows, but when he’s feeling pressured or people aren’t meeting his expectations, he gets this look in his eye that either makes Jimin laugh nervously or cry explosively because serious Hoseok is scary.  Jimin supposes that’s part of the effect—everyone is so surprised when Hoseok fusses or snaps at them that they instantly jump into action and work harder and faster to make sure he’s his usual happy self again.

          This year, however, Hoseok seems worse.  So Jimin has been avoiding him a bit, even though he usually gets home well after he’s in bed, anyway.  But Tae keeps inviting him over, and Jimin finds spending time with him and Yoongi fun.  Yoongi still looks at him a little like he’s expecting him to change his mind about getting with Tae, but Tae has just buddied up to him, so Jimin doesn’t mind. They’re even on a must-cuddle basis, so he likes spending time with them.

          One night, though, he’s curled up with a glass of wine and a book when Hoseok comes in like a whirlwind.  Nothing out of the ordinary, there.  But he mutters to himself as he slumps to his room, and Jimin waits until he hears the bath running before getting back to his book.  When Hoseok comes out almost an hour later, shirtless and rubbing his hair with a towel and still mumbling to himself as he heats up some leftovers, Jimin finally clears his throat to make sure he doesn’t scare him.

          The guy jumps anyway, clearly so lost in his own world that he hadn’t noticed Jimin, but he recovers quickly, not actually frightened, though he’s a little dramatic as he grasps the kitchen counter.

          “How’re things?” Jimin says gently, too comfortable to get closer to his friend even if he probably would appreciate it.

          “Shoes, Jimin.  I forgot shoes.  How did I forget shoes?”

          “Oh, uh,” Jimin says, looking at the pairs by their door.  “Shoes for?”

          “The show.  I forgot shoes,” Hoseok whines again, throwing his towel on the counter before bringing his food over and slumping next to Jimin on the couch.

          “Oh, well, uh, I’m sure you’ll find some,” Jimin says.  It sounds lame, but he knows Hoseok.  Hoseok always worries and stresses, and every time the show comes out perfect, so Jimin just isn’t too concerned.  But Hoseok is still whining and mumbling to himself, so Jimin pats his leg before trying again.  “I could ask Jungkook if he knows any shoe people?  I mean, Puma sponsored him once.”

          “I don’t know,” Hoseok whines.

          “I’ll ask Tae,” Jimin says.  “Did you ask Tae?”  The way Hoseok stuffs noodles into his mouth instead of answering is enough of a clue for Jimin, and he pats his friend’s thigh again resolutely.  “Okay, I’ll ask Tae.  Don’t worry, Hoseok, we’ll find you your shoes.”

 

          “Well, have you ever heard of insole?” Tae says over the phone when Jimin remembers to call him the next day while he’s lounging in Jungkook’s living room while the guy does a livestream.  Why people pay money to watch the boy play video games instead of playing themselves has always been a bit beyond Jimin, even if Jungkook has explained it a thousand times.

          “Some people can’t play, Jimin.  Some people watch to know what to do.  Some people just like me, Jimin.”

          No, Jimin really can’t believe that, so he has been trying to think of solutions for Hoseok’s problems because he wouldn’t mind adding to the growing list of favors his friend owes him.

          “In Seoul?”

          “Insole,” Tae repeats, and Jimin feels like he’s hearing an Abbot and Costello joke.

          “In Soul?”

          “Yes, Insole in Seoul.”

          “I have,” Jimin blinks, “no idea what you’re saying.  Could you text me?”

          “No, no, it’s this placed called Insole, like you put in your shoes?  But it’s in Seoul, the city where we live.  It’s a play on words.”

          “A pun,” Jimin says slowly.  Jimin hates puns.  They are the lowest form of humor.  The jokes for dads.  He hates them.

          “Yeah, I thought it was pretty funny, too!” Tae laughs even though Jimin never said it was funny, he had merely pointed out what it was.  “Anyway, Yoongles gets shoes from there because sometimes he likes to be as tall as me.  Can you imagine?” Tae is giggling again, and Jimin has to think for a moment about who the fuck “Yoongles” is before he remembers his friend’s boyfriend who is as short as he is.

          “What?  He’s not that short.”

          “Oh, please,” Tae scoffs.  “You and him are tiny.”

          “I am not—” Jimin scoffs, getting up to see if Jungkook needs him.  “Whatever. Hoseok needs shoes for his show, though, not modifications done or anything.”

          “Oh, well, no, it’s not just a shoe repair shop or something.  They do custom shoes.  I mean, they could probably add something to yours, but they design shoes.  I don’t know, I’ve never been, but Yoongi got me a pair of slippers from them last year.  They’re all furry and warm, and, I mean, do you want to just talk to him?”

          “Nah, nope, that’s okay,” Jimin says quickly, instinctually knowing that talking to Yoongi on the phone would be worse than listening to Jungkook breathe on the other end whenever he tried to call him before he learned texting was better even if hardly ever successful, too. “I’ll go check it out.  Thanks, Tae, you’ve helped a lot.”

          “No problem!  You’re coming to the show, right?”

          “Of course.  Hoseok’s roped you in for this year?”

          “Somehow, yes, after I made him feel sufficiently bad for not using me last year.”

          “Good,” Jimin grins, glad Tae is on board with torturing Hoseok with him even if Hoseok didn’t even know Tae a year ago.  “Don’t go easy on him.”

          “I never do!  You’ll let me know if you need anything else?  And dinner on Saturday still?”

          “Sure will.  I’ll see you then.”

          “Bring your boss?”

          “Eh, I don’t know,” Jimin says, looking at Jungkook fully immersed in his game, hunched over a little in his favorite chair with his headset on.

          “Come on,” Tae whines.  “We both know Hoseok is too busy, and I want to meet this famous gamer of yours.”

          “He’s definitely not mine,” Jimin says.  “He’s also notoriously shy and hates going out. So I’ll see what I can do.”

          “Oh, he sounds perfect,” Tae coos, causing Jimin to roll his eyes.  “We’ll see you both at seven!”  Jimin smiles, wondering how Yoongi can ever say no to Tae, as he hangs up.  He knocks on the doorframe once to alert Jungkook of his presence, though the guy merely lifts his chin and eyebrows to indicate he’s heard him instead of turning away.

          “I’m headed out unless you need something,” Jimin whispers, loud enough for Jungkook but not his viewers to hear.  Jungkook gives him a thumbs-up for a second when he can, his eyes still glued to the screen, so Jimin turns to go.  Still, he pauses in the kitchen and takes Jungkook another water, being sure to avoid the camera, patting the guy on the leg out of sight before he leaves for good.

          Seriously, Jungkook would probably die without him.

 

          Insole is not the dinky, shabby, run-down, tiny place Jimin expects it to be.  It is, in fact, a little intimidating at first.  If he wasn’t used to going into high-end shops with Hoseok, he would have had sticker shock just by looking in the window and turned around immediately. Still, he does a double take at his outfit—black pants, a white shirt (dear God, when did he start dressing like Jungkook? He has to remedy that as soon as possible) and an oversized cardigan plus a beanie—and regrets the beanie and high schooler look.  He should have done his hair and worn a button-up or something today, but he really thought he was just going to be lounging at Jungkook’s and possibly going to a tiny shoe shop.

          Insole, though, is not tiny.  Its walls of glass face the street, and, for Seoul, it’s a large shop.  It’s huge in that Jimin could probably turn around with his arms out and not hit anything or anyone.  Not that he’s going to do that because he isn’t a child and doesn’t get excited about being able to twirl around in public without bumping into anyone.  The shelves are gold, and there are several displays around the floor.  From outside, Jimin can tell the place is expensive, and he really does almost go back home to change, but he knows that if you walk into a place acting like you have enough money to buy it right then with cash out of your pocket then you’ll be treated as if you are rich.  And Jimin knows how to act rich.

          So he angles his jawline just right and puts on his best resting bitch face and struts in like he’s just going to browse until he finds something he can spend a little pocket change on.

          The place is relatively empty, considering it’s Thursday afternoon and he doesn’t expect the clientele for the place shops there in the middle of the day during the week—they probably send their servants to pick things up for them—and while he sees a man in a suit turned away helping one customer, he does casually browse the shelves, trying not to let his finger touch anything in case there’s a “You touch, you buy” policy.  Expensive places tended to have that.  At least, that’s what Hoseok told him the time he went with him to the Gucci store.

          So perhaps he jumps a little, he’s man enough to admit, when someone says,

          “Excuse me, may I help you?” because he was a little lost in his mind trying to think of how to ask to speak to the owner and trying to decide how best to introduce himself—should he lie and say he worked for Hoseok?  Should he mention Hoseok by name?  Should he just start demanding his order to be filled as if he had placed it weeks ago?

          He definitely doesn’t squeak when he turns around, because he isn’t a mouse, and sees the man who’s talking to him.  He must work in the place, because he’s dressed like the other man Jimin saw earlier—seriously, who wears a suit with a vest and tie to work?—and looking at him expectantly.

          Jimin’s not a scaredy cat.  He didn’t jump or squeak because the guy snuck up on him or surprised him or anything.

          Nope.

          Jimin startles and freezes because it’s the whale man from the bun shop.

          Not that he looks like a whale.

          Unless whales are gorgeous.

          Whales aren’t gorgeous.

          The man in front of him is gorgeous.

          He’s so dazzling Jimin literally feels like he’s been blinded for a second.  He had only seen him from afar in a crowded shop once, even if he had thought of him for a couple of consecutive weeks after that before he faded from his memory, so up close he’s just startling.  

          And the worst part is, the man seems to recognize him, too.  In fact, Jimin sees his finger rising as if in slow-mo, the man’s eyes lighting up as he starts to smile—fuck, what a smile, Jimin might faint—when the recognition sets in.

          “Ah!” the man says, his voice almost a shout, certainly loud enough for his co-worker to look over to see if something’s wrong. “Waving boy!”

          “Way—” Jimin says before his brain absolutely spins and crashes into whatever shelves are still upright in it, toppling the rest of his words into his stomach instead of out of his lips.  For a split second, the man hesitates, possibly afraid he’s made a mistake, but then Jimin’s brain goes into overdrive, everything flashing in front of his eyes like he’s about to die—he’s definitely going to die, he hopes he just dies once he leaves the store so the gorgeous guy doesn’t have to deal with his dead body—because it’s the waving man from the train.

          “I,” Jimin starts, even though he has no plan for what to say next.  The man’s eyebrow raises, and if Jimin wasn’t so mortified, he might be thinking about how funny the guy looks.  Not funny looking.  Not like that.  Just, Jimin would laugh at him.  Not at him. No, just, he looks like the kind of guy who Jimin could laugh with.  Like, in twenty years when they’re on their death beds—what the fuck, Jimin, stop thinking about dying, it’s not that bad—they’ll look back and laugh about how much a dolt Jimin turned into the moment he saw this guy’s eyebrow lift up.

          The problem is, Jimin doesn’t know the guy. Doesn’t even take the time to look for a nametag.  He just bursts into a giggle, almost topples over, and then stumbles out of the store.

          The guy probably thinks he’s drunk all the time, and only when he’s back home buried underneath his covers does Jimin start to groan.

          He groans so loud and so much and for so long that he’s still groaning by the time Hoseok comes home, which is good, because it’s all Hoseok’s fault, anyway!

 

           The thing is, Hoseok is Jimin’s best friend for a reason.  They’ve worked well together for so long as roommates and friends because they really know how to listen to each other, and their strengths and weaknesses tend to complement each other.  That’s why Hoseok doesn’t tease him too much when he comes home and knows that it isn’t his time to complain as Jimin is obviously upset.

           That’s all well and good.  Jimin enjoys the pats on the back and cooing sounds for approximately two minutes and thirty-eight seconds until Hoseok tells him his good news of the day: He’s found someone to do the shoes!

           “What?” Jimin wails, his lack of enthusiasm about the good news surprising Hoseok who just continues to pat his head with more effort.

           “Uh, yeah, these guys named Kim Seokjin and Kim Namjoon, no relation. They own their own store, and I liked some of their pieces, plus they said they can make a few more!  Apparently Namjoon’s been following my work for a while. Can you imagine?  Me?”

           “No,” Jimin whines again before he sits up, moping a bit and flopping onto Hoseok’s shoulder.  “I mean, that’s great.  I’m glad for you, hyung.  The show will be great.”

           “Yeah!  Do you want to talk about what’s wrong?  What did you do today?”

           “No,” Jimin groans again, hugging his friend before sighing and sitting up.  “I’m just hungry.”

           “Uh huh,” Hoseok says, his eyes narrow like he doesn’t believe Jimin, which he doesn’t, but he shrugs, lacking the energy to push Jimin any further. “Let’s order in, yeah?  Hyung’s treat?”  Jimin nods.  As if there was any other option.  It’s Hoseok’s fault Jimin almost died of mortifying embarrassment today, so the least he could do is buy him dinner.

 

          Jimin already knows Tae well enough that he shouldn’t be surprised with how loud he is when Jimin shows up at his place with Jungkook dragging behind him, but he still is.  Yoongi sits unperturbed on the couch like he usually is when Jimin comes by, barely even looking up when Tae screams and proceeds to run to him, his arms flapping wildly as he points at the door.  Jimin feels Jungkook cower a little behind him before he rolls his own eyes and drags his boss in.

          “I guess he knows who you are,” he mutters, sighing a little as he pushes Jungkook forward.  Forward means toward Tae, who is still babbling to his boyfriend.

          “Tae, babe, I have no idea what you’re saying,” Yoongi eventually drawls, though he has an amused smile on his lips.  As if to emphasize his point and make Yoongi understand, Tae grabs his cheeks and squeezes them together, drawing closer until their foreheads are bumping and stage whispering into his face.

          “It’s Golden Closet!”

          “Oh, that guy you like?” Yoongi says back, his words coming out muffled and slurred with his lips so squished.

          “Hyung,” Tae whines, his lips so pouty Jimin snickers at him.

          “Hi,” Yoongi says, grinning widely now and waving past his boyfriend’s back at the boy still half hiding behind Jimin.  “I’m Yoongi.  This is Tae.”

          “Jungkook,” the boy says, waving his hand in return. His name seems to cause Tae to scream a little bit, only his backside visible to Jimin and his friend until he straightens up and regains his composure, smoothing down his shirt before turning around to give them a blinding smile.

          “Hi!  I’m Tae! I’m a huge fan,” he grins, sticking his hand out to grab Jungkook’s passionately.

          “Oh,” Jungkook almost squeaks back.  “Thanks.”

          “I knew this would be weird,” Jimin sighs, breaking the two apart so he can hug Tae.  “My turn.”

          “Jimin, seriously, why didn’t you say you worked for Golden Closet?” Tae hisses into Jimin’s ear even as he’s sending friendly smiles over his shoulder to Jungkook.

          “It’s just Jungkook.”

          “Yeah, but hyung, Jungkook is the best,” Tae gasps, sounding almost affronted as he pushes Jimin gently away, turning back to his boyfriend for support.  “He’s the only openly gay Korean gamer I know of.  That’s like, huge.”

          “Oh, so,” Yoongi hums, thinking seriously. “The closet part makes sense.  But golden?  Oh, are you into—”

          “No!” Jungkook squawks, flying forward a little. “No, I am not!”

          “Then—” Yoongi starts, and maybe because he just wants to relax and hates when things are awkward, Jimin finally comes to his friend’s rescue, throwing his arm around his shoulder and hugging him close like he knows the boy pretends to hate but actually likes when it’s certain people.

          “When Kookie was starting out, he still lived in Busan, and his parents thought he was just wasting time with games, so he would come over to my house, but I was busy studying, so we set up this cardboard cave for him—”

          “It wasn’t a cave,” Jungkook mumbles, but Jimin ignores him and carries on.

          “And he was still cute and not emo at the time, so he always wore this yellow hoodie—”

          “It was a jacket, hyung.”

          “And his first viewers thought he was in a closet. He was already called Golden Boy at school because he was good at everything he tried—”

          “Hyung.”

          “Thus the Golden Closet was born!  And now look at him,” Jimin says, grinning as they all do just that, a touch of pink on Jungkook’s cheeks as he mumbles down at the ground for a second.  He’s nowhere near the scrawny kid he was when Jimin first met him, but he is sometimes just as awkward.

          “How is it, being a professional gamer?” Yoongi asks, and Jimin smiles at him, glad he didn’t choose to ask him how it was being an out professional gamer as some interviewers tended to concentrate on.

          “It’s pretty great, honestly,” Jungkook shrugs, still obviously feeling shy.

          “Careful, Yoongi,” Jimin chides.  “If you ask him too many questions about games, he may fall in love with you.”

          “Hyung!” Jungkook hisses, elbowing him as Yoongi lets out a belly laugh.

          “I’m immune,” Yoongi says, kicking gently at Tae. “But Tae already has a huge crush on you, so—”

          “Hyung!” Tae whines, and his and Jungkook’s combined grumbling makes Jimin smile.  He has zero worries about Tae making any moves on Jungkook, something endearing in Tae’s eyes that is nothing like how Tae looked at him the first time they met, and he seems to be right as the evening continues.  Getting to actually play games with his favorite gamer has Tae wide-eyed and grinning, and while Jungkook continues to open up as the night wears on, some alcohol helping but playing games doing more to relax him, Jimin can tell they’re just going to be friends.  Maybe best friends, if he isn’t careful, but as he sits by Yoongi, having no interest in what the boys are playing but enjoying how they laugh and start to sit closer together, he doesn’t find himself minding.  

          There seems to be enough of Tae to go around, and Jungkook could stand to have a few more friends.  Jimin’s gotten comfortable enough with Yoongi, too, to not let the silence between them be awkward as they watch the two men-children on the floor, but he’s also happy when Yoongi turns to speak to him, his low voice soothing amidst the loud cries of Tae and Jungkook as they battle each other on the screen.

          “So did you make it to Insole?  Tae mentioned Hoseok needed shoes or something for his show?”

          “Oh, yeah, I did.  But, uh, it didn’t end up helping anyway, but that’s okay, because Hoseok found someone.”

          “Yeah?  Who?”

          “I don’t know.  Someone?  Kim something?  Namjoon something?  And someone else?”

          “Seokjin?”

          “What?” Jimin says, a little surprised even if Yoongi looks undisturbed at his tone.

          “Kim Seokjin and Kim Namjoon?”

          “Yeah, how, how did you know that?”

          “They own Insole?” Yoongi says, staring at Jimin now like he’s an idiot.

          “They—” Jimin stares back, blinking like an owl or fish out of water or an idiot.

          “Own Insole.  Hey, Tae, Kim Seokjin owns Insole, right?  Or is it Kim Namjoon?”

          “Both of them,” Tae says without looking away from the screen.  

          “Yeah,” Yoongi says, snapping his fingers and looking back at Jimin.  “I mean, you met them when you went, didn’t you?”

          “I—” Jimin sputters.

          “Seokjin’s tall,” Yoongi demonstrates, raising a hand over his own head.  “Well, so is Namjoon.  Um, Namjoon’s, like, friendlier?  Seokjin is a little intimidating?  But that was just my opinion.”

          “Seokjin,” Jimin says, testing the name out that had previously meant nothing when Hoseok said it.  He thinks of the guy in a whale sweater laughing next to the dimpled man. He thinks of the man with a cartoon on his shirt waving at him with a smile on the train.  He thinks of the gorgeous man in a suit, staring at him, his gaze so intense but sweet Jimin wants to melt.  He blushes a little, sinking into Yoongi’s couch as some recognition flashes across the guy’s face.

          “Ah, you met Seokjin,” Yoongi hums, chuckling softly.  “Yeah, he’s good looking.”

          “I thought you didn’t,” Jungkook says, only stopping before he says something stupid.

          “I’m asexual, not blind,” Yoongi huffs, thankfully not actually offended.  “I can acknowledge when a guy is good looking without getting hot and bothered.”

          “Oh,” Jungkook says, probably unsure of what else to say.

          “Yeah, only I can make Yoongi hot and bothered,” Tae says, turning to give his boyfriend a wink even as Yoongi rolls his eyes.

          “That’s just because you’re like an oven when we cuddle.”

          “Aw,” Tae fake pouts.  Jimin is still going through it a little, thinking of Seokjin, and Yoongi seems to realize the look on his face because he chuckles again before patting his thigh.

          “He likes guys, by the way, if you’re wondering. I’ve spoken to Namjoon more, and it came up once.  They both like men, but they’re definitely not dating.”

          “Okay.  Cool. Yeah.  That’s cool,” Jimin stutters, wondering if it’s time to go. It’s probably time to go.  They should go.  He needs to go home and find Hoseok, anyway, and make him promise him free meals and cuddles whenever Jimin wants until he dies because, honestly, Hoseok is the worst.  If Jimin didn’t know any better, he would think Hoseok was messing with him on purpose, but he knows Hoseok is too busy and too dumb to do that.  Still, it’s no excuse, and Jimin groans as he sinks back into the couch, flopping over a little, trying to think of ways to get back at his friend instead of thinking about Kim Seokjin.

          It’s harder than he expects, and his friends spent the rest of the evening laughing at him more than anything else.  Jimin’s friends are the worst, seriously.

 

          He’ll just never go to the store again.  I mean, a week ago he didn’t even know of its existence.  He can’t afford it, anyway, even though Jungkook pays him well and he wants for nothing.  What a lie. Jimin wants a lot of stuff.  But he doesn’t need anything.  Certainly not designer shoes by some hot but weirdly cute guy.  So he gets back to his life as normal and avoids the sweet bun shop he likes, which is a bit of an inconvenience but probably better for him in the long run and would make Hoseok proud.

          Speaking of Hoseok, Jimin knows the last month before his show is going to be stressful, so he takes the time like a good friend to make sure he has enough food around for the guy and even visits him in his workshop when he isn’t also taking care of Jungkook even if he can’t even get past the front door because Hoseok always screams about not showing him anything yet, and while he loves helping take care of his friends, he starts to feel a little starved and needy the closer it gets to Hoseok’s show.  Not literally starved.  He’s been eating less lately, but it’s only because that tends to happen when he’s worrying about other people, but he kind of wants someone to feed him for once. He kind of wants someone to wrap him up in a blanket and hand feed him.

          No he doesn’t.  That would be weird.  Jimin gets weird when he feels needy, he knows this.  After Hoseok’s show is over, everything can go back to normal.  For the time being, Jimin tries to see Tae and Yoongi more often.  They feed him.  Not like he kind of wants someone to, but Yoongi cooks, and Tae makes him laugh, and for the time being, they help keep him feeling balanced as he helps keep Jungkook and Hoseok afloat.  The synergy they have going is nice.  Everything is going great.

          And then someone gets sick.

 

          The last time Jimin remembers someone getting sick turning out for good, at least for himself, was back in eighth grade back when he still used to do ballet and Lee Juyoung had to drop out due to his grandmother getting sick.  Sure, Jimin made an enemy for life, as if he had made Juyoung’s grandmother sick and made his parents make him travel the week before their performance, but he impressed a lot of people, his teachers specifically, and that was worth it in the end.

          Still, the second Hoseok barrels into his room three days before his show, Jimin’s initial reaction is to say no.  So he does.

          “What?” Hoseok whines, pulling on his hair.  “You don’t even know what I’m going to ask.”

          “No,” Jimin says again.

          “Jimin, please.  One of my models got sick—”

          “Is it Tae?”

          “What?  No.”

          “Then I don’t care,” Jimin shrugs.

          “Jimin, please.”

          “No,” Jimin says more adamantly now that he knows what Hoseok needs.

          “Jimin, please?”

          “No, Hoseok.  We both know the clothes won’t fit me.  I’m too short and round.”

          “What?  What? Says who?” Hoseok blinks, and Jimin huffs, thoroughly annoyed now.

          “Uh, like, you and all of your designer and model friends.”

          “What are you talking about?” Hoseok says, the concern in his voice clearly changing from worrying about his own problems to worrying about whatever Jimin is talking about.

          “Everyone always says I have the face of a model but not the body for it.”

          “Jimin, that’s, that’s,” Hoseok blinks again before frowning.  “A bunch of fucking bullshit.  You’re like, the third hottest guy I know—”

          “Wait, who are the other two?”

          “Me and Tae, duh.  So you definitely have the body for it.  I always have to alter stuff anyway.  And your height doesn’t matter.”

          “But it does,” Jimin mumbles.

          “Then get insoles.”

          “What?”

          “If you’re worried about feeling short, get insoles.  I’m sure Namjoon and Seokjin can put some in for you.  They’ve done that before.”

          “Namjoon and Seokjin, like, from Insole?”

          “Yeah,” Hoseok says, misreading Jimin’s recognition.

          “No,” Jimin says again, shaking his head this time and waving Hoseok and his terrible, awful idea away.

          “Jimin,” Hoseok whines again, trying to chase his friend when he gets up and starts to leave his room.

          “No.  Nope. Not in a million years.  Over my dead body,” Jimin fusses as Hoseok continues to try to convince him.

          And apparently Jimin dies, because the next thing he knows he’s standing in front of Insole with a pair of shoes in his hand, hating Hoseok more than he ever thought possible.

           The thing is, Park Jimin isn’t easily embarrassed.  If anything, he was the one always embarrassing his friends, namely, one Jeon Jungkook and Jung Hoseok, though the latter is also pretty shameless but easy to scare, and thus Jimin has often made him scream or look dumb in front of someone he’s trying to impress.

           Perhaps karma is real, Jimin contemplates as he sighs and shifts the shoes in his hands.  

           One of the problems is he knows they’ve already seen him.

           I mean, the walls are glass.  He’s been standing on the sidewalk for long enough to be noticed.

           He’s Park Jimin.  Who wouldn’t notice him?

           Especially someone who would probably just recognize him at a glance at this point, anyway, aka, Kim Seokjin.

           The guy definitely sees him.  Jimin knows, because the guy waves at him from inside the store all the way by the front counter like he’s trying to just be polite but even from far away Jimin can tell the guy is teasing the fuck out of him.

           And Jimin doesn’t like being embarrassed, but he does like being teased. Sometimes.  To a certain extent, sure, and only in good fun or when he knows it’s actually disguised as flirting, but this is just embarrassing.  Please-let-the-sidewalk-open-up-and-swallow-me-whole kind of embarrassing.

           Hoseok seriously owes Jimin his first child or his leg at this point, Jimin contemplates before sighing again and opening the door.

           He came prepared clothes-wise today.  His pants are almost slacks but not jeans, black and holes-free, sleek. His sweater is white and black stripes and, fuck, maybe he is spending too much time with Jungkook based on the evidence of his color scheme, but his black peacoat completes his look, plus his shoes are shining and make him feel like a badass because he knows if he steps on anyone’s toes, it’s going to hurt.  Not that Jimin gets off on bringing other people pain, but he feels confident in his outfit, so he shouldn’t cower under the guy’s gaze or small smile.  He’s friends with Hoseok and Jungkook, for pete’s sake, and now Tae and Yoongi.  He feels like he can deal with every spectrum of person, so this guy won’t be anything he can’t handle.

           He almost turns back around immediately in shame when the door flings open when he just meant to confidently open it.  Maybe there was more wind the last time he was there or something, because he could have sworn the door had more resistance last time.

           He almost backs out when he sees the two tall men in suits just watching him walk toward them with small smirks on their faces, too, but this is good practice for Hoseok’s dumb runway show, so he holds his chin high and struts his hips like he knows he’s good at, and he almost giggles at the way the looks change.

           It’s the Jimin Effect.

           Those second glances and lingering looks and narrowing eyes he knows so well.

           It makes Jimin a little heady and a lot more confident as he thrusts the pair of shoes toward the man with the wider shoulders and darker hair—whale, cartoon, waving man, Kim Seokjin—like he owns the place and has money to pay for diamond insoles if those are a thing.  He hopes they aren’t.  That would be worse than stepping on a Lego.

           “I need an insole.”

           “Well,” the man says, licking his lips and clearly trying not to smile too much as his partner, Namjoon, grins at him, “I guess you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to Insole in Seoul.  Have you been here before?”

           “I,” Jimin sputters, confused for a second before he realizes the guy is cutting him some slack.  Still, he shrinks a little, feeling dumb he was trying to come across so confident. “I have not.”

           “Oh, well, thanks for coming in!  I’m Kim Seokjin, and this is my partner, Kim Namjoon.  No relation.”

           “Business partners,” Namjoon clarifies, saluting Jimin with one finger.

           “I see.”

           “So, what do you need insoles for?”

           “I need, um,” Jimin falters, feeling incredibly small in front of the pair of them even if he is standing up as straight as he can, “to be taller.”

           “Taller?  Well, we can arrange that.  Though I’m a little surprised.  Didn’t we just make these shoes?” Seokjin says, turning them over in his hands to show Namjoon.

           “We did.  Jung Hoseok ordered them for his show.  Think this guy stole them?”

           “I!” Jimin huffs indignantly, confused and appalled at the accusation from the two business owners.  “I did not!  Hoseok is my friend!”

           “Wow, stealing from your friends,” Seokjin whistles.  “That’s really low.  Almost as low as your height.”

           “I,” Jimin stutters, his mouth gaping open as Seokjin tsks at him and Namjoon shakes his head solemnly.  He is about to yank the shoes out of the guy’s hands and go stomping to Hoseok, complaining about customer service and common decency and how the hottest guys are always the biggest dicks, when he realizes something.

           “You,” he blinks, pointing at both of them, his hatred for Hoseok rising like the blood to his face.  “You’re messing with me.”

           “Of course!” Namjoon says immediately.

           “As if we’d make fun of a customer’s height,” Seokjin gasps, a hand on his heart, as if Jimin is the one who had offended them.  “Hoseok told us you were coming by.  We’ve got everything ready so we can fix these right up.”

           “Oh,” Jimin mutters, his cheeks well on their way past pink and propelling right on toward red.  Seokjin seems to really mean “right up,” as he hands them to Namjoon who jogs with them behind the counter.  The sight of the man in a suit jogging exaggeratedly with his heels kicking into his butt as he goes is odd enough, but the way he makes little “hup hup hup hup” sounds as if he was a video game character or robot infused with cuteness is extremely jarring, and Jimin can only blink as the man disappears behind the counter into the back room.  Beside him, Seokjin sighs and rolls his eyes fondly as he leans back on his elbow on the counter.

           “He’s a dork,” he explains as Jimin nods.

           “Reminds me of Tae.”

           “Tae?  Kim Taehyung? The model?”

           “Oh,” Jimin starts, looking at Seokjin who’s staring straight at him, unnerving him a little again.  “Yes. You know him?”

           “Not personally.  But his boyfriend, Yoongi, comes in sometimes, and Hoseok mentioned one of the shoes were for him.”

           “Yeah.  You’re—are you a fan?”

           “Of course,” Seokjin scoffs.  “Who wouldn’t be?  Guy’s gorgeous.  I mean, he has nothing on me, but I can admit when a guy is good looking.”

           “Oh,” Jimin says, pressing his lips together and not asking “Do you think I’m good looking?”  He concentrates instead on how Seokjin had praised himself so easily, smiling a little at the guy’s odd mixture of relaxed yet intimidating features and stance and attitude.

           “So, you model, too?” the guy says next, which is almost a compliment of his looks, so it’s enough for Jimin to laugh nervously and shake his head.

           “No, I’m a personal assistant.  But Hoseok had an emergency, and I guess he didn’t know anyone else to ask.”

           “I’m a little offended he didn’t ask me, if I’m honest,” Seokjin sighs before grinning again at Jimin.  “But I can see why he asked you.”

           “I’m his best friend,” Jimin explains, though the almost-compliment has him blushing again.  “So he trusts me.”

           “I see.  So you’re a personal assistant?  For who?”

           “Oh, this kid.  He’s a gamer,” Jimin shrugs noncommittedly, but Seokjin perks up, his face serious and clearly interested.  

           “A gamer?  What’s his name?  Or his account?”

           “Oh, uh, Jungkook.  Golden Closet?” Jimin says slowly, watching as Seokjin’s eyes widen and his mouth goes slack for the first time Jimin’s seen him, but even the surprised and almost dumb look on his face doesn’t make him unattractive.

           “No shit,” he whispers reverently.

           “You know him,” Jimin says.  Nodding, Seokjin stands up and straightens his suit a little.

           “Been following him for a few years now.  You’re really his assistant?”

           “I’m like his manager, yeah,” Jimin shrugs, trying not to enjoy how impressed the guy seems.  If he knew dropping Jungkook’s name would have impressed such handsome guys before, he would have been waving his business card around every time he entered a room. Speaking of which—“Here, I can prove it,” he says, digging into his wallet to pull out a card to hand Seokjin. The man takes it gingerly, whistling under his breath again as he does before smiling widely up at Jimin, and Jimin thinks briefly of Hoseok and then Tae and how he must have a thing for guys with easy and wide smiles.

           “Wow, and here I was thinking it would be hard to get your number,” he says triumphantly, his confidence and pride making Jimin blink and stare again before he groans a little in the back of his throat.  He spins halfway around before facing the guy again, raising a finger before dropping it lamely, unsure of what to say.  Seokjin is still smiling at him, his eyebrows raised a little expectantly, but Jimin has to look around the room to avoid his gaze after a moment, feeling like he needs to peel off his peacoat.

           “Is there, uh, somewhere I could sit and wait?” he finally manages.

           “In here?  Not really. Why?  You—oh, did you want to wait for the shoes?  That will be a few hours.  I mean, we can hurry, but you can’t make glue dry faster.  I know how to make paint dry faster, but my jokes are too good to work on glue.”

           “Oh,” Jimin says, clearing his throat and spinning halfway around before turning back to Seokjin again.  “Okay, well, I, uh, you have my card now, so you can call when they’re done.”

           “I can,” Seokjin says, lifting the card in question.

           “Right.  Okay, a few hours.  I’ll be back in a few hours then.”

           “Got it,” Seokjin says, clearly waiting for Jimin to leave before he did.

           “Okay, cool, well, see you,” Jimin says, waving his hand to wave goodbye, only the tips of his fingers sticking out from his sweater and coat’s sleeve as he does.

           “Cute,” he thinks he hears Seokjin mumble as he waves back, his fingers long and bare even if one is a little crooked, before Jimin really does turn around and leave again.

           He almost forgets which way the door works, but he’s already made a huge fool of himself, so he pauses once he’s outside and takes a deep breath, leaning back on the wall for a second before he remembers that it’s glass and he’s probably being watched.

           He is.  He groans again and waves with a fake plastered smile when Seokjin clearly laughs and waves back from inside the shop.

           If Jimin is quick, he can probably go and murder Hoseok and dispose of the body before the shoes are done.  Maybe he could call Yoongi to help.  Yoongi seems like the kind of guy who knows how to dispose of a body secretly.  He has a few hours, after all, and axing his best friend sounds easier than regaining his composure and gaining his confidence back before he has to see Seokjin again, but Hoseok, the jerk, refuses to see him, so Jimin has to take a walk in a park and call Tae and eat lunch all while trying not to worry until his phone does, in fact, ring a few hours later, the number not attached to any name.

           Jimin just knows it’s Seokjin calling, though, and he hesitates before he picks up.

           In hindsight, he definitely wishes he had picked up sooner, because that one phone call was about to change his life.

 

           Jimin was being dramatic.  But that was part of his MO.  Plus, ever since he had met Hoseok, his love of drama and exaggeration had expanded ten-fold.  It’s probably why he isn’t super confused or surprised when the voice on the line says,

           “So, are you ready?” because his brief encounter with Kim Seokjin made him think he’s someone who likes being playful, and maybe it’s the fact that he’s not standing in front of the guy or that he was actually excited to hear from him again so soon even if he had spent the past few hours trying not to be too hopeful, but Jimin almost giggles, glad the guy can’t see him falling apart a little, as he looks around before whispering back.

           “Ready?  Ready for what?”

           “This is Park Jimin, yes?” the man on the line says, and Jimin blinks at his phone even though there is no name there.  He knows it’s Seokjin’s voice, even if he sounds a little different, but he falters, perhaps misreading the playful tone he had heard.  Clearing his throat, he turns on his professional voice.

           “Uh. Yes.  This is he.  Is this Kim Seokjin?”

           “Yes.  Calling from Insole,” Seokjin says, his voice suddenly serious as well, but overdone, almost as if he’s MCing a show.  “Calling to let you know your shoes are ready.”

           “Right, of course.  The shoes are ready.  That’s why you’re calling.”

           “Yes.  Why else would I be calling?”

           “I,” Jimin mumbles, “don’t know.”

           “I mean, who calls and says ‘are you ready?’ unless it’s about being ready to pick up the shoes the person ordered?  What else would I be asking if you’re ready for?  It’s not like I would be asking if you’re ready to go out with me.”

           “Right,” Jimin nods even if Seokjin can’t see him.  “Of course you wouldn’t.”

           “Of course I wouldn’t,” Seokjin says, probably nodding himself in the moment of silence that follows.  “I mean, unless.”

           “Unless?”

           “Unless,” Seokjin says, drawing the word out.

           “Unless what?” Jimin blinks, standing on the sidewalk in a bit of a stupor as people rush by him.

           “Unless there’s anything else I can get you!” Seokjin almost shouts as if he’s a telemarketer hoping Jimin will give him a good review on the survey at the end of the call.

           “Uh, no, just, uh, the shoes,” Jimin mumbles, still confused about what just happened.

           “Two shoes for the cute short boy, coming right up!” Seokjin basically yells as if he’s a hotdog vendor on the street announcing Jimin’s order to all the world before he promptly hangs up.

           Jimin stands staring at his phone screen for so long that the light changes four more times before he remembers he has to consciously move his feet to go pick up the shoes.

           By the time he’s back to Insole, though, all of the confusion has melted away, leaving him grinning and wishing he had had the awkward interaction in person. He imagines he and Seokjin could have had a good laugh about it together, and while he is still mortified about feeling embarrassed earlier, it’s easier this time to walk into the store when he sees Seokjin still there, seemingly waiting for him with a smile on his face.

           They don’t end up laughing together.  Seokjin laughs, though.

           It goes like this:

           Jimin sees him again through the door before he even opens it and sends back a little wave.  While earlier he walked in trying to act confident, this time he walks in trying to look comfortable.

           Whatever he ends up looking like, Seokjin seems to like it, if the smile on his face is any indication.  The guy seems a little more serious and professional this time, though.  He immediately hands Jimin the shoes after a short greeting and stands waiting for him to try them on.

           Jimin, meanwhile, thanks God he actually wore matching, clean socks with the right side out as he toes off his shoes, needing no assistant with his balance. He starts to feel a little embarrassed again as he does, though.  It’s not even like he’s undressing, they’re literally just shoes, but Seokjin probably sees a lot of feet, and he’s not even seeing Jimin’s skin, but he knows his feet are small like the rest of his body, so he does his best not to turn away to hide them, because that would be even more suspicious.

           He puts the shoes on that Hoseok designed and Seokjin and Namjoon created and they just added something to—on the inside or outside, Jimin hadn’t really paid much attention—and he stands up to see Seokjin’s eyebrows.

           Now, Jimin is just barely under the average height for a Korean male.  Next to his friends, he usually looks small. And he likes being small.  He likes his height.  It’s optimum cuddling and resting-your-head-on-someone’s-shoulder height.  He only hates it when someone comments negatively on it.

           Hoseok and Jungkook are practically the same height, just barely above the average Korean male, and Seokjin had looked to be the same height to Jimin. He knows most of Hoseok’s models are the same height, too, or a little taller, and he knows when he stands up that he’s taller than Seokjin now.  Which means he’s taller than Hoseok and Jungkook.  And the world isn’t different.  It’s only a couple of inches, but it’s still disorienting for a second. Mainly because Jimin can’t figure out what look Seokjin is giving him until the man waves his finger at him.

           “Well, walk around, see how they feel.”

           “Oh, yeah,” Jimin says, clearing his throat.  The shop is big enough for him to have room to walk toward the front unimpeded.  It’s not like the shoes are heels, so walking in them is no problem.  He gets to the door and turns around, giving Seokjin a thumbs-up, but the guy just shakes his head.

           “No, no, practice.”

           “Practice?”

           “Let’s see your runway walk,” the guy says, and Jimin gulps, looking around at the empty shop.  The aisle is probably as big as the runway will be, but while it may sound contradictory, it’s easy on a runway.  Jimin knows people are looking at him then, even if they’re mainly looking at the clothes. It’s to be expected.

           A private show is much different.

           And conjures up some dirty connotation images for Jimin who clears his throat again and decides to just go for it.

           But it goes like this:

           He does not take it seriously.  He over exaggerates his steps and his face and his hips and saunters like he has no idea what he’s doing until he’s a few feet in front of Seokjin.  The guy’s grin has been widening the closer Jimin got, so by the time he’s done, he’s positively laughing, obviously aware that Jimin is just messing around and is not, in fact, clueless about how to walk on a runway

           And Seokjin’s laugh may be the only unpretty thing about him, even if Jimin doesn’t hate it.  It actually makes him giggle at how loud the guy laughs, wiping away a fake tear before waving his finger at him again.

           “No, no,” Seokjin breaths, “seriously!”

           “Fine,” Jimin fake pouts, going back to the front of the shop to try again. But playtime is over, and there’s an intimidating look on Seokjin’s face when Jimin faces him.  He gets what Yoongi was talking about, then.  And he knows that his assumptions about Seokjin were correct in that he obviously has a playful side.  And he understands, even if it makes his stomach a little fluttery, why he did a double take in the sweet bun shop and waved at him even when he was drunk and unaware of who it was.  Jimin wants Seokjin to look at him seriously.

           It makes his insides and cheeks burn a little, but he puts on his best “model” face, the one that Tae whistled at one time when they were messing around practicing with each other one day until Tae gave him his approval.  He walks with eloquence and grace but also confidence and power, too.  He walks right up to Seokjin, ending with his side turned a little and his hand on his hip under his peacoat and his chin dipping a tiny bit before he smirks just a little.

           And it goes like this:

           Seokjin does not smile back.

           In fact, at first Jimin thinks he’s displeased him.  He’s messed something up.  He misread the entire situation, but then Seokjin licks his lips and tilts his head back just a little, too, and Jimin watches his eyes go from the top of Jimin’s head to the hand on his hip to the shoes he made before slowly roaming all the way up, and even though he has on a sweater and a coat and the shop is warm, Jimin shivers in anticipation, because he knows that look.

           Seokjin hums, and Jimin straightens up.

           “What?”

           “Oh, nothing.  I just, well, I’ve never said this before, but I actually think I like your shoes better than the ones I’ve made,” Seokjin says, laughing a little.  “Which is ridiculous, but here we are.”

           “What?  Why? These are gorgeous,” Jimin says, moving his coat aside so he can stare at the shoes on his feet.

           “Yeah, they really are.  But they make you too tall.  You’re cuter shorter.  Still, you have a good walk.  Can’t wait to see you in the show.”

           “I,” Jimin says, looking up and blinking.  He is in no way offended that the guy said he looked cuter in his own shoes because they made him shorter.  They didn’t make him shorter.  That was just how tall he was.  But the guy’s insinuating that he thinks he’s cute and that his height has something to do with it, and it goes like this:

           Jimin’s cheeks burn even as he smiles.

           Seokjin notices.  Seokjin must take note.  Seokjin lifts himself off of the counter and steps a little into Jimin’s space.  Jimin lets him.  Because Seokjin’s looking at him again, and Jimin really, really likes lingering gazes.

           “Do you have plans after the show?”

           “After?  Uh, no.  I mean, Hoseok or Tae may want to go out, I’m not sure.”

           “Let me,” Seokjin says, and he starts to bend down which makes all sorts of things go off in Jimin’s head.  Fireworks, alarm bells, a slowly dripping faucet that’s a little squeaky and he needs to fix somehow.  Seokjin just starts to untie his shoes, and Jimin thinks that’s what he was referring to until he looks up with a raised eyebrow at Jimin, still waiting for his answer.

           “Sorry?  Do what?” Jimin mumbles.

           “Let me take you out after,” Seokjin clarifies.  

           “Oh,” Jimin says, biting his lips so they don’t fly away from him before he nods once.  “Okay.” Seokjin laughs softly onto Jimin’s ankles as he finishes untying the shoes, rising only to give his palm up to Jimin.  Even though he doesn’t need the help, Jimin puts his hand in Seokjin’s and tries not to scream at how small it looks compared to his and tries not to look at Seokjin looking at his tiny fingers as he bends down to take the shoes off, only standing back up when they’re both in his hands.  Seokjin lets go of his fingers and holds out his hands for the shoes which Jimin hands over and watches Seokjin turn around to put back in a box.  He closes the lid gently and waits for Jimin to put his own shoes back on before handing it over.

           “Yeah, much cuter,” Seokjin says when Jimin’s only the box’s width away from him and looking those two inches back up at his eyes instead of being level with them.  “I’ll see you backstage, then.”

           “Yeah, okay,” Jimin mumbles, not sure what else he needs to wait around for. He doesn’t move for a second, though, because Seokjin is still looking all over him, and it’s a little self-indulgent to linger, but Jimin figures he deserves it.  Eventually, though, he nods and turns away, trying not to think of Seokjin watching him walk away even though he knows he is.  He pauses at the door and turns around to give another small wave which Seokjin returns with a small smile before he practically dashes away.

          It goes like this:

          He does not scream on the way home.

          He’s not a weirdo.

          He waits to do that in the privacy of his own home.

          He also is extremely extra nice to Hoseok for the remaining three days before his show.

          He thinks, just maybe, that the guy deserves a break.

          He figures, possibly, that he might have to thank him after the show for forcing him to go to that stupid shoe shop in the first place if it really ends up with him scoring a date with the hottest guy he’s ever seen who actually likes how short he is and seems to be a mixture of silly and serious.

          He isn’t positive yet, though.  It will depend on how things go.

 

          Hoseok has never let Jimin see his work until the day of a runway show when he has had to sit in the audience like everyone else. Even though Jimin gets it, understands Hoseok perfectly, it’s always left him a little offended.  However, he finally really gets it the day before the show as he sits backstage waiting for someone to adjust his pants while he sips on the tea Tae had made him as everyone else bustles around before their dress rehearsal.

          He gets it, because he’s crying a little which Tae had noticed first and Hoseok had been made aware of and immediately flown to him.

          He’s just…so proud of Hoseok.  He had tried to communicate that to his friend even as he sobbed, and Jimin thinks it must be like those dads who start to experience symptoms of pregnancy with their wives—the empathetic side in him has just been so stressed and feeling so much for Hoseok lately that he just has to let it out somehow.

          “Aw,” Hoseok had cooed, patting his knee once he realized nothing was actually wrong.  “He does this every year,” he explains to Tae before dashing off to attend to everyone else.  That makes Jimin cry a little more, not because he feels abandoned, but because he feels so damn proud.  Hoseok is in charge and killing it.  He is so talented and good at what he does and kind that Jimin feels like a shit friend for all the times he’s wanted to strangle the guy recently.

          Tae seems to get it, too, thankfully, and he sits with him until he stops crying before he’s called away again.

          Backstage looks like chaos.  Jimin can’t make much sense of what is happening, but Hoseok seems to be doing eight things at once.  It only makes Jimin feel proud again, so he sits and smiles with his leg crossed over his knee until his pants are ready.

          He may hug Hoseok and kiss his cheeks a million times after the rehearsal is over because the music he picked is fucking amazing and the lights are perfect and everything is so Hoseok, so put together and detailed and fine-tuned and thought-out and executed just right, that Jimin is proud of Hoseok and honored to be his friend and excited about the show tomorrow.

          He’s so excited, in fact, that he almost forgets he agreed to a date afterwards.

          It’s for the better.  He sleeps soundly the night before instead of staying awake anxiously worrying about it, after all, his mind and body so content and pleased with his best friend and the show that he has only happy, eager thoughts for what tomorrow will bring.

 

          The day of the show is a blur.  People are literally moving so quickly in front of Jimin that he hardly registers any faces.  He sticks as close to Tae as he can, a little amused at how serious the guy turns when he’s working.  He tries to be serious, too, which is pretty easy considering he’s nervous and excited enough to just want to do well.

          The thing about Hoseok’s fashion is that…well, it’s nothing like Jimin’s.  Every outfit is so full of color and patterns despite it being a winter collection that Jimin isn’t sure what you’re supposed to look at on the outfit.  But that’s always been part of Hoseok’s charm.  He’s good at reusing materials, too, and using unconventional ones.  If he was ever on a reality show, he’d nail the “Here’s a trash bag, make a designer gown” challenge, basically.

          Every outfit has a little bag, too, either slung over the shoulder or around the waist or attached to the pants.  They don’t seem very practical—maybe if he was a squirrel and needed to carry some acorns around or something—but that’s fashion for you, Jimin figures.  The shoes are just as much of a statement as the outfits, and Jimin wouldn’t normally be caught dead wearing them, but he likes the jewelry.  That’s one of the things about Hoseok that makes him stand out as a designer—he thinks of everything, even if he doesn’t personally make everything.  He makes things work that Jimin would never think of.  Each outfit has a story, too, and a personality.  That’s what Tae tells Jimin he loves the most about shows—putting on an act, coming up with a background for where he’s going in his outfit.

          Jimin tries it, too, and it’s easier than he expects because he thinks of going on a date in the first outfit he has on.  It’s easy to imagine because it makes him remember he’s literally going on a date after the show.  Not that he can walk off the runway with what he has on, though Hoseok did promise him a piece of jewelry, but it only makes him hold his head higher when it’s his turn, knowing full well that Seokjin is out there somewhere in the audience.

          He’s got on dark blue velvet trousers with a purple top that he thought at first was a straitjacket.  It makes him look like he’s wrapped up, and it makes him feel like he’s wrapped up, and maybe Jimin misses being swaddled as a baby, but it works as a vest and jacket all at once over the white collared shirt he has on. He almost feels like a pirate with how flowing the shirt’s sleeves are, but he’s not allowed to sway his arms like a kid on the runway.  The shoes help, just plain black with enough of a platform on them that they clearly give him a few inches.  While the top is intricate and has a bag hanging off of it with a chain, it’s honestly one of the tamer outfits.

          He imagines that getting the purple thing off by himself would be a bit of a problem, and he would have to ask Seokjin for help.  They would laugh about it, wondering which thing went through which hole, and there would be a joke in there somewhere.  If the vest got off, Jimin would be super comfortable and able to relax, even lounge in the pants, so he really likes strutting down the runway when it’s his turn.

          It’s easy to spot Seokjin.

          He’s tall, for one, and his face stands out easily in the crowd.

          He’s also on the front row sitting next to Namjoon and Yoongi and Jungkook, their seats obviously reserved by Hoseok.  He’s leaning back in his chair with an arm over Namjoon’s shoulders and his legs spread wide and Jimin almost gulps before he starts.  He knows Seokjin leans in to say something to Namjoon as he passes, but Jimin looks forward, undeterred and unblinded despite the multiple flashes from photographers. He feels a little bad for Hoseok’s bag, but he unclips it at the end and trails it behind him, something to watch as he leaves.

          And then he’s hurrying to change into the next outfit.

          It’s definitely less complicated, thankfully, than the first one.  More revealing, too, and probably better suited for a date.  The pants fit him tightly.  They feel like jeans, but they’re tie-dyed all soft blues and greens with a hint of yellow in them.  The shirt is plain white, but there is only one button on it close to his waist.  It’s tucked in, and he has a black belt on. The v-cut is low but not too wide, and he’s given a choker that looks leather and has a string that trails down, tickling his skin every time it brushes against him, which is often, the tiniest box at the end of it.  Jimin figures he could only maybe hide a ring or pills or an acorn in the box, but it’s a fashion piece and isn’t meant to be practical.  It feels like something he actually might wear, but it’s still pretend, so he enters the runway again, a little more comfortable this time, like he’s headed to a date with someone he’s known for a long time.

          Like he doesn’t need to try so hard anymore, but he still aims to impress, and he’s sure that the skin he’s showing does. He’s not flashing his abs or nipples or anything, but it’s the seduction that matters.  Jimin can do seduction.  He just does a lot of it with his eyes, usually, and he can’t look at who he wants to, even if he does see him still leaning in close to his friend’s ear when he comes out.  It makes him only want to try harder, and this time at the end of the line he smirks a little, having a little fun as he slips his hand into his shirt and hangs onto the collar for a second before turning to walk away.

          The last outfit is the most Hoseok of them all, in Jimin’s opinion, and he oddly feels confident in it.  At first, he was hesitant when Hoseok picked him to wear the only dress.  He knows he has an “effeminate face,” and is not opposed to dresses, it’s just intimidating. The dress is more like a robe.  It has one clasp to hold it together, so the slit is high.  He has no pants on underneath it.  It’s made out of a leather-like material, black and sexy, with an imprinted pattern Jimin can’t quite place.  He would have said no, it was too revealing to walk out in as a non-professional model if that was all, but Hoseok proceeded to give him a hoodie, yellow with white sleeves, a purposeful tear on each one right by the elbows and his logo “Hope World” on the front.  They don’t seem to match—a hoodie and a dress?—but Jimin feels like a badass, a comfortable badass, once the outfit is on.  It’s, again, nothing he would wear in public, but it’s so Hoseok, and it’s the last outfit of the show, and he couldn’t be prouder.

          Besides, the shoes are the ones Seokjin fixed up for him especially the other day.  They’re black silk embroidered with these suns that match the yellow of the hoodie and the pattern outlined in the dress/robe, and Jimin wants to steal them. Instead, he imagines dating someone for a long time, going for an anniversary dinner and trying to still seduce them after years together but getting too cold and needing to put the guy’s hoodie on even if it doesn’t match his outfit.  He imagines someone leaning in close and whispering “I like you in my clothes more, anyway,” until he leans back and whispers “I thought you liked me better with no clothes on,” which only leads to them doing exactly that while they giggle at how domestic and yet ridiculous they both are.

          It makes Jimin ache a little, so he knows he’s taken the game too far, and he tries to reel it in when he hits the runway, but Seokjin is leaning forward on his knees, knowing, watching closely like he really would like to see Jimin without any clothes on, and Jimin blames the clothes and lights and flurry backstage for how he finally starts to sweat. There’s a polka dot bag that’s slung across his chest that he clings to when he pauses before turning, too, but he swears he doesn’t breathe until he’s backstage again.  

          There’s no time to think, though, as he follows everyone back out, the audience standing and clapping as they circle the runway one more time before Hoseok follows them out.  He pauses to stop and thank the audience, and Jimin thinks he hears his name from backstage where he’s changing, but he lives with the guy, so he’ll have plenty of time for Hoseok to praise and love and adore and worship him later.  For now, he changes into his own clothes, his tight black jeans and black boots and black sweater—fuck, when did he start dressing like Jungkook?—and green puffy hoodie jacket he feels tiny and warm in.

          And thus begins the anxious waiting.

 

          Even among all of the noise, backstage is dim enough that in Jimin’s tiny corner he was given to get his makeup ready earlier he curls up into the chair and promptly falls asleep while he waits, only waking up later when someone rudely and savagely shakes him like a baby with a rattle.

          “What?” he snaps, stomping his foot down to keep himself from falling out of his chair, because really, who wakes someone up so violently?  Apparently, Tae does, because he’s bending down a little, blocking one of the only lights in the place from Jimin and giving him a little glowing silhouette like an angel, but Tae’s a demon dressed in black leather pants and a flowing maroon top that is hanging off of his shoulder so much it might as well not even be attached, and he woke Jimin up like a jerk.

          “What?” Jimin says again, a little softer even if he’s still ornery.  Tae snorts at him and stands up, the light hitting him full force now and making Jimin hiss a little at the intrusion.  There’s a laugh behind Tae, and Jimin wants to die when Seokjin pops out from behind Jimin and waves a little.  Always with the waving like he’s on some red carpet being asked to pose.

          He looks ready to be on a red carpet.  He has a turtleneck on and a burgundy coat and glasses, and Jimin wishes he was wearing glasses so he could see the guy better but he’s also a little afraid if he could he might be blinded for real, so he manages a weak smile and waves back before standing up.

          “Jin hyung said he’s taking you out?  Not like an assassin or anything, but for a date?” Tae says nosily and noisily.  “And that’s great and all, but you have to come out with us first.  It’s tradition.”  It can’t be, considering Jimin’s never gone anywhere with Tae after a show before, but he doesn’t say anything, so Tae turns to Seokjin. “Please?  Just for a bit?”

          Jimin watches Seokjin look at him with a small smile before looking back at Tae.

          “He was the star of the show.”  Jimin thinks that he wasn’t, but Seokjin’s grin widens, so he doesn’t contradict his friend.  

          “We couldn’t have done it without him.”  It’s another lie.  A nice lie, sure, but Hoseok could have found literally anyone else to wear the clothes.  

          “Wasn’t he so good?  Didn’t he look so good?”

          “Yeah,” Seokjin answers before Tae can continue or Jimin can protest.  “If you don’t mind me tagging along, I’d love to.  But it’s up to Jimin, as I did promise to take him out.”

          “Are you really sure?” Jimin says, looking between Tae’s eager puppy face and Seokjin’s sure smile.

          “Totally!  And if we’re all going out first, maybe my friend Namjoon could come?”

          “The more the merrier!” Tae says, clapping and flying away, calling out for Yoongi as he goes.

          “You’re really sure?” Jimin says as he makes sure he has all of his belongings before stepping out of the small corner.  He’s suddenly extremely grateful he doesn’t work in an office with a life-draining cubicle.

          “That you looked good?  Yeah,” Seokjin says without missing a beat.  “Also, yeah, I was feeling a little guilty inviting you out. Figured it was actually rude to try to whisk you away from your friends so soon, so this works great.”

          “Okay,” Jimin says slowly, waving at one of the models as he passes by and smiles at him.  Seokjin seems to follow the man with his eyes for a moment before turning back to Jimin, sticking his hand out to him.

          “Besides, I’m not intimidated by some models.  I could be a model, you know.”

          “I bet,” Jimin says, looking at Seokjin’s hand in confusion for a second.

          “But I prefer to dress them,” Seokjin says, looking up and down Jimin’s outfit before sticking his arm out to him again. Jimin still doesn’t get it, and Seokjin seems to know as he steps closer with a little sigh.  He slips his arm between Jimin’s and his chest, which is pretty incredible considering Jimin’s entire torso looks like one green marshmallow, and starts to walk away with him like some debutant.  Jimin can only move his feet to try to keep up, and he totally stumbles a little when Seokjin says, leaning in to whisper,

          “But I like undressing them best.”

          Jimin almost wishes he still had that black leather dress on as they head into the night.  He could have blamed that for how hot he felt, or something.

 

          Tae’s “just for a bit” turns into staying out until well past two in the morning.

          And “the more the merrier” turns into basically everyone from the show, even people from the audience and crew members Jimin doesn’t even know existed until it dwindles down to about ten people well after midnight.

          Jimin barely sees Hoseok at first as his friend does the rounds and talks to everyone who wants to meet and greet him.

          He has no idea where Jungkook is for hours. He almost thinks he didn’t come at all or already went home until he spots him later.

          He follows Tae and Seokjin and Yoongi and Namjoon in, but soon he loses three of them, leaving him with Seokjin.

          And there are a couple of models hanging around, like, literally hanging on him.  He can’t remember the guy’s name.  And the other one he discovers with Jungkook at one point.

          The night got a little away from Jimin, so he can’t quite remember when what happened and where with who.  Why?  How was vague, too.  

          Probably because the “Just one round before you go!” Tae had yelled at him over the music when they first arrived turned into way more than one round.  Jimin literally could not keep count of how many drinks he had consumed.  He thought, at one point before his mind left him, that letting Seokjin see him drunk so early on was either going to be a good thing or a bad thing.  Anyone who could handle a drunk Jimin was a keeper.  He didn’t really mean to get drunk, but it just happened.

          It’s the next morning when he wakes up in his own bed butt naked—not a big deal for Jimin, though he usually wears something when it’s cold out—with a gorgeous man next to him who is fully dressed that he freaks out just a little.  It’s when Jimin screams and pushes the guy away and scrambles out of bed, twisting and falling to the floor, trapped in his bedsheets like a wild pig in a net, that Jimin starts to piece together everything that happened mere hours ago.

 

          In no particular order, Jimin remembers the following memorable encounters and events from the previous night:

1.     Tae’s daddy

          “Oh, he thinks he has the biggest daddy energy,” Seokjin says, rolling his eyes.  

          “I’m sorry he what?” Jimin squeaks.  It’s pretty late into the night.  Early in the morning.  He’s leaning on Seokjin’s shoulder, mainly because he can’t hear him. No, mainly because he’s drunk.  So drunk.  He’s so drunk he has no idea what the fuck Seokjin is talking about. “What?” he says again, louder and closer to Seokjin’s face.  His coat has gone somewhere.  Jimin’s is still on because he loves how he can smush into people like those guys in fat suits or hamster balls fighting when it’s more like they’re just seeing who can fall over first.  Jimin feels a little like that.

          “What?” Seokjin almost yells back.  He’s not as drunk as Jimin.  Which is unfair.

          “What did you say about Tae?”

          “Tae?  Not Tae,” Seokjin says, shaking his head.  His forehead is sweaty enough that his bangs stick a little as he points across the room.  “Namjoon. Namjoon, the guy kissing Tae.”

          “Who’s kissing Tae?” Jimin gasps, his fist grabbing Seokjin’s arm as he spins around so quickly he almost falls over, his drink sloshing a little when he spots Namjoon’s hand on Tae’s chin.  He’s sitting in on one of the sleazy leather couches between Tae and Yoongi, and he has a hand on Yoongi’s thigh, but the guy is simply watching with a drink in his hand that he’s sipping slowly as Namjoon pulls Tae closer and closer.  Both of Tae’s hands are on Namjoon’s thighs, his fingers curled up a little, and Jimin feels a little nauseous at the sight.  Not that he’s disgusted.  Part of him maybe wants to kiss Tae still.  No.  He wants someone to kiss him.  He wants to hold onto someone’s thigh.

          He whines a little, which doesn’t go unnoticed from Seokjin.

          “He’s a good guy, don’t worry,” Seokjin says softly but still loudly in Jimin’s ear.  “Though I don’t know if he’s ever had a threesome.  Thought he was a more serious guy.”

          “Oh my god,” Jimin wails, looking away from his friend to hide in Seokjin’s arm.  Seokjin smells good.  He noticed it on the way to the club when Seokjin had his arm through his.  His cologne isn’t overwhelming, but it smells expensive and fancy.  He knows Seokjin patted his back consolatory, but he isn’t sure what else happened on the couch with Namjoon and Tae and Yoongi.

 

2.     Mochi Management

          Tae must have brought them to a “gorgeous people only” club.  It’s probably called that.

          Surely when they check IDs they only let people in with an acceptable photo.  Truly gorgeous people look good even in license and passport photos.  Everyone in the club is gorgeous, is what Jimin knows. He also knows Seokjin is the hottest guy around him.  And he really does seem unintimidated by being surrounded by other gorgeous people. He may not be a model, but he rivals the professional ones in the room.

           Still, Jimin appreciates the solidarity that Seokjin and his friend Namjoon and Yoongi provide.  They’re all good looking even if not by the “industry’s standards.”  Seokjin and Yoongi seem to hit it off immediately, too, which is weird to Jimin at first.  He can distinctly remember Yoongi telling him Seokjin and he had met before, but something about Yoongi mentioning talking to Namjoon more made it sound like Yoongi didn’t even know Seokjin.  Jimin doesn’t even know Seokjin, but he knows Yoongi enough by now to know he doesn’t trust people easily.  But he points out his boyfriend chatting with a group of models nearby and he seems to earn Seokjin’s respect after that.  Plus Yoongi makes some blunt joke about how Tae’s beauty can’t be measured by society’s standards set by men who could never compare to his boyfriend’s looks, and Seokjin laughs and shakes his hand and Jimin is pretty sure they’re going to be friends for life.

           It’s an odd exchange to watch, honestly, but not as weird as when a lady in jeans and the highest heels Jimin has ever seen—he’s sure if she trips she’ll poke someone’s eye out and their blood will stain her white blazer that seems to be all she’s wearing on top—approaches him, introducing herself.

           He does not, he admits with his head hanging a little, remember her name.

           But she nods to everyone around him and compliments the show and asks what modeling agency he’s with.

           Jimin blinks, looks at Seokjin who’s looking at him seriously, looks at Yoongi, who’s watching Tae across the room with his eyes, and looks at Namjoon, who is definitely not paying attention as he’s looking at Yoongi, oddly enough, and looks back at the lady to blurt out,

           “Mochi Management!”

           He kind of knows already that Seokjin is the perfect man when he doesn’t laugh.

           Sure, he does after the lady leaves, but first she asks Jimin for a card, and Jimin actually pats his back pocket of his pants, looking a little lost before Seokjin smiles at the lady.

           “We’re a small company,” the guy says.  “Most of us have other jobs, too, so we’re not totally set up with business cards yet.  But I’m Kim Seokjin, owner of Insole.”

           “Oh, you model, too?” the lady says politely, looking over him again.

           “Have you seen me?” Seokjin says, waving a hand over his face.  Jimin bites his lip in order not to laugh, and the lady looks seriously at Seokjin, humming a little before pulling her own card at and handing it to him.

           “Make sure to contact me,” she says, nodding and smiling again to Jimin who remembers to bow a little before she somehow walks away on her stilts.  

           That’s when Seokjin laughs, and once he knows it’s safe, Jimin does, too, falling into the guy’s arm and holding onto him, feeling a little like he is the one in heels about to fall over in love with the guy beside him.  Which would be ridiculous, of course.  He hardly knows the guy, but he likes how he can go from serious to silly so quickly.  And he likes how tall and sturdy he stands when Jimin leans on him. Jimin thinks it’s a little early in the evening to be touching the guy so much, but Seokjin doesn’t seem to care, so Jimin doesn’t give it much thought after that.

 

3.     Hoop dance

          Jimin isn’t the only one who almost fell over last night or this morning.  At one point

          Jimin distinctively remembers talking to Seokjin—maybe more yelling over the noise—when someone ran into him hard from behind. He whipped around immediately about to rip into the asshole when he saw Namjoon bending over, his hands out wide as he stared at the floor recently flooded with the drinks he was previously carrying.

           “Shit, I’m sorry!” Jimin says, not sure if he should reach for the glass or Namjoon’s hands or what.  Namjoon looks absolutely devastated for a second, like, he might even cry, and Jimin flounders, panic flooding through his veins faster than the alcohol spreading into the cracks of the tile beneath them.

           “It’s okay,” Seokjin says behind him, patting his shoulder and reaching his other hand out to lift Namjoon up.  “Just go get some more, buddy.”

           “But,” Namjoon says, still frowning.

           “I’ll find someone to clean it up, don’t worry.”  Namjoon still looks sad as he slinks off, and Jimin only notices Seokjin still has a hand on him when he runs it down his arm, picking up his other one to move his hands in a circle.

           “Here, stand here for a second,” Seokjin says.  “I’ll go get someone.”  Jimin isn’t sure why he has to stand like he’s making a basketball hoop with his arms, but he stands still as Seokjin moves away.  He takes the time by himself to try to remind himself to drink some water soon because when he looks down at the liquid becoming sticky on the ground he thinks he sees it moving still, and it’s too early in the evening to lose it yet.  

          He’s not a fan of the song that’s booming over the speakers, and he wonders where Hoseok and Tae and Jungkook and the others are. He hopes that Seokjin won’t take too long.  He really wishes that he doesn’t look stupid standing like a backboard.  People are probably looking at him oddly.  They’re probably wondering how drunk he is.  He should put his arms down, but he keeps them up, wanting to make a point.  He wants to win.  He’s not sure what he’s playing, but Jimin is nothing if not competitive.

          So he even smiles when he makes eye contact with someone who raises an eyebrow at him.  Maybe he should pretend he’s dancing.  He could always say it’s the newest craze.  The hoop dance.  He can be convincing.  Why would anyone contradict him?  He doesn’t really want to as he already feels silly enough, so he definitely feels relieved when Seokjin comes back up to him with a yellow “Wet Floor” sign.

          Except it isn’t Seokjin.  Jimin isn’t sure where Seokjin is.  Jimin doesn’t want to be a basketball hoop if Seokjin’s not coming back with a basketball.

 

4.     Models are idiots

          It comes as a jolt. He’s been wanting to see Hoseok for what feels like hours.  He’s too popular, and Jimin misses him, and he’s ready for Hoseok’s praise and gratitude, so he is not expecting and definitely not a fan of the stranger in front of him staring daggers at him.  And he is 100% sure he does not like the way his face feels, the red spreading over it from more than just the slap.

           “Hey, what the fuck,” Seokjin says beside him, sitting up straight and putting an arm out in front of him.  Jimin wants to say the same thing, but he’s still in shock.  He’s trying to look at the person in front of him.  He has no idea who he is.  He doesn’t recognize him at all.  Who just randomly slaps someone?  What did Jimin ever do to him?  He looks at Seokjin, then, worrying his lip between his teeth, wondering if he’s accidentally got involved with someone in a relationship.  It’s his worst fears and nightmares all coming true, and Jimin hates how he wants to throw up.  But Seokjin looks mad.  Pissed. He looks so angry Jimin almost whimpers, and maybe the crazy guy is an ex, because Seokjin doesn’t look like he knows him, either, and that relieves Jimin a little even if his cheek still stings.

           “What the fuck!” someone yells behind the guy, grabbing his arm and spinning him around.  Jimin wants to say the same thing, but he just lifts his head when he recognizes Hoseok. Hoseok looks angry, too.  Really pissed.  Mad Hoseok is scary.  You don’t mess with Hoseok when he’s mad.  You don’t make Hoseok angry unless you’re looking for trouble.  Only an asshole would purposefully piss Hoseok off. Or an idiot.  Maybe the guy in front of him is both.

           “Chan!  You fucking idiot, what the fuck was that for?  I said I’m going home with him because we live together as roommates, you absolute dickhead!  He’s my best friend, you fucking idiot!  You don’t get to be jealous much less come over here and hit him, do you hear me?  I swear to fucking god, models are so fucking stupid!”  

          Jimin really does whimper a little then, not because he’s scared anymore.  He’s glad he understands what’s happened—well, he gets some of it, at least—but his face still hurts.  Seokjin seems to hear him, or notice, and the arm he still has out in front of him lays over his legs while Seokjin wraps his other arm around his shoulders and pulls him a little closer.  He seems to be examining Jimin’s face because Jimin can feel his hair tickling his temple as he continues to stare at Hoseok fighting with the guy in front of him. They’re really going at it now. So bad that Jimin hopes they don’t get kicked out.  He should really get up to help his friend, but he really doesn’t feel like getting smacked again.  Just when he thought Hoseok couldn’t owe him anymore, some asshole had to go and get jealous and slap him.

          “Hey,” Tae pouts on the other side of Seokjin, his arms reaching over Namjoon to flap weakly at his boyfriend.  Yoongi seems deeply immersed in the fight in front of him, his eyes narrow.  Jimin is pretty sure an angry Yoongi is not someone you want to mess with, either, and he shivers a little.  Perhaps what brought Hoseok and Yoongi together wasn’t just their love of cute puppies. Seokjin must think he’s scared, which he honestly is a little, because he draws him closer, knocking his forehead against his head, and Jimin really hates that some asshole slapping him led him here.  He wants to be the one nuzzling Seokjin’s face.  He doesn’t want some guy’s pity just because he got slapped, either.  He really didn’t want to get slapped.

          “Yoongi, babe,” Tae is still saying until his boyfriend looks at him.  “Am I stupid?”

          “Nah,” Yoongi says, patting his boyfriend’s hands, “you’re just dumb, but I love you anyway.”  

          “Aw, thanks,” Tae says, giggling and leaning back on Namjoon’s shoulder, not upset in the slightest at his boyfriend’s playful insult.  Jimin wonders what the difference in stupid and dumb is, but he doesn’t have much time to think about it because Yoongi is standing up.  He rolls his head once before cracking his knuckles, and it sounds much louder than Jimin knows it actually is.  He pats Seokjin’s thigh repeatedly, scared for real about what he might be about to witness.

          “Good lord,” Seokjin sighs, unwrapping himself from Jimin and standing up, too.  He and Yoongi approach Hoseok and the other guy, and Jimin watches with wide eyes as Seokjin says something with a smile on his face.  Yoongi chuckles, and Hoseok stares at them for a second before stifling a laugh.  Jimin isn’t sure what they’re saying, but they’re not yelling anymore, and the guy doesn’t throw any more slaps or punches.  He wags a finger at Hoseok, though, which Hoseok only shrugs at, and Yoongi glares at him, and Seokjin waves his hands as if he is sweeping the guy.

          Jimin isn’t exactly sure what just happened. All he knows is Seokjin comes back to put his arms around him again, and Hoseok disappears temporarily only to come back with a bag of ice for his face, and he squats in front of him, his hands on Jimin’s knees, holding it gingerly to Jimin’s face until it turns to water and starts to drip onto Jimin’s jacket.

          All he knows is his face hurts, but he’s got Hoseok back and he’s leaning his head on Seokjin’s shoulder, and he knows the warmth he’s feeling isn’t only from pain.

          It’s mostly the alcohol, but people just stood up for and almost fought for him, apparently, and it makes him giggle and curl up a little.

 

5.     Models are confusing

          Jimin’s looking at Seokjin’s lips and thinking about how much he wants to touch them.

          What’s weird is he hears someone talking, but Seokjin’s plump lips aren’t moving.  Maybe he’s a ventriloquist?  Jimin narrows his eyes at him and leans in closer, but Seokjin only raises an eyebrow and grins a little at him.  Huffing, Jimin pulls away, crossing his arms over his chest and liking how fluffy his jacket is.  Someone’s still talking, though, and he finally turns to find the source of the sound.

           There’s a model beside him.  Not like one of those miniature buildings you see in an actual building or the things you buy in a craft store because you can’t afford the actual car.  An actual model.  From the show.  He’s got amazing hair and high cheekbones, but he looks like he’s never smiled in his life.  He looks so forlorn and sad and serious.  He’s probably hungry.  Models don’t eat enough.

           “You should eat something!” Jimin blurts out to the guy who falters for a minute before his lips almost turn up.  It’s like he’s fighting to not smile.  Jimin doesn’t get it.  He doesn’t know what the guy wants.  But then the guy leans in—he can’t, for the life of him, remember his name, even though he remembers what outfits he wore—and whispers into his ear,

           “I’d like to eat you.”

           Now, Jimin has heard a lot of bad pick-up lines in his life.

           Like, a lot.

           But most of the time what makes a bad line is the delivery.  It’s all about the timing.  The tone.  The stance. And the person giving it.  Someone else could have said the exact same words and Jimin would have melted.  In fact, Seokjin said something earlier, something about taking off his clothes or something that would have sounded sleazy coming from anyone else, but it had made Jimin giggle and feel flushed all at the same time.

           This guy, though, has just said what he said so seriously Jimin knows that he thinks it’s going to be convincing.

           Perhaps the weirdest part of it is he is being so obvious when Jimin is obviously with Seokjin.

           Well, not obviously.  They’re not together together.  But Jimin would much rather lean on him than have this guy lean into his space, so he does a little.  He shifts until he knows his puffy jacket is hitting Seokjin’s sleeve.  And he almost falls into him completely—in a sexy, not clumsy way, of course—when Seokjin puts an arm around his waist.  He doesn’t say anything, so Jimin doesn’t either. They’re both just staring at the guy.

           He’s looking at Jimin.  His eyes are a little fuzzy, though, and Jimin really hopes he isn’t too drunk or stoned or stupid or hungry to not get the message.  He looks at Jimin.  Like, looks at him.  And Jimin likes being looked at.  He really, really does.  But not when he’s with someone else.  Not when he only wants one person to look at him.  And not when the person looking is being so oblivious and rude.

           “Jin,” Jimin says, turning to the guy, not really sure where the nickname has come from.  Seokjin only hums, though, raising an eyebrow at him.  “This guy wants to eat me.”

           “Oh?” Seokjin says, looking back at the guy over Jimin’s shoulder.  “Well, if he does, I’m on the menu, too, and I don’t think he could handle me.  One needs a very refined pallet and bloated wallet to enjoy Kim Seokjin, and I doubt he can afford me.”

           “Oh?” Jimin says, trying to go along with whatever Seokjin is saying and not snicker too much.  The poor man in front of them just looks confused now, and Jimin doesn’t really blame him.  Eventually, he seems to finally get the message, and he mutters before sauntering away, his steps more than enough indication of his inebriation.  

          Jimin can’t help but laugh again once he’s gone, remembering how seriously he had whispered “I want to eat you” in his ear. He full on cackles and almost falls over, but Seokjin’s arm is still around him, and he laughs, too.  Jimin’s never been particularly rich, but he’s pretty positive he can afford Kim Seokjin.  The guy’s probably got a special sale going on.  50% off if your name is Park Jimin.  It feels like Jimin’s lucky day, honestly, so he doesn’t mind dealing with a few cringy failed flirtations if it results in him and his date laughing at other people’s pathetic plights.

 

6.     What’s happening?

          How anyone could be so smooth and yet so clumsy was beyond Jimin.  Seokjin’s friend

          Namjoon was apparently getting drinks for Yoongi and Tae, even though Tae’s wasn’t alcohol.  He is sitting close to Yoongi, looming into his space which is easy to do considering how tall the guy is.  Tae is sitting close to Yoongi, too, though, and leaning in toward him. Yoongi sits between them, a drink in his hand, his mouth moving quickly as he looks at Namjoon.  Namjoon answers back fast, and Jimin can see the two of them conversing easily.  He almost feels bad for the guy for a second when he remembers his blind date with Tae and the bomb he dropped on him, but the soreness in his arms distracts him.

           He can’t remember why he’s holding his arms out so funny.

           He doesn’t know where Seokjin is.

           He also really has to pee.

 

7.     Insole

          Unlike Jimin, Seokjin is prepared when someone he’s talking to mentions his shoes.  He whips out a business card and hands it over with such confidence Jimin bites his lip so he doesn’t drool on the guy’s arm.  

           He wonders if this is how sugar babies feel, hanging on their benefactor’s arm like candy.

           Jimin wants candy.

           He’d like a lollipop, and by lollipop, he means like that song “Candy Shop” which is, surprise, not actually about candy.

           Jimin would like both.  A lollipop and a, wink, wink, lollipop.

           He giggles to himself and tries to stifle it immediately when Seokjin gives him an eyebrow raise, so he waves the idea away with his hand that’s barely sticking out of his sleeves.

           “You’re really good at that,” he almost shouts up at Seokjin because the club is not a good place for talking once the designer that’s not Hoseok and thus means nothing to Jimin has left with Seokjin’s card and a promise to come by.

           “Good at what?” Seokjin asks, seemingly very intrigued by Jimin’s question or the way he’s leaning on him or the look he’s giving him.  Jimin fights an urge to giggle again.

           “Being all professional.  Looking suave.”

           “Suave?”

           “Yeah, you’re very—you’re very.  You’re cool,” Jimin finally settles on.

           “Why thank you.  I mean, I think it’s stifling in here, but that’s probably because I’m so hot,” Seokjin says casually, looking around for a second.  “Is there a coat check here?”

           “Probably,” Jimin shrugs.

           “I’m going—” Seokjin starts, throwing his thumb over his shoulder. Jimin nods but doesn’t let go of his arm.  The guy doesn’t seem to mind, so Jimin shuffles after him partly because the place is crowded and dark but also because he doesn’t want to hit Seokjin’s shoes or anything as they go.  There are only a couple of people just now coming in, so they have to wait for a second, and Jimin has to let go when Seokjin wants his coat off.

           “Do you want—” he says, motioning for Jimin, inquiring about his coat.  “I mean, if you’re not hot, I think you should leave it on, but I can pay for it if you want.”

           “Why should I leave it on?” Jimin frowns, but Seokjin shakes his head and takes his arm again, pulling them away from the coat check.

           “You look good in it.  Cute,” Seokjin says loudly only out of necessity.  Jimin thinks he probably wanted to whisper it to him, but Jimin ducks his head for a moment before looking back up at him, the compliment making him confident.

           “I thought you said earlier you want to take my clothes off.”

           “Not in public,” Seokjin gasps, a hand on his heart as if he was actually shocked.  “I’ll do that later, don’t worry.  You want another drink?”

           “Sure,” Jimin mumbles before nodding in case the guy didn’t hear him.  He must have, though, and the way he smiles at Jimin makes Jimin lick his lips.

           He really, really wants a lollipop now, but the sweetness in the drink Seokjin brings him will have to do for the time being, he supposes.

 

8.     Mario Kart.  Cart.  Cart? Kart.

          Seokjin has a flaw.

          More than one, probably.

          Two for sure.

          One: he likes video games.

          Two: he’s not paying enough attention to Jimin.

          Jimin isn’t even sure why they’re still at the club.  Seokjin said he would take him out after.  It’s surely “after” by this point.  Instead, he’s talking to Jungkook animatedly on the couch they’re currently occupying. And it’s kind of cute, seeing how easily his boss gets riled up over video games.  But he’s used to that.  Seokjin, however, on top of being a successful business owner and the hottest guy Jimin has ever met apparently loves Mario.

           So Jimin is seated by the guy he’s supposed to be on a date with listening to his boss ramble about video games, and Jimin does that every day.  It’s not every day he has a date, though, so he’s thoroughly annoyed.  Plus, they’re practically insulting each other’s mothers at this point, and no video game is worth that.

           The worst part is, they’re debating Mario Kart.

           Who the fuck has a heated discussion about Mario Cart at one in the morning at a busy club in Seoul when they’re sitting next to a hot and eager and willing guy?

           Kim Seokjin and Jeon Jungkook, apparently.  Jimin sighs and sinks into the couch a little, crossing his arms over his chest and trying not to pout as Seokjin and Jungkook keep going at it. Seriously, who the fuck fights over Mario Kart?  The only thing Jimin has ever wondered about that game is why is it spelled Kart with a K and not Cart with a C?  Isn’t that the game where people race through a supermarket and fill their carts up with banana peels?

           Jimin doesn’t care.  It’s not a game Jungkook plays for work, so Jimin really doesn’t care.

           Jimin is hot and hungry and about to be hungover and horny.

           He can’t join in on the conversation, but he can probably get them to stop talking about the dumb game—

           “Waluigi?  Who uses Waluigi?”

           Jimin. Does. Not. Care. What. A. Waluigi. Is.

           Unless it’s some weird new sex move he doesn’t know about.

           He doubts it!

           He knows Jungkook has some game after what he witnessed earlier, but most gamers do not.

           Jimin has game.  Jimin knows how to get Seokjin to stop talking to his boss and start paying attention to him.  His stomach flips once before he moves, though, just a reminder of how drunk he is and how much a fool he’s probably about to make himself.  Still, he sighs and flops his hands on his thighs and gets no response from either men, so he starts to unzip his jacket.

           He’s not putting on a show, so there’s no need to go slow.  He practically tears the thing off, balling it up as much as the puffy material will allow him to, and places it in Seokjin’s lap.

           That gets him a look.

           As it should.

           Seokjin has a nice body.  Jimin can tell even if the guy’s covered in black—fuck, why does everyone wear so much black in winter? It’s depressing as hell and reminds Jimin way too much of Jungkook, who needs to stop talking to his date.  He’s tall and lean and has broad shoulders.  He probably works out a lot.  The thought makes Jimin groan, not because he’s imaging Seokjin working out shirtless, but because he knows Jungkook loves to workout, too.  He is not going to lose his date to Jungkook just because they’re bonding over video games and muscles.

           Jimin can feel Seokjin’s muscles in the arm that he grabs as he shifts toward the guy, pressing his chest against the arm, too.  If he had boobs, the move would be obvious, even if he isn’t batting his eyelashes up at the guy, but his anatomy is a bit different from a girl’s, so he brings his leg slowly up Seokjin’s.  He wonders, briefly, if the shoemaker has a thing for feet and almost giggles, biting his lip.  It probably makes him look shy and sexy, so he doesn’t think much of it as he slips his knee in between Seokjin’s legs, his thigh draped over the man’s slacks under Jimin’s jacket still sitting in Seokjin’s lap.  There’s no resistance, as Seokjin has been sitting with his legs spread wide for a while, a power stance if Jimin has ever seen one.

           “May I help you?” Seokjin says to him, his tone a bit amused.  Jimin wishes he was wearing a shirt with buttons or something so he could play with them, but instead he just puts his hand on the guy’s chest, still a little shy.  He knows the alcohol and annoyance with Jungkook is making him bolder than he normally would be in public, but he also really, really likes the guy he’s almost sitting on, and he doesn’t want him to freak out and push him away or anything.

           “Aw, come on, Jimin, not now!” Jungkook whines, trying to push his hand away. Jimin only swats him.

           “He’s my date!”

           “We’re in the middle of something!”

           “End it!” Jimin huffs, putting his hand back on Seokjin and wiggling closer.

           “Gah, you’re such a needy drunk.”

           “Yeah, well, you’re a stupid drunk,” Jimin says, sticking his tongue out at Jungkook.

           “You big baby,” Jungkook says, rolling his eyes.  “I’m trying to get a potential sponsor here!  Do your job and help me.”

           “Sponsor?” Jimin blinks, looking up at Seokjin.  The guy is not smiling, and he gulps for a second, but then he grins a little when they make eye contact.

           “Jungkook almost has me convinced,” he says.

           “Really?”

           “I’ve just got to play him.  Tuesday? Wednesday?  You set it up, hyung,” Jungkook tells him, and Jimin does not want to work right now.  Jimin should not have to work right now.  So he glares at Jungkook.

           “Seriously?”

           “Yeah.  He says if I can beat him at Mario Kart, he’ll sponsor me.  He has ideas for a new shoe already.”

           “Seriously?” Jimin says a bit softer, looking up at Seokjin.

           “Seriously.  Jungkook is really good, but I know he can’t beat me at Mario Kart.”

           “Seriously?” Jimin mutters to himself, sighing and resigning to his fate. He starts to pull away, but Seokjin’s hand wraps around the junction at his knee.  Jimin’s jacket conveniently covers up the motion, and Jimin thanks himself for his former genius move as he settles back down.  He does not care at all when Seokjin and Jungkook go back to talking about their stupid go carts driven by toads and lizard dinosaurs because he’s got two hands on Seokjin, and Seokjin’s hand is alternating between squeezing his thighs—as he should, Jimin has amazing thighs; they’re very squeezable but can also squeeze things in return—and running his hand gently up and down Jimin’s leg.

           Jimin almost wants to see Seokjin race Jungkook.  He wants to know how fast he can go.  He wants to see what he looks like when he wins.

           But they’re in public, so Jimin closes his eyes and enjoys the slow ride while he can.

 

9.     The inevitable bathroom visit

          At some point in the night or morning, Jimin ends up in the bathroom.  It’s a place people typically go once or twice a day.  Usually it’s because they have to pee.  And Jimin has to.  But sometimes people go to the bathroom to cry or get away or blow somebody. Jimin has never given anyone a blowjob in a bathroom.  He’s classy, okay?  But he has cried in bathrooms before, he’s not above that.

           He’s doing it right now, in fact, even if he can’t remember why he is. He’s lost something.

           Someone comes in, squeaks out a soft “Oh” followed by a puff of air leaving his mouth and another deeper voice saying “What, what?” before the door shuts behind them again.  Jimin is leaning on the counter, crying into the sink.  He hates that he doesn’t even know why he’s crying.  The night is going well.  Sure, his shoes are a little dirty from whatever Namjoon had spilled on them, and he’s a little confused about what’s going on with the guy and Tae and Yoongi, and his cheek still burns a little from getting slapped.

           He got slapped!

           What a night.

           Is he crying because he got slapped?  Jimin doesn’t think it’s that.  He tries to wipe his face off and brush his hair out of his forehead, and when he sees himself in a mirror—yikes—he remembers.  There’s an earring missing from his ear.  That’s where earrings go.  That’s where he used to have a dangling earring.  And it’s gone.  And it was for Hoseok’s show, and Jimin knows Hoseok said he could have a piece of jewelry, but Jimin didn’t ask him which one, and he just stole the earrings from his best friend and then lost one of them.

           Jimin’s the worst.

           “Jimin?” someone says as the bathroom door squeaks open.  The hesitation in the voice disappears as the person takes two long strides to reach him, though.  “Oh, hey, hey, what’s wrong?”

           “Lo-lost an ea-ear-earing,” Jimin cries, pointing to his ear, his naked, empty ear whose hole is longing to be filled.  Seokjin is standing in front of him.  Tall and lean and handsome, and he’s rubbing his hands up and down Jimin’s arms.

           “Aw, it’s okay.  It’s just an earring.”

           “Ho-ho,” Jimin tries, almost laughing through his tears at how he sounds like he’s either trying to be Santa or like he’s insinuating Seokjin is someone who has sex for money.

           “Hoseok?” Seokjin adds helpful.  “You want me to get him?”

           “No,” Jimin panics, grabbing onto Seokjin’s sweater.  He needs buttons to hold on to and twist, but the fabric moves enough as he clenches his fist.  “I st-stole them!”

           “So you do steal from your friends,” Seokjin says, and Jimin thinks he’s making a joke, but he’s too distraught and drunk to care, so he whines and stomps his foot as another wave of tears gush out of him.  “Oh, okay, okay, I’m sorry, we’ll find it.  We’ll find it, okay?  Let’s, uh, let’s see, do you remember when you had it last?”

           “N-no.”

           “Okay.  You just noticed it was gone?”

           “Y-yes.”

           “Okay, okay.  It’ll be okay,” Seokjin soothes again, his arms still moving as he looks around the room. It’s a club bathroom.  A bit too dark and a bit too dirty and way too cramped. “Did you use the bathroom?”      

           “Yeah.”

           “Okay, okay, just stay here for a second, okay?”  It’s probably the second or third time Seokjin’s told him to do that since they’ve arrived, and Jimin doesn’t want him to leave him even if he’s probably safest in the bathroom away from everyone else.  He doesn’t want to be too clingy, though, so he nods and sniffs and wipes his eyes to try to stop crying.  “Up here, yeah?  So I can look around,” Seokjin says, patting the counter.  Jimin will probably fall into the sink if he sits up there, but he complies, anyway, hopping up and pressing his knees together to take up the least amount of space as possible in the room where real estate is already so scarce.  Seokjin rubs his hand briefly over Jimin’s thigh near his knee before beginning his investigation.

           It takes Jimin a second to figure out what he’s doing.  The guy is humming the James Bond theme.  At least, Jimin thinks it is.  It’s that or Jeopardy.  Which wouldn’t make sense.  But he pushes the stall door open like he expects someone to jump out of it.  He looks around the corner once he’s inside back at Jimin, signaling at him with some hand motions Jimin doesn’t think actually mean anything.

           Jimin knows what he’s doing.  He’s trying to get him to stop crying.  Even if he doesn’t find the earring, Seokjin’s going to make Jimin smile.

           It’s really easy, once Jimin understands the guy is not just dicking around.  He is looking, too, but he’d rather Jimin be calm and relaxed first, and that almost makes Jimin want to cry a little more, but he smiles instead.  He presses his hands in between his legs and squeezes his thighs to stop himself from wiggling, and he starts to giggle the more ridiculous Seokjin becomes.  The guy looks so serious even when he’s being so absurd that Jimin can’t help but laugh eventually.  

          It’s when Seokjin gets to the urinal and starts to mime through the motions of unzipping his pants, pulling them down just a little, and whipping out his cock to pee that makes Jimin really giggle, especially as Seokjin is mumbling to himself the whole time.  Jimin is pretty sure all guys pee pretty much the same, so he has no idea why Seokjin is acting it out, but he completely loses it when Seokjin turns around at him, winks, and then squats down a couple of inches as if to get to Jimin’s height.  

          Jimin really does almost fall into the sink, then, but he catches himself with his hand in the semi-wet bowl, but he’s laughing so much he barely hears Seokjin’s “Ah-ha!” until the guy is standing right in front of his knees, holding something shiny up in his fingers.

          “Y-you f-found it!” Jimin says, stuttering now because he needs air in his lungs as he beams and reaches for the earring.

          “Yeah, here, let me,” Seokjin says, holding onto the thing.  He pauses for a moment before running the thing under the tap, Jimin not even bothered by the water splashing over his hand.  He only tries to right himself when Seokjin is done cleaning the earring, still smiling as he sits up straight and turns his face and pushes his ear forward. Seokjin’s hands are soft.  They touch Jimin’s ear gently.  Jimin feels himself shiver despite his sweater and jacket and Seokjin’s close proximity when the cool metal touches him.

          “Sorry,” Seokjin mutters, probably misreading Jimin’s shaking.

          “’so’kay,” Jimin shrugs, not wanting Seokjin to let go of him even when the earring is safely back on.  He reaches for Seokjin’s sweater again, deciding to go for his pants at the last second, instead, the cool leather of his belt making his fingers tremble a little.  Seokjin’s still touching him unnecessarily but very welcomed, his thumb and index finger rubbing Jimin’s earlobe softly, his other hand on his neck, his thumb keeping Jimin’s jaw turned to the side a little.

          “Park Jimin,” Seokjin whispers reverently. Jimin tries to keep breathing.  He wants Seokjin to praise him.  He knows he’s about to.  He tries to steady himself for it, one of his hands still in the fucking sink. “So pretty.”

          “Seok-Seokjin,” Jimin whispers back as Seokjin’s thumb moves across his jaw as he turns his head.  Seokjin’s cupping the back of his neck now with one hand, and his thumb is moving over Jimin’s chin, obviously headed for his lips.  They’re drier than usual.  Jimin’s dehydrated from drinking and dancing and getting slapped and crying in a club bathroom.  He’s also been biting and licking them a lot, and they’re not in the best condition. Still, he moves instinctively when Seokjin’s thumb brushes over them, circling his head a little as Seokjin stays still.

          Jimin has never, ever, hooked up in a bathroom before, but he knows the look in Seokjin’s eyes.  He knows what’s coming.

          And he wants it.  He’s been looking at Seokjin’s lips a lot all night.  He’s been looking at Seokjin’s body a lot. He’s been leaning on him and clinging to him and falling “accidentally” onto and into him.  All of their messages and signs have been clear from the beginning. There’s no reason not to.

          Except they’re in a bathroom.

          “Take me home,” he blurts out, meaning for it to sound like a question, a seductive suggestion, but instead he sounds whiny and pouty and upset.  He’s spoken the words into Seokjin’s thumb that runs over his lips one more time before he scratches the back of Jimin’s neck softly and nods, pulling his hands away only to grab onto the back of Jimin’s ass and thighs—his two greatest assets! Seokjin has good taste!—and half pulling, half lifting him off of the counter until he’s squeaking and flailing a little and holding onto Seokjin’s pants and chest as he crashes into him once he’s on his feet on the floor in front of him.  He has to lift his head to look up, wide-eyed, at Seokjin, and if he wasn’t excited before, Jimin is ecstatic now.  

          He starts to giggle like a kid who’s finally gotten what he wanted.  Like a kid in a candy shop.

          He basically is, and Seokjin smiles at him like someone who’s happy he made someone else happy, and if they weren’t in a bathroom, Jimin would lift himself up, he’d jump or fly if he had to, and kiss the guy, so instead he giggles again and grabs his hand to drag him out of the bathroom.

 

10.  He’s got the moves

          Let it be said and known and understood and proclaimed through all the land that Park Jimin is a good dancer.  He would have been a professional dancer if he hadn’t gotten injured, okay?

           Let it also be said that Kim Seokjin can not dance.

           I mean, he can, as anyone who can walk can technically dance if one defines dancing as moving one’s body to the beat of some music.  But he clearly doesn’t know any moves.  He had let Jimin pull him up from the couch when Jimin insisted that he was bored and he “Loves this song!” but he was just sort of standing there as Jimin danced.

           Jimin didn’t really mind.  He liked being watched.  He liked the chance to show Seokjin what he could do.  But he wanted to dance with the guy, too, so he eventually makes grabby hands at him, and while Seokjin laughs, he takes them, anyway, and proceeds to—well, Jimin doesn’t know what it is.  It’s not an actual dance move.  Seokjin moves his feet like he’s walking on fire.  Or he’s trying to stomp out a fire.  His mouth moves like he’s screaming about a fire.  His legs and torso and then arms ripple and wiggle like he’s on fire.

           And Jimin has no idea what the guy is doing, so he bursts out laughing. Seokjin does not look offended, thankfully.  He merely grins and takes Jimin’s reaction as encouragement, apparently, because the next move he does is—well, Jimin has no idea what it is.  He looks like a praying mantis or one of those airport workers signaling where the plane should land or an inflatable balloon in front of a car shop waving its arms wildly to get your attention, and Jimin loses it.  If he was at home, he would have fallen straight to the floor, but he instead just squats down into a tiny ball and rocks back and forth a few times as he laughs.  His mirth does nothing to deter Seokjin.  If anything, it only makes him dance harder.  Jimin is really afraid he’s going to pull something if he keeps going.  Jimin can imagine him moshing and headbanging and then dying the next day from a broken spine at the rate he’s going, so he stands back up and pulls on the guy’s sleeve to get him to stop and come closer.

           Jimin’s song is over, anyway, and is replaced with something without words but ten times the bass.  He’s just gotten Seokjin closer to him, so close their hips are touching, and then Jimin is slotting himself in between one of Seokjin’s legs because Jimin has thighs but this guy has legs for days, and Seokjin has his hand on his back to keep him steady while one of Jimin’s hands is loose by his side while the other one holds onto Seokjin’s waist, and they’re not dancing, not really. Seokjin’s still barely moving at all. He’s gone a little still, actually, and Jimin doesn’t blame him.  The Jimin Effect has hit him, probably, because men tend to freeze a little when Jimin dances.  And usually, if Jimin honors someone to dance with him, not just watch him dance, they eagerly do back.  He doesn’t exactly mind that Seokjin isn’t really moving back, it almost makes him feel powerful and heady, like Seokjin’s touching him and holding on for his dear life while Jimin just slides over his leg and starts to grind on him more than anything else.  He knows he’s not really dancing anymore, but it seems to work.

           He’s glad his jacket is gone—but he likes that jacket, so he hopes he gets it back—because he’s hot.  He wishes he could just take off his sweater, but he’s in a public place, so he runs his hand up his chest and throws his head back as he moves his hair away. Seokjin follows his neck with his eyes, and Jimin looks at him with a small smirk as he rolls his hips again. He swears he feels Seokjin’s grasp tighten on his back, and Jimin knows he’s hooked him.

           Of course, that’s the exact moment his eyes flicker for a moment to who’s dancing next to him.

           “Dancing.”

           Let it be known that Jeon Jungkook is a good dancer.  Not as good as Jimin, as he never really had any proper training, but the stupid Golden Boy really is good at everything he tries, and he had tried dance for long enough for everyone to know he could have been an idol for how well he can do body rolls.

           It’s slightly unfair.

           So Jimin knows, hypothetically, that Jungkook can dance and can dance well.

           What Jimin did not know, however, was that Jungkook had no problem bumping and grinding on strangers in a club at two in the morning when he was probably highly intoxicated.  And Jimin is used to shy gamer Jungkook who acts like he hates attention and tenses a little when Jimin hugs him sometimes.  That’s the reason why Jimin knows Jungkook must be more drunk than he thought, because he is going hard on the guy.

           Like, Jimin wouldn’t be surprised if the guy was hard, the way Jungkook kept practically twerking on him.

           That was an image Jimin wishes he had never seen.  The kid’s like his baby brother despite him being only a year younger and a full-fledged adult, and it’s his turn to go still enough in Seokjin’s arms that the guy follows his gaze.

           “Is that—?”

           “Jungkook?  The guy you might sponsor?  Yeah,” Jimin sighs, releasing Seokjin.  He doesn’t know the guy Jungkook is dancing with, which means Jungkook probably doesn’t know him, either.  His friend’s eyes are a little hazy by the time he pushes through the crowd to get to him, but they light up a little when he recognizes Jimin.

           “Minnie!” Jungkook slurs, throwing his hands over Jimin’s shoulders and swaying back and forth, getting precariously closer to Jimin.  The guy behind him glares at Jimin so hard Jimin rolls his eyes and sticks out his tongue childishly before steadying Jungkook. Knowing how usually Jimin is the stumbling drunk, he figures it’s time to get Jungkook home.  Which sucks, because Jimin was supposed to go somewhere with Seokjin.  Seokjin, who he turns around and doesn’t see in the crowd.

           “Dance with me!” Jungkook is yelling too loudly, but Jimin shakes his head and re-positions them so he’s got an arm behind Jungkook and leads him away like some soldier from a battlefield.  The dance floor might as well be one.  The boy is sweating so much, and the top two buttons of his top have come undone. It’s hard to push past everyone until they’re free, and Jimin doesn’t really know where he is in the place, but he sees the most lit up place—the bar—and heads there, suddenly feeling suffocated and anxious.  He needs to find Hoseok or Tae or Seokjin or everyone all at once and go home.

           He needs water and a shower and sleep and a sweet bun in the morning.  

           Maybe two.

           For the time being, only one of his wishes comes true while he’s trying to compose a text to everyone on his phone, the keys spinning and looking like alphabet soup which makes Jimin want to hurl.  Hoseok, his shirt undone from his pants and unbuttoned a little more than the last time he saw him, manages to wave and stumble toward them, throwing an arm around Jimin’s shoulder when he arrives.

           “My best friend!”

           “Kookie’s drunk!” Jimin roars over the music.

           “I’m drunk!” Jungkook reiterates.

           “Me too!” Hoseok shouts as if they’ve all won for the evening.  Jimin has not.  He doesn’t know where Seokjin is.

           “He needs to go home!”

           “I’ll take him!” Hoseok says, patting the boy’s leg before motioning for him to get up.

           “I’m so drunk!” Jungkook says as he stands up, holding onto Hoseok and Jimin’s arms as he does to avoid falling over.

           “Me too!” Hoseok repeats, looping his arm in Jungkook’s.  “Where’s your pretty boy?”

           “What?”

           “Jin?  Your date?”

           “I don’t know,” Jimin pouts, looking around for a tall man with dark hair in the crowd wearing black.  It’s, as he expects, impossible to find him.

           “I’m going to take Kookie home!”

           “Yeah, thanks!”

           “Text me later, yeah?”

           “Okay,” Jimin says, kissing his friend’s cheek and patting Jungkook’s hair as Hoseok half carries him away, Jungkook shouting one more time for good measure as if anyone cares,

           “I’m drunk!”

           So is Jimin, but you don’t see him doing the dirty with strangers and ruining people’s evenings and losing your date in a crowd, now do you?

           Jimin really needs to pee.  He can look for Seokjin later.

           Maybe.  If he doesn’t feel so nauseous after his trip to the bathroom.  Bathrooms are gross.  Things tend to happen in bathrooms.  But Jimin has needed to pee for what feels like hours.  He can look for Seokjin mater.

           Laybe.

           God, Jimin is so drunk.

 

           God, Jimin is so hungover.

           And still naked.

           Still sitting on his floor in his sheets, looking up at Kim Seokjin.

           In his bed.

           Fully clothed.

           Probably also hungover but looking way too good if he is.

           “Don’t look, I’m naked!” Jimin blurts out so loudly that Seokjin winces and slams his eyes shut, slapping a hand over them for good measure, too. “Why am I naked?” he squeaks next, lifting up the sheet enough to look at himself.  He has no new bruises or marks or anything.

           “That tends to happen when you take your clothes off,” Seokjin mumbles from the bed, just enough that Jimin lowers his sheets and stares at him suspiciously.

           “Why am I,” he emphasizes, “naked and you aren’t?”

           “That tends to happen,” Seokjin yawns, his hand still over his eyes, “when you don’t get undressed.”  Jimin huffs and pouts, but Seokjin can’t see him, so he sighs loudly, annoyed the guy isn’t being serious.  Seokjin lowers one of his fingers, peeking out from them until he lowers his hand completely, obviously deeming Jimin’s exposed torso as not really naked.

           “We didn’t do anything, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he says more seriously to Jimin’s relief.  Except—

           “How do you know?”

           “Because I wasn’t that drunk.  You really don’t remember?”  Jimin shakes his head lightly before looking around the room.  He sees one of his shoes by the door.  His pants are hanging over his chair.  His jacket is, miraculously, hung up in his open and messy closet.  He has no idea where his boxers are, but he moves a hand through his hair and touches the tip of one his earrings.

           Then he remembers.

           “Oh,” he mumbles.

           “Oh?” Seokjin says from the bed.

           “I remember,” Jimin says, biting his lip.

           He remembers pulling Seokjin out of the bathroom.  He knew Hoseok and Jungkook were already gone, but he didn’t bother to check on Yoongi and Tae or Namjoon.  He needed to kiss Seokjin.  He remembers getting on the train and it being so empty they found a seat.  Well, Seokjin found one, and Jimin found one in his lap.  And Seokjin laughed a little as Jimin clung to him and finally got to nuzzle his cheek a little.  And Seokjin kept tsking at him and reprimanding him, something about public and decency and patience and “cute, cute, cute.”  Jimin remembers him calling him cute a lot and pecking his cheek on the train like that was their thing.  Jimin remembers melting a little and letting everything hit him as the train moved on.  He rested his head on Seokjin’s shoulder and may have fallen asleep in the warmth of his jacket and Seokjin’s arms around him.

           He remembers stumbling off the train, too, though, and into a store. Seokjin kept mumbling about food, but Jimin kept insisting he wanted a lollipop.  He shut up when Seokjin gave him one, and he licked and sucked on it happily as they walked the rest of the way to his place.  He remembers tripping a few times and laughing.  There was a lot of laughing.  He maybe tried to seduce Seokjin with the lollipop. Seokjin may have laughed at him and called him “cute” a couple more times.

           Seokjin fed him.  Jimin remembers this because he just wanted to sleep but Seokjin insisted.  And the food was good, even if it took too long. Everything was taking too long. Jimin wanted a kiss and bed and sweet buns in the morning, but Seokjin just kept chuckling like he knew what Jimin wanted but he wasn’t going to give it to him.

           He remembers pouting and trying to get his way and acting cuter and cuter until Seokjin smacked his butt and told him to go shower while he washed dishes. Jimin remembers squawking a little before scurrying away to do just that.

           And then he remembers coming out of the shower with a towel on his hips and another one drying his hair to find no Seokjin in his room yet.  And he remembers falling into bed, still working on his hair while he waited.

           Then he remembers waking up.

           “I, I’m sorry,” he mumbles, dropping his head.

           “For what?”

           “I fell asleep?  Also, I was naked?  I’m so sorry.”

           “It’s okay,” Seokjin chuckles.  “I mean, I was a little surprised, but you probably just forgot I was here.”

           “No,” Jimin says, shaking his head adamantly.  “I totally didn’t!  I was waiting!  I just, I fell asleep.”

           “Sorry about that.  I tend to, uh, clean a lot when I’m drunk.”

           “I thought you said you weren’t drunk?”

           “I said I wasn’t very drunk.  I was not as drunk as you.”

           “Sorry,” Jimin mutters again, dropping his head and picking at his sheets.

           “Don’t apologize.  Nothing bad happened, right?  And you’re super cute.”

           “Yeah, but, I thought,” Jimin says before sighing, figuring he should just forget it.

           “What?” Seokjin says, but Jimin shakes his head.  “What?  Thought you were going to get to lick my lollipop?”

           Jimin gasps and immediately groans, pulling the sheet over his head as Seokjin laughs, hoping the world will disappear with his vision.

           “What?  What? It’s not a secret.  You even let the poor shop owner know.”

           “Oh my god, kill me now,” Jimin says, flopping to the ground and curling up.

           “Oh, hey, hey, I’m sorry,” Seokjin says, though he’s still laughing.   “It was seriously cute.  But you were way too drunk for that.”

           “I am so sorry I ruined our date,” Jimin still groans.

           “You didn’t ruin it.  I had a great time.  It was way more eventful than anything I had planned.”

           “What did you have planned?” Jimin mumbles, too curious not to.

           “I was just going to take you to eat.  I like eating.  Since you’re not a professional model, you can eat, too, right?  You didn’t eat much last night.  I’d be offended, but I think you just really wanted a lol—”

           “Stop!” Jimin whines, kicking his feet pedantically as Seokjin laughs again. “I always want sugar when I’m drunk.”

           “Uh huh,” Seokjin says, chuckling again.  Jimin feels something patting his head, so he pulls the sheet down to blink up at the guy smiling at him from the edge of his bed where he’s lying down on his stomach.  “Are you hungry now?   We could go for sweet bread.”

           “I,” Jimin says, his heart melting.  “I’d like that.”

           “Cool,” Seokjin says, bouncing up and sitting on the edge of Jimin’s bed with an excited look.  “Then get up and get dressed.”  Jimin doesn’t like that.  He groans and pulls the sheet back over his head, but he feels it being pulled away again, and he squeaks a little as he tries to grab it.  Seokjin gets enough of it away from him—with his toes! Jimin notices! His toes!—that he’s about to be exposed again, so he sits up and grabs it in time to keep his bottom half decent.  Glaring up a little at Seokjin who’s only smiling, Jimin really does think the guy looks too good for having just woken up after so much drinking the night before.

           “How do you do that?” he blurts out.

           “Do what?”

           “Uh. Look so good in the morning?”

           “Oh. Genetics.  Rice and water, I guess,” Seokjin shrugs.  “I could say the same to you.”

           “No, don’t,” Jimin mutters, collecting his sheet to stand up.

           “Park Jimin,” Seokjin says, his full name making Jimin feel like he’s in trouble. He stands still, then, facing the guy with his sheet pooled in front of him.  “You’re beautiful.  I don’t think you understand how hard it was last night not to.”

           “Not to what?” Jimin says slowly, pretty sure he already knows the answer as Seokjin reaches for him.

           “Not to do something.”

           “Do-do what?” Jimin says, knowing he’s being a brat now.  But all that’s separating him from Seokjin’s hand on his hip is a thin sheet, and he’s got goosebumps darting all over his skin as he shuffles closer to the guy to stand in between his legs.  He’s staring down at him, waiting, but he bites his lip a little because he doesn’t like this.  Seokjin seems to not, either, because he stands up, Jimin’s hands and collected sheet trapped in between their chests, and brushes his thumb over Jimin’s lips one time before bending down to kiss him.

           It’s something, alright.

           Jimin knows, theoretically, that they probably both don’t taste their best.

           But it feels amazing.  Kissing Seokjin feels like hugging a pillow.  Like falling into a cloud.  His lips match Jimin’s in plumpness, but they’re wider and bigger than his and easily take over. Jimin doesn’t mind.  He sighs a little, even, with how Seokjin seems to be towering over him.  He arches his back a little, pressing his chest closer to Seokjin’s and leaning his head back so the guy has to chase him.  He loves that he does.  It makes him feel like giggling, but he nips at Seokjin’s lip instead and gets a harder one in return followed by the softest suck on his bottom lip before Seokjin is pulling away, guiding Jimin back to the ground with his hands because apparently Jimin had been reaching on his toes for him.  

           They’re close enough that when Seokjin reaches for Jimin’s hands, the sheet pretty much stays in place on Jimin’s stomach, but it falls enough to reveal his chest and shoulders and neck completely.  Seokjin’s doing this thing where he alternates between looking at Jimin’s eyes and face and the part of his body that he kisses which is making Jimin spin a little because he doesn’t know where to look.  

He sees Seokjin lift his small fingers to his lips and kiss them one by one.  It makes him swallow and breathe abnormally.

           He watches the guy duck his head to kiss his chest while still holding his hands and tries not to shiver too much from the ticklish sensations.

           He goes a little cross-eyed when he tries to follow Seokjin’s lips to his shoulders and neck until he just tilts his head back and sighs as the man continues.

           “I-I’m not complaining,” he says when he feels like he can’t take it anymore if they really are about to leave, “but I thought you promised me food.”

           “I thought you wanted my lollipop,” Seokjin mumbles into Jimin’s neck before kissing behind his ear.

           “Oh my god,” Jimin groans again, trying to wiggle his hands out of Seokjin’s grasp.

           “Sorry, sorry,” Seokjin laughs into Jimin’s skin, a sensation and sound that makes Jimin’s whole body hum and long for more.  “Food first, you’re right.”

           “Yeah,” Jimin mumbles as Seokjin starts to pull away until he’s moving Jimin’s hands down to his sheet so he can step away.

           “Well?” Seokjin says, cocking his head a little once he’s not touching Jimin anymore.  Jimin’s lip, still tingling and feeling exceptionally lonely and underutilized, is sticking out.  “Cute,” Seokjin laughs, running his finger down Jimin’s nose and booping it once before smacking his butt.  It jolts Jimin, and, to his greater embarrassment, makes him squeak again. Seokjin only laughs at him.

           “I’ll go use Hoseok’s shower.  I can borrow some of his clothes, right?  I’d ask you, but, well, you’re so little.”

           “Go away,” Jimin huffs, pushing on the guy while holding his sheet still. “Get out of my room.  Leave!”

           “Okay, okay,” Seokjin laughs as he lets Jimin move him through his doorway. “Hoseok won’t mind, right?”

           “He will 100% mind!” Jimin says, but Seokjin only shrugs and waves as he heads down the hall.  Once he sees the man disappear into his friend’s room, Jimin shuts the door with a sigh.

           He absolutely does not scream and giggle when he hears Hoseok’s shower turn on (he does), and even then, he does not get back into bed and roll around for a while (he does), and he definitely doesn’t lick his lips excessively and pick at them (he does), and he 100% for sure does not take forever getting dressed and putting on a little bit of eyeliner before he leaves his room (he does).

           He really does want a sweet bun, but he thinks he’s more excited about having something after breakfast.  He giggles as he wonders what’s on Kim Seokjin’s menu for the day.  Whatever it is, Jimin knows he can afford it.  Today, the entire store is free for him, and he’s going to take everything he can.

           Seokjin apparently really does love food.  He brings Jimin to his favorite sweet bun shop, the same place Jimin had first seen him, and orders enough for an entire week only to proceed to eat five while Jimin nibbles on his one.  He has no idea where it’s gone, but he’s only impressed, not disgusted, with the man’s appetite.  He’s also, Jimin learns, as they sit and talk calmly over their coffee, the most unashamed person Jimin has ever met.  And Jimin’s best friend is Jung Hoseok, so that’s really saying something.

           He’s extremely silly and goofy and a bit of a dork, too, though.  He’s loud and loves to laugh.  But he’s serious, too, and discusses his business and dreams with a severity Jimin has never seen rivaled.  It’s easy, Jimin finds, to talk to him, and they fall into a comfortable rhythm as the morning wears away.

           Jimin knows his humor isn’t for everyone.  He loves sarcasm and teasing and being playful, and Kim Seokjin seems to have the exact same style.  With anyone else, Jimin would have been concerned, but Seokjin seems to know when to joke, when to be serious, when to joke seriously, and when to seriously joke. When they leave the shop a couple of hours later, even though Jimin is feeling the exhaustion hit him from the night before—and the sugar making him crash, he knows, he knows, thank you, Hoseok—he also feels jittery.  It’s not the coffee.  It’s not even the possibility of going back to his place and sucking Seokjin’s cock.

           It’s just Seokjin.  The way he makes Jimin feel small but safe, taken seriously but given the freedom to be silly.  He likes the way the guy looks at him, and he likes the way the guy looks, and Jimin just has a really, really good feeling about the guy.  He’s confident they’ll go on another date.  The promise of more time with the guy makes him giggle and cling to his arm as he practically skips back home, his eagerness probably clear now even though Seokjin is just smiling and walking calmly beside him.  He looks, if nothing else, endeared, and Jimin knows that all of his imaginings from the night before could never compare to the reality of his first date with Kim Seokjin.

 

           Seokjin tastes good.

           “You are,” Seokjin sighs in between kissing Jimin, “what you eat,” he says, because apparently Jimin had voiced his thought out loud.

           “Are you,” Jimin chuckles, kissing the guy again before sitting up from where he’s perched on his hips, “saying you’re going to turn into a sweet bun?”

           “Why?  Wanna eat me?” Seokjin quips, earning himself a playful bite from where Jimin’s rucking the guy’s shirt up.

           “Fuck, you’re, you’re hot,” Jimin blurts out when he sees the guy’s abs and chest the more he pushes his—Hoseok’s—shirt out of the way. Seokjin actually looks a little uncomfortable with the compliment or with getting undressed, or something, but Jimin can not get Hoseok’s clothes dirty.  “Take this off.”

           “Bossy,” Seokjin mumbles as he lets Jimin peel it off.

           “I’ve been known to be a little bratty,” Jimin shrugs, tossing Hoseok’s shirt over his nightstand and resuming his exploration of Seokjin’s chest.

           “I could tell,” Seokjin says, sighing and flopping loosely back on the bed as Jimin kisses his chest while his small hands run up and over his skin.

           “Yeah?” Jimin mumbles between kisses.  “What else could you tell?”

           “I knew you’d have a great ass.”

           “How do you know?” Jimin gasps, sitting up a little before turning red.

           “I mean, you were just face down, ass up last night, like, you have no idea how surprised I was.  I was so confused, like, I don’t know what you’re into,” Seokjin says until Jimin clamps a hand over his mouth and smiles a fake but sweet smile.

           “What else could you tell?” he says, only moving his hand when Seokjin starts to kiss his palm.

           “I can tell you like compliments,” Seokjin says lowly even as Jimin lowers himself back down to mouth at Seokjin’s neck and sternum.  “And praise.  Which is great, because you’re very praiseworthy.”  Jimin hums a little negatively against Seokjin’s stomach as he shifts his legs further down.  Seokjin isn’t touching him, which makes him a little sad, but he’s still glad the guy is letting him do what he wants so far.  

          “I think you should be more confident than you are.  You’re not just cute.  You’re hot, too, and everyone knows confidence is sexy,” Seokjin says as Jimin starts to kiss his belly button.  “I think-I think you’re a bit of a tease.”

          “What?” Jimin draws out, pretending to be surprised as he grins up at Seokjin.  Even with a funny double chin staring down at him the guy looks good.

          “I think you like feeling short and small, so you like guys who are taller than you, and you love to laugh, and you take really good care of your friends, but you need someone to take care of you,” Seokjin says softly, finally touching Jimin by cupping his face and lifting him up a little.  Jimin’s frowning a little, so Seokjin licks his lips.  “No?”

          “No, I,” Jimin mumbles.  “You’re right.”

          “Okay,” Seokjin says, still soft as he moves Jimin’s hair out of his forehead only for it to fall back down.  “Then let me help you, yeah?  Keep going.”

          “Yeah,” Jimin mumbles, his fingers shaking a little as he starts to undo Seokjin’s pants.  He’s not nervous or scared at all.  I mean, he’s a little nervous.  He wants to do well.  But he knows he will.  And he isn’t worried about Seokjin hurting him.  He’s just—he really wishes he hadn’t let go of him so quickly.  Sure, he lifts his hips to help Jimin pull his pants down, but his arms are just lying by his side, and Jimin tries not to whine as he gets his hands on the guy’s thighs, but he must huff or sigh or pout or something, because Seokjin’s pulling his chin up so he can look over the growing bulge in front of him into Seokjin’s face again.

          “What’s wrong?” he says seriously, because it’s serious sexy time, and Jimin doesn’t want to mess it up, but he knows what he wants, so he leans into Seokjin’s hand a little with his lip out and mumbles,

          “Can you just—can you just touch me?  I want—I like the contact.”  Seokjin tsks and coos and makes Jimin feel his face flush and the warmth pooling in his stomach intensify as the man strokes his cheek with his thumb.

          “Aw, baby, I can do that.  Do you like your hair pulled?”

          “No,” Jimin mumbles, though he gets another coo and soft thumb on his face again.

          “Alright, I’ll be careful.  I won’t let you go.”  Jimin tries not to think of his words too much, because they would make his stomach swoop too much, but he likes that Seokjin is true to his word.  He moves to holding Jimin’s hands once his boxers come off, and Jimin likes lollipops, really, but he finds that he likes Seokjin’s cock more.

          Still, the best part, the part that makes him want to giggle and squirm and come, too, though he’s patient and waits his turn, are the little sounds that Seokjin makes.  They’re a mixture of his name and little pet names like he’s trying out different ones and praises after praises that make Jimin hum and grin and lick and suck like Seokjin’s the best thing he’s ever tasted.

          He finds that he really doesn’t even have to pretend.  Kim Seokjin is delicious, and he may be ruining Jimin for other men quicker than Jimin ever expected.

 

          They don’t even get up when Hoseok comes home hours later and shrieks like the bears who want to eat Goldilocks because someone’s shoes are by his door that he doesn’t recognize.

          “Wait ‘til he misses his shirt,” Jimin whispers, giggling against Seokjin’s chest.  They’re hiding under the covers, which is ridiculous, because it’s obvious there are two bodies under them, which Hoseok obviously knows the second he opens the door.

          “Ah!” he screams again, being too loud and too dramatic even if Jimin has eaten and had enough water and another nap and is feeling much better.

          “Surprise!” Jimin screams back, as if anyone else would be in his bed as he sits up.

          “Hi,” Seokjin says less enthusiastically, grinning and waving.

          “Did everyone get some but me last night or something?” Hoseok grumbles, throwing his hands up as he stomps away.

          “Maybe if you stopped sleeping with your models!” Jimin shouts after him, giggling again when Seokjin starts to pull the covers back up.

          “Hold on, did I see my shirt in there?” Hoseok says, his footsteps approaching faster.

          “Oh my god, it was nice meeting you,” Jimin says, clinging onto Seokjin.

          “Jimin,” Hoseok snaps, and if Jimin was alone, he’d be terrified, but instead he holds onto Seokjin’s waist.  The poor guy is probably thinking he’s gotten involved with a weirdo, and Jimin is just glad they put their underwear back on when Hoseok yanks the blanket off of them.

          “Jin, save me!” Jimin screams, already trying to get away from Hoseok before the guy even moves.  Seokjin, to his credit and Jimin’s great delight, maneuvers Jimin completely until he’s locked in his limbs, and he throws in a growl for good measure over Jimin’s shoulder that has him cackling at how confused Hoseok looks.

          “You two, uh,” he says, lifting a finger.

          “Get your shirt and get out of my room!” Jimin says, sticking his tongue out for good measure.

          “Fine.  Don’t take my stuff without asking.  You know the rules.  Also, call Jungkook.  He can’t find his phone.”

          “How am I supposed to call him then?” Jimin snorts, laughing at how confused Hoseok looks.

          “Oh, right.  Uh, I don’t know, he went back to his place I think.  Just, please, it’s almost four o’clock.”

          “Whatever, go away,” Jimin says again.

          “I’m going, I’m going,” Hoseok huffs, grabbing his shirt and throwing them a quick wave.  “Seokjin.”

          “Hoseok,” Seokjin says politely, waiting for the door to close before he nips Jimin’s shoulder.

          “Ack, duty calls, and by duty I mean Jungkook,” Jimin sighs, curling up in Seokjin’s lap.  “I don’t want to go.”

          “You are super whiny,” Seokjin grins, kissing his pouting lips once.

          “But you think it’s cute?” Jimin asks tentatively.

          “I think you’re cute.  But Hoseok’s right, we’ve kind of been in bed all day.”

          “So?  I could lounge for hours.  I want to.”

          “Your boss needs help.”

          “Boo,” Jimin sighs before sighing again with more effort.  He hugs Seokjin once more before letting go.  “Fine.  Were you serious about sponsoring him, by the way?”

          “Oh, yeah, totally.”

          “Okay, well, I’ll set that up then and let you know.”

          “That’s days away,” Seokjin says as Jimin starts to look through his closet for something to wear.

          “Yeah?”

          “So can I see you before then?  For a real date.  With just us two?  Maybe no alcohol this time.”

          “I’d like that,” Jimin says, smiling into his closet.

          “Awesome.  Also, if you can’t find Jungkook’s phone, let me know.”

          “Okay, I mean, it’s not a big deal,” Jimin says as Seokjin stretches and starts to get out of his bed.  “I don’t want to bother you.”

          “I only meant, he’s a little taller than you, so you might not be able to see from his perspective, so—”

          “Get out,” Jimin says, pointing his finger toward his door all while trying to hold back his smile.

          “I mean, I could work on a pair of your shoes, then you’d—”

          “Out,” Jimin says, grinning now.

          “I like you short, you see, but—”

          “Leave.”

          “Maybe just—”

          “Bye.”

          “Okay,” Seokjin grins, cupping Jimin’s face quickly and giving him a kiss before grabbing his clothes.  He leaves without another word out Jimin’s door with his clothes in his hands, and Jimin laughs when he hears Hoseok scream again, something about not being safe in his own home.  When he pulls a sweater on and stares at his bed, it suddenly seems too empty and too quiet.

          But duty calls.  Or, he would, if he hadn’t lost his phone, so Jimin shimmies into his pants and slips on his shoes and apologizes to Hoseok with a quick hug, congratulating him on the show again before he leaves.

 

          Jimin ends up seeing Seokjin the next day.  And the next.  And every day until Wednesday when Jungkook picks a time in the evening to play Mario Kart with him.

          He just couldn’t help it.  Seokjin couldn’t seem to wait, either.  It’s just another thing he learns they share in common. They are both extremely impatient and extremely stubborn.  They love to be right, and they are slow to admit when they are wrong.

          Jimin can tell Seokjin uses humor in all instances that he’s uncomfortable or senses that someone else is.  And he appreciates that, really.  The only thing that he can tell will be a problem is if they misread each other and think they’re still joking when they’re being serious.  It’s something that takes time and clear communication.  But that’s serious stuff for later.  For now, Jimin enjoys going to eat with the guy and stopping by his shop and sleeping over at his place—it’s nice to see another side of Jin.  His apartment is homey, and he’s not as clean as Hoseok, but he’s neater than Jimin.  He has a pet hamster named Hamtaro that Jimin doesn’t understand but Seokjin promises to educate him on later.  And he proudly shows off a collection of plushies and figurines.

          Sometimes Jimin wonders if his friends Hoseok and Jungkook were just preparing him for Kim Seokjin.  He’s not bothered at all by anything the guy shows or tells him. Seokjin, for all his obvious confidence, seems a little surprised at first, and the way he thanks Jimin and kisses him makes Jimin wonder about his past relationships.

          But that’s a serious conversation for later.

          For now, he’s sitting on Jungkook’s floor like he so often is, but this time Seokjin is there.  The two act like old friends, but they’re bickering like an old married couple as they play, and Jimin has always found it hilarious how gamers fight—with their words and never their fists.  Even though Jungkook is good at boxing—what isn’t he good at?—he would never hurt a fly.  He’s honestly just not good at insulting anyone, either, so he resorts mostly to noises and sticking out his tongue which just seems to aggravate and egg Seokjin on more.

          They had promised not to drink again for a while, but Jimin doesn’t miss it.  He finds Seokjin’s company enjoyable enough without any aid.  He does feel a little bad for the guy when Jungkook wins, and even though Seokjin throws a huge fit, he grows serious again as he shakes Jungkook’s hand and promises him to set up the sponsorship through Jimin as soon as possible.  Jimin knows you’re not supposed to mix business and pleasure, but he gets excited about seeing Seokjin even more.

          It’s not like they see each other every day, though.

          Jungkook still needs to travel for work, and Seokjin has his own business to run, and they each have their own friends.

          Still, they spend each night face timing if they didn’t see each other, and Jimin discovers Seokjin is absolutely hopeless over the phone, but it’s endearing how hard he tries to make terrible jokes that always still manage to leave Jimin cackling.

          They don’t talk of anything too serious, but Jimin doesn’t mind.

          Of course, he doesn’t mind until he does.

 

          The drought is over.  He’s been getting cuddles and kisses and then some for almost a month now.  The year continues to get colder, and Jimin has been really warm lately despite the weather.  Seokjin keeps him warm even when he’s not around.  He hasn’t felt this good in a long time.

          Which means he’s about to hit the needy stage where he gets self-conscious and unsure of everything and needs constant validation and attention so he doesn’t have to worry.  It’s the stage most of his previous potential boyfriends haven’t gotten past.  But Jimin knows it’s a pattern, and it’s hitting like clockwork.  

          It’s also probably happening because Jimin can be a jealous bitch sometimes, and he’s eating dinner with Yoongi and Tae like he has been for a while now, except someone else is there.

          Hoseok and Jungkook and Seokjin were all busy.

          But Namjoon is there.

          It’s not like Jimin brought him.

          He’s just there.

          He’s there as their guest.

          As their—

          “Boyfriend?” Jimin tries to repeat respectfully instead of choking on his rice.

          “Yeah,” Tae beams at the guy who shows his dimples before resuming his dinner.

          “That’s—” Not fair.  “Wow, awesome.”  If Hoseok or Jungkook were there, they would elbow him in the ribs and tell him to be nice, but Tae only smiles at him.  Yoongi’s eyes narrow a little because Yoongi is one observant mother fucker, so Jimin ducks his head and keeps his mouth full for the rest of the meal.

          Still, Yoongi keeps an eye on him more than he usually does the rest of the night, even though Jimin laughs and has fun playing board games with them until he thinks it’s late enough to make an excuse to go home.

          “I’ll walk you,” Yoongi says.  Everyone stares at him in confusion for a second, because he has never once offered to walk Jimin home, and he feels like he’s being sent to the principal’s office and he doesn’t even know what he’s done wrong he didn’t do anything wrong he didn’t cheat or take the pencil—

          “It’s okay,” he mumbles, standing up to get his coat.

          “I insist,” Yoongi says, doing the same but moving much slower.  “I haven’t been out of the house all day.”

          “Still stuck on that piece?” Namjoon says like he knows everything about Yoongi.

          “Yeah, but I’ll figure it out.  I’ll be back in less than an hour, okay, Tae?”

          “You sure, babe?”

          “Of course.  Have fun,” he says, letting Tae hug him and kiss his hair.  Namjoon puts an arm around Tae and smiles at Yoongi, and Jimin smiles before turning away because he knows Yoongi isn’t just being polite.

          “You don’t, uh, watch or anything when they—” he finds himself asking once they’re outside, their coats pulled tightly around their necks but their small frames still shaking in the cold wind.

          “That’s a bit personal, don’t you think?” Yoongi huffs, and Jimin curls his fingers in his pocket tighter, feeling like shit.

          “Sorry.”

          “I’m messing with you,” Yoongi drawls.  “If you really want to know, I do sometimes.”

          “I see.”

          “But Namjoon’s still shy, I think, so I’d rather give them some time alone.”

          “I see.”

          “But he’s really great,” Yoongi continues.  “I was suspicious at first.  We have, like, the exact same taste in music, which never happens.  Plus, that night at the club, he was just talking to me.  He barely even noticed Tae.”

          “That’s suspicious?”

          “It’s rare,” Yoongi shrugs.  “I mean, you’ve seen Tae.  People usually always go for him first.”  Jimin hums, seeing Yoongi’s point.  “That’s what Tae said he liked about him.  That he always talks to me first.”

          “Ah.”

          “It’s a big deal.  Communicating.”

          “Yeah.”

          “You have to do it.”

          “Uh huh.”

          “Jimin,” Yoongi says.  They’re at a street corner, but the guy stops, so Jimin does, too, looking at the guy with a raised eyebrow.  “Whatever it is, you should talk to Seokjin about it.”

          “Seok—what do you mean?”

          “I mean,” Yoongi sighs.  “Namjoon is as big of a busy body as Tae and I are.  He talks about Seokjin a lot.  He’s clearly happy but a little distracted lately. It’s not a bad thing.  Sometimes I’m sitting in front of my easel with my brush in the air and just see Tae’s face.  And I get nothing done.  Well, nothing that anyone would deem productive done.  I don’t have a finished project done.  That’s not all that matters, but whatever, what I’m trying to say is, there’s nothing wrong with being in love.”

          “I’m not—”

          “Or head over heels for someone.  Whatever you want to call it.  It’s a phase every relationship goes through.  And I’m not trying to be a downer and say it’s going to end soon, but it will end.  The thing is, phase two can only start if you’ve talked about it beforehand.”

          “What’s, what’s phase two?” Jimin mumbles, not sure he wants to know.

          “It’s commitment,” Yoongi shrugs.  “Setting boundaries and expectations.  It requires talking.”

          “I don’t—” Jimin says, sighing and watching the streetlights change color.

          “You are,” Yoongi says simply, crossing the street once it’s safe to.  Jimin hustles after him, not sure how Yoongi knew what he was going to say.  Yoongi’s a bit scary like that sometimes, Jimin thinks. “You’re great at talking.  Not as great as Tae, maybe, but it’s probably because you’re used to listening to others more.  Just go tell Seokjin what you need.  Or want.”

          “Did you, were you the one who asked Tae?”

          “To be his boyfriend?” Yoongi guesses correctly again at Jimin’s meaning, but he still waits for Jimin to nod before continuing. “Fuck no.  I was way too terrified.  Tae was, is, like, this sex god.  No, no, I mean, he looks like a sex god.  He looks like he could fuck you good and then cuddle with you afterwards, right?”

          “Uh,” Jimin mumbles, not sure how to answer honestly without offending the guy.  Yoongi just snorts, obviously knowing Jimin means “yes.”

          “He can, so, I get it.  And yes, before you freak out, we have.  Like twice.  Anyway, that’s because, for one, we didn’t talk about things first.  My fault.  And that almost messed things up completely.  Again, my fault.  We didn’t magic our way into the best relationship you’ve ever seen.”  Jimin smiles, wondering if it was Yoongi’s confidence and lack of giving a shit about society’s standards for normality that made him and Seokjin seem to click when they first met.  “But you can’t wait around hoping Seokjin will understand and ask first like Tae did.  Seokjin’s not Tae.  No offense.”

          “None taken,” Jimin smiles, shrugging through his puffy jacket.

          “So just tell him.  Or ask him.  That’s why we’re here, right?”

          “Where?” Jimin says as Yoongi stops again.

          “I mean, this isn’t your place, is it?”

          “It’s not?” Jimin frowns, looking up. It’s—not.  This is not his street at all.  “That’s Jin’s apartment.”

          “Huh,” Yoongi says, sounding not surprised at all. “What do you know?  Well, I trust you’ll be fine from here.”

          “Yoongi,” Jimin says, sounding a little panicked before the guy can leave.  Yoongi looks at him, but Jimin doesn’t know what to say.  He doesn’t know what he’s so worried about.  For the laughter to be over, he guesses.  For things to be only serious.  Of rejection and messing up phase two before phase one is over, or whatever Yoongi was talking about.

          “You’ll be alright,” Yoongi says, removing his hand to pat Jimin’s shoulder once.  His hand is warm.  He probably has a hot pack in his pocket, but it’s one of the few times Yoongi’s voluntarily touched him affectionately, even if he is a little stiff like a robot. Jimin can blame the cold.  He smiles widely and knows not to hug the guy or push it, so he bows his head a little.

          “Thank you, hyung.”

          “Ah, stop,” Yoongi huffs, sounding like a grandpa. He kicks gently at Jimin to nudge him to the door, and then he stands there, shivering while he waits for Jimin to go inside.  He wants Yoongi to go home and be warm.  That’s why he hurries in.  He smiles and waves at him again through the window and waits until Yoongi starts to slink away, his small frame hunched over as if he is battling a snowstorm, before he looks at the stairs in the lobby.

          He should probably call or something.  He doesn’t think he and Seokjin are at the level of “randomly showing up at your house at night,” but he peels off his coat anyway and starts to trudge up the stairs.

          It should be a good sign, he thinks, that he grows warmer the closer he gets.  In reality, he knows it’s just the building’s heat, but he likes to think that Seokjin will open his door and smile widely and be nothing but happy to see him, and the expectation has Jimin’s stomach fluttering.

          Confidence is sexy, Jimin remembers Seokjin telling him. He can be confident.  He can do this.

 

          “Can we talk?” he decides to start with.  But that’s not confidence.  That’s a little crazy, especially since Seokjin looks happy to see him at first until he’s heard what Jimin’s said and his smile starts to fade.

          “Uh oh, this sounds serious,” he says from his doorway.  There’s warmth seeping out of his apartment and making its way to Jimin.  He doesn’t want to let it go to waste, so he lets himself in.  That’s confident, right?  Or rude. Jimin doesn’t know anymore. Seokjin’s apartment is quiet.  He lives alone, so it often is unless he’s watching TV or playing a game or cranking up his music while he cleans. There’s a glass of wine by a book and his glasses, though, so Jimin figures he’s just interrupted Seokjin’s relaxing evening.  He seems to already be in his pajamas, too.

          “It,” Jimin hesitates as he looks around, “is.” He’s not sure what he’s looking for, but he still fidgets a little until Seokjin takes his coat and leads him by the elbow over to his living room.

          “Oh boy,” Seokjin says even as he sits down. “Okay, look, I’ve had the sex talk before.  I know all about the birds and the bees and the Adams and the Steves.”

          “The what?”

          “The answer is yes,” Seokjin says, crossing his legs and putting his arms over the back of his couch.  He looks inviting and a little bit smug but not nearly serious enough for what Jimin wants to talk about.

          “To what?” Jimin blinks as he slowly sits down next to Seokjin on his couch, the guy’s fingers automatically moving over his shoulder and massaging Jimin’s muscles a little.

          “Sex.  I’d love to have sex with you.”

          “That,” Jimin says slowly even as his cheeks light up, “isn’t what I wanted to talk to you about.”

          “Oh,” Seokjin says, his smile failing him.  He sits back further on the couch and actually looks petulant for a moment.  He’s not touching Jimin anymore, either.  In fact, he has his arms crossed over his chest defensively.  “So this is the breaking up talk.”

          “What?  No!” Jimin says quickly.

          “No?  Oh, okay, so what is it?  Are you,” Seokjin says, looking up and down Jimin, “secretly straight?  Oh, are you pregnant?”

          “What?” Jimin gasps before laughing.  “Hyung, no.  Wait, has someone had that talk with you?”

          “God, I hope not.  I’d hate to be a dad and not know it,” Seokjin says, blowing air out of his mouth like a wind tunnel.  “So what is it?  Shit, did someone die?”

          “Jin,” Jimin sighs, reaching forward to unwrap the guy’s arms and hold his hand.  He positions himself closer to the guy, too, one leg curled under him.  Confidence is mostly about body language, right?  “No one is dead.  Nothing bad has happened.  I just wanted to talk about us.”

          “Us?”

          “Yeah, like, if we could, I don’t know, talk about being exclusive or something.”

          “We are.  Or, I mean, I am.  Aren’t you?”

          “I am,” Jimin says, smiling as Seokjin clears his throat and nods.

          “Okay, cool, yeah, good.  So what else?”

          “I just,” Jimin mutters, poking Seokjin’s hand with his small fingers a little.  “I just wondered if we could talk about it, though, like, figure things out.”

          “What do we need to figure out?”

          “I don’t know,” Jimin sighs, shrugging. “Boundaries and stuff.”

          “Boundaries?  Like territories?  Well, this is my land, and you can’t come on it unless you slaughter five sheep—”

          “Jin,” Jimin says, pressing his lips together, “I’m being serious.”

          “Okay, yeah,” Seokjin says, clearing his throat again. “Okay.”  But he doesn’t say anything, and Jimin is afraid he has made a mistake.  He should have gone home and thought about everything first before he randomly showed up. He should have an outline or notes or a powerpoint or something.  Treats for when Seokjin gets an answer right.  That wouldn’t work.  Jimin wants treats.

          “I don’t know what I’m doing,” he finally admits with a whine as he slumps his forehead onto Seokjin’s shoulder.

          “Well, I don’t know about that,” Seokjin says, patting Jimin’s head a little.

          “I want,” Jimin says, hearing how Seokjin is listening even if he takes too long to finish his sentence.

          “What do you want?” Seokjin says softly. Jimin’s already used to him asking that, though it’s usually when they’re standing in line for coffee or at a food vendor, Seokjin whispering to Jimin so he can get his order right when it’s their turn.  He’s done it in bed some, too, even if they’ve just been sticking to making out a lot and blowing each other and giving amazing hand jobs and cuddling when they’re too exhausted to do anything else.  Seokjin already knows that sometimes Jimin can say exactly what he wants while other times he clams up and has to be pried open slowly but intentionally like an oyster.

          “I want,” Jimin tries again, lifting his head to place his chin on Seokjin’s shoulder so he can look at him even if his face looks a little lopsided turned at the angle he’s looking at him, “to know if we could put a label on it.”

          “On it?”

          “On us.”

          “A label?” Seokjin says seriously.  Jimin nods into his shoulder, biting his lip again as he waits.  “Sweetheart,” he says next, “what kind of label do you want?  Fat free?  Made to order?  Sale? Grade A?”

          “Jin,” Jimin whines.  He seriously hates how Seokjin is trying to make a joke right now, so he’s not sure why he doesn’t smack the guy or huff and storm out. Maybe there’s a Seokjin Effect, too, that he doesn’t even know he’s been trapped by.

          “Sorry, sorry,” Seokjin laughs, patting Jimin’s leg before curling his hand around Jimin’s thigh.  The first touch is a quick comfort, playful but serious.  The second is intentional and meant to be a steady hand, serious but playful.  “Park Jimin”—something about the way Seokjin says his full name always makes Jimin want to sit up straighter, so he does—“are you trying to ask me to be your boyfriend?”

          “Um,” Jimin says slowly, lifting his head at glacial speed, half afraid of what Seokjin is going to say and half excited about what his answer will be.  “Yes?”

          “Aw,” Seokjin coos, booping his nose once. “Cute.”  If it had been anyone else, it would have sounded dismissive and even condescending, but Jimin’s already learned how Seokjin gives praise and compliments and attention and affection, so even though he’s still a little embarrassed, he feels instantly relieved even though Seokjin hasn’t actually answered yet.

          “I think,” Seokjin says, his voice still a little playful but mostly just content and calm as he places his hand on the back of Jimin’s neck and alternates between rubbing his fingers over his skin and scratching lightly, “that I’d be honored to be your boyfriend, if you’d really want silly ol’ me.”

          “You’re not that old, hyung.”

          “I’m not old at all,” Seokjin hums.  Jimin just rolls his eyes and doesn’t bring up the fact that Seokjin’s contradicting himself.  “Has it been bothering you that much?”

          “How old you are?  Yeah, you’re going to die in like two years and leave me a poor widow,” Jimin fake wails until Seokjin pinches his neck.

          “Yah, brat, I thought you wanted to be serious.”

          “Sorry,” Jimin chuckles, curling closer to Seokjin’s chest.  “It’s not been bothering me long, honestly, I just, well, I tend to get really needy.”

          “I know.”

          “No, I mean, you don’t really.  I know you’ve seen little glimpses, but I tend to go periods where,” Jimin sighs, muffling his face into Seokjin’s sweater.

          “What?”

          “It’s embarrassing.”

          “As your boyfriend, I now demand you tell me,” Seokjin says with a diplomatic sounding voice.

          “I don’t think it works that way.”

          “It works however way we want it to,” Seokjin shrugs, his fingers still massaging Jimin’s neck.  It’s doing wonders for his nerves, actually, so Jimin wills himself to relax.

          “I sometimes need a lot of validation.”

          “Okay, that’s normal.  You like being praised, I get that.”

          “No, like, it gets bad.  It’s, well, if I don’t hear something good about myself from someone else every day, I get these really intense mood swings.”

          “Oh,” Seokjin says slowly.

          “And sometimes it’s just random, but it always, without fail, happens a month or two into dating someone.  I guess I just start, I don’t know, doubting?  And even if the person is great at complimenting me and is perfect in every way, I still feel like I need more?  It’s,” Jimin sighs, “really stupid.  I hate it.”

          “Oh, hey,” Seokjin says, his hand moving to Jimin’s jaw and chin so he can lift his head to look at him.  “It’s not stupid.  It’s a little sad, sure, that you feel like that’s a necessity, but it’s not stupid.”

          “People usually think it is,” Jimin pouts. “Someone once joked that it’s the Park Jimin test, and that I grade unfairly.”

          “What a loser,” Seokjin huffs back, his frown so serious Jimin wiggles a little closer, his leg well on its way to being draped over Seokjin’s.  “I won’t be defeated that easily.  Kim Seokjin is no loser.”

          “You can, you know,” Jimin says gently.  “You can back out now before phase two if you want. I’d understand.”

          “What’s phase two?”

          “The commitment stage,” Jimin explains.  “I don’t know, Yoongi hyung was explaining it. It made sense.  I don’t want you to feel like I’m forcing you to do anything.”

          “Jimin, sweetie,” Seokjin coos, cupping his face with two hands now, “no one forces me to do anything.  Seriously, when Namjoon tells me to do something at work, I purposefully don’t do it.  I’m all about reverse psychology.  I’ve really been enjoying dating you.  So I’d love to officially be your boyfriend.  We can set whatever boundaries you want.  You want to talk expectations, too?  Rules?  Do’s and don’t’s?  Trigger words and kinks?”

          “Hyung,” Jimin whines, though he’s grinning full force, now.

          “Do you want to, like, refuse to have sexy times with me for a month to prove my devotion or something?”

          “Hyung!”

          “Want me to hire a plane to spell your name in the sky?”

          “Jin.”

          “Oh, I could buy you a star.  No, wait, that’d be a bad sign, those stars are all dead.”

          “Jin!”

          “Yes?”

          “Just kiss me for now, yeah?”

          “Yeah?  Okay, I can do that.”

          So he does, and it is really that simple because nothing with Kim Seokjin is ever that serious, even when discussing the most important things in life.

 

           Validation and praise, however, once asked for, can come across as fake and forced. Jimin knows this.  So even though he’s told Seokjin what he wants, part of him wishes Seokjin had just figured it out on his own, which is, of course, ridiculous.  But Seokjin seems to know that Jimin wants authenticity and sincerity more than anything else.  Even behind his joking, Seokjin’s words are filled with truth.

           So at first, Jimin is surprised when Seokjin texts him the next day because it feels a bit too scripted:

 

Min’s Jin (9:32AM):

So when can I start validating and praising you?  

 

           He’s not sure what to say.  He feels like he’s being greedy if he answers but like a jerk if he doesn’t.  

 

Min’s Jin (9:34AM):

Be careful. Once I start I won’t stop

Unless you tell me to

God forbid I give a nonconsensual compliment

 

           Jimin knows Seokjin isn’t making light of the conversation.  He’s just trying to get Jimin to relax and take it. Which sounds dirty.  But Jimin wants to answer.  He’s a little intrigued as to what Seokjin has planned, but knowing the guy, he’s also a little nervous.  There’s bound to be at least one embarrassing thing he does.

           So he’s a little surprised, again, when, once he answers that Seokjin can start whenever he wants, the first thing Seokjin does the next day is send him a simple text:

 

Min’s Jin (12:45PM):

You’re Kim Seokjin’s boyfriend now.  That’s the greatest compliment any human being can ever be given.

 

           It’s so Seokjin that Jimin can’t help but laugh.  Part of him feels satisfied, like that really is the best compliment, and he can carry around the label proudly, but part of him is also a little let down.  If that’s really all Seokjin is going to say, Jimin is going to have to find validation and get attention elsewhere.  He doesn’t want that, though.  He wants to curl into Seokjin’s lap and be complimented and praised.  And it’s not like he thinks that’s selfish.  He’d do anything in return.  He just wants.  He wants a lot.  And Seokjin only sent him a little text.

 

           Seokjin doesn’t even give him time to complain about his lack of enthusiastic and over the top praises, though, which is saying something, as Jimin is quick to complain when something doesn’t go his way, because the next day Jimin shows up at Jungkook’s house and is handed a box the second he walks in the door.

           “What is this?”

           “I have no idea,” Jungkook shrugs.  “It’s from Seokjin.  He told me he’d kill me if I looked.”  Jimin stares at his boss who hasn’t even bothered getting dressed yet.  One of the perks of working from home.

           “So you looked,” Jimin says simply, and Jungkook shrugs again.

           “Curiosity killed the cat, I guess.  It’s much tamer than I was afraid it was going to be.”

           “Stay out of my things,” Jimin grumbles.  “And go get dressed.”  Jungkook waves him off but leaves to do so, anyway, so Jimin puts the box down and opens it carefully, wondering if something is going to jump out at him. Instead, however, he’s met with a pair of shoes.  They’re similar to ones he owns, mostly black with a bit of a heel.  They’re what Jimin sometimes calls stomping shoes—they’re not steel toed boots, but he could break someone’s toes with them if he wanted to. They have buckles instead of laces that are more decoration than anything else but have a zipper on the side so he can actually slip his feet in.  He already knows they’re from Seokjin, but he looks at the note in the box anyway, smiling as he does:

           For Jimin, who doesn’t take up a lot of space (except in my heart)

           It’s so cheesy Jimin wants to barf a little.  If Seokjin said it to him in person he would have pushed him away and made gagging sounds, but instead he just giggles and puts the card in his wallet for safe keeping.  He takes off his own shoes and tries his new ones on.  And he keeps them on the rest of the day, feeling a bit larger than life.  He even tests them out on Jungkook’s shin when his boss mumbles something about “keeping them on in bed.”

           They work very well, in Jimin’s opinion, but he may need to conduct more tests.

 

           He wears the shoes the next day, too, when he has a date with Seokjin after work.  The,

           “You look amazing,” Seokjin whispers to him is enough to keep him floating the rest of the night, even though Seokjin doesn’t stop there.  It’s another carefree, easy, lighthearted date simply eating and making jokes and catching up, and it’s all a bit perfect for Jimin.

           Not that he’s complaining.

 

           Seokjin sends him a text the next day that has Jimin grinning.

 

Min’s Jin (12:13PM):

I like your tiny fingers

 

           He sends another one that has Jimin blushing.

 

Min’s Jin (12:14PM):

Mainly because they don’t fit around my cock

 

           Jimin “accidentally” kicks Jungkook under the table they’re sharing at lunch to keep from exploding.

 

           And it doesn’t stop there.  Seokjin seemed to have been telling the truth: now that he’s been given permission to start, he doesn’t seem to want to stop.

           He sends Jimin earrings one day to “remind him of the bathroom” which makes Jimin very lost for a few minutes.  The earrings have nothing to do with a bathroom—and he wouldn’t wear them if they resembled a toilet or penis or dirty floor, anyway??—so it takes him a while to remember the club from weeks ago.  They dangle precariously low, far down enough that if he tilts his head they can tickle his shoulder, and he wears them with his new shoes every time he sees Seokjin for a while because he loves to see Seokjin run his fingers down them all the way to his skin.  They’re like a road to where Jimin really wants Seokjin to go, and that makes him heady like nothing else does.

           Some days Seokjin just sends him texts.  Reminders of things they’ve done or plans they’ve made.  He mentions how much he loves Jimin’s height or body constantly, and while Jimin knows it’s a little vain, as beauty fades, he still basks in it like a warm bubble bath, fully enjoying it while it lasts. Seokjin sends him jokes, too, until they have their own inside ones that only the two of them can laugh at.  Those days Jimin doesn’t feel directly praised or complimented necessarily, but he feels more than validated.  His existence and position in Seokjin’s life is validation enough.  The fact that the guy wants to spend time with him and him alone is all the proof Jimin needs some days.

           Other days, he needs to crawl into Seokjin’s lap or bed and receive actions instead of just words, and Seokjin is always happy to comply.  He’s strong but gentle and competitive above all else. Jimin has learned saying “Prove it” or “Show me” is just asking for trouble.  The other day Seokjin boasted about being able to do push-ups with Jimin on his back, so of course Jimin made sure he showed him.  It was way hotter than Jimin thought it would be, climbing onto Seokjin’s back like a koala and holding on for dear life as the guy started to go up and down.  It ended up being too distracting, too, so Jimin made him stop before he got very far so he could suck him off, and he did not let him do sit-ups while he was doing it because it was time to get serious and not mess around anymore.

          That’s the other thing about Seokjin that keeps Jimin constantly on his toes and suffering a bit from whiplash on days he can’t keep up.  His serious and playful side comes out in bed, too.  His voice will be all deep and sultry one moment while they’re making out only for him to start grinning and cackling when he makes some joke.  Jimin, without fail, has just started to smack him and giggle because he can’t help it before getting back to whatever they were doing.

          Jimin stops worrying after a week if Seokjin’s praises and validations and compliments are genuine and sincere and authentic because he just knows they are.

           It doesn’t stop him from loving the occasional gifts and showering of comments Seokjin does make, though.  If anything, he looks forward to seeing Seokjin more because he knows he can have high expectations.  Seokjin will never let him down.

 

           They’ve already been dating for months—well past putting a label on it and creating boundaries and expectations and, yes, discussing triggers and kinks which had been extremely difficult as they had both dissolved into laughter more than anything else as neither considered them very “kinky” but were both 100% on board with experimenting which had led to many eventful evenings, even one involving handcuffs and cops that they love to tell at dinner parties now—before they actually have an announcement party.

           “What, are you guys pregnant?” Jungkook says the moment Jimin hands him the invitation, thereby earning him a smack.  The new year seems like the perfect time to throw a party, anyway, plus Seokjin and Tae’s birthdays fall so closely to each other that they all collectively decided to celebrate together.  Despite how much their friends seem to be interweaving themselves into each other’s lives, they have still yet to all be in the same room together since Hoseok’s show.  Granted, Jimin realizes it may have been intentional once everyone comes over to Seokjin’s for their party because they are loud.

           And Jimin is used to loud.  But the seven of them all together are booming.  They’re sure to have noise complaints the next day.

           Yoongi and Tae and Namjoon, their official boyfriend by this point, start out alright, but adding Jungkook and Hoseok into the mix is just a recipe for disaster. Jimin remembers multiple challenges being issued throughout the night and more than one dance-off.  Namjoon broke a glass and started making out with Tae before the night was over.  Jimin is pretty sure Hoseok and Jungkook were plotting something in the corner.  And he was sure his face was going to hurt the next day from how much he had laughed.  He’d also bumped into the coffee table when he fell over at one point as he cackled, and that was sure to leave a bruise.

           It was soothing, though, despite all the noise and chaos, to know they were all connected now.  Jimin realized, sitting in Seokjin’s lap and smiling dopily at Tae helping Yoongi attempting to beat Jungkook at some racing game that was only making Yoongi’s loud and competitive side come out while Hoseok and Namjoon debated something about what shoes best represented which famous rapper, that all that had happened in the past few months was because of Hoseok trying to set him up on some blind date.

           He met Tae and thus Yoongi only to find out they already knew of Namjoon and Seokjin and Jungkook.  He met the two shoemakers only to find out Hoseok had already tracked them down and they already knew of him.  And Seokjin at least had definitely already known about Jungkook.  

           It was Jimin who had been the outlier, the one who wasn’t famous or popular enough to garner thousands of views or customers or people lining up to work with him.

           He didn’t really care for fame or all of that, though.  All that mattered was making sure he had a spot, a place, a purpose, and he liked how he fit into Seokjin’s lap like he fit into everyone’s life.

           And maybe he had Hoseok to thank for beginning the chain that linked them together, but it was Jimin who ended up connecting them all.  He may be small, but he is the glue that keeps them from falling apart.  He works for Jungkook and lives with Hoseok still and gossips with Tae and listens to Yoongi and has even started to look up to Namjoon.  And he’s Seokjin’s boyfriend.

           And everything is Hoseok’s fault.

           “Hey, Hoseok,” he says, his voice a little dreamy sounding.  He feels a bit like he’s in a dream some days.  His friend stops his discussion with Namjoon to smile up at him, waiting for whatever he has to say.  “Thanks,” is all Jimin can manage.  He knows it’s not enough, but he also knows nothing ever will be. He also knows it’s vague and has no context for the time being, but Hoseok seems to get it.  He scurries over to the couch where Jimin is on Seokjin’s lap and squishes his cheeks together annoying, cooing and making stupid kissy faces at him.

           Jimin can’t even find it in himself to be annoyed or push him away.  He supposes, after all this time, that he owes it to Hoseok.  So he lets him do whatever he wants to him.  After all, Seokjin will push him away in a moment and yell something good naturedly about “only he gets to kiss Jimin, keep your grabby hands off of him!” and Jimin will probably fall asleep in his arms before everyone else even leaves, and they’ll all make fun of him but find it adorable, anyway, and later he’ll wake up to Seokjin kissing him softly but above all else whispering something in his ear about how much he loves how small he is and how much he loves how good he is and how much he loves that he loves him, and nothing will ever make Jimin feel more warm, validated, and content right down to his very soul.

          So, yeah, Hoseok can do whatever he wants to Jimin’s face for the time being.  

 

           “Jimin,” Jungkook whines for the umpteenth time in the past twenty minutes. They’re at the biggest gaming convention of the year.  It’s February, and the snow has yet to melt, and the weekend has only just begun, and Jimin is so glad he was able to bring Seokjin because he doesn’t think he could stand Jungkook’s whining for three more days by himself.  

          “My feet hurt.”  Jimin ignores him.  Mainly because there’s nothing he can do about it, and Jungkook just loves to whine, and he’s probably doing it just to annoy Jimin, especially since Seokjin has come up to put his arm around Jimin.  He looks concerned at Jungkook’s plight and even pouts with him for a moment which makes Jimin rolls his eyes.

           “Ignore him,” he tries to say, but Seokjin is tsking and cooing at Jungkook.

           “Your feet hurt?  Did you know I own a shoe store?  I could, like, literally help you with that.”

           “Aw, hyung, you’re the best,” Jungkook says over exaggeratedly because he knows Jimin hates it.  He sticks his tongue out at him for good measure, so Jimin does it back.  He hates a little how close everyone is now, but it doesn’t deter him from still feeling special.  There are still things Seokjin only says and does with him, things that no one else gets to see or hear.  Sure, everyone knows Seokjin is silly and sometimes serious, but no one knows like Jimin how seriously silly he is and how silly his seriousness can be.

           “Seriously, Jin, you don’t have to—”

           “Yeah, you haven’t heard of it?” Seokjin presses on, pressing a quick kiss to Jimin’s forehead as he rolls his eyes again, his mouth moving along with Seokjin’s words because he’s just that annoyingly predictable and Jimin has heard him introduce himself and his business countless times by now.  

          “It’s called Insole.  In Seoul.  I know, it’s genius, you see, one day my friend Namjoon and I had this great idea—”

           Jimin kind of hates how squishy his soul feels as Seokjin keeps prattling away. He kind of hates how comfortable the two of them are, how easy dinners at Yoongi and Tae’s with all of his friends showing up now on a weekly basis has become.  He kind of hates how warm he feels as he leans into Seokjin and simply smiles.

           He’s not exactly sure, but he’s sure all of this is Hoseok’s fault somehow.

Maybe one day he’ll find a way to properly thank his friend, but for the time being, he just reaches up on his tippy toes to kiss Seokjin’s cheek, not the least bit concerned that he’s not the same height as his boyfriend.  He likes being short.  He likes being shorter than Seokjin.  Besides, if he ever wants to be taller, he knows the perfect place to go.

          “There’s this place called Insole.”

          “In soul?”

          “Yes!  Insole in Seoul!”