“If you find him Taehyung please call me,” Jimin begged as he all but ran out of the arcade that he knew Jeongguk sometimes liked to hang out at. “ Please. ”
Taehyung’s voice was loud on the other end of the phone as he shouted over the nearby traffic. “Of course Jimin, if I don’t have any luck in the next half an hour I’m going to have everybody else out looking for him too.”
“ I didn't mean to interrupt your night in with Yoongi hyung and Hoseok hyung,” Jimin apologised, feeling guilty that he’d spoiled his best friend’s night with his boyfriends and got everybody running around in a panic, searching for Jeongguk. “But when I went to pick him up to take him to the cinema he wasn't home, his mother…” Jimin’s voice cracked around a barely supressed sob. “Taehyung she looked like she’d seen a fucking ghost and now- now I can’t find him anywhere! I only just got him back, I can’t lose him again.”
Jeongguk had disappeared once before.
Their relationship had always been something more . More than platonic, since the first time they kissed when on Jeongguk’s eighteenth birthday they’d stolen Yoongi’s hidden bottle of whisky and shared most of it between them.
There had been embarrassment the next day, but it hadn’t stopped them.
After that they would kiss as often as they could, touching one another softly in the dark corners of whatever room they were holed up in, hidden from the world that they knew would never understand them.
And then a few days after they’d slept together for the first (and only) time on the night of Jeongguk’s twenty-first birthday, Jeongguk had vanished with his family. The house was left empty and Jimin had been beside himself with worry.
The days dragged after that. Lethargic and listless, Jimin’s life just didn't feel right without Jeongguk as the centre of it. Perhaps it was unhealthy, for his existence to be so closely intertwined with the existence of another, but he wouldn’t- couldn't change it no matter what anybody said.
He didn’t understand why Jeongguk had either left him, or been taken from him and Jimin was tired. He was so fucking tired of going to bed at night and feeling the phantom touch of Jeongguk’s fingers caressing his skin, so vivid Jimin could have sworn it was real.
Until he opened his eyes and realised that the only arms holding him tight were his own.
A few months later, after countless sleepless nights and eyes that seemed permanently rimmed with red, Jeongguk and his family had reappeared.
As though Jimin had imagined the whole thing; the only reason he knew he hadn’t was the way his chest still stung somewhere deep in his soul every time he thought about it and how it could happen again one day. That he could lose Jeongguk without warning, maybe for good.
That kind of pain couldn't be anything other than real.
Since coming back into his life, Jeongguk hadn’t touched Jimin in a way that could be anything more than friendly, hadn’t kissed him once, and so now all Jimin had left was the memory of the I love yous he’d whispered into Jeongguk’s skin every night when he was sleeping, wishing that he’d had the chance to speak them out loud.
“ Jimin it’s fine, you don't need to apologise but you do need to calm down, keep it together okay? For Jeongguk.” Taehyung’s voice brought Jimin back to the here and now.
Jimin took a deep, shuddering breath. “F-for Jeongguk.”
“ We’ll find him Jimin.”
They hung up a minute later, Jimin shoving his phone into his pocket as he racked his brain trying to think of other places Jeongguk might go if he was angry, afraid or upset.
He tried to keep hope alive in his heart, but Seoul was a big city. It was easy to get lost, whether intentional or not. Jeongguk could disappear in a second, could be gone all over again.
Jimin could lose him forever.
Growing up Jeongguk’s home life was anything but picture perfect. His father was a violent alcoholic and his mother a petrified victim of decades long domestic violence that she would never in a million years feel able to bring herself to speak out about.
Jimin didn't know the full story, not really, just the things Jeongguk had confessed in the dark when he’d come to Jimin and Taehyung’s shared apartment on countless nights, covered in bruises and shaking with fear. Jeongguk hadn’t even told him why the family had packed up and left or why they’d come back.
He hadn’t yet reached his twenty-second birthday, and the violence that Jeongguk had been trying to protect his mother from had been turned on to him too, again and again, yet never once had Jimin seen Jeongguk cry.
He never cried, and he never stayed. Not before he left, and not since he’d come back. Each time he ran to Jimin for comfort and a place to hide, he’d run from him too, always gone by the next morning.
Jeongguk left nothing behind, almost as though he’d never been there.
Like a ghost pacing the rooms of Jimin’s tiny apartment.
“ I can’t stay Jimin hyung,” Jeongguk would say every time Jimin asked him to just move in with him and Taehyung. Where he’d be safe, “I can’t leave mother alone with him, I can’t.”
It broke Jimin’s heart every time he woke to an empty bed, because all he wanted was to keep Jeongguk with him, away from a life nobody should have to endure- especially not somebody as sweet and caring as Jeongguk.
Sometimes Jimin wondered if he should finally truly confess the feelings that had lingered deep inside his heart since they met when Jeongguk was still an awkward, unsure kid. Tell him that every kiss they had shared, every touched and whispered sigh of pleasure had meant so much more to Jimin than he could ever imagine.
But he knew he couldn't be that selfish, because Jimin wanted so much , and Jeongguk was a broken, fragile thing who wouldn't be able to stand the weight of Jimin’s heart.
It would cripple him, and Jeongguk had been walking in chains for too long already.
So Jimin did what he could now. He patched Jeongguk up and ordered pizza, laughed along when Taehyung would cry out in outrage when Jeongguk beat him at every single game he owned.
Jimin let Jeongguk share his bed at night, and though he couldn't hold Jeongguk in his arms and kiss him to sleep the way he so desperately wished he could, he found peace in watching him sleep.
Safe… at least until morning and Jeongguk inevitably slipped out of bed and disappeared without a trace.
Today though, today Jimin hadn’t been able to shake off the uneasiness that had settled in his stomach the moment he got out of bed. He’d been restless all day, thankful that he had a free day because he wouldn't have been able to concentrate anyway.
He didn't want to pester Jeongguk, didn't want to be overbearing and make him feel like he was checking up on him like he was some little kid. That didn't stop him worrying all day though, and in the end it had been Taehyung talking about trying to get Yoongi and Hoseok out of their respective studios for a few hours that spurred him into action.
Jimin had told Taehyung to invite Yoongi and Hoseok over and have a night in, be disgustingly mushy with each other whilst watching those romantic comedy movies that Yoongi pretended to hate and Hoseok always cried all the way through because Jimin was going to surprise Jeongguk with a trip to the cinema and then dinner at his favourite pizza place.
“ You need to tell him, Jimin.” Taehyung had said to him when he was getting ready to leave. “Feelings as strong as yours aren’t supposed to be bottled up and hidden away. You were never just a warm body to take comfort in, and neither was Jeongguk- he needs to know that.”
“ I will Tae,” Jimin had promised, knowing himself that he couldn't keep his heart locked in a cage forever. “When he’s ready, when he’s strong enough to bear the weight of my heart as well as his own.”
The frown that had marred Taehyung’s features then had made Jimin feel oddly guilty. “What if he’s ready now? What if his heart is already strong enough?”
Jimin and thrown him a sad smile. “Jeongguk’s heart isn’t whole, Taehyung. I wish it were, but I won’t add to his pain.”
Leaving before Taehyung could see the tears that welled in his eyes, Jimin thought he heard but what if you’re the one to make it whole follow him out of the door, but he didn't turn back to ask.
He didn't need to make things harder for himself than they already were.
The minutes had dragged into hours, and still nobody had heard from Jeongguk. His phone was either switched off or damaged and Jimin was struggling to hold off the panic attack that threatened to consume him each time he thought about the possibility that Jeongguk was in very real, very serious trouble.
What if his father had gotten drunk and gone too far tonight? That would explain why his mother had looked so terrified when Jimin had called at their place earlier. Perhaps Jeongguk was even still there and Jimin had been lied to.
That thought had Jimin spinning on his heel, ready to run from the deserted park he’d been searching until a noise caught his attention. The sound of something heavy hitting metal - like the shutter of a shop was being kicked or something - rattling out into the surprisingly quiet night.
Jimin didn't know what made him jog out of the park and across the road to the alleyways that most people knew to stay away from. But he trusted his instincts, trusted that they would lead him to Jeongguk in the end.
And they did.
Jimin ran down the alley in time to see his beautiful, broken boy slide down the metal shutters of an abandoned store and slump onto the cold concrete floor, clutching his middle hard. So obviously in pain it had Jimin’s heart lurching into his throat.
“ Jeongguk, I’ve been looking-“ Jimin stopped dead when he saw just how badly beaten Jeongguk was. “Oh baby,” he didn't stop to think about the endearment as he rushed to Jeongguk, gently taking his bruised face in his hands. “Baby what happened, what did he do to you?”
“ J-Jimin hyung?” Jeongguk’s voice was hoarse and thick with tears. “How did you f-find me?”
Jimin gently stroked his thumbs across Jeongguk’s blood stained cheeks. “I’ll always find you Jeongguk ah.” He smiled through the tears that burned his eyes, desperate to fall. “Can you tell me what you’re doing out here so late all by yourself?”
“ H-he was so drunk hyung… s-so drunk but that d-didn't stop him grabbing me when I t-tried to run,” Jeongguk’s words were lost as he took deep breaths in an effort to calm down.
“ Baby,” Jimin whispered, reaching for his wounded angel and wanting to cry in quiet relief when Jeongguk finally let him hold him, let him comfort him right there on the dirty ground.
“ T-the beatings from dad I c-can handle hyung b-but one of his friends was o-over… he put his h-hands on me and I… I couldn’t… I had to g-get out-“
Jimin felt sick as the gravity of what Jeongguk was trying to say sunk in. “Jeongguk ah, did he… did he touch you?”
Jeongguk had always been brave and strong, it was one of the things Jimin loved most about him, but the implication hung heavy in the air around them tonight and Jimin could barely breathe.
Jeongguk was trembling and covered in blood, clearly terrified but shook his head where it was resting against Jimin’s chest. “No… no I t-think he w-would have but I got away… I don’t even remember how but I left my mother there- Jimin hyung I left her there with them like a coward!”
“ Jeongguk you listen to me,” Jimin started, words firm but gentle as he pulled back so he could see Jeongguk’s face and hating that those doe eyes he’d lost himself in so many times were so full of fear. “You’re not a coward, baby that man could have killed you. And your mother is okay, I saw her earlier.”
“ Y-you saw her?”
Jimin nodded. “Yeah, I wanted to surprise you and take you out for a few hours but you’d already gone.”
“ S-sorry hyung… I don't mean to r-ruin things.”
Jimin’s heart broke for the boy in his arms. “Baby no, that’s not what I meant. You haven’t ruined anything- I’m just happy I found you. I was so worried… we all were.”
“ They all know?” Jeongguk’s voice cracked. “Oh God, am I in trouble? I didn't mean to just run off but I just couldn’t stay there anymore hyung-“
“ Jeongguk ah, you’re not in any trouble baby, we were all scared for you. I promise nobody is angry with you,” Jimin assured him, standing up and pulling Jeongguk’s shivering form with him. “Come on I’ll take you home.”
Jeongguk’s eyes grew wide with fear. “H-home?”
“ My home, Jeongguk, mine and Taehyung’s apartment.” Jimin said quickly when he realised what that must have sounded like to Jeongguk. “Is that okay?”
Jeongguk just nodded and allowed Jimin to support most of his weight. He was so worn out and in so much pain Jimin almost couldn't hold himself together.
Jeongguk was far too beautiful to have suffered so much.
Jimin sent a message to Taehyung to let him know what was going on and to ask him to tell everybody else. The reply came within minutes.
Yoongi hyung is coming to get you both. Look out for his car.
“ Yoongi hyung is coming to get us Jeongguk ah, alright?” Jimin question was answered with a feeble nod. “Let’s just sit here and wait for him.”
Jimin had no idea what he was doing, didn't know if he was making Jeongguk feel better or worse or if he was even doing the right thing by taking him home instead of to the hospital. But Jeongguk was so shaken up he didn't want to add to his trauma, and so he led them to a nearby bench to wait.
Yoongi would know what to do.
When Yoongi’s car pulled up not too long later, Jimin felt the way Jeongguk’s entire body went rigid, as though he was afraid of Yoongi getting out of the car.
Perhaps he was.
“ Hey Jeongguk ah,” Yoongi’s voice was soft as he crouched in front of the bench, hands resting gently on Jeongguk’s knees. “Let’s get you home with Jimin where you can warm up and we can do something about those cuts and bruises, okay?”
Jeongguk nodded, but didn't look Yoongi in the face when he spoke. “O-okay Yoongi hyung.”
The ride home was silent, and though Jeongguk clung to Jimin like a lifeline in the back of Yoongi’s car, still he didn't cry. His eyes were haunted but clear.
Somehow Jimin thought that was worse.
Jeongguk didn't speak a word until they were back at the apartment and Jimin was trying to take him into the bathroom so he could see how badly he was hurt.
“ No, n-no… don’t-“ Jeongguk pulled away from Jimin and curled into Taehyung’s side. “I w-want TaeTae to do it.”
Jimin wondered how many times a heart could break in one night. “But-“
Jeongguk shook his head. “Please Jimin hyung… I d-don't want you to see… not tonight- please .”
A barely perceivable nod from Yoongi had Jimin relenting. “Okay baby, okay.” Jimin smiled, reaching for Jeongguk’s hands and squeezing them gently. “You go and get cleaned up with TaeTae, I’ll come and see you when you’re in bed. Is that okay Jeongguk ah?”
“ Y-yes hyung… thank you.”
Only when Taehyung had ushered Jeongguk into the bathroom with an apologetic glance at Jimin as he went did Jimin finally fall apart.
It was Hoseok and Yoongi that caught Jimin when his knees buckled, both of them reaching for him at the same time.
“ How could this happen,” Jimin sobbed, a hand against his face in an effort to muffle the sound. “How could I let this happen to him?”
“ Jimin no, this isn’t your fault.” Yoongi spoke almost right into his ear, voice deep and familiar, comforting. “This isn’t your fault any more than it’s Jeongguk’s.”
“ And the point is he’s safe now,” Hoseok said as he helped Yoongi guide Jimin to the sofa. “He’s home .”
“ He won’t stay though, he won’t.” Jimin cried, face hidden in his hands. “He never does.”
Seokjin’s voice sounded then, tense and worried. Jimin hadn’t even noticed him and Namjoon in the living room he’d been so focused on Jeongguk. “Shouldn't we be taking him to the hospital or something? All those bruises… he could have internal bleeding.”
“ That’s not our decision to make.” Yoongi said, “He’s an adult who has the right to make his own decisions, even if he is vulnerable. So unless the pain gets worse or he deteriorates in any other way, we can’t force him to go to the hospital.”
“ Just the mention of the hospital has had him freaking out before. He doesn't want to go because he knows they’ll ask questions he’s too afraid to answer.” Jimin told them, but Seokjin still didn't look convinced.
“ Seokjin hyung, they’re right.” Namjoon’s voice was gentle and calm, “I know it’s hard but for now we have to just let this play out as it will. We’re all here aren’t we? Nothing else is going to happen to Jeongguk now.”
Seokjin leaned further into Namjoon, who wrapped an arm around him in response. “I suppose. It’s just so hard to see him like this, he’s our baby y’know?”
A humourless laugh spilled from Jimin’s lips before he could stop it. “I know. Believe me I know.”
Jimin didn't need to look up to see the sympathy that was written all over their faces, he could practically feel it rolling off them in waves. They knew how Jimin felt about their youngest, all of them.
Despite the intimacy that they’d shared, Jeongguk knew nothing of just how deep Jimin’s feelings for him were. How in love with him he was- would always be.
“ JIMIN!” the sound of Jeongguk’s scream tearing through the apartment had Jimin jumping up and rushing to the bathroom before he could really even register what the hell was going on.
There he found Jeongguk, sitting on the bathroom counter next to the sink, half naked and shaking with Taehyung standing a few steps away with his hands up and shock written all over his face.
“ J-Jimin hyung,” Jeongguk stuttered, reaching for him.
Jimin rushed to him, standing between his knees and pulling his head against his chest. “Hey, baby it’s okay. Come here. You’re okay.” He hushed him, pressing kisses to the dark of his hair. “What happened?” the question was directed at Taehyung.
“ No idea, I was helping him undress so that he could shower.” Taehyung looked close to tears himself. “I was just checking the bruises on his thighs and he freaked. That’s when he screamed for you, I swear Jimin I didn't mean-”
Jimin shook his head and Taehyung fell quiet. “It’s not your fault Taehyung ah, he’s been through a lot.” He hated how guilty Taehyung looked. “Why don't you go and find out all the spare blankets and stuff? I think everyone is staying over tonight. I’ll help Jeongguk get cleaned up.”
“ I’m on it, no problem.” Taehyung was already leaving, clearly shaken up by Jeongguk’s outburst. “I’m sorry, Jeongguk ah.”
Jeongguk whimpered and Taehyung was gone.
“ It’s just us now Jeongguk,” Jimin said softly, stroking gentle fingers through Jeongguk’s hair. “Do you think you can shower? You’ll feel better I promise.” He had no idea if it would help at all.
Jeongguk took a deep breath. “S-shower with me?” the way he looked at Jimin then, so lost and unsure, left no room for Jimin to refuse.
“ Of course,”
Quietly, Jimin undressed himself first in the hope of keeping Jeongguk’s discomfort to a minimum. Then slowly and so, so gently he finished undressing Jeongguk too, helping him into the shower that Taehyung had already set running.
The silence remained as Jimin set about washing Jeongguk down carefully, trying to keep from breaking down again at the sight of dirt and blood disappearing down the plughole alongside the water.
Jeongguk kept his head down, the water soaking his hair through and hiding his eyes from view. He looked so ashamed Jimin wanted to scream at the injustice of it all because Jeongguk was the last person who should be feeling that way.
When the first sob came, Jimin thought he was hearing things. No matter how many times Jeongguk had come to him, battered and bruised much like this, he had yet to shed a single tear. Most of the time he seemed almost disturbingly detached from the whole thing, as though he was no longer even there.
The second sob rang out loud and clear, and the sound mixed with the pounding water bouncing off the tiled walls. Jimin still couldn't properly see Jeongguk’s face, but he knew he was crying now.
It was clear in the way his shoulders shook and his chest began to heave with each shaky intake of breath.
Each sob was louder than the last until they were almost constant. Tortured and broken, it tore at Jimin’s soul to witness. Jeongguk was finally crumbling, falling apart under the weight of the horror he’d been forced to endure for far too long, and now it was Jimin’s job to gather the pieces in shaking hands and put him back together again.
But before Jimin could even reach for him Jeongguk was moving, sinking to his knees right there in the shower, trembling hands struggling to grip the wet skin of Jimin’s hips as he pressed his face into Jimin’s stomach.
Now Jimin could feel Jeongguk’s sobs as clearly as he could hear them.
“ I keep trying to breathe b-but it’s like my lungs are filled with water…” Jeongguk cried against Jimin’s skin, words barely audible above the running water, his own sobs and shuddering breaths. “Don’t let me drown Jimin…” Jeongguk was begging now, fingers digging into Jimin’s hips almost painfully. “Please don't let me drown.”
Unable to stand it a second longer, Jimin carefully pried Jeongguk’s fingers away and crouched down too, heart cracking when Jeongguk clearly misunderstood the action and recoiled sharply, hands fisting into his own hair. “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry.” Jeongguk was rambling, panicked and desperate. Jimin couldn't stand it. “Please don't hurt me…. Please.”
“ Jeongguk look at me,” Jimin gently pulled Jeongguk’s hands from his hair before taking his bruised face in his hands and forcing him to look at him. “Baby I would never, ever hurt you.” He sounded almost as desperate as Jeongguk. “You’re the most important thing in the world to me, you have to know that.”
Jeongguk was nodding, wiping his face and smearing blood across his skin from his still bleeding lip. “I know, I know I just… I don’t know what I’m doing .” His eyes were impossibly wide as he looked at Jimin, full of pain that made Jimin wish he could simply kiss him until it didn't hurt anymore. “Promise you won’t leave me, please… don’t leave me alone.”
Pulling Jeongguk to him, Jimin briefly wondered what they would look like to anybody else, naked and crying, huddled together beneath the warm spray of the shower.
They were trying desperately to comfort and support one another, despite neither of them really knowing how.
“ I’ll always be with you Jeongguk, always , and-“ Jimin was cut short when Jeongguk suddenly kissed him, hard and unexpected before he reeled backwards, a hand clutching his face as he hissed in pain.
“ Jeongguk what-“ he started, the words lodging in his throat alongside his heart.
“ I-I’m so sorry hyung, I didn’t mean...“ Jeongguk fell quiet when Jimin shook his head.
“ Don’t.” Jimin couldn't bear to hear that Jeongguk hadn’t meant it, hadn’t really wanted to kiss him again. “Let’s just get you cleaned up, dry and warm. Okay?”
Jeongguk remained silent, eyes downcast in shame once more as he nodded meekly.
Jimin’s heart was breaking.
From then on Jimin worked on autopilot. He finished helping Jeongguk wash before washing himself down quickly, relieved to be free of the cold sweat that had clung to his skin since he first realised Jeongguk was missing. He dried first Jeongguk and then himself, pulling on a bathrobe before rubbing a thick layer of cream into all of Jeongguk’s bruises.
Jimin ignored the tension between them, ignored the way Jeongguk kept trying to meet his eyes now, catch his attention. Instead he focused on bundling Jeongguk up in a thick robe that had been left on the radiator and led him back to his bedroom, hearing the voices of everybody else still talking in the living room as he went.
“ I’m sorry, Jimin hyung.” Jeongguk said quietly as he redressed in some boxers and an oversized t-shirt of Jimin’s.
“ Don’t be, it’s alright.” Jimin pulled on his own pyjamas, swallowed his heart to send a reassuring smile at Jeongguk, who looked so much smaller than he was, curled up beneath the thick duvet.
“ But it’s not . I’ve hurt you; I can see it on your face. I keep hurting you with all this shit and I really am sorry.” Jeongguk looked down then, hands fisting in the sheets. “I don’t mean to be such a burden. I shouldn't have kissed you like that.”
Jimin sighed, dropping down onto the edge of the bed. “You’re not a burden, Jeongguk ah. You could never be a burden.” He swallowed hard, reaching out to card his fingers through Jeongguk’s still damp hair. “It was just a kiss, we can just forget it ever happened if you want.” Jimin would never forget, of that he was certain. “It’s been an emotional night and you’re vulnerable, so I understand that-“
“ I don’t want to forget about it hyung.” Jeongguk interrupted, “And it wasn't just a kiss… not for me. I was trying to show you…” he trailed off, glancing away.
Jimin tilted his head back towards him with gentle fingers beneath his chin. “Trying to show me?”
“ That you’re the most important person in the world to me.” Jeongguk said in echo of Jimin’s earlier words. “That you always have been. Don’t… don't you want me too? Did I do something wrong?”
I want you more than anything. “No baby, you didn't do anything wrong.” Jimin wasn't sure how to put his feelings into words. “Honestly at this point I feel like I’ve wanted you my whole life,” This wasn't the way he’d expected to confess at all , but Jeongguk looked so afraid of being rejected Jimin couldn't lie to him. “But I don’t want to just be a source of comfort to you, Jeongguk, not this time. I want to be with you. Do you understand?”
Jeongguk was nodding, shifting marginally closer to him. “I-I want that too.”
“ Do you really?” Jimin was terrified of holding his heart out only to have Jeongguk let it slip through his fingers and fall to the floor. “Why tonight- now?”
“ Because I was vulnerable and couldn't hide it anymore!” Jeongguk almost shouted. “I’ve been so broken for so fucking long I can’t even remember who I was before and I just- why would you want somebody like that, hyung? Why would you want me for any longer than a night ? ” tears were rolling down his cheeks again and Jimin could barely breathe. “I’ve hidden my feelings for years because I’ve never felt good enough, even before- but tonight… you were so warm and gentle- safe . You keep calling me baby… why would you call me baby if you don't want me anymore?”
Jimin’s heart was racing and he tried to take in what had been said, what Jeongguk was telling him. He half wondered if he was dreaming as he pulled the sheets over himself and shifted closer to Jeongguk. “I call you baby because you are my baby, always have been. You’re not broken Jeongguk ah, I promise you you’re not. And even if you were, I’d just pick up all the pieces and stick you back together again.” Jimin smiled despite the way his chest ached when he traced Jeongguk’s blossoming black eye with his fingertips. “I just want you to be sure, that’s all.”
“ Right now Jimin hyung,” Jeongguk looked bashful but determined, the haunted look in his eyes slowly melting away. “You’re the only thing I’m sure about. Be… be with me?”
A choked sob spilled from Jimin’s lips. “Always. But you have to promise me something,”
“ Promise me you’ll stay. Don't go back there,” Jimin saw the fear that flickered across Jeongguk’s face at the mere mention of his parent’s house. “You’re safe here, this could be your home. Please Jeongguk ah… stay with me. Don't disappear on me again.”
Silence filled the space between them for the longest time. “Okay.” Jeongguk whispered eventually.
Jimin figured it was better than an outright refusal. But still he tried to build a wall around his heart to lessen the blow when he inevitably woke up alone in the morning.
“ Okay,” Jimin noticed the way Jeongguk was fighting to stay awake. He’d been through so much and clearly the fatigue was finally setting in. “You should get some rest.”
Jimin moved to get out of bed, figuring that Jeongguk might want some space.
“ Don’t go,” Apparently he was wrong.
“ I should let everyone know you’re doing okay.” Jimin was halfway to the door when Jeongguk’s voice sounded again.
“ Jimin hyung?”
“ At least… at least hold me to sleep before you go?” Jeongguk sounded so unsure but hopeful it broke Jimin’s heart all over again.
He crossed back over to the bed, settled down beside Jeongguk and opened his arms in quiet offering. “I’m always holding you Jeongguk ah,” Jimin whispered when Jeongguk cuddled against his chest and curled his hands into fists in Jimin’s pyjama shirt. “Even when we’re not together, I’ve always got my arms around you, holding you tight. I love you Jeongguk, I love you so much.”
“ Jimin hyung, I-“ Jeongguk looked up at him, wide-eyed and unable to speak.
“ I know baby,” Some things could be felt so strongly they didn't need explaining with words. He could feel what Jeongguk was trying to tell him. Jimin pressed a soft kiss to Jeongguk’s lips. “I know.”
They fell quiet then, curled close together and with Jeongguk safe in his arms, Jimin felt calmer than he had in a long time. He didn't even realise he’d fallen asleep until he woke the next morning.
Opening his eyes and blinking blearily until the room came into focus, Jimin was surprised to find dark brown doe eyes gazing right at him. They were ringed with deep purple bruises now, but brighter than they had been last night.
“ I stayed, hyung.” Jeongguk whispered, hands finding Jimin’s beneath the sheets and squeezing tightly.
Jimin smiled, leaning closer and pressing a kiss to both of Jeongguk’s cheeks, his nose, the tiny freckle beneath his bottom lip and finally his mouth. “You stayed. I’m proud of you, my brave and beautiful boy.” The way Jeongguk flushed to his hairline had Jimin feel hopelessly endeared.
But Jimin wasn't stupid.
He knew that Jeongguk wasn't going to be magically returned to ‘normal’ overnight.
So much had happened and Jeongguk had a long way to go, they both did. But they’d taken their first shaky step into what Jimin hoped was a brighter future, for Jeongguk especially. So even though all Jimin had was an I love you spoken with all of his heart, pressed into Jeongguk’s lips like the seal of a promise,
For now it was more than enough.