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Tonight You Are Mine

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23:00
Jeongguk is beginning to hate his solo project.

Well, actually, he probably doesn’t hate it. He just hates practicing it at this moment.

The end of September is always Jeongguk’s least favorite time. His and Namjoon’s birthdays have already passed and Chuseok happened earlier this month, too. This means nothing interesting will actually happen until mid-December when the semester ends. The weather in Seoul fluctuates between blissed cool in the mornings to balls-hot in the afternoons, and Jeongguk is grateful to his past self for buying that cheap used car last summer because the campus bus services rely on opening the windows in substitute for air-conditioning. The heat comes in waves, leaving some days where he can go to bed in sweats comfortably just to wake up in a pool of his own sweat the next morning. When he got to the studio at five, it was so humid that not even three giant fans could save them from the heat. Hoseok and the rest of the dance team had left about an hour and a half ago, but Jeongguk opted to stay so he could practice his solo for the spring exhibition. Now with the sun set, he can turn off a couple of the electric fans whom give nothing to aid his focus.

Jeongguk doesn’t realize how late it truly is until a janitor peeks his head in through the studio door to tell him that they’re locking up the building soon, so get lost . He doesn’t even recognize the guy; usually it’s the nice ahjumma who evicts him from the studios each night. The cranky custodian leaves as quick as he comes.

The 22 year-old sighs, pushing his bangs off his sweaty forehead. He’ll definitely need to take a shower when he gets home. Hopefully Hoseok hasn’t stolen all of the hot water again. 

It takes five more minutes for Jeongguk to actually leave the studio, with over half of it spent convincing himself to peel his sweaty body off the floor. He tugs his sweatshirt over his head, unplugs his phone from the speaker jack and heaves one strap of his duffle bag onto his shoulder before shutting the lights off and closing the door behind him. It barely takes a second for the sound of the door opposite to his reserved room closing to echo down the corridor as well. Jeongguk assumes it’s the same grouchy ahjussi until he raises his gaze and meets dark, mono-lidded eyes.

It’s not often that Jeongguk isn’t the only one left in the building aside from the custodians on nights like these, especially so far away from the exhibition. Even if his team hadn’t left earlier than usual, he still stays past the average leaving time, usually either eating dinner late at night or skipping it altogether. Aside all that, Jeongguk knows everyone in the dance program. Sure, that’s only because Hoseok forces him to go to social gatherings and introduce himself to other students, but he still at least recognizes everyone he crosses paths with in the building.

But not this one.

The stranger has a black mask pulled over his face, hiding any other features. He must’ve been dancing, too, considering his blond hair looks damp with sweat under a black baseball cap. Even though it’s still mildly warm outside the guy has a yellow sweater on under a coat.

He’s a few centimeters shorter than Jeongguk, maybe even just one or two, but still manages to have long, lean legs. Jeongguk’s gaze trails down. He’s wearing ripped jeans that expose the pale skin of his thighs. Jeongguk finds himself looking at them for far too long before snapping his eyes back up.

It’s only when the stranger raises an eyebrow at him that silently asks ‘are you checking me out?’  that Jeongguk realizes he was staring. Obviously staring. He curses inwardly at himself when the guy slowly reaches up to pull his black mask up higher. They hadn’t even said anything to each other and he’s already made the other dancer uncomfortable. This must be some kind of record. Fastest-Meeting-Turned-Unpleasant. Jeongguk should probably get that on a plaque.

Leave it to Gguk-ah to find some way to make the shortest human interaction possible awkward, Junghyun’s voice rings in his ears.

(Jeongguk was twelve when his hyung had grumbled that, and he’d just met Hoseok. He managed to spill chocolate milk all over the poor guy and promptly started to cry from embarrassment. Hoseok felt so bad he bought him another chocolate milk and even told him the dark stain on his shirt was going to be a new trend. Jeongguk promised himself that he’d never have a worse first interaction with a stranger ever again.)

Well, this isn’t as bad as meeting Hoseok—who ended up having to trash his shirt altogether because the stain wouldn’t come out—since Jeongguk hasn’t spilled any liquids on this person yet nor has he done anything accidentally offensive (hopefully) but it’s not like he’s gonna stick around to find out.

He quickly bows in embarrassment before turning on his heel and briskly walking towards the dance hall exit that opens to the front of the building. His face turns warm when he notices the man following him a pace behind.

Jeongguk knows he’s not following him, exactly. It’s more like heading towards the same destination, considering there’s only one exit out of the dance hall at this time of night that won’t turn on the fire alarm. The janitor probably told the other guy the same thing, so it’s only natural for them to be walking together. Next to each other. (Near each other?) Whatever.

Within the time that he’d been freaking out about the awkward interaction the blond had caught up with him and now walks next to him in silence. Jeongguk darts his eyes over every couple of moments but the stranger doesn’t seem to be planning on walking faster to overtake him nor does it seem he’ll lag behind. He isn’t sure if the guy is gonna mention the whole checking-him-out-on-first-sight situation. The mere thought of it makes his skin itch, so if Jeongguk slows down so the shorter would walk further ahead, well, no one would know.

Or at least that’s what he hopes to happen. Instead, it almost seems like the stranger slows down too. Jeongguk bites his lip. Brown eyes flit over to him before turning back to the corridor in front of them.

They continue heading down the hall without talking; the most interaction Jeongguk receives is a slight bow when he holds the door open for the other dancer before walking out to the main entrance. 

The front lobby is desolate. Jeongguk glances to a clock and realizes it’s past eleven, now, so there’d be no reason for other people to be here. He’s about to start walking down the stairs to the front door when a phone rings.

He isn’t sure if it’s his, so Jeongguk stops to fish through his dance bag in search of his phone. After a couple moments of digging through sweaty clothing and more plastic water bottles than what’s counted as environmentally friendly, he finds it accompanied with a dark screen.

“It’s mine,” a voice comes from next to him. Jeongguk raises his gaze to see the blond dancer has stopped beside him, phone against his ear. He turns away from Jeongguk when a muffled voice comes through the speaker. “Hey, what’s up? I’m about to leave.”

He doesn’t seem like he’ll be going anywhere during his call, so Jeongguk assumes their awkward walk together is now over. Now all he has to look forward to tonight is a sweet, sweet shower and promptly face-planting into his bed. He isn’t exhausted yet, his body too accustomed to the strange training schedule, but Jeongguk knows he’ll feel it by tomorrow morning if he doesn’t get a move on. He zips up his bag again, lugs it over his shoulder, and starts down the stairs.

He knows it’s not right to eavesdrop, but Jeongguk can’t help hearing the breathy oh shit from the other as he descends the short staircase. Right before his hands touch the metal handle of the front door, a voice cries out for him to stop.

Jeongguk turns to watch as the stranger rushes down the stairs. He reaches forward and pulls Jeongguk from the door. A hey! spills from his mouth, but the stranger presses a finger to his lips to tell the taller to be quiet.

“What the hell is your problem?” Jeongguk hisses, because the last thing he needs tonight is a fight with some random dancer in the Performing Arts building, especially over something as small as staring at his toned legs for too long. That’d be just his luck, and he’s pretty sure his hyungs would never let him live it down if they found out about it.

The guy sends him a look (as if Jeongguk ’s the one who did something wrong) then leans to look out the door window. As soon as he does, bright flashes illuminate their faces and he pulls back suddenly. Jeongguk hears the faint sound of cameras. Looking outside also brought a commotion of indecipherable shouting on the other side of the door.

The stranger turns back to Jeongguk. “Can they get in here?” he asks in a panicked voice.

Jeongguk scrunches his face. “What? Who’s out there?” He moves to look out the pane as well before the guy yanks him backwards.

This time, he keeps his hands clutched onto Jeongguk’s sleeve to keep him from moving as he speaks. “Paparazzi. Do you know if they can get through that door?”

The brunet raises an eyebrow. “Legally?”

His reply doesn’t seem to be appreciated because the dancer huffs and rolls his eyes. “No, physically. Is that door unlocked?”

A turning of the knob cuts off Jeongguk’s reply. They both snap to look at the handle jiggling, but not twisting all the way. Jeongguk shakes his head.

“No, the custodians probably locked them already. We can get out but it’d lock right behind us. What the fuck are the paparazzi doing here?”

The stranger seems to realize he’s still holding onto Jeongguk because he jerks his arms back. “They’re here for me.”

This just makes Jeongguk even more confused. “What? Who the hell are you?”

He doesn’t get an immediate response as the other turns away and types something into his phone. Dark eyes rise to meet his. 

“Do you have a car?” he asks.

“Uh, yeah, but who are—”

The stranger pulls his wallet out of his coat, opening it and pulling out a yellow bill. “I’ll pay you fifty thousand won if you give me a ride out of here.” 

Jeongguk’s jaw drops.

There’s no way this is happening. He studies those eyes again, trying to compare him to the small amount of celebrities he recognizes. Is he an idol? His face doesn’t look familiar. Granted, Jeongguk doesn’t exactly pay attention to idol and celebrity gossip nowadays. Lee Minho could be standing in front of him and he wouldn’t even know it. The only reason he knows the dude’s name is because of Yoongi’s short obsession with every single one of his films in which he also decided Jeongguk and Hoseok’s TV was better than the one at his place and promptly decided it was of the utmost necessity that he watch all of them at their apartment.

“I don’t have all night,” the man prompts.

“How am I supposed to know you’re not gonna try to kill me?”

A scoff. “Why the hell would I kill you?”

“That sounds like something a killer would say,” Jeongguk blurts before realizing that was definitely not one of his smoothest comebacks.

He expects the other to make fun of him. But instead, he’s met with a pause of silence. 

Then a snort.

Then, those dark eyes crinkle into little crescents as soft, quiet giggles erupt from the other. He stares at the stranger in surprise as he folds over in laughter, forehead bumping against Jeongguk’s collarbone on the way down. The blond laughs with his entire body, so the arms still wrapped around his biceps shake a little with each breath. Jeongguk wonders how he can see while laughing with how much his face scrunches.

Nervous chuckles spill from his lips, too. How the hell did Jeongguk get himself into this situation? Laughing with some incognito celebrity next to the dark front entrance of the Performing Arts building while a hoard of paparazzi await them on the other side of the door, then getting bribed to help said celebrity escape. He’s never really believed in karma, but right now he’s wondering if the time he put purple hair dye into Namjoon’s conditioner led him to this.

Finally, the man cuts himself off by clearing his throat, but Jeongguk can tell he’s still smiling because the eyes are still crescents. The blond shakes his head, obviously trying to act intimidating.

“Take it or leave it,” he waves the bill in front of Jeongguk’s nose. He pushes the hand away from his face with a scowl.

He frowns. In the end, he’s just a broke college student who could use some extra cash.

Jeongguk huffs. “Fine, just quit flinging that around at me. We can get to my car through the theatre exit.” The other nods, and puts his wallet back in the pocket. Jeongguk sends him a look before the stranger huffs and tells him he’d get his payment afterwards.

The two quickly make their way back up the stairs, heading in the opposite direction they originally came from. The shouts of the paparazzi are still audible all the way through the lobby, but once they push through a set of doors to enter a long corridor the yelling fades from earshot. The stranger pulls his mask down once they reach the music wing. Jeongguk glances at him once, twice.

He’s definitely attractive. Jeongguk almost walks into a propped-open door just staring at his rosy lips.

He has a small nose and probably the cleanest skin Jeongguk’s ever seen. Jeongguk squints at the man’s cheeks. No imperfections. A couple small freckles here and there, a mole on the crest of his cheekbone, and that’s it.

The stranger must notice his glances, because he sighs and rolls his neck. There aren’t any janitors around, because the only sound Jeongguk hears is the soft hum of the air-conditioning and their footsteps against the tile floors. “Go ahead, ask your questions.”

He doesn’t hesitate. “What are you, famous?”

A snort. “Nice try.”

“What?”

The stranger looks at Jeongguk as if he’s an idiot. “Are you seriously keeping up the act that you don’t recognize me?”

Jeongguk scrunches his face. “I don’t recognize you.” He sticks his jaw out, staring the other down as they continue walking.

“Really?” his tone is unimpressed.

“I mean, your face looks kind of familiar, but that’s it. Why, are you a trainee under an entertainment company or something?”

The blond seems honestly surprised by the other’s lack of familiarity. His lips open slightly before he closes them again. Jeongguk finds himself keeping his eyes on them for too long to be excused as an accident.

They turn into the theatre corridor, dodging a janitor cart parked at the corner. “My name is Jimin,” he starts. 

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow. “Jeon Jeongguk,” he replies as an introduction. His heavy bag is starting to make his left shoulder hurt, so he switches it to the other side.

Park Jimin,” the stranger adds.

The full name hits him like a truck when Jeongguk realizes who he is. 

He barely watches the news, but remembers some headlines about the blond as well as a couple documentary assignments that were shoved down his throat during high school.

Jeongguk has never cared much for politics. Sure, he votes for parliament representatives when the time came around each year, but other than that he ignores the scandals and information beyond the bare minimum for knowing how his home country is being run. That’s always worked just fine for him. Jeongguk didn’t feel as if he’s living under a rock when he can just listen to Arirang on the way to school each day. But looking at Jimin, he wonders just how little he pays attention to those sorts of things to the point where he didn’t even recognize the future face of Korea’s government. He turns his gaze from the man. This night really can’t get any stranger.

“Oh, fucking great, I’m smuggling the prince of South Korea out of my university dance studio,” he mutters to himself.

“I’ll add another fifty thousand if you don’t ask any questions.”

Jeongguk stays quiet.

 

Sneaking out to the car isn’t so hard, because it looks like the crowd of paparazzi are too busy huddling around the front door to notice two twenty-somethings espionage their way to a 2008 Sedan in the dark. The only slip-up occurs when Jeongguk unlocks the car and the alarm sets off; this is followed by a string of curses at his direction from the prince as he scrambles to shut them off. Once the incessant honking stops, he reaches over and unlocks the other door with a sheepish smile on his face. All he gets in return is a glare.

Jimin ducks in, keeping his face down. Jeongguk throws his dance bag into the backseat while the blond puts on his seatbelt. 

“Where do I go?” he asks.

“Just get onto Bukbu and take Naebu,” Jimin orders, pulling his hat down low over his face. His mask has already been pulled back up to his eyes.

They leave the parking lot without any trouble, but Jimin has to hunch down over his lap when they pass the front entrance. The paparazzi barely pay attention to them.

Once they’re on the expressway, Jimin finally speaks.

“Thanks,” he whispers.

Jeongguk can only choke out a yeah, because it’s just now hitting him that he has the prince of South Korea in his car and he was speaking informally to him earlier. God, if his grandmother was still alive, she would beat his ass.

What the hell did Jeongguk do in a past life to deserve this one?

The sound of Jimin’s phone ringing breaks the tension in the car. Jeongguk checks his rearview mirror before changing lanes. Jimin answers the call with a quiet hum. Jeongguk can’t hear what the person is saying on the other line, but they speak fast and sound like they’re worried. Within seconds, he hangs up.

“Change of plans,” he states. Jeongguk can hear a bit of exhaustion grating on the edge of his voice.  “We can’t go to the original drop-off point. There’s paparazzi in the area.”

Jeongguk glances at him from the corner of his eye. Jimin has his feet tucked up under him and leans against the window, staring forward. “What do they want with you?” he asks.

Jimin glares at him. “What did I say about no questions?”

“Sorry.”

There’s a moment of tense silence before Jimin sighs. “Sorry,” he apologizes quietly, not looking over. “There’s been rumors for the past few months that I’m attending SNU. I don’t want them to know, obviously, so I’ve been trying my hardest to keep them from finding me. I guess a janitor ratted me out tonight.”

He hums in understanding. “Bet it was Mingyu.”

Jimin bursts into laughter, thus breaking the tension in the small car.

Jeongguk wants to ask more questions, like why were you dancing in the studio or are you actually a student here? but one glance at Jimin keeps him quiet.

“So where are we headed, then?” he asks, hoping this is a safe enough question where the prince will answer him without shooting ice daggers from his glares.

Jimin shrugs. “I have no idea. All of Jongno is crowded. I’ll get spotted too easily there. My driver is trying to lose the paparazzi that are following him right now but he thinks it’ll take a while.”

“So, do you just want me to drive?”

Jimin hesitates, but nods. “That’d be good.”

“Any places I should avoid?”

“Anywhere central. If we go into Yongsan, Seodaemun, or Jongno, I’m toast.”

Jeongguk nods and turns into the left lane. “We need to get off Naebu then.”

“Where are you thinking?”

“Gwangjin.”

Jimin doesn’t respond immediately. Instead, he checks his phone again. Jeongguk keeps his eyes on the road, but he can hear the prince’s fingernails tapping against his screen. Jimin sighs before nodding in the corner of his eye.

“That’s probably our best bet. You know how to get there?”

“Nope,” Jeongguk admits, popping the p. “I didn’t grow up in the area. Only been living here for two years.”

Jimin cocks his head. “You’re a sophomore?”

“Yeah. You?”

Jimin doesn’t answer. Instead, he leans over to look into the backseat. “Do you have water in here?”

Jeongguk looks into his rearview mirror to see Jimin twisting his torso over the console. “Uh, yeah. Should be a couple bottles tucked under my seat.” A small aha! tells him the other man found it. He goes back into his seat, tugging the seat belt a couple times so it doesn’t lock up. 

“Want some?” Jeongguk turns his head to see Jimin offering the water bottle to him. The sudden kindness in his tone and the look on his face makes the driver suspicious. He raises an eyebrow.

Jeongguk motions to the water bottle with a jerk of his jaw. “No offense, Your Highness, but are you actually offering because you care whether I’m thirsty or because you need to know it’s not poisoned?”

Jimin seems to clam up, jaw dropping as he fumbles for an explanation. A couple of garbled sounds come from his mouth, but the formerly put-together prince now seems like a deer caught in the headlights.

Eventually, Jimin tries for an innocent approach. “What? I—of course I wouldn’t—I’m not like—” eventually, he opens the water bottle as if to prove to Jeongguk he wasn’t using him as an arsenic tester. But once he brings the bottle to his lips, he halts.

A second goes by where Jeongguk keeps glancing at him, frozen. Jimin bites his lip. He almost tips back the bottle before stopping again, unsure. 

Jeongguk snorts before raising his hand in front of Jimin’s face in a grabbing motion. “Give it here,” he orders. The speed at which the other presses it into his hands makes him laugh again. It’s already open, so he leans it up to his mouth, taking a couple gulps. Once he pulls it back from his lips, he raises a taunting eyebrow at Jimin. It’s dark out, but Jeongguk can swear he sees a blush on the prince’s cheeks as he rolls his eyes and smiles.

The bashful smile immediately drops when Jeongguk jerks forward, wheezing. 

Jimin’s eyes widen. “Jeongguk-ssi?” The brunet hunches over the steering wheel, keeping an eye on the road as he lifts a hand to his throat.

“Burns,” he croaks.

Jimin gapes at him as he continues coughing. The prince lurches to pull the water away from him, capping it and throwing it into the backseat before grabbing his shoulder. “What was in that?!” he cries, panicked. “Jeongguk-ssi! Jeongguk!”

Jeongguk can’t hold his amusement in any longer as the coughing turns into laughter. Jimin is still holding onto him, but as soon as he hears the giggling he pushes himself off and goes to pout against the window.

“Asshole!” he whines, punching Jeongguk lightly in the shoulder as the driver continues laughing into his arm. “That wasn’t funny! I thought you were dying!”

Jeongguk is still smiling. He keeps his eyes on the road as his exit approaches, pulling off onto it. “You seriously thought I would poison you? That bottle wasn’t even opened when you grabbed it,” he points this out jokingly, but some part within him actually wonders.

The blond groans and reaches into the back to grab the water bottle again. He opens it again with a pout on his face. He doesn’t drink yet, instead holding it to his lips. “No,” he grumbles. “I’m sorry.”

As soon as Jeongguk exits the highway, he turns left and merges into traffic crossing the bridge, staying in the left lane so he can go east on Naebu. “What, is that some prince thing?” He knows he’s bordering on disrespectful with how informally he’s speaking to Jimin, but the other doesn’t seem to mind.

“Sort of. Just got used to having people test my food before being allowed to eat it. Was annoying at first, but I got used to it.” The prince says this casually but Jeongguk gets stuck on the last part. Wouldn’t they have done that his entire life? When would Jimin remember them starting to test his food if they seemingly did it since he was born? He opens his mouth to ask this but stops himself when he remembers Jimin’s request of no prying questions.

Jeongguk pulls back onto the expressway. He glances over to see Jimin still holding the bottle against his lips. “You can drink it,” he urges gently. 

The prince pauses, before chugging from the bottle. 

Once Jimin’s finished, he places the capped bottle on the floor of the car.

“Also,” Jeongguk starts. “Trust me a little. I’m not planning on poisoning you or some shit.” A pause. “Something. Sorry, Your Highness. I shouldn’t be cursing.”

Jimin waves him off. “You don’t have to call me that. You’re only two years younger than me.”

Jeongguk jokingly pouts. “Does this mean I can’t call you jeoha?”

His passenger chokes on his spit at the outdated honorific. “God no,” Jimin snickers.

The younger smiles and taps his fingers against the steering wheel. The original traffic is slowly thinning out, making the roads clearer. The usual crowd of late-night workers have all gone home by now. “So, you’re a senior, then?”

He looks to see Jimin shifting awkwardly in his seat, mumbling. Jeongguk frowns.

“Like I said, you’re gonna have to trust me. If I wanted to kill you or take you to the paparazzi I would’ve by now. I’m not saying tell me your life story or anything. But if we’re gonna be spending the next couple hours together, we might as well be able to make some small talk, at least.”

Jimin hums and nods. “You’re right, Jeongguk-ssi. Sorry for being weird.” When he glances at him, the older is staring out the window again.

“It’s fine.” A sign passes by for a Domino’s at the next exit. Jeongguk’s stomach growls at the thought. He’d skipped dinner again. “Are you hungry?” 

Jimin’s still looking out the window at the residential areas below them. “Yeah.”

“Want Domino’s?”

A pause.

“I’ll take a bite first,” Jeongguk compromises.

The prince bites his lip and nods, a red blush creeping up to his cheekbones. The younger smirks and veers the car into an exit lane.

 

0:00
They run into the Domino’s thirty minutes before it’s supposed to close.

The workers aren’t very ecstatic about having to fire up all of the ovens again after already cleaning them for the night, but when Jeongguk promises to leave the moment they get the pizza so they can clean up the tables and close the lobby, the cashier relents.

“What do you want?” Jeongguk asks. He bites his tongue straight afterwards at the informality. “Erm, I mean— what would you like?” he corrects, turning to the shorter.

Before coming inside, both of them had made sure there’d be no way to recognize Jimin. He’d tucked his blond bangs into the cap and pulled his mask up as far as possible. Jeongguk had fished around in the underhand compartment in front of the passenger seat and found some tortoiseshell sunglasses Hobi left there. They’re brown and marble-patterned, but somehow Hoseok pulls it off.

Jimin, however, looks ridiculous.

If he were taller and built bigger, he might’ve looked intimidating. Jeongguk gave him his black hoodie to wear, too, but the 22 year-old likes having large, comfy sweaters and with Jimin being a little smaller than him, the prince looks like he’s drowning in it. Overall, he looks like he’s about to rob the place, but the large sunglasses also make him look like an American mom from those sitcoms Namjoon loves. When he’d put the entire outfit on, Jeongguk had to take a few minutes just to stop laughing before they could even enter the restaurant.

He expects Jimin to answer with something simple and universal, like pepperoni. Instead, the older scooches over to his side. He raises himself up on his toes before cupping his hand over his mouth to whisper in Jeongguk’s ear. The younger flushes at the behavior, but ducks down all the same.

His voice is muffled because of the mask, but the brunet can still pick up on his whisper. “I will literally marry you if you get us Hawaiian.”

Jeongguk snorts, not expecting that answer. He also feels more blood rush to his cheeks. He knows it’s a joke, but the idea of marrying someone even close to as good-looking as Jimin is makes him stutter out his order.

The cashier raises an eyebrow at them before nodding and walking back into the kitchen to help the only other employee.

“We can eat in the car once it comes out,” Jeongguk murmurs, moving to sit at a booth while they wait. Jimin slides in across from him.

“Have you ever tried Hawaiian?”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “No, but I’ll take your word on it.”

He thinks this makes Jimin smile, but he’s not really sure. He still looks like he just walked off some abstract high-end runway.

After his spiel about allowing small talk in the car, Jimin seems more comfortable in the younger’s presence. Jeongguk wonders if they can actually hold a short conversation about themselves without the prince fidgeting.

“What are you studying?” He asks, deciding to start off small.

Jimin tilts his head, resting his cheek in the palm of his hand. “You first.”

“Film production and Dance. Double Major.”

“International Relations.”

Jeongguk leans forwards on the table, resting his elbows on it. A spark of anxiety curls through his gut when he wonders if these are bad table manners. He jerks himself back against the booths felt cushions. Jimin stares at him, head cocked slightly. He coughs, trying to make things casual.

“What were you doing in the dance studio, then?”

Jimin’s head drops and he fiddles with his fingers for a bit before responding. The only noise in the restaurant is their conversation and the various sounds from the kitchen. Jeongguk glances back over the counter to make sure the employees aren’t watching them.

“I’m a dance minor,” the other finally admits. Jeongguk turns back to him.

“But you’re a senior, right?”

A hum and a slight nod.

“Then how have I never seen you? Everyone knows everyone in the dance program.” Admittedly, that isn’t an impressive feat. Jeongguk only knows people because Hoseok drags him everywhere and also because it’s not a very large department in the first place, so it’s hard not to know everyone after spending two years there. 

(Although, he really should credit over half of this to his best friend. He still doesn’t know more than three names of his classmates in his film production classes. The only person he bothered befriending was his TA for his Combining Music and Film class in freshman year. Granted, it was just so he could get help with assignments, but Yoongi ended up being good company anyway. Plus, the guy also became attached at the hip with Hoseok after meeting him, and brought Namjoon along for the ride. Jeongguk couldn’t separate them if he tried.)

“A lot of the classes I take are online, if I can manage it. Usually I do private labs with professors.”

Jeongguk tries to keep his face neutral, but his surprise at Jimin being open without coercion makes his eyes widen. 

“What’s with the face?”

The brunet bites the inside of his cheek. “Dancing doesn’t seem very prince-like,” he regrets it the second it comes from his mouth. He digs his fingernails into the thin fabric of his sweatpants.

That was obviously not the correct thing to say. Jimin looks down. Jeongguk thinks he’s frowning, but he’s not really sure. “Yeah,” is all he replies. The younger clears his throat awkwardly. Jimin doesn’t try to introduce a new topic of conversation, so they sit in silence.

After a couple minutes, the cashier comes out with their pizza. He slides the box into Jeongguk’s hands and nods towards Jimin.

“Your girlfriend looks like she’s about to rob the place,” he notes.

Jimin ducks his head, but Jeongguk starts snickering. He nods and stands up, pulling the prince out of the booth.

The guy must’ve gotten bored by the lack of response because he just shrugs and walks back into the kitchen. There’s no reply when Jeongguk calls for them to have a good night before walking out the door.

By the time they get back to the car, the awkward atmosphere has lifted. They end up eating in the parking lot of the Domino’s; Jeongguk pulls into the back corner of it so Jimin can take off his disguise without worry that he’ll be seen from the main road. They set the pizza box in between them on the console. Jeongguk makes a large display of taking a bite of the first slice.

“See? Not poisonous.”

Jimin only grins and lightly shoves the younger’s side.

Hawaiian pizza, it turns out, is pretty good. Jeongguk thinks he can go without the ham slices on top though. It takes a while to chew through the thick meat but other than that, it’s not as bad as he’d thought it’d be. When he voices this to his passenger, Jimin laughs.

“You’re not weirded out by the pineapples?”

Jeongguk shakes his head. He finishes chewing before speaking. “I thought it’d be too sweet, but it actually tastes pretty good. If the sauce was really sweet I wouldn’t be able to eat it.”

Jimin taps his slice against Jeongguk’s in a toast. “I’m glad I turned you to the dark side, then.”

The two sit there for a while, eating their pizza and talking. Unsurprisingly, whenever Jeongguk asks Jimin a personal question the dancer shies away. He decides not to point it out this time. He only hopes the guy will realize at some point he’s not trying to sell all of his personal details to the media, and is instead just trying to avoid making this night awkward as much as possible.

It’s half past midnight when they finish the pizza. Jimin looks down at his phone and sighs.

“There’s still media around the castle grounds. They’re off campus now though, so I thought I could just crash at my friend’s dorm, but he’s definitely asleep by now.” He turns his gaze to Jeongguk. “I’m sorry about this,” he murmurs.

Jeongguk shrugs him off. “It’s no big deal. We stay out for a couple more hours, so what? Besides, we haven’t even gotten to Gwangjin.”

A small smile envelops Jimin’s features. His eyes bend from how much his cheeks rise up. The prince nods. “Sure,” he assents. 

After that, they make their way through the Dongdaemun residential areas using laggy Naver Maps on Jimin’s phone. By the time they hit Dongbu expressway, Jeongguk’s surprised they only got lost once. 

“Can I play music?” Jimin asks, pointing to the aux cord. 

The driver eyes him from his periphery. “If your music library consists of opera singing and classical music, no.”

The prince raises an eyebrow. “What?”

“I don’t know, don’t royalty like that kind of boring shit?” A voice in the back of Jeongguk’s mind reminds him he’s being too informal again, but he ignores it.

“And what if I did?”

Jeongguk grins cockily, keeping his eyes on the road. “Well, I’m not gonna pull over to beg for forgiveness and kiss your feet, if you’re expecting that.”

“Yah, what happened to the quiet, respectful sophomore?”

Jeongguk keeps his eyes on the road, smirking. “This quiet, respectful sophomore watched you eat an entire slice of pizza in two bites. Kind of ruins the magic of escorting the crown prince around once you do that.”

Jimin erupts into giggles. Jeongguk grins. It’s high-pitched, but not something unexpected. The blond has a high voice already, so laughing like a hyena doesn’t seem too far off.

Once the prince stops and goes back to humming as he skips through his playlist, Jeongguk speaks.

“Actually, I’m not all that quiet. I mean, I am, sort of. But not around friends.” Jimin raises an eyebrow at this, and Jeongguk quickly retracts his statement. “I mean—not that we’re friends, I do—I mean, if you want to that’s fine, but—” he huffs in frustration, much to the prince’s amusement. “I used to be really quiet. If you met me at seventeen, you probably wouldn’t even recognize me. I was such an introvert, it was embarrassing.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert, Jeongguk-ssi,” Jimin hums. He turns the radio volume dial on low before clicking on a song. Calm beats and claps thrum through the car’s speakers.

 

(mood: Intro - The xxx)

 

“Yeah, but it was still bad. I hated meeting new people, and if it wasn’t for Hoseok teaching me how to dance, I probably never would’ve come out of my shell.”

The song doesn’t seem to have any lyrics, but Jimin hums along to the beat quietly. Jeongguk glances over to him.

Upon first meeting him, Jeongguk had to admit Jimin was outrageously attractive. It’s not even his plump, pouty lips; his entire face seems like it’s fitting to be on the front page of a magazine, royalty or not. His cheeks are well-rounded. Jeongguk can’t even see any imperfections on his skin, as if the prince had simply skipped over the acne-prone, hormonal teenage years everyone else had to suffer through. Shadows cast over the aegyo sal under his closed eyes. Bands of yellow from the streetlights pass over his soft skin. He seems perfectly content, sitting here in a car with a guy he met by chance mere hours ago.

The more Jeongguk takes glances at him, the more he realizes how much he likes Jimin like this. From the rare times he’s seen the man on TV or some other media report, he’d been at least slightly photoshopped or was wearing makeup. Since he had been dancing, his skin is bare of any products. His nose is small and his eyebrows look naturally pulled together. Jeongguk notices a couple of earrings along the prince’s helix.

Singers vocalize in the background of the music. It seems like an indie song, which Jeongguk wouldn’t have guessed Jimin’d be into in a million years.

“I think,” Jimin murmurs, barely audible over the sound of the music, “that you’d be a pretty cool friend, Jeongguk-ssi.”

Jeongguk feels heat rising to his cheeks. He swallows. “Thank you, Your Highness.”

A hand reaches over to tug on his sleeve. Jeongguk double checks the lane in front of him before looking over to Jimin.

He has a soft look on his face. He’s smiling, just a little bit. Jeongguk is grateful for the fact that it’s nighttime, because if there was more light he’s sure Jimin would be able to see the blush creeping across his cheekbones. 

“What did I say about calling me things like that?” he teases softly. Jimin has shifted away from the door, now leaning his elbows against the console while still holding onto Jeongguk’s sleeve. Said owner of the sleeve is finding it very hard to keep his eyes on the road for the majority of the time. Luckily there’s barely anyone on it, since it’s almost a quarter ‘til one on an early Wednesday morning. 

Jeongguk turns his eyes on Jimin. “But it’s your title, Your Highness,” he replies back just as quietly. 

“To you, I’m just Jimin,” either Jeongguk’s going crazy, or Jimin’s leaning further over the console. The blond smiles, darting his eyes across Jeongguk’s face. He’s waiting for a reaction.

“Just Jimin,” he repeats. The prince smiles a bit at that, thick, pouty lips pulling up at the corners. He’s still wearing Jeongguk’s sweatshirt.

He takes a sharp breath when Jimin leans even closer, centimeters from his face. Jeongguk keeps glancing towards the road but otherwise rests his gaze on Jimin.

The blond smiles bigger, leaning past Jeongguk’s face to his ear.

The song must be reaching its final bridge; it’s loud enough that Jeongguk presses his ear closer to Jimin’s mouth to hear what he’s about to say.

With Jimin on the side of his face, Jeongguk turns his face towards the road again, but keeps glancing to his passenger. Jimin waits for the music to fade out into silence before whispering,

“You just missed our exit.”

Curse words spew from Jeongguk’s mouth as he quickly changes lanes, Jimin laughing and doing that crescent eye smile next to him.

 

01:00
Once the prince is comfortable with someone, Jeongguk quickly learns, he turns into a flirt.

He shouldn’t be that surprised, really. Park Jimin is the crown prince of South Korea; he’s beautiful, smart, mysterious, and reportedly the hottest bachelor in all of Seoul.

Jeongguk discovers all of this within the past hours they’ve spent together.

It took them double the time it should’ve to get to Gwangjin. Maybe that was because Jeongguk missed their exit, and then missed the exit after their exit too because Jimin was tapping a beat on the younger’s thigh in tune to some American rock hit. It had been purely teasing; the prince has stuck his index fingers out into ‘drumsticks’ and patted Jeongguk's leg when they hit the drum solo, aside from doing all of his other silly dance moves in the small confines of his seat.

Nevertheless, Jimin’s a flirt. A terrible one, at that.

The brunet knows it’s just teasing. He does. Jimin just wants to break the ice after having two long hours of awkward talking and skirting around Jimin’s personal subjects. It’s working, at least, because it feels as if they’re friends.

Besides, even if Jimin was secretly good at flirting, it wouldn’t take a lot to woo someone. He probably has foreign girls falling at his feet, not even counting the amount of fangirls he undoubtedly has.

How do people actually have fan clubs for this dork? Jeongguk wonders as he watches Jimin stick his head out of the window. They’re on one of the main roads of the district, heading through a market square before reaching downtown. The wind pushes Jimin’s bangs back, revealing his unblemished forehead underneath. Jeongguk almost groans. Of course the guy can have bangs without oil-induced acne beneath them.

Jeongguk reaches out to grab Jimin’s (his) sweatshirt, pulling the grown man from the window. 

“We’re about to get to downtown, stop being so obvious,” Jeongguk chides.

Jimin shoves him lightly, but still has a smile on his face as he rolls the window up. “Yah, you can’t order around your senior!” He snorts in response. Senior citizen, Jeongguk mutters under his breath, earning a jab to the ribs from his passenger.

When they finally pull into a parking garage as close to the river as possible, Jimin slips his face mask on again. He pulls up his hood and is about to put the sunglasses on when Jeongguk stops him.

“There’s barely anyone out. We’ll be fine,” he explains, walking towards the elevator at the corner of the parking garage floor. Jimin looks at him skeptically before nodding, shoving the sunglasses into the pocket of his hoodie.

There’s barely anyone out on the streets, other than a few stray college kids from Sejong or Konkuk. He’s grateful that the summer humidity is finally creeping away, leaving a warm September night in its path.

Whenever they pass the occasional group of people on the sidewalk, Jeongguk consciously moves ahead of Jimin to cover him from the pedestrians. The prince doesn’t voice it, but he nods at the younger each time he does it before picking up on their conversation again. 

“What’s film production like?” Jimin asks.

Jeongguk hums. “It’s alright. It’s a pretty broad major, so I have to take a bunch of weird courses. But it’s fine. I like them.”

The shorter seems to have figured out where Jeongguk is taking them, because he turns around the street corner without being asked to. “What kind of courses?”

“Uh, things like camera operation, specialty classes on sound and lighting. I took an animation course last semester, too.”

“You draw?”

He shakes his head. “Not really. I’m not bad at it, because my dad taught me and my hyung how to do it when we were little, but I never wanted to pursue it past a hobby.”

“You should draw me then, sometime,” Jimin offhandedly comments as they cross an empty street. 

He knows he should respond to that, but Jeongguk is too busy stumbling. Is Jimin saying he wants to see each other again, after this night? When he took the deal he expected it to be a one-time thing. Not that he’d be complaining about seeing the prince again, on a possibly-regular basis. But he expected Jimin would forget about him the day afterwards. And even if he did remember Jeongguk, he’d only think of him as the escort who saved his ass.

But with Jimin’s comment, does that mean he wants to see him again? Jeongguk’s mind flips back to when they were in the car.

I think that you’d be a pretty cool friend, Jeongguk-ssi , he had said.

Does he want to be friends? Was that statement saying Jimin wanted to be friends? Did it sweep over his head, just like all the other social cues he constantly missed out on?

They walk across a long bridge going over 88. The eight lanes still have cars on them, but definitely not as many as it usually has. Most of the vehicles on the expressway are storage transportation trucks.

“You have a brother?” Jimin asks.

Jeongguk snaps out of his freak-out, turning to nod at the prince. “Yeah. He’s five years older than me. His name is Junghyun. He’s an animator.”

“Animating, dance, film production. Your parents made some really artistic kids.”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Yeah. I’m sure my mom would’ve liked to have doctors or something, but my dad was an illustrator so he was fine with it.” 

“Wow, I wish I had those types of parents,” Jimin croons. “My brother and I have no choice for our studies. We have to study politics, diplomacy, boring things like that.”

“So that’s why you have International Relations as your major?”

A hum in response. “Yeah. It sucks. I mean, right now it’s pretty easy because all I have to do is study, because my coronation won’t happen for at least ten more years. But…” Jimin trails off, looking down at their feet. “Sometimes I wish I wasn’t royal. I wish I was normal.” As soon as he says this, Jimin’s head pops up in disbelief at his own words. “I didn’t mean it like that. Don’t tell anyone—”

Jeongguk presses a hand to his shoulder. “Calm down. I won’t say anything to anyone. Besides, you’re allowed to wish things like that. I wouldn’t want to be royal. Too many rules, too many eyes on me.”

Jimin huffs as they step off of the bridge, now at the front of the riverside park. “I’ll say.”

To their right, a concrete skate park is shrouded in darkness. The chain-link fence surrounding it is locked shut. Past that, there’s a courtyard overlooking the jogging path next to the river. Jimin tugs them to the left instead, near the wide lawn. They plop down near the footpath, Jimin tucking his legs up to his chest as he continues talking.

“It’s unbelievable. There’s so many dumb rules. Like, I can’t have a social media that isn’t run by staff, I always have to go out with masks on if it’s not official royal business. I can’t even— I can’t even marry someone who isn’t royal, or noble, or—, or the child of some major politician.” The prince stares out at the dark river in front of them. The city lights reflect off of it, showing just the slightest ripples from the current. “I can’t date who I want, or hook up with anyone other than the rich, snobby kids of public figures during foreign assemblies because god forbid I have a commoner’s tongue down my throat—”

Jeongguk chokes at this. Jimin looks embarrassed.

“Sorry,” he mutters. “I shouldn’t have said all that.”

The brunet raises his hands up. “No, no, you’re fine. I just wasn’t...expecting that.”

Jimin grins. “What, you thought I was some blushing little virgin?”

No, Jeongguk thinks. Jimin’s confidence reeks of experience.

Not that he was thinking about the other’s sexual experience or anything.

Instead of responding cooly, Jeongguk finds himself stuttering out half-worded answers. He finally shuts up when Jimin starts laughing. Not in a mean way, more like this is ridiculous way.

“You know, I had a bodyguard with me at all times until I turned seventeen.” Jimin’s expression is downcast as he messes with his shoelaces. The only noises are distant honking from the expressway and the river's current.

“That sounds suffocating,” Jeongguk mutters. Jimin hums.

“Yeah. I’d only get a break from them when I was in my room. Other than that, they were everywhere. Waiting for me outside bathrooms, standing behind me at official dinners.”

“That’s awful,” he sympathizes. All of a sudden he feels very lucky to have not been born royal. Sure, it might be nice to have a large inheritance and any material thing you want, but Jeongguk knows that freedom isn’t material. And Jimin sure doesn’t have it. 

“Yeah,” the prince mutters. He closes off after this, only responding in hums and grunts before Jeongguk changes the topic of conversation. The outgoing personality that Jeongguk’s slowly acclimating himself to returns almost immediately.

 

02:00
“It’s pretty shitty that we can’t see stars here.”

They’re lying on the grass, heads turned up to the sky. All Jeongguk sees is a black darkness and maybe some clouds in the moonlight. Other than that, it’s pitch black. Jimin had laid down sometime around thirty minutes ago. The younger ends up joining him, but only after he gets tugged to the ground.

“Yeah,” he replies. It’s not something unusual for him. Even in Busan, the light pollution was so bad he never saw any stars. “When my grandma was alive, my favorite part about visiting her was the fact that we could see stars from her house. She lived an hour north of Daegu in the countryside. By the mountains.”

“How many could you see?”

“Thousands. So many. Wherever you looked, there was a cluster of stars. It looks like someone flicked a paintbrush across a black canvas after dipping it in white paint. Every night my brother would drive us to a field nearby. Our dad gave us this astronomy books about constellations, and we’d read it by flashlight to try to figure out where they are.”

“And your parents just let you leave like that?”

He nods, and then realizes that Jimin probably didn’t see it. “Yeah. My mom thought that it might convince me or my hyung to go into the sciences for a career instead of arts. It didn’t work, but it was still one of my favorite things to do when I was a kid. I wanted to be an astronaut for years. Thought that I could fly up to one of the stars and just touch it.”

There’s a giggle next to him. “You didn’t know they were burning hot?”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “Nah. I was like, thirteen.”

Jimin sits up to lean over him. His eyebrows are scrunched together in disbelief. “You read this entire book of astronomy with your brother and didn’t realize that stars are just hot balls of gas?” He’s taken off his mask since they got here, since they were the only ones around. His hair hangs off his forehead, almost brushing Jeongguk’s.

He gulps. “I never liked paying attention in classes.”

Much to his relief, Jimin lies back down so Jeongguk can breathe normally again. “Not me. I had good grades in everything.”

“Was that because of your parents?”

“Nah. I just really liked having good grades. It brought personal satisfaction, I guess.”

Jeongguk hums.

They fall into another silence, but this time it isn’t as uncomfortable. He supposes it’s because he’s warming up to Jimin fairly quickly. Which is strange, sort of. Sure, Jeongguk’s improved a lot since he was a socially-awkward, society-rebelling teenager, but his natural introverted personality still made it hard to become friends with strangers so fast. So meeting Jimin, escaping the paparazzi, and driving around Seoul for three or more hours (Jeongguk’s lost count, honestly, because he hasn’t checked his phone once since they got on the expressway) and being comfortable in silence with the guy after so little time spent together is something that’s never happened before. Jeongguk isn’t sure if this pleases or scares him.

“So what was your grandma like?” Jimin asks.

He sighs. “She was...something. I mean, she was a normal grandma, sure, but she was also really funny. She’d crack these jokes that I wouldn’t understand until a couple minutes later, but by the time I started laughing she would’ve forgotten all about it. She absolutely hated cooking and made my grandpa do all that. But it wasn't all great. She was really traditional,” he trails off after that sentence, staring up at the stars. He hasn’t been religious since he was a kid, but Jeongguk wonders if her soul was up there in heaven like his father always promised. 

“Yeah?” Jimin murmurs, trying to get him to elaborate. He turns his face to look at Jeongguk. The younger tries to do the same but eventually looks back at the sky because Jimin’s gaze is too intimidating to match. He clears his throat.

“She stopped talking to me as much when I was fifteen, and died of a stroke four years later. So...that’s that, I guess.”

Jimin frowns and opens his mouth to speak but his condolences are cut off when the younger waves his hand in passiveness. The prince pulls his own arm up to rest his head on. “Why’d she stop talking to you? Did you two fight about something?”

Jeongguk scratches an imaginary itch on his arm. “Sort of…” he mumbles. “I was in eighth grade, and my mom told her I had started going on dates with someone. She wasn’t too happy about it.”

Jimin raises an eyebrow. “Really? Just over that?” He looks confused, but the way his eyebrow raises and a sympathetic smile shows on his features lets Jeongguk know he doesn’t have to elaborate if he doesn’t want to.

He nods anyway. “His, his name was Dongmin,” he chokes out.

The prince lurches up at this, staring straight forward. “Oh,” is all that he squeaks out. Jeongguk sits up too, alarm bells ringing inside his head. Shit, he’d gotten so used to being out to his friend group that he naively forgot that not everyone is cool with that. Not everyone in university is liberal, less-traditional.

Of course Jimin isn’t cool with that. The royal family is probably traditional as hell. They’re probably all practicing Protestants, and the brunet curses at himself for not realizing this. Why the hell did he expect Jimin to be okay with his sexuality? Even though he feels comfortable with him, they’re not friends. Jeongguk knows they’re not friends. So why did he blurt that out?

The more seconds pass in silence, the more Jeongguk freaks out. He studies Jimin’s expression, but the blond is only staring at the water with raised eyebrows.

“Sorry,” he stutters out, unsure of what to say. Jimin finally looks at him with wide eyes. Jeongguk pushes off the ground with his hand, standing up. “I can take you home. I’m sure the paparazzi aren’t there anymore and then we can act like this never happened—”

“Jeongguk-ah,” Jimin stops him with a hand gripping his sleeve. Jeongguk’s still half-crouched, having been stopped in the middle of standing. “What are you going on about?”

The younger’s anxiety is only rising when he sees Jimin narrow his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he repeats. “I shouldn’t have said that. I should’ve kept it to myself, and now you’re uncomfortable and you hate me but—”

Jimin’s expression changes in a split second, raising his other hand in the air to stop the brunet. “Woah woah woah, what? No, Jeongguk-ssi, I don’t care about that,” he huffs, tugging Jeongguk back down next to him. The taller lands onto the grass again with a thud. Jimin pulls him closer so his shoulder is leaning against Jeongguk’s bicep, radiating warmth through his long-sleeve. “Hey, look at me,” he prompts, making Jeongguk move his gaze off his lap. Jimin grips his shoulder tightly, other hand reaching across his chest and curling around the juncture between Jeongguk’s neck and shoulder so he’ll look at the prince. “I don’t care. About that. I was just surprised. I didn’t expect it. I’m sorry for making you freak out.”

He jerks out of the shorter’s hold, scooching away a few centimeters. “It’s fine,” he says cooly, turning his eyes away. Jeongguk doesn’t feel very cool.

There’s about a half a minute of silence where they don’t speak. Jeongguk isn’t fully convinced, wondering if Jimin was only saying that because he doesn’t want the younger to go to the press about the crown prince being discriminatory or anything. He stares out at the dark river, churning and moving with the current. It’s probably polluted to all hell, but it’s still a major tourist attraction during the normal hours of the day. Jimin doesn’t speak either until Jeongguk feels fingers wrap around his wrist.

“Me too,” Jimin whispers.

Jeongguk turns his head to look at him. Jimin is still in the position he was earlier, watching Jeongguk from several centimeters away.

“What?” he asks.

Jimin lowers his gaze, staring at Jeongguk’s hand. “About the...guys. Liking them.”

There’s a choked noise that erupts from his throat. He knows that’s not the appropriate reaction, but Jimin is still staring at their hands and Jeongguk feels like he’s on fire.

The crown prince is into men. The same crown prince who’s supposed to be king, and create heirs for the next generation of rulers. He can’t wrap his head around it. 

Although, maybe he can. Jimin was soft, and when he touched Jeongguk in the car it was with a delicate hand and what appeared to be nerves. The younger always tried to avoid stereotypes, considering he was the farthest from what someone would label a gay man as, but he figures the image of Jimin’s arms being around a man’s hip, instead of a woman’s, wasn’t that...crazy.

“O-only guys?” He stutters. Jimin finally raises his dark eyes. His gaze makes Jeongguk shiver, even though it still must be at least sixteen degrees out. 

“Um, sort of,” Jimin answers. He must realize he’s still holding onto Jeongguk’s wrist because he gently unclasps his fingers around the joint before pulling his hands back to his lap. “I mean, women are nice. But it’s mostly guys.”

“Oh,” the younger breathes. “That’s...that’s cool.”

He’s not sure if it’s the way he replies or what, but Jimin jerks back. He has a panicked expression on his face as if he just realized what he admitted to someone who’s basically a stranger. “A-And, even if you go to the media with this, I’ll deny ever meeting you and there’s no evidence anyway, and if it starts to snowball I’ll sue you for defamation—”

The longer Jimin talks, the wider Jeongguk’s eyes get. He reaches forward, whispering a woah woah woah before grabbing Jimin’s upper arms.

“Hey, calm down,” he whispers. The prince looks anxious. “Your secret is safe with me. I promise. Helping you tonight wasn’t some twisted plan to get all your secrets and sell them to the media.”

Jimin still looks unsure, but he relaxes in Jeongguk’s hold. “Prove it,” he murmurs, eyes downcast.

“You’ll just have to trust me,” he responds. “I couldn’t care less about the media. I don’t give a shit about the royal family’s secrets, no offence, because the only reason I helped you tonight was because you looked like you needed it. There were no background plots, or secret reasons. I just wanted to help you. I still want to help you. That’s why I’m here, that’s it.”

Dark irises stare into his before Jimin slowly nods. Jeongguk drops his hands and scoots back. The blond goes back to sitting in a hunched form, resting his chin on his bent knees.

Jimin sighs, thick lips curling into a pout as he stares out at the river. “Thanks for telling me.”

“About being gay, or not caring about the skeletons in your closet?”

The prince smiles slightly, and leans closer until his head knocks against Jeongguk’s arm. “Both, I guess.”

“You too,” the younger adds. “You didn’t have to, have to come out to me or anything. But I appreciate it.”

The prince doesn’t answer and instead presses more of his body weight into Jeongguk’s side.

“Does your family know?” the brunet asks.

He shrugs. “I haven’t told them directly. It’s not like it isn’t sort of obvious, though. I think they know deep down, but don’t want to admit it. My best friends know, but that’s it.” His tone sounds melancholic. The younger feels guilty.

“You didn’t have to tell me that just to prove you didn’t hate me for being gay,” Jeongguk says quietly.

“I didn’t. I just,” Jimin’s voice fades off, and Jeongguk looks to see his eyebrows are scrunched together. “I think I just wanted to be able to admit it, for once. Be proud of it.” Jeongguk turns his stare back to the view in front of them as the prince continues talking. “I try to be proud of who I am, but it’s hard.”

He nods. “You have a whole nation watching you, along with the whole world.”

Jimin nudges him harshly with an elbow. “Thanks for the consolations,” he mumbles sarcastically.

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yeah, I know.”

There’s a group of drunken college students trying to break into the skate park beside them. Jimin ignores them, but pulls his hood up. They face away from the group of rowdy students anyway.

“Jimin-ssi?”

“Yeah?”

“I think you’ll do fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Honestly, Jeongguk isn’t sure what specific thing he means by this. It’s more of an assortment of things. Being king, coming out to his family or even the entire world, if he feels like it. A feeling deep within his chest tells him that Jimin will end up fine. He knows he probably won’t be around to see it personally. Sure, he’ll see the prince on TV (especially after this night, Jeongguk will be sure to check up more on the royal news columns,) but after tonight, they won’t talk. They aren’t friends. Once the sun rises and Jimin finds a way back to the palace, their night will be nothing but a distant memory replayed over and over in Jeongguk’s head.

But Jimin smiles at him, and he stops thinking about what will happen after tonight.

“Thanks, Jeongguk-ssi.”

 

03:00
About thirty minutes after their heart-to-heart, as Jeongguk is begrudgingly calling it in his head (mostly because he can’t find any other word for it, other than I-admitted-I’m-gay-and-you-freaked-out-so-I-thought-you-were-homophobic-but-it-was-only-because-you-might-be-gay-too-and-I-told-you-everything-will-turn-out-fine-in-a- totally-not-fond-way, and that was too long,) Jimin asks if they can walk somewhere else because the partying college kids keep getting closer and closer to them as each minute wears on.

They stay in the park, but Jeongguk ends up leading him a ways down the jogging path until they stop at a bench near the overpass. On the other side of Cheongdam bridge is the Jabeolre, which Jimin raises an eyebrow at.

The unique structure is near the bridge ramp. The city lights reflect off of its white exterior. The entire thing looks like a curling, twisty noodle. There are no lights on in the windows.

“Is that a waterslide?” he inquires. Jeongguk shakes his head.

“It’s a museum, sort of. It connects to the subway and has all sorts of public artwork inside. I went there with my best friend in my first year, it’s not that bad. It’s closed right now though, obviously.”

Jimin hums as they both sit down on the bench. The metal is cold to the touch, but Jeongguk is tired of standing so he deals with it. “It looks like a giant worm. Or a waterslide.” 

The younger snorts. Instead of responding, he pulls out his phone for the first time in hours. Jimin notices.

“Shouldn’t your roommate be worried about you?” he asks, pulling his feet up onto the bench to tuck beneath him.

He shakes his head. “I usually stay later at the studio, so Hobi-hyung just assumes I’m there. On nights like these, he’s already asleep by the time I get back to our apartment.”

Jimin smirks, but his eyes widen in a teasing way. “Nights like these?” he cocks his head. “What, do you normally go around, escorting princes?”

“Ah, of course not, Your Highness,” Jeongguk grins back. “You’re the only prince for me.”

He means this in the same joking way that Jimin did, but the way the older seems to choke on his spit shows that it wasn’t taken as intended.

“It was a joke, Jimin-ssi,” he prods, poking his side. Jimin nods slowly. His jaw tenses as he leans back and inhales deeply.

“I knew that. Obviously,” he coughs. The younger is about to tease him more but Jimin stands and tugs him off the bench. “It’s cold, let’s go down by the water,” he complains.

“It’ll probably be even colder by the water,” Jeongguk reasons. The prince continues dragging them towards the rocks that line the shore. He sits down on a large one, patting the spot next to him for Jeongguk to sit down.

Jimin rolls his eyes when the younger hesitates. “It’s not like I’m asking to go for a dip,” he whines. “Besides, we have a better chance of no one seeing us down here.”

Jeongguk sighs exaggeratedly before placing himself next to the prince. The other smiles widely.

Across the river, Gangnam’s bright skyline casts reflections across the water. The lights across the bridge make Jimin’s face glow in an orange hue. The prince stares out at the water, tucking his hands into the sleeves of his sweatshirt. The clothing is already big on Jeongguk, so Jimin practically disappears within the folds of the fabric.

It’s not the first time tonight he’s admiring Jimin’s beauty. Hell, it’s probably not even the third or fourth time, either. Whenever they got a chance to just sit and not have to worry if the paparazzi are following them, Jeongguk finds himself staring at the prince.

He knows it’s probably being disrespectful. He should stop. But every time he lays his eyes on the blond’s tired eyes, soft cupid’s bow, or full cheeks he spaces out. How is it fair that someone can be both royal and beautiful?

“How did you know?” he whispers, snapping Jeongguk from his thoughts. “About...liking guys,” Jimin clarifies. He looks small, with his knees pulled to his chest and his chin resting on them. Jeongguk shifts in his spot.

“Um, it’s kind of embarrassing,” he whispers. 

Jimin crosses his arms over his kneecaps, turning his head to the younger. “How so?”

He moves his gaze to the water. It’s too hard to talk about this with Jimin looking like that. A breathy, nervous laugh spills from his lips. “Um,” he stalls in a shaky voice. “When I was twelve, or something, some delinquent classmates made a thing out of sending chainmail to everyone’s phones. It was funny at first, because you’d get sent silly things making fun of a teacher or something. But one time my friend sent a gay porn site link as a joke. Everyone recognized the website name but me, so they didn’t click on it but...” he finds himself trailing off.

Jimin nudges his shoulder. “But…?”

“I, um...I clicked on it and got hard.”

Sputtered laughter bursts from Jimin as he covers his face in his hands. Jeongguk spews out protests, but the prince isn’t listening. His eyes crinkle up and he leans into Jeongguk as his body folds. They aren’t bothering with being quiet, considering the rowdy drunken group of students sound way worse.

“Stop laughing at me,” Jeongguk whines. “I was traumatized.”

Jimin peeks up at him from the folds of his sweatshirt. “Apparently not enough to not like it.”

Heat fills his cheeks as he jerks away again. Jimin laughs, but the blond pulls him back to his side once more after repeated apologies and whines. 

Once they calm down, he nudges the prince’s shoulder lightly. “What about you?”

“What, my gay awakening?”

“I mean, I wouldn’t exactly call it that, but sure.”

Jimin hums, pressing a finger to his lips. Jeongguk finds it hard to not watch in fascination as it presses against his pink lips. “When I was sixteen or seventeen, my best friend and I smuggled beer into my room. We got really wasted, and the next thing I knew both of our shirts were off and my bodyguard walked in on us with his tongue in my mouth.”

Jeongguk gapes at him. “What?” he asks in disbelief. Jimin covers his face and nods.

“It was so embarrassing!” he groans. “I paid the guy off to not tell my parents about both us making out and drinking, but every time I saw him for the next month or so he wouldn’t meet my eyes. I’m lucky he was young, only about five years older than me, or else I think he would’ve gone to my parents.”

He snickers at the story, but Jeongguk twists his fingers when he asks his next question. “So, um, are you and the friend still together?” he asks quietly.

“Taehyung?” Jimin snorts, shaking his head. “No. We were just horny teenagers. I mean, I love him and all, but he’s just my best friend. So is Seokjin-hyung.”

“Are they nobles?” Jeongguk asks. A dull voice in the back of his head wonders if he’s the only commoner Jimin’s hung out with.

To his disappointment (disappointment?), Jimin shakes his head with a smile adorning his face. “Nah. Taehyung’s grandfather was head of the parliament when we were born, so we grew up together. Tae met Seokjin-hyung in our freshman year, and we all clicked pretty well.”

Jeongguk nods. Yoongi, Hoseok, and Namjoon are the only people he genuinely enjoys hanging out with. Sure, there are some nice classmates or dance partners like Yugyeom from Mens Ballet II or Mina from his Statistics class, but they’re not the kind of people Jeongguk sees himself opening up to. And even though his hyungs are possibly the rowdiest and destructive creatures on Earth (Yoongi may not seem like it upon meeting, but the second you give him a little bit of soju and take him to a noraebang, the volume could go in a running against a room of kindergarteners) anyone else that’s attempted to join the small circle of friends never seemed to fit so it’s always been just them. 

Well, except for when Hoseok dated a girl who tried to be best friends with the rest of them. Even Namjoon found her annoying, and that guy tries to love everyone. She didn’t really know boundaries and luckily Hoseok broke up with her after a couple of months, but not without Yoongi yelling at him to dump her beforehand. Jeongguk wasn’t at the apartment when it happened, but he came home to Hoseok crying in the shower while their hyung seethed on the couch. He found them curled up against each other in Hobi’s twin bed the day after the breakup. 

(As much as Yoongi pretends to act all stoic and uncaring, it’s hard for Jeongguk to not see how deeply he cares for each of his friends.)

((And maybe, sometimes, it seems like the love he has for Hoseok goes just a little bit deeper than the others, but that’s none of Jeongguk’s business.))

He tells this much to Jimin, who hums.

“I get the feeling. Seokjin-hyung wants Tae and I to meet his roommate. I mean, I barely know anything about the guy, but hyung trusts him so he can’t be bad.”

“You’re not worried he’ll be weird about the whole royalty thing?”

Jimin shrugs. “I guess I’ll find out. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overreacting, but the feeling of someone joining in after so many years with my friends just feels…”

“Weird,” Jeongguk finishes with an exhale. “I get it.”

Jimin leans against his shoulder casually. Jeongguk takes in a sharp breath, hoping the other didn’t notice it.

“Y’know, for a self-described introvert, you’re pretty fun to hang out with,” he whispers.

Jeongguk glances over to him. “Thanks.” After a pause, he realizes he should say something back. “I mean, you too. You’re fun. Too. But not an introvert, really. Not that I know, though.”

The prince seems amused by his stumbling and leans away with a smile on his lips. “Nah, I was always a social kid. Kind of forced to, really. My brother isn’t, though. Biggest introvert I’ve ever met.”

“How old is he?”

Jimin looks over at Jeongguk with raised eyebrows. “Jeongguk-ssi, do you really not know or are you just trying to make conversation?”

Jeoha, I didn’t even recognize you until you said your family name. I think it’s obvious that in terms of news on the monarchy, I’ve been oblivious to such commentary.” Jimin jabs his side for the aged honorific. Jeongguk only laughs, but finds himself scooching back close to the prince’s side again.

“Shut up,” he whines. “He’s your age. Do you even know his name?”

He bursts into laughter a few seconds later when Jeongguk abashedly shakes his head. In between bursts of giggles he gets up off of the rock and steps forward onto the next one so he can turn and face Jeongguk while standing. He points a finger towards Jeongguk helplessly. “How do you not know anything about your country’s leaders?”

The younger slaps his hand away, but leans towards Jimin over his knees. “When I was in school learning about the royals, you were practically my age. The textbooks were too old to talk a lot about you,” he weakly excuses. Jimin scrunches his nose and smacks Jeongguk’s knee. 

“No, you probably just didn’t pay attention to the lessons at all!” he grins. Gangnam’s lights behind him make a halo around his golden hair.

Jeongguk throws his hands up in defeat. His cheeks hurt from smiling. “I don’t get it! Do you want me to know about your family or not?”

The other waves his hands around vaguely, getting heated. When he speaks, his words are slurred together slightly in a lisp. “It wouldn’t kill you to at least have basic knowledge!”

The prince’s eyes are wide. His dark eyebrows raise to where they’re nearly hidden under his blond bangs and he’s looking at Jeongguk like he’s crazy. His words drawl together in a whine, and Jeongguk can’t help but lean backwards from laughter erupting from his chest. 

He opens his mouth to reply, to tease back. But before he can get any words out, a flash of light illuminates Jimin’s face as the shutter sound of a phone camera clicked behind them. Another flash comes once Jimin stares up at the person behind them in shock, Jeongguk whipping around to be blinded as well.

It’s one of the college kids. She looks to be about their age, and peeks over her phone to stare at them. Jeongguk gazes past her and sees black vans pull up to the curb.

“Jimin-ah,” he mumbles, still faced towards the girl. He stands up and looks to see Jimin still frozen. He jerks forward to pull the other’s mask up before he does his own. “Jimin-ah, we need to go. Now.”

Jimin just nods shakily, picking up his baseball cap off the rock and putting it on, tilting it low over his face. Jeongguk tugs the prince’s hood up as the blond digs out the sunglasses that were left in his pocket. Before he even has time to slide it on, Jeongguk’s grabbing his wrist and tugging them back up the rocks.

The girl stands in the direction they came from. Some of her friends seem to be moving towards them as well. Jeongguk leads Jimin to the left, towards the Jabeolre. The older seems to have come to his senses, striding fast down the asphalt path. Jeongguk lets go of his wrist and puts his hands in his pockets, head ducked.

“What do you want me to do?” he asks in a hush.

Jimin tilts his head towards Jeongguk as they cut under the museum. The taller has to duck his head in a couple of areas before they’re past it and heading towards the front of the park.

“We need to use the same bridge to get back to the car. It’ll be about a ten minute walk,” he mutters.

“The paparazzi were over there.”

Jimin nods, turning right again after they reach the top of the overpass. He keeps his hood low over his face and Jeongguk moves to do the same.

“We’re gonna have to run. Do you know this area well?”

“Moderately. Not much.”

The prince huffs and stops once they are past the bridge. In front of them is the large lawn and skatepark. Past those is where they need to go. It also means having to bypass all of the paparazzi vans parked by the curb. They watch as about a dozen people rush towards the shoreline of the beach, many holding cameras.

Jimin raises a hand for Jeongguk to stop. “When I say go, we need to run to the bridge. Keep your face down and cover it with your hands if you need to. Don’t let them get a good picture of you.”

He nods. They spend a couple more seconds of watching the vans. No one else comes out, but the group down by the shoreline are now spreading out. Jeongguk notices more cars are pulling up as well.

“How did they get here so fast?” he wonders aloud.

“That girl must’ve been taking pictures of us earlier, too. If it blows up fast enough, Dispatch and other media find out quick. She might’ve even sent it to them in the first place,” Jimin explains. He jerks his head towards the beach one more time before nodding. “Okay. Go.”

That's all the warning Jeongguk gets before Jimin takes off sprinting. He follows, sneakers thudding against the hard ground. It won’t take long for the paparazzi to notice two figures running through the darkness, but at least they’ll have a head start.

Jimin is still ahead of him, but it only takes a couple seconds for Jeongguk to catch up with his long legs. It’s hard to breathe with a mask on, so his breath becomes labored quicker than it usually does. 

They don’t waste precious air by talking. Jimin ducks his head down once they pass the vans, and Jeongguk copies. The drivers must still be inside because there’s shouting as soon as they go by. 

The remaining college kids who are still hanging around the skate park yell and whistle at them as they cut through. Jeongguk doesn’t pay them any attention, but he hears a couple of good evening, Your Highnesses in slurred voices. Jimin doesn’t respond. There’s still shouting behind them, but the sound of wind blowing in his ears drowns the paparazzi out. Jeongguk grabs his hood to keep it from falling from running.

As soon as they get to the bridge, Jimin turns onto it and runs across the raised concrete. Jeongguk is right on his heels, but the arch-like elevation makes it harder to keep the pace. He pushes through it, catching up to Jimin again after having fallen behind. If he wasn’t so out of breath, Jeongguk would admire the prince’s stamina. He hasn’t slowed down once in their sprint.

 

(mood: Tonight You Are Mine - The Technicolors)

 

Once they get off the bridge, Jimin stops for a second in front of a crosswalk. It’s on a green light, so taxis and cars speed by way above the limit. Jeongguk pants next to him after catching up. 

“What now?” he asks the elder. The light doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon, and they can hear the distant sound of tires squealing behind them.

Jimin glances to him for a moment before turning around to check for the black vans. After a second, he faces the street. “Come on,” he orders, taking off into the street.

It’s embarrassing that it barely takes two seconds for Jeongguk to go after him. 

Horns are shrieking at them from all directions as they sprint across the four-lane street, but Jimin doesn’t seem to be stopping. Jeongguk narrowly avoids getting creamed by an angry taxi driver. On the third lane, he pulls the hood of Jimin’s sweatshirt back just in time to keep him from getting hit by a semi. He gets a muttered thanks before they make it across the street.

Jeongguk glances behind them to see some of the paparazzi vans were already at the light. Luckily, it just changed.

“Come on!” Jimin growls, pulling him out of his thoughts and grabbing Jeongguk’s wrist before starting to run again. The younger stumbles for a second before catching himself and following. Fortunately, there are few pedestrians to run into on the dark sidewalks. Unfortunately, that also means there isn’t a crowd for them to blend into. They pass a high school, sprinting across an empty street. Jeongguk’s sneakers will be worn out by the end of all this; there’s no way the DAISO knock-off brand shoes won’t end up falling apart at the end of the night. They only have to stay on the road for about five blocks before reaching the parking garage, but the appearance of more vans around the corner makes them skid to a stop.

The drivers must’ve seen them. The black vans quickly alter their course, heading straight for the duo. Jeongguk looks around. Next to them, a family restaurant has patio tables and chairs strewn about the pavement. Between it and the sub shop next door is a narrow side road into what looks like an apartment complex parking lot. Jeongguk isn’t sure if there’s an alternative exit out of that area, but it’s ultimately their best bet. He grabs Jimin’s sleeve and pushes him towards the road entrance.

“In there!” he urges. Jimin reacts quickly, running into the small courtyard. It looks too narrow for the large vans to fit through.

In the interior, there’s a parking lot for the apartment complex. There’s no exits to their sides, but rather an entrance on the other side of the lot.

“Go straight,” Jeongguk pants. Jimin nods, shoulders heaving from exertion. They hurry through the parking lot to get out of sight. Once they leave it, they meet a maze of side streets for the block. Jeongguk looks around, trying to figure out where they should head. “Okay, don’t go straight,” he mutters. Jimin’s breathing heavily next to him. He tugs down his mask.

“I need to breathe for a second,” he explains. Jeongguk nods and does the same, relishing in the fresh, unstuffy air that fills his lungs seconds afterwards.

“Let’s head north,” he murmurs and turns left.

The neighborhood doesn’t look too much unlike Jeongguk’s, honestly. Housing developments surround them, all tight-packed and no taller than four stories. Jeongguk spots a pink children’s bike chained to the staircase balcony outside of an apartment building. Cars line the streets, most in illegal parking spaces.

Jimin is still huffing next to him, but his breathing evens more with each passing minute. He takes in the area around them.

“What, never been in a residential before?” Jeongguk asks. There’s no malice in his tone. He’s simply curious.

Jimin shakes his head. “I have, but not as run-down as this,” he murmurs, taking in the half-finished construction on an office building ahead of them. He seems to reflect on his words though, because his face screws up. “I didn't mean it like that,” he fixes and looks at Jeongguk.

The younger waves him off. “I know what you mean. It’s not exactly Gangnam or Jongno, like you’re used to.”

Jimin smiles, shaking his head. “No. Definitely not.” After a moment, he taps Jeongguk’s arm. “Have you lived in these kinds of areas?”

He nods. “I live in one of them now. It’s a little nicer, though. More brick buildings. A bit more expensive than these places, but better than living in the dorms or student housing.”

“Do you have a job?” the prince asks.

Jeongguk nods. “I work at a cinema in the mornings before class.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Nah, it’s fine. Not a lot of people show up other than old, retired couples. All the kids are usually in school.” He pulls out his phone again. 3:46AM. He shows the screen to Jimin. His companion yawns in response.

“I’m tired,” he murmurs.

“As soon as we get to the car, I’ll take you home,” Jeongguk promises.

They pass another block, getting closer to the parking garage. Jimin ducks his head when they pass a group of students, but none seem to notice them.

“I’ll text one of the night guards at the palace to check for paparazzi,” Jimin sighs, pulling out his phone and typing into it.

They continue walking through the narrow streets. There aren’t even any sidewalks; they have to walk in the middle of the road. Every now and then there’s a street light that illuminates Jimin’s face, but other than that it’s dark. The sun will start rising in a couple of hours.

Jimin finishes his text, putting his phone back into his pocket. He turns to Jeongguk. “Do you have work in the morning?” he asks.

The brunet nods. “I go in at ten, though, so I should be able to get a couple hours of sleep.”

Jimin looks guilty, staring down at his hands. “Sorry.”

He shrugs. “It’s not your fault, Jimin-ssi. I agreed to help you, so I’ll deal with the consequences.”

The prince slowly nods. He takes off his sunglasses, but holds onto them instead of putting them in his pocket. “Are we almost there?”

Jeongguk looks around before nodding. “We have a block left, I think. It’ll be in front of the 7-Eleven.”

Sure enough, at the next street the tall building looms in front of them. There are no cars on the street so they cross it without problem. Jimin holds the door open for Jeongguk to walk through before entering himself into the small room. To their side, a staircase leads up the stories. In front of them, however, is an elevator.

They share one look before heading towards the elevator, too tired to deal with the stairwell.

He presses the up button and they wait for the elevator to come down for them. Jimin looks like he’s about to pass out on the spot. Once the doors open with a chime, the younger leads the prince through the doors. Jimin’s eyes are closed as he walks, and as the elevator ascends, he leans against the wall.

Jeongguk scrunches his nose. “Don’t lean on that, it’s probably disgusting,” he mutters. Jimin cracks an eye open with an annoyed look on his face. Jeongguk drops his eyes to the ground before mumbling, “just lean on me.”

The elevator thrums as they pass each floor. Jimin sighs, yawns again, and pushes himself off of the wall to scooch over to Jeongguk. Without a word, he rests his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder, putting most of his body weight on the dancer. Jeongguk wraps his arm around Jimin’s waist to keep him from falling. Heat rises to his face.

Jimin hums, closing his eyes again. The blond hair that curls out of his hat tickles Jeongguk’s neck. 

A minute later, he tugs the half-asleep prince to his car, putting him in the passenger seat. The second Jimin hits the cushion his eyes fall shut again. Jeongguk snorts before reaching over him to buckle his seatbelt and walking around the car. He twists the key into the ignition and pulls out of the parking space.

It’s only about fifteen minutes on the expressway when Jimin’s phone rings, waking him up. Jeongguk took the blond’s hat and mask off at the first stoplight, and he’s practically been snoring by the time they got out of the block. Now, blond bangs bounce against his forehead as he jerks into a sitting position instead of sleeping against the window.

“Wha’time is it?” he mutters, pulling his phone from his pocket.

“Past four,” Jeongguk replies. He blinks away his exhaustion and yawns.

Jimin finally answers the call. “Hey,” he greets. After a moment, he sighs. “Really?” Another couple of seconds of waiting. “No, I’ll try to find a place or something.” Jeongguk feels like his eyelids glue together every time he blinks. “No, I won’t use a hotel. I learned that the hard way. Okay. Bye, thank you.” He sighs and puts the phone down in his lap.

“What’s going on?” Jeongguk asks quietly.

The prince groans. “There’s paps all around the castle. There’s no way we’d be able to get through there without them following you home.” Jimin looks genuinely sorry. His lips curve downwards and his eyes look more hooded. Jeongguk glances at him once. A second time. Finally, he bites his cheek and says,

“You can sleep at my place?”

Jimin turns to look at him, but Jeongguk keeps his eyes on the road. He grips the steering wheel tightly. He really shouldn’t have said that. Jimin’s only known him for, what, five hours now? Six? There’s no way he’d trust Jeongguk enough to sleep at his apartment.

But instead of rejecting him and making the rest of the drive awkward like Jeongguk thought would happen, Jimin instead leans over the console. “What about your roommate?”

Jeongguk almost swerves the car with how quickly he jerks to meet Jimin’s eyes. “He, um,” he stutters. He turns back to the road. “He’ll be asleep. He doesn’t have classes until the afternoon, and I’m pretty sure he went out late with Yoongi-hyung so you’ll probably be gone by the time he wakes up.”

“Yoongi?”

“One of our friends. I mentioned him earlier.”

Jimin slowly nods before shifting back into his seat. “Okay. Let’s head to your place then.”

“Really?” the younger asks.

The prince smiles at him. “Yeah, really. Thank you.”

Jeongguk feels heat rise to his face. He hopes it’s not too obvious with the streetlights flashing through the windows every couple of seconds. “No problem,” he chokes out.

 

04:30
“So this isn’t student housing?” Jimin asks once they pull up to the apartment complex. Jeongguk parks in the last empty spot behind the building before pulling his keys from the ignition. “It looks so nice.”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty nice neighborhood,” he murmurs, reaching into the back of the seat to grab his dance bag. Jimin does the same, picking up his coat at his feet as well as the empty pizza box.

After throwing away the trash in the lobby Jeongguk leads the shorter towards the elevators. The entire place is desolate except for the half-asleep attendant at the counter. She pays them no mind as they pass her. She even gives them a half-wave as they step onto the elevator, eyes not rising from her book. Jimin fiddles on his phone for a moment, sliding it back into his pocket. The doors close with a chime and Jeongguk feels the floor shift under them.

“My driver is gonna pick me up around ten tomorrow, is that cool?”

He nods. “Sure. I’ll probably be gone for work by the time you get up, though. Hobi-hyung will still be asleep.”

“That’s fine.”

Once they reach the fourth story, they head towards the end of the hall. He’s surprised they don’t smell pot reeking from his neighbors, who’re notorious for getting complaints about the odor. Jeongguk stops at his door, fishing out his keys from his pocket and glancing to the prince.

He unlocks the door as quietly as he can, pressing a finger to his own lips. Jimin nods and makes a gesture of zipping his mouth shut.

Inside, the apartment is silent. The front entrance opens up to the kitchen and small living room. The entire area is dark except for a lamp next to the couch. Jeongguk smiles. Hoseok has been living long enough with him to understand the perfectionist wouldn’t get home until late hours into the night, sometimes stretching into the morning on nights like these.

Well, not like this one.

Jimin’s in the middle of taking his shoes off by the door after having hung his coat when Jeongguk grabs some blankets and a throw pillow for himself out of the storage chest near the sofa. He’s already tossing it onto the couch and unrolling the blanket when Jimin pads over to him.

“You don’t have to make my bed, Jeongguk-ssi,” the blond tries to look annoyed by this, but the small smile adorning his lips isn’t missed by the younger.

“This isn’t for you,” he states. “I did laundry this morning, my sheets are clean and new. You’ll sleep in my room.”

“I can’t let you do that,” Jimin whines quietly. He reaches out to Jeongguk’s hand to stop him from laying the blanket onto the couch. “It’s your home, it was already too nice of you to let me stay here. I’ll sleep on the sofa, it’s no big deal.”

Jeongguk scoffs, tilting his head to the side with a confused smile. “Jimin-ssi, you’re not sleeping on the couch.”

The prince raises an amused eyebrow.

It turns out, Jimin is very good at arguing.

Jeongguk really should’ve seen this coming, but within ten minutes the older is strewn across the couch comfortably with a smug look on his face and Jeongguk really wonders how the hell they got to this point when he was so adamant about leaving his bed to the prince just moments ago.

He sighs, but crouches down so he’s eye-to-eye with Jimin. “Do you want some of my clothes to sleep in?”

It’s hard to ignore the darkening of Jimin’s cheeks. He shakes his head, embarrassed. His earlier confident facade from having won their fight over who sleeps where disappears into nervous waves of his hands. “No, I wouldn’t want to be a bother.”

“It’s fine. Those clothes are probably sweaty from us running, it’d be gross to sleep in them. Plus, you’re wearing jeans. That can’t be comfortable to sleep in.” After a moment, Jeongguk leans back with a smirk on his face. “Besides, it’s not like you’ll stretch them out.”

This earns him a smack on the head with a quiet shout of yah, brat!

Jeongguk snickers and stands, heading towards his room down the hallway with careful footsteps. He’s only lived here for six months with Hoseok so far after rooming with him in the dorms since freshman year but it’s been enough time for the 22 year-old to memorize where the creaks were in the hardwood floors. He goes to his room and picks out some sweatpants and a loose shirt before closing his closet door softly and reentering the hallway.

Coming back into the living room to see Jimin halfway into lifting his shirt off is definitely not a sight Jeongguk expects to see. The prince’s skin looks like it was kissed by the sun; the mixture of tanned skin and the yellow lamplight makes his complexion match a shade of honey. Jimin doesn’t even see him come in. His face is covered from where he’s tugging the yellow sweater over his head, hands gripped on the fabric on his back. His entire torso is toned. Not in the way most dance major gym rats look—Jeongguk’s seen most of them shirtless in locker rooms before labs, and it looks like they all were carved out by sculptors—but in a way that makes the lamp light illuminate the soft planes of his stomach. He’s fit, sure, but there’s no hints of the gym-rat dance major abs and instead replaced by a thin waist and a light, barely-there trail of hair down to his jeans waistband.

And then Jeongguk’s eyes catch on a flash of black on the prince’s ribs. Jimin tugs his shirt all the way off, pulled in front of him with his arms still in the sleeves, and Jeongguk realizes he has a tattoo.

And promptly trips over the coffee table, stumbling, and crashing onto the carpet. With a loud thud.

Jimin, of course, is perfect and immediately bends down to help him. “Oh my god, are you okay?” he whispers, shucking off the rest of his shirt. Jeongguk fell to where he landed on his side, facing upwards, so the dark ink hatching itself around Jimin’s ribs is still visible. It’s an English word, he’s sure of it, but Jeongguk also never paid attention long enough to class during school so he has no idea what it means.

He pulls himself up to lean back on his elbows, eyes still wide and on the prince. Who’s half-naked. Crouching over him. With a tattoo. (A tattoo! )

“Um,” he remarkably stammers.

“Did you hit your head?” Jimin asks worriedly, and the younger shakes his head. His pinky toe is throbbing from where he kicked it against the coffee table leg.

He finally manages to speak words from his mouth. “No.”

Not much, but getting there.

Jimin leans back, grabbing Jeongguk’s hands to pull him up. Once they’re both standing, the blond checks him over.

After a second, he pulls back to look up at Jeongguk’s face. The taller returns the stare, face still hot whenever he lets his eyes trail down the other’s body.

The prince isn’t an idiot, though, and must notice because he bursts into barely-contained laughter. Bright teeth poke out from under his upper lip as he grins wide, eyes closing into the crescent shape once again as he realizes what Jeongguk was doing. Jimin tilts his head back and raises his hand to cover his mouth as he cackles.

It doesn’t take long for Jeongguk to realize how ridiculous this situation is and begins laughing too.

Jimin still hasn’t put his shirt back on, Jeongguk will probably have a bruise in the morning, and the sleep clothes are lying unfolded and forgotten on the floor.

It’s past four in the morning and he needs to leave for work in about five hours but Jimin’s leaning towards him as he laughs and rests his forehead against Jeongguk’s shoulder, trying to stifle their snickers in the dead of the night. As amazing as this moment feels, though, Jeongguk feels like he’s forgetting something.

“What the fuck?”

Ah, that. 

The duo halt in their laughter, spinning around to see Jeongguk’s half-awake roommate squint at them in the little light offered. Hoseok is dressed in some pajama pants and what he’s pretty sure is Namjoon’s shirt with his bangs pulled off his forehead by a thick hair band, giving them full view of his eyebrows curling down, annoyed.

“Jeongguk-ah, why the hell did you think it’d be cool to bring home a hookup at four in the morning? On a,” he pauses, throwing his hands out in front of him, “a goddamn Tuesday night,” he grumbles, reaching for the lamp. Jeongguk doesn’t even have time to be embarrassed by the accusation, instead raising his hands up in urgence.

“Hyung, don’t turn on the light!”

Hoseok ignores him, though, and twists the switch to light up the room. He turns back to the two, rubbing his eyes. “Now, what the fuck were you thinking—”

He halts the second he lays his eyes on Jimin.

Jung Hoseok loves gossip. It’s a known fact, just a natural part of his personality. Sure, he acts tough when he leads dance practice and didn’t hesitate beating the shit out of that asshole kid who punched Jeongguk in high school, but deep down he enjoys trivial things just like everyone else does. There’s no hard exterior to the man, unless you’ve given him a reason for it. He smiles at ahjummas on the street and makes babies giggle and there’s been one too many times that Jeongguk’s come home to him snuggled up against either Yoongi or Namjoon on the sofa, watching some entertainment or celebrity news show. 

So this is why Jeongguk isn’t really all that surprised when Hoseok’s eyes widen the second they land on Jimin. Even with the unrecognizable factors (for example, not having some sort of formal attire on, bare-faced, hair messy, shirtless, and with a fucking nevermind tattoo on his skin) there’s no chance Hobi doesn’t recognize him. Doesn’t realize who the shirtless ‘hookup’ is.

“Oh my fucking god,” he blurts out, just as Jeongguk comes to terms with the fact that he’ll have to buy his hyung dinner for a month if he ever wants to get close to Hoseok forgetting this.

He darts his eyes to Jimin, who looks like a deer caught in headlights for the second time tonight. He shoots a look to Jeongguk as if he expects him to handle it.

Which, fair enough.

Jeongguk takes in the facts: Hoseok walked in on him standing chest-to-chest with a shirtless Park Jimin, who had his face tucked into the juncture between his neck and shoulder while snickering. It’s 4am, and they were just giggling and red faced and now embarrassed that they got caught. He grimaces. Oh my god, no wonder his best friend thought they were hooking up. Jeongguk would too. “It’s not what it looks like?” his voice rises at the end, and Jimin jabs two fingers into his ribs.

His best friend is still gaping at Jimin. Brown eyes dart between the two before settling on Jeongguk. Hoseok raises a pointed finger. “You,” he growls, “have ten seconds to explain why the fuck the prince of South Korea is half-naked in our living room.”

Jimin blanches, and immediately scoops down to pick up the dropped clothing on the floor. He tugs on Jeongguk’s shirt hastily. There’s a pause after he wrenches his head through the collar where the three take turns staring at each other. Slowly, Jimin ducks in head in an awkward bow. Hoseok looks sick.

“Hyung, I will make whatever you want for dinner tomorrow and I’ll do your laundry for a month if you just go back to bed,” Jeongguk proposes. He bites his cheek when the oldest levels him with a look that states you’re insane if you think I’ll do that. “Please,” he makes sure to bring out the bunny eyes and pout that always pulls Hoseok under. “I’ll explain everything tomorrow.”

Hoseok glares at him and turns again to look over Jimin. If he was fully conscious, Jeongguk’s pretty sure he’d be freaking out right now over the prospect of the crown prince standing in their living room. But instead of looking at Jimin like that, Hoseok narrows his eyes at the man that was unintentionally the cause of him waking up at four in the morning. The 25 year-old stalks forward to observe the prince. He isn’t sure what the man is looking for, but he must find it if the pleased face is anything to go for. Finally, Hoseok meets Jimin’s eyes. Unfortunately, he spouts what might just be the most embarrassing sentence he could ever say in this situation.

“I don’t care who you are, Your Highness, but if you break Jeonggukie’s heart you’ll be dealing with me.”

He wants to die. If the ground beneath him opened him up right now and swallowed him whole, Jeongguk would thank whatever god in this universe for saving him from this ordeal.

Jimin looks equally abashed. “He’s— I’m not— We aren’t doing—”

The eldest waves him off, already turning to head back to bed. “Any other time, I would care. But right now, you two have stolen precious minutes of sleep.” He stops by the fridge to grab a bottle of water inside before padding down the hall. He calls to Jeongguk without turning his head. “I’ll take your deal. You have until tomorrow evening to come up with a believable excuse. If you two are loud I’ll kick you both out. Good night.”

The blond whips his head to Jeongguk as soon as Hobi’s door clicks shut down the hall. “Did he...did he think we were hooking up?”

The younger shoots him a look. “Well, you were shirtless.”

Instead of replying, Jimin snorts. “Where’s your bathroom?”

Jeongguk points down the hallway. “First door on your left,” he mumbles. Jimin nods and grabs the discarded pair of sweatpants on the ground, heading down the hallway. While he changes, Jeongguk goes to the kitchen to schedule the coffee machine to start brewing before he wakes up. Glancing at the digital clock on the stove, he knows he’ll need it.

Jimin shuffles in a couple minutes later, bypassing Jeongguk in the kitchen to head towards the coat rack. He searches through the pockets and pulls out his wallet, moving back to the open kitchen. Jeongguk, who had filled a glass of water while the prince was changing, leans against the fridge while sipping it.

He comes to a stop in front of him. Jimin rifles through the black wallet and pulls out a couple of yellow bills.

At the sight of them Jeongguk shakes his head. Sure, they had started this because Jimin offered to pay him, but it doesn’t feel right to take it anymore.

“No, it’s fine,” he murmurs and places his glass of water on the counter behind him. “Don’t worry about it, Jimin-ssi.”

The shorter pouts, full lips drawing out and eyebrows scrunching together. “I can’t just not pay you for parading me around Seoul the entire night.”

“It’s fine,” he repeats, crossing his arms over his cotton shirt. “I don’t want you to think that it was like...a chore for me, or anything. I didn’t talk to you about all that stuff just for a paycheck.” He leaves the details left unsaid. Jimin already knew what he was referring to. “I had fun,” he finishes lamely. Jeongguk frowns.

This doesn’t seem to quell the prince, however, because he quickly opens his mouth to argue. “Still, I—”

Jeongguk reaches out to tug on Jimin’s sleeve. The prince drops the arm holding his wallet and bills to his side with a frown. Jeongguk finds a smile creeping onto his face. “If you won’t let me call you Your Highness, I won’t let you pay me like some valet driver.” He says it teasingly, but a part of Jeongguk hopes that isn’t true. He hopes Jimin doesn’t just think of him like one, hopes that the blond at least thought their night meant something more than Jeongguk getting paid to lord him around for a couple hours.

The corners of Jimin’s lips raise slightly. “Okay,” he whispers, cheeks pushing up into his eyes. He sets the wallet behind him on the island without looking, leaving the bills on top of the black leather. The prince takes a step closer to bridge the meter gap between them. Mischief shines in his eyes. Jeongguk finds himself taking in a breath as the other begins to speak again. 

“But I don’t think your boyfriend would appreciate you spending an entire night with me for no reason.”

Jeongguk knows it’s a trap. It’s obvious, from the twinkling in Jimin’s hooded eyes to the way the corners of dark lips pull back into a smirk. 

He gives in anyways. “I don’t have a boyfriend,” he says with finality. Jimin’s smile widens.

“Really? That’s surprising.”

His grip on Jimin’s sleeve tightens into the fabric. “How come?”

The arm that Jeongguk’s holding raises to press against his waist as Jimin steps closer. Inside his head, alarms ring off as Jeongguk realizes what is actually happening.

Jimin drags his eyes across Jeongguk’s collar before trailing the dark irises back to his face. “I just think it’s surprising that no one has taken such an opportunity.”

You could, his mind replies, and Jeongguk does his best to extinguish such ideas. He gulps at noticing their new proximity.

They’re closer, now, because the prince kept advancing throughout his whispers and now the tips of his socked feet are just barely touching his slippers. Jimin’s not that shorter than him, only by an centimeter or so. If they were standing back-to-back with perfect posture they’d almost look the same height. Jeongguk’s lips line up with the prince’s nose. Said nose is tilted up slightly, barely noticeable. It’d take barely any effort for Jeongguk to lean down.

But they just met six or less hours ago. And it’s really, really late at night. Or early in the morning. However you look at it, Jeongguk has to get up and leave for work in five hours. This might just be the dredges of adrenaline from their late-night antics together. Also, Jimin’s the prince. The crown prince, in fact, of South Korea.

Definitely off-limits. He tells such to the thoughts in the back of his head that sound suspiciously like the singing lobster from that disney movie Namjoon loves.

So he evades. “What time is it?” he asks instead.

Jimin doesn’t look happy with this, but concedes. He leans back and Jeongguk realizes the blond had been leaning forward on his toes. That realization really does not help him in any way at all.

“Late,” he answers softly. The warm hand pressing against Jeongguk’s hip disappears. The younger sighs.

“You should go to bed,” he finally says.

“You should too, you have work.”

Jimin steps back. There’s over half a foot between them now. Jeongguk drops his hand down to Jimin’s. Slowly, he lifts the prince’s knuckles to his lips and presses a light kiss there. His eyes stay on Jimin as he whispers against his skin.

“Sleep well, my prince.”

He means to have the statement be cute and cheesy, but halfway through he starts smiling too much to finish it with a straight face. Jimin grins too, but his cheeks redden in the yellow lamplight from the living room.

The older slaps his chest lightly, embarrassed. “Shut up,” he mutters and drops his eyes.

He lowers their hands, but they still hang between each other, connected. Jimin untangles them slowly, allowing them to drop to their sides.

“Will I see you again?” Jeongguk whispers. “After tonight?”

Jimin continues staring at their hands. He seems to shake himself out of whatever thoughts that were going through his head, and lifts his gaze to Jeongguk again with a small smirk. “I don’t know, will you be around to rescue me if the dance building gets surrounded by paparazzi again?”

“I thought you were supposed to be the one in shining armor.”

The blond scrunches his nose. “God, no. Do you know how heavy that shit is? Besides, the only people who own armor nowadays are LARPists.”

He raises an eyebrow. “I’m concerned how you know what LARPing is.”

“Just because I’m a prince doesn’t mean I grew up without the internet.”

This pulls a quiet chuckle out of Jeongguk, but silence follows soon after. The distant sound of horns honking from the distance can be heard as Seoul wakes up for rush hour.

Jeongguk feels like he was stuck in time for this night, but the rest of the world moves on, with or without him.

“I had fun, too,” Jimin adds. “I know eventually I’ll have to be a leader for the people but...I wish my life could be like tonight, all the time.”

He goes for one last try. “Anytime you do, you know where to find me. I’m always in studio 2.”

The prince’s responding smile is full of pity and Jeongguk knows immediately that this will be it for them. Friendship was not in the guidelines for tonight, and neither was this weird tension between them.

Jimin stretches up, turning jaw to the side slightly as he presses his lips gently against Jeongguk’s cheek. He lowers himself a second later, but keeps his face close against the taller’s shoulder. 

“I wish,” he breathes against Jeongguk’s skin, “that we met as different people, Jeongguk.”

The younger raises his hands unsurely. Jimin notices and folds himself into Jeongguk’s embrace, wrapping his arms up and over his shoulders before clasping behind his neck against the fridge. Jeongguk closes his hands around Jimin’s waist, pressing his palm to the prince’s back.

“You would’ve been a really cool friend, Jeongguk-ssi,” Jimin repeats.

“You too,” he tucks his jaw onto Jimin’s shoulder. “The offer still stands, if you change your mind.”

Jimin pulls back. He nods, but his expression doesn’t convince the younger. Jeongguk turns to grab his glass of water behind him.

“You sure you don’t want my room?”

He shakes his head. “No, thank you.”

“The pillow and blankets are on the couch,” Jeongguk mutters. “Goodnight, Jimin-ssi.”

A soft goodnight reaches his ears as he turns around. He picks his feet up and pads to the hallway entrance. He’s about to retire to his bedroom when a thought strikes him.

Jeongguk turns around with a hand on the wall’s corner to see Jimin still standing in the kitchen.

“Just to set things straight, when I first saw your face I wasn’t shocked or anything because I realized who you were,” he states. Jimin stares at him. “I was just freaking out because of how beautiful you are.”

Jimin’s eyes widen and he garbles a few incomprehensible sounds before clamping his mouth shut. Jeongguk smiles.

“Goodnight, jeoha.

The 22 year-old makes his way to the bedroom. He fishes his phone from his pocket to set an alarm, eyes half-open. He barely glances at his phone reading 4:58AM before falling to his bed. The second his head hits the pillow, he clocks out.

 

His alarm barely wakes him up the next morning, leaving him dazed and confused as he quickly jumps out of bed to get dressed in his uniform. He scrambles to the kitchen and barely takes heed to the sleeping form on the couch before grabbing a travel cup of coffee and sprinting out the door, car keys in hand.

By the time he gets off work, Hoseok is the only one at the apartment. Not that Jeongguk expected Jimin to stay. He doesn’t even think he’ll ever see the prince again.

But it’s nice to hope, sometimes.

It’s halfway through picking through his dakjuk that Hobi drops the bomb.

“So...was I high as hell last night, or did I walk in on you boning Park Jimin?” he ponders into his spoon. Jeongguk almost chokes on his broth.

“Um,” he stumbles. Hoseok raises an eye at him.

So Jeongguk tells him everything. Everything, even the way that Jimin’s eyes scrunched into crescents and the way his laugh sounds at half past three in the morning. By the end of the retelling, Hoseok’s already cleaned out his first bowl and onto his second, scooping pieces of chicken and celery bits into his mouth. He chews in contemplation, staring up at the ceiling. Finally, the dancer swallows and turns to Jeongguk.

“Sure,” he shrugs.

Jeongguk narrows his eyes at his hyung, knowing the older doesn’t believe him. “I’m serious!”

Hoseok throws up his hands in mock-surrender. “Sure, I trust you, but no one else is gonna believe you! Your only proof is a wad of cash this morning and a post-it note on the refrigerator that says thank you in like, typewriter font.”

He drops his jaw into his head, grumbling. “I told him not to leave me money. Makes me feel like an escort or something.”

His hyung’s eyes widen. “So you did hook up!”

“No, we’re not that dumb! I knew him for like, seven hours, tops!”

“I’ve seen you go home with people in the span of thirty minutes.”

“But that wasn’t serious,” Jeongguk fires back, dropping his spoon onto the table. He’d lost his appetite thinking about it. He sighs and picks up his bowl and walks it to the sink.

“So you’re saying whatever is between you and Jimin is serious?” Hoseok calls from the couch. Jeongguk turns to glare at his roommate, who now has his laptop opened on the coffee table.

“You know what I meant,” he growls. Hoseok raises his hands in mock-surrender. “Besides, I don’t care if anyone else will believe me,” he continues, turning on the faucet to run it over the bowl. He’ll do the dishes later, he decides, so Jeongguk shuts the tap off a couple seconds later and walks back into the living room. “Because you are the only person who’s ever gonna know.”

Hoseok’s brown eyes are trained on his laptop screen, bowl now pushed to the side. He raises his eyebrows. “Are you sure about that?”

“Of course,” the younger declares as he plops himself back onto the couch. Hoseok huffs and turns the laptop so Jeongguk can see what’s on the screen.

When he leans forward, he faces himself.

No, Hoseok hadn’t turned on the webcam or anything like he first expects. Instead, Jeongguk comes face-to-face with himself from last night.

More specifically, on the front home page of Naver along with Park Jimin.

“Fuck,” he curses.

Hoseok leans back against the couch and crosses his arms. “I think you might want to rethink the whole ‘Hobi-will-be-the-only-one-to-ever-know’ plan.”

The resounding scream from his roommate as Jeongguk chucks a remote at him echoes throughout the living room.

Jeongguk is going to have a long week.

Chapter Text

Jimin truly, honestly hates diplomacy.

He can understand why others seem intrigued by the idea. He thinks it started all the way back in ancient Greek times or something (he really should know this, considering he’s practically majoring in it, but his lectures on The History of Diplomatic Relations at eight in the morning every Tuesday and Thursday bore him to death, and it’s not like he’ll need to know when and where in the world the first hints of diplomacy was discovered once he’s king, either,) but all of the useless facts barely sit in his memory for more than a couple weeks, until the next test at the latest, then promptly escape his brain out through his ears.

(That first diplomats were from Egypt, in 14th century B.C.E.. Jimin likes to act like he doesn’t care about his studies, but his inner perfectionist overcomes his occasional acts of rebellion by skipping a lecture or two every now and then only to text one of his classmates for pictures of their notes later that night, so, unfortunately, some of those useless facts are still ingrained in his head.)

The problem he has with diplomacy though is the cold, hard fact that the subject simply bores the hell out of him. Even if he wasn’t pressured into studying the major by his father, Jimin would probably still hate it. He can’t imagine himself sitting inside some stuffy embassy in some country he has no interest being in, speaking a foreign language that he’s so bad at he can hardly ask where the bathroom is.

So no, Jimin doesn’t like diplomacy very much at all. 

He wishes he was like Jihyun, who takes on all of his princely duties with ease and grace and never questions their father for even the strangest of requests. Even when they were thirteen and fifteen years old and their father told them that, because of the recent security breaches, their respective bodyguards would begin staying inside their bedrooms while they slept. Jimin drew his line there, but Jihyun had only nodded and continued eating his meal without question.

It’s almost weird, how obedient his little brother is to the king, but Jimin supposes that’s just the nature of the kid. He’s always been a daddy’s boy. Always wanted to please their father in any way, even if it included submitting to those bizarre demands.

Jihyun was always their parents’ favorite. Jimin didn’t mind that. It put less pressure on the overwhelming mountain of stress from being the crown prince and, eventually, the future king. 

And it’s not like his parents don’t love him or anything. They do. Jimin’s knows they do, and they know he loves them just as much back. He understands they were forced into an unexpected situation when his dad’s brother died and all of a sudden there were royal officials knocking on their door at three in the morning. Jimin was only eight, but he remembers his dad waking him up in the middle of the night to kiss him and Jihyun on the forehead before telling them he’d be gone for a couple of weeks. Jimin would’ve asked more questions about it, should’ve asked more questions about it, but he was so confused and surprised because that was the first time he’d ever seen his dad cry.

(His dad cried when Jihyun was born, too, as well as Jimin’s birth. But Jimin was only two and a half when Jihyun was born, so he doesn’t remember it.)

Sometimes he wishes Jihyun was born first. It’s a dumb thing to wish, and kind of immature, but Jimin does. His younger brother was all but born for the role (literally.) At times when Jimin tripped at international diplomatic assemblies or stuttered during a parliamentary address, Jihyun smoothed the bumps that Jimin’s general ineptitude created. Although he does perfectly fine performing in front of large crowds each year for dance exhibitions, Jimin finds himself clamming up in front of large rooms of suit-clad men and women. His limbs and body work so much better, so much faster under a rehearsed choreography that’s so unlike a scripted speech. He can’t get his point across and dreads it every time his father reminds him of another one he has to make.

So when his dad came back a little before his ninth birthday and told them they had to leave behind all their classmates and friends in Busan to move to Seoul, Jihyun was fine with it. Granted, he’d only been going to primary school for less than a year so getting thrown into some private school system meant for officials’ children was easier for him to adapt to. Jimin spent a little over nine long years at those damned schools. He despised it, still does, but Jihyun had acclimated to the change easily. The elder brother was swatted along his wrists throughout the day by his teachers for poor manners, improper English, keeping too-long of eye contact with elders. The only thing he got remotely correct was his posture from years of dancing as a child. 

But even if Jimin despises International Relations and dreads the day of his coronation even more, he’s still sitting in his room, pouring over a macroeconomics textbook so he won’t get a poor grade on his exam. It’s kind of pathetic if he thinks about it, but the exact reason he’s studying is so he doesn’t think about his future or how much he hates his major or the smell of Jeongguk’s cologne when they stood close to each other.

Which, was a thing. A thing that happened: Jeongguk standing very, very close to him. Several times.

Jimin wasn’t supposed to like that. But he did. He definitely wasn’t supposed to open up to the guy so much; he did it anyway. There was just something about the brunet that made Jimin slowly reveal more and more parts about himself to Jeongguk. Jimin has no idea what that something is, but it sure is dangerous. Definitely not something he should do it again.

But he kind of wants to, anyway.

It’s hardly been a day after their shared night together and Jimin has already had to stifle the urge to find the younger in the dance studios. The urge to find him and drive around in that worn-down car with age-stained cushions and just be able to hang out with him again.

It’s not like Jimin is denying his attraction to Jeongguk, either. He’s aware of it; he doesn’t even want to bother going through an entire denial stage over it. Jeongguk is cute. Gorgeous, probably, if Jimin had seen him in any other setting other than in a desperate need of a shower and tense from running from paparazzi. 

The one thing he did want to deny, however, was his attraction going anything past pure looks. Because Jeongguk is sweet and funny, and as soon as the younger left Jimin in the kitchen that night the prince has been letting dumb fantasies settle in his thoughts. Impossible fantasies, really, because Jeongguk is a commoner and there’s no way Jimin could ever date him. The only people he can date come from a long list of eligible bachelorettes that come from some royal or political background.

Another thing, too: Jimin knows he will have to eventually marry a girl.

There’s no way getting around it; marriage between two men isn’t even legal and the royal family has never, ever had a homosexual member within it. So no matter how much Jimin wishes to seek out Jeongguk in studio 2 in the dance wing, he knows he couldn’t. He can’t.

So this is why he’s currently hunched over some textbook in his bedroom trying to figure out the difference between allocative and productive efficiency even though he’d much rather be anywhere else but here. He’s been rereading the same paragraph for the past ten minutes, though, so maybe this distracting technique isn’t as effective as he thought it would be.

He knows he needs to come to terms with the fact that he can’t see Jeongguk. Hell, he probably shouldn’t even try to be friends with him. It’s too risky and the prince can barely even imagine the world of trouble he’d be in if anyone found out about Tuesday night.

Said thought is the last thing that goes through his mind before his bedroom door slams open. Jimin spins around in his chair to watch as a blurry figure of his best friend takes a running leap onto his bed, moaning into the comforter about how much he missed it. Jin follows into the room but his eyes are trained on his phone in his hands.

Neither says a word to Jimin, however. Jin continues walking until he stands a couple of feet from Jimin, not even looking up. The prince opens his mouth to speak, but Seokjin raises a finger for him not to speak. Jimin huffs and rolls his eyes as the 27 year-old scrolls through his phone. Taehyung isn’t saying anything either, instead smashing his face into Jimin’s pillows and crooning about Egyptian silk.

After a minute of waiting for absolutely nothing, Jimin sighs and rolls his neck. “Wow, my amazing friends, so nice to see you,” he drones. “Your beloved company and conversation never fail to make my day.”

Seokjin lip curls and he waves his hand. “Shush, I’m searching.”

“I miss the time when we first met and you were always nice to me,” the prince whines, pulling his legs up to tuck underneath him on the chair.

Taehyung laughs into his pillow. “Yeah, then he discovered you’re a demon, not a prince.”

The eldest walks over to the bed and plops himself down next to Taehyung. He jerks his phone towards the prince.

Jimin comes face-to-face with a picture of himself. At first, it’s unsurprising because he’s used to seeing articles all over the internet, but he usually ignores them considering they rarely hold any truth. He recognizes his outfit from an official press meeting months ago.

He raises his eyes back to Seokjin and shrugs. “What?”

His hyung pulls his phone back. He scrolls up a little before handing the device back to Jimin.

Once the blond has his eyes on it, he can see what the cause of concern is. Seokjin had scrolled up a little on the website to show the title of the article. It looks like some gossip site with fake, clickbaity articles that Jimin would rather throw himself into a pit of snakes than read. But as he reads the title, his hand tightens around the iPhone.

 

HIS HIGHNESS PARK JIMIN NIGHT OUT WITH MYSTERY FRIEND

 

He immediately clicks onto the article. It opens up another web page, the same picture used at the top. He scrolls past the actual article, instead focusing on the pictures.

There were a lot of them.

First, the grainy pictures taken from that girl’s cellphone of Jimin standing in front of Jeongguk by the river. In the first photo, Jeongguk is turned away from the camera as Jimin scrunches his face at him in mock-anger.

“How do you not know anything about your country’s leaders?”

“I don’t get it, do you want me to know about your family or not?”

“It wouldn’t kill you to at least have basic knowledge!”

Despite the weight of the situation in front of him Jimin can’t help but feel his lips quirk at the memory. He shakes himself out of it and continues to the next photo.

This one has him looking at the camera in shock while Jeongguk spins around. Luckily, he must’ve still have been moving when it was taken because his face is blurry. Jimin huffs a sigh of relief before continuing down the article.

The following pictures make his chest tight. There’s so many: them at the riverside, Jimin leaning against the younger on the lawn, another with them lying on the grass together. He swallows when one of them shows Jimin leaning over Jeongguk in a borderline too-friendly action.

He scrolls and scrolls, but the pictures don’t seem to end. None of them show Jeongguk’s face clearly but there are a couple where someone can identify Jimin if they look hard enough. There’s a video of them running away from the paparazzi and even CCTV footage of them sitting in Domino’s together.

Jimin feels sick.

Fortunately, Taehyung and Jin have the common sense to stay silent during this because the prince thinks if he had to deal with their barrage of questions at the same time as reading the invasive article, he’d throw himself out his own damn window.

He heaves in a shaky breath as he finally skims over the article.

If there’s one thing he’s grateful for right now, it’s the fact that his entire country assumes he’s straight. The article speculates who Jeongguk is, but doesn’t go past wondering if they’re new friends or if Jeongguk is a bad influence on Jimin’s royal duties. It does add the rumor that they were at the campus dance studio earlier that night but luckily made a point that no one found proof of it.

“The article isn’t that bad, really,” Taehyung chimes after Jimin sets the phone into his lap with a sigh. “Read the comments, though.”

Jimin bites his lip but does as he’s told.

 

 

1: [+1823, -432] getting pizza together, stargazing, midnight walks on the riverside...sounds like a date ㅋㅋㅋㅋ what a bromance ㅎㅎㅎ

RE: 1: [+45, -6] IKR. he was just hanging out with a friend but these pix look more romantic than any of those dates Dispatch took pics of when he was 18 or something ㅋㅋㅋ

 

 

He reads the reply aloud. Taehyung snorts.

“Remember Junhee, or Jeonhee, or whatever? The girl who got pissed and threw her coffee on you because she thought they were real dates?”

Jimin can’t help but burst into laughter at the memory. He had been seventeen and spent the short remaining duration of the date drenched in nonfat french vanilla latte while the girl cried. Definitely not one of his better dates.

Seokjin presses a finger to his lips before making a thoughtful noise. “Oh, what about Soonjae? She like, totally sobbed on you for two hours. Snot and everything. I think I still have some of the pictures from Dispatch.”

This comment grants him a shove off the bed and onto the carpet as Jimin makes a gagging noise. He tunes out Jin’s squawks, continuing to read the comments.

 

 

2: [+765, -653] is this him? @leehyensuk92 on ig and twitter

RE: 2: [+6, -1] nah...his nose is too big for the guy in the pics

3: [+432, -91] no… jiminah…

4: [+1005, -2843] is Park Jimin gay?

RE: 4: [+4302, -290] ㅋㅋㅋ don’t be dumb

RE: 4: [+292, -91] why does this moron have so many likes ew

RE: 4: [+4, -103] obvs not because i’m his future wife!

       RE: RE: 4: [+3029, -32] oof we got a delulu in the comment thread. Press f to pay your respects ㅠㅠ

              RE: RE: RE: 4: [+4, -1] f

              RE: RE: RE: 4: [+19, -2] f

              RE: RE: RE: 4: [+6, -1] f

 

 

These comments continue for a long way down the page. Jimin shudders as he reads that a couple of netizens are seriously trying to find out who Jeongguk is while others question if he’ll be a good ruler based on last night’s actions. 

“A lot of people are defending you,” Jin points out when he sees Jimin’s pout. Sure enough, comments such as this could be way worse, it’s not like they caught him in a club doing drugs or with hookers or anythingㅋㅋㅋ scattered throughout the threads. Actually, the more he scrolls, the ratio from positive to negative comments grow larger. Jimin smiles and reads some of them aloud again.

 

 

5: [+982, -91] what was he doing out at 4ㅎㅎ

RE: 5: [+65, -3] probably trying to hang out with his friend in privacy. Obviously the press can’t even just give him that

6: [+731, -220] omg i think this is the first time I’ve seen his highness barefaced

RE: 6: [+2, -102] it’s so weird how he wears makeup everywhere though...makes him look like a girl ㅎㅎㅎ

       RE: RE: 6: [+283, -5] not really. Lots of male celebrities wear makeup. oppa just likes being more bold with his makeup, which is soo cute and modern of him. 

       RE: RE: 6: [+211, -2] real men wear makeup without fear of damaging their masculinity~

RE: 6: [+663, -122] I wanna see more of barefaced jiminie ㅠㅠ

 

 

Jimin almost chokes on his spit when he reads the following comments aloud.

 

 

7: [+439, -922] his friend is hot ㅠㅠ please someone find his social media

RE: 7: [+801, -202] no u should leave him alone

RE: 7: [+34, -12] that oppa doesn’t want u

RE: 7: [+203, -29] how do u know he’s hot?...his face is blurry in all of the pix ㅎㅎㅎ

 

 

Seokjin hums, nodding from the floor. “The thirst of your fans is quite unbelievable, Jiminie.” Taehyung pops his head out from the bed to look down at the elder.

Jimin only shakes his head before tossing the phone to Seokjin. The man fumbles with it a few times before it lands on his chest. Jimin tilts his head back, feeling the pops in his joints while doing so.

His younger friend repositions himself on the comforter, resting his chin on his crossed arms instead. Taehyung raises an eyebrow at him.

“So,” he drawls, even though he obviously knows what he’s about to say, “who is he?”

Jimin bites his lip. The prince cards his fingers through his bangs, a habit picked up years ago that he never got around to getting rid of. “It’s a long story,” he finally decides to say.

“Yeah, sure seems like it,” Taehyung huffs. Seokjin joins him back on the bed but pulls out his phone to continue scrolling down the comments thread. He snorts at one and leans over to show it to Taehyung, but the younger shrugs him off and turns back to Jimin. “We’ve never seen this dude before which is, no offense, a rarity because your entire friend group in Seoul that aren’t the children of diplomats or internet friends consists of me, Jinnie, Sungwoon, and the other guys.”

Jimin drops his head to look at his best friends. Seokjin is keeping in giggles with pursed lips, while Taehyung is staring the prince down as if he never said anything wrong. He glares at Seokjin, too, for not slapping Taehyung for dropping honorifics. Jimin always gets swatted for dropping honorifics. 

(Honestly, it’s probably because Jin knows Taehyung’ll slap back.)

“Wow, thank you Taetae,” he smiles fakely. “That really makes me feel better about this entire thing.”

Taehyung gives him a shit-eating grin. “Anytime.”

Jin snorts, pushing himself onto his stomach like the younger next to him. He gives Jimin a quick glance over his phone. “What he means to say is it was quite an experience to wake up to our best friend’s face all over Twitter because he spent the night with some mystery man.”

Jimin can only nod. “Yep,” he agrees, popping his lips.

“Do your parents know about it yet?” Tae asks.

He shrugs, turning back to his textbook. “Probably not. They think it isn’t esteemed to look at gossip news like that. Unless one of the advisors tell them, the family spokesperson will just deny everything and claim it was a look-a-like.”

Seokjin hums. “Oh, well that’s not too bad.”

Tae reaches out to nudge Jimin’s arm. “So, was the secret oppa hot?” he asks, using a high-pitched tone to mock the netizens.

Jimin tries to keep himself from smiling, but Jin’s stifled laughter forces him to let loose. He turns back around in his chair, planning to ignore his best friends, but Jin leans towards him to shut his textbook and pull him onto the bed. Jimin rolls his eyes but can’t help the upturn of his lips when his hyung drops his head back onto his shoulder, staring up at the ceiling.

“So,” Taehyung starts. He shifts over so he’s looking at Jimin. “It’s a long story,” he repeats Jimin’s earlier words, “but we have time.”

 

(mood: I’m On Fire - AWOLNATION)

 

Jimin stares at his best friend, pulling his bottom lip in between his teeth before releasing it with a sigh. He doesn’t even have to worry about trusting Seokjin and Taehyung. He knows, no matter what, they’d be there for him. No matter what kind of shit he managed to get himself into. 

“I don’t know where to start,” he whispers quietly. 

Seokjin lightly knocks his head against Jimin’s. “How about his name?”

“Jeongguk,” he breathes out. “His name is Jeon Jeongguk.”

Tae hums, tugging at a loose string on Jimin’s comforter. “And who is Jeon Jeongguk?”

It’s not funny, but the thought of explaining the idea of Jeongguk in just a few words makes small laughter bubble up from Jimin’s chest. The ceiling isn’t any more interesting than it was when he first started staring up at it but he can’t find it in him to look at the others in the eyes when talking about this.

“He’s uh, he’s a sophomore. Double majors in film production and dance.”

Seokjin pulls out his phone. Jimin sees him close the article and open up Instagram out of the corner of his eye. “And how did you meet this Jeon Jeongguk?”

Once he realizes Jin’s looking up Jeongguk’s name, Jimin swats his phone down back onto his hyung’s chest. “It was just a one-night thing,” he starts.

Tae pops up, intrigued. “Holy shit, you fucked?”

Jimin groans. Leave it to his friends to immediately think the worst thing. “No. I just— I wasn’t doing well on my routine that day. Kept messing up on a turn. Decided to risk it and stay back to practice an extra hour after my teacher left, you know? And it was fine until I got to the front doors and Dispatch was everywhere. And Jeongguk—Jeongguk was there, and I told him I’d pay him if he’d drive me back in his car and he’d stay quiet about it.”

“And he agreed? Just like that?”

He makes a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat. “He didn’t even recognize who I was, but yeah, more or less.”

“Must be a hermit,” Seokjin notes.

Jimin shrugs. 

Taehyung leans forward on his elbows. “So, if he was just gonna drive you back here, how did you two end up in that park? And getting pizza? That sounds like a date, Jiminie.”

The prince sighs. It absolutely does sound like a date, which is why it’s bad that the press leaked pictures of them. At least Jeongguk’s identity wasn’t revealed, but Jimin is still kicking himself for risking so much.

“The uh, the media— they were at the palace. And all over campus. Jeongguk just...offered to wait it out with me. So we just hung out. Went to get pizza, sat by the riverside…” he trails off and makes a scrunched up face. “Holy shit, how are people not coming to the gay conclusion already?”

Seokjin lets out a cackle at this remark, rolling away from Jimin to lie on his stomach like Taehyung. “So when did you actually get back home?”

Jimin squirms uncomfortably. “Like...eleven…” after more judgemental staring, Jimin adds, “the next morning…”

The eldest screams in delight at the same time Tae rolls off the bed. 

“You fucked him!” his best friend screeches into Jimin’s rug.

“I didn’t!”

Seokjin grabs one of Jimin’s pillows to muffle his laughter into. He lifts it from his face to allow himself to breathe, looking at the prince with tears in his eyes. “Oh my God, Jimin, please tell me you used protection.”

Jimin sits up on the bed, groaning and grabbing at his hair in frustration. “We didn’t fuck!”

Taehyung manages to pull himself back onto the bed. His grin is still wide and his eyes are nearly closed. Each breath he takes sounds like a wheeze. “Then why the fuck didn’t you get home until a full twelve hours after you left the studio?”

Jimin sucks in a deep breath before puffing it out through his lips. “So, this is gonna sound bad, but—”

“I don’t think it can sound any worse, Minie,” Seokjin points out.

“Oh no, it definitely can. It will,” Jimin shakes his head. “Because I slept at his place.”

This time, he’s not greeted with shrieking laughter and teasing. Instead, his best friends regard him with wary looks and wide eyes. Tae looks like he doesn’t even believe him.

“And you didn’t fuck,” he finishes. Sure enough, the tone of his voice is dripping with sarcasm.

“No, Taehyung, we didn’t fuck.”

He has a staring match with his friend. Taehyung doesn’t move his gaze from Jimin’s, leaving the prince with no other choice but to glare right back. The younger’s dark eyes bore into his before Taehyung leans back, making a tsk noise between his teeth. “Yeah, I don’t buy it.”

Jimin gawks at him. “We didn’t!”

“Hey, is this him?” Seokjin asks, shoving his phone in between them. Sure enough, he’s pulled up an Instagram page with pictures that can only be of Jeongguk. 

“Yeah,” Jimin answers miserably.

Taehyung takes one look at the most recent upload: a picture of Jeongguk doing a silly pose with another man in front of the studio mirrors. Despite the goofy grin on Jeongguk’s face, heat still rises to Jimin’s cheeks at the sight of him. After a moment of consideration, Taehyung leans back with a face of conviction.

Jimin knows what he’s going to say before he even opens his mouth, but Taehyung gets it out anyways.

“Yeah, there’s no way you didn’t tap that.”

Jimin falls back onto his bed with a groan. “I give up.”

 

 

“So what I’m hearing is, you have a heart boner for the dude.”

Jimin ends up sputtering half of his drink onto the table at Taehyung’s declaration. They’re at some hole-in-the-wall diner off-campus, deserted enough on a Monday night that Jimin doesn’t have to worry about paparazzi storming the place and putting him on the front headlines just for wanting to eat a damn sandwich with his friends. It’s been over two weeks since the night Jimin met Jeongguk, but the younger has left a lasting impression in the pit of his stomach that’s hard to ignore. 

He’s gone back to that riverside park twice now, just to sit on those rocks and stare at the water. It’s pathetic. He met the dude once. They knew each other for what couldn’t have been more than twelve hours and yet it’s well into October now and Jimin’s still thinking about that night.

Seokjin pulls a face when he comes back to the table with their food only to see that it’s covered in Jimin’s beer. “Gross,” he mutters and scrunches his nose up. “Clean it up, I’m not putting my food down on that.”

Tae and Jimin hurry to clean up as much as they can with the napkins on the table before Seokjin finally sets down the platter of food, placing each plate in front of their respective owners. Once everything’s finally cleaned up and Tae’s stuffing his mouth with fried dumplings, their hyung raises an eyebrow at the both of them.

“Is anyone going to tell me what happened while I was gone?”

Jimin pointedly busies himself with taking sips of his beer. Taehyung sends a wicked grin at him.

“Jimin couldn’t handle the truth that he has a crush on Jeongguk, and that’s why he’s still being whiny about the guy,” he explains casually. Jimin aims a well-deserved kick at him beneath the table, earning him a yelp in surprise.

“I do not,” he hisses between his teeth.

Seokjin pops a sliced pepper into his mouth with an unimpressed look. “Taehyung’s right,” he says through his chewing. “You totally do.”

The prince glares at them. When neither budge, he slumps over his food with a sigh. Seokjin snips at him with his chopsticks for resting his head too close to his plate. “Okay, maybe I do.”

Taehyung hums, nodding his head towards Jin. “Hey, he’s already past the denial stage. What’s next, bargaining?”

Seokjin shakes his head, not moving his gaze from the prince’s pathetic state. “Nah, I think it’s anger.”

He knows his friends are doing this just to rile him up, but Jimin lifts his head with a scowl. “Stop talking about me like I’m not here.”

The younger raises an eyebrow at him with a cocky smile. “What’cha gonna do, Your Highness? Exile me?”

“Yeah, I will.”

“Cool. Always wanted to try living in Paris.”

“Bold of you to assume they’d let you in. Your French is shit,” Jimin scrunches his nose.

Seokjin slaps both of them against their heads. “Okay, knock it off,” he scolds. Both of them back off, but Taehyung sticks his tongue out at Jimin when Seokjin turns away from him. The prince glares. “Jimin, what’re you gonna do about this?”

“This?”

“Your feelings. For Jeongguk.”

“Ah,” Jimin nods his head. “Absolutely nothing.” 

His hyung stares at him for a moment, expressionless. He lets out a long sigh before turning back to Taehyung. “Taetae-yah, we need to submit a correction to the Kubler-Ross model. There aren’t five stages of grief, there’s six. The hidden stage: idiocy.”

“I’m serious!” Jimin whines.

“Yeah, and I’m serious about getting you to stop whining about Jeonggukie this and Jeonggukie that,” Seokjin replies. He ignores Jimin’s pouting to continue. “Seriously, why aren’t you gonna at least try? From what you’ve told us, it seemed like he was kind of into you too.”

Jimin grumbles and pops one of Tae’s dumplings into his mouth to stall his answer. After chewing, he finally says, “you know why I can’t do anything about it.”

His hyung hums. “Yeah. But it’s not like your status has ever stopped you from getting what you want before.”
The prince pouts. “You make me sound like a brat.”

Taehyung laughs at him, but Seokjin pats his head with a smile. “You are a brat, but that’s not what I meant. You wanted to dance, so you convinced your dad to let you minor in it. You wanted to be independent, so you got all of the palace staff to leave your room off-limits for cleaning. Half the week you provide your own food whether it be through cooking or just going out to get it yourself, and you don’t let any of the maids clean up after you or bring things to you unless you’re sick as hell. Yeah, you have restrictions, but it hasn’t stopped you before. Why are you letting it now?”

Jimin goes to argue, but can’t find any good response. He snaps his mouth shut and decides to busy himself with eating instead.

“You can’t find a good argument,” Taehyung sing-songs in a teasing tone. Jimin kicks his shin lightly, but can’t help his lips lifting into a smirk.

Seokjin nudges his shoulder. “What’s stopping you, Jimin?”

Jimin sets down his chopsticks, taking another gulp of his beer before answering. “It’s just...I feel stupid. Feeling like this.”

Taehyung furrows his eyebrows. “What, having a crush?”

The blond shrugs. “Maybe. I don’t know. I feel like an idiot for liking a dude I only spent one night with.”

Seokjin laughs. “Who cares? Plenty of people our age do worse things. It’s not like you fell in love at first sight, right?”

Jimin thinks back to when he first saw Jeongguk. In the dance hallway, exhausted from dance practice and not knowing how to deal with the awkward dancer who checked him out and sputtered out what might’ve been an apology before darting down the hall. He chuckles at the memory.

“No, definitely not.”

The eldest hums, gulping down the rest of his drink and dropping the glass back onto the wooden table with a nod. “Good. So who cares? It’s not like you’ve gotta marry the guy or anything. If you want to ask him out, ask him out. You trust him to not out you?”

Jimin immediately shakes his head. “He wouldn’t.”

“Okay, so go find him.”

Jimin actually lets himself feel hopeful for a moment before reality crashes down on him in the form of his phone vibrating on the table. He flips it over to see a text from his father. His stomach twists when he reads the message.

“My dad’s trying to set me up with another duchess, or something,” he says. Repeating the text to his friends leaves a nasty taste in his mouth.

Taehyung scoffs. “That’s like, the fifth one this year.”

He nods, lifting his other hand to run it through his bangs. “Yeah, he uh— I guess he’s getting impatient that I haven’t seriously dated anyone yet.”

“Well, it’s kind of hard to when they’re only allowed to be some elite bitch,” Tae scowls.

“That’s not nice,” Jimin mutters as he slides the phone into his pocket with a sigh. “Choi Hayoung wasn’t that bad.”

“Choi Hayoung was a lesbian, that’s why,” Seokjin points out.

“You’re only twenty-four, I don’t understand why your dad thinks you need to rush marriage so quickly,” Taehyung shoves another dumpling in his mouth rather aggressively. Jimin smiles at his friend. “I mean,” Taehyung mumbles through a mouthful of dough and vegetables, “he’s not even unhealthy, right? The doctor said he’d be good to rule for at least another ten years. However long he wants, as long as he keeps his health in check. I don’t get it.”

Jimin shrugs. He doesn’t completely understand it either, but he’s since learned to stop questioning his father when it came to things like this. “He’s just— I don’t know, it feels like he’s trying to prove something to himself. That like, his first-born isn’t some fuck-up ‘cause he’s gay or something.”

Jin reaches over his plate to grip Jimin’s hand. “You’re not a fuck-up, Jimin.”

“I know,” he mutters, defeated. “But ever since I tried even bringing up the idea of me being gay to them, the set-ups have increased. You noticed it too, right? He’s like, finding some random girl for me at least once a month, now.”

His friends don’t know what else to say other than murmurs of sympathy, but it’s fine. Jimin’s not looking to them for answers. He knows there won’t be any.

“That’s why— that’s why something between me and Jeongguk just can’t happen. It wouldn’t just affect me, it’d affect my entire family’s image. I can’t imagine the entire world would be pleased to hear that the prince of South Korea likes sucking dick.”

Taehyung snorts, but he wraps his leg around Jimin’s under the table.

“Well,” he starts. He inhales deeply before nodding. “So no Jeongguk. Got it. So, just avoid him. You said he leaves the studio late at night, right? So make sure you don’t go over your practice anymore. Go early, if you have to. And you don’t have his number, so it’s not like you can tempt yourself with texting him or anything.”

Jimin nods, taking the information in. “You’re right. I just gotta...distance myself from the idea of him until I’m over it, right?”

“I mean, it’s worked for me before, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t for you,” Seokjin comments.

The prince stares at the table for a moment before he nods, convinced. “Okay,” he concludes. “I just gotta avoid him. It can’t be too hard, right? We’ve managed not to run into each other for two years already.”

 

 

This logic works out for around two weeks.

Jimin actually did a good job of avoiding Jeongguk. He’s been reserving practice rooms on the opposite side of the dance wing, as far away as he could get from the room Jeongguk reserved that night. He even bought a month-long reservation for a room so even as the studios slowly become busier as exams approached, there was no excuse for the dancer to be closer to him. 

He hopes that Jeongguk was truthful when he said he could always be found in studio 2. So far, it seems correct. Jimin hasn’t seen him in a month now. His birthday passes as well as all of the royal celebrations for it that he dreaded more than exams. After a while, he thinks he’ll probably graduate before seeing the other man again.

And it probably would've worked out, too, if Jimin hadn't been late today.

He'd arrived half an hour late to his private lessons with the main choreographer for the exhibition. He's already inconvenienced the man enough for not being able to join regular practices with the rest of the dancers, so the man is less than pleased when he shows up late.

"You're staying an extra hour for this," is all he states before immediately starting, not giving Jimin any time to properly stretch.

His muscles are complaining about it now. He can already feel the familiar soreness spreading throughout his body despite only having been at practice for two hours now. The choreographer left around fifteen minutes ago. Despite his order of Jimin staying an extra hour after the lesson in punishment for his tardiness, the prince decides to stay until eight. It's only half-past six, but he'll need time to go over the leaps in his demi-solo once again. He'd been struggling with getting his legs in the right position before the leap, instead doing a small step and between and getting offbeat. The choreographer ran it through with him several times before he left so Jimin wants to make sure he didn't waste the guy's time. He runs the portion again and again, breaking the steps down and ingraining it into his mind before allowing himself to speed up to the music's regular speed.

It's only once he stops what must be his fifth run-through that Jimin turns to see the door had been cracked open while he was focusing.

"You know, they really should've given you a solo."

He spins around to see Jeongguk putting down his duffle bag in the corner next to the stereo, where the mirrors don't reflect to. He's dressed just like he was on the night they met, in sweatpants and a loose shirt, best for dancing in.

"What are you doing here?" Jimin breathes out. He hasn't taken a water break in a while now. He tries to hide how out of breath he is as he walks to his water bottle sitting next to Jeongguk.

The younger raises his eyebrows at him. "My regular studio is getting mopped down right now. Some freshman spilled Gatorade all over the floor during group practice. It's all sticky and gross. I could only find one custodian in the halls and she said it'd take a while before she had a chance to clean it, so the secretary gave me a different studio key to use for the night."

"And she gave you this one's," Jimin deadpans. He can't believe his luck.

Jeongguk has the decency to look a little sheepish. "Yeah, sorry. I'd go ask for a new one but she left right after she gave me it and told me to leave it on the desk at the end of the night."

Jimin raises his water bottle to his lips and takes a couple of gulps. Jeongguk's still watching him while he lowers the canister and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "Whatever. I can just go, practice some other night." He starts picking up his things, ready to walk out the door. He knows he really shouldn't, and the amount of run-throughs his choreographer would make him do at the mere idea of Jimin skipping the rest of practice makes him shudder, but he'd much rather take numb limbs and heaving lungs over being stuck in a room with Jeongguk for an hour and a half. Jimin doesn't trust himself enough to decline if Jeongguk asked him to hang out afterward. He'd cave immediately.

"Wait, no, Jimin-ssi, you don't have to do that. Just stay. We can go back and forth on playing our music, and I promise not to distract you or anything." After regarding Jimin's unchanging expression, the younger adds,  "we don't even have to talk."

The prince sighs but turns to watch the younger, deciding. He stares long enough to notice Jeongguk had gotten his hair cut. The dark strands of an undercut peek out beneath the rest of his hair. His bangs are also trimmed neater, too. They don’t cover his eyes so much anymore, allowing Jimin to see the pleading gaze he’s being shot with.

He huffs. This is such a bad idea. Terrible, actually; he can hear his royal advisor lecturing him now. “Fine,” he grits out. “But only for tonight.”

Jeongguk pulls out his phone from his pocket to plug it into the speakers. Despite having his back to Jimin, he sends a teasing smile over his shoulder. “You know, you can act as annoyed as you want, Your Highness, but we both know you had fun that night.”

“You make it sound like a drunken hookup instead of what it really was,” Jimin grumbles. He trains his gaze to the wooden flooring, keeping it there even when he sees Jeongguk approach him out of his periphery. 

“Then enlighten me, Jeoha." Jeongguk’s tone sounds curious, but Jimin’s hesitant with how sharp the words come out. As if he’s being backed into a corner. “What was it, then?”

Jimin knows he’s about to strike a chord with the younger. He knows, but that doesn’t stop him from saying his next words. He can’t even look up at him. He can’t, because he knows the moment he locks eyes with Jeongguk the words he needs to say won’t come out. They’ll get stuck in his throat and never surface, leaving just enough room for the words he wants to say to bubble out and spill over instead. And he can’t do that, because he can’t do this. Maybe in another universe, sure, where he’s not a prince and Jeongguk’s just his classmate and not some one-time getaway driver, but not in this world. So instead of looking up at the taller, Jimin turns his gaze to the side and says, “it was me paying you to get me out of a bad situation. That’s it.”

(It was so much more than that.)

Unsurprisingly, Jeongguk doesn’t take kindly to his deflection. Jimin wouldn’t either, honestly.

The other dancer lets out a quiet scoff, turning his back towards Jimin to leave him for the stereo again. “Fine,” he mutters. There’s no anger in his voice but it’s hard to miss the irritation in Jeongguk’s posture. Jimin hopes Jeongguk didn’t see him flinch at his voice in the mirrors. “You want to act like that? Great. Whatever, I don’t care,” he dismisses with a sharp tone. Jimin bites his lip to keep himself from opening his mouth again.

He’d imagined their hypothetical reunion more than a couple of times, mostly done while staring at his ceiling in the middle of the night, unable to fall asleep. He never really expected to see Jeongguk again. Especially considering it's taken all these years just for one meeting and Jimin’s graduating in March. But whenever he did imagine it, it went a lot better than this. In his mind, Jimin was able to articulate himself better. Explain himself better. Granted, in those same fantasies he ends up with Jeongguk pinning him against a wall, but the prince somehow doubts that’s going to happen any time soon. He regretted his words as soon as they came out of his mouth, but they were needed. The last thing Jimin needs is for Jeongguk to get the idea in his head that they can be anywhere near friends or something more.

Jeongguk grumbles to himself a couple more times, nothing Jimin can decipher, before ultimately deciding he’s done talking to Jimin. He fiddles around with his phone for a few moments before the music comes on over the speakers. He sets it to the end of the song so he has enough time to get into the starting position before the song loops back to the beginning.

Jimin recognizes the music and choreography to be one of the major solos for the exhibition. It’s the one he found himself enraptured with when the head choreographer performed it for him and the other dancers before assigning roles despite knowing he could never have it. Dance solos are only for dance majors; Jimin is not one. 

He can only feel a tiny bit of envy as Jeongguk crouches into a kneeling position, the starting pose for the dance.

A beat before the track loops Jeongguk’s bent back shudders once, twice, as he takes a deep breath. When the first note hits, his head snaps up in perfect sync to reveal a completely different expression than the one he had before kneeling.

Jimin inhales sharply, and the dance begins.

As expected of a dance major, Jeongguk is amazing. His persona completely changed the moment he got in position, leaving behind all of the frustration that was evident on his face mere moments before. He uses the entire length of his limbs throughout the choreography, highlighting his height and long legs. He’s wearing a plain black t-shirt that’s about three sizes too big for him but Jimin can still see the definition of his muscles whenever the fabric tugs a certain way to allow him to see skin.

He knows he’s ogling but Jimin can’t find it within himself to stop as Jeongguk continues his choreography. He doesn’t know the artist who sings on the track, but each movement that Jeongguk executes is perfect and down to a T. The prince manages to keep himself from gaping, but nothing further than that. He’s since moved back to the barre to give Jeongguk enough space to move, not wanting him to stop for any reason.

Despite this, Jeongguk halts around a minute into the song. He falters before ultimately stopping his dance, moving to the stereo to pause the song. He removes the phone from the aux cord, not giving Jimin another glance as he walks past him to the mirror with a murmured, “it’s all yours.”

Jimin is shocked, to say the least. Jeongguk completely removed all prior emotions that were swirling through his expression the moment he started the dance, but once he completed what he needed to, the annoyance and frustration return, obviously evident just from the way he practically stomps to the mirror. Jimin watches as he practices the move he faltered on, slowing each step down.

“Jeongguk,” he calls quietly. He decides he’d rather be kicking himself for making bad decisions rather than watch the younger be mad at him. It’s been less than five minutes and he already hates it.

“Oh, so you remember my name, now? Thought it was escort,” the younger spits out. He continues his practice in front of the mirror but the prince now notices his movements are sloppy and uncoordinated. The dancer gets more and more off-beat the closer Jimin moves towards him.

“Jeongguk-ssi,” he repeats again. “I’m sorry.”

“For what,” he doesn’t even meet Jimin’s eyes. “Avoiding me for a whole month or saying that that night was just an inconvenience for you?”

“I never said that,” Jimin tries.

“No, but you fucking implied it.” Jeongguk finally stops to look at the prince through the mirror. “You wanna look me in the eyes and tell me that that night, everything that happened, was just me getting fucking paid? I told you about my grandmother, Jimin.” The prince tries not to flinch at the lack of honorifics. “You fucking— you confided in me about liking men and how much you hate your degree and you just want to call that trying to get out a bad situation?"

Jeongguk must curse a lot when he’s upset, Jimin notices. He frowns. “Jeongguk, I’m—”

“Save it, Your Highness,” the younger cuts him off. Somehow he makes the title seem like an insult. It’s supposed to be honored above given names, yet Jimin would give anything just for Jeongguk to stop calling him that. The younger lets out a breathy laugh. “You know, I wasn’t even going to mention how you avoided me for a month, at first. It’s not like you didn’t make it obvious. And I probably would’ve understood and not been hurt by it if you just explained why instead of running whenever we’re within a fucking kilometer of each other.”

“Jeongguk-ssi…” Jimin trails off. He doesn’t know what he should say. It was stupid to assume Jeongguk would understand why Jimin was avoiding him. The prince thought he spelled it out clearly at the end of their night together. But then again, he supposes if he were in Jeongguk’s position he would’ve expected at least some sort of attempt at communication, especially after those pictures leaked of them together.

He doesn’t come up with an explanation fast enough, though, because Jeongguk looks away from him. “I don’t want to talk right now. Let’s just practice and do what we both came here for.”

Jimin reaches his hand out to grab his shoulder, but Jeongguk flinches away. Not wanting to push him any further, Jimin backs away to the stereo.

The following hour and a half is spent in complete silence. The air is so filled with tension to the point that Jimin’s having a hard time focusing at all. He’s been making careless mistakes in his choreography for the past thirty minutes. Jimin checks his phone. It’s past eight now. He promised Seokjin that he’d come by after dance practice for a late dinner and study session. Deciding that this was enough for today, the prince grabs his bag in the back as well as his water bottle. He debates whether he should tell Jeongguk that he’s heading out. The younger is going over his solo for what seems like over the twentieth time tonight. After each run through he’s gone back and went over each mistake until it was corrected to his liking, then he’d run it again.

Jimin’s beginning to wonder which of them is the bigger perfectionist.

Deciding he’d rather risk angering Jeongguk again then just leaving without a word, Jimin waits in the back of the room while Jeongguk finishes his routine. By the time the familiar ending notes of the music hit, Jimin approaches the panting dancer carefully.

“Hey,” he murmurs. Jeongguk makes no movement to show he heard him. “How much longer are you gonna stay?”

Jeongguk finally stands out of the ending position, rising to his full height. “I don’t know, maybe another hour?”

Jimin frowns. “Jeongguk, you’ve been going for an hour and a half now. If you’re just gonna keep running the same routine, you’ll get burnt out.”

He can tell the dancer knows he’s right. Jeongguk isn’t dumb, and judging by his technique he’s been doing this for a while. He’s probably done it before.

But the brunet is stubborn. Jimin knows he won’t leave if Jimin will, especially because of their fight. 

He tries apologizing again. “Jeongguk-ah,” he whispers. When he reaches a hand out to the other’s wrist, Jeongguk lets him hold his fingers against the pulse point. “I’m sorry about what I said. I don’t know why I did it,” he excuses, but corrects himself immediately after. “That’s a lie. I do know, but I don’t like the truth.”

Jeongguk finally meets his eyes. His shoulders are still rising with every breath he takes, exerted from dancing non-stop. For a moment, Jimin worries that he’s about to pull away. But on what seems to be a split-second decision, Jeongguk twists his wrist around to hold onto Jimin’s hand as well.

“What is it?” Jeongguk breathes out. “The truth?”

Jimin hates it. He hates this, this— instant attraction to Jeongguk. He’s never felt it before. Not with any of the girls he’s been forced to meet or any of the quick, secret hookups he’s managed with random guys throughout the years. The stupid infatuation he felt mere hours after meeting Jeongguk makes him feel so dumb. It makes him feel like some fumbling teenager who hasn’t even had his first kiss yet. And for someone who prides himself on his academics and intelligence, Jimin hates feeling dumb. He hates feeling like this.

“I…” he trails off. Jeongguk tightens the grip on his wrist. Jimin feels the slight indents of nails digging into his skin. “That night meant a lot to me, Jeongguk-ssi,” he finally admits. “You weren’t just an escort to me or anything. It…” It’s hard to find the words he wants to say when Jeongguk isn’t saying anything back. Dark irises stare back into his. “Me saying those things—talking about that—it wasn’t nothing. It isn’t nothing. And when I left your place I wanted to put my number on a note or give you some way to find me, or something, but I just…”

“You couldn’t,” Jeongguk finishes for him. “It was too dangerous.”

“It’s still too dangerous,” Jimin mutters. “Nothing’s changed. Nothing will change. It’s always gonna be like this, Jeongguk.”

The younger looks down at their hands. “I know,” he whispers. 

“I’m sorry,” he says again, like he’s some broken fucking record, but Jimin doesn’t know what else to say. “Sorry that I brought you into this. We were really lucky those pictures came out blurry.”

Jeongguk drops their hands with a soft exhale. Jimin worries until he sees a small smile grow on the other’s face. “Yeah, that’s for sure.”

The prince pulls his eyes away from Jeongguk, biting his lip. He heaves in a deep breath. He shoulders his duffle bag and looks back up. “So no hard feelings?”

“No hard feelings,” Jeongguk affirms. Despite being adamant earlier, he goes to pick up his phone at the stereo. The dancer pockets it and turns back to grab his bag before looking back at the prince. “You want me to give you a ride home? Promise it won’t end in a media hunt on us this time.”

Jimin actually finds it within himself to snort despite the odd atmosphere. “Actually, I’m going to my friend’s place after this. It’s not far from your apartment, though. Is the offer still open?” He was planning on just calling his driver but considering how much the poor guy has to drive Jimin around anyways, he thinks it’d be nice to give the man a break.

Jeongguk nods, already heading out the door. Jimin follows him out the corridor and down the same path they took the night they met.

 

“Your friend lives here?” Jeongguk asks, craning his neck to look at the apartment building through the car window.

He almost expected for the car ride to be awkward, at least silent. Instead, it felt just like last time. Jeongguk gave Jimin the aux cord, rolled the windows down, and gave the prince easy conversation topics since then. They’ve avoided mentioning their fight again. Even though Jeongguk seems like he’s holding no hard feelings from it, Jimin doesn’t want to push it by pressing on a sore spot. 

And just like last time, it goes by faster than Jimin’s happy to admit. Before long Jeongguk’s pulled up to Seokjin’s apartment. Jimin has the straps of his duffle bag gripped tightly in his palms.

“Yep,” Jimin answers. He turns back to see Jeongguk still staring at the building. His dark eyes are narrowed. “Thanks for driving me, Jeongguk-ssi,” he murmurs.

Jeongguk finally tracks his eyes back to the prince. He shifts in his seat. “Hey,” he starts. Jimin raises an eyebrow at his tone. It sounds like he’s deciding his words carefully. “What’s your friend’s name?” Jeongguk asks.

“Seokjin, why?” 

Jeongguk purses his lips. “Jimin-ssi, do you believe in fate?”

The prince snorts. “What? No.”

“Really?”

Jimin shakes his head. “Not really. Do you?”

Jeongguk nods. He glances back at the apartment again, licks his lips, and reaches for the prince’s hand.

The blond moves to pull away. “Hey—”

But Jeongguk’s grip tightens instead of letting go. He leans over the console. Jimin wants to jerk back from his grip, but the look on the younger’s face keeps him from doing so. Jeongguk looks like he’s trying to hold in a smile and stay serious all at the same time.

“Your Highness,” he whispers. “If by some weird coincidence that we meet again, will you give this a chance?”

Jimin draws his eyebrows together. “What?” he scoffs, ignoring the way his heart jumps at Jeongguk’s insinuation. This could be interpreted in all sorts of ways, and the prince isn’t sure which one he wants more. “We’ll probably bump into each other at the dance studio or something, that’s not fair.”

The younger doesn’t flinch. “Okay. If by fate, or coincidence, we meet again outside of the dance studios, will you give us a chance?” He asks it as if it isn’t a question. More of a demand.

Jimin stares at him like he’s grown another head. “Jeongguk-ssi,” he laughs, “I don’t know what you want to me to say—”

“Promise me you’ll give this a chance if it happens.” 

He’s about to give another half-assed excuse, but the determined stare Jeongguk has pinned on him makes the words get stuck in his throat. Finally, he wills himself to say something, to answer something.

“Okay,” he murmurs. “I promise.”

Jeongguk releases his grip on Jimin’s wrist but not without throwing him a blinding smile. “Great.” He leans back into his own seat, giving room for the prince to get out. Yet, Jimin can’t find it within himself to move. “Have a good night, Your Highness.”

He barely mutters out a have a good night before Jimin’s forcing himself to open the door and get out of the car. He goes to the front door and presses the buzzer for Seokjin’s apartment and his hyung answers and lets him up all within a minute.

He doesn’t look back at Jeongguk’s car, but he doesn’t hear the vehicle move until he’s walking through the front doors into the building.

 

 

The next week Jimin finds himself stuck with his family at dinner. 

He usually finds some sort of excuse to get out of the nightly family dinners; whether it be the excuse of studying, dance practice, or eating out with his friends. He just about snuck past his parents’ offices to leave out the kitchen entrance when his mother stops him, head peeking out the doorway.

Despite not having been prepared for the role of being queen, Jimin’s mother adapted quickly. His dad, at least, was born as a prince and grew up in the palace. He was prepared for this kind of life. He met Jimin’s mother in Busan during a diplomatic meeting, and they started dating from there. Since he wasn’t first in line to the throne, Jimin’s late grandmother allowed him to marry her and move to Busan to start a family.

Even though Jimin’s mother hadn’t exactly been raised with etiquette classes and dozens of palace workers at her beck and call, her father was somewhat connected to the parliament. Jimin’s grandmother, the late queen, must’ve considered this ‘royal enough’ since Jimin’s father wasn’t expected to become king anyway.

Yet only a decade or so after being coronated, Jimin’s uncle died without any spouse or children, thus leaving the throne to his little brother as well as the absent role of queen to be filled by his wife.

Royal lines sure are complicated.

But the point is, even though Jimin’s mother wasn’t trained, per se, to be a queen, she fits the role nicely. She took her new duties with ease, learning as fast as she could about politics and diplomacy so she could help her husband out as much as she could. Jimin can kind of (definitely) see where he gets his perfectionism from. His mother essentially became a walking How to Run a Country for Dummies encyclopedia.

“Jimin-ah, dear,” she calls sweetly from her office doorway. Jimin stops. His teeth dig into the corner of his bottom lip. She must’ve been waiting to see him walk by in the hallway, ready to pounce on Jimin like some predator in three-inch heels.

He spins around. “Hey, mom!” he greets in what is probably too cheerful for a Monday night. “What’s up? I was about to go study with Taemin-hyung,” he lies. He hates lying to them but it’s a necessary evil.

Jimin loves his family. Don’t get him wrong. He appreciates everything his parents have done for him, and he’s proud of the young man Jihyun’s grown up to be. But sometimes (most of the time) they can become suffocating. And right now, the deal is Jimin gets to put off most of his crown prince duties until he earns his degree. This means he has around five months until shit hits the fan when the entire world realizes how truly awful the next-in-line to South Korea’s throne is at doing anything involving being, well, next-in-line.

So most nights he tries to avoid dinner with his family. He’ll have plenty of chances for it later, and right now the last thing he needs is his father setting him up with another countess and his mother’s patient yet persistent reminders about the multitude of things Jimin needs to prepare for after he graduates.

“Actually, we need you to raincheck. Just for tonight, okay? We have something important to discuss at dinner.”

“Eomma,” Jimin draws out, not ashamed to use a little aegyo to get his way. “Exams are soon.” They’re not, Jimin finished them a week ago, but she doesn’t have to know that.

His mother’s sweet smile falters a little. “Jiminie, you’ve been studying non-stop for weeks. I think you can afford to take a night off.”

That’s not exactly true, but Jimin’s family thinks it is. He suspects Jihyun probably knows a lot more than he’s letting on but doesn’t rat his hyung out like the loyal brother he is. That’s not to say he hasn’t been studying, but a lot of those supposed ‘study nights’ with his friends involved either the dance studio or a movie marathon at Moonkyu and Songwoon’s place.

It only takes one look at Jimin’s mother to know it’s a losing battle. She won’t take no for an answer, so Jimin sighs and walks back to her.

That’s how he ends up here, within elbowing distance of his little brother and smacking distance of his father. His parents aren’t violent nor have they ever hit their sons, or at least not with malicious intent. But sometimes Jimin will forget he’s not on campus with Taehyung and is instead sitting at the literal royal dining table, and his parents will smack him lightly on the back of his head whenever he says something that’s unbecoming of a crown prince.

His father drones on about something to do with a diplomatic meeting somewhere in Europe, but Jimin tuned him out a while ago. He’s pretty sure Jihyun’s act of avidly listening isn’t even an act anymore, which makes him feel even worse.

He stays mostly silent as their dinner is served to them by the kitchen staff. He only speaks to thank them quietly, punctuated with a small bow of his head. Jihyun follows, but he doesn’t think his parents even notice. After more than fifteen years of living in the palace, they’ve become accustomed to looking through the palace workers instead of at them. That’s one thing Jimin really hates, but even with his subtle nagging at them, they never came around as Jihyun did.

“Jimin-ah,” his father calls, and Jimin snaps to attention immediately. He hopes his dad doesn’t try to get his input on the previous conversation because he made absolutely no effort to pay attention to it. To his relief, though, it looks like his dad is moving the conversation elsewhere. “Clear your schedule for tomorrow night. You have a dinner reserved with Kim Nayeon-ssi at seven.”

Jimin holds himself back from groaning and smashing his face into his plate, but he can’t help the way his face drops at the subject of yet another bachelorette.

But this is the sixth one this year and the second this month. That’s something worth mentioning, at least. 

“Dad, why are you pushing this?” he asks. His brother flinches at the accusing tone. Jimin’s either the bravest bastard in Korea or the dumbest, depending on who you ask. “My coronation is years off. You’re perfectly healthy, the doctor says so.” His father doesn’t interrupt him, but Jimin knows by the look in the man’s eyes that he’s doing the equivalent of poking a tiger with a stick. “I’ve been good, I’ve gone to these set-ups for years now and they never work out. Can’t you trust me with my own life? I don’t want to look for a wife. I’m twenty-four. That’s the least of my worries right now.”

“Which is exactly your problem, Jimin,” his father finally speaks. His soft voice makes it sound like he’s speaking calmly to Jimin, maybe even sympathizing with him. But his posture is stiff and his mouth is set into a hard line. “You are only focusing on your studies, which was the agreement we had when you started university. And as much as I want to let you study with as little distractions and outside responsibilities as possible, you need to come back to reality. You need a wife by the time you become king. These set-ups aren’t a way for your mother and me to punish you, they’re to help you. We’re trying to avoid being left with an arranged marriage being the only option.”

That, at least, is a good thing about this situation. Jimin’s parents didn’t necessarily approve of arranged marriages, especially since his father had to fight tooth-and-nail to avoid one just so he could marry Jimin’s mother. Above all else, even with these ridiculous set-ups, Jimin knew that somewhere deep down his parents did these for his benefit.

But that still doesn’t make him happy about it.

“I don’t understand why I need a wife in the first place. Uncle was coronated without one.”

“And look where that got him.” The sympathetic tone in his father’s voice is completely gone now. He grips his chopsticks tightly in his hand, the other looking like he’s about to shatter the porcelain bowl he’s holding. Jimin sets his chopsticks down on his bowl and leans back in his chair.

His father continues. “My brother died of a stress-induced heart attack at forty-three, Jimin. You think we want that for you? He had to carry the burden of running an entire country on his own. He’d still be here if he’d put his stubbornness aside and found himself a wife or allowed your grandmother to arrange him one. So you can take these dinners with perfectly fine young women as seriously as you want, but you will be married before your coronation date. I would not have been able to survive these years without your mother. And as much as we love you and wish you could love whoever you wanted at the pace you deem necessary, we’d rather have our son in an arranged marriage than next to his uncle in the ground.”

Jimin bites his tongue. He wants to scream out so many things, wants to yell at the top of his lungs how unfair this all is, but he can’t. Because his brother is here, and the kitchen staff are still filtering through the doors, and he knows the guards posted at the doors are listening even though they’d deny it with stone faces if asked, so Jimin just can’t. He’s the crown prince. He has to set an example.

So instead of exploding at his father, he bites out a, “may I be excused?”

His father looks like he wants to refuse, but Jimin’s mother thankfully answers before he has a chance to.

“Yes, you may,” she responds.

Jimin jumps up from his chair so quickly it nearly tips back from the force. The guards pull the doors open for him on the way out and he barely remembers to duck his head in thanks before storming down the hallway and out of the palace wing.

His first thought is to call Tae. He does, but it immediately goes to voicemail. He must’ve forgotten to charge it like he always does. Jimin sighs and opts to call his other best friend in hopes of him picking up.

Seokjin, bless him, fortunately answers while Jimin’s striding down the kitchen hallway. It’s a longer way to get to his bedroom near the western corner of the palace, but he knows his family won’t think of going this route if they wanted to go after him.

“Hello?” the elder’s voice chimes from the other side of the line. Jimin can’t help but feel himself relax just a bit from his friend’s voice.

“Jin-hyung,” he greets. “Can I come to your place for a while tonight?” He breezes by a group of palace workers with a nod but doesn’t speak. The maids give him a few confused looks on why he’s not at dinner but nevertheless let him pass. “I just really need to get out of the palace for a couple of hours.”

Seokjin makes a sympathetic noise over the line. “Rough night?”

“You could say that,” Jimin mutters. 

His friend coos at him before complying. “Sure, Jiminie, you can come over. It’s just me and Namjoon, but he said that some of his friends are gonna come over in a bit.” 

“Are they cool?” Jimin asks. He takes a right down another long corridor, passing portraits of his ancestors and various historical depictions. There’s a young man dusting one of the antiques hanging on the wall but he luckily only gives Jimin a bow and a whisper of Your Highness without stopping the prince for conversation. As much as Jimin enjoys chatting with the palace staff, all he wants to do right now is get the hell out of here.

“Yeah, they’re cool. I wouldn’t let you come if they weren’t. I trust Joon.”

The prince hums. “So it’ll just be you, me, Namjoon, and his friends?” he asks. He comes up on the long hallway with his bedroom door at the very end. He passes by the large windows overlooking the gardens. The dozens of trees in the courtyard are beginning to lose their leaves in the October weather, which will eventually become a pain in the ass when Jimin doesn’t have enough foliage to hide in while sneaking out of the palace through the gardens.

“Probably,” Seokjin answers. “I tried having Tae come too, but he isn’t answering his phone. Have you seen him today?”

Jimin pushes his bedroom door open to see Taehyung lounging on his bed, scrolling through Netflix on Jimin’s TV. He’s holding the Roku stick with a lazy grip. His eyes are half-lidded, but he still looks over to Jimin and does a small nod in greeting. Jimin snorts at his best friend. 

“Yeah, I’m looking at him right now,” he answers Jin.

The jury’s still out on whether it was a good idea to teach Taehyung how to get into the palace through the kitchens and staff quarters. All of the cooks recognize the man at this point, and Jimin commends them for never telling anything about it to his parents. Despite his mother and father having much higher authority than Jimin, he still holds much of the loyalty of the palace staff. It’s not like him and his parents are on rivaling sides or anything like that (although after tonight’s dinner, it sure feels like one.) They’re still family. They still love each other. But the palace staff, at least the ones who’ve been employed here for years, watched Jimin grow up. He found companionship with many of them as a child while his brother was in etiquette lessons and neither the King or Queen could spare a moment to entertain Jimin. The few times he’s screwed up in his youth the palace workers were quick to cover his ass, which was and still is greatly appreciated.

Seokjin’s voice pulls Jimin out of his thoughts as the prince sits down on the edge of his bed. “Great,” he chirps, “get dressed and drag his ass over here, then,” and hangs up.

When he twists around, he sees his friend is still scrolling through the foreign category of Netflix, which Jimin’s pretty sure is just a collection of badly-made indie lesbian movies with little plot. The prince pulls his legs up onto the bed so he can poke Taehyung in the thigh with his foot.

“Get up,” he orders. “I’m sick of my family so we’re going to Seokjin-hyung’s, getting drunk, and hopefully hyung will finally bang his roommate so we don’t have to hear him whining about how beefy the dude is anymore.”

Tae hums and quits Netflix. “Alright. But only because there’s a promise of alcohol. Also, there’s only so many times I can listen to Seokjin-hyung ranting about how thick Namjoon’s thighs are.”

“Amen,” Jimin grumbles, already pushing himself off the bed and towards the bathroom to get ready. “We leave in ten,” he calls.

Taehyung makes a comment about how that translates to half an hour in Park Jimin speak, but the prince ignores him as he locks himself inside the large bathroom. He catches sight of himself in the mirror and sighs.

He is so, so tired.

 

Jimin's been to Seokjin's apartment plenty of times. He's lived there since Jimin started at university, which means it has to be at least four years now.

It sucks at Jimin wasn't able to finish his degree in three years like everyone else, but he couldn't take a full course load during some parts of the year. He had his duties minimized as much as possible to allow full concentration towards his studies but there were simply too many non-negotiable responsibilities during odd seasons.

Even though Seokjin graduated a year after he got this place, he decided to continue leasing until he found somewhere better. But the thing is, Jimin's hyung is an indecisive little shit who, by the time his picky ass found an apartment that pleases his ridiculous expectations, ("an eastern-facing bedroom? Really?" "The sun is the only thing that can wake me up, Jiminie." "Just buy a fucking alarm clock, man,") he'd already become attached to the place. He had a roommate for a majority of the time he's lived here even though Jimin's pretty sure he doesn't even need it with the increase of movie roles his hyung's been getting. Jimin knows that Seokjin's pocket is in no way struggling, but when the roommate moved out after graduating late in the summer, Jin put out an ad for another roommate anyways.

He would never admit it, but Jimin thinks Seokjin gets lonely sometimes.

Jimin doesn't blame him, though. Seokjin has plenty of friends, both from the industry and not, but Jimin doesn't think there are too many apart from Taehyung and himself that Seokjin would call close friends. He's never told Jimin, but the prince has clued in on the fact that the number of people who stuck around Seokjin for a while just to get to Jimin himself is higher than he wants to think about. It's an unspoken secret that Seokjin doesn't have as many true and honest people in his corner despite the bravado and confidence he puts on for the outside world. It makes Jimin sick. 

Especially in the late spring and early summer when Taehyung's too busy studying for finals and Jimin's being carted across the nation and sometimes even the world, trying to catch up on the things he neglected during the school year, when he knows the amount of dishonest people Seokjin’s hanging around is higher than they’re comfortable with. 

Seokjin always scolds the prince when he worries, reminds him that he’s the hyung, not Jimin. But Jimin can see it. Taehyung does too, although his confrontation on Seokjin’s choice of company is probably less bold, a little more respectful, and a lot more gentler than Jimin’s is. But it’s obvious: the way Seokjin holds himself after only having bloodthirsty, desperate actors to hang around for months on end. Ones who break Jin down piece-by-piece until every fragment of the confidence Taehyung and Jimin had worked so hard to build up is knocked to the ground. Every year, when Taehyung finally walks out of his last exam and Jimin steps off a sixteen-hour flight, both exhausted and drained, they come home to see their hyung somehow even worse off than them. His shoulders sink in and he doesn’t go to auditions for at least a month and the prince won’t hear him laugh once until the dark cloud has passed. Each year, they beg Seokjin to stop seeing them. But when every April rolls around, Seokjin thinks their awful company is better than no company and goes anyways.

Really, all Seokjin needs is someone to be there. Whether it be a friend or something more. Taehyung and Jimin were initially worried when Seokjin’s roommate moved out; she hadn’t been Seokjin’s friend by any means, much too busy with her pre-med degree, but at least Seokjin had someone at home. And they got even more worried when he told them his new roommate would be an up-and-coming artist, but their unease was quickly settled over the following weeks when they realized how happy Seokjin is because of Namjoon. 

Jimin hadn’t even met the man yet, even though it’s been over three months since he’s moved in. There have been a couple of times where Seokjin would facetime Jimin and Namjoon could be seen running around in the background before rushing out of the apartment for the studio. Other than that, nothing. It’s the same for Taehyung, which is why they’re so curious and excited to meet Kim Namjoon.

They’ve heard things about him from Seokjin, obviously. Their hyung practically swoons when he tells the others about him. (Well, not swooning, really. It’s actually just the slightest widening of his eyes and quirk of his lips when he fondly explains how Namjoon tried cooking dinner for them and ended up in the emergency room, but with how easily Seokjin can contain emotions he doesn’t want others to see, those slight signs are enough for Taehyung and Jimin to conclude that their hyung is falling. Hard.)

They know Namjoon studied music production in college but dropped out when he was finally accepted into a music company as a rapper. It’s only been a couple of months since his debut, but Seokjin is convinced Namjoon will make it big. They also know Namjoon is really smart intellectually but when it comes to things that require multitasking or any form of hand-eye coordination he’s practically hopeless.

Seokjin probably finds all that endearing, too, which even further proves Jimin’s point. Kim Seokjin has a fat crush on Kim Namjoon. And it’s sickening. Jimin loves it.

When they arrive to the apartment, it’s Seokjin who answers the door. He’s smiling when his head pops out of the doorway, but the smile quickly drops once he sees the two of them.

“Oh,” he says in a disappointed tone. Taehyung snorts. “I thought you were the pizza man.”

“Sorry to disappoint,” Jimin croons and pushes his way through the door.

He follows the sound of voices past the kitchen archway and walks further down the entrance hallway and turns into the living room. Inside, he spots only two people. He immediately recognizes Namjoon as the man sitting on the carpet in front of the TV. He looks like he’s messing around with the cable box. He’s wearing a hoodie and sweatpants even though Jimin doubts it can be warranted with the weather outside. It’s almost November and yet the weather still hasn’t fully cooled down. Just last week the temperature was in the high twenties before dipping back down again. 

There’s an unfamiliar person sitting on the couch. His dark bangs are probably long enough to hang over his eyes, but a white clip pushes the hair off his forehead. He curls up into the side of the couch in a way that makes Jimin think it’s not his first time being here. He concludes this must be one of Namjoon’s friends, although the prince isn’t sure of the number of people Namjoon invited. He hopes it isn’t that many, though. The fewer friends, the easier of a time Jimin has. Fewer people he has to keep an eye on to make sure they’re not taking pictures of him to sell to some tabloid for quick cash.

But Seokjin promised (or, Namjoon promised to Seokjin,) that these people would be cool with Jimin’s royalty status. And sure enough, when the man on the couch notices Jimin and Taehyung lingering in the doorway, he nods in greeting.

“Hey. You’re Seokjin-ssi’s friends?”

The question draws Namjoon’s attention from the cable box he was fiddling with to the pair. His face brightens at the sight of them, eyes widening when he smiles. There are deep dimples on either cheek. Jimin always knew what Namjoon looked like in a sense, but seeing the guy in front of him kind of makes him understand why Seokjin whined for months about how beautiful his roommate is. Tae and Jimin has just assumed Seokjin had it bad for the guy—which isn’t wrong—but now Jimin can see there’s a reason to his Namjoon-induced madness.

The first hour goes easy like that. Yoongi, the man comfortably pressed into the couch, hardly bats an eye at Jimin being who he is. It probably helps that he might be used to this already, considering Namjoon and Seokjin’s growth to fame within their respective career paths. Namjoon tells the others that he only invited two more friends who’ll be arriving late after they finish at the studio. Jimin assumes they must work at the same music company as Namjoon. He’s about to ask what their stage names are but is interrupted by the eruption of cheers as Namjoon finally gets the cable box working, so he lets himself get drawn into the other conversations around him.

The pizzas arrive and they all dig in, saving one aside for the two absent invitees. Jimin learns more about the infamous Kim Namjoon, although he’s not sure what he can do with the knowledge that he loves watching just about every genre of film except horror—because he can’t help but point out the plot holes—but prefers the marine documentaries he streams off of the Netflix account of his ex-girlfriend, who still doesn’t know Namjoon continued using her account after they broke up even though it’s been three years now. He likes going on bike rides, (this explains why Seokjin bought a bicycle all of a sudden last month, despite not even knowing how to ride one,) and has probably dragged Seokjin to more art museums in the three months they’ve been roommates than Seokjin’s been to in his entire life. 

Yoongi doesn’t hesitate to tease Namjoon by calling these outings dates. As soon as he says it, both Namjoon and Seokjin turn red while Taehyung shares an evil grin with Jimin across the room. The two youngest promptly move themselves to the couch on either side of Yoongi, not passing up the opportunity to combine forces and fully humiliate their friends on the budding relationship and obvious tension between them.

After that, it’s smooth sailing. Yoongi tells them that he’s in his last stretch of graduate school and due to finish by the end of the fall semester next month. He’s known Namjoon since they were teenagers, back when Yoongi was still an underground rapper in Daegu. Taehyung thinks this is the coolest thing ever, especially since he spent a majority of his early teenage years in a Daegu boarding school. He spends the rest of the night blabbering to Yoongi about the city even though it seems Taehyung enjoyed his time there much more than Yoongi did. All in all, it’s going well. Jimin has no problems.

Until the doorbell rings.

“That must be Ggukie and Hobi,” Namjoon mutters, pushing himself off the couch and going into the hallway. Jimin hears Namjoon open the door but his attention is distracted by the Black Mirror episode that was left playing on the TV. It’s mostly been used as background noise the entire hour.

Jimin’s pulled back to the guests when he hears a familiar voice in the hallway. It’s bright and chirpy and has the smallest hint of satoori. Jimin doesn’t know where he knows the voice from, but he knows it. It’s probably just another rapper that Jimin’s watched an interview of in passing, but— it feels like a voice he should know. One that’s important.

Yet it doesn’t take long for Jimin to put a voice to a face. One he recognizes immediately.

Namjoon follows the newcomer around the corner, clapping a hand onto his friend’s shoulder with a soft smile on his face. Said friend is still in his dancing gear—Jesus, why didn’t Jimin consider the fact he could’ve been a dancer—with a bright smile and six-pack of beer in hand. Namjoon grins at him like he hung the fucking moon, which Jimin suspects has to do with the alcohol in the other’s possession. “Guys, this is Jung Hoseok. Hobi, this is Park Jimin and Kim Taehyung.”

Jimin feels his mouth go dry.

Hoseok looks a lot nicer and more welcoming in the daytime. He has a big grin on his face as he greets them, though Jimin doesn’t miss the knowing glint in his eyes when he glances at the prince. He blabbers off a standard greeting that somehow seems more friendly than necessary. Granted, Jimin’s pretty sure the guy could look nicer in any situation as long as he’s not threatening to cut Jimin’s royal dick off if he so much hurt a hair on Jeongguk’s head.

(Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. Jeongguk hurt, Jimin dead.)

Which...doesn’t leave many options in the identity of ‘Ggukie,’ either. Jimin probably should’ve suspected it earlier just from the nickname alone, but everything seemed too much of a coincidence. 

But there’s no way all of this was luck, Jimin realizes, as soon as Jeon Jeongguk walks through the door.

The younger almost looks pleasantly surprised when his gaze lands on Jimin, although the prince can see traces of smugness in his eyes as if Jeongguk bet on something risky yet still won anyway. And it’s then that Jimin realizes he had; Jimin agreed that if they met again he’d give Jeongguk a chance. On what, he’s not sure. But judging by the look on the younger’s face he knows it’ll be nothing good.

“Your Highness,” he greets with a bow and shit-eating grin.

“Jeongguk-ssi,” he glares.

Namjoon looks between them with a confused expression. “You know each other?”

If Jimin was being calm about this, he’d appreciate the fact that Jeongguk had kept his promise to secrecy about their shared night. But right now all the prince can think of is how stupid he feels for not having figured this out earlier. 

With a glance at his own friends, he realizes that they probably figured it out before Jeongguk arrived as well. Seokjin at least has the decency to try to look a little surprised while Taehyung merely grins excitedly while glancing between the two.

Jimin growls and kicks Taehyung. “You knew?” he hisses out.

His best friend only shrugs, not looking guilty in the slightest. “I recognized Yoongi-hyung and Namjoon-ssi from Jeongguk’s Instagram pictures when Seokjin cyberstalked him,” he offers as an explanation.

The prince stares at his friend in disbelief. When he’s offered nothing more, Jimin groans and drops his head onto the back of the couch, ignoring Jeongguk’s squeak of ‘you did what?’ that comes out at the same time as Yoongi’s ‘yah, I never said you could call me that.’

Jimin waves the interaction off, just saying that he’s met Jeongguk from dance. Jeongguk doesn’t seem pleased with the write-off but he doesn’t object. Hoseok gives them both a funny look. The prince doesn’t make a big scene of Jeongguk showing up, although he can’t say he didn’t stomp a little when he excuses himself to the kitchen for some water.

He’s leaning against the fridge and sipping from his glass when Jeongguk walks in. It’s unsurprising, really, but that doesn’t make Jimin not annoyed by it. It was only a couple days ago that Jeongguk was mad at him, yet now the prince wants nothing more to stomp on the younger’s foot and leave without a word.

“Hey, Jimin-ssi,” he greets in a chirpy tone. Jimin glares at him.

Deciding to be petty, the prince only nods at him over the rim of the glass. Jeongguk strides across the small kitchen and stops in front of him. The longer they stare at each other, the bigger the dorky smile grows on Jeongguk’s face.

Jimin finally breaks the silence. “Do you need something in the fridge?” he asks in an uninterested tone. The last time they were in this position, it was the night they met. Jeongguk was the one against the refrigerator, and Jimin was trying to force him to take the payment. He ended up getting it anyways when Jimin left it on the counter the following morning.

“Just you,” Jeongguk says. Jimin fights back the urge to scoff.

“Don’t think I’m gonna be all chipper when you’ve humiliated me,” he grumbles. It hasn’t been a bother before, but right now Jimin hates the fact that Jeongguk is a little taller than him. Both in socks, Jimin’s eyes line up with Jeongguk’s nose. It’s only a couple of centimeters difference at most, but it makes Jimin feel like he’s not being taken as seriously when Jeongguk physically lowers his head to look down at him.

“I didn’t mean to,” the younger promises. “I thought it’d be cute.”

“It’s not,” he puffs. “I feel stupid.”

Jeongguk grabs the glass Jimin’s hiding behind and places it on the counter next to Jimin. He leans into Jimin’s space to reach. The prince jerks back and smacks his head against the fridge with a dull thud.

“You know you’re not stupid,” is all Jeongguk says.

He’s right, but that’s not the point. “But now our friends do.”

Jeongguk is quick to refute Jimin’s worries. “No, they don’t. The only person in there that knows about us is Hoseok-hyung, unless you’ve told your friends. And even then, none of them think you’re dumb. They probably think it’s a cool coincidence.”

“It’s not.” Jimin doesn’t drop his stare. The other shifts on his feet. “You knew Seokjin-hyung was my friend, and you knew he lived with Namjoon-ssi.”

A sheepish smile appears on Jeongguk’s face. “Yeah,” he admits, raising a hand to scratch at his nose. “I figured it out when I dropped you off here a couple days ago.”

The prince can’t help pouting when he breaks their eye contact. His gaze drifts off to the kitchen door. “You should’ve just told me,” he mumbles. He knows he sounds childish, but he’s also sure that Jeongguk doesn’t care.

“I wanted it to be cute,” he says again. “It’d seem like fate and everything.”

He understands the younger’s sentiment, a little, but Jimin is stubborn and won’t budge. Jeongguk chuckles and reaches for Jimin’s hand. Jimin smacks it away and crosses his arms.

“Quit acting annoyed with me,” he coos. “I know you’re not that mad. Plus, you promised if we met again you’d give us a chance.”

He gets a glare in response, but Jeongguk only cackles at Jimin’s pout.

“I’m still angry at you,” the prince declares.

“No, you’re not,” Jeongguk croons, pulling Jimin forward into his arms. The blond hits his chest with a huff, smushing his cheek against the fabric of Jeongguk’s shirt. He doesn’t drop his arms. It makes the hug awkward, but Jeongguk ignores it and holds Jimin tightly.

“Let go of me. I hate hugs,” Jimin lies.

“No, you don’t.”

The prince lets out a sigh of defeat. Jeongguk squeezes him once more, coercing him into dropping his arms and finally letting them wrap around Jeongguk’s waist.

“See? Isn’t this nice?” Jeongguk teases. 

“I better not regret this,” Jimin threatens, but there’s no mirth. Jeongguk knows that. He rubs his cheek against Jimin’s head.

“You won’t,” he promises. “Years from now, you’re gonna be thinking, geez, I’m really glad Jeonggukie was an obnoxious brat who wouldn’t stop going after me.

“You make me sound like an old man.”

“Nah, that’s Yoongi hyung,” Jeongguk corrects. Jimin snorts against his chest.

A couple of minutes of quiet conversation go by until they hear their friends calling for them in the living room. Jimin pulls away, albeit slowly. He looks up to see Jeongguk smiling at him.

He sighs in defeat. “Fine. You have one chance.”

The smile grows into a grin and Jeongguk’s pumping his fists in the air with wide eyes and a yes hissing through his lips. Jimin can’t help but laugh, which only makes the younger act more ridiculous.

Jeongguk grabs for Jimin’s hand again. This time, the prince lets him. He gets dragged out of the kitchen and back into the hallway.

“You won’t regret it,” Jeongguk declares.

Jimin sure hopes so.

Chapter Text

It barely takes a can of beer and a couple of shots from Seokjin’s suspicious liquor cabinet for Jeongguk to start feeling it. 

In his defense: he’s only been drinking for three years now. He didn’t even drink that much before he met Yoongi last year. Hoseok doesn’t like drinking; he always falls into a depressed state and spaces out in the same amount of time it takes for Jeongguk to start doing dumb shit. And a quiet, half-conscious Hoseok mixed with a giggling and tipsy Jeongguk isn’t that great of a duo, so they never found many reasons to drink during their years of college together. 

But once Yoongi came into the picture, Jeongguk was screwed. Although he’s definitely not the partying type, Yoongi still enjoys most hangouts with at least one beer in his hand. It takes a lot for him to get drunk which annoys Hoseok to all end considering he still hasn’t figured out what kind of drunk Yoongi is.

(Namjoon says he just gets louder and more obnoxious, but Jeongguk doubts it. Only once has he ever seen Yoongi nearing intoxication and all he did was insist Hoseok hold his hand the entire evening. And Hoseok probably didn’t even realize the guy was tipsy since he was too busy grinning like a goddamn fool the entire time, so.)

Namjoon doesn’t drink all that much either so most of Yoongi’s efforts to get his friends up to his level of alcohol tolerance are in vain. He could always find new friends that can handle their drinks, but Yoongi would rather stick with them and just grumble about his lack of drinking buddies instead of doing anything about it. Until now.

Jeongguk doesn’t know how Jimin manages to have such a good alcohol tolerance considering he probably can’t attend most college parties. That’s not to say that some random students’ off-campus housing is the only place you can get blackout drunk and survive the night, but Jeongguk doesn’t think Jimin’s out taking shots at diplomatic meetings across the world with foreign officials twice his age. He can’t imagine dinners at the royal palace get any crazier than glasses of wine. 

They all watch in awe as the prince tips back drink after drink throughout the night. He doesn’t falter. He doesn’t act any different aside from growing more comfortable with Jeongguk’s friends, but he isn’t sure if that’s because of the alcohol or just because there’s no way you can stick Hoseok and Namjoon in a room with a stranger without them all walking out with a new best friend.

Jimin’s suspicious alcohol tolerance aside, they’re a mess. Not just him and Jeongguk—all of them. 

At first, it was a little awkward. Jeongguk was hesitant around Seokjin and Taehyung. He wasn’t given any warning that they’d be here, much less Jimin. Namjoon thought it’d just be them and Seokjin for the night—or at least until the plans apparently changed with little communication between both friend groups. But luckily as the night wears on it gets easier. And even though Namjoon’s friend group has one more person than Seokjin’s, the others fit themselves in seamlessly.

He already knows Taehyung and Namjoon are going to be close just from the way they both point out a vague plot hole in the foreign movie playing on Netflix at the same time. For a moment, they look at each other in shock. It only takes a second for the surprise to turn into expressions of glee. This starts a heated discussion about the sexism of western films and something called a Bechtel test. In all honesty, Jeongguk clocked out of that around half an hour ago so he has no idea what’s going on in the film. A quick glance towards the screen shows two women fighting and pushing each other to the ground. His attention stays for around five seconds before he’s distracted by someone else.

Yoongi and Seokjin seem to be getting along well. They’re sat on opposite ends of the loveseat, facing each other as they chat and drink from their beers. He thinks Seokjin is trying to tell a funny story, but just from listening for a minute or so Jeongguk can hardly figure out what the eldest is saying through his own laughter. He doesn’t know if Yoongi figured out the joke of the story or if he just finds it hilarious that Seokjin can’t finish it but he’s tilting his head back as he laughs with him. It’s not the same volume as Seokjin but his lips are stretched wide to show all of his teeth. 

It’s a little bizarre. Yoongi isn’t some anti-social hermit, but he certainly isn’t usually so relaxed when first meeting someone. Then again, Jeongguk doubts anyone can be stiff in Kim Seokjin’s presence. They’ve only been here a couple of hours yet he’s probably cracked more jokes than Jeongguk has heard all week.

He’s come to appreciate it over the course of the night, though, especially since it helps all of them relax into the new group dynamics. Jeongguk isn’t sure if this will be a thing from now on, but he finds he won’t mind it if Namjoon and Seokjin merge their friend groups more often. It’s a nice sort of chaos.

Jeongguk feels almost as if he’s in a movie—one of those cheesy scenes near the end where all of the protagonists come together while one of them reflects and appreciates each person. He can’t help but smile at the thought. Maybe he’s been watching too many romcoms.

His thoughts are interrupted by Hoseok screeching into his ear. Jeongguk flinches away and whines. He’s sat on the couch in between Hoseok and Jimin, the latter who’s slowly grown more comfortable around everyone with the help of the alcohol. He’s lost count how many times Jimin has refilled his cup with something from the kitchen. He’s definitely outpaced the rest of them aside from Yoongi. 

At some point during the night Namjoon searches up karaoke playlists on Youtube. Taehyung runs into the bathroom and steals Seokjin’s hairbrush to use as a microphone. He selects Hip and Lip on the laptop and it goes downhill from there.

Some of them have surprisingly good voices. Taehyung can hit both high and low notes, Jeongguk finds, although he wishes he found that out from something other than watching the man sing Christmas carols in the middle of October. Seokjin can also hit high notes but he uses that power for comedic parodies rather than actually attempting to sing well. Everyone but Namjoon cringes when he screams into the hairbrush in such a pitch Jeongguk is surprised it didn’t shatter glass. Namjoon just leans back and smiles in a dopey, fond way. It’s disgusting. Seokjin freely makes a fool of himself yet the guy stares at him like he hung the stars anyway. Jeongguk wants to gag at the sight. If this is what they’re like during the flirting stage he doesn’t want to see what happens when they actually get together. 

Jimin only sings a couple of times. He starts off each song with a bashful expression yet ends all of them with over-exaggerated notes after Hoseok and Taehyung’s encouraging cheers.

(Well, Jeongguk would probably call them catcalls rather than cheers, but to each their own. The guy just doubts it’s very encouraging to be told how great your ass looks mid-song.)

He gets pulled up to sing a couple of times as well, but as each minute passes he feels the effects of the drinks. His blood-alcohol level is bad enough just from the shots he took with Taehyung earlier, but being out of breath from singing makes it even worse. The room sort of spins. Jeongguk just giggles and keeps going. After a particularly-laborious rendition of Country Roads with Namjoon, he drops himself onto the loveseat.
Next to Jimin.

“Good evening, Your Highness,” he slurs out. Jeongguk turns his head to see the blond laughing at him in the corner of his periphery.

“Hi, Jeongguk-ssi,” he greets between giggles. Jeongguk sluggishly moves his eyes to see Jimin holding a hand up to his mouth to stifle the laughter. Jesus, he’s so beautiful. “How are you feeling?”

“‘m tired,” he grumbles. He’ll probably have a killer hangover in the morning judging by the pressure he already feels in between his eyes. Yoongi screeching through some girl group song also doesn’t help.

“Maybe you should head to bed soon, Jeongguk-ssi,” Jimin notes. His voice is so sweet. Like honey. Well, actually, Jeongguk doesn’t really like honey. Plus it’s bad for the environment. He thinks. It’s been a couple of years since he watched The Bee Movie but he thinks that was the gist of it.

Jeongguk nods when he remembers Jimin is still waiting for an answer. “You’re right.” He nods again, just for good measure. He tries standing but only trips over his own feet. The prince grabs the back of his shirt and tugs him back onto the couch before he manages to smash his face on the coffee table. Jeongguk lands heavily on the leather sofa. His limbs feel like lead.

“I’m gonna go to sleep now,” he warns Jimin. The prince just raises an eyebrow in confusion. Or is that amusement?

He drops his gaze down Jimin’s face, taking in the red blush tinting his skin. Jeongguk giggles a little to himself. He never realized that blushing was actually a thing that happened when you drank. He thought it only happened in movies, or that Naruto fanfiction he read during early high school.

Fortunately, he still has enough sense to keep his eyes from staring at Jimin’s lips for too long. That is a dangerous road to walk on. Instead, Jeongguk’s eyes trail all the way down Jimin’s pale neck, down his shirt, resting on his jeans.

“Wow,” he murmurs to himself. He’s not sure if Jimin hears it over Yoongi’s exaggerated singing. He’s too busy glaring a hole through Jimin’s pants anyway. The way the denim hugs his muscles should be illegal.

Jeongguk definitely had too much to drink. He tries to count how much he had but he’d lost count somewhere during the night. It’s especially difficult since his hyungs kept doting on him by letting him try their drinks and never letting his cup go empty. He knows he hasn’t drunk anything since they started karaoke an hour ago, though, so at least this is probably as bad as it’s going to get.

That fact doesn’t stop him from making stupid decisions.

Jeongguk’s mind is cloudy but he can still hear a voice in the back of his head screaming at him to stop when he scooches himself back far enough to allow room to drop his head onto Jimin’s lap.

The room doesn’t go silent all at once. His hyungs are still preoccupied, but once one of them catches eye of what’s going on, it gets the attention of the others. Jeongguk hums along to the girl group song still playing, despite no one singing to it anymore.

He can feel the questioning stares from Yoongi and Namjoon. Taehyung, Hoseok, and Seokjin all look highly amused with the entire situation, however, so Jeongguk can only assume Jimin told his friends about him. The thought alone makes his stomach curl in excitement.

Jimin only grumbles under his weight but makes no move to push him off. Jeongguk feels someone’s fingers softly brush through his hair. It’d be disgusting since he came here after dance practice all sweaty but Hoseok luckily had the foresight to have them shower before arriving. Nails scratch into his scalp. Jeongguk groans and lets his eyes flutter shut. Jimin’s legs shift under him but they’re too careful of movements to really jostle him.

He can hear Hoseok laughing at something from across the room. Jimin giggles a bit at it too, so Jeongguk blearily cracks an eye open to see a phone angled down towards his face.

Jeongguk pouts. “Sta’ recordin’ me, ” he whines, dragging out the last syllable before promptly rolling over and smashing his face into Jimin’s shirt. This starts another round of laughter of which Jeongguk usually wouldn’t care about but—but Jimin’s laughing too and Jeongguk can feel his abs tighten every time he sucks in air, which really isn’t a good combination with a drunk Jeongguk.

Later, the imagery of Jimin having abs will probably keep Jeongguk awake at night, but all he can think about right now is feeling the muscles stiffen under his own hands.

Jeongguk has never been a smart drunk. He doesn’t exactly have a great track record. He always ends up doing stupid shit just to see his hyungs laugh. And even though he avoids getting drunk or even drinking at all in the first place, he always gets himself into some predicament because of his intoxicated decisions. 

The first time he got drunk, it was the weekend after his nineteenth birthday. Hoseok was twenty-two, but still bought Jeongguk copious amounts of alcohol because he’s a good hyung who’d rather have Jeongguk drink with him so he can at least make sure he’s relatively safe.

Emphasis on relatively.

Jeongguk ended up chugging some fruity drink like it was apple juice, blacked out, and woke up in the hospital the next morning with a fractured leg and the worst hangover of his life because he’d decided that learning how to parkour while shitfaced was a good idea. He’d scaled a three-meter high fence on private property before concluding parkouring was too tiring and—instead of climbing back down like a normal drunken college student—Jeongguk jumped off.

Another time, Jeongguk woke up the next morning to find out he adopted a pet bunny overnight. It was small and brown and didn’t appreciate the carrots Jeongguk tried to feed it. He has no idea what kind of pet store employee would hand over a rabbit to an obviously-intoxicated twenty-year-old, but luckily Hoseok convinced his sister to take the creature in after they both panicked over their landlord’s strict ‘no pets’ rule. Dawon happily adopted the bunny, but she named it after Jeongguk just to spite him. It’s safe to say he’s learned his lesson, at least, because Jeongguk has not drunkenly adopted an animal since.

Last year Hoseok managed to convince Jeongguk to go to a party held by another dancer. The younger hadn’t been too eager about it. It ended up being a nice experience, but he woke up to penises drawn in permanent marker all over his skin. His hyung later told him that he’d invited people to do that, so really it was no one’s fault but his. That didn’t make scrubbing his skin raw to remove the phallic drawings off his cheek any more fun, though. He’s not sure how he found a sharpie while blackout drunk. At least now he knows olive oil is the best way to get permanent ink out of your pores.

His point is—Jeongguk makes dumb decisions when he’s drunk. Which is how he ends up with a hand up Jimin’s shirt, trying to feel his stomach tighten each time he laughs.

Jimin does go stiff against his palm, but it’s because all laughter in the room cut off the moment Jeongguk’s dumbass brain decided it was a good idea to slide his palm under Jimin’s shirt just to cop a feel of the prince’s abs.

Jimin’s frozen, by the way. Hasn’t moved since Jeongguk splayed his fingers across the warm skin of his stomach. No movement. None. If Jeongguk were coherent in any way right now, he’d shrivel up and die. But all he can process right now is just a giggle before dipping his pinky finger into Jimin’s belly button. The prince flinches in surprise.

A faint, “woah,” falls from Jimin’s lips, but Jeongguk’s too far gone to be mortified.

“Jimin-ssi,” he croons. His voice is muffled in the fabric of Jimin’s shirt. “Take me home. I wanna—wanna watch What to Expect When You’re Expecting .” He tries to enunciate each syllable, but with his drunken slurring it ends up sounding more like Wha’ ta Ess-pet When You’re Ess-petting, but he’s sure Jimin gets the point.

If he wasn’t so drunk off his ass right now, he’d see the alarmed glances Jimin sends to the rest of their friends. The hand comes back to his hair. Jeongguk practically purrs when they start scratching at the base of his neck.

“Jeongguk, I don’t think it’s a good idea—” Jimin starts, but Jeongguk cuts him off by digging his finger deeper into the man’s navel. Jimin yelps and jerks away.

“I wanna go,” he pouts.

He glances up to see Jimin looking at their hyungs in disbelief. He thinks the muffled laughter belongs to Taehyung, but Jeongguk doesn’t care. He has things to do, movies to see, and princes to cuddle.

He manages to pull himself up into a sitting position, although it’s really just an over-glorified way to say he’s putting all his weight onto Jimin’s torso and at least a little higher than a zero-degree angle. Jimin grunts at the extra weight. Jeongguk twists around to look at their friends.

“Guys, tell Jimin to take me home,” he whines.

Taehyung has his face pressed into Seokjin’s shoulder to hide his laughter. The youngest glares at him and decides his opinion is null and void because this is no laughing matter. In fact, none of his hyungs seem to realize how important this is. Sure, Jeongguk could probably stay here for the night and watch the film another day, but he wants to do it now. With Jimin.

Namjoon looks concerned. He shares a look with Hoseok and Yoongi, but both of them shrug. Namjoon’s lips purse into a line. He turns to stare above Jeongguk’s head. It takes a moment to remember Jimin is behind him.

“You’ll take care of him?” he asks slowly. He shoots a look at Seokjin. If Jeongguk was anywhere near sober right now, he’d probably figure out what that meant, but right now he’s just basking in the weightless feeling running through his limbs. “Don’t—don’t let him try anything.”

Jimin shifts him onto his other thigh. Jeongguk’s weight is probably numbing his muscles, but the brunet can’t find it within himself to move off of him. “Of course I’ll take care of him,” Jimin’s voice comes from above Jeongguk’s left ear. “I wouldn’t...I wouldn’t do anything with him. Of course not.”

Yoongi smirks at him. Jeongguk sticks out his tongue. “Yeah, we’re not worried about that. He’s just a handful when he’s drunk, and since it’s you… ” He trails off. Jeongguk scrunches his face, finally catching up to the conversation.

“Hey—” he hiccups, “hey, we’re not— not doing any ‘uf that! Jimin’s straight, ” he hisses through his teeth. Taehyung sobs into Seokjin’s shoulder, body shaking with laughter. “He likes girls and boobs. Dicks are gross, am I right, jeoha ?

When he glances up to the blond, Jimin looks incredibly amused. “Jeongguk,” he starts. “They’re allowed to know that I’m into guys.”

Jeongguk’s jaw dropped. “I thought that was a secret!” He stage-whispers.

“They’re my friends now, they can know. I trust them.”

“Hey, why did it only take five hours for them to be your friends when it took me weeks? ” Jeongguk glares. Jimin chuckles and massages his fingers into the back of the younger’s neck.

“‘Cause you’re special,” is all he answers before pushing Jeongguk off him to stand up. Once he’s on his feet Jimin pulls him up as well. “C’mon, you’re gonna drink two big glasses of water before we get going.”

He’s led out of the living room and into the kitchen. “Are you gonna drink too?”

“Yeah,” Jimin hums. “Hopefully you’ll piss so much you’ll sober up a little by the time you go to bed.” He gets his glass of water from earlier and fills it up with water from the tap filter. He shoves it into Jeongguk’s hands. “Drink,” he orders.

Jeongguk can only obey.

 

Drinking water ends up being a bad idea.

It probably would have worked if Jeongguk hadn’t chugged it like a maniac. He knocked back both of the glasses in less than five minutes and promptly vomited the moment they got outside of the apartment complex. Jeongguk refuses to let Jimin call an Uber in fear of puking there, too.

When they finally get to his place, Jimin is practically carrying Jeongguk. He was doing fine for the first half of their walk home but now the younger man is essentially dead weight in his arms. Once they make it into his neighborhood, Jimin tells him to get on his back.

Jeongguk pouts at him, eyes half-open. He’s glad Jimin seems to know where he’s going because Jeongguk stopped paying attention to where they were around ten blocks ago. He’s not sure how Jimin knows where the hell they’re going either but doesn’t question it when the prince drops his hand from Jeongguk’s shoulder to his waist in order to turn him around a tight street corner.

After not receiving an answer, Jimin grows impatient. “Jeongguk-ssi, come on. Just get on my back and we’ll get home much faster.”

“I won’t do it.” Jeongguk isn’t ashamed of the whine creeping into his voice. Not while drunk, anyway. “I’m too heavy. And tall. Hobi-hyung hasn’t been able to—” he interrupts himself with a hiccup, “—to piggyback me since I was in my first year of high school.”

“Yeah, well, I’m strong, so you don’t have to worry—”

Jeongguk, despite being taller than Jimin the last time he checked, has to reach up a little to press a finger to the prince’s lips. Why is Jimin so tall? Since when was he this tall?

“I’m holding you up, idiot,” Jimin answers him through his finger. Oh. Did Jeongguk say that out loud? “Also, I’m wearing heels.”

Jeongguk manages to drop his head to look down at their feet without tipping over. Sure enough, he’s wearing black leather shoes with a considerable heel in them. Without thinking, Jeongguk blurts, “that’s hot.”

Jimin snorts.

Getting past the front desk and through the elevator is no easy feat considering Jeongguk can hardly walk straight and Jimin’s obviously losing steam after dragging the younger through the streets for a solid ten minutes. He’s almost surprised no one recognized Jimin, but considering it’s a Tuesday night in the middle of midterms and they live in what’s mostly a student housing district, there aren’t that many people out walking around anyways.

The woman at the front desk regards them with concerned eyes but looks away when Jeongguk drunkenly throws her a wave and winks. Jimin keeps his head faced away from her. She doesn’t stop them when they stumble into the elevator.

It takes another five minutes to actually get into his apartment because Jeongguk has no idea where he put his keys. Jimin shoots him a disbelieving look before calling Hoseok and finding the spare key in one of the shoes on the rack outside the door.

“That’s not very safe,” Jeongguk murmurs at his roommate’s chosen location for spare keys.

“No, it’s not, but your dumbass left your wallet and keys at Seokjin-hyung’s place, so I’m not complaining.” Jimin slides the key in and turns, pushing the door open and leading Jeongguk into his own apartment.

“Can we watch the movie now?” Jeongguk asks in a hushed voice.

“Why are you whispering?” Jimin asks. Jeongguk thinks he’s taking off his shoes, but he’s not entirely sure since there aren’t any lights on. It’s pitch black in the apartment.

“Because it’s dark in here,” he whispers. He hears Jimin’s quiet laugh right before the room is suddenly shrouded in light. Jeongguk blinks his eyes a couple of times to adjust them.

When he reopens them Jimin is standing near the couch. He has a remote in hand. “Do you need help taking your shoes off?” he asks politely. Jeongguk wonders if he learned that in his royal etiquette classes or if Jimin was genuinely that nice.

“Nuh-uh,” Jeongguk answers maturely. He doesn’t miss the smirk and rolled eyes thrown his way, but Jimin leaves him in favor of walking into the kitchen. 

“Where are your glasses?” Jimin calls as he searches the cupboards. 

Jeongguk’s busy wrangling his knockoff Balenciagas off his feet They’re probably one size too small, but they were less than twenty thousand won at the thrift store and despite his parents generously paying for his tuition and board, all other expenses are on him. And Jeongguk does not make enough working matinée shifts to actually afford real Balenciagas, so the slightly-stained, too-small knockoffs will do.

He’s so hyperfocused on tugging his shoe off while balancing on one leg and trying not to trip and smash his face into the wall that he doesn’t hear Jimin calling his name until what’s probably the third time.

“What?” He finally gets one shoe off and looks up to the prince.

Jimin is holding a cupboard open, facing away from Jeongguk but looking over his shoulder. “I said, where are your glasses?”

Jeongguk stares at him. “In my bedroom,” he answers honestly.

The blond sends him a confused look. “What?” He does a double-take down the hallway before looking at Jeongguk again. “No, Jeongguk-ssi—I meant your drinking glasses.”

Jeongguk scrunches his nose. “Oh.” He pauses. “Bottom left.”

The prince laughs at him, but it doesn’t sound mean. He tries to chuckle a little but all the movement makes him a little nauseous. Jeongguk stops for a couple of seconds to take deep breaths through his nose until the queasiness fades away. He manages to remove both of his shoes without injury. He shuffles into the living room where Jimin waits for him with two glasses of water in hand.

He pushes one glass into Jeongguk’s hands the moment he sits down. “Drink,” he orders. “As much as it sucked, puking was good. You won’t be as fucked up tomorrow, but you still need to rehydrate.”

Jeongguk giggles at his tone. Jimin levels him with an unimpressed look.

“What?”

The younger shoots a grin at him. “It’s funny to hear you talk so casually.”

Jimin turns red in the low light. He turns his face from Jeongguk and busies himself with turning on the TV. “Yeah, well, you said it yourself: we’re friends now. Or going to be. I can’t be friends with someone if I talk formally to them all the time, right?”

Jeongguk smiles so hard his cheeks hurt. He stares at the prince until Jimin squirms from his gaze and finally looks back at him.

“What’s so funny, Jeongguk-ssi?” 

He doesn’t know why he’s smiling so much. Jeongguk shakes his head and tips forward to hide his smile in Jimin’s shirt.

“You said we’re friends,” he answers.

He doesn’t see Jimin’s reaction, but he feels the other squirm back when some water spills from the cup and onto his jeans. “Yah,” he mutters, pushing Jeongguk away gently. “You’re spilling water. Drink that while I find your damn movie.”

“Yes, hyung,” Jeongguk teases. Jimin rolls his eyes at him before pulling up Netflix on TV. 

“Do you have any vitamin C or vitamin D tablets?” the prince asks him. He keeps his eyes on the television as he types in the movie name.

Jeongguk scoffs, “do I look like I keep vitamin tablets in my home?”

His friend shrugs. “Fair point.”

He finishes all of his water and even some of Jimin’s, which the prince gladly gives him. He refills Jeongguk’s glass before they start the movie. When he sits back down and reaches for the remote, he sneaks a glance at the younger.

“Do you have work tomorrow?” he asks.

Jeongguk shakes his head. “Nope,” he mumbles. “I only have practice at six.”

Jimin hums. He doesn’t say anything else. The movie starts and they’re drawn into silence. Jimin only speaks to make snide comments about the plot development to which Jeongguk quickly shushes him. They keep to their ends of the couch; Jimin curls up against the armrest, eyes glued to the television screen. Jeongguk can feel himself sobering up as they get into the second half of the movie. He glances at the clock on the cable box and is surprised he can get his eyes to actually focus long enough to read it. It’s nearly midnight now.

“Jimin-ssi,” he calls quietly, not wanting to break this quiet bubble they’ve created for themselves by talking too loudly. The prince doesn’t turn his gaze from the movie but he hums to let Jeongguk know he’s listening. “Do you have to head home? I don’t want you to think that I’m, like— like I’m forcing you to stay. You can go.”

Jimin finally looks at him. The harsh light from the television casts a blue shadow over his face. It deepens the shadows along his face. Jeongguk stares at the contours of his nose for a moment longer than he should. 

The prince bites his lip. He almost looks bashful as he plays with the rings on his fingers when he asks, “actually...could I stay?”

Jeongguk blinks at him. He certainly hadn’t been expecting that one. He squints at the blond, looking for any hint of sarcasm. He doubts Jimin’s having fun here, he has no reason to stay. In fact, he’d probably have more fun if he went back to Namjoon’s place. Here, Jimin is subjected to watching an awful American romcom with a terrible, drunken host. And sure, he’s hardly tipsy after vomiting his guts out and drinking copious amounts of water but right now Jeongguk can’t figure out for the life of him why Jimin would want to stay here.

He tries to hide the surprise on his face and just answers, “of course.”

The prince looks relieved. “Thanks,” he blurts out. “It’s just—I’d rather not go back to the palace tonight.” 

That’s...something. Jeongguk hadn’t even realized that Jimin was asking if he could stay the night with his question. He doesn’t mind—one of them can sleep out on the couch like the first night, or Jimin can take Jeongguk’s bed while Jeongguk sleeps in Hoseok’s. He doubts his hyung will make it back to the apartment tonight considering how wasted he was when they left.

He leaves the safety of his armrest to scoot a little closer to Jimin on the sofa. “Can I ask why?” he probes.

The movie is still going but neither of them is paying attention. Jimin shrugs and stares at his lap. “I got into a big fight with my family.”

Jeongguk scooches a little further down the couch. Jimin notices. He shifts a fraction towards the younger.

“What about?” Jeongguk tries to act casual. His head is still a little fuzzy. He’s not sure if it’s from the alcohol or just the general butterflies he gets around Jimin.

The man sighs and drops his head against the back of the couch. “They set me on another date with some random duchess.”

Jeongguk makes a noise in the back of his throat to let the prince know he’s listening but otherwise stays quiet. He leans forward and grabs his glass off the coffee table. If he takes frequent sips, he’ll avoid saying something he shouldn’t.

“We argued about it during dinner,” Jimin starts. He doesn’t meet Jeongguk’s eyes. “I think they have good intentions for me, but...it feels like sometimes they only look at me as the crown prince, not their son.”

Jeongguk waits a moment to see if he’ll continue. He doesn’t. “I’m sorry, Jimin-ssi. At least they don’t already have a wedding date picked, right?”

The prince huffs, blowing his bangs off his forehead before they settle back down a moment later. “It feels like it, sometimes. This’ll be the second set-up this month.”

“That’s escalating.”

“Yeah,” he agrees. Jeongguk gains enough courage to reach out and push Jimin’s bangs off his forehead, his other hand still gripping onto his glass of water. “They just...really want me to be married before my coronation. I’m dreading both.” For a moment, Jimin’s eyes go wide under Jeongguk’s touch as if he regretted saying that. The younger comforts him by scratching lightly at his scalp until the prince settles back into the cushions.

“You don’t want to get married?” Jeongguk asks.

Jimin sighs as if it pains him to explain. “No, that’s not it.” He reaches forward to pause the movie. Jeongguk forgot it was still going. Once he scrolls back to where they last watched, Jimin sits back and looks at Jeongguk. He has a careful expression like he’s testing something. “Those girls...They just aren’t who I want to marry.”

Jeongguk takes another gulp of water. Jimin’s gaze doesn’t drop from his. “Who do you want to marry, then?” 

The prince stares at him. There’s the slightest pinch in his brow. He looks confused, gazing at Jeongguk as if he hadn’t had the fortune to think about this question before. Finally, after a long pause that felt way longer for Jeongguk than it probably actually was, Jimin opens his mouth. 

“I’m not sure yet.” He licks his lips. Jeongguk is too weak of a man to not track the movement with his eyes. “I think...I think they will be someone I can’t have.”

There’s still a wide gap between them on the couch but Jeongguk feels as if they’re within mere centimeters of each other.

“Why?” Jeongguk breathes out. 

Jimin doesn’t break eye contact as he rises onto his knees, slowly crawling towards him. Jeongguk shifts his hips to face him. It only takes a couple of seconds for Jimin to reach his lap and plant his hands on either side of the other’s thighs. It only takes a couple of seconds, but for Jeongguk, it feels like hours.

“I have a habit,” Jimin whispers, “of wanting the unattainable.”

Jeongguk blinks. This feels like something out of his wet dreams when he was fourteen and realizing he was into guys. Jimin stares down at him through his bangs, waiting for Jeongguk to react. But the younger’s thoughts are too busy bouncing around his skull, darting his eyes from Jimin’s legs to his lips and back over. 

“Uh,” he says, intelligently.

The prince actually smirks like this is amusing to him. Jeongguk bristles. He assumes it probably is; a flustered, bumbling twenty-two-year-old who’s blushing like a virgin over quiet murmurs and a little physical contact would probably be entertaining for him, too, if Jeongguk weren’t the said flustered, bumbling idiot.

“Jeongguk-ah?” he’s called back by the soft voice. He wonders if this is what siren victims feel like. He certainly feels like he’s drowning.

For a second, it almost looks like Jimin’s about to move closer, but his flirty gaze fades into concern when Jeongguk gives no response. He opens his mouth, eyebrows drawn together.

Jeongguk beats him to it. “I—I have to go to the bathroom.”

The concern on his friend’s face washes away, replaced with a puzzled expression. Jimin tilts his head. “Right now?”

Jeongguk jerkily nods. “Yeah. Yeah, right now.”

Jimin barely has enough time to clamber off of Jeongguk’s lap (his lap ) before the younger scrambles off of the couch and down the hallway. The moment he gets into the bathroom, Jeongguk locks the door and pushes himself against it, breathing heavily.

“Fuck,” he whispers to himself, staring up at the ceiling. 

After he takes a couple of minutes to catch his breath, he finally glances down at his situation downstairs.

“Fuck,” he repeats.


One benefit of being friends with Park Jimin, Jeongguk finds, is that the prince is just as addicted to dancing as he is.

There are plenty of drawbacks, obviously; it’s not a fairytale. They’re not meant to be friends. They come from completely different worlds and it’d be impossible for that not to show every now and then. Jimin has to prepare excuses for why he’s wasting his time hanging out with a commoner just in case they’d eventually get caught by the media. Jeongguk always has to wear a mask if they want to see each other outside of the private spaces they’ve created for themselves. There have already been a few close calls with the paparazzi, but they’re both lucky enough to not have had a day as bad as their first night together.

Sometimes Jimin can’t see him for days or more at a time, and Jeongguk still has to get used to that. Sometimes the prince will have to bail on their plans for the weekend with little notice because he’s busy being shipped off to Japan for an emergency diplomatic meeting, so Jeongguk stays in Seoul with a canceled schedule.

It’s not like Jimin isn’t trying. Even though he was hesitant to allow their friendship in the first place, he hasn’t done anything halfway. It’s either all or nothing for Jimin.

So, yes—their friendship isn’t all benefits. But Jeongguk likes to think that that’s what makes it a real one. He hopes.

Ever since their third meeting and becoming friends, it’s become an undiscussed agreement to share the dance studio together.

At first, Jeongguk had the excuse of the other dance studios being booked because of exam season. Which was true, to a point. For a full week after Namjoon’s party, his regular studio was reserved by a couple of bunheads, so Jeongguk happily resigned his fate to Jimin’s studio. Even after exams passed and the studios cleared out, he kept coming to practice with Jimin.

The prince didn’t ask for reasons so Jeongguk didn’t give any. Jimin greeted him the same and never asked why he stopped going to his regular room.

Another thing Jeongguk has learned about the nation’s crown prince: even though he isn’t a dance major, he has the passion of one.

Even on nights that Jeongguk takes a break from the studio and texts Jimin to see if they can see each other, the prince will always answer from the dance building. Hoseok jokes that he has an addiction, Jeongguk worries that it truly is one.

And as much as he loves having a dance partner to motivate him to head to the studios and keep him both loose and focused during rehearsals, Jeongguk knows there’s a line between simply loving dance and avoiding something else.

“Jimin-hyung,” he says one night. Because he can. It was only so long after becoming friends that Jeongguk started calling the elder that (without permission, of course, because as much as he whines about it, Jeongguk kind of likes when Jimin nags at him and calls him a disrespectful brat in that fond tone because attention from Jimin is attention from Jimin, no matter good or bad.) At first, the blond swatted him a couple of times, but now Jeonggukie ’s and Gguk-ah ’s spill from Jimin’s lips like it’s second nature. 

It’s only a couple of days before Halloween and even though the prince promised he’d take a break from practice today, Jeongguk has once again found him in front of the mirrors going over one of his choreographies. From the looks of it, Jeongguk doesn’t even think it’s from class. After some point, Jimin’s choreographies become so polished from dozens of hours of practice that he has to find a new dance from youtube to learn just for an excuse to stay longer.

“Gguk, five more minutes,” Jimin calls back without taking his eyes off the mirror. He’s practicing some sort of modern dance even though Jeongguk knows his specialty is hip-hop. It only takes a couple of beats for the prince to stumble over his feet, distracted by Jeongguk’s staring. He turns to him, wiping the sweat off the back of his neck. “What?”

“Today was supposed to be your break day,” Jeongguk comments.

His hyung has the decency to look a little ashamed, ducking his head so his bangs cover his eyes. “Sorry,” he mumbles. Jeongguk just sighs and walks towards him in the middle of the room. Once he reaches the prince he drops a hand onto Jimin’s shoulder.

“Don’t say sorry,” he replies. “You need to take care of yourself better, hyung. How long have you been here?”

It’s almost funny how Jimin refuses to meet his eyes as if he’s a young child being scolded by their parents. “Since five,” he pouts at his feet.

Jeongguk glances at the clock on the far wall and breathes out a disappointed sigh. It’s past eight now. He turns back to his friend. “Did you eat?” he asks him, even though he already knows the answer.

Jimin shakes his head. Jeongguk tightens his grip on his shoulder and steers him away from the mirrors.

“Alright, enough for tonight. You’re not going in tomorrow,” he orders. “You can’t keep using dance as a way to avoid dinner with your parents. Have you tried talking to them about it again?”

“Yes,” Jimin bites out, but Jeongguk has hung out with him enough now to know that he’s just crabby because he hasn’t eaten anything in hours. “You don’t understand, Gguk. Your parents aren’t the leaders of the country, I can’t just say no to them and expect it to be all fine and dandy.”

He shoves Jimin towards his bag in the corner before turning around to unplug his phone from the stereo. “I understand that, hyung,” he says politely. Taehyung told him that it’s best to be as passive as possible whenever Jimin is hungry, or at least until Jeongguk has gotten food in him. Else he’ll be eaten instead. “But you still need to try. And you have to stop using dance as an outlet. You’re wearing a hole through the floor.”

He gets a playful shove as a response. Jimin ties his shoes and waits for Jeongguk at the door, who gives him his phone once he reaches the dancer. 

“Where do you want to eat?” Jimin asks instead—because this is a thing now. Eating after dance. It’s been a little over two weeks since they’ve become friends, they’ve had dinner together a total of six times, and four of them were after dance practice. Jeongguk isn’t usually a creature of habit but Jimin is determined to make him one.

“I’m up for Thai,” he responds. They make their way down the familiar corridor, discussing where would be a good place for dinner. They pass a couple of other dancers on their way out of the building. Jeongguk automatically moves to Jimin’s right side to subtly hide the prince’s face. 

“I know a place,” Jimin tells him. “Your car here?”

Jeongguk hums in affirmation. Jimin grins. 

“Great.”


Recipient: Jimin
Sender: Me
28 OCT, 5:02PM

Jimin
where are you

Me
at dinner with Tae and Seokjin
why

Jimin
quit stealing my friends

Me
you say this as if i didn’t walk in on you and Hoseok cuddling yesterday

Jimin
that’s different
you can’t NOT cuddle Hoseok

Me
fair
But
i dont care

Jimin
where are you having dinner

Me
i dont want to tell you

Jimin
why

Me
cuz ik ur gonna try to come to bro night

Jimin
bro night?

Me
yeah
no princes allowed
sucks!

Jimin
i hate you

Me
you wish


Recipient: Jimin
Sender: Me
30 OCT, 7:02PM

Me
what are you wearing for halloween

Jimin
bold of you to think i have time to make a costume

Me
makes sense
wait aren’t you supposed to be on that date rn?

Jimin
no i managed to get it rescheduled again

Me
damn this is like, the third time

Jimin
second
don’t make me out to be a bad person >:(

Me
breaking news, naver’s home page: park jimin is a collosal butthole

Jimin
you mispelled colossal
also, do you think i could bribe them to actually write that

Me
shut up i turned off autocorrect because it kept censoring swear words
no i think your PR team would intervene

Jimin
dumb :/


Recipient: Jiminie
Sender: Me
3 NOV, 2:21AM

Jiminie
can i call u
oh shit ur probably sleeping im sorry nvm

Me
no im not whats up

Jiminie
got into a fight with my parents again. didnt want to bother u but jin is asleep and tae’s phone is dead

Me
of course lemme grab my earbuds so i dont wake up hobi hyung hold on

Jiminie
thanks ggukie

Me
anytime hyung


Here’s the thing: Park Jimin is a very, very good liar.

Jeongguk isn’t sure if it comes with being such an easily-recognized public figurehead or if it’s simply Jimin’s natural personality. He supposes it can be both. Maybe after so many years of being royalty, Jimin’s public persona seeped a little into his private one. He isn’t sure. It’s possible, but he couldn’t really know unless he knew the man before Jimin had to move to Seoul with a newly-polished crown upon his head.

Perhaps his friend’s personality changed a bit as he adapted to his new life, sure, but Jeongguk’s beginning to suspect there’s no way Jimin can be this good without being born with it.

Which is fine, because Jeongguk knows the prince doesn’t use this skill with malicious intent.

How does he know this? How does he even know Jimin is a good liar in the first place? If Jimin is truly good at lying, Jeongguk shouldn’t even know he’s doing it.

But—there’s a catch. 

It’s because, for all of Jimin’s skills in hiding the real truth, Jeongguk has just as much ability to see through his bullshit.

Maybe that’s why they blended with each other so well on the first night.

It’s not like he has any tics, anything that puts a flashing red sign over his head that spells out I’m lying! Jeongguk can’t explain how he knows when Jimin is lying to him. The prince is good; he doesn’t touch his face or shift his weight or do any of the other common tells that can clue someone in even if they were barely paying attention and legally blind.

Jimin even looks him in the eyes when he does it, gaze unwavering like the crazy bastard he is.

All he can say is Jeongguk just knows, alright. Maybe it’s something in Jimin’s voice or maybe Jeongguk just pays far too much attention to the prince than he should be doing. 

He’s gotten really, really good at figuring out when the man is lying. He doesn’t do it often, just to ease the mind of someone else or if he has a big, big secret.

Fortunately, it’s usually small things. Like when Jimin has a big politics exam and he practically lives day-to-day with his nose glued to a textbook. 

Like today.

On these days Jeongguk knows there’s no way Jimin’s even thinking about checking his texts so he usually has to go on a manhunt around campus to search for him at his favorite study spots. Jimin never goes to the library; it’s too crowded and risky. He’s learned the blond prefers smaller, less known spots where not even his advisors could find him. Like the empty classrooms in the basement of the geology building (Jeongguk isn’t even sure how Jimin ended up there in the first place) or the ice cream place off-campus.

He usually finds Jimin at the latter because half of the student population doesn’t even know the place exists. It’s tucked in between an antique store and a hair stylist’s that’s far too expensive for the budget of a college student, so it’s rare to see other students around the area.

It happens enough times that this is the place he searches first.

He immediately spots Jimin seated near the wall after walking in. There are textbooks and notes spread out across the table in front of him. The prince has situated himself so he’s facing away from both the door and the middle-aged woman attending the ice cream bar on the other side of the room. There’s another employee sitting at a table in the back of the store.

Jimin must not hear Jeongguk enter because he jumps when the brunet takes a seat in front of him.

He looks panicked for a moment before he settles, realizing who it is. “Hey,” he greets tiredly.

“Hey, hyung.” Jeongguk raises an eyebrow at the scribbled notes. He knows his handwriting is pretty bad, but Jimin’s is completely illegible when he gets like this. “What is this, World Politics?”

Jimin huffs in frustration. He brings a hand up to card through his own bangs. “I wish,” he grumbles. “No, I took that in first year. This is Analytical Study in Conflict Resolutions.”

Jeongguk nods, mystified. “Ah, of course.” After a moment, he admits, “I didn’t even know that course existed.”

The prince looks miserable. He drops his forehead onto the textbook in front of him. “It’s technically not. It’s a trial course taught by some graduate student. They’re teaching it for their thesis but it’ll give me the last three credit hours I need to graduate. Didn’t expect it to completely kick my ass, though.”

“When’s the exam?”

His hyung lets out a pained groan as if just the thought of the test hurts him. He turns his head to the side so his cheek rubs up against the paper and he faces the younger. “This Wednesday.”

Jeongguk winces. “That’s uh, that’s tomorrow, hyung.”

It’s almost comical the way Jimin shoots up in his seat. “What?”

“Today is Tuesday.”

The prince looks like he’s about to be sick. Jeongguk reaches across the table and grabs his hand.

“Hey, calm down,” he soothes. “You’re fine. When was the last time you ate something?” and before Jimin can even open his mouth, he adds, “ice cream doesn’t count.”

Jimin clamps his mouth shut. Jeongguk sighs.

“How long have you been here?”

“Half an hour.”

Jeongguk levels him with a stare. Jimin caves. “Since eleven,” he amends.

A quick glance at his watch tells Jeongguk it’s almost five. “What did you have for lunch?” he asks, looking back up at his friend.

Jimin drops his eyes to look at his textbook. He fakes reading for a second before answering in a nonchalant voice. “Got some pork buns from the place down the street.” A lie.

Jeongguk squeezes the prince’s hand. “No, you didn’t,” he says fondly.

Jimin takes a deep breath as if he’s losing his patience.

“No,” he says simply.

“Did you eat lunch at all?”

“I’ve bought an ice cream every hour I’ve been here so the ahjumma doesn’t kick me out,” Jimin declares, puffing out his chest like he’s proud of the fact.

“I said ice cream doesn’t count. When did you have breakfast?”

“Six.”

He swears he’ll get a headache just from worrying about the guy. Jeongguk sighs and rubs at his temples. Maybe this is karma for all of the times during high school when Hoseok would invite himself into the Jeon’s household to find him in the middle of a gaming marathon, not having eaten anything all day. “You haven’t had a solid meal in over ten hours, Jimin.” He gets a light kick under the table for the lack of honorifics. He rolls his eyes and ignores the protests. “Come on, let’s go pick up dinner.” He lets go of Jimin’s hand to stand up but the prince yanks him back down twice as fast.

“Jeongguk,” he whines. “I can’t stop right now. The exam is at eleven tomorrow and I still have three chapters to go over.”

He gently pulls his hand out of Jimin’s grasp. “Okay, hyung. I understand.” He closes the textbooks on the table. He moves slowly, hesitant of the prince blowing up at him if he makes the wrong move. “Listen, Hobi-hyung is staying the night at Yoongi’s. They’re having a movie night with Taetae-hyung,” he tells him, “it’ll be just us at my place. You can study in a quiet place and I won’t bother you. I’ll even help you study while I’m cooking dinner, if you want. You can stay the night and I’ll drive you to class tomorrow morning after I cook us breakfast, alright?”

Jimin’s still pouting, but he concedes with a nod. They pack up the study materials without another word.

Once they’ve both put on face masks and Jeongguk lends Jimin his baseball cap, they leave the ice cream parlor and head down the block where Jeongguk’s car is parked.

The prince walks close to him. Their jackets brush against each other. “Can you make that spicy spaghetti that I like?” Jimin whispers into the side of Jeongguk’s coat. 

The younger smiles and tucks an arm around Jimin’s waist. It’s getting a lot colder now that they’re creeping into November. “Yeah, I can do that.”

“...and make shrimp cake?”

“Yah, what am I, your personal chef?”

Jimin’s laughter echoes throughout the street.

 

Jeongguk tries to act like he was annoyed, but the overexaggerated moaning coming from the prince over his cooking a couple of hours later makes him flush. Jimin eats so much there aren’t even leftovers afterward.

At the end of the meal, right before the elder goes back to studying in the living room, he hugs the taller from behind as Jeongguk does the dishes.

“I am so jealous of your future husband, Ggukie,” he murmurs into the fabric of Jeongguk’s shirt. He knows Jimin’s just complimenting his cooking but Jeongguk feels his face heat up anyway. Jimin giggles when he feels the younger tense under him and pulls away a moment later as if it meant nothing.
Jeongguk is left staring into the sink for another ten minutes before he finally snaps out of it.


Another time Jimin lies is when Jeongguk is piggybacking him out of Yoongi’s apartment to drive him home.

It’s only later that week. Jeongguk just got off work but decides to head to Yoongi’s place afterward instead of going home after his hyung texts him a picture of Jimin and Namjoon wasted on his couch. He arrives to the apartment to find Namjoon sleeping in Yoongi’s bed and Jimin half-asleep and sitting on the kitchen counter. Yoongi himself is nowhere to be seen, but the sound of the shower turning on a moment later clues Jeongguk in.

“Hyung,” he calls as he walks into the kitchen. Jimin is curled up against the microwave. His eyes flitter open at the familiar voice. “Party hard?”

Jimin groans and closes his eyes again. His full lips drawn downwards into a pout. “Min Yoongi is very, very good at drinking. I am very, very dumb for trying to match him.”

“To be fair, he has two years on you. Also, from the looks of it, you were consuming his preferred drink,” he reasons, glancing at the empty bottles on the coffee table. He turns back to Jimin to see the prince falling asleep again. Jeongguk snorts in disbelief.

“Okay, come on, Your Highness. Namjoonie-hyung already took Yoongi’s bed and there’s no way I can take you back to the palace in this state. You can crash at my place.”

This seems to perk him up a little. He cracks an eye open, smirk growing on his face. “Can we share your bed?”

Jeongguk stares at him. “Why would we do that? One of us can stay on the couch.”

“I want to cuddle.”

“My bed is too small.”

“I’ll sleep on top of you, then,” Jimin huffs. He nods at Jeongguk’s chest. “Now, turn around. There’s no way I’m walking right now.”

The younger sighs in defeat. At least Jimin’s honest. He’d rather do this now than scrape Jimin off the sidewalk later when he ultimately eats concrete. Jeongguk turns around and walks his ass back to the counter until the prince wraps his limbs around him and lets out a pleased sigh.

“Onward, my steed,” he grumbles.

“I thought you said you don’t do that ‘prince in shining armor’ bullshit.”

“I take it back. I’m the hottest knight ever. Bring me my sword,” Jimin rambles into Jeongguk’s hair.

“Jesus, you’re drunk.”

“Am not.”

“Then why am I carrying you?”

“Just feel like I got hit by‘uh truck.”

Jeongguk lets out an ugly snort. He tries to turn his head to look at his hyung but Jimin drops his head onto his shoulder and keeps him from moving.

They don’t say anything more until they’re in the elevator. Jimin presses his nose in close to Jeongguk’s neck and tightens his grip. He gulps when he feels Jimin’s thighs squeeze around his waist.

“I’m a bad hyung, Jeonggukie. Hyung’s sorry,” he whines. He grabs the drawstrings from Jeongguk’s hoodie and fiddles with the length.

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow. It’s a weird turn from them joking about him in armor. He tries to turn his neck again to meet Jimin’s eyes but the prince burrows his face deeper into Jeongguk’s jacket.

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re always taking care of me,” Jimin explains. “It should be the other way around.”

He shakes his head and readjusts his hold on Jimin’s legs. “You take care of me plenty, hyung.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do. You’re always helping me with dance and motivating me to take my studies more seriously. You make me laugh even when I’m frustrated with choreography and you bring extra snacks for me when we study together.”

Jimin huffs in defeat. “Still…” he trails off.

“Plus, you held my hair back when I hurled on the sidewalk after Namjoon’s party almost a month ago. That was pretty nice.”

“You don’t even have long enough hair to hold back, brat.”

The elevator doors open and Jeongguk walks them across the lobby to the front entrance. The doorman sends them a nasty look which Jeongguk ignores. Luckily, he parked nearby so he doesn’t have to wrangle a facemask on Jimin. His car is only a block away.

“You shouldn’t have to take care of me so much, Jeonggukie,” Jimin mumbles. They both shiver once he walks through the front doors and into the cold night air.

Jeongguk squeezes his hyung’s thighs. “I don’t want you to think of me as your dongsaeng, hyung. I want you to see me as a man, not a kid.” He gulps. He feels heat rise to his cheeks at the honesty and half-hopes Jimin doesn’t remember any of this tomorrow, even though he doubts his hyung is that far gone.

Jimin digs his nose so hard into Jeongguk’s neck it almost hurts. “I do, Jeongguk,” he murmurs.

“Then let me take care of you.”

Jimin doesn’t say anything. He sighs against Jeongguk’s skin and is silent for the rest of the walk.

It’s only when they’re finally crawling into Jeongguk’s single bed together that Jimin speaks again. He’d been silent when Jeongguk made him drink a glass of water and said nothing as they changed into pajamas, backs to each other. Only now, when Jimin is wearing his clothes and plasters himself against Jeongguk’s back does he smush is face in between the younger’s shoulder blades and whisper, “stay with hyung for a long time, Ggukie.”

He doesn’t flinch, but Jeongguk sure is wide awake now. He reaches down to hold onto the arm wrapped around his waist.

“What’d you say?” he asks.

He can feel Jimin smile into his shirt. Even while drunk, the lie that spills from his lips is unfaltering. “Nothing, Gguk. Hyung just said goodnight.”

Jeongguk frowns. He turns over and pulls Jimin closer until he can press his cheek against the prince’s collar.

“Goodnight, hyung.”

I’ll try to stay with you for a long time.


It’s the middle of November when Namjoon suggest they go to the waterpark. They’ve practically meshed into one group by now, so it isn’t strange for him to invite Jimin and Taehyung as well. And it’d be a crime for him to not invite Seokjin, since the two have been going in circles around each other for weeks now. Taehyung compares it to some weird shark mating ritual; Jimin and Jeongguk just think they need to get on with it already.

The waterpark is in Namjoon’s home city in Ilsan. Jeongguk and Hoseok looked up pictures of it on the train here, but nothing could replicate the massiveness of the waterpark. The place is bigger than an American football stadium. They came for the waterpark, but there’s also a connected winter sports amusement park that garners enough noise to make children’s screams a constant background aside from the attractions themselves. The waterpark section is hot and humid. Loud air vents line the ceiling but they can only enjoy them while waiting in line near the top of the giant staircase structures they have to climb to get to the waterslides.

They arrive early in the morning with day passes for the indoor portion of the waterpark. Namjoon had wanted to check out the outdoor slides as well, but the chill brought in with the November weather closed that section of the park for the season. The crowds are low since it’s just a regular weekend, which also makes it easier for Jimin, Seokjin, and Namjoon on the chance they could be recognized. Even Taehyung has garnered enough fame just by being Jimin’s best friend for so many years—after enough attendances as the prince’s plus one, the media had eventually begun to recognize him by face alone.

The small crowds also make the lines much smaller, which Jeongguk appreciates. He isn’t generally an impatient person but there’s only so many hand-clap games he can play with Seokjin and Hoseok in the lines.

Eventually, after they’ve tied 32-32 on hot hands, Jeongguk gives up (much to Jimin’s relief) and joins the others’ conversation. Namjoon tells Yoongi and Jimin about plans for his next album. Jeongguk feels a warmth in his stomach from his hyung trusting Jimin enough to share confidential plans. He trusts Jimin not to spread it around; Jeongguk can’t see that ever happening.

Every time his friends show any sign of letting Jimin and the others into their exclusive group, Jeongguk feels a burst of pride. He puffs his chest out like a mother hen. He feels almost ridiculous, like he’s brought his boyfriend home to his family and they approve of him, even though this is far different. Different because while Jeongguk loves his parents, the opinions of his hyungs are much more important to him. They are the family who chose him because they wanted him, not because he was born into them.

Not saying that Jimin is his boyfriend whom Jeongguk brought home—he’s not. Of course he’s not. They’re friends. He’s just—

—he’s Jimin. Which makes his hyungs’ approval very, very important to Jeongguk. He doesn’t know what he’d do if they didn’t. Jeongguk doesn’t like to think about the hypotheticals when things are already good. The hyungs adore Jimin.

Unsurprisingly, Hoseok welcomed him and the others the fastest. That’s not to say that Namjoon and Yoongi were hesitant or wary; Hoseok just has a way of skipping right past the awkward small-talk and introductions. Jimin was already calling him hyung by the time they left Namjoon’s party. Jeongguk hardly remembers why he was worried in the first place. Jimin fits perfectly with them.

Seokjin and Namjoon are the most fun to go down waterslides with. Both of them elicit high-pitched screams at the height of the ride that Jeongguk finds himself breathless after each one—not from the adrenaline, but from laughing so hard at Namjoon’s curses and voice cracks.

Seokjin is a little more esteemed, a little less vulgar. Doesn’t let out so many curse words as much as he simply screeches at a pitch that could shatter glass. Jeongguk likes the 4-person rides the most because that way he can watch his hyung’s face while he screams. The actor never fails to make him cackle just from the ridiculous expressions he stretches onto his own face. When the youngest tells this much to Namjoon, his hyung only sighs and sends a small smile at Seokjin’s back.

“Yeah,” he coos, voice soft. “Isn’t he great?”

Taehyung yells out a whipped! and promptly shoves the man towards the direction of the wave pool.

Both Taehyung and Hoseok are nervous around heights, so they group together with Jimin and Yoongi for rides that contain less sudden drops. Yoongi doesn’t mind the heights or thrill factor of rides, but no one questions him since he hasn’t willingly left Hoseok’s side since they met. Jeongguk’s beginning to think he’s a leech in disguise.

Jimin claims he isn’t afraid of heights, but he confides in Jeongguk that he isn’t comfortable in the tight single-person slides. The dark, claustrophobic space leaves him feeling out of breath once he gets to the bottom and not in a good way. When the man tells him Jeongguk coos and pinches his cheeks, promising his secret was safe with him. 

By the end of the day they’re tired and ready for dinner. They’d eaten lunch at an overpriced restaurant in the waterpark but now both their stomachs and their wallets are craving some cheap street food.

They leave the building mildly-soggy and water-logged. Namjoon loads all of them into the black SUV he borrowed from his manager for the day. He doesn’t have a license, but Seokjin does, so he navigates the eldest to a popular night market within Ilsan.

“You sure you don’t want to see your parents before heading back to Seoul, Joon-ah?” Yoongi asks him as they wander through the crowded streets. The night air is cold on their cheeks. Jeongguk’s glad Jimin made them all dry their hair before leaving the waterpark.

Namjoon shrugs. “Nah, I’ll see them another time. I still have a couple more weeks before I really start to get busy with the comeback. Plus, they’re probably busy. They don’t like to stay in the house.” 

“Well that explains a lot about you,” Seokjin teases. He receives a playful jab in the arm and moans in agony as if he’d been shot. People turn to stare at their group, but all of them have face masks on per Jimin’s request. It’s not a foolproof identity protection, but it does the job.

Jeongguk smiles and rolls his eyes. He turns away from the ridiculous hyungs to the rest of their group. Hoseok and Taehyung are sharing what looks like steamed tomatoes on a stick. Jimin and Yoongi walk slightly ahead of them but the prince’s jaw is moving beneath his mask as if he’s chewing.

The youngest matches his pace to theirs and nods back towards the tomato kebab. “Those good?” he asks Jimin. The man's eyes brighten followed by quick nods of his head.

“Yeah, delicious.” He answers with the excited voice of someone who rarely gets to eat street food. They’re usually too crowded, too risky. If Jimin’s bodyguard found out where he was without any form of security he’d freak. The prince mentioned he hadn’t even told palace staff about today’s planned excursion. One might find it irresponsible, but Jeongguk understands that his friend only wants one day without the suffocating reminder of who he is. “You want some?”

Jeongguk makes a face. “You’re already chewing it.”

Yoongi gags from in between them. “Jesus, you two are insufferable.”

Jimin reaches over their hyung to flick Jeongguk’s forehead through his bangs. “Brat, I meant buying you some. Wait here, I’ll buy us another kebab.”

The prince waves down the rest of their group to wait while him and Taehyung backtrack through the crowd towards the steamed tomato stand. The rest fit themselves into an empty area to stay out of the flow of the crowd. Once Jimin and Taheyung are out of sight, Yoongi nudges Jeongguk’s shoulder.

“What’s going on with you two? I thought you were into him. One minute there’s enough tension in the room for me to choke and the next you’re acting like fraternity brothers.”

It only took a couple of nights after the party for Jeongguk to crack and tell his hyungs about how he really met Jimin. Honestly, he’s surprised Hoseok lasted longer with the secret than he did. He didn’t spare much detail other than the things the prince told him in confidentiality. They know about the youngest’s attraction for Jimin, at least.

And—for the past few weeks—have been determined that Jeongguk doesn’t forget about it either.

“I am into him,” he replies. “But we’re just friends.”

Yoongi snorts. “Friends don’t have that level of sexual tension.”

“You’re one to talk,” Jeongguk bites.

His hyung doesn’t even flinch. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he evades with a bored look on his face.

“Hyung, seriously—” Jeongguk starts, but Yoongi cuts him off with a raised hand and a glance at Hoseok.

“Jeongguk, this conversation is about you and Jimin. What are you two doing? He seems like he’s into you, too.”

That much is obvious, Jeongguk muses, especially after Jimin had practically straddled him to the couch a month ago. But Jimin still seems conflicted with allowing himself to feel anything like that for someone. And as much as Jeongguk wants to climb him like a tree sometimes, he’s going to respect Jimin’s wish to stay friends. “He’s only comfortable with being friends right now. I’m not pushing him. I’m happy with whatever he gives me.”

“Yeah, but you want more,” Yoongi reasons.

Jeongguk nods. “I do.”

“I think you should tell him.”

“I think he knows.”

“He might not.”

Jeongguk looks down at the ground. He kicks a piece of broken-off asphalt with his foot. “He’s under a lot of pressure right now, hyung.”

“You could help him with that,” he points out. Jeongguk shifts his weight. “Listen, Gguk, you don’t have to if you’re actually uncomfortable. But don’t make yourself miserable over this guy when you can be a lot happier just by talking to him about it.”

Jeongguk sighs and runs his fingers through his bangs. “I’ll think about it,” he tells him. Yoongi seems pleased with this answer and turns away, worming his way into Namjoon and Seokjin’s conversation without faltering. 

When Jimin returns with a tomato kebab in hand and feeds one into Jeongguk’s mouth, he acts as if the touch of Jimin’s fingers against his lips doesn’t burn as much as it does.


A couple of days afterward, the suspected pictures leak.

It’s much later than Jeongguk expected. The man had even began to let himself think that there’d be no pictures at all. It’s naive, he knows, but after the forty-eight-hour mark Jeongguk wondered if there’d be any photo leaks at all.

But just when he’s beginning to think that maybe even Jimin is starting to believe it as well, they find themselves once again on the front page of Naver.

 

[NAVER] HIS HIGHNESS PARK JIMIN DAY OUT WITH FRIENDS

 

[SOOMPI] PARK JIMIN HAS A NEW FRIEND GROUP...WHO ARE THEY?

 

[KNEWS] JIMIN ALLEGEDLY SPOTTED AT ONEMOUNT WITH BIGHIT’S RM

 

[SEOUL REPORTER] IS THE PRINCE’S NEW FRIENDS GOOD INFLUENCES?

 

1: [+1323, -23] honestly really glad the fan who leaked the pictures blurred out the faces of jiminie oppa’s friends. he deserves a day without being hounded by media

2: [+901, -221] the other girl who leaked the pictures and didnt blur the faces is NOT a real pjm...luckily only jimin and seokjin were facing the camera. Taehyung was probably with them as well but im glad the others’ identities were protected

 

RE: 2: [+21, -198] whoever finds any pics with unblurred faces email me *****@gmail.com

3: [+831, -321] maybe one of these guys was the mystery friend from two months ago???

4: [+53, -2314] this new friend group will be park jimin’s downfall. He’s shaming his family. If he is truly hanging out with rm i do not know what i will do. rm has far too radical ideas and his rap is not at all appropriate

 

RE: 4: [+4321, -20] telling people to love themselves and wear whatever clothes they like is radical ideas? Well excuse me while i hop on the radicalist train

5: [+1422, -39] it’s obviously namjoon in the black trunks and green shirt. Id recognize those namtiddies anywhere

 

 

Although he may be one hell of a friend, Kim Taehyung is awful at group studying.

Jeongguk doesn’t know if this is how he usually is, or if something in the combination of Jeongguk, the campus library, and his mountains of classwork is preventing the guy from sitting still for more than ten minutes.

They’d agreed to get a headstart on the first projects and exams of the semester together, but Jeongguk’s beginning to regret that a little. 

He’s been staring at his laptop for the past three hours. There’s probably not much more Jeongguk can add to this film project without going too far.

Taehyung sits across from him. He takes up more table space than Jeongguk does—but, to be fair, there’s a lot more course material for Taehyung’s Japanese Literature class. Jeongguk counts five books along that are open and annotated. It seems like his hyung switches to working on a different book each time he gets bored of the current one. But after so many hours it looks like he’s hitting his breaking point.

Jeongguk can’t focus with the way his friend fidgets across the table. “Hyung,” he calls. Taehyung snaps his head up from where he’s been lightly tapping his pink highlighter on his book.

“Yeah?”

The younger throws him a pained smile. “Let’s take a break.”

They end up going to the cafe on the third floor. Taehyung buys three muffins that are so big Jeongguk thinks they could be considered a full meal. He orders a smoothie despite it being forecasted to snow sometime this month. It’s gotten so cold in the span of a month that Jeongguk regrets complaining about the summer heat last semester.

He’s halfway through his smoothie and Taehyung’s onto his second muffin when the latter’s phone vibrates on the cafe table. Jeongguk’s eyes dart down and sees Jimin’s name.

“Oh,” Taehyung says through a mouthful of banana bread muffin, “it’s Jiminie.” He slides his phone in between them so Jeongguk can read the text as well. He snorts when he sees a picture of a younger Jimin passed out with a crudely-drawn dick on his face as the contact photo.

 

Recipient: The Nation’s Future Leader
Sender: Me
24 NOV, 1:07PM

The Nation’s Future Leader
SOS
she keeps talking about what she wants to name our future children
get me out of here
[Location attached.]

 

He knows that today his friend finally had to attend the dreaded date with a woman set up by the king. Jeongguk also knows that it's a common occurrence for either Seokjin or Taehyung to receive these texts and that it’s an entire operation to sneak Jimin out of them sometimes.

Such an operation would probably require the rest of Jeongguk’s afternoon schedule to open up. Which means he’d have to unfortunately take a break from studying.

Jeongguk looks up from the phone to meet Taehyung’s wide gaze. They’re thinking the same exact thing.

“I’ll go,” Jeongguk offers at the same time Taehyung lifts the phone and says, “guess I gotta leave!”

They both stare at each other, gaping. Jeongguk gulps.

“You have so much homework, hyung,” he reasons with a greasy smile. “You can’t possibly stop now.”

Taehyung bats his eyes. “Don’t you think it’s a bit too early in your guys’ friendship to do this? I’ll go, I’ve been his best friend for years. I know how this goes. You don’t.”

“Don’t let Seokjin-hyung hear that,” Jeongguk quips. “And anyway, isn’t that more of a reason for me to go? I’m gonna be around for a while, might as well start now.”

Taehyung glares at him. “Fuck you, you just want to get your dick wet.”

Jeongguk snickers but doesn’t argue. “I’ve already finished my work, hyung. Plus, I have a car.”

Taehyung growls out a I have a car too, brat and sticks his fist out. “Rock, paper, scissors. Winner gets to leave. Best two out of three.”

Five minutes later Jeongguk walks out of the library, book bag slung over his shoulder and a smug grin on his face.

 

It turns out, sneaking Jimin out of a date is a lot harder than he thought. Jeongguk manages to get a table in the place they’re at, even though just looking at the menu prices makes him nauseous. He can see Jimin and the woman across the restaurant. There isn’t any security around them, thank God, because Jeongguk doesn’t know how he would’ve gotten Jimin out with his one-hundred-and-ninety-centimeter bodyguard breathing down his neck. Well, Jeongguk doesn’t really know how he’ll do this without the addition of the bodyguard, either.

He hardly has a plan. It was half-formed on the drive here. Luckily he had his uniform in the backseat to change into because Jeongguk doubts this’ll work with the hoodie and sweatpants he had donned earlier. He changes into the black slacks and white button-down while in the restroom, choosing to skip out on the bright red sweater vest that’s supposed to go on top of it. He struggles with the tie for a bit, barely having elbow room in the cramped bathroom stall. By the time he’s sat down at the table with a menu in hand, it’s nearing two.

The woman is slightly facing him from this angle. She’s beautiful enough, but whatever she’s talking about seems to be putting Jimin on edge. His shoulders are stiff from where he sits.

Finally, Jeongguk rises from his seat. He strides towards the VIP section of the restaurant with as much confidence as he can muster. He sets back his shoulders the way they did on that modeling show Hoseok likes to watch and pushes his bangs up off his forehead. He didn’t wash and style his hair this morning so it’s greasy enough to stay back. It’s nasty, and it won’t stick for long, but Jeongguk hopes it will stay long enough for him to get Jimin in and out of here.

Seokjin told him once that showing off your forehead makes you look older.

He straightens his posture as he approaches the hostess standing in front of the velvet cords separating the sections of the restaurant. She looks confused when she sees him coming. Jeongguk lifts a hand to press against his ear as if he’s talking into a mic. Once he’s within a meter of her, he drops his arm, hoping she doesn’t actually look for the nonexistent earpiece.

“Jeon Jeongguk,” he tells her in lieu of a greeting. He pulls out his student ID from his back pocket and flashes it quickly in front of her face. She barely manages to track it with her eyes before he’s already putting it away. “His Highness’ Park Jimin’s personal security. There has been a change in the prince’s schedule and I need to evacuate him from the premises immediately.”

He’s just spewing complete bullshit at this point and making it up as he goes. The hostess looks shocked at the barrage of information, so he tacks on a: “please let me through. It is urgent.”

She nods blankly at him with wide eyes and stumbles to unhook the velvet cord from its attachment pole. Once the gate is open Jeongguk wastes no time pushing through.

When he reaches the table the woman looks up first. She looks like she just jumped out of a high-fashion magazine, but Jimin couldn’t look any less interested in her. The man pushes his food around his plate with a fork, resting his cheek on one hand.

The lady must’ve been talking about something before Jeongguk arrived but now she falters mid-sentence at the sight of him.

“Your Highness,” he calls for Jimin’s attention. The prince’s head turns quickly at his voice. His eyebrows raise past his bangs in surprise. He was probably expecting Taehyung considering he did text his best friend and not Jeongguk but looks no less relieved to see him.

“Jeong—”

“There’s been a threat to your security. We must leave now. My apologies,” he adds with a hasty bow to Jimin’s date. She looks annoyed.

Luckily, his hyung is no idiot. He catches on quickly and nods. “Of course.” He throws an apologetic look at his date. “I’m sorry about this, but we’ll have to cut this short.”

The woman drops her miffed expression at the sight of Jimin’s charming smile. “Sure,” she agrees with a much sweeter voice than what Jeongguk was expecting. “We can continue this another day, right?”

Her hopeful tone almost makes Jeongguk wince as he thinks of Jimin’s text sent nearly an hour ago.

Jimin gives her a pained smile. “My staff will contact you,” is all he offers. Jeongguk fights the urge to snort out laughter. His lips quirk up a little, though. Jimin seems unfazed. “Excuse me,” he mutters, and allows Jeongguk to lead him out of the restaurant.

As soon as they get into Jeongguk’s car, Jimin melts against the upholstery. “Thanks, Gguk.” He sighs heavily and runs his fingers through the blond locks hanging over his forehead.

“No problem,” Jeongguk waves him off as he shifts out of park.

The blond glances over at him once, twice. “Are you wearing your work uniform?”

He bites his lip. A grin creeps onto his face. “Maybe.”

Laughter erupts from the passenger side of the car. Jeongguk sees Jimin bend over at his waist, cackling. He pushes out a blind hand to shove him. “Shut up,” he complains. The laughter slowly fades, so Jeongguk teases, “didn’t know you were such a heart-breaker, hyung.”

Jimin groans and rolls his eyes. He rests his temple against the car window. Jeongguk pulls off the main roads and towards the back streets and neighborhoods; he’s driving them to his apartment without thinking. For the past month his apartment has been the place to go for Jimin whenever he wants to escape the public, so it’s almost a thoughtless decision.

“She couldn’t give a shit about me,” he says. “Just wants the social status, the power. I’m a fresh steak served to her on a plate.”

Jeongguk frowns. “Is this your first date with her?”

He shakes his head. “Second. And there’ll probably be a third if my parents have any say in it.” They do. Jeongguk knows. “She’s the only one so far who’s been desperate enough to go on more than one date with me even though I’ve left both of them as early as I could.”

The younger doesn’t respond to this. He knows Jimin doesn’t want to know what he thinks of it. The man deals with that enough: listening to other people tell him what they think of his own life.

He does, however, pop the console open in between them and rifle around for the aux cord. It’s a little difficult since he keeps his eyes on the road, but he eventually finds it and hands it to Jimin.

“Play whatever you want. You wanna go to my place or somewhere else?”

Jimin gently takes it from his fingers and plugs his phone in. “Your place. I wanna finish watching that show we started last time.”

Jeongguk smiles. “Well, it has seven seasons and we’re only on episode four. We might not see the light of day for a while.”

Jimin turns on another indie artist that Jeongguk’s never heard of. The blond leans back into his seat. When he glances away from the road to look at him, Jimin’s smiling.

“Sounds perfect,” he whispers.


Their impromptu Netflix marathon is interrupted a couple hours in through the form of Namjoon knocking on the door, letting himself in, and barely getting out a “hey, Jiminie,” before chucking his shoes off and planting himself on top of them, grabbing a throw pillow and promptly screaming into it.

Jimin looks at Jeongguk with wide eyes before pausing the TV show still playing. The younger pokes their hyung in the head.

“Uh, Joonie-hyung? What’s up?”

He receives another deep yell in response.

“Would you like to use your words to tell us what happened?” Jeongguk asks politely.

It takes another few seconds of groaning, but the man finally lifts his head from the pillow. He stares at the coffee table with a blank expression. “Seokjin told me he loves me.”

Jeongguk doesn’t fully comprehend the words at first. He rolls the sentence through his mind a couple of times before he catches Jimin’s excited gaze. 

“That’s awesome!” he screeches, practically vibrating in place. “When?”

“Like, fifteen minutes ago. At our place.”

“What’d he say, exactly?” Jimin looks more excited than Namjoon does, which tells Jeongguk this story is going nowhere good.

“We, uh, we had dinner,” he mumbles out, “and he was gonna leave, so I walked him to the door ‘cause we were still in the middle of a conversation.” That sounds far too domestic and coupley already, but Jeongguk doesn’t say anything and instead lets Namjoon finish. “After we finished Seokjin-hyung turned around to walk out the door but he like— just stopped for a moment, turned around and said Joonie, I’m falling in love with you.

Jeongguk’s eyebrows raise. Jimin looks like he’s about to stuff his own fist in his mouth. “What’d you say back?” the youngest asks warily.

“I, uh,” Namjoon drops the throw pillow into his lap. He messes with the split seam that Hoseok had partially sewn back up on one corner. “I told him I needed to think about it. He said alright, kissed me on the forehead, and left for a meeting with his manager.”

Jeongguk almost snorts. That sounds like a very Seokjin thing to do. Also a very Namjoon thing to do. Jimin doesn’t look as amused.
“What?” he falters. “But you love him back, right? We all know you do.”

“Well, yeah,” a small smile grows on Namjoon’s face as he chuckles in embarrassment. “I guess I haven’t been really subtle about it,” he says, ignoring Jeongguks quip of that’s for fuckin’ sure.

“Then why didn’t you tell him?”

Their hyung slouches against the cushions. “I don’t know, I guess, I guess I thought it was something I was supposed to do. Not rush into it. Like, we’ve only known each other since the beginning of August, isn’t it too early for me to say I love him?”

Jeongguk is smiling before he realizes it. He reaches up to massage his hand down on Namjoon’s shoulder. “Hyung, that’s already four months. You see each other every day. I’d say that’s enough time, but even then, time doesn’t matter. If you love him, you love him.”

Jimin shifts to rest his head against Namjoon’s shoulder. “Hyung, the fact that you told him you needed time just because you felt like you were supposed to say that shows that you love him. It’s not too early. It’s good that you hesitated and didn’t want to rush into it, but you’re not moving as fast as you think you are.”

“Maybe.” He looks over at Jimin, then Jeongguk. “Oh God, what if I messed up by saying that? What if he thinks I don’t feel the same?”

The youngest reaches up to card his fingers through Namjoon’s hair. It’s rough from dying it the ashy color during his debut promotions in July. Most of the hair has grown out and been trimmed off by now but lightened strands still hang on at the ends of his hair. 

“I think he knows,” Jeongguk tells him honestly. “Just from the way he reacted when you told him that, I think he knows.”

“I really like him,” Namjoon murmurs. “But what if it’s—what if it’s weird because we already live together? What if that makes us move too fast?”

“I think you worry too much, hyung,” Jimin tells him, reaching out a hand to pull him closer. Namjoon lets himself be laid down against Jimin’s chest. The prince’s arms wind around Namjoon’s waist. The rapper relaxes against him. “You know Seokjin cares for you a lot; he already confessed.”

The eldest hums. Jeongguk takes Namjoon’s legs and rests them in his own lap. He starts massaging his calves in long, hard squeezes.

“Yeah, he did,” Namjoon relents.

“And although I don’t think it was necessary to have told him to wait,” Jimin continues, “it still happened. All there’s left to do is go back and accept or reject his confession.”

Namjoon gulps. Jeongguk squeezes his leg and whispers, “what do you want to do, hyung?”

“I don’t—” His eyes are wide when he cuts himself off. “Of course I don’t want to reject him,” he breathes out.
Jimin hugs him a little tighter. “Then you need to talk to him.”

Namjoon nods, but he doesn’t look any more convinced.

Jeongguk hates seeing him like this. “Hyung,” he whispers. Both Namjoon and Jimin snap their gazes to him. “I know you’re scared. But nothing will change. You’re allowed to let yourself fall in love. All of us will support you.”

Namjoon blinks at him, then nods. “You’re right, Ggukie. I’ll talk to him tomorrow morning.”

While that pep talk surely made one of them feel better, Jeongguk feels like he accidentally just said something very, very important.

He meets Jimin’s stare over Namjoon’s head.

Jeongguk doesn’t know which hyung he was talking to.

Chapter Text

Jimin likes to say he’s not a jealous person.

Despite not wanting his current situation, he could never find it within himself to be truly envious of another person. It’s too selfish. Many people would give anything to be in his position of power. Jimin often reminds himself to stay humble. His worst fear is allowing the fame and status to change him; it’s something of his nightmares.

He knows he’s incredibly lucky to have many things in his life: the palace, his family, his friends, his health. There are so many things he knows he takes for granted. Some nights he lies awake, worried that he’s already slipping and it’s too late to change. The last thing he wants is to lose himself in this life, this spotlight set on him.

He can wish and hope that one day it’ll get a little easier being who he is—and hope a little harder that the day comes before his coronation—but he’ll never wish to trade places with someone else. He won’t. He can’t. That’d be— that’s practically turning his back on his nation. Even if the words never leave his mouth.

And before now, Jimin hasn’t had a problem with it. He’s had urges, sure, but a guilt trip usually removes any feelings close to envy. Before now, Jimin could box up all those awful thoughts and stuff them far, far away from the present situation.

That was before Seokjin and Namjoon got together.

He won’t tell anyone, afraid he’ll jinx it, but Jimin knows they’re it for each other. He’s known since Seokjin’s birthday, really. Known since he watched Jin break down in tears just from reading a handwritten letter from Namjoon for his birthday. Known since he refused to show anyone else at the party exactly what it entailed, known since Seokjin carefully folded the papers, grabbed the lapels of Namjoon’s winter jacket and pressed a bruising kiss on the other man’s lips in front of all their friends. The rest of them hooted and screamed and catcalled at the time but the image of Seokjin smiling into Namjoon’s mouth with tear tracks down his cheeks has haunted Jimin since.

He doesn’t think it’s been longer than a month since his hyungs started dating. Even so, they treat each other with a muted happiness as if they’ve been together for years. It’s no doubt passionate—Jimin’s sure they’re still in the honeymoon phase, or whatever you call it—but it’s subtle. Look once and you miss it, look twice and it’s obvious they’re more than just roommates, more than just friends.

He knows they don’t have it exactly easy. They can’t show too much affection in public since neither of them are out. Dispatch is their worst nightmare, especially with how fresh both of their careers are. One wrong move and they’re done.
That doesn’t stop them, though. Even though they can’t touch each other outside of closed spaces in the privacy of their own, they still look at each other with enough love for it to be obvious. At least to Jimin.

Before, Jimin didn’t believe in love at first sight. He thought it was just instant lust or a crush and that was it. He’s still not sure if he fully believes in the idea, but if it is real, then—

If it is real, Namjoon and Seokjin are the closest damn thing to it.

And when he looks at them, Jimin begins to feel the terrifying tendrils of jealousy crawling up his throat, making him sick.

Namjoon will reach for Jin’s hand on the couch and Jimin will turn away, distracting himself with whatever dumb thing Jeongguk’s doing that will no doubt result in something breaking. He’ll watch Seokjin fold himself over Namjoon while the younger washes the dishes, dropping his chin into the crook of his neck and ask how he’s doing. Jimin always feels a tug in his gut, always looks away, never looks back until the jealousy reminds him of what they have and he finds himself searching for signs of their romance once again.

It’s horrifying. He hates it. The thought of just avoiding the couple crosses through his mind but it’s just as quickly dismissed. Seokjin is his best friend; Jimin is truly happy for him. But that doesn’t stop the little green monster doing cartwheels in his stomach everytime he comes by their place and finds them curled up with each other on the sofa, or Namjoon trying to help his boyfriend with cooking dinner even though he’s more of a hazard than anything else.

At first, he’s confused. It’s not like Jimin thinks Namjoon is stealing his friend or anything. They see each other just as much as they did before. Nothing’s really changed aside from the fact that there might be a hickey or two hiding beneath Jin’s collar when they hang out in Jimin’s bedroom. Taehyung jeers at their hyung and slaps the marks lightly, always congratulating the man for getting laid as if he won an Olympic gold medal. Jimin laughs along but moves his eyes away from the bruises dotting Seokjin’s pale skin.

Then he wonders if he’s developed subconscious feelings for Namjoon. It’s unlikely. Even that idea seems far-fetched for him; he humors it nevertheless. For an entire day, Jimin tries to think of the things he finds attractive in Kim Namjoon. He makes a list. After, he shows it to Taehyung, who makes his own edits.

 

What I like about Namjoon  

ew no this isn’t To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before -Tae

What Makes Kim Namjoon’s Big Booty Poppin’

1. thighs (like Jeongguk’s. Do they work out together?) seriously? -Tae

2. smile (big and wide. Kind of like ggukie’s but without his bunny teeth)

3. dimples (way deeper than guk’s but i don’t discriminate) 

ok, i was gonna ignore #2 but im sensing a pattern -Tae

4. tall + muscles / big (i kinda have a thing for that)no no no NO. Shut UP -Tae

 

The list continues in the same fashion. Taehyung snorts and crumples the paper up. 

“Yeah, you’ve definitely got nothing to worry about,” he promises him with a grimace adorning his features. “But I definitely did not need to know any of that shit.”

This aside, Jimin concludes he is not jealous of Seokjin. And he’s definitely not jealous of Namjoon, either, because he was friends with Seokjin during college before he debuted in the industry so he knows there’s no way he can have romantic feelings for someone he watched shove their dick in a pumpkin while drunk on Halloween night a couple of years ago.

But since he isn’t jealous of only Namjoon or solely Seokjin, it leaves one option: he’s jealous of what they have together.

The moment he realizes it he wants to kick himself.

It really should have been obvious from the start. Of course he doesn’t have feelings for either of his two friends. He’s just lonely. It’s not a new feeling, and it’s not like this realization is a complete surprise. He may not be as much of a romantic as Jeongguk is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t crave affection and intimacy like everyone else.

He’s never been able to have a real relationship, honestly. Nothing past the awkward dates as a teenager that were publicised to no end and the secret, private hookups he’s had with other influential socialites who had too much to lose over what they all hoped was just a phase. Jimin could only be with those men because there was no chance of them ruining his life when he could just as easily ruin theirs. And that kind of emotional blackmail isn’t exactly what Jimin can describe as strong foundations for a healthy relationship, either, so the meetings were often one-time occurrences that both parties did their best to forget about afterwards.

He’s not sure if the itch would be better or worse if he actually managed to hold a steady relationship at least once. On one hand, it’s possible that not having at least one romantic partner has left Jimin bottled up over the years, full of tension and ready to shatter. Or, he could’ve gotten a taste, liked it too much, and end up even more miserable when they break up.

He decides it doesn’t matter, because Jimin’s not having a pissing contest with his alternate universe personalities over who would be more miserable. What matters is right now, where Jimin is the crown prince of the nation. That’s what’s important. He doesn’t have time to fantasize about dates and sex and love when there are more pressing matters. 

He really wishes his heart would agree with his head, though, because Jimin can’t stop the tugging feeling in his chest when he sees Namjoon and Seokjin so happy.

It’s not always the physical affection he’s jealous of, either. Sometimes it’s hard to watch how gentle they are when the other is vulnerable: Jin letting Namjoon sleep on his lap after a long day at the studio, fingers combing gently through the knots in his hair, Joon texting Jimin to double-check what Seokjin’s favorite snacks are so he could buy them after the actor casually mentioned in the group chat that he’d been rejected for a role. Sometimes Seokjin gets nervous about an upcoming audition and the younger interlaces their fingers, presses soft kisses against the skin on his knuckles, and promises that he’ll run lines with Jin later that night. Other times it’s Namjoon ordering extra food to-go on the nights they hang out and Jin can’t make it. 

Or the fact that this isn’t really all that different from how they acted before Seokjin confessed, anyway. That one really puts a stone in Jimin’s stomach.

But what really finalizes the nagging in the back of his head is when he escapes the palace one night and goes to Jin’s. Taehyung’s leaving the city in the morning to see his family for the holidays, so Jimin can’t go to him. And he knows Jeongguk’s spending every possible minute working on a film project that’s due before Friday. He’d worry about him but Jimin already knows that Hoseok’s there to chide him if he starts overworking himself.

His friends welcome him in immediately. Namjoon heats up leftovers for Jimin when he mentions that he hasn’t eaten dinner and Seokjin gives him a long hug after the youngest shrugs and says he fought with his parents once again. It’s late, so Jimin gratefully eats his dinner as quickly as he can, preparing himself for a night on the couch.

Or at least until Seokjin leads them to his own room and promises he just changed the sheets.

Jimin looks at him, dumbfounded. “But where will you sleep?” he asks.

Jin looks at him like the answer is obvious. “In Joonie’s room,” he answers curtly, “it’s no big deal. I’ve been— I’ve been sleeping in there for the past few weeks, anyway,” he adds, sounding a little embarrassed. He avoids Jimin’s eyes with a red face. Seokjin did always blush easily.

“Oh,” Jimin blurts. Jin looks worried for a second before the younger forces himself back to reality, jabbing Seokjin’s shoulder and teasing his hyung relentlessly like he should, ignoring the weird nausea in the pit of his stomach. 

The feeling doesn’t fade as he gets ready for bed. He brushes his teeth wondering if they’re cuddling and changes into the sleep clothes Namjoon lent him while imagining what it’d feel like to fall asleep with someone like that, legs tangled and kisses pressed upon bare skin.

He’s only slept in the bed of another person once before, and that was Jeongguk. He was drunk and got pushed off the side of the bed in the middle of the night when the younger got too hot and trying tugging his shirt off, elbowing the prince in the chin and hip-checking him off the mattress. Not exactly the romance of his dreams.

He lies in Seokjin’s bed and stares at the ceiling, listening hard to hear if they’re fucking. He’s disgusted with himself for it, the awful little green monster hoping he’ll hear a moan or the headboard hitting the wall— anything that his mind can use to convince himself they just sleep in the same room for sex, anything so he can allow himself to believe relationships are shallow and loveless and that he’s better off without them. That way it hurts less when he has to deny himself of one.

He lies awake and hears deep, quiet laughter through the wall. He thinks there’s a soft sigh from Seokjin, and Jimin expects a moan to follow. Instead, he hears Namjoon promise in a low, sleepy voice that rises just a little at the end, “I love you.” He barely hears Seokjin whisper back, “I love you, too,” before the apartment grows quiet.

He doesn’t know what the hell’s wrong with him, why he’s so bothered, but this admission makes Jimin want to cry. It’s pathetic. He presses his tongue to the roof of his mouth and keeps his tears from forming. It’s painful, and it hurts. Jimin doesn’t let himself make a noise. He waits until the stinging in his eyes stops, then falls into a restless sleep.

He passes the rest of the week in the same fashion.

Maybe Jimin’s just lonely. Actually, scratch that— he can’t be, it’s unfair to say that when he recently gained four new great friends who blend together perfectly with his own. He sees the group as often as he can whether it be all seven of them together or a couple at a time. It feels ungrateful to say he’s lonely when he’s surrounded by such wonderful people.

Jimin doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, but he hates himself for it.

It doesn’t take long for his best friends to notice. Seokjin starts coddling him more than usual and even Taehyung notices it during a facetime call even though he’s all the way down in Daegu right now.

He’s lying in bed on his side, phone held in front of his face. Taehyung’s torso is visible on the screen; he propped up his phone against the rice cooker in his kitchen so he can talk to Jimin while he cooks ramen. Jimin wants to scold him for eating such a high-sodium food in the middle of the night but holds himself back.

“What’s up with you, Minie?” his friend asks. They’re both speaking quietly. Jimin probably doesn’t need to, but Taehyung’s family is probably sleeping by now. He doesn’t want to disturb them.

He tries to explain what’s going on to the best of his ability. Tae’s already clued in on some of his problems since he read the list about Namjoon, but Jimin didn’t share any of his conclusions afterward. It turns into a lot of rambling and Jimin feels even guiltier by the end of it, so he just finishes with a weak, “yeah, so I guess I was just jealous of them having a relationship to be in.”

Taehyung snorts. “Well, I could have told you that.” He faces a little away from the phone to stir the ramen. Jimin pouts.

“Shut up,” he whines. “Support me.”

“I am, Min.” He turns back around to look at the camera with an eyebrow raised. “But you’re also missing the key point here.”

“And that is?” Jimin drawls, exasperated.

“You don’t just want a relationship, you want a relationship with Jeongguk.”

Jimin clamps his mouth shut with an audible clack. Taehyung sees his expression and sighs. 

“Seriously? Back to the denial stage?”

He tries not to visibly pout, but his nose scrunches up and his eyebrows draw together before he can stop himself. “Am not.”

Taehyung doesn’t look impressed. “Look, you’re my best friend and if you want to throw a pity party, I’ll be right there with you. But you two are so obvious, Minie. Everytime Namjoon-hyung even mentions Seokjin or the other way around, you get all mopey and depressed and stare at Jeongguk.”

Unfortunately, Jimin knows exactly what he’s talking about. Whenever he sees Namjoon and Seokjin showing any sort of affection he averts his eyes back to their other friends. More often than not, it is Jeongguk he looks for first. He’s been pretending he doesn’t know what that means.

Sometimes Jeongguk is already staring back at him with varying expressions; the most common is a fond look of disgust, a quirk of his head that says, ‘aren’t they cute?’

But sometimes, Jimin turns his head and Jeongguk is already staring back at him with an expression that gives him way too much false hope. Because sometimes Jeongguk looks at him like he’s thinking the same, like he sees Jimin as more, like he’s falling just as quickly as Jimin is.

And then he gives Jimin a goofy grin and a silly face, both brushing aside the tension and piling it on, all at once.

Jimin doesn’t know what to do.

 

“Who are you texting?”

Jimin glances up from his phone to see Eunseol glaring at the screen with slitted, distrustful eyes. He pockets it, but doesn’t give an apologetic smile like he usually would.

“Just a friend,” he responds cooly. Eunseol doesn’t look impressed.

Jimin swears he tried to put effort in at the beginning of this outing. He even dressed nicely as if this was actually real. He let Eunseol decide the date plans in the short conversations they had over text before meeting. She told him to dress warmly, and they ended up at an ice rink.

His security team had been hesitant at first since the ice rink was located in a busy mall. Jimin did nothing to assure them it was fine. Just because he’s trying to put in effort doesn’t mean it’ll be a good one.

In the end they decided it’d be safe as long as Jimin was thoroughly disguised and there were multiple guards on standby. He hated it, but didn’t fight the men and women who were just trying to do their jobs.

When he arrived at the ice rink, Eunseol was already waiting. She pointedly looked at her watch as if Jimin was late. He checked his phone; he wasn’t. In fact, he was about ten minutes early. She tapped her foot impatiently anyways.

That was just the beginning of the headache.

Eunseol only spoke to him in short, clipped sentences for the first twenty minutes of the date. Jimin has no idea what crawled into her ass that morning, but she answered each of his questions with one-worded responses.

“Oh Eunseol-ssi?”

“Yes.”

 

“What size skates do you wear?”

“230.”

 

“Do you need help tying the laces?”

“No.”

 

“Are you ready to get on? Do you know how to skate?”

At this one, she gave him a look like she wanted to shove her toepick into Jimin’s neck. “Fine. Yes.”

 

After a while, Jimin had to grit his teeth just to make it through. Around the second hour he finally cracked and texted Jeongguk like he’d been itching to do since he arrived.

It’s become a bit of a habit, to do this. Jimin didn’t intend for it to become one. He’d answer one text from the guy and accidentally rope himself into an entire conversation, unable to put his phone down until his date clears her throat, annoyed.

He usually feels bad for it, but not today. Because somehow, out of all of the set-ups his parents have arranged for him, this is the worst one.

Oh Eunseol is the daughter of some past head of parliament. She’s three years younger than Jimin, attractive, and—according to his parents—suitable enough to be considered for him.

Jimin did a cursory google search of her before sending the first text. A couple of photos popped up but she kept a relatively low public appearance. She’s the perfect contender in his parent’s eyes. Her hair is long and unaltered, unlike Jimin’s blond locks. She doesn’t have any piercings or tattoos. She dressed nicely and modestly in a turtleneck tucked into a high-waisted skirt that just hangs above her knees. There’s nothing wrong with this, really, but Jimin knows they’re probably not going to have many similarities.

Eunseol studies law and doesn’t complain at all about it. Jimin tries to make a joke, asking which class she hates the most, and she stares at him like he’s a complete lunatic. She only likes listening to the cookie-cutter boy bands that play on the radio, and scrunched her nose when Jimin brought up the lesser-known, foreign artists that he likes.

Once they finished ice skating, Eunseol sat down next to Jimin while untying their skates and laid it out straight.

“Listen. I have no interest in you. This relationship is not real. I will never have any feelings for you, so don’t get any crazy ideas into your head.”

Jimin stared at her in shock. She scoffed and dragged him into some outlet store, grumbling something about making the trip worth it by at least buying something nice. Usually, Jimin would have no problem with this. He likes fashion, he likes to go shopping, but Eunseol’s pessimistic energy leached onto him. Within a couple of minutes he’s scowling behind his mask. He can’t help it.

The frown immediately dropped once he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He opened it to see Jeongguk picking up their conversation from earlier.

 

jeonggukie
how’s the date with the frigid bitch?

 

Jimin smirked, fingers moving quickly across the screen to reply. They continued talking even when Eunseol went into the dressing room to try on her chosen clothes. Every time she came out to show Jimin her outfit, he’d barely glance up at his phone, give her a half-hearted compliment or hum of approval, and promptly return to his conversation with Jeongguk.

She gets sick of this pretty quickly.

“Who are you texting?”

“Just a friend.”

She huffs and crosses her arms. The loose sleeves of her blouse swing with each movement. “Fine. What do you think of this one?”

Jimin hardly looks up. Jeongguk’s typing.

“Yeah, looks good.”
“That’s what you said about the last three.”

He coughs awkwardly. “Sorry.”

“Are you gay or something?”

Jimin tries to act as natural as possible when he looks up at her with furrowed brows. “What? No.”

Eunseol huffs and drops herself onto the bench next to him. Her shoulders slouch. “You really suck at this,” she points out.

Jimin bristles. “It’s not like you’re doing any better.”

She curls her lip. “I’m doing fine. You really don’t know how to charm a girl.”

He resists rolling his eyes.

“I have no interest in dating you, but I do have an interest in being queen. It’d get my family off my back about marrying someone wealthy. If you’d just work with me, it’d be a lot easier on the both of us.”

For a second, Jimin wonders if this is all a joke. He glances around for hidden cameramen. When he finds none, he scoffs. “Are you serious? You think that’s gonna sweep me off my feet?”

Eunseol shrugs. “Not like you’ve got much of a choice. Your dating pool is small as is, and judging from what Dispatch has reported on so far, you’re already running low on options since you keep blowing dates.”

Jimin doesn’t correct her because she’s kind of right. He scoffs anyway, offended. He shakes his head.

It’s a fair observation, really. For the past couple of years, Jimin hasn’t exactly taken these dates seriously. Had stopped taking them seriously since his first hookup with a guy in his second year of university. Had really stopped putting any effort in whatsoever around the time he realized that he will never, ever be attracted to any of these women his father sets him up with purely because Jimin is stubborn as hell (he inherited it from the old man, no doubt) and hates doing things he’s forced to do.

And yeah, he’ll probably have some crisis in the future about this entire thing, ‘cause it seems like it’s really piling up now and Jimin might snap at any moment, but for now, he’s cool. No problem. Another day, another date with some elite young woman who’d sigh and scroll through her instagram feed while Jimin keels over and dies, if given the chance.

Alright, maybe that crisis is coming sooner than he thought. Jimin swallows it down.

“Whatever,” he chooses to say. If Eunseol snorts at the lame comeback, well, no one’s around to hear it.

He doesn’t look at his phone for the rest of the date. It buzzes a couple of times in his shirt chest pocket but Jimin never reaches for it. If he does, something Jeongguk says might make him crack and leave the date altogether, ditching Eunseol in the mall’s H&M to seek out the company of a certain wide-eyed, sharp-tongued man in the university dance studio.

By the time his driver stops in front of the Oh family mansion in Seocho, he’s drumming a beat into the car floor just to keep himself sane. He doesn’t know what set it off, but ever since they left the department store Eunseol has not stopped talking. He usually wouldn’t have minded this; by all means, go ahead with the one-sided conversation so Jimin doesn’t have to offer any dialogue in return. But the way she’s doing it—choosing to speak solely about things she knows Jimin would rather pull his toenails out with his own teeth than discuss—shows she’s just trying to aggravate him until he cooperates. It’s childish. It feels like she’s poking him like a junior high schooler so he’ll relent and give her his school lunch. But in this case, his school lunch is the future empty throne for queen.

The drive is thirty-five minutes long with traffic but by God does it feel longer than that.

She’s just getting to her opinions on how Kim Namjoon is a bad influence when they finally arrive at her family mansion on the outskirts of the city. Jimin just about kicks her out of the car himself. She gets out on her own but hovers just outside, door propped open. She bends at her waist to look Jimin in the eyes.

Even after everything, she gives him a final look as if she could squish him under her designer shoes. “Well? Are you going to work with me here or not?”

Jimin’s very thankful for the partition between the driver and the backseat. He manages a pained smile. “That’s a very odd way to request a second date, Oh Eunseol-ssi.”

She narrows her eyes and scowls. Jimin’s smile turns a little malicious.

“My staff will be in contact,” he states.

With that, he shuts the car door.

 

He doesn’t know how his father got word of what happened before Jimin even arrived back at the palace, but he suspects it may have something to do with slamming a car door on his date’s face. He’s waiting in the grand hall when Jimin walks in.

He knows just by the look on the king’s face that he’s done something very, very wrong.

Jimin gulps. “Dad—”

“Save it,” his father interrupts with a slight raise of his hand. “My office. Now.” His tone leaves no room for argument. Jimin flinches.

It feels like a scene in a movie, the way Jimin slowly trails after his father all the way to his office. Almost like he’s a student about to be punished by the principal. Jimin doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but he’s pretty sure it’ll be worse than after-school detention.

He catches the eye of one of the cleaning staff in the corridor. It’s Mikyung, who’s been working here since she had her first kid a couple of years ago. She shoots Jimin a pitying look and steers clear of them, turning into another hallway to stay out of their path. Her face crumples at the betrayed look Jimin shoots her over his shoulder.

His father holds the door open for Jimin when they reach his office. Jimin walks through, feeling like an inmate walking to a court date. He feels sick with anxiety.

The office is standard. Blank walls with the exception of a map of South Korea and a family portrait of their family. Jimin was only around thirteen when the photo was taken. His parents stare at the camera with hard, intimidating eyes. Jihyun manages a small smile. His father rests his hand on Jimin’s shoulder for the pose. Jimin has a neutral expression in the portrait. He can’t help but think that represents his entire attitude as prince so far: neutral, unemotional, unopinionated. The perfect prince.

His parents hardly look like his parents in the picture. They look like actors.

Jimin doesn’t know when he started drifting from his family, but the wide gap between them now is too wide to be ignored.

There’s two leather seats in front of his father’s desks. Jimin takes a seat in the right one while the king circles his desk.

The air feels tense, like right before a storm.

He flinches a little when his father sits down. The man notices this and frowns. Jimin lowers his eyes, but when nothing comes, he looks up.

His dad stares at him with a pensive expression that almost looks sad. Disappointment pulls the corners of his lips down, like he can’t believe this is his kid. The mistake of a prince. Jimin stands and bows low, ducking his head.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he apologizes. 

He doesn’t know how, but his father seems even more upset from the apology. “Sit down, Jimin,” he orders in a tired voice.

Jimin obeys immediately. He doesn’t meet his father’s gaze. He blinks down at his lap instead, twisting the rings on his fingers.

The king lets out a rattled sigh. “Jimin, what are you doing?”

“She’s an awful person, sir.” He doesn’t move his gaze from his lap. “She just wants to be queen. She couldn’t care less about me.”

“We’re running out of options, Jimin.”

He doesn’t respond. He doesn’t have an answer.

“You need to start taking this more seriously. This isn’t a game.” It sounds like the beginning of the same argument they have all the time.

“I don’t know what you want me to say, sir.” He cringes when his voice cracks at the end.

His father’s tone turns steely like he’s losing patience. That’s familiar, too. “I want you to tell me that you’re going to start making an actual effort.” He isn’t yelling, but his voice is strong enough to make Jimin feel like he is.

“I’m never going to love her!” He snaps. His voice rises out of his own accord. “I’m not ever going to love any of them. You know that. You’ve known that for years.”

The king looks like he’s holding himself back from arguing. He clenches and unclenches his fingers, curling them into tight fists before stretching the tendons out again. Jimin gulps. He shouldn’t have yelled. It echoed against the empty walls of the office, making him seem louder than he really was.

His father sets his mouth into a straight line. “Jimin—”

He’s saying it like he completely ignored what his son just said and Jimin panics. He can’t stay in this endless cycle forever.

“You know I will never love them,” he interrupts, calmer this time. “And I think you know why, dad.”

“Stop this nonsense,” his father commands.

“I’m not like you.” Jimin takes a deep breath. His father won’t look at him anymore. “I’m not like you, or mom, or Jihyunie, I— you can’t keep ignoring this. It won’t just go away.”

His father glares down at the papers on his desk. Jimin feels like there’s something stuck in his throat.

“You can’t ignore it forever,” he repeats. “I want— I want different things, I don’t want to—”

“Stop this nonsense! ” his father shouts. It’s the same words he muttered earlier but this time his voice is loud and booming and he’s finally looking at Jimin, staring him down with enough anger and irritation it almost makes the prince want to back down like he always does, but not this time.

Jimin shoots up out of his chair. “You don’t even— I shouldn’t even have to say it, dad, but you’ve been so clocked out of my life these past few years you can’t even look at me as your son anymore. You only see the crown on my head and not the actual person beneath it. I hate it!”

He probably looks like a toddler the way he’s clenching his fists and glaring at the king, but Jimin’s sick of submitting and letting down first whenever his father raises his voice or brushes him aside. He can’t do it anymore.

“Jimin, sit down. Let’s discuss this maturely,” his father demands in a bored tone. It infuriates him further.

“No,” he says. The king raises a brow at the direct disobedience as if he doesn’t actually believe Jimin’s serious. “You don’t even know me anymore. You think you do, but you don’t. And I know you’re busy running our country but God forbid you even realize your own son is unhappy. You know I was never cut out for this—”

Sit down, ” he orders in a deep, booming voice.

Jimin doesn’t. He keeps standing, keeps going. “I’m not going to marry a woman! You’ve known that for years but you keep ignoring it! It’s not gonna go away. It’s who I am, dad.” His voice turns a little desperate when he chokes up near the end. Jimin clenches his jaw and keeps the tears from falling. His father covers his face with his hands.
“Get out of my office,” he says tiredly. It doesn’t even sound like an order; it sounds like he’s simply given up. Given up on Jimin.

He doesn’t have the energy to argue. Jimin feels like all the anger from earlier has been drained out of him, leaving only bitter disappointment. His father won’t change. This’ll probably never change. He’s in a time loop, reliving the same day and same arguments over and over with no way to get out.

He can scream and kick all he wants but nothing will change.

He turns away from the king and strides towards the door. He pulls it open, muttering out a, “don’t expect me at dinner,” before letting the door slam behind him.

He doesn’t let the angry tears fall until he’s within the privacy of his bedroom, the four walls boxing him in acting as a safeguard against the rest of the world.

 

The original plan was to just head to the dance studios for a couple of hours and sneak back in after dark. That was the plan, at least until Jimin realized the studios are closed for the extended Christmas weekend. He knows his family will probably make him go to the church service this year again. He’s hardly religious, but it’ll be publicised if he skips out without a good excuse. He already faked sickness last year, so he’s accepted his fate of having to sit in an uncomfortable pew for hours on end, acting as if he’s listening to the sermon and ignoring the shutter of cameras around him.

Taehyung won’t be back until after Christmas, but Jimin doesn’t want to spend tonight alone. Call him clingy, fine, but Jimin’s tired after so many years of denying himself support and just locking himself in his room.

Jeongguk’s contact isn’t hard to find on his phone. It’s up near the top since he put his, along with all of their other friends, in the ‘favorites’ category. Jimin opens the contact and sits down on his bed, contemplating.

After a few moments, he clicks it.
Jeongguk doesn’t answer after five rings. Jimin hangs up in lieu of leaving a voicemail, but his phone starts ringing before he even puts down the phone. He can’t keep himself from smiling when he sees Jeongguk’s contact picture on the screen. He accepts the call and presses the phone to his ear.

“Hey,” he answers. His voice sounds breathless and he doesn’t even know why. He holds the phone against his cheek with both hands, dropping his weight back to lie down on his comforter.

“Hey,” Jeongguk greets. “Sorry I missed your call, I was doing dishes in the kitchen and my phone was in my bedroom.”

“It’s fine,” Jimin squeaks out, “no worries.” He clears his throat. “Yeah.”

A pause, then, “what’s up?”

Jimin rolls on his side, staring out his window that leads into the gardens. The oncoming winter has killed off most of the shrubbery outside, leaving barren branches that rattle in the win. It’s too warm in the heart of the city for snow to stick to the ground despite the multiple snowfalls they’ve received already.

It’s cold today. He’d have to put all of his outerwear back on before leaving. His coat, scarf, and hat had been thrown haphazardly onto his desk when he came in; his winter boots weren’t even properly placed on his shoe rack by the door. And suddenly Jimin has no motivation to leave the warm little shell of his room.

“Hey,” he murmurs into the receiver. “You wanna come over?”

 

(mood: Nothing - Bruno Major)

 

It should be a little alarming, how easy he can sneak people into the palace. Jimin hardly even has to guide him through the palace with how little guards are on duty. He hasn’t had a guard assigned to his bedroom door since he started college, instead having a singular guard placed at the entrance to the hallway that leads to his and Jihyun’s bedrooms. Even then, the young man on shift barely bats an eye at Jeongguk and Jimin coming in through the garden after he realizes who it is. Jimin sends the guard a greeting despite not recognizing him.

“Will you and your guest be attending dinner, Your Highness?” he asks as they pass by.

Jimin smiles and shakes his head, gesturing to the plastic bags in Jeongguk’s hands. “No, we’ll be eating in my room.”

The guard glances at Jeongguk but quickly drops his eyes. The dancer is bundled tightly in his winter coat with the hood pulled up and a scarf wrapped around his nose and mouth. Jimin doubts any of the staff would leak anything to the media, but Jeongguk insisted anyway.

( I’m not worried about palace staff, he told Jimin. But it’s freezing-balls out, Jimin-hyung, and I’d like to have kids one day. )

The guard nods. “Very well. Please call for me if you need anything, Your Highness. I’m on shift until midnight, then Minjun-ssi takes third shift.”

Jimin hums. “Thank you, I’ll keep it in mind. Have a nice night, drive home safely.”

The man nods and Jimin grabs Jeongguk’s wrist to drag him down the long hallway, feeling a little bad for not recognizing the guard. He’ll have to check the staff schedules later and check for his name.

“You’re sure you’re fine with this? You don’t have an early class or shift, right?” he asks as he leads them to his door.

Jeongguk snickers. “A little late to ask that. I’m already here.”

The blond spins around, eyes wide. Jeongguk snickers.

“I’m kidding. I don’t have anything until the afternoon. Don’t worry so much, Your Highness,” he teases. Jimin jabs at the arm not carrying their food. The younger snickers and pushes open Jimin’s bedroom door himself.

His bedroom is much larger than necessary. The room is the size of a school classroom back in his old high school. His bed sits against the wall to his left, his desk a couple of feet away. Bookshelves flank his desk, mostly filled with his textbooks and law encyclopedias. To the right of his room is a television and small sofa. He doesn’t watch TV much since it’s far too often to see either his own or his father’s face on the news, but he has Netflix connected so it’s Taehyung’s go-to for his weekend binge marathons. On either side of the seating area are doors: one leads to a walk-in closet and the other to the ensuite. There are small potted plants scattered throughout the room in varying states of health. It gets difficult to keep some of the plants alive during the winter, but Jimin tries his best.

“Wow,” Jeongguk comments as he walks in. Jimin had quickly cleaned before he showed up, but it’s hard to clean a place that’s hardly dirty since he’s rarely here anyway. 

Jeongguk shucks off his coat and scarf, leaving his boots near the shoe rack. Jimin follows. “Good wow or bad wow?” 

“Just ‘wow.’ Can I put this on the desk?” he asks, raising their dinner in gesture.

Jimin nods and swallows. He forces his feet to move and shuffles closer. “You can just move the books.” 

Jeongguk does so, pushing aside the textbooks to make enough room for the bag. He takes each container out, reading the receipt sticker at the top of each lid before handing one to Jimin along with a set of wooden chopsticks.

“You should buy a metal straw and set of chopsticks,” Jeongguk mutters as he pulls out his own food. “It’s better for the environment.”

Jimin nods, already digging into his noodles. They don’t speak much while eating, but Jeongguk sends him small glances every now and then. Jimin turns on the TV across the room and lets whatever Taehyung left it on to play just to fill the room with noise.

It turns out his beloved best friend had actually been watching pay-per-view porn last time the TV was turned on. Jimin gapes in disbelief. Jeongguk stares.

They both watch a dude rail a white girl into a sofa for a few seconds before Jimin scrambles for the remote and switches it off wordlessly. He redirects it back to Netflix, clicking on a random film. Jeongguk is silent during the opening credits, but sends him a questioning look.

“Taehyung,” he explains in a groan. Jeongguk nods and lets out a soft oh. Jimin sends a quick scathing text to the asshole, filled with more emojis than syllable blocks.

Once they finish their noodles, Jimin grabs the rest of the food Jeongguk bought and brings it to the sofa. His friend follows and drops his weight onto the couch next to him.

He reaches into the bag and pulls out a pack of gummies, ripping it open and letting it spill out onto his lap. Jeongguk regards him with a fond look.

He presses himself against Jimin’s side, foregoing the perfectly empty spot on the other side of the couch. Jimin allows it with a small smile. They squish together until their bodies meet from their shoulders to their thighs. Jeongguk picks up his feet to curl his legs up on the couch behind him, leaning more of his weight against Jimin.

He feels a weight drop onto his shoulder and turns to see Jeongguk searching his face, lips quirked in a subtle pout. “You wanna talk about it?” he whispers.

Jimin smiles, but shakes his head. “Nah,” he answers in a voice just as soft,” I’m kind of sick of thinking about it.”

“What do you need?”

Jimin turns back to the TV. Jeongguk had changed whatever Jimin picked earlier and put on the latest Spiderman movie. 

“Just you,” he murmurs.

Fingers creep over his lap and interlace with his own. Jimin hums in contentment and feeds Jeongguk gummies with his free hand. They don’t move for the entire movie, or the one after that. 

It’s only when the large hand on the clock starts turning toward twelve does Jeongguk move away, stretching his limbs out like a cat before settling back down.

“You want me to stay the night?” he asks, blinking sleepily and smacking his lips.

Jimin blinks up at him. “Could you?”

Jeongguk nods. “‘Course. Can I use your shower? And borrow some pajamas? Unless you want me to sleep naked.” He says it with a cheesy grin.

Jimin has to take a moment to blink at that, gulping. “Let me get you some clothes,” he grits out. Jeongguk whines when he gets up from the couch and tries to kick him, just coming up short.

“You’re so boring,” he complains. Jimin looks over his shoulder and sticks his tongue out playfully.

 

He has to give Jeongguk a run-down on how to use the shower. The other is too busy gawking at the large bathtub opposite of them.

“Is that a jacuzzi tub?” he asks, wonder in his voice.

Jimin hums, picking out towels for Jeongguk from the linen closet. “Yeah,” he responds, “but you’re not using it tonight. You’ll fall asleep in the tub and I can’t save your drowning ass if you lock the door.”

The younger smirks at him out of the corner of his eye. “You could always join me,” he flirts.

The prince jerks so suddenly he almost sends a long stack of towels and sheets tumbling onto his head. “Very cute,” he amends, trying to sound unimpressed. He hears Jeongguk’s socked feet pad across the tile floors towards him. Arms wrap around his chest a second later, pressing him against Jeongguk.

He shivers when he feels the other’s breath on his skin as Jeongguk tucks his head into Jimin’s neck. The arms pressed against his chest squeeze tighter.

“How many people fit in the tub, my prince?” Jeongguk’s voice comes out in a purr, and Jimin tenses. The younger noses against his neck in a teasing way, knowing it’s the cause for Jimin straightening his posture, trying to hold back from letting noises escape from his throat.

“Two,” he grits out. He feels something soft brush against the skin at the juncture of his shoulder and realizes it’s Jeongguk’s lips, not pressing down but skimming across the freckles there.

“Perfect, then.” Jimin feels his lips move with each syllable. He grips the towel he’s holding tightly. He’s about to dip his neck back—giving Jeongguk more room to do whatever the hell he wants, he doesn’t care—when Jimin comes to his senses. He slips out of Jeongguk’s hold easily, the younger letting him go.

He spins around and shoves the towel into Jeongguk’s arms. Heat rises to his face when he meets the other’s gaze. “Uh, I’m just gonna— I left the clothes on the counter. You can— Use whatever you want. In there. My soaps, I mean.”

Jeongguk looks down at him with a fond smile. “Alright, hyung.”

He nods again, awkwardly, before booking it out of the room. It takes ten minutes for his heart to calm down long enough to stop feeling like he needs to head to the ER.

Jimin flops onto his bed and takes a deep breath. “What the fuck,” he says to the ceiling.

When Jeongguk steps out of the bathroom, Jimin feigns sleep. He curls up on the left side of the bed, turned away from the bathroom door. He keeps his eyes closed and face neutral as Jeongguk’s footsteps draw closer. There’s nothing for a moment, then a small sigh. The covers are lifted up behind him and the bed bends as he lies down.

“Goodnight, hyung,” Jeongguk whispers in the dark. 

Jimin doesn’t answer, but he grips the comforter tighter and curls in on himself even more.



Although Jimin has slowly gotten used to having Jeongguk interrupt his practices, the last thing he expects is for the younger to walk in thirty minutes earlier than usual, throw his duffel bag into the corner of the studio without a glance, and turn to the prince only to say, “so, we need to talk about this underlying sexual tension we have between us.”

Jimin trips over his own feet as soon as the other says it, not catching himself fast enough to prevent himself smacking his ass against the studio floor when he tumbles. He lands with a loud thud and a grunt. Jeongguk watches him.

A moment of staring passes between them until Jimin realizes Jeongguk isn’t going to say anything else, so he squeaks out a, “come again?”

Jeongguk takes this as his cue to start. He makes a little huffing noise before striding towards Jimin and plopping down onto the hardwood floors in front of the prince. Jimin can’t help but notice that he criss-crosses his legs when he sits. He doesn’t think he’s sat like that since kindergarten.

“Hyung, sometimes I see you and it takes everything within me to keep myself from jumping you,” Jeongguk blurts out. Jimin’s jaw drops. “And honestly, it’s kind of really fucking unfair because not only are you hot as hell, you can be so fucking cute sometimes and you have such a great personality it makes me want to scream.”

Jimin repositions his body so he’s finally facing the younger. He tries to reply but nothing comes out of his mouth.

“And like, sometimes you look at me too, like that. Like you wanna fuckin’ pull me into a closet or something, I don’t know,” if he wasn’t so surprised, he thinks he would’ve been laughing at what a mess this confession is right now, “and I didn’t really plan this out. At all. I mean, I should’ve, but every time I did my stomach got all flippy and I realized it’s probably really dumb to write out exactly what you want to say when you’re asking someone out.” The more Jeongguk speaks, the redder his face gets, but Jimin can’t focus on anything right now. The words are slowly clicking together in his head. Wait, is Jeongguk actually—

“I know we wouldn’t be able to be public about it,” the younger continues, ducking his head down towards his feet. He fiddles with the short shoelaces on his sneakers. “And we still have the entire problem with your parents’ set-ups, but I want to try this. With you.” His head shoots up with wide eyes as if he’s shocked by his own boldness. “I mean, if that’s what you want. But uh, I really want to take you out. On a date. And continue to take you on them. For like, as long as we both mutually want.” A pause. “Um, hyung, you can close your mouth now.”

Jimin snaps his jaw closed with an audible click, but he parts his lips again a second later to state, “you want a relationship.”

Jeongguk nods so quickly the prince worries he’ll get whiplash. “Yeah. With you, preferably.”

“You want a relationship with me.”

His incessant stare makes Jeongguk squirm. “It shouldn’t be such a surprise, hyung,” he whines, looking as small as possible in the huge hoodie he has on. “I’ve been flirting with you for weeks.”

“Yeah,” he mutters passively, “but I didn’t think we’d actually get to this point.”

“That’s fair,” Jeongguk chokes out. “We did kind of take a while.”

Jimin curls his knees up and presses them against his chest, resting his chin on his kneecaps. He hums. His friend fidgets from where he sits a few centimeters away.

“I can’t just make a hasty decision like this,” he decides on saying, “and you can’t, either. This is a big deal. I can’t risk everything for something that isn’t serious, so if this is just gonna be a fling for you, we can’t do it.”

This makes the brunet straighten his posture like he was struck by lightning, blurting out, “i-it’s not!”
Jimin’s eyebrows draw together the slightest bit. “Are you sure?”

He nods. “Yeah. This’ll be— I’m in this for the long haul. If you’ll have me.”

That statement quirks the corners of his lips up. He turns his head away to hide the smile in his knees.

Jeongguk scoots forward and gently grabs his arm, tipping the prince against him. Jimin lets him do what he wants, not complaining about the manhandling. The younger repositions them until both of his legs are around Jimin and the prince is sat sideways in the space between his legs. Jeongguk plants his hands behind his hips and leans back to look at the other.

“So?” he asks in a soft, curious whisper that makes Jimin practically melt right then and there.

The prince stares at their tangled bodies in the studio mirror. He feels a bead of sweat rolling down the back of his neck and wonders why the hell Jeongguk would decide to do this when Jimin’s sweaty and probably in the need of a shower.

“I want to,” he admits quietly. “But it’s a big decision. We can’t rush into this, you know?” he turns back to look at Jeongguk, who’s nodding frantically. “It won’t be perfect. My problems aren’t going away anytime soon, I’ll still have to go on those dates, and my family won’t support us.”

He’s grateful Jeongguk doesn’t interrupt him with a you don’t know that because the harsh truth is obvious. His family may love him but they’d never support him dating Jeongguk.

Instead, though, he says, “you’re already talking about us like you’ve decided.”

This brings a rush of heat to Jimin’s face when he realizes he’d been talking about their hypothetical relationship in a not-so hypothetical tense. “Yeah, well,” he starts, but after a couple of mumbled ramblings he gives up. Jeongguk snickers and the prince holds himself back from punching him since he doubts that’s proper etiquette for receiving a confession. Neither is sitting in between the guy’s legs in the middle of a dance studio, sweaty and exhausted, but it’s not like they have a track record of conventional experiences with each other.

“Can I think about it?” he asks, meeting Jeongguk’s eyes. He bites his lip for extra measure and revels in the way dark eyes dart down to follow the movement. Jeongguk clears his throat, not moving his gaze until he finally speaks.

“Of course,” he answers. “Take all the time you need, hyung. I’m not going anywhere.”

If he thought the butterflies were bad before, they’re practically curling his stomach now. Jimin can’t keep the grin from appearing, but doesn’t feel too bad about it since Jeongguk is smiling at him like a fool as well.

It’s only later, when they’re both walking out of the studio towards Jeongguk’s car does Jeongguk say, “my place?” as if it’s a question that needs to be asked. They’re already making their way to the vehicle together without being asked.

(Jimin has long since told his driver to not expect him to call after studio time. The man doesn’t ask questions, thank God, because Jimin’s not sure how he’d explain how he’s getting rides home with someone that’s definitely not Seokjin or Taehyung and also definitely the same dude Jimin has shown up in pictures with on the home page of Naver a couple of times, too.)

He nods. They don’t have to walk far in the cold to get to the old, beat-up car. Jimin tries to pull himself together before he does something dumb like reaching for Jeongguk’s hand in the darkness. 

“You’re not going home for Christmas?” Jimin asks, voice muffled into his scarf. Jeongguk walks close enough for their arms to brush with each movement. They probably look pretty silly, all bundled up with their shoulders to their ears, but it’s almost midnight and in the single digits. The wind doesn’t make it any better, burning his skin wherever it’s exposed.

Jeongguk shakes his head and pulls out his keys to unlock the car. As soon as it beeps Jimin gets in, cupping his hands together and exhaling hot air into them. 

“Nah,” he finally answers verbally. “My mom wanted me to, but I went back and forth on it for too long and by the time I decided the tickets down were all sold out.”

Jimin frowns. “I’m sorry, Gguk.”

He waves him off. “No big deal. My family isn’t that religious anymore, anyway. After my grandma passed away it sort of seemed like everyone stopped faking it for her sake.”

He wonders if this is the same grandmother who shunned Jeongguk for dating a boy in middle school. He doesn’t ask. Jeongguk turns on Christmas music on the radio and sings along even though he doesn’t know most of the English lyrics. 

Jimin doesn’t lean his head against the window like he always does, but he does curl up in the seat, tucking his feet under him. He watches Jeongguk sing along, who every now and then reaches over to push Jimin’s bangs back or curl his frigid fingers around the prince’s neck. He flinches but doesn’t pull away, muttering, “pay attention to the road,” in a low voice.

Jeongguk laughs at this but doesn’t stop touching him. He drops his hand down to Jimin’s knee, resting his palm and warming Jimin’s skin through the denim. 

He doesn’t have the heart in him to tell the younger to move, so he doesn’t. The hand stays there for the entire drive back.

In the early morning on the day before Christmas Eve, Jimin catches Hoseok outside his apartment on his way to work.

The man doesn’t really look like he’s a morning person judging by the way he squints at Jimin in the hallway. He’s bundled up in an assortment of winter wear that’s probably too drastic for the warmer-than-usual temperature today (which means a total of nine degrees, ten if they’re lucky and the sun comes out for a while.) Although his hyung moved to Seoul some four or so years ago, Jimin guesses he never truly adapted from the mild winters of Gwangju.

Hoseok raises an eyebrow when he closes the front door to his and Jeongguk’s shared apartment. Jimin’s surprised he didn’t jump at the sight of him, sitting on his heels against the hallway wall, but he supposes the guy is simply too tired to be as jumpy as he usually is. 

“What are you doing here, Chim?” He pulls out his phone and squints at the bright screen. He grumbles and shoves it back in his pocket. “Iss’like, five in the morning.”

Jimin nods. He knows Hoseok works two part-time jobs in between studying for his graduate degree in kinesiology, one being a barista at Starbucks and the other—unfortunate for Hoseok but hilarious for his friends—being one of Santa’s little helpers at the Lotte shopping department off of campus. Yoongi coos every time he sees Hoseok in his uniform, squishing his cheeks mockingly like an old grandma and telling him his ears are perfect for the role. This usually results in a loud smacking sound echoing through whoever’s apartment they’re in at the time, followed by Yoongi’s screeches and fake sobs.

He also knows that this is probably the only time he can catch Hoseok today because the dancer had complained on their group chat about having a shift at Starbucks at ‘asscrack-of-dawn in the morning,’ as Hoseok likes to call it, then another shift at the mall. He’ll be back at around four in the afternoon, maybe early evening, but by then he’ll be exhausted and crabby and only Jeongguk, Namjoon, and Yoongi can handle him in that state.

Plus, Jeongguk will be home then, which kind of takes away the entire point Jimin wants to talk to Hoseok for.

“I need to talk to you about something,” Jimin explains.

Hoseok huffs out an annoyed sigh and turns around to lock his door. “I got work at quarter ‘til, Jimin. I don’t have time for this.”

“I know,” Jimin assures him with raised hands even though his hyung still faces away from him, “I’ll buy you breakfast and we can talk while you drive. You won’t be late, I promise.”

Hoseok turns his head over his shoulder with a suspicious glare. “What did you do?”

He jolts up. “I didn’t do anything!”

“You sound guilty enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re about to tell me you got Jeonggukie pregnant,” he accuses.

Jimin lowers his arms in disbelief. “What the fuck?”

His hyung snorts at him and steps away from the door. “I want coffee and three bagels from the place down the street,” he says, walking down the corridor. Jimin hurries to follow. “One cinnamon, one parmesan, and the other blueberry. Coffee with cream and no sugar, and those bagels better come with cream cheese. Then we can talk about your boy problems.” He stops in front of the elevator and gives Jimin an expectant look. The prince stares with a slightly-dropped jaw. “Well?”

The younger swallows. All he can think of to say is, “how do you know I want to talk about Jeongguk?”

Hoseok snorts and steps into the elevator, shaking his head like Jimin’s being ridiculous. The prince follows, less amused. “Because you just told me.” He pulls his knitted hat off his head to push back his bangs and neatly retucking it back on. Both of his ears poke out, folded under the garment. “And,” he adds as an afterthought, “what the hell else would you find me at five in the morning to get advice for? You two practically have gravitational orbits with how much you revolve around one another. It’s not hard to guess.”

After a few seconds without a response, he turns to Jimin with an expectant look. The prince stares at him in awe.

“Hyung, you’re so cool.”

 

Thirty minutes later has him sitting in the passenger seat of Hoseok’s car as his hyung drives down the freeway, one hand on the wheel and the other holding a bagel close to his mouth. He takes long sips of his coffee in between each bagel. Jimin’s amazed at how fast he scarfs them down, because he swears they’ve only been on the road for ten minutes but Hoseok’s already just about done with his second bagel.

He quietly munches on his own until Hoseok crumples up the wrapper of his second bagel and throws it in the backseat, bringing his coffee to his lips and saying, “alright, fill me in.”

Jimin takes a deep breath and Hoseok starts laughing at him before he can even start. The prince pouts and glares at him.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry, go ahead,” the man allows. He’s grinning like a maniac at the uncrowded road ahead of them. Jimin is amazed how his personality changes so quickly after being fed and caffeinated. 

He takes another bite of his bagel, thinking of where to start. “I like Jeongguk,” he decides to say. Hoseok snorts as if he knew that already. Jimin doesn’t think he fully gets the point. “Like, like -like him. Like, wanting to crawl up his—”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Hoseok interrupts with a raise of his hand and a scrunched-up face. “I get it. You’re into the dude. Everyone knows that.”

“He likes me back,” Jimin adds. Hoseok nods again but the younger isn’t surprised at this. He expected him to know something about it, considering he’s Jeongguk’s best friend. “He uh...he asked me out. Yesterday. Did a whole confession and everything about how much he wants to jump me at any given point of the day.”

Hoseok snorts so suddenly he spits up some of his coffee, laughing. He takes a minute where he opens his mouth to reply but ends up cutting himself off with more laughter. After a point Jimin joins in too, giggling in disbelief of the situation.

His hyung finally gets a hold of himself to respond. “Well,” he lets out a shaky breath as if he’s still holding in laughter, “love that. Sounds very Jeongguk-esque. Not surprised at all. How’d it go? Not that great, I’m guessing, since you two acted pretty normal last night.”

Jimin scratches his cheek. “I mean, it wasn’t that bad. I was just kind of caught off guard by it. I still haven’t really thought it over, so I asked him to give me time to think about it.”

“And you came to me,” Hoseok finishes like he can’t believe it. His eyebrows are drawn together but he doesn’t take his eyes away from the road. He takes another long swig of his coffee. “You realize no matter what I’m gonna say, it’s all gonna be biased, right? I’m his best friend. Of course I want him to end up with the dude he’s head-over-heels with.”

Jimin feels heat rise to his cheeks at his hyung’s wording. “Uh, yeah. That’s actually why I wanted to talk to you the most, though. You’ve known Jeongguk for most of your life. I’d think you’d care more about his long-term happiness than short-term.”

Hoseok finally glances over at him. “You’re asking me if I think you two would last?”

The prince squirms in his seat. Confrontation was never his strong suit, another reason why he sucks so bad at being prince. “Yeah.”

He turns back to the road with a hum, drinking the rest of his coffee until he’s all out. He gets started on his last bagel, too, and doesn’t say anything until he’s already taken a couple bites of it. 

“I think you’ve already considered all of the things that can go wrong on your side,” he says carefully, “being outed, your royal status, the media. Jeongguk could get stalked and targeted if they don’t take it well when your relationship is eventually leaked, and—” he points a finger at Jimin, “— don’t act like it won’t. We both know it will. It’d be a fuckin’ ticking time bomb waiting to explode.”

The younger sighs and nods. Hoseok is right, there’s no point in arguing.

“But you need to think about things on Jeongguk’s side as well. There’s benefits and disadvantages, but at least there’s considerably less things that can make it go to shit.” He laughs at this like it’s funny but cuts off once he sees Jimin shifting uncomfortably in the cushioned seat. “What I’m saying is— JK comes from a good family. His parents are great, his hyung and them support everything he does. He’s got a good support system, and they’d probably love you and take you in immediately. I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t. They did the same to me and the other guys whenever we went down to visit for Chuseok or New Year’s. 

“And this isn’t— this isn’t really my business to tell you, but Yoongi isn’t as lucky. His parents don’t support his studies and would probably disown him completely if he decided to come out to them. But the Jeons just...they took him in immediately. Yoongi goes down there every holiday with Jeongguk now because the kid doesn’t want him to spend them alone.

“The point of what I’m saying is...if you’re worried about being alone, if you decide to go for it...his family would be yours. No matter what happens with your blood family, the Jeons will take you in. And you have us, too.”

The last part shouldn’t be a surprise, but it makes Jimin relax in his seat. Despite the ever-present worry of how his family and the outside world would react to his relationship with Jeongguk, there’s always a small nagging in the back of his mind that reminds him of his friends. He knows he would still have Seokjin and Taehyung, and doubts Namjoon or Yoongi would react harshly as well, but he isn’t so sure about the others. People like Kai, Taemin, Sungwoon...it hurts to have to doubt his own friends, but Jimin isn’t sure how they’d react to something like that. Knowing for sure he wouldn’t lose the others at least puts his mind at ease for a bit.

“Thanks, hyung,” he whispers into the silence of the car. Hoseok puts his coffee down to reach across the console and grip Jimin’s hand tightly.

“I know it’s weird and uncomfortable to have to think so far into the future for a relationship that hasn’t even started yet,” he murmurs. “But if you’re gonna risk it all, you need to be serious about him.”

Hoseok’s right; it’s weird as hell to think about. Jimin feels like he’s getting too far ahead of himself to imagine having a future with Jeongguk but that’s exactly what he has to do. He can only try this if he knows they’re both serious, ready for a future together even though it’s practically shooting in the dark.

“I want to say I am,” he replies hesitantly. “I’ve never...wanted to try this hard for a person. I’ve never considered losing everything for someone, until Jeongguk.”

The hand squeezes his palm again before letting go. “That’s good,” Hoseok soothes him. “Be confident about it. I’m not saying you have to confess your love or whatever, but maybe tell him that. He might seem all bold and brave right now, but he’s freaking out just as much as you are. He’d fair well if you laid it down and told him you’re serious too.”

The blond nods at this, chewing the rest of his bagel slowly to avoid having to say anything else. His hyung takes this as a sign to continue.

“Jeongguk is— he’s like a dog, basically. That sounds bad but it’s who he is. He’s usually shy around strangers but once he decides you’re his person, it’s all over. He’s insanely loyal and can’t hold a grudge against you for the life of him even though he’s stubborn in all other cases. Once he’s comfortable, there’s no getting rid of him.” Hoseok pauses to smile. “I know you like to be really careful about things, but...Jeongguk is security. He really likes you, he’s not going anywhere. I know he’s probably already told you that but I just wanted to make sure you really get it. You can let yourself go with him. He’s younger, but he’ll take care of you just as much as you take care of him.”

He looks like he’s about to say something else, but quiet sniffles coming from the passenger seat cut him off. He looks over and laughs in disbelief.

“Are you— are you crying? Jimin, don’t cry! Wait, I didn’t mean for you to cry!” he whines through his laughter. He reaches over to pinch Jimin’s cheeks but the prince swats him away, scowling behind his wet eyes.

“Quit laughing at me!” he gripes. “You say all this nice shit, you can’t tease me when I start to cry!”

Hoseok coos at him and worms his hand over to finally pinch his cheeks. The younger huffs and takes it.

“I didn’t mean to make you cry,” his hyung repeats. “Just know that you don’t have to worry about him leaving you. He won’t. You complement each other perfectly and I haven’t ever seen him into someone so much.”

The prince huffs and wipes at his face with the sleeves of his jacket. “Okay,” he pouts.

“You two have my blessing.”

“Okay.”

Another squeeze to his hand. “Do you know what you’re gonna do?”

Jimin sighs. “Do you ever feel like your heart is saying one thing but your head is saying the complete opposite?”

The man smiles like he knows exactly what Jimin feels like. “Yeah,” is all he answers.

“What do you— which one should I listen to?”

Hoseok takes a deep breath, quirking his lips in thought. He reaches for his third bagel and hands it to Jimin to unwrap it.

“It’s different in every situation,” is what he says.

“Like you and Yoongi-hyung?”

He expects Hoseok to stiffen at this like their hyung does every time they bring it up, but instead his body sags and he nods. “Yeah.”

“How come...why aren’t you two together?”

“We’ve talked about it,” Hoseok admits, “a couple of times. But he’s not ready. I’m probably not ready, either. We’re both mature enough to know that it’s better to wait since it’ll make us happier in the future, if we still want to try it out.”

“That’s kind of sad.”

He shrugs. “Not really. It’s not like we’re missing our chance or anything. My feelings for him aren’t going away anytime soon.”

This is the first time Jimin’s heard him talk so openly about the unspoken situation between him and Yoongi. Their group avoids the discussion since everyone gets awkward and fidgety whenever it’s brought up.

After a pause, Hoseok adds, “you and Jeongguk aren’t like that, though. I’m not telling you about me and hyung to make you freak out and wait for a better time for you and Gguk. There won’t be. Me and hyung have an open future together; we can wait for as long as we want. But you and Gguk-ah...you don’t know what’s gonna happen. My advice is to take this chance as it comes, because it might not happen again.”

Jimin nods slowly. It’s quiet in the car again. Hoseok must be finished talking. He pulls off the freeway and onto an exit.

It’s only when they arrive at the Starbucks does Jimin say, “I’m sorry about you and Yoongi-hyung.”

Hoseok looks at him and smiles gratefully. “Thank you, but don’t be. We’re still happy. We could just be best friends for the rest of our lives and I’d still be thankful for having him by my side. It’ll happen when it’s meant to be.”

He didn’t know his hyung was such a big believer in fate, but it honestly isn’t that surprising when he considers Hoseok influenced Jeongguk as he grew up. It’s easy to see their similarities when he looks hard enough. 

“Thanks, hyung,” he whispers. “For the advice.”

The brunet smiles hard enough for his dimples to come out in full view. “Don’t thank me, just make me best man in your guys’ wedding and all will be forgiven,” he says confidently. Jimin scoffs and shoves him, getting out of the car.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, hyung,” he tells him, but he can’t keep the smile off his face, either.

 

That night Jimin finds his legs moving themselves to his little brother’s room on their own volition. After Hoseok’s talk this morning he hadn’t been planning on doing anything else than going home and spending the rest of his day hiding in his bedroom. He wouldn’t have to make any public appearances until tomorrow, when his family will drag him to the publicised midnight sermons. Until then, he technically has no obligations to talk to anyone other than the palace staff who check in on him from time to time. Jimin eats separately from his family and is grateful that his father didn’t send anyone after him. He hasn’t seen the king since their fight a couple of days ago. He doubts his father will want to talk to him for some time, but Jimin doesn’t mind. He’d rather not speak with the man either.

He goes to the kitchens for dinner, helps Simyeong and Yiyeon cook a small, separate dinner just for the three of them and eats while they fill him in on palace gossip that he can hardly keep track of. 

He doesn’t know what gets into him that pulls his feet past his own bedroom door and towards his brother’s. It’s not like he hasn’t seen Jihyun in a while; he ran into his younger brother last night after coming back from Jeongguk’s apartment in the middle of the night. He could probably get by with going to bed early since he didn’t get more than two hours of sleep last night, but the urge to speak to his little brother has him knocking on his bedroom door at eight o’clock.

Jihyun pulls it open. A quick glance at his room shows he was in the middle of a gaming marathon; Jimin has never been too big on video games, but Jihyun enjoys them and plays whenever he had the chance. His brother’s hair is wild from wearing headphones for so long. Jimin wonders if he didn’t show up to dinner, either.

“Hey, what’s up?” he lets Jimin into the bedroom before waiting for the answer. He follows his younger brother to the beanbags placed in front of his TV.

Jihyun’s bedroom has the same layout as Jimins, but he went a whole different route with decorating it. It’s the only place Jimin can see that Jihyun’s just a normal college student, if he ignores the closet filled with formal designer outfits and an entire dresser full of crown jewelry. Posters of his favorite sports teams and bands are hung on the wall near the TV, which is placed on top of a long cupboard that Jimin knows is filled with video game CDs. The beanbags are evidence enough that his brother manages to act his age sometimes, even though there have been times where Jimin truly wonders which of them is the hyung.

“Nothing really, just checking in on you,” Jimin mumbles. The younger sends him a suspicious look but doesn’t say anything about it.

“Alright,” Jihyun drags out. “Did you and dad fight again? He wouldn’t tell me where you were during dinner today or yesterday.”

Jimin sighs and drops his ass into a beanbag. It lets out a sad wheeze under his weight. “Yeah.”

“What about this time?”

“Same thing as always.”

Jihyun hums in understanding. He doesn’t have the same pressure as Jimin does to find a wife so quickly, since he isn’t first in line to the throne. But even if he did, it wouldn’t be the same. He’s been dating his girlfriend from high school for four years now. Her name is Yoojeong and she comes from an elite military family. She’s just about finished with a degree in political science. Their parents love her. Jimin might be a little bitter.

He’s thankful Jihyun has never really taken sides during the spats between Jimin and their parents. He certainly has never pressured Jimin to just stop fighting and date one of the elites their parents pick out for him. They’ve never discussed it verbally, but sometimes it feels like his sibling sympathizes with him.

“Jihyunie,” Jimin starts, a sudden idea in his head. “If— if Yoojeong’s family ran a noodle restaurant instead of a military base, would you still love her?”

The younger prince stares at him like he grew a second head. “Excuse me?” he asks, looking away from the TV where he had resumed his game.

“Like, if she wasn’t high-up...in social status. Like, what if you just met her during college, would you still love her?”

Jihyun stares at him for a moment and sighs and pauses his game like he knows this conversation is going to be too distracting to multitask with. “Uh, I don’t know, I probably wouldn’t have even met her. If her family wasn’t high status, she wouldn’t have gone to our high school.”

Jimin bites his lip. His metaphor isn’t going to really take this anywhere. “Yeah,” he mutters.

Jihyun scratches the back of his head. “Like, are you saying if her family’s reputation went under? Would I still love her?”

That’s absolutely not even close to what Jimin was talking about, but it’s near enough, so he nods. “Yeah.”

“I mean, it wouldn’t be immediate. I think mom and dad would at least try to get the media to downplay it as much as possible so I could still be with her.”

Nevermind. This is going the exact opposite direction that Jimin wants, because he knows for damn sure that his parents will never support him and Jeongguk. He asked the question to see if Jihyun would still stick by his side, or at least not ostracize him like his parents, but it’s hard to describe without saying the situation outright. He can’t tell Jihyun about Jeongguk, that’s for sure.

“I guess,” he goes with, even though he has no idea how he’s supposed to respond. “Like. Okay, if Yoojeong wasn’t even in the picture—”

“But she is in the picture.”

“I know, but what if she wasn’t —”

“I don’t like this scenario.”

Jimin huffs and leans back, letting the beanbug surround him on all sides. “You’re impossible,” he grumbles, crossing his arms. Jihyun cackles at him. That brat knows he’s being difficult.

“Why do you keep trying to remove Yoojeongie from the picture?” Jihyun asks. His face suddenly pales. “Did dad say something? Is she not good enough? Is that why you got in a fight—”

Jimin throws his hands up, eyes wide. “No! No, Yoojeong is fine! Mom and dad love her, don’t worry. They’re not gonna set you up with someone.”

His little brother lets out a fast exhale before reaching forward and jabbing Jimin in the ribs. “Fuck you, you scared the shit out of me!” He flops back onto his beanbag, sighing deeply. “God, whatever you wanna say, just say it. Quit going in circles.”

He can’t exactly do that, though, because what he wants to do is so stupid he just knows that Jihyun would immediately go to their parents. Jimin can’t really blame him. 

So instead of telling the truth, he blurts out, “you want me happy, right?”

His brother pauses at that. He searches Jimin’s face for any signs of a joke but finds none. “What?”

“You want me happy?”

He still looks confused. “Of course, hyung. What—”

“I want to do something,” Jimin speaks over him, “and it’s because it’ll make me happy. But I don’t think mom and dad will like it.”

“Are you getting a tattoo or something?”

Jimin almost snorts. He forgot that no one but a few of his friends know about his tattoo. He’d gotten it one night after months of going back and forth before Seokjin swatted his head and told him to just get on with it. It’s kind of sad that the worst thing that comes to Jihyun’s mind is Jimin getting a tattoo, since what he’s about to ( wants to , a voice reminds him, because Jimin hasn’t decided yet, it’d be dumb to decide such a rash action so quickly) do is way worse than that.

“No,” he answers. “No, I’m not getting a tattoo. It’s bigger than that.” The last part is said in a whisper, but his brother still hears it. His eyebrows raise even though Jimin knows for sure his mind isn’t going in the right direction.

Jihyun leans forward over his knees and whispers, “are you running away?”

“What? No, of course not. I’m not running away, Hyunie.”

His baby brother looks relieved at this. He sags his shoulders. “Thank god,” he mumbles. 

“Hey,” Jimin catches his attention and scooches his beanbag a little closer. “You think I want to run away?”

The younger shrugs, embarrassed. “I mean, I know you don’t like this ,” he gestures around the entire room as if that makes sense. “You never did. You’re always happier when you go hang out with your college friends. You keep running away to the dance studio whenever mom and dad want to talk about things like your coronation or anything related to politics and the country. I just thought...I thought you were gonna leave, or something.”

Jimin frowns. “Hyun, that never even came to mind. Don’t worry. I’m not bailing.”

His brother seems uncomfortable with the emotional talk because he squirms and shifts his body away from Jimin. “Whatever. It’s just— nothing could be worse than that, so anything in comparison is nothing. Do what makes you happy.”

He smiles. “Are you sure? I might quote you on that.”

Jihyun scoffs and turns his game back on, rendering the conversation over. “God, if you come home one night with a nose ring and quote me to mom and dad, I’ll fucking throttle you.”

Jimin snorts and stands up from the beanbag, stretching his back and raising his fists to the ceiling. “Fair enough,” he yawns. “Cool. I’m gonna head to bed, then.”

“Alright, hyung,” Jihyun answers, eyes still trained to the TV screen. Jimin’s halfway to the door when he calls his name again.

“Yeah?”

His brother still isn’t looking at him, but there’s a wrinkle in between his eyebrows. “You didn’t, like, get a girl pregnant or anything, right? ‘Cuz I’m sorry, but there’s no way I can save you from mom’s wrath if that’s what happened.”

This actually pulls a laugh out of Jimin’s chest. Getting a girl pregnant is the absolute last of his worries but it’s not like Jihyun knows that. “No, I didn’t get anyone pregnant. Don’t worry.”

The younger shrugs like it was a fair question. “Just checking,” he chirps. “‘Night.”

“Goodnight,” Jimin bids, pulling the door closed behind him. He lets out a deep breath as he stares out the floor-to-wall windows opposite to him. The trees in the garden shake with each gust of wind. There might even be snow tonight. Jimin can’t remember the last time he experienced a white Christmas. Maybe never.

He wants to call Jeongguk right now. He knows he told himself he wouldn’t make a hasty decision, but it’s obvious his mind is already made up. He doesn’t need to think about it longer, but tomorrow he’ll be busy with royal duties so he really can’t be out until three in the morning again. 

Tomorrow he’s busy, but on Christmas, he can get away.

It’s warm in the hallway but when Jimin inhales it feels like he’s in the middle of the gardens, breathing in the cold air.

On Christmas, he’ll do it.

 

Recipient: Jeonggukie
Sender: Me
24 DEC, 11:03AM

Jeonggukie
happy almost christmas!

Me
you aren’t even religious

Jeonggukie
happy commercial, capitalist holiday!

Me
wow, hanging out with yoongi a lot?

Jeonggukie
perhaps
he doesn’t go down to daegu a lot
when does tae come back?

Me
he’ll be back in time for the new years eve party

Jeonggukie
youll be able to make it???

Me
yeah

Jeonggukie
:) :) :) :)

Me
now now don’t sound TOO excited

Jeonggukie
ꓷ: ꓷ: ꓷ: ꓷ:

Me
wait how did you flip the letter D like that
Jeongguk

 

Recipient: Jeonggukie
Sender: Me
24 DEC, 4:09PM

Me
hey

Jeonggukie
hello again
did you miss me that much?

Me
yeah
anyways
you’re not doing anything tomorrow right

Jeonggukie
fortunately no
my boss gave me the day off
and the studios are closed, so

Me
i have to do this televised midnight church thing tonight
basically have people film my family listening to a sermon or whatever
can i come to your place after?

Jeonggukie
you know, one day we’ll actually meet up at a regular time like normal adults

Me
i literally ate dinner with you more than my family in the month of november alone

Jeonggukie
checkmate, ok,
yes you can come over. want to go for a drive or a night in?

Me
drive plz

Jeonggukie
i can pick u up at the church? or a couple blocks from it? that way ur driver can get home to his family in case he celebrates christmas?

Me
you’re such a sweetheart it makes me sick

Jeonggukie
is that a yes?

Me
...yes

 

Recipient: Jeonggukie
Sender: Me
24 DEC, 8:23PM

Jeonggukie
Just woke up from my nap
Ate dinner
And turned on the tv to find THIS hotshot
[image attached: jimingoodchurchboy.png]

Me
...did you just take a picture of me on the tv and zoom in on my ass

Jeonggukie
gasp
what are you doing texting me while at church
[image attached: jiminbadchurchboy.png]

Me
quit sending me screenshots of my own ass!

Jeonggukie
it’s not my fault you’re standing!
why are you standing btw
shouldnt u be in the pews

Me
we were sharing the bread n wine

Jeonggukie
shit yall get lit at church??? might just have to go next time

Me
pretty sure its grape juice but
if i get caught on my phone its on your ass

Jeonggukie
pretty sure its on yours, shelf booty

Me
that wasnt even funny

Jeonggukie
irregardless
remember that kim kardashian photo that went viral? Of her on a magazine and she had a champagne bottle on her ass and the cork spray went up over her and into a wine glass she was holding
can we retry that but with you
i think the general korean population would enjoy it

Me
im not even that THICK

 

Recipient: Jeonggukie
Sender: Me
24 DEC, 10:05PM

Jeonggukie
your highness, please tell me why you are laughing down at your crotch in the middle of a church service on the day of our lord

Me
shut the fuck up, you’re the one that sent me a tiktok compilation

Jeonggukie
Why do they call it ‘midnight church service’ if it’s not even at midnight

Me
They have one that goes at midnight but the earlier one is safer and has less people, less safety hazards
also the service ends in fifteen minutes and its halfway across town so you better book it

Jeonggukie
shit
address?

Me
[address attached]

 

Jimin jerks the car door open so fast he feels like he almost rips his shoulder out of its socket. Jeongguk’s giggling as he launches himself into the passenger seat, cursing out, “go, you asshole, step on it!”

And Jeongguk, the brat, refuses to shift gears until Jimin puts his seatbelt on. The prince glares at him the entire time, not taking his eyes off the younger as he blindly reaches for the belt, pulls it over his chest, and clicks it into the buckle.

“Move your car,” he orders, annoyed, “or we will have a horde of reporters and bodyguards raining down on us in mere minutes when they realize I did not get into the same van as my brother.”

Jeongguk laughs at this but does as he’s told. The car shifts into drive with a slight groan and he’s zipping down the street in no time.

They ended up not having a white Christmas, but Jimin doesn’t mind. He wouldn’t be able to do this with Jeongguk if the roads were bad. The younger starts heading out of the downtown area without being asked. 

“Are you gonna let someone know you’re not dead and haven’t been kidnapped?” Jeongguk asks him. 

“Yeah, I texted my brother while running here. Told him I’m heading to Seokjin’s.” He looks around outside. “Why are we going into Yongsan?”

Jeongguk shrugs. “We always drive around north of the river,” he explains. “Felt like changing it up.”

“Don’t take us to Gangnam,” Jimin notes.

The brunet scoffs. “Obviously. Turn on some Christmas music.”

Jimin leans forward to turn on the radio, fiddling with the channels until he can find a radio playing Christmas music. He stops at a station and a slow, melodic harp starts playing through the car speakers. A woman sings in english in a long, drawn out way.

 

(mood: The Secret of Christmas - Ella Fitzgerald)

 

Jeongguk says quietly, “this song sounds kind of sad.”

Jimin hums, but doesn’t change it. The song plays on. The city passes by in a blur through the windows as Jeongguk pulls onto the freeway. He expected more traffic, but the roads have less cars on them than he expected. People are probably already at home with their families. Jimin imagines his parents, coming home and seeing Jimin absent once again. He feels guilty for a moment before remembering his fight with his father.

He doesn’t want to think about it.

Jeongguk reaches over to grab his wrist gently. “Are you alright?” he asks in a soft voice. 

They follow the small trail of cars onto a bridge, passing over the Han river. The river is dark. Clouds cover any moonlight that would reflect off the water, leaving only the streetlights to shine on the car.

“No,” he admits. He takes a deep breath and twists his arm around so he can tangle his fingers with Jeongguk’s. The younger glances at him before turning back to the road. He gives a reassuring squeeze to the prince.

“You wanna talk about it?” he offers.

Jimin doesn’t, but he knows that won’t get them anywhere. “I’m tired, Jeongguk,” he whispers.

Jeongguk looks to him again with concern lacing his expression. “I can take you home. Or to my place. Wherever you want.”

He smiles at the younger, soft and open. The song plays slowly, like a lullaby. “No, I didn’t mean it like that,” his voice is soft, barely audible over the music. “I’m tired of faking everything.”

Fingers retighten around his. Jimin squeezes back just as hard.

“I’m sick of faking who I am,” he continues in a quiet murmur. “I act like everything’s fine, because this is what everyone wants for me. They want me to be a good prince, study subjects I hate, marry a woman I can hardly stand, and become king without a complaint.”

Jeongguk rubs his thumb along Jimin’s. “I don’t want that for you, hyung.”

This is why Jimin’s falling for him. Jeongguk never asks anything of him. He doesn’t expect Jimin to be a perfect prince or to sacrifice everything for his nation. He doesn’t take, take, take; he won’t hate Jimin if Jimin decides to be selfish, for once.

Jimin wants to be selfish.

“I know,” he tells him. Hoseok said something about trying to imagine the rest of his future with Jeongguk. Jimin doesn’t know where the hell his future is going, especially if he decides to add the younger into the picture. It could completely change by tomorrow, but he thinks he can face it if Jeongguk is there. “I know you don’t, Jeongguk.”

“No matter what happens, I’ll stay by your side,” Jeongguk promises in the quiet night. They’re in some neighborhood now that Jimin doesn’t even remember entering. “If one day you just...just decide to stop pretending, I’ll be there for you. I won’t leave.”

 

(mood: Easily - Bruno Major)

 

The light ahead changes to red. Jeongguk slowly brakes. Jimin feels his eyes stinging. He doesn’t know why he’s feeling emotional all of a sudden. He wants to wipe at his eyes with his sleeve but one is tucked snugly into his coat pocket and the other is tightly clasped in Jeongguk’s.

He always thought the confession scenes in those stupid romance movies Jeongguk makes him watch were unrealistic. He didn’t think it was possible for someone to love someone so much that they could just announce it to the entire world without shame, didn’t think it was possible to promise such vows and stick by them without a doubt in the world.

This feels like one of those scenes, but this is real. And Jimin doesn’t think Jeongguk is lying at all. There isn’t a hint of dishonesty in his voice, and now that they’re stopped Jimin can look into his eyes and see he’s being completely honest, completely vulnerable in front of Jimin.

Before he became king, Jimin’s father read him bedtime stories about people being meant to be and falling in love. He hasn’t thought of those stories in years, now. Almost forgot them.

His dad told Jimin that just because him and his mother were meant to be, didn’t make it easy. He still had to fight to let Jimin’s grandmother allow the marriage, allow them to be together.

Loving Jeongguk won’t come easily, but Jimin still wants to try.

The younger looks away with a slight blush raising on his face. He glances to the clock on the dashboard. “Hey,” he murmurs, nodding towards the clock. Jimin follows his gaze. 11:11 glows on the screen. “Make a wish,” Jeongguk tells him, lifting his eyes to the prince’s.

Without hesitating, Jimin leans forward and kisses him.

It’s hardly anything. He stretches over the console, hands still together in between them, and holds his lips against Jeongguk’s for mere seconds before pulling back. By the time Jeongguk gets enough sense to kiss back, Jimin’s moved back a fraction of a centimeter, close enough for him to feel the other’s breath on his lips but far enough for only their noses to brush against each other.

The younger stares at him. His gaze flickers between Jimin’s eyes and lips. “You kissed me,” he breathes, lips quirking into a smile.

“I did,” the prince confirms. “Can I do it again?”

Instead of answering, Jeongguk leans into his space again. He inhales deeply through his nose the moment Jimin presses back, a soft kiss that barely goes anywhere until one of them tilts their heads just slightly and it’s suddenly more.  

Jeongguk makes a breathy noise into his mouth when Jimin sucks on his lip, pulling back for just a moment before connecting their lips again. The radio filters in and out. He raises his other hand to press it against Jeongguk’s neck, thumb curling up and over his jaw. Their lips slide back and forth in closed-mouth kisses, heads dipping with each change in position.

Jimin’s too busy focusing on the way Jeongguk molds against him perfectly to pay attention to the outside world, surely not attentive enough to realize the light has changed back to green in front of them. The other doesn’t notice it either until a car horn goes off behind them.

Jeongguk jerks back, wide-eyed staring at Jimin for a moment before he must see the green last casting across the prince’s face and turns back to the intersection. “Shit,” he curses. He pulls his hand from Jimin’s, letting off the brake and driving through.

Jimin lets out a quiet giggle when the car behind them overpasses them on the empty street. He bites his lip and looks down at his lap. Jeongguk keeps looking at him in his periphery. The attention makes him blush.
“Jeongguk-ah,” he calls quietly. 

“Yes?” is the immediate answer, even though it’s shaky.

“Find somewhere to pull over,” Jimin tells him.

He doesn’t miss the quiet fuck Jeongguk lets out at that. The prince reaches over the console to take his hand again. Fingers slot through his.

He kind of feels bad for the younger. Jeongguk spends the entire five minute drive to find a private place to park while muttering a mantra of holy fuck, what the fuck under his breath. He tightens his hold on Jimin’s hand with each minute that passes. The blond snickers in his seat and pulls their entangled hands into his lap, pressing the back of Jeongguk’s palm against his inner thigh.
Jeongguk does his best not to crash the car.

Jimin’s kind of glad at least one of them are thinking straight, because he almost manages to convince Jeongguk to just pull over in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven until the younger reminds him that they can’t risk getting caught in such a public place.
He ends up pulling into a parking garage in the middle of a residential district. Jimin fidgets the entire time he drives up and down the aisles on each floor until he finds an empty-enough area to park in. It takes six stories to find a relatively-empty floor. Jimin’s patience is wearing thin by the time Jeongguk shifts into park. The music has long since been turned down, the soft notes of a guitar coming through the speakers.

They both unbuckle their seatbelts. Jeongguk turns to look at him.

“Are we doing this?” he whispers.

Jimin nods. “I thought about it long enough,” he says all in one breath, right before he leans back into Jeongguk’s space. He meets him in the middle, their mouths meeting once again.

Jeongguk kisses like he doesn’t want to come up for air. He holds Jimin’s face in his hands, pressing reverent kisses along the seam of his lips even when the prince starts laughing in his hold from the hasty pecks.

“Ggukie,” he murmurs against his mouth. Jeongguk pulls back the slightest bit so Jimin can speak, but the blond just shakes his head and kisses him again.

They end up in the backseat, mouths locked together like impatient teenagers. Jimin pushes Jeongguk onto his back, pressing him against the seat and straddling his hips. The younger grips his biceps when he leans down to kiss him softly. The kisses grow harder and more passionate when he curls his tongue against Jeongguk’s top lip. The brunet gasps into his teeth and Jimin takes it as permission to push his tongue into Jeongguk’s mouth, flicking over the other’s tongue and sucking his soft lips.

He squirms beneath the prince, whining into Jimin’s mouth when curious touches pull the front of his shirt up. Jimin pulls away from him, giving him time to reject the hands crawling up his rib cage. Jeongguk presses closer to him. Jimin takes this as permission, dropping his head to mouth along the skin just underneath Jeongguk’s jaw.

“Hyung,” he breathes out, voice hitching. He lets out a quiet moan before hands are suddenly flattening against Jimin’s chest, pushing up. “Wait, wait, wait,” Jimin pulls back immediately, disconnecting his mouth from Jeongguk’s neck with a wet noise.

“What’s wrong? Do you want to stop?” he asks, moving his hands outside of Jeongguk’s clothes and trailing a finger down the younger’s cheek.
Jeongguk nods, looking both spent and breathless. “Yeah,” he exhales.
The prince frowns and leans down to press his lips to Jeongguk’s forehead. “Did I do something wrong?” he asks, lifting his head back up.

The younger smiles at him and shakes his head. “No,” he laughs. “It’s just— there’s a fucking seatbelt buckle digging into my ass.”

Jimin bursts out in laughter. The other punches him lightly in the pec. 

“Shut up! We are not having our first time in a Toyota, I might not be a fuckin’ prince but I have standards, ” Jeongguk gasps out as Jimin dips down to place heated kisses along the line of his neck. “Get off, you ass,” he grumbles even when Jimin giggles against his skin.

“What happened to the Jeonggukie who’d blush and call me Your Highness ?” he teases, leaning over him.

“That Jeonggukie was subjected to penetration from a belt buckle,” he spits back, sitting up and taking the prince with him.

The blond laughs at him, resituating himself until he’s sat in his lap. As soon as Jeongguk settles Jimin kisses him again.

“Jesus,” Jeongguk mumbles into his mouth. “I’ve unleashed a monster.”

A snort. “This isn’t a video game.”

Hands slide down his back, resting on his waist, just above the cusp of his ass. Jimin wiggles his hips back and forth to try to get Jeongguk to lower his hands. The other mistakes this for grinding on him; Jeongguk tightens his hold on the prince’s hips with a growl, biting at Jimin’s bottom lip.
“Stop,” he orders. Jimin giggles at the serious tone and pecks his cheek. “Stop, I need to get you home.”

“We haven’t even been out that long,” he pouts.

“It’s almost midnight,” Jeongguk murmurs, staring up at him. Jimin lifts his hand to card through the younger’s bangs.

“I wanna go home with you, though,” he says.

Jeongguk presses him closer against his torso until their chests touch. “We’re not having sex tonight, Jimin.” The elder smacks him lightly for the lack of honorifics.

“Fine,” he mopes. He drops his head into the crook of Jeongguk’s neck, breathing in his cologne. The other wraps his arms around him. “Can I sleep in your bed, though?”

He feels Jeongguk smile against his skin and press a kiss to his forehead. “Yeah. This time I promise not to kick you off the bed.”

“If I wake up at any time during the night and you’re shirtless, I can’t be held accountable for my actions,” Jimin states honestly.

Jeongguk pinches his side. “Don’t be weird, you creep.”

He snorts and lifts his jaw to peck the skin just above Jeongguk’s jaw. “Can this be counted as our first date?”

“You want our anniversary to be on Christmas Eve?”

“It’d give us an excuse to celebrate it,” Jimin murmurs.

The younger traces his fingers over the sliver of skin peeking out beneath Jimin’s jacket. “Fair,” he hums. “You really want this? You’re sure?”

There’s a hint of uncertainty in his tone, like he’s afraid Jimin’s gonna pull back and realize all of this is a mistake. The prince does pull back, but it’s to wrap his arms around Jeongguk’s neck and knock their foreheads together lightly.

He stares into the other’s eyes and whispers, “I want you.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” Jimin breathes out before he dips down to kiss the younger again.

Maybe they don’t get home until much later that night, too distracted by kissing at redlights and holding hands on the freeway, but Jimin falls asleep with Jeongguk’s nose tucked into his neck and an arm wrapped around his waist.

It’s the easiest he’s ever slept.

Chapter Text

(mood: L-O-V-E - Nat King Cole)

 

Jeongguk wakes up on Christmas morning to a mouthful of blond hair. It tickles his nose and sticks to his cheek. He jerks back, confused, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. He waits for them to focus until he recognizes the blond locks curled up against his chin.

Sometime during the night, Jimin had twisted onto his side while they slept. His arm drapes over Jeongguk’s waist, the other curled protectively between their torsos. He notices the prince sleeps with his hands curled into tiny fists and barely resists the immediate urge to coo and squeeze him to death. He manages to hold it in, but his resolve cracks once he tilts his head and sees Jimin’s cheeks squished into his nose from his sleeping position. Thick, pouty lips plush out from between his cheeks, a pale pink color that Jeongguk wants to run the pad of his thumb against.

It’s Christmas morning, he realizes, and Jimin’s asleep in his arms after kissing him last night.

Jeongguk can’t fight the smile that grows on his face.

He usually dislikes mornings, always too groggy and unfocused to get anything done. But if he woke up like this every day, maybe he just might become more chipper before ten o’clock.

Looking back on last night feels like some fever dream. If Jimin wasn’t in his arms right now, Jeongguk isn’t sure he’d believe it happened. He feels giddy just looking down at the prince, his boyfriend, even when the other hasn’t even woken up yet. It’s even stranger to think of the fact that this is going to be the norm from now on— Jeongguk no longer has to feel guilty if he finds himself staring at Jimin’s lips, if he holds him in a hug for a bit longer than what’s considered strictly platonic, if he pulls Jimin away from social gatherings with their friends to spend a moment alone with each other as their only company. He could go even further than that, like holding his hand, kissing his neck when they spoon on the couch, or playfully pinching his ass when passing him in the hallway, receiving a whine and a kiss instead of a light smack and chiding.

He can’t even find it within himself to worry about their eventual problems that will come later. He knows Jimin’s parents won’t approve of this. The elder will still have to attend the dates with elite women. Jeongguk isn’t sure if those would stop even if they told Jimin’s family about their relationship. They wouldn’t be able to be overly romantic outside of private spaces at the chance of someone recognizing Jimin. Right now Jeongguk is too delighted over the fact that Jimin is here, in his arms, to worry about that right now. If Namjoon and Seokjin can make it work, so can they. They’ll find their safe havens and they’ll figure it out.

He kind of feels like an idiot for grinning down at the sleeping prince like a maniac. His cheeks are starting to cramp but he can’t hold it down, shuffling his arm out of Jimin’s hold to thumb along his boyfriend’s cheekbone.

He doesn’t mean to wake him up with the action but Jimin’s eyes begin to flutter open before he can pull away. Jeongguk stops moving when dark irises meet his in a half-lidded stare.

Jimin closes his eyes for a long moment, stretching his limbs out like a cat before bringing himself back into Jeongguk’s chest. “Why do you look crazy?” he asks in a groggy sleep voice. It’s so deep the younger feels a shiver go down his spine. 

“Good morning,” he decides to answer instead, wrapping his arms around the prince and tugging him half-onto his chest, flipping to lie on his back. Jimin doesn’t protest the change in position. He drops his head onto Jeongguk’s shoulder with a hum. The brunet lifts his hand to flatten his palm against Jimin’s blond hair. “I’m just happy,” he murmurs.

His boyfriend hums and tightens his fists. He yawns and props his chin on Jeongguk’s chest, staring at him with sleep-laden eyes. “Me, too.” He whispers it like a secret, one that just the two of them know for now. Telling their hyungs can come later for all Jeongguk cares. Right now, it’s just them in his cramped twin bed, Jimin’s knee in between Jeongguk’s thighs and weight on his chest. 

His hyung practically keens into Jeongguk’s soft petting, tilting his neck up to shove it further into the younger’s palm. Jeongguk chuckles quietly at him.

“You’re like a cat.”

“I could sleep like one,” the prince grumbles in dismay. “What time is it?”

“I don’t know, my phone is across the room.” He glances out the window next to his bed. It’s hardly light out, but that could mean anything since it’s the middle of winter. “Maybe sometime around eight or nine. It’s cloudy.”

Jimin hums, a soft mmm as Jeongguk’s petting turns into light scratching against his scalp. His fingers stretch out and tighten on his ribs. “Good. Let’s stay in all day.”

“Anything you want,” he replies with ease. Jimin seems to like this response because he drapes his leg further over his thighs, socked feet digging into Jeongguk’s skin.

“I’m surprised you still have your shirt on,” he mumbles into the fabric of Jeongguk’s faded t-shirt, something he sleepily threw on last night before stumbling into bed with an equally-fatigued Jimin. “You always take it off in the middle of the night.”

He cranes his neck to look down at the man. “How did you even know that? This is the second time we’ve slept in a bed together.”

“Yeah, but I slept over here plenty of times. Sometimes I wake up before you do and find you shirtless on the couch with your sleep shirt halfway across the room. Do you chuck it in your sleep, or what?”

“I don’t know, probably. I’m asleep, so.”

Jimin squirms against him. His fingers dip under Jeongguk’s shirt. The younger jerks at the cold touch. “It’s probably because you leeched off of my heat for the entire night,” he yawns. “If I were naked, I’d be cold as hell.”

His boyfriend huffs. Jeongguk can feel the hot air of his breath through the fabric. “Shame,” the prince mutters. The other fights the urge to blush.

Because that was also a thing that happened last night— Jimin kissed him, then kissed him some more, then kissed him again until they were grinding on each other in the backseat of his beaten-down car. And the prince seemed like he was fully prepared and willing to go a lot further than just that until Jeongguk stopped him. He wonders how far they would’ve gone if he hadn’t.

The idea makes his skin itch. He pushes it out of his mind before he dwells on it for too long.

“Did you sleep well?” Jeongguk can hear the city slowly waking up outside. After living for so long in Seoul, he’s grown used to the morning traffic noise that accompanies city living.

Jimin nods, eyes still closed. “The best,” he croons. His eyelids flutter back open to meet Jeongguk’s gaze. “You’re a good cuddler. Very warm.”

He fights the urge to snort. Jimin feels frigid even though he’s tucked under the covers and pressed up against his side. Compared to the prince, Jeongguk probably feels like a furnace.

Jeongguk sleeps best when there is another person next to him. That isn’t to say he can’t sleep on his own, but some nights he can only fall asleep if he’s spooning a body pillow to simulate another person in his bed. Jimin perfectly fills that space, having kicked his body pillow off the bed sometime during the night. The younger can’t find it in himself to complain.

“Did you sleep well, too?” Jimin asks him. He looks like he’s fighting off sleep again, eyes half-lidded and voice drowsy.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk affirms. His gaze drops down to Jimin’s lips, puffy like the rest of his skin in the morning. His entire face looks soft from sleep, but Jeongguk can’t take his eyes off the blond’s plump lips. He finds himself leaning forward before he even thinks about it, moving closer to kiss him.

The action makes Jimin’s eyes widen just a fraction, giving Jeongguk enough sense to stop and scooch back to put space between them. He doesn’t know why he hesitated, especially after last night’s events, but doubt now crawls into his stomach, wondering if Jimin regrets anything.

The prince doesn’t give him time to worry about it, though, as he bridges the gap between them to press his mouth lightly against Jeongguk’s. It’s a little off-center, more aimed towards the corner than the middle, and he doubts either of their breaths smell good in the early morning but Jeongguk smiles into it and pushes back all the same.

The look Jimin gives him when they pull away can only be described as affectionate, the adoration obvious in the way he stares into Jeongguk’s eyes with a small quirk of his lips, a barely-there smile that has the younger’s heart doing back-flips inside of his chest. “Merry Christmas,” Jimin whispers.

“Merry Christmas,” he wishes Jimin even though they both know they don’t celebrate it. Jeongguk hasn’t been to church ever since he left Busan, and even before then his family only went for the community rather than the worship. “Did you…” he trails off, unsure of how to say it. Jimin waits patiently, darting his eyes across Jeongguk’s face. “Last night, did you mean it?” he finally asks.

He tries to make it sound casual, but the other catches onto the insecurity in his voice. “I don’t regret anything,” Jimin answers immediately. Jeongguk melts at the confidence in his voice. He can’t hear any hint of doubt, can’t see any with the way Jimin tugs his arm out from under the covers to stroke the back of his hair down, pulling their faces closer by a centimeter. “I meant everything,” he reiterates.

“Even the…”

“Everything,” he promises. He takes Jeongguk’s bottom lip in between his own, noses bumping as they push into each other. This kiss turns more heated than the last. It starts off slow until the prince takes a deep breath through his nose and Jeongguk presses closer, licking along the seam of Jimin’s lips and slotting their mouths together.

Shocks run up his body when Jimin’s knee moves higher up his thigh, his bare skin dragging along Jeongguk’s sweatpants and making the brunet shiver. Hands move down his sides, icy fingers slipping under his shirt to run along his ribs.

Jeongguk lifts his hand to push back Jimin’s bangs when they fall in their eyes, close enough that he can feel the prince’s eyelashes tickling his skin.

He forgets to remember to breathe, resulting in pulling back to catch his breath. Jimin looks similarly as dazed. His chest rises with each suck of air like he just emerged from water.

“I want you,” the prince breathes out. “I said I wanted you and I meant it.”

“Why?” he blurts out, rubbing his thumb across the other’s cheek. “I thought— I know I said I’d give you time, but I expected you to just talk yourself out of it. Why’d you change your mind?”

His hyung rubs his nose against his. Jeongguk isn’t surprised to feel the tip of it is cold as well. “I never had to change my mind,” he purrs. “My mind was already made. I just had to find the balls to do it and stop guilt-tripping myself for wanting to be happy.” This makes Jeongguk tighten his grip on the elder, just a bit. “When you told me to make a wish...at first I thought of wishing for a way for me to be happy being crown prince, or a way for me to love who I want while still having my family and nation’s support. Or something less narcissistic, like world peace or reuniting us with the north, or ending all violence—” he cuts himself off with a huff, shaking his head. “But I just realized I was sick of wishing and waiting for something to happen. I realized that my unhappiness wasn’t going to be solved by some uncoincidental set of repeating numbers, or a falling star, or even a Christmas wish your stupid movies talk about.” 

The last part makes Jeongguk chuckle a little, but he lets Jimin continue without interrupting. “I just decided that if I wanted something, I needed to make it happen myself. And I wanted you, even though I felt shitty for it and tried to ignore and reject my feelings for as long as I could. In the end, I guess I just decided to be selfish.”

Jimin lowers his head to kiss Jeongguk again. “I don’t regret it,” he mumbles against the other’s lips. “I’m never going to regret this. This is worth any shit we’ll have to go through.”

Jeongguk cracks a smile. “We’re definitely going to go through some shit.”

“Oh yeah,” the prince affirms and laughs like it isn’t an impending threat over their heads. “I don’t know how long we’ll manage to stay a secret, but it’ll be hell on Earth the moment my family finds out.”

“Even worse than Dispatch?”

This makes his boyfriend pull back, eyebrows drawn as he thinks it over. “I don’t know,” he hums, “my mom can be pretty scary when she’s mad.”

Jeongguk lets out a content sigh nevertheless and rolls over, pulling Jimin’s arms over him to get the prince to spoon him. He complies immediately, draping a leg over Jeongguk’s calf and squeezing him against his chest. He feels lips pressing feather-light kisses against the back of his neck.

“Do you think they’d like me? If your family was normal, I mean,” Jeongguk questions. “Like, if we were both just normal college students.”

“I think so,” the prince admits. “My father seems all big and scary now, but before he was coronated I remember him being a big softie. Always tellin’ me and Jihyun all these stories at bedtime about true love. He says my mom is his soulmate. I think— I don’t know how he’d react now, because he’d probably see you as a problem at first, but I think both of them would like you if everything was different.”

That doesn’t bring Jeongguk much relief, considering everything is certainly not different, but he hums all the same and tilts his neck to the side to allow Jimin to press open-mouthed kisses to the skin there.

Between sucking at new patches of skin, Jimin murmurs, “Jihyun would like you, though. I think he’d even like you now, if I got him used to the idea at first. He just wants me happy.” A pause, then, “my parents want me happy too, of course, but the nation comes first.”

“They need a strong leader,” Jeongguk repeats words he remembers Jimin mentioning once. Back on one of their study dates that weren’t yet labeled as study dates, but the blushing cheeks and footsie games under the table classified it as such. Back when Jimin didn’t have the guts to do anything about them yet, back when Jeongguk thought that it was best to give the prince space before pushing the boundaries of their friendship a bit more.

“I won’t be a strong leader.” Jimin’s tone is emotionless like he’d come to terms with the fact long ago.

“You’ll do fine.” Jeongguk lowers his hands to rest over Jimin’s clasped over the younger’s stomach. “You’re better than you think.”

“Jihyun would be better,” he says, and before Jeongguk can refute it he adds, “it’s just the truth. I’m not bothered by it. I’m not made for this, but it was what I was born to be. I have no choice.”

“There’s no way out?” He hates the way his voice cracks at the end. He sounds more hopeful than he should be. If there’s a way out, they’d have a real future for their relationship together. But even if there is a way out, Jeongguk will never ask that of Jimin. He couldn’t.

“Not that I know of.” His breath tickles the hairs on the back of Jeongguk’s neck. “Aside from running away or killing myself. Neither is an option.”

“Good. Don’t run away.”

“I’d only run away if you and the others came with me,” Jimin reasons. “But even then, I couldn’t leave my family behind. I love them too much.”

Jeongguk nods. He doesn’t want Jimin to run away. If the prince asked him to come, he’d say no.

Jimin’s smaller hands flip over to cover Jeongguk’s. “I just want to be happy with you,” he declares, “for as long as we can. I want to be with you for as long as I can have you.”

They have no idea how long or short that time will actually be, but Jeongguk agrees. He’d rather have Jimin for a moment than never have him at all. 

“Don’t worry about that now,” he whispers. “Let’s just stay in bed a little longer. It’s Christmas, and I refuse to get up for another hour, at least.”

His hyung makes a noise of affirmation at this. He curls tighter against Jeongguk’s back and the younger counts his chest rises until his breathing evens out and they both drift back to sleep.

 

By the time Jeongguk convinces the prince to leave the warm cocoon they’ve made for themselves in his bed, it’s nearing ten. He leads Jimin into the bathroom with a soft grip on his hand and pulls out a spare toothbrush from the cabinet under the sink.

They brush their teeth together, Jimin whining when Jeongguk spreads too much toothpaste on his brush but shoving it into his mouth anyway. They make silly faces at each other through the mirror, Jeongguk standing behind the shorter and leaning to the side to see their reflections.

Jimin’s blond hair is stuck in an odd shape from the way he slept, flicking in opposite directions like he went through a typhoon. Jeongguk finds it endearing. He reaches up with his free hand to tangle his fingers in the twisted hair near the base of Jimin’s neck. His boyfriend groans and tips back against Jeongguk’s chest, dropping his head onto his shoulder.

They take almost double the amount of time Jeongguk normally needs to get ready for the day but he can’t find it within himself to mind. He shares his skincare products with Jimin while they wash their faces next to each other, kissing the tip of his nose when they finish with clean skin.

“What do you want for breakfast?” he asks from his seat on the closed toilet lid. Jimin stands in front of the mirror, trying to style his hair back into a presentable shape. 

His hyung glances over before turning back to his reflection. “Somethin’ sugary. Pancakes?”

“I don’t think I have everything for pancakes, but I can make french toast. Is that alright?”

Jimin nods and turns to lean down and peck him on the lips. Jeongguk’s face heats up, not yet used to the affection. Judging from the shy smile on his boyfriend’s face, Jimin isn’t either. “That’s perfect,” he assures him. “Can I use your shower first?”

He nods and takes out a towel and clothes for Jimin to change into. He leaves them on the bathroom counter before turning on the shower for the other. 

Jeongguk leans into the shower stall, sticking out his arm to test the water temperature. He jumps when he feels Jimin’s hand slip under the back of his shirt from behind him, palm spreading over his skin.

“You gonna join me?” Jimin asks quietly. Jeongguk turns to see the man smiling shyly at him. A shiver curls up his spine from where the prince’s fingers pressed seconds earlier.

He doubts they’d be able to get up to anything too scandalous in there considering the obvious safety hazards right off the bat, but it gives Jeongguk nerves nonetheless. He jumps back from Jimin, already heading towards the door.

“Uh,” he stutters and laughs anxiously. Jimin stares at him fondly like Jeongguk’s flustered appearance is amusing to him. “I’m gonna— I’ll just take a shower tonight. Wanna get started on breakfast before Hobi-hyung wakes up and eats everything,” he excuses weakly.

Jimin gives him a look like he’s adorably ridiculous but shrugs him off. He smiles a little wider, bounding over to press a chaste kiss against Jeongguk’s cheek.

“Alright then.” He spins back aground, tugging his shirt over his head without even waiting for Jeongguk to leave. The younger gets one glance at the dark ink tattooed across his boyfriend’s ribs before his fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, propelling him out of the bathroom without a second thought. He hears Jimin’s laughter even when he scrambles down the hall and into the kitchen.

He ends up burning his first slice of french toast, too distracted imagining what would’ve happened if he’d stayed in the bathroom when Jimin invited him into the shower. He tosses the burnt food into the trashcan and starts making a new one before he hears the shower shut off down the hall.

He gets three slices done by the time Jimin emerges from the bathroom, Jeongguk’s clothes draping around his form and a smaller towel hanging off his head.

“Why do you own such huge clothes?” Jimin complains while shuffling into the kitchen.

“They’re comfy,” Jeongguk says, not turning away from the stove. Arms slink around his waist from behind him. Jimin places a soft kiss against the top knob of his spine before pulling away in favor of stealing one of the finished slices of french toast.

“It makes me look half the size of you,” the prince grumbles, “I’m not even that small. I’m of average height.”

Jeongguk snorts at him. “Okay, shorty,” he teases.

He receives a smack on his arm. “Shut up,” he growls. Jimin takes another bite of the plain toast, narrowing his eyes at the younger. “Besides,” he huffs, “I make up for it in other places.”

Jimin starts cackling when Jeongguk chokes on his own spit.

“Shut up,” he finally gets out between his hacking. “Jeez, you’re insufferable. There’s honey in the cupboard, don’t eat that plain,” he evades.

His hyung hums around a mouthful of toast and pushes off the counter towards the pantry. “You got maple syrup?” he asks after swallowing.

Jeongguk shoots the prince an amused look out of the corner of his eye. “Do I look like I can afford maple syrup?”

This makes the prince pause. Jimin blinks at him over his shoulder. “It’s that expensive?”

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Jimin has been a prince longer than he hasn’t been one. He’s never had to worry about things like stretching his allowance as a teenager or struggling to pay for expensive textbooks as a college student. It’s surprising that it hasn’t affected his personality more than the small slip-ups like now, but Jeongguk supposes Jimin fought against it over the years as he tried to stay humble and down-to-Earth.

“Yeah,” he says casually. Jimin probably hasn’t gone grocery shopping for himself too much since the palace staff stock the kitchens, and even if he did Jeongguk doubts he had to pay attention to the prices. “It’s usually imported from the states or Canada, so it hikes up the price. I definitely don’t work enough hours at the movie theater to afford that.”

In honesty, Jeongguk could get by with picking up a few more shifts at work, but that also gives him less time to do schoolwork, squeeze in extra dance practices, or see Jimin and their friends. He’s not struggling, really, but there are a couple of luxuries he and Hoseok skimp out on each month in favor of a rainy day fund.

“I could buy you maple syrup,” Jimin offers kindly. For a moment Jeongguk feels a little irked until he turns and sees Jimin looking at him with an innocent gaze. He means nothing by it, simply trying to make Jeongguk’s life a little easier.

The younger smiles and leaves his station at the stove to kiss Jimin sweetly against his lips. His boyfriend hums against him, arching his back and wrapping his arms around Jeongguk’s neck.

The brunet pulls back enough to put a couple of centimeters between them. “I appreciate that,” he murmurs, “but I don’t need you to buy me anything. I know you only have the best intentions but hyung and I are doing just fine; we don’t need any handouts.” Jimin’s face crumples in confusion at the last part but Jeongguk kisses him again before he can protest. “I’ll come to you if we need help, okay?” he compromises.

This seems to relieve the prince a little. “Promise?” he asks.

Jeongguk pecks his nose. “Promise.” He pulls away and returns to his pan before the toast starts burning again. Jimin trails after him, honey bottle in hand. He looks a little discouraged as he cuts the french toast into sticks, dipping them into a pile on his plate.

Jeongguk bumps him with his hip. Jimin blinks up, eyes wide. The younger gives him a warm smile. “What’s going on up there?” he asks, lifting his hand to push Jimin’s wet bangs off his forehead. He taps once, twice, against the skin.

Jimin twists his mouth as he thinks of how to describe what’s bothering him. He sighs as he leans himself against Jeongguk’s side. The brunet wraps an arm around his shoulders comfortingly, using the other hand to flip the toast in the pan.

“I grew up in a bubble, Gguk,” he murmurs. “I try not to act like it, but there’ll always be some things I’ll never fully understand because I didn’t experience them as you did.” Jeongguk rubs his thumb against Jimin’s ribs, the side undotted with ink. “Just...I want you to know I’m never looking down at you or trying to give you handouts or anything. I just want you to be happy, but I’m scared it’ll come out wrong sometimes.”

“I understand,” Jeongguk says. He twists his neck to kiss Jimin’s temple. He isn’t sure if he’ll ever get used to doing that.

“Check me if I’m ever being an asshole,” Jimin tells him, a frown still etched on his face.

“I will. Don’t worry about things that haven’t even happened yet.” He squeezes Jimin tighter against his side. “I meant it when I said I’m serious about you. I’m not gonna ditch just because of a small miscommunication. I promised long haul, Jiminie-hyung, and I’m planning on seeing to it.”

This makes Jimin finally smile. His frown drops off his face in a second, replaced by a shy smile and a blush. He finally returns the side hug, hiding his face in Jeongguk’s hoodie.

He tickles the prince’s ribs before pulling away, dropping the final toast onto the main plate. “Let’s eat,” he decides. “I’ll go wake up Hobi-hyung.”

Jimin heads toward the cupboard to take out plates and chopsticks. Something swoops in Jeongguk’s stomach when he realizes Jimin knows where things are without needing to ask. 

Jimin starts stacking plates onto his hand. “Are we telling him?” he asks casually.

Jeongguk straightens and looks at him, eyes wide. “Can we?”

His boyfriend sends him a warm smile. “I don’t see why not.”

 

Hoseok glares at them with narrow eyes over the rim of his glass. After a moment, he puts down the cup of milk with a loud clang against the island countertop.

“Alright.” His voice is lined with suspicion. “What did you two bastards do?”

Jeongguk has to give it to him— Hoseok managed to go five minutes into breakfast before finally asking what the hell was up with the two of them. To be fair, he and Jimin didn’t exactly make it subtle. Jeongguk’s been bouncing his leg non-stop, only settled when Jimin rests his hand on his knee. The prince isn’t doing any better himself. His lips are pursed as he tries to fight off a grin, instead making him look slightly chaotic. The two of them together probably make a questionable sight. 

“Finish your food, first,” Jimin orders with a jittery smile. Hoseok eyes him suspiciously before complying, leading each piece of french toast into his mouth without taking his gaze off of them.

Jeongguk already finished his plate but Jimin keeps sliding pieces off of his own and onto Jeongguk’s. He protests each time until the prince huffs and picks up the toast with his chopsticks, pressing it against the younger’s lips.

“Eat,” he instructs gently. Jeongguk obeys, opening his mouth and allowing his boyfriend to feed him. He chews compliantly but scrunches his face at Jimin’s bare plate.

“You didn’t eat enough,” he complains through his mouth of bread. Jimin reaches forward to snap it shut.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” he scolds. “You’re not twelve.”

Jeongguk waits until he’s swallowed to speak again. “Are you still hungry?”

The prince smiles at him like he’s ridiculous. “Jeonggukie, you fed me five slices of french toast. Hyung’s full, I promise.” He lifts a hand to card it through the brunet’s hair. “You should’ve taken a shower earlier. You’re all greasy.”

“Am not,” he pouts around his last slice of french toast. His face heats up at the reminder of Jimin’s offer earlier. Hoseok watches them in bemusement.

He clears his throat to get their attention. Jimin drops his hand and they both turn to their hyung.
“So,” he hums, and Jeongguk realizes his plate is empty now, “does one of you two wanna tell me what the hell’s going on?”

Jimin bites his lip and grins at Jeongguk. The corners of his mouth curl upward despite trying to contain his excitement.

There’s no doubt that Hoseok won’t be happy for them; he’s been rooting for Jeongguk to get his act together for months now. And he is technically the one who’s also seen the true beginning of them together, back on the first night when he walked into the living room with Jimin shirtless and Jeongguk giggling. It only feels right for him to be the first one to know about the new changes in their friendship.

“Do you wanna tell him?” he asks, nudging Jimin’s knee with his own. The shorter’s toes just barely reach the floor from the barstool he’s sitting at. Jeongguk would coo at this but his heels can’t touch the ground either. 

“He’s your best friend,” Jimin points out. He rests his hand on the younger’s thigh, palm up so Jeongguk can intertwine their fingers.

He turns back to Hoseok, who looks like he’s just starting to catch on. Right as the eldest opens his mouth to ask, Jeongguk blurts out, “Jimin and I are dating now.”

For a moment, it looks like Hoseok struggles with conveying his emotions. His shoulders raise up to his ears and his eyes and mouth open wide, but no sound comes out other than a deep inhale through his nose. He breathes in until his lungs completely fill before he hisses it out through his teeth, scrambling out of his barstool to scramble around the island. He collides with Jeongguk first, who knocks into Jimin’s hip. The prince just barely keeps them from tumbling to the floor and landing in a heap.

“You guys!” Hoseok finally screeches out. He flings his arms around either of their waists, squeezing them tight against his chest. Jimin’s head smacks against Jeongguk’s nose but they’re all smiling too hard to care. “My boys!” Hoseok babbles, pressing long, obnoxious kisses to the crowns of their heads. His voice is similar to how he sounds when he sees animals in the front windows of pet stores, eliciting cooing noises that convey you’re so cute, I have to kill you.

He pulls back with a grin that shows all of his teeth. His cheeks rise high enough to press up into his eyes, curling them into crescents with only his eyelashes and a bit of iris peeking out. “How long?” he questions. He’s like an incessant mother hen, unable to stop touching them for even a moment as he brushes down their hair and pats their cheeks.

“Since last night,” Jimin replies. Hoseok looks even more delighted.

“I’m the first person you’ve told?”

Jeongguk nods. “Of course, hyung.”

The eldest cackles and pulls them back into a hug. Jimin sends Jeongguk an amused wink over Hoseok’s shoulder. 

“Oh my God, I love it,” he rattles on. “Tae’s gonna kill you two for not facetiming him immediately after but I love it.”

Jimin snorts. “He’d kill us even if we gave him a two-week notice.”

Jeongguk tries to muffle his laughter into Hoseok’s collar but receives a chiding slap for it anyway. Their hyung finally pulls away for good and takes a deep breath, squeezing both of their shoulders.

“I’m happy for you,” he announces as if it hadn’t been obvious, “and I’m glad you two pulled your heads out of your asses and finally got together. At one point Seokjin and I were planning on locking you two in a closet.”

His boyfriend laughs at this but Jeongguk pales. Knowing Hoseok, that was a serious threat. He sends a silent thank you to fate for making sure that didn’t happen. 

(How could he explain the meet-cute later, if they got together in a closet? Jeongguk imagines introducing Jimin to his parents and going, yeah, since we have to keep our relationship a secret from the nation, we decided to officially begin it within a fucking coat closet. )

They spend Christmas at home, cuddled in a giant heap on the couch while Hallmark movies play on the TV. He watches Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with his legs in Jimin’s lap and his head on Hoseok’s chest. By lunch, they’re too lazy to get up and cook or go out, so they order chicken that’s delivered to the front door in the middle of the drama pilot they ended up switching to instead. Jimin stays snug against Jeongguk’s side all day.

At some point during the third episode, Jimin stretches from his seat on Jeongguk’s lap. They’d changed positions throughout the day each time one of them got up, whether it be for the chicken, getting snacks from the kitchen or simply going to the bathroom. Hoseok now leans against Jeongguk’s right shoulder, Jimin sprawled across both of their laps.

They never get the white Christmas everyone had been hoping for, but Jeongguk still protests whenever Hoseok suggests going out. School starts back up tomorrow and he’s scheduled for the matinée shift again so all he wants is to stay inside all day and get absolutely nothing done. In truth, all of Jeongguk’s weekends would be like this had he not befriended Hoseok and Namjoon. (Yoongi isn’t any better. Those two force them out of their apartments often enough, but if it was just him and his hyung, they’d hole up and spend the entire weekend without seeing any daylight apart from getting to work and the studio.)

He wonders if he should warn Jimin that he won’t be the most creative for their future dates, instead preferring staying in, but he figures the prince will figure it out on his own soon enough.

Jimin makes low noises in the back of his throat as he stretches his limbs out, further spreading himself over their laps. Jeongguk instinctively reaches out for Jimin’s waist before the man goes rolling off the couch. This just makes his boyfriend curl tighter around him before settling on his back. Hoseok reaches out to scratch Jimin’s neck like he’s a cat. He practically preens at the attention.

After a couple more minutes of silently watching the episode, Jimin smacks his lips and heaves himself off of Jeongguk’s lap.

“I guess I’ll have to make an appearance eventually,” he grumbles, running a hand through his hair and only messing it up further.

Jeongguk tightens his grip on Jimin’s thigh. “You’re leaving?” he asks, trying to not sound as put-out as he actually feels.

His poker face must need some work though because Jimin laughs and squeezes his face between his palms. “Don’t pout,” he chuckles, “just because I ran off with you doesn’t mean I’m never going home again.”

His face heats up at Jimin’s choice of wording. Hoseok laughs next to them, probably thinking the same thing. Jeongguk isn’t looking but he can imagine the wicked smile on his hyung’s face without even having to turn his head. “Wow,” he drawls out, and Jeongguk already knows what’s coming next, “out of all people, I never expected our little Jeonggukie to elope.”

He’d totally punch Hoseok in the armpit right now if Jimin wasn’t still holding his face in his hands.

His boyfriend still defends his honor, more or less. He twists Jeongguk’s neck in his grip, crushing the younger against his neck. His cheeks are so squished that his lips puff into a pout.

“Why, hyung?” he asks with a malicious grin. Jeongguk shivers at his voice and wonders what he got himself into when he agreed to start dating this man. “You wanted that title for you and Yoongi-hyung?”

This actually makes Hoseok cackle in delight, kicking a foot out and hitting the coffee table.

 

Jeongguk walks Jimin to the door, making sure the prince has his things before he slips his shoes on. Jeongguk puts the other’s clothes from last night into a plastic grocery bag and hands it to him. Jimin takes it, letting his fingers linger on the younger’s over the straps.

“You sure you don’t want a ride home?” he asks. 

Jimin shakes his head. “I texted my friend to pick me up. It’s fine.”

“When are you gonna finally learn how to drive?” he teases.

The prince rolls his eyes. “I wanted to years ago but my parents think it’s safer with my driver.”

“Fair enough,” he shrugs. He opens his mouth again without thinking. “I don’t think your feet would reach the pedals anyway.”

Jimin shoves him on the chest. “Yah, you brat, just because I’m soft on you doesn’t mean you can disrespect your hyung!” he scowls. He squirms away when the younger nods and leans forward to kiss his nose, making shrieking noises for help. “It’s a self-roast anyway, we’re practically the same height.”

Which is true because Jeongguk has to lift his chin up if he wants to try and reach Jimin’s forehead with his lips. He ignores the logic nevertheless and pulls Jimin into his chest, tucking his nose into the prince’s hair shyly. He always feels a push-and-pull with himself regarding the blond. Part of him wants to stay put until Jimin initiates physical contact, too shy to start his own, but the other part of his mind overcomes his hesitation through the sole desire of wanting his hands on Jimin as much as possible. 

His boyfriend huffs into his neck but slips his arms around Jeongguk’s waist with no protest. “I’ll get your clothes back to you after I wash them,” he mumbles.

A pang deep in his chest makes Jeongguk not want to take the clothes back. They can’t have a public relationship, but he still wants to show that he is Jimin’s boyfriend, they’re together, exclusively (he hopes, but that’s a conversation for another day) even if it just means some extra clothing in Jimin’s closet back at the palace that absolutely does not fit him.

“Don’t worry about it,” he decides.

“I’m not keeping them,” Jimin says casually as if he’s not currently squashing all of Jeongguk’s hopes and dreams. He pulls away with a twisted smile. “Your clothes look like pillowcases on me.”

He’s right, but the younger doubts he couldn’t get turned on by it if he tried hard enough. He frowns, pouting dramatically. “Fine.”

His childish antics make the prince smile, makes Jimin pull him closer to capture Jeongguk’s lips in his. It’s not a long or passionate kiss by any means, but the younger sighs against his mouth in content, closing his eyes and leaning into it. Jimin’s lips taste like the grape soda they had with lunch earlier, all sweet and sugary. It makes it hard to step away.

Still, he separates their mouths with a quiet pop. “If it starts going south, just come back here. You’re always welcome,” Jeongguk states when they pull away.

Jimin gives him a look Jeongguk can’t decipher. His eyebrows pinch together like he’s upset but his warm eyes and smile stays.

“Why are you so sweet on me?” he whispers, tilting his chin up and placing a soft kiss at the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth.

He has a lot of answers to that question, but definitely not enough balls to say it out loud. Jeongguk swallows and lifts his hand to comb through the blond’s bangs. “You know why,” is his excuse. “Serious, hyung, just text me and I’ll be there.”

Jimin hums, looking distracted. “I hope it doesn’t come to that,” he sighs. He reaches up and fiddles with the drawstrings on Jeongguk’s hoodie. Just to have something to do with his hands, the younger suspects. “But thank you.”

“Don’t be,” he responds without hesitation. Jimin finally drops the strings, resting his hands on Jeongguk’s hips. “Will I see you tomorrow?” he asks. He knows Jimin has a modern dance lab on Monday afternoons, which can overlap with Jeongguk’s practice if he comes early enough.

Jimin nods in affirmation, pecking Jeongguk on the lips once more. A text notification sound goes off and he pulls out his phone, lifting it to show Jeongguk a text from someone named Hyeonmin stating they’re outside and waiting. They pull apart with reluctant expressions.

He’s almost hesitant to let Jimin leave like he’s afraid that everything that happened in the last twenty-four hours will suddenly disappear from memory if the prince goes. It’s a foolish worry, but he doesn’t miss the way the blond seems to stutter in his steps to the front door.

“See you tomorrow,” Jimin bids with a shy smile.

It’s stupid to think Jimin won’t be there tomorrow. Even if he leaves right now, Jeongguk will still have him. He needs to put his trust in the prince, put his trust in fate. Everything will work out the way it should, he hopes. So despite the worry sinking to the bottom of his stomach, Jeongguk grins at him like a fool. “Bye, hyung.”

When the door closes behind Jimin, Jeongguk turns back around and sees Hoseok staring at him from the couch. He looks ecstatic.

“Now,” he begins. “Tell me everything.”



Obviously, Jeongguk’s worries were unfounded. He sees Jimin the next day when he waits for the prince to get out of his private dance lessons, hanging by the door and catching his boyfriend by the waist when he comes around the corner.

Jimin squeals at the sudden jostling, already recognizing Jeongguk as he twists around in his arms. He smiles and glances around the empty corridor before leaning up and pressing a kiss to the younger’s jaw.

“Good morning,” Jimin says, wrapping his own arms around Jeongguk’s neck. He’d already changed back into street clothes, bundled up in a sweater and beanie hung low over his face. A white face mask rests tucked under his chin.

“It’s not morning,” Jeongguk tells him, “it’s almost three. How long have you been in there?”

The prince groans and pulls away from Jeongguk. He takes his hand instead, making their way to the end of the dance wing where their usual studio is. “Too long,” he states. “I came in early to work with a different choreographer on some things for the exhibition. I haven’t even eaten lunch.”

They hear laughter at the end of the hallway. Jeongguk instinctively pulls apart their hands and shoves his own into the pocket of his hoodie. He swings his bookbag around to his front to dig the studio keycard out of the front pocket as they come closer to the door. “I thought you only had a demi-solo for the exhibition,” he mutters as he grabs the card and unlocks the door. Jimin follows him in and shuts it behind him. “Are they giving you another dance?”

The prince shakes his head, turning on the lights in front of the mirror. Jeongguk can see his disappointment through the reflection. “Nah. They just wanted to use me as a mock dancer to see if they could change a part of one of the main solos.”

His brows furrow. “That’s bullshit,” he huffs. “They’re using your talent and not even giving you a solo for your hard work.”

Jimin shrugs, throwing his bag in the corner of the studio and taking a seat on a bench in the corner. “It’s how it is. I’m not a dance major, so I can’t have a solo, no matter how good or bad I am at the choreography.”

Jeongguk turns to face him. “Maybe if I talked to the head of the department—”

His boyfriend shakes his head and interrupts him before he can finish, “no, Jeonggukie. I don’t need you to fight my battles for me. It’s fine.”

The younger juts his bottom lip out in a pout and walks across the room towards the prince. “But maybe I could—”

“Jeongguk,” Jimin stops him, a hard stare in his eyes. “Enough. I’m not using my status to get a solo. That’s final.”

“You wouldn’t have to use your status if you just showed them how talented you are,” the brunet grumbles. He kneels in front of Jimin’s legs on the floor. His boyfriend frowns and runs a hand through Jeongguk’s hair, pushing the brown locks away from his face.

“No matter how talented I am, the public will always believe I used my prestige to open doors. I’m not gonna do that,” he tells him. His tone is final; Jeongguk would immediately cower and back down if his gaze wasn’t so warm when gazing down at him.

“I just want the best for you,” he excuses in a soft voice.

“I know you do,” Jimin promises him. He ducks down and pecks Jeongguk’s exposed forehead. When he pulls away the frown is gone, instead replaced by a content sigh and a small smile. “C’mon, start your practice so we can get out of here sooner. I’m gonna order lunch and we can eat it during your break.”

Jeongguk plants both hands on Jimin’s thighs to rise up and plant a kiss on the prince’s lips. He pulls away. “Can we go to Joonie-hyung’s after? I wanna tell everyone about us.”

The blond nods. “Yeah, we can,” he answers, a fond look adorning his face. “You cool with Taiwanese?” he asks.

He nods, already standing to start stretching. He leaves his boyfriend at the bench to go plug in his phone into the aux cord. “That’s good,” he hums, “can you get some of those pork buns we had last time?”

“With the leets?”

“Yeah.”

“Got it,” Jimin says without looking up from his phone. Jeongguk turns on his warm-up music and gets to work.

 

Their hyungs end up having the same reactions as Hoseok did, although varying in aggressive affection. They text everyone to meet at Namjoon and Seokjin’s place and, upon arriving and telling them they’re now dating, pounce on Jeongguk to start slapping his back and screaming. Hoseok leads the main assault even though he already knew, which doesn’t seem very fair but Jeongguk can’t exactly voice his complaints through the hollers and screeches.

Yoongi holds Jeongguk’s cheeks in his palms and lets out high-pitched blabbering while Namjoon and Hoseok repeatedly hit him on the back, yelling something along the lines of our boy’s grown up!

Jimin, in turn, receives a very angry Taehyung when he finds out that they told Hoseok before him. He tackles the prince upon realizing, pushing Jimin to the floor, holding him down with Seokjin’s aid, and spanking him several times on the ass.

“Stop!” the blond lets out through cackled laughter. “Jesus Christ, I’m not a child!”

“Then quit acting like one!” Taehyung growls, hitting him harder. Jeongguk doesn’t do anything to help his boyfriend from his position on the couch with the others, laughing at the scene as he records it. Jimin sends him a betrayed look through his phone camera.

Even when everyone’s settled down and they end up marathoning Mario games on Seokjin’s Wii, Yoongi continues to give Jeongguk little glances out of the corner of his eye. At sometime during the night he nudges the younger and mumbles a quiet, “I’m proud of you.”

Jeongguk flushes and pretends he didn’t hear it. His hyung looks equally as embarrassed and acts like he didn’t say it, either.

Nothing of importance happens during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Jimin doesn’t come knocking on his front door in the middle of the night because of a fight with his parents, instead coming over with the intention to spend the night in Jeongguk’s bed, mouthing along his neck and letting their hands wander.

It never goes much further than that, though, since the younger always shies away before any articles of clothing can fully come off. Jimin doesn’t question it but Jeongguk catches his pleased stare at the sight of his boyfriend being so flustered over some heavy petting.

In fact, the reason Jimin doesn’t get into any fights with his family during this week may be connected to the fact that he’s practically glued to Jeongguk’s side the entire time. They meet each other in between classes, stealing kisses in empty corridors and linking pinkies under the tables in the ice cream shop, giggling in shared excitement over their new bond with the other.

Jeongguk knows this is probably just the honeymoon phase and they’ll settle down soon enough, but he doesn’t make any efforts to move it along, either. He likes the pace they’re moving at now; the subtle touches and claims they have over each other that people wouldn’t notice unless they were looking hard enough.

They’re careful in public. Jeongguk makes sure he doesn’t make any moves towards the prince that could be considered non-platonic to any extent. They notice paparazzi watching them as they leave a second-hand bookstore on Thursday, and Jimin sadly tells Jeongguk that they probably won’t be able to go there anymore. Once the media catches on to the smallest trail they’ll follow it until it burns out.

They still wear masks and don outrageous accessories to avoid Dispatch photos. One night Jimin accompanies him and Hoseok to the grocery store and has to wear a knitted hat so low over his face that he can hardly see through it and the black mask pulled up just beneath his eyes. The woman at the cashier throws him a weird look but doesn’t question it after Hoseok chuckles and claims that the blond is ill. 

He’s pleased to notice that their friendship doesn’t change much after they get together. Sure, there’s obvious updates such as the affectionate kisses and touches, small compliments that they can make now that they really know how they feel about one another, but everything else pretty much stays the same. Hoseok is displeased to find out that their levels of sexual tension are practically equal to what it was before Christmas, but now in the form of winks across the room or feather-light touches that suggest something further.

Those don’t get far, though. On New Year’s Eve, as they’re getting ready to leave for Namjoon and Seokjin’s apartment, Jimin pins him against his bed and kisses him breathless. He’s been teasing the younger all afternoon through lingering hands on his waist or half-lidded stares on the living room couch. Jeongguk doesn’t stop the prince when he starts undoing the buttons of his shirt, doesn’t stop him when he slides it off Jeongguk’s shoulders and drags his nails down his chest. He’s still hesitant, still unsure, but he kisses back just as hard when Jimin straddles his waist and presses their crotches together in a deep, stuttering grind. It pulls the air out of his lungs in a heavy exhale, gripping tight on Jimin’s hips like he’s afraid the prince will pull away if he lets go.

And when their jeans rub just the right way Jeongguk lets out a breathy moan into Jimin’s mouth. His hyung holds him closer, smirking through the wet kiss. He looks smug when he pulls back a centimeter to look at how riled up Jeongguk’s gotten. He’s sporting a semi downstairs which is even more embarrassing when Jimin notices it and purposefully drags his thigh against the growing bulge in his pants.

“Jimin-hyung,” he gets out, eyes closed and head tipped back. The prince ducks his head to suck a mark onto his chest, right over his heart as if staking his claim. His right hand slowly travels over the younger’s stomach, over the hem of his boxers peeking out of his jeans, closer and closer to between Jeongguk’s legs that his breath stutters and hiccups, muscles clenching. “Hyung,” he whispers again, but before he can say anything else Hoseok’s knocking hard against his bedroom door.

“Hurry up or I’m leaving without you!” he calls from the hallway. Jimin licks his lips and looks at Jeongguk through his dark lashes. The younger squirms under his hold until he gets off of him and grabs the discarded shirt from the floor.

“Later,” he promises against Jeongguk’s lips. Jeongguk shivers even when he pulls away to get the rest of their things.

 

At midnight he expects Jimin to turn and plant one on him without hesitation, but instead, all of his hyungs turn to tackle him into the couch and plant kisses all over his face. He screeches. Six pairs of lips cover his skin; his cheeks, his nose, his temples, his forehead. There’s a stray peck against his lips that he knows comes from Jimin without even having to open his eyes. 

He shouldn’t be surprised; kissing his cheeks has been Hoseok’s New Year’s tradition for years, ever since Jeongguk was seventeen and whined at a party that he had no one to kiss. Hoseok had taken up the duty of providing that each year, smacking his lips loudly against Jeongguk’s head despite the younger’s protests. It only continued with Namjoon and Yoongi for the past two years, so he really shouldn’t have been surprised that they roped the new members of their group into it, too.

Taehyung screams into his ear and Jeongguk can hardly hear the party poppers and the fireworks outside over his hyungs calling him their baby maknae.

He can’t help the giggles that escape his lips then, drunken laughter filling his ears. They blow the horns Yoongi bought from a dollar store and pop confetti all over the floor despite Seokjin’s protests. Namjoon brings out a large chocolate cake from the fridge, decorated professionally from a bakery.

“We have a tradition of eating cake for our first food of the new year,” Jimin explains in his ear. His boyfriend wraps his arm around his waist and Jeongguk leans back into his chest. He smiles over nothing as Yoongi argues with Taehyung over the correct way to cut the cake ( “Tae-yah, you’re supposed to slice it in halves.” “Why? Cutting out slice by slice is so much easier.” “But now the slices are uneven!”) as Jimin combs his fingers through his hair, messing up any styling he attempted earlier.

At the end of the night, Hoseok and Taehyung loudly declare they’ll be taking a cab with Yoongi to his apartment for the night. Jeongguk feels his face heat up and spread all the way down to his neck at the insinuation. Seokjin doesn’t look much better, hiding his red ears with his hands and laughing in embarrassment. Jimin only looks smug, which just makes it worse. Namjoon subtly winks at the eldest and Seokjin chucks a throw pillow directed at his head. Jimin snorts, but for some reason, Jeongguk can’t get himself to laugh along.

He glances at the prince and wonders if that’s what he’s expecting tonight. It’s not like Jeongguk gave him any other idea, especially with earlier. It’s normal to hook up after midnight, he knows, but dread fills his stomach when he realizes what that means.

It’s not like he’s a virgin. Jeongguk had boyfriends before Jimin. Has had two relatively serious relationships, one towards the end of high school and another over a year ago. He’d done things with them, too. He’s had sex.

He’s just not— He hasn’t ever—

He gulps and averts his eyes from Jimin’s gaze. He misses the confused frown that appears on his boyfriend’s face seconds later.

They hold hands on the drive back to Jeongguk’s apartment. Jimin hums along to music on the radio. He opens his mouth a couple of times like he wants to say something, but seemingly decides against it when he closes his lips and goes back to humming.

They don’t talk about it until they’re back in the apartment, Jimin already heading towards Jeongguk’s bedroom door.

“Do you want to take a shower?” he asks the prince.

“Nah,” he replies. “I’ll take one in the morning.” He disappears into Jeongguk’s room. The younger follows. Jimin’s already pulling off his jacket, combing his hair back with his fingers.

“Are you tired?” Jeongguk comes from behind him to rest his hands on Jimin’s slim hips. The prince tips his weight against him.

Jimin turns his neck to look at Jeongguk with a suggestive stare. “Just a little,” he whispers. He scoots back far enough for his ass to hit Jeongguk’s crotch. “We could stay up for a little longer.”

The younger gulps and pulls away to sit down on the bed. Jimin takes this as an invitation to crawl into his lap, shifting until he gets comfortable. He leans down and connects their lips gently. Jeongguk slides a hand up his back and between his shoulder blades, gripping the fabric of his shirt. This is fine. He’s used to this; they’ve done this before.

Or at least until Jimin starts grinding down into his lap, and Jeongguk freezes. The blond feels him falter and stops, disconnecting their lips with a quiet, wet noise. 

“What’s wrong, baby?” he asks, cupping Jeongguk’s neck like he’s fragile. He always touches Jeongguk like he’s something precious, like he doesn’t want to break him. It’d probably be suffocating for anyone else, but Jeongguk appreciates the tender grips. It helps him relax. If Jimin came at him full-speed, he’d freak out.

He’s going slow now. Jeongguk should have no problem with this. He doesn’t know why he’s flinching back like some scared kid. He’s an adult; adults do this all the time. He’s had sex before, plenty of times: why is he nervous?

There’s a small part of his mind that knows. Jeongguk swallows and shakes his head.

“Nothing’s wrong,” he promises with a smile. He tries to put confidence in the way he drops his hands to cup Jimin’s ass. He can tell his boyfriend likes the gesture, smiling and grinding back on him. “I’m good.”

Jimin hums and pecks his cheek. “Alright.” He pulls back a fraction to meet Jeongguk’s eyes. “You’d tell me if something was wrong, though, right?”

Not wanting to be put on the third degree, Jeongguk kisses him instead, mumbling a, “yep,” against the other’s mouth. Jimin seems hesitant but opens up the more Jeongguk continues his ministrations, squeezing his ass in his palms every time the elder bucks into them.

He twists their position on the bed so he can lie down vertically without their feet hanging off the edge. Jimin lies on top of him, knees planted on either side of Jeongguk’s thighs. He ducks low to continue kissing him.

The kisses turn hot and heavy, open-mouthed and wet as they add tongue and teeth. Jimin bites at his lips and sucks. Jeongguk wasn’t really into biting before, always thought it was too awkward, but now he’s trying to keep his hips from bucking up and pressing against Jimin’s from how much it excites him. He tries to remember to breathe this time, inhaling through his nose and exhaling short, sweet moans into Jimin’s mouth. He’s paid enough attention to know that Jimin likes it when he gets noisy. The tightened grip on his biceps tells him no differently.

He finds himself relaxing into Jimin’s hold the longer they make out, the anxiety from earlier seeping out of his bones as he melts against the mattress. The prince seems pleased with himself. He cups the younger’s neck in his right hand while the left disappears from sight, relocating to rest on Jeongguk’s lower stomach.

This time, he makes sure he’s the one to take it further first, fingers fiddling with the hem of Jimin’s shirt. The prince takes the hint and pulls off of him, sitting up with Jeongguk so the brunet can pull his shirt over his head.

Jimin drops his arms, breathing heavily and looking down at the younger. Jeongguk is too busy glancing all over his torso, eyes stuck on the dark nevermind etched into his skin with dark ink. He raises his hand to trace along the letters. Jimin lets out a quiet gasp when he trails his fingertips high to brush against his nipple.
“Jeongguk,” he says quietly as if it’s a warning. Jeongguk glances up to meet his eyes. The orange light from the streetlamps outside catches on the prince’s skin. It looks golden. Jeongguk wants to mark the skin as his. He can’t do it anywhere obvious, only in places that only Jimin would see. Places that only Jeongguk is allowed to see, to touch.

He takes a deep, shuddering breath, and leans forward to take Jimin’s nipple in his mouth. He doesn’t break eye contact with Jimin. The prince lets out a surprised moan, head dropping back and pointed to the ceiling. Jeongguk uses his teeth to pull his boyfriend’s attention back to him, dragging his bottom teeth over the bud and darting his tongue over it in short flicks.

“Fuck, Gguk,” Jimin curses, hand coming out to grip at the brunet’s hair. It only spurs him to be more enthusiastic, pulling away to blow cold air and make the prince’s hips ruck forward in surprise. “God.” 

Jeongguk’s pants feel tight. His skin feels hot under his shirt. He doesn’t fight it when Jimin unbuttons his shirt and pulls it apart, slipping it back over his shoulders like they had done earlier that day. The prince throws their clothing somewhere off the bed. Jeongguk doesn’t pay attention, instead grabbing Jimin’s biceps and bringing them back down onto a horizontal position.

He grabs Jimin’s ass again, squeezing a cheek through the thick denim. Hips drop and grind against his, and the only thing that keeps Jeongguk from tipping his head back and letting out a strangled moan is the way Jimin stares down at him, commanding him to not break eye contact.

“Hyung,” he whines when Jimin resumes their previous grinding. The drag makes him feel like he’s on fire, nerves tingling from the attention. “Please,” he whispers.

The other ducks down to mouth at the skin beneath his ear. Jeongguk sighs and tilts his head to give him more room to work with. His skin burns at each spot Jimin touches him at. The only thing he can hear is their breathing and the city noises outside, honking horns and the dull thrum of parties going on in the apartment complex.

The world is celebrating a new year right now, but they’re tucked safely in their bubble together, panting against each other’s skin.

“So precious, Jeonggukie,” Jimin whispers into his ear. The other shivers. “So good for me. Wanted you for so long, I’m so happy I have you.”

He keens, arousal now fully apparent with the obvious tent in his jeans. Jimin grinds down on it unabashedly. Jeongguk has never been into dirty talk but now all he wants is Jimin to keep talking, bring him to the brink with just his words and his hips.

“Hyung, hyung,” he repeats even though he doesn’t know what he’s asking for. Jimin huffs a chuckle into his ear and his hips buck up on instinct, coming into contact with the other’s jeans.

He feels Jimin’s hand move, lower and lower until it’s right over the button for his jeans. He freezes when the prince starts undoing it.

All the anxiety from earlier floods back into his veins and it’s all Jeongguk can do to not push Jimin off of him and jump off the bed. His squeezes Jimin’s arms tight and his boyfriend chuckles, mistaking it for excitement.

Jeongguk isn’t excited at all.

Jimin unbuttons his jeans, sliding the zipper down with a soft kiss to his neck. “You’re so good, Ggukie. All mine, I can’t believe it,” he whispers between kisses.

Jeongguk’s muscles are so tense they start cramping. Everything he wants to stay feels stuck in his throat as Jimin cups his bulge in hand, squeezing and letting go to drag a light finger all the way up to its head. He makes an aborted whimper in the back of his throat, squeezing Jimin’s biceps again. It should feel good, he knows it should, but anxiety is keeping Jeongguk from enjoying anything right now.

It’s only when Jimin kisses his shoulder and drops his other hand to shimmy off Jeongguk’s jeans does he notice the other, still frozen and unresponsive. He snickers, thinking the younger is just being bratty. 

“You have to help me, you know,” he teases. “I can’t take these off myself.” He finally looks up from Jeongguk’s crotch to his face and stops.

He doesn’t know what he looks like right now, but judging from the way Jimin halts it must not be good. His teeth are digging into his lip, almost hard enough to draw blood. He feels the skin ripping a little under it.

“Jeo— Jeongguk?”

“Hyung,” he breathes out, finally finding the strength for words. Jimin hasn’t moved his hands yet. He’s stuck in the position he was when he turned to look at him. His head buzzes. “I...I don’t—” he can’t find his voice again, unsure of what to say. He doesn’t understand. He wants this, he wants Jimin, so why is he freaking out so badly? What the hell is wrong with him? 

A quiet, nervous whimper comes out instead. He crumples in on himself, embarrassed. This spurs Jimin into action, immediately grabbing Jeongguk’s face with both of his heads and forgetting about what they were doing before entirely.

“Jeongguk, baby, what’s wrong? What’s wrong?” he asks, trying to get the brunet to look at him. Jeongguk whines. His eyes sting. He’s even more ashamed now, almost crying from humiliation. Jimin strokes his cheek with the pad of his thumb, trying to calm him down. “Baby, don’t cry, I’m sorry, we can stop,” he murmurs. He looks like he wants to kiss Jeongguk but hesitates before he leans in, instead wiping at the younger’s tears before they can fall.

Jeongguk doesn’t want him to think he did anything wrong. He didn’t; this is Jeongguk’s fault. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with himself. The tears don’t stop as he gets more worked up, arousal completely forgotten in lieu of panic flooding his veins.

“I’m drunk,” he finally babbles, even though he’s not. One look at Jimin’s confused features and he knows that his boyfriend is thinking the same thing; he drove home, after all. He was sober enough to do that, and neither of them has drunk since they got back to the apartment. “I just— I can’t—”

Jimin shushes him, pushing back his bangs and placing his lips there in a soft kiss. “It’s okay, Ggukie. You’re okay. We’ll stop. I’m not gonna touch you if you’re drunk.” 

He knows the last part is a lie for his sake. It’s clear that he’s not intoxicated at all, barely having drunk at the party in the first place. Jimin probably had more than him and he’s still completely sober. “I won’t touch you.”

“No, no—” This isn’t what he wants, this is exactly what he was scared of, Jesus, how did he— “please touch me, hyung. I want you to touch me.”

Jimin shakes his head. “Not when you’re like this, baby,” he whispers. He lies down on his side and pulls Jeongguk into the crook of his neck. 

Jeongguk whines. His tears are probably getting Jimin’s neck wet but he can smell his boyfriend’s cologne so he grapples for a grip on the prince until he finds it, looping his arms under Jimin’s armpits and holding him as tight as he can. 

“You’re okay,” his hyung whispers, patting down Jeongguk’s hair and rubbing circles onto his bare skin. It’s warm, being pressed up against him with no shirts to get in the way. “We stopped; you’re safe.”

“I’m sorry,” he stutters out through halted breaths. 

“Don’t be sorry,” his boyfriend squeezes him tighter, holds him like a little kid. Jeongguk isn’t panicking anymore. He just feels ashamed for freaking out for no reason and ruining their entire night. “Why are you crying, baby?”

“I—” a fast inhale, almost a sob, “I ruined it.”

“You didn’t ruin anything.”

“I did,” he objects. “It was— it was going well and then I freaked out and now I’m crying like an idiot and—”

“Ggukie,” Jimin interrupts him, shushing him and rubbing long lines up and down his spine. “Take a deep breath. I’m not going anywhere; you didn’t ruin anything. I went too fast, I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t,” Jeongguk promises, even though he sort of did. At least in Jeongguk’s mind. He felt like he was running late and only had a few minutes to get an entire morning routine finished and get out the door. He wasn’t ready.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” his boyfriend asks. Jeongguk feels a deep stab of guilt in his chest. He doesn’t deserve Jimin. He’s too caring, too nice. He doesn’t know what he did that put the prince in his arms, why fate deemed him good enough.

He shakes his head in Jimin’s neck. He doesn’t want to talk about it at all, wants to forget this entire thing happened and hopes Jimin doesn’t treat him any differently in the morning. “No,” he answers, voice wet and snotty.

It’s relieving to not feel Jimin’s hard-on through his pants when he scooches closer to tangle their legs together. “That’s okay,” he promises. “You want to go to sleep?”

“Yeah.”

“Can we get changed? We shouldn’t sleep in jeans.”

Jeongguk nods jerkily in his hold but makes no motion to get up. Jimin keeps rubbing his back. “Don’t wanna get up,” he mumbles.

“Okay, but you still need to take off your jeans. Is it alright to sleep in boxers?” 

He almost whines at how patient Jimin is being. He nuzzles his nose into the prince’s pulse point. “Yeah.”

“Can you get them off yourself, or do you want my help?”

“I can do it myself,” Jeongguk sighs. He begrudgingly pulls his arms back from Jimin to slide his jeans down his hips, kicking them off down the bed. Jimin does the same and slides back to his side as soon as they’re off.

He lies on his back so Jeongguk can curl up on his side, already knowing the younger’s preferred sleeping position. His skin feels warm to the touch when Jeongguk drapes a leg over him.

The tears have stopped but he still feels ashamed. His eyes kind of hurt from crying and it stings every time he blinks. Jimin hesitantly wraps an arm around Jeongguk’s waist, resting the other on the back of his thigh.

“I’m sorry again,” the younger whispers. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Sorry I freaked out.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Jimin commands in a soft tone. “I just— I want you to tell me to slow down, next time. If you’re feeling uncomfortable I don’t want you to just take it. I can’t always tell what you’re thinking, baby. I won’t get mad if you tell me you want to stop.”

Jeongguk drapes a hand over Jimin’s chest, resting his head on the blond’s shoulder. “I know. I will. I just… I froze up. I couldn’t get the words out.”

Jimin nods like he understands and kisses the crown of his head. “It’s okay. We’ll be better next time. We’ll be more careful.”

If this was one of Jeongguk’s favorite movies, this would be the part where the protagonists say that they love each other. And Jeongguk sure as hell feels a whole lot for Jimin, but he’s not sure if it's love. Not yet. It still needs time to grow, to blossom. Almost there, but not quite.

“Goodnight,” he tells him instead. 

“Goodnight, baby,” Jimin responds, the pet name rolling off his tongue like it’s nothing. Jeongguk loves it.

They drift off to sleep like that, Jeongguk tucked into his arms and breathing hot air onto his neck, covers pulled up tight around them to keep the winter air out. In the morning, they’re awoken by Hoseok’s startled gasp as he comes in to check on them, seeing them shirtless in Jeongguk’s bed. He snaps a picture to send to the group chat with a delighted cackle and disappears down the hallway before either of them are coherent enough to think about going after him, let alone actually doing it. They receive it in a group chat message moments later, a slightly-blurry picture of Jeongguk wrapped up in the prince’s arms. He was still asleep but Jimin had just opened his eyes as the photo was taken, staring into the camera with a slightly confused expression.

He sends a guilty look to Jimin, knowing the photo insinuates they did more than what actually happened. The prince doesn’t let him hear it, pulling the covers back over them and pulling the younger to his chest before he can apologize again.

“It’s fine,” he whispers with a peck against the back of Jeongguk’s neck. The arms hanging over him are still holding Jimin’s phone. He doesn’t miss the fact that Jimin saves the picture Hoseok sent before turning it off and tossing it to the bottom of the bed. He doesn’t let Jeongguk mention it, either. He resituates himself until he’s comfortable, insisting that they get at least another hour of sleep before Jeongguk has to go in for an afternoon shift at the theater.

When Jimin leaves around noon, Jeongguk takes a deep breath and pulls out his laptop. He opens the browser and, after a moment of hesitation, opens incognito mode.



The next two weeks pass quickly. Midterms come and go, leaving him exhausted after long days spent in the studio and the library. He doesn’t see Jimin for a couple of days, the prince too busy studying for his analytics class to be able to spare a moment. The only time they see each other during the week is at the dance studio and even then all they can get in are hurried kisses during breaks before having to get back to practice.

They get into a small fight in the middle of exams when Jimin finds out Jeongguk tried to talk to the exhibition director about giving Jimin a solo. It hardly lasts long, just a day before Jeongguk calls him outside of Seokjin’s apartment with a bag full of Jimin’s favorite snacks, beer, and a long-winded apology that Jimin has to stop before the brunet spends all night out in the cold. He comes down from the apartment and heads outside to see him, stopping a meter away.

“I would’ve kept going if you hadn’t stopped me,” Jeongguk says, breath coming out in clouds in the cold. “I was actually planning on standing outside your bedroom window with a boombox over my head.”

Jimin laughs, eyes scrunching into crescents and teeth on full display. “You would’ve been tackled by security and arrested for trespassing.”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Worth it,” he states.

His boyfriend shakes his head in disbelief, closing the gap between them and kissing him breathless.

In the middle of the month, Jimin comes to the apartment, drained after another date with the same woman as last time. Jeongguk lets him in with an empathetic smile. Hoseok is at work so it’s just them in the apartment.

“Was it that bad?” he chuckles at Jimin’s dramatic retelling of the date. The prince levels him with an unimpressed stare.

“Yes.”

Jeongguk hums, steering Jimin towards his room with both hands on his shoulders. “Alright.” He pulls them into his bedroom, keeping the door wide open behind them. Jimin glances at it but doesn’t mention it. “What can I do for you?”

The prince is already tugging at Jeongguk’s shirt, untucking it from his pants with a coy smile. “Jus’ wanna make out,” he slurs.

The younger grins. “I can do that.”

His boyfriend sends him an amused glance. “Oh really?”

Jeongguk nods eagerly, walking Jimin back until he hits the bed and tips over, landing on the bedsprings with a squeak. “Yep.”

This is what Jeongguk’s comfortable with, this is what he can handle. Kissing Jimin? No problem. Pressing each other into the mattress until they’re panting and breathless? Just another day. He doesn’t know how he managed to go so long knowing the prince and not being able to do these things. It’s unimaginable now since he can hardly get through a day without having an urge to hunt down his boyfriend and kiss him silly.

And they’re good at it, too. He never really considered himself to be a great kisser, but with Jimin they mesh so well that he can’t have any complaints. The prince always knows exactly what he wants and Jeongguk must be doing something good, too, with the reactions he receives whenever he sucks on Jimin’s tongue or bites at the man’s collarbone.

They’ve learned each other’s quirks during this kind of thing, so he’s not surprised when Jimin flips him over, straddling his hips and tugging his own shirt off. They’ve done this enough times that it doesn’t surprise Jeongguk anymore, but the awe of seeing how beautiful his boyfriend each time never goes away.

He makes sure to tell the prince this as he’s switching between sucking and pinching Jimin’s nipples, his hyung moaning and gripping his shoulders tightly. 

“You’re so gorgeous,” he compliments. Jimin huffs out a laugh.

“You already got me,” he groans and ruts down on Jeongguk’s thigh in response to a bite just beneath the bud. “No need to sway me.”

“M’not swaying,” he protests and pulls away to look at his boyfriend. Jimin looks heavenly, blond hair falling down his face in messy parts from Jeongguk running his fingers through it so many times. “You’re just beautiful,” he whispers honestly.

Jimin sighs but doesn’t reject the compliment. He drags his fingers around the collar of Jeongguk’s shirt. “Can I take this off?” he purrs.

That’s also a thing that’s started— Jimin asking for things. Ever since New Year’s, Jimin has asked before going further. He’ll double-check that Jeongguk is okay with getting shirtless, won’t push it if Jeongguk doesn’t initiate taking off their pants. They haven’t fully gotten off together yet, but they sure have rutted up against one another several times during times where what was supposed to be an innocent peck turned into a heated makeout session on the couch or his bed.

“Yeah,” he exhales, and the black shirt is gone in an instant. Jimin throws it across the room and pushes Jeongguk down onto the mattress, swiveling his hips in slow, deep circles. “Fuck, hyung,” he curses, grabbing Jimin’s hip and squeezing at the skin until it turns white under his grip. The prince must’ve changed before coming here because he’s wearing sweats that hang low across his hips. Jeongguk can see the beginning of a v-line and a small trail of brown hair leading beneath the hem of his pants. He tips his head back and groans.

“Jeonggukie,” Jimin chokes on a moan after the younger lifts his hips to meet his grinds. “Jeonggukie, I wanna go farther.”

This makes him halt his movements. Jimin sighs and lifts up, scooching higher up to sit on Jeongguk’s abs instead of his dick.

“Hyung—”

“Jeongguk, I’ve been as patient as I could,” he starts. He looks more exasperated than angry, which calms Jeongguk’s nerves a bit. “I’ve wanted you under me since the night we met, I went through months of self-denial but I’m fucking over it and right now I just want to suck your cock and make you happy but I can’t when you won’t tell me what’s wrong.”

Jeongguk gapes at him, head empty. His boyfriend raises an expectant eyebrow so he blurts, “I’ve never bottomed.”

Jimin stares at him. He doesn’t say anything. The younger squirms.

Finally, Jimin says, “what the fuck?”

There’s a pause as if he’s waiting for Jeongguk to explain himself. The brunet quickly wrenches his hands off Jimin’s hips as if he was burned.

The prince shifts on top of him. Jeongguk groans when it jostles his jeans, in turn rubbing against his hard-on that really doesn’t need any attention paid to it right now. Jimin looks confused and slightly annoyed.

“You’ve—” he cuts himself off, face scrunched in what looks like confusion, frustration, annoyance— Jeongguk isn’t sure. He’s about to start worrying until his boyfriend’s expression turns softer. “Jeongguk, come here,” he murmurs, pulling the younger up by his shoulders and scooching back so they’re both sitting up. He towers above him, looking down from his lap. Jeongguk gulps audibly.

Jimin tucks a strand of Jeongguk’s hair behind his ear. “We don’t have to do that if you’re not comfortable with it,” he says it as if it’s obvious, like he’s offended that Jeongguk couldn’t read his mind. “And even if we did go that far, I could bottom, you don’t have to.”

“But I want to,” he blurts out, his face heating up immediately after. Jimin’s lips part in surprise. “I— I want you to fuck me, hyung.”

Thankfully the next emotion that crosses over his boyfriend’s face is one that Jeongguk recognizes easily: desire. The prince stares down at him with obvious want, eyes half-lidded and bottom lip in between his teeth.

“Really?” he asks in a low tone.

He nods jerkily. He clutches his sheets in his fists on either side of his body. “B-but I’ve never— people always look at me and immediately assume, so— I’ve always been the one who—”

“The one on top,” Jimin finishes for him.

“Yeah,” he huffs out a shaky breath. His heart feels like it’s going a hundred kilometers an hour. “And I’m fine with that, I like that too, but...sometimes I just…” he trails off, biting his tongue and looking away. Jimin grabs his chin with his thumb and index finger, turning Jeongguk to face him again.

“Hey,” he calls in a quiet voice. The younger’s gaze locks back onto his. “You want me to fuck you? Been thinkin’ about it?”

His deep voice makes Jeongguk squirm, shivers running up and down his skin. Jimin keeps his hold on his chin, not letting him look away.

“Yeah,” he answers. “But I’m scared.”

“Why are you scared?”

“I’m scared it’s gonna hurt,” he confesses even though it makes him sound like some inexperienced teenager. Jimin seems so mature above him. If Jeongguk didn’t trust him so much, didn’t know that his boyfriend would take care of him no matter what, he’d be uncomfortable. But even with how awkward this topic is and how badly he wants to just change the subject, Jeongguk doesn’t feel unsafe. Jimin’s hold on him makes sure of that.

The grip on his chin curls up to stroke soft lines just beneath his jaw. “Why?”

“I-I’ve just never,” the heat on his cheeks feels like it’s spreading all the way down to his chest, “I’ve never touched...myself. Down there. I tried once and, and it hurt, I was too tight. Couldn’t relax.” He starts rambling, unable to stop himself. “And I’ve read these things about how much it can hurt and how you can hurt yourself. It might tear or I could start bleeding and all of these forums kept saying it hurt really bad the first time.” He thought researching would calm his nerves, but it only heightened his anxiety after he read article after article describing the pain that goes along with being on the receiving end of sex.

“Baby,” Jimin coos, but it doesn’t sound patronizing. He leans down to place a kiss against Jeongguk’s temple. “The reason it hurts the first time for a lot of people is because they aren’t being safe and they haven’t prepped enough. Porn and the media make it out to be something you can just jump into, but you can’t. Especially not for your first time bottoming.”

Jeongguk lifts his head and lets his boyfriend push his hair back from his face. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, if you want me to fuck you, we definitely wouldn’t be deciding it in one afternoon,” Jimin states. “It’s not like I can finger you and have you ready in ten minutes. It doesn’t work like that.”

The younger ducks his head, embarrassed. Sometimes it seemed like that, especially with the way it’s portrayed in media. The times he had slept with other people, his partner was experienced and had already prepped beforehand. They needed minimal stretching before they got to actual sex, so Jeongguk had no real-life experiences to base his limited knowledge off of. “Oh,” is all he gets out.

“We’d have to take our time,” Jimin kisses his temple again, moving onto just above his eyebrow. “It’d take a while. I’d start with teasing the outside, getting you used to it,” another peck between his eyes, at the top of his nose bridge, “wait ‘til you’re comfortable, not push in too far. Use lube and take it real slow, starting with a pinky finger until you’re good enough for a bigger one.” A soft kiss over his eyelid, another on top of his cheekbone, “wouldn’t move on to two fingers until you’re ready. Wouldn’t go too fast. And even when you can start taking more, I’d use toys on you until you’re used to the feeling and you like it.” He drags his lips leisurely down Jeongguk’s cheek, puckering at the side of his nose before resting at the corner of his mouth.

He feels worked up just from Jimin’s voice and tone, fingers gripping the sheets and breath hitching. The prince takes amusement in this, smiling against Jeongguk’s lips before pulling back and brushing his hands along his face again, trailing gentle touches all the way from his temples to his sternum.

“Jimin-hyung,” he breathes out, voice tilting into a whine. Nails scrape along his neck.

“Only then I’d take you,” he purrs. “Only when you’re comfortable, only when you’re begging for it.”

He feels himself hardening beneath the prince again, holding himself down so he won’t grind upward into Jimin’s ass. 

The blond tugs his attention back to him. “I’m not gonna do anything to you without your permission, Ggukie,” he promises with a serious, honest expression. “I’ll take care of you, I’ll make it good for you. I promise it won’t hurt, we’ll take it slow so it won’t hurt. And if you decide it’s not your thing, you can fuck me as much as you want. We can stop at any time.” After a pause, he adds, “and we don’t even have to do any of that yet. I just wanna have my hands on you, want to make you feel good.” His dark eyes bore into Jeongguk’s. A flirty smile appears on his face, pink lips parting to show white teeth and a flick of his tongue. “Can I make you feel good, Jeonggukie?”

Jeongguk jerks his head up and down. This answer pleases Jimin, who swoops down and captures the younger’s lips into a kiss. The grinding starts again and Jeongguk finally lets go of the sheets to plant both hands on the prince’s lower back, feeling his muscles contort under his palms. Jimin swivels his hips over him until he’s bucking up into the touch and whining into the other’s mouth.

“You’re so good for me, Ggukie,” Jimin mumbles into his mouth. He can only give a muffled answer in response, too busy deepening the kiss with his tongue to reply with words. He hovers his fingers over the waistband of Jeongguk’s jeans almost hesitantly. “Can I take these off, baby?” he asks, preparing for the younger to say no. His fingertips barely graze the material.

It feels like Jimin drained the anxiety out of his limbs, drop by drop. His body feels loose and pliant in his hyung’s grip. He nods against Jimin’s mouth. “Yeah, yeah, take ‘em off,” he breathes out in a rush. This earns him another sweet kiss before hands raise to his chest. They push him back a fraction.

“Lie down, baby.” He didn’t ever think he was one for pet names, but the soft way Jimin whispers it makes him drop back to the mattress with a pleased, contented sigh, happy with the way the prince drags his hands over his stomach. He used to have more definition, used to have abs at one point over the summer in between dieting and working hard at the studio, but between his busy schedule of practice, classes, and work, Jeongguk hasn’t been eating as healthy as he used to. Jimin doesn’t seem to mind the lack of a six-pack. He lowers his head to suck at the skin right above Jeongguk’s navel, making the younger arch his back at the sudden touch.

“So beautiful, Jeongguk. All mine, I’m so lucky,” Jimin whispers and God, Jeongguk never thought the man would be so vocal with compliments but it makes him squirm nonetheless, enjoying the attention. Hands travel back to the button of his jeans. The prince pauses and waits for Jeongguk to nod again before he feels Jimin undoing the loop and pulling the zipper down. Hands grasp at his sides to pull the waistband down and Jeongguk lifts his hips to make the slide easier.

It isn’t easy to get his jeans off, one pant leg getting stuck against his ankle and almost taking the prince off the bed with it when it finally jerks loose. Jimin catches himself on Jeongguk’s bare thigh before he goes tumbling off the bed. The jeans fling across the floor, inside-out. His boyfriend glances back at him with wide eyes before they burst into giggles.

“Shut up,” he chuckles and tries to look annoyed. Jeongguk waves him back over, hands already reaching forward to tug Jimin’s sweatpants down in one go. His cock springs free from the waistband. Jeongguk’s draw drops.

“You weren’t wearing underwear,” he blurts out like an idiot. He tries to avert his gaze but he can’t move his eyes from Jimin’s dick.

He honestly hasn’t had that many to compare it to, but it looks, well, good. Not bad. Definitely not bad with the way the head is flushed a deep red color, precome already beading at the tip. Jeongguk swallows.

“Hey, my eyes are up here,” Jimin jokes. It draws a snicker out of the younger, thankful that his boyfriend can distract him with jokes to keep him from fully freaking out again. It’s definitely something to think about later, especially when he considers how that is somehow going to be inside him. He can hardly comprehend it.

“Sorry,” he shrugs with a guilty grin, raising his jaw to kiss Jimin. “You caught me off guard.”

“Yeah, I forgot I wasn’t wearing boxers, I’m sorry.”

Jeongguk laughs. “No, you’re not.”

The prince has the decency to look a little ashamed but shakes his head with a smirk growing on his face. “No, I’m not.” He lifts himself off of Jeongguk’s lap to fully shrug off the sweatpants. Once they’re on the ground he resituates himself above Jeongguk, fully naked.

“Fuck,” he whispers. It’s the first time he’s ever seen the prince like this. He leans back on his elbows and takes a moment to take in his boyfriend’s beauty, the golden skin stretching across his chest, the moles on his stomach, the happy trail leading down to thick thighs and his cock. He hasn’t seen the backside yet but knows if it’s anything like the front, Jeongguk’s done for. “God, you’re so fucking gorgeous,” he blurts out.

Jimin smiles shyly and fidgets above him. Jeongguk sits up a little to drag his palm down his boyfriend’s stomach, hesitating for a second before it travels below his waistline.

He hears a choked-off hum above him when he takes Jimin in hand, wrapping his fingers around the base of his cock and squeezing. His hyung lets out a shaky breath, resting a hand on his shoulder.

“You’re big,” he comments, and Jimin huffs out a laugh.

“Judging by your little buddy hiding in your boxers, I can probably say the same about you.”

Jeongguk wrinkles his nose. “Don’t call my dick a ‘little buddy.’”

Both hands push at his shoulders until Jeongguk lies back again, head hitting the pillow with a soft thud. He lets go of Jimin with keeps his arms within reaching distance.

“Can I take your boxers off?” the blond asks, dark eyes peeking down at him through his bangs. Jeongguk shivers at the sight of him kneeling over him.

“Yeah, shit,” he mutters, moving to help Jimin slide the dark fabric off his hips and down his thighs. He feels the prince staring down between his legs and flushes, now knowing exactly what Jimin felt when he was gawking earlier.

“Fuck, are you sure you can’t fuck me?” he asks with a slight whine in his voice. “God, what the fuck did your parents feed you?”

Jimin scooches up his torso enough so their cocks rub against each other, dry friction on skin making Jeongguk buck his hips up slightly. He huffs out a quiet laugh. “I don’t think dick size is determined by whether I ate my vegetables or not as a kid.”

His back arches when Jimin wraps his hand around the both of them, fingers not fully closing around their shafts. He shrugs like it’s an everyday conversation. “Maybe. I’ll have to look it up.”

Jeongguk scoffs. “Sure you don’t wanna do it right now?”

The prince shoots him a devilish smirk. “Nah, I’m busy,” he states before stroking his fist in a tight, upward motion. He squeezes once he gets to the heads, eliciting a choked-off moan from the younger as he tries to get his bearings.

It’s dry, even when Jimin thumbs at his slit and drags precome down their shafts. He leans over and spits over their dicks, using it as lube to jerk them off faster. Jeongguk’s thighs tighten at the pleasure.

“Ah, fuck,” he curses, clenching his toes and moving his hands to grip Jimin’s thighs. He feels the muscles spasm under him as Jimin slightly thrusts with each stroke. “God, hyung, feels so good,” he babbles. He isn’t sure if he’s so turned on because Jimin has good stroke game (likely) or simply because it’s Jimin (probable) but his nerve endings feel on fire and they’ve barely even started.

For someone who likes to talk so much during foreplay, Jimin’s surprisingly silent as he focuses on jerking them off, face scrunched in concentration. Jeongguk watches his lips curl in slightly to form a tight line. Jimin’s eyes travel from below them to meet Jeongguk’s gaze. He raises an eyebrow in question, still thrusting forward and jerking all the same. Jeongguk doesn’t know why this particular action arouses him, but he bucks up into Jimin’s tight fist and moans, deep and guttural.

Despite his declarations of wanting to suck Jeongguk off, they don’t even get to it. Jimin eventually hunches over him, sweating and panting from the exertion until Jeongguk licks a wet stripe up his palm, making sure to coat it with a liberal amount of spit before reaching between their torsos and taking over. He pays excessive attention to Jimin’s slit, digging his thumb hard and feeling precome coat his fingers. 

His hyung moans into his ear and drops lower until all he’s held up by are his elbows, grinding hard onto Jeongguk with his face tucked into the crook of his neck. Jeongguk pulls his hand out from in between them to grab Jimin’s ass in a tight grip. The pace is heavy and fast and the other’s hips stutter every couple of seconds. He feels the prince wind up tighter as the minutes go by.

Jeongguk spreads his cheeks with his hands, trailing his index finger down his crack and over his entrance. Jimin whines and shudders and before he can even think of putting any pressure over the wrinkled skin, he feels his boyfriend shake above him, warmth spilling over his lower stomach.

“Fuck,” Jimin groans into his ear, riding out the aftershocks of his orgasm with shaky, stuttered thrusts. He breathes heavily into Jeongguk’s neck for a few seconds before tipping his head up, muttering, “wanna suck you off.”

The younger shakes his head and leads Jimin’s hand back down to his cock. “Won’t last,” he confesses. “I’m close, I just need a little bit more.”

His boyfriend nods, gripping tight around him and resuming the pace from earlier. He’s careful not to buck up this time after Jimin whines at the sensitivity. The prince mouths at his neck, keeping his strokes shallow and quick near the head of Jeongguk’s cock. He unravels within minutes, panting hot breaths into the blond’s hair and coming into Jimin’s hand.

They lie there for a few minutes, uncaring of the mess in between them as they catch their breath. Finally, Jimin snorts and turns his jaw to press a kiss against Jeongguk’s cheek. “Now that wasn’t so scary, was it?” he asks teasingly.

The younger huffs and shoves him off his chest. The mattress squeaks as he lands next to him with a shriek, followed by the tinkling laughter that Jeongguk finds himself longing for more and more these days.



It’s one of those weeks where he hardly sees his boyfriend aside from quick facetimes which last less than ten minutes, Jimin and him trying to fit in as much conversation as they can before the prince is ushered away to be briefed for yet another meeting. It was promised that Jimin wouldn’t have his previous workload thrown on him until after he graduated, but this week must’ve been deemed too important for him to miss. Jeongguk doesn’t even know what the classified meetings are for or what the big problem is. All Jimin tells him in their texts is that involves some deal on oil between Russia and Japan but can’t offer any further explanation. Not that he’d understand anyway. Despite Jimin believing he’s hopeless and out of his depth with his position, the younger can’t even keep up with him when the prince tries to explain what’s happening in their government. Jeongguk never thought a prince would have so much work aside from fancy diplomatic dinners overseas and the rare parliamentary address. The amount of stress on his boyfriend’s shoulders proves him wrong tenfold.

Their last texts were sometime around breakfast, so Jeongguk has no idea when the man will fly back to Korea. He settles himself down for a long night at his desk, determined to get as much work done ahead of time as he can so there’ll be no distractions once Jimin returns. They’ve already planned to go to a karaoke bar with the others on Friday, but Jeongguk would like to spend as much time as possible with his boyfriend, thank you very much.

Luckily he has Hoseok to nag him into taking a break from pouring over a film script for his Cinematography Methods course so he can eat dinner. He doesn’t actually leave his desk, but Hobi comes in with two full plates in hand, sitting on Jeongguk’s bed and opening a new window on the younger’s laptop. They watch mindless videos on Youtube while they eat.

His hyung manages to steal half an hour from him doing this until Jeongguk thanks him and kicks him out of his room so he can focus on his projects. He gets through the screenwriting and moves onto an essay he needs to finish by midnight. He manages to get that done too, despite spending over half an hour trying to thread together a conclusion paragraph.

Even though he’s finished almost everything, Jeongguk doesn’t feel tired enough to go to bed. He opens up his video editing software, pulling up a personal project he’s been working on for a couple of weeks.

It started as something innocent, a joke— just putting a video of Jimin goofing off with funny music in the background. At least until Jeongguk switched it out for a softer, slower love song and added more and more videos of Jimin into his digital workspace.

He adds to it when he feels like it. There are empty gaps throughout the video where he hasn’t found the perfect clip to place there. It had started with a video of Jimin mocking himself on the television, rolling his eyes and yelling over the mistakes he made in a public address that no one noticed but him. Now it’s become something of an embarrassing love declaration. He knows that this will never be released. Even if they went public with their relationship, this is a project Jeongguk will keep for himself. No one will see these videos but him.

He’s in the middle of trying to decide which video clip of Jimin laughing would be best during the bridge of the song when he hears a familiar voice coming down the hallway. Jeongguk has just enough time to turn his laptop on sleep mode before his door is being pushed open and his boyfriend walks in, striding towards Jeongguk’s bed and collapsing in a heap on top of it.

“Jimin-ah?” 

The prince mumbles something about respect and honorifics into the pillow. He can’t hear most of it since Jimin refused to lift his face from the fabric.

Hoseok peers his head through the doorway. “Hey, he kind of just let himself in after I opened the front door. Hope that’s alright with you.”

Jeongguk nods and waves it off without turning his gaze from Jimin’s figure on the bed. “No problem, hyung.”

“Oh, so he’s hyung, but not me,” Jimin grumbles. He lifts his head to glare at him. “What, I suck your dick once and suddenly you have no respect for me?”

Hoseok gags. “And with that, I’ll be leaving,” he snorts, inching away from the door. “Night, guys. Please keep it quiet; these walls are thin and there’s only so much noise my headphones can cancel out.” He leaves before Jeongguk can reply. The brunet sputters in embarrassment, covering his face in his hands with a groan.

He gets a light kick against the back of his desk chair before his humiliation fest goes too far. He peeks through his fingers to glare at the prince. 

Jimin looks unimpressed, lying on his side to face Jeongguk. “What?”

“It’s your fault he heard us last time!” he accuses in a whisper.

“You were the one being noisy.”

“Yeah, well, who was the one making me like that?”

Jimin lifts his foot to kick Jeongguk’s chair again. “Yah, talk to me with respect!” he scolds. “What’s gotten into you, dropping honorifics and shit? Why are you such a brat lately, huh? I didn’t give you permission to use banmal!”

“Hyung,” he whines, arching his back over the chair in a cat-like stretch. He drops his arms back to his side and looks at his boyfriend, making sure to take full advantage of his puppy eyes. “My mom let my dad drop honorifics two months into dating.”

Jimin narrows his eyes.

“I just wanna feel like we’re equals,” he pouts.

The prince glares at him over the pillow. “Bullshit, you just want me to call you hyung in bed. Tough shit, Jeonggukie, I’m not doing it.”

Jeongguk huffs. He knew that wouldn’t have worked. Jimin’s better at puppy eyes anyway. He can’t easily be swayed.

“You’re so mean,” he grumbles childishly. Jimin rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Get up here and spoon me.”

Jeongguk breaks his annoyed act immediately. He scrambles out of his chair and flops onto the mattress. Jimin flips onto his other side, exposing his back for Jeongguk to plaster himself to. They shift around to get comfortable and finally settle with his arm thrown over Jimin’s side and a leg fit snug between the prince’s thighs. His boyfriend sighs in contentment.

“Fought with your parents again?” he asks.

Jimin nods. “It was a matter of time, really. The longer I’m in their company the more likely it is for us to go at it.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

The blond shakes his head. Jeongguk squeezes him tighter.

After a moment, Jimin says, “came here as soon as the plane landed. Hoseok took forever to get to the door even though I texted both of you that I was coming up.”

Jeongguk glances at his phone across the room. He’s had it on silent for the past three hours to focus. 

“Sorry, I turned off my phone.” After a moment, he jokes, “maybe I should just get you a key.”

His hyung doesn’t laugh like he expects him to, instead humming and nodding like it’s a good idea. “Yeah, you should.”

Jeongguk pulls back to look at him. The prince turns his shoulders back so he partially faces him. “Isn’t that a little fast?” he asks with a nervous chuckle.

This is what the other chooses to laugh at. “What happened to long haul? Already backing out?”

The younger rolls his eyes. “Alright,” he relents. It’s not that big of a step anyway. Jimin turns back over, satisfied. He backs his ass up until it’s pressed snug against Jeongguk’s lower stomach. After a pause, he adds, “I want two kids, by the way. A boy and a girl.”

Jimin pulls back so fast he almost smacks his arm into the wall. He twists his neck to stare at Jeongguk like he’s crazy. “ Excuse me?

He continues with a sinister grin growing on his lips, “and I don’t want a beach wedding, but I guess we can get engaged on one. I don’t know if I’ll want to settle down outside of the city yet, but I want a dog so maybe we’d have to anyways—” and Jimin’s already laughing and pushing him away before he can continue.

“What the hell’s gotten into you?!” he shrieks with laughter.

“You wanted long haul!” 

His boyfriend doesn’t respond but he flips over and buries his face beneath Jeongguk’s chin. It’s hard to fight the smile off his face.

There’s silence for a few moments before Jimin speaks into the quiet room.

“Okay, well, I want three boys.”

Jeongguk leans back and narrows his eyes. “Do you have a death wish?”



Recipient: Jiminie
Sender: Me
21 JAN, 12:07AM

Me
where are you now
(that i need ya)
((badadabing, badadabing, badadabing, woOo))
that was justin beiebrier’s song
hyung could you tell

Jiminie
try spelling his last name again

Me
justin beyibir

Jiminie
again

Me
beeibar

Jiminie
you get points for trying

Me
where oh where is my beloved boyfriend
where in the world is carmen santiago
you remember that show?

Jiminie
it was a show?
i thought it was a PC game
i’m in new york

Me
ew
why

Jiminie
shit w/ the un

Me
like...the united nations?

Jiminie
yeah i have to make an address on the state of reunification negotiations

Me
that so cool
hyung is so cool
my bf is so fucking hot
im hard

Jiminie
it starts in half an hour don’t you dare fuck with me on this

Me
is it televised

Jiminie
idk but its probably gonna be streamed online

Me
im gonna jerk off to your speech

Jiminie
i literally hate you

Me
talk conflict resolutions to me hyungie

Jiminie
no daddy?

Me
nah thats weird

Jiminie
but you wanting me to call you hyung isnt?

Me
i literally have NEVER asked to be called hyung

Jiminie
namjoon says otherwise

Me
how the hell would namjoon know that

i’ve never fucked namjoon

Jiminie
wait really?

Me
YES???

Jiminie
oh
all ur friends thought you had a crush on him for like two years

Me
I JUST THINK HE’S COOL

Jiminie
how the hell do you think he’s cool we watched him eat a pudding cup in ten seconds flat last week
and also you just called me cool and then immediately switched to masturbating to my un speech

Me
ok but BEFORE he ate that like an animal he folded the pudding lid into a makeshift spoon like a genius
how is that NOT cool
and maybe ur onto something bc now that i think about it if it had been you who did that i wouldve been on my knees in a second

Jiminie
i am about to go on a stage in front of dozens of the world’s major leaders and representatives if you get me hard thinking about you sucking my dick i WILL destroy you

Me
rearrange my guts hyung-nim :)

Jiminie
a bold statement considering it’s coming from the guy who shrieked and fell off the bed when i tried touching his asshole last weekend

Me
i was TAKEN OFF GUARD

Jiminie
i literally TOLD you i was gonna do it beforehand

Me
yeah, like, thirty seconds before

Jiminie
and you NODDED

Me
sorry i need at least two weeks in advance before assplay can be approved and stimulated
i have to mentally prepare myself for that shit

Jiminie
definitely not giving you two weeks but here is a FORMAL NOTICE that when i get home on wednesday i plan to FULLY touch your ass to my hearts content

Me
no can do hyungie i got a train ride on thursday to busan you are absolutely not fingering me the day before i sit on those uncomfortable ass seats for five hours

Jiminie
when do you get back

Me
after chinese new year

Jiminie
ok well formal notice im plowing that ass when u get back

Me
ooo, i’m sCaReD

Jiminie
gonna make you come from my fingers alone
wont even let you touch yourself

Me
WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO NOT RILING YOU UP BEFORE YOUR SPEECH

Jiminie
yeah ur right thats in like 10 mins
k bye babe text u tonight

Me
i despise you
i have lunch with seokjin in twenty minutes and im fucking hard now

Jiminie
xx

Me
you’re a fucking monster

 

He arrives fifteen minutes late to lunch with Seokjin. By then, the man has ordered his meals from the waitress and already has an appetizer on the table.

They chose a small family-owned diner to eat at instead of somewhere better known. Seokjin’s popularity is picking up, especially after he trended on twitter for a couple of days for attending a music awards show with Namjoon, officially being dubbed as ‘car door guy’ after netizens swooned over pictures of him walking into the venue.

Jeongguk hurries to their table once he spots his hyung. “Sorry, I lost track of time,” he pants. After his conversation with Jimin, he’d been...preoccupied. He ended up speeding to get to the restaurant and sprinting from the parking lot.

Seokjin raises an unamused brow but shrugs him off. “It’s fine. I already ordered.” He waves down the waitress so she can take Jeongguk’s order. The young girl doesn’t seem to recognize the actor, but he doesn’t doubt this occasion will happen less often at the end of the year. His hyung has already snagged two roles for separate castings: one for a short film for an indie music festival and another as a side character for a popular drama series. He’ll only feature in one season, but Jeongguk won’t be surprised if he receives more attention and offers once the episodes premiere.

Luckily, conversation flows easily with Seokjin. At first, Jeongguk had been nervous during solo outings with the guy since he was his crush’s best friend, but Seokjin has a way of preventing people from being anxious. Maybe it’s the awful jokes he cracks to break the tension or the way he asks Jeongguk about things he’s passionate about and can discuss for hours on end, he’s not sure. Whatever it is, it’s not hard to see how Namjoon instantly fell for him.

“How’s Joonie-hyung?” he asks. He texts his friend often nowadays even though he doesn’t expect an answer back. Comeback season has just started but Jeongguk makes sure there are plenty of dumb messages and memes in his inbox whenever he has a minute to look through his phone. The last thing he sent to Jeongguk was a selca of him half-asleep in the dance studio with his choreographer. 

Seokjin quirks his lips at the thought of his boyfriend. “Working hard as always. It kind of sucks right now because as soon as his comeback winds down, I’ll start filming new gigs. We’ll have time for each other and everyone else in the spring, but until then it’ll just be really busy. It’s better now that his mixtape is released. He doesn’t sleep in the studio anymore. Still doesn’t come home until past midnight, but at least I wake up with him next to me.”

Jeongguk smiles at the thought of Namjoon trying his best to crawl into bed without waking their hyung. Cute—like an elephant trying not to wake a mouse. “When will filming start?” he asks.

“March. I’ll hardly have any days off,” he complains.

He sits up straighter at this. “Will you still be able to go to Jimin-hyung and Tae-hyung’s graduation?”

Jin nods and Jeongguk sags in relief. “Of course, they’re my best friends. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he muses. “I managed to work things around but it wasn’t easy. I had to give them an ultimatum: give me the day off for the ceremony, or I would drop the job.”

Jeongguk raises his eyebrows. “Wow, you can do that?”

His hyung shrugs. “Technically not. But it was around the time ‘car door guy’ was still pretty big, so they didn’t want to let me go.”

Jeongguk hums. His food arrives and they spend a couple of minutes eating without saying anything more. Seokjin hums around his food.

“Are you going down for the holiday this week?” he asks through a mouthful of noodles. 

He nods. “Yeah, I leave Thursday morning.”

“Taking Jimin with you?”

He bristles. “What? No.”

“Why not?”

“Isn’t that a little too fast?” He pushes his dumplings around on his plate, shrugging. “We’ve only been dating since Christmas.”

“Yeah,” he hums, “but you’ve been sort of going around each other since early autumn.”

“That doesn’t really count,” Jeongguk scoffs.

“I dunno, it sort of does. You guys went on tons of dates.”

“Those weren’t dates. We were just hanging out.” After a pause, he leans forward and asks, “did Jimin call them dates?”

To his disappointment, Seokjin shakes his head. “Nah, he was too emotionally constipated for that. But I think everyone else called them dates. Joonie and I sure did.”

“Okay, but it doesn’t mean anything if the two people in the relationship didn’t call them dates.”

Seokjin puts down his chopsticks with a sigh like he was impatiently explaining something to a toddler. “Did you hook up with anyone since you guys met?”

Jeongguk scrunches his face. “Well, no, but—”

“Good. Jimin didn’t either. You guys were so weird, you had already committed to each other and were flirting before you even bothered confessing. It was like watching a middle school romance gone wrong.”

“Didn’t you and Namjoon-hyung do the same thing?”

The elder waves him off. “Of course not. We’re mature adults.” Jeongguk really doubts that but he doesn’t correct him. “Anyway, who cares if it’s too early? Time is an illusion.”

“You’ve been hanging out with Namjoon-hyung too much.”

Jin scoffs. “Actually, I haven’t been hanging out with him enough. I haven’t fucked him since, like, New Year’s.”

He’s really glad he doesn’t have any food in his mouth when Seokjin says this, because if he did, Jeongguk would’ve choked on it. “Hyung, ew,” he complains.

His friend shrugs him off. “Whatever. Don’t think about it too much. Just invite him to come with you.”



Jeongguk doubts dragging his month-long relationship into a sudden meeting-the-parents thing will turn out very well, but he nods nonetheless. He doesn’t actually plan on asking Jimin until the man himself brings it up the next day when he gets back from the airport.

“Hey, why don’t I go down to Busan with you?” he asks as they pack Jeongguk’s suitcase together. He tries to sound nonchalant and unaffected but the brunet watches the way he fiddles with refolding a shirt for the third time tells Jeongguk otherwise. “I could, y’know, meet your parents.” His voice gets a little quieter at the end as if he’s regretting asking.

He makes sure to place a reassuring hand against Jimin’s hip as he passes him to grab the lube out of his nightstand. Jimin may be determined to go further once he gets back, but there’s no way Jeongguk is gonna walk into that without having at least trying to prepare beforehand. Besides, his childhood bedroom has been desecrated enough. It saw his hormonal teenage years.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, hyung,” he answers softly. If it weren’t for him winding his arm around Jimin’s waist once he returns to the prince’s side, his boyfriend would probably start freaking out at this admission. “Not that they wouldn’t like you,” he hurries to state, “but they don’t even know I have a boyfriend.”

Jimin spins around at this. “You haven’t told your parents about me?” His voice rises at the end just enough for Jeongguk to get the hint to tread lightly.

He makes sure to keep his voice level when he answers. “No, I haven’t.”

His boyfriend looks hurt. “Why? Yeah, we’ve been dating for a month, but I thought we were serious.”

Instead of responding with something mature and thought-out, Jeongguk blurts, “well, your parents don’t know about me either.”

The prince sends him a look that easily articulates are you fucking kidding me? Jeongguk hurries to backtrack.

“Sorry,” he rushes. “I don’t know why I said that. I’m sorry.”

He worries this’ll start a fight, but Jimin deflates once he apologizes. “It’s fine. But you know I— if I could, I’d tell my parents about you.”

Jeongguk didn’t know this, but the confession warms his chest anyways. He tip-toes to press a kiss on Jimin’s forehead, right beneath his hairline. “I didn’t know if I was allowed to tell my parents about us. I know we have to be careful, I didn’t want to risk it.”

“I trust your parents.” Jimin pulls him into a hug, tilting his head onto Jeongguk’s shoulder and placing an innocent kiss on his neck. “You can tell them. I want your family to know about me.” 

He easily reciprocates the embrace. “Alright, hyung.” He holds Jimin closer and runs a hand down his spine. The prince shivers in his arms. “I’ll call my mom tonight and tell her about us. I want you to come down with me too, but don’t you have that final project proposal due this weekend? Would you be able to finish it up in time for us to leave tomorrow morning?”

Jimin stiffens as if just remembering. “Fuck,” he huffs. “You’re right.” The prince has around five projects that he has to complete for graduation, and Jeongguk knows the proposal is one of them. His hyung can’t afford to take a bad grade on it. Either way, Jeongguk wouldn’t let him.

“Don’t worry. You can always meet them another time.” He rubs soothing circles into Jimin’s back. The man melts against him. Jeongguk pulls them onto his bed, kicking the suitcase to the end of the mattress.

“I’ll be really busy for a month after I graduate,” Jimin grumbles. He lets the younger manhandle him into a comfortable position until he’s sat in Jeongguk’s lap. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to.”

“There’s always time, it doesn’t have to be straight away,” Jeongguk assures. “Are you stressed about it?” His boyfriend nods slowly. “I could suck you off?” he offers. Jimin snorts. Jeongguk noses at his ear, whispering, “heard it’s a great stress reliever.”

Jimin doesn’t answer. Jeongguk dips down to kiss at his neck, sucking at a sensitive spot near the knob of his spine. The blond starts giggling and tries to push him off.

“I don’t hear a no,” the younger croons.

This earns him a laugh. Jimin grabs his face in both hands and tugs him up so they’re nose-to-nose. “Fine,” he relents. “Put that mouth to use, Jeon.”

He doesn’t think he’s ever heard Jimin use his name in that tone of voice but it doesn’t help the tingle that shocks through Jeongguk’s body when he says it. He smiles and pecks the prince on his lips.

“Yes, my prince,” he breathes out before flipping them not-so-gently so Jimin is beneath him. He doesn’t miss the way the pet name makes Jimin squirm in delight, already fumbling for the hem of his shirt to pull it off.

Jeongguk can’t help smirking against his boyfriend’s skin.

 

Before his grandmother died, his home was considerably more...tense.

The woman passed away a couple of weeks before Jeongguk took the national exam, but he wasn’t told about what happened until after he walked out of the examination hall. His parents didn’t want to distract him before taking a test that would literally decide his future. He was furious with them at the time but eventually understood. The funeral had passed, he had no good reason to stay angry. 

Jeongguk hadn’t been invited, anyway.

His grandmother hadn’t spoken a word to him in years. She kept a wide berth between them during family holidays. Jeongguk isn’t sure what he would’ve said if she hadn’t.

He treaded lightly throughout all of high school. He didn’t break up with that boyfriend immediately. His parents never encouraged him to do so but Jeongguk ended it out of guilt after a few months.

There were other guys after him, of course. Some serious, some not. Jeongguk didn’t tell his family about any of them. His hyung and parents turned a blind eye if they noticed his late nights spent at places other than hagwon. They pretended to not see the dark bruises peeking from the collar of his school uniform. 

As long as he kept his grades up and got into a good university, his parents allowed him to keep seeing those boys. They didn’t treat him any differently. Supported him when he declared a double major, supported him moving to Seoul.

He only hopes they’ll support this endeavor, too. 

Jimin thumbs at his hipbone in reassurance. He’s sat in the prince’s lap, staring down at the open contact on his phone screen, hovering over the call button.

“Are you nervous?” Jimin asks. He shifts so Jeongguk can lean against his back easier, wrapping both arms around the younger’s waist.

“I don’t think so.” He isn’t worried about his family betraying him by leaking their relationship to the media or anything along those lines. They would never do that. The biggest thing to worry about, really, is whether his family will support him dating the crown prince. Because although they all ignored it during Jeongguk’s teenage years, it’s safe to say Jimin is a little different than his past lovers; he needs his family to accept them because he plans on keeping his boyfriend around for quite some time.

Eventually, he gets the balls to tap the call button. He inhales sharply when his mother’s contact photo enlarges on the screen and starts ringing. Jimin pulls him closer against his chest, leaving no room in between their bodies.

“You’ll be fine,” his hyung assures him, “we’ll be fine.” 

Jeongguk nods blankly.

It only takes a couple of rings for his mom to answer. “Jeongguk-ah?” she calls over the receiver. It’s a little too close, her voice a little too warped from the feedback, but it’s still her. Jeongguk finds himself relaxing against the prince all too easily. It’s been too long since he last called her. 

He puts the phone against his ear and purposefully leaves the volume high so Jimin can listen over his shoulder.

“Hi mom,” he greets. Jimin’s grip on him tightens.

“You’re not canceling on me, are you?”

“No, I’m still coming tomorrow,” he promises. “I just...have something to tell you.”

There’s a tense pause on the other end. Then, a flustered laugh.

“For a moment I was scared you were going to tell me you got a girl pregnant,” she snorts.

This pulls the frigid posture out of his shoulders. “That’s pretty improbable, eomma.” He finds himself smiling even though she can’t see his face. He really needs to visit home more often. He hadn’t realized how much he missed his mom.

“Yeah, that would raise some questions during New Year’s,” his mother hums. “Well, I doubt anything could be worse than that. What’s your news, Ggukie?”

He decides to just come out and say it. “I’m dating someone,” he tells her.

There’s a quiet eh? from the other side of the line. “Oh,” his mom exhales. He hears a muffled voice next and her whispered reply of Jeonggukie’s got a boyfriend! She must turn back towards the phone after, because they can hear her clearly again when she says, “that’s great, honey. Is he coming home with you? Is that why you’re telling us now?”

Jeongguk glances at Jimin over his shoulder. The prince quirks his lips in and shakes his head. Jeongguk turns back to the receiver.

“No, he won’t be coming down with me. He’s in his last year so he can’t take a lot of time off,” he explains and adds a moment later, “he’s uh, he’s from Busan, too.”

Jimin raises an eyebrow. He doesn’t understand why it’s important, but the factor seems to delight Jeongguk’s mother. “Oh great!” she exclaims. They hear her turn again to relay the information to who Jeongguk assumes is his father. There are a few seconds of muffled whispers before a gasp, and, “what’s his name?”

He hesitates with this one. Biting his lip, Jeongguk pulls the phone closer and answers sheepishly, “Park Jimin.”

There’s a burst of laughter over the phone. Jimin digs his nose into Jeongguk’s cheek. He squirms from the cold sensation.

“That’s funny,” she quips. “That’s one of the prince’s names, you know? From the royal family.”

“Yeah, I know,” he replies shakily.

“What a coincidence,” she states before he can add anything else. “How long have you two been dating?”

“A month. We met in September.” He doesn’t know when is the best time to drop the fact that it’s not really a coincidence since he is dating one of the princes. 

“It must be serious if you’re calling home about it,” a familiar voice butts in. It’s too low for his mother’s voice and less accented than his father’s. He knows who it is immediately.

Jeongguk straightens. “Hyung?” he croaks out. Jimin rubs circles into his stomach. “Is that you?”

“Yeah,” Junghyun answers. “I got here a day earlier than planned. Boss let me go early so Shinhye and I decided to catch an evening train.”

“Oh, so you’re all listening?” He does his best to keep his voice from cracking. Jimin hides his smile in the other’s hoodie. 

“Yep! Mom turned on the speaker. The four of us are listening.” 

There’s a chorus of hello s from his parents and Junghyun’s fiancée that follows. Jimin pulls back a little. He taps Jeongguk’s hip until the younger twists around to look at him.

“We can trust her, right?” he asks.

Jeongguk nods immediately. Shinhye has practically been a part of the family for years. She’s dated Junghyun since Jeongguk was in middle school. “Of course,” he answers.

“Who’s that?” his mom asks.

Jeongguk’s eyes widen. He’d been planning to tell his mom about Jimin, not actually introduce them over the phone. He flits his eyes to Jimin. His boyfriend shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s uh,” he stumbles, turning back to face away from the blond. “It’s Jimin. He’s here with me.”

“Really?” his mother shouts, far too close to the mic and making both of them flinch back to protect their eardrums.

“Hello,” Jimin greets sheepishly when they’re sure there won’t be any more sudden exclamations. “Nice to meet you.”

“How polite!” she croons. “How did you two meet?”

“Ah,” Jimin trails off. He sends a look towards Jeongguk. “We’re both in the dance program at our university. We ran into each other a couple of times.” Jeongguk doesn’t miss how he leaves out some very important details in the story but doesn’t comment. 

“Jeonggukie, does Hoseok approve of him?”

“He better,” Jimin mutters. Jeongguk snickers and smacks him.

“Yeah, he does. All of my friends do.”

“It’s not like that’s a large number,” Junghyun quips.

“Hyung!” he whines. Jimin sputters into laughter. “That’s not fair, I— Jimin-hyung, stop laughing— I have two more friends than I had since I last came home, and that’s not including Jimin!”

“Wow, shooting high, there, Gguk,” Shinhye drones. This sets the prince off into another fit of laughter.

“You’re so mean to me,” Jeongguk grumbles. He slaps Jimin’s thigh when the giggles continue. “I’m your boyfriend; treat me gently.”

There’s a cooing noise over the phone as Jimin settles down and pecks Jeongguk’s cheek.

“Sorry,” he croons into the brunet’s ear.

“No, you’re not,” he huffs even though the annoyance is already fading with each silent kiss Jimin presses to his exposed skin.

He doesn’t even have the time to act annoyed to get more; his mother begins asking them a slew of questions that gives them no time to breathe between each response before a follow-up comes through the receiver. This passes ten minutes quickly, both of them avoiding mention of Jimin’s status until they have an opening to drop the bomb.

Finally, their opportunity bears its head in the form of Jeongguk’s father asking, “Jimin-ssi, what are your plans for after graduation?”

“Ah,” Jimin drawls in a casual tone but sends a panicked look to Jeongguk before answering with, “well, I actually already have a position with a government department once I graduate.”

It’s a stretch, but technically not a lie. Jeongguk cringes anyway.

“Really? How did you manage that, do an internship during school?”

“Uh...I have some connections, actually.”

“He was practically born into the role,” Jeongguk jokes. Jimin snorts and jabs him in the ribs with his elbow.

They hear the phone being passed around before a voice comes through. “Wow, what are you, some chaebol?” Junghyun asks.

His boyfriend squirms under him. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes at the modesty. He snatches the phone back from Jimin’s grip. “I would,” he chirps. “Actually, I’d probably say he’s more than that.”

Jimin shoves him off his lap. “Yah, brat,” he hisses, “what happened to break it to them gently ?”

There are some muffled noises over the phone. He hears his mom’s voice for a moment before Shinhye takes over.

“Wah, Jeonggukie, way to go,” Shinhye cheers. “Didn’t peg you for a golddigger.”

“I’m not!” he scrambles to protest. Jimin flops onto his pillows to muffle his laughter into the blankets. “He’s just, he’s—”

“Are we ever going to get a picture of the young man?” his father asks. “I’m beginning to worry he’s closer to my age than he is yours.”

Jimin punches the pillow. Jeongguk groans. “Turn the call to facetime,” he orders.

“I don’t know how to do that— Junghyunie, how do I do that?”

His hyung lets out a tortured sigh like he’s been asked this plenty of times before. “Jeongguk already sent a facetime request, eomma. You just have to click ‘accept’ on the screen.”

“Will it hang up the call?”

“No,” Jeongguk answers. He holds his phone up. Jimin can’t be seen within the frame.

After a moment, an image pops up on the screen. He can just make out his mother’s pixelated face before the video fully loads and he sees his entire family crowding into the screen.

“Where is he?” his mother asks.

Jeongguk smiles. “On my bed. Dead, because you killed him by insinuating he’s a DILF.”

“We never said he had to have a kid, just that he’s rich,” Shinhye corrects. Jeongguk rolls his eyes at her.

“Jimin-ssi, come back, I promise my brat fiancée won’t insinuate you’re sixty years-old again,” Junghyun calls. Jeongguk flips the camera over to show his boyfriend still lying face-down on the bed.

“Look at that,” he muses, “I finally get a boyfriend and you guys kill him.”

“Is that him? He’s so cute!” Shinhye coos.

Jeongguk flips the camera back to himself. “You didn’t even see his face,” he points out.

“Yeah, but I saw his ass,” she replies smugly. “That’s enough for me.”

This comment causes a chorus of disgusted groans from both ends. His mother reaches out to smack her.

Jimin sits up and sticks his nose into the frame, watching the chaos. Jeongguk holds his breath.

They don’t notice at first; his parents are too busy chiding their future daughter-in-law while his hyung covers his face with both hands. It’s actually Shinhye who looks back at the screen first. Her eyes narrow as she takes in Jimin’s features, then widens once she finally recognizes him. Jimin stares at the phone blankly.

“Holy shit,” she remarks loudly enough to catch the attention of the rest of their family members. “Wah, awesome! Our Jeonggukie’s dating Park Jimin!”

This draws confused responses until the others finally turn to the screen. Jimin blinks sleepily and waves.

“Hello,” he greets again.

For a second, there’s nothing, and then—

His mother draws in a short, dramatic gasp. She scrambles to grab the phone from her husband’s hands and, after a couple of seconds of fumbling, ends the call.

The phone makes a chiming noise to let them know the call has finished. They both stare at the dark screen in shock.

After a moment, Jimin opens his mouth.

“Did your...did your mom just hang up on us?”

 

Recipient: Me
Sender: Eomma
22 JAN, 10:01PM

Eomma
JEON JEONGGUK.



He wakes up the next morning to lips and a tongue laving along the skin of his neck.

“Mm,” he groans, eyes still closed. He feels warm under the weighted comforter and with Jimin’s body pressed up against his. A cool hand grips at the flesh above his hip bone. The tongue digs into his clavicle, hard. It sends a jolt of pleasure straight down his spine.

“Fuck, Jimin,” he curses. His eyes suddenly snap open to face the ceiling. He wants to turn his neck to look at the other but Jimin presses his face deeper into Jeongguk’s neck.

“Good morning,” his boyfriend wishes in a deep, gravelly voice and fuck, if Jeongguk wasn’t hard when he woke up, he’s definitely getting there now. “Your alarm woke me up.” He pulls back and splays a palm over Jeongguk’s chest. He shivers against the cold fingers.

“Wha’time issit?” he mumbles. There’s still cold trails of saliva along his neck, feeling overexposed in the cold world outside of his comforter.

“Nine,” Jimin replies. He leans over to pull the skin of Jeongguk’s neck in between his teeth. He rolls the stretched skin in his mouth. The younger shivers. “Got enough time to fuck me?”

“I’m not fuggin’— fucking you,” Jeongguk slurs. He reaches up to rub the grip from his eyes. “Your dick is goin’ in me first. That was the deal.”

The prince raises an unamused eyebrow. “Wow, talk dirty to me, Jeongguk-ah,” he drones.

Jeongguk rolls over, fully ready to fall back asleep. “I’ve seen that monster in your pants. ‘M not quittin’ ‘til it’s been in me, like, at least five times before we switch.”

“That’s pretty greedy of you,” Jimin muses in a deep rumble. He reaches over to pinch Jeongguk’s nipple. The younger swats him away.

“Yeah,” he hums. “What am I, again? Hyung’s greedy slut? ” he repeats the words in a sleepy and uninterested voice despite his hard-on disagreeing.

He receives a slap to the face with a pillow for the comment. “Taehyung was joking when he told you that and you know it,” Jimin whines, the previous sex-voice completely abandoned.

“Yeah,” Jeongguk agrees with a drowsy yawn. He pulls his lips into a grin. “You’re a freak, but you’re a soft freak. Probably wanna tie me up just to call me a good boy or some shit.” He cracks an eye open after saying it, just in time to watch Jimin go red and sputter.

“I— Who—” he stutters out between Jeongguk’s quiet snickers.

He pats his boyfriend’s arm reassuringly. “Give me time to work up to that, hyung,” he mumbles. He takes a deep breath and stretches his limbs out. His wrist knocks against Jimin’s thigh, nudging the morning wood with his knuckles. Jimin squirms. Jeongguk yawns, unaffected. “I need to get up. My train’s in two and a half hours.”

The prince shifts and sits up, leaning over Jeongguk with a sleepy expression. “Is Hobi-hyung still here?”

He shakes his head. “He and Yoongi-hyung had train tickets to Gwangju early this morning. They’re gone by now.”

Jimin smiles like he’s up to no good. “Excellent.” He hefts Jeongguk up by his shoulders despite the younger’s whines about the cold. Jimin pulls him closer until they’re nose-to-nose. Jeongguk blinks at him sleepily. His boyfriend’s smirk grows. “‘Cause I’m gonna suck you off in the shower,” he declares and fully pulls Jeongguk off the bed with him.

 

Jimin ends up doing a whole lot more than that, knelt between Jeongguk’s legs with the prince’s tongue swirling over his cockhead and a finger pressed against his entrance. Jeongguk moans so hard that his head falls back and knocks into the soap caddy. He curses from the sudden pain and Jimin pulls back to laugh at him.

“Feel that good?” His teasing tone would grate on Jeongguk’s nerves if Jimin wasn’t holding all of his power with a loose grip around Jeongguk’s dick.

“Shut up and keep doing that thing,” he grits out. He tries to make it sound assertive but his wavering voice turns it into a whine that echoes off the walls of the shower. 

“What, this?” Jimin digs his tongue into Jeongguk’s slit and looks up with curious eyes. It makes the younger’s thighs tremble but he still manages to shoot a glare down at Jimin.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Jimin’s smile drops, eyes narrowing. He pulls off fully and tips his chin up towards Jeongguk.

“Tell me,” he demands in a low voice.

Jeongguk laughs breathlessly at the shift in mood. “What?”

“Tell. Me,” Jimin orders. He drops his hand and winds it around Jeongguk’s hip to join the other palm in blindly spreading him open. Jeongguk’s breath hitches. Jimin smirks. “Be a big boy, Jeonggukie, tell hyung where you want his hands.”

He swallows. “M-my hole,” he stutters out, barely audible over the rushing water because he can’t think of any sexy way to ask the prince to kindly put your finger back on the rim of my asshole, please. “Want you to— hyung, please— it feels good, please touch my hole, please—” he cuts off his own rambling when the light pressure on his rim returns. Any words he’s about to say come out as a breathy, pleased sigh.

“Good boy,” is all Jimin gets out before his lips are wrapped around his cock again. Jeongguk’s thighs tighten and shake when he begins to suck and shift his tongue beneath his shaft. It feels so warm, hotter than the water pouring down Jimin’s back in rivulets. He doesn’t take Jeongguk deep; they’ve already established and accepted the fact that the man can’t deepthroat to save his life. His gag reflex is too sensitive, so he only manages to get half of Jeongguk into his mouth.

He can’t be bothered to mourn this too much, though, because suddenly the finger that was simply rubbing circles around his rim presses harder, right against his entrance.

Jeongguk gasps and reaches down to grab Jimin, one hand fisted in the blond’s hair and the other tightly clutching his shoulder.

“Hyung, oh—” he exhales.

The finger presses harder until it slides in. The action rips the air from Jeongguk’s lungs. It doesn’t hurt; Jimin isn’t even going past the first knuckle. It just feels different, and he isn’t sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

Jeongguk quickly finds the answer. Jimin doesn’t push any deeper, rather curving the digit in long, slow circles just inside of him. It lights Jeongguk’s nerves on fire. It’s not the same hard, direct pleasure as Jimin swirling his tongue around the head of Jeongguk’s cock; instead it’s a dull and muted feeling that’s building with each passing second. 

There’s a sudden buzzing of vibration around his cock and he looks down to see the prince, eyes closed as he moans around Jeongguk. The younger whines out from the added sensations. He could get off from Jimin’s expression alone, taking in the way his eyebrows draw up and his eyelids barely flutter open to look up at Jeongguk. It’s the stuff of wet dreams and he already feels himself tipping towards the edge.

When Jimin takes him as deep as he can in his mouth and starts shallowly thrusting his finger, Jeongguk’s knees almost buckle. It’s such a sudden burst of tingling pleasure that he barely has time to push Jimin off of him before he starts coming. He does his best to muffle his moans despite the two of them being the only ones in the apartment. He raises his hand off Jimin’s shoulder and holds it against his own mouth, whimpers slipping out from between his fingers.

The white trails of come land along Jimin’s collarbones in runny lines. Jeongguk has enough coherency to glance down at his boyfriend, watching Jimin grin wickedly and continue to finger him through his orgasm.

Jeongguk whines and drops his head back against the wall. Once he’s finally finished with teasing the younger, Jimin stands and connects his mouth with Jeongguk’s.

“My knees are so numb,” he giggles against Jeongguk’s lips. “I think my foot is asleep.”

“I think you just sucked out my soul through my dick,” Jeongguk groans. He blearily opens his eyes and blinks at the shorter. “Do you want me to finish you off here or in my room?”

The red flush on Jimin’s neck and chest from the heat seem to darker even more despite the hot water and steam. He laughs quietly and takes Jeongguk’s hand and leads it down between his legs.

“Oh,” Jeongguk chokes out when his hand comes into contact with soft skin and the remnants of sticky come that had run down Jimin’s thighs. “You— when did you come?”

“When I started fingering you,” he breathes out. “Didn’t even need to touch myself. Got myself off just by your noises and how tight you were.”

Jeongguk coughs in embarrassment. He shifts them both so they’re under the warm shower spray. 

He opens his mouth to reply before clamping it shut a moment later, unsure of what to say. Like, hey, thanks for sticking a finger up my ass, we should do it again sometime?

Luckily, Jimin saves him from that humiliation and brings it up himself. “Was it good? I didn’t go too hard, right?”

Jeongguk is quick to nod. The worried expression on Jimin’s features melts into something more relaxed.

“Really good, hyung,” he assures. He licks his lips. “It didn’t hurt. I was— it felt really, really good.”

Jimin gives him a bright smile. His eyes crinkle into crescents. He leans up for another closed-mouth kiss.

“I’m glad.” He pulls away and reaches for the body wash. “Come on, let’s hurry up or you’ll be late for your train.”

He turns away from Jeongguk to face the showerhead. The younger lets his gaze trail down his shoulders, taking in the toned muscles and the deep-set dimples at the small of his back before settling lower.

It takes everything in him not to whistle.

Jeongguk is a lucky, lucky bastard.

 

They decide it’s too dangerous for Jimin to see him off at the train station. The station will be filled with travelers during this time of year, and the hickey blossoming high on Jimin’s neck wouldn’t be easily explained to the press.

He received a smack for it when Jimin looked in the mirror after showering. When he glanced at his reflection, Jeongguk saw himself with a smug grin. He leaned over and pressed down on the red bruise, hard. Jimin yelped and swatted him again.

His boyfriend instead sees him off at the front door. He gives Jeongguk a confused look when the brunet drops his house keys in the prince’s hand.

“Hoseok-hyung will be back before me. Feel free to stay here.” His voice is steady but there’s no mistaking the high flush on his cheeks. “There’s no reason for you to have to go back and fight with your parents every night. Besides, my apartment is closer to the studio.”

The smile on Jimin’s face is slow-coming. He looks down at the keys in his hand in awe as the corners of his lips quirk up just slightly.

“And, uh,” Jeongguk breaks off and licks his lips nervously. “I’m gonna get a set of spare keys made for you when I get back.”

This makes the prince finally raise his head. He stares at Jeongguk for a moment before lifting his hands to cup the other’s face and pull him down for a hard, bruising kiss.

Jimin leans back just enough to breathe out, “when you get home, I’m gonna fuck you so hard.”

This makes Jeongguk laugh despite the shivers running up his spine. “Slow down, casanova. You got the tip of your finger in me today. Not exactly a giant leap for mankind.”

Jimin drops his serious expression to giggle at the word choice. “Did you just quote Neil Armstrong?”

Jeongguk ducks down to kiss him again. “It’s so sexy that you know who that was.”

“It’s not exactly hard, he was the first dude on the moon—”

He cuts the prince up by dragging him back in, twisting them to the side to press him against the door frame. Jimin squeaks in surprise before melting into the embrace and slinging his arms around Jeongguk’s neck.

When they pull back for breath, Jeongguk makes a promise. “You can fuck me as hard as you want when I can actually take it without crying like a little bitch,” he whispers against his boyfriend’s mouth.

Jimin barks out a laugh and pushes him out the door.

“Get out of here!” he orders even though there’s a dazzling grin painted on his face. 

Jeongguk doesn’t go without another kiss. Jimin grips his sleeves tightly and hums against his lips in content.

“See you in a week,” Jeongguk promises.

The prince hugs him once more and pulls away. “Go before I don’t let you,” he warns.

He can only obey. “Goodbye, my prince,” he bids before turning around and heading towards the elevator at the end of the hallway. He hears a squeaked bye behind him. When he turns to look, Jimin looks like he wants to drag Jeongguk back into the apartment. He smirks and keeps walking.

 

Recipient: Jiminie
Sender: Me
23 JAN, 3:07PM

Me
just arrived!

Jiminie
good
say hello to the family for me

Me
im already getting railed on for not bringing you

Jiminie
my profs have no mercy
chinese new year? idk her

Me
are you at the apartment rn?

Jiminie
yeah fingering myself open on ur bed at this very moment

Me
w
uo
youwhat

Jiminie
just fucking with you
im at the library

Me
the campus library??
isnt that a little dangerous..?

Jiminie
no the palace library

Me
rich people are ridiculous
why do you need an entire library in ur house

Jiminie
you cannot deny that jin and namjoon have an entire fuckin library with how full their bookshelf in their living room is

Me
fair
did you run into ur parents?

Jiminie
nah theyre at a consulate meeting all evening so thats why im here
needed a law reference book for this paper and somehow doubted u and hobi would have one

Me
are you doubting my legality knowledge?

Jiminie
yeah absolutely
the other day when i was telling u abt this paper nd i mentioned de facto standard and you thought that was a new girl group

Me
alright maybe its fair to question me
all the aunties just arrived i gtg
time to get smooched
and hopefully receive money

Jiminie
truly the best part of holiday season
have fun

Me
xx

 

Recipient: Me
Sender: Jiminie
23 JAN, 8:00PM

Jiminie
miss you already

Me
it hasnt even been 12hrs

Jiminie
bold of you to think that can stop me
ur soap is the ones in the purple containers, right?

Me
yeah top shelf near the showerhead

Jiminie
kk
i packed a bag while i was at the palace
so ill be staying here the rest of the week

Me
what about saturday? r u gonna see ur family?

Jiminie
i’ll have to but i think i can dip after a couple hours
how big is your family, by the way? Like...will i eventually have to introduce myself to dozens of baby cousins and swoon multiple aunts?

Me
very bold of you to go straight to meeting the extended fam when my mom panicked and hung up on us when she first saw u
my family isnt that big
my moms an only child and my dad only has one younger brother who has one kid

Jiminie
excellent
one aunt to spoil
one uncle to charm
one baby cousin to buy multiple gifts for until theyre spoiled rotten
your familys gonna love me

Me
u say that as if its a surprise to me
also
idk they havent told us or anything
but im pretty sure shinhye is gonna propose to hyung
she keeps putting her hand in her pocket like shes checking that something is still there
i.e. a ring box

Jiminie
look at my cute bf being so observant
also go shinhye for breaking gender roles

Me
honestly its not even abt gender roles its just bc hyung will never work up the courage to do it
shinhye has always like...idk worn the pants in the relationship

Jiminie
i see
do you think she’ll propose during the new year?

Me
nah i think she’s prob gonna do it after
i dont know its possible thats not even a ring box
but anyway
ring box(?) > marriage > babies > more jeon children for you to spoil

Jiminie
at least until we have our own

Me
hyung
ur gonna give me an aneurysm

Jiminie
how can u spell aneurysm correctly but not justin bieber’s last name

 

Recipient: Jiminie
Sender: Me
25 JAN, 9:51AM

Me
hey do i gotta shave for when i get back
idk the etiquette for bottoming

Jiminie
nah you dont have to shave baby
i dont care abt that kind of stuff
plus knowing you you’ll get razor burn

Me
thats completely fair
bc i absolutely just did

Jiminie
jeongguk…
did you just try to shave your asshole alone for the first time

Me
perhaps
hey is it bad if i put rubbing alcohol on it or will i accidentally bleach my asshole

Jiminie
jesus christ

 

Recipient: Jiminie
Sender: Me
27 JAN, 11:56PM

Me
just tried fingering myself

Jiminie
oh really?

Me
yeah

Jiminie
how’d it go?

Me
not well :/
i got one finger all the way in
but couldnt do anything after

Jiminie
did u get off?

Me
no didnt rly feel anything
just felt kind of uncomfortable
ended up just jerking off

Jiminie
i’m sorry baby
we can try again when you come home
did you think of me?

Me
of course
but ur gorgeous mug aint gonna suddenly open up my asshole

Jiminie
bet



Jimin’s waiting for him when Jeongguk gets off the train.

Well, not exactly waiting as in standing in the midst of a crowded train station, a bouquet of roses in hand and a bright, dazzling smile on his face—

Jeongguk’s getting ahead of himself, here.

What he means is Jimin texts him ahead of time to not bother taking the bus or have Hoseok pick him up. He was to walk to the pickup lane, search for the black SUV with the same license plate number as the one in the picture that Jimin sends him, and get in the backseat.

Call him a lovesick fool, but Jeongguk does just that.

He weaves through the crowds with his head down despite the almost impossible chances of someone recognizing him. The media still haven't managed to get a full picture of his face to plaster all over the tabloids. The only person who’s been identified in their friend group is Namjoon, not including Seokjin and Taehyung. The remaining three of them have had pure luck on their side for not having been photographed yet, although Jeongguk suspects it may have something to do with the accumulated fans of Namjoon, Jin, and Jimin respectively who’ve joined together and agreed on blurring their faces on all photos posted of the group. 

As soon as he gets in and slams the door shut behind him, Jimin pounces.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk huffs as the prince pulls him closer, cradling his jaw and pressing kisses all over his hair. “The— the driver might—”

“The partition is up,” Jimin points out before going to town on Jeongguk’s neck. He pulls back from sucking a deep hickey in the younger’s skin to say, “and she’s long-since signed an NDA. We’re fine.”

He tugs on Jeongguk’s backpack straps until the other twists and slides them off his shoulders. The bag lands with a heavy thud on the car floor. Not even a second passes before Jimin’s hands are on him again, trying to pull off Jeongguk's winter jacket.

“Jesus, hyung,” he complains at his boyfriend’s impatience.

“Just Jimin is fine.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes despite the tightness in his chest from all the affection. He pushes Jimin away but keeps his hands clamped on the prince’s shoulders to prevent him from going too far. “Wow, where’d you learn that one from? Jin-hyung?”

The elder smiles cheesily. “Yeah, actually.”

Jeongguk snorts before pressing into Jimin’s space for a slow, gentle kiss. The blond tilts his head to turn it into something deeper, something dirtier, but Jeongguk pulls away.

“What’s on the agenda tonight? Where are you taking me?” he asks, strapping in his seatbelt as the car pulls away from the curb.

“Taking you to the palace,” Jimin answers.

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow. He’d been there once or twice since they started dating, but as winter really set in it became harder to sneak in through the gardens. They also had the kitchen and staff quarters as an option, but both were considerably more difficult to bypass without staff seeing them and asking questions. The palace workers probably all signed non-disclosure agreements as well but Jeongguk doubts anything in the contract mentions inner-palace gossip, either. If the wrong person sees him they could be outed to the king and queen within a matter of hours.

“Meeting the in-laws, already?” he jokes.

Jimin gives him a glare like he’s about to punch him but pulls Jeongguk against his side all the same.

“Very funny,” he grumbles. “No, you’re not meeting my parents.”

“Then how come the sudden change in plans?”

Jimin shifts in his seat awkwardly. He keeps his gaze directed out the window despite it already being dark out. “I just...remembered that one time I promised that you could use my jacuzzi tub in my bathroom, is all.”

A wicked grin grows on Jeongguk’s features. “That was like, over a month ago.”

“Yeah.”

“You growin’ soft on me, Your Highness?” he asks cheekily.

This time he actually does get punched. Lightly, but all the same. “Shut up,” Jimin growls. He tries to look intimidating but Jeongguk can’t find him as anything other than adorable through his rose-tinted glasses.

He coos and pinches the prince’s cheek. “How cute,” he teases.

“We’re dating, I’m supposed to be soft on you!”

“Yeah, but you’re really soft. Practically melting for me.”

Jimin sighs in defeat and leans against Jeongguk’s side. He reaches down to thread their fingers together. “Yeah, fine.”

Jeongguk smiles and drops it. However, a second later, he asks, “wait, this is the jacuzzi bathtub that fits two people?”

“Sure is.”

He chuckles and goes to rest his temple on the top of Jimin’s head. “Can’t wait.”

 

Half an hour later, Jimin’s leaning over top of him with his tongue down Jeongguk’s throat, moaning out when the younger reaches down to cup him through his briefs. Jimin ruts into his hand and revels in the way Jeongguk’s fingers trace out the shape of his cock through the thin fabric.

“Ggukie, Gguk-ah,” he gasps out when he pulls away. His lips are swollen red and slicked with spit. Jeongguk stares for a second too long and presses at the flesh with his thumb.

“Yes, my prince?” he asks quietly over the soft music playing from Jimin’s phone. He snorted when he saw his boyfriend had titled several playlists as Jeongguk followed by a single word describing the theme of each playlist. The amusement vanished into a broken-off choking noise and a deep, red flush along his cheekbones when he caught eye of Jeongguk, Sex as the title of the current playlist.

The prince recaptures his attention from wandering thoughts with a single, purposeful palm placed on the soft skin of his inner thigh.

“Can we try two fingers tonight?” he asks in a soft whisper.

Jeongguk does his best to keep his apprehension off his features. “Two?” he repeats in a croaky voice.

The blond nods. “You, you said you managed one in while you were gone.” After searching his face, Jimin adds, “tell me if you don’t want to, Jeongguk. I can’t read your mind, baby.”

“I want it,” Jeongguk hurries to say, “just...nervous.” After a moment and a decision to throw all his shame out the window, he says, “I, uh, I read some things on the internet—to be prepared and stuff. And what if, I, uh— I mean, last time you didn’t really go deep so it wasn’t a concern, but…”

Jimin fortunately clues in pretty quickly and shushes him, lifting a hand to push back Jeongguk’s bangs. The younger sighs in relief over his saved dignity. “Don’t worry, Gguk. I’ll teach you how to clean up. Have you, uh, gone to the bathroom in the past day?”

The implication draws a deep flush to Jeongguk’s skin. His face feels hot when he sputters, “are you asking me if I’ve shit in the past day?”

Jimin stares at him with a straight face. “Yes, Jeongguk, that’s exactly what I’m asking.”

The brunet looks away in embarrassment before answering, “yeah, before I left Busan.”

“So, a few hours ago?”

An embarrassed nod.

Jimin gives him a reassuring smile. “Then you don’t have to worry so much. We can take a bath together so you’re relaxed, and you can take a shower and clean yourself up while I fill up the tub.”

He nods in understanding. “Do I, uh...have to clean really deep?”

The prince shakes his head. He places a kiss on Jeongguk’s forehead and gets up off the bed. “No, you only really need to clean the area around the rim and maybe a little inside. There’s less bacteria near the entrance than most people think,” Jimin quips. He goes to unplug his phone and takes it off his nightstand.

“Oh,” is all Jeongguk can really get out. He feels like some virgin, even though he’s done this before. With a guy, no less. Many times.

“Have none of your boyfriends ever told you about this kind of stuff?” Jimin asks. Jeongguk would feel bad if it weren’t for the warm tone Jimin questions him with.

He shakes his head with a scrunched nose. “They always wanted me on top, so...I mean, they never really told me anything beyond one of them scolding me for taking him to a Thai restaurant for a date or something like that, but never explained why.”

Jimin nods with a pained smile. “Yeah, uh, that’s ‘cause spicy food really, uh...inflames your colon. Hurts more and there’s a chance you could shit on someone’s dick.” At the sight of Jeongguk’s paling complexion, he quickly amends, “but we’re fine. That won’t happen. Don’t worry. Shitting on my dick should be the least of your concerns.”

“Okay,” Jeongguk squeaks out.

The prince nods awkwardly and fiddles with the waistband on his briefs. Whatever hard-on he had before has wilted from lack of attention. “Alright,” he breathes out. “C’mon. I’m gonna start the bath and you’re gonna go clean up,” he states, pulling Jeongguk off the bed by both of his wrists. The younger follows him obediently into the bathroom. Jimin ushers him towards the shower before turning to the tub on the other side of the room.

“Should I use lube or soap?” Jeongguk calls as he steps into the stall and turns the knobs to hot water.

“You can use soap on the outer area, but just use lube or even water for inside. I never double-checked this with my doctor or anything, but I doubt it’s good to put soap up there.” Jeongguk hears the faucet of the bathtub start running before Jimin speaks again. “That’s why enemas and shit like that are just warm water, not chemicals or soap or anything like that. Probably messes with your internal pH balance or something.”

Jeongguk pauses halfway through shampooing his hair. “Isn’t that when they shoot water up your butt?” he calls. His voice echoes off the shower walls and he realizes how stupid the sentence sounds as soon as he says it.

“Yeah. Some people do it to clean themselves before taking it up the ass.”

His eyes widen. Jeongguk sticks his head out of the shower stall with a panicked look. Jimin turns to him, sitting on the edge of the slowly-filling bathtub with an arm reached out to test the water temperature. “Do I need to get one?” Jeongguk asks, concern leaking into his voice.

Jimin glances at him with a warm smile and shakes his head. “Nah. It’s unnecessary and kind of over-the-top. I’ve only ever heard of clean freaks and straight women doing them. If you want one, it’s fine, I won’t stop you, but you don’t really need it. Plus, I think I read that it’s bad for you to do colon flushes on the regular.”

The younger stares at him with a blank expression before nodding slowly. “So what I’m doing now is enough?”

“Of course.”

Jeongguk nods again before turning back to the showerhead, sliding the glass door closed again. He’s halfway through washing the shampoo suds out of his hair when he halts, suddenly.

“Wait, I have a pH balance in my asshole ?”

 

He spends longer in the shower than Jimin has the patience for. By the time Jeongguk turns the faucet off, Jimin is whining at him from the bath.

“Jeonggukie, hurry up,” he bemoans. “I promise you you’re clean. Please just get in the fucking bathtub already.”

“You can’t rush perfection, hyung,” Jeongguk grumbles even though a nervous smile appears on his lips. He steps out of the stall and slides the glass door closed behind him. The short trek between the shower and bathtub can’t be more than a few meters, but the strong gaze he feels on his naked body makes Jeongguk shiver. Jimin’s eyes bore into his exposed skin, trailing up from his thighs, across and stomach, and settling on his face.

“God,” Jimin breathes out as Jeongguk lifts a leg into the bath. “You’re so beautiful. M’so lucky.”

His cheesy smile makes Jeongguk’s chest tighten. He doesn’t respond in fear of saying something incredibly stupid, like a far too hasty I love you declaration, but excited giggles slip from his lips as he lowers himself into the bath. Jimin reaches up to support his waist as Jeongguk crouches himself down between the prince’s legs.

There’s more than enough room in the tub for the both of them to stretch out without even grazing one another but Jeongguk decides he prefers pressing up against Jimin’s chest and feeling the prince’s breath against the side of his neck. He rests his weight fully on his boyfriend, dropping his head back against his shoulder and reveling in the hot water.

Jimin’s hands slink around his torso to rest on Jeongguk’s thighs, lightly scratching at the skin with his nails. Jeongguk shudders, already getting turned on.

He twists his head a little to stare at the bottle of lube sitting on the edge of the tub. Jimin follows his gaze and reassures him before the brunet can even ask.

“Later,” he promises with a quick squeeze on Jeongguk’s thighs. “Let’s get you relaxed for now. We’re in no rush.”

“Okay,” Jeongguk whispers. Jimin continues his light touches all over the younger’s body. His skin feels like it’s on fire with every touch.

One of Jimin’s hands lift away from Jeongguk and reaches blindly behind them. There’s the sound of his nails clicking against something hard before there’s an electronic alert noise. Suddenly, jet bubbles fill the bathtub as water jets massage their skin from all sides. Jeongguk groans from pleasure.

Jimin chuckles. “I promised we’d use the jacuzzi bathtub,” he reminds Jeongguk.

“If I could go back and tell myself from a month ago that we’d actually end up in this thing together, I’m not sure if past-me would’ve believed it.”

He feels Jimin’s chest rumble against his back when the prince laughs. “I’d probably get slapped by past-me for giving in so easily.”

Jeongguk hums thoughtfully. “I’m glad you did, though.”

Arms squeeze around his waist. “Me, too.”

There’s a pause between them where the only noises are the jets and the soft music playing from Jimin’s phone. Jeongguk fully relaxes, arms floating motionless at the surface of the water. 

“Tell me about growing up in Busan,” Jimin prompts.

And so Jeongguk does. He tells the prince about the little cramped apartment his family owned before being able to afford a place bigger. How his dad is an illustrator for a publishing company, how despite the long hours he worked and the chronic pain in his wrists he still came home every day and taught Jeongguk and his hyung how to draw under the low light at the kitchen table. How his mom went back to college after Jeongguk was born because she wanted to provide for her family and someone has to pay for all the activities you want to try, Ggukie, and how he did his elementary homework with her at the kitchen table every night, how she paused with her own essays each time to lean over his papers and sound out each hangul character for him.

How he couldn’t sit still as a kid, couldn’t be contained within that too-small apartment, so his family tried to find a hobby to sap the extra energy from him so he could fall asleep at night. They tried everything: hockey, basketball, soccer, figure skating, skateboarding. It was only when he signed up for his first dance class did Jeongguk finally fall into a deep sleep at the end of the day.

How Junghyun was a good hyung sometimes by teaching Jeongguk how to ride a bike and bad at other times, like when they fought over computer time and ten-year-old Junghyun pushed Jeongguk off the chair, giving the five-year-old boy the scar he still has on his cheekbone to this day. Jimin coos at this and twists around him to press a kiss right over the small indent in his skin. 

He trails feather-light touches all over Jeongguk’s stomach while the brunet tells him about his teenage years when Hoseok was one of his few friends but managed to keep Jeongguk from quitting dance when his parents worried it was beginning to get in the way of his grades. How Hoseok offered to personally tutor Jeongguk himself, despite the large workload he took on in his final year of high school.

Jimin’s fingers press harder and massage Jeongguk’s pecs when he talks about his high school boyfriends, the ones who came after his short-lived relationship in middle school. He flicks Jeongguk’s nipple and makes him yelp when he mentions losing his virginity somewhere in his second year of high school, but presses apologetic kisses when the younger writes it off, saying it was just in between sloppy handjobs and foolish proclamations of love only for his boyfriend to say that maybe he’s straight after all. Jimin’s tongue digs into his clavicle to distract him. He bites into the unmarked skin, cutting Jeongguk off from his story about Hoseok convincing him to follow his hyung all the way to Seoul. Sometime during an anecdote about meeting Namjoon, Jimin reaches around and fists Jeongguk’s cock in hand, prompting the other to continue while he strokes him in long, tight drags.

His stories involuntarily trail off into moans as Jimin quickens his ministrations between Jeongguk’s legs. Jeongguk reaches back to squeeze the prince’s thigh when he feels a finger brush against his rim. 

“Hyung,” he gasps out. His muscles tighten and clench with each movement, legs twitching with an urge to close them and trap Jimin’s hand between his thighs. “Hyung, please, want your fingers,” he rambles shamelessly.

Jimin rolls his hips against his ass once before nodding and relocating his hands to Jeongguk’s hips. He pushes the brunet forward until he kneels.

“Rest your upper body on the edge, baby,” Jimin orders him in a quiet voice. 

Jeongguk obeys and scoots over to the edge, pillowing his head in his arms and stretching his lower body behind him. The cold porcelain does nothing to cool down the heat that rushes through his body when he arches his back, ass curving up. It’s embarrassing as hell to be— to be on display for Jimin and to present himself in such an erotic way, making his cock twitch from where it hangs between his legs.

He feels soft touches against the back of his thighs, Jimin’s fingers dragging up the skin. The touch lifts away for a moment before two palms suddenly spread his cheeks open. Jeongguk chokes on a gasp and squirms away at the knowledge that his boyfriend is openly staring at such an intimate part of his body.

“Such a pretty boy, Jeonggukie,” he breathes out in a ragged whisper. The hands stretch him further, pulling the skin taut. “All mine. All for me.”

“All yours,” Jeongguk tells him, knowing it’ll get the man worked up. He knows the prince delights in the idea that they belong to each other, a soft possession that brings comfort and security knowing the other has their back. 

One hand lets go of his ass cheek to drag a finger down his crack, pressing hard against his rim and almost slipping in. Jeongguk swallows a whimper.

“You’re so gorgeous. So pretty. All mine, m’so lucky, Jeonggukie.” The hands disappear for a moment and Jeongguk hears the sound of the cap on the lube bottle popping open. Seconds later, cold liquid drops directly onto his ass and drips down his rim. He jerks forward with a curse.

“Fuck, Jimin,” he growls. “Warn a guy, will you?”

The prince laughs and smacks his ass in punishment for dropping honorifics. It’s hardly anything, but Jeongguk still flushes when he feels the muscle jiggle beneath Jimin’s hand. 

“Jesus, you have such a nice ass,” he praises in a soft voice that makes the younger shiver.

“It’s not as nice as yours,” Jeongguk mumbles petulantly into his arm.

“No,” Jimin admits, but talks over Jeongguk’s dissatisfied snort, “but your fucking thighs are gorgeous, and you have such a pretty body, all wide shoulders and thin waist.”

Jeongguk groans when Jimin’s lube-slicked fingers grasp his cock and stroke him once, twice. The pressure is back against his entrance and Jeongguk knows he can take it, no problem, but it stays constant, not enough to press in but enough for him to become needy.

“Why you—fuck, hyung—you’re always complimentin’ me when we fuck around,” he slurs.

“I kind of get off on it,” Jimin admits with a grunt, and Jeongguk finally feels the tip of his finger slip in. He clenches around it before reminding himself to relax.

Jimin uses his other hand to rub circles into Jeongguk’s hip, drawing the tension out of his body with each passing second. “Also, don’t call it that. I’d like to think what we do together is a bit more sentimental than just ‘fucking around.’”

Jeongguk scoffs. “What do you want me to call it, then? Making love?” he mocks, but his hyung leans down to kiss Jeongguk’s tailbone like he’s serious.

“Yeah,” he replies. Jeongguk’s mouth goes dry.

It’s definitely not a confession by any means but it makes him feel warm all the same. He curses himself for being such a hopeless romantic.

Instead of addressing the obvious, Jeongguk sighs and shifts when Jimin’s fingers start moving in slow circles inside of him. “You said you ‘get off on it.’ On what?” he asks.

Jimin lets out an embarrassed chuckle. “Complimenting you.” He pauses and says, “I’m gonna try to go deeper, is that alright?”

“Huh?” he turns and sees Jimin staring at him, one hand pressed on the small of his back and the other out of sight. His face reddens when he realizes that’s because it’s inside him. “Oh— yeah. Go ahead.” 

Jimin smiles and Jeongguk feels the finger go deeper, this time with less resistance. He sighs and rests his head in his arms again but keeps his upper body twisted a little so he can see Jimin work. 

“You get off on complimenting me?” he asks quietly.

The blond keeps his eyes down but hums in affirmation. “Yeah, it’s just— whenever I praise you, you get all happy and squirm around like you can hardly keep still. I like seeing you like that, I like you knowing that you’re my treasure and being happy because of it. It turns me on.”

His words are proven by the way Jeongguk fidgets. “You’re so fucking cheesy,” Jeongguk laughs, breaking off into a quiet moan when Jimin suddenly presses down towards his stomach. “Fuck, hyung,” he whines, “do that again. Felt good.”

“That’s your prostate,” he informs him as if it wasn’t obvious. “I’m surprised I actually reached it; my fingers aren’t really long.” He sounds pleased with himself. “Honestly, it’d probably be better with your fingers since—”

“No!” Jeongguk interrupts. It feels like Jimin’s about to pull out so he suddenly jerks back, taking Jimin’s finger all the way. He hisses. “Oh, fuck—”

“Jeongguk, you shouldn’t take it so fast like that,” his hyung chides even though his voice is breathy and low like he’s holding himself back.

“Your fingers are perfect,” he finally gets out with a huff. “Only want yours.”

Jimin muffles a curse behind him. The hand on his bed curls down to stroke Jeongguk’s cock a couple of times before disappearing again. Judging from the sudden noises and ripples in the water, Jimin’s touching himself. Jeongguk bites the skin of his wrist to hold back another moan.

“I’m gonna move my finger, now,” Jimin warns, “gonna fuck you with it.”

“God, please,” he begs. The finger in him finally begins to thrust in and out at a slow pace, only speeding up when Jimin knows the broken noises coming from his mouth are out of pleasure and not pain. It doesn’t go near his prostate every time, but enough for Jeongguk’s quiet moans to echo off the bathroom tiles.

Jimin works him up with scattered kisses among his backside and a hand fisting his cock in time with each drag of his finger. Water splashes over the sides of the tub when they fully get into a rhythm, Jeongguk shamelessly rocking back onto the prince’s hands. After a couple of minutes, he has to ask him to stop before he comes too early.

“Give me a second,” he pants into his arm. Jimin giggles and pulls his finger out slowly, patting Jeongguk’s asscheek appreciatively and leans back.

After he catches his breath and doesn’t feel like he’s gonna burst, they try two fingers. It stings around his rim and he has to ask Jimin to slow down or stop a couple of times. The prince always obeys, kissing along Jeongguk’s spine to try and soothe the tight burn.

“Does it hurt?” he asks the second time Jeongguk tells him to slow down.

“No, just—” Jeongguk cuts himself off, unsure of how to word it. “It doesn’t feel bad, really, but it doesn’t feel good. There’s no pleasure. It stings when you move.”

Jimin hums in understanding. “Yeah, you’re really tight. I can’t move my fingers apart at all; you’re too tense.”

“How deep are you?”

“A little past my second knuckle.”

He nods. “I don’t think I can take any more for tonight,” he admits.

Jimin pats him on his lower back and starts pulling out slowly. Jeongguk hisses through his teeth.

“You did really good, Ggukie,” Jimin praises once he’s all the way out.

He makes a noise that is definitely less-than-sexy when Jimin’s finger drags against his entrance on last time. His boyfriend giggles and pecks his shoulder.

They end up on Jimin’s bed fifteen minutes later with still-damp hair. Jeongguk complains about the cold until Jimin stops trying to come onto him again and instead gets off the bed with a grumble to turn on the electric heater across the room. By the time they’re warmed up enough to get back to fooling around, Jeongguk’s stomach growls. He hadn’t eaten since early that afternoon. The prince pulls away from him with a less-than-amused expression. Jeongguk flashes him a greasy grin.

“Your Highness, please feed me,” he pouts.

Jimin swats him but gets up anyway.

They sneak off to the kitchens to find snacks. Jeongguk feels anxious, checking the kitchen door from his seat on the counter every few moments. Anyone could walk in right now, he thinks, anyone could discover them. Jimin stands next to him, cooking ramen on the stove. He stirs the noodles slowly, seemingly unworried about the threat of someone seeing them like this: Jeongguk in his pajamas, both with wet hair that dried in crazy shapes from twisting their hands through each other’s hair while making out. Jimin’s lips are still red and puffy, but apparently, he doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

“Stop worrying,” he chides. He leans over to press a soft kiss against Jeongguk’s lips. “The staff have gone home by now, it’s two in the morning. We’re fine, Gguk.”

Jeongguk nods and tries to relax. Jimin laughs at him and tells him he looks constipated. They cook the ramen in the quiet of the night, the only noise being the boiling water and the metal spoon hitting the sides of the pot while Jimin stirs. 

Jimin doesn’t look away from the pot when he says, “thank you for tonight.”

Jeongguk turns his head to look at the prince. “What do you mean?”

“I know it takes a lot to trust someone like that, especially while being hesitant to be on the receiving end. Thank you for trusting me.” He turns to the younger and looks at him adoringly, and it’s all Jeongguk can do not to push the prince down onto the counter right now. Instead, he leans down and kisses him sweetly.

“You’re always makin’ me fall for you,” he whispers against Jimin’s lips, “over and over again.”

After eating, they sneak past the half-asleep guards on duty to return to Jimin’s bedroom. A smaller hand reaches out for Jeongguk’s in the darkness, tangling their fingers together with a new sense of familiarity that heats up Jeongguk’s body every time he thinks of it. He lets the prince lead him through the long hallways until they reach the corridor facing the garden. 

The floor-to-ceiling windows caught a ghoulish blue light across the walls from moonlight reflecting off the layer of snow covering the ground. It makes the hallway colder, the windows not thick enough to keep out the frigid winter from seeping through the panes. Jeongguk walks closer to Jimin and presses their arms flush against each other.

“You up for a second round now that you’ve eaten?” Jimin asks casually.

Jeongguk nods bashfully. His boyfriend snorts.

“You can’t act all shy when I had my fingers up your ass not even two hours ago.”

The younger smacks his arm. “Don’t say it like that!” he hisses as they arrive at his bedroom door. It’s slightly ajar. Jimin mutters something under his breath about Jeongguk always forgetting to close doors. Jeongguk frowns in confusion.

“I could’ve sworn I closed the door when we left,” he murmurs. Jimin shrugs him off and pushes the door open further and walks in.

He follows. Jimin moves to his desk to plug his phone in. The electric heater is still on, so Jeongguk approaches Jimin from behind to drop chaste kisses against the prince’s neck, hands gripping his hips in a loose hold. He groans and tilts his head to the side to give him more room.

“Round two?” Jeongguk reminds him in a soft voice.

Jimin scoots back until his ass is pressed against Jeongguk’s crotch and reaches an arm up to tangle in the brunet’s hair. “Is it really round two if neither of us came the first time?” he asks.

“Coming isn’t everything,” Jeongguk huffs.

“Oh really?” Jimin spins around in his hold. Jeongguk shivers when he feels hands cup his ass. “You wanna prove that?” he purrs.

Before he can answer, though, the tell-tale sound of the bathroom door opening is the only warning they receive before a pause, and, “what the fuck?

Jimin looks over Jeongguk’s shoulder, gasps, and instinctively pushes him away to create a large gap between them. He stares behind Jeongguk with wide eyes. Jeongguk almost doesn’t want to turn around.

He does anyway, spinning and panicking once he sees who it is.

A young man stands in the doorway of the bathroom, one hand still clasped around the doorknob. The other hand is holding a black bottle of shampoo, the same one Jeongguk used a couple of hours ago. He’s not wearing formal attire like the rest of the palace staff do, instead flannel fleece pants and a faded shirt. 

The intruder glances between Jimin and Jeongguk with his mouth open in surprise. It’s only then that Jeongguk notices the man looks very, very much like his own boyfriend. The same small nose, hooded eyes, but his lips are thinner and his hair is still dark, undyed. 

The intruder takes in the situation, eyes darting from the bottle of lube lying on unmade sheets to their messy hair and Jimin’s no doubt still-puffy lips and blurts out, “holy shit.”

This seems to kick Jimin into motion. “What are you doing in my room?” he spits out quickly, but it’s obvious he’s more shocked and scared than angry.

Jeongguk’s mind is spinning as a million thoughts and questions run through his head. He can’t do anything but watch the exchange in front of him. If the intruder has been here since they arrived, then...

The man rushes to answer, snapping Jeongguk out of his thoughts. 

“I— My shampoo was all out and I didn’t want to bother one of the night staff by making them run to the convenience store. Thought I’d use yours for one night before going to buy some tomorrow. I didn’t think you’d have company— I had earbuds in, I didn’t hear anything but— but I come out of the bathroom and you’re just there with some guy and hyung, your hands were on his ass —”

“Jihyun—” Jimin rushes forward with his hands raised like he’s dealing with a dangerous animal. “It’s not what it looks like.”

Jihyun raises his hand to brush through his dark hair. Jeongguk can’t help but notice it’s the same habit as his elder brother. 

“So many things make sense now, holy shit,” he whispers breathlessly.

Even though he’s faced away from Jeongguk, he knows from his boyfriend’s tone of voice and posture that he’s panicking as well. “No no no no,” Jimin rushes out, raising a finger to stop him before he comes to any more conclusions. “I told you, it’s not what it looks like!”

Jihyun throws him a look of exasperation. He waves his arms around the room wildly and yells, “it’s exactly what it fuckin’ looks like, hyung!”

“I was just, just— pickpocketing him!”

And wow, Jihyun really takes after his elder brother. His expression forms into the same unamused face Jeongguk receives every time he lies to Jimin on whether he’s skipping classes to hang out with him or not. “You were pickpocketing him,” Jihyun repeats in a flat voice.

“...Yes?” Jimin tries.

“Uh huh, yeah?” Jihyun’s eyebrows raise in mock friendliness. He points a finger towards Jeongguk. “Wanna tell me those aren’t hickeys on his neck, too?”

Jimin whips around to stare at Jeongguk in shock, eyes focused on a spot just beneath his jaw. The younger can’t see it himself but judging from the look Jimin has on his face he doubts they can just write it off with another flimsy excuse.

“Fuck,” Jimin curses softly in a way that tells Jeongguk that their jig is up. They’ve been discovered; anything can happen now.

A flash of panic goes through his mind at the possibility of Jimin having to end this. It makes Jeongguk want to grab him, pull Jimin behind himself to protect the prince and keep him in their perfect little bubble for just a bit longer. He can’t handle the idea of having to end this just as everything is getting so good, as everything is finally falling into place.

Jihyun crosses his arms and straightens his posture. Even with the stance, his voice comes out quiet when he asks, “how long has this been going on?”

The blond hardly gives him a glance when he answers, “a month.”

“You’ve been sneaking out more and coming back late for longer,” the younger brother points out.

Jimin drops his eyes. He glares at his feet. “It had been building up for longer.”

He’s finally acknowledged when Jihyun turns to Jeongguk. “What’s your name?” He tips his chin up as if to be intimidating. No need. Jeongguk’s scared shitless right now.

“Jeon Jeongguk,” he swallows.

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-two.”

Jihyun hums, seemingly pleased they’re the same age. Jeongguk knows that much. He drags his eyes back to his older brother.

“And you two are…?”

“Friends,” Jeongguk blurts, at the same time as Jimin replies, “boyfriends.”

They shoot one another a look. Jihyun whistles, eyebrows raised.

“Damn,” he drawls. He still looks confused, like he has way more questions than the short ones he asked, but thankfully he starts inching towards the door. “I’m gonna, ah...leave you two to it. Sorry for spooking you, goodnight.”

Jimin grabs him before he can even make it halfway across the bedroom. “Jihyunie, you can’t tell anyone.”

“What, that you’re gay?” Jihyun spits, a disappointed tone in his voice. Jimin flinches back as if he was burned. “I don’t care about that, hyung. You know I just want you to be happy. But you need to be smart about this, or you and Jeongguk-ssi are gonna get caught.”

Jimin nods. “I know, I know. We’re trying to be.”

There’s a pause. Jeongguk shifts awkwardly. The princes stare at each other in a silent exchange. When Jihyun eventually speaks, it’s quiet and barely audible to Jeongguk.

“Was he who you were talking about?” the younger brother whispers. “When you came to my room and asked me about love and risks and shit?”

The word makes Jeongguk inhale sharply, waiting for Jimin’s response. His boyfriend doesn’t look back at him when he answers:

“Yes.”

Jihyun seems to search his hyung’s expression a moment longer before nodding and letting out a heavy sigh through his nose. 

“I won’t tell anyone,” he promises. “I still have questions, but I can ask you them another time.” He hesitates, then adds, “and I want to meet Jeongguk. Properly, without having to see lube on your bed, for Christ’s sake.”

This causes the couple to don matching blushes. Jeongguk quickly nods and averts his eyes. He decides staring at his feet is a better activity than opening his mouth and embarrassing himself further.

The brothers whisper a few more words to each other before Jihyun leaves with a quiet click of the door lock. Jimin turns to him with an expression he can’t place.

“We’ll be okay,” Jimin says. Jeongguk isn’t sure who he’s trying to convince.
“For now,” he admits. “But what happens when the day comes that someone else catches us? Someone who’d rather sell us out than protect you?”

The prince doesn’t answer. He sighs and strides towards Jeongguk, cupping his jaw and pulling him down for a kiss. 

For all of the times they’ve done this during their relationship, it’s never been like this. Their kisses vary: passionate ones when it’s just them on Jeongguk’s couch, bitter ones when Jimin fights with him about his demi-solo in the exhibition, happy ones when they’re drunk and giggling into each other’s mouths more than they’re actually doing any kissing. Their kisses say thank you, good morning, goodnight, goodbye for now.

Never have they had a sad kiss, but this sure feels like one.

Jimin pulls back and Jeongguk wipes under the prince’s eyes before any tears can fall. His eyes are red and watery. Jeongguk hates it when he sees Jimin crying.

“When that day comes,” Jimin starts, because it’s not an if, they don’t have the security or the blessings for it just to be an if, because in this world, it’s a when, “when that day comes, I won’t let them take you from me.”

It’s been a good day. Jeongguk refuses to let this ruin their good day. He pulls Jimin into his arms and shushes him before his hyung starts crying.

“Don’t worry,” he tells him, “we’ll be more careful.”

They fall asleep that night, wrapped around each other and whispering encouragement until they fall asleep in each other’s embrace.

 

 

The next morning, they wake up to knocking at the door.

Jeongguk nearly bolts up until he remembers it’s locked. Jimin cracks an eye open and yells out, “yes?”

“Your Highness,” an unfamiliar voice comes through the door. Palace staff. “The king and queen request your presence in the throne room as soon as possible.”

They both freeze. Jimin turns over to look at Jeongguk.

“M-maybe it’s something else—” he tries to get out, but Jimin shakes his head. The prince sits up and thanks the staff member behind the door. His jaw is set as he stares down at Jeongguk’s lying form.

“Jeonggukie.” His voice cracks, and God, Jeongguk hates when that happens because he knows that Jimin is either freaking out or is about to cry, or both.

“Hyung, it’s okay, we’ll be okay,” he promises the other. He sits up to grab his boyfriend’s arms and pull him closer.

Jimin shakes his head and tips his forehead onto Jeongguk’s collarbone, letting out a shaky exhale. “That day has come.” He lifts his head, nudging his nose under Jeongguk’s chin. “That day has come.”