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If Only You were Mine (Just that you are)

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Park Jimin had always been in love with the concept of soulmates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Parks were famous romantics.

 

It was odd when a five-year-old Jimin slowly figured out that not all families engaged in weekly picnics, with constantly kissing parents and icky pet names. He believed the practice to be normal – his father waking his mother up with a good morning kiss every day, a goofy smile plastered on his face, waffles or pancakes and bacon cooked for breakfast. His mother would giggle in delight and his father always indulged in her childish whining to pick her up bridal style. Little Jihyun would gag at them, and Jimin chortled at his brother’s reaction, but they both secretly enjoyed the exchange.

 

Jimin recalls one specific picnic outing to a sandy shore by their home, his fingers sticky with strawberry jam and rice from the kimbap. His mother was in her white afternoon dress, a classic straw hat on her head as she splashed her feet in the ocean with Jihyun, who was laughing uncontrollably. His father ruffled Jimin’s hair affectionately as he mumbled, “Your mother’s beautiful, isn’t she?”

 

Jimin nodded gleefully, “Mommy’s the best.” Her hair was tousled and messy as it flapped wildly with the summer breeze, and her sunscreen wasn’t smoothly applied that it made her appear as if she had brown spots on her face, but even then – “She’s so pretty, daddy!”

 

“That’s why you’re my son, Jimin.” His father patted his back, “But she’s daddy’s, okay? No stealing, I loved her first.”

 

“No fair, daddy,” Little Jimin pouted, but he wasn’t too upset. He loved his mommy and daddy all the same, and he was certain that Jihyun did, too.

 

He learned about soulmates when he turned eight – when a petite pink butterfly popped up on Jihyun’s wrist. Jihyun had been terrified, screaming in the middle of the night as he jumped out of bed. Jimin personally thought it was a very cute butterfly, but well. His little brother wasn’t very fond of insects, anyway.

 

“Oh my,” His mother gasped in surprise, “It must be your soulmate, Jihyun-ah!”

 

“My… my what?” Jihyun had scrunched up his nose, puzzled and sleepy. Both parents seemed like they had a ton to explain, but his mother simply pulled Jihyun into the covers and lulled them to dreamland again.

 

The next morning, his mother and father sat with them at the dining table and related a story of how they encountered initially. It was nothing too dramatic – his father had a habit of scribbling the movie titles he wanted to watch that week on his arm. His mother eventually bumped into him at the cinema, and she knew it was him because he was literally the only person present to watch that “awfully boring film,” she groaned. But basically, according to them, everyone had a special someone in their lives, called a soulmate, and soulmates communicated through writing on their skin. After hearing that, Jihyun peered down at his butterfly again, and despite his deep-rooted repugnance for insects, he looked charmed. Later that evening, the boy jotted back, “Do you like butterflies? I might like them too, if you tell me why you like them.”

 

Soulmates. The word rolled off his tongue magically, and every time he whispered it under his breath, he was enchanted. Soulmates, soulmates, soulmates – he would mumble it throughout his day, subconsciously.

 

Clearly, his soulmate didn’t share his excitement, because Jimin’s skin was peach-blank, even when he became a full-fledged ten-year-old. Jimin nibbled on his bottom lip anxiously as his brother smirked at something his soulmate wrote to him that noon. Jihyun’s soulmate was talkative and exuberant, sketching butterflies and flowers all over Jihyun’s arms and ankles, occasionally asking what Jihyun’s hobbies were, his favorite food, his favorite drink, least favorite food and drink, etcetera. Jihyun, despite the stoic and brooding kid he tended to be, always responded to his soulmate’s incessant inquiries.

 

“Her name is Woon.” He muttered shyly at Jimin, “The Chinese character for ‘cloud.’”

 

“Cool name,” Jimin commented tersely, as his brother’s cheeks flushed red.

 

“Yeah. She’s cool.”

 

That’s probably the most Jihyun had ever complimented anyone in his short lifetime. Whoever this Woon was, she was impressive.

 

When three years passed with nothing from Jimin’s soulmate, and Jimin’s nervousness amplifying simultaneously, his mother suggested that he initiate the conversation. And, well, as timid as Jimin was, he had no other option to choose from. If his soulmate wasn’t willing to make the first move, then he had to – who knows? Maybe his soulmate was the quietest person on Earth.

 

So Jimin, being the overachiever and perfectionist he was, begged his parents and purchased a 45-color marker set specifically created for the purpose of writing to soulmates. “Infection-free, no harmful chemicals, healthy skin maintained, kid-safe,” the package proclaimed, and his parents relented, only because they were both aware of Jimin’s stubbornness. They had no idea why Jimin couldn’t just buy the 18-color set, but the little boy persisted, “But what if my soulmate likes, I don’t know, brick orange or turtle green, or, some weird color like that, mom? The 18-color set is bo-ring.”

 

Anyway, that was that.

 

Jimin plopped down on his chair that night, his expensive marker set in front of him and at least fifteen torn note pages laid out on the wooden surface of his desk. They were all rough drafts of his first message. First impressions are crucial, he read in a book somewhere, and while Jimin had clue why that was the case, it was in a book so it had to be true.

 

In the end, he wrote, “Hi, soulmate! My name is Park Jimin, and I’m eleven :) I like cats, cake, pictures, and dancing! What’s your favorite color? Just in case you don’t like, I don’t know, purple, or something.”

 

He wasn’t too satisfied with his product, because he misspelled purple and smudged the ink over his skin, but the deed had been done. With a sigh, he tucked himself under his blanket, slightly giddy as he imagined how his soulmate might’ve answered the next day.

 

And, well. It was disappointing, at the least, when he witnessed that his message had faded a little on his arm, but with the absence of any sort of response. Jimin had never been an expert at concealing his emotions, and Jihyun noticed he was off immediately at breakfast. “You’re acting strange,” His brother frowned, “What happened?” Then his eyes traveled south to Jimin’s bare arm, and his frown only became more pronounced. “They didn’t write back?” Jimin nodded stiffly, and it hurt more than he wanted to admit. “What a jerk,” Jihyun grunted with cereal in his mouth.

 

His mother shot him a cross look, “Jihyun, language.” But then she caught on to the story, and merely shook her head. “Jiminie, my lovely baby,” She held his hand in hers, and her comforting warmth soothed his nerves. “Don’t be so sad. There are so many possibilities, sweetie pie! What if they live in a different time zone, like, they live in Europe, perhaps!” Jihyun snorted cynically, and his father slapped him lightly with his morning newspaper. “And on that note, it’s likely that they don’t speak the same language, and they just had no idea what you wrote. That was reported frequently on the news, wasn’t it, honey?”

 

“Oh, yeah, definitely.” His father nodded vigorously, gulping his sip of coffee, “That celebrity, the actress on that hot drama, remember? Her soulmate is from Ireland, and they had a lot of trouble understanding each other in the beginning, she said.”

 

His mother beamed to reassure him. “See, Jimin? A lot of trouble, he says. But it’s not impossible. And besides, it’s rare, but there are cases of… hm, your soulmate not being born yet. That’d be a huge age gap, but it’s not unheard of.”

 

“He’s eleven, mom, that’s pedophilia.”

 

“Where are you even learning those terms, Jihyunnie?”

 

Jihyun shrugged. “Woonie loves definitions. I’m reading the dictionary for her.”

 

“That’s true love,” His father supplied, and his mother glared daggers at him. Nobody in the room realized Jimin’s newfound determination – to learn a heck ton of languages, yes.

 

Jimin began with English. English was the worldwide language, apparently, and even he knew ‘hello.’ Surely, his soulmate knew what ‘hello’ was. His alphabets were blocky and squiggly, but it wasn’t illegible – he would have to practice on improving his penmanship. The next morning, however, he was attacked with another pang in his chest, his skin splotched with the green marker from the previous night.

 

Okay, not English, then.

 

He attempted Spanish, then Russian (which was super confusing, like, what the heck), and even Mandarin. His name was so complicated in Mandarin, ugh.

 

More days flew by, a different language every day, until Jimin had reached Latin. Nobody even spoke Latin nowadays, he knew that much. When he was twelve and six months old, Jihyun glanced at him warily.

 

“Hyung,” His brother cautiously started, as if he had one of those ‘caution: handle with care’ stickers or whatever on his heart. It was awkward, because Jihyun was not a very considerate person in nature. “Are you… are you okay?” Jimin’s lips thinned, as he stole a yearning glimpse at the butterflies and stars sprinkled over Jihyun’s neck and jawline. It was ridiculous – Woon had a very characteristic style of drawing her butterflies, and it was very messy and bold, just like Jihyun described her to be. Jihyun still disliked insects, but he made an exception for butterflies. Jihyun despised disorder, but tolerated Woon’s graffiti on his body. He was enamored with the girl, and he had never even met her in person.

 

He was jealous of what his brother had.

 

So, so, so jealous. It was an ugly feeling.

 

“I’m great,” Jimin strained a smile for his brother. His brother didn’t believe him, but didn’t push further. He was grateful for that.

 

He never ceased with his notes and messages, but the panic curdling in his gut couldn’t be ignored, too. When his father bought his first laptop for his thirteenth birthday, Jimin skimmed through numerous blogs and quora questions about soulmates, “What does it mean when a soulmate doesn’t answer?” to “What does it mean to be soulmate-less?”

 

There were a variety of explanations, of course. Some claimed that it could be a physical disability – one person’s soulmate didn’t have arms, and another person’s soulmate was blind. Others had twenty-year age gaps, as his mother predicted. The most terrifying alternative, however, was the possibility of one’s soulmate being dead.

 

“I just knew,” The blog went on in black, solemn font, “My soul felt desolate and empty. I didn’t what to do. I was fifteen. I was so young, and I’m sure they were young, too. I couldn’t stop crying when I felt it. It was like someone had ripped my lungs out without me realizing it. And it stayed that way for a very, very long time.”

 

But Jimin never felt like that before, so he ruled that chance out. Perhaps, his soulmate really did have some physical deformity or ailment that prevented them from answering. That would explain a lot, he acknowledged. And once he accepted that fate, the weight on his chest lightened significantly – of course, finding his soulmate would be a challenge, but his soulmate could discover him first, maybe. It was worth trying.

 

Another few years passed, and he crashed into one very rambunctious Kim Taehyung in his freshman year of high school. Taehyung had crimson hair (which Jimin was pretty certain was against the school dress code), four biology textbooks, and a collection of dried flowers. He was so apologetic about the collision, which unfortunately led to a sprained ankle on Jimin’s part, that he made it his personal mission to buy Jimin a cookie every weekday. It was a rocky process, but they quickly developed into best friends.

 

Taehyung’s soulmate was a younger boy named Jungkook, who apparently didn’t talk a lot, but drew anime characters on Taehyung’s feet. Taehyung had been so proud as he pulled off his socks, wriggling his toes to boast a large sketch of Chopper from One Piece on his right foot. “I love him,” Taehyung confessed bashfully, and Jimin laughed at his friend’s endearing crush.

 

When Taehyung questioned him about his soulmate, he spilled the plain truth. His best friend hummed passively, not offering much but holding his hand tightly, as his mother would when he was a child. “You’re so strong, Chim,” Taehyung said softly, “I admire you.” Jimin had to bite down the tears that threatened to fall when he heeded that.

 

His daily ritual never ceased, not even during high school, through his hectic dance club meets and academics, prepping for university and applying for scholarships, all that jazz. On bad days, he would be disheartened at the ever-blank wrist, most of his markers out of ink by then. He would startle Taehyung with his sudden outbursts of frustration and pent up stress, who blinked back at him, bewildered – but soon wrapped his arms around Jimin’s trembling body, into a warm embrace. “You’re so strong, Chim,” He always mumbled firmly, “The strongest person I know. But it’s okay to be weak sometimes. That’s what it means to be really strong.”

 

And really, it became more bearable – rising to a smudge of ink on his arm again, scribbling notes and updates every now and then, and writing a final message before he went to bed. The throb in his heart irked him less, and it was just a habit ingrained into his body at that point.

 

Until his senior year.

 

He was at the peak of his sanity, driven into a corner with ongoing competitions that his scholarship was dependent on, endless hours of practice and grueling nights of rewatching his choreo only exacerbating his condition. The worst, however, was this new girl at the dance club who had latched onto him – she flirted with him shamelessly, wearing her tank tops and booty shorts and black bras – she was attractive, but Jimin was too attached to his soulmate. He was honored that someone liked him, but she was outright annoying, interrupting him during his sessions and gossiping about other members that were laboring on with their respective choreos as well, how Jimin was the best, but not in a very gratifying manner.

 

She confessed to him in front of the whole dance club, much to his horror.

 

He rejected her politely, attempting to mute out the cooing of the others surrounding them. She seemed so shocked and affronted by his answer, and tense silence enveloped the room.

 

His nightmare commenced right then.

 

“You don’t even have a soulmate.” She spat venomously, glowering at his arm – that just happened to be inopportunely sleeveless, “You’re pitiful, did you know that?”

 

He doesn’t quite remember the events afterward. He does vaguely recall his friends trudging forward, shouting at the girl in his place, chasing her off as they tried to console Jimin. Taehyung rushed into the dance clubroom and ushered him out, brought him home. Jihyun took his bag and put it on his desk, and murmured that he’d warn his parents to not bother him till he’s settled.

 

It was ten when he regained his consciousness, still dressed in his sweaty shirt and damp pants, his hair oily and tangled. He remembered the girl’s fury, her words, and his history of writing to his soulmate, his soulmate who seemed to have no intention to reply, ever. He was eighteen. Seven years of learning thirteen languages on Google and YouTube, seven years of notes, ten years of waiting – just waiting, maybe, for a withdrawn ‘hello.’

 

And what did he receive in return?

 

“You’re pitiful, did you know that?”

 

That.

 

He got that.

 

He inhaled a stuttered breath, and with quavering fingers, he reached for his last marker – the black one. He never used the black one, because it felt dark and depressing and – like the end. Black felt like the end.

 

Why?

 

He wrote on his wrist, the Korean alphabet distorted and his refined penmanship reverted to his eleven-year-old handwriting. Why? After the second time, it was unstoppable. Why, why, why, why, why, why, why why why why –

 

You never write back, Jimin sobbed, choking on his tears, You never write back – is it me? Am I too annoying, am I not writing in your favorite color, I wrote in 44 different colors for the past few years, though, why do you never write back why are you like this is it me is it me just why –

 

The droplets of his salty tears cascaded down his cheek, blurring the ink as they splashed against his skin, the liquid dripping down his arm in a discolored, cloudy rivulet.

 

And then –

 

He felt it.

 

The tingling sensation on his wet hand, slightly ticklish but not disturbing. Jimin gaped as he saw dotted ink appear on the surface.

 

I’m sorry.

 

It was Korean. It was short. It was black.

 

Jimin couldn’t suppress the hollow laugh that evaded him.

 

I’m sorry.

 

Of course.

 

Black was a color of endings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jungkook, how many times do I have to tell you to about hoarding the popcorn?”

 

“Aw, hyung,” The bunny-eyed boy flutters his lashes innocently, “Don’t be crude.”

 

“Seven times, Kook, seven times.”

 

Jungkook shakes his head and pouts, “Tae, Jimin-hyung is bullying me.”

 

“Who is what-ing who?” Taehyung fakes his ire, “Jimin, you can’t just hurt my boyfriend’s feelings like that, we’re practically one person!”

 

“I’m literally your best friend, and that is literally my popcorn.”

 

“Minor details. My Kookie will eat popcorn if that’s what he wants.”

 

“Damn,” Jungkook sighs dramatically, “I love it when you’re assertive, babe.”

 

“Oh yeah? Wanna try that in bed?”

 

“Oh my god,” Jimin buries his head into the pillow, “I need a new roommate.”

 

“You know what you need?” Taehyung snaps his fingers, and his expression brightens like he’s Newton that just devised the three laws of motion. “A dick.”

 

“You’re so eloquent, baby, I love it.”

 

“I know, I got like, a 118 on TOEFL.”

 

“Wait, for real?”

 

“Yeah, like, a 118 minus 30.” Taehyung waves his hand in the air, “Irrelevant. My point is, Chim, get a dick.”

 

“You know,” Jimin quirks his brow sarcastically, “You weren’t this promiscuous in high school, when I first met you. You had a collection of dried flower bookmarks.”

 

“I still have my collection, excuse you! A good penis can always transform a person for the better, too. Right circumference and everything.”

 

“You did not just say that.”

 

“I so did.” Taehyung guffaws aloud, and Jungkook joins in. Jimin sometimes wonders why he ever decided to stick with his best friends – they are terrible influences on his life. Especially when they’re so in love, always teaming up against you, while you’re left alone to fend for yourself with your argument.

 

“God, you’re amazing, Tae.”

 

Terrible.

 

It has been two years since he got his heart stomped on, with the knowledge that his soulmate was indeed, Korean, physically functional, not blind, and alive. They had just never bothered to respond – their best was an apology. Jimin didn’t ever write anything back after that. Taehyung never probed him about it and carried on as always, by Jimin’s side as they graduated and attended the same university, with Jimin in contemporary dance and Taehyung in molecular biology. Jungkook blended in their relationship almost instantaneously, as he notified Taehyung that he was also planning to apply to their university for music.

 

Here they were now, Taehyung and Jimin roommates, and Jungkook practically a third member despite the fact that he had his own dorm. It was a nice dynamic, just the three of them, lazing on the couch every weekend as they bickered over a poorly produced movie. Often times, it concluded with Taehyung and Jungkook making out on the couch and Jimin scooting away, his face contorted in disgust with just a pinch of fondness.

 

Jungkook never explicitly asked Jimin about his soulmate, but the boy was shrewd and knew better than to pry. Jimin might’ve blurted out some details during a couple of their drunken nights, but Jungkook never mentioned his slip-ups, and he was thankful.

 

He did date a few males when he came to university. One was Taemin, a fellow dancer and an upperclassman, and the rest were closer to hook-ups than proper relationships. All of them had finished well, no hard feelings or anything – but Jimin couldn’t find the motivation to be invested in the relationship.

 

“You’re actually hot, Chim,” Taehyung drawls, and Jimin wants to choke a sock into his friend’s mouth. “Like, no homo or anything, but you’re totally hot stuff.”

 

Jungkook hums, “You’re homo, babe.”

 

Taehyung pauses. “Right. I’m really homo, never mind. You’re hot, Jimin.”

 

“I’m just,” Jimin loves his friends. Truly. Sincerely. He just loves them a little less every now and then. Like now. “Not looking for a relationship? That’s a thing, guys, I’m sure you wouldn’t be aware, but you know. It happens.”

 

“That’s the standard main protagonist quote from a romcom, stop.”

 

Jungkook butts in, “Didn’t you mention a guy at your workplace? The cashier with a daisy tattoo?”

 

“He’s straight.”

 

“Oh. Lame.”

 

Jimin shrugs. Yeah, Sungwoon was cute, he would’ve dated him, but that was about it. He wasn’t notably crestfallen when Sungwoon called his girlfriend in the middle of his shift, and paled as he screeched at the manager that she was in the hospital ER. She was his soulmate, so that was that, too. He was a sealed deal. “I’m good. I’m really not interested in anyone, you know? And like, most people have their soulmates by now.”

 

“Hey, that’s not true.” Taehyung retorts, “They say in articles, how more and more people are deviating from the idea of soulmates. Now many soulmates are just, platonic partners, friends, all that. A friend in my gender ed class, his name’s Hoseok – he has a soulmate but they’re just best friends. His soulmate has a boyfriend, apparently, and they all hang out together.”

 

“Yeah? That’s cool.”

 

“Speaking of Hoseok-hyung,” Jungkook chimes in, out of his trance, “He invited us to a sleepover, didn’t he? Movie Fun Fridays?”

 

“No, no, Kookie, Movie Fucked Fridays.”

 

“Right. Let’s just call it MFF. He invited us. Are we going?”

 

“I don’t know, weekends are our moments, you get me?”

 

“You guys should go if you were invited,” Jimin says nonchalantly, brushing the invisible dust from his pants as he rises from the couch. “I can finally savor forty-eight hours without having to witness you guys eat each other out in the living room.”

 

“What? There’s no way we’re going without you, Chim.” Taehyung frowns indignantly, “I mean, you should come. Hobi-hyung is a chill dude, he wouldn’t mind a plus one. And also like, to be fucking honest, the only person I’m acquainted with there is Hoseok, and Jungkook is an antisocial muffin with no friends and tact, you know? I need some backup.”

 

“Taehyung, that kind of hurt. I mean, you’re correct, as always, but.”

 

“Sorry, sweetpea, the truth is the truth.”

 

“I don’t think it’s a wise idea,” Jimin enunciates each word circumspectly, “At least you know this Hoseok guy, I legitimately have not an inkling about who he is. I can’t just barge into his house, Tae, that would be so disrespectful and impolite and –“

 

Taehyung huffs, “Somehow, the part where I said ‘he’s a chill dude’ just missed you, Jesus Christ.” Jimin sends him a meaningful glare, and his best friend sniffs the air. “Alright, I get it. Just think about it, okay? I’ll even notify hyung that you might be there, if you’re so concerned about formalities. But I swear, you need a breather, Jimin – did you keep count of how many times I reprimanded you about pressuring yourself?”

 

Jimin blinks.

 

Jungkook seizes this opportunity. “Seven times, Jimin, seven times.” Taehyung high-fives his boyfriend, and Jimin rolls his eyes.

 

“Okay, okay, I’ll consider it. No more than that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consideration doesn’t really matter when your best friend is Kim Taehyung and his boyfriend is Jeon Jungkook.

 

It’s probably why Jimin is sweating in front of a stranger’s door in a rundown apartment located in the center of the city, two bags of butter popcorn and two bags of caramel popcorn in his right hand, and eight bottles of soju in his left. He wasn’t quite certain how Hoseok’s friends played – hardcore and drunk or immature and UNO? Taehyung relayed the update to Hoseok faithfully, to which the latter went, “Yeah, the more the merrier!” Taehyung and Jungkook said that they’d arrive later in the evening due to classes, so Jimin is here alone, his shirt saturated in his sweat and his palms slippery as he gripped the plastic bags.

 

He knocks on the door hesitantly with his lighter hand. A deafening noise resounds from inside, along with thrilled shouts and yelps and a hiccupping echo, which Jimin cannot identify to be a laugh or a cry. Abruptly, he’s overwhelmed with the urge to turn on his heels and sprint.

 

It’s too late, though. The knob twists.

 

“God, I’ll kill him.” The person grunts grudgingly – he has lilac hair (uncommon color, but it suits the guy), monolids, and is a giant. Well, not really, but he does tower over Jimin like an electric pole. The man scrutinizes him head to toe, and wears an amicable smile. He has dimples. They’re entrancing and Jimin’s heart clenches, but it’s also forty degrees Celsius outside. “You must be Park Jimin?”

 

“Why is that a question?” Jimin chuckles – the male has a ridiculous maroon stain on his white shirt – he’s anything but intimidating.

 

“Uh, I mean,” The guy opens his mouth like a guppy and then shuts it back. “You’re right, I already know what Taehyung and Jungkook look like. You could be a serial killer though. Or Hoseok’s new fling, either one seems plausible. Just for safety measures.”

 

“I’m a serial cuddler, is that a thing?”

 

“It’s 2019, it should be.” Rubbing his neck, the dude grins again, “So, you’re Park Jimin. Come in, not my house, but your best friend’s house is your house.”

 

“Unfortunately, I get exactly what you mean.”

 

“And by the way, I just knocked over a Christmas tree, so it’s pretty disorganized in there. You can, uh, tour around, I guess. Not a very big place.”

 

“It’s literally July, why do you have a Christmas tree out?”

 

“Yoongi is lazy and Hoseok proclaims that it’s interior design. I don’t question it anymore. Hey, Jimin’s here, guys!” Jimin barely masks his appalled face in time, as he halts at the border of disorientation of what appears to have once been a living room. There’s a bushy green Christmas tree toppled over a stool, and ornaments of various figurines and shapes are scattered around, lifeless.

 

He almost shrieks when the tree moves.

 

A person crawls out under the tree, holy shit

 

“Oh, that’s where you were?” A disgruntled noise returns. “Why didn’t you get the heck out earlier?”

 

“Gee, Namjoon, I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t expecting to be squashed by a fucking Christmas tree when I was just trying to take a peaceful nap.” The squashed-by-a-tree person scratches his forearm and looks up. And Jimin is really confused, because he believes that anyone that has just wriggled out underneath a Christmas tree shouldn’t be so hot.

 

Somehow, this guy is really hot.

 

It’s not even forty degrees in here, what the heck.

 

“You know, I just remembered that I somehow completely bypassed our introduction, Jimin.” Lilac hair swivels around, and Jimin desperately battles to keep his attention on the guy, but with Hot Christmas Tree running his fingers through his hair like seduction at its finest, he’s not so confident. “My name is Kim Namjoon, I’m a junior, philosophy and creative writing double major. That short guy that is basically the reincarnation of a hermit crab –“

 

“I’m right here, Namjoon, and the kitchen knife is lying around the floor somewhere –“

 

“ – Is Min Yoongi. He’s a senior, in musical composition and juggling like four jobs. He’s a genius.” Jimin absorbs this information with all his strength, as he carefully puts down his belongings.

 

Yoongi has mint hair and slanted eyes, with a slight slouch and snow-white skin. He’s really hot and cute at once and Jimin’s inner gay is raging.

 

“Don’t believe him, Namjoon has an IQ of 148 and is the valedictorian of his class. I’m struggling to have a 3.0 GPA.” Yoongi flits at Jimin, “You’re Jimin?” Wow, wow, wow, his name sounds very sexy with that tongue and lisp. Wow. He loves his parents for naming him Jimin, wow. Well, to be fair, Yoongi could probably read chemistry formulas and Jimin would be very turned on.

 

“The- I- uh,” Flabbergasted, Jimin reddens, “Yeah, Jimin. Chim. I mean, uh- yeah, Jimin.”

 

Yoongi, thankfully, mercifully, doesn’t seem too crept out. “Park, right?”

 

“Yes- yep. Yeah. Park.” God, make it stop. “It’s a common name.”

 

“Yeah, it really is.” Yoongi acquiesces, “Well, now that we’re over that, we have to clean this before Hoseok comes back. You know how he abhors cluttered floors.”

 

“I don’t know how we’re soulmates,” Namjoon drops to the ground and gathers the ornaments on the tiles, as Yoongi lifts the Christmas tree. Jimin scurries to help, retrieving a broken snowman on the carpet. “The universe must’ve made a mistake.”

 

Yoongi mumbles, “And that’s why you’re not dating him, Joon. Easy as that.”

 

Oh, Jimin realizes inwardly, this must’ve been the guy Tae talked about. Hoseok’s soulmate that was his best friend and had a boyfriend, of course. “Taehyung told me how you and Hoseok were soulmates, but you have a boyfriend?” He naturally interjects the conversation, and Namjoon glimpses at him briefly before nodding.

 

“Yeah, nothing special. We knew each other forever, but it was implied that we weren’t romantically attracted to each other, so. My boyfriend, Seokjin, he’s out with Hoseok right now for groceries. They’re mortifying together.”

 

“You have a humiliation kink, Namjoon.”

 

“I do not, what the hell hyung.”

 

Jimin smiles a little, and then leans down to pick up a stray light. “Sounds nice.”

 

“No, trust me, none of it is nice. At all.”

 

Yoongi snickers as he hangs a few ornaments again, “It’s the highlight of my day. So entertaining.”

 

Turns out, after cleaning, the living room does actually exist. Their couch is more like a couch-bed, orange and comfy, with three blankets neatly folded in its corner, and there’s no TV but they have a projector on the ceiling with a cream white wall in the opposite direction. A furry oval carpet is right below the couch, and Jimin presumes that’s where Yoongi fell asleep, only to be attacked by a Christmas tree on his body.

 

They all huddle on the couch when they’re done, proud of their progress. Namjoon informs them that Seokjin and Hoseok should be home in around fifteen minutes.

 

“So, Jimin, I don’t think we actually heard from you. I mean, Hoseok just told us that you were his friend’s friend, so.”

 

“Oh, me?” He laughs nervously, glancing sideways at Yoongi, who’s listening but fixated on his phone. “I’m not a very intriguing individual, to be honest. I’m a sophomore and in contemporary dance – I used to do a little ballet, too. Nothing outstanding, though.”

 

“Ballet? There’s no way in hell I’m ever going to be coordinated enough for that.” Namjoon eases him up, and Yoongi is still boring his eyes into his screen. “And your friends? I mean, we’re going to meet later, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware beforehand.”

 

“Oh, yeah, definitely. My best friend’s name is Kim Taehyung, and he has gender ed with Hoseok – he’s a sophomore in molecular biology,” Namjoon whistles, pleasantly astounded, “We’ve known each other for a long time. His boyfriend is Jeon Jungkook, he’s training to be a vocalist and dancer. Golden boy. Oh, and a freshman, though.”

 

For some reason, Yoongi appears to be wholly focused on their conversation now, his pupils blown a little wide and mouth slightly agape. Jimin continues guardedly, “Uh, and, let’s see… yeah, that’s about it. They’re soulmates and frankly, it’s puke-inducing and gives me cavities, but it’s also really endearing, so I tolerate it.”

 

“Good to know,” Namjoon replies facilely, but Yoongi is still in some kind of paralysis, Jimin’s not too certain. It’s becoming worrisome, with how the older student is static, staring at Jimin without even blinking once. He’s about to ask what’s wrong, but the door slams open and someone hollers,

 

WE HAVE ARRIVED!”

 

Two shadows dash across the house, and for a solid second, Jimin is convinced that it’s Jungkook and Taehyung – but Jungkook is never that energetic in front of a group of strangers. Upon further inspection, he can effortlessly deduce that the two are Hoseok and Seokjin – and he’s assuming that the one with an army green beanie is Hoseok, based on the description that Taehyung provided.

 

“Oh, so you’re Park Jimin!” Not-Hoseok exclaims blithely, “Wow, pink is flawless on you, how? Pink is my favorite color, by the way, so that bumps you to like, the Top 3 of my list.”

 

“Jin, I’m still Number One, right?” Namjoon shouts jokingly, and Jimin recalls the name, ‘Seokjin,’ from a few minutes ago.

 

“That depends on how well you’re going to kiss me later,” Seokjin winks at his boyfriend, who chortles and gazes at his boyfriend like he’s the most beautiful person in the galaxy. And well, Seokjin’s glamor and exquisite appearance isn’t too distant from that target. He’s right on target, Jimin thinks. He’s seen many versions of handsome, but Seokjin is definitely one of a kind. “I’m Seokjin, Jimin, and did you wash your hands yet?”

 

“Uh, no.” Jimin answers guiltily, “Is that a house rule?”

 

“Well, no, but it’s not hygienic and we’re always aiming to play healthy, fuck healthy- Oh, did I just say that?” Seokjin stops mid-sentence, “I meant flirt healthy, of course. Or fun healthy, it was something in that range.”

 

“Those three terms all have disparate definitions, Jin.” Hoseok deadpans from the side, but Seokjin swats him away with his hand.

 

“That’s not my point, Hoseok. Everyone, go wash your hands, now!”

 

Jimin scoots to the bathroom, along with Namjoon and Hoseok that trail behind him. “I feel like I’m at home again, like, with my mom.” He murmurs silently, and Hoseok giggles at his commentary.

 

“Welcome to the world of having a mom friend, Jimin.”

 

“A mom boyfriend,” Namjoon rinses his hands with the bar soap.

 

“That’s fucked up, Namjoon, don’t make this disgusting.”

 

It’s a very comfortable dynamic, actually. Jimin melts into the atmosphere like they’ve always been friends, especially with the banter between Hoseok and Namjoon, and Jin’s occasional dad jokes and squeaky laughs that Namjoon is transparently enamored with. The only one that exudes a standoffish aura is Yoongi, who has decided to crouch next to the Christmas tree, an earphone in one ear and the other left vacant. Jimin has to garner all his patience to avoid staring at the man again. He’s very pleasing to stare at.

 

Jungkook and Taehyung barge in two hours later, with bags of chips and beverages in their arms as well. Taehyung warms up at the speed of light, while Jungkook, being the introverted bunny he is, echoes after his soulmate’s introduction and remains muted for the rest of the conversation, Taehyung blabbering enough for both of them. The younger loosens up at last when Seokjin suggests a round of Mario Kart on their separate Wii set in Hoseok’s bedroom, and the oldest and the youngest get into a very heated battle, which involves crazy cheering and whistling from both soulmates.

 

KOOKIE, YOU CANNOT LOSE TO A SHRIVELED DICK!”

 

“You did not just insult the dick of the most gorgeous man in the Milky Way.”

 

“Shut up, Namjoon-hyung, you’re just envious of Kookie’s muscular physique.”

 

“Hah, have you been crushed by Jin’s shoulders? Because that is a very special –“

 

Hoseok interrupts with an exasperated sigh, “Why did I grant permission to play in my room, again?”

 

“Well, you don’t really think ahead.”

 

“Yoongi-hyung, I felt that crack my heart a little.”

 

Jimin sniggers at the two couples, Namjoon’s arms wrapped around Seokjin’s waist (although the latter was too immersed to notice) and Taehyung draped over Jungkook like a wet blanket. “I thought this was a movie night, too.”

 

“It is. They’re just really flexible with their plans.” Hoseok clucks his tongue, but proceeds to howl enthusiastically as Jungkook’s previously tossed banana peel causes Seokjin to slip. Seokjin screeches at two thousand decibels, and Taehyung strangles Jungkook elatedly. Jimin inches backward from the commotion, jerking when he bumps into a round object that is –

 

Yoongi’s knee, alright.

 

They share five seconds of eye contact, which is tense and suffocating, with Yoongi’s obsidian orbs wearing down Jimin’s self-control every millisecond. “M-my favorite Mario character,” Jimin blurts out of nowhere, his hip still in contact with Yoongi’s knee, “Is Princess Daisy.”

 

And like, what the hell is Yoongi supposed to do with that information? Jimin has zero answers to that. He has no idea why his self from two seconds ago concluded that that was a flawless conversation starter. Who ever complimented him for his social skills, really?

 

Yoongi blinks at him, once, then twice, “Uh,” Fuck, Park Jimin, if you haven’t freaked him out before, you sure have now. Kudos to me. “Yeah, she’s… she’s orange. Like the sun. I get what you mean.” Jimin doubts his auditory ability. “I don’t have a favorite character, but I think Princess Daisy is good. Great, even. She might be my favorite, too.”

 

“I…” Well, I did not see that coming. “Yeah, that’s precisely why I love her. She reminds you of sunshine, doesn’t she?” Yoongi hums, and Jimin’s heart swells. Magnificent – Yoongi isn’t freaked out. Miraculous. The heavens still adored him, thank goodness. “So, um, you’re Hoseok’s friend, right?”

 

“Ah, yeah,” Yoongi flinches at Seokjin’s victorious roar and Taehyung’s wails. “We’ve been roommates since our freshman year. He and Joon are childhood buds, and Jin-hyung and Joon have been dating since, uh, Namjoon’s senior year of high school, if I’m correct.”

 

“Right, of course,” Crap, I’m out of questions. Not really, but it’s not like I can ask if he prefers me in leather or cotton. “Are you into movies?”

 

“Oh, er, no.” Way to go, Park Jimin, you’re a failure, he doesn’t even look like a movie person, “Watched a couple. I probably know more dramas than movies, if I were to be blunt.”

 

“Ooh,” Jimin is the K-drama master. He can go somewhere with this lead. “What are your recent recommendations?”

 

Yoongi squirms, but he doesn’t seem to be too miffed. “Beauty Inside was alright. More of an oldie, if I were to be truthful. Master’s Sun and all that.”

 

“Oh my god, I love those too –“

 

“Hey, lovebirds, I wholeheartedly support the development of your budding relationship and all, but we kind of have to choose a movie and uncap the drinks.” Hoseok states amusedly, and Jimin blushes furiously. Yoongi is barely affected. “So, Jimin, are you more of a romance or superhero person? Horror films are strictly banned in this family, due to the fact that I can’t stand a minute of them and Jin screamed at the top of his lungs once and we were almost kicked out of here.”

 

Yoongi puffs, “It was definitely more of the latter reason.”

 

“Yeah, definitely.”

 

“They’re judging me, Joonie, I don’t like it.”

 

“They’re jealous that you sound like nightingale even when you scream, Jinnie, don’t listen to them.”

 

“Nightingale? More like a dying dolphin.”

 

“A windshield wiper.”

 

“Joonie, I don’t like them.”

 

“I’m sorry baby, but it’s too late to disown our children. They’re from your womb.”

 

“Didn’t know I had a womb, my sweet, but okay. Let’s keep ‘em.”

 

Hoseok shakes his head in denial, “If nobody has a preference for the movie, then we’re going with whatever’s on the shelf. Or we could rewatch My Sassy Girl again. God, we are totally doing that, never mind. I’m not accepting ‘no’ as an answer.” The boy shuffles back outside, and the crowd tags behind and part ways to their respective spots. Taehyung and Jungkook have claimed the right corner of the couch bed, Taehyung between the open space of Jungkook’s legs, and Namjoon and Seokjin are on the left, Seokjin leaning on Namjoon’s shoulder. Hoseok is occupied with getting popcorn and drinks, along with the soju Jimin bought, and Yoongi props himself on the carpet.

 

Here I go, “Hey, do you mind if I sit down next to you?”

 

Yoongi peers at him from below, his mouth half-parted. Crap, he’s cute. “Yeah, I mean. I didn’t buy this carpet. Hoseok did.” Yoongi moves to the right sluggishly, and Jimin squats on the floor.

 

Nobody even utters a character of the Korean scripture as the movie plays, except Hoseok who trudges back and forth between the living room and the kitchen to refill their bowls of popcorn. Cha Taehyun and Jeon Jihyun are quarreling on the screen, and Jimin glimpses at Yoongi – the latter is expressionless, his thumb and index finger dipping into the bowl robotically, at a decided pace. Jimin bites down a laugh as Yoongi’s fingers clunk against the surface of the bowl, misdirected. He does that once, twice, thrice, and – dang, he’s bad at this, Jimin shoves his own hand into the bowl, and jostles the popcorn so that the pieces brush his fingertips.

 

Yoongi turns to him, then the popcorn. “… Thanks.” And he munches.

 

“You were struggling.”

 

“I,” The senior thins his lips, which are gleaming against the illuminated wall, “Yeah, whatever. Thanks.”

 

God, Jimin doesn’t even remember the plot of the movie anymore.

 

When the credits roll, Jimin swivels around, only to ram his cheek into Jungkook’s outstretched foot. He’s about to whine, but vetoes the desire as he sees his two best friends snuggled against each other, snoring softly. Seokjin is also asleep on Namjoon’s shoulder, their postures identical as the beginning of the film, and Namjoon is on his phone – his brightness setting is on the lowest, as far as Jimin can deduce, and he’s even using his other hand to block Jin’s eyes from the dim light as he scrolls with his free hand. Hoseok has collapsed between the couples, and a track of drool dribbles down his chin.

 

He’s about to unfold the blankets so that his friends wouldn’t catch a summer cold, until Yoongi speaks out of nowhere.

 

“Is your favorite color blue?”

 

The abrupt inquiry has him off-guard, stunned. “Um, yeah? Why?” Or more like, how’d you guess that in one try? Am I that obvious? I mean, are favorite colors supposed to be obvious?

 

“Okay.” Yoongi doesn’t answer the question, though, he just marches away into the distance – well, his room. After a long-awaited minute, he scuffles out with a toothbrush in his fist, and sticks it out to Jimin. It’s a sky blue toothbrush. “I’m assuming that you’re sleeping over, with your pals knocked out on our couch. So, toothbrush.”

 

Jimin tentatively receives the toothbrush, his gaze on the other. “Is that why you wanted to know my favorite color?”

 

“No, it’s the only color I had in my drawer.” Yoongi sniffed, “Would be a shame if you didn’t like blue.”

 

This time, he doesn’t hold back on the laugh. “You’re funny, hyung.”

 

And of course, it’s probably just him, but Yoongi seems to relax after that. “Don’t call me hyung. We met today.”

 

“We’ll meet today and more, don’t you think?”

 

“ …Fair.”

 

He smirks and strolls into the bathroom, his favorite-color-toothbrush by his side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How many siblings does Yoongi-hyung have?”

 

“I don’t know, Jimin.”

 

“Around two, maybe? One brother, one sister. He has a very, hm, brotherly aura, doesn’t he?”

 

“I don’t know, Jimin.”

 

“And his skin, isn’t it… splendid? I thought he was pearl from an oyster or something. Maybe he uses skin products?”

 

“I don’t know, Jimin.”

 

“He –“

 

“I don’t know, Jimin.”

 

“… I wasn’t even done, Kookie.”

 

Jungkook heaves a sigh and glowers at him from his DS. “And in case you yip at me again, I don’t know his number, either.”

 

“I wasn’t yipping, I’m not a puppy!”

 

“I’m sure you want Yoongi-hyung to treat you like his puppy.”

 

“You brat.”

 

You started it.”

 

Jimin ‘tsk’s and squeezes his feet into his Converse sneakers. “You want anything? I’m gonna buy some coffee and stock up on our sugar and toast – we’re definitely gonna starve to death at this rate.”

 

“Lamb skewers?”

 

“Just go to a skewer diner, then.”

 

“We need shampoo.”

 

“Gotchu, fam.”

 

He hasn’t seen Hoseok, Namjoon, or Yoongi since MFF – he conversed with Seokjin at the university cafeteria, because the man was wolfing down ten servings of Vietnamese noodles as a challenge – and he didn’t have the courage to ask Yoongi or his friends for his number. And given that his best friends are Kim Taehyung and Jeon Jungkook, they’re just not courteous enough to interrogate a number out of people for a brother. If Yoongi were an extrovert, like Jimin, then he’d be able to scavenge for him outdoors, but even Jimin knew that people that napped under fallen Christmas trees were not extroverts.

 

But Park Jimin is a fighter.

 

He will not relent.

 

So, just in case, just in case, he hooks his crystal loop earrings to his lobes and styles his hair with water, and applies lip-gloss to his chapped lips. Jungkook murmurs, “Looking hot for that supermarket cashier, yeah?”

 

“Shut it, Jeon.”

 

“Don’t forget the shampoo!”

 

“Go to your dorm!” Jimin quips agitatedly and tramps out of the apartment, skipping down the flights of stairs. Jeon Jungkook is a menace. A menace of the menaces.

 

But since they’re best friends, Jimin still traipses to the shampoo and conditioner aisle upon his arrival at Lotte Mart. He grabs the bubbly shampoo that Jungkook prefers, and also gets some sugar and toast for their survival. He’s on the shortcut through the snack aisle to the cashier to avoid the horde of moms near the meat sale booth, when he finally, finally, finally

 

“Yoongi-hyung?”

 

“… Jimin?”

 

Shit. He’s wearing a snapback. He’s wearing a goddamned snapback. That is one fine forehead, what the hell. My god, is he wearing a Kumamon T-shirt? Lord, this is too much cuteness in one person. “I, uh, wow,” Three Words to Never Utter to Woo Your Crush, Part 1. “Fancy seeing you here.”

 

Yoongi’s in a black shirt and tight black jeans, but is still astounding and delicious- no, weird adjective, no- handsome, as last week. Which is obvious, but. “Yeah, hi.”

 

Awkward.

 

“Uh, so,” Jimin glances at the bags of chips in Yoongi’s grip. “Snacks? I like snacks.” I sound like a Korean elementary English textbook, fuck. “They’re for you?”

 

“No, Hoseokie’s been craving for chips, but he’s been swamped with dance practice and whatnot, so. I figured he could have something to look forward to when he slugged back home.”

 

“Oh.” Yeah, oh no. He’s delicious- handsome, and considerate, oh no. “That’s really kind of you.”

 

“Kind?” Yoongi quirks a brow, “Nah. I’m not kind.”

 

“But –“

 

“Which one do you like more, joripong or homerun balls?”

 

“Ah, depends on my mood. If I’m, er, in for breakfast, then I pour joripong into milk and voila, you got joripong latte. Homerun balls are more of a midnight craving, right? Something you can act dumb with, like tossing it into your mouth singlehandedly and missing, wasting an hour doing that. And, hm, joripong can be ultra-messy and crumbly, but it’s addicting to test how much you can scoop in your fist at once – the best stress-relief. Homerun balls are neater, tidier, but lack the minor entertainment. It has chocolate, though, so that’s a bonus? Also –“ Jimin jitters to a pause amidst his extremely detailed comparison. Yoongi is gaping at him, his lips parted in this pretty manner. Fuck, fuck, fuck, that was so extra, crap, why am I like this, seriously. “Jesus, I’m so sorry, I’m sure you wanted a straightforward response, right, god, I’m so- but I can’t just choose between- I’m not helping, I’m so sorry –“

 

“Jimin.” Yoongi disrupts gently, “You’re right.”

 

“ –I’m just a very indecisive person- wait, wuh?”

 

“I said,” Yoongi sniffs, “You’re right. I can just buy him both. I don’t know where the dilemma sprouted from.”

 

“… Oh,” Jimin opens his mouth, shuts it, repeats, “That’s a, a smart move. Right. Buy both, of course.”

 

The senior smirks and pats him on the shoulder, sliding both bags of snacks into his basket. “Thanks, Jimin. I’ll see you around.”

 

Jimin blinks blankly. He swirls around six seconds later (he was counting mentally), and Yoongi’s approaching the cashier, basket of condiments in his grasp. “Yoongi-hyung!” He shouts across the expanse of the supermarket, his voice squeaking, and everyone in the vicinity snaps to him, even the labrador that is accompanying the old grandma in the knitting aisle.

 

Yoongi, albeit reluctantly, turns to face him as well, sporting a puzzled frown.

 

“I, uh,” Can I have your number? Not for romantic purposes, but as friends, you know, social associates, possible emergency contact, what if you’re kidnapped one day and your number is the one that lasts in my working memory, or what if I just really want to see you one early night and call you, do you understand what I mean? “I like joripong.

 

Oh my god, Park Jimin.

 

The labrador barks at him. The grandma shushes the dog.

 

Yoongi gazes at him with an indecipherable expression. He simply replies,

 

“Noted.”

 

And he vanishes.

 

Jimin breathes through his nostrils and takes out his phone.

 

 

Manggae_mochi

tae

what if

what do u call

like

i told Yoongi hyung that my fav snack is joripong

instead of asking for his number

on a scale of 1-10

how’d u rate that

 

Kookie_mine

a solid

23

for pure

stupidity

and

cocklessness

 

Manggae_mochi

i think

i think i hate myself

 

Kookie_mine

i still wuv u

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Namjoon texts him out of the blue in August, under an unknown number and an invitation for Jimin.

 

Unknown Number

Hey, is this Park Jimin’s phone?

 

Manggae_mochi

um

yes?

 

Unknown Number

Oh, great!

I’m Kim Namjoon, Hoseok’s friend?

I don’t know if you remember me.

 

Manggae_mochi

oh

ooooh

yeah ofc i rmb u!

whats up?

 

RandomSocrates

Hoseok was wondering if you guys would be up to hanging out with us for the Late Summer Fest?

I mean, not only Hoseok, but also all of us were wondering.

Hoseok broke his phone by the way – that’s why I’m the one texting you.

Taehyung and Jungkook weren’t replying for some reason, too.

Anyway, if you guys aren’t free, don’t feel pressured to join us.

 

Manggae_mochi

actually

we were just planning to hang out at the fest too

so it’d be awesome if we do it together!

ill tell em no worries :3

 

RandomSocrates

Alright, thanks Jimin.

 

 

They’re a rowdy bunch – which is not at all a shocker. Seokjin and Jungkook challenge each other to various game booths, which both men brag to their respective boyfriends whenever they’re victorious – Seokjin wins a flower ring at a dart game, and immediately gets down on one knee and proposes theatrically to Namjoon, who grins like an idiot and says ‘yes.’ Jungkook, fueled by the performance, scores over four hundred points in a basketball game and attains a white teddy bear, which he presents to Taehyung with a bundle of daises he plucked from the grass. Taehyung proceeds to shout, “Jeon Jungkook is my boyfriend!” to the entire campus.

 

“They’re fucking pumpkins,” Yoongi murmurs almost inaudibly, but Jimin catches it in the breeze. “So happy.” The sleeve of his loose indigo button-down flaps and the dark roots of his mint locks are visible as his hair travels along the wind lines.

 

Jimin tucks a strand of his own hair behind his ear, “They’re cute, right?”

 

Yoongi smiles slightly, “Yeah.”

 

Taehyung claps when Seokjin is about to faint at the sight of Namjoon with a shotgun.

 

“I have a genius idea!”

 

“Oh no,” Yoongi echoes.

 

“There’s a haunted house, three hundred meters ahead!”

 

“Oh, no.” Hoseok pales.

 

“You all know what that means!”

 

“I think it means we should go three hundred meters, backward.”

 

“We have to try it out!” Taehyung squeals like a child, which he is, while Hoseok tiptoes to a corner in an attempt to flee this predicament. “God, Hoseokie-hyung, don’t bail.”

 

“I’m claustrophobic.”

 

“Don’t lie!”

 

Claustrophobic!

 

Despite Hoseok’s frantic protests, of course, Taehyung’s plans follow through. They split into three groups – Seokjin and Jungkook, Taehyung, Namjoon, and Hoseok, and –

 

Huh?

 

“You ready?”

 

Huh, huh, huh?

 

Yoongi is standing to his left.

 

They are at the entrance of the haunted house, which is decorated with black curtains and paper ghosts, with Halloween lamps dangling from the ceiling and student zombies stamping their arms. He registers the distant screams of his friends that already went a few minutes ago – Hoseok is blubbering nonsense, and Seokjin just howled Bloody Mary – and breaks out into cold sweat.

 

“Jimin?”

 

He inhales sharply and clenches his fists. He’s never relished the thrill and suspense of haunted houses. Jihyun had always pestered his parents about going in when they visited amusement parks, and Jimin recalls his family leaving him alone on a bench while his brother ventured the haunted house with his parents. It was lonely, but he found the prospect of the experience detestable.

 

Crap, even his hands are slippery.

 

“Jimin,” Yoongi nudges him with his elbow, “Earth to Jimin.”

 

“Oh,” He jumps, “Sorry, I, uh. I don’t… I’m not geared for this.”

 

“We can quit.”

 

That sounds heavenly. “Nah, I don’t want to ruin this. Besides, how petrifying can it –“ Jin’s shriek bounces off the walls dynamically. “… be.”

 

Yoongi eyes him skeptically. “If you say so.”

 

The zombie-cosplay student lifts the curtains for them, signaling for the pair to step inside. The atmosphere is chillier, and fake fog swiftly weaves through their legs on the ground, and it quickly becomes pitch-black again when the curtains descend behind them. Yoongi is motionless, but Jimin senses that he’s waiting for Jimin to be prepared. “Are we… moving?”

 

Yoongi hums and they walk forward, guided by the neon red lights attached to the flooring, beneath the cold mist.

 

The first ghost appears soundlessly, on a mirror that is supposed to be Jimin’s reflection – instead, it’s a blue-toned ghost smiling at him. Jimin yelps and backtracks, but it’s not as terrifying as he expected it to be.

 

Okay, maybe this isn’t gonna be as traumatizing as I-

 

There’s a bloody hand around his ankle.

 

THERE’S A BLOODY HAND AROUND HIS ANKLE –

 

“OHMYFUCKOHMYFUCKOHMY –“

 

He’s tripping, he’s tipping, the world spins, the mist is suspiciously close to his nose or is it just him –

 

“Shit, Jimin!”

 

He coughs as Yoongi tugs his shoulder, assisting him in regaining his balance. The hand has slithered away, which is, well, terrific. He’s not in life-threatening danger or panic anymore – but there’s still much more remaining, based on Seokjin’s high-pitched screeching. “Thanks, hyung,” He mumbles, ashamed of his outburst. Maybe he really should’ve called it a day – this haunted house is children-safe, too, the poster on the door read that it was for kids seven and older.

 

God, I’m so embarrassing. He didn’t dress up in his leather pants and tight shirt to behave like a clown in front of his crush.

 

Yoongi tongues his cheek. “Hey,” Jimin looks up, “Hold onto me.”

 

“… What?”

 

“Hold onto me.”

 

“Uh,” Wow, I really want to do that, “Why?” Why am I even asking why, I should say holy cow, yes.

 

The man passively mutters, “I’m scared.”

 

Okay, Jimin has been with Yoongi in this wrecked place for three minutes. In the span of those three minutes, Yoongi hasn’t even budged when that mirror ghost popped up, hasn’t even gasped at the eerie music from the speakers that aren’t visible, and hasn’t reacted at all to anything in here. There is no damned way he’s scared. “You’re totally not, stop teasing me, hyung.” Jimin grumbles woefully.

 

“Correction,” Yoongi exhales weakly, “I’m scared of you breaking your leg whenever those specters frighten you. So hold onto me.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah, oh.”

 

“Okay.” Jimin latches onto Yoongi’s arm without further qualms. His arm is sturdy, not muscular, but firm and warm. It puts him at ease. He feels… protected.

 

It’s a good feeling.

 

(That’s a severe understatement.)

 

He’s more tranquil after the transformation in positions. He still gasps and squeaks occasionally, and he almost stumbles on his feet again when a lady with really lengthy black hair lashes out from the door to his right, and detaches himself from Yoongi. But the other speedily wraps his arm around Jimin’s body again and pulls him in to his chest, wordless but… there. “Sorry, I wasn’t ready,” Jimin whispers apologetically as Yoongi loosens his grip.

 

“It’s fine.”

 

So Jimin’s hand hooks around Yoongi’s arm again, and they wind up at the exit after another arduous eight minutes. His brows crease, the rays of sunshine too blinding for him – from the narrow, blurred line of his vision, he sees his friends on the wooden benches. Seokjin is clinging to Namjoon, wailing about how he’s a lunatic if he ever participates in Taehyung’s ‘genius ideas’ one more time. Jungkook is shaking his head in resignation, while Taehyung sits on his lap. Hoseok is gone, but Jimin can imagine what he’s doing in the nearby restroom.

 

“Oh, Jimin and Yoongi are out!” Taehyung exclaims, “Wait, are you guys… wow, Chim, so bold.”

 

Everyone is staring at them now. Jimin can’t detect what’s abnormal, until Yoongi clears his throat, “Jimin, your hand.”

 

Oh.

 

They’ve finished the booth, but Jimin’s hand is still holding onto Yoongi’s shirt. “Shoot, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize –“ He promptly retracts his hand, as if he accidentally touched a scorching hot frying pan with his bare skin. Jungkook is sneering at him openly. “Kook, nothing happened, stop.”

 

Namjoon and Seokjin are wearing bewildered expressions, which are quite a contrast from his best friends. Yoongi excuses himself to the restroom, Taehyung and Jungkook race to the cotton candy truck, and the other three decide to wait for Hoseok and Yoongi. Five seconds into this new organization, Namjoon peers at Jimin inquisitively. “Hey, Jimin?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“In the haunted house, you and Yoongi were… together,” It sounds inappropriate when he words it like that.

 

“Yeah, we were.”

 

“You were hanging on Yoongi’s arm.”

 

“I wouldn’t say hanging.

 

“Doesn’t matter,” Seokjin interrupts tersely.

 

“Yoongi-hyung,” Namjoon sucks in a short block of air, “He… he let you touch him?”

 

The question is… strange. As if Yoongi wouldn’t let anyone touch him normally. As if Jimin wasn’t allowed to touch him, and now he shattered that statute, whatever. But Seokjin and Namjoon are staring at him with unprecedented intensity, like every single alphabet of his answer will be of universal importance to them – and Jimin is suddenly very self-conscious about how he’s going to respond.

 

“Uh… yeah? Is that,” a problem, “not what usually occurs?”

 

Seokjin blinks really fast, like fifty times, and Namjoon’s jaw drops. “He’s known you for, for… three weeks. Three weeks and a half.” The junior mumbles, “Holy shit.”

 

“Guys,” Jimin laughs tautly, “I, you’re freaking me out a little. Was I not permitted to touch him, or whatever? Is this an ongoing dare?”

 

Seokjin stops blinking. He purses his lips together in a thin, horizontal line, and contemplates whether to reveal this to Jimin, or not. He consults Namjoon silently by gazing into his boyfriend’s dark brown orbs. Some sort of agreement or conversation must’ve been exchanged, because Seokjin says, “Hoseok’s been friends with Yoongi since middle school. Yoongi met Namjoon four years ago, Namjoon’s freshman year. He met me a few months later, introduced by Namjoon as his boyfriend. Hoseok couldn’t touch Yoongi until they were juniors in high school. Namjoon and I took two years.” Jimin processes that information, and comprehends why this is such a massive deal to Yoongi’s friends. Jimin has befriended Yoongi in July. They hooked arms in August.

 

One month.

 

“Am I,” Jimin pauses, “I should be flattered, right?”

 

“I honestly have no clue, either. This has never been a thing.” Namjoon admits, still befuddled, “But you did it. I don’t know if we should congratulate you – we wouldn’t want to encourage anything that would be… uncomfortable, for both of you.”

 

“Oh, uh, okay –“ Jimin’s about to comment, but Hoseok and Yoongi walk out of the restroom side by side, and his question drowns in his throat. Why? Does Yoongi fear physical contact with others? It’s definitely a real phobia in the world, and Jimin has seen a fair share of people himself. But he was so… so assured in his behavior at the haunted house, when he held Jimin in his brief embrace.

 

He doesn’t understand.

 

They all huddle around on a patch of grass as the sun begins to set over the hills, and Taehyung and Seokjin rush away to the food stalls to get their meals, with Jungkook responsible for their beverages. Namjoon and Hoseok are in their own world, chatting madly about some new book they apparently read together, and Jimin, as a book-nobody, feels like a foreigner in Alaska. People are milling around them – rumors are that the fireworks are extra special this year, although they claim so every year – and it’s becoming crowded. Yoongi curls into himself next to Jimin, as if he’s attempting to blockade himself from the army of human beings, and Jimin remembers Namjoon and Seokjin’s breakdown about Yoongi’s swift acceptance of Jimin’s touches.

 

“Hey, hyung,” Jimin talks without thinking, “What are your hobbies?”

 

Yoongi glimpses at him. “Why?”

 

“I don’t know, you seem,” He rummages through his brain for an appropriate term, “Tense.”

 

“Oh,” He regrets being so honest, because he can tell that Yoongi tries to forcibly relax after that, “Producing music, I guess. I have a studio. Pipsqueak, though, and it’s not even mine – I share it with Joonie and Hoseokie. And photography – I like photography.”

 

“Such an artist,” Jimin giggles, and is more alert about the distance between them. They’re six inches apart, maybe more. “I know music is related to your major, but why photography? It totally fits you, but just curious.”

 

Yoongi licks his bottom lip pensively. “At first, it was more… desperate. I wanted to preserve my memories, specific moments, all that. Because a lost moment is lost forever, right? Photography was the solution to that, and it just stuck with me. I haven’t used my camera for a while, but I still do it when I have the freedom.”

 

“That’s really cool,” Jimin awes, and Yoongi blushes. It’s cute. He’s cute. “I like photography too. And dancing – dancing is my priority. It’s like breathing for me – I’m guessing music’s like that for you, too. Can I visit your studio sometime?” It’s a smooth question, so smooth that he doesn’t recognize it when it flows out of his own mouth. “Shoot, sorry, that’s crossing a line, isn’t it? It’s probably personal and whatnot, sorry –“

 

“It’s not mine, it’s not personal, it’s not crossing a line,” Yoongi rectifies easily, “You’re welcome any day, Jimin.”

 

“… Really?”

 

“Really.” Yoongi snorts a little, “Just text me beforehand. Do you have my number?”

 

Wow, is this happening? “Nope.”

 

“Well, give me your phone.” Jimin complies. Yoongi types in his number facilely, and it hits Jimin again, wow, this is happening. How hard was that? “I doubt that there’s anything interesting for you. We’re not a very exciting bunch, unfortunately.”

 

“What is this about us not being exciting? We’re the epitome of exciting!” Hoseok retorts from the other side, which Yoongi shrugs off.

 

“I’ve never been friends with a music composition major, or, you know, anyone so involved in the technical side of creating music. It’s so compelling.” He grins, while Yoongi’s blush deepens. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

 

“Yeah, I don’t see why we wouldn’t be.”

 

“Okay, perfect. That’s… yeah, perfect.” Jimin is giddy. There are butterflies in his stomach – the pleasant kind. Friends – they’re at a positive starting point. An acquaintance to friends is a wonderful progression.

 

They admire the fireworks as a group, and the distance between Yoongi and Jimin becomes six inches to four, unknown to Jimin, and very known to Yoongi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimin musters all his bravery when he texts Yoongi initially. To his relief, the older male replies almost instantly, responding to Jimin’s selfies and midnight questions. So far, he’s learned that Yoongi has a brother, but not younger, like Jimin and Jihyun. He’s from Daegu, and has come to Seoul to pursue his passion for music and rap. He performs underground with Hoseok and Namjoon as the unit, Cypher, and they’re pretty popular. Jimin has listened to all of their tracks, and damn, it’s sick. He has never gotten a boner from music, but well, there’s a first to everything. Especially when Yoongi spits his verses like fire – that does things to his dick. And Jimin. Just wholesomely Jimin. It affects him a lot.

 

He doesn’t drop by their studio, however, not because he doesn’t want to – he really, really wants to – but because his schedule is packed with practice and lectures as the semester rolls back in. Their late-night texts operate on rhythm, and eventually settle as a routine of their days. Jimin brushes his teeth at twelve, and clambers onto his mattress, switching the lights off and picking up his phone. He checks in with Yoongi and starts their conversation with a random daily fact or a new inquiry. Yoongi always, always replies in less than a minute, with a very thoughtful sentence or paragraph. Once, Jimin had written, ‘Hyung, you know the proverb, the early bird eats the worm, or whatever? But why doesn’t anyone think about the circumstance in the worm’s perspective? The worm woke up earlier than the bird, and it was eaten, like how tragic and unjust is that?’ Yoongi diligently said, ‘Yeah, I pondered over that too, when I was a teenager. It’s not fucking fair, right? The worm should totally be rewarded too, but no, the natural cycle of the food chain is insurmountable. Sometimes, maybe waking up early has nothing to do with it.’

 

Yoongi never mocks him for any of his troubles, thoughts, jokes, anything. And that’s… refreshing. Taehyung has always been a little eccentric, so he was an exception, but Jimin always believed that he had to control himself in front of others. For Yoongi, though, it was so easy to unleash his true self – to be himself.

 

He’s never had someone like that.

 

(He wished that someone would be his soulmate, in the past. That’s the past, though.)

 

But anyway, his concern is reasonable when Yoongi doesn’t text back for a full hour one night, after Jimin’s random fact of the day: You can hear a blue whale’s heartbeat from more than two miles away.

 

After a minute passed, Jimin tossed his phone on the bed, assuming that the senior must be using the restroom, or something. After ten minutes, he altered that prediction into a shower. Yoongi was at the studio frequently, and he told Jimin that there was a public shower in the building. Thirty minutes passed, and he nibbled on his lips – must be a long shower.

 

An hour though, that’s concerning.

 

Don’t be a mom, Park Jimin, it’s one in the morning, and Yoongi could’ve dozed off already. But again, this hasn’t occurred before. Yoongi never failed to inform him when he was busy or when he was actually going to bed early. This was abnormal. It could be a mistake, but Jimin couldn’t throw off the looming premonition that that wasn’t the case.

 

It is one in the morning.

 

He messages Namjoon and Hoseok, but none of them reply. Of course, it’s one in the morning.

 

He repeats – it’s one in the morning.

 

It’s an hour where many people make many stupid choices. But Jimin doesn’t trust that this is a particularly stupid choice. Maybe a little dramatic, yes, but not stupid. He’s worried about Yoongi’s wellbeing, and as… well, friends, he can do this much. So no, not stupid.

 

He hazily pulls on his blue knitted sweater and comfy pants, the mint aftertaste of his toothpaste still on his tongue. Taehyung and Jungkook are snoring on their couch, and Jimin ruffles Taehyung’s hair out of habit and locks the door. The night is rather frigid, with autumn in Jimin’s face, and he jolts in terror when he steps on a dried leaf on the cement. Yoongi has sent him the location of his studio in their previous conversations, and Jimin saved it the second he received the address. He’s glad he did that, because he refuses to scroll up their extensive stream of texts to find it.

 

It’s a twenty-minute stroll to the studio. The building is gray and standard, just like any other building in the neighborhood. Cypher’s studio is on the fourth floor, at the very end of the corridor. Most of the offices and restaurants are closed, but Jimin heads to the elevator anyway. He’s here to ensure that Yoongi’s fine. If he discovers Yoongi on the floor, maybe napping, then that’s his cue to wake the man up and depart. That’s all there is to this.

 

There’s a lock combination on the entrance of the Cypher Lab. Jimin punches in the code as Yoongi taught him, and enters as he hears an affirmative click.

 

The studio is cozy, with a three-person sofa on the right, and a ton of complicated tools to the left, with a recording booth and all that jazz. There are cups of instant ramen and plastic bottles of soda littered over the floor, and also –

 

Yoongi collapsed on the pile of trash.

 

Jimin heaves and lowers himself. “Hyung,” He murmurs, and Yoongi stirs. “Hyung, you can’t just sleep here – you’ll catch a cold.”

 

“Mm…” Yoongi’s shoulders twitch, and then his eyelids crack open. “… Jimin?” His voice is raspy and groggy, like he hasn’t drunk a drop of water for ages. Now that Jimin observes him, he looks a little thinner, and his clothes are crinkled. Those were the same pieces of clothing that Yoongi wore in his selfie three nights ago. Dread befalls Jimin, along with a certain realization. “Fuck,” The man scrambles up as he notices that this Jimin is not a figment of his dreams, “Fuck, Jimin, what are you…” His eyes enlarge as he fumbles for his phone, “It’s two? Fuck.”

 

“Yoongi-hyung,” Jimin puts his hand on Yoongi’s thigh – it’s bony. “When was the last time you ate?”

 

Yoongi is staring at Jimin’s hand, like he can’t believe it’s there. “Uh,” He blinks once, twice, “I…” He’s at loss. Of course. “I don’t’ know. Seokjin-hyung brought food on Monday for all of us. I ate then, and… I don’t know.”

 

“It’s Thursday.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“I can’t believe you, seriously,” Jimin sighs, “Let’s go eat. You need energy. And judging by your appearance, I’m guessing you haven’t been getting much sleep, either.” Yoongi doesn’t have anything to say to that. “Pack your belongings – we’ll have a meal together, and then you’ll go home and sleep in. Got it?”

 

“I need to finish this track –“

 

Yoongi.” He forgets the suffix, but it doesn’t matter.

 

Yoongi’s tongue grazes his canine tooth. “… You’re acting like Jin-hyung.”

 

“I’m justified in my concern.”

 

“Alright,” Yoongi relents, “Let’s go. Just give me a minute.”

 

There’s nothing in business sans the sundae gukbap diner across the street, so they go inside. They order two servings, in which the lady in the flower print apron nods curtly. Jimin passes a wet wipe to Yoongi and cleanses his hands.

 

“I’m sorry that I worried you.” Yoongi mumbles, “I do that sometimes.”

 

“Do what?”

 

“Overwork.” The man chews on a pickled radish. “It’s an unhealthy habit. I can’t really control myself.”

 

“Hm,” Jimin twirls his chopsticks, “How’d that happen?”

 

Yoongi is quiet for a while, that Jimin thinks Yoongi didn’t heed it. The student pops another pickled radish into his mouth. “It was an escape of sorts. Perhaps it still is, not sure. When… when I’m working, nothing can bother me. It’s just the chords, the melody, the crescendo, and I, in that space.” Jimin lets that sink in. “Nobody,” Yoongi whispers in a hushed tone, not looking at Jimin, just poking his chopstick into that radish on the plate, “Nobody can hurt me.”

 

Jimin’s stomach clenches. Hurt. Nobody can hurt him, Yoongi said, in that meek, crawling voice, as if he was unsure of that, too. Jimin yearns to ask – who? But he can’t do it. They’re not there yet – he knows his boundaries. They’re not there yet.

 

“I,” To alter the course of the conversation, Jimin racks his brain for something to say, anything, “I had a habit too. Of, of writing to my soulmate.” Crap. That just left him. That just left him, crap. “I begged my parents to buy me a very overdone market set for the occasion. I was so paranoid about pleasing my soulmate – didn’t want to disappoint them by using a wrong color, whatever that is. I wrote every day, every single day. It was a habit.” The food arrives, but neither of them picks up their spoons.

 

“You ‘had’ a habit,” Yoongi remarks, “So not anymore.”

 

“No. Not anymore.”

 

“Why’d you… stop?”

 

Jimin vividly remembers the day he stopped. He was sobbing after the girl’s confession, after writing the hateful words on his wrist, and after getting an apology back. “I used to think it was a revenge of sorts. My soulmate never wrote to me – but like, I knew I had one. Don’t ask me how, I just knew. And one day, stuff went down, and… yeah. I stopped. But now, I… I was probably tired. No, I was tired. Emotionally exhausted, and what my soulmate wrote for the first and last time,” I’m sorry, “it broke me. So I just stopped.”

 

Yoongi is speechless. Jimin can’t blame him – he wouldn’t know how to react to that, either.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

He goes static. He snaps up at Yoongi, whose eyes are fixed onto him, a little red and wavering. Something’s off – something’s not right. Jimin’s intuition tells him so, at least. He doesn’t know what, though. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, hyung,” He chuckles and finally mixes the contents of his gukbap, “It’s all over.”

 

“… Yeah.”

 

They consume their meals in silence, the only background noise being the faint hum of the TV and the clanking of their spoons against the dishes. It strikes Jimin then, that he’s never asked Yoongi about his soulmate – Yoongi must have one, too. That causes him to lose his appetite abruptly. Is it a girl or a guy? Does Jimin know them? Does Yoongi like them? Soulmates – why hadn’t he thought of that sooner?

 

Yoongi pays for the food as thanks, although Jimin has argued multiple times that it wasn’t necessary. They amble in the direction of their apartments, barely any cars on the road or people on the streets.

 

“Hyung,” He mutters in a daze, “Your soulmate.”

 

The mint-haired man glances at him. “What about it?”

 

“You have one, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Okay, fears confirmed. It’s fine. That’s fine.

 

“Do you,” like them? Have a crush on them? Feel a romantic attraction for them? “Know them at all?”

 

“Know, as in, well-informed or met in person?”

 

“Both.”

 

“Hm,” Yoongi mulls, “I’d say I know about them enough. We’ve met in person, too.” Jimin dampens. Of course. This shouldn’t be so disheartening. It really, really shouldn’t be. But it is, the more Jimin asks and the more Yoongi responds. They’re friends, right? Jimin totally wants to be more than friends, but they’re friends nonetheless.

 

“Do you… like them?”

 

“That’s very general.”

 

Jimin resolves. “Romantically. Do you like them romantically?”

 

Yoongi tongues his cheek – what he does when he’s pondering. “I used to. I’m not so certain anymore. But,” He looks at Jimin, and it’s as if he’s directing this to Jimin, when they’re discussing about Yoongi’s soulmate – not Jimin. “I think I do.”

 

“Oh.” Jimin nods, “Oh.”

 

Oh, resounds his broken heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Jimin is crestfallen, he doesn’t show it.

 

In fact, he is crestfallen – but he doesn’t show it.

 

He texts Yoongi every night, engages in the bickering of his friends, practices his new choreo, and lives his life. He’s capable of concealing his emotions, because it’s not like he’s an amateur to the experience. Build the pieces, put them together, form the smile, until it’s real. There’s nothing challenging about that. He can do it. He’s accustomed to the act.

 

But maybe that mindset was precisely the issue.

 

The university dance showcase inches closer, in three weeks, and Jimin pours his strength and effort into his perfecting his choreo. He cuts down on sleep, skips a couple of meals, and although he isn’t the type to shut out the whole world like Yoongi, he does become more irritable and emotionally drained.

 

Just this morning, for example. Taehyung expressed his apprehension about Jimin’s “insane cycle of dumbness,” something that hasn’t occurred since their senior year of high school. Jimin bit back acridly, that perhaps Taehyung should put more work into his business than interfere with Jimin’s. Taehyung scowled at him and Jimin inwardly mourned his impulsive conduct, but was too muddled with his exhaustion to apologize. Jungkook intercepted, tearing the two apart, as he told Jimin to calm his fucking balls.

 

He didn’t want to deal with his stupid emotions, though. Not yet.

 

So he battles through, grits his teeth, and continues. It’s a fantastic motivator, actually. He doesn’t think he’s ever concentrated so much on solely dance, dance, and dance. He’s the only sophomore to present a solo, for over five minutes, too – and albeit the reinforcement of his friends, with their support and reassuring cheers, he’s freaking out. What if he trips on stage? What if he misses a beat? What if he suddenly forgets the moves? What if, what if, what if?

 

Practice. Ruthless practice is the ultimate panacea to his illness of worries.

 

He’s five hours in, and his phone is ringing – he’s already told Yoongi that he won’t be able to text today, so it couldn’t be him. Taehyung? Jimin’s not in the mood to vomit his emotional whirlpool onto his best friend yet, especially after their altercation this morning. Jungkook? Ah, that’s a nightmare. He might strangle Jimin for hurting Taehyung’s feelings. Hoseok, Seokjin, or Namjoon? Why’d they call him at night? Probably doesn’t matter, Jimin notes haphazardly, turning the volume of the recording up. He almost slides and lands on his ass when his foot skids over the floor covered with his droplets of sweat, but that doesn’t deter him. He goes on and on, even when his muscles are numb and aching, until he believes that he shouldn’t go further, before he tears a ligament or whatever.

 

“Hey, Jimin!”

 

He turns around upon heeding his name, and there’s Minho, a senior and studio member by the doorstep. “There’s someone for you downstairs. Quit dancing and greet ‘em, geez, they’ve been there for the past hour, couldn’t get past the security ‘cause he didn’t have the code. Your boyfriend?”

 

Boyfriend? Everyone around here knew Taehyung because he was Jimin’s best friend, and Jungkook because he also danced as a pastime. But nobody else came for Jimin at his studio, so who could it be? “I don’t have a boyfriend,” He says distractedly, wiping his sweat with his towel.

 

“Well, he’s hot. Would totally tap that ass.”

 

“Don’t let Taemin hear that,” Jimin leers, cutting the music.

 

“Taemin would agree. Anyway, get him. You’re not going to stay after, are you?”

 

“I don’t know, why?”

 

“You shouldn’t. Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately?”

 

Jimin frowns.

 

“You look like you’ve been to hell and back, four times. I know the showcase is stressing you out, but rest is a crucial part of practice too.” Minho waves his hand dismissively, “Go home, Jimin. My orders.”

 

“You have zero authority in this studio.”

 

“I’m also four years older than you. Learn your Confucianism and filial piety principles again, Jimin.”

 

Jimin huffs, but puts his water bottle in his bag and jogs down the stairs. All the floors are empty, and most of the practice rooms seem to be vacant, except room 2A, where Baekhyun and Chanyeol usually make out or fuck, doing their gross sex stuff. Jimin has witnessed his share of their intercourse sessions, and it’s something he doesn’t need to willingly repeat. He shudders at a moan that echoes from the door, and quickens his pace to the ground floor.

 

“Oh, Jimin,” Seungcheol salutes him, “There’s a guy on the bench for you. Boyfriend?”

 

“I don’t know why everyone is presuming so. I don’t have a boyfriend.”

 

“Oh, he isn’t?” Seungcheol seems genuinely startled. “He has your favorite drink, though. The super complicated order. Whatever.”

 

My favorite drink? Jimin is mystified by this input. Had he ever told anyone about his favorite drink except Taehyung? And even Taehyung doesn’t get it accurately. He pushes the double doors and peeks outside, and almost crashes headfirst into another person. “Shit, sorry –“ He rubs his nose and finds himself gazing into Yoongi’s beautiful onyx orbs, twinkling under the malfunctioning lamplight positioned to the left. “… Hyung?”

 

“Hey,” Yoongi smiles, his voice gravelly and causing vibrations in Jimin’s gut, “It’s been a while.” Jimin nods at him, and averts his attention to the cups in Yoongi’s hands. One is a half-finished iced americano and the other is Jimin’s favorite order – a half-vanilla chocolate frappe with chocolate chips, two swirls of whipped cream, with a special crushed biscuit topping, drips of caramel syrup, and their secret marshmallows. Jimin can’t believe it’s right there, clasped in Yoongi’s fingers.

 

“You’ve,” Jimin’s mind is mangled, “How long have you been out here?”

 

“Like ten minutes.” Yoongi shrugs nonchalantly.

 

“Minho told me you’ve been here for an hour.”

 

Yoongi winces. “Well. Maybe an hour.”

 

“Oh my god, Yoongi, why didn’t you call me?” Jimin laments – it’s like thirteen degrees outside, with autumn at its peak, and the tips of Yoongi’s fingers are pinkish red as they clutch Jimin’s icy drink. The sight warms Jimin’s heart as much as it wounds him.

 

“I did, but you weren’t picking up. You were practicing, so that’s my fault. Didn’t know the code to the studio, and that Minho dude invited me in a while ago, but then your drink had the possibility of melting, so I said no. Speaking of which, here’s your drink.” Jimin sips his frappe, and it tastes exactly like how he loves it.

 

“But Yoongi,” He sighs in both bliss and vexation, “It’s thirteen degrees outside. It was nineteen degrees at the BBQ place last time we hung out and you said you were going to freeze to death as a human glacier.”

 

“Your frappe,” Yoongi justifies, as if that actually justifies anything.

 

“My frappe, I appreciate it. Did I ever tell you my favorite? I don’t remember doing that,” Jimin hums, taking another large sip.

 

“You have,” The other says softly, “I was worried that it wasn’t going to be your favorite now, but apparently it is. Worked in my favor.”

 

“You make it sound like I told you years ago.”

 

Yoongi hums. “You’re heading home?”

 

“Ah, about that,” Jimin clucks his tongue drily, “I fought with Taehyung, so I don’t know. I have to apologize at some point, but… seems too soon currently. I don’t really want to go back.”

 

“So where are you sleeping?” Yoongi tilts his head, and Jimin purses his lips together.

 

“That’s… that’s a great question.”

 

The older student doesn’t look too impressed. Jimin wouldn’t be either, if he were in his shoes. “Do you wanna use my studio?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Well, not my studio, our studio,” Yoongi corrects, “Cypher Lab. The sofa can fit a person. We have a blanket and some pillows. It’s homely there.” Jimin knows that already. But he’s recalling why he’s been laboring his butt off these past few weeks, and it’s because of this very man in front of him and his tornado of his emotions for the man. This isn’t the wisest idea he’s had.

 

Then again, Jimin has never been Solomon.

 

“Yeah, okay. I’ll go get my things.”

 

So they’re at Cypher Lab in forty minutes, with Yoongi rummaging the storeroom for their blankets, and Jimin in the public shower with Namjoon’s soap and Hoseok’s shampoo, partnered with his stinky towel. He’s never been in a public shower before, but he does long to flee this hellhole as fast as possible – it’s grimy, there’s a cobweb on the corner of the ceiling, a dead moth on the third tile to the right of his foot, and there’s this creamy stain on the wall that Jimin doesn’t need to think too hard about to hypothesize what went down here. He respects Yoongi and his friends for utilizing the shower almost every day.

 

When he returns, Yoongi has constructed a mini-bed on the sofa for Jimin, and there’s a single-bed-sized mattress on the floor as well. “You’re sleeping here, too?” Jimin asks, “I mean, it’s your studio, so that totally makes sense, sorry, that was rude.”

 

“I have to apply some final touches to the track in the morning,” Yoongi opens the fridge and removes a can of beer and frozen fried chicken, “I’d rather just be here. I’m eating chicken, you?”

 

He’s on a strict diet, but he’s also starved and hungry. “Yes, please.”

 

Yoongi microwaves the chicken, and Jimin salivates at the waft of meat that consumes the atmosphere. They plop on the mattress with a roundtable set up between them, a styrofoam plate of chicken on it with two cans of beer. They mutter their cheers, the chicken is greasy, the beer isn’t the best of quality, but Jimin is oddly content.

 

“So,” He starts, “Why were you here today? Not that I wasn’t happy that you were. I was really happy. I am really happy.” That last part was unnecessary, he notes, but the alcohol is rushing through his system.

 

“Taehyung,” Yoongi chugs down his can of beer, “He messaged me. The brat was all droopy, like, ‘take care of Jimin, please.’ I didn’t know what was happening, but I figured you were pushing yourself with the showcase.” Jimin feels sober for a second at the mention of Taehyung. Right, his best friend was constantly concerned about Jimin, somehow. “Get back to him tomorrow. The kid was really anxious.”

 

“Yeah,” Jimin murmurs, “You know how Tae and I met?”

 

“Hm, no.”

 

So he relates the tale to Yoongi, something that’s not too hilarious or even mildly enlightening, but he does it anyway. Yoongi listens from beginning to end, absorbed. The way he nods makes Jimin lightheaded – or maybe it’s the alcohol. Probably the alcohol, never mind. “He’s a lifesaver. I might’ve, I don’t know, I might’ve done really idiotic shit without him. I was an environmental and social hazard in high school. I was losing myself.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah. My soulmate – I told you already. I was so frustrated with myself in high school, with college and all. And… Taehyung was the only person who knew about my silent soulmate issue. That was fine. Then this girl confessed to me, this really bitchy girl, I hate her more today. She found out that my soulmate never replied to my writings, and… she said I was pitiful, for not having one. I mean, I knew I had one deep down, which just worsened my case. I thought I was going to legitimately lose myself then.” He reminisces those days, the details in high resolution, to the resentment in her poisonous words. Bad times.

 

“I’m sorry you had to bear with that,” Yoongi says, like he’s the one who wronged.

 

“Nah. It’s better now. Besides, I’m over my soulmate. They can eat shit.” He’s a little dizzy now – they’re eating chicken, right? Tastes like pork, huh. That’s weird. “Hey, hyung?”

 

“Yeah, Jimin?”

 

“Do you think my soulmate never replied because they thought I was, I dunno, not attractive?”

 

Yoongi grimaces. “You’re the polar opposite of ‘not attractive,’ Jimin, and you cannot convince me otherwise.”

 

“Well, this guy, Sungmin, from my elementary school –“

 

“I don’t like him already,” Yoongi grumbles.

 

“He called me ugly, and I just, theorized.”

 

“Screw that, I scorn him. Where’s he now?”

 

“Huh, some, some engineer shit. Was a smart guy.”

 

“Smart but blind, got you.”

 

Jimin giggles, “Hey, hyung?”

 

“Yes, Jimin?”

 

“You should be my soulmate.” God, that chicken looks like Angelina Jolie. Is Angelina Jolie a chicken, or is the chicken Angelina Jolie? Surely, Google knows. “You’re hot, you’re cute, you make music, you know my favorite order, Angelina Jolie.”

 

“Angelina Jolie?” Yoongi’s expression is… he doesn’t know, it’s cloudy. Everything’s kind of cloudy. “Where’d she come from?”

 

“Madagascar?”

 

“The States, Jiminie.” The States. America? Mac N Cheese. Angelina? “Also, you wouldn’t want me as your soulmate.”

 

What? That’s not true, Jimin is confused. He’d die to have Yoongi as his soulmate. Crap, he’s sleepy, though. He’s never dealt swimmingly with alcohol. There are fingers in his hair, or so he thinks. It feels cool and nice.

 

“You hate me already,” Yoongi whispers, but Jimin’s world goes black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The showcase is today.

 

He’s not nervous, which is new. He’s practiced to the brink of his sanity, his muscles have memorized the seven-minute choreo, and his friends will be yelling for him in the audience, especially Taehyung. He apologized to his best friend the following morning of sleeping at Yoongi’s studio – there were a bucket of tears, loads of ‘I’m sorry’s, and one Jeon Jungkook with a paper bag of McDonald’s for brunch. He questioned Yoongi about what ensued after their midnight supper, but the other male just said they went to bed. Odd, because Jimin vaguely recalls a conversation. Could be just him, though.

 

“Jimin, you’re up in ten minutes!”

 

“Alright!”

 

He inhales, exhales, and rises. He scrutinizes himself in the mirror. His hair is dyed silver for this event, and he’s wearing a silk cream shirt with matching silk pants that cover his ankles, lined with silver studs and glitter. He’s dancing barefoot, and there are no accessories to divert his focus. It’s just him and the stage.

 

I can do this.

 

“Jimin, five minutes!”

 

His phone buzzes on the counter, and he swipes the screen.

 

 

FIGHTING JIMIN SQUAD (7)

 

Kookie_Mine

Every1 cheer for Jiminie :D

 

Kookie_Yours

Hyung be epic

 

Im_Single_Sunshine

thts like a command

but JIMIN U CAN DO IT

I TRUST IN U

LUV U

BOY IN LUV

 

RandomSocrates

Hoseok, you’re not making much sense.

But Jimin, you’ve tried so hard, we all know it, you know it, and now it’s time for everyone else to know as well. You’ll be great!

We’re all at the front row right now. Taehyung is at the verge of sobbing his intestines out.

 

Kookie_Mine

ew no

thats not tru wht u mean

these are NOT mah tears

now if i can rmb where i put my box of tissues

 

Kookie_Yours

Aw taeby

Cmere

 

Im_Fucking_Socrates

you guys are like

the definition of disgusting

 

Kookie_Mine

i absolutely reFUSE

to hear that from

IM FUCKING SOCRATES

 

Im_Fucking_Socrates

i am though

 

RandomSocrates

He is.

 

Im_Fucking_Socrates

thanks for the confirmation babe

vote of confidence

BUT

MORE IMPORTANTLY

Jimin.

you’re fucking amazing honey and you got it

you got the ass the lips the eyes the nose the hips the thighs

 

Im_Single_Sunshine

ur husbando is literally in the group

 

Im_Fucking_Socrates

he agrees with me

 

RandomSocrates

I,

I think I do.

 

Kookie_Yours

Wheres Yoongi hyung

 

Im_Single_Sunshine

hes been typing 4 the past 5 mins and honestly its scaring me

 

Min Yoongi

Hey, Jiminie. You’re finally here. You’ve tried so hard for the past month, for more than twelve hours each day, forgoing meals, breaks, and interaction with others that I know you always long for. I’m sure there were moments of anguish, disappointment, and bitterness, with you being your perfectionist self. But I saw you triumph every time, even as you came out a little more battered and worn out than before. You’re up in less than two minutes now, and perhaps you’re skimming over this message, or you won’t read this at all. I just want you to remember, though, that it’s okay – it’s okay to miss a beat, misstep, look the opposite direction for a second – I doubt you’ll do that, but if you do, it’s okay. You did your best. This is your best. No matter what you do, your best is perfect, and we’re here. Don’t forget that.

 

Im_Fucking_Socrates

did

did that just happen

 

Im_Single_Sunshine

WTF JUST HAPPENED

 

Kookie_Mine

i

iM CRYING

SOBBING MY INTESTINES OUT

 

RandomSocrates

I feel…

I feel bad about my encouragement now.

 

Kookie_Mine

BABY

MAH TISSUES

WHERE ARE THEY

 

Kookie_Yours

Sorry babe

Im using them

 

 

Jimin scans Yoongi’s text. He does it again, and again, and again. The searing burn that was tingling in his chest blazes across his body, pumping through his vessels and blood.

 

“Jimin, one minute!”

 

When he danced on his astronaut-patterned bed on Christmas to the melody of All I Want for Christmas is You as a twelve-year-old, he pictured himself with his soulmate, decorating a Christmas tree slightly taller than Jimin. The ornaments will be edible, made of chocolate bunnies and candy canes, and the others will be to his soulmate’s liking, maybe a neon green spaceship instead of a golden star – and it’ll be their Christmas. Jimin will dance for his soulmate, even if his soulmate’s song preference is trot and they request Hong Jinyoung’s Love Battery, Jimin will giggle merrily and dance.

 

He used to dream about those things – fuzzy, warm things.

 

“Jimin, you’re up!”

 

He’s not going to dream anymore.

 

He trudges out to the stage, the center of the Performing Arts Arena. The lights are white and hot, and the air buzzes with applause. Sucking in a stale, shuddering breath, he browses the spectators and lands on the front row – normally, he’d recognize Taehyung’s bright hair initially, and then Jungkook latched to his side. Today, he spots Yoongi, whose hair is freshly dyed as the beauty of winter’s twilight – dark, rich, and the reflection of the beams spangled on his locks like stars. He’s gorgeous – absolutely gorgeous.

 

Yoongi smiles at him, and the lights switch off.

 

Today, he’s not dancing for his soulmate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimin!

 

Taehyung bulldozes into his embrace, half-laughing and half-bawling, the familiar fragrance of his perfume engulfing Jimin.

 

Jesus Christ, you were legendary! How are you my friend, god, you’re- you’re –“

 

“Babe, you had your glory, I wanna hug him too.” Jungkook beseeches petulantly, and Taehyung sniffles but releases Jimin. Jungkook’s burlier and brawnier, but he’s careful as he pulls Jimin in. “Hyung,” There’s a lot of weight in that ‘hyung,’ and Jimin inhales unsteadily. “You did well. Really well. We’re so proud of you. Congratulations.”

 

“Thanks, Jungkookie.”

 

Namjoon and Seokjin pat his shoulder, and Hoseok jumps up and down, hyper and animated. “Yoongi has something for you,” Hoseok chirps and juts his chin at his friend, who reddens into a shade of beetroot.

 

“Yoongi,” Jimin mouths timidly.

 

“Jimin.”

 

“You… dyed your hair?”

 

“Ah,” Yoongi fiddles with a strand, “You told me you like black hair.”

 

Jimin frowns, “I did?”

 

“A long time ago,” Yoongi rumbles. From his back appears a bouquet of pink flowers, in bundles of full blossoms, sweet and pretty. “Stocks,” The senior continues, “It’s the name of the flower.”

 

Jimin squeezes the bouquet. “What,” This is real, this is real, this is real, “What do they mean?”

 

Taehyung squeals in the background and Jungkook sighs dreamily.

 

“You’ll always be beautiful to me.”

 

Jimin sputters. “Wuh- what?”

 

“The meaning of the flowers,” Yoongi clarifies, “And of course, you’ll always be beautiful to me.”

 

“Really?” Jimin whispers shakily.

 

“Truly.”

 

“Okay,” He nods, “Okay. That’s, that’s flattering.”

 

Seokjin groans loudly, “Joonie, why are they not kissing yet? I was here for the kiss!”

 

“Well, you know how Yoongi’s a grandpa, Jinnie –“

 

“I’m this much away,” There is no space between Yoongi’s index finger and thumb, “From assassinating you two.” And then he flicks to Jimin, “Ignore them, Jimin-ah, they’re just messing around and talking trash –“

 

“But,” Terrific, my mouth is moving before I think again, “What if I want you to kiss me?”

 

Silence.

 

“You want me to kiss you?” Yoongi enunciates each syllable warily, and there’s a foreign spark in his typically lax, unwavering gaze. Jimin nods again, just minutely, just enough for his affirmation to be communicated. “Okay.”

 

It’s like a slow-motion film, where Yoongi shuffles towards Jimin, his hand wrapping the curve of Jimin’s neck, the distance between their mouths decreasing, Yoongi’s plush lips brushing against Jimin’s salty and dry ones – and they’re kissing, tenderly, lovingly, warmly, with minimal movement but much conveyed. Someone is screaming on the sidelines, and Jimin dimly identifies Jungkook’s, ‘fuck, finally.’ Despite the cacophony around, this is their moment – similar to Jimin’s imagination of the non-existent Christmas with his soulmate, only better.

 

Better, because Yoongi is here.

 

When they break apart, Yoongi strokes the smooth arch of Jimin’s ear, and it sends a shiver down his spine. “Today’s your day,” He murmurs determinedly, “And nothing can change that. But we have to talk about this too, so can you come to Cypher Lab tomorrow?”

 

“But hyung, we have to record tomorrow –“

 

“Tomorrow, five in the afternoon. Are you free?”

 

“Oh, you sneaky.” Hoseok wriggles his brows, “That’s exactly when the recording will be finalized. Maybe.”

 

“It will be.” Yoongi concludes, “I can make it happen.”

 

“For me?” Jimin beams, and Yoongi grins as well.

 

“For you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimin unlocks the studio at four-twenty, because he has nothing to do. After the showcase, Taemin recommended all members to unwind for a week – rest a lot, devour food to the limit of your digestive system, and sleep till three. Be unhealthy – the ten-minute lecture of Taemin. Jimin hadn’t gone to that extent, but he has been awake for two hours, and he ordered a pepperoni-potato supreme pizza at midnight for their room yesterday. In his opinion, he’s obeying Taemin’s demands with flying colors.

 

Anyway, today, he’s at Cypher Lab with an iced americano for Yoongi and two iced lattes for Hoseok and Namjoon. He pokes his head through the gap of the door, “Hello?”

 

Namjoon and Hoseok swivel around from the soundboard.

 

“Hey, Jimin!” Hoseok smashes a button on the board and all music is muted, “You’re early, eh? Yoongi went to take a shower, just give him ten minutes.”

 

“Yeah, of course. How’s the recording progressing?”

 

“Has never been better. You’ve listened to Cypher, right?”

 

“Lord, I’m a fan.”

 

Namjoon chortles, “Want Yoongi-hyung’s autograph? He’d be enthralled to give you one.”

 

“I might faint.” Jimin swoons, and Hoseok and Namjoon joke along with him for a while. They sit around on the studio’s table and wait for Yoongi – right then, the camera on the corner of the table grabs his attention. “Is that hyung’s camera?”

 

“Oh, yeah, he doesn’t use it much anymore.” Hoseok reaches for the object and scans it, and then turns it on. “Ooh, fancy. Hey, wanna peek if hyung has any nudes? Maybe he snapped a photo of his dick sometime.”

 

“You shouldn’t do that, Seokie, it’s hyung’s,” admonishes Namjoon, while scooting towards the camera and craning his neck for better access.

 

The first couple of photos are rather arbitrary, flickering between evening scenery of the city and mountains, to Namjoon and Hoseok, to a pouting Seokjin, and also a blurry group picture. “Wow, that’s old,” Namjoon marvels, “It’s when we went camping, right? To Jeju.”

 

“Where you confessed to Seokjin-hyung,” Hoseok adds.

 

“You should tell me about it another day,” Jimin smiles.

 

That lasts for minutes, until something unusual pops up – something that causes Jimin’s heart to drop.

 

It’s a photo, that much is evident, but it’s the subject – a wrist, tainted with ink and scribbles all over the pale skin.

 

‘You never write back,’ Jimin knows that handwriting. ‘Am I too annoying, am I not writing in your favorite color, I wrote in 44 different colors for the past few years, though, why do you never write back why are you like this is it me is it me just why’

 

Because it’s his.

 

His.

 

“What’s… Joon, what’s this?” Hoseok is trembling. Namjoon is frozen.

 

It’s another wrist photo, one after the other, and Jimin matches the incomplete puzzle that has been wandering about in his brain ever since he encountered Yoongi. The awkward quiet between them when Jimin introduced himself and his friends at MFF, how Yoongi seemed to be aware of Jimin’s deep-rooted contempt for haunted houses, how Yoongi was the only individual to get his order correctly, how Yoongi always spoke in a manner that insinuated that he had been acquainted with Jimin for more than three months –

 

(“You hate me already.”)

 

Did Yoongi say that?

 

Flick.

 

‘Hi, soulmate, my name is Park Jimin :D – today, I want to tell you about my fear of haunted houses. We went to the amusement park today, and Jihyun, my little brother, he loves haunted houses and ghosts, all that scary stuff. I don’t like them. But mom and dad went in with him, and I was just out there, and… I don’t know, it was lonely. If someone was there to hold me, I might’ve entered, you know? Not my parents, not Jihyun, but someone else. It could be you, right? Would you do that for me someday?’

 

Flick.

 

‘Hi, soulmate, my name is Park Jimin <3 – I went to my favorite coffee shop today. My order is kinda special, so here it is - a half-vanilla chocolate frappe with chocolate chips, two swirls of whipped cream, with a special crushed biscuit topping, drips of caramel syrup, and their secret marshmallows! Now you know how to woo me :3’

 

Flick.

 

‘Hi, soulmate, my name is Park Jimin… you know, this boy at school, his name is Sungmin. He’s really mean. He called me ugly today – am I ugly? I mean, you’ve never met me before, but like… ugly’s not nice, right? I don’t wanna be ugly. Would you like me? If I were beautiful, would you like me?’

 

“Fuck.” Hoseok grunts aloud, vocalizing all their feelings, “Fuck, Yoongi-hyung.”

 

“I,” Jimin cannot think. He’s not thinking. In fact, he has no clue what’s going on at all. “I have to leave.”

 

“Jimin,” Namjoon tugs the hem of his coat, “Jimin, you have to let Yoongi-hyung explain –“

 

“No,” There’s an incessant alarm drumming in his ear, his pulse is uneven, he feels uneven, like he’s a second away from hurling, “No, he doesn’t, he doesn’t have the right to explain.” He hisses deliriously, smacking Namjoon’s hand from the coat and almost crumpling to the door, out of the studio. It’s too frosty for the end of autumn, but he doesn’t care. He’s leaving. He’s definitely leaving.

 

“Jimin- Jimin!”

 

Someone’s bellowing his name, probably Hoseok, but Jimin doesn’t care. Leave, leave, leave, leave, get the fuck out of here, leave

 

Min Yoongi is his soulmate.

 

Min Yoongi is my soulmate.

 

Soulmate, soulmate, soulmate.

 

They’re soulmates.

 

Why?

 

Why does it have to be Yoongi?

 

Out of the who-knows-how-many billion people in the globe, why him?

 

Jimin’s dream, Jimin’s crushed dream, it’s Yoongi – it’s all Yoongi.

 

But why?

 

He coughs and hacks as he fumbles for his phone, the device icy on his cheek as he runs his fingers through his damp hair. The other line is dead, and Jimin bites down on his lip painfully, enough to draw blood. The crossroad’s red man is now marching green, but his feet are glued to the concrete beneath his soles.

 

“Hey, Chim? Why’d you call me, aren’t you on your date? You need bro advice? Homo advice?”

 

His best friend’s chipper tone causes something to bubble and implode within. Someone cusses at him as they bump shoulders, snarling that he shouldn’t be standing in the middle of the path. Jimin can’t bother. He’s at his limit, just trying to keep his sanity intact. “Tae,” He sounds devastated, even to himself, the ‘Tae’ more of a muffled sob than his normal ‘Tae’. And Taehyung senses this, because he pauses for five seconds.

 

“Jimin?” One second. “Chim, baby, what’s wrong?”

 

He can’t suppress the choked snuffle that consequents. “Yoongi, he –“ He claws at his chest, above his lungs, where it’s getting increasingly agonizing to breathe, “He’s my, my –“

 

Chim, don’t rush, we’ve got an eternity.”

 

Another tremulous exhale evades him, “He’s my soulmate.” Taehyung doesn’t say a word. “He’s my soulmate, Tae, he had, he had photos of my messages, all on his camera, from the first to last, but he never, never, never –“

 

“Jimin? Jimin, can you listen to me?”

 

So Jimin clamps his mouth shut, hiccupping as he dabs at his cheek with his sleeves, the cascading rivulets of tears uncontrollable. He doesn’t want to be here, he doesn’t want to cross the damned road, he doesn’t want to ruminate over Yoongi and the fact that he’s his soulmate, he doesn’t want any of that – he needs home. He needs his friends.

 

We’ll get you home. I sent Jungkookie, he’ll arrive in five minutes, no more. Stay there, alright? Kookie went out just now.”

 

Okay,” He manages, lowering his phone. “Okay.”

 

In four minutes, Jungkook’s gray car halts by the road, and the boy scurries out of the driver’s seat. His bunny eyes are dilated and quivering, as he wraps Jimin into his warmth. “Hyung,” There’s a mixture of sympathy, misdirected ire, and everything in between on Jungkook’s distorted scowl. “Hyung.” He hugs Jimin tighter, his nose buried into the nook of Jimin’s neck.

 

“Jungkook,” He’s wobbly all over, nails digging into Jungkook’s hoodie, “Kook, I –“

 

“Shh,” Jungkook hushes him, “I know, hyung. I know.”

 

And even as Jungkook shushes his crying, all that revolves in Jimin’s fragile mind is –

 

Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 missed calls from Yoongi

2 missed calls from Hobi

4 missed calls from Jin-hyung

1 missed call from Namjoon

 

Yoongi

Jimin

Jimin please

I can explain

I know you hate me

You have every right to hate me

But Jimin

I beg you

Please let me talk to you

Let’s just talk

Jimin…

 

He reads the pop-ups. He wants to laugh at the irony of the situation. He doesn’t hate Yoongi. That’s the irony – he doesn’t hate Yoongi. He misses Yoongi’s scent of mint and clean soap, his drowsy, gravelly voice, his soothing presence, his gummy smiles, his everything, that it makes Jimin writhe in pain. But he can’t formulate a plausible explanation as to why Yoongi never responded to his messages, why Yoongi never wrote back after his apology, or why Yoongi did what he… did. It doesn’t make sense – none of it is logical in the sequence.

 

“He’s still texting you?” Taehyung growls, “Block him, Jesus. For the betterment of humanity.” Jimin thins his lips.

 

“It’s hyung’s decision,” Jungkook pacifies, “He’ll deem what’s best for the both of them.”

 

“Yoongi has no fucking dignity and chivalry as a man, and he shouldn’t be tormenting my Chim like this. I don’t give a shit if he’s the son of, I don’t know, Hades, whatever. He should go fuck himself.”

 

The youngest massages his boyfriend’s temples, “We don’t know his story, baby. He might have a valid reason – not that I’m trying to defend his honor or whatever, but just saying.”

 

“You know-it-all,” Taehyung rolls his eyes sarcastically. “I doubt that there’s a justifiable reason.”

 

“Well,” Jungkook hums, “Yoongi-hyung is afraid of physical touch. Hesitant, rather. He also lost his father as a teenager, and his mother at the age of nine.”

 

“How the heck do you possess this information?” Taehyung frowns bemusedly.

 

“I’ve gotten chatty with Jin-hyung recently, and he’s, well, a light-mouthed drunk. He’d weep about his ‘poor Yoongichi’ every once in a while, and… there are some details that he spilt. I pieced two and two together and got four.” Jungkook rubs his cheekbone reflectively, “It’s not my story to tell, but I have to… sympathize with the guy.” That plucks at Jimin’s nerves. Sympathy? What is there to sympathize, at all? Yoongi ignored Jimin for years. Or if he was gonna ignore me, Jimin fumes mentally, he should’ve went ahead with the plan. Why’d he ever write back? Why’d he ever confirm his existence, even I knew he was there? Why strike the nail, dispelling all my doubts? What exactly is there to sympathize? Jungkook, being the clairvoyant kid he is, snaps his fingers to wake Jimin, “Hyung, I’m not implying that you have to forgive him or hear him out. That’s up to you, you know that.”

 

“You’re totally insinuating that he should at least hear him out, Kook-ah.” Taehyung wittily counters, and Jungkook’s jaw tautens.

 

“Okay, well, yeah. Hear him out, at least. Seriously, aren’t you curious too, hyung? Why Yoongi-hyung never wrote back?”

 

“I mean,” Jimin mutters ruefully, “Of course I am. But what if,” He falters at the beginning of his ‘what ifs’ again, “What if it’s a silly reason that I can’t accept? What if, what if he doesn’t mean it, or what if he just wants to gauge my reaction, or, or,” The worst case scenario, “What if it is a trivial thing, but I still love him? What am I going to do with myself?”

 

Taehyung’s perpetual state of fury deflates at Jimin’s nuclear meltdown. He sighs and wraps a blanket around Jimin. “Chim, you know what you do, then?” Jimin peers up at Taehyung, quizzical. “You hunt them down, Chim. You face ‘em, like Park Jimin would do. If you love him, tragic, but it’s what it is. You can’t lie to yourself, Jimin. Sometimes, you have to swallow that pill and advance.” Taehyung had always been unnaturally sagacious at Jimin’s darkest times in life – always Jimin’s guiding light. Now is not an exception. “For you, Jimin. Not for him, not for me, not for Jungkook, but for you. You have to keep moving, for your sake. You get what I mean?”

 

It’s comical, how so many people are ensuring that it’s for his sake, nowadays.

 

But Taehyung’s right. He beams at his best friend, and Taehyung sniffs and plops on his boyfriend’s lap.

 

“That’s all we have for Taehyung’s Three Minutes of Solomon. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite Taehyung’s Three Minutes of Solomon, it isn’t until another week that Jimin talks to Yoongi.

 

In truth, he just couldn’t devise an ideal conversation-starter. What’s he supposed to say after exploding and silent-treating Yoongi? Especially when he leaves Yoongi on ‘read,’ and the latter sends, ‘oh god, you’re alright, thank you for letting me know’? He can’t just go, ‘hey, wanna meet at a coffee shop and officially discuss what should’ve happened in July,’ or ‘hey, I’ve been shitting your messages for almost two weeks now, but let’s have a dandy talk about our soulmate situation!’ He filed each option away morosely, massaging his temples.

 

And then, Hoseok rang their doorbell.

 

He didn’t come for Jimin, technically. He had a project with Taehyung for class, but since Taehyung was infuriated with Yoongi, Hoseok decided that his sacrifice would be beneficial for both parties. Hoseok was an hour early though, and Jimin was the one at home to unlock the entrance for him. It goes something like this.

 

“Oh,” Hoseok echoes, “Uh, hi, Jimin.”

 

“Right, hi, hyung.” Jimin stiffly welcomes, “Um, make yourself at home, I’ll brew some tea. Or do you like water?”

 

“Tea’s a blessing, thanks.”

 

“Cool.” He trots over to the kitchen, “Tae’s not gonna be here for –“

 

“Another hour, yeah,” Hoseok interjects, unpacking his belongings, “But Namjoon and Jin-hyung are blowing each other in the shower right now, and I don’t need to subject myself to such torture.”

 

Jimin flits to the clock. “It’s eight in the morning.”

 

“They’re morning people.”

 

“Good to know,” There’s leftover green tea in the fridge that’s meant for Jungkook. Jungkook can brew his green tea again. “How’s the project?”

 

“We haven’t commenced.”

 

“Isn’t it due in two days?”

 

“Improvisation, Jimin-ah, it’s critical.”

 

Jimin snorts – he hasn’t been in contact with Namjoon, Seokjin, or Hoseok lately, and he yearned for this interaction. It kind of has tears springing to his eyes, but it’s eight in the morning, and Jimin is an exuberant morning person. He composes himself and pours the tea into a cleansed glass. “So, how’s Joonie-hyung and Jin-hyung? Besides the sex.”

 

“They’re carcasses without the sex,” Hoseok jests, and hurriedly takes the glass with a hushed ‘thanks,’ “They’re merrily married, as always. Namjoon asked Jin-hyung out on a fancy dinner date last Wednesday night, and apparently he knocked over a platter of stir-fried vegetables. Jin-hyung just laughed his ass off, because at least it wasn’t the ribeye steak, and in conclusion, they went to the nearest gobchang restaurant in their exorbitantly priced tuxes. It was the sweetest disaster I’ve ever heard of, but it’s so them that I can’t even, y’know?”

 

“Can’t believe I wasn’t there to stalk them, what the hell,” Jimin sniggers and Hoseok nods despondently.

 

There’s a second of tension with the unaddressed elephant in the room.

 

“Ahem,” Hoseok coughs, his field of vision darting about the house, “Yoongi-hyung is alright, too.”

 

“Oh,” He elongates the syllable, nodding rigidly, “Yeah, that’s… yeah.”

 

The elder studies Jimin tersely, and his lips shape into a triangle. “Fuck, I can’t do this,” He scratches the back of his head and kicks the floor, “He’s not alright, Jimin. And obviously, you’re not alright either. Yeah, it’s not my job to butt into your relationship and be a nosy asshole, and yeah, you can label me crazy and retarded for saying this, but Jimin,” Hoseok pinches the bridge of his nose, “This whole, whole… situation, you can’t drop it like this. Not just you, both of you. You’re both my friends, and I’ve known Yoongs for years, so understandably I’m kind of biased, but I care a heck lot about you guys. No matter what you two decide to do, I’ll be here. But I can see how you still like Yoongi, and how hyung also –“ He puffs his cheeks in distress, and Jimin’s heart wrenches, “You’re both going to hurt yourselves at this rate, y’know? And it’s not my business, but it is because you’re my friends and…”

 

The gust of wind from Hoseok’s nostrils tickles Jimin’s wrist, and Jimin notices that he should’ve realized. He hadn’t been chatting in the group at all since the revelation, and had unconsciously severed all connections with his new friends – and for Hoseok, who treasured these friendships dearly, he would’ve also suffered between Yoongi and Jimin, unable to take sides.

 

“Sorry,” Hoseok rambles, “I’m being a nosy asshole, right? God, I’m so sorry, that’s probably the last fucking thing you needed, Jung Hoseok, you should’ve –“

 

“No, Hoseokie-hyung,” He clasps Hoseok’s shoulder, “It’s not stupid – you’re not stupid. I’m fine, I was planning on meeting with hyung, anyway.”

 

“I don’t want to pressure you guys, shit I already did, didn’t I –“

 

“No, seriously, I was –“

 

It’s at that moment – a tingling sensation travels down his arm.

 

Jimin blinks. Once, twice.

 

And it’s there – a written soulmate message.

 

 

Hi, my name is Min Yoongi, your soulmate. I want to talk to you in person. Can you please give me another chance to redeem myself? Just ten minutes is fine. I’ll be waiting for you in front of your apartment.

 

“Oh.” Hoseok pops his mouth, “Hey, then my whole speech was pointless!”

 

Jimin throws a pillow at Hoseok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True to his word, Yoongi is in front of the apartment, his hands in his jean pockets and his button nose red from the cold weather. Jimin repeats his breathing exercises, smoothening the creases of his clothes and reassessing his appearance with his reflection in the windows. He should be mad. I should be mad. But he doesn’t hate Yoongi, can’t hate Yoongi – he’s hopeless, and he’s coping with it.

 

Yoongi spots him and his back straightens instantaneously.

 

“Jimin,” Yoongi says breathlessly, “Hi.”

 

Okay, Park Jimin, you have to at least pretend like you’re furious. Raging. Estoy enojado. Okay. “Hi.”

 

“How were –“ Pause. “No, did you eat –“ Pause. “Sleep? Fuck,” Yoongi clenches and unclenches his fists and turns away, and although it’s a very inopportune time to laugh, Jimin laughs. Of course. He was supposed to be mad. Yoongi glimpses at him. “Never mind. How were you?”

 

He hums, “There’ve been better days.”

 

Yoongi shrinks like a popped balloon. “Right. Right, yeah. I’ll… do you wanna go a café or something? I’ll buy you your favorite order.”

 

“Let’s talk first.” Jimin proposes firmly, “I think I deserve an explanation.”

 

“Yes- yeah, of course, you do. I owe you one.” The man stutters, “I, I owe you a lot. Can we… can we sit on the benches? It’s… it’s a long story.”

 

So they pace to the benches and sit, with Yoongi more proximate to the edge of the wooden bench, detached from Jimin. “I…” Yoongi looks significantly smaller today – they’re similar in height and size, but the manner of how Yoongi’s back is curled, his eyes plastered to the soil, his complexion bleached white – he’s so small, so frail, so… tentative. “When… did you learn that soulmates could write to each other through inking their skin?”

 

“Me?” Jimin points to himself, and Yoongi nods. “Eight. My little brother received a butterfly from his soulmate.”

 

“Right, eight. For me, it was much later, maybe thirteen – around a year after you began writing to me. I guess I would’ve noticed a lot faster if I paid attention, browsed the Internet, whatever, but I was an antisocial kid that nobody wanted to be around, and we didn’t have a computer at home.” Yoongi breathes in, “I knew soulmates existed, of course. My mom told me in passing. But I thought… I thought it wasn’t just ink that was transmitted, but also injuries. She never elucidated the full mechanism.” Jimin’s blood runs cold. “My parents were soulmates. We were the furthest example from a picture-perfect Hollywood film family – my dad was an alcoholic, and my mom was the one that fed us and earned money. My dad did construction work so that’s that, but he usually wasted his cash on new bottles or gambling. He’d always slug back home, adorned with bruises from a random fistfight he got into at the gambling center underground, or from construction accidents. And… and around thirty minutes before he regressed, my mom would always coax me to play outside for two hours. Just two hours, she’d constantly smile, slipping two red 5000 won bills into my jeans.”

 

“Yoongi-hyung,” Jimin whispers in disbelief, but Yoongi shakes his head back and forth.

 

“I’d rush back after two hours, and my mom would have bruises scattered over her fair skin. The locations of the bruises were eerily reflective of the ones on my dad’s, and it just… I thought that was how we were supposed to realize. I never bothered asking anyone else about it because I thought I’d be disclosing something private to my parents, and nobody ever informed me of the truth, either.” Yoongi shivers a little, and Jimin shifts to his side. “I should’ve known. I thought something was off when you wrote to me for the first time. I was so freaked out, y’know? I think I took a picture then because it freaked me out, and I had no clue what was going on. And… and I didn’t write back because it freaked me out, if you get what I mean. My whole world was being torn apart, what could I do?

 

“But anyway, my mom passed when I was nine, due to stress and overwork, upon other illnesses she had. And then, well, you can guess what happened with just my dad and I.” Yoongi shrugs nonchalantly, and the worst image flashes in Jimin’s mind.

 

“Hyung,” Nonononono, fuck, “Hyung.”

 

“It’s fine, Jimin.” Yoongi comforts with a smile, “It’s over. Wasn’t even that terrible, to be honest. You kept on writing to me though, that was… I mean, I grew to expect it. I waited every morning to read your messages. I’d snap a photo and literally admire it all day. But my misinterpretation of soulmate markings wasn’t resolved then, and I just idiotically assumed bruises were shared too, and…” His throat clogs, his voice becoming hoarser, “I thought I was hurting you. I know, it’s so fucking stupid. Why didn’t I use the computer at the public library, grow some balls and actually ask a teacher, an adult, anyone? But right then, I was so deranged in my own trauma, my dad’s drunken antics, my mom’s death, all that, and I couldn’t… think. You were my only source of hope. Do you remember why photography developed into my hobby?”

 

Jimin can’t look away from Yoongi. “Desperation, and then…”

 

“Yeah, I was desperate. Precisely. I needed you. I had no purpose, you know? My life was a repetitive cycle of school, home, convenience store dinner, and if I’m unlucky, my dad beats me up. Although, he was usually too delirious to continue more than five minutes. Nobody cared about ‘that kid who lost his mom and had two varieties of attire.’ But you were there, and I was… too paranoid about losing you, too. What if you can finally put a name to that person who’s been hurting you? What if you know that I exist?” Yoongi laughs vacantly, “I couldn’t do it. And then in middle school, I met Hoseok.”

 

It all inundates Jimin at once, how Yoongi was timorous of physical contact with others, and how it took years for him to permit people into his boundaries. His friends must’ve known as well – of course, that’s what Seokjin spilled to Jungkook. Why hadn’t he caught on to the hints?

 

“Hoseok was the person who amended my misunderstanding. He always babbled on and on about Namjoon, anyway – I naturally learned that I’ve been wrong without an explicit correction. So then, of course, I needed an excuse as to why I never wrote back to you. Because it showed, you know? You were always so selfless and amiable, but you sounded so… sad. And that was all because of my silly, dumb bonehead.” Yoongi buries his head into his palms, and the weight on Jimin’s shoulders feels heavier than ever. “I was such a fucking idiot. Before constructing an excuse, I should’ve just talked to you. But no, I stumbled and almost ripped my hair out, until well, my dad died.

 

“When that geezer left – it was a car accident, by the way, drunk driving – I felt liberated. But that euphoria and catharsis was extremely brief, because I suddenly thought: my parents were soulmates, too. What if you’d be better off with someone else, like my mom would’ve been? My mom didn’t deserve to be fated with my dad – she was beautiful, loving, and my mom. She protected me from him for nine years. She deserved much more than my dad. Then why was that her destiny?” The man beside him speaks with incomparable dejection, that it radiates from his words, and collides into Jimin’s radar. “I’m a dumbass too broken to function, to think rationally – why are you fated with someone like me?” Yoongi chokes on his intake of breath, “I’m a dumbass, so I can only do dumb things, yeah? I proceeded to ignore you after that – took pictures, because I was afraid of letting you go wholly, but ignored you. I believed it was for the best. I went to college like that, with Seokjin and Namjoon and Hoseok. I thought I was triumphing, actually. Until your last message.”

 

“Yoongi, hyung,” Jimin hastily interrupts, tugging at Yoongi’s sleeves, “Listen, I didn’t mean that, I swear –“

 

“That doesn’t matter, Jimin-ah.” Yoongi gently stops him, “You were hurt. It was the last thing I wanted to do. But what could I say? You never committed any wrong, you were never wrong, Jimin. It was all me. But what did I deserve to tell you? That I actually liked you for ages? That I find your handwriting really cute? That I was doing this for your sake? No, Jimin-ah, I didn’t deserve any more than two words – my apology. With what right,” Yoongi mutters sourly, “With what right would I explain the truth to you?”

 

The question resonates around them, and Jimin just stares at Yoongi.

 

“I thought I’d never be able to meet you again. But I did, and… this was my last opportunity, Jimin. It was my final battle. If this sank, then I resolved to not associate myself with you again, for you and for me.” Yoongi twists towards him, and gazes into his orbs. “But I’m not sure if I can keep that oath anymore.”

 

“Hyung.”

 

“Jimin,” Yoongi places his hand over his. It’s calloused but warm, and fits Jimin’s petite hand perfectly. “I don’t deserve you – you don’t deserve me, in the sense that you should’ve been fated with a more suitable person. Someone with less scars, someone with a less pessimistic mindset, someone who doesn’t dull your sunshine – not me. But I’m selfish, and I can’t help but be a little relieved that you’re my soulmate – because I like you. I like you so much, Jimin, and… and I don’t have a justifiable reason for my cruelty to you in the past. I know it’s demanding and unfair of me to ask you of this – but I really, really, like you, Park Jimin –“

 

“Yoongi,” Jimin quietly butts in, “Don’t speak about the person I like in that manner.”

 

Yoongi goes static.

 

“The person I’m in love with is kind of a dumbass at times,” He emphasizes, “But he’s also the most soft-hearted, self-sacrificing person in the world. And I really, really, like him. So don’t talk about him like that.”

 

“… Oh –“

 

“Hyung,” Jimin licks his bottom lip, “I’m going to kiss you right now. And then you’re going to ask me to be your boyfriend, and then we’re going to your apartment because I have the most irresistible urge to cry that I’ve been shielding currently, after hearing your story. Cuddling is mandatory, takeout is a bonus. Okay? Consent is important.”

 

Yoongi smiles meekly. “Okay.”

 

And they kiss, Yoongi’s glossy lips on his own, and it’s chaste and sugary – what Jimin imagined their first kiss to be like. It’s innocent – perhaps what would’ve happened if Yoongi wrote back when he was thirteen – but that’s the least of Jimin’s concerns.

 

“Park Jimin,” Yoongi mumbles, his cheeks flushed beetroot, “Will you be my boyfriend?”

 

“God, finally, yes.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a little childish, how Jimin persists that Yoongi should write on their wrists too, so that Jimin has something to cherish too, just as Yoongi has his photographs. He doesn’t regret it though, as he witnesses his new photos hanging from the strings attached to the walls. It’s mixed with those of Yoongi’s too, filling their shared apartment with new memories and treasures.

 

“What are you looking at, baby?” Yoongi hugs him from the back, and Jimin giggles.

 

“My favorite one.”

 

 

‘Hi Jiminie, my name is Min Yoongi. I’m a twenty-five years old and in love with you more than ever. Thank you for giving me another chance, beautiful. Thank you for letting me be yours. Thank you for being mine. I love you so much.’

 

 

Yoongi pecks him on his neckline. “I mean it.”

 

“I know.” Jimin beams. “I love you too. More than ever.”

 

Park Jimin has always been in love with the concept of soulmates.

 

But why would soulmates matter, when he’s fallen in love with a man beyond his fate, a man he never realized he was fated to?

 

Min Yoongi matters.

 

That’s all he needs.