Actions

Work Header

from a place the world forgot

Work Text:

jimin can’t remember what it feels like to breathe.

taehyung lies broken and battered in the hospital bed, high-pitched heartbeats echoing through the quiet room. jimin sucks in a shuddering breath, feels someone’s hand settle carefully over his shoulder.

“he’s going to wake up,” yoongi says, soft and sure. “you know better than anyone how much taehyung loves to take his time.” jimin laughs before he can stop himself, watery and strangled. yoongi’s hand tightens. “jimin-ah, you can’t take care of him if you don’t take care of yourself.”

jimin rubs his thumb lightly over the back of taehyung’s still hand. bruises line his arms like battle scars, brow furrowed in his sleep. except he’s not asleep, he’s unconscious, and he’s been like that for three days since his—

“i can’t leave him,” jimin whispers, “he needs me here.”

“he needs you to be kind to yourself,” yoongi says gently, free hand brushing at jimin’s bangs. “and since taehyungie can’t remind you right now, it’s my job. listen to your hyung, brat.”

jimin offers the ghost of a smile, his eyes never leaving taehyung’s face. there’s a dark bruise flowering over his cheekbone, purple and mottling otherwise perfect skin. his bottom lip is split, scabbing over after days of healing. jimin reaches out, gentle fingers tracing a line down taehyung’s jawline, and watches the way taehyung’s expression smooths out at the touch.

“jin-hyung is bringing the car around now,” yoongi tells him, and his tone leaves no room for argument. “he’s going to take you back to the house so you can shower and eat, and then he’s going to bring you right back because god knows you’re too stubborn to take a nap right now. you can go willingly, or jeongguk can carry you out kicking and screaming.”

jimin sighs, head dropping until his chin hits his chest. “hyung—”

“your choice.”

jimin chews on his bottom lip, fingers closing even more tightly around taehyung’s. “he’ll bring me right back?”

yoongi’s voice softens, hand reaching out to settle in jimin’s hair. jimin makes a small noise of protest because he hasn’t showered in three days and his hair is a grease trap, but yoongi only huffs out a small laugh and continues to pet him gently. “he’ll bring you right back.”

“okay,” jimin whispers, eyes falling shut. he lets go of taehyung’s hand and stands up, twisting at the wedding ring on his left hand. he leans down to press a soft kiss to his husband’s forehead, murmurs, “i’ll be right back, okay? right back. i love you.”

taehyung, understandably, does not respond. jimin closes his eyes, breath rustling against the long strands of taehyung’s bangs, and forces himself to move away.

he looks to hoseok and namjoon, squished together in an uncomfortable hospital chair. namjoon is asleep, head pillowed against hoseok’s shoulder. “you’ll stay with him?”

hoseok nods, smiling warmly. “of course.”

yoongi settles a gentle arm around jimin’s shoulders and leads him toward the door. jimin allows himself to be guided with lead feet, feeling heavier with every step he takes away from taehyung. he lets yoongi guide him down the hallway, past where jeongguk is speaking quietly with a nurse, into the elevator. yoongi keeps his arm securely around jimin, squeezing every so often as a reminder that he’s there—an anchor.

they meet seokjin in the lobby, and jimin is transferred from hyung to hyung like a child. seokjin doesn’t hesitate before pulling him into a crushing hug, smushing jimin’s face against his shoulder and very nearly lifting him off of the ground.

“my child,” seokjin greets him, wiggling them both until jimin laughs. he pulls away and smooths down jimin’s hair. “car’s out front. chop chop, kiddo.”

“i’m 26.”

“a baby,” jin says, throwing a quick wave at yoongi over his shoulder as he directs jimin out of the hospital. he keeps a steady hand on jimin’s back like he’s afraid jimin will fall or just—stop working. it’s a valid concern. jimin’s legs feel like jello and he might throw up.

“it doesn’t feel right,” jimin says, swallowing thickly. “leaving him.”

“we’ll be fast,” seokjin promises, trying to keep his tone light, but jimin can see the tightness in his smile, the strain around his eyes. “he won’t even notice we’re gone!”

“yeah,” jimin replies faintly, eyes unfocused and glassy. he lets himself be corralled into the car, lets jin shut the door behind him. he stares up at the hospital through tinted windows and tries desperately to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach. “guess he won’t.”

 

-

 

the house is quiet when they get back, huge and empty and harrowing. there’s a sharp pang in jimin’s chest when he sees taehyung’s favorite slides by the door, his hoodie strung messily over the back of the sofa, just where he left them. seokjin herds him into the kitchen and settles him onto a stool at the breakfast bar. “stay,” he says, and it’s meant to be funny, but jimin can only nod halfheartedly. jin pats his head once, twice, and starts to cook.

jimin doesn’t know how long he sits there, hunched in on himself and staring a hole into the countertop. he lets the numbness seep in until the white noise takes over, blocking out the bad thoughts. he barely registers when a bowl of ramen is placed in front of him. it’s probably delicious (everything jin-hyung makes is delicious) but all jimin can taste is chalk and the bile rising in the back of his throat.

“go shower,” his hyung says softly, “i’ll clean up.”

jimin shakes his head, brow furrowed. “i’ll help—you cooked, i’ll—”

“you’ll go shower,” seokjin says firmly. he tilts his chin up and sniffs, adds, “you smell like shit.”

jimin lets out a surprised huff of a laugh. “okay,” he whispers hoarsely. “okay.”

he makes it halfway down the hall towards his and taehyung’s room before he stops, stomach rolling. he takes a sharp left and heads into jeongguk’s room instead, stealing an oversized t-shirt and a pair of joggers from his drawer before commandeering the ensuite for himself.

seeing their room exactly the way they left it the morning of taehyung’s accident—the empty coffee cup that jimin knows is still on the bedside table, the towels thrown haphazardly on the floor as they were rushed out of the house. giggling madly into each other’s mouths as they kissed goodbye, before taehyung was ushered into a separate car for a solo recording and—

jimin can’t deal with that. not yet.

maybe not ever.

the water is hot enough to burn, steam rising and filling the room until jimin can barely breathe. it almost feels natural, now, this staggering absence of air. he forces any and all thoughts out of his head, because hope is dangerous and the desolation seeping into his bones chokes him slowly, steadily. he rests his head against the tile, lets the water stream down his face, mixing with tears until there’s no distinction between the two.

he’s just stepping out of the shower when seokjin bursts into the bathroom without even bothering to knock, a hand firmly over his eyes. jimin lets out an undignified yelp and grapples for the towel on the counter, wraps it around his waist faster than he can even blink. “hyung, what—”

“taehyung’s awake,” jin gasps out, chest heaving like he’s ran a hundred miles.

for a second, there’s nothing but white noise—

and then jimin’s legs just sort of—stop working. he sags against the sink as a sob rips its way out of his throat, white-knuckled hands gripping at grey marble. pure, palpable relief takes over his senses until he’s drowning, sinking, because taehyung’s okay. seokjin rushes forward, one hand cupping jimin’s face and the other helping him to stand. “he’s—” jimin hiccups, reaching blindly, unable to see through his tears. “tae—he’s awake?”

seokjin nods, and jimin gasps out another sob, gripping at jin’s arms tight enough to bruise. “get dressed, okay? i’ll take you right over.”

jimin dresses as fast as he can with shaky hands and his heart in his throat. he runs out the door, down the stairs, hair sopping wet and dripping down the back of jeongguk’s t-shirt. seokjin already has the car started in the driveway, and he peels out as soon as jimin’s seated.

“i shouldn’t have left,” jimin hiccups, hand pressed tight against his chest like he can stop everything he feels from spilling out. “he woke up alone, i shouldn’t have left him—”

“he didn’t wake up alone,” seokjin says firmly, “hobi and yoongi were there. joonie too, though he stepped out to call me as soon as it happened. besides, taehyung would kill each and every one of us if he saw how greasy and sad we let you get.”

jimin laughs, wet and a little broken. “you’re right.”

“of course i am,” jin says dubiously, “hyung’s always right.”

jimin stumbles out onto concrete before the car has even fully stopped, seokjin close behind. he tosses the key to the hospital valet with a wink, yelling a quick thank you as he follows jimin through the sliding doors. the lobby receptionist starts behind her desk, eyes wide, but she doesn’t try to stop them.

jimin jogs up the stairs because the elevator is too slow and he needs to be in taehyung’s room twenty minutes ago. he’s out of breath as he skids onto taehyung’s floor, chest heaving. he spots hoseok at the end of the hallway, pacing.

“hyung!” jimin yells, rushing forward. hoseok catches him with a hand on each shoulder, lightly pushing him back. jimin frowns. “hyung, i need to see—”

“jimin,” hoseok cuts him off. his mouth is pressed into a thin line. “jimin-ah, we need to talk before you go in there.”

hoseok waves taehyung’s doctor over from the nurse’s station. unease starts to coil in the deepest, darkest part of jimin’s chest. he feels his heartbeat start to rise, lungs tightening until they’re squeezing the air right out of him. “jin-hyung said he was awake,” jimin manages to gasp out through his panic, “did something happen? is he—hyung, is he—”

“jimin-ssi,” the doctor greets—dr. choi, jimin’s brain supplies helpfully—calmly, “your husband is awake and perfectly lucid. the majority of his healing is progressing as well as can be expected. but...another issue seems to have surfaced.” she pauses and offers an apologetic smile. jimin feels cold all over. “how familiar are you with the term retrograde amnesia?

 

-

 

jimin sinks to the floor some time later, mind working overtime to process the truly insane amount of information he’s just recieved. amnesia. taehyung woke up thinking it was 2015. he smashed his head against a dashboard and lost six years of his life, just like that. jimin stares down at his wedding ring, hands trembling.

they’ve been married for one year, together for five, and taehyung doesn’t remember any of it.

“jimin,” hoseok says cautiously. his voice sounds miles away, even as he crouches down in front of him. he gently takes jimin’s hand in his. “he’s still taehyung. he’s still your taehyung.”

“i know,” jimin whispers, squeezing hoseok’s hand lightly. he attempts a smile, sad and wobbly. “but i’m not his jimin.”

“you are,” hoseok says fiercely, “he’s been asking for you since he woke up. regardless of what he remembers, you are and always have been the most important person in his life. he loves you, even if he doesn’t remember all of the different ways just yet.”

jimin sniffles pathetically, wipes his nose with the back of his free hand. dr. choi takes a careful step forward before lowering herself gracefully to the ground. she kneels beside the pair, kind smile firmly in place. “there is a very high chance that taehyung-ssi will regain his memories, and i urge you to try and stay positive. in the meantime, i would recommend not overwhelming him with any news that may be shocking to him.”

and jimin—jimin just laughs, dead and humorless, because this doesn’t feel real. it feels like he’s stuck in some drama where everything is shit and no one gets a happy ending. taehyung is so close, a thin wall away, but he doesn’t remember that he’s jimin’s husband. he doesn’t remember that they love each other more than two people have any right to, that joking about being soulmates turned into waking up next to each other every morning and thinking it will always be you.

jimin blows out a quiet breath and wordlessly tugs his wedding ring off of his finger, tucks it carefully into his pocket. doesn’t meet hoseok’s eyes when he gasps.

“jimin, no—”

“shocking news,” jimin repeats tonelessly. his chest feels empty. “he doesn’t even know we’re together. i can’t imagine anything more overwhelming than waking up six years into the future and finding out you don’t even remember getting married to your very platonic best friend.”

“he deserves to know,” hoseok argues. “it’s not like he’ll be upset—”

“we don’t know that,” jimin insists, voice breaking. “we don’t know how he’ll react. i’ll tell him, of course i’ll fucking tell him, but—” he cuts himself off, unable to speak through the tears. jimin clears his throat and tries again. “i want to ease him into everything.” before hoseok can protest, jimin turns to dr. choi. “could you please, um. not address me like i’m his husband? so he doesn’t get confused?”

“of course,” dr. choi says.

“hyung, can you—can you tell the boys that—”

a horrible, heart-wrenching sob echoes out into the hallway. jimin’s head snaps up and he’s on his feet before he can even fully process the noise. it’s automatic, pure instinct—taehyung is hurting, taehyung is crying, and jimin has to fix it. there is no other option.

he runs into taehyung’s room, heart shattering at the sight of his husband, his baby, curled up into the tightest ball he can manage and shaking like the world is closing in on him. taehyung hiccups into his pillow, hands twisted up in the starchy sheets—he hasn’t even noticed anyone else is in the room, too consumed with his own raw panic to see past the tears. the heart monitor beeps incessantly, a steadily rising tempo, filling the stale hospital air with an urgency that leaves jimin trembling almost as hard as taehyung.

jimin scrambles across the room until he’s close enough to rest his forehead carefully against taehyung’s temple, fingers threading gently through matted brown waves. “taehyung-ah, sweetheart, please calm down. you’re okay, you’re okay. you’re safe.”

jimin,” taehyung sobs, relieved and terrified all at once. he leans into jimin’s touch, latches onto the front of jimin’s shirt like a lifeline.

“i’m here, tae. i’m here, i’m sorry,” jimin whispers, eyes shut tight against the onslaught of tears. he’s just—so goddamn exhausted, wants to curl up against his husband and breathe, feel taehyung alive and awake beneath him, the warmth of his skin seeping through his thin hospital gown.

without taking even a second to think, he climbs into the hospital bed, careful, so careful of taehyung’s injuries, settles next to his husband until there’s not an inch of space between them. breathes in the scent of antiseptic and hospital and, underneath it all—home. taehyung lets out a shaky breath and huddles impossibly closer, smushes his face against jimin’s shoulder like he’s trying to fuse them together.

“i’m so sorry,” jimin hiccups, sniffling, “taehyung-ah, i’m so sorry i wasn’t here—”

“stop, don’t,” taehyung murmurs, nosing at the underside of jimin’s jaw. “hyung said you hadn’t slept or showered or even eaten in three days, jimin-ah, you can’t do that—”

somehow, this makes jimin feel worse, because taehyung is lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to thousands of IVs and wires, eyes clouded with equal amounts of pain and pain killers—

and he’s still fucking worried about jimin.

jimin’s fingers tighten in the fabric of taehyung’s paper gown, a broken sob bubbling in his chest. “you were unconscious. you wouldn’t wake up, i couldn’t leave, i was so scared—”

“i’m okay,” taehyung whispers, soft and gentle. he uses his free hand to wipe at jimin’s cheeks with his thumb. “i’m okay. it’s okay.”

and for just a moment, it does feel okay. the two of them intertwined, nearly drowning in the love pouring out of them like water.

but there’s something different in taehyung’s eyes, something guarded and careful in a way he hasn’t been since—since before they were together, years and years ago. before they had each other in every possible sense of the word.

before he was jimin’s.

taehyung falls asleep soon after, cried out and curled around jimin as gentle fingers card through his hair. he sleeps peacefully, forehead free of creases and brow unfurrowed. jimin presses a soft kiss to his temple, palm resting over top of taehyung’s heart.

“i love you,” he whispers reverently against the soft, stubbly skin of taehyung’s cheek. “i know you—i know you don’t remember, but when—when you’re ready, i’ll remind you every day. i love you, kim taehyung.” jimin shudders through a silent sob, shaking with the effort of keeping quiet. “just—baby, i need you to remember that you love me, too, okay? please, just—”

“hyung.”

jimin sighs, lets his head drop lightly against taehyung’s shoulder. “guk—”

“m’not here to lecture you,” jeongguk says quietly. he shifts from foot to foot in the doorway, almost as if he’s afraid to move forward. “it’s your decision. i don’t have to like it, or agree with it.” he shuffles closer, boots squeaking against tile. he settles in the chair closest to taehyung’s bedside, regarding jimin with soft, sad eyes. he looks tired, shoulders hunched and tense, hands shoved deep into his hoodie pockets. “you know i just want you and hyung to be okay.” a pause. “you’ll be okay, right?”

jimin swallows thickly, bile rising high in his throat. he tries for a smile, because for all jeongguk has grown up, sometimes he just needs his big brother to tell him it's going to be alright. jimin can do that for jeongguk, even if he’s not sure he can do it for himself.

“yeah, jeonggukie,” jimin whispers hoarsely. he very carefully brushes a strand of hair from taehyung’s face, lets his thumb linger just under the stitched gash above his right eyebrow. “tae’s going to be just fine.”

 

-

 

jimin is spoon-feeding taehyung soup when yoongi barrels into the room, chest heaving and beanie lopsided. “jimin, i need to see you for a second.”

“i’m busy,” jimin says tightly. he wipes gently at taehyung’s mouth with a napkin, careful to avoid his split lip.

taehyung gives him a sweet smile, eyes crinkling up at the corners. “you know i can feed myself, right?”

“your arms shake when you hold them up for too long,” jimin says, offended at the thought of taehyung doing literally anything by himself right now. he’s healing well, sure, can even sit up by himself after a day and a half of consciousness, but he’s in near constant pain and his brain is a jumbled up mess so maybe jimin's been babying the shit out of him. whatever.

“jimin,” yoongi repeats, insistent.

“hyung.”

jimin.

namjoon glances between them, wary. “i can feed tae,” he offers, scooching his chair closer to the side of the bed. “go talk to yoongi-hyung, jimin-ah. it’s fine.”

“m’not a baby bird,” taehyung grumbles, brows pinching together cutely. jimin wants to kiss him.

god, jimin wants to kiss his fucking husband.

he sighs, hands the bowl of soup to namjoon carefully so that none of is sloshes out. he takes taehyung’s hand in his, thumb rubbing gentle circles over smooth skin. “i’ll be right back, okay?”

taehyung tilts his head to the side, eyes soft. “i’ll be here,” he says, his smile soft. teasingly, he gestures down at himself lying in the hospital bed, adds, “where would i go?”

“asshole,” jimin murmurs, heart threatening to burst out of his chest with the overwhelming amount of love that crashes through him tsunami-style. nothing new. not when it comes to taehyung.

“your asshole,” taehyung shoots back, and he’s still smiling, something bright and beautiful and unfailing in the way it always manages to make jimin’s stomach flip, even all these years later. there hasn’t been a goddamn second since the day they met that jimin hasn’t looked at him and thought— you’re it for me.

jimin lets his hand fall into taehyung’s hair, chest aching with the need to just lean down and kiss the corner of his mouth. “my asshole,” jimin echoes quietly, and he doesn’t let his hand linger.

he follows yoongi out into the hallway, head dipped low, shoulders tense. he knows what’s coming. yoongi has been fuming silently since jimin broke the news and it was only a matter of time before the taut string of his temper snapped.

but even though jimin’s been expecting this, he’s not exactly excited to deal with it.

“what is wrong with you?” yoongi hisses, arms crossed tight across his chest. “this is the stupidest goddamn thing you’ve ever done, jimin—”

jimin shakes his head furiously, and yoongi falls silent. jimin bites his lip, takes a moment to collect his thoughts, and when he speaks, his voice is trembles. “i’m trying to do what’s best for him. i can’t—i can’t be the reason any of this goes wrong. i can’t do that to him, and you need to—you don’t have to like it, but you need to understand.

hoseok comes around the corner holding two cups of shitty hospital coffee and freezes at the sight of them, eyes wide. it diffuses the tension, helps it fizzle out against the hospital tiles, and jimin feels tears start to prick at the backs of his eyes. yoongi’s shoulders drop in defeat, and he takes an aborted step closer. jimin throws himself forward, burying his face in yoongi’s hoodie and stifling the sob that rocks its way through his body.

“shh, jimin-ah, i’m sorry.” yoongi’s arms wind tight around jimin, rocking them gently. his hand finds the back of jimin’s head, holding it tightly against his shoulder. “i wasn’t thinking, i just—fuck, i’m sorry. hyung’s here. please don’t cry.”

jimin wipes his snotty nose against yoongi’s sweatshirt, sniffling. “i just—this is so hard, he doesn’t—he doesn’t know that he’s mine, that i’m his, that i love him so much i feel like my body is literally imploding—”

“he knows,” yoongi whispers, hushed and certain, “he knows, he just doesn’t remember right now. but he will. a love like yours doesn’t just disappear.”

another pair of arms settles over the both of them, squeezing until yoongi grunts. jimin lets out a watery laugh, allows hoseok to pinch his cheeks and coo at him in a squeaky voice. “i brought you coffee, jimin-ah,” hoseok says, pressing a smacking kiss to jimin’s forehead. “taehyungie sent me, said he would get it for you himself if his legs weren’t made of jelly. he’s worried, baby.”

he’s worried,” jimin scoffs, head falling against hoseok’s shoulder.

“of course he is,” hoseok replies easily, “he loves you.” jimin swallows thickly, smile dropping as quickly as it formed. “hey, hey, none of that,” hoseok frowns, leaning back far enough to get a good look at jimin. yoongi steps out of their little huddle and dutifully takes the coffee when it’s handed to him. “jimin-ah, you’re everything to him, that hasn’t changed.”

“he doesn’t—”

“he does,” hoseok says, equal parts gentle and insistent. “taehyungie’s a little jumbled up right now, but you’ve always been his and he’s always been yours. it’ll be okay.” he holds his pinky out, adds, “promise.”

jimin chokes out a quiet laugh and links his little finger with hoseok’s. yoongi nudges his way back into the huddle, resting his head against hoseok’s while carefully balancing the coffee. “can i go back in now?” jimin asks, “i get nervous when he’s out of my sight.”

“smotherer,” yoongi mutters, and earns himself an elbow to the gut from both jimin and hoseok.

they walk into the hospital room just as taehyung finishes his soup, sinking back against the pillows jimin fluffed for him. he looks exhausted, like even the simple task of sitting up has been too much. his head lolls towards the door, eyes lighting up the second jimin enters.

“c’mere,” he whines, making grabby hands. the warmth that surges through jimin at the sight is enough to light him on fire, burn him to a crisp from the inside out. “i missed you.”

“he was right outside,” namjoon says, disbelieving.

jimin sits in the chair beside taehyung’s bed (which has been reserved for him and him alone—nobody sits there, even when jimin goes off to hunt for food or home to take a shower) and immediately takes taehyung’s hand. the other moves up to brush the hair off of taehyung’s forehead, gentle like a rustling breeze. taehyung closes his eyes and leans into the touch, tightens the death grip he has on jimin’s heart like the most tortuous vice.

 

-

 

they get to take taehyung home a day and a half later.

it’s an entire goddamn spectacle, a media circus that leaves jimin’s blood boiling. he stays hunched over taehyung, dropping kisses to the crown of his head and whispering nonsense to distract him, but nothing manages to erase the confusion and terror etched across that lovely face. jimin doesn’t breathe again until they’re safely on the road, driving home.

home. he’s taking his husband home.

his husband, who just a few minutes ago looked at their intertwined hands with a brow so deeply furrowed it made jimin’s stomach flip up into his chest cavity, shame creeping through his veins like poison.

jimin doesn’t try to touch him for the rest of the ride, keeps a respectful distance. he tries to keep his smiles friendly, light, and when he helps taehyung into his wheelchair he keeps his hands planted firmly in only the most appropriate places, never lingering, never brushing.

they give taehyung the bare minimum of a tour, but he’s clearly tired, shoulders hunching and eyes drooping. in the back of his mind, jimin hears the doctor’s orders—don’t overwhelm him. suddenly, taehyung lets out a pained little hiss, just barely audible—but jimin hears it. after so many years of watching closely, attuned to every little wince after dance practice, every nervous tick before a show—jimin hears it. he kneels down carefully in front of taehyung, a hand on each of his knees because that’s safe. that won’t scare him.

“pain meds and rest,” jimin murmurs, and taehyung smiles weakly, offers a small nod.

jeongguk helps jimin get taehyung into bed—their bed—and jimin gets to watch taehyung take in his room—their room—like it’s the very first time because for him, it is.

taehyung doesn’t remember painting the pieces that line their walls, doesn’t remember working his way through more than half of the books on their bookshelf. he doesn’t remember hanging the polaroids one by one over their vanity or finding the rug under their bed at a second hand store despite being a literal millionaire. he doesn’t remember all the times they fell asleep tangled in and around each other like kittens in the very bed they’re sitting on now, whispered i love yous floating like fairy dust on the tail of a yawn.

jeongguk disappears down the hall in search of water, leaving the two of them alone in their sacred space—with taehyung having no idea, no fucking clue what they’ve shared, how deeply they’ve loved within these walls.

just as jimin feels his throat start to close, his eyes start to water, taehyung turns that beautifully intense gaze on him. “lay with me?” he asks, imploring.

jimin swallows, pauses for just a second too long—long enough for taehyung to shrink a little, for his eyes to cloud over with anxiety, and jimin’s heart drops into his stomach. the absolute last thing he wants is to be the reason behind that little frown, the dip between taehyung’s brows—not ever, but especially not now.

so jimin climbs onto the bed they’ve shared since before they were married, before they were even engaged, climbs into the rose-colored sheets that taehyung picked out because they reminded him of the way jimin blushes, the way the tips of his fingers pink up in the heat. he settles beside taehyung, careful not to jostle him, brushes the hair from his face before he can even think to stop himself. it’s instinctual, integrated into the very core of his being—take care of taehyung. make him smile. touch him gently, love him deeply. do everything in your power to make him happy and then keep it that way.

taehyung smiles and leans into the touch. jimin lets his hand fall between them on the pillow, curves his body towards taehyung like a flower bending to the sunlight. “how are you feeling?” he asks, voice barely above a whisper.

“weird,” taehyung murmurs, his eyes falling shut. he shivers a little, and jimin immediately reaches out to tuck the comforter more solidly around him. “this is—this is everything i’ve ever wanted, but i can’t remember getting here.”

“you’ll remember,” jimin says quietly, and it sounds like a promise they both know he can’t keep. taehyung twists closer, head tilted toward jimin, jaw tight and eyes sad. more than anything, jimin wishes he could hurt in taehyung’s place, take the weight off of him and place it on his own shoulders.

taehyung shrugs as best as he can. “feels off,” he says, “like something’s missing.”

their wedding rings, taehyung’s engagement ring—they burn against jimin’s chest, hanging lifelessly from a chain he found at the bottom of their jewelry box. he takes taehyung’s hand and squeezes, doesn’t say anything in return because he knows that if he tries to speak, he’ll cry or scream or tell taehyung everything. maybe even all three at once.

jeongguk comes back with a cup of water and taehyung’s pain pills. jimin helps taehyung sit up, rubs his back, holds the water to his lips when taehyung’s arms start to shake under the weight of the glass. “good, tae. there you go,” he whispers, briefly pressing his forehead to taehyung’s shoulder. “let’s lay back down, okay?”

“mkay,” taehyung mumbles, eyes already drooping, and jimin feels another rush of affection so strong it nearly knocks him over. he helps lower taehyung back down, fussing with the blankets and the pillows until taehyung grabs his hand, holds it close. “thank you,” he says, voice a little slurred. “and jeonggukie.”

“no need, hyung,” jeongguk says, squeezing taehyung’s ankle lightly. he pauses for a second before, very quietly, he asks, “jimin-hyung, are you going to be okay?”

there’s a double meaning there, something cautious in jeongguk’s tone, but luckily taehyung is far too groggy to pick up on it. jimin shoots him a warning glance, says, “we’re fine. thank you.”

jeongguk watches him for a long moment before he makes his way around to jimin’s side of the bed and drapes himself briefly over jimin’s back in a crushing, impossibly comforting hug. “m’here if you need me.”

jimin swallows, reaches up to squeeze at jeongguk’s arms. “i know. thank you.”

taehyung snuffles against the pillow, half-asleep and entirely out of it. jeongguk drops a careful kiss to his cheek and takes his leave, shutting the door behind him quietly as he goes. jimin lays back against their ridiculous collection of pillows and tries not to overthink the way taehyung immediately curls towards him.

“go to sleep, taehyung-ah,” he whispers, brushing careful fingers through loose waves. taehyung lets out a sad little huff, weakly tugging at the hem of jimin’s sweatshirt. immediately, jimin scoots closer and, against his better judgement, presses a soft kiss to the middle of taehyung’s forehead. touch has always been grounding for taehyung—when he’s upset or sad or anxious, he seeks out that familiar warmth, a hand resting against the dip of his waist, lips pressed to a warm, waiting cheek. “what do you need, sweetheart?”

“you. just you.”

jimin’s breath catches in his chest, and the noise that claws its way out of his throat is truly inhuman. taehyung doesn’t seem to notice, just tilts his head up until they’re nose to nose, and jimin smiles because it’s the only reaction possible when this beautiful man is looking up at him with the softest, sleepiest eyes.

“pretty,” taehyung breathes, the corner of his mouth quirking up, “do i still tell you that you’re pretty?”

jimin laughs wetly, his heart hammering in his chest. “every day.”

“good,” taehyung says, his voice far away as he finally falls asleep.

jimin manages to hold himself together long enough for taehyung’s breathing to even out completely, soft snores permeating the quiet of their room. when the tears start to fall, he doesn’t stop them—just presses his lips to the crown of taehyung’s head, presses a hand over his own heart. curls in on himself and tries to stifle the horrible, impenetrable loneliness rattling around his ribs like a caged bird.

 

-

 

yoongi sets a bowl of soup down on jimin’s spot at the table, his stare pointed. “eat,” he says, “before i have namjoon hold you down and force feed you.”

namjoon frowns. “i don’t—i don’t want to do that, hyung.”

“i’ll do it,” seokjin offers cheerfully, rice spewing from his open mouth. hoseok wordlessly offers him a napkin.

jimin freezes at the kitchen island and shrinks a little under yoongi’s stern gaze. “i was just refilling taehyungie’s water—”

“taehyung is asleep,” yoongi tells him calmly, “i can hear his monster snores all the way from your room. sit.”

“i—”

sit.

jimin sits, because there’s about half an hour left before he has to wake taehyung to take his pain meds and the food does smell pretty amazing. his stomach grumbles at the sight of it and for the first time since taehyung’s accident, jimin finds that he has an appetite. the knowledge that his husband is safe, just down the hall in their bedroom, settles the jagged edges of his anxiety into something manageable. despite the...complications, taehyung is alive. he’s awake, able to smile and laugh and call jimin pretty in a voice like melted brown sugar, slow and a little sticky but so impossibly sweet.

jimin does his best to try and follow the conversation, to laugh at the right times and even jump in every now and then, but his attention keeps drifting to the hallway. he’s itching with the need to check on taehyung, to see for himself that he’s still sleeping peacefully, wrapped up in their warmest blankets.

yoongi notices, because yoongi notices everything. “i’ll go check on him,” he says, voice infused with his signature gravelly gentleness. “finish eating, okay?”

“hyung, you don’t have to—”

“eat, jimin-ah,” seokjin says, lightly smacking him upside the head. “yoongi-yah, go before i have to tackle him.”

jimin smiles tightly and dutifully shoves a forkful of meat in his mouth.

“good boy,” jin says, patting him on the head like a dog.

jimin opens his mouth to respond, but he’s cut off by the soft thud of feet running on carpet. he freezes, spine straight, startling at the sound of his name when yoongi calls. his vision blurs and he’s up before he can even register telling his body to move, down the hall and into the bedroom so fast his feet barely touch the ground.

the door is ajar, and taehyung is on the ground; flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling, eyes blank and face stony. jimin rushes over and drops gracelessly beside him, panic ripping through him like tissue paper. “tae,” he breathes out in a rush, “did you fall? what happened?”

taehyung shakes his head miserably and pouts, refusing to meet jimin’s eyes. “didn’t fall. i had to pee, but walking is hard, so i laid down.”

his voice is so small, so ashamed, but all jimin can feel is relief. taehyung isn’t hurt—he’s just stubborn and strong willed and ridiculous. he blows out a breath, touches his fingers to taehyung’s forehead, featherlight, murmurs, “sweetheart.”

taehyung’s jaw clenches. his eyes flick over to jimin, then back up to the ceiling.

“hyung,” jimin says softly, “could you give us a second?” yoongi nods and pats taehyung’s knee. as he leaves, jimin returns his full attention to taehyung, which is, of course, where it has always belonged. “do you wanna get up, or do you wanna stay down here?”

taehyung’s pout deepens, just like it always does when he’s thinking. it’s adorable, and jimin wants to kiss it more than he’s ever wanted anything in his life.

“i don’t want to pee my pants,” he says, brow furrowed.

jimin nods, brushes a hand through taehyung’s hair. “good call,” he says, feeling so impossibly fond, “because i really don’t want to scrub pee out of the carpet. i would, for you, but i don’t want to.”

taehyung cracks a small smile. “my hero.”

the morning sun seeps through the cracks in their blinds, washing taehyung in warm yellows. there’s finally some color in his cheeks, the bags under his eyes less pronounced after a good night’s sleep in his own home. he’s still in the t-shirt and sweatpants combo he came home in, looking soft and cozy and so huggable it hurts. he’s still so pale, so bruised, but he’s glowing from the inside out with life and light, leaving jimin a little breathless. he wants to bundle taehyung up in their softest blanket and hold him for a million years, until all the pain dissipates like smoke—just a distant, haunted memory.

“do you want to try getting up?” jimin asks, careful to keep his voice gentle.

taehyung’s smile fades. “i don’t know if i can.”

“i’ll help you,” jimin says. he rests his palm against taehyung’s chest, thumbing smoothing lines over the sleep-warmed skin of his collarbone. it’s a little too intimate to pass as a friendly gesture, but jimin doesn’t realize his mistake until a beat too late.

in the end it doesn’t even matter, because taehyung just sighs, content and comforted. “okay,” he whispers, offering a half-smile that has jimin instantly smiling back. “okay, jiminie.”

it’s a struggle—taehyung’s body doesn’t seem to want to move, and jimin is so beyond terrified of hurting him. by the time they finally get taehyung on his feet, they’re both panting and a little sweaty, taehyung clinging to jimin like his legs might give out any moment, which—actually might be a possibility, now that jimin’s thinking about it.

“do you want to sit for a second?” jimin murmurs, rubbing at taehyung’s back.

taehyung shakes his head, looking pained. “if i sit down i will never get back up and then i’ll pee all over my bed and i don’t think i can change the sheets without passing out.”

“i would change the sheets for you—”

“i love you but that’s not the point,” taehyung says, huffing out a laugh that is perfectly timed to mask the sharp intake of breath that escapes jimin at the words i love you. he knows what taehyung means, knows he doesn’t mean it like that, but listening to his husband say it for the first time after being so fucking terrified he’d never get to hear it again—

jimin clears his throat, holds on a little tighter. shoves his own feelings into a neat little box in the very corner of his heart, because taehyung has to come first. he can’t let go, not when taehyung needs him.

he straightens and forces a teasing grin, carefully pokes at taehyung’s side. “pee time. chop chop. let’s go.”

“i’m slow,” taehyung whines, “like a baby turtle.”

briefly, jimin presses his smile into taehyung’s shoulder. he smells like lavender and vanilla and leftover hospital staleness. “we’ll take our time, yeah? just don’t pee on the floor.”

“absolutely no promises.”

taehyung leans heavily on jimin, bracing himself against the door of the bathroom. he’s breathing hard, clearly frustrated, and even though there are still ten minutes until taehyung is due for his next pain pill, it’s obvious that most of the effects of the last one have already worn off. “just a few more feet, baby,” jimin says, the pet name slipping out on impulse. “almost there. you’re doing so well.”

“hurts,” taehyung says, gritting through clenched teeth. “i don’t—jimin, i don’t know if i can—” he sucks in a harsh breath, face pinched, “i don’t know if i can stay standing long enough to like. go.”

“hey, it’s okay,” jimin says gently, helping taehyung prop himself up against their bathroom counter. he sags forward against jimin’s chest, arms wrapped weakly around jimin’s waist like it’s a lifeline. “we can just try sitting you down.”

but taehyung’s already shaking his head. “my knees—” he cuts himself off, chokes on what might be a sob, teary eyes shining like little stars. “my knees hurt so badly, i can’t—i can’t bend them, i don’t know if—” a shuddery breath, “if i can lower myself without falling, i fucked them up getting on the ground earlier—”

“taehyungie, sweetheart,” jimin says, chest tight and eyes blurring with tears. seeing taehyung in so much pain feels like a knife to the gut, twisting and turning his insides to hamburger meat. he can’t even try to kiss it better or shower taehyung in love and praise the way he wants to because he’s so worried about giving himself away, of being the reason taehyung is confused or upset or—or worse, being the reason taehyung doesn’t heal the way he’s supposed to. the reason taehyung doesn’t get better.

don’t overwhelm him. the words echo through his mind like a gunshot.

“i’m sorry,” taehyung shivers in jimin’s arms, a full-body tremble that leaves him grasping at jimin’s shirt to stay upright. “i’m sorry, i’m so—i can’t do anything—”

jimin moves in closer, half to comfort and half to offer a little more support, because taehyung’s legs are starting to shake and it’s making jimin very, very nervous. “tae, please. don’t apologize. none of this is your fault, and i will happily hold you up while you pee.” he dips down, tries to catch taehyung’s eye, keeps his tone teasing and light. through his tears, taehyung bites down on a small smile. “whatever you need, tae. anything. that’s what we do for each other, right?”

taehyung nods, and jimin gently wipes at his face, so careful of the bruising and stitches. “right,” taehyung agrees, watery but firm. “i just—”

“don’t apologize,” jimin repeats, because he doesn’t think he could bear to hear another i’m sorry in that shaky, devastated tone, “please. you’d do it for me, wouldn’t you?”

taehyung doesn’t hesitate. “you’re my best friend,” he says, like that explains everything, and maybe it does.

a wave of sorrow crashes over jimin, so strong he might have buckled if not for his single-minded instinct to hold onto taehyung.

“and you’re mine,” jimin says, thinks, you have no idea.

 

-

 

they set themselves up in something like a routine. jimin manages taehyung’s pills, inspects his stitches, sleeps next to him to make sure he doesn’t roll onto his bad leg—his worse leg, because they’re both pretty fucked up. it’s probably (definitely) overkill, but the checking and rechecking helps to settle the overwhelming anxiety pooling in jimin’s gut that flares into a fire whenever taehyung shifts uncomfortably, winces in pain, flinches away from a bright light.

the bathroom incident has left taehyung cautious enough to stay in bed until one of the boys—usually jimin—is awake and around to help. walking leaves him winded, overexerted, and jimin has taken to pushing him around in the wheelchair the hospital provided. taehyung, of course, hates it, grumbling and huffing whenever he needs to be transported anywhere else in the house. while the pouting is certainly adorable, jimin knows taehyung is most frustrated over this new and complete lack of autonomy—the most headstrong, independent person, now hardly more than a fly stuck in a web.

“jiminie.”

jimin hums, head lolling towards a sleepy, bleary-eyed taehyung, finally awake after his third nap of the day. jimin’s been laying beside him the whole time, pretending to read while actually fretting over blanket placement and water refills and concussion protocol.

taehyung’s sad, lonely little shadow.

“i have to—i mean.” taehyung stops, sighs. “do i smell bad?”

jimin rolls closer, sticks his nose straight in taehyung’s armpit. “you smell fine,” he says, voice muffled. “like a flower, or maybe an air freshener. kind of sweaty, but in a very cool, manly way. ten out of ten.”

taehyung laughs and shoves weakly at him until jimin relents. “you’re gross,” he giggles, and jimin sticks his tongue out, giddy at the sound. “i’m going to have to shower soon. or take a bath.”

“oh,” jimin says, confused. they’ve showered together more times than he can count, soaked in taehyung’s fancy bath oils after long days spent practicing and performing their hearts out. if taehyung wanted to shower, he could have just—

oh.

oh.

“yeah,” taehyung says, the word small and short. “i don’t know if you’d be, um...comfortable helping me? it’s a lot to ask, i know, and you’ve been so amazing and i’m sorry—”

“hey,” jimin murmurs, adjusting until his cheek is squished up against taehyung’s shoulder. “hey, no. it’s fine, taehyungie. of course i’ll help. will you be comfortable? because i’m sure we can figure out a way to—”

“i don’t care about that,” taehyung says. he lets his head drop on top of jimin’s and sighs. it’s relieved, the kind of sigh that releases tension you didn’t even know you’d been holding, and jimin wonders how long he’s been worrying about this. he wants to smack himself for not thinking of it sooner. “i trust you.”

jimin settles an arm over taehyung’s waist and squeezes lightly. “do you want to take a bath now, or do you want to wait a little? the warm water might help your sore muscles.”

taehyung hums. “that sounds nice.” a pause, and then, “i’m sorry you have to—”

tae.

“okay, okay, sorry—not for asking, for apologizing so much, stop looking at me like that—”

jimin wheels taehyung into their bathroom, thankful he had the forethought to purge the counter and shower of his own products yesterday, before taehyung could get the chance to wonder why he has so much goddamn face wash. taehyung sits in his chair by the sink, fidgety and restless, hands twisting in his lap while jimin draws the bath.

once it’s warm—but not too warm—jimin looks over his shoulder with what he hopes is an encouraging smile. “ready?”

taehyung nods, but his expression is full of apprehension. for the first time in literal years, jimin has no idea what he’s thinking, and the realization sends a sharp jolt clean through him, hard enough to shake the very foundation of his soul.

there are moments—moments like this, when taehyung looks so sad, so small and lost, his mind somewhere jimin can’t reach. he knows that taehyung is probably so confused and scared, except he won’t talk about anything deeper than what he’d like for breakfast the next morning. he’s hesitant to ask for help, like he’s afraid jimin will say no, and jimin can’t tell if it’s because he feels like a burden or because he just. wishes jimin would stop hovering so closely.

it takes a lot of maneuvering, but they get taehyung in the water. jimin ends up half-carrying his very naked husband into the bath, careful to keep his eyes forward and his hands in only the most appropriate places. it’s so disconcerting to touch taehyung this way—clinical, distant, terrified of overstepping boundaries or making him uncomfortable. “okay?” he asks, once taehyung is settled comfortably and sinking down into the warmth of the water, “not too hot?”

“s’perfect,” taehyung sighs, head resting against the ledge of the tub, “thank you. feels nice.”

“don’t slip down too far,” jimin says softly, plopping down on the bathmat, “can’t get your stitches wet.”

taehyung hums his acknowledgement, sounding far away. his eyes slip shut, and jimin takes the opportunity to just sort of look at him. instinctively, he reaches out—maybe to run his fingers through taehyung’s hair, or brush at the softness of his cheek. jimin doesn’t know, because he doesn’t think, and when his brain finally catches up to his heart, he falters. trying to remember how they used to act is so hard because they were always sort of like this, in some capacity. he remembers being nineteen and feeling the same way he does right now—this ache is an old friend, one that he thought he’d gotten rid of for good the first time taehyung pressed his lips to jimin’s.

“you can touch me,” taehyung mumbles, probably having sensed the movement. “m’not gonna break, jimin-ah.”

“i know,” jimin whispers, his voice strange and echoey thanks to his proximity to the tub. he clears his throat and folds his arms over the ledge, watching as taehyung peeks an eye open to squint at him. jimin tries for a smile, asks, “are you actually going to get clean, or are you just going to fall asleep in your own gunk water?”

taehyung wrinkles his nose. “gross. i hate you. wash my hair as penance.”

it’s so ridiculous that jimin almost laughs, because being allowed to wash taehyung’s hair feels a little like winning the lottery and taehyung is presenting it as a punishment. “mm, okay,” he murmurs, reaching for the shampoo, “if i have to.

“you do,” taehyung sniffs, “mostly because i don’t think i can lift my arms that high.”

jimin helps taehyung sit up and gently guides him to tilt his head back, wetting his hair with careful handfuls of warm water. taehyung shivers as droplets glide down his back, and jimin aches to press his lips to his bruised shoulder, nose at the nape of his bare neck. instead, he busies himself with the shampoo and pours a generous glob of the sweet-smelling soap into his palm. carefully, he works the shampoo into taehyung’s dripping hair, massaging gently, relishing in the way taehyung’s eyelashes flutter at the feeling.

“feels good,” taehyung murmurs, nearly melting under jimin’s hands. “i think—do you play with my hair a lot?”

jimin freezes, nearly choking on the breath that forces its way out. “do you—”

do you remember? it’s what he wants to say, but the words get trapped in his throat. the rhythm of his hands in taehyung’s hair stutters, faltering like a stuck piano key.

“i think—maybe.” taehyung frowns, nose scrunching. “it’s not a full memory, not really, it’s just—familiar. deja vu, sort of.”

jimin swallows thickly, lips pressed in a tight line. he must hesitate a second too long, because taehyung shifts beneath his touch, restless. immediately, jimin resumes his methodical washing, rinsing taehyung’s soft hair with careful fingers. “sometimes—sometimes, when you can’t sleep, i play with your hair. it helps.”

it’s a half-truth, or something equally in-between. he does stroke taehyung’s hair, and it does help him fall asleep, but—

there are too many details being omitted for the words to feel true. they tumble from jimin’s mouth, stale and bitter and misleading. he doesn’t tell taehyung that it’s a nightly occurrence, that taehyung’s head rests on jimin’s chest for easier access. he doesn’t mention the soft, sleepy kisses they trade or the murmured conversations about their day despite having spent almost the entirety of it together, attached at the hip like always.

“mm,” taehyung hums, noncommittal. there are so many questions hanging in the air between them, and jimin knows that if taehyung were running at full capacity, he’d have jimin pinned down and confessing in an instant. as it is, taehyung is concussed and tired and in a lot of pain, and he’s using the majority of his energy just to stay upright. “okay.”

“okay,” jimin echoes, the word falling flat, “here, taehyungie. sit up. i’ll wash your back.”

 

-

 

later, when taehyung is sitting on the bed and wrapped up in their fluffiest towel, jimin lets himself want.

he lets the ache run free, lets it make a home in the pit of his belly, heavy as a stone. it weighs him down to the point of exhaustion, carving a home for itself in the tightness of his muscles and the tension in his shoulders. dragging himself forward feels like a herculean effort, and his limbs feel heavy as he carefully towel-drys taehyung’s hair, his touch light and gentle.

jimin takes one look into the big, beautiful doe eyes gazing sleepily up at him and nearly caves in under the immense weight of his grief. taehyung is right here, but he isn’t. his husband, the love of his life, the boy he promised the world to is so close, yet impossible to reach. jimin can touch him, feel the warmth of taehyung’s skin beneath his fingertips—

but for all it means, his hand might as well pass right through. their love is a wraith, dead and fading with every curious glance, every confused frown.

“jiminie,” taehyung says, and it’s soft, careful. floating. “jiminie. where’d you go?”

jimin forces a smile, fakes a laugh. “i’m literally right here,” he says, though he knows it’s not what taehyung means. before that line of questioning can continue, jimin drops the towel onto the floor and carefully brushes at taehyung’s fluffy hair. “you want sweats or pjs?”

“m’cold,” taehyung mumbles, punctuating his sentence with a perfectly-timed shiver. “sweats, please. the softest ones i own.”

“you got it,” jimin says, bopping taehyung’s nose with his pointer finger just to watch it crinkle up. he digs around taehyung’s pajama drawer and resurfaces with a pair of black sweats and a mustard yellow crew neck. “these used to be mine, but someone stole them…”

“sounds like me,” taehyung smiles, “oh shit, these are soft.”

jimin helps him dress, averting his eyes respectfully when the towel drops. it’s a slow process, but the bath helped to alleviate some of the ache in taehyung’s muscles so his movements are a little more fluid, a little less painful. taehyung smiles when his fluffy head pops through the neck of the sweatshirt and it takes every bit of self control jimin possesses not to kiss him right then and there.

“thank you,” he whispers, voice raspy with sleep. “m’tired. is it bedtime?”

“if you want it to be.” in truth, it’s only 8:30, but sleep is pulling insistently at jimin’s frayed edges and he can only imagine how taehyung feels. just the simple ordeal of a bath has left him limp, boneless, melting forward into jimin’s loose embrace. slowly, carefully, jimin brushes his fingers through taehyung’s fluffy curls, his other hand cupping at the nape of taehyung’s neck.

“can you stay with me?” taehyung asks, voice muffled against the soft fabric of jimin’s shirt, damp with bath water and wet hair. “don’t wanna sleep alone. feels weird.”

jimin feels his throat constrict and his eyes slip shut, head dipped low towards the crown of taehyung’s head. shaky arms move to wrap around his waist, delicate in their hold but sure in their intent. “of course,” he says, “of course i’ll stay with you.”

 

-

 

jimin wakes up alone.

in the first breath of awareness, he doesn’t necessarily find this odd. taehyung is a morning person, and it’s not out of the ordinary for him to be awake and functioning several hours before jimin even manages to crack an eye open.

but then jimin remembers.

he shoots straight up, the comforter pooling around his waist as heat rushes to his cheeks. he runs a hand through sleep-wild hair and fumbles through the sheets for his phone. his alarm has been turned off and he’s overslept, nearly three hours past when taehyung was supposed to take his medication and shit, where the fuck is he? he can’t get up by himself, can barely move by himself—

a thought runs through jimin’s sleep-addled mind, sharp and slicing through every bit of rationale he possesses.

did taehyung ever wake up?

the bed beside him is cold, tucked neatly like no one’s slept there in days. maybe no one has. jimin’s breath catches in his throat as he takes in his surroundings. taehyung’s slippers are missing and there are no remnants of last night’s bath—no towel even though jimin knows he left it on the ground by the dresser, no pile of clothes, no wheelchair by the bathroom. nothing.

jimin darts out of bed, heart hammering hard enough to shatter his rib cage. he throws the door open and runs down the hall, bare feet thudding against hardwood, anxiety and anguish crushing him from the inside out. if this was all some elaborate, grief-induced hallucination, if taehyung is still lying in a hospital bed or worse

he skids into the living room, very nearly tripping over his own feet, his breath ragged and heaving. from the couch, hoseok looks up, startled, a novel open in his lap. beside him—beside him is taehyung, looking alarmed and a little tired but fine. jimin sags against the wall, feeling absolutely ridiculous for overreacting but simultaneously so relieved he can’t bring himself to care. not at all, not when taehyung is cuddled up against the back of the couch, looking impossibly soft as he holds a pillow to his chest and carefully traps a water bottle between his knees.

they stare at him expectantly, both of their gazes concerned. all jimin can manage is a little wheeze, a small, “you weren’t—i didn’t know where you were.”

it sounds so sad, so pathetic when he finally gets the words out, and taehyung’s face falls. he reaches a hand out and jimin rushes to take it, knowing how much it will strain taehyung to hold that position for long. “hyung woke me up. he did the laundry and namjoon-hyung made breakfast,” he says, scooting forward so jimin can slide in behind him, “and yes, before you ask, i took my pain meds.”

jimin closes his mouth, tries for a weak smile. taehyung settles back against him, a warm and welcome weight. the relief the floods through him at the press of taehyung’s spine against his chest is overwhelming, and jimin feels his heartbeat settle with every tickle of taehyung’s hair against his nose.

“i’m okay,” taehyung whispers, fingers curling over jimin’s hand as he tugs it into his lap to hold. “i’m okay, jiminie. and so are you.”

jimin nods, swallows. squeezes his eyes shut, presses his face into the crook of taehyung’s shoulder, and finally, finally lets himself breathe.

hours later, hoseok catches him on the way to the bathroom. “i’m so sorry,” he says quietly, voice earnest. taehyung’s passed out on the couch, lulled to sleep by the novel hoseok had been reading aloud to him. “i didn’t think—we just wanted to let you sleep in a little. you look exhausted, jimin-ah.”

“no, it’s—i’m sorry, i completely overreacted.” jimin blows out a breath that ruffles his bangs and offers a tired smile. “i'm just...so afraid that if he’s out of my sight for even a second, i’ll lose him again. for good, this time.”

“i know,” hoseok says, taking both of jimin’s hands in his, “i know, jimin. i can’t—i can’t understand exactly what you’re going through, but he’s our family, too. you’re our family. you don’t have to do this by yourself.”

“i know,” jimin whispers, head dipped low.

“do you?” hoseok prods gently, because hoseok always knows.

jeongguk appears, either oblivious to the seriousness of the conversation or completely ignoring it. “dinner’s ready,” he says, looking between the two of them with wide, kind eyes.

“we’ll be right there,” hoseok says, reaching over to ruffle jeongguk’s hair. he pitches his voice a little higher, pinching the younger’s cheeks. “so cute, jeonggukie.”

“hyung, stop,” jeongguk whines, and jimin takes that as his opportunity to slip away.

the room smells like spices and cooked meat, and jimin’s stomach grumbles. he crouches down beside taehyung and runs a hand through his hair, allowing himself a moment to take in the pout of his pretty mouth, the dark circles under his fluttering eyelashes, the bruises that fade yellow-green into tan skin. the moment is cut short—there’s never enough time—when taehyung shifts, cracks one eye open.

“j’mn?” he slurs, mouth sticky with sleep. “hi.”

“hi, sweetheart,” jimin murmurs, “hi, baby.”

taehyung smiles, and jimin’s heart aches. “like it when you call me that,” he mumbles, still very much half-asleep. “s’nice. feels good.”

“you’ve always been my baby, you know that.” his voice feels brittle, like the slightest change in pitch or volume will smash it to pieces. “are you hungry?”

“‘little,” taehyung mumbles, stretching as much as his sore muscles will allow. “s’it dinner?”

jimin hums fondly, smoothing the bangs off of taehyung’s forehead, careful to avoid the stitched gash above his eyebrow. “do you think you can sit up?”

“gimme a second.”

jimin waits, the hand that’s not woven in taehyung’s hair gently falling palm-flat against his belly. he feels taehyung breathing beneath him, steady and strong—and then taehyung laces his fingers between jimin’s, squeezing as tight as he can. when jimin looks up, taehyung is already looking back. his gaze is soft, a little glazed over from his pain medication, but it still manages to garner a familiar intensity. it’s a look that jimin knows well, because he’s often on the receiving end of it; after a dance practice when he’s pushed himself too hard or a particularly bad day that leaves him shutting the entire world—including taehyung—out in the cold.

“jiminie,” taehyung says, soft and careful, “you know i love you, right?”

“of course i do,” jimin says, the words almost startled out of him. he forces a laugh, one that falls short when taehyung’s gaze doesn’t let up. “of course i do. and i love you, too.”

“then will you tell me what’s wrong?”

there is nothing, not a single thing on the entire planet that jimin wants more in this moment than to fall forward into his husband’s arms and tell him everything. he wants to be held, wants to curl up to taehyung’s broad chest, slide his rings back on his finger where they belong, kiss him til his lips are numb and whisper, you’re mine. please remember that you’re mine.

he doesn’t. he can’t.

he won’t do that to taehyung.

instead, he drops a careful kiss to taehyung’s forehead, lets himself have this—the warmth of taehyung’s skin beneath his lips, the familiarity that comes with being so close to his favorite person in the entire world. he lets it linger, if only for a second—hoping, wishing, praying to whoever might be listening that it will spark some sort of memory.

but when he pulls back, there’s nothing. no recognition, no lightbulb shining bright above taehyung’s head. it’s just the same, soft sorrow, like jimin is a puzzle he can’t quite solve.

“i’m okay,” jimin says, and the lie tastes bitter on his tongue. “just—still a little shaken. i don’t—” he stops, swallows down the tang of bile, “i don’t know what i would have done if i’d lost you.”

“jimin,” taehyung murmurs, and his name sounds so mournful on taehyung’s lips that jimin is helpless to stop himself from crying. he doesn’t even try, just lets his face scrunch and his cheeks pink, tears dropping against the yellow of taehyung’s sweatshirt. “jimin-ah.”

“i’m okay.”

“you’re crying.”

“i can cry and still be okay.”

“please don’t lie to me. i’m concussed, not stupid.”

except that’s all jimin’s been doing, ever since taehyung woke up. he’s been lying.

“i’m not okay,” jimin admits quietly, “i’m—i was so scared i was going to lose you. i was terrified.

a warm hand cups his face, fingertips pressing lightly along his cheekbone. “baby,” taehyung says, his voice a beacon in the deep dark of jimin’s perilous thoughts.

jimin shivers, leans into the touch, and it takes everything in him not to turn his head and kiss taehyung’s palm. “i thought you were supposed to be my baby, huh?” he teases, laugh watery.

“it can work both ways.” taehyung traces a single, shaky finger down jimin’s nose, bopping the tip. “we take care of each other, right? it’s what we do.”

“yeah,” jimin manages, the coil in his chest somehow tightening and loosening simultaneously, “it is.”

they all end up eating in the living room so taehyung doesn’t have to get up. namjoon brings a plate out for the two of them to share, piled high with rice and meat and veggies. taehyung curls up against jimin’s side, opening his mouth like a baby bird when he wants jimin to feed him. they talk and laugh and keep the tv low because taehyung’s developing a bit of a headache, and it feels something close to normal.

and maybe that’s the worst part of all, because later—later, they go to bed, and jimin helps taehyung get dressed with careful, averted eyes, hands soft and gentle over tender muscles and bruised skin. they don’t talk about why jimin cried, or how taehyung feels beyond the physical injuries that will, in time, heal on their own. they never do.

jimin wonders if tonight will finally be the night that taehyung decides to sleep alone—there’s so little privacy in the recovery process, and taehyung is naturally very independent. he probably won’t allow jimin to suffocate him so completely for much longer, not without the knowledge of their marriage to justify jimin’s sudden, stifling behavior. automatically, he starts to catalogue which blankets are in which linen closet, wondering if he could sneak a pillow from their bed—something that smells like the two of them together—without raising any suspicion.

“do you need any more water?” jimin asks, and taehyung shakes his head, looks up at him with sleepy eyes and a pensive expression. “another blanket? do you—”

“jimin.” taehyung untucks one arm from beneath the comforter, tugging at the hem of jimin’s sleep shirt. “are you—are you not staying?”

he sounds so small it breaks jimin’s heart clean down the middle. “i didn’t want to, um,” jimin clears his throat, leans against the side of the bed, just by taehyung’s hip. “i just—i didn’t want you to feel like i’m trying to smother you or anything. i wanted to give you your space.” it comes out in a rush, his cheeks red-hot with embarrassment. the thought of leaving taehyung alone feels so wrong, but then again, so does everything else.

the dip of taehyung’s brow deepens, a small frown pulling at the edges of his pout. immediately, jimin regrets ever opening his big, stupid mouth, because all of these tiny little missteps—hands brushing against places they shouldn’t, the wrong answer delivered to a softspoken question—keep piling up, one on top of the other. it’s a staggering, precarious mountain of fuck-ups, forever seconds away from crushing them entirely.

“you’re not smothering me,” taehyung murmurs, and there’s a hesitance to his voice that wasn’t there before. “you’re not, i don’t—i don’t want space. not from you.”

jimin sits on the bed, right by taehyung’s hip, and settles his hand over the fingers twisting in his t-shirt. “hey,” he says softly, because suddenly taehyung won’t look him in the eye. “i don’t—i don’t want to leave your side, like. ever.” he lets out an awkward little laugh, the truth of his words burning like acid in his throat. “i mean, you saw how freaked out i got this morning when you weren’t next to me when i woke up.”

taehyung’s expression softens into something gentle, something understanding. he squeezes jimin’s hand, slots their fingers together and smiles. “you were definitely a little frazzled.”

jimin tugs taehyung’s hand into his lap, running the pads of his fingertips carefully over calloused palms and bruised knuckles. he feels tender, his heart an open wound, and now it’s his turn to avoid taehyung’s gaze. “i, um. when i’m with you, it helps—it helps remind me that you’re here. that i haven’t lost you. but i also know that you like your alone time and i don’t want to overwhelm you just because it makes me feel better.”

“but i want you to feel better,” taehyung says, wiggling his other arm out from beneath the covers to drape across jimin’s thighs, settle against his hip. it’s half-a-hug, the best he can do as the fog of the pain medication weighs heavy in his bones. “want you to be happy, j’min-ah.”

his words are starting to slur, and jimin knows he’ll be asleep in just a few minutes no matter how hard he struggles against it. “i’m happy knowing that you’re healing, that your body is growing stronger every day. i’m happy that you’re here with me.”

taehyung smiles, a quiet, sleepy thing. his eyes slip shut and for a second, jimin thinks he’s finally allowed himself to drift off—but then he’s sighing, squeezing jimin’s hand in his gentle grasp. “being with you makes me happy,” he mumbles, eyelashes dusting chubby cheeks pushed up in a soft smile. “not remembering is—it’s scary, and my head hurts all the time. but you’re safe. you’re—you’re calm and good and, um. my brain is mushy right now so words are—they’re hard, but jiminie. my jiminie. you’re warm. that’s how you make me feel. don’t want space. just want you.”

“okay,” jimin whispers, vision blurry with tears. his heart feels full enough to burst, bruising beats rattling his bones hard enough that he’s sure taehyung must be able to hear them knocking. “okay, darling.”

before he can think to stop himself, he leans down, drops a gentle kiss on the apple of taehyung’s cheek. taehyung uses what’s left of his strength and awareness to tug him closer, to brush his nose against jimin’s temple and breathe, fingers brushing against the bare skin of jimin’s back where his shirt has pulled up. “will you stay?” he asks, his voice already so far away.

“yes.” jimin nods, nose knocking lightly against taehyung’s cheek. they’re so close, just a breath away, and it would only take the slightest turn of his head to slot their lips together, to taste the warmth of taehyung’s mouth and fall headfirst into one of the truest, most unadulterated joys he’s even known. kissing taehyung always comes with an unwavering certainty that he is safe, that he is loved beyond belief, that the arms around his waist and the beautiful boy beneath him will always welcome him home. “i’ll stay.”

“can you promise me something?”

“anything.”

taehyung burrows closer, presses his forehead into the crook of jimin’s neck. “take care of yourself. just as much as you take care of me. i can’t—m’not doing a great job right now, because everything is fuzzy and my head doesn’t always, um. doesn’t always work. so you need to do it until i can. please?”

jimin presses his lips into a thin line, squeezes his eyes shut against a brand new onslaught of tears. “taehyung-ah, you don’t have to take care of me. you don’t have to worry about me at all.”

“of course i do,” taehyung says, like it’s the simplest thing in the world. “i love you.”

jimin sits up, maybe a little too abruptly. he twists away, rubs his nose against his shoulder, says, “i promise.” he doesn’t even know if he means it, because he’d do anything for taehyung except prioritize himself when taehyung needs him and that’s—it feels like that’s what taehyung is asking. expending any energy on himself when taehyung is concussed and in pain and scared feels like sacrilege.

before taehyung can call him out on the uncertainty in his voice, he rounds the bed and crawls under the covers. he lets out a small noise of surprise when taehyung immediately slots himself against jimin’s side, an arm draped across jimin’s waist and his cheek squished against jimin’s chest. “is this okay?” he asks, before jimin can even properly react.

“of course,” jimin murmurs. carefully, he tucks taehyung’s head under his chin, and for just a moment—one lovely, blissful moment—jimin feels whole again. “of course it is. i’ve seen you naked like twenty times this week and you’re asking me if i draw the line at cuddling?”

taehyung smacks his chest, weakly enough that it’s more of a pat, and pouts. “i dunno, i just—it’s one thing to hug me or prop me up because my legs are jello, but—do we even still do this?”

there’s a lilting insecurity woven into taehyung’s tone, and jimin wants it gone immediately. “all the time. you spend a solid seventy percent of your day in my lap.” it’s probably the truest thing he’s said all week, aside from i love you. he feels the lightness in his chest deflate a little.

“good.” taehyung slurs the word, struggling to stay awake. “this whole time i’ve just—i feel like i can’t get close enough. s’that weird?”

“no,” jimin says quietly, and the delicate glass of his heart seems to shatter. “no. it’s not weird.”

taehyung doesn’t answer, just snuffles softly against jimin’s collarbone, warm breath tickling the curve of his neck. he’s so peaceful when he sleeps, the dip between his brows disappearing, his pain lessened, if only for a little while.

jimin forces himself to stay awake, to catalogue every second of the man sleeping soundly in his arms—the puff of his breath against jimin’s neck, the soft sound of his snores echoing in the quiet of their bedroom. the slight gape of his mouth and the way his fingers twitch against jimin’s belly.

when taehyung is asleep—that’s the only time jimin gets to be his husband, and he’d rather stay awake for the rest of eternity than miss a single second of it.

 

-

 

“jimin.”

“mm?”

“am i good at painting?”

“you’re the best,” jimin says, and it’s automatic because it’s true. sure, he might be a little biased, but taehyung’s raw talent is undeniable and his passion is just—it’s breathtaking.

still, taehyung’s voice goes small. “don’t just say that because you’re my best friend.”

jimin looks up from his phone. taehyung’s sitting on the other end of the couch, curled up as tight as his stiff muscles will allow, purplish cheek smushed against a throw pillow. “m’not. i promise. you’re amazing, tae. i can show you some of your stuff, if you want. you can judge for yourself.”

but taehyung just shakes his head, overgrown curls bouncing across his forehead like loosely coiled springs. “i don’t—” he swallows, something dark flashing across his gaze before it flattens out fast enough that jimin can barely process it. “i don’t want to see it. i want it to just...happen. i want to try.”

jimin sits up a little, phone dropping to his lap. “you—?”

“i want to try,” taehyung repeats, determination hardening his eyes.

and that’s really all he has to say for jimin to go scrambling upstairs to taehyung’s studio, to the sacred space that’s been left untouched in the wake of their new, nightmarish reality. he grabs a few smaller canvasses, newspapers to lay them on, a box of scattered paint bottles and brushes. he doesn’t linger, because this room hurts more than jimin can possibly begin to muddle through right now. if he opens that wound, rips out those stitches, he might just bleed out over the crinkled canvas sprawled across the floor.

jimin shuts the door behind him with a soft click that may as well be a gunshot. the smell of stale air and dried paint and strawberry smoke fades with every careful step down the hall.

when he steps back into the morning light of the living room, taehyung has rearranged himself on the edge of the couch, shoulders hunched and eyes wide. jimin smiles at him, something soft and fragile like spun-silk, easy to pull apart. he drifts a little closer, magnetized by the quiet sorrow in taehyung’s expression. “okay?” he asks, placing the supplies on the coffee table.

“okay,” taehyung murmurs, offering a shaky smile.

jimin sets up carefully, efficiently, pouring paint into throw-away plastic palettes and setting the brushes out just so. taehyung watches him, traces the line of his movements like jimin is performing a dance he’s trying to learn. finally, as jimin settles carefully beside him, taehyung dips his finger into a dollop of bright red paint and lets out a shuddery breath.

he stares at his canvas, the paint nestled like a dew-drop on his outstretched pointer finger. “i don’t think i can do this,” he says, and his voice is small, a little fragile.

jimin scoots closer until their shoulders press together. “you can,” he says gently, “just let it flow. all those paintings in our room, they’re yours. you created them. you’re so talented, and even if—even if you don’t remember right away, you’ve always used art as a release. i think it will help, tae.”

if taehyung notices jimin’s slip-up—our room—he doesn’t show it. he just lets his shoulders drop and blows out a quiet breath. jimin settles a hand on his knee and squeezes, lets his head fall against taehyung’s shoulder.

“i’m just—” taehyung cuts himself off, lets out a frustrated huff. jimin waits patiently while he collects his thoughts, thumb smoothing a repetitive pattern into the worn fabric of taehyung’s sweatpants. “i’m scared it won’t feel right. you said that painting is important to me but what if—what if it’s not? what if i don’t feel that same spark, that gravitational pull? what if i lose a piece of myself all over again?”

jimin feels his heart crack clean down the middle. “oh, sweetheart,” he murmurs, sitting up just enough to get a good look at taehyung’s face. it’s carefully blank, but jimin can see the tight line of his mouth, the slight dip between his brows, the single tear dripping from a red-rimmed eye.

and then jimin gets an idea.

“let’s finger paint,” he blurts out, far too loud and far too close. taehyung startles, pretty lips forming a surprised o. “i just mean—you can work your way up to it, right? we don’t need to dive into color theory or whatever. we can just have fun.”

there’s a beat of silence in which taehyung seems to be thinking very deeply. and then—then his face breaks into the most brilliant smile, eyes disappearing into his cheeks. he drags the drop of red across across the center of the canvas, turning to jimin with stars in his eyes. jimin smiles back and tries not to think of blood.

they work in silence, sitting cross-legged and bent over the coffee table. taehyung paints with incredible focus, tongue poking out in concentration between split lips. jimin watches him, because how can he not? taehyung is always captivating, and jimin’s eyes are always inevitably drawn to him no matter what else is happening or who else is near, but when he paints—when he paints, he blooms.

jimin’s canvas looks like a kindergartener went wild—bright orange smiley faces, pink thumb-hearts, his name written in chunky block letters across the bottom. taehyung’s looks like art—not that jimin’s surprised. it’s all bold slashes of bright, angry colors, and jimin is familiar enough with taehyung’s style, familiar enough with taehyung to know that this is how he’s feeling—jagged and confused, untethered. he’s left splotches of the canvas completely blank, including the entire bottom sliver of the canvas, and jimin swallows thickly because it’s unfinished. it’s purposely, achingly unfinished.

his face, however, is calm, unlined. he looks more relaxed than jimin’s seen him since the morning of the crash, and it’s—it’s a little overwhelming, watching taehyung exist so openly at peace. suddenly, slowly, taehyung reaches out and threads his fingers through jimin’s. their hands are sticky, crusted with paint, an entire rainbow etched into the lines of their hands, and jimin feels warm.

“it’s right,” taehyung whispers, and he’s not looking at jimin. he’s smiling at his canvas, looking almost awed. “it feels right, jimin-ah.”

“of course it does,” jimin says gently, “of course it does, tae. you’re still you, even if you don’t remember all the details.”

taehyung’s smile fades a little and for a moment, jimin’s afraid he’s stuck his foot in his mouth again. but then taehyung’s turning to him, eyes tear-filled but bright, squeezing jimin’s hand like it’s the only thing keeping him from floating away. “thank you,” he whispers, voice wobbly, “how do you always know what i need to hear?”

jimin swallows thickly. “practice,” he says, “lots of practice. some days—some days it feels like i know you better than i know myself.”

taehyung blinks, a spark of recognition flashing across his face. “i—” another blink, a startled gasp. jimin holds his breath. “there’s a song. i remember—we have a song.”

“we have a lot of songs,” jimin says, “we’re in a band.”

taehyung swats him. “no, it’s—there’s a song. it’s pretty, it’s—there’s a line. it’s my line. you know it all. you’re my best friend. it’s about you.”

“spring day,” jimin breathes, vision blurring with tears. “you remember spring day.”

“i remember spring day,” taehyung says, giddy and bubbling like popped champagne. his smile is breathtaking, the loveliest thing jimin’s ever seen. “i remember because it’s—the line is about you.”

“it’s not—it’s not exactly about me. you didn’t write it, but—” jimin sniffs, uses the back of his free arm to wipe at his ever-flowing tears. “you always told me that whenever you sing it—when you sing it, you’re thinking of me.”

taehyung’s smile is blinding, beautiful, a singular compendium of jimin’s happiest moments. “because it’s true,” he murmurs, his voice low and a little hoarse. “i don’t remember everything, or anything, really, but—i know that much. i know you’re my favorite person in the whole world, and i know that no one knows me better than you do.”

“you’re so sappy, oh my god. gross,” jimin says, crying so hard its nearly intelligible. taehyung carefully cups jimin’s cheek, and it’s then that jimin realizes how close they’re sitting—close enough to see the dry cracks in taehyung’s lips, the mottled edges of the bruise healing on his jaw.

“jiminie,” taehyung whispers.

jimin swallows. “yeah?”

“...i just got paint all over your face.”

jimin bursts out laughing, bent so far in half his forehead skims taehyung’s knee. he touches his cheek, and his fingers come away sunset orange. taehyung’s grinning at him, nose scrunched up, giggling like a little kid. jimin straightens and, still laughing, drags a pink-stained finger down taehyung’s cheek.

“there,” jimin says, impossibly fond, “now we’re even.”

“do i look like a real artist?” taehyung asks, striking a dramatic pose.

jimin thinks of early sunday mornings in taehyung’s studio, the light filtering in through half-open curtains. he thinks of the crinkle of newspaper beneath bare feet, red-blue-green toe-prints littering the off-white canvas sheets laid carefully across the floor. the harsh smell of paint mixed with vanilla-scented candles and the burn of the wick. taehyung, shirtless and half-asleep, pretty tummy pouching over the waistband of his sweatpants, a brush poised skillfully above a blank canvas.

“yes,” jimin says softly, “because you are an artist.”

taehyung blushes and averts his eyes. jimin is terribly, horribly endeared.

“now who’s sappy?”

“still you, probably,” jimin says, “you have a bit of a track record.”

“do i?” taehyung asks, voice lilting and light, “you’ll have to remind me.”

the silence drags on for a beat too long, jimin lost in the way the light settles over taehyung’s hair like a halo. he shakes his head, clears his throat, tries for a smile. “i will. promise.”

 

-

 

jimin hardly ever remembers his dreams.

sometimes, that’s a good thing—any especially bad nightmares disappear into a wisp of smoke the second he opens his eyes, calms the pounding of his heart. he’ll reorient himself quickly enough, snuggle back into the warmth of taehyung’s hold and fall asleep with steady breath and a clear mind.

and sometimes—

sometimes, like now, not remembering makes everything worse.

jimin wakes up with a jolt, firecrackers bursting in his chest. the quiet of the room is too loud and he can’t see the reason behind this immense, crushing panic, can’t pinpoint why he feels like the entire universe is caving in on him. he just knows he’s terrified on the most basic, instinctual level, trembling with the need to run.

the grief he feels is so strong, like his heart has been carved straight out of his chest and he’s been left to bleed out, edges ragged and impossible to stitch. there’s an echo of metal grinding against metal, blaring sirens, the beeping of a heart monitor—

the high-pitched hum of a long, excruciating flatline.

he digs the heels of his palms into teary eyes, shoulders hitching up with every breath he drags out of his lungs. something far away in his mind warns him to be quiet, but he can’t remember why until a warm hand settles on the small of his bare back.

taehyung.

“fuck,” jimin gasps out, a pang of guilt sinking into the muddy puddle of his current emotional state. “fuck, taehyungie, i’m sorry. go back to sleep.”

“jimin-ah,” taehyung whispers, scratchy and deep with sleep, “sweetheart, what’s wrong?”

maybe it’s the familiarity of it, the way taehyung’s voice feels like coming in from the cold, how his fingertips press into tense muscles like a path worn and weathered from years of travel. maybe it’s the ice-bath realization that nothing about this situation is familiar to taehyung.

maybe it doesn’t matter why it happens, just that it does.

jimin succumbs to the panic, because clawing his way up towards calm feels like an insurmountable effort he’s not prepared to give. a harsh-sounding sob rips viciously through him, body taut and tense—heart pounding, chest heaving, mind stuck on an unrelenting loop of you’ve lost him you’ve lost him you’ve lost him—

“hey,” taehyung murmurs, firm enough that it cuts through the thick fog of jimin’s anxiety. large, gentle hands cup his cheeks, guiding him to look up. “hey. just look at me, okay? focus on me.” jimin does—he stares at the purple-blue bruises fanning out beneath long lashes, the way the moonlight hits taehyung’s skin, makes it glow. “good, baby. you’re doing so well. give me your hand, please?”

jimin reaches out, and taehyung takes his hand so carefully, so gently it aches—presses a kiss to the palm and then presses the palm over his heart. jimin recognizes what he’s doing, and the realization nearly upends whatever progress they’ve made in preventing a complete and total meltdown.

towards the beginning of their relationship—when the band took off to astronomical heights and they were so in love but so fucking terrified of being the reason anything went wrong—jimin started having these awful, debilitating panic attacks. the kind of can’t-breathe can’t-move terrifying attacks that left him sobbing and inconsolable in dressing rooms, between sets, after shows.

and through it all, there was taehyung. hugging him close, shielding him from prying cameras, breathing with him until breathing came easy again. it took some trial and error, so many sleepless nights and tears for the both of them, but they managed to figure out a system that worked.

the thing is, taehyung shouldn’t remember their system.

“can you count for me, jimin-ah?” taehyung asks, eyes wide and a little teary, “sweetheart. count for me, okay?”

jimin does. he squeezes his eyes shut and thinks about the thumping beneath his palm—taehyung’s heartbeat, strong and steady. the feeling of taehyung’s hand over his own acts as an anchor, rooting him in place and helping him focus on the task at hand. jimin counts, and he breathes, and by the time he hits fifty, he almost feels like a person again. the itch under his skin has subsided into a gentle thrumming, a reminder that he is alive and so is taehyung and even though everything is upside down and ten kinds of fucked up—his husband is okay.

“i’m—” jimin takes a deep, shuddery breath. “i’m better now. i’m sorry.”

“can i hug you?”

the question is equally as shocking as it is expected—it’s always the first thing taehyung asks after jimin calms down, but he shouldn’t remember that. he shouldn’t know.

“please,” jimin rasps, and his voice comes out so small, insignificant in the silence of the room.

in the space of a single breath, taehyung drags the both of them down against the pillows, wraps his arms around jimin’s waist and holds him close. he buries his face in jimin’s hair and lets him cling, fingers twisted in the worn hem of his t-shirt, nose pressed to taehyung’s bare collarbone. jimin breathes him in, comforted by the familiar scent of sweat-salt and fragrance-free laundry detergent.

“what happened?” taehyung whispers, rubbing up jimin’s spine soothingly.

jimin shrugs as best as he can while sprawled on top of taehyung. “nightmare.”

“ah,” taehyung murmurs, his tone both teasing and knowing, “it’s because my face is so scary, right?”

“no, you asshole,” jimin laughs. it’s watery but it’s genuine, and taehyung rewards the sound with a kiss to jimin’s temple. in the sleep-hazy cocoon of their bed, jimin lets his eyes slip shut. taehyung is acting so normal, the same way he always does when jimin has a bad night. the way they’re touching, the routine of the comedown—it gives jimin something that feels awfully close to hope.

taehyung hums, then promptly dips down to blow a raspberry on jimin’s cheek. “do you want to talk about it?”

“no,” jimin says, because this moment—it’s too perfect. he wants to hold it close, keep it sacred and soft, just in case it never happens again. “no, i think i just want to go back to sleep.”

“okay,” taehyung whispers, tugging the comforter up over the both of them. he doesn’t loosen his hold around jimin’s waist, doesn’t scoot out from underneath him to comfortably reclaim his own side. he just sighs and continues to rub circles into the small of jimin’s back until the both of them drift off into a warm, dreamless sleep.

 

-

 

somehow, it only gets harder from there.

the combination of his nightmare and taehyung’s reaction has left him shaken, off-kilter. it feels like existing between two worlds—one where taehyung remembers, and one where he doesn’t. the way taehyung moves is different now, like he’s on surer footing with himself. his memories are still just out of reach, but he’s settled into his bones, falling into old habits and mannerisms like a second skin. he’s quicker to touch, to linger, to press into jimin’s space without a second thought or hesitation.

jimin’s not sure if its just the natural healing process or if the other night shook something loose in taehyung’s mind, but it doesn’t matter. all he knows is that this new, entirely familiar dynamic feels infinitely worse. taehyung is the closest to whole he’s been in weeks and yet, this is the farthest jimin has ever felt from him.

distantly, he can hear voices floating from the television, stilted and half-finished each time jeongguk changes the channel, pouting from where he’s sprawled across the loveseat like a wet blanket. jimin ignores him, one arm carefully strung around a sleeping taehyung’s shoulders as he scrolls through twitter. his frown deepens with each panicked tweet he sees from one of their fans. none of them have felt much like posting since taehyung’s accident, and bighit released a fairly generic statement, but—

their fans deserve more. they deserve better. jimin is taehyung’s husband. he should have been reaching out to army, little updates with enough emojis to alleviate their worry, giving away just enough to ease the curiosity of the public while still maintaining taehyung’s privacy. he’s been through enough media training to know how to do this right. what kind of idol is he? what kind of husband is he?

all at once, he’s shaken out of his thoughts by the warm press of lips against his clothed collarbone. when he glances down, taehyung’s looking up at him with wide, sleepy eyes, face soft and seemingly free of pain.

jimin brushes the curly fringe off taehyung’s face and presses a gentle kiss to his forehead. “thought you were asleep, hm?” he asks, voice carefully mild.

taehyung hums noncommittally, his words muffled in the soft fabric of jimin’s sweatshirt. “what’s wrong?”

“the fans are—they’re worried,” jimin murmurs, fingers tugging lightly through taehyung’s hair. jeongguk whistles low, makes a comment jimin doesn’t fully register, and taehyung bites back good-naturedly. it’s a familiar rhythm, this affectionate exchange, and jimin finds himself lulled into something like serenity despite himself. he sighs, whispers, “my taehyungie,” just for the two of them to hear. taehyung shivers, and it’s enough to shake jimin awake.

not his taehyungie. not anymore.

he’s saved from having to stutter out an explanation by the click of a camera. “i’ll post an update,” jeongguk says, his phone aimed at the two of them huddled together, “show them hyung’s okay.”

he lurches forward to show them the picture, hanging off the couch at an angle only jeongguk could make comfortable. jimin glances at it once and nods, viciously stamping down on the sudden wistfulness that surges through him like an electric pulse—and the immediate wave of nausea that follows.

“it’s fine,” jimin says, offering what he hopes looks like a genuine smile.

except fine is an understatement. the biggest, most ridiculous understatement of all time, probably. the picture jeongguk took is a clear shot of the life jimin used to have, up until about two weeks ago—taehyung, curled tight against jimin’s side, expression content, and jimin, wrapped around taehyung like silk, face turned in towards the very center of his universe.

it’s too obvious. how could anyone look at this still-life intimacy and not see it for what it is?

but taehyung’s not looking at it, because taehyung is recovering from a concussion. screens are an instant headache, something to be avoided at all costs. especially phone screens far enough away to require squinting.

no—taehyung’s looking at jeongguk, and they’re talking, and everything is fine. jimin takes a deep breath and tries to calm the pounding of his heart. he has time.

until, suddenly—he doesn’t.

because taehyung’s hand is snaking up the front of jimin’s hoodie, making a bee-line for the one thing that would blow jimin’s cacophony of lies wide open.

their wedding rings.

without thinking—god, does he ever fucking think—jimin grabs taehyung’s hand. it’s an overreaction, too sharp and sudden to be teasing or silly, and the air between them seems to still. they stare at each other for a long moment, taehyung’s fingers mere centimeters from the chain jimin had worn so carelessly, so stupidly.

“jimin-ah?”

taehyung’s voice is quiet, so fucking uncertain, and jimin knows with a sudden, stinging clarity that this single fuck-up has destroyed whatever progress they’ve made in finding their way back to each other.

“i’m sorry, i—” jimin’s voice splinters off, raw in his throat, and he lets go of taehyung’s wrist to tangle their fingers together in a last ditch effort to fix—to fix something. anything. anything at all. “i can’t, taehyung-ah.”

it’s not enough, not even close. a thousand different thoughts race behind taehyung’s eyes before his expression closes off, too fast for jimin to try and piece together what he’s feeling.

“tae—”

“it’s okay,” taehyung whispers. “it’s okay, jimin. i trust you.”

you shouldn’t, jimin thinks, trying his very best to choke back his tears at taehyung’s soft assertion. you shouldn’t. look at what i’ve done. look at the mess i’ve made.

 

-

 

jimin is supposed to be napping.

he’s not, obviously, but that’s beside the point. seokjin had cornered him an hour ago in the kitchen and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he looked like he hadn’t slept in a week, which was close enough to the truth for jimin to agree with minimal complaining. he doesn’t sleep the way he used to, is the thing. he’s hyper aware of the body beside him, attuned to the slightest twitch, the smallest groan. he needs to be awake if taehyung has to pee, or runs out of water, or just needs a hand to hold when the pain gets to be too much.

on top of everything else, there’s a new layer of tension between them—now that taehyung is vaguely aware something is wrong and jimin spends the majority of his time skirting questions and changing the subject. it’s exhausting. more than anything, jimin wants to curl up beside his husband and spill every poisonous lie, every destructive thought, wants to be comforted and held and kissed until breathing comes easy again. until this crushing weight dissolves into something a little more manageable.

but that’s selfish. and jimin can’t afford to be selfish.

his single-minded focus on taehyung has helped keep the worst of his thoughts at bay—the heartache, the devastation he feels when taehyung curls against his side, under his arm, and jimin can touch him but he can’t touch him. between physical therapy appointments and regular therapy appointments, medication that needs to be taken exactly as scheduled, baths and shoulder massages and pee breaks—there’s not a lot of time to wallow. jimin is grateful for that, because now—

now, he has time, and he wishes more than anything that he didn’t.

and so jimin does not nap like he’s supposed to. he lies awake, and he thinks, and he worries. he worries that taehyung will crack under the weight of what he’s gone through, the unthinkable stress that’s been put on his body, an entirely new life of memories lost. he worries that this will break taehyung, his beautiful boy with an entire sunrise hidden in his smile—break his spirit and his mind and his astonishing ability to see the world as something kind and bright and entirely at his fingertips.

he worries, selfishly, that taehyung will never recover, never remember, that this strange limbo will become their new normal—that one day, he’ll have to tell taehyung the truth and watch him harden at the realization that his best friend has been lying to him at his most vulnerable. or, maybe, that taehyung will never remember and jimin will never tell him and the pain will grow and grow until the resentment runs so deep they won’t even be able to look at each other.

he worries that he’s not doing enough, that he could be doing better, that taehyung isn’t getting the care he needs because jimin is too wrapped up in missing him to do it right.

he needs to tell taehyung. he wants to tell taehyung, because every day that passes is another chip in the armor, another crack in the facade—this secret is wearing him down from the inside out, breaking him down piece by piece until eventually, all that will be left is the sad little husk of somebody who was once a husband.

jimin huffs, kicks his feet out petulantly and sits up. he digs the heels of his hands into his eyes and counts to ten, dragging in ragged breaths that rattle through his body. he feels restless, itching to move even as his muscles revolt against the notion. he knows, in this moment, that a nap won’t help. he needs to feel something, anything to its fullest extent. all of these half-formed emotions—everything he stamps out before it can become too dangerous, too all-consuming—need an outlet.

so jimin walks down the hallway to hoseok’s room, and he asks to dance.

“just a few hours,” he murmurs, embarrassed beneath his hyung’s understanding gaze. “i need to get out, i think. the routine of a standard dance practice might make me feel a little more normal.”

hoseok’s nodding before jimin even finishes his sentence. “i think it’s a great idea,” he says, gentle in a way that makes jimin feel like a little kid. “it’ll help clear your head.”

it occurs to jimin that this is the first thing he’s asked for himself—entirely for himself—since the morning of taehyung’s accident. it somehow manages to feel both nauseating and liberating at the same time. there’s a pit in his stomach but a lightness in his chest, and hoseok must see the war going on behind his eyes because he stands up, claps his hands together. “shall we?”

it takes another forty minutes to get out the front door, because the sudden realization that he’s leaving taehyung behind drops in his gut like a boulder and refuses to move.

“if you need anything—”

“there will be four other people in the house able to help me,” taehyung says, amusement tugging at the corners of his mouth. “go. i’ll be fine. promise.”

“but—”

“you’ve been hogging him, jimin-ah,” yoongi calls from the kitchen.

“you’re really going to deny your hyungs our taehyungie time?” seokjin demands from the couch.

“wouldn’t dream of it,” jimin says.

“damn straight,” seokjin says, and throws a pillow at him.

taehyung laughs and grabs for the pillow, tugs it close to his chest. “go have fun with hobi-hyung,” he smiles, and it’s quiet, just for jimin. “i’m sure the hyungs can manage one night without breaking me.”

“probably even two,” namjoon interjects, not even bothering to look up from his book.

“see?” taehyung asks, his eyes lighting up a little mischievously. “totally fine.”

“mhm,” jimin hums, unimpressed. he brushes a stray curl behind taehyung’s ear, chest aching with the need to be closer. “you’ll be okay?”

he watches in real time as taehyung’s face softens, equal parts fond and exasperated, and for just a moment—everything is normal, is fine, is good. “i’ll be okay. now go. you haven’t practiced in two weeks, i bet you suck.”

“hey!”

taehyung’s bright laughter follows him all the way to the studio, echoing through his mind like the warmest song.

 

-

 

by the time they’re done practicing, jimin is bone-tired. hoseok wore him out, kept him moving and pushing, always harder, always forward. but it feels good to feel so sore—an ache this deep means he’s accomplished something. hoseok claps him on the back, ruffles his sweaty hair, murmurs, “you did so well, jimin-ah. hyung is proud of you.”

the ride back is quiet, comfortable in the way jimin associates with hoseok. nothing needs to be said. everything has already been felt, communicated in a way only the two of them can truly understand. not for the first time, jimin thinks about how lucky he is that six entire people fit so perfectly beside him, in all the ways he never knew he needed.

hoseok pulls jimin into a sweaty hug once they get inside, rocking him back and forth and cooing quietly. it’s well past 1 am, and most of the boys are already asleep, including jeongguk, who is currently passed out on the living room rug with a throw blanket tucked carefully over him. seokjin’s doing, probably, since little jeonggukie is too big to move these days.

“you’ve worked hard,” hoseok whispers, smacking a kiss against jimin’s cheek, “go get some rest.”

jimin makes a show of wiping his face and darts away from an attempted tickle attack, giggling quietly under his breath. hoseok chucks a pillow at him and jogs up the stairs towards his own room, affectioning toeing at jeongguk’s cheek on the way.

the downstairs falls into a comfortable quiet with the click of hobi’s door. jimin briefly considers waking jungkook up but decides it’s no use. he’s probably dead to the world at this point—best to let him sleep. jimin rolls his shoulders, wonders if it’s better to chance waking taehyung up with the shower or to just go to bed smelling like stale sweat.

he goes to turn, but he’s stopped in his tracks at the sound of a door slamming shut. it echoes through the living room, staggering in its finality. jungkook snuffles in his sleep, face briefly scrunching against the blankets, and jimin watches him settle with fear like poison seeping through his mind.

“taehyung?” he calls.

no answer.

jimin hurries down the hall, stopping short of their bedroom door. he takes a deep breath and knocks softly, asking again, “tae?”

nothing.

jimin sighs to keep from hyperventilating, one hand pressed over his chest to calm the sudden spike of anxiety coursing through him like a heartbeat. taehyung’s fine. he’ll open the door in a second. jimin doesn’t dare try the knob because if it’s locked—if it’s locked

he presses a palm against the door, rests his forehead against the hard wood. “taehyung-ah?”

there’s a sudden, shaky breath from inside their room and it’s so close, nothing but a wall between them. a heartbeat away. jimin braces himself, waits to hear the floorboards creak, for the door to open—

but it doesn’t.

it doesn’t, and that’s. that’s.

that’s it.

taehyung is right there, right fucking there, and he’s made his choice. he’s done with jimin, done with the hovering and the smothering, the stifling weight of his love. and jimin—he gets it, because god, he must be so overbearing. he must be downright oppressive, following taehyung around like a lost dog, using any and every excuse to be close, to touch, to cross boundaries that only exist because jimin put them there in the first place.

if he’d just told taehyung—

jimin whirls away from the door, tears pricking at his eyes like a million tiny pins, only to end up face to face with namjoon. “jimin?” he asks, brows pinched in concern. “are you okay?”

jimin’s lip wobbles. “no, i—” he sniffs, wipes at his eyes with the back of his arm. “taehyung won’t let me in the room, i think he’s—i think he’s finally done. with me, i mean. i think he’s done with me. i think he’s—”

“oh, jimin,” namjoon murmurs, taking a step forward. “he’s—let me explain. i was trying to get him to remember—music is so intrinsic to memory, and we’ve, well. we’ve made a lot of music so i thought it might help. we were just listening through a few songs and he was doing so well, remembering little things and then—he remembered that he wrote 4 o’clock about you.”

jimin sucks in a sharp breath. “did he—”

“i don’t know.” namjoon sighs, rubs a hand down his face. “i’m not sure if he remembered specifics. i think he’s embarrassed.”

“this is all my fault,” jimin whispers, horrified. “this is all my fault. i should have just...gotten it over with. told him upfront. i thought i had more time—”

“jimin-ah,” namjoon says, and his tone is firm. “you did what you felt was necessary in the moment. none of us knew what to do, and you made a difficult decision because you thought it was for the best. you can’t blame yourself.”

“i just—” jimin cuts himself off with a gasp, tears pricking at the backs of his eyes. devastation surges through him, a wave of anguish big enough to knock him straight off his feet, strong enough to rip clean through him. “i keep fucking up. i keep fucking up.

namjoon is not the biggest fan of initiating physical contact, but he pulls jimin in for a hug all the same. jimin clings, face pressed into his hyung’s shoulder, lets himself be rocked awkwardly back and forth until he’s able to force the barest hint of composure. “you’re okay,” namjoon murmurs, rubbing a hand up and down jimin’s back. “i think...i think taehyung might just need a little time to process. and i think you might want to consider sitting him down tomorrow and telling him everything.”

jimin lets out a shuddery breath. “yeah. yeah. i know.” he pulls away, wipes a hand down his face. “fuck, i’m just—i’m so goddamn scared.

“you two will be okay,” namjoon says softly, “i don’t think there’s any storm you can’t weather. not if you’re at each other’s side.”

jimin sniffs and paws at his eyes. “thanks, hyung. i’m—i’m just gonna go to sleep, i think.”

“okay, jimin-ah,” namjoon says. he pauses, seems to think on it, and then settles a gentle hand in jimin’s hair. “i love you, you know that, right? we all do.”

“yeah,” jimin whispers, smile brittle but real. “i know.”

he pads quietly down the hall, doing his best to keep his spine straight and his eyes forward. he heads up the stairs, dread weighing heavy on his heart. he can’t sleep in his own bed, can’t sleep wrapped up around the only person he wants to go to right now, so—

jimin stops in front of yoongi’s door and hesitates. normally, jimin wouldn’t have any qualms about bothering him—or any of his members, for that matter—but he’s already faced the wretched reality of one locked door tonight, and he doesn’t think he can take another.

eventually, need wins out. he knocks lightly, quiet enough that he’s almost afraid (hoping, maybe) that yoongi won’t hear him. but of course, this is yoongi, and yoongi has both ridiculously good hearing and an impeccable sixth sense for when his dongsaengs need him.

the door opens just wide enough to reveal yoongi’s grumpy, sleep-rumpled face. his eyes soften immediately when they land on jimin, shivering and pathetic in the dim hallway light. “hey, jimin-ah,” he whispers, voice scratchy. “y’wanna come in?”

“yes, please,” jimin answers, voice small, and yoongi steps aside without another word. jimin follows him over to the massive bed, sitting gingerly on the edge as his hyung flops down with a groan. “i’m sorry.”

“don’t be stupid,” yoongi mumbles, already half-asleep. “do you want to talk about it?”

“not really,” jimin says, and yoongi nods.

“sleep, then. we’ll deal with whatever it is in the morning.”

jimin nods, wiping at his red nose. he doesn’t move, though, just sits hunched in on himself and contemplating if he even deserves the comfort his hyung is offering him. sure, he asked for it, wants it more than anything else that is currently available for the taking, because obviously the best thing would be to curl up beside taehyung in his own bed, except he definitely doesn’t deserve that—

“jimin,” yoongi says, slow and dragging with sleep, “come here.”

jimin moves robotically, limbs locked with a rigidity that aches down deep. he lies down beside yoongi, head sinking into the pillows, body stiff atop the covers. yoongi grunts and smacks at jimin’s chest. “listen to your hyung,” he commands, “i’m going to hug you and you’re going to let me, and then we’re going to bed.” he doesn’t even wait for a response before he’s shuffling forward and pulling jimin closer. they’re roughly the same size, but jimin feels small and safe in yoongi’s arms, and so he sighs, sinks into the hold, closes his eyes.

 

-

 

when jimin wakes up, it’s raining.

it’s a quiet sort of rain, the kind you don’t notice at first. the kind that creeps up on you until suddenly all you can think about is the staggering absence of light.

jimin sighs, wipes a hand down his face, and makes his way to breakfast.

yoongi’s already downstairs, ordering jeongguk around the kitchen. jimin drifts toward them, waiting for instructions that never come. instead, seokjin directs him to the table and swats at him incessantly until he sits down. namjoon helpfully slides a glass of water towards him and offers a sad little smile.

“jimin-ah,” he says, a little mournfully, “i’m sorry about last night—”

“it’s okay, hyung,” jimin says quietly, “it was bound to happen eventually.”

taehyung doesn’t come out when the food is ready. jimin barely eats anything, poking around at his rice until seokjin glares at him and he takes a bite. the rest of the members chatter quietly around him, hesitant, like they’re afraid to crack the fragile stability their kitchen currently holds.

jimin clears his throat, takes a sip of water. “sorry, just—” five pairs of eyes fall on him. “has taehyung been—has he been out to take his meds yet? he still needs—i mean—”

seokjin shakes his head. “i tried to get him out for breakfast maybe forty-five minutes ago, but he didn’t answer.”

“do you want one of us to try again?” jeongguk asks, concerned, and he’s looking at jimin with such intense worry it hurts. jimin doesn’t want anyone to worry about him like that, least of all jeongguk. he’s the hyung. he’s supposed to—god, he can’t even do that right, can he?

“no, it’s okay,” jimin says, movements sharp and stilted as he stands. “i’ll—i’ll do it. it’s my responsibility.”

“it’s not—” hoseok starts gently, but jimin cuts him off.

“it is,” he says, trying for a tired smile and missing by a mile, “it is, and. and.”

“okay,” namjoon says softly, “okay, jimin-ah.”

jimin nods once, resolute. he walks to the counter with lead feet, grabbing taehyung’s pain medication off the cool marble, fingers trembling without something solid to hold onto. “okay,” he echoes, refusing to meet any of their eyes, “i’ll just—yeah.”

it’s almost embarrassing how fast he scrambles out of the kitchen, through the living room, down the hall. anything to get away from the oppressive disquiet his own actions have caused. he stops short at the sight of his own bedroom door, acting as the only physical barrier between jimin and the love of his life—though there are about a million other things standing in the way, and a solid ninety eight percent of them are entirely jimin’s fault.

he can’t stop putting himself in taehyung’s shoes, can’t stop mulling over how confused he must be, racing thoughts trapping him in a cycle of questions that no one will help him answer. how betrayed he must feel, having put all of his trust in the one person who was never supposed to hurt him, only to have it thrown back in his face. taehyung must be—must be fucking mortified. jimin knows he would be.

the worst thing is that jimin doesn’t even know what conclusion he’s drawn from all this. he has no idea where taehyung’s head is at. maybe he shouldn’t have left him alone. fuck, he definitely shouldn’t have left him alone. what if taking the time to process has made everything worse and taehyung’s just been wallowing in what he thinks is the truth, his heart growing more bitter with every errant anxiety whispering through his mind like an icy winter breeze?

what if jimin ruined everything, just by desperately trying to hold it together?

he surges forward, a monstrous sort of panic clawing through his body, shredding through what little sanity he’s got left. “taehyung-ah,” jimin calls, trying and failing to keep his voice level. “tae, sweetheart, you need to take your pills.”

for a moment, there’s no answer—that is, until a cry of pain rips out from within the room, reverberating through jimin’s skull as if he were in an echo chamber. the panic sharpens into something lethal, twisting jimin’s gut into something impossibly tight and entirely inextricable. “taehyung,” he tries again, banging insistently on the door, “tae, baby, please open the door.”

“no,” taehyung moans, the sound muffled and cut off halfway by a gasp.

jimin swallows around a sob, palm flat against the door. “taehyung-ah, sweetheart,” he pleads, “i need you to open the door. please. fuck, please just open the fucking door.”

he hears taehyung start to cry, and his heart cracks clean in two. jimin can barely see past his own tears, can barely process what’s happening through the debilitating anxiety clouding his judgement, his mind. all he knows, all that matters, is the primal need to get through the fucking door.

“tae,” jimin sobs, “tae, i swear to god, i’m going to break this fucking door down—”

the rest of the boys have gathered behind him, pressing in close in an effort to reassure, to ground, but jimin isn’t having any of it. he slumps forward against the door, head thumping uselessly against the wood, chest heaving against the weight of panic pressing down, down, down.

and then taehyung’s wailing, the sound followed by a harsh thud that jimin feels all the way at the base of his spine, and that’s it, that’s it, he can’t—he won’t—

jimin kicks out hard and the door flies open, cracking like lightning against the wall. “christ, jimin, there’s a fucking key,” yoongi murmurs, catching him as the momentum of his kick propels him forward on unsteady feet.

jimin’s about to snap out a response when jeongguk gasps, eyes trained on something just behind the frame, and then they’re all moving, pushing through the door and tripping over each other in their haste to get to—to taehyung, christ, he’s on the floor—

jimin staggers forward, dropping to his knees beside taehyung with a painful thud, horrifyingly reminiscent of what must have been taehyung falling out of bed. he vaguely registers seokjin next to him, hoseok behind him, but his eyes are laser-focused on his husband—his beautiful, precious husband, with his red-rimmed eyes and snot bubbling from his nose as his body wracks with anguished sobs, dried blood staining the cracks of his lips like a once-broken mosaic. jimin cries harder, can’t help it, presses his forehead to taehyung’s. “baby, what did you do?”

“call an ambulance,” namjoon murmurs.

taehyung lets out a long, low moan in protest, one of his hands coming up to wrap weakly around jimin’s wrist. he shakes his head, sniffles, choking a little on his own spit. he looks delirious with pain, eyes screwed shut and lips bitten raw. “m’sorry,” he rasps, so quiet jimin can barely hear him. “jimin—”

jimin hushes him softly, trying to convert all of his negative emotions into something comforting. he nuzzles his nose against taehyung’s, whispers, “it’s okay, you’re okay. you’re okay.”

he doesn’t know that, not for certain. he knows that eventually taehyung’s body will heal—but how much will that matter in the wake of a broken heart?

 

-

 

a terrible sense of deja vu settles over jimin like an uncomfortable, scratchy blanket and refuses to budge.

he sits beside his husband’s hospital bed, hunched in on himself and playing with his wedding ring. it’s back on now, as both a comfort and a reminder that he has no choice—he has to tell taehyung everything. it’s gone too far, and taehyung’s health is at stake, and maybe jimin never meant for things to end up this way but it doesn’t matter because either way, they did.

he hurt the person he loves most in the world, and jimin will never be able to make up for it. not completely.

but he can at least start with the truth.

the heart monitor beeps steadily, registering on the very perimeter of jimin’s mind. it’s both comforting and terrible, because on one hand—it’s a reminder that taehyung is alive. on the other hand—

he’s in the hospital, and it’s definitely jimin’s fault.

taehyung passed out on the floor of the bedroom because he was in so much pain his body couldn’t handle it. the paramedics swarmed their house, lifted him onto a gurney, transported him to the hospital—and taehyung was completely unconscious through it all. still is, nearly four hours later.

until suddenly, he’s not. taehyung shifts, long lashes fluttering against the chubby apples of his cheeks, mouth falling open in a sleepy groan. he shifts and twists, very nearly yanking the IV straight out of his vein. “ow,” he mumbles, pouting cutely, and god, jimin can’t hold it back anymore, can’t swallow the sob that tears through him at the sight.

“i’m sorry,” he gasps, burying his face in his hands. he hiccups once, twice, folds in on himself in the hopes of disappearing completely. “god, i’m so sorry. namjoon told me what happened last night and it’s—it’s all my fault. i made everything so much worse, i’m sorry.

“no, jiminie,” taehyung whispers, and fuck, it sounds like he’s crying, too. “no, it’s—is that a wedding ring?”

right to the chase, then. jimin swallows thickly and wipes at his eyes, taking a second to steal himself for the inevitable implosion of everything they’ve built. “yes.”

“oh,” taehyung says, voice tight. jimin’s heart falls into his stomach. “that—wow, that makes. it makes so much sense. fuck, i’m sorry, no wonder you were so unhappy.”

what?

“christ, you should have been with your—with your—instead of taking care of me.”

oh. oh fuck.

“taehyungie,” jimin says. the heartbeat monitor picks up speed as taehyung takes a shuddering breath, face crumpling as the tears really start to fall. “taehyung.”

“i made it weird, didn’t i?” taehyung sniffles, voice cracking. “when it happened? when you got—that’s why you didn’t want to tell me. that’s why you’ve been so sad.”

“please,” jimin cries, because taehyung won’t look at him and everything is going so, so wrong—

“i’m so sorry, jimin, i promise, i’ll—i’ll do better, i’ll get over it, just. please. please, stay my best friend. i can’t lose you, i can’t—

baby.”

taehyung finally looks up at him then, eyes wide and expression wounded. “why did you call me that?”

slowly, slow enough that taehyung could pull away if he wanted to, jimin takes his hand. “because it’s you,” he says, voice barely above a whisper, “i’m married to you. you’re my husband.”

taehyung takes a single, heaving breath. “don’t,” he says, voice low and dangerous, “jimin, don’t—”

“it’s true,” jimin promises. he can barely see through his own tears but the expression on taehyung’s face is crystal clear and it’s devastating. “look.” he fumbles for the chain and tugs it over his head, presenting the ring that matches his own so that taehyung can see the engraving inside.

pjm & kth

taehyung sucks in a harsh breath. “jimin—”

the door swings open and a pleasant-looking nurse enters, completely oblivious to the tension stifling the room. “taehyung-ssi, it’s good to see you awake!” she says, chipper as ever, her voice grating against the very last of jimin’s resolve, “you gave your husband quite a scare.”

“could you give us a moment, please?” jimin asks, a little too quickly to be polite.

the nurse falters, and jimin does his best to give her a winning smile, though he’s sure it’s dampened by the red eyes and splotchy cheeks. “of course,” she says, and when she leaves it feels like she takes all of the oxygen with her.

in her absence, the room seems to collapse in on itself. jimin can’t keep his spine straight, can’t stay upright—it’s like his strings have been cut and his body is no longer his own. he lets the feeling drag him down, holds the rings close to his heart and presses hard enough to bruise. his other hand is still linked with taehyung’s, silent sobs wracking him like an earthquake.

“jimin,” taehyung whispers, and jimin flinches, “are we really—”

“yes,” jimin gasps, sounding barely human, “we’ve been together for five years. we—we got married last fall. i’m so—i’m so sorry, taehyung-ah, i thought i was doing the right thing. the doctors told us not to overwhelm you with anything you might not be expecting, but our entire lives are overwhelming. i couldn’t—i thought it would be better to ease you into things. you didn’t even remember us having our first kiss, how were you supposed to just—just accept that we were married?”

taehyung’s hand tightens around jimin’s, but he doesn’t respond. not right away. he pauses long enough that jimin’s afraid he’s messed this up in its entirety, fucked up so bad that the next words out of taehyung’s mouth will be i want a divorce.

as usual, taehyung surprises him.

“can you—can i put them on? the rings, i mean.”

his voice sounds far away, a million miles out. jimin’s nodding before he even finishes his sentence. “of course,” he says, even as his mind struggles to catch up with his hands. he fumbles with the clasp of the necklace, lets the rings slide off of it and into the crescent-bitten palm of his hand. the cold metal of the rings feels like a flame. “of course, they’re—they’re yours.”

taehyung stares at them for a long moment. “can you put them on me?” he asks, and jimin—jimin does. it would be impossible to deny taehyung anything right now, least of all this.

“you wore them around your neck the whole time?”

jimin nods, smiling sadly at the look of surprise on taehyung’s face. “i was yours, even though you weren’t mine.”

taehyung shakes his head. “always yours,” he says, voice raw, “always yours, jiminie, no matter what.” his hand falls in the space between them and god, jimin hates that there’s any space between them, and then it’s like taehyung’s reading his mind because he’s reaching, reaching, and— “come closer, i need—”

jimin’s crying so hard he can’t see, face scrunched up and eyes puffy, but he clambers into bed all the same, careful of taehyung’s injuries. taehyung’s crying, too, and it breaks jimin’s heart because this is all his fault. “i’m so sorry,” he murmurs, a broken record, “i’m so fucking sorry.”

taehyung doesn’t seem to hear him. his fingers drift listlessly across jimin’s cheek, eyes a little unfocused. “you’re really mine?” he asks, tracing the curve of jimin’s bottom lip with his thumb.

a shiver runs down jimin’s spine, rattling all the way down to the very marrow of his bones. “yours,” he says, and he settles a careful hand over taehyung’s heart.

taehyung’s eyes widen, like the reality of the situation is finally kicking in, and jimin feels a pang of anxiety. this has been going so well, too well. the other shoe will drop any second and jimin will be alone again but for good this time, cursed to exist forever feeling like he’s missing a limb, the entire left half of his body—

but then taehyung’s shuffling forward, pressing his split lips to jimin’s cheek in a kiss so soft it steals the breath straight out of jimin’s lungs. “you carried this all alone?” taehyung asks, but it’s not a question, not really. “you took care of me, you loved me, even though—even though i didn’t know.”

“of course i did,” jimin breathes out, blinking hard, “of course i did, and i’d do it forever. i love you with—with every single bit of me. even if you never remembered, or, or you did and you didn’t—didn’t want me,” he swallows thickly, “i’d be here, with you, for as long as you’d let me.”

taehyung makes a wounded noise in the back of his throat, fingertips pressing into the curve of jimin’s jaw. they’re so close, almost intertwined, legs and arms criss-crossing like stitching, and even with the hammering of his heart, the nerves sizzling in his gut, jimin can’t remember the last time he felt so at home. “would never not want you,” taehyung murmurs, voice slow and sticky with sleep and pain medication. his hand falls to jimin’s hip, tracing the curve of his body with a light touch, seemingly mesmerized. “i want you in every way.”

his touch leaves jimin trembling as he meticulously traces a line up from jimin’s waist to his chest, fingers following a path that is both well-worn and entirely new to him. jimin squeezes his eyes shut, his breath coming out in sharp bursts. “i should have told you,” he says, “but i was so scared. first, that i’d upset you, or you’d panic and your recovery would be set back—and then i just, i didn’t know how to bring it up. i didn’t know how to tell you. i’m sorry.”

taehyung seems to choose his next words very carefully. “i’m—i’m upset. a little.”

jimin nods, nose knocking gently against taehyung’s. “of course, you have—” he hiccups, tries his best to ignore the dread turning his ribcage to ice. “you have every right to be upset.”

“but i know why you did it,” taehyung says, voice soft and warm enough to fall into, “you were just trying to protect me. i think that it would have helped, though. if i knew—i knew i had you...like this.”

“i think you’re right,” jimin whispers, “i’m sorry.”

“i know, baby,” taehyung says, before pausing, surprised, face breaking out into the most breathtaking smile. jimin’s heart skips several beats, breath hitching. barely a second later, taehyung is surging forward, kissing jimin’s cheeks, forehead, nose, chin. “baby, baby, my baby.”

jimin laughs because he can’t help it. he lets taehyung pull him closer and tucks a careful leg between both of taehyung’s, the starchy hospital sheets crinkling beneath them. he feels giddy, his heart light, body floating—

“i remember falling in love with you,” taehyung says, and it’s so sudden, so unexpected, that jimin’s laughter cuts off with a strangled choke. it’s so fucking like taehyung to switch up on him with no warning, blunt and beautiful and painfully honest. “i remember because i never forgot. it started happening the second i met you, and one of the last memories i have is of you smiling at me. we weren’t together, then—obviously, you know that—but i...i wanted to be. i wanted to be so badly i felt like my heart was going to cave in on itself. i remember—i remember looking at you and realizing you were the person i wanted to laugh and dance and cry with for the rest of my whole entire life. i remember you,, jimin.”

there’s no time to think or process or cry because suddenly taehyung’s crowding closer and kissing him, and it’s like the entire world tilts back onto its axis. jimin hears himself whimper, can feel himself breathing, but everything is far away, save for the familiar and firm press of lips against his.

the second taehyung pulls away, jimin bites down on a sob, sinking forward into taehyung’s arms. he lets himself be held. “i love you,” he manages, voice sounding as raw as he feels.

“i love you, too,” taehyung whispers, “so much. i love you so much.”

“you’re sure—you’re—” jimin presses his face into the stiff fabric of taehyung’s hospital gown, the warmth of his skin radiating through like sunbeams. “are you sure you—”

“yes,” taehyung says, sounding much calmer than jimin feels like maybe he should be. even through the feverish fog of his mind, jimin recognizes the tell-tale signs of taehyung’s impending pain-med haze. “of course i’m sure. i just woke up six years in the future and my first love has just told me he’s also my last. how could i be anything less than perfect right now?”

“i love you,” jimin says again, utterly helpless in the face of taehyung’s brazen honesty, “i love you.”

but taehyung is already asleep, nose scrunched and lips pouted. jimin places a long, lingering kiss to his forehead, and follows suit.

 

-

 

taehyung is discharged a few hours later after one final check-up and another dose of pain medication. “he overexerted himself,” the doctor tells jimin, who sits on the bed with taehyung curled up to his side, “he’ll be very sore for a few days, and he’s definitely going to need a few more sessions of physical therapy—” taehyung grumbles petulantly under his breath, and the doctor eyes him sternly. “you got off very lucky, all things considered, taehyung-ssi.”

“he knows,” jimin says quickly, brushing the curls off taehyung’s forehead. “we’ll be more careful.”

taehyung grunts, his grip tightening around jimin’s waist.

the members swarm them the second they get home. they didn’t come to the hospital in order to give them privacy—to give jimin the space he needed to come clean—but even with all the text updates he’d sent, jimin can tell that nobody was going to feel better until they’d seen taehyung for themselves. hoseok drops kisses all over taehyung’s fluffy head and yoongi squeezes his hand, namjoon murmuring apologies while jin and jeongguk hover nervously.

“i’m okay, guys, really.” taehyung smiles, tired but settled. “i’m sorry for worrying you.”

“please don’t apologize, hyung,” jeongguk says, draping himself carefully over taehyung from behind. “we were just—are you wearing your rings?”

“yes,” taehyung says, seemingly delighted to be asked. “because i’m married. but of course, you all knew that.”

“we did,” seokjin says cautiously, and taehyung laughs.

“you don’t need to sound so scared, hyung,” he says, squeezing lightly at jungkook’s arms. “i promise i’m not mad. we can talk later, i just—i sort of want to go to sleep. jimin-ah?”

“right here,” jimin says softly, drifting to taehyung’s side like a planet orbiting the sun. “let’s get you to bed.”

taehyung’s most of the way asleep by the time jimin closes their bedroom door behind them. jimin runs a careful, reverent hand through his hair, revelling in the way the sunset glows orange against his tanned skin.

taehyung hums and leans into his touch, eyes fluttering prettily as his head lolls. “will you stay with me?” he asks, and the clarity in his voice is surprising.

“always,” jimin murmurs, dropping a kiss to the top of taehyung’s head.

they fall easily into the achingly familiar routine they’ve perfected over the past few weeks—jimin propping taehyung up, helping him into a clean pair of pajamas. only this time, when taehyung’s head pops out of the collar, he purses his lips for a kiss. the sight nearly knocks jimin on his ass—taehyung, looking so soft and sleep-rumpled, pouting at him with a quiet mischievousness gleaming in those big, brown eyes.

jimin must stare for a second too long, because taehyung falters, eyes shuttering, and no. no. not again.

carefully, so carefully, jimin cups taehyung’s cheeks and kisses the corner of his mouth, the cupid’s bow of his lips. “darling,” he murmurs, feeling a little giddy at the dazed look in taehyung’s eyes. “let’s go to sleep, okay?”

except—an hour passes, then two, and jimin—jimin is still awake. taehyung lies beside him, chubby cheek mashed against jimin’s shoulder, an arm thrown across his waist. he’s snuffling quietly, dead to the world. peaceful.

they’ve spent a thousand nights like this, in this exact position, and yet—

and yet.

jimin can’t help but feel like this can’t be real. it can’t possibly be this easy. no, when taehyung wakes up—when taehyung wakes up, he’ll be angry, and he’ll have every right to be. when the pain medication wears off and the novelty of being married fades, taehyung will realize what jimin has done to him, to them and he’ll—he’ll—

the sharp sting of bile rises high in his throat, and jimin feels the sudden urge to move, to get up, to run. anything to be where the air isn’t so stifling, so hot. he gently extricates himself from taehyung’s hold and sits up, chest heaving, feet pressed firm into solid ground.

“okay,” he murmurs, “okay. you’re fine.”

behind him, taehyung shifts but doesn’t wake. when jimin looks back, he’s moved into the warm spot jimin left behind, pressing his nose into the indent of jimin’s pillow. jimin’s heart clenches at the sight, and it takes everything in him to stand, to walk to the door without breaking down entirely.

the living room is blissfully empty, but of course it is—it’s nearly one in the morning. it’s been a stressful day, everyone is exhausted. jimin should be exhausted, but mostly he’s just nauseous.

barely a minute later, long arms wrap around jimin’s middle from behind, fluffy hair tickling at his neck. it’s natural for jimin to hug back until a second, much uglier instinct has him stifling a flinch, thoughts of too close too obvious too close muddying his mind like swamp water.

“hey,” taehyung mumbles, voice sticky with sleep and leftover pain medication. he snuggles closer, nosing jimin’s shoulder and tightening his grip.

“hi,” jimin says, voice barely above a whisper. slowly, he allows himself to sink back into taehyung’s hold, just a little. just enough. he doesn’t want to push, to destroy this delicate balance, but it seems to be the right move—taehyung just sighs, content, and kisses jimin’s shoulder. it feels like a bolt of electricity right down to the very core of his being, like being shocked awake after decades of sleep. the clarity is startling. “did i wake you up?”

taehyung shrugs, swaying on his feet. jimin twists in his grasp to steady him, one hand resting lightly against his hip. “didn’t know where you were. went on an adventure. now m’here.”

jimin smiles, fondness heating his cheeks like the summer sun. “walking to the living room is an adventure?”

“mhm,” taehyung hums, lilting and musical. “think m’still a little high. dizzy.”

“want to go lay down?” jimin asks, brushing a stray curl from taehyung’s half-lidded eyes.

“will you come with me?” taehyung’s head drops against jimin’s shoulder, shoulders sagging. “wanna sleep next to my husband. don’t deprive me.” he giggles, and it bubbles in the air like seltzer. “i have a husband. you’re my husband.”

“i am,” jimin whispers, his throat inexplicably desert-dry. “taehyung—”

“m’so happy. jimin. my jim’nie.”

he doesn’t mean it. of course he doesn’t. he’s still half-asleep and miles into the clouds.

still, jimin’s traitorous heart leaps at the words.

he presses his face into taehyung’s chest and breathes deeply, willing himself not to cry. “tae. taehyung-ah. i’m so sorry—”

taehyung shakes his head, nose bumping against jimin’s ear. “shh. stop. later. for now you have to let me love you. i just got you. i just got you, you’re my husband, and you have to just let me just be yours for a little while. m’yours, right, jiminie?”

jimin can only nod, too choked up to speak properly. he wraps his arms around taehyung’s middle, fingers bunching desperately in the fabric of taehyung’s shirt. “baby,” he manages, swallowing thickly, “tae—”

“sleep time,” taehyung mumbles, kissing jimin’s temple without hesitation. it leaves jimin equal parts breathless and terrified—taehyung is handling everything ridiculously well, accepting jimin’s explanations and apologies with a truly astonishing level of calm, but what will happen when it finally sinks in?

what happens when the pain medication wears off and the soft edges sharpen and taehyung has the wherewithal to really think about what jimin has done?

jimin is terrified. really, truly terrified that taehyung will wake up in a few hours, decide he’s made a mistake in forgiving jimin, and ask for a divorce. he’ll be calm and kind in that blunt way of his, ripping the bandaid off so jimin doesn’t suffer a second longer than he has to. he’ll be direct, might even offer jimin one final hug, drop the rings into jimin’s waiting palm and apologize gently for his medication-induced lack of judgement.

at least jimin will have had these last few hours with him. at least jimin will have the memory of taehyung coming back to him, even if it was only for a little while.

“sleep time,” taehyung repeats, his voice a little firmer. he pulls away, and for a moment, the lucidity in his eyes is staggering. it drifts off as quickly as it came, gaze clouding over with exhaustion, but his expression stays the same—still as water, a beacon of quiet. he tugs at the hem of jimin’s shirt, pressing careful fingertips into the dip of jimin’s collarbone, and it drags a reverent gasp from the depths of his lungs. taehyung smiles, something soft and secret, crooked and beautiful. “guess i don’t have to worry about hiding the boners i pop during those baths anymore, huh?”

jimin huffs out an incredulous laugh, feeling a little like it’s been punched out of his chest. he goes to bury his head against taehyung’s shoulder in embarrassment and then stops, flushes. god, what is he even allowed to do?

taehyung reaches up and brushes carefully at jimin’s bangs. “too soon?” he asks, tone deceptively mild.

jimin shakes his head. “no, it’s just—”

“you still feel guilty.”

instantly, jimin shrinks in on himself, which only really serves the purpose of pressing him closer to taehyung. “um,” he says, trying to find the words to skate around the subject and coming up short.

taehyung sighs and drops his nose into jimin’s hair, big hands rubbing comfortingly up and down jimin’s back. jimin takes a shaky breath and allows himself to melt a little, careful not to put too much of his weight on taehyung to carry. his head knocks lightly against taehyung’s shoulder, nose brushing his neck, and taehyung giggles. “your nose is cold,” he murmurs, nuzzling into jimin’s temple.

“sorry,” jimin whispers, but when he tries to pull away, taehyung only holds on tighter.

they start to sway and for a moment, and jimin’s afraid that taehyung is losing his balance—until he realizes that taehyung is humming spring day under his breath, voice honeyed and deep, broad chest rumbling with the vibration. tears bite at the corners of his eyes as taehyung continues to rock them, dropping soft, featherlight kisses along the curve of jimin’s ear.

“namjoon-hyung told me that song is about missing someone,” he says, voice low and gentle in the darkness, “he said it was about missing someone so much you felt like an entire part of you was gone with them. i’ve missed you so much these past few weeks and i didn’t—i didn’t know why. you were right there. but i just. i couldn’t get close enough. and i think—i think you missed me too. didn’t you?”

jimin gasps around a sob, nodding into taehyung’s shoulder. “i did. i do. so much.”

“then let’s stop,” taehyung says, like it’s that simple. maybe for him, it is. “let’s stop missing each other and be together instead.”

part of jimin—a pretty big part of jimin, if he’s honest—is relatively sure this is a hallucination. still, he nods and presses his lips against the juncture of taehyung’s neck and shoulder. “okay,” he murmurs, and taehyung’s answering smile is blinding. “yeah, i—god, i want to kiss you.”

and there it is again—the panic surging through him, nausea rolling deep in his stomach. he’s had this exact thought about a thousand times in the past week alone but vocalizing it, saying it to taehyung

you’ve blown it, he hates you, he’ll never forgive you

except taehyung just tightens his grip, tilts his head, says, “you can, jiminie. i want you to.”

jimin breathes deeply, heartbeat stuttering in his chest. “you’re sure?”

taehyung’s eyes sparkle. “do i want to kiss my husband? yes, i’m sure.”

jimin lets out something embarrassingly close to a whimper—can’t help it, especially not when taehyung dips down, his nose knocking lightly against jimin’s, mouth falling open in a sweet sigh. their lips brush, just once, barely a graze—and then taehyung is diving back in, lips warm and dry, cracked and tasting of copper. jimin gasps, fingers flying up to clutch at taehyung’s pajama top. he holds on for dear life, let’s taehyung control the kiss, take what he needs and give only what he wants—but he seems to want everything, because he kisses like he’s starving for it, messy and uncoordinated with enough intensity to leave jimin weak at the knees.

he pulls away abruptly, forehead resting against jimin’s and chest heaving. “this is real?” he asks, voice small. “this is real? you’re mine? do you promise?”

“yes,” jimin breathes, nodding his head jerkily, palms reaching out and up to cup taehyung’s face. “yes,” he says again, kissing the corner of taehyung’s mouth, his cheek, his jaw. “it’s real. i’m yours. you’re mine?”

“yes,” taehyung manages, leaning into the soft touch of jimin’s fingers brushing at his hair. “i love you. jimin, i love you.”

“i love you,” jimin cries, and it’s so—it’s so freeing to say it, to say it how he means it and know that taehyung understands and, most importantly, that he wants to hear it.

in that moment, jimin feels something important click back into place. acceptance, maybe, that taehyung wants him, wants to make this work. that taehyung still loves him, even if he doesn’t remember all of the details just yet. there’s a lightness in jimin’s chest he hasn’t felt in weeks, a weight lifted from his shoulders and replaced, instead, with the comfort of taehyung’s arms around his neck.

 

-

 

when jimin opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is taehyung.

this in itself is not unusual. he’s very much used to taehyung’s sleepy pout, his fluttering eyelashes, the soft snorts and snuffles he adamantly denies making the second he’s conscious enough to defend himself.

taehyung is almost always the first thing he sees. the difference is that this time, taehyung is awake and hovering less than an inch away from jimin’s face, their noses brushing with each breath. jimin blinks once, stretches, rasps, “hi?”

“hi,” taehyung beams, and then he kisses jimin within an inch of his life, morning breath and all.

jimin lets out a little mmph of surprise that quickly fades into a hum of satisfaction. he kisses back, lazy and slow in the morning sunlight, lets himself sink into the warmth of the bed and revel in the feeling of taehyung’s hands roaming his body.

“you’re so pretty,” taehyung whispers, sounding a little awed. his fingers dip beneath jimin’s sleep shirt, trailing lightly across his abdomen until his breath hitches. “look at you. holy shit.”

there’s a pause, and then taehyung brings jimin’s hand up to his mouth and gently, so gently, kisses his wedding ring. it lingers, the warmth of his mouth against the cool metal sending shivers down jimin’s spine.

jimin comes back to himself, then. he blinks, a little more awake, a little more aware. yesterday—

“don’t freak out,” taehyung says, and jimin takes a slow breath. he presses the hand he’s holding palm-flat over his heart. “there you go.”

jimin closes his eyes and counts to ten. when he opens them again, taehyung is smiling down at him. “what time s’it?” he asks, propping himself up on one elbow. taehyung flops gracelessly down on the bed beside him with an audible wince, and jimin’s senses sharpen. “your meds—”

“not yet,” taehyung says, determined. “i have to say something and i know you won’t believe me until i say it one-hundred percent sober and lucid. lie back down.”

“tae—”

lie back down.

jimin lies back down.

“thank you.” taehyung takes a deep breath and rolls onto his side, pinning jimin with an unreadable expression. “jimin,” he says, “baby.”

while the baby is certainly reassuring, jimin’s stomach suddenly feels like lead. he swallows and tries his best not to shy away from taehyung’s unwavering gaze. “yeah?”

taehyung smiles, then, something small and pretty, and jimin feels instantly at ease.

“i forgive you.”

jimin blinks. “what?”

taehyung scoots closer and settles an arm over jimin’s waist. “i know you feel guilty for lying, but i understand why you did it and i forgive you. you were scared and exhausted and probably at your wit’s end, and you made a split-second decision you thought would help me get better faster.” taehyung thumbs gently under jimin’s eye, wiping a tear away as it falls. jimin hadn’t even realized he’d started crying. “everything you’ve done over the past few weeks has been for me. don’t think i haven’t noticed. you’ve put me first time and time again and, i mean, i’m sort of new to this whole ‘being married’ thing but...that sounds like a good husband to me.” he drops a kiss on jimin’s nose. “sounds like i’m a pretty lucky guy, huh?”

jimin sniffles, brain sticky and stuck and still only half-awake. “but—”

“but nothing,” taehyung says, his voice soft but firm. “you made your decision, right? you made the choice for both of us because i couldn’t, but now—now i get to make a choice. that’s only fair, right? i get to choose for myself, and i choose you.”

and the way he explains it—it makes sense. jimin won’t take his agency away, not again. not when he’s trying to get his life back and has the ability to decide for himself. jimin won’t ruin that by tainting their relationship with guilt and endless anxieties. it’s not—it’s not fair. the only way to do right by taehyung, the only way to fix this, really, truly fix this, is to let taehyung choose if jimin deserves his forgiveness.

he’ll just have to spend the rest of his life making sure he’s earned it.

“okay,” jimin says, a little dazed, a little breathless. “okay.”

“yeah?” taehyung asks, smile growing and growing until it positively blooms at jimin’s answering nod. he surges forward, and they’re both smiling too hard to kiss but god do they try.

jimin basks in the softness of taehyung’s bedhead beneath his fingertips, lets himself feel the immense love bursting at the precariously stitched-together seams of his heart. he drinks in the laughter and the happy sighs falling from taehyung’s mouth, and finally, finally remembers how it feels to breathe easy. “i love you,” he murmurs, floating on an ethereal high, “thank you.”

“don’t thank me, weirdo,” taehyung laughs, “i have you, i’ve got you. i’m not letting you go, not for the entire world. you’re stuck with me, baby.”

jimin feels warm, all the way down to the tips of his toes. he kisses taehyung, and then he kisses him again, and again, and again, until taehyung is giggling beneath him, bright and happy and so beautifully alive.

“jimin-ah,” taehyung manages between peels of laughter, “jimin-ah. i have a question.”

“yes, my love?”

“jimin. baby. can i touch your butt? please. i’ve been dreaming about it for literal years and i think the biggest injustice of this entire situation is that i have touched your ass but i can’t remember it.”

“taehyung-ah. oh my god.”

“what? am i not allowed to mourn memories lost?”

jimin lets his head drop against taehyung’s shoulder with a soft thunk and a huff of laughter. he grabs taehyung’s hand off of his waist and slowly, steadily moves it down to rest palm-flat on his ass.

“oh my god,” taehyung whispers, squeezing gently—and then again, a little firmer this time. “oh my god. i love you so much.”

“you’re ridiculous,” jimin says, a little choked up, because this is yet another piece of intimacy jimin thought he’d lost forever, and yet—here taehyung is, soft and warm in his arms, silly and lovely and absolutely shameless.

“i’m yours,” taehyung corrects, dusting gentle kisses across jimin’s nose and cheeks.

jimin starts to cry, and taehyung’s hand is still on his ass, and everything is so perfect, so complete. taehyung might not remember all of the important dates, how jimin proposed, all of the times they’ve said i love you and sang you are my soulmate in front of tens of thousands of people—

but he’s chosen jimin. he’s chosen jimin, and that’s enough.