Jimin comes in smelling like alcohol, like he always does on nights like this one.
Yoongi recognizes him by the sound of his footsteps, even though they’re uneven. He’s lived with the boys long enough to know them by the smallest signs. The studio door opens, and Yoongi’s fingers tighten around the mouse until they turn white. He stumbles a little when he enters; Yoongi knows this, though he doesn’t turn around to look.
“You’re drunk again,” Yoongi says. He clicks around the monitor like he’s busy.
“You get drunk all the time.” Jimin sinks into the couch.
“This isn’t about me.”
“I’m making it about you.”
“Why didn’t you go home?”
“Because I knew you’d be here.”
“I thought Namjoon told you to cut down on this shit.”
“What shit?” His voice is a murmur. “The coming back late? The drinking? The fucking?”
Yoongi spins his chair around. He’s seen Jimin in all sorts of get-ups, ridiculous outfits with chains and baggy shorts, ones with mesh shirts and skin-tight pants. Still, his breath catches. Jimin’s pants have rips high on the thighs, his shirt sleeveless and low-necked, exposing the smooth cut of his chest. His makeup has smeared, but the smoky dark around his eyes looks even sultrier. His lips are swollen, bitten raw.
“When are you going to play piano for me?”
“Don’t answer. I know what you’re going to say.”
“What do you want, Jimin?”
“Just wanted to see you, hyung,” Jimin says, and suddenly he sounds small, a little lost, and Yoongi’s chest clenches.
“Never mind.” Jimin pushes himself to his feet and moves toward the door. “Don’t stay up too late, okay?”
“Sorry for bothering you.”
He lets the door shut behind him.
When Yoongi shuffles into the kitchen, rubbing his tired eyes, Jimin is already there. He sits hunched over a mug of dark coffee at the counter, Taehyung busy with a bowl of cereal next to him. Taehyung waves two fingers, incoherent before he’s eaten, but Jimin doesn’t look up. He’s hungover, clearly, dark circles under his eyes and hair a bird’s nest.
“Namjoon hyung went to the studio. Said to tell you to come after breakfast,” Taehyung mumbles through a mouthful.
Yoongi nods and takes the box of cereal from Taehyung’s side, pouring a bowlful.
“You want some pills for your head?” Taehyung asks Jimin, nudging him with his elbow.
Jimin shakes his head. The air is tense, even though Taehyung doesn’t seem to have noticed.
“Pass me the milk, Jiminie?” Yoongi says.
It’s the nickname. Yoongi looks down at his bowl of cereal. “Sorry.”
Jimin passes him the milk.
He’s only a few bites into his cereal when Jimin gets up and leaves, murmuring something about laundry. Taehyung watches him go, then turns to Yoongi, a frown tugging at his lips.
“Hyung, I’m worried about him.”
Yoongi sighs. He pushes the bowl away. He’s not hungry anymore. “Me, too.”
Yoongi became a member of Bangtan Sonyeondan with a thunder cloud of doubt and cruel words hanging over his head, following him wherever he went. It was there when he slept and there when he learned how to dance and there when he was in the dorm, figuring out how to maneuver his way around the new additions and how to go on without the old ones. Idol? Fucking sellout . He didn’t want to make new friends when the old ones spat in his face.
Building up a wall was the best way to survive when everything scared him. He wanted to succeed. He wanted to be the one spitting in their faces, the one to bring his family pride, the one to make enough for a good meal. So he pretended to be strong, cold, so they couldn’t see that he was weak. He put the goal in front of his eyes and reached for it, and it kept him alive.
He wasn’t impressed with the little dancer who came from Busan-- none of them were. He was all right at dancing, but he was just a kid, cheeks still round and eyes still innocent. He was all over the place. They watched his audition video with a sense of foreboding, and when they announced that he was their last member, Yoongi wasn’t happy. He didn’t want him.
But things don’t usually happen the way he wants them to, and Jimin wormed his way into his heart-- and everyone else’s-- before long.
He trailed after Yoongi like a puppy, wide eyes and smile that made his cheeks puff out. He thought Yoongi and Namjoon were the coolest, watched them when they were in the studio, blushed pink when they complimented him. Took special care of Jungkook, cooed over everything he did, listened to the rest of them when they told him what to do. Even if he did have a temper. And he worked hard, spent hours in the practice room, slept three hours a night. When Yoongi was up so late in the studio he would forget what time it is, eyes burning, he could hear Jimin singing. Cursing when he didn’t hit a note. Crying, sometimes.
The thing about falling in love is that you don’t know it’s happening until it’s already happened.
When Jimin was seventeen, he flung his arms around Yoongi’s neck, laughing-- we did it, hyung, we did it -- and Yoongi realized the clenching pain in his chest had a meaning.
And he wasn’t at peace with it.
He’s not sure he’ll ever be.
Jungkook stares at him, eyes wide and imploring. “You’ll do it, right, hyung?”
They want him to play the piano. Jungkook is going to dance a special stage for MBC, and they want him to be his accompaniment.
“Come on,” Jungkook says, almost whining but not quite, shaking the arm of his chair. “The fans have been wanting to see you play forever.”
He always talks about it; he knows they’re anticipating. But playing the piano makes him feel too vulnerable. He can’t do it in front of anyone else. He thinks about the way Jimin has been asking him to play for him forever, and how he’s always said no. Sometimes Jimin will bring it up in interviews, too. He says he can play piano but I’ve been living with him for years, and I’ve never seen it. He’s not sure he could keep from crying, playing for Jimin.
“I don’t know.”
“Hyung, please. I wanna do a stage with you.”
Jungkook’s earnest. He doesn’t understand. They’re going to ask him again, later, tell him it’ll be a good stage, wear him down until he says yes. They won’t need to. He’s never really been able to say no to Jungkook.
Jimin catches him in the kitchen, sitting at the table with a bowl of ramen. He sits across from him and rests his chin in his hand, eyes fixed on Yoongi.
“You’re doing the stage.”
Yoongi nods into his bowl.
“Thought you didn’t want to play the piano for anyone.”
“It’s for a stage.”
“You won’t play for me.”
“The fans want it.”
Jimin pushes his chair back and stands. It makes an ugly noise as it grates across the floor. He’s mad. Yoongi can see it in the set of his shoulders, the curve of his mouth. “They’re more important than me.”
He doesn’t say it like a question. He says it like a fact.
“Jimin--” he starts, tired, but a surge of irritation overtakes him. “Don’t be dramatic.”
Jimin scoffs. He turns away, and his shoulders are stiff. “Just because you’re emotionless doesn’t mean the rest of us are. I’m not being dramatic.”
“I’m not fucking emotionless.” Jimin knows that, Yoongi knows he’s saying it out of anger. But it gets to him, anyway. It digs under his skin like everything Jimin says, does-- because Jimin knows exactly where to hurt.
“Whatever. I’ll watch from backstage, I guess.”
He marches off down the hallway when Seokjin emerges from his room, wandering into the kitchen, eyebrows raised.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“I don’t fucking know,” Yoongi mutters, and returns to his ramen.
The thing about falling in love is that it’s not always easy. Not always convenient.
Some idols get caught in dating scandals and it threatens to ruin their careers, especially when they’re girls. They can bounce back, but it takes time. Yoongi doesn’t have time to waste. And those are just dating scandals, just regular dating scandals, a boy and girl, just the way it’s supposed to be. Yoongi can’t imagine what would happen to an idol caught in a dating scandal with one of their members.
Quashing his feelings is something he’s always been used to, so for a while he shoved the pain in his chest when he looked at Jimin to the darkest recesses of his mind, and everything was alright. Except everything wasn’t alright. He pretended it was. Pretended the way his heart stirred with longing when Jimin laughed was nothing; pretended the way his hands shook when Jimin rested his head on his lap was nothing.
And he went on pretending until he realized that wasn’t quite all there was to it.
Namjoon figured it out. Yoongi didn’t know how it happened, imagined him catching Jimin crying, maybe, catching the words spilling out of his mouth. He came to him in the studio, one day, uncomfortable and awkward like he got when he was there to talk about something touchy.
“Spill,” Yoongi said, and Namjoon cleared his throat.
“Don’t-- don’t freak out, okay?”
The seriousness in his voice had Yoongi turning to face him, work forgotten. “What happened?”
“He doesn’t want me to tell you. I probably shouldn’t, but--” he hesitated, leaning into his hands. “I think I have to tell you because he’s really upset, and I need you to be careful.”
“Namjoon, quit skirting around the bush. What the hell’s going on?”
For a moment, Yoongi’s heart stopped. Jimin knew. He had figured it out. He knew Yoongi didn’t look at him the way he should--
“He likes you.”
That couldn’t be it. He thought back to everything Jimin had ever said, thought back to the way he looked at him, and nothing in his interactions spoke of fancy. Yoongi was nothing special to Jimin. He was touchier, more affectionate with everyone else but him, that was how it had always been. He knew Yoongi wasn’t the type. There was no way Jimin, little Jiminie who wore his heart on his sleeve, would be able to hide how he felt about someone he liked.
“No, he doesn’t.”
Namjoon’s brows furrowed in irritation. “Hyung, I talked to him. He told me.”
“Are you kidding?”
“Don’t be an asshole.” Namjoon’s words were sharp. He didn’t get like that with Yoongi often; he respected their age difference too much, despite being the leader.
“He told me everything. He’s liked you for a while. He thinks he’s gay, but he’s not sure. He’s confused. He’s freaking out. He thinks you’ll hate him.”
Yoongi sank back into his chair, staring at Namjoon, eyes wider than they’d ever been. He didn’t know how to feel. Validated, maybe, because the stupid crush he had been nursing for so long wasn’t one-sided, after all. Scared, more likely, because he could imagine how lost Jimin felt. Then crushing, heart-wrenching disappointment, because it didn’t matter if Jimin liked him back. That was just one more longing heart to add to the equation.
They couldn’t do anything about it.
“He likes me,” Yoongi said, voice a mix of awe and fear.
Namjoon must have seen it in his face. He must have, because he blanched, sitting upright, fingers clenching into fists. “Fuck,” he said. “Oh, fuck.”
Yoongi looked away, but it was too late.
“You like him, too.”
It’s no secret that Jimin gets around.
Everyone knows it. Rumors travel fast in the idol world. Now, if Jimin talks to another boy for longer than a minute, they spread like wildfire. Did you hear? BTS Jimin is fucking so-and-so now. Secrets among idols are a funny thing; they don’t stay secret for long, and everyone knows enough to give the media a field day. But no one would dare tell a secret, because they’ve got ten of their own waiting to be revealed. So even though everyone knows Krystal from f(x) is fucking Moonbyul from Mamamoo and Ravi from VIXX got into a fistfight with Bobby from iKON so rough he broke his nose and some leader from a nobody group bullies his members so badly they’ve got bruises, no one says a word.
Jimin is charming. He’s always had that effect on people, has boys and girls enamored with a look and a laugh. Yoongi used to be jealous of it. He still is, a little, wishes he could set people at ease with such grace. But he puts people off. They look at him and get nervous; he’s intimidating, even though he’s small and quiet. When he talks, he sounds like he’s drunk or tired or bored, and they say his eyes always look irritated. He doesn’t mean it. It’s a defense mechanism, mostly, because talking to people is hard. It’s hard for Jimin, too; he’s shy around strangers, but he’s so sweet everyone warms up to him, anyway.
He never expected Jimin’s charm to turn out the way it did, sultry and enticing. He never thought Jimin would be the type to get around, not when he grows attached so easily, takes everything so seriously. But things are different, now, and Jimin’s different. And Jimin did always like attention.
They’re backstage at a music show. Yoongi doesn’t know what day it is; they start to blur together when they’re promoting. Jimin has spoken to him the bare minimum since finding out he’s playing at the special stage. Now, he stands with some boy in some group, a new one, who’s a little shy and has pretty dimples. Jimin plays coy, choice laughs and a hand on the boy’s shoulder. He throws his head back when he laughs, falls into him, hand over his mouth, eyes sparkling.
“How long do you think he’s gonna last?” Namjoon says next to him, eyebrow quirked.
“Are you kidding? He’s already gone.”
The boy can’t stop looking at Jimin. He looks helpless. Yoongi wonders if he’s ever looked like that, too.
Namjoon snorts. “At least he looks like a nice guy.”
They’re not always so nice.
“Quit staring.” Namjoon shrugs his jacket on, turning away. “You’re not his boyfriend. He can do whatever he wants.”
“Never said he couldn’t.”
“Then why do you look so bitter?”
“What, I’m not allowed to have feelings, now?”
Jimin glances at him from the corner of his eye and catches him staring. He stiffens, and suddenly he looks embarrassed, the smile fading. The boy tries to catch his attention.
Yoongi turns away.
“If you want to date him, you can,” Namjoon had said, soft, understanding.
“We can’t date, Joon.”
“It’s all right, if that’s what you want. I can explain it to the others.”
“Don’t you want this fucking group to get anywhere?”
“Just be discreet. Plenty of idols do it.”
“Not in the same group. It’s too easy to get caught. You think the company’s gonna be okay with that?”
“There’s a group where the members are dating, Taehyung was telling me--”
“Do you want us to ruin our fucking careers?”
“Hyung, I want you to be happy.”
Yoongi’s fists had clenched, tired, bitter. “In case you hadn’t noticed, being an idol isn’t exactly conducive to happiness.”
Jimin slips into the room smelling like alcohol.
Yoongi lies awake, sleepless like most nights. Seokjin snores softly in the bed over. Jimin is careful when he opens the door and tiptoes in without a sound. He stops by Yoongi’s bed, a dark shadow over him. In the sparse light filtering through the window, Yoongi can see the smudge of his makeup, his tight leather clothes. A hickey on his collarbone. The stylists will yell at him about that tomorrow.
“Hyung,” he whispers.
“What are you doing?”
“Can I sleep with you?”
They used to do that when he was younger. He would slip into Yoongi’s bed when he missed home too much and fall asleep with his nose pressed into Yoongi’s back. Said Yoongi reminded him of his family.
“Go to your own damn room, Jimin.”
There’s no bite to his voice, and Jimin knows it. So he tugs off his shoes and jacket and crawls into Yoongi’s bed, pressed close against him. He tugs the covers over both of them.
“Your breath stinks,” Yoongi says, because Jimin lies facing him, their heads parallel on Yoongi’s pillow.
“‘Kay,” Jimin mumbles. He doesn’t turn away. His eyes drift shut, lashes soft against his cheeks. They’re not round like they used to be. Yoongi misses that. Misses the Jimin who would follow him around and listen to whatever he said and blush pink when he complimented him. Misses the Jimin who looked at the world like it still had everything to offer. “Play the piano for me, hyung.” His voice is soft, sleepy. “I wanna hear you play.”
“Your feet are cold,” Yoongi says when Jimin’s legs tangle with his.
Jimin’s already asleep, chest rising and falling with slow breaths. Yoongi shifts closer and throws his arm around Jimin’s waist. He presses their foreheads together, stares at Jimin’s fading makeup and his plump, parted lips and the pimples he’s tried to hide with concealer. Jimin never falls asleep with makeup on. It must have been a rough night.
He falls asleep like that, their noses brushing.
He wakes up with their limbs still tangled together so that he doesn’t know where Jimin starts and he ends. Jimin’s still asleep, snoring a little. His brow is furrowed. Yoongi shifts, raising himself on his elbow. Seokjin’s bed is empty. They have a schedule soon. He doesn’t want to wake Jimin up. He’s exhausted, clearly, and he might have a hangover. In another life, he would leave him there, tuck him into a cocoon of blankets and let him sleep until the sun had risen high in the sky.
But that’s not their life.
With a light finger, Yoongi traces the creases of Jimin’s forehead. He slides his fingers into Jimin’s orange hair, smoothing it back from his forehead, styling product sticking to his skin. Seokjin catches him like that, gazing down at Jimin with a hand in his hair. He startles, moving away and sitting up, but it doesn’t matter. Seokjin must have woken up to the sight of them wrapped up in each other.
“Better wake him up,” Seokjin says, gently. “We’ve gotta get ready.”
“Yeah.” Yoongi can’t keep the guilt from his tone. He clears his throat and looks away. It’s not just his and Jimin’s careers they’d ruin.
The others don’t know, but some of them have started to figure it out.
He’d gone to Jimin not long after Namjoon told him. Caught him alone in the studio practicing his vocals.
“Can we talk?” he’d asked. Jimin had looked so nervous, wringing his fingers, jostling his foot when he sat.
“Hyung told you, didn’t he? I told him not to tell, I’m sorry, I’m trying not to--”
“Jiminie.” He’d rested a hand on Jimin’s knee until the anxious movement stilled. “It’s okay, Jiminie, I’m not mad.”
“I like you, too.” It had been hard to say it, the words like lead in his mouth. But he had to.
Jimin stared at him with wide eyes, cheeks turning pink, mouth parting in a surprised oh . He’d shone. Yoongi hadn’t wanted to ruin it.
“Jiminie, you know we can’t date, right?” He’d stuttered a bit when he said it. “It’s already-- already off-limits with girls. It’s impossible for, um, for you and me.”
Jimin’s face had fallen. Head bowed, fingers wringing together again. “Yeah. I know.”
“If anyone caught us, we’d be in really big trouble.”
“Bangtan would be over.”
“I know, I just-- yeah. I know.”
“I’m sorry.” He’d looked down, then, too, stared at his feet, vision blurring. “I wish it didn’t have to be like that.”
“We just. Have to try and not like each other, right?” Jimin looked to him for approval, for affirmation, because he was the hyung and he had to know what to do, even when he didn’t.
“I guess so.” Yoongi ran a hand through his hair, looking anywhere but Jimin’s trusting face.
“That sounds like it’ll be kind of hard. Since we have to see each other all the time.”
“It sounds pretty fucking hard.”
“It’s okay.” Jimin’s smile had been wobbly, like he was trying to be strong for both of them. He’d reached across to pat Yoongi’s shoulder. “We can do it, hyung. It’s just a crush.”
“Right. Just a crush.”
Jimin would move on soon enough. He’d find someone better to love, someone who had everything to give him. And Yoongi, well.
Yoongi was used to things not going his way.
Talking to his father is always uncomfortable; stilted.
He owes his parents everything. He’s put them through a lot, leaving home to pursue music even when they hated the very idea of it. Calling them with his struggles when their friends’ sons were calling them with news of job offers and picture-perfect girlfriends. Bangtan’s growing popularity helps, but Yoongi knows his father still thinks he’s a disappointment.
“You’re eating well?” his father asks, as always.
“I’m sure you’re working hard.”
“As hard as I can.”
“Keep your head down and do your work honestly. You know the media is always looking for the slightest mistake.”
“Our family’s honor depends on you.”
“Do what your managers tell you.”
“Don’t skip meals. And call more often. Your mother complains.”
And that’s that.
Their friends’ sons used to laugh at him. You wanna be a rapper? Yeah, right . Their friends would raise their eyebrows, glance at them in concern. He should do something more stable. Who’s going to take care of you in your old age? When Yoongi’s feeling particularly despondent, he’ll categorize a list in his head of all the people who have told him he’ll fail. It’s a long list. Then he’ll push the despondency away and keep going because even if there’s nothing else to motivate him, at least there’s the thought of proving them wrong.
He startles, lifting his head from where he had rested it on the piano. His phone is still clenched tightly in one hand. Jimin stands in the doorway, hair fluffy and a scarf dangling from his neck.
“Were you talking to your parents?” Jimin asks. He steps tentatively inside.
“Are you okay?”
Yoongi looks away. He hunches into himself unconsciously, chewing on the raw skin around his nails. He needs a cigarette. He doesn’t usually smoke because it’s hard to hide, but when the anxiousness settles deep in his bones, that’s the only thing that brings him any calm. He doesn’t want to talk about it; he never does. But something about the softness in Jimin’s voice always makes him weak.
Jimin nears. “Quit it.” He pulls Yoongi’s hand away from his mouth.
The stylists yell at him for that. “Thanks.”
Jimin slides his fingers down until they’re loosely threaded with Yoongi’s. Yoongi doesn’t pull away. “Hoseokie hyung said you’d be here.”
“I’m practicing for the stage.”
“Can I watch?”
It’s just practice. A song Jimin’s going to see anyway when Yoongi performs it. No matter that the tiny studio is strangely intimate with just two of them; no matter that Jimin’s hand is warm and small in his. It’s just practice.
“Okay.” He slips his hand from Jimin’s reluctantly, cool air hitting his skin. “But go stand over there,” he adds, petulantly. It might be practice, but Jimin’s still too close.
“Why?” Jimin moves closer to the doorway, anyway.
Yoongi cracks his knuckles and suspends them over the keys. Suddenly he’s forgotten everything he ever learned.
Jimin giggles. “You look like a statue.”
“Stop looking at me.”
“You said I could watch.”
“I can’t play when you’re breathing down my neck.”
“But I’m all the way over here.” Yoongi can hear the amusement in his voice.
“Shut up. I’m trying to concentrate.”
Jimin laughs between his fingers. Yoongi closes his eyes briefly, takes a deep breath, and then he plays. He’s hardly thirty seconds into the song when Jimin starts to near, careful and quiet but obvious enough, anyway.
“Didn’t say you could film me,” Yoongi says when Jimin pulls out his phone in a way he probably thinks is discreet.
“It’s for the fans.” The hint of a whine seeps into his voice.
Yoongi keeps playing. It’s not so bad. He focuses on his hands, doesn’t look at Jimin or the phone. It’s just practice. Jimin puts the phone away, eventually, and slides to sit next to Yoongi on the bench. Yoongi shifts, but it’s a small bench, and their thighs touch.
“Teach me to play something. You played with Jungkookie, once.”
“You really remember everything, don’t you?”
“If it’s about you.”
Yoongi isn’t sure if it shows, but his face warms. He ducks his head, fingers stuttering on the keys.
“Teach me Wedding Dress.”
Yoongi angles so he’s grinning right at Jimin. “Not again. I’m not feeding your big, fat crush.”
“It’s not a crush.” Jimin’s hand connecting with his shoulder hurts more than he expects, and he winces through laughter. “I admire Taeyang sunbaenim as a singer and dancer and--”
“Then why’d you stare at him for, like, five straight minutes backstage at Inkigayo?”
“I did not .”
“You didn’t even blink.”
“Then why were you staring at me for five straight minutes?”
If they weren’t who they were, Yoongi would laugh. He’d say, maybe because I have a big, fat crush on you . “I wasn’t.”
They’re close. It’s a small bench, but they don’t need to be as close as they are, noses nearly brushing. Up close, Yoongi could count Jimin’s lashes if he wanted, can see the flecks of makeup and dry skin around his nose. The tired circles under his eyes. He’s not sure who shifts first, but suddenly Jimin’s saying his name and his lips brush his when he does.
“Jiminie,” he whispers. Jimin’s lips are soft, plush.
He pulls away so quickly that Jimin flinches. Yoongi blinks, once, twice, clearing the daze from his head. Jimin’s staring at him, eyes wide, lips parted.
“Shut up,” Jimin says, and it’s weak. “Don’t.”
“We can’t, Jimin, you know we can’t--”
“I said don’t.” He stands, shoving the bench back. “Just because it’s easy for you-- just stop.”
“It’s not fucking easy for me.” Yoongi stands, too. “You think I’m made of fucking stone?”
“You sure act like it.” Jimin’s hands are clenched into fists at his sides, his eyes narrow. “Sure act like you don’t give a fuck about anyone.”
“Quit talking like you know shit about me.”
Jimin’s answering laugh is harsh, lips curled into a sneer. “I don’t know shit about you? I don’t know about you?”
“Maybe if you let your damn guard down, I’d know what you want me to know.”
“I don’t owe you that.”
“Right. You don’t owe me anything.” He moves back toward the door, shoulders tight. “Keep it up, then. Keep shutting everyone out and stay miserable.”
It’s only after Jimin leaves that Yoongi realizes he’s left his scarf on the bench. Yoongi sits. Rests his head on the piano, takes in a deep, shuddering breath. Straightens, puts the scarf off to the side, and returns to practicing.
“Hyung,” he’d said softly, standing in the doorway, feet bare. “Are you sure we couldn’t make it work?”
“I’m sure, Jiminie.”
The call comes well after midnight. By then, they've already started to worry.
Namjoon paces one side of the living room to the next, an anxious hand running through his hair. Taehyung is curled up in a corner of the couch, hood on, sleepy eyes following Namjoon's progress. Seokjin sits behind Jungkook, who's on the floor, his eyes round.
"Sit down," Hoseok says, perched on the arm of Yoongi's chair. "You're making me nervous."
"We're all nervous," Seokjin mutters.
"His phone's probably dead," Jungkook offers. "He never charges it before going places."
"But he never comes back this late." Taehyung wraps his arms tighter around his knees.
He's the one who noticed. He'd woken up to use the bathroom and realized Jimin's bed was still empty. His resulting texts and calls went unanswered for an hour; then he went and woke everyone up. Yoongi had already been awake when Taehyung came in, hunching bleary-eyed over a page of lyrics with a bottle of beer by his side. He'd checked his phone and found a missed call from Jimin, but no answer when he called back.
"Keep pacing and you'll wake Sejin hyung up." Hoseok rubs his face with both his hands. Yoongi rests his hand on the tense spot between Hoseok's shoulders and rubs gently.
"Do you know which clubs he usually goes to?" Namjoon directs the question toward Taehyung and Hoseok, who have accompanied him more than once. "Anyone he hangs out with?"
Yoongi scoots forward in his seat. "We should split up. Check his usual spots."
His phone buzzes. It's Jimin.
He's up and moving for his shoes before he's even answered.
An unfamiliar voice responds. "The owner of this phone got in my taxi drunk and passed out in the backseat without telling me an address. You're the last person he called. Can you tell me where to take him?"
He sounds like an older man; Yoongi breathes a sigh of relief. It's unlikely that he'll recognize Jimin, then. He rattles off an address a few blocks down from the dorm in favor of being discreet. As soon as he hangs up, everyone's on him.
"A taxi driver. He's bringing him."
"He passed out in a fucking taxi?" Namjoon clutches his head in his hands, groaning. "This is too far."
Yoongi fetches a mouth mask and one of his hooded jackets from his room. He doesn't know what Jimin wore out or how much of it he's lost on the way, and they have to be careful. Always careful. Taehyung wants to come, too, but he tells him to stay; the fewer of them out, the less chance they have of being noticed. He makes the fifteen minute walk in eight. It takes the driver twenty more to arrive, and Yoongi paces outside the darkened bookstore, his breath freezing as it leaves his mouth. He clutches the extra jacket to his chest like a lifeline.
An orange taxi pulls around the corner, and Yoongi steps up to the curb. Jimin's awake. He sits upright in the backseat with his head resting on the window, eyes lidded. He doesn't look at Yoongi when the car stops. The driver rolls the window down to nod at Yoongi, who bows, wallet in hand.
"Thank you so much," Yoongi says.
"I've got it, hyung," Jimin murmurs from the backseat, cash in hand.
Yoongi shakes his head and pays for him. Jimin has lost his coat and his mouth mask, and he's left in a glittery sleeveless top and torn, skin-tight jeans. Yoongi passes the jacket and mask through the window, and Jimin slips them on, emerging from the car with his hood up and face covered. Yoongi offers him an arm, expecting it to be refused, but Jimin takes it. He leans on him as they walk, and his steps are uneven.
"You have any idea how worried we all were?" Yoongi says with a quiet, level tone.
"Where the fuck were you?" His tone doesn't change.
"I didn't mean to stay out so late."
"You know you're lucky, right? What if the driver knew you?"
The next breath Yoongi inhales is a shaky one. He doesn't say anything for the rest of the walk, tries to reconcile the fear of not knowing if Jimin was okay with his anger at Jimin's irresponsibility. They still don't know for sure if he's safe. Anyone might have seen him while he was out stumbling to the taxi without a mask. They might wake up to blurry pictures and cruel articles with crueler comments underneath.
They're outside the dorm when Yoongi finally speaks. "Where were you, Jimin?"
"Does it matter?"
Yoongi scoffs. He rests his forehead on the door, fingers shaking around the keys.
"Does it matter ?" Yoongi spins to face him, emotions spilling over. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
The door opens. They're all standing there, crowding around, worried. "Are you okay?" Namjoon says to Jimin. "Come inside--"
"You think this is a joke?" Yoongi says. Jimin stares back; he's still defiant, even after all this. "You think you can just run around playing with your career like that?"
"Why are you doing this, huh?" He fists his hands in his hair, pulling until it hurts.
"We should take this inside," Seokjin says, but Yoongi's past listening.
"Why are you acting like this?" Yoongi says.
"Not like you care," Jimin mumbles, and the bite in his voice is obvious. "You don't care if I play around with my career. You're just worried that I'll hurt yours."
"Oh, fuck off."
"When have you ever given a fuck about anyone but yourself?”
"Guys," Namjoon warns. "This isn't the time."
“You’re the one being selfish,” Yoongi says. “I’m trying to protect all of our careers. This isn’t about just you and me.”
“Don’t lie.” Jimin’s bristling, shoulders tight, teeth clenched. “It’s always been about your own success.”
"You're a fucking embarrassment," Yoongi seethes. "You're just doing this for attention, as usual--"
"Give it a fucking rest, Yoongi." Hoseok's hand fists in the collar of Yoongi's shirt.
Hoseok's face is right up in his, brows furrowed, and Yoongi's first reaction is anger. But then he falls limp, and Hoseok lets go.
"Yeah," Jimin says. It's quiet, the sharpness gone. "Yours."
Yoongi looks at him. Really looks, for the first time that night. Jimin's shoulders slump, hands curled into loose fists at his sides, staring at his feet. Yoongi's penchant for oversized jackets means Jimin is swimming in it, the hood fallen off, mask tucked under his chin. His lips are swollen, and his eyes are puffy and red. The hair he must have styled so carefully before leaving now stands every which way. He looks defeated. When he looks up at Yoongi, his eyes are tired, too.
"That's all I ever wanted," he says, soft, sad.
Everyone's listening. Everyone knows. He supposes it doesn't matter anymore.
“Why won’t you just let me in?”
The fight leaves Yoongi all at once. He hunches into himself, drained, rooted to the spot even as Taehyung comes forward to take Jimin's hand and lead him inside.
"Come on," Hoseok says, tapping his shoulder, but he shakes his head.
He shrugs his hood up and walks off toward the stairs, lighting a cigarette on the way.
Jimin copes through the thudding bass and flashing lights of a packed club, through the sweet touch of a stranger’s lips on his neck, through bitter drinks and the high of being beautiful. Yoongi copes through sleepless nights spent hunched over the keyboard and microphone, by throwing himself into his work until his vision blurs and he’s not sure if it’s day or night, through cans of cheap beer and packs of cigarettes and nails bitten raw.
He spends the night writing and rewriting lyrics, mixing and remixing beats that never sound good enough. He's been working on his mixtape for so long, he can't even remember when he started it. It's bitter and angry because that's how he is, too. So he works and smokes and doesn't think about the way Jimin had looked at him, small and accusing, doesn't think about the way Jimin used to curl into his back and tell him he smelled like home, doesn't think about Jimin with his cute, pink cheeks and bright laugh. Doesn't think about him now, always tired, always reserved, like he's lost a part of himself. The boy who used to bounce around on camera, full of energy, is gone; now he's stilted, worried about the way he presents himself. Always worried.
Somewhere between late night and early dawn, he gives up. He curls up on the floor in a corner of the studio and cries, shoulders shaking, the sobs wracking him until he can't breathe. If he could, he'd give Jimin everything. He'd live a life where he could rest his head in Jimin's lap when he was tired and fall asleep to Jimin's fingers threading through his hair. If he could, he'd tell him everything, too, lay his heart bare and let Jimin understand. He'd put down his walls, and maybe he'd learn how to be happy.
But theirs is no ordinary life, and Yoongi cries alone.
He wakes up to a hand on his shoulder. Hoseok's face fills his vision, brows furrowed in concern. He's still curled up in the corner. His eyes are swollen and burning.
"Hyung," Hoseok says gently. "We have a schedule soon."
Yoongi straightens, limbs stiff, neck aching. He rubs his eyes, and his face is dry with tear tracks. They have a schedule. Jimin's probably hungover and sad, and Yoongi's tired and sad, but they have a schedule. They'll have to smile and pretend there's nothing wrong. He reaches for his phone to check the time; seven.
Hoseok is looking over his shoulder. Yoongi realizes, belatedly, that his background is Jimin. Little Jimin with his backwards blue cap and baby cheeks, staring off camera. They've all seen his background before, teased him about it, too, but after last night it's taken on a new meaning.
"How long?" Hoseok asks, and Yoongi doesn't have to prod to know what he means. How long have you been in love?
"I dunno," he murmurs. "Forever, maybe."
When the day’s schedule ends, Yoongi heads straight for his studio. Namjoon finds him with his head in his hands, a depleting pack of cigarettes by his elbow, and a beat playing on loop from his computer.
“You and Jimin need to work your shit out.”
“What shit?” Yoongi says dryly, just to be contrary, and sinks back into his chair.
“You told me you were afraid of dating him because if you broke up, you’d ruin the group’s dynamic.” Namjoon takes the spare seat. His eyes are dark, intense. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing right now?”
“It’s just a fight. The rest of us fight all the time.”
He knows he’s wrong. He says it, anyway.
“Do you two even see yourself?” Namjoon rattles the nearly empty pack of cigs and tosses it back onto the desk. It smacks harshly against the wood. “You’re smoking so much, you won’t be able to hide the smell. You never sleep, hardly eat. And Jimin--” He runs an agitated hand through his hair. “Jimin’s not okay. What he did that night-- he’s never that reckless.”
Yoongi slumps further. His fingers shake around the pen he fiddles with.
“I know it’s not just whatever’s going on between you. I know there’s more to why you’re both miserable, there always is, but right now you need to stop this. You’re the hyung. Talk to him. Show some damn maturity.”
“Show me some respect. I’m your hyung, too.”
“And I’m your fucking leader.” Namjoon stands. “So figure your shit out.”
He leaves. Yoongi lights another cigarette.
Jimin is in the practice room running through the same move over and over even though it looks good enough to Yoongi. Arms crossed, Yoongi leans against the doorjamb and watches. When Jimin finally notices, he stops, sweat dripping down his temples.
“What do you want?” he says, meeting Yoongi’s gaze through the mirror.
“We need to talk.”
“Now you want to talk.” There it is, the customary bitterness.
“Come here.” Yoongi tries for gentleness. He sits cross-legged on the sleek studio floor and pats the ground next to him. “Talk with me.”
Jimin stays standing, still out of breath. “I know what you’re going to say.”
“What am I going to say?”
“‘We can’t do this, we have to focus on Bangtan, stop acting like a kid.’ What you always say.”
“I’m not gonna say that.”
Jimin doesn’t move.
“Please. I’m trying, Jiminie.”
He lowers himself by Yoongi, folding his legs beneath him. Their knees knock together, but neither of them move. “Okay. Talk.” The guardedness doesn’t leave him. His shoulders remain stiff.
“If you want to go out and have fun, that’s okay. Everyone wants to do that sometimes. But last night was really dangerous. You know that, right? We’re lucky there weren’t any articles. Lucky you didn’t end up going home with someone shitty. Anything could have--”
Yoongi stops. He realizes Jimin has tensed up, playing with a loose thread in his sweats. He looks at them in the mirror; Jimin, small and curled over, brows furrowed, lips a thin line. And himself, stiff and jaded. He’s not doing it right. He never does.
“Are you done lecturing?” Jimin says.
“Jimin, I’m--” Yoongi shifts, clenching and unclenching his fists. “I’m not trying to lecture you. I’m just-- we’re just worried. What if you get hurt?”
“I’ll be fine.” He rips the thread off. “I’ll be more careful next time so that no one sees me. I didn’t mean to mess up like that. Are you done?”
“What’s wrong, Jimin? You’re not acting like this because you’re okay.”
If he was doing it wrong before, now he’s really fucked it up. Jimin’s anger is almost palpable.
“What about you, huh? When’s the last time you slept? You’re gonna get yelled at for smelling like cigs--”
“Jimin.” He rubs his face with his hands.
Yoongi isn’t good at offering parts of himself to others. Each time he has, he’s regretted it, so he’s learned to keep every piece of himself close. Jimin’s not like that. He’s good at opening up. He leaves a little piece of his heart in everything he does. But he has no reason to open up to Yoongi, not when Yoongi’s never offered anything in return. Not when Yoongi’s always held him at arm’s length.
“I’m not okay. Is that what you want to hear?” His shoulders slump. He rests his hands in his lap because he doesn’t want to look at Jimin anymore. “The mixtape is so fucking hard. I want it to be perfect, but it’ll never be perfect, and everyone’s waiting and expecting and-- and my dad’s still disappointed, you know? I can’t make it up to him, all the shit I’ve put him through, not until I’ve made it to the top but-- but sometimes I don’t know if we ever will.”
He looks up at their reflections. Jimin’s looking at him. Not through the mirror; really looking.
“And there’s you,” Yoongi murmurs. “Sometimes you’re all I want.”
Jimin’s sharp intake of breath doesn’t go unnoticed. He glances down, lashes casting shadows on his cheekbones.
“You know I’ve-- you’ve always meant a lot to me. And when I realized I-- realized how I felt, I wanted to fucking die. I thought you’d hate me. Then Namjoon told me, and it was even worse. Because I didn’t want you to be sad, too. Not you.”
“Hyung,” Jimin murmurs, but Yoongi can’t stop the flood of words now that it’s started.
“You know we can’t, right?” His voice cracks. There’s something painful in his throat. His eyes burn. “We can’t because it’s not just us, there’s five other guys and there’s staff and our managers, and there’s our parents and the company and if anyone finds out, if the media finds out, they’d destroy us. We’ve worked too hard for that. Been through too much.”
Jimin tucks his knees into his chest, resting his chin atop. He casts his eyes up to the ceiling, but it doesn’t stop the teardrops from leaking out, two glistening drops that cling to his smooth skin.
“We can’t but fuck, I want to.”
“It’s so hard, hyung.” Jimin’s voice breaks, and now the tears are really falling. When he turns to Yoongi, he looks young. Lost. “Everything’s so hard.”
“I know.” He cups Jimin’s cheek in his hand, soft, catching a tear on his thumb. “I know, Jiminie.”
Jimin presses their foreheads together until Yoongi can count the tears suspended, glittering, on his lashes. “I just wanna be yours.”
“Nothing I do is ever good enough, you know? I’m not a good enough singer, not a good enough dancer, not handsome enough. Not good enough for you.”
“Don’t say that.” Yoongi’s hand slides down to Jimin’s neck, tightens. “Don’t fucking say that.”
“I’m tired, hyung.”
“I know, baby, I know.”
“Nothing’s ever good enough to make it go away, either. No matter how much I drink or dance or fuck, it’s never enough.” His eyes drift shut, lashes fluttering against his cheeks. He sighs, and his breath warms Yoongi’s lips. “Sometimes I wanna run away and start all over. Be normal.”
“But sometimes this is everything I want. Exactly what I’ve always wanted.”
“We have to try harder.” Yoongi inhales a shuddering breath, thinks he might be crying, too. “We have to be better to ourselves.”
“You’re gonna stop smoking so much.”
“And you’re gonna stop being reckless.”
“You can’t spend all night in the studio anymore. You have to sleep.”
“You can’t find someone just to fill the emptiness. It doesn’t work like that.”
“We have to be better.” Jimin pulls away, dashes at his cheeks with his sleeves. The look he gives Yoongi is a determined one, mouth set, nose pink. Yoongi’s heart aches; it’s not as painful as it usually is. “We won’t be Bangtan forever, you know.”
Yoongi hesitates. He thinks he knows where Jimin’s going. “Yeah?”
“We can’t-- we can’t be together now. But maybe one day.” He glances at his hands, curled small in his sleeves. Then he looks back up, and his eyes are hopeful. Yoongi hasn’t seen that hopefulness in a long, long time. “Maybe one day when we’re not Bangtan, when I’m just Jimin and you’re just Yoongi, if we-- if we still want each other--”
Yoongi laughs, soft and tired. “I’ll always want you.”
“Maybe we can be together.”
He closes his eyes. He can see it, reach for it-- a future where Jimin’s hand is curled small in his, where their laughter is an echo of each other’s. “Yeah,” he says, and when he opens his eyes, they meet Jimin’s, the same dream reflected there. “Maybe one day.”
Change isn’t easy. Change takes time.
They still fight over breakfast. Jimin still nags and Yoongi still tells him he’s fucking annoying; they butt heads during dance practice and Jimin bristles when Yoongi dotes on Jungkook and not him. It’s not a smooth transition, and for a few weeks the others walk on eggshells around them. Seokjin and Hoseok don’t touch on what happened, but Taehyung and Jungkook do, in their wide-eyed way. Are you-- do you and Jimin like each other? Namjoon talks to the others about it, Yoongi thinks, because they handle it much better than he expects, and they keep their distance in a way that signals his involvement.
He’s worried, has always been worried, about how they’ll react. How they’ll see them, now that they know. It’s surprisingly anticlimactic. But Yoongi supposes they had all figured it out by then, even if they hadn’t quite known.
It’s not a smooth transition, but they’re trying.
One night, Jimin comes home hammered, reeking of alcohol and his clothes askew. Yoongi’s still awake when the apartment door opens; he’s been waiting. He slips into the hall, and he’s angry, mouth set in a hard line. Jimin said he’d stop being reckless, and coming home at four in the morning when they have to be in the studio all day is nothing if not reckless.
He hovers between the hallway and the living room where Jimin doesn’t see him, hesitating. It’s hard to change. He himself opened a new pack of cigarettes just the other day, despite promising he’d stop. So he waits and clamps down on his irritation. Jimin stumbles through the kitchen out of his boots and jacket, hardly upright. Yoongi’s about to help him when Jimin pauses by the sofa.
Jungkook’s asleep, mouth open, phone on his stomach. Jimin stares at him, then moves to the old wardrobe sitting in the corner of the living room for a blanket. Returning to the couch, he drapes the blanket over Jungkook, setting his phone on the table and adjusting his legs so they’re both comfortably on the sofa. Then he pets Jungkook’s hair and turns away, nearly tripping over his own feet.
Yoongi doesn’t know why, but it makes him want to cry.
He catches Jimin when he comes into the hallway, slinging Jimin’s arm around his shoulders.
“Hyung,” Jimin says, giggling in surprise. “How come you’re awake? Don’t tell me you were in the studio all night again--”
“Shh,” Yoongi murmurs, leading him to the bathroom. He sits Jimin on the toilet seat’s lid and squeezes toothpaste onto a brush for him. “Here.”
Jimin sticks the toothbrush into his mouth and grins up at him, kicking his feet. His makeup’s smudged, so Yoongi fetches a wipe to carefully draw it over Jimin’s eyes until he’s clean.
“Thought you were going to be more careful,” Yoongi says, but he keeps his tone neutral. He crouches on one knee so he can unlace Jimin’s boots and set them aside. “It’s pretty late, Jiminie.”
“I’m sorry.” The words are nearly unintelligible through Jimin’s teeth-brushing. “I was sad so I went out and didn’t think about anything because I wanted it to go away.”
“Next time you’re sad come talk to me, okay? Maybe we can figure something else out. Maybe I can go out with you, or Taehyung or Hoseok--”
Jimin giggles. He stumbles to the sink to rinse out his mouth, then turns to Yoongi, still smiling. “You? Go to the club?”
Yoongi fakes offense. “What are you trying to say, huh?”
“Nothing,” he laughs. “Just that clubs are fun and you’re Yoongi.”
Yoongi snorts. He leaves Jimin in the bathroom and returns with sweats and a t-shirt for him to change into. Jimin wiggles out of his jeans and shirt, tossing them jumbled into a corner. He puts his head through the sleeve, and Yoongi has to help him out.
“It’s okay if you wanna go to the club and have fun,” Yoongi says, back to his restrained, neutral tone. It’s hard to explain things, easier just to tell Jimin what to do. But he’s trying. “It’s just that it’s so easy to get caught, you know? And that it’s not a good way to cope when you’re sad.”
“Sometimes I can’t help it.”
“I know. But you’re trying, right?”
He lets Jimin curl up in his bed that night, nose pressed into his back, arm around his waist. In the morning, Jimin apologizes.
“I’m trying,” he says.
“I know,” Yoongi answers.
It goes both ways. Hardly a week later, Jimin finds Yoongi in his studio early in the morning. A beat plays on loop from his computer, and Yoongi’s curled up on the ground by his chair, arms wrapped around himself. Empty beer cans litter his desk. He’s staring at nothing, muttering something angry to himself.
Jimin kneels beside him, taking Yoongi’s hands in his.
“You stayed up all night,” Jimin says.
“It’s not good enough. Nothing’s good enough.”
“You need a break.”
“It sounds like shit, it always sounds like shit--”
Jimin smooths his hands through Yoongi’s hair. “Hyung, you must be so tired.”
“I’m tired, Jiminie,” Yoongi says, and he’s not sure if he’s even talking about the lack of sleep.
“I brought you some food.” Jimin gestures to the two steaming cups of ramen he’s set on Yoongi’s desk. “Wanna eat with me?”
Yoongi doesn’t want to, but he lets Jimin coax him onto the couch. Jimin breaks open chopsticks and collects a mouthful of noodles, holding them out encouragingly until Yoongi takes the cup and begins to eat. They eat together, then Jimin cleans the beer cans from the table and finds Yoongi’s shoes for him. They walk back to the dorm, where Jimin tucks Yoongi into bed and sits by him until he falls asleep.
Yoongi wakes well into the afternoon to an empty apartment. He finds lunch on the counter and a note that says, me and Seokjin hyung convinced everyone to let you have a rest day. i hid your studio keys! -Jimin
He spends the day between sleep and playing on his phone, and it’s nice. He needs it. When he returns to his studio the next day, the beat sounds a little less shitty, a little more fixable. At least for a little while, he’s hopeful.
It doesn’t last, of course, because change doesn’t happen overnight. They both struggle, and they’re going to struggle, maybe for a long time. But together they settle into something easy, something softer; quiet nights curled on opposite ends of the couch, late night snacks whipped up for encouragement.
Yoongi still wants Jimin so much it hurts, but together they try until their tension settles into something gentler.
The stage at MBC goes perfectly.
The spotlight is on Jungkook, just the way Yoongi wants it; he plays so Jungkook can flow across the stage like he’s made for it. Jungkook’s glowing, beautiful, and even though he’s watched him practice so many times, Yoongi still wishes he could watch him dance rather than focus on his fingers across the piano’s keys.
They melt into the next performance, and after it’s all over they crowd around Jungkook, cooing and patting his back. He’s bashful, grinning, but he loves it. He’s happy, and Yoongi’s proud. Watching Jungkook smile makes him wonder why he even considered refusing to accompany his stage.
“You did good, too, hyung,” Taehyung says, hooking his chin over Yoongi’s shoulder. “You should play more often.”
Across the others, Jimin glances at Yoongi and smiles.
Later that night, they sit together at the piano in the studio, flushed from the afterparty. They’re still dressed, makeup smudged, and they’re both a little tipsy.
“Not like that.” Yoongi’s laughing, hands over Jimin’s as he hits all the wrong keys.
“This one?” Jimin teases, and presses the key Yoongi specifically told him not to press.
“Play like that and you’ll make everyone’s ears bleed.”
“Okay, fine. Teach me again.”
Yoongi’s fingers fly across the keys, playing a sweet melody, and he’s explaining but he’s pretty sure Jimin isn’t listening. Jimin’s head comes to rest on his shoulder; he hums in contentment, so Yoongi doesn’t stop playing. He switches to a softer tune, throwing a glance sideways to catch Jimin’s eyes flutter shut.
It makes it harder to play, but Jimin’s warm weight against him is soothing. He feels light. Easy. Hopeful, even, and hope’s never something Yoongi has been used to. Maybe one day. Maybe, if Jimin still wants him, he’ll take his hands and ask him to be his. And maybe, for now, they can be happy as they are, with Jimin’s head on his shoulder and Yoongi’s hands on the piano, a flutter of something sweet and happy taking root in his heart.