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summer, winter, spring (i'm falling for you)

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When Taehyung was four, he met Park Jimin for the first time. Park Jimin was also four, an older four, and he got the furthest on the monkey bars, and his mom always matched his shoes with his shirt and packed him the juice with the fun packaging, and Taehyung was desperate to be friends with him.

And when Taehyung made the decision that he was going to be friends with Park Jimin and marched up to him and asked if he wanted to build a sandcastle together, Jimin had smiled so big and scooted over in the box, sand clinging to his chubby legs, and patted the space beside him. Pat pat smile.

Taehyung was enamoured. Awestruck by Park Jimin.

When they were seven, Jimin an older seven, they told each other they were going to get married when their parents said they were allowed to. It was going to be in the summer by the beach, Taehyung’s favorite season and Jimin’s favorite place. The cake would be funfetti and Jimin’s grandma would make it for them because she’s really nice.

When they were nine, it was the first year they weren’t in the same class, but Jimin ended up sneaking into Taehyung’s classroom for naptime everyday, and eventually the teachers stopped chastising him for it.

When they were twelve, Jimin got his first kiss from a pretty girl with long hair and tall socks and walked around dreamy eyed for a week before she broke up with him because she got bored and Jimin liked her too much. Taehyung climbed in through Jimin’s window every night for another week and read to him outloud because Jimin said Taehyung’s voice was calming even though he kept mixing up the words

When they were thirteen, Taehyung got his first kiss from a girl with bangs and cute bandaids on her knees, and he didn’t walk around dreamy eyed at all. He held her hand for two days before they decided they were better as friends.

When they were thirteen-almost-fourteen, Taehyung got his first kiss from a boy with big doe eyes and a voice like an angel, and decided he liked that a lot better.

When they were fifteen, Taehyung decided that Jungkook was better as a friend too, and he tried not to think too hard about why.

They’re seventeen now.

Not much has changed since they were four.

They’re older now, and closer, but Jimin still smiles at him often and Taehyung is still awestruck every time. Instead of meeting by the sandbox they meet by their lockers at school, just like they did last year and the year before that, and walk home together without their parents because they’re older now. They don’t need chaperones. Jimin doesn’t usually hold his hand as he walks anymore, but he walks a little closer, hooks their arms together sometimes. Studies with his head in Taehyung’s lap.

Jimin still has all the baby fat from when he was four. Taehyung likes to pull on it with gentle fingers until Jimin laughs and swats his hand away. Jimin still fits nicely under his arm.

Taehyung is still enamoured.

 


 

It’s the summer before their senior year, and it’s the first summer they’ve spent apart since they were children.

Jimin went off into the countryside to stay with his grandparents on their farm, miles away in a strange and foreign world where there is limited wi-fi and lots of manual labor. Their hired help had quit suddenly, and Jimin had volunteered despite knowing nothing about farm work. He’d left town two weeks after school had ended.

Now, there are only three days left before school starts up again, their final year, and Taehyung misses Jimin so much he’s starting to get itchy. Is that a withdrawal symptom?

Taehyung takes out his cell phone.

 

~Taetaehyungie~ [5:32pm]
i might b addicted to u?

 

He’s about to toss his phone aside, not expecting a speedy reply, but his phone lights up almost immediately.

 

chiminie [5:32pm]
Withdrawal symptoms?
Poor baby~
Have you thrown up yet? Getting shaky?

~Taetaehyungie~ [5:33pm]
a little itchy
return soon so i don’t die
jiminie relapse

chiminie [5:34pm]
I’m closer than you think ;)

~Taetaehyungie~ [3:34pm]
wait
wait what r u back?

chiminie [5:36pm]
;) ;) ;)

 

Taehyung hops out of his chair, banging his knees against the top of his desk when he scrambles to his feet. The reading he was supposed to be doing throughout the summer and has now been cramming in is scattered around the table. Whatever paper he has in his hands is thrown into the air. "Mom!" He rushes to open his bedroom door and scream into the hallway. "Mom!"

"Tae, please stop shouting," his mom replies tiredly from the kitchen. "What’s wrong?"

"Did the Parks get back?" Taehyung is jittery with anticipation. His leg might be twitching.

"Which Parks?" Taehyung can hear his mother laughing quietly to herself. "The Parks with the pretty daughter, or the Parks with the boy you punched in the face once in middle school?"

"Mom!" It’s a whine. "You know which Parks."

"Hmm." The entire house smells like beef and it’s making Taehyung’s mouth water, but if the Parks are back then Taehyung will skip dinner and run the two blocks to Jimin’s house and eat whatever they’re having for dinner, even though Taehyung loves beef.

Taehyung loves Jimin more than he loves beef and that is true friendship.

His mom walks to the edge of the hallway, apron on, sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and leans against the wall by the kitchen to look at Taehyung in his doorway, his eyes wide and excited. "I may have heard from one Mrs. Park that the cutest Jimin in town and his adorable younger brother may or may not have gotten back into town very very late last night." She grins. "Would that be the Parks you were asking about?"

"The only Parks that matter," Taehyung says with a grin, although he has extended family with the name Park, so it’s probably not exactly true.

Or maybe it is.

 

~Taetaehyungie~ [5:42pm]
b i t c h
i’m omw icb u didn’t tell me :(

~Taetaehyungie~ [5:44pm]
i’m not actually omw that’d b rude
can i pls come over and attack u with love

 

Jimin doesn’t reply right away, and Taehyung wants to throw his shoes on in anticipation. His tennis shoes, not his sandals, because if he’s going, he’s going to be running at a mad sprint down the street and his sandals can definitely not handle that.

Under normal circumstances, Taehyung would be asking Jimin if he could come over while he was already on his way. It’s really been too long, a long long summer spent with Jungkook and Yoongi, a college kid Jungkook has somehow managed to befriend and is possibly in the process of seducing.

Taehyung loves Jungkook, loves spending time with him, and it took Yoongi basically no time at all to become someone important in Taehyung’s life, but neither of them hold a candle to Jimin.

No one has ever held a candle to Jimin.

But, it has been a long summer, and Jimin is probably tired, and hasn’t seen his family very much, and even though Taehyung is disappointed, he has an idea of what Jimin is going to say.

 

chiminie [5:50pm]
Not right now :/
Mom wants some family time lmao and it was a long drive
But…^^

 

Taehyung laughs, flopping backwards on his bed, grinning at his phone. His work is left forgotten on his desk. A paper he should probably be working on has fallen underneath his bed but it’s okay, he’ll get it later. There are still three days before school starts. That’s plenty of time.

 

~Taetaehyungie~ [5:51pm]
swings?

chiminie [5:51pm]
;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;)

 

Taehyung is warm.

 


 

The park where Taehyung met Park Jimin is old and well-lived, nostalgic. Mostly abandoned and quiet at night, tucked away. Not quite secluded. Old like a memory.

It’s their place.

Not too far from their houses that they can’t make the walk in good time, out of the way, in a good neighborhood, well lit. Taehyung’s parents trust him not to get into shit (at least when he’s not with both Jungkook and Jimin, because that’s a recipe for disaster) but he’s still got a curfew. He’s snuck out a couple of times over the years, usually either to run to the gas station for snacks or go see Jimin or come to the swings, but he tries to keep his excursions to a minimum. It’s not worth it to lie to them right now, anyway.

Despite knowing that his parents know exactly where he is and exactly when he’ll be back, it still feels a little bit like freedom.

He hears Jimin long before he sees him. He hears Jimin’s feet beating hard and fast against the pavement. He hears the particular sound and rhythm of Jimin’s breath, recognizes it instantly, even when Jimin is winded and struggling on the uphill climb. It's a sound he'd know anywhere, because it's a Jimin sound, and if there is anything Taehyung is an expert in, it's Jimin. Taehyung would recognize Jimin’s anything, everything, anywhere.

So when Jimin crests the hill and comes into view for the first time since he left at the beginning of the summer, Taehyung has no problems knowing it's Jimin. Not even for a second does he hesitate.

That doesn't mean he’s not surprised.

"Tae!" Jimin shouts, even though it's almost late, even though they're almost beside each other, and waves like he’s trying to get Taehyung’s attention from across a stadium. His face breaks into a grin, eyes curving into little moons, which is fitting, because Taehyung has never seen anyone who reflects the sun quite like Park Jimin.

"Jiminie!" Taehyung stands up from the swing he's been waiting on, arms flinging wide open, just in time for Jimin to launch himself into Taehyung’s chest. When Taehyung wraps his arm around his best friend, he’s warm.

When Jimin looks up at him and beams, Taehyung is struck all over again.

The summer has been very, very good to Jimin.

He’s tan, more gold than brown, and his hair has grown out, a little longer than he wore it before, raked back away from his forehead by his own hands. The baby fat on his cheeks has melted away, his jawline is sharp, and the arms poking out of his t-shirt are enough to make Taehyung think Jimin would have absolutely no problems picking him up right now, which is something that Taehyung then actively tries not to think about because that’s getting into dangerous territory.

The biggest change might not even be in appearance. The biggest difference might be in the way Jimin feels, stands, exists.

Jimin looks, above all else, like he’s sure of himself. Like the ground he’s standing on is steady.

Taehyung is so happy for him.

"I see the farm did you pretty well, yeah?" Taehyung asks, pushing Jimin to arm’s length so he can get a good look at him.

"It’s a lot more work than anticipated," Jimin answers with a laugh, doing a little twirl like he’s a model on a runway. "Hardly recognize myself, nowadays, with my girlish figure." Girlish is not the word that Taehyung would use, seeing the muscle of his arms and the slope of his shoulders and the way his calves flex when he poses ridiculously, hiking one leg up like a pinup girl.

"You still look like you," Taehyung tells him, even though his throat is tight, but the words are genuine. "I would recognize you anywhere."

Slowly, Jimin smiles. "Same to you." He reaches forward and tugs on Taehyung’s ears, his fingers warm. "And look at you, growing into your ears when I’m not looking!" One last tug. "I wasn’t even here to say goodbye."

"Your favorite teasing fodder, gone," Taehyung says with a laugh, shaking his head. "Good riddance."

Jimin pouts, running a hand through his hair. The way it slopes on his forehead looks effortlessly beautiful. "I thought they were cute." One of his hands trails down from where it’s still latched onto Taehyung’s ear and brushes down his arm. "I really do miss them. But you look rather handsome like this."

The sun is fading, but the white of Jimin’s t-shirt is bright and the shorts he’s wearing show bruised knees. There’s a little bit of dirt under his toenails. There are stars in his eyes. He looks the same as he always has.

God.

Taehyung wants to throw up hearts.

He swallows something down. Taehyung has been swallowing it down for years, not really knowing what it is but knowing it might change things, and he isn’t sure that’s what he wants. So instead, he grins. "I’m really glad you’re back," he says fondly, sitting back down on the swing.

Jimin sits down next him, linking their hands together and kicking his legs, gently swinging in tandem. "Yeah." He leans his head back, letting the last of the sun hit his face. "Me too."

 


 

Taehyung is a smart kid. He looks cute and innocent and often kind of lost, distracted, but he’s a smart kid. He knows how things work in a small, contained area, how fast word travels, and he knows what the high school hive mind considers important.

So he knows exactly what’s going to happen when Jimin shows up at school on the first day.

 

chiminie [7:34am]
Mom wants to drive me to school today
So I don’t think we can walk together
:(

 

And that’s fine. It’s a tradition for Jimin and Taehyung to walk to school together in the same way the swings are a tradition — it just sort of happened. There’s no real sentimental attachment there, other than that it’s a thing that Jimin and Taehyung do, and they do it together. Tomorrow they will walk to school together, and it will be just as meaningful as if they had walked to school together today.

The only real downside of not walking together with Jimin, besides not getting to see him in the morning, is that Taehyung isn’t there when the gossip mill starts to turn.

By the time Taehyung rolls into school (7:52, which is the earliest he will ever be once he starts having to wait for Jimin in the mornings) the chatter has already started.

The first time Taehyung hears about it, it’s from a girl in his homeroom.

"—someone should ask Taehyung—"

It’s those words that pull Taehyung out of his lecture induced trance and back into the real world. He blinks for a second, trying to get his bearings, before looking around until he hears someone harshly whisper his name from behind.

It’s one of the girls that Taehyung has been in class with since, like, middle school. Her name is Minji. He’s not quite sure if he likes her or not, but at most he’s rather indifferent. Taehyung doesn’t know if they’ve ever really talked before. "Taehyung," she whispers again. "You’re friends with Jimin, right?"

She asks it like she doesn’t already know the answer, and like Taehyung doesn’t already know the question she’s leading up, but Taehyung politely answers, "Yeah, he’s my best friend," anyway.

The whole school knows that Jimin and Taehyung are best friends. The whole town probably knows. They’re not quiet about it. Taehyung thinks they have a shot at Best Couple in the yearbook this year. He’s telling all of their friends to write in for them. They’ll probably win by a landslide.

Minji doesn’t seem particularly interested in the history of Jimin and Taehyung’s friendship, probably because she’s seen it happening for the last however many years. "What happened to him over the summer?" she asks.

Taehyung looks back at the teacher, but he’s still droning on about the syllabus and doesn’t expect any of them to be paying attention anyway. "What do you mean ‘what happened to him?’" Taehyung asks instead of answering. "He went out to a farm."

He knows exactly what she’s asking, but this is more fun and less awkward for him.

Minji rolls her eyes fondly. "Was it a magical farm?" she jokes. "For him to come back looking like that?"

Taehyung frowns. "He’s always looked like that."

Even as he says it, he knows that’s not strictly true. Everything about Jimin is sharper, stronger, more present, more sure. Taehyung hadn’t been here when Jimin had walked through the hallway this morning, but he knows what it must have looked like to the other students.

But when Jimin was sitting on Taehyung’s bed the night before complaining about all of the reading he has to do, and about how much he hates the first day because of all the boring rules they have to go through, and talking through picking out his outfit for the morning, Jimin looked just the same as he always has. Soft and sweet and Jimin.

Minji smiles at him, shaking her head a little. "Of course, he’s always looked like that to you."

Taehyung knows exactly what she means.

Right when Taehyung moves to turn back to the front, Minji's friend surges forward. "What is Jimin like?"

Taehyung stares at her for a moment. She's newer, only started attending school with them in the past three or four years, but it's not a big school. That's plenty of time for her to know what Jimin is like. Taehyung knows that her name is Jiwoo, he knows that she plays soccer, he knows that she has two older brothers and complains about them often. That seems like a fair amount. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, like, is he nice?"

Taehyung frowns. "He's the nicest," Taehyung answers honestly. "The nicest person you'll ever meet, probably." That much is true.

"What sort of movies does he like?" Taehyung opens his mouth to answer, but before he has time to say anything, Jiwoo presses on. "What kind of candy does he like? When is his birthday?" She giggles. "What's his ideal type?"

This is something that Taehyung should have expected, and maybe somewhere inside he did expect this, knew it was coming, but it doesn't mean he's happy about it.

He looks at her, a little sour. "You should probably ask him yourself," he tells her, and turns around in his seat.

Taehyung hears Minji chastising her as he settles into his chair again, but his mind is somewhere far away. He flips through the syllabus sitting out on his desk idly, unseeing.

This is going to be a very long day, he thinks to himself.

Taehyung is a smart kid.

 


 

Jiwoo, it seems, doesn't take his advice, but everyone else in the student body does.

Jimin and Taehyung always line up their schedules so that, if nothing else, they have lunch together. That much is a tradition, somewhere between walking to school together and meeting at the swings in terms of level of importance. In all of their years together, never once has it not managed to work out. This is the first year in a long time that they don't have homeroom together, and the classes they have together, gym and math and maybe science if Taehyung doesn't decide he hates it and drops, aren't until the second half of the day.

When Taehyung pushes through the cafeteria doors, he's not sure what he expects.

Well, to be honest, he know exactly what he expects. He expects to see Jimin sitting there at the table by the window, playing on his phone while he waits for Taehyung to get there so they can get in the lunch line together, and when Taehyung walks up, he'll see Jimin smiling up at him, and then Taehyung will pull Jimin up out of his seat and they'll laugh and fall over each other and make stupid jokes while they wait for their shitty high school cuisine.

He's not sure why he expects that, though, when clearly things have changed.

There is a crowd surrounding their usual table, mostly girls wearing their first day best, short skirts and bare legs and curled hair and pretty makeup and big smiles, and Jimin is in the middle, staring at them all, confused but smiling anyway. The sun shines through the window behind him.

He looks like an angel.

Fuck.

Jungkook is sitting next to Jimin, trying not to laugh outwardly at Jimin's confusion and also struggling to not look any of the pretty girls in the eye.

Taehyung feels something that tastes strangely like bitterness.

But one thing doesn't change.

Jimin hears Taehyung coming, looks over at him and smiles bright, waving him over enthusiastically. "TaeTae!" He's wearing an old t-shirt from a concert that they went to together, the logo a little cracked and the colors a little faded, and his hair is pushed back from his forehead again, and his cheeks are a little pink from all the attention. When he sees Taehyung he looks almost.

Relieved.

Taehyung feels relieved, too.

He grins, dismissing his bitterness as the ugly thing he knows it is, pushing it aside for better feelings. He waves back. "Jiminie, look at how popular you are today."

Jimin laughs. One of the girls at the table makes a small, strangled noise in the back of her throat that Taehyung rather relates to. "It seems like the entire student body missed me."

"Maybe you should go away more often," Taehyung teases.

"Maybe," Jimin considers. "But I'm not sure what you would do without me." He reaches up, and Taehyung grabs his hand, his small hand that's warm and fits perfectly, and pulls Jimin to his feet.

Jungkook rolls his eyes. "Gross."

The girls chitter, and a few brave ones surge to follow after them as they walk towards the line. "Jimin, can I sit with you today?" one asks shyly, a pretty girl with straight bangs and eyes that aren't shy at all.

"Oh, yes! Me too!" another asks.

Jimin stares at them for a split second. "Um."

Jungkook snorts.

"I haven't seen Jiminie all day," Taehyung interjects with a cute pout, throwing an arm around Jimin's shoulders. "Would you all mind horribly if I monopolized him, just for today?" He smiles sweetly. "I missed him a lot over the summer."

Unlike Jimin, Taehyung is used to having an effect on girls.

"Thanks," Jimin huffs, once they're safely in line. "They were all really nice but I don't know if I'm ready to have that amount of enthusiasm for all of lunch period." He scratches his cheek. "I don't even..." he shakes his head with a laugh. "It's been a weird day."

"Better get used to it," Jungkook chirps, picking up a carton of banana milk and setting it on his tray before looking critically at the macaroni and cheese sitting out on a cart. "Since you're hot now."

"Jungkook!" Jimin scolds, cheeks a little redder. "That's not it."

"Did you think they actually missed you?" Jungkook laughs. "We all know the real reason."

Jimin looks at Taehyung, like Taehyung might hold the answer he's looking for. "Do I really look that different?"

"No," Taehyung says, and it's the truth. He looks over at the group of girl that is in the process of dispersing. One of them looks over and waves coyly. Jimin barely even notices, thinking it's for Taehyung. Taehyung smiles at her, but he knows it's not for him. "Maybe it will calm down."

Jungkook hums a little, picking through the fruit to find an apple that doesn't look disgusting. "It's just a matter of surviving that long." He grins at them. "Jimin, are you ready to brave the frenzy?"

Jimin laughs incredulously. "The frenzy?"

"Hormonal teenagers are a mess," Jungkook says wisely, as if he's not one of them. "They latch onto a prey and never let them go."

Jimin's eyes widen in horror. "The fuck?"

Taehyung picks up a thing of strawberry juice and hits Jungkook over the shoulder with it before setting it onto his tray. "He's exaggerating," he tells Jimin confidently. "That's not a real thing."

"Remember that girl who sent you a love letter every Monday for three years?" Jungkook says casually. "What was her name?"

"Yeeun."

It's not Taehyung who answers, but Jimin.

"She hasn't done that for a while," Taehyung argues weakly.

"Probably because we started dating publicly and everyone knows you're gay as hell."

"Thank god that stage of my life is over," Taehyung says sourly, throwing a banana at Jungkook.

Jungkook catches it deftly. "I'm all for euphemisms but you throwing a banana at me in public is a little much."

"Yeah, you were never one for exhibitionism."

Jungkook sticks out his tongue.

Jimin remains quiet.

"Hey, Jiminie," Taehyung sings, tossing a pear at his best friend. All that's on Jimin's tray right now is a sad looking salad, so Taehyung also sets his strawberry juice down on Jimin's tray before getting himself another. He's always willing to give away his mac and cheese, but Jimin is already reaching for one of his own. "Are you excited for gym today?"

Jimin is one of those people who loves gym, a rare number, and he's significantly less of an asshole than most of the people who love gym, which means that Taehyung is going to cling to Jimin's side the entire time in the hope that he looks like he's actually doing something while Jimin scores all the points.

This is not actually much different than their usual dynamic. One is always sticking to the other.

"I get to show off my hard-earned summer bod," Jimin says, laughing. "No one will be able to stop me."

Jungkook raises an eyebrow. "Do you have abs now?" He reaches teasingly towards the hem of Jimin's t-shirt, fingers wiggling.

Jimin takes a step back, laughing, out of the line of fire. "No," he admits. "That requires like, actually doing sit-ups and shit." He thinks for a moment. "Maybe I should do that."

"Please don't become a meathead," Taehyung whines. "I've already got Jungkookie, I don't need you betraying me, too."

"You'd love me either way," Jimin tells him pointedly, making another salad and putting it on Taehyung's tray next to his sad, greasy looking burger.

"Yeah," Taehyung sighs. "I probably would."

 


 

Gym is, overwhelmingly, a mistake.

Both because of who Taehyung is as a person and also because of the Jimin Complication.

It’s not that Taehyung is particularly out of shape, it’s just that he doesn’t really care about getting into shape, so he’s strong enough and fast enough and has enough stamina that he’s not going to start heaving after running a lap or two.

That being said, he doesn’t really enjoy these sorts of games.

The ones where the competitive prey on the weak.

Dodgeball.

He’s competitive, but only about like, maybe food? And video games? Not high school Murder Ball. So usually he sticks to Jimin, who is competitive but miraculously not an asshole, and trades friendship for protection.

Which leads him to his other issue.

The Jimin Complication.

Jimin has always been strong, in shape, has good stamina, all the things Taehyung tends to cut corners on, but his general physiology is a soft one, one that Taehyung is rather fond of if only for the fact that people tend to underestimate him. Jimin is his wild card. His ace. No one knows what’s going to hit them as soon as Jimin gets the ball. One second there is a cute marshmallow in front of you and the next moment you’re out and you can’t even be mad about it.

Except now Jimin looks like that, and while it’s definitely, definitely not a problem, Taehyung doesn’t really think people are underestimating him anymore.

Jimin walks out of the locker room in shorts that barely meet dress code and a t-shirt that’s a little too old and too tight but Jimin wears anyway because he’s just like that, and the girls in the class start salivating. But it’s not just the girls that are looking.

Well, the girls and Taehyung, but what else is new.

When it comes time to pick teams, Jimin is the third one picked, and there's a weird gleam in the team captain’s eyes that tells Taehyung they’re not going to end up on a team together. Which is kind of annoying.

Taehyung is strong enough and fast enough that he's not last, somewhere in the middle, and when the teams line up, he's looking across the line at Jimin, fake crying while Jimin rolls his eyes.

It’s not the first time they've been on opposing teams, and Taehyung doesn't know what the captain expected to happen when he pointedly picked everyone except for Taehyung, but he’s in for a rude awakening.

Jimin is a great teammate, but he’s a shit of a best friend.

He spends the first fifteen minutes trying to get Taehyung out at all costs.

The first time this happened, Taehyung had barely gotten to play, spent most of his time sitting in the corner threatening to untie Jimin’s shoelaces when he’s not looking, even though he was mostly fine with not having to run.

Today he’s prepared for it.

After years and years and years of Jimin being a little shit, Taehyung has gotten really good at making days like this a game. Jimin can run circles around him, has a stronger throwing arm, and is all around more likely to play dirty, but Taehyung knows all of Jimin’s tricks and has had years to develop his evasive maneuvers.

Fifteen minutes in and Taehyung is still in the game.

Of course, Jimin has also not gotten anyone else out, and the team captain looks a lot like he’s starting to regret his choice.

"Face your fate like a man,” Jimin shouts at him over the general clamour, chucking a lurid yellow ball with a huge chunk missing out of the side at Taehyung’s face with the force of a particularly motivated 17-year-old, which is a surprising amount of force when the 17-year-old is a Park Jimin who’s been lugging hay for the past two months.

“You’ll never take me alive,” Taehyung tells him, dropping to the floor and rolling out of the way. His prime method of avoidance. Taehyung calculates that he can use it approximately twice more before Jimin starts shooting lower to counter him. He rolls behind another student, a pretty girl with extremely strong arms and impeccable aim. He uses her body as a shield while he climbs to his feet.

Jimin is already moving into a better position, another foam ball ready for fire. “You say that every time, bitch,” he sings. “And yet somehow I always win.”

“It’s because you’re the worst,” Taehyung yells at him, picking up a ball and chucking it blindly.

In reality, Taehyung’s aim is way better than Jimin’s, better than most people’s, but he’s on the run so it makes things rather difficult. So he throws it with the force of a desperate man, which is possibly more force than that of a motivated 17-year-old, and he’s not expecting it to hit. Not at all. He sees Jimin see it coming, sees the laughter on Jimin’s face right before he takes a step to move out of the way.

Jiminie!

Jimin freezes, just for a moment.

It’s not Taehyung, or Jungkook, who are usually the only people who attend this school who call Jimin so familiarly. Jungkook isn’t even in this class. For a split second, a ridiculous one, Taehyung wonders if it might have been himself, it’s so unexpected. But the voice was much higher, more of a scream, significantly more feminine, and when Taehyung looks around, it’s from a girl. Her name is Mina, if Taehyung remembers. She looks like she might have been cheering, her hands pulled up in little, encouraging fists.

Taehyung keeps staring, for a ridiculous second, until he hears a huge thud and a shout from who he knows is Jimin, even through the noise of the gymnasium. A thunk, then, presumably from Jimin falling back onto the floor.

Somehow, Taehyung’s ball landed.

It landed right on Jimin’s face.

Taehyung blinks.

He feels a soft hit against his leg, and when he looks down he sees a little green ball rolling away.

The gym teacher blows his whistle. “Taehyung,” he says tiredly. “Since you’ve managed to get yourself out conveniently right after breaking a student, would you mind taking him to the nurse?”

Taehyung blinks again.

Around Jimin, there are at least three girls and one guy, a big burly jock looking fellow with a full beard even though he’s still a minor. One of the girls is down on her knees, looking dangerously close to performing mouth to mouth. All Taehyung can see are Jimin’s feet, kind of rocking back and forth, seeings the top of Jimin’s head when he tries to sit up and one of the girls pushes him back down.

“You shouldn’t move,” she’s saying firmly. “What if you’ve broken your neck?”

“Oh god, there’s so much blood.” Another girl buries her face in her hands.

And she’s not wrong, there is. It’s a nosebleed. They bleed a ton. Taehyung’s had enough of his own that he’s not too worried about it. He won’t say he’s not a little disturbed, when he gets close enough and sees the way Jimin’s hands are covered in red. His head is tipped back, his neck is definitely not broken (why the fuck would it be broken), and Taehyung only feels slightly possessive when he shoos the mini crowd away. Only slightly possessive when he pulls Jimin’s hands away from his face, not minding the blood, and inspects the damage.

“You owe me so much ice cream, you bastard,” Jimin says plainly, a little thickly, blood dripping down his nose to his top lip.

Taehyung grins at him, pulling Jimin up to his feet. Only slightly possessive. “How about a piggyback ride to the nurse first?”

 


 

The nurse is an old woman with silver hair, a stern expression, and a jar of red lollipops, and Taehyung happily sucks on one while she frets over Jimin until the bleeding stops.

“Irresponsible,” she tuts, throwing away a tissue dyed reddish brown.

Jimin glares pointedly at Taehyung over her shoulder and Taehyung hums cheerfully, kicking his legs.

It doesn’t take too long for the bleeding to stop, and Taehyung is glad for it, because his lollipop is almost gone, and also he has Jimin’s blood all over his gym shirt and he’d rather like to change. He feels kind of bad about how Jimin’s nose is a little swollen, but it’s not too bad, definitely not broken, and Jimin is already laughing at a joke Taehyung tells him, so he doesn’t feel all that guilty.

It’s not called high school Murder Ball for nothing.

“These stakes are too high,” Jimin notes, touching the side of his nose with gentle fingers. Delicate. Press press press. The skin around his lips is a little red, a little tender from rubbing the blood away, and the neckline of his shirt is completely wrecked. He flares his nostrils experimentally and winces. “My nose is too big a sacrifice.” He slips off of the nurse’s bed and picks up his nasty tissues before throwing them away and making his way to the door.

“Pretty sure there’s a big nose joke in there.” Absolutely sure. “I’ll spare you.”

“If my nose is big, it’s your fault,” Jimin protests, still laughing. He holds the door open for Taehyung and smacks him on the ass semi-aggressively as he passed. “You nailed me in the face.”

“Okay but to be fair, I didn’t actually think it would hit!” Taehyung laughs. “I can’t believe you bit the dust because a pretty girl called your name.”

There’s a rustling behind him, and Taehyung narrowly avoids being flying kicked by a grinning Jimin in an empty hallway. “It was surprising!” he insists. His cheeks are kind of pink. Cute. “It’s not like it happens very often!”

“Yeah, well.” Taehyung turns and faces Jimin, walking backwards. “Better get used to it. Everyone is now thirsty for Park Jimin.”

Jimin frowns. “Sounds fake.”

“Accept it.”

He laughs, jutting his chin out defiantly, but it’s cute instead of firm. “Never!”

Taehyung surges forward, ducking down so he’s looking up, too close to Jimin’s face, teasing. “I can’t believe my best friend is going to become super popular and abandon me forever.”

Jimin hooks his arm around Taehyung’s neck. “Bitch, I might. You’re annoying.”

It’s Taehyung’s fault, really, for starting it. He knows as soon as he hooks a leg behind Jimin’s knee and tries to take him down that it’s a bad decision. Not because they’re in an abandoned hallway and could be caught scuffling at any moment, and not because Jimin is injured and Taehyung should feel bad about it, but because Jimin is merciless and extremely strong and Taehyung really doesn’t stand a chance.

As soon as Jimin feels Taehyung try to pull him to the ground, the arm around Taehyung’s neck goes down to hold the back of Taehyung’s shoulders. He twists, somehow, in some feat of athleticism that Taehyung can hardly begin to comprehend, and after a moment where he doesn’t know up from down, he finds himself on the ground, Jimin on top of him, holding him up with one arm so his head doesn’t hit the floor, grinning.

Shit.

Taehyung has a lot of regrets. One of them is how close Jimin’s face is.

Another one is the way that Jimin’s arms are flexing to hold them both up.

Because, wow.

Breathless.

Taehyung is breathless.

Jimin seems none the wiser, still grinning. “Are you sure you wanna start this?”

No.

Taehyung isn’t sure at all.

What is he even starting?

There’s a heavy sigh, off to the side. “Boys.” It’s a tired voice.

Jimin drops Taehyung the rest of the way to the floor like he’s a hot potato and scrambles to his feet.

It’s their math teacher. His eyes are flat. “Please find a secluded corner for that next time,” he says, unamused. “But for now, it’s probably best to get to class.”

 


 

The student body is pretty shallow, so Taehyung expects the hoopla to calm down after a week or two.

It’s not that Taehyung even begrudges everyone for suddenly taking notice of Jimin. He wants everyone to take notice of Jimin. If Jimin losing a little weight and gaining some muscle and getting a tan is what it takes for people to notice, then Jimin’s personality will do the rest, won’t it? Taehyung has no doubts.

Still, there are some people who would surely pitter off into non-existence, or as close to that as you can get in high school, which is pretty close, as soon as the novelty of Jimin wears off, and Jimin would be left with a fair few new friends who appreciate him as he should be appreciated and a fun story to tell of the beginning of his senior year.

To a certain extent, this does happen.

Sometime between the second and third week of school, the girls stop huddling around, become a little less bold, stick to googly eyes in the hallways and giggles when eye contact is made, and then to admiring from afar, a soft sigh or two. The boys stop trying to talk to Jimin about shit he’s clearly not interested in.

(Once, a boy tried to befriend Jimin and convince them to room together in college during the same conversation. 1) that’s kind of creepy, and 2) Jimin is spoken for. Taehyung doesn’t remember this kid’s name because Jimin had merely thrown his arm around Taehyung’s shoulders and told him he already had a roommate before walking away.)

(Taehyung tries not to be too pleased about it.)

It would have tapered off, Taehyung thinks, because looks only get you so far, even in high school, but then there’s Hoseok.

Hoseok is popular for a multitude of reasons.

1) He’s mildly famous on the internet for his dance videos.

2) He’s got cheekbones and a jawline that could cut glass.

3) He’s God’s answer to the lack of sunshine in the winter, and somehow has been permitted to light up the warmer months as well.

4) He’s one of the nicest people Taehyung has ever met.

All of these are good and valid reasons. Taehyung actually likes Hoseok quite a lot, as little as he knows him. He’s got a good reputation, a good heart, and the good social standing matters very little. Taehyung’s life is rarely affected by the social hierarchy.

Even Hoseok, honestly, as well-known as he is, is kind of on Taehyung’s peripherals until he starts popping up a little more.

He’s one of the most common people hanging around Jimin, not in a weird way, just opting to sit at their lunch table every once in a while. He’s a master at ignoring the way Jungkook’s mouth drops open whenever he decides to sit with them. He’s a master of making Jimin laugh, and that makes Taehyung like him completely, with his whole being, because honestly, that’s what he looks for in good people.

Taehyung is coming to realize exactly how much the social hierarchy is going to have an effect on his life, because Hoseok has lasted past the initial decline of interest, and that almost makes Jimin popular by default, which makes Jungkook and Taehyung...popular-adjacent. The step-sisters of popularity.

And then, one day, Hoseok opens his mouth, and Taehyung remembers there's a fifth reason that Hoseok is so popular, and that's because 5) he's the captain of the soccer team.

The only reason this matters literally at all is because he asks Jimin to join.

"Ah..." Jimin laughs nervously around his dry hamburger. "Hasn't the season already started?"

Taehyung's eyebrows go up. "Is that your only qualm?" It's more out of surprise than disbelief.

"The season has like, barely started. It's a baby still. Hasn't even started crawling yet," Hoseok says firmly.

Jungkook snorts unattractively into his milk. "Try outs were last week."

Hoseok throws a wadded up napkin at Jungkook and doesn't spare him a glance. "A baby, Jimin."

Taehyung rolls his eyes. "Do you even know if he plays soccer?"

"We've played together before," Hoseok replies, and that's definitely a surprise. Taehyung raises an eyebrow at Jimin.

It's kind of cute, the way Jimin blushes and avoids his gaze.

"And he's good," Hoseok whines.

This is not a surprise. Taehyung has been playing with Jimin for years, various different sports. Taehyung is better at baseball but lacks all desire to run, so soccer is a game they only play when there's more than than just the two of them. Jimin is fast, and honestly kind of aggressive, competitive to a fault, and level headed, and a great teammate, and a great person, and great all around.

Jimin doesn't usually believe him, but that's okay.

"I know you only play for fun," Hoseok is saying, "so I wasn't going to ask you, but we're short. Pretty much our entire offensive line graduated last year." He pouts over-dramatically. "I'm desperate and willing to beg."

Jimin laughs awkwardly. "Please don't do that."

Taehyung laughs. "I thought you liked begging."

Jungkook's expression flattens. "I'm going to ignore that."

"Please do." Jimin rolls his eyes and knocks over Taehyung's basket of food before ignoring him completely, pointedly, in favor of Hoseok.

Taehyung grins and eats a fry off of the table.

"I don't know how I feel about being on a team without trying out," Jimin tells Hoseok honestly. "That seems kind of..."

Hoseok shrugs. "It happens all the time," he admits. "I mean, not all the time, but we're a high school team. The coach can let you come to practices on like, probation or something, and see if you mesh well. But when I say we're desperate." He makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat. "We're desperate."

Jimin twiddles his thumbs. "Am I your last choice or...?"

"Only because I know how you are with like." Hoseok makes a vague gesture with his hands that Taehyung gets immediately. Jimin makes a sound of understanding. "The guys are really nice, though."

"If they're not, I'll destroy them," Jungkook says, taking another sip of his banana milk.

"I'm the captain, so I think that will be my job," Hoseok reminds him.

"Wouldn't it be Tae's job?" Jimin asks lightly, resting his cheek on his palm. He smiles softly. "Best friend trumps all."

"I'll go to the gym so I have the upper body strength to fight for your honor," Taehyung confirms, grinning. "I'll become a menace."

"You're already a menace."

"This is gross," Jungkook mentions, fake barfing into his pasta. "Stop being gross."

Hoseok laughs. "Shouldn't you be used to it?"

Jungkook looks at Hoseok darkly. "They're constantly getting worse."

"Better," Taehyung corrects.

Jimin is chewing on his bottom lip, thinking, eyes far away. "If I go to a practice, will that mean I'm committing, or...?"

"The coach will be happy to have you for a practice or two," Hoseok assures him. "He probably wants to test you out before making anything official anyway."

"I think you should do it," Taehyung tells him, popping a grape into his mouth. "It might be fun."

Jimin frowns. "What if I'm not good enough?"

Hoseok is about to say something, but Taehyung beats him to it. "You'll always be good enough," Taehyung says with a smile, tossing a grape at him. "I've seen you play. You'll be fine. And it might be nice just to like, meet some new people and I don't know...sports are supposed to be fun if you like that sort of thing, right?" Taehyung wouldn't know.

"It looks good on college applications, too," Hoseok chimes in. "We're a really good team."

Jimin whines, letting his head fall on the table. "That's what I'm worried about."

"I think you should trust Hoseok, for what it's worth." Taehyung steals the grape back from where it fell on Jimin's tray.

Jimin peers at Taehyung from over his arm. "Will you come to my games? If I play?"

"I'll make you a huge banner," Taehyung says firmly. "I'll raid Hobby Lobby and buy out all their glitter. My room will sparkle even in the dark. Your name will be in giant bubble letters made by my own hand."

With a grin, Jimin sits up again and sighs fondly. "Okay," he tells Hoseok. "I'll come to a practice. No promises."

 


 

Jimin is on the team by the end of the week.

Taehyung had know it would happen. Jimin is a team player, easy to get along with, and a hard worker. He's also a Yes Man, and if Hoseok asked him to, Taehyung can't imagine Jimin would have ever said no.

Over the years, Taehyung has become Jimin's No Man, but he honestly thinks Jimin would enjoy it, so he sends Jimin off the practice with a warning about making sure it's not too much of a time commitment and a quiet good luck.

It's a lot of a time commitment, but Jimin thinks he can do it, so Taehyung thinks he can, too.

It means it's just Taehyung and Jungkook walking home from school together most days, but Taehyung is okay with that too, as long as he gets to see Jimin other times.

That's where things are getting kind of tricky.

Hoseok was right when he said that the soccer team is a good one, and the soccer team is entirely populated by people at the top of the social food chain, so if being friends with Hoseok made them popular-adjacent, being on the team made Jimin on the cusp of highly coveted high school stardom.

That fact that he is hot and mysterious probably tips him over the edge.

Mysterious is probably a misnomer, but considering that through their entire school careers Taehyung and Jimin mostly kept to each to a very small friend group, he supposes it's not unlikely that people are curious about him.

He wonders what will happen when they find out Jimin is nice and funny and soft and well-mannered and hard-working and talented and beautiful.

Will they try to be his best friend, too?

Taehyung wonders what it was that drew him to Jimin's sandbox that fateful day. He remembers it being Jimin's monkey bar prowess, but maybe it was because he'd never seen the sun in a person's face before.

Taehyung because Jimin's best friend because of one reason.

Because Taehyung is enamored.

Things have changed, and Taehyung has a more complete picture to base their friendship off of, but Taehyung is still enamored.

So when Jimin starts spending more time at practice, more time with Hoseok, more time with some of the other kids that follow him around because they're finally realizing how bright he is, Taehyung isn't upset, he's just proud.

Like a dad, maybe.

Or maybe not like a dad at all, but Taehyung doesn't want to think about it too hard.

Jimin gets invitations to parties, asked out on dates, out to see a movie with some of his new friends, and Taehyung is proud.

A little lonely and a lot proud.

But it's okay, really, that Jimin is spreading his wings, because Taehyung is usually right by his side. Always by his side, if it counts when Taehyung isn't literally right there, because Taehyung will support him forever and always.

And when Friday comes, and it's the day that Jimin always comes over to Taehyung's house and his mom makes a big dinner and they fall asleep watching YouTube videos and eating sweets, Taehyung doesn't even blink when the popular kids invite Jimin to come out with them.

"I've got a date," Jimin says, without hesitation, slipping his hand into the crook of Taehyung's elbow.

"A friend date," Taehyung clarifies, even though he's not really sure why.

Jimin pauses. "He's going to buy me ice cream."

Taehyung blinks. "I am?"

"You are," Jimin tell him firmly.

Taehyung sighs. "I am."

And then Hoseok smiles. "Of course."

Taehyung never has to worry about Jimin making new friends, or Jimin having no time, or Jimin trying new things where Taehyung can't follow, because they always seem to meet back right back where they started, and every time, it's something solid.

Unmoving.

Taehyung is enamored.

Chapter Text

"Do you know where you’re going to college?"

It’s a question you get asked pretty much once a week, starting somewhere in the second semester of your junior year and leading well into the next, and all it really does is piss Taehyung off. It gets kind of repetitive, after a whole year of his relatives asking the same question over and over like the answer is going to change.

"I’m going to the nearest state school," he tells them every time with a smile, willing his eye not to twitch. "I’ll be studying architecture."

A mantra.

The only thing that makes it a little more fun and a little less annoying is that Jimin always says the same thing.

"I’m going to the nearest state school," Jimin tells them. "I’ll be studying photography and minoring in journalism. I’m going to be rooming with Taehyung, because he’d be lost without me."

It’s not even really a joke.

 


 

Taehyung never breaks a promise, so here he is.

Holding a huge banner with Park Jimin written in huge bubble letters. He didn’t buy out Hobby Lobby, but there’s enough glitter that the person sitting next to him is staring at the pile of it that’s falling on the ground with something close to disdain.

The first thing Jungkook said when he saw it was, "I am definitely not helping you hold that."

"I can’t believe you won’t support your best friend," Taehyung says, overly disappointed, even as he shakes the banner and glitter falls all over the bleachers. He uses a finger to smooth down the corner of Jimin’s most embarrassing yearbook picture that he had lovingly pasted in the corner.

"Aren’t you my best friend?"

"I’m your ex. Social constructs say no."

As soon as Taehyung says it, Jungkook flings around the other direction, looking at Yoongi, the college kid they’d hung out with over the summer. There’s a worried look on Jungkook’s face that makes Taehyung laugh, as if Yoongi didn’t know that they were exes. Well, maybe he doesn’t. Because something tells Taehyung that Yoongi really wouldn’t care.

It doesn’t matter, anyway. Yoongi is staring out at the field, the heels of his shoes on the very edge of the seat and his arms hugging his knees to his chest. He looks cute, young. He’s not paying any attention.

Jungkook takes that as an opportunity to give his gross heart eyes and Taehyung takes that as an opportunity to gag.

"You’re gross and in love," Taehyung tells him plainly.

Jungkook scowls. "At least I didn’t make a gay fucking love banner."

"This is a Friendship Banner," Taehyung counters, dismissive. "And at least I don’t make googly eyes whenever I think the object of my affections isn’t looking."

Jungkook squints at him incredulously.

"What?"

"The fact that two people who are so dumb found each other so early is just incredible to me," Jungkook says frankly, shoving a handful of popcorn into his mouth.

Taehyung scowls at him. "I wouldn’t let you hold my Friendship Banner even if you wanted to," he says primly.

"I’m sure just you holding it is enough for Jimin," Jungkook says, snorting.

Taehyung steals some of Jungkook’s popcorn, eats half of his handful, and throws the rest down Jungkook’s shirt.

Yoongi looks up when Jungkook starts squawking and laughs. "You're supposed to eat it," he instructs, like Jungkook had put the popcorn down his shirt of his own volition. "I didn't buy it for you so you could use it as ammunition."

"Isn't that a nice bonus?" Taehyung asks sweetly and Yoongi holds Jungkook's t-shirt away from his body so Jungkook can shake the stray kernels out. "If Jungkookie is mean to me with words I need other ways to fight back."

Yoongi absently brushes the kernels off of Jungkook's thigh and Jungkook looks a little like he's about to explode. "You children are so messy."

"You’re only two years older than me!" Jungkook protests, a little too forcefully, and his face gets somehow even more red. "I mean, that's not that much."

"Jungkook is definitely not a child," Taehyung says helpfully. He doesn't appreciate the way Jungkook kicks him in the shin for his efforts. "Just kidding, he's a brat." He shakes his banner in Jungkook's direction and laughs at the way Jungkook stares at him blankly as purple glitter collects on his hoodie.

Jungkook looks like he wants to murder and Taehyung just can't win.

The soccer team is almost done warming up, and Taehyung screams Jimin's name so loudly that several people on the opposing team stop and stare. Jimin looks up at him, eyes wide, and Taehyung shakes his banner proudly.

Jimin turns bright red. Taehyung can see it even from the stands. He holds his cheeks for a moment, two moments, like that will hide his blush, before waving both hands, fingers spread. He looks like a child, small and cute.

Taehyung wolf whistles.

Jimin flips him off.

Taehyung laughs as the soccer coach chastises Jimin and sends him off to the side of the field with the rest of the team.

"Jimin is exactly like you guys described him," Yoongi says with a laugh. "Cute and ferocious."

That's not exactly how Taehyung had described him, but he figures that was the gist of it all. Cute and ferocious. And funny and nice and handsome and talented maybe. A few more adjectives.

Taehyung smooths down the corner of the ugly yearbook photo again.

Taehyung hasn't played soccer in a formal environment maybe ever. Mostly because, as stated, he's not a huge fan of running that much, also he got shin splints once when he was trying to exercise more and that was a traumatic experience. No more running. But Jimin seems to enjoy it, enjoy the adrenaline, the exertion, and the rush it gives you.

There's a special glow Jimin gets when he's doing something he enjoys.

It helps that he's good at it.

Jimin has spent the last couple of weeks of training talking about this and that, the coach says he does this well, the coach says he's a good striker, Hoseok complimented his stamina the other day, the boys accepted him into the group without any hesitation, isn't that great, Taehyung?

Taehyung watches the way Jimin laughs as he runs and thinks yeah, it really is.

 


 

Jimin plays a good game.

A great game, honestly. Hoseok is probably patting himself on the back right now, seeing as Jimin scored a goal and got an assist in his first game, which Taehyung understands is pretty good.

There were other good plays, done by other team members -- Minho did something that Taehyung absolutely did not understand but it looked cool as hell and Yoongi gave it an appreciative grunt so that probably means it's pretty outstanding -- but all that Taehyung really sees is Jimin, because what else is new.

By the end, when their school wins and Jimin is jumping around in a huddle with the other players, Taehyung's palms are covered in glitter and his heart is full full full.

He's still holding the banner when he goes down to meet Jimin by the locker rooms.

When Jimin comes out, he smells like cheap soap and citrus, and also a little like clean laundry, and all a lot like Jimin. His hair is still wet, just short of dripping, and it sticks to his forehead, gets in his eyes a little because he needs a haircut pretty badly, so he keeps pushing it back off of his forehead. "Fancy seeing you here," he says, slinging his bad over his shoulder, when he sees them waiting for him in the hallway.

"You take so long to get ready," Jungkook whines. He slips away from where Yoongi is leaning against the wall and goes to hug Jimin before standing aside and putting a condescending hand on top of Jimin's head. "My small friend, all grown up."

"I'll destroy you," Jimin tell him truthfully. "Or I would, but I'm to tired." He looks at Taehyung. "Taehyung, please destroy him."

"I don't want to ruin your banner, I worked really hard on it," Taehyung answers rationally, giving it a little shake as yet more glitter falls onto his shoes. He's going to be finding that shit for weeks.

Jimin squints at him. "That picture is from the sixth grade."

Taehyung grins and shakes it again.

"Hey, Jimin!" someone calls. It's Hoseok, with a big, frantic wave and a huge grin powered by adrenaline and the sun. "Good game!"

"Thanks, Hoseok," Jimin says, almost shyly. The other soccer boys are somewhere behind them, gathering in the hallway, some showered and some smelly and all of the talking loudly, enthusiastically. "You, too."

Hoseok greets Taehyung with a bro-hug that Taehyung enjoys but isn't sure how to reciprocate, and then he says hello to Jungkook and punches him in the shoulder, and then he introduces himself to Yoongi, who's still standing kind of off to the side with his hands in his pockets. "The guys are all heading out to get pizza together, if you all wanna come."

"Does Jiminie get a plus three?" Taehyung jokes, grinning.

"Well, usually it's just us," Hoseok admits. "But I don't think they'd mind!"

There's a shift in Jimin's shoulders. "Isn't today Friday?"

"Yep." Hoseok smiles. "We can stay out as long as we want. Probably. Sometimes Chan's dad gets pissy but."

Jimin is already shaking his head, smiling softly, taking a step towards Taehyung. "Sorry, Hoseok. It's date night." His bag bumps Taehyung in the leg. "Next time? It's a Thursday game next week, yeah?"

Hoseok groans. "Yeah. I've got a test that day, fuck."

"Then a get together will be well deserved," Jimin says with a laugh. He's warm. Taehyung can feel it through the space between them, not quite cooled down from the game. There's water on his forehead from his hair, speckling the neckline of his shirt, and that's the point when Taehyung realizes he's staring.

At least I don’t make googly eyes whenever I think the object of my affections isn’t looking.

Well.

Taehyung doesn't think about it too much. He'll think about it later, when he's at home and alone, and Jimin will probably be asleep beside him on the bed with the movie on his laptop still playing. That's when he'll think about it.

For now, he let's Jimin swing an arm around his shoulders and lead him down the hallway, waving goodbye to the team, and to Jungkook and Yoongi who are going out on their own, and when they step outside the air is just on the right side of warm, and so is Taehyung.

 


 

Taehyung realizes how popular Jimin is when he gets invited to The Halloween Party.

"Hoseok invited me," he tells Taehyung one day in math, having finished the question while Taehyung is still drawing doodles in the margins of his notebook. "He knows Jisoo, the girl that hosts it."

Taehyung is in the middle of shading his chibi Jimin. "Of course he does." Hoseok knows everybody. "Is he allowed to just invite you to someone else's party?" Taehyung hasn't been involved in that many of them. He's unsure about the etiquette.

"Not just me!" Jimin assures him. "You and Jungkook, too! And probably Yoongi, too, if he would ever deign to go to a high school party."

"I'm not sure Yoongi would even deign to go to a party, period," Taehyung points out. "And Hoseok inviting four people to someone's party is somewhat more questionable."

"He said it's fine!" Jimin tugs at his hair the way he does when he's nervous. "And I really don't want to go alone!"

Taehyung slows down his doodling. "Are you sure you even want to go?" Jimin isn't a huge partier. He's much more likely to go to a small party, but Jisoo is well known for throwing ragers, the kind of parties that get broken up by the police and then never talked about again because her parents have money.

It's a huge party every year, and somehow it's still almost impossible to get an invite to.

Jimin's been pretty resistant to his social climb. Or, maybe indifferent? As far as how Jimin acts, nothing has really changed, except he's getting more used to random people coming up and talking to him in the hallways, and more used to Taehyung forcefully cutting into conversations and whisking him away when it's clear that Jimin is growing uncomfortable. It happens every so often, when someone will stand too close or be too pushy and talk too much.

And Taehyung is getting used to the way Jimin will sigh with relief and smile up at him and say, "My knight in shining armor," and then walk away like he didn't just make Taehyung's heart beat three times as fast.

"I want to go," Jimin says quietly. Their teacher is passing by.

Taehyung writes down a couple of random numbers to look like he's working before the teacher is out of line of sight and he can go back to drawing Jimin very poorly.

"I think it might be fun," Jimin admits. "And...I don't know, part of the high school experience."

"Who needs high school," Taehyung replies lightly. "Isn't college where you're supposed to go wild?"

Jimin frowns. "If you hold a rager in our dorm room I'm kicking you out."

"Me, the light of your life?" Taehyung snorts. "You would never."

"I would never," Jimin agrees. "But seriously, please go with me. Jungkook won't go unless you do."

Taehyung pauses. "Would you rather Jungkook go with you?"

"Of course I'd rather you go," Jimin says, the little line between his eyebrows creasing. "But I'm also up for as many chill friends as possible. A protection squad. My party entourage."

"We can do a couples costume," Taehyung says without thinking, because they could, and it's only when Jimin's face lights up that he realizes he basically just agreed to go.

"Let's not." Jimin laughs, looking over at Taehyung's math and reaching to correct a couple of numbers. Taehyung is confused before he realizes the teacher is making their way back to the front of the class and is going to start asking questions soon. "It's not like we're doing anything else on Halloween."

"Too old for trick or treating?" Taehyung pouts.

"Never." Jimin is scandalized. "We'll just have to raid the store afterwards. All the discount candies."

Taehyung readjusts his desk so it's facing the front again, and blessing Jimin when he sees the teacher make pointed eye contact with him before they ask for the answer to the equation. "Sounds like a date."

 


 

It's Halloween, a Saturday, and Taehyung is in his room digging out his old suit thirty minutes before he needs to leave.

How much effort does he really need to put into his appearance at a party where everyone is going to get drunk and start making out with anything that moves? He has enough confidence in his physical appearance that he can put on this cheap ass suit and brush out his hair and put a little makeup on and call it a day.

He's not planning on making out with anybody, but if he wanted to, he's sure they wouldn't complain.

He's pinning the sign to the front of his shirt when Hoseok calls him.

"Hey, are you guys getting here soon?" Hoseok asks.

"Uh..." Taehyung checks the time on his phone. "Jimin isn't actually with me right now, but I'll probably be there in like, 30 minutes?"

Confused silence. "Jimin's not with you?"

Taehyung laughs. "I know, shocking." He runs his hand through his hair and calls it a day before reaching down and grabbing his keys off of the bed. "He got lunch with Jungkook today so they're getting ready together."

"Is that why I haven't been able to get ahold of him?"

"Maybe," Taehyung sings. "He might be driving? Maybe not. I think he's planning on drinking but...He's late to everything but he cares more about this party than I do so he probably got ready like three hours ago and has been stress-pacing."

"Cute," Hoseok says flatly. "Well, people are here already, and in about an hour I could call you and you wouldn't be able to hear a single thing, so hurry up."

"Bossy." Taehyung calls over his shoulder. "Bye, Mom! I'm heading out!"

"Make good choices," she says in response, stirring something in the kitchen that smells warm and sugary. "If you get into trouble I'll never forgive you."

"Love is conditional," Taehyung chirps.

"Exactly."

Taehyung steps out the door with a grin on his face. "I'm on my way now," he tells Hoseok, adjusting the phone between his shoulder and ear as he unlocks the car and slips inside. He's designated driver tonight, which is fine, because it's a shit show when he gets drunk and he'd rather avoid it somewhere so public. He'll probably end up with Jimin asleep in the back seat of his car. Taehyung, chauffeur for drunks. Jimin's been kind of stressed recently, so if anyone deserves to get drunk and then have a good night's sleep, it's him.

Jungkook told him his chibi Jimin looked like a dog in boots, so he can walk home.

By the time Taehyung arrives at Jisoo's house (mansion, maybe a castle, Taehyung isn't too clear on the verbiage), night has fallen and he hears children laughing in the distance, which means it's officially Halloween.

He parks on the side of the road what seems like a mile away, and is glad he's wearing his ratty Converse and not anything nicer, even if it matches his suit horribly. If he has to drag a sleeping Jimin out here, he's making Jungkook help. And then still making Jungkook walk home, because his artwork definitely did not look like a dog in boots.

It's a stranger who opens the door, not even the girl Taehyung understands is Jisoo, but a short boy with a bad dye job and a baby face. "What are you?" he asks, instead of welcome Taehyung in.

Taehyung points at the word Sorry pinned to the front of his suit. "I'm a formal apology."

The boy with the colorful hair looks at him, considering. "Cute," he decides eventually, stepping aside, like Taehyung's costume is the thing that got him through the door.

He always knew he looked good in a suit.

He finds Hoseok quickly and easily, because Hoseok seems like the kind of guy who could be found at the food table, because Hoseok knows what's up. "Good evening," Taehyung says politely, giving a nice bow before stepping in beside his friend and stealing a Cheeto Puff off of his plate. "Fine weather we're having."

Hoseok is dressed up as Poe from Star Wars, hair carefully styled and a roguish smile on his face, and Taehyung approves. "Welcome, welcome." Hoseok holds out his own drink.

"Nah, I'm the DD." Whatever is in Hoseok's cup doesn't look particularly appealing anyway. Taehyung thinks it's probably some kind of cheap beer, and he's always preferred the fruity drinks. "Is Jimin here, yet? I'm supposed to be his entourage."

A weird look passes over Hoseok's face. "He's here," he says after a moment. "I'd say he already has an entourage." He jerks his head towards the main room.

It takes a moment for Taehyung to pick out his best friend, because the crowd is big and writhing and the lights are a little low, but he sees the back of a head and something about it just screams Jimin. There's light blue and red and his hair is slicked back and there is Park Jimin in a throng of people, dressed up like Superman. Taehyung is very glad he can't see his lower half because he can pretend like jimin isn't wearing tights. Jimin is almost definitely wearing tights because he takes things very seriously and also likes the way his legs look. But it's like Schrödinger's cat. If he doesn't see the tights, the tights don't exist.

The tights not existing would actually probably be the worst option.

Or maybe not. Maybe the worst option is the way people's hands are all over Jimin and he doesn't seem to mind. Maybe the worst option is Taehyung noticing that people's hands are all over Jimin and he minds. Taehyung minds. There are people dancing, too close, too many hands, and Jimin is throwing his head back and drowning in it.

It does funny things to Taehyung's stomach.

"How long has he been here?" Taehyung finds himself asking, almost on autopilot. He kind of wants the drink Hoseok offered him, but he's not sure if it's because of the way his throat suddenly feels dry or if it's because of the weird, swooping drop in his stomach.

"Not too long, maybe a half hour?" Hoseok guesses, swishing the liquid around in his cup before bringing it up to his lips to take a drink. "Came in right after I got off the phone with you. He was kind of drunk when he got here. Probably nervous."

Nervous? "About what?" He hadn't said anything to Taehyung. He'd seemed fine. Mostly. Any hesitance Taehyung has attributed to being excited about his first big high school party.

That weird look is back. Hoseok is a thoughtful guy, borderline cunning, and when his brain is softened by alcohol, Taehyung can see the gears turning as he thinks his words through. Doesn't mean he knows what Hoseok is thinking, but knowing that it's happening is both welcome and unnerving. "I imagine it's about the costume," Hoseok says eventually.

"Jimin's not shy about his body."

"That's not." Hoseok pauses again. "Okay." He walks towards the kitchen. "Do you want some juice or soda or? I'm gonna get you juice."

Taehyung blinks after him. "I would love juice," he says slowly, following, leaving the dance floor behind, but the picture of Jimin in the middle remains. There are good feelings and bad feelings there, and also feelings Taehyung isn't sure what to do with. Which side of the pros and cons list he's supposed to put them on.

He'll dance a little later, probably sweat through all his layers, but for now he wants juice.

 


 

Surprisingly, it's not Jimin that Taehyung talks to first, but Jungkook.

"Nice costume," he says, flopping down on the couch beside his friend.

Jungkook looks up from his phone at Taehyung, whiskers drawn crookedly on his cheeks and a pair of shitty cat ears stuck atop his head. He looks like he doesn't give two fucks, and the one fuck he does give is about the cup of whatever in one of his hands and the phone in the other. "What kind of loser shows up to a party in a suit?"

"A stylish one," Taehyung tells him. Pauses. "Or one who got his suit at a garage sale in the ninth grade."

"Fair." Jungkook looks in his cup before taking a drink. The screen of his phone lights up, and Taehyung sees the words Music Soulmate before Jungkook perks up and brings it close to his face to answer it.

Taehyung settled back into the couch, picking up his legs and manually crossing them on the cushion even though his shoes are kind of dirty and the couch looks kind of nice. "Have you sent Yoongi a picture of you in your costume?"

"What costume?" Jungkook asks with a snort, tweaking his ears, an immediate response. And then a look passes over his face and he stares at the phone held in his open palm. "Do you think I should?"

"You look cute and vaguely kinky." Taehyung flicks Jungkook’s headband. "Seduce him with your youthful wiles."

Jungkook snorts again. "Is that how you get your men?"

"It was a little harder with you," Taehyung remembers, "since you were more youthful, so I just had to be cute as hell."

"Pretty sure you came up and told me I was cute." Jungkook laughs, leaning in a little to rest his head on Taehyung’s shoulder for a split second. He’s melty when he’s drunk, clingy, and while he’s not quite there yet, there is a certain look in his eyes that makes Taehyung think he might get there by the end of the night.

"I try to be an honest person," Taehyung says with a grin.

"Hot." Jungkook rolls his eyes. "You were kind of a catch, too, until the end." He says it softly, but the tips of Taehyung’s ears turn red and his heart beats a little faster out of embarrassment.

If you asked Taehyung what made them fall apart in the end, what he would say and what he knows is true are two different things. "We work better as friends," Taehyung would answer, has answered every time someone asked. And it’s true. Jungkook is a good friend to him, one he doesn’t want to lose, and something tells him that Yoongi will be a better match for Jungkook in the end, but at the time, that wasn’t really what was going through Taehyung’s head.

In fact, the reason they broke up was because Jungkook wasn’t going through Taehyung’s head at all.

Being in love is hard.

It’s probably fine.

Taehyung looks over his shoulder at the throng of people dancing, at the black head of hair bobbing up and down in the crowd, surrounded by people who finally see him as bright as he is, as Taehyung has always known him to be, and maybe Taehyung does need that drink.

It’s Halloween and this is a party. Taehyung doesn’t want to think about useless things.

At the time, Taehyung wasn’t sure how much Jungkook knew about Taehyung’s motives for the breakup, but Jungkook looks through Taehyung so clearly, like Taehyung is a window and Jungkook is looking at the sun, and now Taehyung is pretty sure Jungkook knows, knew, has always known.

"I know how you are about this stuff, Taehyung," Jungkook tells him quietly, and Taehyung is surprised he can even hear him over the dull roar behind them. "I know you also put it off until later and then it never happens." Jungkook swirls his cup again. "Is that really what you want?"

Is that really what you want? For things to never happen?

Taehyung tucks his knees up to his chest. Thinks about the good outcome and all of the bad ones. "Maybe."

When he looks back at Jungkook, his friend’s face looks sad, maybe even a little pitying, and a lot irritated. "You’re both unbelievable," he says flatly. "I attract idiots. All my friends are idiots."

Taehyung isn’t offended. He just reaches over and taps against the screen of Jungkook’s phone. "Is Yoongi an idiot?"

Jungkook smiles fondly, cheeks flushing a little pink. "Sometimes." He scrunches his nose before looking up at Taehyung, considering. "He’s cute about it, though."

"I’m always cute."

"Taehyung!"

When Taehyung looks around, Jimin is walking towards them. His hair is slicked back, carefully coiffed, kind of messy and face kind of flushed from the exertion of dancing. His eyes are shining. He’s had one drink too many, and he seems all the more comfortable for it. He’s not slurring yet. That’s good. "TaeTae," he calls again, leaning against the back of the couch, petting Taehyung’s arm. "Come dance with me! I haven’t seen you all night." Whining. His hand rests on the top of Taehyung’s head, tilting it up so that Taehyung is forced to look at him.

"I haven’t been here very long," Taehyung says, which is a half-truth. He’s been here long enough. "I haven’t danced yet, though."

"Come on, then." Jimin tugs on Taehyung’s hair, grinning. There’s something dangerous there. "I’ll be your first."

While Taehyung is in the middle of processing that, Jimin is hauling him to his feet, manually stripping Taehyung’s suit coat off and throwing it on top of Jungkook before pulling a fumbling Taehyung into the other room.

There’s something dark playing, sweet and rich underneath the bass and the synth, and the light are too low for there to be any kind of holiness happening, but Taehyung would like to thank God for the way Jimin looks in his costume. He is definitely wearing tights. Schrödinger's cat is dead and so is Taehyung.

There are still people writhing around the room, too close and not close enough, some people standing an awkward distance from their dates and looking mostly at their feet. Cute.

Jimin is not cute.

Taehyung should have expected this much, because Jimin gets a certain way when he’s drunk. A way where he’s too close, too touchy, too flirty, too much for Taehyung to even begin knowing how to handle. Jimin slides right into Taehyung’s space once he deems them in a good spot, startings dancing the way he’s been dancing all night, too much, way too much, and all Taehyung can do is laugh and kind of jump to the music.

For a moment, he’s safe. He feels Jimin’s arm brush against him once, maybe twice, feels the heat of Jimin’s skin, sees the dip in his collarbone when Jimin throws his head back at the beat drop.

And then, suddenly, Taehyung isn’t safe. Not at all.

Jimin is a touchy drunk.

The second he feels Jimin’s hand on his arm, Taehyung knows he’s done for. And then Jimin slips even further into Taehyung space, right in the emptiness between his arms, and Taehyung doesn’t know what to do with his arm, never has, so it’s probably not his fault that they naturally fall around Jimin’s hips. It’s probably not his fault, either, that Jimin sets his own on Taehyung’s shoulders, pressing closer.

Taehyung blames the alcohol.

God, he blames so much on the alcohol.

The look in Jimin’s eyes, the way Jimin reacts when Taehyung grips his waist a little tighter, head falling back and rocking forward. Wow. Rocking forward. This is not how Taehyung expected his night to go. Did not expect to have Jimin in his arms, to be dancing with Jimin like this, in this weird rocking/bouncing...whatever it is. It’s not dancing. Taehyung wouldn’t call it grinding, mostly because when he thinks about that his brain short circuits, but it’s definitely not dancing. A hybrid of the two. Jimin is so close, up against Taehyung chest to chest, his face a breath away from being pressed into Taehyung’s neck, their hips together. Dangerous.

Maybe this is grinding.

Taehyung doesn’t want to think about it.

The music is dark and the room is dark and Jimin’s eyes are dark. Taehyung wants to fall into them.

Jimin’s hands wind up to grip Taehyung’s hair, pulling at the short strands there at the nape of his neck, tugs, and Taehyung is very much not sure at all what’s happening, what the fuck is happening, where is he, who is this, but he likes it. He knows he likes it because of the sound he makes, unbidden.

He’s blaming so much on the alcohol, but he hasn’t had a sip.

"Fuck, Jimin," he says, more out of alarm, but he’s not sure that’s how it comes out, how it sounds, because Jimin just pulls himself closer. "Jimin, stop."

Jimin freezes in his arms. Languid to tense in a moment at a word. Taehyung can’t see his eyes. "Why?"

"Jimin." It’s soft. A weak laugh. "You’re so drunk, dude." Jimin smells like alcohol. His face is flushed. He’s loose in Taehyung’s arms, or he was. Now he’s stiff, unmoving. Tense. "I’m glad you’re having a good time."

It’s a second before Jimin answers, a second before Jimin is loose and smiling again. "You should have a good time with me," he says. He’s tugging playfully on Taehyung’s arms where they’ve fallen off of his waist. His fingers gently unbutton one of Taehyung sleeves and rolls it up neatly. "It’s a party."

Taehyung watches silently as Jimin moves on to the other arm, unbuttoning, rolling rolling rolling, tucking it up. A strangely gentle process in a room like this, dark and rich and moving, when they’re both sweating and panting and Taehyung is kind of turned on. Jimin brushes his hand down Taehyung’s forearm when he’s done. He hasn’t looked at Taehyung’s face once.

"I am having fun." Well. "I’m not feeling very up to dancing right now."

"Oh." The beat is still heavy, and someone bumps into Jimin’s back, pushing them a little closer, and that’s the first time Taehyung realizes Jimin has stepped away from him. "Sorry."

Taehyung smiles, soft, and reaches over and flicks Jimin on the forehead, soft. "It’s okay." Jimin looks up, and his hair is even more messed up now, and his eyes are not quite so bright, and Taehyung doesn’t want to think that it might be his fault. "I think I just need a break."

Jimin licks his lips and Taehyung tries not to stare. "Okay."

"Thanks for being my first," Taehyung says, fond, laughing, trying not to sound too strangled. His skin is hot. His face is hot. His blood is hot.

His friend is hot.

Wow.

He’s fine. This is fine.

This is nothing new. It’s fine.

Taehyung slips away from the crowd, leaving Jimin to dance, to be bright, to be surrounded, and he takes a deep breath, and he walks.

 


 

The bedroom he finds is not his, but it’ll have to do.

There are no posters on the walls, and the comforter is a weird light puke green color, and it smells fresh, like laundry and potpourri, which means that this is probably a guest room, which means it’s probably okay for Taehyung to have a mental breakdown in here.

No. Not a breakdown. He’s not having a breakdown. He’s fine. This is fine. This is nothing new. This is the thing that Taehyung only lets himself think about at night, in his room, when it’s quiet and he can hear the sound of his own heart and even he can’t pretend like he doesn’t understand the rhythm it’s beating. You’re an idiot, Kim Taehyung, it tells him. You’re an idiot and you are fucking in love.

Nothing new.

The sun is down, and he’s in a bedroom that’s not his own but it will have to do, and Taehyung thinks about it.

Thinks about the way the Jimin smiles, and the way that Taehyung’s heart beats a little faster whenever he’s around. About the way his stomach twisted when he saw those people too close to Jimin. About the way Jimin felt against him a few minutes ago. About the way Jimin will hold his hand sometimes when they study together and it reminds Taehyung of when they were younger and wow, look, Taehyung was in love even then.

About Jimin.

Taehyung loosens his tie with a laugh and flops back on the bed. "What a shit show." He’s been pacing for the past 10 minutes and his feet hurt. He wants a nap.

What kind of a friend is he? Jimin will almost be so embarrassed he’s going to burrow into the earth when he wakes up in the morning and Taehyung is over here, having a breakdown because that’s probably the closest him and Jimin have ever been and it wasgood.

Taehyung and Jungkook work better as friends.

Taehyung is afraid to find out what works better with Jimin.

All of those bad scenarios and one good one, and his odds are so slim, and is it even worth it? Jimin is worth it, of course, always worth everything, anything, but if they could only be that way for a short while, what happens after? Jimin and Taehyung are reduced to awkward acquaintances and Taehyung has to pretend like it’s not his fault?

That seems. Not ideal.

But he kind of wants to kiss Jimin and hold his hand and adopt five children and a dog and get a farm on the countryside and grow old together.

Which is gross.

Gross.

Feelings are so gross.

He rubs his hand over his forehead and groans.

There’s a small little knock, too quiet for someone looking for a room to fuck in, and Taehyung opens his eyes to see Jimin shyly opening the door and sticking his head it. "Tae?" He rests his cheek against the door jam. His cheeks are still rosy, even though it’s been maybe 20 minutes since Taehyung found solace.

"Jimin." Perfect. Breakdown cancelled. This is good news. He let’s his head fall back down on the bed. "I found a place that isn’t super loud, it’s a Christmas miracle."

Taehyung first smells danger when Jimin climbs on the bed next to him. Even from before, Jimin is more languid, clumsy like he was when they were children, loose in his own skin and melting like a puddle in the bed, seeping into Taehyung’s space. Their faces are too close together, Jimin peering innocently into Taehyung’s eyes. Jimin curls up into Taehyung’s side. His breath smells like beer and strawberry something. His eyes are focused and glassy at the same time.

"Hi," Jimin says softly. His eyelashes flutter.

Something else flutters.

"Hi," Taehyung answers. Just as soft. He kind of wishes he had had a drink, so he could excuse the things he’s thinking like how pretty Jimin’s eyes are, and how much he wishes Jimin wasn’t drunk but they were still here like this together, because Jimin wanted to be.

One breath.

Two breaths.

Taehyung looks at Jimin’s lips.

Their faces are way too close.

Taehyung sits up abruptly. "Done dancing?" he asks casually, even though he’s somehow nervous and at ease all at once. Jimin is his most comfortable person, and somehow manages to put him on the edge at the same time. On the edge of what, Taehyung honestly can’t say, but it looks like a deep plunge if he falls off.

Slowly, lethargically, Jimin sits up too. His feet are still curled up, which should be cute, but he also looks like five kinds of sin, which makes everything a little harder. His makeup is kind of smeared and he’s sweating through his costume. His face is sharper than it was five years ago, even one year ago, but he still looks like Jimin. His fingers trail up and down Taehyung’s arm. Taehyung ignores it. "It’s less fun when you’re not there."

Taehyung has heard Jimin say something similar countless times over the years, but something about him saying it this time makes Taehyung want to...do something he shouldn’t. He told himself he wouldn’t think about it. He needs to stop being a horny ass. What the fuck is wrong with him. He’s cool, he’s chill. He’s the sober one. He’s got it together. "I’m the wind under your wings."

Jimin leans in, no reason, no prompting, scooting closer until Taehyung can feel his heat again, like he could on the dancefloor. Somehow it’s worse now, here in this room, in the muffled quiet, when they’re alone and the only thing between them is a layer of cotton, some spandex, and a whole lot of hesitance. "If you’re the wind under my wings, then what am I to you?" His stare feels pointed.

"The light of my life, maybe?" It’s cheesy and maybe true. It’s a joke that goes flat because it’s not a joke. "My most important person?" Still cheesy. Still true.

One of Jimin’s hand is gently pressing into Taehyung’s thigh, and they’re so close, and Taehyung is in the middle of wondering exactly how fucking weird his night is going to be when Jimin kisses him.

It’s not a soft kiss. It’s definitely a drunk kiss. The kind of kiss you only give someone when you’re desperate for something, a wet kind of kiss, and Jimin’s hands are back in Taehyung’s hair again and oh, wow, Taehyung likes it.

The noises Jimin is making go straight to Taehyung’s dick, all of the whimpering even though Jimin is the one initiating, the one in charge, the one who pushes Taehyung back down to lay on the bed and Taehyung is the one who is so shocked he just goes with it.

Jimin’s lips are chapped in the winter, and he tastes like shitty alcohol, and he’s climbing over Taehyung on the bed and Taehyung can’t think, can barely breathe, because this feels like a dream. Jimin’s thighs on the side of his hips and Jimin leaning over him and Jimin making those noises. Taehyung feels like someone who never remembers his dreams and is suddenly reminded what they are out of nowhere, because he’s sure he’s been here before, when he’s asleep and can’t control it. When it’s night and he’s in his room and he can’t keep himself from thinking about it.

Jimin lowers himself on top of Taehyung, their hips pressed together, and this is way too much, what is happening, but Taehyung is having a hard time reminding himself this is a terrible idea with the way Jimin is sliding his tongue across the seam of Taehyung’s lips like he knows what he wants. Unbidden, one of Taehyung’s hands holds the back of Jimin’s neck, pressing him closer. One of Jimin’s hands is at Taehyung’s hip, gripping hard enough to bruise but not so hard that Taehyung doesn’t like it.

Jimin bites Taehyung’s bottom lip, and Taehyung groans, low in his throat, throwing his head back as Jimin trails sloppy kisses down his neck, fingers holding the collar of his shirt down so that Jimin can kiss more.

Taehyung’s free hand slides down to Jimin’s ass and squeezes, and Jimin laughs against his skin, and this is kind of everything Taehyung has ever wanted.

Jimin’s kisses are unhurried now, wet and good, and the weight of Jimin against Taehyung’s chest grows heavier, and Taehyung wraps his arms around Jimin’s back to keep his as close as possible.

And right when Taehyung has decided to let himself forget to worry about it, to let himself think about it in the morning, he hears Jimin snore.

"Jimin?" Taehyung whispers, even though he has a horrible feeling he knows exactly what happened. "Are you awake?"

Jimin has a bad habit of drinking too much because he thinks he’s fine and then everything hits him all at once. Hoseok said that Jimin had been drinking before he even got to the party.

Taehyung takes a deep breath. "Jimin," he tries again.

Jimin is dead to the world and Taehyung is just dead.

Here he is, at a Halloween party in someone else’s house, in someone else’s bed, with his best friend drunk and horny, asleep on top of him after making out for no reason other than Jimin is desperate when he’s drunk and Taehyung’s willpower is effectively zero.

A mess.

Kim Taehyung is a goddamn mess.

He wants to go home and be alone and remind himself he’s not a shitty person for letting his best friend do that when he clearly isn’t making good decisions. He wants to crawl into bed with a movie and never leave. He wants to sleep curled up with Jimin and not feel weird because he knows what it feels like when that turns into something else.

That really turned into something else.

This whole party was a mistake. This whole day was a mistake. Taehyung wants to erase it. It never happened. He’d rather ignore it, ignore the feeling in his stomach, than have to deal with the consequence of Jimin realizing what he did in the morning and pretending Taehyung doesn’t exist. He’ll wipe this memory off of the face of the planet.

Or not.

Taehyung sets the memory aside and slips it in with the thoughts he saves for when it’s dark, and he’s alone in his room, listening to his own heartbeat telling him one thing, over and over and over again.

You’re in love, you fucking idiot.

 


 

Hoseok finds them, a couple of hours later, waking up a groggy Taehyung with a soft knock on the door. Taehyung hadn’t even realized he’d fallen asleep. "The party is wrapping up," Hoseok tells him, peering at Jimin’s sleeping figure sprawled out across Taehyung’s chest. There’s a hickey under Taehyung’s ear. "Have fun?"

"Please don’t tease him," Taehyung asks. His hands absently run up and down Jimin’s back. "Don’t even mention it. He’s going to be so embarrassed in the morning, fuck."

Hoseok blinks. "Embarrassed." His eyes are flat. "Why? Because he fell asleep?"

"He got flat out drunk and made out with me, why do you think?"

"Okay." Hoseok looks tired. The party probably took it out of him. "Jungkook is waiting for you. You should wake Jimin up."

Taehyung looks down at the top of Jimin’s head, where his friend’s cheek is smushed into his chest. "Maybe I’ll just, like, carry him out." Waking him up seems cruel. And Taehyung had kind of accepting that this would be his duty when he accepted Designated Driver Duty. Carrying Jimin is part of the territory.

He kind of wishes he were drunk but, whatever. He’s young. He’s got time to drink his problems away.

Hoseok helps arrange Jimin on Taehyung’s back. It would be harder, maybe, if Jimin didn’t have a habit of clinging to anything in the near vicinity when he’s asleep, so he’s draped over Taehyung and his hands are gripping Taehyung’s until Taehyung pries his fingers off and hooks his arms under Jimin’s legs. Jimin grabs onto Taehyung’s shirt instead.

Jungkook is waiting for them at the door, holding Taehyung’s suit coat, but Taehyung waves it away when it’s offered to him. He doesn’t want to move Jimin too much.

Jungkook’s eyes zero in on the hickey on Taehyung’s neck before peering into Taehyung’s face, and Taehyung doesn’t say anything because he steps outside onto the porch and into the darkness where Jungkook can’t fucking psychoanalyze him. "Did something happen?" Jungkook asks.

Taehyung smiles at him. "Nope." The air is chilly but Jimin is warm on Taehyung’s back. "Not a thing."

Taehyung ends up driving Jungkook home despite his reservations earlier in the night, and it's only unfortunate because Jungkook isn't actually that drunk and definitely knows that something went down and seems to be very interested in figuring out what that was. when Taehyung finally drops Jungkook off, it's with a smile and a wave and a sigh of relief, because the way Jungkook stared at the back of Taehyung's head while he drove was disconcerting enough without knowing exactly what Jungkook is picturing.

The hickey is rather a tell all. Taehyung tells himself he's going to cover it up with makeup in the morning but he knows he's going to end up staring at it in the mirror until his alarm tells him it's almost time to leave and he throws on a turtleneck to protect himself from both the elements and his mother's ridicule.

So Taehyung lugs Jimin into his house and sets Jimin on his bed and even though they've slept together a million times before something feels wrong about this time, because Jimin is drunk and Taehyung is weak and something bad is going to happen.

Even if it seems good at the time.

Taehyung changes out of his suit and puts on the most comfortable pajamas he owns. He takes off Jimin's costume with no hesitation. He's seen Jimin completely naked more times then he can count. It's lost it's luster, even if Jimin right now is more built and more tan. He likes both Jimins. They're the same Jimin, after all.

He really shouldn't be thinking about this when he's got his best friend/love of his life naked in his bed and he's trying to keep things PG.

Jimin has a pair of Taehyung's clothes that he always sleeps in, because they're the most comfortable, according to him. For a while, Taehyung set them aside just for Jimin, so they were always ready, but Jimin complained they didn't smell as good, and now Taehyung wears them to bed sometimes and tries not to think too hard about anything in particular.

That's how he falls asleep now, with Jimin at his side, wearing his clothes, after they made out at a party. By trying not to think about anything too hard.

The last thing Taehyung remembers thinking is that the morning is going to be awful.

 


 

When Taehyung wakes up in the morning, Jimin is wrapped around him so tightly he's struggling to get circulation in his arms.

Jimin, a soft, sleepy koala.

His breath smells like alcohol when it fans across Taehyung's face and it's an unpleasant reminder of what happened last night.

Taehyung spends the next ten minutes trying to escape Jimin's clutches and think of a battle plan for whenever Jimin wakes up, confused and upset and probably freaking out because they made out a little and did some questionable dancing.

Together.

Jimin and Taehyung, together.

The idea will probably freak Jimin out just as much as it's freaking out Taehyung, albeit for completely different reasons.

Taehyung does what he always does when he's confused and hungry and hungover.

He makes cheesy eggs.

It's at the top of Taehyung's Can Cook Without Destroying the Neighborhood list, because Taehyung's brother, who usually cooks, hates scrambled eggs, and Taehyung hates runny yolk, and it was really in everyone's best interest that Taehyung figured it out.

If only his feelings were that easy.

(Taehyung almost makes an egg pun and he hates himself.)

The kitchen smells like cheese when Jimin blearily makes his way down the hallway. Taehyung knows what to expect when he looks away from what he's making, but he still takes a second to brace himself before turning around. Taehyung's t-shirt hangs off of one of his shoulders and the pants are too long so Jimin is holding them up as he shuffles along. There is a pillow crease on his forehead. Jimin's hair is messy with sleep and leftover hair product, and his face is kind of puffy and his eyes are a little sleep-swollen, and Taehyung wants to kiss his cheeks. Multiple times, probably.

Jimin yawns, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Good morning," he slurs, and he sounds kind of miserable. Hung over. Taehyung knows from experience that Jimin probably has a headache. He's already set out some medicine and a glass of water on the kitchen table and Jimin is already reaching for it.

"Good morning," Taehyung says, watching the cheese melt and ignoring the fact that he's going to have to scrape it off of the spatula later, similar to the way he's going to have to scrape his feelings off of the floor. "Sleep well?"

Jimin grins a little haggardly. "Like a log."

Taehyung snorts. "Like a leech," he corrects. "I had a human blanket this morning."

"I like cuddling when I'm drunk," Jimin says defensively.

Apparently, is what Taehyung wants to say, thinking about the party, but that wasn't so much cuddling as. Something else. Something else that was not cuddling. "I know," he settles on instead. "I didn't say it was a problem."

Usually, Jimin would be reaching for the medicine first and the coffee second, but Jimin is standing by the table still, glass of water held carefully between both hands. "Um," he starts, and Taehyung already knows what he's going to say. "About last night..."

Ah.

That answers the question, then, of whether Jimin would remember in the morning or not. The hesitant tone of Jimin's voice says that he does.

Taehyung forces a smile. "Don't worry about it," he says, still scooting the eggs around in the pan. His heart thunks into his stomach, it's fine.

Jimin doesn't answer for a moment. "Don't worry about it?" he repeats slowly. He runs his thumb over the textured side of the cup absently. Taehyung knows this because he's looking everywhere but Jimin's face.

"No need to be embarrassed about it," Taehyung clarifies, looking at Jimin over his shoulder for another split second, eyes flitting up. His friend's face is blank. He looks tired. Taehyung feels tired, but he's smiling anyway. "We can forget it ever happened." Taehyung will try to forget.

When Taehyung looks around again, there's a crease between Jimin's eyebrows, the one he gets when he's upset and trying not to be, and Taehyung stumbles over his words. "Seriously, dude, don't be embarrassed about it," he reassures. "Friends kiss friends sometimes. It happens."

Jimin takes a breath. Another. A deeper one. His eyes are trained on the hickey on Taehyung's neck and Taehyung wishes he had covered it. "Friends kiss friends," he says, and Taehyung isn't entirely sure Jimin is agreeing, which is fair, because this is kind of a weird situation that Jimin is probably having some problems processing. "Yeah." Jimin bites his lower lip and looks into his water glass. "I guess they do."

The eggs are kind of burnt and that's another thing Taehyung doesn't know what to do about.

 


 

Seokjin comes homes from college right when Taehyung is starting to freak out about finals.

His brother is an acting major at a university that's five hours away by train, and it's too far for Taehyung's tastes, because Seokjin is too busy to take a weekend off and Taehyung is too poor to buy himself a train ticket to go see him. Last year, Jimin's birthday gift to him had been a ticket for the two of them to go, and it was one of the best trips Taehyung's ever taken.

It's not really fair that college students get out so early while Taehyung is over here struggling to make it through his semester. Senioritis is strong as hell, a vicious adversary, and it definitely plays dirty.

When Seokjin gets home, Taehyung is studying for something he should have been working on a week and a half ago. There is a huge mess on his bedroom floor from his final project for his shitty art class (by that, he means he's shitty at art), and he hasn't showered in 24 hours.

Seokjin still looks happy to see him. "Is that anyway to greet your brother?" he asks teasingly, standing in the doorway for several minutes, unnoticed. "What is this lack of enthusiasm?"

"Seokjin!" Taehyung spasms on the floor, dropping his textbook on the floor and scrambling to his feet. "You're back!"

"I've been back for like 15 minutes!" Seokjin complains, stepping back slightly with a grunt when Taehyung launches himself into his brother's arms. "No charming little brother to greet me. I'm so disappointed."

"Since when do you have a charming little brother?" Taehyung asks playfully, giving Seokjin one last squeeze before taking a step back and looking him over head to toe. It's been a while since they've seen each other, since Seokjin stayed there for the summer to do an internship. Seokjin isn't any taller, but Taehyung is, so it's a new vantage point. They're almost the same now. Seokjin's hair is swept back off his forehead and dyed pink because he's in the arts and can do that shit, but his roots are growing in pretty badly because he's in college and poor. "I guess I'll have to do."

"Cheeky," Seokjin grins. He's still got his hoodie on against the chill outside, and his eyes are a little puffy since he probably slept on the train. Seokjin looks over Taehyung's shoulder at the mess of his room and raises a questioning eyebrow.

"Finals," Taehyung explains. Usually he's pretty neat. Neatish. For a high school boy he's practically a marvel. "I procrastinated."

"Getting started on those college habits early, yeah?" Seokjin walks in and flops on Taehyung's bed without pretense. "I'm proud of you."

Taehyung flops down beside him. "Senioritis is the worst," he says, pouting. "I just want to take classes that I actually care about."

"Are you saying you don't care about..." Seokjin picks up a book sitting on the bed and reads off the title, "Sociology and Youth Culture?"

"I actually like that class," Taehyung says, taking the book. "Gotta get those AP credits."

"My cute overachiever."

"I've got a B, so I don't know about that."

"I would bet money that you know exactly what percentage you need to get on the final for an A."

"I..." Taehyung sighs. "Yeah." He laughs. "My worst grade is actually science, but Jimin is helping me study, so hopefully it's okay. He's way better at that shit than I am."

Seokjin makes a considering sound in the back of his throat. "How is Jimin?" He rolls over on his side and props his head up on his hand, peering over at Taehyung's face. "I heard from Mom that he's really...blossomed."

"That's a word, but please never use it again," Taehyung tells him with a grimace.

"Mom's word, not mine," Seokjin assures him, moving a little as Taehyung sits up again. "It wouldn't be my first choice."

"Jimin is..." Jimin is a lot of things. "Good," Taehyung says instead. "Jimin is good."

Taehyung really should have known that things wouldn't go back to normal after Halloween, as much as he tried to assure Jimin that they could. Things have evened out a little now, but the first week was...

Jimin left Taehyung's house soon after that conversation had ended with a frown hidden in the creases around his eyes, and Taehyung didn't know what to do about it. There was a little bit of avoidance at school on Monday. They didn't walk to school together (Jimin claimed he was running too late and Taehyung should leave without him) and they didn't eat lunch together (Jimin had homework he needed to work on that he hadn't gotten to on Sunday because, wow, hangover) which were both plausible and Taehyung did his best not to read too much into it.

Jimin is allowed to be embarrassed about it. Taehyung is willing to wait.

That had only lasted about a day. Tuesday was better. Tense, but better. Wednesday was weird, because Jimin hung out with the soccer boys pretty much exclusively, and both Taehyung and Jungkook were kind of left with huge question marks and an empty seat beside them.

"What did you say to him?" Jungkook had asked.

"What he wanted to hear," Taehyung had answered.

Jungkook's eye roll made it clear he didn't believe him.

But when school ended that day and Taehyung went to his locker, Jimin was there, waiting for him, a soft, hesitant smile. "Walk me home?" he'd asked.

"After three years of doing that, do you really think I'd say no today?" Taehyung replied with a laugh and a sigh of relief.

Things were better after that.

"Jimin is good," Taehyung says again.

Seokjin looks at Taehyung for another moment, a sharp moment, and Taehyung doesn’t think Seokjin is going to pry because he’s really not the type, but Seokjin knows, and that’s already too much.

"Mom tells me you’re starting to look at schools," Seokjin says, changing the subject, a small mercy.

"Oh, uh, yeah." Taehyung kicks Seokjin lightly in the shin because he’s the younger brother and he can. "I’ve already applied, actually." He does a peace sign and smiles his cutest smile. "I got accepted."

Seokjin raises both eyebrows. "To all of them?" he asks, grinning. "That’s great!"

"Well." Taehyung coughs awkwardly. "I only applied to the one." He and Jimin had both applied and been accepted and are in the process of figuring out how they’re going to decorate their room. Jimin wants to color coordinate and Taehyung wants to know why they should even bother when Jimin is just going to hide everything under dirty laundry anyway.

His brother really isn’t one to pry, but this is less prying and more scolding, so Taehyung can’t say he’s surprised. "Only one?" His eyebrows are up in his hairline.

"Yeah, and I got in," Taehyung says defensively. He knows that it’s recommended to apply to a few, but honestly his grades and tests are enough to get him admission to most schools, and as long as he got in then there’s no harm done.

"Did you even look at other schools?"

Taehyung opens his mouth, pauses and then snaps it shut. "Jimin and I have always planned on going to this school together," he reasons. "Why should I try to look somewhere else when I know I’ll be happiest there?"

"Aish, this kid." Seokjin sits all the way up, and it’s weird, how Taehyung is almost at eye level with him now. Maybe Jimin isn’t the only one who has changed. Maybe he’s growing up. It’s a scary thought. "How do you know you’ll be happiest there?"

Because Jimin will be there, is what the answer is, but Taehyung holds his tongue, even though the look on Seokjin’s face makes it clear that he knows anyway. Seokjin always knows too much, that bastard. "I’ve wanted to go for a while," Taehyung says instead.

Seokjin hums in understanding. "There are a lot of different opportunities out there, and a lot of place that might suit you. Better programs and nicer campuses…" He squints at Taehyung, but it’s not unkind. "I know you and Jimin have been planning this, but I don’t know if it’s a great idea to mold your whole universe around your best friend."

"He’s not just my best friend." Taehyung tells him with a laugh. "We’re soulmates, man." It’s a joke.

Maybe.

He’s not sure because Seokjin doesn’t laugh. "You can be soulmates and not be right next to each other." He runs a hand through his hair, grimacing when he feels how greasy it is. "I hate traveling," he whines. "I need a shower." Instead of moving, he flops backwards on the bed. "I know this is like, not all what we should be talking about when I’ve returned from the education wasteland, but...I don’t know. Maybe just consider looking into it."

Building his whole universe around his best friend doesn’t sound like a bad idea to Taehyung at all, so while Seokjin falls asleep on his bed and Taehyung goes back to studying, he pushes the conversation aside.

Mostly.

 


 

By the time finals season starts in earnest, Taehyung feels worse and worse about asking Jimin for help on his homework, because Jimin is just getting more and more stressed. It seems like the senioritis has hit Taehyung a little harder, because Jimin still cares just as much as he did the year before.

The solution to that is going to Jimin’s study sessions with his tutor.

Kim Namjoon is also a senior, a tall guy with long limbs and a cute face, dimples when he smiles, and an incredible GPA. There’s no doubt in Taehyung’s mind that Namjoon will be Valedictorian. He’s not even sure if anyone else is in the running at this point.

Namjoon isn’t stressed about his finals at all, so Taehyung feels a little better asking him for help with his science homework.

"Why the fuck am I taking biology?" Taehyung whines. “I don’t need biology to be an architect. No one cares about like, punnett squares.”

”Pretty sure you have to take it, Tae,” Jimin tells him softly, not looking up from his math work. “It’s not my fault you put off your least favorite science for when you would care the least.”

”I’d rather take physics again with Choi and that was a fucking disaster.” He shakes his head. “This is also a disaster but I don’t care about biology literally at all.”

”Better than chem.”

Namjoon clears his throat. “I actually liked chemistry.” He’s been fairly quiet all day, save for explaining this as clearly as he can. Taehyung was a little worried when he got there that him and Jimin together would be overpowering, but they’ve been careful to leave Namjoon with opportunities to chime in, and he does, every once in a while.

Taehyung is glad, because he quite likes Namjoon.

”Namjoon, please teach me your ways,” Taehyung whines.

“I like chemistry too,” Jimin points out.

“But it's Namjoon’s job,” Taehyung whines again. He's 100% certain he's asked Jimin for help with chemistry before, probably multiple times during that horrible year, although chemistry is quickly being overrun by biology as his least favorite science. “And I trust him more.”

“Okay, first of all, fuck you,” Jimin says petulantly.

Taehyung grins. “And second of all?”

Jimin thinks for a moment. “My second point is also fuck you.”

Namjoon snorts a little and pretends he’s not listening. “So, math.”

“We don’t need help with math,” Taehyung says plainly, peering over to look at the formulas Namjoon is looking at in his textbook.

Jimin tugs his notebook closer to his chest and pouts. “Speak for yourself.”

Taehyung blinks. “Jimin,” he says slowly. “You have the best grade in the class.” Taehyung isn’t too terrible at math either, when he decides to pay attention. He would rather spend more time going over grammar because wow who fucking cares about the proper use of a semi-colon versus a colon?

Namjoon probably cares.

That’s why they pay him the big bucks.

“The reason I have the best grade in the class, Taehyung,” Jimin replies pointedly, “is because I study.”

Taehyung squints. “A low blow.”

Jimin picks up his math textbook and plunks it down in front of Taehyung on the table as obnoxiously as possible. "Better get started, Mr. Architect."

"College hasn't even started yet and I'm already dropping out." Taehyung groans. He's not usually so whiny (he is) but he's stressed for a number of reasons and honestly, he'd rather be like, taking a bubble bath right now instead of trying to force his brain to focus.

Namjoon laughs. "That doesn't bode well." He's shuffling his papers around on the table, but he's grinning, one dimple visible, so Taehyung thinks they're making quite a bit of progress. "College is better than high school, I'm 90% sure."

"I like those odds." Taehyung lifts his cup of juice in a toast, careful not to spill it on the carpet or else Jimin's mother will probably sense the disturbance and come downstairs to remove one limb as payment. "I'll take like, pottery my freshman year, really embrace my inner artist."

Jimin snorts. "I've heard you play the saxophone. I'm not sure there's one in there."

"Um." Namjoon holds up his notebook. "Math?"

Taehyung groans again and drops his face onto the table.

"Jimin?"

It's Jimin's mom. Taehyung quickly checks the carpet to see if he actually spilled something and didn't notice, but when he looks over his shoulder he sees that she's holding out her cell phone. "Your grandpa called," she says. "He wants to talk to you."

Jimin is already excusing himself, pulling out his chair as lightly as possible and apologizing to Namjoon while he walks to his mother, takes the phone, and then goes out into the hallway.

"They're probably talking about holiday plans," Taehyung notes out loud, doodling in the margins of his notebook again. He's drawn so many chibi Jimins, admittedly rather poorly, and now he's drawing a very small doodle of himself playing the saxophone, because fuck you, Jimin, he's an artistic genius. He draws a stick figure cheering him on and draws an arrow labeling him Jimin.

"Do you like him?" Namjoon asks, out of the blue.

"Jimin's grandpa?" Taehyung asks absently. "Yeah, he's really nice. He hand-makes his noodles."

Namjoon hums. "I meant Jimin."

Oh. This is one of those conversations. "Of course I like Jimin," he says pointedly, flipping over the page so that he has a fresh piece of paper to work with. "We've been best friends forever. I'd better like him, to put up with his shit all this time."

"You know what I mean."

"Do I?" He's being a brat, but he's a little caught off guard and it's not his fault. He'd never figured Namjoon as someone who would pry. Or be particularly observant about that sort of thing.

"I've seen people on their honeymoons who are less obvious than the two of you," Namjoon says succinctly.

"Don't tell him," Taehyung tells him, instead of denying it. At this point, he doesn't have a reason to. "He can't know. He'll freak out."

Slowly, chews on his lower lip. "I don't think he would, personally." Namjoon laughs. "He talks about you a lot, when we study together."

Taehyung's mouth feels dry. "We're best friends," he says. "That would make sense."

"Jungkook was right." Namjoon crosses something out on the paper in front of him, a little viciously. "You're both incredible."

"Did Jungkook tell you?" Taehyung demands incredulously. He never would have guessed Jungkook capable of such an enormous and tragic betrayal. "What a shit."

"Jungkook only told me when I asked what was going on with you," Namjoon points out. "After Halloween you guys were super weird and now things are kind of normal, but even your normal is weird."

"Clearly you have never had a soulbrother." Taehyung draws a bubble butt on Jimin's stick figure and calls it a masterpiece, but he's really not ready to look Namjoon in the face, so he starts drawing Jungkook begging for forgiveness in the corner. "Jimin and I have always been like this."

"In love?"

Taehyung grimaces. "No." He tries to think of the word. "Close." It's an understatement.

"You could be closer," Namjoon says after a moment. "But you're an idiot. So."

"Don't tell him," Taehyung repeats. This conversation is unexpected, but the biggest thing is that Jimin can't know. "Please don't tell him."

Namjoon sighs. "I won't," he agrees. "Not my place. Lord knows what I'd do if someone told H...uh." Namjoon turns bright pink. "I won't tell him."

Taehyung blinks, slowly, and grins. "Brothers in piny solidarity," he says finally. "We've bonded. We've achieved new friendship heights."

"Please just do your homework." Namjoon looks pleased.

 


 

It's New Year’s.

New year, new you, and all that other bullshit people pretend they believe for approximately two weeks of the year.

He's sitting on the roof of Jungkook's house, looking at the shitty view of the next line of houses and the park on the corner that looks kind of creepy at night, all abandoned, the wind making the swings sway back and forth and back and forth. Eerie. Taehyung's not sure why he likes it.

It's not too cold. Taehyung is on the right side of chilly in his hoodie and his sweatpants. No need to dress up when you know you're going to get together with like four people and drink enough to not be considered lame and play mildly tipsy Cards Against Humanity until the clock says it's time to watch the ball drop. Yoongi, unsurprisingly, wins the game almost every time, which drives both Jimin and Jungkook up the wall and just makes Taehyung laugh delightedly.

(Every time Yoongi said something mildly sexual, which was often, Jungkook turned to most hilarious pink color. Taehyung wanted to take a picture and tease him about it forever.)

"Hey there, stranger."

Taehyung twists in place, looking over at the window behind him to see Jimin carefully climbing out of Jungkook's bedroom and walking across the roofing to sit down at Taehyung's side. He's wearing a sweater, red and five times too big and definitely the one that Taehyung got him for Christmas. His pants are tight because Park Jimin doesn't play games. His legs look good as he arranges them carefully underneath himself.

"Howdy," Taehyung says dryly.

Jimin stretches, taking a deep breath. "It's too hot inside," he says. "All that sexual tension between the lovebirds."

Taehyung is feeling pretty warm himself, with the way Jimin's thigh is brushing against his, and decides not to mention it. "I bet they start dating before Yoongi's birthday."

"I bet they start dating on Yoongi's birthday," Jimin hums. "A birthday gift to remember."

Taehyung smiles softly. "You're on." He chews on his lip, fond. "What are we betting?"

"A sense of honor?"

"You barely have one, the stakes aren't very high," Taehyung teases.

"Hmmm..." Jimin taps a finger on his chin. "A kiss, maybe?"

"Um." Taehyung's heart stutters, partially because of what Jimin said and partially because he looks really, really good in the moonlight. Bright. "Who would I be kissing?"

Jimin peers closely into Taehyung's face. "How about if you lose, you have to kiss the person you like." His face is rather close. Taehyung could count his eyelashes. "And if I lose, I'll do the same."

Jimin likes someone?

Wait.

"What if I don't like anyone?" Taehyung tries, a calmly as he can.

Jimin blinks. "Don't you?"

This is awful. Taehyung doesn't want to be here. Jimin is too close. "If I did, don't you think you'd know?"

It's oddly tense, for a moment. "I always thought I would," Jimin says softly. "Maybe I was wrong."

Taehyung's phone beeps, a jarring ending to a moment Taehyung hadn't realized they were having.

Jimin's eyes flick down to the screen. "30 seconds to midnight," he notes.

"Should we go inside?" Taehyung feels like they should go inside but also it feels right to be out here, with him. Talking. Close.

"Don't really care about watching the ball drop," Jimin says with a shrug, and Taehyung has to agree. "It's more the idea of it, really." He grins. "Besides, there are more fun things about New Year’s."

New Year's kisses.

That's the first thing that pops into his head.

His brain is a fucking traitor.

Taehyung isn't sure what's happening to him, but his heart is doing something really funny because of the way that Jimin's hair falls over his forehead, and the way Jimin is looking at him, and the way Jimin is, and everything feels so right that it scares him. He can feel himself leaning in and it's bad news. "What's that?" Taehyung asks, but it's a whisper.

He's been doing such a good job of keeping himself in line recently, of protecting himself and Jimin from his feelings, but he's warm with alcohol and the way Jimin's body is pressed into his side, and there's only one thing that's really clear.

Jimin is too close.

Well, two things are clear. Because Taehyung is absolutely certain that he wants to kiss him.

The alarm on Taehyung's phone rings midnight.

Taehyung can't keep doing this.

He looks at Jimin's lips.

He really can't keep doing this. It isn't fair.

"Happy New Year," he says, more breath than sound, but they're close enough that Jimin can hear him. Close enough that Jimin can probably feel it on his face. Too close.

Taehyung stands up.

It's slow, creaky, and reluctant, because he wants to be this close to Jimin forever, but it won't work out. Not for either of them. So many bad possibilities for the single possibility he wants. He can't do that.

He holds a hand out to Jimin.

Jimin doesn't take it. "I..." Jimin takes a deep breath. Licks his lips. Turns to face the ugly view. "Head inside without me. I need some quiet."

Something is wrong, and Taehyung isn't sure if it's just him. If it's just Taehyung that's wrong, that's off, or if Jimin needs the quiet for the same reason that Taehyung needed quiet. Because even at a party of four his own head is so loud he can't hear anything else. "Okay," he says, and turns back to the window.

"Taehyung?"

Taehyung pauses with one foot inside Jungkook's room.

Jimin smiles at him. "Happy New Year."

Taehyung goes inside.

It's not until the next day that Taehyung thinks maybe they were both letting something go.

 


 

"Do you know where you’re going to college?"

There are some applications in his bag, and he never realized paper could be so heavy.

"No," Taehyung tells them with a smile. "I'm still looking at my options."

Chapter Text

"What's your New Year's resolution?"

It's too cold, in the early days of January, to be outside, but when Taehyung asked Jimin if he wanted to go to the swings, the other boy hadn't hesitated for an instant. So here they are, bundled up in coats and boots and Jimin is wearing the hot pink mittens that Taehyung got him once as a joke. The air is so cold they can see their breath. Jimin's face is barely peaking out over his huge scarf. His cheeks are red from the cold and his beanie is sticking up awkwardly on his head.

Cute.

The park is abandoned at the moment. No one in their right minds would be out here in the winter, when the cold metal of the swings bites into Taehyung's hands through his gloves and his nose is kind of numb and he's really looking forward to the coffee shop he'll probably convince Jimin to go to with him afterwards. The air is crisp, a standard January day, where the sky is blue and clear and cold and everything feels fresh except Taehyung is freezing where he stands.

Jimin kicks his legs back and forth, letting the mild force of it rock him against the winter wind. "Do we even do New Year's Resolutions anymore?"

"What do you mean?" Taehyung laughs. "Is there an age limit? I know for a fact that my mother has resolved to learn how to knit for the last three years in a row."

Jimin snorts, holding his scarf down from his face so his mouth is free. "She knit me a scarf for Christmas."

"Okay, then she's resolved to learn how to knit well."

School starts again next Monday, and a part of Taehyung is almost excited to get back into the routine of suffering through lesson after lesson as graduation creeps closer and closer. The other part is soaking up these little moments with Jimin, the ones where things are quiet and they're loud and together and the world spins a little slower.

Jimin bites on the chapped skin of his lower lip, and Taehyung fights something down. "What if I don't have a resolution?"

"Maybe you should make one." Taehyung knows his. It's to keep his shit together. His emotional shit, which is starting to spill over into his daily life and color the people around him. In his mind's eye, Jimin is painted gold and he's reflecting light off of the snow and he kind of looks like an angel. Something soft that Taehyung wants to hold.

This isn't how Taehyung keeps his shit together. He wants to stamp down on his brain and make it think the things he wants it to think and nothing else.

He smiles.

"What's your resolution?" Jimin asks.

"To not get detention."

Jimin laughs. "So we're not being realistic, then?" He only laughs harder when Taehyung pouts. Jimin kicks his legs a little harder, feet barely skimming the frost covered mulch. "Maybe mine should be to stop caring so much."

Taehyung frowns. "I like that you care so much. I don't think you need to let go of that."

Jimin is staring at the sun. "Maybe it should be to let go of things that I know are never going to happen."

"Jimin," Taehyung calls lightly. "You're making me sad. That's not like you at all." He kicks his legs a little harder, too, keeping pace. His old boots are smudged with dirt and wet with snow. "A resolution should be something helpful. Like chasing your dreams, you know?" Isn't that why people resolve to work out more or eat healthier or go out more or be nicer? To start the year off chasing good dreams.

Jimin hums. Taehyung can barely hear it over the wind, but he's heard that hum a million times and knows all of it's millions of meanings. This one is new. "What if you've been chasing a dream for so long it's starting to wear you down? Shouldn't you let it go?"

"Well." Taehyung thinks.

Beside him, Jimin swings higher and higher. Taehyung thinks he might fly away right into the sun.

"Does it hurt?" he asks after a moment.

"Sometimes." Jimin laughs. "This is hypothetical, of course."

Taehyung's mouth is dry. "Of course."

"Sometimes it feels good, like the dream is all you've ever wanted and you're so close." Taehyung can only see Jimin's face when he swings back now, scarf flying through the air. "And then suddenly you're as far as you've ever been and that's what hurts."

"I know that feeling," Taehyung admits.

New Year's was only a couple of days ago, and Taehyung would like to say that nothing has changed between them. They still hang out like they always do. Jungkook and Yoongi are still circling around each other like they have nothing better to do. Taehyung still signed up for most of the same classes as Jimin (gym was only one semester, thank god).

Other things have changed. Jimin doesn't touch him as much. Smiles but doesn't laugh. Like he knows what is going on in Taehyung's head and it makes him uncomfortable.

Taehyung has college applications on his desk at home that Jimin doesn't know about. He doesn't know why it needs to be a secret, but the thought of saying his doubts aloud is unimaginable. Painful. Like pouring salt in his own wound.

He wants to kiss Jimin. He wanted to kiss Jimin on the roof. He wants to kiss Jimin right now. He remembers what it was like to kiss Jimin on Halloween. He knows that he would have kept kissing Jimin on Halloween if it hadn't ended the way it had.

It's a problem.

It's a dream and it's hurts. Like looking into the sun and appreciating all of the warmth it gives until your skin is burning and you're melting into nothing.

Dramatic.

"Is it a good dream, though?" Taehyung asks, voice small.

All Taehyung can see is Jimin's back. "Yeah," he answers. "It's a good dream." When he swings back, he's smiling. "Maybe I should hold onto it a little longer."

 


 

The Soccer season is over, but Jimin has cemented himself in the upper echelon of the high school social hierarchy for all the reasons Taehyung always knew he would. Jimin is cute and kind and handsome and charming and smart and hardworking and he cares so much.

Taehyung would like the universe to try and produce a better person.

"Does it ever annoy you?"

Taehyung looks up from his mac and cheese. "What?"

Jungkook is staring over Taehyung's shoulder, a soft frown on his face. Taehyung doesn't have to look to know why his friend is frowning. Jimin has been cornered by a small group of girls for the past five minutes on his way back from grabbing a fork. There's a look of panic growing in Jimin's eyes that Taehyung thinks is pretty funny, but the cause of it is a girl who keeps rubbing up and down his arm like she's trying to fondle his bicep and that's a little much.

"Should I save him?" Taehyung muses. "Last time I went up to talk to him everyone scattered."

He says it like a joke, but when he looks back at Jungkook his friend is far more irritated than amused. "I wonder why," he asks flatly. Taehyung honestly does wonder why, so he's not sure where the sarcasm is coming from. "But still, doesn't it bother you that so many people are all over him?"

Taehyung shrugs, swirling his straw in his milk. "People have been doing that for months. Although I'm a little surprised it's still this bad." Taehyung observes the group thoughtfully. He can't blame any of them. "Aren't you used to it?"

"I don't like it because it's annoying as hell. That fork was for me," Jungkook says. He squints. "You should like it even less than I like it."

"Why do you say that?" Taehyung asks innocently, even though he more or less knows what Jungkook is going to say. He's not an idiot, and he's never thought that Jungkook was either. Besides. They dated, once.

Jungkook knows what Taehyung looks like when he's in love.

With a sigh, Jungkook pushes his tray away, like Taehyung is making him physically incapable of eating. "I know that something happened on Halloween."

"I'm sure many things happened on Halloween."

Jungkook squints at him. "Hoseok told me he found the two of you in one of the spare bedrooms."

Taehyung snorts. "We were asleep."

"Jimin was on top of you and drunk off his ass," Jungkook counters. "Do you really expect me to think nothing happened? It's really only a question of how much happened. Jimin has no control over himself when he's drunk."

"Don't you dare tease him about it," Taehyung warns, looking over Jungkook's shoulder at Jimin. Jimin makes eye contact with him, pleading quietly, and Taehyung twinkles his fingers in a sarcastic wave. "We just made out a little. He wasn't himself."

"So you did kiss, though?" Jungkook presses.

"We talked about it afterwards," Taehyung assures him. "I told him not to worry about it." He sighs. "He was probably freaking out, like. He hasn't mentioned it once. I hope he's not still embarrassed."

"I hate you," Jungkook says earnestly. "I hate you both."

"Rude." Taehyung throws a French fry at him.

Jungkook picks it up off of his shirt and eats it. "And nothing has happened since then?"

Taehyung does not think of New Year's. "No."

"Tae."

"What's new with you and Yoongi?" Taehyung asks, his most obvious evasion tactic to date, but Jungkook only kind of minds. Taehyung can see the transition on his friend's face as Jungkook decides whether to continue harping on Taehyung or follow his heart and gush about his crush.

"He's so cute," Jungkook says finally.

"Mhmm."

"Whenever we go out, he finds all the stray cats," Jungkook says in wonder. "I don't know how he does it. They just...appear. And he always has food for them, even though he grumbles about it when he sees them. He's like a grumpy Disney princess."

Taehyung grins. "Incredible."

"Taehyung," Jungkook whines. "I want to boyfriend him."

"Understandable." Taehyung laughs, shoving his mouthful of macaroni and trying not to get cheese on his t-shirt. "I'm pretty sure he wants you to boyfriend him."

"But how does one know?" Jungkook demands. "The wild Yoongi is a fascinating and mysterious creature and cannot be understood by mere mortals."

"Dramatic." Taehyung laughs. "Just ask him out. It'll be easier for all of us."

Jungkook blinks. "I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm afraid." Jungkook laughs. "Sound familiar?"

Taehyung purses his lips. "I think we're afraid of different things." Jimin is starting to walk over again, and Taehyung doesn't even fight to keep his eyes from following his figure as he walks over, fork in hand.

"Not really," Jungkook says.

"What are you guys talking about?" Jimin asks, slipping into the seat next to Jungkook. There's a look in his eyes like he just got attacked by a herd of wild animals, which Taehyung supposes he might have been. High school girls in large groups against poor, soft Jimin. He hadn't stood a chance. "Please talk to me about something chill because I'm pretty sure one of those girls touched my ass and also a random guy definitely sniffed my hair as I passed."

"I'll fight them," Taehyung promises casually. He would. "With my noodle arms and all the dirty tricks I've learned from you over the years."

Jimin flutters his eyelashes. It's supposed to be funny but Taehyung's heart stops for just a second. "A regular knight in shining armor."

"Does that make you my damsel?"

Jungkook plucks the fork out of Jimin's waiting hand. "I'm going to stop that conversation right there before it turns into something not chill and I'm uncomfortable," he says primly.

"What were you guys saying before I got here then?" Jimin asks, flicking Jungkook on the shoulder and stealing one of his carrots.

"We were talking about him and Yoongi," Taehyung answers cheekily, not even wincing at all when Jungkook kicks him very hard in the shin. "Jungkook wants to hold his hand and have his children."

Jungkook kicks him again. "That is not what we were talking about."

"That is exactly what we were talking about."

"You should just ask him out," Jimin says, opening his milk carton and taking a sip straight from the cardboard. "He's all gross for you. He'll probably say yes."

Jungkook stares into the side of Jimin's face.

"What?" Jimin asks, frowning.

"I hate you," Jungkook tells him, with feeling.

"You already said that," Taehyung says, reaching over and stealing another chip from Jungkook's tray.

"I told you that," Jungkook reminds him pointedly. "I needed him to know, too."

Jimin shrugs. "Nothing new."

"I hate you both," Jungkook tells the air.

 


 

Taehyung loves Valentine's Day.

Mostly, Taehyung just loves love and also chocolate, and he can't think of a happier time in his life when his friends are forced to deal with his public confessions of eternal loyalty and even have to give him candy for it.

It's only fun because Taehyung has never earnestly tried to confess to someone, because honestly that sounds like a recipe for disaster. He has a lot of respect for the people who tell their feelings on Valentine's Day. Taehyung could never do it. He can't even do it on a normal day, when the pressure is low and he doesn't have to worry about people's high expectations.

He always tries to be gracious and kind when he gets a confession letter. He can always tell they're written with care, and the girls are always so nervous, and sometimes the guys can barely look him in the eyes. Taehyung is handsome and well-liked, and the confessions are almost always genuine because Taehyung doesn't have the kind of social weight for people to be throwing themselves at him without a care. He gets a letter almost every year, or a spoken confession, or a small gift left on his desk that he wishes he could accept in person with a gentle word.

A couple of times he's even accepted. There was a cute girl with pigtails back before Taehyung realized his sexuality. They'd dated for a month and broke up because their middle school schedules just didn't line up.

Last year a boy had worked up the nerve to ask him out in person. His name was Minjae. They went on a movie date and Taehyung kissed the younger boy's cheek at the end of the night. They text sometimes.

Taehyung can't imagine accepting anyone's confession this year.

Jimin gets two in his locker in the morning.

He's mid-sentence, opening his locker and telling Taehyung about some weird dream he had when a thick envelope, pink and heavy with a lollipop taped to the back, slips out and falls to the floor with a noise so loud Jimin jerks a little.

"I hope the sucker didn't break," Taehyung notes casually as Jimin reaches down to pick up the letter. "Who is it from?"

"Um." Jimin flips it around to look for a name. "It doesn't say." He looks almost bewildered, that weird, stressed crease dipping into the space between his eyebrows.

Taehyung's eyes look up from the letter in Jimin's hands to the open locker. "What about that one?"

It's small and hot pink, sitting casually on top of Jimin's history textbook where it fell when it was pushed through the slot. Jimin reaches up and grabs it, handing Taehyung the other letter. Jimin stands there, in the hallway, with a confession letter in one hand and his textbook in the other, and he looks so confused. "It's from..." He flips the note over to the other side. A name is written there in pretty cursive. "Jihyo."

"Cute." Taehyung eyes the lollipop on the anonymous letter but is too polite to ask for it. "She's a sophomore, right? Honestly, I'm impressed."

"I don't know her that well," Jimin says, frowning a little.

Taehyung pinches Jimin in the side. "Don't frown so much or word will get back to her and she'll be sad."

Jimin blinks. "What?" He looks down at the letter. "Is that for real?"

"Jimin." Taehyung laughs. "You act like you've never been given a confession before." There's an art to doing it gracefully, honestly, whether you're planning on accepting it or not.

"I..." Jimin bites his lower lips and hikes his backpack up on his shoulder, clutching his textbook to his chest like a lifeline. "It's been a while."

Taehyung frowns. "I saw Sooyoung give you a note last year."

Jimin laughs a little awkwardly, tucking the note down into his pocket. "That was for you." His voice is quiet, like it's a secret.

And maybe it was, because Taehyung has a distinct memory of Sooyoung going to Jimin and handing him the note, and also a distinct memory of not getting a written note last year. Certainly not from Jimin. "I never got a letter from her."

Jimin closes his locker, a little louder than necessary, and it's only when Taehyung hears the sound almost echo that he realizes the class is about to start and hallway is emptying out. "I never gave it to you."

"That..." Taehyung is confused. "That wasn't very nice."

Jimin grimaces. "Yeah." He looks at Taehyung for just a moment before turning on his heels and walking towards his next class as Taehyung scrambles to keep up. "I told her you were gay."

Taehyung still has the blue letter in his hands. He unzips Jimin's backpack as they walk, trying to get their steps in sync so it's less clunky as Taehyung tries to gently ease the letter into Jimin's big pocket. "What did she say?"

"That she wanted you to read it anyway." Jimin does look at him but pats Taehyung's arm in thanks when he comes up beside him. "I guess I just never...ah." He laughs, cringing. "I must have forgotten."

And Taehyung is kind of sad, because Sooyoung never got an answer and she deserved one, but there's no point in thinking about something that happened a year ago. "That's okay," Taehyung says. "I would have had to decline, but a negative answer is better than none."

"Yeah," Jimin sighs heavily. Like this topic has weight. "I agree." He smiles. "It's easier to think 'what if' if you don't know, though."

Taehyung has been living in what if? for so long. "That's not a great place to be," he says honestly. "Not sure I really want to talk about my feelings so early in the morning, but." He laughs. "I have a hard time believing no one has given you a letter recently."

Jimin snorts. "Believe it." He opens to door to the stairwell and ushers Taehyung inside ahead of him. "I haven't been high on people's lists, I guess."

"I don't know why." Taehyung tilts his head and wonders how honest he can be. "If I were a girl, you'd be at the top of mine."

"Taehyung," Jimin says flatly. "You don't have to be a girl. You're gay. You like men already."

"Take it as you will," he answers lightly. You're the top of my list. "Maybe I should have written you a love letter years ago." He clears his throat. It echoes down the stairs. "'Lovely Jimin,'" he recites. "'U r cute.' That's 'u r' spelled with just the letters," he clarifies. "'Do you like me? Circle yes or no.'"

Jimin smiles thinly. "Would you draw a shitty heart on the i?"

"Do you even know me at all?" Taehyung scoffs.

"We could hold hands behind the bleachers and you could buy me ice cream."

Taehyung pouts. "Why don't you buy me ice cream?"

"In this scenario, you confess to me," Jimin points out. "Besides, I bought last time."

"I'll buy," Taehyung says with a sigh. "I'm weak to cute boys."

They're standing outside of Jimin's homeroom now. The bell hasn't rung, but it's getting to the point where Taehyung isn't sure he will be able to make it to his class in time, and they're stilling standing there, just off to the side by the lockers, out of the doorway where they can't see the sharp look Jimin's teacher is shooting them.

"You should get to class," Jimin tells him.

"Yeah, I should." Taehyung doesn't move. "I'll see you at lunch?"

"Unless I'm accosted by the love of my life," Jimin says with a laugh. "I wouldn't rather be anywhere else than at our shitty lunch table eating those red and pink dyed krispy treats."

Taehyung thinks that's probably a bad sign, as he's walking to his own class, that even that makes his stomach flutter.

 


 

Taehyung never goes to his locker first thing in the morning because it's on the other side of the school from Jimin's and it's easier to just grab his books after homeroom. Taehyung isn't saying he's expecting a confession, but he wouldn't be surprised if there's one waiting for him when he goes to get his things.

This is the first year that there is something waiting for him on his desk.

It's a little bag, not too ostentatious and not covered in glittered. It's not even pink. It's the soft blue that Taehyung thinks might be his favorite color, with a white envelope leaning up against it with Taehyung's name in gold ink.

Minji grins at him as he takes a seat. "Someone else is fooled by your pretty face."

"It's understandable," Taehyung says reasonably, setting his bag down at his feet and setting his jacket over the back of his chair. "Letter or present?"

"Letter," she decides firmly.

Taehyung opens the present.

It's nicely packaged, the tissue paper carefully arranged, and Taehyung takes about two seconds to appreciate the artistry before ripping it out and taking out what's inside. It's a hat, gray to match his scarf, the kind with the long strings that end in pompoms. Taehyung doesn't remember what they're called. The material is soft, thick. Warm. He feels the lining and finds candy, the good chocolate that Taehyung always asks for for Christmas.

"A hat isn't very romantic," Minji pouts, even as Taehyung puts the hat on over his head.

"Useful is romantic," Taehyung counters. "My needs are met." With a grin he picks up the card and opens it, trying not to rip the envelope to shreds.

Taehyung,
I don't even know why I bothered making the present look nice when I know you're just going to destroy it.

Taehyung looks guiltily at the demolished tissue paper.

Your ears are always cold because they stick out so much.
Is it dumb that I'm endeared?
Wear this to hide them, so I don't feel stupid for thinking they're cute.
You're the worst and also I think I'm in love with you? Pity me.

Yours.

"This is the meanest love letter I have ever received," Taehyung says in wonder. He laughs, tugging the strings on his hat so it sits more firmly on his head.

Minji tries to read it over his shoulder until Taehyung holds it up a little for her to see. She snorts. "They know you well."

"Shouldn't they?" Taehyung asks. "If they're supposed to be in love with me?"

"You can think you're in love, can't you?" She laughs. "I'm only that way with people I feel comfortable around." She purses her lips. "Like friends."

"I think I would know if one of my friends had a crush on me," Taehyung shoots back.

Minji rolls her eyes. "You're impossible."

The teacher chooses that moment to stand up from his chair. "Taehyung," he says. "No hats in the school building."

Reluctantly, Taehyung pulls it off. "Sorry."

The letter sits open on his desk for the rest of the class.

 


 

"What's got you so happy?"

Taehyung grins. "Someone gave me a hat."

Jungkook squints at him. "That sounds like something that might make me smile a little but I can't imagine grinning into my bizarrely pink applesauce because of that."

"I can't think of anything that would make me smile at this shit," Jimin pouts, dropping his spoon onto his tray. "It's Valentine's Day, they should give me food that makes me want to sing love songs."

Taehyung holds his very firm personal pizza above his head. He clears his throat. "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore."

"Destroy yourself." Jimin laughs. "I don't think you're allowed to wear hats in the school."

Taehyung sets his pizza back down on his plate and wipes his fingers off before tugging on his hat strings. He's going to have horribly flat hair when a teacher asks him to take it off again. "I don't think so either."

Jimin smiles. "Do you like it?"

"Yeah." Taehyung grins. "It fits. I hope whoever gave it to me sees me wearing it and is happy."

Jimin absently stirs his apple sauce. The food coloring swirls around unevenly. "You don't know who gave it to you?" he asks curiously.

Jungkook loudly slams his orange juice down on the table. "Hmmm. I wonder who it could have been," he says, loud and aggressive.

"Why are you so angry?" Taehyung asks.

"Yeah, Jungkook," Jimin repeats. There's almost an edge there. "Why are you so angry?"

Jungkook passive aggressively takes a bite of his hotdog.

Taehyung blinks for a moment, thinking. "Do you guys think that I would know if a friend had a crush on me?"

"No," Jungkook answers. "Not at all."

"I'm pretty observant," Taehyung replies indignantly. "I think I would."

"I think," Jungkook says slowly, "that you would go years and years of emotional turmoil before you even started to think that a friend might have a crush on you."

"You're in a bad mood today," Taehyung notes.

"Let's talk about me," Jimin says pointedly, after a moment. "I got another two letters today and I don't know how to handle the pressure."

Taehyung is more than ready to change the subject. "Did you talk to Jihyo?"

"Yeah." He smiles fondly. "She came up to me right after homeroom and asked if I got her letter."

"That's so cute." Taehyung grins. "I like her." He tries to cut into his pizza and gives up before picking it up again and taking a bite out of it. "What did you say?"

Jimin shrugs. "Thanks, but no thanks." He slumps. "I told her I like someone else."

Taehyung grunts. "A classic."

"Uh." Jimin blinks. "What?"

"You know," Taehyung says, nudging Jimin slightly with his foot. "You tell someone who likes you that you like someone else and then their feelings aren't hurt?" Taehyung is confused by the blank look on Jimin's face. "It's a classic tactic. I highly recommend it. It's the only it's-not-you-it's-me that ever works."

Wordlessly, Jungkook pushes his tray forward and stands up out of his chair.

"Where are you going?" Taehyung asks, laughing as Jungkook walks purposefully towards the exit.

Jungkook doesn't even turn around. "I'm going to go dunk my head into the fountain outside," he says.

Taehyung laughs harder. "It's frozen?"

"Then I will bang my head against the fucking ice!" he shouts across the cafeteria. The freshman girl at the table beside him looks like she's never heard a bad word in her life. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry," he apologizes, tripping over his feet a little to turn around, pointing an accusing finger at Taehyung. "You did this."

And then he's gone.

"He's weird as hell," Taehyung says fondly.

"I'm glad you think so." Jimin steals one of Taehyung's grapes. "Do you want to go get the couple discount at the ice cream shop after school?"

"I will be wearing my hat."

Jimin's grin could light up a city. "Sounds good."

 


 

Two weeks later, Taehyung finds a note in his locker.

Taehyung,
I heard you liked to hat!
I'm a wonderful gift-giver. You're welcome.
I never asked you to be my Valentine...
Not sure how that would have worked out anyway.
Instead we can be one-way pen pals! Okay? Okay.

Yours.

"Jungkook," Taehyung asks with a small smile. "Can I borrow a post-it?"

 


  

Okay

 


 

Seokjin plucks Taehyung's phone from his fingers. "You've only been gone for like, 36 hours," he scolds. "You can't already be having withdrawals."

Winter has turned into something almost like spring and Taehyung's family has vacated the area to somewhere where spring is more like summer. Normally they stay in town over Taehyung's spring break, but this is the first year that Seokjin's break lines up with his, and his parents were determined to make it a big family vacation even though Seokjin looks kind of like he could use a couple of night's sleep in his own bed. He looks like a textbook hit him in the face with reality.

They left on Friday, right after Taehyung said goodbye to Jimin at the intersection where they part and Taehyung got all his shit together so they could leave. It was a sad goodbye. Jimin kicked him in the ass and launched him into the empty street because Taehyung made fun of his jorts.

"You don't understand true friendship," Taehyung pouts, making grabby hands towards his phone as it chimes with Jimin's response. He's sitting on the edge of the bed but standing up seems like too much work. "We're having a riveting conversation about the meaning of life and also having sand in your ass."

Seokjin laughs. "We're not at the beach so that you can pine for your bromance."

"There are no pines here," Taehyung says flatly. "Everything is a palm tree. I'm pine-free." His phone chimes again. "I am, however, a very good friend with a record of replying within five minutes and I won't let you take that from me."

With a snort, Seokjin tosses Taehyung his phone back. "You never reply to my texts within five minutes."

"I like you less," Taehyung reasons simply.

"Ah." Seokjin plops down on the bed, splaying out and taking up as much space as possible. "I think I'm a cool brother."

"You nag me more than Mom does," Taehyung laughs. "'Taehyungie, are you studying? Do you sleep eight hours a night? Have you learned how to cook yet? How do you plan on seducing men if you can only make rice?'" He rolls his eyes. "I'm trying to live my sad, gay life in peace."

"You really do need to learn how to cook," Seokjin teases. "Seducing men is the main goal but feeding yourself is a nice bonus."

Taehyung flops back on the bed, controlling the fall only enough that Seokjin has time to move any vital limbs before his back hits the mattress. "Is that why you learned?" Taehyung asks. "I heard your TA is hot as hell. Does he like three-tiered cakes and that weird gray sauce you put on pasta?"

"My TA does not need my cooking skills to be seduced," Seokjin snips. "I'm the most attractive I have ever been."

Taehyung scrunches his nose in distaste. "You look like a college student."

Seokjin rolls over and smothers Taehyung's face with his chest. "You look like a high schooler."

"Watch out, hot TA." Taehyung jams his fingers into Seokjin's armpit until he screams and rolls away and Taehyung can breathe again. "You're a nuisance."

"I'm your brother."

"That's what I said."

"This kid," Seokjin tuts to the air. "His own mother sends me in here to try and make him come talk to her about his life and he's trying to be smart." He kicks Taehyung half-heartedly from where they lay. "You've holed yourself up in here for like, an hour."

Taehyung's phone chimes. "It's a good conversation."

Seokjin sighs. "I know that Jimin is really important to you," he starts, and Taehyung doesn't say anything because that's a fact, not an opinion, and he doesn't have anything to add. "But Mom really wants you to go out and play dominoes with her and also maybe tell her about what's going on in your fascinating high school career."

Something dark clunks in Taehyung's chest, like a gear jamming into place and making thoughts whirl that Taehyung would rather not think about. "She's going to ask me if I've decided where I'm going to school," he says softly.

For a moment, it's quiet, and Taehyung is staring at the ceiling and doing his best not to think about Seokjin looking at his face and trying to figure out what to say even though he knows it's happening. "I'm sorry if my conversation with you last semester wasn't what you wanted to hear," Seokjin says finally.

Taehyung doesn't reply.

"You and Jimin have just..." Seokjin sighs, trying to think of the right words. "You've been together for so long...I'm just worried that you're building this whole world around him and when he's gone you won't have anything left."

The idea that Jimin might be gone at any point in his life is the exact thing that Taehyung is trying to avoid thinking about. "If Jimin and I want the same things, why shouldn't we do them together?" he asks softly.

Seokjin takes a second to think of a reply. "Taehyung," he says, coming up to rest on one arm. "I just want you to make decisions you're going to be happy with."

Taehyung purses his lips, overly cute. "I'm happy with Jimin."

There hasn't been a single time he's told anyone about his feelings for Jimin. He doesn't know if he's ever even spoken the words out loud. Not seriously. Not with the intent for anyone to know. But Seokjin's eyebrows raise, just enough that Taehyung knows he heard something in his words that told him more than Taehyung wanted to reveal.

"That's still not a good reason to plan your life around someone."

"But what if I want to?"

Seokjin sighs. "I think that the school you and Jimin are wanting to go to is a good choice," he says honestly. "I think that you need to make sure that school is the best school for you. It might be," he admits. "You already know that Jimin is the best for you. You don't need to worry about that part."

With a groan, Taehyung rolls over and presses his face into the mattress next to Seokjin's arms. "Don't be gross. I don't want it," he whines.

Seokjin flicks Taehyung on the head before running a gentle hand through his hair. "If you're happy with Jimin, then I think you should pursue that."

"I don't need relationship advice from someone whose go-to flirting technique is a crêpe recipe."

"Your only mildly successful relationship ended, I'm assuming, because of your overflowing grossness for your best friend." Seokjin snorts. "Lucky Jungkook for getting out of that, but." He laughs.

Taehyung groans again. "I'm sad and gay!" he yells into the linen.

His phone chimes.

"Jimin's going to stay by your side if he knows you're in love with him or not."

Taehyung tilts his head and scowls up at his brother, even though half of his face is still swallowed by the bed. "I never said I was in love with him."

Seokjin looks at him flatly.

"I've never been gayer," Taehyung admits.

"You need to tell him," Seokjin says firmly.

"But that's annoying." Taehyung sits up. "Feelings are annoying."

Seokjin rolls his eyes. "So are emotionally stunted younger brothers. Get your shit together." He throws his legs over the side of the bed and stands, stretching. "Come out of the room and play weird family games with your doting mother and then come back and flirt."

"Don't tell me what to do." Taehyung sits up and prepares himself to demolish everyone at dominoes.

 


 

Jimin isn't waiting for him when he gets home or anything, even though they'd been texting on the drive back and Taehyung had made sure Jimin knew his exact estimated time of arrivals. Taehyung is pretty sure that's because Jimin didn't want to get conned into helping unload the car. Honestly, he won't complain, because he feels gross from the car and he wants a shower even though he'd also like to smell like the beach for the rest of his life.

Jimin has terrible timing and gets there right after Taehyung gets into the shower.

Taehyung isn't surprised when he walks into his room and sees Jimin laying on his bed reading his comic books. "Long time no see," he says cutely.

Jimin looks up from the book and frowns at Taehyung. "Put some clothes on so I can hug you."

With a laugh, Taehyung goes over to his dresser. He's only wearing a towel, but it's nothing that Jimin hasn't seen. Jimin has seen more of Taehyung than most people would probably be comfortable with, so he barely thinks about it when he drops his towel and puts on his boxers. "Are you spending the night?"

"Hell yeah, I am," Jimin says casually, going back to reading his book.

Taehyung pulls on his t-shirt and winces as his wet hair makes the neckline damp. "Dry my hair for me."

"Baby," Jimin tuts, languidly setting the book inside and moving to sit at the edge of the bed. His hair is a mess and there is a zit right above his lip and his shirt is too tight for no reason. Taehyung sits back against the mattress on the floor, nestling between Jimin's legs as Jimin takes the towel from around his shoulders. With a warm finger, Jimin tugs down the neck of Taehyung's shirt. "You get so tan so fast," he notes. "This tan line is awful."

"You're awful," Taehyung shoots back with no heat, humming contentedly as Jimin starts drying his hair. "My tan lines are a part of me."

Jimin laughs, ruffling Taehyung's hair a little harder. "I accept you."

His fingers massage Taehyung head and Taehyung could honestly fall asleep right there. His eyes close, tension dissipating under Jimin's hand. Tension he didn't even know what there. Jimin's thighs are warm against his shoulders and if he let his head fall back Jimin's chest would be a firm pillow. He's fallen asleep like that before.

"You guys got in late," Jimin says after a moment, and that's when Taehyung notes the warm silence they've fallen into.

Taehyung hums in response.

"You're too zen for our big reunion," Jimin chastises.

Taehyung reaches a hand back and grabs Jimin's wrist, rubbing his thumb into Jimin's skin. "'m happy you're here," he says fondly, half-asleep. "I always fall asleep when you dry my hair."

For a moment, Jimin let's Taehyung hold his wrist before he dries the ends of Taehyung's hair one more time and drapes the towel over the run of Taehyung's bed stand. "Are you ready for bed?"

"Yeah." Taehyung yawns. Creakily, reluctantly, he gets up and goes back to his drawers, pulling out the clothes that Jimin always sleeps in out of the mess inside and throwing them towards the bed.

Jimin hesitates slightly before pulling his shirt off and slipping into Taehyung's clothes. "I'm not really tired," he admits, watching as Taehyung climbs into bed.

"You didn't have car karaoke with my tone-deaf father," he mutters quietly in response. The sheets are clean and smooth. He pulls the blanket up to his chin as Jimin pulls Taehyung's pajama pants on. "Sleep with me," he pouts. "I'm tired. In the morning, I'll make you breakfast in bed."

"Cereal?" Jimin laughs. That's all Taehyung can properly make.

"I'll even pour the milk," Taehyung tells him.

He can hear Jimin smiles. "Okay." Jimin gets up for a moment and then Taehyung's lights switch off. Taehyung listens to Jimin expertly find his way back to the bed in the dark. He holds the covers up so that Jimin knows where they are and masterfully slips in next to Taehyung.

The weather is starting to get warm and they don't need to be so close to each other. Taehyung can feel the heat of Jimin's body against his face where he's curled into a ball. He nuzzles closer.

"You smell like the beach," Jimin says quietly.

"Mmm." Taehyung sleepily kisses Jimin's shoulder. Jimin tenses under his touch. "Sorry my hair is still kind of wet."

There’s a short moment when the air is heavy, too heavy for Taehyung to pay attention to when he’s warm and sleepy and Jimin is here and he’s going to wake up in the morning and it won’t be a dream.

Jimin kisses the crown of Taehyung's head. "I don't mind."

Taehyung sleeps, and as far as he knows, Jimin does, too.

 


 

You're tracking sand everywhere and it makes me wish I could see the ocean.
Inconvenient.
Do you like long walks on the beach? We're only pen pals - unrequited pen pals - but if I asked, would you hold my hand while we walked by the ocean?
That's gross as hell.

Yours.

Taehyung smiles and tries not to wish that the letters were from one specific person.

 


 

Jungkook
you absolute fucker.

Taehyung
???

Taehyung sets his phone down on his dresser and stretches. He had a dentist appointment at the god-forsaken time of 7:30 this morning, which of course he had to be on time for and then of course the office wasn't running on time, and now he's back home about to eat a healthy breakfast before sauntering his way to school.

Dentist appointments are both the best and the worst thing. His teeth taste like cardboard and supermint but at least he gets to miss homework and eat a bagel.

He's still not wearing shoes, but the nice thing about having a note is that as long as he's there within a reasonable amount of time he can stroll to school at his own leisure. His feet are free until further notice.

"Taehyung," his mother calls. "You need to leave for school soon!"

Taehyung ruffles his hair in the mirror. "Lame," he calls back.

"Appreciate your free education before you're in debt for the rest of your life!" she chirps back, and Taehyung pulls his pants on with a laugh.

He wipes a little bit of dried drool leftover from the dentist off of the side of his mouth and picks up his phone again.

 

Jungkook
BITCH
you and jimin won best couple
where the fuck are you i'm dying

Taehyung blinks.

Taehyung
oh I told some people at the beginning of the year we were running for it
I'm like
67% sure I was joking

Jungkook
some girl burst into tears and jimin looks like he wants to die

Taehyung
what? Why is she crying?

Jungkook
i'm pretty sure she wrote in her and jimin on the ballot
i hope she did because that's hilarious
i will never let him live it down

 

Jungkook attaches a picture of Jimin with his head on his desk and his hands covering his cheeks. What little skin Taehyung can see is bright red. Jungkook's hand is giving a thumbs up in the forefront.

 

Jungkook
he's been like this for thirty minutes

 

Taehyung laughs, grabbing his backpack up off of the ground and walking out of his room towards the front door. Jimin and Taehyung had plotted to take home that particular senior superlative at the end of their junior year, talking it out in depth, but Jimin has always been weak to girls crying.

 

Taehyung
I'm on my way tell my other half I'll be there soon~
Also you're awful lol
Pretty sure being desirable was not in Jimin's plans
He doesn't even have a girlfriend and he's breaking hearts

 

"Taehyung," his mom calls once he enters the kitchen to grab his coat off of the back of the spare chair. "You've got mail."

Absently, Taehyung slips the couple of envelopes off of the table and puts them in his backpack. "Bye, Mom," he sings with a wave, toeing on his shoes.

"Be careful!" she tells him, typing something on the computer.

"Yeah, yeah." Taehyung laughs, and then he's out the door.

 

Jungkook
not sure how interested he is in girlfriends these day

Taehyung
It'd be dumb to start something right now anyway
With school being almost done

Jungkook
it's almost like it'd be easier to have a relationship with someone who's gonna stick around
hmmm

Taehyung
Don't be an asshole
I know it's not going to happen
The face rubbing is not necessary

 

Maybe it sucks a little that this dumb senior superlative is the closet him and Jimin will ever be to actually being in a real, committed relationship. Like the one that Taehyung thinks about at night when he lets himself have what he wants. When the moon goes down and he can't stop himself from wanting. And his brain is slow and heavy and he's too tired to pull the reins away from things that are going to hurt him in the morning when he wakes up and they aren't real.

But Taehyung thinks about this stupid yearbook award and he wants to skip to school.

Little things are allowed to make him happy.

 

Jungkook
you're the asshole, asshole
there's a big thing standing in the way of you being happy you fucker
and it's your damn head

Taehyung
Jungkookie, be gentle :o
Is this how you talk to Yoongi?
Does he think it's hot?

 

The sun is bright even though it's completely frigid, and Taehyung squints up at the sky. He's wearing his Valentine's hat. The wind makes the tassels flop around and Taehyung pulls on them, hold them down, and hums a little to himself.

Being Park Jimin's friend is the best thing that's ever happened to him.

Falling in love with him isn't the worst thing, either. Not at all. Jimin deserves it.

But it's the day time, so Taehyung can't think about it too hard.

He doesn't see Jungkook's reply until he's already at school.

 

Jungkook
one of these days taehyung
you're going to let yourself be happy

 


 

Taehyung gets to school about ten minutes into his first class with Jimin.

He doesn't stop at his locker beforehand, doesn't need to grab a textbook. He just comes into the classroom as quietly as possible, sets his slip down on his teacher's desk, and tries not to laugh at the mortified look on Jimin's face when he gets into his seat and whispers, "We're an award winning couple."

"I know that Jungkook told you about that girl, Taehyung," Jimin hisses. "They literally said the winners on the announcements this morning and all of a sudden she was sobbing."

"Maybe she was the one who gave you the anonymous confession." Taehyung smiles. "It's cute. You heartbreaker."

Jimin pouts. "I don't want to be a heartbreaker. Being heartbroken sucks."

"She's not really in love with you," Taehyung reminds him softly, because he’s right. Heartbreak sucks major ass. "She's just disappointed. You haven't done any lasting damage." He reaches down into his backpack and pulls out his notebook. "Besides, we won. This is the dream," he says, mock-serious. His backpack is a mess and he's pretty sure his pencil is eternally lost to the abyss. "The culmination of our friendship."

"Taehyung," the teacher calls flatly, in the middle of his lecture because he's a complete asshole. "Do you have your homework assignment? Everyone else has turned theirs in already."

"I'm looking for it, sir," he replies cheerfully, willing his eye not to twitch and throwing more stray papers out onto his desk. "I don't know why he hates me so much," he mutters to Jimin, flipping through the papers in a folder. "And, also where the hell did I put that?"

"It's here," Jimin says quietly, and a crumpled up paper with Taehyung's messy handwriting slides into his vision.

"Ah!" Taehyung picks it up triumphantly and makes a big deal of getting up out of his seat so that the lecture is disrupted again because he's petty. "Here is the homework, sir," he says politely, holding it out so the teacher has to either take it from him personally or pause to wave for him to put it on the desk.

Taehyung marches back to his seat smugly. "I feel satisfied," he whispers, settling back into his chair and resuming his search for a pencil.

Jimin laughs, but it sounds kind of a strangled.

Taehyung sighs. "Please don't be too rattled by that girl, okay? It's not your fault. It was my idea anyway." It’s not unusual for Jimin to be caught up on something like that, but when Taehyung looks over at him, really looks, there's something dark on his face hidden under a blank expression. "What's wrong?" Something is wrong.

Slowly, Jimin picks up something from the mess on Taehyung's desk. There's a huge logo from the big university on the other side of the state printed on the side. Not the one that Jimin is going to, or the one Taehyung is planning to go to. "What's this?" he asks casually, even though he knows what it is.

"From the weight..." Taehyung blinks. "I would assume it's an acceptance letter." It must have been in the pile of mail his mother gave to him this morning. He should probably be happy, even just for having his pride stroked, but he just kind of feels an overall sense of dread. The look on Jimin's face isn't helping.

"I didn't know you were applying there," Jimin whispers so quietly Taehyung has trouble hearing him.

"I." Taehyung takes a deep breath. "Seokjin thinks I should have options."

Taehyung is almost certain that's not the right thing to say.

"Oh." Jimin looks at the letter. "Can I open it?"

There's probably some kind of emotional satisfaction one gets out of opening an acceptance letter, but Taehyung isn't even sure he wants to look at it. "Yeah," he says, shoving the rest of his papers into his bag and pretending like he's comfortable.

He doesn't watch Jimin tear the envelope to shreds trying to get it open, doesn't tease him about it like he normally would, only looks up when he hears the thunk of the paper hitting the desk. Jimin reads over the first page. Pauses. Looks up. "Congratulations."

It feels hollow. "Thanks," Taehyung says anyway.

They listen to the lecture.

Chapter Text

Taehyung wants to say that nothing has changed since he got that acceptance letter.

He's not super fond of lying.

Jimin is doing his best to behave as normally as possible, but Taehyung can tell he's having a hard time with it. And honestly, Taehyung feels supremely shitty about it. They've been planning on going to college together since middle school, before college was even a concrete thought. By the time they started having to make real decisions, their plan hadn't changed at all. They were going to be roommates. That's the plan.

Everything is falling apart.

It makes their photoshoot awkward in a way they've never been before.

"Can you guys, like..." Baekhyun squints at the screen of his camera, "stand close to each other? Without wincing?" He snorts. "It makes these pictures look really unpleasant. It doesn't fit my vision."

With a sigh, Jimin slips his arm down from around Taehyung's neck and Taehyung tries not to miss it. "Can we take a short break real quick?"

Baekhyun shrugs. "I'm getting paid by the hour, so."

Jimin pulls Taehyung away by his wrist.

He leads them to under the big tree in the courtyard in front of the back entrance. No one is here, the school near deserted after 3:30 on a Tuesday. The only sound is the slightly off-key pep band, muted and distant. The bang professor always forgets to close the windows. It's kind of hilarious, because Taehyung kind of wants to die right now and he doesn't want to go to the sound of several struggling high schoolers playing We are the Champions.

"We've got to fix this," Jimin says firmly.

Taehyung pouts at him. "I don't..." He licks his lips. "I'm not even sure what's broken."

That's a lie, or maybe too much of a truth. Clearly Jimin is upset that Taehyung has applied to other colleges without telling him, and clearly Taehyung could have handled that better, but the way that Jimin flinches when Taehyung reaches out for him nowadays belies something deeper that Taehyung isn't sure he can touch.

The idea of his relationship with Jimin being broken makes him want to curl up into a ball. Is this what Taehyung has been trying to avoid for the past forever? This feeling that Jimin doesn't want to be around him and the faint tension of hurt in the air. It's everything that Taehyung hates.

He just wants to hold Jimin's hand and kiss his forehead and his cheeks and his mouth and hold him close forever, but god knows that would only make it worse.

It doesn't stop him from wanting it.

Jimin runs a hand through his hair, thinking. "Nothing is broken," he says resolutely, and it does very little to ease Taehyung's mind because it's plain that something is wrong. But if Jimin wants things to be okay than that's a step in the right direction. "I'm upset about the college thing."

"I'm sorry." Taehyung flops uselessly.

There was another acceptance letter in the mailbox two days ago and he hasn't told anyone about it, not his mother or his brother or his best friend, and he wants to ignore it forever.

That's as much of a decision as Taehyung needs to make, but he can't even tell anyone that he's following through with his original plans because what if Seokjin is disappointed and what if it's the wrong decision and what if Taehyung really is molding his life around Jimin?

Because the look on Jimin's face right now is a major contributor to the dread that fell in Taehyung's stomach when he opened that letter and saw the bold print Congratulations! at the top like a death sentence.

The university Taehyung and Jimin are planning on going too isn't a bad school, and it's a big school, and if Jimin and Taehyung fall apart even more than they already have been, Taehyung doesn't think he'll regret his decision to go there.

This falling apart is so strange, because it's like there's so much distance and the problem is that they want to be closer. They're both pushing each other away and Taehyung just wants to be by Jimin's side.

He reaches out for Jimin's hand. "I'm really sorry," he says.

Gently, Jimin puts his hand in Taehyung's. It's so much smaller. Familiar. "I know."

"I should have told you if my plans changed." Regret.

Jimin swallows. "Have they?" he asks.

"I..." Taehyung wants to give him an answer. "I don't think so," he says honestly. "I don't know."

Jimin rubs circles in Taehyung's skin with his thumb. "You'll have to decide soon, Tae," he tells him. "College won't wait forever."

"I just want to be happy," Taehyung says helplessly. "Why is that so hard lately?"

With a smile, soft, Jimin reaches up with his hand and bops Taehyung on the nose. "It's probably because you're an idiot."

Taehyung sighs. "You're probably right."

Jimin squeezes his hand. He sighs. Tired but still smiling. "Come on," he says finally, tugging Taehyung back towards where Baekhyun is waiting. "Let's go be cute as fuck."

Later, when Baekhyun tells Taehyung to kiss Jimin's cheek for a picture as a joke, he only blushes a little bit.

 


 

Usually, Taehyung loves prom season.

Mostly because it's hilarious in all the best ways.

Taehyung has always been a fan of grand gestures. He loves the overly cheesy prom-posals. He loves the gross, sappiness that floods the halls when a boy pretends he can rap and confesses his love for his girlfriend to a hot beat he found on YouTube. Once, someone brought her dog to school in order to ask her crush to prom and that had honestly been the best day of Taehyung's life.

None of his friends are in committed relationships at the moment, so the grand gestures are few and far between because who the hell is going to write Taehyung a love rap in the middle of the hallway when it's not clear he's going to say yes?

He's seen similar things happen. It always makes him cringe.

"Why do people do the big prom thing when they aren't sure about the person's answer?" Jungkook asks, looking up at Taehyung from where he's resting his head in Taehyung's lap. "It's seems like both a waste of time and a recipe for embarrassment."

"I don't know," Jimin says with a shrug. "It's kind of romantic."

Jungkook heaves himself up to a sitting position. They're eating outside today in the nice weather, but Jungkook almost knocks over Taehyung's strawberry juice and if that happened Taehyung would have been very upset. "So you're telling me that if someone did something that embarrassing for you in public, you would say yes?"

Taehyung snorts. "Not everyone is as shy as you, buddy." He pauses. "If Yoongi asked you to go to prom with him by throwing rocks at your window and serenading you with a song he composed about the beauty of your Bambi eyes, what would you say?"

"Okay, first of all, he would never."

Jimin laughs outright.

"It is unlikely," Jungkook amends, because they all know that Yoongi is more marshmallow than man. "And I would probably say yes, but that's still like? A lot of pressure on the person you're asking. I feel like that would be rude."

"Would you say yes, Taehyung?" Jimin asks curiously, like he doesn't know the answer.

"It would depend on the person." Taehyung has no qualms turning someone down in that situation. It's happened before. It's always unfortunate, because clearly they put in a lot of work, but if they thought his answer was guaranteed because they did something ridiculous in public, well, they deserve to be corrected. "It wouldn't be an automatic no."

"I think I would say yes," Jimin muses. "I like big things like that. I think it's romantic."

"Even if there's, like, no romance in the first place?" Jungkook asks. "Like, what if this is a complete stranger and they write you a sonnet?"

Jimin shrugs. "I don't know," he says quietly. "I think it's cute."

"Has anyone asked you to prom yet?" Taehyung questions, because the thought only just occurred to him. "Any prom-posals for our resident heart throb, Park Jimin?"

He hates how much he wants to know.

Jimin's cheeks go pink. "Nothing like that," he assures them.

Jungkook pounces, leaping on Jimin and knocking him back on the ground. "You've been asked, though? Is that what that means?"

"Get off!" Jimin shrieks. Jungkook shoves his fingers into Jimin's armpit and he squeals. "Uncle! Fuck, get off."

Taehyung pulls Jungkook back by the belt loop and takes another bite of his sandwich.

Jimin huffs, blowing his bangs out of his face. "I've been asked by a couple of girls," he admits once he's caught his breath. Taehyung's heart drops. "I didn't say yes or anything."

"Why not?" he asks curiously. If he can't go with Jimin, as much as he wants to, Jimin still deserves to have some kind of fun. "You deserve a date for prom. It might be a good idea."

Subtly, Jungkook shoots him a look of disapproval. "Did they not charm you enough with their creativity?" he jokes to Jimin, his fingers digging into the skin of Taehyung's thigh like he's begging him not to say anything else.

Jimin bites his lip. "They're just...I don't know." He plucks a dandelion from the ground and ties it in a knot over and over until his fingers turn green. Taehyung watches, entranced. "They just aren't what I'm looking for, I guess."

"Types are a social construct," Taehyung offers.

Jimin looks at him for a moment or two. "That's not the problem."

"Jimin's type is tall, cute, and oblivious," Jungkook says snidely.

Jimin pouts at him.

"Surely, we can find you a girl like that," Taehyung assures him, but it doesn't help.

"Surely," Jimin repeats listlessly. "Enough of them follow me around." It's the first time Taehyung has heard Jimin sound bitter about it. He sighs. "I wish they'd stop. At first it was overwhelming, and then kind of funny, and now it's just annoying." He props his cheek on his hand, face squished cutely.

"Stop being so..." Taehyung gestures to all of Jimin with a laugh. "Can you blame them for being half in love with you?"

Jimin stares at Taehyung.

Jungkook curses under his breath.

Taehyung isn't sure what made things grind to a standstill, but slowly Jimin grins at him. "I'll try to control myself in the future," he says. "I'll be more like you."

Taehyung clucks his tongue. "That won't help at all. I'm hopelessly charming. I can't help it."

Jimin throws a pickle from his burger and it sticks to Taehyung's cheek. "Charming."

Taehyung feels a little like he's running away from something and also charging forward, straight into the deep end.

 


 

Taehyung is pretending to study and Namjoon is trying not to be irritated when Hoseok finds them in the library.

"Taehyung!" he calls, and promptly is shushed by the mildly prickly but overall quite reasonable librarian. "Taehyung," he whispers, and Taehyung laughs and waves him over.

Hoseok doesn't bother sitting down, just walks over and stops by Taehyung's shoulder so he can see the both of them. Beside Taehyung, Namjoon is way more tense than he had been a moment ago, but Taehyung supposes that someone like Hoseok might have that kind of effect on people. Hoseok smiles at Namjoon and doesn't see to notice how uncomfortable Namjoon is. "Studying?"

Taehyung snorts. "No."

Namjoon grimaces. "I'm trying to."

Hoseok puts a hand on Taehyung's head. "Taehyungie is the worst distraction." His fingers dig into Taehyung's hair in the way Hoseok knows he hates.

"I don't know." Namjoon looks back at his book, awkward in a way he hasn't been around Taehyung since that first tutoring session last semester. "He's good company."

"Loud company."

Taehyung smacks Hoseok's hand away. "You're louder."

"I like loud," Namjoon admits, albeit a bit awkwardly. "It's good background noise."

Taehyung snorts. "Maybe you should hang out with Hoseok more."

Namjoon opens his mouth to reply, although based on the look on his face it would probably be more gibberish than words, but Hoseok chimes in first. "You're Namjoon, right?"

"I..." Namjoon swallows. Smiles. "Yes. We have physics together."

"And AP Lit!" Hoseok smiles, even as the librarian shushes him again. He takes one of the extra seats at the table, across from Namjoon. "You wrote that essay on feminism in classic literature that made Mr. Choi almost burst a gasket."

Namjoon groans quietly, rubbing a hand down his face. "I didn't know he was going to react like that. I got such a shitty grade on that paper."

Hoseok frowns. "You shouldn't have. It was a great essay! It's not your fault he's a secret misogynist."

Taehyung snorts. "Not a secret anymore. The whole school heard about that presentation." He looks at Namjoon curiously. "I didn't know that was you."

"I don't like spreading it around how badly I pissed off my teacher." Namjoon grimaces.

Hoseok laughs. "Would it ruin your excellent reputation?"

Namjoon blinks. "What reputation?"

Hoseok blinks back. "You know, as the smart kid that all of the teachers like and will help out the students and shit."

"Oh god." Namjoon pales. "I'm the teacher's pet?"

Taehyung snickers. "Not anymore."

"Maybe it was a blessing in disguise."

"I wouldn't say you're the teacher's pet," Hoseok assures him. "It's a good reputation, you know? Dependable."

"I'm sure that's what all the ladies want," Taehyung teases. He speaks in a dreamy falsetto. "'Ugh, they just don't make dependable men anymore. Not like that Kim Namjoon.'"

Namjoon almost pushes Taehyung out of his chair.

"I think being dependable is a great trait," Hoseok eases, moving on before Taehyung can scold him for ruining his fun. "Anyway, Taehyung, do you have plans for prom already?"

Taehyung blinks. "Um..." He thinks. "Last year, Jimin and I went, so I imagine we might do that again."

Hoseok frowns. "I heard Jimin already had a date?"

For a second, Taehyung's heart stops, and then he reminds himself that he's not allowed to care. "Really?" he asks. "Jimin hasn't told me anything about that."

"I heard one of the girls in my biology class saying they were going together," Namjoon adds quietly. "The one who dyes her hair all the time."

Hoseok grimaces. "She's cute but she's really a piece of work." He rolls his eyes. "Not that Jimin would know that unless he talked to her before...Well, if they are going together, it's not like Jimin can weasel his way out of it after accepting."

"He's too nice for that," Taehyung agrees. Why does Jimin have to be so nice. "I'm surprised he hasn't told me. He said he turned down a couple other offers."

Hoseok shrugs. "I mean, I would ask him about it first. You know how high school kids can be. It might be a lie."

"No, it's..." Taehyung takes a deep breath. "Jimin and I have been a bit weird lately. And everyone is basically in love with him. It wouldn't surprise me if that were true." He purses his lips. "I guess I...don't have plans then."

"In a strange turn of events, considering I'm charming as hell, I also do not have plans." Hoseok grins. "I figured I'd ask if you wanted to go together."

Namjoon stiffens a little beside him, and Taehyung almost misses it because Namjoon busies himself with his textbook so quickly.

"As friends?" Taehyung clarifies. "I don't think you've charmed me enough for us to be anything else."

Hoseok pouts. "I'm wounded." He stabs a sharp finger into Taehyung's side. "Yes, as friends."

Taehyung shrugs. His heart is kind of heavy, mostly that Jimin is going with someone else and hasn't told him, but he's a good enough actor that he can feign nonchalance. "I'm cool with that. Jimin and I will be getting ready together, probably, if you want to join."

"That's okay." Hoseok shakes his head, standing up out of his seat and slinging his backpack back over his shoulder. "I always get ready with the soccer guys. I'll pick you up at...?"

"My house," Taehyung clarifies. "Unless something changes."

Hoseok shoots him finger guns. "Sounds great. We can work on our color coordination later."

"I'm feeling a nice neon pink."

"No," Hoseok sings.

Taehyung laughs and waves Hoseok away.

Namjoon is looking at him when he turns to go back to studying. "Does Hoseok like you?"

Taehyung grimaces. "Gross. No." He shrugs. "I mean, not gross because Hoseok is great but I'd be, like, shocked." He snorts. "Why?"

"No reason," Namjoon says too casually.

Taehyung stares. "Do you like him?"

Namjoon scoffs. "No."

It's so fake.

"I can tell him no, if you want," Taehyung offers. "That's cute. I think you both would get along."

"No, no." Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek. "I don't like him." Fake. "And also that would be rude."

Taehyung shakes his head. "We're friends. I don't think he'd care."

"It's still rude," Namjoon assures him. "Besides, he'd just go with someone else. That's like, the first time we've had a real conversation. It's fine."

"Awww." Taehyung coos. "You're so cute. Your crush is adorable." He reaches out to pinch one of Namjoon's cheek but Namjoon just smacks his hand away.

"Stop." Namjoon rolls his eyes. "You should be studying."

Taehyung pouts. "You always say that."

"I'm always right."

"Fuck you," Taehyung says cheerfully, going back to his books.

 


 

"Hey, Taehyung!"

Taehyung looks around the open door of his locker, haphazardly clutching his falling textbooks to his chest, and smiles when he sees it's Jimin walking towards him. "Jiminie!" he calls. "How are you on this lovely day?"

And it's all fun and games until he shuts his locker and really looks at Jimin and sees that it's not a lovely day, not at all. "What's wrong?"

Jimin is frowning. "Hoseok told me that you two were going to prom together?"

Oh. "Yeah," Taehyung admits, shifting his textbooks awkwardly. "He asked me this morning."

The crease between Jimin's eyebrows deepens. "I thought we were going together, like last year."

Oh no. Taehyung blinks, flustered. "I thought we were, too," Taehyung says slowly. "Hoseok and Namjoon told me you were already going with someone else."

Jimin shakes his head, almost scowling. "Well, I'm not. Why would they think that?"

Taehyung shrugs, because he can't think of anything better to say. "Namjoon heard a girl saying you were going together."

"Well, she was lying," Jimin snips. "You should have just asked me. Didn't you think it was weird that I hadn't told you? I tell you everything."

"Do you?" It slips out.

It's the wrong move and Taehyung knows that the second Jimin's face falls. "Of course, I do."

"Sorry," Taehyung mumbles, giving up on holding his textbooks and leaning against the lockers so he can sandwich them between his chest and the aluminum. "I just...things have been weird."

Jimin bites his lip, thinking, and even though there is no way that Jimin doesn't agree, he doesn't look any less upset. "You're not telling me everything either."

"The thing with Hoseok, like, just happened," he reasons. "I haven't even seen you since then."

"That's not what I mean."

Taehyung sighs. "Why don't you tell me what you mean?" Communication has rarely been a problem with them before, and never have they been so off-balance for so long. "I never know what's going on with you anymore." Jimin's moods have been swinging minute by minute, and every time Taehyung tries to think of the right thing to say something goes horribly wrong.

Jimin pauses, sucking on his teeth for a moment, considering, before the tension leaves his shoulders. "Forget it." He's more tired than angry now and Taehyung doesn't know how to make him feel better. "It's not worth it. I'll find someone else to go with."

"I'm sure you have plenty of options."

"What, like that girl who's been going around telling people we're going to prom together all day?" Jimin rolls his eyes. "What a catch."

"What about Seulgi?" Taehyung offers. "She likes you."

Jimin frowns. "Do I really want to go with someone who likes me?"

"Why wouldn't you?"

"Isn't that leading them on?" Jimin asks pointedly.

"Good luck finding anyone at this school who doesn't like you, Jimin," Taehyung tells him tiredly. "Beside, I think if you told Seulgi you wanted to go as friends she'd be chill." He pauses. "But maybe, like, if you went out with her once...that might be nice? Maybe you'd really get along."

Jimin stares at him. "Is that what you want?"

Taehyung stares back. "Of course?" Confused.

Tense.

Jimin sighs. "I'll ask her. Whatever."

He walks away, and Taehyung isn't satisfied with the way that conversation went at all.

 


 

Jungkook
you're an idiot

Taehyung
???
But yeah.

 


 

Taehyung

Was it silly of me to hope we might go to prom together?
I suppose it would be, when I'm too cowardly to ask you myself, or confess, or do anything even mildly proactive.
I think prom will be much less fun without you as my date.
Seeing as that appears to be hopeless, I'll try to set those thoughts aside.

Yours.

 


 

A part of Taehyung almost expects Jimin to refuse to get ready together, but even though the day right after Taehyung accepted going with Hoseok was kind of rocky, the day after that Jimin appeared to be fine.

Seulgi said yes when Jimin asked, as Taehyung had expected.

Taehyung doesn't know if they're just going as friends or not and a part of him is too frightened to ask.

Jungkook somehow managed to work up the nerve to ask Yoongi to go with him, despite Yoongi not even being in high school, but Jungkook was smiling so happily as he turned in the paperwork to the school secretary to allow Yoongi to attend that Taehyung is almost jealous.

Also, seeing Yoongi in anything other than his ripped jeans will probably be surreal.

Jungkook and Yoongi are getting ready together, and when Taehyung invited them to come over to his house so the four of them could get ready together, Jungkook had nearly stomped on Taehyung's foot to cut him off.

Jimin had laughed and Taehyung didn't ask why.

"Taehyung," his mom calls from downstairs. "Do you guys want anything to eat?"

Jimin looks up from drying his hair. He just got out of the shower. The first thing he'd said to Taehyung when he came over was that he felt grimy. "Can we just order a pizza?" he asks Taehyung. "I hadn't thought about food."

"Said no high school boy ever," Taehyung snickered.

Jimin blushes. "I thought about it and I want pizza."

"More like it." He calls back down the hallway. "Can we order pizza?"

"What kind? I have coupons."

Jimin grins at Taehyung. "If I say I want Hawaiian, are you going to go on your pineapple rant?"

"Ugh, yes." He laughs. "We can probably get two. My dad will eat Hawaiian."

"That's because he's a smart, well-educated man," Jimin says primly. "Order a Hawaiian and like...you like sausage, right?"

Taehyung snickers. "Is this because I'm gay?"

Jimin throws one of his dress shoes at him.

Taehyung goes into the kitchen to give their order, and when he returns, Jimin is sitting on Taehyung's bed, staring at himself in the mirror on Taehyung's dresser with a thing of foundation in his hand. "Makeup or no makeup?" Jimin asking, holding it up.

"You'll look nice either way," Taehyung answers.

Jimin pouts at the makeup in his hand. "I don't want people to tease me about it."

"If you wear it, I'll wear some too," Taehyung offers. Jimin perks up at him. "You'll have to do it for me, though," he admits. Taehyung doesn't usually wear makeup, doesn't really know how it works, but he's collected his fair share of products over the years, and whatever he doesn't have Jimin probably brought along.

"I..." Jimin bites his lip. "Okay. I'll do your makeup." He grins. "As long as you give me all creative control."

"Nothing crazy," Taehyung begs. "I'll let you do liner and shit, but I'm a natural beauty." Despite that, he's already pulling the chair out from his desk and plopping it down in front of Jimin, sitting obediently.

"You don't need a lot," Jimin admits. "I didn't bring most of my brushes anyway."

Taehyung reaches behind him and pulls his meager collection of makeup out of one of the drawers. His foundation is a lot darker than Jimin's. The tan Jimin sported at the beginning of the school year has long since faded.

Jimin shakes it up and pours the liquid out on his fingers, swiping it over Taehyung's cheeks gently, over the bridge of his nose, delicately under his eyes. "Hold your bangs up so I don't get shit on them." Taehyung obliges without hesitation, even when he knows Jimin will snicker. "So much forehead."

"A part of my charm," Taehyung says, laughing, as Jimin's cool fingers swipe more foundation on his forehead.

"Don't laugh," Jimin chastises. "I'll get makeup everywhere. You're so squirmy."

Taehyung settles himself, letting Jimin rub small circles into his skin as he evens out the foundation. Jimin's hand trails around the side of his face, right up against his hairline, past his temples, tracing the bottom line of his jaw.

If Taehyung shivers right now, Jimin will definitely feel it. He clenches his toes in his shoes to control himself.

He opens his eyes after a moment, Jimin's hand under his chin, and Jimin is looking down at him, standing slightly to get a better view of Taehyung's face, and Taehyung does something really dumb.

"Jimin," he asks dazedly.

Jimin hasn't moved his hand. "Yeah?"

"Do you remember Halloween?"

It's a calculated mistake.

The line of Jimin's mouth hardens, and Taehyung has never regretted saying anything so badly in his whole life. Jimin drops his hand and reaches for the wet wipes he set out on the bed, wiping off dark foundation from his hands. "I don't want to talk about it," he says shortly.

If that's not an answer to a question Taehyung has never asked, will never ask, he doesn't know what is.

It's quiet for too long.

Jimin tosses the wet wipe into the trashcan, misses by a mile, and laughs just a little. It doesn't match the feeling of the room. He goes to dig through his make up bag. "Let me get the fun stuff," he says quietly. "I'll make you beautiful for Hoseok."

"Hoseok doesn't care," Taehyung says after a moment. "We're just going as friends."

"Yeah, well." Jimin sighs. "I'll just do this for me, then." His hand is steady as he uncaps the eye liner and puts his other hand under Taehyung's chin again, lifting his face up to the light. "Close your eyes."

Taehyung has been staring. "Oh." He shuts them too tight.

Jimin smoothes a finger over the crease in Taehyung's forehead. "Relax," he says. Taehyung can hear him grinning. "I'll be gentle."

"Fuck you," Taehyung replies weakly. He winces a little as Jimin presses the liner against his eye lid.

He tries not to be disappointed when Jimin finishes quickly, tries not to be disappointed when he opens his mouth to say everything he's wanted to say and is interrupted by his dad coming over to tell them that their pizza is here.

Jimin leaves to go pick up his date, and Taehyung is in a weird, fragile kind of limbo.

It's probably for the best.

 


 

As always, there are good things and bad things about prom.

The Good Things list includes free food, being with Hoseok for most of the night, and being able to dance as he pleases without judgement. The music is only mildly shitty and Taehyung can enjoy himself as much as he wants.

On the Bad Things list, there's the fact that the building is too small to hold all of the students, the line for the photo booth is over an hour long, someone tried to grind on him for a full-minute, and he's 100% certain the air conditioning went out because he's starting to sweat through his suit.

Jimin looks really good.

Taehyung isn't sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing but it's a thing.

It's really distracting, either way.

Seulgi has her hand delicately placed on the inside of Jimin's elbow, gorgeous as always in her long green dress and her hair expertly done. She waves at Taehyung cheerfully when she sees him, and Taehyung smiles and waves back. She looks cute. They look cute together.

Jimin's makeup is perfect, and Taehyung was prepared to fight anyone who said otherwise but all Taehyung has seen are appreciative glances. He supposes it's a different world when you're popular and do something unusual versus when you're not.

Even though Taehyung knows that the suit Jimin is wearing is the one he wears on the rare occasions his parent's feel the need to drag him to church, he doesn't look out of place. The suit fits him too well, and when he takes off the suit jacket and throws it over the back of his chair and walk out to the dance floor, the line of his body where his shirt is tucked into his pants makes Taehyung want something stronger than the sparkling grape juice in his cup.

Taehyung is still thinking about Halloween.

Hoseok laughs beside him and Taehyung is pulled out of his own head. "Sorry, did you say something?" Taehyung asks apologetically.

Hoseok sighs fondly, resting his chin on his hand. "You're so fucked."

Taehyung blinks for a moment. "I'm fucked to hell," he agrees, slumping in his seat. He leans over and rests his head on Hoseok's shoulder, looking up at him cutely. "I'm sorry your date is such a wreck."

"You're not that much of a wreck," Hoseok reassures him. "And I knew it was going to be like this."

"Am I that obvious?" Taehyung asks, frowning. "Namjoon knew, too."

Hoseok laughs. "I mean, I wasn't going to assume anything, but you were definitely checking out his ass right then, so I figured it was a safe guess."

Taehyung pushes Hoseok's shoulder away. "Rude."

Jungkook races over to them, hair messy on purpose and eyes so wide he looks too young to be here. He's breathless. "Guys!" he says excitedly, coming up to pull on Taehyung's arm. "It's my first prom!"

Yoongi walks a few steps behind him, significantly less excited but hopelessly amused. A good sport. He dressed up and everything, although not as much as someone more invested in the cultural staple that is the high school prom. But his shirt is nice and matches Jungkook's bow tie and his shoes are Converse that don't have holes in them.

He's smiling so fondly at Jungkook, who is currently trying rip Taehyung's arm off with pure enthusiasm.

"You look nice," Taehyung tells him, trying to pry Jungkook's hand off of his arm. "How does it feel to be back at high school?"

"I'd say nostalgic," Yoongi says, taking the seat across from Hoseok, "but I never actually went to either of my proms."

"Yoongi doesn't like parties," Jungkook says. "But I asked him anyway, because he likes me."

Taehyung laughs at the struck look on Yoongi's face. "We all know you're soft for each other," he teases. "No need to get so embarrassed."

Yoongi wads up a napkin and throws it at Taehyung's head. "Shut up."

Jungkook leans in to Taehyung's side. "We're going out to dinner after," he whispers into Taehyung's ear. "I'm going to ask him to go out with me."

"You asked him to prom," Taehyung replies. "Doesn't that already count?"

Jungkook rolls his eyes. "I forgot what a shit you are with relationships," he mutters. "It's not official. These things need to be made very clear."

"Dude, your only other relationship was with me."

"I learned so much from what you did wrong," Jungkook tsks, laughing when Taehyung kicks him in the shin. "Come on!" he says a little louder, just loud enough to be heard over the music in the courtyard. "Let's go dance and have fun and shit!"

Yoongi stretches. "I'll stay here."

"No." Jungkook pulls Yoongi up bodily out of his seat. "Dance with me."

Yoongi could fight more but he never does. "Stop being so pushy," he says, but let's himself be manhandled to his feet. "Where is Jimin?" Yoongi asks Taehyung, who is also being pulled up out of his chair.

Taehyung shrugs, dusting off his ass and holding a hand out for Hoseok to take. "I imagine he's off with Seulgi."

"Seulgi?"

"His date." The words taste a little bitter.

Yoongi squints at him.

"It was kind of my fault," Hoseok admits.

"Jimin and I are big boys," Taehyung says shortly. It's not Hoseok's fault, anyway. If it's anyone's fault, it's Taehyung's for not asking. He's not going to let himself have those kind of regrets. It might be better like this, anyway. He came too close to ruining everything even just a couple of hours ago, with Jimin's hands on his chin and their faces so close. "We can make our own decisions. We don't have to be together every second of the day."

It's safer this way anyway.

"Well." Hoseok wraps an arm around Taehyung's waist and pulls him forward, walking side by side out to the dance floor. "I'll steal you just for tonight." He grins. "If you find me to be an acceptable alternative."

Taehyung sniffs haughtily. "For one night, I suppose anything will do."

Hoseok kicks his shin and Taehyung allows himself to be happily distracted.

 


 

It's only when Taehyung goes to the bathroom and finds Jimin asleep on the couch that he realizes he hasn't seen Jimin for the past hour and a half.

Taehyung is sweaty all over, positively rank in his dress clothes and his hair is getting kind of flat from the dancing and humidity and his stamina is shit compared to Hoseok's. Fuck if he can keep up with that guy. Who the fuck knew that Hoseok danced like a...something. Taehyung's a little too fried to think cohesively. The point is, he's a mess.

So when he goes to piss and sees Jimin laying like a corpse in a coffin on the couch, for a second all he can do is stare.

Jimin looks kind of like what Taehyung would imagine a fairy tale princess to look like, waiting for true love's kiss to wake her up and start off her happily ever after. His hands are crossed on his chest and his eyes are closed and he looks oddly serene, out of place when Taehyung can here the Top 40 rap music blaring on the other side of the paisley wallpaper.

Taehyung goes to the bathroom and washes his hands, and Jimin still hasn't stirred.

He wonders how long Jimin's been down here. It takes Jimin a long time to fall asleep, Taehyung knows, and this isn't really the kind of event that Taehyung would expect Jimin to fall asleep at anyway. He's not a complete extravert but he loves dancing and music and friends. They danced together not too long ago, although shortly after that he disappeared.

"Jimin," Taehyung whispers. When Jimin doesn't move, Taehyung sits on the edge of the couch and gently shakes Jimin's shoulder. "Jiminie. Wake up."

Jimin groans, eyes squeezing shut. "No."

Taehyung laughs. "Aren't I supposed to be the groggy one when I wake up? You're always so perky in the morning."

Jimin rolls onto his side, curling slightly around Taehyung's body where he sits. "S'not morning."

"No," Taehyung agrees. "It's the middle of your senior prom and you're asleep in the bathroom."

"Hmmm." Jimin smacks his lips. He goes to rub his eyes and Taehyung gently slips his fingers around Jimin's wrists to hold him back so he doesn't fuck up his make up. "I'd rather it was morning."

Taehyung snorts. "I thought you were having fun?" He pulls Jimin up to sit. Jimin's hair product is better than Taehyung's but sleeping has made it sit funny on Jimin's head. "Why did you disappear down here?"

With a sigh, Jimin runs his fingers through the weird parts of his hair, looking over his shoulder into the bathroom mirror. "Too many people," he says finally. "Too loud."

Taehyung frowns. "Usually you're okay with that."

Jimin just shrugs. "I've been feeling weird today anyway. I think I might just be tired." He smiles sleepily. "I danced for a long time and now I feel like Jell-o." He rubs his forehead. "Mushy brain."

"Is..." Taehyung purses his lips. "Are you not having fun with Seulgi? Is it weird?" He would feel bad if that were the case, when it was he who recommended it.

"No, Seulgi's great." Jimin rolls his head on his neck. "She's a lot more outgoing than I am, so she's probably why I lasted this long." He laughs. "I told her I was going to find someplace a little more quiet and she told me to do whatever I needed to. She has plenty of other friends here."

Friends. Taehyung is pleased even though he shouldn't be. "That's good," he says quietly. "Because I feel like you've been asleep for a while."

Jimin laughs. "Whoops."

"You're the lamest person I know," Taehyung tells him. "Who falls asleep at prom?"

"Last year you spent over an hour trying to figure out the ratio of green apple Skittles to lime Skittles in the candy bin."

"I have no regrets." Taehyung grins. "You were with me the whole time. My scientific assistant."

"The hottest assistant you'll ever have," Jimin teases. "Although I'm hotter now than I was then."

"You were hot then, too," Taehyung says honestly. "You were softer, but I liked it." He laughs. "Cute."

Jimin stares at him. "That's weird," he says after a moment. "Isn't that weird of you to say?"

Taehyung frowns. "That you're hot?" He tilts his head. "I tell you that all the time?"

Jimin tugs his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. "It's weird." He tucks his chin in between, expression hidden in his dress pants.

Taehyung licks his lips. "Do you...want me to stop?" he asks, because he doesn't know what else to say.

"No," Jimin admits softly.

"Okay." Taehyung flicks Jimin's foot. "Then I won't."

Even with the music in the background, Taehyung can hear the heavy silence.

"Can we leave?" Jimin asks after a moment. "Just like, go to Sonic and get a milkshake and go to my house and watch movies until we fall asleep?"

Taehyung looks over his shoulder towards the door. "I mean, our dates are waiting for us."

"Seulgi isn't waiting for me," Jimin says. "I told her I might not come back."

A moment. "Are you sure you're just tired?" Taehyung questions, squinting. He puts a hand on top of Jimin's head. "That's unlike you."

"I'm just..." Jimin kind of sags where he sits. "I'm like, extra tired. Of a lot of things."

Taehyung runs his fingers through Jimin's hair, smoothing out the parts where it's clumped up with product and digging his fingers in deep, watching the way Jimin sags even more but in a good way, melting. "I'll go talk to Hoseok," he says. "He'll understand."

Hoseok does understand.

Hoseok understands too well.

"Be careful with yourself, buddy," he says, clapping Taehyung on the back. "If I'm getting ditched by you I don't want you to regret it in the morning."

"I've had my fill of regrets," Taehyung says with a laugh. "It'll be fine. I think Jimin is just stressed about college and shit. He needs a night off." Taehyung looks over Hoseok's shoulder and has a wonderful idea. "I'll replace myself as your date, if you want."

Hoseok laughs. "What do you mean?"

Taehyung pulls Hoseok off of the dance floor and back into the area where the tables are, marches right past the probably-spiked punch to where he saw Namjoon sitting through the window outside. "Namjoon!"

Namjoon and his friend Jackson both look up at Taehyung in surprise, and Taehyung is positively delighted by the way Namjoon's eyes immediately flicker to Hoseok behind him. Is twice as delighted by Jackson's raised eyebrows. "Hey," Namjoon says, a beat late. "What's up?"

"I'm being called away due to best friend duties," Taehyung tells him. He pushes Hoseok a little forward. "But I'm afraid my lovely date is without a home."

Hoseok laughs brightly.

Namjoon swallows thickly. "I...I don't--"

"That's a fucking wonderful idea," Jackson chirps, raising his punch up to Taehyung as a toast. "Especially since I was about to be on my merry way."

Namjoon mutters something that sounds awfully like traitor in Jackson's direction.

"You remember Namjoon, right?" Taehyung asks Hoseok politely.

"Of course?" Hoseok scoffs. "I'm not an idiot, Taehyung."

Taehyung pats him decisively on the head. "Perfect." He grins cheekily at Namjoon. "I think you guys will get along really well."

Jackson stands up, downing the rest of his punch. "Shall we leave them to it, good sir?" he asks Taehyung, offering him his arm.

"Why, yes, I believe we should." Taehyung slips his arm into Jackson's and hums as he walks away.

Not ten minutes later, Jimin is waiting outside by his car. "You didn't drive here, right?" he asks softly. The music is still loud out in the parking lot, but it's muted by the meager distance and that weird soft space that occupies the air at night. Jimin's voice is gentle but it's all Taehyung can hear.

"Yeah," Taehyung says. "I mean..." He frowns. "You're correct, I didn't drive. Hoseok drove."

The keys are dangling from Jimin's fingers. "Sonic, then?"

"It's discount milkshakes," Taehyung says, and that's answer enough.

Later, when they're tangled up together in the blanket fort they'd made, watching Disney movies on Jimin's computer and trying to keep their eyes open, Taehyung thinks that this is the place he wants to be for the rest of his life.

Jimin pulls Taehyung closer to his chest and Taehyung succumbs to sleep.

 


 

The school year is coming to a close, and all of Taehyung’s fucks have flown out the window.

"You have the worst senioritis I've ever seen," Yoongi snickers one day when they're all over at Jungkook's and Taehyung has had his senior project spread out on his table for the past three hours without making any progress.

"Yeah, but I'm getting really fucking good at Piano Tiles," Taehyung tells him, and that makes it all even out.

Besides, Jimin is in the middle of stressing out over his perfect GPA, so Taehyung needs to be chill for the both of them.

"I don't get how you can study so minimally and still get better grades than me," Jimin whines.

"I get better grades than you in like, one class." Taehyung laughs. "And I test better than you because I don't care as much."

"Go fuck yourself," Jimin says politely, scribbling math problems on his paper.

"Jimin, you've got the highest grade in our math class," Taehyung tells him easily. "Do you really need to be stressing out so much?"

Jimin sighs, tapping his pencil on the table while he does the math in his head. "I just want to end the year on a good note, you know?" he says finally once he's worked out the answer. "I feel like I want to have good memories of my senior year and that won't happen if I don't kick this class's ass."

Taehyung snorts. "Has your senior year not been good enough already?" It seems like a silly question when Jimin has been given so many opportunities this year. The soccer coach asks Jimin to help out with summer conditioning if he could, and Jimin has his shit for college figured out, is probably going to graduation valedictorian (salutatorian, at the worst).

Humming quietly, Jimin scratches his head with his pencil. "I've been dealing with some personal stuff," Jimin admits. "But I don't think..." he bites his lip. "It's not a big thing. It won't ruin anything. It just kind of sucks."

Taehyung opens his mouth to ask, but Jimin changes the subject, and Taehyung knows Jimin well enough to realize when he's being tactically cut off.

Taehyung gives so few fucks that he forgets to buy a yearbook.

"I can't believe you," Jungkook snickers, flipping through his own at the lunch table. Jimin is working on some last minutes studying, eating outside under their tree, so it's just Taehyung and Jungkook today. "You're graduating and you aren't sentimental at all."

"Good fucking bye, high school," Taehyung says lazily. He grimaces. "My mom actually got kind of mad I didn't order one so I need to go fill out a last minute form today. Don't let me forget."

"I'm not your babysitter," Jungkook chirps, even though Taehyung knows he'll do it. "You can look at mine if you want."

Taehyung shrugs. "There won't be anything in there that I haven't seen before. Lord knows my yearbook picture deserves to die in the fiery depths of Hell."

"What about all the senior superlatives and shit?" Jungkook flips idly through his book. Taehyung sees random signatures done in sparkling metallic Sharpie. "You and Jimin won one, right?" He wiggles his eyebrows. "Don't you want to see your engagement photos?"

Jungkook only snickers a little bit when Taehyung grumbles and takes the yearbook from him.

It's about what Taehyung expected as he flips through, bright colors and big graphics and collages of sports teams. There's a really good picture of Jimin on the soccer team's page, mid-game, hair blown back, and Taehyung smiles.

"You're gross," says Jungkook.

"Shut up," sings Taehyung back.

Hoseok won Most Likely To Be Famous, and he's sitting on the throne from the drama department with a cheap boa around his neck. It suits him.

There are other funny ones, and then the normal ones like Most Musical and Most Athletic, and then Taehyung gets to them -- The Cutest Couple.

Taehyung remembers this particular moment, although he doesn't remember Baekhyun getting a picture of. It was right after Taehyung had kissed Jimin's cheek, arms wrapped loosely around Jimin's torso. He'd been a little shit, licking Jimin's cheek grossly because he knows Jimin's hates it.

They're both beaming.

Taehyung is grinning at his own joke and Jimin is halfway between disgusted and amused, eyes squeezed shut and shoulders pulled up to his ears, cheeks red.

They look happy.

They always ask the winners to give them a quote, and Taehyung certainly didn't take his seriously. My cutest bro, Park Jimin. Does this mean you've won my heart? Never leave me.

Maybe his was a little serious, but he would die before he would admit that.

His eyes fall to Jimin's quote and his heart kind of stops. Just a little.

Taehyung, it starts. Familiar.

It's the end of the year, and we reached our goal - Cutest Couple.
I always figured we were shoo-ins.
Anyway,
For the purpose of keeping this short, I'll get to it.
You're my best friend, you know that?
Every day spent with you has been such a blessing, I hope you treasure these days, too.
And regardless of what college you go to, I hope you know how much you mean to me.

Yours.

Yours.

Taehyung shuts the yearbook with a snap. "Fuck."

 


 

Jimin is out by the tree still when Taehyung walks up to him.

It's sunny outside, one hop, skip, and a jump away from summer as a student knows it. The wind blows Taehyung’s hair in his face and he's panting a little because he just stole Jungkook's yearbook momentarily and then ran out of the cafeteria. It's overdramatic.

That probably suits them.

Jimin looks up idly when he sees Taehyung approach, gently putting his hand in the crease of his book to mark his place. "I'm not getting any studying done because of you, you know," he tells Taehyung sourly. "Typical." His eyes fall on the yearbook in Taehyung's hand. He doesn't even flinch. "You saw it?"

"Yeah." Taehyung walks around to Jimin's side and takes a seat beside him against the tree. Their sides brush together. It's nothing unusual. "A little indirect, don't you think?" Taehyung is digging in his backpack.

Jimin hums in agreement. "More or less direct than anonymous love letters?"

Taehyung is digging out the letters he's saved out of his folder. There are eight of them in all since Valentine's Day, written on different colored paper, saying different things and the same thing.

Yours.

"I would say marginally less direct," Taehyung decides, fanning the letters out in his hands.

"Less direct?" Jimin goes back to scribbling in his notebook but the tension in his jaw betrays his worries. "You're here now, aren't you?"

"Considering that me understanding your note in our yearbook was entirely dependent on my making the connection to your anonymous letters, I'd say it's less direct." Taehyung is so full of...something...so full of something that he can't even pick apart all of his feelings coherently. Nothing makes sense and everything makes sense and it's wonderful.

Jimin reaches over and plucks one of the letters out of Taehyung hands, reading it over. He grimaces. "I wrote this?" He flips it over to the back. "This is sappy as hell."

"Jimin," Taehyung whines. "Are you taking it back?"

"Taking what back?" Jimin laughs. "I haven't said anything."

Taehyung stares at him."You said you're mine."

For a second, Jimin continues inspecting the letter with vacant eyes, collecting himself, and then he grins at Taehyung, handing it back. "You already knew that, didn't you?" he teases. "After all this time? Don't we fit together nicely?"

"We've always fit together nicely," Taehyung answers. "This is different. It's different if you're mine."

Jimin brings his knees up closer to his chest, sandwiching his textbook between his legs and his arms. He's curled up so small, leaning slightly into Taehyung's side. "Is this okay?" he asks softly, laying his head on Taehyung's shoulder.

Taehyung frowns. "Why wouldn't it be okay?" They've done this a million times.

Jimin thinks for a moment. "Because I'm in love with you and you know about it, now. Doesn't that change things?"

Taehyung slips his arm out from between them and rests his hand on Jimin's knee, and Jimin settles in a little closer. His throat feels too tight, and he wants to jump up and down and scream on the lawn but he also never wants to move from here, with Jimin beside him. "Maybe things will just change for the better."

When Jimin breathes, Taehyung can feel it on his neck, and it remind him of that party all over again. Of how their lips had slotted together and Jimin was everywhere and Taehyung hadn't wanted to leave there either.

Jimin is obviously thinking about the same thing. "I..." He takes a deep breath. "I was going to tell you after the Halloween party," he says quietly. "I got all dressed up because I figured if you, you know, were interested, that's the best I could do." He laughs bitterly. "I got nervous and drank too much."

Taehyung remembers the exact feeling of Jimin's lips on his neck, the exact moment that he realized that Jimin had passed out in his arms, the long time he spent underneath his best friend trying to make sense of his own feelings about what had just happened. "Yeah, you did," is what Taehyung says finally.

Jimin snorts. "In the morning, I..." He sighs. "I was so sure you were into me. Like, super sure. For nearly a year, I was sure."

"What." Taehyung blinks, trying to shift to stare at Jimin, but his chin gets in the way of Jimin's head on his shoulder, and Jimin certainly isn't looking at him.

"Oh yeah," Jimin says with a laugh. One of his hands is still curled up in his lap, but the other one picks at the fraying threads of the hole in Taehyung's jeans. It's warm but every time Jimin's fingertip brush his skin Taehyung gets goosebumps. "Before I even went away for the summer I was like, 'you know? I'm pretty sure Taehyung would say yes if I asked him out.' And then I spent--" he laughs again -- "I spent all summer telling myself, 'yeah, he definitely would.' And then I got back, and you kept saying all the..." He makes a gesture with his hand that Taehyung can't define. "You were just being really nice and gross and super you and I was like...why not?"

"Why not?" Taehyung repeats. Why now and not then? Why ever? What has Taehyung done to deserve someone like Jimin sitting with his head on Taehyung's shoulder telling him he's in love with him?

"I tried." Jimin groans. "Oh, it went horribly. You told me to forget the kiss had ever even happened!" He buries his face in Taehyung's neck, and Taehyung takes the opportunity to slip his arm back around Jimin's shoulders and pull him closer. "What was I supposed to do after that? When you were so embarrassed that it had happened that you didn't even want to acknowledge it at all?"

Taehyung makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat. "I thought that's what you wanted!"

Jimin jerks upright, still in Taehyung's arms. "Why the fuck would I have wanted that?" Jimin demands. "I kissed you!"

"You were drunk!" Taehyung argues.

Jimin rolls his eyes. "Not that drunk."

"You're always horny when you're drunk."

Aggressively, Jimin digs his nails into the skin of Taehyung's knee. "That's because I'm always around you when I'm drunk!" He scoffs. "I could have made out with like, Hoseok. He's hot."

Something drops in Taehyung's stomach. "Please don't make out with Hoseok."

With a groan, Jimin pushes Taehyung's shoulder. "I didn't!" He jams his fingers into Taehyung's side like the brat he is. "I got another drink because you had already turned me down on the fucking dance floor and then I went and found you and sat in your fucking lap. I did that instead of making out with Hoseok."

Taehyung lets Jimin bully him. He's kind of numb anyway. "You remember all of that?" Taehyung had kind of been under the impression that Jimin's memory of that night was hazy at best.

"Kim Taehyung." Jimin runs a hand down his face with a groan. "Which one of us always forgets shit when they drink?"

"I do," Taehyung says.

Jimin raises a pointed eyebrow.

Taehyung swallows. "Oh."

"Fucking idiot," Jimin says fondly, melting back into Taehyung's grip. "So when I went downstairs to like, confess and shit, it didn't..." He can't get the words out. "And then at New Year's I swear to god I told myself I was going to let it go."

Taehyung tangles their feet together. "So you did want me to kiss you on the roof."

"I've wanted you to kiss me every day for the past two years."

"Oh."

"Yeah." Jimin puts his head back on Taehyung's shoulder. "Oh."

Quiet. Taehyung hears Jimin breathing. Soft.

"I really was going to let it go," Jimin says to no one, maybe to himself, like a promise. "I thought I was strong enough for that...but we were talking about resolutions and...and then I said that I would be your Valentine and then that would be the end of it." He snorts. "But it was nice to get the words out finally, and you looked so fucking cute with your hat on? I couldn't stop." Jimin groans. "That's so gay. Fuck."

"I didn't know you were gay," Taehyung says after a moment, which is not at all the first thing on his mind, but he certainly can’t tell Jimin that he wants to marry him and have seven children. That's way too much.

"You never asked." Jimin shrugs as best he can when they're all tangled up in each other. He doesn't even blink when a group of girl's pass through the lawn and titter when they see the two of them under the tree. He just reaches down and keeps playing with the tear in Taehyung's jeans. "And I'm bi, technically."

And then the next thing that pops into his head is, "Does Jungkook know?"

"Jungkook knows," Jimin confirms, continuing before Taehyung can squawk indignantly. "Everyone knows, Taehyung. I haven't been subtle."

Taehyung gapes like a fish. "I can't believe you never told me."

"You were my, like...whatever the bisexual equivalent of the Gay Awakening is." Jimin laughs. It's bright now, not bitter. Easy. "Telling you seemed too close to a confession."

The idea that Jimin hadn't felt comfortable telling Taehyung something kind of rips him to shreds, but Taehyung thinks about all of the things he's been keeping bottled up for the past forever and he rests his head on top of Jimin's. "I would have liked a confession."

Jimin hums again. They're so close that Taehyung can feel it resonating. "Do you like this one?"

Taehyung grins. "I like it," he says, smiling into Jimin's hair.

Jimin's hands fist in the hem of Taehyung's t-shirt. "Good."

"This doesn't really change things," Taehyung notes, breathing in the smell of Jimin's shampoo and gently prying Jimin's fingers loose so he can play with Jimin's fingers. "I mean, maybe if you think labels are important."

"Hmmm." Jimin places a hesitant kiss on Taehyung's shoulder. "If you accept the confession, I think that would change things."

"I've been in love with you since before I even knew I was attracted to men," Taehyung says shortly. He tries not to grin smugly at the way Jimin holds his breath. "If you've been in love with me, and I've been in love with you, and every has known that we're in love, then I don't think anything is different."

Jimin sits up and looks at him, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. "But we can call them 'dates' when we go out together."

Taehyung grins at him. "We already do." He scrunches his nose up cutely. "And we hold hands all the time."

"And I've met your parents," Jimin notes absently. "And slept in your bed."

"We eat most of our meals together and have regularly scheduled date nights."

"God." Jimin rolls his head back with a sharp, happy laugh. The best laugh. "No wonder Jungkook was about to tear us limb from limb."

Taehyung blinks. "Is that why he randomly gets super aggressive?"

Jimin pats him on the head. "Yes, baby," he says patronizingly. "That's why. Because you're oblivious and apparently also an idiot."

"I liked nothing about that sentence," Taehyung pouts. "But I like it when you called me 'baby.'"

Jimin runs a gentle hand though Taehyung's hair. "That's one change." He pinches Taehyung's nose. "I can call you that now. Baby." His cheeks are red.

"We can probably make out a little more, too," Taehyung offers.

Jimin shifts, sitting on his shins and looking mock-seriously at Taehyung. "Only boyfriends get kisses," he tells him very pointedly.

Taehyung leans forward, weight on one hand. "Is that a new rule?" He smirks. "Drunk Jimin disagrees."

"Drunk Jimin is a horny, problematic bastard," Jimin says primly. "Sober Jimin wants a boyfriend."

"That's fair." Taehyung grins, leaning even more into Jimin's face.

Jimin twists his fist in the collar of Taehyung's shirt, and the last thing Taehyung sees before he closes his eyes is Jimin smiling as their lips come together.

 


 

Parks and Kims do not sit anywhere near each other, but somehow Taehyung still manages to sneak his way to the seat beside Jimin.

There's no real air conditioning in the auditorium, which Taehyung would say is a massive oversight when you're planning an event holding thousands of people in the beginning of June, but Taehyung isn't the one who makes the plans, so he has to sit here in his hideously brown cap and gown and try not to leave ass-shaped sweat marks on the seat beneath him.

Jimin has his arm threaded through Taehyung's, and they're both slouched in their seats neglecting to pretend to listen to the principle, and the student speaker, and the valedictorian, and all sorts of other things that aren't nearly as interesting as each other. "It's too hot for you to be this close to me."

"I'm always hot," Taehyung says casually, snuggling closer.

Jimin lets him.

"If you look really terrible at this graduation," Taehyung starts, "imagine how much it'll look like you've improved aesthetically by college graduation. I'm really helping you out."

"Oh, please." Jimin laughs. "Does it get any better than this?"

"Than high school?" Taehyung grimaces. "I hope so."

"You fucker," Jimin replies fondly. "I meant myself."

"I imagine 22-year-old you will be really embarrassed by 18-year-old you," Taehyung notes. "So what if you're a little sweatier than usual? It's in the pursuit of true love."

Jimin looks at him flatly. "Do not kiss me when my mother is 100% taking a video of us at this exact moment."

"She's probably cheering for us," Taehyung tells him coyly, inching closer. "She's a cool mom and she knows we have a lot of kissing to make up for."

Jimin flicks Taehyung's nose and then gently places a kiss on his forehead. "That will have to hold you over until later."

Taehyung wiggles his eyebrows.

"I will trip you as you walk on stage." Jimin pushes Taehyung's side, trying to laugh quietly so they don't get the stink eye from the teacher's supervising graduation. "You're embarrassing me."

"It's what I do best," Taehyung agrees happily settling back in his chair. "But I am also a very good kisser."

Jimin snorts. "I know you are, Taehyungie." He pats Taehyung's hand. "But maybe graduation isn't the time."

"That sounds like a quitter's attitude to me," Taehyung huffs in response.

Jimin pulls Taehyung's hand into his lap and plays with his fingers. "We only have like...forever for kisses," he says dryly. "You can wait an hour."

Taehyung sighs, content. "Forever sounds nice."

For a moment, Jimin is quiet, and it takes a moment for Taehyung to realize that Jimin had said something under his breath. "I'm sorry, what? It's too loud in here."

"A lot of people break up when they go to college, you know?" Jimin tells him.

"We literally just got together like a month ago. Don't do this to me." Taehyung laughs. "Something tells me those people that break up aren't going to be roommates and have lots of great sex."

Jimin grins. "That's true. I only love you for your body."

Taehyung sighs dramatically. "It's a curse." He turns his hand palm up in Jimin's lap and Jimin places his hand delicately on top of it, their fingers naturally linking together. "For what it's worth, I don't think we'll break up."

"Ever?" Jimin asks teasingly. "We're both such idiots. It's practically guaranteed to go wrong."

"All relationships are like that." Taehyung snickers. "In fact, I have the strong suspicion that everyone is a fucking idiot. Except Yoongi," he acquiesces. "But he'd yell at me if I called him an idiot."

"Jungkook would also yell at you." Jimin snorts. "But I think I'm less of an idiot than Jungkook is."

Taehyung stares at him.

"In some ways," Jimin corrects. "And don't look at me like that. Between the two of us, you are the bigger idiot."

"I can accept that." He really wants to take this stupid cap off. The elastic is digging into his forehead and his hair is sticking to his skin. "I think we'll last forever. We're complementary idiots."

"Complementary idiots." Jimin rolls his eyes. "Nice."

Taehyung shrugs. "In all seriousness, if it doesn't work out, I think we'll still be okay."

Jimin puts his chin on Taehyung's shoulder. "We won't be bitter exes?" he asks, grinning. "You won't throw my stuff out on the lawn and make me live on my friend's couch?"

"Okay, first of all, you are way more likely to do that to me and you know it."

Jimin has no choice but to agree.

"And definitely not." Taehyung frowns. "I think it'll be awkward for...a week."

"One week?" Jimin asks, surprised. "How long have we been dating when we break up?"

"Are you really asking me to predict the demise of our relationship?"

Jimin grins. "I'm curious."

"I'll say...longer than my relationship with Jungkook, so let's say a year and a half."

Jimin raises his eyebrow. "We date for over a year and it's only awkward for a week? I call bullshit."

"Or," Taehyung starts again, "we never break up because we're soulmates and this is true love."

"That's gross," Jimin says, grimacing. "When we break up, I say it's awkward for a month and then Yoongi gets irritated and makes us make up."

"Is that a bet?" Taehyung asks excitedly. "I'll hold you to that."

Jimin shakes his hand firmly. "It seems in bad taste to make bets on the end of your brand new relationship."

"We've technically been dating for years," Taehyung reasons, standing up as the rest of their row stands to make their way towards the front. "It's extremely probable that we'll get sick of each other eventually."

"Kim Taehyung," Jimin says, wrapping his arms around Taehyung's waist as they waddle through the too-small aisle of chairs. "You really know the way to my heart."

 


 

"My fellow students." Taehyung smiles at the rows and rows of black hats and gowns, out at the audience of smiling family members, down at Jimin, beaming in the middle of the crowd. "It's been a long four years."

Pity laughter.

"You don't have to laugh," he tells them from the podium. "That's like, the least original way to start a graduation speech ever, but I'm here to speak the truth." He shrugs. "How many of you have switched your major more than once?"

A sea of hands go up.

"More than three times?"

Fewer.

Taehyung grins, leaning his elbows on the stand. "My boyfriend, Park Jimin, has changed his major six times." He ignores Jimin's indignant yelling. "Isn't that cute? He thought he was going to do something cool like photojournalism and now he's going to be a lame accountant."

The audience coos.

"Don't encourage him!" Jimin shouts.

"I'm going to be honest," Taehyung continues, completely ignoring him. "I'm kind of a sham." He grins. "I applied to speak at our graduation because I'm a romantic son of a bitch and I know that a certain someone appreciates grand gestures."

It's a little too quiet for an auditorium this size. Taehyung sees his mother recording this on her phone, and Jimin's mom is zoomed in on Jimin's quickly reddening face in the crowd. Jimin stares at him with wide eyes. What are you doing? he mouths.

Taehyung loves this. "So I've been dating this guy for like...almost four years now." He straightens up, adjust his gown casually. "And have been in love with him for much longer than that, but I hate myself and made things really difficult on both of us. So, Jimin, I hope that this senior year went much more smoothly than the last one." He looks down at the notes he's scribbled down on the inside of his arm. "I hope that all of your accounting dreams are going to be realized within the coming year. I'm so proud of you for managing to somehow graduate with the rest of us when you switched your degree so many times."

"What the fuck?" Jimin says quietly. Taehyung only knows because he's staring at Jimin's face.

"So, Jimin and I had this bet that we made like, a month after we started dating," Taehyung continues. "On how long we were going to be awkward when we inevitably broke up. I said we were going to date for a year and a half and then it'd be awkward for a week, and Jimin bet a month, and I'm pleased to say that neither of those things happened, and I don't think they'll ever happen."

Taehyung's mouth is kind of dry. This isn't a great speech. Taehyung doesn't really care. "Jimin has been the only constant thing throughout my college career, more so than my major, which I've doubted countless times. More so than this school, which I almost didn't attend. As much as I was worried about basing my life around my best friend, the love of my life, I can honestly say that I wouldn't have gotten this far without him."

"Dude," Jimin says a little louder. His cheeks are so red. "Please."

"In an effort to make this graduation speech an actual graduation speech and not just a sappy mess, I'll be comparing Jimin to some wisdom and then laying it on you." Taehyung takes a deep breath. "One, take what you've been given and always be thankful."

"What the fuck?" Jimin says through the crowds titters.

"Besides being the most constant thing in my college career, Jimin has also been the most constant thing in my entire life, outside of my loving family." He waves at his mom and dad. Seokjin is grinning so big. "We made pillow forts when we were children and we made a pillow fort just this week, and I want to make pillow forts for the rest of my life with you.

"Point two, find the thing that you love and never let it go.

"These aren't really points so much as like, general life advice, but it's probably fine. It’s cheesy. That counts for something." He's getting nervous now. "And here comes the grand gesture." He grins at Jimin. "We've been talking a lot recently about how fortunate we are to have each other, to have someone who is our best friend and our boyfriend and maybe something more, and how wonderful it is to have something so sure and solid in your life. If any of you have something that you cherish, I hope that you can use that strength to get you through your worst days, through finals weeks and all the struggles we're going to meet in the future."

Taehyung swallows. His hands are jittery. He shouldn't be so nervous. "I want to have my most cherished thing for the rest of my life."

Jimin stands up from his chair. "Kim Taehyung," he scolds. "Don't you dare." He looks like he's about to burst into tears. Good tears.

"Park Jimin is my most cherished thing, and he has given me so much strength, and more than that I think he's also made me a better person." Taehyung can't hold back his grin at the look on Jimin's face, can barely hold in his laughter as Jimin starts pushing people politely aside trying to get out of his row into the aisle. "Once you find that thing, whether it's a person or a job or a hobby or a place, I hope that you hold on to that thing forever."

"What the fuck!"

Taehyung snorts into the microphone and the sound is jarringly loud. "Whoops." He readjusts it. "Anyway, my third point is that we've spent the past however many years going to school to get a degree to get a job to get money. I hope that somewhere along the way, you find something that makes you happy."

Jimin is charging up to the stage, face crumpled like he's trying to hold back tears. "Kim Taehyung," he chokes out. "I hate you, don't do this to me."

Taehyung steps out from behind the podium, going to edge and holding out a hand to help haul Jimin up onto the platform.

Jimin stands up, brushing himself off, but Taehyung goes down to his knee.

He pulls the ring out of his pocket. "Park Jimin."

"Oh my fucking god." Jimin shakes his head at him in disbelief, laughing.

Taehyung grins. "Park Jimin," he starts again. "Would you do me the honor of being my husband?"

"Oh my god." Jimin reaches down and pulls Taehyung up to his feet by the collar of his gown. "I hate you."

"Is that a yes?"

"Of course it's a yes." Jimin is crying now, face red and embarrassing, and he pulls Taehyung forward and kisses him, right on the mouth, in front of their graduating class and all of their families. "I hate you so fucking much."

Taehyung takes the ring delicately from the box and slips it onto Jimin's waiting finger. "I'm sorry I never got to give you a prom-posal."

"This is fine," Jimin assures him, laughing. "I'm in love with you."

Taehyung grins at him. "Good."

He's never been so happy in his life.